Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Life is Cruel

One of my mother's old friends called here yesterday.

By "old," I mean that she is both ancient, and has also been my mother's friend for a very long time.

Madeline Burkhart is 94 and I remember her and her husband Joe from my childhood. They were German immigrants to Canada, after WWII. Joe fought in the German army. You know, on the wrong side.

My father fought for the Allies. He hated Joe and Madeline, on principle, I imagine, but they were devout Catholics and belonged to our church, and my mother insisted on befriending them and that my father be polite.

My God, the things my father did for my mother. After fighting overseas for 5 years, and the horror he saw during the war, I've no doubt why my dad hated the Burkharts. You can only see so many people blown apart, or bayoneted right in front of you, or duck so many bullets and grapple with however many knife-wielding enemies, until the hate must just become an automatic reaction. He detested the Burkharts, but my mother made him sit in their company, and swallow his bile. Which he did.

Joe and Madeline were very musical. They played accordions and sang, and Joe led the church choir, in which my mother sang. They looked like the stereotypical versions of German musicians you see decked out at every Oktoberfest you've ever attended: he in his shorts and suspenders, neat cap with feather, hoisting his accordion to the beat. She was an absolute dumpling with pure blonde-white (oh, so Aryan), Marge Simpson-style hair, embroidered blouses barely covering ample bosoms. I exaggerate not.

I even got dragged into that choir one Midnight mass, to play my flute for a carol, and still have the picture someone snapped of me, a 13-or-so year-old girl, standing next to Joe, the two of us fluting away.

Well, eventually, the Burkharts retired and moved away from Winnipeg to a nicer climate in B.C. They called my mother just last year, and the the two of them sang her a song over the phone.

This time, the call was very different.

Madeline, who still sounds like a youngster, reported to me that Joe had a stroke last fall. He's in a wheelchair, can't feed himself and rambles on and on, forgetting the beginnings of his sentences before he reaches the ends.

They had to sell their home after his stroke, naturally. Can you believe they were still living in their own house at such an age? They moved into a retirement residence, but don't live together in the same room, because Madeline is far too weak to care for Joe.

Nope.  Joe spends his time drooling in a room that accommodates 6 people in more-or-less the same condition as him. Madeline lives alone in her own room a few stories up.

She told me the story in agonized tones. I in turn described my mother and the fact that she too now lives in a retirement residence, and that her memory is so bad that I could no longer take care of her myself. 

"Ah, her memory is just like Joe's," she said, between sniffles.

I agreed.

Now, this call had been horrid enough. But it got worse.

"Delia, life is so cruel," she wailed. "Appreciate life because it will all slip away from you, and then horrible things will happen."

As you my well imagine, I had no idea what to say. My stomach was starting to hurt a bit, though.

I finally asked if she had anyone in town who visited or helped her.

"My daughter-in-law," she whimpered. "Only her."

I didn't even think of inquiring as to what had happened to her son. If he wasn't visiting her, it wasn't for any good reason, I figured. Dead? Too sick himself to visit? Perhaps he was divorced but his ex-wife still cares for Madeline, when he can't be bothered? Who knew, but I sure wasn't going to raise it.

"It's cruel, just cruel," Madeline kept intoning.  I murmured that indeed, life could be unfair. I told her I'd send up a prayer for her and Joe. Then I gave her my mother's phone number at the retirement residence, and said goodbye.

I sat for a long time after I hung up, and was mildly ill for the rest of the afternoon. That evening, feeling the need for a rather strong drink before going to bed, I gave in. Just something to hopefully keep the nightmares away, I thought.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

What Did I Tell You?

If you have been a loyal reader of this blog, you will know that one of my mother's enduring obsessions is about her bed. In the almost 4 years she lived with us, we moved her bed, accompanied by her extremely heavy, extremely ugly, teak headboard, in and out of her room at least 4 times.

I should say, Anthony moved it.

She gave her bed to my daughter, then took it back.

She dreamt about it (often involving men entering her room in the middle of the night, tee hee), talked endlessly about it, and caused me unending grief, moving it around, getting appropriate pillows for it, and fending off her monthly attacks about how it needed fixing of this or that.

We moved said bed to her new abode in the the retirement residence. She's been sleeping on it there, for about a month now, on the same pillows she had been sleeping on here, for the past few years.

I should have known it was too good to last.

A couple of days ago, the phone started ringing. I didn't answer it. It was my mother.

She called over and over, about 20 times in a row, refusing to leave a message. Finally, in what must have amounted to a fit of frustration, she left a whispered, desperate-sounding message.

"Delia, I need my bed. I need my bed, you HAVE to bring it here, with my headboard. And I need my pillows. I had them just last night, but now they're gone" (I guess she figured that same pesky man had slipped into her room in the middle of the night and stole them).

"You may have to hire moving men, but go ahead and do it, I have to have my bed. And the pillows too. I think Alexander is currently sleeping on my pillows."

Oh, I see. I guess my SON crept into her room and took them!

Can it get any kookier?

Well, yes, it can.

Last night, Anthony and I moved more of her clap-trap from our house to the retirement residence. I took two feather pillows for her...not the ones she'd been sleeping on for the past four years (she already had those), but a couple of old ones I wasn't using any more.

She accepted them, but reluctantly. She insisted Alexander was sleeping on her old pillows. This despite my repeated assertions that Alexander is deathly allergic to feathers and has never slept on a down pillow.

Then, the really kooky stuff came out.

In the same breath that she accused my son of having the pillows, she blithely told us she'd been "shopping" about 3 weeks ago, and had bought two new pillows. She'd had them on her bed, until suddenly, POOF, they disappeared. So, which was it, I wondered? Did she want the old pillows she thought she'd been sleeping on for the last 4 years, the ones my son apparently had stolen to sleep upon? Or did she want the new pillows she'd mysteriously purchased without a word to me, and that had now apparently also disappeared.

I looked at the two pillows on the bed, the ones she'd had all along, her pillows. Who could dream two such innocent objects could cause such a  kerfuffle?

My jaw was swinging in the wind, I'm sure, I was so surprised by her pronouncement.

Shopping? My mother doesn't shop anymore. She has no way of getting anywhere, would instantly get lost, and besides, she's hardly capable of walking to the end of the hall in her new abode, never mind through a mall or department store, without almost crashing to the ground.

I asked her who she'd gone shopping with.

"I can't remember."

I asked how she got there, and where she went to buy the pillows.

"I can't remember." Her voice was getting shrill. She doesn't like being crossed, even in the mildest of manners.

I asked how she paid. Nothing had shown up on her credit statement (other than the usual myriad of drug charges and hair appointments).

"Oh, I DON'T remember! she cried.

"But I DO remember reaching out and taking two pillows..." Her voice trailed off. "I bought new pillows, I'm certain of it." You can't imagine the smug look on her face as she insisted upon this "fact."

Apparently, this fragment of a dream was what convinced her she'd gone shopping.

For pillows, of all things.

But as I've said, Sally's most enduring obsession is with her bed, and all its accoutrements.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

When's It Gonna End?

In my last post, I complained about how much I had to do this week. It irritates me that so much on the "to do" list is not about me, my husband, or my children. I wonder how all of you out there feel about this issue?

Do you enjoy doing selfless acts? Do you volunteer your time for charities? Do you spend dozens, even hundreds, of hours every month helping your parents and/or in-laws?

Anyway, looking back on the list, I see that I've finished #s 2, 4, 7, and 9.

We have partially finished #s 1, 3, 8, and 10.

Numbers 5 and 6 still await. Gack.

I forgot to mention in my last post that the back door to Dori's house was kicked in when we arrived last weekend to begin cleaning. Didn't look like anything had been stolen, but then again, it's really hard to tell because of the insane clutter. I suspect it was either John, or one of his druggie friends, though he denied it to Anthony.

We left the place with a dining room chair propped against the door handle in a rather pathetic attempt to bar further entry.

Next week, I have my book club meeting, and I have absolutely no time to pick up the book and try to finish it. I haven't gone to a movie in years. The last trip I took anywhere, big or small, was over a year ago. Both Anthony and I gained weight over the summer (too much easy living!), but are struggling mightily to find time to exercise.

I recently listened to some women complaining that they are busy and that they don't have enough time for themselves. Boy, I know that feeling.

But these same gals had just announced they were taking the day off to go see a movie (one of them had already seen it but wanted to see it again) and fill the day with pleasant things they wanted to do. Hey, the kids are back in school, they said. This day is for us, and us alone. An entire day. I can't remember the last time I had an entire day to do what I wanted (except for our two weeks of family time this past summer, at a near-by rented cottage). 

One of these women seems to constantly go away for the weekend, every month or two, to "relax and recharge." She and her husband do this several times a year, little trips to Montreal for shopping and eating, etc, etc. The also take big trips to places like Paris.

