Tag Archives: Ontario

My Little Brother Turned 50 Today…Memories of a Big Sister…

I was three when I came home from a trip to my Grandma Shoots’ house to find that I was no longer an only child.  The usurper was ten lbs. of trouble topped by a giant head which had torn my petite mother stem to stern when it passed through (that was all from the Shoots side)…they told me his name: Jeffery Layne…we called him “Jeffy”.  I thought he looked like a little old man!

Jeffy wasn’t much fun for me the first year…he slept too much!  If I caught him asleep, I’d give him just enough of a poke to wake him up…unfortunately for me, Mommy caught me doing it more than once!  Later, he repaid me for disturbing his slumber by sinking his teeth into my upper arm: “Mommy, Jeffy bit me!” was a common complaint thereafter…

Jeffy was very cautious…I was walking at eight months, but it was well after his first birthday before Jeff was brave enough to take his first independent steps.  I remember him getting down on all fours and turning around backwards to negotiate any small change in the terrain.

My brother was the noisiest kid I’d every encountered in my short life.  He screamed constantly, not because there was anything wrong with him, but because he seemed to enjoy the sound of his own voice!  It’s a wonder I lived through the summers of 1964 and 1965…our poor mother used to keep the windows closed (in our 95-degree Ohio weather) so the neighbours wouldn’t think she was beating him!  Luckily, by the time he was two, Jeffy replaced screaming with singing (which he would often practice randomly at church, during Daddy’s sermon).  We have an audio tape of Jeffy singing his version of the theme from Batman: “Batman! Wah, wah, wah, wah.  Batman!”

Jeffy had curly brown hair, which endeared him to everyone who saw him in my parents’ arms:  “Oh, what a pretty little girl!”, they’d say.  Wanting to put an end to the confusion, Daddy took my brother for his first visit to the barber when he was two…Jeff never had curly hair again!  I think he must have been inspired by the experience, because when he was five, my dad asked Jeffy what he wanted to be when he grew up: “I want to be a barber,” he answered.  “I got REAL scissors!”

Three-year-old Jeffy stuck at the kitchen table playing with his balloon boat, while he was supposed to be eating his peas!

Three-year-old Jeffy stuck at the kitchen table playing with his balloon boat, while he was supposed to be eating his peas!

The year Jeffy turned five was a particularly memorable one: We moved to Canada that summer, and for his birthday, Jeffy got a brand-new metallic green bike with a banana seat, monkey handlebars, and training wheels (which would stay on for the next three years…did I mention Jeff was cautious?).  Jeffy also was sent reluctantly off to kindergarten, which in hindsight, I don’t think he was ready for…almost every day, I was summoned from my Grade Three classroom to come to the kindergarten, because “Jeffy’s crying again”.  He missed about half the school year due to tonsillitis, which was lucky for me…I had just enough time in my own class to pass!   I remember being jealous when Jeffy came home from having his tonsils out…he got to have ice cream!

Jeff with his brand new bike.

Jeff with his brand new bike.

That first year in Canada was also the year that we had our first cat named Tripper…Jeffy was particularly fond of him (and a decade or so later, named a second cat “Tripper”).  We started attending church in Trenton, where Jeffy and the minister’s son, James, became best friends, and engineered many wild adventures, which you can read about here: https://writerwoman61.wordpress.com/2010/05/11/our-first-year-in-canada-part-1/, and here: https://writerwoman61.wordpress.com/2010/05/12/our-first-year-in%C2%A0canada%E2%80%A6part%C2%A02%E2%80%A6/.

In 1970, our family moved to Rednersville, where we met our friends, Jimmy and Dougie.  Jeffy and Dougie were the same age, and Jimmy was a year older.  I used to organize plays and musical productions in our back yard, which the boys would ultimately get roped into.  When I was ten, I had mastered Bob Dylan’s “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?” on the guitar, and recruited my seven-year-old brother to play the part of the girl picking the flowers.  I made a “wig” out of paper cut into strips, and plopped it on Jeffy’s head.  I played my song and sang, while he skipped around the back yard collecting the paper flowers I had carefully coloured.  The audience loved it!

Our dad built us a tree fort, and had purchased an old VW van, which he parked underneath it…the four of us spent hours playing in the van and the tree house.  We also had a path to ride bikes around the house, since we weren’t allowed to ride on the road until later.  One of our other favourite activities was a modified form of kickball, which we called “Running Around the Bases”.

When Jeffy was eight (and I was eleven), I suggested we get a paper route together…we had about 50 customers between us.  Jeffy did the closer houses, and I did the ones farther away.  Sadly, Jeffy had all the good tippers on his part of the route…jealousy reared its ugly head again!  The little bugger saved most of his money too, which I had great difficulty doing (although I did save enough to buy myself a ten-speed!).

We spent every nice day outdoors, which wasn’t always the best thing for my brother…Jeffy had inherited our mom’s hay fever in a big way!  I remember hearing him sneeze and sneeze and sneeze all summer, especially later on when he was picking vegetables for a living.

Jeff and I at the Sandbanks, ca. 1972.

Jeff and I at the Sandbanks, ca. 1972.

