Out of Potluck

| Posted in Food, Writing | By

potluck dishes Out of Potluck

I don’t consider myself a snob of any incarnation. I enjoy food which has been passed to me through windows, music made from eclectic assortments of household implements, and clothing meant for someone decidedly not my size, age, gender or biological classification. Because if I can find a sweater in just the right colour, what does it matter if it was meant for a dog? Sew up the extra arm holes, or keep them for easy bathroom access. It’s all good is what I am saying.

But when it comes to potluck parties or communal gatherings where other people bring in food, I get a bit nervous. And by “bit” I mean “crazy levels of a lot.” I get a bit “bring what I can fill-up on and/or eat before we go” nervous. Once there I’ll only eat those foods which I am able to identify. A potluck is no time for surprises. Surprises are bad. No surprises ever, please, especially those involving Grandma’s famous grape jelly and brown sugar.  Even if the first identification test is passed there are a few other potluck criteria which must be met.

Potluck Criteria

Do I know who made this?
If the answer is “no,” then that food is immediately out of the question for consumption and I don’t care if it’s rolled in hundred-dollar bills and dusted with crushed diamonds.

Do I like the person who made the food?
No? Then no. Also, why am I even here? Get the kids out of the sandbox; we have better shit to do.

Have I ever been in this person’s house or seen their kitchen?
This is crucial, and can only be overlooked if you have one of those really strong good gut feelings about the person. If you don’t you’ll probably soon have gut feelings of an ungood sort. For all you know they could running a salmonella cat-shit lab in there. Did you know some people let their cats on their kitchen counters? CATS POOP IN BOXES AND THIS IS NOT NATURAL.

Does the chef have clean fingernails?
It can be tricky to get a good look. Try “admiring” a ring or asking about the bar fight that led to a particular knuckle scar. I hope the search comes up clear, because fingernails are a petri-dish of possible death scenarios.

Do they talk about how funny it was that time their kid sneezed in the frosting they helped make before offering you a cupcake?
Hahaha! Your kid is so funny and also disgusting, so NO. Here; have some of my famous dog-hair pancakes.

Does the food contain mayonnaise or have chunks of stuff submerged or suspended in other stuff?
You lost me at “may-. ” Not doing it.

Does the bowl “the stuff” is presented in look like something found in a dumpster?
All signs point to “Let’s go home now.”

I know what goes on in my own kitchen and sometimes it’s not pretty. I understand the “5 second rule” and I like to push limits so understand that if you eat something I’ve prepared. Things happen. I have children. No court would convict me.

People ask if I eat at restaurants and yes, I do. And yes, I know that what happens there is probably way, way worse than anything you could even imagine happening in a suburban home. I get it. It’s like my fear of flying in that you cannot fight an irrational fear with rationality. Don’t even try because my idiosyncrasies are pretty strong and carry weapons. You can’t win.

So forgive me if I give your concoction the side-eye and pass it by if I overhear you in the bathroom line complaining about how you got “hot covered main dish” and that bitch Joanne got veggie side again, and how she just “dumped three goddamn cans of peas into a buttered bowl.” I’m well enough acquainted with spite to understand how that probably played out in your house the day you had to assemble a fourteen layer casserole for people you don’t particularly care for.

We all have our “thing” and when it comes to potluck, I’m happy to wear the badge.

image courtesy of WikiCommons


Man Down

| Posted in Family, Health, Writing | By

 Man DownOur home is occasionally taken over in the fall and winter by cold and flu viruses. It’s the cold variety here right now, but luckily it’s nothing serious except that it’s me and I’m not bragging, but I kinda run this place single-handedly. But getting sick is what happens when you have kids who go to school, participate in group activities, and play games like “Who Can Lick the Most Doorknobs?”

My fingers are crossed, and so far I’m the only one down with this thing. While I’m lying in bed, surrounded by damp mountains of tissues and empty pill bottles, the kids are as full of youthful energy as ever. At least, I think they are. I haven’t actually seen them for more than just a second or two in the last three days.

When I get sick my kids avoid me like I’ve got my daybook out and the dentist on the line. It’s not so much that they don’t want to catch the bug themselves, but more  that they are completely incapable of showing empathy when it comes to their mother. When I broke my nose playing baseball last year, one of my children requested my still-being-used-bloody towel – to wipe their shoes on.


