Time Marches On

"Totes" - not just an expression of agreement, but a sophisticated filing system for borderline hoarders

This has been a long span between blog posts, but I have a good reason.  We’re moving … for the first time in 20 years.  No more farm life for us.  When we signed the deal way back in September it seemed like a great idea.  “On to the next chapter”, we agreed, and high-fived to seal the deal.  But as our closing date of March 15th looms, a few troublesome realities have cropped up.  Like for example, before cutting us a cheque, the people who bought our place expect us to leave … and to take all of our crap.  Did I mention we lived here 20 years?  We have accumulated a lot of crap. 

We’ve always lived by the tried and true “let’s keep it and decide later” school of organization, and we have a giant barn, which served as great storage for innumerable Rubbermaid containers full of papers.  Each year we socked a few more away.  Out of sight, out of mind. Plus, being classic helicopter parents, we thought everything our kids ever created was brilliant and we kept every single piece of paper they produced from nursery school until roughly, yesterday. Believe me, they were quite prolific.

We’re now trying to get it down to one tub per offspring.  We can be found each night, rummaging through the dusty totes. We had a lot to get rid of , so did get progressively more discriminating and established new ground rules.  All school worksheets – gone.  All the math notebooks and tests – gone (It didn’t stick anyway).  All “that doesn’t even look like a horse” drawings – gone.  Can’t tell which kid did it – gone.  Anything in French – gone.  All “participant” ribbons – gone.  Assignments with any teacher comments that contain feedback that resembles criticism – gone.  I prefer to remember the happy times of enthusiastic and unbridled achievement…. so pretty much anything the boy did between grade 10 and grade 12 (both years) – gone.  

In the “keep” pile, are multiple, multiple “Lifetouch” sheets with 24 school pictures in the same pose with each kid, for each year.  Not sure why we always went with the “25 prints” package, when we only had one set of grandparents.  Also, not sure WHO dressed those kids and did their hair on picture day, but it was someone with a cruel sense of humour for the most part.  Also “Keep”:  any piece of paper/macaroni craft/tissue, that says “You’re the best Mom/Dad/Parents …  we do need that  validation and we’re not above digging through a dusty tote to get it. Plus, I want that evidence handy, and strategically on display when they are making our elder-care decisions.

Our ticket to the "Good" old age home

Something else I kept were multiple copies of the local newspaper if our kids made it in.  Cleverly though, I kept the whole paper, so have spent a good portion of my time this week thumbing through 10 – 20-year-old newspapers looking for likenesses of my kids or their names in small print, so I could reduce bulk and just rip the page out, which apparently I was just too busy to do in the 90s, because then it would have been too dangerously close to scrapbooking.   This has proven very time-consuming though, as I am easily distracted and inevitably end up poring through the classifieds, and beating myself up that I didn’t buy EVERYTHING at those prices.

There were other Rubbermaid containers too, filled with fun facts, by way of receipts. My wedding dress cost $279. Our honeymoon for two weeks to Bahamas all-inclusive cost $1080, for both of us.  Fuel to fill up our oil tank was 39 cents a litre when we moved into this place.  We got our septic system pumped for $70 in 1989.  Additionally, we had the good sense and foresight to keep a little brown envelope with somebody’s extracted teeth in it.  Also, I worked with someone somewhere whose name was Pat(?) who was sooo “sorry to see me go” that she/he bought me a card.  I have no memory of this co-worker, but ironically, I was able to name  every kid in a yellowed and ancient looking photo of my grade 1 class.

Yes, life has become a fun-filled, time consuming, teary eyed meandering trip down memory lane. Because we’re easily distracted  procrastinators by nature and we have to examine each piece of paper thoroughly and play the arguing remembering  game about the timeline of events of our lives thus far, we haven’t had time to exactly hammer out some details, like exactly where is going to be our forwarding address.  But we’re not too worried about it.  We don’t have to be out until March.  And luckily, it’s a leap year, so we’ve got that extra day in February. 

This year March may come in like a lion, and go out like a middle-aged couple and a dog  and 3 cats living in a van, down by the river.

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Filed under Family, Humor, Kids, Memories

Marley Schmarley – Timber was Golden

Our firstborn, Timber.

Saw a bit of Marley and Me over the holidays, and it makes me sad + mad.  Sad for obvious reasons – I always hate it when (spoiler alert) the dog dies.  And mad because I didn’t listen to my dear friend Charlotte back in the early 80’s when she urged me to write a book about my firstborn son who just so happened to be a Golden Retriever. My Timber was equally if not more interesting and a lot less messed up mentally than that Marley critter.  I could be the rich author raking it in instead of John Grogan (plus isn’t he busy enough singing  “You Raise Me Up”?), and Jennifer Aniston could have played me in the movie, since she’s basically my Doppelganger. My book would have been called Me ‘n Timber, because grammar wasn’t my strong suit in the ‘80s. 

We got him as a pup in June of 1981, and we did that obnoxious thing that people who love dogs do, of going to see the puppies at 3 weeks of age at the breeders, and picking one out and then going to visit him until it was time we could take him home.    I remember picking him up and putting him in the back part of our “Scout” truck, but he didn’t like it there so I had to stop and get out and put him on my lap, where he rode the rest of the way standing up on my lap looking out the side window.  That set the stage for how he was going to be brought up.

