Monthly Archives: May 2019

Lessons From the Business Side of the Road

In light of my recent eight hour drive home, I’m revisiting the subject of peeing outdoors. I must write this because if I don’t, I’ll start discussing the relaxed standards of widowhood. It’s like living in a frat house with a population of one. It turns out that my husband was the prissy half of our duo, (he had one sibling, I had six…it makes a difference.) Between the hours of midnight and eight, our bedroom sounds like a herd of trumpet swans have moved in. There’s no one home but me, so who cares, right? But I’ve been told that the topic of farting is not fit for public consumption, so that’ll be enough of that.

Instead, let me regale you with my latest grievance. It says somewhere in the Talmud (I’m not Jewish…sorry for the cultural appropriation) that there’s a men’s morning prayer with the following words:

“Blessed are you, Lord, our God, ruler of the universe who has not created me a woman.”  

I say Amen and high five every man on the planet for being on the winning side of that prayer, solely because of the act of peeing. Men get to stand up for it. You can drive by at 110 klicks an hour and feel certain that the guy standing outside his car is just kicking the tires. But nobody buys it when you’re squatting with your pants down. And there are not enough bathrooms between Flin Flon and Winnipeg to avoid this situation, so the whole time I’m driving, I’m keeping an eye out for lonely roads exiting the main highway.

This is a bad idea for several reasons.

A. Serial killers lurking nearby
B. Bears

It’s still spring and every bear in Manitoba was traveling the number six highway on Friday. I’d pull over on a lonely stretch of road, not a car in sight, and barely (pun intended) get down to business when an actual bear would lumber into view. I broke speed records getting back into my car. So I entered one of those abandoned logging roads, first making sure there wasn’t a clown-faced axe-wielding murderer hiding nearby. In spite of the all clear, there were still several problems with the area.

First, it was disgusting. People, this is not your personal dump for your child’s diapers, your fast food containers and the last thousand water bottles you drank from and then abandoned. There was barely room to move, the place was so littered. And, there was a bear. A black one, smallish, but even so. I had already assumed the position, feeling grateful for the stretchiness of my Lulu Lemon pants and trying not to pee on my shoes. I thought I was going to faint, but fortunately I skedaddled instead.

In spite of the cold, it’s actually easier peeing out of doors in the winter. The bears are sleeping and the snow means no splashing, which is a plus. Men probably splash too, but I doubt they care because of the distance thing. I can’t explain it properly because I’m not good at geometry, or finding pi or longitude. Maybe its physics. I don’t know.

I started wondering about the plan for women. Like, what’s with all the squatting, dear Creator? But then, the more I thought about it, the clearer it became. Childbirth, gardening, picking up tiny toys like Lego pieces. There are many reasons for the act of squatting. With it comes a certain sense of resignation, of patience, and a calm acceptance of what is, at least in the moment. Squatting makes a person feel vulnerable, and maybe that’s why women are so open with their feelings, comparatively speaking.

That which doesn’t kill you (the bear, the axe wielding murderer) makes you stronger, according to Nietzsche.  At least in the thigh area. So I’m doing a 180 on my whining and will consider the squatting position a gift. I’m pretty sure the Dalai Lama squats. I’ve seen him do it in a magazine photo. Maybe he’s practicing yoga, or praying. Perhaps he’s getting in touch with his feminine side and allowing himself to be vulnerable. Whichever it is, I choose to believe that for those few moments of getting down to business, I’m also exercising and meditating.

It feels appropriate to end this blog post with the almost prayerful lyrics of Canadian female icon, Shania Twain:

Oh, oh, oh, I want to be free, yeah, 
to feel the way I feel,

Man! 
I feel like a woman!

Me too, Shania.

Mamma Mia!

The musical is over. The props are put away, the actors returning to their regular lives. Teachers, students, miners, nurses, retired people and at least one writer will take a deep breath and enjoy the peace, quiet, and extra time on their hands. And yet.

