Tag Archives: Life

Lost in IKEA

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Not too long ago, there was an  ad for IKEA lauding it as Swedish for “idea” but every time I shop at an IKEA store I have to wonder whether it was a good idea.  As I drive away sweaty, thirsty, and feeling as though I’ve just trekked through a very vast expanse of either jungle or desert, I wish I knew the Swedish translation for “frustration,” “exhaustion,” and “I don’t care how good the savings, is this really worth the effort?”

In fairness to the Swedes, I’m sure most of my difficulty with their iconic store is that I’m not well-versed in how to shop there.  I always wear the wrong footwear, I never remember to bring provisions – water bottle, high energy snackables, compass – and worse, I never enter the giant sliding doors with an iron-clad plan.

[When The Man goes with me, there is always a plan but since The Man would rather have all of his nose hair plucked out by a blind person with dull tweezers than go to IKEA, I often go alone.]

For shoppers like me who suffer from high anxiety and who are subject to ADD caused by over-visual stimulation, IKEA is not a good place to meander or browse.  There’s just too much to see, too many ways to get lost, and too many displays to knock over while turning in an aimless circle.

Even if I go in with trail mix and a plan, I am often thwarted right at the very end just when I think I’ve escaped without physical damage or emotional scarring.  As I barrel into the self-serve section pushing a trolley as big as a tractor trailer (and far less manoeuverable), I skid to a halt in Aisle 37B/subsection 1a only to find they have no more of the Stokholmen shelving in the off-white solid wood but have 500 of the same in the lingonberry mauve (foil finish).

Today I walked out with aching feet and feeling like a salmon who had just made the ardurous swim upstream (because I never, ever follow the arrows painted on the floor).  Any plan evaporated when faced with the vast array of things laid out to the horizon.

I left without even so much as a bag of Swedish meatballs (which I’d actually meant to buy).  Good ideas for IKEA (for next time):  don’t go alone.  Add Valium to the trail mix.  Rent a mobility scooter.  Learn Swedish for “clear the decks, coming through!”

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The Fear of Not Doing

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Maybe because the Big 5-0 is fast approaching  I’ve been thinking about what I want to do before I’m…well, too old to do it.  It could be called my Bucket List (although it’s not really that big – the size of a small plastic beach pail, really).  Is this List the beginnings of my mid-life crisis?  

Most of the items involve travel.  As I rattle off the list to myself, it occurs to me if everything on the list were to be accomplished, I’d never be home.  I’d be a gypsy although to do any of it, the lottery would have to be won.

Some of these things go against everything my loved ones normally associate with me.  For example:  I want to pilot an Ultra-Light aircraft.  Not only am I afraid of heights but I’m afraid of flying and yet, I’ve wanted to do this for a very long time.  My father had his pilot’s license and his…er…flying “skills” were enough to turn me off flight for a lifetime.  But the idea of flying open to the winds with nothing but a lawn mower engine puttering away behind me is very seductive.  I can’t explain it; I just want to do it.

I want to drive the Nurburgring in Germany.  Those who know me are familiar with my love of speed. In fact, there are quite a few highway patrolmen in the province of Alberta who are also well acquainted with my love of speed; however, I want to do it legitimately, with the only consequence being…well, I guess my death.  I would train and learn as much as I could before so as not to endanger myself or others on the track.  I get a tingling feeling in the base of my spine every time I see an aerial shot of that hallowed altar of speed.  Oh, and I’d want to do it in a proper car.  Perhaps an M5.

I want to see Africa and India.  Venice is near the top of the travel list as time is not on Venice’s side either.  Europe has to be a return address not just a tourist destination at some point.  There are deserted beaches in Fiji and misty moors in Britain to be walked.  I want to see the red dunes in Namibia.  There are photographs to take and languages to be learned.  I want to sail on the Mediterranean and paddle the countless bays around Stockholm.

