Tag Archives: Adulthood

The big black blob of blah

It’s been a tough week. Not tough in the sense of hard or difficult. It’s been tough in the sense of BLAH.

I have a big black blob of blah that builds up inside of me from time to time. And, no, I haven’t been smoking wacky tobacco or popping illegal drugs. It’s “big” because it’s constantly growing, feeding on the disappointments and negativity in my life. It’s “black” because that’s what my mood becomes when it shows up. I call it a “blob” because it works pretty much like that creeping amoeba-like alien that Steve McQueen had to deal with in the movie – it covers everything and cuts off all that is good and light, growing bigger and bigger as it consumes more and more. And “blah” is pretty much self-explanatory – that’s how I feel inside when it’s around.

The big blob of blah has been around for a long time, pretty much since my teenage years. I’ve always envisioned it looking like a really evil black Barbapapa. One day I’ll feel fine – laughing and joking – the next it’s “clickety-click, Barba-trick” and the blah descends.

My big black blob of blah isn't smiling like this hairy Barbapapa.

My big black blob of blah isn’t smiling like this hairy Barbapapa.

I try to work through the big blob of blah, forcing myself forward, always forward. Get dressed, go to work, do work, socialize with co-workers, go home, interact with the Goobers and the Genius, try to write. But the blob is made of sticky stuff. Peel it from one surface, and it’s soon stuck to another, like an annoying burr of negativity. And lately it’s been getting worse.

Back when I was young and gung-ho to change the world, I composed a mental list of experiences and accomplishments I hoped to achieve in my lifetime. The list was lengthy and – shall we say – overly optimistic. Here’s just a sampling of the feats I was going to do:

  • Win an Academy Award – At first it was going to be in an acting category, then I moved on to directing. Now I’d settle for original work or adapted screenplay. Who am I kidding? I’d settle for best gaffer, focus puller or coffee-getter.
Never going to win one of these babies. Just as well, I don't dust.

Never going to win one of these babies. Just as well, I don’t dust.

  • Write a “great” novel – Of course, along with that “great” novel would come fame and fortune, a Governor General’s Award, possibly the Orange, Giller or Man Booker prize, and the opportunity to adapt it to film, thus leading to the Academy Award.
  • Earn a university degree – When I toddled off to university many, many years ago, I was an immature idiot. I partied like it was 1999 (actually it was 1989) and blew all kinds of opportunities, mainly the chance to earn a degree. It’s something I’ve regretted very much. I have tried various times to get that ever elusive degree but life always becomes too busy and formal education falls by the wayside. So, alas, I only have an honours diploma.
The iconic image of the University of Toronto where I lasted exactly two years in pre-med. I just wasn't blood thirsty enough.

The iconic image of the University of Toronto where I lasted exactly two years in pre-med. I just wasn’t blood thirsty enough.

  • Travel around the world – I have been to some amazing and beautiful places in my life, such as Israel, Egypt, Mexico and England. But currently I seem to be stuck in a rut of work trips to Iowa, Nebraska and Wisconsin. These are lovely places with great people but when you say Des Moines, exotic and exciting doesn’t come to mind.
  • Win the Triple Crown with a filly – I love horses and I love thoroughbred horse racing. I’ve always dreamed of owning a horse farm stabled with some of the fastest horses in the world. Of course, their bloodlines would all trace back to the great Man o’War, the original Big Red. Breeding and training a three-year-old horse capable of winning the Triple Crown is a great achievement and hasn’t been done in about 40 years. And it has never been accomplished by a filly.
The great Man O' War romping down the home stretch in the 1920 Belmont Stakes.

The great Man O’ War romping down the home stretch in the 1920 Belmont Stakes.

  • Meet and be friends with some of my favourite authors and celebrities – Yeah, right! Welcome to Fantasy Island! This has been a steadily shifting list that once included David Hasselhoff (from his Knight Rider days) and Mr. November from the 1986 or 1987 Chippendale’s calendar (I can’t remember which year). Now I’d want to have a dinner party with The Bloggess (Jenny Lawson), Matthew Gray Gubler, Margaret Atwood, Dan Aykroyd, Donna Tartt, Bill Murray, John & Martin Marquez, Jo Nesbo, and a steady stream of famous dead people (Alfred Hitchcock, Sylvia Plath, James Mason, Jane Austen, John Belushi, Charlotte Bronte, etc.). And then I’d probably want Taylor Swift to write and sing a song about it (I’m joking).
An image of John and Martin Marquez from the play Boeing Boeing. I guess the stewardesses could come to the dinner party too.

