“Red Ribbons + Mullets”

Legs moving as fast as possible, like pistons in a luxury sports car, arms pumping alongside. Chest straight and head tall until the very last second lean forward to anticipate the finish. Every boy hoping to be first in the sprints, the senior high elite events.

“GO! GO! GO!” All the girls encouraging their favorites on the sidelines. Important to cheer on your hometown guys during the county track and field meet, but who could resist checking out the boys from all the neighboring towns who came to compete too.

It was the seventies. Short shorts and mullets were everywhere. It was just a matter of deciding who you thought was the cutest guy of all. There were stars, easy to pick out by red first place, and blue second place ribbons pinned on the front of their t-shirts. The losers sat sunning themselves bare-chested, they were definitely noticed too.

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This was yet another piece of “Bite-size Memoir” initiated by blogger Lisa Reiter. Check out her project / more memoir based on her weekly prompts at:

http://sharingthestoryblog.wordpress.com/2014/05/23/bite-size-memoir-no-4-sports-day/#comments

 

Bite-size Memoir Yum, yum!

A fellow blogger, Lisa Reiter, started a project called “Bite-sized Memoir”. The challenge is to write a 150 word piece of memoir on the topic she provides each week. Thought I’d give it a go. If you’d like to learn more, or participate (even if you are not a blogger you may do the challenge and post in the comments section of her blog on the page for each week’s particular topic). Here is the link for more information / guidelines:

http://sharingthestoryblog.wordpress.com/2014/05/02/bite-size-memoir-no-1-school-at-seven/comment-page-2/#comment-239

This week’s topic was “School at Seven”. I missed her deadline for compilation but decided to do it anyway to warm-up for next week’s topic which she will publish tomorrow.

I am curious to see if I will find this writing just as delicious as those bite-size muffins I was woofing down from the market all summer!

 

School at Seven

I entered the grade two class of Miss Dari at St. Paul Elementary School in 1968. Her classroom was on the east side of the “old grey school”, the single story wing attached to a brand new two story wing for the older kids. The “older kids” were grade four and five. My Mom was up there too, teaching grade five.
I have few memories of particular activities and lessons in the classroom. However, strangely enough, I have a very vivid recollection of the very first word list lesson in the little hardcover Macmillan spelling text book. The first words we had to know how to spell that year were: the, is, not, cat, cow, car. And they were in that exact order. I would challenge any psychotherapist or neuro-psychologist to explain to me why that spelling list remains embedded in my memory to this very day.

On a pot hole & a prayer!

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Being an only child, my mother tended to be rather protective of me.

I grew up in an era when people did not wear seatbelts because most vehicles did not even have them. My mother’s rule to keep me safe in a vehicle was that I must always sit in the backseat, even if there was only the driver and myself in the vehicle. I respected the rule. Even if I was going two blocks down the dusty main street with my Grandpa in his Volkswagen Beetle to the Co-op grocery store in our small prairie town, I still had to sit in the backseat as though I had my own personal taxi driver or chauffeur.

So, it came as no surprise to me that the night before, and again on the morning of my departure on an out of town car trip with my piano teacher, my Mom reminded me: “Don’t forget to sit in the backseat.” I assured her I would, as my Dad pulled our car up to the side door of the convent to drop me off at 8:30 a.m.

I was going to the music festival in Lac la Biche, with my piano teacher, a Catholic nun, as well as another nun from the convent and three other girls. We were all from the same school, all in within a grade of each other, and we all took piano lessons once a week from Sister Komery, or Sister Canary as I called her behind her back.

I think as long as I assured my Mom I would sit in the back seat, she had no other worries, being that we were travelling in a bulky, four-door dark blue Buick sedan with a nun at the wheel. How much safer could one possibly be?

All four of us girls, the two German Michelles – Meirer and Schmitt, and the French farm girl Agnes Flaubert, and I were wearing summer dresses, and white knee socks for our debut playing piano solos on the music festival stage. Neither of the nuns wore habits anymore. They were dressed in conservative wool skirts, blazers, polyester blouses with plain, but prominent crosses on chains around their necks. Both Sisters wore wigs on their heads, necessary my mom had told me, after wearing habits for so many years and not having good hair anymore.

Being experts in efficiency, the sisters quickly had us getting in to the car. Immediately I said I was willing to sit in the middle of the backseat, no one disagreed, so in I climbed to my spot. Being a large backseat of a sedan, with just three eleven year old girls in it there was plenty of room for each of us.

