Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Head in the sand

Somehow I haven't been kicked off the A-Z Challenge list yet, despite missing a rather large section of the alphabet so far. In keeping with my less-than-perfect performance to date, I'm deviating from my lost words theme again for the letter "N."

N is for News. Several years ago in my pre-kids life, a mom friend told me that she didn't read the newspaper or watch the news, because she didn't care what was happening in the rest of the world. I struggled to keep my surprised disdain from my face and wondered if this was a special type of parental stupidity, or if she had always been so clueless.

Then I had my own two kids, and although we get a daily newspaper and a weekly news magazine, I skip most of the "serious" news. It's not that I don't care. It's that I feel completely exhausted and bruised by the viciousness of our world. I want to gather up my little family and huddle under the blankets in the hope that the random demon of fate will pass us by. My babies are growing so fast and as difficult as I find the task of parenting small children, at least their universe is contained.

Sass goes to school next year. It terrifies me to think of her tiny legs entering a world where going to see a movie, eating an ice cream cone or sitting in a classroom can be fatal. I don't know how to cope with this fear other than preparing her and protecting her the best I can, and I don't need to gorge myself on real-life tragedies to do that. Sometimes it's impossible to look away, because the shock and grief is so deep, and the least we can do for the victims is hear their stories. But I try to avoid reading about every horrible event that happens across the globe. My head is full of enough sadness already.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

It's a wonderful life

I have to say that I'm not enjoying the A-Z Challenge as much as I expected. It's my own fault. I didn't write my posts in advance like I wanted to, and between my full-time job, two sick kids under the age of three and studying for my fitness instructor certification, blogging is the last priority on my list. I'm not reading as much as usual, which means no one is visiting, which means when I'm trying to motivate myself to write a blog post instead of going to bed for my four hours of sleep, I think of the one or two people who might read it and find I don't want to spend so much time for so little return. Ugh.

I'm supposed to be doing lost words for the Challenge, but I don't like the word choices for "L," so I'm going rogue and using a normal word instead.

L is for Love. I'm so in love with my life right now that I feel disoriented. Jay and I have a great routine going where I drop the kids off at daycare in the morning and he picks them up in the evening. This means I can go to zumba several times a week after work, which means I'm steadily losing the baby weight and seeing a hint of my old self in the mirror. Work is going well, mainly because I've stopped worrying about losing my job (my company is going through a series of major transitions) and just do the best I can each day and leave it at that. Que sera, sera and all that jazz.

I dropped a volunteer commitment that was taking up more and more time and feeling like a chore. I don't keep reading books or watching TV shows that don't thrill me. Sass is slowly growing out of the terrible twos, Little Man continues to be a happy, mellow little baby and Jay and I are in a smooth phase of married life. Outside of my job, I've distilled my life down to people and activities that fill my soul and deserve every precious moment of time they get. It feels fantastic.

Maybe this is why I'm less into blogging right now: my life is perfectly in balance, and blogging is such a time hog that it throws off that balance. Then the vicious circle of visiting less, so fewer people visit you, so you think "what's the point of writing when no one's reading," starts again. And then you quit. I hope it doesn't get to that point, because I do love reading blogs, writing my own posts and the resulting conversations and friendships. But I have other things to do too. All blogging and nothing else makes me a bad wife, mother, friend and employee. That's not OK.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Tipping tyrants

INOBLIGALITY (noun): Quality of not being obligatory

Service staff, ready your pitchforks!

I don't understand why I have to tip you.

Oh, the fury! I can feel you screaming and frothing at the mouth from here. But I don't get it. Who decided a sub-set of jobs should be exempt from minimum wage legislation, forcing hapless customers to bribe people to do those jobs properly? If I sulked and did everything half-assed unless my co-workers slipped me a $20 along with their requests, I would get fired. What's the difference?

I guess it's a not-very-subtle consumption tax, but why? Perhaps it's to encourage us well-fed, well-groomed folks to start cooking our own food, cutting our own hair and sleeping in our own beds, instead of gallivanting about town dining and boozing it up before smushing our well-coiffed heads into fluffy hotel pillows. Why the government objects to the little people enjoying ourselves and stimulating the economy at the same time is a mystery to me.

The expectation that I tip on the after-tax amount is especially effective in making me think twice about doing anything I have to tip for. Ontario recently took another huge swipe out of our wallets by introducing the HST (neutral, my ASS! BWAHAHAHA!!). I love my hair stylist, but when my $150 haircut turned into a $203 haircut ($150*13% tax*20% tip), I started stretching those root touch-ups out as long as possible before abusing my credit card again.