Now that it’s written down, there’s more on this list than originally thought.  For some of it, I may already be too late.  Are my reflexes already too slow for the Nurburgring?  Would I cause a five car pileup in the parking lot?  And same goes for the Ultra-Light…my vision and reflexes aren’t what they used to be – does this matter?  Of course it does.  Time’s a wasting…

I envy people make living and experiencing a priority. This doesn’t have to mean climbing Everest; to some, just getting on a plane is a huge adventure.  Some might scold and say, that’s foolish; you need to settle down and be responsible.  No, you need to Live.  Thus far,my entire life has been a catalogue of caution, fear, and excuses.  I don’t want my kids to make the same mistake.  Get out there, do stuff, experience the world and other cultures.  Don’t wait. 

Going to check my Visa points and formulate an argument in favour of racking up more points so that some of these things can happen before I’m 80!

In Praise of Cinnamon Buns

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I sit here staring somewhat guiltily at the large slab of deliciousness topped with glistening sweet glaze sitting on a plate next to me.  It’s Sunday morning.  The air is crisp, the sky is a vivid blue and the sun is shining on the fall colours turning them to sparkling jewels on the trees outside.

The siren call of the local bakery down the street was just too strong today.  And, why not? I ask.  It’s a beautiful day.  Life should be fun, they say and what could be more fun than indulging in some excess calories with one’s morning coffee on a splendid autumn day?   

My husband is, sadly, at the office on this fine morning.  The kids are elsewhere.  The kitten stalks squirrels through the living room window and ignores my repeated pleas for attention.  And, so I turned to the bakery for solace which doesn’t happen very often even though it is mere yards from our front door.  We would all weigh 500 pounds if we indulged ourselves there too often. 

In summer when her doors are open to let in the cool morning air, we can smell the cinnamon buns baking.  If the wind is right, it’s as if they are being baked right on our front porch.  Heather’s baguettes are pure perfection, crusty on the outside and slightly chewy within.  They are the perfect companion to any saucy dish from stews to soups to spaghetti w/ marinara.  Even the whole grain, rustic versions are good.  But the buns, they are in a league of their own.

The cinnamon buns are light for their size – each bun is the size of a small Fiat.  Topped with just the right amount of frosting, they are everyone’s favourite and demand often outpaces supply.  A neighbour of ours was once seen sprinting down the street with a box under each arm.  Such hoarding is not tolerated!  He was duly reported to the Breakfast Bread Police.  A maple pecan bun is the size of a small downtown condo and not for the faint of heart.  In fact, anyone with any sugar or fat related health concerns should run not walk away from these decadent confections.  To eat a whole one is an act of gluttony as each could easily feed a family of four.

So I sit enjoying a quiet Sunday with a cup of strong black coffee and a super-sized sticky bun (purchased still warm from the oven).  For a few minutes, I don’t care about anything else.  Sometimes one must indulge.  I will work it off raking leaves later.  In the meantime –  Yum.

Reality Weighs In

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A while back I wrote a piece of flash fiction entitled, “The Rock of Truth.”  Although it hasn’t met with wide public approval (read: it hasn’t been published), it is still one of my favourites.  It outlines the a very brief trajectory of a love affair gone awry.  The turning point of the piece is when the narrator talks about being bashed on the head by the rock of truth.  “The rock of truth weighs about a 1,000 pounds.”

Turns out the rock of truth weighs a good deal more than a 1,000 pounds regardless of why it hits.

Having the rock of truth score a direct hit tends to hurt; it positions itself directly on the heart. The term “heavy heart” keeps floating around and around in my head. My heart is a lump in my chest that drags me down and makes it hard to breathe – quite the opposite of the life-giving organ it usually is.  The opposite of “light-hearted” is what I am.

Circumstances dictate that I carry on; pretend that I’ve not been felled by a 1,000 pound behemoth.  Although the heaviness remains, life goes on.  One of the hardest parts about getting hit by the rock of truth is the painful process of crawling out from underneath it.   I have to look forward and not flinch every time a cloud passes overhead.

