It’s Not Just You, Pepe, it’s Me

 Dear Pepe Le Pew,

I had a conversation with my daughter this morning that helped put things in perspective. In her delicate way, Hilary pointed out that I seem to be having a few anger issues. Every time we talk, I give her an earful about whatever is ticking me off at the moment. I’m not necessarily apologizing to you, dear cartoon skunk from my childhood. I’m just admitting I might have overreacted the teensiest bit. 

Having said that, you’re too old to go around grabbing female cats or skunks, or anyone, really. You must be in your eighties by now. I know you’re being forced into retirement, which probably hurts your feelings. But after all your futile efforts, you really deserve a rest. And you deserve the truth, so here goes.

1. On March 28th, it will be the third anniversary of my husband’s death. I guess I’d rather throw mud around than think about that. Although I will think about it.

2. Covid, I’m so tired of you. The masks (yes, we should wear them) the distancing, the lack of hugs, not understanding what people are saying, being too friendly with a perfect stranger because I think I know them, not heading out of town to visit family, zooming instead of seeing people in the flesh. 

3. The snow is leaving early this year. I’ve loved my outdoor winter life and it has all but disappeared. Yes, I can still go for walks. But it’s not the same as snowshoeing and skiing. I’d meet people out on the trail and it was like we were all riding the same train to Paris, drinking wine and taking in the sights. There is no train. Just a trail. And a few shots of whatever hard stuff people had on hand. And I realize that an ounce of whiskey in the bush during Covid might be considered the equivalent of drinking under a bridge in normal times. Basically, an act of desperation. But these are desperate times. And standing distanced from friends and saluting them with a tiny beverage feels so normal and wonderful. Like a trip to Paris with good friends, some beautiful scenery and occasionally, cold feet.

4. Losing friends during Covid and not being able to do anything about it. Not attending their funeral, not providing any comfort, or even seeing their families in any real way. Also, not visiting seniors in nursing homes for such a long period of time.

5. Not being my cheerful self. It’s my thing. I’m generally a happy person, and right now I feel like the dark avenging angel on my shoulder is whispering bad things to me. Not to kill anyone or even rob a store. Maybe just hurt a few people’s feelings. So if I’ve done that, yeesh. Sorry. 

 I know we’re all (well, most of us) excited about getting the vaccine and resuming our lives. But feel free to add your own moments of loss if you’ve had any during this time. I don’t want to be the lone whiner. And I promise (shut up, dark angel!) to put my best foot forward from here on. I feel so much better! Do you?  

What’s It All About, Pepe?

I hardly ever use rubbing alcohol these days. The bottle I found in my bathroom cupboard this morning had expired back in 2007. How can alcohol go bad? Is it the rubbing part? 
My husband had inherited a bottle of Mezcal that his father bought in Mexico in the early seventies. When my niece and a family friend were helping us move, he insisted they take a shot at the end of each day. They did, gamely avoiding the dregs of a disintegrating worm drifting around the bottom of the bottle. Like his dad, Clarence didn’t like to waste things. I said Hell, No! to the drink on offer. Were these young people more game than me, or just too polite to say no?


I’m not alone in feeling out of touch with life these days. I had to stop someone on the street a few days ago because I thought it was Tuesday, but it was still Monday.  The woman and I exchanged looks of deep understanding. These groundhog days are getting tiresome. 
I feel out of place in other ways. Every time a ‘that’s so bad!’ label is slapped onto a person, program or book, my knee jerk reaction is one of shock. It takes time for my brain to process how things I take for granted might different to younger generations. After I think about it a while, I usually get it. 


It took me a while to understand the fuss over Laura Ingalls Wilder’s, Little House on the Prairie series. They were beloved in my family, and read to each of my children. But I never noticed the dehumanizing effect of her stereotypical view of Indigenous and black people, because I am white. One book opens with her saying that the land was empty and ready for settlement, except for the Indians who didn’t count. How could I not notice that? I believe the books can still be read to children, but there needs to be some discussion about the racist aspects. I believe if the author was alive today, she would write those parts differently. Her characters were kind and tenderhearted, but she was a woman of her time. When we know better, we do better.


