About Me

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What I am: Complicated. A mom. A wife. A thinker. A seeker. A 'musician'. One of the volunteer executive directors of a niche music festival. An administrative business owner who set up shop in a senior's condo. Oh the stories!

Thursday, 16 January 2014

Shivering under the Cuban Sun

I'm sick.  That's right.  You don't hear a word from me for 6 months and the first thing I do is whinge that I am sick.
You see, I'm just getting over the Influenza.  It seems we've all had it, and a lovely time it was, right smack in the middle of our winter holiday. I blame Hacking Guy on Flight TS763 to Cuba.  It would seem that Hacking Guy was smart and wanted to rid himself of all his germs BEFORE he arrived at his tropical destination.  By all rights, he did a great job. Is riding in a tin can full of airborne contaminants the best way to travel?  We'll leave that discussion for another blog.

At any rate, we arrived at our destination like your average pallid yet enthusiastic tourists, amazed that we left the land of snow and ice and a mere 5 hours later emerged from our tin can into a tropical paradise at 27 beautiful degrees.  One day later we began to fall like dominos.

There's something inherently wrong about sitting on a sandy beach, under a waving palm tree… blowing your nose.  When you run out of the 11 Kleenex you brought from home (because why would you even need that many, eh?), all that is left to do the job is a roll of Cuban toilet paper.  Believe you me, it ain't Charmin.   There is, in fact, not much difference between using the paper and using the cardboard roll in the centre.  Here we were, sorry and sad, smelling like Vicks Vaporub instead of coconut suntan oil.  Our maid no doubt thought we were just a little bit crazy with the air conditioning turned off and extra blankets on the bed.  Instead of holding a cervesa in each hand, we were two-fisting Buckley’s and Nyquil.  My family went through a bottle of Advil.  A. Bottle. 

Yes, thank goodness for the drugs.  They made things quite tolerable actually.  There’s a remedy for everything out there now and for four hours at a time, you might not even remember you’re sick.  It seems to me when I would get the flu as a kid, there was almost nothing you could do about it.  You’d lie on the couch in a delirious fog, and every now and then your Mom would bring you a glass of tepid water, because of course cold water was off limits for some reason.  It would no doubt freeze your stomach or give you a cold in your back or something like that.  No sense making things worse.  

I suppose we did have Tylenol, but if you recall, they were in giant tablet form, pretty much the diameter of your windpipe.  Nothing was in easy-to-swallow capsule form back then.  I just chose to suffer the ravages of the flu as opposed to having two of those suckers lodged between my tonsils for days.  Ah, yes we were a tough lot, soldiering through seasonal illness with nothing more than a pack of those horrid white Halls and a Vicks Inhaler.  Remember those things?  Pardon me while I shove this tube up my nostrils for No Measurable Effect.

Dignified, eh?

 I am grateful that things weren’t too bad and I am grateful for the drugs of this decade.  We still had some good times in the sun.  I was able to practice my broken-ass Spanish with some confused locals, we danced a salsa or two, frolicked weakly in the surf.  All was not lost. Another good thing is that my family will no longer roll their eyes when they see me packing up the large container full of ‘travel medicines’ the next time we go away.   Ya just never know.

Travel hint: Don't forget the damn Kleenex.

Friday, 21 June 2013

Farewell to Grade 8.

We’re nearing the end of June and parents everywhere are limping toward the finish line, arms full of smelly lunch kits, crumpled up pieces of loose leaf, and dried up markers with lids gone missing since March.  It seems like only yesterday we were jockeying for shopping cart position in the school supply aisles, armed with our lists which demanded we buy ridiculous things like 24 pencils and 8 erasers.   I haven’t gone through 8 erasers in my entire life.   Yet can I ever find one single eraser left over from the previous year?  No.  All they bring home at the end of the year is a giant poster board from the science fair and a broken protractor.   