An image of John and Martin Marquez from the play Boeing Boeing. I guess the stewardesses could come to the dinner party too.

  • Win an Olympic gold medal in the Three-Day Event – I can still remember the day my high school boyfriend informed his mother this is what I wanted to do when I “grew up.” The stunned minute of silence paired with rapid eye blinking should have been my first hint this was maybe a bit much. Now, I’d be happy if I could fit into my riding breeches and heave my fat ass up on a horse.
  • Win the Nobel Prize for Literature – In order to win this baby, you have to have actually written a book; well, several books. And they would have to be REALLY FUCKING GOOD. About the only criteria I currently meet for obtaining this great honour is the fact I have a pulse.
Never going to win one of these either. My luck, my girl Goober would steal it to put with her track & field medals.

Never going to win one of these either. My luck, my girl Goober would steal it to put with her track & field medals.

So, as you can see, having a firm grasp on reality and setting realistic goals are not my strong points. Thus leading to the big black blob of blah. I’m getting older and older and older and with each passing year, accomplishing even one of these dreams is becoming harder and harder to attain. And that bums me out. BIG TIME. I had all these great ideas and optimistic goals (well, overly optimistic) and I haven’t been able to come close to even one of them. And the big black blob of blah likes to remind me of this – often. As a result, I take lots of blob-busters, rest on couches in tastefully lit rooms and talk to nice, understanding people, and wonder when the big black blob of blah will finally consume me.

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The Genius

My husband’s a genius.

I’m sure you already know this since I usually refer to him as The Genius in this blog. Once in a while, I forget about his mental prowess and have to be reminded of his ability to puzzle out the most complicated mechanical procedures. It’s easy to become complacent when you always have someone around to repair your iPhone when it goes all kooky or replace the windshield wiper motor in your car when it goes on the fritz. Sometimes I need a reminder. This past Christmas Day provided one.

The Genius is the youngest of six and, let’s just say, the rest of his siblings are no mental slouches either. There are two university professors in the mix, a retired high-level banking executive, an accounting wizard, a social worker and, of course, The Genius, who works in engineering. Those that still live in southern Ontario gather every Christmas Day with their children (and grandchildren) at the home of one of the sister’s to celebrate the holiday as a family. It’s a tradition they’ve had for many years, at least as long as I’ve been part of the group (about 15 years). A huge turkey dinner is had and gifts are exchanged among the younger children.

Sometimes, the siblings have an opportunity to show off the cool “toys” they received for Christmas and this past gathering was no exception. The hostess of the annual celebration had received a Bose speaker plus an Apple TV system. The problem was, no one knew how to install the gifts so they worked on her antiquated flat screen TV. Various people tackled the problem throughout the day but no one could figure it out. The final verdict was a new TV would probably be needed to make everything work.

I have a bad habit of volunteering The Genius for various projects without first checking with him – fixing my parent’s water pump and a complicated washing machine repair come to mind. So I kept quiet as I watched the small groups try their best to work through the problem. Wires were connected and reconnected, rerouted through various devices. It was looking like a dog’s breakfast of coaxial cable and power cords. I finally looked over at him and whispered: “Do something!”

Half asleep after a rather filling turkey dinner and hesitant to rise from his very comfortable chair, The Genius sighed.

“I don’t want to just take over,” he whispered back.

“Hook the damn thing up!”

Assisted by his oldest nephew, The Genius surveyed the situation, moving cords and reattaching cables. It made sense to him – of course, it was gibberish to me. It took him about 10 minutes to do what no one else was able to accomplish – connect the Apple TV and satellite system to the TV and have the sound come through the new Bose speaker.

It took him a further 30 minutes to explain to his sister how to use the system. About 20 minutes of that involved him standing patiently waiting for her to finish venting about the fact she didn’t even want the new speaker in the first place.

