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Friday, November 6, 2009

not gone, just probably forgotten

So, hello there. How've you been? Good, good. Having managed to drag yourself from your sick bed to read this, I'm glad to hear you're still alive although possibly not well.

I have been gone, lo these many days, not because of illness, unless it was African sleeping sickness. It would appear I slept October completely away.

But lest you think I was completely slothful last month, I spent a good deal of my waking hours trying to acquire a costume for She Who Does Not Obey who had decided to be a black cat this year.

Last year I helped my mother make SWDNO a Jasmine costume, which took several weeks to do, what with the trip to the fabric store scrounging for just the right shade of aqua silk amongst the fabric ends, the cutting of many oddly-shaped pieces, and the tricky sewing. My mother did all the tricky sewing, however. I did manage to jerry-rig a matching costume for SWDNO's Webkinz chihuahua, Ruffer, though.

Unfortunately, the Jasmine pattern came with an Ariel pattern as well, so SWDNO had declared that she was going to be Ariel next. I felt guilty that my mother had done the lion's share of the work, so I was determined to do more of the work on Ariel even though I had no idea when I would find the time. Ruffer was sure to demand her matching outfit as well.

So when SWDNO declared at the end of September that Ariel's services were no longer required, I was delighted. Black cat was going to be a slam dunk. Black clothes we've got, all we needed were some pointy ears and a tail.

That of course was before the two of us spent three weekends at three different stores trying to find said items. And when we couldn't find what we came for, she still managed to talk me into spending ridiculous amounts of money on spooky Halloween props for a "Tunnel of Doom" she wanted to set up in our foyer - only to have the Tunnel cancelled because several of the things we bought gave her the willies.

Our third store was sure to be the charm, I thought, given that it's the most popular one in town for cheap costumes. Still we were forced to wander aimlessly through the store for ages, like zombies in a vegetable patch, unable to uncover a single feline accessory until we devoured, I mean, engaged the help of a staff member who actually worked in the Halloween section.

Then, when we got it home, the dog ate the cat costume.

Finally we arrived on the all-sainted day, new costume purchased albeit briefly misplaced, only to have a new concern on the horizon. One of her friends down the street had come down with the H1N1 virus.

Everyone in town had been in a mad panic to get the vaccination the day before Halloween after those two kids died up in Ontario, causing the provincial government to crack down and enforce restrictions on who was to be vaccinated. My kid was too damn healthy and too damn old, at the tender age of eight, so she was out of luck.

The news agencies reported that people were considering not going out this year, trying to limit contact with possible sources of contagion, aka candy givers. Most of my acquaintances reported a reduction in the number of kids who came to their doors.

We went trick-or-treating despite it all and survived the experience - even while accompanied by the younger sister of her afflicted friend.

Now we are waiting for our turn at vaccination to come, attempting to fortify ourselves with the large candy stash SWDNO has hidden away in a Secret Box in her bedroom - the location of which is no secret to anyone, the dog included.

Half my choir is missing in action this week, which wasn't that disturbing until today when some of the previously absent reappeared, coughing vigourously throughout the session.

I had the urge to shout "Stop spraying your filthy germs on me you plague-infested swine!" but somehow managed to restrain myself.

Not that I'm getting paranoid or anything.

Still if you would kindly coat yourself in Purell before your next visit, it would be greatly appreciated.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

sing low

I did something very unexpected and impulsive last week.

I joined a choir.

I am just that kind of a wild and crazy girl.

I haven't sung in a choir since high school, or was it junior high?

I don't remember high school singing, but I do remember being in Glee Club in junior high - sadly not in the least bit like the new tv show. I really liked being in the Glee Club, but there was one thing I could never come to terms with.

Mrs. Dawson made me sing alto.

I didn't like singing alto. Altos are the third class citizens of the all-girl choir, let me tell you.

Altos sing the same note over and over and over until suddenly they don't and where that next note is supposed to be was usually beyond me. I couldn't seem to anticipate it.

I absolutely love to sing but hated the struggle to figure out just what notes I was supposed to be singing. I have a pretty good memory for songs I like, for anything with a good hook, but we were usually given a few cursory runs through the alto line and then left to fend for ourselves while the sopranos and 2nd sopranos got to breeze through the melody lines.

The fun parts. The parts that made the songs so memorable. The parts that made you want to sing the songs in the first place.

When I was in the 9th grade, our school staged Oliver, one of my favourite musicals. So many of those songs are wonderfully singable - although some of the lyrics (Consider Yourself, Food Glorious Food, I'd Do Anything) are practically impossible to remember if you are a lazy 14-year-old trying to coast by on the memories of other 14-year-olds who were hoping you were going to memorize it.

On the other hand, if called upon, I could belt out every verse of Who Will Buy, including the introductory bits sung by the chorus. It is a lovely song with sopranos offering "ripe strawberries ripe" and 2nd sopranos plaintively calling for someone to "buy my sweet red roses". I could totally hit those notes too, but instead I was called upon to offer "knives, knives to grind" hitting mournful notes that still grind on my nerves.

I suppose the part is actually for bass voices, but while we had many boys in the production, we were in junior high after all - very few testicles had dropped sufficiently at that point to produce sounds low enough. The altos were probably the only ones man enough to do it.

To make matters worse, we had to come in a half beat behind everyone else, on an obscure note that none of us could recognize if it had jumped up and grabbed us by our non-existant balls. Our Nancy, the female lead, was recruited to bring us in somewhere in the approximate vicinity of the correct time.

If all these sour grapes lead you to believe that the part I really wanted to sing was that of the female lead, then you would be right. I did want that part and I tried out for it, but I was no match for the girl who rightfully got the lead. She had a strong, beautiful, mature voice with a terrific range that I never could have matched. She did us proud.

I think that I am a pretty good singer but my difficulties with singing alto convinced me that I was inappropriately placed. I was convinced that my music teacher had never listened to my voice long enough to know what I should be singing.

So when the opportunity to join this choir came along the other day, with the offer of placing you in a section based on a quick check of your range, I jumped at the chance.

