Friday, November 28, 2008
We lived in a large brick house in the centre of town, with a tiny backyard and a carport that my dad built because he did everything himself, and without a building permit too! I'm still amazed that half our house didn't fall down around us, knowing the kind of work my dad did. He was very proud of his work, don't get me wrong. Only problem is, he kind of cut corners a lot, and always because he knew "a better way". Often, that meant extra holes drilled, and lots of screws and bolts left without a home.
My dad bought this house in 1962, and I grew up in there. It was my home. I guess you could call my dad frugal. He worked very hard for his money, and didn't spend it frivolously. I remember when he would get paid, out would come the budget envelopes, and in each one he would put a certain amount to take care of the bills each month. The rest went into the bank.
What my dad also did was rent out the rooms upstairs to people who needed a place to stay and who didn't have enough money or the need to rent out an entire apartment. So, at times, all four bedrooms upstairs were rented out to people my father called "the roomers", which I always confused with "the rumours" and never quite understood why he called them that, except that maybe they went around talking about us a lot to other people...
Anyway, I digress.
So, one of our longtime "roomers" was Steve, but we all called him Jai (pronounced 'Jy'), and I have no idea why. He was Jai in our eye. Jai was short and stocky, and quite a strong man. He worked in construction, so he was often out the door before daylight struck, and came home everyday at 4 p.m., lunchbox in hand. He would often stop on the verandah if my dad was sitting out there, and they'd shoot the shit for awhile, usually talking about the weather, or who did what to whom the other day and how dare they. They were like little hens, cluckcluckclucking away to one another. One day Jai got hurt on the job, and he never returned to work. Instead, he collected workmen's comp and went on Unemployment Insurance. And he continued to live in our home, and every morning he would leave and go for a long walk that lasted all day. Often, he'd end up at the local park and there he'd stay, but there were days when I would see him way on the other end of the city, walking. Just walking. Or I'd see him at the beach, fully clothed, walking. He also always wore a white undershirt and long pants, regardless of how warm the day.
Although Jai was a good guy, and he never did anything wrong to me per se, I avoided him like the bubonic plague. The reason, you ask? I avoided him because he stank. There is no other way to say it, I'm sorry. The guy reeked to high heaven. Imagine the following smells all mixed together to form one strong, visible glob of stench: cabbage, cooked slowly in a big soup pot; kielbasa (Polish sausage that has a certain scent to it); something left in your fridge for about eight months that you finally find and take out and open, to your chagrin; stale cigarette smoke; a big healthy chunk of nicely aged Limburger cheese; and effervescent body odour of every dimension you could ever possibly imagine. That was how Jai smelled. Of course, I am ignoring the many times he would leave a most unimaginable smell in the only bathroom we had on the second floor, in which he would sometimes spend an hour. And I won't even go into that. You're welcome.
I honestly don't know why he smelled this way. He just did. I named this smell "the Jai" in honour of Jai. The Jai would not allow me to leave my room in the morning, and there were many times I would be late for school because of The Jai. I would always try and time my sojourns to the second floor, or even to the foyer downstairs, with great care, listening attentively for any sign of a recent Jai appearance. However, no matter how hard I tried, sometimes I would mistakenly walk right into the midst of a full-blown Jai cloud, and I think I must have died a thousand deaths. God knows how I am here writing this right now. Of course, sometimes I had no choice but to enter into the thick brown cloud of Jai, and those were some of the worst days of my life. I would actually gag and have dry heaves. And sometimes, I had no choice but to enter the Jai dungeon we used to call "the bathroom". Breathing through my mouth became an art. I also became an expert at holding my breath.
The Jai was so bad that my brothers and I created the "Jai Alert", so that if one of us saw him approaching, or heard him leaving his room, we would emit a sound resembling a burglar alarm to warn all others to take cover. If I saw him coming up the street as I sat on the front verandah, I would quickly get up, open the screen door, and scream the Jai Alert for all to hear. Doors and windows would shut as we waited for Jai to pass by on his way up to his hovel -- I mean, room. We watched out for one another because we knew what it meant to be accosted by The Jai. It meant certain death of neurons and brain synapses, to say the least. Nausea was a given.
When my dad decided to sell the family home and downsize, it was time for Jai to find a new home. By this time, Jai was the only tenant left in our house, and I'd known him for a good part of my life, so he was kind of like family...I guess. He was sort of like that family member you try to avoid no matter what. You know what I'm talking about. We all have one. Admit it. I know I'm not alone.
So, as we put the house up for sale and started packing, I felt sorry for Jai. He was all alone, had never married, had no children, and now he was being forced to leave the only home he had known for almost 20 years. It was sad.
I don't know where Jai ended up living. We lost touch after the house sold. But I used to see him on the streets once in a while, walking, talking to his buddies, going to the beer store, sitting in the park. He seemed to be okay.
This one's for you, Jai, wherever you may be. Hope you're doing well, still smiling, and enjoying life. The only thing I'd ask is: What air freshener is being used in your home? And why didn't we use it?
Thursday, November 27, 2008
If you want a great love story to read with all that free time you've got (and I know you all do, as do I), go to one of my fave sites: http://thepioneerwoman.com/. Then click on "Black Heels". This is the ever-so-romantic story of blogger Ree Drummond and her match made in heaven with Marlboro Man.
It's a great read, gets your heart going in a good way, and is better than any Harlequin I've ever even tried to read. Not only that, but it's reality in a sort of unreal kind of way. Romance at its best.
The entire site is chockfull of great stories about living on a ranch, as well as amazing photography and lots of very very good recipes for very very fattening meals that are very very tasty.
Take a gander, and let me know what you think!
I had a really cool dream last night that brought me back to my childhood, as my dreams often do. I dreamt that I ended up back in the neighbourhood of my childhood, and I saw quite a few of my buddies, the girls I hung out with back in those days. It was such a feel-good dream that I wish I could go back there every night for the next month.
I met Jill, with whom I grew up. Jill was a fun friend, but could also be mean (as we all could be). We had a blast together, spending whole summers on our porches, talking, singing, or swimming and riding our bikes throughout the neighbourhood. She could, however, suddenly turn on me, and would ignore me in favour of another girl in our neighbourhood, sometimes for weeks (or so it seemed). I never really knew why these episodes would happen, but then again, I never really tried to find out either, I guess.
