Dec 10

reverb10-21: Your standards will never be low enough

Dear future self 2015,

Remember to be humble when you accept the Nobel Prize for Literature and don’t forget to thank your husband and daughters for putting up with your mercurial artistic temperament and your propensity for squeezing the toothpaste tube from the middle.

Yes, the selection committee created a new category for you, it’s called Canadian-Literature-That-Doesn’t-Depress-The-Shit-Out-Of-You-And-May-Or-May-Not-Feature-Murder-and-Mayhem-Interspersed-With-Slapstick-Comedy.

Don’t forget to thank your Grade 9 English teacher Ms. Huffman, whose passion for grammar and just plain ferocity pushed you to write more and write better. Also, thank your mother because without her help you would have never passed Ms. Huffman’s Grade 9 English class. Plus, your mother’s your biggest fan and the best mother in the world.

When you look in your husband’s eyes, remember that there was a time when you thought he wouldn’t still be here with you. Be grateful he is, even when he routinely dumps five pairs of footwear and at least three backpacks in the front entrance almost every day. Don’t even get me started about what his side of the bedroom looks like.

He’s a wonderful husband and father. It’s always been “family first” for him, and that’s what you love about him. The fact that he’s so loyal to the nutballs you’re related to and the wonderful weirdos that are your friends is a huge plus too.

When you look at your 15-year-old and 13-year-old daughters and see them pursuing their talents, hanging out with their friends and rolling their eyes at you, don’t forget you were their age once and what a difficult and scary time that was for you too. Also, spend time with your teen girls. They may act like they don’t want you around, but they really do.

Don’t forget to follow your own advice; it has seen you through some tough times. In particular, don’t eat too many Doritos because that will still make you sick. Things don’t change that much.

Your 45-year-old self looks great. Quit obsessing about that. Sure, the crow’s feet are heading into trench-land and it’s getting harder and harder to hold your stomach in, but you can thank your past self for not smoking and fitting in some exercise from time to time.

Look closely at the faces of people you love, they may not be here even five years from now. You may not be here five years now. Everything falls apart, particularly that threadbare La Flirt nighshirt your mom bought you for Christmas in 1988. I’m still wearing it now, but I don’t think you can any more.

It has been a hell of a run so far and the present me wouldn’t change a thing. I hope you don’t feel you need to either.




Dear past self 2000,

If you only knew, you’d run screaming for the hills right about now and I wouldn’t blame you. You’re going to lose people you love, come close to losing your husband and live in a house that was surely the inspiration for Amityville Horror.

But you know what? You’re going to have two healthy, beautiful daughters. Yeah, I know you thought you might have fertility troubles and are considering following up with a specialist, but don’t bother. Truly.

You’re going to look into the giant blue eyes of your first born and shortly after thinking, “Thank God that part’s over,” you’re not going to sleep for four years. Less than two years after her birth, you’re going to deliver your second girl and if you thought you knew what colick was, well I have a surprise for you.

You’ll tell yourself that your new motto is Sleep Is For Sissies, but if someone so much as talks about a wonderful nap they’ve had it’s going to take all your willpower not to run them over and over in your minivan. Yes, I said minivan.

You and your husband will sell the LandCruiser and buy a minivan. Yes. That was a mistake.

You know Susan, that whackjob you met at playgroup who dropped your baby and keeps trying to be friends with you? Go ahead and be her friend. You won’t regret it. Plus, she’s relentless and she’ll keep ambushing you until you do. A whole network of people will open up to you through Susan, and you’re going to need help.

One day you’re going to get a phone call from your mother, telling you that your Aunt Kathy (her sister) was killed in a highway accident on her way to visit her palliative care patient.  From that point on, every time you see purple lupins you will cry, but every time you laugh you’ll hear her laugh with you in your head.

Eventually, your children will sleep through the night and you will too.

One evening when the kids are in bed, your husband will walk slowly down the stairs, white-faced and clutching his chest. You’ll call 911, call Susan for backup, jump into your minivan and follow the ambulance taking your husband to the Emergency Department.

You’ll stop sleeping through the night again. For a while.

The words “Heart Failure” will scare the crap out of you, but things aren’t always as bad as they seem at first. In another few years, he’ll be pinkish again and able to kick your ass in biking, skiing and running, but you’ll have to nag him constantly not to overdo it.