I went to the class and eagerly stepped up for my turn to sing my scales.

So the guy listens to me strain for the highest notes and then comfortably sing the low and he pronounces my sentence: Alto 2.

In horror, I begged and was granted the small mercy of Alto 1, but my dreams of singing the goddamn tune already were finally and irrevocably dashed. My voice has betrayed me.

So now I am trying to make the best of it, dusting off my sight-reading skills (almost non-existant), and listening really hard to the ladies sitting around me who apparently know what the hell they are doing.

The first song we are singing is an excerpt from a larger piece. I don't know what it is called, the only thing identifying it is the handwritten word "Pink". I think this might be the composer, although I'm pretty sure it's not this Pink what with it being in Latin and all.

After a few classes, I was starting to think I'd never get anywhere, my memory of the chorus consisting of this:

Gloria in excelsis deo / something something SOMEthing /
some somethingy thing / thingy voluntatis

Also that there was something in there about a minibus.

But then by the fourth class, I suddenly had that, all two lines of it. I felt proud of myself for about two minutes until we got started on the verses and I quickly got in over my head again. By verse 3, we were singing about Chakotay in something or other. I'm still not sure how the tune goes, losing my place on the sheet music quite easily, so I continue to listen hard and try to fake the tougher bits until I have heard it sung correctly enough by my better trained compadres to follow suit.

I will try not to be discouraged. It helps that today the instructor mentioned that composers were not very imaginative when it came to writing alto parts and that they were hard to sing. So I guess it's not just me, then.

I am enjoying it at least even if I still feel the need to mutter under my breath from time to time.

I will go on singing about Chakotay on a minibus at least until the Christmas concert and then we shall see.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

down on the labrador

Looking back at it now, I would say that Her Father married me under false pretenses.

When I met him 14 years ago, one of the things that convinced me that he was a nice guy was the fact that he had a dog, a beautiful blonde collie-cross named Becky.

Becky was one of the nicest dogs I have ever met. She had the sweetest disposition, gentle and calm, and to top it off was incredibly obedient. You could let her off-leash on any trail and she always came running with her tail wagging when you called her back. She was welcome at all of our friend's houses at any time because she could always be counted on to behave.

She absolutely adored Her Father, to the point that she would follow him to the bathroom when we were visiting anywhere and whine outside the door.

Since she was such an outstanding canine, I guess I took it for granted that Her Father had great judgment and taste when it came to choosing dogs, not to mention some mad training skillz.

I really should have considered the implications of how she came into his life a little more closely, however.

Her Father had gone to the SPCA to pick out a dog, still unsure whether he really wanted to take on the responsibility. After looking at all the dogs, he decided on a black dog but still couldn't commit so he went away to have a coffee and think about it some more.

When he got back, having decided to go for it, the black dog had already been adopted so he chose Becky instead. It was an incredible stroke of luck that we all appreciated for the next 13 years.

When Becky was 14, she died. We spent far too much on an operation that gave her only six extra weeks, but although it gave us some time to prepare She Who Does Not Obey for the inevitable, we were all devastated when it happened.

It wasn't long before Her Father started thinking about getting another dog, but instead of looking at blondes, he returned to his original plans of getting a black dog.

Two months later, he received an email from a friend in Labrador offering him a black labrador-cross puppy, by name of Shadow. Her Father had been to Labrador for work during that time and had coveted many stray puppies he'd seen down there*, so we decided it was a sign that Shadow was meant for us.

Shadow was a sweet dog and a pretty dog too. But he was what they call in the dog training trade "batshit crazy."

He was all go all the time, ready to play with whatever came to mouth, chewing every toy he could find including many of those belonging to She Who Does Not Obey, who was only 4-years old at the time. Many tears were shed, hers over favourite playthings, mine in frustration at trying to explain yet another senseless stuffed toy death.

We tried to keep him in dog toys, but he destroyed every one, pieces of rubber balls and chewtoys decorating the poop we picked up after him. The only toy he couldn't manage to decimate was a Kong.

He also had a great fondness for footwear, especially Her Father's slippers which had to be replaced every other week. He chewed great chunks out of my winter boots and ate the entire leather upper of my walking sandals, leaving behind only the rubber sole. We had to hide our shoes behind a folding door which he was quite capable of opening with a nudge of his nose. We were constantly thinking up new ways to wedge the door shut as he figured out how to get around all our defenses.

We were forced to buy him a kennel for him to sleep in at night and stay in while we were gone because he could get bored at any time or the day or night and something had to pay for that.

When he wasn't laying waste to our footwear and toys, he was trying to hoist his 70 pounds into Her Father's lap trying to get him to play with him. If he came to me, he would nudge me for attention but if I made the mistake of patting him, he would be all over me demanding I play with him as well. He didn't have an off switch.

Walks were more like drags, with him pulling us around the block. One winter's day, he pulled extra hard while I was on a patch of ice on a hill and I fell backwards, smacking my head on the pavement.

Unfortunately we were low energy owners with a high energy dog and we were tearing our hair out trying to deal with him. Our dog trainer looked at us with disdain for our lack of enthusiasm for what was required to give our dog the time and attention he needed/demanded if we wished to keep any of the consumer goods we dared to bring into the house.

This went on for a year until one November day, suddenly, Shadow got sick. He wouldn't eat, he could hardly stand. We rushed him to the vet and found out he had low hemoglobin. Steroids and a transfusion provided no help, so we were forced to make a terrible decision.

We stood by his side, Her Father and I, as he breathed his last. It broke our hearts all over again. As much as we despaired of ever turning him into a well-behaved dog, it turned out we loved the troublemaking mutt.

We decided to take a break at that point, no more dogs until after our long-planned spring trip to Disney World.

But had Her Father learned his lesson about the dangers of brunettes (BTW guess what colour my hair is)? The answer to that question will have to wait for another post.

*In Newfoundland, you go "down north" to Labrador, hence the expression "down on the labrador" meaning to be there.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

undead update

She Who Does Not Obey announced the other day that she is totally over the zombie thing.

