Thursday, December 29, 2011

Past Deadline: Ye Olde New Year's Revolutions

Here we are on the brink of 2012 and it’s time to reflect upon the year and pledge some sort of allegiance to revolutionizing life and making lists of promises that may or may not be broken, etc.

As I have reflected in the past, it all depends upon the type of list you make, right?

Last year, after eons of making grand lists that promised everything from the standard eating better and exercising more to the more aggressive saving of the world, I decided to aim for an achievable goal that was, nevertheless challenging. So I pledged to complain less or, at least, to use my inside voice when I do it.

How did I do? (Hahaha.)

This year, I think I might go back to some of the old standards, particularly that exercise one. THAT has definitely been more challenging since August, when ye olde right foot collapsed.

Stupid, stupid foot.

Last year I was quite pleased with my activity level. Although my running “program” had its ups and downs, I was doing it. I completed the Kilt Run (8K) and survived! Even better, because our family has been attempting to make do with one vehicle as Groom-boy commutes to Ottawa, my hoofing it about town resulted in the loss of a few pounds.

All that came to a crashing halt with the foot crisis. Walking became difficult; running is currently impossible. And while foot-related exercise may again be possible someday, I need to consider some alternate way to get the lead out.

It’s funny, a couple of years ago in this space at around this time of season I rambled (Me? Ramble?) about how I thought 2010 was going to be a nasty year because I was turning 40 and, well, you know what that means!

At the time I wasn’t really sure what that meant, but maybe the rumour is true – maybe your body really does start to fall apart once you hit that grand decade.

Within the last several months I have noticed my grey hairs are turning white, too. Yeesh. If I do not persist with my aggressive Hair Maintenance Program™, it looks as if I have pressed my forehead up against something painted white. This might be acceptable in 10 years or so, but I’m not ready yet.

Yes, 2011 brought a few physical changes to be sure.

In fact, that could be an underlying theme for the year – change. The remarkable thing (for me) is that I think I am maybe kinda sorta learning to accept the constancy of change. (That doesn’t mean I have to like it.)

In addition to my stupid foot throwing off my beloved routines, there have been many work-related changes this year, too. Some of these have been a bit unnerving for Type-A girl over here. (I like to eat my supper at a certain time, so don’t dare come to my door and ask to see my furnace, thanks.)

While I understand that change happens and can even translate into exciting new opportunities, sometimes it is just, well, difficult and unwanted.

It’s easy to immediately panic when facing an unwanted change, but that doesn’t help. I can’t tell you how many times I have said to my children or to students in my classes who are facing an unpleasant prospect: “Don’t panic.”

Now that I am firmly ensconced in my 40s I suppose the time has come to do the grown-up thing and practise what I preach. Take a deep breath, make yourself a cup of Calm The Heck Down™ tea (usually containing chamomile) and just deal with it.

So, to recap: Resolution 1: Get more exercise, even if it means not using your feet. Resolution 2: Continue aggressive Hair Management Program™. Resolution 3: Don’t freak out in the face of change (which also applies to white hair). Resolution 4: Save the world.

Had to throw that last one in just to make it interesting. Wish me luck.

(I would like to extend my very best wishes to long-time Perth Courier colleagues/friends who are about to embark on new adventures. All the best as you embrace your own changes. It has been wonderful working with you for all these many years!)

Published in The Perth Courier, Dec. 29/11

Friday, December 23, 2011

Past Deadline: 'Twas the Night Before Christmas 2011

Christmas already? Why, that can only mean it’s time to extend my heartfelt apologies once again to Clement Clark Moore as I embark upon my annual butchering of his beloved classic, ’Twas the Night Before Christmas. After all, what would the holidays be without some wreaking of literary havoc upon poor, hapless poets and readers?

’Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house

The children used light sabres in order to joust.

The stockings were buried under debris

And Mama looked a bit like she wanted to flee.

The company would be coming

The turkey soon thawed

And Mama hoped everyone would be truly awed.

“Your house is divine,” Mama hoped they would say,

“It should be on the house tour – book it today!” [That would be the Hoarders house tour, maybe?]

She snapped out of her daydream when she heard such a clatter

And ran to the next room to see what was the matter.

Boychild and Girlchild were standing alarmed

As the Christmas tree toppled – but no one was harmed. [This didn’t really happen – but I often imagine it could when the light sabre fights get going.]

“What are you doing?” Mama shrieked and she hollered,

And then Groom-boy came in and the kitty cats follered. [Ha. “Follered” is not a real word, but some people say it that way.]

“It’s her fault!” “It’s his fault!” the arguments started

But Mama just stood there, feeling all broken-hearted.

“The ornaments,” she whispered. “So many are broken.

“Some were real treasures and beautiful tokens.”

The room grew solemn and Groom-boy jumped in

Promising to make things as neat as a pin.

The children were worried. Would Santa still come?

Would they get any presents after what they had done?

Everyone pitched in while Mama went off

To work in the kitchen and, um, started to cough.

When what to her grateful eyes should appear

But the Stress-Free Holiday Fairy™! What cheer!

“You’re late!” Mama cried. “I have been so stressed out

“That I can’t even remember what Christmas is about!

“The cooking, the cleaning, the buying, the wrapping

“It just leaves me feeling as if I should be napping.

“And now the tree’s ruined and the company’s coming

“I’m just not sure how I can keep it all humming!”

The fairy, of course, sprite that she is

Gave a wink and conjured a drink with some fizz.

“Take a deep breath and then take a wee sip,

“And before too long you’ll have plenty of zip!”

The drink was quite yummy and before Mama knew it

She’d sipped and she’d sipped and got all the way through it.

Meanwhile the fairy got quickly to work,

Waving her wand as if she’d gone berserk.

Soon the clutter was gone and the meal prep completed

And best of all was the tree accident was deleted.

“Good as new!” cried the fairy. “Everything will be fine

“And you must remember to enjoy this grand time!”

With a wink and grin and a twinkling eye

She blew Mama a kiss and took to the sky.

Mama peeked in the room and to her delight

Saw the family and kitties basking in the tree’s light.

“Everything good?” she asked with a smile

And knew she’d be thanking her fairy for a while.

Phew. You gotta love that Stress-Free Holiday Fairy™. Have you seen her? I’m still hoping. Anyway, Boychild, Girlchild, Groom-boy and I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and all the best in 2012!

Published in The Perth Courier, Dec. 22/11

Past Deadline: Striving To Be the Rare Uncollapsed

You may have heard I have a sore foot. Possibly I have whined and complained somewhat incessantly about it.

Things are muuuuuuch better than they were. In August, I was basically lame. Now, after physiotherapy fixed a raging case of tendonitis and orthotics are teaching my feet how to be normal, there are lots of times when I can walk pain free.

To quickly recap, I developed a weird pain in my right foot in August. This led me to my doctor, then to a physiotherapist who determined I had a rather nasty case of posterior tibialis tendonitis brought about because the long arch was collapsing onto the tendon. It appears I have “severe biomechanical failure” in both feet, although the left one hasn’t gotten as angry as the right one. Yet.

As interesting as this all sounds (stop yawning), a collapsed foot is much more fun to talk about than it is to walk upon. So you can imagine how much fun that must be!

Anyway, physio helped tremendously and the orthotics are starting to make a difference. Still, the progress is slow. Even though it has been suggested that someday I may be able to get back into running, I am starting to have serious doubts.

At a recent event a couple of us were lamenting how much fun we were having (ha) now that we have entered our forties. One woman reported having hot flashes. I chimed in with the fact I now sport orthotics.

“I am starting to think that collapsed feet don’t actually get better,” I said.

A nurse was standing beside me. “No, no they don’t,” she said matter-of-factly.

Possibly a look passed over my face because she added the word “rarely.”

I have avoided checking Dr. Google on this matter because I am not sure I am ready to hear for certain that the jig is up – that my aspirations to be a prima ballerina are kaput and my dream of being a foot model for anything other than a medical journal is done.

Besides, I should put that week into context.

I am not terribly athletic. I continue to be amazed that I took up running at all. It is hard. I am not a glamorous runner. Sometimes it hurts. (Ironically, it usually wasn’t the feet that were sore, but I now know that the feet are connected to, well, everything.)

Anyway, the best thing about running for me is the fact it clears my head and makes me feel happy. All I need is 5K a couple of times a week to accomplish this. I also love running because I can go when my schedule allows it, which can be tricky.

The fact I haven’t run since July 24 – or even had a decent power walk – makes me cranky.

So on the evening of Nov. 27 I went on a super-fast, long-strided, loud-music-playing, orthotics-wearing, heart-pumping, 2.7K walk.

It felt sooooo good.

Even though I iced my foot as soon as I came home, I paid for it, as I knew I would. I don’t regret it, though. Besides, it was a new and different kind of pain, which was intriguing (when you are obsessed with your foot).

I was still paying for it when I had the conversation with my nurse friend.

I bounced back from that discouragement after chatting with my lovely physiotherapist a week later. I admitted to her that I had probably pushed the boundaries a bit with my mentally-therapeutic-but- pedalianly-abusive power walk.

She was undaunted, however, and has encouraged me to start a walking program – but to ease into it. (Duh.) I am also working harder on my exercises. These include such exciting things as standing on tiptoes while squeezing a small ball between my feet, as well as toe push-ups, which are harder than they might sound.

Most importantly, I am going to try to be more patient. My orthotics guy told me it could take several months before the bad days diminish. I am only about halfway into “several.”

With patience and a lot more toe push-ups, maybe I will be lucky enough to be one of the “rarelys.”

Published in The Perth Courier, Dec. 15/11

Past Deadline: Girl Guides Excepted

I am working on a new sign for my front door.

