Stuff my dog taught me

and stuff I'm figuring out on my own

img_8530

img_8530So it’s 2016. And there is a full page in Canadian Living magazine dedicated to the “Working GIRL”, filled with wonderful ways for us GIRLS to mix “ladylike glamour and modern functionality”. How delightful!

Just the other day, as I was reviewing my corporate yearend with the accountant, he mentioned my lack of “ladylike glamour”. At the time, I was inclined to stuff a calculator up his behind, but now I see that he was just being diligent. Clearly, I have been neglecting my “ladylike glamour”.

A quick scan of the article tells me that “ladylike glamour” requires warm-toned metals, faux marble, and fresh white accents. How enlightening.

Upon closer perusal, I find an opportunity to “tuck small office supplies out of site” in something referred to as a “luxe globe-shaped box”. It looks like a large gold apple to me. Not sure how I would fit it into my briefcase, but I suppose that’s just a silly thought. What would a working GIRL need with a briefcase, once she was enshrined in “ladylike glamour”?

At the top of the page is an image that looks rather like a Monet painting, but I see that it is not just art. No indeed… apparently it is a removable decal I can use to “wrap my laptop in colour”. How fabulous!!! What a wonderful ice-breaker for those situations in which I turn up in a boardroom filled with middle-aged men (note: more than 75% of Fortune 500 board members are still male). Because nothing says capable businesswoman like a pink and red impressionist laptop cover.

There is also an “elegant small-scale metal bookcase” which is “perfect for tight spaces”. Strong implication that the average working GIRL will be in a teensy little cubby somewhere at the back of the building… not necessarily inaccurate but sad to see it assumed.

To the female editor-in-chief of Canadian Living magazine (Jes Watson) I say…. seriously?!? Are “working GIRL” and “ladylike glamour” phrases you feel represent your magazine in the 21st century? Because I am pretty sure I am your target demographic. I am a parent. I love to cook. And I enjoy a good magazine in the tub (the last bastion of magazine reading, since no one wants to drop their iphone into the bubbles!).

Yet… as a grown-ass WOMAN in 2016 I feel secure saying that I can cope with the loss of this subscription. And should I find myself in need of warm-toned metals, faux marble, or fresh white accents, I am sure I can find them online. Good bye Canadian Living.

Note: I wrote to the editor-in-chief regarding this article and must note that I received a prompt, personal response including the reasoning behind the article’s title and acknowledgement that “ladylike” was not an ideal word choice…

“I’m so sorry to hear you didn’t like our verbiage for this story. Sarah was making reference to the 1988 Melanie Griffith movie in her headline, and we felt it was clever in the context of showcasing a home office. As for the word “ladylike,” we wanted to convey the sense of women being able to have “a room of one’s own,” but you’re very right that there have been a better word choice. I’m so sorry you felt we missed the mark—we’ll keep your feedback in mind when writing future stories.”
meh-mug

 

meh-mugI care a lot about a lot of things. Global warming, oil spills, natural disasters, and the terrifying thought of Trump as president of the United States. These things make me wake up sweating in the middle of the night. My insomnia might also be caused by menopause but I prefer to think that it is related to my intellectual depth. I also fret about the health of my children, the success of my business activities, and whether or not I will ever have enough money to replace the vinyl siding on my house with wood shingles.  

Despite these worries, it seems that I am positively carefree when compared to many of my contemporaries. For example, I glide through my days with nary a thought about who might be eliminated from America’s Got Talent or The Amazing Race or Taylor Swift’s posse of gal pals. I have not lost a wink of sleep pondering the fate of John Snow’s character from Game of Thrones. And while I wish the best to whoever are currently The Bachelor and The Bachelorette, I am decidedly apathetic when it comes to their selection of mates.

I worry about wrinkles… except in July and August when I might just lay on my back deck like a turtle on a rock and let those toxic UV rays soak right into my epidermis.

I worry about my diet… except when I am hungry. When I am hungry I care only about ease of access. So if there is cut up watermelon in the fridge I will snack on it but if it’s still a giant orb of uncut fruit I will close the refrigerator door and eat nachos instead.