One of them even complained just the other day that she needs to retrain, because she didn't like her old career. This posed no real problem for her, in that she could afford to retrain, was accepted into the program of her choosing, and had the liberty to take the time to do it. But she complained about it.

I find it hard to listen, sometimes.

On the other hand, I realize that I usually fill this blog with complaining!

I guess everyone feels like they have no time to themselves. It's all a matter of degree, and for example, even the women I mention above feel badly done-by, though in fact they are remarkably privileged. They just don't realize it, they've been so sheltered all their lives.

So my new (I should say renewed) goal is to complain less and recall just how privileged I am.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

This Week

To do list this week:

(1) Respond to an RFP (request for proposals) for a writing/editing contract. This is a huge job that I'll have to tackle with my business partner and some associates we're bringing on board for this proposal;

(2) Meet with the editor of a prestigious publication to discuss the possibility of snagging a six-month writing gig with the Kookytown-based organization that puts out this journal;

(3) Rent a van and load said van with my mother's furniture. Deliver same to her.

(4) Before that, pick up the items on a list of things she wants (face cream, goodies, etc.) and drop off at the same time we deliver her furniture. Also, give her her God-damned elastic stockings, which she continues to harass me and the staff at the residence about, every day.

(5) Continue bagging garbage and sorting through the incredible mess at Anthony's mother's house. We started on the weekend, but only got 2 bedrooms more or less emptied. We will try to put everything we can curbside on every successive garbage disposal day to gradually empty the place. Last weekend, I placed a Kijiji ad that invited people to come and haul off furniture for free (most of it is junk, or broken-down). That worked well and we got rid of the dining table, several chairs and a sideboard.

(6) Try to find the time and energy to go through over a year's worth of my mother's medical receipts, in order to claim on her insurance. She had always done this for herself, but apparently she stopped about 18 months ago, never saying a word to anyone, until we found the piles of receipts. It's a significant amount of money, so I'll have to try to tackle it sooner or later. She is too confused to do it any more.

(7) Find a podiatrist who will go to my mother every month to tend to her tootsies. This may be easier said than done.

(8) Continue to develop a plan around organizing a 25-year reunion for next spring. Why did I decide to do this? It will mean meeting university officials who will help plan the event, tracking down lost colleagues, and undoubtedly endless hours on the computer. Luckily I have a former class-mate willing to help out.

(9) Haul myself and my son to the clinic for our monthly allergy shot. 

(10) Deal with the usual household stuff. You know: groceries, laundry, cleaning, dog-walking, back-to-school details for the kids, relating to the contractors who showed up last week, painted half-the-front-of-the-house, and then left, much to the amusement of our neighbors, banking (on my own, and my mother's behalf), meal preparation....................AAGGGGHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


Monday, August 27, 2012

Not Dead Yet

I survived last week. Took my mother to the doctor. Got a new list of her prescriptions, since we'll be switching pharmacies to one located nearer to the retirement residence. Had various conversations with the management at the residence, setting up a date to move her furniture, etc.

One prescription was wrong, so I had to sort that out with the doctor and her staff, over the phone. The new prescription is in the mail. Once I get them all, I'll have to sit down with staff at the residence to review, since they will be doling out the meds from now on.

I still need to get the prescription for the elastic stockings to the medical supply company, so I can pick up my mother's elastic stockings, and deliver them to her. That reminds me...she needs new rubber gloves with which to apply said stockings (each pair of these puppies cost about $350. So she wears gloves to avoid putting a finger through them).

In the meantime, John has been calling here, harassing Anthony. He NEEDS to get back into their mother's house, don't cha know? He NEEDS to clear out more of his stuff (I guess a year's notice wasn't enough). He NEEDS to do his laundry! Wahhhh!!!! Poor wittle boy.

So Anthony duly made a date to allow John entry into the house, ONLY to get the last of his belongings, but not to do laundry. They mutually picked a day and time.

By now, you can probably guess what happened.  Anthony drove across town to Doris's falling-down house at the appointed time. John never showed. He was probably hung over and over slept, the wittle darling.

A day later, he called and left  a message to the effect that he STILL NEEDS to get his belongings. Really?

No apology. Just "I need my stuff, man."

He actually expects Anthony to drop everything and drive across town AGAIN to give him access. What a f#*$ing creep. Loser.

Anyway. You can see how these piles of details and chores continue to rule our lives. I can only pray that once my mother gets settled into the residence, and once John finally figures out that his ties with his mommy's house are CUT, that Anthony and I will begin to see light at the end of the tunnel.

We have forgotten what it's like to have a single spare moment for ourselves.

One more thing: Anthony picked up piles of mail at his mother's house. Apparently, there were several of John's dead-beat friends either living there with him, or using the address as theirs. Anthony arrived home with a mittful of overdue fines, summonses and tickets of various sorts, and notices of pending court appearances for this delightful bunch of users.

As I said: Creep. Loser.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

This Week May Just Kill Me

My last post was a really good rant! It felt great to get all that emotion out! Plus, It's all true!

I was reading a newspaper article yesterday about a nice man who's taken care of his elderly mother for many years. I was immediately struck by his recollection that his mother never wanted his help. When he offered to take her in, she said "Larry, maybe you shouldn’t be spending your time taking care of me."

Now, clearly, this woman is not part of the Seniors, Inc. mob, to which I referred with such affection (kidding) last post. She is self-effacing, not needy or greedy in her approach to life. Or at least she was, until she got dementia. Now, of course, she's neither here nor there in her state of being, but merely has real needs which her son meets.

Good Lord. If only my mother and mother-in-law had faced life like that. My mother has used me as her crutch, her help-mate, almost like a spouse, ever since my father died when I was 17. When I was younger, I didn't mind helping my mother. I figured she needed it, because she completely fell apart when my dad died, and sure wasn't asking me if I needed any help then. 

Nope, it was all about her from that moment on. Of course, it had been all about her prior to that. But my dad had borne the weight of her neediness. Once he was gone, she shifted that mighty weight right on over to me.

As I grew older, and my own responsibilities piled up, I began to resent her neediness. She was not by any stretch of the imagination an old woman then. After a couple of years of mourning, I figured she needed to stop acting like I was my father, and capable of dropping my life to do her bidding whenever she needed help.

The only way I could remove the stranglehold she had on me was to either cut her off completely, or to physically move far enough away so as to make it impossible to just drop by to do her bidding. I did both, on-and-off, down through the years.

She fooled me though, out-smarted me like the fox she is. When she realized her capabilities were actually drastically diminishing, she faced a dilemma. How could she maintain her high standards? She needed fantastic food, but couldn't make it herself anymore. Meals-on-Wheels, I suggested? Her nose went in the air. Move to a retirement residence? That suggestion was met with stony silence. Move in with my brother or my sister? (I asked that questions with tongue-in-cheek, knowing that neither of my siblings would extend an invitation to her, and nor would she want to live with either of them because of a variety of failings she found in their lifestyles). "Oh no, no, no," she replied to that question, panic in her voice at the mere thought of having to live with my demonic sister, or in my brother's "filthy" house, as she put it (he probably needs to dust a bit more often).

And on that note, she needed to live in a place that was scrupulously clean, yet she was no longer capable of keeping her condo in the germ-less hygienic state she required. Hire a cleaner, I asked? She snorted. No cleaner could ever clean her condo the way she insisted it be cleaned. We're talking eat-off-the-bathroom-floor clean. Move to a retirement residence? I queried. I got the same stony silence.

Now, there's a part of this story I haven't mentioned to you. I'll just touch briefly on it here: For the preceding few years (preceding as in before my mother's health failed at about age 86) I had already been asking my mother to move to Kookytown. That's right. I knew she was getting on. I was single and really struggling to raise two small kids on my own, completely alone in Kookytown. I suggested to her that she sell her condo and perhaps we could buy a semi-detached in Kookytown? That way, we'd both have our privacy, yet could help one-another as required by living side-by-side. I could have a bit of freedom in that if needed, I could leave the kids with her for short periods, to get groceries, see my dentist or doctor, etc. For her part, I could fetch groceries for her, cook meals, etc.

I was financially able to buy half a semi and was not asking my mother to compromise her own finances in any way. 

She refused to answer me any time I asked. She didn't want to move here. She didn't need my help. Not yet, not at that point. She didn't want to help with my kids. Or with anything. After a few years, I stopped asking.

But then the tide shifted again. My kids continued to grow and life got a bit easier for me. Anthony and I started dating and began planning a life together. My mother's health failed, quite suddenly. It was amazing how fast she went downhill. And then she needed me, again. She couldn't cook for herself, or clean. But she didn't want to live in a retirement residence. She didn't want anything much to change. How to fix this dilemma? Over and over, she asked me that? None of my suggestions were to her liking.