I’m invisible when I’m not completely healthy, and I have several theories about this. I’m pretty sure it comes down to being afraid of my sudden “fragility,” and them not liking the sudden upset in the household’s balance of power. When I’m not able to function at my usual 65% percent, they hold all the cards and they know it.

But they’re not sociopaths who are incapable of emotion or empathy. I’ve witnessed “Get Better Soon” card making marathons, and one year my daughter gave a huge portion of her Halloween candy to a sick classmate who was unable to go trick or treating. I’ve even dialed the telephone so one of my small children could make a condolence call to a friend whose gerbil had died.


But when mom gets a fever and a cough?

Tumbleweeds, friends. TUMBLEWEEDS.

When my kids are sick, I try to make their convalescence period as comfortable as possible. I serve the perfect room-temperature ginger ale – fizz removed -  and the couch is laid daily with the softest lavender-scented sheets. Cool compresses are changed and refreshed like clockwork. I make sure the television clicker is close at hand and I am available for foot rubs upon request. All I can say about these two is that I am impressed with their ability to launch a Kleenex box from 15 feet away via drop kick. It’s a good thing I’m on the mend, and that I don’t get sick too often, because I am definitely not getting any soup delivered soon. That sort of treatment is reserved for sick friends and dead gerbils.

Other Places Where I Was Welcome This Month:

At MamaPop.com I wrote about The Duggars and dating practices, because that’s always a rational conversation.

At iVillage.ca I wrote about how talking to kids is great, but doesn’t always guarantee they’ll do what as we taught.


Sports bras and Insanity. They are related.

| Posted in Family, Health, Writing | By

It was exercise day today and I’m laying on my bed right now. It’s after 6, and I should be making dinner, but the fact of the matter is that I can’t move any of my legs. (I think I have two. But I’m not sure, because I can’t feel anything below my chest.)

My chest was spared from injury because my 14 year-old daughter helped me tape my boobs together. I believe that if you are going to do something, do it right and enlist help from those legally obligated to love you regardless.

I’ve watched all the stupid Insanity DVDs in this set and no where is there a woman with a chest bigger than the one I had in grade five. I know muscle takes place of some fatty tissue, but what about the “before” part? Million dollar sports bras are an option but my children have grown accustomed to the taste of red meat and I hate to take that away from them just so I can do something called a “Suicide Jump” without giving myself a concussion.

I am a sexy beast, no?

And so day three of Insanity is over, although to be fair it ended sooner than anticipated when my son found me curled up sobbing on the basement floor with my breasts bound with blue duct tape, so you know, any given Monday.

I wrote some other stuff this week, over at The Huffington Post and at MamaPop.com, all of which is substantially more inspiring.*

* It will not inspire you at all.

Maybe you’ll like this picture of my son trapped under an anvil instead:

20130408 223133 Sports bras and Insanity. They are related.
He knows my pain.


Insanity Workout Update, Day Two: There will be no Insanity Workout Day Two

| Posted in Health, Writing | By

 Insanity Workout Update, Day Two: There will be no Insanity Workout Day Two

Someone bought me the Insanity (Beach Body) DVD workout set. I’m not sure why I need a “Beach Body.” I live in Canada and beaches aren’t places I’m likely to stumble over on my way to buy winter tires and kindling. You need to make a concerted effort to get to a beach from where I live, and they’re only warm enough to swim in from 2:30 – 4:00 pm on July 26th of any given year. That’s a lot of bother to spend an hour drinking strangers urine and dodging floating band-aids. A “Sit on the Couch and Watch TV Body Workout” I could get behind, but “Beach Body?” No. If Someone really knew me, Someone would understand I don’t have time for “Elite Nutrition” guides which do not contain brownie recipes.

This particular gift from Someone surprised me because Someone is usually perceptive about general gift-giving rules, which clearly state:

  • No creams or lotions which claim to “fade age spots,” “lighten facial hair,” “improve the appearance of wrinkles,” or “lessen the signs of aging.”
  • No appliances – small or large – without express written consent from recipient. (Exceptions may be applicable in cases of ice cream makers or deep fryers.)
  • No diet or workout propaganda, apparatus, or equipment.