I have also discovered that I don’t care about anything enough to “track” it. The Fitbit seemed like fun for about an hour but now lives at the bottom of my underwear drawer beneath a pile of un-used thongs. The DietTracker app on my cell phone held my attention for less than a week because I got sick of recording every cup of coffee (30 calories). And I turned off the twitter-feed for everything related to weather because I just don’t care enough about the statistical probability of a storm currently tracking off the coast of Florida making its way up the coast to Nova Scotia. Just give me an hour’s warning so I have time to get to the liquor store.

I think I cared more when I was younger. I recall using a sick day to stay home and watch General Hospital because Luke and Laura were on the cusp of finally getting together and I needed to be in front of my television when it happened. And I remember several years when I put real thought into my Halloween costumes. Slutty nurse… slutty Grecian goddess… slutty firefighter… so many choices!

A million cliff-hangers and costume parties later, I have reached a different place in life. Note: Halloween costuming has been reduced to popping on a headband with devil horns and putting my wine in a plastic goblet that looks like it is filled with blood. It’s not that I don’t care about such things, it’s just that I don’t care enough.

That’s why I don’t buy anything that has to be drycleaned. Because I know myself. Once that sweater or dress or whatever it is becomes dirty, it’s going to lay on my closet floor for a loooong time. And if I manage to muster enough enthusiasm to take it to a drycleaner, it’s going to live there for a loooong time because out of sight is out of mind.

The list of things I don’t care enough about is endless. And I am blessed with a mother-in-law who cares enough to remind me of each item on this list. On a typical visit to my home, she will graciously point out that I should, among other things:

  • Re-organize my kitchen cupboards (and perhaps clean them up a bit as well),
  • Throw out the tattered jeans my husband keeps wearing,
  • Do something about my youngest child’s table manners,
  • Stop the cat from walking on my countertops,
  • Program the universal remote so that we don’t need three ‘clickers’ in order to watch television,
  • Deal with the fruit fly situation,
  • Start pre-washing the plates before putting them in the dishwasher,
  • Stop putting carving knives, pots, pans, plastic ware, and spatulas in the dishwasher, and
  • Make everyone hang up their coats

I totally agree with her. And I care about making her happy. I just don’t care enough. Although, on a positive note, my cat has developed an avid interest in fruit flies and spends hours sitting on the countertop, swatting them off the fruit bowl… so that’s something!

canada-heart-flag

canada-heart-flagIn Canada, being “full of yourself” is frowned upon and “tooting your own horn” is practically a criminal offense. So on Canada Day, I wasn’t surprised to find facebook filled with funny, self-deprecating video clips and posts about what it means to be Canadian.

For my part, I am feeling more patriotic than usual this year. Watching American politics has made me acutely appreciative of my country and my fellow citizens, and the things that we hold dear. We are beer and poutine and fur-lined hats with ear-flaps. But we are also much more…

According to a report from the Reputation Institute (2015), Canada is the most reputable country in the world, based on a variety of environmental, political, and economic factors.

We welcome new Canadians. 20% of Canadians are foreign-born, which is the highest percentage of all G8 countries. And we rank among the best countries in the world for integration, according to the 2015 Migrant Integration Policy Index.

We are seriously funny! In fact, Montreal’s annual Just for Laughs Festival is the world’s largest comedy festival.

We are the most polite people on earth. A recent Queen’s University poll found that 90% of adult Canadians will immediately apologize if a stranger bumps into them! Sorry if that upsets any non-Canadians.

We are well-educated. The OECD Education at a Glance report (2014) says 54% of Canadian adults have a post-secondary qualification, which is the highest share in the OECD countries, where the average is 34%. Pretty impressive, eh?

We are truly “nice”. Take a look at this visual comparison between US tweets and Canadian tweets.

screen-shot-2016-07-01-at-10-0

We legalized same-sex marriage a long time ago. Same-sex couples have been getting married in Canada since 2005. Note to our neighbours to the South… It is no big deal… pull it together and join us in the 21st century!

We are super sexy! Have you met our Prime Minister ?!?

So today I am hanging up a giant Canadian flag, which I bought at the 100% Canadian-owned Canadian Tire! I am going to slather on a mountain of sunscreen from the 100% Canadian-owned Shopper’s Drug Mart. And I am going to hit a pub and down some 100% Canadian Labatt’s beer… Because I AM PROUD TO BE CANADIAN!

bras

In winter, I know exactly what to do with my boobs.

