Monday, November 29, 2010

My Week Away, Part One

Barbara: Deb and I decided that this week, I’d go ahead and give you a little howdy-do from warm Jamaica today and Friday, and Deb would post something on Wednesday. As I’m busy doing nothing, Deb has kindly stepped in to field any comments you leave so we can keep our cozy conversation going this week.

Sorry the photo is of so-so quality. The one thing I did forget to pack is the cord that lets you download the photos from the camera. At least you can get a little idea. 
Room with a view
So, now, here is the official post de Monday:

We arrived last night just as the sun was setting—pink streaks threaded the sky and the light was so warm and soft, it saturated the colours on every colourful thing. The foliage is wild and lush and the landscape is rubinesque, full of rolling hills that plunge down to the sea. The hills are dense with bamboo, mangrove, almond, coconut, cherry—apparently every tree in Jamaica bears edible fruit.

We’re on the north side of the island, so the sun drops behind the hills turning day into dusk at about 5:30. By 6:15, it’s pitch black. And oh, when it’s black, the night sky comes alive with the stars.

We tour the property and it’s heaven. The only hitch is that our room is set up in the hills, far away from the water. All of our usual frugality goes out the window as we decide to upgrade to an ocean view. Right now it’s just paper money. Or play money.

In fact, every action feels like it doesn’t have any of the usual repercussions. Like drinking alcohol. My husband and I are normally light-weight drinkers—I mean, maybe a couple of glasses a wine A WEEK. Phil is always happy to be the DD. Club soda is his drink of choice at the local bar. And food? We eat reasonably, both in quality and in quantity. But put us in a bathing suit and stick us in a resort and suddenly it’s coco-limes and rum and cokes and brandy snifters, as well as those couple of glasses of wine A NIGHT, all to wash down the nachos and jerk and chips and dainties. First drink of the first full day? 11:30am. (…it was a coco-lime, okay) … (one part fresh lime juice, 2 parts coconut rum … mmmmm)

And let’s not forget the sun. Oh, how we worshipped it today. And who can blame us when we just left behind its Canadian face: in November it is just a distant memory of a life-giving star. It is vapid and cold, hardly worthy of its name. And on months when we get its hot self, I hide under sunscreen and hats and sunglasses. But here the sun is a tonic and a slave. Salvation. Healer. It’s easy to forget that it can turn on you on a dime and burn you to a crisp. But we languished today, just so you know. We languished in its warm embrace and succumbed to our Jamaican haze.

I thought of all of you, I swear I did. And I sent you some vicarious warmth and sand and relaxation. I kissed the sun for you.

What is your favourite way to “get away from it”?

Friday, November 26, 2010

Littered With Trouble

Fanny and Bairn
Deb: Getting a new puppy is an exciting and joyous thing. After losing our darling Frisker, we decided to go on a waiting list for a new pup knowing that we would probably have to wait till the spring. But as fate would have it, a perfect little pup presented herself to us. She was the darling, the pick of the litter. The breeder had big big plans for her and treated her as the chosen one, giving her the lovely name of Harlow.

Then one day Harlow’s fate turned a corner. Her beautiful tail ... decided to bend. Just a little in the middle. The tiniest of crooks. But there it was. And if it continued to dip, she would loose her status as the golden girl, just like Shirley Temple did in The Little Princess.

So the call came from the breeder. If her tail continued to bend, did we want her? Well, we were not quite prepared emotionally for a pup yet, but we decided to see how it played out.

And a week later we were picking up our darling Harlow from the breeder. As the breeder was saying goodbye, she said, “Please don’t tell me if her tail straightens out as I had high hopes for her and she is soooooo pretty.”

We decided on the way home that her new name would be Bairn, which in Scotland means baby or child––and it suited her. A friend thought it was mean to change her name but I explained that breeders name the litter for identification. They do not call the puppies by name. They just call “puppy, puppy, puppy” and the whole litter comes running.

Well, we took our wee Bairn home and all was well until we walked in the house.
Fanny took one look at this little fur ball in our arms and froze. Her eyes narrowed and her brow set. It was hate at first sight. Loathe at first smell. Despise at ... you get the idea.

And Bairn looked at Fanny with a love of the ages. “She is my BFF,” Bairn was clearly thinking.

And try though she might, every show of love by Bairn was met with scorn by Fanny. We expected a bit of a rough start given that Fanny had mourned Frisker for weeks by searching endlessly for him and refusing to eat. I have no doubt she thought this insipid little creature had a hand in his demise.

As the days went on, it got worse and worse. We didn’t know what to do. We were devoted to Fanny and she was our priority, but we had fallen so deeply and quickly in love with Bairn. After consulting an expert and making some progress as a result, I decided that rather than force this relationship, I had to spend some special one-on-one time with Fanny. So The Boy took the Bairn to his room and I played alone with Fanny.
In the middle of our play I was horrified to discover a large red lump in her mouth which I hadn’t noticed before. I called the vet immediately and after examining Fanny, the vet said that it was a mass and that we had a fifty-fifty chance of it being malignant. After losing Frisker, you can imagine how we were feeling. She also said it was causing Fanny no end of pain and discomfort––but the good news was that the surgery would eliminate that. So Fanny went into surgery and came through with flying colours.

Bathed in relief we brought her home, toothless and benign. She was still a tad groggy and as we walked through the door. We were careful to keep Bairn out of her face. Suddenly Fanny looked at the Bairn as if she had never seen her before, eyes wide, tail a wagging! Cautiously we placed Bairn on the floor and before we could stop her, she made a running leap for Fanny’s head. And Fanny loved it! Then Bairn jumped on Fanny’s back and just like horse and rider, Fanny trotted around proudly. She looked up at us as if to say, “Hey, when did we get the new Puppy?”.
Bairn and Fanny
It was a blissful moment and we have never looked back. For the record, Bairn’s tail never did straighten out. It’s my favourite part of her because It’s the reason we have her. Fanny is pain-free and reborn. Fanny and the Bairn. They live puppily ever after.