And on and on it went. For two years, she dithered away in her condo, calling me and crying about how she couldn't cope any more. But I wasn't asking her to move to Kookytown anymore. I didn't need her help and she hadn't come when I needed her. I was trying to plan a new life with a new husband.

And then she had her brain wave. Pancreatic cancer!!!! Death approaches like a freight train! Delia will surely take me in!!! And she was right. Anthony and I were house-hunting. It was the perfect time to buy a bigger house...one that had room for my mother as well.

Thus she moved in here, erasing the distance that had existed between us, between my home here in Kookytown and her condo in Winnipeg.

That was 4 years ago, when she was 88. She told us she had pancreatic cancer. She flat out lied.  I fell for it, and this blog has detailed my life ever since.

Next Post: I'll tell you about Anthony's mother and her greedy-neediness, which is a totally different type of self-absorption from my mother's.

My mother: the CEO of Seniors Inc.
Anthony's mother: Co-founder and the public face of Seniors Inc.

Sunday, August 19, 2012


Ok, so my last post was probably too ebullient by at least a half-measure more than was even remotely required, or warranted.

Expectations ran high. Way too high. And so I retrench on what I think is exactly the amount of freedom I think I may have gained.

This week  I need to: take my mother to see her doctor for her usual long list of complaints and supposed needs. Then, I will take her to meet with the management of the establishment in which she currently resides, to sign a residency agreement.  This will require a long conversation to remind her that she has agreed to move there permanently. Then, we must pack her room up, here in the house, rent a van, load it with her belongings, and fill her new room at the retirement residence with her stuff.

Throughout this I will be peppered with her repeated questions and whining demands. There will be hysterics and possibly tears, might I add. And that's just on my part. Ha.

But that is just the beginning. This week we must also: go through the trashed remains of what is Anthony's mother's former home. The place looks like a drug den that went horribly wrong. So, no expensive bling or even anything slightly nice or normal left behind. Every single room is trashed. The fridge is full of moldering remnants of God-knows what science experiment gone wrong. Penicillin anyone? Every room is a fright scene of dumped out drawers, clothing strewn everywhere (horribly, I spotted one of Doris' old, yellowed bras on the dining room floor amid the shitty detritus thrown about), bed-bugs firmly entrenched through the bowels of the varied mattresses lying (where else?) right on the floors, and everywhere, the contents of what used to be a home, a place where a family grew up, tossed about, violated and left to rot where they lay on the once beautiful hardwood floors. It makes me sick. Did I mention that the paintings on the walls are splattered with the strewn contents of who-knows-what drinks, thrown by John when something didn't please him?

I'd so love to kick his skinny pathetic narcissistic ass all the way to the end of the street, and then push him over the edge of the planet into outer space.

But wait, there's more! In between performing these services for our respective mothers, neither of whom, by-the-way, attempted to plan for this eventuality, and perhaps, by so doing, might not have, oh,  LAID THIS GRIEF on their kids, I will also try to get the deck on the back of my house stained before summer's warm days drain away, fix the patio stones I've been trying to get straightened for about 4 years, to be exact, and deal with the fact that school starts in two weeks and my children have a few needs themselves in that regard. Of course, just to casually mention, Anthony will throughout all, ACTUALLY WORK AT A REAL HIGH-PRESSURE JOB, I will continue to ATTEMPT TO HOLD DOWN SOMETHING RESEMBLING A CONSULTANCY WITH AN EVER-PATIENT PARTNER, and bid on contracts, or just some little shat like that, and the house will continue to run smoothly, laundry done on time, nutritious meals served, all bills paid as required, the place kept moderately clean. Oh, and the dog exercised daily, you bet.

My children. Their needs so often get swallowed up by the ravening, voracious demands of their extremely elder, never-endingly greedy grand-mother and step-grandmother. By greedy, I'm talking resources. They think nothing of asking for most of our time, a heck of a lot of energy, and I won't even get into the strain on the medical system. The needs and requirements (real or imagined) of these women never end. I've come up with a name for the likes of them and their ilk, these aging human vacuums.

Seniors, Inc. They are like a mighty corporation, eating everything in its path with no regard for morality, ethics or what could even just pass as common politeness. They are old, and they want it all. And no one dare stand up to them.

In my mom's case, her needy-greedy routine has been a pro-active approach to the world ever since I can remember. With Anthony's mother, the opposite is true. She didn't ask for much in the past, but refused to take any wise counsel, became (and still does) hostile and angry at any suggestions that she may need help, and now that she's loony-tunes, the mess she created has been dumped in our laps.

And again, by "mess", I'm not just talking physical mess, although that is huge. It's the amount of time, energy and resources she's now sucking. Just dealing with John alone has become Anthony's full-time ulcer these days.

Before you judge me a tad harshly, just let me say: have you had to deal with anyone who remotely resembles what I've described in this blog? Until you have, not a word. 

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Free at Last, Free at Last...

I'll be brief: my mother has agreed to move permanently to the retirement residence.

Also: we found Doris' house in a complete state of filth and chaos, but empty of obvious residents. Anthony changed the locks. Thus, double happy face.

We went out for dinner after it all, to celebrate. This will pretty much be the first time Anthony and I, and the kids, will be able to live in this house, without my mother's presence. We bought and moved into the place in July of 2008, and my mother moved in with us that fall.

During the time between July 2008, when we moved in, and my mother's arrival, we barely registered our lives here, there was so much to do. Those couple of months were spent combining two households, unpacking, sorting, frantically removing old wall paper, painting, refinishing floors, etc. to make the place liveable and to make my mother's room cheery and comfortable for her.

Just to remind you, Anthony and I hadn't lived together prior to buying this house. Our lives together here have been underwritten by the presence of my mother almost completely to this point in time, and as we struggled to grow to know each other in marriage, her shadow hung over all.  My children had to adjust to a new house, new schools, a new step-father AND their grandmother, all at once. We also got married in February 2009, to add to the list of major life stressors we were facing ;)

I'm amazed when I think about it. And proud of all of us. Though we had rough spots, we did our best and my mother was given four years of life that most seniors would kill to live, I bet. Grandchildren, great food, music, parties, anything my mother wanted; all she need do is ask. Oh, and a chauffeur, me.

Here we are. August 2012. I feel oddly light. It's amazing what a weight of a presence she wielded.

Mind you, she's already causing havoc at the retirement residence. She won't take instructions from the staff, and when she wants something, harasses them endlessly to get it, pronto. Exactly like she did to me for the last 4 years. They've called several times to warn me that she will need to settle down, soon. Or else.

Can you picture my 92-year-old mother out on the street, kicked out of a place meant to deal with elderly people just like her, due to her incredibly difficult personality?

Well, I still feel light. That will be her problem, if it comes to that. I've done my time, to the best of my ability.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Stormy Weather Coming.

An alternate title could have been "Blahhhhh...."

We - all five of us, including Pepper the pooch -just got back from two glorious weeks at the cottage. This is a shot of the lake, taken as a nasty storm was starting to roll in.

You know it's hard to get back into routine after two weeks of unreal, relaxing, carefree and fun-packed times. No Internet. No emails. No work.

Just swimming, eating, reading, board games, little day trips to nearby places of interest, music, and did I mention swimming? I'm a Pisces, and if you give me good swimming, I'm happy as a ....well, a fish in water. Coming back to Kookytown has been quite the let-down, even, I suspect, for our dog Pepper, who had the best two weeks of her doggie life, running free, playing with the neighbors' dog, swimming with Alexander and Kathleen, and investigating the local wildlife.

So that's why I almost entitled this post "Blahhhhhh...."

Instead, though, I've called it something that I fear will describe the upcoming two weeks.

What will happen throughout the rest of August, you ask?

Well, Anthony and I have made up our minds that my mother will not be returning to live with us. She's currently in a retirement residence and that's where I think she should stay. I've done my time of almost four years with her, and I can no longer meet her growing list of needs. But that doesn't mean it's going to be easy to tell her that. Or easy to get her to accept that she can't come back here.

That's the first thing.

The second is that Anthony's brother John is still living in his mother's house. He has defied all of Anthony's commands to clean up, get a job, and find a place of his own to live. Anthony even fears that John has moved some of his drug-dealing friends right onto the ram-shackle house. That's because a few weeks ago, one of these thugs called us to let us know John had been beaten up, probably for not paying up on drugs or some other illegal activity.

John called here the other night. Sigh. I hate that he even knows our number or where we live.

He promised Anthony that he had moved out. But in the same breath, he said his "stuff" is still in the house, and that golly gee, honest, it would be cleaned out soon. That makes me laugh.

Double sigh. So this weekend, Anthony and I get to do two things:
(1) visit my mother at the retirement residence, tell her she can't come back here (she will interpret this as "we don't love you anymore"), bear her arguments, tears, rage, etc., all of which I'm anticipating will be spectacular, and then brace for the inevitable onslaught of guilt-inducing phone calls from her, begging to be allowed to stay;
(2) visit Anthony's mother's house to determine the exact state of affairs, who the hell is living or not living there, engage a locksmith (hopefully) to change the locks on the place if vacant, and carefully go through whatever crap is still there to eliminate any needles, butts, empty bottles, etc that may be dangerous/incriminating/disgusting.

