Sunday, August 30, 2009

Hey! Did You Change Your Spots?

Sunday mornings are usually reserved for catching up on my favourite websites and blogs and this Sunday was no different. This morning I read a rather insightful post on Michael Murray's blog. I began reading this particular blog for no better reason than Michael Murray writes for Pajiba (my favourite site, for those of you who don't know) and he lives in Toronto and often writes about my home town. I stuck around because his writing is fantastic.

In case you haven't found the strength to or aren't interested in clicking the link above, I'll fill you in. On Friday he wrote about a visit to a pub. Whilst in the pub Michael observed the activities being carried out by both employee and patron. He focuses his attention more so on the owner of the establishment and "the career waitress". His observations were so astute I felt myself drawn to another time, another place.

I have mentioned before my parents are divorced. As a single parent, my Mother worked very hard to make ends meet. The type of employment available to a woman of meager education is limited and menial. Factory worker, housekeeping, cleaning lady and waitress are all jobs often filled by a single mother. The (perceived) lack of skill required is only the first of many reasons why. The hours are often flexible (to work around childcare, school, etc.), and the number of positions available are usually numerous. My mother has done every one of them, often more than one at a time. But the one that profited us best was waitress. And it did so for approximately 15 years.

I was just shy of 13 when the death throes of my parents marriage finally ceased. We moved back to Toronto from my Dad's home province because that was where the majority of my Mother's family lived; where she would receive the most support. Almost immediately she found work as a waitress. Nor had this been the first time. Waitresses have the luxury of being able to find work almost anywhere, at nearly any time. She continued waiting tables until well after I had moved away from home.

I was usually in charge of the homestead while Mom worked. Occasionally, whether by choice or necessity, I was at the restaurant. Michael's post transported me to a time when I was perhaps 15 years old. School books and binders spread across the Formica topped table, the smell of stale cigarettes, beer and fryer fat heavy on the air. I sat and watched my Mom. She never wrote down an order. Raising the inevitable question, followed by amazement at her ability to remember orders. The pride in her voice when she assured the non-believers she didn't need a note pad, never had. The troublemakers that tried to catch her with complicated orders. They never did; she saw them coming.

I remember marveling at the seemingly super human ability to carry an impossible number of drinks, glasses and bottles alike without a tray. To arrange platefuls of food and transport them to their destination without dropping so much as a fry, again without a tray. She rarely utilized the bartenders book when mixing drinks, every ingredient, every measurment committed to memory. More often than not, she approached the table of a newly seated regular, already armed with their drink of choice.

At the wise old age of 15 I knew I never wanted to be her. I knew the hate she felt at her station in life. I saw the wasted and missed opportunities mirrored in her eyes. I understood the fear she felt at the thought of what she would do when she was too old to do this. I heard the audible click in her throat every time she swallowed her pride after being reminded she was only a waitress, at the mercy of every customer. I watched as she measured success in a tip cup.

But she was a goddess among women. As much as I focused on her faults (the breath of many a career waitress carries the scent of her favourite vice), I knew her sacrifice was great, so mine or my sisters wouldn't have to be. She provided for us the best way she knew how, never knowingly asking us to return the sacrifice. And eventually it became all she knew. It became all she could know, because everything else frightened her. To begin again induced anxiety and so she began to hide behind her memorized menu, cocktails and orders. Too old to start anew.

A career in the service industry is not without its hazards. Many attempt to drown the emotions related to the supposed lack of achievement. Often age becomes a hindrance so great, employment in their chosen trade is no longer an option. Occasionally, their wrists give out. I don't know how others have addressed this particular disability when waitressing is all they've known. I do know that my Mom, after attempting to deny it, falling back on one or two of the previously mentioned jobs, reigned in her will, her resolve, her strength and enrolled in college.

I used to know the woman in Michael's post. My Mom used to be that woman. Not anymore though. Now my Mom is a college graduate who has a career in Social Services. Shame on me for forgetting a leopard can change her spots.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

I Accept Your Challenge!

