Tag Archives: everyday life

Summertime, and the living is …

Let me say right now I LOVE summer and am not in reality, a Debbie Downer. I am however a critical thinker, and I’m just not going to sugarcoat it anymore. As we officially embark into summer and I proudly display my chalky bare legs resplendent with spider veins and bug bites, I find myself pondering some of the “great” things about summer that if I’m honest – are not that great.  I’m talking about things that people pretend are awesome, but they’re just NOT.  Hear me out –  my top ten.

# 1 CONVERTIBLES.  If the day is hot enough to have the top down, that also means the seat is the temperature of the sun, and you will lose at least one layer of skin from the back of your legs.  Things will cool off somewhat when you get up to speed, at about the same time your head tries to fully blow off.  If you have hair, you arrive looking like you did that time you went to the science centre and put your hand on that thing (Note, not a science geek)  If you don’t have hair  – and many sporty muscle car owners don’t (these are mostly owned by senior men who are trying to recapture youth by way of finally owning a car that the actual cool guys in the ‘70s had) – then sadly the whole cool effect is lost with the Tilley hat with built in SPF and chinstrap.

#2 SUNROOFS – see# 1, with the added bonus of all your receipts and loose paper car contents swirling around you as you drive, like you’re in a vacuum canister.

# 3 What offers endless bending over, huge amounts of dirt, constant neediness and ultimate disappointment?  If you said parenting, you’re wrong (are you though?).   The answer was VEGETABLE GARDENING.  UGH.  Planting a bunch of stuff, then trying to figure out if whatever comes up is what you want or if it’s a weed, then WATERING it a whole bunch of times in a row, then trying to decipher what disease it has (ALWAYS has a disease)  or what exactly is the bug that’s eating it and then going to the Farmer’s Market to buy your produce anyway.

#4 FARMER’s MARKETS – Yes, please “Organic Sarah”  I’ll pay you $8.00 for 2 tomatoes and a sunflower, because I came up too close to your booth and so now I’ve entered into some sort of unspoken contract to buy something because we spoke and you’re obviously gifted because your tomatoes aren’t diseased or riddled with holes from pests unknown. And I want to look all Harrowsmith/whimsical-like in my sundress and take the visual focus off my aforementioned legs – therefore I’ll carry the sunflower out in plain view, preferably in a wicker basket #blessed.

#5 CAMPING. Enough said.

#6CAMPFIRES.  Can’t even concentrate on the singing of Kumbaya when it’s equivalent to having 6  chainsmokers sit 2 inches away and aggressively blow smoke in your face.  The burning eyes and air quality issues are only forgotten when nursing wounds of small children who have eaten charred marshmallows that are the approximate temperature of molten lava.  The smell of the campfire in your clothes and hair is a gift that keeps on giving, well into the fall.

#7 POND SWIMS   No thank you.  It’s always FREEZING.  Either your feet touch gross mud or slippery rocks.  SO many other creatures are in there too.  Creepy little spiders that shoot along the top of the water like aliens. Turtles.  Fish.  Crayfish. There COULD be leeches.   Once a watersnake almost touched me.  There was a bit of a scene.  Let’s just say I’m glad ponds don’t have that chemical in the water that turns purple if you know what I mean.

#8FISHING.  The ACTUAL worst.  You have to carry a lot of gear.  You have to be QUIET.  You have to touch the grossest stuff to bait your hook, then via trickery, you try to get an unsuspecting fish,  minding his or her own fish business, to lunge for it out of hunger, only to have it rewarded by getting unceremoniously dragged kicking (with no legs) and screaming (with no voice) into your boat or up on shore, where you then decide to toss it back in with the worst lip piercing story ever, or the other fate of it gets to become your probably mercury laden dinner. Thumbs down.  Two words – Captain Highliner.

#9USING MY CLOTHSLINE  This one I’m torn about.  I like hanging the clothes up.  I love watching them flap in the breeze.  But I then lose interest and I definitely don’t want to go get them off the line.  Sometimes they stay out there for days, and come back in the house with the addition of bird poop. When I do eventually bring them inside, I don’t like that the towels are stiff and can stand up by themselves and can also do double duty as dermabrasion device.  Plus, EVERYTHING needs ironed which, let’s be honest, was never even a possibility.