Barbara: Deb has said it all, but let me just add that watching these two puplets play and frolic is too adorable for words. How amazing is play and fun that a young ‘un can bring a fully-grown one some joy and exercise in her middle-age? A little lesson for all???

Here’s a little video of Deb’s two dogs enjoying the fall weather. 

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Embarrassment Of Riches

Barbara: I’m a bit of a sensitive type, maybe too sensitive sometimes, but I do have one area that is of particular concern: when things go well for me, I feel guilty. Even if I don’t appear to be feeling guilty, rest assured, I’m feeling it. Even if I’m trying hard not to feel guilty or know intellectually that I shouldn’t feel guilty, I can’t stop myself. It’s there beneath the surface, adhering like razor-sharp zebra mussels to every lovely thing in my life that would like to—for once––take precedence.

So, here’s the latest: next week my husband and I are taking a bit of a holiday, leaving the
girls and their posse to watch the home front, and escaping—just the two of us—to the warm clime of Jamaica. I am sooooo excited. It’s been a long while since we’ve had a holiday just the two of us. Hell, it’s been a while since we’ve had a proper holiday at all.

Guilty? You bet. Why? Because so many people I know can’t afford a holiday, or can’t get away despite needing the break as much as I do. I know these people are happy for me. But still I feel guilty.

How does my guilt manifest? In one of two ways. I don’t speak of it but let it silently fester. Or I try to justify my embarrassment of riches. If you don’t believe me, see above: “It’s been a long while since we’ve had a holiday just the two of us. Hell, it’s been a while since we’ve had a proper holiday at all.” Is this proviso relevant? Necessary? I don’t know. I guess I thought it was. Even though I know that everybody else knows that we are all navigating different gates of our lives at any given moment. I certainly don’t begrudge my friends their holidays (or money or success or, well, anything), so why would I assume they would begrudge mine?

Hmm, I may have an answer for that last question: I have indeed encountered a FEW people in my life who do begrudge. They are either downright and overtly hostile in the face of another’s good fortune, or they are obviously and disingenuously “cheerful”. See, they’ve screwed it up for everybody else. I end up assuming that everyone harbours this kind of ill will even when it is clear that most people—really, truly MOST people––do not. (BTW, an honest “damn, I’m jealous” is not the same. It’s true hostility I’m talking about here … you know the kind.) This is just another example of how the lowest common denominator can so easily ruin it for the rest of us. Sigh.

Anyway, I have no advice for those sorts of people, but I will say this: I am pretty sure this guilt I’m experiencing now, this self-conscious wincing, this cringe, will neatly and completely disappear when I am sitting on that beach next week sipping my pina colada. Just a thought.

Deb: Barb, I know what you’re talking about, but I can honestly say that I have never begrudged anyone anything. Someone else’s gain has nothing to do with my gain or lack thereof. I have never understood the jealousy in this arena. I am always anxious to hear of people’s travel stories and to see pictures! And it is also––if one is planning travel oneself––a way to learn from people whose opinion you trust: what is worth seeing and what isn’t.

And if I felt guilty every time I went away, I would have to be guilty every time I ate a good meal and every time I bought new clothes, and even every time I ran the tap and drank from it. If I started down that path, I would never enjoy anything.

So my advice is, try not to do it to yourself. We all deserve trips and the like. Sometimes a cabin overnight is a getaway and sometimes it’s a trip round the world. Sometimes it’s just a quiet moment of reflective thought. But try your darndest to let go the guilt.

And when you do, yours will be the most enviable journey.

Barbara: True words indeed. Thanks so much, Deb. I will keep them in mind … when I’m, you know, sipping pina coladas on the beach.

PS If you want, I’m prepared to share a few of my Jamaican exploits with all of you next week. Would it drive you crazy to hear them or would it be kinda like “travel porn” (and just to be super-clear, by “porn” I don’t mean porn, I mean “living vicariously”…)???

Monday, November 22, 2010

My Low Gag Threshold

Deb: For as long as I can remember I have had a hair-trigger gag reflex.

I come from a long line of gaggers. My father has to have the dentist spray his mouth to freeze it when doing any work, even just an examination.

I can relate. I am a visual gagger, most of us are. Worms, sidewalk spit, a hair in my food, all
the usual suspects.

But I am also a cerebral gagger. I just have to think of something that is potentially gross and I am off ... Heaving and spewing to beat the band. The human version of an expelling furball. It’s not pretty. And it can be embarrassing.

I was at a funeral once standing at the grave of a lovely man who died far too soon. Everyone was crying, tissues in hand. Except one woman who was wailing sans tissue allowing her nosily fluids to drip, nay, pour down her face and onto her clothes and the ground. Well, I don’t mind telling you ...

…wait a minute ... Gagging. Not even kidding. Wait. Wait. Breathe. Wait.

As I was saying, I don’t mind telling you that I started gagging and it was awful. People comforting me, thinking I was in a state. The man beside me took my arm thinking I was literally sick with grief. I nodded that I was okay, waved him away, and walked to my car, heaving and cacking all the way.

I have tried all the tricks. Breathe in through your nose, out from your mouth. Think of something lovely. Bend over at the waist.  They say it’s impossible to gag if you are bent over at the waist. LIARS.

I also go through this every single morning when I take my vitamins. Pop one in––Gag. Next one––Gag!  Think about the fact that I was just gagging––GAG. Realize I am going to gag the next time I take my vitamins––Gag.

My husband is the anti-gagger. Don’t think anything can make the man gag.  Same with the boy. He is skitterish to be sure, but not a gagger. I am jealous of them.

I guess the only bright spot is that it’s good for toning up the old stomach muscles.

Still, I wish someone would put a gag order on me!

Barbara: Oh, Deb, you had me rolling on the floor with this one!

