Sunday, December 4, 2022

How The Hell Did That Happen!

Ten years? That went by in the blink of an eye! Hang on while I blow some of the dust off this place, and shake out some of the cobwebs! 

Ten years? So what the heck has been happening? Well, in a nutshell... I'm ten years older, with all the wonderful crap that goes along with that. I am standing on the threshold of 'The Golden Years.' You all know what that is: The biggest con job of our lifetime. 

Go to work, work hard, do honest work, for you will eventually gather in your reward. Squirrel away all those dreams and plans, fill a huge bucket with that list of things you have to do before you die, keep your nose to the grindstone, and voila! Golden years! Time to live those dreams... 

BUT remember you have to do it between doctor's appointments, and you don't want to start during allergy season, and don't forget to pack along your extra bag of prescriptions and your CPAP machine. Then there are the physio appointments for your new knee, the eye doctor appointments, that hearing test you have scheduled, and don't forget the extra travel insurance you're going to need. 

We tell our teenagers to get out there and get a job, while keeping their grades up. We tell them the virtue of walking ten miles in the snow to get to school (uphill, both ways), that it builds character and stamina. 

Maybe we need to cut them a little slack. Let them be kids for a while. It doesn't mean letting them sit around doing nothing or running amok, but if they want to travel, to see the world, let them! If they want to spend a week at the beach or on the lake, there is no harm in that. 

Man, the dust in here is bad for my asthma! And there's another damned kid on my lawn! 

Hmmm, can Lazarus rise after 10 years in the crypt? 

Friday, May 9, 2014

Age -- Not Really In The Eye Of The Beholder

Remember when you couldn’t wait to be 18? It was a magic age, the age when you finally really controlled your destiny. 18 seemed a lifetime away when you were 16. The weeks were long, the seasons longer, but you stayed focused on that magic number. It would be your Independence Day.

Ironically, if you asked your mother, your real Independence Day was the day you took your first step, when you were no longer reliant on her for everything. If you asked your dad about it, he would probably grunt, roll his eyes, and mumble something about it being the day you die. In his eyes, while you might feel independent, he will still be determined to be your protector, your defacto head of state, regardless of how strictly ceremonial you think that role might be.

For some of us, 21 was the Holy Grail, the year we were able to drink (legally). It might be interesting to know exactly how many waited until that twenty-first year to taste their first drop of liquor... but I digress. For others, 25 was the key, because, as they grew older and became more responsible, they realized that at this age, their insurance rates dropped back to something finally within the stratosphere. Sorry, but after that, it all seems to go downhill. There is no longer any desire to age faster.

Buried deep within this realization must be some profound lesson, some quaint, witty cliché that will bring a smile to all our faces. There might be, but I have no idea what they might be. Time moves forward; we were blessed with photographs and memories and faint smells that can take us back to that time, but we can’t relive it, and perhaps that’s a good thing.

I thought back to when I was 16. I was at Samuel Crowther High School in Strathmore, Alberta – what we affectionately called Sam Crow Pen. I don’t believe the school is there anymore, or perhaps it has been reborn under another banner, but that really doesn’t matter. I am not sure I could bring myself to walk through those doors again. High school was tough. We spent those years discovering ourselves, testing our limits (and perhaps our parents’ limits even more), picking away at the matrix in that quest to discover what gem was hidden inside. We rebelled, we argued, we commenced that life-long battle between principle and popularity, praying that maybe there was a balance between the two. Every day was a balancing act. Every day there were tests, some written, some just lived, not all of them passed.

In my old age, I cannot imagine what it is like now. I never had to worry about having the most modern communications devices on the planet. We had telephone party lines – the no-frills precursor to conference calling, and to be honest, there were a lot of times, that was just a pain in the butt, because there was really no privacy. How would we manage now, though, with everyone having a camera on their phones, their phones in their pockets? Privacy? I can’t imagine how that happens anymore. We didn’t have the clothes issues, the shoes issues, the hair issues... there were fewer templates for us to want to emulate. Careers were for life, not something we had to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars for, only to have to ‘retrain’ ten years later. Yes, we had drugs in our schools, but it’s nothing compared to what they deal with now. There were more two-parent homes in our day (although probably just as many dysfunctional ones, if we were all being honest, so perhaps that isn't a better thing, but it was a different thing). We had more nutritious meals, less ‘clutter’ from televisions, no computers to consume our time, and not once did we have to worry about some crazed gunman coming into the building, determined to cut down as many lives as possible in the short time he had.

