Saturday, January 28, 2012

Past Deadline: Six O'clock Seating

I do a terrible thing.

Yes, just one. (Shhh.)

Every night, almost without fail, I have supper on the table for the family at six o’clock.

I know! It’s ridiculous!

Allow me to explain.

Regular readers have probably heard me mention before that I am rather Type A. I am a creature of habit. I like things to be just so. I like to think I am not a control freak (ahem), but I readily admit I like routines.

My kids are still young and at school they eat lunch pretty early, so 6 p.m. is about as late as I like to push it otherwise they end up grazing on snacks.

Also, eating at six allows time to finish homework, play, have sibling screaming fights, wage light sabre battles or do whatever else needs to be done before bedtime.

Because I have been cooking meals for what feels like a millennium, I have it down pat. I know how to time things so we are sitting at the table by six.

I just can’t help it.

Maybe that’s another reason I was attracted to journalism: I am deadline oriented. If the story wasn’t filed by a certain time, it would miss the press. If the student newscast wasn’t ready by six, we had dead air. And an F.

Don’t worry. I know I won’t flunk if I don’t have food on the table by a certain time. I do think, though, that good timing is a rather important part of good cooking. (This would be an excellent argument if the food critics in the household always gave good reviews.)

Anyway, if I were charged with this horrible crime of having a six o’clock seating, I would feel compelled to plead not guilty by reason of insanity because I have been cooking meals for a millennium. No...wait...I mean because I honestly didn’t realize there was anything wrong with it.

Apparently, however, I am odd. I have been called “inflexible,” too, although I am perfectly capable of adjusting mealtimes to accommodate various activities.

Groom-boy and I have had this discussion a few times, even though he is usually not home in time for supper anymore now that he commutes. (No, I am not waiting until 7:30 to sit down with the kids at the table to eat.)

I will admit that I have been known to get a little high strung when, on the occasions that he is home, he decides to “run to the store” at 5:40 to get some little extra thing for the meal, and doesn’t manage to return until 6:15, even though he knows the meal will be ready at six.

“Oh, I got talking to someone,” he’ll say, referencing my inflexibility as I peel overdone pasta out of a pot.

Sigh. He went to journalism school, too. Perhaps they had a rotating deadline at his school.

Maybe this whole issue/problem/crime/weirdness stretches right back to my childhood. I remember when my brother and I were little that we ate sometime between five and six. It was consistent. Later, I know we were all around the table by 6 because my dad liked to have the news on in the background while we ate. I remember we were always being shushed when it was time to hear the weather.

The thing is we almost always ate together. Sometimes my dad would be working shifts and, later, my brother and I had part-time jobs after school, but for the most part we had supper as a family. It was a nice ritual. We always knew what time we would be eating, so we knew when to be home. Simple.

So I won’t apologize for this weirdness of mine, and I’ll keep doing it as often as we can, realizing kids’ activity schedules can interfere with this utopian supper timing.

If I get sent to jail for enforcing consistent family time, so be it. After all, I bet they have pretty rigid mealtime schedules in jail, not to mention someone else does the cooking.

With my luck I’d be put on kitchen duty, to cook meals for millennia. At least they would be on time.

Published in The Perth Courier, Jan. 26/12

Friday, January 20, 2012

Past Deadline: Weird Lady with the Cane

Hello, Winter! You came back!

I am glad to see you, mostly because now I feel as if I have the right to actually complain about the weather. I mean, it’s a Canadian thing, right? I’m not going to complain about it, though, at least not in the traditional way.

We were fairly spoiled in November and December. It was downright balmy for that time of year, with no ice or snow. As I went about my outdoor business without wearing long johns and only donning thin gloves and having to decide whether to bother wearing my hat, it just didn’t feel right. After all, I like my hat. It covers up my crazy, difficult hair so I don’t frighten as many people.

“Balmy” around here at that time of year is still cool, so when it rained we got wet and cold.  Yech. We had a heck of a lot more rain than snow before Christmas. Snow, at least, brightens the place up and brushes easily off of coats.

I say, if it’s going to be cold, we might as well have snow. It is Canada, after all. The kids don’t like playing outside in cold rain, but they will go out in the snow – and I don’t even have to use the crowbar to pry them away from the screens as much!

So, Winter, you gave us the white Christmas (it was a close one), then it all went away. Then everything froze. Then last week happened, when you pummelled us with reminders of your wrath: freezing rain, snow, windchill, frostbite advisories.

