Monday, April 30, 2012

A to Z Honesty - Z is for zzzzzzzz

You're still here? A to Z is over... go away... I hear your mama calling... zzzzzzzzzzz

Saturday, April 28, 2012

A to Z Honesty - Y is for a Year since Kiosk

Where are you, right now?
Sitting in front of your computer at the kitchen table?
Sipping coffee? Looking out your window?
I'm here.

Magic happens every spring and we rush to this spot, to watch it happen.
Ice melts, sun shines, fish bite.
No one else in this world, this northern mystic, this land of silver birch.
Reflections of our own faces
the only ones we see.

"Hello, Mr. Lake Trout. How have you been?
Did you have a busy winter?
Was Santa Claus good to you?
How are the eggs? Did they all hatch out?
No worries, fishy friend, we just wanted to chat."
And, sploosh, back into the water he goes.

I wish you were here.
I wish we could argue over whose fish was bigger.
(It was mine, by a scale.)
I wish we could make s'mores tonight by the fire.
I wish you were with me.
In Kiosk.

Friday, April 27, 2012

A to Z Honesty - X is for xtra xcellent eggs

Easter Sunday, chocolate and boys,
two of my very favouritest things.

Taller this year, tall enough to see things never seen before.
Next year a dimpled smile will rise above the numbers
and my heart will sadden just a titch
as childhood strays a little farther out of my panicked reach.

Magenta pearl in a pussywillow crook, waits.

Pine needles, new grass, rustling leaves.
My baby's shining face glows in morning light.

Who has more chocolate? Who has more laughter? More joy? More love?
No one more than me.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

A to Z Honesty - W is for a Woman of Courage

Yesterday a small town stood still for Chief John Black.

The grass was brilliant green on the front lawn of Trinity United Church, the biggest church in Gravenhurst, the only one big enough to hold all  those people, all those dark uniforms, all those sombre male faces.

"Those are our heroes," my friend Gail had whispered to me in the church. Tears filled her eyes, and mine.

Outside, when it was over, the green grass and the peacock blue sky contrasted absurdly with the black suits and dresses of the community of mourners. We stood, without saying a word, as the parade readied itself to take the chief on one last ride. Flags rippled in a skiff of a spring breeze. In front, the drum corp waited for a command, silver-shined drums sparkling in the sun. Behind them, row upon row of silent firefighters resplendent in full dress uniform, eyes forward, unreadable expressions. The fire truck, cleaner than it was when it rolled off the assembly line, chrome winking in the sunshine, brilliant crimson paint the colour of blood, the colour of sacrifice, a lifetime of emergency calls in the middle of the night. Inside the cab, silhouettes of firefighters sitting bolt upright, holding his ashes, their immense responsibility coming off them in waves. And finally, behind them all, a gray limousine bearing three people braver and stronger than the chief himself: his wife, Cathy, and their two children, Brandon and Rachel.

I work with Cathy. Her desk is kitty-corner to mine, just down the hall a bit. She's been away from work for a while, dealing with her husband's sudden death. John was only 50 years old. Healthy as a proverbial horse. Healthier than most. Everything was fine but then he got the flu, a nasty bout, lost a ton of weight in few days. Cathy was worried, took him to the doctor who discovered John was riddled with cancer. They said he might live for a month or a few months, but a week later he was dead. Shock settled upon our small community, in our department at work, like a shroud. Our regional manager, Bill Allen, had died only a few weeks earlier. Now this.

Cathy dropped by the office to see us last Friday. She took quite a squeezing from everyone. I found it hard to stop hugging her. She's my new hero, you see. I mean, everyone talks about the firefighters being heroes, and yes, they are, of course they are. But Cathy? She's the real deal.

I used to be married to a volunteer firefighter and I can tell you from experience that they're almost never home. If it wasn't a call in the middle of the night, it was being on stand-by, or it was training, or it was practising. The fire department becomes a mistress, a demanding mistress, who leaves spouses alone at home to pick up the pieces, to get things done, to raise the children. John Black was a volunteer firefighter before Cathy had even met him. She knew the trade-off she would be making and she accepted it with a quiet grace. The only time she asked him to turn off his pager was on their wedding day.

Cathy would never call it a burden, knowing her, but her responsibilities increased tenfold when John's long dream of being a fire chief came true. In 2009 he was named Fire Chief of the newly amalgamated Township of North Huron. It wasn't just a hire – he was instrumental in setting up the fire department, in getting it run with the kind of precision and dedication John was known for. The only drawback was it was a long, long way away from his home and family in Gravenhurst.

With two kids still in high school, Cathy agreed to stay in town until both Brandon and Rachel graduated. So, while John was away building a fire department, Cathy did everything else. She worked full time, she looked after the kids and the house, she visited her ailing mom and mother-in-law, she wrassled the family's two dogs, she even packed in preparation for the future move. All this, and she never complained. Oh sure, she had the odd comment to make over morning coffee, when everyone was re-hashing the events of the previous weekend, but her comments were more wisecracks, always said with a gentle smile. She never whined. Me? I whine all the time, about all the stupid little things that tick me off in my stupid life. But Cathy? Who had real challenges? Never. Yet another reason she has become my hero.

The big reason, though, was the eulogy Cathy delivered. It was the best eulogy I've ever heard, so well-written, so moving. In the sea of firefighters, of uniforms, of bagpipes and white gloved salutes, her eulogy was a bright spot of simple humanity. She looked so small up there, at the front of the church, amongst all those men in dark uniforms. But her warm voice was strong and unwavering. She delivered her speech with nary a tear. My heart jumped in my chest with mixed emotions – overwhelming sorrow at her loss but fierce pride in knowing such a courageous woman.

I was going to write about John today because I knew him a long, long time ago. My first newspaper job was the Gravenhurst News. I was 21. Not a pot to pee in and not a brain in my head. John worked for the competition, the Gravenhurst Leader and he didn't look any older than 12. I guess he was only a year or so younger than me but he was long-haired and skinny, and seriously looked like somebody's little brother. He was yappy, though. We'd run into each other at various assignments and he was always making cracks about what a terrible reporter I was and what a terrible newspaper I worked for, but he always had that big smart-assed grin on his face so I knew he was just teasing. One day an elderly lady took him aside and gave him crap for picking on me. I still laugh about that.

