Sunday, December 19, 2010

The Late Night Crowd

When I lived in Los Angeles, one of my favorite things to do was to get into the Honda and drive late at night to our neighborhood Von's grocery store on Santa Monica Blvd. One could always find some sort of oddity by which to be entertained.

Once I witnessed two teenaged Asian boys transform themselves into girls while waiting in the checkout line.

Once I saw a large man with a shopping cart full of Double Stuff Oreos. "They're highly addictive," he said.

Once I watched a young Russian fellow try to pass himself off as the middle-aged Latino woman on the driver's license he was trying to use to procure alcohol with. "Iss me," he insisted. "I yam Lopez."

Once I saw twin women fighting over the last tube of a particular shade of lipstick. They were slapping each other, one was in tears, and the other was hissing "You know this shade doesn't look good on you."

Once I stood in line behind an elderly woman who had nothing but 8 jars of Helman's Light mayonnaise in her cart.

Once I watched a security guard tell a woman that she couldn't come into the store dressed like that. She was in a bra and panties that had "Wednesday" stitched across them; she insisted it was her bathing suit and that she'd just been swimming at the YMCA around the corner.

Once I saw a man weeping in the diapers section. His head was resting gently on a package of Huggies.

Once I encountered a person--man or woman, I'm not sure--inside a tuba, trying to buy chocolate covered sunflower seeds from one of those press-here bins. S/he couldn't get close enough to the mechanism on account of, you know, being inside a tuba, and asked if I could help. And then chewed me out because I gave him/her more than s/he wanted.

Tonight, at midnight, I'm staring out my living room windows at the deserted pathway that leads to the swings park. The neighbors have a blue-lit Christmas tree in their front yard, and it looks really nice against the snow that has been falling steadily for the last 10 hours. A rabbit just bounced past.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Lego My Christmas

This year, I finished my Christmas shopping by around the middle of November. Fin-ished. I did it all online. Little parcels have been arriving, like packages from Dale in TLOTR, for weeks now. I've been walking around with a swollen head, full of pious self-congratulation.

And then the people at Lego did something to illuminate why they are rolling-in-it Danes driving shiny red sportscars to their villas on woodsy islands in the Baltic and I am in a very messy home office in a suburban bungalow: they sent a holiday catalogue full of brand new kits.

So now Christmas morning will be a time of great mourning if Someone Short should awake to find that there is no Pharaoh Visits the Turkish Baths or whatever it is. No Ninjago. No freaking freaking HOGWARTS.

Darn you, you Danes, you. I am very cross with you. I think you owe me and many other semi-organized people an apology. And maybe a gift certificate to the Lego store. That would go a long way.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

I was always a Jingle Bell

I was raised Catholic. Here in the lovely city of Calgary, that means you can be educated in the Separate School System (aka: Cat Lick School). The Proddy Dogs were usually at the other end of a shared playing field, whereupon we would re-enact with snowballs, basketballs, the hurling of outrageous invective, the Battle of White Mountain, the St Bartholomew's Day Massacre, and the Massacre of Merindol nearly every recess. Essentially, the Reformation and Counter-Reformation. We Catholics nearly always won. We were the noodle-fed sons and daughters of Russians, Ukrainians, Italians, Poles. They? HA! We laughed at their weeny Kentish shanks.

Come Christmas, though, there was one thing that united all of kid-dom, no matter at what end of the field you happened to be.

Every year, we would be forced to dress up in our mom's terrycloth bathrobes if we were shepherds, our too-short or too-long nightgowns or communion dresses if we were angels, our grandmother's finest chenille throws if we were Magi.

Or--much worse: We were Jingle Bells.

(Best not go down that road. That way lies madness.)


Last night we attended Kid's Holiday Concert. The children sang beautifully. They expertly played the xylophone and the glockenspiel. They confidently chanted odd modern lyrics to The Blue Danube ("Strauss, he was the best/He was better than the rest") and The Entertainer ("If it's ragtime, it's got to be slow"). Four of them (bless their hearts) gallumphed with dignity across the stage in a sort of Clydesdale-inspired homage to waltzing. They proved to us all that they were special treasures, talented beyond all expectation and compare.

It drove me freaking nuts.

No humiliation. No ill-disguised parental glee at the discomfiture of shepherds in pink floral bathrobes. No flubbing of lines. No pants-wetting Magi. No weeping Joseph. No general laughter when everyone realizes that the girl playing The Blessed Virgin is perhaps the least suitable 12-year-old to ever have been considered for the role. No audible gasp as Ulli Pentarizzo thunders out in green tights as the (mustachioed) First Christmas Tree. No looks of commiseration for the moms of the Jingle Bells.

Think about it: the 30-minute sweat-soaked melee that represents getting them to school every morning; replacing every single freaking mitten at least 12 times; the leftover meatloaf sandwich that lurks at the bottom of the backpack for 7 days before crawling out and begging for water; feet that grow a size every three weeks; their chuckle-headed inability to wipe their own noses in this forsaken land of the 7-month winter; the endless fart songs; the knock-knock jokes that end "and then the car went into the pool. Get it? GET IT?", being volunteered to bring two dozen cupcakes that represent the provincial and territorial flags, finding 100 pieces of pasta to put in a clean jar so they can all see what 100 of different things looks like--with a five minute warning.

Is it too much to ask that the school give us ONE LOUSY NIGHT when we get to turn the tables on our offspring? A little pointing and laughing would go a long long way, is all I'm saying.

HEY SCHOOL: You want me to chaperone a field trip to the frozen tundra?

That will be one Jingle Bell Holiday revue, please.  

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Typical Morning

Things spoken/overheard at the voodoo bungalow this morning:

There is so much dog hair on my socks that I can't eat my breakfast.

If these were called MOON Sized Shredded Wheat, wouldn't that be so cool?

Yeah, no. I'm not sure. Oh! OF COURSE!

Why are the coffee filters in the hall closet? WHY? WHY? WHY?

Oh, Elvis, gross.

Just how late are we THIS morning?

Look, if you actually were Han Solo we still wouldn't make it to school on time.

Bats in the cave! Bats in the cave!

We typically brush our teeth with toothpaste, not corn syrup. You can tell the difference because one is white and tastes like peppermint and comes in a squeezable tube that you'll find beside the bathroom sink.

Do I have time to do my math homework?

When someone hits a girl in the nuts, what do you call it?

There is so much dog hair on my socks that I can't get my boots on.

It would be so cool if your head really did explode. No offense.

Yeah, there's no bread.

Is this hyperspeed?

When it says "No Parking/No Stopping" why doesn't that mean us again?

Can I have chocolate fondu for lunch with marshmallows and can Jake and Madeline and Paige and Andrew and Alex and Jasper and Ian and Sam come over too?

And the most awful one of all:

See you at noon!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thanksgiving Foot

In memory of American Thanksgiving, 1998. Culver City, CA:

Family gathering at home of dearest possible friends.
It's possible I might have had a drink or two.
A man enters the house and is introduced as Thurlow.
I place my hand on the knee of the older woman sitting next to me, the mother in law of my hostess.
"Oh my GOD, who looks down at a newborn boy and says 'Thurlow.' Your name will be 'THURLOW'??

She looks at me and says--of course, because this is my life we're talking about here:

"I DID."

Thank you very much, I'll be here for the rest of this excruciating evening.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

For when you're bored

Sometime, go ahead and ask me for the story about how I wound up face-first in pee-soaked sheets at the bottom of the stairs at 2 am.

Actually, please don't. Just keep the Manhattans coming. 

Monday, November 8, 2010

Gift Ideas

I'm not a rich woman. Well, yes I am, "in all the ways that really matter," etc., etc., --BUT I don't have so much money that I can spend it on gifts for people I've never met but still really like. Kid keeps asking for "food," which is totally annoying.

But here are things I would buy the people in my life, whom I have never met, if I could:

There are many things ironic about this button. One: its price--isn't it ironic that. . . . . nope, not going to do that. That leads to Alannis and April Wine and nothing else good. Leave it at this: I would buy it in platinum and diamonds for you if I could, if only for Whiteboard Wednesdays, which have let me know that I am not alone.

For Jenny, The Bloggess:
I would like to see where these would end up: inside an alligator vagina? I'm not Neil Gaiman but one day I hope to meet you, put on some wigs, take some Xanax, and talk about taxidermy.

To Unknown Mami, I would like to present this:

Unknown maybe, Mami, but not in a brown paper bag. You. Are Fabulous.

SubWow, thanks for visiting, thanks for the comments, thanks for the laffs. You really do have a heart of gold:

Also black, crimson and looks like some pewter. All those things.

