Friday, July 29, 2011

Summ’a Girl

(to listen to while readin': sexiest summ'a song eeeeeeva!)

Deb: I have four distinct personalities and I wear them in equal parts every year. Right now, I am a summ’a. I’m just all summ’a, with my summ’a clothes and my summ’a tan and my summ’a attitude and my summery sum sum summ’a ways.

I am spending time in the sum sum summery sun and gettin’ all back yard basky and feelin’ like I can’t do anything but be a summ’a girl!

Yeaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhh summa girl. You know the one I mean. The girl that’s sittin’ in the summ’a sun with sum summa readin’ and not carin’ if the counters are wiped o’ the dishes are dun.


Too hot, you say? Not for summ’a girl. She just slides into the pool. Or rather slides onto a plastic chair that floats on the pool. Cause she doesn’t have to actually swim. Can’t make her. She’s summ’a girl.

Streets are steamin’ and summ’a girl’s just takin’ it slow. She’s eatin’ summer salads, bbq chicken and corn, local berries and tall cool drinks.

The summa brings out the sexy in the summ’a girl. She’s walkin’ barefoot and smellin’ the crayon coloured flowers. 

Summ’a girl is 17 when she looks in the mirror. On her next birthday that is!

She paints her toenails with summery colours with names like “Sandy bitch” and “Sunny bunny” and “Shorts Story”. Summer, doncha know. Gotst to do it. She’s summerlicious.

Mornin’ tea on the deck?  OOOOOOHHHHHHHHHHHHH summa girl, where ya been all my life?

But summ’a girl can’t answer any questions right now cause she’s too busy just doin’ some summ’a sittin’. Sometimes summ’a girl falls asleep in her “Gravity” lawn chair. Then she wakes up and just gets real busy sittin’.

She tried on Tuesday to think a complex thought. She couldn’t ... Summ’a!

So, come on, join in the summ’a fun! But like, don’t talk to summer girl! She’s “outta the office!”

Have your own summa fun and summa girl will talk to you ... in the fall.

Barbara: Deb, that is so summa-licious I want to play along, like tag and Manhunt on a hot summa day/night, but summa brain has me all, I don’t give an f about bein’ all cool and wit it like Deb. I’m just gonna rock my rum and coke on the deck while P smokes his stogie and Dad and Sis pull out the deck o cards and I’ma gonna chiiiiiiilllllllll. S’at what you mean, girlfriend? 

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Happy Accident

Barbara: Okay, the title is a bit of a writer’s conceit—it wasn’t a “happy” accident per se, but it did remind me of some our favourite Middle Ages-ian themes, the ones which bring us around to, yes, savouring happiness despite our foibles. Foibles like how we hate HATE to feel helpless, and how we sometimes need to be reminded that accepting help can be a great gift we give unto others.

So my dad is a hale and hearty guy, the kind whose actions and energy defy his age. Then late last week, he breaks his foot. It was, in his words, a stupid accident. He was mowing the lawn down an uneven slope and his foot twisted into a cranny. He was in pain, but mostly he just knew. After “rice”-ing (rest, ice, compress, and elevate), he knew an emergency room visit was in order. When the doctor told him he had suffered a hairline fracture, he wasn’t surprised. Pissed, frustrated, disappointed, yes. Shocked, no. But here’s the extra rub: his lovely wife, my step-mother, was in a remote far-away village on a holiday with her daughter. My dad was alone, far from his three daughters, with no immediate source of help. As luck would have it, two of his daughters (myself included) were already scheduled to arrive at his place a mere two days later. But two days later … a timeline that couldn’t be shifted. And Dad would be alone.

So my dad convinces the doctor to postpone putting the cast on until we arrive so he can take care of his urgent needs with some independence, like driving home and WATERING THE PLANTS (caps are meant to indicate daughterly sarcasm). It took at least 6 separate phone conversations to finally convince him that he could NOT drive the one hour each way to pick up my sister and her kids from the train station. It took another several convos to convince him that his very dear friend would go out of his way to do the pick-up. Not only did my father want to carry on as if nothing had happened (let me remind you that if a fracture in the foot doesn’t heal properly, then he might have issues the rest of his life), the very thought of imposing on others was anathema. But even he saw the logic of accepting the helping hands being offered all around him.

On Monday, we made sure he was properly casted up and off his foot and forbidden from any but the most mundane SEATED tasks. He was forced to allow his daughters, son-in-law, and grandchildren to wait on him hand and foot (ar, ar). And he was witness to everyone’s absolute joy in being able to pay back this most generous but independent of people.

The unhappy side of the story? Okay, he can’t walk on his foot for 6 weeks at least, is being delivered a new highly-anticipated car tomorrow and can’t drive at all, has a household that requires much care-taking, and was looking forward to frolicking in the pool with his grandkids (we did make sure his cast was water-proof, but it might be a sinking stone, right?). And thank GOD my step-mom was away—she is an unbelievably competent maven and would have been all over taking care of Dad to perfection, but certainly at the risk of her own health. Imagine this tiny 5’4” woman trying to push and pull my not-so-tiny 6’2” father on his wheelchair while casts dried and crutches were on order.

But it has been a watershed moment for my father: he learned the hard way that he is not immune to bodily malfunctions (to quote him, that he “is not a god after all” ;) ), he learned that sometimes taking is also giving, and he learned to sit back and accept heartfelt service. Frankly, it was a watershed moment for all of us. Nothing like watching your, yes, god-like father come down to earth for a brief sojourn to be reminded of these important life lessons.

As I said, a happy accident.

