Friday, February 26, 2010

The Whole Enchilada

Had a week of February blues with a drizzly topping of ohcrap and this sucks and a few chunks of crunchy poor me. I think, in fact, that I've been a Class A Bitch for the last three weeks. Nothing and everything is wrong.

Then yesterday we went for a long walk with the dog and stopped off at our neighborhood Mexican place. A place that has always spoken to us of the reality of some sort of god, in that it is a REAL Mexican place, not a Tex-Mex, not a nachos and corona place. We go there and we feel blessed: real, fresh horchada in our leafy Calgary suburb. We feel warmer just knowing it's there, tucked between the auto repair shop and the pet groomer's.

We were the only people in the place, with the exception of a middle-aged couple in the process of ending their marriage. His idea. You could tell because his tones were modulated and his face didn't look like it had been vacuumed of all air and youth and life. I think he'd found someone else--he seemed lit up, barely able to contain his excitement, like he was going on an amazing adventure in the morning and couldn't wait to get home and start packing. This time, however, he was taking the couch with him. Also his grandmother's vanity, which yes she loves but he'll have to take, he hopes she understands.

I wonder, when they got married, as she was getting her hair done and putting on her blue eyeshadow--did she could sense the shadow of Mi Tiera stretching out across the years? Was there something in the prime rib redolent of roasting chiles and simmering pibil, something that felt both hot and very very cold all at once? Some people have presentiments of their own deaths; perhaps some marriages arrive holding hands with the divorce. If I get a divorce ever, I imagine it will begin with not getting a martini. I don't really even like them, but the thought of someone else having a martini and me having a predictable old Rhone always makes me feel an odd mixture of comfortable and very very sad.

The saddest thing for me about the strangers breaking up over enchiladas: Mi Tiera is ruined for her now. Instead of being that unexpected Mexican delight with the amazing salsa verde, it's now that place where Tom spoke in modulated tones about how much his hotel would cost a week and how they would have to communicate through a third party from here on in because they were going to have to be direct and unemotional when dividing their possessions.

Of course I can't make sense of any of this--perhaps she's a horror, he's better off with out her, she's better off without him, perhaps his mother made their marriage a living hell. Maybe neither of them could stand even one more day of the drudgery. All I know is this: next time we're at Mi Tiera, I'm going to order the hottest thing on the menu, do something a little less safe and predictable, and blink back the tears until my husband looks like there are diamonds all over him.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

I Love You, Jennie

It's hard to imagine that there's anyone in the world doesn't know about The Bloggess, but if you're that person and for some insane reason you've arrived here at this tundra blog out of the blue, you now have no excuse. Put on your confidence wig, grab that xanax and don't be afraid to get stabby if you need to.

Easy Bake: Bye Bye Ronald Howes, Sr.

One of the (many) ways that I know my father loves his children more than life itself:

He would never fail to eat the wide-ranging variety of Easy Bake treats that we had waiting for him when he came home at the end of a long day.

He could probably see it in his nightmares, that harvest gold chamber of horrors out of which we would produce endless half-baked devil's food cupcakes, and what I seem to recall being white or yellow cake with probably toxic amounts of sprinkles baked right in. Rainbow cake? If that's what it was called, then it appeared at the end of the saddest sugar storm in the world.

My father was lucky in many ways. He ran his own successful professional practice, my zany aunt was his non-stop funny receptionist, and his offices were located in a wide variety of oddball spots in the city. He participated in some of the oil discoveries that define this boom/bust/boom/bust/boom city. A good man--really, one of the best men ever--deeply decent and thoughtful, a man who did his best to do the right thing, always.

And yet, at the end of nearly every work day, he had to pay a bizarre, artery-choking penance dealt to him by the vengeful Kenner gods. He must have asked himself Why Why Why? more than once. I imagine him outside at night, slowly covered by drifting snow, clenching his fists to his temples and trying to dislodge the memory of those soggy cupcakes from hell.

Ronald Howes--a very lovely man by all accounts, despite some dark rumors about certain things he created for the "defense industry"--died yesterday, at roughly the same age as my father. I think dad will take some comfort in knowing that he outlived the man behind the Easy Bake Oven and its gastric assault on his 1970s middle-class suburban dream. I'm going to fix him some (fully baked) ultra chocolate brownies tomorrow and thank him for his many acts of selfless fatherliness.
RIP Ronald Howes, Sr.