What I find fascinating is how angry people who receive tips get when customers complain about tipping. All the anger is directed at the cheap, miserly customer instead of their low-paying employer or the government who lets the employer get away with it. But again, why is it the customer's responsibility to directly subsidize an employer's payroll costs? Yes, poor you that without my tip you don't make enough money to survive and would have to live in a box on the street. Isn't that your employer's fault? Shouldn't you be out lobbying your local politician to ensure you're paid a living wage? Why is it my problem?

There also seems to be no logic at all to who gets tips and who doesn't:
  • Taxi driver, but not bus driver
  • Bartender, but not fast food worker
  • Wedding planner,but not garbage man
  • Hotel maid, but not front desk staff
  • Hair stylist, but not registered massage therapist
  • Coat check person, but not drycleaner
  • Manicurist, but not gynecologist
What the hell?

You can untie me from the stake: I tip 18-20% where expected. I just don't understand why.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Life code

HECATOLOGUE (noun): Code consisting of 100 rules

My life code, in no particular order:
1)  My alphabet doesn't include the letter "G," because I fell asleep at 8:00 last night while I was supposed to be writing my "G" post for the Challenge.
2)  Workout pants are black. No one needs to see vagina sweat, as revealed by light-coloured bottoms.
3)   Signalling is mandatory. I will never be so lazy and obnoxious that I can't be bothered to flick my pinky.
4)   A day without ice cream is a sad day.
5)   An animal that greets you by burying its nose in your crotch is not your best friend.
6)   Having your health and a happy family are the most important things in life.
7)   People who think money is irrelevant are people who've always had enough.
8)   Going braless is painful for you if you're busty and painful for others if you're not. Just because they're small doesn't mean we want to see your nipples.
9)   There's a right and wrong way to eat Skittles.
10)  Being all bony is gross. I'd rather have some cushion for the pushin'.
11)  Taking my anti-depressant isn't optional.
12)  Merging must be done as soon as possible. In fact, all lines are respected, because my time is not more valuable than everyone else's. I learned this in kindergarten.
13)  I wash my hands after I use a public washroom. Again, a kindergarten lesson that not everyone has learned, to my great disgust.
14)  Life is too short to spend time with people who don't make me feel better when I'm with them.
15)  Answering the phone is to be avoided at all costs. It's usually a telemarketer anyway.
16)  Any diet that involves removing entire food groups or eliminating sugar completely is the wrong diet.
17)  When something is on sale, you should buy more of it so you end up spending the same amount you would have if it weren't on sale.
18)  Water is delicious. No need for other beverages (except an occasional strawberry daiquiri).
19)  Capital punishment should be in place everywhere. Pedophiles, rapists and murderers have forfeited their right to live on this earth with the rest of us.
20)  A good book sale is worth taking the day off work.
21)  The passing lane is for passing. Stay out of it if you're not going faster than the cars in the lanes to your right.
22)   Diet pills result in very shaky hands, and that's it.
23)   Tampons, not pads.
24)   Long hair doesn't look good on me. Stop trying it.
25)   Being in love with another single, consenting adult is always a beautiful thing.
26)   Paying a cleaning person is money well spent.
27)   Blogging is free therapy. Enjoy it. When you don't enjoy it, stop doing it until you do again.
28)   Getting up early when not required for work is crazy.
29)   Buy clothes in the size that fits you, not the size you wish you were.
30)   TV shows are better when you can watch the whole season at once.
31)   Cuddle your kids as much as possible, because they won't want to be cuddled forever.
32)   Heels make every outfit look nicer.
33)   You don't need to finish reading a book that feels like a homework assignment.
34)   An amazing Caesar salad and perfectly grilled steak are worth the calories.
35)   Do not make any important decisions or talk to anyone in the three days before your period starts. This is for their safety and yours.
36)    Reading a daily newspaper is part of being a global citizen.
37)    There will be no minivans. Ever. Under any circumstances.
38)    A Mazda6 is not big enough for two adults, a toddler, a baby and their diaper bags and strollers. An SUV is rearing its ugly mammoth head.
39)   Sunday morning is a great time to sleep in.
40)   Ceramic hair straighteners are the best thing ever.
41)   Having flat feet doesn't have to stop you from dancing.
42)   Don't congratulate a woman on her pregnancy unless you're afraid you may need to deliver the baby at any moment.
43)   Enjoy life now, because you don't know what tomorrow will bring. Retirement may never come.
