Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Bike Safety

I dropped the kids off for a few hours yesterday morning and had a solo trip into Booming Metropolis.

I spent a bit too much money at our new Bulk Barn and had the single greatest customer service experience I have ever had while exchanging my broken satellite radio at Future Shop. Then I came home to find a message on my machine from Future Shop saying that after 3 weeks of shuffling my computer from one place to another, they'll need $650 from me before they can fix it, thereby returning the universe--and my opinion of Future Shop--to normal.

I tiptoed up to a couple of doorsteps like the tooth fairy to leave homemade baby gifts at the doors of some new parents I know, and had a blissful browse around Fabricland.

And yes, I know I just told you to stay out of the stores. I promise, I don't make a habit of this.

Today marks the one-year anniversary of my car crash. So I was thinking about this as I drove from one part of the city to another yesterday and noted that the warmer weather has brought out the cyclists. What amazed me, though, wasn't the number of people out on the roads on their bikes. It was how many of them weren't wearing helmets.

I don't want to lecture you all two posts in a row, but I'm a bit of a helmet nut. In 2001, the Captain, who at that time routinely utilised Big City's bike path system, had a very bad accident. He was on his way home from work and, for reasons we will never know, went head-first over his handlebars at a pretty good speed. He landed on the concrete on his head, knocking out one of his front teeth, ripping open his top lip and leaving him completely unconscious and bleeding on the path until a passing dog-walker found him and called 911. When I arrived at the hospital, I found him in a state of confusion, covered in blood and unable to tell anyone what had happened to him. For weeks afterwards, he was irritable and cantankerous (more than usual, I mean) and generally not himself from the head injury. To this day, he still doesn't remember anything about the accident.

The Captain, thank goodness, had been wearing his helmet. And the one thing I remember the doctor telling me as I stood over my befuddled and semi-conscious husband, was that had he not been wearing one, the force of the impact would have most certainly fractured his skull.

So I implore you all, if you're getting out on your bikes this spring, please protect your head. It's not like a kidney or a lung. You only have one! And if you don't, you could end up looking worse than this:


Monday, April 27, 2009

At Least I Got The Month Right

Happy Earth Day!

Yes, I know I'm a week past deadline. I blame it on all the craziness around here of late. Add to that the stomach bug I picked up last Tuesday that hung around for nearly a week, and I figure I kind of have an excuse. No, it's not swine flu, but I HAVE lost 8 lbs. Never let it be said that I can't find a silver lining.

So, as many of you know, I like to reuse and recycle things. But, for once, I'm not going to force you to look at some crazy thing I've made out of an old milk jug. Plus, I still haven't figured out how to get pictures onto the Captain's laptop. So I'm saving my recycled milk jug project for another day. Try not to die from the suspense.

Today I want to talk about that other very important, but often ignored, "R". That's right, I've been thinking about some of the strategies I've used to reduce my ecological footprint.
Now, before I begin, I should point out that there is nothing more obnoxious than some left-wing, granola-crunching, unemployed hippie living in the middle of nowhere lecturing those in the real world on what they should be doing to protect the environment. There are plenty of things I'm not doing that I should be, and I know that some of the things I have been doing are completely unrealistic in the context of everyday life for most people. For me, listing this stuff just keeps me thinking about it, which keeps me moving forward in my efforts. Also, I'm a list-making super-nerd.

Disposables, be damned!

The arrival of Firstborn coincided with a cross-country military move, and I had to quit my job. I'm not going to lie. I was thrilled. I do not possess the kind of organizational skills you working mothers out there have to put into action every single day, so stay-at-home motherhood has benefitted all of us. But with the loss of my income came some serious belt-tightening, and I decided I wanted to try using cloth diapers. I couldn't see going for the flat-fold kind you have to pin closed. With my lack of dexterity, that would be like begging Children's Services to just cut to the chase and pick them up straight from the maternity ward. Luckily, these days, you can buy fitted, padded cloth diapers with velcro closures, and matching waterproof wraps to go over top. Nearly six years later, having covered two dirty little bums, those cloth diapers are looking pretty darned ratty, and the waterproof wraps have long since disintegrated. I did always put my kids in a disposable at bedtime, or if we were travelling more than 5 minutes from home for any length of time, but in the long run I must've saved thousands on the cost of disposables and, more to the point, created far less waste than I would have if I hadn't used cloth. Obviously, if I'd been a working mother with daycare issues, this wouldn't have even been possible, so it's not for everyone, but I do think if you can swing it, the laundry side of it really isn't as bad as you might imagine.