#10   SANDALS  I do like that they are cool and comfy.  But it’s hard enough keeping my hair/face/hands presentable to the rest of the world, but then there is the added burden of FEET. All winter they get to be hidden away in the deep dark recesses of my boots. Now add to the growing checklist of grooming tasks (eg – did I fill in the bare spots of both of my eyebrows or just the one?  Are there any new rogue whiskers that people are too scared/shy/mean to tell me about? Did I convincingly cover up that age spot that aspires to be a third eye?) … I now also have to worry about if my toenail polish is chipping and do my heels look like an ancient creek bed in the Sahara dessert.

That’s my 10 – and perfect timing – I couldn’t even make this up if I tried.  Hubby just stuck his head in and told me to water the vegetable garden.  So, here goes 30 minutes  and several gallons of water I’ll never get back.  I guess it could be worse.  We could be heading up north in a convertible for a combo camping/fishing trip.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Livin’ La Vida Loca – Long Weekend Style

This is a nice picture of the dog.  A little less nice of my lawn.

This is a nice picture of the dog. A little less nice of my lawn.

Where was I? Oh yeah….  Update –  I’m not that good at multi-tasking anymore because it appears that I can’t work full-time and blog. So since we still like to eat and even moreso drink, I guess my posts will be sporadic/annual going forward. But as I contemplated what a mess I’m making of the first long weekend of “summer”, I thought it too blogworthy to ignore. I actually had the added benefit of getting Friday off too. This had all the earmarks of being a super productive weekend.

In one of the many ironies that is my life … now that we don’t live on a farm anymore, hubby has gone into farming in a big way … working for a large cash crop operation.  Since this is planting season, basically that means that he is home for about 6 hours in the middle of the night for a much needed shower, feeding frenzy and power nap before being gone again at the crack of dawn. Which means I’m left to my own devices on this … the biggest of all outdoor project weekends. Let’s see … what did I accomplish yesterday? And make no mistake, there are many projects and maintenance things that need to happen. I got an early start…

8:00 am – 10:00 a.m. – Coffee. Put on tv to see news. Accidentally watched whole movie called “The Beaver” with Mel Gibson.  Worse than that, it made me weep, setting the stage for the rest of the day.

10:00 am – Dug up a few dandelions. Played the “weed-or-plant?” game trying to figure out what else to pull out, got tired and came back in the house to eat a couple squares of chocolate bar in case my blood sugar was low. Ate 12 squares.

11:00 – 12:00   Read paper outside and threw ball for the dog. Was impressed at how far I could throw it from a sitting position.

12:00 – 2:00 LUNCH

2:00 – Went to get wheelbarrow to collect pulled weeds, only to discover it has flat tire so it’s too hard to push.  Aborted mission. Sprayed dog with the hose.

2:15 – 3:00 – Googled what to do when your daffodils look like mine do … Got distracted by Facebook, looking at all the cool, fun and productive things that other people were doing this weekend.  Lost interest in doing anything about the daffodils. I don’t think I did anything with the daffodil remnants last year and the world didn’t end (much to disappointment of Mayans).

3:00 – Decided to fire up the push mower to cut some grass, because cutting the steep hill with the riding mower is too death defying for me. It’s hubby’s job, as he is heavily insured. Began a series of phone calls to tractor-dwelling hubby.

Call # 1:  “If I just put some gas in this should it start? Do I have to put anything else in it like oil?”

HIM: “No, that’s it. Should start right up.”

Call # 2:  “Is there a special button or anything that I’m missing? It’s not acting like it’s going to start at all, ever”.

HIM:  “No, no button or anything. You could tape up the idiot proof handle if that’s making it awkward, then just use two hands to pull the cord.”  I let the questionable “idiot” reference slide.

Call #3:  (This one took a long time to answer and turned out to be entirely one-sided) “ Yeah, it’s not going to start. My back hurts from pulling. This is stupid. I hate this.” Click.