Deb: Just Beautiful, Barb; this moved me so much. I know all too well what it’s like to see your parents struggle with their independence. I am so glad that this was simply an accident and not an immobility life sentence. It kills me every day to watch Dad struggle more and more to be in charge of his life and to get out and live life. I watched Mum struggle for years after her stroke with it and then watched her slowly make her peace. Your Dad fought for his independence and that is fantastic.  And it seems your Dad is enjoying his stroll among the mortals. This moment will stay with him as he ages, in a very good way I think. 

Monday, July 25, 2011

When All Roads Lead To Blog

Deb: To be frank, when Barb and I first started our blog the intent behind it was to hopefully get our names out there and to promote any projects we might have in the works.

Before too long our initial motives paled and we found ourselves falling down the rabbit hole, in love with this world and its bright eclectic bloggers and followers.

After that, the blog became a joy! Except when it wasn’t...

 “Hi Deb, it’s Barb, no pressure but just reminding you that it’s your blog tomorrow, bye.”


Other than the odd panicked glitch, it has been a giant joy and learning experience. It’s opened my world literally and figuratively.

Then something else happened. Something diabolical. It crept up on me without my noticing for almost a year. Then it hit me. The blog had started writing me! I am sure many of you have fallen into this trap.

You know what I’m talking about, that bloggy line between writing and living. I’ll be going about my day and suddenly something lousy happens and I am irritated to hell and ready to let loose a hockey team of obscenities, but I stop and think, “Okay, so this is the shittiest thing that has happened to me since I was 7, but it will make a hell of a blog.”

Or (thoughts in my head during concert): Wow, Hugh Jackman is so talented and charming and I am loving this show so much ... heyyyyyyyyy, I can blog about this

And then my mind wanders off and starts constructing said blog and I miss a good portion of the second act because I am busy typing on my brain’s computer about things in the show that I am clearly missing because I have stepped out of the moment and plunked myself down into my head. 

Oh I am so clever, I think to self. Look at me, enjoying the show and working at the same time. I am a time saving genius.

So how do I separate real life from bloggish intent? I have bastardized this phrase before in a blog but it fits again here. If a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to blog about it, did it really fall? Not in my world, baby, not in my world.

Now make no mistake, I censor myself often by choosing to keep many things that happen in my life private. Well, not many. Two.

Have I really become that person who gets the flu and instantly thinks, “Oh, this is great ‘cause I will just have to lay in bed and read and then I can blog about why don’t we just lay in bed and read? Why does it take getting ill to bring it about?”

Or someone screams at me in traffic and as I see him get out of his car and approach me, baseball bat in hand, steam pouring out of his ears and I think, “Oh My God, this will be such a great blog.”

Yes, I have become that person.

I was in a shop dressing room yesterday trying on one of those Haute Hippie flowing tops with the luminous large sleeves, hoping that I looked fabulous in it but knowing otherwise.

The shop gal agreed saying, “ Yes, it’s lovely, but it looks like it’s wearing you, not the other way around.”  And I jumped right out of the moment and thought, What a great analogy for this blog!

So ... yeah ... ummm, my blog is wearing me.

Barbara: Yup. Yup, yup, yup, yup.

I hope it at least goes with my eyes, but, yup, the blog is certainly wearing me too.

I know it’s bad when I can’t wait to hear what our blog buddies are going to say about a certain event over, say, my parents or (so embarrassed) my husband. (Oh, Rigel will know all about this. Or, Kate is going to get a kick out of this one. Or, Tart will tell us to take our clothes off and Gae will want us to dance and Molly will start another theatre company and Lyndsie will have the sweetest take ever and Madge will put it all in perspective and Hollye will break my friggin heart then heal it again all in the space of one single comment, etc, etc, etc).

I think the biggest surprise for me has been finding so many kindred spirits out there. Truly, you all have virtually (like that entendre?) slayed me. How can I not think of you throughout my day? I’m in virtual first love. And I really want you to know what made me mad on any given day, what made me laugh, what made my day.

I guess we just have to make sure our days don’t get manufactured in order to have something to write about, huh Deb? (Please, Divine Being, deliver unto me some interesting event or perspective today because I am all outta posts.)

PS We posted a new Deco Tip and Recipe last Saturday!!

Friday, July 22, 2011

How To Pose For Candid Photos (and look like a dork in real life)

Barbara: As Charlotte and I spent half an hour the other day trying to nab a shot of us dressed up for kayaking to add to my Birthday Adventures post, we found ourselves bent over in hysterics because pic after pic made us look like, as I said, “drunken serial killers”. We didn’t manage to get a single shot we felt comfortable posting. It occurred to me that maybe since it’s summer and candid shots are being taken aplenty, to share some of the tips and cues we’ve picked up over the years for upping the odds that your pic will turn out nicely. (note to Char and Barb: don’t pose after wine and beer in a stifling hot house wearing life jackets and baseball caps under a glaring light and in self-portrait mode, angling your smart phone blindly toward yourselves. Enough said.)

Warning and proviso: In implementing these poses and tricks––while your photos promise to turn out especially nice––you do risk looking a bit dorky in real life while the pic is being taken. But, hey, you choose: a fleeting moment of dorkiness versus all of eternity…

Trick #1: If the sun is glaring in your eyes, but the photographer has decided this is the best angle for the light (who’s to argue, lighting is everything), simply close your eyes a few seconds before the shot, angle your face up to the sun and let the light hit your closed lids, then have the photographer tell you he/she is ready, look to the camera, and open your eyes. Voila, your vision will be relaxed enough to get you through the shot.

Trick #2: By far the goofiest…but it WORKS. This trick I learned not on a set as you might imagine but from emulating my cousin-in-law as he posed for photos at a wedding. Most people, especially if they are in a jovial and happy mood, will pull their heads back as the camera zooms in and give that “I’m in a jovial and happy mood” expression that, when committed to film (or digital image), makes you look like your face has imploded and sucked your chin with it. To avoid this, pull your shoulders as far back as they comfortably go and angle your chin forward and down. Now try very hard to look relaxed and comfortable as you hold this unnatural pose. When you see the picture, you will THANK YOURSELF!
Sucked in face, yikes!

