Monday, June 29, 2009

A Week Of Extremes And Realization Of The Importance Of Being

A big week. A week of strange extremes.

Both children graduated this week: Em has finished Grade 8, Dee Grade 5. Both go to new schools in the fall, and while it's extremely exciting, it's also hard to swallow. Our children are growing up, and I'm not ready for it.

My beautiful daughter, Em. Fourteen, going on 26. We're very proud of our baby girl, who got Principal's Award yet again, as well as the English Award. Straight As across the board (except in Music, but that's because she readily admitted to being lazy and not we are punishing her for the summer with loads of music lessons and being allowed to only listen to classical renditions of hit songs, aka Musak, for the entire summer).

Our little Dee, full of glee and smiles, with his teacher. He did really well in all his subjects as well, but excelled in heading soccer balls. That's our boy.

And then, another hard few days at work. Too much disorganization, too many people taking time off, and impatient co-workers all come together to cause me a lot of aggravation, and an uncontrollable feeling of overwhelming fatigue and frustration.

I was looking forward to having dinner with my friend Slut on Thursday, ended up working really late, and then got stuck in a traffic jam that never ended up having a reason for being, so I was over a half hour late arriving at the restaurant. Thank god Slut is patient, and doesn't own a watch.

And then I found out two icons of our time passed away.

And although I can't say I've been a huge fan of either Farrah Fawcett or Michael Jackson, I can't pretend that it hasn't hit me like a heavy brick wall. Because they were huge, and affected each and every one of us in some way, no matter how much or little.

I got sucked into all the Michael Jackson hubbub when his skin started turning white, and when his nose began looking misshapen, and he denied having had surgery. I bought The Wall, and loved his music when I was younger. As Jackson became stranger, I started to ignore much of his life because it was all too weird for me and gave me the heebeejeebees. I'm not good at dealing with people who are too out-of-the-ordinary. They scare me somethin' fierce.

Now that he's gone, apart from the utter disbelief, I just feel really sad for him, because I think he ended up being a very lonely person, and very alone. And, although I think he dug his own grave, for the most part, I also believe he was very much a victim. I hope he's in peace now.

And then there's Farrah. All I knew about her was that I loved her hair when I was in Grade 9, and I tried to copy her hairstyle, but could never quite make myself look quite as lovely as she did. Marissa could, and I hated her. She and I shared many Grade 9 classes, and she was the epitome of Farrah Fawcett. And I wasn't. I hope Marissa now serves Dilly bars at the Dairy Queen. Me, bitter? Never.

I watched Farrah's documentary, Farrah's Story, the other night. And I saw a very different side of her, one I didn't know existed. The suffering this poor woman endured during her three years of cancer treatment is something no one should experience. It's inhumane. She went from being a beautiful, vital woman full of joy, to a thin shell of a person, her skin grey and scaly, her body racked with the illness that ultimately took her on Thursday. But somewhere in there, regardless of the torture she went through, her spirit kept on living, and hoping, and loving the life she was living. What touched me most was the fight she had in her to stay alive, to beat this disease. She never gave up. Even when everyone around her knew it was just a matter of time before the inevitable happened, she kept on, trying experimental treatments that would make her sicker than the cancer itself.
And perhaps what made this all the more awful was that this woman grew up being known for the most superficial of things: her beauty. And yet, somehow, she seemed to have transcended that superficiality that society had placed on her, and had grasped what life was really about: the sound of the rain falling, a surprise snowfall, the laughter of a child.

Which then led me to compare these two icons: one who had seemingly given up on life a long time ago, and was merely existing in a non-existent world, and the other, who fought with everything she had to continue living life to the fullest. Her love of life was based in the simplest our world has to offer: listening to the rain falling one day, she cried, hoping she'd still be able to experience that in heaven, if it ever got to that point.

Somehow, these two people touched me in ways I didn't realize, until their passing late last week. And although I feel sad that Michael has left us, he had really left this world many years ago. Or was he ever a part of this world? Whereas Farrah fought with every cell of her being to stay rooted in the here and now, feeling the rain on her face, Michael holed himself up in mansions he could not afford, and lived a life no one really knew (or wanted to know) anything about. He was merely a semblance of himself, a ghost, a man already gone.

They remind me to remember the little things in this life: the sun shining on my back, the birds singing in the early morning, my children giving me a hug just because, both of them graduating and being happy and fulfilled. I don't need anything more than that. Except maybe a perpetual bag of supersized Cheetos.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Itchy Nipples

I don't know about you, but lately, I've had the itchiest nipples ever.

Digging my nails under my shirt and under my bra, I can't say it's a pretty picture.

And itchy love muffins just make me think about Jon and Kate, and that just makes me sad. I hate to admit it, but here goes. I feel like my very close friends have just announced their impending death, and I find out that all that money they were bequeathing to me ... was just a big fat lie. Which just makes me want to puke, because of course they aren't close friends of mine. So, who am I to even say that? That's what I'd say to someone else telling me exactly what I've just told all of you. And, I would never even be friends with someone like Kate, because Kate is nasty and mean, and bossy, and I would have to react to her in a very passive-aggressive way, which would be exhausting. Not only that, but her hair freaks me right the heck out. What the hell? She looks like she's got a sizeable hedgehog nesting up there on top of her noggin.

So anyway ...

I have to wonder what makes me feel this way, and this strongly, about a family I don't really know from a hole in the wall. Because, in case you didn't know this, lots of people go through separation and divorce every single day of the year. And although it's sad and all that, I don't really give a fat rat's bottom half. Truly. I'm not trying to be crass and cold. Seriously, no one really cares, because it's so commonplace, and it's happening to people we don't even know.

So, although, rationally speaking, I know I don't know the Gosselins, and I know I shouldn't really feel anything "real" for their misfortune, I do, and, guys, it's driving me crazy. Which is probably why my billibongs are so itchy.

Or, maybe it's my bra. Maybe I am finally reacting to my Maidenform bra, which I bought many a moon ago. Or maybe it's the humidity of the season, and the sweat that drips down my voluptuous lady lumps (one of which is much larger than the other, but we won't go there) and pools at my bra bottom, only to irritate me no end.

No. It's Jon and Kate.

