Somewhere Over the Rainbow

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Four months ago my father died.

Quickly and unexpectedly.

Dad was 82 and yes, he’d had a good life, but we all wanted more; after all, he was the healthy one, the caregiver for my mom. She’s the one with breast cancer and brain tumours and mobility issues. Dad was the blue-eyed jokester, the daily walker, the outdoors man, the artisan woodworker, and the artist.

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self-portrait Sad Clown

He taught me how to paddle a canoe silently and slowly, quickly and powerfully, forward, backward and side to side. He patiently, over a long period of time, taught me how to ride a bike. He attempted to teach me how to drive a car, but finally sent me to a professional for both our sakes. After many hours of instruction and practice I eventually passed the driver test, although to this day my husband and children don’t quite understand how that ever happened.

worlds worst driver

courtesy amazon.com

He tried to teach me to fish but had much better luck teaching my son as I wasn’t fond of worms, his preferred form of bait. dad&alec.jpg

He taught me how to make the World’s Best Fudge from his super-secret recipe, much to my daughter’s everlasting delight – of course now she makes it better than I do.

Dad was the curious one, the one who read the newspaper all the way through, the one who watched the nightly news and discussed world events.

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He was master of the game – solitaire, bridge, cribbage, rummikub and more. grandpa-kids_0005-2

He was also the organized one who assembled  all of the pertinent legal and financial information, listed and annotated it and placed it in a small wooden box for safe keeping.

Dad was the magical dog-whisperer long before Cesar Millan claimed that title. When I was growing up in small town Ontario, Dad trained Sam and Piper, our two black Labrador Retrievers, to heel off-leash on either side of him and walk that way for miles. And when they came to a park or a field, he’d let them run but they always came charging back when he called. No treats were required – they simply wanted to please him. And there was no barking unless there was a darn good reason, like a stranger entering the house unannounced. Sam and Piper were followed by many other wonderful dogs over the years.

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Photo by Jaromir Chalabala/Shutterstock.com

Dad was the careful one who lived within his means and saved money for retirement and beyond. Way beyond. Yet he and my mom thoroughly enjoyed their lives together,
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and their many lunches and dinners out (neither one liked to cook).Tim Hortons was their favourite spot for coffee. And of course doughnuts. While money was never plentiful, they never ever complained about not having enough.

He was the one with the musical ear, who could tell whether the piano was in or out of tune when Mom’s piano students plunked and struggled their way through scales and exercises and sonatas.

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But now when I just won’t can’t do something – like clean up after my dog or move a heavy box  – who will call me Helpless Hannah?

And when my temper gets the better of me and I become cranky and angry – usually with one of my children for a very good reason – who will quote Henry Wadsworth Longfellow:

There was a little girl,
            Who had a little curl,
Right in the middle of her forehead.
            When she was good,
            She was very good indeed,
But when she was bad she was horrid.

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Or when I’m out walking dodging dogs and kids, who will say to me for no reason whatsoever,

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Fuzzy Wuzzy drawing by GH-MoNGo

I suppose this rhyme long held a special place in my dad’s heart as he himself didn’t have much hair after the age of 30 or so. Same with my husband…who knows what will happen with my son?!

Perhaps my husband and kids will  read this and perhaps they’ll take up Dad’s mantle. After all, somebody needs to keep me on the straight and narrow. Somebody needs to remind me to have a little fun every now and then.Somebody to tell me that this too shall pass.

In the meantime, I know that Dad is Somewhere Over the Rainbow, throwing sticks and balls for Sam and Piper and the other dogs, who are all ecstatic to be reunited with their friend and master.

Really!

 

 

 

 

 

 

So if I’m a writer, what do I write?

Here’s a sneak peek at the first page of my middle grade novel – please note that it’s draft # 341 and is likely to change at any moment. Really!

cartoon courtesy iclipart.com

cartoon courtesy iclipart.com

THE TROUBLE WITH QUEENIE

Chapter One – My First Day as Popular

So what if things didn’t turn out quite as I’d imagined on my first-ever day of school at Western Canada Prep. I could still rule W.C.P.S..  I really could!

