A very unhappy birthday to me

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It’s almost my birthday. I couldn’t be less thrilled. I’m not exactly a fan of my birthday. If possible, I would love to skip the day entirely. Why do I need to celebrate the fact that I made it one more time around the sun? Is it supposed to be some kind of reward for not dying? I guess that’s an accomplishment of sorts, but is it really worthy of cake? Not in my opinion.

Speaking of cake, given the recent onslaught of forest fires it was suggested that I refrain from lighting an accurate account of candles on my cake for fear that it might cause the fire department to deploy a water bomber to my house. I told that person to just start running.

Oh birthday, how do I hate thee, let me count the ways.

1. Every 5th one I have to renew my driver’s license, and who doesn’t love a day at the DMV? I get my prison headshot taken by someone even more bitter than me and sometimes, I even get to pay outstanding speeding tickets! Good times.

2. People tell me hysterical jokes, like asking me what it was like before indoor plumbing and if I had a pet dinosaur. The answer is yes and he’s hungry so come on over.

3. You hear things like, “Wow, you look good for your age!” What is that supposed to mean? How is that even a compliment? It’s really just a reminder of how someday, very soon, I will appear exactly right for my age. It’s already starting, and I’m mostly held together at this point with smoke and mirrors. Gravity is yanking on me so hard that it won’t be too long until I’ll have to seriously consider putting parts of me on LoJack.

4. People buy me gifts. Things I wouldn’t buy for myself. Mostly because I wouldn’t want them, and I have taste. My husband bought be a vacuum cleaner for one birthday and it sucked.

5. One time back when I was single my girlfriends took me to a bar for my birthday. It was ladies night, and I saw things that can’t ever be unseen; believe me, I’ve tried. My therapist believes that in time I’ll make a full recovery, but it’s been over twenty years so I’m starting to think she might be wrong.

It’s not that I mind getting older given that the alternative is death, but there comes a time when your closer to the end than the beginning and it starts to get real. So keep your hollow happy birthday greetings, questionable gifts, and cakes that depict towering infernos. If you want to know what I want this year for my birthday it’s pretty simple, a little peace, a lot of quiet, and a number for a good plastic surgeon.

I have the directional sense of a fruitfly in a windstorm.

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I have the directional sense of a fruit fly in a windstorm. There have been times in my life when finding my way to an unfamiliar place have resulted in tears. Not always mine. Not shocking when you consider the time I placed numerous phone calls for assistance one of which may have been to 911, stopped at two separate gas stations and slowly followed a kid on a bike asking if he knew where Shelly lived? I don’t think he did though, because he just started yelling “stranger danger”and sped off into a park.

My husband on the other hand could find his way out of a jungle with nothing more than a leaf and paper clip. He used to ask me to read the map for him when we were travelling. The reason he doesn’t anymore is because I have threatened to charge him with spousal abuse if it ever happens again. I just looked that up, and as of today it is not actually considered abuse, but laws can be changed and he knows how motivated I am to be right about stuff.

Sometimes people ask me for directions to places I am or I have been in the past. Usually we are speaking on the phone at the time and I find myself gesturing and pointing, when indicating where they they should turn left and or right. Surprisingly signing on a cellular device does not translate well and they usually just change the subject or become awkwardly silent as if waiting for me to speak or something. You can’t help everyone I guess.

Recently I got lost at a mall. Not a strip mall obviously,but one of those big crazy labyrinths of endless stores, food courts, and kiosks . I called home and told them I wouldn’t be home for dinner, It was 9:30 in the morning. I know when to be pragmatic and the kids need to eat. It’s not that the mall design folks don’t try to be helpful. They do have those “YOU ARE HERE” signs posted at regular intervals. However they are about as helpful to me as a bag of cats, because generally I don’t know where “here” is to begin with, so finding out my way to “there” is pretty much a non starter.

My mapping skills or that whole east west north south geography thing are about as honed as a dead pigeon too. When someone tells me to head north, I feel compelled to find a tree with moss on it. I was a girl guide and I learned that moss only grows on the north side of a tree. Do you have any idea how hard it is to find a tree with moss on it at the mall? Well let’s just say if it’s out there I haven’t found it yet.