Emi, I want you to have sunshine and fruity cocktails at some point this long Swedish winter, so if I could, I would send you here for two weeks--with a nanny:

It's in Belize.

It's a big world out there; some of you are in my neighborhood, or at least on my continent, and some of you aren't. But almost every day you make me feel like we're sharing a coffee over the fence. Thanks for the gifts.

Worn Ragged

Sunday, November 7, 2010


So I was snuggling my darling son, recounting the many triumphs and adventures of the day (Lego! Hide and seek! Swimming!); his head was on my breast, I was ruffling his golden hair and inhaling that funky/heady/goaty little boy smell; I was remembering countless moments just like this one; I was a little blissed out. Maybe a lot blissed out. Fine. I was really blissed out.

And then Luke yelled from the kitchen.


There are burn marks on my neck and hip, Kid got up so fast. Not even a "Bye Mom."

I suppose this should prepare me for the ultimate betrayal, when he gets a girlfriend. Or the smaller betrayals of a sports team, a rock band (please please please don't let him like reggae, please God, Mon, not the reggae), some dumb TV show, the older boy up the street who has an Xbox. It's natural--it means my boy is growing up. All is as it should be.

Maybe that's the lesson I should have drawn from this delightful experience.

But mostly I am fixated on this basic equation:

Sausage 1 / Mom 0

I can imagine myself purchasing sausages again for my two carnivores sometime around 2017.

And, in summary: little brunette girl up the hill with the sausage curls and the sparkling blue eyes and the excellent collection of leggings: BACK OFF.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

You still here?

Turns out that writing poor excuses for three paragraphs of science fiction takes rather a lot of time.


1. Girl at Shopper's took me aside gently and suggested I take advantage of sale prices on a 14-day treatment for "mature, fatigued" skin. I explained that my go-to remedy for that has always been gin, but she persisted. I'll keep you posted.
2. Fingernails are chipping. Yep, it's been so exciting around here that that makes number two on the list.
3. Christmas shopping nearly done. Thank you, Etsy. And thank you in particular, lizix26.
4. Have perfected killing regime for fruit flies involving balsamic vinegar. If you piss me off I have a salad of doom to give you for dinner. Consider yourself warned.
5. Brought home someone else's shopping bag from Winners, and that person took one of mine. In return for a pair of size 13 boy's winter boots and a three-pack of Fruit of the Loom boxers, I got an olive oil spray can, a headscarf and two candle holders in the fashion of fat flying babies. It's like Secret Santa although perhaps not as practical in the long run. Kid isn't excited about wrapping feet in acrylic scarf decorated with bears on skates. Honestly, it's like I don't even know him any more.
6. Learned much about the relative popularity of marbled cheese, aged cheddar, those little wrapped up squishy cubes with a cow on them, and Baby Bel, thanks to attending the Grade 2 Halloween party yesterday. Also learned that skunk monkeys like smelly bananas and that Marvin T's banana is always smelly. Also also learned that Marvin's mom is quick with the slappiness. I think I like her very much.
7. Mounties are cool, but Zombie Mounties are cooler. Kid doesn't care. See #5, above. Whose kid IS this?
8. Father's return to the pink of health seems complete, although mom still won't let him take me and sister 2 on whirl-wind (all-expenses-paid, I trust) jaunt to NYC. Mother is a pill. Perhaps it skips a generation and that explains Kid.
9. You pretty much can't win any debate when you're defending the premise that Idaho is as good as Italy. Even if the B-52s have written a song about Idaho and not about, say, Rome. That still doesn't work. Even if you sing that B-52s song to your extended family after a good dinner and over a couple of glasses of wine. It still doesn't work.
10. The Clone Wars, Season 2 is apparently so good that one could, actually, lose a all sense of time as well as bladder control, if one were a genetically pre-disposed killjoy child.

Bye now.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Perfect Mommy

Kid just snuggled into his duvet and whispered: "You're the perfect mom for me. I'm not saying that there aren't better moms out there somewhere, probably moms that aren't lazy and can make cookies, but for me, you're just right."

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Sci Fi all over again

I'm in the midst of an online writing class on speculative fiction through UCLA extension. I love those classes--they draw people from all walks of life, at all stages of dreaming and working and getting things done. I'm at the slow end of the "getting things done" part--honestly, some days it's all I can do to make sure my teeth are brushed and I've eaten something before 5.30. I'm having a hard time coming up with a story idea. Which I think I can explain thusly.

My life is a little like a science fiction novel: when I think of what I was doing not a decade ago, compared to now?

Whoa (as Keanu would say).

  • There is eerie goo on my floor and sometimes on my clothes.
  • A creature leapt from my belly and then began to feed on me.
  • I often cannot remember my name or my birthday. Forget about the serial number. 
  • The appliances in my kitchen are conspiring against me.  Those fires do in fact start themselves.
  • There is a smaller person in my house who looks like me and says many of the things I say and yet when I speak seems not to be able to hear or see me. 
  • Most of my interactions are with ghostly presences that I conjure on a screen.
  • I was recently informed that my cauliflower soup, while not poison according to the scientifically postulated laws of nature, was disgusting enough to be categorized as "wildly imaginative in a bad way." 
  • I have eyes in the back of my head.
Seems clear enough to me that the reason I'm having trouble writing science fiction is that none of it is fiction any more. Perhaps if I approach it as a class in realism I'll have an easier time of it. 

Thursday, October 7, 2010

The garbage men of the apocalypse

I love Thursdays in the leafy suburbs. Early (like, 9am) (I love working from home), the recyclers and the garbage guys come down the hill in their trucks. I love the apocalyptic whirring and crunching that heralds their arrival. I love the feeling of relief as my detritus--outdated prescriptions, doodles, fevered tallying of taxes, magazines that did not bring me the lasting happiness and immediate shedding of 5 pounds that I'd been promised, coupons for crappy fast food, the latest Child Safe fear mongering classes, failed art experiments (the day the decoupage died was particularly wonderful)--sails off down the street to its new life as a community newsletter or confetti for the wedding of people long separated by circumstance or, perhaps, the scratch pad belonging to the world's most brilliant writer. The guys riding the back of the trucks must wonder about me, standing in my blue starry pajamas, smiling beatifically upon them from the living room as they swoop like seraphim for the trash bags. Desperate housewife? Cougar on the poorly coifed prowl? Recent escapee from the sanatarium? Staunch believer in second chances.

Monday, September 27, 2010

The birds and the beansprout

I know it, my momma knows it, the surgeon knows it, and now you're gonna know it too: I AM A PRUDE.

In our house, we don't have what you all have. We have little generals, gladys knight and the pips, yoo-hoos, and BTMs. I cannot even say "belly" without blushing. I blame the Pope. Also those little mauve handbooks they gave us, secretly, in grade 5. Handbooks that, having fallen into the hands of one PK, who I'm sure grew up to be a very nice man and a pillar of his community, were a source of shame and consternation for easily 7 months. Every morning he greeted me with "Isn't it wonderful being a girl? Are you MEN-STROO-ATING today?" And then punched me in the head or twisted the skin on one of my forearms so tightly that I got blisters. I think he liked me. Or he hated me. With boys it's hard to tell.

So tonight Lief wants to know about babies. He's 7, it's time. Right? I had always envisioned having a good friend who is a mid-wife come and give him the talk. I've put it off now for ever, with talk of baby catalogues, molehills, sub-porch dumpings of infants, the bee balm thing, etc. Tonight, though, I took a deep breath, and, inspired by dinner, also a cooked shrimp and a bean sprout. And put on sort of a puppet show, with the bean sprout swimming through the air toward the unsuspecting pink crustacean.

Writing "pink crustacean" has made me kind of uncomfortable. You see how bad it is?

I can imagine Kid in 20 years, lying on his shrink's couch and speaking of bad dreams involving Thai food. Going now to put another $20 in the online therapy fund. He's going to need it.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

What colour is your menopause?

Mine? Orange.

Yep, got home from Banff, painted the office orange.

(Note crazed, saggy-eyed expression. If you see any of your friends looking like this, ladies, keep them AWAY from the PAINT STORE.)

(Also don't let them buy a pony. They won't take care of it.)

(OMG: Are those AGE SPOTS on my hand? I have age spots on my hand.)

(What colour helps you cope with age spots? Besides the colour gin?)

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Strokes aren't funny

Working from home, lounging in jammies at 10.45am. Pizza and coffee for breakfast. I would be the first (OK: maybe the second or third--my family is all judgey these days) to admit that I wasn't looking like anyone you would want to rub up against or call "mommy." So, while husband is walking dog and child is at school, I resolve to shower, dry my hair, maybe put on a little make-up. It would be like our voodoo bungalow version of that show where deserving families open their eyes and OHMYGOD the shotgun shack has been torn down and in its place is a Tudor-style coach house complete with trampoline and trout stream.

