Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Birds do it.....c'mon sing along!

Well, I've been waiting for them. Every spring they arrive like clockwork. They slide back in as if they never left. Nothing much has changed from the previous year. I spot them from my kitchen window as they nuzzle and float effortlessly on the water. They think they have found just the right place to raise a family and it saddens me a little knowing I will have to advise them otherwise...in due course. For a few days, I will let them believe it. Daffy and Daisy Duck (my name for them - so original), made their first appearance of the season in the pond that is our pool cover this morning. Although I know they are coming, it always surprises me the first day. I guess ducks aren't really all that intelligent. If they were they would realize that the little oasis they think they have found is not a pond in a field, it's just an oversized puddle filled with decaying leaves and still water that will completely disappear around the first week of May, just as their little ones need a swimming lesson. The first year we lived here, we thought it was cute and let them stay. Eventually, we found their nest with several eggs under some dead hosta leaves in the garden. We let nature take its course. Unfortunately, nature, as you know can be cruel. One morning as I was passing by the nest, I noticed the eggs had been crushed, the contents likely slurped up by some hungry raccoon in the night. I felt as heart-broken as Daisy. She was flapping about in the pool, obviously distraught and Daffy kept circling around in the air quacking out his grief for what seemed an eternity. I cursed mother nature. After that heart-wrenching scenario, my husband said we could no longer allow them to make our house, their home. They needed to find another more accommodating locale to raise their family. It amazes me that they still try us on every year, despite their tragic loss 11 years ago. Maybe ducks have no memory. Or, maybe they do. Maybe they only remember the good things and forget the bad. In the meantime, I'll let them visit for a few days, but then I will start my daily ritual of shooing them away. It was easier when we had a dog. He would love that job. Me, not so much. I like having them around as I start the spring clean-up in the garden. I talk to them as I rake and prune and cut back the perennials. They don't seem to mind me. They will likely be confused on the day I start to frantically start waving my arms about like a madwoman telling them to scram. Come to think of it, maybe that's why they come back - for the show. "Hey Daisy, let's go watch that crazy freaky human do her whacked-out spring dance," says Daffy. Daisy just loves a good laugh, so she agrees. It's like a little aphrodisiac to her as they fly off to do their own crazy mating dance in a safer ducky den. "Come back and see me next year", I cry out as they depart. They'll be back next year - I must weally quack them up!

Monday, March 30, 2009

The Stuff that Dreams are Made of....

Maybe it's just me, but have you ever noticed that when you have a dream about your husband or significant other, they often come disguised as someone else? Last night my husband looked just like Tom Hanks in a tuxedo. For the record, I have always liked Tom Hanks, but never really thought of him as particularly sexy...until this morning. Maybe it was the tux. A man really can't go wrong with a well-fitted Armani monkey-suit. I never got the suit off Tom, I mean my husband, in the dream, but I was heading in that direction when the alarm went off and I have been trying to analyze my dream ever since. There are people who never remember their dreams, then there are people like me who spend every night moving from one drama to another throughout the night...and tend to remember most of them. My husband will attest that over the years I have subjected him to my dream recollections on more than one occasion whether he wants to hear them or not. When he has been part of the action, I have actually been kind of mad at him if he was doing or saying something I didn't like. Once I even had to get him to assure me that something I dreamt about us didn't really happen (it seemed sooo real). I am one of those who believe you can learn a lot about yourself from your dreams, but don't bother with those dream analysis books you can buy, most of them are crap. Dreams are a very individual thing and what happens in your dreams has meaning only to you. I have found that the best way to approach analyzing your own dreams is to consider how you felt about what was happening in your dream while it was happening. Were you happy, sad, frustrated, frightened, etc. etc.? Then you can take it a step forward and ask yourself why you felt that way and what was the message your sub-conscious mind was trying to reveal to you. You will be amazed at the answers that come when you ask these simple questions. Of course the trick is in the remembering. Details of dreams vanish and become diluted as the day wears on unfortunately, so unless you're really determined and have the time to write them down upon awakening, you won't recall everything you need to do a thorough analysis. There are exceptions to this rule. For instance, sometimes a dream can be so powerful or repetitive that you can't help but remember the details. I believe the repetitive dreams have the most to tell us. For instance, I have a classic dream that I know many others have as well. You know, the one about school. For me, I have not read any of the books for my final English exam, I can't find the room where it's being written or my locker that holds the books, and if I don't write and pass this exam, I won't receive my degree. Every time I wake up from this dream, for a brief moment, I wonder if I actually did graduate. I am always relieved to see my framed degree hanging on my office wall later. This one is pretty obvious. It is all about the struggle to succeed in life. I figure the reason I still have this dream is because I have yet to reach my potential and deep down inside, it worries me I may not, despite how many times that little dream voice keeps urging me forward. It would be easier to live without these nocturnal reminders of my unfulfilled potential and the questioning that follows. Who needs to be constantly reminded they could be doing more, contributing more, getting off their asses and making a difference? Don't we all do a good enough job beating ourselves up when we're awake? Guess not. So I say thank god our sub-conscious gives us a break now and again and just gives us the occasional night with Tom Hanks in a tux whispering sweet nothings in our ears (I always look thin and beautiful in these dreams too). No need to analyze - just lay back and enjoy. That's what I call a sweet dream.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Back in the Saddle Again

I'm soooo glad it's raining today. If it were all sunny and cheery looking outside, I would feel compelled to roll up my sleeves and get outside and start cleaning up the garden. We got back last night after another long day on the road and it always amazes me how sitting in a car all day can make you so exhausted. I finally managed to sleep in today - the last official day of vacation, natch! I did a very quick preliminary inspection of the garden when we pulled in last night and was relieved to see that some progress had occurred while we were away. We saw daffodils blooming in central Pennsylvania, proof it is coming this way. With the end of a holiday, comes the inevitable reality check. The first check I got was pulling in the driveway. This harsh winter did a real number on the paint job on our house. That, and the fact it faces West in full sun all day. The paint is peeling so bad, I'm waiting for one of those Hollywood location scouts to knock on the door any day now to ask if they can use our place for Halloween 13 or Slumville Trillionaire. We just had it painted two years ago - how can it look this bad already? Check number two came when I looked out the kitchen window this morning at the pool. The cover has never been so full of water. The ice melted while we were away and if we don't get a pump in there today and start bailing, the rain being added as I speak might just be enough to make it start flowing over the lip of the pool - quick grab the sand bags! Then I noticed Emma's gym bag at the bottom of the basement stairs, forgotten in the rush to leave. You can bet I'm looking forward to opening that breath of fresh air later, now that the smelly articles inside have had an extra couple of weeks to ferment. I'll get to that after I go grocery shopping, restock the fridge, unpack suitcases, sort the other gazillion loads of laundry, open the mile-high stack of mail, answer the voice mails and pick up the cat (thanks Margot and Art) that will give us the cold shoulder all day. And it's not even a Monday! The good news is, I only gained 2 lbs inhaling Bojangles and Hush Puppies for two weeks (not everyday - I'm not that bad!) and it is likely just water gain from all the salt in the restaurant food - should be gone by tomorrow (I'm hoping). It's true what they say - there's no such thing as a free lunch and there's no place like home.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Fool me once...shame on you....

