Monday, November 30, 2009

Day 30!

I actually forgot how I'd meant to end my post about family expressions from a couple of days ago. For a while we called hand sanitizer 'magic soap' because it cleaned your hands and you didn't have to rinse it. So I was driving home in the truck with Angus on a snowy day and the windshield wiper fluid was out and I couldn't see two feet in front of me. I called Matt because I was nervous about finding the latch to open the hood (because I can never find it), then I hung up and told Angus (who was about four, I think) that we had to stop at the gas station for a minute. He said "are we out of gas?" (because he's an anxious kid and frequently fears that we will run out of gas in the middle of nowhere and have to eat each other). I said "no. I need some...." and I gestured vaguely at the windshield, trying to remember if we call wiper fluid 'magic water' or what, and flailing around for an explanation. Angus said, drily, 'windshield wiper fluid?'. Hmph.
Mary Lynn, I love 'do the needful'. We have one from an Austrian friend who was in grad school with Matt and liked his Caesar salad 'not too saucy'.

photo credit
creative commons license
We were at my Mom and Dad's for dinner last night. Matt has always been kind of in awe of my Dad's childhood and adolescence; he grew up in Stony Rapids, which is so north in Saskatchewan it's almost in the Yukon. His Dad was a trapper. He has stories about driving a team of sled dogs right into the river, teaching aboriginal children when their real teacher went nuts and had to be airlifted out, and caribou season, when the herd would run right through their front yard and they would just stand there and pick a few off to freeze and eat all winter. One of Matt's favourite stories was when my Dad moved into town as a teen-ager and was astounded when he saw kids riding bikes in the spring and summer. Where he lived, they only rode bikes in the winter. On the frozen river.

So last night we were talking about rearranging Eve's room to fit in the new shelving unit we'd bought her. She was off her head with excitement and Angus was a bit put out because we hadn't bought anything new for his room and haven't had time to rearrange it this week-end. My Dad (who loves my children but can't resist needling them at every opportunity) said 'Look, when I was your age I didn't even have a room!' (which is true. He slept in the living room). Angus (who is perfectly aware of how to deal with my Dad by now) said 'where did you sleep? On the street?'. And Matt and I and my Mom started laughing right away, because of course then my Dad said 'no! We didn't HAVE streets!'.

I know -- not a terribly weighty post to end NaBloPoMo with. Whatever. I'm happy that my parents live here and we can go have Sunday dinner with them, when four and a half years ago they lived five hours away with no plans to move. I'm happy that my woods-seasoned, tough S.O.B. Dad paints Eve's fingernails and cooks her scrambled eggs on demand and comes to Angus's baseball games and learns all the kids' names (on all the teams) and cheers for them. I'm happy that my kids are more excited about being with their cousins for Christmas than they are about the presents (although Eve does say 'it's hard for kids to resist the presents'). I'm happy November's almost over. I'm happy and grateful for the interesting and admirable people I've met blogging and what they're teaching me. It all feels a little precarious, but very precious.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

They'll Have to do Better Than That

So on Monday, which is Irish dance night, I checked my email in the afternoon and there was a message from the dance teacher titled 'Get Back to Me ASAP'. Thinking that maybe class was cancelled, I opened the email. This was the message:

hope you get this on time ? Sorry i didn't inform you about my trip in the United Kingdom for a program, I'm presently in London and am having some difficulties here because i was mugged at gun point at the park of the hotel where i lodged all cash,credit-cards and cell were stolen off me and other valuable things where on my way to the hotel, i only have limited access to the internet.Presently my passport and my things are been held down by the hotel management pending when i make payment.The hotel manager won't let me leave until i settle the hotel bills now am freaked out.I will like you to assist me with a loan of £1750.00) to sort-out my hotel bills and to get myself back home. I will appreciate whatever you can afford to assist me with, I'll refund the money back to you as soon as i return, kindly let me know what you can do in order to assist me.Hope to read from you soonest.Sincerely,
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creative commons license

Wow. Apparently between Saturday, when there was a special rehearsal for the Christmas recital, and Monday, the dance teacher had flown to the United Kingdom, been mugged at gunpoint and developed shockingly bad grammar and punctuation habits. Clearly the poor girl needed help and a copy of Strunk and White's very, very badly.

I realize it's a bit disingenuous for me to mock the unbelievability of this scam, given that I gave a hundred dollars I could ill afford to 'Brad Jacobson' who came into my bookstore, asked about Urban Peasant cookbooks and then pretended that he had left his kids playing in the park and locked his car keys and wallet in his jacket pocket when he locked his jacket in the trunk. On a Sunday. But come on. If you're going to go to these lengths to swindle people, at least compose a halfway credible message. "I am having some difficulties here because I was mugged at gunpoint"? "My things are being held down by the hotel management pending when I make payment"? (This gives me an amusing image of a couple of British men in hotel uniforms sprawled over her passport and 'things', sternly demanding money). "Now am freaked out"? I should say so.

It's really not that funny, I guess. This falls into the category of people my sister claims have a special place in hell reserved for them -- assholes who try to play on people's kindness and sympathy in order to rob them. What if I was a grandmother and this email purported to be from my granddaughter? At the very least, it might give me an unpleasant moment. The strange part is that, the very technology that makes this kind of scam possible would theoretically also make it possible for it to be investigated and found to be baseless ("Hey Jennifer, you haven't just been robbed at gunpoint in the UK, right? See you tonight.")

I still think the worst crime is their writing skills.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Family Words

My friend Zarah and I were talking about how getting your kids to try new things is all in the way you frame them. To get Zarah and her brother to try paté, they didn't say "this is smushed up animal organ"; they introduced them to 'spready meat'. (then I laughed for ten minutes, then agreed that was quite clever). I was thinking about the way family expressions get immortalized, until suddenly you realize you're in mixed company using completely ridiculous terms for things.

Photo by Cassidy
Eve was over at my Mom's one night for dinner. I can't remember what she was eating, but she kept asking for 'spread cheese'. My mother, quite reasonably, offered her cream cheese, and took a bit of abuse over it. After considerable strain and strife, it emerged that 'spread cheese' was actually shaker Parmesan. And now, when we're having spaghetti (or when Eve is having pretty much anything)? Yeah, we're all offering and asking for 'spread cheese'. Even though 'sprinkle cheese' would be more accurately descriptive.

When Angus was a baby, he was sent two lambskins as gifts. According to the people who sent them, the kids they knew who had them absolutely adored them, and when they were upset they would ask to go to bed, where the lambskins were used as blankets. Angus was completely uninterested in the lambskins. When Eve was very small, however, the lambskins gradually became objects of comfort and adoration that verged on the sacred. She called them (well, the bigger one, which emerged as the clear favourite), 'Fuzzy'. Well, she called it 'Thussies', to be accurate, but we interpreted it as Fuzzy, and this is what it became as her speech became clearer. One day when my friend was over with her two little girls, Eve was throwing a fit and while I was holding her I said 'Claire, do you mind handing me Eve's Fuzzy?'. She looked around and, quite reasonably, picked up a stuffed lamb and gave it to me. I thought that was pretty smart, given what I'd made her work with.

We still call McDonald's 'Old McDonald's', just like Angus always did (not that we ever go there or eat there or anything. We just talk about it in the abstract, as in 'that evil bastion of inedible evilness Old McDonald's has hockey cards again. Too bad we never go there.')

