Category Archives: music

Memories of Loyalist College – September, 1982 – October, 1983

*Note: This is a special blog post written in honour of what would have been my graduating class’ (I didn’t graduate) 30-Year Reunion, which I am unable to attend.

Once upon a time, there was a young woman who decided she wanted to be a Broadcast Journalist. This was due, in part, to a much older ex-boyfriend who had done exactly that, and partly to an admiration for female journalists of the day such as Barbara Frum, Hana Gartner, Adrienne Clarkson and (*whispering) Pamela Wallin.

The application process was fairly straightforward: fill out the college application, and send it along with an audition tape (there may have also been an essay, but I’m not sure) and the application fee. I was lucky that my parents lived near Loyalist College…I was spared the whole student loan nightmare that many of my fellow students were subjected to (surviving on Kraft Dinner…aaack!). I was accepted, and started the course with about 19 other students in September of 1982.

At 21, I was one of the oldest students in our class. I felt infinitely more mature than the mostly 18 and 19-year-olds in the rest of the group! I remember feeling sorry for the kids who had come from the Maritimes…they were so far away from their families!

bj_lounge1_lg

Me and some of my Broadcast Journalism classmates…that’s me in the bib front blouse…

Within the first month, I had (unwillingly) earned a nickname: “Wendy Shoots, She Scores”. This was courtesy of our journalism prof, Phil R., who thought it was hilarious…he also teased Lisa M. mercilessly about being from Dingwall, Nova Scotia! I took a lot of flak from other students for my homemade tape recorder case…it didn’t occur to me when I made it that putting “Wendy B.J.” on the side in big letters might be a bad idea.

Classes that year were a bit of a blur (although I did go to them)…I remember the soporific quality of Len A.’s Broadcast Journalism and the Law class, and struggling to pronounce Russian names in Ken B.’s Foreign Language Pronunciation class. I was happy to get an exemption from Typing…I passed the test with flying colours…the test machine was a far sight better than the 1940’s Underwood I had learned on at home!

The school had its own radio station, which was staffed by the Broadcast Journalism and Radio Broadcasting classes. There were more than a few pranks played: one time, a fictitious story about The Flintstones was inserted into an unsuspecting newscaster’s copy. There was at least one instance of news copy being set on fire while the news was being read on the air (glad that wasn’t me!).

I was always nervous doing radio news…somehow, seeing the mike in front of me was intimidating! I always did well on airchecks though…my voice was naturally low, which I supposed made it easier for me than some of the other girls!

One of my favourite things was producing radio documentaries…I spent hours in the studio editing tape with a razor blade! I still have some of them somewhere…

The heart of our school life was the Radio Lounge…all the fun happened there! That was where my classmate, Steve S., got his nickname: he was playfighting with his cousin, Kent Mo. one day. One of the Broadcast Journalism students, Brad S., hollered: “Look…it’s “Chunk” Norris!” From that day forward, no one ever called Steve by his real name again.

Chunk was the oldest in our class at 26…he was one of the few students who had a car: a Mercury Comet, which became known as “The Chunkmobile.” A bunch of us used to bum a ride back into Belleville after school with Chunk…I was the only girl, and often ended up sitting on someone’s lap (I’m sure my mother would have been upset to know that I was usually not wearing a seatbelt!). Later on, the Chunkmobile became “The Vomit Comet” on account of the powerful smell that erupted one day and never went away, even though Chunk made his best effort to get rid of it…

Another fun part of Loyalist College for me was the “Pubs”: I loved music, and saw many acts live that I otherwise wouldn’t have been exposed to: Lee Aaron, Matt Minglewood, Murray McLaughlan, etc. I was probably one of the few students who didn’t go to Pub just to drink…

I spent a lot of time hanging out with the folks from the Radio Broadcasting classes…they seemed to be closer than my own classmates, and had way more fun! I went to several parties at various students’ apartments…I remember at least one Toga Party, Tequila Sunrises (didn’t drink them…just watched them being made and consumed), and dancing to Stray Cats rockabilly. There was the M*A*S*H* party on John St. where I started dating my (now ex) husband, Radio guy, Kent M. (we were introduced by Radio girl, Becky W., at an earlier gathering at the Doc’s Hotel).

One party stands out…it was the one and only time I was ever drunk in my life: this one was at Broadcast Journalism guys, Ed L. and Greg V.’s apartment on Front Street. Ed and Greg were two of my “Chunkmobile” buddies…the day of the party, I got dropped off with them at their apartment since I lived in the country and didn’t want to have to get my mom to drive me back into town for the party later. I planned to just “hang out” until the party started…Kent had to work that night, so he would come and join me after his shift was over at 11 p.m. We got to the apartment around 4. I remember somebody asking me if I wanted a drink. “Do you have any rye?” I asked. They did, but no ginger ale, which is what I usually mixed it with. Greg had gotten a large root beer at McDonald’s on the way home, and still had a lot left…he offered me the rest to mix with the rye. Stupidly, I agreed.

It was about 8 p.m. when I started feeling really sick…I spent the next three hours in and out of the bathroom. When Kent arrived, I was ready to get out of there. We had to walk several blocks to the rooming house where he lived…some of the sidewalks were under construction…my arms and legs were not cooperating at all! We went to Kent’s room, where I lay on his bed as the room spun around, and wished for either death or my mom to come…she came at midnight to take me home. Lesson learned…I never got drunk again!

Beside the Doc’s Hotel, we also liked to go to Dolan’s, and Copperfield’s. Songs like Laura Branigan‘s Gloria, Men at Work‘s Who Can It Be Now?, Alan Parsons Project‘s Eye in the Sky, and J. Geils Band‘s Freeze-Frame all remind me of that time.