First leg of the journey home behind us, I sit in bed here at the Hilton Garden Inn in Frederick, Maryland contemplating the events of the day.  Long days in the car don't exactly fuel the fire of inspiration but looking back over the last few hours there were a few moments of note.
For starters, my husband - AKA - The Weatherman, decided we best get an early start as there was some bad ass weather heading our way and he wanted to keep ahead of the worst of the "golf-ball-sized hail" that was a possibility along the route we were taking north.  As a wife, it is difficult on the best of days to admit my husband is right, but as usual, he was, and we narrowly escaped (OK, not so narrow - about an hour) a tornado that apparently touched down on I-95 near Fayettteville, N.C.  We kept ahead of the stormy weather all day thanks to my very own Dave Duval, a quality that at times can be annoying but on days like today is actually appreciated.
The next notable moment of the day occurred when we pulled off the interstate for gas just before Washington D.C. and it just so happened to be the road into Quantico, the famous U.S. marine corp base.  At the entrance to the base, and kitty-corner to the Shell station stood the famous Iwo Jima War Memorial.  "I had no idea this was where this was," I said to Doug.  "Me either.", he said.  I thought it was sort of strange that there weren't a bunch of tourists hovering around snapping photos and that it was surrounded by gas stations and was garnering little, if no attention at all.  I tried to lean out the car window to take a picture, lens zoomed out to the max as I was too lazy to walk across the busy intersection to take a decent shot.  The resultant photo was slightly out of focus as the car was moving, and half of the soldiers were blocked by a red pick-up truck that came racing by just as I was clicking.  Oh well, I thought, I can always google a good image any time if I really have a need to examine the thing in detail and god knows every documentary ever made about American military history adds the thing at some point.  Did I really need a good photo of my own?
Turns out, I was right to suspect this famous tribute to American bravery was oddly located near gasoline alley.  This one at the entrance to the Quantico base is actually a replica of the original in D.C.  Sure glad I didn't waste any time or burn any calories walking over to get my souvenir photo of a copy of the original.  Would have felt like owning a knock-off designer hand bag - never quite right, always knowing it was a fake and wishing I had saved up for the real thing.  
The funny thing was, we actually did tour Washington D.C. last summer and never came across the real one.  Guess that's what almost got me to believing it made sense to find it where we did.  Those marines - what a bunch of kidders with their G.I. Joe version! (it was smaller than I thought it should be too).
And finally, the only other notable moment of the day - one last "southern lunch" accompanied with warm Hush Puppies - the south's answer to what we in the north know as the bread basket.  You know - the thing you are supposed to ask your server to remove.
We didn't. Y'all knew that though - didn't ya?

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Family Fun - MacFarlane Style

As our vacation is nearly over, packing has begun and we are hitting the road north a day early as the forecast is calling for mucho rain tomorrow - may as well get home a day early and get geared up for the Monday morning reality check.  Hence, I shall post tomorrow's blog now as the rooster will be crowing early in the morning.
We finished off the week with 54 holes of mini-putt, or putt-putt as they fondly call it here in the "Mini-putt capital of the world".  That's right - one of Myrtle Beach's claims to fame.  We bought a five-round pass at the beginning of last week and had to squeeze the final three in today.  Some of you have questioned whether the mini-putt was for us or for Emma.  Allow me to reassure you - this is totally Miss Emma's thing.  As much as we enjoy the big kid golf, she loves the miniature version.  
Claiming yourself as the Mini-putt capital of the world requires an enormous investment of imagination and money.  The mini-putt owners here obviously possess both.  We're talking fire-breathing dragons, miles of fast-moving water falls, faux volcanoes and challenging terrain - every modern kid's expectation of what mini-putt is all about.
I don't know about you, but when I was a kid, if the mini-putt had a windmill with a mouse hole in the bottom, we thought we were living!  Most of them had holes in the indoor-outdoor carpeting (if they were carpeted at all) and weeds growing out of every crack and crevice.  The water features were usually dried up and the paint on the clown head's nose was a faded pink instead of the vibrant red it once was in it's glory days.....and we didn't care a bit.  The best part wasn't the course itself, it was the fun we were having with our parents and beating our siblings.
The truth is, that part hasn't changed.  The only difference for us, is that Emma competes with us, not a smelly younger brother or nasty older sister, so she always wins.  Until today.  She had won the first 5 rounds (we actually played six) and was set to make it a complete skunk, but I stopped her from claiming the "unbeaten" crown.  There was a moment of pouting as she finished adding up the score card and I had to coax a high five out of her - "Girl Power" I reminded her and that cheered her up a bit. 
 
Mini-putt has become a family tradition for us in the same way families like the Kennedys' play touch football on the lawn on holidays.  We may never enjoy the thrill of tackling our friends and relatives on the lawn, but we would challenge anybody to a round of MacFarlane family fun any day of the week. 
 
Bring your own club, put your game face on and may the best putt win. 

Rebel with a Cause

 
Rules are meant to be broken.  For a rule-breaker such as myself, this is a line I keep carefully tucked in my arsenal of justifications, ready to haul out when the need arises.  Yesterday I hauled it out....more than once.
It first appeared on the golf course. ( where it makes regular appearances).  We were playing with a nice enough couple from some small town outside of Kingston (Ontario, not Jamaica).  A newly retired couple, Charlotte was one of those sweet, genteel women I could never imagine being, and her husband Greg was one of those competitive, serious anal-type golfers that takes forever to line up every shot and "plays by the rules". (Great, I thought - 18 holes with this guy - how can I make this more fun?)
Anyone who has ever golfed, knows that one of the first things you do when playing with a pair you do not know or have not played with before, is to establish the ground rules.  Doug and I (not serious, or anal) always play "ready golf".  Greg was only semi-OK with that one, but he went along for the sake of the crowd, trying to enforce the proper order whenever he could.  It is also decided at the beginning which tee box you will be hitting from.  Doug hits a long ball and likes to play from the blues, Greg wanted to play from the whites and Doug being his cordial self, agreed to his choice.  As I mentioned a few blogs back, I too like to play from the whites.  Greg's wife, sweet genteel Charlotte wanted to play from the reds, so because she was so sweet and I didn't want to hurt her tender soul in any way, I agreed to switch it up.  I would play the occasional red with her and the whites when it suited me.  I would be breaking the rules at every hole.  
As there was no prize at the end of this game, no trophy to raise above my head, or no exemption into the next LPGA Tour, I saw no reason to play by the rules whatsoever.  I was there for a casual fun day of golf.  It became instantly apparent that Greg had never played a casual fun day of golf in his oh-so-serious life. I wanted to say "Loosen the bone Wilma!", but thought better of it.  By the end of the day, I had broken a few other rules as well.  Once, after three attempts to escape from a particularly steep-lipped bunker, I just picked up the damn ball and flung it onto the green. Another time, I putted before my turn - ooops!  Bad Deb!  More than once, I teed up a second ball when I didn't like my first drive, and I'm pretty sure I miscounted my score on the holes I had to take a drop on after feeding the fish.  It all made for a pretty good day and scorecard for me.  
There's no doubt in my mind that on the drive home Greg was ranting to his lovely wife about my complete lack of discipline and bad rule-breaking behaviour.  Not much different really than my rant to Doug about Greg's uptight goody-goody, "watch me play like a pro" crap I had to witness all day.
Having been exposed to this "play by the rules" business all day, only fuelled the rebellious fire within me.  What other rules can I break today? "I'm no Greg and never will be, dammit!"  So, when we got back to the condo, my sweet daughter, barely out of her pajamas at 3:00 pm, (what are holidays for?) (hey - she was kinda breaking a rule too - good on you Emma!) was ready for some holiday fun.  She had researched what she wanted to do for the rest of the day, so I changed out of my golf duds and we headed out.  
She wanted to see an IMAX film called Under the Sea and grab a little dinner.  Sounds good I thought, nothing too physically taxing, as the golf had kind of pooped me out.  Still feeling a little rebel-rousy, I suggested how about "Dessert for Dinner"?  Well, you can imagine the reaction.  My kid has the biggest sweet tooth of just about anyone I know (well, I know one - she will be reading this - you know who you are!) and her eyes just lit up like I'd told her she won the lottery.  You can pick the venue, I told her - so we made a Bee-line to Ben and Jerry's, where I told her she could have anything on the menu.  She ordered some chocolate chip cookie, whipped cream, ice cream combo that came in a cereal bowl, and I ordered a banana split (the fruit was a healthy choice I figured) and we savoured every creamy, decadent mouthful.
Not only had I broken the Dinner before Dessert rule, I had made my kid an accomplice (albeit, a willing one) and I had eaten sugar.  I have been off sugar for more than a month, as ordered by my naturopathic doctor, but today I didn't care.  It wouldn't kill me just once....would it?  As I am alive this morning to tell the tale, I think my pancreas survived.  My gall bladder has been gone now for a couple of years, so no harm there.  I guess you could say the banana split was the icing on the cake to my rule-breaking day (or the cherry on the sundae).  Whatever.
The IMAX movie did not present any opportunity to break a rule, although it was in 3-D and on several occasions, I actually reached up to touch the exotic fish and sea creatures that kept swimming right into my face (I swear they were making my nose itch) and that was breaking the "please don't act like a weird parent rule" according to my daughter, so maybe I did get in one last swipe of rebellion there too.  By the way, rule breaking aside, I am now completely spellbound by the Leafy Sea Dragon.  If you have never seen one, check out the photo at the top of this blog - hand's down one of the most amazing creatures I have ever seen. (kinda like a sea horse in drag) I am imagining them printed on fabric and made into a pillow.  
Would that be breaking the rules?  Hope so.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Out of the mouths of babes....