I leaned over and whispered to the oldest in the family: “He’s never that patient with me.”

She laughed, explaining it was a privilege reserved for older siblings.

Later, The Genius sat down again, exhausted from having to go through every step required to use the new system.

“That was painful,” he said.

“Isn’t fighting with your gifts part of Christmas?” joked one of his nephews.

Of course, the kicker is they weren’t even his gifts.

Currently, The Genius is busy working on setting up my new laptop computer. He’s puzzling through how to transfer about 3,200 ebooks and an iTunes library of about 1,800 songs without losing anything.

I know he’ll figure it out. He always does. It’s one of the reasons I married him.

Most women I know tell me wonderful stories of romantic spur of the moment trips to Paris or helicopter rides over Niagara Falls – the moment I knew I was going to marry The Genius occurred as I watched him take apart the under-sink plumbing in a hotel bathroom.

We were in Stratford, Ontario, for my job. I was putting in a marathon weekend of watching and writing reviews for three Stratford Festival plays. The Genius was my guest. We had already seen two – Equus the night before and a matinee of another play, the name of which escapes me. Our final play was to be an evening performance of Death of a Salesman starring Al Waxman of King of Kensington plus Cagney and Lacey fame.

I was in the washroom getting ready when one of my diamond stud earrings fell off the side of the sink and down the drain. Shit! I went back into our hotel bedroom, explaining to The Genius that, like an idiot, I had lost my earring and it was gone for good.

Five minutes later, he was crawling into the under sink cabinet, a toolbox from the trunk of his car next to him. He soon had the plumbing apart and was banging the P-trap on the floor. Out popped my diamond stud earring plus 85 cents in change. A few wrench turns later, the plumbing was back in place and we made it to the play with time to spare.

Up to that point in my life, no one had ever done anything so thoughtful for me. It has stuck with me all these years. It can be difficult living with a genius – the banging in the basement, tools scattered everywhere, burnt off eyebrows from those failed experiments. When it gets really bad, I remember that diamond stud earring plus the 85 cents. I think I bought a Coke with it.

Remembering a friend

My family lost a close and very dear friend back in February 2007. I think about him everyday. Back when it happened, I even wrote an editorial for one of my magazines about him. My publisher at the time pulled the editorial. He told me no one really cared about happenings in my own life. I disagreed, believing my readers  – mostly farmers – would be able to relate. Even so, I caved and wrote something “more suitable.”

I’ve saved that editorial all these years and I’ve decided to publish it here. The Genius once read it at a Toastmaster’s meeting – all the women cried. So be prepared.

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

My family lost a close and very dear friend recently.

My children had known him their entire lives, my husband for the past nine years or so, and I had been close to him (and he to me) for his entire life.

He was a joker and a free spirit who loved everyone. And everyone loved him right back. He was also the kind of friend you could rely on. When life was tough, he’d be there to talk with and lend a shoulder to cry on. He had a rough side, too. He was a risk taker, an explorer with an enthusiasm for life. We used to joke he’d probably die in mid-stride, on route to a new adventure.

Cancer got him in the end; his body shivering with pain, his breathing laboured.

His name was Jasper – Crystal Creek’s Jasper Jynx to be exact. He was my dog and, simply put, one of my very best friends.

Jasper as a puppy.

Jasper as a puppy.

Jasper entered my life 12-plus years ago, a headstrong liver and white coloured English Springer Spaniel puppy who cried and whimpered almost non-stop for the first two weeks he lived with me. I almost took him back to the breeder I had bought him from. But I persevered and he soon settled down.

If he could be described in one word, I think it would be exuberant – nothing got that crazy dog down. Everyday was a new adventure, every step a new discovery. He was my constant companion. If I went to the store, he rode shotgun. He slept under the covers of my bed at night. And when I went for evening walks on my parent’s farm, he was 20 feet ahead of me. We would walk four miles a day, from one concession to the next and then along a side concession and back again. His flag of a tail was always in front of me, never behind, always urging me on.