The beautiful run and house hubby built for Timber. We didn't ever have the heart to lock him up in it. This was a staged photo-op.

The first day that we left him alone while we went to work, he didn’t really like that either.  So every day after that, he came along to work with me.  I worked at a vet clinic and he basically became the clinic greeter.  He would sit by my desk in the back, or hover outside the surgery, depending on where the action was.  He would run out to the reception area whenever anyone came in and wag and look behind him as if to assure them that somebody would be right out.  Sometimes he slept out in the reception area, and would be too lazy to bother greeting anyone but would just lie there thumping his tail instead.

We used him at the clinic shamelessly.  He was in charge of keeping yappy dogs quiet who didn’t like to be left alone.  We would put him in the kennel room and he would lie there like an annoyed babysitter.  He was our in-a-pinch blood donor.  If a dog came in that had been hit by a car and was dangerously close to death, we would borrow some blood from Timber, tapping right into his vein in his neck and he would sit there still as a statue as we let gravity help us gather.  (Apparently matching blood types isn’t a must do if it’s only happening once.) He would let us place orphaned kittens or cotton-tail bunnies on him for warmth, in between the times when we would feed them with tiny bottles.  He would let them snuggle in to his furry belly, and he seemed to quite enjoy it, although if you made a fuss he always looked embarrassed like he wanted to stress that it wasn’t his idea.

Babysitting a lonely kitty

Doing candy striper duty, walking a patient.

Dr. Timbers, ready for surgery

He was a seasoned commuter, and our family of 3 would set out together each morning. I had to drop hubby off at work and then Timber and I had another 20 min. drive to the clinic.  We drove a big old 1967 Ford Galaxie, and he had the whole long bench backseat to himself.  He would sit leaning super-casually against the door, gazing out the window – he never did that dog thing of sticking his head out.  I expect he thought that was way too unsophisticated and dog-ish.  Occasionally he even used the armrest.

The Galaxie, our sweet ride

 Not that he was perfect.  He got into trouble sometimes.   One day hubby was driving us along in the a.m. and I was having my usual breakfast of a banana, when we both smelled something horrific.  We could barely breathe, and then looked in the back seat and a rather sheepish looking Timber had just yacked up an impressively sizeable cat turd, still coated in litter.  It was disgusting.

Another time he helped himself at home in the morning to an entire pound of butter.  Strangely, it didn’t agree with him, and though he held off his nausea until we got to work, he hurled up a pale yellow oil slick about 15 feet wide right beside my desk.  I couldn’t even clean it up, it was far too gross – the paper towels just slid around on it.  My co-workers cleaned it up while I gagged helpfully in the corner.  In spite of mopping, people were slippity-sliding past my desk (which held an abacus and a lot of carbon paper, because it was the 80’s) the whole rest of the day.

PLUS he once consumed an entire cheeseball that I had slaved over.  It was Christmas Eve, and we were entertaining and we went to the door to see our guests out, and he joined us a few minutes later, but couldn’t stop licking his lips.  We discovered that the coffee table now held crackers only, with a big gaping hole where the beautiful crushed-pecan coated cheeseball used to be.  (In his defense, he may have mistaken it for a giant round cat turd coated in litter.)

Timber loved every person he ever met, with the exception of one man, who unfortunately was someone we had to see regularly.  He turned into a whole different canine when the dead stock guy came to clean out the freezer of all the dead animals. As the guy would go up and down the stairs to the basement, carrying out the dearly departed “petcicles”, Timber would growl and back up, as if to say “You’ll never take me!”.  The guy was kind of a creepy ghoulish character – I mean who does that for a job, especially in the 80’s when the economy was booming? He could have been doing something awesome like pumping gas or renting out beta movies.  But I digress …

Timber was a remarkable boy and enjoyed all the privileges that went with being an only child, at least until we got some offspring of the two-legged variety.  Then there was a bit of a power shift and he begrudgingly took on the role of family pet. I always knew he was acting though.

Timber Darling, 1981-1988

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Hair today …. Don tomorrow

Recently I was watching Barbara Walters interview Donald Trump – and it occurred to me that one of them has almost the exact same hair as me…. and it wasn’t Barbara.  It’s official –  the Donald and I share lifeless looking, odd coloured clumpy yet wispy coifs  – not unlike the rather large full body mats my newly feral cats now sport.
speaking at CPAC in Washington D.C. on Februar...

Image via Wikipedia

My hair has no real part, it just goes every which way it wants.  There are little flippy things at the side sometimes, whenever it feels like it.  There is no predicting what it might look like from one day to the next.  The level of ridiculousness seems to be directly related to the occasion, and the necessity to be presentable. If I have nowhere to go that day, and catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror, I’ll sometimes think to myself,  “Hmm, not bad – a Bonnie Franklin post-One Day at a Time thing going on”.  But then without a doubt, at my next event where I have a real vested interest in NOT looking ridiculous, like an old boyfriend is going to be there or something, (ha) then sure enough I will have something that either looks like I:
  1. am wearing a sideways Bump-it 
  2. have an aggressive head tumour
  3. am sprouting horns
  4. have purposefully flattened and parted it for my best Gomez Adams impression

Should I have something really important like a job interview, I can pretty much count on rocking something closer to the Donald Trump or even Don King look.

