"Someday's gonna be a busy day..."

Sunday, 15 December 2013

Pressing Issues

In honour of all the Christmas cookie photos being flaunted on Facebook these days, and because I'm making Smartie Cookies, which were my childhood favourite (except now I add rum), I thought I'd repost this one for you. Best read while you down copious amounts of coffee with Baileys while contemplating a ruined batch of cookies. (Originally published in 2009)

When I moved to the country, I left behind a couple of girlfriends with whom I’ve been pals for many years. We meet up every so often to drink, laugh, commiserate and rant together. We do not, however, bake together, and that's likely what has kept our friendship so stable.
You hear about women who congregate annually and form baking coalitions in someone's kitchen. Dough and hilarity ensue. Dozens of exotic cookies are baked and shared amongst the group, then everyone goes home to smugly fill their freezers to the brim with holiday baking.
In theory, this all sounds very Martha Stewart. It sounds like something a country woman, or at least a woman who recently moved to the country, should do, and our kitchen at Someday just begs to be socialized in. Bright and spacious, with lots of counter space, it’s the perfect place for a baking party. I can practically hear it whispering, "If you bake it, they will come.”

Sometimes I sigh and wish my sisters and city friends lived closer so we could have our own bake-bonding sessions. Then I attempt to make cookies or cupcakes and the burning smell snaps me back to reality: I would probably kill anyone who tried to share my kitchen. Although I come from a long line of amazing cooks, baking isn't my forte. I never learned the fine art of making pie crust from scratch or how to produce the giant pans of squares that are a staple here in Bruce County. And as my younger sister or D could tell you, I don’t play well with others in the kitchen. I’m bossy and not very forgiving when things go wrong.

My city girlfriends are not without a sense of humour. A few years ago, they gave me a cookie press for Christmas. They know about my baking dysfunction, but they also know I am addicted to sweets and still occasionally try to make stuff from scratch. This past December, the weather outside being frightful, I decided to give in, assume my position as a country woman and bake some Christmas cookies. Shortbread - that old Yuletide classic - seemed a logical choice, and I asked my mother-in-law to help. Shirley, quite simply, is a kitchen goddess. She stews, cans, preserves, roasts - she does it all. She is especially adept in the baking department, so I figured that with her help, I couldn't possibly screw up.

We sat down at her kitchen table to read and re-read the hallowed shortbread recipe that I’d weaseled out of a colleague. Every year, my colleague made dozens of delicate cookies and brought them into the office. Her cookies were incredible, the type of shortbread that melts in your mouth, pressed in beautiful designs and decorated with tiny candies. I loved them so much that she used to bring me a separate tin for my own personal consumption. When my friends gave me the cookie press, I begged my colleague for her recipe, which she relinquished after much coaxing. I had the press, I had the recipe, and I had Shirley. There would be no burning smell today.

Shirley and I unpacked the cookie press, took it apart, admired the different patterns. We measured the ingredients for the dough and mashed everything together with our hands. Things were going swimmingly until we jammed the dough into the press and attempted to mould our first cookie in the shape of a wreath. I clicked the trigger of the press and looked down at the cookie sheet. Nothing. I tried again. Still nothing. I let Shirley try. No cookie. I shook the press like it was a martini mixer, smacked it vigorously and tried again. Nada.
I could feel the curse words I’d promised myself I would not say bubbling to the surface, and forced them down. I was in my mother-in-law’s kitchen, and needed to remain calm. There couldn’t be any fits of cookie rage today. Shirley must have sensed I was about to pitch the stupid press through her screen door. She gently extricated it from my clenched fists and set it on the table. “Let’s read the instructions again,” she suggested.

Upon further examination, the instructions on the cookie-press box warned us not to use a cold cookie sheet (not a problem, as Shirley’s house is always a toasty 75 degrees), and not to use a non-stick surface. Well, who owns a cookie sheet these days that isn't non-stick? We looked at each other in disgust.

“What if we added a little water to the dough?” said Shirley after a few moments of silence in which I imagined running over the cookie press with Carman’s jeep. We added a little water, smushed the dough back into the press and voila! out came our first cookie. It looked like my fantasy about Carm’s jeep had come true. We changed the pattern to the tree and tried a few more. They looked like deflated, Charlie Brown Christmas trees. And so it went.

Three dozen pressed cookies and as many suppressed swear words later, I discovered that the oven wouldn't heat up. “That’s strange,” said my mother-in-law. “It worked today when I made the roast beef.” I was starting to think the cookie press was cursed.

When we finally did get the oven going and the cookies were baked, we sat down at the table with mugs of tea and sampled our handiwork. We made the appropriate "My, aren't these yummy!" noises, but the cookies tasted like warm butter mixed with sawdust.

Refusing to admit they were that bad, I pounced on D when he walked in the door. “Here, try this,” I said and forcibly shoved a cookie in his mouth. He chewed...and chewed...and chewed, then fled to the fridge for some milk. "Gahhh," he said after a mighty swallow, "not my favourite."

My mother-in-law politely declined my offer to share the cookies with me (“Oh no, you keep them, you’ll need them for your guests”), so I ended up with three dozen nasty shortbread cookies in my freezer that I indeed served to guests throughout the holiday season, accompanied by big cups of eggnog. The cookie press went back where it belonged, in the darkest corner of my least-used cupboard.

I was tempted to send tins to my girlfriends in the city, but wanting to preserve our friendship, I just told them all about my adventures in country woman baking and we had a good laugh. I think they’ll just give me a bottle of wine next Christmas, and maybe a box of store bought biscuits to go with it. My saint of a mother-in-law has promised to give me some recipes for squares, because they're supposed to be "foolproof." It's touching that she still has that much faith in me.

Thursday, 28 November 2013

Hello my lovelies!

I'm here! Honest! I'm here, and happy and ready to start bloggin' again.

In case you didn't know, I've been completely and wholly absorbed in finishing the second draft of (gasp) my book. That's right, people. I wasn't just slacking off, eating bon-bons on the couch and drinking wine this whole time. Nope, I've been proofreading (ugh), editing (double ugh) and killing my darlings. Out of approximately 70 eager-to-be-told tales from Someday, I've whittled the collection down to 50. Have mercy, that was a sucky job. Even more painful a task was trying to organize them into some semblance of order. Anyway, it's done and it's now in the hands of my intrepid editor. Let's pray she doesn't use a lot of red pen.

So for those of you who still check in here to see if I'm alive, thanks! You rock! I'll be posting regularly again, promise.

And for those of you who care, my book should be available next year (she said while crossing her fingers and knocking on wood and promising the literary gods a sacrifice of several squirrels).

Can you believe it? Someday is finally around the corner!

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Two days, one night

August 14th, 2013. Now, this is a beautiful morning.

The sun is already making my scalp tingle with heat, even though it’s only 9 a.m. A flirty breeze plays with my hair. The birds are in full, glorious concert. It’s everything an August morning should be, and I have the rare pleasure of having it all to myself, thanks to my friend Eva.

I’m sitting on a tiny deck attached to the south side of “The Farmhouse,” a place in Purple Valley that Eva rents every summer. It’s an old house that appears to have popped up like a mushroom in the middle of acres of unfenced farmland, and I am soaking up the sun, the solitude and a steaming cup of coffee all at once.

Eva herself was nowhere to be found this morning when I picked my way down the steep stairs from my bedroom to the kitchen . She must be on one of her walks, looking for blackberries or bears or both. My friend is a true disciple of nature. I’ve known her for years, but discovered a few things I didn’t know on our hike yesterday: she doesn’t use bug spray or sunscreen, doesn't say a word when hiking in 40 degree heat, swims in the melted icicle waters of Georgian bay and calls it “refreshing.” I think I admire her even more this morning than I already did.

To Eva, who lives in the city and whose neighbours are a stone’s throw on either side of her house, the Farmhouse in Purple Valley is pure heaven. Close to the water, the Bruce Trail and within range of mild-mannered small towns, the Farmhouse is all butterflies and birds and tall grass during the day. At night, coyotes play in the driveway, stars write bright messages across the sky and fireflies appear like iridescent popcorn in the pea fields. She and her partner and their daughter used to rent the house for a week or two every year; this summer, Eva came up for a week by herself and asked me to join her for a few days. I was honoured. I know how special her time is here, and how few opportunities she’s had to take time for herself over the past decade. I was also a little worried; I’d always wanted to explore the Bruce Trail, and Eva had promised that she’d take me for several treks while I was there...but could I hack it? I’ve never been much for heat, or strenuous exercise, let alone strenuous exercise in the heat. Eva would be a machine out in the woods; I was, at best, a wind-up toy.

“Does Eva have any idea how grouchy you get when it’s hot?” D had asked as I stuffed clothes into my backpack the night before I left for my adventure. I was sweating. It had been humid and sticky all week and my mood had not been pleasant.

“I don’t know,” I said, trying to mentally picture what the trail would look like and whether I should bring two pairs of pants in case I fell down a cliff and ripped one. I threw in my knee brace instead. “She loves the heat. It’ll be fine.”

D grinned. “This could be the end of a beautiful friendship, Sweaty Kim.”

I promised myself that no matter how hot and dehydrated and crotchety I felt, I would not complain about the heat. I would tough it out and make Eva proud. Better to be Sweaty Kim than Whiny Kim.

The Bruce Trail didn’t disappoint. It was fascinating - deep crevasses, steep lookouts, rocks that looked like fossilized lava, covered in ferns and wild ginger. It was a challenging hike in that I had to keep a sharp eye on the trail ahead, as there were a hundred ways to twist an ankle or pitch headfirst into patches of poison ivy. Rocks, roots and ruts abounded. When we stopped briefly to wipe perspiration out of our eyes and catch our breath, I noticed the peculiar stillness of the forest: sporadic birdcalls, no wind. The leaves didn’t rustle, the trees didn’t creak. There was only my panting breath, our voices and our footsteps making hollow thumps on the densely packed soil.

