Friday, October 25, 2013

The Great Pumpkin Patch

Someone should have told me both times they handed me a tiny newborn baby boy in the labour/delivery room there would be battles I would one day lose.

It’s all part of being a minority in my house of three men, I guess.

Halloween has seemed to be a good measure of my two boys’ growing years. First there were the early years where I could dress them up in whatever cutesy Halloween costume my heart desired. Then came their own costume choices often influenced by trends, friends or TV. Then as the teenage years rolled around and they had one foot in their childhood and the other inching its way towards adulthood, trick ‘or treating became something for ‘babies.’

It seemed like there would never be Halloween at my house again.

But as each year goes by, each boy making ‘alternate’ Halloween plans that have me biting my finger nails in angst every year, I am determined to keep the novelty alive. I hand out treats at the door – in full, scary costume – and I carve pumpkins and ensure the outside is fully decorated.

But never in a million years did I expect to have a Halloween ‘decoration’ such as our new addition to our family.

As well as watching Halloween costumes change with their ages over the years, my young men’s desires for certain pets have changed with each year, as well....

A cat has always been a staple in our house. Even though the boys never chose to have a cat as we had cats before we had kids, I felt it only fair to the cat to include her in the historic list of family pets.

Then there have been fish of all shapes, sizes, breeds and life spans. Presently, we have 15 tiny fish of what breed I have no idea, some ‘Kuhli loaches’ who look like tiny eels, and a baby snail called Bob Dole (don’t ask me why).

There have been caterpillars kept in an aquarium, safe from the annual tree spraying.

Then there were ants – however unwelcomed and ever-growing in our garage, we considered them one of the family. How could we not?

Then came the scorpions. Despite my protests, it was a battle I lost, and it served as a reminder of my minority status in the house. At least the clawed predators have fostered communication between mother and son, something many mothers worry of losing - “Mom, can you stop at the pet store for some crickets on your way home from work.....? I’ll pay you back....” So the two scorpions live on, well fed by unsuspecting crickets.

And now we have a new ‘special’ addition to our family (and here I was worried I would have no ‘Halloween’ in my house!)

Behold the Pumpkin Patch Tarantula.

Yes, the little darling, or ‘sling’ as baby tarantulas are often deemed, is just a wee lad. Orange and black-spotted, this little guy from Columbia who is barely bigger than my finger nail right now, will grow at warp speed and soon outgrow the take-out condiment container he is currently residing in. He’s a ‘dwarf’ version, so whether he grows to have a leg-span of three to four inches typical for the species, I don’t know.

I’m looking forward to finding out.

Presently, non-poisonous ‘Sling,’ as he (or she – I have yet to check) has been named, resides in his/her condiment container in my son’s bedroom beside the fish tank.

I don’t think the cat has figured out what’s in the container, the same container that has me realizing I will never look at take-out tartar sauce the same way, again.

So as Halloween gets closer and I longingly look at all the kids’ Halloween costumes on the racks in stores while hoping I can drag my teens out to the pumpkin patch just one more year, I can actually be happy......

I have my own in-house ‘pumpkin patch.’

And who knows, trick-or-treaters might find a cricket in their goody bags!

Thanks for reading!


Saturday, October 19, 2013

Thankful for Thanksgiving - Whenever it Is

If you are Canadian, by now you will have had your fill of turkey and stuffing from the Thanksgiving holiday. But for many, the busyness of life keeps everyone spinning and a holiday is not really a holiday anymore as many have to work. And so, in turn, many folks ‘do’ the great Thanksgiving feast on alternate days. Years ago, many started having Thanksgiving dinner on the Sunday before, as doing it all on the Monday before heading back to work on Tuesday was too onerous.

I, too, have fallen victim to the dinner-on-an-alternate day to cater to everyone’s schedules, including my own. It’s been like that for a few years now. But in trying to do it all at warp speed, at one point during the marathon weekend of prepping and cooking the great feast I couldn’t figure what day was Thanksgiving – Sunday or Monday? I/we have ‘done’ Thanksgiving on an alternate day for so many years I forgot which day Thanksgiving actually was.