The back seat fabric was irritating; scratchy on the back of my legs and knees. I had a sudden longing for the soft fuzzy grey seat covers in my Dad’s car. I guess the nuns felt no need for seat protection since they rarely had children in their vehicle. They did not need to worry about some kid dropping popcorn or pop on it at the drive-in as my Dad seemed to be obsessed with.

The smallest girl, my best friend Michelle M. had been directed to sit in the front between the Sisters. She was short enough that I still had a view out the windshield over the top of her blonde head.
I could also see a small metal statue of Saint Christopher stuck on to the dashboard of the car. Saint Christopher is the saint to keep travellers safe on their journey. Dangling from the rear-view mirror was a blue-grey rosary.

Sister Komery started the motor of the car, but she did not put it in gear.

Before I could even begin to wonder what was possibly wrong, she said: “I will say a prayer for a safe trip.” Quickly but quietly, she mumbled out about a three sentence prayer in ten seconds, the only words I really caught being “Jesus. Please. Safe. Trip. Amen.”

No sooner was the “Amen” out of her mouth, Sister Komery slapped the car into gear, jammed her foot on the gas, the tires spun briefly on the gravel, then as they grabbed hold sent us flying forward in our seats and down the convent driveway towards the highway.

With the car set so quickly into motion, then the thump of it off the driveway curb onto the highway below, the rosary on the rear-view mirror was set swinging. There went the crucified Christ back and forth, back and forth, back and forth.

Sister Komery was a very fast aggressive driver, with no apparent reason for being so. We were in no danger of being late, leaving in plenty of time for the hour and half drive on the highway, which started out on pavement then turned to gravel for over half of the trip.

Once we hit the gravel road she steered back and forth attempting to dodge deep pot holes, keeping the same speed up as on the paved road.

Even though all the windows were up in the car, the vents must have been open as the dry smell of dust penetrated the interior of the car, overpowering the scent of the lavender talcum powder I had smelled on the nuns as we got in the car. I could taste dirt on my tongue, my throat was parched.
The lack of fresh air along with the constant rattle and pelt of large stones hitting the undercarriage of the car beneath me were slightly sedating.

When we would hit a pot hole directly I was jolted back to the moment. The crucified Christ dangling in front of me jumped up and down, and then He went back to swinging back and forth until the next unavoidable pot hole.

I sneaked a quick look through the rear window behind me. All I could see was dust. No road, no sky, no scenery whatsoever, just thick brown dust.

This was not how I expected a nun to drive.

In what was probably record time, we arrived at our destination. The ride back home began exactly as we began that morning, and again I watched Jesus bounce and swing all the way.

I never knew a nun could drive like a bat out of Hell. I realized I now knew where my uncle got the expression “Jumpin’ Jesus”. He must have taken piano lessons at the convent too. Amen.

You Might Be Canadian If…

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Let’s enjoy  the beautiful Fall weather while it lasts. I just came back from running around town doing errands in my flip-flop sandals when the radio announcer said ” it is time to put the flip-flops away”.

NO! I refuse! Too soon we will be back to Winter. Beside which, we have not even had a flake of snow yet. I will take that as my cue and only that – snow that accumulates, staying put on the ground.

On that note, here are a few “You might be Canadian if…” sayings I wrote:

You might be Canadian if you wear flip-flops after the first snowfall.

You might be Canadian if you have ever backed out of your driveway with your neon orange extension cord still plugged into your vehicle.

You might be Canadian if you take your kids out to DQ for ice cream cones after their school Christmas concert.

You might be Canadian if you can jump right into your yoga pants / top that have been sitting in minus 25 degree Celsius vehicle all day.

BRRRRR! Let’s not even go there yet!

More from the grocery store…

Okay, so last post I promised more thoughts from the grocery store. Lots of life has happened since then. Admittedly there are other things I’d rather blog about now, so I need to make a note to self for the future. “Don’t promise the next blog topic ahead of time.” I should know better. I am way too random-abstract to be making such commitments.

Anyway, back to the grocery store. After leaving the two lovebirds behind me at the check-out, I continued my zombie-like walk out to my vehicle continuing to have random thoughts about grocery shopping. It occurred to me that it is ridiculous to spend money on groceries, spend time preparing meals and eating them, only to turn around and spend money and time on exercising to get rid of the calories you just spent time and money on. Yes, I know we need to have a certain number of calories each day in order to be healthy but seriously we could get those from chowing down a few simple, uncooked foods each day.

Then I remembered a youtube video my kids had shown me from MAD TV. One of those ” it would be funny , if it were not so true” satires. Here’s the link to the 2 minute video “Eat Less, Move More”:

Simple right?

