Friday, August 31, 2007

The Nest of Moo

So we’re back to the cool weather today after a pretty nice week. On Wednesday RH and I had a lovely lunch down at the Quay. We sat outside and watched the Seabus trundle back and forth and thought how perfect the temperature was. But then I was working in my office at about 4:00 p.m. and it all of a sudden became very hot. I don’t know what the meteorological explanation for this would be, but it was quite peculiar. Now, interestingly, I could have said something about a climacteric explanation for the heat and it could have worked whether you know the proper definition of that word or just think you do!

One of my fine sisters recently critiqued my Aug 22 blog. She noted that it was a milestone birthday for RedCarGirl (who, as of Sept 4, will morph into VCCgirl) and yet I scarcely made mention of this. Well, indeed. Missy Moo is apparently what we call Unclear on the Concept. My blog is by me, about me, for me, which is why I will never have enough readers that advertisers will be clamouring for space in my sidebar. (Alas. No one has ever clamoured for space on my sidebar.) I have said it before but I’ll say it again: my blog is totally self-indulgent. I write what I feel like writing, and RCG’s 19th birthday was not, actually, that big a deal for me.

I mean, it’s sort of in the middle, isn’t it? 18 is a big birthday: you’re a Canadian adult. 20 is a big birthday: you’re no longer a teen. 21 is still, if somewhat atavistically, a big birthday. (You can drink in Las Vegas!) So 19, well, yes, you’re a BC adult. You can sign legal documents (like your own cell phone contract, for example!) But her 19th birthday was much more about going out with her buddies than anything to do with Mom. My role in the day began and ended with cupcakes, a large cheque, and a hug from my grownup baby girl.

Sister Moo is much less blasé about events in her own children’s lives at the moment. Though three years my junior, she is farther along the Empty Nest path. She will shortly be losing Offsprings 1 and 2 simultaneously. Moo 1 is taking a gap year and heading off to do wondrous good deeds in darkest Africa, and Moo 2 has her bags all packed for Queen’s University in Ontario. Although she still has The Lad at home, Missy Moo’s is a house that has always been bustling with activity and it will seem very, very quiet without Les Girls. As Moo put it, you spend the better part of two decades making it your life’s work to teach your children to be independent, and then when they head off to do just that, you want to cry, “No, wait…I’m not done yet!”

Have a great trip back East, Mr. and Mrs. Moo and Moo 2! We’re looking forward to hearing all about it -- maybe Moo 2 will have a university blog going? Have fun!

Thursday, August 30, 2007

It's the Most Wonderful Day of the Year

Well, folks, my favourite day of the year is almost upon us! Yes, I’ll confess: I like Labour Day better than any other statutory holiday. When I was very little it would have been eclipsed by Christmas and Easter (and Halloween and my birthday, neither of which are stats but should be), but not by much, and I didn’t have to be very old before Labour Day came to the fore.

As my father was a professor, our family life always revolved around the academic calendar. Labour Day meant Daddy back after a summer of working away from home. Labour Day meant a return to order and routine, and I’ve always been such a cliché little Virgo. Love the order and routine.

*NERD ALERT* Once in school myself, I discovered that I loved the place. Thanks to a fairly strict mom, I was well-behaved (at least outside the home!) and I was eager and interested and not entirely stupid, so teachers tended to like me. I anticipated with excitement the first day of school every one of the 17 years I attended one.

Summers to me always meant horrible hay fever, as well, although that has mitigated a great deal over the years. The antihistamine I took for it as a child, however, was nectar of the gods. It came in a big dark-brown bottle. The neck was encrusted with the sugar the medicine was loaded with. The liquid was the colour of the Caribbean Sea. I can’t describe the flavour, though it happily remains in my sense-memory. Unbeknownst to my mother, I used to go into the pantry and help myself to a spoonful pretty much every time I sneezed. Or maybe she did beknow it and just enjoyed how sleepy it must have made me.