I’m a woman of my time, still clueless about cultural offenses and worried that I’ll say the wrong thing. I don’t like to hear bad things about people, and have grieved the loss of those like comedian/actor, Bill Cosby. We’re all saddened by the actions of characters who turned out to be different than we thought. I go through periods of denial and disbelief for days after the wrong doing is uncovered. These people enter our lives and homes via screens, radios and books. We know them well. Or, we thought we knew them.
One of the latest ‘Get the Hell Out of Here,’ victims is the cartoon character, Pepe Le Pew. Like many kids of my generation, I enjoyed all the Bugs Bunny characters: Yosemite Sam, Foghorn Leghorn, Daffy Duck and Wiley Coyote. (Actually, I hated that last one and wanted him to die every single show. He never did.) But when I think about Pepe Le Pew, I remember how I felt as a little girl. The show was funny, but not. I felt claustrophobic at times, knowing that this female skunk could not escape him for long. Her visible ‘no’ didn’t mean no to Pepe. A friend on Facebook recently said that she knew it was just a cartoon. I did too. But as a lifelong member of over-empathizers anonymous, I felt bad for that anxious skunk girl. I imagined how I’d feel if someone I knew, a boy I didn’t like, was always trying to catch me and kiss me. Or worse. Who knows what Pepe had in mind?
A movie that is not in trouble, but that I dislike for the same reason, is Mash. A huge hit, I saw it in my first year of high school. At one point, an unlikeable female character, Margaret ‘Hot Lips’ Hoolihan, prim and condescending, gets taught a lesson. While she’s taking a shower, two doctors (good looking, popular, funny) play a trick on her by pulling down the walls of the tent and exposing her to everyone walking by. Cue the laughter and her running away in tears. 
As the people around me laughed until they wept, I found myself curling up into a ball in my seat. I couldn’t imagine how it felt to be her. She’s already unpopular. I knew people like her in high school. Those who weren’t likeable and couldn’t figure out why. She became a target. In the TV series, her character is fleshed out and allowed to be three dimensional. But not in the movie. Not as I remember it. 
So, as a member of the public, I would like to nominate Mash to be cancelled, culturally. This will not be a popular opinion, but I don’t care. You’re all big enough to handle my opinion, and inside me is still the fifteen year old girl cringing on behalf of a naked woman who had nowhere to run. 
When I was young, I disagreed with my parents about many things. They were good people with strong values, but like their generation, held traditional beliefs. Of course, baby boomers made it their business to disagree with almost everything that came before them. But as they aged, they got that same, set in their ways attitude. I remember telling my dad that Jesus believed in communism. I thought he was going to have a heart attack.


Today’s Boomers, especially the more conservative among us, are struggling with what we perceive as the lunacy of the younger generations. But it’s their right and their responsibility to make the world better in a way that makes sense to them. And what moves us in the right direction more than being thoughtful about the feelings of others? This is what many of today’s movements, even cancel culture, is about. 

I’m going to try to repress my knee jerk reactions when I read or hear things I don’t agree with. I’m a white, middle class woman trying to understand the pain others experience when their culture or race is diminished by mean spirited jokes or outright violence. Things that were considered funny in the past were often a socially acceptable form of bullying. So the next time you disagree with something you see regarding cancel culture, check your heart. Are you genuinely right, or just unwilling to let the joke go?

Wherefore Art Thou, Babe?

 I never thought young adult fiction (or YA as it’s known in the biz) was a thing before the sixties. Back in the day, books were just books. It didn’t matter if the protagonist was just fifteen, like Jo from Little Women.  Now, bookstores and libraries have separate sections for teen fiction. It’s too bad, really. A good book works for everyone.

