I’m at home with a super gross kidney infection. Of course, my mind goes to very dark places when it feels like my body is breaking down. For some reason, I drew a parallel between my health and my recently deceased washing machine. First, the drum went, and we paid $300 to get it fixed, then something went wrong with the motor and then and then. My husband regretted wasting all that money on repairs, “When one thing breaks, it’s a sign that the whole machine is in decline. We should have just bought a new one.”
Rufus is a Maltese who was supposed to belong to my daughter, but as soon as he grew to full-size and would no longer submit to dress-up or photo shoot sessions, she lost interest, and all of his care fell to me.
A dog is like having a new baby. We got him when he was three months old, and I had to take a week off work, mostly because once again this new baby woke me up every hour to pee, or freak out or just say hi. I also had to be at home to toilet train him because this delightful process involved getting him on a regular schedule of sleeping, feeding, walking and pooping. When he misbehaved, like when he ate my favorite pen or chewed up my $50 throw pillow, he was testing boundaries – just like any other kid. Every few months, I still have to renew the process of reminding him who’s Alpha around this house. I do this by catching him right in the act and giving him hell. When I try this with my kids– they ignore me until I completely lose it. Then they roll their eyes because – well, Mom’s acting crazy again.
Rufus makes me feel like a parenting rock star. Unless he sees a bird. Then he forgets his name, his training and how stupid I look running after him like an idiot.
Rufus never complains about how I prepare his dinner (a scoop of kibble with a little freeze dried liver sprinkled on top as a garnish), but my human kids pretty much hate everything I make them, no matter how hard I try. And they make a big-ass deal about letting me know.
“God, mom. This is disgusting.” They couldn’t care less about the waste or how much someone would appreciate what they were given “…then you should just send it to China.”
Rufus doesn’t pretend to gag at dinner time. He just shuts his fucking mouth and chews.
Rufus never talks back or screws around when it’s time for bed. He doesn’t squirm when I give him cuddles. He doesn’t throw his clothes around. Raising Rufus has been my chance to redo all those moments I totally messed up raising my human kids. Yes, it’s true. Rufus is my kid. The only one who actually listens to me. So I arrange play dates for him with other dogs he likes. I take him to doggy daycare, so he doesn’t have to spend the day alone when I go to work. I drop $70 for his shampoo and haircut. But only because the doggy spa also throws in an anal gland cleaning. Some things about my favorite child are gross, but it doesn’t diminish my love for him. Especially since he shows his appreciation by losing his shit every time I walk through the door. While my flesh and blood don’t even look up from their screens.
But here in Yaletown, where some of the world’s cleanest, most pampered fur-children live – the Health Board will not allow me to bring Rufus into my favorite coffee shop. But they place zero restrictions on my other kids, even when they obviously haven’t bathed in a week. Even though they’re the destructive ones. If Rufus and I went to a restaurant, he would sit quietly on my lap, while my other kids have, from time to time, screamed their heads off, or raced around the room like wild animals. They’ve spilled hot chocolate, splattered spaghetti sauce and left smears of stickiness for the wait-staff to clean up. They’re the ones who should be tied up outside.
My devotion to this dog has not gone unnoticed by my friends. The other day, Alice and I tried to catch up over coffee. But I was distracted. Rufus was barking plaintively outside. The same mothering instinct that made me cry when the public health nurse vaccinated my babies by holding them down kicked in and I could barely hear what she was saying.
“Why don’t you apply for an emotional support dog license?”
Since I suffer from a wide-range of emotional issues including anxiety, low self-esteem, and occasional insomnia, I can register my dog and for $70 get a card which will gain Rufus admission into any public place, including grocery stores and the library – so long as he’s kept in a purse.
Now, the next time I hand over my credit card to pay for $300 worth of groceries my kids won’t eat, I can just pull Rufus out of my stylish dog-purse and stroke him until everything is right with the world again.
Alice met her first husband in June 2006, when meeting someone on-line was still weird. She was on the site because when she turned 30, Alice’s friends told her it was time to date outside her “type”- who were genuine losers. I’m talking professional conspiracy theorists and BC ferry cafeteria workers. To break free of this cycle, she decided to cast her net wide, with just one dating rule –to say Yes to everyone who asked her out.
When she showed me this one email thread, it was clear that the man who would be her husband was different. His emails were brief, to the point, without a hint of flirtation.
On the day they were supposed to meet, Alice, couldn’t stand sitting through a forced conversation with some square, so she didn’t show up.
