Category Archives: friends

I Was Stylish Three Times in Three Weeks!

Or at least other people thought my blog was…I have received this award three times recently:

I was given the first one by Nancy at Embracing Myself on February 17th.  Then Todd at Todd Pack’s Messy Desk gave me the nod on February 28th.  Finally, Ian from The $#!& I Think About awarded me again on March 8th.  All of these folks are talented writers, and I am pleased to also call them my friends!  Please check out their blogs!

One of the requirements of the awards is to tell some stuff about yourself that people don’t know…that’s a tall order for me, because I probably share way too much in my blog as it is!  So, that’s been one of the things holding me up in officially “accepting” my awards!  The other barrier has been that I’ve gotten a lot of awards (not bragging…just stating a fact…well, maybe bragging a little!), and I’ve run out of people to pass them on to!

I visited a new blogging buddy’s site today after she commented on mine…Melissa at Play 101  had also been a triple winner of the Stylish Blogger Award.  Some thoughtful soul had provided her with questions to answer about herself, so I’m stealing borrowing the questions…I hope Melissa doesn’t mind:

1. How long have you been in your current relationship, and how many children do you have?  Jim and I are coming up on three years together…between the two of us, we have five kids (4 girls and one boy) and one granddaughter.

2. What is one thing most people don’t know about you?  That I’m not as big a “Goody Two Shoes” as I appear.  I’ve never broken any laws (that I know of), but I swear a lot (not in public usually). 

3. What are your greatest fears?  Running out of things: time, money, food, love.

4. What is your favorite food?  Sour cream and bacon Ruffles potato chips.  And bagels.  And pie (any kind except cream pies).

5. What is your most rewarding memory?  I’d like to say the births of my three daughters, but that hurt a lot (I did it naturally).  I think that some of my happiest memories are of doing things together as a family: eating, playing board games, making music, or outdoor activities.

6. At which store could you spend an entire day by yourself?  I really don’t enjoy shopping, but if I had to be in a store all day without kids, I’d definitely pick an old bookstore.

7. What’s the most embarrassing thing you’ve ever done?  Tough one…so many choices!  There was the time I walked around the mall in Newfoundland with my fly down for an hour-and-a-half before discovering it (no one told me!).  Once, I accidentally got on the Super Express bus to Toronto from Ottawa, and found out just before getting to Belleville that the bus didn’t stop there…luckily, the driver took pity on me and let me off at the exit ramp…I picked up my suitcase and walked into town!  One of my favourite activities is dancing when my teenagers have friends over…it’s worth it just to see the looks on their faces!   

8. What’s the worst job you’ve ever had?  I once took a temp job doing data entry for a non-profit organization’s fundraising event.  The hours were 4 p.m. to 11 p.m., so I spent all but half an hour of my shift by myself, and the work was boring!  I also found it difficult to get up with my daughter in the morning and take her to school…I always needed a nap after dropping her off!

9. What’s the worst thing you’ve ever worn?  I made myself an absolutely hideous maternity dress when I was pregnant with my first child…the style and fabric were both ugly…I don’t know what I was thinking!  Thankfully, no photos exist of that one!     

10. What’s your favorite guilty pleasure? I read Cosmopolitan at the hairdresser’s.  Please refer back to #2!

Instead of passing the award on in the traditional fashion, I’m going to steal borrow another idea from my friend Kathy at Reinventing the Event Horizon: she suggested that readers respond in the comments with a post of their own that they’re really happy with, and a post of someone else’s that they recommend reading.  So here’s an early one of mine that not many people saw: https://writerwoman61.wordpress.com/2010/04/07/pickin-and-grinnin/.  My friend, Amanda, at Life is a Spectrum, wrote this heartwarming story about her son: http://www.lifeisaspectrum.com/The-long-distance-runner

Please read, enjoy, and tell us about your favourite posts in your comments!  That’s one of the best parts about blogging for me: hooking up my friends with great blogs to read!

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Filed under blogging, family, food, friends

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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Filed under family, friends, music, rants, satire, self-discovery

It’s Not My Style…

This past Saturday, my friend Amiable Amiable at Big Happy Nothing passed me The Stylish Blogger Award.  My friend, AA, is very sweet (be sure to check out her highly amusing blog!), but clearly delusional in bestowing this honour on a woman whose children have threatened kindly offered to suggest Style by Jury do a makeover on her (“They’d give you brand new pearly whites!” says Hope, hopefully).  Nevertheless, being the gracious sort (and not wanting to hurt AA’s feelings), I am proud to accept this award, and pass it along to other deserving bloggers.