As a YA author, it’s impossible to write about teenagers without remembering the past. We are not merely grownups. We carry within us the toddler, small child, troublesome twelve year old and teenager filled with raging emotions that bewildered our parents and made us doubt our own sanity. 

Nowadays, teen protagonists are expected to become vampires (Twilight) or at least save their families. (The Hunger Games) But the author who really understood impressionable young readers is William Shakespeare. Turns out, he was the original YA author. The other night I watched a 2013 movie version of Romeo and Juliet and noticed how accurately he portrayed the messy yet emotional certainty of teen life. Juliet is about to turn fourteen, and Romeo’s a few years older. In brilliant prose, Shakespeare sets out the magical combination of good looks, hormonally wired brains and the heavy hand of fate.

Romeo, whose family has a long standing feud with Juliet’s, goes to a dance at her folk’s place to spy on her cousin, the lovely Rosalind. He’s told everyone about his deep love for the girl, but the moment he spies Juliet, that all changes. Juliet is his new true love. They spend thirty seconds dancing together and later that night, he climbs up onto her balcony to declare his feelings, which she reciprocates. Because Shakespeare is the playwright, the language is more eloquent than anything a reasonably intelligent teen could come up with nowadays. 

Romeo’s balcony greeting: “With love’s light wings did I o’er-perch these walls; for stony limits can’t hold love out, and what love can do that dares love attempt, therefore thy kinsmen are no let to me.”

A modern teenage boy’s greeting: ‘S’up?’ 

Different speech patterns but the raging hormones are the same. 

Some things never change. Like Romeo’s next words. “O wilt though leave me so unsatisfied?”

And Juliet’s answer: “What satisfaction canst though have tonight?”

Romeo: “The exchange of thy love’s faithful vow for mine.”

You see how he draws her in? Honestly, some things never change. Within a couple minutes of fancy talk, they’ve decided to get married. Romeo, with very little persuasion, asks a starry eyed priest to conduct the service. After that, all hell breaks loose with more family feuding until the end when they’re both dead. Nowadays, two young teenagers couldn’t find anyone to marry them, but society has lightened up a bit so there’s no need to tie a ribbon on it, so to speak. I can’t help wondering if Romeo and Juliet had just waited a couple of days, maybe things would have blown over. But that’s the mother in me, rather than the teen speaking. It’s fair to say that emotional attachments happen over the slightest things where teenagers are concerned. “I really like his hair.” Etc. 

So here’s to you, William Shakespeare. You’ve told the story the rest of us can never live up to. You nailed the yearning, the good looks, the love speak and the tension of ‘will they or won’t they get to do it?” He was right to kill them both, of course. The feud had to end sometime. Shakespeare might have been a romantic, but in the end, a hard lesson wrapped in the high falutin’ themes of fate, won the day.  

Lean on Me

 I’m doing okay as a widow. Occasionally, it feels like a prison sentence where I’m locked up in solitary. Other days, I’m released early for good behavior. What took a while to manage was my ability to stand alone, metaphorically. Even grumpy couples might not notice how they’ve leaned in over the years. It weakens their ability to stand alone, but that’s how it should be.

There’s the kind of leaning where responsibilities have been divided and then taken for granted. This way of life is like a dance. If one partner stumbles, the other notices. “You forgot the box in the car? I thought you were bringing it in! Yes, now!!” That kind of thing. Or there’s my kind of stumble. I was driving around Winnipeg during rush hour, missed a turnoff and ended up in a parking lot. My husband didn’t make a single snarky remark. I don’t think I’d have been as nice.

Something I miss is the check in. There were times I wanted to push the button and set off a nuclear war on Facebook, but he’d always say, what for? If you ever see a post from me that is startlingly rude or extremely aggressive, please know that he is feeling badly about it. I never published blogs without my husband giving me thumbs up  or down, until he died. He would never have gone for the one I wrote a few weeks ago titled, ‘How to Make a Porno.’ 

