Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Rain? What rain?

I'm on a lucky streak with the rain. For starters, what is up with all this rain? - it is supposed to be summer - not monsoon season! On Sunday, the forecast called for rain, not what you want to hear when you've booked a non-refundable golf tee time. So, we packed the rain gear and headed out. When we got to the course, their radar suggested the passing cell was going to be short-lived and it looked clear all around the eye. "Load up the clubs, then," we said. It was lightly misting for the first two holes and then, like something out of a Charlton Heston movie, the clouds parted and the sun came out. By that time, almost all the golfers had given up and we practically had the course to ourselves. Nirvana. No waiting, no being pushed from behind. The fine weather stayed with us throughout the next 17 holes and we had an awesome day. Since there were only a handful of golfers left on the course, the clubhouse started shutting up early as the staff were sitting around doing nothing, but it left us with a quandary when we finished. "What, we can't get a cold beer?" I asked incredulously of the wait staff who were scurrying about putting the place to bed. It was only 7:15 in the evening. This was not good. The manager, recognizing our pain, sent us down the road to an old stand-by called The Boathouse in Chippewa. He assured us the beer would be cold and the food wasn't half bad either. We were temporarily placated. My husband recognized the place - said it had been there for decades. Turns out the golf club manager had steered us right - the place was just perfect for our needs. The staff were exceptionally friendly and the beer was icy cold. Hang on, I am going somewhere with this. Back to the rain. As we sat on the open air patio, the staff started stacking up the chairs. "Don't worry, we're not closing, there is a big storm coming any time now though," said the manager. So they said we could remain at our table, now sitting like a tiny island in the middle of the giant empty space. As I took the last bite of my greek salad, the drops started to fall. Time for the check. We then proceeded to drive back to Toronto in a torrential downpour, that naturally ended just as we got close to the city limits around Oakville. Once again, avoiding getting soaked. Yesterday, as I had to make several stops as I was out sourcing some things for a client, the same story. This time I had my umbrella, but hardly had the need to open it. Every time I exited a shop, the rain would pause for me and then start up again while I was driving. Which brings me to today. As I had to go do a dreaded Costco shop, I noticed as I was parking the car, the blackened and menacing sky heading my way. Better take the umbrella in with me I thought - I might not escape this one. Once inside, the skies opened up again, but by the time I was through, I looked toward the exit door to see the sun shining again. I did have to skip over a few pretty deep puddles to get to the car, but it was better than the alternative. The sun followed me all the way home, shed it's lovely warmth on me while I unpacked the haul, and as I was closing the trunk, I looked up and there in the west, closing in quickly, another black mass heading my way. It has been raining now since I started this blog, sometimes in buckets, sometimes just a steady downpour, but I am not worried, as I have to head back out shortly to do some more shopping and if the gods keep smiling on me, the sun will be shining any minute now. Those are some kind of horseshoes I'm sporting up my backside, or maybe I'm just on a lucky streak. That reminds me, I better buy a lottery ticket today. It could be my day.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Breaking my Vow

It's a rainy summer evening. I am caught up with work for now. I really can't find an excuse not to. So wish me luck readers, I am about to enter the "cave". The one room in the house I try to avoid. It used to be a lovely place, all Beatrix Potter and mosquito netting. From there it went to shades of lavender and apple green with ticking stripes and a cottage feel. For many years, I kept it pretty and tidy and then one day a couple of years ago - I gave up. Just like that - I said "No bloody more". I am talking about my teenage daughter's bedroom. Surely some of you can relate. I can barely stand the sight of it most days. I still change the bedding and deliver the clean laundry, but other than that, I let her have her way with it. I am quite certain my child is the most disorganized messy person in the world. As she was ten minutes away from departing for camp yesterday, she asked me, "Mom, have you seen that funny hat I bought at Hot Topic? I wanted to bring it to camp with me." "No, honey, I have not seen it - but you might want to try the avalanche of clothing piled on your closet floor," I replied. She knew for weeks she was leaving yesterday and the hat had been specially purchased just for camp. They do a "funny hat" thing each year and she had found the perfect cap for the event. It was all I could do not to really have a verbal go at her. I just suggested a few other places she might look. "Have you looked through all your drawers? What about under the bed?" Now she was getting frantic. The car was packed. Dad was sitting in the driver's seat. "Don't worry - I packed a sun hat for you," I told her. "But that hat isn't funny mom, it's dorky." "Well, you don't have any choices now at this late date. C'mon let's go - dad's waiting." This is not the first time she has been unable to locate things in her room. It is a regular routine around here. I thought if I just let her live like a slob, eventually she would realize it would work against her, but it hasn't changed her messy habits one bit. I practically have an anxiety attack every time I step foot in there. It really disrupts my chi. I have told her if she continues into adulthood living this way, I will not come and visit her at her house. People say they change once they have a place of their own, but I am not hopeful. I have heard some never do. I am not a neat freak myself, although I do make sure the house is looking good if I am entertaining. I am a piler. Neat piles. Everywhere. Especially my office. I am not even one of those anal organizers, although I envy their discipline. I do feel better however, when my surroundings are tidy and clean and there are fresh flowers on the table. I am very visual. She has obviously not inherited even one ounce of my eye for detail. Maybe she is the lucky one. She never concerns herself with the mess around her and focuses on the task at hand, oblivious to the surrounding chaos. I have trouble focusing on the task at hand when I am surrounded by a mess. Once things are as they should be, I can relax and enjoy whatever I am doing. Someone once said to me "Oh, you'll miss her messes when she's gone one day." "No, actually, I won't miss her messes at all - I might miss her, but I'll say good riddance to the disaster zone she calls her bedroom," I insisted. So tonight, I am breaking my vow to ignore the "cave" and I am about to venture in there, garbage bags and gas mask in tow, and start pitching. Tomorrow I will tote two years worth of out grown clothing, used books and various and sundry items to The Goodwill. They can figure out what to do with it all. I will be ruthless and unsentimental. I will tell myself she won't even miss what I am about to pitch out. She will return from camp to a serene and clutter free environment. While she is gone, I will sit and admire my work. I'll leave the door open for all the world to see. I will let the fresh air permeate the fresh bedding and I'll be able to see the floor for the first time in ages. She won't recognize the place when she gets home. The new minimalist surfaces will beg to remain uncluttered. Twenty four hours after her return, I'll close the door again. How much do you want to bet?