44)   White pants do not belong on this booty.
45)   I don't carry cash. That's what credit and debit cards are for.
46)   When you wake up in the middle of the night, it's better to just get up and go pee rather than trying to go back to sleep while holding it. You won't sleep well.
47)   Zumba and cardio kickboxing are like happy pills. Doing them daily means I don't have to take as high a dose of my actual happy pills.
48)   Lotteries are a tax on stupid people. But you can't win if you don't play.
49)   Getting exactly what you wanted online without having to leave the house is totally worth the shipping charge.
50)   Spiders are the devil and must be killed in multiple ways (by someone else) to ensure they're really dead.
51)    Never wake a sleeping baby. But you can poke him to make sure he's still breathing.
52)    Don't waste a movie ticket and babysitting time on a movie that doesn't look best on a big screen. Save the comedies for DVD.
53)    Best quote ever: "I do not spew profanities. I enunciate them clearly, like a fucking lady."
54)    Do not ask a couple when they're planning to have their first/second/any baby. There is nothing ruder, more intrusive and possibly hurtful than prying into someone else's reproductive life and choices. Don't bring it up unless invited.
55)   A cooler room temperature with lots of sweaters and comfy blankets is better than a room that resembles a sauna.
56)   Always back in. There's no cross-traffic in the parking spot or your driveway.
57)   Your shorts-wearing days are over.
58)   The clock needs to be set 20 minutes ahead to ensure you're only a little late for everything.
59)   Don't drop in on us unannounced. We're naked.
60)   Sometimes a hecatologue only goes up to 60, and that's OK.
61)   Baths, not showers, and only at night.
62)   Mental health days are a perfectly valid use of sick days.
63)   Hover rather than sitting while wiping. I don't even understand how wiping while sitting is physically possible.
64)   Always leave a buffer seat, parking spot, washroom stall, etc. when possible. There's no need to get any closer to strangers than necessary.
65)   Until grocery stores start offering a discount for self-checkout, use the line with a packer.
66)   An eye mask is required for a restful sleep.
67)   The Lipsmacker supply must never be allowed to run out.
68)   Since there are other cars moving in the parking lot, do not drive wildly across it like it's your personal stunt driving course. There are rows with lines and everything, just like a real road. Use them.
69)   Don't take yourself too seriously.
70)   Find out about the special attractions/events at a holiday destination in advance so you make the most of your time there, and get to see what the place is famous for.
71)   Turn all the lights on. It's like a freakin' dungeon in here.
72)   Pets are too much work. We already have two wild animals, aka our toddler and baby.
73)   Don't form close friendships with your neighbours or co-workers, unless you're OK with moving or finding a new job when the drama inevitably starts.
74)   No more than one drink if driving. Period.
75)   Never let fear of offending someone interfere with your instincts regarding your child's safety.
76)   Don't ask your partner questions that have essentially harmless but hurtful answers, and serve no constructive purpose in your relationship ("do you ever think about anyone else when we're having sex?" "are you less attracted to me at nine months pregnant?" "does my period gross you out?")
77)   Let the grass grow as long as municipal by-laws will allow.
78)   You have nothing to prove. You don't have to go sky-diving, bungee jumping or ride roller coasters. That trapeze class was pretty awesome though!
79)   Tossing and turning all night on the lumpy ground before waking all cold and wet, covered in spider and insect bites and filthy from the lack of running water, is not fun. You don't need to pretend it is.
80)   People who talk about sports or obscure indie bands all the time should be avoided like the plague.
81)   Don't buy non-organic apples.
82)   Tans come from the sun in the summer and nowhere else.
83)   Toilet paper over the top of the roll. I'll turn it around if I have to.
84)   "Spots" in fitness classes are to be respected.
85)   Don't read or watch the graphic details of horrible crimes. You already know how evil the world can be.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Flosculation free

FLOSCULATION (noun): an embellishment or ornament in speech

One of the problems with being a voracious reader from an early age is that your vocabulary expands precociously, well beyond what is socially acceptable. As a baby bookworm who had a penchant for theatrics but no exposure to TV, I had an unfortunate tendency as a child to speak in a formal way that was like catnip to bullies everywhere I went. Under the influence of L.M. Montgomery, I would moan at recess, "My life is a perfect graveyard of buried hopes" (Anne of Green Gables), after discovering our class had lost the competition for a pizza lunch.

