The Dog Days of Summer

Me and the dog, we’re sympatico.  A couple of middle aged ladies getting tired and chubby together.  Well, technically she’s only fat in the winter when it’s too cold to go to the park, but I can waddle around all summer secure in the knowledge that she’ll catch me up in a few months.

This year we’ve really had an amazing summer, with most days hitting the high 20s, or even into the 30s.  I know, I’m sure we’re meant to be grateful, but most days we loll around like flowers wilting in the sun until we can get our toes into some cold river water down at the dog park.

No, seriously … my doctor wants to know if I’m still getting hot flashes; well how am I supposed to know, when I live in a hot yoga studio?

At night it gets down as low as the mid 20s, or about +50 in my bedroom.  Now far be it from me to complain, but hubby went out and bought a window-mounted air conditioner because he couldn’t stand the night-long tossing and turning, and huffing and puffing.  I did sleep in the basement from time to time, but it was even hot down there.

Swimming around like a little old lady doing breast stroke in the pool

And I’m not sure whether it’s heat stroke or old age, but something peculiar has happened to the dog…

Usually we both skirt around life, avoiding scary situations (albeit different ones: she’s afraid of thunderstorms, the woodpecker on our roof, unexpected plastic bags, and most other things; I’m afraid of heights, speed and people turning up uninvited when the house is a mess – ie always).

I thought we had an understanding, but now she’s gone and got all adventurous on me.  It’s making me look bad.

She’s always liked to dip a genteel toe into the river and have a little paddle.  She’ll even swim for the ball if I throw it out of her depth; maybe even twice.  After that she slopes around directing sullen glares in my direction, refusing to drop the ball until we’re well out of chucking range of the river.

Now, my timid friend has started going right into the deeps and swimming graceful laps up and down; up and down.  All she needs is a dusty blue bathing cap, a couple more dogs and she’ll be ready for a synchronized swimming team.

When she’s wet she does a very convincing impression of a coyote

We’re not exactly sure what kind of dog she is, except that she herds like a border collie, is golden like a retriever, kills tennis balls like a terrier and is a big booby like a german shepherd.  She’s afraid of big dogs, blissfully unaware that she is one herself.

No, she’d much rather run with the little guys, but while she was out for her constitutional the other day, she was passed by a rambunctious pair who chased a toy into the deep water and then fought over it all the way back to the beach.

Now this would normally be her cue to run away and hide in a bush, but she swam over and looked longingly at their game as if she wanted to join in.  The dorky kid at the edge of the playground, desperately hoping for an invitation. to play

Of course now we’re home and she’s back to sloping around looking like she’s waiting for her next beating, but I’m sure those triumphs will always be with her.


Never Good Enough

This is a message to the boy who keeps making my daughter cry (written in the secure knowledge that he will never see it).


Too busy living “in this world rather than of this world”, he’s so concerned about his duty to God and his family that he lets Roxy down over and over again.  Plans and promises are swatted aside like a pesky fly whenever something more important (ie anything) comes along … or if he just feels like it.

Sure, he loves her in his way … and everything would be perfect if only she would dress, behave and talk as dictated by his church.  In fact, she has this unfortunate habit of wantonly displaying her knees and shoulders for anyone to see and lust over.  Apparently shoulders are forbidden because their curves are reminiscent of breasts – they’re a gateway body part.

She is a beautiful, talented, funny and thoroughly delightful girl (and I say that completely without bias) and she deserves so much better.

I know … what kind of mother complains that her daughter’s boyfriend is ‘too nice‘?  No drinking, no swearing; no urge to spend the weekends doing wildly inappropriate boy things like chasing girls, getting drunk and throwing up behind the A&W.  Yes, I thought that was all good at first, too.  But it’s not real.

And, as a family, we’re completely unable to  compete with all that perfection.  They live in a house that is always show-home tidy; he’s never heard his parents exchange a cross word; and all the children spend entire days just helping out.

We live in a nice house, drive nice vehicles and stick firmly within the bounds of most social conventions.  But, on the other hand, we also argue, leave dirty dishes in the sink, ignore the occasional weed in the flower beds, and slob around in our pyjamas until noon when the fancy strikes.  Oh my God – what trailer trash!