When summer came, I went off to Ottawa for six weeks and did my internship at CFRA Radio. It was there that I got the first inkling that perhaps I didn’t have the personality to be a journalist…I was a basket case nearly every night…I was wrapped up in all the stories I’d had to cover…a lot of them were upsetting! I did get to see Prince Charles and Princess Diana on their visit to Canada though…I was told by my News Director to get some tape of the Princess’ walkabout. I was having difficulty controlling my boom mike in the wind…Diana was saved from a possible concussion by a burly RCMP officer swatting my mike away from her head! Needless to say, I didn’t get my tape!

The second year of our course was mainly television. I loved doing the newscasts! However, dragging heavy video equipment around to get stories was not my cup of tea, especially when it was very likely you could arrive at a venue with a completely dead battery pack! Editing videotape electronically was not my forté either…

In October of 1983, Kent got a job offer from a new radio station in St. John’s, Newfoundland: CKIX-FM…I was sure I couldn’t live without him, so I quit school and moved to the Rock (we were married less than a year later, and have two daughters together).

I’m grateful that I went to Loyalist College…it was the first time that I ever felt I “belonged” to a group…I was very much a loner in high school! I made many wonderful lifelong friends (including my future husband), and the skills I learned in our course came in handy later on in my writing/non-profit communcations careers. If it weren’t for Loyalist College, I would probably not be living in the Maritimes, my adopted home of the last 30+ years!

Have a wonderful reunion…wish I was there to see you all!

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Filed under friends, memories, music, self-discovery

The ABCs of My Last Two Weeks…NEW POST!

Note: This is another LONG post…a lot builds up in two weeks!  You might want to get a cup of tea or coffee before you start…WM

 

Airport.  Wednesday night, we took Anna to the airport to fly to Ontario to go to her cousin’s wedding (see Wedding), and see her dad and her uncle (see Cancer).  It was her first time flying solo…she was a little nervous, but got there fine. 

Birthdays.  Summer is a busy time for birthdays in our family: mine was July 17th, Jim’s was July 21st, Hope’s was July 31st, and Anna’s was August 3rd.  Jim’s mom had a party for him at her house.  His sisters were there for the barbecue…his dad and sister, Tracy, were cooking in the rain!  Smoke was getting in Gordon’s eyes!  Hope had a party with her friends at the Carleton Community Centre (see Disc Jockey).  The whole family got together for a combo party at Jungle Jim’s  in Saint John for Hope and Anna on Tuesday night (see Tip).  We tried to get into the new one in Quispamsis, but they would not take my reservation (for fifteen people!)…needless to say, I will not be patronizing them in the future.

Cancer.  We learned a few weeks ago that Anna and Kaylee’s uncle, Scott E., had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.  It was a terrible shock…Scott is a truly wonderful man, and a great husband, father and grandfather! Anna hadn’t seen him for four years, so I decided to fly her down to Port Hope for Scott’s son’s wedding this past weekend (see Wedding).  Anna also got to see her dad for the first time in four years. 

Disc Jockey.  Hope celebrated her birthday a couple of days early with eleven of her friends at the Community Centre in our old neighbourhood on the West Side.  Most of the attendees were West Siders, and I felt sorry for the three girls from Quispamsis who were looking rather left out.  Eventually, the kids started to talk to each other, and then they all went outside, leaving me alone in the dance hall with the DJ who I was paying $15/hour!  I went downstairs and told the girls that I was “paying big bucks” for this, and that they’d better come in and start dancing, or I would!  “Don’t embarrass me, Mom!” Hope begged.  Hope was quite happy with her presents: loads of cash and gift cards.  One girl gave her some cute earrings her sister had made.

Extension.  I got another extension at work, until September 30th.  The City has also decided to post the job I’m doing now.  Of course, I applied for it!  I’m enjoying it a lot, and most people seem to like me.  If I get it, I’m going to have to figure out how to manage squeezing in some blogging time!

Found.  We have at least 2-3 cruise ships come into port every week between June and the end of October in Saint John.  Many of the ship’s passengers end up at the Saint John City Market where I work.  Invariably, someone loses something important!  Last week, a lady from New Jersey lost both her driver’s license and her ship card, which I returned to the commissionaires at the port after one of our Maintenance guys found them.  When I got back from my walk in the rain, the woman who’d lost her ID was waiting at my office.  After I assured her that her documents were safe down at the ship, she gave me a huge hug!  This week, a Market customer found a Visa card on the floor, and brought it up to me.  I called Port Security to see if it might belong to one of the ship’s passengers.  When I told the guy the person’s name, he said, “The police just brought me her Amex card, and her ship card.”  She came to get her Visa card herself.  She was breathless, but grateful when she arrived.  “You people are so good!”  I told her that’s just how we are in Saint John!

Girlfriend.  Devin’s girlfriend, Kat, finally came over to our house for a visit.  We were worried about how our neurotic dog, Jake, would react, so we armed her with a handful of dog treats.  Soon, Jake was literally eating out of her hand!

Harvest.  Since the deer have been helping themselves to my garden on more than one occasion, I haven’t been able to harvest much lately…beans apparently don’t grow very well without leaves!  We’ve had two meals of them so far, and will probably not have enough to put any in the freezer (I had about forty bags last year).  I picked a few peas the other day.  The tomatoes are starting to form, however.  I have high hopes for them…the deer didn’t damage those as much!  I should be able to pick some zucchini soon too.  The raspberries are just finishing, and I started picking blueberries this week…should get a few bags of those frozen at least!

Ice Cream.  I love summer because ice cream goes on sale!  I’ve bought four 2-litre tubs in the last two weeks!  Farmer’s Peanut Butter Caramel Cookie Dough is amazing!

Jets.  Some people thought the stunt jets flying over the U2 concert (see U2) in Moncton last weekend were neat.  I did not…I have a recurring nightmare of a plane crashing on top of me!  Of course, they flew over while Jim was at the souvenir tent buying a T-shirt!  There I was, curled into a fetal position with my eyes closed and my fingers jammed in my ears!

