Monday, 31 May 2010

A Dispute that Requires Resolution

The Husband and I are currently engaged in a dispute. The fact that we are at loggerheads over an issue should not stun anybody who has been married for 25 years or more, and believe me when I state categorically that this is not even close to a make or break issue, but it is one upon which we cannot yet seem to find a comfortable compromise. I am hoping that some of you might weigh in with your lucid opinions. Here are the gory details.

The Younger Son has a girlfriend. Not at all surprising. He is a young man of considerable quality, character, brains, substance and charm who was raised impeccably. (Ok-I realize that this last part was a bit over the top, but every parent needs to believe that their children are the ultimate and that they had a little something to do with it. We all know better of course, but allow us the fantasy. Sometimes it is all we have!) He has been involved with said young lady for about a year and a half. You will notice that I haven't yet monikered the girl with a pseudonym for this space for one simple and basic reason-I haven't met her yet! How is this possible, you might ask? Well, she hails from a far off and distant land known as the home of the Buckeyes. The two met at camp a few years back and yada yada blah blah, we all find ourselves immersed in the complications and costs of a long-distance relationship. I have attempted to refrain from playing the cliche of the yenta and I have tried my level best to stay out of the way, but when one's child becomes involved in what appears to be a serious relationship, the Jewish mother from deep within comes screaming to the forefront. I have absolutely no doubt that this young woman is fantastic. I would expect nothing less than exemplary taste from my brilliant son, but a considerable amount of time has passed and I believe it is time for the two of us to meet.

Here is where the dispute with The Husband comes into play. You see, he had the wonderful opportunity to have already met the girl. She came up to the Great White North a few months back to visit, and The Husband pressed the issue with a lunch invitation. I was inconveniently out of town. I know, I know! I choose to spend huge chunks of the winter in the Southern Home, so I must accept the consequences that there will be a few melodramas missed at home, and while I don't begrudge The Husband's good fortune, it still does not solve the problem that I HAVEN'T MET HER YET!!! Not only that, but because of her participation at camp, Older Son, Sister/Cousin and various nieces, nephews, and cousins have also had the pleasure. I have arrived at the logical conclusion that it is time for a face to face that doesn't involve Skype, Facebook or this blog.

I decided that the best way to make this meet and greet happen was to take a road trip down to Indy this summer to spend a Shabbat at camp and, in turn some special time with Younger Son and his lady. I suggested this plan to The Husband and was met by a wall of apathy and non-committment. He feels very strongly that since she will be coming up to Toronto after camp is over for a family simcha, there is no need to shlep the 9 hour drive (each way!) to suffer the heat and humidity of the midwest for a mere 36 hours. In his defence he is correct in stating that we have been down to the 46077 the last two summers, and all that awaits us is a non-vegetarian Shabbos meal of greasy chicken, a trip to Target and the inevitability of sweating through several items of clothing per hour! I counter with the argument that I feel that it is my right as a mother to meet her before she is swarmed by my loving, but overwhelmingly goofy extended family. I am convinced that The Husband's attitude is spurred on by the fact that he feels no urgency to undertake this endeavour because he has already met her.

I really want to make the journey. I have had the opportunity of spending copious amounts of time with Younger Son over the last month as he has moved home following his sophomore year, and I know that this girl matters a great deal to him. (Honestly, I thank the brilliant marketing person at Bell Mobility who came up with the idea of unlimited text plans and the geniuses who developed Skype as they have saved us all thousands upon thousands of dollars!) I don't know her parents yet or how they feel about their daughter dating a Canuck, but I feel very comfortable believing that they feel much the same way I do about finally meeting my boy. It is the natural prerogative of all parents to claim right of first relation's audience with their children's boyfriends/girlfriends.

So, tell me friends. Do I press the issue with The Husband? Is he right to claim that waiting until August is just fine? Am I correct in believing that some alone time prior to the party and the veritable mob that is my family, is my God-given right as a mother? What do you all think? I can't promise that I will adhere to your advice, but I will give it credence. I await your responses.

Thursday, 20 May 2010

Nobody Here But Us Chickens!

I have officially seen it all. I didn't think it was possible to still surprise me, but I have once again been proven hopelessly wrong. Today a chicken wandered right up onto my front lawn and made himself (herself??) at home smack dab in the middle of the North Jewish Ghetto. The cynic in me would like to imagine that he/she is wandering around the neighbourhood offering her services for some upcoming Shabbos meal, but the vegetarian that is me is hoping that the old lady across the street doesn't come flying across the street with a cleaver and a soup pot. I swear to you-a chicken. A red-feathered, comb wearing, high strutting chicken. The Husband has taken to calling him General Tao and Younger Son chimed in with the inevitable "Why did the chicken cross the road jokes". I am still flabbergasted that a chicken is head-bobbing across my suburban lawn.

Several years ago, the man at the corner used to keep chickens for eggs, but he and his wife sold out five years ago and took the hens with them. From where did this bird materialize? Somebody's pet, perhaps? But honestly! Who keeps a Rhode Island Red as a pet?