Our family did not go away anywhere for summer vacations, except camping, which I despised. So unlike many people, going away was not a pleasure I ever associated with summer. I’m not sure whether the reason our parents did not take us away on holidays was a financial thing or just sheer horror at the prospect of having to deal with four endlessly bickering princesses somewhere away from home. Although I could totally understand the latter explanation, that surely can’t have been it because the one major trip we did take was a driving expedition all the way across the country where they were stuck with us in a station wagon or tent trailer 24 hours a day.

By the time I was a teen, my loathing of summer was well underway. Then, as now, I was of the opinion that temperatures above 22 degrees Celsius are unfit for human habitation (although in those days it would have been 74 degrees Fahrenheit). I hate insects of all kinds, especially those so prevalent in the summer that bite and sting.

Most of us mourn the day when we lose the magic of Christmas, when Santa is exposed and cynicism starts kicking in. I mourned terribly the loss of the magic of Labour Day when I had very small children. I watched the bigger kids in the neighbourhood march off to school the next day, while my squalling darlings remained in my house, exuding things from every orifice and chanting their mantra of “mommymommymommymommymommymommy” every hour they were awake. (Yeah, yeah, yeah. LOVED my babies. But those first few years of motherhood are brutal and anyone who says otherwise is lying through her teeth.)

However, of course they eventually joined the marchers to school. And then they grew up and didn’t go to school anymore, and once again there was no particular meaning to Labour Day. But I still love it. I love going out on a late-August day that is warm and sunny, but the quality of light, the angle of the sun in the sky, promises autumn is on its way. I love waking up at 3 a.m. feeling chilled and pulling up that extra blanket. Whether you are operating on the academic calendar or not, there’s something about Labour Day that makes everyone sort of settle down. We’re heading back to the time of order and routine. Back to sweaters and eiderdowns and the only annoying insect being the housefly.

Of course, we’ve got to get through leatherjacket (crane fly) season first. Don’t you just hate those things?

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

My Day Off

Yo, homies! (Wherever they are at this moment, my children are cringing and not knowing why.) There’s been another bloggage gap here. I have been still, yet, always busy with work. I have worked almost every day of the month of August thus far. They load me up with files, then email me saying, “Hold off on that stuff; here’s some rush stuff.” I have no sooner begun the rush stuff than they email saying, “Put aside the rush stuff. Here’s some rush-rush stuff.” Which is soon, inevitably, superseded by “rush-rush-super-rush” stuff. (The turnaround time for RRSR stuff is: Unless you get that file back to us in approximately three minutes, a kindly old woman who is the sole support of 117 crippled family members back in Butflapistan might be inadvertently deported. But no pressure.)

Anyway, it’s been that sort of month. I finally told my office I would be taking two consecutive days off and even if it means the total collapse of an entire Third World country, not to bother attempting to contact me as email originating from them would be ignored, as would phone calls (yay, Call Display!)

But that’s not really why I haven’t been blogging. I simply have no conversation. Can’t think of a thing to say. So, as I am otherwise completely uninspired, today you’re all just going to have to suffer with An Account of My Day Off.


Took one (1) cat to the vet for annual checkup and shots. Cat weighs 14.2 pounds and, at age three, needs to start eating food labelled “mature”. Why isn’t human food labelled “mature” instead of “lite” or “lo-cal” or “tastes like crap”?

Made 24 chocolate cupcakes with green icing as ordered by daughter whose birthday it is today. She took them to her place of work, where many people will negate their workout-o-day by eating my extremely immature cupcakes.

Went to the grocery store, where it took twice as long to check out as it used to because the baggers can’t figure out how to load the reusable sacks I take with me. Keep plastic out of the landfills/ enrage person behind me in line. IQ of baggers not my fault! Well, and I suppose it didn't help that, having a week or so ago changed the PIN for my debit card, it took me a minute or two to recall what I'd changed it to. I swear the laboured firing of my rusty neurons was audible.

Went to the library, my favourite second home for over 45 years. I did a quick rough mental estimate of the number of books I have read in my lifetime and came up with a likely conservative figure of 6,000. Now, certainly some of these would be books I have read more than once, some by choice, some because I just don’t remember having read them before. Maybe I'm really only reading the same 11 books over and over and over...