Stylish Blogger Award

 

The requirements I must follow as an award recipient are as follows:

1. Write seven things about myself. 

I’ve decided (since I’m likely to repeat myself in my advanced age) to share with you seven little-known facts about me and my lack of style (Stacy and Clinton from What Not to Wear dream of getting their well-manicured hands on someone like me!). 

2. Present the award to six bloggers.

There are few people on my Blogroll who I haven’t already picked on honoured with various awards, but I will offer up some of my latest additions for your perusal.  I may lack that “je ne sais quoi,” but I’ve got a whack of stylish writers on my Blogroll!

3. Contact those people. 

Will do (just as soon as the post is up!).

4. Create a link back to the person who honored me. 

Done!

Seven Fashion Tips/Facts About Me I Hope No One Chooses to Follow:

1. My first (and second pair) of glasses were cat’s eyes: the first pink, the second blue.  I was seven…I thought they were cool!

Me with my Aunt Nancy's ponies, ca. 1968...a fashion plate even then...not!

2. I made my own halter tops in junior high from a simple trapezoid shape with drawstrings strung through the top and bottom…I was a 34A until I was 16. 

3. My parents didn’t have much money when I was growing up, and I bought all my own clothing from the time I was fourteen.  One of the things I desparately wanted was a pair of Levis jeans.  One day, a local store advertised in the newspaper that they had Levis for $3.99.  When I got to the store, the “on sale” jeans were actually cords, and they were burnt orange in colour.  I bought them anyway. 

4. In Grade 10, I recut a pair of hand-me-down bell bottom jeans (remember the really big bell bottoms popular in the mid-70’s?) and sewed them into a long granny-style skirt…I spent the rest of the year tripping over it!

5. I was not a “girly-girl” in high school, and rarely wore regular-length skirts.  Girls had to wear skirts for band though.  I found out (from a photograph in the yearbook) that I had played my flute in a band concert sitting in the front row with my legs wide open (lucky that I wore granny panties then, just like now!).

6. Before I had kids, I used to have money to buy shoes.  Shoes in Canada were always more expensive than they were in the U.S., so I’d wait until we went to the States to visit relatives to make my purchases.  On one such trip, I was thrilled to find a pair of pointy-toed suede cowboy boots for only $38 (they would have sold for over $100 in Canada at the time).  Some unkind people referred to my prized boots as “pickle-stabbers”!

7. In college, I went through a brief period where I wore hats all the time (it was the early ’80’s).  I built up quite a collection before I came to my senses and realized I wasn’t a “hat person.”

My Six Stylish Blogger Nominees:

The proper words in the proper places are the true definition of style.

Jonathan Swift

I have chosen my victims winners with Jonathan’s quote in mind…please check them out if you don’t already know them:

1. Another Stir of the SpoonJeanne and her husband, Curt, write one of two wife-husband blogs I follow (and they’re just as crazy about birds as Jim is!).  It is an eclectic mix of food, art, gardening, books and nature.  Just today, I learned about “real” ramen (as they do it in Japan), and “shino” glaze on pottery!

2. EduClaytion. Clay is the history professor we all wish we had in college…he makes history and pop culture fun!  There’s a rumour that the look of the “Flynn Rider” character in Tangled was modelled after him…the real Clay is definitely cooler and smarter than his cartoon twin!

Flynn Rider from Tangled…

3. Jumping in Mud Puddles.  I discovered Vickie after she was Freshly Pressed in mid-December…I kept reading because she cracks me up!  Vickie’s a fourth grade teacher in West Virginia.  One of my favourite posts of hers involves a lost ring

