October 1, 2014
WARNING: For those of you expecting a humorous, satirical essay… look away now. This is a sappy, sentimental blog post dedicated to one of the best guys I know…
I’m not talking about these awesome sneakers.
I’m also not talking about this tennis player from the 1970s, although I can understand why you’d think that… (because his name is also Stan Smith).
I’m talking about this guy…
He’s my Grandpa and he’s turning 90 this week!
He was born in 1924… before World War II, rock n’ roll, the moon landing, and the internet!
Yes, at 90 years YOUNG, he may be considered an “antique”, but he’s still sharp as a tack and has more energy than people half his age!
When people meet my Grandpa they immediately love him. Not only is he friendly, kind, compassionate, warm and incredibly wise… (this list could go on and on and on), he’s got this indescribable brightness in his eyes… I’m pretty sure he’s an angel.
After my Grandfather’s mother passed away in childbirth, his Grandmother Annie stepped in to raise him. Annie was an incredibly strong woman with a gift for poetry. My Grandfather wrote about her life in his book, The Life and Lines of a Pioneer.
An excerpt from one of her poems, “An Angel Unawares” seems fitting:
As he sat unfolding the scriptures
And told of God’s goodness and grace,
A light of reflected glory
Shone on his dear old face
The theme of God’s goodness and mercy
Was the one he loved to record,
No teacher on earth has taught him
But I knew that he walked with the Lord.
Like my Great-Grandmother Annie (and me!), my Grandfather is a writer. He shared his wisdom and experience with several published books, including Coping with Life Victoriously.
I have learned (and continue to learn) so much from my Grandpa Smith. Our weekly phone call is always the highlight of my day, as he continues to be such a great source of advice, encouragement, love, and support.
One of the things I love most about my Grandpa is his laugh… it’s always genuine and generous… kind of like him.
My Grandpa has had a fascinating life… he served for almost twenty years as a pastor before becoming a probation officer. He went on to work as a prison chaplain, before eventually returning to pastoring a church. He devoted his life to others, and continues to bless others wherever he is.
He’s my mentor, my guide, my hero and my friend.
He’s also an amazing gardener… check out that pumpkin!
Young Stan and young Elsie with even younger Linda!
FaceTiming with Gramps!
My mom and I hugging our special dads.
September 24, 2014
When I was young…
Wait. With all this “When I was young” talk, I’m sounding like a grandma, aren’t I?
I assure you, I’m no grandma! I’m a “young lady” according to the bus boy at the Mexican restaurant I dined in last night. He was actually a “bus man” because he was definitely a man and not a boy. There was nothing boyish about him… He was all man… Muscular, confident, and handsome… but not cloyingly so.
Anyway, when I was young…
Okay, I am like a grandma in many ways… I love Christmas and housecoats and hard candy, but I am also still very youthful, fresh-faced and just a tad immature.
I digress again (it happens).
Anyway, when I was young, my family regularly went camping.
I love Wikipedia’s definition of camping:
Camping is an outdoor recreational activity. The participants (known as campers) leave urban areas, their home region, or civilization and enjoy nature while spending one or several nights outdoors, usually at a campsite. Camping may involve the use of a tent, caravan, motorhome, a primitive structure, sporting camp or no shelter at all.
(I couldn’t have said it better myself… so I just went ahead and cut and pasted it.)
You might hear “camping” and think, “Oh, spending time in the Great Outdoors sounds like fun! I can roast artisanal marshmallows over the cinnamon-scented campfire (it’s real thing) and then fall asleep on my Coleman self-inflating sleep pad, while listening to Nature Soundz radio on iTunes (because why listen to actual nature when you can listen to Nature Soundz?). Also, I can catch up on Breaking Bad on Netflix because the campsite has wifi!”
And to you I would say, “Hells no. It was NOT FUN. It was the 1980s.”
It was hot dogs made of pig-snouts, swimming in leach-infested lakes, starting a fire with gasoline, and having conversations.
It was the worst.
I’m not really an outdoors kind of gal, and I wasn’t an outdoors kind of kid either. Luckily, our family had a camper, which made “camping” slightly more bearable.
The set-up looked a lot like this:
The camper was small, but it did the job (keeping us from being eaten alive by bears, mosquitoes, etc.), and it was considered state of the art at the time.
- a curtain separating my parent’s bed from our bed (surprisingly, the thin layer of polyester did not muffle the sounds of my parent’s canoodling)
- a flushable toilet (necessary)
- a self-cleaning oven (my mom cleaned it)
And, most importantly:
- a very declarative bumpersticker on the back, which read:
Apparently, a lot of people love Jesus (which is nice).