So I get through the shower without so much as a glance at the knee dimples and am drying my long silver locks. I read in a magazine at the dog groomer's that a good way to give your roots a little lift--JUST LIKE KATE BOSWORTH IN THIS STOCK PHOTO!--is to dry your hair upside down. I can do that--today is a day of MIRACLES, my friend! Whole-hearted renovation of the self!

So I flip my hair down and. . . .

Whack my head on the bathroom counter so hard that, apparently, one of my contacts pops out. When I stand back up and look in the mirror to see if I can discern any part of my skull shining through, I believe myself to be having a stroke because I cannot focus properly. (And this is not the first time that's happened to me, either, which just reinforces the idea that this time it's a real stroke because, honestly, to whom would this happen TWICE??) I back into the wall, knocking down the ugly metal wall hanging sculpture thing that I hate almost as much as husband does, something I won't admit to because that would mean handing back a hard-won decorating victory. As it falls, it takes out a sizable track of skin all down my back. There is blood. Quite a lot of blood.

So the upshot is that beauty totally isn't worth it and, if you think you're having a stroke, don't stop to wonder if maybe just one of your contacts popped out because that would be the wrong lesson to derive from this tale. GET HELP. Right away.

For me, there is no help. There is, however, gin--it must be the arsenic hour somewhere.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Science Fiction Kitchen

In two weeks I start a new writing class through UCLA Extension. This one's on writing short speculative fiction. I'm doing this as a double-dog dare to myself, and it's bound up with all kinds of panic, anxiety and self-doubt.

Kind of like cooking.

You wanna talk about alien worlds, alternative timelines, horror and urban fantasy--well, then, that's pretty much talking about what's cooking in my kitchen.

If you stand quietly before the scorching peas and pause for thought while reaching for the flame retardant, one could not fault you for wondering whether Something Strange were going on: has this not just happened? Again?

Kneeling to lift the raw bird from the oven at 6pm on Christmas Day, it would not be unjustified to speculate that, whatever world I was in when I turned the oven to 350 and then went skating with the 12 members of my dinner party for four hours, it was perhaps not THIS world.

Perhaps the door between this world and that, or those, is the same door that leads to the pantry, wherein, mysteriously, live 7 bags of organic quinoa but not a single grain of sugar. Wherein may be found a child's size 3 shoe and two box of Baby NumNums--although the only child in this house is a 7yo boy--but no cereal of any description. Whose shoe is that? It looks familiar, but.....No. Impossible. For 5 years? In the pantry for 5 EARTH YEARS?

Many dozens of identical squares of baking chocolate--unsweetened, semi-sweet, sweet, bitter--none of which are in boxes, leaving the sugar content of all desserts a matter of scientific fascination.

Cinnamon eerily transformed into curry leads to an odd prickling feeling at the back of the neck over "breakfast."

And through all of this I stumble like a dim-witted Star Trek extra who doesn't know what it means (DEATH DEATH DEATH) that her tunic does not match the others'.

I would call the genre "suburban fantasy," but that gives entirely the wrong impression. No ripped milkmen here. (Although vomiting can really give those abs a workout.) (Trust me.)

This is about horror, people, and the uncanny, the undead (that chicken divan just would not stay down), revenants that walk among us reeking of tuna casserole. Burnt tuna casserole.

I best I could pass this course just by submitting menus and including tasting notes.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Close Encounters of the Parent-Teacher Kind

Off to meet the new teacher in half an hour. Going through my list of reminders to self:

--Don't mention that thing about the badger
--Don't try to make all adjectives five syllables
--Jokes about headlice aren't funny to a Grade 2 teacher
--Don't talk about underpants
--Don't call Kid a "little weirdo" or a "varmint"
--Probably shouldn't refer to him as "Smoochy" either
--Or "stupid pants"
--Avoid referring to you-know-what
--Steer clear of talk about medieval catapults
--Practice these words: normal, calm, well-adjusted, delightful
--Don't eat mints to cover the smell of gin
--Best not to chew gum either
--Not that I've been drinking
--Why am I always talking about gin? I hardly ever drink gin
--Remember: not everyone thinks the word "gin" is as funny as you do
--Best not to talk about drinking at all
--Also medications are out
--Say something nice about her lipstick but in a non-creepy way (like, not "I bet that shade looks great on vinyl")
--Never mention to anyone you know that you keep a blog
--Maybe stop blogging altogether
--Wear shoes this time

Monday, September 13, 2010


I'm on the phone with my aged inlaws. I love my inlaws. She's your typical no-nonsense Yankee with a Middlebury degree in American lit. He's an eccentric Czech French professor emeritus. Despite wildly different upbringings, they have many things in common.

DEAFNESS, in particular.

One entire page of FIL's Czech-language skiing article has gone missing overnight. Mysteriously. Poof, it has disappeared from the document, which is now only 3 paragraphs long. I am trying to help them through the "Find" process.

They are each on a phone. As we open, she's in the upstairs study, he's in the kitchen downstairs. The computer is upstairs. The computer is ca. 1886.

To try to locate the missing file, I ask FIL for a word that would appear in the article and not too many other places. He comes up with the word "vemenek"(which seems to mean "udders," and what in the world that has to do with Alpine skiing is currently and I hope always will be mysterious to me) (it's also possible that I have misheard the Czech word) (which is not unheard of, as you will see).

So what MIL hears is vemek.
Then vememek.
Then vefememek.
Then--and at this point the two of them are shouting at each other on the phone while standing about 18 inches apart--benemek.

They are both breathing hard and a sharp tone has possibly a little bit crept into their loving back-and-forth.

Try Kanada, FIL suggests, when the vemenek/bemenek/shmemenek routine has proven fruitless.

I try to interject something about how the computer isn't simply refusing to tell them about a word that is in fact in its hard drive somewhere, and that it's not a matter of taste. (No one's listening.)

Kanada, with a K, he says.

I know how to spell Kanada, she says.

With a K.

Yes, in Czech it's with a K. I KNOW.

Maybe I would have written KanadU. Czech is an inflected language.


Or JD Southam. Try that. You left out the JD.

I think Southam will be enough.

Oh, certainly, I interject. (No one's listening.)

Southam's not in there either. You must have deleted your work somehow.

Why would I have done that? This machine has deleted my work before. I am going to go back to writing on a piece of paper with a pen, which has served me well for nearly 90 years. I remember when I wrote my novel in 1933....

I'm not saying you did it on purpose, just that by mistake you might have.....

Try Belgika. Or Belgiku, or (I'm just riffing here) Belgi-roni. Czech is an inflected language, and this would have been the dative of absolute derision.

At some point, MIL's phone is turned off, but I can hear her asking me questions because FIL's phone is still on and he's standing beside her. I try to get him to tell her that her phone isn't on but he mistakes this for a request to turn his phone off.

And abruptly there is silence. As though 11 tons of snow fell on the small town of my life and there would be no snow plough for at least a week.

And at this point, I burst--unexpectedly--into tears. Isn't this just the way it will happen, and every day it's coming closer to happening: raucous familiar life in all its loud and confusing--even annoying--small details, and then: nothing.

I tried to call them back but they were trying to call me back and for 10 minutes there was only busy signals and answering machines.

When I finally got through, we were quiet and calm, maybe a little embarrassed. At least I was: I wondered if my desperation was obvious.

Don't hang up. Don't go.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Sundays in my city

Technically, it's Monday, Unknown Mami. But it's a holiday Monday, which is sort of like a Sunday, and I just now found out about your Sunday city project, so here goes. Here's Calgary on "Sunday" evening.

This is the view out my back door at dusk. This is a city filled with gleaming glass skyscrapers as well as skyscrapers of a more organic nature, such as these lovely spruce trees. They're about 40 years old at this point. They're home to squirrels grey and black and red, crows, jays, occasionally an ill-tempered osprey. Also, as of last Halloween, a long strip of slowly decomposing toilet paper (which I have cleverly hidden from view in this shot).

Unknown Mami

Friday, September 3, 2010

Things neither you nor I knew about me

Upon visit to lovely physician, I have been informed that I have more than my fair share of large intestine. Like, MUCH more than my share.

If anyone knows what to do with that information, I would like to hear about it.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Try to Remember

We had a stentorious stereo when I was a child--wickery front, gleaming mahogany casing that showed small sticky fingerprints, a shelf for storing your martini supplies. A real piece of furniture, stalwart, massive, serious. That's where I heard all the music that turned me into such a lover of music, although some of the things I loved then I'm utterly embarrassed to admit now. (Maybe after another glass of this impertinent Grauburgunder). One could imagine listening to Winston Churchill on it.