Hmmm, I guess I’m an anti-gagger. I don’t think I’ve ever really had a gag response to anything. In fact, I remember once waiting in a line-up for which they’d provided johnny-on-the-spots (okay, it was a warehouse sale and the line-up was hours long … this was back in my more-patience-than money days). Anyway, the johnny was not being used a lot and the line-up was predominantly women, so I’m assuming it couldn’t have been that offensive. But I watched in surprise as a woman burst out of that thing as if escaping gas-extermination, violently gagging and dry-heaving and hurling herself about in frantic dog-chasing-tail circles. “The smell, the smell,” she moaned with Apocolypse Now conviction. (I am now imagining poor Deb gagging at the mere thought of this display.) I stood there, ironclad-stomach and all, and watched her in silent wonder. It wasn’t possible, I thought, for anyone to be that sensitive, was it? Sorry, Deb, I actually (secretly) dubbed her a “drama queen”. Yes, I was a bit of Judgy McJudgerton.

But I take it back now and offer both you fine women a bit of a mea culpa. This is another reminder, isn’t it, of how we are all built a little differently. After all, we don’t ask for a gag-reflex, obviously don’t enjoy it, and certainly can’t control it. Queen of Gag maybe, but never Drama Queen.

And now for your enjoyment, Deb in all her gag-ilicious glory!

Friday, November 19, 2010

The Truth About Aging: It Grows On You

Barbara: The other day I read this interview of Diane Keaton—who is a wonderful, quirky
LOS ANGELES, CA - MAY 08:  Actress Diane Keaton poses before greeting fans and signing copies of 'California Romantica' at Barnes and Noble at The Grove on May 8, 2008 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Charley Gallay/Getty Images)
actress and an icon of aging gracefully. She was quoted as saying that when she goes on lecture tours––despite all her adventures and achievements––the number one question from her audience is how she deals with the aging process.

Man, we’re obsessed with this, aren’t we?! Of all the things we might want to discover in our older years––but this, apparently, is the conundrum that most distracts us. (Proviso: I know many people, women included, who do NOT focus on this at all, or have made peace with it. If you’re reading this, come along for the ride anyway, and please feel free to leave tips and thoughts in the comments section.)

Okay, now for those of us who have thought about it—even a little—here’s my latest aha moment. Aging? You get used to it. No, really. You just think you’re constantly worried about those sags, bags, and lines. Aching bones and weak eyesight. But the truth is—like adolescence and parenthood and renovation hell and debt—you get used to it. Sure, you might obsess for moments at a time that you’re not doing the right thing or the best thing (or anything) to combat it. Sure, the latest unflattering change can be surprising or depressing. But, think about it, it’s just a matter of time before that new reflection in the mirror is as familiar as, well, as an old pair of shoes.

I know that at 47, I’m on the upswing of the road of major aging changes, but I remember vividly my shock and dismay at finding (ten years ago) that the smooth waist I’d kinda taken for granted was suddenly resting comfortably on top of my pants’ waist. Or (seven year ago) when I realized that my mouth was beginning to turn down at the edges and two neat lines were forming between my eyebrows, both conspiring to make this normally upbeat, positive gal look dour and angry no matter how happy I feel. (My husband routinely asks me what’s wrong when all I am doing is calmly, relaxedly, even happily reading a book.)

Each time something major has changed on my body or face, I've panicked. Oh, it's been just a slippery, slippery slope and I've been flailing and desperately grasping for any tether around me. What can I do to stop the carnage … how really, really bad is it going to get … will I ever be able to make peace with it???

Let me take this minute to remind us all that we do get used to it. We do. We wake up one morning and we don’t begrudge those lines and sags anymore. We hardly notice them. They just are. And our reflection is simply that: our reflection. Ourselves. Let me get hokey: our beautiful selves. And instead of berating Diane Keaton for advice, we should hold each other’s hands in solidarity and remind each other that we will all get used to it at some point. Maybe not at the same point, and maybe not for good (there are bound to be regressions for every triumph), but we can be here to remind each other of that. You know, like we did with labour pains: “Don’t worry, the pain doesn’t last long and pretty soon you won’t remember it.”

Deb: Barb, you have no idea how great this concept is. You are right. It does grow on you. And for me, after the bombardment of aging surprises that accompanied menopause and post-menopause, everything else is lame. Like, hey, new liver spot. Already have two. So ... whatever. Hello, new grey hair. That ship already sailed.

So I truly agree that it is a wonderful thing––which I shall be adopting––but it is also a slippery slope of acceptance. There is always that day when you meet someone you went to high school with ... and they don’t recognize you. BAM!

Barbara: And that’s when it’s their turn to get used to it.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Searching for Barbara Millicent Roberts

Deb: I learned a lot about fashion from Barbie. I would buy (or rather my Mum would buy) the wonderful little Barbie outfits and I would study them and mix and match and examine the fit and the flare. Barbie had it goin’ on in the 60’s, let me tell you. So much so that I could never bring myself to punish her by purchasing a Ken doll. I had Skipper and Scooter and even Miss Teenager was thrown in there for good measure. But Ken? Are you kidding me? Ken sooooo looked like a plastic doll, but Barbie looked like my friend. So to honour her, I simply imagined her boyfriends. In my Barbie world, she dated John Lennon and Paul McCartney (at different times of course) and Herman of Herman’s Hermit’s and Mark Linsday from Paul Revere and the Raiders. She dated astronauts and athletes and Johnny Locking, the boy next door to us on whom I had a huge crush.

And all through this dating frenzy, Barbie never missed the mark when it came to choosing the right outfit to go with the occasion. Be it beach or museum, library or ball, her taste was impeccable. I studied her for all I was worth, soaking it up like the skinny tiny fashion sponge that I was. And even when bendable Barbie came in she knew to keep the outfits fashion-forward but flexibly appropriate.

So it is with this in mind that I have found myself lamenting the downfall over these last years in young girls’ fashion. Gone is the style and chic whimsy of outfits inspired by the likes of “Busy Gal” or “Friday night date” or “Solo in the Spotlight”. They’ve been replaced with “Skanking at the mall”, “Show my bum-crack at the dance” and “Exposed bellies are always appropriate”. And it’s not just the skank factor. There is no thought or form to any of these clothes. And why? Because of Barbie.