But as I think of John, as I sat here this morning with my rapidly cooling coffee, I realized it was Cathy I really wanted to write about. She really is a hero in my eyes. The kind of hero I long to be.

God speed, girl. Know that we're all here for you and if you need anything, and I mean anything at all, you just ask. You realize, of course, that when you get back to work you're going to get the living daylights hugged out of you? Oh yes, there will be hugging. And laughter. And friendship.

And untold admiration.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

A to Z Honesty - V is for Vital Stove

OK CLASS, listen up! This here is an INFORMATIVE post, which means you will come away having lurnt something. I so rarely do "INFORMATIVE" posts that I thought you deserved fair warning. Those who have no room for new stuff in their brains can leave, now. *watching entire blogaverse unceremoniously leave* (And yes, I spelled lurnt like that on porpoise.)

That weird looking thing in the photo is a Vital Stove. Dave saw it online and ordered it from my ex's Home Hardware store in Haliburton but you can find it online or ask about it at your local outdoors store, like Algonquin Outfitters. In case you couldn't tell by the ginormous green canoe on my banner, Dave and I are rabid outdoorsy type people. One of the highlights of our outdoorsy year is our spring fishing trip to Kiosk, Ontario - part of Algonquin Park. In fact, we're going on Friday (CAN'T WAIT! WOOT!) and thus won't be online for five days because there is no interweeb in the great outdoors. I am going to pre-post the end of A to Z because I feel obligated to finish what I started but unfortunately won't be around to go blog-hopping or add comments. Forgive me!

We won't be taking the Vital Stove this weekend, however, because we will have our outrageously luxurious trailer with amenities like a microwave and a furnace (I know, crazy right?) but we won't have any fancy stuff when we go on our canoe trip into Algonquin Park this summer. It'll be just us, our canoe and enough freeze dried grub to send the astronauts into orbit. When you're packing everything on your back, the last thing you want is extra weight. A traditional camp stove is a heavy thing all by itself, but then you have to cart around either camp fuel or bottles of propane. All of it has to be carried in and all of it has to be carried out. You can get to resent things like camp stoves on long portages, trust me.

That's why this Vital Stove thing is SO COOL. First of all, it's tiny and weighs practically nothing. Plus it folds up to about the size of a Kindle. To use it, you unfold it, put a battery in the blower-thing, and load up the teeny fuel reservoir with bits of kindling and tiny chunks of wood. You just need a handful and it can be scavenged from dead stuff lying on the ground. You light it and then turn on the blower. (In the picture, above, Dave is adjusting the blower.) The blower pushes oxygen into the teeny tiny fire and suddenly you have a goldurned blast furnace! The heat coming from this ridiculously small stove can boil a pot of water in a few minutes!

So that's the Vital Stove. You can imagine how happy I was that Dave bought a new contraption that started with a V. That's him, by the way, under Misty's close supervision. Misty doesn't really care about the Vital Stove. All she cares about is if it cooks bacon. Honestly, that's all I care about, too.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

A to Z Honesty - U is for under stuff

Under the weather. That's me! Sick! Fecking head cold arrives fecking days before my much anticipated spring fishing trip. Even though I felt like crap on a stick yesterday I went to work because we're extremely short-staffed at the moment and they needed me and all my mucousy magic.

I felt crappy but was getting the work done as per usual, thanks to some snot-stifling Daytime Tylenol Cold, guaranteed to be non-drowsy. All was good until about 3:30 p.m. when I realized I had been sleeping at my desk for an unknown quantity of time. Seriously. Soundly sleeping. There was drool on my desktop. I woke myself up when I started to snore.

Under, over, under, feck. I picked up my new glasses yesterday! YAY for new glasses! Ever since I had my cataracts removed I've been living with cheap dime store cheater-glasses. Can't read a bloody thing without 'em. A couple weeks ago I went to the optometrist and got fitted for some proper bi-focals. Because, in case I haven't mentioned it before, I'M FECKING OLD.

I figured, since I would be wearing these new glasses 24/7, that I wouldn't cheap out on them. Cheap - HA! These glasses cost more than our car. (Our old winter beater car, by the way. You didn't think they were gold plated, did you?) They have progressive bi-focals so you can't see the line; they have a non-glare coating to make night driving easier; they go from dark in the sunlight to perfectly clear inside (my eyes are so much more sensitive to sunlight since the operation); and the frames themselves are frameless, state-of-the-art fecking ridiculously expensive Silhouette thingeys. These glasses are so cool that the lady at the optometrist office was fairly drooling when I came to pick them up. "Some day," she said, wiping the corner of her mouth, "I want a pair like that." For a moment I was hoping she was talking about my boobs. Then I remembered gravity. Fecking gravity. Fecking saggy underinflated boobs. Like birthday balloons six weeks after the birthday.

So these are fancy glasses. Fancy EXPENSIVE glasses. They slice, dice and julienne fries. But can I SEE through them? HA! If I hold my neck the right way. If I look UNDER them a little and then OVER them a lot. It seems like there is a tiny area that is perfect for reading and if I don't look through that exact pinprick of a point, everything is blurry. No, that's not true. It's not blurry, it's FECKING blurry.

Under the weather part deux. It's snowing this morning. Snow. Reeeeeeeaaaaaaaaaally. And, like Forrest Gump and his box of fecking chocolates, that's all I'm going to say about THAT.

Monday, April 23, 2012

A to Z Honesty - T is for Turtles

This was the BEST thing we did on the weekend. We saved turtles!
Teeny tiny newborn Painted Turtles, no bigger than a loonie. Or maybe
even a quarter. Isn't this little guy the cutest thing ever? Look at him looking
at the camera with his teeny tiny eyes and his teeny tiny tail. So cute!

We live next to the Muskoka River (thus the blog title - I know, I'm so original)
and thus are privy to plenty of animal comings and goings. But last summer we
were treated to the sight of this mama turtle laying her eggs under neath our mailbox.
If you look close you can see her face on the left - she's hiding in the grass. Can you blame
her? Wouldn't you hide if you were giving birth under our mailbox?