Since I loathe the heat and freak out at heights, the hike on the Bruce Trail was an accomplishment for me. I don’t often push myself physically, but with Eva as my guide and coach, I was able to hike for over four hours in humid weather over challenging terrain. Sometimes we talked about everything and nothing; sometimes were silent and companionable. To me, the measure of true friendship to see how long you can be quiet together without feeling the need to talk. Eva and I are true friends.

We finally turned around at about 4 p.m, trudged back to the car, and set off for another part of the trail to find Spirit Rock and go for a swim. I held my head near the open window like a dog, trying to catch a breeze and cool my tomato red face back into an acceptable colour. Because Eva is an amazing friend, she sensed that I needed a break before tackling the next leg of our hike. So we drove to a little ice cream shop in Wiarton. She ate cherry ice cream, I drank a giant mug of coffee, and we sat in oversized orange leather chairs and let the air conditioning chill the sweat on our backs. It was perfect.

On the trail to Spirit Rock, there was a fascinating ruin of an old Irish family’s stone mansion called The Corran. We loitered there for a bit, reading the historical signs, marvelling at the size of the place, eating blackberries and sniffing roses. “Time for a swim!” Eva announced and we got back on the trail. She had neglected to tell me that in order to reach her favourite swimming spot, we’d have to navigate a freaky spiral staircase made of clangy, unsteady steel flanking a rocky cliff.

“Oh yeah, you don’t like heights, do you?” Eva said with a wicked look in her eye. She knew the staircase would give me the heebie jeebies; Eva likes it when people face their fears head on. She sends me all sorts of spider and zombie themed stuff in the mail, ostensibly to help me “deal with my shit,” but mostly because she likes to imagine my reactions. The staircase to hell was no different, with the added bonus that she’d get to witness my reaction with her own eyes. So, with Eva grinning at me, I took a deep breath, realigned my backpack and forced my trembly legs down each step to the bottom.

To my dismay, the staircase opened onto a rocky, steep trail that could only be navigated by holding on for dear life to a series of metal railings bolted to the rock. I said a few bad words and Eva laughed at me, but it was worth the aching hips, the vertigo, and stabs of unadulterated panic. Because once we made it to the bottom, we were greeted by the glassy waters of Georgian bay, spread out before us like a vast mirror.

We stumbled over rocks to find Eva’s favourite spot, peeled off our sweaty clothes and swam in our underwear. The water was as still as the woods had been, clear as a window and cold enough to make me squeal. But oh, the relief of dunking my steamy head in the Bay, floating on my back with no sounds but my own breath and no sight but the cloudless summer sky overhead. Eva did laps back and forth while I paddled slowly in circles. Every few minutes, we’d swim into what Eva called “a cold spot” - places in the lake that felt as though a block of ice had just melted - and we joked that they were evil spots, cold hands of drowned sailors reaching to pull us under. Another thing about true friends: you have to find the same things amusing.

To my amusement, I noticed three kayakers in the distance. "I think they're headed our way," I said. Eva shrugged while treading water, which is no mean feat. Well, I'd just hiked a hot trail for many hours, so if a few strangers saw me in wet underwear, so be it. As they glided nearer, we saw they were three young men. We raised a hand in greeting, careful not to bob too far out of the water. As they passed, I caught a snip of their earnest-sounding conversation: it was about stocks or bonds or something to do with money.

"You're not talking about work are you?" I said, genuinely horrified. They stared at me. "Seriously, you guys. You shouldn't be talking about work on a beautiful day like this!" I couldn't help myself. There they were, on the still, blue, gorgeous waters of Georgian Bay, discussing business. The guy nearest to me twisted his mouth into a sour expression. His buddy smiled and they just shook their heads and kept paddling while Eva and I shook our heads in return.

We didn’t get back to the farmhouse until 8 p.m., didn’t eat supper until sunset. I drank white wine and ate sour cream chips while I made our evening meal: pasta with fresh tomatoes, basil and bocconcini. Eva drank root beer and concocted the most delicious Napa salad I’ve ever had. We both had seconds of everything, toasted our hike and swim. As her root beer clinked against my wine, I wanted to leap over the table and hug her, pull her close and tell her what a blessing her friendship was. But my legs were too stiff and I’d drunk a little too much wine and I didn’t want her to think I was weird. So I just smiled instead. She smiled back. I think she got what I wanted to say without me having to speak a word.

After supper we walked down the moonlit lane way, exclaiming with glee at the hundreds of tiny frogs that sprang out of our path as they headed for the swamps beyond the pine trees. Eva and I found Sirius and the Big Dipper, talked about bear encounters (hers, not mine), exchanged stories about my mother and her father, both dead now for many years. When I finally pleaded exhaustion, we went back to the house and Eva sat beside my bed and read me a creepy story about cannibal children in Kentucky. When’s the last time someone read to me? I wondered as she changed her voice for each character. I love this.

We said our goodnights, positioned our fans to make a breeze in the still, hot rooms, and I slept the kind of sleep only a day outside and a contented belly can give you. I woke up today feeling stiff and sore, hungry and desperately in need of coffee. Even with Eva nowhere in sight, I also felt blessed once again to have the gift of her friendship in my life.

Friday, 20 September 2013

The Write Stuff


You may have noticed that I haven't been posting much lately. It's not because I don't want to; in fact, I've been writing endless blog entries in my head, most of which never get transferred to paper or laptop. Yeah, you're welcome. I just wanted you to know that I'm not being lazy and I haven't developed a hatred of blogging or writer's block or anything like that. In fact...I've been writing a book.


Want proof? Here:

I just printed out the first draft, which is pretty freaking cool, but also means I have pretty freaking crazy editing ahead of me now. The fun part was writing it all down; the scary part comes next.

I'm going to continue to blog as much as I can. It's just that I feel enormous obligation to my book, now that it's done, to work on getting it to a place where I feel it's ready to publish. So blogging, sadly, comes in at around fifth place in the I'll-get-around-to-it race, after kids and sleep and husband and my book.

Just wanted to let you know so you don't abandon Someday!

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

She Can Twerk If She Wants To

With apologies to Men Without Hats, this has been going through my head on endless repeat ever since watching Miley Cyrus’s performance at the VMA’s:

You can twerk if you want to
You can leave your friends behind
Cause your friends don’t twerk
And if they don’t twerk
Then they’re
No friends of mine...

So. The VMA’s. Miley. The resulting internet firestorm. Wow.

I don’t usually do the whole celebrity commentary thing on this blog, so pardon my foray into uncharted territory. I just feel the need to point out a few things to myself, in writing. Because ten seconds into Miley’s Gene-Simmons-meets-Madonna-meets-every-woman-in-a-Snoop-Dog-video performance, I was ready to climb aboard the slut-shaming bandwagon myself.

If I feel offended by something on TV, or upset, or irritated, or whatever, I usually stop watching it. I’m not sure why Miley’s performance had the magnetic pull of a car-crash, why I didn’t just grab the clicker and find something more conducive to a vegetative state. But no; I watched the whole twerk-tastic thing to its bizarre conclusion.

At first, I did the ol’ schadenfreude thing where you laugh and wince at the same time. I’m pretty sure I said something like, “Oh, Miley. No.” Then the parental thoughts kicked in: Billy Ray must be stabbing his couch with a pitchfork right about now. Finally, around the time Miley started to go all foam-finger on Robin Thicke, I started channelling my Baba as the words “Tsk tsk” came out of my mouth and I felt the urge to fake-spit on the floor. That’s when I realized I was about to tumble down a very steep, very bumpy hill of self-righteousness.

I turned the TV off. Sat there for a minute. And reminded myself of the following:

Miley, despite her cloying childhood name, is a woman. She’s twenty. No wonder her current on stage persona bears no resemblance to the innocent looking Disney drone we’ve all gotten used to. Who wants to be Hannah Banana or whatever she was forever? The Party in the USA has become a Blurred Line and the kid has become a woman. Women get to choose how to act, dress, speak and dance. They get to be daring, sexy, audacious, confident. They get to take risks, make mistakes, have regrets. Or not. I was still thinking of Miley as Billy Ray’s little girl, the squeaky-clean kid with a big voice, and that’s unfair: she’s a woman and who am I to judge her for embracing her sexuality in a big, public way? She makes her choices and she gets to deal with the consequences, be they internet trolls or record sales.

Since when is anything on the VMA’s supposed to be instructive, inspirational or proper? It’s MTV, for pete’s sake! It’s entertainment! I don’t categorize Miley’s three minutes as the artistic work of a singer or a musician; to me, she’s an entertainer, and whether I like the grindy moves or not, she certainly kept a million viewers entertained.

3. Blurred Lines is not a Miley song. It’s Robin Thick’s song, and what Miley did on the VMA stage was downright PG compared to what goes on in Thick’s boobtastic video. I laughed out loud when I read another writer’s comment that Miley had “twerked Thick into submission,” because that’s exactly what she did: she gyrated on and poked at him until he looked more bewildered than studly. I’d say she gave ol’ Mr. “You wanna hug me?” an uncomfortable dose of his own raunchy medicine.

4. But what about the children? The impressionable youth will think twerking and sexually objectifying oneself is cool! Well, some of them already do, and nothing Miley does or doesn’t do is going to change that. YouTube is full of sex and butt-wiggles and boobs already; Miley’s just tapping in to what’s already considered cool, as any shrewd commercial entertainer does. If my daughter wants to watch the VMAs when she gets older, I’ll watch it with her. Initiate a conversation about it afterward, preferably in the car, where she’s trapped and can’t escape me. Instead of worrying that my daughter is going to emulate Miley as a role model, hopefully I’ll have introduced her to several women who have made a difference in my own life. I’ll read to her about other twenty-year-olds who have changed the world. And I’ll certainly be pointing out the difference between entertainers and heroes, between sex in its commercial incarnation and sex in real life, between how men and women are judged for doing essentially the same thing.