I really don’t want her broken hearted and love-sick, but I am so hoping that when she goes to school in Vancouver she will realize that she can do better, and that there’s a lot to be said for normal human frailty.

And as for him – I do wish him all the best.  I just hope he realizes that what he needs is a nice little girl from his church who Mummy can approve of, and who wants nothing more than to produce a houseful of babies and do what she’s told.

Where’s the Bloody Marmite?

Careful as you come in through my front door in case you trip on one of the 37 shoes lying on the mat.  Mind out, as you continue in, not to stub your toe on a skateboard, or a pile of stuff waiting to go either upstairs or downstairs.  Good luck finding a space on the counter or a table to rest those bags of shopping.

Yes, it may look like we got ransacked while we were out, but you know what … it’s a system, albeit a somewhat flawed one.

It’s all based on the premise that if something is worth putting away it’s worth putting away right.   I have all these neatly organized cupboards where everything is sorted and categorized; stacked according to size and function, while the visible parts of my house look like an official disaster site.  Well, I did say it was flawed.

So, why, when it is so obvious what goes where in my cupboards, is it so hard to find the marmite?  It seems obvious to me that it goes in the little green, plastic basket with all the other jams and spreads.  Not near the cereal, not with the baking supplies and most certainly not in the fridge.  As a displaced Brit living in Canada, I have to bring those giant jars of marmite back from England, rather than buying it in a nice sensible size.  Keeping it from going rubbery is a constant challenge, and the fridge is the enemy of marmite.

But I digress (marmite and tinned custard are very emotional subjects for me).  Oftentimes, when my husband tries to crawl into a bed piled high with stacks of neatly folded laundry (very neatly, I may say – have you ever seen Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory fold laundry?  Same principle), he clears his side of the bed by removing the offending collection to the floor, mixing up shorts with shirts and combining carefully personalized piles.

Why, (I ask), don’t you just put the clothes on the shelves rather than the floor.  Because, (he says), he doesn’t know where it all goes.  Really?  Seriously?  I think it’s fairly simple that the shirts go on that part of the shelf where all those shirts are piled up.  The shorts, right where those other shorts are.  Are you starting to see a pattern here?

Anyway, you’ll be pleased to know that I did eventually track the marmite down near the pasta, and I have now had my toast, so life is good again.

Time-Travelling Back to My Youth

Drat … after four days of being the birthday girl it’s all over and I stopped being special.

It took 50 years to get here, and if it’s downhill all the way from here I’m okay with that.  I’m too tired to be struggling uphill anyway.

You may be surprised to hear that August is not the best month to be having a birthday celebration – lots of people were away, though it boggles my mind why anyone would have chosen to miss my party in favour of room service; sun, sand and sea; a quiet spot away from cellphone coverage; or mojitos on demand.  Okay, I’m starting to see the flaw in that train of thought.

Having said that the party was just the right size – we saw lots of people we haven’t seen for a long time, and actually got to have a proper chat with most of them.  I usually find that being the hostess, flitting round cheerily making sure that everyone has a drink and someone to talk to can be strangely unsatisfying.  You see everyone, and connect with no-one.

This time we got to catch up with all those people we only ever see at special events.  It used to be weddings, but it’s trending distressingly towards funerals.  Soon, I suppose, we’ll be back to weddings as our children start to tie the knot.

A Doctor Who cake – complete with sonic screwdriver, dalek, cyberman and even a rift in the space time continuum!

Anyway, the highlight of the party was undoubtedly the cake … best cake ever!  Is it possible that I am the only 50-year old ever to have a Doctor Who cake?

It sounds like it took quite a bit of co-ordination, explanation and emailing of photos to get a Canadian cake-maker to create Doctor Who decorations – and let’s not even wonder what she thought of the fact that it was for an adult.

To the uninitiated it may appear to have a crack in the icing, but clearly that is a cleverly crafted rift in the space-time continuum.  Fortunately nothing scary sneaked through before we cut into it.

I think we can now say unequivocally that I have sacrificed any right I may have had to assume the occasional air of dignity or maturity.

Now, having blazed the trail for my toy-boy husband (he’s not 50 until March), and most of our friends, I can sit back and get on with the day to day business of just being me again.

Why Am I So Old?