It's No Whining Wednesday again. Damn, time is just zooming by. At this rate, I'm going to be blogging from the old folks home in no time.

I've lots of things to talk about today but I had fallen a little behind on the blogs I follow and there were 6 (6!!!!) comments on yesterday's post that I had to reply to plus my family were hilariously distracting this evening (they were watching Wipeout and laughing like half-crazed hyenas), so I'm short on time.

To begin, I have a new follower! Yay! Welcome, Xtreme. Come in, sit down. Tea (or booze, there's some of that too)? Each new follower makes me ridiculously happy!

I let No Whining Wednesday slip to a sort-of co-worker last week, not that NWW is a big secret, but the blog I use to document my NWW's kind of is. So it's the blog that I let slip really, which I sort of hope she forgets about. NWW she hasn't forgotten about, though. Last week she tried to convince me I had to clean the cartridges on the photo copier just to see if I would whine about it. It seemed fishy from the beginning, but I was game. Trying my damnedest to be polite, I said I thought for a copier that looked like it could very well operate as mission control for NASA, you'd think it wouldn't require that sort of maintenance, but I'd do it, if it needed doing. She laughed at me and then let me in on the joke (oh yay! practical jokes on NWW to test my resolve). Today, she simply asked me how NWW was going so far. She said she was to busy to test me. Thank God for small mercies.

Little does she know, I hope the idea begins to manifest itself in the lives of others. Hopefully, without conscious effort on their part, kind of what happened to this blogger. Another co-worker has also begun to take notice of NWW and I hope that she too, will one day partake. Lainey should be proud, she's started a movement, an anti-massacre movement. If fifty people a day....sorry, bit of a tangent there. I'm a geek and if you aren't familiar with Arlo Guthrie that last bit made absolutely no sense to you. If you are familiar, then you are now fully aware of the depth of my geekdom. I have made peace with it.

Guess what I did today. Go ahead......Ok! Fine! I'll tell you! I had a phone interview for a new job! Which I think went very well. I expect an interview in my near future. Yipee! It's not my dream job, but it will get me away from the shit storm that is my current place of employment. It's something I've done before, so I know I can do it and will be content until the dream job does rear it's head.

Speaking of the Shit storm; one of the people that is responsible for attempting to drive me out of my ever lovin' mind while I am at work made a comment today while I was speaking to another co-worker that, combined with past comments, I took offence to. Rather than brood about it for the rest of the day, I decided to address it. I told him as professionally as I could muster that I thought his comments offensive and would appreciate if he would not attempt to make jokes at my expense because I thought his comments rude. I kind of want him to get the idea that I don't like him and that when he insists on listening to a conversation being had between two other people of which I am one, his comments are not welcome. It isn't really his fault, he's just that person. You know the one you can't stand, no matter how hard you try? The upside there: I didn't tell him to Fuck Off and save his asinine comments for someone else. Which would have been very unprofessional, something I am trying very hard not to become (which is hard to do in my current environment, I gotta tell ya). I hope I've staved off any further unwelcome comments/advice/speech from him.

Oh boy, it's late and this is much longer than I thought it would be. Coffee is gonna be my best friend tomorrow. Oh! Who am I trying to kid? Coffee is my BFF everyday!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Think! Before You Speak!

This doesn't have anything to do with why I came here tonight, but it's a thought I had and would like to share. I have two ideas floating around between my ears in the muscle that resembles a brain. Two ideas that I would like to commit to paper. In my minds eye these two ideas translate into pretty good stories, something I would like to read if it were written by someone else (that's the way it should go, right?). Well, I shared them with my co-worker the other day, and this isn't her fault because she was as gracious and receptive as any audience should be, but the magic is gone. I feel like I did something wrong. The stories sounded silly out loud. Perhaps they are, maybe I am not meant to write a single fiction that will be enjoyed by others and that's OK, but the proof is in the puddin' right? I can't get past myself to find out what anyone else thinks. I shut myself down before I've even begun. My imagination is wonderfully overactive, I could churn out stories left and right (I'm not suggesting they would all be quality) but I don't. Why? The answer differs everyday. I've got a dozen of 'em. Sucks. I'm sick of it, I want that freakin' turtle back. I want to believe in myself.

