Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Together again!

Shortly after I got married, 15 years ago, I met an amazing woman. We worked together as members of a catering team. Through years of career changes, marital changes, even citizenship changes, we have remained close friends. Although we don't see each other often, we keep in touch - and I must admit, she is much better at calling me than I her! 

"Joanie" is my real-life soap opera friend. She's one of those people who manages to attract more than her share of drama and excitement. Overseas work adventure. Car accidents. Not to mention the bizarre circumstances presented by her chosen field of work - she's a death investigator! There is never a shortage of conversational topics when she calls.  We share many things in common; sense of humour, taste in music, to name but two.

One of the things Joanie and I share is our love of Canadian Football; more specifically, a love of the Calgary Stampeders! While at university (just a few years back) I developed a fascination with the CFL. Since I live in a football city, it was natural to expect that I might watch a live game or two. Joanie and I spent many hours together, cheering "our team" from the cheap seats. When she left to pursue her career, I had no one with whom to attend games, so I watched on TV, or listened to the local radio broadcast. We'd share the joy of victory or the agony of defeat via telephone and email. 

At the beginning of this CFL season, it was announced that Calgary would host the Grey Cup  - the holy grail of the Canadian Football League. Fans from across the country make pilgrimage to "the big game" every year. Tickets are purchased (and not cheaply, I might add!) and hopes are raised that one's favourite team might make it to the big show. 

At last, the Grey Cup Festival Week is upon us. Sadly, my beloved Stampeders will not be on the field come Sunday afternoon, but my sister-in-the-stands will be joining me! Joanie is making the trek from clear across the continent to sit outside, in Canada, in late November, and revel in the atmosphere of the game we both love. Although "our team" will not be playing, we will enjoy the game. We will cheer. Possibly for the teams on the field. Definitely for the love of the game and the excuse to get together for a big ol' party!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

I saw a man today.

I have often heard people talk about encountering someone who made such an impression on them that the experience stayed with them for a long time. I had not ever had such an encounter, until recently. I often wondered what kind of person it would be. My mind drifted off to visions of billionaires, rock stars or famous actors. Men and women who were known globally and admired (or perhaps, more accurately, idolized) by the public at large. My recent encounter was with none of those.

I walked into a room of about 1200 people, all of whom were waiting patiently for one man to arrive. I took my place in the crowd, about 50 feet from the stage on which this man would be seated. It felt as though the whole group held its collective breath as a small man made his way slowly up the stairs to his chair. He sat, arranged his clothing, and began to speak. The room remained silent but for the sound of his voice. He spoke of education, and the need for thoughtful contemplation in all things. He encouraged us to choose our pursuits carefully, and to be ready to endure suffering and obstacles in the name of those pursuits. He urged us to focus on our goals and to consider all sides and angles before acting. His messages were simple, but so profound. He was funny and endearing. He was so matter-of-fact.

In all this, he was the epitome of the ordinary human being, and yet the most extraordinary human being I have ever encountered. I hope never to forget how grounded I felt just listening to his words.

He is the 14th Dalai Lama.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Watch Out Mickey, You Might Be Next.

It's summer. People go on holidays.
Before said people can go anywhere, plans must be made and stuff must be organized. You know, the neurotic cleaning and sorting and general foolishness to ensure that the house is "in order" before one leaves for a vacation. My mother was so anal about the whole process that she would literally wash her way out the door as we left the house. Really.
But I digress... back to the getting of things in order.
This week as I scurried about, trying to round up passports and water shoes, and various other travel necessities, I was not alone. There was other scurrying going on. And chewing. And (shudder) droppings.

There was a mouse in my kitchen.

I could hear his little rodent teeth gnawing away behind my cabinets. There were tiny teeth marks on a potato in my pantry.

After cussing out every cat in the neighbourhood for crapping all over my yard and yet failing to keep the mice away, I packed all 3 kids into the van and headed out on an exterminatory mission - to find as much rodent removal equipment as I could fit into my budget and my vehicle.