Now, doesn't that just make your weekend plans sound a whole lot better than you thought?

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Good Ol' Entrepreneurial Spirit

I don't have time to write much. I just couldn't resist telling you about this, though:

A couple of days ago, Anthony's free-loading brother called our house. I hate it when he does. I heard Anthony having a bit of back-and-forth with him, and then he stepped outside and closed the patio door. So the rest of us couldn't hear.

Quick review: Anthony's been trying to get his mother's ramshackle house in order for sale. But John has been living there for free, and then he was placed under house arrest for a few months, stymieing Anthony's attempts to move forward on the sale.

However, also a few months ago, John told Anthony that he knew someone interested in buying the place. Who is this someone, Anthony asked? (not wanting to get involved with John's typical criminal friends).

Oh, just someone I know, John replied. Someone John had actually been working for, under the table, we think. Anyway, amazingly enough, the guy has called periodically, evincing interest in buying the house.

And last week, he, the potential buyer, told John he had his financing in order.

So, the reason John called a couple of days ago? Well, to announce that he thought he should get a percentage of the house sale proceeds. Like a real estate agent. Because he "found" this buyer.

Needless-to-say, Anthony told him that would not be happening. In no uncertain terms.

But once again, I am absolutely f***ing pissed off amazed at the blatant gall entrepreneurial wherewithal of Anthony's fine, hard-working bro.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Salt - The Final Frontier

I'm not going to belabor this.

The last 2 posts detailed how easily you can ingest too much sodium by just eating breakfast and lunch.

Dinner is the really sad part.

Once I started counting the milligrams of sodium in the food I was serving my family, I sank into depression. I thought I'd been a great mom over the years...a good cook, someone who valued making food as much from scratch as possible, rather than buying prefabricated meals. I baked and cooked away earnestly for years, not understanding just how much sodium I was pumping into everyone's system.

One of our favorite meals is butter chicken. I make it from scratch, of course. Except for the Naan bread. I buy that and President's Choice brand is a classic example of how much sodium occurs in naan. A half a slice of the yummy Indian bread contains 610 mgs of sodium. Now, my 16-year-old son usually eats an entire slice by himself, and would probably eat two if I let him.

I make the butter chicken sauce, using canned evaporated milk, yoghurt, spices, butter, etc. It's a lot of work, and delicious. It still contains quite a bit of sodium. As I've detailed, all dairy products are quite high in sodium, and evaporated milk is no exception.

As well, sodium occurs naturally in chicken, and depending on what parts of the bird you eat, you can take in fairly significant amounts of sodium just from the meat in the recipe.Of course, if you add salt to your cooking or shake it on at the table, you add sodium. One level teaspoon of salt contains 2400 mgs of sodium. So if you add 1/4 tsp of salt to your recipe, you are adding another 600 mgs to the dinner. One-quarter teaspoon isn't much and I bet many people add more.

What I'm saying is that it's quite easy to eat at least 1000 mgs of sodium at dinner if you eat 1/2 slice of naan (a rather conservative amount) and some home-made butter chicken, with a small amount of salt added for taste.

If you rely on bottled or canned butter chicken sauce, you are looking at over 600 mgs of sodium in 1/2 cup of the prepared sauce.

So I figure that anyone who eats an entire slice of naan and butter chicken made with commercial sauce is easily eating 2000 mgs of sodium, and even more than that if, say, an entire cup of sauce is eaten (highly likely once you pour it over the rice...it's so yummy).

If you add the 600 from breakfast and 800 from lunch already consumed, your total for the day is 3400 mgs of sodium. Yet, we are supposed to aim for a maximum of 1200 per day and I'd argue that about 500 per day is all you really need. Above 500 you may be damaging your arteries.

Even the old standard of 2400 that experts used to espouse looks frighteningly small next to the actual number consumed.

Here's a final thought: the menus I've described are ones that I think are fairly typical. Many people would think the meals are "healthy." And they are when it comes to some aspects of nutrition. But not when it comes to sodium.

I figure that if you aren't eating such "healthy" meals as the ones I used as examples, you may be consuming even more sodium than 3400 mgs. per day. I bet some teenaged boys eat closer to 5000 mgs of sodium every day.

It's sickening to think about.

One final, final thought: many of us don't eat enough potassium, apparently. Potassium counteracts the bad effects of sodium in our bodies. So if you eat lots of potassium-rich fruits and vegetables, you may be helping your body cope with the massive salt-attack it faces every day.

I've also started noticing that SOME commercial products which are high in sodium are also significant sources of potassium. It's something to watch for on food labels. I think some producers are actually starting to add potassium to commercial food to counteract the sodium content.

These are the brands I try to favor.

Have a great, low-sodium day! :)

Friday, May 25, 2012

Salt, Continued...

Ok, yesterday I bored you for quite a long while, about sodium. Today, as promised, I'll give you the depressing news about how much sodium your lunch contains.

Take a typical deli sandwich. Let's say two slices of whole-wheat (so good for you, right?), a bit of processed chicken meat (so much better for you than smoked meats like salami, right?), a slice of cheese (you need that calcium, right?), some low-fat mayo and mustard, perhaps a limp quarter-leaf of lettuce.

How much sodium do you guess? Remember, yesterday we established that a daily amount for health is perhaps 500 mgs, but for argument's sake, we'd aim for 1200 mgs per day, which is what "experts" are now telling us we should do. And yesterday, we discussed how your typical breakfast would easily contain 5-600 mgs of sodium.

Well, grab your seat. The bad news is, just a sandwich alone will contribute about another 600mgs. Two slices of bread will be at least 250 mgs, and probably higher. Depending on the type of bread, it could go MUCH higher. Deli meats are "seasoned." That means salt is added. So being conservative, I'd say you have at least another 100 mgs of sodium in your meat. If you eat something like Montreal Smoked Meat with a pickle on the side, the sodium literally goes through the roof. A cheese slice adds another 100. The condiments will add another 150 at least, and again, depending on the type of mustard you use, it go quite a bit higher. If you like butter or margarine on your sandwich as well, then add more sodium.

But we're not done. If you add a cup of veggie soup, and a glass of skim milk, or a V8 (all SO HEALTHY!), then you are adding at least another 200 mgs of sodium and quite probably higher if it's canned soup. So we're up to a minimum of 800 mgs for lunch. Combine that with the 600 at breakfast, and low and behold...we are already at 1400 mgs, which surpasses what should be your daily total. No room for supper, I guess.

And of course, we've blown past that optimally healthy amount of 500, long ago.

Drinks like V8 kill me. They are dripping with sodium. Even if you buy the "sodium-reduced" version, it still contains sodium! Why!!!???

As I ranted yesterday, there is simply no need for this obscene obsession with sodium. Why are virtually ALL deli meats "seasoned" these days? Why can't you go the deli and get some nice cooked chicken for sandwiches, with NOTHING added?

If you read labels at the grocery store, you will be alarmed to find that a lot of RAW meat is now "seasoned" as well. That's right. If you buy chicken breasts because you want to cook them and end up with sodium-free meat on your plate, you better read the label. A lot of raw chicken and pork is seasoned now.

And why does mustard, of all things, contain whopping amounts of sodium? Did you know you can make your own mustard, and that it couldn't be easier? Just buy a tin of dry powdered mustard and add water. That's it. Zero sodium. Why can't manufacturers make it like that for us?

I won't even go into how much sodium you'll ingest if you go out for lunch and buy a fast-food meal from a burger joint or a Chines restaurant. It might just stop your heart to know.

Next post: just HOW MUCH SODIUM can you pack into a dinner?

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Salt of the Earth

Salt of the Earth. You know the expression. It's said that someone is the "salt of the earth," if they are good to the bone. They may not be handsome, rich or even smart. But if they're hard-working and would give you the shirt off their back (another silly expression), then they are salt.

Well, I have an issue with that. Salt is bad for you. OK, not salt, per se. But sodium is bad, bad, bad. Salt is largely composed of sodium.

You actually only need very tiny amounts of sodium to keep your body healthy. About 500 mgs daily would do it, according to the latest scientific evidence. In fact, our governmental keepers have never established a minimum RDA for salt, because it's pretty much impossible to not get enough. RDA is "recommended daily allowance," btw.

I've been hearing for many years that we eat too much sodium. Way too much. It's bad for us. It ruins our arteries, causes high blood pressure, etc. etc. The end result of high blood pressure? Heart attack and stroke are two big ones that come to mind. But I only recently started counting the sodium my family ingests. The reason I started taking note of sodium is because I was told I have osteoporosis.

