Thursday, May 31, 2012

Debi? Is that you?

I'm losing it! Book me a room at the home cause I'm coming!

I don't know what the heck is wrong with me, whether it's just menopause fugue or early onset Alzheimer's – having just read Still Alice, of course I'm now thinking it's the latter – but whatever it is I really am losing control of my mental faculties.

The other day Dave and I were coming out of the local hospital and I saw this woman sitting on a bench. "Geez," I thought, "is that my cousin Debi? Cause it looks like Debi and she works at the hospital..." As I was mulling this over the woman looked over at me, no doubt wondering why she was being stared at, and she smiled, so I thought for sure it was Deb!

"Hi Debi, how are you?" I asked. Brightly. With such utter confidence.

The woman's smile disappeared.

Dave nudged me with his elbow and whispered, "That's NOT Debi."

And I was like, "Really? Are you sure?"

Dave said, "Yes, I'm sure. That is not your cousin. She doesn't even look like Debi."

I looked at the woman, confused.

The not-Debi smiled again and said, "I'm positive, I'm not Debi!"

I apologized profusely and walked to our car, my face scarlet and my mind still confused.

A similar incident happened to me yesterday, only it wasn't Debi I imagined I saw, it was someone else. I wish I could remember who it was I thought I saw but I have drawn a complete blank. I remember being out in the car and seeing someone drive by and thinking it was someone I knew, but I can't remember who I thought it was. My short term memory is getting ridiculously short.

This memory thing is so frustrating. I have never had a problem remembering words but lately and often I can't seem to find the words I want to say. I draw word blanks with increasing frequency. Not so much when I write, but when I'm talking.

Like I said, book me a bed at the home, Mildred, I'm coming in.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012


Sometimes serendipity takes over and you find stories and storytellers who, in quiet but brilliant ways, illuminate the gentle humanity of their own corner of the world.

Joanne is like that. A born storyteller, she is. Every time she puts pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard, she creates stories that absolutely charm me. The old expression "warming the cockles of my heart" applies to how I feel about Joanne's folksy writing style.

I don't know all that much about Joanne. I don't know her last name, even. She drops by my blog all the time and offers a kind or sly comment on some drivel I've written. Her profile says she is "past retirement age but has a few good licks left" and she lives in a small town somewhere in northeast Ohio, U.S.A. That's all I know, really, but it doesn't matter. What matters is every time I visit her blog, Cup on the Bus, I am smitten by her stories of real life.

Yesterday she posted Small Town Memorial Day about the tenacity of a sunflower growing out of a crack in the concrete and of a roads superintendent who saved it instead of plucking it out. I was so charmed that I posted a link to her blog on Facebook. And I just smiled inside and outside when I read Two Old Ladies Sell Rugs and Pander to Fowl. And then there's the story of her Uncle Bill. Heartbreaking, really.

Joanne doesn't have many followers. She doesn't make a fuss. She just tells stories from her life – quietly unassuming stories, that make me want to curl up in a comfortable chair and listen.

I just think she is the loveliest person and thought you might think so, too.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The Band-Aid Trip

That's my Band-Aid. The nurses always put happy stickers on everyone's Band-Aids to cheer patients up. It works! Look how happy that sparkly Band-Aid is! Every two months I pay a visit to the Huntsville Hospital chemo clinic for an infusion of Remicade, the drug that has tamed my Crohn's disease and changed my life. (If you, or someone you know is struggling with Crohn's, you need to try this drug.) I take it with a side dish of Benadryl and the whole thing makes me goofy for the rest of the day so I always take the whole day off. Last Friday the weather forecast was good, we had no kids and no plans, so we decided to use the extra time to make an impromptu trip up to Kiosk to see if the fishing situation had improved. We were there a month ago and the fish were apparently still sleeping in, their cosy blanket of winter ice barely thawed.

See my hair? It's literally oily with bug spray. Going camping/fishing this time of year is crazy because of black flies. They're tiny little pains in the arses that swarm in your face and literally scrape the flesh off you, one teeny divot at a time. I don't know what we were thinking. Look at my smile, though. That's a Benadryl-looped smile if I've ever seen one.

The bug arsenal: Dave works feverishly to light a Pic. At his elbow is a liberally used can of bug dope. Both are probably highly toxic chemicals. I sprayed my leg with Off and then it literally STUCK TO THE BOAT. It was like I was Krazy Glued! When I finally peeled my leg away a whole bunch of BOAT PAINT came with it! 

Our dog Misty HATED the bugs. She tried to hide everywhere. Even in the grass. Eventually we plopped her in the tent so she wasn't such an all-you-can-eat bug buffet.

Our camping buddy did a lot of mooching. Bagels, popcorn, whatever was being offered.  Chipmunks are the friendliest little critters. Dave's late father used to call them "bush tigers" because of their stripes. I love that expression. 

A white pine near the beach. All the new growth is directed towards the sun, creating a uni-directional pattern that reminds me of the old tuft quilts Dave's mom used to make.

Dave and Misty take a stroll down at the beach.