He called 15 minutes later.
“Are you so weak and disrespectful that you can’t even call and cancel like a decent person? Or do you just lack integrity?
Nothing turns Alice on like being called out on her shit, so they arranged to meet for a drink that night.
The conversation was stilted until she asked her killer first date question: “What are your post-apocalyptic skills?”
By his answer, it was clear this was a man who could find and defend their water and food. This was a man who would fight off zombies… and win. She was smitten.
They moved in together soon after and she entered a foreign world. He didn’t have roommates. None of his furniture came from thrift stores. And he had not one, but two complete sets of bedsheets.
He’d also graduated top of his high school class, which assured him a spot in the country’s best university. He chose his major solely based on earning potential. Got a full scholarship to a grad school in Paris. Then immediately landed a high paying job. By the time she met him, he was mortgage-free.
While Alice, on the other hand, had quit her union job to hitchhike across Canada with a guy who’d almost come fifth place in Abbotsford’s annual Elvis impersonation competition.
I’d always admired how Alice had relished in her free-spiritedness, but now she wanted what he had: security, competence, economic success. So she found a decent paying job, which required her to wear pantyhose and work in an airless cubicle.
But this was the beginning of their relationship, so her work day was peppered with cute little calls, just to check in.
His calls went something like this:
I just got a promotion and a huge pay raise. Let’s book a trip somewhere.
Alice’s went like this:
You’ll never believe it! Someone from WestJet called, and I just won a holiday for two at a resort in Cancun! All I had to do was give the guy my credit card number and some banking information…
Her boyfriend would then spend the rest of the afternoon, canceling those cards and convincing the bank to reverse charges.
The first time Alice lost her phone, it was somewhere in a field, during a terrible rain storm. Her boyfriend had a find my phone app, but he wouldn’t let her touch his phone, so he went out looking. After an hour, Alice found her phone in a pocket, at the bottom of her purse.
After a few years of trying, and failing to succeed in the 9 to 5 world, Alice was in the throes of a full-blown mid-life crisis. We could all see that she had to obey the signs or risk a nervous breakdown. But she was terrified that her soon-to-be husband would finally lose all confidence in her, so I helped her create a spreadsheet, which clearly outlined how it was more cost effective to prevent her from going crazy than to actually let her go crazy. He reviewed the numbers and agreed that she should quit her job.
Then a funny thing happened. After watching Alice land a few freelance contracts, which paid some bills, and also allowed her to go for midweek hikes and afternoon coffees with friends, he began to question his own career choices.
He wanted something new.
So Alice encouraged him to look deep for something he’d always wanted to do, but was too afraid to try.
“What if it doesn’t work out?”
“We’ll be fine. Imagine your life if you were doing something that thrilled you.”
So he settled on day trading. Which is basically socially condoned gambling. He read books and followed blogs. He researched and tested systems. At night Alice said they would lie together and he would explain details of his new hobby, and she would pretend to understand what he was talking about.
Then out of the blue, Alice said he stopped talking. He slammed doors, and when they went to bed, he’d just roll over and go to sleep. Finally after two weeks of this.
“What’s going on with you?”
He didn’t talk for a while and couldn’t even look at her.
“I bet on some options and lost it all.”
“What do you mean. All?”
“Like everything. All of our savings. Everything.”
Alice told me later that she couldn’t speak.
Because inside something was welling up. Something that felt like lightness, buoyancy. Giddiness.
Do you know what this means?
“I’m no longer the screw up in this relationship. Nothing I’ve ever done or will ever do could ever be as bad as what you’ve just done.”
Now she was the rock building up a crushed ego after a devastating fall. This was Alice’s domain. For a change, he had to lean on her.
Everything changed after this…her relationship was defined now by mutual respect and admiration — which is way hotter than being called out on shit.
Then once again, she lost the iPhone she’d just bought to replace the one she’d lost the month before. Her husband started freaking:”Do you know how much those things cost…”
“More than a few hundred thousand dollars?
Then shut the hell up.”
Christmas used to be this fun, easy thing: Bake. Decorate. Find perfect little gifts for people that reflect how much I love them. Try not to make an ass of myself at the company holiday party. Eat and drink way too much. Lie around in my pj’s all day. Regret eating and drinking too much. Then promise to do better next year.
Now I have kids and I am freaking out because until this year, it never really occurred to me that the way I “do” Christmas will affect them, on every level, and possibly in a totally damaging way.
