When I’m Sixty-Four

I’ve been obsessing over numbers lately. Yes, it’s a C.P.A. thing (my other profession), it’s tax time, and it’s also spring.  You see during the past month or so:

  • my dad celebrated his 82nd birthday

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  • my son turned 23 far away in London-town during exams

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  • my daughter, the Hippie-Dippie Wildchild,  much to our horror became legal everywhere when she turned 21
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courtesy iclipart.com

  • my husband, The Original Obnoxious One, reached the grand old age of 55IMG_0415
  • and my hubby and I celebrated our 31st wedding anniversary
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courtesy iclipart.com

So I am feeling rather tired from all that celebrating and a little…ancient.

 

Will you still need me, will you still feed me
When I’m sixty-four?

Also The Original Obnoxious One and I saw Sir Paul McCartney in concert when he passed through Vancouver in late April. There was a lot of press and social media about the fact that Sir Paul is 73 – for good reason.

Sgt-Pepper2

courtesy thebeatles.com

He was incredibly energetic and funny and warm and of course, a Musical Super-Power. I’ve never seen him in concert before so this was quite the thrilling experience for me. A great big tick off the old bucket list.

But back to the ageing thing.

When I get older, losing my hair
Many years from now,
Will you still be sending me a valentine,
birthday greetings, bottle of wine?

About 18 years ago I had laser eye surgery; I was extremely near-sighted so afterwards this meant I could see clocks and computer screens and drive without peering through 3 inch thick lenses . It totally changed my life for quite awhile.

But then I turned 50 – ouch.  I actually needed reading glasses – purchased from the local drug store – to read the newspaper at night. And then during the day. And then to read anything at all. But I’m not the only one.

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The Original Obnoxious One and Franklinstein

And I even have bifocal sunglasses for reading outside!

Sigh.

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Shhh! Don’t tell anyone those are reading sunglasses.

Recently while walking Franklinstein in the woods not far from where we live, I ran into an old colleague, a girl from back in my C.P.A. articling days. We walked and hiked together, chatted up a storm.When I whined about turning older and becoming near-sighted, her response was:

Look Rita. Yes, I need reading glasses too but here’s the thing. In the morning when I get up and look in the mirror (sans glasses) I think I look amazing – no wrinkles, no grey hair on my head and no hair on my legs.All is good!

Of course the reality is just a wee bit different.

My friend does have a few wrinkles – after-all she has 2 boys roughly the same age as my kids and has been married for almost 30 years. She does have quite a number of grey hairs on her head as her hair is naturally quite dark and she doesn’t dye it. And she does use reading glasses for absolutely everything.

So then I felt a bit better – someone else was suffering just like me!

You’ll be older too.
Ah, and if you say the word,
I could stay with you.

Except I don’t have the issue of grey hair, because I have very expensive blonde highlights in my mousey brown baby-fine hair. Hairy legs – shockingly yes whenever I put on my glasses and look at them. Otherwise who knows?!

And the drug store near me carries all kinds of cool and colourful reading glasses for folks like me – I should know because at any given time I have at least 4 at the house. One pair for upstairs, one pair for downstairs, one sturdy  pair for reading in bed and one floater pair.

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courtesy peepers.com

And by the way,  The Original Obnoxious One also has several pairs of readers lying around the house, and at the office and in his gym bag, and in his briefcase.

Most of the time I don’t really think about the whole aging thing. I’m active –  I walk Franklinstein whatever the weather and we dance together regularly,IMG_1431 (Edited)

I do Pilates, I  eat healthy for the most part and I smile. A Lot. Except when I don’t. Like when I’m reading or concentrating or writing. That’s when The  Original Obnoxious One lets loose with his own unique brand of obnoxiousness.

Each and every evening.

Rita, what’s wrong? Smile! You look sad..or miserable..or angry. Be happy!

Here’s the thing. Nine times out of ten I am happy. I’m not miserable or sad or even angry – unless someone in my family did something incredibly stupid.

Again. You know who you are!

But l do have wrinkles (a couple)  and gravity does weird things to my face.

Okay, I confess, I have RBF – Resting Bitch Face.

