Monday, 27 May 2013

Taking Back the House in Fifty Shades of Beige

We are slowly reclaiming the "other side" of the house, that we rented out in September.  Not sure the craziness that instigated the wall, but it ended up allowing me the opportunity to spend the majority of the winter with Derek in Barbados.  It also provided a home for a lovely family of women.  3 of these women were under the age of 10.  Everything went relatively smoothly.  The house is not really designed for the noise factor of having 2 families so we are closer than many landlord/tenant relationships.  We were charmed by the 3 little girls "across the wall" and the pitter patter of their little feet.  I think when the little ones came over to visit, it was equated to Narnia.  It was another world when you passed through the door.

We will miss them.

Well now we are on the move again, but mostly it is from the garage and basement to the upstairs of the house.  When we "decrapified" last summer, we got rid of so much stuff.  There was the infamous "bin/dumpster" which appeared in our driveway last August and was filled in moments.  I think guys love bins.  Despite Derek's commitment to landfill development , recycling and the diversion of waste, he sure loves his bin.  It was like a puzzle.  It was the ultimate packing challenge.  Just how much junk can you find and toss.  He was just about to throw the dog in, when a large truck saved the day for Casey.  Apparently Dumpster Diving is a new Toronto sport,but believe me, there was no diving going on in our driveway.

We were ruthless and we told our kids to be heartless. As my aunt was taught when she downsized," if you love it, take a picture of it and move on".  All old boyfriend stuff was tossed.  Many clothes that were once in fashion were donated.  Artwork was trashed.  Ok, I lie.  Artwork was framed and will be on display in our Empty Nest.
Too Cute - It made the cut

This week we will continue to reclaim this house as our home. This includes teaching me to paint.  Walls,  not pictures. That would be ridiculous.  I have avoided the painting task for years, since Derek decided when I was pregnant with Kate, that I should paint the closet.  This was before the days when the Mom-To-Be has a spa day while hubby paints and the fumes drift away before she returns.  No, Derek somehow felt that my big belly, and my apparently big butt would scrunch down in a closet and paint.  Fortunately I begged to differ and as a result, Katelyn has all of her fingers and toes.
Who puts her in the Closet?
Yes that is me!!  What a great butt.

 Up until now, my decorating involvement has been choosing paint colours and matching bedding.  Derek pretends to care very little about what colour I choose, until I get it home and he calls it "boring, drab or lifeless shades of beige."  I have tried to explain that the colour will show up once it is on the wall and dry.  So, with compliance he paints the wall and then declares that it is either "too blue, too yellow or too green".  I am then running to Home Depot asking them to dull it down to a more boring, drab or lifeless shade of beige.

I'll Show You Beige!

Now Derek has me convinced that being of non-childbearing years, I am now safe to take on the tasks of painting.  So far I have graduated from closets to ceilings.  I am not sure if this is a reflection of how well I did the closet, but sometime soon, I am hoping to get to use colour.  I started my painting lessons trying to find painting clothes.  When we decrapified the house, I did a really good purge of my wardrobe.  I still have various sizes of clothes of course, like many women do.  I just fewer items in each size range.  The size range includes "once I could wear that and I will again" then those I presently wear: "I can wear that now, but soon it will be too big" ( a pathological optimist), to "I once wore that when I was pregnant and I hope I never fit it again".  Finding painting clothes was a challenge so I decided on unflattering leggings at I will not be seen in again and one of Derek' famous Mark's Work Wearhouse shirts that make up 85% of his wardrobe.
Ok, He was cute too.

Hotter changing a tire!
Now on any given day, most of these shirts that Derek wears everywhere, including as pajamas, would be classified by men with flair, to be painting shirts. I nabbed one of these shirts as they are plentiful.  All of these shirts are truly a boring, drab or lifeless shade of beige.   I also ingeniously decided to pull out the bag of random socks and use these to finish off my part of my painting "outfit".

Our painting styles differ, but Derek is biting his tongue or I will walk away and have a nap.  He cringes when I use the roller on any angle except vertical.  He does not let me anywhere near the edges, as he has seen me colour with the kids.  Lines are merely a suggestion.  My attention to detail is lacking. Derek wears gloves to paint.  I only wear gloves if blood is involved and to date there has been no blood.  I told him gloves are for girls. 
We have made several trips back and forth Home Depot for painting paraphernalia,  in Derek's new but previoulsy enjoyed hot rod.  This car is peuter.  I reassured Derek that it is neither boring, drab nor a lifeless shade of beige.  I changed my clothes several times today.  I can't be seen with overly tight leggings and one of Derek's mousy brown shirts with my unmatched socks. I am frugal.  When I make it to Home Depot, I hope the mousy brown shade of beige paint in my hair covers my roots.  

