Me, Myself, and Canada

I woke this morning with a very high self approval rating. This is not usually the case. Ordinarily I’m castigating myself for eating late at night and then not being able to fall asleep. Or for forgetting to brush my teeth, which is rare because I’m a very strict taskmaster. I’m like my own S&M club, where I work both ends.

But this morning I looked at my tired, aging face in the mirror and said, “You’re doing okay. There is nothing you can do to reverse this morning look, unless a genie comes along at this very moment (I look up in the air at nothing) so bloody well relax already.” And for once, I listened to myself. “What wise advice,” I said aloud, being very comfortable with audible conversations between me and me.

This is the curse and pleasure of living alone. Now that my husband’s witty banter exists only in my head, I’m fielding discussions that should be internal but are more like a noisy parliament session. My political debates before the Manitoba election were fierce, rivalling Gollum in the split personality department of side taking. Now that the federal election looms, I’m back at it.

I wonder how many of us succumb to the eeny, meeny, miny mo form of decision making. My husband was a politician so I’ve seen, nay, walked through the grass on both sides of the fence. So even with the people I’d never vote for (no matter how much my contrary Gollum side likes them) I’m still able to view them as wanting the best for their country and themselves. And yet. Am I doing what I always do, voting ‘same as usual’ or will I pick the best one for the job?

Dostoyevsky said, ‘You can judge a society by how well it treats its prisoners.’ Nelson Mandela and Churchill both said you could measure the degree of civilization in a society by how it treats its weakest members. Mahatma Ghandi said the same thing about how society treats animals. And Margaret Thatcher said ‘The problem with socialism is that eventually you run out of other people’s money.’ Then there’s climate change, harder to ignore if you live on the East Coast.

Choosing the right politician generally comes down to addressing one’s own anxiety. Am I bothered by other people’s pain, or by the idea that my country’s debt is growing too large? Do I see immigrants as an economic boon or as people who cost the taxpayers a lot of money? Do I believe people should pull themselves up by their bootstraps, or is it just easier for those with stable home lives, safe upbringings and/or white privilege?

Whichever politician we pick, and however we choose to address our anxiety, we’re all in this together. As Canadians, we share a social contract that agrees on many points. There’s the unique culture we share, with each province offering it’s own flavour. We really are a people who apologize a lot ( I have a video of myself in childbirth, and mid scream, I stop to say sorry to my midwife.) We pride ourselves on being nice, and for the most part, I believe it’s true. Let’s not lose that. As part of Team Canada, I’ll stick up for you, and you stick up for me.  Okay? Now let me check in with my other half to see what she thinks.

“I concur!” she says. I love it when we’re both in agreement.

Training Day

I was wandering through the lingerie department of The Bay when I stepped into the training bra section. It’s hard to believe that a girl who’s a 28 double A needs to bother with anything besides the shirt on her back, but apparently every North American female starts sometime.

How on earth does a bra train a girl, anyway? Does it issue B.O.L.O.’s? (Be on the lookout…) Because that’s not bad advice. There’s plenty to watch out for on the journey from girl to woman. Is the training just early practice for the discomfort that comes with women’s clothing? Let’s face it. You don’t see men strapping up their chubby chests with a tight band and suffocating unbreathable material. Or waltzing down the street in heels that hurt with every step. In light of that, the training bra might be telling girls the following:

‘This is merely the first step. Sure, you feel like you’re locked in a small room until bedtime. But someday soon, you’ll graduate to more elaborate prisons, until one day you’ll don a Victoria’s Secret bra that is the comfort equivalent of a ten year stay in San Quentin. So brace yourself.

The truth is, it’s older women’s breasts that  need training. After they’ve spent enough time on the planet, they get a little jaded. Cynical. Opinionated, some might say, and positively revolutionary. There is no accounting for the direction they’ll take (though many head south for the winter) and when it comes to the steel-like frames that promise to ‘lift and separate,’ many women’s breasts raise a metaphorical middle finger, and say, ‘Fuck that.’