Anyway, for the most part, Jill and I were good friends, and we stayed that way for quite a few years. We went through the death of her mother and a school trip to Italy (that actually pretty much ended our friendship -- a post for another day). She still lives in the house in which she grew up. Her dad died a couple of years ago, and she now lives there with her daughter.
And that is where my dream was situated. In the little white house with the rambling backyard and tangle of flowers in front and back. There used to be a corner store across from her house, and we would often run over there probably 20 times a day to buy sunflower seeds, a popsicle, or licorice from Mr. Ray, an old and grumpy, but kind man who always corrected our grammar whenever we went in asking for a Coke or ice cream cone. And the place was filled with the smell of cigar smoke. Mr. Ray always smoked chunky cigars, and all the produce in the store was permeated with this strong cigar smell. I kind of liked it. His store was a medley of junk food, toiletries, groceries, a child's heaven. The floors were dusty, wooden planks, with an old glass counter sitting in one corner with the old, 1900s cash register on top, and within the counter were stacks of cigars, gum, KooKoo bars, chocolate bars (they were 10 cents, people!), and sunflower seeds. In front of the counter was a huge Coke freezer, and inside this horizontal freezer were many a bottle of Coke, my favourite drink of yore. Imagine one of those old country stores, and you'll have Mr. Ray's confectionary. I miss that place. I think it's a row house now.
My dream started off with me walking down my childhood street, and everything was different, and yet the same. Suddenly, there was Jill, in front of her house, and I shyly ran up to her and just stared at her, waiting for her to recognize me, which she did. There was a large group of people around her, people I didn't recognize, but she ignored all of them and came straight to me and gave me the biggest bear hug. It was great.
Then she invited me into her home. And the amazing thing is, in my dream, I remembered EVERYTHING about her house from 38 years ago. Details like the engraved wood banister going up to the second floor, the wallpaper in her kitchen, the way her bedroom looked, and the chest in her living room where her father used to keep all his Playboy magazines (don't ask how I know that). It was as if I was really back in the '70s, the memories all so fresh and real I could touch them.
One part of my dream, I was looking at a wall next to her room, and on that wall was a picture drawn in pen of me and Jill playing together, and my name was scrawled next to it. I remember drawing that picture. I used to draw on everything. You name it, I drew on it. The kitchen table, check. My headboard, check. The floor behind the rocking chair, check. Only in pencil, mind you. I'm sure that makes a difference since crayon and pen are SO much harder to get out. Anyway, apparently that drawing on Jill's wall was still there, preserved. I was so amazed by this that I just stood there and stared at it. Then, suddenly, my father was there beside me, and I was showing him this drawing, and talking to him about the past and did he remember when Jill's brother would get on his nerves, or when he took Jill and I to the Dairy Queen for soft ice cream on those hot summer evenings, or when Jill and I would get naughty and ignore his pleas to calm down.
Detailed memories just came flooding back. It was absolutely amazing. And they were just the good ones, the happy summer memories of popsicles, riding our bikes to the park, playing ball, hopscotch and skipping rope, listening to the Bay City Rollers really loud on my verandah and bugging the hell out of Mr. Egan on purpose, picnicking at Vincent Massey Park, going swimming at McNabb's, playing night tag with Mark Medaglia (another crush of mine, yeah, that's right), and just hanging out and talking. It was a good dream.
I found Jill after many years of silence. I found her on Facebook, of all places. And I contacted her. We have yet to actually get together, because our lives are so busy and crazy most of the time. But we want to so that we can catch up and reminisce, make sure each other is okay, and maybe salvage a very old friendship that had many downs, but was a true friendship nonetheless. And as most of us know, real friends are few and far between, so when you have the chance to retrieve one that has gone amiss, you need to grab onto it with both hands and hold on tight. And I guess that's what this dream was telling me. Get off my butt and call her, see her, and be reminded of how truly special our relationship was and could be. I'll let you know what happens!
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
So, I thought today I'd describe what life is like living with me.
Are you still there? Good. I promise not to be full of myself (well, maybe just a little bit), going on and on about how wonderful I am, how amazingly considerate I am at all times, how generous I am with my time and love, and how gorgeous I look even first thing in the morning. And my breath smells like roses.
That was fun. Now the real story.
I come from a broken, Polish family. And not just any old broken, Polish family. Those are a dime a dozen these days. No, mine is different. Special. One-of-a-kind really. Actually, I can't believe I just wrote that. Of course no family is a dime a dozen. Don't listen to a word I say.
My parents met on a blind date back in the early '50s, after they both arrived on separate ships from Europe in an attempt to start their lives over after the Second World War. They both ended up in Germany once the war ended, my mother with the family of a German judge, my dad in a German-run work camp. They both had very different experiences, and I won't go into them here. I'll tell you about that another day when I feel like being extremely depressed instead of just quite depressed.
So, they met, fell in love (or maybe lust), and got married soon after. My brother, George, was born soon after that, and then nine years later, I arrived. Just over a year later, my younger brother, Leonard, arrived on the scene, and our family, as it were, was complete.
My father worked hard. He came to Canada and worked on a few farms before ending up working for the city as a labourer. He worked hard to make sure his family never needed anything. We had a warm home, a car, lots of food, and enough clothing. My mother stayed home and raised us.
Days spent at home were interesting, I guess I will say. No day was boring. My mother was the usual mom of the '50s and '60s: apron tied around her waist, hair coiffed, cooking food, cleaning floors, washing clothes, sewing up holes. The difference was you never knew what kind of mood she would be in, and what that meant for you. Some days, she would be singing in the kitchen, some opera or Mario Lanza soliloque. Those were usually good days. You knew she was happy and that she'd be in relatively good spirits, so you could let your guard down a bit and maybe make more noise than you normally would. Most days, however, she wore a frown, reminiscent of the Grinch's (I'm not kidding), her brow furrowed, her eyes focused on the task at hand, ignoring all else.
My mother was never officially diagnosed with any mental illness, but any professional I've ever talked to is sure she suffered from major depression or even bipolar disorder, and probably paranoia. She always felt the world was against her, even her own family was against her, and there was no way in hell she was going to let anyone hurt her. As a result, she built this wall around herself that no one could penetrate. No one except Leonard, and even then, sometimes not even him. And she made sure it stayed that way.