The call of a loon. So haunting. So quintessentially Canadian. They're curious birds, diving underwater and popping up close to the boat, curious to see what we're up to and who is catching more fish, us or them. Usually it's them.

Fishermen with a lot of money have down-riggers and lots of fancy equipment to get down to where the lake trout hang out. Some parts of Lake Kioshkokwi are 160 feet deep and more so the average fishing line will not get down that far. Here, Dave uses his father's old Murphy troller for steel line fishing. It's a bit of an art, letting out all that steel line, then keeping it at a perfect distance from the bottom of the lake. It's one of the things I admire about Dave – his proficiency with simple, old-time tools and his knowledge of the outdoors.

Now THIS is MY fish! We didn't weigh it but Dave figured this bass was at least six pounds – the biggest bass he has ever laid his hands on! No, we didn't keep it. First of all we always catch and release because we want to preserve fish stocks for future generations. But bass is also out of season. We were trolling for some speckles when these hungry monsters jumped on our lines. This was the biggest one, by far, but man oh man there are a LOT of big bass in this lake.

The fish master in action. "Keep a bend in your pole" is what he is always yelling at me as I reel in my catch.

And he's into the net! So exciting!

Dave's not happy at all, can you tell?

Another mighty bass smiles pretty. Check out the scenery. Isn't it spectacular? I love this lake. I can hardly wait to go back up – hopefully when the black flies are done.

Misty loves fishing almost as much as we do. She curls up in a pile of life jackets and catches some Zs.

If you didn't know already, Dave's been a Chrysler mechanic his whole life so you'll understand if he's a little bit Chrysler-happy. While we were having breakfast the other morning we heard the distinctive sound of a vehicle getting stuck at the boat launch. "Go help," I said to Dave. Sure enough, a nice young couple in a Ford Explorer was trying to pull their boat and trailer up the rocky shore – to no avail. Dave threw a tow rope on the back of our Jeep and, without even spinning a wheel, walked that Ford and its boat and its trailer right up that bank like nobody's business. As soon as we were out of earshot Dave smirked ear to ear. "My Chrysler just pulled a Ford out of the lake," he said. He could hardly wait to show the photo to his buddies at work.

In closing, I just want to say that sometimes I get tired of fishing in a lake. Sometimes I want to try my luck in trees, to see if the fish are any different there. For some reason, Dave gets grouchy when he has to pull my line out of a tree. Men, eh? Go figure...

Sunday, May 27, 2012

The Black Fly Song

Well, we went fishing this weekend.

Fishing in northern Ontario.

Camping in a tent in northern Ontario.

In the height, no, the very apex of black fly season.

When I begin to recover from the itchy swollen mound between my shoulders, the squishy, pusified thing that used to be my head, I will tell you all about it.

In the meantime, watch this. It explains everything you need to know about black flies, the scourge of northern Ontario in May. I know, you don't have TIME to watch this. Well, make time. It's a classic Canadian folk tale, one of my very favouritest songs on the planet and, besides, I watched that video YOU posted, so ya owe me.


And I'd be completely remiss if I didn't include the lyrics so you can sing along. Get singing! I'm listening!

The Black Fly Song
Lyrics by Wade Hemsworth

'twas early in the spring when i decide to go
For to work up in the woods in north on-tar-i-o
The unemployment office said they'd send me through
To the little abi-tibi with the survey crew

And the black flies, the little black flies
Always the black fly, no matter where you go
I'll die with the black fly a-picking my bones
In north on-tar-i-o-i-o, in north on-tar-i-o

Now the man, black toby was the captain of the crew
And he said, "i'm gonna tell you boys what we're gonna do
They want to build a power dam and we must find a way
For to make the little ab flow around the other way"

And the black flies, the little black flies
Always the black fly, no matter where you go
I'll die with the black fly a-picking my bones
In north on-tar-i-o-i-o, in north on-tar-i-o

So we survey to the east and we survey to the west
And we couldn't make our minds up how to do it best
Little ab, little ab, what shall i do
For i'm all but goin' crazy on the survey crew

And the black flies, the little black flies
Always the black fly, no matter where you go
I'll die with the black fly a-picking my bones
In north on-tar-i-o-i-o, in north on-tar-i-o

It was black fly, black fly everywhere
A-crawlin' in your whiskers, a-crawlin' in your hair
A-swimmin' in the soup, and a'swimmin in the tea
Oh the devil take the black fly and let me be

And the black flies, the little black flies
Always the black fly, no matter where you go
I'll die with the black fly a-picking my bones
In north on-tar-i-o-i-o, in north on-tar-i-o

Black toby fell to swearin' 'cause the work went slow
And the state of our morale was gettin' pretty low
And the flies swarmed heavy, it was hard to catch a breath
As you staggered up and down the trail talkin' to yourself

And the black flies, the little black flies
Always the black fly, no matter where you go
I'll die with the black fly a-picking my bones
In north on-tar-i-o-i-o, in north on-tar-i-o

Now the bull cook's name was blind river joe
If it hadn't been for him we'd have never pulled through
For he bound up our bruises, and he kidded us for fun
And he lathered us with bacon grease and balsam gum

And the black flies, the little black flies
Always the black fly, no matter where you go
I'll die with the black fly a-picking my bones
In north on-tar-i-o-i-o, in north on-tar-i-o

At last the job was over, black toby said, we're through
With the little abitibi and the survey crew
'twas a wonderful experience and this i know
I'll never go again to north ontar-i-o

And the black flies, the little black flies
Always the black fly, no matter where you go
I'll die with the black fly a-picking my bones
In north on-tar-i-o-i-o, in north on-tar-i-o

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Hope, Faith and Charity

THE most fabulous thing has happened and I feel like CELEBRATING!