Saturday, June 27, 2009

What kind of monsters have we Created?

I know I am beginning to sound like a broken record, but once again, I have little time to devote to blogging today. I think it is just the nature of summer, being so much busier than other times of the year but the truth is, I miss writing if I don't. So I figure a short little blog is better than no blog at all. What, you may ask is so pressing that I feel compelled to spew a little? Well, this is just one of the myriad of thoughts swirling around in my brain this morning. Emma is off to camp tomorrow. That of course means that today is devoted to preparing and packing for her two week adventure. I am pretty experienced at this by now, since this is her sixth summer of heading off into the wild blue yonder. Normally I am extremely organized, but this year, because I have been busy and have rested on my laurels a bit thinking I could just throw it all together in a couple of hours, I'm starting to panic a little. Suffice to say, it's going to be a long day. The other aspect of this whole lead up time to camp is I (and other mothers I know as well) have created a bit of a monster with our girls. It used to be that a kid could just show up at camp with clean hair and a knapsack full of clean clothes (proving to the counsellors, they actually were clean from whence they came) and spend the next two weeks getting grubbier and grubbier with each passing day. That was in the early years. Once the girls reached a certain age, things began to change. It started with the first minor showing of leg hair. Two years ago, Emma asked if she could have a leg wax before camp, so she wouldn't have to worry about shaving her legs while she was there. At that time, she wasn't too skillful at this ritual, so I agreed it might be a good idea. The next year, it was a pre-camp mani-pedi request. Heaven forbid my precious progeny should show up at camp with unpainted toe nails. Again I acquiesced. Her toes did look better with a bit of polish and she sees mom doing it all the time - how could I refuse? At the end of the two weeks, the toes still looked OK but the manicure had deteriorated into grotesque bits of black specks and I told myself - next year, no manicure. Best to keep them clean looking. Which brings us to this year. Yesterday, I shuffled her to her waxing appointment, her pedicure appointment and then topped it all off with a 1 hour massage appointment, lest she feel the least little amount of pre-camp stress. As I sat in the car waiting for her to flit from one spa treatment to the next, I couldn't help but wonder - what the hell are we all thinking? As I sat in the waiting room at the nail salon, I bumped into two other girls Emma's age undergoing the same treatments in preparation for camp. At least I'm not the only crazy mother in this hood, I thought. And now for the rant. I never had a professional pedicure until I was 25. I have never had a leg wax, period. (I am skillful at shaving) As for the massage, it was sometime in my early thirties, unless you count feeble attempts by past boyfriends and husbands, which I don't think counts. What expectations have we created in our children? Emma sees all these treatments as part of life. Doesn't everyone do this? Well, honey, no everyone doesn't do this. Most of the world is lucky to have one meal a day, never mind pampering at the spa on a regular basis. It's great that your father and I have the where-with-all to give you these things, but remember kiddo, one day it will be coming out of your own pocket. We hope.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Tossed aside like so much trash

OK, folks, I have a short window of opportunity here before the "gang" arrives. The unfortunate thing about sharing my office space with the family room, it that when Emma is having her gang of merry men and women over to hang out, I have to take my old person ass out of here and make like I don't exist. As I won't regain access to my computer until they head off to a movie at 7:00 pm, figured I'd punch out a short blog before I go. Except now I can't remember the great thought I had in the car while I was stuck in traffic this afternoon and it was a really good idea for my blog. Oh, well, I probably wouldn't have had time to spew the whole thing now anyway, so I'll see if it comes to me sometime later today. I will mention that I just finished reading www.halifaxbroad.blogspot.com and it was so funny, I am still laughing, so check it out since I have nothing to say and even if I did, I have no time to say it. And apparently I also now have no money in my wallet because the "gang" has to order in pizza. Broke and tossed to the curb like so much trash. And who said motherhood was so bloody wonderful? If I can remember, I'm going to call them and tell them they were full of cra......zy notions. Yeah. Crazy. Leaving now to wander around aimlessly until I get my house back. TTYL, Decomama

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

My First official day of Summer

Even though summer officially started a couple of days ago, for me today was the first day. Today was the first day I drank some lemonade, mopped up the trickles of sweat from my brow after a long walk in the sunshine, felt absolutely compelled to jump in our pool when I got back and then proceeded to float around on a boogie board feeling the sun bake my back. I thought ahead to dinner this morning and made a cold potato salad to go with the grilled chicken for dinner. Now it's summer. It's too hot to weed the garden. From this point on, don't look at it too closely- stand back and admire the lush green scene from a distance. I won't be fighting with the weeds anymore - they have defeated me now. Spring is gardening season for me - not summer. Summer is for kicking back and enjoying the warm temperatures, swimming, lounging in the shady corner of the garden with a book and a cold drink and music - constant music. So many songs meant for a summer day. And even more for a summer evening. It's not that I don't listen to music the rest of the year, I just listen to more in the summer. Maybe because the TV is off for a change. That must be it. Now that Emma is getting older, the gangs of kids that used to frolic around in our pool have disappeared. We hung out in the pool together this afternoon and had a good laugh reminiscing about this silly little thing we used to do when she was little. We called it "Bouncey Baby". I would gather her up in my arms, and start to spin around in circles, bouncing her up and down in the water until we were both dizzy, chanting "bouncy bouncey baby" and when she least expected, I would lift her as high as I could and toss her into the water. She used to love that little game so much, she would ask me to do it over and over again until my arms would ache. I asked her today if she wanted me to see if I could still lift her (knowing I couldn't) and for a moment I think she almost hoped I would and could. We laughed as hard thinking back on it as we used to actually doing the silly thing. For a few more days, I will try to live with the warmth before I eventually resort to turning on the air conditioning. I want to taste the season before I run and hide from it. If I close my eyes, I can imagine I am somewhere exotic and tropical. All I need now is a waiter to serve me a drink and a pool boy to fan me with a banana palm. OK, so maybe I am getting a little too expectant here, but allow me my fantasy. It's a short season.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Remembrances of Popsicles Past

