Friday, August 31, 2012

"Really North of Wiarton and There's No Checkerboard in Sight"

So there's this blog called Just North of Wiarton and East of the Checkerboard and it's run by this lovely lady whose name I don't know because she hasn't posted it, so I'll just call her Checkerboard. Every day Checkerboard records the events of her life with gazillions of photos which is great because, unlike me, Checkerboard has an interesting life. She also has SO much energy that I swear she has a closet full of Red Bull, sneaks in there, guzzles it by the case and burps gaseous globules of meth-like and enthusiastic zip. Not that I'm making fun of Checkerboard. Well, not on purpose anyway. I do love her blog and visit it every chance I get. Still, I can't help but envy the cool stuff she does every single day. I thought, man, if I recorded the details of my day, it would bore everyone to death. To prove the mundane-ness of my existence, yesterday I took my camera everywhere I went and recorded the day for posterity. Yes, yes, yes, it's BORING. If you want real action, go visit Checkerboard. (LOVE YOU CHECKERBOARD!) Meanwhile, in pic number one, that's my Travelocity garden gnome saying farewell as I head to the Jeep to begin the work day. I actually went to take his picture and realized the camera battery was still in the charger, so back into the house I went, car keys floundering in the lock, hissing under my breath about my complete lack of foresight and thinking there was no way Checkerboard would do something like that. Meantime, Travelocity Gnome sat there, trying to be patient, while Karsh here fumbled around with the camera. No wonder the little man in the red hat travels. Can only stand our incompetence for so long at a time.

8:50 a.m. Jeep's thermometer says 15 degrees Celsius. That's 59 F in case you're not up on your Metric equivalency. (I'm not. I had someone google it for me.) Either way, it's fricking chilly for an August morning.

8:51 a.m. "Our"  bridge. My favourite part of coming or going, crossing this bridge. The guy in the car gives me a funny look. Probably thinks I'm with the FBI. Which I totally am. (Fat. Bald. Ignorant. Yup.)

8:52. I stop on the bridge, blocking all traffic, to take a photo of the river. Look! Red leaves! Fall's coming! So is a big guy in a pick-truck, ready to punch my lights out for being in his way! Gotta go!

8:52 In the kerfuffle my sunglasses are knocked to the floor, right next to my pink flip-flops and my lizard green toenails. It looked good in the bottle but the green makes me look like a corpse. I catch glimpses of it sometimes and it scares the crap outta me. Dave says it's like sleeping with The Walking Dead.

9 a.m. and not a minute later, I swear. Late? Who me? Pffft.... This is the front of my work, where the important people park. People who are "on time." (Keeners.)

9 a.m. The back entrance, for people like me. The garbage bins and pallets are nice decorative touches. As is the butt bucket under the picnic table, which you can't see from this angle. One summer we had a problem with raccoons getting stuck in the garbage. We made little raccoon ladders and put them in the bins and watched them climb in and out. It was the BEST summer ever!

9:02 a.m. OMG! DOUGNUTS! Somebody bought doughnuts from the World Famous Gravenhurst Bakery and put them on MY DESK! They're not just for me, of course, but my corner is in a central location, close to the door. My co-workers call me the Wal-Mart Greeter because everybody wanders by. It's a natural place for food placement. The plastic container has my lunch. Leftoever farfalle. Nom nom.

9:0-something a.m. Who cares what time it is! I'm focused on doughnuts! These aren't your everyday run of the mill doughnut shop chunks of lard. Oh no. These. Are. Choice. From a local bakery that makes the most phenomal stuff. I try to avoid it like the plague or I'd be the size of the Goodyear blimp. Gawd, I'd  be a happy blimp, though.

9:05 a.m. Signing in! (I should totally be a hand model.)

9:10 a.m. This is Cathy Black, who bought the doughnuts. While camera-shy, Cathy is the Greatest Woman on the Planet, second only to whoever the next person is who plies the office with food.

9:15 a.m. That is MY fat-free french vanilla coffee creamer. MINE! I don't mind if you ASK me to use it but don't just TAKE it and leave nothing left in the bottle except for VAPOURS. I put this sign on it the other day and hope the culprits will get the subtle message. One of my colleagues saw it, laughed and said he was going to write on it: "I spit in it, too." HAHAHAHAHA! (Good thing he didn't say 'shit.')