Shoulders back, chin down and out, look like a dork...

... But photo? Much better!

Trick #3: This for anyone remotely approaching middle age: Smile! If you are anything like me, if you don’t smile even just a little, perhaps hoping for that sultry Jennifer Lopez look (yes, I know she’s approaching middle age, fuck off), you will more than likely look pissed off, morosely unhappy, incredibly tired, or … like a drunken serial killer. 
Me trying to look all sultry and stuff. Don't you want to just throw your arms around me and tell me it's gonna be okay?

If your teeth are an issue, at least aim for a closed-mouth, eye-twinkling grin.

Deb, over to you; I’m sure you have some goodies you can add to this!

Deb: It’s funny but the best pictures I have of myself are when there is joy in my eyes. Sometimes I am looking through reams of headshots to choose one and they all look exactly like the one before and the one after. Exact same pose with the photographer snapping away.

But when I go to choose, it is the easiest thing in the world. I just look for life and warmth and projection in my eyes. Does the picture give you a glimpse into who I am? Then it’s good. So my trick is: smile with your eyes! 

PS We posted a new Deco Tip and Recipe today (Saturday)!!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Me, Luke and Harry

Deb: I drove up to the boy’s camp last Friday to take him and his fellow counsellor and girlfriend to see Harry Potter. They have been together for over three years now and we adore her. She is like family to us.

It was their day off and we were doing the movie and dinner and then I was to drive them back to camp and then I’d drive home. With my new Dick Van Dyke audio biography on CD, the prospect of a long day of driving did not seem daunting at all. I thought it would be fun, and it was. I only panicked about being lost twice. Down from my usual six panics.

It was to be the end of a lovely journey, this last viewing of the Potter. Like many of you, my soon-to-be 21-year-old boy has grown up with Harry. We read the first three books to him, and then he read one himself. Then last year, disappointed with himself for not reading them all, he challenged himself to read each one through the spring and summer, which he is doing. His girlfriend is a devotee and has read them all and knows them like the back of her hand.

So it was a trip we all very much looked forward to taking. But in my heart, I was on a slightly different journey. The prospect of Harry ending just as the boy turns 21 led me smack up against his coming of age. As I drove the winding country roads on the way to camp, my mind ventured back to sweet memories of curling up in his tiny bed reading about Hogwarts and kid wizards and watching him fall asleep with visions of sorting hats hovering above his head.

And as Harry matured with each book, each film, so did our boy. Which is why the last film was so poignant for me. I knew it would be emotional, but I had no idea I would start to well up as soon as FEATURE ATTRACTION blazed across the screen. I have sat through many a moving film with the boy. He is always so tender with me. As soon as he hears even a sniffle from my general direction, his arm is around me comforting me, making me feel safe to cry and show my emotions. And the Deathly Hallows Part 2 did not disappoint in that regard. By the end, I was sobbing shamelessly. So was Megan. And he comforted her and made her feel okay about it. Didn’t turn in my direction even once.

As it should be.

Thank you Harry, for everything. Luke’s all grown up too.

Barbara: It’s a big moment when a devoted son turns to his girl over his mother. As you say, Deb: as it should be. But still. It’s a turning point. And this is why Harry Potter is so poignant for so many of us. It is chalk full of turning points.

I was one of those moms who read the series to my kids, curled up in bed together. And the girls loved it. Even when they were young teens. That said, we did stop at the fifth installment because by that time they were both such avid readers, the draw of crawling into their own beds with the latest tome and reading through all in one go was too strong to resist. Plus there was all that requisite comparing of story points with other eager readers that needed to be done. Without me.

My misgiving is that because I stopped reading to them, I also never read those last two books. There were just too many other books on my reading pile that I HAD to read. And so I also didn’t see the last three films. I’m one of those people that has to read the book before I see the film. So now I find myself at the end of an era, both my girls feeling nostalgic and bittersweet about how much they’ve been through in exact correlation to how much the Potter kids have been through (without the, you know, quidditch, butter beer, magic and he-who-would-not-be-named). I feel a bit out of the loop. Hate to say it. Hate to admit it. But I lost the rhythm. The rhythm of Generation HP, as it were.

This is what I want to do: I want to curl up with my kids and watch all 7 movies, maybe not all in one go, but certainly all in one week, then see the last one (which is supposed to be wonderful) in all its 3-D glory in the movie theatre. And then I want to reflect on significant turning points both near and dear to my heart and as far off as a little place called Hogwarts. 

Monday, July 18, 2011

Birthday Adventures

Barbara: Birthdays can be a conundrum of shopping anxiety. First there’s the shopping part (what do they want, will they like it, and if they don’t, can it be exchanged, blah blah). Then there’s what I like to think of as environmental guilt (do they really need more stuff, is this something that will just clutter their shelf, their counter, their life). So for the last several years, I’ve taken to offering “special days”. It started with my nieces and nephew who live close by and then rippled further to include my sisters with whom we enjoy a dedicated “girl’s night out” in honour of all three birthdays, and now also includes my friends from time to time.

A “special day” still requires a certain amount of courage, especially if you don’t know if the person will 100 percent enjoy the activity you’ve chosen. But the biggest responsibility, ironically, is following through. The “chore”, if you will, is setting a date and ensuring you both keep it. I’ve seen many well-intentioned special days fall by the wayside because there was no clear follow-through.