When I was first read Cinderella, I imagined Patti Page as my fairy godmother--her butterscotch voice instantly soothed bee stings, sunburn, Donny Bowhay's wandering six-year-old eye. Moms spoke like that on television but rarely on Glenview Crescent, where "I'll skin you alive" and "who do you think you are?"were the most common things I remember hearing, and not just in my house, either. I recall sitting quietly behind the green brocade curtains in the living room, listening to "Try to Remember" at about age 7 and already feeling nostalgic for something I wouldn't experience for another 20 years. (I just found out that Tom Jones wrote the lyrics. That's mad.) You can email Miss Patti at, if you'd care to. I believe I will. It will be like emailing the Pope, but the Pope in a champagne gown.

I'd be a regular church goer again if we got to wear stuff like that. You Cardinals in the audience, listen up. I don't need to be ordained (although that would be nice), I just want to dress up in something at least as fancy as the stuff you all get to wear. When I'm Pope, I'm turning all of you into Bluebirds. You are on notice.

Anyhow, back to matters at hand. I was just trying out Ping, the new iTunes feature, and it wanted to know what my favorite 10 songs were. I entered 10, but, truth be told, they're not the ten that, in moments of pain or fear or panic--when I require the comfort of music--leap into my mind. Those would include "Song Sung Blue," "I Wanna Sing You a Love Song," "Mockingbird Hill," "Hang down your head, Tom Dooley," "Lemon Tree," "Yellow Bird," and "Let it Be."  And just for the sake of adding two more, I'll go with this song we sang in church, the name of which I don't know, but was about there being a long long road to freedom; and "Silent Night."

I think about things like this when Lief is in the station wagon with me, listening to such things as Franz Ferdinand's "Do You Want To." Will he, at the unimaginable age of 47, feel sorrow or regret or nostalgia and immediately hear "your famous friend, well I blew him before you, yeah" running through his mind?

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

See ya, summer

So many good things about today!
  • The angry fish are gone (turns out they weren't angry, they were just beautiful and very, very vain)
  • I was actually productive today (I wrote AND shopped)
  • I may or may not have purchased a ravishing purple dress 
  • Okay, I did actually purchase a ravishing purple dress
  • Cooling weather means I don't have to worry about wearing shorts any more
  • Ditto bike ride for undue lengths of time
  • Ditto climbing up big mountains
  • A babysitter (free!) was here all day long 
  • My car once again works, after having been drained of its vital juices by a Nintendo DSi left charging in it all night some two weeks ago by someone who shall remain Luke
  • Dog smells not too bad 
  • Nice manicure (Opi Glitzerland)
  • Banking scare turned out to be a clerical error 
The best thing of all, though:

(doing a little dance)

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Meet Elvis

This is Elvis:

He's a mixed hound, mostly coonhound, although with a little bloodhound or foxhound thrown in for good measure. He has many virtues.

He dances.

He accessorizes rather well.

He performs high-diving feats of derring-do.

He has a dignified bearing.

He was once a Hurricane Katrina refugee from New Orleans. He was found under a truck near the intersection of Paris Road and Maria Drive. This is what it looks like from space:

He had a broken back leg, a broken jaw, heartworm, scars from where he'd been attacked by other dogs, and was starving to death. I won't show you the picture of him at the St Bernard Animal Shelter when those good people first took him in because it would make you cry. (If you have spare cash lying around, they would be glad of it--apparently the BP oil spill has forced lots of people to surrender pets they can no longer afford.)

Needless to say, we're not stingy with the gravy around here as far as he's concerned.

A nice American woman who lives around here rescued Elvie and three other large dogs, flying them to the Banff area and finding homes for them all. That first winter, Elvis was one perturbed coonhound--not just the ice and snow, but also the boots and ski sweaters.
It's been 5 years since Katrina. Up here in the voodoo bungalow, we cheer you New Orleansianites on, we wish hard for your recovery, and we're sorry that one of your finest citizens was forced to emigrate. We're taking pretty good care of him though, so don't worry about him in the slightest.

We're sure you'd do the same for us.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Falling Asleep

I once fell asleep while teaching an English class at UCDavis in the spring quarter of 1990. It was 8 in the morning, a muggy bathtub of a morning, with jasmine or something else heavy and soporific in the air, but still: I was sitting at a desk, teaching people about some thrilling point of rhetoric or another, when I suddenly got droopy, drooly, and then shut my eyes and fell asleep. While talking.

That was the morning I knew I wasn't cut out for that professoring thing. I fell asleep and when they woke me up I was mad at them. Not embarrassed, not apologetic. Peeved. I just wanted them all to go away and let me be.

Now I'm a stay-at-home writer. I lie about software, mostly. Sometimes I tell Oriental tales about agile teams or spin a salty yarn about quality control. One memorable day I wrote a series of haiku about travel expense forms. I might have been the only person who realized that the structure was actually a very intricate meshwork of image and internal rhyme derived from a medieval Japanese handbook about haiku. I might have been.

Today, though, it was all earnestness. Earnestness about activating responsive tactical teams and leveraging things and people (should people ever be "leveraged"? It sounds so. . . cold. . . . ).

Anyhow: earnestness + conference call + time zone shift + looming realization that another weekend is about to be sacrificed to gods I do not worship = nap time. When I snapped awake, I was once again peevish with those "around" me and wanted them all to go away and leave me alone.

If I'm not cut out for this writer thing, what next?

Sister 1 is MBA. Sister 2 is lawyer with an eye on higher things yet. Father is millionaire oilman. Dog has press-worthy survivor story and is much sought after as example of how the spirit of New Orleans endures even here in the frozen north. Husband is tenured professor with massive brain and elegant vocabulary--and speaks many languages fluently. There is some pressure here to keep up.

Or--maybe--give up?

If I had a number of diamond bracelets and perhaps an abalone cigarette holder, I could probably pull off the stay at home mom thing with elan, but I've discovered I require a fair amount of mad money. Like a LOT of mad money. Would not working make me less angry, but madder still? Could I really do this thing, this quitting work thing?

One thing's for sure: if quitting my job means feeling compelled to go on Grade 2 field trips, you can just forget about it right now. I'm in for the gold watch.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Shades of grey

Or: all cats look grey at night.

There are good things about letting the grey grow in. The savings, for one thing. Those little foil thingies are fun and make a girl all stripey and rocking, but I can fund a greatly accelerated M&Ms habit for an entire year on what I used to spend per month in roots maintenance.

But, as with most of the choices I've made on this earth, the decision had nothing to do with money. No, they had to do with:
  1. Gravitas. People might take me more seriously if I bear the real signs of wisdom and maturity. Serious people don't have to deal with compost. Ever. 
  2. Fear. Certain other people (I'm talking to YOU, Kid) might learn to obey me because of my growing resemblance to the witches they're always on about in children's books.
  3. Surprise! I have grey hair! And I'm so frigging youthful! I KNOW. How do I do it?
  4. Community spirit. Scouts love to help old ladies across the street. 
  5. Safety. No one is going to challenge me to a fight because I looked the wrong way at them. No one beats up old ladies. 
  6. Grey is the new black. My hair goes with everything. Like that Mercedes CLK. . . . 
  7. Victorian hair pieces. Silver hair works beautifully with my recent steampunk hairpiece obsession. (So recent as to be about 5 minutes old at this point.)
  8. School field trips. No one expects the elderly to traipse around frozen wastelands looking for small-animal scat in the middle of deepest February. 
  9. Movies. I can speak loudly in theatres now and no one will think it's because I'm hyper and rude, they'll think it's because I'm hyper and old. 
  10. There must be a tenth thing but I can't think of it right now. If you can, let me know. Where did I put my glasses? Why am I clutching this? I came here for a reason and now I cannot remember what it is. IS THIS THING ON?

Apple Picker?


Before you answer, get up at 2 in the morning for a glass of water and just happen to glance out the kitchen window.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Apropos of nothing. . . .

. . . 7yo says over dinner with my parents (his father being absent on account of weekly lawnbowling commitment):

"Laur, I don't mean to be cruel, but I think Daddy is the most enslaved man in this house."

Saturday, August 21, 2010


I just adopted this word at I believe I was inevitably drawn to "gleimous" because of what I found in my son's bedroom this morning. And that is the last I will say about that.