Barbie no longer exhibits taste. She is all about the trendy, the flashy, the sparkly and tacky, and the cheap. And so it goes with the Barbie Girls. And heaven knows there are exceptions to this. I always have hope when I see a kid wearing something stylin’ or outrageous but purposeful and personal. But for the most part, I am not impressed. I just can’t stand lazy ugly trendy fashion that lowers the fashion IQ and is devoid of flair. So many young girls today look like lost clowns. Who will save them from their fashionless, tasteless existence? Not Barbie. Barbie sold her horse and her Dream House is now a timeshare.

And Barbie can’t talk, she can only show. 
But that won’t help cause Barbie’s gone “ho”.

Barbara: I never thought to blame Barbie for our current fashion woes. But you might have something here, Deb. We’ve spent years now debating Barbie’s relevance and her assault on the feminist movement and her bad example to young girls everywhere. But I gotta say, my girls played with her as much as I did—even though I vowed to make her scarce around these parts. I didn’t want anyone accusing me of holding back the feminist movement, for godssake. Down with sexism. Equality for all! … Um, where was I? Oh, right. Barbie’s fine example.

I think you have something here, Deb. Because I never worshipped Barbie for her “50s woman” supposed ideals (that was serving martinis, keeping the kids quiet, and her impossible figure, right?). No, I worshipped her because of her wardrobe. Her endless sassy selection. Her interesting, unique taste. She really, truly had it going on. And as much as I’m not a fashionista, I knew a good outfit when I saw one. And I’m sure SURE she influenced me in my own burgeoning style. In a good way.

And when Barbie slowly finagled her way into my grown-up house and somehow managed to become a toy of preference for my daughters, they seemed to play with her for the same reason. They were forever changing her outfits and hairstyles (oh, the assaults in our household on Barbie’s expensive hair). They didn’t covet her relationship with Ken or her ability to stand perfectly straight while serving pretend martinis. I let go of my newly-conceived notions about Barbie and let my daughters do their Barbie thing. And they still turned out independent, confident, and secure (and, okay, pretty fashion-savvy). But they never wore bum-shorts or crop tops. So either they missed Barbie’s turn down the trash aisle or they rose above it.

I’m sad Barbie’s gone “ho”. But kinda tickled I found out her full name. Hello, Barbara Millicent Roberts. Now stand up straight and be an icon.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Age Inappropriate? Dubious Tricks Of The Trade

Barbara: When I wanted to share the great things I’ve done for myself over the years, I knew at some point I’d have to write about the ridiculous ones. I’ll admit, I don‘t mind embarrassing myself for the sake of a good eye-roll and/or laugh. I’m cute that way.

So, when it comes to the inexorable aging process, desperate times call for desperate measures, right? Okay well, in my superficial brain—or the superficial part of my brain (would this be the “susceptile” brain?)––they have often seemed like “desperate” times.

This is my miss list.

I have long been obsessed with skin care and over the years have tried many at-home facials: everything from the toweled steam over the pot of water to the homemade masks. I read somewhere that mayonnaise was highly beneficial for your skin. That seemed easy enough. Too bad they didn’t think that idjits like me would assume Miracle Whip was the same thing. You know, the processed, chemicalled, sweetened version of what should really just be olive oil, egg, lemon, Dijon, and bit of salt. My skin looked like I’d massaged it with a cheese grater. Needless to say, it turned me off the stuff forever.

Vitamins? The jury’s out on how effective these are—are they much-needed replacements for our depleted produce, or are they big-business manufactured money-makers with no real value? I don’t know, but I have had every type of vitamin go through my body at one point or another and I can’t tell if life is any different now that I don’t take them at all anymore. I eat well instead (you know the boring stuff: lots of veggies, and very little sugar, caffeine, or processed foods).

Some beauty tricks are so embarrassing that I'm mortified even if no one is watching. Like being in a department store dressing room trying on a Spanx (or some variety thereof). I was attempting this trick because I had an event I wanted to be super-cool for and I’d found a super-cool outfit that would make me so. If only it didn’t show every lump and bump that wasn’t supposed to be there. Well, I was determined and undeterred. I’d heard the raves, I’d read the beauty mags: Spanx were it for smooth, sexy curves. I put that thing on and knew the moment it clamped its spandex jaws around my torso that I was in danger of deadly asphyxiation. As the breath was slowly sucked out of me, I tried desperately to remove it. Panic set in as that ungodly contraption refused to release its stranglehold. I couldn’t get it off; I couldn’t leave it on. I couldn’t call the dressing room attendant (don’t ask me why) (No, I’ll tell you why: pride *sigh*). Me and the Spanx, locked in combat for several long sweaty painful minutes-that-seemed-like hours before I finally managed to extricate myself. I quite literally do not know how women wear these and survive. (I wore the super-cool outfit, lumps be damned.)

This is a weird trick I refuse to give up, but that I live in fear of it biting me in the ass. I don’t like to wash my hair every day. But my hair is too oily to leave as it is on the days I don’t wash it. So I sprinkle cornstarch baby powder into my hands and massage it into my scalp. I think it works great. But I know––I KNOW––that one mortifying day, that baby powder is going to reveal itself for all the world to see, either dusting my hair where the brush missed it or my clothing where I accidentally sprinkled it. For the sake of beauty, I actually risk looking like a complete idiot. This is an intervention waiting to happen.

And my last one for today is courtesy of Deb: facial exercises. She does them religiously. And her skin looks absolutely amazing: tight as a baby’s bottom, no word of a lie. And describing the exercises, she makes a very valid point: facial muscles are muscles too and benefit from exercise as much as any other. I tried them for a while and I swear they actually worked. But on the one hand I felt ridiculous and on the other I am too damn lazy.