9:something. Coffee: make, drink, repeat.

As a direct result of expensive Pike Point Keurig coffee, the mid-morning pee break: OBVIOUSLY I hung this roll of toilet paper in the ladies washroom. I say "obviously" because you will notice it is hung the correct way. Unfortunately there are many deluded people in this world who have swallowed the Toilet Kool-Aid and insist the toity wipes be hung incorrectly.

Every workplace kitchen has its slobs. I am not one of them. I have done more work dishes in my time than the kitchen staff at Le Sizzler. Even these tactful signs don't seem to motivate the office slobinos. (I bet they're the ones who steal my coffee creamer.)

The inside of the Gravenhurst doughnut. Go ahead, drool. I did.  I'm sure this sweet whipped cream delight has absolutely nothing to do with the tremendous weight gain I've been experiencing lately. In fact, I'm positive carrots are to blame. I hear they're full of sugar. Nasty buggers, carrots are.

My son once said that all adults talk about, when children aren't around, is pie. He's actually right. Especially when someone like Salesman Rick brings in a homemade-ish pie from the Minett Bakery. Peach and raspberry, I think it was. I took a photo but I didn't actually get a slice. Ya gotta be quick around here. Somebody sent and e-mail around the offices yodelling the renowned Battlecry of the Refoodlic: "There's PIE in the kitchen!" One of the guys in a sister office, an hour's drive away, sent back a message saying he would like a slice e-mailed to him. That prompted Supervisor Gail to take a photo of our deliciousosities and ship the pic his way.

The guy said it tasted like plastic .... does this look like plastic to you?

By now you're probably wondering if I do any work. Well yes, occasionally. When the doughnut-eating, coffee-drinking festivities ground down to a sugar-and-carb-laced-low, I got to the business at hand which, on this day, was making real estate ads. I pretty much did this for eight hours straight. Oh, I designed the front pages of the Bracebridge and Gravenhurst Weekenders, too. But then I did more real estate ads. (This is just as exciting as it looks.)

My Betty Boop candy lip gloss was a gift from the editor of the local papers, Pamela Steel, who is also the fiercely talented author of SEVERAL bestselling cookbooks. She is one of the coolest people I know. And she gave me this. Don't you wish you had a friend like Pamela?

My iPod and the front of the Weekender. Yes, it's pink. All things should be pink.

Jason, who sits across from me, rants every once in a while about bad drivers and Apple computers. Today he was rantier than usual so I took his picture. Look at his angry little yellow head. I'd be be angry too if I had such a little yellow head.

Hey, now this is cool! That's my column laid out in the Weekender, ready to go to the printer and dazzle the world! The good news is I haven't got any angry letters to the editor lately. The bad news is they're not paying me yet.

5 p.m. and it's time to go home! There goes my pointy little modelling finger moving my magnet to the "out" side of the in/out board. Naturally the "out" position is my favourite.

Holy doodles it got hot out! That's a big temperature difference since this morning! Who cares! It's time to go home!

There's the bridge! I'm almost there!

Time to check the mail. I wonder what Rembrandt painted this beautiful mailbox?

Ooooh! A letter from Google! It must be a big fat cheque from everybody clicking on my ads! (Wot? It's junk mail? Rats.)

I open the front door and Misty the Wonderdog rushes out to greet me! She's all happy until she sees the camera in front of my face, then she thinks I'm a dog serial killer. She hasn't peed since 8:45 a.m. I could NOT hold my bladder for eight hours. Could you?

We're in a rush tonight because I have Writer's Group and Dave is fixing a guy's car, so we decide to head into town for a bite to eat. The plan is after we stuff our faces at A & W, I'll go north to Group and Dave will go back to the garage, so we take separate vehicles. That's him following me on his super cool motorcycle. He is such a stud-muffin.

Oh gawd, I'm getting bored with all these photos. I can't even imagine how bored YOU are. So I'll rush through the rest. This is Dave getting off his bike.

A & W. Love the Papaburgers. Hate the onion rings. Why do you make such sucky onion rings, A & W? Why?