All of my fond “camping” memories took place inside the camper, and most involve playing board games and eating Chex Mix while it rained outside (none of my fond “camping” memories involve outdoor recreational activities), so it was a very sad day when my parents sold our beloved camper.
Now when people honk, I just assume they’re angry with us for not signalling when we change lanes, leaving our high beams on, parking in a handicapped spot, etc.
September 17, 2014
I like gifts, presents, etc.
(If you were wondering.)
If you were debating between donating to a charitable cause (ie. humanitarian, philanthropic) in my name, OR buying me a large, thoughtful, expensive present… wrapped in fun paper with a well-crafted bow… debate no more.
I’ll take the gift.
(Please and thank you.)
When I was about eight or nine years old, my parents got me a particularly original, thoughtful, expensive Christmas present… a big sack of money.
No, my parents hadn’t robbed a bank! They are fine, upstanding citizens who abide by the Canadian legal system. They went to a bank and got 100 loonies, and then put them in an old, burlap money sack and then put that sack under the Christmas tree.
For those of you unfamiliar with the term “loonie”… I don’t mean these:
I mean these:
Canada’s one dollar coin.
(So you can stop with your petitions and boycotts of Stan and Linda! They would never hurt a fly – let alone stuff aquatic birds into an old, burlap money sack!) (Actually, that’s not entirely true. They have both definitely hurt flies… Killed them even.)
I digress (what else is new?).
I remember opening the burlap sack and fully expecting to find coal (I was a naughty child), so when I saw those 100 loonies, I was very excited. My parents then told me that the next day they would take me to Toys R’ Us, and that I could buy whatever I wanted with my burlap sack of money!
Stan and Linda certainly earned my love that day!
In case you’re wondering: I bought a Cabbage Patch Doll with my sack of money.
I think it’s pretty obvious: My love language is presents.
Apparently… according to author and self-professed “relationship expert” Gary Chapman, we all speak different love languages… with regard to love.
As in, how we give and receive love.
(No, not just through intercourse.) (Yes, I was surprised too.)
There are five love languages:
- Word of Affirmation – saying that they are great, nice, good-looking, etc.
- Acts of Service – bringing them a cup of tea, bringing them a cookie, etc.
- Receiving Gifts – buying them something thoughtful, expensive, etc.
- Quality Time – spending time with them, watching TV beside them, etc.
- Physical Touch – patting them on the back when they have a cough, etc.
First you must determine your love language…
If my in-depth description wasn’t enough, here is an online quiz to help you determine yours.
Something to keep in mind: Other people may not speak the same language as you… They may only speak French or Portuguese. This is an important thing to keep in mind because you don’t want to be that a$$hole who shows up in Paris not knowing how to say hello, good-bye and thank you in French.
(Bonjour, Au Revoir, Merci.)
Just as some people may not speak the same language as you… some people may not speak the same love language as you.
For instance (and in case you forgot) my love language is presents. I like receiving presents. I also like giving presents (though much, much less).
Some people aren’t bothered with receiving presents. They prefer to be told that they are great, nice, good-looking, etc.
Some people don’t like cilantro. Different people… different preferences.
I like presents.
Also: Christmas is 98 days away.
Some people say, “there is no time like the present”. I think what they actually mean is, “there is no present like the time”. Which means they prefer to receive a wristwatch or timepiece.
September 12, 2014
My sweet and perfect niece Madeline was born on September 13, 2005… 11 days after attending her first concert (Pearl Jam), whilst still in her mother’s uterus.
I remember the day she was born. I got the call from my sister, went directly to the bus (stopping only at Max’s Deli on Oak Street for a coffee and muffin), and rode the number 17 bus up to the hospital, ugly-crying tears of joy. When I saw that little bundle, I fell in love.
I continue to be in awe of what an awesome, bright, caring kid she’s become.
I wanted to share a few highlights of being an aunt to one of the coolest people I know…
1. This letter to Santa… (2010)
2. This Easter card envelope, which educated us on cupids… (2011)
3. Queen’s wave, with a giant bird (2011).
4. This portrait, which melted my heart (2012)
5. The fact that every year for Christmas she asks for a loaf of sourdough.
6. This crazily detailed map of her and her brother’s ideal house, complete with “panic room”, “sad room”, and “mush room” (2013).
7. The fact that at (almost) nine years old she’s read more books than any adult I know (2013).
8. Easter letters, and knowing that Some Bunny loves me (2013).
10. Our family wouldn’t be complete without her!
Photo courtesy: http://www.meganpiket.com
BONUS (and possibly my favorite sign Madeline has ever made)… Madeline made this sign Christmas 2011. We weren’t sure if we were going to be able to come home for Christmas due to finances, but then we did… hence the “No Broken Hearts”.
It reads: No Broken Hearts. Good Afternoon, Merry Christmas and Welcome! I knew I would see you at the airport!
