Saturday, November 30

Portrait of a Young Man



Dear Ben,

I wrote my first letter to you on September 12, 2001. 

You weren’t born yet, but the world trade towers had fallen the day before. In an instant everything had changed, and yet everything kept grinding forward just like always. For days after we watched the news, stunned. And every night, I would stand in the bedroom that was ready to be your nursery. I would look around at the small diapers that already lined your dresser drawers and wonder what sort of fucked up world we were bringing you into. My first letter to you was an apology. But then you were born and they turned into letters of awe. Everything about you amazed me.

Three months later you stopped breathing and my heart stopped with you. I called 911 and laid you on the bed in a patch sun while I pulled on a pair of jeans. I watched your skin turn grey and I repeated the first words that you ever heard from a nurse named Sylvia: breathe, baby, breathe. When the firemen barged through the door, I shoved you into their arms. Later, I wrote you letters while I stayed with you in the hospital. At night, I watched the numbers on your oxygen monitors and made deals with a god that I didn’t believe in.

Recently you’ve become interested in these letters so I’ve started picking through them. It’s hard to find any that are age appropriate. Most of them deal with the bigger stuff, the messy things in life that will eventually get your heart muddy and bruised. I’ve already said this before, but I hope your heart gets a little battered. I hope you fall in love with the wrong person, just once. I hope you lose a job, I hope you lose your way. All of these things, all of the little nicks and scrapes you accumulate over the years will make you appreciate the good things in life.

And there are a lot of good things, Ben.  There are so many good things.

For starters, make sure you savour the sound of a late night, summer rain. Learn to love driving in the fog. Learn how to downshift. Have a favourite smell, a favourite colour, a favourite number.  Have a team that you’ll always bet on, no matter what. Root for the home team or the underdog, but never, ever root for the Habs. Always stop to buy the watered-down lemonade that kids are selling on the side of the road. Say yes to Girl Guide Cookies. Be quick to laugh at yourself. Be quick to forgive. Be quick to move on.

But outside of that, outside of telling you to appreciate life, I’m not sure how much I have left to teach you.

You already have an honest, generous heart, and that’s all I ever wanted for you. I suppose I could give you advice on being twelve, but -  frankly speaking - you seem to have a good handle on that. You have a good handle on a lot of things and if anything, I’m continually learning from you.

One of the things I admire about you is how fearless you are. It hits me every time I drop you off at a school dance. On the drive there I’ll ask you, “Do you know who’s going? Are you meeting up with someone? Are you sure you don’t want me to stick around for a few minutes?

You always shrug because you’re confident that someone you know will be there.  That it will be fun. You’re so independent. Meanwhile, I have a hard time psyching myself up for some of Darlene’s pool parties. Jesus, how do you do that? How are you that relaxed in your own skin? Do you have any idea how rare that is? Frankly, kid, I’m jealous. I’ve never been like that. When I was your age I spent a lot of time in the library at school hiding from the kids who thought I stuffed my bra. High school didn’t feel much better. To be honest, I didn’t start finding my voice until a few years ago. Even now, there are still moments when I have a hard time ignoring the negative chatter in my head.  The voice that says I’m not funny enough, smart enough, or pretty enough to matter. And yet, you. You are so thankfully, not me. You are bold in a way that I’ve never been.

But there are so many other things that I love about you too.

I love seeing you run ahead to hold the door open for someone. I love how quick you are to offer me your piggy bank anytime you see me frowning over a bill that needs paying. I love your willingness to forgive people when they disappoint you. In a lot of ways, I feel like you’re already a much better person than me. And yet at the same time, we’re so much alike too. You love books, and music, and you gobble up trivia like its candy. I love that you think our kitchen dance parties are hilarious. I fucking love your manners. And I love that you think it’s funny when I swear.

So really, you seem to be doing just fine and I think twelve will be breeze for you.

Still, if there’s one piece of advice I can give you, it’s this:  The White Album.

If you’re ever forced to pick one album above everything else, this is the one to put your money on. It was written when the Beatles were on the verge of breaking up, and a bunch of the tracks were actually recorded solo. The music is arguably their best, but there’s a deeper lesson there for you, Ben, if you’re paying attention.

The lesson is this: good things can come out of bad times.

Shitty things are going to happen in your life - someone will break your heart, you may wake up one day and hate your job, someone you love will die. But the only thing that matters is whether or not you deal with it head on. Whether or not you have the good sense to keep milking the joy out of life. So be honest with people. Be generous with your time and forgiveness. Keep your heart open.

And when all else fails, put on the White Album and turn that shit up really loud.


Happy birthday, bug.

I Love you,
Mom


Tuesday, November 12

It’s Amazing, But Legally I'm Considered A Functioning Adult

Yesterday morning I couldn’t find my bra.

It was Monday and sometimes these things happen. Especially if you wake up on a Sunday at 5 a.m. and decide that it’s a good day to repaint your bedroom. For future reference, all decisions made at 5 a.m. should be immediately disregarded as “Bad Ideas” because nothing good happens at 5 a.m. ...NOTHING. 

Regardless, I am a fool. So obviously I thought, “Yes, self: Let’s Do This.”

After I met Darlene for breakfast, I came home and started dragging everything out into the living room. Then I systematically sorted everything into piles: keep, donate, and what the fuck is that? As you can guess, the What The Fuck is That pile was the biggest one.