My only decision in the winter is whether to go with the black bra, the white bra, or the beige bra. Spoiler alert: they are all the same bra, just in different colours! My winter bra has comfortable thick straps and soft, seamless cups, and goes on sale at Sears every three or four weeks.

Nine months of the year, I amble along in my comfortable winter bra, giving little thought to my boobs. I don’t bother them and they don’t bother me.

Then summer arrives and suddenly my boobs become a problem.

Shops are filled with halter-style tops, and scoop-necked sundresses, and t-shirts so thin you can spot an outie bellybutton. And twelve-year old salesgirls share pearls of wisdom like “just go braless” or “try a bandeau” or my personal favourite… “Just go next door to Victoria’s Secret. They have the BEST strapless!” At this point, I usually just smile and nod because, God bless their perky-breasted little souls, they really have no idea what a few more decades of gravity and a slew of hungry children will do.

“Braless” is not an option for a woman my age unless the plan involves standing perfectly still for the entire day, with my back slightly arched. Note: If I am ever hired as a living mannequin, or a guard at Buckingham Palace, or an extra in a movie with a plotline about people who are frozen eternally, I will happily show up braless. But otherwise, the Sisters and I will need a little more support.

This support will not come from a bandeau! The bandeau is not a bra or even a reasonable facsimile of a bra. In fact, I believe the word “bandeau” comes from the latin “band-be-low” which, loosely translated, means band of nylon sitting below your breasts. The only positive thing I can say about the bandeau is that once it slides down to its natural location, it becomes an excellent boob-sweatband. Somewhere in New York’s fashion district, there is a boardroom filled with clothing manufacturers laughing their asses off because they have managed to take the three cents worth of fabric they were selling to Walmart as a $1 headband and ship it off to Abercrombie & Fitch as a $20 bandeau. Just sayin’.

While on the subject of rip offs… let’s talk about the Victoria’s Secret strapless collection! Spoiler Alert… The “secret” is that the boobs on the Victoria’s Secret models have been surgically created to match the bras, while real boobs are much less globe-like and prone to ‘settling into’ the cups. But you don’t realize this until AFTER you have shelled out $70+ and made your way home with a gel-filled contraption so stiff that it has to be stored on a hanger because it’s too high to keep in your underwear drawer. 

For the first fifteen minutes of wearing your new Victoria’s Secret strapless bra, you will marvel at your own voluptuousness. You will also be able to perform stupid human tricks like standing pencils up in your cleavage while walking around the room. Alas, this glory is short-lived.

Soon, you will look down and realize that the Sisters have sunken to the bottom and there is now about an inch of empty space in the top of the cups. This creates an odd visual effect whereby it looks like you are wearing a t-shirt version of a suit of armour… and it’s a size too big for you! On the plus side, should it happen to rain, you will be able to collect enough liquid in your ‘gel cups’ to water all of the indoor plants when you get home!

So what is a real woman, with real boobs, to do? Well… there are really only three options.

Option one: Start shopping at old lady stores where everything has wide straps and built-in bras, which seems like a choice until you look at yourself in the dressing room mirror and realize that your Nanna was buried in a top that looks remarkably like the one you are trying on!

Option two: Wear your Victoria’s Secret strapless bra but carry a couple of bandeaus in your purse (they take up less room than a travel-size packet of Kleenex). When the Sisters start to sink, go to the nearest washroom and stuff the bottom of the cups with bandeau. Do not use the Kleenex because if it rains, you will be picking bits of wet tissue off the underside of your boobs forever… I speak from experience).

Option three:  Take the $70 you were going to spend on the bra and buy 3 bottles of cheap wine and a set of mini-lights at the Canadian Tire. Wrap the mini-lights around something in your backyard, declare it a ‘party’ and have your middle-aged women friends over instead of going out. Everyone will wear their Sears bras and non-transparent t-shirts, and have a great time!

laundryfairy

laundryfairyLaundry is a 4-step process: wash, dry, fold, put away.