There was a lot of screaming, hitting, nasty words, and silence in our home. There were weeks when my mother would not get out of bed. We kids were left to fend for ourselves. She wouldn't eat or speak or acknowledge our existence.
However, she always had time and energy and smiles for Leonard, the youngest. To this day, I don't know why, but he had a special place in her heart. Possibly because he was the youngest, and she felt he needed protection. Who knows. I do know that she didn't feel that way about George or me. It was pretty much the opposite. We were a thorn in her side most of the time, a pain in her rear. George, being much older than me, basically went on with his life, scarred as he was by his experience with our mother. But he was old enough to manage not to be around her most of the time, and he was independent enough that he eventually just avoided her altogether. I, however, was not. It was tough in that house. I never felt safe or loved (except when my dad came home from work). I never knew when the next blow to my head would come, or when I would not be offered any food at dinnertime, or shunned entirely and met with complete silence. I was alone and I knew it. It was pretty clear.
As a result, I learned to trust no one, to take care of myself, and to feel like it was me against the world. I always felt on edge, like a wild animal, fight or flight at the ready. And that is how I was. Until I met Mr. Handsome.
Mr. Handsome and I spent lots and lots of time together. We grew close and fell in love. We ended up moving in together a year later into a one-bedroom apartment by the river. And that is when Mr. Handsome noticed that all was not right with me. I would hide in my shell whenever we had a disagreement, or what I would perceive as a disagreement, something I had learned at my mother's right hand. This is how she dealt with my dad when they fought, which was often. Nothing was ever resolved because she would close down and shrivel up. And that would be that. That is all I knew about arguing and disagreeing. And I also believed to my core that if Mr. Handsome and I fought, or if he just looked at me crooked, it obviously meant he thought I was an idiot, a loser, and worth so much less than he.
One day, Mr. Handsome and I had argued, god knows what about. It was probably something serious, like I said, "Boy, it's sunny out," and he said, "You think?" Anyway, I ended up in the fetal position on the couch for two days straight. I didn't speak to him or acknowledge his existence. He came home one night, sat down beside me, took my hand in his, and said I had to get help or we were over. He couldn't live this way. And honestly, neither could I.
Mr. Handsome was so right. I needed counselling. I needed to learn ways to deal with my low self-esteem, my hatred for myself, to stop the endless tape in my head that told me I was stupid, ugly, worthless. I also needed to realize (which was really difficult to do) that Mr. Handsome was not my enemy. I had to let my guard down and let him in, trust him not to hurt me.
It's taken years of counselling, medication, and hard hard work. I still fight those demons, still have days where I hate myself, hate everyone, feel all alone, the words of hatred filling my head and overflowing. It will be something I will be dealing with for the rest of my days. But I have done a lot of work to learn how to better deal with these emotions, these sometimes
very overwhelming feelings. And I have Mr. Handsome, two amazing kids and my wonderful friends to help me remember my worth.
Mr. Handsome has to be the most patient man on earth to have stuck it out with me. Honestly. He saw something more in me, the true me hiding underneath layers and layers of grey and black sadness. And with his patience and his support, I slowly started climbing out and smiling again, and believing that I was someone, I was worth something, that my opinions and my feelings count as much as anyone else's. He wasn't always there for me, that wouldn't be humanly possible. He also had to protect himself when my proverbial knives came out and tried to strike, slashing at him and at anyone who came near me. But he was and is there when it counts, and that's what matters.
I have to say that if it weren't for my dad and Mr. Handsome, I probably wouldn't be here today. And I wouldn't be the person I am today if it weren't for Mr. Handsome. We have many more good days than bad now, we understand each other, love each other fiercely, and know that at the end of the day, we're there for each other come thick or thin. And, when I'm feeling particularly down and hating myself, Mr. Handsome reminds me to peel the layers and bring the real me out again.
Monday, November 24, 2008
After all, I love perogies and regular ruffle potato chips WITHOUT any dip, going out for tea and dessert in the Market (I could do that pretty much every day if I had the money and time), writing and drawing, helping people, being with my friends, making new friends, and the Bee Gees, as well as about a thousand other musicians and types of music.
Mr. Handsome, on the other hand, hates perogies (they're gross, apparently), finds that regular ruffle potato chips have no taste whatsoever, says going out for dessert in the Market is a total bore and a waste of money, doesn't believe he can write, and we all know he can't draw (unless you're talking stick men, and even then...), he likes to be by himself, and he loves the Moody Blues and nothing else. Well, maybe Neil Diamond. Maybe.
I wanted at least two children, he could have lived quite happily without any (although I know he's really glad we have the two rugrats, well, at least most days). I love Jim Carrey movies (I don't know why, but I do), and he can't even hear the name without cringing. I can't manage money to save my life (and I am not exaggerating here in the slightest), and he is the Money God. If you ever have any questions about finances, saving money, investing, divesting, reinvesting, and micromanaging to the nth degree, Mr. Handsome is your man.
I grew up always worrying what others thought, changing my decisions based on that; Mr. Handsome couldn't care less what anyone else thinks about what he says or does. Insecurity and low self-esteem were my middle names, Mr. Handsome did not understand these terms.
I married this man who challenged me to be who I could be, who made me see that it didn't matter that my mother abused me and told me I was worth less than dirt (more on that another day, maybe); it didn't matter that people didn't always agree with me. What was important was for me to know that I was smart, a beautiful person, a good person, and I was everything he wanted in a wife and best friend, and that I was worth every bit of the not-so-nice stuff that came along with me. He had (and has) complete faith in me, and on those days when I have lost that faith in myself, he reminds me.
I tend to forget this at times, and at times I'm rude and ruthless in my offhand comments toward him, especially when I'm having a bad day or am beyond stressed. I take it out on him because he is safe. I just want him to know that I do know and realize how lucky I am to have such an understanding, patient, willing person in my life who has accepted me as I am with all my faults and issues, both mental and physical, and that I don't for a second take any of it for granted. I know how fortunate I am that I met this man, that he loves me, and that he was willing to take me along with all my baggage and paraphernalia. He saw the inner me, the shining diamond in me, the part that had been hiding for so many years (most of my life actually), and he held onto that and slowly made me see it too.
Today, I just wanted to say thank you to Mr. Handsome. Thank you for you. We may not always get along or agree, and sometimes we can be pretty darn nasty to one another, but I want you to know that I wouldn't want anyone else by my side. I love you.