Don King

Image via Wikipedia

 I don’t know exactly when this happened – if I had to nail it down to a decade I think it would be the 90s.  I used to have normal girl hair.   At one point it even moved, and had what I believe they call “body”.  Now the texture is similar to the angel hair we used to put on the Christmas tree.   This new thin, dullness was further aggravated by a recent Groupon experience.

Without Groupon, I never would have considered going to that nice, trendy salon that was practically in the city.  It was all decorated in black and white, with lots of angles and flattering lighting.  It’s obviously for people who are extremely sophisticated – like those types who accessorize and dress differently according to what season it is. (Even though they’re going to be too hot in those sweaters.)

But – it was only going to cost me a fraction of the price of the normal fancy salon haircut, and since my nest emptied I’ve been trying to care about “me time”, so why not live a little and be adventurous?  I went in and sat in the chair and the chic girl looked up from her texting and with a thick, exotic accent spoke to me, while trying to hide her disappointment. 

“What are we going to do today?” 

Then I muttered a bunch of incoherent things about

“It’s too long at the back …. but I don’t like it when the back gets the clippers on it because then it’s boy hair.”

“I don’t really like bangs, but I really hate my forehead, and headbands are out so leave it long…”  

Yadayadayada ….  And then I ended my speech with my signature, “It’s only hair” tagline, that used to go over so well at First Choice.

The whole time, I was admiring her cute fashionable outfit and her long locks (which I now understand were extensions).  Anyway, I hated for her to have such a boring customer, and I just got completely swept up by the pounding dance tunes and complimentary trick mirrors – and  when she started talking about doing something “funky” I agreed wholeheartedly.  Bring it.  I’m all about the “funk”.  I’m practically Grand Funk Railroad.

When she was finished I looked pretty decent – old boyfriend decent even, with my dramatic, Twiggy-esque “statement” hair, all carefully “messy” and with dramatic sideburn things.  Luckily I had a date with hubby and some manual labour – I struck quite an impressive figure in my hard hat as I helped him drag and chip brush.

But … in the cold light of the next day, when the glow of funky chic had worn off, I had to deal with it myself.  It became evident that what “funky”  really amounted to, was her cutting all the hair away from around my ears.  Equally problematic, my ongoing funkiness was going to be directly dependent on me having to do stuff that I don’t know how to do.  Like use products … and pull my hair into dramatic “wisps” onto my face.  After working on it for half an hour, I had moved away from resembling high fashion Twiggy-esque model, and settled on a look that was closer to be “Sad elf with huge hairless arcs above ears” .

That was about 8 weeks ago.  It  gradually morphed from sad elf to Donald Trump.

Now comes the hard part – going back to my usual hair dresser like nothing ever happened.  I already have a reputation as a problem client, who takes in pictures of cute haircuts that I want to her to give me, that are virtually impossible for me to have. 

“Yeah, that’s cute – but that wouldn’t work on you.  Your hair is too thin/short/long/patchy/thick/cowlicky”… the list is endless.

Now that I cheated on her with Groupon, I feel like I need to make an effort to be more faithful and lower maintenance.  This time I’ll take in a picture of Donald.  And maybe a promise ring.

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Regrets … I’ve had a few this year

an old post card

I don’t understand those people who say “I don’t regret anything because everything I ever did got me here.”

 What if “here” could be better, were it not for some of the stuff you did or didn’t do? For example:

Top 10 Things I regret from 2011

  1. Not using all those coupons that I’ve been carrying around that expired Dec. 31st.
  2. Kim Yong Il, I hardly knew ye. But now that you’re gone, looks like you were hilarious and I wish I had learned more about you or at least followed you on Twitter.
  3. The Groupon haircut at an obviously way-too-trendy-for-me salon that had/has me looking like an aging elf.
  4. Signing papers that mean my house is sold, because now apparently I have to get all my stuff out of here and find somewhere else to put it.
  5. Accumulating so much stuff. On a related note, using “Hoarders” as a compass as to how much stuff is normal.
  6. Worrying the whole time my daughter was travelling.  She’s home safely, but there is no coming back for my perma-furrowed brow and irritated bowel.
  7. Every second spent spying on my children just looking at pictures on Facebook. I vow to stop doing that this year.
  8. Turning down the offer to join Seal Team 6 early last year, because the practices conflicted with my Zumba schedule.
  9. That time I forgot my sports bra and went to Zumba anyway. Again –  no coming back from that.
  10. Most of the time I spent online…. yes, I’m looking at you Perez Hilton.

Lets hope 2012 has way fewer regrets.  According to the Mayan calendar I got in my stocking, it’s highly unlikely I’ll be racking up my top 2012 regrets on Jan. 1st 2013. 

To steal a line from numerous Facebook friends of my children this morning – “Happy New Year, Bitches”.