So if you cram a bunch of whites… and darks… and towels… and possibly the family cat… into the washing machine and turn it on, you have not “done” the laundry. You have arguably done ¼ of the laundry (badly). And, even if it eventually makes its way to the dryer, clothing that has been left in the washing machine for days on end will smell like mouldy salsa. Just sayin’.

Besides the cat, there are several other items that I prefer not to find in the washing machine including, but certainly not limited to: banking cards, credit cards, gift cards, money (both bills and change), receipts for items I had been hoping to return, unopened mail, unread school notices, unfilled prescriptions, house keys, lip balms, those tiny containers of dental floss given out by the dentist, rolls of mints, Halloween-sized chocolate bars, ear pods, phone chargers, phone charger cords, jewellery, hair accessories, golf tees, and Visine eye drops (which, as an aside, cost nearly $20 a bottle).

As a general rule, it is best to wash only clothing, and only in quantities that allow the washing machine door to close easily.

The guidelines for using the dryer are similar in the sense that you should stick to placing only clothing in the machine. However (and here’s where it gets complicated!) not every item made of fabric should go into the dryer. For example, the lululemon corporation made a strategic decision back in its founding days, to deliberately create only garments that needed to “lay flat to dry”. So the 400 items in my house that come from lululemon must never see the inside of a dryer. Instead, they must be draped across chairs, sofas, and standing lamps, creating the visual illusion that a dozen naked yogis may be frolicking somewhere in my home.

Should one follow the advice of the teenaged staff at any of the local mall shops, it is also best not to machine dry jeans, bras, or anything made of cotton, hemp, or manmade fabrics.   This means that only towels, bed sheets, and Walmart underwear, are actually safe to put in the dryer.

Because we now use ‘high efficiency’ appliances, do not expect the towels, bed sheets, and Walmart underwear to actually be dry when the machine comes to a stop. That little bell that goes off when the cycle has been completed is just a reminder to click ‘start’ again. In the olden days of the 20th century, it took about half an hour to dry things. It now takes about an hour and a half.

When the little bell has chimed for the third time, there is an expectation that the clean, dry laundry will be removed from the machine and returned to where it came from. Urban legend speaks of a magical house fairy who performs this task in the wee hours of the night. This mythical creature also unloads the dishwasher, restocks the refrigerator, and changes the kitty litter.

Speaking on behalf of house fairies everywhere, I say, “It’s the 21st century so suck it up buttercup, and get your crap out of the dryer!”

Also note that the laundry basket is short and plastic and remarkably different than your dresser or your closet and is intended for transportation more so than storage. True story… at one point there were six laundry baskets in my house and every single one was in a bedroom, filled with jumbled masses of CLEAN laundry. Situations like this make house fairies drink in the afternoon… Just sayin’.

dog-bad-hair-day-cartoon-comic

dog-bad-hair-day-cartoon-comic

Buster the schnauzer, my very bad dog, and my very best friend, is having surgery on Tuesday.  He has a disgusting lump under his armpit (do dogs have armpits?) and while it is not cancerous, it still needs to be removed.  So I have cancelled my plans for new main floor windows in favour of paying for Buster’s medical needs.  Sigh.  And I have decided to reblog this very old post because it is about the essence of Buster the schnauzer…

Let me start by telling you that my dog, Buster, is not an ‘easy’ pet.  Our entranceway looks like we have been victims of a reverse home invasion, with scratched grooves running up and down the backside of the door.  Every member of our family and almost every family friend has suffered minor injuries in Buster-related incidents, usually involving him heaving himself upon someone at the front door.  Countless Lululemon pants have been torn and our local mail carrier throws envelops in the proximity of the mailbox more often than he ventures into the actual front porch.

Buster is a German guard dog and as a standard schnauzer his kind have been bred for centuries as ‘the guardians of children’.  This is his DNA, his destiny, his cause.  As obnoxious as it may be, there is no denying that Buster’s behaviour is rooted in a deep, unending passion for us – his family.  The degree to which he loves is almost indescribable.  When you sneeze or cough, he immediately turns to you attentively… “Are you ill?”, “Is there something I can do?”, “Will you live?”  When you wake in the middle of the night, he follows you to the bathroom and sits patiently beside you while you pee.  And don’t even get me started on what happens when ‘suspicious’ people pass you on the sidewalk.  Suffice to say that they would have to be a thousand times beyond crazy to attempt physical contact!