Alas, the school supply lists will be no more.  We are launching our youngest out of elementary school and into high school.  City people do this with a very odd ritual indeed:  Grade 8 Grad. 
I don’t really understand how this is a thing.  When I completed Grade 8 this is what went down...absolutely nothing.  We clean out 9 months’ worth of garbage, 14 teaspoons and 3 overdue library books from our desks, and we were dismissed for the summer.  When we returned in September we went to the same building, next classroom over, probably had the same teacher.  See, celebrating that would just have been awkward for everyone.
They tell me Grade 8 grad is becoming like a mini Grade 12 grad, complete with girls getting their hair and nails done and wearing pouffy, uncomfortable gowns.  My boy is completely unfettered by the pomp and circumstance of it all; he just knows he’ll have to comb his hair for sure that day.  He claims none of the boys want to dress up and their Moms are all forcing them.   He’s been through the Ecojustice program in Grade 8 and he’s much more comfortable in cargos and hiking boots than a shirt and tie.  In fact, he’s of absolutely no help to me in trying to decide what to dress him in and neither is his father.  I thought I’d send them out on a little father-son expedition to find something decent for him to wear that didn’t involve flannel.  That was an error.  Even though I delegated the task to them, I still had to quarterback the whole thing from home.  Pictures and questions were sent via cellphone every 5 minutes. 
“How is this shirt?”
“It looks too big.”
“It is too big but it’s the smallest one.  He’s trying on a different colour now.” 
“A different colour won’t make it fit, dear.  I’m just saying.” 

The shoe finding mission was no better.

“Where are you guys now?”
“We’re at Mark’s Work Wearhouse.  He found a pair of shoes he really likes.”
“Awesome. Buy them.”
“Yeah, they’re steel-toe though.  Is that okay? ”

I probably don’t need to tell you that they came home with absolutely nothing and guess who had to run out and take care of the whole kit and caboodle??  There are some golden rules that I follow, one being Never buy anything that needs ironing and two, Never Send a Man Shopping.  Broke 'em both.  I blame myself.

Congratulations to all the Grade 8s.  I hope you enjoyed being king of the heap this year, and here’s hoping that your transition to big bad high school will be gentle.  And to Dustin and Mel from the EcoJustice program, you do an amazing thing, keep on doing it!  If anyone feels their child is a suitable candidate for this Saskatoon ecology/social justice based Grade 8 program, we highly recommend it. The Boy is all the better for having spent the year there.

Monday, 27 May 2013

Much a-do about hair.

So after the Mother’s Day shenanigans I wrote about last year, I bet both of my readers have held their breath wondering how Mother’s Day 2013 went.  Well, I can report that it was a wonderful day that held none of the bumbling crazy that seems to mark every special occasion in the Lalonde family.  Of course I had thrown out little reminders, looking at my calendar and loudly commenting on how fast time was going by:

Me: "Oh wow, May is just flying by.  This coming weekend is MOTHER’S day and next weekend is already the long weekend!"

Him: "What? No, Mother’s Day is always the long weekend."

Me: "No, they’re trying something new for the long weekend this year, calling it Victoria Day after some Queen or something."

Anyway, the day was awesome and full of great food that I didn't have to cook.  And the lovely thing was that my husband really wanted to show me that he was so much better at gift giving than camouflage and scotch so he put my daughter in charge; which was the right thing to do. 

They (she) picked out a fancy-shmancy hair straightener from a real salon.  This thing is top shelf, man.  It heats up to 450 degrees.  Apparently that’s a really good feature; however I’m not sure if I’m supposed to use it to straighten my hair or to sear a prime rib.  

Hair, specifically women’s hair, has become so complicated and quite frankly I’m just no good at it.  It’s fussy, it’s time consuming and there are all these rules.  Like, apparently you can’t just straighten the front of your hair, you have to do the back too.  Pfft.  You can’t even see the back!  Almost every woman I see out there looks so put together, I mean they actually have a hair style.  My style is called, “This is what it looked like when I gave up this morning.” 

Remember the good old days of hair?  You had two women’s hair styles to covet:  Farrah Fawcett and the blonde chick from ABBA. 