As my husband and I were busy knocking balls around yet another golf course yesterday, our daughter was busy back at the ranch (our rented condo) sleeping in, reading, watching TV and trying to work on her computer (she writes poetry and is currently creating a video) when apparently the wireless Internet started misbehaving.  This bad Internet behaviour started to occur when she was in a moment of creative genius I am told and she was not a happy camper.  She chose to express her anger in a status sentence on her Face book wall.
Without any concern for the potential fall-out, she used the "F" word, as in "My Internet is all f'd up."  At the time I am sure it felt good to get out some of her frustration, but that word coming from a 14 year old for all her Face book friends to see, was something she did not stop and think about in her moment of spontaneous spewing.  You see, I am one of those friends, as is the mother of another of her friends, as is my best friend, as is my nephew, my niece and so on and so on.  There is something a little shocking hearing (or in this case, reading) that word coming out of the mouth of what was once your innocent child.
Now, I am not naive enough to think she has never said this word, in fact I know she has - I have even allowed it from time to time.  Believe it or not, she has actually asked me if she can say it out loud when she has been describing something that required the word to be repeated. (some stories just don't come out right unless you use the word as it was used).  I myself have been known to use the word for effect from time to time (rarely in front of her - except the time some guy nearly got us killed in the car "you F-ing Idiot" I may have said).  But for the most part, I have been a clean-mouthed mother around her. My husband had a tendency to slip-up more and she had a cuss-box in her room that he had to pay a loonie into whenever he slipped.
(that may explain her healthy bank account). The kid has amazingly good ears, even when wearing headphones.  Go figure.
But for some reason, seeing the word in print on her Face book wall just went a little too far.   It stole a piece of her innocence.  Saying a word and putting it in print are two entirely different things.  The spoken word drifts off the tongue and disappears into thin air, while the written word remains in place, etched in the journals of life forever, unless burned, or rubbed out, or in this case, deleted.  We had a lengthy discussion last night about the need to be careful how one expresses themselves  on line.  She also has a tendency to wear her heart on her sleeve (I had to explain what that meant to her) and she posts her feelings of teen angst on her wall sometimes too.  I warned her to be careful with that, telling her not everyone could be trusted to respect her tender heartfelt emotions.  I think (hope) she got the picture after we were through with our talk. 
 The good news is that unless she removes me from her friend list, I will be able to keep tabs on her musings, not to mention, so will a few others in my camp.  In a way, it's a little like snooping in her room, the difference being, I was invited.
Thank god for small miracles.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Memories of Miss Scarlet

Yesterday I was unofficially crowned "southern belle for a day" (in my mind anyway).  The road trip to Charleston was the pearl in the oyster of this vacation I think (amazing golf shots excluded!).  There were little hints of a great day to come on the drive into the city.  It's about a 2 hour drive south from Myrtle Beach.  As you get closer, small roadside shacks, looking something like decrepit fruit and veggie stands, start to appear.  The first few stood empty and abandoned and then one looked occupied in the distance.  "Wonder what they are selling?", I said.  When we got close enough, we could see them - sweet grass baskets in every size and shape imaginable.  They seemed so authentic, I imagined the weavers of the baskets, sitting under a shade tree, sipping iced tea, hands calloused and practiced creating their wares. "Do you think they are for real?" I queried my husband.  I so wanted to believe it wasn't just a bunch of old black women posing as weavers when the baskets actually came from China and I was just another tourist being duped.  But - they are for real and the baskets are made locally by such women - I was charmed.
Charmed would become the word of the day because there is really no other word to describe Charleston.  This place simply oozes charm.  I had heard about the old city of Charleston, but seeing it for myself was altogether different.  From the cobbled streets and horse-drawn carriages to the wrought iron gates and grand doorways it was a feast for this interior decorator's eyes.  My daughter kept calling me a stalker as I peered into the little courtyards and gardens nestled between the historic houses.  I slipped my camera between the iron spindles of the locked gates and photographed these miniature secret gardens like a voyeur with a botanical fetish. (avoiding the homes with large barking guard dogs) 
 
We walked the streets until our feet ached and lunched at Blossom, a popular restaurant on East Bay Street.  Always on the hunt for the world's best crab cakes, the chef at Blossom may have ended my search.  The owners of Blossom also own the famous Magnolias and Cypress restaurants, so I will have to come back one day and see if they can compete.  Even my daughter who abhors the thought of eating "poor little crabbies", tried a bite and considered turning in her vegetarian badge.
After lunch we headed to The Market, a bustling string of old buildings where slaves were once auctioned off like cattle, now filled with hundreds of stalls of sellers and their wares. Everything from jewellery to art to sugared pecans.  I gave Emma a lesson in bargaining - "never pay the asking price", I told her and she didn't.  She has decided she wants to collect a piece of art from places she travels (she bought a watercolour of the Brooklyn Bridge in New York) and this time she bought a unique looking South Carolina marsh sunset (I would never have chosen), but she is young and still developing her taste in art.  The artist signed the piece for her and regaled her with stories of his own discovery of art as a young boy.  I think he was flattered that she liked his work and because he wanted her to have it, (and make a sale) he knocked off a few more bucks to close the deal.
More walking through the streets, more photos (until my camera battery died), we headed for the car parked on The Battery where you can see Fort Sumter off the point, we drove up and down the narrow streets until we had our fill of old Charleston for the day.  Most of the porches were empty on this coolish (62 degree) day, but it was easy to imagine the owners of these houses on a hot day in July, iced tea or mint juleps in hand rocking on their porch swings like they have for hundreds of years.  It may not have been hot enough for that, but the flowering quince, early azaleas, rhodos, flowering dogwoods and pansied window boxes were enough to quench this northern gal's thirst for spring.  
Take me home now Rhett.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Charleston or Bust!

Well, we're at the half way point of our holiday and today is moving day.  I booked two different condos for a week apiece so we could get a feel for two different areas of Myrtle Beach.  The first half here in North Myrtle has been great, but now we will check out central Myrtle and see which we like better for next time (and I'm quite certain there will be a next time).  We have to check out of here by 10:00 and can't check into the new digs until 4:00, so as soon as we pack up the car, we're heading to Charleston for the day.
I have really been looking forward to seeing Charleston, especially since reading The Book of Negroes.  I'll be able to see many of the places that were mentioned in the book and get a little history lesson at the same time.  Since I have a wee bit of pressure to get packed up here, I will try to post something tonight.
Gotta go get ready.  Road Trip!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

I Still Do

I woke up in the middle of the night to the sounds of my husband's nocturnal ramblings (he talks in his sleep).  I always lay there for a few minutes trying to decipher what he is saying but most of it is gobblety-goo, unclear and not worth the bother.  A few hours later, I woke up again to his symphony of snoring, in fact I can hear him right now as he is still sleeping as I write this.
As I contemplated whether or not I would give him a shake to shut him up, it got me to thinking that I have been listening to this night music for almost 20 years.
  
Officially we have been married for 17 of those 20  and today is our wedding anniversary.  Seventeen years ago today we took the vows till death do us part in the living room of our home in Deep Cove surrounded by friends.  It was a beautiful unusually sunny spring day in Vancouver and our guests were able to mingle out on the deck for drinks after the ceremony and the cocktail party that was supposed to be from 4:00 to 7:00  saw our last guests head home at 3:00 am.  It was a great time and we will always remember the day.
This marriage is round two for both of us (first time spouses couldn't keep the "faithful" part of the vows") and it's looking like neither of us will be introducing spouse #3 anytime soon.  Our journey has been easy compared to some I know.  We have seen friends struggle with their relationships, cheating spouses, separation, divorce and even- tragically -death.  Times like those make you grateful for what you have, even on the days when you are ready to ring each others necks over some trivial thing or another.
We're pretty lucky actually.  If I had to tell someone what makes it work, I guess I would say that for us it's Commitment, Compromise (that's a tough one), Respect and generally knowing when to shut up and back off.  We never name call (out loud) and we are friends.  We like each other as well as love each other.  It's not rocket science.  We always put the needs of our daughter before our own and that is a very strong common bond.  Neither of us are perfect but we don't find it necessary to point that out to one another and as good old Dr. Phil says, we are each other's "safe place to fall".
Katharine Hepburn used to say that she thought a couple shouldn't live in the same house together but they should live next door to each other.  I think she had the right idea in a way.  Just think, it would be like dating all the time.  He would have his space and you would have yours, you would never have to pick up his stuff and he would never have to trip over your shoes at the front door.  You wouldn't have to share a bathroom (think how much you could save on air freshener!).  In theory, it makes sense.  I'm just not sure, as much as it annoys me, that I wouldn't miss my husband's nightly concerto.  At least I know he's alive....and he's there.
Now, I'm gonna go in and give him a shake and wish him a Happy Anniversary.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Lonely Girl......NOT!