While I was cleaning, I found a few of Ben’s old report cards, a huge binder of paper work from my divorce, and – speaking of my divorce – a pair of my ex-husband’s socks. I’ll admit, for a few seconds I snickered at the idea of giving them back, but ultimately, I threw the socks into the WTF pile. Next, I found a few old journals from high school. Obviously I sat down to read them because if there is one thing I do better than stress cleaning, it’s procrastinating.

It turns out that I was a terrible poet in high school.

I’m still a terrible poet, but at least now I have the good sense not to write poetry.

It also turns out that I was madly in love with three different boys. Apparently I cycled through idolizing them on a fairly regular basis. I’m assuming their ranking depended on whether or not they accidentally made eye contact with me that particular week. When I wasn’t quietly mooning over boys, I used to sit outside my locker surveying  students on the important, hot topic issues of our day. Like, for example, whether or not the cafeteria should consider selling Twizzlers instead of Nibs. The results of those surveys are in my journals, right next to a tally of how much money my cousin, Dean, was able to pan-handle during our breaks. One day he earned a record breaking 23.18 plus a few IOUs. 

Midway through cleaning, I decide I’m getting rid of my dresser. It seems like the next logical thing to do, so I dump everything out of the drawers onto the couch, and start pushing it towards the door. Ben asks if I need help. The obvious answer is yes but I shake my head and say the two words my therapist hates most. “I’m fine.”

This is how I ended up stuck halfway down my stairwell with a dresser braced against my back; giggling, swearing, and bleeding.

Ben comes to the top of the stairs. “Did you call me?” he wants to know.

I take a breath, stopping to push my hair off my face. My ear is ringing and I have to focus in order to push back the vertigo. “No,” I tell him. “I was just swearing at the dresser. Everything’s fine.”

Everything is not fine. The Philippines have just been slammed by a typhoon, Rob Ford is still mayor, and I’m about three seconds away from breaking my neck on my own goddamn stairs. It’s bad enough that I’m a shitty poet, I think. Now this.

I laugh again. “Really, honey. It’s okay. I got this.”  

I can tell Ben’s skeptical because he lingers on the landing for a few seconds, watching.

I take another step forward and let the dresser slam down another few steps.

“Go on,” I tell Ben.

He disappears and I let the dresser slip forward again. One of the drawers slides out and whacks the back of my head. I’m realizing, too late, that I shouldn’t have put the drawers back into the dresser.  I get irritated and grumble, “Oh for fucks sake.” 

I shove the dresser backwards so that it falls onto its side. The drawers slide closed, but now the dresser starts to slide down the steps like a toboggan. It hits me in the shin. I shove it again, pissed off for real this time, and it pinches my fingers. “Are you fucking kidding me?” I snap at it. “Stop being such an asshole.”

I move down another step and the dresser slides with me, scraping the palm of my hand.

Now I know there is no clinical evidence supporting this, but I think swearing at things makes you stronger. And I promise you, I swore so many words at that dresser. Most of which were things passed down to me by the temper of my father who once swore a tractor into submission (to say nothing of the beating he laid on our old Datsun). 

By the time I was done swearing, I’d managed to lift the dresser with a single finger and hurtle it over my head and down the rest of the stairs. Or it fell the last few feet, nearly crushing my bare toes in the process.  Really, who can say for sure?

The point is, by Monday morning my bedroom still wasn’t painted, or even close to being put back together, and it took me a few long minutes of searching before I could find my bra, still on the couch under a pile of summer t-shirts and socks. 


But that dresser? Well that dresser knows who’s boss, that’s for damn sure. 

Wednesday, July 24

Vagina Rockets, Rickets, And Nuns

The line between vagina rockets and masturbating nuns is finer than you would think:




Sunday, June 16

African Violets

My grandmother raised African Violets. She had pots of them all over her house and their tiny yellow and purple heads would poke up through the ruffled leaves. She’d pinch off the dying ones and stick shaky fingers into the soil to gauge whether or not it needed more water. Occasionally she’d send a plant home with my mom. My mom, of course, has never met an African Violet she can’t kill.

After a few weeks of neglect, the plants would come back to my grandmother. Their heads would be dry and brown, and their leaves crinkled like old butcher paper. My grandmother would nurse them back to life. She’d always say there was too much water, or not enough. Too much sunlight, or not enough.

My mother, exasperated, would say, “Why do you keep giving them to me then?”

And she wouldn’t answer.

Occasionally I’d get caught poking my thumbnail through the green leaves. I liked to feel it split against my skin. Sometimes they would die, but the leaves that healed were left marked with a moon-shaped scar.

It turns out, people leave marks on you too.

*

In grade twelve, I took three English classes back-to-back. I studied Alice in Wonderland. I read Mein Kampf and essays by Erma Bombeck. I weeded out the poets I hated and found a few favourites. During my spares I’d sit in the library and alternate between reading The Hockey News and old MacLeans magazines.

I started journaling every day for Writer’s Craft.

Sometimes I would skip classes to write in the hallway outside my locker. None of my English teachers seemed to mind when I handed my work in to the wrong person, or that I came to class barefoot.

In high school I felt like a shadow. I liked boys who didn’t like me back. I wrote terrible poetry, and essays about baking the perfect batch of chocolate chip cookies. I permed my hair and failed mathematics. My parents pressed me about what I wanted to do after school.

“Write.”

Along the way that plan got derailed, but I still journal every day.