Someone said he was going to participate in the torture contained within Insanity’s slender volume of DVDs, but Someone had to go to the beer store after work and then Someone was too tired to do anything but open said beer. Then Someone thought it would be funny to drop things and watch me try to pick them up as the Insanity Fit Test DVD had left me in a state of near paralysis.

Exactly how safe is it to take a paralyzed individual to a beach?

Someone hasn’t been putting a whole lot of thought into his gifts lately.


Stubble Trouble

| Posted in Health, Writing | By

ladies facial hair Stubble Trouble

Normally today I’d put up a “Tip Thursday” post, but there’s been a  bit of drama around here and I can’t stop thinking about the problem at hand. Or rather, the problem at face.

This morning I found a hair on my cheek. Rather, IN my cheek.

A freaking cheek hair.

A cheek hair.



I’ll take “Two words that shouldn’t ever go together when referring to women,” Alex.

I know that everyone has a little fuzz on their faces, and that there are bigger problems in the world to spend time discussing. I understand that children go to bed hungry, and blahblahblah I DON’T GIVE A SHIT I’VE GOT HAIR ON MAI FACE.

I am neither a man nor a beast, so why is this happening to me?

I spotted the hair this morning and brushed it away, thinking it was an errant lock from my head. Sadly, this was not the case. It was gray (because OF COURSE IT WAS) and it was glittery. It was at least 3 inches long, and I may save it to use as tinsel on the Christmas tree, if I stop crying in time to buy a tree.

How did it grow so long? Is it possible that it’s been there for many days, or weeks?  OH MY GOD IT’S BEEN THERE FOR MONTHS, HASN’T IT? It took three tries to pull it out and the root was long. It still hurts and there’s a bit of a hole marking the spot of the struggle.

Do I have a horrible disease wherein I start sprouting facial hair while the hair on my head thins and grays? Are my vital organs suffering at the hands of this nutrient-life-force-sucking cheek hair? Is this my “Welcome to 40, Biotch” warm-up? I’ve got 2 months left in 39 and I’d like to spend them facial-hair free, if possible.

I mean, I love a bearded man, so maybe my prayers were misinterpreted somehow?

Is this a precursor of what’s to come?  What can I expect next?

Give it to me straight, friends. I’ll be back to check in a few hours. Until then, I’ll be upstairs.



Updated: Uh oh, you guys. It gets worse. Apparently, MUCH worse. Let my friend Sharon tell you:

The Product You Thought You’d Never Need


Ugh. Some feelings and stuff.

| Posted in Family, Writing | By

I’ve been thinking lately about how happy my son looks when he’s fighting. Not the “punch you in the face” variety of fighting; he’s not like that.

No, this stems more from what I saw at a recent sleep-over playdate. His very special friend was here – a boy he’s known forever. They love to rough-house and tumble around, and they know and respect each other’s limits. No one ever gets hurt, or feels picked on, or cries “uncle” or taps out or whatever.

My son has never struck someone in anger, and while he has given one person a bloody nose, he did it under duress as he was being sat on and later told me he was afraid. And guess what? I am totally cool with that. I don’t believe in violence before peaceful attempts to reconcile, but if someone is quite literally sitting on you and you can’t breathe and they’re not respecting your boundaries or complying with your request to GET OFF ME NOW, then they deserve what they get in the way of a bloody nose.

So, back to the play-fighting. After the giggling and thumping subsided, my son and his friend had this look on their faces that sadly I’ve seen less of since they’ve started using things like iPods and laptops. My son is very physical, and very lean. He’s not at all big for his age, but he is very, very strong. (I like the word “very” very much, it would appear, but I’m in no mood for edits, thank you very much.)

After the tumbling they were both pink and flushed. My son’s eyes were positively sparkling and his hair was sweaty and curling up all along the fringe of his forehead. He was beautfiul and happy.

So this week, thanks to some  advice and recommendations from my friend Kelly at Black Belt Mommy, he started Jiu jitsu. He’s only been to one class, where he spent an hour grappling and rolling and running and being told “when you practice perfection, you achieve perfection,” and “Making someone feel bad is not funny, and not ‘just a joke’ – this is not friendship material so walk away from it.”

I already love it there and I’m signing my 13-year-old daughter up this week.

For a quiet boy who never says a word about his feelings, a quiet boy who’s started and tried and didn’t love hockey and soccer and baseball, I got this response:  “This – this -is the sport I like.”