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Take my turkey leg torch already

The Turkey Is Done

Image via Wikipedia

Christmas dining 2011 has now been put to bed, and I singlehandedly reinforced the great lengths a mother will go to for her children.  I will stop at nothing to preserve my offspring’s feelings of self-esteem and confidence. So, now that my children are getting some of their own culinary experience and interest, I simply didn’t want to dazzle them tooooo much with my amazing kitchen and cooking skills, and run the risk of leaving them feeling like they could never measure up.  I don’t want them to feel intimidated when the official Christmas duty kitchen torch is passed and they are responsible for preparing all the special festive fixins.  Consequently for our holiday dining I did things like this:

  1. Put out a last minute call to daughter Christmas Eve to pick up water chestnuts for Spinach Dip.  Replied confidently and firmly in the negative to her inquiry as to whether or not we needed anything else.  All was good until we went to make said Spinach dip and I had no — nor had it even once occurred to me to think about getting …. Spinach.
  2. Pre-made the sweet roll dough on Christmas Eve for our Christmas breakfast sticky buns, and instead of “lukewarm” as instructed, added milk cold enough to evidently deactivate the yeast, consequently waking Christmas morning to completely flat plasticene like dough instead of gently risen puffy beginnings of deliciousness.
  3. Undaunted I started over, remaking the dough and forming the little individual buns.  Also pulled out a little known “expert” trick of placing the buns in their greased pan on top of another pan filled with warm water, so that buns would rise faster.  They rose quickly and efficiently and doubled in size, at which point I knocked the pan sideways so that all the gently risen buns slid into the warm water, and bobbed around like cinnamon buoys in a lake.
  4. Cleverly bought a much bigger turkey than in past years, and put it into the oven later in the day than ever before.  As we played a board game and smelled the delicious turkey cooking, we then heard a small explosion in the oven.  We were baffled upon examination – there were thin shards of glass on the turkey breast, but none of the glass casserole dishes appeared to have broken.  In an obvious attempt to make me look like I’m losing my mind (possibly brought on in part to the fact that I lost one of his presents that I bought him 2 DAYS BEFORE CHRISTMAS and hid, and at the time of this writing has still not been located); hubby asked if I might have inadvertently inserted a wine glass into the turkey, because that’s what the glass pieces resembled.  I was justifiably outraged, but just then with tensions rising, the mystery was solved.  It was the meat thermometer that exploded.  Picked shards of glass off the turkey skin and after much arm twisting I reluctantly agreed not to use any of the drippings for gravy, for fear of glass shavings.  My arguments in favour of roughage fell on deaf ears.

Spontaneous Combustioning Thermometer

5. Then inserted the new meat thermometer that I had received in my stocking.  It’s digital and very high tech, and we anxiously waited for it to announce that the required internal temperature had been achieved. This much anticipated declaration was not made until approximately 10:00pm.  As happy hour extended well into the early evening, I slurredly protested periodically that the turkey was going to look like the National Lampoon one, but dammit, I’m goal oriented and metrics driven, and we had committed to this new piece of technology and we were going to see it through to a 180° reading, come hell or high water.  I was not far from wrong, National Lampoon wise, but on the upside, if you make people wait long enough for dinner they are still extremely complimentary and effusive with praise about the meal.

Now, everything has gone according to plan and the bar is set quite low, and in future years when one of the kids hosts,  even if they invite us over  and have us pick up Swiss Chalet on the way, as long as they spring for the festive meal special, they will have one upped me and can feel like the winner of one of those reality cooking shows.

I also let them win at board games.

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It’s a Wonderful Mom, for a couple of days anyway

Golden Retriever ChristmasIt’s almost Christmas, and as per usual, I’m not sure that ours is going to measure up to the ideal.  I always feel a bit inadequate at this stage of the game.  There’s been a noticeable absence of cool stuff like Rocking around a Christmas tree, or dashing through the snow on a one horse open sleigh. The yard is mostly mud this year, not snow, so the whole sleigh thing (or snowmobile equivalent) is going to be out of the question.  Plus how can I rock around a tree that isn’t up yet?  We are still in denial about our offspring having grown up – we remain locked in the past where they all fought over putting the star on the top so we had to do it 3 times.  So, we’ve been holding off putting up said tree until at least 2/3 of them are home. It’s getting closer and closer to the big day as they; some would say selfishly, insist on living their own lives and delay arriving “Home for Christmas” until the last possible moment. A couple even went so far as to get their OWN trees, which some would argue is actually cheating on our family Christmas, but of course I’m not one to judge.  Heaven knows I don’t want them to worry about me….

 I haven’t done anything Martha Stewart-esque, (like securities fraud, OR  adorning the house with any homemade crafts.)  I  hauled out the same old tired decorations I’ve been using for the past few decades, and just made some essential touch-ups (example:   ripped off a ribbon from table centerpiece that looked too wrinkled and stained due to careless storage and sloppy wine drinking).

I have purchased all the requisite stuff that I will in early January throw out, such as egg nog, fruit cake, nuts that you have to crack, and hard candies.  I bought a lot of other ingredients to make stuff that let’s be honest, I’m probably not making. So come July I’ll have the usual 3 cans of Eagle Brand Milk, butterscotch chips and graham cracker crumbs that will have expired.

I did make some of my standard delicious treats, like shortbread, which I now eat instead of breakfast so there definitely won’t be any of those left by the time any actual company arrives.