Back then, I used to look around at the other kids handing in their journals. I used to wonder if they were as fucked up as I felt on the inside. The only one who knew for certain was Mme Long. Once a week, my journal would come back littered with red marks in the margins. It turns out I’m shit with commas, but I’m good with a metaphor.

A few years ago, when I was still going to marriage counseling, I’d pass people leaving my therapists office. We’d make furtive eye contact, bend our heads and offer each other terse smiles in the lobby. I used to wonder about them too. Which one of you is shell shocked, and which one of you is doing all the bombing?

The only one who knew for certain was our therapist.


*

I went back to therapy a few months ago. We talk fast, and in code. We slip easily into metaphors and similes.  I tell her “There is no safety net” when really I mean, “Financially I’m on my own and this sucks because I’ll never have enough money to retire.”

She tries to reframe it in a positive way. She doles out her own red marks in language that is meant to be validating. She tells me that I am my own safety net. She reminds me that I’m a strong person. She says that I’m a loving mother to my very dear son.

“Being alone can be liberating.”

“Bullshit,” I say. “Being alone is scary. What if I lose my job? There is nothing liberating about the food bank.”

*

At work I have an orchid that I’ve kept alive for more than five years. Once, I pulled it out of the pot and hacked off most of the roots with a pair of office scissors. It still keeps blooming; twice a year it sprouts a branch so heavy with flowers that it sags against the stake I’ve pushed into the soil.

I think about my grandmother whenever I split one of the leaves with my thumb.  

*

For our final exam Mme Long tells everyone that I know the poem we’re about to be tested on. A few kids look at me and press me for last minute hints, but honestly, I don’t have a clue. It’s not until I turn the paper over and see Richard Cory staring back at me that I realize how closely she listens.

People leave marks on you.

Some of them take years to get over. Some marks make you doubt all the things you swear you thought you knew. Some of the marks leave you with wet, sticky lungs that refuse to properly breathe. But some of those marks are left by people who push you to push yourself.

Some of those marks are left by teachers who know you well enough to test you on your favourite poem.

*

Next year they’re cancelling Writer’s Craft because not enough kids are signing up for the class.

I’ve been thinking about it a lot this week. There’s no questioning the value of learning to write well. Professionally we use the tools we learn in English classes every day. They get us jobs, and help us articulate our way through meetings and presentations. They also enable us to communicate a tactful ‘fuck you’ without getting fired.

But Writer’s Craft was more than language as a tool. Writer’s Craft was more about life through language.

And that’s the part that makes me saddest. 

Twenty years later, I’m willing to bet that I wasn’t the only kid who felt like a shadow in high school. I can't say for sure, but I figure teaching is probably a lot like raising African Violets. Too much water and not enough light can kill you. But some teachers, like Mme Long and my grandmother, are good at gauging the soil. 

Saturday, March 23

They Say It's Your Birthday


Carolyn, when she eventually hits forty, will be the type of woman who owns it with gusto. But in the mean time, she’s rocking a pretty cool thirty-seven.

Speaking of, here are 37 reasons why she’s a rock star best friend:  


1. Great hair.  I am 99.99% sure she’ll never go bald.
2. She's 37 years old and she still can’t pronounce the word ‘milk’ properly.
3. She says pretty amazing things about my parenting. Meanwhile, she is no slouch herself.
4. She is one of the few people who really understand what I mean when I talk about “emotional cost”
5. She never flinches when I say something dirty or vulgar. In fact, she usually cackles and encourages me to say something worse.
6. Killer dance moves.
7. She can sing songs in multiple languages. Inuit, for example.
8. Great tits.
9. Great tits. What? It bears repeating. Everyone knows great tits cannot be underestimated.
10. Seriously hilarious snorty laugh.
11. Seriously tiny bladder.
12. She drives a minivan with a pimped out stereo. Like, for real.
13. She can actually talk to you coherently about car engines and not throw up in her mouth.
14. She used to drive a sexy little motorcycle and I’m pretty sure at least half the men in her wake jizzed their pants when she passed them.
(Sorry, mom)
15. She is ridiculously thoughtful and will mail (or not mail) you random cards or notes so they arrive at the most unexpectedly (perfect) moments.
16. She has no will power in the face of any sugary treat. Zero. None. ZILTCH.
17. She is always game for something new.
18. Bona fide potter.
19. Gorgeous green eyes.
20. Related, she's a very pretty crier. Most women can’t pull off a good cry without succumbing to the ugly face.
21. She has horrible taste in movies but is flirting with redemption thanks to “Girls”
22. She named her son CROSBY.  I mean, COME ON.
23. She’s a total news junkie. News junkies are automatically awesome.
24. She has an eye for interior design that seems effortless. Ditto for her appreciation of art.
25. She’s like honey badger. She don’t take no shit.
26. She bought a couch identical to mine even though I only bought mine because I saw it in a porn once and liked it.
(I liked the couch; the porn was, meh)
(Shit. Sorry again, mom)
27. She’s an excellent role model for her daughter in terms of confidence and body image. That’s so, so rare.
28. She’s never once avoided my call when I’ve needed to rage cry.
29. She’s an awesome hugger. Perfect amount of squeeze/brevity ratio.
30. She always admits when she doesn't understand something.
31. She picks her battles because some hills just aren't worth dying on.
32. She’s a pretty awesome photographer. She has a natural eye for composition and her photos always have layers of texture in them.
33. She is supportive. Truly, truly, genuinely supportive.
34. She’s well read and I think she loves books almost as much as I do.
35. She single handedly is the reason Starbucks continues to post profits.
36. She hated people saying “that’s so gay” way before it was cool to hate it.
37. I mentioned great tits, right? Because they’re fabulous.

