Sunday, 25 December 2011

Thank G-d she didn't want a lollipop

I took my six year old daughter T. to see Disney Live! Princess Edition.

She wanted popcorn and a blue drink.

It came to $24.

It's okay.

I laughed out loud too.

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Next time I'll go straight for the Botox

Conference luncheon.  Across a crowded hotel ballroom, I see a woman wearing a black coat, with a bright orange cambridge satchel worn cross-body, messenger style.

The minute the speeches are over and the last hand has clapped, I tap the woman (who incidentally also had flame colored hair - FABULOUS) on the shoulder and gush inappropriately  demurely admire her bag.

A few days later Husband wants to show me something on the computer.  Completely assume that it's going to be a clip from the A-team or Night Court.  Maybe some new rims for his car.


He noticed that at the conference I accosted some poor innocent attendee stopped this orange chick to ask her about her bag.  He wanted to show me that a friend of ours mentioned the bag in her blog.  But wait a second, while he's paging down to show me the bag, I see these boots.


Fourteen hours later, I am handing the boots to a salesgirl.

"Who are these for? and what size is she?"

"Are you saying I'm too old for these boots?" (tapping my foot to the blaring music)

"Nnno.  I just assumed they were for a gift."

(Uh-huh. Because everyone knows shoes do not usually have to be tried on and are normally bought as gifts).

Cash.  Salesgirl hands boots to cashier.

Cashier looks at me.  Looks at her phone.  Looks at me.  Looks at the boots.

I look at the feather earrings, the fluorescent shoe laces, the pictures of Justin Bieber and Charlie Sheen.

Cashier looks back at me:

"Feeling young at heart today?"

Complaint tie-in:

I broke a personal rule on this one.  Usually if I wore something when it was in style the first time, I don't wear it the second time.  But I had to make an exception for Doc Martens.

Please don't rub it in.

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

I also have a cousin who studies Sanskrit, one who does the Ironman and one who lives in Vermont

Last night for dinner we baked one of the 250 pounds of cod that my cousin caught off the coast of Newfoundland this summer.  His wife is a born and bred Newfoundlander, and they spend a lot of time on the East Coast (clearly much of it fishing).

I mention this because I have a wide and varied family featuring many, many cousins (anyone remember Mr. Kotter and his endless uncles?) all of whom enrich my life in all sorts of ways.

Tonight's featured cousin keeps me informed of the travesties against humanity political scandals at her women's college.

Latest ridiculousness features an article about S-E-X published in the college paper that led to the paper losing its funding.

Sex? In college? What next - a keg party? A Pro-choice rally?

But this is no ordinary school tabloid. It's the only co-ed paper at a religious women's college.  And the article is a first person account written by a girl who allegedly went what used to be called all the way with her boyfriend before they were married.  Part of the controversy was that said boyfriend removed his yarmulke prior to the illicit encounter.  (Wondering if it would've been worse had he left the kippa on during some of the dicier moves).

Publication met with complete pandemonium.  Postings, e-mails, petitions, hell - there were whole editorials about this.  I think I saw somewhere that the paper's $500 of school funding was withdrawn.  They took the story down, which created even more internet hits, so they put the story back up.  Media coverage included the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times.

I am trying to figure out why everyone's knickers are in a twist.

1.  Girls should not be having sex before they are married.
2.  If they are having sex, they should not be talking about it.
3.  If they are having sex and talking about it, they should not be writing about it.
4.  If they are having sex, talking about it and writing about it, they should not be publishing it.
5.  If they are having sex, talking about it, writing about it and publishing it, for Crissakes, they should not be reading about it.

One problem with all of the above.

This is not an article about a young woman caught in the throes of passion getting it on with the doorman in the alley behind the bodega.

This is about some college chick who thought premarital was a good idea but then realized it wasn't for her.  Don't make the same mistake I did, girlfriends. It's not what its cracked up to be.

Maybe instead of panicking, the censors should have actually read the article.

Had they bothered to take a look, they would've seen that:

1.  The couple were in a committed relationship (with each other)
2.  They were religiously aligned (aka both Orthodox Jews)
3.  They were both of consenting age
4.  They were off campus at the time

and to me, the absolute cherry on the sundae, if you will -


Censors, you missed the boat here.  You could have had a great cautionary tale.  A "lessons learned".

Instead you ended up with an embarrassing lack of commitment to freedom of speech, blatant sexism and more internet hits than you really deserved.

And all I ended up with was a few pounds of cod.

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Maybe the other families make their beds and know where their library books are

Friend M. asked me today if I ever get tired of being a wife and mother.

I don't get tired of being a wife and mother, I answered, sometimes I just get tired of being a wife and mother to this particular collection of people.  I am sure there are lovely families somewhere else in the world that would be lots of fun to wife and mother.

This is where I think polygamists are missing the point.

I have seen sister-wives interviewed on TV multiple times and I can't help but notice how alike they are.  They all wear the same clothes, talk with the same accents, probably even prepare the same Cowboy casseroles.  

Guys: if you have a license to marry a bunch of different women, maybe you should exercise a little more creativity.  Go old.  Go young.  Go foreign.  The world is your oyster.

No where in your scripture does it say Thou must marry cookie cutters.  (Actually, I have no clue what it says in their scripture. I'm totally improvising).

Sometimes you see these same husbands being interviewed. They are smirking at the camera, because they think they have scored big time.  Look at me, they are saying, I have two people to pick up my socks, and you only have one.

Guys, the joke is on you.  You are buying a magazine and coming home to discover you already own the exact same issue. The covers were similar so you got confused.  Understandable.  But next time, think past the long jean skirt.  Saris? Sombreros?  Stilts?

Complaint tie-in:
Everyone has days where we complain about our jobs, whether it be wife-ing, mother-ing or folding sweaters in a department store.  That's why if you have an opportunity to try something different - say, folding red mohair instead of navy cable knit - go for it.  You may still be folding sweaters, but it will be a lot more fun.

Friday, 2 December 2011

Four stories where the punch line is: It could be worse, it could have been a gerbil

Story 1:
T (6 year old) comes up from basement.

Where were you?

Just feeding my goldfish brunch.

Me: Your goldfish eats brunch?

Husband:  We have a goldfish?

Goldfish is one of those miracle pets that is fed sporadically, never has clean water, and has lived to the ripe old age of three and a half.  How could husband have not noticed?

Well, I guess I can forgive him for not noticing a fish. They are quiet and unobtrusive.

It could be worse, it could have been a gerbil.

Story 2:
Open our eyes.  Snow.

Kids, get your boots on.

What boots? (No one has boots.)

Look in my closet.  One orange boot.  (Even worse than two missing boots is one missing boot.)

Guess we were over-enthusiastic in our spring cleaning.

Jump in car and head for evil retailer giant which opens at 8am.

Kids put on winter coats for the first time in months.

G reaches into his pocket and pulls out a yogurt tube.  A yogurt tube that has been sitting in his pocket since last winter.

Ewww. Gross.

It could be worse, it could have been a gerbil.

Story 3:
Speaking engagement at the Rotary Club.  Seated at Head Table.  Table-mate regaling me with tales of her reign as Sales Associate at a hardware store in England.

Seems she had a rich eccentric customer who visited her quite frequently.

At one point, he offered her a lift home.  She gets into his Rolls Royce Silver Cloud and there are ten newly hatched chicks running around the car.  It seems his wife wanted the chicks for an easter party.

It could have been worse, it could have been a gerbil gerbils.

Story 4:
Friend of a friend of a friend has a neighbor who was in a play group with a kid who has a cousin who lives across the street from a little girl who accidentally hugged her hamster too tight.  Hamster died.

Mother brought home another hamster.  Kid enthusiastically hugged hamster #2.

Hamster died.

Mother said, third time's a charm and brought home a third hamster.  Kid loved hamster #3 so much, she hugged it until it, too, greeted St. Peter at the pearly gates.

It could be worse, it could have been a - wait, never mind.

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Mom, Are You Growing a Mustache for Movember?

(and other things my kids said today before 9am):

Watch - I can play the recorder through my nose!
MOM - Follow me on Twitter.
Clementine oranges? Oh great! Do we have any salsa?
Why does my brother always get to hog all the purple hair elastics?
It wasn't me - Dad was watching that show.

and my personal favorite:

I would read your blog Mom, but I really don't have time.

Sunday, 6 November 2011

I'm not mentioning names (US Air)

Endless plane delays and re-scheduling of flights.

