My Week 145: Line-ups Are Hell, The Todd

Tuesday to Friday: I Go Abroad

In case you haven’t noticed, I’ve been conspicuously AFK this week (“away from keyboard” for those of you who don’t watch The Big Bang Theory).  I was in a different country and my laptop wouldn’t work because the hotel wifi was ‘open’ as opposed to ‘secured’. Every time I tried to open Facebook, Twitter, WordPress, or even my own work drives (you can see how I prioritize when I have free wifi, right?), I would get a message saying that someone might be trying to hack into my system.  I was like, “Listen, laptop. You’re not the boss of me,” but the laptop didn’t give a sh*t and refused to let me connect with the world like a mean babysitter. Sure, I had my phone, but I HATE trying to read and comment on things via a handheld device. I really need a full keyboard to feel articulate. Also my hands are gigantic, so I make so many typos with my phone that I get frustrated.

That having been said, the conference was very interesting and I was with a couple of really nice guys from work who made sure I didn’t get lost or get on the wrong plane. I’ve never actually travelled out of the country by myself before, and Ken usually arranges everything, and keeps all the pertinent itinerary materials in a file folder in order of date, while I’m all ‘devil-may-care’ and try to throw him off by insisting on unscheduled stops at scenic bars and such. But I was feeling super-confident because I’d gone and booked my own transit to the airport from downtown and I’d made my OWN file folder. Then I got to the airport. I walked inside and immediately had a panic attack. There were kiosks and line-ups and counters and people, and I didn’t know how to even begin. So I did what any normal person would do—I called Ken. But just as the phone was ringing, I saw one of my colleagues, and he was like “Great, you’re here. Have you checked in yet? You do that here—let me show you” and I was SO relieved that I hung up the phone.

Then Ken messaged me to say “Why did you call? Are you OK?” But I’d just exchanged Blackberry PINs with my colleague, and when I sent back a reply to Ken that said, “Yes” with two great big HEARTS, it accidentally went to the guy I work with. I was mortified and didn’t know what to do, because he hadn’t seen it yet. By this time, our other co-worker had arrived, and when I told him what had happened, he said, “Don’t say anything. Later, I’m going to whisper, ‘I think mydangblog has a crush on you—have you checked your messages lately?’ and we’ll see what he says.” I was even more appalled but then I realized 2 things: 1) that both these guys had a good sense of humour and that 2) I should probably stop making fun of Ken with his “file folder system” and his “knowledge of airports”.

We arrived at our destination without incident, and the rest of the trip was excellent. But it occurred to me over and over again, that the main problem with any kind of travel is other people. That is to say, other people who are ahead of you in any kind of line-up and who have seemingly complicated issues that inevitably delay you from doing the things you need to do:

1) The bank

I had to get American money for the trip. I went to a bank. I stood in line for 20 minutes while the tellers were each dealing with people who apparently had never been in a bank before. One girl was asking numerous questions and signing several documents, another guy was just standing there while three bank employees looked at a computer terminal, another woman just looked confused and kept digging in her purse for god-knows-what and handing the teller the same piece of paper back, and so on. When it was finally my turn, I went to the teller with 3 twenty-dollar bills in my hand and said, “Here is 60 dollars Canadian. I would like this turned into as much American money as you can.” I had my 44 bucks and 5 cents in under 2 minutes, and I was like, “The rest of you in line can thank me NOW.”

2) The airport

Both coming and going, the airport was another place where people who don’t know what they’re doing hold up lines. Yes, I was confused and didn’t know where to go when I arrived, but I DIDN’T stand in a line just to ask someone. If my colleague hadn’t appeared and if Ken hadn’t answered the phone, I would have simply Googled “What do you do when you get to the airport?” Either that or called my Mom.

At the self-baggage check, we literally had to wait 5 minutes for a family who was standing there, discussing and debating what to do with their luggage. The sign clearly read, “Place bag on belt.” I don’t know what there was to talk about—it’s four words. And an ARROW.

On the way back, there was literally no one at the airport and there were only two people in line ahead of us at the Air Canada desk, with two service representatives. Guess how long it took to get a boarding pass? You can probably imagine, given the nature of people in line-ups. At one point, the guy ahead of me had 4 clerks staring back and forth between his passport and a computer terminal. Then one of the clerks got on the PHONE. The other person in line ahead of us was busy repacking his suitcase, because it was over the weight limit. You know how I knew my suitcase was UNDER the weight limit? Because I had it weighed at the hotel. Also, he had two sets of golf clubs that were being inspected ONE BY ONE by a security guard. Who the hell travels alone with TWO sets of golf clubs?!

When I DID step up to the counter to check in and get my boarding pass, I had my passport open to the right page to expedite the process. The woman looked at my passport and asked me, “What’s your country of origin?” I really wanted to say, “You’re looking at my passport right now. I believe that information is readily available to you on the page you’re currently staring at, so FIGURE IT OUT.” What I actually did was say “Canada”. But when she asked, “Are you travelling alone?”, I refrained from answering, “Do you see anyone else standing here?!” and I just pretended not to hear the question. Eventually, she DID figure that one out.

3) On the plane

What was I waiting for on the plane, you ask? The bar cart, obviously. And it would have been there in fine time if the old dude in the second row hadn’t wanted to know the ingredients of each and every menu item:

Old Dude (pointing to cart): What’s that?
Flight Attendant: That’s hummus.
Old Dude: What’s hummus?
Flight Attendant: It’s a spread made out of chick peas.
Old Dude (pointing to cart): Oh. What’s that?
Flight Attendant: It’s another type of hummus.
Old Dude: What’s in it?
Me: F*ckity f*ck f*ck can a girl get a damned drink before this plane lands??!!

I didn’t need to know about the hummus, or what was in the ‘Fiesta Snack Pack’, or the ‘Airline Surprise’, because I had read the MENU that Air Canada thoughtfully provides to every passenger.

To paraphrase Jean Paul Sartre, “Hell is other people ahead of you in line”.

Last Sunday:

Last week, I challenged a fantastic fellow blogger to write on a specific topic. He goes by ‘desertcurmudgeon’ and his blog is Two Voices in One Transmission. His posts are extremely articulate and always thought-provoking and entertaining, so be sure to check him out. When he challenged his readers to give him a topic, I gave him the following prompt: “A daughter’s a daughter all of her life; a son’s a son ‘til he takes a wife.” I’ve heard this saying many times, and while I don’t necessarily believe it’s true, I wanted to see what desertcurmudgeon could do with it. The result is the hilarious Todd.

As funny as it is, when you dig beneath the surface, “Todd” is a pointed example of being so fearful of your child leaving you that you coddle him until he has no coping skills and no independence. I think being a good mother is a very delicate balancing act between supporting your child, but also raising him or her to be good with the world. And while I sometimes struggle with feelings of loss now that my own daughter has become an adult and doesn’t really ‘need’ me much anymore, I’m still extremely proud of her independence and her resiliency. Also, she has a lovely girlfriend, and when I see how she treats her, I know I raised her well. So thank you, desertcurmudgeon, for “Todd” and for helping me realize that if I’d done what Todd’s mom had done, I’d have nobody to blame but myself when Todd was travelling and  pissed everyone else off on the plane because he hadn’t read the menu and treated the flight attendant like she was his mother.