After sanitizing floors and loading traps and plugging in ultra-sonic-mouse-repellent-thingies, I started to think. One of two outcomes was possible as a result of my actions:

1. I would not catch the mouse. It would nest, and inevitably, bump uglies with another mouse and take over my home with its filthy offspring while I frolicked away in the far north.

2. I would catch the mouse and its furry carcass would be waiting for my return, along with the unmistakeable stench of decomposing flesh.

Either way, I was screwed. So, I did what every rational, educated adult would do.

I dismantled my kitchen cabinet.

I hauled out my water-filter vacuum and filled it.

And then I sat in waiting for the hairy little bastard. What followed could be described as a combination of B-horror flick, performance art and general tomfoolery.
The result?

Stay the hell outta my house, vermin. I KEEEEL you!!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Go ahead and kick me.

I realize that by writing this, I will likely piss off at least half of all those who read it. You are entitled to your opinions, as I am to mine! That said, I proceed. 

I have secret. Maybe not a well-kept secret, but something about myself that I do not generally broadcast to the public. I don't like dogs. Usually, I can go about my daily life without even thinking about it, but occasionally something reminds me. 

There is a story my parents told me about when I was born. My older sister wanted a dog. So, when my mother came home with a new baby, my father came home with a dog. It was, according to the stories, a black dog with a white spot on his throat. He was appropriately named Spot.  

The dog grew, along with our family. Another sister was born. Our family moved. Twice. Somehow, over the years, Spot became more of a Smudge. His black colour changed to a mottled greyish brown. A brother joined the family mix. Years went by and we were forced to move again; this time cross-country. Spot was too old and in too poor health to make the trip, so it was decided that he be "put down".  And so ended my days as a dog person. 

In all fairness, I never really was a dog person. I always seemed to have a cat as "my pet". The dog was just there, as far as I was concerned. I didn't hate it, but it never really was as important as the cat. 

As I've gotten older, I have become less and less tolerant of dogs; or more accurately, people with dogs. For all of the legions of responsible pet owners, there are a handful of morons who insist on exercising poor judgement in regards to their animals. 

There are the "tough dog" types - with large breeds of dogs so poorly socialized that they are a menace to society. There are the thoughtless ones who let their animals run willy-nilly and defecate with abandon on public and private property alike, with no feelings of obligation whatsoever for cleaning up the filth left behind. 

Most infuriating to me are those of you (and you know who you are!) who insist on treating your dogs like tiny human beings. Dog spas. Dog hotels. Dog jewelry and clothing (*snow boots for sled dogs being an obvious exception!*). I mean, seriously. What in your tiny brain would make you think that your ANIMAL would enjoy any of this?? Remember, just a few years ago, evolutionarily speaking, these were WOLVES!!! They hunted. They slept outdoors. They rolled in, and ate, whatever foul smelling material they could get their drooling snouts into. 

And now? Now you feed them gourmet food, better than a lot of people eat. You brush their teeth. You massage them. You carry them in purses, for crissakes! But most bothersome to me are those of you who, in your infinite stupidity, insist on letting your dogs sit on your lap (or dash, or headrest) while you drive around the city. What incredible lapse of reasoning would lead you to believe that letting a live animal sit up in your face while you operate a motor vehicle is a good idea???

My big sister recently got a dog. Not just a dog, but a small, hairy lap-type dog. I applaud her for choosing to rescue her new pet from the pound, rather than perpetuating the cycle of breeding more and more animals when there are so many waiting in shelters to be given a second chance with a loving family. Nevertheless, she is now a lap-dog owner. If she ever makes the mistake of driving with the dog unsecured in her vehicle, I will personally put my boot in her bigger, older, law-enforcing ass.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

My Mother's Wings

There's a joke that says a man should always meet his future wife's mother so he will know what he can look forward to. As the years pass, we become wiser, more patient, softer. It is the softness that I noticed recently while shopping with my mother.