Kale.  This year was the first time I’ve grown kale in the garden.  Since we seem to like it both cooked and raw, I think I’ll grow it again next year.  Perhaps I can keep the deer out of it, because they love it too!

Landscaping.  Since our yard now has a very steep hill at the bottom of it, Jim had the idea of just planting a bunch of flowers down there instead of trying to mow it.  I’ve been collecting seed heads from the poppies in our front yard, and hope to dry them and plant the seeds next spring.  I’m having a bit of a problem with mold though…we’ll see how it goes!

Mud.  As alluded to earlier, Jim and I went to Moncton for the U2 concert at Magnetic Hill (see U2).  I had purchased the tickets back in March for Jim’s birthday, because he loves the band!  It rained all day…driving up was a bit hairy at times.  It stopped just as we got there.  As we made our way on to the field, I started to regret leaving Anna’s rubber boots I’d planned to borrow at home.  It seems that 75,000 people traipsing across wet grass multiple times has a negative effect:

These girls were trying to negotiate the mud in front of the concession tents...notice the depth...photo by Jim

 

My feet in my unfortunate choice of footwear after a trek to the Port-a-potties...photo by Jim

Nails.  Jim decided to trim Jake’s nails while I was at work on Saturday.  Unfortunately, he cut one too short, and poor Jake was bleeding!  After he jumped all over Jim’s clean laundry, we made the dog a makeshift bandage to prevent further stainage!

Old Friends.  We were very fortunate on our trip to Moncton to be able to stay with our friends, Brenda and Chuck.  I’ve known them for about twenty years, and they are always warm and wonderful hosts!  Brenda actually came downstairs in her nightgown when we stumbled into her house at 2:30 a.m. to ask how the concert was!

Brenda and Chuck...still holding hands after three decades together!

Park ‘n’ Ride.  For the U2 concert (see U2), the City of Moncton had organized a Park ‘n’ Ride program.  We eagerly decided to use it again, remembering how easy it had been when we went to The Eagles concert at Magnetic Hill three years ago.  Unfortunately, it worked a little differently than in 2008…it took us 2-and-a-half hours to get out of the concert site and back to downtown Moncton!  Please don’t “fix” what ain’t broke! 

Quiet.  Jim and the girls left yesterday for vacation (see Vacation), and Devin’s at his mom’s house this week.  It is quiet in the house (except when Jake barks at nothing outside).

Reba.  Hope was saying the other day about how she was jealous that I’d met so many famous people (from my days of being married to a country DJ).  She asked me to list some of the people I’d met, and I started: “Alabama (twice), Sawyer Brown, Ricky Skaggs, The Rankin Family, Reba…”

Hope interrupted: “REBA!  I told Gabrielle you’d met ABBA!”

Potato, pototo…

So You Think You Can Dance.  Anyone who reads my blog regularly knows I love this show.  I finally got to watch the PVR of last week’s show this morning.  Sasha dancing with my favourite boy from last year, Kent (an Ohio boy!), in a Tyce Diorio choreographed piece moved me to tears.  I also absolutely adore MelanieMarko, and Tadd!

Tip.  As I mentioned before, there were fifteen of us at Jungle Jim’s for dinner last week.  It’s the first time in my life I’ve ever left a $40 tip!

U2.  Despite the lineups and the mud, Jim and I had a good time at the U2 concert.  I was happy I had purchased camping mats to sit on, and Jim was glad he’d bought binoculars, even though we had to wait while the clerk at the Wal-Mart in Sussex fiddled (unsuccessfully) with the showcase key!  We were sitting in what we dubbed “the senior citizen’s section” up near the top of the hill, in a less muddy part of the field.  A couple of old hippies in yellow rain gear sat to our left and alternated between smoking joints and regular cigarettes.  We watched as inebriated people negotiated (and failed to negotiate) the mud on the way to the Beer Garden.  “What Not to Wear” would have had a field day if they’d had cameras set up at the concert!

Jim and I at the concert...the guy in the red shirt is mad because he got stuck sitting in the Old Fart section...photo by Jim

  

Vacation. Jim, Hope and Brianna left yesterday for vacation (Anna will take a train from Port Hope to Montreal, and meet up with them tonight).  Jim has a “Six Flags Extravaganza” planned, hitting three parks in one province and two states!  Sadly (NOT – I hate amusement parks!), I couldn’t go with them because I had to work.  I will miss them, but I will also enjoy the quiet and having less laundry and dishes to do!

Wedding.  Anna and Kaylee’s cousin, Corey, got married on Saturday.  I still remember him being the ringbearer when he was five at my wedding to my ex-husband (27 years ago!).  I wish Corey and Christine many happy years together!  Anna got to be the official photographer too!

eXceptional.  Okay…I know this is cheating, but X-ray is the only word I know that starts with “X”.  My granddaughter, Elise, will be two in September, but already knows all her numbers, letters, and symbols (question marks, etc.), as well as the sounds the letters make!  I predict she will be reading by the time she’s three, just like I was! 

Yellow Pages.  We got our new phone book the other day.  For some reason, they’ve started putting the Yellow Pages in the front.  I find that very confusing!

Zebra Stripes.  My girls are crazy for zebra stripes.  Anna has a zebra striped sports bra, spankies, bathing suit, cheerleading bag, and suitcase.  Hope had pink and purple zebra stripes on her birthday cake!

Congratulations on making it through my longest post ever!  Now go have a snack!

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Filed under family, food, friends, gardening, music, travel

It’s All About You…Twenty Questions…

Image from anonymous8.com

I’m curious to see how much I have in common with the folks who read my blog…here are my answers to twenty random questions:

City life or country life? Country life.  I returned to the country 2 1/2 years ago after living in the city for 24 years.  I love it!

Antique furniture or modern furniture? Antique furniture.  Quality construction and beautiful woodwork combined with amazing fabrics is my idea of heaven!

Abstract art or traditional art? Abstract art.  Picasso is one of my favourite artists.

Cook or order out? Cook.  I’d rather cook it myself than eat in a restaurant.