Happy birthday, C.

I’m so happy I finally started talking to you. You’re way cooler than Fraser.

Love you, etc, etc, mushy stuff.
M

PS:

…your photo is on the fridge.

Wednesday, January 9

February Isn't Looking Much Better

My friend Amy has a special knack for sending Ben gifts that are wildly popular. Unfortunately this year she hit the nail on the head with a Sidney Crosby calendar. Amy suggested that Ben put it in a place where I'd see it every day, because she's thoughtful like that.

While I caved and let him put it on the fridge, I wasn't about to give up without a fight. Ever since it made its debut, I've defaced it every night before bed. At first, I'd just cover his face with a fridge magnet but I soon found a way to take it to a new level.

Each night I post a new message for Ben. And every morning he checks the calendar with horrified glee.

I started with this one:

 Sid Project - Cry Myself to Sleep

and then evolved to this:

Sid Project - Blackhawks

When I messaged Amy she chastised me. I redeemed myself a little with the next encouraging message:
Sid Project - Great day at School

...but guys. The high road just isn't for me. Which is why this morning, Ben woke up to this beauty:

Sid Project - Grandmas

Sorry, Sid. But it's true. That's a pretty shameful mustache and I can't believe I have to look at it for 22 more days.

Thursday, December 20

Stop Complaining That I Don’t Blog

This morning I was messaging with Carolyn about the unpopular opinions we don’t air on Facebook. I know! It’s shocking isn’t it? But in actuality I should get a million gold stars for all the shit I don’t say on the internet! Possibly related, did you know that I’ve been listening to a lot of Liar! Liar! by The Used and feeling weird degrees of angry and smug? TRUE STORY.  Anyway in the middle of this, because complaining is my hobby, I began talking about the woman next to me.

Me: The woman next to me is a wet, sloppy eater. And her food smells bad.
Carolyn: GROSS

Me: All I can hear is wet smacking.
Carolyn: Please stop!

(Obviously, I was undeterred and continued)

Me: It’s like she’s going down on her chicken. 
Me: Ahahahahaa…sorry!!! I will not suffer alone!!!

Carolyn:  I just barfed in my mouth


Merry Christmas everyone! Hope your holidays are barf-free.

Friday, September 7

I Heart The Internet

I think the internet is like any other neighbourhood. Some of it is pretty swank and unattainable. I’m looking at you Gwyneth Paltrow. And some of it is like the seedy underbelly of a Detroit back alley. NOT THAT I WOULD ACCIDENTALLY KNOW OR ANYTHING. Basically, it all depends on where you hang out. And whether or not you have SUCKER tattooed on your forehead.

The other day on a whim, I decided I wanted to send Jeff some groceries as a surprise. In my experience, all new college kids always blow their grocery money on beer and then starve until mom and dad top up their bank account again. At which time, they go out and buy a case of ramen noodles and more beer. Now Jeff’s a good kid, probably much better than I was at his age, but I’m not stupid either. (Even if I did have to Google ‘motorboating’ after one of our conversations.) The problem is, Jeff is now going to school in Northern Alberta and a grocery service like Gateway doesn’t exist up there.

Enter my good friend, Google: Hey, Google, s’up?

After literally seconds of scouring the internet, I found a guy willing to do my grocery shopping for me as well as deliver it. We emailed back and forth a few times, hammering out the details. Then I gave him a long list of items. Some things were specific – others included the words “whatever” and “use your judgment” which, when you think about it, should have been a recipe for disaster.

Unlike everything Dateline would lead you to believe, Myles came through like a pro. The next day, pretty much exactly when he said he’d be there, he showed up on Jeff’s doorstep with the delivery. Jeff, who might have been expecting a puppy or a mountain bike, was stunned. Afterward, Jeff sent me a few dozen BBMs that were littered with !!!!’s and one YOU’RE CRAZY! That afternoon, I also got a very thoughtful email from Myles telling me that Operation FEED JEFF was a complete success.

Since then, Jeff and I have been joking about whether or not Myles is able to deliver a fully cooked Thanksgiving turkey next month.

In conclusion, arranging surprises for the people you love is never not fun. Especially when you’re able to pull it off with the help of a total stranger. Unfortunately for me, Myles doesn’t deliver to Ontario so it looks like I’ll be doing my own damn shopping tonight.

Wednesday, September 5

Grade Six

Ben-20

For me, grade six meant Mr. Stewart's class at the top of the stairs. It meant access to the senior bathrooms; a tampon machine for the girls and, if the rumor mill was to be trusted, a condom machine for the boys. Grade six was the year of Karate Kid and Back to the Future. It was crushing on boys with spiked hair and jean jackets. It was Corey Hart vs Brian Adams. Cosby Show vs Family Ties.

Ben, without my consent, keeps hurtling himself through one grade after the other. Didn't I just take him to JK last year? Jesus kid, slow down.

Friday, August 24

I'm Probably Drunk Posting

Halifax is a small city with a big attitude. It’s actually not much larger than Kitchener-Waterloo but it struts around like it’s Toronto. And by struts, I mean saunters like it just got high and had a threesome in the parking lot during prom. So what I really mean is that Halifax is a very chill city.

