Saturday, January 13, 2018

What's for Supper?

A friend of mine recently posted a Facebook status seeking someone who would like to rent a room from him. It was one of those things that unexpectedly captures the imagination, and I've been thinking about the room ever since.

Realistically, the room is probably 8x10' with low-pile beige carpet and plastic blinds, but I prefer to envision it as a spa-like space: airy fabrics; delicious herbal teas that sell for like $36 dollars a box; soft nature-ish music with some sort of... panflute? softly tootling along with the birds. Or sometimes I see it more like Pinterest's idea of an opium den: rich brocades; moody lighting; a metric pantload of pillows. Regardless of the decor, someone is usually rubbing my feet in my imaginings of this room.

My favourite design feature, however, is that no one would ask me what's for supper in the room. I get asked about supper a lot. (Also breakfast, lunch, and multiple snacks every day - not that I'm counting.) If I had a secret room somewhere, no one could saunter into it and say, "What's for supper?" as if I was not presently working at my job and no one else in the house could possibly be capable of defrosting a pound of beef without my managerial involvement.

"What's for supper?" follows me on family vacation, too. I seem to be only person on vacation that is consistently assumed not to be on vacation - or not really, because obviously no one else in the house is capable of meal planning or preparation without my managerial involvement. They just stare at me with their mouths open all day, like hungry nestlings. "Hop to it, lady. We're not gonna feed ourselves."

I like to leverage my resentment at being the only person who has both paid for the vacation and is expected to continue to provide service to everyone else while on the vacation, into ostensible "couple's time." In fact, it accounts for several of my Top Ten Couple's Activities to Help Keep the Magic Alive During a Family Vacation:

10. Make a grocery list together. I have to use my brain on vacation? Well guess what, dear, now you bloody well do, too. Get your thinking cap on mofo, 'cause we all need to eat.

9. Go grocery shopping together. Oooh, we left the kids at home! Now it's like a real date! Isn't grocery shopping on vacation fun?

8. Cook breakfast together.

7. Cook lunch together.

6. Decide where to go out for supper together because you're both already sick of cooking while on vacation and it's only been two days.

5. Put the big one in charge of the little one out on the beach, and retreat inside to have a nice nap together.

4. Check how bad the weather is back home each morning, then enjoy the sunrise on the dock with a cup of coffee and bask in your mutual sense of having achieved excellent value-for-money.

3a. Sensually Liberally apply sunscreen to exposed areas, and you had better not miss any spots! Get under those straps! Did you rub it in?

3b. Sensually Gingerly apply Solarcaine to affected areas. (Optional: bring up how you told him he should have put on sunscreen, too.)

2. Offer to pee on your significant other's jellyfish stings. I say "offer" because apparently, it's not necessarily something your significant other will be interested in taking you up on. No, not even the one on his arm just to see if it really works, and not even for science, and definitely not the one on his face you fucking pervert what is wrong with you quit cackling like a maniac.

1. Check each other for sand infestations.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Peach Beach

Since it's mostly my friends and family who read these posts, you probably already know I got back from vacation a few days ago. It was a real beach vacation, in the sense that there wasn't much to do besides find ourselves a new beach to hang out at each day, so that's what we did. Shout out to the Bahamian out-islands: each beach was more beautiful than the last, yet we hardly saw another person at any of them. Overall I would characterize the trip as "therapeutic", because I don't feel words like "relaxing" or "nice" really get at the experience: I slept well, I stressed zero, I didn't check my email for almost three full weeks. My blood pressure literally dropped ten points! 10/10 would recommend.

I've been on vacations where beaches were involved, but I've never had a truly beach-centric vacation like that before. One thing that occuurred to me as my thoughts swam dreamily past was that, in all the "summer reading"-type novels I have read - admit it, you know what I mean - I don't think the authors have been entirely honest about the invasive properties of sand.

There was, like, a lot of sand. Everywhere - sand. An infestation of sand, really. There was sand in the beds, sand in the furniture, sand somehow in the dinners I lovingly and (I swear!) hygienically prepared. I would peel off my swimsuit at the end of each day and find I was wearing a swimsuit-shaped garment of sand underneath. Sand was in places it shouldn't ever be (see title) and lemme tell you, it was reluctant to be evicted. We had been home three days when Small Fry found sand still in his ear. I'm not even going to tell you where I found some.