‘You don’t need to celebrate every dumb move,’ he might say. Also, (this might surprise his friends) he could be very straight laced. In some ways, when I do something I think he might not approve of, there’s a small part of me that feels a bit vengeful. ‘You died, so take that.’ 

There are humorous moments where one partner acts as goalie on a two person hockey team. Once, while attending a teacher’s dance, a woman walked straight up to me on the dance floor. Her husband, in this instance, was the goalie. He took his eye off the puck for just a moment and his wife took the chance to score. She put her hands on my breasts, and gave them a resounding squeeze. ‘Are these real?” she asked. ‘Why yes, they are,” I replied, happy I’d worn my sister’s black dress that was ‘cross your heart’ supportive. I felt very complimented. A few minutes later her husband came rushing up, her coat over his arm. ‘I’m so sorry about that!’ We can’t catch every crazy move our partners make, or monitor every drink. I have teased  my friend about this incident more than once. 

Your partner can also be your reality check. For example, in the interest of reducing plastic and embracing my inner earth goddess, I’m using a deodorant that’s just a salt rock. You wet it and rub it on. (It was a gift from the breast squeezer…we’re much closer, now.)The problem is, I can’t tell if it’s working or not. It’s very hard to check yourself out. My friends are all too nice to tell me if I’m getting a little funky. My husband would take one sniff and say, ‘By God, that’s not working.’ Although really, he didn’t have a great sense of smell, so who knows?

It’s very easy to lose track of the times we receive support from our partner because we’re too busy nitpicking over the things that bother us. My husband could clean the driveway and shovel the sidewalks and the first thing out of my mouth would be, ‘You’re not wearing that old coat anywhere else! (He loved decrepit looking barn coats.) 

It wasn’t that I didn’t appreciate everything he did. It was just that we’d been leaning in for so long, I took a lot of things for granted. And when he went on his forever journey, it took a while for me to stop falling over. 

My point is, notice the moments when your partner holds you up. The times when they rush in to rescue you from a potentially embarrassing situation. It’s good to stand on your own two feet, but even better to lean in and let someone else hold you up when the going gets tough. Happy Valentines Day to all the love birds out there. And also to mine, who’s busy giving everyone in the next life a good laugh. Honey, I’ll try not to criticize your heavenly outfit when I see you again. 

I Dreamed A Dream in Walmart

 Like many folks, Covid 19 has left me feeling a bit Miserable. Not all the time, not every day. It comes at me in unexpected ways. Today I was heading inside Walmart when I passed my next door neighbor on her way out. We shouted greetings typical of people in -22C weather and wearing masks. She left and I turned to the fellow walking behind me.

“That was my neighbor. I never see her anymore. I spot her coming and going, but it’s sure not like it used to be. We used to visit back and forth and…” This went on for some time. 

This man was a stranger to me, although these days, who can know for sure? He pushed his cart quickly as I followed him down the dairy aisle. I lost him when he took a left turn at the eggs, but spotted a couple nearby. Again, strangers. 

“I think he was trying to get away,” I said. “Ha ha!” Nobody laughed except me. They looked frightened. “Don’t worry, I won’t tell anyone you were shopping together.” I strove for a light tone but sounded a bit unbalanced. (In our community, you can’t shop with family. The guards running Devil’s Island could learn from the People in Charge of our Misery. Full disclosure: I know it’s for our own good.) Sigh.

The experience reminded me of the musical, Les Miserable. On that very spot in Walmart, I wanted to sing the song, I Dreamed a Dream, but change the words to the following:

I had a dream my life would be
So different from this hell I’m living
So different now from what it seemed
Now life has killed the dream I dreamed

Okay, no need to change the words, then. They’re frighteningly accurate. 

Next I headed to the Co-op,  spotting two people I know. We stood distanced but chatting. “When will it end?” “How much longer?” “September?” Again, very Les Mis type conversations. My mind moved to another part of the musical. One Day More, I thought. That’s how we have to live. Remember to breath, and don’t clean your whole kitchen. Leave some. You should spread the chores out. 