And there's Mommy again, under the mailbox. (Yes, I painted
the mailbox. Because I am an artist. LOL) So these two photos
were taken last June. We waited a long time to see babies and
eventually forgot all about Mama Turtle and her mailbox eggs.

And then! On Saturday! We were outside getting some fresh air when Dave
noticed a baby turtle had been run over by a car. Just a wee tiny baby, flattened
in the middle of our road. We felt terrible. "Let's look around for more," Dave
said, because Dave, who is a walking-talking Nature Guide, said there likely would be.
Well, it wasn't any longer than a minute that we saw a turtle hiding in the brown
grass next to the road. And another turtle. Five in total, all doing their best to
be incognito as they headed for the road. Looking for them was like looking for
mud-coloured Easter eggs. "Turtles," I implored, "why do you want to
go across the road when there's a river on THIS side of the road? Why, turtles?
Why?" The turtles had no answer. They just hung out in our plastic bowl,
looking incredibly cute.

Sam and Dave wanted to keep the turtles as pets. Uh oh, I thought, envisioning
a smelly turtle tank in our house. "They're wild animals," I said, appealing to their
love of nature. "They don't want to be cooped up in our house. They want to be in the river,
free." I started singing "Born Free, as free as the wind blows." Even the teeny tiny
baby turtles covered their teeny tiny turtle ears. I found the Kawartha Turtle Trauma Centre
online and I gave them a call. The woman I spoke with was really, really nice. I told her
about our baby turtles and wondered what we should do – just plunk them in the river or
place them on a log? I didn't ask about keeping them as pets because I knew that was
just plain wrong.

She said to place them on the shore and wait for them to crawl into the river.
Dave, who likes things to be organized, lined them all up like they were
going to be in a Great Race. I think he must have liked Hot Wheels as a kid.
Look how cute those baby turtles are! I am in love with their cuteness.

There's always one keener in every crowd. This was him. First one to leave
the starting line, first one to run to the water, first one in.

He wasted no time getting into the water and in a matter of minutes he had
swum so far out that we lost track of him. Most of the other turtles followed suit.
There were a couple of slow pokes but even they eventually swam away.
Now that they're gone I miss them terribly. I know you shouldn't keep
wild animals as pets and I never would – but seriously? Aren't these fellahs
just adorable?

Saturday, April 21, 2012

A to Z Honesty - S is for Sex

Dear Angus (& Sam, in a few years):

This is what I need you to know about the birds and the bees:

1. Sex was not invented two minutes ago, for you. Everyone has sex, OK? And if for some reason they're not having sex? They're wishing they could be having sex. Or they've declared themselves sexless, like the Pope. Or they need to bathe more often.

2. You may or not be obsessed with the idea of sex. You probably are, but don't blame yourself. You've got hormones coursing through your veins like shite through a goose. Sex is likely all you can think about. WELL STOP IT. If your marks are good and your room is clean and you've eaten all your vegetables and have NOTHING else to do, then it's OK to obsess about sex. Otherwise, get busy and do your homework and practise your guitar.

3. God forbid, you may even be HAVING sex. Not you, Sam. At least you better not. If you are, USE BIRTH CONTROL. I don't care what kind of birth control it is (except the rhythm method which only works if you want to become a parent), as long as you USE it. It's like that expensive pimple cream I bought for you guys - if you don't USE it, it can't zap your zits... and I still see zits on your face. So if I have to go out and buy you condoms, I WILL, but YOU have to USE them. I will not be there to put them on for you! Condoms, by the way, are good because they not only prevent pregnancy, they prevent you from dying from AIDS and other diseases. Plus they come in different shapes and pretty colours.

4. I am NOT saying it's ok for you to have sex. I don't want you to. You're too young. I wish you could stay young forever. But since you ignore everything I say anyway, I want you to know that if you ARE having sex then you had better bloody well use a condom.

5. If you are having sex, I don't want to know about it. Be respectful. Have the common decency to sneak around and do it in a bush, or the back of a Pontiac, for gawd's sake. That means no kissing girls in front of me; no lying around in bed all day snuggling; no foreplay or sex of any kind in front of me, PERIOD.

6. It is NOT OKAY to have a baby unless you are prepared to pay for its upbringing. I have enough issues paying for YOUR upbringing –  I certainly can't afford to be paying for your children! Since you have no jobs and no education and are still minors yourselves, it is clear you can NOT afford to be making me a grandmother. Some families see nothing wrong with getting pregnant when you're 15. I see PLENTY wrong with it. You will ruin your life. You will ruin my looming retirement. I will have to work until I die. I will not see you go out into the cold and live on the streets if you knock someone up; I will not shun you; you can always tell me if something like this happens. Yes, I will freak out. Yes, I will be angry. Can you blame me? I'd be insane not to be angry.  So bottom line: Be smart. USE BIRTH CONTROL. Do NOT get anyone pregnant until you can afford to pay for rent, diapers, food and a car. YOU have to be able to support yourself and your partner before you even THINK about bringing a new life into the world.

Love, Mom

Friday, April 20, 2012

A to Z Honesty - R is for Return to Sender

Sam, who is 11, is home for a few days because he fell at school and has a concussion. Poor little mite. He was headed out for recess on a windy day and the door blew back and caught him on the head, knocking him unconscious when his head hit the pavement. He has two goose eggs on his head and his one eye is bloodshot – now that I think of it he looks a lot like Rocky Balboa.

Thankfully he's feeling better. His headaches are gone and yesterday he ate an entire chocolate rabbit he'd been hoarding since Easter. Who can hoard chocolate, by the way? Can you? I certainly can't. Any chocolate that I've ever seen has a best before date of MUST EAT NOW.

While I would love to stay at home with Sam and help him eat chocolate, I have to work. Sigh. Always that work thing. I remember thinking, when I was Sam's age, that I would work only until I secured a husband and then rest on my laurels and eat bon-bons for the rest of my life. Well, I'm on husband #2 now and I'm still working. Talk about the best laid plans ... why can't I be a welfare mom like everybody else? Half of my relatives are welfare moms. The rest are welfare dads. Is there a course for this? A sign-up sheet? Feck...