My mom had gotten a job by the time Jeffy was eight, so we were left to our own devices after school, which often led to bickering…one time, he was chasing me, so I ran into the house and shot the little slide bolt on the door over (our only lock).  Somehow, the lock ended up getting broken!  Another time, I thought it’d be funny to put icing from the beaters onto Jeff’s nose…he apparently didn’t share my opinion!  He chased me upstairs, and pushed me backwards into the bathtub!  We rarely fought physically, but that incident has always stuck in my mind.  Usually, I’d claw him with my nails if he started hitting me (he used to bite me, remember?)…our parents were not impressed!

When Jeff was thirteen, our parents gave us some money they’d saved for us, probably about $1500 each.  Jeff bought himself a lawn tractor from Sears, and soon had lawn mowing customers from all over the neighbourhood (I started a candy store).  He was a hard worker, and earned enough money to buy his first car from the proceeds, a Renault that he’d drive around our fields because he wasn’t old enough to have a license yet.  Jeff tried to teach me how to drive it, but I never mastered the art of letting the clutch out slowly enough not to stall the car!

Jeff got his driver’s license soon after he turned sixteen…I didn’t have mine, so my brother became my new driver…I think our parents were glad to get a break!  We took a memorable trip to Ohio in a borrowed Honda Civic with our mom one summer: https://writerwoman61.wordpress.com/2010/03/24/the-kilbourne-vine-caper/

In the summer of 1982, Jeff was working for a market gardener picking produce, and got me on to the all-male crew…that was one of the funnest jobs I’ve ever had (and a lucky break since I’d been laid off from my job at the photo lab because I’d had to take six weeks off for my college internship!).  It was in those cornfields that Jeff had some of his most spectacular sneezing fits!

Jeff on his way to work on the farm...

Jeff on his way to work on the farm…

I left home in 1983 and moved to the Maritimes…Jeff stayed at our mom’s house for several years and helped look after her (she and our dad had divorced in 1985, and she was chronically ill).  Later, he took a soldering course at Loyalist College.  Jeff’s first job after finishing school was at Leigh Instruments in Carleton Place, where he met and later married my sister-in-law, Bev (I like to think he picked her because she’s a lot like me).

In 1994, my niece, Taylor Dawn, was born.  Jeff was a doting dad and taught Taylor useful things, like how to fetch beer for him and play golf.  She inherited his love for classic cars (and beer), but she turned out all right anyway!  Jeff, Bev and Tay visited my family in Moncton, New Brunswick, in the summer of 1996.  We took them to the Magnetic Hill Zoo, which featured a small train to transport visitors around the property.  We were all riding on the train, and Jeff stuck his head out the window to look at something behind us…he pulled it back in, just as we came to a signpost along the tracks, which was disturbingly close.  When Jeff realized that he might have been decapitated had his head been out the window for another split second, he freaked out: “I could have been killed!”  He talked about it for the rest of the afternoon year..I don’t think he appreciated my uncontrollable laughter at the situation…it made for a good story, though.  Jeff’s always been a master storyteller!

Today, Jeff is still working at what is essentially the same company in Carleton Place (its third incarnation is called “DRS”).  He spends his spare time riding his motorcycle, working around the house and yard, and fishing small dead animals out of his back yard pool.  Jeff has also organized a regular summer “Cruise Night” for the other classic car lovers in the area, which has raised several thousand dollars for the local children’s hospital over the years.

Jeff and Bev on the bike...they wear helmets when it's moving!

Jeff and Bev on the bike…they wear helmets when it’s moving!

Happy 50th Birthday, Jeff!  I tease you a lot, but you’re still my brother and I’m very proud of the man you’ve become!

 

Leave a comment

Filed under family, memories

The Kilbourne Vine Caper…

Note: Today would have been my mom’s 72nd birthday.  This was my second post, so there are a lot of people who haven’t seen it…I am rerunning it today in memory of my mom.

Mom and Dad didn’t follow the typical path of Midwestern young people of their time: graduate high school, get married, and start popping out kids…Dad did a Bachelor’s in Journalism, followed by a Master’s in Divinity, and dreamed of going “back to the land” (he was raised in rural Ohio).  Mom was a “townie” – an artist who also loved music.  They were becoming more and more disillusioned with Nixon, the Vietnam War, and the crime in our neighbourhood.  In the summer of ’69, Dad quit the church and he and Mom packed up our suburban house.  Off we went to Southern Ontario, Canada.  After renting a house for a year, we settled in an old farmhouse on 43 acres of land in Prince Edward County in 1970.

I remember having a vegetable garden for several years when we first moved to the County.  Mom and Dad bought a big chest freezer, and Mom worked hard freezing everything we managed to grow.

Mom never forgot a plant that grew near the house where we lived when I was born in Kilbourne, Ohio in 1961.  She didn’t know its proper name, but called it “Kilbourne Vine.”  It was pretty, and it grew wild – that’s probably one reason it appealed to her.

Fast forward to the early 1980’s…Mom, my brother and I were planning a trip to visit relatives in Ohio.  It was on that vacation that Mom decided to bring a piece of the past home with her: she wanted to plant some “Kilbourne Vine” in our yard in Ontario.

