Monthly Archives: April 2012

Monday’s words — B

  • bilious
  • barter
  • bargain
  • bubbly
  • bread

The thing with B words is that they are just so much fun to say. I love the way the letter B ‘pops’ out of my lips. It’s like a P only softer .. and you can easily make it sound just like a bubble bursting. It’s beautiful.

  • biblical
  • brilliant
  • brigand

There’s something about B words. I don’t think it’s my favourite letter necessarily, but it is certainly bodacious.

  • brevity
  • bitumen
  • byzantine
  • bamboo
  • baobab

There is no shortage of B words for me to list (which I’m sure applies to any letter, actually). My favourite of the B words might be those that start with B and have a B in the middle as well; you really get that bubbly feeling of biblical proportions when babbling about bamboo or baobab trees. Of course, they might be those words that start with a B which is immediately followed by an R; bread would be at the top of this list, quickly followed by brilliant and brevity. I believe I could sit and mutter the words bread and brilliant to myself for hours; it would be calming and meditative. I might do it in a Scottish accent; it’s not absolutely necessary to the exercise but try it, see if you like it.

I like birds, butterflies, baguettes and broom. I like bales of hay and battening hatches.

If you start paying attention to the B words in your vocabulary you might begin to notice how much fun they can be. Bright, brilliant, blessed and beneficial.

brilliant bread

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a woman of a certain age

I’m pretty sure you’ve heard this term before: “a woman of a certain age.” You may have been hearing that you shouldn’t be doing something or wearing something.  You know, “a woman of a certain age shouldn’t dress like that!” You may even have been the one saying it! I’m here to offer an entirely new spin on that phrase.

I was at the grocery store the other day, just pulling into a parking spot and trying to remember what I was there to purchase when I spotted “a woman of a certain age” get out of her vehicle and start making her way across the parking lot. She was about 3 steps away from her SUV when she stopped in the middle of the oncoming traffic lane and started back towards her spot. She stopped again; turned back towards the store, took a look back at the hatch of her truck, opened it, took out a shopping bag. She took one more step in the direction of the store, stopped, turned back, re-opened her hatch, put the bag back, closed the hatch and marched off to the entrance doors, giving her head a little shake as she went. I laughed. I’ve done the exact same thing many times. And let me tell you, once you’re inside the store it’s often worse.

I walk BoyGenius to school every morning, hustling him up off the couch, away from the laptop, into the bathroom to brush teeth and hair, towards the door to get shoes on, check the weather and argue about a jacket, snack, homework, backpack. Same thing every morning. I push him and struggle internally about whether I should put socks on or not, which jacket and which shoes I should don. We are in a rush. We are not in a rush. Sometimes yes, sometimes no. Day after day. Guess how often we are at the foot of the driveway before I realize that neither one of us has his knapsack? I’d hazard 3 out of 5 days.

I drive around with library books or dvds in my car. They come with me wherever I go. They are in there for one reason, and one reason only: to be returned to the library. They get moved from the front seat to the back seat, wind up hidden for a couple of days under some fast-food napkins and two or three jackets, then get re-discovered and replaced in the front seat. I pass the library at least twice a week … and then I get home, remember I have them and hope that I can also remember to log in to the library’s system and renew my items before midnight of their due date.

I have, on occasion over the last 8 years, stepped out of the shower, having turned the water off and draped a towel over myself, only to realize that I still had shampoo or conditioner in my hair. Yes, that’s right. I have also, on occasion over the last 8 years, stepped out of the shower, draped a towel over myself, grabbed another one to dry my hair and realized that my hair was hardly even wet, since I didn’t remember to wash it. The winning move, I think, is that I have even, on occasion over the last 8 years, stepped out of the shower and begun to dry myself only to realize that my underarms were sticking together … uh huh. I didn’t rinse the soap off.

I’ve done it all. I have left the dishwasher door open all day effectively keeping the cat from her food bowl. I have left my heated seat pad plugged in all night so that my car has no battery power in the morning. I have gone to get that one last thing to throw into the washer … only to return four hours later to find that I never did come back so the washer lid has remained open for all that time and the water is cold and the laundry is just sitting there in a tub full of water. I have boiled eggs until they pop — did you know that eggs pop just like popcorn? It’s not a pretty sight … or smell.

In the midst of all of this chaos, I have had an epiphany: being “a woman of a certain age” has absolutely nothing to do with your chronological age. You may have 23 years behind you, you may have 43 years behind you. Nowadays, in my humble opinion, being “a woman of a certain age” puts you squarely in the centre of the age of motherhood. People often speak of “baby brain” and attribute many quirks and bouts of forgetfulness to just that. My son is 8 years old. He’s no baby. It’s not “baby brain.” I am simply, and proudly, “a woman of a certain age.”