She demonstrated her resolve by walking unconcerned into a graveyard in Trinity and looking with some interest at a bunch of really old gravestones.

There is a new fear on the horizon, however.

The new Number One Threat? Bears.

No, she hasn't joined the Colbert Nation, she just spent some time in Terra Nova National Park where the bears make free with the local garbage dumps and occasionally visit the camp sites.

Not that we actually saw a single bear while we were there. But her cousin Destructo counted 16 bears at the dump, although he said there were actually 20 there (the new math?)

At least I am not responsible for the bears in her head.

Also, she's not too keen on the spiders who enjoy hanging out in blueberry patches.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

the labs are revolting

I know I haven't blogged in a while, but in my defense it's not as bad as it looks. My last post was actually posted on August 2nd, not July 26th. I think that's when I started to write it, though.

I shall attempt to do better, if only to try a short entry. Although looking back on my posts, I don't think it's possible for me to write a short post.

The rampaging labs will probably keep me to my word this time.

I promise to tell you the origin story of the rampaging labs someday when I'm not supposed to be keeping it short. The short version is that we have two black lab crosses to our name who are called Hearts and Sylvie. They have just recently graduated from being in their kennels all night to being left loose in the kennel room, penned in only by a flimsy folding door.

When they were kenneled, they would usually stay quiet until our alarm went off, or until one of us could wait no longer to make an early morning trip to the potty or She Who Does Not Obey woke up early and pitter-patted down the hall.

As soon as Hearts heard the slightest sound of consciousness from any of us, he would commence with the whining and complaining until Her Father or I could stand it no longer and go down and release them both from our misery.

Now that they are thank God Almighty free at last, we get an early morning canine invader at any time, starting from 5:40 fucking a.m. onwards. We would close our bedroom door to keep them out, but our bedroom door sticks and since She Who Does Not Obey is a frequent late night caller, we always keep it open.

Her Father went away for a week this past Sunday, so I have been sharing my bed with She Who Does Not Obey. One 6 a.m. wakeup call was all the inspiration I needed to realize I didn't have to keep my door open anymore.

So every glorious morning this week, I have been awakened by my alarm and not by a cold nose in my face.

The very next sound I hear is the jingle of dog tags right outside my door. Each morning, though, the jingle has seemed more and more impatient.

This morning, the jingle was shortly followed by an indeterminate noise, a something not quite identifiable, but definitely the sound of labs up to no good.

They haven't chewed/destroyed anything in quite some time, but the night before last, I had found a torn Pooh Bear pillow minus stuffing on the floor and knew the situation required immediate attention.

I rushed downstairs to find the Pooh Bear pillow in tatters and a stuffed toy deer on the top of the stairs. The deer was not torn in any way, but clearly had spent some time in a lab's drooly maw.

I got the message loud and clear, however.

Either the labs get full access or Bambi gets it.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

whistling past the graveyard

Her Father was not very impressed with my decision to allow our daughter to watch the dreaded Michael Jackson video, dismissing my argument that she had chosen to watch even though she had been warned against it. He was especially not impressed two weeks ago when She Who Does Not Obey requested that we take a different route to soccer.

Unfortunately, the most direct route goes right past a graveyard.

The zombies had been beaten back, but were regrouping and making yet another assault.

We recommended that she close her eyes until we were past and afterwards attempted a rerouting but found it impractical. This became particularly clear when we drove down to our cabin the following weekend and she discovered two cemeteries on our route, one of which is right at the beginning of the dirt road leading to the cabin itself.

I had long ceased to see these cemeteries, but they lunged right out at her at every turn.

I tried to think of things she could do to make her feel safe again so I thought back to my own first defenses.

My first memorable childhood monsters were formed through an act of willfulness as well. We were at a screening of The Jungle Book and my big sister warned me not to watch the trailers at the beginning. I ignored her of course, my curiosity piqued beyond any sense of self preservation.

I have no idea what the movies were called, but one was about man with no face, or more acurately a man with the shape of a face but no eyes or orifices to speak of. I can still see scenes from it in my mind to this day.

The other movie was about trees that for some inexplicable reason turned into monsters as soon as it got dark.

There was no possible way to avoid trees no matter how circuitous a route I planned, so I remember many times going home in the dark, walking a tightrope at the farthest edge of the sidewalk, trying to stay out of the reach of the saplings on the neighbourhood lawns. If our neighbours had sprung for more imposing trees, who knows how I would have ever gotten home.

But at night in bed, I built my defenses based on what I had seen in the trailer. A man had been badly hurt by the trees and I noticed that he was bleeding out of the right side of his mouth, a large white bandage wrapped around his stomach.

Therefore as long as I slept on my stomach with the right side of my face touching my pillow, I would obviously be safe.

I also pulled the blanket tight up under my chin to protect against the vampires I noted in a coming attraction poster in the theatre lobby on the way out (didn't I mention already that I am a wuss?). The faceless men, monster trees, and vampires could never get past my defenses, perhaps meeting each other below my window and warning latecomers off with a defeated shake of the head.

How I thought these things would keep me safe, I don't know, but I believed in them so strongly that I was able to go to sleep at night despite all the monsters lying in wait for me. I believed in them because I needed to believe in them.

It occurs to me now that most of the defenses against the dark arts are just as ridiculous. Were my little rituals really any different from garlic, crosses, holy water? Circles in the sand. Salt at the door.

The common thread with all these protections is belief. If we can convince ourselves that a blanket tucked under the chin will keep us safe, then we are safe.

For every imaginary monster that preys on our minds, we create the corresponding silver bullet.
But since the only way to defeat zombies in the movies involves a lot of head bashing and decapitation, I found myself at a loss to find a talisman that would work for She Who Does Not Obey. She is not very handy with a baseball bat, she can't always be on the 2nd or 3rd floor, and there will always be another graveyard to pass.

So I have tried to arm her now with the most powerful weapon I could find - a true story.

But the truth is a slow acting agent when dealing with creatures of imagination; we need practice to make it strong enough to fight the monsters on their own ground.