It really is feast or famine here in the great white north. Every year we emerge from our caves after months of hibernation, revved up and raring to go for a few months of mild to hot weather. We spend the entire winter complaining about the cold and snow and as soon as the thermometer climbs over 25 degrees, we start whining about the heat. As an added bonus this year in Toronto, we can start complaining about the growing piles of trash being ignored by striking city workers. Aaahh yes, summer in the city. Nothing like the smell of rotting garbage everywhere to welcome in a new season. Adding to the foul smell all around, if this strike persists, the one place many would normally go to cool off on a 37 degree day (with the humidex), the local public pools, also closed. That means no swimming lessons for thousands of kids. One mom told me, that was going to be the entire organized activity for her kids this summer, what with the recession and all, camp was out of reach. Maybe they'll settle for a run through the sprinkler, but I doubt it. Today's kids need a schedule to adhere to; a destination. I may have been happy in 1964 with my spinning Donald Duck head on a pole attached to the garden hose, but today's children require a little more. Or is that just what we have come to believe? Frankly, I for one think most kids are way over programmed today. Looking back, I recall only one two-week period of swimming lessons at the local public pool. The class was for "pre-beginners". I failed. I failed because I refused to put my head under water when "bobbing". I was devastated. What kind of loser fails "pre-beginners"? I never went back for another lesson. My parents never cared. Hell, I wandered around the neighbourhood all day, all summer long. I knew I wasn't allowed to go past the 3 block area surrounding our house. Other than that, who knew where the hell I was; who cared? I taught myself to swim over the years in various back yard pools and northern lakes. I never got any special badges or honours, but I can save myself should the need arise. I always figured that was good enough. But no, not today. Today's kids have to get all their levels, compete with the Jone's kids for them. Then it's the bronze cross. This is a biggie. You may as well not even bother saying you can swim if you don't earn this badge. That's the one that gives you a shot at a summer job as a life guard. Too bad for all the kids who earned it recently and were planning to cash in on that coveted position this summer. Better luck next year. And it begs the question - how many jobs are actually available for life guarding here in Toronto? My guess is there are fewer jobs than qualified applicants, but maybe I'm wrong. It's a different world now - I know it and you know it. But just for once, it would be nice to see kids without plans. Our kids are so used to having plans, they likely wouldn't know what to do with themselves with out them. My daughter has never caught a polliwog, captured bumble bees in a jar with holes punched in the lid, taken care of a bird with a wounded wing in a shoe box, never pinched a piece of Timothy Hay between her thumbs and blown a tune and certainly hasn't ever played Kick the Can on a hot summer night with all the kids in the hood. Those were my summer activities. My reality. My low expectations. I think it was pretty idyllic looking back on it. Nobody provided me with an itinerary at the beginning of the summer. It just stretched out before me, seemingly endless. Nirvana. A walk to the corner store for a popsicle was considered entertainment. Who didn't love the challenge of trying to break it in two - smashing it against a curb or door edge? Who didn't get pissed off when it broke into more than two pieces? Did you share it with someone or eat it all yourself? These were big issues at 7. That's right - 7 years old, walking to the store 3 blocks from home, alone. Without an adult. Emma only started walking to school on her own at 11. And that was a stretch for some. Not sure where all this waxing nostalgic is coming from - must be the slowly rotating blades of the ceiling fan on this balmy summer night or the sound of crickets out the window. Who knows? It's always a nice trip though. Popsicle anyone?

Monday, June 22, 2009

It goes fast so lap it up while you can!

They wait for it the entire school year - the month of June. The days and months of captivity over for yet another year and parents everywhere begin to wonder if they will survive the summer. The kids are home. Sure, they get shuttled off to camps and various programs, but for the most part, they will be around. And depending on their age, will be around a little or a lot. In my case, a little. For starters, Emma has a very busy summer planned. Two weeks away at art camp. Two weeks in Scotland with her art camp buddies. That covers 4 of the 12. One week will be spent on a family vacation, so that doesn't really count as being around the house. So now we're down to 7. One week is almost over, so now we're down to 6. Since the majority of those 6 weeks (42 days for anyone who is calculating), she will be asleep for about 1/2. (literally) Now we're down to 3. Of those 3, she will spend another 1/2 with friends, away from the house. Now we're down to 1 1/2. That's 10 days. That means, all the things I thought we might be able to do this summer have to be condensed into 10 days. We always have to take at least one day for a road trip to Wasaga Beach. It's a tradition. Body-surfing for hours, guaranteed sun-burn and ice cream at Ben & Jerry's. Nine days left. One day over on the island (Toronto island) to rent a bicycle built for two and a cruise around the loop. Eight days left. One trip to visit the grandparents so they know she is still alive. Seven days left. One day to shop for camp stuff and another to shop for Scotland stuff. Five days left. Three days set aside for feeling bloaty, crampy and possibly doing nothing. Two days left. One day for back to school shopping. One day left. One stinking day. Where did the summer go? We always say that. Shit! Where did the summer go?