Finally board.

Sitting on tarmac.

Flight attendant: "We are waiting for another crew.  They are the ones who originally bid on this flight.  But then they were late.  So they called us in.  We all had to show up, and get the plane ready.  Now the other crew is here.  They have the right to this flight if they want it.  Unfortunately, they want it. So we all are stuck here waiting till they get on the plane, at which point we'll have to leave.  They will come on, and be your crew today."

Too much information.

Your union problems are none of my business.

I want to board your plane, have a diet coke, fall asleep, wipe the drool from my chin, and get jostled by IT consultants as they whiz past me.

I don't care who bid on what flight and who has what right to which hours.  Just tell me there has been a delay of twelve minutes and after that we will be scheduled for take-off.

Let us now fast forward to the return flight.  Same airline.

Flight cancelled.

Re-booked onto connecting flight through Washington, D.C.

Get off plane and eat airport Chinese food.

Go back to gate to board plane for Montreal.

One problem.  Plane is headed for Philadelphia.

Gate agent says: Oh, didn't anyone tell you?  This plane will stop in Philadelphia, you will have to de-plane for an hour, and then re-board for Montreal.

That is relevant information that I would have liked to know prior to taking off.  I like to know what city I am in, where plane will be stopping, and what time we will be arriving at our final destination.

I am grateful that ultimately the plane brought us where we needed to go - safely.

I am also compelled to point out the opportunities for improvement in airline-passenger communication.

We don't care about your digestive problems, your mother-in-law, or your union issues.

We care deeply about the plane we are on and where it is headed.

Please keep the relevant information flowing.

Thursday, 3 November 2011

I also got a Missoni sweater

I'm at a conference and there was a break.

Colleagues raced downtown for a splash of local color.  Suckers.

Target obviously a way better choice.

When I got in the cab (called a sedan here), I immediately noticed that the driver had the same ceramic dutch shoes dangling from his rear view mirror as I did dangling from my not at all nerdy conference tote bag.

Since you asked, I got my ceramic clogs from a delegate from the Netherlands who said they were each given three keychains to give to people who were exceptionally inspirational during their trip to the US. I was exceptionally inspirational during my speech, and proudly attached the key chain to my tote bag (hell, might as well jump in with both feet at this point).

I assumed that cab driver must have given exceptional customer service to the same group.

(cue ominous music)

Being that we are staying in the middle of nowhere, the Target is just east of the middle of nowhere.

And apparently, in this particular middle of nowhere, ya can't just jump out and hail a cab.

So the sedan dispatcher told me the best thing would be to get the cab driver's business card and call him, and he would pick me up.  He may even just wait for you, the dispatcher said.  And, in fact, as we were pulling away from the curb another hotel guest knocked on the sedan window and asked for the driver's business card, giving me the illusion that this practice is standard operating procedure here, in the middle of nowhere.

Colorless suburban strip mall. Thrilled.

Call me, driver says, handing me his card and I'll come back and get you.

Checkout line. Pull out Canadian cell phone, and roaming charges be damned, call the cab driver to pick me up.

Yeah, right.

Didn't even occur to me.

I have no plan B.

I pay for my three pairs of Converse very important and essential items and go to Guest Services for help.  Some woman overhears the conversation and says "I'm from Canada too.  Brockville."

She asks me if I've ever heard of it.  Of course, I say. You're a train station between Montreal and Toronto.

Wish I could take you to your hotel, she said, but I have this thing, with this person, and also someone else visiting, and I couldn't possibly.

In hindsight, maybe I should have been more excited about Brockville. Isn't it one of the thousand islands?

Guest services hauls out an actual yellow pages.  Calls a cab from her landline.  By the time we got out of the time machine and said goodbye to Bill and Ted, the taxi was there.

Things I find hilarious about this story:

1. That it didn't even cross my mind that the cab driver wouldn't come back
2. That I trusted him based on a matching keychain of dutch shoes that the Netherland delegation probably picked up at the Dollar Tree in the 6 for 1$ bin
3.  That the woman from Brockville tried to appear nice and Canadian but ultimately didn't give me a lift
4. That people still have and use actual yellow pages

And the complaint tie-in:

If the cab driver got a better fare, why wouldn't he just answer the phone and tell me? Or send someone else from his cab company?

Next time I'm in a colorful new city and my co-workers are exploring downtown there's NO WAY I would waste my time taking a cab to Target.

I'm definitely renting my own car.

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

And then we can all friend Kevin Bacon

Shocking how many people have told me, quite smugly, that their kids don't have a facebook account.  And furthermore, they would never let their kids have a facebook account. 

Initially, my response was a vague - well, each to their own.

Laissez faire attitude didn't last.

Couple of weekends ago, I overheard myself saying to someone: if your kids are not on facebook there are only two possibilities: either they are lying to you OR they have no friends.  Either way its bad.

How old are these kids you might be wondering?  Ranging in age from just learned how to read to applying to college.  Doesn't really matter to me though.  If you are old enough to want a facebook account my feeling is - take that pacifier out of your mouth and knock yourself out.

To all the people who disagree, I have a piece of advice for you:

Head over to your local cinema and treat yourself to a little movie I like to call Footloose.

You will notice that in the movie, the kids are not allowed to listen to music.  Music, the adults believe, is the devil's worship.  Music, they believe, is a passing fad.  Music, they say, is not necessarily here to stay.

See where I'm going with this?

What used to be called social media, is now called life.

If you don't like it, you should probably go outside and stop the earth from spinning on its axis.  Yup, that's right. The earth is round, and it spins.  Sorry to be the one to break this to you, but didn't want you to read about it on facebook.

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Questions Asked to Me by Group of EIghty Year Old Hadassah Ladies When I Spoke to Them About How to Complain Effectively

Would you like a cup of coffee?
How old are your kids?
I think I know your mother.  Is her name D.?
Did you go to high school with my son? He's very tall.
What are your kids names?
Who pays you?
If your mother is D., I think I know your aunt.  Is her name V.?
How about a party sandwich, some vegetables?
Do you get paid the same from all of your clients?
Are you sure I can't get you a coffee? or a danish?
My daughter works in Social Services.  Her name is Myrna. Ring a bell?
Who is paying you for speaking to us today?
Tell me sweetheart, is that your married name?
I've heard that some of the girls aren't changing their names when they get married.  What's the story?
Now that you're finished speaking, you'll eat something? at least have a cup of coffee?

Friday, 14 October 2011

Probably shouldn't delete your LinkedIN messages without reading them

When I met my husband, he handed me his business card.  3D Enterprises.  He cleaned carpets.  He cleaned so many carpets that he was able to put himself through University and buy me a diamond ring when he was done.

He cleaned bank carpets, restaurant carpets and suburban shag rug carpets.  In fact, some of the suburban wives invited him back for some extra special carpet cleaning.  I would provide you with a link - but this is a family show.

When it was time to go to graduate school in another city, Les Entreprises 3D had to meet its untimely demise.  But - wait a second - what if someone were to buy the business? The customer list? The equipment?  

And with a bit of networking and a lot of luck, my husband found that special someone who was ready to wear the 3D mantle with pride and pick up servicing suburban housewives carpet cleaning customers where he left off.  This young gentleman was keen and from what we could ascertain, honest and reliable.

The terms of payment were one major down payment and a 10 month series of post-dated cheques.

The first payment cleared.

A few of the monthly payments cleared.

Then there were the inevitable NSF cheques, some phone calls, and well, we never heard from keen young gentleman again.  

We chalked it up to life experience and went back to studying for our exams.  

That was in 1991.

Two days ago, my husband gets a LinkedIN message from keen young gentleman.  I know it's been a while, he writes, but I owe you money, and I'd like to set matters straight.

My husband opens his filing cabinet and - twenty years, eight moves and three cities later - pulls out a copy of the purchase agreement.  

E-mails keen boy back saying I am not sure exactly how many of the post-dated cheques cleared, but here are the amounts.  

Twenty four hours later my husband is holding a bank draft.

They are having lunch next week.

LinkedIN reminders drive me insane, but they are now going to send my kids to summer camp, replace my windows and buy me a new fall status bag.  OK, I'm dreaming.  But I could probably squeeze a decent dinner or two out of this pittance windfall.

Sometimes something you complain about can end up having value (that was the tie-in, were you waiting for it?)

And - if you owe someone something - knitting patterns, a book or money - don't be embarrassed to give it back.  If nothing else - it will make a great story.