Remember my blog post from the other day, Life Insurance Companies Suck? I wrote it because I was devastated when I found out I was denied life insurance based on, as they wrote in their report, "multiple criminal charges." I got their report in the mail last night and something in it intrigued me. "We've let your advisor know about our decision although we may not have shared all the reasons for it. To protect your privacy we're unable to share certain information."

I thought, what information? The agent already knew about the criminal charges – he phoned me and told me. What could be worse than that? Did they find out I have AIDS? What? What could be worse?

Curiosity got the better of me so I picked up the phone. The report said I should call my agent if I had questions but screw that. I wanted to speak to someone at the insurance company, preferably to the director of underwriting who had signed the report. Yes, I know his signature is just a stamp; that, in all likelihood he never even saw my application. I didn't care – his name was on the document so his butt was in the hot seat. I called the 1-800 number on the letter.

After a little bit of phone tag hell I got through to an extremely pleasant young woman whose name I forget so I'll call her Hope. She pulled up my records and reiterated what I already knew – I was denied coverage because of those "multiple criminal charges," nothing else.

I was going to thank her and hang up, but then I opened my mouth and started telling her the story I have told everyone over and over again. At first I spoke plainly because there is little emotion left in the retelling of such an old tale – but like the singer who has sung her hit song for the thousandth time and still has to dazzle her audience, I realized I needed to tell my story with the heart it deserves. I told Hope about my otherwise stellar, crime-free life, about doing volunteer work in the community, about covering the police beat for the local newspaper. I told her about my husband of 19 years cheating on me, and how it literally made me lose my mind. I told her about smacking him with the Dr. Seuss book and the police charging me with assault; then, as I begged and screamed for my husband to help me, one of the officers put his hand over my mouth to shut me up – so I bit his thumb. And there, in a heartbeat, were my multiple charges: assault and assault police.

Hope listened, not revealing much. When I was done talking she said, "I almost never do this but I'm going to transfer you to an underwriter. Can you hold?"

I was on hold at least 10 minutes. Finally a second female voice came on the phone. Let's call her Faith.

She said, "Calls are virtually never transferred to underwriters and I have to tell you, Hope was passionate as she described your situation."

Faith used the word "passionate." My heart leapt.

"I think I've got all the information I need but if you'd like to share anything else, I'd be happy to hear it."

So I told Faith the same story I had just told Hope, adding more details. As I spoke, the story got under my skin and I broke down at several points. I know Hope was in tears, too. I heard her sniffling over the telephone wire.

"I can't re-open your case," she said, "because only the original underwriter can do that. He's gone home for the day but I am going to take this to him first thing tomorrow morning. I can't promise anything, but I'm going to make sure he sees this."

I felt elated. I didn't care at this point if the insurance company changed its mind because SOMEONE HAD LISTENED. Someone CARED. I went to bed last night with a happy heart.


When my husband got home from work today, I was already here. We shared pleasantries and he said, "that was pretty good what the insurance agent had to say, eh?"

I looked at Dave like he had three heads.

"What do you mean?"

The agent had called him to say the insurance company had reversed its decision and was willing to sell me insurance. They had completely dropped all application references to my criminal past.

"WHAAAAAAAAAT??????????" I was gob-smacked, bowled over.

"Didn't he call you? He called me to ask for your phone number because he had misplaced it."

"NOOOOOOOOOOOO," I squealed. "He didn't!" But then again, maybe he did. I had stepped out of the office for a while in the afternoon to run some errands. And, truth be told, I didn't check my phone to see if anyone had called while I was gone.

When I finished screaming and jumping up and down and hugging Dave and generally acting like a lunatic, I asked if our agent was surprised. "Oh yeah," he said. "First of all, he couldn't believe the company changed its mind. But what he really couldn't believe is that you got transferred to an underwriter."

Seriously? It's that big a deal? Apparently it is. And apparently I owe Hope a great deal of thanks. She could have brushed me off. She could have said, "Well, them's the breaks, ma'am, sorry about your luck." But she didn't. She let her humanity and her common sense and her brilliant helpfulness take over and she did a wonderful thing.