Buster loves with passion.  He can’t get close enough to the kids.  He sleeps at the foot of my bed every night.  When you leave the house, he is devastated and when you return he rejoices as though he has been witness to a miracle.

As the Jerry McGuire monologue tells us, “we live in a cynical world”.  Sometimes all I want to do at the end of a long day is grab a glass of wine and a few moments of isolated peace in the living room, while the kids glue their eyeballs to some form of social media and my husband checks out sports scores online.  But Buster has taught me the value of passion.  Even while I’m telling him to ‘sit’ and ‘calm down’ and ‘shut the hell up’, the truth is that I am feeling uber-important.  I am the most valuable person in his world.  I am all that he wants, all that he needs, all that he is thinking about.  And that feels good.

And so the life lesson I have learned from my dog Buster is to love with passion.  I choose to wrestle one of my kids to the floor and force unwanted kisses upon them even while they giggle and protest.  I choose to watch TV shows that I don’t like just because I can watch them curled up with a kid or two on my sofa.  And I choose to sacrifice my moment with a glass of wine in favour of a trip to the yogurt place down the street, or the mall, or some other God-awful location my kids or my husband want to be.  I hug often and I hug hard.  I bestow affection in public places.  And I wave like a fool from the audience at recitals and school events.  Because I know that despite my protestations, there is nothing more glorious than Buster’s all-consuming love.  It erases the annoyances of the day and makes me feel special.  And I want my husband and my children to feel special.  So I love with passion… as Buster has taught me.

dory

doryI know the lyrics to every pop song I have ever heard. I can recall every actor who has played the love interest to Julia Roberts. I can list all of the Harry Potter characters AND spell their names correctly.

So why can’t I remember the password to my Netflix account? Or where I put the barbeque lighter? Or whether or not I actually bought a barbeque lighter the last time I went to Canadian Tire?

I would like to blame my quirky memory on aging, or stress, or multi-tasking. But truthfully, I was like this when I was young and stress-free and multi-tasking wasn’t even a thing. My mind is a cornucopia of trivia; overflowing with 1980s television plotlines and stuff I learned in school but was never asked on a test. Like how to spell Bjarni Herjólfsson. He was a Norse explorer and I memorized his name for a grade 7 history test, but the teacher only asked us about Leif Erikson so poor Bjarni got left to rattle around in my brain for an eternity.

I envision a sort of attic inside of my head; a dusty storage space where things that probably should have been thrown out have somehow wound up saved, sometimes for sentimental reasons, but more often out of laziness. I put things like old Bjarni up there and then other stuff gets piled on top and it all just stacks up.

The good news is that I am very useful to friends who need help remembering which one of the Starbucks’ mocha crappa frappa concoctions they ordered last time and didn’t like… or the name of the plant they bought last summer that is now taking over their backyard… or which actor played the doomed boyfriend in the forgettable Julia Robert’s movie, Dying Young (Campbell Scott).  

The bad news is that I often spend more time looking for my car keys than it would take to walk to where I am going. And when I try to come home, I may spend an equal amount of time trying to recall where I parked the car.

I make grocery lists then forget them on the kitchen counter. Better safe than sorry, I end up buying butter and coffee almost every time I go to the grocery store, so the door of my refrigerator is full of butter bricks and my spice rack is stuffed with bags of medium roast.

I am also constantly embarrassed by my inability to remember people I have met in work settings. Although to give myself some excuse, the corporate world has a lot of middle-aged white men of average height and average weight, and an inordinate number of them are named Mike or Bruce. Just sayin’.

I suspect that I sometimes forget to remember new things because I am so busy remembering old things.

The space in my brain attic where I should be putting something useful (like where I parked the car) is already filled with something not useful (like a collection of dirty limericks or the lyrics to all of Rod Stewart’s greatest hits). So I forget to remember that I am on P2 because I am busily humming Do You Think I’m Sexy.

See the problem?!? I think it’s something I am going to have to accept about myself. I am the woman who calls her kids by the dog’s name and occasionally mails envelops without stamps. On the other hand… I kick ass at Trivial Pursuit!

whitecat

whitecat

Savour every ray of sunshine.