Having arrived at my Grandad’s house in Bellefontaine, we set out for Kilbourne one day.  We got there about lunchtime, and Mom guided us to our old house.  We waited in the car while she jumped out and rang the doorbell.  No one answered.  My brother and I were somewhat horrified at what happened next…my mom began pulling pieces of the “Kilbourne Vine” out of the yard!  We kept our ears open for the scream of sirens, as we imagined being arrested by the Kilbourne sheriff for pilfering plants without permission.  Mom came back to the car, showing us her prize in triumph.  We left in a hurry, hoping some nosy neighbor hadn’t alerted the authorities!

We made it back to Bellefontaine without incident…the next hurdle would be getting through Canada Customs.  Having made many trips back and forth to Ohio over the years, Mom knew that bringing plants into Canada was illegal, but she had a plan: “I’ll put it on the floor of the back seat in plain sight, and if they say anything, I’ll just say that I didn’t know you couldn’t import plants,” she said.  My mom the rebel!

My mom the rebel!

We crossed the Ambassador Bridge and pulled up to the Canada Customs booth in Windsor.  My brother was driving.  The Customs officer was female, in her early 20’s, and was looking at Jeff with love in her eyes…she asked three questions (none of which pertained to the plant on the floor), and we were through!

We arrived home, and Mom planted the vine in her flower garden.  It thrived in its new home.  Twenty years later, Mom took a piece of it with her when she sold our house and moved in with my brother and his family in Carleton Place, Ontario.

Mom died in September of 2007.  The urn with her ashes sits on a stone wall in Jeff’s back yard, with Kilbourne vine planted close by.

I have seeds from the Kilbourne vine…I will find a special place and plant it here, too, in Mom’s memory.

57 Comments

Filed under family, gardening, memories

Yes, We Have No Wine, and Other Random Things…

Welcome to another chapter in my oh-so-exciting existence! We’ve got lots to cover…the transitions will be abrupt, so please keep a firm hold on your tea, lest it spill as we careen around corners!

1. Monday morning was sunny…I hated to have to work, but came into the bookstore anyway…I had three boxes of books to photograph, and 90 pages of our database to print off!  Hope was off school that day, so she came into town with me and helped take the pictures (it’s much easier for a 12-year-old to get up and down off the floor than it is for me!).  Anna and Brianna went to the mall…Anna used the money I gave her for jeans to buy shorts (because apparently 47 pairs aren’t enough!).  Brianna got some nail polish which is the perfect colour for my toes…maybe she’ll let me borrow it!

Anna and Brianna goofing around with the webcam last fall...

2. My friend, Dale, surprised me by dropping into the bookstore…I first met him in 1980 when we worked in two neighbouring stores in the Quinte Mall in Belleville, Ontario (I worked in a camera store, and he worked in the record store next door). I used to go into the record store and buy all kinds of albums (that was before I had kids to spend my money for me!). The following year, my boss decided to move his store to another strip mall in town, and Dale and I lost touch. Fast forward to the early 2000’s: I was receiving correspondence about an upcoming reunion of some of my buddies from Loyalist College, and saw a familiar name on the e-mail list. I e-mailed the guy and asked “Are you the same Dale who used to work in the record store?” Sure enough…turns out Dale went to Loyalist about the same time I did, and used to hang out with the radio guys I knew! We were reunited at the reunion, and have been in touch ever since…coincidentally, Dale now lives in Moncton, New Brunswick, which is only a little over an hour’s drive from where I live now. We chatted for quite a while, and then Dale left to get to a business meeting, promising to return soon to add to his “classics” collection.  We’re planning to meet up with some more friends from school this fall at the Gregg Allman show at the Harvest Jazz and Blues Festival in Fredericton in September.  I’m looking forward to seeing them all!

3. When we got home in the afternoon, Hope checked her e-mail, and excitedly called me over to the computer.  “Look at this, Mom!”  There was an e-mail from the Marketing Coordinator for Market Square…on the weekend, Hope and Gabrielle had sent her a clip of them singing “O Canada” and had asked if they could sing the national anthem at the Canada Day celebrations on July 1st.  The reply said that she would like to have the girls sing, and would be in touch soon to arrange the details!  Hope called Gabrielle right away to tell her the good news!  We were really proud of her for taking the chance to do something like that!

Gabrielle and Hope singing at a Talent Show last fall...photo by Jim

4. Monday night (after writing my Easter blog post), I remembered that Tuesday was our long-awaited book club meeting…we hadn’t gotten together since bidding our friend, Selina, “Adieu” in December when she moved to Winnipeg. We usually bring food of some sort for book club. Our book was “Secret Daughter” by Shilpi Somaya Gowder, which is set mainly in India.  What I know about East Indian food would fit neatly on the head of a pin (and I don’t eat much spicy food), so I Googled a local store where I might find something to bring to the meeting.  Upon reaching the website, I was confronted with the name of the product, a photo, and the price…no description whatsoever.  Back to Google…Nanak Gajar Halwa: “carrot fudge”? That sounds disgusting!  Nanak Rasmalai: “Soft Cheese Patty in thickened milk and sugar sauce”.  My lactose-intolerant stomach actually did a somersault after reading that!  I decided to go with something a little safer…I had a bag of Ganong Chocolate Marshmallow Eggs I’d bought on the weekend…everybody likes chocolate in our book club (and these are made in St. Stephen, New Brunswick)!