This is my last full week of being less than half a century old!  Well, was, I suppose as it’s already Friday.

I feel like a child counting down to the dreaded first day of school – five more sleeps to go.  And just as you might look back with youthful disappointment at all those big plans for the summer vacation and wonder what you did with the last two months, this is definitely a time for thinking “what the hell have I been doing all this time?”.

Right now I’m feeling overheated, overweight and underachieved.

Okay so I have created three fairly well adjusted children, but this week hasn’t produced any of my finest parenting moments.  Yesterday, I spent a peaceful morning blissfully unaware of the fact that I had promised to wake SJ for work at 9.30.  Unaware, that is, until the swearing and crashing around started.  Now, it could be argued that as the 17-year old owner of a functioning i-phone he could have woken himself up, but nonetheless a promise is irrefutably a promise.

Then, to make matters worse I had forgotten to remind him to book off next Friday and Saturday for my birthday meal with the extended family, and my party, respectively.  As a teenage boy who spends as little time with us as possible, and eschews any kind of conversation, he managed to be the only member of the family who didn’t realize we would be celebrating my 50th birthday.

Really, you might think … what kind of child shows such a lack of interest in family affairs that he doesn’t know about such an important event?  Surely a smidgeon of righteous indignation is both natural and justified?  Unfortunately I can’t shake the knowledge that he was never part of any of those conversations, and I really should have thought to make sure he got the time off work.

Well, Daddy to the rescue; and a quick phone call to SJ’s boss, the head chef, secured Friday off for the family meal.  He may miss most of the party on Saturday but, as a raucous gathering of 40-somethings (Oh, alright, and 50-somethings!) pretending to still be young and energetic is probably not his cup of tea, he may just be glad of the excuse.  Now he can be victimized and aggrieved, but not actually have to attend the party.  It’s a win win!

Painting Over the Cracks

My house and I are going through menopause together, and neither of us is aging gracefully or without complaint.

Oh, sure at first glance we both appear to be holding up pretty well.  But then, if you linger you’ll notice that we’re slightly crumpled, rather creaky and totally cracked.

The house is a mess of bits that fall off, sag and stick.  For me it’s all about stiff joints, arthritic toes and hot flashes and frankly it’s making me more than a little grumpy.  I mean over the years I’ve struggled through the usual selection of depressive episodes – post-partum, post-weekend, post-that-comes-with-all-bills-and-no-cheques, but this is a new type.

When I’m tempted to wallow I usually find that the only things that get me out of a slump are gardening and decorating.  At least decorating does, but here in Calgary, gardening can go either way.  With our 3 week growing season and extraordinary combination of sudden, extreme temperature swings and bizarre precipitative anomalies like snow in July, trying to get anything to grow can be more likely to cause than help depression.

Fortunately there is always something to decorate.  We don’t rebuild or replace anything, I’m just holding it all together with layers of paint.

A while ago I painted my chipped, stained, white kitchen cupboard doors a rather cheery shade of green.  It was just a temporary fix because the entire kitchen was only about two years from needing to be completely replaced; and yet here we are seven years later, no closer to the new kitchen, but with a set of very distressed doors.  Not the good kind that you pay a fortune for, but the unfortunate kind that visitors pretend not to notice.

Now, I know that Summer doesn’t immediately suggest itself as the ideal time to start decorating.  But we’re stuck in an extended spell of such excruciatingly hot weather that I daren’t take my hot flashes outside for more than five minutes at a time, so it’s actually quite a good way to keep myself occupied.  Plus, the added benefit that hiding inside during all this hot weather and wasting the glorious sunshine gives me something else to beat myself up about.  Yay me!

It’s funny how an idle thought like “I should repaint the kitchen cupboards” has a ripple effect.  Having painted the cupboards a nice shade of cream, I now have to repaint the kitchen/sitting room walls in something brighter to avoid half the main floor of my house disappearing into a vast sea of bland.  Then, as I want to redo the bannisters using the same cream colour, that means I have to repaint the dining room, and all the way up the stairs to the landing.

There … in one fell swoop I have created for myself a full roster of ‘keep-busy and stay-distracted’ projects for when Roxy leaves for school in Vancouver in September.  After all, keeping my mind off my emptying nest is what this is all about.