I grew accustomed to the daily cries of the Greek Chorus, ie: the Flin Flon Community Choir, sequestered behind the scenery with the band. We were our own little family back there. ‘What’s happening now?’ we’d ask anyone with a view of the floor. Fortunately, there was lots of singing backstage so we didn’t have too much time on our hands to think about it. I missed being out in the hall with the actors, but we definitely paid better attention to our fearless conductor, Crystal Kolt.

As we sang our hearts out night after night, I realized that the music in Mamma Mia is perfect for every occasion. Feeling betrayed? Try the theme song.

 ‘I was cheated by you and I think you know when, so I made up my mind it must come to an end. Look at me now, will I ever learn, I don’t know how, but I suddenly lose control, there’s a fire within my soul.

These words are applicable to many situations. Got teenagers? A broken down clothes dryer? It’s handy having a theme song you can direct at the recalcitrant child or household appliance, especially when you enjoy singing and need to let off a little steam.

I wouldn’t mind if my friends met me on the street singing, ‘Chiquitita, tell me what’s wrong…how it hurts to see you crying, how it hurts to see you sad.’ We all need sympathy from time to time, and it’s such a tender song. Who wouldn’t feel understood with these lyrics? In fact, there were many cathartic moments happening backstage during the whole of the musical. It was like a therapy session. But free.

Then, there’s many people’s favorite song, Dancing Queen.

‘You can dance, you can jive, having the time of your life!’  

Well, maybe you can’t dance or jive, but when you listen to Donna’s friends and all the back up singers belting this one out, you’ll feel like you can. This song epitomizes those moments when life can’t get any better. It’s a high five from the universe, the whole world dancing, singing, and pointing at you in a ‘you can do it’ vote of confidence. You find yourself squaring your shoulders and thinking, ‘Dammit, I think I can!’

Then, there’s the cast. Janelle Haucault is our choreographer, ( and that’s forever, Janelle. Don’t try to get out of it.) Unless you’ve been to a Flin Flon musical production, you’ll never see anything like our own Mamma Mia cast and their wild dance moves. After each energetic number, they’d drag themselves to their changing stations, stunned into silence by their extreme effort and looking like nothing more than colorfully dressed, sweaty zombies who got bit at studio 54 in 1979 and haven’t summoned the energy or brains to go home. Every year, the whole singing, dancing cast always seems to lose weight. It’s almost become an audition promise. Like some kind of fitness class from hell…(but not like our class, Tracy. We love our classes with you. 🙂 And yet somehow they gather the energy for the next number, and the next.

We, the choir, are squirming in the dark, frantically looking at our scores, the words written in some kind of comic sans, our book lights trying to sort out the music as we belt out what we hope is the right part. We’re like miners of a different sort seeking the notes and script and praying we strike it rich so we don’t have to see Crystal’s shoulders slump in defeat when we blow it.

Meanwhile, the band is playing like their assess are on fire. The drums, guitars, pianos and tambourines just don’t stop. Nothing short of amazing, and all this perfection for free. That’s right, non-Flinonians. Except for a few, everyone sings, dances, cartwheels and pours their heart and soul out for the sheer fun of it.

And it is fun. We’ve had twenty plus years of performing, and it never gets old. As Sophie sings, ‘It’s the name of the game. Do you feel it the way I do?’  Yes, Sophie. In fact, we all get that crazy high that comes from joining our voices with a bunch of others and letting it rip. Do things go wrong? Occasionally. I never noticed a single mistake with the cast, but I remember singing out too early on one part and then saying, ‘Well, shit. I blew that one,’ before remembering the microphones hovering over our heads. Thankfully, I don’t have a voice that carries.  Which is nothing to be proud of but helps in moments like these.

When the finale comes and the crowd surges to its feet to join us in singing Mamma Mia, Dancing Queen and Waterloo, there are no doubters in the room. There are no left or right wing nuts, no grudge holders, no sad people. The place rocks and every voice is raised in the kind of harmony that always comes with the celebration of music, art, and most importantly, community. It’s like a magical kind of glue, so that no matter what worries are trying to crowd our spirits, we all have this singing and dancing time together, and in those moments, joy takes over. Of course, the same thing can happen at a Bomber game, too. But that’s a whole other blog. See you in the fall, choristers. Now everyone get some rest.