I wasn’t ashamed of all the stuffing I consumed with fervour, but was ashamed to admit not knowing the actual holiday ‘day.’

I called my sister and she, too, wasn’t sure. ‘Google it!’ was her response.

And yes, I did actually ‘Google it.’ I couldn’t believe I actually had to ‘google’ the date of Thanksgiving, right in the midst of the celebrated holiday.

And in chatting with folks at grocery stores and such, many didn’t know, either. Some even went so far as to say, ‘Does it matter? We had our dinner on (such and such) day.’

Have we lost the meaning of Thanksgiving in trying to do it all, just to say we ‘had’ Thanksgiving dinner? Does knowing the day actually matter?

As it seems, a ‘holiday’ is not a holiday anymore – both in the working/business world and in extracurricular activities (sports tournaments, marathons, cross-border shopping). Events scheduled for a time when everyone is supposed to have ‘time,’ has blurred what the holiday was initially intended for – to give thanks and be with family. Juggling various schedules has become a...juggle....and many do the whole turkey dinner (or ham for some, vegan for others), either on the Saturday night, like we did, or on the weekend before or after.

But then there are those who feel Thanksgiving has become just another holiday that we HAVE to celebrate and would feel guilty/gypped/left-out if we didn’t, so a huge meal is prepared and guests are invited out of obligation. Or then there are those who don’t ‘celebrate’ it at all, refusing to conform to the ‘commercialism’ and ‘mayhem’ of something that is dictated by a calendar.

All this I gleaned from folks in the week leading up to Thanksgiving - in the stores, at work, at the bus stop, eavesdropping on the bus - everywhere.

And what finally sparked all my deep Thanksgiving thoughts was a comment made to me by someone at work the following Tuesday. After she recounted how busy her Thanksgiving was with all the visiting she had to do she exclaimed, “Phew, I’m exhausted – it felt just like Christmas!”

What happened? Are we doing it just because we HAVE to? What is Thanksgiving supposed to be anymore? Is it only a day/weekend/week that many acknowledge out of obligation? Is it a time, like Christmas, many overdo with cooking/stressing/racing around? Is it a long weekend that is only acknowledged as just that – a long weekend – and nothing more? Or is it an excuse to cram as much as we can into one, two or three days (if places of employment have granted an extra day off, that is), just because we are typically supposed to on a ‘long weekend’?

Or is it something we can be thankful for? Thankful for the powers-that-be for delegating a day to ensure we stop and be together - if only for an hour, if only over ham, or tofu-turkey burgers, or a cup of coffee.

The history of Thanksgiving has been forgotten by many. Heck, I’m embarrassed to admit I know more of the meaning behind ‘American’ Thanksgiving than ‘Canadian’ Thanksgiving (I guess I could Google that too!). But I take the opportunity to cook as much as I can, with ingredients typically only purchased at certain times of year (turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, etc), just so we can have tons of leftovers (which everyone likes anyways) and just because ‘I can’ and am ‘supposed to. I wouldn’t want anyone to feel like they missed out. I guess some would say I am slave to the calendar.

But I take advantage and use the ‘holiday’ to ensure my family of four gets together at the dinner table, knowing full well we’ll resume our crazy/busy lives the next day as if nothing happened.

Not only does the act of acknowledging a ‘holiday’ serve as a vehicle to ensure we get together, but the leftovers bring us together again the next night.

On Sunday, the day before Thanksgiving, and the night after we had our own Thanksgiving dinner, as I wrapped another dish of leftovers while everyone sprawled on the couch moaning how full they were, I realized it didn’t matter what day of the week we acknowledged Thanksgiving. It was the fact that we were fortunate to do so, and that we did it all.

Thanks for reading!