Eve's friend who lives next door is named Victoria, and her sister's name is Alexandra, but they call each other Pia and Zaza. Victoria's mother says she's often found herself in the middle of a park yelling "Zaza, where are you?", and then feeling like a dork.

I like these little family shorthands. I remember in grade six one of my teacher's talking about this exact phenomenon, and saying, "well, it's not like one day a kid calls tomatoes tommy-toes and then the mother says 'now, make sure you call them tommy-toes from now on'." Now I see how it happens. It happens when you live with people every day for years and you understand each other like nobody else does.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Playing Hooky

My husband is taking today off since it's American Thanksgiving and there's a small chance his phone will ring a few less hundred times than usual. We're going on a date to (dramatic overture)... IKEA. It's been impossible to find a time to get there and get a new kitchen table. Then we're going to do a few more romantic exciting things like cleaning out the basement spare room and putting up Christmas lights, before I leave to work at the school Christmas bizarre (sorry, bazaar).

Matt came down this morning and was getting the kids ready for school. They directed suspicious looks at his jeans and demanded to know what was up.

Angus: "it's not the week-end. Why are you wearing that?"
Matt: "I'm taking some time to myself."
Angus: "WHAT?"
Eve: "Without US?"
Matt: "yes."
Eve: "....does Mommy know?"
Matt: "I don't care if she knows, I'm doing it anyway."
Angus "yeah, right."
Matt: "yes, of course she knows!"

Thursday, November 26, 2009

My Catholic Post

Technically it would be 'My Catholicism Post', but it just sounded better to me that way. I wanted this post to be thoughtful and reasoned and in-depth, but then November crashed down on me, so it's just going to be... published.
My mother was raised by devout Catholic Polish parents. They didn't eat meat on Fridays, they went to Church every Sunday (via horse and wagon), my grandparents walked out of Poland across Europe and ended up in Saskatchewan, dropping a kid in practically every country along the way (judging how pissed off my grandfather was when he had his prostate removed after the age of eighty and then figured out what this now prevented him from doing, the profusion of kids might have been more due to his being determined to get action no matter what the hell else was going on and less due to their obeying the church's teaching on birth control, but still...).

So even though my mother married my father, who is Protestant in name only and about as far away from 'devout' or 'Catholic' as you can get, my sister and I weren't about to escape Catholic school, Catholic Church, or Catholic anything else. We were baptized, reconciled, confirmed and duly frightened out of our wits on a regular basis.

My mother says I'm lucky that I can choose not to go to Mass now without being racked by guilt, because she never could. But my mother took birth control pills. She says she had no problem filtering what the church said through her own conscience and reason and, well, figuratively telling the Church to go bugger itself (yeah, not literally, because she's still uncomfortable with gay marriage). What my mother doesn't really get is that, if I had stayed Catholic, I wouldn't have been able to take birth control pills. I was an anxious, guilt-ridden, tormented, depressive child, and the adult I've grown into -- well, let's just say there are no big surprises. Catholicism was the absolute worst thing for me to be subjected to as a child. It confirmed all my fears about what an unworthy, disappointing object of sin I was. My mother would frequently use the expression 'the road to hell is paved with good intentions' when I didn't follow through on something. Who the hell says that to a kid? What kid doesn't frequently not follow through on things? I would go to bed and spend hours praying to the Virgin Mary (ha!) to help me not be damned to hell.

When I went away to University, I still went to Mass for the first few years. At McMaster, there was an ecumenical service with a priest who actually put literary references into his sermons -- that totally kicked ass. But I was continually questioning a lot of the things I'd been taught about my religion, and the answers didn't add up a lot of the time. If I was fine with people being gay, wasn't willing to go around telling my premarital-sex-having friends they were going to hell, and not planning on having fifteen kids some day, how exactly was I still Catholic?

My son (who is not the oldest of fifteen) is much the same kind of child I was. He has anxiety issues, he broods on things, he works his poor stomach into knots over tiny, tiny things. There is no way in hell (or some other actually real place) that I would subject him to the same exacerbating influence to which I was subjected. I don't blame my mother, because she didn't know any better. I do, and if I did the same thing, it would verge on child abuse as far as I'm concerned. I was going for a walk with my neighbour (whose kids are in Catholic school) one night and I voiced these thoughts and she looked at me with a slightly horrified expression and said "well, you know, they've really toned a lot of it down these days, especially for the younger kids". Well, I'm glad to hear it, but if they had to tone it down, doesn't that mean there was something wrong in the first place? Doesn't that sort of challenge the whole immutable, written-in-stone, dictated-by-God thing?

One of my friends from Youth Encounter (cripes, don't even get me started) went to University, and the first Sunday he was walking down the hall and someone said "where are you going?" and he said "to Church" and they said "what for? There's no God". He was upset and freaked out, as if the fact had never occurred to him before. I still find the idea that there is no Prime Mover, no other reality and no afterlife as strange as the idea that there is. I think spirituality is fine. I think assuming a connection between humans, and between humans and the earth, is healthy. I don't think we should all live hedonistically and thoughtlessly. I just think we should help other people because we're all in this together, and not because we'll go to hell if we don't. And I'm not even going to go into the "I must kill you because you worship a different God" thing because I know you all have things to do.

I'm completely willing to answer my kids' questions about religion and take them to church if they want to go when they're older. But they will not be indoctrinated before they're old enough to think and examine and criticize the doctrines for themselves.

Now, since there has been nothing remotely amusing in this post, let me tell you about going to Chapters with my friend Collette last night. I picked up the Pride and Prejudice and Zombies book to show her, so she bought it, along with Sense and Sensibility with Sea Monsters. On the way out, there was an older woman behind us. Collette said to me "I want to read Pride and Prejudice first, do you want the Sea Monsters one?" I turned around to answer her, and the look on the woman's face was priceless.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The Inmates Run the Asylum

Matt and the kids playing Cranium Cadoo (the juvenile version of cranium: you still have to do charades, or draw something to make people guess the clue, or sculpt things out of clay, but they're 'easier'):
"Okay, Daddy's drawing."
"What is that?"
"A tree?"
"A tree?"
"DADDY, is it a tree? No?"
"um, a baby tree?"
"a bird... in a tree?"
"a boy...climbing a tree?"
"time's up. What WAS that?"
"Jack and the BEANSTALK?"
"WHAT??? That's a BEANSTALK? And what's that?"
"The cow."
"..... BUT he gave the cow AWAY! And besides, it looks like a pig."
Children are merciless.
****************************
Dinner table conversation:
Matt: "are you nervous for your piano recital?"
Eve: "I'm just nervous that I'm going to do a mistake."
Me: "I did lots of recitals and I made lots of mistakes. Everyone does, it doesn't matter, you just keep playing."
Angus: "Who cares, they're all gonna clap for us anyway. Most of them are Grandmas, they don't care if we screw up."
Eve: "Maybe they'll throw flowers."
Matt: "if you're really good they throw underwear."
Me: (choking and looking disbelievingly at deliverer of unbelievably inappropriate comment)
Eve: (helpless with laughter) "UNDERWEAR??? Has that actually happened to you?"
Me: "NO. He's being a dork. Do not tell ANYONE... actually, go ahead and tell, make sure you tell them DADDY said it."
Angus: "My DAD SPECIFICALLY said..."
Eve: "Why would they pacifically throw underwear at you?"
Angus: "NOT PACIFICALLY. Well, unless you were on a boat."
Eve: "So if you really stink... no, if you're really good, they throw..."
Angus:"How would they get your underwear?"
Me: "I'm going to bed."
Angus: "It's only six-thirty."
Me: "Good night"
Eve: "Can I come?"
*************************************
We got Angus his own email address last night. He's incredibly excited. He's emailed our whole family telling them, and asking them to email him back. He also has one email address from a girl in his class. I explained to him that he doesn't need to tell them his email address, because it comes with the message and they can just hit reply. He said, "I don't think Amanda's that smart".
!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Right after supper, he asked if he could go downstairs and email Amanda. Matt immediately said, "hey, the deal is we get to see all the email messages", and I immediately said "why downstairs? Is it a looooove letter?". Angus looked faintly exasperated and said, "No, I just didn't want to demand that you get your laptop out for me to use right after dinner!"
Matt and I apologized for being asshats.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Book Review: February, by Lisa Moore

February. February can't possibly suck as much as November. I've been trying to drag my ass out to the gym all morning. My ass is not cooperating.