I recall with great fondness many childhood visits to my grandparents' homes, spread hither and thither across Newfoundland. Each summer my parents would pack up the family car and we'd head out on our annual road trip. As we would approach my mother's childhood home, my sisters and I would crane our necks to compete to be the first to catch a glimpse of "Nan's house". It was always a surprise to see what amazing colour the house would be. My grandfather would paint the house almost every year, and always with a different colour. Purple, grey, green, blue... it was always a happy sight.

As we pulled into the driveway, my Nan would be standing in the doorway with her hands folded across her ample chest, anticipating our arrival. We would be greeted with large, soft, warm hugs and those wet grandmother kisses. I always marvelled at the softness of Nan's skin as her bare arms wrapped around my skinny childish frame. It was cushiony to the touch. Thinking back now, it reminds me of how a tiny, plump baby feels against your bare skin. Such a familiar, comforting sensation.

During my most recent visit with my mother, I noticed how the years are beginning to show their effects on her physical appearance. She's become conscious of the shape of her arms and how the skin there is losing its elasticity. Later that day as she was preparing to leave, I took my mother into my arms and held her just a little longer than usual. My mother may see an old woman with flabby wings; I see that softness that comes with a grandmother's hug. 

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Guilty Pride

Motherhood is nothing if not thought provoking.

I often share parenting experiences with my mom - we laugh, commiserate, and compare notes. Sometimes I apologize for the less than stellar moments in my teenage, hormonally-impared, bitchy years. Sometimes I can do nothing but listen as she relays to me the latest news from my brother, the incarcerated one.

Recently, in Southern Alberta, there was a court case involving what the Crown prosecutor called "the most disturbing case of child abuse he had seen in his 25 years as a lawyer". The convicted scum bag was sentenced to a mere 6 years for his heinous destruction of a young life. Coincidentally, this scab on the face of humanity was placed in the same facility which houses my brother. 

There is, as the saying goes, honour among thieves. Apparently this applies to drug traffickers as well. As heartbroken as I was to accept the fact that my brother made a living by peddling noxious chemicals, I could always find solace in the fact that he wasn't one of "those" monsters who prey upon the precious and innocent children of the world. 

I am somewhat guilt-ridden as I confess how my chest puffed out as I heard the latest news from beyond the bars of my brother's temporary home. It seems that he, and likely several of his law-breaking brethren, took it upon themselves to send a message to the filthy excuse for a human who was recently placed among them. My brother was involved in some type of "altercation" with the monster, which resulted in his being brought before a review board. 

All I know of the outcome is that whatever choices my brother made were not considered serious enough to warrant disciplinary action. He will continue to serve out his sentence without further penalty. And I will continue to be proud of the fact that, in spite of his shitty career choices, my brother is a good man. 

Sunday, April 19, 2009

I'm an OGRE!!

I have children. Three of them, in fact. They are funny and smart and entertaining and the loves of my life. But, as anyone with children can tell you, children = stuff in your house. Lots of stuff. All over your house. I really don't mind the stuff everywhere. The fact that my children spread themselves all over the world is a trait they inherited from their mother. As far as I'm concerned, my house is lived in. Well lived in.

I do feel the need to draw the line somewhere, though. That line is permanently etched across the threshold of my bedroom. Beyond that door is Mommyland. My space. The "kid-free" zone. The only exception to that rule happens when the kids crawl into the "big bed" for some reading time with me or their dad. Otherwise, I am savagely territorial about my sleeping space. I know, there are lots of people who believe in the benefits of co-sleeping. I am not one of them. I believe my bed is for two things - sleeping, and, well... things that my children have no business witnessing!

My husband, bless his gigantic heart, does not have the same possessive streak where our bed is concerned. He would rather take the easy way out and haul a crying youngun into our bed in the middle of the night than spend a few minutes in another room comforting the wee wailer. What my dear spouse fails to remember, time and again, is that the only one who gets any sleep "his way" is the offending offspring! Invariably, said offspring manages to monopolize the entire bed and ruin any chance I may have of salvaging a few quiet moments of sleep.