5. Tuesday morning was rainy, but at least I didn’t have a lot of work waiting for me at the store when I got there…I took the opportunity to catch up on the 40-50 blog posts I hadn’t had a chance to read over the long weekend!  It took me a long time, but there weren’t many customers wandering in to disturb me, so I was able to get it done!  I bought a Meditteranean Chicken Salad from Sagratti’s in the City Market for supper, and brought it back to the store to eat (I picked out the black olives…yuck!).   I hoped the family would save me some of Jim’s famous Turkey Soup…

Jim's soup and homemade biscuits...yummy!

6. I was the first to arrive at our Succulent Bookworms meeting (as usual – I don’t like to be late!).  I chatted with our hostess, and one of her three cats soon curled up on my lap, where it stayed for the rest of the night (if only I hadn’t been wearing black…oh well…that’s why they invented lint brushes!).  My friend called to me from the kitchen and offered me a drink, apologizing that she didn’t have any wine on hand, but that one of the other girls would probably bring some.  I declined…book club is the only time I get to indulge in red wine…I would wait until it arrived!  When she came back, she extended a ceramic plate towards me with little brown things on it.  “Oooooh…what’s this?” I squealed, thinking these must be some of those unidentifiable Indian delicacies I’d seen on that website.

“They’re the marshmallow eggs that you brought!” she prompted.  “Don’t you remember?”

I’m sure I turned about three shades of red before muttering, “Oh, yeah…” (damn peri-menopausal mushbrain!).  The chocolates looked a lot classier on that plate than they did in the compostable bag they came in!

The other girls trickled in over the next hour-and-a-half…nobody brought wine, but we did have a nice selection of food to choose from by the time everyone arrived!  There were two kinds of naan bread with mango chutney and guram masala for dipping, some pita chips with yogurt dip, some mini caramel muffins, and some decadent squares which were purely Western but awesome anyway!  We had some delicious mango juice to drink, which I’m planning to seek out next time I’m at Costco!  The hostess’ 3-year-old daughter demonstrated some of her ballet moves for us before her dad took her up to bed (he was mumbling something about getting her away from us before we corrupted her…another Bookworm man thinks we’re “witches”)…

We chatted about the book for a while (everybody liked it – excellent choice for a book club read), and then got off on our usual tangent…that was the first Worms meeting I’d ever attended where no one was drinking!  It was weird, but good…I can’t wait for the next meeting!

I was happy to get home to bed soon after 10:30…it had been a long day…

37 Comments

Filed under blogging, books, food, friends, satire

Facebook Ads That Made Me Go “Hmmm”…Spring Edition

Last fall, I wrote a post about the ads that show up in the sidebar on Facebook while I’m trying to concentrate on my extremely crucial games of Scrabble, Lexulous, Wordscraper, Bejewelled Blitz, Hexagonized, Jeopardy, and Bomboozle…the marketers are still after me!

For goodness sake...keep your voice down! Someone might hear you!

The ad said:  “1 Tip for Wrinkles

Dermatologists don’t want you knowing this $5 wrinkle secret.”

My response:

Dear Wrinkle Guy:

I already know how to get wrinkles!  I got mine the natural way: from my children (and there were those years of picking fruit and vegetables in full sun with no sunscreen).  I didn’t pay money for them (the wrinkles or my children!).  Maybe Oprah can afford $5 for her wrinkles, but I can’t!  Besides, she’s steered me wrong before…I bought Ursula Hegi’s Stones from the River because it was one of Oprah’s Book Club picks…it was so depressing, I was tempted to call Dr. Phil!  What were we talking about again?

That doll's creepy...let's just leave her hidden, shall we?

The ad said: “New Hidden Object Game

Play the new addicting hidden object game on Facebook!”

My response:

Dear Game Pimps:

I am already hopelessly addicted to seven of your games (see 1st paragraph of this post), which I play when I’m not reading/commenting on one of the more than 50 blogs that I follow, or writing my own blog.  I’m not quite sleeping at the keyboard yet, but that’s coming soon!  Besides, I spend a good deal of my real life looking for “hidden objects”: books that somebody’s ordered in our bookstore, Jim’s keys, teenagers’ homework, cellphones, iPod earbuds, the jeans with the diagonal pocket on the left hip, shoes, cheerleading Spankies, etc.  Thanks but no thanks!

She looks awfully happy about her profession...

The ad said: “$84/hr At Home Jobs

Can you type? Get paid $84/hr working from home.  Requirements: Computer”

My response:

Dear Mr. Scammer:

I can think of very few jobs where one can make $84 working at home…none of them require a computer or typing ability, and at least a couple of them are illegal.  I suspect that my body type would be unsuitable for the type of employment you have in mind…I also hate having my picture taken!  Find another sucker!

Kobo is for dodos...

The ad said: “Reading from your iPad?

Click here to get 20% off eBook Coupon!  Kobo has more than 2 millions of FREE eBooks and low-priced bestsellers.  get yours now!”

My response:

Dear Dodo Kobo:

I do not own an iPad, or a smart phone.  I do not Tweet, and I’m the world’s slowest texter.  When I read, I read books with paper pages…they are rarely bestsellers (unless they were bestsellers of the 1860s!).  If your last “sentence” is an example of the material available in your eBooks, I hereby offer my services as an editor.  I can help you reel in more live ones convince more people to buy your product!  I’ll use the money you pay me to buy real books!