I spent last night at the mall, and holiday spirit was a little bit in short supply.  A few things that rubbed me the wrong way:

  1. Home Outfitters – I have 15 items, some of which weigh as much as a small child. … YES I WANT A BAG. 
  2. So SORRY Sears, to inconvenience you and the giant lineup behind me (since you only have one checkout open in your whole store) because I got all “difficult” and refused to let you  charge me $40 more for a sweater than the sign said you would.  Thanks for taking the time to prove that I was right and then processing my sale without so much as a “Sorry we thought you were lying”.
  3. Hey trendy clothing store – my email address is none of your beezwax when I’m doing nothing other than picking up a gift card for my kid.
  4. Yo – grocery store … I thought “Utility Turkey” meant it might be missing a wing – not that it would look like it stepped on a landmine.

I was also mildly annoyed by some downright cranky staff ignoring me or treating me like I was an idiot for having the gall to ask if they actually have something that they advertised in their flyer the day before.  Adding additional insult to injury, these gum chewing eye rollers were often wearing Santa hats.

It’s 2 days away and I’m officially sick of “So this is Christmas”  “Do they know it’s Christmas time?” and “Have a Holly Jolly Christmas”.  One song that doesn’t grate on my nerves is “Baby It’s Cold Outside” – unless of course it’s the Jessica Simpson version, which makes me downright nauseous.  The “Santa Baby” song is kind of fun too, but a little slutty and I worry about my impressionable young daughters.  That songstress is clearly exchanging favours for presents, and we’ll have none of that.  I would rather encourage my girls to set their sights on something worthwhile, like front teeth or even a hippopotamus.

Intermittently I do my wrapping, and never ceased to be surprised by stuff that I bought a few weeks ago and completely forgot about. 

But in spite of all my whining, I’m really not the Grinch.  On the contrary, over the next couple of days I will do a complete transformation.  The things that I preach to my family about all year like fibre, portion control and reduced fat will all go out the window, as I do a complete 180 and get into Holiday mode, and start doling out toxic delicacies like cinnamon rolls, quiche, cheeseballs, truffles and pies.  I will slack off on other rules, like the dog not being allowed in the living room, and not indulging in alcoholic beverages at breakfast.  Hubby may even be allowed to sit and read a magazine without being peppered with reminders about things that need done. Prolonged lazing on the couch is completely acceptable, in spite of how nice it might be outside.

So, enjoy “Christmas Mom”, family.  She is my gift to you.  Remember, “January Mom” is just around the corner, and we’re back to the norm where every sentence she utters begins with: “You should ….”

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Side by Side – Practically

Well, time sure flies, because once again this week it was our wedding anniversary.  And while this one passed without major “incident”unlike some of them, in reflecting, it seems that it was evident early in our life together that romance was going to take a bit of a back seat to practicality. 

For example, back then, who got married on December 1st, except of course people who were putting together a quick wedding and couldn’t wait until June because they would be a family by then?  We did – for the romantic reason that back in those days I worked in an accounting office.  In 1979 the tax laws were such that a husband only had to claim the wife’s income from the date of marriage – so he actually got to claim me as a dependent for the whole year, meaning that our income tax refund paid for our 2 week Bahamas honeymoon.  Now that’s Amore.

Even as we departed the next day on our honeymoon, our dreamy, romantic resolve was tested.  In an ironic twist, we were the only married people on a plane load of “PWPs” – Parents without Partners.  And man, THOSE people could party.  It was the one week a year they got away from their kids. We weren’t even off the tarmac and they were  sitting on each other’s laps lighting up smokes (you could do that then), blasting music and conga-dancing down the aisle  – and making snide comments about how we were sure to become “future members”.

 Then fast forward a couple of years to an anniversary that we decided to celebrate by going to a romantic lodge in Haliburton.  We made our way to the quaint destination, and when we booked in, we were informed that we were the only non-members of a family reunion that was taking place at the lodge. They had booked all the rooms plus the cabins.   We both got dressed up into our nice evening wear to go have our anniversary dinner in the dining room downstairs, and found it completely full of the very loud, very boisterous “Mc-Something” clan.  We attempted to hold hands and gaze lovingly into each other’s eyes, but it was somewhat diminished by the fact that the family reunion people had selected this night to hold a “funny hat contest”.  It’s hard to sustain that come hither “look of love” glow when you’re interrupted and asked to pass the salt by a man wearing toilet paper roll antlers at the next table.  We finally adopted an “if you can’t beat ‘em join ‘em” attitude, and instead of spending the rest of the evening reminiscing about our wedded bliss, we cleaned up at their Euchre tournament.

One downside of a December anniversary is that you are also competing with the Christmas party crowd.  Another time – our 10th , we went to a very nice upscale restaurant in our town, and it was SUCH a big deal because by now we had a couple kiddies so we usually only dined out under golden arches.  This night, with Grandma babysitting, once again we’re all decked out in our finery, and they sat us in a room at a cute little table for 2, right beside a long table that sat about 24 people from a local firm celebrating their Christmas party.  There were non-stop speeches and service awards all night.  (It sounded like a nice place to work.  I made a mental note to send them a resume.) Ever impressionable, I found myself wishing I had thought to get hubby a 10 year plaque. 