See, lately everyone and their dog is coming to my door around suppertime and asking to see things related to my basement. (Except for the Pop Tart girls I wrote about a few weeks ago, who were more interested in my toaster.)

I am beginning to think a team of undercover agents is conspiring to recover buried treasure in my basement. It’s a very old house, and part of the basement is quite…um…rustic, which is what happened when pioneers met bedrock. I suspect the soil is too thin for a buried treasure, though.

Nevertheless, these people keep trying. They show up under various company names and pretend to care about my health and how much I am paying for things. They want to check my furnace or my water heater or my vents or my pipes or for carbon monoxide. They want to see my gas bill or hydro bill. They all have very nice name tags and vests or shirts and badges and clipboards. They look very officious.

Sometimes they also look bored. When I open the door and give them the old stink eye because usually I am making supper, it’s a bit like looking in the mirror – they give their spiel and I say “Nothankyougoodbye” and I think we all know we are getting really tired of this routine.

Of course they look professional and officious, as stated above, while I show up at the door with crazy hair and bags under my eyes and boisterous kids in the background – so that whole “looking in the mirror” thing probably only applies to how we feel, not how we look.

I’m sure I have mentioned before about how I actually got sucked into one of those fixed-rate energy deals one time. It was quite a few years ago and it was the first time one of them had shown up at my door. He was really good – he had a polished routine and it was in the midst of a big media blitz about an energy crisis and I nodded and listened and signed.

He hadn’t been gone more than two minutes before my gut kicked me hard in the…uh…gut and said, “You moron. You shouldn’t have done that.”

I called Groom-boy and my dad and everyone said, “You moron. You shouldn’t have done that.” They used different words, though. We extracted ourselves from the contract within hours of me signing it.

Needless to say, I am now suspicious to the point I won’t even entertain the spiel beyond one sentence. I go for the pre-emptive strike. If I am unhappy with the furnace or water heater or vents or pipes or carbon monoxide detectors or energy bills, I would rather go looking for a solution than do business at the door.

Except when it comes to Girl Guide cookies, of course.

For the rest, it is seriously getting to the point that whenever the front doorbell rings, I hesitate to answer it because someone is usually trying to sell me something. And if they are not trying to sell me something, they are preaching religious gloom and doom.

Does this happen in the country or is it a town phenomenon? More importantly, if I moved to the country, would I still be able to get Girl Guide cookies?

So now I have to decide what sign to put on the door.

Those little “No Soliciting” plaques are quite attractive and make the point, but are largely ignored, I think.

How about: “If you want to see my furnace, water heater, vents, pipes, carbon monoxide detectors or energy bills, forget it. Go away.” Too wordy?

We could try: “If you are here regarding anything to do with my basement or energy bills, go away.” Or a slight variation: “My basement appliances and their associated bills are not available for viewing.”

Or: “The answer is ‘no,’ so don’t bother ringing the bell. (Girl Guides excepted).”

Maybe I should just put a picture of me with my crazy hair and stink eye above the doorbell. That could be a better deterrent than a mean guard dog.

Published in The Perth Courier, Dec. 8/11

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Past Deadline: You Will Eat These Meatballs...

I’ve been a mom for almost a decade now – longer if you count the time Child No. 1 was in the womb.

I know that’s nothing compared to others. Once you’re a mom, you’re always a mom, even when your own kids are old. You’ll always worry about them. I always come back to the friend of my mom who told me – about a decade ago – that I would never sleep well again because I would always be waiting for a phone call or wondering what they were doing in a far-off city or whatever.

Sigh. I can see how that might happen.

This isn’t a column about worry or sleep, though. My (belaboured) point is that with nearly 10 years in the bag I should really know better by now.

I should know there is absolutely no point in thinking that new recipe you are trying is going to be beloved by all the short people, even if it is little tiny meatballs in a sweet tomato sauce. They like hamburgers. They like ketchup. They’ll love these, right?

You can guess where this is going.

It had been a busy day for domestic activity. I always have a feeling of accomplishment when I get the house cleaned up because a) it is a small house that is very quickly overtaken by clutter and cat hair and b) I did not pass the entrance exam for Martha Stewart’s Basic Housekeeping 101.

Recent floor work in our sun porch meant the contents of said area had been moved into our dining room. Last week we finally got everything shuffled back out to the sun porch and I was feeling quite pleased about things looking somewhat presentable again.

So on that day I was busy trying to keep up appearances, while navigating the usual mounds of laundry and heaps of dishes.

Meanwhile, Boychild had friends over, and to avoid the continuation of a very vocal boys-against-girl war, I extracted Girlchild from the melee and we made cookies.

Even with all that I had time to construct the new meatball concoction. It would be so great!

The recipe made tonnes and, because I was absolutely convinced this would become a Beloved and Cherished Family Recipe™, I was happy with the volume since that would mean I could freeze leftovers and be a step ahead with a homemade meal at some future rushed time.

As it baked in the oven it smelled as good as I expected. The kids peered in and voiced their approval. All seemed destined for success.

Until they sat down and took the first bite.

“No offence, Mom, but I don’t like this,” said Girlchild. She thought the sauce, which was sparse on her plate, tasted too much like barbecue sauce. Until now I didn’t realize that would be a problem, as usually barbecue sauce is on the “safe” list.

Even though I billed them as being “little hamburgers in sweet ketchup” (because it’s all about the marketing, you know), Boychild, my ketchup liker, didn’t like. This is the same child who said just the other day: “Oh man! We’re out of broccoli!” And he loves mushrooms. I kid you not.

At least Groom-boy liked it. He even had seconds. My make-ahead meals went to grandparents.

I couldn’t help but be annoyed and disappointed because, of course, after all the preparation there was much whining about the meal and oh the hunger and so on.

Groom-boy commenced a rant about Fatness and Diabetes and Scurvy and the Scourge of Eating Too Much Pasta. “What DO you people like?” he asked. I disappeared into my office to write an inspired column. I really like pasta, but it didn’t really seem like the right time to defend it.

It is somewhat of a personal mission for me to continue to try new recipes in the faint hope they can be added to the repertoire. Perhaps in future I will a) remember to lower my expectations and b) remind myself that my mother told me, after I left for university, that she was so sick of corn she would probably never eat it again.

I look forward to exercising my palate in about another decade….

Published in The Perth Courier, Dec. 1/11

Past Deadline: No Dust for Christmas

In a month it will be Christmas.

For so many reasons I won’t be ready. As usual. This year, in addition to just falling behind in general, it appears likely I will also be hopelessly lost when it comes to knowing the Latest Trends in Christmas Gifts™.

One night last week Groom-boy went to great pains to explain to me he would be later getting home because a certain store was having a door-crasher special or whatever that would get us a sweet deal on a thingy that Girlchild was wanting if he showed up at precisely a certain time.

“A what?” I asked dimly.

He repeated the name of the thingy, which I won’t repeat here because a) she can read now and b) I can’t remember it anyway.

“Oh yeah,” I said distractedly. “And what is that again?”

He explained what the thingy does, which then rang vague bells as something she wants.

A few days after the secret caper, Groom-boy said something to me about the toy. I looked at him blankly before the hamster in that part of my brain finally kicked in and the creaky wheels began to grind into life.

Oh, the details to remember.

Years ago, when watching TV, Girlchild would say “I’m so getting that!” every time a commercial tickled her fancy. It became a big joke around our house. Now things are a little more calculated/negotiated on our kids’ parts, but there are still an awful lot of coveted items.

You know, our grandparents used to be happy about getting oranges for Christmas.

These days it seems as if we are made to feel that if we don’t go into debt for Christmas then we are personally responsible for sending the world economy to the brink.

Our kids – and we – have too much stuff. Getting stuff isn’t even meaningful a lot of the time. Even though, technically, we only have ourselves to blame for that, it’s a hard thing to prevent in a world driven by consumerism.

These are heavy thoughts to be thinking at a time when we are supposed to be infused with the spirit of giving, which so often translates into the spirit of spending. Three cheers for the economy – hip, hip, cha-ching!

Groom-boy said that as he waited to get Girlchild’s thingy, he and the other patrons joked about how they had become “those parents” – the ones who stand in long lines to get their kids the latest most fabulous thingy that only costs a few dollars more at the store down the street and that will probably be gathering dust in a few months anyway.

People, dust is a terrible thing and must be stopped.

Also terrible is this constant desire for stuff brought on by the brainwashing from the Holy Church of Consumerism. Even though they don’t get something every time we go to a store, our kids seem to think they should. They definitely have received things at more frequent and random intervals than I ever did as a child. In those days Christmas and birthdays were the principle toy-getting times.

Teaching our kids they have to earn an allowance to have money to buy things on their own has helped a little, but there is still this “need” for stuff.

I’m set to go all Role Model™ this Christmas. I don’t particularly need or want anything this year, so I think I will encourage gifts to charity instead or maybe giving something from the heart, such as cookies made from scratch or a craft that took some time to create. I’m not sure how long it will take to get the message across – maybe years? But it’s a start.

And this is not an entirely selfless act, anyway. After all, when you accumulate stuff you have to dust it, and that is something at which I do not excel. So less dusting is a fine gift.

I’m not saying some of the latest in thingies won’t be showing up under our tree this year because that would be really hard to process for certain people, but I definitely don’t mind being an example.

Sorry, economy. Not sorry, dust.

Published in The Perth Courier, Nov. 24/11

Monday, December 5, 2011

Past Deadline: To Tolerate Tolorate

Every day I walk by a bulletin board in front of a church that features interesting quotes. The quotes change every couple of weeks or so and are always a good read.

Often they are inspirational or compelling or worth a chuckle – “Be the change you want to see in the world” kind of stuff.