So anyway (quit distracting me like this, will ya?), Sam has to stay home while we go to work. I say to him, "Don't use the electrical stove. Don't touch the wood stove. Don't let the cats out. Do let the dog out. Don't forget to let the dog in. Don't go anywhere. Don't fart. Don't breathe. And please, no matter what, keep the door locked and do not let strangers in.

Sam nods.

I get to work, literally just walk through the door, and my friend Leah says, "Did you pass Vic on the way?"

Leah and Vic are good friends. They have a key to our house and they only have one car. Sometimes when Vic needs the car she comes into work with Leah and then uses our house as her command centre. Which is fine by us.


"Feck!" I say. "Sam's there! Last thing I said to him was don't let anyone in the house. He's gonna be peeing his pants when he sees Vic."

I call home. Vic answers. "Is everything OK?" I ask. Vic laughs. Apparently Sam was making toast when our dog started barking and he realized someone was at the door. He didn't move. Stood stock still by the toaster. Hoping the person jangling keys at the door would just go away. Meanwhile, Vic, who has 1,400 keys that all look identical, was trying to figure out which key unlocked our front door. She had no idea Sam was inside. She just kept trying key after key after key. Finally she found the right one and the door opened.

"Hi," said Sam. Vic screamed and crapped her pants.

That was the other day. Yesterday I refreshed the same mother litany of don'ts on Sam with this one addendum - if Vic shows up, try not to scare the shit out of her. And don't let anyone BUT Vic in the house.

A few hours later Sam phones me. He's a little bit hysterical. "Is Vic there?" I ask. "NO," he says, "but I saw this bald guy coming up the walk so I put my pants on..."

"You had no pants on?"

"I just got out of the shower. Remember? You told me I needed a shower?"

I nod. Even though I'm on the phone.

Sam continues. "So I was trying to get my pants on and the bald guy was at the door but by the time I was dressed he was gone. He left a package. A cardboard package."

Ooooh, a PACKAGE. Nothing makes the heart lighter than a package. "Who's it for?" I ask. Greedily.

"Some guy named Robert Cooper. Can I open it?"

Robert Cooper used to own our house, like YEARS ago. Like, several owners ago. Every once in a while we get Christmas cards for Robert Cooper. We always hang them up along with the two or three cards we get. Makes us feel popular. Like we have actual friends.

"No, I say, "you can't open it." Even though I really, really want him to open it. It could be a box full of cash. Or a new puppy. Or bon-bons. The possibilities are intoxicating. This could be it. The life-changing whatchamacallit. The pivot upon which all things will move forward from. I'm looking at the package right now, as I write this, and it's everything I can do not to say "feck it" and reach over and just open the damned thing.

I will not, though. In fact, I have already contacted UPS and they will be coming to retrieve the mysterious parcel and either find the equally mysterious Robert Cooper or Return it to Sender.

No doubt the bald guy will show up when Sam is here by himself. Hopefully he has his pants on this time. Sam, not the bald guy. Although, seriously, the bald guy better fecking well have pants on ...

Thursday, April 19, 2012

A to Z Honesty - Q is for, oh who knows, questions I guess

Oh, then is this the way it's going to be? One of those days? Sleep in? Stare at the computer blankly? For half an hour? Even though I only HAVE half an hour to write this post?

This is how it is: I get up before the alarm, about 5:30. I let the dog out. First. Even before I go to the bathroom because if I don't she whines and spins and wakes everybody else up. I do not want everybody else up. I want to pee in private. I want to WRITE in private.

I make coffee. This requires nerves of steel. Trying to dump yesterday's moldering grinds into the trash whilst dealing with slitty eyes? (not shitty; not slutty; get it right) Not good.

I turn on the computer and scan through e-mails, Facebook and blogland while the coffee burbles. By the time it's ready I have to be writing because I hear the alarm go off and that means Dave is going to be headed for the bathroom. Dave is a bath guy. He soaks in the tub for 35 minutes every morning. Precisely. THAT is the time I blog. That is ALL the time I have to whip up a blog post. Because when he's out of the tub he wanders out to the kitchen, where I am, and turns on the TV and starts TALKING to me. He has the nerve to want a kiss, too. A KISS! And he's making BREAKFAST and he's making NOISE and he just turned up the TV volume because Jeff is saying something funny on Canada AM and Bev and Marci are laughing and thus I'm cranking my neck around to see what's so damned hilarious ... and feck. There goes my morning.... might as well throw in the fecking towel, blog-wise.

Cause I have to go over to the couch now, and sit with my husband, because I like him and want to see what's new, and then he goes to work at 7:10 a.m. Precisely. When he's gone, the moment he's out the door, I have this to do: exercise, bathe, get dressed, eat, pack lunch and get my arse to work. It's like a freaking MARATHON. And god help me if something gets in my way. On Monday I had just finished a particularly sweaty work-out when the power went out. There was enough water in the pipes to dampen a facecloth – THAT's the kind of bath I had. The very second I finished wiping all my stinky spots, the fecking power came back on. Fine. THANK YOU ONTARIO HYDRO.

So anyway, it's 6:58.

The TV is blaring.

Dave is talking to me.

Must. Push. Publish....

Oh feck. Did I forget to let the dog in? I was wondering why my toes were dry.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

A to Z Honesty - P is for pooch licking

We have a tall table and chairs. Like bar chairs. I don't know whose stupid idea it was to get tall chairs. (Mine.) But they're so tall that my feet don't touch the ground. They dangle, like they're trolling, like they're fat white worms waiting for something to come by and LICK them.

My dog (OK, my POOCH - that's my P word, OK, are you satisfied Laura Eno???? sheesh... :), who is about six inches tall and is the breed known as Lickemus Anythingus, licks my toes every chance she gets. Like, right now, I just became aware that my big toe is wet.

Which freaks me out. Is it wet because she sashayed by when I wasn't paying attention (blogging) and did a drive-by licking? Or did I step in cat barf on the way to the coffee pot and am only noticing it now because the dog was licking off the cat barf?

I can't look because my toes are too far away. Stupid bar chairs. I certainly can't lift my foot that high for closer inspection. My only recourse is to reach down, blindly, and feel my big wet toe with my bare dry fingers.