February is about Helen O'Mara, whose husband Cal died when the oil rig Ocean Ranger sank. This really happened, which I didn't know until I read the acknowledgements. Helen's husband died when she was thirty, with three kids and one on the way. The book jumps around in time, but essentially tells the story of Helen moving on with her life while still mourning her husband fully and completely for twenty-six years. Jumping around in time can be a dangerous thing to try, but it really works here, particularly because it demonstrates that, raising her children, dealing with her daughter's teenage pregnancy, travelling with her sister, she is always thinking of Cal, remembering what time they had, thinking of the time of which they were robbed, feeling guilty for not being strong enough or sad enough to follow him.

Lisa Moore is a fantastic writer. Except, man, she uses the word spank a lot in this book. The first time I read it I thought "wow, what an innovative, wonderfully descriptive use of the word spank". The fourth time I thought, hmm, the editor didn't want to say, 'Lisa, hon, any chance you're beating your kids a little too much lately? Or, well, you know, what happens in your bedroom totally stays in your bedroom, but..." No, obviously this is inappropriate November humour, but look:
18-“John was this kind of kid: You’d have to say Stop bouncing that ball. The loud spank of it had an echo and the light over the dining room table would vibrate from the noise.”

57-“You don’t want to remember him that way, Dave said. She heard a loud spank of water, a great gushing slap, and looked out into the hall. She had let the bath run over and the water had come through the ceiling.”

212-“Helen’s shirt was soaked under the arms and it stuck to her back. The other cars were very bright in the sunshine. The sun spanked on their red hoods and blue hoods and on the chrome.”

221-“Massage is her area of expertise. Lulu believes every tender hurt and sorrow collects in the flesh and can be worked out with warm baby oil and a good spanking.”

Okay admittedly, that last one was a conventional use of the term. And the others are all innovative and effective. Maybe it would have helped if I hadn't had to read the book in a day and a half so I could give it to my mother because there are a million requests at the library so we won't be able to renew it. Still, shouldn't a good editor catch that kind of thing? Or am I completely overthinking this because it's November and my ass so devoutly wants to stay stuck to this chair and not get dragged to the gym?

It's a great book, my (or her) strange preoccupation with the word spank notwithstanding. It's not easy to make someone's grief seem keen and sharp and distinct from the general grief of the world, but Moore does it. November is bad. February is good.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Day 23

I was really enjoying NaBloPoMo until today. I was expecting it to be a full thirty days of sitting here racking my brains trying to come up with something not too trite or dull or wacky, but instead it's been a really good way to force my mind to be a little more active, and the writing has come easier.

Until today. Today I got nothing. I was going to go to the gym but last night after hockey and Swiss Chalet, which was all very enjoyable, I felt like crap. My glands were swollen and I was nodding off by nine-thirty, when I am never, never, never asleep until after eleven. So I decided to hang out at home today, do some cleaning and go to the gym tomorrow. Except I'm afraid I won't. When I don't go on Monday, I have this superstitious fear that fate or my own laziness (are they so different, after all?) will intervene and torpedo the whole week. And I feel old and creaky. I've been walking more, and my knees and hips hurt and my right knee makes an unpleasant grinding noise when I walk up the stairs, and my right outstep (what do you call the part of your foot that's not an instep?) aches.

photo credit
creative commons license
Anyway, let's talk about the dream I had last night. We discussed the back-in-high-school rushing-around-trying-to-find-an-exam-we-haven't-studied-for dream. Last night I had the back-in-residence dream, except in this dream I'm myself, at this age, trying to start university and live in residence again, and then I realize I'm old and I have a husband and kids and there probably won't be enough room for them in my dresser. I don't always have the same roommate I had in actual residence, but this time I did, and she's one of my best friends who I never get to see any more (she lives in Halifax), so it was nice to see her, even in my confusing, slightly creepy dreamworld. There were a couple of details that I remember from this dream that struck me as kind of interesting. One was that, in order to get your student card, you had to walk around to a bunch of different tables looking at candid group shots taken around campus and find the one with you in it, and line up at that table. I mean, they would just wander around campus taking shots of people walking or sitting and then you would have to find yourself in one. I wonder if this was my subconscious's editorial comment on how arbitrary and confusing some of the university procedures were. The other thing was the anachronistic appearance of Facebook in my dream. You know how you can't dial a phone number correctly in a dream? Turns out you can't type an intelligible Facebook comment on someone's status either. And I'm a stickler about my spelling, so this was really frustrating.

I always wake up from these dreams feeling a little sad and embarrassed. University was a great time and I made some fantastic friends, and I loved having my own room but always being able to walk out of it and find someone to hang out with if I needed to. But it was a long time ago, and I guess I wake up wondering why my subconscious feels the need to revisit it. Maybe it's the newness of being away from home and the sense of endless possibility. I don't really want to go back there. I have a much better handle on who I am now, and I forgive myself a little more easily (a little. Very little. A marginal tiny microscopic quark-sized bit). And my knees and hips were younger and less creaky back then, but my feet always hurt (seriously, I was born with massively fucked-up feet).

It was just a dream. I'll just take what I can from it and move on. I'm going to email my old roommate and go play the piano badly, and celebrate the possibility that I can relearn that grade 9 Royal Conservatory book before I die.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

How Much Information is Too Much?

I did just post a couple of days ago that I'm not against lying to children. And I do believe that some books do not belong in an elementary school library. So I guess I can't write this post with quite the snotty, outraged tone I kind of had in mind before I started. That said, some things do make me think some people have way too much time on their hands.

We had a copy of Revolting Rhymes by Roald Dahl in the library. One of the poems has the word 'slut' in it. It's British, so slut doesn't mean sexually promiscuous woman, it means untidy person. A mother objected. Then she said maybe we didn't have to take the book out of the library, we could just white out the word. But, um, it's a rhyming book. And the kids aren't stupid.
Even our library technician questions a lot of the subject matter in books for young adults these days. Books about dealing with a parent's depression, books about bullying and drugs and such. I don't know. I tend to think kids in real life have more to deal with these days, and maybe having a few books about those things is not bad. We also have truckloads of Mary Kate and Ashley, Star Wars and Geronimo Stilton and his bad cheese puns.