My Week 133: I Have a Wee Rant About Why Kids Are Important

Friday: It gets funny after the first bit…

One of my favourite sayings is “It’s easier to build a child than repair an adult”. I’ve worked with children, teenagers, and adult learners most of my life, so I can attest to the fact that the saying is absolutely true. About twenty years ago, I taught at an adult high school, and witnessed first-hand the struggles that my adult students went through—the same ones they went through as teenagers the first time through high school, repeating the same patterns over and over again. I had Charlie, a fifty-year-old truck driver who was more comfortable behind the wheel than behind a desk; Lorna, who helped her husband run their own business and was now retired, but who was ashamed to have never graduated; Mohammed and Abdi, two Somali brothers who had difficulty with English but tried SO hard; Jack, whose early experiences with teachers as a child with undiagnosed AD/HD had made him hate school; Linda, whose epilepsy medication didn’t always cut it, and the seizures were still such a source of embarrassment for her that she would skip class for days after one, and so many more people who just wanted to feel a sense of achievement by graduating from high school (Lorna’s grandkids came and cheered when she got her diploma). But they were a terrific group—I still have the card they all signed for me at the end of the year.

At the other end of the spectrum are the wee ones, so fresh and full of enthusiasm, an excitement for living that sometimes gets hammered out of them too soon. The other day, I was remembering something I witnessed about 5 years ago, and which still makes me so upset: I was at the grocery store, and I saw a woman come in with the most adorable looking boy about 5 years-old. As they passed me, I could hear him saying, “Mommy, can I drive the little cart? The little cart? Mommy, can I?” He was asking over and over, looking up at her, trying to get her attention. There’s no way she couldn’t have heard him, but she kept ignoring him until they walked past the little grocery carts that the stores have for kids (so that they can feel like big people) and disappeared into the aisles. I wanted to call after her, “Would it f*cking kill you to just let the kid drive the f*cking little cart?” I mean, I don’t know what was going on in her life that she thought it was OK to just blow him off like he wasn’t important, and maybe she was just having a bad day, but it infuriated me. Just like the other day, when my brother was telling me about a child in my nephew’s grade one class. Apparently, “Eddie” has trouble getting along with the other kids, so while everyone else sits at tables in groups of 5, Eddie sits at a desk by himself in the corner. Every day. All day long. All I could think is “What the f*ck is wrong with Eddie’s parents that they aren’t freaking about their six-year-old being isolated like that?” And while you might be thinking, “Well, I wouldn’t want my kid sitting next to Eddie if Eddie can’t behave”, how is Eddie going ever going to get along with ANYONE if he’s continually isolated? The Eddie of today becomes the Jack of tomorrow, and you can take that to the f*cking bank. But I’m not blaming Eddie’s teacher, although it’s a pretty stupid solution. No, this is down to Eddie’s parents, who NEVER come to parent night, activity days, observation days, weekly skating, swimming and so on. My brother, in the three years that my nephew has been in the same class as Eddie, has ever met either of them. Again, I don’t know their circumstances but I keep thinking of Eddie, skating by himself when the other kids have a mom or dad there, and it makes me sad. Which leads me to the main point, and yes I do have one: I was reading a little while ago about some so-called parenting guru who said that our children shouldn’t be the most important things in our lives. And I was like, “You’re an idiot.” And here is why he is completely wrong.

*Disclaimer: If you think your children are the most important things in your life, but you let them do whatever the hell they want and spoil them rotten, you’re doing it wrong.

1) Your children are responsible for what happens to you when you get old. Treat them well, and teach them to be responsible and caring adults, and you’ll probably end up in an upscale retirement home with people who don’t make you feel terrible when you wet the bed. Or maybe you can even live WITH your children if you went all out and took them to the movies once in a while, rented a cottage in the summer to have special family times, or let them drive the LITTLE CART. Treat them like crap and you’ll end up on an ice floe, or in a nursing home that serves mystery meat and has bingo every single night (yes, I know—some people like bingo. I’m NOT one of them), and they won’t come to visit.

2) Adults have pretty much f*cked up the world at this point. Global warming, species going extinct every minute, Donald Trump, oceans choked with plastic—we OWE them. The least we can do is mentor them and help them see the world as the precious thing that it is, not a commodity to be exploited until it runs dry. And buy them a puppy. Every child should have a puppy. Children who are allergic to dogs can have those hairless Chihuahua things. If you don’t like dogs, either suck it up, or buy them a cat. Or a monkey butler. If my parents had bought me a monkey butler, I would have a PhD in Environmental Science and I would have cured global warming AND cancer by now. They DID get me a kitten, so at least I have two undergraduate degrees. But no matter what the pet is, help them to learn how to be responsible for it.

3) What else is MORE important than our children? Seriously? The stuff that we decorate our homes with? The cars we drive? Our jobs? Getting away from the kids to hang with other adults? When I was a kid, I don’t remember that we didn’t have a lot of money. I DO remember family car trips to little towns on a Sunday, walking through the bush and identifying trees at a local arboretum, going with my dad to the Farmer’s Market on Saturday morning and buying treats for my mom who was sleeping in after a long week of looking after me and my brother. My family (Mom, Dad, my brother and me) spent a lot of time together, learning how to be in the world and how to be responsible for it. I’m eternally grateful to my parents for always thinking “what would be nice for the kids?”, not only when I was young, but as an adult. It didn’t make me “entitled”, and by the way, most young people today aren’t either, despite what the people who make their money from certain parenting blogs, fake news magazines, and internet clickbait try to tell you. Face it—we’re all gonna die. “Things” are irrelevant, but leaving this world with the memories of a day at the beach, or being able to laugh around the dinner table because you didn’t make your kid eat broccoli but gave her hot dogs instead aren’t.

4) To continue, my second favourite saying is “The most important things in life aren’t things.” I’m the mother to a wonderful 18 year-old, and yes, so-called “Parenting Expert”, she is the centre of my universe. I don’t apologize for that. I can buy whatever the hell I want. I can go to the Dollar Store and get crap for my house, save up and buy crap I don’t need, or surround myself with stuff that doesn’t matter. The only thing I can’t buy is a child who is OK in the world. That, I have to work at. I also had to work at GETTING a child, because you can’t just buy one of them either, like a puppy or a kitten (or a monkey butler). Ken and I tried for a long time to have a baby, and we had some tragedy along the way. When my daughter was finally born, I was incredibly grateful to the universe for that gift. Because that’s what kids are. A f*cking gift. If you can’t see that, if you want to discount children as the most important thing in your life because some dude named Leonard Sax says you’re a failure as a parent because you like to give your child choices and make them a responsible and active voice in the family dynamic, then don’t complain when the nurse won’t make you hot dogs or cry because the polar bears all died.

*I’m really tired and may or may not have had a couple of glasses of wine, one of which I just spilled on myself. Yeah, it’s a bit of a rant. Next week it’ll be funny—I promise.


My Week 99: Jet Lag Grumpiness, The Tragically Hip

Jet lag makes me grumpy. I’ll be the first to admit that, or maybe the second, as Ken is well aware of the fact that I’ve been a little pissy this week. The poor guy has a bad cold and slept on the couch the other night because he was coughing and didn’t want to wake me up. My reaction?