Winning a jump rope competition was met with this solemn quote: “That's the worst of growing up, and I'm beginning to realize it. The things you wanted so much when you were a child don't seem half so wonderful to you when you get them” (Anne of Green Gables). My mother was used to such pronouncements, but my teachers raised a skeptical eyebrow upon hearing a nine-year-old wax nostalgic about her distant childhood past.

The icing on this ridiculous cake was that I had no idea how to say my flosculations, because no one else on the playground was in the habit of describing the old K-car in the school parking lot as "a hideous jalopy". Since I never heard anyone actually use my big words, my parents often heard such compliments as, "Daddy, you are so AM-ee-CAY-bull" in response to being given a dollar to buy candy. "Am I a cable what?" asked my bewildered father before my mother whispered in his ear, "She means amicable. Just humour her."

In my teens, we got a TV and in university I moved out and was introduced to the world of cable television. Fourteen years later and the boob tube has done its job: I'm officially, like, flosculation-free. OMG! It's, like, so ironic. I think. What does ironic mean again?

Friday, April 5, 2013

A long day

E is for Exhausted! Today I was in my Zumba Basics 1 instructor training from 8:30-5:30 (moving most of the time), before starting the 2.5 hour drive home. On the way home I stopped at an outlet mall, so I didn't walk in the door until shortly after 10:00 this evening. After eating supper, kissing the sleeping kids (who I haven't seen since yesterday morning) and catching up with Jay, it's now time for a serious bubble bath.

Back to my regularly scheduled Lost Words posts for the A-Z Challenge tomorrow!

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Too much of a good thing

DODRANTAL (adj): Of nine inches in length

Well, come on. You can't put a word like that in front of me and expect me not to go there. It would be cruel and unusual. Don't worry; there are no visuals. I don't want to have to slap an adult content warning on this baby. However, if unillustrated penis ponderings will offend your sensibilities, now's the time to click away.
Growing up as a Christian teenager, it crossed my mind that waiting until you were married to have sex could result in a wedding night that was...surprising. While I'm not recommending going on a penis-sampling rampage, I'm not sure waiting until you've committed to a penis for its whole life before making its acquaintance is the best move. What if you don't get along? That's a long time to live with a roommate when you were expecting a lover.
For example, the poor couple where the woman asked when she would be able to fully meet her new friend, only to be told he was already in the door. Partners can learn each other's bodies, but it usually helps if they can feel the happy parts in the first place. Just sayin'.
On the other hand, I have very limited penis experience since I married my high school sweetheart and have no interest in meeting other penises. So this may be pure ignorance talking, but it seems to me there comes a point at which Mr. Big becomes Mr. Too Big (just like when my bra size went into double letters).
Several years ago I went with some girlfriends to the Everything About Sex trade show in the big city and saw a male stripper on the main stage. Thankfully he didn't take it all off, but he might as well have, since wrapping up his party equipment in a tube of fabric didn't leave much of a mystery: this thing was as long as my forearm and as wide as a pop can.
It was horrifying, like seeing an unedited vaginal birth for the first time (excellent birth control, by the way). Although my sister-in-law became hysterical with lust and rushed the stage, the rest of us pretended we didn't know her and ran away, shielding our eyes from the prodigious penis. 
Average Joes, take heart. As long as we can tell it's there and it doesn't cause an eclipse in the bedroom light, we're good to go. No dodrantal tools necessary.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

A cibosity monstrosity

CIBOSITY (noun): Store of food; plenty of food supplies

I'm pretty sure if I had been born in the Middle Ages they would have killed me. Between the dreadful eyesight, the sans make-up resemblance to a ghoul, and my utter disinterest in cooking, cleaning or children, I suspect I would have met an early and fiery end. While I've mellowed on the children since having my own, I remain bemused by the domestic divas swarming the blogosphere and reality TV.

The TLC show Extreme Couponing was especially confusing because in Canada we don't have "store coupons," you can't use two kinds of promotions at once, and the grocery store flyers all say "We reserve the right to limit quantities" in the fine print at the bottom. The retail environment isn't structured to let you buy 1,000 tubes of toothpaste for a grand total of 25 cents.

Still, as I watched yet another determined housewife wheel her loot out of the store, flushed with triumph, I felt that tiresome twinge of gender guilt. Maybe I should be doing more to stretch our family's budget than buying clothes off-season and choosing the ice cream flavour that's on sale.

But as the camera panned over rows upon rows of gleaming soup cans filling a proud couponer's oversized garage, I realized I wasn't jealous of her dedication to thriftiness. I was angry. This family's cibosity was larger than they could possibly use in their lifetime, and while they were hoarding non-perishables in their comfortable middle-class home, struggling families in communities everywhere were going hungry. The local food bank could have put 100 jars of peanut butter to better use than decorating a garage wall.