Their sadness, the choky sounds Kate made on The TV Monday night when she talked about the end of life as they knew it, the sucky face Jon made (he really needs to learn how to relax -- and, by the way, that was sarcasm) and those little cute kiddy faces as they bounced about on the screen. That's made me itchy, and all upheavaled, and stuff.

Or maybe it's that Kate actually spanked one of her kids, and that just upsets me no end, because you all know how much I love kids, and how I would never in a trillion years raise a finger to a child.

No, I did not slap both my children upside their heads more than once. And before you start calling Child Protective Services on me, just let me tell you: they deserved every single one of them.

And I can't think about it anymore, because now I have hives on top of my hives, and my kids are graduating this week, and I have to look awesome, because otherwise no one will recognize me and they might even get scared and run the other way, and that just won't do.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

I Will Always Love You, Even When I Don't Like You Very Much

I can't do anything right. And I am an awful mother.

This is what my daughter thinks of me.

And I have to ask myself, how did we get to this place?

I know. So many friends with children older than mine have told me this is what it's like. "Just wait, it gets worse before it gets better," they tell me, smirking.

Except, it's not so funny.

And although, if I can step back and look at it all objective-like, pretending I'm just an observer, I can accept this place we're in, and know that this is all 'normal' and expected.

But it feels so abnormal, so wrong, and so awful, that I can't for the life of me see how it could be normal, in any sense of the word.

Because it was just yesterday that I was holding her tiny hand in mine, and she looked up to me as her everything, her adviser, her truth teller, her safe place. Where did that little girl go?

Now, we have a girl who is still a little girl in so many ways, but is also growing up all too quickly, and believes she already is all grown-up, and fights me every step of the way, all the time, about anything and everything: don't forget to brush your teeth, time to get off the computer, or whenever the mother in me comes out and lets her know that what she is saying or doing is improper, or just plain wrong. Or, I remind her for the tenth time that she needs to get her chores done, and she angrily accuses me of nagging her, and that's why she isn't doing it.

A child's logic.

A logic which, to me, is senseless and meaningless because it comes from an as yet unformed mind, but a logic which, nonetheless, hurts me to the bone when she states it with such venom in her voice, such a hatred that it takes me by surprise everytime.

She leaves the house in the morning without so much as a good-bye, more often than not. I never know why she's upset. She just is.

Why does she hate me so much? I ask myself time and time again, seemingly more and more often as the days progress. Why is everything such a fight? Why does she seem so uncaring? Why does it always feel like she is out to hurt me with every look and word?

I know it's partially me and my ways. I am sensitive, often overly sensitive. I know this of myself, and I accept it. I walk through the tears that come up unexpectedly when I'm at work and thoughts of our last big blow-out come to the forefront. I fight the urge to lash back at her, as another child would, reminding myself I am the grown-up here. I remind myself time and time again that I am a good mother, a mother who has done everything and then some for my children, for my daughter. I remind myself that I made her my priority when our son was ill, because I worried about her psyche, worried that she would grow up feeling lost and alone because her mother was always at the hospital. I did everything right, most of the time.

But, when my daughter, whom I love more than life itself, tells me she hates me, and repeatedly treats me with such disrespect that I feel like it is a live being all unto itself, I know it's all her, and then I feel sad, because it's like I've lost my child altogether, and I don't know if I'll ever get her back.

There are still moments, moments when it's just the two of us, and it feels like old times, when we would laugh, and she would tell me little secrets, and she would be my daughter again, the way I know her. But they are few and far between.

This new girl, this girl I do not know. And I can't say I like her very much either.

I have decided I have no control over this, and all I can do is keep loving her, and wait for her to get through this awful phase, because it must be just as awful for her as it is for me. I think.

And I have to remember to keep breathing, and remind myself she is my child, my firstborn, my sweet girl, and that this too shall pass.

I think.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Father's Day Mackerel Style

I spent the better part of Sunday doing what my children should have been doing, seeing as it's their father we were celebrating, and seeing as they are more than old enough to deal with making a nice breakfast and helping out with preparing the picnic we planned to have for dinner to celebrate their wonderful dad and all that he is.

Yeah, whatever.

Dee took two hours to wash dishes from the day before, because that's how he rolls, and that's after arguing with him about it for close to 20 minutes because he wasn't washing them properly, and they were ending up dirtier than when he started. And Em was cranky, what else is new. So, I started making Mr. Handsome's omelette, replete with peppers, red pepper cream cheese, and onions, as well as a batch of bacon, just the way he likes it, but inside I was boiling, because why can't the kids just stop fighting and whining and act their age?

Oh. They are acting their age? Goddammit.

Well, grow up then.

Mr. Handsome loved his breakfast, but his coffee sucked big time. Our coffeemaker works well for the most part, but once in a while, it decides to take some time off, so what you end up with is coffee the strength of used dish water. Not so palatable. I remade his coffee once I had another internal hissy fit, as he got back to work on the basketball contraption he has been spending the weekend putting together for Dee (more on that another day, I promise).

Then, it was time to start preparing the picnic dinner: homemade potato salad, grilled chicken, with some other salads and odds and ends. And, of course, lemonade.

Because of my arthritis, I need help doing things such as chopping vegetables and peeling. And since we were making potato salad, potatoes needed to be peeled. I thought this would be a great activity for the kids to do, so I set them up at the table with a bag of potatoes, a bowl of water, and some knives.

Before three minutes went by, World War X was well under way, and I lost it.

"Out! Get out!" I screamed at them, all the while realizing this was not the way Father's Day was supposed to be. And then, I also realized that shooing them away meant only one thing: I was going to be peeling potatoes.

Both kids left in a huff, and I was left to do all the dirty work.

So, I peeled the remaining potatoes, which were many, and I boiled them, and then I chopped all the other veggies going into the potato salad, and then I boiled them for a couple of minutes since the kids are allergic to them if eaten in a raw state (long story made short: they both have a birch tree allergy, which has also caused them to be very sensitive to most fresh fruit and vegetables, unless said fruit and vegetables have been heated up enough to remove the offending protein from said fruit and vegetables), and then I mixed it all together, along with some cooked bacon, mayo, Dijon mustard, and olive oil. And it was YUMMY!