In order to address the concerns of many of my readers, allow me to answer the question I keep being asked; "What does Emma do when you are golfing?"
For starters, let me remind everyone that she is an only child.  She has always been perfectly comfortable spending time by herself.  When we are on holidays, it really isn't much different.  We stay in spacious two bedroom condos, with full kitchens, two bathrooms and a balcony or patio depending on where we are.  In other words, she is not stuck in a cramped hotel room.  She always brings her laptop, her Ipod and books and whatever else is amusing her at the time (right now she likes Sudoku puzzles). We always make sure our cell phones are charged and she knows we will drop everything and come home if necessary.  She knows the rules - never open the door - not even for housekeeping and double lock the door.
The other day, I asked her if she thought we were bad parents for leaving her to go golfing and she said, "That's what makes you good parents, mom."  She is at that age where she likes to feel independent. She makes her own (albeit simple) meals, watches what she wants on TV, listens to her music, and we are not around to nag her about anything she chooses to do.  She likes it!  She wants us to go out for dinner on our anniversary on Saturday.....without her, because "a husband and wife are supposed to have a romantic dinner on that day" she said. (I'm thinking Bojangles, a bucket of balls at the driving range and a bevy at the beach, but we'll see) The American dollar is killing us this year!
We also don't golf every single day - and on the off days, we do whatever she wants to do.  Yesterday, we took her mini-golfing and she always wins (funny how that happens) and then we went to this really cool Tiger preservation place.  The group who runs it are trying to save these rare tigers from extinction and we got to see tigers of all ages, even little tiger cubs - it was great, because it wasn't a zoo, and all the proceeds went to the cause.  She bought a stuffed tiger but we had to draw the line at having your photo taken with a baby cub ($60 - U.S) and told her she could bring her own kids back one day and get a family photo and tell them that when she was young, her parents wouldn't cough up the bucks for this "once in a lifetime experience", but she would!  Poor kid, so hard done by!  
She got to go to Cold Stone Creamery and build herself a disgusting ice cream concoction - gummy bears in ice cream - yuck!  We ate lunch at TGIF -( we had a good experience there last summer in Virginia); and she ordered an appetizer for her meal - deep fried mac n' cheese. (I really had to hold back on that one - leave her alone mom - she's on holidays - allow it!  Even worse - she's going to Scotland this summer and "can't wait to try a deep-fried Snickers bar" - all the rage there apparently.)  Thank god I won't be there to witness that!
It's not easy letting your kid grow up.  I'm already starting to second guess our decision to let her go to Scotland with her arts camp this summer.  The scenes I imagine in my mind are pretty scary sometimes (never should have watched that latest Liam Neeson flick, Taken). We worry about them all the time, but I don't want her to live a life of fear.  Fear is what holds you back from really living.  So you see, it's not Emma who has trouble with being left on her own, it's her parents who have to get over leaving her behind.  In a way, we are preparing for the time when she leaves us. 

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Bewitched, Bothered & Bewildered....was He

Anyone will tell you that golf is a psychological game as much as a game of skill.  In my opinion the really great golfers are able to consistently achieve an almost zen-like state on the course - they play in the "zone".  This requires immense focus and sometimes the smallest, stupidest distraction can interrupt your "chi" for the whole day.  I watched first hand yesterday as this happened (thankfully not to me).
We played a pretty course in a beautiful forested area just outside Myrtle Beach called Conway.  Tall Carolina pines lined the fairways and long winding trails through the swamps linked some of the holes.  Driving through the misty swampy areas on your golf cart made you glad you were on a cart as the swamps were spooky and mystical, likely explaining why they named the course - The Witch.  The witchy theme ran throughout the club, from the pointy peaks on the club house (see photo) to the tee box markers made of pointed gnarly painted spikes of driftwood stumps gathered from the swamps.  At one point at an intersection in the layout, the pine pollen was thick and drifting across the greens and fairways creating a haze like a dry ice machine set into motion - all smoky and eerie.  This place was "witchy".
But perhaps the witchiest thing about the day was the spell I cast on one of the fellows in our foursome.  Doug and I were paired with two guys (a father/son in law duo) from Virginia Beach.  Over the years, it has become quite apparent to me that some men are uncomfortable golfing with a woman in the group.  I can usually tell if this will be the case from the first handshake and their thoughts may as well be written across their ball-capped heads.  The first thing they are thinking is "great, a broad - she's gonna slow us down".  The next thing they are thinking is "damn, gonna have to watch my potty mouth and how the hell will I be able to piss in the woods with her around all day?"  But the grandaddy of thoughts is - "she better not be better than me"!
Knowing all this, I do by best to keep any obvious girly behaviour under wraps (no squealing at the sight of an alligator on the edge of the pond on the seventh hole - I calmly took my camera from my bag and casually snapped a photo).  I only re-apply my lipstick in the bathroom at the turn and I never complain about a broken nail or sand in my eye.  Short of smoking a big fat stogie after my first birdie of the day, I pretty much keep my feminine side under the radar.
However, the one thing I never hold back on is my golf game.  Fortunately, yesterday was a particularly good day for me.  Unfortunately, for Mike from Virginia Beach, such was not the case.  
For once all my drives were long and straight up the middle, my fairway shots equally amazing (if I do say so myself)  and other than a few flubbed sand shots, my chips and putts were fairly spot on as well.  The Witch was definitely on my side.  I couldn't help wondering if there wasn't some sort of voodoo magic going on as Mike hit one shanked worm-burner after another from the tee.  Then I started to notice that he would always root for Doug at every tee box - "C'mon Doug - crank one out there!" (as though my husband ever needs anyone to encourage him to do just that).  Although Mike never said anything negative to me, not once did he say much of anything to me at all.  What he did do as far as my female intuition could tell, was beat himself up all day long over his poor play, and what I did was try to suppress my guilt over my great play.  
I hate to admit it but when I am playing better than one of the males in the group, it kind of pumps me up - like little jolts of testosterone.  I'm on the team!  I can play with the big boys!  I can have a guffaw with the guys. (Did you know that if a guy tees off and his shot doesn't make it past the ladies tees, he is supposed to pull down his pants to prove he is a man - it's a guy- golf joke)  Even I thought that was pretty funny.  For the record, I do not use the ladies tees.  Last year I started hitting from the white tee boxes as I found I could keep up distance wise. (I still hit from the reds when it's an extra long par 5 or I don't like the distance from a par 3, but only when it's just Doug and I and we are pretty loosey goosey with the rules).
There's just no getting around the fact that men and women are and always will be polar opposites in so many ways.  The trick (especially on the golf course) is to not let those differences get in your "zone".  I'm sure Mike regrets letting me affect his "zone" yesterday and I'm just glad The Witch wasn't called The Warlock, or I may have actually been "that broad who slowed down the game all day". Score one for the ladies.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Goldilocks has a "Champagne Problem"

You would think that being on vacation, I might actually sleep in a bit but the truth is, I wake up even earlier than usual because I have this "champagne problem" when I travel.  Two years ago when it was clearly time to send our "honeymoon mattress" to it's land-fill grave (15 yrs of marriage at that time), we bought a pillow-top as a replacement.  For a few years, I had been complaining about my inability to get a good night's sleep on the old one because it was too hard.  My aging spine surely required a softer, gentler place to slumber.  It took about a month to get used to the new cloud-like sleep experience, but get used to it I did and there in lies the rub.
Now, this Goldilocks needs her nightly fix as sure as a drunk needs his nightcap.  I have become very particular about my nightly venture to the "land of nod".  My dearest friend Peggy keeps me supplied with the most amazing king-size pillows from the Four Seasons Hotel (she works there and gets a great deal) and I won't even consider thread counts of less than 400.  So I take my pillow with me on road trips, and pray for the good sheets (sometimes I get them and sometimes I don't) but I haven't figured out how to pack my mattress yet.
The condo we're staying in is lovely in every way with the exception of the mattresses.  They are hard like my old one.  My husband and daughter barely notice (husband snoring as I write this) and so I feel like the "princess and the pea" with no prince in sight to rescue her.  I know I will survive the ordeal, but as much as I love being away from it, when it comes to my beloved bed, there really is "no place like home".