I do not function well when I am deprived of rest. I am moody and irrational. I have warned my children that "if Mommy doesn't get her sleep, she turns into an ogre!" They all believe me. If only I could make my husband believe - maybe then I could finally say goodbye to the squirming, bed-hogging, sleep thieves who occasionally find their way into my sanctuary!

Friday, April 3, 2009

Waiting to Exhale

Since early in March, my parents have been playing a waiting game. Following the conviction of their son, my baby brother, on drug charges, my mother had been holding her breath. She watched him walk out of the court room. She and my father returned home and began the process of "getting on with life" while they wondered where their son was to be held for the next two years. And yet, she did not breathe.

I'm sure that every ring of the telephone made them both jump. Was it him? Was it someone from corrections telling them he'd been knifed in a riot? Where was he? Was he scared? Lonely? I shudder at the thoughts that must have haunted them nightly as they waited for news.

Finally, two days ago, a call. Corrections staff. 

"Are you the mother of *******?"

Requests for verification of personal information.

"Does ******** have permission to call this number, collect?"

Shortly thereafter, I received a call at home. I picked up the phone and heard an enormous sigh of relief.

"I heard from your brother today. He sounded good." 

Finally, I could hear it in my mother's voice. She was breathing again. As she relayed the details of the conversation, I detected a faint catch in her voice; the sound of someone almost starting to cry. But for the first time in a long time, this was the sound of someone crying tears of relief. Her worst fears had been set to rest; he was not caged up in a maximum security facility with murderers and rapists. He was not dead. He was safe.

Easter is fast approaching. We are all looking forward to spring, and the renewal of the earth. My parents will be spending Easter together with all their grandchildren, for the first time in many years. While the house will be full and noisy with the sounds of children and family, there will be a silent guest as well. By way of his conspicuous absence, my brother will become the elephant in the room.

I'm not sure how, or if, I will explain to my children why their uncle is not there. I'm certain the day will come soon enough when I will find it necessary to tell my oldest child the truth about what happened. Until that day comes, I will keep breathing.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

The next chapter

Last week my parents made what has become a fairly regular trip from their home town to a small city in Southern Alberta. Usually this trip involved stocking up on groceries and the like from a popular big box store. Occasionally they would stay overnight and treat themselves to a nice dinner out. 

This most recent trip was not such a treat. My mother and father had the unenviable task of taking their youngest child to court to face criminal charges. 

Since over a year ago, when the charges were first laid, and my brother was released on bail, my family has been playing a waiting game. Court dates were scheduled, then delayed. Moved later and later. My second- and third-hand information was that the Crown wasn't prepared to proceed. Trial would have to wait. And wait, and wait. 

Finally, over a year later, my brother's lawyer delivered the much anticipated and much dreaded news - an actual court date. Early in March, my brother stood in front of a judge and pleaded guilty to drug related charges. The judge accepted his plea and sentenced him to 2 years in a federal facility. And then my parents watched as he was escorted out of the room, and off to a correctional facility.

It's been a difficult thing around which to wrap my sheltered brain. I know what he did. He's guilty, without a doubt, but I still can't seem to accept the fact that my little brother, the baby of the family... is now a convicted criminal.

My emotions have bounced from anger at his stupid, selfish choices, to sadness over the pain my parents must be feeling. Part of me is happy that he's facing consequences for his behaviour, and yet I'm scared that being in jail will open up a whole new avenue of criminal behaviour for him.

I can't claim to understand how it must feel to see your child taken away like that. My parents lost a baby to a heart defect over 30 years ago, and I often wonder if this weighs as heavily on their hearts. 

I have 3 young children of my own, and as I stand quietly, listening to the sounds of their breathing as they sleep, I say a small prayer that they will be strong enough to make wise decisions in their lives. And then I say another prayer of thanks for having them in my life at all.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

A Hair-raising Decision

Gimme head with hair
Long beautiful hair
Shining, gleaming, 
Streaming, flaxen, waxen

Gimme down to there hair
Shoulder length or longer
Here baby, there mama
Everywhere daddy daddy

I admit it. I like my hair. A lot. It's long and shiny and pretty healthy. I don't really have to do much to it to be happy with the 'do. It wasn't always that way, and I've got lots of high school year book photos to prove it! I had my share of '80's teased-out, hair sprayed, poorly dyed, badly permed hairstyles. Hell, I've probably had your share too! 