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ode to a bottle …

.. and a stick and a tube.  (So not what you are/were thinking!)

With a nod to Simon & Garfunkle, may I present the following for your singing/imagining pleasure:

Hello Spray’n’Wash my old friend, I’ve come to beg you once again; like your bottle all his jeans are green, all I ask is that you get them clean, while the seeds that have sprouted in the lawns, with springtime’s dawns .. become the fields of summer.

So, it’s springtime — and a young boy’s fancy turns to … to … rolling down hills! … sliding across the lawn like it was a broadway stage and he was in the chorus line! … diving to make that soccer save! Last night I did one load of laundry: 8 pair of little boy jeans, 1 pair of little boy track pants and 1 pair of little boy athletic pants.

the big three

It took me 27 minutes to pre-treat the knees, legs, hems, cuffs, back pockets and seams of the jeans. There was oxygenated stain removing powder in the laundry tub. I rubbed spray’n’wash liquid, oxi-clean gel and bio-kleen …  stuff on every bit of green I could find. I used detergent with additional zout stain remover. I filled the tub with hot water. The washer was on the 14 minute strong agitation setting. I waited, fingers crossed.

I have to admit, getting these knees clean will not be an easy task for any detergent or stain remover. They actually have what looks like a vinyl coating over the entire front of that section of pant leg. Seriously. Which wouldn’t be a bad thing if I could peel the green off like a layer that has been ironed on. I never knew grass could be so shiny. My mother always got our grass stains out. I have always been able to get BoyGenius’ grass stains out. Heck, I pride myself on my stain removal abilities. Even among his baby clothes, BoyGenius only had one outfit/shirt that had to be given up on. It didn’t matter if it was the orange of carrots or sweet potatoes or the green of broccoli or brussel sprouts (yes, he ate all those things … I’m a sahm, remember?), his clothes — with that one exception — came out clean every time. I can get mud and tree buds out. Chocolate pudding. Rib sauce. Rust. Automotive grease. Mayo. Whatever it is I can get it out. I can handle this. I’ve got it under control. I am in charge. I am good enough. I am strong enough. And gosh darn it I will not be beaten by grass!

Dammit. Dammit. 7 x dammit!  Only one pair of jeans actually look clean. Screw it. They’re going to look exactly the same next week. I’ll just tell people they’re organic jeans.

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Monday’s words — A

Mondays. What do Mondays mean to you? As far as I’m concerned they are the day that you try to catch up on all the stuff that you didn’t get done on the weekend. If you work outside the home, I guess it’s different; when I went to work Mondays were okay, I didn’t have that big fear, the huge feeling of dread that some people get on Sunday night even. Monday meant I would see my work friends, I would get to buy a special coffee and listen to what everyone else did on the weekend.

Nowadays I see Mondays as that day to catch up. On sleep, on laundry, on unloading the dishwasher, on grocery shopping. Of course, it’s really just a mental illusion I create for myself. I don’t catch up. I might get some laundry done, I might go to the grocery store. I might not. I might read. I might just sit and watch television. Not that I didn’t watch television all weekend. Oh no. But that was different. There were other people around. Mondays – Mondays are the start of my week. HardWorker has gone to work and BoyGenius has gone to school. A new week has begun. It’s like a respite where you never thought you’d find one.

I’d like to start something on this Monday that I’ll hopefully be able to keep up for 26 weeks (but probably not in a row). I want to write a post featuring favourite words of mine. I don’t know that I’ll whip up some bit of prose or poetry every week; I might just list my favourites for any given letter. I don’t really know. I just really love words and sometimes just the sound of them or seeing them written out is enough to centre me, to calm me, to ground me, to send me soaring or crashing to the ground.

I figure the easiest way to keep track is to start with a different letter each week .. and since we have this neat little filing system called an alphabet, why not put it to good use? So let’s start with “A.”

  • awesome – meaning inspiring awe; I do often use it as meaning very impressive which is how the kids use it (how can I help it, I’ve got an 8 year old?), but I really like the idea of something being awe-inspiring.
  •  adept – an adjective meaning very skilled or proficient; I also like the related noun ‘adeptness.’ It just sounds cool to me.
  • aver – to assert or affirm with confidence; I like the idea of knowing something well enough to be able to aver it instead of just stating it.
  • antagonistic – hostile, unfriendly, acting in opposition; mostly I just like the way this one sounds … I don’t like acting antagonistically, but I can, and do at times.
  • abroad – in or to a foreign country or countries;I love the idea of going abroad and I feel posh just saying “I’ve been abroad.”
  • abrade – to wear off or down by scraping or rubbing; I also like abrasion. It’s the feeling that the word conveys to me when I say it or write it that puts it in my list.
  • alliteration – the commencement of two or more words of a word group with the same letter; I’m ever enjoying the employment of alliteration in literature.