The other day as we drove to the cabin I told SWDNO about how I had fought off a terrible fear of my own and how I did it with a simple little chant, "Planes like turbulence." It was a comforting tidbit I had found on a fear of flying website and I latched on to it like a cricket bat at a zombie banquet. The fear didn't vanish overnight (more like over several years), but every time we hit turbulence, I'd close my eyes and repeat those words to myself until I finally started to believe them.

Maybe it would work for her too. All she had to do was say these words to herself as we passed the cemetery, "There's no such thing as zombies. There's no such thing as zombies."

I wasn't sure if she had tried it when we passed the first one, but by the time we got to the second one, she cried out, "It's working already!"

She is obviously a much quicker study than her mother.

So now we can drive past graveyards again, but the zombie alert status is still in flux. At least it hasn't returned to critical levels. For now, we will keep surrounding ourselves with circles made of words that will someday be true.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009


While I was tweaking my last post for publication the other day I had a sudden crisis of conscience. I knew She Who Does Not Obey was embarrassed about her zombiephobia and didn't want anyone to know about it. She wouldn't even let me tell her camp counselor to take the proper precautions, i.e. locate the nearest weapons cache and practice bashing heads with them.

Although I am maintaining a secret identity, so that I might fight internet crime more effectively, the only readers I have know who I am (that is as far as I know - does anyone know how to install a site meter?).

Ny niece Drama Queen knows I have a blog and I knew she had probably read at least one post. SWDNO was going to hear about it if I didn't tell her first.

As good as the story was, it was not a story wholly my own. I had only partial ownership.

And if that wasn't enough, I also knew what it was like to be the subject of someone else's tale.

My father was a newspaper columnist who wrote about the outdoors, but from time to time, he peopled his column with characters who he claimed to be his actual family. We shared the same names and birth order, but there were times when we found it difficult to recognize ourselves.

Once we hit puberty, it became especially embarrassing to face our friends the morning after the column appeared. My sister TR gained the horrifying (to her) nickname of "Nature Girl" after one such column declared her absolute devotion to the great outdoors, although my father was apparently the only one who had observed said devotion.

Our avatars were often called upon to express a childlike wonder at some aspect of nature according to the demands of the topic of the day. I expect we actually did say such things once upon a time, but as teenagers we would rather eat dirt than make such uncool utterings.

As for me, it seemed that he saw me as a pig-tailed innocent and not the badass teen I truly was. But since my badassery consisted solely of watching my friends smoke, and watching my friends drink, and learning to identify the sickly sweet scent of a joint without ever trying one myself, he probably had me down better than I was willing to admit at the time.

However, to my dying day I will always deny ever having said "The plot thickens."

A girl has to maintain some dignity, after all.

But whether I agreed or disagreed with how I was portrayed, my father was a writer and his topic was his life. My four siblings and I were inextricably part of his life and so many of his experiences of the outdoors. There was no way for him to take us out of his writing without leaving out something that he felt was important and true.

He had his share of hunting and fishing trips with the boys, but I think that he spent far more time taking his children out into the wilds of Newfoundland and sharing his love of this wonderful island with us. We spent most of our summers travelling around the island, first sleeping in a tent when our baby snowsuits served as sleeping bags, then later in a trailer that somehow managed to sleep seven.

When I was ten or so, my parents sold our trailer and built a cabin just a short 20 minute drive from our home, but to this day it still feels like you are as far removed from the city as anyone could wish. We spent all our summers there from that point on, my father loved it so. And despite our adolescent posing to the contrary, we loved it too. We still love it and still share it.

Given all of that, I can see no way for him to remove us from his story when he took such trouble to make us a part of it.

But he must have made some decisions about what he would and wouldn't write, some boundaries he wouldn't cross.

While I was writing my zombie post, I felt like I was dangerously close to a boundary I shouldn't cross at least not without a letter of transit.

This was brought home to me quite obviously while I was editing my work. She was hanging off of me, clambering over the couch I was on, sitting on my shoulders as I typed. She could hardly fail to catch the occasional word on my screen.

It was then that I confessed all, allowing her to read selected passages, but not all - there being certain details of zombie behaviour I wished to convey to you but not share with her. When fighting off the undead, discretion can be the better part of valour.

In the end, I got her blessing, her desire to be an internet celebrity outweighing her self-consciousness I guess.

So I expect you will see She Who Does Not Obey appearing on these pages for some time to come, but I will try to weigh my need to tell a tale against her need to protect her own story as she sees fit.

She is so much a part of me, that I'm afraid I cannot tell you about me without telling you about her. It's the price you pay for proximity.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

i blame michael jackson

Last night, She Who Does Not Obey told me she couldn’t go to sleep because she was afraid of zombies. (Freakin' zombies!)

In the end it turned out she could. It was later than I had been hoping for but that is often the case for many non-zombie related reasons I shall not go into at this time.

She had hinted at a zombie-phobia before, but it had never really caused a problem.

Then, this morning, she was shuffling slowly along, getting ready for summer camp, when a horrified cry rang out from the bathroom. I raced to her side, after putting the last few items into her lunchbag, picking up a dirty sock, and hiding the toast scraps from the rampaging black labs.

It was a Catastrophe of Monumental Proportions!

She had accidentally scraped something off her teeth with her fingers right after wiping herself but before washing her hands!

She was unclear as to where the something went after she got it off her teeth. She had immediately washed her hands and then brushed her teeth, but she had still PUT HER FINGERS IN HER MOUTH WITHOUT WASHING HER HANDS AND DIDN’T KNOW WHERE THE SOMETHING WENT. She may have swallowed it!

I told her that this was okay and that a one-time failure in the bathroom hygiene department wasn’t going to make her sick/kill her/turn her into a zombie (I don't believe I actually mentioned zombies at this point). But she refused to listen to my logic and positively refused to shuffle along any further.

Then she suddenly developed a bad belly as she is wont to do. So I called her bluff and called Grandma to look after her (Grandma, alas, was not available). She positively refused to go to Grandma's anyway.

Then she finally revealed to me that the problem was actually three-pronged.