It started in 1982 - I was an aspiring figure skater, and I hated the early morning ritual of having my mom pull my long hair up into a pony tail. She was from the school of "pull it so tight you look like Joan Rivers post-surgery" pony tails. It was painful. I whined. A lot. So my mother, in her frustration, convinced me to get the Dorothy Hamill mushroom cut. There was even a shampoo for all the girls with "short n sassy hair". That was the beginning of many, many bad hair years...

Probably number one on the list of hair disasters for me was the home permanent. (remember Toni? Remember the smell? And the burning...dear lord, the burning....). Again, my sweet, loving mother, after tiring of my complaints about my mane, stepped in to help. She meant well, I'm sure, but the results were less than attractive, to say the least! I was a buck-toothed, brunette version of Krusty the Clown. Traumatic, to say the least! 

As the years passed, and the perm grew out, I progressed to the ever-popular mullet. Got braces. And glasses, tragically. Imagine a barn owl with a Bichon on its head. Now imagine that in a lovely shade of orange, courtesy of my blonde best friend's bottle of "Sun-In". For those of you who may not be familiar, Sun-In is a product intended for blondes to get that "California look" of sun-bleached hair. Little did I know the effects it would have on dark brown hair... (insert mental image of The Great Pumpkin here...)*sigh*

Then there were the "spiral perm" years. HOURS upon HOURS spent in a hairdresser's chair having my long hair rolled onto hundreds of tiny rods, in an attempt to have hair like telephone cord. Truly the pinnacle of the "big hair" years for me! 

In recent years, there have been short do's (picture Jamie Lee Curtis) and the choppy, layered look that many women can identify with as a byproduct of trying to grow out the extremely short hair cut. 3 pregnancies and litres of hormones later, after the bouts of luxuriously thick pregnancy hair, followed by the months of, "oh-my-gawd-all-my-hair-is-falling-out-these-crazy-hormones-are-making-me-go-bald", post-pregnancy hair, I have come full circle, follicularly speaking.

I am now the proud owner of a lovely head of long, brown hair. Well, mostly brown, at least. Which brings me, finally, to the motivation behind this posting. Everyone loses hair; I heard somewhere that the average is 100 per day. Most people regrow those hairs, with the exception of those lucky enough to have some baldness gene graciously handed to them by an ancient family member. I have no such gene. My hair sprouts freely on all quadrants of my scalp. Maybe it's my fertile mind that keeps it growing... (insert farm animal-related fertilizer joke here)

I have noticed of late that the new growth is, shall we say, of a much lighter shade than the original hair??? Ok, I'll admit it. I'm going grey. It happens to the best of us. But unlike many of my family members, who shall remain nameless (you can thank me later) I have made the decision to let nature take its course. That's right. I have chosen not to dye. Granted, I will occasionally pluck out a particularly brazen grey strand that insists on poking straight out of the crown of my head like a beacon for passing aircraft. I am always amazed at the texture of these little devils, too... more like a twist tie than a hair, really. Why is that? 

What about you? Are you content to let the years come streaking through your locks, or are you taking a more artistic route through the aging process, via some strategically placed colour?

Friday, March 13, 2009

Not another NOOB!!!

This is a new adventure for me. Like many at-home-parent-types, I've decided to make the jump from Facebook, to Twitter... and now here. I'm not really sure what I'm doing, or what I want to say. I just feel the need to dump my brain occasionally. Call it cheapskate self-psychotherapy. Call it hubris. Call it what you like, but please do read on! I hope what I have to say will provoke you in some way. I guess I'm a bit of a shit disturber. I like to put things out there and see what kind of reaction I'll get.