This is why my mother and mother in law entered their seventies like it was 1969 and they were going to burn their bras in the city square. They didn’t, of course. Instead, they discreetly tucked them away in a drawer and never looked at them again. Every day life was lived cage free, and like healthy hens, they were free range all the way.

On that celebratory note, here’s a shout out to my weight training instructor, Tracy Salamondra. Every day with her is training day, and yes, there are some benefits there for wayward, recalcitrant breasts. It’s all in the posture one gains from swinging kettle bells and thrusting those dumbbells in the air. When your shoulders are locked down properly, your breasts might sulk a bit, but eventually they settle into place. “Hmm”, I thought, the first time I noticed. “There’s something to all this suffering after all.’ And unlike a bra shaped like a medieval torture devise, her gym workout actually offers some promise. So I think I’ll stick with it and see what happens. Onward and upward, right? Girls, stop it! (I guess we’re not quite there, yet.)

My Paddle’s Keen and Bright

I might have saved someone’s life today. I’m not entirely sure, so I’ll lay it all out and let you be the judge. I was paddling my kayak and singing a song I learned a child:

My paddle’s keen and bright
Flashing with silver
Follow the wild goose flight
Dip, dip and swing

 

Dip, dip and swing her back
Flashing with silver
Swift as the wild goose flies
Dip, dip and swing
It’s a cheerful piece, and being alone on a lake is the best place to sing it. My patient husband used to allow me to go on and on with nary a complaint. Sometimes he’d join in, though it was always hard to recognize the tune as he sang it.  Now that he’s gone, I get on the lake whenever I can, because I feel very connected to him there.
Today I was paddling and singing, when mid song, I notice someone drowning. Well, something. A dragonfly was thrashing around in the water, desperately trying to fly away but not able to free itself. I paddled quickly and ran right over it in my effort to help. Then I tried again, almost falling out of my kayak in my attempts to get the bug aboard my orange paddle. It seemed even more frightened of the paddle than the water, but I wasn’t taking no for an answer.
There are many religions in the world, several believing that people can spend their next life as something else. Like an insect. In between singing, I’d been talking to my dead husband, saying, ‘Feel free to join me! Sneak away if you can!’ And then I came upon the drowning dragonfly. This was a moment I’d been waiting for, where I’d get to address my inner Kate Winslet from the Titanic movie. “I’ll never let go!” I said to the dragon fly, softly but with the right amount of drama in my voice. I meant it, too. I was willing to flip my kayak far from shore to prove it. It was a safe proposition, because I was wearing my new life vest which makes me look like a person who takes out terrorists and then goes kayaking. Anyway.
At last I got the dragon fly onto the paddle and dropped it gently on the front of my kayak where it sat, rubbing its face with its front legs, it’s small chest heaving with what I believed was relief. I felt so good. ‘I saved you,’ I said to the bug. ‘Is your name Clarence? You’d better not be a reincarnation of Hitler.’
What is it with Hitler, anyway? There are other evil people who’ve walked the earth that I could mention. I could have said Stalin. Or the Marquis de Sade, who wasn’t very nice to his house guests. But Hitler’s always the first guy that comes to mind. I really didn’t want the bug to be a bad guy, and that got me thinking.
I’m a Christian who has never believed in the concept of hell. Rather, I believe that when our energy moves on to our next lives, we develop an awareness of how we behaved while on earth. Does that mean Hitler is sorry? Is he wringing his hands and hoping people will forgive him? I guess he’ll have to run that by the people he killed. Enough of that. Let’s get back to my life saving business.
As I drew close to shore, I could see the bug reviving even more. I climbed out of my kayak and carried it over to my car. Fetching my straps from the back, I lowered the Hullavator Pro so I could load my kayak and push it up on the roof. I got the thing strapped up, secured it both back and front of my car and drove off down the road. Then I remembered the dragon fly.
I forgot to check if he’d flown away. Perhaps he was still desperately clinging to the vessel. Maybe the wind beneath his wings had dried him off. Or maybe I had killed him. Perhaps I was supposed to let things take their natural course and let him die all along? I’m a Hanson by birth. It’s my nature to get involved in things that are none of my business.
The good news is, I had a wonderful, peaceful singing afternoon on a lake as smooth as glass. The bad news is, I’m a neglectful, potentially dangerous  bug killer. If it was my husband, it’s okay. He understands my forgetful nature. If it was Hitler, who cares. Dear bug, I salute your valiant efforts to survive, even if it was all in vain. Such is life. Now here’s my song. WordPress won’t let me post it, but the link is here.