First it was the NOT WASHING HER HANDS thing.

Then it was her Slight Belly Ache.

Third and most important of all was the T-Word!
(which is our current code for the Michael Jackson Thriller video)

Curse you Michael Jackson!

It’s all his fault really.

If only SWDNO's dance school had not presciently decided to do a medley of MJ songs at the year-end recital, including Thriller and zombie dancers who recreated moves from the video. Then Drama Queen (SWDNO's 11-year-old cousin) wouldn't have seen it and been intrigued, prompting me to tell her about the video.

Drama Queen wanted to watch the video but she didn’t want to watch it alone - she tried once but couldn't make it all the way through. Her 8-year-old brother Destructo and SWDNO were curious as well and refused to leave the room for the viewing.

It was then I lost my mind, thinking it would be okay because I remembered the video as being really funny. I had completely forgotten about how it’s really not so funny until the zombies start to dance. Plus I forgot that 8-year olds have a very underdeveloped sense of black humour at least where horror movies are concerned.

SWDNO claimed it was okay and I thought I had dodged a bullet. In any case, I didn’t hear any more about it until last week when Michael Jackson decided to up and die on me. His sense of black humour was apparently quite developed.

When that happened, it seemed to have unleashed a zombie horde into the world at large. She could not go to camp because she was afraid of the them.

I told her zombies don’t exist, but she wasn’t buying it.

I told her zombies don’t exist, but if they did exist they only come out at night, but she insisted they come out in the day. I felt bad about that because that is in fact a lie – zombies do not have a problem with daylight.

(She is now very suspicious about the nocturnal habits of werewolves as well)

I told her that zombies are very stupid and slow and that if the idiots in Shaun of the Dead can defeat them, anyone can. I did not mention that the majority of the cast of Shaun of the Dead end up dead or zombies or dead zombies.

I described the scene where Shaun and his friend Ed go through Shaun's record collection and have oodles of time to debate the merits of various albums before deciding which ones to throw at the advancing zombies. She thought that was funny.

After she had determined that there were still things to laugh at in this zombie-plagued world, I was finally able to convince her to go down the stairs, put on her sandals, pick up her cricket bat and start beating her way to the car.

I was 45-minutes late for work.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

zombies on the brain

I have never been a fan of horror movies because basically I am a big wimp.

The horrific images stay with me far too long, lurking in dark corners, creeping down shadowy halls with quiet creaks that almost sound like footsteps, as I try to steel my way to bed at night.

But ever since I saw An American Werewolf in London over 20 years ago, I have made an exception for those horror movies that also make me laugh.

The movie is about a young man backpacking through Europe who gets attacked by a werewolf. I saw it when I was a young woman backpacking through Europe while staying at a youth hostel in Switzerland, the audience all young people backpacking through Europe. We laughed at the references that hit home for us, visiting strange taverns, speaking with odd locals. We laughed as the hostel staff rewound the video tape and added their own Moondance to the sounds of Van Morrison (this movie has a kickass moon soundtrack).

But there are also horribly bloody scenes and scares and frights that are (mostly) leavened with a dark sense of humour that made them bearable to me. Making this the first horror movie I actually enjoyed.

However, I'm sure none of us in the audience that night were too keen to go exploring the moors on foggy nights any time soon.

Since that night, I have found myself venturing off the main road and onto the foggy moors of horror movies, looking for the ones that provided that loopy mix of comedy and horror. But those kind of movies are few and far between.

I found one last night in Shaun of the Dead.

I have stayed away from zombie movies even when I knew they had a sense of humour. The Evil Dead movies in particular have attracted but repelled me as well. The scenes of zombies pounding at windows, trapping their would-be victims in the false safety of their homes, falling on the unlucky ones and the gore that follows. Too intense for me, too unrelenting and hopeless for the desperate souls trying to survive their night of terror.

But I made an exception for Shaun of the Dead because I heard it was so funny. And it is.

Shaun and his friends are leading a zombie existence even before the terror descends, and it is hard to figure out at first when the real zombies have actually shown up. The movie shows us that the drudgery of every day life often causes people to move through their lives with the same sort of lost zombie shuffle, but at least with less bloody show.

The crisis forces Shaun to shake off his inaction and turns him into a cricketbat-wielding action hero, albeit one who chooses rather inopportune moments to finally address the factors that are holding him back from a fuller life, e.g. it is inadvisable to confront your boyhood pal about his juvenile ways while dozens of zombies are advancing upon you. The zombies may be slow, but they have no patience and will not wait for you to obtain closure.

Ironically, what makes the movie so funny is that it can also be very scary. Its climactic moments have just the kind of scenes that I find so hard to put out of my mind, but with a delicious black-humoured spin that makes me laugh and breaks my heart all at once.

Like all zombie movies, too many people you care about fall along the way, often because they are too busy arguing about the stuff that they are normally too afraid to confront, e.g. it is inadvisable to defend your prior questionable behaviour while standing in front of window being pressed upon by relentless zombies.

Zombies eat that stuff up.

Afterwards, even though the crisis ends with some survivors and the movie ends on a laugh, I found myself with a sense of unease. Her Father turned to me and told me it was time for bed, yet I did not feel like I wanted to go to bed.

I thought of staying downstairs and watching tv for a while afterwards but then looked suspiciously at the basement windows, one cracked, the other with the exterior pane broken out by rampaging black labs - how long could they withstand a zombie attack?

I went to bed instead, trying to read the zombies out of my head, but they wouldn't go. Too fond of brains.

So instead I told Her Father that we needed to press forward in our plans to beef up our zombie defenses, er, I mean, replace our old windows and siding.

And maybe purchase some cricket bats.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009


When I was a child, my family had a tradition.

On the first day of every month, we each had to say the word "rabbit" as soon as we awoke and realized the date.

"Rabbit!" mommy no plot would call out and five little no plots eagerly sang out "Rabbit" in reply.

To me, it seemed a perfectly reasonable thing to do, but as I got out into the world and learned its many ways and customs, I found that the no plots were the only family I could find who indulged in this behaviour.