4. Life From the TrenchesAmy used to write mostly about etiquette, but has expanded the scope of her blog in anticipation of her imminent return to the “away from home” workforce.  She recently took up a challenge presented by one of my commentators to do a post on flatulence etiquette (we may collaborate on a book, but don’t hold your breath…or maybe you should!).  Amy handles whatever she writes about with good sense sprinkled with a liberal dose of humour!  
5. Loose Leaf NotesColleen is a poet, photographer, journalist, and a grandmother in Floyd, Virginia.  She shares my love of music and tea.  You never know what you’ll find when you visit Colleen…one of my favourites of her features is Thirteen Thursdays.
6. Reinventing The Event HorizonKathy is an artist and creative writing teacher currently living in Haiti with her partner, Sara, who works with a NGO doing relief work.  Kathy accomplishes the seemingly-impossible task of finding beauty in the ruins of a country devastated by poverty and a series of natural disasters.  Her writing is always thought-provoking and honest (she will probably be honestly horrified to discover she’s “won” another award…she just got the Memetastic Award…more homework!).
I’m off to dust off a spot on the mantel…maybe we should get those fireplaces working again! 

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Filed under blogging, friends, satire, self-discovery

Bits and Pieces…

I’ll start by apologizing to my regular readers for the long hiatus from posting…it was a combination of laziness, and not having much to write about.  Here’s what’s been going on the last little while:

1. Kaylee and Scott celebrated their fourth anniversary together last Monday.  Anna put her artistic touch on a Black Forest Cake I made.  We also made cupcakes, which Hope and Brianna decorated. 

This is the cake...we found out afterwards that neither Kaylee or Scott are fans of maraschino cherries...

Brianna's cupcakes...

 

Hope's cupcakes...

 

The cake recipe was from my trusty Better Homes and Gardens cookbook…I’d like to try pairing it with my brownie recipe for a “chocolate overdose” dessert…maybe a layer of each with chocolate ganache in between?  Yummy!

2. Jim made a delicious turkey soup with the remains of our Christmas bird and some more of our garden veggies, and served it with awesome homemade biscuits.  That was a good supper!

Jim's soup and biscuits...delicious!

3. Jim was on vacation last week, but spent almost every day doing something IT-related…a great deal of time was spent building my dad’s computer for him (Christmas present).  We installed it at the bookstore on Wednesday (the same day I was running late, and Dad decided I wasn’t coming and left ten minutes early, without me!)…unfortunately, neither Jim or I remembered to feed the parking meter out front in the afternoon, and we got a parking ticket!  On Saturday about lunchtime, Dad’s monitor “went black.”  We didn’t find out about it until Sunday morning about 9, when we came down to find a note he’d left us.  If he’d called us at one of the three phones we have between us, we could have fixed it for him Saturday (my dad’s picture is in Webster’s under “passive-aggressive”)!  I discovered this morning that the monitor had bitten the dust…luckily my old one was still out back, and I got it hooked up with no help from my techie guy…I was pretty proud of myself! 

4. Last week, I was honoured to be asked by my blogging buddy and fellow Ohioan, Maura at 36 x 37, to be a guest host at her blog while she is offline this week.  You can find me over there on Thursday with a post from when I had five loyal readers my early days.  It was neat to get the invitation…it’s lovely to know that someone likes (and trusts) your writing enough to put it on their blog!   I told Maura that I finally felt like “one of the cool kids” (the other writers who are filling in are also on my Blogroll).

5. I have a famous visitor coming in the next couple of weeks…all very hush-hush for now, but of course, I’ll be blogging about her visit!  We’ll be showing her the highlights of Saint John, New Brunswick…she’s never been in the Maritimes before!

6. We got a big bunch of books in on Thursday…17 garbage bags full…yes, I did say “garbage bags.”  Believe it or not, they’d been thrown in the back of a pickup truck!  It was all anybody could do to lift them, and of course, all the corners were ripping through.  What a mess!  At least there were some decent books in the lot.  That was a first in ten years…it amazes me how stupid people can be, especially with valuables!

7. Devin went to driving school last week.  He had some bad luck in the classroom simulator the first day…I asked him on Thursday after he got home if he’d hit anything that day: “I don’t think so,” he replied.  Probably not the best answer…he reported that at least when he had hit something, he didn’t scream and take his hands off the steering wheel the way the girls in the class did!