We can’t go back, but we have the absolute beauty of being able to cherry-pick what we want to remember. We can remember the faces, the laughs, the loves, the triumphs, and hopefully the lessons. All of it was right for us at the time we were doing it. We would be disasters if we had to go back to 16 now. We have made those rites of passage that come after high school – the marriages, births, divorces... the success stories and those that break our hearts. From high school, we remember the first of ‘our year’ to leave us – still miss you, Moose, and think of you often – and the most special to each of us who is no longer here – Godspeed, Tracey; you’re singing with the angels now. From our lives, we welcome more babies -- nieces, nephews, grandkids -- and we say goodbye to parents and partners.

We always need things to look forward to. When we were 12, it was 14, when we would get our learners licence. When we were 14, it was 16, when we could get our real licence and start to wear make-up. When we were 16, it was 18, when we would be legal and free. Now, it’s Tuesday, because that’s when there is a senior’s discount at Safeway, or it’s in three months when we will be leaving on holidays, or the summer because we will be welcoming a new member into the family fold. Our age doesn’t matter in the need for hope for the future -- our own and globally. We know that with the drivers licence, comes more responsibility and the need for gas money. We know Independence Day comes with a dramatically new set of priorities and demands.

Do I want to be 16 again? No, not really. I know what comes after that, the good and the bad, the wondrous and the heartbreaking. I don’t think I am brave enough or strong enough to be 14 again. I would rather reminisce, perhaps wax poetic about it, and look forward to what tomorrow holds for me. We should all be excited for tomorrow to come, because, like cheese and wine, we are more flavorful and valuable (and get better looking) every day. 

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

That Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Do you remember those years when it seemed that December lasted forever? A day felt like a week then as you minded your Ps and Qs... just in case. Finally it would be Christmas Eve, and you were getting ready, at least in our house, for Midnight Mass. There would be people over after supper, also waiting to go to Mass. The stereo would be playing Christmas music, and you would be trying to find something to do to make the time pass just a bit more quickly. With two channels on the television, long before the birth of videos, your options were pretty limited.

Midnight Mass – there was another thing that had me in knots, but not for the reasons you would think. For starters, we had a small farm and on that farm, we had some donkeys. I had been told (probably by one of my slightly evil older sisters) that all donkeys knelt down right at midnight on Christmas Eve. Every year I asked if I could stay home to watch, just in case it was true. Every year, Mom replied by handing me the clothes I would be wearing for Midnight Mass.
The radio at night in those days left much to be desired, especially in the old Biscayne, so we sang as we drove to church and back. Being the youngest of the brood, I was always in the middle of the back seat, but since seat belts were for all intents and purposes non-existing, I sat on the ‘hump’ right in the middle of the car, hanging onto the back of the front seat, so I had the music all around me. I like to think I invented sound-surround that way. We always had to be at church early, because it was always full, and I remember thinking with every tick of the second hand on my watch that we were delaying Santa. It’s rather hard, as a child, to grasp that Santa/Baby Jesus relationship and keep it all in perspective.
After Mass, we would come home, the kettle would go on, and my dad would make the hot toddies. It made me insane. We needed to all get to bed, time was fleeting and it would be morning soon, and Santa wouldn’t come if everyone was still up drinking and visiting. My first real recollection of this was our first year in Alberta. My brother had come to visit; it was the first time I had seen him since we have moved from Winnipeg. Along with the hot toddies an the full house, I remember very well that I desperately wanted to keep him there with us. It was also my first Christmas with all my uncles and aunts, and the ‘bachelor uncles’ who became a Christmas fixture for us. It wasn't Christmas until they had arrived.
Things have changed a lot since then. For starters, December always goes by too quickly. It’s amazing how the years change our perspective of time. Everything happens too quickly now. Thankfully artificial Christmas trees have changed from what they were. We had the ones that consisted of a stick with holes in it that more sticks were jammed into. There would be about 20 branches (sticks) on which to hang ornaments and tinsel. If you were really lucky, you had one of the hideously colored ones. Maybe next year, we will host an ugly tree contest, so start looking through those old pictures now (there are some added bonuses to looking at those pictures, but I won't ruin the surprise for you.)
For some reason, back then Mom was up at 5am, getting the turkey ready. What was it about turkeys then that required so many more hours in the oven? Mine is done in four hours; Mom’s would be in the oven for ten... but it was always cooked perfectly, even without the Electrolux 'Perfect Turkey' oven setting that does everything but stuff the bird.
We all strive for what I call ‘the Rockwell Christmas’ – that idyllic event with carolers and nog, roasting chestnuts, warm camaraderie, love oozing from every corner as we all decorate the tree and read The Night Before Christmas together. The funny thing is that I am not sure if we had that, if it’s even possible to have that, we would remember it. I remember the Christmas the power went out and we cooked the turkey on the barbeque, and sat around playing card games. I remember the Christmas the grub was sick, and how I put him into the bed just made with new Santa-delivered satin sheets, only to have him skate right off the other side. I remember the Christmas where a dozen friends had to stay over because of the blizzard that moved in and turned they vehicles into snow-covered rocks in the driveway (thanks, Dad, for the hot toddy tradition because we needed it that night while we huddled around the table with blankets stacked on the floor to help keep us warm.  I remember when we had K’Nex scattered over every inch of the floor as we tried to figure out what piece when where according to their weird picture they sent with it. I remember being in the kitchen doing the dishes after the Christmas dinner, listening to everyone telling their ‘remember that Christmas when’ stories, and laughing until I cried.  Maybe that’s what Christmas, or Hanukkah, or every other holiday,  is supposed to be about. Yes, some things have changed, but that which is important stays with us, in our hearts and in our memories, as we create our new traditions with our own families.
At this time of year, we all become children at heart, so from this very unlikely child, and her garishly overdone Christmassy home, I wish you the very best of the season, a safe holiday, and all the happiness and peace you can stand in 2014. 