Can't go to Writer's Group without a Timmy's! (How Canadian is this picture? Timmy's coffee, Canadian Tire money and a bunch of loose Canadian change?) Sorry my console is a mess... I wasn't expecting company. Besides, Dave was the one who spilled the coffee. Even though he doesn't drink coffee. Yup, that's my story and I'm sticking with it...

Meet the girls!!!! These are three of the most rockinest writers you will ever want to meet. That's Linda McLean, Dawn Huddlestone and Paula Boon. (Mizz Sasha Pringle wasn't able to make it tonight and we miss her terribly.) We meet twice a month, usually at Paula's house although we did have a FABULOUS dinner at Linda's last time (nom-nommy homemade hummus). We read each other's manuscripts, we offer helpful advice, we talk, we laugh, we talk some more and sometimes the laughing gets out of hand. Like here. (I think Dawn has lost it, frankly.... ) I LOVE THESE WOMEN. Hugs to you all.

When I got home at about 10:30 p.m. I was met by our surprise company! Carol Holden is Dave's sister and she had gallbladder surgery in Toronto in the morning and so wasn't feeling so hot. Her hubby Zane brought her to our house for a sleepover/stopover so she wouldn't have to have that awful jiggling and she could rest. Poor Carol. Get better soon!! 

Midnight. Time to go to bed while a beautiful full moon shines through the white pines. Good night moon, good night you. Good night longest blog post in the history of blog posts.... zzzzzzzzzzzzzz

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Sam's Photo Shoot

Sam-I-Am had a haircut today. See that picture of him – yup, the one up there. Up, look UP. Yes, that one. The one with the hair. I took that photo a month ago and up until today he still hadn't cut his hair which grows, by the way, faster than Pamela Anderson's breasts.

Yup. It was long. Longer than the line-up for free samples at a Viagra convention. (I just realized something – erectile dysfunction pills are blue. Hair rinses for elderly women are blue. Does blue hair turn old guys off, necessitating blue pills??? Huh. Must think long and hard on this one.)

So to make a long hair short, Sam got his haircut. This was such a momentous occasion that I felt the need to commemorate it with photos.

Sam, being a typical 11-year-old boy (who turns 12 on Wednesday), does not know how to merely smile for the camera. The minute he sees one, his normally casual grin is replaced with all kinds of facial theatrics. Today was no different. In the space of a few moments I took these photos and then decided to post them here for his future embarrassment.

How I love being a mother.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Toilet paper wars: which way is the right way?

Obviously toilet paper has to be hung on the wall with the tail against the wall.

How else can you get one-handed access? And yet my husband insists on putting the toilet paper the other way, so that when I really need it in a hurry, and who doesn't sometimes, admit it, I have to flounder around, trying to grasp it with two hands while precious seconds (and other things) are disappearing in an elegant swirl down the poop pipe.

He actually goes into the bathroom and switches it on me. The nerve. Of course I switch it back. What choice do I have? You have to stand up for what's right, fight the good fight. If you don't defend your own toilet paper dispenser, you might as well roll over for the rest of the world.

Besides, this is how toilet paper should be hung. It was done this way at my parents' house. It was done this way at my ex-husband's house because, erm, I was bossy that way. Come to think of it, that's probably why he cheated. The toilet paper thing probably emasculated him. Had to find his toilet testosterone somewhere else. Hey, it happens.

Dave doesn't put up with my shit. No pun intended. He was raised in a house where toity paper was overhanded and he sincerely believes that is the best way. Now, I've caved on a bunch of stuff where Dave is concerned, like not putting relish in my pasta salad, which I loved, and bringing the water to boil before I drop the corn in, but toilet paper is a make or break issue and I take it seriously.

Dave isn't the worst offender, however. Did you know there are people in this world who will go into the bathroom in your house and change your toilet paper around? Incredible, isn't it? If there's any place on earth that is truly your private space, it's the bathroom. Sacrosanct. If your home is a castle then it's no wonder the toilet is called a throne.

I was just thinking that toilet paper hanging is a lot like religion. I was raised going to a United Church so therefore my allegiance is to the United Church, even though I go maybe once a year if I'm lucky. I'm not even sure what my religious beliefs are, to be honest, but I do know I feel a certain peace in the familiarity of "my" church. Being there, hearing the same words that I heard as a child, makes me comforted.