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

On My Own

Just back from my morning walk on the beach and one would think that since I have been up since 6:30 am, I would arrive back at our home away from home to find a hub of activity.  Surely my husband and daughter would be up by now, eating breakfast, getting ready to head out for a day of adventure, but sadly no, I enter the condo and all is silent.  
I have always wondered what it must be like to live in a household where everyone is on a similar schedule....or at least close to one.  Not my gang.  They are night owls and I am a morning person.  For many years I tried to change them but it was a losing battle.  I am a firm believer that there is a reason for everything and I think after all this time, I have figured out that the time I have to myself in the morning was meant to be.
By now (9:00 am), I have had breakfast, read the paper, gone for an hour long walk on the beach (just me and the sandpipers) and now am quietly sitting and writing this blog.  All pretty enjoyable activities despite the silence.  Had they bounced out of bed at the same time as me, I would have had to endure the chatter, the crowded kitchen, likely had to beg one of them to go for a walk with me and would not have had the quiet space I need to write.  In fact, I think if they suddenly became morning people, I actually might resent the loss of my time to myself.  
Instead, I thoroughly enjoyed my solitaire walk.  The weather is changing (thank god), still cool and breezy by the water this morning, I was happy to see bits of blue sky breaking through, and the weatherman says sunny and 62 today.  Perfect.  Myrtle Beach is a great walking beach, the tide was out this morning, so the sand is hard and level and there were lots of interesting little critters and shells to check out.  I had to resist picking up every little treasure I found, as over the years,  my shell collection has gotten entirely out of hand. (last year's cache it still sitting in a bag in the garage) so I chose three perfect little clam shells (one for each of us) that I will add to the bowl on the coffee table at home, proof that we were here.
Today we are hitting the driving range and mini golf to get warmed up for our first day on the links tomorrow.  Someone I know will actually have to get up early tomorrow!  But an afternoon nap by the pool may be in order.....to make up for those lost morning hours  of sleep.  Such a grueling schedule.  Aren't holidays great? 

Monday, March 16, 2009

Bojangles or Bust

About three years ago, my family changed the way we vacation.  We started taking driving holidays.  A bit of a virgin when it came to the really long road trip, I have begun to appreciate some of the more subtle nuances of the drive to south eastern USA.  
In Ontario, the drive north to Muskoka is punctuated with a stop at Weber's, and the gradually changing geography; the rocky outcroppings, the sight of a crystalline lake appearing around the bend of the road, a beautiful doe grazing at the side of the road and the constant "Tom Thomson" vistas abound.  Two or three hours and you have reached your destination.  One would think these trips taken over the years might have prepared me for a bit of a longer jaunt.....well, not quite.
For starters, 3 hours just gets you to the state of Pennsylvania from Toronto.  You have only just begun.  I'm sure everyone who has taken the road south (and there are many routes to choose from) experience the trip differently, but for us, there are a few highlights we have begun to cherish (at least I have).
The first and obvious beloved moment occurs somewhere around the state of Maryland, when you roll down the car window and feel the temperature begin to change.  You may have just driven through white-out conditions in New York (happened last year) followed by some some white-knuckle icy sleet and freezing rain in Pennsylvania, but once you emerge from that state, things only get better.  That's when I start to really drive my family a bit crazy.  Usually it starts around Virginia.  I begin a meticulous survey from the car window until it happens.  FORSYTHIA!  CAMELLIA!  DAFFODILS!  ""Calm down mom," I am told.  But I can't help myself.  I have been deprived for too long.  Spring exists and I am born again! 
We drive as far as Fredericksburg Virginia and stop for the night.  The pansies have been planted (in the ground!) and I wake up to the sound of a pair of robins yakking at each other outside our window.  We peel off a couple of layers and head out for the second leg of the journey, the promise of the salty sea air to come egging us on.
Other than the glorious botanical sign posts, there is one marker that we await that will tell us we have arrived in the land of Y'all' s and Hush Puppies.  It has become a comic family tradition and the joke is always on me.  It's the first appearance of a "Bojangles" billboard.  For the uninitiated, Bojangles is a fast food fried chicken and biscuits joint that I'm sure rivals Mickie D's in the south.  Last year, every time, we passed by one, we would all joke about going to "Bojangles" (in our recently acquired southern accents) for lunch or dinner.  We just assumed it was another version of KFC and was off limits.  God knows our waistlines did not need to discover an even fattier version of the Colonel.  On our last day in the Carolina's, I kept saying how I thought we might have been really missing a "southern specialty".  "Dammit, pull over dear - I can't leave this state without seeing what all the fuss is about" (the parking lots were always jammed).  
As the two non-believers sat in the car waiting for me (they weren't interested), I ventured inside.  The first thing I noticed was that I was the only "person of colour" in the building.  The second thing I noticed was my inability to understand the counter-person's incredibly thick southern drawl.  After asking her to repeat her question for a third time, I realized I was fighting a loosing battle and just nodded my head and said "sure - sounds good."  Not quite sure what I had just ordered, I nervously waited for my order.  Another voice from behind the counter pushed a large box toward me - "here's your food Ma'am."  I grabbed some packets of ketchup and some napkins and a straw and headed back to the car.
Once inside, I lifted the lid of my surprise feast and the smell of fried chicken - "Eeeww", whined my newly vegetarian daughter - "how can you eat that poor chicken, Mom?"  "Whatever", I said and dug in.  Crispy, spicy, juicy, greasy dripping - nothing short of a gastric orgasm!  The fries and biscuits were perfect too.  Colonel Sanders had nothing on this stuff.  I finished the box of culinary delights just as we crossed the border into Virginia where I knew it would be impossible to repeat the experience for dinner (thank god screamed my gall bladder).  
It's been a year since I scarfed down my last Bojangles meal, and I told my family it's going to happen again this year come hell or high water, calories be damned - life is short - and even if Bojangles makes it shorter, I'm willing to take the chance......once more.  Extra napkins please!   

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Out of the Office

Day two of the road trip about to begin.......stay tuned for exciting new blog when we get to the golf mecca of South Carolina later tonight.
Only in Virginia but have already seen daffodils, forsythias and apple blossoms in full bloom - it's spring here!

Friday, March 13, 2009

Golf as Therapy

What other people may find in poetry or art museums, I find in the flight of a good drive. ~Arnold Palmer
I read this quote on a book mark that was left on my pillow at the Four Seasons Spa and Golf Resort at Aviara in Carlsbad, California (thank-you Peg!) a couple of years ago. It certainly has stayed with me longer than a chocolate on my pillow ever could have. It pretty much sums up how I feel about golf. I would even take Arnold's quote one step further and throw in the word church. As a Canadian, having a love affair with golf is akin to a long distance romance. Winter is long and absence truly does make the heart grow fonder. The year-round heated platform driving range, although appreciated, is not the same. By this time each year, the desire to hit the links is almost more than I can stand. Fortunately, tomorrow I depart for a land where golfers gather year round, where snow and ice are a rare event and where I will enter nirvana after a long drought. I didn't really start playing a lot of golf until about four years ago. Prior to that I was a classic duffer. My husband, who is my golf buddy, as well as my coach is a pretty good golfer, so I figured I would start listening to his advice (after all, he had turned me into a decent tennis player years ago). We have a love/hate relationship on the course. When I am having a good day, I love him. When I'm having a bad day, I......well, let's just say I have imagined the head of my Big Bertha driver implanted in his head on more than one occasion. Despite those images I have from time to time, golf has been good for our marriage. I really believe it is imperative that a couple have at least one activity they love to do together....beyond the bedroom. It used to be tennis, but now it is golf. We practice together, we shop for equipment together, we both read Golf Digest and dog ear the parts we think the other will like, we watch the golf channel together, we plan our golf outings together - we pretty much have the whole thing down to a science. We even sit around after our round with a frosty cold drink and re-hash the highlights of the day - one of the best parts (did you see that 5 iron to the green on 16 - Magic!). Our daughter thinks we are obsessed with golf and I'm beginning to think she may be right. He used to buy me jewelery and flowers for special occasions. Now he comes home with a new Nicole Miller golf visor or a new putter and I'm just as thrilled. I'm actually hoping for one of those new Swarovski crystal ball markers that clip on to your hat for our 17th anniversary next week that we will be celebrating - where else? - on a golf course in South Carolina! There's no question, I would highly recommend "golf as therapy" to any couple - it works for us! Happy Anniversary Tiger....and here's to more good days than bad!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