I am really puzzling over the current one, however: “You can never change what you tolorate.”


I cringe every time I pass it because I have great difficulty tolerating spelling errors. Did they spell “tolerate” incorrectly on purpose to prove a point? Do they know writer-types walk by on a regular basis and this is some sort of test? Are they hiding inside watching to see how long it will be before I crack and stick a little Post-It Note on the glass with the word “TOLERATE” scrawled in red pen?

This is just my initial reaction to the sign. You have no idea how much time I have spent contemplating its meaning as I pass by.

Spelling issues aside, I tend to disagree with the statement. I think lots of people change what they tolerate. Usually this comes from the fact they increase their understanding of something they couldn’t tolerate previously.

Maybe, for example, they used to hate people who have purple hair. Once they come to realize that people with purple hair are really no different than anyone else, it can be argued they have increased tolerance.

Sometimes it comes from experience. I like to think, for instance, I re-evaluated my tolerance of pain after having my first kid. People get used to things…and they can tolerate them more.

If you go right back to the definition of “tolerate” (as distinct from the non-existent “tolorate”), it tells you something. It means to “allow the existence, practice or occurrence of; to endure or allow with patience, leniency or understanding; to sustain or endure (pain suffering, etc.); to be capable of continued subjection to (a drug, radiation, etc.) without harm.”

I’m not sure if I should commend myself for not rushing over to the sign with my Post-It Note or not. Is tolerating this spelling error a good thing or is it just showing that I am “sustaining and enduring suffering” because I suspect there may be a philosophical message behind this spelling error?

(Note: to any of my students who may be reading this, my tolerance of spelling errors in submitted assignments is definitely lower than it is in this example.)


Indeed, “tolerate” is an interesting word – and it goes from one extreme to another. In fact, when we “preach tolerance,” what exactly are we saying? Well, obviously, it depends upon the context. I guess in my head I have always seen tolerance as a good thing – something that open-minded people do – but it can also be a bad thing.

We can tolerate bullying, but we shouldn’t.

We can tolerate spelling errors, but that leads to a society rife with sloppiness. (Except, of course, in this case, where it is stimulating discussion.)

One of the other reasons I decided to devote a column to this subject was the story that surfaced in Ottawa last week about the singing OC Transpo driver.

For years, a bus driver on a route from downtown to Barrhaven has been belting out tunes as he drives. Well, amid all the kudos over time came a number of complaints, and the OC Transpo managers have asked him to stop.

It reminds me of the part in Monty Python and the Holy Grail when the King of Swamp Castle has to repeatedly tell his son Herbert to stop singing. “Stop that! Stop that! You’re not going into a song while I’m here!”

I can understand if the guy was a really terrible singer, but most accounts seem to indicate the opposite.

It is a sad reflection on our times that people cannot tolerate a singing bus driver.

Sometimes it’s okay to “allow the existence, practice or occurrence” of something you may not necessarily love.

This is why I will “allow patience, leniency and understanding” when it comes to “tolorate.” Nevertheless, I hope the sign changes soon before I lose my mind.

Published in The Perth Courier, Nov. 17/11

Past Deadline: Retraining Wonky Ankles

The good news is I no longer feel compelled to cut off my right foot.

The bad news is I still spend way more time thinking about my feet than I would like.

Back in September, I wrote about how my right ankle had basically given up on me.

It all started with nagging pain in August. Over a period of several weeks, despite rest, ice, tensor bandages and elevation, it grew progressively worse. It burned and twinged and throbbed and felt as if someone were squeezing it with a vice. That was when I was sitting down – standing and walking were much less fun. Even swimming was painful.

My doctor referred me to physiotherapy, which became my happy place. My physiotherapist took my poor, swollen, red-hot appendage and, over a few weeks, got it back on speaking terms with the rest of my body.

“Baby, you were born this way,” she said with a smile, while marveling over the fact I actually ran on those feet. I credit good shoes.

Turns out I had posterior tibialis tendonitis in the right foot, which is a fancy way of saying my tendon was very angry. My arch had collapsed onto said tendon, which is as painful as it sounds. The ligaments were none too pleased about the situation, either.

Inflammation, much? Ice became my best friend.

My physiotherapist explained I have “severe biomechanical failure” in my feet. My ankles tilt in. Things aren’t lined up properly and probably never were. It seems it is a miracle I have not had foot problems before now.

How do we fix these wonky ankles? Custom orthotics!

I am now the proud owner of an expensive set of casts that not only produced inserts for my shoes, but can also be used as weapons or a dandy set of paperweights.

The inserts are now busily retraining my feet. Although I have been told by many that orthotics are just the bestest most awesomest things ever (or as my son would say, “epic!”), I have also been suitably forewarned they take some getting used to.


Basically, orthotics position your feet so they work the way they should, which feels weird when you’ve been walking on them the wonky way for 40 years.

The process makes your feet a whole new kind of tired as you find all sorts of little muscles that may never have been used properly before.

In fact, when my orthotics specialist explained how to ease into the wearing of them, he said I would need double the normal time. I am just that special.

So instead of wearing them for one hour in the morning and one in the afternoon on the first day, then two and two on the second, etc., I had to do each increment over two days.

How could I have lived so long with such crazy feet without knowing it? It makes me wonder what else I don’t know about myself. (I know about the crazy hair, at least.)

After a couple of weeks I am pleased to report that, despite the onerous process, I think I am starting to notice a difference.

My ankle still yells at me sometimes, but it’s not as violently angry. Both feet get tired, but that matches the rest of me.

My orthotics guy said that after a few months I will suddenly realize the bad days are much further and farther between. I look forward to it.

Not only that, but both he and my physiotherapist have suggested I may be able to run again – someday – as long as I don’t rush it. No worries. I am happy that I can sometimes walk without pain now, so I have no plans to hinder progress.

Oh, but I sure miss my head-clearing runs.

Even though I embraced cycling as a means to get around town without having to put weight on my foot, I have had a hard time getting past the “I am going to die” feeling that set in after I flipped off my bike in Grade 12 and landed in the hospital.

I’ll keep working at it, but so far biking doesn’t do much to clear my head – and concussions don’t count.

Published in The Perth Courier, Nov. 10/11

Friday, November 4, 2011

Past Deadline: You Want Me to What?

Okay. Here’s something weird.

One evening last week I was scrambling (that’s not the weird part) to finish work and shovel through the kitchen in order to start supper.

Of course the doorbell rang. It always does when you are scrambling.

When the doorbell rings at suppertime I always take a deep breath and steel myself to say “No, thank you!” to someone trying to sell me something energy related. (I have learned it is easier to say no to an energy guy up front than it is to say no later.)

Anyway, I opened the door with, I presume, my best scowly face on. There were two teenaged girls standing there. One was holding a box of chocolate Pop Tarts. Must be a school fundraiser, I thought.

I opened the door. One girl smiled and said something like, “Okay…this is going to sound like a really weird question, but could you toast a couple of these for us?”


“We won’t come into your house,” she continued, “but we’re stuck in Perth and we’re hoping someone could toast these for us.”

I honestly don’t remember my exact initial response, but it was something like, “Really?”

Meanwhile, my brain was spinning. I tend to be a charming combination of completely gullible mixed with incredibly suspicious (that last part comes from my dad, the retired conservation officer, I think), which means I do my best analysis of a situation after it is over.

I looked at the girls, who were polite, smiling and did not seem intoxicated or stoned. I tentatively crossed “home invasion” off my mental list, but kept “scam?” highlighted for the moment.

Really, though, my prevailing thought was: “How can I say no to such nerve?”

I shrugged. “Okay. I guess so,” I said.

They smiled and thanked and I took the box into the kitchen while they waited on the porch, door closed.

Girlchild, who had been hovering nearby during the exchange, was quite intrigued by the whole thing. “Can I go and see if they are still there?” she asked.

I was busy fiddling with the unopened box and preparing to get toasting. “Okay,” I said absently. (It later occurred to me that I should probably add “kidnapping?” to my list.)

Meanwhile, the girls had a grand chat. They complimented Girlchild on our Halloween decorations (which I figure may have attracted them to the house to begin with – it is obviously child friendly). They also discussed how good my spaghetti sauce smelled. “Your mom must be a good cook,” one of the girls said.

Despite the blatant flattery, I didn’t invite them in for supper.

I loaded the two Pop Tarts onto paper towels and returned to the door. A third girl had materialized – perhaps she was shy and hid behind a tree at first? I didn’t take time to toast a third one.

They thanked and I asked why they were “stranded” in Perth and the spokesperson explained something about having to go work and then youth group (or vice versa), so I got the idea they were between gigs. Anyway, they wandered off, munching on warm chocolate Pop Tarts.

So weird.

As a teenager, I never would have had the nerve to walk up to a stranger’s door – even a friendly looking stranger – and ask them to toast Pop Tarts for me. I would have eaten them cold. And I would have walked uphill both ways in the snow in bare feet…yadda yadda yadda.

To be honest, I still can’t decide whether I admire them for having the nerve to ask or am flabbergasted by their boldness. Maybe a bit of both.

I have since learned they visited at least one other neighbour on their quest, and were turned down.

So it doesn’t appear as if they were scoping the joint or invading the home or kidnapping the children or running a scam. Maybe it was a dare? Or a psychological experiment for a high school class? Or a random-act-of-kindness survey?

I have no idea. Whatever it was, I suppose it’s kind of neat that they felt comfortable enough in this little town to reach out to a stranger for…um…the use of a toaster.

Published in The Perth Courier, Nov. 3/11

Past Deadline: Thanks for Calling, But....

I want to preface this column by saying I really like the office administrators at my kids’ school. They are friendly, efficient, organized and generally wonderful.

