Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Jiminy Crickets

I can hear a cricket chirping.  No, I am NOT in some warm climate, camping by a creek.  I am in my house, post-holiday turkey dinner, it is minus 4,000 outside and a bloody cricket is chirping.  You see, Lenny the lizard is growing up and he requires more food.  So we began buying the ‘large’ crickets.  The reason that they are larger is because they are older and when they get older, some sprout wings.  What the hell and why me?

I have had an aversion to winged things since the time when I was four years old and was chased by geese while my parents and grandparents laughed.  I can still hear them shouting “drop the bread” while I ran and ran and was eventually bitten.  Rude!   
While I do not dislike all birds, I am not terribly fond of them either. The only bird I have ever really liked up close was a Cockatoo named Casey that my cousin had.  That bird was cool. He talked a bit and on command he would stand on top of his cage and do a head bobbing dance.  We would laugh and call it “the Stevie Wonder” (with apologies to Stevie Wonder).  The louder the music, the bigger the dance.  But I never had enough guts to hold Casey and over the years I have not developed a fondness for any other close encounter of the bird kind.  Sometimes at work the loading dock door gets left open too long and we get a sparrow inside.  Recently one made its way to back offices.  The poor thing was terrified and in a panic it flew fast and furious around the area.  I have no shame in saying that I screamed “get it out” and took cover.  No, I’m not fond of winged things.
But the crickets are not going anywhere; they are a staple in Len’s diet.  At some point I have to “man up” and deal with this chirping insect.  Lenny has not been successful in hunting the creepy thing down. In fact, he has become a little reclusive.  I think the chirping freaks him out.  This afternoon I was looking in the cage, shuddering at the wings on that bug.  Its head has changed shape too and it looks awful, akin to the head of a praying mantis. Gross. I then observed it and a couple of its nearly winged friends drinking from the water bowl like a herd of cows to the trough. At that moment I made a plan make the winged villains a little less agile by way of dehydration.  Less agile means better chances for Len for a successful hunt.  And even if the hunt fails, seeing those dudes on their backs with their toes up to the mesh lid will give us all peace of mind.

Tonight I fed and watered Len outside the cage and did not refill the water bowl inside the cage.  Len will be fine and hopefully the winged one will be gone by the morning.   In the meantime I will try not to hear the chirping.  I will probably dream of geese...

Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Tree

I picked up the Christmas tree tonight.  It is thawing.  We have always had real tree.  I like the ‘charlie brown’ style, full of holes and usually missing a limb or two.  This year’s edition is nearly 8 feet high, I had to break off part of the top as our ceilings are not that high.  It is sure to be a beauty tho.

Generally, I am the one who decorates the tree.  On my tree you will find a mishmash of ornaments.  They are not the perfectly matched units from cylinder tube costing $20.  No, my tree is full of odd pieces of history and they tell the story of my family.
The lights go on first.  I like the small lights, no blinkers, just the lovely multi-coloured rays.  The first ornaments are two that make me cry every year;  they belonged to my grandparent’s- my dad’s parents.  I do not remember giving the ornaments but I cherish them as if they were made of gold. They are old Hallmark balls that say Grama and Grampa.  The silky string that is the canvas for the bulb is getting frayed.  I always hang the balls near to each other; Grama’s just a bit higher than Grampa’s.  Dad and Grama would laugh at that, Grampa not so much.  When I put the ornaments on the tree, I feel sad that they are not here now.  I wish they knew my kids.  I wish I knew them now, as a grown up. But I know they are together, wherever they are. And I swear I feel all each person's spirit with me when I put out those ornaments.  Those two Christmas balls alone are worth half a box of kleenex. My family have learned to just say nothing and let me blubber.  I will be fine in an hour.

The other ornaments are ones that we have collected.  There is The First Christmas from 1989 and some of the other tree trimming we bought that year has survived.  I laugh when I see the Woolco price tag on the boxes. Two Baby’s First ornaments exist.   The Kids have various tree trimmings from their childhood craft times, too.  I love those the best.  My favorite of all time is the year we made clothes pin angel decorations. The pin was the body, coffee filters were cut to make wings and The Kid’s faces where the faces of the angels.  Absolutely hilarious – and perfect. The past few years we have begun to collect memories of our vacations for the tree.  I have found out this is an entirely fascinating and tacky industry; yet highly appealing.  Funny thing, I haven’t been able to find the right ornament for Maui – I guess I will have to go back to continue the search.  Last year I completed the ornaments with photos of the dogs inside.  Those make me laugh out loud.  I must get one for Lenny the Lizard.
From time to time people make jokes about the tree.   Those folks do not understand that the random collection of things is really the true reflection of this family, of this house, of these four walls.  It is a snap shot of time over many years.  Nothing on the tree matches, nothing is perfect.  It is a real tree.  Pass the tissues.