Me: What the hell are you doing?
Ken: Um…whuh?
Me: How many times have I asked you NOT to use the couch cushions as pillows?! They’re expensive, and you’re making them all squishy!
Ken: But I—
Me: NO, Ken. You need to stop treating the couch like a flophouse. Use your own damn pillows. It’s not like you don’t have 6 of them all cluttering up the bed and sh*t.
Ken: *weak cough, sneeze* Sigh.

At any rate, I hope he forgives me for my pillow rant, although it’s true that he has like a thousand weird pillows on the bed that he just can’t sleep without—unless he’s on the couch. The fact is that I’m in a continual state of grogginess, thanks to the 6 hour time zone change, and as I get older, I find it harder to readjust my body clock. But Ken wasn’t the only one who felt my ire this week. I hope you’re prepared for this, because I’m about to vent. Here’s the list of 4 things that are REALLY grinding my gears this week:

1) Telemarketers who can’t even be bothered trying.

Twice in the last week, I’ve been the target of a completely uninspired, or blatantly bulls*t phone sales pitch. I’m not sure what’s going on—maybe it’s the brutal heat we’re experiencing in Canada, but people aren’t even TRYING. The phone rang yesterday. We don’t normally use our landline, but the caller ID said “C. Becker”, so I thought it might be, like, a normal human person. I answered the phone:

Me: Hello? HELLO? (sounds of talking in the background).
Guy: What? Oh hi. Mrs. __________? (mispronounces my last name)
Me: No, it’s _____________.
Guy: Haha. Right. Sorry. So….this is just the duct cleaning people calling.
Me: The duck cleaning people?
Guy: No, ducts. You know, like your furnace ducts and stuff. So, we’re having a promotion.
Me: Ah, sorry. We heat totally with wood.
Guy: No problem! Thanks!

“Just the duct cleaning people”. Is that seriously how a company expects to make money? And why the hell are their sales agents using their own damn phones? Anyway, I had his name and phone number on my caller ID, so the other day, I randomly called him back. Don’t worry; I blocked my number first. I didn’t get to talk to “Chris”, which is what I’m calling him, but I left this ominous message on his answering machine in my best Count Dracula voice: “Would you like your ducts cleaned?! Mwah hahahaha!!!” Then I hung up, turned around and realized that K was staring at me.

Me: The duct cleaning guy…
K: I condemn your actions.

But it still wasn’t as bad as the other day, when I answered the phone and a guy with a VERY heavy accent said, “Hello. My name is John Smith and I’m calling from Windows. There seems to be something wrong with your computer—“, and I said, “F*ck off” and hung up the phone. Then I felt terrible, because I’m usually really polite to telemarketers, but how stupid did he think I AM? Now I’m worried though, because when we were in Iceland, I wrote most of last week’s post on a netbook using Windows, and when we came back to Canada, the netbook crashed. All I could do was call up the post on Word, then retype the whole thing, which took me hours. So maybe that’s my karma for being all swear-y at John Smith, and now my Windows might really be f*cked up.

2) Olympic Sexism.

Like many people, I’m disturbed by the level of sexism in the current Olympics. There have been many articles written on the subject regarding women’s achievements being downplayed or overshadowed by constant references to what they’re wearing or who they’re married to. And while I agree with all that, I also think that there are a couple of sports in which women are their own worst enemies by not saying “Screw this.” The first one that comes to mind is Gymnastics. How can you seriously expect people NOT to make a distinction between the genders when you have such a different approach to the floor routine? The guys are all serious and badass and tumbling around, and when they finish a run, they take one weird swivel-y step to turn around. The women, on the other hand, look like they’re trying out for Little Miss Gymnastic Universe—they do their routines with perma-smiles, and shimmy their shoulders and shake their pre-pubescent-looking booties for the crowd in between THEIR tumbling runs. I don’t get it. At one point, I was like “Shouldn’t there be a pole somewhere on that mat?” These women are all INCREDIBLE athletes—why is it the expectation of their sport that they act like pageant princesses? Do they lose marks if they don’t look pretty and sexy? Dump the glitter and gyrating, and bring women’s gymnastics into the 21st century. And don’t get me started on the seeming necessity of the women’s Beach Volleyball team wearing bikini thongs compared to what the guys wear. They claim it’s comfortable and allows them to play better—maybe having sand in your lady parts is a great incentive to win. And just for the record, I’d have absolutely no problem with any of this if the guys were similarly dressed in thongs or glitter or whatever. In fact, it might make me MORE inclined to watch men’s Beach Volleyball.

3) Kidbashing.

This one has been making me grumpy for a lot longer than a week, but hey, in for a penny, in for a pound. Is it just me, or are other people sick as f*ck of all the childbashing that seems to be de rigeur in the last little while? My social media outlets are jampacked with “50 Reasons Why Being a Parent Sucks”, or “10 Things I Hate About My Kids” or “Why Being a Mom Is Crap”. From Twitter hashtags to nasty memes, this whole cyberbullying of our children has to stop. Being a parent is AWESOME. There. I said it. I’m deeply sorry that I don’t want to cash in by appealing to the frustrated parent in you all, but I actually LIKE being a mom. My daughter didn’t drive me to drink (I did that all on my own, thank you very much). She didn’t give me gray hairs (do I have any? I’ll have to ask my hairdresser), and I would never dream of embarrassing her by openly mocking what she does on the internet. Sure, I talk about her, but it’s with affection rather than mean-spiritedness. You know what she DID give me? Laugh lines. Because kids are hilarious. But you’d never know this from some of the negativity aimed towards parenthood lately. I actually read a post by someone who described being a parent as being akin to living in a barren wasteland with an empty soul. WHAT?? All I have to say to that is “Grow the f*ck up. Did you really think that your life would stay EXACTLY the same as it was before you had children? Did you think you could still ‘party with my ladies’, have your semi-annual girls’ weekend, or continue to hit the bars on a Friday night? If so, then hire a nanny and stop complaining.” I’m not wholly unsympathetic—I understand that spending time with the wee ones can be a little overwhelming at times, and when I was raising K, there were certainly occasions (few, I have to admit) where I needed to vent. You know who I vented to? My mom. Or a good friend. Or Ken. I didn’t share my thoughts and feelings with thousands of strangers on the internet where my momentary self-doubt would be archived forever, and where my negative thoughts about childrearing could be seen by my child at a future date. The worst part is that it’s making younger women fearful of becoming parents. I read an article the other day by a journalist who was considering having children, but after reading some “mommy blogs”, she was so scared off that she was re-thinking the whole thing. The most ridiculous thing I read lately was by someone who was so unhappy about being a mother, and the worst part was that her husband got to go out working and be with adults. But then he would come home and leave his underwear on the bathroom door handle, and ON TOP OF EVERYTHING ELSE, she would have to put his underwear away. My first and only thought was, “Why the HELL are you picking up after a grown man?! Did you know that after a while, if you don’t pick up after him, he’ll have no clean underwear and will be forced to do his own laundry like an actual normal human person?” And now this poor guy feels like a dick because everyone on the internet knows he hangs his underwear on a doorknob.