Maybe you've been reading different summer novels than I have so this was perfectly apparent to you, but I felt slightly deceived by all those romantic portrayals of beach houses and summer flings. Sand is not just not romantic, it is anti-romantic (some things don't need exfoliating!). And for a clean-floors afficionado like myself, it is also a little bit anti-sanity - if I had to live with it every day and couldn't simply remind myself that it was only a temporary situation, it would be a lot anti-sanity.

I'm convinced the whole reason behind that laid-back "island vibe" people talk about is that if you walk too quickly, you're going to get sand everywhere. Or maybe it already is everywhere and you're (rightly) concerned about chafing key anatomical regions... either way, sand is the driver. Conversely, the reason behind the brisk-and-stressed vibe back home is that if you walk too slowly, you're going to freeze to death.

Which reminds me: I got a sand-load of feedback from y'all regarding my last post. For those of you who were offended by DH's desire for poor home weather while we were away, you should know that we came back to one of his least-favourite things in the world: shoveling snow. Our first morning home I gave him a cheery, "Morning, dear!" To which he replied, "Shoveling snow can kiss my ass," and slammed the door.

I hope that warms your heart, if not your toes.

Friday, December 15, 2017

Schadenfreudish

I'm dreaming of a white Christmas.

Not for myself, as I will be on a beach for two weeks, but for everyone else back home. And the whiter the better, really - a blizzard would be ideal. Get a week or so of -30C temps in while we're away; ratchet the relative humidity down to sinus-scorching lows; remind Calgarians how to drive in snow so there's no annual (or would it be perennial?) confusion on this topic still lingering upon our return. No offense or ill wishes intended, it's just that it genuinely helps DH enjoy vacation more when the home weather is lousy: he feels he's really getting his money's worth that way, and we all know how he likes to get his money's worth on vacations.

DH is like the keystone species in the emotional ecosystem of our family: the happier DH is, the less work I have to do to keep the family afloat on a sea of holiday endorphins, and the less bickering goes on amongst the rank and file. (Or maybe I just don't notice it as much if I'm not already irritated by having to be Mary Poppins all the frigging time? Possible.) Either way, the happier DH is, the more vacation-y everyone else's vacation seems to become. Which is good, because I want my money's worth as well, and if I don't get a goodly helping of peacefully sipping rum-based beverages while my family bloody well shuts up and gets along, I am going to go all keystone species on everyone's ass.

(Can there be two keystones...? Or like, one keystone that is sortof baseline grumpy all the time and another one that will only burn it all down if it is provoked while on vacation? I don't remember this part from ecology class.)

I'm not sure if DH's wanting the weather to be poor at home while he's away on vacation really counts as schadenfreude because I don't think he cares at all whether anyone else is suffering through the weather - I just think he wants to be extra not-suffering. In fact, the pleasure he takes in poor home weather is so independent of the suffering of others that I think it might be straight-up hedonism, or perhaps a little-known subspecies of hedonism that is unusually weather-dependent.

Either way, a massive dump of winter weather at home will directly improve - without actually affecting in any way - the "climate" my family is experiencing in the Caribbean. So please take one for the team and have yourselves a really, really white Christmas, eh? It's the least you guys could do to help us out on our vacation.

Monday, December 11, 2017

BrandStand

A good friend of mine was telling me about her (and by association, her family's) personal brand recently. I paid close attention because personal branding is apparently a Thing these days, and I guess in this brave new world of personalizing your professional life (and/or vice versa?) I should as a businessperson at least consider what kind of brand I am presenting.

Hers an appealing brand that I fully admire, yet am unable to subscribe to personally as it seems to involve more photographs than I am comfortable with taking/sharing. I accidentally signed up for Instagram a little while ago and developed an immediate, visceral hatred of it. I also despise Facebook and LinkedIn, but it took me slightly longer to cultivate my hatred of them so I'm guessing that photos are just really not my thing. For the record, I also hate Pinterest (on principle: it pisses me off to no end that you have to sign up to even peek at a recipe that's posted on their site) and Reddit (HOW does it eat up so much of my life... oooh, r/teefies!), and I have abstained from all other social media sites because my track record suggests that I would probably both hate them and waste my life on them if I did sign up.