And then I started on the chicken, cooking it in bacon grease, and when I was finished that, Em made a lemon meringue pie which was amazing, to say the least. And then together we made a little sauce to go with the chicken, made with mayo, sour cream, parmesan cheese, basil, and some chopped up plum tomatoes. Dee also made a lovely green salad, with much greenery landing on the kitchen floor, some of it ending back in the salad bowl, I'm sure, when I wasn't looking. I'm still pretending I don't know anything about it, because if I think about it too much, I might vomit.

And then our picnic plans were dashed to absolute smithereens when the clouds closed over us and rains came down, and poured and poured, with ominous clouds of black and grey. And then, the sun would peek out again, and I, forever hopeful, would think we could have a picnic after all, but then it would pour again.

And in-between there somewhere, there was the installing of the basketball net, of which I won't go into much detail in this post (because I go into detail in another post, and doing it twice would really be too much, don't you think?), at which point the rains came down yet again, drenching everyone but me, because I managed to stand inside the garage while everyone else was standing up high on ladders outside the garage (yes, I'm no dumb blonde).

And then Dee announced he was so hungry his legs were quivering, so Em set the table for our indoor picnic, and we laid out all the food, and we waited for Mr. Handsome's grand entrance so that we could eat. And grand it was, as he proudly came down the stairs, his lower half wrapped in a towel. He had no pants on. And that's how he rolls on his day. Sorry, no photos.

And that was Father's Day.

Next year: take out pizza and a movie.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Happy Dad Day, To My Favourite Dads

My father was a good father.

He was the kind of dad who would spend his only free day of the entire week with his kids. He would take us camping every year without fail, on his own, because we loved it. He tried to teach us life lessons with every event, and sometimes was just as happy not to, and to just "be" with his children.

He raised his children mostly on his own, after his wife left him. He did the best he could with what he had and knew.

My favourite time was squeezing in beside him in his old rocking chair, placing my head on his chest, and listening to his heart beating. And the best part was when he would speak: his low voice reverberating in his chest and through my head, almost putting me in a trance.

He was a great father, a great friend, and I miss him a lot. Happy Father's Day, Daddy.

Mr. Handsome is a good father.

He spends his weekend putting a basketball net together for his son. He invites the kids to come along biking when I'm sure he'd much rather go on his own. He spends the time needed to teach his children about being responsible for themselves, and the importance of being self-sufficient. He makes sure they're safe, sound and happy, and never wanting for anything. He plays with them, is strict when it's needed, and is always there for us.

He takes the time to sit with me, to watch at least a little of my favourite shows just to be with me. He makes me tea in the evening, and tries to make me feel better when I'm sad and feeling alone.

He's a wonderful dad, a wonderful friend, and I love him a lot. Happy Father's Day, Mr. Handsome!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

A Little Slice of Heaven on Earth

Give Kids The World. The most wondrous, absolutely marvelous place on the face of this earth.

We had the great fortune of spending a week there back in 2002. It happened by chance, as most things in life do, and we are forever grateful to everyone and anyone to have had the opportunity to experience this place of heaven on earth.

The Castle at Give Kids The World. Dee has a glowing star on the ceiling there, forever and ever. Every child who visits gets a star. Just another amazing thing about this place.

I guess "great fortune" is a misnomer in this case, seeing as to get to spend a week here, you have to have a child with a life-threatening illness. Just a minor detail.

GKTW is a tiny little village in Kissimmee, Florida, built specifically to give families with a child who has a life-threatening illness just a little taste of happiness and joy.

The famous Ice Cream Palace. Let's just say we spent A LOT of time there. Doing what, you ask? Eating. Ice. Cream.Sundaes.

We didn't know what to expect when Make A Wish granted us our wish. First of all, we wanted both children to have a say into where we went or what we did because they both suffered incredibly through Dee's cancer. Dee's suffering was obvious, Em's not so obvious. Em dealt with many psychological and emotional issues for years after, and I sometimes think she will always be subconsciously reacting to those early years of fear and the unknown.

As a result, we deeply believed Em's wants were just as important as Dee's when it came time to figure out what our wish would be. Em, being five years old at the time, was totally into the whole pink princess thing, and Dee had recently gotten into dinosaurs, having just turned four when we were told we were getting a wish granted.

This is where the boats and trains live at GKTW. You could spend a whole day just in this building.

Mr. Handsome and I decided Disney World might work for both wishes, and so Disney World it was. As it happens, Make A Wish sends all their families to GKTW, just an additional little perk that, to us, made all the difference. Oh, sure, Disney World is an amazing and magical place. There's no denying it. But Give Kids The World? It is beyond description. That's how fantastic it is. Let's put it this way: given the choice of going to Disney one day, or just taking it easy and hanging out at GKTW, the kids voted hands down to stay. THEY SAID NO TO DISNEY, guys!!

That was only for a day, mind you, but still. Who says no to Disney, I ask? No one, except my kids, that's who.

We've gone back to Disney World a couple more times since that first time back in 2002. Our last time there, back in 2007, the kids really wanted to go back and visit GKTW. And so that was the first thing we did once we had landed and gotten our rental car. We went to GKTW as returning guests, and we spent a few hours touring the grounds, having a free ice cream treat at the Ice Cream Palace, and taking a ride around on their very own train. Of course, my knees were in my mouth as we rode around the grounds. That train is tiny. I'm positive it was built for little rodents.

The kids' favourite place at GKTW. When told they could ride this all day long if they wanted, they opted to stay put for a day instead of going to Disney World.

Besides the talking garbage can, the all-you-can-eat buffet, free ice cream morning, noon and night, a house full of toy trains and little worlds all unto themselves (you can even create thunder and lightning in this place!), and the swimming pools and the merry-go-round (the kids' absolute favourite thing in the world), we got to own our own little piece of the village for a week, living in a sizeable townhome with two bathrooms, two bedrooms, a kitchen, living room and dining area. And there was food supplied, and everyday when we got back home after a long and draining day at Disney, there would be little surprises waiting for the kids. One day, it was matching ET backpacks, another day there were books.

It was like Christmas everyday.
Speaking of which, they even have one day where it snows, and Santa comes. Maybe a little lame, but the kids adore it.

And because we were "special guests", we got "Front of the Line" passes for Disney World, whereby we didn't have to wait for most rides. That's right. Read it and weep.

It's over seven years later, and whenever I think about this trip, I am still in awe by it all: by the special treatment we all received, by the happiness we were offered so generously by everyone at both Make A Wish and GKTW, and by the absolute joy my children experienced, after such a long and exhausting famine.