Moving on.....

I'm currently debating whether or not I should take part in a flame war of sorts on Facebook.

Oh, Facebook, how I love your ability to start all kinds of trouble. Just this weekend, I was checking the statuses of various family member's (and how you nurture the voyeur in me, Facebook). My cousin's status says she "feels bad for So 'n' So's family, RIP, So'n'So will be dearly missed" Just so happens So'n'So in my Grandfather's name. I call my Grandparents house. My Nan answers and sounds perfectly OK. Feeling a little silly, I explain why I've called. She assures me that no, it wasn't my So'n'So, but someone of the same name. Then she curses Facebook because several times over the past year or so, loved ones who are away from home have found out that a loved one has died before they have been properly informed. When did it become Ok to announce your condolences on Facebook? One of the many grievances I have with social networking sites.

Back to tonight. A friend's (loosely used term) status said he thought having an aerobatic flight show above the town was dangerous. The performance was given by the Military Snowbirds. The town, Gander, is home to an international airport. Is, in fact, the first stop for many transatlantic flights. Do you see my problem with his status? To live in a town that hosts an airport and complain about air traffic is ridiculous.

I realize now that I shouldn't have, but I commented. I tried to point out that the Military would hardly put the lives of civilians in danger for the sake of entertainment. That I had lived on an air base for years where the Snowbirds practiced regularly (I didn't mention the countless aircraft that had flown overhead everyday) without incident. Granted, the Snowbirds have a less than stellar track record. I've done some research, though, and while the Snowbirds are the worst, their counterparts in the US and the UK have spots on their records as well. As does Nascar, Monster Trucks, drag racing. I haven't actually checked any of those facts (for Nascar, etc.), but it would stand to reason that once in awhile things go wrong. If I'm wrong, fine. Correct me. If all of these spectacles have impeccable records then I will shut up. But I doubt that they do, because you are dealing with machines and humans and both are prone to error, regardless of the best of intentions.

If safety is your number one concern then you should be railing against the dangers of all of the events listed. But he wouldn't. Why? Because he takes part in a demolition derby every year. Yes, the man who cried unsafe to the Facebook world, gets into a car at least once a year (sometimes more) and intentionally collides with other cars. Sure, they take precautions. But accidents happen. Just last year a car caught fire (I can't find the YouTube video of it now!).

Let's just pretend he's not that kind of hypocrite. Really, there is only one argument to be made here; you live in close proximity to an airport. Planes fly overhead everyday. Period. They could fall out of the sky, overshoot the runway, run off the end of the runway, hell, they can even catch fire while grounded. They do. But rarely. If you still fear for the lives of your family, move.
Otherwise, quit your bitchin'.

Yeah. I'm not going to continue debating with him. He's going to think he said something brilliant that made me see the error of my ways, I'm sure. I don't care. Let him. I don't have the energy to argue when there is no hope in hell of getting through.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

It's a Random Thought Kind of Day and Other Tales

Random Thought 1)

Reuben sandwiches are the best sandwiches ever. Don't bother trying to change my mind, it won't work. You are wrong and your sandwich is inferior.

Random Thought 2)

Kanye West and Eminem take turns being the douchiest of douches, but when they are good, they rock my freaking world! Which annoys the hell outta me.

Have you ever heard (or read) Kanye West speak? He is so consumed, so impressed with himself, so god damned egotistical, it is sickening. I watch or read anything he says slack jawed at the level of narcissism. I read an article in Rolling Stone when Kanye and 50 Cent had albums drop on the same date. I went into that article liking Kanye's music but not knowing the man. When I was done, I didn't want to know anything else. 50 Cent entered the town square carrying a six shooter at high noon. Kanye is dancing from foot to foot round back of the school when class let out ready to go fisticuffs, thinkin' he's Mohammed Ali.