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Some Fathers do know Best

I knew within a nano-second of meeting my husband that he was perfect father material. I'm not even sure it was anything he said in particular, it was more to do with his calm demeanor and nurturing qualities that were the dead giveaway. Over time I would come to learn he had a great relationship with his mother, was a caring brother and supported a foster child in a third world country. All pretty good clues to his character and potential abilities to succeed at child-rearing. His first marriage did not bear fruit in that department (thank god - no baggage I thought) and he was at an age where he doubted fatherhood would ever be a role in life for him. When we met, that all changed. As my first marriage had collapsed as well before the arrival of dependents, we were both thankful we had met someone with hopes of raising a family. It wasn't too late. The road to popping out our precious princess was fraught with challenges and disappointments, but eventually we succeeded and since that day, Doug has never changed her position from the number one spot on his priority list. There's not a deadbeat dad in the world that could not benefit from his example. So listen up. For starters, he has always been completely hands-on. Where my own father never changed a stinky diaper in his life, Doug changed hundreds, maybe thousands. It was his turn at night - I had done it all day - why not? He had no aversion to mopping up puke or spilled milk, bandaging boo-boos or getting up in the middle of the night. I was lucky. God knows if his breasts could lactate, he would have pinch hit for me there too. He loved to pop out on his lunch break at work and shop for cute little dresses for her. He even chose her Christening dress from a very expensive exclusive shop and surprised me with his choice. It was beautiful (and I never would have spent so much). He got completely involved in the decorating of her nursery. I had an idea to create an English Garden (we knew it was a girl) and he painstakingly made and painted countless little wooden pickets to mount around the perimeter of her room. I added painted flowers spilling over the fence and stenciled bumble bees and butterflies in random spots hovering above the gently spiked fence posts (no sharp edges for delicate little fingers). I had decided I only wanted stuffed animals that would naturally appear in the forest (in keeping with the theme), so he came home one day with a bunny, another day with a skunk, and yet another with Bambi. When I just couldn't bear to read "Spot bakes a Cake" one more time, he would take over no matter how tired he was and how long his day had been. Bedtime was one of her favorite parts of the day, I'm sure. She loved being read to and we both did our share and our own versions of the stories much to her delight. As the years have passed, he has taught her to swim like a fish, catch and hit a baseball, swing a tennis racquet, putt a golf ball and bake a cake. He has tutored her in math and science, shown her how to read the stock report, manage her money, value a dollar, encouraged her to do her best always and spent countless hours talking to her and taking her out on "daddy/daughter dates." He makes an effort to include her opinions and thoughts on all decisions affecting the family. She gets a say, but doesn't always win, just like in real life. As role models go, the boys and men in her future will have to work hard to compete or measure up. Now that she is a young woman, she is still open with him. From what I hear, this is not so common. She cautiously feels him out to see if he flinches if she mentions her crushes but feels safe to tell him about them. She relies on his expertise (reluctantly sometimes) for advice. He is her rock, her constant. She turns to me and rolls her eyes when he says things she thinks are lame or corny, but would miss his ramblings if they weren't uttered so regularly. He never shys away from telling her she is smart, capable, pretty and loved. As daughters go, she is no doubt fortunate to have him as her father. So tomorrow when she presents him with a funny card, a round of golf and 24 new Calloway balls, he can rest assured he deserves her gifts, even though it's always made clear it is she who is his gift. Happy Father's Day to all the dad's who deserve it. You know who you are.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Looks like you can fight City Hall

Ahhh, yes, today I feel satisfied. The squeaky wheel got some oil. Doing my happy dance. I took on city hall and won. Just like that. A few blogs back you may recall I was ranting about the garbage bins across the street placed in an undesirable location. They were close to the street in full view of our homes and were beginning to attract illegal dumping of old tires, computers and god knows what else. When I mentioned the problem to the management at the old Inn, it was pretty apparent they weren't going to make any changes. It was time to write a letter. So I wrote a lengthy yet diplomatic letter to our city councillor alerting her to the situation and suggesting changes. I copied her boss and had several neighbours sign a petition asking for the bins to be moved or camouflaged somehow. I mailed the letter about 6 business days ago. It came as quite a surprise when a reply arrived in the mail today - so soon after they had received our complaint. As I was opening the envelope, I really expected it to be a standard response sent by her secretary saying they had received our letter and would look into the matter - a receipt letter so to speak. I was wrong. Instead, the letter told me of the action that had already taken place. The management of The Montgomery Inn had been contacted, quotes were being presented for a more attractive wood surround to conceal the eyesore bins and they would no longer be placing their green bins out 2 days early to the delight of the local raccoon population. As soon as the solution was in place, the Inn management would be contacting the surrounding neighbours to explain their plan. I nearly fell over. Either we have one of the most effective politicians working on our behalf, or there is an election coming up. Whatever the motivation on her part (Gloria Lindsay Luby), she can rest assured now that she does have our vote and that by satisfying her constituents in this quick and efficient manner will provide her with unlimited word-of-mouth good will. Why, I just got back from a luncheon with 8 local women, told the story, now they will repeat the story to countless other neighbours and so on and so on. Imagine the alternative - nothing was done, we were all still upset and bad-mouthing the powers that be. This minor move on behalf of a few angry tax-payers will pay her dividends for years to come. I like a smart woman. It's nice to know we have one on our side.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The meat in the middle