I can't wait to go back.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Llamas and Alpacas, Oh My!

Ottawa is known for being the capital of Canada, for having some of the most beautiful scenery, for having a farm smack dab in the middle of the city, and for being the place of birth of the Beavertail.

It also has llama and alpaca farms.

This alpaca is not a nice alpaca. Notice the stare. He is staring us down as we near the fence. I am not imagining this.

That's right. Llamas and alpacas.

I suppose, if you want to get technical, I'd have to say the farm we saw wasn't in Ottawa proper. More like on the outskirts, in a little village called Osgoode, about half an hour from Ottawa. Which, for we Ottawans, is still Ottawa, because we're self-centred like that.

Dee and I happened upon this farm as we went on a Sunday morning road trip. We just up and went, early Sunday, without a destination in mind. I just wanted to get out. It was a beautiful day, Dee was needing some one-on-one attention, and that's how it happened. Within half an hour, after Dee packed up some cold salads and iced tea, we were on our way.

Dee was a brave, brave boy. Unlike his momma, who stayed on the OTHER side of the ditch.
Going down one road and up another, I made Dee give directions. "Go left here. Now turn right."

At one point, he asked me where we were, and I had to tell him I had no idea. Which didn't mean we were lost, because I could always find my way back home (eventually), but to Dee, it was a bit scary. And that made me laugh, because if there's one thing I love doing, it's scaring my kids. You should see what I do in the dark! Just kidding ...

And then, we saw the llamas. And all Dee's fear disappeared, and excitement replaced it. "Can we get up closer?" he asked.

So, of course we did, leaving the car on the side of the road and making our way across to get a closer look. Dee decided to cross the wet ditch to get an even closer look.

Llamas and alpacas are strange and wonderful things. First of all, they stare you down, which made me rather uncomfortable. A few other interesting tidbits about llamas and alpacas: they are very clean animals, poop in the same small area, are very hardy and require minimal shelter. But the best part? They hum. Not show tunes, but little humming noises, as if they're just happy to be alive, walking in their little paddock, eating grasses and things, waiting to be sheared. You can't get much cuter than that, I dare say.

At one point, Dee wanted to stick his hand through the fence and feed them some grass, and I screamed, "NO!!!!" as if he was about to get swallowed up by a lioness with her young instead of a furry and peaceful, grass-loving mammal.

These animals are quite large, but they're also amazingly cute and furry. If only they were the size of a small cat, I wouldn't find them so scary. Because, despite their outward appearance of innocence, I know what lies underneath. Remember, I have two children. Appearances deceive.

Anyway, after our llama and alpaca experience, we ventured forth in our Accord, looking forward to our next adventure. And then Dee let me know his stomach was "guffling", which I think means he was getting hungry. Of course, he hadn't had breakfast, and that's after telling hm about 1,342 times to have breakfast before we left. Kids.

After consoling him and assuring him he would not starve and turn into a skeleton before we stopped to eat, I started looking for a place to stop. Dee kept pointing to farm fields and rough patches of ground, exclaiming, "Hey!! That looks like a great place to stop and eat! Look, we could put the blanket out there!"

And I would keep driving, nodding in the affirmative, meanwhile thinking, 'This child needs therapy.'

Gratuitous seagull picture. His name is Stefan.

We took a few turns here and there, and somehow ended up at a lovely old mill in the small village of Manotick. And after being told by the mill-person-who-sells-the-breadcrumbs-at-the-mill-which-no-longer-actually-makes-the-bread that there was no washroom on the premises, I decided I'd 'hold it', and we went off to find a spot to sit down. Which was not hard to do, seeing as anywhere you looked, there was nothing but beauty. Situated on the Rideau River, which runs through Ottawa as well, this village has it all. I need to come out there more often.

Dee and I found a great little spot right by the river's edge, by the locks at the mill. Lucky for us, a number of duck families had also found this spot, and so we sat there, and ate, and Dee spent a good part of the time feeding the ducks. A couple were even courageous enough to actually eat the crumbs out of his hand, which pleased Dee to no end.

This was one of the few brave ducks of the lot. He ended up eating out of Dee's hand.

We ended up getting back home an hour-and-some later than I had planned, and I promptly had to lie down for a wee nap. I was exhausted. Driving around country roads and listening to the Grease soundtrack for three hours straight will do that to you.

The land duck, also a brave duck, who ventured forth into the Great Unknown of the Human.

But it was all worth it for Dee's face of happiness as we went home, and his exclamation that, "Mommy, this was the best day ever! Thank you."

You're so welcome, sweetie.

Friday, June 12, 2009

The Excitement Is Overwhelming, aka Thanks For Coming Out

I can't believe it! I won something! I actually won!

That's right, guys! I won an Ipod shuffle!! Awesome
Stesha over at Hot Chocolate Caramel Mocha had a contest, or something, I don't actually remember what it was that I somehow entered. That gives you some idea of how fried my brain is. Anyway, I won this Ipod, and I was so excited when I found out that I almost wet myself and had multiple orgasms, all at the same time. Now, that's excitement.

Before I go on with this sad and totally self-centred post, please visit Stesha and give her some smiles.

I think I screamed when Stesha emailed me to tell me I had won. Mr. Handsome was sitting on one side of me, and Em on the other, and when I told them, they looked at me like I was ... well ... nuts.

And then I got upset because they started making fun of my utter excitement and my disbelief that I had actually won something, and that 'something' being an actual Ipod!

Both Mr. Handsome and Em scoffed that it wasn't really an Ipod because it was an Ipod Shuffle, which I guess means it's the lowest of the low.

"It's basically an MP3 player," Mr. Handsome explained to me.

"But it's still an Ipod!" I exclaimed, defending my claim to victory.

"It's no big deal," Em added, she of the 'real Ipod'. Whatever.

All I wanted was someone -- anyone -- to be excited for me.

And no one was.

That's Furry on the right, pigging out on the larger lettuce leaf.

Except these guys. They smiled, and I'm sure I heard a "Yahoo!" from Furry. She wants me to put 'Muskrat Love' on it, which, of course, I will.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Just Call Me Van Gogh

My left ear was the last straw.

As Mr. Handsome so succinctly put it, "Can't anything on you work?"

Well, I guess the short answer to that would be, "Apparently not."