Thursday, 13 October 2011


Church basement and no sign of Bill or his friends anywhere.  (For the record, I did see a styrofoam coffee cup, but that was the closest I came.)

Toastmasters  District Area Humorous Speech Competition.

When I got the agenda, I was dead last, scheduled to appear - if the contest ran on time - at 11:18pm.

Turns out, those were just placeholders.  In fact, the contestants of each of the four competitions drew lots to determine speaking order.  Oh good I picked a 6.  There were only 5 contestants in my section.  Not a good sign.

A few months ago, I was teaching a workshop on How to Deliver Bad News to health care professionals.  They laughed so hard that during the question period, someone raised her hand and asked if I would do stand up at her Christmas party.

Next thing I know I'm in a Church basement knitting a hat and waiting for my turn to be humorous.

When I gave the speech at the first level of the competition - Club, the instant-evaluation-judge said "I would have liked to hear more laughter from the audience."

Ummm, me too, lady, me too.

Since no one else entered the contest at my club, I was a shoo-in to represent at the Area District  level.   But since the speech wasn't really that funny, I said to the judges, let's just forget the whole thing happened.   Apparently that was impossible.  According to Toastmasters Rule 3, Section 12a, Clauses 19-37, once you have presented at the Club level and won (even by default), you are obligated to show up at the next level.

Well, I thought to myself, I could probably come up with something funnier for next time.


According to Toastmasters Chapter 5, Sub-sections 9-14, Paragraph B, once you have given a speech, you have to give the exact same speech for the duration of the contest.  Fabulous.

It then turned out that the date of the contest coincided with a pre-planned road trip.  I told the Seargant at ArmsGrand Poobah, District Manager President of the Speech Competition that I couldn't make it.  He changed the date of the entire event to accommodate me, because, as a new member of Toastmasters, the whole Region (Area?) was thrilled that I wanted to participate.  Idiots.

I toyed with not showing up.  "Just tell them you have three kids," ten year old G said, trying to help me come up with a good excuse.

I didn't want to let down my very sweet club organizer and her two friends who thoughtfully came, and paid the $7 entrance fee just to cheer me on.  Plus, I knew I wouldn't win, but my best hope was that the other people would speak limited English, maybe someone would forget their speech, and with that kind of luck I could probably come in second.

Wishful thinking.

First guy gets up.  Speaks limited English.  There's hope.  After handing out free pens to the audience - and a few of the judges - he whips off his suit jacket to reveal a Batman cape and "flies" off the stage.

The next three contestants were really good.  Funny, well practiced, spoke clearly.  One was a guy who entered all the possible competitions and gave speeches equally strong in English and French.  One was a beautiful woman in super high red patent leather spiked heels who spoke about her new car, and the third just got up and told a good story.

I got up, I told my stories, I made eye contact.  I heard laughter. There were even a few thumbs up as I walked back to my gray folding chair.

Feeling like it could have been worse.

Spiked heels came in third.  Good story came in second.  Bilingual multi-enterer won.

This leaves me and Batman as fourth and fifth.  Or fifth and fourth.  Thankfully some vaults remain locked.

On his way to claim his third trophy, Bilingual knelt down beside me and whispered "You have the best stage presence of anyone here.  You should re-work your speech into an inspirational speech.  A motivational speech.   We are having another contest in a few months."

Nicest guy, by the way, and if he ever gets tired of polishing his trophies, he's going to e-mail me a few tips for successful public speaking.  Toastmasters style.

As for me - I'm going back to teaching front line health care workers how to tell family members their loved one will never walk again.  That's how I get the big laughs.

Saturday, 13 August 2011

Blindsided by Debra Winger

Next time I watch a cheesy Lifetime movie, I'm going to Google it first so there are no nasty surprises.

Had an evening to myself.  Dreamt of going big. Movie theatre or Video Store.  Ultimately surrendered to the Lifetime network and one of its faithful stars, Debra Winger.

Single mother, four kids, tons of bills.  Mom lands great job, meets fabulous guy, gets debilitating disease.  That's what I call a Saturday night.

Mother overcoming disease, learning to walk and talk again.  Boyfriend sticks by her.  Kids make a schedule and post it on the fridge.  Perfect.

*Five years later* some of the actors have been replaced, Debra and Boyfriend are married, one of the kids gets engaged.

Next thing you know, with like twelve minutes left, Debra drops the youngest kid off at school and her classmate turns around to show the name on his varsity jacket.  Columbine High School.

You're not serious.

Yes, they were serious.

In the final seven minutes of the two hour and thirty nine minute movie, the youngest daughter (spoiler alert) gets shot and killed in the Columbine massacre.

Turns out it was based on a true story.  I obviously should've gathered a little more information going in.

There's some Chekhov quote about how if you are going to use a sword to kill someone in the third act, you should have it hanging on the wall in the first act. And the reverse is also true - if you're going to have a sword hanging around throughout the show, it should at some point be used to kill someone.

Nice that she was nominated for a Primetime Emmy for this role.  Maybe she should have spent a little more time reading Chekhov.

I want to believe that Valerie Bertinelli would've had the decency to warn me.

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

House guests, Smoked Meat, and a Helpful Equation

Monday morning at the water cooler.  N regaling me with tales of weekend house guests featuring dog pictures on a cell phone, too much scotch and a single face cloth.

Story gets even weirder.

House guests hail from quite a distance, and have always wanted to try pastrami, corned beef smoked meat. N and husband trek down to the mecca.  Park, wait in line.

Visitors reluctant to order for themselves.  I understand.  Sandwiches notoriously complicated.  Much to consider.  Lean. Or not.

N pauses the story.  "Let me ask you something.  If you were to order smoked meat sandwiches for a group, how many would you order?"

"How many were you?"


"Five? Six?"

"They wanted to split a sandwich."

"You mean split their second sandwich?"

"No.  The three of them and one sandwich."

I have never actually heard of three people splitting one sandwich.  And a smoked meat sandwich on top of it? I am not sure whether to call Ripley's Believe it or Not, the Guinness Book of World Records, or 911.

In fact, I told N, I have an equation for ordering smoked meat sandwiches.  It's {[(number of people + 1)sandwiches] + [(number of people-2) fries]}.

My family went through a stage of picking up deli on a fairly regular basis and I found someone was always hunting through wax paper for that last salty hit of nitrates, and I routinely had bags of fries ziplocked optimistically in my freezer.  And a mathematical solution was born.  Try it, you'll thank me.

We have all had house guests.  And we have all come to understand that people have quirky habits that you never really know about until you spend time under the same roof.

I can handle the dog glamour shots.  The scotch.  Hell, I can even ignore a few facecloth infractions.  But sharing a smoked meat sandwich three ways?

That's unnatural.

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Kumbaya, My Lord, Kumbaya

Driving T to sports camp the other morning.  She looks out the window and says "If I have a black boyfriend when I grow up, I'm going to dump him."

Quick internal debate.  Should I ask her why she would agree to go out with this hypothetical guy in the first place if she knew she was going to dump him?  Should I tell her she doesn't have to worry about boyfriends, she's only six?  Or, is the temptation to jump on my soapbox so great that I will take advantage of any opportunity to start preaching?

"What? Why would you dump him? You are allowed to have a black boyfriend.  You can have any boyfriend you want.  Black, white, green, anything."  (Soapbox it is. Bet you saw it coming.)

"REALLY?" (shocked).  "Thanks Mom, you're awesome".

That was too easy.

"Mom, have you ever had a black boyfriend?"

Umm, define black.  Define boyfriend.  Define had.

"Yeah.  I dated a few black guys a loooooong time ago."  Whether or not one guy ended up getting a PhD from Harvard and is a distinguished professor today probably isn't relevant to the conversation.

"So wait a second, this means Dad coulda been black? We coulda had a black Dad?  I gotta tell the brothers about this one."

Wait a second, I tell her.  Who I went out with is my private business not to be shared with the brothers.  I go on to explain about knitting girl talk, and how when a girlfriend or a mom or a girl cousin shares something in confidence it is not to be repeated.  Especially not to boys.

Then I remembered she just finished kindergarten.

Few hours later I'm giving the brothers a lift and I realize I better tell them the whole story  before they start posting on facebook that they could've been the illegitimate love children of Mos Def.

I open with "Funny story.  Driving your sister this morning..." and end with "a few black guys a looong time ago."  Whether or not one of these guys was captain of a varsity team at the time probably wasn't relevant to the conversation.