You’ll sleep again through the night. For a while.

Your husband will get a call one snowy February telling him that his brother was killed in a snow machine accident. And you will drive to the Quebec hospital where they tried and failed to save him. You will worry about the toll it takes on your husband’s health and you’ll worry about his mother and wonder how she can withstand the constant psychic pain that comes with the loss of a child.

You won”t sleep very well for at least six months, but eventually you will sleep again.

You’ll feel that life is unfair and you’ll lose your perspective and you’ll regain it again when you remembered where you lost it–somewhere behind the couch with the dehydrated fish sticks and dessicated vegetables your children hate and hide there.

More importantly, you’ll laugh again. You’ll laugh playing tickle fights with your girls and you’ll laugh with your girlfriends. And sometimes you’ll laugh until you cry and cry until you laugh and realize that what they say about laughter and tears is really true. It surely is.

Buck up and remember what Aunt Kathy said. She said, “No one gets a free pass through life.” She also used to say, “Anyone can have a normal mother.”

Make sure you say this to your girls, so they can remember to say it to their children one day.

You’ll also find that it gets easier and easier to lower your standards. You’ll also find that they’re never quite low enough.

You’ll be blessed and you’ll be swimming through the shit. But remember that all great stories are ultimately tales of survival.




I’m participating in a 31-day blogging challenge called #reverb10. Each post is a response to a writing prompt from a different author. The goal of the exercise is to reflect on 2010 and set goals for 2011. My personal challenge is to respond to each prompt in an hour or less. So far, I’ve blown my deadline each time. But tomorrow is another day.

Today’s prompt is from Jenny Blake:

Imagine yourself five years from now. What advice would you give your current self for the year ahead? (Bonus: Write a note to yourself 10 years ago. What would you tell your younger self?)

Dec 10

reverb10-16: She freaks me out, but sometimes that’s a good thing

Umm. Susan that dude's made of stone, so he won't talk to you. Stop saying "hi".

Susan collects friends the way some people collect cats or pig figurines or spores.

If Susan doesn’t make friends with someone that would be weird.

Sometimes when we’re out shopping and we’re slowed down by the 20th person she wants to stop and talk to, I say, “Will you stop saying hi to everyone?”

But she wouldn’t be Susan if she didn’t.

Almost all the friends I currently have in Ottawa came my way because of Susan (except my high school friend Allison who saved me from jail time after Colicky Baby #1). In Malcolm Gladwell terms, she’s a connector. I’m a quasi-hermit.

Susan is charming and relentless (at times to the point of annoyance). The fact that she dropped my baby when I first met her and I still became friends with her is a testament to her incredible charm–or mind control.

We’re very different. She’s an art geek and I’m a jock; she likes to attend parties where she hardly knows anyone; I do not. She loves yoga dance and I will not.

She’s fearless in ways I’m not. When we had bed bugs, Susan came over and helped me steam furniture. When another friend was faced with the same scourge (not from my house, thankfully), I couldn’t bring myself to help with the work involved, except to leave booze on her porch.

She says stuff out loud like “post-coital drip” and talks about menstrual cups just to gross me out. I get grossed out.

But we’re similar in ways that matter, such as our love for our families and our endless appreciation for fart jokes.

How did she change my perspective on the world this year? I learned to not take her for granted.

She went away. She and her family moved to Brussels last year because of her husband’s work. I felt adrift. I managed. The network that she set up floated along, but her absence was keenly felt.

I was supposed to visit her in Brussels, but I planned a bike trip to Mallorca instead. She forgave me and then hopped aboard the trip, despite the fact that she doesn’t bike. She became the team mascot. We laughed and laughed on that trip.

When I cycled myself into oblivion during a mountain ride, she took care of me. She covered me in blankets and brought me tea and stomach-friendly foods.

Susan and her family have returned, and there was much rejoicing in this house and in many houses across Ottawa.

Susan is a great friend, who has taught me a lot about being there for others.


I’m participating in a 31-day blogging challenge called #reverb10. Each post is a response to a writing prompt from a different author. The goal of the exercise is to reflect on 2010 and set goals for 2011. My personal challenge is to respond to each prompt in an hour or less. So far, I’ve blown my deadline each time. But tomorrow is another day.