I just knocked back a couple of stiff Jamaican rum and diet cokes, so let me say right now at the outset that I am not responsible for anything here that may offend. For the past 24 hrs I have had to juggle my usual work and family responsibilities with the added pressure of being "helpful daughter" to my out-of-town parents who had to make the trip to the big smoke for arterial unclogging surgery for my dad. The plans had been in place for several weeks leading up to the scheduled date and just when I thought I had it all under control, the surgery got post-poned for the following week. The wrench had been thrown into the "best-laid-plans" and I was helpless to re-arrange the even busier week now ahead of me. I like to think I am still pretty good at "going with the flow" and can handle anything with finesse and calm. Now I'm not so sure. Not wanting to upset the already anxious parents, I assured them I would be available to them. "Don't worry I said, I'll be able to drive you wherever you like, any time day or night." I had no idea at the time it would mean getting up before the sun comes up to deposit them at a downtown hospital, having watered and fed them the night before, giving up my much cherished queen-sized pillow top mattress for their comfort, and choosing which "too small bed" to bunk in for the night. My daughter's double or the double in the guest room with my husband. Since he is much larger and snores, I picked my daughter, thinking it would be easier, but she is not exactly keen to have mom hanging with her in her cave, so that didn't exactly go as planned either. She didn't want to go to bed as early as me since she didn't need to arise at the break of day, so she grabbed the best pillow and headed for the family room and the sofa. I didn't complain. Before long (about 1 hour) she stumbled back into her (for one night - our) room and as I insisted she get on the inside (knowing I had to escape early) caused enough of a stir, assuring I was now fully awake again, unable to fall back to sleep. About 30 minutes after that disruption, I finally started to drift off (on my bad side) only to be awakened again by the sound of the parents getting up for the day a good two hours before the planned departure time. (as though they had a plane to catch) The door was ajar, so in addition to the sounds of family, unfamiliar with the lay of the land, stumbling around, the light from the adjacent room (mine) came pouring in like the sun coming up over the horizon. At that point, I stumbled out of my daughter's bed, tripping over the piles of crap on her floor and closed the door, hoping for a few more precious moments of shut-eye before it was time to put on my chauffeur's cap to head downtown. Once the parents were safely deposited at the hospital, I made the traffic-free return trip (it was 5:45 am) thinking I might see if I could crawl back into bed for a little more beauty sleep, but that was wishful thinking. By now, the sun was up and the day was dawning and driving around town at that hour had sort of invigorated me. Starbucks was not even open yet, much to my surprise, so I slummed it and wheeled into a Tim Horton's for some mediocre java, drove home and collected the paper off the front porch and the day was underway. That was the first of three trips I was going to have to make to the hospital. I waited until after rush-hour to collect my weary mother who had been there all day, brought her home, fed her and watered her again and that's when I decided on the second Jamaican Rum (Mt. Gay - it's the best) and diet coke. I think I get some of my best blog ideas when I am a tad tipsy and now that I am sitting here rambling on and on about my dreary day, I can relate to the greats, like Hemingway and Hunter S. Thompson who wrote some of their best material while under the influence of all things fermented or grown under very large lights. Now, as I sit here, the house is quiet once again, the daughter quietly reading across the room, exhausted mother folded into my 800 thread count sheets and perfect blend goose down pillows from the Four Seasons collection, husband tucked into the cosy guest room and me, mildly buzzed, thinking it's almost time to call it a day. One more trip to the hospital in the morning to retrieve the patient and bring him home to St. Catharines to recuperate in the comfort of his own home, and that should just about do it. My life will return to normal, everyone will retreat to their own beds and one more bump in the road of life will have been smoothed over. The surgery was successful, mom got a decent night's sleep with out him, the nurses at the hospital will earn their wages tonight and I will get my much needed night in the land of nod. Whoever came up with the descriptive "sandwich generation" must have had me in mind. Now I get it.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

It ain't over til the last tile is laid!

It only took about 7 years, but it finally happened. Seven years of coaching, allowing minor cheating and ruthless competing. It had happened on a couple of other occasions, but not legitimately, so I never considered them real victories. But last night, I let my guard down when I was ahead by about 60 points, started to coast and lost my focus when she pounced. Emma beat me at Scrabble. Arrrgggh! Say it ain't so! She is still only 14. How could I let this happen? Emma and I have had an ongoing competition at Scrabble that other parent/child relationships may not have survived. I insisted she finish games she was hopelessly losing. I pointed out time and time again how she had wasted high point letters and missed triples and doubles by not thinking. She would get so angry with me sometimes, I couldn't believe she ever suggested playing again. But eventually she always came around and it was "game-on". Even my husband chastised me from time to time. "Jesus, Deb, let her win once in awhile." I always said no - that was his shtick, not mine. I wanted her to learn to win on her own accord. No gimmes for this kid. She was gonna work for it. She would beg to use foreign words. "No," I would tell her. "Can I pluralize that word, Mom?" "No", I would reply again. "I don't want to play anymore," she would say. "I never get any good letters," she would whine. "I wanted to use that triple; you took my spot!" she'd pout. "You need to think strategy more Emma," I would insist. Last night as it looked as though I was sailing to yet another trounce, it was I who stopped paying attention to strategy. It was I who wasted letters on useless point squares, so sure I had won, I stopped trying. I even asked her if she wanted to pack it in. "No mom, I don't." She surprised me a little at that moment, but I let her keep some hope for a winning outcome. For once, she scanned the board for her best odds, she created squares and blocks and took advantage of every double letter, double word, triple letter, triple word and in a most spectacular come- from- behind second wind, she, my beautiful determined daughter, crossed the finish line with triumph and glee in her face and her voice and screamed, "Aha! Mom! - I beat you by ONE POINT!" I didn't ask for a re-count. I didn't challenge her words. I looked at her joyous face and raised my hand in the air and we high-fived and I knew all my tough-love tactics had finally paid off. She won on her own accord, with no gimmes, no bending of the rules and she won the game fair and square. She could have taken on the world at that moment. I would have encouraged her to do so. Instead, she wants to play me again tonight. I wonder why? Best 2 out of 3 maybe? I'll give her the option.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Should old acquaintance be forgot ? - Never!