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RBF

Get over it!

Really!

 

Lyrics of When I’m Sixty Four courtesy thebeatles.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our very own Goddess of Green

Before it was mandated by our local government and before it was trendy, our daughter, the Wild Child, was totally obsessed with Saving the Environment.

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courtesy iclipart.com

Maybe it had to do with living in a temperate rain forest and the hiking we do here, rain or sun. 1048195_10152958698655290_974192805_o

Perhaps it’s because of the summers we’ve spent on Indian Arm  swimming and tubing and boating.

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Whatever the case, the Wild Child has always loved lecturing us about the dos and don’ts of looking after the planet and all of its amazing natural inhabitants, including mice and bats and snakes. Oh Joy.

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In fact, for her father’s Christmas present this past year, she made a generous donation on his behalf to the British Hen Welfare Trust. The Original Obnoxious One is now the very proud sponsor of Sky and Sparkle, two thankful British hens who are enjoying the great outdoors for the first time ever .

british hen stuff

 

See, I’m not making this stuff up!

She was the one who insisted we collect and recycle as many water bottles and tin cans as humanly possible, even if it meant trolling the neighbourhood and the beaches and the parks. She was the one who took part in the Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup over and over and over again. Funny that she was rarely the one to clean up after the dog – asking, commanding, coercing never worked with her but sometimes bribery did. Especially when she was broke and wanted a couple dollars for candy.

She was the one who decried smokers – she loudly and frequently insisted smoking was Evil and she would never ever be friends with anyone who smoked.

smoking

courtesy iclipart.com

Fast forward several years and our Hippie-Dippie Wild Child’s boyfriend smokes cigarettes constantly,  but well, let’s not go there today.

She’s been the only member of our family who has embraced vegetarianism because it’s good for the environment – all that flatulence from all those cows and all that waste material in the watershed from all those pigs . And don’t get her started on the wonders and glories of PETA.

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Tragically the rest of us are hard-core carnivores; we adore meat and poultry and fish. But I do buy organic meat and poultry and the seafood I purchase is Ocean Wise. The Hippie-Dippie Wild Child desperately aspires to be vegan, but is not a huge fan of beans or nuts; she loves her cheese and omelettes and Nutella way too much.IMG_1464.JPG

And she hates to actually prepare food.

Of course she also talks a lot about water conservation, but heck, we live in a rain-forest in one of the rainiest cities in Canada! We frequently experience road and bridge washouts because it rains on the North Shore an average of 180 days per year.

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courtesy Vancouver Sun

And the water in our taps comes from the creek raging river beside us – our small community accesses, purifies and tests the water on a regular basis, and it tastes amazing.

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courtesy iclipart.com

So there’s not a lot of incentive on our part to cut back on heavenly long hot showers or totally thorough toothbrush sessions. She also advises us not to flush the toilet after every use, but now that we’ve moved to the outskirts of the city, we actually have our own septic system, and it which benefits from regular flushes, believe me!

But this past summer she came home with her latest and greatest idea to Save the Environment. And she just had to share this exciting news with my son, The Obnoxious One, right when he was diving into an amazing brunch he’d just concocted of eggs  and fresh guacamole and artisan toast and…kinda like this.

omlette

“Hey guess what? I’m so proud of myself, you have no idea!”

“Oh, yeah…?” Chomp, chomp. “So what is it?”

“Well I’m really helping out the environment big time. I’ve started using reusable pads.”

“Whatever, that’s nice.” Chomp, chomp

“Yeah it’s so must better for the environment – none of that waste in the landfills or in the sewage system. And it’s no big deal, really. I just have to do a little bit of extra laundry once a month.”

“Wait, what the heck are you talking about?!”

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“Reusable pads, I told you.”

“ARE YOU KIDDING ME?! EEEWWW!! GO AWAY! GET OUT OF MY SIGHT!!”

“Mom?!”

“Darling, not the best time (when someone is eating) or place (the kitchen table)  or even audience (The Obnoxious One) to have this discussion.”

