Wednesday, March 31, 2010

(H is also for Howl)

Bonus footage only for coonhound fans

H is for HELP

Spring break. Day 3.

Restless midgets prowl in basement. Destroy furniture. Eat cereal from the box. Have treasure hunt with 543947463 stray pieces of Lego, which are now under every imaginable object in bungalow. Including restive coonhound who remains unconvinced that blue Lego is not for eating.

Rumors of insurrection lead to hasty withdrawal of carrot sticks and pita chips, rapid substitution (JUST JOKING, KIDS!) of Cheetos and rootbeer. Long-promised, much-dreaded journey to Boston Pizza has left one poor excuse for a mom, three waitresses, a "chef" and a nearby table of HVAC technicians with shattered nerves and chattering teeth. Teenaged niece forced to scribble desperate message on napkin and wave it at two small boys attempting to outdo one another in an ancient gladiatorial technique known to fell grown men at the knees in a matter of seconds:

Look at my eyes, my pasty complexion, the aura of having completely given up. The crazed half smile that says: "Everything IS NOT ALL RIGHT."

Four more days to go.

I hope teachers understand what they've done to mothers all across this country.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

G is for Germany

Many things have happened to me whilst in Germany.

1. I lost my wallet on Day 1 of my first year there. When it was discovered three weeks later, I hugged the elderly professor who headed my department so fiercely that my strapless bra snapped and dropped to my feet. How do you say "awkward" auf Deutsch?

2. I once got quite lost in a pleasant suburb--and by quite lost I mean for three or four hours lost-- because I kept following "Einwegstrasse," which I couldn't find on a map, in the hopes that it would lead to a main drag. Einwegstrasse means "one-way street." Did not know that. The bus driver in front of whose accordion vehicle I leapt, wild eyed and sweaty, clutching a now sour quart of milk, and gasping "Universitat, Universitat" probably still wakes up shaking.

3. I lived in Germany for two years, more than a decade apart. Both times, a Bush was the American president and there was a war in Iraq. Berlin has called to plead that I never return.

4. i marched in the rain for something that I didn't really understand, but which involved a number of my professor friends, beneath a banner made from a blue flannel flowery bedsheet onto which something in red had been written--again, no idea. This was the single most politically activist thing I had done in my life up until then.

5. I went to Rostock. One ought not to do that. Despite this:

6. I was refused dinner rolls in my village bakery until I could pronounce the word properly. Some mornings, it took upward of 5 minutes while a line formed behind me.

7. I practiced the phrase "Would you please repair my spectacles?" for 45 minutes--then, upon entering the optometrist's, promptly burst into wordless tears, produced my broken glasses like a burnt offering, and was given chocolate and a pat on the head. I was 40 years old.

8. A woman I befriended at the bus stop came for dinner, drank too much, played with the sharp knives and told me how much she loved my husband. I think. She might have been complementing me on my egg salad. It's hard to explain to someone why you are breaking off a friendship if it could have been either of those two things.

I could also compile a list of what you should do whilst in Germany, of course--and number one on that list is this:
Become pregnant.

Those people know how to deal with pregnant ladies, even freaked out first-timers who are old enough to be grandmothers. Within ten minutes of discovering beyond doubt that I was with child, I had a preggo passport (a very handy little book that recorded all my tests, results, and ultrasound pictures--of which there were many), a prescription for sexy black thigh-high pregnancy hose, a prescription for vitamins, a prescription for soothing herbal creams and lotions, a three-page list of what to eat and what not to eat, strict instructions about napping *every* afternoon, and very sensible advice on coffee and alcohol: "no more than 3 cups of coffee and 2 glasses of wine or beer a day."

Whenever I think about my pregnancy, I think about being wrapped up securely by German socialized medicine, cosseted and mollified, looked after with firm kindness, encouraged to eat perhaps a little more bread and cheese as I should really put on a little more weight. The nurses gave me a gift certificate to a local toy store when I saw them for the last time before heading home to Canada.