The bruises remain on my heart; they will fade, eventually.  The shadow of the rock will shrink as time works its slow magic. Until the next time.  There’s always a next time with the rock of truth.

Ever Since

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Of all the headlines and quotes I read in yesterday’s paper regarding the attacks on September 11, 2001, there was one that caused my heart to skip half a beat.  “Every day since then has been September 12” – Condoleeza Rice.

And so, on this September 12, I try to remember that September 12 because that day would’ve been the day we had to get up and carry on as best we could.  While  every horrible detail of September 11 is burned in my mind, September 12 is a blur except for one thing.  I remember standing on my front lawn and looking up at the sky. Another spectacular fall day where we lived, just north of Chicago.  The sky was impossibly peacefull.  And empty.  How could something so serene have, just the day before, played host to four airplanes used as missiles that would change our lives forever.

I remember as a cranky teenager when my parents would speak of days like that (they had the misfortune to live through more than one), I would yawn and roll my eyes.  “Really?” I’d ask, with the cynicism of a 16 year old.  “There’s no way one day can change an entire country’s collective life forever.”  Parents could be so dramatic sometimes.  My father, who worked at the Pentagon during WWII, would lean forward in his chair, his blue eyes blazing.  “Your generation has no idea.  And, yes, little miss smarty-pants, one day can change everything.” And then he’d launch into The Lecture about Pearl Harbor.  And still, I remained unconvinced.

I get it now, Daddy.  I wish you were around to put your hands on my shoulders, fix me with that blue eyed stare and say, “I told you so.”  Because, for his generation, perhaps every day since was December 8. How many Americans of his generation stood outside their houses the next day, staring at the sky with dread, not knowing what would come next?

The sky on September 11 was a clear deep blue we get when summer’s haze has finally flown away.  That depth of blue can occur outside of autumn; in April of this year, I looked out at a September 11 sky and fell apart.  The air had something in it – a clarity, like autumn.  A short essay was born – the first time I’d tried to write about it – and although it was the wrong time of year, it tore me to bits.  I sat at the computer and sobbed.  I hit “save” and was done with it – I never submitted it anywhere.  I wasn’t sure anyone would understand how an April sky had brought me to my knees.

I opened the file today and realized the essay wasn’t very good but it did have a certain raw energy to it.   I might give it to my kids to read.  This year was the first they asked questions about 9/11.  Tears running down my face, I tried to explain the gut-wrenching emotions, the glimmers of hope, the stories of rescue and survival. They asked very technical questions, some I couldn’t answer.  My tears confused them.  “It’s 10 years later, mommy.”  They might’ve rolled their eyes, a bit.

The day, regardless of how many anniversaries pass, will always be an open wound on my heart and on the hearts of Americans everywhere.  I hope my children never experience a day when a crystalline sky becomes a reminder of pain.

Every day since has been September 12.

Post Baby Body Debut

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To my ever-expanding list of “things to do to avoid settling down and writing,” I have added “perusal of gossip rags online.”  I know.  It’s sad and getting sadder over here in Banshee-ville.  I mean, the least I could do is clean the house or wash some clothes.

Anyhoo.

I just read the most scintillating headline on People magazine’s website (having nothing to do with she who is famous for no good reason).  Apparently, a photog snapped a picture of Natalie Portman debuting her post-baby body.  Of course, Nat thought she was just walking the dog. The article went on to say that it appears as if Natalie has lost all or most of her baby weight.

Wow.  How did she do it?

I’m sad to say that I will not be debuting my post baby body anytime soon.  That would be sad on its own but it is sadder still since my last baby was born almost 12 years ago.  I know, I know…the shame of it all.  I should throw myself into hot boiling lava such is the shame.