This morning I’d been so excited to get started. The fancy school, perched high above the highway that snakes across West Vancouver, was much newer and nicer than my crummy old one, and I was 110% positive it was going to be amazing and the kids were going to love me. Yep, this year I was going to be super popular for sure!

Proudly sporting my brand-new blue SpongeBob backpack, I dodged the big shiny cars dropping off kids, zigzagged up the steep street, raced through the chatting and laughing people, and smashed into Mrs. Hope, the Headmistress. Why did she have to stand right in my way, guarding the doors of W.C.P.S.?

“Queenie!” said Mrs. Hope in her posh British accent with her hands on her hips. Her  big bug eyes behind ginormous gold-rimmed glasses, grey helmet-hair and giraffe-long legs, would scare most kids, but not me.  Not today. Last week Mom and I had met her and my teacher, Miss Parfait, when we had our tour of the school.

Mrs. Hope spoke slowly and carefully like I was in kindergarten instead of Grade 5. “Number one: no child shall cross the road by him or herself. Number two: no child shall walk up the driveway by him or herself. Number three: no child shall leave their car until the car reaches the yellow line in front of the main set of doors.”

What the heck?

I bit my lip to keep from arguing with her, and shifted from one foot to the other. My feet were really uncomfortable in these brand-new, black-leather shoes, and my uniform was so so so itchy and scratchy. I peered way way up at her face, which was totally serious. And even kind of mad. I gulped, blinked and loudly promised never to break those very important rules ever again. A couple of little kids giggled, pointed at me and walked way far around us. This was not supposed to be happening to me today.

“Don’t forget, Queenie. These rules are for the benefit of you and every other girl and boy at Western Canada Prep School here in West Vancouver. Please try to remember this is a fresh beginning for you.” Mrs. Hope must’ve talked to Mrs. Franklin, the evil principal of the public school I’d gone to in Ontario for the past five years. I’m sure she made up lots of nasty stuff about me.

Really.

Probably.

Okay, maybe some of it was true.

“Sure thing, Mrs. H.!” I said as I turned and zipped down the hall. Over the yelling and screaming kids, I heard her call out, “It’s Mrs. Hope, Queenie, and no running in the halls!”

courtesy iclipart.com

courtesy iclipart.com

 

Do you love it? Do you hate it? Let me know…really!

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courtesy iclipart.com

 

 

A Tale of Two Sisters

Once upon a time there were two sisters who were nine years apart in age.  Even though they loved each other very much, they couldn’t be more different from one another.

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One had fine blond hair, while the other had curly dark brown hair.

One was average height, while the other was statuesque.

One excelled at school, particularly in English and Mathematics, while the other excelled at sports, especially in swimming and volleyball.

One was cautious and introverted and found solace in reading fiction, while the other was effervescent and gregarious and loved to hang out with friends.

One maintained virtually the same hair colour and style for over twenty years, while the other changed the colour and style of her hair on a monthly basis.

One pierced her ears as a teenager (just one hole in each lobe), while the other pierced each ear numerous times, and got a small tattoo or her ankle, followed fifteen years later by a larger one on her lower back.

One was determined to pursue a highly successful financial career, and the other set her sights on marrying the love of her life and being a stay-at-home mom.

One embraced a conservative outlook on life, while the other thrived on a seat-of the-pants approach.

One moved across the country to live on the wet West Coast, while the other moved to a subdivision within an hours drive of where they grew up.

Eventually each sister did get married and each sister did pursue a career, one in accounting and one in recreation therapy. Each sister had two children, a girl and a boy. As time went by, however, they traded aspirations, so that the conservative accountant became the stay-at-home mother and the outgoing athlete became the manager of many.