Some Americans I know of dream about Canadian healthcare. I dream of German healthcare. I wonder whose healthcare the Germans dream of.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Feargal Sharkey

Back in the good old KROQ days, when I woke up in LA to the rude humor of Kevin and Bean, I once heard this:

Don’t pick at it. You’ll get a Feargal Sharkey.

It instantly became one of my favorite things to say, and for such a long time, that I knew—knew—I was developing dementia when I reached for that name in a moment of motherly desperation and could not find it. I needed something to frighten Kid with when he expressed concern about some newly festering part of his anatomy, who knows what, I hardly can bear to look at the bathwater some days. GOD. Anyhow, I finished lamely with “. . . you’ll get a . . . boo boo.”

A boo boo.

I consider this a sad commentary on my ouevre as mother.

Like Kid, I was mothered as a young child by a woman on the verge of many things, including her 50s. In an age where children were still spanked in public, we were all used to such colorful threats as “I’ll skin you alive!” or “I’ll give you to the first gypsy I see” or “I’ll warm your backside with the wooden spoon but good.” It was all in good fun, mostly—none of us imagined for much more than a moment that our mothers would actually trade us for a pack of bubblegum and a stiff drink.

One of the things I was looking forward to when I discovered I was about to become a mom was joining that jovial crew of sarcastic child observers. As a kid, I knew they were having fun, rolling their eyes at one another, taking long drags on the Craven A, wiggling their painted toes as they watched us fall off the fence, parachute from the swings, or chase each other around the yard brandishing sticks. “Honestly, Micky,” I remember my mom saying, “they’re enough to drive a strong man to drink.” The ice in her drink tinkled against the glass as she spoke, the bright green lime a flag that signified her total acceptance of our shenanigans. We drove her to drink, sure (a weak gin and tonic), we were hooligans and vulgarians and there were potatoes growing in our ears but that’s the way kid life was and she was up to it if we were.

Today, it’s a little different, as we all know. We’re encouraged to believe that children don’t “get” sarcasm until they’re 9 or 10 (although Kid wouldn’t have survived 15 minutes in this place if he hadn’t learned to be the world’s most sarcastic 3-day-old). Hooliganism is definitely out—where would it take place? On a playdate in front of educational toys, all watched over by maternal machines of loving grace? Kids don’t run wild anymore and that means that moms don’t get to run wild anymore, either. What is there left to be wry about? “Honestly, Micky, Kid just cannot distinguish between b’s and d’s.” So many of the surprises are gone. I always know where Kid is. I pretty much always know what he’s doing. I know the state of his clothing. I know if there’s dirt on his face and where that dirt came from. I never have to say “what on earth have you gotten into now, you heathen?” The world has become perhaps a little less piratey not just for kids but for the moms who, if they’re like me, long for a little adventure, want to be shocked and “horrified” by what the little buggers have gotten up to this time.

Tomorrow, I do believe I shall spring my nearly 7yo from the backyard and let him go to the park with his friends for a little while. And when he comes home, all covered in gravel and mud, I’ll welcome him back with some colorful sayings that he’ll be able to tell his kids all about, things his mom would say when he showed up at him with the unmistakable sings of adventure on him. The word “boo boo” won’t be among them.

Monday, March 22, 2010

E is for Eva and Etsy

Brief aside: This has got to be one of the saddest things I've ever seen:

Moving right along--E is for My latest search? “steampunk beetle pendant.”

No one was more surprised than me when I got 77 results. Turns out there are a mess of people making steampunk insect jewelry for a living. This wasn't one of the options I remember seeing when I took that test in 1982. It told me that I should become a college professor or a librarian. Nothing that involved spatial imagination or lifting boxes over 25kg. And certainly nothing involving steampunk beetle pendants.

I think this one is my favorite:

Technically, of course, this is a bee. Bee, beetle, whatever. LET'S STEAMPUNK THAT BABY, I can hear that crazy jeweler hollering into the night.

"Hey, Ragged! Crazy?"