And once I got into cloth diapers, I realized that cloth nursing pads and cloth wipes were no big hardship at all for me, so I switched to those too. And just last week I came across another ingenious/crazy idea on one of my favourite time-wasting inspirational sites, I was having a look, as I always do, at the creations posted by regular people from around the globe, and I came across someone who had created a pattern for (prepare yourself, ladies) a cloth maxi pad, complete with wings! Okay, I know we're delving into serious hippiedom here, but I've been thinking about it ever since. It's like the logical next step!

Alright, I'm not promising I'll actually adopt this one into my lifestyle, but I'm tempted to make one prototype, just to see if it's do-able. Perhaps I won't give you all a detailed description of how I make out, though...

If the above ideas just don't work for you (and I understand completely) buying the re-usable travel mug at Tim Horton's and getting them to fill that up for you every morning, thereby reducing your disposable cup consumption, is another great way to feel smug and superior while chatting with your coworkers in the morning.

Stop shopping! Really!

No one loves to shop more than I do, but really, the best way to "reduce" is to stay the heck out of the stores. Not only do they carefully place their products to entice us to buy junk we don't need, they do it to get our KIDS to make us buy junk we don't need too! That's just playing dirty, and for that, they deserve to lose our custom. In this current hellish economic climate, none of us needs to be spending the money anyway. And if you must shop (beware: the crazy hippie has come out again), I urge you to try thrift stores and consignment shops. The treasure hunt is one heck of a good time, and you will be able to brag to your friends that none of the money you spent there aided in the mass consumption of anything, child labour or the release of nasty chemicals into the environment (because most used clothing will have lost all that stuff in the wash in its first life).

The one store you obviously can't avoid entirely is the supermarket. I know this is an old tip, but just in case anyone out there has never heard it, if you're looking to save at the grocery store, walk around the perimeter of the store, but not up and down the aisles. Most of the stuff you need is on the outside, and all that yucky over-packaged, over-processed junk is down the aisles.

Do two tips constitute a list? I got a little long-winded there (who, me?!), and this can be a controversial issue, since no one likes a lecture about how to save the earth from someone whose life must occasionally look like a stint in a mental asylum, so I'll stop there for now.

Sure, we can all be doing more. But if you can't add even one more thing to your already strained, overpacked schedule, just remember this: if you recycled this week, or made your own sandwich instead of buying a burger, or turned off the tap while you were brushing your teeth, or walked your kid to school instead of driving, or turned off a light, you did something for the environment.

And in the end, doing one thing is still better than doing nothing.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

My Kind of Soap Opera

When I was in high school, my friend Dee and I used to rush home every day to watch General Hospital. We'd grab a snack before sitting down in front of the TV, calling each other on the phone and discussing how much we loved Jack Wagner for an hour. At the time, I think we firmly believed that the things happening on that show could actually one day happen in real life. But, of course, that was never the case. And now I wonder if future generations are being set up for disappointment in their adult years by soap operas that seem to become more ridiculous and far-fetched with each passing episode.

So, in the interests of keeping young viewers' feet firmly planted on the ground, I've compiled a list of suggestions I think will help soap writers create a more balanced and believable plot:

1. Women walking around looking like life-sized Barbie dolls should sometimes get zits. It's only fair.

2. After a popular couple has kids, every single romantic candlelit dinner should be rudely interrupted at just the wrong moment by a hysterical, vomit-soaked toddler.

3. If our heroine crashes her car into a wall, tree or meandering oil tanker and ends up with amnesia, the new hunky health-care professional who is introduced to teach her to love again should first have to teach her how to eat her meals through a straw. Also, the concerned family members keeping vigil in the waiting room should bitterly complain about the inconvenience of dealing with the insurance claim on the car.

4. When, for the third time in five years, you don't know who the father of your baby is, it's time to join a 12-step program.