So, aside from hating social media, what is my "brand"? Setting aside the question of whether a non-photogenic person can even have a brand - and if so, if anyone would be interested in it - I have developed a few ideas about what my brand might entail:

First of all, my brand is obviously word-based and not photo-based, because here we are on my blog and emphatically not on my ill-fated Instagram account. It's also very family-oriented (although not necessarily family-friendly, due largely to certain frequently occurring words), and although it loves its line of work, it works to live rather than living to work - for example, my out-of-office reply will be happy to take your inquiry while I'm away on Christmas vacation.

My brand is organized A.F. and enjoys cooking. It used to also enjoy baking until its significant other stopped eating gluten, The Magic Ingredient (turns out it wasn't love that made everything good after all). My brand likes taking frequent, measured risks to keep life interesting, such as "I don't need directions"; "I'm just gonna wing this"; "Welp, let's see what my hair gets up to today"; and "People are coming over for dinner, I think I'll try a bunch of new recipes!"

My brand has its own laugh track, which is just me laughing at things all the time, so don't worry about whether you like my brand or not because it is having enough fun without you.

My brand will not be doing any public speaking, ever, so don't even ask.       

Finally, my brand has a small oversharing problem. However, this might be a positive thing if I understand this personal branding thing correctly - one might even call me a pioneer in the field of personal-professional partitional porosity. I'm so putting that on my resume...

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Checkered Past

Me: What r u wearing tonight?

Friend: Jeans and a top. Maybe underwear.

Me: Cool, yeah, def me too. 

*puts two dozen dresses I had been trying on back in closet*

Why so many dresses? Well, first of all, I don't get out much. Maybe I got a little excited, alright? Second, I really like dresses. Like, really like them. Dresses are to me like plaid, button-down shirts are to DH: shortly after he first discovered L.L.Bean, a shipping carton the size of a small refrigerator showed up at our house. He had ordered shirts in every kind of plaid they had, which is, apparently, an apartment-sized refrigerator amount of plaid. Which he then modeled for me, one by nearly indistinguishable one.

"Isn't this the same as the last one?"

"No, this is the chestnut tattersall," he said, "feel the weight of the fabric!"

Now, years later, when L.L.Bean boxes arrive at our house DH sortof squirrels them away without modeling anything. I assume this is because he has legitimately become a Hoarder of plaid, button-down shirts and is afraid that I - a genetically-predispositioned Purger of things - may one day realize that he has approximately seven dozen plaid shirts crammed into our shared closet. Plus a few striped ones; mix things up a little, y'know?

Guess what? It looks like a fricking old man fabric store in there; I already noticed. If he died I could make like ten memorial quilts and start an L.L.Bean-themed B&B. But it allows me to justify buying a lot of dresses, so whatever. (To be fair to DH, my dress closet also looks like a fabric store - just a way more interesting one. He can start a Super Awesome-themed B&B when I die.)

I rediscovered dresses in my early thirties. I don't recall why I was so opposed to them for so long - possibly something to do with my Grandma's desire to outfit me in overly froofy dresses when I was little - but me and dresses fell in love all over again at that point and never looked back. I mean, they're fun! They're only froofy if you want them to be! My ankles are one of my few truly good features anymore! What's not to love?

Finally, I love dresses because they are forgiving of one's teensy flaws, such as a natural tendency to - shall we say - "wax and wane" a bit. I had to try on two dozen of them in part to sort out which ones were most... wax-y. Which, judging by the way I was sweating like a hog when I finally thought to text my friend about what she was planning to wear for our dinner date, surely counts as (wane-inducing!) exercise, right? Dresses for the win yet again!


P.S. Your fitness app probably doesn't have anything for sweating through dress trying. I checked.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Look Right Here

Sometimes my scientific interest gets the best of me.

"Would you like to view the placenta?" Sure I would!

(Which, by the way, they displayed to me somewhat formally and sombrely, with a side of knotted umbilical cord - it gave the odd impression that I was supposed to sniff the cork or bless the chef or something.)

Nope, I actually did not want to view the placenta. Whatever made me think I did? And can you kindly direct me to your memory cleansing department so they can Men-in-Black me now please?

For the record, there is no memory cleansing department. Given the shit that goes on in hospitals, they should really work on that. Also given the shit that goes on in hospitals, I think they should offer mobile spa - and possibly tattoo - services, so you can at least wake up waxed. I always like there to be a bright side to traumatic events.

