Tag Archives: Family

Memories of My Mom, Lillian

She hated that name, and always went by her middle name, “Ruth”.  ­­­Lillian is what you called her if you wanted to make her mad. She would have been 90 years old this week.  But instead, she died one day after turning a mere 69. It was her birthday, and then her “death day” and her funeral and Mother’s Day all within a few days. We buried her on May 8th. It was the worst possible week, back in 1995.

It all comes flooding back this time every year.  I remember driving her to the hospital for the “preventative” and also elective surgery that ultimately took her life.  I had settled into the role of being a child who knew better than the parent.  I scolded her when she expressed doubt about going through with it.  Of course she was going to go through with it.  Dad had died just one year earlier – we needed to do everything we could to have her around for a very long time.  Even after more than two decades, writing this fills my eyes and I get that familiar sick feeling in the pit of my stomach that is like no other.  It’s the one that means your mom is gone.

She didn’t have an easy life.   She came from a large family, one where – and this is a direct quote that would rival anything Frank McCourt could offer up –  “the early bird got the socks.” She was smart as a whip, and loved school.  Nevertheless, one day in Grade 8 Grandad showed up at her school all excited because there was a job “going” at the brickyard.  That was the end of her academic career, a sacrifice for the family

She married at 15.  FIFTEEN.  Dad was much, much older.  And if you’re thinking sugar daddy, think again. Kind of the opposite.  I now believe that my dad suffered a form of PTSD from living through the depression, and he lived very “frugally” for all of his life. (eg, didn’t splurge on niceties such as indoor plumbing or a  furnace until the early 1980’s) Lived off the land, if you will. This was WAY before living off the grid was cool.

She didn’t have any kids until she was a ripe old 21, and eventually had six.   In 1947, 49, 51, 53, 59, and 66,  having the last one when she was 40. Three boys and three girls.  It was a tough life.  Imagine raising six kids.  Now imagine it without running water and a wood stove for heat – when your family is the only one in the neighbourhood living like that.

But through all of the years and the hardship of raising six wild children, she never lost her “edge”.  She was a firecracker.  She always possessed a wicked sense of humour, and razor sharp wit.  In spite of the lack of a toilet you could flush, our place was the place to hang out.  Our friends who visited used to say we should have our own show, the quick witted insults and constant banter was rapid fire and would outdo any of the lame laugh tracked sit-coms of the day.

The late sixties were a little messy at our house, with all those teenagers, and eventually some weddings and a combination of menopause/postpartum/doctorsgaveyouvaliuminsteadofrealtreatment, but thankfully we all survived and came out on the other side with lots of great inside jokes.

Mom was a smart aleck, to the end.  Below are a few of my favorite mom quotes that we heard as we were growing up.  You won’t find many of these in “Today’s Parent”:

I thought she invented the ever popular, “Do you want me to give you something to cry for ?” (These were almost always empty threats)

Often followed by a firm, “The more you cry the less you’ll piss.”

If you were bugging her and trying to get her attention repeatedly you would get, “Call your ass ‘Mom’ and you’ll have one with you.”

“He went for a shit and the crows got him.” (This was the standard answer when you asked where dad or a brother or really anybody was)

“Screwing the dog and selling the pups – you wanna buy a bitch?”  (Standard answer when you asked “what are you doing?”)

“Sick in bed with my feet hanging out the window.” (Standard answer when you asked how are you doing?”)

“Hot tongue cold shoulder.”– Standard answer when you asked what was for supper.

“Crazy, and you’re driving.” – Standard answer when you asked “Where are you going?”

Or the “How can I miss you if you won’t go away?”

Sometimes she was “Busier than a one armed fiddler with the crabs.”

She didn’t limit her wisecracks to immediate family.  I remember once she asked the doctor about something that she had that was a bit abnormal and his response was “I wouldn’t worry about it.”  She said, “Frankly Doctor if you had it, I wouldn’t worry about it either.”

Nothing much phased her.  One time my brothers and brothers in law were re-roofing our house, and one of them flicked a cigarette butt that rolled into a vent and was now sitting in the attic and very likely to start the house ablaze.  My youngest brother raced down the ladder and into the house, past Mom who was rolling pastry on the kitchen table.  He ran upstairs into a closet and then walked along a beam to get to the smoldering cigarette butt.  Except he slipped, and fell so that he was now straddling the beam, having busted through the kitchen ceiling, and his legs dangled very near to Mom’s head as she continued to roll pastry.  “Nice of you to drop in”, she said, without looking up.

My dad was in the hospital for some months before he died.  The cashiers at the grocery store used to ask about him.  But then he died, and in a relatively small town, everyone knew fairly quickly.   Mom hadn’t been in the store for awhile and one of the forgetful cashiers asked her as she was bagging her groceries, “How’s your husband doing?”  Mom didn’t miss a beat, continued piling bags and answered simply,  “Still dead.”