Between those words and his smile, my cheeks are a little pinker too. 

Here’s some other stuff to read:

Sarah’s ideas are fantastic. You can find her design and DIY ideas at her blog Sarah Gunn, as well as at Yummy Mummy Club. Carve out some time; you’ll be making a list of things to do.

I spent way too much time watching this “Little Rascals” video, but I couldn’t help myself. It reminds me of when I was small and the Rascals environment didn’t feel so different from mine in the 1970′s. I’m sad that many things in this video are virtually unrecognizable to my own children, just three generations later. I especially love Spanky, and you just know from watching him as a child that he would grow up to be an awesome Grandpa. (If you know otherwise, keep it to yourself. I’m in no mood for shattered dreams this week.)

This past week taught me a few things, as well. Like these:

highly irritable twitter tweet Ugh. Some feelings and stuff. highly irritable twitter 2 Ugh. Some feelings and stuff.

I was also over at MamaPop.com begging for someone to be a hero to Lindsay Lohan, and why it is never, ever a good idea to marry your brother.

Have a great week. A VERY good week.


Read this when your turkey coma sets in; that way you won’t remember and/or be disappointed

| Posted in Family, Health, Writing | By

wild turkey Read this when your turkey coma sets in; that way you wont remember and/or be disappointed

Today is the American Thanksgiving, but here in Canada it’s just Thursday. It’s kind of special because my kids don’t have school tomorrow, but I do have to go for Parent/Teacher interviews. If past year’s interviews are to be used as my yardstick, I expect to hear a lot of this: “Keep on keepin’ on.”

My kids are excellent students, and know how to fly under the radar. That’s not bragging; it’s disbelief. They’re smart – don’t get me wrong about that – it’s more that I can’t believe they didn’t fall into the genetic trap my family lays down for its members: make them smart, give them a good (albeit twisted) sense of humour, and then put them in a room with a captive audience. Oh, and make sure they have a zero bullshit tolerance and maybe have them over think everythingsinglethingever. Result: We usually quit (or are asked to leave) by high school.

But so far, so good.

Anyway, I’m not well this week (fluish something) and while I am on the mend, I have no energy for a Tip Thursday other than this:

Tips For Not Getting Sick this Cold and Flu Season:

  1. Take your vitamins.
  2. Avoid excessive sugar.
  3. Don’t lick doorknobs.

That should do it.

So just like the big TV networks on a holiday, here’s a re-run for you. If you’re celebrating today, have a great Thanksgiving. And please; if you’re shopping tomorrow on something called “Black Friday,” don’t get trampled. “She Died Saving $7 on a Bagel Toaster” is not something you want on your tombstone.

Cheese Club

(originally run on December 16, 2010)

According to my Advil Advent calendar, Christmas is just over a week away. Until now I felt that I had everything under control in the holiday planning department – most of the gifts we need have been bought, wrapped, and are under the tree. My annual manifesto Christmas letter is almost complete; I’m just holding off with some of the details until I see how the judge makes his ruling. I’ve written my final exams for the semester and with the kids still in school for the rest of the week I finally have some time for leisurely pursuits like my annual leg shaving.

There are just a few people we still hadn’t bought gifts for, so PM and I headed out this afternoon, determined to buy everything we needed today. But after all the shopping I’ve been doing recently, I was exhausted after half an hour into the trip.

(Actually it was probably the episode earlier at a Big Box Home Store that sapped my energy. I’m sorry, but when there are more than 6 people in a check-out line and the cashier is interviewing each customer and counting out their change in pennies I cannot be held responsible for my actions. I’m also thinking that most of my shopping will soon have to be done primarily online for legal reasons.)

We decided to be brave and go to the Price Club. By the time we had walked the 40 acres from our parking spot, I was done. PM and I made plans to split the list and meet after an hour. The next thing I knew I was being woken up by a lady in a smock poking me in the face with a tray of European cheese samples. I took her tray and went to find PM. He was looking at electric saunas.

“Hi there!” He was cheerful. “Look what I found while you were napping on the doggie beds.”

I peered into his Hyundai sized shopping cart and said, “I was tired. That car tire sized wheel of Gouda made me drowsy.” I picked through the stuff in the cart. “Are these the gifts?”