So let Miley twerk if she wants to. Or change the channel. Your choice.

Monday, 19 August 2013

Five Things About...a Week at the Cottage

Beach Bum (okay, just a bum)
We’ve been at my Aunt’s cottage on Bruce Beach since last Tuesday, and I’m suffering from a complete lack of motivation to do anything other than eat, read and drink a lot of coffee. Having two active kidlets with me the whole time has put the kibosh on engaging in any of these activities for more than ten minute intervals, but lemme tell you, there hasn’t been much writing, facebooking, laundry, bed making or even hair styling or underwear-wearing going on. It must be something to do with the constant rush of waves in the background. Maybe it’s the way the aspen trees whisper their secrets to one another all day. Or the feel of soft grass and warm sand on my toes. Possibly it’s the lazy drone of bumblebees, the chorus of cardinals and robins and chickadees, the rhythmic, tiny buzz-saw of cicada songs. Whatever it is, I do not want to do anything that even remotely resembles work, unless it involves eating or opening a bottle of wine. And that’s fine with me.

Good Eats
There’s something to be said for cooking in a kitchen that is not your own. You have to hunt for utensils (where IS the cheese grater, anyway?), discover which pot goes where (wow, my aunt stacks her pans together with almost architectural flair) and figure out what ingredients you have on hand before you can decide what to make. It’s fun, because cooking rarely feels like work to me, and I’m enjoying the whole scavenger hunt aspect as well. Plus the lake air gives me a huge appetite, so planning and executing supper every evening is a pleasure. Some of my favourite dishes so far:
- baby zucchinis, stuffed with onion, garlic, salty breadcrumbs and cheese, then barbecued to perfection
- walnut pesto with basil picked from the neighbour’s garden (with their permission, of course)
- vegetable ribbons with a sweet, creamy peanut sauce
- slabs of salmon glazed with maple syrup
- hot dogs and hamburgers scorched just right on the barbecue, served with thick slices of fresh tomato and sweet onion
- my friend Ruthie’s Greek salad, made with chunks of crisp, garden-grown cucumbers and juicy tomatoes
- the best ever banana muffins, thanks to the perfectly squishy bananas my aunt left behind (and the fact that I did not bring any whole wheat flour or bran to healthify them)
- a sour cream peach pie, made with slurpy Niagara peaches and my mother-in-law’s secret recipe
The only problem? Cooking = dishes, which counts as work. Which I clearly have no motivation whatsoever to do. Thank goodness for the dishwasher. And D.

Sleep, or lack thereof
Normally when I come to the cottage, I sleep like a satisfied baby. But weirdly, this year I haven’t been sleeping well at all. I chalk that up mostly to Dylan’s refusal to go to bed at a decent hour, or stay in his own bed once he does fall asleep. That kid is has become a menace after 9 p.m.. You’d think hours of sun and sand and running amok in the water would turn him into a zombie once the sun goes down, but it hasn’t. Jade, on the other hand, has built herself a nest of every spare pillow and blanket in the cottage. She staggers into her room at the end of each day, burrows into the pile and pretty much conks out until morning. Meanwhile, her brother either falls into an inconvenient coma around 6 p.m. and wakes up around 3 a.m. looking to party, or simply refuses to go to bed at all. Last night D decided he’d had enough, and physically blockaded the door to Dylan’s room. Dylan sobbed, begged, howled and finally fell asleep on the floor beside his bed. But he stayed there, miraculously, until about seven this morning. Which meant that for the first time in a week, I had a full, glorious night’s sleep. I woke up feeling sparkly and sunshiny, with enough energy to go for a long walk on the beach. A holiday at the cottage just isn’t complete without a good night’s sleep, so at least I had at least one...

Sunset and Moonrise
There are two things I’m either too sleepy or too busy to appreciate very often back at Someday: sunsets and moonrises. At the cottage, however, it’s an unspoken ritual for cottagers to come out and watch the sun melt into the horizon. We’ve had the good luck this week to have the moon waxing full, so our friend Luna appears to shine over our left shoulders as we say goodnight to the sun. Best of all, Jade and I have been taking sunset kayak rides each night, which I absolutely love. She trails her little fingers in the water, and we have conversations about this and that while I paddle, like whether we prefer the sun or the moon, and whether God is in charge of the world, and why pink really is the best colour in all of the universe. Dylan runs away every time I suggest a kayak ride; I wonder if he’s telepathically intercepted my occasional desire to dump him in the lake as payback for keeping me awake all week. No matter. It’s a special time for Jady and me, and I’m content to bid goodnight to the sun with her each night amidst the peace and stillness of the lake while Dylan regards us suspiciously from the shore.

Summer’s Almost Over...again
I can hear it in the increased volume of cricket songs at night. I can see it when the poplar leaves flip up and show me their pale underbellies. I can sense it in the sand that is cool under my feet at night instead of warm from a day’s heat. As much as I hate to admit it, summer is almost over. There is a wistfulness stirring inside me during our last few days at the cottage; even as the kids and I run and laugh until we’re breathless from playing sprinkler tag, even as we build and decorate sandcastles, even as I help them paint rocks, I know that this is the last summer we’ll be so carefree. Jady starts school in the fall; Dylan is changing and growing before my eyes; I may be going back to work before long. We’ll hopefully have more summers at the cottage together, but my kidlets won’t ever be this little, or this untroubled by responsibility again. With every leaf that swirls down and lands on the deck, and every degree the temperature drops each night, I’m reminded of how we can have enough of everything except time. This week has been fun, and tiring, and full of activity and so very precious to me. I supposed the only way to hold on to these memories is to let them happen, then let them go, knowing I can return to them whenever I need to steady myself in the whirlwind of autumn days to come.

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Sleepless at Someday: Baba Pickles edition

I've written about being sleepless at Someday before, but last night was an epic no-sleeper. And I can't blame the stuff that used to keep me awake, like bad dreams or anxiety or heartburn or false labour. Nope, last night was my own damned fault: I allowed myself to fall asleep in Dylan's bed and though D (allegedly) tried to rouse me a couple of times, I didn't stumble out of the kids' room until 11:30 p.m. And then I was wide. Frigging. Awake. Argh.

D tried to coax me to come to bed, but I knew it would be hopeless. I pointedly took a bottle of wine and a pint of blueberries out of the fridge, which is when he gave up and went to bed and fell asleep in thirty seconds flat, like he always does.

I drank a small glass of wine and ate the wine-soaked blueberries at the bottom of the glass. Then I played online scrabble for a while. Then I did what any country woman would do when faced with a long night of wakeful alone-ness: I made pickles.

These pickles are just like the ones my Russian grandma, my Baba, used to make, with cold water and cold vinegar and kosher salt and about a dump truck full of garlic. Instead of boiling them, you just tighten the lids, give them a shake and leave them alone for four or five days to ferment themselves into fizzy, crispy goodness. The cucumbers and garlic and dill are from local Mennonite farmers, which Baba would approve of. She always admired the "Mennoniteskies," as she called them. She probably wouldn't have been horrified to learn that I made them at 1 in the morning either, as we sometimes caught her outside raking her lawn in the middle of the night when she was having one of those sleepless spells that afflicted her occasionally.

I'm so tired today that all I can offer you is a photo essay of my Baba pickles. I hope you like them. I think they're rather beautiful. But maybe that's just the sleep deprivation talking.

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Tangled Plots

I'm what you might call a greedy gardener. I have formal flower beds at the front and back of the house, a huge vegetable garden and a new hillside flower bed outside my office. I regularly neglect every one of them, yet I have a near-pathological urge every spring to BUY MORE STUFF. Often these new plants, purchased in a heady rush of excitement over their colour/fragrance/newness, are left to wilt in their containers because I haven't got the faintest idea where to put them, or I get busy with other things, or it's too hot out. I know. I should be banned from all garden centres within a 50 km radius or whipped with stinging nettles for serial botanical neglect. Thank heavens the only one who really notices is D, and I don't really listen to him when he starts ranting about how many times he's tripped over my nearly dead marigolds or wilted roses.

My enthusiasm for gardening bursts into action in April and peters out around July, or whenever the first bout of relentless humidity descends upon the Bruce. There’s something rejuvenating about spring gardening; I dive into the task of tidying up autumn debris with a big silly grin on my face. I don’t know if it’s the scent of fresh earth, or the way my muscles start to unwind after the laziness of winter, or the feel of my crusty old gardening gloves. Probably all three. There's deep pleasure in being outside without ten layers of clothes, digging in my patches of dirt.

There are so many gardens at Someday I hardly know where to begin tidying up all the gunk to make way for spring blooms. This year I decided to tackle the wild looking patch along the driveway that I like to call my "naturalized rock garden" (although it doesn't have very many rocks and looks more like a nature preserve than a garden). It's full of perennial treasures like columbines and bluebells and forget-me-nots, and over the years I've planted fragrant grape hyacinths, stubborn crocuses and crinkly-leaved primulas as part of my previously mentioned compulsion. Last summer, I even hauled six loaf-of-bread-sized rocks home from the beach. “See?” I told D. “Now it’s a rock garden.” D rolled his eyes and muttered something about crazy people and their stones.

Spring gardening has a lot in common with brushing a toddler's hair. You're tempted to rake through the snarls and tangles and sticky bits without mercy, but you know that if you do, it will all end rather badly. The trouble is that my so-called rock garden rests under four very large maple trees, and in the spring, every inch of the ground is covered in crispy dead stuff. I try to pick leaves off the flowers with one tine of the rake, but I always end up getting impatient. I start thinking how good a hot cup of coffee would taste, twang the rake a bit too vigorously, and a little bluebell head snicks off and rolls down the hill, causing me to shriek as though I've just witnessed Eddard Stark's beheading.