Really!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Don’t worry, it’s just a flood of Biblical Proportions

It was a dark and stormy night – yes I know that’s a big fat cliche, but the wind was blowing, the sea was churning and there was no light whatsoever. We had just moved into our new home, a concrete bunker, outside the city between the mountains and the ocean, just off the highway to Whistler. On one side of us was an empty house (the owners live abroad and use the house only in the summer) and on the other, a raging creek river.

raging river

our concrete bunker beside the creek (when the creek isn’t raging)

My husband had just left on a week-long business trip to China and my kids were at university across the country. That left me and my traumatized little lab Franklinstein.543264_10151311621917492_420617158_n

I know he was traumatized because he marked his territory many, many times those first few weeks, inside and out – outside was one thing but inside on the cream-coloured wool carpeting ?! Yuck! (By the way, the carpeting didn’t last long – as soon as we could we replaced it with hardwood flooring.)

dogpoop

courtesy iclipart.com

Franklinstein was a very nervous  boy, barking and growling at every little sound and at every wild creature. Actually a ton of scary wild things do live out here – ginormous river otters, seals, mice, minks and raccoons – and each one is at least ten times larger than its cousin in the city.

Madmouse

Mad Mouse courtesy iclipart.com

So there we sat, scared worried by the storm. Worried that the power would go out and we would freeze and/or starve to death. Worried that a wild thing would somehow break into our concrete bunker and devour us.

Or at least terrorize us.

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courtesy iclipart.com

It was almost 11 pm, so it was too late to call my Mommy  – I didn’t think she’d appreciate a call at 2 am her time. Same with my children and I had no idea how to reach my husband as his cell generally goes on strike the minute he leaves home.  So I bit my lower lip and told myself to stay strong. And it was at that point the door bell rang. Now, I should point out that we actually do have a large real live bell at our door.doorbell.JPG

Poor little traumatized Franklinstein barked and cowered as I made my way up the dark and winding staircase to the front door. Standing on my porch I found a police officer; now the only other time in my entire life that a police officer has come to my door was after my then thirteen-year-old daughter called  911 during an argument about computer privileges and told the dispatcher that her parents were evil. (Yes it’s a long story.) Anyways this police officer had kindly and bravely ventured out into the storm to inform everyone in our small community that the the raging creek river had flooded and now covered three of the four lanes of highway, making travel out of or into our place almost impossible. 

cop

courtesy iclipart.com

But not to worry. What, me worry?! I’m the Champion, no the Queen of Worry. When anyone in my family has a concern they give it to me because they know that my worry skills are absolutely magnificent, and second only to my dear mother’s.

I wandered back downstairs thinking and worrying about this little bomb the police had left me with. I now felt a greater need than ever to reach out and talk to somebody besides my shaking and quivering  Franklinstein.

worried woman

courtesy iclipart.com

So I located the contact information list for our community and at 11:00 pm made the desperate decision to phone my nearest neighbour  – a sweet little 80 year old retired schoolteacher. You know you’ve moved to a wonderful place  when the phone is answered on the first ring, “Yes dear, are you all right? Have the police been to see you?” Followed by, “Did you understand what they told you?”

grandmother

courtesy iclipart.com

And then, “If you’re nervous or scared you’re welcome to pop over for a drink or you can even spend the night.”

At that point the reality of the situation finally struck me like a whack on the side of the head – she was most likely in bed trying to get to sleep. “Thanks very much Kathy, but I ‘m okay now.  I think I might survive.”

Really!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Devil’s left Georgia, and has gone up to West Vancouver

Where she’s living in my house.

Yep, last September I sent my daughter, the Weird One, off to university in the UK , but the Demon Child returned home in April 2014.

courtesy iclip.art

courtesy iclip.art

How do I know?

She begged and begged and begged me to get her a summer job at the cafe down the hill, even though she had never worked in a restaurant or coffee shop before. And this was my absolute favourite cafe that I frequent a couple times a week.