When I got home, I listened to the Les Mis album and thought about coping mechanisms. For many, art plays a big role. Painting, writing, macramé, finishing furniture and repainting rooms. I imagine there’s a lot of whittling going on in the world. And, there are people like my niece’s husband, James, who manufactures strange weapons just for fun. 

My brain segued to the storming of the US Capitol a few weeks ago. I wondered if some of those involved weren’t actually Proud boys or white nationalists, but people like me who miss choir and musicals. While acting out a scene from Les Mis, I picture them shouting to each other, “Choir on zoom, Wednesday night at seven. Remember our online performance of Rent!”

This is my dream. Perhaps a wish too far, but I like to believe that not all taking part had thought it through. Pretending you’re in a musical is no more far fetched than thinking:

a.  your government is conspiring against you

b.  the pandemic is a fake

c. the vaccine will turn you into a zombie. 

If only the guards on duty had held up their hands and said, ‘Wait for the music! Okay, everyone on the count of four, “Do you hear the people sing, singing a song of angry men, it is the music of a people…” You get the picture. 

“Okay,” the rest of us would laugh in relief. “They were acting out the barricade scene from Les Mis!” And everyone would applaud, and they would tidy up their mess and leave, already singing, ‘Five hundred, twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes!” And the world would clap. “Those boys should be proud. They really can sing!”

Ah, brain segues. Not always rational. But I dreamed a dream.. Wait, it’s over? Okay.

How To Make a Porno

 A very strange thing happened at my house few mornings ago. It was the day of a friend’s birthday and when I woke up, I grabbed my phone to search for a photo to send her. It always takes me a moment or two to truly bring myself into the day. I often start out with a feeling of disorientation. which has only increased during the Covid pandemic.

Sometimes I have a case of the whirlies, but most often, I find myself struggling to remember where I am. It’s not like I’m used to waking up in unfamiliar places. But lately, there’s a feeling of surprise at my surroundings. Eventually, I’m oriented and awake enough to remember where I am. There is no alcohol involved in this situation. It’s just business as usual for me. 

I struggled with the covers, finally sat up and found my pajamas at the foot of the bed. Once I reached a certain age, I discovered that they’d become evening and morning wear. The night was best left to wide open windows and light covers.

Anyway, after I put my pajamas on and did the kind of morning things everyone does upon waking, I started searching through my phone for the picture for my friend. To my horror, I discovered an extremely inappropriate video that was only thirty seconds long, but very revealing. The woman in it never showed her face, but she wasn’t shy about letting the world have a ‘look see’ at everything else. As the rather poor camera work showed a pair of legs, arms, and everything in between, I was too busy gasping to wonder how this piece of pornography ended up on my phone. Who was this plump, headless woman? Why would she think I’d be interested in seeing her choppy video? 

Happily, my morning brain fog cleared and I realized that the woman in the video was me. When I grabbed my phone, I’d inadvertently started filming my awkward and nude exit from the bed. I’m at my clumsiest in the morning and tend to fumble around like an African water buffalo stuck in the mud. But what a relief! It was only me. There was no creepy person sending me inappropriate pornography. I myself had made the porno, and no one would ever know a  thing about it. I deleted it and thought no more about it. And then I wrote this blog. So there’s that. 

Christmas at the Hop

I’ve already written my blog post for Christmas in 2020. But I forgot to mention a few things. For example.

If you live alone, or have a tolerant partner, you might consider spending part of your day at the Hop. Not the IHop, home of pancakes and carb lovers everywhere. The old fashioned Hop, where you take your shoes off and boogie.

The benefits are many. No critics to weigh in on your dance moves so no need to restrain yourself. Just put on your favourite Christmas dance music. But nothing slow or thoughtful. The last thing you need at the very end of 2020 is too much introspection. Don’t live in your head. (Full disclosure: My whole life is in my head. But I’m trying.)