Deb: I do confess to being the Jane Fonda of the Facersize world. Well, not really “world”, I suppose, as I do not think it has hit craze level yet. But I am diligent with them once a day, twice if I can. Am I being duped by this facial placebo? Well, it makes sense that if we can tighten and strengthen the muscles in the rest of our bodies, why not the face? And for what it’s worth, it makes me feel better, so what the heck?

Vitamins? I so hear you, Barb. I do take my multi sap and my cal/mag but as far as the multi's are concerned, I don’t know. I fight lots of colds and always think, “Hmmmnn”. Cold FX as I have said before, works like a miracle for me, if I get the cold at the first sign. But other than that, I don’t know. I guess I’d rather not stop them at the beginning of winter though.

Cornstarch––check! Just started doing it this year when a friend––who’s hair NEVER looks dirty––told me this secret. But yes the dandruff avalanche is always an unwanted side effect if you are not diligent, post inspection.

The Spanx make millions of women happy, so far be it from me to cast aspersions, but I have worn Spanx two or three times and they drove me mental all damn night. I was in and out of the washroom pulling and yanking and begging them to do my bidding. It took me right back to the strapless bra years when I would spend the evening in the loo, bent over at the waist and yanking the bra up from my stomach back to the general area of my breasts. But the worst, the thing no one should ever see, is when you are pulling up the Spanx and your body is popping out these bubbling flesh sculptures as the Spanx slide over it. John Hurt’s alien encounter wasn’t as horrific as this hideous humbler.

No sir. Never want to see that again. 

PS Two wonderful blogs for middle-age beauty tricks that actually make sense are Middle Ageless by Rosina and The Best Of Everything After 50 by Barbara Hannah Grufferman. These women actually know what they're talking about. 

Friday, November 12, 2010

The Madwoman Of Leaside

Deb: A few weeks ago I witnessed something so shocking that I didn’t even know if I could blog about it.

I was driving my car very slowly on a residential street, slowly because there were three boys on bikes just ahead of me. They were around ten years old, I would say. I noticed a dead squirrel up ahead, and in the next second saw one of the young boys ride up beside the dead squirrel––and spit on it. Spit right on the body of this dead little creature.

Well, I don’t mind telling you, I snapped. It was so shocking to me, this ugly act, that my head was spinning.  When I see a dead animal I always give a nod and a “God bless you”, so you can im-frikkin’-agine how I was desperately searching for reasons that this young boy might commit such an ugly soulless act. Not that it would have made it less ugly, but at least I could see a reason from his age and viewpoint if he had spit in clear view of his buddies. This at least would have made some kind of sense in the show-off-appear-tough kid world.

But this was a solitary act. No one saw him. He was not doing it to impress. But he did it. And my blood ran cold.

I watched the other boys pull up on their bikes one by one to chat. I didn’t notice any of them looking back at the squirrel, so I knew he wasn’t even talking about what he had done. He was just laughing. Suddenly, I was running full speed up to him, the red flash of my parking lights setting the mood for the scene that was about to unfold. I am not proud of what happened next, but I just snapped. Went squirrelly!!!

I said to him, “What the hell” ... wait, I should be more specific ... I SCREAMED at him, “What the hell did you just spit on that dead squirrel for you, little monster?”. 

His friends stared at him. “Fuck off, lady,” said evil boy. I could have laid odds on that answer.

“Listen, you evil little bastard, that squirrel is one of GOD’S CREATURES, you soulless little tool!” 

The boys all stared at the crazy lady. Evil boy stuck out his chin in defiance. The other two boys were scared shitless however and were waiting in hope for men in white coats to emerge from the ATM vestibule and carry me away.

“Mind your own business, lady!” said Evil.

I swear to God I was two seconds away from quoting Jacob Marley in Scrooge: ”MANKIND IS MY BUS-I-NESS!” But instead, just to solidify my newfound status as the Madwoman of Leaside, I screeched, “Laugh it up now, kid, because, you see, I know where you are going to end up. Oh yes! You, kid, are going to end up in jail because you are an evil little bastard.” 
381374 01: Katharine Hepburn Appears On The Set Of The Film 'The Madwoman Of Chaillot' In 1969 In USA. Actress Hepburn Won Four Of Twelve Oscar Nominations For Best Actress And Starred In Such Classic Films As 'The African Queen' And 'On Golden Pond.'  (Photo By Getty Images)

And as they hopped on their bikes and peddled away like competitors in the Tour De France, all you could hear aside from the gentle falling of leaves, was the screech of, “Oh yes, don’t think I don’t know!!! You mark my words, you giant knob, you shell of a human being, that’s where you’ll end up if you don’t do some soul-searching! Jail, do you hear meeeeeeeeeeeeeee? JAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAIL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

I stood there, my sweaty body reflected in the shadow of his raised middle finger, and let my heart-rate come down. Then I walked back to my car, passing my tiny stiff little friend. You have been avenged, I thought.

Then, I felt insane.

Good insane. 

I keep checking the mail for a lawsuit. Nope. Just Christmas catalogues.

Barbara: Deb, I’m here to confirm­­––between horrified outrage (at boy) and weak laughter (at you)––that this whole thing was indeed kind of insane. Idiot-child’s senseless action and screaming mama slash Dirty Harry slash morally decent protestor’s response. I feel I can say this to you only because a) you know how much I love and respect you, and (most importantly) b) I have experienced this kind of insensible insanity myself. It is a delirious, almost sexy kind of rage. Because it’s so friggin’ righteous.

Of course there’s the car-jacking incident, but, oh, there are sooooo many other times I can hear the echo of my own maniacal, hoarse, outraged voice screaming at some (very deserving) hooligan or other. I can feel the unfamiliar hot blood coursing through my usually calm warm veins.

I wonder if your outburst ever visits evil boy in his nightmares. I wonder if you’ve changed his unfeeling ways. I wonder if this would be called “fool for thought”.