Personally I’ve never seen a city more relaxed or safer for pedestrians. At least they were safe until I arrived in town. I’m certain I nearly killed at least a dozen people while driving through Dartmouth. And that was just on my way to grab coffee. If I wasn’t running them down, I was nearly rear ending other drivers suddenly stopping at crosswalks. WHO ACTUALLY DOES THAT? People in Halifax, that’s who! Also, they drive much slower than I’m used to. Slow like snails.

This is a problem because the second the light turns green, I’m on a mission to get there first. Where doesn’t matter. You just have to be first! In Halifax they’re all, “Dude what’s your hurry? You got someplace you gotta be? Reeeeelaaaaaax.”

So yeah. That took getting used to.

When I met up with Cheryl (ironically at the Lions Head) we talked about it. She pointed out that people were more likely to get in accidents because they stop for pedestrians even when they’re jaywalking. I don’t understand this city, I just wanna move there. I know everyone always says that about any place they vacation, but you guys: THIS TIME I MEAN IT, FOR REAL.

Exhibit A:

Halifax

The place we rented was technically in Dartmouth so every night we’d be able to see the lights of Halifax across the river. Occasionally sail boats would just cruise on through all, “Don’t mind me. I’m just a postcard in real life.”

In the mornings, Ben and I would deke (foreshadowing!) out to a tiny café called Two If By Sea. I have so much love for this coffee shop! Ben would eat a chocolate croissant larger than his head (have you seen the size of his head?) and I’d chug back an iced latte while flipping through the local paper. Swear to god, coffee shops are probably my favourite thing about new cities. So far, every city has had one that I’ve fallen in love with. Pittsburgh, for example, has The Beehive. Kitchener-Waterloo doesn’t have anything that competes and that just makes me so sad. (insert world’s smallest violin here)

Halifax

Amazing coffee shop aside, we also went to one of the oldest cemeteries in the city. While we were there we met Major Ross who, among other things, burned down the White House (booyah bitches). Of course back then it was the Pink House and probably didn’t have any republican shit heads qualifying rape as forcible or legitimate. (Suck it Akin, you’re a prick) Still, Ross was pretty bad ass and legend has it that when he died, his body was brought back to Halifax in a crate of rum.

Major Ross

On Monday we did the obligatory trip out to Peggy’s Cover (gorgeous), ate fish and chips (yum) and then took a walk along the harbour (delightful). While I was in town I had the chance to meet up with my friend, Cathy, and her daughter, Clare. (So many commas! So little time!)

Peggy's Cove

Peggy's Cove

Peggy's Cove

Tuesday we scored tickets to the Canada/Russia challenge.

Halifax

Ben and I went to the Metro center early so we could check out the Sports Hall of Fame; Ben was impressed with Mrs. Crosby’s old dryer. Honestly, I think the hockey game might have been the highlight of the trip for me.

In 1984 my parents woke me up so that I could watch the last few minutes of the semi-final game between Canada and the USSR. I can still remember jumping off the couch and screaming when Paul Coffey set up the winning goal. Ben, I assume, will probably always remember standing on his seat and screaming with 80,000 of his new best friends.

(how awesome is it that you can YouTube your favourite childhood memories?)

Related, my favourite moment of any hockey series is always when all the sticks and gloves get discarded on the ice. I'm not even kidding, it makes me tear up every time.

Halifax

Wednesday we went to visit an Acadian museum. I thought Ben would be bored but he actually seemed really into it. Before we went back to Halifax, we had lunch in a tiny café that served the best homemade blueberry pie and lemonade. The lemonade so good that when I got home I Googled how to make my own. I’m lazy, so I assure you, that’s as far as I’ll get with that project. Although I might attempt baking a pie. Don’t worry. I’ll warn you ahead of time so you can take cover.

Halifax

Halifax

Halifax

Halifax

Finally, Wednesday night I was able to squeeze in a short visit with my friend Cheryl. Cheryl and I have known each other since pre-school when my aunt Marg used to babysit us. In public school she introduced me to Alligator Pie by Dennis Lee and the book, The Girl Who Owned a City by OT Nelson. In high school she dated my future ex husband. When Ben heard that, he very seriously asked me if there had been any “hard feelings” when they broke up. I was sure to mention this to Cheryl.

She assures me there were not.

Full set of photos here

Sunday, June 17

Mama Tried To Raise Me Better


This morning I packed up and went to Starbucks for a few hours of last minute peace and quiet before Ben comes home again. On the way, I phoned my dad. When he answered I said, “Happy Papa’s day!” and he laughed. We talked for a bit and when I let him go, I went inside to order my coffee.  Later I pinned Darlene.

“At Starbucks if you want to visit. Also, I’m not sure why but they’re playing old honky tonk. Right now it’s “I never promised you a rose garden” and a minute ago it was Hank Williams. Weird but I’m liking it. # my secret shame.”

A minute later, she messaged back. “I’ll keep your secret safe.”

After that we got talking about our plans for the day. “They’re playing Willie Nelson now,” I tell her.

“Willie Nelson,” she writes. “That just brings back tons of memories!”

“Willie Nelson reminds me of my dad,” I admit. “All this music does.”

Darlene agrees. “Yeah. Makes me think of being a kid on weekend mornings at the trailer. And Christmas evening.”

“Yes,” I write back. “And lemon pledge. My dad always played music when we cleaned the house and my job was to pledge the stereo.”

“Crazy,” she replies. “I wonder what our kids will think of when they’re adults.”