Of course there have been lots of anniversaries since that one – and this year we took practical to a whole new level.  I stopped at the drug store the other night to pick up an anniversary card, and lo and behold, found my beloved in the same aisle, on the same mission.  But he had already been to one store and come up empty handed.  He explained that there were none that expressed his feelings.  I completely get that.  He likes to get the sentimental cards, and couldn’t find any that said “I love you, moreso when you aren’t being a bitch”.  And as per usual, the ones I looked at for him all had me gagging and laughing out loud, – not because he isn’t wonderful, but I’ve just never been able to pull off a “You complete me” with a straight face.  My go-to card usually mentions something about stealing the covers, or pictures of a couple of cute dogs snuggled up together, and the sentiment is implied and unspoken. So in this instance, instead of actually purchasing cards, we just pointed out to each other the ones that we would have purchased. (I went the high roller route and chose the pricey “sound” one that blared Shania Twain’s classic “You’re Still the One”.)  Then we spent the $10 on lottery tickets instead, and left the store.

Then yesterday, on our actual anniversary, we very practically went to a restaurant where we’ve accumulated a substantial number of “VIP” points, and we need to use them up, because we think we won’t be going there much in the future.  First we had to wait at the bar because neither of us even thought of making a reservation. The romantic ambiance was established almost immediately, as they had an Ultimate Fighting show on the bar tv, and there were numerous scenes of heavily tattooed, bald and buff fighters with cauliflower ears and blood coming out of their mouths.  Romantic AND appetizing.

The hostess then sat us in a booth beside the entertainment (that’s new), a 70 ish Scottish man with a guitar who started up the minute we were seated, singing loud mournful ballads, with the odd Jimmy Buffett and Roger Miller thrown in for good measure.  Conversation was out of the question.  So, not wanting the evening to be a total bust, in my mind the evening focus shifted from romantic dinner to mouth-full sing-alongs of “Those Were the Days”, and “Trailer for Sale or Rent”.  Hubby was unphased by my impromptu booth-side Karaoke. After all these years he knows that if there’s music and I know the words, I can’t resist.  And truthfully, knowing the real words isn’t a deal breaker.

At the end of our day though, we carried out our ritual of getting out the wedding album and looking at the skinny bride with the sausage roll flipped hair, and the dress that copied the one in the Rocky movie, and the lean groom with the jet black hair, mutton chops and Magnum PI moustache.

Those Parents Without Partners may have been half right.  After all these years, we may be a bit lighter on the romance – but we are PWPs. Partners who are Practical.

 

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Failure is a Gift… and My Gifts Are Failures

Well, it’s about a month until the big event, and time to start the nightmare that is Christmas shopping.  Trying to buy other people something they want.  What a concept.  If they want it, and are over 16, and they have the means — or even if they don’t have the means but have a credit card — chances are they already bought it.

This makes shopping even harder, because now I have to think like a marketer, and identify an unmet need, and then fill it.  I need to buy people something they don’t even know they want, but that will delight them, ideally beyond their wildest dreams.  This is a tall order, and one that I have been known to take very seriously.

I’ve failed miserably at this in the past.  I used to be a sucker for gadgets. My first gift to my then boyfriend back in 1974 was a “hot lather machine” for shaving.  Seriously.  And I couldn’t WAIT for him to open it. He was barely old enough to shave, and somehow I thought that the only thing lacking in his life (now that he had me, the ultimate prize) was the foam that he put on his face before scraping it with something sharp, was too cold.  Life altering indeed.  Even more staggering is that he used it, but I think that’s just because we were in the early stages of relationship training where he still did what I said.

And I distinctly remember presenting my sisters with such technological wonders as nail dryers.  Because what girl hasn’t suffered  through the cruel hardship of having to wait for her nails to dry, or heaven forbid “wrecking” a freshly polished talon (which we all sported in the 70s) before it was sufficiently hardened?  Much like Dr. Drew, I was able to act as a Lifechanger and bestow upon them these nifty gadgets that would actually blow on your nails FOR you. Talk about luxury.  Ivana Trump had nothing on us.  I think that these gifts would have been more meaningful if my siblings were asthmatics or something, and blowing on their own nails presented more of a problem, but sadly these ladies have always enjoyed perfect health so I wasn’t able to have quite as dramatic an impact.

What other useless gadgets have I gifted, you ask?  Well, I’ve attempted in good faith to transport my sisters and girlfriends from their kitchen tables to luxurious spas, by providing them with the rare and coveted facial steamer.  So what if you can accomplish the same thing by leaning over your boiling kettle, or opening the oven door during broiling – at the time I was almost exclusively shopping at the high-class “Consumers Distributing” store, and from the picture in the catalogue it seemed like a definite  life changer, in an  elegant  “Calgon take me away” sense.

And remember back in the seventies when everyone smoked?  Well, everyone except my dad.  My mom chained smoke (God rest her soul – not a coincidence ).  So I was able to find the perfect gift to solve the problem of my dad’s constant bitching about secondhand smoke.  It was of course to buy her a ‘smokeless ashtray’.  I expected to win hands down the favourite child of the season award that year.  But surprisingly, turned out not to be a big hit.  Mom was annoyed because the thing basically smoked her cigarette down to the filter in seconds, as it was powerfully “inhaling”  the whole time it sat in the ashtray.  Consequently her number of smokes per day skyrocketed.  And while Dad was hard of hearing, the industrial sounding hum that this thing emanated seriously impacted his enjoyment of Bonanza reruns.  Conclusion:  total bust.