What if it really is cat barf? Worse, what if it's a pooch turd? What if it's moldering dead mouse guts, or a squished chipmunk? Did I tell you I once found a chipmunk head in my bedroom and the disemboweled body in the living room? Speaking of chipmunks, a couple of years ago one drowned in our rain barrel. Nobody noticed it for two weeks. It was swollen up the size of a football. I went to get some water for my garden, saw that and to this day I can't go near a rain barrel without hearing the theme from Psycho, that reet-reet sound when the knife plunges into Janet Leigh through the shower curtain.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

A to Z Honesty - O is for own

The Gotye guy

I hate it when I really like a song and somebody swoons and says, sigh, "that's my song," and I'm, like, FECK, you mean to say it already belongs to somebody else? I just heard it! I just fell in love with it! How could anyone else possibly own it in such a short time?

I want my own song. Is that too much to ask? *sulking, here*

These very thoughts, these very petulant thoughts, were running through my noodle last night as I took a pre-dinner stroll on the treadmill. (How chaste am I - not only did I do a half hour on the exercise bike in the morning, I also did a half hour on the old mill before din-din. Yes, like Ahnold, I AM AN ATHLETE. Yeah. Right. More like a fat middle-aged woman trying to reclaim a semblance of fitness before she falls face first in a pot of cheesecake and drowns in her own own lactose.)

The song that's been running through my head, rather like a treadmill now that I think of it, is Somebody That I Used To Know by Gotye. I hadn't even heard the song until American Idol last week when it was sung as a duet by Elise and the guy with two first names, Phil-Phillips. I loved the song so much that I went immediately to iTunes and bought it – this is remarkable only because it was the first song I had ever bought from iTunes. I didn't even have an account until that moment.

So, yeah, I was loving it fierce.

I wouldn't say it is "my" song but it does apply to a lot of stuff in my life. I was thinking, as I was treadmilling, about doing a picture blog with photos from my life that apply to lyrics in the song. But, feck, that sounded like way too much work. Besides, what's the point? Recriminations are pointless. Move on, I say. Get on with life – it's too effing short to waste on the festering toxicity of resentment.


Speaking of OWN, Oprah Winfrey is in Toronto today. That's just a couple hours down the road from my home sweet home where I'm waiting with bated breath for Mizz Oprah to show up on my doorstep and surprise me. She always does that, right? Shows up and surprises people? I figure since I blogged about her when she retired from her last show that she's got a firecracker up her butt to meet me in person.
Photo, Toronto Star
Not one to be caught with my pants down (actually that's a bald-faced lie, I'm always caught that way), I'm sitting here in my best dress, waiting for the doorbell to ring. My legs are shaved, the bathtub drain is clogged, my hairdo is done and my make-up is sufficiently made up. I've wrapped a towel around me to ward off wayward clouds of cat hair and, in fact, am quite ready for my one-on-one with the Queen of daytime TV.

She'll be here any minute now. Any minute.

*checks watch*




Did I know there was a Canadian version of Somebody That I Used to Know? NO!!!! Not till Jeannie and Tim (see their comments, below) told me about them.

Guess what? The version from Walk Off The Earth is fantastic! So, here – The Canuck cover. Enjoy!!!

Monday, April 16, 2012

A to Z Honesty - N is for Ass

I am such an ass sometimes. OK, since this is an honesty thing, I'm an ass a LOT of times. But yesterday I was particularly assy.

There are 1,735 blogs signed up for this A to Z Blogging Challenge. That's crazy good, yes? But deciding to visit as many of those blogs as possible in just one month? Why that's CRAZY. Still, I've been trying. When someone throws a gauntlet at me and whacks me in the face with it, I pick it up and whack 'em back. The rest of my life is lived as a lazy slug but at gauntlet throwing I am an Olympian. (What the feck is a gauntlet anyway?)

So yesterday I was A to Z-ing at a rapid rate because it was the first day I'd had in ages to spend some quality time with my gauntlet, and after a couple hours of visiting other people's blogs and trying to make quasi-intelligent comments, I came across Graphophobia, the earnest blog of a timid writer named Kevin B. Hiatt whose post about goals struck me as inspirational. Thus I was blatting in his comment box with my usual peppiness, writing this:
I need to do ALL of those things. Except the video games, because I never play them anyway, but I need to get BACK to my diet and BACK to exercising and BACK to writing.
And then, because I was all hepped up on peppiness, enthusiasm and stupidity, I finished the comment with this:
You go, girl! Thanks for the inspiration!!!!!
In case you're wondering, Kevin is not a girl. My apologies to you, Kevin. As I've said, I am an ASS. I should just go to other people's blogs and write "ASS was here."

Speaking of A to Z, I have a couple observations to make.

1. I had no idea there were so many blogs out there completely dedicated to rodents. Gerbil blogs. Guinea pig blogs. Hamster blogs. What the feck, people? Entire blogs about a being that only lives for two years and spends that entire time scurrying around wheels, eating freeze dried grass pellets, pooping and biting the fingers of small children? My own blog is so much better - writing about asses. (I hear ya.)

2. When you follow a gerbil blog? The gerbil blog does not follow you back. Maybe it's because it's in its cage. Or one of those plastic balls. Hard to hit the follow button, also, when your arm is a quarter of an inch long. Or maybe gerbils are just snooty. Or they don't want to read about asses.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

A to Z Honesty - M is for Missing

"I miss him so much."

I hold the bartender's shaggy head in a loose embrace and stroke the back of his head. He acquiesces to my hollow need, the crook of his supplicant neck folded against the shelter of my breast.

I say the words as individuals, with revered emphasis, their meaning as rocky true as rip tides hissing on distant shores where my baby walks without me.

This funky seaside diner is the haunt of our glory days. Lime-freshed bottles of Corona froth these memories of passion-fuelled debates on politics, world hunger and the environment; we knew everything, we did everything, we loved everything. Mostly, though, I loved you.

How could I not.

I am here looking for something that no longer exists. The restaurant is full of university students and young workings, arguing about all the things we did. Nothing is new but everything is changed. Amongst their fevered energy my own self dissipates, like mist, like dust. The bartender, our old friend, as staid as truth, understands.