Funcheez...really?

The ad said: “Try NEW Funcheez

Let your imagination go wild with NEW Black Diamond Funcheez Marbelicious Moons and Planets.”

My response:

Dear Black Diamond:

Even though I have a sentimental fondness for your brand of cheese since it’s made in Belleville, Ontario, where I went to high school, I feel compelled to comment on your latest marketing idea.  You’ve mispelled “cheese”, and “fun” and “cheese” should be two words.  Moons and planets?  I hope you didn’t make a “Pluto”!  When I grew up, the only cheese “shapes” we had were fresh curd purchased direct from the cheese factory on a Sunday drive…yummy!  The Black Diamond cheese I buy for my family comes in rectangles…I buy the 500-gram one (which used to be 700 grams but is getting smaller all the time!).  By the way, we’re running low…how about sending me some coupons?

Advertisers…you can’t fool this old fool!

  

54 Comments

Filed under rants, satire

I’m Not a Ghost, But Yesterday I Played One in Real Life…

This isn't me...I'm a lot taller! (photo from daddytypes.com)

Have you ever had one of those days when you wonder if you’re invisible, a mere figment of someone else’s overactive imagination?  That was my day yesterday…all day!

It all started in the morning, after I arrived at the bookstore and sat down at my computer.  As per my routine, I updated our store’s Facebook page with a “Today in History” fact and a book relevant to it, and added a daily quote about books.  Then I opened my Hotmail.  Since it was Monday, there were lots of new blog posts to comment on…

I opened the first one, read it, typed my comment and posted it.  Everything was going swimmingly until I reached the fourth new post.  I read the post, chuckled heartily, wrote a pithy reply and hit the “Post Comment” button, making sure to tick the box so I would receive notification of further comments.  The page refreshed, and my clever comment had disappeared into the vast realm of cyberspace, never to be seen again!  After a few choice words (none of which were nice), I reconstructed my response as best I could, and attempted to repost.  ARRGGH!  Gone!  I thought, “Maybe it’s my computer.”  I rebooted, and reopened all my windows.  Version #3 of my formerly hilarious comment was a mere shadow of its earlier incarnations, which I suppose doesn’t really matter, because it vanished too!  I gave up on that one…I was sure that person’s blog had technical difficulties.

I opened the next new post in my e-mail.  Another brilliant post!  I congratulated the writer on his wit and writing skill, and sent my compliments hurtling once again into Never Never Land!  I tried once more (are you familiar with Einstein‘s definition of insanity: doing something over and over and expecting different results?).  Remembering one of the tag lines from The IT Crowd, “Have you tried turning it off and on?”, I not only rebooted, but flipped the router off and on as well.  That should do it!

With my Hotmail window reopened, I clicked on another new post.  This one was about blogrolls, a topic dear to my heart.  I offered my input in a couple of paragraphs, and confidently “posted” my comment.  NOT!  I looked around and briefly considered sticking my head in the oven, but our microwave was far too small…Instead, I sent an urgent-sounding e-mail to WordPress Support:

Subject: My Comments are Invisible!

I made comments on other people’s blogs (multiple times).  I saw: NOTHING!!! (one time when I was smart enough to copy and paste a comment before I sent it, I got a notification that it was a duplicate comment…still nothing showed up!).  I expected my comments to be visible!
I have cleared my cache and rebooted my computer (twice).
Help please!!!
 
Wendy

A little while later, I got a nice e-mail from a “happiness engineer” at WordPress apologizing for the “inconvenience” (at that point I’d been trying to post comments for more than an hour!) and advising me to send details to Akismet (the spamcatcher).  “They’ll be able to sort you out.”  I really hoped that somebody could…and maybe they could fix my problem with commenting while they were at it!  I sent a similar e-mail to Akismet, explaining my difficulties and imploring them to do everything in their power to remedy them!  I continued to read new posts, but knew that commenting on them at this point would probably be useless…I also wrote this post so that my friends would know that I wasn’t ignoring them on purpose.  I contacted a couple of the bloggers via Facebook, one of whom told me that my comments had ended up in her spam bucket.

In the afternoon, we had some of our regular customers come into the bookstore: a couple of book dealers from Fredericton accompanied by a friend who was a book collector.  The collector inquired about books by Mika Publishing (which happens to be located in Belleville, Ontario near where I grew up).  I checked our database, and found we had a Mika book about Lunenburgh, and asked Dad to locate it in its box with the other Loyalist-related material.  I went into the other room with one of the book dealers to find something for him.  Dad came back with the book and asked me what he should do with it.  “Show it to the guy who asked about Mika books!” I replied.

“Why…is it Mika?” Dad asked.

“Yes!” I answered, barely concealing my annoyance.  Is this thing on?  After Dad left the room, the dealer I was talking to burst out laughing…

“I wouldn’t have believed that if I hadn’t heard it for myself!” he said.

“Multiply that by 9 hours a day for 11 years,” I answered.  “And he lives with me too!  It’s a wonder I still have my sanity.”

Jim came and picked up Anna and I, and we headed for home.  Hope had an appointment at the after hours clinic for 6:15, and we would have to hurry if we wanted to eat before we left again!