Perhaps food banks should hire their own extreme couponers. Now that would be a money-saving spree to be proud of.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Taste the (OCD) rainbow

BUCCELLATION (noun): The act of dividing into small morsels.

My sister and I couldn’t look away, despite an increasing urge to vomit.  A pleasant lunch had veered into horror movie territory in our schoolgirl minds. Paralyzed with shock, we watched in silent disgust as our three-year old brother plunged his slice of apple pie into the bowl of chicken noodle soup, before grabbing at the soggy mess with chubby hands and smearing it across his face. A small amount of the abomination made it into his mouth, eliciting a chortle of delight. The noise snapped me into action. “MOM!” I yelled. “Tyler’s doing it again!”
This is the earliest memory I have of the wrongness that is Mixing Food Together, a dinner table scourge also known as the casserole. No. That’s not how you do it. Let’s all remain calm and eat our food in an orderly fashion, vegetables first.  This applies to snacks too. No one wants to see you throwing a handful of Skittles or M&M’s into your mouth all willy-nilly.
It’s OK; maybe you weren’t taught the right way to eat candy. I’ll show you:

1)  First, dump all the Skittles out of the bag (let’s not kid ourselves – you are going to eat the whole bag at once).
what a mess!

2)  Organize the Skittles into their colour groups.

3)  Put the colour groups in order. Be reasonable and try to follow an actual rainbow/the colour wheel. What’s red doing next to green? This isn’t Christmas, friends. Pull yourselves together.

At this point you do have the option to remove a colour group you aren’t comfortable with. For example, my friend Andrea has an aversion to blue candy, because “blue isn’t a real colour.” Apparently the sky and blueberries don’t count.

4)  Arrange the Skittles within their colour groups into two lines (bonus points if you turn them so they all have the "S" facing up). Eat the stray Skittles until you have an even number in each colour group.

5)  Starting with the largest colour group, eat the Skittles until you have the same amount as in another colour group. Then alternate until you reach the same amount as in the next group. Add that group in.

6)  Lick your lips. Isn’t buccellation fun?

Monday, April 1, 2013

Aging well

A good word rolls across your tongue, bursting with flavours sweet and sharp and strange. You want to taste it again and again, whisper it to yourself until you've sucked it dry of every nuance, its juices resting warmly in your belly.

Imagine stumbling across a graveyard of lost words, delicacies the world squirreled away and forgot to retrieve when spring came. The Phrontistery is such a place, offering delicious nuggets to savour each day on April's A-Z journey. Let's eat.

ACRASIAL (adj): Ill-regulated; ill-tempered

When I was younger, I used to look forward to being elderly. It seemed a time when I could indulge my anti-social whims with impunity, free from the tyranny of good manners and make-up. I had grand plans of driving 80 km/hr in the fast lane on the expressway, meandering through the grocery store express line with too many items, and railing against the good-for-nothing world to everyone around me.

The seniors of my limited acquaintance were relishing these perks of advanced years, so I was surprised to read a study that suggested they were an unusually acrasial bunch. According to researchers, people get happier with age. It's not a coincidence that silver hair is a rare sight in the prison yard.

Since it appears I'm unlikely to lose all sense of common courtesy and turn into a menace of society after all, that just leaves the make-up. One of the best parts of aging must be the freedom from measurement against an impossible standard of beauty. At 80, you can be considered a pin-up if you've put on matching clothes and a little lip gloss. You can enjoy a blue sky day at the beach in your bathing suit without worrying about anyone comparing you to a Victoria's Secret model.

Looking at the wreckage of my figure after two babies in the last three years, it strikes me how lucky I am that the only standard I've ever been shooting for is "reasonably attractive." After an unfortunate ugly duckling phase from age 8-17, I enjoyed a brief few years where guys actually whistled at me on the street.

But I always knew that I was no competition for the silky smooth haughty blondes stalking past me on campus and in the club. An escalating eating disorder was arrested in its tracks when I saw a girl so tiny that I knew I'd have to remove ribs to look like her. Since I don't like playing when there's no hope of winning, that was the end of my hunger headache days.

When I watch The Real Housewives of Anywhere, I feel sorry for the women trying so desperately and unsuccessfully to freeze time, with no end in sight. It must be awful to have your entire identity and self-esteem invested in an inevitably fading beauty. I'm glad I live in a world where I'm allowed to age with happiness and grace, wrinkles soft in the sun.