She had a wicked sense of humour, and while it was never measured I’m sure a very high IQ..  In this day and age of opportunity and equality, she could have done ANYTHING.  She was a voracious reader, understandably her preference ran to escapist type novels and thrillers.  She loved to solve mysteries – if you watched a whodunnit with her, she always knew whodunnit way before you were supposed to.

She was an unconventional mom, but there was never any doubt that she loved you and would be there if you were in need.  When as a teenager I had back surgery and was in Sick Children’s Hospital for 3 weeks she never really left my side.  She watched my toddlers when I was in hospital having babies, and filled our freezer with home-made food.

She was good at bluffing at poker.  She never learned to drive.  She made amazing pies.  She would lend you her last dollar. She loved Cribbage.  She never stayed at a hotel.  She never traveled beyond Ontario.

Nothing gave her more pleasure than having all her kids together.  At the end, when the same doctor who strongly recommended the procedure and performed the surgery, informed us that the reality was that “Lillian” was now at the end of her life, we all six offspring gathered in a small hospital room in Hamilton and held her hand and watched her leave us.  She wasn’t conscious, but there was no doubt that she was going under protest.

She was witty and funny and human and humane and did her very best with what she had and what she knew. She lives on in her kids and her grandchildren and now great-grandchildren. I and my siblings miss her every day.  Our mom – Ruth – would have been a kick-ass 90 year old.

 

 

 

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Filed under Family, Memories, Mother's Day

Glass Houses

A little over one month later, and it’s hard to believe, but we’re now settled into our new home.  And by settled in, of course I mean we have paths winding around all the boxes.  We basically stopped unpacking once we had located the essentials — various remotes, sweatpants, and the bottle opener.

In the final couple of days on the farm I nearly killed myself cleaning. I wanted to leave it nice for the new owners. I completely wore off all of my fingerprints through inexperience and aggressive use of SOS pads.  Housekeeping was never my forte and my complete disregard for dusting is world renowned.  After removing all the furniture I couldn’t help but marvel that my family members and pets are all functioning reasonably well without the aid of a respirator.

Luckily that means they are well prepared for coming to visit the new place, since the sellers did not share my enthusiasm for impressing with one last epic cleaning session.  And heaven knows I’m not about to start in cleaning this place too.  In a word, eff that.

Not to sound cranky, but the previous owners also ignored the part of the deal that said that window coverings were included, so all of our windows are bare.  We weren’t madly in love with the draperies or anything, but I worry that our  window  exhibitionism might prevent us getting invited to any neighbourhood events. They say good fences make good neighbours, but when you get to be our age and you’re so hot you sleep in your underpants, I think blackout blinds are also kind of a public service.  We may have trouble making any new friends if we don’t get some blinds soon.

We’re having minor issues getting adjusted.  The dog has claimed the basement bathroom toilet (did I mention we have 3?) as his personal drinking fountain.  But he can hardly contain his excitement as he gallops in for a drink.  He’s so enthused he can’t help but wag, and the door is on a bit of a slant, ­so the minute his wagging tail touches the door, it promptly slams shut behind him, and his awesome flushable fountain room changes instantly, becoming a terrifying prison. Eventually someone always finds him, but not always before he has a panic attack and rips up the toilet paper or takes a dog sized bite out of the shower curtain.

Hubby says “barn” instead of “garage” all the time. 2 of the 3 cats have developed agoraphobia/eating disorders. They have quickly forgotten their past lives as adventurous outdoorsy “barn cats”.  They are basically living my dream life, by eating constantly and never leaving the house.  The other cat regularly ventures out and about while the other two peek out the window at him, between mouthfuls.

Our issues are more than made up for though, with sweet amazing benefits like …. wait for it …. a truck comes and picks up our garbage and takes it away.  We were giddy the first couple of times it happened.  It’s like magic.  You put it out by the road, and then when you come home from work, it’s gone!  The first time the anticipation was too much – I phoned home at lunch to say “did they take it?”  Not that I minded those 20 years of wonderful Saturday morning rides into the dump, riding in the truck surrounded by recycles and odiferous trash bags. That was some quality time, right there.

I’ve changed jobs, and now drive to work via a big city on a highway. I’ve been trying a number of different routes, but don’t have the greatest sense of direction so have pulled a lot of u-turns.  Plus I’m not used to this highway driving, I always drove my commute along scenic country roads, and I used to amuse myself by honking the horn at the cows and horses in the fields, to see if I could get a reaction.  Now I’m surrounded by other commuters, so I amuse myself by staring at other drivers and grinning, and sometimes uncontrollably sit-dancing at stop lights.  Sometimes when I’m doing dead arm robot other drivers think I’m waving at them.  They never wave back.

I don’t know why they aren’t friendlier.  I’m always fully dressed.