Honestly, I don’t know how anyone can rightfully complain about being a parent. It really is the best gig in the world. You get to spend time with someone who is NEVER boring, and you get to teach them all the stuff they need to know. When you repeat “Can you say Mama,” over and over again, you’re creating neural pathways and networks. When you say “No, that’s hot—danger!”, you’re developing logic and reasoning. And when you say “Play nice and share,” you’re contextualizing the social construct. You’re a f*cking scientist, that’s what you are. So start embracing your inner Ph. D.—the internet, and your children, will thank you.

4) People who try to screw you over on Facebook buy and sell sites.

Ken and I are still trying to offload a lot of the furniture we had at the cottage we sold recently. The best way has been by using local Facebook buy and sell sites, but it can be frustrating at times. Most people are great—they come when they say they will, they give you the money, and they take away your stuff. Then you get the people who take two days of constant messaging and questions like “Is it in good condition?” (no, I posted it because it’s a piece of crap) to finally arrange a time to pick up an item. THEN they suddenly want to know if you’ll take half the asking price. You say No, then they come over when you’re out and try the same sh*t with your unsuspecting husband. But he’s no dummy (because you told him what the price was and he knows better that to barter on his own) so they leave empty-handed, having wasted everyone’s time. People like that are jerks. Enough said.

5) Amid all the grumbling this week, there HAVE been some good moments. Ken and I repaired the broken down antique settee that I got a garage sale and it looks great. I made risotto for the first time and it turned out almost OK. I bought groceries and it didn’t cost me a small fortune as it would have in Iceland. I saw Lisa, my Lancome lady, and she gave me a lot of free stuff. Which brings me to the thing that made me laugh my ass off this week. I saw my parents yesterday, and I gave my mom some peach-scented foot lotion, Calvin Klein body lotion, and lipstick that I got from Lisa. She called me last night:

Mom: I hope you don’t mind, but I gave the lotion to your Dad.
Me: No, that’s fine…
Mom: He’s decided to become a chick magnet so he needs soft skin.
Me: I—what?

So ladies, beware. If you see a really cool old Scottish guy who smells like peaches, you’re in trouble.

Saturday Night: The Tragically Hip


Last night was the final show of the Tragically Hip’s final concert tour. The lead singer, Gord Downie, has incurable brain cancer, and rather than fade away, he’s going out in fine Canadian style by bringing the country together. You might have seen the memes about Canada being closed for the night because our national broadcaster, the CBC, was showing the concert live across the nation for those who couldn’t get tickets to be there in person. Free. No commercial breaks. 3 hours of song. So that we could all embrace the band whose music was the soundtrack to so many of our lives. Hundreds of thousands of people watching all at the same time, some at huge parties with massive screens, some at home with the people they love, watching a man give everything he had left to the nation HE loves. It was inspiring and heartbreaking all at the same time. In a year that we lost Bowie and Prince, two other icons of our youth, it seems incredibly unfair that Gord Downie, man, machine, poem, should be lost to us as well. And when the time comes, we’ll miss him fully and completely. Just wait and you’ll see.

Here’s the link to one of my favourite Hip songs—Nautical Disaster.


My Week 92: Playground Safety, Titus the Sensitive Dog

Thursday: Playground safety

I was watching the news at lunch on Thursday, and there was a feature on “playground safety”. A very serious and sincere woman was instructing parents on how to “inspect” their local playground to make sure it was safe for their children. Her following gems of wisdom made me realize how much the lives of children have changed since I was a kid:

1) “Make sure the playground equipment is on a soft surface such as sand or wood chips.” This is so that, in case of a fall from the monkey bars, it’s less likely that the child will suffer a broken bone. Well, in my day, we didn’t have “playground equipment”. There were swings and slides, and they were usually on concrete pads, and if you happened to fall off, it was no skin off anyone’s knee but your own. The best piece of playground equipment from my childhood had to be the giant metal rocket at Churchill Park. You had to climb into it via a metal ladder that went all the way up through very tight openings to platforms at different heights. The whole structure was on a slight angle and the top platform was probably 20 feet off the ground, which made it all a little disorienting, but you were encased in a metal cage (picture a rocket-shaped Wicker Man), so it was perfectly safe unless you lost your footing and slipped off the ladder. But see, all this taught us to be CAREFUL. It was like when hockey players used to play without helmets—they thought twice before trying to block a slap shot with their heads. Now, it’s just a free-for-all, with pucks flying everywhere, and kids leaping from platform to platform or swinging maniacally off stuff without a care in the world. Really though, in my day, we had better things to do than be all supervised on a playground. The best playground in the world when I was a kid was a construction site. I remember the good old days, racing around among the nails, concrete blocks, and roof trusses, then a gang of us would swing down into the basement through an open window, and play tag. Was it dangerous? F*ck yes, it was dangerous. One time when I was too small to get in and out by myself, the neighbourhood kids swung me in, then forgot about me later when it was time to go home. After a couple of hours, my mom started to get worried and, eventually a search party found me. Sure, it was scary being down there by myself, screaming for help and whatnot, and sure, I have an intense fear of climbing through tight spaces like windows or holes in metal platforms, but it made me TOUGH. Not like these babies today.


2) “Thoroughly inspect the equipment to ensure there are no damaged areas or sharp edges.” This is good advice for today’s playgrounds, which are all made out of plastic and easily broken or vandalised. But that was the great thing about the slides and swings of my youth. They were sturdy and iron and medieval-looking and held together with giant bolts and chain ropes. You couldn’t damage them if you tried. You would literally need a gang of kids wielding sledgehammers to even dent the slide in my neighbourhood. Was the bottom edge sharp? Sure. Was it rusty? I would certainly hope so. Otherwise, what was the point of getting a f*cking tetanus shot?

3) “Teach your children about the ‘zone of safe passage’.” What the playground safety expert meant by this was that parents need to assist kids in observing other kids swinging and running, and figure out how far away they need to be from them to not get kicked or knocked down. When I was a kid, no one taught you that sh*t—you learned via the school of hard knocks, pardon the pun. In other words, if you ran by someone on the swing set and got a foot in the face, you very quickly learned the “zone of safe passage” on your own. There were no adults screaming, “Veer left, Tommy! Veer Left!! Remember the zone of safe pass—Oooh!” Our parents taught us one rule, and it was the most important rule of all: “Never chase a ball onto the road. But if you’re already playing on the road, move when you see a car coming.” That was their wisdom, and it saved my life many a time. Actually, both of my parents saved my life at one time or another. Mom saved my life at a baseball game. It was before the age of netting to protect the spectators, and a fly ball was coming straight for my head. She stuck out her hand and deflected it away. The bruise on her hand later was a very good indication of what might have happened to my skull if she hadn’t been so quick-thinking. She also saved my brother from drowning on more than one occasion. My dad saved my life one day when he happened to look out a bedroom window and saw me dangling by the collar from the branch of a pear tree in our backyard, slowly choking. I’ve never seen him run so fast. Thanks, Mom and Dad, for helping me survive to adulthood.