Yesterday I read Looking for Alaska by John Green. I liked it as much as the other two I've read by him. I think he delineates the struggles and perils of adolescence really well -- plus he's a laugh-out-loud funny writer, who slips the odd devastating insight in.

The main character moves from his home state of Florida to Alabama to attend the same boarding school his father went to. He is intelligent and quirky and has no real friends at home, and he's in search of a new start, a "Great Perhaps", a la Rabelais. He finds it in spades at his new school -- a roommate who becomes a great friend, and a cute, messed-up, irresistibly self-destructive girl named Alaska. It was kind of refreshing that, even though he's captivated by her personality and looks, he does get tired of her being moody and bitchy.
There is mention of sex in the book. The main character receives his first blow job (and it's a hilarious, realistic description), his roommate alludes to having sex with his girlfriend, and condoms are found under someone's mattress. That's pretty much it. A few of the reviewers on Goodreads think this is way too much sex for a YA novel. That's their right, of course. "Too much information", one reader says. I think it's a little naive to think that a book written for teen-agers should pretend that adolescent sex doesn't exist. Show me a teen-ager who, even if they're not having sex, doesn't spend a good portion of their time thinking about it. And whoa -- one blow job, and a reference to someone having safe, responsible sex with her boyfriend. Call me crazy, but could it not be a whole lot worse?

Anyway, that's not even the real reason I had to write this post. The real reason was the comment left on that offended reader's review. The comment that I really really hope was supposed to be a joke: "I read Looking For Alaska and learned things about sex that I hadn't learned in 30 years of marriage".

????????????????????????????????????????????

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Oh, I Totally Know This!

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creative commons license
So I went down to Lansdowne Park for World Trivia Night to play with Lynn from Turtlehead (http://diaryofaturtlehead.wordpress.com/ -- I wanted to link to it. I tried to link to it. I thought I knew how to link to it. The HTML error message says 'labels cannot enclose labels'. Come on HTML, I said. 'Can't?'. That's such a negative word. Where would we be if the Wright Brothers believed everyone who told them humans CAN'T fly? I say labels CAN enclose labels! Who's with me?! Turns out HTML is an inflexible bitch.) even though we'd never met and the only picture I've seen of her is blurry and half cut-off and I didn't know any of the other eight people on the team or any of the other thousand people that were going to be there and I'm so shy and socially awkward that just going to the post office makes me break out in hives some days. But hell, it was something fun to do on a Friday night, I'm trying to grow and experience new challenges, and I was told there would be Pringles.
I think I acquitted myself admirably. In the candy-eating department, anyway. Apparently World Trivia can only be answered while ingesting copious amounts of sugar and enough salt to burn an actual hole through your tongue. The best quote of the evening, in my opinion, didn't even involve trivia: it was when the guy across the table from me moaned "I wish I was bulimic".

My great shame of the evening was the one question I could have answered but didn't. It was about an Alberta Farm Girl who became Canada's first female chief justice. I didn't know it, but the name 'Beverly McLachlin' kept hovering in my mind. The problem is that whenever I blurt something like this out, someone generally says 'um, we're looking for female chief justices, and that's a grunge metal rocker dude who performs in drag'. And I was at a table of really smart people. So I didn't say it. And it was the answer. And I think it would have given us another ten out of ten. (sorry, Lynn)

The one answer that I did know that everyone else didn't was almost as embarrassing, because I had to close my eyes, do a Winnie-the-Pooh 'think think think' routine, stand on my head and count backwards from fifty before I remembered. One guy was looking at me like 'cripes, if it's actually going to make brain matter leak out your ears, never mind then'. (it was Lars Von Trier).

Whatever. The fact is, just getting down there and walking in the door and not bolting back to my car and driving to McDonald's was a huge personal triumph. And the fact that the first category being 'War' and the second category being 'P's' and this not causing anyone to take out a shotgun and start blasting away was just a bonus.

Awesome night, Lynn. Thanks.

Friday, November 20, 2009

In Defense of Lying

I've been saying for the last few weeks that my favourite line from Glee (sorry, still can't figure out how to link to it) is when the Cute Teacher's Psychotic Pregnancy-Faking Wife's Crazy Sister says "Dishonesty is FOOD to a marriage, it will DIE without it". I don't really believe this, of course. But I do think that people who insist that honesty is always the best policy are, well, wrong.

There are different kinds of lies. There are lies you tell to make your own life easier, lies you tell to protect yourself and lies you tell to protect others. Some lies just come out of nowhere. I have one friend who's a veritable Shakespeare of lying -- nothing important (as far as I know), but basically she just does it to keep in practice. A bunch of us were having dinner at a restaurant in Toronto and one friend asked this friend where the washroom was. The Master Liar told her it was towards the back of the restaurant and down the stairs (which was true). The friend immediately stood up, went to the front of the restaurant and started climbing UP the stairs. The rest of us called her back once we got up from rolling under the table laughing.
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creative commons license
And the marriage thing. Yes, in a marriage, largely you don't want to be lying your head off every time you open your mouth. You need to be honest about your basic values, how you want to raise your children, whether you just blew a mortgage payment at the casino. But the times when you think "whoa, what's with the hair?" or "you are completely unattractive to me right now" or "Seriously? Some woman actually LIKED that?" Is it helpful or constructive to say any of those things out loud?

I think if you're going to 'be honest', what you're going to say should hurt you more than it hurts the person you tell. To quote another TV figure from a bad medical show (because apparently all I do lately is watch crap on TV), "the truth will set you free, but it usually kicks the crap out of someone else".
When my friend's husband cheated on her and left her, and actually said he'd fallen out of love with her, I was horrified. It was one of the worst things I could imagine, to have the one person who was supposed to love you no matter what turn around and say "you know what, all those things you've always worried about, that you're fat, that your feet are weird, that your voice is whiny and you laugh too loud? They're all true, and they've made it impossible for me to love you, and I'm leaving". I was talking on the phone with this friend a few weeks ago, about how honesty even between friends is a mixed blessing. If someone criticizes something that you're already sensitive about, it just feels like your worst fears about yourself have been realized. If they come up with something different, then you're thinking 'holy crap, I hadn't even gotten around to worrying about that -- what else is there?'

I have friends who've sworn they'll never lie to their kids -- about Santa Claus, about dying, about where babies come from. That's fine, it's good to have principles. Personally, I have no qualms about lying to my children. I like them to have a sense of magic, I want to protect them from things that they're too young to understand except as overwhelmingly frightening, and frankly, nobody needs to know where the good chocolate lives except me. One of my friends says she remembers being really angry when she found out that her parents had been lying about Santa. Yeah, okay, they'll get over it. I've never said "no, you will never die", but I have an overanxious boy who tends to brood on things, so I find ways to get around saying, yes, beautiful nine-year-old boys die every day in ugly and unfair ways, because that's not something he needs to know with that kind of immediacy right now. And if I told my daughter what I really think of her cartwheeling ability? Irreparable damage would be done to our relationship.

I don't want you all to think I go around lying with gay abandon. I'm actually a terrible liar. I just don't think The Truth is the panacea some people make it out to be. Sometimes a little dishonesty is the best policy.
And Lynn? Remember I never actually said I was good at trivia :).

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Favourite Quotes from Not-Necessarily-Favourite-Books

I don’t expect that much from God. Maybe I used to. But the older I get, the easier I am on him. God’s getting older, too, I figure. -- Ten Miles West of Venus, Judy Troy (short story -- spoken by a priest): I like this even though it doesn't really make sense. It says much more about the speaker than it does about God. It makes him the kind of priest whose church I would want to belong to if I still belonged to one.