(Photo credit - Charles M. Schulz (1922 - 2000)

Friday, October 11, 2013

Mushroom Invasion

It had been a funky fungus kind of week, as every time I turned around there were mushrooms – and not the ‘trippy’ kind. They kept popping up everywhere!

Those poor little spore-bearing fruiting bodies of a fungus kind of have a bad rap. If people are not joking about them and all their hallucinogenic ways, then others are fearful of them – not only of the poisonous ones that are often the prettiest, but also of what they represent.


But if you stick to the store-bought ones, life can be good; the cooking possibilities, endless!

But, apparently, fungus can be fairly....helpful.

I recently popped into the doctor’s office to have my ear/nose/throat inspected. Usually when I get sick, my throat and ears are most affected, and the way things were feeling in my throat, I was sure a fungus had to be growing in there.

After the doctor stuck the ear-light-thing in my ear making my shoulders squinch up like a little kid, and after sticking a tongue depressor down my throat making me convulsively gag, he said ‘Yup, you were right – things look mighty red down there.’

So after sticking a massive Q-tip-swab down my throat to send away for testing, he started with his usual doctor spiel that I, although I respected what he had to say, kind of tuned-out until one recommendation had me sit up and pay attention.

“There are a lot of bugs going around these days.” He started and I suddenly felt a fool for going there in the first place. He continued. “So get plenty of rest, drink lots of fluids, get lots of vitamin C....”

At this point I glazed over. Again, not that I didn’t care about what he had to say, but....

“...and eat LOTS of mushrooms and kale.”

WHAT? Mushrooms!?

Where did that come from?

Had I been, um, unknowingly ‘experimenting’ with mushrooms before setting foot in there? Was I hallucinating? Was I on candid camera? (I surreptitiously looked around for a hidden camera.)

I just did NOT see that one coming.

Not that I am opposed to the immune-building/vitamin-fortifying/health-conscious attributes of vegetables, but whatever happened to the standard “Drink lots of fluids, take lots of Vitamin C, eat lots of chicken soup, take two aspirin and call me in the morning.”?

Reeling from the shock of his recommendation, I barely heard him go on about the vitamin D in mushrooms (which I did not know), or about the Vitamin C in kale (I knew it was a super food but the thought of eating kale when I’m sick is not the most appealing, but neither is eating mushrooms).

He certainly cured me because by the time I walked out of there confused and a sore throat with swollen glands and aching ear were temporarily forgotten.

So off I went, but I didn’t follow doctor’s orders. I knocked back a few Tylenol with a chaser of a few chocolate-covered cookies. There’s something to be said for comfort food and besides, chocolate has vitamins.

The next day despite being catastrophically near-death, I toddled into work sucking on a cough drop and waiting for the liquor store to open (hot rum, anyone?).

In my workplace are plants intended to provide a sense of health and well-being for all who visit. But they send the wrong message as half of the plants are dying and the other half are covered in dust. I’m in charge of taking care of them.

As I did my duty that day by religiously watering them, I happened to look closely and saw something white peeking out from under the leaves.

What I thought was a dead, decaying, decomposing leaf was actually a....mushroom! (I guess that doesn’t say a lot about my office).

A mushroom!? In a potted plant?

And what is with me and mushrooms these days?

I watered the plant, left the mushroom where it belonged assuming it was good fertilizer and went on my merry, professional way.

When it came time for my lunch break, I made my way down to my favorite shrub-flanked bench by the harbour, hoping beyond hope that no one was sitting on it. I needed a time-out after all the stressful mushroom-appearances in my life during the last 24 hours. But my throat was soothed with another cough drop, the sun was shining, and my bench was available! What a great day!

But just as I sat down, I saw them.

Three little mushrooms huddled together in the protection and security of the shrubs.

Mushrooms! AGAIN!

I know mushrooms symbolize many things, male virility being one of them (!), although I am not of that ‘persuasion.’ I also know of the Chinese belief that mushrooms are symbols of happiness and rebirth and of the Mexican belief that the little fruiting bodies of fungus signify knowledge and enlightenment.