4) “Smoking is now banned on playgrounds, so be vigilant and remind those who might not be aware.” NO SMOKING?! What? I’m sorry, but the only reason that I’m only slightly asthmatic is because my lungs were toughened up by years of second hand smoke (and first-hand as well, of course—it WAS the seventies). It’s funny how attitudes change over the years. When I was a kid, ANYONE could buy cigarettes. I still remember my mom giving me a note and a couple of dollars, and sending me to the local store to buy her a pack of Rothmans. I’d stand there in line with the other 6 year-olds, shooting the sh*t about the latest Barbie outfits, or what construction site or vacant lot we’d be meeting at later, or what vacationing family had left their milk door unlocked, then we’d spend the change from the cigarettes on sugar candy. (Milk door, in case you’re wondering, was a tiny door next to the actual door. The milkman would open it from the outside, put the milk in, then the family could open a second door on the inside and get the milk. If you went on vacation and forgot to lock the milk door, you were an open target for the neighbourhood kids. The smallest one, usually me, would squeeze through the opening and let the others in. So if you came back from a trip and all your cookies and cigarettes were gone, you knew you’d forgotten to lock the milk door.) But people back when I was young were not as knowledgeable about the dangers of smoking. In fact, my mom, like many women, smoked through both her pregnancies. Of course, she’ll tell you she’s glad she did, because otherwise, my brother, who has a Ph.D., and I would be “insufferable” and much taller than his 6’1” and my 5’6”. Now, of course, women are so paranoid that they won’t eat peanut butter if they’re pregnant because it “might cause allergies”. Me, I say expose ‘em early and often—it’s the best way to toughen them up. I remember once being told off by a colleague when I was pregnant with Kate for drinking a Pepsi. No, not because it wasn’t a Coke—she said, “Don’t you know what the caffeine might do to the baby?” I was like “Hopefully keep her awake all day so she doesn’t kick the sh*t out of my stomach tonight when we should both be sleeping.” I feel terrible though—she might have gotten MORE scholarships to university if I’d gone with Pepsi Free.

Overall, I just think that monitoring your child’s every move is counterproductive to childhood. And of course, I’m exaggerating about my own youth—my parents took very good care of me and my brother, but not in that “in your face” kind of way. My dad calls it “Carefully supervised neglect,” which to me, means that you let your kid be a kid, but you’re always there to stop the baseball or the hanging, as the case may be. Personally, I’ve tried to embrace that saying, but I get that it’s not always easy. The world seems to have become a more scary place than it was 40 years ago, or maybe as an adult, I’m just more aware of it now than I was when I was young. All I know is that the first time Kate wanted to go to the store by herself (it’s just around the corner and she was 10), I had to stifle every protective instinct I had. She was gone about 30 seconds when I broke down and begged Ken to act like a stealth ninja and follow her at a safe distance so Kate wouldn’t know he was there. Ken, of course, obliged, and came back to report that she was fine—that she had made it safely through the four-way stop and was on her way home with some sugar candy and a pack of smokes.

Saturday: Titus, the sensitive dog

Since I’ve been home in recovery mode, I’ve had a chance to spend more time with Titus, and I’ve come to realize that he’s a very sensitive dog. That is to say, he doesn’t want to hurt your feelings. I know this because he likes to jump up on the bed and cuddle, but after a while, he gets bored and wants his own space, but the way he does it is very interesting:

Me: You’re so sweet. Who’s a good boy?
Titus: Is that rhetorical? Because obviously me.
Me: That’s right. You ARE a good boy. You’re so snuggly.
Titus: Yeah, this snuggling is great. Wait—what was that?
Me: What?
Titus: That noise? Didn’t you hear it?
Me: No—where are you going?
Titus: Hang on a second. I’m just going to look out the window.
Me: Do you see anything?
Titus: No. Wait—I think it’s coming from downstairs. I’ll be right back.

Then off he goes. Half an hour later, I’ll go down, and he’s lying on the couch in the family room.

Me: What are you doing? I thought you were coming back.
Titus: Oh…I, uh…I wanted to keep watch down here in case there was a burglar or something.
Me: Or is it because there’s more room on the couch and the TV is turned to your favourite show?
Titus: Look, I’m sorry. It’s just that it’s cooler down here, and I know how much you hate the Weather Channel.
Me: Sigh. Will you come back later?
Titus: Got cookies?
Me: Yes. I’ve got cookies.
Titus: OK. As soon as the local forecast is finished.

My Week 91: Aquacide, Ken Needs Help

Friday: I make an unwitting confession

I love fish. Not so much to eat—if given a choice, I’d much rather have steak—but as far as living organisms go, I’ve got a tremendous fondness for the wee, finned ones. We have 2 ponds on our property, both stocked with goldfish, and until recently, we had a pond at our cottage, also inhabited by over a dozen swimmers of all colour variations. And then, of course, there’s Mishima, who lives in a tank on the kitchen island. He’s a narcissistic diva, but over the last 4 years, we’ve come to an understanding. He doesn’t trash me on his Twitter feed (@tweetsoffish), and I feed him. It’s a deal that benefits him more than me, to be honest, because while he can be rather cutting, he is still just a fish, and his opinion of me is just about as compelling as Donald Trump congratulating Scotland on Brexit. Scotland responded exactly the way I do with Mishima, which is to roll my eyes and call him a “mangled apricot hellbeast” But Mishima doesn’t realize just how lucky he is, considering my actual track record of keeping fish alive. Over the years, Ken and I (although it was almost always Ken’s fault except for my last example) have had several unfortunate “incidents” with our fish.

5 years ago, we had 6 beautiful goldfish in the pond nearest our house. We’d had them for over three years, and they were all healthy and about 4 good inches long. In order to help them survive the winter, we always put a trough heater in the water to keep it above freezing—none of our ponds have EVER (do you hear that, Ken), EVER been deep enough for the fish to actually dig in and hibernate, or whatever it is that fish do. So that October, in went the trough heater. Unfortunately, we had both forgotten that earlier in the year, one of our spruce trees had been struck by lightning. The charge had traveled through the ground, into the house, and out the other side, wreaking electrical havoc to a lot of our wiring. Ken had repaired it all—EXCEPT for the outside outlet that the trough heater was plugged into. Bear in mind that the subsequent events were NOT his fault. This time. Two day later, he looked out an upstairs window, and then ran downstairs in a panic. Apparently, the trough heater had shorted out, overheated, and evaporated ALL the water in the pond. There was nothing left. Just some sludge, and 6 tiny carcasses. I actually cried at the thought of their suffering, even though they would have forgotten about it at 3 second intervals. We had a solemn memorial for Goldie 1, Goldie 2, Spot, Blackie, Whitey, and Goldie 3 (yes, I know those are pathetically unoriginal names, but they were f*cking ACCURATE).

The next year, I drained and scrubbed the ponds out until they sparkled. Then we got new fish, and divided them between the back pond and the smaller one in front of it. Things were going well, the little fellas swimming around merrily, until I bought a pond plant for the front pond. Ken took it upon himself to “plant” it by plunging it into the water. The soil dispersed and the water became super-murky and dirty. 4 days later, when the sediment finally settled, the fish had all suffocated. It was too sad—I hadn’t even had time to name them yet, and one of them had stripes so I was looking forward to adding “Stripey” to my repertoire. The same thing happened the next year, when we put a new pond in the back by Ken’s workshop. Some people just never learn, I guess, and this time 2 out of the 6 fish we had just bought perished in the dirt storm. We ultimately ended up with only three fish in that pond, the circumstances of which you can read about in My Week 34: Ken is Sometimes Right, in which he was not.