We bolted some Sloppy Joes and fries, and arrived early at the office.  The doctor wrote a prescription for Hope.  We took it to the drugstore and dropped it off…the woman at the counter told us it would be ready in about twenty minutes.  To kill time, we went to the dollar store and looked for things that Hope and Brianna needed for school projects.  We amassed quite a pile of stuff between the three of us, and took it to the checkout (there was no one there).  Eventually a clerk came from the back and called to us from the other counter, “I can help you over here!”

“I was afraid of that!” I answered while smiling through gritted teeth, as I tried to scoop up our 57 items to move them.

“Oh, I can help you with that,” she said, cheerfully.  We paid for our purchases and went back to the drugstore.  There were six people in line at the prescription counter…Hope and I took our place at the back of the line.  The customer who was holding up the line had a prescription that her insurance company wasn’t covering the full cost of, and she couldn’t seem to grasp the fact that she needed to ask her doctor to call them.  We’d been in line more than ten minutes when one of the pharmacists came out and asked if anyone had any questions or if we were all picking up prescriptions.  No one had any questions.

The pharmacist asked, “Who’s next?” and a lady who’d been standing off to my left (not in line) piped up.

“I’m just here to pick up my prescription.”

I thought, “That’s what we’re all here for, Lady…that’s why we’re in this line.”

She continued, “I was here before…I just came back!”  Guess who got served before I did!  I had Hope pinch me to make sure I really existed…

When we got home, I went to my computer and opened my e-mail.  Still no response from Akismet, but I decided to give commenting another shot.  I picked a blog I’d already tried to comment on, and typed a message about commenting earlier, explaining that the comment had probably gone into the spam.  I crossed my fingers and toes as my mouse hovered over the “Post Comment” button.  I clicked it.  SUCCESS!  Hooray! 

Apparently, I’m not a ghost after all!

58 Comments

Filed under blogging, books, family, rants, satire, shopping

Rock It Science…Couch Curling for Dummies…

I admit it…I am what’s known as a “couch curler”…I have watched and enjoyed curling every winter for the last 30 years or so (I can’t play because of my bad knees).  It all started when I was about eighteen…I was just coming off my Wayne Gretzky crush, when I stumbled on a Junior Curling event on TV.  It was 1980, and skip John Kawaja from Northern Ontario won it all.  He was gorgeous (Wayne who?)!

John played Third for Ed Werenich's winning 1983 Brier Team...that's John second from the right...photo by Doug Shanks, Canadian Press

Having been made aware of my love for a sport that causes many Americans to scratch their heads and ask “What’s that?”, my friend Todd urged me to do a piece on curling: “Wendy…you really, really, really need to post something about the sport of curling.”  The Brier (the Canadian national men’s tournament – the Super Bowl of curling) was just played this past weekend, and I like my readers to be happy, so…here goes…I present “Couch Curling for Dummies”, a fun guide which will allow you to impress your friends with your vast knowledge of a sport that most people south of the 49th Parallel don’t know exists!

The Game Has Ends and is Called a Draw Even When the Score Isn’t Tied

A traditional curling match or draw has ten ends, which aren’t “endings”, but sections of the game, like innings in baseball or quarters in football (a match can be shorter than ten ends, if one team is getting their butts kicked and forfeits!).  Each team delivers eight stones for each end.  The ends themselves aren’t timed individually, but each team has 73 minutes to throw their stones during the regular game, and the option of taking two 60-second timeouts.  If extra ends are required, they get an extra 10 minutes and one timeout per end to play. 

The Team Has Ends

Each curling team or rink has afront end: the lead and the second.  The lead delivers his two stones, followed by the second, who throws his two.  These folks are the main sweepers for the team, usually the muscles of the outfit.  The team’s back end is where the brains are, the third (or mate, usually only in the platonic sense) and the skip.  The third plays after the second, and offers advice to the skip about team strategy.  The third also sweeps when the lead and the second throw their stones.  The skip is the boss, and is usually the best player on the team (he almost never sweeps, unless a stone needs “extra help” to get where they want it to go!).  He calls the shots…skips need to be both smart and good yellers (see “What the Skip Yells” below).  People who curl nearly always have day jobs…curling doesn’t pay the big bucks like hockey, and players usually travel on their own dime!  Curlers are people you’d run into when you’re getting groceries or picking up your kids at school.  I’ve never heard of a curler using “performance-enhancing” drugs.

The Game is Played on a Sheet With Houses and Hacks at Each End

The sheet is a carefully-prepared patch of ice about 150 feet long by 16.5 feet wide.  Small droplets of water are intentionally sprayed on the ice that cause irregularities on the surface (pebble), allowing the rocks to curl (travel in a curved fashion rather than a straight line).  At each end of the sheet, there are three concentric rings, a red one measuring 4′, surrounded by a white one measuring 8′, inside a blue one measuring 12’…these are the houses, or the targets that the players are shooting for.  In the middle of the house is the button, a one-foot circle which is the bullseye…stones of the same colour closest to the button at the conclusion of an end will score (see “How To Score Points”).  Twelve feet behind each button are the hacks, two rubber-lined holes 3″ from the centre line which give the thrower something to push against with his foot when delivering the throw (he would choose the appropriate hole based on which foot he pushes with).  There are also horizontal lines on the sheet: the near hog line is closest to the hack…the player must let go of his rock before the stone touches the near hog line, and the rock must cross the far hog line (without crossing the back line or touching the sides) to be in play.  The T-line goes through the middle of the house, and is the point where the front end has to stop sweeping once the rock touches it.  Only the skip can sweep the rock after it’s crossed the T-line, and this is also the only point at which the other team can sweep a rock. 