Crazy in a good way, and here's how I know:

Sure, I buy some stuff on Etsy. But principally I visit this site to find my people. Because, seriously? JUST YESTERDAY I was dancing cha cha cha in the snow with a tuft of messed up hair.

D is for changed my mind. Oh, and DEATH.

I was going to write my D is for. . . entry about the lovely blog DaddyLikey; it's author, Winona, writes haiku about chlamydia. Her weekly feature "Don't Showcha your Chocha" is a highlight of my working life.


There's been something kind of brooding over me the last few months. It's hard to describe. Okay, it's not. It's this:

Yeah. A giant Canada goose decoy. That's what I see when I look out my office window. I thought nothing could be worse than the neighbor's giant satellite dish, but, man, was I wrong. That thing just gives me the creeps.

If I had made a collage when I began this writer’s life, it would have featured the following:
Red velvet armchair
Remington typewriter
Francoise Hardy
Black eyeliner
Ornate jewelry of unknown provenance
Heavy glass bottles of dusky perfume

I’m just riffing here, but that’s the kind of thing I would have pasted on my walls to serve as inspiration. What I was aiming at. You might be able to tell that I was principally interested in being different and preferably being different in another country. Another culture.

As it turns out, I’m a well paid, sensibly attired, bottle-blonde mother of a young child and I write lies about software in suburbia. In the city in which I was born.

I’ve never seen a bottle of absinthe. Never been to Istanbul. I’ve been to the predictable places: Paris, London, Rome, Frankfurt, Los Angeles.


When I stare out my window, it's at the fat back end of a fake goose nestled improbably in a small spruce tree.

I just added 2 hours to my invoice to pay for the funeral of my dreams.

Not the funeral that I always dreamed about, but the funeral of what I always dreamed about.

A-HA is playing on my computer as I write.

I would call that the death of something.

Friday, March 19, 2010

And then there was Maude

The competitive death clapping at the Oscars this year was totally ruined for me by the absence of Bea Arthur. WTF?

Tonight, I'll be attending the monthly get-together of the coven, all of whom are aging rapidly. We are mostly all mothers of small boys, only one of whom is a Corgi, so what did you expect? Right. Facial crevasses and a martini habit.

We've decided to turn tonight into a celebration of the caftan. I'll be taking my mother-of-pearl cigarette holder.

Ah, irony. Where we would be without you.

God bless you, Bea.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

C is for Crash

And also for for CTV Olympics

Nothing is funnier than when people fall down on ice and snow, especially when they're moving very very quickly. And not funny the way that Dilbert is sometimes funny, nor funny in the way that you're bound to get nose zits the day before meeting up with people who haven't seen you in 35 years or so. Funny in the way that you're laughing so hard you're going to wet 'em for sure this time. An older gentleman once slipped on the ice across the street from our house and I had to slap myself in the face for 30 seconds before I could settle down long enough to go out and make sure he was okay. I hang out at skating rinks to watch the ankles turn, and crane my neck the whole time I'm on a ski lift to see if I can witness a tumble. I purposely ski the beginner run at Norquay because its lift goes right over the snowboard tricks park. There's something about windmilling limbs and gape-mouthed surprise that leaves me helpless. (One of the reasons I loved LA so much was that there are enough roller blading accidents taking place to satisfy anyone. I actually want to retract what I said earlier: there is nothing funnier than watching a tanned Amazon in a bikini, reading Heidegger while on rollerskates, crash into a telephone poll. Take it from me.)

I fell while skiing two winters ago and turned my right knee into butterscotch pudding. I had to lie on the couch for six weeks, have Frankenstein bolts drilled into my leg, and learn how to walk again under the tutelage of an adolescent sadist of a therapist. I feel that I have, therefore, paid my debt in full and am now free to revel openly in the misfortunes of other winter sports enthusiasts. And if there's anything that characterizes Canadian winter athletes, it's misfortune. We fall down. A lot.

So it was with mounting excitement I awaited the Vancouver Olympics. Two solid weeks of falling down. ON TV--I wouldn't even have to get out of my pajamas. Like the drive-in! Whee!