The only thing more simple would be if I were Oprah. If I were Oprah, I would have people to go out to the markets for me to gather the freshest foods, a personal chef to prepare low-calorie delicious meals, and I would have other staff to do all the other things I did not want to do thus freeing up my time to exercise. Hmm, only one flaw in this fantasy, Oprah is still heavier than me. I guess I will just have to eat less, move more.

groceries

Thoughts from 5314th trip to the grocery store…

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As I pushed my cart down the aisle in a near Zombie trance, I noticed a young, recently engaged couple, friends of my children, who have recently moved in together.  They did not see me as I was quite far down an aisle.  They were looking at items in a feature area away from the main aisles. I could see them smiling, touching, talking, laughing, in love.

Seeing their obvious pleasure in each others company even while doing the tedious task of grocery shopping gave me momentary delight. To be young, in love, learning about what your partner likes, maybe deciding on gourmet meals to cook together, it appeared they were enjoying every minute of it.

Their joy had jolted me out of my trance to a place of cognitive thought. When did I stop loving visits to the grocery store? Did I ever love it?

Maybe I thought it was exciting when I first moved out on my own to attend university, living in an apartment with a friend. Finally independent, having the choice of what to buy and cook might have been fun, though I don’t recall it being so.

We had to take the bus to the Safeway store several blocks away because neither of us had a vehicle. No, I don’t think I loved it even then. We were on a budget, so bought lots of tuna, wieners, ground beef, pasta, and cheaper produce. Plus we had to juggle our full bags on and off the bus, always hoping they would not split open allowing our apples to roll down the aisle, or the sidewalk.

Grocery shopping was definitely not the highlight of my life back then, it isn’t now. I paused to realize I had been shopping for groceries for over thirty years. No wonder it felt like such drudgery. With an average of three visits per week being a conservative estimate (admittedly I have never been a seven day meal planner) I had been grocery shopping well over 5000 times!

About the time I finished that thought, I was next to the young couple. Spotting me, we exchanged greetings. I blurted out, “Looks like you two are having fun shopping together. Enjoy it. After you have been buying groceries for thirty years it is not so much fun anymore.”

They simply smiled in response, romantic love blinding them to my cynicism. I was grateful for that. Let them have their ignorant bliss. Time goes too quickly, before they know it they will be on their 5314th trip to the grocery store too.

(Coming soon…..more thoughts from the grocery store, including “If I was Oprah….”)

First 15 Minutes in Day Surgery

(What follows below is the first draft of a  writing assignment I completed for writing group. The exercise was to show “setting” of our choice, fact or fiction. )

Celeste leaned back on the narrow bed that was covered by a thin white cotton sheet smelling slightly of chlorine bleach stretched over the thick rubbery plastic mattress pad. Feeling the soft rubbery surface underneath her reminded her of sleeping on an air mattress that was only half inflated. Some might be bothered by the faint bleach odor but to her it brought back memories of the neighbourhood swimming pool. Good memories. The flat as a pancake pillow underneath her head was also plastic, covered by a well bleached, highly sanitized, vellum thin pillowcase. Though the bed was bound to be hot and uncomfortable for someone with a fever, it was fine for someone chilled with fear, someone like Celeste.

She wiggled and adjusted her body to get more comfortable, finding just the right position to support her aching spine and hips. Breathing a lengthy drawn out sigh, she felt her body momentarily relax in spite of her racing mind. She tugged on the slightly rough but thick blanket on the end of the bed, pulling it up over her entire body. She had the thought: “what if this was a magic blanket, that pulling it up over your body could make you disappear Chris Angel style?” If only.

Having been temporarily left alone with her thoughts, she stared up at the stark white ceiling. Her eyes then slowly drifted downwards to the barren white walls decorated only with medical paraphernalia such as oxygen outlets, suction vessels, and call button cords. Her eyes went down to the recently polished white linoleum tile floor, then up to the printed plaid wedgewood blue with tangerine orange curtain separating the beds. Thankfully someone at some point had made the decision to provide a touch of color and cheeriness to the otherwise plain bleak room. She hoped they at least got a high five for that decision.

Resting her right arm alongside her body, she kept it still and straight so as not to disturb the IV that had been inserted. She had not been prepared for the chemical medicinal smell that invaded her nostrils, so strong that she tasted it on her tongue for a few seconds before it dispersed into the air as the nurse swabbed her arm then plunged the tiny needle into her blue-green vein.

All was quiet at the moment except for country music being played softly. She recognized Johnny Reid crooning a ballad. Possibly it was slowing her pulse. Yes, it seemed it was. Research said music could do that; she believed it to be true. Johnny Reid was probably a wise choice. His mellow voice probably would not be overly offensive to any of the people in the room, no head bangers or gang bangers here today.