I have to decide what meaning to assign Christmas.
We all curl up on the sofa. They’re fresh out of the bath and cozy in their jammies. The tv is playing the fireplace channel and I start in on the story of baby Jesus. But before I even get to the bit about how Mary had to travel while nine months pregnant, my eight-year-old interrupts.
“But who’s the dad?”
“Jesus’s mom made a baby with God? How?”
Both my kids call bullshit. So I quickly switch gears
I try to retell the story in a purely academic way. My version includes Hanukkah – because it’s impossible to explain why all the rooms at the Bethlehem hotel were full unless you address the religious holiday that was already going on. Then there’s that thing about Roman imperialism and the whole census-taking deal that made travelling when nine months pregnant necessary. Before I even get to the part about the stable and how most of the imagery they see: the colours, the candles, the tree – are actually ripped off from earlier pagan goddess religions, my kids are fast asleep.
Then I have to decide what to tell them about Santa. I don’t want to destroy the magic. It’s so cute when they discuss their own theories about how Santa gets inside apartment buildings or how he manages to make it around the world in one night. Also – the threat of Santa’s naughty list is an amazing parenting aid.
I told them about how when I was their age, the best presents were the ones that were handmade. They roll their eyes. Which is exactly what I did when my mother said the same thing to me.
And I realise how badly I want my kids to have all these special memories around Christmas. So I buy tickets to shows and stand in line to watch the Santa parade – pretending it’s so much fun to wait forty minutes in the pouring rain for a two-minute glimpse of an old man in a rented suit. I pray my cynicism about these things doesn’t show… but they’re completely oblivious to my reactions. Because they’re taking in what they want and their memories will be their own.
My own memories of childhood Christmases have very little to do with church or presents or shows or even the Santa parade. My recollections have all blurred together into more of a blend of feeling. The only stand out memories are those involving incidents of crazy family dysfunction. And the lasting gift of those is that I can retell them every year as part of my own Christmas mythology.
Tune in next week for the story of the very weirdest Christmas dinner ever…
It’s too bad I was scornful. But that’s mostly because she was very old and extremely proper and exceedingly capable. In other words, we were nothing alike (though she was my favourite person in the whole world)
I wish she was still alive because back then she was talking about stuff that didn’t at all apply to my crazy, 20-something, hard-livin lifestyle. But now as I go about my day, I can’t tell you how many time, I stop, slap my forehead and say, “So that’s what she meant.”
I remember one Sunday dinner, when I was around 12.
I tried to help my grandmother as she bustled around in the kitchen, cooking a stuffed chicken, baking homemade rolls, setting the table and prepping dessert. While, my grandpa, her husband, sat on the sofa reading the Globe and Mail. Like he did every Sunday. In that same tradition, he’d frequently shout from the living room: “Dinner ready yet?”
Grandma turned to me and said, “Never get married.”
Later she amended that advice to – “Only marry someone who’ll divorce well.”
Now that so many of my friends are separating from their husbands and life partners, I understand that advice to mean: “if your chosen mate shows a hint of vindictiveness – use him for sex – but never, ever marry him.” Watching how shitty people can behave when divorcing, I believe that unsolicited advice is absolute genius. I will impart it to my daughter…but only after college.
She said a whole bunch of super intelligent shit – most of which I remember. When I repeat these little sound bites with anyone in her 40’s or older – I sound super wise and insightful. (thanks, Grandma. I couldn’t have done it without you.)
Here are some of my most repeated examples:
- Poor people can’t afford cheap stuff
- Three things you should never cheap out on:
- Food, shoes and mattress. (She once said in way of a caution: “Every time my mattress started to sag in the middle, I got pregnant.”)
- A lady always knows when it’s time to go (If only I’d taken this advice after drinking
- A wise woman always knows when to keep her mouth shut (if only I’d EVER taken this advice)
- Gardening is the best stress reliever – nothing beats unmercifully pulling weeds, for working out aggression
- Money is never a reason not to do something important (so when I use that excuse I know I’m really freaked out about something else)
A few years ago, I volunteered at Hospice. Sylvia MacNeil asked me to write her life story. She was 94 and dying from breast cancer. I won’t go into the details except to say that her life was inspiring and remarkable. I felt very lucky to have known her.