Call #4: “I think I know why it won’t start. I can see it’s got a little leak in the hose. It’s probably because of how you stored it. Why did you put it away like that? Is there any way I can plug it? Is it going to kill the grass? Where should I put it so that the whole tank of gas leaking out won’t matter?” He dutifully answered all the questions but I don’t remember what he said, because I already lost interest in cutting the grass, and ceased to care whether leaking gas killed it. I ended the call.

4:00 – 7:00  Attempted to clean out the garden shed. Mostly whipped myself into a swearing frenzy after seeing all the junk that we’ve still got after our big move last year. Unless we’re going to be building a railroad in the foreseeable future, I think that there are a lot of giant pick-axe type tools that we can get rid of.  See exhibit A.

Exhibit A.
Dog added strictly for scale. The blue thing weighs roughly 250 lbs.

Also made mental note to ask hubby why it is that we can’t get rid of the 3 saddles we have. We managed to part with the horses years ago.  Failing a roving herd of wild mustangs making an impromptu appearance in our yard … I just don’t think we need them. Call me crazy. To make my little cleaning task even more interesting, the garden shed is home to several hundred bees including I’m pretty sure, those of the Killer variety because they are as big as birds, and they were all engaged in a fast paced game of “dive bomb and try to touch her head”.  That wasn’t so bad … kind of took my mind off the blackfly bites I’d been collecting all day.

Stopped cleaning when I dropped super heavy silver part of air compressor hose onto my shin.

6:45 – 7:00 – Iced shin.

7:00 – 7:05 – Pulled weeds from between deck boards.

7:06 – Got sliver.

7:07 – 8:00 – Worked on getting sliver out. Finally got it out, treated the wound and dressed it.  Decided I best have a stiff drink like on the western movies when somebody has to get a bullet dug out of their flesh.

8:00 on ….  A blur of educational shows like The Soup, Fashion Police.

11:30 – My back was pretty sore by this time, so took hot bath with glass of Baileys and read about world issues like Avril Lavigne’s wedding plans and Prince Harry’s polo skills.

12:00 midnight. Hubby home. Calls into the bathroom. “Did you get the gas for the lawnmower from that red can you left in the middle of the driveway?”

“Yes!”, I shot back.  Thinking the whole time … “So sue me for not putting it away. It’s heavy, and I’ve been slaving all day….”

His two word response was the perfect capper to my day:   “That’s diesel.”

Of course it is.  Is it Tuesday yet?

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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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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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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

Causing a Scene Up on Aisle 3

Ah, the grocery store.  There once was a time it was my happy place.  I remember starting out as a newlywed, getting all decked out in my makeup and pearls for a trip into town to buy all the chips & dip, pop and cookies we would require for the next week.  Then seven years later, I was the one with no mascara, and the carseat in the cart, stacking groceries all around the kid, making more responsible purchases like Similac and Arrowroots.  Then I became the one with the unbrushed hair and big dark circles under my eyes, pushing two kids in one cart and dragging another cart behind me loaded with stuff like organic apples, diapers, Cheerios and Clamato Juice (hey, a mom’s gotta live).  Then before long, we were up to three kids, and I was the yummy mummy scraggy frump pushing just one cart again, with one kid sitting in the top part (that was always fun – trying to hold a squirming kid up high enough to get the legs in the cart holes –akin to putting a worm back down the hole), and two kids hanging off the side. Or sometimes one of them would be scrunched up where the cases of pop should go, and the other one would be racing around a few aisles over, annoying other shoppers.

We have lots of fond memories from shopping with the kids.  Like the time our youngest was sitting up in the cart, when she was about two years old.  Another lady pushed her cart up close to us, and she had a little baby about three months old.  The cute little baby was staring at our little Laura, and the mother and I exchanged smiles and nods, sharing the glow of motherhood.  As we both examined the bacon, I saw my daughter lean closer to speak to the baby.  I thought to myself, “Aww,  precious”….  then she said, in a growly, Clint Eastwoodish voice:

What are YOU gawking at?”  I scurried away

Kids or no kids, grocery shopping is a lot harder than it looks.  You are expected to make a lot of decisions, plus perform some fairly complicated math calculations.  At the front door is the first major decision – push cart or hand basket?  Let’s be serious – they should completely get rid of those hand baskets.  On the rare occasions that I have convinced myself to use one, I can be found moments later, one aisle over, staggering under its weight.  It’s like they conspire to put all the heavy things on sale the day I use a hand basket.  I’m the queen of the heavy impulse buy. Potatoes , juice, beans.  I then have to alternate carrying it with two hands between my legs like a toddler learning to bowl, or casually dangle it off my forearm like a purse – ignoring the excruciating pain and increasingly deep dent in my flesh.   I ran into a friend shopping recently and she had a hand basket that she had stacked so high that she couldn’t even lift it, and had resorted to leaving it sitting in the aisle and bringing purchases back to it, stacking it higher and higher.  Thank heavens I arrived with my push cart – I did my good deed for the day by giving her 200lb hand basket a ride to the checkout, while she walked alongside with her hand atop the highest items so it wouldn’t topple.

And speaking of running into friends – is there anything worse when you’re just trying to get your groceries and get out, than getting to a section where you need something and two other shoppers — apparently long-lost old friends– are blocking the aisle and have pushed their carts together and are playing catch up with all the news in each other’s lives, and all you want is to find the spice that you need and be gone?  They make half-hearted attempts to move their carts closer to the shelves, but inevitably you need something that they are blocking entirely.  Those inconsiderate people piss me off.

Yes – come to think of it there is something worse.  Occasionally when I see somebody at the grocery store that I haven’t seen for a while, and we’re trying to have a conversation – maybe she’s showing me some  pictures on her cell phone or something – and other shoppers look all aggravated and make “tsk” sounds and try to ram their carts by, or reach past us to get stuff.  Those ignorant people piss me off.

One sure-fire way I know to make sure I see everyone I know in town is to go to the store without any makeup on, dressed like a slob.  Guaranteed all my friends, enemies, and the ageless cheerleader from high school will be all up in my business.  Those are the days that I’m forced to shop without my glasses on, and operate like Mr. Magoo and can’t see anyone, least of all that slim, well dressed do-gooder lady with the cute haircut whose kid used to hang out with my kid.  Sometimes might have to skip a few aisles to avoid an encounter, and go home without a few items I really need, but hey – priorities.

However, should I have just come from the hairdresser and be wearing one of my business suits that is from this decade, in full makeup complete with lip gloss, I guarantee that I will not see a single soul I know.  If I should see someone familiar – I won’t be able to catch their eye, despite whistling, waving and full on jumping jacks.

Plus, regardless of how much time I spend shopping.  Once I’m officially trapped in the checkout line, I always see something in someone else’s cart that I meant to get.  And I want it.  Bad. I weigh my options … create a distraction and just grab it?  Offer to buy it at a premium?  None seem feasible, so I say “back in a minute” and then walk-run through the store trying desperately to get back before the checkout person has finished running all my stuff through.  Sometimes I make it, sometimes I don’t.   Sometimes I get distracted, and keep shopping and have to be paged.  So what, who cares.

A recent grocery shopping trip was a little hair-raising.  I completed my purchases, paid and then was on my way out with my cart loaded with bags, when I was stopped dead in my tracks by a huge candy display that I had missed on the way in.  How is that possible?  Candy is just about my favorite thing! There were a couple of other people browsing, which added to the sense of urgency.  Could this be the candy sale to beat all candy sales??? However, good sense prevailed (I am after all, in the words of my daughter, a grown-ass woman) so I decided not to buy any candy and instead I pushed the cart in a most dignified manner, out to my truck in the parking lot.  Once I got out there and opened the back of the truck to begin loading my bags of groceries in, I made the unfortunate discovery that I had actually pushed someone else’s cart out to the parking lot, full of unpaid for groceries.  I raced back inside,  and mine was still stalled beside the enticing Fuzzy Peaches and Licorice display.  Nearby there was a bewildered looking man with his arms full of fruit and vegetables who appeared to have lost something.  His wife looked irritated.  I dropped their cart off close to them, then grabbed mine and headed back out the door as they stared.  I quietly muttered the only thing I could think of …

What are YOU gawking at?”