 And sometimes, without intending to, in my zeal to dazzle I guess I could be downright insulting.  But, keeping in mind that I aspired to improve lives in a similar fashion to Richard Simmons and  “Oprah’s Life Class”, when my dear friends complain about cellulite, naturally I take that as a challenge to come to the rescue.  The quizzical (disbelieving?) expressions on the face of recipients whom you’ve just (at no small expense, might I add) gifted with an anti-cellulite product is something that must be seen.  Never mind that in my head I visualize them, because of me, now being able to rock their Daisy Dukes, and not in a “the People of Walmart” kind of way.  It’s true what they say, no good deed goes unpunished.

But I am not always on the giving end of crappy gadget gifts.  My husband gave me something for Christmas early in our married life, that signalled that indeed the honeymoon was over, and had me seriously questioning our compatibility.  My feelings were hurt and I couldn’t believe that he thought that this was a suitable gift for me, his trophy wife.  It has gone largely unused, but I’ve kept it over the years, just for spite. 

It’s Black Friday and I’m hitting the mall.  Let the games begin.

 

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All I Want is Dust in the Wind

The weather is terrible. It gets dark in the middle of the afternoon.  My half-hearted job hunt has stalled.   I have a boring empty nest and way too many mirrors in my house.  November is officially the most depressing month on earth. There is one thing in my life that doesn’t suck right now. Unfortunately, it’s my vacuum cleaner.

I’ve been kidding myself for a long time that I could make this relationship work, with what in an ironic twist is called a  Hoover “Windtunnel”.   I dutifully haul it out a few times a week, even though it weighs a ton and I have to schlep it up and down the stairs. But I finally  had to admit that one of us is just going through the motions.  Things hit rock bottom the other night when it couldn’t pick up – wait for it ….. an onion skin. That’s right, the transparent single layer outer shell of a cooking onion proved to be too daunting for this particular Windtunnel.  It twisted and flapped pathetically at the end of the hose – almost going, but then not quite – taunting me by making a little noise, kind of like someone blowing on a blade of grass.

I’ve become completely unreasonably obsessed.  I fight with this thing and curse, and hubby tries to calm me and asks me to step away from the Hoover, and suggests maybe I should, “Eliminate the middle man and just sweep the rug –  it works just as well”.  But lets all just calm down and  HOLD ON A COTTON PICKING MINUTE. I come from a time long ago, when men were men, and when you had a job to do, you damned well did it.  Why should this Hoover get off scott free while I work up a sweat trying to sweep a rug that was clearly intended to be cleaned through a process of powerful sucking coupled with a solid session of beater-barring? 

So, using the part of my brain that has me driving past gas stations that have put the price up, even when my low fuel light is burning brightly and the next closest station that might have cheaper gas is 10 miles away,  I maniacally pick up dirt and then jam it into the hose. Sometimes if the particular piece of debris is too long, like a toothpick, and gets stuck sideways, I will break it in half and feed in the two pieces separately.  I’m nothing if not committed to seeing that this DAMNED Hoover fulfills its contractual obligation.  It has one job.  “SUCK IT UP, BUTTERCUP.” (Just a small sampling of my verbal tirades).

Somehow, this makes sense to me, and it is why over the last few years, vacuuming the rug on the stairs really means that I can be found rubbing the convenient “stair attachment” furiously along the carpet and then sitting down every third step or so, working with the little pile of cat hair and dust bunnies that I’ve basically “plowed together” by friction, and then trying to coax ­­­­­the material down the nozzle, rather like a mother bird force feeding reluctant and somewhat bulemic young ones. 

It would be okay if that’s the best that was out there.  But I know that there are magical models out there that can suck up ball bearings at the drop of a hat.  Why, — and I’m not proud of this – but I happen to know firsthand that a full-grown finch in a cage can be effortlessly sucked off a perch, if you’ve got adequate suction mixed with just a hint of  easily distracted.  Side story:  Many years back I was helping a friend’s mom in her pet store, and was vacuuming out an occupied cage, whilst chatting away with the lady.  I turned to look at her to make a particularly salient point, and then when I returned my gaze to the cage, it was no longer occupied. I looked down to see two tiny stick legs kicking madly at the end of my nozzle.  I then had to follow the trail of the hose of the central vac to pull it out of the wall, where the little yellow guy plopped onto the floor, visibly shaken. I placed him back on his perch … and fun fact – “scare the shit out of”, is a real thing.  The timing of this incident came fresh on the heels of the time I helped by cleaning out an aquarium after having just applied nail polish remover (who knew that fish were THAT sensitive).  I was tactfully informed that my assistance, voluntary as it was, would never again be required at my friend’s mom’s pet store.

Totally digressed again, but it’s my prerogative.  Mmm …  perogies. (I may  have a serious attention deficit issue.)

I know that there are some amazing vacuum cleaners out there now, that can have your old tired rugs looking like they’re brand new.  But they also cost about $700.  I don’t want to spend that much on something as boring as dirt removal.  I could get something really good for $700, like multiple restaurant meals, or my hair cut and coloured 3 and a half times, or laser eye surgery on one eye – (the blue one),  or a spider vein-ectomy on one leg – (the bottom one, when I cross them).

But for now, it’s business as usual.  I’ll just hunker down and do battle with the uncooperative Hoover.  Someday, my Dyson will come.

A Dyson DC07 upright cyclonic vacuum cleaner u...