Chat

courtesy iclipart.com

Somehow the universe and the stars all aligned and I came through for her; the manager of the coffee shop was an old friend and was looking to hire for the summer. And it’s a 15 minute walk down the hill – I didn’t have to drive her. But the manager soon found a new job and moved on. Meanwhile absolutely everything changed at the cafe and the working environment went totally downhill. For example, the new manager:

forced my daughter to work shifts with people she didn’t like or know

and 

scheduled her for three 8 hour shifts in 3 days thus interfering with her extremely busy social life

plus

she wasn’t allowed to wear Lululemon pants or Uggs!

courtesy iclipart.com

courtesy iclipart.com

But this The Terrible Awful Mother told her to suck it up; I shared with her all the lousy summer jobs I’d had over the years and how I frequently worked two or more jobs at the same time so I’d have enough money for university. When those comments didn’t gain any traction, I told her I would cut off her credit card if she quit her job before finding a new one.

In the meantime my sister and I took our parents on a week long cruise to Alaska to celebrate their both turning 80.embarkation
Yes it was fantastic, but that’s the subject of another blog. Halfway through the cruise, in a very weak moment, I sent my daughter a text message inquiring how she was.

I should’ve known better.

She texted me back that she had quit her job, and predictably I SAW RED.

courtesy iclipart.com

courtesy iclipart.com

When I asked what had happened, she told me that she had a panic attack at work because the environment was toxic and she wasn’t going to let me push her around. She called me names (really, really bad ones) and demanded my support (mentally and financially);  I told her to get a grip and figure out a plan to get another job. A few more choice words flew back and forth, culminating in a 1:00 am screaming match on the cell phone. In the middle of the Alaskan Inside Passage. She threatened to leave home and live with friends and I… I said that was fine. She could either stay, apologize and be respectful or go and live elsewhere.

Such a lovely spot of entertainment in the middle of a cruise far from home IMG_2759Although clearly not far enough!

Her parting words to me:

Honestly if something happens to me it’s all on you. And also after this I want NOTHING to do with you. 

But the very next text said: Can you please put the money on my credit card. I have no money to eat!!!  (despite the fact that I did a humongous food shopping trip just before I left)

And: I found a place on Commercial to stay for the month of August for $300. Can you please chip in.

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the Demon Child’s latest obsession which the coffee shop doesn’t sell

In the mean time The Demon Child revoked my friend status on Facebook.  But hey, it’s important to have your priorities right!

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!

courtesy iclipart.com

courtesy iclipart.com

 

 

Repeat after me: I am a writer, I am a writer…

Lately I’ve been preoccupied with the business of writing, or rather the business of attempting to get published.

  • fine-tuning the manuscript for the umpteenth time
  • polishing and repolishing again the first three chapters
  • perfecting the cover letter

    courtesy iclipart.com

    courtesy iclipart.com

  • tweeking the synopsis
  • researching which agents and publishers in Canada, the US and the UK are looking for contemporary, humorous middle grade novels
  • reviewing submission guidelines
  • personalizing queries for said agents &/or publishers
  • following up with queried agents &/or publishers after 2 or 3 or 4 months
  • and drinking lots and lots and LOTS of lattes while performing all of the above

    courtesy iclipart.com

    courtesy iclipart.com

Lately I feel like research has taken over my life. It’s so so SO easy to lose  days hours Googling this that and the other thing, examining and liking new Facebook pages, searching sites about the publishing industry such as Quill & Quire, and reviewing various writing blogs.

courtesy iclipart.com

courtesy iclipart.com

It’s essential to be aware of  what kind of middle grade books are selling, what kind are in demand, what kind are requested, so my analytical left brain takes over and asserts itself. After all, this is the side of the brain I have relied on for years in my finance and accounting career, as well as for my not-for-profit Board work. It’s also the side of the brain I’ve utilized for more than twenty years managing my creative and often hilarious, distracted and extremely unorganized family.

courtesy iclipart.com

courtesy iclipart.com

Somebody has to be in charge.

Somebody has to know what’s going on.

To date that somebody has always been me.