"The night advanced, the earth rotated on its axis, and they talked about the problem of why a flag in the wind, a stiff current of air, flutters and why the waves in Max’s hair did not move as his hair grew but remained in the same place, just the opposite of the sea, where the waves moved horizontally but the water remained in the same place; and about the war, about Adolf Hitler, whom they called the “A.H.-Erlebnis”; and about the twin daughters of Max Planck, the founder of quantum mechanics: the first gave birth to a daughter and died in childbirth; the other looked after the child and married the widower, became pregnant herself two years later, and also died in childbirth. Added to that, one son died in the First World War, while his second son was shot in the Second. Planck’s constant!" -- The Discovery of Heaven, Harry Mulisch: This was a great, sprawling, metaphysical epic that I'm still not sure I understand. I like this because it's sort of a microcosm of the book's wide range in the conversation between two characters. Also, I had read about the fate of Max Planck's children in A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson and thought it was unutterably sad. I guess then I should be offended that it is reduced, here, to a fairly shallow witticism, but I'm not. It's more indicative of how these characters see everything mathematically and can reduce even messy, tangled humanity to equations.

I’ll tell you the problem with being happy. Because you cannot conceive of ways to make your life better than it already is, you end up repeating yourself: today is a facsimile of yesterday, and tomorrow of today. Slowly, inevitably, the image loses its sharpness. The decline is so predictable, you could chart it mathematically. Euphoria + time = Happiness, Happiness + Time = Contentment, Contentment + Time = complacency, Complacency + Time + Boredom. -- The Amnesiac, Sam Taylor: How funny, I didn't realize when I put this one down that it's also a mathematical equation for human experience. I just thought it articulated something very well that I've often sensed dimly. Also, it's a way to put a positive spin on a shitty day when the library was way too hot and all the books to be reshelved had to go on the bottom shelf, which makes me feel like my head is going to explode from bending over, which reminds me I really need to lose some weight, and makes me really cranky about all the kids that go around pulling out books on sharks and spiders and paper airplanes and hot rods and volcanoes and NEVER EVER EVER EVER putting them back IN THE RIGHT PLACE... anyway. Clearly I dodged that being-happy-for-too-long bullet today.

Their photo album alternated between drought and glut. They would add no new pictures for years. Then someone would shoot a dozen exposures of five people hanging around the front door, giving a misleading significance to a moment whose importance, if any, was soon forgotten. -- Prisoner's Dilemma, Richard Powers: I should write a review of this book, because this doesn't nearly capture it, but the family is crazy and normal at the same time, and doesn't this just say it all about photo albums? Before digital cameras, anyway?

I can’t see the point of Mozart. Of Mozart I can’t see the point. The point of Mozart I can’t see. See I can’t of Mozart the point. Can’t I of Mozart point the see...I can’t see the point of Mozart... That’s not a tune, that’s an algorithm. An algorithm in a powdered wig. -- Engleby, Sebastian Faulks: I'm not even sure I really liked this book. It's one of those unreliable-narrator things, quite a departure for this author, and although I don't really object to the unpleasant subject matter, I think some of it could have been done with more subtlety. But this snotty quote by the snotty narrator -- I mean, counterpoint? Get it? Fucking brilliant!

And what amazes me as I hit the motorway is not the fact that everyone loses someone, but that everyone loves someone. It seems like such a massive waste of energy – and we all do it, all the people beetling along between the white lines, merging, converging, overtaking. We each love someone, even though they will die. And we keep loving them, even when they are not there to love any more. And there is no logic or use to any of this, that I can see. -- The Gathering, Anne Enright: Well, yeah. Again, even though I liked this quote, it doesn't really capture the beautiful bleakness of the book. But almost every other quote had florid descriptions of sexual organs in it. And it's only Thursday.

"This is because it is never really very cold in England. It is drizzly, and the wind will blow; hail happens, and there is a breed of Tuesday in January in which time creeps and no light comes and the air is full of water and nobody really loves anybody, but still a decent jumper and a waxen jacket lined with wool is sufficient for every weather England’s got to give. -- On Beauty, Zadie Smith: and this is why I love Zadie Smith.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

To Whom it May Concern

Dear sun: Nice to see you, thanks for coming out.

Dear hair: It's okay, I understand.

Dear HTML: Can't we just get along?

Dear Woman Who Corrected my Pronunciation at a Party Once: Contemplative can be pronounced with the stress on the first OR second syllable, and in most dictionaries MY way is listed first. I looked it up. Suck it, Blondie.

Dear French school I walked past today: I suggest you lower the volume of your Oh Canada recording unless you are planning on becoming a French School for the Deaf.

Dear Bryan Adams: I recently read that you're the only musical artist who has turned down a request to have a song used by Glee. You're a douche.

Dear Person who decided Anusol should be called Anusol: Seriously?

Dear Guy who Owns the Gas Station where the lowest-priced selection is in the middle instead of at the far left so people will accidentally pay the second-highest price instead of the lowest: You suck and I will avoid your gas station, but I grudgingly admire your lawless entrepreneurial cold-bloodedness.

Dear Woman who chucked Eve under the chin and then said "fat little fella, huh?" when she was a baby: It's a girl, and you're not so svelte yourself, Lady.

Dear Resident who did my Epidural While I was Delivering Eve: maybe for the future you could come up with a slightly more diplomatic way to enumerate the small risks of an epidural. And avoid coming back and saying "oh yeah, and I should have also said the risks include paralysis and death."

Dear People who Disapprove of Epidurals: I TRIED to go natural, but when I'd been in labour for over forty-eight hours with no progression my MIDWIFE said okay, now we try oxytocin and an epidural, so DON'T JUDGE ME!

Dear Dishwasher: I know labels can be annoying and confining. But if you could see your way to clear to, I don't know, actually washing a dish at some point rather than just blowing bits of crap all over it and then heat-drying it on? That would be great.

Dear Professor from Grad School Whose Name I Can't Remember but Looked like a Slightly Older Julia Roberts: I loved your course on Religious Revitalization and Dissent. It was one of the best experiences of my university career. I loved how you wore men's vests and joked about your three ex-husbands and gently scandalized the Dominican Sister in the class. It made me consider switching my Master's to Religious Studies, but I chickened out because I thought it would be impractical. Because Comparative Literature, you know, it's just led to the cash rolling in.

Dear People with More Than Two Kids: I stand in awe.

Dear Kids: Sorry if that was offensive. You're not that bad. Really.

Dear Salt: If loving you is wrong, I don't want to be right. Besides, like my sister says, no one ever says your ass looks salty.

Dear Person who Put the 'May Cause Drowsiness" Label on my Sleeping Pills: Thanks. Whew -- close one.

Dear Bryan Adams: Me again. That concert that you played in Sudbury? When some buttheads threw stuff on the stage and you said "Look, we don't appreciate being thrown things at"? The grammatically correct thing to say would have been "We don't appreciate having things thrown at us." I would have forgiven you if you'd just let Glee have your song, but as it is... you're a douche with bad grammar.

Dear Book I Stayed up Until Three O'Clock a.m. reading: It's okay. You were worth it.

Dear eleven o'clock: Oh. You're here already?