The truth is, it’s hard to know what moments our kids are going to carry around with them forever. Whether it’s the time you lost your mind over a misplaced backpack, or the smell of your shirt when you hug them. We all do our best but occasionally the only thing left in our emotional gas tank is our worst. I’ve struggled with that a few times this past month. I’m struggling to find that elusive balance between keeping up at work and keeping up at home. I honestly don’t know if there is a work-life balance that doesn’t leave you exhausted and cranky.

What I do know is that Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Loretta Lynn, Conway Twitty and lemon pledge remind me of my dad. And today, that’s good enough for me.

Sunday, May 27

Klutz



Ben

Thanks to Wendy, I'm the proud new owner of a bike rack. This is exciting news for me and my t-shirts because it means I can cart my bike around without having to get all greasy while I'm taking the front wheel off. On the other hand, I need to remember that I can't stand so close to the car when I'm slamming the trunk shut. I learned this the hard way when I very nearly gave myself a severe case of chest trauma. Take it from me, winding yourself in the Chapters/Starbucks parking lot is a pretty classy move. 


In other news, I forced Ben to stand still for 30 seconds while I got some updated photos. He's perfected his aloof gaze, just in time for puberty. Awesome.

Sunday, May 13

Time Flies

Pudds


This past Saturday I picked up all three boys and took them down to the mill to drown photograph them. I told them that for their parents 25th anniversary next month, I wanted to recreate a photo we took over 10 years ago. They humored me with without even the slightest bit of eye rolling. I’m not certain, but I think this is one of the signs that the apocalypse.

The first thing I learned is that the three of them don’t stuff into my car quite as comfortably as they used to. Probably because now they’re all huge with long arms and legs and big stinking boys feet. The second thing I learned is that boys, no matter what their ages, will always play with toys given the opportunity. Even if those toys are clearly marked ages 8-12.

At the mill we wandered around for a few minutes checking things out. They easily crossed the river by jumping from one rock to the next, leaving me on the other side. Josh did come back to fetch me but he’s a gigantic klutz so there is no way in hell I was about to trust my life into his clumsy hands. I stayed firmly on the other side of the river.

God Bless Telephoto Lenses.

After that I forced them to sit on an ant-infested log. Revenge for all the times they whined about not liking the lunch I made them as grade-schoolers. I didn’t like the light there though so we went back under the bridge for a few individual shots. Then we finally took the group shot that I had in mind.

I have mixed feelings. On one hand, I love that they’ve turned into these dynamic people but I also miss who they were as little boys. Ten years goes by so quickly. I can’t help but feel like one of these days, another 10 years will have slipped by. They’ll be in their 30s, Ben will be 20 and I’ll be closing in on 50.

I imagine by then, the boys will probably have babies for me to spoil rotten. And Ben? Well Ben had better not.
Pudds

Thursday, May 10

Update(d)

  • Yesterday I accidentally left my car keys in a coworkers car over lunch. This didn’t become evident until a) they’d left the office for the day and b) I tried to go home. Clearly you can see the disconnect here. I’d like to tell you that hilarity ensued but that would be a lie. Mostly I swore and gnashed my teeth a little.
  • For dinner last night I had a Wonderbar.
  • Wednesday I narc’d out some guy trying to cross 8 lanes of traffic on foot. He looked a little coked out of his mind (probably because by then he’d already crossed 4 lanes) so I phoned the OPP and reported him. This is mildly funny because in doing so, I was breaking the driving/cell phone law. I think they call that irony in the literary world.
  • Speaking of the literary world, I have no intention of reading the book Shades of Grey because I’m fairly certain I could write better porn myself.   
  • I’ve been working a lot. Like, a lot a lot. It sort of makes me crabby. Well, crabbier than usual.
  •  Last weekend, for fun, I dragged everything out of my bedroom and then washed the walls, sorted through a million articles of clothing and got rid of an alarming amount of crap. This turned out to be an all-day adventure and not something I ever want to repeat again.
  • Also last weekend, Ben and I went to watch the middle Pudd play ball. To clarify; I watched the ball game, Ben sat under the bleachers and read his book in the shade. Still, the sentiment was there.
  • Speaking of sentiments, er, sediments and the Pudd’s; the boys have been spending some quality time with Ben. This has resulted in extra laundry for me because they encourage climbing rocks, scaling tree bridges and hurtling oneself through mud puddles. At least twice a day Ben declares them the best pretend big brothers a boy could have. I am not inclined to disagree.
  • Speaking of brothers; Saturday I’ve got plans to photograph the boys. I am assured this won’t end in fisticuffs.
  • Speaking of photography. I somehow have three photos on exhibit in Hamilton for the month of May.  
  • Tiffany has vowed not to talk to me until I updated again. Related, Deanne said she’d still talk to me but that officially, we couldn’t be friends.
  • Consider this blog updated.
  • PS: Blogger, your new format blows chunks

Monday, April 16

It's All Fun And Games Until Someone Loses An Eye

Ben and I spend a fair amount of time wrestling. This may shock people who might otherwise think we spend our time quietly tiptoeing around the apartment and reading Proust in hushed, reverent whispers. Okay, granted. I do like some quality quiet time. And yes I prefer books over playing “Army Dudes” and Mario Kart. But wrestling was something I did with my dad and I’m happy to continue the fine art of pile driving my son into the living room couch in the name of family honour.

The problem however, is that Ben has somehow (without my knowledge or express written consent) gotten stronger. Don’t get me wrong, he still can’t win, but now it takes considerable effort on my part to unseat him. Give him another year and I’ll no longer be able to crow that I’m the undefeated couch wrestling champion OF THE WOOOOOOOORLD.