But as for the Canadian medical belief that they’re the cure for the common cold? That was news to me.

I did eventually go back to work, constantly looking behind me to see if mushrooms were following me. The cold-bug-thing I had didn’t do me in, but I realized I maybe need to cut back on the amount of cough drops I was ingesting.

And as for all the mushrooms that week?

All I can say is....trippy, man.

Thanks for reading! Lisa

Friday, October 4, 2013

It's All About the Hair - and More

I’m sorry to write yet another missive about my hair, but really – it’s all about the hair (see story ‘Romance Writers find Romantic Hair at the 2013 Victoria Women’s Show’ dated Sept 28 2013)

Other than the fancy up-do previously shown, I don’t exactly have the most glamorous, modern, age/era appropriate hair-do. I’m stuck in the 80’s, an era of which I can’t let go – even after 20-something years.

But lifestyle, time, priorities and interest dictate my hairstyle. I don’t have a lot of time to spend on it, never mind the gumption or interest – right now. I have too many other things going on. Mornings spent fiddling with my hair for 45 minutes is not my thing – it’s time well spent on something else. I have kids who, despite their increasing age, I still chase after. I’m always on the run, and with my busy lifestyle, keeping it long and straight and pony-tail ready is best.

But deep down, deeper than a deep, hot-oil condition treatment by Alberto VO5, the real reason for my long straight hair that looks the same day in and day out? I can’t let go.

I can’t go of the style; something familiar and easy that I don’t have to put much thought into. The length is a security thing, I suspect, on so many levels; Freud would have a field-day with me and my hair. And, just to add to my excuses, time plays a big part into getting it cut. I don’t have the time to get it trimmed, and when I do have the time, I forget that it needs to be done, and another whirl-wind weekend goes by with dry, frizzy ends left to irritate me for another week.

Most recently I was channeling 70’s-Cher, but only with dry, frizzy ends. I realized how bad it was when the photos of my lovely, lovely do from the Victoria Women’s show revealed not only grey, but one-too-many frizzy fly-aways. It was beyond over-do for a trim – it was time to take action. To make the time.

And it has become apparent to me as, in recently so many facets of my life, that it’s time to make a change.

One step at a time. One inch at a time.

As cliché as it sounds, it’s time to let go.

A lot has been going on my life and in the world, both of which amount to one thing: change. Change is constant. Change is growth. Change is inevitible, and change is healthy.

And if I change my hair one way and hate it, I can always change it again. Hair grows.

So off to the hairdressers I went. Not for dye to hide the grey (I definitely could NOT keep up with dyeing my hair), but only for a cut to clean-up the frizzies and to work my way towards something bigger, grander, different...and shorter.

I wanted to go drastic, shearing off the locks that were halfway down my back, but as with many things, baby steps is often best. Both the hairdresser and I agreed, only 3 – 4 inches would be best right then. Then I’d see how I would do for going shorter.

Many say long hair only works up to a certain age. Not to say that I am totally ‘working’ the whole long hair thing, but as much as I want to change, I know I will miss my long hair. I do want to look nice, and I do want to feel good. But I have decided that it’s not so much the look I am after, but the sense of letting go and moving on. And as I sometimes have moments of panic, I know that, despite all this time, thought and energy put into my hair that I say I have no time for, I can always grow it back. Hair grows.

So the hairdresser did her ‘thing,’ and not once did I cry, despite the pile of hair on the floor and despite feeling practically bald. I felt better. I know I’m going to go for more – and soon. I have to let go. I have the appointment already booked, to cement my commitment, and I’ve told the world (here), just to further qualify my plan. I will miss being Cher, but I know it’s time to let go, move on, and change.

And even though it’s JUST hair, it really IS all about the hair, but much, much more.
(Note: I threw on the t-shirt on pre-haircut, for all the bits of hair that would be attached to my clothes, after. There is no 'hidden' message behind the shirt, and although I do support the cause, I am not endorsing products)

Thanks for reading!