For my nieces and nephew, I ask them to choose, or I suggest several options—and then get them to choose one. These dates have become annual highlights for, I think, all of us. Now, I have a small auntie confession here that I’m going to make because I think it’s important to set the tone: these beautiful children of my heart started off as very shy. They were not the kind of kids who would choose to leave the safe haven of their homes to traipse willy-nilly around town with their Mary Poppins-channeling aunt. But still, they humoured me on this one and I am in deep deep gratitude for their courage. And, despite any possible early misgivings or worries, all of us have grown to hold these special days near and dear to our hearts.

What have we done? Carnivals, basketball games, arcade halls, handmade ceramics, beading, pumpkin festivals, manicures, movies, book stores, all with the requisite junk-food indulgence either before or after. We’ve talked as much or as little as we felt like, and I’ve learned more about my dear young ones than any wrapped gift might have earned me. And they’ve learned about me too. And even as my nephew approaches adolescence now, he doesn’t seem to want to call an end to it. I think—I believe—we’re in it for the long haul.

But why am I spurred to write about this today? Well, because my best friend, Charlotte, is the queen of adventure-giving and she just took me on a birthday adventure that I not only loved, but that taught me something about myself as well. Over the years, Char has taken me to author readings, to see Leonard Cohen (omg), to plays and musicals, and even to a Spice Girls concert where by some fluke of luck we ended up on the floor, ten feet from the stage, baby Brooklyn (Posh’s kid) and his nanny sitting in the seats ahead of us. Yes, Charlotte is goooooood.

Well, yesterday, Char told me to wear shorts and a t, sunglasses and a hat, to wear sunscreen and bring a thermos of water, and that I needed to be ready at 10:45 so we could get to this year’s birthday adventure by 11:15. I had NO idea where we were going. Everyone was curious; Deb even asked me to let her know what Charlotte's adventure was as soon as I got home. 

So I’m guessing and wondering as Charlotte drives us to a well-known local inn and parks (brunch? the spa?). We make our way to a wooded lot (a hike? a fair?). And there stands a young man before a group of about 20 people, instructing them (us) on how to KAYAK the Humber River!!

I’ve never kayaked. I knew it was fairly straightforward, but still I’d be lying if I didn’t tell you that my heart started pounding, my insecurities began fluttering, and my imagination filled with images of myself soaked and exhausted, barrel-rolling into the murky depths. But all for naught: it was easy, and wonderful, and a purveyor of surprises. Surprise because I was, dare I say it, pretty good at it, and surprise because I had no idea that nestled behind all the residential houses and streets of west-end Toronto there was a hidden eco-system of naturalized river and ponds just bursting with geese and ducks and cormorants and kingfishers and cranes and snapping turtles and deer and coyotes and 12-inch blooming lilypads!

By the end, I was soaked—but with well-earned sweat. I felt so exhilarated and happy and proud. Thanks, Char, for surprising me in more ways than one! And, even though I treasure the beautiful gifts that require unwrapping (hello, jade earrings), there’s something to be said for those gifts that come “user-friendly”.

Deb: First off, CHARLOTTE ROCKS! That is the greatest gift. What a wonderful adventurous surprise! I think it is a gorgeous tradition you have with the nieces and nephews and I am sure they don’t want it to stop because is FUN, TANTE BARB!

I, as anyone who reads the blog or has known me for more than five minutes, knows, LOVE my BIRTHDAY! I never quite understand why the world doesn’t stop to bid me HBD wherever I go. I can’t wait for it to begin and I never want it to end. Birthdays should be magic. We arrived after all, on this planet to live and love and grab on to every sacred moment. Our birthday is the day which give thanks for being here. How wonderful when others give thanks for us too. 

PS Charlotte and Barbara tried to take some commemorative photos of their adventure, but just ended up looking like drunken serial killers, so...

Friday, July 15, 2011

Deb and Barb Have A Three-Way

Deb and Barb Have A Three-Way With Molly

Deb and Barbara met Molly recently here on the blog. She has her own wonderful blog called Random Thoughts. Molly has become an invaluable member of our cozy community here at The Middle Ages.

Molly: I want to thank Deb and Barbara for inviting me to do a three way. I’m so honored and thrilled.

From the ages of 8-12, I was involved with a children’s theater group. I had such a wonderful time performing as a kid. What I didn’t realize then was how much being a part of that company was going to shape me into who I am now. Along with an appreciation for the theater arts, I learned two valuable lessons. I learned how to use my voice and I learned how to be comfortable in front of a crowd. While I didn’t make acting my career, (I went into Recreation Management) those two skills have really played a major role in just about every aspect of my life.

One of my many dreams has been to start my own children’s theater and introduce kids to the theater in the way it was done for me so many years ago. I’m not professional (it’s been 20 years since I did any theater) and I’m not looking to make professional kid actors. I just wanted to give some kids a chance to do something they have never done before. Doing the children’s theater was always just a dream that played around in my head and I always thought to myself, someday……

Right now, in my life, I have some free time in a way I haven’t had since my oldest son was born 13 years ago. I’d been thinking about doing this theater for years and over the last several months it was in my brain more and more. Then, through a series of events and visits with several friends, I got to thinking that maybe I could do this. I mulled it over in my head for several weeks, thinking out the plan I would need to have if I was serious about this idea. I didn’t want to tell anyone, not even my husband, until I was sure that I had thought this through.

In May, I announced Auntie M’s Children’s Theater to my family and friends and expected everyone to say, “Molly, that is the dumbest idea you have ever had.” But they didn’t. They thought it was very neat and were so supportive. I held the auditions, directed rehearsals, built the sets, and on June 17th and 18th, we had our performances.
Auntie M’s Children’s Theater
The kids, who ranged in age from 6-10, did great, although they had the hardest time remembering to not turn their backs to the audience. I was also very amused that they couldn’t seem to speak loudly on the stage, but as soon as rehearsal was over, they were running around yelling. Go figure.