“Um…yeah. Yeah; they are.”

“Huh. Who are the pickled asparagus and sledgehammer for?”

“We’re playing Secret Santa at work.”

“Hmm. What about the 40-pack of mousetraps, 2 qt. jar of Cheez Whiz and the 2011 Monster Truck Encyclopedia?”

“My Mom.”

“Lucky lady. And what’s that?” I asked, pointing to something at the bottom of the cart. “Everything in this cart is for us, isn’t it?”

“I got some pancake mix…” he started.

“That’s a bag of powdered drywall spackle!”

“…and a frying pan that makes snowflake shaped pancakes!”

“For the spackle?”

“If it’s shaped like a snowflake and covered with maple syrup the kids aren’t even going to notice.” He seemed confident.

“Did you find Rock Band 3 for the Wii?” I asked.

“No; but are you sure the kids even want it?” He didn’t seem convinced.

“Absolutely! Yes! Kind of. Probably. I mean, when I mentioned it they didn’t say no…exactly.”

“You told me they were begging for it.”

“Because I think it will be good for them. They need the guitar practice.”

“The Rock Band guitar is an electronic stick with push buttons on it.”

I pressed on. “Regardless, They should master the bass pedal and high hat on the drum kit. Plus, I think they are ready to understand the pressures of the road.”

“Jeni…Jeni, put the cheese down. You are never going to ‘go’ again if you don’t lay off the dairy. And you know that you’re not really in a band, right? It’s a game…something you do for fun – like karaoke or home dentistry. And you really need to stop referring to your minivan as ‘the tour bus.’ I should tell you that people are starting to talk.”

When we left he had to pull his toque down to cover the snowflake shaped red mark on his forehead.


The one where you tell me everything will be fine

| Posted in Health, Writing | By

gift The one where you tell me everything will be fine

This had better be my youth

Yesterday was my birthday, and I turned an age that ended in a “9.”

To celebrate carrying me this far, my body launched all sorts of surprises: my fingers are stiff, there’s a new wrinkle on my forehead, and my neck is starting to look like a party streamer.

My birthday included a bowl of soup and an afternoon nap on the couch, and I was totally cool with that.

One morning, not so long ago, I was getting my breakfast in the kitchen wearing only my nightgown. We were running late and I hadn’t done anything to myself other than get out of bed. My son looked at me and commented, “Your boobs hang pretty low. It’s like they’re really sad.”

This is the beginning of the end of my youth, isn’t it?

I have high blood pressure, and my last visit with the doctor (a doctor who is 6 years YOUNGER than me) included talk of support stockings and cholesterol testing. My hearing isn’t the greatest due to Nirvana, the 1990′s and something called a “Walkman.” I’ve even worn – completely by coincidence - the same outfit as my 88-year-old grandmother at least twice this year.

I understand that I am still “young” relatively speaking, but it’s not about the number, it’s about the feeling. I realized the other day that no clerks have called me “Hun” in quite some time. I’m now at the age my dad was when I no longer thought of him as “young.” Maybe I need to start hanging out at the senior’s centre, so I can be the youthful one again.

The other day a professor called me “Ma’am.”

I feel sad because both my kids can tie their own shoes, read, tell time, buckle their seatbelts, and wipe their own asses. It’s like all of those fun parenting duties are behind me.

I’m now officially a part of the pre-menopausal generation but I can’t stay up to watch the “Nightline” special about it because it’s on after 10pm. I’ve cut my hair to a “respectable” length and sometimes I have to ask people to speak s-l-o-w-e-r and more loudly.

The other day a professor called me “Ma’am.” Did I say that already?

I’m begging you, please- tell me this is a just a plateau and I’m really still just climbing the mountain. I can’t be at the halfway point because I still haven’t seen a Led Zeppelin reunion concert.

To put thing is perspective, I will close with this:

Recently I lingered at a clothing rack displaying polyester pull-on pants and considered.

Seriously considered.


Good thing I never had a flair for hitchhiking

| Posted in Family, Health, Writing | By

Well, hello there! I hope your holidays were filled with the laughter of loved ones, the spirit of giving, and alcohol at breakfast. (If you do it right, you can hit all three with one stick. Then you can use that stick to play “Who can knock this cinnamon bun off the ceiling fan with this here stick?”