Happy birthday to my superfantasticscrumdiddiliumptiouswhizzpoppinggloriumptious niece Madeline. We love you big time!!!
September 3, 2014
This came up in conversation this week… One of the weirdest things about Los Angeles (and that in itself is a looooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooonnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnng list).
Originally posted on Hold Your Horse:
One of the weirdest things about living in Los Angeles is not that they say “dude” to both men and women, or their inclination toward plastic surgery, tanned bodies and blonde hair, or even The Bob Baker Marionette Theater (though it is pretty weird: http://www.bobbakermarionettes.com)… It’s the fact that Angelenos (Los Angeles residents) take their refrigerators with them wherever they go. I don’t mean to work, or grocery shopping or to the beach (that would be crazy)… I mean when they move house!
Most apartment and house rentals in Los Angeles do not include a refrigerator. Yes, they include stoves, dishwashers, clothes washers, dryers, microwaves, air conditioners, and sometimes furniture and linens – but not refrigerators! Apparently, landlords don’t want to be responsible for refrigerator repairs. Every other repair is fine (microwaves, for example) but they refuse to get involved with fridges.
I digress (as per usual).
When we moved from…
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August 20, 2014
You know all those ridiculously sentimental quotes about sisters that they write in birthday cards, engrave on wall plaques, and cross-stitch on pillows?
Sometimes people feel inclined to make grand declarations about their sisters, and post messages like these on social media with the directive “Share if you have the best sister in the world”.
First of all, there can only be one “best sister in the world”, officially.
You can have a good sister, or even a great sister (or, a terrible sister), but is she really, honestly, absolutely, with certainty - the “best sister in the world”?
If only there was a way of knowing whether your sister is the really “best sister in the world”… (if only there were a set of questions or a quiz, which could definitively answer this)…
Oh, here’s one:
How to know if your sister is the “best sister in the world”?
- Has she given you an organ (I don’t mean the kind of keyboard instrument, I mean the part of your anatomy that keeps you alive… like, a kidney or pancreas)?
- Has she recently come into a windfall and bought you a Mercedes-Benz S-Class, as a token of her love?
- Has she won any sort of award that is recognised by an accredited international agency or society, acknowledging her work as a “sister” and received a medal, trophy or plaque at a ceremony, attended by at least one diplomat?
If the answer to all of the above is “no”, then you really shouldn’t go around making those kinds of sweeping statements or claims.
Also: I have the best sister in the world.
I really do.
Sorry if you thought that you did… But, you don’t (because I do).
My sister is the best sister in the world (I’ve been told that she’s also a pretty good daughter, mother, wife, etc.).
I’m very fortunate to have “the best sister in the world”… I know this!
I didn’t always know this…
Like, when I was a teenager… I didn’t know this.
When I was a teenager I thought my sister was pretty cool, but I didn’t like her (and I don’t think she liked me). I was jealous of her freedom, car privileges, boyfriend with an earring, and her huge bangs.
We just didn’t appreciate each other.
She didn’t appreciate me harassing her or following her around, or stealing her clothes, or playing pranks on her.
I didn’t appreciate her avoiding me.
This seems accurate:
Now, as a fully grown, mature (might be pushing it?) adult woman… I really, fully and truly appreciate having “the best sister in the world”.
My sister and I share the same two kooky parents, we share the same childhood memories, we share the same sense of humour, we share the same cultural references, and we both lived through having spiral perms for the better part of the 1980s.
I know who I can turn to… for advice, for good company, for a hug, for a laugh, for encouragement, for support, and for no reason at all.
Also, she’s a fabulous cook… Proof: MINT GREEN APRON.
When I want to laugh, I know that I just have to play one round of “Heads Up” and tears will be streaming down my cheeks. Good, joyful tears. They don’t call her “No Points Michelle” for nothing.
Love you sis.
August 13, 2014
No, not the one with the Vampire, or the one where Barbara Walters made Ringo Starr cry when she brought up the death of John Lennon (Note to self: If you ever meet Ringo Starr – ixnay on the ohnjay ennonlay)…
I’m taking about a particular interview that I had several years ago… An interview that will go down as the worst interview… of all time.
And saying that it was the worst interview of all time is really saying something… because I’ve had a lot of bad interviews… (it’s also saying something because I’m making a statement).
There was the one where I wore my “lucky blouse” which had a button issue… in that the buttons refused to stay shut, and I may have (I did) flashed my “brassiere” to the Receptionist and the Human Resources Manager… which is super awkward when you’re interviewing for a job at a church…
Saying that, somehow I’ve managed to get all the jobs that I’ve interviewed for… including the one at the church (Luckily, I was wearing a conservative “brassiere” that day).