I knew that if I didn’t do this now, I would always regret it. I had to try. If the entire thing blew up in my face and was a disaster, I could say I tried and move on with my life. However, it wasn’t a disaster. Sure, we had our moments of difficulty, but that’s all it was, a moment here and there. I loved working with the kids. It wasn’t a professional production by any means and I had to accept the fact that several of them would undoubtedly turn their backs to the audience, and they did, but it was OK.

Since the show, I’ve had a lot of people ask me if I’m going to do this again next summer. Yes I am! I can’t wait. I’ve already gotten one script written and have started a second one. So, a big thanks to all the ladies who inspired me to follow my dreams. The experience has been amazing.

Barbara: Molly, this story is so inspiring! For a few reasons actually. One, because you had such a brilliant and wonderful dream to pursue. Two, that you pursued it with such dedication, despite concerns that you might fail. And three, that you pulled it off in such a miraculously short period of time!

I think a lot of us find ourselves holding dreams that we either don’t have the courage to initiate or, if we do, then those dreams don’t have the common courtesy to come true for us!! Molly has inspired me to remember that the bottom line is that it’s about getting your hands dirty. Doing whatever needs to be done. Working your butt off toward your heartfelt goal. And not giving up if someone turns their back on you ;). Because in the end, that is the best and greatest sign of success: that you went for it. No one and nothing will hold it against you if your dream doesn’t turn out the way you’d hoped (and if someone does, well, that’s their problem). Because the truth is: NO dream can come true without someone dreaming and then actively working toward it.

Molly wrote us privately not too long ago to share her story with us. Not only did we ask her to share it with you here, but we asked if it would be okay to include a certain interesting element of that story. Molly agreed. Her email was as beautiful and inspiring as today’s post, but what stopped me in my tracks was that one of her many inspirations came from reading our three-way with Rayna of Coffee Rings Everywhere. The nutshell of that wonderful post is that present-day Rayna has an honest conversation with her younger self. Turns out this prompted Molly to ask herself what her younger self would say to her today. She realized that her younger self would want her to follow this amazing dream. Obviously, this moment was one of many dominoes that lined up to tip Molly’s resolve, but the reminder here too is that there is an amazing power in our collective ability to support each other, either knowingly or unknowingly. And for that, I am truly and utterly amazed and grateful.

Thank you, Molly, for your great story and for this wonderful reminder!

Deb: Molly, I too was so inspired by this story. I LOVE when people follow their dreams. Any dreams. All dreams. Yours is especially sweet because you didn’t have to fight tooth and nail with friends and family naysaying it. You had support. It is as if this dream was sitting here all ready to go. The universe knew it, but was just waiting for you to realize it.

A year ago my sister-in-law lost her job because the people she worked for retired and closed up shop. She is middle-aged but decided she wanted to pursue her dream of acting professionally. Some people were trying to discourage her because of her age and her lack of experience. But she wanted to give it a go. It’s so funny how people will go out of their way to tell you that you can’t, isn’t it? But I thought I don’t give a darn what her odds are and proceeded to help and encourage and foster her dream. For a while she worked with a cold-reading group and loved the creative stimulation. Sadly, time ran out and she had to take a job which she loves but is not in the arts. But no matter what, I know that she would have regretted it forever if she had not tried. GO DREAMS! DREAMS ROCK!

Molly is a stay at home mom of five children, ages 3, 5, 7, 11, and 13. In addition to raising kids, she enjoys weaving, writing on her blog Random Thoughts, is an amateur onomast, and has begun working on her Master’s degree in Library and Information Science

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

My Little Mosque

Deb: After six seasons, we wrapped Little Mosque on the Prairie in Toronto last night.
Deb on set with most of the Little Mosque cast
This last month has been full to the brim with emotion. We have been through a lot together, this cast. We have over the six years shared joy and mourning. We have welcomed babies into the world, and eulogized dear friends and family. We have celebrated weddings and lamented departures of cast friends who moved on to other things. The six years have not been without incident though and we have over time griped and gossiped and complained. That’s part of the gig.

But in these last months of the final season, all of that has just fallen away and all we are left with is friendship and adoration for each other, and a deep sense of pride for having been involved with this show.

Little Mosque on the Prairie will always be a highlight of my career because of its message of tolerance, inclusion and illumination. It is seen in almost 100 countries around the globe and hopefully the message they intended is getting out. Simply put, that people are people. I have learned so much about the Muslim faith on this show and have embraced the differences and the similarities to mine.

But what I will miss the most is the laughs. The only thing, and I mean ONLY thing, that can put a spring in my step at 5 am is the knowledge that I am about to start laughing and not stop for the next twelve hours. Honestly, it is the closest I get to feeling like a kid again. And anytime I want to complain I think, “Really? You come in and get paid to work with talented lovely people, you get free food and time between shots to check Facebook, and every time your feet are tired someone is there with slippers.”

My darling cast member and dear friend Sheila and I have been making a point this last season to catch ourselves when even the tiniest complaint threatens to permeate the laughter. We look at each other surrounded by fun and say, “What the hell are we complaining about?”

We have been brimming with emotion with each day that sees another cast member wrap. Last night there was just three of us left. Sheila, girl of my heart; Neil, the nicest man on earth whom I have known since he was a kid; and myself. We cried. Man, did we. For everything. For the show that we have shared and the life we have shared during that show. And then we dried our tears and laughed. And then we had drinks and laughed some more.

The show-biz family is a movable feast. When you are in the show, they become such a huge part of your life. When the show ends, some will remain and some will depart leaving just a lovely memory of a time of your life. And like most actors, I have no idea where my next job will come from. Right now, I don’t care. Mosque is going to stay with me just a tad longer.

