Monday, October 29, 2007

Aliens among us

I got home last night from a long work trip to the civil servant mothership. Our nation's capital. Ottawa. Once home, after I had a good whine about the glacial speed of government bureaucracy, the total wrongness of working all week and then through the weekend, and the $6 stale sandwiches on Air Canada, I asked B:

"So Sweetie, what's new at home?"

"Hmmm, well, the dogs are fine. I finished grouting the new tiles in the bathroom. Oh, and the kitchen sink is plugged and backed up. I have to buy a plumber's snake tomorrow." Ah bliss, I'm home again.

B turned on the dishwasher just before we crawled into bed. He fell asleep right away, but I had slept on the flight and was wide awake, so I read in bed with my itty-bitty-book-light. After over an hour of reading, I realized that the dishwasher had been making the same grinding, rhythmic sound of the first wash cycle for far too long. I turned it off, because something was clearly wrong. And I went to sleep.

This morning I said to B:

"I had to stop the dishwasher last night, it seemed to be stuck on the first wash cycle. I think what may be happening is that it likely has a sensor, or valve, that senses the kitchen drain pipe is blocked with water, and it will not switch into the drain cycle until the blocked drain is clear. It's probably a safety mechanism."

B gave me the look and said, "You can't really believe the dishwasher can sense the drain is blocked. No way. Trust me, they don't make them like that."

I just shrugged. Whatever. He's the one with an engineering education.

Tonight we had dinner with B's parents. Over desert, after B's Mom complained that her electric kettle was on the fritz, B said, in what I believe was genuine innocence, "Oh, yah, don't get me started on the topic of appliances breaking down. Yesterday our dishwasher got stuck on the first wash cycle. I think what may be happening is that it likely has a sensor, or valve, that senses that our kitchen drain pipe is blocked with water, and it will not switch into the drain cycle until the blocked drain is clear. It's probably a safety mechanism."

I stared, gobsmacked, at this creature who I love so dearly. I looked out the window to see if the spaceship was coming to pick him up. Cuz men, as much as I love 'em, are truly from another planet.

Today's dream travel destination: Mars.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Trouser torture

I detest clothes shopping. I would rather enter a grizzly den than the mall. I consider root canals and cleaning toilets more fun than trying on clothes. But my old black dress pants are literally falling apart at the seams. Wearing them to work puts me in imminent danger of exposing my nickers to the office.

So, at lunch time today I entered the HOUSE OF HORRORS. Also known as Sears. First I went to the petites department, because I am only 5'2". On a good day. I tried on 12, yes TWELVE! pairs of pants. They were all wrong, wrong, wrong. If they fit at the waist, the bum and hips ballooned loosely. If the butt and hips fit properly, the waist would not do up without divine intervention.

O.K., forget the petites section. I went to the regular section. Nothing fit. So I branched out into the rest of the mall. I tried on pants made by Tommy Hilfiger, Mexx, Jones of New York, Louben, Aritsia, and in one desperate, mad moment; Prada. Thank god those last ones didn't fit.

I left the mall in shame. A failure at shopping. And then I got mad! Hey you clothes makers: Not all women are built like Betty Boop. Or Barbie. What about those of us shaped more like, well, tree stumps with jiggly bits? Especially those of us who are looking at age 50 from the wrong side. It's bad enough we get hot flashes akin to nuclear fission. (I swear I am personally responsible for significant global warming.) Our waists will never again be 15 inches smaller than our hips. Many of us have carried babies to term in these bodies, and it shows. We like good food. And what if we don't want, or need, to lose 25 pounds? WHY CAN'T YOU MAKE US PANTS THAT FIT?

Today's dream travel destination: Tahiti. Where I could just wear a sarong every day.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Everything I need to know I learned from Grandpa

"Remember, Janie, slow, smooth paddle strokes. No splashing." (Whispering now) "If we're really quiet going around the next bend, maybe we'll see them."

"See what Grampa?"

"Shhhhhh, just watch."

As they rounded the bend in the river, he reached forward to the little girl in the bow of the canoe, tapped her shoulder and pointed at the far bank. A flash of movement caught her eye. Then another. She grinned in delight. Four young river otters were cavorting and belly sliding down the muddy riverbank. Mama otter was watching carefully. When mama decided the strange creatures in the canoe were too close she gave a chirp and they all dove under water.

That was me with my Grandpa 42 years ago. He died 16 years ago this month, and October winds always bring him into my thoughts. He only had a grade six education, but my Grandpa Gordon taught me some of the most important lessons of my life. Like:

I learned how to bait a fish hook. Where the biggest trout hid in the Old Mill Rapids on Priest Creek. And how to clean them for the breakfast pan.

I learned the surefire way to make a camp fire with only one match.

I learned to know the sound of wolves calling in the distance at the family cottage in Quebec. And how to yip and howl through the birch bark bull horn until they would answer back.

I learned there really was magic in this world. Grandpa and I would spread special magic seeds on the lawn at bedtime, and when I woke up, lollipops (Laura Secord suckers for you Canadians) were growing everywhere.

He taught me how to drive with a standard transmission, first on my great uncle's haying tractor, then using my grandparents' Volkswagen Westfalia. I was a slow learner, but Grandpa never gave up on me, even when I almost rolled the van taking a corner too fast. He just calmly nodded and said "Now you know to take those curves a little slower Janie. Remember to gear down when you head into the curve." Every car I have owned has had a standard transmission. Thanks to my Grandpa, I love to drive feeling the road through the stick shift.

Every time I watched him run down the road to the fire hall to take up his post on the volunteer fire department, I learned the importance of giving back to one's community.

I learned that an honest day's work is something to be proud of. Grandpa swelled with pride the day he took me through the paper mill he toiled in all his working years. The paper rolls were huge, and loud as the newsprint roared around them. I was so thrilled that my Grandpa, MY OWN GRANDPA! knew how to work them. And how to fix them if they broke.

I learned never to trump my partner's ace in a game of Euchre. Or life.

As well as being a teacher of IMPORTANT LESSONS, Grandpa was my biggest fan. He believed, and never let me forget, I could do anything.

One day, not long before he died, my Mom picked him up from his nursing home and drove him to a medical appointment in Ottawa. He had been suffering with increasing dementia for several years, probably Alzheimer's, and mostly did not understand what was going on around him any more. By then, I was a new lawyer and new mother, living on the other side of the country, wrapped up in my own life. The last time I had talked to him he seemed to think I was a child again, and had no apparent understanding of my adult life.

But as they drove past the Supreme Court of Canada on Ottawa's Wellington Street my usually silent Grandpa looked towards it and announced, "Someday Janie will be there."

I'll probably never be a Supreme Court Judge. But I still turn corners quietly in a canoe, kayak or on a hike. I think Grandpa would be proud of that

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Life gets in the way

Miss y'all.

Yes I'm still here. No, my muse has not gone AWOL. In fact she is sitting on my shoulder hissing and spitting because I have no time to write. And, I. Need. To. Write. I love to write. Give me just a pencil and paper, and I can have a rip roaring party.

But life has taken my pencil away temporarily.

A family member has had cancer surgery this week. My sister and her husband are visiting from overseas, and I want to spend every minute I can with them (and my first niece or nephew, due in March!) I'm hosting Thanksgiving dinner (Canadian)this weekend, and I haven't picked up our Thanksgiving sockeye salmon yet. And work has been crazy. I have neglected you.

I'll be back soon. In my absence, I leave you with this for your amusement. Unlike the last funny foto I left you with, I have not actually seen this place. I've gotta add it to my dream travel destination list.