Thursday, 31 October 2013

Huge Halloween Skeleton Hanging in My Closet.

Ok, Too Cute 

I am not really sure where to begin.  I have been trying to embrace the excitement and anticipation of this day.  I have read jokes, looked at adorable photos and counted down with many of you.  I have seen the pumpkin carving contests at the hospital where I work.  The little volunteer coffee lady looked like the Gene Simmons from KISS.. On the way home, I passed homes decorated more than some at Christmas.
I have been trying, honestly I have, to jump on the whole Halloween Express.  Unfortunately, I am finding, that for me, being unimaginative, more than slightly lacking in creativity and somewhat uncomfortable in full costume, this Express Train is flying by me. I have not decorated.  I have not dressed up.  I barely bought candy.  I am a poor excuse for a Halloween mother.  But then, I always have been.   I have spent years trying desperately to hide it.

This evening I continue to try to get in the mood.  I am awaiting the little Trick or Treaters to start.  It is an exceptionally unpleasant rainy evening, weather-wise.  This means left-overs!  I am happy to be in for the night with a big bowl of my favourite candy, some of which I plan to shell out.  I was a fair weather trick or treater.  I loved taking the kids on cool fall evenings, but I hid on the snowy nights and one very rainy night I went in a cowboy hat just to stay dry.

As I lie back on the couch in an attempt to analyze myself, I think it all started in grade 2.  Some snot-nosed grade 3 boy looked me up and down and said " Oh Gawd Wells, are you a witch again this year?".  Up until that time I had no idea there was a standard that had been set with respect to costume frequency. Who knew?  Apparently everyone.  I had gotten away with my standard Japanese komono for years as a pre-schooler.  These were pyjamas brought back from the Orient by my grandparents.  I guess in Ontario in 1965 it was acceptable to dress up like an Asian for Halloween.  

Had to Add it
I made my way through years and years of Halloweens.  I liked the candy.  I liked the dances.  I dressed up like many different things from a beer bottle to mouseketeer.  Those costumes were in keeping with the "show as much leg as possible" in the 1980's.  If I had whiskers and a short skirt, I was in costume, but never wore the same skirt twice.
Ok, along came motherhood.  Early years were good. I was happily on the train.  We carved pumpkins and no one cried if they weren't allowed to use the knife.
Gross Daddy
We did Halloween spider crafts and maybe even baked something. We decorated a bit (and I mean a bit). Kids dressed up exactly as you planned.  I took Kate to her first house, dressed as a clown, at the age of 3.  She got a box of raisins and she didn't even bat an eye.  She had no expectations.  When I gave the perfunctory "what do you say to Mrs. McCarthy", she replied "More?"  Ok, that was cute.  See I am not all bad.  When Kevin got his first Halloween treat he wanted to go home immediately and eat it.  He was done.

Time paddled on and kids figured out the whole dealio.  The Halloween Express began heading downhill.  Kate's birthday is September 9.  Every September 10 since 1991 she has asked me "what can I be for Halloween?".  This was the beginning of countless conversations, with suggestions, then vetoes, followed by new ideas and head shaking.  There was the last minute mind-changes with which I had difficulty.  I think in every kids mind there is some Tickle Trunk of crazy costumes somewhere in the attic.

Borrowed costume Kevin chomps on
 Now admittedly, I am neither imaginative, creative nor skilled with a sewing machine.  However, I am related to one very imaginative, creative seamstress in the form of my sister-in-law, who saved my sanity many times.  I also was never too proud to eye costumes one year, (Oh My Heaven's, that is the cutest idea and your daughter looks just like Jasmine in Aladdin") and then scoop the costume up next year.  I guess dressing up like Arab characters was acceptable in small town Ontario during the early 90's.

Boys are pretty easy.  All they really want is a sword, a cape and a mustache and they will wear it in different combinations each year. They grab a pillow case and off they go.  If it is raining or snowing, they throw a garbage bag over their heads.   Girls need alternative choices, depending on weather.  Girls usually require make up, coordinating shoes and there are concerns about their hair.  Trick or Treating in Canada can be cold, so flashing the knee comes later.  

Kevin with a hooded cape.  Away he went
I am not the only woman I know that has these conflicting feelings about Halloween.  I have a support group.  None of us could create a cool costume to save our lives and were too cheap to buy one.  We sat at the back of every Mommy and Me group of toddler bunnies, butterflies and bees.  My BFF is immersed in pre-schoolers.  She has a closet of costumes for various events. I have heard she has been known to wear one more than once.  Many have been stapled back together and other's have worn through.  One would think that someone who loves small children would, in turn, love Halloween.  Nope.  She is as big a closet Halloween Witch as I and I love this about her.  We spent an entire evening "shelling out" which included chocolate, wine and witching.