When my play list is ready, I dance. I prefer a combination of moves inspired by the sixties. The Pony, the Swim, the Twist, the Monkey, and a few Zumba elements that occasionally threaten the stability of my Christmas tree. It doesn’t matter, really. All that counts is the celebratory feeling that accompanies any crazy movements of your choosing. And if you can’t do Christmas all day long, you can still Charlie Brown it with hits from your past. Or your children’s past. One of my favourites is an old CD I unearthed called Summer of 2009!!  

This is how you hold your weight gain at what I call the ‘Manageable Covid 10’while keeping your spirits up. In fact, the very best time to dance is when you’re feeling low, and you need your eye to ignore the100 proof  bottle of hooch gifted by a distant relative of your husband’s. You resist by walking over to the mirror, or waking your slumbering partner,  and with a fierce look of determination, say, ‘Not me. Not this time, Covid 19. I will not surrender to the lure of lying down and watching another Hallmark Christmas movie. I will dance!’ 

Are there downsides to the Hop? Full disclosure, yes. A few of them. But you can prevent the one I call Blue Christmas (referring to the air, not your spirits) by moving your furniture just a bit out of your way, thus preventing toe stubbing and actual falls. Also, close the curtains at night time. Otherwise you’ll experience a drive by where cars are parking outside your house even though you live on a busy street. The upside is that you’ve been someone’s entertainment, and the story they get to tell over Christmas dinner. ‘I saw the craziest thing!’ etc.

All in all, I encourage you to join me in celebrating the fact that you’re alive. If you’re using a walker or crutches, you can still take part with a few spins and a lot of hip wiggling. However you do it, I promise you this. It will help you push away all thought of a nasty virus currently curtailing your seasonal celebration. And on a Christmas note, it will bring a lot of Joy to your World. 

Fifth Harmony – All I Want for Christmas Is You (Official Video) – YouTube

Christmas in the Bipolar Vortex

For my parents and grandparents, there’ve been some tough Christmases. Two world wars with food rationing meant mystery meat and no sugar for pies. All those boys leaving the country. Many not returning. There was much anxiety over the future. How would things turn out? Would we still be us, or would future generations be required to heil Hitler? Happily, my generation has been spared that anxiety.
Covid is the first real challenge we Boomers have faced. Yes, there was polio back in the fifties, but that was our parent’s problem. The sense of unreality that’s come with this virus is mostly due to our fantastic luck. We got to cruise through life worrying about ordinary things. Mortgages. Parenting. Will our favourite team make it to the finals?
It’s understandable that there’d be resentment over the arrival of a world wide pandemic. When the news first broke, I remember thinking, it’s just a flu! What’s all the fuss about? It didn’t take long for the news to sink in that smugness does not confer immunity. And sadly, there are still many who think their grade eleven biology class and some online information means they know more than scientists and health professionals about the need for masks and a vaccine. Don’t bother! they tell us. It’s all a hoax! Okay, good to know. Thank God we have you on Facebook, educating the masses.
On the one hand, I’ve never felt so grateful. Because I’ve realized that the most important thing in my life is other people. And yet, other people can drive me crazy. And don’t we all feel a little resentful that the rules apply to us? “Yes, please lock down those people over there. They’re shopping, and visiting. And partying! But I’m not, so please let me see my family at Christmas. Allow ME to break the rules, because I’ve been so very good. 
In spite of my sadness that I am not exempt from the rules, I’m grateful. We haven’t run out of toilet paper or food or electricity. I’ve certainly got time to read and watch television. I’ve been zooming a lot. I’d never even heard of zoom before the pandemic. I have coffee with friends on Whatsapp and Facetime. I own snowshoes. And use them. So, there are good things in my life. 
And yet, perhaps some of us nourish a tiny kernel of bitterness, believing this: 
1. Someone ate a wet bat and then coughed in a crowded restaurant. 2.This is a scheme by foreign agents to take down the world. 3. Donald Trump is to blame. (Well, isn’t he? Doesn’t it feel good to blame everything on him? I mean, he’s just so awful.) 4. We should have shut down our borders and isolated much sooner. 5. We shouldn’t have shut down. Save the economy! Let the weak die! 
Really, the opinions alone are enough to sink our spirits. But we don’t let them, because we can’t afford to. We need to keep our spirits up and soldier on. This is a war, dammit. Not wearing a mask and following isolation rules is like living in London during the blitz and not putting up blackout curtains. You’re basically saying to the enemy, ‘Come over here! I’ve got a live one for you!’
Most of us hoped we’d be done with this thing by the fall. All the Covid bugs around the world would high five each other on an excellent job and head off for a well deserved rest. That ain’t happening. So we will eat our Christmas dinners in twos and threes, or groups of five for those lucky people with children still living at home. We’ll buy tiny turkeys and remember to touch base with others by every means possible. We’ll sing carols along with people online. We’ll give ourselves permission to feel sad that everything isn’t perfect. And remind ourselves that it never is, really. We just miss the main ingredient of Christmas, which is other people. We’ll continue to wake up in the morning, push away the thought that it will be the same as every other day, and rejoice that this will hopefully be our last Christmas in the time of Covid. We’ll remember what Charles Dickens said in ‘A Tale of Two Cities,’ 
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.”
It’s us in this bipolar vortex. And when it comes to an end, there’ll be dancing in the streets. At least, there will be in Flin Flon, Manitoba, because that’s just the way we roll. Merry Christmas, everyone. During this bipolar vortex of whirling emotions and longing, we’re going to have the best, worst, happiest, saddest, most unusual day ever. And 2020? It’s already in the rear view mirror. 
Here’s a little something to celebrate with.
(4) Fifth Harmony – All I Want for Christmas Is You (Official Video) – YouTube