P.S. Remember, I could have written about morning thunder. So don't go complaining about this post, OK?
Saturday, November 22, 2008
My meatloaf is going down in history as the absolute BEST meatloaf EVER MADE. Yes, I stand by that. I would love for you to try my meatloaf recipe and deny that to my face. I dare ya.
This is the story behind my meatloaf. When Mr. Handsome and I were just hanging out, mooning over each other, head-over-heels in smoochy woochy, I decided to make my mother's meatloaf to fully impress him and MAKE HIM MINE forever and ever. So, one day I announced that I was making him a dinner that he was sure to love. Mr. Handsome asked what I was making, and I told him: meatloaf. He grew pale and softly asked, "Are you sure?" I assured him he had never had a meatloaf like this one, and he trusted me. Thank god, because this meatloaf has gone down in the annals of the Moore household as THE BEST meatloaf ever.
This recipe is not for my veggie friends (sorry, Pickerel and Nancy Pants), but hey, sometimes you've just gotta have some REAL MEAT. But it COULD be for your friend, Mary, when you invite her over for dinner soon. Hint hint.
OK, this is what you need to make the best, absolutely most amazing meatloaf you've ever ever had or ever will have in your whole, entire, godforsaken life. Honest, cross my heart and hope to die.
What you need:
- 1.5 to 2 lbs. lean or extra lean ground beef, thawed
- 2 large eggs
- Worcestershire sauce, at least 1 tsp, better to have up to a tablespoon or even more if you dare
- 1 or 2 onions, chopped up
- as much garlic as you can stand
- a few sprinkles of bread crumbs (I sometimes use Italian breadcrumbs, but you don't have to)
- ketchup (lots and lots of it -- you'll see)
What you do:
You've got to make sure you've got all your ingredients, first of all. I've made that mistake many a time, and there's nothing worse than getting halfway through preparing a meal and finding out you haven't got a vital ingredient. Sucks. Believe me.
OK, so you take about a pound-and-a-half of lean hamburger meat, give or take. Depends how much meatloaf you want. The more the better, I always say.
Take a couple of large eggs...
You've got your onions...
Throw your ground beef into a big mixing bowl.
Add lots of Worcestershire sauce. I like more than just a little, probably about 2 TB for 2 lbs. of meat, I would hazard to guess, but don't take my word.
Break both eggs into the bowl.
Take out the shell that falls into the bowl along with the egg yolk and white. This ALWAYS happens to me, as I know it does to the best chefs in the world. Even Chef Gordon Ramsay. I know it.
You've got your onions...
So you chop 'em up. I don't chop them fine since I have arthritis and that's my excuse. I don't find it really matters in the grand scheme of things. I apologize for the fuzzy photo. My camera sucks.
Chop chop chop...
Then you take your garlic, the more the better, according to moi. You chops it up like so...
Now you've got almost everything in the bowl, ready to mix up.
Start mixing. I use a big, strong fork, but you really could use anything you want, even your bare hands. I have this thing about getting my hands dirty, wet or anything, so I refuse to use my bare hands. I rarely even use lotion, that's how strange I am about my hands. Please forgive me.
Once you've mixed everything up nicely, pour in a bit of breadcrumbs to help solidify the meat mass. Not too much, or the flavour of the loaf dies. Just enough. I would say maybe 3 TBs maximum.
Mix 'er up some more, eh.
Then you're ready to pour the meat mixture into a loaf pan. So do so.
Once you've got all the meat in the loaf pan, spread it out evenly and push it down so that the loaf is more or less even in texture throughout, if you know what I mean.
And voila! The end product!
...and there you have your amazing, out-of-the-world meatloaf that is sure to make you loads of friends. Sorry for the dirty oven top. Like I said, I didn't clean up before making this meatloaf. I'd had a bad day, was tired and having PMS-like symptoms, and really didn't feel like it. So sue me.
- 1.5 to 2 lbs. lean or extra lean ground beef, thawed
- 2 large eggs
- Worcestershire sauce, at least 1 tsp, better to have up to a tablespoon or even more if you dare
- 1 or 2 onions, chopped up
- as much garlic as you can stand
- a few sprinkles of bread crumbs (I sometimes use Italian breadcrumbs, but you don't have to)
- ketchup (lots and lots of it -- you'll see)
What You Do
- Take your ground beef and throw it into a big mixing bowl. I used the big metal one because it was the only clean bowl I could find.
- Break 2 large eggs into the bowl with the meat.
- Splatter in as much Worcestershire sauce as is legal in your part of town.
- Chop up a couple of onions (I used 2 for 2 lbs. of ground beef) and throw them into the bowl.
- Smash and chop as many garlic cloves as you dare. Throw those into the bowl as well.
- Start mixing! Smush it all up with your fork or your hands.
- When you've got it all mixed together and looking really gross, pour in a bit of breadcrumbs. Mix again.
- Throw it all into an ungreased, preferably clean loaf pan.
- Pour on a pile of ketchup. Mmmmmmm mmmmmmm! That's it. More. More. OK, that's about right. Make sure you've got it spread out evenly, covering all the meat.
- Put it in a 375 F oven, middle rack for one hour.
- Go put your feet up, read a book, watch "Dr. Phil" or yell at your kids for about half an hour before you have to make the rest of your meal to go along with your meatloaf. I usually serve it up with garlic mashed potatoes and some veggies.
- After one hour, turn the heat up to about 425F for about 10 minutes or so.
- Pull the loaf out and sit it on the counter/stove/rack/wherever for 10 minutes or so.
- Serve and enjoy!
- You're welcome!
Friday, November 21, 2008
Yes, that's right. Me, ready for ass implants. Me, the one who has vowed never to get a facelift or any other "adjustment" or "improvement" of any kind. Ever. Yes, I want ass implants. And I want them yesterday.
My ass was never my best feature. Ask anyone who knows me. It's never been plump and rosy, like J-Lo's or Halle Berry's. Man, if I could look even a quarter as good as Halle...My "better" feature would be my legs, or at least they WERE my legs until I hit my 40s and my body as I knew it left this earthly sphere and was replaced by some alien's varicose-veined, cellulited, hairy and not-so-shapely shape. I now have the body of an eggplant, but somewhat hairier.
This is not my ass. Where has my ass gone? Wherefore art thou, oh ass of mine?