Yes, I realized I have come full circle. Once again I shop alone. And I may be a grown ass woman, but I can annoy other shoppers even better than my kids ever did.  And there’s still so much to look forward to in my shopping career.  Next milestone at the grocery store – the driving carts, and bad parallel parking in the Polident aisle.

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Filed under Family, Humor, Kids, Memories

Criminal Minds – Canine Edition

I’ve been getting some requests for an update on that DOG my family brought home without my knowledge, blessing or input.  (Okay,  maybe nobody asked – but tough, I’m going to report it anyway.) His name is no longer “Murphy”.  We discovered that he’s a bit challenged intellectually, and he likes to run and run and run … so then he became “Forrest”, as in Gump.  But that’s where the similarity ends. We’ve had him for three months, and he’s got a rap sheet a mile long.

 Top 10 Crimes over the past three months:

  1. Vandalism – Ate ½ of nice black leash as rebellion against having to stay in the porch because he was wet, and smelled like – you guessed it – a wet dog.
  2. Theft and destruction of property – within the course of ten minutes and (while in full view of hubby who did not notice either deed) he both:
    • Dug up/pruned with his teeth, my only surviving,  non-holey Hosta
    • Stole black bra from clothesline and paraded it about the property like he was at a Victoria Secret fashion show
  3. Destruction of more property – Over the course of a couple of days, systematically, knowingly, and sneakily chewed the little leather piece that goes between your toes from THREE separate pairs of #1 daughter’s flip-flops. To add insult to injury, the shoes looked normal until she went to put them on, and they became anklets.
  4. Vagrant-like behaviour – Rolled in something disgusting, requiring an immediate bath, even though it was nighttime and hubby was home alone with a migraine and had to perform the bathing all by himself.
  5. Repeat vagrancy offense – Morning after emergency bath, rolled in cat poo and presented himself at the door to be let in with full turd still intact behind one ear.
  6. Trespassing – he decided to accompany a group of Mennonite children home from their bus stop as they walked past our house.  By the time hubby noticed he was gone, he had been absent for a while.  Had to jump in the car and drive down our side road to their farm, where the one-canine crime spree was gleefully chasing their horses around the paddock, barking like a lunatic.
  7. Indecent exposure and lewd, inappropriate behavior, unbecoming a dog –  Whilst wrestling on the kitchen floor with the girls, he knowingly or unknowingly released what they call the “red rocket” and one of them full-on grasped it by accident.  There was much screaming and hysteria, and then talk about being a “pet-o-file” and then finally,  “show me on your doll where the bad lady touched you.”  None of us will be recovering from that anytime soon.
  8. Terrorism – Singlehandedly banished our beloved the cats into exile.  He eats their food, and poses menacingly in the doorway.  My three little feline friends are officially feral now.  Sometimes they sit in the window when he’s in another room and stare in at me with tearful yet wild eyes, one paw held up against the window pane, longing for the days when they ran the house.
  9. Grossness – Self induced bulimic behaviour whilst traveling in the vehicle, so not only can we not leave him alone, we can’t take him anywhere unless we want to end up on the side of the road scraping warm, half-digested piles of puppy chow flecked with pieces of wood off the upholstery.
  10. Conspiracy leading to slander – He’s running with the wrong crowd. At precisely bedtime on a Monday night when he was let out for one final bio-break, he purposefully had a secret rendezvous with the stinkingest skunk in the county.  Of course it was 11:00 p.m. , and we had to wait until morning to get him cleaned up. He had to sleep outside, tied up like the common criminal that he is quickly becoming.

The good news is that having worked at veterinary offices for many years, I know that a foolproof remedy to remove skunk scent from a dog is a good soaking in a feminine hygiene douche product.  That’s right – Summer’s Eve.  Massengill – that sort of douche.  The bad news is that this is a small town and it doesn’t go unnoticed when your husband is waiting at the door in the morning for the drug store to open, and hastily purchases as many douche products as he can carry. 