[There was a brief article in the paper today about a man who woke up one day at age 70 and couldn’t read anymore. It wasn’t a stroke; he was otherwise perfectly fine. He could even write, but then was unable to read what he had just written. Written words appeared to him as if they were in another alphabet, like the Cyrillic, or hieroglyphics. Isn’t that weird?]

Did two loads of laundry.

Totalled up what I have earned thus far this month and felt very jolly.

Went for a walk. Many people have complained about this summer we’ve been having. Personally, I’m thrilled. A whole summer of days that never get above 20 degrees is my idea of heaven.

Read. Did two crossword puzzles. Surfed the internet.

Prepared a shepherd’s pie for dinner.

…Okay, okay! In the interests of full disclosure: removed the plastic cover from an M&M Meats frozen shepherd’s pie and bunged it in the oven. Neither birthday girl nor her brother is here for dinner and RH and I happen to LIKE M&M shepherd’s pie. And I intend to make FROM SCRATCH a nice tossed salad to go with it.

…Okay. The lettuce is pre-washed, pre-torn, and pre-mixed with other salady stuff. But I will cut up other stuff! I really will!

Aren’t you glad you read my blog today?

Sunday, August 12, 2007

You're the One, Ooh Baby

In a few days, a dear old friend of mine will be celebrating her 30th wedding anniversary. Happy, happy anniversary, Jaynut! A few weeks ago we attended the first of what I am calling the Next Generation weddings, as the children of our friends and friends of our children begin to take the plunge.

I’m so lucky that my little circle of friends comprises people who have all been happily together for a quarter-century or more. It makes me ponder why we have been so fortunate, or wise, or just how it is we managed to successfully find The Right One. And as I watch the current batch of young people navigate the relationship waters, suffering the painful breakups and awkward dates, I want so badly to be able to give them that perfect piece of wisdom that will help them know when they’ve found The One.

Of course, because my memory is still reasonably intact, I know perfectly well there really isn’t anything I can say. When you’re in love with someone, even if everyone around you knows he isn’t right, there’s nothing in the world that will convince you of that. He’s yours and you LOOOOOOOOOOVE him, warts and all. No matter how immensely ginormous those warts are. All over his body. No matter that he beats you with a stick every other Tuesday. (I hasten to add that in this I do not speak from personal experience. I never dated, much less fancied myself in love with, anyone who had either warts all over his body or beat me with a stick. At least not literally.)

The one and only way any individual will ever know the difference between The One and the Rest of Them is by finally meeting The One. And then you go, “OHHHHHH. Okay, then.” Until then, you won’t know, you can’t know, and no one can tell you.

But still, it doesn’t stop me, as a mother, from trying to give my children advice. Of course not! My kids have been doing the dating dance for quite a few years now (my son since he was about…um…fetal) and I’ve considered various techniques I could suggest for recognizing The One. But I think maybe the best is something I said to my daughter on the ending of a relationship a few months ago. And it’s this: In the nearly 27 years that RH and I have been together, there has not been one day, one hour, one MINUTE, that I have doubted that I come first in his life. Through all the vicissitudes of marriage, my belief in this has been pure and absolute and unwavering. And no one should be walking down the aisle with anyone who has ever doubted that about their significant other.

And that’s all I have to say about that.

For now.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Oh, and also...

Happy Birthday, Mom of Grammar!

You haven't changed a bit!

Park it Here

As I was nipping my cute little Fit car into a narrow parking space the other day, it brought back some embarrassing memories of my early days as a driver and I’ve decided to share them with you, Blog World.

I got my driver's license when I was 17. The legal minimum age then (as now) was 16 but my mother was adamant that this was at least two years too young. Being a teenager, of course, I took this terribly personally. My journal is full of raging in CAPITAL LETTERS and hosts of exclamation marks about how she TREATED ME LIKE A BABY!!!!! and had no idea HOW MATURE I WAS!!!!!!! My father, on the other hand, had a very laid-back attitude about driving (he would later scoff at the professional lessons I paid a fortune for my own children to take), and had I forced the issue, my old-fashioned mother would eventually have allowed her husband to overrule her. But I sensed that she felt strongly enough about this that she would not concede without a battle, and I didn’t want to be responsible for a fight between my parents. (Firstborn thing again!) So we ended up with a compromise.