8. I was pleasantly surprised at the reaction/support to my last post…so far, we’re doing well with our “experiment.”  Anna and Brianna de-decorated the Christmas tree on Friday, and Jim dismantled it (that’s probably a record for early removal!).  I almost “slipped” on Saturday, when Anna demanded I make breakfast for her.  I was making my own anyway (the same thing), so Jim suggested I do it at the same time in a larger pan (I was going to make mine first, and then hers, after she got out of the shower).   Anna floored me yesterday by asking what I needed help with while I was trying to get dinner ready (I needed someone to take stuff out of the washer and dryer, and put more clothes in, which she did).  Anna and Hope have even been getting along better!

9. Anna’s friend, Celia, came over on Saturday for a sleepover.  It was her first time visiting.  Jake liked her as long as she was either sitting or lying down (or feeding him treats)…standing up, not so much!  Luckily, Celia works part-time in a veterinary hospital, so was fairly comfortable with our neurotic dog.

10. I am now the proud owner of a “pastry cloth.”  After a search through Saint John’s kitchen stores, I finally found what I was looking for at Decor 8 in Brunswick Square…a thick cotton cloth especially made for rolling out dough.  It even came with a rolling pin cover: $10 plus tax.  It will make things easier not having to use wax paper!

11. Elise and her parents were here for a visit last night.  Elise’s vocabulary of words (and signs) is growing quickly…that was the first time I’d heard her say “NO”!  I warned her parents that Kaylee had hit “the terrible twos” at eighteen months (Elise was 16 months old yesterday).  I’m working on trying to get Elise to say “Gramma.”  She is also having fun with the Elmo drum set that her sadistic “Uncle Ben” got her for Christmas…glad those things stay at her house! 

12. The kids go back to school tomorrow, after the longest Christmas break ever!  We’re all happy!

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Filed under blogging, cooking, family, food, friends, rants

The “There Should Be An Award for That” Awards…Winter Edition…

This past summer, I did a post called The “There Should Be An Award for That” Awards.  Having spent the greater part of the day trolling unsuccessfully for something else to write about, I bring you a Winter Edition of the Awards:

1. The “Most Freshly Pressed” Award.  Winner: My friend, Todd Pack at Todd Pack’s Messy Desk.  On Tuesday, Todd was Freshly Pressed for the 4th time in the mere 8 months he’s been blogging!  He’s an excellent writer, great dad, and an all-around nice guy.  Check out his blog!

Four Times "Freshly Pressed" Man...

2. The “Giggling at Inappropriate Moments” Award.  Winner: Hope.  During my dad’s Christmas concert on Tuesday night, the audience was invited to sing along to three Christmas carols.  Hope found the word “ass” in the lyrics of What Child is This? highly amusing.

3. The “Last Minute” Award.  Winner: Anna.  We leave at 7 a.m. for town every morning.  This morning, she decided at 6:56 a.m. that it would be a good time to look for her bodysuit for cheerleading (they have two basketball games this evening).  We didn’t find it…we did, however, find her French language dictionary that’s been AWOL since school started in September.  Her friend, Celia, will be very happy not to have to share hers any more!

4. The “Worst Stocking Stuffer Ever” Award.  Winner: Vicks VapoRub.  Today, my new blogging acquaintance, Vickie at Jumping in Mud Puddles, talked about things she got in her stocking as a child.  Sure…we all got socks, but how many kids were lucky enough to be the recipients of Vicks and tweezers?  Vickie was also recently Freshly Pressed.

Worst Stocking Stuffer Ever...

    

5. The “Angry Street Musician” Award.  Winner: The kid I saw sitting on the sidewalk in front of the City Market today playing a xylophone as if he were doing a drum solo.  Newsflash:  You are not Phil Collins, and xylophones should not be struck hard enough to bend the keys.  Producing harsh tones is not conducive to filling up your hat with change (unless people pay you to STOP). 

6. The “Clever Pun” Award.  Winner: A customer at my favourite Chinese food place.  Once a week, I buy my lunch…it’s my treat to myself.  I usually go to House of Chan in Brunswick Square and get one of their combo plates.  When I arrived there today, the Lo Mein noodle warmer was empty…there were three more people in front of me who were also waiting for noodles!  I got a kick out of the guy who went around the lineup, ordered fried rice with his chicken balls and dry garlic meatballs, and then proceeded to call his noodle-loving buddy in front of me a “Ricist.”  Eventually, fresh noodles were ready…I enjoyed them with my cashew guy ding and sweet and sour chicken.