 

I’ll Give You Something to Cry About

When I was growing up, this saying was something many parents used as a child raising technique. I’ve been thinking about it a lot today, and wondering if mom and dad really understood what it meant:

‘Here is a little gift from me. It’s going to hurt enough to make you cry.’

I don’t think they got that. The point was to shut the child down, thereby making life easier for themselves. Self esteem wasn’t a thing back then. Providing food and clothes, and teaching kids manners and ethics was considered a decent parenting benchmark. But as many of us have discovered, having something to cry about comes to everyone sooner or later.

Today is my husband’s birthday, and I know that since he’s dead, time does not pass the same for him anymore.  I believe that he exists on another plane (some call it heaven) because many people have had near death experiences and discovered that our life energy does not die with our bodies. So, wherever you are, honey, I hope you’re doing something special, like a canoe trip. Me, I’d be shaping up to battle the Death Star with Han Solo at my side. But you were never into science fiction. Happy paddling. Say hello to our friend, Charlie Mott for me.

I hope my request for someone to distract  you on June 28th and July 3rd  was taken seriously. Those were the days I had garage sales for all of your dad’s stuff. Some of yours, too. I’m telling you now, in case you didn’t know. We raised over $3200 between the two sales, and the money went to some good causes. I’m sorry you didn’t get to be there because you would have been shocked by everything your dad had squeezed into those towering piles of junk. It was kind of insane.

And almost like a party. I had three different guys (looking like they were on safari and had just spotted a rare breed of rhinoceros) tell me, ‘This is a man’s garage sale!’ Family and friends helped make it happen. Their kindness gave me something to cry about.

So does your absence, which seems  more real now that time has passed. I guess I took you for granted, which is a gift no one understands until it’s gone. When you’re accustomed to having someone at your side, you slide into the comfortable certainly that they will always be there. But your spot is unfillable, and I’m learning how to deal with that.

Sometimes I get angry, and other days I walk around like I’m searching for something. ‘What am I looking for?’ I ask myself out loud. This has been a constant theme in my life. (I should just admit that I’m looking for my brain.) But now I think I’m mostly looking for you. Even though I’ll have to die to see you again. And I have people here, so that’s not currently doable.

However, when that day comes, you’d better be ready for me. I want to see a shoreline, and a canoe ready and waiting, with you at the back, and my home made Rick Hall paddle already in place. I want us to camp somewhere, and I’m taking it for granted there’ll be no mosquitoes. Maybe you could arrange for us to use that first tent we bought. Remember how small it was? We forgot to buy a fly and it collapsed in the rain. But the rest of the time it was so cozy.

Until then, have a wonderful birthday, and please hug our parents for me. I was going to post the Beatles singing the applicable song, but I think I’ll use one that you sang all the time, even though you couldn’t really sing at all. But that never stopped you, and that’s another thing I loved.

West Side Garden Story

I was hacking my way through the jungle of my perennial garden when I saw a horrifying thing. On the path below me,  a horde of ants was attacking a worm, rolling it over and over, and biting it as it wriggled frantically. I ran for the garden hose to gently wash the ants away and found myself singing along with a song from the musical, West Side Story. The New York 1960’s gang, the Jets, were attacking a lone Shark who’d wandered through their territory.