Eminem irks me for other reasons. Here is a man who has the ability to bend words to his will and possesses a rhythm few rappers can achieve. Take away his ability to bitch about his mother or his ex-wife and we're rarely given anything better than his alter-ego Slim Shady. Who accomplishes nothing but remind me that most 12 year old boys annoy the shit out of me.

Perhaps unfairly, once an entertainer falls out of favour with me for reasons unrelated to his/her brand of entertainment (actors, musicians, etc) I usually dislike their product as well. Kanye and Eminem are exceptions to this rule. And for reasons I am unable to explain, I continue to dislike them with fervor when I do, but when I like them musically? I might as well erect a statue in honour of whichever one happens to be on my radar, and it's both of them right now.

Random Thought 3)

Okay, so I forgot my third random thought because I re-read the Rolling Stone article.

Here are some fun facts for ya:

1)Facebook hates me today. I have had to post every comment I have made two or three times because I keep getting errors.

2) Never ground your children from electronics when you aren't feeling well, it's forty degrees outside, and all of their friends seem to be away. They will do their best to break your will and drive you crazy. I've got news for them though, my resolve remains strong!

3) Hurricane Bill is very low on my popularity list right now. Mr. Sprite is due to go away again tomorrow morning (when Bill is supposed to hit us the hardest). I have no problem holding down the fort when the Military calls Mr. Sprite away. I do however, have a problem literally holding down the fort. They (you know who they are) are saying Bill is going to hit us pretty hard and I don't mind saying that not having my bigger, stronger, more knowledgeable in situations of extreme peril counterpart around for this is freaking me out a little.

That's it for now folks. If the weather predictors are right, I may post on location tomorrow from Oz!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

It Ain't Happenin'

Well, it's No Whining Wednesday again. Helllllooooo! I know as a rule Wednesday follows Tuesday and so I really have no cause to complain but I've gotta say, Wednesday, you picked a hell of a day.

I told you a couple of weeks ago about my Auntie. Well, she was only one half of the fantastic whole that filled the void where grandparents on my Mom's side should have been (I do have a grandmother, but hers is a story better left untold). The other half is my Uncle, of course. We're going to call him Mad Max, not because he is in anyway like the character Mel Gibson portrayed all those years ago, but because it's an awesome name and he is an awesome dude and so that makes it all work in my mind. Don't question it.

Mad Max was diagnosed with Alzheimer's yesterday.

I'm not taking it so well.

I haven't done any research yet, so I'll have to beg your forgiveness if I make an erroneous statement.

I realize that Alzheimer's is a condition that worsens over time. Mad Max for the most part still has his wits about him and with medication, probably will for some time. He's 76 (I think) and so it is probably time I prepare to face his mortality anyway. But that's just it. Auntie and Mad Max were such an incredible influence in my life. I have yet to be able to face the fact that neither of them is likely to live forever without breaking down into tears. At just the thought of their eventual passing I'm a snotfaced, bleary-eyed mess.

To be honest, I should be better armed against this eventuality. Auntie has suffered from Scoliosis her entire life. As she ages it becomes increasingly worse. Where she used to be mobile and independent, she is now confined to a wheelchair and is entirely dependant on Mad Max to do most of the cooking, cleaning, shopping and so on. She also has a nurse come in regularly to help with the things my Uncle cannot. Her condition continues to worsen with age. Eventually, her spine will twist so much it will crush her internal organs. I know this. I haven't accepted it. I can't, I don't know how. And I don't know why that should be.

Now to add insult to injury, Mad Max is sick. If he worsens to the point of needing round the clock care and is put in a home, then Auntie will have to go to one too. I can't begin to tell how many different ways that sucks ass. These two deserve so much more.

It breaks my heart to know that Mad Max will digress daily to eventually become a measure of the man he once was, possibly not even that. That I am here in Nova Scotia and he is in Ontario and the memories I have, could be all I have left.