As Celeste had entered the day surgery ward with the chubby, slightly limping, pleasant demeanor but all business nurse leading the way to her bed, she had checked out the other patients, none of which had their bedside curtains completely drawn. One older middle aged Native woman with glasses on, eyes closed, possibly sleeping or perhaps just pretending. One older middle aged Caucasian woman with long brown hair pulled back in a ponytail reading an Oprah Pick book. Celeste could recognize the large white sticker signifying it being an Oprah book from across the room. One older man beginning to rouse, momentarily trying to talk to the woman on the chair beside him, sounding like a soft-spoken Darth Vader, since he had an oxygen mask covering his mouth and nose. One very elderly lady, with two middle aged men standing at her bedside wearing ball caps, blue jeans, one a white t-shirt, the other a denim work shirt, quietly discussing a concrete pouring project, while the woman lay completely still, eyes staring straight ahead.

Just as the nurse showed Celeste the bed that was to be hers for the day, next to the sliver of an oak paneled closet that would store her clothes while she was wearing her baby blue, always revealing, opening in the back hospital gown, another nurse wheeled in a patient on a gurney. She delivered the older woman to the bed directly across from Celeste’s, and announced “V___25 P___ 150” to the only other nurse in the room, the one preparing to take Celeste’s medical history once she was changed.

Celeste remembered those were the drugs she had the last time she had been here for tests. She also remembered those were some of the drugs MJ had in his bloodstream at the time of his death. They were extremely fast acting, caused amnesia too. When you woke up you felt like you had been out for only two seconds, and nothing had happened at all. It was the only thing about today she was looking forward to – the chance to think and feel nothing at all for half an hour. She realized at that moment how someone became addicted to drugs. How she could become addicted to something that made her think and feel nothing at all.

 

Mini Muffin…blessing or curse?

“Who ate just the top of the muffin, and left the stump?”

I admit it, it is always me. Everyone else in our family eats a whole muffin at a time. I only ever seem to want half, or if the muffin is large sometimes just a quarter. Even though I reassured them I would be coming back to eat the muffin stump later or perhaps the next day, they were not happy.

“Why can’t you just eat the whole muffin? Don’t leave those stumps behind, that’s gross Mom!”

“Because I only want half. I won’t waste it. I will eat it when I want another half.”

Okay, so no one in our house liked to look at muffin stumps. I got the message loud and clear. I started slicing the muffin in half vertically instead. I assumed there would be no complaints.

“Who left half a muffin in a ziplock baggie on the cupboard?”

Wow! Who knew eating half a muffin at a time was such a crime? Who were these guys in my house who all seemed to develop muffin OCD simultaneously?

I actually stopped buying muffins because I was tired of explaining it was not necessary to eat a whole muffin at one sitting. Then this summer along came Jennifer to my rescue!

Jennifer was a new vendor at our local Farmer’s Market whose summer business project was “Playing With Food” – homemade baking with gluten-free and diabetic friendly choices including mini-muffins!

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Little did Jennifer know she restored peace to muffin eating in our home. I could now eat an entire muffin with no stump or any other portion left behind to offend the muffin police.Hooray!

Over the course of the summer we tried several varieties including chai spice and cornmeal cheese, with the favourites being good ole banana chocolate chip and saskatoon berry, made with freshly picked saskatoons out of Jennifer’s backyard. Yummy!

Okay, I admit it. I could now eat more than one muffin at a time. In fact the day I brought home the saskatoon berry muffins, I am quite positive I ate the equivalent of a whole regular size muffin. Hmmm, maybe even a little more. Was just so easy to pop one of those delicious little morsels into my mouth! Fortunately no one in my family witnessed it.

Suddenly I remembered seeing a report that came out around last Halloween in which researchers concluded people who bought a bag of “mini” size chocolate bars actually consumed more calories than those who bought and ate a full-size chocolate bar. Those who ate the minis fell into the trap of ” it is just not that big, so I will have another”,  without realizing how much they actually ate.

Jennifer is done at the market for this year. Maybe I need to be done with the mini-muffins and go back to leaving stumps around for another day, muffin police be damned!

(If you would like to know more about Jennifer, an elementary teacher who loves to cook and play with food please visit her blog: “Inspired At My Island”. Her blog is filled with recipes, photos, stories about food, and food projects she has used to teach in her classroom. http://inspiredatmyisland.blogspot.ca/)

Time to share some whine. Cheers!

I know I have been away from my blog too long because I forgot my password. As my friend Melissa would say, “that is tragic”. I would like to lead you to believe I was MIA, off on some wonderful adventure. The reality is neither fun nor glamorous. I was simply sick for a week with a summer cold of the head stuffy, sneezy nose, chest congestion and cough variety following that exact sequence over the course of a week.