I also wonder if there isn’t some little squirrel angel looking down upon you now as you pass through his old ‘hood, giving you a little furry nod and bow of acknowledgement and squeaky gratitude for defending his honour. 

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Clothes Dork

Barbara: The other day, Deb and I took a little road trip down to Buffalo. The impetus was a business meeting with dear Annette (of our latest 3-way), but we couldn’t go all that way without also checking out the local piece de resistance. Nirvana in all its glory: the American outlet mall.

Shopping as it was meant to be: good, assorted, and seemingly endless.
Woman Shopping

As we told you a long time ago, I’m not much of a shopper and Deb is not much of a “sale” person, but we found ourselves in a perfect storm of opportunity. Mine being that I’d received an unexpected check JUST BEFORE WE LEFT THE HOUSE. Do you hear me, people?! About to walk out the door and a not-insubstantial, completely unaccounted for windfall appears in my mailbox … just in time to wink its sly eye at me and say, “Going to the land of plenty, baby? Well, go for it. You deserve a little indulgence.” (I know, I know, my windfall sounds a little like a cheap whore in a tattered corset. Anyway…)

So there I was amid a veritable cornucopia of women’s wear and I begin the time-honoured pilgrimage enjoyed by many women (and men) everywhere: eye, choose, pile, try on. And all the while I know a sweet, enabling cheque is just burning a hole in my wallet, just begging to help make me gorgeous and happy.

As I pull on the first outfit, I’m fairly daring it to disappointment me. I mean, for once I am karmically ALIGNED to conquer the clothing and return triumphant. But as I stare at my reflection, all I see is a tired, lumpy, misshapen (middle-aged) woman. Um, I am NOT tired, lumpy, or misshapen. At least I wasn’t the last time I looked! But it happened again with the next outfit. And the next one. 

And the next one and the next one and the next one and the next one.

It was as if I’d got caught in an endless dressing room loop of bad Woody Allen impressions. And I was the bad impressionist.

Me, trying to rock my changing room look
S’okay. I blame the clothes and not myself (even if I was the arse who picked the wares).

Deb: There is no possible way in the universe that Barb could be a dork or an arse, least of all a clothes-picking arse. Everything she chose was wonderful and stylish.

But I have the answer to why nothing worked on her. It was just NOT her shopping day.

It happens to everyone. Not to me. Everyone. Not to me.

I have never had a “not my shopping day” day in my entire shopping life.  Would that I did once in a while, says the voice in my husband’s head. I have ALWAYS been blessed with great Shopping Karma. Even way back in the Barbie days. I would go to the store with my Mom and I would concentrate on Barbie Geisha with the black lacquered geisha slippers and removable headpiece or Barbie Picnic with the straw hat and little velvet trimmed straw bag and they would both appear as if from nowhere, last ones on the shelf!

I can be insecure about many things, but never ever my Shopping Karma! I would not do that to something that has been so true to me all these many purchasing years. It has been my stalwart friend.

Yesterday was only a small example of what my Shopping Karma is capable of. This  trip supplied me with not only what I was looking for, but fab fun bonus items too! I have to say that even in my shopokarma haze, I was obsessed with Barb finding something wonderful and kept encouraging her whenever she picked out something lovely and chic.

But ... she just didn’t have the Shopping Karma in her pocket. It happens. Not to me. But it happens. I LOVE new things SO much. I think I give off that scent in the store. I mark my LOVE TO SHOP territory and the merch virtually lands in my lap, just to have a sniff. 

Monday, November 8, 2010

Pillow Flunffing

Deb: I am a pillow flunffer from waaaaaaaaaaayyyyyyyyy back. Before a guest comes into our home, I am flunffing for all I am worth. Very little gives me such satisfaction as seeing the couch pillows, window pillows, seat pillows, bed pillows and throw pillows flunffed up like they are on steroids. Done correctly, these pillows should look like animated studies in plumped perfection! It is always the last thing I do in my day, this flunffing.

When I was younger and learning at the hands of Mum, queen of flunffers, I found myself to be a skilled and willing student. I was born to flunff. My Mum would tell me how wonderful the pillows looked after I had flunffed, but sometimes I would catch her out of the corner of my eye working the re-flumff.

She saw me catch her once and she said that she had accidently sat on it and it had flattened. I pretended I believed her. We weren’t kidding each other. Because, as a grown woman, I know now how damned important the flunff is! Guess I always have.

Means everything to the welcome guest. I only wish that all my guests could arrive together and stand in a line looking at the flumff in all its glory. Because each time a guest sits down, I die a little. The flunff is fleeting. However, I won’t lie to you. I am not above re-flunffing when they go to the washroom. I have decided that instead of chalking it up to neurotic behaviour, I am going to look at the re-flunffing as I service to my guests. I mean, come on, who doesn’t like a good flunffing.

Barbara: I have to say, Deb, that when it comes to this subject, I know flunff-all.

No, my pillows wallow, unnoticed and flat, in the corners of my sofas and chairs. I don’t think I even acknowledge them if not for the scrunching they get when I need one tucked under an arm to read or sometimes in front of the TV under a sleepy head.

I wonder if my pillows resent me for it … After all, if they lived at Deb’s house (and let me confirm her pillows are resplendent and gloriously flunffed, masterpieces of the genre), they’d be fondled and caressed and stroked to pillowy satisfaction. I’m sure if they knew, my pillows would elbow me unceremoniously and say, “I’ll have what they’re having.”

But I must confess, I don’t care enough about it. Maybe I should blame my mother for not schooling me in the ways of the flunff. Maybe my children will blame me for not setting a good example.

All kidding aside, I must confess I’ve lost interest in the whole home décor thing. Yup, let me say it can happen. You can be a hard-core decorator all your adult life and then one day your passionate desire for new paint chips and lampshades and silk drapes can just fritter away, leaving you bored and indifferent. It’s not just your pillows that won’t be able to remember the last time they were flunffed. Should I worry about my low flunff-drive??? Do they make a pill for that?