Two days of downhill skiing in sunny though somewhat icy conditions: Survived.
Crushing national disappointment in various arcane Olympic disciplines: Survived.
The Great Cheezie Incident of 2010: Survived.
Husband's eerie fascination with chunky Danish curler in mini-skirt: Survived.
Flatulent coonhound in back of small Subaru wagon: Survived.
Sight of child hurtling headlong downhill straight into metal railing: Survived.
Sight of child hurtling headlong downhill from my left and disappearing into the distance: Survived.
Traumatic helmet-head: Survived.

I would call that a successful mountain getaway.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Maybe video conferencing wouldn't be such a bad idea after all

On a client call with the global communications arm of a major international luxury beauty brand.

Up to this point, I am only a *bing!* and perhaps some slightly wheezy breathing, the sound of a suburban Calgary doorbell ringing in their New York ears, the woo woo wooing of an overjoyed coonhound at the return of Kid from school.

If they could see me, however, they would see a woman who could turn into one of their major marketing coups. "If we can make THIS WOMAN look good, we can make you look good."

I could be the face of hope.

It's all I can do to keep from busting out with this, right in the middle of a breathless discussion of global platforms and information services.

They do not know how close they are to their golden opportunity.

I have never felt more powerful.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Valentine's Day

Oh sure, I'm Worn Ragged, but the champagne and chocolates help a LOT.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Dear Everyone Else in the World

I hope you are enjoying the Olympics. So one of the ice doobies didn't light at the opening ceremonies last night. No biggie: up here in the frozen north we are accustomed to things getting stuck in the cold, even if it is fake cold because you know the whole thing took place inside. Anyhoo, I learned a lot about our country from watching the show last night. A lot of it surprised me.

Many of us could lose a little weight to look our best. I'm looking at you, Ms Lang.

We are culturally manic depressive: from Sara M to Hell's Tap-Dancing Goth Fiddlers to Hallelujah?

We really cannot get over Wayne Gretsky

We want everyone to think of us as a giant unoccupied country of icebergs and wheat

We know what it's like to look small in a giant landscape and we think other people should just let it go, so what if it doesn't make for great TV

I guess Nellie Furtado must be from BC because otherwise wtf?

We wouldn't dream of booting anyone out of the opening ceremonies because they're kind of funny looking. We give them CLOSEUPS.

First nations leaders might be heads of state now, but apparently they don't rate a limo, because they were all late

Michaelle Jean should be our queen

Our Prime Minister has a wife

Anne Murray is still alive! I would have picked her over Nellie.

Joe Biden fits right in.

If we don't win a gold medal, there's going to be some serious pouting.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

All we doo

Husband and I recently went on a little vacation to Los Angeles, where I had a joyful pleased-to-meetcha with Alpha Monkey that made the world seem like an okay place after all.

While we were gone, Kid stayed home with Gramma. Naturally, he whiled away his time by writing a history of the world.

This is the chapter I like best, so far:

Chaptr 11--wen we yos'd laing-gwig

(We used language in the year 122. It became communication. Also very popular. Nowadays it's easily all we do.)

Indeed, it is all we doo.


Having guests tonight. I've chosen the wine, purchased fresh flowers, and made the dessert. Now I just have to figure out what's for dinner. First things first.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Why so ragged?

Someone asked me the other day why I call this blog "Worn Ragged." Don't I have only one child? Don't I work from home? Doesn't my husband have a good job? Didn't I think that I actually have it pretty easy?

It got me to thinking.

I started with Gramma in Broadview, who had nine kids, was widowed when the youngest was about two years old, who lived through the Dust Bowl in Saskatchewan in the 30s, who had no running water in the house until the 1970s, who couldn't drive a car, who kept her own chickens, who collected rainwater in a barrel for washing hair and clothes, who had 5 kids fighting in WWII in some capacity or other.

I can't compete with that. Bone-crunching labour, loneliness, fear, poverty, responsibility.

This is what I have for today:

Woke up at 7.55. School starts at 8.30. (Husband under misapprehension that his family was up and around.)

Fruit fly infestation in kitchen and bathroom, making breakfast a revolting experience for all involved.

Only clean pants for Kid are summer-weight formal slacks.

Car is iced over, requires much scraping.

Sunrise hits only partially-defrosted windshield, causing temporary blindness in middle of left-hand turn into school parking lot. Kid gets the first of today's late slips.

Kid leaves mitts, scarf, hat and backpack in car.

Back to the school.

Gently berated for not announcing myself at the school office and hanging Kid's belongings on appropriate peg without having first verified my security clearance.

Email migration at work causes much confusion, lost time; looming proposal deadline gets looming-er.

Kid breaks glasses on way home for lunch.