The Cost of "Dressing Down"

My daughter started high school this year and one of the highlights of this milestone for me was the fact that she would be wearing a school uniform. As much as some of the parents (myself included) of her elementary school campaigned for them, every vote was defeated. I am all for expressing one's individuality by the "I'm with stoopid" T-shirt you are wearing, but I have always felt you could do that on your own time - that's what weekends are for! I wore a uniform in high school and even though I hated it, looking back, it was good for me. (god - I've turned into my mother!) After 10 years of enduring a non-uniform environment, she is now able to stumble out of bed in the morning and slip mindlessly into the same outfit every day. With the exception of "dress down" days. Tomorrow is such a day. Ah, yes, "dress down day". These days roll around about every two months and the wardrobe planning goes on days, sometimes weeks in advance. She is presently in her artsy, I hate pop music, rocker phase. She has not gone goth on me (yet), but there is a definite leaning toward anything black. The lower half of her body is always a pair of jeans. The top half is always some sort of black T-Shirt with some self-expression slashed across the front and sometimes the back as well. To date the choices have consisted of her "My Chemical Romance" T-shirt - an absolute original made for her by one of her friends who goes to a specialty "art high school". I am only allowed to wash it in cold water and hang it to dry, as it has craft paint and sparkly stuff on it that would get ruined in the dryer. I comply. The next most popular choice has been her Centauri Arts Camp - "Arts for Life" T-shirt - a souvenir of her 2 weeks at that camp last summer (she is counting down the days - literally - until she heads back there this summer). I could describe more, but I'll stop here - I think you get the picture. For me, this has been wonderful - low cost, no trips to the mall (she hates those anyway - "I'm not a sheep mom - why would I want some dumb shirt that advertises some stupid store?") It is completely amazing to me that she really is not influenced by the marketing of the Hollisters and Abercrombie and Fitches of the world. God knows, I was totally sucked into that vortex when I was her age. (admittedly sometimes even now). She really doesn't care much about "labels" but that could all be changing. About two weeks ago - she discovered the designer Ed Hardy, also known as "the godfather of modern tattoo". He puts his "tattoos" on everything from hats to sunglasses. I was dragging her through Winners one day and we were perusing the bags (she does have a wee thing about purses), and there it was. Black, shiny patent leather, shoulder strap, inside zips, outside zips, a rectangular bulky looking thing with brightly coloured "skull art" on the outside with the words "Love Kills Slowly" scrawled around the creepy tattoo-like image. There was no doubt, this was an original! She did need a new book bag I was told. OK, I thought it was kinda cool too, so I said - sure - until I saw the price tag. What? Two hundred dollars? No way! (apparently Mr. Hardy's tattoo-like designs fetch big bucks from the parents of the kids who wear them). We walked around the store and I gave it some thought. She didn't start begging - she knows that never works with me. What does work however, is the fact that she rarely asks for much in the way of clothes or jewellery, in fact, I am usually trying to talk her into being a little more fashion forward. So, I told her she could have the bag, but she would have to pay for half out her own bank account (she's a saver!) and a deal was struck. Yesterday, I zipped into Winners again looking for some flip-flops for our up-coming vacation and I spotted them. An almost matching pair of Ed Hardy high top slip-on sneakers, the skull art almost invisible amidst the colourful abstract painting on either side of each shoe. No laces, just some hidden little snaps on the inside of the cleverly designed tongues of the shoes. They are meant to look as though you can't be bothered tying up your one hundred and fifty dollar high-tops, perhaps you lost the laces at that Slipknot concert last month, who cares? I examined them carefully, trying to figure out if they were worth the exorbitant price, when I noticed another price tag. SRP - $150.00 - OUR PRICE - $89.99. Better, but still unconvinced they were worth it, I took a spin through the store, self-talking my way through each department. Thirty minutes later, justifications solid in my mind, I grabbed the shoes and headed for the check-out. Maybe she wouldn't even like them and I could bring them back, but I'll take them home and see what she thinks. Maybe they would be too matchy-matchy with the bag (no - that's what I would think - she is a novice at this stuff). I'm always excited to give her something I'm pretty sure she is going to love - what mother isn't? Even the box they come in is cool - all skully and artsy. She no sooner came through the door after school and before she could even take off her coat, I thrust the bag into her hands. They were a hit......but too small! Into the car - back to the store - please, please have the larger size. YES! - they had them. All is right in the world again. The timing on this pair of "tattoo art for the feet" couldn't be better either. The slip-on cheapo skully sneakers she has been "living" in since the end of last summer (another one of my "winning" picks) are about ready for the bin - this will seem like an effortless transition. On the way to school this morning, she told me she is planning to wear her colourful hoodie - it's white with cartoon-like multi-coloured heads all over it (with only an occasional skull mixed in), jeans (always), and her new Ed Hardy shoes. Maybe this artsy footwear is having a positive influence on her clothing choices too - at least she's not wearing black..... again! Let's just hope she doesn't decide she likes his art so much that she wants it inked onto her body as well (we'll cross that bridge when we come to it). Like I said earlier, so glad she wears a uniform to school now. It's saving me so much money!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Love what I Do........Please!

In this morning's Globe and Mail the Thought Du Jour was a quote by Roger Ebert. Mr Ebert (obviously an amateur philosopher as well as a famous film critic) said "What you do instead of your work is your real work." Well, on the surface, that statement made a little sense to me; sometimes when I should be doing my "not so real" work, I am playing tennis (knew I should have gone pro years ago!) or I am doing a little digging and planting in my garden (landscape architect has a nice ring to it) or sometimes I am writing this blog (that's me - the next Giller prize winner!), but then I started going a little further with his notion. What about when I am stealing an afternoon nap on a rainy day when business is slow? Is there a job that matches that description? What about snapping bubble wrap - I like doing that - could I go pro? Or how about when I decide to go shopping for some new shoes? Is that my real work? Perhaps what Mr Ebert should have said was "What you really love to do instead of your real work is your real work." Now that makes perfectly good sense to me. I have actually tested this theory. In 1998, I went back to school so I could get my accreditation to do what I always wanted to do - Decorate! (AKA - spend other people's money on all the things you wish you could have yourself!) My daughter was 4 at the time and I wanted not only to do what I love, but to have the flexibility to be home for her after school and to seem to her like I was always available. I started my own home-based business as an interior decorator. It was all of those things - the creative process I loved, the ability to drop everything and go to the zoo with her class and even sneak an afternoon nap in from time to time. However, in the past 7 months, business has slowed and now I have waaaaay too much time to fill. Suddenly, what I love do do no longer pays the bills. Should I look for a job in the corporate world? (horrors - committing to a 9-5 day!) Should I just stop "sport" shopping altogether, not that I have choice on that one now (that alone has helped balance the household budget according to my husband). How about reinventing myself again - like Madonna? (without all the hours in the gym). Any hopes of a quick economic recovery were dashed yesterday when Warren Buffet predicted at least a period of 5 years before that might happen. Can't be sitting around waiting that long for people to start redecorating again. So, I have begun here. Yes, right here on this page. Someone once said, if you want to be a writer, start writing. Since my original "calling" (well it seemed that way at the time) was to become a journalist, (I have a degree in that too) this is the perfect opportunity to brush up my old writing skills. Although, no one is paying to read my words of wisdom (yet), I know one thing for sure. This feels like I'm doing something else I really love to do and for now, that's good enough. At least it justifies my time and time will tell if that other old theory - "Do what you love and the money will follow" actually works. If it's a crock, well, mama won't be getting any new shoes any time soon, but it will be fun writing about it.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Short-Haired Barbie