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Filed under Home and Garden, Humor

New Home-ward Bound

The maple lined driveway of the farm on a frosty morning

Well, we can relax.  We found a house on Kijiji. And today we get possession of it.  Thankfully we have 2 weeks to move, which is great because it turns out I’d rather do other stuff – like write blog posts – than help move.

*Disclaimer – the pics in this post are kind of random – photo albums are already packed so not much to work with.

This major life event, causes me to reflect on our other homes of our married life.  All three of them.   When we got married, I moved half a block away from my parent’s home, into a cute little house we had rented. We thought it was a palace.  It was tiny, without a basement, and had two little bedrooms. When I put stuff away in the cupboards, I could also do a weather check, because there were huge cracks where I could see outside – that is unless they were too iced up.  Our castle had a “portable toilet”, which was especially pleasant since we hosted lots of parties with our 20-something pals, where mass quantities of beer were consumed.

We stayed there 3 years.  Hubby had always wanted to have a bit of property, so we found ourselves looking ½ hr north, at a 10 acre piece of land with a cute little bungalow.  It had no basement, but the toilet wasn’t portable so it had me at hello. The young couple who were selling it had built it themselves, and we were young and naïve enough to think that was a good thing.  In hindsight, Mike Holmes would have been apoplectic.  The young couple was extremely good at staging and had really nice furniture.  We were dazzled by the charming décor, and so excited at the prospect of our “hobby farm” that we failed to notice that the house itself kind of resembled a double-wide, and that parts of it were held together with fence staples.   The reason I know this, is because fast forward a few years, when we had 3 little kids, and those 3 little kids had 2 little friends over to play. It was a windy afternoon, and they were all 5 playing in the living room, and the drop ceiling got real literal and “dropped” on top of my happy little toddlers.  After that, helmets were mandatory as we searched for our new home.

By now my hubby’s appetite for land had become insatiable. He wanted a farm, and he had a list of attributes it had to have – bank barn, maple trees, creek, etc, etc.  We started looking another ½ hr north, and looked at so many places that I eventually stopped going with him because it was too hard to haul all the kiddies along.  One day he came home and said he thought he’d found the place. It was a January day, and I remember riding in the car to look at it and driving for what felt like hours through frozen tundra.  The house had been empty for a year, so the staging was a little less inviting than our first house.  Each room had a charming little pile of dead cluster flies under the window.  And there was a decided “hill” in the floor of master bedroom.

Winter morning view from the barn.

On the bright side, this place had two toilets of the not portable kind, and it had a basement.  So what if it was the kind of basement you don’t want to go into unless under threat of a Wizard of Oz category tornado.  I had chronic fatigue also known as numb-y mummy syndrome in the 90s, so robotically signed the papers, and we moved in on June 26 1992, with a 1, 3 and 5 year old.  My biggest concern was how I was going to keep them all safe, with a pond and a creek, and a barn with a ladder up to the rafters. I had visions of a well-worn path down our driveway from emergency vehicles, and being on a first name basis with all the 911 operators.  Hubby was enthralled with all the fields and dirt and trees that we could call our own.  He saw past the insulbrick and the long grass, and fell deeply in love with the maple lined driveway and the white board fence and the big red barn and the bush out back. He thought this was a great place to raise the kids.  Turns out, he was right. (I can admit that, because he hardly ever reads this.)

Move in day, June 1992. Note the well manicured lawn and my future fashionista sporting the toga look.

The hard farm life

After 20 years, we’re moving on.  It’s bittersweet – it’s a small town and most people have lived here FOREVER.  The folks in our community who eyed us suspiciously for the first 10-15 years, have started to warm up. (Mercifully we didn’t realize at the time how sorely we stood out at our kids athletic and school events.  We thought we were anonymous, and really we might as well have been wearing sandwich signs that screamed “stranger danger”.) Now ironically, we will  be making trips back to the old hood to visit. We will miss our pals.

Even though we’re empty nesters now, the kids are having a hard time with saying goodbye to the old place.  I tsk tsk them and tell them how great the new place will be … but secretly I’m dealing with flashbacks of 3 little curly headed imps fishing through the cracks in the bridge at the creek, or all 3 sleepily listening to Tom Petty songs while crammed into a tractor cab with dad as he plowed fields, or 3 teens huddled behind the driveway trees waiting for the bus, or countless family barbeques with spectacular sunsets.

I can’t think about that too long.  Instead I choose to focus on the fact that the place we’re going to has an unprecedented 3 normal toilets, and a basement that I will willingly spend time in, even without weather network alerts.

And the best part is, the family moving in to our old house has 3 little kids under 5.  The dad is visibly excited about the fields and barn and trees and bush.  The mummy is not at all numb-y, and is thrilled about calling our old farm home.  They think it’s going to be a nice place to raise kids.  They have no idea.

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Filed under Family, Farm Life, Home and Garden, Memories

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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Filed under Family, Humor

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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Filed under Humor, Marriage, Memories

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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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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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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