Merry Christmas! 

Monday, November 18, 2013

A Shag By Any Other Name

In my world, I remember when ‘shag’ really was a dirty word. Those were the days when the shag was the carpet, not what was done naked on top of it. Do you remember shag carpets? They came in such wonderful, vibrant colors. In my first home, there was a green shag carpet in the living room and dining room. One bedroom had a golden shag carpet, the other had a bright green one. The crowning touch, though, was the brilliant purple carpet in the master bedroom. The first time I cleaned it, the sun was shining through the window and created sort of a purple ectoplasmic glow down the hallway.

For those of you blessedly too young to recall shag carpets, they were the ones with the very long fibers, so long that the carpets came with their own rake. Yes, you vacuumed, then you raked, and still they would not come clean. It was the perfect melding of outdoors indoors, for those who liked to rake but didn't want to do it in the garden, with the added bonus of having the ability to harbor and grow even more scary organisms than those found in mere dirt. The proof of that was when that glorious day arrived when you were finally able to pull the damned thing up and replace it with hardwood, and you could see the years of crap and corruption that still hid in the depth of weave. Trust me when I say it was not for the faint of stomach.

But, to be fair, the shag carpet was a sign of success, a societal fashion high-water mark. Not everyone had shag. It went wonderfully with the lava lamps, the avocado colored kitchen appliances (or poppy red, or harvest gold – take your pick) that came with avocado colored dishes, mix master, crock pot, silverware, placemats and chairs, and the funky gold-flecked mirror tiles on the wall. It was... shaggy, and we loved the devil-may-care freedom of shaggy, so we added that effect to a lot of things, arguably none of them improved for the hairy texture. Yes, we were changing how our world looked. It was different... not necessarily better, but different.

We had embraced a ‘free and easy’ lifestyle, one that shucked the drab greys and earthtones from our lives. We were living in a brighter time, one where bright was to be embraced in our clothes, our sunglasses, our cars, our television programs and our homes. We were creating metaphoric rainbows after a long period of conformity and nickel-counting, and everyone was going to know it. Our linoleum was not two-toned checkers. It was a mash-up of blues, greens, yellows, pinks, all spattered together like a Picasso crime scene.

Color permeated everything. Nothing was, sadly, too daring. You realize that now when you walk into one of these homes, a remnant of years gone by, and you need to use the washroom. Purple toilets, pink sinks, yellow tubs... no, when it came to adding color, even bathroom porcelain was not sacred. As BJ Honeycut once said, ‘it was like a Tintoretto in barf.’