Not long ago someone suggested I purchase a navigational unit that is designed to verbally instruct the driver on how to get from point A to point B. This was one of the greatest days of my life followed shortly thereafter by a near death experience.

It started out so well. I programmed my unit to help me get to my brothers house in maple ridge Which is about a 5 hour drive from my home. Off I went with the nice British fellow I had selected on the device to guide me giving me helpful instructions at pivotal points along my journey.

After awhile it was nighttime and the weather turned to rain and fog. I wasn’t too worried as I was pretty close to my final destination. Looking back on how literal that last part could have been, just gave me goosebumps. I was driving down a very dark narrow road with mist as thick as glue and my visibility was limited to about two car lengths in front of me. Still felt pretty confident with Charles (I named him that because he seemed quite regal and perhaps the tiniest bit bald)

Then out of the darkness, I found myself a mere three feet away from driving directly into a lake. I was at a ferry crossing that had long since closed. I braked hard and turned the car around feeling a deep sense of shock. Charles did not like my new course and he kept telling me he was “re calculating route” and instructing me to make a u-turn as soon as possible. It became clear to me that Charles was trying to kill me.

I pulled over and called my brother. He was able to figure out where I was calling from, not sure how, because I am almost certain all I kept saying was ” I can’t believe Charles wants me to drive off a pier.”

After that happened I made peace with myself, and decided I’ll just have to be okay with getting lost from time to time. Its probably not the worst skill to not have. I can make an awesome lasagna and you can’t be great at everything, it’s obnoxious. As for Charles he is no longer a part of my life. He has been re routed back from whence he came because I am not going to reside with a homicidal machine. I have seen Transformers and the Terminator and I recognize a bad seed when I see one.

Is it a bathing suit? Or a cautionary tale?

Occasionally I ponder things. Not the big things, like are we alone in the universe or why it always rains about 12 hours after I wash my car. But from time to time I do think about the little nonsensical things that are of little or no importance to most everybody else on the planet.

You see, I guess deep down, I would like to be more contemplative but thinking the big thoughts is a real time sucker and I’m not entirely sure I’m all that qualified to comment on most of them. Philosophy seemed like it might have been a good college course to take but I was too busy thinking about how to get a job.

That being said I am currently pondering a bit of sticky wicket and I feel compelled to put it out there in the universe so that others might ponder it too. I’m sure it comes as no surprise but for those of us in the northern hemisphere summer has arrived (sort of) and with it brings (in my opinion) a myriad of social issues. One of which I’d like to discuss.

Should swimming suits be more expensive when they are merely a suggestion? What I mean to say is, when the coverage of said swim suit is not much more than a pasty and a bit of string?

Take a moment. Talk amongst yourselves.

I find myself wondering if it is the strategic engineering of the garment that drives the cost? It must be….I bet that there is a plethora ( word of the day…your welcome) of scientists held up in lab somewhere, probably Germany ( world famous for their engineering capabilities) coming up with these mind boggling designs. And If I were to hazard a guess I’d have to say that some of these suits must employ a degree of witchcraft and or prayer to keep them from revealing all the secrets of a woman’s nether regions.

And while I applaud their efforts….geniuses all…it begs the question what’s the point? Why would anyone willingly pay any amount of money for the mere illusion of a swim suit? Whatever happened to the speedo with its full coverage and snappy little logo. You could really swim in those without fear of exposing any of your bits or bobs. After all who wants to be the reason little Johnny learns about anatomy at the ripe old age 5. Not me.

Anyway regardless of all that this was just a thought I found myself thinking. If I am asked why it came to me on this particular day I’d have to say “no comment”. A girl should never discuss what she sees in the mirror of a changing room during bathing suit season. It’s just not decent.

The turtle people are coming

 

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The turtle people are coming.  They are arriving en mass to partake in the annual ritual known as camping. I call them turtle people because they tow their houses, children, pets, cars, boats, and various other things, to places far and wide to commune with nature.