You had two shampoos to choose from: Gee Your Hair Smells Terrific (pretty straightforward on the branding there, I like it) and Agree (someone was asleep at the advertising board room table here).  And remember when conditioner was called Creme Rinse? 

There were no special ‘botanicals’ unless you count the beer in that one stinky shampoo, Body on Tap.  We didn’t even know what botanicals were.  Nowadays you can’t even find anything that’s not infused with yak’s milk and rose hips or some other weird combination for tone and structure.  

A trip to the beauty parlour as it was called in our home town was a big deal.  It was still a luxury for a lot of people to see a hairdresser and therefore many moms doubled as stylists at home using products such as Frost n’ Glow and Toni – the ever popular home permanent solution – which did one of two things, nothing at all (sorry, your Toni didn’t take) or produced a head of curls closely resembling that of Trixie, the family poodle.  “Oh it’s really tight now but it’ll relax.”  It didn’t relax.  The 70s and 80s were dark decades for hair, simple but dark. 

I have no idea who these people are but they rock the perm.
Some women love going to the salon.  I am not one of them.  Why?  Because I am forced to confess all my Hair Sins:
“So, have we been cutting our own bangs again?”
“What? No! … well maybe just the once.” 
“Ok, well you’re using a deep conditioner once a week, right?” 
“Um, yeah of course! Actually no.”
I also hate getting my hair washed, combed or curled by anyone else because I am a wimp.
"You just relax and I'll give you a nice scalp massage while I'm washing your hair. How does that feel?"
"Honestly...like you have staples on the ends of your fingers."
I tried a trendy hairstyle once, the angled bob, where the back is short and the sides are longer.  It looked great when I left the salon.  In three weeks I looked like a basset hound.   So I grew it out and I’m sticking to long, boring and hopefully, straight.  Wish me luck. 

I wonder if Bjorn has nightmares about this outfit.


Saturday, 27 April 2013

One Channel Charlie - My memories of the CBC

Let me be the 9 bazillionth person to say it.  This winter has been insufferable.  Wasn’t it back in February, I was whining that it was the longest.winter.ever?  Well looky here, we’ve got April on a downhill run and the snow banks are still piled high. 

You know what winter is?  Winter is the fly that won’t die.  You know that one housefly that keeps buzzing around your head.  You finally summon the energy to find the fly swatter and then derive great satisfaction from smacking it.  Moments later, you witness it crawl right out of the garbage can, take flight and resume its job annoying the heck out of you.  At this point, I’d welcome a fly with nine lives. Insufferable.

I heard that the Canada Geese have had a meeting to discuss what they’ve come back to.  They say if they are going to continue to allow us to be their title sponsors, we have to get it together before April next year.  Otherwise they’re staying in Boca Raton.  That’s what I heard. 

The thing about a long winter is that there is little else to do but watch TV or join a curling league. I can’t lift a 40 pound rock and I’m iffy at sweeping my own kitchen floor properly, so TV it is. Really though, I haven’t been much of a TV watcher for years, except for the local news, the Food Network, and AFV.  But even chuckling babies and a great cat montage wasn’t quite enough to get us through the long stormy evenings, so we turned to Netflix.  Do you do Netflix?  Oh my stars!  You can watch an entire season of TV shows commercial free!  Forget snacks or trips to the bathroom.  There’s no time; you are committed.

Can you imagine if, when we were kids sitting in front of our gigantic Zenith console television sets, someone told us that one day we would be able to choose whatever we wanted to watch from thousands of shows anywhere, anytime on a portable device?  I would never have believed it.  Yet here we are.

When I was a kid, we had one channel. Channel 12. CBC.  We were One Channel Charlies. Some days we would get Channel 9 if someone held the rabbit ears and turned the dial in a very specific way.  Sometimes it was just a colour test pattern and the image would be in a constant vertical roll, but hell, we’d watch it anyway because it was Channel 9!  Yellow, cyan, green, magenta...What the hell is cyan?  Why use that? "Honey, I think our cyan is off...it's running more to a turquoise."