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That’s Gymnastic!

When my daughter Michelle came into town, I roped her into helping saw the bottom off her bedroom door, which scraped against the flooring. YouTube had recommended using a reciprocating saw for the job but when we started it up, I realized we’d be safer wrestling alligators. We settled on the jigsaw as being easier to control.

Here is the problem with sawing the bottom of a door with a jigsaw but no dust mask. It takes forever, and all the sawdust flies up your nose.

“Mom, every time you look away to breathe, your line gets crooked.” She was right. The bottom of the door was as jagged as the teeth of a meth addict. (Or an apocalypse survivor. They say dental care is the first thing to go.) She took a turn with the jig saw, but it was exhausting. We gained an inch for every fifteen minutes of work. I took the last turn and promptly broke the blade, then foolishly touched the broken end and burned my finger. Those kids who lick poles when its 30 below never learn.

Someone told me how to change the blade in the drill. Since Michelle had to head back to her real life, I went out and fixed the door by myself. The sawed off bottom now looks more like the teeth of someone needing braces, but when the light in the bedroom is off, you can hardly tell.

My next project involved courage of a higher sort. My laundry room louvered doors needed some trim. Now that I’m no longer afraid of my mitre saw, I got the pieces cut and only had to nail them in place. The problem was that my clothes dryer sits six inches from the left door and I didn’t want to move it because then the vent hose falls off and I’ve never mastered the art of putting it back on.

So I placed a board across the top of the dryer, put my small kitchen stool beside it and carefully climbed up, making sure to point the nail gun away from my face. (This is not my first nail gun rodeo.) Now I had to contort my body, get behind the dryer and squeeze the gun in place to nail the trim. What with all the bending, the straining and the pushing, I felt like I was giving birth to the nail. I had to take a break just to sweat and curse. (Also happens when actually giving birth.) Finally, I did it. I was gold. Home free.

Or so I thought. Stepping down proved to be a bigger problem. Let me set the scene for you. You’ve already figured out that I’m not Mike Holmes with his ‘do it right the first time’ mantra. I’d love to do it right, but first I have to learn to do it. I’m a creative type, which means that I’m using the longest air hose possible on my compressor. It snakes thirty times around the laundry room, heads back toward the rumpus room and finally joins up with the compressor right beside the stairs. I’ve got boards lying around, hammers, measuring tape. It’s a zoo of wild tools and the zookeeper is not always on top of the wild game.

But the good thing is, I know this about myself. I know that having three pictures with the glass out and two broken mirrors does not happen to people who are really coordinated. So while I’m extremely disorganized in most things, I’m also wary. I work like I expect a horde of zombies to enter the room at any minute. I chant to myself, ‘don’t die doing this,’ and it seems to help. So when I leapt from the dryer to the low stool and it skated across the room, I held onto the nail gun and used my newly acquired gym muscles (thank you, Tracy!) to stay aboard.

This was one of those moments in life when you realize that two parts of your life are coming together: weight class and carpentry. Because I’ve learned to hold my position in a four hour squat (just kidding, kind of)  I skated that sucker right across the room until I bumped into the vanity and stopped abruptly. I looked at myself in the mirror and said, “That was gymnastic!” Because if there’s anything that I’m not, its that.

I’m coming along in my weight class, but I have one remedial move where I have to hold onto a bar. It seems that the lunge, where you step backward onto one bended knee and then get up to do it 99 more times, is beneficial. My thigh muscles did not let me down. Ever since surfing the laundry room floor, I have begun calling myself Skater Girl, Avril Lavigne style.

I remain humble about my skills, and yet I have a certain sense of pride.

A. I got the job done.
B. I didn’t lose a hand, or die. Others might question my sanity, but I call my finished work while not dying on the job a success. Now, here’s a photo of my 45 degree upper corners on the louvered doors.

ps. I was missing a slat so I boiled a piece of wood in water and made it fit! It seems I’m turning into an older, more inept version of McGyver.

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