As for the cottage, we went through 2 rounds of fish. The first year we put in a pond, Ken was convinced that it was deep enough that they would all survive the winter. They did not. The next year we bought new fish, over a dozen, and they did really well until this past winter. It was supermild for the first couple of months, and Ken was convinced that the fish would be fine. Finally, in November, he deemed it cold enough to put the heater in. This spring, we went up and took out the heater. There were no fish. At which point, Ken suddenly remembered that while he had put the heater in the pond, he had forgotten to actually plug it in.

Now before you think that this post is simply a vehicle to bash Ken and his fish-hating ways, or subtly imply that he is a fish murderer, the truth is that his actions were all unpremeditated and without malice. When it comes to aquacide, unfortunately, it’s me who should be vilified. I did what I did with the best of intentions, but no secret can stay hidden forever. Especially when you can’t remember who knows about it. On Friday, K and I were out together; she’d offered to take me out to buy her some clothes. It was a short-lived trip, since I’m still having post-surgery issues with standing and walking, but on the way back, we had this conversation:

Me: I like this song, but I don’t get the lyrics. Why does he say, “I can’t feel my face when I’m with you”? That’s not very romantic. Like “You make me numb to sensation.” Weird.
K: It’s not actually about a girl. It’s about taking drugs. It’s metaphorical.
Me: Really? That’s even weirder.
K: You can take it either way, I guess. It could be about a woman, it could be about drugs.
Me: Oh, like that 9 Inch Nails song “The Perfect Drug”. It sounds like it’s about a woman but Trent Reznor said it’s about drinking a lot of absinthe.
K: What’s absinthe?
Me: It’s a really potent alcohol with wormwood in it. Wormwood is a kind of drug, so if you drink a lot of absinthe, you have crazy hallucinations. It’s what I killed your fish with.
K: I—Whuh?! YOU KILLED MY FISH???!!!!

Apparently, I had forgotten that I’d never told K that I killed her beta fish when she was 5 years old. But before you think I’m a heartless killer, let me explain. “Jarry” (K named him that because he came in a jar. You can tell she’s inherited my ability to choose imaginative names for things) was a red beta that had lived in K’s room for 2 years. Then he suddenly developed something called “Beta Bloat Disease” which is really gross. The fish gets all bloated and it can’t swim—it just bobs on the surface of the water gasping for air. So one day, when K was out with Ken, I researched the best way to euthanize a fish. Turns out that pouring really strong alcohol into the tank is the quickest and most painless, so that’s what I did. With absinthe. And why did I have absinthe? No, I’m not some kind of Victorian deviant; my brother brought it back from Hungary just so we could see what it was like. I don’t recommend it, because there’s hardly any wormwood in most brands anymore and while it made us a little tipsy, it also tasted pretty yucky, so it wasn’t worth it. Anyway, K was pretty appalled by my unwitting admission:

K: I can’t believe you killed my fish! Why didn’t you discuss it with me first?!
Me: You were five. What was I supposed to say? “Hey, your fish is dying so I’m just going to help him on his way by poisoning him with this blue sh*t”?
K: You could have said it in a way that a child could understand, like “Your fish is sick, so I’m going to give him medicine to make him go to sleep”.
Me: I didn’t want to upset you.
K: And then Dad killed my Sea Monkeys by not feeding them when I was away. You’re quite the pair.
Me: You know they weren’t actually monkeys, right?  They were worms or larvae or something.
K: Still.

She eventually forgave me for my aquacide, which I swear I did with the best of intentions. But somehow, Mishima must have gotten wind of the entire thing, because last night when I opened a bottle of wine, he started screaming, “Put the bottle down and back away from the tank! BACK AWAY FROM THE TANK!!” And I’m pretty sure I just guaranteed that he will never subtweet me again.


Saturday: Ken needs my help

Ken is a pretty self-sufficient guy. He’s really good at taking care of me, but he hardly ever needs my help. I can only remember two actual times before yesterday that he asked me to help him, aside from steadying things he’s trying to cut or hammer, holding one end of a measuring tape, or proofreading something for him. I mean the serious kind of help, like emergency help. Once, he was really sick, and asked me to make him pudding. The other time he set himself on fire and needed my help to put him out. I knew he was really in trouble because he started screaming “Help me!” and rolling around on the floor. Turns out that he was leaning against the stove while he was boiling potatoes, his shirt touched the element, and up he went. Thank god he has this weird habit of always wearing two shirts—it was the only thing that saved him from being badly burned. When I got him put out, he just lay there panting, then said, “Thanks.” When he got up, I saw the scorch marks on the wooden floor where he was rolling and realized that it could have been so much worse.

Then on Saturday, I thought we had another emergency situation. He decided to finally trim the door of the shed by the driveway. For years, I’d been asking him to do it, because the door would only open partway then get stuck. He kept saying , “Yeah, yeah” until yesterday when he wanted to put our lifejackets away.

Me: What are you going to do now?
Ken: I need to put the lifejackets away, which means I have to open the shed door, which means I have to take the door off the shed and trim it so it will open.
Me: Great thought process. I’ll watch from the balcony.

So I watched him do it, since I’m still post-surgery and couldn’t actually help him. I was sitting on the balcony half-watching and drinking a glass of wine, when suddenly I heard a slam, and Ken yelling, “Help!! I’m locked in the shed!!” Apparently, the shed was on a bit of a lean, and now that the door wasn’t stuck on the decking anymore, the weight of it caused it to swing shut. On Ken. I yelled back, “Don’t worry! I’m coming!” but the problem was, he couldn’t hear me, being locked in the shed and all, and I was upstairs on the balcony, probably the furthest point in the house from the shed. I started to slowly make my way down—I couldn’t go any faster thanks to my “hundreds of internal sutures”, and the whole way, I could hear him pounding on the walls. I started getting all panicky and teary at the thought of my beloved husband there in the dark, not knowing if he was going to be rescued any time soon, possibly starting to suffocate. I kept yelling, “I’m coming!!” but the hammering continued. When I finally got to the shed and opened the door, there he was. He turned and smiled at me.

“I was so worried,” I said. “I could hear you pounding the walls—I’m sorry I couldn’t get here faster.”

“Pounding the walls?” he said. “No, I figured you’d come eventually. I was just putting up some hooks for the lifejackets. That’s why I was hammering. I’m just about finished—just prop open the door for me for a second so I don’t get locked in again.”

It’s nice to be needed.


My Week 86: Participation Ribbons and Road Trip Conversations

Wednesday: I am up in arms. Or elbows.

I am currently what I like to call “up in arms”. This happens to me frequently, and can be triggered by small things, like the cat peeing on the rug, or larger things, like a politician trying to exploit an unfortunate situation. The former refers to Raven, who once again, in her diva-ish way, has decided that the Persian rug in my office “reminds her of the steppes of home”.

Anyway, what has triggered my current exasperation with humanity this time, you might ask? Well, somehow I started following the “Intermediate Teachers of Ontario” Facebook page, and let me tell you, there are some super-hardcore people out there. A couple of weeks ago, someone posted that she was trying to mark a Grade 5 class math test, and that the students had misunderstood the question. What should she do? she wondered. The response was outrageous. “Give them zero!” suggested a colleague. “If they can’t read properly, they don’t deserve any marks!” “Would you want a doctor who had misunderstood a question on his doctor exam?!” exclaimed another. I was sorely tempted to point out that the “doctor exam” was actually called the MCAT, and that the teacher who had posted the query might instead examine the question itself, which seemed to me to be rather ambiguous and poorly worded in the first place, but I learned a long time ago not to get involved in internet battles, since most people will take advantage of their relative anonymity and just call you a nasty name.

