Showing posts from July, 2013

Rites of passage


Photo by Beth Grant, Creative Commons  Over the years, I was subjected to some pretty inappropriate attempts at child-rearing. It was all part of that misguided notion among parents in the 1960s that kids should be taught to do adult things while they still lived at home. Like drinking, smoking, gambling -- those sorts of things.

For example, I started drinking coffee at the age of five. By the time I got to public school, I had developed a three cup a day Instant coffee habit. I always tried to fill the coffee cup over the brim like the Maxwell House coffee commercial. It would never work, of course, because the people who make those commercials lie. Coffee spills into the saucer instead not matter how often you try this particular experiment. Didn't matter to me. I preferred to slurp my coffee from the saucer anyway.

Hey, I was a kid.

As on most farms, coffee was served at all hours and I drank my last cup before I went to bed which was anytime I wanted to go. Bedtime was…

Outhouse: The Walk of Shame

Photo by Shawn Ford
If anal retentiveness could be taught, the classroom would be in the outhouse, the bane of the existence of any kid who grew up poor on a farm. I am still traumatized by the 14 years or so I spent making the chilly trek to the stinky little lean-to we called our bathroom. I'm sure even Ma and Pa Kettle had a commode, but not us. We had running water -- bathtubs and sinks full -- but it wasn't until Granny broke her hip, and I was in high school, that Gramps finally agreed to build a proper bathroom in the old farmhouse.  The outhouse brought early shame into my sensitive little bottom. No one -- not even my Auntie Alwyn or the Houtbys who lived down the road -- lived in a house where you had to put a coat on to do nature's little business. The lack of toilet facilities became my reason for visiting neighbors and gratefully going to school. (Although I must admit that I spent years resisting peeing in a stall ne…

See a Penny, pick it up, all the day you'll have good luck

A kid never forgets her first dog or the first time she pees herself in public. I got my first dog in my sixth year. It was also the year I couldn't get to the outhouse in time to relieve myself and found myself standing in a puddle of wee, in my best dress, in front of granny's house. This is first memory of life on this planet. My mom named my dog Penny. She always gave our dogs plain girl names, not like mine which was Rosalie. Why, I always wondered, did the dogs get better names than I did. Penny was an adult Golden Retriever we got from one of those families that dumps their dogs on a farm when they are too much trouble. She was an excellent, good natured dog, as all Goldens are -- unlike Labs, mentioning no names Finnigan. She was the color of sunshine and she lit up my lonely little existence. My Uncle Vern used to hook her up to my wagon and troll me around the property. I felt like a little princess in second hand shorts. Trouble with Penny was she liked to chase c…

A girl named Stinks

I recently went looking for pictures of me as a kid and I found only a few of them.
That's because my wartime Dad died when I was eight months old and a) my mother had no one to whom she could send pictures b) she probably couldn't afford the film and c) she sucked as a photographer. Why did everyone back then take "point and shoot" literally?
I mean, couldn't she have just come up a little closer?
I suppose she was artfully looking for a nice wide shot that showed the bleakness of the tapestry that was our lives. Or she wanted to get the house in the picture.
There were great pictures of my bros, cute ones, and tons of pictures of my mom and relatives.
Not me.
I was sort of like the little girl with no face.
This picture is of me and my neighbor Ron Houtby, or Renald the Pig as he was monikered.
The Houtby boys all had nicknames like that, except for Ron's older brother Tom who was a bad dude. He would have leveled a can of whoopass on the neighborhood…

Thank God I'm a country girl

I've been mulling a change for some time.
My old blog, Rose's Cantina, was turning me into a bitter old crone.
I reminded myself of Granny Ina who used to hit the cat with her cane. The cat deserved a whooping, of course, because she was a miserable and mangy little cuss who lay in wait for Granny. When Granny came around the corner, Pixie would pounce on her leg, bite her ankles and sink her razor sharp teeth into the wrinkly old flesh.
It was awesome.
I realized recently if I didn't stop snarking at politicians and movie stars, I was going to morph into an eighty-pound dame who could wield a cane like a ninja operating nunchuks.
So I've decided to change lanes and embark on a more positive, if not bizarre journey, which might land me a gig on CBC radio if I play my cards right.
Think a mixture of Stuart Mclean and Jann Arden.

That's me.
A little girl outstanding in her field.
Just a country girl with a twang in my heart and a pack of dogs by my side.