There's really only one subject to talk about today even if by now you're sick to death of hearing about it in every newspaper, every news program and at every water cooler. Today as you know is Barbie's 50th birthday (damn!, even she is younger than me!). Barbara Millicent Roberts came into my life in 1962. Santa delivered her personally and I'll never forget the thrill......and disappointment. For a brief period around that time, Barbie's hair (hmmm, beginning to think I have a bit of a hair obsession - see blog from March 2) was short. (see image above) That's right, my first Barbie had short reddish tight curly hair. It could not be styled, combed or changed in any way shape or form. I hated her hair. Whilst my friend's could comb, braid, twist and pin their Barbie's locks, the only option I had was hats. Despite her less than perfect coif, I loved her. Unlike my own daughter who I swear got a new and different Barbie every month for a period of 5 years (that's 120 little shoes sucked up the vacuum hose for those who are counting), I had one Barbie. My next door neighbour had Barbie, Midge, Ken, Allen and Skipper. She was spoiled rotten - everyone said so. Santa must have pitied me at some point, because eventually I got Barbie's friend; long-haired brunette Francie two years later and a case that had slots for 2 dolls, a closet with a rod, hangars and two shoe drawers - I think Santa got a raise. For a long time I was content, until the day a younger cousin of mine came to visit one weekend. Looking back, she was really too young to play with Barbie, her little toddler fingers unable to manoeuvre the clothing changes and definitely too young to respect what she meant to me. She grabbed my precious naked girl by the ankles and started tearing around the house smacking her on every hard surface in sight. By the time I rescued her, it was too late. Her once perfect breasts were no longer a matching pair. One of them now sported a concave nipple. I was horrified. She could no longer wear the skin tight tops and dresses (meticulously hand sewn by my mother) without one side of her chest looking all puckery and ill-fitting. I now owned "mastectomy Barbie" without even realizing it! After that day, I began to favour Francie with her perfect, perky upstanding set. And besides, she also had soft bendy legs, unlike her friend with her hard inflexible body. Another neighbourhood friend used to set up a Barbie swimming pool (her mother would fill one of those large corrugated steel tubs with water in the backyard) Several of us would bring our Barbie cases over to her house for a pool party, but I would never pull out short-haired Barbie at these events. She would remain in her case, hiding in shame with her banged-up boob. No bikini for her. Francie would steal the show instead. When my neighbour with the assortment of dolls was feeling generous, she would allow me to play with Skipper - that would just make my day. It was easier to imagine being Barbie's little sister Skipper one day - she was about 12 I think - without any boobs and looked more like us (minus the perfect shiny waist-length shimmering blond hair). Years later, a real live Skipper (aka Marsha Brady) would take over as my top idol wanna-be, but that's getting off topic. When I became older and disinterested in playing with Barbie and Francie, I still kept them tucked away in the back of my closet for several years. I recall using the shoe drawer as a hiding place for coins I saved up to buy my mom a cuckoo clock from the Consumer's Distributing catalogue for Christmas in 1968 (bet she just loved that one!). Eventually the case and all of it's contents was passed along to a little cousin never to be seen again in my lifetime. No matter - I remember my two dolls well. I have forgotten most of the clothing with the exception of one dress my mother made. It was a form-fitting, emerald green woolen number with a faux leopard fur collar that was such a bitch to squeeze on and off, but man-oh-man once it was on - my short-haired Barbie was (in the words of Paris Hilton) HOT, even with her less than ideal chest. So - here's to you Babs on your 50th! Just ignore all the "cougar barbie" insults. We gals in our 6th decade don't need to be putting each other down. We need to be raising each other up - imperfect parts and all!

Friday, March 6, 2009

Somebody Make a Decision Already!

For any of you who may have missed me yesterday, I'm baaaack! (said with Arnie's accent). I just could not find the time to blog yesterday. Why you ask? I'm about to tell you (my legions of fans) just what kept me from my keyboard. Two days ago, I talked about the routines in our lives. The dull ones and the much preferred, not so dull ones. Last night was my turn to host my monthly book club. I was busy all day in the kitchen preparing food, as we love to eat as much as we like to read! We are called ______ ______ ______. Maybe you can fill in the blanks because none of us have ever been able to decide upon a name for the group (we actually gave up trying). We are quite possibly the most indecisive group of women in the universe. It is quite possible that if the given hostess for any month was required to engage the rest of the group to make the book selection for her month, no book would ever be chosen. In which case we could just be called "The Women who get together each month to gab and socialize Group." And frankly, I don't think any of us would complain. We have been gathering now for eleven years give or take a month or two. I joined in when the group had been together for one year - so I missed a few unmade decisions. However, my first night introduced me to their uncanny inability to make one. It was the November meeting at Susan's house, and therefore a plan was needed for the Christmas edition - a dinner out - but where? As a newbie in the crowd, I was more of an observer than a participant (not wanting to make the wrong impression at the first meeting). I sat back in awe as the restaurant choices were bandied about followed by the yeas and nays - no eatery winning the vote. This went on for over an hour. Interesting I thought, this topic appeared to garner far more attention than the book we had read ( which I have long forgotten). In the end, a fine dining establishment had not been selected, despite the long and gruelling debate. If the club were to have an astrological symbol it would surely be Pisces - you know, the two fish swimming in opposite directions. All wishy washy. We eventually did meet somewhere for dinner that holiday season - but I (thankfully) was not part of the final, behind the scenes decision making process. I just showed up at the appointed venue. For the last 10 years, this has become an annual holdiay tradition. Now, I hope I am not painting a bad picture of my beloved group since I am now a part of this sea of indecisiveness, and a better place to swim (or drown for that matter) could not be found as far as I am concerned. Over the years, decisions have eventually been made for various events outside of our monthly meetings and what it really boils down to is the fact that we, as a group are overly diplomatic. If it's not right for the whole group - it's just not right at all. In the end this has proven to be a good thing. We are respectful and supportive of one another and as our kids (all around the same age) are all entering the scary teenage years, this will no doubt become the super glue that holds us together (up until now we only needed Elmer's). You see, when we aren't discussing the monthly book, nine times out of ten, we are discussing our children. Sometimes I wonder if we shouldn't really be called "The Mothers of Kids all about the same age, who also happen to like to read Group". Case in point - last night we were to review The Hour I first Believed by Wally Lamb. This was a book we were excited about as we had really loved his last two novels. Turns out, not one of us had finished the book (it was a disappointment) yet we never ran out of things to talk about (we never do, truth be told). This does not happen often - usually at least one of us has finished the book (those discussions are usually a bit one-sided). Last night, instead of dissecting Mr. Lamb's fictional characters, we had a chance to briefly dissect the real characters in our lives, current events (did I like the new judge on American Idol?), the long term side effects of Botox (we're not going down that road are we Donna?), and should we make a plan for our fifteenth anniversary? This will be a biggie. For our tenth anniversary we went to Vegas! Yup! Vegas! That pillar of academia and culture - the perfect destination for our well-read ensemble. I recall that decision took about six months - not bad, considering the scope and vast number of details involved (thank-you Carla). The good news is we have about three and a half years to ponder this one, plenty of time- or at least one would think. After all, it has been eleven years and we still haven't come up with a name for our club. However, I have faith - the tenth anniversary junket to sin city did actually take place (it wasn't a dream) and we took less time planning that than the lead time we have now. Gosh, things are improving when I come to think about it. So ladies, let's put on our thinking caps. Where to go? Where to go? Just remember, it's the journey, not the destination. OK, so that's a load of crap - let's think of somewhere really great this time (not that Vegas wasn't great-it's just that by then, I really will be too old for "clubbing" Trish!). We certainly will have something to celebrate. Most of us by then will be on the plus side of fifty (those who still cling to the previous decade - your day is dawning!) and our kids will be ever closer to leaving the nest. We will have been through a lot together and we deserve this. So I give a shout out to you all - Kimraejansusantrishlenorecarolinedonnadebcarla! Think! Think! I didn't want to miss any one's name. It would remind me of when I was 4 and the Romper Room lady never saw my name in her magic mirror (even though I was sitting a foot away from the TV screen!). I put Kim first (you know why Kim). Perhaps we should pick 1,000 Places To See Before You Die as one of our monthly selections and at the meeting we'll all bring our copy, close our eyes, each open it to a random page, throw those 11 destinations into a hat and pick one! See - it doesn't have to be difficult at all! The chosen destination is.......oh no, not there, OK, best 2 out of 3, no, best 3 out of 5. Now you get the picture. My monthly book club meeting - it may be a routine, but it's never dull. Every meeting is like a new chapter in a really good book. Sometimes we miss a character or two, some chapters are more exciting than others but we all look forward to the next one and my hope is that this particular book never ends.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

What a Raquet!