Image via Wikipedia

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My Multiple Breakdowns

Car Repair

My better half is good at working on cars.  But it’s a double-edged sword, because we never buy new – we always buy used vehicles – ones he knows he can breathe life into long after their best before date. Which means that on occasion we’ve been left stranded.  Like on a Monday morning a few weeks ago.

When my city dwelling daughter comes home now for the weekend, it’s like the Amazing Race come Monday morning when I have to get her into the train station an hour away to get her to work on time. We sped out of the laneway in the pitch black, just before 6 am.  Not far from the house we both heard a noise – a clunk. 

“What was that?” 

We made up female type explanations for it:  

“Sounded like we ran over something … but we didn’t.  Something must have fallen over in the trunk.”

A few more feet down the road, then CLUNK

“What was THAT?”  my daughter shrieked.  

“I don’t know.  Call your dad.” 

I came to a stop and threw it into park.

“He wants to talk to you.”   

Him:  “What happened?” 

I gave him a clear and concise assessment of the situation:

“I don’t know, we heard something clunk.  She’s going to miss her train.  Come right away.”

“What did it sound like? I need to know what tools to bring.”

 “I thought I had a flat tire but I don’t think I do. But I might. Hurry up.”

 “But what did it sound like?”

 “It sounded like I shouldn’t be driving it.  Why are you still home?”

Cue the rain.  We sat on the side of the road in the now hurricane force rains, awaiting his arrival.  It felt like an eternity, but it was really only about five minutes.  When he arrived, we wasted no time.  We leapt out of our car, flinging luggage, purses and lunch bags into his truck with all the care of Air Canada baggage handlers.  There was no time to waste. We jumped into the truck and zoomed off, leaving him to either find a way to drive the crippled car, or walk home in the rain.

But, that comes with the territory of being head mechanic.  We’ve been stranded so many times it’s hard to count.  Like many years ago when we were on our way to the babysitters to drop off our youngest while we went to my uncle’s funeral.  Once again it’s torrentially raining.  We’re on a country road … suddenly the rear wheel falls off.  It seems that when hubby was changing tires on the weekend, he forgot to tighten that one up.   Did I mention he was supposed to be a pall bearer at this funeral?  He tried to put the tire back on but couldn’t … this was pre-cell phone days, when you had to walk to the closest (usually creepy) house to use the phone.   We ended up taking our babysitter’s van to the funeral, where my bedraggled, sweaty and soggy husband joined the other five impeccably groomed pall bearers, reminding me of  the Sesame Street song “One of these things is not like the others”.  (In the 90s I always thought in terms of Sesame Street songs.)

Wheel falls off?  I see your wheel and I raise you one axle.  That was the year when the kids were little and they were going on their annual Christmas shopping trip with dad down to the mall, on December 20th. They were in our 1990 Suburban, which we bought in 1996.  As they cruised along my husband heard a little bang and then suddenly the kids in the back seat kind of “dropped”, like they were in a low rider.  He looked out his side window to see his left rear wheel zooming up past him, picking up speed, veered in front and then jumped into the ditch and about 100 feet out into a farmer’s field. He managed to get the Suburban stopped on the roadside.  A pick-up truck pulled up behind him, presumably to offer assistance.  The guy ambled up to the window and casually asked, “Are you going to put out that fire?”  It seems that when the rear axle broke, the friction caused a small fire under the vehicle.  One of his biggest regrets is putting that fire out.  The thing was insured, we would have been much better off than the $2,000+ repair bill.  Side note – I think that’s the year my Christmas gift was a ShamWow.

You may think it’s always raining when we’re stranded.  Not always.  Sometimes it’s a blizzard.  This brings me to our 1994 Astro Van, which we bought in – you guessed it – 2000.  This was a “luxury touring van”, which had its upside because it had cool things like drink holders and reclining seats for everyone –critical when you have teenagers who are constantly thirsty and exhausted from being sullen.  The truck had its down side though – a sliding side door that required secret handshake treatment to close. You had to lift up and a hold the handle just so – or you were screwed – it would fly open when you turned corners.  Whenever we were transporting other people’s kids – which was constantly because teenagers also have to bring a friend everywhere in order to make family functions tolerable … there was always a chorus of “DON’T CLOSE THE DOOR”.  Only family members knew how … and if you did it wrong, then tools had to come out, sometimes accompanied by colourful language that we would rather our children’s friends not know that we know.

Anywhoo – It’s the blizzard of all blizzards, and hubby and I making our way home from work.  The Astro Van decides it’s only going partway, and strands us a good 18 kilometres from home.  Try as he might couldn’t get it going.  Along came a police man who we happened to know through hockey, and he loaded us into the back of the cruiser and gave us a ride home.   I thought the kids would be worried sick.   Interesting to note that teenagers are way more okay with it when parents come home in a police car than vice versa. Their main concern was whether we thought the school buses would be running tomorrow.

Those are really just the tip of the iceberg.  There were many more incidents. But in spite of all the breakdowns, I’ve come around to his way of thinking. Who needs new cars?  Warranty Shwarranty.  All these adventures on the side of the road keep things interesting, and I figured out how to spend some of the money we save by him doing our car repairs.  It’s called CAA.

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Filed under Family, Humor, Memories, Thats Life