Thursday, 16 May 2013

Raising a Boy. Flying by the Seat of my Fanny Pack

I recently watched a movie I have been looking forward to seeing since Christmas.  I watched Barbra Streisand, as a middle-aged mother, take a road trip with her adult son, played by Seth Rogan.  I had hoped to see it with my adult son, Kevin. However, we could not coordinate our schedules this winter.  I am tempted to belabour this point with sighs, and just dwell on how much I had looked forward to seeing this with my son.  Blah Blah Blah.  I could remark on his busy life and the finite amount of time he has for his mother.  When he reads this, and he better, he might feel badly, maybe even guilty.  We Catholic mothers know how to dish it out.  However, this is not my parenting style.  I try whenever possible to understand that my children have lives to live and fortunately I feel I fit in these lives nicely.  To play this card would also suggest that I learned nothing from this movie with respect to Guilt Trips.   Also, to be perfectly honest, I was the one away all winter, so as our youngsters say "my bad".

The Guilt Trip (Bilingual)I was about 30 minutes into the movie when I realized that I was relating to the role of Seth Rogan, as the child on a Guilt Trip with his mother.  I reflected on a road trip with my mother.  We would have a nicer car than Latifa and I would drive, unless we were going to the golf course, church or a doctor's appointment. I would have my mother as a captive audience.  With 3 sisters, I often fight for the floor.  On a road trip, I would have the talking stick.  Of course my mom would say, as all mothers do, "Jan, drop the stick and put 2 hands on the wheel".

After this 30 minute fantasy of my perpetuating youth, I gave myself a shake.  "Wait a minute!  I am the mother here!  I am Barbra Streisand.  When did that happen?"  It just reaffirmed that I have a bit of skewed perception of my age.

This movie spoke to me as a mother of a boy  It is a different relationship than I have with my daughters.  In
Kevins' Favourite Book
some ways I just find it less complicated. He likes me and I like him.That about says it all.  I try not to tell him what to do.  Even as a child I was hesitant.  Kevin is a bit of a Contrary Bear.  I have to be aware that if I speak to loudly, it is likely he will do the opposite of whatever I suggest, including knitted gloves vs real  mitts when downhill skiing. He did admit to me that he and his friend agreed  "I hate when she is right".  This makes motherly-manipulation a bit difficult.  He knows me too well.  None the less, we both survived his teenage years with only a few piercings and a few missed haircuts.  He skipped the "unfortunate tattoo choices".  As far as I know.

Young Kevin and Young Mom
I never really expected to have a son.   I have 3 sisters and no brothers. The 4 Wells Girls spent our childhood with people commenting on their pity for our father.  I think Bill Wells did ok, though, with his 4 kittens.  Neither he nor my mother, ever let on that they were the least bit dismayed at the arrival of each baby girl.  In fact, when Katelyn was born in 1988, she was the first grandchild.  Someone asked my Dad what he thought about another girl.  He replied "What else is there?"  I know I spent the first few days of Kate's life feeling smug that I had scored a girl and I felt somewhat sorry for those who had given birth to boys.

So when Kevin was born, the Wells Family was a bit shocked.  We just weren't really sure what to do with this little boy. His Auntie's found him to be quite a novelty. The O'Rourke family was not so thrown by the arrival of a grandson.  Derek has 2 brothers, along with a sister, so a boy was not such a rarity.  I know I spent the first few days of Kevin's life feeling smug that I had scored a boy and I felt somewhat sorry for those who had given birth to girls.
Baby Kev - rocking that Speedo

Bridget broke the tie and we accepted her despite the fact we had been assured by all who knew, that she would be a boy.

So I guess I understand what my mother has always said "you are just happy with the baby you have.  You don't feel disappointed and want the baby down the hall instead."

Well, back to my Guilt Trip.  Once I figured out that I was the mother on this road trip, I started watching dynamic between Barbra and her son.  In comparison to my girls,  I don't think I embarrass my Kevin the same way I embarrass my daughters.  My fashion faux pas seem lost on him.  He does not cringe when I wear my famous, self-proclaimed "trendy" fanny pack.  He knows I am challenged with a tendency to " misplace" things, so a fanny pack is essential when I go anywhere with anything more than 1 car key. I think he understands this because the apple doesn't fall far from the tree.  However Kevin is growing out of this stage. He has yet to lose his ID, but I suspect this is because he needs it to buy beer.