And everyone I told about it thought it a little on the strange side. No one had ever heard of such a thing.

I began to think my father had invented this tradition, along with tales of the Headless Axeman of Middle Three Island Pond and various other stories of questionable provenance.

In time, I learned to live with the family eccentricity and even embraced the tradition. I felt that more people should celebrate all things Leporidae on a monthly basis.

I cried "Rabbit!" to all my friends as each first day came and they replied in kind, but only when I insisted.

The Rabbit Revolution made little headway. It failed to spread with the alacrity I had envisioned.

Then one day, I met with resistance. My friend who didn't know... refused to say the R-word or any of its many synonyms, despite my repeated attempts to recruit her into the movement. As time passed and my frustration with her position grew, I stooped to trickery, asking leading questions whose answers naturally led down a rabbit hole and posting bunny display pictures on my msn to pry that word past her lips.

To my knowledge, she has not let the rabbit out of the hat on the first day of any month for the past 20 years.

Some years ago, I read an item in a university newspaper in which a folklore professor spoke of the practice as a means of bringing luck, but it had become very obscure.

Then I discovered one first day that one of my favourite bloggers, jonny b of private secret diary fame, was a fellow Leperidoptrist. But I could not be sure he was passing this tradition on to his child or if he would have enough children to ensure its survival (sadly the Toddler (aka Servalan) is an only child.)

In desperation, I fixed on a new plan - I myself would have to marry and produce offspring so that Leperidoptry would not die with me. New generations would keep this tradition alive.

Fortunately, my husband has been true to his wedding vows and can always be counted on to give the correct response to my cry.

But lately, She Who Does Not Obey has been forming her own resistance movement. My rabbity cries are more often met with silence and rebellion.

This morning, I said "Rabbit." She needed a bit of prompting but finally said "Ra-" raising my hopes skyward.

Then she smirked and followed with a "-bish" of defiance.


Alas, I am too old to produce more obedient children so I fear this tradition is doomed to extinction.

Friday, June 26, 2009

witless with wanting

Ah, romance!

Despite my inclination for murder mysteries, I am basically a hopeless romantic. But I have never been very fond of romance novels. I haven't read very many and liked very few.

My favourite has to be something I read back in university, a paperback that one of my friends in the English Society found one day and brought back to the society room for us all to enjoy. I think it was called The Heart of the Flame or perhaps it was The Flame of the Heart? Whatever it was, it was flaming crap.

It was so bad it was good. We scoured it for particularly hilarious turns of phrase, ignoring the sex scenes (were there any?) and underlining all the purple prose.

The best line is seared into my brain, a description of the heroine which summed up the whole enterprise: "Cat was witless with wanting."

We thought that a much more appropriate title, so we relabelled the cover of the book with the words Witless with Wanting and left it in the society's bookcase in the hopes that our successors would enjoy it as much as we did. I like to think it's still there waiting to be discovered by a new generation of English nerds.

As I mentioned before I recently read a romance novel called Hero Worship which was recommended in the comments of a blog I had read. It was about a woman who falls in love with a character in a book and wishes herself into the book. I read it to the end but it didn't have even the satisfaction of a smattering of smut to make up for it's failure to perform.

Then my friend who didn't know.... loaned me a copy of a book she had read whose story sounded intriguing. It was called Fantasy Lover and it was about a man trapped in a book called forth to be the summoner's love slave. Apparently I have a thing for romance with fictional characters.

It started out well and then made up for the previous book's disappointments by jumping straight into the sex by chapter 4.

At that point the plot seemed to call for abstinence until the climax, so to speak, but even though the lovers were supposed to refrain from intercourse for a month, they constantly ignored this fact, maintaining a Clintonesque denial of what actually constitutes sex. With little attempt at foreplay or sexual tension, the sex just kept coming and coming and coming.

I got bored.

Near the end, the heroine, in the throes of yet another passion (now with Actual Thrusting!), declares she had never felt like this before. Except that she had felt exactly like that and made the same comment 20 pages before and 20 pages before that and 20 pages before that.

I finished the book but only by thinking of England.

So it seems that my lust for romance could not be satiated by either of these books. With or without sex.

Neither of them took the time to create a character worth falling in love with, or had the patience to let me get to know them before insisting that I should care about what happens to them or climb into bed with them. (Although I'll always have fond memories of chapter 4)

For now I guess I shall have to return to Pride and Prejudice and Jane Eyre for some real romance.

Those other books just left me witless with wanting.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

father knows best

Eight years ago yesterday, She Who Does Not Obey came into this world, refusing to use the usual exit I might add. She was a breech baby and, having determined early on which way was up, wasn't about to change her position on the matter.

I was three weeks from my due date and when my doctor heard the result of my latest ultrasound, she sent me off to hospital to spend my last few weeks within arms reach of medical attention in case She Who Does Not Obey decided to send an exploratory limb out into the world first.

Her Father decided this would be a perfect opportunity for him to kick into action and make the final preparations for SWDNO's arrival. He went home that first night full of plans and schemes.

About 3:30 that morning, I called him up and told him he was out of time. That bit of gas that woke me in the middle of the night turned out to be minor contractions and the doctor was recommending a C-section.

Her Father was dismayed and complained of losing his three weeks, but She Who Does Not Obey is also She Who Will Not Be Denied and just over two hours later - 5:46 a.m. on a Midsummer's Eve - I saw her for the first time in Her Father's arms.

I was still splayed out on the operating table, shivering and puking from the spinal and generally feeling miserable, so she was briefly placed on my chest and then given to Her Father. He got to hold her first while I admired her from afar.

He also hogged her for ages afterwards while I tried to get warm again under the heated blankets. Anaethesia turns me into a popsicle.

It wasn't the first time I had seen him hold a child of ours. Just over a year before, I had seen him hold our son. Our stillborn son. Our son who never had a chance to find out what an incredible father he had.