This neighbourhood is home to much wildlife. Deer, skunk, racoons, the dreaded and hated squirrel, but I can categorically state, this is our first wild chicken. Maybe she will pay us rent in eggs. Check out the pictures.

Friday, 14 May 2010

It's the Little Things

The Husband and I are coming up to a milestone anniversary in a few weeks. I plan on creating several posts to mark this momentous occasion. Without getting sickeningly syrupy and cavity-inducing, I hope to capture some of the more memorable aspects of our marriage over this past quarter century.

I thought that I might begin this prosaic journey by dealing with the longevity thing. I can't tell you how many times I have been asked recently what the secret is to our long and supposedly happy marriage. I could easily respond with the stock answers. You know the ones. The crap you read in self-help books or see on Dr. Phil.

  1. Never go to bed angry. A crock of shit!!! I can't tell you how many times we have screamed through the night, only to wake to the same dispute in the morning. Anger and disagreements are part of marriage and there can't be an artificial time-limit placed on their resolutions. What matters more is the solution.
  2. Make time for dates. Frankly-more bullshit. The best times together are the ones that aren't forced or planned. Popcorn and a movie on the couch is often better than expensive restaurants, flowers and faux feelings. We like cooking dinner together. It is interesting to note that romance can be found in the mundane.
  3. Me isn't as important as we. Oy!! What nonsense. In order to maintain a healthy we, the individual needs to be nurtured. Time for oneself is crucial if time together is going to be productive. 
You get the point. Marriage cannot be boiled down to bullet points and pop psychobabble. I have come to believe that one of the primary reasons that The Husband and I have lasted as long as we have, given our polar opposite personalities and the diverseness of our interests, is that we tolerate the stuff that we hate in each other. The little things. For example, I loathe the fact that The Husband is a pile creator and collector of obsolete electronics. He cannot seem to file anything. We have piles of papers in the home office and we have piles of papers in a small hidden room in the basement that is so massive, it is threatening to turn into a Japanese monster movie. We have piles of collected papers in several locations in the kitchen and we have piles of papers in the bedroom. Open a drawer-piles. Open a cupboard-piles. He isn't a slob. He just can't seem to figure out a decent system for dealing with piles. When I scream and rant and beg him to organize and clean, he simply moves the piles to one of the other out of the way locations, hoping that I won't notice. The same goes for the myriad of electronic crap that is stuffed into various crevices around the house that would be much better off in a components graveyard. We could probably outfit several homes with old stereo equipment, phones, computers and the like. We even have all of the relevant connector cables and power sources. The problem is trying to discern which piece goes with the other. It is an electronics jigsaw puzzle that would probably stump Einstein.

In the interest of fair play, The Husband hates the fact that I am a picker. I pick out my favourite nuts from the bowl. I hate the peanuts, but love the cashews. I eat the cashews and leave him the peanuts. Seems very fair to me, but not to him. In a bag of Chex Mix, I leave him half-filled bags of pretzels. I only like certain flavours of candy, so it isn't unusual to see small plates left with only green and black gummies. When eating popcorn, I like the half-popped, slightly burned kernels. (I acknowledge that this is extremely weird, but it is who I am!) The Husband complains that when I go digging for said kernels, I disrupt the salt to kernel ratio on the remainder of the bowl. In a bowl of fruit, I leave the melon and eat the strawberries and grapes. Unfair? Certainly, considering he is allergic to melon. When he complains vociferously about my bad habits, I acknowledge that he is absolutely right and I continue eating the cashews and leaving the peanuts.

We have learned to not get too worked up about the little things. Sure, they bug us like an itch that remains unscratched, but we have learned that there are too many major obstacles to cope with in a marriage to get consistently worked up about piles and peanuts. That doesn't mean that we don't yell about this stuff from time to time, we just acknowledge that it will never truly be resolved.

The longevity thing in a relationship is as much about concession as it is about commitment. After nearly twenty-five years of marriage, I can honestly state that it's the little things. More to come.

Saturday, 8 May 2010

Don't Swim in Brown Water

Spring has sprung in the Great White. The trees are in bloom, people are out and about after a winter of hibernation, gardeners and lawn care companies dot the lawns of suburbia, and the pool companies are everywhere tending to their season opening rituals. There is great hope amongst the denizens of my neighbourhood that this summer will be a more accommodating one than last when we only had two, count 'em two, swimmable days. So, my excitement was at peak levels when my pool guys showed up Tuesday to clean and open our small piece of backyard heaven.

It's never easy is it? I wasn't here when they arrived for the annual opening and what I returned to later in the day certainly didn't resemble anything close to a swimmable pool. The water could be charitably described as chocolate milk brown, although I preferred the comparison to a toilet that has been left un-flushed for several weeks. Yes, it was that bad. The Husband, who is meticulous in his pool maintenance, almost keeled over from an aneurysm when he espied the sludge that these idiots left us. An immediate phone call was placed to said idiots and they promised an immediate and prompt response. Thursday morning (perhaps not quite as immediate nor prompt as we might have hoped) saw Jeremy the pool boy on my doorstep.