Find time for personal grooming.

Know when to pull in your claws.

Let someone else clean up the poop.

Walk at your own pace.

Enjoy the hunt as much as the victory.

Be affectionate but never needy.

Appreciate the beauty of stillness.

Value personal dignity.

Nap.

pile_of_pantyhose

pile_of_pantyhose

  1. What am I supposed to do with the roll of fat that gets pushed upwards by my Spanx?

Should I try to tuck it under the bottom of my bra? Because my middle-aged boobs are already trying to escape from the sides of my underwire and I am a little worried that I might end up with armpit breasts.

  1. What is the deal on pantyhose?

None of the skin-toned options look anything like my skin. Sheer black ones look too wintery (even when it is actually winter… which is weird). And opaque ones are super-thick and always seem to be pulling downwards, so that the crotch ends up halfway down my inner thighs.

But if I go sans pantyhose, I will inevitably look down at some point during the day and realize that I forgot to shave my legs. Or I will find myself in a sunny room and the glare of the light bouncing off my uber-white flesh will blind fellow business people and make it impossible for anyone to view the powerpoint presentation.

  1. Is this necklace making my head look small?

Business jewellery is getting larger and Larger and LARGER. I remember when I looked forward to the end of the workday when I could kick off my shoes. Now I fantasize about unfastening the weight around my neck.

  1. Why are all my blouses transparent?

Because unlike those female business executives on television shows, who slip out of their clothes and are suddenly clad in sexy slips, I am holding my jiggly-bits together with the aforementioned underwire bra and Spanx and control-top pantyhose. I do not need the stress of having to find another layer of clothing to keep the world from seeing my hardworking undergarments.

And I must note that none of my husband’s business shirts are see-through. Just sayin’. And while I am on the subject of sexism in clothes…

  1. Why do men get all the pockets?

Seriously?!? I have 5 blazers. None of them have functional pockets. Not even the ones that look like they have pockets!

At the end of the day, I will probably go with the ‘nude’ pantyhose even though they make me look like I have prosthetic limbs.  I will try to stand as much as possible because my belly fat stays flatter that way.  I will keep my pocket-less blazer on no matter how hot it gets, because my blouse is made of the same fabric as the sheer draperies my mother used to have hanging in her living room.  And I may swap out the heavy jewelry for a scarf, although that raises a whole other slew of questions about how to wear scarves.  Sigh.

mothers

mothersHappy Mother’s Day to the creative moms who put together amazing kid’s parties with helium balloons and theme cakes and giant inflatable bounce castles. And happy Mother’s Day to the slightly less creative, who book the bowling alley at the last minute, buy a grocery store cake, and hand out Kitkat bars in lieu of treat bags. Because you know what? Kids love bouncy castles but they also love bowling and full-size chocolate bars.

Happy Mother’s Day to the nutrition conscious moms who make their own hummus and pack school lunches in fancy bento boxes. And happy Mother’s Day to those that send ham and cheese sandwiches every day, along with ziplock baggies full of Goldfish Crackers and a couple of slightly stale Oreos. Because no matter what you do, the little buggers will eventually morph into teenagers. They will leave lunch bags filled with uneaten food in their school locker until everything is green and fuzzy, and they will live on nothing but carbohydrates and dead cow.

Happy Mother’s Day to the germ-conscious moms who carry hand sanitizer and miniature packets of Kleenex in their purses. And Happy Mother’s Day to the moms who take a more laissez-faire approach, embracing the 3-second-rule and spit cleaning dirty faces. Because no matter what you do, they are still going to throw up in the car at least once and probably come home from school with a head full of lice at some point.

Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms who worry that they aren’t doing everything right. Because we ALL worry about that.

In the end, our children won’t remember exactly what they ate for lunch when they were in grade 3, and they will probably forgive us for saying ‘no’ when they begged to set up a lemonade stand for the third day in a row.

What they will remember is our essence – the way we made them feel safe and loved and important. So Happy Mother’s Day to all of us who are out there everyday, swinging for the fences – trying and succeeding – trying and failing – but always trying!

Cordelia's Mom, Still

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