Enter Josh.

Last night, Josh came over for dinner. While I was in the kitchen, he took over putting Ben in his place. Ben was (easily, I might add) thrown off/onto the couch more times than I can count. And like all wrestling matches, it eventually ended in tears.


*For the record, I’ve never read Proust, nor do I intend to. It’s on the list of Things I Know I Won’t Like, Even Though I’ve Never Tried Them. …right next to beets.

Monday, April 9

The Electric Chair

Not only are Darlene and I competitive during pottery, we bicker like an old married couple. For added thrills, there is domestic violence too. I’m sure this has aged our instructor by at least ten years because she’s constantly trying in vain not to take sides. (Note to Lisa: When I get violently poked in the arm with a pin tool, it’s totally okay to take my side.) Last week wasn’t any different than usual and when I finally showed up with Starbucks in hand - no matter how late you are, there’s always time for the Mermaid - Darlene was quick to yell at me. See? Totally Normal Thursday Night. The fact that I like Darlene is probably just Stockholm Syndrome and/or a symptom of my cripplingly low self esteem. Only time will tell.

(I can say this to you now because there is at least 75 kms between me and the nearest pin tool. Three days from now, I won’t be so brave. And also, I’ll probably look like Swiss cheese.)

Anyway, fast forward a good hour or so to when we’re all up to our elbows in mud, save Josh who was instead doing a kick ass job trimming his first ever pot. More later on how much this makes me hate him. As I’m talking (probably about how I maimed a Canada Goose on my way to class: for real, I totally manifested that shit), I feel a distinct stinging sort of buzz in my right leg. My obvious reaction is to interrupt myself by yelping, “Ow” at a perfectly reasonable decibel. The stinging buzz continued with a more persistent intensity so I ratcheted up my squawking. “Ow! Ow! Ow!” That’s when I turn to Darlene and half-shout at her, “Ow that hurts! What are you doing?”

Because CLEARLY it was somehow Darlene’s fault. OBVIOUS THINGS ARE OBVIOUS, PEOPLE.

Darlene denies it so then I figure it must be one of Lisa’s cats sharpening their nails on my ass. That’s when I jumped out of my chair. We should pause here to note that a normal person probably would have jumped up much sooner. The painful buzzing immediately stopped. While I was standing, Josh leaned over to investigate and noticed the extension cord that my chair was sitting on. For anyone not well versed in science, if you take a metal chair and set it on an exposed metal grounding prong and then add an electrical current: CONGRATULATIONS! You’ve just built yourself an electric chair.

Friday, March 30

The Letter J Is Like a Fish Hook

Josh


On a whim, I invited one of my “practice” kids to pottery with me. I say practice because I’ve known Josh and his family for 18 years. Walking through their front door is as comfortable as flopping down on my parents couch. By the time Ben came along, I’d had years to perfect my disinterested “I’m listening” nod on them. In retrospect, all parents should have practice children. They are by all accounts, marginally cuter than puppies (see exhibit A, above) with the added bonus of not peeing on the floor.

I honestly didn’t expect Josh to accept the invitation, but he did and I’m so glad for it. Now that he’s 20, I don’t often get to see him learning something new for the first time. When he was very young, he would pester me for homework. His older brother would come home from school and Josh would be gutted that Greg had all this exciting homework to do and he didn’t. To compensate, I would make him a page of his own work. Josh was thrilled to sit at the table next to Greg, tracing his pencil over the dotted letters that I would draw onto a blank piece of paper.

Watching Josh learn to centre his clay for the first time was very similar to seeing him master the letter J. He has the same quiet, intent focus now that he did back then. He even has the same satisfied smile afterwards. The only major difference is that when he hugs me now, my face unfortunately fits directly into his armpit.

Nobody said life was perfect.

Dick, Dick, Goose!

Last Thursday I was one of the parent volunteers for Ben’s class trip to the Royal Ontario Museum. I was a parent volunteer driver no less. When I mentioned this to a few friends, they looked at me like I’d lost my fucking mind. I admitted that I probably had. Children are not my strong suit and I normally tell anyone within shouting distance that I don’t like them. Except the secret is, I like do some children very much. Mostly, it’s the parenting I hate. And by parenting, I mean the complete lack thereof.

Anyway, the day of our big adventure (or in retrospect, the day I should have had my head examined) I was assigned four children, plus my own darling boy. In the interest of full disclosure, I love going places with Ben because he can be corrected with a single, withering death-glare. Sadly other kids seem immune to my charms, but I digress.

On the way to the ROM I only had to drive Ben and his best friend. The two boys sat in the backseat, head to head, pouring over the games on their respective iPods while we listened to Flo Rida rather loudly. I felt like a total parent-volunteer rock star.

Of course, once we got to the ROM, I was assigned three other boys. They were….shall we say….energetic. (In therapy, they call that positive reframing!) After our mandatory guided tour through the Mayan exhibit, we were allowed to roam around the other areas of the museum at our own pace. For the record, that “pace” was akin to dropping a handful of marbles onto the floor and then trying not to lose track of any of them while they scatter in every possible direction.