When I met my husband, Jasper was there. He was part of my “dowry” (along with a Clydesdale-Saddlebred cross mare named Bobbi) and made the move to my new urban home. My husband, a city boy who had never had a pet dog (which seemed very odd to me at the time and still does), wasn’t very enthusiastic about his new, four-footed housemate. To his credit, he built Jasper a state-of-the art, fully electrified and insulated, heated doghouse (our friends used to joke that all it needed was a computer and Internet access). But the dog didn’t use it for long. Soon, he was basking in the heat or air conditioning of the house. But never the bed – that’s where my husband drew the line.

A more mature Jasper.

A more mature Jasper.

Jasper and I just weren’t meant for city life. Eventually, my husband and I moved from our cramped city home to a small farm in the country. We hadn’t been in our farmhouse a month before Jasper started cleaning up the new neighbourhood, rousting both an opossum and raccoon family out of our barn and killing a fox.

Nothing gave him more pleasure than to chase barn cats and wild rabbits. The strange thing was, he was always good with the pet rabbits. We once had a massive rabbit break-out – the bunny equivalent of The Great Escape – and it was Jasper who caught them all, one at a time, dropping them at our feet unscathed, with only a few damp hairs and very hurt prides.

When the children came, Jasper was there. He wasn’t sure what to make of them. They smelled interesting but made a lot of noise, especially when he tried to clean their ears. They also didn’t move out of his way. But my husband and I seemed to like the babies so he put up with them. He never growled or snarled when his ears or tail were pulled. He followed the avoidance philosophy – if one of the little critters was bothering him, he’d just get up and leave.

Alex was very gifted at cleaning children's faces. Not all the children enjoyed this.

Jasper was very gifted at cleaning children’s faces. Not all the children enjoyed this.

Unfortunately, the kids grew up and became faster. I had difficulty explaining to my tear-stained little boy that Jasper wasn’t meant for riding. My daughter was convinced for the longest time the dog was really her brother. Both kids were also fond of pretending Jasper was their long-lost mother. I hadn’t the heart or the ability to make them understand the dog was actually a male – a neutered male at that. Jasper would roll his eyes and try to keep one step ahead of them as they crawled after him, yipping like puppies.

My daughter thought she was related to Jasper for the longest time. She thought he was her brother.

My daughter was convinced she was related to Jasper for the longest time. She thought he was her brother.

This past Halloween, my daughter insisted the dog dress as a skeleton, complete with glow-in-the-dark bones. It wasn’t long after that he actually began to resemble his Halloween self, the flesh melting from him. His sleek physique and shiny fur disappeared. We tried changing dog food, thinking perhaps his teeth couldn’t handle the crunchy kibble anymore. We tried soft food and soon shifted to canned. He lost weight while his stomach ballooned.

A visit to the vet before Christmas ended in tears. Tumours were growing near Jasper’s liver and spleen. He hadn’t long to live. We gave him the best Christmas ever, complete with liver pate and shrimp. He had a wagon ride to the bush to chase squirrels and bunnies. He ate ravioli and cheeseburgers everyday. And for the last week of his life, he slept on our bed, between my husband and I.

He’s buried along the windbreak just to the west of our house. We wrapped him in a blanket and buried him with his favourite stuffed toy, Clancy. The kids each said goodbye through their tears and my husband, the man who never had a pet dog, wept.

We look for Jasper everyday, forgetting he’s gone. The children are rallying for a new dog and we’ll probably get one in the spring.
But for now, we remember and honour our dear friend – Jasper.

As an update, we did get a new dog in March 2007. Her name is Jorja (pronounced Georgia), Spring Knight’s Jorja on My Mind to be exact. She too is an English Springer Spaniel but so different from our darling Jazzy. She is quieter, more sedate, steadier and less intelligent. But I love her to death and she loves me – as it should be. She sleeps beside my bed every night and follows me everywhere I go. She loves to lie on the bathroom mat when I have a bath and goes camping with us every summer.

The other half of my “dowry” – my horse Bobbi – joined Jasper along the windbreak in the summer of 2010. This is a sacred space to us now; it is not mown and the grass and weeds grow waist high there every summer. They would both like that – Jasper could hunt for mice and Bobbi could pull mouthfuls of grass. Heaven.