We had ‘modern’ furniture – for lack of a better way of describing it. We had giant bright artwork on the walls, swag lights hanging from the ceiling, throwing funky shadows everywhere, and the craziest, strangest lights you could ever imagine, all set off with flags in the windows and beaded curtains in the doorway. We brought plants inside. No longer were we stuck with just a geranium on the porch. Like with the shag carpets, we brought the outdoors in. We were daring. We worked hard to create these new treasures, embracing the knowledge that fashion could make a statement and still be affordable... or so we hoped. In some ways, you have to give some consideration to the rise in popularity of having a small potted cannabis in the corner, and wonder if perhaps it wasn’t to blame for a lot of what we gushed over at the time.

To be fair, it was a time when, finally, we realized the shackles were off. We started to want themes – mushroom (yes, in more way than one, I think) or the cows! Remember the cows? The cow coffee creamer where you grabbed the tail to tip it and pour the cream out of the cow’s mouth? There were cow flower pots, cow canisters, cow aprons hanging on the door hook, cow oven mitts. We did that with the mushrooms as well, and the gnomes and owls. We were wild and crazy. We were almost out of control. We put plastic flamingos in the yard – every yard had a pair of pink flamingos on the way to the front door.

Of course, shag carpets weren’t the worst idea for floor coverings. That title probably goes to the notion of putting indoor/outdoor carpets on EVERY floor. Yes, I do mean the kitchen and the bathroom floor. They were a delight when there was something spilled in the kitchen. You never got it clean. As for the bathroom? I swear to God, they could make the toilet bowl the size of Texas and men would still miss it, especially with those last few drips. They would collect at the base of the toilet, absorbed in the fiber of the carpet. Yeah, you could steam clean them, but you didn’t do that every day. At that time, it was a pretty monumental event to clean carpets, one reserved for two times a year.  

Relegated to the dark, not so gentle pages of history books, shag carpets are a thing of the past, and really none too soon. Shags were really not that much better when they became a hairstyle – yeah, we wore shags there too. I suppose, in a way, the curtains really did match the carpeting. In truth, the shagging should stay on the boulevard... or in Mike Meyer’s movies, and the people of the world should be spared from them, in all forms, as fashion statements. 

Monday, November 4, 2013

Fling, Fling a Thong

I never wanted to wear my mother’s clothes, and I have no doubt she never would have wanted to be seen in anything that I wore. Growing up, I wore small tops and tight jeans – tight by choice (unlike now, where they are just plain tight and getting tighter by the day). She wore house dresses when we first moved to the farm, and continued to do so until she was truly christened into our new lifestyle – by being scooped up and dropped into the horse trough by our new neighbor. It really was a rite of passage... and ended the house dress era in our home.

Our clothes change as we age. You can’t deny it. Four-inch heels are replaced with sensible pumps, then flats. Shirts become looser, and you start to get more bang for your clothes-purchasing dollar – at least for the most part.

Don’t get me wrong. I know there are some who age to perfection, who don’t wrinkle or bag, who don’t slouch or sag. I notice every freaking one of them. As discussed before, it seems rather realistic to accept that these things are going to happen. It doesn’t mean that we think of our bodies as ancient ruins as opposed to temples, but it does mean perhaps a bit more window dressing is needed. Our hair volume and texture does change. Our skin elasticity also changes. None of this is something to be ashamed of.

That said, and please know I say this with much love... as we grow older there are some things that we just should not wear. First – this cannot be stressed enough – pants should not be worn with the crotch at the knee by anyone of any age. I really don’t care what color underwear you may be wearing (although I am thankful that there is something there providing a border between my eyes and the crack of don). Speedos, unless you are a competitive swimmer, or Antonio Banderas, should simply not be allowed. Sorry to be the one to break it to you, guys, but the greatest marketing boondoggle in the history of time was the convincing of men that anyone could wear a Speedo. While half-shirts may look okay on a sixteen year old, with tight skin, toned tummy and a naughty little bellybutton ring poking out, for the majority of us, they are absolutely not doing what we think, or hope, they are. The quarter rule should apply to all these fashions, just like it does to a marine’s bed: if the quarter snaps right back and lands in your hand when bounced on the matters (or stomach), then you’re okay to show it off. Otherwise, drop and give me twenty.