I can't tell you what it meant to him to be holding our precious daughter after losing our son, but I can tell you how amazing it was to see the two of them together and hear her grunting away in his arms.*

Eight years later, it is still amazing to watch him with her, watch him make her laugh, watch them butt heads, watch her snuggle in to him on a Saturday morning while she watches cartoons and he tries to snooze just a little bit longer.

He packs her school lunch bag every day, he makes her favourite food even when he doesn't particularly feel like it. They carve Halloween pumpkins together and bake muffins and the odd birthday cake. He buys her yet more Webkinz against his better judgment.

He gives her his time, which is the most precious thing anyone can give.

SWDNO's birthday has a way of shagging up Father's Day celebrations and he is not fond of the sloppy sentiment of a Hallmark card, so each year I find myself wondering how I can make this day special for him.

I know I couldn't have gotten this far without him.

I hope this will show him how much I appreciate that he is Her Father.

She is a very lucky girl.

*C-section babies often have fluid in their lungs which is normally ejected during the normal birth process. The fluid causes them to grunt. The cure is pissing them off enough to have a good bawl.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

found a list

So my friend who didn't know what a meme was... reminded me that I had started a library list on Facebook. Now I actually know the last 22 books I read.

But you don't really want to know all those titles, so I've picked out the last five:

  • I mostly struggled through Neil Gaiman's Smoke and Mirrors. Maybe I'm just not meant to read short stories? There was a really cool detective story at the end though set in Heaven (The Heaven) before the fall. An angel falls to his death and another angel has to solve the mystery of what happened. Lucifer is one of the suspects.

  • I really liked the Hamish Macbeth tv series, but not so much Death of a Maid by M.C. Beaton. It's a later book in the series, so maybe it's suffering from series fatigue?

  • On the other hand, Favorite Father Brown Stories by G.K. Chesterton reminded me what I really love about mystery stories. Father Brown is a wonderful character and his mysteries are puzzlers. Why read rewarmed series when you can read Father Brown?

  • Life of Pi was last summer's vacation read. It made me rethink assumptions I had made about animals, animals in zoos, and what it means to believe in God. I thought it was going to be yet another book that gained everyone's praise but my own. So many of the literary stars du jour have left me cold. I thought it might be too artsy fartsy to be fun, but it turned out to be a delightful read. Funny, suspenseful, sad, and thoughtful.

  • Before that, I read Gallow's Thief by Bernard Cornwell. Yet another detective story, this time about a gentleman/soldier who finds himself out of work with no means of support. He takes on the task of proving that a man convicted of murder is really guilty so he can be duly hanged. It turns out there are a lot more likely suspects, of course. Another fun read with period detail from the age of Austen.

More thrilling tales in the reading life of no plot to follow at a later date.

Monday, June 8, 2009

15, er, 5 books i read last

Many people (or perhaps it's just one, I forget) felt a bit intimidated by my 15 books.

Actually it kind of scared me too.

A lot of the books are from my university days and since I did an MA in English, they are not surprisingly Classics with a capital Cluh. But I was forced to read those really, so it hardly does me that much credit.

Before I hit university, I led a sad and wasted youth, reading mystery novels and well, mystery novels. When I suddenly had to read Literature which required me to have a background in Classics written in dead languages or English old enough to be on life support, I was at a loss.

But even with my limited pre-education, I was able to appreciate the books on my list because they were the fun ones. The ones that did not require quite so much erudition, but simply required a sense of humour and a delight in finding that humour in a surprising turn of phrase or a ridiculous character described with masterstrokes.*

After university, you will be relieved to hear that I returned to a life of dissipation, only occasionally raising myself from my indolence to read another classic for the cheap thrills of impressing/depressing my friends.

I herewith give you the last, um, however many books I have read (that I can remember):

1. Becoming Jane Austen by Jon Spence
(ok, this is scholarly, but really an easy read and it inspired me to actually start my blog already - also interesting tidbits about who inspired Elizabeth Bennett and who was actually like Mr. Darcy, etc.)

2. Hero Worship by Dawn Calvert
(this is a trashy romance I bought sight unseen because the plot reminded me of the miniseries Lost in Austen, until I actually read it - it's not horrible, but it annoyed me after awhile and THERE WAS NO SEX)**

3. Gods Behaving Badly by Marie Phillips
(funny and trashy although a little hard to warm up to at first)

4. Bleak House by Charles Dickens
(obligatory classic which took me ages to read, although there are some hilarious characters - I actually took this to Cuba as a Beach Read because I am a bit tetched)

5. The Suspicions of Mr Whicher by Kate Summerscale
(this is a true crime book set in the 1860s about a gifted detective who inspired a lot of writers, including Dickens, to create detectives based on him - inspiring me to read Bleak House for an example)

6. ????? Lord, do you know how long it takes me to read a whole book what with She Who Does Not Obey and my pesky job and my husband who thinks I should turn off the light already and my inability to stay awake for 10 minutes all together? Plus TV isn't going to watch itself after all. Number 6 was last year sometime and my brain seems to have misplaced the cell with that information.

Stupid brain.

*Please note CLARISSA IS NOT ONE OF THE FUN ONES!!!!!! However, if you've never tried Tom Jones, it really is funny and very accessible. That may have been compared to the incomprehensible ones I was trying to plow through in my postmodern course, however. If you like Tom Jones, you should also like The Sotweed Factor which is a postmodern novel in a similar style and also hilarious.
**find some way to watch Lost in Austin instead of reading this book.

Friday, June 5, 2009

15 books

My friend who didn't know what a meme is but who always taunts me with her superior knowledge of all things interwebby and computery sent me a meme without knowing it was a meme.

(I think I shall have to come up with a better pseudonym for her or I shall grow fatigued typing all that out again)

List 15 books you've read that will always stick with you -- list the first 15 you can recall in 15 minutes. Don't take too long to think about it.