I'm sorry I've dragged you down here with me into my pit of grief and despair. I'm sorry I wasn't able to overcome the sadness for just today. Blame Tuesday, cause it came first.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

NWW - It's Kinda Related

Today was a pretty decent day overall. I have things I would like to complain about, but I have promised to keep my negativity to myself today and the rest of my day was pretty meh, well, except my daughter is a superstar goalie in soccer and there is going to be a meteor shower tonight which I plan on watching in about 5 minutes with the kids. Other than that, meh. I thought I would share one of my favourite things with you instead (in a sort of poetic way, sort of):

As August grows, every morning seems filled with fog that is quickly burned off by the insistent summer sun. But....before the sun gets hold, before the cool of night retreats to allow the warmth of day, before the world fully awakens in that twilight: I stop and I breathe in a cool dew heavy breath. I sip my morning coffee while I watch little things that signal the coming of a new day. Another day in August. Where summer has begun to smell mature and the surrender to Autumn is on the edge of every sense. I love this summer. Not the blazing sun of mid-July, the sticky sleepless nights. But the quiet solitude of an August morning, one with September at her door and August whispers "Shhh, just one more....." And September waits, giving in for a little while before he lets Fall in.

Hehe, August makes me a little heady, slightly drunken. Less inhibited with my word creations. It's......lovely, the effect. I thought this this morning while standing on my deck. It's a little corny, maybe, but I tend to love corny! Be gentle.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Amused? Why, yes! I am!

Because I had a fantastically shitty day at work - what else is new lately? FML - I am going to share an exchange between my hubby and myself because it makes me smile.

Just a bit of history, Mr. Sprite (I should tell you his screen name, he'd kill me, but you'd laugh I'm sure) and I have a history of having very strange conversations. Perhaps everyone has unusual conversations with their significant other. I don't know, people never tell me about them if they do. I wish they would, I find other people's eccentricities incredibly interesting. Once we discussed the existence of God. Not interesting in an of itself, but the turn the conversation took was. The question was posed "If God were flesh and blood and you had the opportunity to sit with him and talk to him as you would any man, what would you say?" The answers were many and varied. Thought provoking and ridiculous, but fun nonetheless.

We still partake in an ongoing discussion as to whether or not time exists in nature or if it is a concept created by Man. My sister was present for the beginning of this one (one where we all have differing theories, and no I don't think any of us has actually done any research, ewww) so she will call occasionally and if we aren't home, leave a 7 and half minute long message on the machine arguing her point.

We really aren't pretentious. And no, we don't think ourselves intellects. We have these debates for fun. Sometimes it's just because we're curious. Sometimes we're ridiculous. Sometimes we learn a thing or two: occasionally about the topic, more often about each other. Mostly our conversations start out/are full of/end up being silly and more often than not Mr. Sprite turns a perfectly normal conversation sideways just to get me laughing, because he loves me! Anyway here is one of the sillier ones (had through email)(Oh! and did I mention the hubby is gone away till Friday? He is. Expect pining) < -- abusing parentheses everywhere I go: Him (after a request for funnies): Hi Hun,
I hope you found the gas money on the counter this morning. I have a favor to ask you today. Would you mind withdrawling the 650 smackers from the bank for me today ? I'll be needing it for tomorrow.
P.S. Remember a job is a job it does not define YOU ! Love ya:)

Me: K, Because I'm a bitch, I have to point out that you are Canadian and it is "favour" and not related to your nationality but just you general lack of attention to detail it's "withdrawing" (no L).
And of course I will :)

Him: Ok OK ! Yeesh I know its favour... Amd withdrawling is a word but perhaps most often associated with medical symptoms etc... :P Cut a guy some slack so early in the morning... Ill see if your funny worthy today now :)

Me: Nope, not even medically speaking is withdrawling correct. Don't you have spell check? Cause my spell check is freakin' out right now.
I can hardly cut you any slack: you are going to Newfoundland and I am not!!!!! You get no slack!!!!

Him: I say wiki it then !! Get back to me with your findings and regardless the leg work may prove to be worthy of a funny !