Now, there may be a link between osteoporosis and sodium intake. But it's complicated. I will blog about my osteoporosis,sodium, calcium, etc. at a future date. Right now, I'm just going to talk about sodium.

There's no denying salt is a contributing factor to high blood pressure, much of the time. Some people seem immune, and don't seem to receive any bad health effects from too much sodium intake. But most of us would probably be way better off with much less sodium in our diets.

That's the ticket, though. Have you ever tried to bring your sodium intake down to 500 mgs. daily? It's just about impossible, unless you are vegan, and never buy canned beans or processed cereals, or other processed foods.

If you check pretty much any food label on the groceries you buy, you will see that it contains sodium. Huge amounts of sodium. Things you never imagined have sodium added to them, because manufacturers have insisted this is how we will eat.

There's no legitimate reason nowadays for sodium to be added to the vast majority of processed foods. Eons ago, adding salt was required for preservation. Well, I have a refrigerator. Case closed, and sodium should be gone. But it isn't.

I challenge you to examine your food labels.

Bread, milk, cheese, ice cream, breakfast cereals, any boxed prepared product, almost all deli meats, mustard, ketchup, canned soups and vegetables, and especially Chinese condiments like soy sauce, all contain varying amounts of sodium.

If you are eating processed food from the store, you are probably taking in far too much sodium. I figure the average person eats at least 3000mgs of sodium per day, and many people eat much more, as in up to 4-5000 mgs.

This is insane. With all the health information and pressure on people to cut fat and sugar from their diets, you'd think there'd be at least as much pressure to cut sodium.

Even the supposedly safe amount of sodium established by alleged scientists is crazily high. For many years, I heard the number 2400 tossed around, as in that was a great amount of sodium to ingest. That number is still out there, although more and more, you hear rumblings that really, 1200 would be a better number.

Where do they get these numbers from? I have no idea. Health Canada won't even insist that manufacturers start lowering the amounts of sodium in the products they foist on us. Apparently, it would cause an uprising.

I think its quite safe to say 500 is a healthy number. But let's take that number of 1200 mgs. Let me show you how ludicrous a thought it is to even attempt to eat that amount of sodium, in our modern world, never-mind 500.

Take a typical day. You get up, and think about breakfast. Hmmmm...what to have? A bowl of "healthy" fibre-filled bran cereal, endorsed by the Heart and Stroke Association as being "healthy?" (make ironic noise here) Or perhaps a bagel with peanut butter, glass of milk and some fruit. Really healthy, right? How about a giant muffin, one you bought at the local health food joint? It's low in fat, remember?

WRONG! Processed cold cereals (as well as processed hot cereals, like those instant packages of flavoured oatmeal) can be very high in sodium. Almost all are. I've started seeking breakfast cereals that have no sodium, and believe-you-me (another silly expressions!), they are few and far between. I can recommend Post Shredded Wheat which is whole grain and has no sugar or sodium. President's Choice also makes a "Blue Menu" brand of some crunchy oats and almonds concoction with no sodium (and lots of sugar). But that's about it. So those are the cereals I buy.

You can also make your oatmeal from scratch, or prepare hot cereals like Red River Cereal or Cream of Wheat to arrive at a breakfast with no sodium.

Otherwise, you are eating about 200mgs of sodium in your prepared cereal, and once you add milk (which contains naturally-occurring sodium), you are up to 300 mgs already.

If you eat a bagel and PB, good luck. The bagel probably contains 400 mgs and the PB another 100. Add a glass of milk and you are up to 500 already, which is supposed to be your allotment for the entire day, if you are sticking to a truly healthy amount. Even if we aim for 1200 a day, you've already used up almost half.

You can see where this is going.

All commercial breads are high in sodium. They often contain baking powder, or baking soda (which contain sodium), and the manufacturers add salt as well. Two slices of toast can provide you with 3-400 mgs of sodium. I've read the labels at my local Great Canadian Superstore, and I can't find a bread that contains less than 120 mgs of sodium in each slice. That's actually a "good" number, given how much sodium they pack into some baked goods like bagels or Naan. Even breads that are made with yeast (and thus require no baking powder) contain salt, and so have significant amounts of sodium in them.

I bought a bread maker and have started to TRY to produce low or no-sodium bread. Good luck to me. There are few recipes anywhere that espouse a no-sodium approach. The ones I've tried are failures. Apparently, yeast requires salt to make it work right. So you just can't cut out the salt in a yeast-based bread recipe. The dough rises too high and then collapses without salt to make it rise correctly. Who knew?

But I'll keep trying. Making bread is an art, and I think I may be able to come up with a match of A WEE BIT OF SALT ALONG WITH A PORTION OF YEAST, so as to make a loaf. I've also started buying peanut and almond butter which contain no added salt (again, President's Choice Blue Menu). This makes everyone in my family unhappy (except for me), because these products also contain no added sugar. PB with no added salt or sugar tastes very bland compared to "regular" PB.

Anyway, this post is already much too long. I'll continue on another day and tell you how much sodium your lunch contains.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Crime and Punishment

I updated you a few weeks ago on Anthony's brother. John had caused our collective blood pressure to rise when he pulled one of his usual stunts.

We now know the outcome. So the situation was: (1) John hadn't done his community service and was facing jail time (we hoped) (2) he was trying to weasel out of it all. And as usual, he dragged Anthony into it.

We should have known. John didn't "get out of it." No, not quite. But instead of facing jail time, they put an electronic anklet on him and sentenced him to house arrest. Well isn't that just fine and dandy.

So who do you think looks after the jerks who get sentenced to "house arrest?" Well, the owners of the "house," that's who.

Suddenly, Anthony needs to sign papers to the effect that the authorities can use the phone line to monitor John. And John, of course, now has to live in the house. Not HIS house. Nope.

Doris's house. The house Anthony is desperately trying to get into shape for sale. Because everything in it is a mess or needs repair (read major repair). And this is the legacy he's been handed.

So, let's review:

Doris slowly gets old and demented. She takes her time. The doctors warn her. Anthony tries talking to her. She resists all attempts to help her. She gets older and crazier. The house, which was not in great repair to begin with, starts to really fall apart. She resists. She is angry and hostile when anyone tries to help.

Along this road, Anthony has to take care of a multitude of things. He has to do most of them by stealth, because Doris will get angry if she knows he's helping. He gets her bills set up for automatic payment. He takes her to her GP by trickery for check-ups. He tries to get her to take her gout medication (and fails). He picks her up from the hospital when she ends up there. He routs the homeless guy from the property after Doris lets him come to live in her bed, of all places. He monitors her bank accounts to make sure she has needed cash, that John isn't overtly stealing (we knew he was but it was little bits and pieces), to keep her investments in order. He pays all taxes, property and income. He sets her up with a social worker who checks on her condition from time to time.

And finally, after it's clear she can't live on her own anymore, because she is going to get herself killed, he devises a plan to gently, calmly trick her into a posh dementia ward. It works.

Now, Anthony has to deal with the banks. Even though he has everything properly documented, they refuse to recognize his power-of-attorney. He spends hours and hours of time talking to them, negotiating, arguing.

They still won't give it up. He's still working on it, but honestly, Doris is going to run out of the one fund of money that he can access, soon. Maybe the banks will relent after she ends up out on the street, and the story front-page news?

Meanwhile, her broken-down house is Anthony's problem. He can't sell it as is. It needs work: asbestos removed, roof fixed, the knob-and-tube wiring ripped out and replaced. The insurance company calls to say they won't cover the house any more unless the electrical safety authority inspects and passes it.

But John has to serve his time there! Society has deemed that it's too expensive to keep people like him in jail! There's no room in the jails anyway! So why don't we let the "family" house these criminals?! Great solution, society.

Thanks. So John is there. We can't cut the electricity. We can't get insurance for the place. John's sentence is going to last a few months. Who's paying for the utilities so John can watch TV all day, invite his druggie friends over, and relax? Well, at the moment, it's Doris. But what happens when her cash runs out? And when HER residence needs to be paid? And HER house needs to be fixed?

On top of all this ridiculous crap, we have discovered that Doris's old little shack is actually in the "heritage" section of Kookytown. So we can't tear it down and build a nice rental property. We can't sell it for that purpose either. In fact, the outer appearance of the home can't be altered. What a load of crapola. If you saw Doris's house, you'd know it's not of any heritage value. Not one speck. But tell the Kookytown government that.

So I guess Anthony is supposed to pour money into this property to fix it in the faint hope someone will buy it. And pour he would have to do. It would take a quarter-of-a-million to bring it up to modern standards. It's a tear-down. That's all it is. The house across the street is abandoned. That's because it's a "heritage" house too. And the owners don't have the money to fix it and they can't sell it.

So it seems pretty obvious no one will want to buy Doris's house. Not unless we can somehow fix it, or get permission to tear it down.