Once the cleanup is done, usually around May, my planting obsession takes over. Five years of wildly unorganized purchases have taught me that a crowded garden is not a happy garden. Stick too many plants close together and things start to tilt out of balance: one flower elbows out another, a gang of aphids show up, weeds strangle the roses and suddenly it’s chaos.

My preference for buying “care free” perennials backfires because I forget to thin and transplant them. The front gardens have been taken over by a fuzzy but determined troop of lambs’ ears; the harmless looking plant that resembles giant buttercups has morphed into a yellow menace, squishing my poor peonies and threatening my innocent mock orange. Daisies have exploded in unexpected places from heaven knows where. And don’t get me started on what were once two tiny patches of sweet woodruff I’d brought from my old gardens in Waterloo. Apparently woodruff takes the term “ground cover” very literally.

You’d think I’d learn a thing or two from my mistakes, and try to limit my flower-buying until I get my gardens in some semblance of order. Instead, I have a dahlia, a clematis and a geranium gasping for water in their pots by the garage, a husband who wants to strangle me and a slightly guilty conscience. If only someone would hurry up and invent a spray-in conditioner for tangled up garden messes. And a cure for obsessive plant buying.

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

The Unkindest Cut of All

Back when Dylan was just a goofy little tyke, not yet a year old, D and I lamented over whether he'd EVER get hair. My dad is somewhat lacking in the hair department and has been since he was a young man, so as believers of the old "maternal hairline" curse, D and I resigned ourselves to the fact that we'd have a little baldy of our own in the family.

But by the time he hit 18 months, lil' Dyl had sprouted a healthy, shaggy crop of honey coloured hair. It hung around his head like a helmet-shaped mop - or perhaps a mop-shaped helmet? - and he was continuously mistaken for a girl; everywhere I went, people complimented me on my "beautiful daughters." Jade enjoyed correcting them; I enjoyed their looks of embarrassment.

D didn't care. He loved Dylan's hair - said it reminded him of his younger brother Paul, who'd had that kind of long, blonde hair for most of his childhood. Which, I repeatedly pointed out, was in the 1970's, when little boys with shaggy long hair were, you know, normal. Allowing your toddler to have long hair nowadays is tantamount to pasting a sign on them that reads, "Help, my mommy neglects me," or worse, "Help, my mommy is trying to make me look like a hipster."

Dyl's bangs got so long that he couldn't see properly. I worried he'd have chronic neck problems from constantly having to peer out from under his shag rug hair, so I called up our friendly hairdresser to come and give him a trim. I told her just to cut enough off so that he could see, and not to worry about style or anything, which was just as well since Dylan yelled and swatted the poor woman the entire time. He ended up with a 1980's looking bowl cut.

"He still looks like a girl," said D upon returning home that night and getting a look at his son's new 'do. "A girl with a bowl cut."

Then I decided Dylan's hair had to be shorter.

The second haircut was a result of several things: escalating humidity, my son's refusal to wear a hat, having to change his pillowcase every two days because his little head was drenched in boy-sweat. I figured all that hair must be making him miserable. A nice short cut would be just the thing for the summer months. It would be fine. We'd all get used to it. He was nearly three; it was time to turn Mr. Mugs into a boy.

I discreetly enlisted our friendly hairdresser to come and do the deed on a day when Grandma Lowry wouldn't see the kids and where I could duck out the door for my yoga class before D had a chance to freak out on me for scalping his son.

"Cut it off," I told her. "All of it."

True to form, Dylan wouldn't sit still and kept howling "OWIE! OWIE!" every time our poor hairdresser snipped a tiny particle of hair off his head. Bless her heart, she didn't even flinch when he swatted her and called her "DIRTY!" Finally, I put him on my lap and held him down. I was so focused on keeping the kid in a death grip so he didn't accidentally lose an ear that it was only after it was all over that I noticed enormous clumps of fluffy blonde hair on my lap, shoulders and the kitchen floor. It looked like a lot of hair.

"Oh man," I said, dreading what I was about to witness. "That looks like a lot of hair." Dylan slithered off my lap and I caught his hand before he dodged from the room. I forced myself to look at my newly shorn boy.


He did not look like my son. He looked like some tiny investment banker who drove a Lexus and talked on one of those bluetooth devices. Okay, a tiny investment banker wearing soccer print pyjama pants, but still.

"Oh DYLAN!" was all I could say.

Dylan said, "Hi Mummy!" and ran into the other room without a backwards glance.

The hairdresser laughed. "I think he looks cute! It's amazing how their first haircut changes them into little boys, eh?"

I could barely reply. I felt sick to my stomach. WHAT HAD I DONE? Why didn't I just tell the hairdresser to trim his bangs and let the little bugger sweat his way through the summer like the rest of us? Why had I tried to be so freaking practical and parentally correct? My darling moppet-haired Dylan was gone. In his place was some grown-up boy who no longer had the option of looking up at me mischievously through a pouf of hair. What would I run my hands through at night when we cuddled in bed? Would D freak out or laugh? And what would Grandma Lowry say?

The worst part was that with the new haircut, my son kind of looked like a miniature version of my brother-in-law. I love my brother-in-law, but I don't want to look up and see a weirdly familiar face when I'm changing my son's butt.

Strangely, Grandma was very supportive and assured me that Dylan looked adorable. D - not so much. As I sniffled my way through the harrowing hair-cut tale after yoga class, he just shook his head and patted me on the back in that useless gesture men all over the world use to calm semi-hysterical women.

"Kimmy, you have all these great ideas, and then when they happen, you're crushed."

"I thought I was doing the right thing!" I said into D's chest. "He's always sweaty!"

"So are you." D patted me on the back some more, then swivelled me to face a photo of the old Dylan on the fridge. "Well, I hope you're happy. You'll never have that little long-haired boy back, you know. His hair will never grow in quite the way it was."

This was true, but not particularly helpful. I choked back more tears, swatted my husband and trudged up the stairs to lie beside my little man, who really didn't give a flying fig what his hair was like. I stroked his fuzzy head (which was, of course, sweaty), sighed, and realized that this was a very minor milestone on the all-to-short road through my son's childhood.

Thursday, 4 July 2013

Stuck in a whirlwind!

Hello, my bloggy friends.

I know I haven't posted in a while, so I thought I'd better just drop by and say hey, thanks for checking in, and don't worry, I'm still writing. I have a ton of blog posts! It's just that they're all in my head. Which doesn't really help you much, does it?


It's been a bit of a whirlwind around here with swimming lessons, Canada Day, parade nights, beach days, visitors, wretched garden issues, too much scrabble and temper tantrums (some of them mine). But I'll be back to tell you all about it soon.



Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Don't Mess with the Dress

I went for a flying visit to the city yesterday to have dinner with some old, dear friends and to get my glasses fixed. I also had another, less pleasurable item on my agenda: I needed new clothes.

Many of my friends up here complain that there’s nowhere to shop in Kincardine, especially for clothes. I’ve found that between Southampton and Goderich there are plenty of boutiques, some lovely consignment shops and even a few mainstream stores. “But there aren’t any malls,” my friends moan. To which I quietly respond, “Thank the Lord.” Because I really, really hate malls.

I’ve never been much for owning the latest fashion trend, although I often notice and admire folks who wear their clothes with flair. I think clothes should be functional and fun, and serve as an expression of your personality. The problem is that my fashion personality of late could best be described as indifferent. Or, as my sister so eloquently puts it: “Meh.”

I like to wear clothes that make me happy, like a colourful dress that hugs my body and makes D’s eyebrows go up like Groucho Marx’s, or jeans that are so comfortable I forget I’m wearing them. This summer, most of my clothes just make me shrug. My jeans are torn and frayed, or else they sag and make me look like I’m wearing a full diaper. My tee shirts are stained, stretched, moth-eaten or all three and my favourite skirts are older than my marriage certificate. I have beautiful closets, and nasty clothes.

Since I’m done being pregnant, over my career crises, and my other health issues are fairly under control, I’m hoping my wildly fluctuating body shape will settle down where it’s currently at, give or take a few pounds. Last year’s happy Buddha pot-belly is gone, D keeps asking me whether I have any pants that don’t have torn cuffs, and I’m getting a bit tired of searching for shirts that haven’t been used as a moth picnic. But what really made me realize a shopping trip was in order was a conversation I had with Jade before I left for the city.

“Hmmm, which top should I wear with this skirt?” I mused aloud as I surveyed the tumbled mess of half-folded shirts in my closet. I’d chosen a longish cotton pencil skirt emblazoned with a dragon-phoenix-y thing; it was a hand-me-down from my more fashionable sister. D hates that skirt because it hides my legs. I love it because it's comfortable and good for days when I didn’t feel like shaving my legs.

I reached into the closet and selected a garnet-coloured tee shirt that sort of matched the feathers in the phoenix-dragon’s wings. The v-neck was stretched and the colour was faded, but it was the best I could do. “There, this will look nice.”

Jade, who was standing beside me, crossed her arms. “No, it won’t.”

“But...it matches my skirt?” I said, taken aback that my four-year-old daughter had an opinion about what I wore.

“No, Mumma,” said Jade. “I will choose you something else. That one is yuckky.”

As I watched my child rummage through my motley collection of shirts, it occurred to me that I shouldn’t be taking advice from someone who thought wearing pink pyjamas every day for a week was the height of fashion sense. Then it hit me; my daughter noticed what I wore, knew I wasn’t all that happy wearing it, and that made some kind of difference to her. Which got me thinking about how I’d been dressing lately: sloppily, without much thought to whether my clothes were neat or clean (the one clothing rule I enforce with both my kids), or whether I felt good in them. I’d forgotten an important fact: little kids notice everything. As a parent, I was a living, breathing model of adulthood, from the way I brushed my teeth to the way I handled a phone call from the “this will just take a moment of your time” telemarketing company. As trivial as it seemed, the clothes I wore and the way I felt when I wore them was all part of the model.