Finnigan: The Constant Gardener

"Dogs have a different digestive system than we have," Scott explained as I cleaned up a mound of puke from in front of the Laz-y Boy chair.
There was actually a hunk of wood in it.
"How is that possible?" I asked him remembering the day my two-year-old Black Lab did her final curtain call after eating a dozen oatmeal chocolate chip muffins. "I think they're just stupid eaters."
Finnigan eats poo for one. Any mound he can get his stupid black mouth around. And he eats sticks.
He also jumps eight feet in the air to sample the tender shoots on the maple tree in our side yard.
Last year, he killed another tree by whittling it down during the winter months.
He is a constant gardener, ingesting all forms of flora and fauna, twigs and berries.
Note to self: we must rethink his diet.
When he was a puppy, he ate our prized tulips, the ones we had hoped to show off during the Ottawa Tulip Festival. He's such a voracious eater, I've simply been forc…

My ancestors: Of monkeys and pugs

When my daughter Marissa turned 24 a couple weeks ago, I gave her some beautiful albums and boxes to document her upcoming wedding to Jeff. One of the boxes, I told her, was meant to store family photographs so that she could begin building her legacy to show her sons and daughters pictures of her ancestors and tell them a little about where they came from.

She sort of looked at me like I was crazy. That's perfectly understandable for a girl her age. I didn't pay much attention to the photo albums my mom kept in the bottom of her hope chest until she was long gone. Then I wondered: who the heck are all these people and why do they look nothing like me?

Part of the problem was my mom didn't label any of the photographs so I have about a hundred of them with people in them who are total strangers to me. Thanks, mom!

Look at this top photo for example. That's my great grandfather, I think his name was Bill because everybody seemed to be named Bill back then instead of St…


She may not have reached the magic age,  but my granddaughter is already in the terrible twos.
I remember the phase well. It's the "do the opposite" phase.
No sooner does grandma tells her to keep her sticky hands off the remote than she's grabbing it, sliming it and running with it. Tell her to stay away from the barbeque and she's got her head in it. Ask her not to play with her food and she mangles it, smears it on her face and then drops it.
She won't let me comb her hair. She sticks her tongue out to push out the broccoli so it lands on the floor and she pulls Gordie's tail.
And just, just when Grandma is getting ready to send her off into the corner, she does a little jig and all is forgiven.
All I can say is "could be worse".
Her father was a real piece of work at this age. We had to put an alarm on his door because he would get up in the middle of the night, go to the pantry and eat Kool Aid by the handful. Put him to bed and he'd …

Forever Young

Vern, Ivan, Lloyd and Vera: My mother's family 

When I was a little farm kid, I had a playmate who stood about five foot tall and ran me around the yard in my little red wagon which he had hooked up to our Golden Retriever Penny.

His name Vern and he was my best friend, a guy my mother could always count on to watch me, pick me up when I fell and scraped a knee, or put a cold compress on my leg when I got stung by one of Gramp's bees, which was pretty often.

Vern loved to sit on the step of the house. He'd play an horrific version of one country song or another on his guitar or his fiddle. Sometimes, he accompanied himself on the harmonica or the Jew's harp. Twang-a-lang, Twang-a-lang. If I close my eyes, I can still hear him catterwalling. Vern liked to wail or yodel which is why Granny always made him sit outside. He was a terrible picker and a worse singer, but oh, my, how he loved his music.

Vern wasn't one of the neighbor kids. Vern was my Uncle, a 50-year-…

Aunt Esther: Road meat

I was cleaning up my bookshelf yesterday and I am across an old cookbook from my grandma's house. Well, it really wasn't a cookbook, just a notebook full of recipes gleaned from the local newspaper or passed along by some of the better cooks in the family.

This cookbook belonged to my Aunt Esther who was married briefly to my crazy Uncle Ivan. I have no idea what Esther saw in Ivan, who actually was kicked out of the Army for being loony. But they were married, yes they were, and Ivan built Esther a house on our farm property. Then Esther left his sorry ass and he kept the house and let us live in it when we were growing up.

I believe Esther left Ivan before I was born and moved up to Northern Ontario. They didn't start divorce proceedings until 1975 when Ivan wanted to sell the house. All the papers were drawn up, Ivan sold the house and sent half of the money up to Esther.

