Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Black like whatshisname.

The Little Bastard has a spare period this semester – or as he constantly reminds me, since dinosaurs no longer roam the Earth – it is called a "free".

A revolving "free" to a 16-year old means: being picked up early on Mondays, sleeping in Tuesdays, long lunches on Wednesdays... and so on. "Free" means I am just settling in to work and he is back home, or he is calling to be picked up for lunch, or he is texting because he is bored, or worse – he is home early – flopping on the couch and demanding snacks like a pissy toddler. I keep reminding him that a "free" is designed for catching up on reading – or God forbid – studying. Free for him, means less freedom for me. Less sparedom.

Last week, I had the pleasure of rousing him from his "free" sleep-in, by standing at his bedside waving a snow shovel. I was wearing pyjamas and the look that says: "Don't fuck with me." He is very familiar with that look – so out he went, half asleep – to help our sweet little neighbour Marg with her sidewalk. I went back to work, and after a half-hour or so, he arrived at the back door.

"What took you so long?" I said.

"I am Mr. Shelby's* new coloured man." the Little Bastard said with a smile.

"What?" I replied, making a face.

He dropped his soggy layers on the floor and said, "Mr. Shelby said his 'coloured man' usually takes the bus to come and shovel, so until the transit strike's over, he asked if I could shovel his walk."

The only saving grace was Jack's air quotes on the words "coloured man". Phew.

"Did he really say, "coloured man?" I asked... wincing.

"Yep" he said, chuckling, "what's for breakfast, Mammy?"

Today is Leap Day – a gimme for dreary ol' February – and time for the Gregorian calendar to catch up with the sun, or something like that. It also tacks on an extra day to Black History Month. Or African-American history month. Whatever. Time for the Mr. Shelbys of the world to catch up and recognize that Michelle Obama isn't just planting watermelons in the White House garden.

In addition to his "free", The Little Bastard is required to take one history course to fulfill his high school diploma. He chose Canadian History over Mi'kmaq Studies, Gaelic Studies, or African Canadian Studies. In a school that sadly, appears to be socioeconomically and racially divided – I would think that African Canadian studies should be mandatory.

But it isn't.

And dinosaurs still roam the Earth – because old-school thinkers like Mr. Shelby are still one chorus of "Wade in the Water" away from growing cotton in the backyard.

Respectfully, and because it is not his nature, the Little Bastard didn't say anything to Mr. Shelby. Nothing along the lines of, "Does the 'coloured man' have a name?" Or, "How bout that Asian NHL player... who woulda thought those rice pickers could skate, huh, Mr. Shelby?", all the while whistling a few bars of "Jump down, spin around, pick a bale of cotton." (Ironically, a song we were taught in kindergarten, growing up in the States.)

I think I would have poked the hooded hornet's nest a bit.

So, while it is too late to change the train of thought (definitely not the Underground Railroad) embedded in our elders – I find it sad there hasn't been one mention of Black History month in The Little Bastard's classrooms. One would think that February, with an extra day, would be a good time for discussing Uncle Tom's Cabin, or Beloved, or what's happening out in the hallway. Is that too much of a leap?

And I have to believe, that underneath his crusty racist exterior – Mr. Shelby is a kind man – he just doesn't see anything politically incorrect or malicious about calling his longtime employee "my coloured man". Although, personally – I think the word "my" is perhaps even more dangerous than the word "coloured."

So, The Little Bastard has a new taste of freedom – and he likes it. Flaunt Salon have a new line of self-tanner that works with your DNA, instead of dyeing your skin Halloween orange. If, like me, you are shackled to your desk for March break – relax, and get Jenny to apply a sun-kissed St. Tropez tan evenly and smoothly. Or, purchase a kit and self-tan your lily white ass 'til the cows come home.

I'm thinkin' maybe I'll pick some up – and if the transit strike looms on – I'll apply for a job down the block – enlightening sidewalks, one shovel load at a time.

*Names have been changed to protect the ignorant, er, innocent.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Curds in my way.

I just dumped a mish mash of broccoli and cauliflower down the garburator. Tonight, I'd rather not eat, than eat that nursing home shit.

It's been two weeks since I've had a carb, a chunk o' cheese, or a cocktail... and I'm cranky as all get out. I've got carpal tunnel from chopping lettuce, and I've stewed enough rhubarb to put Grandma Walton to shame. I've lost 605 pounds so far, but 600 of that was a nasty client posing as a monkey on my back.

Tomorrow is my second "check-in" pep talk – and hopefully I've lost something besides my sense of humour and my joy of living.