There is one fashion statement though, that i will never grasp, especially when we no longer have those supple strong sixteen year old bodies. Could someone please explain to me the value of a thong? The girls like to have them riding up the hips over the waistline so we can all see them. The guys... well, thank god they don’t wear them with the damned pants that have the crotch at the knees. What, though, is a thong supposed to do? What is the pleasure of being trussed up like a turkey, with those skinny little straps digging into the skin, straining with each movement? For some of us, it would require a long and dangerous expedition just to find the damned thing once we’ve put it on. You have no support, no... nothing, other than what has to be the most galactic wedgie in the world. I refuse to believe that they don’t ‘inch up’ every time you sit down, so that a wrong movement could have you singing two octaves higher.

There is sometimes merit in trying to recapture our youth. For those of us (I use a royal us because I definitely don’t fall into this category) who manage to maintain a modicum of a girlish figure as we age, by all means, take pride in how you look... but is the thrill of showing off to the other septuagenarians at the scrabble tournament really worth spending the day trying to discretely adjust the piece of material that is woefully imbedded in the cheeks of your butt?

With age comes the ability to understand the value of balancing fashion with function. I remember well the dances where your feet ached from the must-have shoes that are really nothing more than torture devices and bunion builders. We can still look good, but can we at least agree that we don’t need to do ourselves a serious thong injury in the process?

Monday, October 28, 2013

A Trip to the Body Shop

As my sister Ethel (I wish I could say her name has been changed here to protect the innocent, but it hasn’t) lay awake during the night a while back, unable to sleep, she asked herself what she would like to change about her body. She has hit that age, you know, where it feels like she has to accept that all of us eventually become victims of Father Time, especially when we don’t have hundreds of thousands of dollars squirreled away for the entry fee into the Youngest Looking Old Person In The Coffin Sweepstakes. (Relax, sis, you have a lot of years before you reach this point – although not as many as I have J )

Being the always-supportive little sister that I am – okay, younger sister that I am, I decided to help her with her list. It’s more fun than counting sheep, and requires fewer grey cells than the old Twenty Questions required. With this in mind, let’s take a trip to the body shop, dream of that new you, and pick the one thing you would want most.

Let’s start at the top. She said she wanted her old hair back – the thick, lush chestnut-colored stuff that cascaded over her shoulder and curled just a bit at the end. That would be awesome, although in my case it would be problematic because I am not sure what color my hair used to be. Thanks to that wonderful twisted generic rhizome I was blessed with from my father’s side, it has been grey longer than it was any other color. That said, any color might be better, as long as it didn’t have the texture and thickness of armpit hair.

If she had that wonderful hair back, though, it would be nice to have the unwrinkled face and unbaggy eyelids to go with it. Of course, that hair hanging down around your ears might now mess up your limited hearing, so you would need your hear-a-pin-drop hearing back, and if you are doing that, you might want to ditch the glasses and restore your better than 20/20 vision you once had. Since we’re in the neighborhood, maybe we can work out a deal – trade in a chin or two for perhaps new earlobes that don’t shake when you move your head.
My sister, it pains me to say, has been blessed with perfect teeth. No matter how old the rest of her gets, she has worked like a trooper to keep those pearlies in perfect shape. She is a dentist’s nightmare, because when he looks in her mouth, there is no new pool liner there, no new Bimmer for the garage, no winter on the Riviera. I am not so lucky, so we should probably throw a whole new set on my tab. If we’re dreaming, let’s dream in Technicolor – make em so that they are the impervious, untouchable, low maintenance ones that I never have to worry about again.

Back to the hair, though – to do those new old locks justice, we would then need the arms to be more toned, more durable, able to spend hours up, working on the hair to keep it looking incredible. Hair is work. Beautiful hair is more work. With that amazing hair back, though, it would be wonderful if it draped over shoulders that weren’t so hunched or flabby. The tips of that wonderful hair curled above those wonderful perky breasts – gravity really is a heartless bitch. Sis, remember when I teased you about how you could save money by buying bandaids for those puppies, instead of shelling out for a bra? Well, I do apologize, and ruefully acknowledge that membership in the ginormous-boob club comes with a price. Like gravity, karma is also a bitch; together, they are merciless. Your list won’t require scaffolding and miles of duct tape to pull those puppies back up where they belong. For that, I am jealous. I should point out though, that the way mine are going, in a year or two, I won’t have to worry about polishing the toes of my shoes... the boobs will take care of it for me (if I can just keep them out of the gravy when I’m making dinner).