Following the cold virus I plummeted head first into a creative funk. I have had no desire to paint, write, or even think a single creative, original thought of my own for the last two to three weeks. The good news is I did summon enough energy to engage in a bit of a reading marathon as several books I ordered via Inter-Library Loan through the local library all arrived at the same time.

One of the books I read was “Everything Is Perfect When You Are a Liar” by Kelly Oxford. The book was welcome comedic relief in the midst of the other heavier reading I was devouring that week. I appreciated Oxford’s sarcastic storytelling. It reminded me how much fun it is to write short memoir type stories in a smart-ass, sarcastic style.  So stay tuned. You will know I am out of my post-viral funk when I get my sense of humor back. Until then, please indulge me a little whine. Cheers!

Brady Bunch House meets Playboy Mansion circa 1971

Tonight my hubby and I went to a real estate open house near where we live. The listed property is a private residence of almost 6000 sq. ft living space, with adjacent metal walled shop on 5 acre gorgeously treed and landscaped lake frontage yard.

The home was built in 1971. It would make an ideal movie set as it appears absolutely untouched since 1971! Was kind of like walking in to the Brady Bunch house meets the Playboy Mansion circa 1971. There was even original furniture from the 70s that comes with! But wait there’s more….a stereo with an 8 track! Now how’s that for an irresistible deal?

Okay, I just lied. Maybe one thing was redone since 1971 and that would be the flooring. It was definitely missing the orange, green, and/or gold shag carpet, but trust me that was the only thing not original.

My husband said if the realtor asked why we came , he was going to say “because my wife wanted to have 70s flashbacks”. I do admit it. I did enjoy the 70s!

Being priced at nearly a million dollars and requiring tens of thousands of dollars in interior renovations I find it doubtful that a private home buyer will come along to empty their pockets on renovating 6000 sq. ft.  The home has been on the market for several years already.

While perusing the house along with a couple dozen other “Looky- Lou’s”, I did mention several times that it was in the perfect location just off a major highway,  near outskirts of town, overlooking the lake (it even faces the sunsets!) for a fabulous (and I do mean fabulous darling!) restaurant.

As we drove home I continued to brainstorm several other potential ideas for the flashback house , as my husband and I now refer to it. I could not resist the urge to e-mail the real estate agent when we arrived back home:

Good evening Ms. Realtor,

It was very interesting to view the “Flashback” residence.

The house would require so many renovations to update it, I wonder how viable it is to sell as a private residence.

Perhaps the County should be consulted as to possible rezoning to “commercial”, as that might enable you to market it to a different type of potential purchaser.

My mind really got rolling when I started seeing it as a commercial property. I was completely serious when I said it would make a fabulous upscale restaurant with downstairs lounge….”Bellisima’s by the Lake” perhaps?  (Bellisima being the now deceased former original owner’s name.)

I think they missed the boat (no pun intended) with adjacent Corbin House by making it too small and without a kitchen, in such a great spot on the lake yet next to the highway and town. Does the Pike Lake Recreation Society (or whatever it is) that looks after Corbin House and the campground possibly see the potential in acquiring the neighbouring property? The house could be renovated into an event centre/ larger banquet facility / restaurant / bed & breakfast or combination thereof. Additionally, the shop if fixed up could be used in place of the tents that currently need to be set up next to Corbin House for special events. It could even be set up more formally as a “summer hall” with stage and seating for weddings, convention  / company bbqs, and concerts.

I actually was also serious when I told my husband it would make a great “Gentleman’s Club” as it is in a private location, very discrete.

(Did not tell realtor this, as I did not want her to think I was totally wacko but I thought an appropriate name for a Gentleman’s club staying true to the fur trading roots of the area might be “The Fur Trader”. Then on second thought, we do live in the era of the bikini wax so perhaps not as apropos as I initially thought. Hmmm…what about “The Beaver Lodge”?)

Or what about a private club such as the “Petroleum Club”  where people pay to join , then have access to the facilities whatever they might be such as meeting rooms / lounge / restaurant / spa.

Given the privacy and grounds it would also make a fabulous artists colony/ retreat centre where artists, visual artists / writers / musicians, could come rent room and board with studio space for weeks or months at a time to create.

As you can tell I have lots of vision. Sadly, no cash.

Good luck with your efforts to sell this diamond in the rough!

NOTE:

All of the names  / locations have been changed for purposes of this blog. If however you have lots of cash and need vision, contact me! I will tell you where it is. 060 😉