Today’s prompt was from Martha Mihalick:

Friendship. How has a friend changed you or your perspective on the world this year? Was this change gradual, or a sudden burst?

Dec 10

reverb 10-15: 5 minutes to amnesia

Memory retrieval is getting trickier and trickier. Trying to remember the highlights of 2010 in five minutes is like trying to catch fish with my bare hands. I can’t remember what I ate for dinner last night. I’m thinking it might have been fish.

Sometimes I feel like I’m five minutes from having to wear a name tag and a little sign that says, “If found, please call 555-555-5555.” Except no one would answer because that’s not a real phone number.

Setting alarm now:

  • my first bike ride down a mountain switchback
  • the meals and support from family and friends after the death of my brother-in-law
  • the smell of sweetgrass that fills my nose as soon as I travel down Whites Point Road on Manitoulin Island
  • my elder daughter’s dance recital
  • my younger daughter’s love for her bald lion
  • the way my dog Maggie leaps through the sprinkler
  • giggling with my husband on the living room floor after a half-hearted attempt to do yoga after the kids went to bed
  • the fact that camping didn’t suck this year
  • my phone number

I know this list could be much longer, but one needs to be well rested to perform adequately on memory exercises and I’m not. I blame reverb10 for this.


I’m participating in a 31-day blogging challenge called #reverb10. Each post is a response to a writing prompt from a different author. The goal of the exercise is to reflect on 2010 and set goals for 2011. My personal challenge is to respond to each prompt in an hour or less. So far, I’ve blown my deadline each time. But tomorrow is another day.

Today’s prompt was from Patti Digh:

5 minutes. Imagine you will completely lose your memory of 2010 in five minutes. Set an alarm for five minutes and capture the things you most want to remember about 2010.

Dec 10

reverb10-14: Time flies whether you’re having fun or not

These cookies are called Melting Moments. A long line of mothers in my family tree make these treats. They're well named. They melt in your mouth and they're gone in a wonderful moment.

The other day, I was out jogging with my 10-year-old and she asked me to slow down. When she caught up, I said, “Soon, you’ll be waiting for me.”

“How soon?” she asked.

“In about 10 years,” I said with a smile.

“10 years! That’s a lifetime, Mom!”

“Maybe for you, but not for me. These last 10 years have flown,” I said.

“Maybe for you, but not for me,” she said.

We both laughed.

There have been some tough times, but I’m grateful I’m here.

Family and friends are my riches.

Time melts away whether I judge time as good or bad. I’m learning to be grateful moment by moment.

And I think I was being overly optimistic there. She’ll probably be kicking my ass in five years or less.


I’m participating in a 31-day blogging challenge called #reverb10. Each post is a response to a writing prompt from a different author. The goal of the exercise is to reflect on 2010 and set goals for 2011. My personal challenge is to respond to each prompt in an hour or less. So far, I’ve blown my deadline each time. But tomorrow is another day.

Today’s prompt was from Victoria Klein:

Appreciate: What’s the one thing you have come to appreciate most in the past year? How do you express gratitude for it?

Nov 10

It was Big, scary, sad and embarrassing

Every Friday, we have Junk Food Night. It’s a celebration of corn dogs, chips, chocolate bars and Swedish berries. Post-Halloween, Junk Food Night is enough to put you in a coma.

We also have family movie night. I talked my girls into watching Tom Hanks’ 1988 breakout movie–Big. They squirmed and squealed through the whole thing.

They’re all, “I can’t watch! I can’t watch!”

And I’m all, “Yeah, the shoulder pads and big hair are really scary.”

Elizabeth Perkins’ hair was fairly tame by 80s standards (not now though), but I was transported back in time to high school. One of the girls in my high school used to brush toothpaste into her hair during the blow-dry cycle to give it that big, stiff I-just-got-caught-in-a-jet engine look.

For my girls, it was watching an adult act like a kid that was awful. They were so embarrassed for the 12/30 year-old Josh Baskin, they tucked their little heads into my armpits during the boy-meets-girl scenes. That’s fear, folks. It was the vicarious embarrassment that was sad and scary, and made my armpits worth sniffing as a refuge.