Yes, she did the unthinkable – she transferred my call. But she did so much more. She made me feel like a real person again. A worthy person. Someone who is more than just a set of toothmarks in a Kevlar glove and the slapping sting of a children's book on a cheating husband's thighs.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

I'm a celebrity lookalike

I just realized who I look like – the Mama Burger at A&W. Look at that round face, those dimples. Me! And that hair? That is precisely my haircut, bangs, curls and all. When I went fishing at Kiosk a few weeks ago my nose got sunburned – right? You see the resemblance now?

At first I thought Mama Burger looked like my mother back in the '70s – then it hit me like a bolt of ketchup-covered lightning – it's not my mom, it's ME.

Oh god. I look like Mama Burger. Of all the celebrities in the world to resemble ... of all the classic beauties ... I don't look like any of them. I look like a hamburger.

Friday, May 18, 2012

It's drive-in season!

Have we recovered from the trauma of last year's drive-in season? The scars are still so fresh, it's hard to tell, and yet I think my children will be undergoing extensive psychological analyzing for years to come.

OK, so maybe they won't. Maybe just me. Me and all the other parents who were there that fateful night, holding their protective hands over the the tiny trusting faces of their innocent offspring while, on the  screen, busty nudes faked hot liquid sex amidst the pastoral pines of the local drive-in. The horror, the popcorn-crusted, hot dog dancing horror.

Before you think I'm a twisted weirdo freak, let me assure you I would never take my children to a porno on purpose. Like, never! I don't even feel comfortable watching the kissing scenes in Lassie Does Dallas. Perhaps Dave and I should have checked the ratings of the movies playing at last year's Dusk to Dawn movie fiesta before packing kids, blankets, pop and pillows into our two cars. But we weren't THINKING. This is a common thing at my house, the not-thinking thing. It can be blamed for a multitude of hoary sins. Any reasonable parent, nay, any THINKING parent, would know enough to check out the ratings and trailers for the four movies playing at the Dusk to Dawn: Planet of the Apes, Cowboys & Aliens, The Change-Up and Bridesmaids. Yeah, well... all I can say is please refer to the not-thinking phase of this diatribe.

So the first two movies were good. Lots of blood and guts and shooting and dying, not too much swearing and no sex – that's pretty much Disney for us. I don't care how much violence is in the flick, as long as nobody's naked.

Then Change-Up started. The language was terrible – there was more swearing than in this blog, and that's a feck of a lot of swearing! Every time somebody said the eff word, I grumbled under my breath saying, "Oh, Sam, you're not listening to that are you?" And, "You better not be talking like that, Angus."  So the actors would swear and I'd waggle my gums and there was so much swearing and waggling that my jaw began to ache. The kids weren't listening to me anyway. They were glommed onto the forbidden fruit unfolding on the screen in front of them, no doubt thinking, "we're not in Kansas anymore."

The movie is about two guys who switch lives. One is a husband and father (Jason Bateman). One is a hot single guy (Ryan Reynolds - yessssssssss) who films soft porn for a living. We see Justin at home with his lovely family. And we see Ryan as he goes to the film set TO HAVE FAKE SEX WITH NAKED PORN STARS. Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeek!

Before I knew it there were doggies on that screen, naked swaying doggies – and I'm not talking about actual DOGS!

Angus yelled, "BOOBIES!" And I screamed as I flung a pillow over his face, almost suffocating the poor lad to death while trying to protect his innocence.

"COVER YOUR EYES!" roared Dave to Sam.

"BOOBIES!" squealed Angus, muffled by the pillow. It sounded like "MRUMPHIES."

What they were SAYING on the screen was just as bad as the flailing plastic breasts. I can't even REPEAT it here – suffice it to say it had something to do with a FINGER and a BUM. I turned off the car stereo, where the movie sound was coming from, as fast as a flash, then realized we could still hear the movie as plain as day through everyone else's vehicles.

"FINGERS!" hollered Angus, laughing his 14-year-old face off from under the pillow.

"GET THAT BLANKET OFF MY FACE," roared 10-year-old Sam, who wanted to know what the fuss was about. "I wanna see BOOBIES!"

"BOOBIES!" said Angus.

I was freaking out. "Don't listen! Don't watch! Hide your ears! Batten the hatches! Every man for himself!" And as the finger was put to incredible use I screamed, "Noooooooooooooooo," and the kids were laughing and Dave was smothering Sam while I practically sat on Angus and the popcorn and soda pop was spilled from one end of the car to the other... I swear, the Pepsi stains still bear sombre witness to the horrifying melee.

Just now I was checking out The Change-Up on the IMBD message boards. There was a big fooferaw because some lady brought a five-year-old to see this R rated movie. One commenter said:

"I know it's more and more common for kids to be seeing adult movies, but I don't know who in their right mind would take a little kid to something this vulgar."

I only have two explanations for this. First and foremost, WE WEREN'T IN OUR RIGHT MINDS!

And secondly, "BOOBIES!"

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Life insurance companies suck

I lost custody of my kids, I can't travel outside of Canada and now I find out I can't get life insurance. How many ways do I have to pay for smacking my ex with a Dr. Seuss book and biting a cop's thumb?