My kids say I’m nosy and bossy; they accuse my of creeping them and their friends on Facebook. Nonsense! I am simply curious and I seek knowledge about the world around me. Really! I’ve always been this way. When I was young, I used to ride my bike for hours all around my neighbourhood and beyond, examining the homes in our middle class suburb and imaging what kind of people lived there. I used to love canoeing around the lake where my parents’ cabin was, so I could check out the cottages and the shacks. (this was before the mansions arrived in Muskoka and beyond) Now in the summers I kayak up Indian Arm, close to shore, where the water is not so rough and of course, the cabins are easy to spy on observe.

courtesy iclipart.com

courtesy iclipart.com

And I have a healthy imagination. When my kids accuse me of misrepresenting their actions, of distorting the truth in my blog, I point out the obvious – this is MY blog. If they want to tell their story, they need to write their own blog. Besides, far too often the truth really is stranger than fiction. I mean, what child of mine would express his/her loud preference for a basic youth hostel over a luxury hotel, and for public transit (buses, subways) rather than drive his/her own car?! While all the Sexy Moms of West Vancouverwell the ones who talk to me that isbrag babble about their nightly Skype sessions with their precious daughters, I smile and say nothing. After all, my daughter has been too busy to skype with her Terrible Awful Mother since the beginning of January, but somehow she has found the time to demand  repeatedly ask for money and help with essays. So I have to envision her and what she’s up to based on my knowledge of her personality – her nicknames The Demon Child and The Weird One say it all – and the photos she and her friends post on Facebook. 1900116_10153777830790290_647385992_nIf I exaggerate a teeny tiny bit when blogging, well that’s my prerogative. Besides who needs to stretch the truth when there is such wonderful material at my fingertips!

When I sit back and take stock of my abilities and proclivities, I think it’s obvious that I was totally meant to be a writer. After all, writers should be meddlesome curious in their daily lives – curiosity may have killed the cat, but certainly not the author. Writers must be stubbornly inflexible determined in their efforts to dream up create the perfect world for their story. The ability to spy on friends and family carefully observe and listen to everyone all the time is a vital aspect of the writer’s process, as is the act of daydreaming carrying out relevant research.

Please excuse me as I send this blog to each and every member of my family in order to educate them about the noble sacrifices I make on a daily basis to hone my craft, and how suited I am to my chosen pastime career. Now if only a publisher would agree with me. Really!

Dear Sexy Moms of West Van

Do I have your attention now?!

courtesy iclipart.com

courtesy iclipart.com

 

This morning I ran into my favourite local coffee shop and grabbed a grande cafe latte, my little reward after a gruelling fitness class.

Yoga

courtesy iclipart.com

A group of you, whom I’ve known for years and years, were sitting and chatting at a table near the counter. One of you glanced up, smiled and said hi. Your friends ignored me, but hey, one out of three is actually pretty good.

You see, yesterday I met two long-time friends, also moms of classmates of my kids, for coffee. Yes, we drink a lot of coffee and lattes in West Van,  at least I certainly do!

courtesy iclipart.com

courtesy iclipart.com

 You were sitting at small tables on either side of us, and our children – yours and mine –  also went to school together. But this time not one of you looked at me. Not one of you said hello. And I was hard to miss ’cause I was wearing a bright yellow top and even brighter yellow running shoes.

Now we all live in the same small community of West Vancouver, which has a population of roughly 42,000. Yeah, it;s a pretty tiny town. West-VancouverFor ten years our kids went to the same small private school, where there were at most 80 kids per grade. Over the years, you and I sat across from each other during tons of parent/teacher meetings and numerous class mom meetings, attended seasonal school plays and concerts together, and ran into each other at the local shopping mall, grocery store, and 7-eleven.  Our kids played soccer and tennis  and softball together, and learned to swim at the same pool. Our families still frequent the same sports facilities in West Van and ski at the same mountains.

So why can’t you just say hello?

Is something wrong with your eyesight?
Do you lack peripheral vision?
Is there a recent medical abnormality that prevents you from smiling?
Has your long-term memory been dramatically affected lately?

Look, you don’t need to worry about me – I don’t want to be your BFF. I don’t want to be invited to your parties. I don’t want to go on vacation with you to Whistler or Maui. I especially don’t want to steal your husband. Absolutely not! And  I don’t even want my children to date your children.

But I would kinda like to feel like I exist, like I am visible.

So would it kill you to meet my eye occasionally, and smile or say hi, especially when I’ve said hi to you so, so so many times in the past before?

Really?!