I won't lie. These past two weeks have been torture. 64 ounces of water a day in – means 64 ounces of water out. I am so sick of salad I could puke, and the mere sight of someone sipping wine on television has rocking back and forth like a lunatic. I even licked a potato chip before placing it back in the Little Bastard's bowl.

While determined, I am missing my rituals. My five o'clock slab of That Dutchman's Farm gouda. My drive-thru green tea lattés. Weekend bacon. Pan-fried anything. And the Little Bastard's leftovers. I miss Yum Fancy Granola. I miss Monday night Shake 'n' Bake in front of the TV. I miss almonds, and cold butter on Julien's baguettes. I miss crunch. I miss Malbec. I miss fucking TicTacs. I miss corn – and I never eat corn.

I miss me.

So why the high-protien, low-fun health kick? It's not like I'm the next candidate for the Biggest Loser or anything. But February is Heart & Stroke month, and both of my parents suffered heart attacks – one, more fatal than the other. Mind you, they both smoked like Turks – but heart disease and stroke and teenagers, are the number one killer of women – so I'm screwed. And if that isn't enough – my pants are tight – and not in that "nice ass" kind of way. Plus, the good folks at Maritime Travel have us off on another adventure – only this time – instead of trekking with no oxygen or pillows, we're biking. And biking = biking shorts. And I don't want to look like two harbour seals are dry humping in my pants, as I zig zag up a Croatian hillside.

So I will soldier on – chopping and purging and peeing – dreaming of popcorn with layered butter, and scooping just one nightcap of ice cream, all the while, ignoring rave reviews for Dartmouth's new, ill-timed Cheese Curds Gourmet Burgers + Poutinerie.

Julia Child said, "The only time to eat diet food is while you're waiting for the steak to cook.” The grand dame of all-things butter died at 91 – soft as a wedge of gooey Camembert – hopefully clutching a croissant to her defiantly-clogged arteries, while duck fat rolled down her beautiful, smiling face.

Julia also said, “Life itself is the proper binge.”

And I want to be around to binge, and bitch, and bike... for a long, long time.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012


Single. Mother.

Are there two words – aside from maybe "child molester", or "scooch down" (or the male equivalent: "bend over") – that cause society as a whole to cringe, pity, judge, or just rubber neck for a glimpse of gore – before cranking the radio and driving on?

I recall being in a meeting where marketing demographics were being discussed. Over the course of debate, someone suggested "single mothers" were the scourge threatening to bring down the economy – and definitely not their target market.

All eyes fell upon me, followed by the usual bumblings like – "oh, I wasn't talking about you... I was referring to stereotypical single mothers... you know... uneducated women, who keep having kids and leeching on the system". Or something along those lines.

Truth is – utter "single mother" and too many people conjure up the image of a crack whore with a kid on each hip, living off government assistance in a trailer down by the river. A chain-smoking victim of hard luck and poor judgement. A lazy leper who doesn't have the gumption to change her spots.

On the other hand – single "parents" and widows get a steady flow of casseroles, home baking, and more than a modicum of respect. Single dads are adorable, like blind puppies. Fuck, even divorcées are a respectable, hot commodity – likely because they're anxious for some good times, and maybe a little revenge sex on the side.

Single mothers – not so much. We made our bed.

Now, add self-employed to the single-mother mix – and you have a lethal cocktail that sends bankers, mortgage brokers, fashionistas, and dinner party hosts diving for cover.

And before I go any further – don't get me wrong – I'm not asking for pity, and I wouldn't have done this any other way. I left several well-paying jobs because I felt I had to choose between being a good mother, or being a good employee. Sadly, it is nearly impossible to do both extremely well when you're flying solo, and I didn't want someone else raising my child. Something had to give – and in my particular case – it wasn't going to be my one crack at motherhood. So I became my own boss.

Last week, I had a taste of what it's like to be a "stereotypical" single mother when we ran out of furnace oil. We ran out of home heating oil, at precisely the same moment we ran out of money. Cheques that were supposedly "in the mail" never arrived – and stupidly, instead of topping up the tank – I'd made a chunky payment to the Little Bastard's hockey team account – because I was too proud not to.

For three days in sub-zero weather, we relied on a tiny space heater and one electric baseboard at the back of the house. For three days, I watched for the mailman like a long lost lover. For three days, I sent out invoice reminders – and in one case – I'd simply had enough disrespect, and started a motion toward small claims court. For three days, we walked around in so many layers, we were one Zamboni away from a rink. And for three days – my kid never complained once. After all, here is a child who was forced to wear pants he'd grow into – three sizes too big with 8 inch cuffs – until he was old enough to protest. He knew I was embarrassed, and angry, and feeling like a failure. Best not kick the hungry dog.