That said, when the phone rings and the school number comes up on the call display, I don’t particularly want to talk to them.

Usually I would much rather dive under my desk and slap my hands over my ears. Nice. Dark and quiet.

Except those clever office administrators have my cell number, too, and they know how to use it. Often they call it first, and I will be caught somewhere with no desk for diving. If it weren’t for the fact I love Mr. George BlackBerry, executive assistant, I would be inclined to fling the phone into the bushes when they call.

Why so tense? Well, I would love to be able to say they are calling to tell me that one or both of my children have been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize or that they have been selected to be honorary chairs of a special philanthropic children’s foundation or even that they won a prize or some such glorious thing.

I am grateful, at least, they have not, so far, called to say my children have been expelled.

I think they have me on speed dial anyway, and the reason they do is because Germ Season™ has begun.


One of my kids (the one who is not crazy about school) occasionally falls victim to illnesses that feature ambiguous symptoms. This leaves me guessing as to the veracity of the claim, thus throwing me into turmoil: am I an uncaring mother who lacks sympathy for her child who is actually sick or simply a frazzled mother who is trying to work and has reason to be suspicious?

Either scenario is undesirable.

There are few other phone numbers that cause me such angst. Sometimes when they pop up I am tempted to dive under the desk. Usually I don’t though, because I don’t fit very well underneath. And it’s dusty under there. It’s just easier to answer the phone if I am in its vicinity.

I am cautious with unknown numbers, however. I sometimes hate talking to strangers. It’s one of the reasons I left reporting – so many strange people. I mean strangers.

Anyway, back to unknown numbers. There’s just something so darned unknown about them, don’t you find? Somehow my spirit of adventure (chortle) is not ignited by the mystique of answering mystery phone numbers.

After all, it could be a salesperson or a scammer or someone offering me something free that isn’t really free. Will I get trapped into answering questions for a survey that is “only going to take a couple of minutes, ma’am,” but ends up taking 20 minutes right at supper? Am I going to be tricked into revealing my social insurance number and bank account info and mother’s maiden name because I have trouble saying no?

Better to dive under the desk, I say. If it’s important they will leave a message.

(Okay… so if you ever call me and I don’t answer are you going to be imagining me checking messages while cowering under my desk? Hehehe.)


Sometimes you get to recognize unknown numbers, thereby making them somewhat known, and can still confirm they are Big Trouble™.

This is true when Utah calls (No offence, Utah.)

Regular readers may remember I wrote a year ago about getting to know all of the many numbers associated with a collection agency in Utah. I wrote them all down when they popped up in the middle of the night so I could call to lodge various complaints.

They were trying to send a fax to our phone line, and we finally figured out the fax they were trying to reach was one number off of ours.

It was definitely a relief to get that sorted out. As much fun as that was, I don’t miss the heart-pounding middle-of-the-night wake-up calls.

Similarly, as awesome as they are, I would much rather chat with the office administrators when I pick up the kids after a full, healthy day at school.

Here’s hoping! Germ season is only just beginning….

Published in The Perth Courier, Oct. 27/11

Past Deadline: The Semantics of Nuttiness

I think there’s something in the water at the CBC.

In the last couple of weeks, there seems to have been an epidemic of blurting and rudeness leading to two commentators becoming news items.

First is Don Cherry. I know. It’s a shock. (Caution: sarcasm!) I have to admit, I am not a Don Cherry follower. This is largely because he hurts my eyes. And my ears. Oh, and I don’t watch a lot of hockey (I know – I am a freak).

Nevertheless, his recent bungling during his Coach’s Corner segment transcended the world of sports and made news, so I couldn’t help but notice. The incident involved comments he made about three hockey players who were previously “enforcers” – or fighters.

It took me a while to figure out what exactly was going on, but I came to understand he was accusing certain former fighters of no longer condoning fighting. He called them names.

The accused players denied it, and the scandal grew because Cherry’s first attempt at an apology focused on the fact he used the word “pukes,” not that he made incorrect statements.

Meanwhile, I was having a hard time trying to understand why anyone would be mad that people weren’t condoning fighting (see above: don’t watch much hockey), especially in an era when there is much more awareness of the long-term negative effects of concussions.

I think part of the problem is that I never got a Rock ’Em Sock ’Em video for Christmas. You know – Don Cherry’s popular video series, complete with hits and fights. Ahem.

I am now returning to my ambivalence towards Don Cherry. Besides, he has since issued a new-and-possibly-improved apology (depending on what the lawyers think).

Since I am totally on a roll for making comments about things that I am probably taking out of context, I next draw our attention to a show I never watch, but that has been making a significant blip in social media circles.

Someone sent me a clip from The Lang & O’Leary Exchange. Hosted by Amanda Lang and Kevin O’Leary, the show is intended to “take you inside the world of business with thought-provoking coverage and insights that draw on [the hosts’] own deep experience and expertise.”

Sounds intelligent enough.

The show draws some big names in the business world. On Oct. 6, the guest was Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist/writer Chris Hedges, who appeared in order to talk about the Occupy Wall Street movement.

There has been a lot of chatter about this huge and growing call for change, which some say lacks leadership and has not done much to provide an effective message and solutions.

O’Leary made this point, too, running down the protesters and the movement. Hedges, who is not one of the organizers, disagreed and suggested the protesters know exactly what they want, which is “to reverse the corporate coup that’s taken place in the United States, that’s rendered the citizenry impotent.”

O’Leary countered with: “Listen, don’t take this the wrong way, but you sound like a left-wing nut bar.”

Ha! But don’t take it the wrong way because “nut bar” is totally a term of endearment. (Sarcasm alert.) I love it.

Everyone knows when someone says “don’t take this the wrong way,” there’s a pretty good chance you’re going to either

a) Take it the wrong way or

b) Be insulted.

Hedges said he doesn’t usually appear on shows that “descend to character assassination” then compared the CBC to Fox News. And when he reminded O’Leary that he had just called him a “nut case,” O’Leary corrected him and said he called him a “nut bar.”

Nice. You want to be perfectly clear on that point. There’s a HUGE difference between a nut case and a nut bar. (Sarcasm! Again!)

In the end, the seemingly less-hostile co-host, Lang, thanked Hedges for appearing on the show. Hedges whipped out his earpiece and growled, “It will be the last time.”


Maybe I don’t get out much, but I found the whole thing to be:

a) Really surprising for the CBC.

b) Very funny in a disturbing way.

I wonder if someone spiked the coffee at the CBC with grumpy pills. Hopefully there is an antidote before more nut bar/nut case-ish blurting takes place.

Published in The Perth Courier, Oct. 20/11

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Past Deadline: Catching a Train

Help. I am trapped in a nostalgia bubble and I can’t get out.

I blame the trains. (And the fact I had to come up with a column idea earlier than usual because of Thanksgiving. Ideas need time to grow in my tiny little head.)

Some of you may have noticed a slight (ha!) traffic disruption in town last week due to the work being done on the railroad tracks. Basically, if you didn’t leave a day early for an appointment across town, there was a good chance you would be late.

Okay. I am exaggerating. A little.

One of the contributing factors to the car traffic being backed up from the tracks on Wilson Street all the way to Rideau Ferry (again with the exaggeration, sort of) was the fact the trains were moving very slowly as they passed through town because of the track work. And there was no shortage of trains travelling at about Warp Negative Five, let me tell ya!

This gave many travellers lots and lots of time to enjoy the drawings and sayings scrawled across the freight cars as they waited at crossings.

It also made me feel a little nostalgic for simpler times. (Times when I didn’t drive much.) Yes, slow-moving trains can do that for me.

A few (snort!) years ago when I was about 17, I worked at the now-demolished Burger King restaurant on Hwy. 7. It was situated very close to the railroad tracks. We would have to shut off the drive-thru speakers when a train went by or else we would be deafened by the roar.

Whenever there was work on the tracks the trains would slow down. I remember standing at the back delivery door sometimes and watching the big, lumbering freights as they crept past.

At that time I was a Restless Teenager™ who was eager to flee Perth and discover the world (possibly to save it), and I would imagine jumping on one of those slow-moving freights and heading as far west as it would take me. (Havelock?)

One of the things that stopped me (besides having an overdeveloped sense of guilt/responsibility), was the fact I would have been wearing my oh-so-glamorous red and blue polyester Burger King uniform, and that didn’t really fit the image I wanted to portray. I was thinking more along the lines of ripped jeans and jean jacket, ball cap and grubby khaki backpack. You know, a la Sullen Restless Teenager™.

So because it’s all about image and perception (not to mention fear of death), I would adopt the appropriate level of sullenness and return to my shift, continuing to daydream about escape routes and worldly travels while making Whoppers or mopping floors or taking orders at drive-thru.

That never happens anymore. Ahem. Okay, well, if it does it’s while I’m dispensing snacks and mopping floors and taking orders in the kitchen at home. At least I’m not wearing a polyester uniform at this point.

There has been a lot of talk lately by friends of mine who are in or nearing this pesky fourth decade (the era when severe biomechanical failures catch up to you, apparently) that we have to seize the day! And live in the moment! And life is short! And do it now! And this is not a dress rehearsal! Etc.

This always leaves me feeling unnerved and panicky. What am I supposed to be doing NOW? Will I need to get a sitter for the kids?

So I’m thinking, well, maybe I oughta add “jump on a freight train” to my bucket list. After all, I have friends who are jumping out of planes and getting coveted degrees and learning how to fly and so on.

Of course, jumping on and off a freight train is not only irresponsible, dangerous and illegal (gotta be a role model, you know), but also perilous when one has an unreliable ankle. I would probably land on the wrong foot, crumple to the ground and get rolled over by a boxcar.

So perhaps I would be better off snagging a ticket on a passenger train.