But this week, I’m REALLY pissed off. Someone posted a video, with the tagline “I’m a teacher and a coach. What are your thoughts about this?”, about a two-bit football player who was pontificating about Participation Ribbons. In case you’re not sure, Participation Ribbons are what we give to children for PARTICIPATING in something, hence the name. And if you don’t think children deserve Participation Ribbons, you should probably stop reading right now. Or keep reading—maybe I’ll change your mind. Anyway, this guy was telling a story about how he HATES Participation Ribbons and illustrated it thusly: His five-year-old daughter was participating in her very first school track and field day, and she was in a footrace against other small children. He related that she was winning the race, but as the kids came close to the finish line, she began to lag and lose speed. She ended up in fifth place. Not first. Not second. Not EVEN third. So instead of a “legit” ribbon, she got a Participation Ribbon. He decided that she didn’t deserve the ribbon, since she hadn’t actually won anything, so he TOOK THE RIBBON AWAY FROM HIS FIVE-YEAR-OLD AND GAVE IT BACK TO THE ORGANIZERS. And while I really want to call him a tremendous douchebag, I won’t. What I WILL say is that this is the most heinous example of parenting that I’ve ever heard of. Publicly instilling a sense of shame in your child for not winning a footrace makes no logical sense. Like she’s EVER going to want to compete in anything ever again, knowing that if she doesn’t come in top 3, Daddy will make sure she’s humiliated. His argument of course, is that this generation of kids is incredibly self-entitled because they get medals for everything whether they win or not. Here, then, for your reading pleasure, are my counter-arguments.

1) There have ALWAYS been participation ribbons. I got them when I was a kid, and so did everyone else before me, and it didn’t do us any harm—in fact, it was the opposite. 44 years ago, I was in something called the “Skating Races”. This was an event where every child in the school system went to this big-ass arena, and we raced against each other wearing ice-skates in our different age categories (remember—this is Canada. Everyone knows how to skate. Actually, that’s a lie, but back then, no one asked you if you WANTED to participate—you were just expected to). I was absolutely terrified. I wasn’t a great skater, and the thought of having to compete in front of hundreds of spectators made me shake as we lined up, all of us 6 year-olds. The gun went off. I skated the fastest that I could, but I came in almost last. You know what I got? A Participation Ribbon. And I was PROUD. I kept that thing for years as a reminder that I had conquered my fear, made it to the end of the race, and hadn’t fallen down. It didn’t make me self-entitled and I didn’t feel the world owed me anything. What it DID do was give me the confidence to keep skating. The next year, I joined a Ringette team, and became a really good skater. So never assume that you know what goes through a 6 year-old’s head when they lose a race. I was lucky that my parents weren’t like that football player. Holy sh*t, can you imagine if my dad had made me give that ribbon back in front of everyone because I didn’t win?

As for my own daughter, she took martial arts for years. Her room is full of trophies, some first, second, or third place, some just for participation. It didn’t matter to us—the message we instilled in her over and over was that she was competing against herself, and if she beat her personal best, or put in her best performance, that was all that counted in the long run. I never wanted her to feel hard-done-by ie: “I can’t believe you didn’t get first! That’s so unfair!” I’ve heard that from other parents, and I get that they’re trying to soothe a sore ego, but all that does it create a victim mentality. It doesn’t build resilience in kids, and that’s what they need to survive in an increasingly complex world.

2) The backlash against Participation Ribbons is based on a competition-model, which is way more unhealthy. Expecting your child to win, and making them feel lousy when they don’t is damaging to both them and a democratic society. What ever happened to “focus on the journey, not the destination”?  You don’t want kids to feel self-entitled? Stop giving them the message that the endgame is all that matters.

3) Are kids today really more self-entitled than any other generation? I keep hearing this from adults and it concerns me. The other day, I heard someone famous say, “Children now love luxury. They have bad manners and contempt for authority. They show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise.” Actually, I didn’t HEAR him say that—I read it, because it was Socrates, and he’s been dead since like 399 BCE. Let me tell you, from my personal experience, that teenagers today are really no different than they’ve ever been. I was a high school teacher for almost 25 years and the kids I taught two years ago are essentially the same as the ones I taught in the early 90s. You know what changed? The technology. Instead of passing notes in class, they text. Instead of tying up the landline for hours like we did, they’re on Skype. Are kids today more uncaring than they used to be, more dangerous? According to Statistics Canada, youth crime has seen a continuing downward trend; in 2014, Youth Crime was down 40% compared to 1994. The fact is, there will always be troubled youth, and there will always be those teenagers who do mission work, who fundraise, who work towards making the world a better place. And there will always be self-entitled kids, but it’s not because of Participation Ribbons–it’s because of sh*tty parenting. Stop telling your kids that the world owes them something, and start telling them the opposite, that they owe the WORLD something. You’ll be amazed at how they respond.

4) There seems to be a lot more public “youth-shaming” than ever before. In response to the post on this Facebook page about Participation Ribbons, another so-called educator said the following: “Couldn’t agree more!! I just finished teaching an after school credit course to grade 8s and these kids think they can hand in crap work or not even study and pass the exam to get a credit! Errrr!” Crap work?  Maybe it wasn’t good work—in fact, it very well might not have been, because I know from personal experience that 13 year-olds are notoriously difficult to motivate for very complicated and varied reasons, and I’m glad. The last thing we need is another generation of people who sit and do whatever they’re told without challenging it. If we really want a world without constant war, then we need our children to be critical thinkers instead of just blindly following what our so-called leaders tell us (see Donald Trump for proof of this scary phenomenon). And calling their work “crap” in a public forum is completely inappropriate, and says more about the self-entitlement of adults to bash the younger generation than it does about kids and their attitudes. (It also says that if you don’t like 13 year-olds, maybe you should find another job.) But it’s become incredibly easy to teen-bash, just as it’s become easy to bash anyone on the internet. As adults, we need to role-model better behaviour. Just look at the comments section of any on-line article to see how “mature” adults are these days. All you need is an internet moniker and wi-fi, and you can say whatever the hell you want with impunity. We get upset when kids cyber-bully, but adults do it so much better.

Bottom line: a shiny piece of satin with the word “Participation” on it won’t make or break modern society. The way we treat our children will. So the next time little Jimmy or Susie comes running up waving a ribbon with a big smile on his or her face, just smile back and say, “Wow. I’m proud of how hard you tried.”


Saturday: Conversations on the road with Ken

Ken (crushes waterbottle completely, making horrific sound): Ahhhh.
Me: You know when you do that, it makes it almost impossible for the recycling company to get the label off? Now that bottle can’t be recycled.
Ken: Oh, don’t worry—they burn the labels off. It can still be recycled.
Me: OK. You know when you do that, the noise makes me insane?
Ken: Oh. But I like doing it.
Me: If you crush another bottle in front of me, I’ll slap you with it.
Ken: Sigh.