However, he is still technically a puppy and we are trying to keep in mind that we didn’t give up any of the children during their youthful escapades (almost doesn’t count).  Plus,he’s also skilled at one other thing that means we’ll probably keep him around – occasionally he does a convincing impersonation of a good dog.

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Hockey Parenting – Not a Spectator Sport

source:attheroxy.com

You know the difference between a hockey mom and a pit bull? Lipstick.
Sarah Palin

Honestly never expected that I would ever be quoting Sarah, but just spent a great weekend travelling north with friends to see their son play hockey, and it seems applicable.  Their son plays in an elite provincial league which for many is a stepping stone to the NHL.  He’s 19 and lives 8 hrs away from home.

This young guy is such an amazing talent – but I just can’t understand  how he  got this far with our friends for parents. For one thing, they don’t go to any of the practices, to help the coach with strategy and whatnot.  They don’t have the coach on speed-dial, and I didn’t once witness them critiquing the plays or offering suggestions.  My son played hockey, and even though he mysteriously chose to stop playing once he became a teenager, I’m sure he couldn’t have had the stellar house league career he did, were it not for the fact that his dad was the coach, offering tips and direction 24-7,  and had I not been dedicated enough to faithfully stand  and bang on the glass for every practice and game , yelling helpful reminders such as “SKATE!” and “SHOOT!” and “GET IT OUT OF THERE!”

Instead,  this poor young man’s parents just watched and made noise only at the obvious times — even when he got a penalty, whereas everyone knows that if you stand up and make wild hand gestures whilst loudly screaming things like “COME ON!!!” or “HOMEEEEEER” (where applicable), that the referee will see the error of his ways and the next penalty will go to the opposition.  (His team ultimately won both games, but no thanks to these spectators.)

Plus, they sit in the stands with the rest of the audience, and if someone around them comments on their son’s play, they don’t even respond with a normal reaction of (if a positive comment): “That’s my son out there”, or if a negative comment*: “Shut your effing mouth and watch the game”, or blast an air horn in their face to set them straight or anything – they just sit there like bumps on a log.  Also, my suggestion that we paint their son’s name on our bellies for the home opener fell on deaf ears.  They politely declined.  (I think it may have been related to my caesarean scar but I can’t be sure.)

Then, the part after the game when people gather outside the dressing room door to wait for the team, they could and in my opinion should take this opportunity to network with the media and say things like, “Do you know who I am?”  Like honestly, ever heard of Walter Gretzky?  That kind of press doesn’t just happen on its own you know.  They also should take the time to talk to the other parents to give them specifics on how their kids could step things up, and give examples of how the game could have gone better if their kid had only passed the puck to their offspring.  But no, they just stand there, smiling and chatting, and are satisfied instead with a quick hug from their boy when he emerges from the dressing room.

And they completely missed the boat on the fact that the opposing team’s bus was right outside, and they could have easily taken the opportunity to put the fear into that team about the remaining season by at the very least, issuing veiled threats as the players boarded,  or by slashing at least one tire.  At one point I thought things were going to get real interesting because after the game they were marching purposefully toward the opposing team’s bus in search of one particular player.  They seemed very focused and intent on finding this guy, and I thought “FINALLY!” and racked my brain to remember what this player had done during the game that they were going to get retribution for!  Turns out, they were just trying to find this guy because he used to be on the same team as their son, and they wanted to say “Hi” and ask about his parents.    Hopeless. 

Actually, the only real hockey related comments from mom were health and safety related, like is the chin strap on his helmet tight enough to protect his noggin, and did the team issue a coat that was going to be warm enough in this cold climate.  Two words, mom and dad – embarrassing much?

*Pure speculation on my part -there were no negative comments

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Our Old Yeller Cat

I’ve had a bit of a love-hate relationship with living out on the farm.  When job hunting as I am now, I always take the address off my resume because it could be perceived as a disadvantage, and employers will think I won’t be reliable because I live in the snow belt.  They don’t know that I will drive through anything, and that I’ve come to terms with spending at least 5 years of my life in my car.  Which explains things like my “travel chips” tucked under my seat, and my door pockets that resemble a medicine cabinet.
 