I thought today we'd start taking a closer look at my various body parts, one by one, to give you an idea of who I am, or perhaps, what I'm not.

In today's lesson, we have the head. Overall, not bad. Head coverage, that is. My hair is usually pretty good. My crowning glory. Yes, I have to over-condition it now that I'm aging, so that it doesn't come out of the shower looking like an old Brillo pad. But, in the grand scheme of overall bodily function, it's no problemo.

Then, we come to the skull and the brain within. Lots of headaches. Bad ones. Bad bad migraines that at times cripple me, and make me lie in the fetal position on the bed, sucking my left thumb and whimpering. Been dealing with those since I was four years old, actually. No one believed me back then, however. I told my parents I couldn't eat hot dogs or birthday cake icing, but they wouldn't believe me. So, I'd eat it, and then be violently ill for the rest of the day. Sort of my way of telling them "I told you so." I wasn't the sharpest tool in the shed.

I also had a weird scalp affliction at one point, some kind of follicular infection, but it went away on its own. Thank god for small miracles.

Then we have my eyes. Yeah, let's talk about them for a moment, shall we? Extreme nearsightedness from an early age, which didn't help the eventual multiple retinal detachments in my early 20s. Ever have a big needle in your eye? I have. Ever have lasers shoot beams of heat into the backs of your eyes to heal a hemorrhage or a detachment? I have. Ever have a band of hard material surgically implanted in the back of your eye to save your vision? Yup. I have. Don't ever tell me I don't know how to have a good time.

My right retina detached again a couple of years ago when Mr. Handsome punched me in the eye. You should have seen the doctors' faces when I told them what had happened. They asked me, and I told them my husband had punched me. You could immediately see their little brains whirring as they tried to pull phone numbers and names out of their heads for me. They got all serious and everything, asking me if I was being abused.

Let me tell you, it was my moment of glory. Because although I'm sure they get their fair share of abuse victims strolling through their days, I am not one of them. But boy, did I love their reaction, and I'm all about reactions!

And then, of course, I told them it was all an accident, which it was. Mr. Handsome was playing with the dog, and suddenly the huge rubber wheel and rope toy that the dog had solidly grasped in his mouth came out, and BAM! Mr. Handsome's fist met my eyeball. And thereby was born my fourth retinal detachment. Said detachment resulted in laser surgery, and then a hemorrhage, which resulted in more laser surgery. In case you're wondering, laser eye surgery really really hurts. I made Mr. Handsome come with me the second time, so that I could break his fingers as I squeezed them during the session, and so that he could witness my pain. I'm nothing if I'm not about sharing both the good and the bad in this marriage.

And now I have many more floaters (those little bothersome blackish things that float around in your eye and make life miserable when you're trying to read or look at something bright), which sometimes completely obliterate the vision in my right eye. I also have cataracts happening in both eyes, which apparently shouldn't be happening until I'm in my late 60s, but that seems to be the way I roll.

So, because I am a good wife, I occasionally let Mr. Handsome know how awful these floaters are, and how worried I am that someday I will go completely blind. And I wait for his sympathy, for his empathy, for any semblance of his deep and unending feelings for me.

I'll let you know when that happens.

Below the eyes we have the nose. the nose that has done me so well for most of my life. That is, until I got the Excess Mucus problem, couple with the Allergies, which make blowing said nose a minute-by-minute experience some days. Oh, it's a pleasure to sit with me, to sleep beside me, to be anywhere within a ten yard radius of me and my beloved nose.

The good thing about my nose, though, is that I can smell anything before anyone else. Days before others notice the guinea pig cage is starting to reek, I know. I can tell if Mr. Handsome has laid an extra bold bomb in the upstairs bathroom even when I'm in the basement. People come to me first when they want to know whether some food has gone bad or can be eaten. This nose will do me well when one of my kids comes home and I smell the Cigarette Smoke on them. I can hardly wait.

Umm, I'm thinking maybe this isn't such a good thing, and should actually be thrown into the bad column.

The mouth comes next. Can't say a lot about it, except that I get the occasional canker sore from stress or fever, and have teeth that seem to develop holes in them no matter how many times a day I brush and floss.

Oh, and then there was the time I went to visit my friend Mich out west, taking Em with me (she was only 18 months old at the time), and Mich ran a daycare out of her home, and a couple of the kids were getting over Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease, something which I had never heard of before, and which I soon learned everything and then some about when first Em came down with it hard, and then I did. And, boy, did I. High fever for four days, I could do nothing but sleep and whimper, and then the sores appeared on the palms of my hands and the soles of my feet. But the best part? The best part were the nine canker sores that popped up on my upper lip seemingly overnight, and festered there for days, putting on an encore on the plane on the way back home. Definitely a sight to behold.

Last, but not least, we have the ears. As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, my left ear no longer does the job an ear is supposed to do. If I block my right ear, all I hear are underwater sounds, hissing, whistling, and humming. I think it's a sinus thing, but seriously? This has been going on for a few years now, fluctuating in its seriousness, from very mild to extremely annoying and frustrating.

Right now, I'm at the latter extreme. I'm now at the point where I think I have to go to a specialist who can either unplug me, or tell me I don't need that ear any longer because I will no longer hear out of it, and maybe they can cut it off right then and there so that I have less washing to do, and can have even more spare earrings, and can then be called Mary Van Gogh, because I've always wanted to be known as an artist.

And that ends our first lesson on my body parts. Next time, the Upper Torso.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Our Dad Says Hi

Planting flowers at our dad's (and now our mother's as well) gravesite. Dee, my brother Adonis, and myself.

Our annual ritual.

Bitter cold that Sunday. There was hail that day, and rain. The wind whipped our bare hands as my brother and son dug and watered and planted, and I stood supervising and taking the odd photograph. Those are my specialties. That, and drinking consecutive mojitos and eating an entire supersized bag of Cheetos in one hour.

A sad time, for sure. Lots of memories.

This year, however, we did some laughing as we reminisced. Remembering the silly things our parents would say or do.

It is our first year planting flowers for our mother as well. She passed away in March. And although our parents separated way back in 1972, my father paid for a spot for my mother next to him, to make sure she had somewhere to go and that she'd be taken care of.

My brothers and I are now orphans. And, when I really think about it, I am very sad, and don't really believe it yet. So, I try not to think about it too much. It's easier that way.