"Making your way in the world today takes everything you've got. Taking a break from all your worries, sure would help a lot." from the Cheers theme song
I had dinner last night with an ex-bartender, an ex-restaurant manager and a waitress. In other words, I hooked up with three women I worked with at a neighbourhood bar about 24 years ago. Imagine the "Cheers" bar of 80's TV fame and that was it, a place where "everyone knew your name". It was great. We had quite a few laughs about old times and told stories only the four of us could relate to over drinks and Greek food on The Danforth. The thing I came away with was how little people really change over time. Each old friend had taken paths away from the restaurant business with one exception, yet we all shared a bit of our life history that bonded us together even now in a warm and unique way that I will always cherish. Only two of us had children, and I was the only one still married. One is still working as a waitress and the other two never ventured far from the old neighborhood where we once worked, one living in Riverdale, the other in The Beach. One an accountant working in the movie industry, the other the administrator of a large medical clinic. Although I seemed to be the odd man out in some ways, living in the west end with a husband and my own business, and they in the east, we had more in common than we had differences. The real common bond was our age ( I was still the youngest - Yeah!) and the fact that as women in mid-life, no matter what direction our lives had taken, we all faced the same challenges in one way or another. We all worry about our kids, our families, our ever-increasing laugh lines and we all celebrate our kids, our families and our ever-increasing laugh lines. Those lines tell our stories and not one of us had regrets about how they got there. On the whole, we didn't look too bad for a group of old broads. There was no question, we all still possessed the same spirit and joie de la vie that drew us together in the first place and it was fun to relive the crazy days of times past. We offered up our knowledge of "what ever happened to so and so? ", and got teary-eyed over the recent death of one old colleague from back in the day. How could she be dead? She was the one we all thought would set the world on fire. Turns out she fell into a tailspin of booze and drugs that finally did her in. It was unthinkable. But true. It's funny. I have worked at many jobs in my life, some longer than others, but for some reason, this little known bar in Toronto's east end where I spent three years during university serving up drinks and chicken wings was one of the most fun places I ever toiled. And apparently, some of the people I worked with there turned out to be life long friends. Go figure. Maybe it's because we all know some of each others naughty secrets. Maybe it's more. All I know is - I'll always enjoy these women. Catching up with them from time to time reminds us all where we came from and that's always a good thing. No pretension. No kidding!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Worth the Drive to Pontypool

Every now and again, it happens. We book a twosome and we actually get to golf as a twosome! The sun was shining, the temperature was perfect and I had one of my best rounds ever. I hit a near impossible chip out of a steep greenside bunker landing it inches from the pin. Two foursomes even waved us through. We completed the round in 3 1/2 hours. Does it get any better than that? Rarely. We golfed for the second time in 10 days at a course called Black Diamond near Peterborough, a bit of a hike for sure, but so worth the time to get there. As the course is in Pontypool, it's just far enough out of the GTA to make you feel like you're in the Kawartha's cottage country and there isn't a house around for miles. The smell of pine trees along the fairways, just the odd mosquito to make it authentic, the only thing missing was a dock at the clubhouse to run down after the round and jump in the lake. We settled for a couple of icy cold draught beers on the deck overlooking the 18th hole and the hilly countryside beyond, where we rehashed our many moments of brilliance on the course. That's the crazy thing about golf. All it takes is the odd perfect drive or high arching 9 iron that lands inches from the pin to remind you why you love the game so much. Just yesterday, the front nine at another course had me wondering why the hell I ever took up this humbling sport in the first place. It was disastrous. We were sent off with a single - a club member who knew the course inside and out. He executed shot after perfect shot, while I shanked one tee shot after another. To make matters worse, he hummed, talked and sang to himself like some sort of deranged quack. He claimed he was a high school teacher. Ya, I thought, probably special ed. He was just plain strange and weird and I allowed him to completely throw off my chi. After he left us at the ninth hole, suddenly I started playing well. Guess he took his voodoo vibe with him - that's how it seemed to me anyway. So today, when I did not have to contend with any distracting strangers, I was relaxed and in the zone. It begs the question - how do the pros do it? Golfing in front of huge crowds all the time. How do they play within themselves, blocking out their surroundings? That alone is a feat. If I can barely ignore one or two other players, how would I ever play in front of an audience? Lucky for me, I won't be turning pro any time soon. One less thing to worry about, unless I can pull off that bunker shot everytime!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Hot at 63? I'll take lukewarm.

What would I do without the Globe & Mail to feed me so many of my blog ideas? This morning's blog food comes from Judith Timson's column (I read her faithfully). Her blog (er, column) today addressed a subject near and dear to my heart these days - women aging in a youth-obsessed society. She had been to the Tarragon Theatre to see Body & Soul, "a provocative play about the second act of womanhood" by playwright Judith Thompson. Essentially the play is about 12 "real" women and their varied life experiences told in an interweaving monologue. It talks to the reality of being older than 45 in this world of ours. I have not seen the play, but after reading her take on it, I think I'll grab a couple of my 45 plus friends and check it out. Sounds a bit like the continuing saga of the "Vagina Monologues" that I saw a few years back, only more poignant and less focused on any one body part. Timson referred to a recent photo that is making the rounds in the tabloids of Helen Mirren in a red bikini looking incredibly "hot" at 63. She eventually concludes that although looks may be important (at any age), the thing that makes women both "powerful and sexy" is her past and what she has learned from it. Although I would concur with that sentiment, it's not an easy road to that state of self-acceptance. I have one friend who once told me she "felt invisible". The mother of two beautiful daughters, she had come to the realization that she could no longer count on her own beauty to attract male attention (or any attention for that matter). She said she really noticed it whenever she was out with her daughters and she may as well not even be there. I think it is surely more difficult for women who were particularly beautiful in their youth to accept the shift from "visible to invisible". Another friend had a "cougar" experience much like the one I had in New York a couple of years ago. She had attended her high school reunion and one of her old classmates said she looked like a cougar. She was not so familiar with the term (not sure where she has been), but regardless, being referred to as a "cougar" is actually now considered (by some, myself included) a compliment; not the insult it was originally meant to be. God, at this age, we'll take anything we can get. As long as the "cougar" moniker is only applied as the result of one's looks, and not toward any action one may have taken, if you know what I mean. So, let's say you still look fairly put together and the gene pool has been kind to you, to the point you may look a few years younger than you really are, and all that helps with the transitioning to mid-life. What's next? No matter how many Pilate's classes and rounds of botox, the next stage is just looming out there, sneaking up daily waiting to pounce. You better be ready ladies, there's no where to hide. Even if you had Joan River's surgeon on your speed dial, the clock is ticking and life is short. Too short to worry so much about why you don't look "hot" in a bikini at 63. That's why I loved the final paragraph in Timson's piece about the play. Apparently, one of the characters sums up her thoughts on aging, saying that one of the real advantages to growing older goes something like this: "I used to care what people say. Now I don't give a shit!" Amen to that, sista!