Full-contact poetry

From time to time, I have this … issue.

It’s not really an “issue” per se; it’s more like a loss of perspective, a slip in reality. Okay, that sounds bad. What I mean is, sometimes I don’t think I’m really an adult. Sure, I look in the mirror and, after I’ve finished screaming in horror, I see that, yeah, there’s an old broad standing there. But when I’m just thinking, or walking, or out at the movies, or at a restaurant with friends, or driving down the road, I tend to forget I’m allegedly a responsible adult. Instead, I think I’m 18 or 19 again, as thin and tight as a pair of expensive silk stockings with a cocky attitude and fantastic fashion sense – especially when it comes to hats.

I find it really tends to hit home when I’m signing school permission slips for the Goobers. I’ll be sitting there, scrawling my name on some form so they can go on the class trip to Afghanistan or take part in that exchange program where you work as a Sherpa on Mount Everest and it will suddenly hit me: “Shit, these people actually think I’m responsible for these children.” And then: “Fuck, I AM responsible for these children! I’m not old enough to take care of them! I’ve never babysat in my life! Who was the stupid idiot who allowed this to happen?” And then I remember I’m actually in my 40s and at one point gave birth to them and then the whole nightmarish weight of reality sinks on to my shoulders.

I’ve mentioned this “issue” to some of my friends, who assure me I’m not alone; there’s lots of people who feel this way. Of course, this statement is usually followed by sniggering poorly disguised as coughing. Then they quickly pull out their phones, bang off a text, which is typically followed by a quick succession of bings and then uncontrollable laughter.

Sometimes, as I sit in my tiny cubicle at work dreaming up editorial ideas or editing product listings about new micro-mist sprayer nozzles or which is the best pneumatic tire to use for preventing soil compaction, I’ll imagine what I’m going to be when I grow up. I currently have two front-runners:

  1. Be Hayley Williams, the lead singer of Paramore
  2. Become a spoken word poet

Let’s be honest here – Hayley Williams (@yelyahwilliams) is cool. She has awesome orangey-pink hair that looks amazing with everything she wears; she has fantastic fashion sense (I love those tights and the DWEEB T-shirt she has on in the Still Into You video); she can dance; she can sing; she looks great on camera; she knows and hangs out with lots of interesting people; and she probably has shitloads of money. And who wouldn’t want to ride their bike around the house? I could live with that.

But the spoken word poet thing is also very tempting.

A few months ago, a friend of mine posted the following viral video on Facebook showing Lily Myers, a student at Wesleyan University, competing in the 2013 College Unions Poetry Slam Invitational. The poem – entitled Shrinking Woman – was awarded Best Love Poem at the tournament.

And then I discovered Kait Rokowski and her poem – How to Cure a Feminist.

According to her website, Kait was ranked third in the world after the 2011 Individual World Poetry Slam and the 2012 Women of the World Poetry Slam. I couldn’t give a shit – she’s a world champion in my universe.

My exploration of spoken word poetry and slam – competitions where poets read or recite original works and are judged on the performance – also helped me discover Megan Falley and her poem – Fat Girl.

Plus Dawn Saylor and her heartbreaking poem – When I Was 14.

Since I’ve discovered these talented young women, I’ve been fascinated. This looks like fun. It looks empowering. It looks like a great way to get away with swearing like a sailor in public with minimal backlash, an opportunity I’m always searching for.

There’s just something about the idea of standing in front of a room full of people and spouting off a string of heart felt words – like “I hope monkeys rip off your danglers, you misogynist pig, and you feel the vengeful heat of the spirit vixen deep in your prostate” – before flashing your boobs at the audience, that feels very liberating. Of course, I might be confusing liberating with embarrassing – that sometimes happens to me.

Anyway, I’ve been working on some poems of my own. I’m afraid they have a real Charles Bukowski feel to them – a bit random, a bit biographical, a bit stream of consciousness with lots of sex and alcohol thrown in. But I promise they don’t mention cats or talk about sexy young girls that read my poetry and then want to spend the night with me, although that might make them more interesting and appealing to a certain type of audience.

Forget it, you misogynistic pigs!