Me: I wiki'd and I googled and they both asked me if I meant "withdrawing"(sarcastic undertone totally meant). However, as you hinted, there were some very interesting hits nonetheless. After reviewing some of those hits though, I still have to insist on your refraining from using it. The average iq of the persons responsible for the unintentionally funny hits for "withdrawling", is in question. The prosecution rests, your honour.

Him: OK that sownds reesonable. I should send you a funny know !!

Me: My head just exploded

Him: My work here is if you could return the -favour- tonight I'd appreciate it !

Sorry, that last line may have been a bit TMI for some folk. I apologize. Just, uh, brain bleach, or something.

See? Funny, eh? Right!?! .......psst, lie to me even if you didn't find it so funny, cause I think we're adorable.....***sigh***I hate when Mr. Sprite goes away.

PS- Shhh, don't tell Mr.Sprite my responses were rife with typo's, k? I don't think he noticed.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

No Complaints Here!

Hi! Guess what I did today. Go ahead......OK, fine, I'll tell you, we went to the beach! I am so excited because normally I am not a fan of natural bodies of water, nor do I like walking around in what equates to my underwear in front of strangers (or non-strangers, for that matter). I also don't like to venture too far from home. But I got a tip on a really nice beach here in Nova Scotia, checked it out online, ran it by my other half and planned an outing., I'm all impressed with myself because this is my definition of adventure. Shut up! 2 hour drive to a place I have never been to run around barely dressed. What do you call it?

Things didn't go exactly as I would have liked this morning before we left, but this is No Whining Wednesday and I'm a dedicated individual (surprise, surprise) to participating, so I turned my thoughts to the things that could have gone wrong but didn't. It's all about perspective.

Before we left our cooler bag blew a zipper (and the cooler had an unidentified object growing in it, eeewwww). Mr. Sprite suggests we hit the store to buy a new cooler before we leave town. Right on, let's do it! In the car Mr. Sprite suggests we buy a beach umbrella. Fucking Awesome! Lately, Mr. Sprite and I have not been seeing eye to eye. In fact we have been arguing about just about anything two people could find to argue about and some of the things they couldn't. The fact that we were thinking the same thing on two separate occasions today would've been enough to make my day. In the store my newly re-exalted hubby (word? Is now.) finds two beach chairs on sale. He bought them. How great is that? No sand in places sand has no business being (more on this later).

Purchases made, we hop back in the car and make our way to the beach. We made it door to door, so to speak, without one wrong turn. Which, in my world is a rarity.

The beach was everything promised. The sand was soft, white and sparkly. Yes, it sparkled. The water was crystal clear and a beautiful blue. The Atlantic ocean is not usually known for being welcoming 'round these parts so this was especially surprising.

Now, some of you may know that I am not a thin girl. And if you didn't, well, now you do. This is a never ending cause for anxiety for me, yet I have yet to find the catalyst that has actually given me the will to quit shoving food into my pie hole (just a quick side note, I quit smoking a few months ago and the food shoving has become alarmingly worse, inevitably so has the weight gain. TMI? Sorry, end side note) and get off my increasing arse and do something about it. My weight, of course contributes largely to the fact that I am not comfortable in a public place scantily clad. Today? I said fuck it. I wore a bathing suit. Yup, and I didn't care what little miss size two in the two-piece down the beach thought about it. Wait.....maybe....awww, shit! Well, I mostly didn't care.

I spent four and a half hours at the beach with the family and it was heavenly. The kids collected sand dollars, explored the beach, found a (dead) crab, rolled in the sand. I read and relaxed. We had a beach picnic. AWESOME.

Just a few notes on my beach experience that were less than awesome. I am not complaining, just including them for your amusement.

1) Deer Flies are nasty little buggers. Seriously, I must have donated (unwillingly) at least an ounce of my blood today to prevent hunger amongst deer flies. Oh and DEET? Yeah, I think it attracts these little blood suckers. "I take your fuckin' DEET" < --Overheard being said by one of the offending insects.