Traveller or homebody? Homebody.  I usually travel only to see family or friends, although I do want to go to Tuscany, Italy some day!

Hotel or cottage? Cottage.  I like the privacy, and cooking for ourselves.

Sentimental or pragmatic? Sentimental.  I have every letter and card I’ve ever received, and every ticket/programme for every show I’ve been to!

Impulsive or cautious? Cautious.  I always think things through first.

Hugger or “don’t touch me”? Hugger.  It’s the law in Saint John.

Fighter or pacifist? Pacifist.  I hate conflict, and run from it at every opportunity.

Leader or follower? Leader.  I’ve always been independent.

Rule breaker or rule keeper? Rule keeper.  I’m afraid of getting caught!

Extrovert or introvert? Introvert, most of the time.   I do enjoy talking to new people though.

Coordinated or clumsy? Clumsy.  As in, “Don’t give her anything breakable to carry!”

Fiction or non-fiction? Non-fiction.  I read fiction, but I like true stories better.

Rock music or country music? Rock music.  I like some country, as long as it’s not “twangy.”

Singer or listener? Singer.  I can sing, but no one is going to pay me big bucks to perform.

Movies or TV? TV.  There are very few movies that I want to pay $10 to see.  I’d rather watch TV.

Drama or comedy? Comedy.  I’d rather laugh than cry!

Actor or audience? Audience.  I love live drama, but am not an actor!

 

Now it’s your turn…here are the questions again…copy and paste into the comment section, and fill in your answers!  Don’t be shy!

City life or country life?

Antique furniture or modern furniture?

Abstract art or traditional art?

Cook or order out?

Traveller or homebody?

Hotel or cottage?

Sentimental or pragmatic?

Impulsive or cautious?

Hugger or “don’t touch me”?

Fighter or pacifist?

Leader or follower?

Rule breaker or rule keeper?

Extrovert or introvert?

Coordinated or clumsy?

Fiction or non-fiction?

Rock music or country music?

Singer or listener?

Movies or TV?

Drama or comedy?

Actor or audience?

 

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Popcorn, Puddin’ Pop, and Provisions for the Privileged…

Sorry for the long break between posts…it was a busy weekend.  I’ll do my best to catch you up on happenings in Hammond River over the last little while:

1. Popcorn.  Jim, Anna and I finally got to see The King’s Speech last weekend.  We loved it!  It had sharp writing, pathos, and humour all in one p-p-p-package!  Helena Bonham Carter was particularly good as the Queen.  If you haven’t seen the movie yet, please go…you’ll be glad you did!  While we were enjoying ourselves in the company of civilized adults, Hope and her friend, Gabrielle, were down the hall in another theatre, watching the premiere of the Justin Bieber movie, Never Say Never, with two or three hundred screaming tweens (I felt sorry for the theatre employees who had to clean up afterwards).  I did appreciate Bieber’s impression of Obama when he was a guest on Conan the other night…it was bang-on!

Hope with her idol outside the theatre...photo by Jim...

2. Puddin’ Pop.  For new readers of my blog, “Puddin’ Pop” is what I call my 17-month-old granddaughter, Elise.  On Friday, I was called upon to babysit while Kaylee and Scott went to Moncton to see the Great Big Sea concert I gave Kaylee the tickets for at Christmas time.  Despite the fact that I have three children and two stepchildren, I don’t consider myself “the mommy type” and was a little nervous about spending several hours alone with no backup “Aunties” to help care for my Puddin’ Pop.  Kaylee took pity on me, and prestuffed the liners in the cloth diapers (which I’ve never used…they’re a lot fancier and more expensive than they used to be…velcro and liners and snaps, oh my!).  Jim dropped me off at Kaylee and Scott’s on the way to work.  The first thing we noticed was that Scott had shaved off his beard (yay…I like beards on certain people…my son-in-law is not one of them!).  He was all ready for those questions at work like “Where’s your beard?”  He saved the clippings in a Ziploc bag, so he could pull it out and say, “Right here!”  All together now:  “EWWWWW!”

Elise and her bearded Daddy at Christmas time...

Kaylee gave me detailed instructions about when and how much to feed my granddaughter (the milk with the cow on the pitcher was for Elise), and when she went to bed.  She showed me the gold-plated baby toothpaste ($4 for a tiny tube).  Scott showed me how to get Netflix on the Wii (they only have 21 channels on the TV)…seeing the blank look on my face, he wrote it down.  Kaylee put the baby down for a nap about 11:30, and she and Scott left shortly after that, almost forgetting the sushi they’d bought to eat for supper.

Puddin’ Pop woke up a couple of hours later.  The next five hours is a blur of activity: trying to get her to eat something besides grapes and baby banana rusks, chasing her down the hallway when she tried to “escape” to her room, watching “Barney” on Netflix, reading stories (Elise recognizes her letters already – she is also learning sign language), and taking the lid on and off the wooden block container (over and over and over again).  By 6:30, one of us was ready to crash…I put Elise to bed too, after putting the triple-stuffed nighttime diaper on her.

"Whatchoo talkin' about, Gramma?"

 

I went back into the living room and turned on Cake Boss…on one of the episodes, the bakery had run out of sugar…how ludicrous is that?  Puddin’ Pop took a while to settle down, but she seemed happy to talk to herself in her crib.  I was ready to go to sleep by 10:00 p.m.  I changed into my jammies, and curled up (or more accurately, “doubled up”) on the loveseat.  Kaylee had suggested I bring our air mattress, but I was afraid her cats would poke a hole in it.  I woke up in the middle of the night with one of the cats’ faces peering intently into mine…Yoko is the one that races you down the hall to the bathroom to get a drink if you’re foolish enough to turn the faucet on for her (I’m not that gullible!).  Cats aren’t nearly as good at cleaning up under high chairs as dogs are either…

About 8 a.m. the next morning, Scott brought Elise in to change her diaper.  “Hi, Sweetie,” I called, as they went by.  The response was considerably more masculine and mature-sounding than my granddaughter: “Hi!” answered my smartass son-in-law.  After we had breakfast, and the kids told me about the concert (uncomfortable seating, the “yelling yahoo” sitting beside them, etc.), they drove me home.  I stayed in my jammies for the rest of the day…I was exhausted!