So now we come to Adult Children of the Halloween Express. Ok this Train is on its way to Hell.   I could see things progressing through the years, from arguing over costumes and pumpkin faces.  I breathed a sigh of relief when high school hit.  I was in no way ready for Post Secondary Halloween costumes.  Kate was number 1.  Off she went to Western Ontario and she was able to pick and choose a costume.  I thought a pirate was such a cute idea.  "will you wear a coffee ground beard like when you were little?".  Oh, how naive.  I didn't realize pirates could be girls.  Apparently it is called "Slutty Pirate".

Kevin I think continues to wear the superman cape he has had since he was 4 and carries a sword.  He is good.  

Now along comes Bridget, our extrovert.  I had explained to her that I had seen Mean Girls and I realized
Halloween got a bit skanky at her age.  She said she had caved and bought a Batman Costume.  Why anyone would buy a costume I don't know, when I am sure some skin tight leggings and a tight turtleneck would skank it up just fine.  Then I get a picture text.  I would include it here, but we are desperately trying to shelter her father.  Who knew they even made Batman Bikinis?

Ok When Did this Happen???

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Canadian Thanksgiving - Polite and Understated.

Our Kevin
Here in Canada we sit in anticipation of our long, frigid winter.  We are now in the midst of Autumn, also known as Fall, as the leaves turn brown and fall off the tree.  It is actually a wonderful season marked by colourful drives in the country, apple picking and the smell of fireplaces.  How Norman Rockwell I am today.  It is the season when I find money in my fall jacket and kids jump and hide in the leaves. The farmers market is rocking. However, there is always a downside to autumn.

A leaf blower is revving up as the most popular man toy, surpassed only by the snow blower. In Canada we really like to blow stuff around. Leaf blowers are a pet peeve of mine. They sound like fingernails being scraped down a mountain. They work well to rid the lawn of all the blasted leaves. However the guy next door may not agree.
I expect it is a guy thing.  Kind of like a Shop Vac or a Power Washer. These are "must-haves" in a "guy" home.  Leaf Blowers are eyed by any 10 year old boy who is waiting for clumsy Dad to stumble and break a limb. Using the Leaf Blower is kind of a Right of Passage.  When our neighbours go nuts on their Leaf Blower I am inside with my fingers in my ears, humming The Hokey Pokey.  However, when it is our turn to "do the leaves"  the old fashioned way, I am hiding in the rafters of the garage "looking for another rake".

Bridget is home for Reading Week.  This is a term that has made me laugh since 1980.  Bridget has several assignments to do, but I think she is holding off, as it is READING week, not WRITING week.  She will head back soon.  Her assignment requires something called "print sources" which I quickly assumed meant something written on paper. She has somehow exhausted the Orangeville Library's extensive collection of up to date resources on complex media study issues.  She is Toronto bound.

Last week was spent in preparation for hosting Canadian Thanksgiving.   I don't think our Thanksgiving is as built up as American Thanksgiving. Canadian families come home but it just seems that my American relatives take Thanksgiving to another level.  Canadian Thanksgiving, like Canadians is more low key.  It is lovely as it comes before the snow flies and without the hustle and bustle of Christmas. I think it is my favourite holiday for this reason.

 At mid week I find the turkey and wrestle it into the fridge.  No ham this year.  We have 2 Vegetarian guests, so we are having Quinoa instead.  I
 dig out the potato recipe and I start to peel.  Derek has traditionally been in charge of the turnip chopping and has, on occasion, used an ax.  I think it's instinctual, as provider, since someone already killed the turkey.  I pile on a few more vegetables and search for the turkey baster.  I actually had sore muscles from pulling the turkey in and out of the oven.  I found the gravy boat and Bridget has the fridge filled with beverages.  So nice when children can do a LCBO run.   Desserts that were once baked by me are now outsourced to the Farmer's Market.  They do such a great job.  Family arrived while our house was mid-nap.  This is not unusual.  It is hard to find our home when someone is not mid-nap.
Maggie, Katie, Emily and Bridget
 The whole crew contributed, including my 2 nieces who have reached the level of maturity where they ask "what can I bring".  It is so sweet to see how nieces and nephews have grown before my eyes from babies to be such strong and special people.  They even bring wine!

We had a wonderful dinner with stories of new jobs, promotions, school antics, future plans, new grand babies, teeth, recent travels, love interests, upcoming moves and the benefits of nepotism, when you niece does her job so well. This generation has got it pretty well together.  I smiled and nodded my head all  night. There was no shortage of food and the canollis went over big!  When my navel popped into an outsy I knew, from roasting enough turkeys, that I was done. 

Clean up was done by a Derek who knows there is nothing hotter than a husband who cleans while I sleep.
Granddad Looking on.

Granddad sat back and smiled at this lot that he had created.  There was 1 seat at the table that was so sadly empty this year.  This heartbreak was lost on no one.  Kids, your Grandma would be so proud.

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

"Let Me Find My Datebook"

Janet has been asked recently, by not just 1, but 2 people, when she would start to write again.  She knew she hadn't posted much, but Janet never thought anyone would notice.  As a glutton for flattery, she has jumped back in.  