As Sylvia got closer to death, I could sense she had something she wanted to tell me. One day, when she was drifting in and out of consciousness, he waved me into close so I could hear her hoarse whisper. She said, “Sex in your 80’s kicks the crap out of sex in your 30’s.” And then she fell back on her pillow, unresponsive.If it hadn’t been for the nurse in the room, I would have grabbed Sylvia by the shoulders and shaken her awake, yelling. “What do you mean? For God’s sake. How? How?”
But I’ll never know exactly what she meant.
Although, after some thought, I think she was talking about gumming.
What good advice were you given that you’re only really getting now?
My kid got into shit again at school. This time it was for stomping out of his classroom and walking home. He’s 6.
Of course, I got a call from his teacher asking me to come in. This was a very serious matter and needed to be addressed immediately.
When I rushed down the hallway towards the principal’s office, I saw him slumped over in a chair. His feet didn’t quite touch the ground and he just looked so small…
But this sentimentality is what turns normal, rational people into helicopter parents, which in turn turns kids into useless assholes, unable to take responsibility for their own fuck ups. So I sucked it up, got into character and marched towards him.
This is a long video. But it’s worth watching. The part that suggests real and excellent ways people who are concerned about the next four years can take action starts at 17:00.
I’m a US citizen (well Dual, actually), but I owe my education to the US and I have many people there who I love and respect. So for their sake I’m going to translate my moaning and carrying on about how shocked and dismayed I am into actual action. I hope you’ll join me. Even my followers who live outside the US should be concerned enough to do something – because Trump’s anticipated policies will affect us all.
John Oliver suggests some great ways to make a real difference… He suggests donating to organizations that will help and advocate for groups that are sure to be under attack during the Trump administration.
Donate to Organizations like:
Planned Parenthood – if you’re concerned with reproductive rights
International Refugee Assistance Project – for those who don’t believe in deporting people based on ethnicity
NRDC – for those who care about protecting environment
NWAC Legal Defence Fund – for those who care about racial justice
Trevor Project – to advocate for and protect LGBT Youth
Mexican American Legal Defence and Education Fund – because you know there’s going to be a wall … or at least a fence.
I’d also like you to join me in no longer getting news from Social Media. Today I will subscribe to the New York Times. Maybe even the Washington Post. I’d love to hear about some reputable and excellent news blogs, if you care to share.
Thank you! And please pass along the word.
That election took something out of me that’s going to take some time to heal. So to do my part – here is a completely uninspiring thought, which you can use to replace whatever might be rumbling around in your head.
I think like someone’s mother. And now it’s permanently affected the way I see the world.
The most obvious example:
I never used to think about food. Except in the most pleasurable terms.
Now, food anxiety invades and overtakes my mind at least 10 times a day. What to make my kids for breakfast that will keep them full until recess without any sugar crashes?
What to pack for lunch now that every other kid has an annoying nut allergy?
What to make for dinner so I won’t have to listen to a constant whine about how gross dinner is?
How to go to Costco without wanting to slit my wrists?
How to go to Whole Foods without hyperventilating over the price of organic grapes? (more…)
I bolted upright way too early this morning with the thought: Holy Shit, It’s Halloween and I haven’t got a decent costume.
So I’m forced to go as Fat Elvis – Because the only costume I have readily available is the white lycra Elvis jumpsuit I wore when I ran (ish) the Las Vegas half-marathon in 2008. I got it in size small, never planning to wear it again. My stomach and thighs are a tad lumpier than they were eight years ago and the shitty thing about white lycra is how it shows every little ripple and dimple in full technicolour. To save face, I’m just going to pretend it’s all on purpose. The fat and the deep fried peanut butter and bacon sandwich.
This is what happens when I leave these things until the last minute – I’m forced to go with what I’ve got.
Last year was worse.
I was still working at that job I mentioned earlier when Halloween rolled around. In the spirit of clever satire, I chose to dress as a zombie working mother. I wore a crumpled and stained business suit, bloodied my legs under my pantyhose, messed up my hair and hid a spider in it. I finished it all off by powdering my face a whitish grey and smearing black shadows under my eyes.
Angela was still like, “Write my proposal for me.” and the HR Director still called me into her office to tell me that I’d used up all my sick days. She also threw in a quick reminder about appropriate office attire, but mostly because for Halloween I think she was going as an asshole.
Looking back, the response to my Halloween costume may have been a clear indicator that I wasn’t making the best impression at work. But then hindsight is always 20/20.
May all your costumes be well received.
Please subscribe and share widely because when the zombie apocalypse happens, you’ll want me on your side, believe me.