Jeremy: "Just checked the pool, ma'am." (I loathe it when 25 years olds call me ma'am. Do I look like a ma'am?)

Me: "And???"

Jeremy: "It's the colour of chocolate milk, ma'am."

Me: "Really?? You don't say."

Jeremy: "Never have seen a pool that colour before."

Me: "Really?? You don't say."

Jeremy: "How did that happen?"

Me: "You're kidding, right?"

Jeremy: "Was there a leak in the winter cover?"

Me: "Not according to your invoice, but I suppose anything is possible." (An aside-The idiots left an invoice stating that the winter cover was in perfect condition.) "What now?"

Jeremy: "Dunno. I think you should try backwashing in twice a day and shock the shit out of it."

Me: "Will that work?"

Jeremy: "Dunno. Try for 4-5 days."

Me: "And when the inevitable occurs and the water is still the colour of the oil-soaked Gulf Coast?"

Jeremy: "Call us."

I informed The Husband as to the sage advice of the pool moron and he figured we may as well try. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. After day one, the pool changed from chocolate milk to algae pond scum green. Day two has seen the green lighten to the hue of Mountain Dew. Tomorrow is anybody guess. Snot chartreuse with a side of lemonade, perhaps?

The pool idiots called yesterday to enquire after our sorry toxic waste. The lovely lady on the phone explained to me that if we can't clear up the mess on our own, they will send over their super special secret chemical master. I have this image of a wild-eyed Timothy Leary-like gent, weighed down by the scent of chlorine and bromine. What he might conjure up is anybody's guess. I will keep you all posted.
In the meantime, I was thinking that those poor birds down in Louisiana might like to park it up here at my place for a few days. It may be disgusting, but it has to be better than what they are living with down there. Everybody into the pool!!

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Women of the World-Just Sing

If you are of the double-X persuasion, I know that you have received "those" emails. You know the ones of which I speak. The sappy shit that looks like it plunged straight off of a Hallmark card and into your inbox. They pontificate about sisterhood and stressless friendships, and couch the whole message in a backdrop of hearts, flowers and purple squiggles. They implore you to immediately hit the FORWARD key so that every other female in your address book can also experience the nauseous wave of sugary platitudes. Sorry folks. It just isn't that easy. Friendships and real relationships take time, stress, sweat, pain, and copious amounts of work. Sometimes they can be taxing, but just as often they can be wondrous.

I am at my core a basically shy and reserved person. I know that sounds somewhat paradoxical for those who see me on a bimah or in front of an audience, but it is true. I find I tend to retreat into that which I know is safe and comfortable, and I often balk at the new, unknown and potentially frightening. It is the same with new relationships. I have been fortunate that my friendships have been enduring and have strengthened over many years. Newness and new people make me markedly uncomfortable, so it was with great trepidation that I agreed to perform several years ago with a group of colleagues at the Kol Isha concert. My impressions of that experience have been well documented. It was one of those unique times in life when one actually makes it to the top of the mountain and lives to tell the tale. We were a tight, cohesive group of diverse women who loved, laughed and made beautiful music together, but when it was over we all returned to our lives and careers, with occasional stopovers to inquire as to each other's well-being. It was a remarkable adventure that I believed could not be duplicated. So, it was with my default trepidation firmly intact that I headed back into rehearsals with my singing sisters last month for another stab at Everest. We were warmly invited to perform our concert in another community and we knew that we just couldn't decline.

As we gathered last month to renew our relationships and to engage in our musical diversities, something interesting began to take shape for me. The music was there, rusty and in desperate need of rehearsal for certain, but I noticed that we had become more involved with each other as people. We revelled in each other's professional milestones and accomplishments. We glowed with pride at the families that were celebrating lifecycle events, and we came together as a tightly knit group to deal with adversity. We bonded over dietary restrictions, banana bread and chocolate. We laughed at each other's insecurities and we supported each other with less formality and much more gentle teasing. In short, we worked together not merely as colleagues. We had become friends.

It occurs to me that children make friends very easily. Anybody who has ever dropped their youngster off for the first day of kindergarten is truly amazed at how quickly ties and bonds are formed. Adults? Not so much. As we age, we tend to put up artificial barriers that inhibit the formation of new friendships. We tend look for reasons to "opt out". I am truly in awe of those who make friends easily. I wish that I had the grace and ease of conversation that facilitates new relationships. I wish that I didn't come off as aloof or insular; both of which are defence mechanisms installed to keep me safe. Instead, I will content myself with the karmic nature of the universe that brought these remarkable women into my life and I can only hope that they feel an iota towards me as I do towards them.

Women need other women in their lives. We need to feed off of the strength and uniqueness of experience that only we can provide. No offence, guys. There are just some things that are truly female. Greeting card platitudes cannot define us or our relationships. Only we can do that. I would like to offer up one of my own. Simply stated-Get down and sing! It is truly bridge building!