Saturday, November 17, 2012


Today I was in a hockey rink that I have never been to before and yet it was exactly the same as all the others.  Some rinks are built with bricks, some are the tin can variety, and some are throw backs to another era with wooden benches.  Two things remain universal inside every rink: 1) everyone’s opinion of what the “right” call the referee should make is different and 2) the loudest person in the rink usually knows the least about the game.

As I stood there today, I realized that I have been in four different rinks in the past two weeks.  This is not earth shattering but it is odd since I am no longer a ‘hockey mom’.  The Boy is an adult and my role is no longer chauffer.  I am a mere fan.  I love it.  I simply show up when I am ready, watch the game and the leave at my leisure.  I treasure his nod of the helmet acknowledgement I receive – once - during the game.  Last week I went to a game and it was a real treat to run into another hockey mom that I haven’t seen in ages.  We agreed it was good fun to see the boys (for they will always be the boys, not men) on the ice together again.  Gone are all parental delusions of grandeur, these boys are playing for fun only.  This rink is brick rink with wooden benches and the flooring looked like it had been redone since the last time I was there. 
Earlier in the week I was loitering in the community rink looking at old hockey team pictures.  It was really, really hard to find The Boy amongst all the faces.  I tried doing the math of how old he was in 2005 or 2007 and what level that age is and then figured out if Atom came before or after PeeWee and what year did he not play because of the broken wrist….Oy.  I ended up relying on the coaches to landmark the years. I laughed at the pictures of hockey hair and smiled at the memories.  Sadly, the boys will not be playing in this rink again – no ice time available.  This rink is made of bricks and cement.  It has remained the same through all of our years of hockey.

Last weekend my little niece asked me to come to her skating lesson.  I found it odd to be sitting there with my little brother watching his daughter navigate the ice.  As we adults talked I kept remembering him learning to skate when he was about the same age.  There are still moments when I find it hard to believe he is a parent – because he has always been my little brother.  But there he is doing up skates and zipping jackets and this little girl calls him dad.  It was one of those full circle moments.  This rink was more bricks than tin and so new it does not yet have smell of frozen sweat permeating through it.
And that brings me to today. When I am watching a game, I prefer to stand at one end of the rink, just off to the side of the net. I was standing there today, Tim’s cuppa steeped tea resting on the ledge, watching another niece play in a girl’s hockey tournament.   Many years ago The Girl played a season of girl's hockey before deciding it wasn’t for her.  Her games were usually in a community rink with a terrible viewing area.  She did not have any tournaments other than the standard minor hockey week tourney.  This was a very short lived hockey career and yet very memorable. I’m not even sure The Girl owns skates now.  Today’s rink was like a tin can, metal frame, tin roof, metal seating.  It had the rink smell, the loud ‘fan’ and young referees being judged by the crowd.  New rink for me but it was oddly familiar. Good game, too.   

Monday, October 15, 2012


Once upon a time I went to Maui.  It was such an adventure for me.  I had never travelled any great distance by myself. Prior trips I had made were with The Husband or friends.  But one day I got on a plane, by myself and went West.  I landed in complete darkness and was immediately assaulted by the humidity of Maui.  It took my breath away.  I was in heaven.  I easily found my luggage and made my way to the car rental.  Once in the car I drove away from the city lights into the darkness of the valley to Kihei and it was as if I had been there before.   I had studied the maps and had a good idea of the roads and in the dead of the night I found my way to a condo that I had never seen before.  It was a ground level walkout to the ocean.  When I opened the patio doors I couldn’t see the ocean, it was too dark.  I could hear it though, and I could taste it.  I left the condo and found my way to grocery store to get coffee and the basics of breakfast.  When I got back I fell asleep hard.  I was exhausted. 

Something woke me up super early the next morning.  I went to the kitchen and as I looked out, there was a field of sculpted grass and the ocean. The sun was just rising.  I opened the patio door and walked to the embankment before the ocean and just stood there.  It was perfect.  Eventually I dipped a toe in the water then made my way back to the condo.  Coffee in hand, I took up a perch on the lanai and never moved for hours. I just listened to the ocean. I did this for 7 mornings. To the left of lanai was the pool area with the umbrella chairs and community bbqs.  The caretaker was washing off everything, a task I learned he did every day.  A couple took off for a run each morning, returning to do stretchy things in the sun.  I could have done without seeing the stretching but I appreciated their dedication to the run.  I brought my shoes but they remained untouched the entire week.  I just let the island recharge me.  In the beginning, I explored the island by myself.   The Husband flew in a couple days after me and I was so happy to be the one to show him around a new area.  The Husband has travelled much more than I, but he agreed that Maui was a special place.  We drove to the top of a volcano and felt like we really were at the top of the world.  We also drove on the “do not drive here” part of the island.  It is a one lane road with two-way traffic.  Amazing adventure – so good.
My best lesson to learn was on day one.  Earlier that day I had read a bit about the trade winds and how a person needs to heed and plan around them.  I discounted the winds until about 2:30PM when the first gust hit and never stopped.  It was amazing.  Relentless.  Because of where I was on the island, the wind was stronger.  It funneled in through the valley and exploded down the seaside sometimes carrying dirt from the cane fields. The wind also started a game for me to see who is ”the newbie” arrival at the condo.  Folks would be sitting around the pool with the umbrellas up and when the wind hit, the man would get up to hold the umbrella.  After about 10 minutes, a “local” would let him know that the wind wouldn’t be stopping for another 10 hours.  Good entertainment from my deck chair.  That was also my cue to take on a new adventure or go get fish tacos.