5. When children return from that boarding school in Switzerland where they age you 6 years for every month you attend, the parents should spend some time hounding them about their report cards, picky eating habits and that pigsty they call their bedroom.

6. If a woman's husband returns from the dead, she should first ask him if he brought her back a souvenir, and then give him the silent treatment if he didn't.

7. Young people graduating from high school or college should not immediately land themselves an executive-type position in fashion, business or law. First, they should have to wait tables or work in the mail room and spend every night eating generic-brand mac and cheese while they panic about how they're going to pay this month's crippling student loan payment.

8. When babies are switched at the hospital, someone just once ought to consider filing a lawsuit.

9. If your evil twin turns out to be the serial killer, you should probably leave town because, black sheep or not, that's just embarrassing.

And while I'd like to get into the even more absurd demonic possessions, civilian rescue missions in Iraq, and pet monkeys, I actually have several piles of laundry, a sink full of dishes and a yard covered in dog poop to tackle. Add to that the 3 year-old with the runny nose, my broken radio to sort out and a couch covered in dog hair and dried ice cream, and I'll be lucky to get a shower today.

I think I just figured out why I watch soap operas.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Military Wife

I've missed yet another family wedding. With the Captain away, dogs to deal with, Firstborn in school and Rosemary's Baby...well, Rosemary's Baby, sometimes it's just impossible to be at all the important family celebrations I'd like to be. And it does make me sad. I have four sisters, all married now, and I have managed to make it to exactly one wedding. Sometimes military life just isn't fun.

Those days following a family wedding, the photos start trickling in. It's the family photos, the ones of our side of the family, that tear me up a little inside. I am always the only one missing. Sister #4, the last of the girls in our family to walk down the aisle, may one day experience this for herself. Because now she, too, is a military wife.

But it's not all bad.

The Captain is out in a field in Alberta, riding around in a tank, eating processed, chemically-preserved army rations that have been sitting in their dusty, sealed foil pouches for the better part of the last decade, running for the woods when he needs the bathroom, and unable to bathe or change his clothes for weeks at a time. But, knowing I was going crazy without my computer, he boxed his own laptop back up, addressed it to me and had it sent back to the base, where I picked it up this morning. Sweet, stinky Captain. When he gets home, I'll run him a bubble bath, make him a cappuccino and scrub his back for him.

He has now been gone just over two weeks, and in that time, I've overcome my fever, dealt with puking children, gone 24 hours without running water, put together a child's bike, re-potted all the plants he started for the garden, stripped some of the dining room wallpaper, and just this afternoon discovered my satellite radio antenna may be broken, so I'm looking into what I need to do to get that fixed. And while I admit, I miss my music (and I missed the running water too), I feel a little stronger and more capable every time I get another of these little things under my belt. And that's one of the best things about being a military wife.

Another great thing is that, although you are alone, you really aren't. There are always other wives around to talk to when you get lonely or frustrated and they all know what you're going through. Some of them even know how to keep plants alive. We visit, make phone calls and generally help hold each other up until the time comes when we don't need to any more.

Now, I have one more of those wives to commiserate with, and she's a member of my own family.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Lest You Think I'm Dead...

I apologize for my sudden disappearance.
10 days ago, I woke up to find my computer wouldn't start. The Captain took his laptop on exercise with him, so I have no backup. It took Future Shop until yesterday just to LOOK at it, and now they tell me it'll be another two weeks before it's fixed. Groan times ten...
It always happens when he's away. It must be a character-building thing.
I'm typing this from the computer of my most wonderful friend, the Karaoke Queen. She has cheesecake for me, so I must go, but I'll be back eventually, but maybe a little more crazy.
Just bear with me here.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Worst Job EVER

In my recent feverish state, I've had some weird dreams and some weird memories. Yesterday, I remembered a job I once had that I'd forgotten all about. The memory made me laugh and cringe at the same time.

When we were newly married, the Captain and I left our home in the Armpit of Ontario to seek our fortunes out west. We moved to a place I like to call Big City and proceeded to look for work. For two months that summer, before landing my first teaching job, I found steady work as an office temp.