My legs have, I believe, always been my saving grace. Certainly not my ass. Or my breasts, for that matter. My legs, on the other hand, are not too bad. At least, that is, they weren't too bad. Not until I hit 40 and my body went to hell with the devil's brother and his extended family. I have long and thinnish legs, they take up a good half of my entire body length. Sounds weird, I know. I have no waist. Now, my legs go up to my breasts. It's legs, breasts, neck, head. That would be the extent of me as I am. So, although I may have at one point in my life had not-too-bad legs, I have absolutely NOTHING else going for me any longer.
Have you noticed I've mentioned the age "40" quite a bit in this post? Bitter, you ask? Nah, that doesn't even come close to describing the tension my innards are under when I think about my age and decrepitude.
My legs have done me well over the years, but at 40, and two kids later, they started showing their age. The spider veins that people talk about of which I knew nothing suddenly made their appearance quite profoundly. In fact, it seemed to happen overnight. One night, I went to bed with gorgeous, lily white, porcelain smooth legs, and the next morning, I awoke to a map with directions to Russia. And I'm talking a raised-relief map, replete with mountainous ridges and deep valleys, the exposed veins becoming various tributaries.
There's no real excuse for my ass getting flat, though. What major activities has it been through for it to falter and fail like that, besides the odd fart or jiggle as I waddle from bedroom to bathroom, then to kitchen? Has it carried my body for 40-odd years as my legs have? Has it nursed two babies and endured countless fondlings as my breasts have? Has it encountered numerous blowdries and curling irons and product as has my hair? Has it stretched to the ultimate and given birth to two children, one of whom was almost 10 pounds? I dare say NOT!
My ass' deflation is a reflection of my inner self, a resounding and indisputable announcement of the loss of my youth, my health, my beauty such as it is. No longer do I look forward to seeing myself in the mirror and closely examining myself, playing with my clothing and make-up, and trying different hairstyles. No. Now, my time in front of the mirror entails magnified criticism, every inch of my body under close examination. I almost ache in my attempt to find something -- anything -- that has fallen, wrinkled, or dropped. I don't want to look, but I have to. It's now a compulsion to detail my every crevice, my every age spot. It's either that, or I cover all the mirrors in the house with black sheets, and warn the children not to peek underneath because the devil lives there.
But that wouldn't be fair to Milly, being 13 years old and just beginning the oh-so-wonderful "me and no one else" stage of life. It wouldn't be fair to Dennis either since he lives to watch his bulging biceps move as he brushes his teeth. And, of course, Mr. Handsome would then also have to live without being able to look at his voluminous hair every morning, running his fingers through it, then nodding appreciatively and proudly, making sure I see that he need not bring nary a brush nor comb anywhere near his head for his hair to look stunningly wonderful. Whatever.
So, I suppose the last resort for me is to (a) not look in the mirror when I get out of the shower, (2) only look at my right ear since that is the only remaining body part I own that I cannot yet criticize, or (3) anyone know where I can get ass implants CHEAP?
Thursday, November 20, 2008
Dennis (blushing): Yes. She asked me where I'd been the last 2 days.
Me: And what did you tell her?
Dennis: I told her I was home...sick.
Me: Oh. And?
Dennis: And she said home sick? Where is that?!? (long pause, shaking his head and rolling his eyes) Girls, girls, girls...you know how they can be sometimes...
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
1. Bought everyone in the bar a drink
2. Swam with wild dolphins
3. Climbed a mountain
4. Taken a Ferrari for a test drive
5. Been inside the Great Pyramid
6. Held a tarantula
7. Taken a candlelit bath with someone
8. Said "I love you" and meant it
9. Hugged a tree
10. Bungee jumped
11. Visited Paris
12. Watched a lightning storm at sea - from the shore
13. Stayed up all night long and saw the sun rise
14. Seen the Northern Lights
15. Gone to a huge sports game
16. Walked the stairs to the top of the leaning Tower of Pisa
17. Grown and eaten your own vegetables
18. Touched an iceberg
19. Slept under the stars
20. Changed a baby's diaper
21. Taken a trip in a hot air balloon
22. Watched a meteor shower
23. Gotten drunk on champagne
24. Given more than you can afford to charity
25. Looked up at the night sky through a telescope
26. Had an uncontrollable giggling fit at the worst possible moment
27. Had a food fight
28. Bet on a winning horse
29. Asked out a stranger
30. Had a snowball fight
31. Screamed as loudly as you possibly can
32. Held a lamb
33. Seen a total eclipse
34. Ridden a roller coaster
35. Hit a home run
36. Danced like a fool and not cared who was looking
37. Adopted an accent for an entire day
38. Actually felt happy about your life, even for just a moment
39. Had two hard drives for your computer
40. Visited all 50 states
41. Taken care of someone who was drunk
42. Had amazing friends
43. Danced with a stranger in a foreign country
44. Watched wild whales
45. Stolen a sign
46. Backpacked in Europe
47. Taken a road trip
48. Gone rock climbing
49. Midnight walk on the beach
50. Gone sky diving
51. Visited Ireland
52. Been heartbroken longer than you were actually in love
53. In a restaurant, sat at a stranger's table and had a meal with them
54. Visited Japan
55. Milked a cow
56. Alphabetized your CDs
57. Pretended to be a superhero
58. Sung karaoke
59. Lounged around in bed all day
60. Played touch football
61. Gone scuba diving
62. Kissed in the rain
63. Played in the mud
64. Played in the rain
65. Gone to a drive-in theatre
66. Visited the Great Wall of China
67. Started a business
68. Fallen in love and not had your heart broken
69. Toured ancient sites
70. Taken a martial arts class
71. Played D&D for more than 6 hours straight
72. Gotten married
73. Been in a movie
74. Crashed a party
75. Gotten divorced
76. Gone without food for 5 days
77. Made cookies from scratch
78. Won first prize in a costume contest
79. Ridden a gondola in Venice
80. Gotten a tattoo
81. Rafted the Snake River
82. Been on television news programs as an "expert"
83. Got flowers for no reason
84. Performed on stage
85. Been to Las Vegas
86. Recorded music
87. Eaten shark
88. Kissed on the first date
89. Gone to Thailand
90. Bought a house
91. Been in a combat zone
92. Buried one/both of your parents
93. Been on a cruise ship
94. Spoken more than one language fluently well enough to have a decent conversation
95. Performed in Rocky Horror
96. Raised children
97. Followed your favourite band/singer on tour
98. Started your own wiki
99. Taken an exotic bicycle tour in a foreign country
100. Picked up and moved to another city to just start over
101. Walked the Golden Gate Bridge
102. Sang loudly in the car, and didn't stop when you knew someone was looking
103. Had plastic surgery (reconstructive surgery counts)
104. Survived an accident that you shouldn't have survived
105. Wrote articles for a large publication
106. Lost over 100 pounds
107. Held someone while they were having a flashback