B looks at me and says "Are you seriously telling me she didn't know that?  I thought everyone knew."

The complaint tie-in:

To avoid complaints later about who your kids are or are not dating, its probably best to state your preferences up front.  When they are six, it's all new information, but by the time they turn 12, they probably know more than you think.

Monday, 1 August 2011

I'm Parched

We went on a spectacular luxury family tour of Israel.  It was so organized, we met unbelievably interesting people, everyone had a blast.


But the good news is - I have a complaint.

The price of the tour included all the hotels, most of the meals, admission to all the museums, movies, special exhibits, a Bar Mitzvah for our son, a full time tour guide, use of the air conditioned bus.

But it didn't include water.

There we were, in a sweltering country, at the hottest time of year, and we had to pay for our own water.

True, it was great service being able to get our water on the bus and not have to buy it from any of the convenience stores en route.  But it woulda been even better had it been free.  We were in the desert for Crissakes. I rode a g-ddam camel.

The bus driver had a nice little racket going.  He probably paid $2 a case at the Costco and he charged us over $1 a bottle.  Some people were convinced that we were paying cost.

Yeah right.

He was just being a nice guy.

A few suggestions:

  • The tour company could have increased our cost by a few bucks and given us unlimited free water bottles.  
  • If they were worried about people stuffing their pockets with water bottles, they could have increased our cost and given us water at pre-determined points of the day (e.g., one per person per stop).
  • They could have given us free refillable water bottles and encouraged us to refill them before we got on the bus.  
  • They could have brought us to a Costco and let us buy cases of water that we could have left on the bus.
  • They could have given us free mojitos and we would have forgotten all about the water.
I am planning to write a detailed letter to the tour company telling them about everything they did right, and then slip in a few of these water related remarks in as constructive a fashion as possible.

This is a very minor complaint in light of everything that went well on the tour.  

But isn't it comforting to know that even in the face of first-class travel, I will find something to complain about?

And isn't it also comforting to know that I will share my complaint with you?

Sunday, 19 June 2011

And I Quote

In honor of Father's Day, here are a few famous words from the Dads in my life, and of course the subsequent lessons learned.

"You don't have to go to a shiva just because someone died." This is one of my favorite things that my father-in-law has ever said.  The only reason on g-d's green earth to go to a shiva is because someone died. But I know what he meant.  He meant that if someone you vaguely know dies, or it's someone you didn't like, or if you weren't close, or if you don't really know the family, then you don't necessarily have to go to the shiva/visitation/memorial service.  There are enough tragedies that we have to witness.  If it's one where you aren't really needed - spare yourself.

"Kids, eat this or it's going to end up in soup."  My husband thinks I am sometimes a raging lunatic  a bit over-creative with the leftovers.  He's not wrong.  Yesterday's crudites are tomorrow's stir-fry and er, sometimes next week's soup.  While I defend my right to be efficient in the kitchen, I have to give a little credit to him and think about the end result - taste? texture? smell? -  not just my selfish desires to clear fridge space.

"That's not the last straw.  This is."  For a few weeks in the late eighties my dad walked around with a straw in his suit pocket waiting for someone to say "That's the last straw" whereupon he would hand him the pocket straw and say - "nope, this is".   This struck me as hilarious.  I learned that catching people off guard can be a great ice breaker.  Things are a lot funnier when they are unpredictable.

"Do not park in anyone else's driveway." My great uncle has a long and extensive list of life lessons, and this is one that resonates with me because whenever I park in someone else's driveway it ends up being a bad idea.  Either someone comes home and needs their spot, or I am blocking someone in, or people want access to the basketball net.  It's not your driveway.  Don't park there.

"You are coming to a party at my house.  Do not wear your boots. Please wear nice shoes." Rewind twenty plus years ago when I loved my Doc Martens deeply, but I love my uncle more.  And when he asked me to please wear nice (read - ladylike) shoes to his party I appreciated the direct approach and did what he wanted.  I think it's much more respectful to tell someone what your expectation is than to leave them to do their own thing and then whisper behind their back or worse - become insulted that they didn't read your mind.

Any favorite quotes you want to share?

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

The Real Reason Strep is Going Around

It's amazing how many people sat on Oprah's couch and said I saw it coming, but that didn't stop me.   I reached for the ice cream and I thought I felt a foot in the deep freeze, but his eyes were just so blue, I couldn't tear myself away.

We watch, amazed that someone could see that their wife spent every penny she had, kept mumbling under her breath about Bingo, but still left the bank account in both our names because, hell, her macaroni and cheese was just so damn creamy.

We would never do that, we say to ourselves.  We would recognize the writing on the wall and run shrieking in the other direction.

But when it comes to our bodies, how many times to we ignore symptoms or put off going to the doctor until it's really too late?  How many times to we ignore the throbbing pain in our shoulder just so we can keep on knitting? Or maybe that last one is just me.

My friend C has strep.  She called to complain.  (I know you also have strep, but since you didn't call me to complain, this story is not about you.)  C's complaint is that her kids were sick and she thinks she picked something up in the festering swamp of germs known as the pediatrician's office.  

I reminded her that last week when she was forcing me to climb hills more appropriate for first year marine boot camp on our walk, she was already feeling run down.  She was exhausted.  She was depleted.  She had nothing left to give.

She saw the signs. 

But did she heed this warning, book a ticket to Tahiti and blackberry be damned?

Did she crawl into bed with a good book and lay there for 24 hours?

Nope.  She went back home, back to work, back to the kids and continued to burn the candle at both ends until, well, until she got burned.

So, the soapbox statement of the day is -

If you take a preventative break when you start to realize you need to, you can probably heal yourself in a half a day.  If you ignore the flashing red light over your head until you end up in an ambulance by yourself at 3am because you threw your back out, it may take six weeks to recover. 

Ladies and gentlemen, if your body is trying to tell you something please heed that message.  

Otherwise you are no better than the suburban mom saying she noticed most of her spoons were missing but figured her boys really liked ice cream.

Sunday, 12 June 2011

Credit Where Credit Is Due

Have you ever been on a diet and maybe you weren't perfect, but as you pull into the parking spot on your way to get weighed, you remember that you turned down home-baked chocolate chip cookies, you said no to an after-work beer with colleagues, and politely refused your mother-in-law's world famous potato salad? and then you get on the scale, all smug, and you are the same, or worse up .02?

And you feel doubly annoyed, first because the numbers aren't what you had hoped, but also because you feel you should get the credit for every thing you didn't eat?  You feel that there should be some sort of recognition system for everything you said no to?

I am thinking that the same principle applies to simplifying my life.  I would like to get credit for everything I didn't do this weekend.  Everything I turned down, said no to and gently refused.

Here are three things I could have done this weekend, and didn't:

1.  Didn't go to Twentieth College Reunion.  This weekend is my twenty year college reunion.  I loved college.  My roommates are still my BFFs, we were each others bridesmaids, and even though we live in different countries we see each other a decent amount.  My husband was my boyfriend back then, so he knows everyone too, and would love to see Usdan as much as I would.  Then there are all the facebook friends that I wouldn't mind seeing IRL (In Real Life)  and all of this points to a fun time for all.  BUT, it has been an incredibly hectic season for us, featuring several trips to various time zones, and I didn't think we could handle one more road trip/hotel stay/ice cream social.  So even though I didn't have a huge reason for saying No, more like a lot of little reasons, I turned down the opportunity to have a good time for the opportunity to be responsible.  I would like some credit for this.

2. Didn't have a Garage Sale.  I was vaguely planning to have a Garage Sale before the summer got into full swing.  I have a few projects that I could be fundraising for, and a house that could always use de-cluttering.  Plus, my kids love to help with the Garage Sale, in part because they want to take the money and run to the nearest KFC.  Then, I just changed my mind.  Garage sales are a lot of work.  I can de-clutter, I can re-organize but I don't actually have to stand outside for four hours making change.  So, I didn't have a Garage Sale this weekend because I just decided it was too much work. I chose not to have a Garage Sale out of pure laziness, how's that for simplifying?

3. Didn't Cook Dinner.  Yesterday my superstar husband went to the grocery store, and before he left I asked him to buy something he could make for supper.  His culinary repertoire is a little slim, so I suggested sandwiches.  Husband thought sandwiches were more of a lunch food.  Couldn't believe that I was suggesting we dine on Portuguese rolls with oven roasted turkey slices after 6pm.  I didn't cave, though.  I knew I was going to have a busy day - simplification aside - and I didn't want to have to think about dinner.  Plan worked.  Came home at 6:15pm.  Sammies ready at 6:30pm.  Mission accomplished, and I didn't have to lift a finger.