I used to enter his room slowly, gently, savoring the way the nursery smelled. Everything like caramel and baby powder (fine, it's toxic, fine, I used it and he lived and neither of us have lung cancer) and clean laundry. Sometimes I would just stand there, in the middle of the room, eyes closed, inhaling in rapture.

This morning, I wrenched the door to his room open, holding my breath, quickly tore the sheets off his bed, gathered the socks and boy panties and t-shirts and shorts and jedi outfits and Mountie costumes into one reeking armful and didn't exhale again until I was safely past the open door in the kitchen, which marks the half-way point to the laundry room. I gulped in another lungful of fresh air and tore down the stairs and threw the whole pile into the washing machine, which I had readied with its door open. Slam! Start! Relief drenched me in grateful sweat. Life--ah, it is sweet to be alive.

In all the books they write about parenting--even about parenting boys, specifically--why is there no chapter on "Your Angel: Soon Enough He Will Smell Like a Goat"?

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Hi you guys

I just got home from a funeral for one of my in-laws' closest friends. They all met when they were in their 40s and were all up in each other's lives and families, jobs, sorrows, celebrations, ski disasters and irrational car purchases for the next 50 years or so. I kept thinking the whole time of you (yep, you) and how lucky I am to have you here with me as we all try to get from point A to point B here on planet earth. Thanks for everything. I will cry at your funeral when you die at 90 if you'll cry at mine.

Actually, no funeral for this girl. Please have a party, wear nice dresses and tiaras, and drink all Luke's wine. The good stuff is on the left, hidden behind the panini maker and the blender and the chutney from 1997. And have a cat fight over the paste jewelry.

That is all. Thank you and good night.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

10 reasons why today is okay by me

Hot, sticky afternoon, with bored kids sulking that we didn't make it to the movies. Work not fulfilling me as a human being at the moment. Pouty husband struggling to complete 4 months of work in the remaining two weeks before Fall semester 2010 begins. Three insanely angry guest fish. And a funeral, for an old (very old) friend, who has gone on to the next adventure. To make myself feel better about basically living in the American Deep South but without the benefit of pie, juleps, those marvelous  accents or local music that isn't sung by a white guy in a straw cowboy hat, I shall compile the following list of why today is better than at least ten other days I have already lived.

  1. I did not appear topless in a doctor's examining room that was already occupied by an Azerbaijani man, causing him to whoop and holler.
  2. I did not step right in front of a Belgian bus because a chocolate covered cherry caused me to temporarily lose the use of my eyes and brain. 
  3. No child has simultaneously pooed and barfed on me and then bitten my nipple with sharp little teeth.
  4. My water did not just break all over my aged father. 
  5. My sister did not tell everyone I know where I have a secret mole. 
  6. I was not forced to eat squid in a Vancouver restaurant and I did not fail to make it to the ladies' room before projectile vomiting a five-course meal in the lobby, ruining the establishment's bowl of mints. 
  7.  I was not forced to express the anal glands of an angry poodle because I had just taken the worst summer job in the history of the world. 
  8.  I was not prevented from re-entering my vehicle in a hailstorm by the potent combination of a big tree in front and a moose in back. 
  9.  I did not just ask my mommy to explain what this business of a meat pole was all about in the opening pages of The Godfather. 
  10. No Girl Guide leader forced my reluctant hands into a large bowl of raw hamburger, causing me to faint and land on the floor with uncooked meat all over my face. 

I feel better already.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010


Over on The Book Depository, the fastest moving book as of right now is.... wait for it . . . . THIS:
Oprostite, ali čini mi se da ovdje nešto nije u redu.

More about fun

So the fun project. It continues. It has its ups and its downs. The downs: I rarely get to have fun with the people with whom I would like to be having all this fun. It's all part of the modern world--my people are a far-flung, rag-tag fugitive fleet, spread across continents, cities and small parks that can sometimes seem as vast as the Gobi. They work. They have families of their own--I know, right? THE NERVE. They have moods and desires of their own. Some of which gets in the way of, say, neon bowling with me at the drop of a hat.

But on Saturday night it all came together. Even the weather cooperated. There was fun dinner. A walk through a downtown so gleaming and new that it was like being in a different city altogether. There were fireworks, Chinese fireworks, that went on forever. There was a closed off river bridge for strolling and, if you like that sort of thing, for enjoying Chinese music. There was a grown-up nightcap under the stars by the river, as the last of the Afrika-Dey celebrants straggled home. There were lovely friends to share it all with.

And you know why I think it was such a huge success? Because I was not involved in the planning of any of it.

So please bring me your fun, people. Save me from neon bowling.

Although, if you want to go neon bowling, just say the word.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

I Need a Shower

So here's the thing: I have been asked to throw a baby shower for someone. Someone I don't really know, but who seems nice enough. I would like to know her well enough to say that she was just splendid. Perhaps time will take care of this. Or a warm scone with an excellent crumb.

Here's the thing though: we have a mutual acquaintance. A person that I DISLIKE.

It's not a mild, meh, sort of dislike, either: I do not want this person in my home ever again.

And yet I am all about being nice lest someone stab me (something I learned to fear from Jenny at The Bloggess, whom I worship) (I mean, I think she might actually have replaced one of The Trinity)--and not just because I am afraid Jenny will stab me (which she might, and then infect me with some kind of taxidermy plague), but because I genuinely think that every single one of us being good is key to having the world work out okay.


How to solve this thing?

Is it possible to poison only one teacup? Could I "forget" to send the invitation? Should I stage some kind of mock disaster on my corner so that she cannot drive here?

Anyone have a creative idea?

I know that you are out there, lurking, and that you've never written to me before. Let today be the ay that you do.


Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Fun is expensive

In pursuit of fun, I was persuaded to go to Heritage Park with sister and three kids, including mine. Whee! This is more like it, I t congratulated myself. This Fun Project is going to be super simple. I am so great.

As it turns out, historical fun is PRICE-Y. Admission, rides bracelet, lemonade slushies, bags of (historically inaccurate) candy, lunch (crab cakes are somehow connected to Calgary's rich past?). . . .

RCMP outfits.

I got out of there nearly $200 later. I think I could pretty easily have $200 of fun that did not involve watching a draft horse pee for 36 seconds (timed it--we were waiting for the kids to get back from their fifth ride on The Caterpillar). Fun that, for example, included gin or shoes (these Helle Comfort Winonas, for example, would make me very happy, for only an additional $9USD):
It would also be fun to get rid of those vertical lines up there, but not that much fun.

Anyone need some copywriting done? Will work for shoes--as long as I don't have to wear them anywhere "fun."

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Idaho and its Discontents

When you see this sign, know that you are well and truly in the middle of nowhere:

The helpful websites that I consulted about where to hike near Sandpoint Idaho with a dog did not mention that the 16 miles of Trestle Creek Road are unpaved, cling precariously to a sheer drop off for much of the time, are approximately 1.25 Subarus wide, and, while incredibly beautiful (wildflowers, trees, blahblahblah), are also so desperately remote that were there to be trouble of any sort (like running out of secret glove-compartment gin), you would disappear like the Donner Party. No head pills. Aunt Flo. And everywhere warnings about bears. I felt like a dripping roast on legs as I began the hike up on quavering legs. In the end it turned out all right. The lake was stupid but it was there, which meant that the hike was officially over. No moose. No bear. Yay.

WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME? (Here's where I think this post is veering off course.....Yep.) This was my much-longed-for vacation and all I could do was sigh and trudge. I'm surprised that the boys didn't just abandon me by the side of the road, what with all the clutching, the bitching, the endless fussing with the air-conditioning and the stereo and the windows and the rules regarding the use of a backseat DS.

Am I too old to have fun? Has fun changed in the last ten years? Do I need to start shopping around for my retirement villa already? Or hook up with a group of similarly dumpy and morose middle-aged people who play whist? Must I learn to play whist, for the love of GOD? Will I ever again do more than wade thigh-high in mountain lakes while everyone else (including the dog) swims?

I've never been one of those very fun people: too shy, too self-conscious, too in love with books. Dancing is fun--as long as I'm doing it alone in my office. But I think I used to be in better practice: I knew what fun looked like, knew the appropriate dosage for my height and weight, etc. I think I am just not in the habit of having fun anymore. I feel stupid having fun.

Uh-oh, I feel one of those awful inspiring moments coming on. Dear God, am I about to embark on a Fun Project?

I think I am.

Pinch me.

That'll be fun.

Off to, I don't know, braid some flowers in my hair or something.

(Every time I try to type "fun" into the Labels box, I keep getting "dream funeral." I think this project might be doomed. Or very weird.)

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Someone having one of those days?