I still haven't really processed my mother's very recent death. And I am still trying to accept my dad's. Not sure if I ever will.

My dad always asked my kids and I to come help him plant geraniums at his house every spring. And that ritual continues to this day. Same flower, same time, different place, different reasons.

We also transplanted a gorgeous peony bush from his home after he passed away, replanting it at the gravesite. It looked worse than dead when my brother first put it in the ground. But we held on to hope, and waited until the next spring.

And before our eyes, a miracle happened. The bush grew, green sprouts shooting out from the dead wood, and on those new, green branches popped out a million peony buds. It was amazing.

I know my dad had something to do with it.

I went back just the other day to check on the flowers we had just planted, to water them, and to see if the peonies were in bloom yet. They weren't, but they're about to.

As I was bringing the water can back to the spout to hang it for the next person, I rubbed my eye, and my contact lens fell out. Gone. Just like that. Freaking out, because I am there alone, and cannot for the life of me see a thing with only one lens in, I start hyperventilating because the thoughts start rushing through my tiny brain. Thoughts like: 'How the hell am I going to drive back home with only one seeing eyeball?' and 'Holy shit! I just got these lenses a couple of months ago, and they cost a lot of money,' to 'There is no way in hell I am going to find this goddammed bastard piece of crap lens that keeps falling out of my eye at the slightest movement in all this godforsaken grass.' Yes, I thought that, exactly that. And I started to panic again, but I calmed myself. And just as I was about to give up, I remained in the crouch position for a moment longer, and like the Ninja I am, I gazed down with my left eye (the right eye being no good to me at all), and lo and behold! there was my contact lens, tiny and transparent, sitting lightly on a blade of grass.

Tell me my dad didn't have something to do with that.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

The Unseen Imprint

The other day, I was in this big funk at work.

Not because of anything, really.

It all came down to the fact that I wasn't getting invited to eat lunch with some of the others who take lunch at the same time. I was feeling very left out, and it hurt. I sat there, in the kitchen/lunch room, which overlooks the picnic tables outside, and I watched as six or more staff sat out there, enjoying each other's company. And here I sat, alone. It's almost as if I was playing out a sort of self-torture, a sado-masochistic ritual.

Now, I know I'm a grown-up (well, I think I am), and I know it probably just looked that way, but I couldn't help feeling the way I felt, and the pain it caused. And all because a couple of people (one of them the person who is training me) are too rude or self-centred to think about anyone but themselves.

And then I wonder why some people just seem to fit in effortlessly, get invited into all the group events, are part of the "crowd", and everything just seems so damn peachy keen for them. And why can't I ever be one of them?

I get it. It's not about me. I know. But we all know where these things come from, these feelings of ostracism, of being an outcast. I have never felt like I belonged. Anywhere. With anyone. For instance, it took me many years, and many therapy sessions, to accept that Mr. Handsome was my friend and not my enemy, out to get me. Belonging is a deep human need, I suppose. We all feel it, need it. But I've never quite been able to deal with it in a positive way, and go with the flow. Instead, I put a negative spin on it very quickly, instead of allowing it to grow and see how things play out. To know me, you would never say I am a glass-is-half-empty kind of gal, but in some ways, I very much am.

I blame it on my childhood. And that's not something you can just change. What's done is done.

Because when I sit down and really think about it, it always seems to come back to that. To the fact that I was very much alone for much of my childhood. I was not like most of the other kids, neither in looks or intellect. I kept very much to myself, was painfully shy and private, and was going through a personal hell at home most kids my age wouldn't have understood. Instead of providing comfort, they pointed at me and laughed, as children do.

Of course, I also didn't have any support at home. My mother wasn't available emotionally or physically, and was physically and mentally abusive toward my older brother and me, and my dad worked and just didn't deal much with silly children's issues. I was on my own. And I dealt with it in the only way I knew how: by clamming up, getting very sad, keeping it all inside, and ultimately blaming myself.

So, when all this happened last week at the office, I called Mr. Handsome and told him, on the verge of tears. I felt so alone.

And Mr. Handsome, as he always does, put me back on the right path, by reminding me that I was an adult and needed to deal with it as an adult.

"So, invite yourself along," he said. "Or, better yet, ask someone to go to lunch with you."

It was that simple. For him. For many people.

And although it is that simple, it also isn't. Because when you grow up feeling unloved, and different, you tend to put up very strong and solid barriers that do not come down easily, no matter how hard you kick and punch. Tendrils of memories keep reaching out from the past to quickly tweak you and remind you to be careful, to not trust. To remind you that no one likes you, so keep your distance before you get hurt.

I'm over it now (sort of). It was a rough couple of days. Couple that with some challenging hours on the phone dealing with irate people, and a uterus that won't stop revolting, and you start to see where I was coming from.

It also reminded me of the amazingly strong and perpetual imprint our childhoods make on us, and often unknowingly. Scary thought.

Reminds me to hug my kids a little more, and tell them one more time that I love them.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Flapping Asses And Arms, Yo

When your ass flaps against the backs of your legs, you know it's time to hit the gym.

And, as luck would have it, I looked up "ass flap" in the dictionary, and guess who I saw? That's right. Me. With my ass, hitting the backs of my legs like there's no tomorrow.

There was no better time than Saturday to witness this amazing event, as I spent the better part of the day gardening. That's right. I gardened my entire front area, including three largish pots, the entire front of the steps, and I also put down a bag full of black mulch, because I saw it at someone's house last week and liked it enough to remember it. I thought it looked awesome, and would therefore make my house and garden look awesome as well. That's how it works, isn't it?

As I tilled the soil and got my hands extremely dirty (well, mostly my right hand, because I tend to use one hand more than the other, and I also tend to unconsciously keep one hand clean when doing dirty tasks. No, I don't know why), I let the sun bake my cold and withered body, and I slowly took off layers of clothing as the air warmed up around me. It was a nice change. So nice, in fact, that I didn't notice the day fly by, and the body slowly feel more and more stiff. I was actually enjoying my physical labour, which is a rare occasion indeed.