For the most part I saw the everlasting drive to give advice to our adult children, regardless of their age.  As children, it is appropriate to guide.  It goes from "don't pick your nose" to "keep your manners in your pocket" to "two hands on the wheel" in a blink.  Now as "adults" I try not to be heard too loudly.  As a dear friend says "I neither promote nor discourage".  "Mmm Hmmm" is my mantra. My children are at a point when they own their consequences, so I take a bit of a back seat now.  However, I guess I sat back a bit too far with daughter #3, when I recently forgot to tell Bridget not to put a pot in the microwave.

 I do not give fashion advice.  How can I give fashion advice when I wear a fanny pack.  All credibility is lost. I even took fashion cues from the girls, until Roots sweat pants were replaced with hip-hugging yoga pants.  Now that is just not pretty.  I have learned to say "you look great", unless my children's clothes are torn (unintentionally), visibly filthy or reveal parts of their body that are not supposed to be seen. I had to step up this morning though when Bridget was dressing for her first day as a Nanny.  She looked pretty tanned and svelte and just a little too young and attractive.  I explained that the last thing the mom or dad want is a hot looking Nanny.  I suggested that she try a baggier shirt, with sleeves. I suggested that this was not the time to look fashionable.  I suggested that she try to look a little frumpy and plain.  Of course this was the point when Derek suggested that she should go look through my closet.  No one has seen him since.

Now the movie Guilt Trip shows the ins and outs of a mother/son relationship being put to the test with a cross country road trip.  Mom thinks it is her son's desire to spend more time with her.  Son's motivation is to reunite his mother with "The One that Got Away".

 I completely enjoyed this movie.  It was the kind of film that I thought about for a few days after. I am not suggesting that everyone would relate to it as I did.  It made me contemplate my relationship with my adult children. I am pretty sure our road trips will be limited to Orangeville / Toronto for now.  This is okay as I do not expect to have to  travel across country in pursuit of The One that Got Away. After Derek's comment today, I hope he is sitting patiently, all tied up and waiting for me to call.

Thursday, 9 May 2013

Barbados - World Asthma Day. Just the Beginning...

Well, my May holiday is drawing to a close and it has been very interesting. Barbados is wonderful and very inviting. After spending so much time here this winter pursuing my dream to Eat Sit and Think I have come to the point where I want to do more in this paradise than relaxing. 

The time I have spent here, while Derek works away on "important stuff", has been very decadent and wonderful.  After a few visits this year, I have found myself becoming spoiled. I longed for my Tassimo. I started resenting the need to put on sunscreen and I started renting a beach chair on which to rest my ever expanding derrière. Before I start demanding that Derek drive me down the road to the beach I knew it was time to regroup. I decided that I was well overdue to figure out a means to "give back" to the people who have so graciously hosted my family and me. 

I have come to readily see that so many are afflicted with asthma and reportedly the incidence of asthma in Barbados is even higher than in Canada. I am an asthma educator, so providing information by any means possible seemed an appropriate fit.  I have made ties with the Barbados Asthma Association over the past 2 years. Last year I visited shortly before World Asthma Day in May 2012. I was able to provide some asthma aids donated in Canada as well as some information packages. This year I decided to visit, specifically for World Asthma Day on May 7 . During my visit I was also given the privilege of spending some time at a local primary school providing information to students and teachers. 

Enthusiastic school children

Being  with students in Barbados was so exciting. This is a role in which I feel comfortable. Children, whether they are in snow suits or t shirts are very much the same. 

The children at the school ages, 4-10 were very knowledgeable and very respectful to "Auntie Janet" as I was introduced. The older kids participated willingly. The wee ones were enthusiastic. I did it all for the hugs.
Speaking with teachers about asthma management at school was a little more intimidating. I found the most difficult thing was being heard above the clucking of the chickens. I am serious! 
School yard Chickens

Today Derek whisked us back across the island.  Bridget and I helped to man a booth with Rosita Pollard of the Barbados Asthma Association. We provided information primarily with respect to inhaler technique and medications. Glaxo Smith Kline was providing spacers which are so crucial to good delivery of the medicine in puffers. They are unfortunately very expensive. People make do with what they have and some have devised gadgets of their own. To have them provided free of charge was an amazing thing today.
The Winston Scott 