He bends his head, sorrow radiates from my fingertips; compassion becomes our ritual, the communion of lonely souls.

Friday, April 13, 2012

A to Z Honesty - L is for life or lack thereof

The older I get, the more I'm around death, the less I'm afraid. Sometimes I welcome it. No stress. No to-do list. No trying to please people who can't be pleased. No feeling bad about things I've said or things I've done. Things I can never change, things I don't have the serenity to accept. All that, washed away in an absence of breath.

When I was younger, I feared death. But now, as some of my favourite people have passed on, I see the comfort of knowing a path has been cleared. All the best people are doing it, dying. And if they can do it, so can I.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

A to Z Honesty - K is for ka-ka

You knew it had to be done, right? Cause what else could K possibly stand for other than ka-ka? The way things have been going around here it was as inevitable as it is obnoxious. So don't blame me if things get stinky.

This post is actually another pearl from my office. I know, you're asking yourself how there could possibly be more information from that office of hers, when yesterday's Belly Button Jam tip was so illuminating? If you knew the people I work with you wouldn't wonder. You should see Angie over there, the imp, always up to no good, laughing so hard she's got tears running down her face. Good thing her mascara is waterproof or she'd be channelling some serious Alice Cooper. It was Angie who suggested ka-ka for the letter K. She's been a big fan of my A to Z series and actually read them out loud to her husband the other night.

"Oh yeah?" said I, inordinately pleased, then throwing my line in the water for a little bit of fishing. "Erm, what did he think?"

"He liked them," she said. "But he fell asleep."

ANYway, so it was Angie who suggested ka-ka which made me acknowledge a startling universal truth: no matter how fancy a meal is, no matter if it was made by Chef Gordon Ramsay or Nigella Lawson, no matter if it's Kraft Dinner or a weenie cooked over a campfire, no matter if it's seen on Food Network or scarfed down straight from the fridge.... it always comes out your "other end" looking like shit.

"The only time it looks different," Angie said, "is if you have corn."

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

A to Z Honesty - J is for Jezebel and jam

Yesterday was one of those crazy days, when everyone in the office suddenly turned bi-polar. We were either barking like crabs with PMS, or we were wiping tears away from laughter. What was so funny? Oh who knows. If I say "belly button" to you, will you laugh hysterically, like can't-breathe-snorting-red-faced-ugly laughter? No? See, I knew there was a bi-polar bug floating around. We were just stinking weird yesterday.

It started when one of my colleagues, let's call her Jezebel because she threatened to kill me dead if I used her real name, didn't get enough sleep the night before and thus was prone to catching the crazy bug that was obviously in the air. She was so funny that my boss chatted me this gem: "Say belly button to her," he wrote.

"Hey Jezebel," sez I, the Queen of Shit Disturbing. "Belly button."

Jez looked at me blankly. (Blank is not an attractive look, jest saying. It's that slack mouth and empty eye thing that's a little disconcerting.)

"Huh?" she said. "What are you TALKING about?"

"Boss said to say 'belly button' to you."

More blank look. Then it dawned on her – I can totally see where the expression 'dawned on someone' comes from. Recognition spread across Jez's face like a Dominican rum-splashed sunrise. Then she started laughing.

"Oh god," she said, chortling.


"Nothing," she said. Snorting.

"WHAT? It must be SOMETHING."

So she caves because I have mad interrogation skillz, and starts telling me about this one day at work when crazy was in the air and they were having one of those meaning-of-life conversations and Jez asked Boss, who wasn't such a big boss back then, if he'd ever smelled his belly button.

I let that sentence sink in for about 10 WTF seconds, then bent my neck to see if I get my nose within sniffing distance.

This is not easy to do. Go ahead. Try it. Right now... no, I don't care who's looking. Just try!

SEE? Impossible.

"How in the HELL did you smell your own belly button?" But she's laughing too hard to answer because everyone in the office is now crooking their necks at unnatural angles trying to get a whiff of their belly buttons.

"And what the HELL do belly buttons smell like?"

Jez is peeing herself over there. (Cleaner is going to have a FIT.) "It smells," she said, through wheezes, "like JAM."

Jam? Like, raspberry jam? Grape jelly? Marmalade?

"No." Wheezing. Snorting. Tears running down face. "Like TOE jam."

I don't mean to keep writing about gross things. I don't. This morning I thought desperately for something to write about besides Belly Button Jam but honestly? Nothing else seemed as appropriate. Or inappropriate. Or something.

And in case you're wondering, it's practically impossible to smell your own belly button without using a Q-tip. That's Jez's advice, not mine.

Now don't be telling me this whole A to Z thing hasn't been an education...

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

A to Z Honesty - It's a hard knock life

Nothing is ever good enough for the office cleaner.

Every weekend he runs a broom around and empties the garbage – such a hard knock life.

Every Monday we get an e-mail from our office manager beseeching us to make the cleaner's life easier so she doesn't have to listen to him whining anymore.

A couple weeks ago he was bitching because people weren't rinsing out their recyclables. Being the conscientious person that I am, I made a renewed effort to remove all globules and grossossities off of all fat-free creamer containers and tasteless salad dressing bottles before tossing them into the blue box.

A couple of weeks before that he was fussing because the washrooms were messy. From that point on I made sure the toilet was clean enough to eat off of every time I made a deposit.

This week he was whinging about garbage cans at people's desks – apparently he doesn't like it when people put garbage in those garbage cans. "I had to pull a banana peel out of one," he said.

OMIGAWD. Somebody had the nerve to put a BANANA PEEL in the GARBAGE? What's next? Am I going to have to pee through a coffee filter so as not to release pure urine into the office toilets? Am I going to have to eat my lunch outside, with the smokers, just in case a wayward crumb falls on the floor? Nothing is ever good enough for this man! What does he WANT from me? *sobbing* I try and try but he wants more, always MORE!

It's like living with a MOTHER-IN-LAW!