2) When applying sunscreen DO NOT forget to apply it to your face. Obvious, right? Apparently not. I look like a freakin' tomato! Also, not so obvious, if your bathing suit bottom is of the shorts variety, do not neglect to sunscreen the very tops of the back of your legs (aka, bottom of your bum cheeks) cause they will burn. Which makes sitting slightly uncomfortable.

3) Regardless of how inviting the Northern Atlantic appears to be, no matter how much it resembles those pictures of the Caribbean you've seen, it is not warm. Not at the beginning of August. The info I've found on the average temperature is sketchy, between 8 - 16 C (46 - 61 F) seems to cover it. Either way, that is not bloody warm enough to be swimming in, but swim my family did. Yeah, I was the only one too chicken to dive in. Screw that! My feet were cramping up just standing in it.

4) Remember that fantastic sand I had described? The sand I was hoping the beach chairs would prevent from getting in low places? No such luck. Not only is it where it has no business being but it's everywhere else too! Everywhere! It sure was purrrty, though.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Fried Cocks and Dandelions.

A friend of mine thought stories from my youth would make for good blog fodder. I am here tonight road testing this theory. If this works out, it'll be a re-occurring post I'll call "By Today's Standards", 'cause most of the stories I will tell would have Children's Aid Services banging down my parents door today. Not that they were bad parents mind you, we've just gotten a hell of a lot pickier about what's deemed to be OK and what isn't. Both to the detriment and betterment of today's youth. It's a slippery slope. I'm digressing. I'm not going to allow that to happen because this could so very easily become an opinion piece and well, I've been painting for four days and I think the fumes have fried my brain. I need time to recover before I put my heavy handedness out there for the world (read: 6 followers, 6 (I love you all, I'm not ungrateful)) to question. I think I may have abused a few parenthesis in that last sentence. Yup, entirely possible.

Between the years of 1983 and 1988 I spent a lot of time at my Great-Aunt's house. There were a number of reasons for this; she loved kids, she had a kid old enough to look after the rest of us, her and my Uncle were foster parents and there was always 5 or 6 kids (3 of their own) there so what was two more. Mostly, I think it was because my parents trusted her more than anyone else to look after us and she was more than willing to do it. I would have been 5-10 years old during that time, and while I'm a whiz at blocking out some memories, I cherish the ones I have from there.

Auntie was one of those adults that I loved absolutely. There was nothing she could do wrong in my eyes. But she had a strict streak in her a mile wide. It wasn't a mean streak, but she sure knew how to scare the livin' shit outta ya and get you to do what you were told. And you were 'told' a lot.

The kids at Auntie's house often felt as if we were treated like hired help. We were never allowed to use the front door unless it was life or death. For example, if one of us walked through the front door, she'd hear (damned door squeaked something serious and there never seemed to be any oil to fix it), she'd holler from wherever she was in the house "If that's one of you kids your leg better be fallin' off or you better be dyin' ". At which point, the offender would go back out the front door, run around to the back and enter that way. I would love to have been a bonafide visitor after a statement like that one.

We weren't allowed to use the bathroom upstairs. Oh no, we were relegated to the depths of the basement. When it was time to eat, we'd all line up on the basement stairs and two at a time we'd wash our hands in the sink in the basement bathroom. During the summer months there were an average of ten kids in her care at any given moment. What amazes me is we were only ever told once or twice that upstairs was off limits except in the most dire of circumstances (like a bloody nose, or an upset tummy). The really amazing part is that everyone one of us thought that bathroom was as haunted as the day is long, whole stinkin' house was, but that's a story for another time. Point is, we caught on to the routine real quick in spite of said belief (and basements, just being creepy as a rule), such was the power of Auntie.