Polyclinic saw a good number of people come through.  I also had the good fortune to meet a number of interesting individuals committed to broaden the reach of asthma education on the island of Barbados.  I expect with the individuals who are committed and skilled in lobbying and advocating, asthma control will improve greatly over the coming years. Among this group is Dr. Vincent Hutchinson, who has been key in bringing Asthma Education to children in Harlem.  He plans to return to Barbados this year.  I expect good things will be happening with respect to Asthma Education.  
Make-shift spacer 

World Asthma Day in Barbados

So with the help of Bridget my Audio-Visual geek and my husband Derek , transportation coordinator in charge of heavy lifting, we had a busy week.  I hope when we leave here after this week, at least a few people in Barbados having a bit better understanding of ways to improve asthma control.

I also hope I have made some ties to the people who are working so hard here on the island to educate and provide the means to enable the people of Barbados to manage their condition. I look forward to meeting with these people on subsequent visits to add whatever I can to support their work.

Rosita Pollard and Dr. Vincent Hutchinson of A.I.R.E

Thursday, 2 May 2013

Hurray Hurray It's the First of May!!

Today is my sister Karen's favorite day. No not because "Hurray Hurray it's the First of May. Outdoor
"Scrumping"  Starts Today!!". (Sorry this is a carryover from something I heard in high school and it resonates on May 1st each year).
No Karen is too busy celebrating the "end" of tax season. From the very beginning of January, when the rest of us are still nursing the December 31st flu, Karen launches into action. T4s apparently do not "just appear" at the end of February like I tend to think. So Karen gets us ready to get out tax stuff together so then she can weed through the mess and make sense of it for "the tax man". 
So Karen, in reverence takes shopping bags and shoe boxes from clients with a smile on her face. "Sure that's no problem, I will scrape the barbecue sauce off the Montana's restaurant receipt."  "No, unfortunately hand-crafted receipts rarely fly with the CRA".  Some people come looking for a very "
creative" tax person.  Perhaps one that will view cat food as a business expense. Apparently the elderly look at a trip to the accountant as an "outing". Karen says that many of her elderly clients bring each tax receipt individually as they are received. I am not surprised. Karen is the sweetest of the Wells girls. I understand perfectly why people come to see her often.

She then takes it upon herself to put it all together. Now I am not sure how she does this. She is my baby sister. From last I remember she didn't even know how to make toast. I hear she is all grown up. I gather this when I look at her grown children. How can Madeline be 21 if Karen is 15? 

A tax person in the family is even better than a doctor in the family. Doctors can't practice on family. Karen however is a wonderful resource. I used to do our taxes myself, until the years I was self- employed.At that point I finally had to admit, reluctantly, that if someone has years of education and experience in a particular field then perhaps they might do a better job than I. 
Now when I say I am "doing my taxes" I readily admit I am honestly just getting my shoe boxes organized and my family's forms and slips and grocery bags available so my favourite Orangeville tax person can work her magic. Nancy Pratt was born and raised in Orangeville. Her family may question whether she can make toast, but I have full confidence in her abilities. She has a host of people who work to make her job simpler. These are the people I pester before I pester Nancy directly. I realize that what I see as a very complicated mess is not such a mess to them. 
After more than a few phone calls and face to face visits I was able to explain a relatively unique rental situation leaving us with a small empty nest. I was also able to account for an absurd amount of medical expenses for Bridget's teeth and update the federal government that we now have 2 kids in Toronto pursuing post secondary education.  It went very well. Apparently the federal government is very sympathetic to our out of pocket expenses and understand that our bedroom is now in the basement. I am no longer embarrassed by what are termed "business losses". Up until this year I related "losses" to "losers" but I have rethought that this tax season.  

Now daughter Kate is not so pleased. As a self employed graphic designer for 6 months, she came to quickly understand the expression "taxes and death" as the only 2 things you cannot avoid.
It is a lesson learned the hard way  She now understands that if you don't pay tax at first, they are coming for you. .   Those are the lessons that I have found tend to stick. Poor Kate. After hearing this story Bridget was less disappointed with her refund of $9.44. 
Kevin understands, happily, that if you do pay tax, you might get some back. 

So it's May 1st. I am in Barbados with Bridget. This trip is slightly less self serving as I am teaching asthma education on this trip. More about that later. My sister is toasting with hot chocolate and baileys and relaxing on Friday before they launch back in to the taxes of the tardy.  

Good luck baby Karen. Keep smiling. When someone wants absurd deductions just find nice ways to say "no". Isn't that what our mother said about the 1st of May???