Except that we did well this time. Medal after medal after medal. The best crashes were those performed by the athletes of other nations and it's not polite to laugh at one's guests. Except for figure skaters from Europe dressed as Appalachian yokels. It's totally fine to laugh at them.

Garsh, wurd the ground git to?

When I fell, I was dressed as a Creamsicle. I think, as does the gentleman above, clearly, that if you're doing something during which you might fall spectacularly, you owe it to others to dress like a clown.

Which also starts with a C.

If schadenfreude started with a C, this would be the perfect opportunity to haul it out and end this post with a dramatic flourish.

Too bad for all of us.

Tomorrow: haiku about chlamydia. WHICH STARTS WITH A C. TA-DA!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

B is also for Birthday

This is the first birthday at which I've felt O-L-D. Then I got flowers and ice cream and a new hairdo and my favorite dinner and a bottle of champagne and a TV. Yes, a TV. Moving along.That made me feel a lot better. So back with the alpha meme thing. In love with this Bittman man on account of his baking powder biscuit recipe, the only one I have ever been able to follow without sliding crackers from my oven at the end of it all. Crackers with strawberries and whipping cream is a little more avant garde than I like my brunches to be. But here's the truth: all meals prepared by me come with a certain element of danger. I forget things, I make sinister substitutions, I measure with a nonchalance that might seem to be French on the surface but is the worst kind of Mixo-Lydian culinary slovenliness imaginable. I regularly confuse cinnamon with ancho powder, a situation not helped in the slightest by the fact that all my spice jars are unlabeled or misleadingly labeled (e.g., the cinnamon is in a jar labelled "CURRY: HOT" and the ancho is in a jar with some green ink smeared around to look a bit like "cardamom").

The gravity of the situation was brought home to me the other day when I greeted Kid at the door after school, wearing an apron and with flour smudged on my cheek.

"Darling, mommy's made muffins!" I piped brightly.

"Uh-oh," says Kid, and tries to get back out the door.

So don't ever accept a recipe from me that you haven't already double-checked with a trusted source.

This one comes from the New York Times. You decide for yourself whether that's a credible place to find a recipe for chicken pot pie without the fuss of the pie part.

(Perfect! A recipe that comes with an ingredient left out on purpose!)

Tomorrow: why Canadian winter was made for people like me.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Today is brought to you by the letter A

I'm sure that this has already gone around the world twice, but I found it interesting (PLUS! a quick n easy way to generate some writing on this here blog) and learned some things about myself. Scary things. I got it from Them's My Sentiments, and she got it from someone else, who got it from someone else named Schmutzie. I'm not taking it back any further than that. I have this idea that if you follow anything to its source, someone named Schmutzie will be there.

Anyhoodle, you just type just one letter (a, then b, then c, etc.) into your computer's internet address field. What is then suggested to you is the site (starting with that letter) that you've viewed most often.

Here is my life, spread before you like tapenade with SURPRISE anchovie, one letter at a time.

Today is brought to you by the letter A: 1-Click both saved and nearly ruined my life. Sure, I got Gibbons' The Fall of the Roman Empire practically overnight and thus saved a 6-week broken-leg stay on the couch from being a complete psycho bitch affair, BUT I also instantly (and on a menstrual/menopausal whim) purchased Extraveganza and promptly made the "cheesecake" recipe, which made my son weep bitter tears of outraged disappointment and my husband to start browsing the Russian Brides for Sale sites, which in turn has brought upon our heads all manner of terrible spam. (Lyudmila, I'm sorry, but there has been a terrible misunderstanding.)

Also, am I the only one whose brain insists on making that unfortunate asymmetrical breastlessness connection with Amazon? "New customer? Click here. (Actually, we can pretty much tell from here that you are.) " Every time I visit the site, I reposition my monitor, in case They are looking.

Actually, I bet I AM the only one. . . .

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

What would you do?

Just returned home to find THIS stuck to the front door:

Never do WHAT to your parents? Where is Luke? What have you done with him, Kid? DO I DARE ENTER THIS PLACE?