If we happened to be hanging around the kitchen while the food was cooking -which was unusual, because unless we were big enough to help, we were underfoot- it was inevitable that one of us would ask what was for lunch/supper. The answer to that question varied but it was rarely accurate. Some examples: Horse Shit and Ponies Piss, You'll Get What You're Given and my all time favourite, Fried Cocks and Dandelions. Now, I was around five when the latter was first said to me. A five year old who had until then never heard the word "cock" (at least this is my first memory of it) and the context it was used in led me to believe it was plant life of some sort. I always laughed and left the kitchen, I understood I was being told that it didn't matter what was being made to eat, we would have to eat it anyway because nobody eats plants(vegetables are not plants, duh)! You can imagine my surprise when I was set straight.

While we were eating all of the common table manners were enforced with fervor. I was careful not to reach in front of my neighbor's plate lest I catch a fork across the knuckles. I never, ever rested a forearm on the table or hugged my plate. The forearm resting would lead everyone at the table to sing "Mable, Mable, If you're able, Take your elbows off the table ". It was embarrassing. If I were caught hugging my plate, I was asked if I was worried about someone stealing something, which again, induced embarrassment. I wouldn't have thought of resting my head in my hand while eating, because that meant I was too tired to hold up my own head and was then sent to lay down (don't think anyone ever actually made it to the threatened bed, unless we really were tired, in which case we were made to finish eating first). A couple of the strangest table "manners" I ever encountered were at Auntie's house, which I can now explain but baffled me as a youngster.
1) The drink glasses were always turned upside down on the table. We weren't allowed to drink until we had finished our meal. I understand now that this is meant to keep a kid from filling up on Kool-Aid instead of the nutritious stuff, but to this day it is nearly impossible for me to eat without having a drink with my meal. That nasty little rule was painful.
2) One of us had to read a card from the "Daily Bread" card box that held it's place of honour on the kitchen table before every meal. As an adult that leans towards agnostic (not now folks, that's a discussion better had at a later date), this annoys the ever-lovin' crap out of me. Freaking religious propaganda! As a kid, I both loathed and revered the opportunity to be "The Reader". I loathed it because it was written in bloody bible speak and that shit was hard to read at that age and I never understood what in the hell I was reading anyway, but I wanted to. Oh, dear God, did I want to. It was special because no matter how badly we screwed it up, how ever many missed missed words, ill-used inflection, didn't matter, we were always rewarded with a beautiful smile and a "Thank you, Eyvi. Now you can eat". The religious shit fell by the wayside as the majority of us grew. I think Auntie recognized us for the heathens and savages that we were and knew we didn't want God to save us, so all the scripture and preachin' was fallin' on deaf ears. I have to ask her about those cards. She is a God-fearing woman, but she is not a thumper by any stretch of the imagination. I don't think she was trying to recruit anyone. We were never forced to attend mass other than holidays. She gave each of us our first bibles, but never forced us to read from them. Auntie is a woman who very much believes to each his own. Hmmm, I may be on the edge of an epiphany, but I'm currently in the thick of a beer cloud and can't see my way clear. Tomorrow, maybe.

For all her militant ways though, Auntie was full of awesome. She always baked and always let the kids help (and by help I mean, we ate the dough and ate the finished goods). She used to do crafts with us long before it became trendy to have craft time with your kids. In the summer there was always popsicles. She would let us watch just about anything on t.v. or in movies as long as there wasn't nudity, although we could only watch when it was raining or too cold to go outside. Otherwise we had to be outside getting fresh air. Auntie knew that a kid that had played outside all day was one that was going to go to bed by 8pm and was going to sleep like the dead 'till the next morning. She always had time to answer questions (which is an amazing quality for any adult to have to a kid). Praise was always given when it was due. Love was abundant and felt. Many of the kids that were fostered there keep in touch. One girl called from Texas a number of years ago, 20 years after having been fostered there and once she made sure Auntie remembered her, she told Auntie she had named her daughter after her in the hopes her daughter would grow up to do her namesake justice. I too, named my daughter after her because she is responsible for most of the brighter times of my childhood.

Well, folks I think that'll do for now. The clock has struck midnight here and this girl is getting sleepy. More on Auntie and other things that would make today's standard makers cringe another time.