Listen, I don't feel sorry for this sad sack one bit. I feel like saying to him: IT'S YOUR JOB. DO IT. It's not like we're a bunch of slobs. We're actually pretty good about cleaning up after ourselves. Oh, except for that time somebody picked their nose and wiped boogers beside the toilet paper receptacle. That was kinda gross. And, oh yeah, there was that other time when somebody threw a tampon wrapper on the floor. Or, heheh, there was the time some airhead put regular soap in the dishwasher and overflowed it – OK, that was ME, but I learned my lesson! OH-OH-OH, and then there was the time somebody had a big crap and overflowed the toilet and then ran away. THAT WAS NOT ME but for some reason I had to clean it up. The whole time I was plunging someone else's giant turd down the john I was singing this:

Monday, April 9, 2012

A to Z Honesty - H is for Hickey

Annnnnnnd here's how the Friday night sleepover went: 

This was on my son's neck when I picked him up Saturday morning.
Apparently he ran into the rare and rabid Eatibus Anythingus Hooverus Vulgaris.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

A to Z Honesty - G is for Gak

Angus on his 15th birthday, April 1, 2012.

"But Mom," says my son, who is trying to get something from me and so is employing his best Sincere tone, "I kinda like her."

Angus is 15 and cute. He has a new girlfriend every five minutes. If he would spend half as much time worrying about homework as he does about girls he would be on the honour roll instead of languishing comfortably in the department of your-son-needs-to-apply-himself.

He wanted to go to her house for a sleepover. I was like, NO, you're not going over there to make me a grandmother, NO, whaddya NUTS?

He said, "Now I'm upset because I just realized you don't trust me."

Don't TRUST ME? Didn't I use those exact same words back when I was 15? And didn't I use them only when I was up to no good?

The girl's mother didn't seem to mind. She encouraged it. I imagined her as being 15 herself, having hatched her own brood at the age of two, hanging out at the double-wide with a cigarette hanging off her bottom lip and grandbabies called Tiffany and Briana perched on each hip. But when I talked to her on the phone she was nice. She was a grown-up. She had a job and she didn't live in a trailer because when she was giving me directions she described her place as having a three bay garage and I thought nobody with grandbabies on her hip named Tiffany and Briana would have a three bay garage – unless, of course, she was living in it. Luckily that didn't occur to me until just now.

Apparently I am out of the loop. Apparently "sleepovers" with the opposite sex is the way things are being done now when teenagers who live out in the country want to hang out with others of their ilk. "Oh we have a spare bedroom because our oldest is away at university. We'll just stay up and watch movies. Don't worry, I'll keep an eye on him." I heard "university" and I heard "spare bedroom" and I acquiesced. How bad could it be?

Just to be on the safe side I scouted her out on Facebook.


She had dyed black hair, jet black, with a big stripe of blue.

She had more piercings than my kitchen sieve, including this big snot-covered one between her nostrils and one on her tongue, which she was sticking out at the camera and looking just like Gene Simmons from Kiss.

She had a low cut shirt that almost completely showed off her boobies.

And she was SMOKING.


I promptly sent Angus a message on FB: New rule: NO SMOKING, NO TATTOOS, NO PIERCINGS, NO DRUGS, NO SEX and I paused, flustered for a second, because I couldn't think of what else to say, so I added, NO GRANDBABIES NAMED TIFFANY AND BRIANA.

I couldn't very well say NO BLUE HAIR because Angus himself had blue hair just last year.

So he got mad at me, of course, and used the trust line again, and said he hated drugs and smoking was stupid and I was beaten by logic into submission and granted him permission even though I was imagining being a grandparent by next January.

Angus is, after all, a good boy. He is. And I do trust him. Which is not to say he's not gonna kill me if he reads this post. Thankfully neither of my children find my blog or my life interesting enough to acknowledge so I'm pretty sure I'm in the clear.

So all was well when we were driving him up to the girl's house yesterday afternoon. Our conversation was easy, and no teenaged hackles were raised when I mentioned the 14,000 piercings on her ear.

"Wait a minute," said Angus. "Were you checking out her photos on Facebook?"

"Yes. Of course. I wasn't a reporter for 25 years for nothing."


I nodded.

"THAT'S NOT HER. IT'S HER FRIEND. YOU THOUGHT THAT WAS HER?" I nodded and he started laughing so hard I worried he might get pee on the back seat of the car.

When I met her, she was very normal looking. Blonde hair. Nice smile. No snot-covered ring in her nose. Demurely dressed. I was SO relieved.

Which is not to say a demurely dressed teenager can't make me a grandmother. I am fully aware of the Eddie Haskell Syndrome.

I am merely relieved that Briana's baby boobies won't be on display.

Friday, April 6, 2012

A to Z Honesty - F is for Friend

Will-o'-the-wisp of woman, all smile and spark,

I think of you oft, as a sailor's heart would return to salt mist, ice spray, rolling tidal seas.

In your voice, the scream of distant gulls, of brilliant thunder, waves pounding on rocky shores. 

Laughter borne of earth and wind and family, always family, always.


Laurita, melodic trip of the tongue, three dancing syllables sparkling from the east.

Yesterday I checked the mail and found a package from my dear friend Laurita Miller, a talented writer and fellow blogger from Newfoundland. She is an elf of a girl, a spritely spirit. To know her, even a bit, is to love her and I don't know anyone who doesn't love her to absolute bits.

Inside the envelope was this remarkable necklace that she put together herself. There was a note of explanation but I knew, as soon as I saw the words, that she had taken two quotes from one of my short stories called Still Up, and used them as the central design element of this sincerely beautiful wearable art.

I saw this and my knees buckled.

A sob welled up from my heart and, for a moment, I could scarcely breathe.

Many people have done wonderful things for me in my long, lucky life. But this. This was the best.

That Laurita had, first of all, thought enough of me to make this beautiful necklace, that was one thing.

But to remember my story, and to choose words from it that not only sum up the friendship of the two main characters but also sum up the value of all friendships – including the bond I have with Laurita – that is what reaches through the hum of daily life and touches you with magic that can only be experienced, not described.

I wore the necklace to my writer's group meeting last night (I think I will wear it every day from now on) and proudly showed it to my fellow writers. They were amazed by the trinket, I exaggerate not one bit. The idea of wearing one's own words, in such a creative way, is fantastic. They all said, "She should SELL these."