 

I often find myself trapped behind caravans of them as they travel the highways at a pace that can only be described as a meander. Good for them that they have nothing but time to cruise at the speed of a glacier ice melt. Not so good for me when I am stuck in a parade devoid of marching bands, clowns or balloons.

 

The thing that I don’t understand is the need or desire to live outdoors. I’ve camped before and, quite frankly, I can see why mankind chose to climb up the evolutionary ladder. I would also hazard a guess, and say, if Neanderthals could see us trying to devolve and be one with nature again they would probably be very confused. After all their hard work and sacrifice to better themselves! I’m pretty certain chasing the wooly mammoth and discovering fire was no day at the beach for them. Yet here we are thumbing our noses at convection ovens and flushing toilets and blatantly turning our backs on progress to embrace the same archaic behavior that made their entire species extinct. It’s a bit of puzzler.

 

The last time I went camping was the last time I’ll ever go camping. With only two weeks off a year, the very idea of spending it in the woods, devoid of any convenience is tantamount to torture.

 

How do I hate camping? Let me count the ways…

 

1. Waking up in the middle of the night and playing deal or no deal with your bladder because the very idea of using an outhouse that has been host to more asses than Parliament Hill is too horrifying to comprehend. This, of course, does not even begin to describe the odour that emanates from within and I’m pretty convinced it’s what Hell itself must smell like.

 

2. The bugs … do I really need to elaborate? Okay, I will. I generally look like I have small pox after one or two very passionate and committed mosquitoes have dined on my life’s blood all night long. The good news is that I now reek of sticky bug repellent, and the lineup for the community showers is longer than my last cue for a ride on Space Mountain.

 

3. Dirt. It’s everywhere in nature. Which is why I live indoors. I really have nothing more to say about that.

 

4. Cooking on a campfire is ridiculous. People have died for less. Nothing about camping is food safe. The whole idea should be prohibited by law. Roasting wieners on sticks until they are charred and caked with embers is carcinogenic … there is actual scientific research to back this up, and yet the turtle people dine on them with reckless abandon. If you take nothing else from this, please make a mental note that 1.6 people in North America die from choking on hot dogs every year. I’m not sure how the .6 person made the statistic or what .6 of a person would look like, but it’s obvious to me that wieners are not the fun food that Oscar Meyer makes them out to be.

 

4. The weather. I could be camping in a desert that has been devoid of moisture for the better part of forever, but if I pitch a tent it’s pretty well guaranteed that six inches of rain will fall overnight. The second to last time I was one with Mother Nature, she decided a simple rainstorm was a little generic … so she brought forth an actual tornado. Gotta love camping in central Alberta! Not.

 

So to all you turtle people I say this: go forth and convene with the vast uncharted wilderness, channel your inner caveperson and throw caution and convenience to the wind. I may not understand your customs nor wish to partake in them, but I applaud your spirit. If you ever want to find me on my vacation, however, I’ll be relaxing poolside at an all-inclusive resort sipping margaritas and basking in the afterglow of my morning at the spa. I like to believe it’s how the Neanderthals would have vacationed had they survived the climate change. So I guess in a way I do it for them.

The day peace and quiet ran away

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Yesterday, I found peace and quiet. I was so excited and overcome that I decided to put them in a safe place so that we could have a proper visit later, when I had a moment to spare. Later came, and well, I think we all know how that story ends. They are now officially missing in action; or is it inaction? I put up some posters in the neighbourhood but no one has called. I fear the worst.

I should have spent more time with them when I had the chance. Now they are gone and I am not sure they are ever coming back. I was going to file a police report but that seemed like a dead end. I knew in my heart of hearts if they had been found by someone, that person was never ever going to admit it, much less return them to me.

I was so careless and cavalier, thinking that there would be time to get to know each other better. I so desperately wanted them to feel at home where I lived; that was wishful thinking. The dogs probably thought they were a stranger and barked them away. Let’s face it they were definitely new to our neighbourhood. Everyone knows peace and quiet can be quite skittish when confronted with two nervous chihuahuas.