Being Mr. Bean

I was thinking about Mr. Bean the other day while pouring myself a glass of water. I’d taken the carafe from the fridge and was filling up a glass when suddenly, it overflowed all over the kitchen floor. I also make a mess watering my house plants. And at those moments I always think, just stop it. Because, I don’t like the Mr. Bean side of myself. The one that can occasionally miss her mouth while taking a sip. But the uncoordinated of the world often misjudge the size of the glass, or the situation.

Like Mr. Bean, there are moments when no foot is too big for my mouth. I travel through life with the same goofy, good humor, but also with the tendency to say the wrong thing from time to time. Like Lady Catherine de Bourg from Pride and Prejudice, I can raise thoughtlessness to a whole new level. 

But there is something that saves me from my role as the crass, uncoordinated being bouncing off the walls in my own house. And that’s spending time outside. I believe this is true for everyone, especially those struggling with Mr. Bean syndrome. ie: Feeling like a loser. 

When I’m kayaking in the summer, or skiing, walking or snowshoeing in the winter, I feel very differently. It’s not that I’m particularly good at those things. But being outdoors is like receiving a back pat from God in the self esteem department. Even on the occasion when I’ve turned too quickly while lifting my kayak, thus bashing a dent into my car, I still feel okay. Because overall, I’ve had a successful outing. I didn’t drown, fall in, or even worse, stay home. I went, I saw, I paddled. It’s the same in the winter. However slowly you move, as long as you’re putting one foot in front of the other and taking in the view, you’re one hell of a success story. That feeling goes a long way toward thwarting the ‘turkey on the head’ feeling of being Mr. Bean. 

There are those of you who go through life smoothly. You are the Cary Grants of the world…suave, coordinated, well spoken. Then there’s the rest of us. The ones who fear that dementia in old age is the fallout from all the times we banged our heads on something. You know you’re being Mr. Bean when you haul too many things at once up the stairs or in from the car, and all that’s missing is a banana peel to slip on. You try to hammer a nail in the wall but miss, creating a dent. Which you cover with a picture, of course. As you go through life, you tend to say things to yourself like, ‘Slowly, now. Careful. And the ever popular, ‘Don’t die.’ 