Last weekend I shared my weekend mornings routine with you and it has got me to thinking about the various routines in our lives. There are routines we follow almost mindlessly every day that we give little thought to, like getting dressed and groomed for the day, reading the paper, making the bed (Come On! - you do make your bed every morning don't you?) and simple chores like washing dishes after meals and so on. The drudgery of it all! Then there are routine events that occur on a regular basis, like my weekly tennis match. These, if you are lucky, are the routines you really look forward to each time. I have been playing tennis every Wednesday with the same group of women for about 8 yrs now. The 5 of us met at the summer tennis club we belong to when we all signed up for the same group lessons. We all lived nearby and decided that first summer to continue getting together to play after the session of lessons had ended. I had been playing regularly prior to that summer for about 8 years, so my level of play was somewhat advanced for the group, but I really liked these girls and as tennis is a social sport, put my misgivings aside and said what the hell? If I wanted to compete, I could join other tournaments and leagues to fulfill my "play to win" competitive drive. Summer came to an end and we decided to carry on with our weekly play through the winter at an indoor club. So now we were playing year round and with each passing year becoming closer friends. We started celebrating birthdays with a lunch out and a joint gift chosen for the birthday girl - always something we would likely never buy for ourselves, like a garden ornament or decorative item for the house. One year we all flew down to Palm Springs in California for a "girls tennis junket". One of the girls in the group had access to her parent's condo and the 8 tennis courts that came with it, so off we went. As misfortune would have it, it teemed down rain for 3 of the 5 days and we only got to play one day of tennis. Although it would have been great to play more, we still had a great time getting to know one another even better. (margaritas and wine helped!) As the years have passed, we have shared our joys and our sorrows, our children's ups and downs, our aches and pains (damn these aging bodies) and somewhere along the way, we all got better at playing tennis. These women have worked hard to improve their games. Annual lessons in the spring with the club pro are the highlight of every season - we love our pro (and he puts up with us!). Serves have become harder, ground strokes smoother and more consistent, volley's (non-existent in the beginning) quick and accurate and as we are all getting older, focus on strategy improves every season. We always have fun, do not argue over line calls, (it ain't Wimbledon, after all!) and we applaud our good shots and are able to laugh at our miss hits. Over the years, I have played in many tournaments, round robins and one year I even played league on the Ladies Daytime C Team (we won that year and that put an end to my need to prove myself) but these games, sets and matches are never as fun as my weekly match with my "tennis ladies". I have learned a valuable lesson over time. If you take the need to compete out of the equation, tennis is so much more than a game. When your opponents are your friends, everyone is a winner. Advantage - moi.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

24 Hours later.....

It didn't seem right to just let yesterday's blog hang there like my limp hair without reporting the results of my trip to the hair salon. As I told you, I am never really sure what I will have done until the last second and that's what happened. When I first got there, I anxiously flipped through a couple of those hair style magazines for some last minute inspiration. I find those good for pointing out what I don't want to my stylist or for imagining what I could never have, but rarely for finding the exact thing I want. As much as I trust my hairdresser, there is always the chance things may not turn out quite how you expected, like one time when I was blonde and she added a toner at the end and my hair looked kind of taupey-greyish - Yuck! She did fix it up before I left but for a few minutes I was pretty panicked. Or the time I just hated the colour so much, I returned 3 days later and asked her to DO SOMETHING! Even she agreed it was all wrong for me. That's the great thing about her, she admits her mistakes and always resolves my hair crisis without complaint or charge. It keeps me going back - nobody is perfect. As any of you who know the road to highlights, you know that in recent years, foils are the method of choice. The old school method involved a plastic cap secured tightly to your head and a pointy metal pick that when inserted into the cap pulled out thin strands of hair that would then be dyed. For the last few years, my hairdresser has been trying to convince me that the old school method would be best for my thin hair, but I refused to go along with the suggestion. I thought she was clinging to her old school ways. This is a woman who has been a hairdresser for a very long time. My guess is at least 25 yrs. I told her I wanted copper and blonde highlights and maybe a chunk of blonde across my forehead - I really wanted to lighten things up. She said doing it with foils was going to be long and difficult and would I please consider the cap and pick method. So I finally caved and said OK, you're the expert - whatever! (short-haired gals are braver as mistakes don't last so long) I really hate the cap and pick. I think I must have a sensitive scalp or something, because every time she dipped that pick into my cap, it hurt. Maybe I'm just a baby when it comes to pain, but I must have said OUCH about a hundred times. (and dentists think their job is tough on patients). Anyway, first she put in the copper highlights, washed and dried it all out so we could see the progress,(so far, so good) then the cap went back on for round two, more picks, more OUCHES, and finally after 2 gruelling hours, it was over. You know, I'm a firm believer in letting people do their jobs - I myself love it when my clients trust me to make decisions for them - afterall - I am the expert - that's why they hired me. So why did it take me so long to let my hair professional do what she thought was right for my hair? I think my hair colour is as close to perfect as it has ever been. I should have listened to her sooner - she was right. The old school method was better for my type of hair. As for the cut, well it still needs some time to get where it needs to be, but a good colour will help me get there less painfully. So today, I'm eating a little crow.....but it tastes good.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Pimp my Hair!

Hair! Our crowning glory. There are good hair days and bad hair days. Our hair has it's own personal history. I always wanted to be a "Breck Girl" - who didn't? At 12, my hair had to look just like Peggy Lipton's hair on Mod Squad and it did except for the mousy brown colour (my mother wouldn't let me dye it then). That style carried me through most of high school until I started decreasing the length gradually over the next few years until I bravely gave my hairdresser the thumbs up for the Dorothy Hamil cut. The only problem with that one was my hair wasn't quite thick enough to really replicate her sassy do, and it also required regular maintenance that I couldn't afford at 19. So I grew it out again only to spend hours with the blow dryer and curling iron trying to mirror (dare I say it?) Farrah Fawcett! It would stay that way for about an hour or until I started to sweat on the dance floor at the disco when it would return to its natural state - straight and limp. Round about the age of 21, I believe I suffered from some form of temporary insanity and started perming my hair. I should have known better. My mother had tried turning me into Shirley Temple when I was 4 or 5 with Toni home perms and the smell alone was enough to cast a dire warning that went unheeded. The perm would always start out too tightly wound, would finally relax enough to look good and seemingly within a few days would lay flat at the roots and frizzy on the ends - and I paid for it! This went on for about 5 years or so until I finally caved and decided to make friends with what I had been given and decided to work with it straight. In order to give my fine limp locks some body, the natural next step was to start adding colour to give it some body and texture. Over the next 25 years, it has been mostly short with the occasional growing out to just below my shoulders (that had to go when I had Emma - she was always pulling it) but the colour has changed like a revolving kaleidescope. It has been auburn, red, light brown, dark brown, almost black, yellow, platinum and "striped" (Emma's word for highlighted). The million dollar question is - was I ever happy? There were certainly moments of elation from time to time, but it never lasted. Dark brown felt rich and warm in winter, but when summer arrived seemed heavy and dreary. Red was good for the fall, but looked too bright in winter. Blonde was fab in summer, but just too jolting in the winter. Stripes were pretty good all year round, but were costing me the equivalent of the GDP of some small third world country. So today I have to make the decision yet again - what will I do with it this time? I have been trying to grow it out from the very short spiky look I have been sporting for the last few years. This look has been super easy to maintain, but requires a cut every 4 weeks and the roots show up just as often. Hats flatten it and I feel too boyish sometimes, so I have been thinking going longer to soften my look and maybe even be able to flip the ends out a little under a hat. Just last year I had problems with dark roots when it was blonde, now I have grey roots at the crown so does that mean I need to go blonde again??? Maybe I'll try stripes again. I never quite know until I am sitting in the chair, kind of like a restaurant menu - I'm never quite sure what I'll order until the waiter's impatient look forces an answer from me. Guess I just wish there was something new on the menu.