I have friends with kids the same age as my youngest who debuted their post baby bodies within weeks of their babes being born, not decades.  I’m pretty sure they partake in something called physical exercise which I’ve remained stubbornly unfamiliar with.  It looks hard.  My husband comes home from his attempts at this thing called exercise all sweaty and smelling very foul.  I’d just rather not.

Then, there’s eating.  I enjoy it immensely and I’m afraid I would have to give it up almost entirely if I wanted to debut a new, post baby body.  Until recently, I had a supersonic metabolism.  What was there wasn’t particularly buff or ripped but there wasn’t much extra me to worry about.  Now, if I so much as look at a piece of cake, I gain.  This strange new, midlife weight is stubborn.  Once on, it doesn’t want to leave.

It’s not fair.  Whose bright idea was it to make the end of a woman’s reproductive cycle (which has been the equivalent of Hell on Earth for the past thirty-seven years) a time in which she now has to worry about un-loseable weight?  It would be nice to be able to relax…have a doughnut.  But, no.  I can’t now because my metabolism has ground to a complete halt.  I can’t even look at a doughnut – not even a whole wheat flour, organic free-range doughnut.

I have a new doctor and during the course of our first meeting, she asked if I exercised.  I shrugged.  My daughter practically exploded.  Later, my daughter gently suggested I go for a run with her.  She runs a 6 1/2 minute mile.  I run like a 3 legged antelope with one of the three legs shorter than the others.  It’s not pretty to watch and it hurts.  Someone might even shoot me thinking I need to be put out of my misery.

Now might be the time – for exercise, not shootings.  All indications now say that my midlife and years beyond might be miserable if I don’t get my act together.  Studies show that exercise, even moderate exercise, can ward off many of the aches and pains associated with aging.  Any extra pounds should be shed and what’s left behind should be converted from jiggle to something called muscle.

Can I do it?  Can I change almost  a half century (just typing that nearly caused me to faint) of poor eating and poorer exercise habits?  Might my knees stop aching constantly if I wasn’t carrying around these 15 extra pounds?  Heart disease runs in my mom’s family which scares the bejeesus out of me (but not enough to pull a Clinton and go vegan – not yet anyway – and don’t tell me that man isn’t finding some way to deep fry his tofu).

So, beginning September 1, I will embark on yet another adventure.  In the coming days, I will research “diet” changes that we can easily make including the whole family.  We are getting a puppy in the next couple of weeks (we hope) and that will force me off my ever-widening ass and out into nature with him/her.  I don’t expect everyone to be on board – my husband is notorious for stubbornly refusing to change his eating habits, maintaining that exercise is enough.  We’ll see.  If he starts seeing results in me, maybe he’ll join.

Until then, maybe just a wee piece of cake…oh, wait.  That’s bad, isn’t it.  I see something that might be fruit in a bowl over yonder.   I guess I’ll give it a try…

Screech

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Banshees screech.  It’s what we’re known for.  It’s been too long since I’ve really aired out my lungs.  Today, I’m finding it hard to be the lone banshee with a sunny disposition who goes blathering on about her recent lovely vacation in Europe when, as I write, Europe is slowly sliding into the shitter along with…well, everybody except China (I think).

I can contain myself no more.  Let me caution you that I might insult, offend, and piss off in this rant.  I’m beyond caring because frankly, my cardiac health is more important than being politically correct.  Today.  I will apologize tomorrow.  Maybe.

Buckle up.