 All I know is, it's Anthony who's been handed this mess. Why? Why does everyone in Anthony's family hand him a big mess? They don't take care of business. They just let everything slide. They act with absolute selfishness and reprehensibly, to the max. Because good old Anthony will fix everthing.

I'm bloody sick of it.

One day, I'll tell you about all the other stuff that Doris has handed over for Anthony to fix.

Friday, March 30, 2012

TGIF - Whatever That Means to You.

Here in Kookytown, many a person was glued to the TV yesterday, watching Minister Flaherty (aka "that leprechaun") deliver the country's 2012 Budget.

There'd been much ado leading up to it. Media and lefter-leaning publications and organizations had built up the possibility of a slash-and-burn approach to programs, services and jobs. Semi-hysteria was the order of the day. Meanwhile the conservative right eagerly awaited the word on just how many corporate tax cuts/perks could be bestowed.

In the end, the media hailed it as a "middle-of-the-road" type of budget. I don't quite see it that way, as almost 20,000 people thrown out of work (Kookytown civil-servants, so who cares?), nothing for the environment and not one word on the state of health care in this country is a big fail in my mind. But I'm nobody, so blah blah.

Really, it's Friday, and now that the giant Budget zit has been popped, I'm back to thinking about what Friday actually means.

For my cube-troll neighbor, Friday means nail-filing time. How she can do it so loudly is a mystery. But every Friday, she does. A week of doing nothing but holding loud, moronic personal conversations, eating several daily meals with insane gusto at her desk, and avoiding work (every phone call she takes ends the same: "You've called the wrong person. That's not my job. Who gave you my name?" It's very Kafka-esque) is tough on a gal apparently. She takes Fridays to fluff, groom, eat, relax with feet up on desk, smoke, and above all complain.

Re: Friday, I'm also reminded of a certain blogger who used to post naughty pictures of herself every Friday. Most of the male bloggers I know would wait with bated breath for Fridays. And no wonder, 'cause she certainly has a grand body. Men from all over the world would comment.

Well, nothing so out-there for me. I'm just going to post one more round of "Friday Fright" pix. I figure these will be the last in the series, as I've finally explored most of the "unique" design elements of the office in which I work.

Wheeee! Here we go:

This is a chair in my cube. It is for visitors to perch upon (except they usually can't because my coat rests on the chair. I have no coat rack. Or even a hook. You can probably imagine what I think of the fabric. So I won't go on.

Now, let's see what happens when I pull out just a tad: so you can enjoy the overlay on fraggly-green-carpet.

Uh-huh. But it gets better, as usual. Here's what happens when I bring my desk chair into the shot:

That's correct! The fabric on the desk chair is NOT, I repeat, NOT the same as the fabric on the other chair. Predictably, neither pattern is what I'd call "retiring" although I do appreciate the "purple" theme in both (like a hole in the head).

Let's take a little closer look:

Do you see what I see? Or have I blinded you yet?

Just to be cheeky, here ya go:

This may be how the inside of my head looks by Friday of every week :)


Monday, March 26, 2012

Just When You Thought it Couldn't Get Any Worse...

OK, when we last discussed the insane colour/pattern schema of my current workplace, I just bet you thought to yourself: "Phew! That's some bad. I just KNOW they couldn't POSSIBLY throw in yet another colour/pattern to that slatternly mess!"

Well, you thought wrong! So wrong! On both counts!

Let's start with the new pattern. I'm saving the colour for last.

So I was hanging about, pretending to flip through email on my BlackBerry device as I walked about CubeLand (while actually just taking a break from my desk in order to avoid the crunching, munching, lunching sounds from my neighboring cube-troll), when I looked down. Here's what I saw:

Yes, I know. I couldn't believe it either. Let's move in for a closer gander:

I lack words befitting this abomination. I'm sure you have correctly recognized the ever-present, mind-bending fraggly green striped carpet. But the chair!!!! What the hell??!! Let's delve even more deeply into this puzzle:

If there were a God, I'm sure she would not have ever allowed the creation of fabric like this. Especially when placed next to  the fraggly green striped carpet. So: proof we live in a God-less vacuum.

But WAIT: I want to show you the wide shot for the full effect:

Oh yeah.

I'm telling you, I just about lose my lunch on a regular basis around here. I get sea-sick if I don't squint my eyes mostly shut while running from one cube to another. Getting to the bathroom without emptying the contents of my stomach - a bathroom which is at the far end of the floor from my desk - is a real accomplishment.

Ok, peeps. The final coup-de-grace. The intro of yet another bold stroke of colour. So, what do you think it's gonna be? Think hard: we already have pink, green, purple, teal and a number of motley shades meant to resemble mauve. What would add a nice finishing touch to all that?

Why, lime-green, of course. BRIGHT lime-green:

Now, that green, in-and-of-itself, is not the end of the world. It's actually kind of funky. It could be used for a nice accent tone in a beige room. Or to add fun and pizzazz to a child's room.

But Mother Of God, when you are familiar (as you are) with the total colour scheme I'm looking at as I swivel my head about here in Kookytown Gov-land, you know this was not the wisest choice of chair colour.

I need a good wide-angle lens to capture the full glory of it all for you. Maybe I'll just try and borrow one and get a really good shot of EVERY SINGLE COLOUR and PATTERN all together. For your enjoyment, of course.

This is all in the service of YOU ;)

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Mad Men

It's almost here!

If you are a Mad Men fan, you know of what I speak.

The indescribable agony of waiting for this, the new season 5, to begin, has seemed unending. But tomorrow, yes, it will finally arrive!

I can't begin to tell you how terrific, wonderful, sensational...OK, I guess I am telling you! Let me start over. I can't begin to tell you how great it was for Girl With a Flask to post a detailed and delightful guide to Mad Men, and most importantly, on HOW TO CATCH UP ON MADMEN.

That's key because it's been ages since the last season ended, due to a variety of issues centered around, what else, money.

I am going to read all about Mad Men, thanks to The Girl, because I have forgotten a lot.

But one thing I haven't forgotten, is just how great the series is. Tune in, if you haven't already.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Moms Who Need Wine

Isn't that just a brilliant name for a blog? I just finished reading this post in the Momswhoneedwine blog.

Now, let's be clear. I am definitely a mom who needs wine. Red wine. Good red wine. I'll also accept any number of cocktails, Martinis being at the head of that list.

Thank God we clarified that. You know, just in case you thought I was a tea-totaller. Whew.

So, the post on Momswhoneedwine is brilliant. It's my life. My frantic, hectic, mind-boggling, head-spinning life. The point of the post (in case you don't want to go there to read it) is to highlight just exactly how dazzling it is to be a full-time working mom. "Dazzling," as in "I'm a deer in the headlights and I can't figure out what the hell is going on because life is speeding toward me so fast I could just barf". Definitely not "dazzling" as in "I'm a star."

I've had this conversation a lot with Anthony lately. You know, the "I'm having a hissy-fit because I'm totally completely overwhelmed" conversation.

Me: "Argh! Ack! What the...! I want to die! I hate this! Did I already mention 'What the...?'"
Anthony: "Did you say something?" (as he looks up from the television).

The whole thing about "having it all" is that it's simply too much. At least, too much for women.

Here's how it works. Over time, you acquire it all. You actually WORK VERY HARD because, get this, you WANT IT ALL (or at least, you THINK you want it all): the job, the hubby, the house, the hobbies, the kids, the pets, a bigger house, a more frightening job, maybe another kid, more pets, throw in a cottage, the kids get hobbies, the pets grow incontinent, your mother moves in, your mother-in-law gets Alzheimers, the.......oh, well, you get my point.

And suddenly you realize: it's too much. You no longer want it all. What you want is to take large swathes of your life and dump them in the river. You could never work another day and be thrilled. If you never heard from your mother or mother-in-law ever again, you'd be even more thrilled. You long for the times (like when we were kids) when it was acceptable to refuse to drive your kids ANYWHERE, and btw, "No, you can't have that. Ever. End of explanation."

I am currently in this position. I know many woman who are as well.

Now, the double-edge about this is that men never get overwhelmed by having it all. They gladly go along with the women: "You want a bigger house? Sure dear. Another kid? Well, ok, if you insist. You're taking that promotion? Good on ya!"

The truth is, men don't get overwhelmed, because they don't really want it all, they never aspire to have it all, and in point of fact, their definition of "having it all" is so very much smaller than most women's, it's microscopic in comparison.

MEN who have it all actually have: JOB. (Car, girlfriend/wife, sports/hobby). End of list. In Anthony's case, his hobby is watching tv.

WOMEN who have it all: see my rant above. Add to that list: time to exercise, quality time with children, making costumes, lunches, school projects, driving granny to the doctor, picking paint colours for the repairs that may just never get done......I might as well end here, because otherwise I'll just keep writing. Women's "ALL" is never-ending.