3. Provisions for the Privileged.  Jim, Hope and I went to Costco yesterday.  We left Anna at home, because I didn’t feel like spending $200 in one go.  We needed acetaminophen, and their price was far less than the drug stores (I remembered afterwards that we also needed allergy meds…oops!).  As we were going in, Jim flashed his member’s card at the doorperson.  Hope asked, “Do you have to show your card?”  

“Yes,” I replied.  “They don’t let just anybody into Costco!”  It was at that point that I realized just how “lucky” I am to be one of the families they admit to the home of the biggest jars of olives you’ll ever see…three years ago when I was a single mom, I couldn’t have afforded the membership fee.  My parents certainly would never have been able to swing it when I was a kid either. 

I don’t enjoy going to Costco…it represents the kind of greed and consumerism I hate, and it’s a cold experience to shop there.  Nonetheless, I spent $55, and picked up a few bargains on essentials.  While we waited in the checkout line, Hope wondered why the clerks didn’t have a microphone to call on when they needed something, instead of just yelling out?  Why indeed?  She was also surprised that we didn’t get bags to put our purchases in.  I explained that that’s how they were able to offer such low prices…no frills! 

I would like it if I got a warm and fuzzy feeling shopping at Costco, but I don’t think that’s ever going to happen… 

4. Bonus: Hope-ism of the Week.  When Hope brought me a form to fill out for cheerleading, I asked her why she didn’t do it herself…she knew all the information.  “My messing’s writey!” she replied.  She’s also left-handed…

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Talking to Strangers for Fun and Profit…

A note to those who may misunderstand my title, and think I work in radio (like my ex-husband and many of our friends)…unfortunately, radio is fun, but no longer very profitable (and some veterans may disagree on the “fun” part, too)!  I might have ended up doing radio news (I took Broadcast Journalism in college), but I chose not to enter that field.  The “talking to strangers” refers to face-to-face interaction with people I come into contact with in my daily life.

Maybe it’s because of my journalism training that I’ve always enjoyed chatting with people…or, it could be sheer nosiness!  Either way, it is an interesting way to pass the time, and I’ve learned a lot from some of my random interactions.  This practice horrifies my children, however…I can barely get them to acknowledge their school friends with more than a shy smile or a little wave!  When I took Hope to the after-hours clinic the other night, I was talking to a young father whose infant daughter was ill.  I tried to distract the baby from her fussiness by talking to her, and helped the man get her into the carseat.  After they left, Hope said, “Why do you have to talk to strangers?  You’re embarrassing me!”  When we got home, she informed Anna that I was “doing it again.” 

Yesterday, a good-looking guy in his mid-40’s came into the bookstore…tall and well-built, with prematurely grey hair (oops…I just drooled a little on my keyboard!).  As per my habit, I asked if it was his first visit (because I surely would have remembered if he’d been in before!)…he replied that it was, and offered that he was in town from Los Angeles.  We don’t get many people from California in Saint John, New Brunswick, except The Jolie, and the occasional cruise ship passenger, so my next question was “How did you end up here?” 

Tall Guy answered, “I’m a musician…we’ve got a gig here tonight.”

“Oh, which band are you in?” I asked.

You could have knocked me over with a feather when he replied, “The Goo Goo Dolls. ”  We’ve had celebrities in the store before: comedian Ron James, Vinyl Café host Stuart MacLean, and the Canadian rock band Alexisonfire, but to have somebody from an internationally-known rock group find our little store is pretty amazing (he found us on Google)!

I quickly picked myself up off the floor and responded that I had almost bought tickets for their show for Jim for Christmas, but he preferred to see the Classic Albums Live tribute to The Who that we went to last month.  Casually, Tall Guy said, “I can probably get you in.”

“Seriously?” I asked eagerly.  Those tickets were going for $49.50 each before service charges!

“Really!” he answered.  “Give him a call and see if he wants to go.”  So I did!  Jim was excited too!

Tall Guy spent a fair amount of time looking at our books, while I chewed his ear off.  I asked what he played…he responded modestly that he was “just the drummer.”  He told me about their shows in Newfoundland, and mentioned that his wife back in L.A. wasn’t very happy about him being gone on Valentine’s Day.  He would be back home in a couple of weeks though, and then off for a month.

My euphoria was disturbed when Tall Guy’s phone rang with a text message…he had to go back to the hotel and make an important phone call he’d forgotten about.  I gave him my card, and he promised to leave some tickets in my name at the door.  I got Tall Guy to sign our guest book, and took his money for the book he bought (World War I history)…he didn’t even make it into the room with the art, music, and literature…I’m hoping he might order more books from our website!

Our celebrity's signature...

After he was gone, I Googled Mike, because I couldn’t read his last name (Malinin)…in the course of my stalking research, I also found out that Mike was a marathon runner.  How cool is that?  A drummer for a rock band and a runner!

Goo Goo Dolls watch as guy from Virgin Records cuts a ribbon...Mike is the hunk on the left...(photo from justjared.buzznet.com)

*****

Showtime was 7:30 p.m.  Despite our best efforts, Jim and I didn’t make it to the Saint John Trade and Convention Centre until 7:15.  The line for General Admission snaked out into the neighbouring mall.  Most of the people waiting were half our ages.  Luckily, the queue moved quickly, and soon we saw a special table at the door where a woman had a box full of envelopes.  I left Jim to hold our place and hurried over to her.  “I’m Wendy M.,” I said.  “Mike the drummer left me a couple of tickets.”  The woman shuffled through a pile of white envelopes and pulled one out with my name on it.  She opened it, and discovered two triangular Goo Goo Dolls sticker passes with “2/14″ and “A.S.” written on them in permanent marker.  I was excited, because I surmised that “A.S.” stood for “After Show.”  The woman told us to just go on in and take our seats…we did, after carefully applying the stickers to our chests (we had a little trouble freeing them from the backing paper…I think they were “boomerproof” stickers). 