Curling sheet – CL: Centreline • HOL: Hogline • TL: Teeline • BL: Backline • HA: Hackline with Hacks • FGZ: Free Guard Zone (diagram from Wikipedia.org)

Everybody Has A Broom, Rocks, a Slider and a Gripper

Each team member carries a broom, which is really a long-handled brush used to balance when delivering a rock, clean the ice in front of a stone (sweeping lightly), and sweep a rock, which means really digging into the ice in front of a stone while it’s in motion to make it go faster and straighter (this is where the “muscle” comes in for the front end of the team).  The rocks are 38 to 44 lb. polished chunks of granite fitted with coloured handles, usually either red or yellow in tournament play.  A narrow 5″ ring on the bottom of the rock is the only part of the stone that actually touches the ice.  Sliders are slipped over the toe of one shoe of the curlers on their sliding foot so that they can glide easily down the ice when delivering their shots.  The other shoe is their gripper.  Some curlers use curling gloves to grip the rock or the broom more easily.  Players use stopwatches to track rock speed and make decisions about strategy.

Taking A Shot

To deliver a shot, a player crouches and places his gripper shoe in the hack with the stone in one hand (resting on the ice) and his broom in the other.  Aiming toward the skip who is holding his broom where he wants the stone at the other end of the sheet, the player rests his own broom on the ice for balance as he pulls the stone back, then lunges smoothly out from the hack pushing the stone ahead while the slider foot is moved in front of the gripper foot, which trails behind.

The Canadian team taking a shot at the 2006 Olympics (photo by Bjarte Hetland)

Once the rock comes out of the shooter’s hand, it’s up to the sweepers to make sure it gets where it’s supposed to go…the skip tells them what to do.

Types of Shots

Making good shots in curling takes years and years of practice, as well as a steady hand.  Good sweepers help too.

A draw shot is one that is simply sent into play without knocking another stone out.  A freeze is where a stone is shot so that it lands as close as possible to another stone already in play, and makes it nearly impossible to take out.  The draw and the freeze are the precision shots, because they travel much more slowly than the takeout shots, and are harder to control. 

A takeout is one where the shooter is removing another stone in play by hitting it with his own: in a peel, the shooter hits the other stone hard enough that the shooter’s stone will also go out of play (if he wants to blank the end – see “How To Score Points”).  A raise is where the shooter uses the delivered stone to bump another one forward, and a raise takeout is a shot in which the delivered stone bumps a second stone which in turn knocks a third stone out of play (also called a runback).         

What the Skip Yells

1. “Hard” or “Hurry Hard“.  Tells the sweepers to sweep harder and faster.

2. “Offor “Whoa”.  Tells the sweepers to stop sweeping a rock, but not necessarily cleaning it.

3. “Right Off“.  Tells the sweepers not to sweep or clean a rock.

4. “Never“.  This lets the sweepers know that the rock needs to curl and that they should stay off of it.      

Note: These commands rarely work with children or if one is caught in a traffic jam.

How to Score Points – Slide Softly and Carry a Big Hammer

Points are scored after each end depending on how many rocks a team has closest to the button in the house without an opposing stone intermixed (one point for each rock)…with good players, it is rare to score more than 3 points in a given end (common scores are 1 or 2).  The rock closest to the button is called the shot rock, while the next closest one is second shot, and so on.  Only one team can score points in each end.

The team who delivers the last rock of the end is said to have the hammer – this is a huge advantage.  Who has the hammer in the first end is usually determined by a coin toss…after that, whoever didn’t score in the preceding end has the hammer in the next one.  If the end is blanked, the team who has the hammer keeps it for the next end.  If a team manages to score in an end where they don’t have the hammer, it’s called a steal (no one is penalized in this case).

After the Game

Once a draw is finished, the players generally shake hands, gather up their stuff, and get off the ice.  Later, they may stack the brooms, which means socializing with each other or their opponents, usually over a beer or two.  They might also trade curling pins which are often collected by players and spectators alike, and displayed on sweaters, vests and hats.

Pin collectors Roger and Bob compare notes at this year's Brier...photo by Morris Lamont, London Free Press

The next time you’ve got three hours to kill on a winter weekend, flip on a curling game on TSN, and curl up on the couch with some popcorn!  I’m looking forward to watching the PVR of The Brier tonight, even though I already know who won.  I’ll be yelling “Hurry hard!” at Glen Howard’s Ontario team!