So I say to you, Laurita – perhaps Calling Shotgun is not your only calling. When you're not on your way to becoming Canada's next Alice Munro, perhaps you could string together more of these wonderful, wonderful pendants. You could use the proceeds for charity and thus would not only be helping writers wear their words close to their chests, but you would also helping the world even more than you already do.

But perhaps that is asking too much of a will-o'-the-wisp, a girl of the Atlantic, a daughter of the rock, an earth mother grounded in love.


By the way, I would be completely remiss if I didn't mention Mr. Ninja Himself, the lovely and talented Alex J. Cavanaugh, one of the popular hosts of the A to Z Blogfest, as well as being a successful author and all-round nice guy. Today he mentioned me along with the extremely popular Talli Roland in his F is for Friendly post. I am very touched, Alex. Thank you. But as far as Friendly goes? You, my dear, are the King.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

A to Z Honesty - E is for Exaggerating only slightly

No news to any woman on this fashion-wired planet but oh my gawd pantyhose are just the stupidest thing since gallbladders. (I haven't had my gallbladder since 1987 and haven't missed it one iota. What the heck is it there for anyway? A space filler? Like the Great Creator had a hole where the liver and onions were sliding into and so invented an organ in which to store stones from the heavenly driveway? Why doesn't he just get it paved? So much easier to plow in the wintertime. And why the feck did he invent winter anyway? Fecking winter. Fecking gallbladders.)

Where was I? Oh yeah. Fecking pantyhose.

I was at a funeral yesterday – I know. You're all sad now. Don't be. It was a fabulous funeral. One of the nicest I've been to. If you have to go on and die, which I don't recommend, you might as well have a fabulous funeral. With great guest speakers and terrific music and photos that make you smile and cry all at the same time. Not to mention those fancy funeral sandwiches. (By the way, I'll really miss you, Bill. Hugs.)

But where was I again? Oh yeah. Fecking pantyhose. Why, why, WHY are these things so STUPID? The ones in my lingerie drawer (not the dildo drawer from yesterday, in case you were thinking that, which you totally were, don't deny it) were like Goldilocks pantyhose: they were either too baggy, making my ankles look like a shar-pei; or they were so tight that I couldn't get the crotch up past my knees. Stupid control top pantyhose. They're like wrestling a freaking BEAR. Can anyone get them on? Anyone? (Sounding just now like Ferris Bueller's teacher.) I swear to gawd they were designed to fit your ARMS, not your legs.

So I went through three fits of blue angst trying to get them on yesterday, finally winding up in such a sweaty state of mess that I needed another shower and had to start all over again. Needed one, but didn't take one, because by this point I was resigned to to never taking off the stupid control top pantyhose ever again. Ever. Even to go to the bathroom. Which I immediately had to do. Like, seriously? How old am I? Don't I tell my own children to go pee before they put on their snowsuits? And aren't pantyhose just like snowsuits only they're transparent and don't keep you warm and are just actually the stupidest things since gallbladders?

And yeah, when I was pulling them back up I put my fecking fingernail through 'em and caused a big fecking hole. Big enough to drive a gallbladder through.


Wednesday, April 4, 2012

A to Z Honesty - D is for Dildoes

Last night on Facebook my glamourous friend GP Ching pointed out a news story that sez Canada is the fifth happiest country in the world. Are Canadians happier, she asked, than her fellow Americans, who ranked 11th in the poll?

Well, YEAH.

First of all, we're up higher. The altitude mollifies our brains so we're all kinda drugged all the time, like hikers on Mount Everest. It's hard to be unhappy when you're high. (Not that I would know, kids.)

It's also frigging cold in Canada. You ever seen a frog when it's cold? Or a fish? They're, like, stunned. That's how Canadians are when they venture out of their igloos. Stunned. It's hard to be unhappy when you can't form a coherent thought due to your brain cells' chilly resemblance to Sara Lee cheesecake.

We're lovers, not fighters. We don't have guns in our bedside tables – we have dildoes and lube. We like to fornicate. A lot. It's the only thing that keeps us warm when it's 40 below.

Nobody holds a grudge in Canada because we're always apologizing so damned much. It's like, "oh, sorry I just rear-ended your new car," and "that's ok, I forgive you," and "call me sometime and I'll apologize for boinking your wife," and "good idea – it'll give me a chance to apologize for the punch I'm going to deliver to your fornicating FACE." 

Which is why I'm sometimes so freaking happy that my face hurts.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

A to Z Honesty - C is for Cathy

When I was in Grade Nine, back in the days when platform-shoe-wearing dinosaurs roamed the earth, there were five Cathys in my gym class. Obviously a popular name in 1960, when I was hatched. The Tiffany of its time.

Imagine a whole gymnasium filled with Cathys, flabbily running around sweating up the joint whilst colouring the landscape with their gym rompers. Remember gym rompers? Even the cutest girls in school looked terrible in gym rompers. It was those puffy elasticized bottoms, squeezing into the equally puffy flesh of the top of the thigh, showing off every fish-belly-white nuance of pudge as it jiggled through its gymnastics-basketball-field hockey heroin-like haze. And if the cutest girls looked rancid in those rompers, imagine how the rest of us dorky shiner niners looked. I tell ya, it was like Blue Suicide just waiting to happen.

Anyway, we all had to have our names embroidered on the back of our rompers. It Was A Rule. And I remember thinking, back then, because I would think of anything to take my mind off the horrors of gym class (reminds me of the woodsplitter - gak), that if your name was Kathy with a K, you were inclined to be slender and, if you were Cathy with a C, you were inclined the other way. Which was porkified.

I developed a theory about this. Notice the letter C. All round, like a pregnant belly, or a coffee cup. I believe its natural shape holds all the fat in. Notice the letter K - there is no bottom to the letter. All the fat just falls out.

Think about all the Cathys or Kathys you know. Who are the fatties? Huh? Huh?

I know. You are blown away by my brilliance. I should win a Nobel prize for this.


By the way, C is for Cathy is also today's A to Z theme for Denise Covey, my dear Aussie colleague who has generously featured me on her blog today. Big hugs your way, Denise dahling! Thank you so much! You can check out her feature here.