Anthony does his job well. It's his priority. Everything else is a far-distant number 2. He doesn't think about what we will have for dinner that night. He just doesn't care, and would eat cardboard (or frozen dinners) for the rest of his life if I didn't insist on preparing semi-healthy meals for the majority of our suppers.

A clean house? Please. Anthony never ever cleaned a house until the day I made him help me do that, a couple of years ago. And he certainly never thinks about it or adds it to a list of "worries" that women like me carry around at the backs of our minds, all day, while we're busily multi-tasking away. Anthony would live in a dust-heap and like it. So much better than actually wasting time cleaning, no?

The million things around the house that need repair? Ahahahahahhaha!!!!! That's Anthony laughing nervously when I mention them. He's nervous because if I mention them, he may have to deal with them. And honestly, he just couldn't care less. He'll deal with them, to please me. But if not for me, he'd deal with house repairs like he does with anything else that isn't work related: at his own pace, when he has time, when HE feels like it. And that might mean never.

What ever. That's how he thinks about all the extraneous stuff. And then he relaxes. Because he works hard at his job and he knows, instinctively, that he will become overwhelmed if he starts thinking about all the other stuff that requires our attention. So he doesn't.

Now, why can't women be like that?

The upshot of all of this is that I am a mom who needs wine. Because I just can't shut down that ever-growing, morphing, hateful list that's in my mind, the list that reminds me what I need to do in order to continue HAVING IT ALL.

Methinks it's time to downsize. Maybe I should just give it all up, have a sex-change operation, and BECOME a man.


I'd probably just continue thinking like a woman ;)

Friday, March 9, 2012

If It's Friday, It Must Mean...

...my goodness, has an entire week fled? Indeed.

And due to popular demand (Ok, one person), I have to really up the ante on your Friday Fright Pictures, which I introduced in order to make you as sea-sick as I constantly feel in this, my Kookytown Government Work "Environment."

Git yer popcorn and settle in.

So, when last we met, I showed you the juxtaposition of fraggly green striped carpet, with purple-grey cabinets, meeting the motley mutations of the purple/pink/violet "walls" (quotation marks R us) in my death-pod cubicle.

How can you top that, Delia? (you are thinking this, and with good justification).

I'll start gently:

Once you can stop shielding your eyes, what you will see is the introduction of yet another colour: teal, as I like to call it. Almost a robin's-egg blue. And why not, I ask? After all, clearly, the people who brought you this interior decorating scheme obviously thought why not?

Now, in review, we have vomit-violet (fabric cube "walls"), purple-grey (cabinets), green, black and beige (fraggly carpets) and NOW, TEAL. The teal shows up here and there, as cabinets, the odd wall painted not white or gray, but teal, and in the kitchenette (that's an entire other episode), teal appears in a variety of ways. I can't wait to show you that, but I digress.

Let's take another look:

Here you see a teal door (yes, we have the odd teal doors, here and there, scattered about as if some mad, colour-blind artist ran amok down the halls). Isn't it lovely? Especially when placed next to a purple cabinet,  perched nicely on the fraggly green striped carpet, and finished off BEAUTIFULLY, I might add, by the stunning addition of a vomit-violet fabric "wall."

As a treat (I've been saving this!), you'll notice something new in the above "wall," something I've been too kind to show you prior to now. Yes. It is the pink STRIPE running across the middle of the vomit-violet "wall." Isn't that "something?"

Well, because I sense you are nearing your limits, and I am, at heart, a kind person, I will show you just ONE MORE PICTURE. It's a doozy, so hold onto your seats. And your stomachs.




I knew you weren't ready. There it is. Full glory. The close-up of the pink (really livid, isn't it? Almost like my dog's tongue after she's eaten some God-forsaken food-colour-dyed rawhide strip) show-cased against ALL the AFOREMENTIONED HUES, TONES, COLOURS, WHATEVER YOU WANT TO CALL THEM...well, it really knocks one's socks off, doesn't it?

And not in a good way.

So, here I am, sockless in my cell cube, just waiting for my prison term contract to end. Have a great weekend, and pray for me.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Your Friday Fright

So, one week ago today, I showed you my *lovely* cubicle walls. I promised more, and I always deliver on my promises.

Here is the carpeting in my cubicle, and in fact, throughout the building:

Now, in and of itself, this carpet design is way up there in the "uglysphere." But when you pair it with the cubicle "walls," the combined effect far transcends anything I could hope to convey in words. Even gross, over-the-top descriptive words. Here you go:

Stellar, no? But let's take a closer look:

I know, I know, green is supposed to go with "everything," right? After all, in the great outdoors, green is the backdrop for a dazzling array of colours. You could, for example, allow your eyes to repose upon a flower with green leaves not unlike the tone of yon carpeting. And that flower might well be adorned with purple petals of a hue quite close to the violet shade so nauseatingly portrayed in my cube "walls" (I refuse to ever drop the quotation marks from around the word "walls").

So why do I complain, you ask?

BECAUSE the FLOWER WOULD LOOK GOOD, that's why. What procurist-from-hell for the Kookytown government thought the above combo of purple and green LOOKED GOOD?

I think I'm within my rights here, people, to complain ALL I WANT.

Ok, since it's Friday, I'll give you ONE MORE picture to REALLY MAKE YOUR WEEKEND:

Yes. After choosing the wall fabric and the carpet colour/design, procurement went finally, irrevocably and viciously straight for the jugular. They installed PURPLE CABINETS. As I've mentioned before, not pretty purple. Purple mixed with grey. Purple to kill yourself by.

I have nothing more to say. I'm exhausted just from reviewing the whole God-awful mess.

Have a good weekend, and don't forget to appreciate your own carpet, because it simply CAN'T be as bad as this.

Friday, February 24, 2012

What Did I Tell You?

This is a shot of the "walls" of my cubicle.

After ranting about being back in Cubeland a few posts ago, I realized that you could only truly appreciate my suffering if I gave you some visual aids.

There you go, and sorry if I ruined your day.

Don't worry, I'll keep posting pics of other things in Cubicle Land. Just in case you ever think you've got it bad, you'll only have to refer back here to cheer yourself right up.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Reading/Writing (and 'Rithmetic)

I should be reading. I joined that book club. Our first book to read is When She Woke, by Hillary Jordan. I'm perhaps one-quarter through it.

But I'm not feeling too interested, so reading it is a bit like homework. I'd rather write, any day!

When I think of the books I've read that I couldn't put down, this book pales. But it's hard to find books like Margaret Atwood's The Blind Assassin, or E. Annie Proulx' The Shipping News, or Jane Smiley's A Thousand Acres. And then there's Pride and Prejudice, hand's down the book I've read the most times over (as an adult). Need I mention Barney's Version?

I couldn't even tell you the number of times I read, and reread books as a child. Books like Anne of Green Gables (and all that followed), Black Beauty (I still remember how the pages smelled!), The Black Stallion series, and all the Lad of Sunnybrook adventures. Not to mention Beany Malone. But I'm showing my age.

Now those are books. When I read A Thousand Acres, it was like a revelation to me. That such simple, straightforward writing, such simple words, could convey such intensity, could make me understand the depth of what the characters felt, was boggling.

And Margaret Atwood is a genius, nothing more to say.

It's interesting that movies were made of both The Shipping News, and A Thousand Acres. The movies don't come close to the books, although I did find The Shipping News in movie format somewhat entertaining.

I'll have to search far and wide for a book that will be worthy of reading, when it comes my time to pick for the book club.

I've also been doing some math tonight. My son put his iPod up for sale on Kijiji, and within 1/2 hour he had an interested person who just came by the house, looked at the thing for about 30 seconds, then handed Alexander $150.

I've already popped the funds electronically into Alex's bank account.

My, times have changed since I was Alex's age, and baby-sat for an entire evening, only to receive $3.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Wedded Bliss

Today is my 3rd wedding anniversary with hubbie #3. If you believe things come in 3's, then I guess I'm due for one more nice occurrence today :)

Champagne with laundry, perhaps?

What can I say?

I do know one other person who's been married three times. But other than her, I'm out on a limb here as far as friends in the same situation: Anthony just LOVES cracking his fave joke about it whenever he can. The one about how much I like being married.

I must, he says. After all, I keep on doing it.


Anyway, it's Monday. Tonight is laundry night. That's how we'll celebrate.

But I don't mind. My life is so blessedly full, I haven't even time to do little things like celebrate personal milestones.

But I figure I've got about 5 more years at high-speed. And then, my mother will be gone, either to another residence or another plane of existence. And both Alexander and Kathleen will be off to University or globe-trotting, or whatever.

I get the very strong sense that Alexander will go to another city for university. And Kathleen may or may not follow suit, but in any event, in five years, she won't be needing me hanging over her shoulder. Nor wanting it, I bet.