From the site of our media services provider up here in Calgary.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Ignorant bliss

I found a poem, written by my grandmother (unless she plagiarized, which wouldn't entirely shock me), among some dusty old things the other day. Gramma was a fierce Baptist, president of the Christian Women's Temperance Union in Montreal during the war years, a lover of KitKats, an habitual returner of purchased merchandise, and a truly difficult person to be related to much of the time. She was a great gramma, though: always with the marshmallow bananas and the Wink and home-made fries during sleepovers. She wrote fan mail to products--and in return was sent new Hush Puppies, boxes of chocolate bars, hand cream, and dish soap. To her, the word "Christian" was the opposite of the following:
--New Brunswick (long story)
--doing what you want
--sleeping in on Sunday

Just by way of explaining this work of art, is all (click on the image so you can read it):

I have so many reactions to this thing. Pity, pique, amusement, jealousy. I think it's an interesting glimpse of the fear that lots of women--then and now--encounter(ed) when even thinking about how to balance work and family. Will I lose everything that makes me happy? Will I be useful? Will I have half of a career and half of a home life? I'm looking at my desk right now, covered as it is with fish crackers, Lego, a kid's asthma inhaler, WALL-E and handwritten pleas for escape/pardon from the penitent convict in the bedroom next door--as well as invoices, a printer, dictionaries, inspiration decks, three phones, Adobe InDesign CS4 for Dummies. Sometimes when I worry about having it all, I just look at my work space to see that the problem might be having it all in one smallish place.

My office makes me crazy and frustrated--who on EARTH could find anything in here, who could concentrate on a client call with a flatulent coonhound and a snotty-nosed kid standing three feet away the whole time, who could somehow put in an 8-hour day when parents and in-laws think that working at home means "working" at home?

And yet. And yet: what could I give up? None of it. I could no more unplug from this house and its rhythms for a job downtown than I could stop working altogether and retreat to my "sunny kitchen." My gramma wouldn't recognize this woman's life. "Women's lib" has brought us so much that we couldn't have dreamed of, both good and not-so-good. My gramma didn't want to be free of her predetermined role in the world--it scared the bejeezus out of her, although she wouldn't have put it like that. My freedom is a total mess, it falls off bookshelves, stays dirty in the kitchen sink for two days, lurks underfoot, has a Club Penguin screensaver, uses scenarios derived from The Clone Wars in client meetings, stays up late almost every night to meet work deadlines, dresses primarily in soft cotton sweatshirts ad drives a station wagon to meetings that on a hot day reeks of wet dog and melted oreo Blizzard. It's not exactly ignorant, but, you know, it's not far from bliss.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Chain Lakes Is For Lovers

Oh, took just the loveliest drive to Chain Lakes on our way to Hailstone Butte (which richly deserves its name, btw). Big sun, big sky, big storm a-brewin'. Very dramatic. Paradise.

And doesn't every Paradise have its resident bad girl? This one did.

While munching on a peanut butter sandwich, the national lunch of Childhood, Kid slowly read aloud the following epigraph etched into the wood right beside where his Superman lunch box was sitting: "Megan Ann was screwed on this table."

And then the questions began. And no answers were forthcoming--I was just so unprepared. I thought I would do the whole "when a mommy loves a daddy" or some such nonsense, or, much more likely, just leave the whole thing to the schools and the Man. So when my angelic child with his pink cheeks and bright eyes wanted to know what had happened to Megan Ann on that table, I was all dry-mouthed and panicky. I actually got up and left, pretending that I just HAD to photograph those wildflowers right that minute, leaving Husband to deal. I am just hung-up enough to have actually cried a little bit.

Sigh. Thanks a LOT, Megan Ann and paramour, for the shards of my baby's babyhood, 7 years on (What? Too soon? Not soon enough? I AM NOT READY FOR THIS!!), that are lying all over the parking lot at the Chain Lakes campground.

I think today is actually the day on which I became fully middle-aged.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Twinkle Twinkle

In response to Ironic Mom's post on makeup at 40 (and beyond. . . .)

I’m 47. This year, I decided that I am now old enough to do what I want, and have begun wearing glittery eyeshadow from Lit (a nice Calgary company). It’s bright and sparkly and sparkly (did I mention sparkly?) and comes in colors like “Farrah.” Its little glowy particles nestle in my eye bags, in my crows’ feet, and sometimes in those puppet-mouth thingies that happen around this time of life. It’s difficult to wash off. It draws attention to my droopy eyelids. It makes me look a bit like Bea Arthur. It is in fact the radical opposite of concealer. And it’s a hoot–it adds a little spring to my step, a little pizzazz to my frumpitudinous work-at-home life, and at the very least it’s a conversation piece. My mom thinks I’m insane, my sisters think I’m having a crisis, and I’ve heard the word “brave’ whispered more than once. But here’s the thing: I was never confident enough as a young woman to wear such warpaint. Now I am. And I shall wear glitter eyeshadow to the library and the foundation garment department of Sears because, as it turns out, that’s the way the nearly 50-year-old me rolls. Waddles. Whatever.

Monday, July 12, 2010

These guys break my heart

So hopeful. So brave. So. . . armed with a giant tooth.
For me, they capture the spirit and intent of boyhood--so much so that I'm going to disappear them from the playroom and into the memory trunk. And THAT captures the spirit and intent of motherhood as I live it.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

What kind of mother?

Checked in on Kid last night about 20 minutes after I heard the last disgruntled kvetching from his room. I discovered him fast asleep, but with his eyes open about a quarter of an inch. That always creeps me out--right?--so I leaned over him to gently, tenderly, maternally, slide the lids down over those huge blue eyes.

Guess I bobbled a little because I actually woke my sleeping child up by poking him in the eye.

He sat bolt upright in bed, pointed his little finger at me and yelled: "WHAT kind of mother does such a thing?"

Been thinking about that one for a few hours now. . . .

Thursday, June 24, 2010

1000 words might be 999 too many

Saw this on It took me a looooong time to resolve the little black profile of a lady looking up at a pink sky (as one does). Mostly I saw what seemed to be an ovarian cyst with a bite out of it. All I felt was "ewwww." Probably that's just me.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Hippy Hair

At long last, Kid had his hair cut last night. Three days earlier, he was pushing his breeze-tossed locks (like that? thanks!) off his forehead on an Oregon beach, there was sand on his knees, animal tattoos on every conceivable surface, small sea stones in his pockets. This morning, he went to school looking like a tiny commodities trader: corporate hair, squeaky clean face, no tats, no breeze, sensible shoes.

Something has been lost.

And he knew it. His distress in front of the mirror had less to do with being able to see from under his bangs than what he could see from under his bangs. A long life of not living on the beach, not being sprung from school, not having rootbeer and fries for lunch three days running. A long, sensible life of eating his vegetables, doing homework, ringing the achievement test bells, and speaking politely to his parents.

I don't think I have the heart to ever take him to the barber again.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Things learned the hard way

Leaving three small boys alone in a room with 75 Animal planet "temporary" tattoos means at least one trip to the drug store for baby oil and alcohol wipes. Also many tears. Also the discovery of tattoos in places that tattoos should not be discovered. Sometimes, that discovery comes several days later and is apt to shock the women folk.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Zimzum: A Confession

Zimtzum or Tzimzum (Hebrew צמצום ṣimṣūm "contraction"): I feel that to set my karma 100% correct, I need to do something about this empty space in which creation was able to begin.

About a million years ago, I wrote about this zimzum in my doctoral dissertation and had no idea what it was, really. It's just that when you see it portrayed in medieval manuscripts it tends to have a wiggly conch-shell shape that fit in so beautifully with my mad dash through medieval culture and the intellectual and artistic history of the seven-celled uterus. I needed to move to Paris in six weeks and so I sat up one night and wrote crazy things. Possible up to 75% of them were also true things, but there was enough fancy and poesy in there that I have felt guilty ever since. Perhaps this is the origin of those dreams in which I never really got out of high school, and am doomed, DOOMED, to try and find a pink eraser in one of an endless maze of nasty lockers, some of them in rooms where witches live.

Kay, bye.

Saturday, June 12, 2010


Next door. Oh, next door. There used to be a nice little family there, but, as it turns out, mommy and daddy hated each other so now her relatives live there instead. And they are a motley crew, as it turns out. Tonight for example, they're out in their backyard listening to Aerosmith (who DOES that anymore??) while the women squeal OH MY GOD! and the men go YAHOO and WA HOO HOO HOO GO FOR IT and WAAAAAOOOOOOOHHHHHHYAAAAA! (I think I transcribed that correctly.) And their dogs are barking--not little dogs, as you can imagine. I've spent the last hour looking for acreages west of the city, someplace where I do not have to live in proximity to other people who are loud. It will cost us at least $900K to have only trees for neighbours, but I think I'm willing to do whatever it takes at this point.