Sincerely,

Allison

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Labels

Yep, this is yet another example of shameless thievery from C.J. at Don't Lick the Ferrets.

NaBloeffingPoMo has turned me into someone I barely recognize. Also, I can't link her blog even though I was all smug about figuring out the link thing, because now I'm apparently having HTML problems.

She was talking about how some people hate labels, such as gay and straight. My point was that it's easy to make almost any descriptive term sound derogatory if you're ignorant and vicious enough to want to. That's not a strike against the label though, so much as against the butthead using it. Labels are useful, if not necessary, in identifying how people other people compare with you. It's fine to say we're more the same than we are different, but saying we're all exactly the same is unrealistic, unfair and ass-ish. For the whole gay/straight thing, I have this image of someone on the dance floor trying to figure out if the person they're dancing with is gay or straight, and the other person saying, "oh, I don't like labels", and the first person thinking, "Dude, I just want to know if I have a shot or not". We went to a party at a cottage with a few other couples once. There was one 'couple' there who refused to be called a 'couple', because they were "avoiding labels". I started out trying to be accommodating and open-minded about this. By the end of the week-end I was thoroughly fed up, and ready to ask "so, are you totally too embarrassed to admit that you're with him?" or "so one of you is cheating on someone else?", because Dude -- they were a  freakin' COUPLE and there was no logical reason to avoid the label other than to be difficult.

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Margaret Atwood wrote a book in 2004 called Oryx and Crake. She's recently followed it up with a sort-of sequel. She spits and hisses every time these are referred to as science fiction. I'm not sure why, because... well, because they're science fiction. Maybe she thinks she's too literarily sophisticated to be lumped in with science fiction writers, which would be kind of sad, since many science fiction writers are extremely sophisticated from a writing standpoint, not just from a plotting one. Maybe she's worried that her books will suffer when measured against other sci-fi books that deal with dystopian possible futures. Maybe she likes basking in the notion that she's the only 'real' writer to worry about these issues. At any rate, in my opinion, getting pissy and saying 'it's NOT science fiction' just makes her sound snotty, and silly.

One of my friends had to fight like hell to avoid one of her kids being labelled autistic when he was in grade one. I understand this, because having him labelled as the wrong thing would ensure that his actual problems weren't focused on, while problems he didn't actually have were worked on uselessly. Should your child actually be autistic, an early diagnostic 'label' is actually beneficial, because the sooner treatment starts (or waiting for treatment, unfortunately) the better.

So I get that we have to be careful with labels, and watch that they aren't misused. But getting rid of labels entirely? Try it in your canned goods cupboard, and see how well that works out for ya.

(I know, the ending is overly glib -- it's almost piano lesson time and my kids are pestering me for smoothies. Also, now I have to figure out what the hell HTML is. Sorry.)

Monday, November 16, 2009

Borne up from the Blahs by a Good Book

I tried to come up with a synonym for good starting with b to preserve the alliteration (I almost typed illiteration and didn't notice, things are really really bad) but all I could come up with was Beautiful or Blessed or Beneficent and that's NOT what I mean.

I've been a little wobbly lately. I almost said 'flat' but that's not really it. I'm quite happy a lot of the time. I'm managing alright when Matt's away, I'm decluttering small areas of the house in fits and starts, I'm walking a lot, I have a little more free time and the kids are great.

Right, actually, everything's fine, never mind.

So what's my problem? Hell if I know. Partly Eve starting grade one which means both kids in school under 2:45 which is a pretty drastic alteration of the routine. Mostly this is great -- more free time. Although when you factor in that I'm still in the school library one day a week, volunteer in the classroom, theoretically should still take time to eat, and have a very short attention span, it doesn't seem to be enough free time to justify the pressure that I feel to have something to show for that free time. If you know what I mean. Yeah, me neither.

Partly I just have trouble with new routines. It's only been... what... about ten weeks. I should be hitting my stride around the time they graduate.

Anyway, part of the slide towards depression/anxiety for me always affects my reading. It's not that I do less of it. Frequently I do more of it, but it becomes more of a compulsion and an escape (the huddled, miserable, guilty kind, rather than the enjoyable, playing-hooky kind). And when I start to feel like reading isn't wonderful, I get really scared.

Lately, what I've been trying when reading feels stale is going to Young Adult Literature, for a change-up, a refreshing pause, a sort of mental palate-cleanser. I was thinking that, based on the books I've read lately, YA has come a long way from when I was a Y.A., but then I remember reading Madeleine L'Engle and Roald Dahl and George Selden, so maybe it hasn't but there's more of it.

Anyway, I highly recommend John Green. One of my friends put a link to his blog on Facebook and it was hilariously twisted and twistedly hilarious. I put a few of his books on my request list for the library, but I deactivated them because I had way too many books to read, I just wanted to have them in the queue so I wouldn't forget about them. Wow, queue looks funny when you type it. Did I type it wrong? So somehow there was a glitch in the system and I got all three of them at once. I decided to try to lever myself out of the literary doldrums with Paper Towns and An Abundance of Katherines.

It's hard to tell, sometimes, if the book you're reading is really as flat-out kick-ass fantastic as it seems or if you're just reading it at the precisely perfect time so that it just appears that way. I marathoned both books in a day and a half, and they were the perfect antidote -- not to the other books, necessarily, just to my mood. They really captured the desperate, tormented hopefulness of adolescence, the friends who know you better than you know yourself, the transports of success and the abject despair of failure -- all with slightly wittier banter than I ever exchanged with my particular high school friends. There are some really insightful musings along the way, too. I guess maybe it was good to get out of the problems of my stage of life and remember that no stage is without its own attendant torments. And that, no matter what, you really need your friends, even if it's just to tell you that you're being a huge jackass.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Food and Wine and Cheating at Pictionary -- What's not to like?

We had our third potluck dinner party with four other couples last night. It was our turn to host, which is fine, because when you host you don't do the main course. This means you don't always get to cook with your own stuff in your own kitchen, but it also means (at least in my case) that you don't have to bust your ass cleaning and hiding piles of crap one floor up or down AND cook a main course at the same time.

I think it was my friend Janet's idea, and it was a really good one. The idea is to cook something fairly sophisticated that you've never cooked before, and we all take turns doing each course. It's a fun cooking experience, and a great night with friends, and since it's November and the last few weeks have been travel-intensive for Matt and single-parenting intensive for me I was really really looking forward to it. Not to mention this is the cleanest and clearest my counters have been in months, if not years. In all the pictures of people in the kitchen I just keep looking adoringly at my counters.

Within the first ten minutes, I learned that this was not the greatest group to use the word "fallacious" with.
This was our table. These are our friends. I took out the faces because I wasn't sure if they'd want to be on my blog, although some of them will have to if they're in pictures with me and I look good. My principles only extend so far.


This is Collette's fabulous duck prosciutto and avocado salad. She drove to Plantaganet to get the duck. While we were eating she said to her husband "oh, by the way, there are duck breasts in the freezer that you are not allowed to touch." He said "you know, if you hadn't told me, it wouldn't have been a problem." We all figure that some night there's going to be a showdown where Mark comes in late, wakes Collette up and gives her a choice between which breasts she'd prefer to remain untouched.

This is me with Collette, she of the fabulous duck salad and the upcoming Sophie's Choice.