Me: Hey, look—a garage sale! Pull over.
Ken: OK.
Me: Look at that antique settee. It’s only $25! Do you have any cash?
Ken: It’s falling apart! What are you going to do with it?
Me: It’s my new summer project. I can fix it.
Ken: Will it end up on the porch like all your other “summer projects”?
Me: No! I promise. Put it in the truck. It’s going to be awesome.
Ken: Sigh.

Ken: What kind of plants are in that field over there, do you think?
Me: Whenever we see plants like that, you tell me it’s mustard.
Ken: Oh right. It’s probably mustard.
Me: Then again, whenever I see an owl on a powerline, you tell me it’s a hawk. I don’t know if I can trust you on this mustard thing anymore.
Ken: It looks like mustard.
Me: Sure. Right. Whatever you say, Hawk-man.
Ken: Sigh.



My Week 85: Grinder Week

Thursday: I am at least two of the seven dwarves.

I think we were all really sleepy and grumpy this week for some reason. It seems like it’s been a long spring, without much hope of warm weather yet. In fact, the other day, my work partner and I were going down to Loblaws, and we were debating whether or not we needed our coats. I said, “When the hell is that question going to be moot? At what point will we just be like, “Let’s go” and our coats don’t even come into the equation?” And then we were happy we wore our coats because it was ridiculously cold, even for May, and I decided that no matter how much I love being Canadian, the weather here is beyond stupid and can very easily ruin any “I love Canada” moment you might be inclined to have. (Also, just for the record, when I say “work partner”, I don’t mean like “work wife” or “work husband”. I mean the person who is the other member of my work TEAM. If I HAD a work husband, I would want it to be someone like Patrick Stewart or John Cho, which would mean I’d have to change careers and somehow try to get into the acting profession—god, these work relationships can be so complicated….)

So I think the general trend towards sleepiness and grumpiness is natural, all things considered, and this is how I know that it’s been an unusually grinding week for everyone I know:

1) I got some really good news on Monday. I was over the moon, but Ken was at some “important” meeting, and my parents were away, so I did what any normal person would do—I called K.

Me: Guess What?! I just heard from the publisher. They’re publishing my novel!!
K: Oh, sweet! That’s so cool!

We chatted for a little while longer, then I told her I’d call her later, after her exam. So at 4 pm, this was the conversation.

Me: How was your exam?
K: Pretty good.
Me: I’m still really excited!
K: About what?
Me: About what I told you this morning!
K: Did we talk this morning?
Me: For like over 5 minutes. I told you my novel was getting published.
K: It is?! That’s awesome!
Me: Were you in bed when I called you?
K: Um, maybe. Sorry, I honestly don’t remember talking to you. I HAD just written my 9th exam in 8 days. Yay for you though…

But I forgive her, because I got to experience her happiness for me twice in one day, and when you have a teenager, that doesn’t happen very often.

2) Later in the week, I found myself being so tired that I was having trouble processing simple conversations. People would try to explain things to me, and I would just nod and pretend I was totally on board with everything. The final straw came on Thursday, when I found something online that I really wanted to keep.

Me: God, this is a perfect example. Remind me later that I want to use this.
L: Write it on a sticky note in case I forget.
Me: Um, how is THAT going to work?
L: What?
Me: Well, the sample is on the computer. If I put a sticky note on it, the second I navigate away from it, the sticky note is useless.
L: Did you seriously think I was suggesting that you put a sticky note on your computer screen?
Me: No…?
L (slowly): Write all the details about the sample on a sticky note. Then stick it somewhere you will see it later. Not on your computer screen. Somewhere ELSE.
Me: Oh right. That makes sense.
L: Sigh.

sticky note

But I know I’m not the only one because on Friday, I took the train home. First, a work colleague and I were taking the same subway to the train station, and he wanted to leave earlier than I normally do, which was OK because it’s nice to have company on the subway. So I waited for him to pack up. It was an arduous process, as he looked for his glasses case, tucked away miscellaneous work items, cleaned his desk, checked his wallet for his driver’s licence and made sure his cell phone was charged. We finally got down to the subway platform and he suddenly exclaimed, “Oh no!! I forgot my train ticket!” I was like “Where?” because I was pretty sure he’d gone through every drawer in his desk already. But he had to go back to the office, leaving me to ride the subway alone in rush hour, and having to wait in line for the train longer than usual. And then I got super grumpy, not at him, because he’s a really great guy and my track record for remembering things last week wasn’t stellar either. So in a continuation of the things that grind my gears:

3) Why the hell am I waiting in line at the train station? The train I take has assigned seats and you can’t get on without a previously purchased ticket. Yet, without fail, everyone hurries to line up for half an hour, and because I always worry that they know something I don’t, I end up in the stupid line. Then I get mad at myself for being a lemming. And there’s always that ONE person who tries to cut into the line, even though we all have seats. A woman did that to me on Friday—she was sitting in the waiting room, then just casually got up and slid into line in front of me. LIKE THE LINE DIDN’T EVEN F*CKING MATTER. I was simultaneously outraged AND jealous of her refusal to acknowledge the bizarre line-up protocol that the rest of us have established for absolutely no good reason. And of course, there are always the people from the “business class lounge” who get “priority boarding” and just stroll right past all of us, which makes me want to yell, “Hey—it’s a Via Rail train, not the f*cking Orient Express. Take your smugness down a notch.”

4) I finally got on the train and it was the ride from hell. Normally, my fellow passengers are a normal bunch, who respect the rules and keep the ride pleasant, but it was Friday the 13th unfortunately. I was thinking it would be a great ride initially, because the bar cart came around right away, which doesn’t always happen. But then everything became a surreal nightmare. The guy across the aisle from me started peeling and eating hardboiled eggs and drinking what looked like a smoothie made from compost. And to make matters worse, he was flicking bits of shell onto the floor. Then I caught a whiff of something nastier than “demon egg” (because of the sulphur, right?), and I looked to the other side of me—the nice-looking elderly lady who was my seat companion had decided to TAKE OFF HER SHOES and was sitting barefoot. The smell was a cross between talcum powder and death. I took off my headphones to read, because I can’t concentrate on a book and music lyrics at the same time, only to discover that the woman behind me was carrying on a very loud running commentary of inanity to the child sitting beside her:

Woman: You’re a really good artist.
Child: Thanks.
Woman: You know who else is a good artist? Your dad.
Child: Is he?
Woman: And so is your aunt. She’s a really good artist.
Child: Really?
Woman: And so is your other aunt.
Child: Uh huh.
Woman: And so is your uncle. He’s a really good artist too.
Child: Oh.
Woman: Your grandmother was a really good artist.
Child: *silently drawing*
Woman: Oh—you know what?!
Child: What?
Woman: Your cousin Frank is a really good artist.

And so it went on in the same vein. When I finally got to my station, I collapsed into Ken’s arms. “I’m so tired”, I said. “I was on the verge of losing it on the train—“YOU, stop eating your damn baby chickens and pick up their skins, YOU, put your damn shoes back on, and YOU, shut the hell up—there’s a collective noun for that sh*t—‘Everyone in OUR FAMILY is a good artist’, and be done with it!!!” Ken just looked at me in wonderment, and perhaps a little fear.

“I ordered pizza and wings,” he said.

“Can we eat them in bed?” I asked.

“Um, ok,” he answered.

Best. Husband. Ever.