Was it my imagination that the ants were snapping their fingers? Do they even have fingers? Probably not, but there was some serious dancing going on, especially when I turned on the hose. The worm (ahem, the Shark) managed to escape down a crack in the dirt, and the disappointed Jets headed for home, once they’d dried off.

Next, I shoveled up their ant hill. The little buggers had been stealing the dirt from between my bricks, and I was tired of fighting them. Crossing the road, my wheelbarrow loaded with an entire ant kingdom, I realized I was the bad guy. Like the aliens in War of the Worlds and Lord Voldemort in Harry Potter, I’d brought the dystopian reality of a world gone bad into the ant’s lives. I pictured them wringing their hands (do they have hands?) and weeping about the loss of their home. Honestly, gardening is difficult enough without all this guilt.

What with the singing and gang warfare, it’s hard to know where to start. The clover in the grass is a pain, but there’s a monster sized version lurking in the taller shrubs that’s so much worse.  I think my perennials are in partnership with many of the weeds, hiding them beneath their broad leaves. Tiny dandelion plants, little bits of chickweed. It’s like Romeo and Juliet out there. (The old version of West Side Story.) When I pull a weed up, the perennials seem to cry out in despair. I’m sure I heard one quoting Shakespeare.

“I defy you, stars!”

There might have been a song in there, too.  It’s our Community Choir’s set designer, Ken Pawlachuk’s, fault. He brought the lovely pier from the Mamma Mia musical into my front yard and now, everyone’s a diva. Even the hostas, and they’re usually so sensible.

So, if you see me at the store laughing maniacally in true bad guy style, realize that I’ve just decimated a whole village of ants and uprooted a few hundred weeds. They’re all busy singing ‘One More Day’ (from Les Miserable) while I’m trying to harden my heart. Sure, I’m not using pesticides anymore, but I’m still spraying the weeds with vinegar, baking soda and salt. I’m dousing them with boiling water. It’s just a different kind of torture. But that’s the way we are, us villains. It’s all about our tidy yards and the money we shelled out during the frenzy of spring plant buying.

‘It’s for your own good!’ I shout at the perennials. ‘Stop singing!’ I holler at the weeds. They barely listen anymore.
One more day, indeed. (Here’s the video, a human version. The plants haven’t quite nailed it yet.)

ASMR – It’s Weirder than I Thought

I woke up at two the other night and felt wide awake. To get sleepy, I turned to YouTube for a quick relaxation session. I like watching two things: a nice massage or a gentle hair brushing experience. I wrote a blog about the hairbrushing thing called, ‘Let Me Help You With That Kink.’ That’s how I felt in the beginning when scrolling through YouTube in search of something that would quiet my mind. Just a little kinky.

But now I’ve been introduced to a whole new level of strange. I clicked on what I thought was my video and the usual ASMR sign came up. But this time, there was no hairbrush or masseuse waiting for me. Instead, a gold sprayed mannequin head came into view, along with a woman holding a pair of Q tips. To my surprise and discomfort, she proceeded to insert the swabs in the ears of the mannequin. In, out, in out. Like some kind of ear masturbation. I exited out of that one and lo and behold, another mannequin appeared, wearing a set of headphones. A woman stroked the headphones over and over again and I found myself wondering how anyone on earth would find this relaxing. It was just so weird.

It turns out that the world of ASMR, or Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response, is a wide one, and what makes me feel like falling asleep just doesn’t do it for some people. There’s one where someone gets an eye exam. There’s different videos of people whispering. Some people tap on wood, or books, or balls. (The bouncing kind.) People hum, they whistle, or smoke in their cars.Maybe the last is meant for people who’ve quit and miss it. Truly, there’s something for everyone.

It’s left me wondering. If my videos relax me because it feels like someone is brushing my hair or giving me a massage, how did these other scenarios originate? What are people doing with mannequins, anyway? And who decided gold was the colour for the head, and that Q tips would be a hit? Who enjoys seeing headphones get a good rubdown? I wonder how the videographers figure these things out. Do they have a team? Are they taking requests? I have no idea. But to explain how people feel diving into the deep end of weird videos, I’ll quote the lyrics from Lady Gaga’s moving duet with Bradley Cooper in ‘A Star is Born.’