Our passes...

The opening band, Crash Parallel, was a group of young Canadian guys based in Toronto.  They could sing; they could play; and they were suitably enthusiastic.  I particularly enjoyed their cover of Peter Gabriel’s “In Your Eyes” (Genesis was one of the first bands I ever saw live, back in 1981).  During the intermission, we chatted with two other couples from our generation who were seated near us (one fellow worked in Emergency at the hospital, and has put multiple casts/splints on my girls!).  Yes, children…I was talking to strangers again!

Jim took this shot with his phone during the show...despite my demonic grin, I did not just consume a small child...

Finally, the Goo Goo Dolls took the stage.  Most of their material was new to me…in their heyday in the late-90’s, I had already stopped listening to mainstream radio.  The youngsters at the show felt the need to stand in front of the stage, so we spent the rest of the time on our feet (which was tough on my almost 50-year-old body!).  My favourite Goo Goo Dolls song is Iris:

After the show, we filed out into the lobby…we walked around and asked several people whether they knew what the “A.S.” meant on our passes.  No one did (not even the burly security guy with the headset), and it didn’t appear that there was an “after show.”

We went home…I’ve decided that “A.S.” stands for “Amiable Stranger.”  Thanks, Mike, for the tickets!  Sometimes it pays to talk to strangers!

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I’m a Little Bit ADD, I’m a Little Bit Rock and Roll (With Apologies to the Osmonds)…

Fasten your seatbelts, readers…it’s going to be a bumpy ride…I’ll be going through topics faster than my kids can make ice cream disappear.  You’ll laugh; you’ll groan; you’ll salivate; you’ll wish you were having dinner at my house!

1.  Best. Candy. Ever.  Utah didn’t just give us the Osmond family…they also have the Sweet Candy Company which makes the best candy ever: Raspberry Sticks, which are described on the package as “raspberry jelly centers dipped in luscious milk chocolate” (this is NOT a lie!).  I discovered these bits of deliciousness at our local Co-Op when they were marked down after Christmas last week…I bought three boxes…unfortunately, they were gone when I went back for more last night!

Sweet's Raspberry Sticks...

2. Did You Miss a Post?  It seems that my blog host may have been having issues last week…just wondering if everyone who subscribes got notice of my Friday post on the Bay of Fundy…it was a “rerun” from the early days.  I wasn’t the only one having problems: my friend Renée at Life in the Boomer Lane moved her blog to a different host, and her subscribers aren’t getting their notifications (if you’re a fan of Renée’s, the link in my “She Said” blogroll still works!).  Poor Todd at Todd Pack’s Messy Desk put up a post on Thursday that got far fewer comments than usual…he thought the post was bad, but I tried to access it twice, and got the message “Post Not Found” both times!  He ended up taking it down.

3. Cooking Up a Storm.  Jim cooked twice last week, making a turkey dinner with dressing, mashed pototoes, and vegetables last Sunday (and Grammie Clark’s cheesecake for dessert!), and a lovely seafood chowder on Wednesday (with homemade biscuits!).  This past Sunday, I used frozen tomatoes from our garden to make some more pizza sauce (took several hours to cook them down), and made a deep dish pizza (which I forgot to photograph before people dove into it!).  For dessert, we had sour cream chocolate cake.

Homemade Pizza Sauce...I wish you had "Smellovision"...yum!

Leftover Pizza...I cooked the dough a little too long, but it tasted good!

 

Sour Cream Chocolate Cake...sinfully delicious!

4. Mr. James to the Rescue (Again).  When I came downstairs Sunday morning, Dad informed me that Jake was “having trouble” again.  He’d obviously gotten into something he shouldn’t have, and was pooping everywhere (Jake, not my dad!).  Consequently, the fuzzy white hair on his rear end wasn’t so white any more (still Jake).  After giving the dog a bath, I called our resident hairdresser and dog groomer, Jim (aka “Mr. James”) downstairs to do a quick trim on our schoodle’s bum.  I love that man!  We decided it would be best to sterilize the scissors with a little bleach before putting them in the dishwasher…

5. Valentine’s Day.  I’m finally taking down the Christmas books display at the bookstore and replacing it with a Valentine’s Day-themed selection.  Books with the word “love” in the title will be 10% off for the next little while…

Lover's Secrets...10% off...any takers?

6. Crossing Guards With Magical Powers.  As Jim and I were watching our usual Wednesday night comedies on ABC, a commercial that featured a crossing guard caught my cynical eye: she stops the kids in the middle of traffic to take a decongestant (?!!).  Jim helpfully pointed out that she had also stopped the traffic: “She’s an omnipotent crossing guard!” he declared.  I thought The Omnipotent Crossing Guard would make a great blog title.

7. Off the Map.  Speaking of ABC, I’m loving the new drama by the creators of Grey’s Anatomy, Off The Map.  It’s got interesting plotlines and characterization, cool guest stars (Michael McKean and Cheech Marin, so far), and a leading man from New Zealand named Martin Henderson, whose pecs are as sexy as his accent (don’t worry, guys…there are beautiful women on it too)!

Martin Henderson as Dr. Ben Keeton...hot in the jungle...