I could step carefully on and off.

Besides, there are snacks.

It’s all about the snacks, you know.

Published in The Perth Courier, Oct. 13/11

Past Deadline: Snack Lady Leaves Town

I got to go to a conference last week.

I say “got to” with immense pleasure because even though it was work-related, it felt a tiny bit like a vacation.

The conference took place in a hotel several hours away, and you know what that means, right?

Someone else prepared and served the food.

Someone else did the dishes.

Someone else made the bed.

Someone else did the laundry.

And I didn’t pack any clutter. There was no clutter!

When I go away, there’s a bunch of stuff that has to be done at home in my absence. You know, such as feeding cats and feeding children and making their lunches for school and helping them with their homework. I wouldn’t begin to suggest that I am the only one who ever does this stuff but, um, I am usually the one who does this stuff.

This is kinda sneaky (so don’t tell anyone), but I kinda like going away so that other people might notice that there is no magical fairy who does this rather unavoidable necessities-of-life kind of stuff. I have a funny feeling I am not the only mother who has ever felt this way.

On the first night I had some work to do, so I hunkered down in my hotel room with my laptop and got right to it. It was strange. There were no interruptions. No one asked for snacks. No one needed anything.

It was…quiet! (Gasp!) Blissfully quiet.

It’s interesting that I refer to the quiet in this way because the hotel is situated right next to Pearson International Airport (Toronto), so it wasn’t exactly silent. I could hear the planes quite regularly, but they were muted and muffled and the passengers were not asking me for snacks.

The whole next day was taken up by numerous instructional sessions and speeches punctuated very regularly by breaks for food. There was a lot of sitting and eating and herding and sitting and eating. It was good, though, because I learned a lot and met some nice people and ate good food and someone else did the dishes and no one asked me to get them a snack.

After about 12 hours of alternately sitting and eating, I hobbled back to my room. (My sore ankle enjoyed the sitting, but the associated knee protested against the lack of movement by snapping and grinding every time I had to walk a few metres. I am hoping it was just a fluke.)

My room was lovely and quiet. I watched things that weren’t SpongeBob or iCarly. At one point I turned the TV and the lights off and tried to capture video of the planes flying past my window to send home to the people who ask for snacks. And I read a book...with no interruptions!

I called home each night and spoke to people who seemed genuinely interested in talking to me (absence makes the heart grow fonder).

The best part, though, was the message I got from Groom-boy the second night, which basically said: “Lunches made, homework done, kids tucked in, three loads of laundry done, kitty barf cleaned up. Oh, and one of the cats is upset with you and is leaving surprises under your desk. All this being said, you have to come home tomorrow.”

Hehehe. “Some fun, huh Bambi?” I replied.

Upon my return children ran gleefully in the door shouting, “Mommy!” Then they asked for snacks.

The gift-leaving cat stopped leaving deposits under my desk, but has been seeking out my lap every time I sit down, even a few days after my return. This is odd because he tends to be Groom-boy’s cat.

Groom-boy has decided he makes better lunches than I do. I have decided if he keeps talking about it, the job is his. Girlchild is adamant Mom’s lunches are better because Dad put her sandwich in the wrong packaging – a sandwich baggie, not waxed paper. (Oh, the insult!) Boychild, the future diplomat, looked at us both and said he likes both styles the same. Smart fella.

It’s nice to come home after being somewhere where other people look after you. It almost makes one feel ready to start doling out snacks again.

Published in The Perth Courier, Oct. 6/11

Past Deadline: The Perils of Change

Change is part of life. That doesn’t mean we have to like it, though, and I think most people don’t. Perhaps some more than others.

I tend to be set in my ways. I like things to be “just so.” No kidding. If you don’t believe me, you can even ask Groom-boy, who has been on the receiving end of many a related growl. (Aside: this hasn’t stopped me from complaining about the way some things never change, however.)

I am so set in my ways that sometimes I am a bit slow to recognize when a change might be a really good thing.

For example, I distinctly remember when Boychild was just a wee guy that it took me forever to realize the reason he might not be sleeping well at night was probably because he was napping too much during the day. Changing his nap routine affected my routine during the day and it was annoying, but bedtime sure went better.

I don’t know for sure if I am finding change easier or harder as I get older. I suppose it depends on what the change is.

Here’s another example. A beloved supervisor for one of my 72 jobs (okay...I am exaggerating…I only have about 17 jobs) recently left to pursue new adventures. I could have thrown myself down on the floor and had an all-out tantrum or, at least, sat in the corner to weep inconsolably, but I didn’t.

It’s not because I don’t think she’s awesome and that I won’t miss her, and it’s not that I didn’t suggest (over and over) that she should stay. It’s just that she’s moving on to a cool opportunity and adventure and, for once, my happiness for her exceeded my dislike of change.

Wow. Coolio. That almost makes me sound super mature (for a change)!

Really, though, what are you gonna do? Change happens. Sometimes it’s good and we like it, often it’s yucky and unwelcome. Usually you can’t prevent it.

I have learned some change isn’t worth hysteria. Construction and its inconvenience? Why bother freaking out? Besides, doesn’t Wilson Street look lovely now?

One of the grocery stores in town recently renovated and changed a bunch of stuff around. Now I know we all like to wander into grocery stores on autopilot and go straight to our favourite comfort foods, but is it worth getting all bent out of shape if you can’t find your Mr. Noodles without asking?

Cashiers get a lot of abuse at the best of times. I know this because I did my fair share in retail when I was a student. I had one snobby lady throw avocadoes at me one day because I was having trouble correcting an error on the cash register. She called me “stupid,” too, before storming out of the store, which was awesome.

That lady is just one of the reasons I believe a three-month stint in retail should be mandatory before graduation so people learn how to treat others.

Now here’s something that’s causing a big ripple in the social media world – Facebook’s new layout. It’s some crazy stuff, people. Things have been rearranged and people are outraged by the change. There are online petitions and Angry Facebook Groups and diatribes to post online and so on. And on. And on.

And then a friend of mine posted a little thing on Facebook that said: “I am appalled that the free service that I am in no way obligated to use keeps making changes that mildly inconvenience me.”

Ah, perspective. Get some!

Anyway, I am not going to let it be The End of the World™ because a store has been rearranged, nor blow a gasket over the new arrows on Wilson Street (drivers’ ed taught me how to follow arrows in 1987), nor am I going to flip out because it is taking me longer than usual to goof off on Facebook.

Life is short. Pick your battles. The funny thing about change is that most of the time you can eventually get used to it, and when you can’t, you can eat chocolate.

If you can’t find the chocolate in the grocery store, just ask someone. Nicely.

Published in The Perth Courier, Sept. 29/11

Past Deadline: Epic Appendage Malfunction

I am getting a crash course about ankles because one of my ankles has, well, crashed.

Sometime in early August I began to notice pain in my right ankle. I couldn’t pinpoint it to a particular incident, and I wasn’t too concerned because I have always had what I affectionately call “wonky ankles.”

I used to go over on them a lot as a kid. One time, in the early days of courtship, an ankle buckled as I walked across a downtown street with Groom-boy. So graceful. “What are you doing?” he laughed. (Not: “Are you okay?”)

Throughout August the pain got worse. Ice, heat and ibuprofen didn’t help. I couldn’t walk without pain and certainly couldn’t run. Even at rest it twinged and ached and burned and it sometimes felt as if someone was tightening a vice around my lower calf. It even hurt to the touch.

While on vacation I spent some time consulting Dr. Google. My symptoms did not sound like a sprain, but more like a tendon problem. So I followed the RICE advice: Rest, Ice, Compression (tensor) and Elevate.

It still felt awful, so as soon as we got home I finally (stubborn, much?) made a doctor’s appointment.

“Get ye to a physiotherapist!” he said. Okay, he didn’t say it exactly like that, but physio was one of several courses of action he initiated.

The physiotherapist, meanwhile, took one look at my appendages and said, “You have been RUNNING on those feet?”

She set to work on my poor bedraggled right ankle to reduce the swelling and inflammation, and she took some measurements that, in layman’s terms, indicated my left foot is wonky and my right foot is almost twice as bad.

The working theory at this point is that my right ankle is afflicted with posterior tibialis tendonitis (fancy, eh?) and the long arch is collapsing onto the tendon. The tendon is angry and it is annoying the ligaments, too.

Sounds painful.

This has all been brought on by a “severe biomechanical failure” in my feet, which is fancy talk for the aforementioned “wonky ankles.”

Thing is, other than the occasional awkward moment on downtown streets, I have never really had any trouble with them.

It was, apparently, only a matter of time, which is one more reason why turning 40 has been So Much Fun.

A couple of years ago when I became interested in running, right off the bat I got a good pair of shoes. As I walked across the floor at the shop to have my gait assessed, I was asked, “Has anyone ever talked to you about orthotics?”

No one had, until that day. Perhaps I should have taken that as a hint, but when I put on those wonderful silver and red shoes – my “Rocket Shoes” (I name most inanimate objects) – it felt as if I were walking on clouds, so I didn’t really give it much thought after that. (Thank you, Mary!)

I’m sorry, ankles. I am a moron.

My physiotherapist (who still can’t believe I ever ran) tells me I probably would have been there two years sooner if it weren’t for those shoes.

I am afraid to ask her if I will ever run again.

It turns out my Google research wasn’t far off. I was on the right track with RICE, but needed to turn up the volume, especially with the ice. Now that I know this, it seems to be helping.

The swelling has gone down a bit, so now if I look at my feet in a mirror I can actually see how my right ankle sags. It looks depressed.

It definitely hates me.

I’m hoping orthotics will work like flowers and candy so that we can be friends again.

In the meantime, I am trying to find ways to stay off my feet without becoming sedentary.