It's how I was raised.

The toilet paper thing? That's also how I was raised. Having someone mess with the toity paper holder is like people in suits coming to the door and trying to get me to switch religions. They hand me a piece of paper, the toity paper holder hands me a piece of paper – it's all just paper, right? Why should I worry about how I get it and just use it for how it was intended?

Man, those religious leaflets though, they're hard on the butt. No matter how you hold 'em.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Big people have feelings too

I was all in a big huff yesterday afternoon because of a letter to the editor.

Some local woman had written in to complain about the upcoming demise of the Ontario Northlander, a train that links Toronto to North Bay. Hey, I'm not happy about it either. In fact I wrote my own opinion piece for the North Bay Nipissing Life blog, here. (By the way, I'm really trying to stir up interest in this blog – it's for a magazine I work on, and it's new, and it's hard up for comments and followers - hint, hint.)

But I really took offence to the her comment about a "very large woman" on a bus whose flesh overflowed onto her own seat, who ate garlic meat pies and belched continuously.

In retrospect, I can see that the smell of garlic, of someone else's leg touching my own, and continual burping would be gross. I would probably move.

Still, my first reaction to the letter was to get pissed off. Being a fat person myself, I am very sensitive to crude remarks of any kind directed to overweight people and it seems to me that it's OK to make fun of them, it's socially acceptable. It's not OK to point out the colour of someone's skin or their accent but it's still apparently all right to comment on their size.

It was the tone of the woman's letter that upset me the most. It was so derogatory. In the next paragraph she commented on someone's kid sitting in the seat behind her. Instead of calling him a child or a kid she called him a little "brat" who repeatedly kicked the back of her seat even after she told the mother to keep control of him.

So what I get from that scenario is an angry, skinny kid-hater who generally can't stand to be around other people and should probably fork over some cashola for a bubble-wrapped car so she doesn't have to ever take public transportation again.

I remember reading a short story a few years back about a person who worked in a retail store and had an obese woman as a customer. The woman paid for whatever she bought with coins from her pocket and the main character was repulsed by the warmth of the coins. The writer made it clear that the cashier didn't even want to touch the coins because they were warm from the fat woman's grotesque body.

I don't care how fat you are or how skinny you are, if you have money in your pocket it is going to be warm! Obviously the cashier wouldn't be offended at all if the warm cash was coming from the pocket of some stud-muffin.

I went off on a rant about that story and, honestly, I shouldn't have. The writer was being honest about the situation. If the cashier wasn't grossed out, I guess it would have been less realistic. The writer was doing her job and the story was actually pretty good.

I guess I just don't like to see people being discriminated because of their size. I know a woman who told me she would never hire a fat person because they're lazy. She said this to my face. I felt like smacking her.

Yup, we've come a long way in the fight against racial stereotypes but unless you're skinny you're still feeling the rage that comes your way when you're not.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Lou Freshwater and the tragedy of Camp Lejeune

Twelve-year-old Lou Freshwater in the front yard of her military base home in Camp Lejeune.

I've never met Lou Freshwater but she's a good friend of mine, a smart-as-a-whip writer with a gentle heart made of glass and gold.

As a child, she lived for three years or so in Camp Lejeune, a U.S. Marine training base now known as being one of the worst water contamination stories in American history, right up there, or should I say down there, with Love Canal and Hinkley, California (the water contamination story made famous in the movie Erin Brockovich).

Her mother has been diagnosed with, not one, but two types of acute leukemia. Genetic testing revealed the cause of her illness was exposure to the chemical benzene. In a heart-wrenching story from U.S. news magazine show Nightline, "the improbably named" Mary Freshwater talks about Camp Lejeune, her cancer and the loss of two babies from birth defects attributed to water contamination.

She's not the only victim, of course. Thousands, no, countless people drank the poisoned water at this military base. Untold numbers of people have gotten sick and/or died from the effects.

Through Lou's blog posts and her talent as a writer, my friend is making sense of what might otherwise be just another blip on the evening news. She gives a face to the tragedy; makes it real.