About ten minutes later, on a dark and stormy night, Esther was driving a snowmobile and got hit …


I just got up from my regular afternoon nap, about ten minutes ago. It was a long nap -- more than two hours -- and I feel better, which is not always the case when I wake up from nap time.

If I nap too long, I usually feel really, really crappy and just say to hell with it and go right back to bed. These naps are taken in bed surrounded by the puppy pile: Sophie crooked into my shoulder, Gordie with his chin on my ankle and Finnigan at the end of the bed. There is often drool that accompanies the long nap -- I'm talking about my drool, not theirs -- and my chest hurts from all the deep breaths I take. Also, my eyes are crossed.

The most efficient naps are taken on my big leather couch. Couch naps are best accentuated by premium cable. I take couch naps when I don't have a lot of time. I use gunshots or blood curdling screams instead of the alarm clock.

The nap is the friend of the writer -- and Mexicans. It recharges the battery. Allows for some pretty amazing dreams. Today…

Kate Middleton's Picadilly Cervix

The Royal Protocol used in the delivery of the Baby Cambridge.

A poem for Skylar

If I were granted any wish,
I'll tell you what I'd do,...
I'd wish my kids were small again,
for just a month or two. To hear their squeals of laughter,
to watch them while they play.
And when they ask me to join in,
I'd NOT say "Not today." To hug again their chubby frame,
to kiss away their tears,
and cherish childhood innocences
that's washed away the years. Then when it's story time again,
I'd stay a little longer,
to answer questions, sing the songs,
so memories would be stronger. But time is callous, wishes, myth,
yet God in all his wisdom,
has given me another chance
before I join his kingdom. The face may not be just the same,
the name is changed, 'tis true,
but yet the smile that radiates,
reminds me so of you. God must have known that Grandma
would need a chance or two.
For many little happy things
she hadn't time to do.
So God gave love to Grandmas
to equal that before,
that, in effect embraces
those little lives she bore. Author Unknown

Justin Bieber on CTV: Douche box

I was at the gymnasty at 7 a.m. sharp this morning to get in a workout before Scott went to the car store to sell Mazdas to teenagers.
As usual on a Saturday morning, there was nothing on except for CNN and who wants to see endless reruns of Barack Obama talking about being a black kid getting frisked at clothing stores?
Sure, it was a good message, but hey, CNN! Seen it!
So I turned on CTV, a little show they make for tweens called Juicebox.
Cool, I thought, expecting Carly Rae Jepson.
Instead, they were running a whole half hour of Justin Bieber.
Should have called the show Douche Box.
Anyway, this video I''m about to show you came on and it's all about the Biebs dry humping a bunch of Latino girls who look an awful lot like Selena Gomez. He has them on top of the car, in the car, probably under the car by the time the video finished.
It was disgustingly suggestive, with cameras bopping up and down while the Biebs makes a girl sit on his lap like wicked Uncle Ernie.

The Divine Ms. M

Even in the womb, my daughter Marissa was a gift.
Before I got pregnant, I was struggling to lose the baby weight I had packed on during my first two pregnancies and was just beginning to lose some. In vitro, Marissa became my personal trainer.
During the nine months Marissa camped out in me, I actually lost that baby fat. By the time she emerged, I was a scrapping size 10. Nobody, not even my doctor, could explain that.
She was born on this day, 24 years ago, in the stinking hot tub we call Mississauga, Ontario. It was so smoggy that day, we couldn't see Lake Ontario which was just down the hill on the way to the hospital.
Even then, she was an impatient girl. She could barely wait for her father to get home from the city and was stomping on my backside with her little imaginary stilettos.
Let me out, she seemed to be saying, the world needs to meet me.
Four hours and she was out, and perfect, a tiny little six pound two ounce charmer. That's what I thought, until she cl…

Dogs don't have email accounts

Rose-French relations hit a new low this morning.
At 7 a.m. I received a missive from across the pond saying that my superiors had lost confidence in me.
That's because I inadvertently put two sentences in a paragraph that weren't supposed to be there.
Me, I thought it was no big deal.
But to them it was as if I were Paula Deen and I'd just called Kanye West the "n" word.
I've already been laid off for the summer. Now, the icing is running fast and furious down the bodice of the McArthur Park cake.
It's looking like I'm going to be sacked. Hard to tell with the French.
Last time, I thought they sacked me, I went into a corner moping for two weeks and then the frantic emails started with my post-pubescent boss wondering where I'd been. Then I started getting emails from my other Parisian colleagues wondering why I'd sent them all letters of adieu.
You see, my bosses keep a list, some sort of ledger with one column only outlining my trespasse…