I’m off the deep end, watch as I dive in
I’ll never meet the ground
Crash through the surface, where they can’t hurt us
We’re far from the shallow now

Yes, we are, people. We’re waaaaaaay far from the shallows. But whatever makes you sleep at night, whatever has your body falling into a deep state of relaxation, remember this. Never put anything in your ear that’s small than your elbow. Now you stay safe. Good night. And here’s a little something for your resting pleasure.

Snack Time in the Apocalypse

My daughter, Hilary, is my alpha reader when I’m writing a novel. I recently sent her the first three chapters of my latest work in progress, and after all the required ego building; ‘Yes, nice, very good. I like the character and story,’ she proceeded to put me in my place.

“Mom, what’s with all the eating?”

I’m wondering how she can see through the phone to the coconut muffin I’m holding, but I hide it behind my back anyway. “Not you, mom. The girl in your story! She’s always cooking. It slows down the action. Remember that she’s terrified and alone.”

My first instinct was to feel defensive. “That’s why she eating so much. She needs provisions to help her handle the horror of her situation. You can stress eat in the apocalypse, you know.” Silence on the phone.

When I go to a movie where the characters are constantly running and hiding, all I can think is, when are they going to have a meal? Or go to the bathroom? I find it hard not to worry about their wellbeing. Never mind that the enemy soldier, alien or dinosaur may be closing in. When’s lunch?

I have five sisters and one brother and I swear I’m the only one who thinks this way. The sisters are like corset wearing Southerners from the 1800’s, who never have appetites. “I think I’m off my food right now,” they’ll say thoughtfully, pushing their half full plates away. I stare at them in bewilderment. I’ve never pushed a plate away in my life. And my brother seems to burn 1000 calories an hour, but not me, so that’s why I have to exercise so religiously. (Okay, maybe I’m not that diligent, but I try.) My inner tube threatens to become an outer tire, and I’m certainly not going to miss a meal or a snack on it’s behalf.

Do you ever wonder why those characters in movies or novels who never eat, sleep or go to the bathroom don’t discuss it with the other people on the run? “Oops, I just crapped myself. I should have hid out in that gas station bathroom.”

Dear reader, you’ve read my potty stories about the long road north. There is no bush, ditch or vacant lot that won’t do in a pinch. So I really don’t understand these characters. I see my daughter’s point of view that you can’t break the tension with mundane things, but let’s have some believability. Science fiction shows are particularly bad for this. A character goes days before finding a tiny, foil wrapped piece of thousand year old dried meat, makes a face eating it, then is back on the run. Really?

Okay, yes, perhaps my girl is cooking too much. But like me, she has food insecurity. Not the kind that actually exists in the world where real people starve every day, but the kind that’s in your head. My phone tells me its been two hours since breakfast. Time for a snack. Then its lunch. Then its snack time. Then it’s supper. I’m trying very hard not to snack after that because of my inner tube, but I always feel like it. I don’t care if my pants/corset are too tight. Thanks to Tracy’s weight class (the suffering! the joy!) they’re not.

If you have a book you’ve always wanted to write and it’s going to be action packed, let your characters have a moment or two. A bathroom break. A sandwich. Even a bag of chips snatched from a vendor as they whip by, two steps ahead of a giant robot. From all parts of the theater, people like me will exhale in relief, finally able to enjoy the rest of the movie.

If I was a character in a movie, caught by the enemy and facing a death squad, I know what my last words would be. Instead of requesting a cigarette, I’d say, ‘Do you have any bananas?’ And people like me watching the movie would mutter, ‘Good choice.’ People asking about the movie later might say, ‘Was it sad?’
“Yes, but they let her have a banana.’
‘Oh. Thank goodness.’

A little kindness goes a long way. I just hope the Rotten Tomatoes critics like my idea.