I don’t just count these words among my favourites because of their meanings — sometimes it is simply the sound or feeling of the letters as they roll off my tongue. Sometimes the meanings take away from the word, but being able to use them in a sentence brings me joy.

How do you feel about words? Do you have favourites? Do you find yourself using the same words over and over in your day to day conversations? I remember hearing children complaining about adults using “their” words like awesome or cool. I remember finding myself using “absolutely” way too much when working with students on their reading. I remember hearing Erica Kane of “All My Children” talking about “people of their ilk” and thinking ‘no one really talks like that’ – that was probably close to 30 years ago and it has still got a place in my memory. Words are something that I cherish and I realized about 20 years ago that some people really do ‘talk like that’ and that I am one of them.

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family — born or built?

Yesterday was my mother’s 85th birthday. Last weekend we attended a “surprise” party to celebrate my aunt’s 90th birthday, and the week before that another aunt had her 85th. When I mentioned these occasions to a friend she said “Whoa, you got some good genes there!” meaning she guesses I’ll live to a ripe old age as well. I like that. I also really like that she didn’t ask for a family tree to figure out where my aunts fit in — because really, in tree form, they don’t.

My parents came to Canada in the early 1950s. My father came by boat and my mother followed a few months later in a Super Connie prop plane. Just the two of them, a young, newly married couple off to build a life together. Just the two of them. My father’s family and my mother’s family stayed behind. It was just the two of them.

My brother SkinnyGuy arrived in 1957 and BlueEyes followed in 1961. By the time I showed up in ’64 SkinnyGuy had been to visit the Fatherland with my parents and my dad’s parents had spent 6 months over here, just missing my arrival which occurred on the same day they sailed back across the pond. My parents had already built a network of friends and some of those friends became pseudo-family to us kids. Whether they were our godparents or just close family friends, they were “aunt” and “uncle” and their kids were our “cousins.” We had cousins — real ones, they were just far away and mostly older than we were. We had our grandparents and our aunts and uncles but we only saw them about every 4 years when one or another of us flew in whichever direction was fitting. For being as far apart as we were, we grew up with a fairly strong sense of family. I think we did well. Most of the success of those relationships is down to my parents making sure we learned two languages growing up, making sure we wrote letters, sent birthday cards and shared photos. It was important to my parents and to us that we know our family.

What was just as important was that we had a virtual family over here where we were the only branch of our family tree. I always marveled at the ease with which some people became aunts and uncles to us and at how some family friends never made it past the “Mr” and “Mrs” stage. Where was the line that those people never got across? Funnily enough, some of those Mr & Mrs couples and their kids are still people I consider family. I couldn’t not. There are also of course some members of my actual family that I hardly know at all.

  • When I was sick at school but my mom was at work I knew there was another home I could go to and be taken care of. It wasn’t an aunt who was home, it was Frau V–. Her three boys are like additional brothers to me even though we don’t see each other often. When she was sick and dying from cancer her daily question to my mom was “is the baby here yet?” but BoyGenius and Frau V– missed each other by 10 days. He knows all about her, though. She’s family.
  • If I needed a place to stay while my parents went on vacation, there was an aunt and uncle who would open their home. My cousins and I tried not to get into too much trouble during those two weeks but we certainly didn’t promise anything. I vaguely remember some broken furniture .. but it wasn’t anything serious. We had each others’ back — that’s what family does. Those people are family to me and I know their grandchildren, their great-granddaughter and their kids’ in-laws. Family.
  • When I told my then-manager that I needed a day off to attend my aunt’s funeral in my hometown she actually asked me if it was my mom’s sister or my dad’s. This manager knew (or should have known) that neither of my parents had any siblings here. She needed to justify (or not) the time off I was taking. My manager didn’t care that this woman was someone I had known and loved since I was 3 years old, that I had been through dark days with my aunt and her family. I couldn’t get a bereavement day because she wasn’t really my aunt and it wasn’t really convenient for me to be off. I took the day.
  • My cousins’ kids don’t call their aunts and uncles by “Aunt” and “Uncle.”  My cousins thought it was too formal and would make them feel too old fashioned .. not to mention too old. I think the kids have missed out. They all call each other by their first names and don’t seem to feel that close bond of “family.” They all get along just fine: brothers, in-laws, cousins, their in-laws, and now we have two new little grandsons in the mix; it just seems a bit distant, somehow.
  • My father’s cousin’s children always thought of my parents as Tante and Onkel and us as cousins (the proper title might be second-cousins or something similar). We are just cousins and to BoyGenius their kids are his cousins. We are family.
  • There are some branches of my family tree that I have only gotten to know through social networking sites like facebook. We are indeed blood relatives on my mother’s side but she had four brothers who spread across the country and didn’t do very well at keeping in touch with one another. My mom worked hard to keep in touch with her nieces and nephews and the internet has allowed me to get to know next generations. My family grows.
  • At my Aunt W’s 90th birthday party I was a little bit shocked when HardWorker asked my cousin, “So how do you guys know each other? How did you meet?” I was thrilled when my cousin, with a confused look on her face, answered, “We grew up together. We’re family.”