All suggestions welcome.

It's cold out here.

Relax and enjoy this soothing post about organic honey face masks

"With honey facemasks, you know that you will have nothing but good results since honey is all-natural. There is no need to worry about burns from harsh chemicals or products that hurt the environment. If it is good enough to eat, it is good enough for your skin. Apply the facemask two to four times a week and you will have soft glowing skin that you will simply love before you know it."

Aw, that sounds like such good advice. And from such a nice little source, too. Don't you feel more WHOLESOME just reading it?

Let me tell you what would happen if I wore an organic honey face mask for even the minimum 20 minutes that this site recommends.

1. Within 5 minutes I would look like a Wookie because of the coonhound hair drifting lushly through the air of this entire bungalow.
2. The fruit flies swarming in the kitchen would hear the dinner bell and then I would look like a Wookie with hygiene issues.
3. Kid would take this opportunity to sneeze wildly into the air in my vicinity. Unclean snot Wookie.

I could go on and on. Give me the nasty chemicals that are applied in the shower any day. I might be burnt and poisoned but altogether I think that might be a better look for me.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Clown school

1997. UCLA. Wooden Center. The work-out facility favored by the best and brightest--also the tautest, best muscled and godlike--that the city of Angels has to offer. Also favored by me, pasty, white, bit doughy around the middle. Until recently, I've been convinced for years that I am still an athlete, despite having played my last college soccer game in something like 1983. Completely disabused of that notion at this moment, during which I'm struggling with one of those new-fangled Ab Rollers and trying not to kick spasmodically or have an incident involving bodily fluids. 15 assisted sit-ups into a 16 sit-up routine.

From where I am lying I can see my reflection in the floor to ceiling window. Maybe it's not so bad. Sure, I'm not young, really, but at least from this angle you can't tell that everything goes wubbida wubbida when in motion. In the reflection I see one of Them. The young, the fit, the spandex attired. He surveys the entire floor and then lies down just beside me.

Obviously a man of discernment. Equally obviously I am not interested, being a happily married doughy woman whose mid-section generates its own theme song. How does one let a gentleman caller down easily? I cannot remember, it's been so long.

When I open my eyes from that happy little daydream, I snort and twitch in shock, which I think we can all agree is an attractive response to nearly every situation.

Spandex boy is still lying there, but on his forehead is a woman's hand, which is attached to a whole body that is up in the air like a spear. Seriously, I missed a one-handed forehead stand performed by Cirque du Soleil extras as it was taking place 18 inches from me.

"I met some dude named Omar out there," Soleil boy comments, as girl switches hands. "He wants to know if we want to run through some cross-zantian metamorphic contusions with him when we're done warming up."


Clown school. I feel like I've been its star pupil for the last 47 years.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

20(000) Questions

It's about an hour and 15 minutes from our leafy suburb to the slopes of Mt Norquay, whither we journey every Sunday morning, early, to get Kid to his ski camp (never) on time. This morning, Crazy Mother forgot to charge the iPhone and the DS, so we were thrown upon the treacherous shoals of one another's company FOR A WHOLE HOUR. After we exhausted all the hilarity possible from the coonhound's dreadful flatulence, we found ourselves with no other option than 20 questions.

Kid: Animal, vegetable or mineral?
Mom: Animal
Mom: Nope.
Kid: Does it have feathers?
Mom: Nope.
Kid: Is it an apple?
Mom: Nope. It's an animal.
Kid: Imaginary?
Mom: Nope.
Mom: Nope. Not imaginary.
Mom: Not. Imaginary.
Kid: Is it an animal?
Mom: Yes.
Kid: Does it have eyes?
Mom: Sigh.
Mom: No. No, it's not.
Kid: Right, because no feathers. Does it have feet?
Mom: Yes.

Kid: My turn. Okay, I'm thinking of an imaginary source of life.
Mom: The force?

54 minutes to go. Roadside cows are sniggering at me, the bastards.