We all wish for the tight butt and the toned tummies of our youth. Even skinny people have saggy skin on those areas as they get older. We also should consider some digestive parts. Can you imagine what it would be like to again eat without having to run through the list of things that would cause heartburn, gas or our gallbladders to revolt? There was also a time when our knees, or in my case, ankle, didn’t creak with every movement. If someone had told me when I was twenty that, at the age of fifty playing tug-of-war with my ankle to unlock it would be routine, I would have laughed in their faces. Do not worry though about that harbinger of quintessential old-age – the bowel discussions. It won’t happen here. On this blog, bowels are totally off limits. That’s my gift to those of us sharing this journey.

There is a curse, and maybe even a lesson, in this exercise, I suppose. The curse is that we can’t turn the clock back, no matter how much we want to. We can slow some of the process down, we can do our damnedest to maintain what we have, but we really can’t stop it from happening. The lesson is that, it seems despite our reluctance, our bodies work as a magnificent symphony, parts in concert, aging together, to make us what we are supposed to be when we are supposed to be it. There is undeniable beauty in that.  

Monday, October 21, 2013

The Quest for the Immaculate Complexion

‘A picture paints a thousand words.’ Do you remember that old dog? It sort of went along with the ‘pictures don’t lie’ thing; the definitive proof about how awesome, or god awful, that dress looked on you, and whether or not your butt looked big in it. There was a time when, if all else failed, the picture was the proof needed.

Once again, in our quest for all things perfect, in a society where almost is never good enough anymore, where human frailty and humanity take a back seat on the bullet train to our own manufactured hell, honesty bears the scars of collateral damage. I blame Nixon for this... well, in my little world where it’s nice to have a face to throw darts at, I blame Nixon for it. I know he wasn’t the first manipulator but he certainly made the activity a household notion. There is a blemish on a piece of audio tape? Just get rid of it. There’s a zit on Britney’s face? Get rid of that, too. I mean, what’s the little airbrushing of wrinkles in the grand scheme of things? It’s a simple activity... although in its very essence, it’s a lie. What’s wrong with there being a wrinkle on a model? Why can’t bad-girl Britney have a zit on her chin? She’s human. We all get them.

As I watch my Facebook ticker scroll by, I see the photoshop creations. Yes, I am guilty of them, too, although at least I know that no one would believe my face on Katherine Zeta-Jones’ body, so there is no point in taking the time to do it. Lol cats and Sheldon Cooper’s Big Bang memes aside, why are we so obsessed with, well, perpetrating continual lies about who, or what, we are? Do we really see each other as such colossal idiots that we can believe in all these perfect bodies and immaculate complexions? More importantly, as a woman of advancing years, who am I supposed to believe? The make-up company that tells me their products will erase the years from my face, or the magazine photos that show me it can be done with a click of a button – as long as I intend to never show my ‘real’ face in public?

Richard Nixon’s wrinkle in time was proof positive that we can no longer believe what we hear with our own ears. I wonder what he would have done before his big ‘I am not a crook!’ speech if he had known he could also erase the lines from his face and the bags from under his eyes. Would we have believed him more? Would photos be the next tool in his arsenal of convenient manipulations?

No, I don’t have a lot of photos of me around the house, because I don’t like what they show me. I would rather know they are honest, than to have a hundred of them stuck to my fridge, showing me what I want to see instead of what I am. Perhaps that means I’m lazy, or perhaps it means that I don’t have the secret service to do that dirty work for me (although, damn, looking at some of those buff black-spectacled bods, it might be nice to see what they could do with me). I would like to think it just means I am one of the few remaining wholesome folks who knows, and accepts, that we grow older, that it shouldn’t be something we’re embarrassed about, and that, at the very least, when I die people will be able to say that my body was a bastion of brutal honesty. The truth isn’t always pretty, but it certainly doesn’t deserve to be sacrificed on the unattainable, unrealistic altar of perfection.