The strange thing is that they seemed to enjoy spending time with me as much as I did with them. It seemed that we had a real connection in our short time together. Maybe I was just deluding myself; maybe I was just a rebound for them. They probably had a fight with some Buddhist caught in traffic and needed a soft place to land until the dust settled.

Now, I’m left with 2 radios; one blasting hip hop and the other some sort of angry rap music. The kids are fighting over dishes and my husband is in the garage using tools powered by an air compressor. There are no less than three televisions on, and the dogs are talking to everyone who walks within a block of our house. I’ve been reduced to speaking in a voice loud enough to be heard in Beirut in a vain attempt to get everyone to shut up, shut down, and shut off.

It seems like my life at the moment is not a safe place for peace and quiet to reside. I get it, I guess. Perhaps one day we will meet again. I wonder if we will know each other when and if we do? Will I smile and embrace them as old friends, or will I feel awkward and not know what to do or say? Will I miss what I will have to give up to have them stay? Is losing the busy chaotic bustle of my loved ones when they finally fly the nest the price I’ll have to pay to win them back?

Sadly, with the housing prices these days, I have the sneaking suspicion that my children will be residing with us for a good long time to come. So, I guess I’ll just have to keep looking for peace and quiet and see if maybe they have a guest room I can stay in from time to time.

 

 

 

“Mistaekes” happen

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I have a tendency to make the occasional mistake. Ok, it’s out there, I’m not perfect. I hope I have not disillusioned anyone too much…take a breath…this next one might come as a shock ….I’m human. Just writing that down feels freeing because I have had more than one person question my lineage. No worries I’ve had blood work and to my knowledge nothing has been deemed unusual or extraterrestrial in any way.

 

Getting back to my over share….

 

Sometimes I err on the side of caution…although that is rare and really shouldn’t bare mentioning. Of course I will mention it because you might need a frame of reference for later. Your welcome.

 

For me to err on the side of caution would be something like not eating a chilli dog at a gas station when the next bathroom is 75km away and always wearing make up. The latter is mostly so I don’t scare small children and unsuspecting pets. The former should be a rule of thumb for everyone because you never want to be the star of that cautionary tale.

 

There is also erring by omission. It’s pretty safe to say that I’ve done that on more than one occasion. Who hasn’t? For example I have stared into the mouth of someone with spinach stuck in their teeth while they chit chat away totally oblivious to the fact they resemble a pirate. That is a though one because it’s quite distracting and I often find myself transfixed and losing track of what they are talking about. I imagine them with an eye patch and a peg leg and or a hook sailing the seven seas searching for things to pillage.

 

Those mistakes or errors I consider misdemeanour offences. Not earth shattering or life altering and certainly not cause to lose sleep over. Then there are the times that I have made slightly larger mistakes that require me to pause and contemplate the error of my ways. These tend to primarily be behavioural and for the most part can be chalked up to lesson learned don’t repeat.

 

Sadly If I were to be tested on some of these I would fail miserably and be forced to go to summer school on the special bus. These are usually things that seem like a good idea at the time but in the light of day not so much. I would elaborate but at the risk of incriminating myself will have to plead the fifth. Not sure we have a fifth amendment in Canada because I made the mistake of not going to law school, but whatever you get the point.

 

Then there are the big kahunas. These ones are what I like to call the game changers. There I was just skipping along living la vida loco and for what ever reason I zigged instead of zagged and in an instant everything changed. I’ve had a few of these and let me tell you they can be earth shattering, gut wrenching, we have a flag on the play, kind of moments.

 

They have been the ones that altered my path in life. They have led me to where and who I am today. I sometimes think back to these moments when my life changed because of something I did or didn’t do, and thank God I screwed up.

 

These days I live a life open to the possibility that while I may not be perfect I am the sum total of every missed call, missed bus, misstep, misdemeanour mistake that I have made and I’m okay with that because every once in awhile through no fault of my own I get something right.