Friday, November 5, 2010

Deb and Barb Have A Three-Way

Deb and Barb Have A Three-Way with Annette

For this month’s three-way, we asked Annette to join us. She’s a regular reader and commenter, a beloved longtime friend of Deb’s, and a new and cherished one of Barbara’s.

Annette: As you ponder today’s post, allow me to immediately disclose I owe my participation herein to the old adage “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know!”. However, before chafing at this preferential treatment, recall the original basis for these lively exchanges was––but charmingly has turned out to be not limited to––the exploration of that most fabulous of manifestations … the female friendship. Now, upon learning that I am middle-aged, female, and a friend to both bloggers, perhaps you’ll agree the burning question becomes, “Why wasn’t I asked to contribute sooner?”.

By way of background, lovely Deb and I go back several life-affirming decades. Gracious Barb and I, once merely seasonal pals bonding annually at Deb’s magical holiday soiree, have seen our relationship flourish courtesy of the exponential power of Facebook. Two of the most incredible women I know, I am beyond grateful for their camaraderie … which leads me to today’s musings.

Having had the magnificent kismet to reach this age and stage, I think a lot about gratitude … specifically the shifting, ephemeral nature of thankfulness … while wondering why it’s so hard for us to truly appreciate our lot. Oh sure, most of us pay lip-service to counting our blessings and all of us can claim occasional bouts of true mindfulness, but it’s the inconsistency that intrigues me. How easy it seems for us to suddenly consider our glasses half-empty instead of half-full…

Case in point, recently I endured an affront courtesy of a family member … not a “Gosh, you people don’t get me!” slight but a really disconcerting dig that normally might send a person to a professional’s couch for an extended period. Intellectually, I understand the perpetrator operates out of ignorance rather than malevolence, yet still emotionally the sting was surprisingly bitter. Suddenly my considerable good fortune was overshadowed by my fixation on this offense.

Wounded thus, I felt compelled to share said transgression with my first-born 21-year-old son. Upon hearing of his beloved mom’s trial, his response was to burst out laughing and facetiously declare, “Well, that’s a surprise!” And so it was––courtesy of his succinct but still illuminating assessment––that I entertained simultaneous realizations. The first was that it’s an extraordinarily efficient shortcut to madness to expect more of people than they are capable of delivering. And two, when I consider the largesse of the forces in the universe that saw fit to deliver the gift of this insightful boy, who knew I knew such a thing and needed only a gentle reminder, gratitude should be my default.

Barbara: Dear, sweet Annette. Just so you readers know, of course I HAD to find out what said affront was, even if Annette wasn’t going to share it here. And, trust me, it’s a doozy. Without compromising Annette’s privacy, let me just say it was a carelessly dropped announcement that revealed a terrible betrayal. The kind of shocking declaration where you would not have blamed her one little bit if her glass had drained completely dry. But our wonderful Annette did what most us here try to do: she put on her rose-coloured glasses, shrugged off her pain, truly noticed the things for which she was most grateful, and shared her beautiful spirit with us.

But the thing is, we all have those moments of cathartic shock in our lives, don’t we? There we are, innocently chugging along, trying to live as good and wholesome lives as we can (by our own definitions), feeling pretty good about stuff––and BOOM, some act of treachery knocks the friggin’ wind out of us and we are left reeling. “Where did that come from?” and “Whhhhhhhyyyyyyyy?”

I’ll give you one of my own examples. My husband and I were just starting our married lives with a new baby when a trusted friend embezzled money from us. Yeah, the kind of friend you share secrets with. The kind you hang out with on lazy weekdays when you’re waiting for the next acting gig. We were a struggling young family and money was very tight, which our “friend” knew. And then we were tens of thousands of dollars in the hole … only to discover that this “friend” had taken all our money. It is a long, tortuous story, but the absolutely worst of it, I swear, was the shock of the betrayal … by someone who was our trusted ally.

The good news? No, we didn’t get our money back. The good news is that we managed to put those rose-coloured glasses back in place, hug each other close, and carry on. To this day, I am grateful for that.

Deb: Barb, I have never heard that story and I am shocked! What a dick. May the bluebird of happiness crap on his birthday cake! And how wise of you to put on your happy faces and move past it. It is with that example that I would like to pay tribute to my dear friend Annette.

Annette is the poster-girl for the expression, “God doesn’t give you any more than you can handle.” And believe me, she has been given more than her fair share of shocking and disastrous issues. And I am here to attest to the fact that she has handled every single bomb with grace and with humour. Annette is one of the most honest, straightforward, fair people I have ever known. She is the real deal. It is easy to be honest and kind when life is running smooth. But when life throws us curves our true mettle is tested. Annette, through it all, has employed her secret weapon and it has seen her through every single time: Humour. Annette can find humour in everything. She never plays the victim and yet she has been victim time and time again. And all the while I can see the wheels turning and she is thinking, “This sucks … but it will make a great story”. She has hung her hat on that mindset and she has been rewarded for her efforts. The universe has seen fit to deliver to her a wonderful loving husband and two gorgeous, smart, magical kids. But she has paid the piper, oh yes. Hopefully the piper now has enough money to take a holiday. Annette could use it.

Annette, a transplanted Torontonian, currently lives in the Buffalo, NY area and makes a living as a freelance writer penning pieces about stuff she knows. Sadly, given that parameter, she won’t be getting rich any time soon. Her move to Western New York was motivated by her marriage to her Math Professor husband with whom she is currently overseeing putting the finishing touches on their four college-student children.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Age Appropriate––Our Tricks Of The Trade

Barbara: On Monday, we bemoaned our aging bodies, while still maintaining our deep-rooted respect for same and our absolute certainty that life does indeed get better.

So today I thought it would be appropriate to give props to those things each of us do and/or have done that we actually think paid off in the long run. Think of it as words of wisdom to our youngers and well-deserved pats on the back for each other.