I had my daughter wrap all the gifts this year, because I am effectively thumb-less on my right hand. Trying to do everything with my left hand has made me very frustrated and angry at my ineptitude as a lefty. No wonder you people were burned at the stake years ago. Doing stuff with your left hand is hard and makes you cry and yell and I think I saw my daughter stockpiling matches.

I’ve seen the doctor again about my thumb and went into the visit knowing exactly what was wrong with me. I assured the nurse I wouldn’t be in the office long, as I had diagnosed myself and really just needed the doctor’s confirmation so I could win the bet I had with PM and collect my singing sparkle pony.

She led me into the examination room. “The doctor won’t be long.”

“No worries!” I replied. “I know what’s wrong anyway. I just wanted to let him know what it was; you know, for my file.”

She tried to answer, but went into a coughing fit. Poor thing. Working in a medical office can be hard on the immune system. She should take more vitamin C and garlic.

“So you’ve diagnosed the problem?” she asked.

I nodded.

“Great,” she said. “Doctors LOVE that.” She had another fit and had to leave the room.

When the doctor came in I informed him that thanks to my high-speed wireless connection and approximately $1.25 of usage time, I had determined something his $100,000 degree may have overlooked. He nodded and asked me to perform a movement with my hand, which should I fail to be able to do so would confirm my theory.

Of course I could do it perfectly.

Then he humoured me and said my diagnosis was a good guess, but that I was likely going to need surgery and physiotherapy for my now completely useless thumb and referred me to a plastic surgeon, who I am positive will be recommending immediate amputation.

I guess I should have expected my doctor’s response, what with his lackluster reaction to my visit last summer when I had determined I had Glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase deficiency. Back then he said I had to be an African American male to suffer from that, and at my last physical I proved to be neither. I replied that I think it’s important to remember that concepts such as race, gender and sex are nothing more than theories, really and he should probably run the tests anyway. Then he had a coughing fit.

I really need to send that office an email about taking care of themselves.


Whatever it is, it’s probably horrific and permanently disfiguring

| Posted in Family, Health, Writing | By

My thumb has been hurting really badly for about a week. It’s swollen and tender, and the thumb joint clicks audibly. I am learning to play Christmas songs with it to entertain party guests.

C said I should go to the doctor because I need therapy. (He says this often.) I made an appointment to prove him wrong. I generally prefer to follow my usual course with any type of body pain or physical ailment, which is to complain about it until no one is willing to listen anymore and then drink until the pain goes away.

What kind of physical therapy does one get for a thumb, anyway? I had visions of my thumb lifting a tiny bar bell. I even drew an old-fashioned muscle man moustache on my thumbnail before my appointment just in case.

I was woefully disappointed.

I showed the doctor where it hurt, and even played him a few bars of “O Holy Night.” He seemed impressed. Or frightened. (I can be a bit ignorant when it comes to reading social cues.) Then he said “Huh…” and started looking in a really big book with gold-edged pages. (I think it was the Bible, or maybe a magic spells book.)

While he was looking, I compiled a mental list of the things you don’t want to hear your doctor say:

  1. “Huh.”
  2. “That’s impressive, and I don’t mean in a good way.”
  3. “I’m pretty sure it’s not the plague. Or meningitis. But you know you’re going to die one day regardless, right?”

(Note: These things have all been said to me in medical offices.)

I asked him if I should rub it or have it massaged. “No,” he replied. “If something is swollen and hard, you should resist from touching it.”

Then we just stared awkwardly at one another until my head exploded.

He said he’d like to start with an X-ray, and gave me the option of having it done at the local hospital or a clinic downtown.  I chose the clinic because every time I go to the hospital, the room is full of inmates from the local maximum security prison, shackled and in handcuffs. I get uncomfortable when my daughter asks “Soooo…. what’re ya in for?” My son is a bit more shy. He makes me ask them how much they paid for their tear-drop tattoos and “could you please ask him for the artist’s contact info?”

The x-rays came back inconclusive. I have fingers, that much is confirmed, but other than that the preliminary diagnosis is “tiny hands syndrome exacerbated by BlackBerry use,” culminating in the dreaded condition known as “Twitter Thumb” or “Blog Finger.”

Either way, it’s much better than my first thought: Catastrophic Stage 3 Thumb Cancer, requiring immediate amputation.