One Monday morning I got a last-minute call for a week-long job. That job was simply described as "reception". I figured I could handle that, and made my way, fresh-faced and smiley, to the industrial park in Big City, on the lookout for a large furniture factory (read: sweatshop) with a small office attached.

When I got there, the tone in the office seemed a The pleasant smile and attempts to seem friendly that I'd used to such positive effect in my previous temp jobs seemed boisterous and inappropriate here. Then I learned what my job for that week would entail.

One of the sales reps had gone the week before for bypass surgery on his heart. He had made it through surgery with flying colours, only to relapse that weekend during his recovery and die in his hospital room. So, this week, my job was to answer his phone, explain to his clients what had happened and refer them to another sales person. For $8 an hour.

Now, because I was in a cubicle where the rest of the office could hear everything I was saying, I wanted to be sensitive. So, for the first few calls, I explained to the clients that Mr. Sales Rep was "no longer with us." This seemed to work well for a while. Until someone got nosy.

I guess it must've been my fifth or sixth call of the morning. When I gave my spiel, the man on the other end asked, "Where'd he go?"

What a thing to ask a wise-ass with only a basic understanding of the tenets of Christianity! Somehow, it seemed a little cheeky, even for me, to say "Since I didn't know the guy, I'm really not sure. On the one hand, the entire office seems genuinely upset at his passing. On the other, he was in sales. So it really could've gone either way."

At this point, I realized I was going to have to be a bit more transparent. I started telling people he'd "passed on", which, of course, elicited questions. People wanted to know what had happened. They wanted, as humans often do, to be a part of the drama. The entire week, I attempted to speak in hushed tones so as not to upset anyone within earshot. The only time I was able to breathe and speak freely was the afternoon the entire office attended the funeral and I was left there alone. Good times!

I guess they must've thought I did pretty well because at the end of the week, I was offered a permanent job at the front desk taking "regular" calls. I tried to keep up the dignified demeanour I'd developed taking the death calls. I thanked them for the offer, but gracefully declined, stating I was holding out for a teaching job.

So now I have yet another reason to add to my long list of why I dread returning to work. Hopefully the fever passes soon...

Friday, April 3, 2009

I'm A Winner!!

The Captain and the kids have shared with me one of those nasty end-of-winter colds. So I thought I might be hallucinating from fever when it came to my attention today that I was chosen as a winner for my response about inspiration from a few days ago on one of my favourite blogs, the One Minute Writer.

What an honour! And now my blog gets to sport the One-Minute Writer winner button! I have bragging rights!

There were a lot of really great responses to that prompt, many from teachers like me. And it made me think that perhaps those of us who work in those "front line" kinds of jobs actually have a bit of an unfair advantage when it comes to being able to talk about inspiring others. Not that I'm apologizing for that. Teaching is a hard job, and we take our perks where we can get them!

However, I think this would be a good opportunity for me to recognize those who inspire me for things other than teaching.

Those Who Have Kids...: To those of you who are parents, adoptive parents or parents by birth; parents who go to work every day; parents who give up a job to stay home; single parents; married parents; parents who come home to their kids every night; parents who live or work in a situation that keeps them away from their kids; from brand-spankin' new parents to empty-nesters to grandparents, most of you will somehow make it through life without murdering your children. And for that, I salute you!

...And Those Who Don't: We sometimes look at people without children and assume they're selfish or physically unable. Of course, that isn't always the case. Over the years I've heard more than one person say that they simply can't live with the idea of bringing children into an unstable life. I know several people who didn't have kids because they had something else to offer the world. If you can fight off all that genetic, biological stuff that makes us want to keep our species going, and focus on doing something else to make this world a better place, then you, too, inspire me!

Those Who Share: This world can be an ugly place. There are a lot of people who would rather focus their attention on cutting people down than on doing something positive. And despite that, there are so many folks out there sharing their talents with us through websites, blogs, classes, books and all manner of services. You guys put yourselves out there every day and are vulnerable to all the nasty, negative nay-sayers. But you keep doing what you're doing and it makes the world that little bit nicer. Keep it up!

And there you have it. I started my day with a headache and a sore throat and a nose that didn't work properly, and I ended it a winner. Now, that's inspiring!