a great definition of "family"

Family isn’t necessarily born. In fact, some people strive to get away from their blood relations. Some people must get away from their blood relations. No question. I am lucky that this isn’t the case for me. Does that mean that those people don’t have or shouldn’t have people they call family? No. We are not defined by our families but I think how we define family certainly helps to define us. I have a heart that expands easily and tends towards including most people that I love in my definition of family. What this means is that I have a HUGE family (in my mind). It means I don’t have to explain the relationship when I say “that’s my uncle” (although with certain people I find I do still add “who’s not really my uncle” just for their own clarity). It means I don’t laugh at my Caribbean friends when they talk about some guy they barely know and say “oh yeah, I know him, he’s my cousin,” I just chuckle to myself and know exactly what they mean. It means I am thrilled to bits when my cousin posts some old photos on facebook. It means that a blogger I’ve never met who lives on the other side of the continent has just as big a place in my heart as the next family member in there. It means that I can’t hardly wait to meet two new little baby boys across the ocean or one newish little baby girl just a couple of hours away!

It also means it hurts when my best friend’s kids tell me they’re doing something “just family” on the weekend .. in their minds I’m not family; in my heart, they are. Our definitions differ at this time but that might change someday.

What does your definition of family look like?

Categories: family, friendship | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

I’d like literary genres for a thousand, Alex

So the thing is, I like to read. I have been known to read just about anything, including all the signs (street, business, billboard) on certain streets in certain towns while driving through — and those I read out loud. I think reading is one of the most amazing pastimes a person could take up. I am thrilled that BoyGenius has become interested in reading.

Reading can take you places you will never get to otherwise; places you will have to see because you read about them; places you have been to but forgotten about. And I don’t just mean physical destinations. Reading will take you into someone else’s head, someone else’s shoes, someone else’s life.

I love to read.

I went through a period of minimal reading, I think, or minimal for me, anyway, but now I am back to reading whenever possible: stolen minutes during the day, while waiting at the blood donor clinic or the dentist’s, in the loo (yes, that’s right, I will stay in there until I finish a chapter!), in bed before falling asleep or upon awakening.

I have fond memories of the huge reference library in the city I used to live in and of the libraries at the institutes of higher learning I have attended. It always gave me a little thrill to be able to flash my “membership” card that allowed access to the elevators that would whisk me away into the stacks. I remember where my favourite childhood books were located in my hometown library. I can easily spend hours (probably days if I didn’t have other responsibilities or need to eat) in bookstores. I, like countless others, could spend the better part of a week skipping from blog to blog on the interweb … and still be behind in my reading.

Since hooking up with all sorts of wonderful writers via said interweb I have been introduced to an entirely new (to me) genre in literature. YA (Young Adult) novels. Where did this come from? When did it come into being? Why are these books “hidden” from adults in the library? In our library they are near the dvds, cds and audio books, not where I usually browse(d) for something new to read. Let me tell you, my browsing habits have changed. I have discovered some amazing reads and some amazing authors in the YA genre. I have read some amazing books. I am looking forward to reading many more.

I talk about one of my favourite discoveries, A Monster Callshere on a previous post.

Another is reviewed here (includes a book giveaway contest)! I have not yet had the opportunity to read The Monster’s Daughter by Deborah Bryan but I know it won’t disappoint because I know and follow Deb’s writing at The Monster in Your Closet.

I’m not happy that I missed out on this entire genre for years, but I am happy that Deborah Bryan pointed me in that direction a few months ago. It means, of course, that I’ve got a lot of catch-up reading to do. It also means that I have plenty of great books to choose from. So yes, I’ll take literary genres for a thousand please, Alex!

ps: to see what I’ve been reading lately or am reading now, check out my list.

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