Obviously I spent most of my morning counting heads while they dodged around innocent bystanders like rabid little pinballs. I might have even stopped a covert game ring around the dinosaur. Meanwhile, Ben was busy shooting pictures with my $800.00 camera while I begged him to please, please, please be careful not to drop it. Thankfully, he didn’t. In actuality I must be rubbing off on him because he got some interesting shots and actually spent a lot of time experimenting with different angles. Of course this meant he lagged behind while the other kids were mumbling BRAAAAINS and staggering off to the minerals exhibit where they then tried to kill each other with giant glowing rocks.

(I wish I was kidding)

Meanwhile, one of the boys I was supervising was doing some experimenting of his own. Mostly with the science of audiology while crossing over a metal catwalk. (Translation: he was screaming like a banshee) Not to worry, apparently crotchity old security men have a better grasp of the death stare than me and the child was quickly subdued into mute submission…for approximately 90 seconds.

Still, the highlight of the day was probably the Roman exhibit. As soon as we walked into the room I saw all the gorgeous freestanding sculptures and busts and physically shuddered with fear. It didn’t take a rocket scientist to see that I was clearly in trouble. “Please don’t run in this room,” I said to their rapidly retreating backsides. “And don’t bump into the status either.”

I’m happy to report that no one (technically) ran and no one (technically) bumped into anything. Instead one boy, who for the sake of his mother, shall remain nameless, speedwalked through the room slapping every male statue on his naked penis while shouting, “dick! dick! dick!”

The goose, I’m sure, was implied.



Ben's photos:


ROM

ROM

ROM

ROM

ROM

Monday, March 5

Don't Get Me Wrong, I'm Still Saving For Bail Money

This past weekend, Ben did all his own laundry. We’ve been working up to this for some time now. He’s always been responsible for putting his clothes away. He’s always been responsible for bringing his dirty laundry out of his room on wash day and sorting it. But this weekend, we took it to a whole new glorious level.

This weekend, he sorted everything, loaded the machine, set the washer, measured out the soap and then switched everything over into the dryer when it was time. Like a champ.

Angels sang and I crossed one more thing off my parenting to-do list.

Wednesday, February 29

Angelina’s Leg Doesn’t Have Anything On My Boobs

I wouldn’t call it a wardrobe malfunction per se, more of a …miscalculation.

You see, today I’m wearing a new wrap top which I really like. Because my boobs are spectacular, it’s rather flattering. However, I failed to sit down while trying the blouse before purchase and now I see (WOW…DO I EVER SEE) the error of my ways. Both the girls are rather exposed, shall we say? If by exposed one means, planning their own jail break.

Adding insult to injury is the fact that I’m also wearing a new bra which came with its own German engineering certificate. A bra whose entire function is to magnificently LIFT and SEPARATE. I hope this won’t alarm you, but every time I glance down, my boobs scare the shit out of me. They’re the Quebec of mammary glands! A distinct society lobbying for separatism!

I’m telling you now, the only thing between me and an indecent exposure violation is a teeny, tiny silver safety pin. God help us, all.

Monday, February 13

Formal Apologies For The Radio Silence

There is no fun way to write or read about vomit, so I will spare you the details. Let’s just say there was a lot of it at my place this weekend. Related;

Dear Maintenance Person at the North Huron Wescast Community Complex,

I’m sorry.

Thursday, February 2

Darlene Is Amazing

Let’s just ignore the fact that I woke up at 3:30 am to the dulcet sounds of my cat vomiting, and carry on shall we?

Tonight was pottery and somehow, through an act of god , I managed to throw 2 pretty decent sized pots. And by decent? I mean humongous. Of course I deliberately photographed my bowl next to Darlene’s cups because I’m an asshole. Darlene would like to point out that she MEANT for her cups to be that size because they’re for the BATHROOM. Honestly, and don’t tell Darlene I said so, I’m a little jealous. I’ve tried to throw a cylinder and I just can’t do it. Cups seem to be a little out of my realm, I’m afraid.

I suppose I’ll just have to content myself with huge ass bowls.



Bowl

Wednesday, February 1

Jinx

Sev


Don't look now, but this is the face of a cat who has not thrown up in four days. Since we brought her home after Christmas, Sev has found new and exciting places to yak on. Twice I've come from from work to find cat vomit coating the windowsill and yes, even dripping down the wall. Gosh. I hope you weren't having your lunch.

I told Ben this shit was not going to fly, and so we've been tinkering around with different types of food hoping to find the magical solution to our woes. Turns out the answer is wet food. I can't even begin to articulate how much this disgusts me. I'd rather touch a million raw chicken breasts with my bare hands, than deal with wet cat food. And yet, here I am anyway. Do you think I can order a hasmat suit online?

Tuesday, January 31

2 Weeks, 3 Days

Darlene informed me yesterday that I hadn't updated in 2 weeks and 2 days. And now here we are, another day later. Below, Ben is getting in touch with his inner baby gangster. I didn't have the heart to tell him that tough guys don't usually eat croissants while reading the funnies...at Starbucks.



Baby Gangster

Sunday, January 15

Sunday Morning Yawn

Sunny Patch

The best thing about a lazy Sunday morning is waking up in the sunny patch of the bed.

Other things approaching that level of awesomeness are as follows:

Reading the newspaper over breakfast
The moment you shift from 3rd to 4th
Inside jokes
The little wave you get when you let someone cut in during rush hour traffic
Hearing your favourite song come on while you're stuck in line at the grocery store
Realizing you’re out of shampoo but still managing to squeeze out one more wash
Boarding calls at the airport
When the person at Starbucks knows your name AND your order

Speaking of Starbucks, Ben and I are off to the bookstore for a few hours. Quelle surprise.