108. Piloted an airplane
109. Touched a stingray
110. Broken someone's heart
111. Helped an animal give birth
112. Won money on a T.V. game show
113. Broken a bone
114. Gone on an African photo safari
115. Had a facial part pierced other than your ears
116. Fired a rifle, shotgun, or pistol
117. Eaten mushrooms that were gathered in the wild
118. Ridden a horse
119. Had major surgery
120. Had a snake as a pet
121. Hiked to the bottom of the Grand Canyon
122. Slept for more than 30 hours over the course of 48 hours
123. Visited more foreign countries than U.S. states
124. Visited all 7 continents
125. Taken a canoe trip that lasted more than 2 days
126. Eaten kangaroo meat
127. Eaten sushi
128. Had your picture in the newspaper
129. Changed someone's mind about something you care deeply about
130. Gone back to school
132. Touched a cockroach
133. Eaten fried green tomatoes
134. Read The Iliad
135. Selected one "important" author who you missed in school, and read
136. Killed and prepared an animal for eating
137. Skipped all your school reunions
138. Communicated with someone without sharing a common spoken language
139. Been elected to public office
140. Written your own computer language
141. Thought to yourself that you're living your dream
142. Had to put someone you love into hospice care
143. Built your own PC from parts
144. Sold your own artwork to someone who didn't know you
145. Had a booth at a street fair
146. Dyed your hair
147. Been a DJ
148. Shaved your head
149. Caused a car accident
150. Saved someone's life
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
I found out the other day that our neighbours put their little baby in a foster home. And my immediate reaction shocked me, and made me feel very ashamed of myself.
Carole had her baby last winter, and I knew something was up when the ambulance pulled up to her house late that night and drove away with her on the stretcher. Ten days later, I saw her husband Ed on the street, and I asked about the baby, whom they had named Patricia. Apparently, the cord was wrapped around the baby's neck about six times. As well, as luck would have it, the cord had prolapsed, so that it was coming out ahead of the baby, which is never a good thing. What it meant was the baby was deprived of oxygen for a long time. Brain damage ensued, resulting in cerebral palsy. Carole and Ed didn't know at the time how extensive the damage was, and were in a wait-and-see limbo, which I assume can only be described as the worst hell on earth imaginable.
As time went by, they realized Patricia was going to be severely handicapped. She could not eat or swallow properly, needing a naso-gastric tube. She couldn't hold her head up. Her body was in constant spasms. They weren't even sure if she could see. I would see the family walking in the neighbourhood once spring arrived, Patricia snuggled closely against Carole's chest. They looked so "normal". I spoke to them a couple of times, asking how things were going, how was Patricia, how were they managing, and Carole always said things were fine, they were exhausted, it was a trying time, but things were okay. They had a nurse coming to the house every day to help with the baby.
I guess the thing I found strange when I spoke to Carole was that she seemed very distant, very unemotional, very uncaring about the whole thing. When she spoke of her little girl, you would think she was discussing the weather, it was that blase. It disturbed me, but when I thought about it some more, I realized that is probably exactly what I sounded like when everyone would constantly ask me about Dennis and how he was doing. You are a robot when trauma strikes, and the automatic gear is switched to the 'on' position.
I didn't see much more of them this past summer, and when I did, it would only be Ed, Carole and their other child. One day, I got up the nerve to ask again about the baby, and when Carole told me they had put her in foster care, my knees almost buckled. She then proceeded to tell me, again in a flat, monotone voice, that Patricia was just too much work, she would just cry all the time, and Carole couldn't handle her anymore, and it wasn't fair to the rest of the family. And she told me that what was even worse was that they would have to give up parental rights to the child if she remained in foster care for the next year.
I went home in tears. Initially, I felt terrible for them, but then as Carole's words went through my mind again and again, I started to feel anger. Lots and lots of anger. I could not believe she could give up her baby, and on top of it, speak of it without so much as a twinge of regret or emotion. I was flabbergasted. None of it made sense to me. What irked me most, I think, was the way Carole talked about it, like she was rhyming off a grocery list. It was beyond strange.
I am not normally one to judge others because I know no one can really speak for another person. This time, however, I felt sure in my passed judgment, sure that this woman didn't love her child. How could she if she apparently gave the baby away so easily? I knew firsthand the number of parents who were not able to deal effectively with their very ill children, and would leave them alone in the hospital for days on end. And I didn't understand them either. I had never left my son's side when he went through his trial with cancer, not once. And regardless of how ill he was or might get, I could not see myself giving him to anyone else. That is, not until I really thought about it, about all the probable repercussions.
If Dennis had not successfully battled his cancer and continued on his merry and relatively healthy way, what would have happened? Would our family remain intact? I know financially it would be a major issue, since only having one breadwinner in the household would certainly not be enough. But beyond that, what would the emotional and physical toll be on the rest of us? How would we manage? Dennis' illness had already taken a huge chunk of our physical and mental health away from us all, and it took us years to get it back. It changed us forever.
Milly couldn't be away from me for more than a minute without crying. She couldn't sleep by herself for years. She was afraid I would leave and never come back. She had nightmares for years about Dennis dying, about all of us dying and leaving her behind to fend for herself. Mr. Handsome withdrew into himself, put his doctorate on hold, and sat at his desk staring at his computer screen for days on end at times. And I became very depressed, unable to function, feeling nothing but gloom for more than two years. I could barely move, let alone take care of a baby and a three-year-old.
So, yes, illness affects everyone. It is not a singular, independent event. Would we have been able to manage had Dennis not gotten better? Had he needed daily extreme measures just to survive? The more I thought about it, the more I realized the answer, and that answer was 'no'. I am pretty sure we would have fallen apart as a family, as a cohesive unit, and we would have most definitely fallen apart as individuals as well. Mr. Handsome and I would have divorced and gone our separate ways no doubt, Milly would have become a very insecure and dark child, feeling invisible and lost, and we would all feel pretty crappy pretty much all of the time. And really, I am pretty darn sure that that would not have done Dennis one ounce of good.