I’ve also been accepted into most* programs that I’ve interviewed for…
(And yes, I really do like ellipsis… those series of dots that indicate a leading statement… those ones… just there.)
Now the reason for the * back there… I’ve been accepted into most* programs, but not all programs…
There is one program at one school that did not think I would make an ideal candidate…
The program? A Master’s degree in Creative Writing.
The school? You may have heard of it… it’s the oldest and most prestigious educational institution in the English-speaking world? It’s called Oxford. Ring any bells?
So I applied to Oxford… and after they carefully considered my application, I was invited to have a telephone interview. The date and time were set weeks in advance.
I started to get excited… I started visualising how I would traipse** around Oxford with a heaving book bag and self-satisfied smile… and how proud my mom and dad would be, and how they would finally have a chance to brag about me (because to be honest I’ve not done much to merit much bragging).
Anyway, long story short… three days before the telephone interview I had to have emergency surgery because they thought that I had a tumor behind my eye (I didn’t).
They sent me home with 11 stitches across my eyelid, and several prescriptions… Vikes, Oxy, Blues, French Fries, Tranqs, Beans, Kicker, Percs… And while I’m definitely not condoning the recreational use of these prescription drugs, I will say that if you do have a surgery and use them responsibly, they are pretty f*%$ing awesome.
I spent the next few days as high as a kite.
Then, on Monday morning… the phone rang.
You know, the one with Oxford University with regard to your application.
Yeah… that one.
I took the phone receiver, and I tried my best to ignore the large purple dinosaur that was flipping pancakes in my kitchen (mmmm… pancakes!) and I carried on with the interview…
I have no idea what was said, how it was said, or the language in which it was said.
I do know that a very*** short time later I received an email from Oxford University stating that my application had been “unsuccessful”.
Sure, I was initially disappointed… Oxford University has a fairly decent reputation as far as post-secondary learning institutions go, and I had really hoped to traipse…
But then I thought about what a stuffy old institution Oxford was, and how I’m really the opposite of stuffy (I’m extremely breezy and informal), and then I was okay with it…
Oh, I also swallowed another Kicker, which may have helped.
EPILOGUE: I ended up moving to England, and took a Screenwriting program through the University of Oxford’s Department for Continuing Education, which looks good on a resume, but is really not the “Oxford” Oxford.
A few weeks later I had an interview with the University of London that went much better… and guess what? I ended up with a Master’s degree (with distinction!) in Creative Writing.
So suck it Oxford.
* Not all, but most
** Because one does not “walk” when one attends Oxford
*** Like, very… Like, within an hour
July 23, 2014
This is embarrassing.
A lot of my blogs are embarrassing (usually for me, sometimes for others) but this one gives you a real glimpse into the little weirdo pervert that I was as a teenager (obviously not now… as I’m definitely a mature, fully grown, adult woman).
I love Pearl Jam. That’s no secret. In fact, it’s the furthest thing from a secret. I have all their albums, I have seen them in concert at least a dozen times, I have an assortment of Pearl Jam t-shirts that I wear regularly, my radio is tuned to Pearl Jam radio almost exclusively, and there’s a stipulation in my marriage contract that says if I ever meet Eddie Vedder and we happen to start making-out, the husband can’t get mad.
My love of Pearl Jam goes back to 1992, when my sister was playing “Ten” and I was like, “what?”
I had never heard anything like it… (in fact, all I had heard up to that point was contemporary Christian pop music. It was a very sad life – made sadder by the fact that I thought contemporary Christian pop music was all there was.)
I heard “Ten” and I was very taken by the music… the energy, the guitar-heavy rock, the mellifluousness, and of course – that voice… Eddie’s voice. Sigh.
For those of you who don’t know Pearl Jam, Eddie is very “impassioned”. Very impassioned. Very.
Really, very impassioned. Unusually. Wonderfully. Profoundly.
He’s also fairly easy on the eyes:
When Eddie Vedder sings, something happens in my body… Something slightly inappropriate.
When I was about 12 or 13, I took the “Ten” album (on cassette) and I recorded all of the particularly passionate parts of “Ten”… the growly, passionate howls, roars, wails and bellows… onto another cassette.
What can I say? I really (really, really) enjoyed his growls, howls, roars, wails and bellows. Plus, he looked like this:
And he was very impassioned. Very.
Oh, and (obviously) it was also because of all of his charitable work.
On a recent road trip we were listening to Pearl Jam radio and I was singing along, and I started laughing… as I was reminded of my “special tape”. I told my husband about the tape and (strangely) he was not at all surprised.
It was probably sold at a garage sale many moons ago. Someone probably bought the tape, took it home, had a little listen… and obviously, fell in love with Eddie Vedder.