Trying to lose weight does not come naturally to me.  Neither does simplifying my life.  But I sometimes feel I would be a lot further ahead if I got credit for all the things I didn't eat, drink, smoke or worse.

How about you?

Saturday, 4 June 2011

Stormy Weather, Any Port in a Storm, Upcoming Storm Warnings in Effect

A family in Toronto had a baby named Storm.  The kid was born healthy, with all its parts where they should be.  However, the parents decided not to tell anyone whether this is a boy or a girl.  They want the child to be able to make her/his decision when s/he gets older.

Three reasons this is insane:

1.  Not telling people if you have a boy or a girl (once the baby is born) is very weird behavior.  By extension, these parents are making their child very weird.  Before the child puts on its first brown and orange turtleneck, before it has even picked its nose and eaten it or accidentally wet its pants in public, this child is already a complete oddball.  Might as well lead the kid to the corner and hand him or her a pot of paste and a spoon.

2.  Gender is not a choice.  Veganism is a choice.  Gender is determined by your DNA, the level and types of hormones coursing through your blood, and a bunch of other things that would probably make more sense to me had I taken Biology instead of North American Literature.  Telling a kid they can choose their gender is like blindfolding them for the first few years of life and then letting them decide whether or not they want to see when they get older.  

3.  These parents are allegedly doing this because they don't want to make a big deal out of gender.  The best way to not make a big deal out of gender is to conceal your baby's gender, get interviewed by the local paper, capture the attention of the national and international press, and end up the most read and commented article online all week.  Way to fly under the radar, guys.

I can understand not wanting to stereotype your kids.  I get the gender neutral name, I can see letting your daughter play with cars. Hell, I even understand letting your son wear nail polish.  

But if you are born with a healthy child, for the love of g-d tell us whether it's a boy or a girl.  

We promise not to judge you for it.

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

A Tip for Effective Complaining

Have you ever asked someone for directions, and they say something like: "and you're going to pass a gas station on your left, don't turn, keep going straight till you pass a school on your right, don't turn, just keep going straight, over a bridge and then keep going straight - no turn yet - till you get to a stop light and then go straight till Main Street where you go left"?

That is completely too much information for me.

I would like directions that say: "go straight until Main Street, and then make a left."

Please do not give me all the extraneous information regarding churches, gas stations, schools, sheep grazing in a meadow.  Maybe it's just me, but my exhausted brain can only handle the relevant information.  Please weed out the detail, and focus me on what I need to know.

Yesterday, a colleague came to see me for advice.  She needs to lodge a formal complaint on behalf of a relative at a health care centre.  She told me the complaint - let's say she didn't think the place was a good fit- and then she started telling me about every other encounter her relative had ever had at a range of doctor's offices, hospitals, community centres and parking lots throughout the city.

I don't care.

Not to be mean.  But if you are complaining about the ice cream melting, I don't need to know that you had ice cream in Italy, and by the way it's called Gelato there, and the flavors - oh, the flavors - and you go to Italy every summer, but this year you are thinking about France, maybe a houseboat.

Stay focused.

When you are lodging a complaint, formal or informal, know what your issue is and stick to it.

You may see gas stations, stores, or a few sheep grazing in a meadow.

Just keep going straight.

Thursday, 26 May 2011

An Epiphany in the Mall Parking Lot

G has football on Thursdays.  I am not sure where you live, but we have been the victim of many rainy Thursdays this season.  So much so, that today's e-mail indicated that football has been moved indoors, to the gym of a defunct high school.  At first I was inconvenienced because the school is a bit out of my way, but then I figured I would drop him off and do a few errands in the neighborhood and then pick him up.

Found the school, dropped him off, parked.

Opened my wallet to find not only do I still have my receipt from the dry cleaners but lo and behold, the cleaning is to be picked up today after 4pm. And here we are, today, after 4pm.  And here I am, parked, in the lot next to the dry cleaner.  Chills go shooting down my spine.

I stride to the cleaners with all the confidence of someone who actually has her claim ticket.

"Hello." says very nice young dry cleaner guy.

"Hi." I say, putting my paperwork on the counter, expecting a standing ovation.

He takes my tickets and walks over to the rack of clothes.   Looks a bit puzzled.

Comes back, checks the tickets.

Returns to the rack of clothes and presses the button to bring some new garments into view.  "Hmmm."

Scratches his head.

Wait a second.  This isn't supposed to happen to people who are in the right place at the right time.  People like me, receipt bearers.

He returns victoriously clutching one measly suit (not that your suit is measly, honey, I'm trying to make a point here).  He puts it on the counter, and looks at the receipt. "Hang on", he says, "didn't you have five suits?"


"And, looks like you had a few dresses too.  And a coupla shirts."

"Yes, I do."

"They'll be ready tomorrow."

"Doesn't the ticket say Thursday?"


"So, aren't they supposed to be ready today? After 4pm?"

"Yeah," he says.  "The thing is, my father put them in the pile of stuff due tomorrow, so like, they'll be ready tomorrow.  Sorry 'bout that."  Smiles nicely.  "I'll talk to my father."

"Ugh." I tell him. "I was so excited.  I was feeling so efficient."

He smiles understandingly, as if he too, had a kid whose football had been rained out three weeks running and he too had to drive him to a defunct high school and pick him up an hour later, and he was also just trying to get to the Post Office before it closes.

He was so nice.

I smiled back.  "That's okay," I told him reassuringly, "I'm not in a rush.  I'll be back in this neighborhood next week and can pick up my clothes then."

Exhaled.  Letting go.  Feels great.

I could have told him I was inconvenienced.  I could have said this was their mistake and what were they going to do for me.  I could have asked for a discount, a raincheck, a coupon.

I'm sure Superman and Spidey feel the same way - sometimes the pursuit of justice is exhausting.

And sometimes, people just make honest mistakes, like putting the Thursdays' suits in the Friday pile.  Sometimes people show up to pick up their clothes on the wrong day, or bring the wrong receipt to the wrong dry cleaner.

Apparently, sometimes people completely misplace their dry cleaning receipts and expect the nice young dry cleaner guy to search high and low with only a vague description of "I'm pretty sure they were black pants".  

Sheesh.  Some people.

Saturday, 21 May 2011

Judgement Day is coming, get your blueberries ready

I was just cleaning the kitchen (maid's day off) and I came across a ziploc with one blueberry in it.

The ziploc had a sharpie'd message:  "THIS BLUEBERRY SURVIVED 21/5/2011".

(I'd show you a picture, but every time I put a photo or a video on this blog, it throws everyone off).

I immediately realized that this is the work of B, the 12 year old that you may remember from such films as I Just Jailbroke My iPad.

B is afraid because neighborhood kid N who practically lives at my house and is considered part of the family has a teacher who told the students to stay inside all weekend because judgement day is coming and people will be running around with guns.

Why he thinks a single blueberry in a plastic baggie will survive the end of the world is beyond me.  Yes, I splurged and bought name brand ziplocs (no dollar store snack bags for this princess) but let's face it, blueberries are not the toughest fruit out there, and plastic is just not the most flameproof material.

Explaining to B why the blueberry is probably not the best choice for apocalypse survival would be to suspend disbelief long enough to agree that there is an apocalypse, that is likely to happen on schedule, and that it will be sufficiently fiery to destroy anything in its path.

I am also wondering why he thought the blueberry was the most important thing in the house to save.  What about our photographs? Passports? Coin collection? OK, we don't have a coin collection, but if we did?

The choice of B's message is a bit mysterious, even to me, but one thing is clear - he was genuinely worried about the world coming to an end, and wanted to send some kind of a message to all those who come next.  And, yes, we can laugh and joke about how this guy tricked a bunch of people into giving him a cool $18 mil to get saved before the rapture, but you know what - he genuinely frightened a lot of people.  B may have been the only one to put a blueberry forth for posterity, but I don't think he's the only one who got really scared.

I resent this guy for scaring people, for taking their money, and now for selling I survived Judgement Day t-shirts.

Apparently said genius has gone into hiding.  I don't blame him.  I have a blueberry and I'm not afraid to use it.

Monday, 16 May 2011

Catching More Flies

Early morning at the airport.  Super long line.  Ticket agent is having a fight with the printer.  Luggage tag issue.