As Jade handed me a sheer orange top with an image of Ganesh surrounded by twinkly rhinestones in the middle, I thought about my own mother and her flair for fashion, as comfortable in silk dresses and high heels as she was in the terrycloth tank tops she wore in the garden. I didn’t need to prance around in yellow silk, but maybe I needed clothes that made me feel good about myself to keep my “roughing it” outfits in balance.

Lots of people I know adore shopping. My mother was the master of it, and my sister Tanzi and friend Ruth are the same. They have an incredible instinct for finding outfits that are the right size, colour and style, usually on sale. Even D, on his rare annual shopping expeditions, can pick out half a dozen shirts and pants that look great on him in less than an hour. Me? Not so much. I don’t mind window shopping, but honestly, I’d rather clean eaves troughs in the rain than try on clothes. The trip to the city was a golden opportunity to right my fashion wrongs, though, and I figured the mall, as much as I loathed it, would be the quickest and most painless way to get myself a few summer outfits to help look more like a confident, funky mama than a bag-lady.


There are days when I really feel my age. Like when Dylan runs away from me and I nearly have a coronary trying to catch him. Or when I walk into a store at the mall filled equally with thud-thud electronic music and pretty teenagers clad in white shorty-shorts. Then I feel every millisecond of my forty-three years.

As I took my fourth step into the store, I had three immediate thoughts:
1) Why is everything so short?
2) Why is everything so cheap?
3) What the hell am I doing here?

I should have turned around and found a different store, one with fewer teens and more down-tempo music. Instead, I ground my teeth together, grabbed a random sampling of synthetic stuff off the “Now 3$!” and “2 for 10!” racks and corralled a bored-looking clerk. I told her I wasn’t sure what size I was so I’d taken two of everything to try. She chewed her gum, flicked her eyes over my body and shrugged.

“Prob’ly a medium,” she said with another shrug and nodded at me to follow her as she scuffed her bejewelled ballet flats across the store to the change rooms.

After trying on my third absurdly short sundress, having had to squeeze my way out of my tiny change room to the communal mirror each time, I gave up. The clothes just weren’t me. In fact, the whole store just wasn’t me. I felt, more than ever, like a sloppy, un-funky, old-bag-lady mom and fled the store.

In vain I searched the mall for stores with styles that might speak to me, that girl who used wear fun dresses to work, the woman who used to get tarted up to go out dancing, this country mama who wanted something pretty but functional, casual but flattering, feminine but tough enough to withstand sticky embraces and blueberry pancake missiles. It didn’t take long to figure out that whatever I needed, I was definitely not going to find at the freaking mall.

Hot, flustered, angry at the stores, the clothes and myself, I got into my car and started driving. I went past the beautiful wooded trails where I used to walk on my lunch hours, past the old building where I’d spent seventeen years of my working life, past my favourite sushi restaurant. Suddenly I was downtown Waterloo, near Young Street. And that girl who used to know how to dress whispered “Turn left, TURN LEFT!” so I did, and found myself in front of Unique Boutique, a clothing store my sister and I had discovered a decade ago when we’d both lived in the city.

The shop is owned by a warm, lovely woman named Gosia. She’s the type of person who wears her clothes so effortlessly that you feel as though they’re simply part of her. Her store is full of outfits and shoes and jewelry that are one-of-a-kind, colourful and, well, unique. I hadn't been there in years, but Gosia remembered me and asked about my sister, too. She listened carefully as I stammered through my sad mall story, the fact that I had two kids and was a completely different size than I'd been last year. She nodded, thought for a minute, and then began to fly around her store, gathering dresses and blouses she thought would suit me and my lifestyle. I’ve never had such fun trying on clothes; I’ve never felt so well attended in a store before. It was the best hour of shopping I’ve ever had in my life. I even stuffed the garnet shirt and phoenix skirt into my purse and wore a new black dress and long beaded necklace right out of the store.

And that, my friends, is how I finally ended up with the delightful sundress I’m floating around in today, a wild concoction of peacock green with red and purple paisley spots with spaghetti straps and a deep V-neck that flatters my boyish chest. It’s just short enough to make D smile, and it’s cool and stretchy enough for me wear while I dive after the kids. Like the other stuff I bought, it wasn’t on sale, but I can tell it will last me more than a few summers.

Jade took one look at me after I’d put the dress on this morning, fingered the soft material and said, “Ooooh, Mumma, this feels so beautiful and cosy.” I couldn’t have said it better myself.

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Lovin' the LEIBSTER!

A big shout out to my dear pal Susan at Notes from Innisfree...she awarded me a Leibster!
Whoo hoo! Hurray! Yippee!!!

Okay, I didn't know what it was either, but hey, I got an award, yo.

Susan told me that Liebster is a German word, meaning dearest or beloved, or favorite. This lovely little award is given to bloggers with less than 200 followers in order to help them get a little well-deserved attention and coax more awesome readers to visit their blog.

Further to my earlier post about paying it forward, once you win a Liebster, the idea is to pass it along to other bloggers you love, and let them know by leaving a comment on their blog. Apparently I'm supposed to do this to eleven other bloggers, but to be frank, I'm kind of like a hermit in the bloggesphere and I don't really know eleven other bloggers who need that many followers. So I'll keep it to four of my favourites and stick to the other rules by posting four random facts about myself, and answering four of the questions Susan asked as my nominator. Oh, and I have to make up four questions for my nominees to answer...mwah ha ha!

Normally I detest form letter type stuff, but this feels more like a big, bloggy love-in. So, thanks Susan! And here goes nothing, my leibschens...

Four Funky Facts about Me
1) I have seen Michail Gorbachev, Cybil Shepherd and Tony Danza in person. I know. Now you want to be my friend, right?

2) Someday I'm going to travel to Japan and climb Mt. Fuji at sunrise. I even know a few words in Japanese. I just need to learn the ones for "I am not dead, I am just resting here on the side of the mountain."

3) I have a terrible, terrible crush on the guy that plays Jaime on Game of Thrones. This has replaced my terrible, terrible crush on Hugh Jackman, which replaced my terrible, terrible crush on Scully, which replaced my terrible, terrible crush on Harrison Ford that pretty much lasted a decade.

4) The four foods I can never get enough of are olives, ice cream, popcorn and sushi.

Four Questions from Susan
1) What motto do you live by?
I'd like to say it's something philosophical and deep, but I think it's more along the lines of, "Knock yourself out." Which I say a lot to my kids when they ask whether they can do something, like build a fort out of every piece of furniture in the house, or take off all their clothes in the sandbox. Basically, I figure if it isn't dangerous, unkind or unhealthy, go for it! We shelter our kids too much these days. They need to have harmless little adventures. And so do I.

2) What's your favourite movie?
Favourite feel-good movie: Greencard. Favourite movie I never get tired of watching even though my husband doesn't get it: The Matrix. Favourite foreign movie: Oldboy. Favourite nostalgic movie: a tie between Grease and Raiders of the Lost Ark.

3) If you could wave your magic wand and solve one world issue, which issue would you choose to address?
I wish mental health issues like depression, anxiety, bipolar and post-traumatic stress disorders would just vanish off the face of the earth. Cancer comes a close second. And the repression & abuse of women and children. I know, that's three things. But man, that's a tough question.

4) If you could have dinner with any living person, who would it be?
Wayson Choy. I just love that guy. Plus he's funny and would never judge me for ordering too much bacon or wine.

And My Nominees Are...
In no particular order, here are my awesome Leibster nominees. Check out their blogs! Stay a while! Leave a comment! (Us bloggers really dig comments because then we know real people are reading our stuff)

Public Recluse The Lesser - your daily dose of truth with a sprinkle of sarcasm

Tea and Spice and All Things Nice - tips, recipes and other funky posts from a local tea goddess

Converse, Wookies and the Pursuit of Joy - the title kind of says it all, doesn't it? Zen zaniness and sharp observations from one seriously cool woman

Hick Chic - a little Johnny Depp (okay, a LOT of Johnny Depp), musings about country life, hilarious barn stories, sweet posts about her critters. What's not to like about this girl? And did I mention we went to high school together?

Four Nosy Questions for my Nominees
1) What's your favourite childhood memory?

2) In four sentences, describe your ideal day.

3) Do you believe in Heaven?

4) When's the last time you had a really good belly laugh, and why?

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Random acts of do-good

Ever see that movie Pay it Forward? The one where Kevin Spacey sports a grotesque scar, Helen Hunt gets beat up by Bon Jovi and the kid from The Sixth Sense attempts to look tough by wearing sleeveless shirts? Gawdawful movie. Seriously, I detest films that try too hard to make you feel a certain way. But as horrid as the movie was, it (and the book it was based on) did spark an interesting do-gooder movement back in 2000.

The concept of paying it forward is simple: someone does something nice for you, so you do something nice for someone else in the hopes that they'll do something nice for someone else...and so on, and so forth. Kind of like Faberge shampoo, but with good deeds. You know, like paying for the guy behind you at the Tim Horton's drive through, or offering to take a stranger's empty cart at the grocery store so they don't have to tramp across the parking lot to return it. I think the author called it "spontaneous acts of kindness." The idea is to change the world, one nicey-nicey at a time.

Back when I lived in Waterloo, in my pre-D and pre-kid life, I loved volunteering. I stage managed plays at my church, helped organize my department's morale committee, wrote the newsletter and assisted at the drop spot for the local CSA. But after my divorce, I plunged into a very self-absorbed state where I just didn't have the heart to get out and do anything for anyone else. Then I met D, got swept into our wonderful tornado of a romance, and had a wonderful year of focusing on just us. Add a move and two young children to the mix, and I became someone who could barely make time to shower regularly, let alone spend a few hours volunteering.

I know I'll get back out there some day; right now I'm focusing on the kids and my writing and our gardens and keeping the house from falling down around our ears. But by inserting a few little acts of kindness into my day, I think I can make life a little more bearable for folks, even if it's just for a minute or two. And it makes life a little more lovely for me, too.