Barbara: Oh, Deb, I so feel for you right now. It’s a close, maybe even uniquely close work-environment being on a set (if you share a similar experience in another job, please let us know!). You are thrown together by happenstance (okay, and talent), you must pretend to be other people with different relationships, you must bond with those around you whether you want to or not, you must put up with crap and be an unsuspecting shoulder, you often discover souls you would never otherwise have crossed paths with or chosen as friends, and you bond before you even know it. The gamut of this relationship can run its course over a day, a week, a month, or it can evolve over a few months a year for several years, as in your case, Deb.

It’s strange. And intense. And beautiful.

Kinda like a family.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Flirting And Jealousy (or Be Careful, You Might Poke An Eye Out)

Barbara: Before I write my post for today, just a quick catch-up on what's what. Yes, I was on vacay last week. I didn't advertise it like I did last time because, you know, they say you shouldn't make a big point of advertising that you’re not home because there are all these burglar types lurking the Internet looking for empty homes they can burglar. Really??? Anyway, if you're out there, burglars, we have a really good alarm system and usually use our trusty house/dog sitter. I did think I would be able to check in here at the blog throughout the week more than I did, but the Internet was really sketchy and downloading emails was excruciatingly slow. I decided I’d rather sip piña coladas than watch the “loading” icon twirl for endless minutes, so that's what I did. Besides Deb was so on it, and you guys were so AWESOME!!! What comments. What discussion. Thanks for being there (here).

Okay, so I'm writing this entry from the beach still (yesterday morning for you now) because we only arrive home late tonight (Sunday) and Deb still needs a chance to reply. And while there are a million wonderful things I could write about, the one topic that keeps swirling in my brain is the whole flirting on the beach thing. Now flirting on the beach probably happens a lot at resorts, but I only became hyper-aware of it this trip because my husband and I were traveling with our beautiful daughter and, well, you know the saying "like flies to honey".

The fun for me was that I could get to know some very wonderful local people while enjoying some overflow flirting myself. Me, running back to my husband: "He called me a very cute lady! He called me a very cute lady!" And while my husband was cool and calm in the face of my "exploits", it very suddenly occurred to me: if we were on an island and all the local women were hitting on him, I would not be cool and calm. I would be off that island so fast, Phil's hand firmly in mine, you could surf the waves in our wake.

I sooooo want to be that cool chick who waves stuff like that off because I'm so confident … but it didn't take much soul-searching to realize, I am most decidedly not.

Deb: It's funny the "flirt and be flirted with" thing. I am not a flirt. I was when I was younger. Loved the flirting. Now? No. I can be coy with the best of them, but let's face it, coy is hard to pull off after 30, so I have stretched it well past its due date. But I still do the "set flirt" which amounts to being charming and chatty on the set because it is part of the fun that gets you through. I have seen my husband as "set flirt" too and it is harmless and cute. But really flirting? No. This may sound old fashioned, but I would find it insulting to our marriage. Plus, being happily married and older, I don't have the maj flirt vibe in me anymore.

BUT. And this is a big but ... I am always shocked, flattered and amazed when I realize someone is flirting with me. Or when someone gives me a real compliment of the "you are sexy" variety. Makes my day, I won't lie to ya. I have had to over these last years endure women flirting with my husband all the time. I think it comes with the “famous” territory. I find it harmless and it never bugs me. Until a couple of weeks ago when we were at an event and a woman was blatantly coming on to him right in front of me. At first I couldn't believe it. Then when she persisted, I went all Laura Petrie on her ass and found a way to mention that we were married. Didn't phase her one bit. When she left I said to my husband, "Wow, that was rude. She was totally coming on to you right in front of me!" And he looked at me with that honest clueless look men get and said, "What? No! What?” Ahhh, the poor simple little darlings.

Barbara: That’s so true, Deb—Phil almost never gets a flirt when it’s coming his way. And just for the record—not for Deb because she knows me so well and for so long, but for anyone who might get the wrong impression: I did NOT reciprocate the flirting! No, no. I bypassed the flirting and ended up getting to know some really special people I might not otherwise have met. Who, ironically it turns out, are all looking for love. Really. Simply that: love.

Anyway, I’m a terrible flirt. Don't even remember how to do it. Yeah, the last time I flirted I ended up marrying the guy, so…

Friday, July 8, 2011

The Squeaky Wheel Owns All The Grease OR Nice Guys Don’t Even Finish

Deb: Do any of you have these people in your lives?  Service people you are undyingly faithful to and to whom you bring all of your business? You know, the manicurists, dry cleaners, seamstresses, dog walkers, butchers, florists, or handymen that you stick with through thick and thin?

We do. We are loyal customers and good customers and all the various merchants and services love us. That’s the problem. We’re the nice guys. The people they can count on. And as a result, we have become the people they can take for granted. They don’t have to woo us or treat us special because we are one of a core group of people who keep their businesses going.

Do they appreciate it? Yes, I am sure they do. Deep down. Very deep down. So deep down I think it seeped out of them into the cracks in the sidewalk. We are the people who frequent their establishments, businesses, pay our bills on time and compliment them on a job well done.

Now I honestly do not expect them to treat me any better than they would treat any customer. Truly. I am not looking for freebees or champagne on my birthday. However I wouldn’t object! I am just looking to be treated with the same respect as everyone. And yet­­––and here’s where it becomes interesting––I AM NOT.

I am the gal who goes to the seamstress with an appointment to hem or alter my garments. AN APPOINTMENT, MIND YOU! And I am the one who stands there with pins in my pants and daggers in my eyes as I watch her take customer after customer who have just strolled in off the street. The reason she gives me is that after all, they are just picking something up. Well, I am a fair gal. That is fine with me. THE FIRST TIME! But three or four in, I am seething.

Our handyman––whom we have employed for fifteen years––put us on his waiting list to sand and re-stain our deck. I asked him in DECEMBER! Still not done.