The insurance guy called me at work yesterday morning to say I was declined. Not that I was surprised. They had approved my husband a couple of months ago and had been taking his money (actually twice the money they were entitled to – a so-called mistake) out of his bank account for a while. The agent said he was still waiting to hear how my application fared. See, I knew they wouldn't sell me life insurance but I figured it would be because I have Crohn's disease. He said no, it wasn't the Crohn's – although, had they approved my application, I would have been paying premium rates.

"What then?" I asked. "My weight?"

He hemmed and hawed, trying to find a way to say even though I lost 50 pounds I was still too fat for his liking. "But no," he said, "you were declined outright because of your criminal record."

Seven years ago my husband of 19 years cheated on me. We had a huge fight. I swatted him with a children's book then called the cops to have him removed from the house. He told the cops I hit him and I was charged with assault. I freaked out. One of the cops held his hand over my mouth to shut me up and I bit his thumb.

That's what happened. One night that changed my life forever. It's the basis of the novel I'm writing, a lesson to women everywhere on what not to do when your marriage falls apart. Some day I might even finish it.

Something else that's not finished is the way I continue to pay for that night. Just as I manage to put it behind me something new happens. Yesterday was hard. Not only was the insurance guy telling me I was fat, he was also calling me a criminal. All I could hear were the negative voices in my head screaming, "YOU'RE A FAT, UGLY CROOK, A WASTE OF SKIN AND DON'T YOU EVER FORGET IT." I tried not to cry at work but I failed miserably. It was all I could do to stay at my desk – every fibre of my being wanted to flee, wanted to go home and dive under the bedcovers and cry away the afternoon.

You know what? I didn't even want the stupid insurance. The agent had talked my husband into it. He said it would save us money because we have separate life insurance policies on our house and our car, as well as Dave's own life insurance. He tried to sell us on one comprehensive policy on everything. I was doubtful (I don't trust these guys as far as I can throw them), but I was willing to go along with it, for Dave's sake.

So first the agent came to our house. Spent two hours sitting at our kitchen table, asking us a zillion personal questions about our health and our finances, getting us to fill out forms and drinking our coffee.

Then a nurse came on a Sunday afternoon. She asked more health questions. She weighed us. She took our blood. Made us pee in a cup.

A while later a some other woman phoned us. Spent a half an hour with each of us, asking us the most personal questions you could ever imagine. One of the questions she asked was, "Do you have a criminal record?" When I answered yes, she wanted all the details. The charges, the sentence, the dates – everything but my side of the story. She didn't want to hear how a marriage break-up can destroy your sanity; no, it was just the facts, ma'am. I was shocked. Couldn't see why on earth she wanted to know, or why it mattered. Does it mean that I am more likely to go into a rampage and shoot up a children's library? Or that I'm gonna get shot by cops the next time I have a hunger for thumb?

I told the agent that I was humiliated by the entire process. He said, "That's standard procedure across the industry." Like that makes it OK to dig into a person's life, to poke and prod at the things that hurt someone the most. If my worst enemy was to decide to hurt me, he would call me fat and then bring up my criminal record – and then he would pronounce me not good enough.

That's the thing that hurts the most. Not being good enough.

Well, fuck you life insurance company. Fuck YOU. I am good enough. I'm better than you'll ever be and I am THROUGH with this bullshit of people telling me I'm not good enough. Take your life insurance policy and stick it up your ass.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Arthur needn't worry

Well you could have knocked me over with a chickadee feather! Maybe even a hummingbird feather. No, maybe a BABY hummingbird feather – now that's a little feather!

I was in the lunch room at work, foraging for iceberg lettuce with carrot croutons (num-num-num), when I was approached by the lovely and talented Pamela Steel who, as well as being my friend, is also the editor of the Bracebridge Examiner and the Muskoka Weekender. She's a big cheese, a femme de fromage, and while she is hilarious she takes her job seriously and would never jeopardize it just to kiss my extra-round lily white ass.

So when she asked if I could start running my blog posts as a column in the Weekender, I was gob-smacked. Suddenly I was channelling Sally Field from her infamous Oscar acceptance speech. "You like me! You really like me!"

Pamela said something like, "What's not to like?" and flattered me just enough to make me feel like the second coming of Woodward and Bernstein. She even said, "If it works out, I think maybe you can replace Arthur Black." Ooooooh...that's heady stuff. Arthur Black is a syndicated and popular columnist who has been running a column in the Weekender since, well, I have no idea but it's been a heck of a long time.

After my head-swelling conversation with Pamela I danced back to my desk and shared our conversation with my workmates, thinking they would be thrilled with my news. Well, they started out happy for me but when I said, "and if it works out, I might even replace Arthur Black," thrilled wasn't the reaction I got.

"They're gonna pull Arthur Black?"

"But I love Arthur Black."

"YOUR blog is going to replace Arthur Black? Really? Are you sure?"

"His column is my favourite thing in the whole newspaper."


Nobody said, "Geez, Cathy, that's AWESOME! You're WAY funnier than Arthur Black! Congratulations! You rock! You are a rocking STAR! Screw Arthur Black! Way to go!"