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Winter Tales…

Long-time readers of my blog know that I was born in Ohio, and spent the first eight years of my life there.  Winter in Ohio is kind of “hit and miss”…sometimes you have snow, but not very much, and sometimes it gets cold, but not very cold (at least, not by Canadian standards, where I live now!)…

When there was snow in Ohio, my brother, Jeff, and I would put on our snowpants and boots, and take out our sleds, which had metal runners…generally, they didn’t work very well because more than three inches is a lot of snow in Ohio, and doesn’t happen a lot!  We had better luck with our red “flying saucer”…which looked a lot like a giant Frisbee with rope handles.  Our back yard in Oregon (a suburb of Toledo) had a big hill which was fine for “flying.”

We moved to Ontario when I was eight…Jeff and I were ecstatic to live where there was snow pretty much continuously from mid-November through February (and sometimes March)!  Our parents bought us a big wooden toboggan, and we also had Crazy Carpets to use by ourselves.  We had lots of snow the winter of 1970-71…my dad would pile the snow he shovelled out of our driveway at the end of it, where there was a deep ditch.  With the snowpile being about ten or twelve feet high, we had a great long run from the top of the pile down into the ditch…often we didn’t even bother using vehicles…we’d just slide on the bums of our snow-encrusted layers of jeans (we’d outgrown our snowpants by then – we’d just put on 2 or 3 pairs of pants and play until we were soaked to the skin!).

Here's a picture of Jeff and I standing on top of our snowpile in the winter of 1970-71...yes, those are power/phone lines beside our heads!

We had great fun sliding behind/beside the Rednersville house too!  I remember at least one occasion when my brother and I were on the toboggan together and going very fast, when suddenly, we stopped dead and we both flew off the toboggan landing face-first in the snow.  We weren’t hurt, and couldn’t stop laughing because when I emerged from the snowbank, the snow had packed itself into my glasses!

There was a big field beside the house.  One winter, we’d had freezing rain, which had created a beautiful crust on about eight inches of snow…it was so slippery, you could barely walk on it!  Our family decided to take advantage of the excellent conditions and got out the toboggan.  That was the only time I recall my mom actually going out sliding with us (Dad came out quite often).  Mom sat on the toboggan by herself, and Dad let go when she was ready.  A minute or two later, we heard a thump and a blood-curdling yell: “Dave…I think I broke my back!”  My mom had “found” the one apple tree in the middle of the field!  Dad made his way out to the scene of the accident, loaded Mom back onto the toboggan, and pulled it to the car.  After we were all in, we left for the emergency room.  Mom’s back wasn’t broken, just badly bruised!

We were lucky at the Rednersville house to have 43 acres of land with a big hill behind us.  With our friends, Jimmy and Dougie, we could go to the top of the hill, and slide several hundred feet, almost all the way back to the house.  Crazy Carpets were the best vehicle for that, once the trail was established.  One winter, there was a friendly dog around which we christened “Wolfie” because he sort of looked like one.  Wolfie used to like to jump on our backs as we hurtled down the hill on our stomachs on our Crazy Carpets.  The worst injury we ever got was ending up in thorn bushes!

A couple of times, my best friend, Angela, took me out “Skidooing” in the woods behind her house.  We were about eleven, I think (snowmobiles were a lot smaller then).  That was always fun!  My dad hated it when snowmobilers trespassed on our property…he’d go out and yell at them until they left!

I moved to New Brunswick in 1984…winter was different again…you could have snow in late October, right through April sometimes!  There is also not much of a spring…you can literally go from wearing your parka to wearing shorts (and back again, sometimes several times).  There is no gradual warming like we had in Ontario.

I lived in Moncton in February of 1992 when an all-time snowfall record was broken…Moncton had a total of fourteen feet of snow that month in THREE storms.  The biggest storm was on February 1st.  At the time, I worked at a non-profit agency which was about a 10-block walk from our apartment, and we didn’t have a car.  Buses were off the road.  I walked to work, wearing a skirt (I was wearing other clothes too!).  When we got to the building, there was a snowbank about twelve feet high in front of it!  I met one of my co-workers outside, and together we decided to go around the corner and get a coffee, in hopes that our boss might arrive soon, equipped with a shovel to dig a path to the front door!  We had our coffee, and went back to work…everything was as it was when we left.  Since it was already past time to start work, I decided to bite the bullet, and climb the snowbank!  I probably didn’t resemble a mountain goat very much in my long black wool coat, and knee-high boots as I clambered up the hill.  When we arrived in the office, there was our boss, clad in a snowmobile suit…she had come in the back door, and hadn’t thought about us trying to get in the front!  I never liked her!