For three days, I had a taste of what it must be like to be that kind of single mother. Making sure your kid's tummy is full first. Curling up and watching a movie together because it would be fun (and easier to stay warm). Wiping your ass with three squares of single-ply toilet paper instead of a fistful of Cottonelle. All the while – thinking of a way out.

I can tell you that it's really hard to be proud, and creative, and happy, and a good mother – when all you can think about is money. Or the lack thereof.

Of course, cheques eventually filtered in, and my bank account went from famine to feast, as it does from time to time. I filled the oil tank part way. A few bills got paid. My self-esteem dropped by for a visit. And the fridge got stocked. My shoulders relaxed a bit, and I called Discount Fuels to thank them for making a special, late afternoon delivery. We even went out for dinner – a nice treat after three days of humble pie.

So maybe I don't have a steady pay cheque, or a partner who brings home the bacon and assures me that everything will be alright. And I don't have RRSPs, or any hopes of ever retiring. But I do have a chosen career path that I love (most days), appreciative long-time clients, and an amazing kid who has grown up to be a brave, kind, funny, resilient, and compassionate man.

And as a single mother – I can take full credit for that.

* A friend originally told me to take this post down because it made me sound pathetic and depressed, so I did. But I just reread it and I must be pathetic, because it was how I was feeling... so up it does again. May 7, 2012

**Read John DeMont's Herald feature on busy single mom and business owner Julia Rivard. Hats off to her (especially for having the strength to do P9OX at 11 pm when I can barely get a load out of the dryer at 7:30) but her mommy guilt meter must be set differently then mine!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

The buddy system.

Anyone with shares in Robert Mondavi, or the Pinot Grigio crop of 2005 should be rejoicing after last week's gathering of comfortably-heeled Havenot hens.

The fact that I showed up at such an event was totally out of character – having always preferred hangin' with "the guys" and swiggin' from a bottle of Chateau Crude de Noncommittal – a lively blend with hints of mischief and an undertone of reckless abandon. The fact that I was one of the last to leave, was no surprise.

By choice, I don't get out much – so when I peck my way out of coop, it's like Lesbian Bipolar Prison Break. And wading into that particular sea of familiar X chromosomes was rather pleasant. Like swimming though your own pee in a freezing cold lake.

Of course, there were snacks. Dim lighting. Cocktail napkins with cheeky jokes on them. Guest towels. And it was fun to hoist a glass with women I rarely see outside of the grocery store, the rink, or driving by – screeching at their own kids from behind the wheel of a minivan. And while we may not hang out or chat on a regular basis – we all have age, professions, and motherhood in common. Juggling acts that often go unappreciated except among peers. And by the looks of things, we can all guzzle our share of "mommy juice" when handed a hall pass.

What really struck me about the group as a whole was – they were all beautiful. Fit. Sexy. Funny. Wise. They also all had a voice – independent thinkers who hadn't been assimilated into their partners' personalities. (That voice was loud! Once the wine started flowing you could barely hear yourself speak.) And for the most part, they all seem pretty happy – even the ones battling sore hips, cancer, ill parents, divorce, and/or asshole teenagers – all the usual shit life throws under your bus.

Eyes look better with a few crinkly laugh lines.

I was particularly interested in seeing two of the party goers. Both women had recently transformed their eating habits, and their bodies – and I was anxious to see if they'd stuck with it. In truth, part of me was hoping to see them all puffed up like Adele, scarfing back cheese balls like Henry the VIII.

Like me.

Fact is, they were both radiant, goddammit. And as I stood there in my 'good sweats' admiring their cute clothes – I knew it was time to stop blaming my age, my schedule, genetics, and my recently diagnosed hypoactive thyroid – and get back on the horse of fucking misery, and ride.

Diet time.

Looking back, I haven't been on a "program" since January 2010. At that time, I did it as a joke – to give me something to bitch about – and to prove it couldn't be done. Boy, was I wrong. With the help of Halifax fitness and nutrition guru, Glenn Faltenhine of Healthy Halifax, I not only managed to lose a chunk of me – I actually enjoyed it. High protein, low carbs, and no booze. No cheesies. No picking fries off the Little Bastard's plate. No chunks of cheese on salty crackers. No carrot cake. No booze... did I mention that?

My apologies to anyone with shares in Argentinian Malbec crops.

So here I go again – only this time I have a buddy. A like-minded hen who's also lost her strut. We have a proven-succesful program, a goal, and a mandatory weekly weigh-in and all the humiliation that goes with that.

Hey, maybe I'll head down to Thornbloom's Annual White Sale and pick up some incentives... like some sexy new bedding. Or a salad bowl.

What have I got to lose?