Nope. Nobody said that. They just made wry faces and went back to work. Like I had just announced they weren't getting paid this week. Obviously Arthur Black needn't worry about me taking over his Bracebridge newspaper crown. He is much beloved (for good reason).

Anyway. (Sigh.) I have to go through my blog posts and come up with some that are funny but aren't libellous, that don't have the feck word too many times and are local enough to appeal to a local crowd. I think that narrows my selection down to about two. Feck.

Whoops. There goes another one.

Monday, May 14, 2012

First Loves

You know, when you're crying so hard that your mouth stays open and soundless waves of nothing but spit strings and popcorn breath emanate? That was my sister, Elizabeth.

And you remember Tammy Faye Baker when the infidelity shitstorm hit and every tabloid from the southern Bible belt to Whitehorse carried photos of her with a mudslide of mascara ooking down her cheeks? That was my cousin, Karen.

I distinctly remember coming out of the movie theatre from seeing Terms of Endearment and seeing those two, teenagers at the time, looking like the love children of Luciano Pavarotti and Alice Cooper. What a satisfying bawlfest that movie was. If I don't cry or laugh at a movie I feel ripped off and I came out of that one with deep-seated orgiastic satisfaction. Debra Winger glowed with fragile beauty. Shirley MacLaine was hilarious and tremendous, all at the same time. And Jack Nicholson was the best he ever was, self-deprecating and sexy. My first movie love? Hands down, Terms of Endearment.


Christmas night 1968 and I was snugged into a quilt-layered iron bed in one of Grandma and Grandpa Hooper's spare bedrooms. Mounted on the headboard was one of those old-fashioned, pull-chain reading lights and it was switched on as I opened up my newest Nancy Drew Mystery, the best present under the tree, and began reading it with the enthusiasm one might bestow on a precious jewel. For a few thrilling years, Christmas and birthdays meant new Nancy Drews and those yellow-spined beauties were, without a doubt, what inspired me to read some of the world's greatest literature, and also to write.


I was having a hard time narrowing down musical first loves just now. There was so much music to love when I was growing up. Then I remembered sitting down in my parents' basement, cross-legged on their red indoor-outdoor carpet next to the stereo listening to David Cassidy's Cherish as it spun for the four-hundred-millionth time on the same turntable that later played Jesus Christ Superstar, The Guess Who and Supertramp. That hair, that perfect hair. Those liquid-chocolate brown eyes. Those slim hips. Hang on... having trouble breathing just now... David Cassidy, I think I must still love you, so what am I so afraid of?


Ian Oliver was the first boy I ever kissed and so I guess I loved him because when you're in Grade 8 it's easy to confuse a messy glom of chapped lips, fat sloppy tongue and adolescent body odour with love. Sometimes, but not often, I wonder what happened to him.

Then, one day a couple of years ago, the company I work for announced the appointment of a new president. Ian Oliver. I stared at the headshot that accompanied the announcement. I thought, maybe? The eyes looked kinda similar but it was hard to tell because 36 years had gone by. Still, stranger things had happened so I sent him an e-mail and congratulated him on his appointment . (I know, chutzpah, right?) While I wanted to outright ask him if he was the kid I kissed in some other kid's basement back in 1972, I had the brains to coach my question in a less obvious and more job-future-friendly manner. I told him he reminded me of someone "I went to school with" in Markham, Ontario. Luckily, or unluckily as your viewpoint might allow, the president of the company grew up in England or Australia or somewhere over the pond but definitely not in Markham so he was definitely not the Ian Oliver I locked lips with back when dinosaurs roamed the earth and David Cassidy played on my parents' stereo.

Thanks to Alex J. Cavanaugh for another fun-filled blogfest. If you'd like to take part, click here!

Friday, May 11, 2012

Most awesome Mother's Day present ever!

A favourite photo of me and Sam on my wedding day.

My heart is POUNDING I am so excited! Just now my son, Sam, gave me a Mother's Day present – an animated video he made just for me!

Sam is only 11 but he's a devoted and talented animator who treats animation like his "business." Every day after school he goes to his desk and gets busy creating animations. It's what he wants to do when he grows up and, I must say, if he continues to be this dedicated, I'm sure he will get his wish.

Usually his videos are about the kinds of things that one might imagine an 11-year-old boy would be interested in but this time he made an animation just for me. I am so excited, I am so touched that my throat is closing in with emotion and I've got happy tears running down my face. How glorious it is to have someone you love so much do something so selfless, and just for you. Sam Olliffe, I love you to infinity and beyond!!! Thank you so much for this priceless gift. oxox

Now please take a moment and see why I'm so proud:

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Ear piercings

"Can I get my ear pierced?" asked Angus. "My left ear?" Like there's a difference. Is there a difference? Back in the day you had your left one pierced if you were straight and your right one pierced if you were gay but now everybody's got everything pierced so what does that mean?