 

 

 

 

 

                                              

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Weekend technology forgot

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Sometimes I think to myself, ‘now that’s a great idea. I should totally do that. In fact I can’t wait to do that because it is going to be the start of something amazing.’ These ideas usually come to me around 3 am, which is slightly inconvenient because I do tend to be asleep at that time. However, given the sheer genius of these epiphanies I am not prepared to tell them to make an appointment.
That is, until last week. When I forgot to not remember an idea that came to me mid slumber.
I further exasperated the fact by mentioning it to my husband, who thought that it may be the greatest idea since sliced bread. So we decided to share it with the kids over breakfast.
The meal started light and fun; my youngest showing his siblings YouTube videos and my eldest taking selfies and posting them to snap chat. It was just your average breakfast with the family since technology put down roots in our home.
My husband and I looked at each other and knew that this was as good a time as any to share the good news. No, we weren’t becoming Jehovah’s witnesses; it was something with way more shock value than that.
We were going to take away all the electronics for the entire weekend.
I’ve heard silence before, but that was rare and entirely foreign in my home and while it was in this instance brief, it was none the less quite breathtaking. Of course, that was just the calm before the storm. The subsequent squall that ensued was only slightly less intense than a baby daddy reveal on the Jerry Springer show.
It seemed that the children were a little hesitant to jump aboard and embrace the days of yore, when technology was a tv with 13 channels and no remote. Our phones were tied to walls and if we wanted to watch a movie we had to rent one at the video store and make sure we remembered to rewind it. Our music played on record players and the pictures we shot took a whole week to develop.
We told them more stories of our own childhoods, explained the freedom and joy of being outside, building forts and riding bikes. We couldn’t wait to be free of the confines of our homes and rarely would appear back unless hunger overtook us or it was too dark to play capture the flag.
They stared the stare of great sadness as they came to terms with their impending loss. They realized it was fruitless to argue. We had made up our minds. They asked a few questions.
How would they cope without Netflix?
… What would this new existence feel like if it couldn’t be shared on Instagram?
Also, my favorite … If a tree falls in the forest and no one tweets about it … does anybody #care?
We gathered up the devices and the experiment began.
It was without a doubt the longest, most painful weekend I can remember in quite some time. It rained every day and every night. They couldn’t play outside, they didn’t ride their bikes, or climb trees, or play kick the can. They just stayed inside. They fought, and argued, and tortured each other to the point that I almost ran away from home. I’ve never been a huge fan of Mondays, but last week I was very pleased to see it arrive.
You see, it was my fault. I had failed to teach the fun of being stuck inside on a rainy day, of playing board games and baking cookies and building forts inside. I tried at one point, but I was met with little enthusiasm and I think one of them might have growled at me. So I just backed away slowly.
Next time I will have weather contingency plans. Yes, there will be a next time, because I want my kids to be free and unplugged and able to communicate ideas in real time and not just by text. Technology has made itself quite at home in the twenty first century, but that doesn’t mean we can’t pack it up and send it camping from time to time.

Budget? I thought you said fudge it….

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When did life get so expensive? Its never been cheap, but lately I have been taking some stock in our day to day expenses and I’m just not sure I can afford to have one much longer. It’s not that we live beyond our means, but I can see us moving into the neighbourhood. And let me tell you – the view from there is not all sunshine and daisies.

The reason for this is simple. We have a lot of kids. We didn’t mean to; it just sort of happened. We lived up North for a while, and I am convinced there was something in our water supply. Nothing else makes any sense.

So now that we have them, they tend to need stuff, constantly. Like, food and clothes and shelter and shoes. Which is fine, we have a budget for that. What I didn’t factor into the financial equation was that the growth of these needs would increase exponentially at the rate of … well I’m no mathematician, so let’s just say … a lot.

For example: in the past month I have bought my two eldest sons a total of twelve new pairs of jeans. Guess how many still fit them? If you said four, you would be correct. They go to bed at night, and in the morning when they get dressed, they appear to be taking the movie NOAH a little too seriously. Now, if a great flood does occur these two are all set, but as for this moment, not so much.

My youngest son goes through shoes like paper napkins. I do literally mean he goes “through” shoes. If he still has the same pair for two months, it’s only because he lost one of them for four of those weeks. Typically, we get about six weeks from the time we buy them until the time we must say goodbye to them. I’ve tried purchasing more expensive shoes to see if it is a quality issue. It’s not. He just wears them and then at some point they resemble Swiss cheese.