I think a lot of us tend to get sucked into the whirlpool of "busy." Aren't we all stretched to our limits in terms of finding time for our careers, friends and families, let alone ourselves? It's not a contest about who's busier than who; it's a matter of how we spend our time. I like to tell D that Gandhi had the same 24 hours in a day that we have (I don't remember where I heard that, but it really annoys D when I say it) so we don't have much of an excuse to whine. What if we stopped focusing on how busy we are and focused instead on trying to be kinder to others and ourselves? I want to model that behaviour to my kids, young as they are, so here are some of the things I've tried in order to add a little kindness to my life.

Simple, huh? But dropping in to see someone who either doesn't get a lot of guests, or isn't able to get out much on their own, can make a huge difference to them. It can be an afternoon, or just a half-hour. The point is that you knocked on their door and made contact. I've watched my mother-in-law, who seems like quite a shy person in my eyes, reach out to neighbours who are ill or who have lost someone close to them. She takes them something to eat and stays for a chat. Even if small talk isn't your thing (it sure isn't mine), if you learn how to direct a conversation, it's easy to get people to talk about themselves. Such moments are like hidden treasures: you discover incredible stories, common interests, local history. Or you talk about the weather - it doesn't matter. Just so long as you reach out to another person, in person.

Donate to the Food Bank
Money's tight, I know. But I also know that a lot of us could be just a few paycheques away from using the food bank ourselves. Eventually, I'd love to help out in person, but until then, I donate as much healthy food as I can afford each week. It's pretty easy to do, and when I get the kids involved, it's kind of fun. During our weekly trip to the grocery store, we pick out $10 worth of food, usually whatever is on sale so we can get the most bang for our buck. It sparks all sorts of conversations with Jade, from why we probably shouldn't donate $10 worth of Dora gummy snacks to why anyone would want to eat barley since it looks like tiny pebbles. Even Dylan understands how to put the food in the Food Bank box, even though he may not yet understand why we do it. One time when I explained to a cashier that the pasta was for the food bank so she didn't have to pack it, she got tears in her eyes and said, "Bless you honey. I never thought I'd have to use the food bank, but last year when I wasn't working I used it a lot." Then we both got choked up and probably would have hugged each other if the stupid counter hadn't been in the way.

Don't Drive Like an Ass
Seriously, people. This is an easy one. And it is voluntary, so I'm counting it as volunteer work. Please don't drive up my rear bumper with your oversized truck when I'm doing the speed limit. Please don't pass me doing 80 km/h on the lower shore road, which is now posted at 40 km/h. Please don't drive like a maniac down my road because you're late for work or rage at slow-moving farm equipment. Take a deep breath, turn on your radio, and think pleasant thoughts. We'll all be better off for it. (And yes, I'm including myself in this lecture)

Write a Letter
Okay, if you HAVE to send an email, that's okay too. There's just nothing like getting ACTUAL MAIL that isn't a bill or solicitation for money. Even if it's just four lines on a goofy postcard, trust me, it will make the recipient grin like a fool. A well-written email can do the trick too; a random thank-you to someone who has inspired you, a note reminiscing about time spent together, a photo with a caption. It's all good. It's proof that someone is thinking of them - what's kinder than that?

Be a Drive Thru Fairy
I had never tried it before, but I'd heard about people who paid for the coffees of the people behind them in the drive-thru. So one day I did it. The cashier grinned at me as she handed me my order, and I tried to drive away quickly because I felt sheepish and triumphant and sneaky and silly, but the person behind me caught up to me at the traffic light. She rolled down her window and yelled, "HEY, DO I KNOW YOU?" I shook my head. She held up her hands with an expression of confusion on her face. I just shrugged and smiled. "OKAY, WELL, THANKS!!" she shouted as the light turned green and I rolled away. Honestly, it was just a $1.50 coffee, but I felt giddy about it for a good hour afterwards. D thinks I'm a lunatic, but I keep doing it anyway.

Give a Stranger a Compliment
This takes a little bit of guts, especially if you're not an extrovert. But the next time you see someone doing something worth complimenting, even if it's something small, take a breath and tell them they rock. The first time someone complimented me on how well behaved Jade and Dylan were out in public was in the Bulk Barn, a place I don't usually take my kids because all that food in containers at their eye level is just too much temptation. For whatever reason, they were mellow that day, and a fellow shopper said some kind words about how calm and sweet they were and how I was doing a great job with them. I knew that on any given day, my kids could very well be the ones rolling down the aisle with fistfuls of gummy bears, but, flushed with the compliment, I thanked the lady anyway. Just a few words from a complete stranger made me remember that I'm not half-bad as a mom. So now, whenever I see a parent with kids who happen to be acting civilized, I make a point of complimenting them, because every parent should feel a surge of pride in their parenting skills, even if it's really just good timing.

Anyway, this is my version of Paying it Forward. No Haley Joel Osmont, no bad Helen Hunt accents. You're welcome.

Friday, 7 June 2013

Random thoughts when I'm supposed to be paying attention in Yoga class

Gah, I'm late again! There's one spot left over there in the corner. (Unfurl my mat and sit down) Holy crap, where is that arctic breeze coming from? No wonder this spot is open. Brrrrr...

Overheard on the mats beside me:
Woman #1: Your uncle's insane.
Woman #2: Which one?

I love my teacher. Her movements are like water, her voice like warm honey. She radiates kindness with every word and look. Oh boy...I might have a girl crush.

Having to clench my cheeks to hold in pizza-related flatulence while doing Goddess pose is kinda ironic. This goddess really needs to let one fly.

This older woman next to me is so beautiful. She's lean and fit, and I like that she hasn't dyed her hair. The silver grey suits her.

Wow, that preggo woman can hold these damned poses longer than I can.

Yoga Instructor: "Are you experiencing the pose, or enduring it?"
Me: I don't think you want me to answer that.

This alternate nostril breathing exercise really doesn't work when you have allergies. Oh man, I just shot stuff out of my nose....did anyone see that?

Yay! My cousins are here!

I am beautiful and strong. I am beautiful and strong. I am - oooh, trembly legs! Trembly legs!!

Dancing warrior has got to be the coolest name for a pose ever.

There is something really intimate and powerful about 15 women facing each other in goddess pose. But now I want to stick my tongue out like Kali...

Thank God for Shavasana. AT LAST. Okay, stop thinking. Relax. Breathe. Geez, I wonder if D remembered that the kids are at his Mom's tonight? AHH! Stop thinking things! Shavasana, Shavasana. Ahhhhh. Yes. This is nice. (pause) Is that woman beside me snoring??? Seriously?? *sigh*

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Five things about...A Mother of a Day

What do you think of when you realize that Mother's Day is around the corner? Sloppy but well-intentioned breakfasts in bed, home-made cards festooned with sparkles and stickers, bear hugs and giggles? Visits to someone's home, apartment, nursing home or hospital bed? A quiet drive to the cemetery? Or maybe a card in the mail, a phone call, or a passing pang of guilt for cards unsent and phones left untouched?

Mother's Day has been kinda weird for me ever since my mother died back in 1992. And it's gotten progressively weirder since I lost babies of my own, then had two healthy children. I honestly don't know what to do with myself when that hallowed Sunday in May rolls around. Do I allow myself to be pampered and showered with extra attention, or do I wring my hands and grieve what might have been? Do I celebrate the contented mothers in my life or reach out to those for whom the day is pure torture? I don't know that there's a right answer to that question. So I did a bit of both.

1) Hot Coffee
After a good night's sleep (a rarity at Someday due to my son's penchant for nocturnal roaming), I enjoyed an uncharacteristically mellow morning with the kids while D did chores for his mother. We'd had a crazy day on Saturday with a combined birthday party for Jade and her cousin, so it was a relief to wake up and realize I had nothing to do. I set Dylan up with his breakfast in front of his favourite video, then invited Jade to watch her latest internet fascination - Teletubbies - seriously - on my laptop in bed with me. This meant I could drink my coffee and Baileys while it was still hot, people....still hot! If you have neither pets nor kids, you might not appreciate the enormity of this achievement. But trust me, it's big. I read my book - Cheryl Strayed's incredible memoir, Wild - cuddled with Jady and listened with one ear to Dylan whoop it up downstairs a la Team Umizoomi. It was peaceful. It was pleasant. It was perfect.

And then D got home, the kids went ballistic and my coffee cup was empty. Still, it was an hour and a half of bliss. Wayyyy better than breakfast in bed or a macaroni card.

2) Holy Crepes!
After he'd shattered the peace by having an impromptu wrestling match with Dylan on our bed, D reminded me that I'd offered to go to the farm and make breakfast for his mother. Crap. So I crawled out of bed, whipped up some crepe batter, grabbed a pint of berries from the fridge and herded the kids into the car.

We were so late that I'd missed seeing my sister-in-law and nieces, who'd left for a different family gathering - oops. My mother-in-law had already set the table and concocted a gorgeous fruit tray, so I wasted no time getting the crepes going. I have my mother's old crepe pan and it never fails me. Bro-in-law Paul cooked eggs and peameal bacon, the kids ran around, Grandma whipped some cream to replace the stuff I'd forgotten at home and D made the toast.

It was a raucous, crowded, splattery half-hour and I felt weirdly relaxed, even in the midst of all the breakfast chaos. I think I must have made thirty crepes; we slathered them with Nutella, whipped cream and fruit and ate until we couldn't eat any more. I think my mom would have been pleased to see me carrying on her tradition; my grandmothers would have been proud of how many I snarfed back.

3) Sharing the Burden
The day before Mother's Day, I got on the phone to my favourite flower shop in Waterloo and placed a last-minute order. I'd meant to do it the week before; I guess the party details erased this task from my mental list. When the clerk asked me what I wanted to put on the card, I opened my mouth to tell her, but no words came out. Instead, I choked on a sudden suffocating wave of tears. I finally managed to say, "My friend lost her daughter last month," before the wave drowned my voice again.