"Sure," I said, because I grew up at a time when all the coolest guys had one ear pierced. "BUT THAT'S IT. No nose piercing, or tongue piercing, or belly-button piercing, or woo-woo piercing. No piercings on your damn eyebrow or your cheek – neither the cheek of your cheek or the cheek of your arse. None of those big hole stretchy piercings that make your ear lobe into a picture window, either. Those really gross me out. Can you imagine being an old man with picture window ear lobes? All that long white ear hair and orange wax chunks stuck in the ginormous hole, that grows bigger and bigger as you get older (because it happens) until you're 90 years old and your floppy, holy ear lobe stretches down to your flappy, pierced, hairy nipples. And when you're at the nursing home the personal care workers will have to dig out yesterday's oatmeal from the hole in your tongue, only they won't because, ewww, that's just gross, so the food will moulder there until it stinks and none of your grandchildren will visit because you smell like the science experiment in my fridge at work."

Angus stared at me uncomprehendingly. "So does that mean I can get it done?"

Oh for heaven's sake. A perfectly good lecture in one holy ear and out the other. "I said yes. Where are you getting it done? The hair salon in town?"

"Uh, no. Jaylene's gonna do it."

Jaylene is Angus's girlfriend. She's got more piercings than a baked potato. Apparently she has given lots of people piercings and is a bit of an expert in this department.

"Oh really?" I snorted, visions of bloody ears, screams and infections dancing through my head. "What's she going to use, a darning needle and an ice cube?"

Angus assured me she was using "the proper equipment" with disposable needles that only get used once.

When I picked him up from the GF, he came bobbing out to the car baring his neck. I had forgotten about his earring and thought he was giving me an opportunity for hickey inspections.

"No," he said, disgusted. "My EAR."

I thought, "you have a hickey on your ear?" But then I saw the nifty-cool earring and was suitably impressed. "Good job," I yelled out the car window to Jaylene. "Did he cry like a little girl?"

"YES," she said, laughing. My big, brave son laid his head on an ice pack for a half an hour before the big ta-doo and apparently clung to his GF like a castaway on a lichen-covered rock, screaming, when the deed was being done. I heard all the gory details and, suffice it to say, new equipment or not, it was still very much like a darning needle and an ice cube.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012


Let there be cake!

Ah, were more blessed words ever spoken? There should be cake on every holiday. It was International Women's Day not too long ago and I asked, because I always ask, "Is there cake for that?" And my friend said, "no," but there should be. I mean, Margaret Atwood's book The Edible Woman was all about a woman gaining independence and her sense of self-worth by baking a cake in the shape of herself and eating it. So if there's any holiday that needs a cake, it's that one.

Oh, also? According to The Watery Tart Hart Johnson, yesterday was International Outdoor Intercourse Day. Can you imagine a cake for that? If you're partnerless, it could be a single layer. If you're with your sweetie, it could be a two layer, one chocolate, one vanilla – up to you which one goes on top. And if you have more than one partner, you could have a multi-layered, multi-flavoured cake.... now we're talking!

Yesterday my sweet, wonderful and very weird colleagues surprised me with CAKE because it was my sixth anniversary working for the company. They were SO NICE (love them, love them like butter) and the cake was SO DELICIOUS. It was one of the new cakes from the bakery at Gagnon's Independent in Bracebridge (how I love that store) and it was absolutely fab. The whole thing got demolished in a matter of minutes.

So thank you, lovely lovely people. Big buttercream-covered hugs and sugary kisses to you all!

The photo, which was taken by my colleague, Gail (thanks!), shows a multitude of things: my humongous arms that are bigger than my head (I have the fattest arms in the world. It's true. They're in the Guinness Book of Fat Arm World Records); my calendar from charming, talented Nova Scotia artist and blogger Shelagh Duffett; the Coffee Mate creamer that I don't use anymore because it's fattening (unlike the cake, which doesn't count); my disgusting, empty salad bowl from lunch; Fibre One cereal for bowel-happy snacking; my fan for occasional hot flashes; and my Star Wars award poster for being uber Star Warsy (it was a company awards thingey. I won for creativity – I'm making fun of it but secretly I'm still proud of the whole thing); and finally, the falling-apart arm of my leather chair that my sweetie bought for me when I first started working there... six years ago... wow. Hard to believe.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Are you happy?

So are you? Happy? Big question, isn't it. Easy answer, though. You're either a happy person or you're not.

I think I'm a happy person, but that doesn't mean I'm happy 24/7. In fact sometimes I'm downright miserable. That's OK, though. Everyone has their ups and downs. If you're happy MOST of the time I think that qualifies you as happy.

Being happy is a good thing. No, it's a GREAT thing because happy people live longer. And not only do they have more years, they have healthier, more loving, more joyful, more productive years. The good news is, you can become a happier person. I recently found this article on the internet – 15 Powerful Things Happy People Do Differently and I agree with absolutely all of it. Take a look and see if you can apply them to your own life to make yourself happier. YOU CAN DO IT! (Thanks to The Purpose Fairy for some very wise words. You might also want to check out 15 Things You Should Give Up In Order To Be Happy.)

1. LOVE vs. FEAR. Well, I can tell you for sure that those people who are really happy, FEAR less and LOVE a lot more.They see each moment, each challenge, each person as an opportunity to discover more about themselves and the world around them.