Sophie's Choice

What a ridiculous day this has turned out to be.
With temperatures in the mid 30s, it's too hot to be outside so the dogs are inside driving me nuts.
Sophie is just finishing up her heat -- thank the Lord, hopefully, it will be her last -- but Finnigan's gotten all randy all of a sudden. He simply won't leave her alone.
Strange, fixed boy dogs, they still want it but don't really know what "it" is so they chase fertile little girl dogs all around, grabbing them, coaxing them, with about three feet between their genitals and the generous opening provided for them.
Reminds me of the boys in high school with their gigantic notebooks.
Sophie, for her part, wants none of it, which is a good thing because that means she's getting close to being finished. The trapdoor, hopefully, will slam shut.
This is news to Finnigan who got doused with my kale juice this morning.
We're all fed up.
Sophie told me, telepathically, that she's planning to take out a…

Nigel Wright: To sir, with love
Dear Nige. Can I call you Nige?

Whew that was a close one!
Thanks for the cheque. I had to go to Money Mart to get it cleared.
I'm taking the cash down to the Royal Bank this afternoon.
Don't want a paper trail, Wright? Wink, wink.
Boy we sure pulled a fast one on those damned auditors. Now, there's no way they'll be able to pin the rap on yours truly. Paid in full, thanks to you!
Mums the world, old boy. Bob Fife would have to waterboard me before I spill the beans.
Is waterboarding legal in Canada?
So glad you didn't spread around the largesse. That Pam, she's so irresponsible.
Females! Probably spent all her money on pedicures.
Oh, BTW, was wondering if you could spot me a few hundred bucks this afternoon.
I'm a little light.
Those cruises are a bitch.
They say they're all inclusive, but you really have to read the fine print.
They claimed my  "inclusiveness" was cleaning them out.
What can I say?
I am a…

Lab management

I was sitting on the couch talking to Nick last night, when it happened. Finnigan was all excited about seeing the Baby Skylar and had been barking incessantly. I told him to stop and he started toward me, not with the happy Lab swagger but charging me like a bull after a cowboy who was stupid enough to get in the ring with it. He lept over two chairs and the ottman, approximately three feet in the air, sailing straight toward me. It's hard to describe the feeling when 100 pounds of taut black muscle is about to crush you. Perhaps only wrestlers know this feeling. My body certainly knows the imprint.   Finnigan has body slammed me before. He nearly knocked out my front teeth twice at the dog park once when I was trying to pick up Sophie the pug, another time when I was putting a leash on her.

That was bad and it hurt, but this time, this time could have been a whole lot worse. Miraculously, he managed to land in the tiny square of leather sofa between me and the armrest. It was…

Tim Hudak came calling yesterday

Twenty years, I've lived in Ottawa South.
For much of that time, Dalton McGuinty was my member of the provincial legislature. For too much of that time, he was Premier of the Province of Ontario.
Not once did he stop by my door to talk to me about my concerns.
Yesterday, Scott and I were in the side yard having a cocktail, when Finnigan starting hopping at the fence alerting us to the presence of a visitor.
It was Tim Hudak, the Conservative leader who wants Dalton's old job.
He was campaigning in his Dalton's old riding, the one he unceremoniously dumped to avoid questions about a dubious gas plant deal, among other scandals. Alongside Hudak was Matt Young, the Tory candidate.
They were travelling behind enemy lines, in a safe Liberal riding.
Or is it?
I've voted Liberal all my life, but after meeting Mr. Hudak, I had to ask myself: was my life made better by Dalton McGuinty?
I have to answer: No.
Twenty years ago, I was making a good living. Today, I can't get a…

Harper's Angels

Candice Bergen seen here with Cabinet colleagues

I'm trying to give up politics for the summer but the politicos just won't leave me alone. I live in the riding of Ottawa South, the homestead of Premier Dad and Premier Dad's Dad. Now, because Daddeo fled the coop in fear of reprisal from angry Ontarians, I must confront a byelection. I struggle with Ontario politics every time there is an election and this byelection will be no different. I've been a life long Liberal, brainwashed at the tender age of 23, made to wear orangey-red t-shirts and get hit upon by paunchy old lawyers. I was a true believer back in my youth, but became cynical in my thirties and disappointed in my forties. Now in my fifties, I could give a shit. But vote I must. Still, voting against the Liberals when you've been one for so long is akin to murdering your parents. So I'm going to give Kathleen Wynne a chance because I will never, ever vote Conservative and cannot bring myself to vot…