So, go on. Get outside. Show the world the real you, the ‘Not quite athletic but knows how to appreciate the great outdoors’ person. I’ll meet you there at the corner of ‘There’s ice under the snow and I wore the wrong boots.’ We can have a chat while we brush ourselves off. 

Christmas Lights, A True Story

 My relationship with the subject of math has always been strained. Like every kid of my generation, I memorized the times table, learned long division and had no trouble with the basics. But once I got to high school, things changed. In the tenth grade I actually did okay due to an excellent teacher. But after that year’s glow of self worth and the short flirtation with a slide rule had worn off, our relationship went downhill. 

As I was arranging the Christmas lights on the pillars outside my house, I was reminded of all those math feelings, and also of my dad. I remember him pulling out the box of lights, his face filled with the belief that this year would be different. But sometime over the past year the strings of lights had once again decided to mess with him by tangling themselves together.

 ‘What the…?’ I remember his shoulders slumping as he realized that sorting them out would take a whole evening. So here’s a heavenly coin, dad. Buy yourself a beer, and get one for Clarence, too. Decorating the  outside of the house is not all that much fun, and I’m sorry I didn’t sound more appreciative at the time. 

Anyway, back to me. As I swung around the first pillar, one foot on the top rung of the ladder and my De Walt drill in hand, a surge of vertigo washed over me. This has become my new normal, so planting my feet, I grimly screwed a hole into the wood overhead and then twisted in a hook. My problem? I’d recently come into contact with a math germ, ie: Christmas lights and electricity, and was having a hell of a time figuring things out. 

All four strands had gone up a few days before, but only two pillars would light. For people like me who live in a world of faith, God, and occasionally a fairy or two, this was not good news. Was it the cords I’d used? Could one of the many strings I’d joined together be broken? (Full disclosure: I forgot to check them before winding them around the posts.) The strings had been braided through with fake greenery. Working with them can be a challenge. Especially when I’m up high, and the world is swinging crazily around in spite of my not actually being high. If you know what I mean.

I brought out a portable radio and plugged it into the cord ends along the way. Aha! One had only a single in-thingy that worked. The one on the other side didn’t. (For the official name for in-thingy, please consult google. Or anyone who knows about plugs. Or who hasn’t lost words over time. But that’s another story.) 

Sadly, I have recently discovered that electricity is not my friend. When I was installing two small chandeliers in my bedroom ceiling, my brother, who was at work and probably hiding in a closet, was talking me through it. I felt like the latest hire on a bomb squad. In the end, it worked. But after that, my bathroom lights would flicker on and off at random times. I’ve changed the bulbs twice. We’ll see.

So, getting the lights around the outside of my house to actually work was very important to me. I’m basically like every two year old you’ve ever met. ‘Do it myself!’ That’s the toddler’s motto I cling to these days. I don’t know why. Seriously. I have very helpful friends and family members, but I like to experiment with things that might kill me. 

As I was testing the cords, figuring out where I could plug in what (eight cords were now involved, snaking along the wood facing of my overhang and tucked into the now installed hooks) I realized that I really wished magic was a thing. I wanted to be Hermione Granger and just wave my wand and mutter a few words like ‘Stringem upem.’ No wonder they enter Hogwarts at age 11. You don’t have to worry about things like math when you have a magic wand. 

Fortunately, a few verses of ‘How Great Thou Art,’ seemed to do the trick. I don’t know if God saw it as a bribe (it was not, it’s my go to theme song for panicked moments) but in the end, everything worked out. Will I remember how I did this next year? No. I will not. Otherwise, I would have remembered doing them last year. This is not the kind of thing that sticks in my brain. 

So if you drive by, please appreciate my hard work, math efforts, and ability to stay on the ladder while surfing a wave of vertigo. And I will appreciate your work, too. We Christmas lighting people have to stick together.