The clerk paused for a moment. "Well, what about something like, 'Thinking of you?' Or, 'With warm thoughts at this difficult time?'"

I swallowed the tears and shook my head, not that she could see it. "No," I croaked, as a mixture of anger and helplessness bloomed in my chest. "No, no, NO."

I heard the clerk let out a small sigh on the other end of the phone. I knew I was placing a last-minute order on an insanely busy day for her store. I knew I'd begged her to tack it on to the last delivery time, but mother of pearl, didn't she GET IT? Shouldn't she know that there's nothing you CAN say on Mother's Day in the space of a tiny florist's card to someone who has lost a child? I clenched my teeth to bite back the urge to yell this at her.

"Just write, 'With love from the Lowrys,'” I finally said. It was banal, but true. All I could send them was our love. And a lot of frigging chocolate.

I sent my love to relatives and coworkers who have lost mothers and mothers-in-law; neighbours whose mothers are hopelessly ill; friends who have lost sisters, aunts, children. Mother's Day is no picnic for a lot of moms, no matter how many macaroni cards or pedicure gift certificates they get. It's not much fun for many guys either. Sometimes there’s nothing you can do except offer to share the burden of pain and grief and disappointment, so they know they aren’t carrying it alone.

4) The Hike
Every year on Mother's Day, I slip away for a few hours and take a long walk on my own. I used to go to the beach, but this year I tackled the Kincardine Trails.

The kids and I often do short treks through what they call “The Muddy Woods,” near the Penetangore River, but until recently, I had no idea that the trails can lead you for hours through woods and field, over bridges and up steep ravines, behind subdivisions and arenas. It’s blissfully silent, perfect for days where you want to think of everything, or nothing.

When you hike by yourself, your mind is free to wander, and your attention sharpens. There’s no conversation to distract you from the little details: a plunging kingfisher, the way the river talks to itself, a carpet of trilliums, the tiny perfection of a robin’s eggshell, the smell of snow in the air. (Yes, it snowed on Mother’s Day - apparently Mother Nature had PMS.)

I expected to feel sad, and cry a little. I usually do, thinking of the people I’ve lost and the mother I’ve become. This time I didn’t. Instead, I felt wistful. Like, what would life be like if Rose had lived? Or my mother had recovered from her cancer? Or my friend’s daughter had been born healthy? Fantasies ran unchecked through my brain as I panted for breath and stomped my way over bridges and up steep, muddy hills.

When I got to a small gap in the trees where the river rushed by, I stooped and picked up a handful of stones. I threw one into the river for each person I was missing: Bun. Rose. Baba and Nana. My mother. My friend’s daughter. It was a simple act, just a few splashes and ripples that disappeared as quickly as they’d been created. Then I had to laugh a bit, because wasn’t that life? We make our mark, but eventually our presence fades and we become part of something bigger. The stones are still there, even if you can’t see them. Maybe knowing they’re there is enough for now.

5) This Girl is on Fire
D’s family doesn’t really celebrate occasions like my family does. Birthdays come and go with a card and a cake - unless it’s for a grandchild, in which case the party lasts for several days. But Mother's Day, Father's Day, etc. are sort of shrugged at. So I don’t get too upset if I don't get a card from D or the kids. I prefer to spend the day in quiet contemplation, truth be told. Having a loving husband who tells me I’m a good mom almost daily and being able to enjoy the company of two healthy kids is gift enough.

This year, D astounded me with a spa gift certificate to a place I'd been raving about to my sister recently. I was so sure he wouldn’t get me anything that I went out and bought something for myself: an outdoor fire pit thingy! Oops.

So now I get to pamper myself at a fancy spa, AND enjoy a cosy fire any time I want. I think the kids are old enough to discover the sticky joys of roasted marshmallows and spider dogs, the spark and crackle of a bonfire and the way it feels to fall asleep in your mother's lap outside under the stars. I think that's all I really wanted for Mother's Day anyway.

Monday, 27 May 2013

Stones and Grumpy Love

Sunday, my friends, was a glorious day. Blue skies, sunshine, no humidity and a brisk north breeze to keep things lively. And best of all, I was able to soak it in for four hours straight.

D and I occasionally team up to do what I like to call "property management" and what he likes to call "a lot of damn stuff around this place." With our adorably feral children biting our ankles most weekends, it's rare that we get to engage in outdoor chores together (with the exception of the ever-popular dump date). When we do get an opportunity to hang out and do some sweaty, grumbly, my-back-is-gonna-kill-me-tomorrow type of stuff, I like to make the most of it. I'm not normally a gung-ho "Hey, let's dig a trench!" kind of girl, so when these occasions do occur, I really give 'er. Then even D grimly admits that I'm actually DOING SOMETHING on the weekend. (He does not consider parenting or sleeping in or drinking coffee and playing online scrabble to be DOING SOMETHING, which is one of his few tragic flaws.)

Anyway, Sunday's SOMETHINGS consisted of:
- distributing the four foot pile of wood chips that's been sitting in the driveway since April into the gardens
- starting my hay bale garden (more on that in another post, cause it's freaking crazy and deserves its own blog, let alone entry)
- scouring the side road for really big rocks to line the bottom of my new office garden
- attacking the scary grass around my arbour that comes up to my knees every single spring, no matter how many times I attempt to kill it
- raking our lawn, which resembles a freshly cut hayfield and elicited less-than-polite comments from an older neighbour

The tricky part was that we only had a few hours in which to do all this stuff, since Grandma, who was looking after the kids, had to be somewhere else in the afternoon. We dropped them off around 11 a.m. and I visited with my mother-in-law for a few minutes while the kids gleefully chased the cats around the swing set.

"Let's get doing this if we're doing it," commanded D, striding purposefully toward his parents' shop.

"Guess that's my cue," I muttered to Shirley and headed for the car. "Where are you going?" I yelled at D.

"I'm taking another ride home," he hollered over his shoulder. "Get going!"

I got going. At home, I poured myself a cup of coffee, took it outside and began to pitchfork wood chips into the rusty old wheelbarrow we'd recovered from one of the barns after our gorgeous new wheelbarrow got stolen (Note to any nouveau-country folks: don't leave anything near the side of the road unless you want a stranger to come and take it. Yes, that includes wheelbarrows full of recycling). My plan was to create a garden behind my office, which is on a steep slope of unmowable grass. I figured lots of wood chips, some ground cover plants and rocks would make it look like an actual garden instead of an errant weedy mess. D was not convinced. He hates anything to do with gardens, but he hated the pile of wood chips on the driveway even more. Sure enough, I heard a heavy rumbling as I dumped my second load of chips onto the slope. There was my man, chugging up the driveway in his dad's skid-steer. He started loading up chips into the bucket at a rate of five wheelbarrows. I cheered.

He went back and forth a few times and I raked the chips as he dumped them, all the while thinking that there was something kind of hot about a man driving heavy machinery in order to fulfill one's whims. I got as close to the skid-steer as I dared.

"Can I have a ride?" I yelled.

D shrugged, which I took for assent.

I surveyed the giant bucket and the ridiculously tiny cab that my six foot husband was crammed into. "How do I get in?"

D rolled his eyes. "Climb the bucket, woman. And hurry up."

I clambered up the bucket and plopped myself onto his lap. Kind of cosy. Could sexy-time in a skid-steer become a thing? That's when the first waft of stink hit me.

"Ugh...it smells like POOP! Why does it smell like poop in here?" I wriggled, trying to come to terms with the smell.

"Because Carm uses the loader tractor to clean pens. Geez, you've got a bony butt, woman. Now sit still and hang on."

Riding double in a skid-steer is an unsafe but awesomely fun thing to do. We finished the garden and I directed him to the arbour where I wanted to kill the evil grass growing around it once and for all by smothering it with wood chips. I hopped out and did my thing while D brought load after load of chips.

When I heard the motor cut, I wiped the sweat off my face and leaned in to the cab of the skid steer, waggling my eyebrows. "Wanna go inside and have some lunch?"

D stared at me. "No Kimmy, I do not want to have lunch. I want to get this done. Let's go get you some stones." I cheered again and we abandoned the skid-steer for the truck.

Once we were on the road, my husband leaned across the bench seat and touched my hand. I gazed at him. He was so handsome in his lumber jacket and brown hoodie, a tuft of curly hair peeking out over his forehead. He was getting me rocks and helping build my garden. He really loved me.

"I just want you to know," he began, and I squeezed his fingers affectionately, thinking back to the days when we used to sneak down side roads for different reasons than rock picking.

"I just want you to know that I have NEVER gone back down a side road to pick up stones that someone has taken out of a field so I could dump them on my lawn. Never. Ever. In a million years."

There was a silence as we turned left off the concession road and onto the bumpy gravel.

"Well," I said, "isn't it great how I open lots of new horizons for you?"

"Not in this regard, no," he answered, removing his hand from mine and staring straight ahead. A sudden vision of his brother and father's reactions to the situation flashed across my brain and I realized that D was risking deep ridicule to get me my stones. I sensed I was going to have to reward him richly to make up for this farming sacrilege. This became even more apparent after D smushed his finger between two of the rocks I'd chosen while unloading them. He jumped up and down wordlessly while I wrung my hands and made sympathetic noises. Then he jumped in the truck.

"Where are you going?" I said. "Are you okay?"

"I am NOT okay," he said through clenched teeth. "I am going somewhere where I can swear really loudly." And he drove off, with the windows rolled up. I didn't see him again until he came to bed after doing chores and helping his uncle plant an acre of our sweet corn.

I patted him timidly on the shoulder as he rolled into bed. "Um...thanks for all your help today," I whispered.

"You are a pain in the neck," was my darling spouse's response as he took me in his arms and kissed my neck. Ah, true love.