I tried to find public domain photos of the big Moncton snowstorm on the Internet, but failed.  I remember a paint store on St. George St. cutting “windows” in the snowbank in front of their store and setting paint cans in them to let people know they were there!

Winters in Moncton could be very cold too…I remember one year that we had three solid weeks of windchills between -30 and -36 C. (which is almost the same temperature in Fahrenheit).  School was never cancelled for cold weather, and every day I walked Kaylee the three blocks to her elementary school.  It’s a wonder we didn’t turn into Popsicles!

I moved to Saint John, New Brunswick in November of 1997.  Winters are milder in this area due to the proximity to the ocean.  There are a lot of freeze/thaw cycles, and a lot more ice.  We had some freezing rain in November of 2007 when my dad was undergoing radiation therapy for prostate cancer.  About 6:30 a.m., he was walking to the bus stop to go to the hospital, and ended up flat on his back in the driveway two doors from our house.  He got up, and continued on his way.  While Dad was having his treatment, he mentioned that he’d had a fall and that he might need an X-ray.  The X-ray confirmed that he’d cracked five ribs.  I didn’t find out about the accident until several hours later…when I asked Dad why he didn’t just come back home, he said, “I didn’t want to mess up their schedule at radiation!”  Sometimes, my dad’s so stoic, I just want to shake him!  I was glad he wasn’t more seriously injured though!

We moved to Hammond River the following year…there’s a little more snow here than in town, and it gets a little colder, but we love it!  I’ve got the best snowplow guy in the world, which is a good thing because our driveway is a quarter mile long…way too much to shovel!  He always has us plowed out by 7 a.m.  When we can get them off their computers, the kids go out sliding, or skating at the little pond down the road.  Here’s a photo of Jim and I taken in January of 2009…not much snow then:

Wendy and Jim beside our house in Hammond River...that's the back yard behind us, and the view of the hills on the other side of the river...

 It’s been raining all week, with more to come…I hope we get some snow before Christmas!

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Mercury is Messin’ This Mother Up…

I found out on Friday that Mercury was in retrograde, according to my friend at Hippie Cahier.  Apparently, this is a bad thing.  I’ve decided to blame everything that’s happened to me this week on that messed-up planet…

1. “Goodbye, Red Meat…I loved you well.”  Kaylee, Scott and Elise came over for supper on Sunday night.  I served a beef and barley stew (with rutabaga and carrots from the garden).  Everybody loved it…I would have thrown in a few more vegetables and a bit more barley if I’d known how much they would love it!  Monday morning, the beef caught up with me…I gave up pork several years ago due to difficulty digesting it (I don’t have a problem with cured meat like ham and bacon, thank goodness!), and have lately started having trouble with beef.  I did not go to the bookstore on Monday.

2. Computer/Internet Issues.   Those started on Tuesday when I got back to the bookstore.  Every time I’d try to leave a comment on somebody’s blog, I’d have to do it two or three times because I would get booted off the Internet…it’s been like that all week!  I’ve had trouble with Hotmail too.

3. Modelling Clay Emergency.  We got home late on Tuesday night, due to Anna having cheerleading, Devin having an orthodontist appointment, and Hope’s cheerleading practice being changed from Wednesday to Tuesday.  Thankfully, Jim’s parents picked up Devin and Hope for us since it was impossible for us to get there in time!  After supper, Hope announced that she had to have modelling clay for a project at school…too exhausted to go out again, I suggested we make it.  She also told me she had a couple of other homework assignments…aargh!  Hope printed a modelling clay recipe from the Internet, and I got out the flour, salt and water.  She wanted four colours of clay…I spent the next hour trying to incorporate food colouring into the rather stiff dough (I really want to thank whichever child lost the lid for the blue food colouring…my hands were blue for three days!).  The colours came out very muddy-looking.  Meanwhile, Hope was busy in the dining room.  After a while, she came out and chucked the clay in the garbage: “I can’t get it to stick!” she said.  “I told you we should have bought it!”  I wrote a note to the teacher to explain why the homework didn’t get done…sigh…