I'm telling you about it because Lou's story, and the story of Camp Lejeune, needs to be shared. She is writing a series of posts about the camp but this one is a good place to start: Poisoned by Your Own Government. Make sure you watch the You Tube video – it has been blocked on Lou's website, but if you follow the link to You Tube you can see photos of Lou as a child, as well as her mom with a tell-tale kerchief on her head.

When I first read Lou's post a few days ago, I didn't have time to watch the video. So I watched it this morning and it had such an impact on me that I'm writing this to you now. I hope you find time to visit Lou's blog and maybe share the story on your own blog. It's the only way people will get the medical treatment they deserve and it's the only way the the military will own up to what it did and defend the veterans who defended their country.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Pillow talk

Sorry for getting all girly on ya but I found two things I am just crazy about.

Last night I had the BEST sleep of my life, all because of this contoured memory foam pillow we bought yesterday. Here's a picture of me sleeping on it:

As you can see it supports the neck and gives you a perfect single-chin jawline and blonde hair. Even better, it keeps you cool. You ever have to wake up during the night and turn your pillow because your sweaty head has made it, um, sweaty? Dave's a big head-sweater and with this memory foam thing? No sweating. He "kept a cool head" all night long. He's also subject to sore necks which lead into migraines and the pillow didn't give him a sore neck!

I don't have as many pillow issues as Dave but I haven't been happy with them lately, so when I saw these puppies I thought I'd give them a try. They're more expensive than regular pillows (about $35 in Wal-mart in Canada, probably way cheaper everywhere else), but after just one night I'd be willing to pay twice that much for such a lovely, refreshing snooze.

We have a memory foam mattress topper on our bed and love it just as much as the pillow. It makes everything so cool and comfy. Only problem is, you never want to get out of bed.

Here's a picture of me with my foam topper:

So the OTHER thing I'm crazy about is Bourjois Paris 10 Day No Chips Nail Polish. I saw it in Shopper's Drug Mart the other day and fell in love with its bright pink colour. I put it on my toenails and have been dancing around showing off my tootsies ever since. The colour is glossy and shiny and PINK and if it lasts as long as it says it will, well holy moly, that just gives whole new meaning to the phrase 'Happy Feet.'

Friday, August 17, 2012

Summer morning ritual

It's a rainy day here so I grabbed a fall jacket when I went outside for our summer morning ritual.

We filled up the bird feeders then took them out of the garage and hung them from the trees in our front yard. The yellow finches are such brightly beautiful wee piggies – they go through a half a feeder's worth of seed in just one day. Dave dumped a margarine dish full of mixed seeds in the main feeder, then tossed in a handful of peanuts for eager blue jays and chipmunks to fight over. The hummingbird feeder was already outside, where feisty hummers were squabbling over whose turn it was.

With our "chores" done, we retired to the gazebo to spend five quiet minutes together before rushing into the day. I kicked off my flip-flops and put my feet up into the cushy comfort of a favourite chair, then sipped my coffee and chatted with Dave about weekend plans, the birds and nothing in particular. I love this time of day. No human activity to speak of, with sane people still in their beds, but the whistling calls of birds and saucy chatter of red squirrels is circus-like in its noisy fervour.

All too soon, Dave got up from his chair, picked up his lunch pail and kissed me. "Have a good day," he said. "Play nice with the other kiddies." He kissed me again, for good measure, and headed for the car.

I waved as he drove away and thought, insanely, that if this was a movie and I was the glamourous star, that he would go so far down the road, realize he couldn't leave me, even for a day, and come back to the gazebo, to our magic morning ritual, and to me.

I sipped my cooling coffee and did an internal head shake, thinking what a maroon.

Then, incredibly, I saw the Jeep reappear, backing up until Dave parked it at the side of the road and got out.

I thought, He came back! Just like in the movies!

I said, "What's going on?" And waited for him to say something romantic like, I need one more kiss from your tender lips before I go.

What he actually said was, "There are fresh moose prints in the mud at the side of the road. I want to see where they go."

So away he went on foot, nose to the ground like some giant ungainly man-beagle.

I finished my coffee while sunlight peeked out from behind a dark cloud, transforming the raindrops dripping from our spruce trees into gleaming pearls.

Already the chill is in the air. Soon it will be autumn and, before we know it there will be snow on the ground and these gentle mornings will be sweet memories.