I have a feeling a giant rhubarb cake and a lot of shoulder rubbing is in his future tonight when my crusty but loving man gets home from work. And I think I'll keep quiet about the idea I have for building a new rustic fence in the corner of the back yard. At least until next spring.

Saturday, 11 May 2013

Anatomy of a Birthday Party

Jady lady turns 4 next week, but we celebrated her birthday today in the form of a joint party with her cousin, who turned 5 yesterday. It was a family only party and very casual, but like all parties, there were highs and lows. And cake cutting injuries.

To give you a taste, here are some direct quotes from the birthday tyrant herself:

7:30 a.m. (singing) "It's my party day! My party day! We're gonna celebrate! Celebrate! Yeah! And dance! And sing! And eat cake! Yeah!!!"

8:25 a.m. "Mumma, my new party dress is too small so I took it off. You have to buy me a new one."

8:50 a.m. "Today is my party so everyone has to do what I say. Humph."

9:30 a.m. "C'mon Dylan, let's have a dance party to practice for the birthday party!"

11:40 a.m. (guests have mostly all arrived) "There are too many people in my house."

11:55 a.m. "C'mon Grandma. Let's go to your house where it is quiet."

12:30 p.m. "I don't like this kind of day. I am going to change my birthday to another day."

1:00 p.m. (as her cake is unveiled) "OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOHHHH!"

1:10 p.m. "AUUUUGGHHH!!! GRANDMA CUT ME!!!!!"

1:30 p.m. "Mumma, the icing on my cake tastes yuckky."

2:00 p.m. (upon seeing her new dollhouse from Grandma & Carman) "OH! I love it I love it I love it!"

2:11 p.m. "My new scooter makes me kind of nervous."

2:40 p.m. (pushing my Dad's face away as he leaves) "Nope, no kisses for you Grandpa."

9:15 p.m.
Me: It seemed like you didn't have such a great time today. Do you want to tell me about it?
Jade: Yes. Grandma cut my hand.
Me: That was an accident.
Jade: Yes, but she cut me. With a knife. And the icing on my cake was yuckky.
Me: It really was, wasn't it? So, what good things happened to you today?
Jade: OH, there was plenty. I liked opening presents. And the gumballs on the cake. And my scooter.
Me: What about your dollhouse?
Jade: What dollhouse?
Me: *sigh* Goodnight honey. Happy almost birthday.
Jade: Mumma, I love you more than the toilet flushes.
Me: I know you do, honey.

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

The Kittification of Someday

(This is a revised and expanded version of a 2009 entry)

A month before we officially owned Someday, D and I went for an illicit hike through the meadow to look at the river. It was my idea; he warned me that if we were caught, we’d be in trouble, since we didn’t legally have possession of the land yet.

“Please,” I scoffed. “Who’s gonna catch us? The farming police? Don’t be such a chicken.”

So we had our tromp back to the river, Neko crashing through the undergrowth ahead of us. I was enchanted with the evergreen forest at the top of the hill, the wild apple trees and pussywillows, the swoosh of the Pine River as it flowed past our feet. I imagined lazy afternoons reading on the riverbank, envisioned taking my dad to fish there. Neko frisked around us and I jumped around in the tall grass and hugged D with delight. He patted me on the back with infinite patience. To him, the river was just an interruption in the farmland. To Neko and me, it was heaven.

As we clambered up the steep, goldenrod-choked path up from the river to the meadow, I noticed a figure leaning on the gate at the other end of the field.

“Oh good,” muttered D.

“Who’s that?” I asked, panting as we crested the hill.

“Doc Munn’s daughter. I told you we’d be in shit if we did this,” said D, grabbing Neko by the collar and clicking her leash on. “This should be fun.”

As we got closer, I put on my friendliest, most beguiling “Oh, is it wrong we’re on your land?” smile and went to introduce myself. Ms. Munn was not amused. She informed us we were trespassing and if one of us had broken a leg in the field or by the river there could have been deep legal trouble. I looked sideways at Dwain. He stood there and accepted the chastisement, although I could tell by his jaw he was about ready to give a lecture of his own. Neko, meanwhile, repeatedly choked herself in her eagerness to make new friends.

Ms. Munn had an old dog with her so we let our pets sniff each other while I attempted to make small-talk about animals and how beautiful the property was. This seemed to soften her up ever so slightly.

“I walk up here every night with my dog to feed the cats,” she informed us.

“Cats?” I asked. “What cats?”

Ms. Munn led us inside the abandoned horse stable and pointed out each of the four cats who lived there, giving us a brief history of each feline.

“This is Mummy,” she said, stroking the plump, purring black and white cat sprawled at our feet. “And that’s Black Betty,” she said, pointing to a pure black kitty reclining on some straw. “She’s named after your mother's cousin Betty Pollard,” Ms. Munn informed D tartly, “because they have the same personality.” I kept a straight face, vowing to remember this conversation word for word so I could amuse my in-laws with it later.

Next came the Teenager, so named because she was “moody,” and finally Frances, who peered at us from between a crack in the boards. “Don’t try to pick her up,” instructed Ms. Munn without further explanation. We also received detailed instructions about administering food, water and bi-annual rabies shots. She seemed so attached to the kitties that I timidly suggested she take them with her before we moved in. She looked at me as though I'd suggested we barbeque them and retorted, "It's the only home they've ever known." She went on to tell us that the cats were worth thousands of dollars, a statement that caused D to emit a choking sound Ms. Munn and I pretended to ignore. I could not wait to describe this scene to Carman.

We never ran into Ms. Munn again after that day, but she did leave us a card in the kitchen which we found the morning we moved in. “Aww, she must have left us a housewarming card,” I said, ripping it open and feeling bad that I’d found her so prickly on our first meeting. The card simply said, “Please take care of the cats. THIS IS THE ONLY HOME THEY'VE EVER KNOWN.” Two labelled photos of “the girls” were tucked inside. Apparently, Someday came pre-kittified.

My mother always had at least one cat in the house when I was growing up, a succession of different personalities named Vodka, Snowball, Velvet, Champagne, Selina, and Chaucer. Since Someday's barn cats were now mine, I decided to rename two of them a bit more creatively based on their personalities. Frances became Ricochet, because she exploded behind hay bales or under doors like a bullet as soon as I walked into the barn, and Mummy became Comfort. Mummy seemed like a silly thing to say to a cat who was fixed, and she was so cuddly and purry that Comfort just suited her.

Of the four, Comfort and Black Betty are the friendliest, the Teenager less so and Ricochet has never allowed herself to be touched. Maybe it’s because I don’t call her Frances.

It’s a lot of cats, even for a place as big as Someday. Neko is always a nose away from her food bowl, and she’s so huge it’s hard to ignore her for long. The cats are way down the lane in the barn though, and I have to mentally poke myself to remember to fill their food dishes and take water out every couple of days. They’ve all been spayed, which is awesome, but soon I’ll have to figure out how to get them rabies shots. Heaven knows they won’t easily be transported to the vet without a fight or three.

Jade took over cat-feeding duties as soon as she was able to walk back to the barn. She and Black Betty have a special bond, while my favourite is Comfort, whose mellow vibe and motorcycle engine purrs won me over from the first day I met her. It has become a morning ritual for Jady and I to walk back to the barn to visit the kitties and feed them, although it took me several days before I realized that Jade was managing to secretly eat a handful of cat food every time.

One day, we went to feed the kitties, only to find a giant, marmalade-coloured interloper in their midst. I was surprised, to say the least. Someday cats are mild-mannered, clean and friendly. This new kitty was enormous, filthy and looked like he knew cat-kwon-do. Even Jade, lover of all animals, treated him with suspicion. "Dat kitty big," she said, and gave him a wide berth.

He stared at me defiantly as I tried to figure out where he had come from and what I should do about it. I didn't recognize him from Blair's Grove or even Robbie's farm up the road. It was spring; I guessed he'd come in search of a meal and a wife, the latter in which he'd be sorely disappointed. In the end, I shrugged and scooped a little extra Barn Cat kibble. They must know him, I thought, as my kitties meowed and prowled around my legs like Mr. Marmalade was no big deal. Maybe they invited him over for supper.

Well, the moment the kibble hit the plates, Mr. Marmalade barged right in, elbowed Comfort and Black Betty out of the way and began gobbling food like a lion at a kill. The other cats ignored him and went to the other plate of food. But Mr. M. must have thought they were getting something tastier, because he flew over to the other plate, hip-checked them all out of the way and plunged into their food like...well, like Neko.

I swear I could hear the Teenager sigh as she looked up at me with an exasperated expression and trudged back to the first plate again. Apparently Mr. M. was not so much a guest as a party crasher, and a flea-ridden one at that. His table manners left much to be desired. Someday cats are mellow creatures who wait patiently for their food and eat it in delicate little crunchy bites. With the exception of Ricochet, they love to be petted and stroked, and will often curl up in my lap. Mr. M’s eyes get all squinty and serial-killer-ish if I try to come near him, and the one time I snuck up and laid my hand on his back, he jumped a foot in the air and glared at me like I’d just tasered him.

So Mr. M. has got to go. He eats too much and doesn't want to make friends. He bullies my foursome of genteel kitties and I don't like it. Herein lies the proverbial rub: how do I get rid of the creature? I’ve tried to shoo him away. He runs two feet and then stops, as if daring me to chase him. I’ve yelled at him, made weird noises, stomped my feet and threatened to let Neko finish him off - all to no avail. Mr. M. has established himself as the newest, greediest resident of Someday Farm and I have absolutely no idea how to get rid of him humanely.

I asked a few friends, who suggested raccoon traps, calling the local vet or just putting up with him. I have absolutely no desire to trap a cat, much less a raccoon by accident. The local vet would laugh at me. So I guess I’m left with a grudging acceptance of our new resident and the fact that Someday may become increasingly kittified. But at least I don’t have to worry about the Teenager getting pregnant.