When the older sister’s daughter turned eighteen, and that daughter went to university far, far away, the older sister wondered: had the universe played a joke on the two sisters? After all, her crazy, charismatic, bohemian daughter had long brown hair (before she dyed it pink – yep, the latest!), numerous piercings (including a recent nose stud), a tattoo (still just one – fingers crossed), and desperately wanted to save the world from itself.1097285_10153091960670290_1898675884_o

The younger sister, meanwhile, had a daughter with blond hair, who was cautious and careful, who enjoyed the orderly nature of mathematics, the quiet pleasure of reading, and who lived for dance – jazz, ballet and hip-hop.527614_10151435117720084_1288564314_n

I think someone somewhere is laughing at us, big time. The good thing is …IMG_0933-001

we’re laughing right back. Really!

Time to Man Up

My husband utters these words all the time and it drives me absolutely crazy. Sometimes he refers to our son, sometimes the dog, and sometimes people at work. He generally knows better than to use those dreaded words in connection with me. So I guess I’m just going to have to do it for him.

Because I’ve fallen off the edge of the world.

Because I’ve fallen down the rabbit hole.

courtesy iclipart.com

courtesy iclipart.com

For those of you who have read my blog previously, you’ll know that for the past couple of months I have been whining complaining writing about the amazing people in my life, and in particular my daughter, the Demon Child.

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courtesy iclipart.com

This school year has proven to be  a nightmare,  a disaster of epic proportions, an extremely stressful and challenging one, given the fact that the Demon Child :

  • is in Grade 12, her last year of high school
  • has a steady boyfriend who is in Grade 11(he doesn’t have the same stress as those in Grade 12)
  • has been applying to several prestigious Canadian universities back east
  • is a hormonal teen age girl who seems to be PMS-ing 24/7!!!
  • has ADHD, so that ordinary difficulties for other kids become MONUMENTAL END-OF-THE-WORLD TYPE PROBLEMS for her which she typically takes out on her poor, long-suffering mother (yeah, that’s me)

The past month in particular has been a topsy-turvy crazy roller coaster ride;

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courtesy iclipart.com

heck, it’s been the 10 hour version of Space Mountain, that super scary Disney roller coaster ride in the dark – yeah that’s my life.

courtesy Orlando Fun Tickets

courtesy Orlando Fun Tickets

Especially this past month. Something about March….spring, renewal, and its opposites – death, destruction. Okay maybe I’m the one that’s being a wee bit dramatic now.

So let’s consider the good, the incredible, the WOW March factors…

  • the Demon Child traveled to Nicaragua on a school trip for 3 weeks – I tried not to clap and cheer too too much before she left
  • my hubby, The Original Obnoxious One and I went to Maui for a week…just the 2 of us…for our first visit ever! Yes, we were absolutely the only people in West Vancouver (other than our kids) who had not been to Maui.
  • the Demon Child actually got accepted into each of her top 3 choices for university.  I’m still not sure how that happened!?
  • We kind of bought a new house, subject to the sale of our current home – even the paperwork has been signed!
  • After the power washing and the window washing and the cleaning and the gardening and the staging, we put our house up for sale
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But of course, we never get the absolutely terrific stuff without the awful, dreadful terrible crap. And this time the bad has been  really bad. It put all of my whining and all of my complaining into perspective as just that…whining and complaining.

First off, when we had the building inspection done on our new house – it failed every single test…and not just a little, but a ton. In fact, it’s a miracle the place is still standing, because any minute it just might slide into the ocean. So yes, I pouted and was a little upset. But this was nothing…

courtesy iclipart.com

courtesy iclipart.com

Compared to the loss of Killer, our 12-year-old yellow labIMG_2087 that we’ve had since she was a puppy.Scan.BMP She wasn’t eating everything in sight as usual and was vomiting so I took her to the vet to for a checkup …and left with a death sentence. Tests clearly showed a multitude of tumors in her lungs; she had been experiencing difficulty breathing, but we thought old age was simply catching up with her.  We waited 24 hours for our daughter to return home, (which meant that my husband was then out of town) and skyped my son in.

The next day Killer was gone.