We had to be content with CBC.  If you didn't like The Beachcombers or Front Page Challenge then too bad for you.  You had to help your Mom bake bread.  For years I heard ‘city friends’ talk about The Brady Bunch, Dukes of Hazzard and all those great shows.  I had no clue. What were Daisy Dukes? Even as an adult, I feel I have nothing much to contribute to those nostalgic television conversations.  What am I supposed to say, “Oh yeah, remember that one episode of Hymn Sing where one of the altos wore that low-cut blouse?”  That’s me, life o’ the party, once again!  No, instead I just keep repeating the same thing, “Um, we didn’t get Channel 8”.

Nonetheless, I’m glad I grew up with the Ceeb.  I now understand that it’s an institution that gave a voice and a stage to our own.  I love it and have great respect for it. Where can I find an old broadcast of The National with Knowlton Nash?  I’ll skip the National Ballet specials (sorry, Karen Cain and all the men in those awful tights), but I’d give a lot for one more Irish Rovers Special or to see the Tommy Hunter Country show in all its glory once again.  I wonder where Donna & Leroy are now?  Boca Raton?

Monday, 18 March 2013

Four Chords and the Truth - So Long Stompin' Tom

 By the time you read this, all the hype surrounding the death of the iconic Tom Connors will have ended, and we fickle Canadians will be fixated on the story de jour — Popes and pipelines or something of the sort is my guess. In this age of social media, we are as good at forgetting as we are at reacting. What you’ll read here is not going to be much different from what you may have heard multiple other Canadians say, but I’m not Rex Murphy or George Stroumboulopoulos, so here goes.

We’ve lost a few legends in the music world lately, and some that I noted with much sadness were the likes of Earl Scruggs, Doc Watson and Levon Helm, artists who spent a lifetime just doing what they did.

I’m not much of a celebrity person, but I’ve never felt the loss of one more keenly than I did when I learned of the death of Stompin’ Tom. I felt like the biggest cornball out there because I was in tears, and I couldn’t figure out why I was having this reaction — until I thought about it a little more.

Tom Connors was like family to every Canadian. He was like a favourite uncle who told fantastic stories. I wanted to go to his funeral, hug his kids and bring a loaf of egg salad sandwiches to the lunch because he represents what I so deeply respect in a fellow Canadian and in a musician.

He told the story of people, real people. He was a folk musician who was entertaining as hell, and as clever in his writing as anyone you’ll meet in Nashville. He didn’t follow trends or place himself at the mercy of record companies who wanted to change his music to make it more popular to an ever-changing demographic. No, against amazing odds, he put his head down and did his thing and never once apologized for it.

What he represented to me was a return to my musical roots, where I realized that really good music was nothing but four chords and the truth. In the mid-to-late 1990s, I was feeling major dissatisfaction with the music I was hearing commercially. Rock was grungy and obscure, and country was steadily losing its torch and twang and, in my (never humble) opinion, straight into pop music territory.

This suited some people just fine, but I was looking for something else. I wanted music with life in it. I began to shun commercial radio in favour of our new “8-disc changer” stereo, where Stompin’ Tom, A Proud Canadian, was on heavy rotation. I remembered many songs from when I was a kid. We played it over and over again until I knew every word to every song. It was fun music and as we danced our babies around the living room to the Gumboot Cloggeroo and Margo’s Cargo; it became the soundtrack to our early family life.

Fast forward 15 or so years, and I find myself very involved with a music camp and festival that takes the essence of what traditional music is, teaches it to young and old, and presents it across the generations. It’s real people playing real instruments telling real stories – people trading in mics and amps for kitchens and campfires (and maybe even a chunk of plywood).

So when I think of Stompin’ Tom Connors, I think of the man, the patriot, the story and the storyteller. But I also think of my young family, sweet memories of my infant daughter bouncing in my husband’s arms, and the beginning of a blessed road to finding my place with music.  I’m proud to say I’ve stomped along with Stompin’ Tom and will continue to do so. Thank you, sir.