I got my learner's permit in the fall of 1973 and went out driving with my father perhaps a dozen times before taking, and passing, the test for my full license. There was no minimum time requirement between obtaining your learner's permit and testing for the full license. The examiners in our Kerrisdale Motor Vehicle Branch invariably took the same quiet, local route for the tests and of course we all knew from other kids at school exactly what that route was, so we were well prepared for it. I had a driver's license without ever having driven downtown or on a freeway, or for that matter, parking in a parking lot.

I had practiced parallel parking because that was required for the test, and to this day I am a terrific parallel parker because the car I learned to drive on was a Pontiac station wagon that was approximately 150 feet long. (I exaggerate only slightly.) If I could parallel park that, I could parallel park anything.

However, the first time I went to park in a lot was after I had my license. It had never occurred to my father, when he pronounced me fully capable of operating a motor vehicle, that I would be so completely lacking in any sense of basic physics that I would not realize that you cannot turn a car, and especially one that is 350 feet long, 90 degrees on a dime, as it were. I could not understand why I could not just pull up perpendicular to a parking space in a lot and execute a sharp L-shaped turn neatly into the space. Furthermore, having found that this didn't work, I was unable to figure out what to do to solve the problem. So for a long time I would happily parallel park on a side street blocks away rather than attempt to park in a lot.

Yes, I am horribly embarrassed but determined to confess that it took me years -- years -- to finally figure out how to turn a car into a non-angled parking spot. I know, for example, that I was 22 years old when I first began working full-time. A coworker and I were required to take a company car and go to a meeting at another office. She asked if I'd mind driving and, anxious to appear one of the grownups, I agreed. However, when we got to the building and I saw the parking lot was full except for one lone space the approximate width of a stalk of celery, I gave up on any pretense of savoir faire. I stopped the car, got out, and made my incredulous coworker park it.

To this day I am still a bit skittish about what I consider narrow parking slots, but I have, for some decades now, known how to maneuver a car into them! But -- loving the Fit!

Friday, August 3, 2007

Profane or Not Profane? That is the Question.

I’ve been meaning to comment about the fact that in two recent blogs, I used the F-word with all its letters in place, no asterisks acting as proxies. Although with the under-30 generation it has become mainstream, for most people older than that, who are still pretty much running things (except the internet!), it is still preferred that the F-word not appear in all its naked glory.

One of Grammar’s loyal readers has commented that he finds the f-word one of the ugliest in the English language. He doesn’t specify why. I don’t think it can be strictly an acoustic thing, or he would find the words truck and duck and cluck just as distasteful. Perhaps it’s that he believes it’s an ugly word for a beautiful act. Well, given that this particular loyal reader is Grammar’s father, I’m not going to get into any sort of discussion of the relative beautifulness of The Act, but I don’t think it matters, in any case, because the word as used today is simply an extremely versatile expletive. It does still mean The Act, but only peripherally. So it surely can’t be ugly for that reason.

I think that it can only be considered ugly because we’ve had a few hundred years of conditioning to believe that it’s the depth of profanity. But that’s a pretty random thing. It could happen to any group of letters. I personally think there are very many uglier words in English. For example, I can’t STAND the word borborygmus. The word itself is both visually and aurally ugly and if you look up its meaning, that doesn’t help. I think the word slave, as a noun, is an ugly word, as is pedophile. There are other words that I will not put into print, not even with asterisks, that I think are so much uglier than the f-word.

Believe me, I am with you in not caring for casual use of this word. However, and perhaps this is the linguist in me again, it is just a word. To me it seems the height of absurdity to believe that rendering it in print as f*** protects us from its vulgarity when obviously anyone over the age of six instantly sees the full word in their mind’s eye and hears it with their mind’s ear.