"I just thought I'd tell you that I buried Mousey in the front yard," Nick told me the other day. Mousey, Shyla's hamster, had recently passed on after nibbling on a final meal of pizza crust.
He had been ailing for about a month and Nick was trying to figure out a humane way to euthanize him, perhaps, he thought crushing a few Tylenol into his grub. As it turned out, thankfully, the rodent took the final journey on his own and was found feet up on the bottom of his cage.
The kids arranged a proper burial for him. Nick told the baby Skylar that Mousey had gone to heaven which, in my view, is a cheap out.
My daughter Marissa also recently lost her own hamster, Moo, who had been living a horribly sedentary life choosing to shun his hamster wheel in favor of reruns of Wheel of Fortune.
I'm not sure whether Marissa buried Moo or just put him down the garbage shute as I would have done.
I don't care about Mousey or Moo one way or another.
I hate hamsters.

Harper's newest secret weapon

Congratulations to Candice Bergen, MP for Portage, on her appointment to the Harper Cabinet. Seen here with her family.
Her dad was a great cabinetmaker himself.

Lee Anne Cusak: The nearly naked news

Wayne to Lee Anne: Are you really going to wear that? Lee Anne:  Of course. It's a hot day, right? Wayne: Yes, sweetie but there's no room for a, a, a, bra. Lee Anne: Not to worry. I have my pasties. See? You just slip 'em in. Wayne: But darling, you are on The Noon News. Not the noon show at Bare Fax. You're going to give J.J. a nine iron. 

Finnigan and Sophie: Snoop dog and L'll Bow wow

It was my daughter Marissa's 24th birthday celebration yesterday.
Wouldn't you know it?
I forgot to charge my camera.
No matter, she wasn't the star of her own party anyway.
Finnigan kept barking in her ear and drooling on her clothes. Fortunately, Marissa knows enough not to wear her good clothes over to our house. Here is Finnigan giving me a stick.

So much for those pants.

When the party was over, the hounds decided to settle in for a small libation.

Too bad Sophie can't hold her wine.

All in all, we had a fabulous time.

Too bad Marissa and Jeff missed the after party. But they were on hand when Finnigan decided to do his favorite party trick.

Skylar Bear: The Dog Conjurer

Nick looked at the baby Skylar who was dismantling her potty and turning it into a bed for her dolly.
"I think I liked her before she started talking," he told me.
She's not really talking. She's kind of chanting, like one of those kids you see in horror movies clutching the kitchen blade and laughing.
You know, the kid from Pet Sematary.
At a year and half, she's managed to string together a bunch of words like  "daddy, buppie and mo'". She says them over and over in no particular order while cackling to herself.
We like to think of our grandchildren as special, but Skylar's just an ordinary toddler.
Nick keeps her chained to her little chair all day, but she's managed to gnaw off her left hand and she's using it as a chew toy for the dogs.
They absolutely love it.
We could market it if we only had a 3D printer.
Kidding, I'm kidding.
But it would make a great made-for-tv movie.

Skylar is a dog magnet, a human popsicle, really…

Hurricane Sophie

I've often wondered how people with dogs keep their homes so neat and tidy.
You know the people. They have two English sheepdogs and three cats, pristine terra cotta pile carpets, microfiber sofas and gleaming floors. There are no shit stains on the microfiber where the dogs have scooted themselves, no puke marks from the time the dogs ate the ham they retrieved from the ice box, no half chewed spindles on their chairs.
These are the people who happily act as valets for their dogs instead of writing blogs complaining about them while the dogs chew their prized runners in the background.
My friend Suzanne is a master dog manager.
She has an incontinent, blind, 16-year-old dog named Buddy who keeps falling in the swimming pool. When Buddy poops himself, she and her husband have to spend an hour cleaning his gnarly fur in the laundry room. He often pees where he stands.
And yet, her house is always pristine.
I could have -- and perhaps did at one of her splendid parties -- eaten off the f…