But I have had to deal with issues that none of my urban based co-workers have.  There was for example, the great Rabies scare of 2006.   We had a cow that was sick and bawling, and hubby had the vet come.   He checked it out and eliminated a bunch of stuff, and then said that one remaining possibility was Rabies.  By the next day he was fairly sure that was the case, so we had to put the cow down, and when the test results came back the diagnosis was confirmed. 

I am a bit of a hypochondriac at the best of times, and learned a long time ago that ignorance is bliss in the area of ailments, as I immediately begin to observe the symptoms in myself or the kids the minute I read about any disease.  We’ve had everything from Malaria to  West Nile to Lyme disease to Meningitis, and that’s just from news stories that I couldn’t turn off fast enough.

The vet said as long as our cats were up to date on their shots there was nothing to worry about with them.  Except that I had let that slide a tiny bit … and they weren’t exactly up to date.  I’ll never forget the feeling in the pit of my stomach as hubby was reassuring me that it was probably very unlikely that we would need to worry about the cats, and that we should schedule them immediately for their shots.  As we chatted, our cat Furbert appeared, purring and rubbing as per usual.  Furbert innocently looked up at me, and he had one single long strand of spit dangling from his lip.

Well, that did it.  I was full blown hysterical, in Old Yeller mode.  Hubby was reassuring me once again, saying that he saw that the cat had pine pitch (sap from a pine tree) on his fur earlier and that he probably just licked it.  That wasn’t good enough for me though.  I called the emergency number of Rabies Control and shrieked into the phone calmly informed the guy  that our cat was foaming at the mouth and demanded to know when I should expect that we were all going to succumb.  Since they had been vaccinated in prior years, he thought we were okay, but suggested we isolate them for a couple of weeks, just to be sure. 

We gathered up the bewildered felines and unceremoniously locked them in the basement, where they all huddled on the top step, protesting loudly. (I understood their outrage though – our house is over 100 years old, and the basement is pretty creepy.  I refuse to go down there, even under threat of impending tornado — I’d rather take my chances going with the house, Dorothy style.)

I didn’t sleep a wink that night, and I had a work meeting in the big city the next day.  I remember groggily sitting around the  table in the glass office tower with my co-workers and agency partners, thinking about how they would feel if they knew that they were sharing a working lunch with a Rabies sufferer.  I avoided looking at the pitcher of water on the table just in case I was already in full blown hydrophobia. I wondered if and when I would be overcome with the urge to bite my colleagues.  I thought about how bad that was going to look on my Performance Review.

As it turned out, hubby was right this one time and we didn’t have to worry.  The cats endured their basement banishment, and got their updated shots and were fine.  We didn’t have to shoot anyone, and none of my co-workers had to get a bunch of needles in their belly because of their proximity to me.

But it sure confirmed one thing for me.  Cats are demented and have very warped senses of humour.  I’m almost sure this is how it went down: Our three cats were all lounging it up in an adjoining room, trading stories about tormenting rodents and licking butter.  Suddenly, Furbert’s pointed ears perk up as he overhears the conversation where hubby is informing me that the cow Rabies test is positive.  Then Furbert probably stretched and said, “Watch this” … and proceeded to work up that single spit strand, then casually sidles in to where we were and was all  like,  

“Purr, Purr, What’s up guys?”  

Of course, he couldn’t have known that it was going to backfire and he was going to go into lockdown for three weeks, or he would never have done it.  He’s not a genius – just a smart aleck with a wicked sense of humour and occasional mean streak .  If he were a person he would be Ricky Gervais. 

Furbert, always the comic, ready to go play Squash

I’m almost sure that’s exactly what happened. Or, I guess there is always hubby’s far fetched theory for the infamous strand of spit – the  “he licked pine pitch” scenario. (Sometimes I think he has an overactive imagination.)

 As always, life on the farm has provided lots of valuable life lessons. Now the kids haul out the old “Time we had Rabies” story as an example whenever they are trying to make the point that I may be just a tad overprotective and perhaps even mentally unstable. And they may be right – I saw a public service announcement about that recently. I  have many symptoms.

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Filed under Animal Stories, Farm Life, Memories