Monday, June 8, 2009

Long Live my Blog!

Just finished reading an article in the Globe & Mail about the abysmal failure rate of blogs. Apparently only 5% of all blogs are updated regularly and the remainder are eventually abandoned altogether. There were several reasons for abandonment, but the underlying theme seemed to be that bloggers were disappointed that their blogs were not read enough or that they ran out of stuff to talk about. I could relate to both of those. However, I suspect that the 95% of abandoned blogs might have something to do with the initial motivation of the bloggers for blogging. Most, according the the article wanted their voices heard or fantasized about landing a book deal. Kind of like having kids to see what they will look like. Bad idea. The chances of the book deal are slim to none and if you want your voice heard that badly, maybe politics or evangelism might be a better route. If you are like me, and you just want to write for the pure joy of writing, you may end up in the smaller 5% that actually carry on.....day after bloggy day. I said to myself when I started doing this, that I wanted to prove to myself that the simple joy of writing was my prime motivation. I wanted to see if I had the chops to sit down and create a little story everyday. If I couldn't do that, what hope did I have of ever producing longer pieces, or short stories or the big dream - a novel. So when I learned this morning that the odds are really stacked against me, it was as though someone had thrown down the gauntlet! I'll show them - I won't be in the 95%. I will not abandon my blog. I won't be the majority who gains back the weight they lost (been there, done that), I won't be the ex-smoker who takes up the habit again (succeeded on that one, thank god), I won't throw in the towel. Who cares if no one is reading me? Who cares if I never get a book deal? I will continue to view it as a daily ritual. A meditation so to speak. I will live in the moment like Eckhardt Tolle. I will not allow the past or the future to get in the way of the now. Not yet anyway.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Cry me a River

So sue me! I just asked Emma if she had noticed that I left my movie disc from two nights ago in her laptop by mistake. "Ya, mom, I took it out - it's on my desk." I told her to make sure she gave it back to me so it didn't get lost as it was one of my top two favorite movies of all time. "God, Mom,' she said, one of your top two movies is The Bridges of Madison County?, what's the second?" "That would be Out of Africa," I told her. "You're telling me, your top two movies of all time are both sappy romantic films like that?," she said rolling her eyes at me. She is 14. She thinks Michael Cera is dreamy. What does she know? "One day you might understand the power of a romantic film," I told her. She walked away, waving me off as though I was the one who needed to examine my choices. So be it. At her age, I thought, I was different. I have always been a sucker for a tale of unrequited love. It's who I am. I make no apologies. I can practically recite Meryl Streep's lines in Out of Africa by heart from the scene where she has lost everything she worked for and dreamed of as she sits on a wooden crate in her empty shell of a house, reading poetry and smoking a cigarette, then, as though things aren't bad enough, her ex-husband arrives to tell her the tragic news of her one true love's death. If they ever made a live stage version, I would surely be able to "read" for the part in the most convincing way even though I have never acted in my life. Just running the lines through my head chokes me up. Then again, I can weep over a TV commercial. The years don't make me better, they just make me worse. I used to be really embarrassed by my emotions. Now, just slightly. And it depends on my audience. If I start to cry at a movie with Emma next to me, she outs me immediately, leaning forward in her seat to see if I'm spilling any tears and then proceeds to mock me. It pisses me off, because her critical observations of my emotional state take me away from completely drowning in the moment. "Leave me alone to wallow," I want to tell her. "You're ruining the moment for me." Children can be cruel. Their problem is, they haven't yet experienced the agony of a broken heart or the pain of loss. They are just learning about the world. I want her to know it's OK to feel. It's taken me years to learn that and sometimes I still feel shamed by my own emotions at times. If she had been a boy, it would be worse. At least girls are expected to express their emotions. Boys, not so much. I will admit, these peri-menopausal years have me riding an emotional roller coaster. Everyday, it seems, presents a new opportunity to cry. The newspapers, the TV news, TV commercials (really pathetic I know), a homeless person on the street, doesn't take much to stir me these days. Some days I need to drink extra glasses of water to replace the lost fluids. Will I be this way forever? Frankly, I hope so. If I stop feeling, I might be dead.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Long Gone are the Days of "Dirt and Worms"