The good news: in 48 minutes I get to call the cops and THEN we'll see who's running a grow-op and who isn't.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Expletive deleted

Big blue eyes on that Kid, and he sure knows how to use them to the best effect. Just now, he looked up at me (bat bat bat) and said winsomely, "Mommy, won't you (bat bat bat) come and snuggle on the couch with me and watch Yogi Bear? You know, sit on the couch next to me, just like old times? (bat bat bat)"

Helpless to resist, I reply, "Of course, sweet potato."

Then--probably surprised that I acquiesced on his first try--he got a little flustered.

"Not yet, not yet actually. Maybe in a bit when I'm really lonely. I'll call you."

Me: "Oh don't be silly. You're more important than the laundry. I'll just sit right here and we can watch together."

Kid: "Great. Great, mom. Umm, I just need to use the washroom. Be right back!!"

And then, from the bathroom, I hear Whoosh, Whoosh, Whoosh, Whoosh, Whoosh!

It took me a moment to realize that he was in there blowing up a whoopie cushion.

Saturday, May 29, 2010


I was 7 when I got the fright of my life. I was visiting the twins across the park, which was one of my favorite things to do. There were 8 kids in that family--kinda normal in our Catholic 1970s coterie, but 5 more than we had at our place--and they had more or less been ceded the basement of the house as their territory. It was carved up into a murky warren of bedrooms with interesting lighting, secret doors, paper-thin walls, cigarette carton mandalas and record album covers on the walls. Older sisters who wore bras, brothers who listened to Cheech and Chong, other brothers who were allowed to smoke, a hippie sister who kept a pottery wheel in one of the downstairs bathrooms. Bean bag chairs.

Upstairs, there was a more concerted effort at order. I remember flowers in vases, watercolours on the walls, a sofa that had no toys or Cheerios within 15 feet of it. The floor was clean. The kitchen floor.....was waxed.

Not what I noticed first, though, when I tromped into the kitchen to get a glass of water. As it turns out, I tromped right across a freshly waxed floor that the Mrs had hired someone to do for her, and then back again on my way downstairs. I had no idea until I heard the scream.


I don't think there are caps big enough to convey the decibel level of that shriek. And as loud as it was, the noise of it was nothing compared to the hysterical rage it conveyed. It was as though I had ruined a kitchen floor recently polished by the Nazgul.

I fled the house, fled--as it turns out--the long-standing friendship I enjoyed with the twins, fled the freedom of walking across the crescent park that separated our two houses, fled uncomplicated Halloweening routes, fled the ability to raise the blinds in my bedroom lest She be glaring out her kitchen window at me. As a Catholic schoolgirl, Lord knows I felt watched by All Kinds of Mysterious Powers, but none more so that Mrs W across the park.

And the thing is, she never forgave me. She never called to say sorry for frightening me, sorry that I didn't feel like I could be friends with her kids anymore, sorry that I never again went to her home after having practically lived there for a few years. She didn't look at me when we were at church. She didn't stop in snowstorms to offer me a ride home from school. She didn't offer to take me to Girl Guides with her kids. I was totally, completely cut off. What bugged me most about that situation, other than the fear, was that I knew I would never listen to Cheech and Chong again as there was NO WAY my mom would put up with that kind of language.

Looking back, I guess I can see that she was pissed with me. Probably having 8 kids of her own made her a little less sensitive to anyone else's. Maybe she really felt that her floor was the most important thing in the world. I don't know. Sometimes I can't quite believe that things really went down like that, but you know what? They really did.

The moral of this story is not that I never yell at my Kid's friends. It's that I don't give a shit what my kitchen floor looks like, and whoever wants to walk on it, in whatever state they or it happen to be in, well that person has my blessing. Come on in. Don't wipe your feet.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Fine then, V is for Vendetta (and Vegetable)

Vendettas. I'm kinda gifted at them. This is something that I've managed to keep a secret for a long time, because I think that the funniest jokes are the private ones, and the best revenge is always, always unlooked for and mysterious. Personally, I enjoy the mail-based revenge protocol.

My favorite thus far involved sending a serious of suggestive vegetable postcards to a weasely liar man in LA over a period of years, knowing that his psychotic redheaded girlfriend--the one who threatened to shoot my husband (SHOOT. HIM.) because he shouted into what turned out to be her bathroom window about possibly getting the music turned down so that we couldn't hear it across the courtyard in our own shower--would freak. Suggestive vegetables, you say? Oh yes, I do say.

Take a look, for example, at an artichoke:

One purple lipstick kiss at the back of the card. No signature.

Vengeance is mine, sayeth the Lor.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Everyday a little miracle

Here is an oil slick on my driveway: courtesy the blinding rain/slush and my 1992 Toyota Camry:

And in the time it took to post that photo, the slush has turned to outright snow. Apple blossoms in the snow. Another of the universe's little miracles. This place is full of them.

With God as my witness

I swear: getting that Kid out the door in the morning will be the death of me.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

V is for Giving Up

Haven't written for a while on this thing because I have been daunted by "V." Am officially giving up on alphabet thingy now. Since last we met, I have been on a gondola in an alpine windstorm, have been freaked out by vagina dentata face in a puppet show, have been freaked out by an inappropriate server name created by an anonymous neighbor (and have contemplated asking the police to come and raid all the bungalows on my block because there's a freak out there somewhere), have chased the coonhound out of a duckpond, have seen a moose, purchased Star Wars comic books for boys who cannot yet read, had an unpleasant conversation with a man we shall refer to as "Smelliot" (YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE), experienced the heartbreak of chin hair, wept unwillingly over "Lost," and bleached my gramma's teacups. Life's rich pageant.

Sunday, May 16, 2010


Kid's new career ambition: platinum miner. He's been reading the beautiful D'Aulaires' Book of Norse Myths and playing with his Lego Power Miners and Castle sets rather a lot lately and now wishes, I think, to be a vengeful and avaricious dwarf. Which he pronounces "dorf." I kind of go out of my way to make him say that. And "big bad woof." Moving along.

So I've been noticing vengeful dorfs popping up in the strangest places around the house. One poked at me with a sword as I was doing laundry. Another jumped on me while I was sleeping the other day. It yelled "Where are my diamonds??" WHERE ARE MINE? was the obvious response.

Lor, what do dorfs eat?

I could see him out in the back yard an hour later, thinking about it.

Lor, do dorfs have mommies?
They do not. They are born by banging two rocks together and chanting "dorf dorf dorf."

My favorite dorf-related artifact so far:

"Dorf v. Caterpillar: Battle to the Death" is the working title.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Time (is on his side)

"Time's on my side, Lor."

Thus spake my six year old just now, quite calmly, as we were engaging in a rare bedtime battle. I was trying to impress upon him the idea that my will is adamant, that there was no way he could wear me down. There was no way in the world I would be bringing him a chewy multivitamin, another strawberry, a tall glass of milk, one of his 17 thousand puffles, a new/cooler pillow, a flashlight, his water pistol, a skipping rope, the "J" volume of Encyclopedia Britannica.

I finished my rant and there was silence on the other side of the door. There still is, as I write this. I'm sitting here in silence thinking about the undeniable fact that time is, in fact, on his side and not mine.

And that one day all I will wish for is to be able to bring him a tall glass of milk and his water pistol.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Speedy Gonzalez

Tonight, right here at the Voodoo Bungalow, we are holding a Seveno de Mayo celebration. As a family of Central European/British/French/German/American immigrants all living in Canada, it's refreshingly quirky of us, don't you think? We couldn't hold it on Cinco de Mayo because of soccer. Which is what I think actually happened at the Battle of Pueblo. The French were playing soccer and weren't paying the slightest bit of attention to General Ignacio Zaragoza Seguín and his unlikely band of Mexicans who weren't even a little bit interested in being occupied by the French and their mustachioed Maximilian. Can't say as I blame them. The real reason for us celebrating is that Speedy Gonzalez is a special favorite of mine and my sisters.

Speedy Gonzalez eez a friend of evereebodeez seestor.

As a sidenote, I think I may just have scored straight 10s on the "British/Ukrainian making of Oaxacan mole" portion of the program.


Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Really good story

To switch things up this evening, Kid told me a bedtime story. I was falling asleep and was snuggling Ruffy, the well-loved stuffed terrier. If this were a story by The Bloggess, the terrier would be a real terrier, probably armed with a dictaphone or a tennis racket, but our love of taxidermy as interior decoration has dwindled recently. We're probably not getting enough Vitamin D. That seems to be behind almost every ailment you can think of these days, and I can think of a lot. For instance, the toe I broke a few months ago started inexplicably throbbing this afternoon, and I instantly realized that it was because cancer had gotten into the crack in the toe bone and that if I had only put my foot out the car window when we were driving to the mountains every weekend it would have gotten the right amount of sun and its Vitamin D level would be just fine and now I wouldn't be dying of toe bone crack cancer. And I couldn't even go out to charge it back up again because it has been snowing sideways here for two days.

So the story I was being told--and I was told in "story voice," with that look of measured authority, that this was a true story--was about the Prince of the Golden Entrance. His boat was solid gold, with silver masts and sails made of flower petals. He was not just a prince, but also a magician, the most powerful in his land, and also the man with the best heart. He was the goodest person anyone had ever known. But there was a song that pulled at his heart and he thought that the singer must be one of the mermaids he'd heard so much about, who lived on a misty pillar of granite that emerged from the sea at the edge of the world.

My son is so sensitive and poetic, I smiled happily to myself.

I must have drifted off there for a moment on that blissful thought.

I awoke because my little poet was up on his knees in his bed yelling BLAM BLAM BLAM BLAM! and CHOP CHOP CHOP CHOP!

What on earth?!?!?

It turns out that an attack helicopter carrying a thermal detonator was overhead. The mermaids had on their gas masks and were lobbing grenades. The prince sustained a major head wound and drownded.

The end.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Questions and answers

Question: WHere is the conference that I am writing about?

Answer: Germany

Question: Do I wish to struggle with German this morning before coffee, or do I wish to use the Google translate button?

Answer: Duh.

Question: So how would one get to this conference?


Arriving by car:

Type in your navigation system following address:

Oil resistant lock on the white way

A manor

D-38 271 Baddeckenstedt

Thank you, that clears it up nicely.

(Anyone going to the 2b Ahead Conference in Baddeckenstedt, head here: Schloss Oelber am weißen Wege

Rittergut 1)

The journey time is 30 minutes from Hanover, of Brunswick, 20 minutes.

Friday, April 30, 2010


The Bad Moms Club alerted me to this challenge: motherhood in six words or less. It being laundry day here at the voodoo bungalow, I had my response ready:

So many little socks. All singles.

How is this even possible?

"Bleach could not possibly whiten these." (aside: Who told Calvin Klein to make WHITE boy panties? Seriously, what kind of numbnuts makes tighty whities for the under-8 set? I shall say no more on the subject.)

"Lips say NO. Eyes say PINOT."

Thursday, April 29, 2010


Kid is a great eater. The greatest eater among Kids throughout the ages, perhaps. He is not in the slightest bit fussy, is an adventurous diner (squid, capers, duck, cauliflower, quinoa), and has a man-sized appetite that causes moms to beam. His stomach will surely land him an heiress and I don't much care whether that's because the heiress's mom has pushed her daughter into a marriage just because the potential groom can't get enough of the tuna casserole that the heiress's dad has turned his nose up at for the last 30 years.

However, he balked at this. And I cannot imagine why.

I know. Hard to believe. I explained to him that it was an ancient Spanish dish much beloved by the peasantry. That the olive oil and peppers were aromatic, that the onions were soft and melting, that there was enough garlic in there to kill 400 vampires, and that the eggs came from genuine free-range chickens from a real farm who probably ate worms.

What I heard in return: "Lor, that looks like barf and there is NO WAY ON EARTH I am going to eat it."

You know, looking at the situation honestly, I had to agree with him: it does kind of look like barf. So for the first time in his life he got a different dinner from the rest of us; although I couldn't help pointing out that peanut butter looks kind of like dog poo.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Not one of those alpha moms

If anyone can think of way that I can blame this on my mother, chime in.

N is for Naiads

Naiads are fresh-water shrimps. Nymphs. They're fresh-water nymphs. (Dear fresh-water shrimp start-up: You're welcome.)

I thought for the longest time that it was the same word as "nads." (Hello: no brothers, uptight father.) By "a long time" I mean maybe 20 years or so. Blushed my way through Classics 101, I did, there in the back row trying not to look too closely at Greek statuary.

The problem runs in the family. The classic tentacles/testicles confusion was loosed upon Aunt Eileen's Christmas dinner in 1979. "Prix" is not pronounced the way you might think it is. The pen is mightier than the sword, no doubt, but that "e" gets. . . long. . . when you put it in front of "is." A certain elderly person who shall remain nameless confuses "shot" and "blow" in association with the word "wad." NO, IT DOES NOT MEAN THE SAME THING.

So I guess it was no surprise that Kid came home the other day with a terrible misconception about the Netherlands.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

M is for Math

Good to know that the genius for math that runs in our family is going strong.

Monday, April 12, 2010

L is for Goad

There's nothing I like better than a cattle prod.

Has any blog ever begun with this sentence? I bet mine is the first.

Anyhoodle, if I ever get a branding iron, it will have on it a Semitic crook or goad--which is where the Latin alphabet got the letter L. And a goad is of course a prod and . . . . a cattle prod is like the biggest honking taser the world has ever seen. A taser of Biblical proportion.


"Shamgar the son of Anath, which slew of the Philistines six hundred men with an ox goad: and he also delivered Israel." (Judges 3:31).

Since this was not an electric goad, I guess I want to know HOW you go about killing 600 Philistines with a stick.

You know, there's really no point to this entry. I just wanted to share this with you:

For all you mothers of boys: I bet the moms responsible for these two Philistines did their best, too. At a certain point, it's all kind of out of our hands.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

April in Calgary

Thunder. Lightning. SNOW.
I once lived in Los Angeles. In San Francisco. In Paris. On the Rhine. And yet I chose to come back here for some reason clearly having to do with a congenital brain defect.

Oh great. There go the lights.


K is for Kitchen

This post won't have pictures because child services would be here almost as quickly as my mother in law.

My friend Alphahas a gorgeous, award-winning kitchen that gives her sense of style and organization a big shiny gold star. My sister is going to renovate her already just fine kitchen into a much much finer kitchen. Princess Kiss the Kitten is renovating her kitchen for the purposes of selling it to someone else and then running away to a place where it never stops raining which is seriously worrying me (is she okay? has she gone bonkers? is living in this neighborhood that bad and maybe I'm just not noticing because I'm the one who's bonkers?). I know that nice kitchens are possible, within our financial reach, and important if we are to live like a modern family and have people over to sip chilled beverages and marvel as we produce miracle after miracle from our German-imported appliances.

People enter our house and comment nicely on the mid-century modern ethos vaguely discernible beneath the clutter and when they're not too distracted by the early-70s ugly. They like our art. They like the windows. The carpet--lovely. Nice teak. They're willing to overlook little things like harvest gold tin closet doors. Then they get to the kitchen and conversation stops. Usually with an "oh" and a sharp intake of breath.

Man, the kitchen is ugly.

And poorly planned.

And rarely clean, let's be honest. Rarely clean. I'M A WORKING MOTHER, FOR THE LOVE OF GOD.

So I've been looking at magazines and websites about kitchen renovations. Oh the granite. Oh the walnut. Consider the travertine. And you know, it all leaves me cold.

The kitchen is the heart of the home, they all say. Tear down those walls, open it to the rest of the house. Let in the light!

Uh-huh. So that the glory of the 36 semi-retired coffee cups and last night's edamame can chirp at visitors right at the front door.

Knobs and pulls from Home Depot are so. . . . ordinary--how about these lovely hand-carved bone handles from woolly mammoths reconstituted from DNA gathered organically by Mongolian peasants?

And make the kitchen worth more than the entire rest of the house, guaranteeing that I won't be able to take a holiday until I'm 80.

Why not bump out that wall and install a breakfast nook?

If I bump out a wall, it will be for a soaker tub or an isolation booth, not another place to wipe up orange juice rings. Or it will be because I've heard one too many knock-knock joke that ends in "I know you are what am I?"

My dream kitchen would have 100 cupboards for crayons, glue sticks and bits of Lego and would be large enough for me to hide in if necessary; floors the colour of spaghetti sauce with splotches that look a lot like the gold acrylic paint that Kid currently favours; an outline drawn to the size of a recumbent coonhound so he'll know just where to lie down so as not to be in precisely the center of all activity involving hot food, liquids or stemware; a rubber floor that would instantly bounce back all dropped cutlery; perhaps peel-off layers of acrylic on the walls that I could tear away, revealing a pristine new layer beneath; ooh, and a tree growing right up the middle and into the sky so that I could make a quick getaway when it's time to do the pots and pans.

Show me THAT and you've got yourself a reno deal, boys.