You may think Killer was just a dog, and an old one at that, but

  • for 12 years she gave each member of our family unconditional love and support
  • for 12 years she was a calming presence in a house full of big personalities and bigger egos
  • for 12 years she kept me company when the kids went to school
  • for 12 years she delighted us with her sniffing and snorting, her moaning and her groaning, her sneaking of chocolate, butter and garbage (yes, all poison for dogs)IMG_2099

Life will never be the same for our family. Over the past 12 years, our children have grown into young adults, my husband has lost a few more hairs from the top of his head, and a few deep lines and wrinkles have taken up permanent residence on my face.

But, there is this relatively new little boy in town.West Vancouver-20121101-637

So guess what – it’s time for Franklinstein and me to man up.

But we will never forget.

Rest in Peace Killer.

You are SO busted mister

As I have moaned about mentioned previously, I have been blessed with two good looking social children. (See The curse of the social teenaged kids.) Kids who rarely stop talking or texting or skyping or …you get the picture. I did think hope our family vacation would be different. I mean, after all, it’s called a FAMILY vacation, which means you leave town, leave your home, and leave your friends  behind. Somehow my son didn’t get the memo.

The first indication of this came when we were checking out of Dreams Los Cabos; after the initial disasters troubles we had checking in, we did start to enjoy ourselves, in between thunder storms, windstorms, and the inevitable melt downs by my daughter,  the Demon Child . And the sun did appear. Eventually. But when checking out we had another nasty surprise: a $350 phone bill for my son. Apparently the Obnoxious One had called his cell phone service provider from the phone in his room and tried to sort out his long distance package and internet. (The hotel was supposed to supply free internet but it was problematic.) He was placed on hold so many times that the phone call lasted 40 minutes. Can you imagine my dear darling husband’s reaction?

Irate

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Yeah, it wasn’t pretty. So instead of check-out taking 10 minutes, it took almost an hour. Of heated discussion. Numerous clerks  were brought in to sort things out, phone calls were made, fingers were pointed and finally the hotel manager was contacted. Words like fraud and poor customer service and nothing we can do were bandied about. The kids wisely skulked in another part of the lobby, far away from the front desk and their dad. I kept walking back and forth to ensure my hubby didn’t completely blow his top and that the kids or our luggage didn’t wander away. Actually we almost lost half of our luggage – the hotel staff loaded it onto the bus of passengers bound for New York. That would really have made our day!

courtesy iclipart.com

courtesy iclipart.com

Finally the manager approved a write-down. We still had to pay far too much, but decided to pursue the matter at home with Lily, our amazing travel agent. Enough was enough.

Except that it wasn’t. A week after we got home, while my husband was in China on business, I received the bill for the Obnoxious One’s cell phone. Care to guess how much??? Did you say…$900? Yeah – gives me a heart attack just looking at that! So this time I sent the bill to my son and said, you deal with it! Although he has no money (except what we give him – he doesn’t have a job at university) I figured he could call the cell phone company and moan and groan – after all, he’s so good at that! In the meantime I decided not to tell my husband – yet.

Somehow, the Obnoxious One must have the gift of the Irish or something (My father’s family did originate from Ireland long, long time ago) because he managed to get the company to reverse $550 from his bill. IMG_2002Apparently he spoke at length with a “very nice lady” – yeah right – and she  removed his texting charges. And you know who he was texting non-stop the entire week? – his girlfriend.

Except that he said she’s not his girlfriend – nope, she’s his “friend with benefits”. Right – I saw those movies  and I know how they ended. He doesn’t stand a chance.

courtesy iclipart.com

courtesy iclipart.com

Really!

Have you been faced with ginormous phone bills from either hotels or cell phone companies? What have you done about it?

Silent until now, but not unaware.

Much has been said and written about the events of Friday December 14 that took place in Newtown, Connecticut. When not scrambling to prepare for Christmas or helping my daughter with homework and university applications, I have been glued to CNN. I have watched with shock, then horror and lately profound sadness. I haven’t wanted to comment, because the US is not my country and so many have already said so much.

But…

I am a neighbour,

I am a mother,

and

I am the daughter of two public school teachers.

Of all the things I have heard and seen, this resonated the most with me.

Want to Know What’s Happening at my House?