2. ACCEPTANCE vs. RESISTANCE.  Happy people understand that you can’t really change a situation by resisting it, but you can definitely change it by accepting that it is there and by understanding that there might be a reason for its existence. When something unpleasant happens to them, they don’t try to fight it, knowing that this will make the situation even worse, but rather, they ask themselves questions like: What can I learn from this? How can I make this better? and they go from there, focusing on the positive rather than on the negative. They always seem to see the glass half full no matter what happens to them.

3. FORGIVENESS vs. UNFORGIVENESS. Really happy people know that it’s not healthy to hold on to anger. They choose to FORGIVE and FORGET, understanding that FORGIVENESS is  a gift they give to themselves first and foremost.
“Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned.”Buddha

4. TRUST vs. DOUBT. They trust themselves and they trust the people around them. No matter if they talk to the cleaning lady or the C.E.O. of a multi billion company, somehow they always seem make the person they are interacting with feel like there is something unique and special about them.
They understand that beliefs become self-fulfilling prophecies, and because of that, they make sure to treat everybody with love, dignity and respect, making no distinctions between age, sex, social status, color, religion or race. These are the great men that Mark Twain was talking about: “Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great.” Mark Twain

5. MEANING vs. AMBITION.  They do the things they do because of the meaning it brings into their lives and because they get a sense of purpose by doing so. They understand that “Doing what you love is the cornerstone of having abundance in your life” like Wayne Dyer puts it, and they care more about living a life full of meaning rather than, what in our modern society we would call, living a successful life.
The irony here is that most of the time they get both, success and meaning, just because they choose to focus on doing the things they love the most and they always pursue their heart desires. They are not motivated by money; they want to make a difference in the lives of those around them and in the world.

6. PRAISING vs. CRITICIZING. Happy people would probably agree with Carl’s Jung theory on resistance: “What you resist not only persists, but will grow in size”They don’t criticize the absence of the behavior they want to reinforce, but ratherevery time the behavior is present, even if it’s not that often, they know that by praising the person and the behavior, they will actually reinforce the positive behavior.
When a parent wants to make sure that his 7 years old boy will learn to always put the toys back in the box after he’s done playing with them, he will make sure not to focus on the many times the child won’t do it, criticizing him and his behavior, but rather, every time the little boy does put the toys back, the parent will praise him and his behavior and that is exactly how he will reinforce the positive behavior, and in the end geting the wanted results.

7. CHALLENGES vs. PROBLEMS. Happy people will see PROBLEMS as CHALLENGES, as opportunities to explore new ways of doing things, expressing their gratitude for them, understanding that underneath them all lies many opportunities that will allow them to expand and to grow.

8. SELFLESSNESS vs. SELFISHNESS. They do what they do not for themselves, but for the good of others, making sure that they bring meaning, empowerment and happiness in the lives of many. They look for ways to give and to share the best of themselves with the world and to make other people happy.
 ”Before giving, the mind of the giver is happy; while giving, the mind of the giver is made peaceful; and having given, the mind of the giver is uplifted.”Buddha

9. ABUNDANCE vs. LACK/POVERTY. They have an abundant mindset living a balanced life, achieving abundance in all areas of life.

10. DREAMING BIG vs. BEING REALISTIC. These people don’t really care about being realistic. Theylove and dare to dream big, they always listen to their heart and intuition and the greatness of their accomplishments scares many of us.
“Dream no small dreams for they have no power to move the hearts of men.” Goethe

11. KINDNESS vs. CRUELTY. They are kind to themselves and others and they understand the power of self love, self forgiveness and self acceptance.

12. GRATITUDE vs. INGRATITUDE. No no matter where they look, no matter where they are or with who, they have this capacity of seeing beauty where most of us would only see ugliness, opportunities, where most of us would only see struggles, abundance where most of us would only see lack and theyexpress their gratitude for them all.

13. PRESENCE/ ENGAGEMENT vs. DISENGAGEMENT. They know how to live in the present moment, appreciating what they have and where they are, while still having big dreams about the future.
“When you are present, you can allow the mind to be as it is without getting entangled in it. The mind in itself is a wonderful tool. Dysfunction sets in when you seek your self in it and mistake it for who you are.” Eckhart Tolle

14. POSITIVITY vs. NEGATIVITY. No matter what happens to them, they always seem to keep a positive perspective on everything and by doing so, they tend irritate a lot of negative and “realistic” people.

15. TAKING RESPONSIBILITY vs. BLAMINGThey take full ownership over their lives and they rarely use excuses. Happy people understand that the moment you choose to blame some outside forces for whatever it is that happens to you, you are in fact giving all your power away, and they choose to keep the power for themselves and taking responsibility for everything that happens to them.

If you're happy and you live in the neighbourhood I'd love to talk to you. I have an idea for a story featuring the 10 Happiest People in Muskoka and what makes them so darn happy. If you're a happy person, or you know someone who is, drop me a line. I'd love to chat.