This is Margot's absolutely amazing seared scallops on cauliflower puree and parsley pesto (it's almost as much fun to say as to eat). While she was getting this ready the political discussion got a little heated. We ended up having to look up 'socialism' and 'democracy' in the dictionary. Then I made Collette look up 'fallacious', hoping that would stop all the bad blow-job jokes. No such luck. I tried to lower the tension with a rousing game of cheese or font, which is much harder than it seems like it should be.


These are the people that had to arm-wrestle to decide who would have to go home and change. Either that or have a cheese or font-off.


This is Susanne with her boeuf bourguignon a la Julia Child, which was every bit as awesome as Meryl Streep was in Julie and Julia. (Susanne, I can put your face in if you want-- let me know).


After this we played Pictionary before dessert. Also, Michael showed me this article about the guy who wrote the book I reviewed a few days ago. This article kicks my book review's ass, which is okay because I don't think anybody read it (except maybe Susanne, which I wouldn't know, because she never comments, which is fine, it's a personal choice, it's not like I live or die by comments, well it sort of is because I'm a stay at home Mom but my kids are gone most of the day although not long enough that I could get an actual nine to five JOB or anything, so I'm alone a lot and it's always nice to feel like someone's listening, but you know, whatever). It also does a great job of describing an issue that spikes my blood pressure on a regular basis. I mean I haven't read it again while sober yet, but I'm pretty sure it totally rocks.
This is my boobs and my Chocolate Macadamia Cream Satin, which I have to say turned out marvellously despite my overbeating technical difficulties (the cake. Not my breasts).


It was a great night, slightly rancorous political discussions and repeated fellatio allusions and all. I plan to make a donation to the Ottawa Food Bank in reparation and gratitude, for my friends and nights like this.
(Also, Zarah, Alison, Amber, Susanne -- did you see the links? Do the links work? Are you proud of me for learning how to do the links? I'm beyond excited about the links. Who says you can't teach an old, tired, overly anxious, slightly needy, approval-seeking dog new tricks?)

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Satisfactory Combinations

I love my husband. He's a great partner, a fantastic father, and a hard worker. He's good at stuff I'm not good at. When Angus was born, he showed me how to change diapers. He's really bad with names, but he can always figure out who the voice is behind cartoon characters (of course, he can't remember the person's name so then he has to say 'you know, that guy from the movie with the junk yard and the flower pot' until I figure out who he means (because I'm the one who's good with names, but I never know who the voice is).

But I wouldn't say we're soulmates. We're less Heloise and Abelard than Jamie and Paul from Mad About You. We often don't get each other. He tries to explain a problem he has with Angus's hockey or baseball coach and I'm going 'huh? Leave the poor guy alone, he's a volunteer!'. I try to explain why we don't need to get all bent out of shape over one bad mark Angus gets and he's all 'homework is important! He needs to learn he can't just get lazy when things get difficult!' He comes home and I try to describe something totally infuriating or incandescently transportingly wonderful that happened that day and I end up sort of wanting to hit him over the head with a wooden spoon because he doesn't automatically get it.

This is all okay. Soulmates are over-rated, largely fictional, and often doomed in very unpleasant ways. I was never under the impression that marriage wasn't supposed to take work, so I consider this sort of thing a minor irritation and not a sign that we're not really meant to be together.

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creative commons license
Yesterday I was trying to bake something called Chocolate Macadamia Cream Satin for our dinner party tomorrow. We have potluck gourmet-ish dinner parties every couple of months or so with a group of friends, and this time I'm doing dessert. I had to bake a buttermilk chocolate cake and then slice it in half and put cream cheese white chocolate gelatin filling in it and put the top back on and then cover it in whipped cream and macadamia nuts and chocolate shavings. I was careful to read the entire recipe over a few times, because I've been burned before by starting something and realizing I've missed the part where you have to chill it for two hours or use a different bowl or read to it in Japanese or whatever. I still somehow managed to add the final ingredient to the cake batter, set the stand mixer going, then walk back to read in the recipe 'beat only until combined', before swearing and rushing back to turn off the mixer. I thought I might have to do the entire cake part again, but it did eventually set without burning. But the outside set quite a bit before the inside, which meant when I sliced off the top layer and tried to move it to a plate, it sort of fell apart. I put the filling on and stuck the top back on in pieces, figuring I could hide the damage with whipped cream and chocolate shavings, so I wasn't devastated, just irritated.

When Matt walked in and asked how it went, I said "oh fine, except the cake was a little hard to work with because I overbeat it a little..." and he immediately said "oh, I HATE when recipes say that! Don't tell me not to overbeat! I'm an overachiever! I always overbeat!".

And a thousand butterflies took wing. Apparently, in matters of baking, he's totally my soulmate.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Oh Where oh Where has my Consciousness Gone?

Today when I woke up I couldn't remember what colour my kitchen was.

When I was living in apartments, I swore that I would never have a house painted Builder's White. So when we moved in we painted (and by this I mean we made my Dad paint) bold colours. Medium-dark blue in the family room, yellow in the kitchen, terra cotta in the living room and forest green in the vestibule.

I'm still glad I vanquished the Builder's White, but I've been over these colours for quite a while now. The problem is we're too lazy and have too many bookshelves to make painting over most of them anything that's going to happen soon. But a couple of summers ago my husband and my father replaced the crappy speed-bumped carpet and peely kitchen linoleum with some really nice laminate tile. And while the family room was empty my Dad painted over the blue with a lovely cafe au lait colour. I just suddenly couldn't remember if he'd painted over the yellow in the kitchen also.
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creative commons license
I came downstairs to check. He hadn't. I wish he had, but that's really not germane. I couldn't remember WHAT COLOUR MY KITCHEN WAS.

Then Angus's friend Noah's Mom called. Noah's sleeping over here tonight because it's a P.D. Day tomorrow, which means we can have sleepovers without worrying about the hockey schedule. She asked if I wanted her to bring Noah over after dinner or before dinner or what. I said "oh, I told Angus yesterday I'd pick the two of them and Eve up after school". Short silence. "I guess I should have probably let you know that too."

She's still letting Noah come over. Luckily I have a few hours to schedule a brain scan before I have to go pick them up.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

My Gay Marriage Post

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I'm ripping this off from C.J. at Don't Lick the Ferrets because this is my month to blog on Big Issues in the interest of honesty and full disclosure and having something to blog about every single goddamned day.

Here are my thoughts in a nutshell: Gay Folks? Feel free to marry. Marry away. Marry your asses off.

You know when people say "Give me one good reason?" I haven't heard that one good reason why homosexuals shouldn't be allowed to marry. What I have heard is a lot of reasons that amount to (not to put too fine a point on it) hooey.

They can't have kids? Well yes, they can. Lots of heterosexuals can't have kids simply by having sex with each other either. Some of them don't want to. Some of them are too old to. They're allowed to get married.

It takes away from the sanctity of heterosexual marriage? Well, I don't agree that it does, but even if it did, aren't the straight folks doing a pretty good job of sanctity-detracting themselves? What with the rampant divorce rate, Vegas chapels and such? Maybe we should slap a few restrictions on how and why straight people are allowed to marry if we want to make out that marriage is such a holy and pristine institution.

My mother, whom I dearly love, and who has to be pardoned for some things due to being raised by rabidly Catholic Polish parents, has one of those rock-solid arguments against gay marriage:

Mom: "I don't care if they get married, I just don't want it to be called the same thing as my marriage."