My daughter is graduating this year, so we remortgaged our house. At first I thought we’d be okay, but then we went dress shopping, and apparently her gown is going to cost more than my first car. Which is fine, of course. I don’t begrudge her that. The good news is that she will never, ever wear it again, so that will be money well spent.

When I go grocery shopping I usually fill 2 carts to the point where a degree in engineering would be of benefit, especially when I try and get everything back in them after I have paid. Yes, I’m the lady chasing oranges all over the parking lot because I failed to properly secure my produce bag. Don’t judge me; I’m a woman on the edge.

People in line behind me often ask if I’m having a party. I’d love to say yes, but it’s just not in the budget. Also, although I’m not sure if there is an actual test for the locust gene, if there is then I’m pretty certain my kids have it. I say this because I fill the cupboards and both refrigerators (yes, I said both) on Saturday and by Thursday we are typically coasting on fumes and sketchy leftovers.

We also consume so much milk in a week that I have actually looked into purchasing a cow. I’m not sure we are zoned for livestock though, so that idea is still very much in the infancy stage . No need to send the neighbours into a panic just yet.

So what’s the answer? A second job? Maybe. A revised budget? Perhaps. Child labour? I wish. The darn industrial revolution ruined that dream for parents everywhere. So I guess we will just keep on doing the best we can. Paying Peter while borrowing from Paul so we can raise four beautiful children and chase the fruit of our labour through the parking lot of life.

 

If it doesn’t fit…..you just convict.

Last weekend I decided to get a new door for our pantry. The old one and our family had had a parting of the ways. If I were to tell the story I would say that it was poorly crafted and lacked the required opening and closing ability that I require of a door. If it (the door) were to tell it, you would probably hear that the constant slamming and rough housing were responsible for its demise. Regardless I’m not about to play the blame game with a door. So out with the old and in with the new.

Now if you have been following any of my previous columns you might be aware that if there is an easy way to do things we will generally opt to not do it that way. I’m not sure exactly why that is but it does seem like it is a particularly common theme for us and (spoiler alert) this time was no exception.

So off to the home building store we went. I hadn’t done my usual on line pre shop so we were flying a bit blind, but we eventually did decide on one and brought it , home. The salesman had indicated that it was extremely easy to install and we should have it hung in about 15 minutes. Now I’m not saying that was the deciding factor on the one we chose but it definitely did make it one of the more appealing choices.

In the past I have generally chosen to let my husband handle the installations of most household upgrades. But with the wounds still rather fresh from the latest dishwasher escapade I decided to be an active participant this time. Facebook friends would have to wait.

We emptied out the pantry and prepared for the quick and easy hanging of our beautiful new door. It was 11am. The first sign that things were not going well happened about 10 minutes after. Apparently the door was a little too tall. This was all sounding a little too familiar for my taste and I was starting to get a little anxious. Why is it so hard to remember to measure things? Properly. The first time. I cannot answer that… It just is.

So okay next steps. Do we take the door back? No. Do I walk away and contemplate the limited options that are available. NO!! Been there and done that. I stood firmly beside my husband and said the phrase that always comes to mind when my house is being uncooperative.

” we should just move.” This house is too complicated for us. It doesn’t “fit” our needs”. It’s being totally unreasonable.

So after about another 20 minutes of back and forth speculation we came to a decision the flooring would have to come up. No big deal it was laminate easy to reinstall. After we had removed the flooring we tried to hang it again. No luck. So we decided to cut up the floor board. Yes we were now cutting things again.

One more time to no avail. Still not enough variance to hang this thing. My husband was eyeing up my tile with a little too much interest and I saw where this was headed. We were going all in and he was cutting out the tile. It’s 1:30pm and I was about to call that very helpful salesman and share some thoughts with him. Easy install??? I don’t think so.

Tile has now been chewed up and destroyed and I was having some serious flashbacks. The good news is that this time we were successful in hanging my beautiful new door. The bad news….well let’s just say one simple project has given birth to several new projects that will no doubt in time have babies of its own.

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