"The baby is outside with my husband.  I figured I'd just come in, drop off my bags, and then when they come in, we won't have to wait in line." says a 23ish, orange hand-knit beret wearing woman in the queue next to me.

Grandmotherly ticket agent patiently explains that she can not check in a human being, even a small one, without actually seeing them.

Beret woman adjusts her gold wire rimmed glasses and says: "I am travelling all the way to LA by myself with a baby.  It's REALLY hard to be with a child on the plane, so I want her to be calm, you know, before we board.  That's why he took her outside."

Luggage tag printer jammed.  I am thrilled.  Now I can stick around to hear the end of this.

Ticket agent sends her outside to get the baby, very nicely offering to wait for her before seeing the next person in line.

She wheels her stroller up to the counter: "Usually, I just use the Executive Class line, and you know, the are so much nicer to me there."

"Ma'am, the Executive Class agents are for Executive, Business and First Class travellers only."

"It's amazing that you are being so difficult about this.  I am travelling to LA today, with a baby.", she says condescendingly, straightening out the singing frog dangling from the stroller bar.

Luggage tag printer has now run out of tape.  Ticket agent searching for a replacement roll. 

Neighboring ticket agent's voice is rising.  "I'm sorry Ma'am, I can't give you a Priority Luggage tag.  Priority Luggage tags are used for high priority travellers only." 

"But I am travelling by myself with a baby and it will be impossible  for me to wait for my bags.  I fly back and forth to LA all the time I have never had anyone be this difficult with me.", says Orange Beret.

She wheels away indignantly.

Our ticket agent has now made her peace with our printer.  Perfect timing.

Oh wait - there's more -
Behind me, I hear someone smooth down her denim skirt and whisper to the Supervisor.  I look over and sure enough it's Orange Beret. Supervisor is loudly declaring "I'm sorry Ma'am, High Priority Luggage tags are for High Priority travellers only."

Ticket agent calls to Supervisor: "I already said No to her", and then under her breath "I didn't like her attitude."

I smile at ticket agent: "You mean you could have checked in her baby? You could have given her a High Priority luggage tag?"

Ticket Agent: "Of course.  I just didn't like the way she spoke to me.  She acted like she was entitled to get all this special treatment.  Had she just asked me, we could have worked something out."

"So you are saying that if people complain effectively, they are more likely to get what they want?"

"Yeah.  We can do a lot to help our passengers.  They just have to ask us properly."

Hah. Told you so.

My life's work has meaning.

This trip is off to a great start.

Thursday, 5 May 2011

Lessons Learned from Greek Salad

Lesson 1: Everyone is the boss of their own salad

We were sitting at lunch at a Greek restaurant when Friend A announced that we all be sharing the Greek Salad. Friend B said, "You two go ahead, but I'm going to have the chicken. I don't like Greek Salad."

Friend A: "How could you not like Greek Salad? It's delicious. What could you possibly not like about it?"

B: "I don't like the Greek and I don't like the Salad."

A: "I can't believe this. We've been eating lunch together for years, and I never knew you don't like salad. How could you not like Greek Salad? It's got cucumbers, tomatoes, oregano?"

B: "I don't like feta cheese, I don't like cucumbers, I have texture issues with tomatoes and oregano is my least favorite herb."

A (comprimisingly): "Well how about if we order it, and you can just pick out what you want?"

B (rolling her eyes): "That will leave me with a few black olives for lunch. Yum."

By the time you are old enough to have lunch in a restaurant with your friends, you are old enough to know whether or not you like Greek Salad. No one has the right to tell you where to sit, what to drink, what to order, and what to put on your salad. Friend B could have gone along with the food sharing plan to avoid a scene, but she would have been doing herself a disservice. It is your right to order something else even if everyone else is sharing a Greek Salad.

Lesson 2: It's OK if things are not perfect for Your children

We took the kids for a weeknight dinner out. B immediately decided he HAD to have the 16oz steak, mashed and Caesar off the adults' menu. T pulled out her rosary and said a few Hail Marys because we were letting her have deep fried chicken fingers, fries and ketchup. And G, well, G ordered the Greek Salad.

A few bites into it, he looked up at me and said "Mom, there are two things I don't like in this salad. Feta cheese and olives with hard stuff in the middle."

(What is with people and Greek Salad ingredients this week?)

"Mmmmm," I say non-committally.

He continued to eat his way through the salad, picking out the cheese and the olives and putting them on the side of his plate. He may or may not have stolen a few fries off the chicken finger plate but I ain't no narc.

And you know what happened in the end? Nothing. He totally survived. We didn't offer him the chance to order something else. We didn't pick the olives out for him. We didn't tell him he had to finish or no dessert. We all just sat and ate our dinner, colored on the paper placemats, had our coffees and went home.

Lesson 3: Sometimes the best part of a conversation is the last two minutes

My father in law was out for dinner with us. Nothing goes down with an Old Fashioned Smoked Meat Sandwich like half eaten Greek Salad, so we offered him the remainder of G's plate. He had a few bites, we chatted.

Husband and B left for the gym. Father in law picked at the salad, we chatted some more.

The other two kids were playing Houdini with my work ID lanyard. Even Father in law at this point has had enough cheese, and is picking feta out of the salad, but still enjoying the cukes, tomatoes, olives.

Finally, as he took the last few bites of salad and pushed the plate away, conversation came around to the cruise he was just on.

Apparently, they had great activities after dinner.

And one of the activities was a Sexy Legs contest. Which all table mates on the cruise insisted my Father in Law enter. And which he grudgingly agreed to do, if only to oblige his friends. And yes, which he won. My father in law. Sexy Legs. On a Cruise.

And I would have heard nothing about it if it weren't for the Greek Salad.

It's amazing the lessons the universe wants to teach us if we just open our eyes.

Sunday, 1 May 2011

Pavlov Would Be Proud

I look over at the caller ID. Kids' summer camp. Glance at my purse. Yup, cheque still in there. Envelope didn't mail itself.

I answer the phone cringing.

"Do you have a minute?" Camp Director asks. Quick sigh of relief: he's not calling about the money, followed by a sharp intake of breath: something else might be wrong.

Turns out a family called to complain about one of my kids. The middle one, G. I can't help but gasp - "Are you sure it was G? My boys really look alike."

Camp doesn't want to give me any of the details. Wants me to speak to G and ask him if anything happened with him and anyone else in camp, gently steer the conversation over to a canoe trip and see what I can come up with.

I call my husband from the car crying hysterically admitting that I have almost no information other than a vague hunch that something is really wrong calmly tell him the story. Husband says "G? Are you sure it was him? A lot of people mix them up."

I race home in time to take G to swim team. He opens the car door and I, gently as instructed, steer the conversation as casually as possible: "Do you have your goggles? Did anything happen at camp this summer when you were on the canoe trip?"

"I took my sister's goggles. We didn't go on a canoe trip."

Off to a great start.

"Did you go on a camping trip?"

"Oh, a camping trip. Yeah."

"Did anything happen?"

"Like what?"

I don't have this kind of time. Throwing all illusion of an enigma to the wind, I say: "G, someone called camp complaining about you. Apparently something happened on the canoe I mean camping trip that didn't go very well. Did you have any problems with anyone at camp?"

"Are you sure they meant me and not my brother?"

(Finally, we are getting somewhere.)

"They definitely meant you."

"OH well there was one guy."

"Uh-huh?" Like sand through the hourglass.

"And he spit on the floor all the time and I thought it was really gross. He spit on the FLOOR, Mom. The floor of our BUNK. On the CANOE TRIP he SPIT on the FLOOR of our TENT. Where we SLEPT. He spit EVERYWHERE. I tried to talk to him but finally I had no choice. I had to do SOMETHING. I had to take MATTERS into my own HANDS"

Nervous. The G honeymoon may be over. "So what did you do?"

"I put him on a chart."

"A chart? Is that a camp thing?"

"No, Mom. A CHART. Like for behavior. Every day that he didn't spit I gave him a star. And then at the end of the week, if he had all stars, I promised him an Aero bar from the tuck shop. And you know what Mom, the plan totally worked. He stopped spitting that day. His chart FILLED up with STARS. He must've really wanted that chocolate bar."

Now, if only I can get the envelope to mail itself...