"We have a screen set up so you can watch the biopsy if you like?" Sure I would!

No. No I wouldn't. And despite this taking place over a decade after The Placenta Present-ah, still no memory cleansing or complimentary Brazilian for my troubles. (Seriously, guys - you really need to work on that.)

Most recently, I had dental surgery this week. A gum graft, to be specific. (Don't overbrush, kids! And definitely don't Google gum graft.) Approximately half the procedure - about an hour - was spent scraping my gums away from my teeth and bone, which was the single most disturbing thing I have ever witnessed in all my misguided scientific witnessing. Because, naturally, Sure I would! watch the whole thing in the tiny-yet-remarkably-clear reflection on my dentist's protective goggles.

I really need to change my scientific motto to 'Why would I!' - exclamation point rather than question mark so it's clear I don't want an answer. 

The hoped-for bright side to this particular traumatic event is that I will no longer have an area of severely receding gums to contend with. In the meantime, the less-bright sides include a mouthful of disgusting stitches, a mind-full of that disgusting surgery which I do not know why I watched, and a mandatory - disgusting - mush-based diet for the next two weeks. It's been less than 48 hours of mush and I've basically already lost my will to live.

Oh yeah - and still no waxing. Dang.

Free Range Good Eggs

We are fortunate to live in a neighbourhood where it seems unlikely anyone will phone Child Protective Services for allowing one's children to do a little healthy free-ranging. Actually, if you are thinking of having, or already have, children and are committed to some healthy free-range but fear your neighbourhood might not be well-suited to it, call me - real estate here is well priced and the free-ranging is fine. Plus I'm a good person to live near: I won't stop by unannounced; I will bring you food on occasion; and I basically always have the ingredient you're missing. Win-win!

But back to free-ranging. Small Fry is actually experiencing a version of the childhood everyone seems to look back on fondly, but no one seems to be able to re-create for their own kids. He gets to and from the local school by himself, with his own muscles, and he roams and plays freely after school and on weekends with an assortment of pals. What do they get up to for, like, thirty unsupervised hours a week? For the most part, I do not know because I am not there.

From the breathless snippets I do hear, it all seems very wholesome and distinctly boy-ish: there seems to be a lot of soccer, basketball, climbing, digging, and dumpster-diving for "supplies" (for fort construction and boxsledding, natch). Also, interestingly, the occasional cricket match. I hear most of this in passing, usually as an offhand comment Small Fry makes while telling a different and often less-interesting story:

'Wait wait wait - did you just say boxsledding?'

'... A garbage fort?'

'Whoa, what candy stash?' 'Just... in the ground?'

This is all very fascinating to me but I don't want him to clam up so I don't pry, and I try really hard not to intervene. I did learn where I draw the line one day when he popped in 'just to borrow a lighter': I draw the line at accidentally burning anything down. So if this is all giving anyone anxieties (*cough* grandparents who literally never supervised us and we did have lighters, plus your secondhand smoke and no helmets or seatbelts, etc. *cough*), y'all can rest easy now.

Currently Small Fry and a couple of pals are digging a tunnel. I noticed he had been tracking in a lot of leaves and rocks the past few days and asked him to sweep up: 'Oh, sorry Mom, I was underground.'

Hm... it may be time for me to request a tour of this tunnel. All kids think they're digging tunnels, but  given Small Fry's admirable dedication to digging efforts in the past, I suspect I might have to shut down operations and - as I understand this possibly-actual-tunnel is located in a public park - perhaps provide an anonymous 3-1-1 tip.

Probably none of this seems terribly surprising - Small Fry is a nine-year-old boy, after all. So in closing, I offer up the free-range story that I think speaks best to the secret, rich emotional lives of kids, and one that couldn't have happened without his ranging free:

'How was your day?'

'Well, Dexter couldn't come outside 'cause he has an eye infection and so does his brother and David wasn't home and I couldn't find the twins that I can't tell which is which, so I went to the bus stop and got one of those free newspapers and climbed on top of the shed** and read it.'

Probably thinking of all the other times he's ever tried to read a Metro - which is to say, in the middle of the kitchen floor while I am trying to cook supper and he is supposed to be lining the compost bin with said publication - he paused thoughtfully for a moment, then said:

'It was relaxing. I think I'll do it again a different day.'

** We do not have a shed.