For starters, I have pumped up my bicycle’s tires so that I can get around without actually, you know, walking.

I am not an avid cyclist, so I feel awkward. Whenever I ride my bike the “Miss Gulch” theme from The Wizard of Oz runs through my head. Does that make me a witch?

My ankles probably think so, my pretties.

Published in The Perth Courier, Sept. 22/11

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Past Deadline: A Day We Will Never Forget

I didn’t set out to write about 9/11 this week, but then the airwaves became saturated with 10-year anniversary material and it got stuck in my head.

I don’t like the feeling I get when I watch those images from a decade ago, and as they played over and over as part of the anniversary, it cemented the fact I don’t need to see them to remember exactly how I felt that day.

It’s important to officially acknowledge the day, certainly. I think, though, we carry the aftermath of 9/11 with us every day. I don’t think I could forget how it changed the way I look at the world if I tried.

I was about six months pregnant with my first child on Sept. 11, 2001. Back then, one of my many hats was that of proofreader on Mondays and Tuesdays at The Perth Courier.

Things were trucking merrily along on that bright sunny day when one of our advertising staff walked in the back door and announced he had just heard on his car radio that a plane had crashed into one of the World Trade Center towers in New York City.

At first we found it hard to believe. It was stunning. The scope of the situation eluded us for a while.

We tried to work while finding out as much as we could about what was happening. Ten years ago our Internet was pretty slow and all the news sites were slammed, so no one could get a really good idea of what was going on – not that the networks knew for sure, anyway. The details were sketchy, but the news was grim.

The second tower was hit. And the Pentagon. And a field in Pennsylvania.

At one point the prevailing rumour was that dozens of hijacked planes were in the air and that the borders were closing.

That’s when I started to feel scared. This is Canada. Our borders don’t close. And Perth is pretty close to the nation’s capital – could we be next?

My shift at the paper finished around noon and I hurried home to switch on the news, seeing live images for the first time along with the horrifying replays. It brought me to tears.

I think the image that sticks with me the most, even though I didn’t see it live, was the dreadful moment when the second plane hit and it became perfectly clear – as the world watched – that the first plane was no accident. The United States was under attack and thousands of people were dying.

The other unforgettable image is of the poor victims who fell – or chose to jump – from those fiery towers. Those innocent people and their terrible choice.

After 9/11 we were told not to be afraid because “then the terrorists would win.” I was certainly afraid that day, and for a long time after. I was afraid of what might happen next. I also felt, like so many others, shock and grief.

Mostly though, as I sat wide-eyed and open-mouthed and watched the news coverage that day, I rubbed my belly and felt my unborn child kick and I worried about the world he or she would face. Would I be equipped to help him or her navigate this troubled planet – a planet I wasn’t sure I understood or knew anymore?

I still don’t know for sure, but I’m trying.

I know my dread of that day is nothing compared to what the victims and their families have experienced. Nor can I claim to have been personally touched by the subsequent war. But what happened on that sunny September day hit close to home physically and emotionally and made the world a different place. Some days we don’t think about it so much, but I’m sure we will always remember.

That day taught us a lot of things. Mingled with the fear, shock and grief were also anger and national pride. We have been so lucky in Canada – and in North America – to know what freedom is. On 9/11, when borders closed and the world changed, I think we learned to appreciate all of that just a little more.

Published in The Perth Courier, Sept. 15/11

Past Deadline: Cue Vacation

Vacation was a long time coming.

I know some of you could tell.

A lady who lives around the corner from us dropped by one afternoon with a photocopy of a cartoon she loves. It features a haggard-looking woman and says, “When I woke up this morning I had one nerve left, and now you’re getting on it.” She thought I might appreciate it.

I believe I referred to that last nerve in a column in early August. That was many days, hours and minutes ago.

I’m pretty sure the fact I was hanging on by my fingernails in the days and weeks leading up to our holidays was becoming quite obvious.

“Hope you have a really restful vacation,” friends and colleagues would say, gently patting my arm as they backed away slowly with a slight look of fear in their eyes.

It has only been a little more than a year since we’ve had a week’s holidays, but it feels like about 50. We had a weekend away in a hotel earlier in August that served as a dandy bandage to get us to this lovely week.

Due to a variety of work-related circumstances beyond our control, we had to schedule the week at the very end of August.

It’s a scary week, that one, with school starting right after we return. There is much to get organized for the kids, and since I teach part time at the wonderful brand-spanking new Perth campus of Algonquin College, there are last-minute preparations to be made there, too. Courses need to be organized and boxes need to be unpacked.

Still, a holiday is a holiday, and a few unavoidable work commitments (school and other) can be navigated.

Fortunately, we sagely chose to vacation very close to our own backyard.

At the beginning of the summer we reserved a cottage near Perth thinking at the time there was a chance Groom-boy would not be able to book a whole week off. Being close to home would put us within commuting distance, so the rest of the family could hang out at the lake and he could commute to Ottawa by day and enjoy the cottage in the evenings on the days he had to work.

Meanwhile, Miss Work-From-Home (with occasional meetings away from the house) would also be within close proximity of a few commitments.

Even though it would be nice to completely shut everything off and spend the whole week floating on a lake and staring up at the sky, this has been a darned good compromise. We have enjoyed a quaint cottage with lots of fish to catch (probably over and over and over again), good swimming and nice neighbours – one with a friendly dog that likes playing with the kids.

Despite the occasional work-related interruption, there was enough downtime to be able to feel some of the work weariness drift away.

It’s amazing how powerful being outside – in a quiet setting, communing with nature – can be. It’s an excellent way to recharge the batteries.

I also love how much the kids get out of it. The same short people who spend way too much time bartering and bargaining for additional screen time, find hours of enjoyment in looking for frogs and snakes, catching and releasing innumerable sunfish (and their various cousins), paddling around in a dingy, swimming and sliding down a slide on a raft.

Oh, yeah, and all that fresh air and activity tends to make them tired. That kind of tired is sooo goooood!

It makes me sleepy, too, and having that many tired people all in one place tends to bode well for snoozing through the night.

You can’t beat that.

As much as I adore my faithful assistant, Mr. George BlackBerry, I do look forward to having a holiday sometime when I can unplug him completely. I’m sure he would appreciate a break, too.

For now, though, it was grand having him along to keep things on track and – of course – to check weather forecasts up to the minute so we could decide whether to go fishing or swimming or retreat into the cosy cottage to read good books. (Or we could just look out the window, but don’t tell George.)

Published in The Perth Courier, Sept. 8/11

Past Deadline: On Looking Forward

On the night of the last federal election, I sat in a pub with a friend and watched wide-eyed as the results rolled in on the big screen.

I couldn’t help but feel a sense of excitement as riding after riding turned NDP orange. It was a phenomenon. It was history in the making. It was something political science and journalism students would be writing essays about for decades.

Jack Layton’s NDP – the new official opposition.


Although I am a political junkie, I tend to be very cynical about the whole thing. After all, I worked as a reporter for several years before crossing over to “the dark side” (PR). I know about spin. I know about marketing. I know that successful politicians are often part of a complete package.

Generally, I am not one for hero worship, and I did not expect to find a hero and inspiration in a politician.

But I did.

Many years ago when I was still reporting for this newspaper, a sitting prime minister kicked off an election campaign by making Perth the first stop.

While that in itself is pretty cool, I was more excited about the fact I managed to get some really good photos of the visit than I was about being in proximity of the prime minister.

I would have loved, however, to have met Jack Layton.

I’m not a card-carrying member of any party and I never have been. When I vote, I am usually not voting for a party, but a person. First, I consider who will best represent our riding, but I also consider how that decision will affect the overall outcome – the seat count and who will become prime minister.

It is rarely an easy decision.

Strong PR can win an election, and sometimes the politician behind the spin turns out not to be who you think they are. I think that’s what made Jack a phenomenon: what his PR people dished out to the public could be reconciled with the man himself. He was who he said he was. He acted on the things he said he would and, by all accounts, it seems he treated people well when he did it.

The politics of positivism have been, I think, pretty much unheard of in my time, so Jack’s campaign filled people with a sense of optimism. It represented a change from regular political shenanigans. It was a first step to rising above everything that makes people cynical about politicians.

What a rollercoaster it has been! A meteoric rise to the summit of this hope for positive change, only to plummet into sadness as a man, who many would call a hero, is struck down too soon.

Who could help but be moved by Jack’s final letter – his instructions to his colleagues and Canadians – what Stephen Lewis dubbed his “manifesto for social democracy”? How can we not join this national groundswell to live well by doing good things – big or small – for others?

How can we not? It is the human thing to do – and yet part of Jack’s legacy is to remind us that it needs to be done.

I still marvel about what happened in Canada on election night, and I am amazed (even in this strange era of societal grief-en-masse) by the national outpouring of grief.

I was surprised by my own reaction last Monday morning when I read the “breaking news” banner on my computer that Jack Layton had died. It absolutely ruined my day – my week, actually. I wept for a man I had never met and did not really know.

Are we that starved, as Canadians – as people – for positive thinkers? I think we are.

As I get older I have learned how important it is to surround oneself with positive, constructive people and I struggle every day to be one of them. Life is too short to spend it complaining. If something isn’t working or isn’t right, it is up to us to fix it.

Jack was a positive force who put his words into action and worked joyfully to make the world a better place.

Whether it is through big actions or small, we can – and should – all do the same.

Farewell, Jack, and thank you.

Published in The Perth Courier, Sept. 1/11

Past Deadline: Greenish Thumbs

In the spring, some classes at Boychild’s school took part in the Junior Gardener’s program.

Members of the Perth and District Horticultural Society visited the classrooms and worked with the students to teach them about gardening.