Here is my list:

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
Diary of Anne Frank
Ulysses by James Joyce
David Copperfield by Charles Dickens
(but then you knew that if you read my quote thingy above)
Clarissa by Samuel Richardson
Life of Pi by Yann Martel
Live and Let Die by Ian Fleming
(or perhaps the whole Bond ouevre)
Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie
The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham
(close seconds The Chrysalids by Wyndham and Alas Babylon by Pat Frank)
The Sotweed Factor by John Barth
Tom Jones by Henry Fielding
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
Winnie-the-Pooh by A.A. Milne
The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien

I would note that The Day of the Triffids is probably my favourite what if the world ended and there weren't so many annoying people about book. I replaced my original choice of Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke with Triffids because it seemed to me that my teenaged obsession with apocalyptic fiction outranked my delight in reading entertaining footnotes.

Live and Let Die was the first book I read with Sex in it. Even though I was still in the 6th grade and unclear about what 007 did with the girls once he got them into bed. I read it hidden inside another book so my mother wouldn't know I was reading a book with Sex in it. The whole series was an epiphany for me, aside from the Sex bits, clueing me in that the world was a little more dark and complicated than my previous reading had led me to believe.

I came up with The Lord of the Rings last and while that technically means I have 17 books on my list, my friend who didn't know what a meme is but... (see above) allowed it under the a-trilogy-counts-as-one-when-you-remember-it right-at-the-end exception to the rule.

I am also tempted to add To Kill a Mockingbird because I love it so.

So what's on your list?

Monday, June 1, 2009

another fine moment in parenting

The other morning I was skirmishing in (and uncharacteristically winning) yet another battle in the War to End All Wars, aka getting a 2nd-grader-to-school-on-time.

She Who Does Not Obey had completed all of her morning tasks with hardly a lash applied, when suddenly she noticed a Great Horror - a dastardly mosquito had bitten her on the eyelid!

Neither of us had noticed it up to this point thanks to my clever use of parental neglect to keep her bangs long and her eyes out of sight and out of mind.

But the cursed bangs had chosen this moment to part slightly and reveal this horrible blight upon humanity. There was no way she could go to school like that.

As she lay on the bed prostrate with grief, I watched my precious victory slipping from my grasp. In desperation, I played the only card I could think of.

I told her that her complaint was not legally defensible and that if I should allow her to stay home for that reason, the police would have to come and arrest me.

"Well," she said calmly, "I'll still have Daddy."

My daughter, the philosopher.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

tv husbands I have known

Here is a selected list of the tv characters I have secretly married:

Alexander Mundy
Sam McCloud
Jim Rockford
Jarrod Barkley
Heath Barkley *
Phillip Carrington **

I played the field a lot in my younger days.

And yes, there was progeny from those unions.
(although no sex because they hadn't invented sex yet on tv in the '70s)

And if you think I am going to post the genealogical charts I lovingly created to show how the spawn of these various relationships are in fact related, you're crazy. ***

* but absolutely not Steve Austin
** ha! you'll never get what that's from
*** said the pot to the kettle.

Monday, May 25, 2009

my brilliant career

I am a narrative junkie. I love a good story.

I will even follow a bad story down a dark alley full of the nastiest clichés just to know how it turns out.

I have read every book that I could stomach past the first page right until the end, no matter how painful.*

I read all of Ulysses (but have no idea what that shit in the middle was about).

I sometimes tape tv shows I don’t even like that much because I start to watch them while I’m brushing my teeth and can’t stay up late enough to get closure (if one can really require closure in a relationship that brief).

For as long as I can remember, perhaps from as far back as I could hold a crayon, I felt compelled to try to write stories as well. I needed to add to the narratives I saw all around me.

I wrote all manner of short fiction during the elementary stage of my career, peopled with many a character lifted wholesale from my favourite television shows. The protagonist would be my own invention, intelligent, beautiful, tough, often with long black hair and violet eyes. She would inevitably meet up with a handsome, witty cop/PI/cowboy/spy/con man who, until he met her, never could find true love no matter how many beautiful women crossed his path.

I rode a lot of horses, solved a lot of mysteries, married some of the cutest actors on TV.

I began my first novel sometime during Grade 5 or 6, in partnership with my two best friends. We wanted to supplant the Hardy Boys with The Mystery of the Old Auditorium starring three sisters/detectives named Gerry, Mike and Jim. We liked to pretend to be them. We were tomboy-wannabes who had no tomboy skills – and were possibly lacking in feminist zeal.

My next opus, begun in junior high after watching the TV series Colditz, was a war novel entitled W.A.R. Spells Hell. I wrote quite a few chapters of that, despite my abysmal lack of experience with either of those concepts.

Except spelling, of course. I am (generally) an excellent speller.

I also managed to produce a maudlin 8th-grade Christmas story that won rave reviews, i.e. my teacher said that is was very well-written — if it was really my work.

To be accused of plagiarism seemed like the highest of praise to me, even though I knew that the story was a pile of treacle and that my teacher had a horrendous sweet tooth.

In high school my output slowed, but I wrote one short story that won a Major Award (honorary mention) in a writing contest and then got published in my high school yearbook.

I thought it was a really good story, but it was also a sensationalized and extremely fictionalized account of selected events in my life spun out to predict the worst possible outcome.

And it was thus I learned my first lesson about writing and consequences.

When my mother came into my room and closed the door one afternoon shortly after the yearbook came home, I was taken aback. I had never before committed any crime that couldn’t be discussed at top volume in front of multiple siblings.

I was forced to deny her autobiographical accusations as convincingly as I could, while my father waited anxiously in the living room. He was a part-time newspaper columnist who should have known how many lies writers tell even in a true story. Fortunately, they both seemed quite willing to accept the story I came up with that day.

Meanwhile, my best friend faced a similar inquisition from her parents simply because I had named one of the main characters after her. Apparently they thought I was too stupid to come up with pseudonyms. But then again, I was too stupid to realize anyone would try to connect my fiction to real life.

How many more paranoid parents I terrified with my moustache-twirling melodramatics, I can only imagine.

The moral of this story came through loud and clear, however.

The pen truly is a dangerous weapon and writing is not for sissies.**

*The one exception is Clarissa. She is too annoying to live for 15-fucking-hundred pages. Richardson should have stabbed her through the heart with his quill on page 25 and written about bunnies instead.

**I am a sissy.