We have a dog walker who we have employed for years because we were so busy that the dogs were not getting enough exercise. He also stays at our house when we are away, guarding property and animals alike. We no longer need him as much as we used to, but we keep him because he depends on us financially. We needed him over two weekends and for a two-week period this summer because we are going away. It turns out that, without even asking us our schedules first, he has already taken jobs with people who employ him once a year, leaving us to scramble and depend on the kindness of friends.

I know what you are thinking and you are right. WE are the tools. And, believe me, the infraction list goes on and on and on. I have just cited a few examples here. So the question is, what do we do? These people do good work for us. And there are several options open to us––none of which appeals to me.

One: we speak up and then they are hurt and uncomfortable and I am miserable. My people do not speak up. They have not spoken up for centuries to my knowledge.

Two: we fire them and start over. Well, the problem there is that they all do excellent work and it is a pain in the butt to go looking for people of equal quality, not to mention the lack of time factor.

Or three: we start doing these things ourselves. Ha ha haaaaaaaaaaaaahaha ha ha ha hahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa. Oh. Wow. Ha ha. That was … good. Oh yeah. Ha ha ha. Man. Do these things ourselves...........Ha ha ha. (*wipes tears of laughter from eyes*). Ah. Hmmm. Oh. Ha.

I guess we should just replace them one at a time and become the cranky occasional customer who doesn’t really show appreciation and just employs them once in a while. That seems to be their kind of client. But it’s not our way of doing business.

So ... what do you do when you are the nice guys and want to continue being the nice guys and yet still get respect? All ideas welcome. Help us have our cake and stay nice too.

Barbara: You have me stumped here, Deb. I don’t have a lot of regular service people in my life. (Okay, a pedicurist/wax girl and esthetician who I LOVE and who are divinely respectful … which is why I LOVE them). That said, I did have a cleaning woman once who started cleaning less and less and chatting on her phone more and more. And she thought I was the nicest, sweetest client. No wonder! I let her run the roost. In her case, we still joke that we sold our house to get rid of the cleaning woman.

So in order to answer your question (plea) with a bit more confidence, I asked my guy who happens to be a trainer for service-oriented folk. And he has a simple, direct and no-buts solution to your conundrum. You won’t like it.

You. Speak. With. Them.

Nicely. Not yelling. But like a boss (as much as you hate this word) speaking with a valued employee to find a solution to a problem. You don’t have to go over past digressions, but you should discuss future expectations. Ie: Dog Walker: We love you dearly and you’re the best, but we want to know what we can expect in the future when it comes to conflicting needs between ourselves and your other clients. Seamstress: I only have a few minutes to spend here while you hem my pants/dress/skirt, so while I understand that other customers might come in for a quick pick-up, too many pick-ups in a row will make me late for my next appointment. Handyman: I asked you in December to please stain our deck, get the FUCK over here and FUCKING STAIN THE DECK!

Too much? 

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Just Another Pretty Face?

Barbara: Okay, so I’m watching this show the other night and it’s all about body consciousness and dysmorphia and the too early womanizing of girls and plastic surgery and all that. And I don’t want to write about any of this stuff today because there’s already so much out there about it and I don’t feel like ranting and suffice it to say I want women to feel at peace with themselves and their bodies and accept who they are and all that. I do. I wrote about it here. I really really do.

But this TV program also made me realize a couple of things. Not cool things. Things I want to confess to you because it always turns out to be interesting when we go a bit out on a limb.

I’m a sucker for a pretty face.

There I said it.

Like a baby stares at a face for long bouts of time, I too can stare mesmerized at a lovely person. My mom still teases me that when I was a toddler, she could keep me occupied in my bed for hours simply by sticking a magazine in the bed with me. Every time she’d come back to get me, I’d have a certain page open: one with a photo of a beautiful man staring back at me. My virtual handsome-man babysitter.

So on this TV program, they were vilifying the modeling industry for using a 12-year-od girl on the runways. Well, I couldn’t stop staring at this beautiful—she seemed to me—woman. Take off the makeup and the womanly clothes and put her beside her mother and I see her childish self and am no longer mesmerized. Pull me away from the show and I would be all outraged for the poor girl’s lost childhood, concerned with how this life might affect her sense of self-esteem, for all the pitfalls of fame and scrutiny. But wait––let me look at her first. All beautiful chocolate skin and corkscrew curls.

I don’t value pretty faces above others, I don’t think the people who don them are more interesting, better people, more talented. I have no intellectual investment in a pretty face. I also can’t imagine wanting this as a kind of personal goal: “Oh how I wish people would stare at me like mouth-breathing idiots.” This isn’t how it works. Not in my experience. I’ve never known an attractive person to just coast through life on this accidental happenstance. Life is as sticky, as challenging, as frustrating for them as it is for anyone else.

But if you are a pretty face, know now that I will take a break for a moment when I see you, know that for a moment you will be a shiny object upon which I simply must gaze. Can’t help it.

Confession over. Lynch me now.

PS Deb and I were ships passing in the night on this post, so today Deb will post her response in the comments section.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Why Don’t You Guys Have A Baby?

Deb: Dear friends of ours are going through the never-ending onslaught of questions regarding their state of reproduction. “When are you two having a baby?” “Why don’t you have a baby?” “What is wrong with you, why aren’t you pregnant yet?” They are being bombarded with lectures, queries and opinions and it is getting under their skin. Who can blame them?

Last time I looked, my reproductive organs were none of anyone’s beeswax. Mind you I can tell you with some certainty that my reproductive system ceased to be interesting some 10 years ago.


What is this thing that people do? Do I have to state the obvious and say first off, that you do not know if a couple is infertile or is dealing with a serious health issue when you are shoving your way to a front seat at their ovaries. Shouldn’t this possibility be enough to silence the offending inquisitor?