Me: "Well, then it's not true to say you don't care if they get married, is it? You don't care if they get civilly united, or legally joined, or painted or tractored or whatever, but you don't want them to get 'married'? Have I got that right?

Mom: "I've never liked your hair that way."

So what it boils down to for me is that the only real argument against gay marriage, for those who argue against it, is that they don't think people should be gay, they don't like gay people, and this is a way they can deprive gay people of a basic human right under the guise of righteousness and legality.

What a bunch of weenies.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

November 11

My husband's grandfather fought in World War II. He lied about his age to sign up, he was one of very few of his platoon to survive, and when he got back, his father walked past him on the street without recognizing him.
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The first time my husband took me to his grandparents' home town to meet them, Grandpa started telling war stories. Some of them were funny. Some of them were horrifying. He showed us a shaving brush with a handle deformed by a piece of shrapnel -- this happened while he was actually shaving with it. I thought this was just what they did when Matt visited, but after we went to bed Matt said this was the first time he'd heard any of these stories.

Since I was introduced to him as Allison McCaskill, Grandpa figured it was safe to tell me stories about the wacky Polish regiments he ran in to. I finally decided I should probably let him know my mother's maiden name. He toned the stories down, but not by much.

A few times we've gone to Smiths Falls to take Nana and Grandpa to the Remembrance Day dinner at the Legion. Apart from one tricky incident involving too many double scotches and some heckling of the peacekeepers, I love being able to do this. This year we can't go because Matt has visitors at work that are keeping him there late and I don't have anyone to watch the kids, and it's too late to take them especially when they're both just recovering from being sick. I feel bad that we can't go. He deserves his night to dress in his uniform and be honoured and drink too much scotch. They all do.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Indian Summer

Eve thinks this is her gangsta look.
(Naturally. All Gangstas wear tights with hearts on 'em).








Monday, November 9, 2009

It's Irish Dance Night and this is the best I could come up with

I once met a man at a dinner party whose job had something to do with the manufacture of laundry detergent. He told me that you shouldn't use the same brand of detergent all the time, or the fibres of your clothes and linens would 'get used to it' and they would sort of tighten up and become impervious to the soap so it wouldn't clean as well.
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I have no idea if this is true, but I often vary what detergent I buy anyway, based on what's on sale and if I feel like smelling lemons or mountain breezes or nothing that month (my current favourite is Sunlight Morning Fresh -- sincere apologies for the shameless product placement). So I tend to go back and forth. I don't know if it works, but I do think this sort of recommendation applies to other things. I have a lot of very fine hair, and even if I find a great shampoo, one that makes my hair bouncy and light and full instead of flat and stuck to my head, if I use it for too many days in a row the effect wears off. I've always imagine that it's sort of like the effect the laundry soap man described -- or that my hair just gets bored and wants something new. So I go back and forth between a few shampoos also.

The same thing happens with deodorant. I prefer to use the mineral salt deodorant crystal stick -- colourless, chemical-free, works even though I didn't believe the friend who told me about it and have been disbelieved in turn by everyone I've raved about it to. But after a few months it just stops working, even if I use it the exact same way. So I go to the mind-boggling shelves full of deodorant brand and try to find a scent that doesn't smell too fake. I like most of the Dove ones (okay, I actually love the cucumber and green tea one, it makes my armpits smell delicious -- sincere apologies for the overshare). I use it for a few weeks, then go back to the crystal.

In a way, I find this annoying. Can't I just find something that works well and stick with it and unthinkingly reach for the same brand when it runs out? I don't generally suffer change gladly.

In another way, I think it's good that the things that surround me daily have this way to let me know that routine can be stultifying, and small changes, sometimes leading to bigger changes, can be beneficial, and needful, and refreshing, and make your hair bouncier and shinier in the bargain.

Sincere apologies for the tortured metaphor. It's NaBloPoMo and I was feeling a little desperate. Thank-you and good night.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Wining instead of Whining

I went to the Ottawa Wine and Food show last night because my friend Pam's husband was too sick. In case you're wondering, I'm totally fine with being second choice. It was the day after my husband got back from Japan. It always seems like that day should be great, but it always kind of sucks. While he's away, I'm coasting on adrenaline, I'm efficient and in charge, I'm managing homework and meals and bedtimes and feeling virtuous and competent. When he gets back, all the adrenaline goes to Cleveland and I start the day reading in my chair because it seems like I deserve a rest, but then I start feeling guilty for not doing anything, then I try to do something and do it badly and get crankier, and it all goes horribly wrong. God help the poor man if he tries for welcome-home sex.

So it was good to get out of the house with a good friend, and if there was wine and food involved, so much the better.

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My palate is not sophisticated. Even when they hand the glass to me and tell me specifically that it's supposed to taste like oak, cigars, sea grass or oysters, the best I can do is generally "mm. Good". (in the case of oysters, I was actually quite grateful for this). I also immediately forgot the names of all the really good ones.

I didn't realize, although I probably should have, that a great number of people go to the Wine and Food Show in order to show themselves as well as sample wine and food. At one point, after squeezing past a group of young men in suits, I tapped Pam on the shoulder and said "do you ever watch How I Met Your Mother?" and she said "I was just thinking the same thing!". I guess it's nice that they suited up. I did get hit on by a very drunk, very very tall guy who yelled down at me that I was gorgeous. Based on the other women there I have to conclude that a) he was mocking me or b) at this point in my life I only look good through a drunken haze or from a great vertical distance. I mean, those skinny little things probably just disappear into the floor for someone whose eyes are that far up. That's what I'm telling myself, anyway.

It was fun, and unexpected, and showed me that I should probably get out of the house on the day after Matt gets back from somewhere.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

To-ing and Fro-ing

So my husband was in Japan on a last-minute unscheduled panic trip all week, the kids were sick for most of it, I was still coughing from whatever I had, and not much got done.
That was bad.
But my Mom or Dad came over most days so I could go for a walk so I didn't end up drowning myself or the kids in the bath tub and most days it didn't rain and the leaves were crunchy.
That was good.
Eve asked if we could go to the park on Thursday just as it was pouring rain and getting dark and I was making supper, so I said no and she burst into tears and said she never gets to swing any more and swinging is her favourite thing and lots of people have swing sets and we don't and it wasn't fair!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
That was bad.
Matt got home from the airport on Friday just in time to get her from the schoolbus and they went to the park down the street and she swung for half an hour before coming home.
That was good.
I had to miss the blogger's breakfast today because Matt had to take Angus to hockey and Eve is losing her voice again and she was tired and weepy and wanted to stay in her pajamas all day and most emphatically did NOT want to go downtown to meet a bunch of people neither of us have ever met.
That was bad.
While I was loafing somewhat disgruntled-ly, she made paper dolls of our family and brought them to me and said "I made paper people of us. Sorry your face is kind of weird" and we laughed.
That was good.
Then my friend Pam called. Her kids have been sick all week too, but they're mostly better, but her husband has now been walloped by what is probably the flu that shall remain nameless.
That was bad.
But she has two tickets to the wine and food show tonight and she asked me to go with her, since her husband can't.
That was good.
So I still get to go out and hang with fun people today. And there probably wasn't going to be wine at the blogger's breakfast. So even though I really wanted to meet Alison and anyone named Zoom is someone I definitely want to know, I'm looking on the side of (wine)glass at least half full.
Cheers.