For several weeks, the students in Boychild’s class took turns bringing home a different house plant. They had to enter information into a journal about the plant and its care, and then they were tasked with keeping it alive for the week.

Fortunately, keeping the plants alive proved to be relatively easy. Remembering to bring them back to school on the appointed day was the hard part.

At the end of the program, we reaped the benefits of the Junior Gardeners’ experience. The kids learned how to pot some plants and had planted seeds, and they brought home their handiwork.

We have a bowl filled with hens and chicks (the plant, not the birds), which now grows prolifically in our kitchen window, and Boychild got to bring home a little goldfish plant.

I have wanted a goldfish plant with the cute orange blossoms for years, so I was pretty happy to see the two little sprigs in a tiny cracked pot (no doubt it had been carted home by more than a few nine year olds over the weeks).

We put it in a pretty new pot and left it on the kitchen table where it would get just the right kind of light.

Unfortunately, it also got just the wrong kind of cat. One of them decided to investigate our work while we were out, and one of the little sprigs did not fare well. The other one got off to a very slow start, but seems to be showing some interest in, you know, growing.


That’s not all. The Junior Gardeners brought home outdoor plants, too.

“What are these?” I asked, knowing the tiny seedlings were either marigolds or tomatoes.

“I dunno.”

“Would they be marigolds?” I said.

“Yeah, I think so.”

Thinking marigolds would look nice in a couple of hanging baskets combined with some of the nasturtium and cosmos seeds that also came home, we set to work and performed the transplant.

Everything grew.

I still haven’t seen any marigolds, but I did (ahem) end up moving several tomato plants out of the hanging baskets and transplanting them into the vegetable garden. Yeah, we’re real horticulturalists over here, for sure.

In addition to the plants and annual seeds, the Junior Gardeners also brought home some vegetable seeds.

Typically at our place we plant a few tomato plants (um, done!), as well as peas, carrots, yellow beans and pumpkins.

The peas and carrots tend to go over well with my vegetable-wary crew, but I end up eating a lot of the yellow beans on my own, and each year I am amazed by how few pumpkins are produced by so many blossoms!

Thanks to the Junior Gardening program (and seeds donated by Home Hardware and Canadian Tire), we had a whole variety of different vegetables to try.

We yielded a couple of nice zucchini before the plant shriveled up when we went away for a few non-rainy days. We have one pumpkin underway so far. We have been munching green beans, which were liked by all, and the “marigold” tomatoes turned out to be cherry – our favourite.

We also got beet seeds, which I had to protect with an elaborate chicken wire-and-stake arrangement to dissuade the local bunnies from eating the tender young leaves. Despite their popularity with the long-eared critters, I suspect I may be the only one eating the root part.

With the addition of our own pea and carrot seeds, we’ve had quite a dandy little harvest over the summer. I even had a little help at times with planting, weeding, watering and picking, so it has been true Family Fun™.

Thanks to the Perth and District Horticultural Society and Stewart School for getting students involved in this program. We have learned lots about plant care, not to mention driving home the message about where our food comes from.

Oh – and if the goldfish plant thrives, it will be a true success story!

Published in The Perth Courier, Aug. 25/11

Past Deadline: Are We There Yet?

When I travel with the kids, I always find myself wondering whether I was just easy to amuse as a child or whether kids are harder to thrill these days.

There’s a strong argument for me being easy to amuse. (That, by the way, is a nice way of calling me simple.) After all, this is the girl who didn’t mind eating hospital food for several days when having babies because someone else made it and cleaned it up. It almost felt like a (painful) holiday.

When travelling on a real holiday in the days before in-car game and video players, I used to amuse myself by – get this – looking out the window.

I know. Ridiculous!

This wild and crazy pastime does not always work so well with my kids.

On the weekend we visited friends in Toronto. We travelled by car and throughout the journey, I would point out all the things that I used to find interesting on the trip. [Cue mediocre enthusiasm.]

I never, for example, grow tired of watching for the blue glimmers of Lake Ontario no matter how often I make the trip. My kids showed mild interest, especially when we explained the same lake goes all the way from Kingston to Toronto and beyond, but I never caught them gazing dreamily towards the water, watching for ships.

Similarly, I always liked travelling Hwy. 401 so I could watch for trains, be they VIA, freight or GO trains. I still like to do that. (Simple, I tell you!) So, of course, I always point out the trains: “Look, kids!” Usually I am ignored. One of these days they will say, “Mom. It’s a train. Get a grip.”

In the city I spotted a train yard, and Girlchild remarked it reminded her of one of her old Thomas the Train stories. That’s something, at least.

We had occasion to pass the airport, which I always find cool. “Look at the planes taking off and landing!” Apparently jet bellies low in the sky are not enthralling. It would seem we can scratch “sitting near the airport to watch planes go by” off our family bucket list.

Then there’s automobiles. We live in a small town, right? Not a lot of traffic. Not a lot of four-lane highways. For us, it’s annoying if “heavy” traffic means it takes us 10 minutes to get across town instead of three.

Cue Toronto, with its express lanes and collectors and traffic jams that leave you parked on a six-lane highway.

These days the short people in our car find the traffic mildly interesting, I think, but when I was a kid it would have been a gold mine. See, on long trips as a kid (I’m sure I have mentioned this before) I used to amuse myself by “collecting” licence plate numbers in a notebook. I had hundreds of them.

Weird little kid.

I’m quite sure I enjoyed traffic jams more as a kid than I do now. Then again, back then they would have impeded our efforts to reach our vacation destination.

Good thing I was easily amused.

I also used to write down the name of every place we drove through. That was a particularly long list when we travelled to Elliot Lake and back when I was 10. I figure Boychild might be ready for a task like that. Maybe if he checked things off on a map he wouldn’t ask “Are we there yet?” and “How much longer?” so much.

Yeah, right. Kids come programmed to ask those questions.

When all those sure-fire entertainment choices were exhausted, and when my brother and I grew tired of collecting nickels from Mom and Dad for every white horse we saw (there were surprisingly few!) we would turn to another favourite pastime: fighting with each other and/or annoying our parents, often by singing irritating made-up ditties over and over again.

Apparently this never gets old.

It’s safe to say some things never change, and that includes the fact I continue to be easily amused. Give me a comfy chair, a good book, some pretty scenery and a quiet place to sleep and it sounds like a great vacation to me. I’m ready. Bring it.

Published in The Perth Courier, Aug. 18/11

Past Deadine: Où est le dictionnaire?

On Saturday I hung out with about 1,900 cyclists when the Vélo Québec tour hit Perth.

No, I have not switched from running to cycling. I still have left over fear-of-head-trauma-after-Grade-12-cycling incident issues. (You are thinking: “Well THAT explains a few things!”) Besides, it is hard to cycle while wearing a long period costume.

Saturday was a hot humid day to be wearing pioneer garb, so what I lacked in generating heat from exercise, I made up for by wearing heavy clothing. I seem to be drawn to events that require me to wear layers of clothing on hot days (i.e. Kilt Run).

Anyway, I was at Conlon Farm with a group of other intrepid pioneer-garbed volunteers hosting a Friends of Murphys Point booth. We were promoting the many treasures found at the provincial park, including our upcoming Heritage Mica Festival. (It will be chock full of fun stuff during the last two weekends of August and the first two weekends of September.)

Needless to say, we pioneer women stood out amid the cycling shorts and tank tops. We were WAY to conspicuous to sneak into the line-up for the awesome-looking food for the cyclists.

The Vélo Québec tour, by the way, is really something. This renowned bicycle touring organization is a huge production – complete with its own transport truck shower houses, a giant tent for meals, a tent city for sleeping, a stage with entertainment, a luggage truck, a pub tent and bicycle repairs, massage therapists and so much more. The organizers look after everything so the cyclists can concentrate on the business of cycling.

Our booth joined others promoting local tourism, and we had lots of curious cyclists checking us out and talking about our lovely town and area.

At least I’m pretty sure that’s what they were saying.

There was a day when I was reasonably competent in French, but that was a couple of decades ago, and I think it was just one day. Suffice it to say, I am rusty. Comment dites-vous, “rusty”?

Now, si vous parlez lentement, I might be able to smile and nod enthusiastically and actually understand what you are saying, but I have a tough time responding. The vocabulary flies from my head or flops clumsily from my mouth.

Fortunately we had a fluent volunteer on hand (yay Jane!) while I was there, so I could be the smiling nodder. When francophones conversed with The Fluent One, I could get at least the gist of the conversation – and sometimes pretty much the whole darned thing!

On my own, though, I would freeze to the point of barely being able to speak English because I was trying so hard to be understood. I am SUCH a dork!

For example, I tried to tell one lady that Murphys Point is a “parc provincial,” but couldn’t pronounce “provincial” all French-like even after three tries. The Fluent One said, “Oh, just say it in English.” I think I could have gotten away with that word.

In fact, when listening to numerous conversations that were “lente” enough, it was easily seen how context and a good accent can make all the difference. I heard The Fluent One telling a man in French that the mica mineral “est fire retardant.” He didn’t blink an eye.

Unfortunately, I have never been convincing with accents, so I am self-conscious about my French pronunciation. It’s so much cooler to freeze and talk like a dork in English instead.

Yeah, as I said, my core French schooling was a long day ago, and with language, you’ve got to lose it or lose it.

It was fun at the Vélo Québec event to scrape off some of that rust and have French dancing through my head again. The cyclists were so gracious and forgiving as we stumbled along. In fact, we heard organizers say it was nice that so many folks in town greeted guests with hearty “bonjours” and “au revoirs.”

Still, I couldn’t help but relax a tiny bit when my “Bonjour!” was greeted with “Hi! I’m from Windsor!”