Here’s what’s been going on in my lovely home the past few days:

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Beautiful Vancouver November/December weather+

Crying Devil Girl there is green in the head

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my daughter the Demon Child +

stress concept

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Grade 12 first term +

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courtesy iclipart.com

the flu bug +

 

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courtesy iclipart.com

the crazy menopausal mother waiting to hear from agent/ publisher =

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courtesy iclipart.com

Really!

I Love Grade 12. I Love Grade 12. I Love Grade 12.

Especially for the third time.Especially for the third time.Especially for the third time.

Do you think if I write it enough, I’ll believe it?

Many many years ago, back when the dinosaurs ruled the earth, I was in Grade 12. And then Grade 13. See how old I am – betcha didn’t know they used to have Grade 13! Well they did in Ontario where I grew up. Then I went to university for a few years.

A little more recently my son went through Grade 12. And graduated. That was pretty amazing actually! And he now attends an excellent university, which is even more amazing. I didn’t have to help him very much in Grade 12 – he boarded at school during the week, and got whatever help he needed then. But I still experienced all the stress and all the pressure right there with him. 

But the Demon Child is an entirely different kettle of fish. Somehow I get dragged, kicking and screaming into everything she does. Well maybe not everything, but certainly a lot. Is it the ADHD? Is it the lazy stubborn gene? Is it the “I’m suffering now so you must suffer too” gene? – Yeah, that’s it. She definitely got that from my husband!

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You see, the problem with being “a writer” is that I get asked for help writing essays in English and History and Law…you get the picture. Then my assistance is also required for answering IB Geo questions and test studying and university applying . Everyday when Whenever I complain to my husband, Captain Dumb Dumb, he says: “Suck it up sweetie. You know the more you help her now, the more likely it is she’ll get into the university of her choice, and leave home next year.” Yeah okay, he’s right – for once. 

Which is all great, except when I have other things to do, like attend very important events. Yes, really necessary stuff like going out to see Skyfall with a bunch of lawyers, accountants and bankers. Hey, what could be better than that company plus food plus drinks plus Daniel Craig! Really!Then there was the Gold Medal Plates dinner in Vancouver this past Friday night. The food and wine were to die for. Absolutely exquisite. And we saw and chatted with a ton of old friends. Wonderful evening, except that I was doing Grade 12 homework for 2 hours before it was time to go! Okay, maybe I snatched 45 minutes for myself to get ready, but I still spent a couple hours working away. But at least the dogs didn’t throw up while I was getting dressed, I found everything I wanted to wear ahead of time, AND I didn’t spill makeup down the front of me like the last time I went to a fancy event – see I Really Should Give Up and Become A Hermit. And a miracle occurred when I got home – the Demon Child actually liked the dress I wore. A lot. I almost had a heart attack. Even she was shocked!

Just to be clear – that is NOT me, but that is the dress I wore by Free People.

So I spent all Saturday afternoon helping to write and polish a Grade 12 essay. It was so much fun. Yeah right.

Almost as much fun as the cold, dark and rainy days of November. Really!

This is SO not funny

Yeah, I’m actually writing a blog that’s not funny or silly or attempts to be either. I simply can’t help myself, because I need to highlight a really sad situation. Perhaps this story struck me to the core because I have 2 teenage kids who were bullied during their lives. Perhaps it’s because I was heavily involved with a social services agency for 10 years who’s mandate was to promote healthy relationships. Whatever. You may have seen or heard about this. Even if you have, please watch it again and share it.

Here’s what she said:

I’m struggling to stay in this world, because everything just touches me so deeply. I’m not doing this for attention. I’m doing this to be an inspiration and to show that I can be strong. I did things to myself to make pain go away, because I’d rather hurt myself then someone else. Haters are haters but please don’t hate, although im sure I’ll get them. I hope I can show you guys that everyone has a story, and everyones future will be bright one day, you just gotta pull through. I’m still here aren’t I ?-AmandaTodd

Unfortunately Amanda Todd is no longer here – this Vancouver teen killed herself earlier this week, just one week before her 16th birthday.