So that's when I'll celebrate personal milestones. Right now, I'm too busy enjoying life. And laundry.

Friday, February 3, 2012

The GM of Being Back in CL

As you may have noted, I've not been posting much lately...been too busy.

I'm back full-time with the government, in cubicle land. If you've never worked in CL, you are fortunate and ignorant of the way it can suck the life right out of you. Cubicles, to the uninitiated, are the crappy government equivalent to offices. Not.

The cubes are built of grey and purple (I kid not) fabric boards that are intended to form the impression of some sort of "office" space around you. The carpeting in this building is a frenetic zig-zaggy green, black and brown (again, no kidding. How could I make this up?) Filing cabinets are purple (not bright Barney purple, but a truly degrading tone of dullness...purple mixed with a lot of grey), walls are light grey or off-white, and the lighting is the coup-de-grace. Flourescent, hidden behind dimpled plastic covers. We all look ghastly ill, sickly with a sickliness that only the undead can appreciate.


Fail. I had to repeat it.

I feel like I'm a miniature being, surrounded by vomit-toned leggo. The "walls" provide little privacy, due to the fact that they only reach about 5'6". So tall people can walk by and look right over into your cube. And of course, sound reaches you with crystal cubey clarity.

Then there's the fact that the cubes have no doors, so it's pretty much open air onto the "corridor" which is formed by the fabric walls of hundreds of cubes, all piled storey upon storey, like some creepy ant or termite hill housed in ash-grey, death-toned concrete.

I'm on the 4th floor of a 21-floor building, surounded by other tall and medium-tall buildings in a sprawling government complex in the middle of Kookytown. The complex was built in the 1960s-70s, and the architecture is particularly depressing (to my mind, anyway).

I wander through the acres of land making up this bureaucratic beehive (I walk to and from work, and try to get out at lunch-time, in a bid to retain sanity), jaw slack with disbelief, wondering at the moronic, dystopian mind-set that resulted in this: the ugliest, most inefficient, suicide-thought-inducing design of monstrous, ill-knit buildings, parking lots and grassy expanses (why are empty grass expanses with lone picnic tables dotting them so terrifyingly sad?).


To top it off, my cube neighbor is a troll. Like clock-work, every day, promptly at 9:30am, she pulls out a bag of raw carrots and begins crunching.

Due to the airy "ceiling" of CL, every chewing movement of her mandible is clearly available ad nauseum to my delighted ears. And oh, she chews.

She chews with vigour, with open-mouthed alacrity, and more-over, with such tenor it's frankly alarming. Hasn't she suffered hearing loss yet from a life-time of what is clearly a raucous (to put it mildly) business for her, the business of eating raw vegetables every morning? And who the hell eats carrot-sticks every single day at 9:30, anyway?

My cube-troll, that's who. Being back in CL is enough to bring on the GM.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Hoping for Some Wine (did I say that?)

So a friend has suggested a book club. Having read thousands of books in my time, and all of them while alone at that, the idea of a book club fascinates.

I'm aware I'll still read them alone. But now, apparently, upon entering the "book club" status, I will be able to discuss said books with others. Very cool. Which further means, I will no longer have to cogitate and analyse said books all by my lonesome.

Uber cool!

Did I mention we'll also (apparently) drink wine? Not that that motivates me at all.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Just a Typical Day (Part 2)

My "home office" used to be in the corner of our kitchen. The problem with that location is obvious: once my family came home from school and work, I had no privacy to continue working.

Since Pepper came to live with us, we moved the computer and desk to the upstairs landing at the top of the stairs. The four bedrooms and a bathroom lead off this landing. Obviously, the problem remains: there is no privacy and when everyone gets home at the end of the day, I can't continue to work due to noise, pestering, etc.

However, this location also has another problem: whereas before, in the kitchen, I could work away all day with the only interruptions coming from my mother after she arose (anywhere between 11:30am  and 2pm is her usual range), now that I'm sitting in the hallway right outside her bedroom door, I can't work at all.

That's because she snores like a moose. The decibels are frightening. I seriously CANNOT concentrate.

This is my life.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Just a Typical Day

So the phone rang the other day. I find that a lot of trouble starts that way. Especially lately.

It was the "retirement residence" where Doris is currently locked up. I watched Anthony's face as he listened to the voice on the other end. Immediately, I knew it was going to be one of those days.

Finally, Anthony told the caller that they didn't need to do anything, and as a matter of fact, that they had no authority to speak on that particular topic.

He put the phone down, and started to rant.

Seems his welfare-collecting, con-artist, weasel of a brother John had finally made his way to the place where their mother was now living. He had never once gone to visit her since Anthony placed her in the residence a few months back. But he'd magically found his way there on that day. However, not to visit.

No. He wanted the administrator of the residence to sign a letter to the effect that he, Weasel-John, had been unable to fulfill his community-service sentence due to the fact that he, Weasel-John, HAD BEEN TAKING CARE OF HIS ALZHEIMER'S-RIDDEN MOTHER.

OK, let's review.

Doris had two sons. One, John the Con, the elder, is your typical free-loading, irresponsible, criminal-type psycho, who thinks the world owes him a living plus change.

The second son is Anthony, who is your typical hard-working, tax-paying, responsible-type salt-of-the-earth guy, who has never asked anyone for help his entire life. 

You couldn't find two more opposite brothers. It's bizarre, and I'm not the first person who's asked Anthony if he just maybe was adopted? 

Anyhow. Figure the looks on our faces when we got this call. We (1) had no clue that John had been convicted of anything recently, or that he'd been sentenced to community service hours. And (2) the freaking gall of John hitting up the residence administrator for a letter attesting to the alleged reasons why he just couldn't do the community service (poor baby) was mountainous. Mountainous, I repeat. Mountains of gall. Just picture it.

Anthony and I stared at each other. I recall sputtering.

Me: "Sputter. He managed to find his way to the residence? He is sitting in their office right now? Demanding they sign a letter saying that he's been SO HARD AT WORK TAKING CARE of DORIS, that he couldn't do his community service? You're kidding, right?"

Anthony: "Mrghlmrglmememmmmm..."

Me: "He collects welfare, works under the table when he feels like it, sells and buys drugs, and has lived with your mother for the last three years, WHILE SHE TOOK CARE OF HIM, and now he's claiming HE TOOK CARE OF HER?" 

My voice rose through this diatribe, until it hit really a rather high pitch.


Me: "Her house is falling into the ground, and he never once picked up a hammer or a rake or anything, and she gave him money and charged no rent, and bought groceries and cooked for him, while he fraudulently collected Welfare, and every once in awhile, he'd freak out for good measure, and throw cups of hot tea at her, and smash furniture, because she wasn't handing over enough money. AND HE WANTS THEM TO ATTEST TO HOW HE TOOK SUCH INTENSE CARE OF HER THAT HE COULDN'T DO HIS COMMUNITY-SERVICE?" 

I was pretty much screaming at this point.

Anthony: "Yes." 

Steam was coming out of his ears by now. Anthony picked up the phone and called the residence back. Johnny-boy was still sitting with the administrator, harassing her to sign the letter. She was demurring, as she should, because she had no knowledge of whether or not Johnny-boy had helped his mother even one iota, which in fact he had not (see above rant). She'd never met John before that day, since Anthony was the one she'd been dealing with. Since Anthony is the one who has had to do everything for his mother since she became incapable.

Anthony got John on the line. I won't repeat the conversation word for word. But basically, Anthony wanted to know what exactly Johnny had been convicted of (uttering death threats, apparently), why he hadn't done the community service hours (because the world owes Weasel-boy a living, I already told you that), and btw, NO YOU DID NOT TAKE CARE OF OUR MOTHER, YOU HAVE NEVER TAKEN CARE OF HER, SHE WAS TAKING CARE OF YOU UNTIL THE END, AND GET THE HELL OUT OF THAT RESIDENCE AND LEAVE THEM ALONE BECAUSE NO ONE IS SIGNING ANYTHING; ESPECIALLY SOMETHING THAT IS AN OUTRIGHT LIE.

Or words to that effect.

The next couple of hours were spent on the phone. Anthony called John's lawyer. Yes, John is on welfare, yet somehow can afford his own lawyer. 

Oh, said the lawyer. We're just trying to buy your brother time. He might go to jail if he can't produce a plausible excuse as to why he didn't do the community service. What's that? You don't mind if your brother goes to jail?  You think he had lots of time to do the community service and just didn't do it, because that's how he has faced every responsibility in his life? He doesn't do what he's supposed to, then refuses to make amends? Really? But, don't you love your brother? Wouldn't it be better for you if he stayed out of jail?

Right. How, may I ask, would it be better for us if Johnny stayed out of jail?

What a world we live in.

It's been a few days since all this happened. I have no idea if Johnny got off the hook (as he always seems to) or if he's in jail as I write this. But I know what I'd prefer.