Congrats to the organizers for this great event, and to the cyclists who have many hundreds of miles yet to go, “Bonne chance!”

Published in The Perth Courier, Aug. 11/11

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Past Deadline: Random Summer Math

Three weeks ago – that’s 21 days ago – I wrote a column about working from home while the kids were off for the summer. That was roughly 14 days into the summer holiday.

Here we are, about 22 days in, with about 34 days left to go. That’s 816 hours before school starts. I would go as far as to suggest that 238 of those hours will be spent sleeping, but that’s just crazy talk because everyone knows nobody sleeps that much around here – except maybe Groom-boy. I might be able to snag 170 hours of sleep, which sure sounds like a lot.

Incidentally, there are about 50,000 minutes until school starts, but who’s counting?

I’m not complaining, by the way, I am just doing a little math here. I love math. Really. Ask anyone.

I remember when I was a kid, my mother and her mother (Nanny) used to sometimes head off to Watertown, N.Y. for a week of shopping in the summer. Maybe it was because our dollar was doing really well against the U.S. greenback in those days; I’m not really sure and I haven’t done the research.

I remember my brother and I being intrigued by the fact Dad was doing the cooking. I remember him cooking fish and doing a great job. I remember Mom and Nanny coming back with food products we couldn’t get here and telling us about their motel and what they ate for lunch while hanging out to watch the Y&R. I also remember them telling us about how American restaurants served their lunches on platters and that they probably could have shared one meal and still come away with leftovers.

I don’t remember spending a lot of time dwelling on the fact that Mom and Nanny took off for a week. Maybe I did – I was a worrier and probably needed to know the exact details of the why and how and when.

Seven days away from home – that’s 168 hours. I betcha about 49 of those hours featured uninterrupted sleep. If you tend to eat breakfast, lunch and supper, that’s 21 meals cooked and served by someone else.

That’s zero dishes to wash.

Whoa. Now THAT’s a likeable zero!

Now, I should clarify, I am glad to be able to spend time at home with the kids over the summer, but as we get beyond day 20 and they start to squabble and squeal at each other more often, sometimes my last nerve gets exposed.

That’s never a good thing.

This happens because during summer holidays routines get dishevelled and, well, I am Type A. I like routine. It is hard for me to just go with the flow. I am not the poster child for living in the moment. In fact, my calculations show I can only relax approximately 2 per cent of the time (based on no one’s science but my own).

So, 2 per cent of one hour is 1.2 minutes. That’s 28.8 minutes of every day. This means I’m not even relaxed when I am sleeping, really.

( may have not noticed this before, but sometimes I am prone to hyperbole.)

Anyway, this does not bode well for the remaining 34 days. It works out to about 980 minutes of relaxation – a mere 16 hours.

A really good way to throw this math off kilter (besides having me do the calculations), is to add another variable: a vacation.

Good idea! Based on the above, one would assume that vacation should happen pretty much immediately in order to alleviate the relaxation deficit. In fact, it probably should have started about 11 days (264 hours, 15,840 minutes) ago in order to have been super effective and timely.
Except...the raving lunatics in this family (present company included) thought it would be a good idea to wait until the end of August to do it. That’s about 23 days away (552 hours, 33,120 minutes). I will be relaxed for about 11 hours of that time.

Incidentally, that’s about 69 meals left to serve before we go to a cottage where I will be, well, serving more meals – but at least it’s a change of scenery.

Oh and Mom? I totally get it.
Published in The Perth Courier, Aug. 4/11

Past Deadline: Get a Cool Job

Last week, as the mercury climbed and the population suffered, it occurred to me there isn’t really a heck of a lot to do when it’s hot. Well, I suppose there is, but there are also a lot of restrictions on things like, well, doing stuff outside.

Okay, I’m exaggerating a little. I mean, people were still going out running when the humidex was in the high 40s. Not me. I wouldn’t do it – not even without a kilt.

I suppose it stands to reason that in a country where we endure extremes, we should be allowed to complain. After all, few countries in the world can boast hitting minus 45C in the winter and plus 45C in the summer.

That’s just annoying.

Some folks spend all winter griping about the cold and the snow, only to spend all summer saying, “It’s not the heat, it’s the humidity.”

So, even though the weather has cooled a little since last week, I figured it couldn’t hurt to think about some ways to beat the heat should the hot breath of heck blow on us again. Here are some of my ideas:

1. Stay inside. It’s a yucky idea, but it has to be said. Sometimes, especially for the young, the elderly, the frail, the people with health conditions and the cranky, the heat is just plain dangerous. Unfortunately, staying inside and enduring the SpongeBob marathon on television can also be dangerous because it stomps all over your last nerve.

It’s important to have a game plan for inside, especially one that involves doing things away from screens. Since baking cupcakes is not ideal when the world is on fire, maybe making sundaes would be better. Or fill a bathtub with ice and stage a fundraising summer polar plunge! Or maybe lie around with large fans and pretend you are on some sort of exotic journey! I dunno.

2. Thing is, summer is about being outside, so the more ways you can find to survive the heat outdoors the better. So get a pool! Have I mentioned this (in an entire column last week) before? Okay. So if you can’t have a “real” pool, then get one of those blow-up wading pools. We have the one that is six feet long by four feet wide by two feet deep or thereabouts, and it can be handy. The kids love it, but I remember spending a heck of a lot of time sitting in a similar one when I was pregnant with child number two during a hot summer. In fact, I think I really need to make better use of our wading pool. With a little imagination, my real pool-“covetation” issues will be a thing of the past.

3. This seems to be a logical place to suggest drinking lots of fruity adult drinks, especially ones with the little umbrellas. As much as it seems they would help to beat the heat, we (ahem) grown-ups know alcohol can dehydrate us and probably we shouldn't drink a lot of it around the kids anyway. Drink water instead. This public service announcement has been brought to you by....

4. Here’s an idea – get a cool job. I mean get a job that has air conditioning or a walk-in freezer. Become a lifeguard so you can go swimming or at least find a job that offers the promise of a refreshing swim at the end of the shift.

I’m thinking of when I was a gate attendant at a provincial park as a student. It was so nice to hit the beach at the end of a shift! Does anyone hire 40-year-old gate attendants? Of course then I would bore the rest of the gate staff to tears with stories about how “In my day, we didn’t use computers to register campers, we filled the forms out by hand! And when they found a campsite, we stuck a sticker on a big map to show it was occupied! And we liked it! We loved it!”

Well now that’s a sure-fire way to make a cool job not so cool. It also makes those fruity adult beverages sound really good right about now.

Well, off to the wading pool!
Published in The Perth Courier, July 28/11

Past Deadline: A Pool! Not!

I have a love-hate relationship with the beach.

I love the beach for the swimming. Floating and pretending to be a fish (but not pretending to be a floating fish because that is rarely good) is one of my most favourite things to do in the world. I feel comfortable and free in the water. It’s good exercise and I wish I could fit it into my life more.

Say! A great way to make daily swimming more convenient would be to have a pool in the backyard. Man, would I ever like a pool.

I’m telling you, in the summer I would move my home office to the deck. Part of that rationale is also because in my current teeny, tiny Les-Nessman-style office I have to sit a mere two feet from a window air conditioner. My left side is frozen within 10 minutes, which makes typing difficult, to say the least.

If I had a pool, not only would it bring new meaning to the term “office pool,” but I would create my own personal union of one that would negotiate a contract with myself (as management) that stipulates the employee must have multiple swim breaks during the day. That’s right. I would sit beside the pool and talk to myself about how many swimming breaks I should take. (This is what can happen sometimes when you are self-employed.)

Also, I would probably have to hire staff (in addition to Mr. George BlackBerry, Executive Assistant). I'm thinking I would need a margarita-serving pool boy, yes?


Okay, well let's talk about the beach some more, then. I also love the beach because my kids love it. We enjoy exploring the shorelines for critters and they are fish like I am. Their dad claims he used to be a fish. He also was, I’m told, a lifeguard while he was a student, but I am sceptical because the whole time I have known him he has rarely even gotten his toes wet. Perhaps he is still waterlogged from those days. So much for Dad teaching the little fish to swim.

You know, I think those little fish would also love a pool. I also think it would save a certain Mama’s sanity in the summer while she is trying to work with kids home, and it could form part of the negotiations in terms of health benefits. The pool boy could be tasked with lifeguarding during the times when I am not on deck.

It’s obviously a win-win.


Okay okay. Back to talking about the beach.

Here’s what I don’t love about the beach: the Wearing of the Bathing Suit in Public. I have had bathing suit issues for a good chunk of my life. At first it was because I was so tall and lean that bathing suits never fit right. They literally hung off of me in order to accommodate my length, and I looked like a dork.

Oh, those days are so over now it makes me want to cry a little.

Eventually I filled out my frame decently, but this was short lived. I got a desk job and my derriere felt compelled to become a king-size pillow to keep me comfortable whilst I sat.

Thanks, but no thanks.

Then I had babies. Then my metabolism slowed down and my willpower left town. ’Nuff said. Now I am twice the woman I used to be, which would be fine if I were referring to self-esteem or philanthropic tendencies or some other spiritual or humanitarian effort, but all it means is that at the beach I displace twice as much water as before.

That’s just one more reason why a pool would be so awesome. I could displace water in the privacy of my backyard. More importantly, I could do laps and get toned. My pool boy, in addition to his lifeguarding duties, could also be a personal trainer. Soon I would be fit and fine and confident for beach appearances if necessary.

It is a perfect plan.

What? No?

Oh, right. The backyard is too small for a pool.

Could I still get the margarita-serving pool boy?


Sigh. Fine. See y’all at the beach. Just don’t look at me, okay?

Published in The Perth Courier, July 21/11