4. Modelling Clay…Take #2.  We brought home massive amounts of dollar store modelling clay for Hope’s project on Wednesday night.  We also got Christmas cards, wrapping paper, and candy canes (for hot chocolate, of course – one of Anna’s “emergencies”).  Hope got right to work with the “good clay” and constructed her cheerleading stunt group.  She told me that the legs kept falling off, so she decided to leave them off.  There is also no “front” in the stunt group (the “back” is hidden behind the “flyer”):

Hope's Cheerleading Stunt Group

5.  Revenge of the Orca Beans.  Jim made supper, but I didn’t eat much because I wasn’t feeling very well.  I had made chili on the weekend with orca and romano beans from our garden, and had put some in my lunch on Wednesday.  Some of the family had eaten it Monday night, but I was still recovering from my “red meat episode” so had opted for cereal instead.  Jim had mentioned a bit of stomach distress after having it for his lunch on Tuesday, but I blamed that on the massive amount of chili powder he’d added to it.  By 6:30 Wednesday night, I was in agony…I spent the next 4 hours in close proximity to the commode and eating the Costco version of Imodium like M & M’s.  In the midst of my misery, I remembered that I had sent some of the killer chili home with Kaylee (Scott won’t eat beans, so she doesn’t make chili), and decided I’d better give her a heads-up.  I dialled her number.  “Hi…you know that chili I gave you?  Did you eat it yet?”  Kaylee told me that she’d planned on having it for lunch the next day.  “Throw it out!” I told her.  “I’m dying here…”

6.  “Expedited” apparently means “Whenever you feel like it.”  I felt like a dishrag on Thursday when I woke up…I opted to skip work again (lucky I can do that!).  Jim didn’t feel well either, so we stayed home together.  Dad phoned me from the store to let me know we had gotten an e-mail about a book I’d ordered for a friend on November 25th.  I had requested “expedited shipping”…according to the e-mail, it was sent on the 29th…it took them four days to get it out of the building!  They also stated that it would take up to 14 business days to arrive!  If time wasn’t of the essence, I wouldn’t have bothered paying the extra for shipping!

7.  Farewell to a dear friend.  Friday was a sad day…members of our book club gathered at a local restaurant for dinner to send a good friend, S., on her way out of the province.  She is moving 2000 miles away with her new man, who we met, and approve of…very nice fellow!  Dad and I gave S. a book about Emily Carr, an artist we knew she liked…S. was moved by the Celtic blessing I wrote in the front.  I had a glass of wine, and a beautiful spinach salad before bidding S. “Adieu”…I know we’ll see her again…she is a Maritimer, and they always come home!

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Taking Stock…Post #150…

My first post on Herding Cats in Hammond River was March 23, 2010…boy, if I knew then what I know now…

Eight months (and a bit) later, I am composing my 150th post.  I have 18 categories, and 635 tags…let’s just say I know a little about a lot of things!  I have just over 13,300 hits on my blog, and just passed 2000 comments (thank you to everyone who gives me feedback…it’s almost as good as cash, but not quite!).  I don’t have as many e-mail subscriptions as I’d like, so if you haven’t subscribed, please hit the button under my photo that says “Sign me up!” If you enjoy my blog, please tell your friends about it.  I have made awesome connections with a couple of dozen talented writers around the world…many of them are on my Blogroll (He Said/She Said at the right side).  Sadly, some have come and gone, and others aren’t around as much as I’d like them to be, but I guess you have to move with the flow of life.

In the interest of quality control, I would like your help in deciding which way I should go from here…to this end, I’d be eternally grateful if you would do the following poll (check as many boxes as you like):

Thank you for your help…I look forward to your continued visits to Hammond River!

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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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Je Parle Français (Sort of)…

In the spring of 1975, I boarded a school bus with about 29 other rural Grade 8 students from Kente Public School in Ameliasburg, Ontario, bound for L’Assomption, Quebec (a small town near Montreal).  We were going on an exchange trip for three days, unilingual anglophones being dropped into a place where French was the language of choice.