Some years back I had the great misfortune to ask an old friend when she was due. I don’t think I need waste time telling you how that turned out. But I vowed that I would never ask that question again unless I saw the baby crowning. And I haven’t.

Or any of that type of question.  

Believe it or not, I still get asked at 56, “Why did you only have one baby?” “Gee, too bad he didn’t have a brother or a sister.” Yes it is. It is too bad. If only I had the balls to say, “But the one we have is such a sensitive, kind person that if we had given birth to another one, she might have grown up to be the kind of arsehole that would ask a question like that!”

But of course I don’t. I just say sheepishly, “Well, we tried and we couldn’t."  And then I proceed to hate myself.

Our darling friend and her husband just don’t know what to do anymore. They have run out of ideas. They have stated that they choose each other and the lifestyle they lead. They have said that they love being aunties and uncles but that their animals are their babies and they are content with that. They have said that the world is overpopulated. They have said that while they love kids they just don’t have the drive or need to have their own.

Now, wouldn’t you think this would be enough? I would. It’s not apparently.

It makes me mental that they even have to answer these kinds of questions. People’s plumbing and their choices around upgrading or expanding said plumbing is none of anyone’s affair. At all. In any way.
My friend was lamenting this today and the response I gave her was what inspired me to blog about it.

I said, “The next time you are berated and belittled for choosing not to have kids, say this:

‘I come from another galaxy where our gestation period is one hundred years. The women on our planet do not get big bellies. Instead, we become more and more gorgeous with each passing year. By the time I have this baby, you will be dead. So you better get off your ass and throw me a fucking baby shower. Better yet, just give cash.’ “

Barbara: Oh, Deb, BRILLIANT!! In fact, any variation thereof I would say would do. The bonus being that you get to exercise your imagination while also (hopefully) shutting up a yob or two.

This is indeed a tricky minefield. And I am shocked at how many people still wade into it. And yet they do. It always gets ugly—either because it speaks of a fundamental difficulty or a fundamental life choice. Neither are any of anybody’s business (unless of course offered up by the main parties involved. And, actually, these stories are often our most interesting ones. But I digress).

Okay, my variation on this—and my dear friends will attest to this––is that every time I pick up a baby, I become quite smitten, which leads everyone to assume I want one. We always get the, “Oh, Phil, you’re in trouble now, someone wants a baby!” But NOOOOO! No, really. I love them, love their divine sweetness, love their softness, their curiosity, their lovability. But. I. Do. Not. Want. One. No matter how much I cuddle and fawn, I am done. So keep asking if you must, but take this word for it: No.          

Friday, July 1, 2011

And The Last Prom

Barbara: It was way sweeter than I thought. In that I expected it to be bittersweet—our last child at her prom on the threshold of leaving home for college. But it wasn’t; it was sweet sweet SWEET!

The set-up had all the requisite drama: her years at the school had been up and down, as they are for most kids. But she is MY kid and her drama was confounding at times: she was at a brilliant arts high school, renowned across the country, not just learning the fundamentals, but acting, making films (and such films), and doing photography (what photos). I’ll let you fill in the blanks, but let’s just say there was a lot of second-guessing. Not all the time, of course, but enough of it to make her wonder often and loudly if she shouldn’t just go to another school to “start over”. The inevitable teenagers go-to. The start-life crisis, as it were. But she stayed. And, boy, are we glad she did.

Compared to this, the other drama is a bit more mundane, but it speaks volumes too. Our fashion designer daughter offered to design and make her dress. This was a huge coup for all of us: Michele got to wear an original dress that included all the elements she most wanted, Stefanie had an excuse to design another dress, and we got to enjoy our daughter in all her pretty glory (she was all set to go in a suit because she looks awesome in a suit and loves to be comfortable—and we supported her decision, but were a bit disappointed, as un-hip as that is to admit.) But the construction of this dress had its own dramas: a failed attempt to change up the bodice design, a ton of hand sewing as lace appliqués were stitched to the back and upper front corners (hard to see, but they’re there), and a few discussions (arguments?) as to the best length. There was even a night when Stefanie almost gave up completely––I’m gonna say on the dress, but I think it was dramatic enough that she might have meant her whole career choice. But, again, tenacity paid off. Stefanie remains a fashion design student, the dress turned out beautifully, and Michele felt––and looked––wonderful.

So when the big night finally came, I surprised myself with my own unabashed happiness. There were no tears, no melancholy, and relatively little nostalgia. It was its own wonderful affair, from the girls getting ready at our place before, to two lovely pre-prom parties, to saying good-night as they all got on the bus that took them to the prom venue, to opening the house for many of them to come back here after the prom and finish their festivities until the sun rose and they all crashed on every soft surface of the house (okay, one unfortunate boy found himself on the hard tile floor of our basement). They were beautiful, polite, well-behaved and still had lots of celebratory fun. The next day, I made them breakfast (at lunch time) and no sooner had they finished their last bites out on our patio when the formerly clear sky opened up and rain CASCADED down. They decided this meant it was time to shower: they stood under the torrents and got washed clean.

In the end, all of us just felt … happy. It was a great end, yes, but it feels like we’re already segueing seamlessly to the new beginning.

Deb: Isn’t it wonderful when life surprises you? I am so glad for Michele and for you and Phil that it was sweet and happy and sans throat lumps. You are right. It is a taste of what is to come. And make no mistake, you will likely not say goodbye to her in the fall without tears, but those tears will dry into a new form of life for you and she. The painful wrenching away will become a series of joyful reunions and your life will just slowly and gently start to turn into something new. I love the adult children. The children we can truly be friends with and be ourselves around and confide in and converse with. I’m glad the prom didn’t sting. It was meant to be a sweeter than honey moment and luckily for you, it was.