8. Just Call Me ‘Ms. Technical’.  Yesterday, Dad’s monitor started flickering for no apparent reason.  I got on the phone with Jim (the computer tech), who advised me to try my monitor to see if if would work.  After unhooking Dad’s heavy old-style monitor and hauling it down off the desk out of the way, I carried my slim-line monitor over from my office across the hall, only to find that it didn’t have the right connector to plug into Dad’s computer.  I carried my monitor back, and hooked it back up again.  I only swore a little bit.  Then I went into the back room and pulled out the old (massive) monitor to try it.  I connected it to Dad’s computer (right connection, but no picture…hurrah!).  Still flickering though, from what I could see.  Unhooking it again, I was getting ready to put it away when Dad insisted on carrying it for me (have you ever been offered help when you didn’t really want it?…sigh).  After reconnecting the regular monitor, the problem persisted, and I did a Google search, which suggested that if it wasn’t the monitor, it was likely the video card.   I called Jim again, who said he would look at it in the morning.  After we got home, I floated my “video card theory” for Jim, and was shot down.  Fast forward to this morning:  I turned on Dad’s computer and the monitor was fine.  I forgot the standard advice offered every week by the technicians on The IT Crowd: “Have you tried turning it on and off?” 

9. I’m the Last One Picked for Wii Games Too.  The kids conned me into playing Wii with them the other night.  I totally suck at baseball and tennis…at least I started to get the hang of bowling halfway through!  Damn that hand-eye coordination…I wonder if they have word games for Wii?

10. Classic Albums Live: The Who

Where?  The Imperial Theatre. 

When?  Saturday night. 

What?  An amazing group of musicians recreating the “Who’s Next?” album. 

Why?  I bought Jim tickets for Christmas, and we desperately needed a Date Night!

How?  Very skillfully!  This was our second Classic Albums Live show (we saw the Supertramp: Crime of the Century show last year and it was equally great!).  The band did an excellent job recreating the album note-for-note, and this folkie girl was instantly transported back 35 years to her “headbanger period” (age 15-16).  All the musicians and singers were very talented, and the drummer was awesome! 

If you have a chance to see a Classic Albums Live show, I’d heartily recommend it!

This concludes your tour through my rather addled Tuesday brain…I hope that the transitions didn’t cause any whiplash!

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Joys of the Season…

On Christmas Eve Eve (no, I’m not stuttering), I would like to take this opportunity to thank all the wonderful people who take time out of their busy days to read Herding Cats in Hammond River!  I have appreciated all your comments, and hope to see you all back here next week (I’ll have the tea on!).  In the meantime, here is a beautiful Christmas song by three talented Maritime women: Jill Barber, Rose Cousins, and Meaghan Smith:  http://r3.ca/02JZ

“This Christmas” is just one song from a fundraising album called A New Kind of Light that the ladies did in support of Feed Nova Scotia.  CDs are just $20 each, and can be ordered by clicking the Feed Nova Scotia link.

I wish you all peace, joy and love this holiday season and throughout the coming year!

Wendy (aka writerwoman61)

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“No, Virginia…There is No Fruitcake Fairy”, and Other Holiday Truths…

Well…here it is…December 6th, and I am being struck by some harsh holiday truths:

1. There is no Fruitcake Fairy.  Somehow, Jim and I completely forgot about making his Grammy Clark’s fruitcake this year (usually a project we undertake while others are getting ready for Halloween).  I remembered it this weekend…too late!  Our kids won’t care (fruitcake haters, all!), but I’m sure Jim’s relatives who we normally give it to might notice its absence!  I happen to love fruitcake…I will miss it!

2. Times have changed.  Gone are the days when I made all my own Christmas gifts (1970’s), sent a Christmas letter every year (1980’s), or had all my Christmas shopping done by the end of October (1990’s).  Crap!  I’ve got to buy the stuff to send to relatives in Ontario – mail service has also gone downhill!

3. I’d rather have a real tree.  Artificial Christmas trees shed worse than real ones…allergies prevent us from having a real one.  The poor thing looks more decrepit every year…

4. Decking the Halls is fun “De-decking” is not.  I think it was March last year before we took the lighted candy canes off the outside of the house.  They have yet to reappear.

5. Gingerbread men have lost their charm.  Children lose their enthusiasm for holiday baking as they get older.  When asked if they wanted to help make Christmas cookies this year, the girls’ response was the equivalent of “Meh!” 

6. They should sell Scotch tape equipped with a homing device.  Finding tape to wrap presents when one needs it in our house is something akin to locating the Holy Grail.  Our tape ends up in young Justin Bieber fans’ bedrooms holding up posters of their heartthrob…(and no, Hope…you can’t have JB for Christmas!  We have enough teenagers, thanks!).

7. The cost of the present the kids want is directly proportional to how much money is in your bank account.  The less you have, the more expensive the present.  Teenagers find it so much easier to spend their parents’ money than their own!  On a related note, you are obligated to spend the same amount of money on each child, down to the penny (they keep track!).

8. I still cry when I hear “Silent Night”.  No matter where I am, this song still makes me burst into tears…it reminds me of my grandparents, who died many years ago.  My family members stiffen when they see “Silent Night” in the programme of any Christmas concert we’re at…”Oh, man…get out the Kleenex!  They’re gonna sing that song!”  It’s even more embarrassing when I turn into a basket case listening to Muzak in the mall!   

9. Christmas cards are passé.  I used to send out about 40-50 cards every year.  That was back when stamps were 6 cents each (okay, I’m exaggerating…I’m not that old!).  This year, I will probably send them to elderly relatives who don’t have e-mail yet (I should probably pick some up soon – cards, not relatives).  I will also use the opportunity to get rid of the approximately 187 wallet-size school photos we purchased. 

10. Taking a decent family Christmas photo of 10 people and a dog is really difficult.  This is the one we settled on yesterday after about 20 takes (Elise was watching the Garfield Christmas special on TV):

Hammond River Holiday Photo. Front: Hope, Anna with Jake, Brianna, Devin. Back: Jim, Wendy, Dave (Grandad), Scott with Elise, Kaylee.