Hurray! Ahem.
You even arranged for bus cancellations, which typically means nothing in my world. We’re “townies.” We live in town and walk to school, so my kids go whether there is rain or snow or hail or sleet or whatever. Call me the postal service – I am devoted to getting them to school. Besides, snow days can be fun.

That all said, however, I noticed something this season that promises to be a bit problematic. It was particularly noticeable on the snow day when walking was tricky. It’s not Winter’s fault, though. It’s my own shoddy equipment.

You may have heard about what I affectionately call “My Stupid Foot”? (It sometimes goes by other names, but this is a family newspaper.) Recap: My right foot developed tendonitis in the Summer and Fall, brought on by the fact it has, after 40 long years of holding me up using second-rate construction materials, collapsed.

“Severe biomechanical failure,” I have been told.

Things have improved thanks to physiotherapy and orthotics, but I have discovered that my foot no longer does well in winter. The uneven ground and occasional slippery spots lead to sudden jerky movements and pangs in the foot, and bad words in the mouth. Not the typical foot and mouth disease.

It’s as if I need snow tires for my flippin’ feet.

I’m telling you, turning 40 has been Just Awesome™ so far.

I say this because of some other appendages that have been making noise lately – my fingers. With the onset of the cold weather, and I’m not even talking about the really cold stuff we had on the weekend, my fingers have been complaining. I am wracking my brain trying to remember if, at some point last year, I may have frostbitten my fingers, but since poor memory seems to be a worsening problem, I have come up empty. If even the slightest bit of cold penetrates my mitts, my fingertips start to holler, and as they warm up later they burn and tingle and ache. Fun!

I won’t blame that on Winter either, though.

Besides, I can accommodate these afflictions. I will make sure my mitts are cold-proof at all times and I will secure my wobbly stupid foot. Maybe I’ll even snag myself a fancy cane with some sort of gargoyle for a handle.

I’m thinking that if I let enough of my crazy hair peek out from under my hat I could become known as “That Weird Lady with The Cane Who Swears a Lot.” Maybe I’ll scatter rose petals behind me everywhere I go.

There, see? The bright side!

Published in The Perth Courier, Jan. 19/12 

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Past Deadline: Hair Whitener

I love meals cooked by someone else, especially when I don’t have to do dishes. Apparently I will even make death-defying trips to get to one.

On Saturday night Groom-boy and I set out for his New Year’s staff party in Ottawa. His employer holds it after the holiday craziness has subsided.

We cleaned up real nice. I even wore pantyhose and, as per my New Year’s resolution to respect my Hair Management Program™, my locks looked lovely. Not a grey, silver or white strand to be found.

We shipped the kids off to my parents’ house for a sleepover so we wouldn’t have to rush home. With Groom-boy at the wheel, we headed east on Hwy. 7 toward the Nation’s Capital.

Right away we noticed flashing lights in the distance. It was a police car, and either the officer wasn’t in a huge hurry or couldn’t go fast because the cruiser didn’t gain much on us as we travelled.

We soon realized why. Although a freezing rain warning for the area had ended, the roads were a bit slippery. We slowed down. We met a westbound salt truck, but it didn’t seem as if our lane had been done yet.

After about 20 minutes we came upon emergency crews, including the police car, attending to a smashed-up van in a clearing. It looked as if it had rolled.

We slowed down even more. The roads didn’t seem awful, but we had a party to go to and preferred to avoid the ditch.

We chatted happily as we travelled toward our destination. A few kilometres after the accident, however, Groom-boy suddenly asked, “Am I swerving because of ice or the wind?”

As if on cue, the car in front of us started to fishtail wildly and then, in slow motion, to spin. Headlights! Tail-lights! Headlights! Tail-lights!

I’m gonna guess it’s the ice, Groom-boy.

The car did at least one full 360 and ended up sideways across the entire opposite lane. Groom-boy managed to stop without spinning or colliding with anything, as did the three or four cars behind us.

And then we all sat there – stunned.

I imagine the driver of the other car was terrified and possibly disoriented, but it was a scary several seconds that he sat there, not moving, before finally creeping forwards to park on the shoulder of the opposite side of the road, facing traffic.

Given the fact we were on glare ice on a curve, with who knows how many cars approaching from either direction and precarious icy-looking shoulders on either side, we chose to crawl forwards, hearts pounding, and continue east.