Speaking of apologizing, I’m so gratified to hear that Gerard Depardieu apologized for peeing in the cabin of a CityJet airline.  I’m sure that makes it all better for the hardworking cabin cleaners (not to mention the other passengers) who had to clean up after him after his temper tantrum.  Somebody should’ve made that oversized infant clean up his own mess.  What kind of self-respecting adult does such a thing?  Everybody over the age of 3 1/2 knows to go before you get on the plane (because these days, God knows how long you might be delayed on the runway before take off, ascent, location of cruising altitude and so forth).  Mon Dieu, Gerard.  Send this guy some Depends and ban him from all public transport…

Speaking of tantrum-throwing infants in the public domain, get over yourself Christine O’Donnell.  Is this how the next generation of politicians is going to lead?  Is she a politician?  I seem to remember a failed debate in Delaware awhile back…Either they’re exposing themselves on social media or having tantrums when asked a question they don’t want to answer.  What a great example you are setting for America’s young people, Christine.  Sure, Piers Morgan is an over-blown, egocentric, sometimes rude man but if I’m not mistaken you were on his show.  The purpose of his show, in case you were not familiar with the format is:  he asks you questions, you answer them.   Surely, you are not so naive as to think that the question wouldn’t come up (or a similar one).  If you want to be a public figure, you’d better grow some thicker skin and perhaps even have lucid answers to the tough questions.

Kim Kardashian, go away.  Take your ostentatious, tacky engagement ring down to the nearest pawn shop and sell it.  Then please donate the proceeds to say, UNICEF or Doctors Without Borders.  Save the Children is nice too.  Or any charity of your choice (but not, I repeat not the Kardashian How To Get Famous Without Ever Doing Anything Useful- Fund).  Then, take the money your family is spending on your “lavish” (sickening, nauseating, insulting to most of mankind) wedding and donate it similarly.  Then, feel free to get married to whomever you please, as many times as you please with one condition:  you must go somewhere hidden away – may I suggest somewhere underground with dim lighting with no audio? – to do it so that the rest of us might be spared the spectacle and the endless “reporting” of it.

In a British newspaper I came across a flurry of reports regarding A-levels.  One such report maintains that A-levels don’t mean much anymore.  I confess I do not understand the British school system at all but I do know that when one student is awarded two points on his exam for answering a question with the words, “F**K OFF” (which presumably was not the correct answer), the world really is coming to an end.  I believe the exam board said more points might’ve been awarded if the student had used an exclamation point.  Really?  Please, please, please be a joke, I beg of you.

Rioting and destruction of communities across Britain, flash-mob robberies in convenience stores across the U.S. (which, frankly, amazes me given the gun laws there – are these kids crazy or crazy and stupid?), political and economic paralysis in the U.S., the slow, agonizing death of the European economy, the imbecilic thoughts, ideas, policies, and intentions of Toronto’s mayor who will, if he gets his way, will turn back  progress in this city by about 20 years….maybe 30, and has anyone seen Stephen Harper lately?  It’s worrying when he hasn’t been seen in awhile, it usually means he’s off doing something sneaky or maybe I’ve just been too caught up in Kim K’s wedding plans to notice…

You know why I’m screeching, don’t you?  NO, I assure you I’m not jealous of Kim’s fame.  I’m scared.  There is little good news anywhere (oh, wait I’m wrong – David Beckham is now able to feed his new baby now that Posh is pumping…yay, Becks!)  Even Nicholas Sarkozy is looking grim.  Last week he had still had the glib smirk on his face but it was gone as of this morning.  Maybe Angela Merkel had just stamped on his foot, I don’t know.  I feel (for the first time) that the world is in the direst of straits.  Usually, I just go about my life, hang onto my money as best I can, and hope our elected officials know what they’re doing.  The faint light I used to think I saw at the end of the tunnel has gone out.  The darkest days haven’t even come yet…on top of that, winter is coming, dammit.  I hate winter.

How will we cope?  No one, not our elected officials, not pundits – no one seems to have the answers.  Perhaps, Kim K has the right idea after all, burying herself in Marie Antoinette-like delusion that all is well as long as she has cake to eat…perhaps this winter, I should just get me some Valium, hibernate like a bear and when Spring 2012 arrives, all will be well.  No more Somali children will have starved to death, no more mindless rioters will have burned down the livelihoods of their fellow neighbours, and some way, some how, the U.S. and the rest of the world will be solvent.  And, Kim Kardashian will have gone away.