So, I guess what I'm saying is that, if we were presented with the same terrible fate that Carole and Ed were presented with, I think we probably would have ended up doing the same thing (although when I read that sentence over, I still cringe at the thought and feel sick to my stomach). Patricia is now happy, in a foster home with people who know how to care for children with cerebral palsy, and Carole, Ed and their little boy can keep living a more "normal", albeit never the same, life.
We never know why others do what they do, make certain decisions, say certain things, or behave a certain way. They may seem cruel, insensitive, and uncaring, and maybe they are. But chances are the reason is they are just doing what they need to do to get through the day in one piece. No one can know the personal hell another individual may be going through. I will remember that next time I find myself judging another person's actions, and I will refrain from pretending I know anything about anything at all.
Monday, November 17, 2008
I met Brian in Grade 3. He sat behind me in class. Olive-skinned, dark-haired, extremely handsome, and smart. He would also stick straight pins through his skin, AND...AND...he would blow these amazing bubbles with his saliva. And he ate paste. All the qualifications I required in a man.
Lots of kids did the pin-through-the-skin trick, but Brian went that much farther. He would stick numerous pins through each finger, and then leave them there while he did his schoolwork. How cool is that?! He would also drum his fingers on his wooden desk, making a click-clack sound like a tap dancer on stage, which surprisingly did not irritate me, it just made him that much more attractive to me. That and the fact that he was very quiet and introspective most of the time, like a male Mona Lisa. Come to think of it, he even looked a lot like Mona Lisa, except with short hair and a sweater vest.
Back when I was in grade school, we made our paste from flour and water. None of this bottled Elmer's glue stuff for us. The teacher would ask certain kids in the class to go to the back of the classroom and mix up a bowl of flour and water because it was CRAFT TIME! and today we are going to make a really fun paper craft with some faded construction paper, crayons, dull scissors, pipe cleaners and PASTE! What excitement would rumble through the rows of children as we sat there with bated breath, gagging with the anticipation of putting paste to paper and pipe cleaners and PASTE! OMIGOD! The paste! The lumpier the better.
No one was more excited about the paste than Brian, which is what made me notice him in the first place. He would get this glazed look in his eyes, like he was entering the gates of Disney World for the first time ever, and his jaw would go kind of slacklike, as if he were in a trance, a hypnotized state of absolute ecstatic joy at the prospect of having a bowl of paste set before him. It was mesmerizing to watch.
I remember the first time I shared a bowl of paste with Brian. I was in heaven. I was finally going to be face-to-face with He Who Honoured The Paste. Not only that, but he wore these sweater vests that turned me on. So here we are, sharing a bowl of white lumpy paste, scraps of construction paper on our desks. I try not to stare at him because that would be too obvious. So, instead, I steal quick side glances his way in-between having to turn and face him so that I can scoop up some of the heavenly paste on my brush in order to place it on my paper so that I could glue another piece of paper on to it. It was during one of those moments when I turned to fully face Brian that I realized why he acted the way he did when confronted with the thought of paste. There he was, nonchalantly dipping his fingers into the bowl of paste and then slowly, with full concentration, brows knitted, bringing the fingers up to his mouth, and then slowly -- verrry verrry sloooowly -- sucking the paste off his fingers and swallowing it.
I must have stood there aghast, with my mouth wide open, as I watched him. I didn't even know you could eat this stuff, let alone figure out WHY you would want to. But I was curious, and thought Brian was pretty damn cool to have figured this out, and to have the courage to do it on his own in full view of a fellow classmate.
He saw me watching him intently, and I guess the look on my face made him feel like he needed to explain. So, he did. "Try it," he said. "It's really really good. It kind of tastes like bread." And with that, he scooped up another fingerful of the lumpy, porridge-like mass and shoveled it into his maw. I wanted to be as daring as Brian, as amazing and courageous as this boy with the sweater vest and Mona Lisa face.
But I couldn't. Alas, in the end, I could not bring myself to eat the paste. Paste wasn't for eating. It was for gluing little pieces of paper together with other pieces of paper and pipe cleaners so that you could bring it home and show your parents and prove to them that you did something extremely useful at school. I myself could not eat the paste, which made me even that much more in awe of Brian.
What broke the gaga I had over Brian was the day I thought I would impress him with my talent of blowing bubbles with my saliva. Yes, that's right. I had seen Brian do it once in the corner at the back of the classroom one day while he was stirring up a bowl of -- yes -- paste, and so I thought if I could show him that I could at least do THAT, blow a bubble with my spit, I would finally get his attention and he would be MINEMINEMINE! So, I did it. I gathered enough saliva in my mouth to drown out a five-alarm fire on a rickety wooden structure and I turned to face Brian, who was deep in thought with pasty fingers in his mouth, and I blew a bubble. And what a bubble it was. It was amazing. I stood there with this large, wet saliva bubble hanging out of my mouth, waiting for Brian to gaze at me and realize I was the most amazing girl he had ever met in his whole entire eight years of life. And finally, Brian came out of his pasty trance and looked up at me, and I waited, bubble gently bobbing on my lips, waited for his words of love.
And he said, "Pig," dipped his fingers back into the paste bowl, and ignored me for the rest of the school year.
Friday, November 14, 2008
This girl's story is unbelievable in terms of the faith she has in her beliefs, and the strength she holds through her five-year struggle with cancer. It's also an inspiring story of the power of family and friends.
Alese's story hits me hard because reading it was like reliving the past with Dennis. What happens when you live through something like a bout with cancer is that it changes you forever, and slowly -- very very slowly -- melts into the back of your mind, and over a long stretch of time, you can go through the day without even remembering that you or your loved one had cancer. It took me over two years to be able to function relatively normally again after Dennis' situation had stabilized and we felt he was going to be okay. I was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder at one point because I could not function. I could (and did) spend many a day sitting on the couch, staring off into space. Another two to three years, and cancer was not what was foremost in my mind every morning when I got up. I had finally gotten to the point where I was more worried about getting kids to school on time and trying to figure out what I'd make for dinner. However, any time Dennis would mention a pain, or he'd get sick, the FIRST thing to pop into my head would be, 'Has the cancer come back?' This worry, I now realize, is normal for we parents who have gone through the cancer thing with our child. Even 10 years later, the worry is still there, tucked conveniently away behind the daily grind of life, ready to pop out at the slightest mention or thought. This is the way it is, and the way it will be, until the day I die.