I developed an immediate headache.

As we crept around the rest of curve, two westbound transports barrelled towards us – fast enough that we assumed the salt in their lane was working. We paled as we thought about what could have happened if those trucks had come along before the spinning car was out of their lane.

It was scary.

We considered turning around, but the farther east we travelled, the better the roads became. I consulted with Mr. George BlackBerry, Executive Assistant, to see if I could glean any information on road conditions, but there wasn’t much to find.

“I’m thinking it’s a bit icy,” I concluded with a nervous laugh. “We should probably proceed cautiously.”

And so we did. After all, there was free food waiting.

We arrived without further incident. As we mingled with Groom-boy’s co-workers and told them about our alarming journey to the party, most were surprised to hear about the road conditions. It seemed as if that one stretch of a highway – the skating rink – was an isolated thing.

Later, someone commented there were fewer people at the party than the year before and speculated it may have been because of the freezing rain warning. “Ha!” I said. “We risked our lives to come to this party!”

The food was great. Someone else took away our dishes to clean them. The roads were bare and dry for the trip home.

I bet, though, my hair is even whiter than before.

Published in The Perth Courier, Jan. 12/12

Friday, January 6, 2012

Past Deadline: Headaches Past and Present

On New Year’s Eve morning, I had a pounding sinus headache. I had gone to bed with it, woke up with it and spent the day with it, and as I struggled to stay awake until midnight to usher in 2012, I knew there would be no champagne for me.

Fortunately I am not a big champagne fan anyway.

So the new year began with a monster headache, which seemed like a major rip off considering I didn’t earn it by partying the night before.

As I popped headache meds and lay down with an ice pack, I mused for a while upon the symbolism of all of this. Leaving 2011 with a headache seemed appropriate in some ways, but waking up with one in the brand new year – was that foreboding?

Nah. Waking up with a headache on New Year’s Day is far from unusual.

It occurred to me on New Year’s Eve that there was something very familiar about this scenario, and then I remembered.

Ten years ago on that very night I was lying in bed with ice packs and missing out on a New Year’s Eve party, thanks to a brutal headache. The big difference that year, and I do mean “big,” is that I was rather enormously pregnant at the time with my first child.

That night, instead of tackling the monster with various drugs to make it go away, I was lying there wishing I could take something – anything! To make matters worse, I was worrying about what the headache could mean. High blood pressure? Preeclampsia? Some other mysterious bad-news pregnancy ailment that would inflict doom upon us all?

(I worried a lot with the first pregnancy. I am a worrier. It is what I do.)

Despite a learned friend’s advice that Tylenol was okay, I opted for suffering to be on the safe side. After all, I was on the brink of this amazing thing called motherhood and I was trying to go by the book: no drugs, no alcohol, no caffeine and only good food. (Probably I ate too much good food – but I would pay later (still) for that.)

Anyway, before midnight we decided to telephone the maternity ward at the hospital (where we would be headed mere days later) to ask for advice. The nurses basically said, “You’re 40 weeks? Duh. Take some Tylenol and get on with your life.”

I think the fact I hadn’t taken any sort of pain relief medication in nine months made that Tylenol something of a miracle drug. It worked really fast and I felt immensely better almost right away.

Different times, different headache 10 years later, but what hasn’t changed is the fact I still feel as if I am on the brink of something amazing and mysterious – and it’s still motherhood.

By the time this is published I will have been a mother for 10 years – a whole decade – and even though I feel as if I am a pro at some things (such as tying shoes and helping with homework and soothing booboos), just like 10 years ago I realize I have so much still to learn, so many challenges to face, lots of new and different and as-yet-unknown worries to navigate.

Such is motherhood.

Fortunately, with the current set of New Year’s resolutions I discussed last week, I feel somewhat prepared to embrace the next decade of motherhood.

Let’s see how I am doing a few days in:
1. Get more exercise – Unless you count lifting heavy holiday food from the plate to one’s mouth as exercise, then this one needs a little work.
2. Hair Management Program™ – Cut and coloured in time for my New Year’s Eve headache! Yes! Now I will look great in the face of the motherhood challenges on the horizon.
3. Don’t freak out in the face of change – So far so good, mostly because of my hair.
4. Save the world – I think part of my strategy will be to groom the 10-year-old to help accomplish this.

Happy birthday, Boychild!

Published in The Perth Courier, Jan. 5/12