I’ll go first. Cream. It’s a pain, it’s slippery, it’s time-consuming, it can be expensive (but doesn’t need to be). It works, no question. I’ve been creaming myself up for going on 30 of my 47 years. Body, hands, feet, face. What can I say? What I already said: it works. Wrinkles run in my family, on both sides. Gloriously youthful faces, but wrinkles. I believe I have staved them off as well as can be expected given gravity and climate.

I used to have these little hard calcified bumps on my upper arms and legs. Cream after my shower softened them and finally made them disappear. My skin is smooth, I tell you, smoooooth. I had cracked dry skin on the soles of my feet. Creaming day and night got rid of that. And here I actually have to name names because I have tried a zillion other hand and foot creams and the one I keep coming back to is Glysomed. Nary a cracked fissure in sight.

I also use natural “castor oil” for everything from keeping my spider veins at bay to easing a bruise in record time to softening my (normal everyday) moles. Desiten (yes, the diaper rash cream) is great for pimples or rashes (it’s all the zinc). And a smidgen of 15% tea tree oil on a q-tip then dabbed on a zit will dry that thing up in a few hours.

And then there’s exercise. Absolutely works. I am not addicted. I am not a machine. I don’t have Deb’s discipline. But still even once a week makes a huge difference.

Walking. Daily if I can. A dog is a great companion, but not required. With these, my body has been in more consistent shape than I would’ve guessed possible (not what it used to be, of course, but given the givens).

Yoga, also once a week. Oh, yogahhhhh. This is where I learned to breathe and relax. Without yoga, my mood is much trickier to manage and the bright side is not quite as bright. With it, I have time to myself.

Which brings me to: time to myself. This is my absolute. Without some precious quiet time in my day or week, I am worthless. With it, I get way more done with way less anxiety, stress, or guilt (which is ironic because guilt used to prevent me from taking time for myself!). Just do it.

What are your tricks?

Deb: My tricks are all done with mirrors! In fact, Barbara has never really seen what the actual Deb looks like...

No seriously. I am ALL ABOUT THE CREAMS TOO! For face alone I have:
Special cream wash
All over lifter and smoother
Eye serum
Eye cream
Liquid Gold all over face
Neck lifter
Night and Day cream
Night emulsion
Warm water!

Body also gets the treatment, emphasizing hands and elbows just before bed.
I get regular mani-pedi’s, which solve that cracked skin problem.
I just found out about a cream that reduces and fades liver spots, but I will have to get back to you on the name.

Barb, I love your tips and will use them! Castor oil, huh? Not just for breakfast anymore!!!

And I meditate, but not as much as I should. Been doing T.M. since 1973! And yes, I love love love to exercise. I work out 6 days a week. Cardio, weights resistance, Zumba and I am starting lyrical jazz in January. I walk the dogs, ride my bike, and I skate almost every day in the winter. My husband and I met a couple of young doctors at a wedding a month ago. We asked, “What is the secret to longevity in your opinion?” They said, “Exercise, first, second, and last”. So that made me feel sooooooooooooooo much better about red wine with dinner every night!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Proceed With Caution!!!

Deb: I have noticed of late that my body, not just content with breaking down, has taken upon itself to set up road signs to warn the other humans of my slow but steady deterioration. These signs will illuminate to any keen observer or passerby that things are not all they should be in the body department.

Clearly my body was bored and looking for a new challenge after ridding me of all that pesky pubic hair I didn’t need. After letting that success go to its head, my body has been on a bloody rampage. Well, not technically, as it took care of that problem maaaaaaaany years ago.

I don’t have time in just one blog-post to mention all of my body’s accomplishments, but I’d like to give a shout-out to some of its more recent and subtle work. Yes, there are things we all expect in the aging process, but I’d like to just spotlight some of the unexpected treats my body pulled out of its bag of tricks.

First of all, the big honkin’ liver spot on my chin was both a surprise and shock at the tender age of 56. Not content to rest on its laurels after the stellar job it did with the liver spot tats on my hands, my body felt it was time to land one right on my face. Yes, of course, it could have chosen my stomach, buttocks, or back, but where would be the fun in that?  Who the hell’s going to see it in any of those hidden places? Slapping it right on my kisser is just the kind of blindsiding I have come to except from my fleshy nemesis.

But the most recent and by far the toughest blow, was the appearance of a little grouping of wrinkles that have formed an unholy alliance right above my breasts. Right smack dab in the middle of my décolleté. Just in case anyone might ever be thinking, “Gee, not a bad rack for a middle-aged gal”, their attention would be quickly stolen by the scary wrinkly sign that says, “I’d turn back if I were you!!!”

My body is telling me in its own diabolical way that despite my best efforts I am fighting a losing battle. I have long since resigned myself that a cocktail dress now includes sleeves. I even embrace “Spanx” on occasion. And the legs are hanging in, if you don’t count the cellulite.

But I really thought I could count on the cleavage. I knew that no matter how covered the back and the arms were, I could still trot out the ladies on a snowy Tuesday night and impress.

And yes, I know you’re thinking that I should be grateful for a healthy body and I am ... I really am ... bla bla bladity bla.

But for Fuck’s sake!

Barbara: Aw, geez, Deb. I totally thought the décolleté was a sacred, hang-in-to-the-end body part. Not that mine was ever my calling card. But ah well. I, like you, am trying to make peace with the inexorable march of time (if you call these kinds of despondent rants “making peace”).

Me? After finally FINALLY accepting my baby-fine straight hair, it steps up and offers me a strip of gray not in the back or even on the sides, but right on the top of my head down the middle (I think they call that The Skunk). My pretty good facial skin is now sprouting thick black hairs in the middle of what can only be called (shudders self-consciously) “moles”. Always had cellulite, but now it’s every-frickin’-where. Maybe it thinks I like it. Poor sad delusional cellulite.

I know, I know: “will make peace”, “will make peace”, “will not resort to drastic measures.” “It’s natural and normal and the new me”. Until the next degenerations come along to become the new me.

All I can say is: Buyer Beware.