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Just Say No

Anyone worth their ABC after school special knows that when you are under the bleachers with that special someone, ok fine the captain of the football team, and he reaches for your pom-poms, it's ok to Just Say No. Even if you hinted that you were in it for the long haul, even if you passed him a note during third period Algebra, you are still within your rights to call a stop to the proceedings with a simple No.

This lesson is widely taught to girls 12-17, but is often forgotten by grown adults.

College friend called with a dilemma. After having amassed what may well be the greatest music collection of all times, his neighbor wants to "borrow" it. Neighbor just got his first iPod. Make sure you park your buggy in the garage, Mr. Neighbor, and maybe later I can show you a box in my kitchen that keeps the food cold.

Anyway, friend does not want to "share" his music collection. Has been a recreational violinist for over 20 years, and has met many musicians during that time. Understands that musicians need royalties to make their money. Feels super uncomfortable stealing bread out of the mouths of musician's babies. Understands that sharing digital music is in most cases against the law. Does not want to do anything illegal. Sounds very reasonable. Did he pick up his tin can and string telephone and mention any of this to his neighbor?


He told the neighbor he was concerned about him screwing around with his computer. Told him he worried that the entire digital collection would end up erased.

Neighbor persisted. Researched software that according to very reputable sources can download entire music collection without a hiccup. Bought two terabyte hard drives figuring that would be just enough to hold easily 27 years of music collection. Last week the guy didn't have an iPod. Now he's talking terabytes.

College friend called me for advice.

Here's an idea. Think back to those days under the bleachers and Just Say No.

When your neighbor says "I want to borrow your music collection", you say "No. I wish I could help you, but you know what? Sharing music is against the law and I don't feel comfortable". Or "I can help you figure out how to use iTunes, and how to load your CDs onto your iPod, but I don't feel comfortable sharing my music." Another choice: "I've thought about your request for my music and you know what? It's not sitting right with me. I'm afraid I have to say NO."

Another option: Just like the girls who had lots of creative solutions for not giving anything away, College friend can meet neighbor on second base. Can offer to put a playlist together of favorite tunes for Neighbor, thus only taking bread from a minimal amount of musician's babies' mouths and therefore committing less of a crime.

As I explained to my College friend, we often want to be accommodating, but if you are uncomfortable sharing something that's yours, take a lesson from the twelve year old cheerleader at half time and Just Say No.

Wednesday, 20 April 2011


Someone in my A crowd is having what she calls an affair. What she means is a huge and very fancy party. Engraved invitations, professional decorators, live music, sushi and martini bars, possible guest appearance by Ke$ha, the whole deal.

As guests, we have a few responsibilities. We have to wear what are supremely cute but let's face it probably very uncomfortable shoes. We have to smile and say something witty for the video camera. We have to keep cousin Harry away from Auntie Ethel because of the whitefish salad incident of '94. But weeks before we even arrive at the affair we have an important task: we have to check off the Reply Card and let them know how many of us are coming.

It should be simple.

It's a pre-printed card. It has a list of gala events with a dash next to it for how many people will be attending. Dinner _____. Brunch _______. And on the _______ you are expected to write how many of you will be attending so that the hostess knows how many quail to stuff.

Let's say there are five people in your family. And you are all coming for dinner, but your daughter has a soccer game in the morning and will not make it to the brunch. Your card should read Dinner 5 and Brunch 4. Let's say you just remember that your husband will have to take her to the soccer game and probably won't make it to the brunch. Then your card would read Dinner 5 and Brunch 3. Now let's say your son doesn't want to come to the dinner on Saturday night because there's a playoff game he absolutely can not afford to miss. You tell your son that's why the good lord invented iPhones and worst case Tivo, and your reply card will still read Dinner 5, Brunch 3.

Now, and this is where people are getting very confused so I am doing this in part as a public service announcement, let's say you have a friend in from out of town who has always wanted to see an elephant wearing a tutu and you have a hunch there will be one at this affair. And, just to keep it simple, let's say that your daughter's soccer game has been canceled. There are still five people in your family. Your reply card should read Dinner 5 and Brunch 5.

Wait a minute, isn't 5+1 = 6? What happened to the friend that's in from out of town? Shouldn't there be 5+1 on your RSVP card?

Yes, 5+1 is still 6. No there will not be 6 on the RSVP card. There will be 5 people in a ballroom conga line, and one person at the zoo taking pictures of the elephants, trying to visualize them wearing pink tulle skirts.

So when you are invited to a gargantuan extravaganza with three story chocolate fountains an affair in a hotel, think of the ________ as a /5. Limit your RSVP max to the actual number of people indicated on the envelope. And for godssakes, this time please keep Auntie Ethel away from the whitefish salad.

Sunday, 17 April 2011

Bringing all new meaning to the term Hungry Man Dinner

Yesterday, my neighbor's thirteen year old kid walked over to the grocery store, peeled $6 out of his wallet, bought a frozen dinner, came home, nuked it, flopped down in front of the Simpsons and wolfed the sucker down.

Appalling? Not really.

Now let me tell you what really happened.

Yesterday, my neighbor's thirteen year old kid shot a buffalo. Between the eyes. Three hundred pounds of meat and a new freezer in the garage later, they have dinner for the rest of the season.

Now are you appalled? I thought so.

Here's the back story: Neighbor had a client who offered him the opportunity of a lifetime. Hunting buffalo on the plain. Keep the meat. Sounds like a blast, my neighbor said, and I'm bringing my son.

Arriving at the ranch, Neighbor became queasy. Realized that there would be actual shooting and killing of live animals. Son, upon realizing same, became even more enthusiastic.

Out on the range. Buffalo everywhere. Son is a crack shot. Everyone jealous. Teach me how to shoot like him, they clamor. Thirteen year old learns how to take a knife, slice off what has to be sliced, gut what has to be gutted, and does not break a sweat. He will make a great surgeon someday. Neighbor however is in the golf cart throwing up a little in his mouth.

Son leaves ecstatic. So totally retro, dude. Organic, free range meat - no hydrogenated coconut oil, high fructose corn syrup or red dye number five. And I killed it myself. Dude.

The ranch people then take the buffalo, prepare the meat, soak the skin off the head, and a few weeks later Neighbor will get a delivery of the meat and the cleaned skull.

Moral of the story:

Eating meat that was squished into cages, pumped with hormones, processed with chemicals and finally packaged in plastic and then doused with microwave rays has somehow become more socially acceptable than meat that had a nice life frolicking in the meadow till we came along and killed it humanely and compassionately.

Maybe it's time to rethink this one.

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

I Have Often Wondered Why Oprah Never Did A Show On This

The other day I was a few minutes late for a meeting with some (female) colleagues. I turned the corner and saw them waiting outside my office.

"Sorry I'm late," I confessed sheepishly "I had to pee."

They exchanged jealous glances. "You peed? Seriously? How do you make the time? We never have time to pee!!"

They weren't kidding.

How many of us have said to ourselves "I'm just going to finish this report - or change this diaper - or stir fry this chicken - and then I'll pee" only to have another report, diaper or chicken needing to be typed, changed or stir fried (hopefully in the right order)?

Are we so out of touch with our bodies that going to the bathroom becomes something on our to do lists? Squeezed between calling the carpet cleaner and buying chopped hazelnuts?

Do we have so little self respect that we will actually put off taking a leak?

The answer, for many of us, is yes.

One of my friends got me a Women Who Do Too Much calendar for New Year's. The tear-off pages urge me to take time for myself. Sip cups of mint tea, have coffee with friends, enjoy a drink with my husband. True, we're only in April, but so far none of the suggestions have included sitting on a toilet, peeing, wiping, flushing and - let's go crazy - washing my hands with eucalyptus soap.

Hot Stone Massages? Worth every penny. Knitting retreat in Vermont? I'm sure that would be fun too. But you don't need a spa or a spinnery to treat yourself. You can start today.

Go ahead. Pee. You deserve it.

Thursday, 7 April 2011

Maybe Moby Dick would've been a better choice?

The other day I was reading another blog  innocently working from home, when I clicked on tripped over a guest blogger reviewing her memoir about how unhappy she was with her husband until she tried every suggestion in every self help book she could find, and (spoiler alert) turned her sad excuse for a marriage into the passionate love affair she had always dreamed of.

She explained the premise of her book: she hated her husband, and spent hours dreaming about his death.  Not just his death: his funeral; the eulogy; flower arrangements; memorial service (including varied locations and menu options); and her subsequent re-entry into dating.  She goes on to say that many, many women want their husbands dead and this is perfectly normal. 