I don’t remember much of the ride there…I suspect that I must have slept through a lot of it, having spent most of the night before trying to convince my mother that maybe I shouldn’t go after all (I’d never been away from home by myself before).  Mom stuck to her guns…I think the trip probably cost them a fair amount of money (which we were usually short of).  I do remember the songs we heard on the radio, over and over: Fox on the Run, Philadelphia Freedom, and Another Somebody Done Somebody Wrong Song.  Hearing those songs always makes me think of that trip.

We arrived at Polyvalente Paul-Arseneau (the host school) at about noon.  The school housed students from Grades 7 through 13…quite unusual to combine middle school with high school!  The next thing we noticed was that at least half of the students smoked at school (and the adults didn’t seem to mind).  After a welcome speech in the gym (most of us didn’t understand any of it), we were matched with our host students and had lunch in the school cafeteria.  A swim in the school pool was scheduled after lunch.  I whipped out my pocket French-English dictionary, and tried to tell my host, Isabelle, that I did not want to go swimming (it was cool that the school had its own indoor pool, but I wasn’t a good swimmer).  After only three years of rudimentary French classes in Ontario, I’m sure my skills were sorely lacking.  French verb tenses are notoriously complicated, and we’d only learned “present tense” so far.  It took a great deal of wild gesticulating and pigeon French to get my point across.  I sat on a bench while the other kids splashed in the pool.  After the swimming, we went on a tour of the school…it was huge compared to ours!  Then we got on the buses with our host students to go home with them.  Isabelle lived in a neighbouring community called Saint-Sulpice.

Isabelle's first letter to me...her English was better than my French!

Arriving at Isabelle’s house, she introduced me to her mom, and her two sisters still living at home.  They were nice enough, but I remember very little about them.  We ate supper in awkward silence.  After supper, Isabelle’s mom dropped us off back at her school…we got on a bus which took us to Jerry Park in Montreal for a Montreal Expos game.  The Expos were playing the Cincinnati Reds (a nice coincidence since I was born in Ohio).  The Reds won 3-2.  I decided that baseball was more fun to play than to watch…

My Expos ticket stub...notice the price: $3.63 plus $.37 tax = $4.00!

It was almost midnight by the time we got back to Isabelle’s house…I was exhausted, and went right to sleep.

We slept in Saturday morning, but had breakfast before we got back into the car to return to Isabelle’s school, where we’d board another bus and head to Old Montreal.  Our first stop was the Notre Dame Cathedral.    I was used to Methodist and United churches…I was shocked when we stepped into Notre Dame…I’d never seen so much gold and beautiful artwork outside of a museum!  I would have happily spent all afternoon there…

Then, we went to Man and His World, an amusement park that had been built as part of Expo ’67 when it was held in Montreal.  I’m not a big fan of amusement parks.  We saw a dolphin show at the aquarium, and went on a few rides.   My favourite was the log ride, which was very high…we got soaked, but it was fun!

For supper, we all went to a restaurant called Crèpe Bretonne, where I had real crèpes for the first time…mine were stuffed with apples, and had whipped cream on the top (I was so excited that I made crèpes for my family when I got home!).

After supper, we drove up to Mount Royal on the bus…it was a pretty view of the city lights at night from up there!  We got home very late again that night.

There wasn’t time to sleep in on Sunday morning…we had to be at Isabelle’s school at 8:45 to board another bus for a local marina.  We went on a boat tour on the St. Lawrence River, and then had a picnic for lunch.  After another bus ride back to the school, all the anglophone students boarded our bus and headed for home.  I was excited to see my parents and brother, and sleep in my own bed!

A few weeks later, the French students visited us…they had five days to spend in Ontario.  I don’t remember much of what we did, other than attending a dance at our school where some of the French kids got into trouble for smoking outside.  One of my classmate’s parents hosted an outdoor barbecue for the exchange students at their house…imagine inviting 60 middle school kids to your back yard!  I remember music and dancing, but not much else!

Isabelle and I wrote to each other for about a year after we met, even after her family moved to Baie Comeau.  Other than both being quiet girls, I don’t think we really had much in common, and we soon lost contact with each other.

While going through some boxes the other day, I found the little book we were given to keep a journal of our trip…the only thing written in mine was Isabelle’s name and address.  I wish now I had kept a better account.  I still have all of Isabelle’s letters though…

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