Dog escapes up the hill, poos on a neighbor's lawn. Neighbor is watching. I have no bags. An awkward conversation and fervent promises take place.

Water on the boil for lunchtime pasta has by this time boiled to nothing. No fire, but one must begin again.

25 minutes before the school bell rings. Lunch now on table.

Lunch now on table is judged to be "gross" by blind Kid, who wants to know how to spell "resuscitate."

Fixing Kid's glasses does not go well. A trip to the repair shop will be necessary.

A ritual phone call, one of several thousand, is made to the school attendance line. They must prepare the second of the day's late slips.

Up the hill to pick up poo. More than one bag required. Back down the hill. Back up the hill. Back down the hill.

Kid pitches fit in optometrist parking lot. His Smarties, given to him by a GIRL, have been left unfinished on the kitchen table. His mother is CRAZY LUNATIC CRAZY for not allowing him to miss another 20 minutes of school while he goes back and eats them.

And where are his school Valentines?? CRAZY LUNATIC CRAZY mother has not realized that there is no school until Valentine's Day is over and has not thought ahead by six days. Kid wishes to have lifetime supply of paper bags in which to stick his head. Oh, the shame.

Kid safely dropped off. Car begins to smoke. Has apparently dumped 3 litres of oil in last five days.

Hello 450 thousand fruit flies. You've been busy!

So: not Depression-era poverty, widowhood and striving in Saskatchewan. But surely enough to wear anyone ragged, right?

Or do I rename this blog "Spoiled baby whinging"?

Directions to Camelot

Asked Husband for help finding the Crossroads Market so Kid and I could join darling friends at a Loose Moose performance of "Young King Arthur." Annnnd...this is what he defined as "help":

This is the kind of thing that led to knights roaring around Europe on horseback for decades, looking for something they never found.

Monday, February 8, 2010


I would happily give them $1billion to train my son to EAT WITH A FORK.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Winkie beetle pheromones

At UCDavis, like lots of universities with a central quad, there were well-maintained "official" walking paths cut diagonally through the park, which no one ever used. They stomped out their own paths like undergraduate buffalo--and those paths, while clearly defining a purpose, looked like nothing so much as the dirt version of the sparkly slime left by winkie beetles as they winkie beetle in whatever (completely random) direction they are headed.

I was reminded of those adorable beetles this morning as I watched Kid head off across the snowy field toward the just-about-to-be-closed-on-the-last-stragglers school door. He seems to have a compulsion to be the last kid in and will execute a series of serpentine comings and goings that extend his time-to-door by about 140%. It's fascinating to watch and on Monday I think I'll invite an anthropologist to come along and do a field study. "Peripatetic approaches to authority: A field study of small insurgents." I'll then be able to present this to school authorities who accuse me of habitual tardiness and overall poor parenting. Although what's "poor" about maintaining a near-perfect consistency, even if it is in lateness?

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Religious Life

This morning i have already prayed to the dryer (please let Kid have a pair of pants to wear to school this morning), the coonhound (please do not relieve yourself on the neighbor's front step), and a bag of black beans (please reveal yourself in this hellacious wasteland of a pantry hey is that actually Satan I see behind the 14 partial bags of alphabet pasta i thought you'd be taller). The first two prayers were answered. Satan, however, has apparently absconded with the beans, perhaps to unleash some not so fresh hell on the creatures of light.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Peanut butter and gi

In 15 minutes the kids are supposed to be barefoot and obedient in their karate class. Instead they're downstairs drinking Coke, eating crackers and peanut butter, and horsing around with Lego Atlantis.

They're happy, but I'm happier: I don't have to get in the goat-mobile to drive them to class, wait for them to figure out how to get into their little pajamas, wait some more while they're actually shuffling and whacking and whooping and hollering, wait again while they try to remember what locker they put their boy panties in, wait in the parking lot to get out, wait in the turn lane, drive all around the twisty-turny suburban cul-de-sacs and crescents that GOD HELP US if we ever have to evacuate this city, we'll all be circling our own neighborhoods for 25 minutes trying to figure out how to get out, and all this in a rusting stationwagon that smells like a certain sweaty coonhound. And all this while trying to edit a business proposal that must be out the door in about an hour. In Los Angeles. And WHOSE bright idea was it to forbid open bottles of alcohol in moving vehicles?

I think I'll couch this latest parenting failure in terms of a beaming gift of childhood. Here, boys, take it easy. Eat some junk food. Teach each other some swear words in the basement. You're welcome. Don't get Jiffy on your gi or I'll skin you alive.