I beg to differ.

Yes, over the course of a lifetime and a marriage there are ups and downs.  And, sure, nobody likes the toilet seat left up.  But I will state for the record that if you are fantasizing about what you will wear to your perfectly healthy spouse's funeral something is very, very, very wrong.

She goes on to reassure her readers.  If you hate your husband, she confides, and you wish he would have a heart attack or an aneurysm, you are not alone.  This is the dark side of marriage, she whispers, that no one talks about.

So wishing pestilence and disease on your life partner and father of your child is just another womanly secret like waxing or slipping a few bucks into your girdle. 

I don't think so.

If you are that unhappy, for the love of Christ, crack open a yellow pages and get yourself a divorce lawyer.

I am now officially sucked in.  I need to read more.  I need to understand how she ended up married to this guy in the first place, why they had a kid, what he could have possibly done to make her so unhappy, and how she (spoiler alert) fixed everything within four measly months.

I say a quick prayer to Saint Kindle and the 3G angels, and I click.

Completely forgetting that my kindle is connected to my husband's credit card.

Poor guy gets an e-mail saying his wife just downloaded Project: Happily Ever After: Saving Your Marriage When the Fairytale Falters.

Sorry Honey.

Sunday, 3 April 2011

Let Them Eat Cake

Three times I went into the hospital when there was snow on the ground, and all three times I came out with a healthy baby and no more snow.  I love this time of year.

In our house, birthdays are a HUGE BIG DEAL.  Everything goes to you on your birthday. You even get automatic shotgun.

You choose what we have for breakfast, what music we listen to, and of course, there are parties, gifts, friends, family and cake.  Some years there has been a birthday trip to Dairy Queen for each kid, other years we have combined celebrations and taken a birthday trip on an airplane. 

There is one thing, though, that I would never do on my kids' birthdays and that is bring charity into it.
 It has become trendy of late to include with your Dora the Explorer or Iron Man 3 invitation a folded slip of paper saying something like:  "Instead of gifts, Missy has decided to ask for donations to Kids without Smiles."  

The first time this happened to me, I totally fell for it. 

I sent my donation off to Adults without Borders, or Floods without Fires or whatever it was. We get to the party and I see everyone getting out of the car bearing wrapped gifts.  I was confused. 

Once inside, I quickly found out the story.  Yes, we all donated to the Help a Kid Foundation, but we couldn't possibly show up at the party without a gift for little Joey.  So that's how it works.  We have to donate to the charity, AND, we have to bring a little something for the birthday boy.  

I didn't like it.  

I didn't like the unwritten message that I needed to provide two gifts - a cheque for the charity and a Bionicle for the kid. I also felt like there was a presumption that I wouldn't give to charity unless I was invited to your birthday party.  Like I need you to show me how it's done. 

Furthermore, I think it's a bit ridiculous that the parents felt the best way to teach their child about charity was to make me give charity.  If you want to do good work with your kids I'm all for it.  But don't send me to the food bank.  You gotta deliver them meals yourself.

There are, at last count, and realignment of the planets notwithstanding, 365 days of the year.  That means there are 364 days to think of everyone else in the world and only one day that's all about you.  We can spend the 364 days walking for  Penniless Puppies, selling ribbons for Mothers Against Sexting, or drinking tap water.  Specifics are up to you.  

But on my kids birthday?  No way.  I say let them choose the music, sit in the front seat, open their gifts, and hey - Let Them Eat Cake.

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

The iPad is

Completely fine.

The kid's Dad did a hard reset.

I, however, am still recovering from a resounding defeat.  79% to 20%? Seriously?

Monday, 28 March 2011

The Empire State Building

Friday night, my almost 12 year old son B. and a friend went into his bedroom with his iPad and my computer and closed the door behind them.  They emerged two and a half hours later smirking uncontrollably.  "Don't worry," I said to my husband,  "I'm sure it was completely innocent."

If you call "jailbreaking" an iPad innocent.

Jailbreaking - for those of you without 12 year old boys in your house - is the practice of hacking Apple hardware so that you can download the software (i.e., the apps) for free.  Apparently, there are many videos online explaining in minute detail how to execute this plan.  Take comfort in the fact that B. googled jailbreaking, and according to some very reputable sources, its not illegal in the U.S.  The fact that we currently live in Canada is probably not relevant.

Needless to say, my son who is not completely sure what 7x8 is, managed to successfully jailbreak his iPad and download a bunch of apps.

(I am wishing that the story ended here).

24 hours later, flush with his success, B. gets on Skype with another one of his friends, tells the kid all about how he jailbroke his iPad, and urges said kid to jailbreak his own iPad.  (Why all these sixth graders have iPads is also a good question, but we can come back to that another time.  Focus.)

He shows the kid what website he used, how easy it is, and tells him how well it worked for him.  He may have led the kid through the process, possibly offering tips from the wise seat of experience.

Turns out the kid has only had his iPad for 13 hours.

Also turns out it's an iPad2.


So the jailbreaking doesn't work, the iPad goes black, the kid goes to tell his father, the father comes in and starts screaming at his son, and B. is watching the whole thing unfold.  Yes, we love Skype.

My son is in tears.  "My friend tried to jailbreak his iPad, and it didn't work, and it's all my fault".

My reaction was: "It's completely not your fault.  Your friend didn't have to listen to you.  You can give him any advice you want, and encourage him to do anything you want, he's the one who did the stupid thing, so he's the one at fault."

My husband's reaction was: "Don't worry, they are going to bring the iPad to the Apple store and reset it.  This is a problem that can be fixed.  Go brush your teeth and get to bed."

When B. went upstairs, my reaction was: "It's completely not B.'s fault.  His friend didn't have to listen to him.  He can give him any advice he wants, and encourage him to do anything he wants, the kid is the one who did the stupid thing, so he's the one at fault."

When B. went upstairs my husband's reaction was: "I think B. has to accept some of the responsibility here.  He encouraged his friend to do something stupid, and therefore the end result is partially his fault.  I hope he's brushing his teeth."

So this is my position: If my kids did something stupid, they absolutely could not use an excuse with me like "E. told me to eat three chocolate bars from the vending machine", or "S. told me to color on my backpack".  I would hold each of them responsible for their own behavior and I fully expect them to be able to recognize when advice is stupid and therefore not follow it.  So, if they are on the advice giving end, I offer them the same pardon. They can mouth off as much as they want - no one has to listen to them.

But, I want to hear from you.

So I am putting this to a poll.  Scroll up, look to your right, and it should be there.

Who is right?  Me or my husband?

Saturday, 26 March 2011

No Soap Radio

In the olden days when feathered bangs were cool and Emilio Estevez was the more famous brother, we used to tell a joke called NO SOAP RADIO.  You needed at least three people to tell the joke: the perp, the accomplice and the unsuspecting victim(s).

This is how it went down:

The perp would start telling a very long and detailed story, possibly involving an elephant in a bathtub.  The perp would then deliver the punch line to the non-existent joke: No Soap Radio.  The accomplice would laugh hysterically.  Accomplice and perp would say to victim "Get it? No Soap Radio.  Get it? It's hilarious" and continue to roar with laughter till tears of mirth trickled down their adolescent cheeks. It was even more evil when there were several accomplices - all guffawing - while the poor unincluded victims looked on.

One of two things would happen.  Either the victim(s) would start laughing too, just to be cool, even though there actually was nothing funny.  Or, the victim(s) would say "I don't get the joke."  Either way, the in crowd would continue to laugh, until finally someone was obliged to explain the joke so that everyone would feel included.

Which brings us to yesterday's blog post. 

Yesterday, I posted two videos.  

The first was the Erica Black Friday video which has - at this point - over 46 million views on Youtube.  It is a terrible song.  Her voice is tinny at best, robotic at worst and the whole thing is a glorified tribute to mallrats everywhere.  So, because there are currently so many major issues in the world, I called the video "Global Injustice Worse than Originally Anticipated".  What I meant was - isn't it Injust that this song is getting so many views Globally.  

Then, I posted another song that my almost 12 year old son B brought to my attention.  It's called Stere0types and it is hilarious.  It pokes fun at many nationalities and their associated stereotypes.  It has a great beat.  It is sung by a California band that does animated videos for Youtube.  I called this "But There Is Still a Glimmer of Hope that the World Will be OK."  What I meant was, if this song can get written and have a pretty decent following on Youtube (2ish million hits) then the world may not be in so much trouble after all.

Get it?