Soon The Husband and I are returning to Maui.  Same condo, new adventure.  This time it will have a different feel because we have been there before.  I am loving that. I know there are new things to discover.  The Husband was back once already to ride his bike up the volcano.  I told him this time I will drop him off at the top and he can coast his way down.  I look forward to setting up a new perch to wait for him.  I might even take my running shoes and use them this time.  I do not need the same level of recharge as I did last time.  I look forward to the wind, fish tacos, good coffee, spending time looking at ocean at sunrise and planning for what is next in our crazy life. This is good. Aloha.

Friday, September 7, 2012


It has been an interesting couple of days.  Two notable things happened this week.  Leonard got new skin and I took a chance.

This morning as I was walking by Lenny the Lizard’s cage I tossed over the usual “Good Morning Leonard”.  Out of the corner of my eye I thought he had two heads. As it turns out he was shedding his skin and the two headed effect was a result of the cracking of the old skin off of his head.  He is a reclusive nocturnal dude and I have never seen the actual shedding process.  It is pretty cool and it made me a few minutes late for work.  Well, 20 minutes late. The gross part is that he eats his old skin but that is another topic. 
I took a chance on a crazy ad to sell my remaining inventory of jerseys – and it worked! Who knew?  Six emails and two phone calls later and it all will leave on Monday.  I have had a business selling hockey jerseys for the last 6 years.  The Husband and I had the mesh spun and jerseys manufactured for us from a friend in Asia. We imported 15,000 pieces and JJ’s Jerseys was born.  It has been a successful run and I have met super people. Hockey guys are great to deal with. Over time my inventory has dwindled and I feel the business has run its course.  As a result I have been left sitting with a mix of leftover sizing in my garage – until now.   Not only does this sale mean The Boy has more room for his social life in the garage (he has a poker den for his friends) but it is a big weight off my back. And rather than me having to pay to landfill the jerseys someone is buying them from me and they are picking them up.  I am pretty freaking happy about the entire scenario.

Tonight I walked by the lizard’s cage and tossed over the usual “Good Night Leonard”.  He was resting proudly in his new suit of armour, pulling off the last bits of his old skin from his toes.  He looks fresh.  Tomorrow I think I will put on my weekend bra and dye my hair.  Why not?  Life is good.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012


So it is back to school day today.  This day ushers in the return to routine for many folks.  It is kind of a late year new resolution time.  Back to the gym or to eating right or to regular bedtimes.    For me it is some of that but mostly it is back to the future for me.

No, I do not have a Delorean – sad face – but I do have a bit of a time machine:  Old photos.  They capture moments in time.  I tried my very best to be that mom who took the photo of the kids on their first day of school.  I have many of the early years and I will freely admit that at least one was taken a day or so late.  But somewhere around junior high those ended.  Probably a mix of teenage distain towards me and my overwhelming relief that they were out the door for 6 to 8 hours per day lead to this photographic documentation breakdown.  I admit to celebrating more than one back to school moment with a shot of Baileys in my coffee and toast to me for not being arrested for a rendering a child silent over the super special summer break.
Today I have a different non-Baileys toast though (non-Baileys becasue I have to go to work soon).  This toast is not to me but to The Kids.  I toast them for having graduated high school.  I toast them for having at least one good friend that they can count on and a few more waiting in the wings.  I toast them for both being strong enough people to know what they do not want – for now – because they have the rest of their life to figure out what they do want.  I toast them for making me (and The Husband) crazy with some of their choices and decisions and having the fortitude to challenge ours.  I toast them for being good people with big hearts and open minds.

Life lessons cannot be taught.  They have to be lived.  I am not a teacher of such lessons but I am a student.  Every day opens a new chapter and it is up to me to let the lesson of that day resonate.  My photo today looks different than it did 14 years ago.  The Girl was out the door early to work on her way to her next chapter.  The Boy was gone soon after on his way to his new beginning, text book in hand.  The Husband is immersed in his next edition.  And me, at the moment I am hanging with The Dogs before work.  And this is all good.  It is time to put the back pack on and get learning.