Alese's story blows me away because she never failed to remain positive through all her hardship, and this is something I was not able to manage, no matter how hard I tried. Any faith I had in any god was thrown out the window. I could not think positively and focus on the hope and faith that my son would make it through this hurdle. I smiled for my kids, but inside I was dead. Not only could I not believe that we were actually going through something this horrid, that it was happening to us, but I could not fathom the thought that my little boy was suffering, and there was nothing in the world I could do about it. My best was not good enough.
And through all of this, I saw nothing but black, a big dark black hole that we drifted through day in and day out, just barely managing to exist. I did not know if Dennis would survive, if my marriage would survive, or if I would survive. And what was worse was I didn't know whether or not I wanted to survive. My whole reason for being had evaporated in front of my eyes. The question: Why bother with anything when there is no rhyme or reason to any of it? When something as nightmarish as your baby getting cancer happens, is there any reason to hope for anything? What in the world are we here for?
I don't feel that way anymore, at least not as strongly as I did. I do have days here and there where I am very cynical and hate the world, I'm not going to kid you. When another child or another friend succumbs to this terrible disease, I want to die alongside them. I no longer believe good necessarily begets good. My days now are more commonly filled with mundane things like who stole the last cookie and left the empty bag in the cupboard, or making sure Milly doesn't overdo the eye make-up, assuring Dennis that his only clean pair of pants don't make him look like a total geek, and trying to get at least one thing done around the house per day. This is my happiness, and I think this might be as close as I get to the absolute light that Alese managed to attain.
Thursday, November 13, 2008
I ask you this because, let's be honest, hormones are the main reason for most women's problems worldwide. The range is vast, from menstrual cramps to emotional rages, hysterectomies to heart disease and breast cancer. I'm sure many marriages and divorces could also be chalked up to the rise or fall of a woman's hormones. We could talk about raging men's hormones here as well, but I won't. Women's raging hormones are enough, thank you very much.
So, I've been going through what I'm pretty sure is perimenopause since this summer. Perimenopause is that great and wonderful stage between full-blown fertility, when our breasts are firm and perky (unless you've nursed a child or two, and then they are more like deflated little water balloons), to menopause, also known as incredible decrepitude: bedraggled, broken down and decaying. Everything starts to fail you. Your breasts sag below your navel and start bruising your knees everytime you go up and down the stairs doing everyone's laundry; your hair loses its vim and vigour and now just sits on your head like a wet dog, and there is nothing you can do with it any longer because it's old too and just refuses; your joints ache, and bones get weak and break under the ever-increasing weight you are putting on, regardless of how little you eat and how much you exercise. Shall I go on?
We hear of women who go on and on and on about how wonderful life is once you hit menopause. No longer do you have to worry about getting pregnant, so you can go and have ALL THE SEX YOU WANT! You have your freedom again since your children are often grown by this time. You can "find yourself" and do all those things you've wanted to do all those years ago when you couldn't do anything because your kids sapped every ounce of energy you had. And apparently, I hear your sex drive goes hogwild too, and you're like a teenager again, except without the zits and naivete.
Well, I can see the argument for some of these things, but really, when you take into consideration that your body is like totally failing you, every second that ticks by is another wrinkle of the skin or another creak of the bone or another clump of dry hair falling to the floor, how are you even supposed to pretend to enjoy all the sex you can now have, or all that freedom when all you want to do curl up into the fetal position in bed with the duvet high over your head, and cry? THAT is my question, folks.
Since this summer, my perimenopause has been wreaking havoc with my body and my soul. My periods are now a surprise! when they happen, and sometimes I think I'm going to get my period, and I feel like an overfilled water balloon for a week and have extreme fatigue and uncontrollable moodiness, and then nothing happens. Or I have hot flashes from hell, and my whole body drips in sweat, and I'm sure it's not just me, but it is, and the air in the car is really quite chilly and not nearly as hot and humid as I think it is, and everyone around me is shivering while I sit there, wiping under my arms. Or I have a terrible migraine that threatens to blow my head up everytime I move an eyelid, and this migraine lasts anywhere from one day to five, joined by nausea and the odd dry heave. Or I get a pseudo-period, which is what I like to call my friend the Not-Quite-A-Period-But-Just-Enough-To-Make-Life-Miserable-For-You. And then, once in a while, when I least expect it, I get a real, honest to god, major menstrual period with all the pleasant accompaniments.
I feel this is entirely unfair. Not only do we women have to go through all those years of monthly painful periods, with bloating, emotional turmoil, and did I mention the pain, but then we have to go through childbirth, with the ripping of the insides out and then some, and THEN...then we have to go through THIS, more pain, fatigue, depression, uncontrollable contractions of the uterus, disappearance of vibrant and bouncy breasts, jowly cheeks, dried out and irreparable hair, and I could go on and on, but I won't because that would be whining.
Can you tell I'm not having fun?
I suppose it could always be worse. I know it could be. I have friends who had to have hysterectomies because of complications due to menopausal issues, others who are going through breast cancer, osteoporosis and other major things I would not wish on my worst enemy. I don't even pretend that I am suffering to the extent that many other women are. However, it does take its toll when day-to-day responsibilities like my job, the laundry, cleaning the house, and just generally managing a household are so overwhelming that most days nothing gets done. I am lucky if I actually wash my hair and put on moisturizer, let alone brush my rotting teeth. I just don't feel well a lot of the time, which isn't really anything new if you know me, but to me it is because it's become much more extreme. There are not many days that I feel well enough physically and mentally to actually get through even half my list of to dos. And this also makes me realize I am getting older, which is probably one of my great fears. Getting old and incapacitated. And no longer having any control over my life.
I know I'm overreacting, but it really is difficult to deal with this whole age thing. And it's not only an emotional issue with me, but it's now also become very physical and, therefore, a very real issue. I just don't see how I'm ever going to be one of those greying women you see on television who are overjoyed with the fact that they can ride on the back of a motorcycle because they are wearing a diaper and, therefore, have all the freedom they'd ever want.