In my blogs, it seemed to me especially silly to beat around the bush when I was using it to make a very specific point about its effect between the generations. I was not flinging it about gratuitously as an expletive from my own mouth, as it were. I have, however, chosen in this particular blog entry to avoid spelling it out. I waffled on this; there are a lot of F-word mentions and on the one hand if I’d spelled them all out, it might have desensitized anyone inclined to be appalled and taken its place as just another word. However, the over-30 fuddy-duddy in me won out and decided that so many f***s in so short a space would be too jarring. And so I have protected us all with specious asterisks and hyphens!

It’s possible that the hip-hop generation’s own children will take on a nouveau Puritanism and send vulgarity back to the bathroom walls, but I doubt it. I predict that in less than ten years, you’ll see the F-word spelled out everywhere. Already you seldom see its companion, the S-word, in an asterisk-substituted form.

I am not alone in this opinion, obviously. When I was researching whether the S-word had yet appeared naked in any mainstream newspaper (it has), I came upon the following facetious picture. It made me laugh, and I hope all you fellow fuddy-duddies out there will agree and not be upset that at the very end, here, I've allowed profanity in my blog again!

Thursday, August 2, 2007

New Harrison Resort Fan

Our room was in the tower on your left. In the 6x3 grid of windows facing the lake, we were three up from the bottom, middle window.

We are back from our brief sojourn in Harrison, and I’ll tell you right off: it was too brief. We could happily have stayed another day or two. I have learned from this that reading online reviews is in fact not a fair or dependable way to judge a place.

Our room was beautiful. The staff were warm, friendly and efficient. The food was great. The hot mineral pools were bliss. The beach was clean and not at all crowded (although I wouldn’t care to be there this weekend). We did not leave the hotel grounds the entire time; there was no need to.

I had not been to Harrison in decades and I had forgotten what a splendid spot it is. We were lucky enough to have a lake-facing room on the fifth floor, so our view was beautiful. We spent hours just relaxing on our balcony, watching the quiet lake, the forested hills, the snow-capped mountains. It was idyllic.

The lake was remarkably quiet because although the resort rents sea-doos, the riders thereof are required to go some distance out past a certain marked point in the lake before revving them up. Closer in were only pedal-boats and silent, electric-powered bumper boats (very popular!).

Now, I would recommend that if you’re going there, to book a room (as we did, just by luck) in the East Tower. It is the newest, and farthest from the pools, and so keeps you well away from the noise therein. Some rooms in the main building and West Tower are directly overlooking the pools; in fact some ground-floor rooms are mere feet from them and their patio chairs easily mistaken for public pool furniture. You would not want one of those rooms -- well, I wouldn’t! If you like the idea of being able to just step out your door into the pool area, then of course such rooms would be ideal.

One of the complaints I read online was that children freely used the pool designated as Quiet Adult Only and no one policed this. We only saw a child in this pool once: a (quiet!) toddler in its mother’s arms, for about five minutes. It is indeed a lovely peaceful oasis, isolated from the other pools by a wooden walkway and surrounding trees. It is about four feet deep with a cement bench all around that you can sit on so the water would come up to your shoulders, and just soak.

The East Tower is also the building where the breakfast buffet restaurant resides, so that’s handy.

As part of our package deal at the resort, we got a dinner at their Copper Room restaurant. The décor and ambiance of this venue is little changed from its inception some 80 years ago. You could just picture flappers and their beaux come out from Town on the train to “take the waters” and dine and dance. The little round tables boasted fine linens, silver and china. The waiters were tuxedoed. A live jazz combo played what they called cocktail music and many people made use of the large dance floor: older people who actually know how to dance; younger couples shuffling from one foot to another; merry children. The food was imaginative, beautifully-presented and delicious, and this from RH and I, who are not easily impressed in this regard. We went back the second night, and the maitre d’ remembered our name.

So there is my review of the Harrison Resort. As long as you are not hurting for money, I highly recommend it. (Our room lists at $250 a night and the Copper Room is extremely expensive.) And don’t take on-line reviews as gospel! (Except mine, of course.)