Last night I had dinner out with my daughter. Being an only child, she probably gets to eat out in restaurants more often than most kids her age. In fact, on two occasions of late, she has taken herself to the local Thai joint and sat and had dinner alone while Doug and I were out. She brings a book and is quite comfortable on her own. (I think I was 30 before I tried that!) Over the years, she has matured into a very enjoyable dinner companion. I take this for granted most of the time, but last night it came to light through a different lens. We went out early to a small Italian place in Bloor West Village that she had been curious about for some time. I have been there a few times, so I knew it wouldn't be the cheap and cheerful bite I had in mind, but I capitulated to her suggestion and off we went. I reasoned since it was just the two of us (Doug was at a work function) it wouldn't be too painful on my pocketbook. (I have a real pet peeve about paying more than $10 for a plate of pasta, no matter how exotic the toppings and sauces). As we were early, we got a primo seat right in the window allowing us to watch the world go by (OK, maybe not the world, just local Bloor West residents), and for the first half of our meal, we enjoyed complete privacy. Just as our entrees arrived, so did what was evidently a regular customer at the restaurant. Next to our table, another small deuce sat unoccupied, the space between our table and it, barely left enough space to squeeze between. The remainder of the restaurant easily had more than two thirds of the tables available, but she insisted on sitting in the table next to us. Since she was dining alone, I knew our entire conversation would be her evening's entertainment. It was inevitable. She was an older woman - late sixties, early seventies perhaps, nicely dressed and conversed with the staff in a familiar manner. She made her presence known. Now Emma and I would need to lower our voices slightly and possibly edit our conversation to some degree. Nothing too personal, that's for sure. What I began to notice was how Emma took this intrusion without batting an eyelash. Now that I was more keenly aware of everything that we talked about, I started to realize how much she has grown up. In the not so long ago past, she might have started getting a bit fidgety waiting for her food, started playing with the sugar packets on the table, would continuously ask me what time it was, stuff like that. Instead, now she asked me questions like " Do you think you'll visit the Met this time in New York, Mom?" and "What part of Scotland did you see when you were there?". It was a real adult conversation. We talked about what role she wanted to play in her film program at camp in a few weeks. We had a catty little chuckle observing an ultra-thin woman who left her dinner companion every 10 minutes to go outside and have a smoke. "No wonder she's such a skinny bitch! Bet she can't even taste her food anymore!" She commented on her pasta dish, like a genuine gourmet critic. (the tiger shrimp needed more garlic). She wondered aloud "what kind of dessert menu do you think they have here, Mom?" (I knew that one was coming.) Although she wanted to order the triple chocolate raspberry cake, she decided to try the Tiramisu as she had always wondered what that was like and was glad that she did. Our audience of one had suggested she try the chocolate, grand marnier cheesecake that was the special dessert of the day, but Emma decided it might not be the best choice for her waistline. As I sat drinking my decaf coffee while watching her enjoy her dessert, ("Mom, you have to have a bite, it's amazing!") I couldn't help feeling proud of her. I imagined she had left a good impression on the woman beside us, as she certainly had on me. I knew before last night, she had good table manners and was capable of adult conversation, but hearing it through a stranger's ears confirmed it for me. Last night, my kid made spending $72 on a pasta dinner worth every penny. The good news is, she still likes Kraft dinner now and again! (good thing, cause that's what she'll be getting next!)

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

The Ultimate Real Estate

I've often wondered what it would be like to live somewhere other than a standard house. I have always been fascinated by the thought of living on a houseboat or a giant tree house or the ultimate accommodation - a lighthouse. I could imagine finally getting down to the business of writing my novel whilst watching a storm rolling in off the ocean. There is something quite appealing about the solitude and the connection with nature that would come with the address. Although I know nothing about the duties and responsibilities of being a lighthouse keeper, the job itself seems perfect. Reporting the weather, communicating with passing vessels, all within the confines of what amounts to as a giant turret. Bliss. There is a mystery and a romance to it that is compelling. I've never known a lighthouse keeper. Do they live alone? Do they raise families in them? Whenever I have been near a lighthouse, there has never been any sign of inhabitants. Maybe they had driven into town when I was there. Maybe they didn't like talking to anybody and when they saw me snooping around, they holed up in their red and white tower of circular stairs. If I could, I would want the observation tower to have a spot to sit and read and write. A place to sleep would be good too, so you could wake up high atop your perch to an ocean view. Or do the keepers live in a little cottage outside the tower? That way, they just step outside their door to go to work. Either way, it seems like a great gig. There would be no room for excess stuff. Everything would have a purpose and a home, like a sailboat. Space would be at a premium. Minimalist living at the ultimate best. I would have a heavy bright yellow rain slicker hanging on a hook by the door and top quality wellies for rainy weather. In the summer months, I would have a small garden to tend with herbs and veggies, reducing the need for trips into town for every little thing. Not so different from where I live now in that regard, except without the traffic and neighbours. And the best part of all, someone would pay you for the privilege. Who gets these jobs? Is there a college course you can take - Lighthouse Keeper 101? Sign me up!

Monday, June 1, 2009

Have you heard the one about the balloon salesman and the Tour Guide?

Think of some of the great big screen, big love, couples. Bogey and Bacall, Scarlett and Rhett, Katie and Hubble, Harry and Sally, Babe and Farmer Hogget - OK maybe not them.( just wanted to make sure you were paying attention) Now you can add Carl and Ellie to the list. Carl and Ellie are the soul mates of all soul mates in the new Disney/Pixar film, Up. I don't want to write a spoiler review here, so I won't say much more other than how skillful the film makers had to be to create two characters the audience falls in love with, within a nano-second of the opening credits and had me in tears in the first 10 minutes of the movie. Not just me - most of the audience too. In fact, if I wasn't so practiced at stopping it, I could have launched into what Oprah refers to as the "ugly cry". The all out noisy sobbing we only allow ourselves when no one is around to hear. In this country anyway. I've always felt the true hallmark of a great film is one that can make me laugh and cry.....and think. Up scored on all counts. Nothing new or controversial in the thinking part, just a reminder to live in the moment and count your blessings. Who among us doesn't need to be reminded to do that once in awhile? Go see Up. Get reminded. Bring tissue.