Last time I wrote I was reflecting on the joys and sorrows of the return to school. For me this sequence of events marked the beginning of  life in what I feel is a true empty nest. Last year, when the 3 kiddlings were out and about living their little lives, Derek and I were living in a portion of our home, which included primarily out basement. While renting out the majority of the house I had the financial freedom to join My Beloved in his Barbados home away from home, for the better part of the winter. 

Now this year, as the 3 little sticky offspring do their own things in Toronto (from which I beg them to shelter me ) we are now spending our days in the whole house. This is now referred to as "The Castle". Although this means that I will be knee deep in our Canadian winter this year, it also gives Derek and me some breathing room. We no longer sit together nightly pretending to enjoy the other's tv choices. We no longer enter our home through the garage. We no longer have en suite laundry. We are not "The Honeymooners" as Derek's mom referred to us. We are again an old married couple who value the privacy afforded by 2 bathrooms. 

As Derek tends to travel for work, much of the time, I am experiencing a large empty nest these days. I have been working to improve my social calendar and to develop hobbies and interests to make my weeks full.  I like to bake.  I finished reading my book.  I write.  However these are solitary sports.  Although I am a closet introvert, I need something social.  
I have no shame.  I want to do more than watch TV and drink wine.  Not much more, but something.  I have solicited friends, old and new, to "hang out".  I have been taking the expression "we should get together" as a very literal invitation. I think I need to warn any and all of my friends and acquaintances "don't say it if you don't mean it, because I will be there".  I show up at every event with my date book in hand (yes, I actually still carry an old fashioned date book.  I "pencil" people in. My phone I use primarily for phoning.  Go figure?).   I could call it an Agenda.  I could describe it as a "time management tool", but really it is just where I write down the place and time of anything I am hoping to do, or that I am expected to attend.  Call me "old-fashioned" but I appear at the correct place of work, routinely.

In an attempt to add something to my datebook, I am reaching out.  I do not want to plague my BFFs with the sole responsibility of filling my social calendar.  I have, however, been enticed to be at the gym at 6am, on the pretense of "working out".  I am actually stalking my dear friend.

Now family has  to keep me company.  They have no choice.  Such is the beauty of sisters.  They were my first friends.
My First Friends - Julie, Karen, Terry, Janet
Getting together was written in pen this week, as it was my mother, Pierrette's birthday.  I think she is almost 60 now.  3 out of 4 Wells girls gathered to celebrate.  There was food and there was wine flowing.  Nothing like a good birthday binge.  I found myself waking up during the night wondering what hit me.  I  have had this here before.   I call it "the 2900 Yonge Street flu".  

Sunday afternoon was spent with some old friends. This is not to say that they are old, just that our relationships are old.  Ok, I guess that means we are old.  I have rediscovered some lovely women.  I spent many days and nights with these women in Richmond Hill.  I remember often 
suffering at that time with what I called "the 314 Mill Street flu", to which many of them might attest.  Over the years, we have all experienced profound joy and we have all persevered through heart-breaking struggles. Each has her own stories and the support is beautiful to see.  I am touched to see the bonds that have stood the test of time.  My light empty-nest schedule has its perks.  I was pulling out my archaic date book and sharpening my pencil again.

I have tried to avoid a guilt trip for my children.  My solitude cannot be their concern.  We talk and we text and we get together in Toronto when we can.  Selflessly, however, Bridget decided to come home a few days ago and keep me company.  She is so so sweet.  To be honest though, she was really so so sick.  The child called me pathetically.  I found myself trying to cure a sore throat by text.  Given that I can't even use my calendar app, there was no way I was going to treat her on my cell.  I tried.  I asked typical motherly questions.  "Are you drinking lots of clear fluids?".  I gave typical motherly advice. "Drink lots of clear fluids".  I also gave her the benefit of my vast medical knowledge and experience.  "No, I don't think you should take Percocet for your sore throat". All these conversations were  just not cutting it, so, while I was in Toronto, I asked if she would like to come home.  Much to my pleasure and my dismay, she agreed that I could care for her in person.  
While treating a sick child by cell phone is frustrating and somewhat ineffective, treating a sick child directly is gross and unhealthy.  The minute the kid got in the car there was spit and gob everywhere.  It was disgusting.  I almost withdrew my offer, but if her mother doesn't take care of her, who will.  We have spent the last several days waiting for this cold to run its course without running over to me.  Bridget is on her way back to Toronto with her Buckley's and a dozen banana muffins in her backpack.   I have bleached the remotes.  This is actually true.   

My 2 week stint at being a single lady in a married woman's world draws to a close.  I have found many ways to keep engaged.  The gym helps.  The wine helps.  Mostly family and friends help.  I look forward to Derek's return to The Castle just in time for Thanksgiving.  On his next trip my datebook will reappear with more relationships to foster.  When I reach out to  all of my LinkedIn contacts I will know that perhaps I have gone too far.