59 Comments

Filed under memories, satire, self-discovery

Flax, Fishing, Flickr, Flatulence, and Frustrations…But the Alliteration Stops Here…

It’s been another “can’t get out of my own way” week…here are some of the highlights:

1. Flax.  Spurred by my friend Suzanne’s success with homemade bagels,  I decided to give them a try.  I make bread a lot, but have only tried to make bagels one other time (with disappointing results!).  I eat a bagel (with jam) every morning for breakfast…my favourite flavour is “Sunflower Flax,” so I looked for a recipe for Flax Bagels online (thank you, Kristin!).  The recipe I used recommended dividing the dough into small balls before forming the bagels by sticking your thumb through the ball and stretching the hole a bit.  The boiling time was also quite a bit longer than Suzanne recommended: 5 minutes (I compromised with about three minutes).  One thing I learned is that I should have loosened the bagels from the cookie sheet right after I took them out of the oven…as they cooled, the sugar water stuck them to the tray like glue (even though I oiled the pan first).  Here are six of my 18 “beauties”:

Flax Bagels...they tasted as good as they look!

2. Fishing.  One of Jim’s work colleagues invited him to visit his ice-fishing hut this past weekend (we wanted to go, but were too busy ferrying kids around – maybe next weekend!).  I’ve loved to fish since I was a kid in Rednersville in Prince Edward County, Ontario…the best part of fishing is digging for the worms!  My younger brother and I would buy fish hooks at our neighbourhood store (2 for 5 cents), and take our rods down to the Bay of Quinte.  Mostly, we caught sunfish, perch, and large and small-mouthed bass…we always threw them back (the only fish we ate then came in stick form, and the Bay was known for its mercury contamination).  One day, I caught a big catfish. Unfortunately, it had swallowed my hook…I tried and tried to get it out (I even went home and got Dad’s needle-nosed pliers!).  After an hour-and-a-half, I reluctantly cut the line, knowing that the fish would probably die…what a decision for an eleven-year-old!  I was a guilty mess for the rest of the day!

The last time I was fishing was about seven years ago, when Hope was five…we took the kids to a Fish Farm, where they had a pond stocked with speckled trout.  You could catch as many as three fish, and pay, based on the weight of what you caught.  Hope has a rather short attention span…she was done in about three minutes.  I took over her pole (Anna stuck with it!).  We got our three fish, and took them home.  Once they were cleaned and filleted (a part of fishing I refuse to do), I stuffed them with fresh mushrooms and baked them in the oven…yummy!

Jim and I got fishing licenses the first summer we lived at Hammond River, but never ended up going fishing…maybe this summer!

3. Flickr.  Anna got a spiffy new camera on the weekend, the Nikon D3100.  The plan is for her to start building her portfolio for her post-secondary education (she graduates in 2012).  She’s been borrowing Jim’s zoom lens and taking photos of our back porch wildlife.  Anna has a new account on Flickr if you want to see more (link also under “Photos” at right).

One of our kamikaze squirrels...someone should tell them that plastic isn't good to eat! (Photo by Anna Matheson)

 

4. Flatulence.  The other day, I was having a spirited conversation with a customer at the bookstore about the beauty of structural details in old buildings.  We were standing in front of the “Technical” section…I heard a series of small explosions as he stepped quickly away from me, excusing himself.  Whoo-eee!  I don’t know what the man had for breakfast, but my money’s on beans!  I bit my lip, trying hard not to laugh…it doesn’t take much to get me going…I wonder sometimes if I was a 10-year-old boy in another life!

5. Frustrations.  We had another snowstorm yesterday, which dropped another foot on us, and gave the kids another snow day, their fifth one this winter (it came at the end of the high schoolers’ exams, and two “turn-around” days, so the older kids had a whole week off!).  Since Jim had a doctor’s appointment in the afternoon, his boss suggested he work from home in the morning.  I decided to take a “snow day” too.  I stayed in my jammies all day, stepping away from the computer every once in a while to break up arguments in the family room (and load the dishwasher with millions of cups and bowls!). 

Jim left for the doctor’s office around two…the snow was a blizzard by then!  He texted me to let me know he’d made it to the office, and then called once he was finished with his appointment.  He advised that he was going to pick up a prescription and then return home.  My dad called at 4:00 from the bookstore to say that he was planning to close early and come home…he wanted to know how the driveway was.  I told him our plow guy hadn’t come yet, but he’d probably make it in if he hurried!  Fifteen minutes later, Jim called to tell me the transmission on the car had died a mile down the road…he was waiting for a tow truck, and directing people around the car, which was still in the roadway.  Luckily, our neighbour who lives in the house near where he broke down invited Jim in to get warm while he waited…he usually wears several layers of clothing (he once went to work with two pairs of pyjama pants under his jeans), but had left the house in a hurry in the afternoon (at least there was a toque and gloves in the car!).  He finally got home about 5:15…the tow truck driver had kindly dropped him off (for just over $140, it was the least he could do!).  So our Toyota is sitting at the transmission repair place in Saint John waiting for parts, in line behind several other vehicles whose parts were delayed by the snowstorm.  Did I mention we just had our van towed to the garage on Monday to have the problems with the power steering and the blower fixed (tally for that is over $1000 so far – they found some rusty lines)?  Thankfully, Jim’s parents will lend us a car until we have at least one of our vehicles back!

I got to bed late last night after a long distance phone call to a dear friend who’s going through a big crisis in her life.  Apparently, I neglected to set my alarm, and woke up an hour late this morning (and spent ten minutes looking for Anna’s cheerleading shorts, and then her coat).  I’m hoping people won’t notice that I haven’t had a shower…

At least I’m not farting…

67 Comments

Filed under books, cooking, family, memories, nature, self-discovery