At one point, I walked over to the front bay window, which basically covers half the front of our home, and waved at Mr. Handsome and Dee, who were comfy inside playing Wii tennis and screaming like men do when they are competing (and when aren't they). As I waved, the lower half of my upper arm jiggled like nothing I've ever seen before. It was almost like that whole section of my arm was filled with jelly. It scared me. But it scared Dee and Mr. Handsome even more, because they started holding their heads and screaming, "Noooo!! Go away!!! Stop it!!! How can your arm do that?!" And then they passed out and I had to run inside and revive them with the Heimlich maneuvre or something.

The front bed, replete with black mulch. Please ignore the weeds and dandelions visible to the right.

The bridal veil spirea is in full resplendant bloom. We are, at the moment, the envy of the neighbourhood. The next rain or slight wind, however, and we will once again be the black sheep.

As a matter of course, that tiny arm-jiggling episode made me then think of my loose ass folds, and how and when did my ass lose all its plumpness and "holdability" -- its vital unity -- and become one huge piece of stray material, hitting the backs of my legs as I walk. Even when I wear tightish jeans that you would think would hold the entire Body Of The Ass together, they don't. Because somehow, ass portions progressively leak out and again begin touching the backs of my legs.

My entire gardening day, which should have been a day of glee and happines, became a day of wonder and consternation, as I tried to figure out how my body fell apart in such a way. Everytime I moved to plant another flower, or move some soil from one area to another, I was reminded of my body's failings.

I then woke up Sunday feeling like a two-ton earth-moving machine had run over me about 317 times in a row. My muscles were sore, my sacrum screamed in pain, my patellas were swollen and my sacroiliac joints felt like they'd been jabbed by hot pokers all night long.

And then my son looked at my thigh, which happened to be exposed as I half lay on the couch, whimpering, and he said, "Look at that! What is that?!?!"

And I said, "What? What are you yelling about?"

And he said, "Your leg! Look at those lumps all over it when I squeeze. What is that?"

To which Mr. Handsome promptly replied, "Cellulite."

To which I should have said, "Umm, why the hell are you squeezing my thigh in the first place?", but to which I did not say anything, because in this house, these things pass as normal.

All of this to say that I think it's time I hit the gym, guys. Enough with the excuses. I am entering middle age, and I need to start worrying about my health a little more. Arthritis is what it is, and it limits me, for sure, but I know I can still go and do a modified work-out.

God knows what's going to fall next if I don't.
By the way, today's a special day for one of my special friends. Say Happy Birthday to my buddy B! You know who you are, buddy old pal. He's old, way way older than me, and always will be. And I like to remind him of that on a very regular basis.
Yes, lunch is on me. Yes, you can have a beer. No, you cannot have dessert. I only have one hour, and not enough money.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Romance At Its Finest

Mr. Handsome and I went out for dinner Thursday night. Alone. Without children. Just the two of us. No one else.

Grandma decided to steal the kids and take them to see the movie
Up and then for a bite to eat.

And because I, in my perpetual peri-menopausal state of flux, began cramping and menstruating again for the second time in a one-and-a-half-week period (ha! period! get it?), there wasn't going to be any hokey pokey going on around here between Mr. Handsome and I. So, what's the next best thing, you ask? Food, of course!

So, off we went to Capone's, this wonderful little Italian restaurant we've been to many times. The inside is dark, the walls covered with photos of Mafia figures. Of course, I had to be led to our table by my arm, my eyes unable to focus and adjust to darkness very quickly.

I ended up having the chicken amaretto, which I love, especially since it comes with this amazing potato that is shaped like a thick finger and cooked in some kind of coating that is out of this world. For the freaking price of the meal, they could have offered two fingers, methinks.

Mr. Handsome had some pesto pasta, which he found to be delicious.

We had the chance to talk about adult things, like work, and work, and ummm, work...because our jobs have kind of been on both our minds a lot lately. Me, with my new job and all, which I am still enjoying immensely (except that the training part of it is getting to me, because I just want to start actually doing my job), and Mr. Handsome, with a big conference coming up, at which he is speaking, which makes his nethers quiver, I am sure.

We were both stuffed to the gills, and unable to order any dessert, which always makes me sad, because we never eat dessert. It's a rare occurrence in our home. I mean, who has the time to even think about what to eat after eating? Not me, that's who. And Mr. Handsome thinks dessert is superfluous, so that makes it even more difficult to bring out a big old pumpkin pie after a big meal. Not only that, but dessert costs an arm and a leg in restaurants now. Not sure if that's happened in your neck of the woods, but here, dessert costs as much as some meals. And how does one justify spending that kind of money on something that isn't even really necessary? You don't, that's how. You swallow your pride, spoon the pie into your open maw, and accept the consequences, both monetary and caloric.

We left Capone's and were on our way to the car when the restaurant owner came running out, and shouted after us, "Hey! Thank you for coming! I hope you had a nice meal!"

And I, being the perpetual loser joker that I am, shook my head 'no', and looked at him all forlornlike.

Mr. Capone grabbed his head in his hands, said, "No? Oh no, what happened?" and he started running over to us, all worried.

When he had almost reached us, I started to laugh, and told him I was just joking, to which he replied, "Don't do that to me at my age!" And then he collapsed in a wet heap on the parking lot pavement.

Just kidding.

I laughed though, because I thought I was ever so funny and clever. But really, I'm glad I didn't give the old coot a heart attack or stroke. That could get messy, especially if mouth-to-mouth was involved. I'm pretty sure he's chock full of garlic and all things Italian.

Anyway, Mr. Handsome and I came back home, because there is nothing more romantic than sitting in front of the tv and watching an old rerun of Judging Amy.

What else are you supposed to do when your uterus is cramping up a storm, and the fatigue is overpowering?

And then the kids came home, and that was the end of any peace and quiet in our home, because they immediately started a fight, something about being too close to one another as they were coming in the house. You know, serious stuff that really matters.

And then Dee wanted to watch Predator CSI because it was all about beheaded bears in the woods who have their penises bitten off, which of course I wanted to see, but I was getting very bleary-eyed.

I ended up going to bed at 9 p.m., falling asleep almost immediately and not waking until Gryphon, our dog of little brain, came trouncing up the damn stairs again at 6 a.m. This time, however, I didn't have to get out of bed because, just as he was near the top, his feet slid on the stairs, he fumbled to grip something -- anything! -- he panicked, and ran back down. Let's hope that little fumble reminds him that only humans are to use the stairs in this house.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Ice Cream Memories

The bowl of ice cream sits beside me. Frost lines the bowl. The spoon shifts as the mound begins to melt ever so slightly.
I take a spoonful and let it rest on my tongue.