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Chimney Sweeps, CDs, Cinnamon Buns, and Curios…

On Monday night, I got a call from the company I’d called about cleaning the chimney last week…was very pleased because I’d expected to be waiting a lot longer than three days to get an appointment!  Here’s the history:  The first year we moved into the house (Nov. 29, 2008), we had a guy come and clean the chimney…he came just after Christmas (about a month after I called him…he was “backed up”).  I called the same guy in September of 2009.  He was still “backed up,” and also having some sort of surgery soon.  He said he’d put me “on the list.”  He never showed up!  I took him off my list this year…I called another guy (I’m a big believer in “getting a guy” to do things we can’t do, despite my dad offering to do it…I love him, but he doesn’t know anything about chimney cleaning!).  Even though he was listed in the Yellow Pages under “chimney cleaning” the guy told me he’d given it up: “too much liability” and “people don’t want to pay enough.”  He suggested the third company I called last Friday.  The man I talked to on Monday told me they would be in my area on Tuesday afternoon, so I stayed home from the bookstore to let him in.  It was a nice bonus…the house to myself for most of the day…yay!  I would use the time to listen to my music, make cinnamon buns, and play on the computer.

I got up on Tuesday morning, and got Jim and the kids out the door before having a shower…I debated getting dressed, but thought I should have clothes on for the chimney guys (as opposed to pyjamas)!  I skipped makeup, though, and never touched my hair again after brushing it when I got out of the shower.

I put on the first CD while I made myself tea and Toad in the Hole (with a bagel) for breakfast: Richard Shindell‘s Courier.  Wonderful!

I ate my breakfast, started the dishwasher, and started making the cinnamon bun dough:

Dough after mixing, before first rise...

An hour later, it looked like this:

Dough after first rise...

I punched it down, and covered it to rise again.  I put Meg Hutchinson‘s The Living Side on.  Her favourite of mine is Come Up Full.  I played on my computer some more.  Here’s the dough after the second rise:

Dough after second rise...

In the meantime, the guys arrived to clean the chimney…I put the baby gate up in the family room to keep Jake from terrorizing them.  On his way down the basement stairs, I mentioned to the head guy that the stovepipe might need to be replaced.  “You didn’t tell me that last night,” he muttered.  “I don’t have parts with me!”  He took his vacuum cleaner down to do the cleaning.  I took my dough in the dining room, and rolled it out, spread it with butter, sprinkled it with brown sugar and cinnamon, and then rolled it up.  Then I sliced the roll for the cinnamon buns:

Cinnamon buns before third rise...

While they rose, I ate lunch and listened to Rose CousinsThe Send Off…here’s what the buns looked like before I put them in the oven:

Cinnamon buns after third rise - ready to go in the oven...

The chimney guys finished their work within an hour…poor Jake spent the time running from one end of the house to the other, not sure which direction to bark at: Were the bad guys outside, in the basement, or by the back door?  I wrote them a check for $96 and change…the head guy told me they had used foil tape to patch the stovepipe (the same thing the other guy had done two years ago…foil tape must be chimney guys’ duct tape!).  After the workers left, I put the cinnamon buns in the oven…keeping with the “cinnamon” theme, I played a tribute album to Neil Young called Cinnamon Girl.   About 35 minutes later, the buns were ready to take out.  Hope came home from school, and we’d eaten three of them before I realized I’d forgotten to take a picture of the finished product…Hope took this one:

Finished cinnamon buns...yummy!

One of the hard parts about being a working mom is that I rarely get time with my kids “one-on-one.”  I took advantage of the hour-and-a-half Hope and I had to ourselves before Jim and Anna would be home for supper.  I took the opportunity to show Hope the dollhouse furniture my mom and her sisters used to play with in the late 1940’s…I had loved it as a child, and she had never seen it.  Hope is the only one of my kids who was really into dolls!  She had a great time arranging the furniture and tiny dolls:

The Bedroom (twin beds, of course!)

 

The Kitchen...

 

The Bathroom...please avert your eyes while the baby finishes up...

 

The Living Room, complete with piano and hi-fi...

While Hope played with the dollhouse stuff, I put on a pork roast and rice for supper.  By the time Jim and Anna got home, we had picked everything up…

It was a good day at home…

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Simple Things I Am Thankful For…

Today is Thanksgiving in the United States, where I was born and spent the first eight years of my life.  We are not celebrating Thanksgiving in Canada today (we had it last month), but with all the disturbing things going on in the world right now, it makes me think of the things in my life I am thankful for.  Here they are, in the order I’ve thought of them:

1. A Healthy Love Relationship.  I am thankful to have found a man who loves me, works hard, is an amazing father, and would rather cut off his right arm than hurt me or our children.

2. A Loving Family.  We definitely argue, but I don’t know what we would do without each other. 

3. Clean Water.  We can turn on a tap and have an almost unlimited amount of clean water!

4. Clean Air.  The air that we breathe is very clean, and smells good most of the time.   

5. Plentiful, Fresh Food.  We can go to a store and buy nearly anything we need, or grow it ourselves in uncontaminated soil.  We have a refrigerator and a freezer to help keep the food preserved.  We have a stove and a microwave to cook the food. 

6. A Roof Over Our Heads.  I can’t imagine not having a warm, clean place to come home to.

7. Freedom of Movement.  I can go where I want, when I want to, without being afraid. 

8. Freedom of Speech.  I have the right to say, write, read, or listen to almost anything without fear of repercussion (within libel/slander laws).

9. The Right to Vote.  Thanks to some outspoken women who came before me, women in Canada have had the right to vote in federal elections since 1919. 

10. The Ability to Read and Write.  I could not live without books, and writing keeps me sane.  The ability to read allows me to learn new things every day.

11. Government-Sponsored Health Care.  If my child is ill, I can take her to the doctor without worrying about how to afford the treatment.

12. Music.  Good music makes me feel a huge range of emotions…there are so many talented musicians in our world.

Please take a moment to think about all the simple things you are thankful for…

I hope that all my family and friends have a wonderful holiday!  Thank you for taking time from your busy day to visit me in Hammond River!

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