Now go hug your kid, or your partner or your friend. Make a connection to the people in your life. Make sure they know that you love them. As much as I like to write about the silly things my family says and does, I love each of them fiercely – even the lazy dogs. And I thank God every night for them.

Really.

The curse of the social teenaged kids…

Okay, so when you’re pregnant you get tons of attention and tons of advice. Some terrible, but some pretty good. Especially the parts about sleeping before popping out those babies because afterwards you just never know. Well, actually you do, but you just don’t want to admit it.

BUT, how come no one warns you about the horrors, delights, curse of the teenage years? When I was a teen, I was pretty boring; I was a brainy nerd and a geeky non-athlete. My parents had to bribe me to leave the house outside of school hours. I was the kid that had big thick glasses until she was 16, and then braces; I’m talking serious heavy duty railroad tracks, not the flimsy little things they call braces today. Those braces lasted until university. In my town the brawny football players were the popular guys who dated the tiny giggly cheerleaders. Not quite me.

As a result, I had no idea of how to deal with social, friendly, attractive (some have even said gorgeous) teen-aged children. No one warned me about:

  • the lack of sleep…for years and years every single weekend
  • the worry…every weekend and some weekdays
  • the mental challenges of helping kids with high school homework, especially when you’re sleep deprived &/or menopausal 24/7

Now I must clarify that my kids have been not too too terrible – they’ve had their moments, but as of yet no arrests, no nights in jail, no nights in the ER. Hey don’t laugh or roll your eyes because I know a lot of folks in my community who can’t say the same thing! Nevertheless there have been lots of temper tantrums, screaming and yelling. And not just by my kids.But also by my husband.

And okay occasionally…by me.

But the thing that is really getting to me right now is lack of sleep. Both of my kids have a TON of friends which may be nice and good for them, BUT it means we have discussions/arguments/fights over curfew most weekends. AND it means that I stay up until whatever the enforced agreed upon hour. Since my darling workaholic husband is up most mornings at 6am and in the office before 7am, he is in bed reading and relaxing most evenings by 9:30 pm; sometimes on a really exciting evening  he’s awake until 10:00 pm. Yep, the Original Obnoxious One really lives on the edge, it’s true.

Now both our kids tend to be night owls and like to push the envelope as far as time home is concerned. When my son, the Obnoxious One was 15, 16, 17 and 18, I made sure I was ALWAYS awake when he came home; I wanted to make sure he knew I would be waiting up for him…to see him and hug him. Numerous times he complained that he was the only guy in West Van that had a curfew. Yea, really! And while I HOPE that was not entirely true, I certainly knew many, many MANY boys with no curfew whatsoever. Now that he’s turned 19 and has lived this past year away from home, I must admit I don’t tend to wait up for him as much….I’m getting old and tired …and can’t get up every morning at 11am or noon like him.

Now my daughter, the Weird One…always a challenge. She has asked about her brother’s curfew – I let her know that hers’ is the same as his was when he was 17. However, I did admit to her that I am more concerned about her being out late at night than I ever was about him. Double standard? – you betcha!

Regardless, the Weird One MAKES me tired, and sometime I wonder if it’s done on purpose. Like the weekend she and her boyfriend went to a concert in Burnaby that ended at 10:30pm but didn’t get home until 1:30am. Yea, 1:30 am!  Apparently they went for food at Denny’s afterwards and bused and walked home the 24 kilometers or 15 miles ; she was too cheap to use the money I gave her for a taxi! Besides she wanted to walk off the calories from the dessert at Denny’s. Or the Saturday night when she got home at 11pm – great – but then wanted me to help her with homework! After discussing, fighting and hiding (in the bathroom) I did capitulate and help her for 10 minutes set up a shot for her animation film project. Argggh – she could try the patience of a saint! – which I am not! And with the end of school looming, she has been demanding my brain power for essay writing  and studying and filming. Last time I ever admit I’m a writer!

So yea, I’ve been tired lately…but the good news is that the Weird One goes to camp soon – she’s going to be a Camp Counselor at a YMCA Camp for 8 weeks. Then I can sleep.

Really!

all cartoons courtesy iclipart.com