The chocolate envelopes my every sense. My mind goes back in time.
I am nine years old. It's summertime. The heat rises from the pavement in front of the house, waves of vibrating heat, so thick I'm sure I could touch it. The buzz of junebugs fills the air.

I spend my days on my bike, or running through neighbour's yards, soaking in the sun's energy, so happy to be alive. I feel happy, healthy, and am able to forget about the sadness that rests inside my home.

My father comes home from working a hard shift. His familiar smell as he walks in the door greets me. Sweat, oil, fatigue. He works hard.

I check his pockets and pull out the slim box of gum he always seems to have. I feel like he keeps the gum there for me. Fruit-flavoured. My favourite. I take a couple of pieces, a special treat, and replace the box in his pocket. He then takes my arms and wraps them behind me, telling me he's going to take them to work with him next time. I tell him he can't because he'll get them dirty. The same joke, told time and time again, like a mantra. We never tired of it.

He goes to the basement and washes his feet, then fiddles around with odds and ends in his workshop area, avoiding the main floor where his wife, the mother of his children, sits in the overstuffed armchair, refusing to acknowledge anyone's existence, stuck in her existential mire, ignoring the life around her.

Daddy comes back upstairs after some time and asks if anyone would like some ice cream. Of course, hands go shooting up in the air, excited for this special treat.

I am doubly excited, because this means I get to go for a walk with my father, something I adore. Because it is during these walks that he talks to me about life, about his life, about what matters. And he always walks on the outside of the sidewalk, closest to the street, to keep me safe. Chivalry at its finest. I feel special.

We walk to the ice cream shop, a good 15-minute walk from the house. I have a mental list of who wants what flavour. I walk in bare feet, relishing the searing hot cement on my soles, a sort of trial of pain, as if I am trying to prove something to myself, a physical extension of what I feel in my soul.

We order the ice cream -- strawberry, vanilla (my dad always wanted vanilla, as does my husband), grape, and chocolate for me. My mother did not want any.

We carry the cones back home, taking turns licking the melting ice cream as it makes its way down the cones, laughing as we do it, knowing my brothers wouldn't be too keen to be eating a cone that had been licked to death by either of us.

We hand out the cones, and Daddy and I sit on the verandah, in the green wooden chairs, and enjoy our treats.

The chocolate flavour is rich on my tongue, and I close my eyes to remember this feeling, this time in my life, when ice cream could help heal the deepest of wounds that lie just under the surface.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Dog of Big Claws and Little Brain

There is nothing worse than (except perhaps a colonoscopy/endoscopy two-for-one deal) your so-smart-he's-stupid standard poodle running up and down the wooden stairs at 5 a.m., when you don't have to be up for another two hours, and especially when you consider sleep to be a very rare commodity.

So, there was Gryphon, our lovely standard poodle who is often mistaken for a golden doodle because we don't do the frou frou haircut and style poofy thing with his hair, and he's making spins on the hardwood as he races up the stairs to our bedrooms, frantically sniffing under every door, and then races back down the stairs. A couple of minutes later --- clack, clackety, clack clack --- back up the stairs he comes, and the scene repeated itself again.

Gryphon in one of his quieter moments. Note the innocent look on his face. Don't be fooled.

I have not slept through a night since I was first pregnant back in 1994. It's a way of life for me now. I'm a very light sleeper, and I'm okay with it. Usually. As long as I don't get woken up too early, or unnecessarily.

This wake-up call was both those things.

Being the thoughtful and kind dog owner that I am, and seeing as Mr. Handsome was in a coma, and Dee was lying in-between us, his tongue lolling out the side of his mouth, I decided it was going to be up to me to make sure the dog didn't actually need to pee.

Just as I was getting up, Em opens the bedroom door, her fingers through Gryphon's collar. As pissed off as I am, because she too doesn't need (and let me add, does not want) to get up this early, she says, "I don't know what he wants, but he"

I take the idiotic dog, who by now is extremely excited that two of his humans are up and ready to go, and we go downstairs, and I open the damn door and tell him to go and pee, and it had better be a good one. He squats, and about 10 seconds of pee comes out. Ten.Seconds. Then he comes happily frolicking back up to me, smiling widely, so happy to greet the new day.

In he romps, and looks up at me expectantly, the look on his face saying, "Okay! That was fun! Now what?!" And he runs in a circle and lets out a bark.

I thought about going back to bed, but when I had gotten up, I remember Dee was sprawled out over half of my side, fully clothed (he's gotten into this awful habit of sleeping in his jeans and t-shirt, and if he does it again, I have warned him that I will personally waterboard him), so I quickly decided I'd probably get more shut-eye by staying downstairs and lying on the couch. I also had this feeling Gryphon would continue coming up the stairs, and I didn't have the heart to shut him in his crate, so I lay on the couch, covered myself up to my ears, and tried to salvage what little was left of my sleeptime.

I'll let you in on a little secret. You see, the trick to getting back to sleep is the coverage. You must cover yourself all the way up with a soft blanket, past your chin, and to your ear level, preferably at least mid-ear level. There is something about coverage that makes all the difference. I swear by it. You're welcome.

Before I knew it, it was time to get up. And I was not a happy camper. I felt as I did when faced with nursing a newborn every two hours, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. I guess my body is trying to tell me something. Or maybe it's time to teach the dog how to tell time.

And now, it's 9 p.m. as I write this, and it's time to afdasdfkljas; oruidsafkjfda zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz...

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Beauty In The Midst of Chaos

Although my backyard may be the perfect example of a complete and utter mess, there is still beauty to be found.

Honeysuckle growing by the front door. I have yet to see hummingbirds here, but I never say never.

Bridal veil spirea. Perfection in nature.

Bleeding hearts I planted last year and forgot about. And this year, they gift me with this. I am in awe.

Our bridal veil spirea plants in the front yard. We are the envy of the neighbourhood for only a very short time, when these plants blossom. And then, we are once again relegated to the garbage heap of neighbours: those who don't follow the rules, do their own thing, and let the grass grow just a little longer than everyone else. I wouldn't have it any other way, except if we hired a handsome, half naked Spanish lawnboy to come cut the grass while I sit in my deck chair and swig down a Mike's Hard Lemonade as I supervise.

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