The gist of the movie is:

  • 12-year-old boy wishes to be big
  • wakes up the next day in a 30-year-old body
  • ends up as vice president of a toy company
  • wants his old life back

That’s very prescient. But these days, 30 is too old for the corner office. Nine is the new 20.

My younger daughter said she wouldn’t waste her wish on being older, she’d rather be a shape shifter. My elder daughter said she’d wish for an end to poverty. Me? Personal grooming in these middle years is non-trivial. I’m torn between wishing for nice eyebrows and a million bucks.

I have a lot to learn from my children. Obviously.

Oct 10

Sorta obligatory post-Thanksgiving gratitude post

Thanksgiving was so fabulous, I feel the need to descend into cliché and do a little photo essay about the people and things that I’m grateful for.

I’m grateful…

  • Because I already know how I’m going to look when I’m 65. I’m certain that I’m the product of a rogue 1970 cloning project. My mother’s my doppelganger. Or am I hers? Plus, she’s awesome:

  • That this mouse wasn’t born in my house:

  • For my children. Sure, their beauty is exquisite, but their powers of observation and sense of humour thrill me. Examples: “Mommy, that tree is beautiful and luminous,” and, “You’re taking meditation classes? Um…good luck with that.” Here they are:

  • My guests enjoyed the Thanksgiving meal in spite of the fact that the turkey stuffing was a farce:

  • To live in a land of plenty. This weekend, it was plenty of sunshine and fall colours:

  • That dressed-up dogs always make me laugh.

  • For family, friends, good health, my dog, vintners, chocolatiers, and the makers of Metamucil. Thank you.

Aug 10

Train wreck wardrobe combinations for the over-40 set

Well, Barb (left) and I have a good start here with the welder's glasses. Happy birthday and welcome to hagdom, Barb.

My oldest friend–wait a minute. She’s not the oldest, but I’ve known her the longest,  gave me a plaque listing several wardrobe faux pas for the over-40 set.  Since I beat Barb into this age bracket by a couple of months, she loves to rub it in.

My favourite combo from the list was thongs and Depends. I can’t publish them all because I don’t want to mess with copyright, so my cousin Steph and I put our heads together and came up with this list. You know the saying, two heads are better than one, but on vacation it’s actually two heads equal one.

  • Duct tape and tube tops
  • Nose piercing and cataract (welder’s) sunglasses
  • Spanx and lowrisers
  • Tattoos and colostomy bags
  • Skinny jeans and orthopedic shoes
  • Bustier and a sunhat
  • Mesh shirt and anything
  • *Fake boobs and an 80-year-old face (pneumatic octogenarians–I’ve been wanting to work “pneumatic” into a post for ages)
  • Eyebrow ring and hair plugs
  • Frosted lipstick and Ben Gay
  • Faux hawks and Just For Men
  • Popped collar and a neck brace
  • Compression hose and stilettos
  • Blue eye shadow and blue hair

This list, along with How Not To Look Old, are must-reads for those of us who are a certain age. I was of an uncertain age, but I guess I blew it with this post.

*Must clarify here. We mean rather sizable implants here. The kind that precede you into a room by a matter of seconds.

Jul 10

You know you’re on Whites Point, Manitoulin Island when…

  1. People recite their phone numbers in four digits, but they don’t know their address (“last one on the left”).
  2. Sour cream and onion chips are considered a vegetable.
  3. Happy Hour is between 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. from Monday to Sunday.
  4. Dogs outnumber people (this is particularly true at the Snow’s).
  5. People on the east and west side  each think their side of Whites Point is better, but we can all get along and smile at each other over the smoked whitefish dip at Happy Hours. The Strong’s are smiling the widest because their lot straddles east and west.
  6. You’re in greater danger of being hit by a golf cart or a canopied bike than a car.
  7. Your most vigorous exercise is getting your ass kicked by spry seniors in a game of pickle ball at the community centre
  8. You can count your bug bites on one hand (since 1974).
  9. It’s not a vacation until you’ve made two ER trips with crying children. Diagnosis: Swimmer’s ear.
  10. Having a steambath at Uncle John’s is like going to the spa, psychotherapist and bar all at once.