Life Lesson #56: The Dad you had as a kid is not the Grandfather your kids will have…

Dad: You kids need to be polite, work hard, go the extra mile, study engineering, get good grades, be model citizens, make us proud, study engineering, respect your elders, bathe daily and study engineering.  Life is tough. There’s no free lunch. No one just hands you everything you want on a silver platter.

 

 

 

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Life Lesson #67: Even if you’re crafty, it doesn’t mean you wrap well. Or rap well, for that matter.

(Beats)

(More beats)

Now this is a story all about how,
My gifts look like they were trampled by a cow.
And I’d like to take a minute, just sit right down,
And by the time I’m done, you’ll wear a puzzled frown.

In east Scarborough, I was born and raised,
At the Big Park is where I spent most of my days,
Baking cookies and cakes, they were so cool,
Feeding my friends at my public school…

Ahem. Serious apologies to Will Smith. And also an open invite to my house for dinner anytime. Will, I loves you.

Ahem, ahem.

Anyway, yes. In news you won’t find surprising, I am not a great rapper (although I did impress a friend once by rapping along to Uptown Funk, but I think she was just super-sleep deprived thanks to her adorable baby and probably being overly generous in her praise). In news you might find surprising, I am also a terrible wrapper.

As in, my wrapping jobs look like they were done by:
* a blindfolded orangutan in a wind tunnel
* a distracted toddler wrestling a muddy dog
* a robot whose job it is to clean the floors, not wrap the gifts

You get the idea.

And the crazy part is, I’m crafty! I am, for reals! I love to sew and cut and paste and glitterify pretty much everything all day every day. I suggested to Karl that perhaps the reason for my ineptitude when it comes to wrapping gifts stems from the fact that they’re so temporary. People are just gonna tear off the wrapping and get to the good stuff inside, so why sweat the two seconds they’ll see it ahead of time (or, in the case of our house, the three weeks it will languish under the tree before someone opens it)?

And then Karl pointed out that I love to decorate cakes and cookies and really, how is dessert MORE permanent than gift wrapping? And I had to give the point to Karl, so it looks like he won this round. (Shakes fist)

Anyway, if you’re wondering what the secret is to making a gift look like it’s been tumbled in a washing machine before you give it away, wonder no more! Here, in eight handy steps, is how I wrap my gifts. You’re welcome.


First, obtain wrapping paper, scissors and clear tape.

 

 


Eyeball the size of the gift. Cut a piece of paper that will likely cover it.

 


Realize the paper is too small/the gift is too large. Glare at the stupid gift.

 


Add the too-small paper to the ever-growing pile of wrong-sized paper.

 


Cut a VERY generous piece of wrapping paper and then fold! Fold and tape for all your worth! Scrunch and fold and tape like no one’s watching!


And now, your gift looks like it’s been through some kind of major trauma. Put a bow on it and try to find its good side.

 

Put the whole mess into a gift bag and cover it with tissue paper. Encourage the recipient to open the bag in the dark/with their eyes closed.

When you give the gift, lie about who wrapped it. Blame the shoddy wrapping job on a child, young relative or pet.

And after all that, I think I’ve discovered the real reason I’m the worst at wrapping gifts. It’s because I’m super-excited to give the thing inside, and I don’t want to detract from its awesomeness with an overly awesome exterior.

Or maybe I just have questionable motor skills and hand-eye coordination when it comes to paper folding. Related: I also suck at origami.

Either way, I hope you have a wonderful holiday, whatever you celebrate. And if you don’t celebrate anything, enjoy a few mandatory days off of work! And if I’m giving you a present this year, just smile and nod along with me when I say Lily and Vivi wrapped it. It’ll be your gift to me.

Life Lesson #29: If it’s described as “terrorizing,” maybe don’t eat it. Also, peanuts. Avoid those too.

As many/most/some of you know, I have a love-hate relationship with most foods. That is, I love the ones that won’t kill me, and I’m not a HUGE fan of the ones that will. (Notable exception: I hate mushrooms. They won’t kill me, but I hate them.) Yes, I’ve been blessed with food allergies.


I hate you! Die, Jess!

When I was a kid, it was a novelty. When I was in elementary school I can only remember one other kid with food allergies to ANYTHING (I think hers was milk). These days, food allergies are everywhere! My daughter can’t bring peanut ANYTHING to school (which is fine by me), and the entire school is a nut-free zone. OMG, how I would’ve loved that when I was a kid. A safe, non-nut-filled environment in which to spend my days! I know there are those who are all, “Oh, you’ve got to learn to live with it, kiddo! In the REAL WORLD, no one will protect you, snowflake. You’ve got to learn to man up and deal with those peanuts in a strong, proactive and non-reactive way.”

To them, I say this: “Dude. There’s lots of time for kids to learn to deal with fatal allergies when they are in the world outside of school. But school should be safe. And sorry if Brayleigh/Aydan/Jaylan/Kaidyn can’t have their PBJ at lunch, but you can always feed them whatever the heck you want after school/on the weekends. And BT dubs, if YOUR kid had a fatal radish allergy or something, you’d be insisting on banning radishes, like, forevs.”


Every kid is Phayden these days.

When I was a kid, I had several food-based scares. And it’s all the scarier to look back on NOW, because I didn’t have an Epi-pen until I was in university. I depended on crushed Benedryl and a crap-ton of water to ward off any food reactions. (Why didn’t I have an Epi-pen? GREAT question. Mostly because my doctor at the time was a crackpot and just told me that I should “avoid nut-products and any kind of all-you-can-eat-buffet situations.” Thank you, Dr. McRisk-Taker.)

Ahem. Anyway, I’m not here to reflect upon the many times peanuts/their evil cohorts tried to hunt me down and thwart my attempts to live,* but instead I’m here to discuss that time I opened a milkshake restaurant.

Oh, yes. Hold on tight, kiddies. My milkshake brings ALL the boys to the yard. Wait…what?**

Now, to be fair, this wasn’t my first foray into food service. No. Not by a long shot.

“Today, I baked a cake for Uncle Phil. I THINK I might have put a few too many chocolate chips on it.” (Jess, circa 1989)
I recall this very clearly. It was one of those little mix cakes I used to get for Christmas. It did have far too many chocolate chips on it. I kind of went nuts. And…well…it was maybe a bit inedible (sorry, Uncle Phil).

“I gave my dad a bowl of chips…plastic ones! He thought they were real! Ha ha!” (Jess, circa 1986)

He probably would’ve eaten them  anyway. He likely just arrived home from gawdknowswhere and was really jet-lagged. So…sorry, Dad. Hope you enjoyed that dental work!

“I baked a LOT of sugar cookies today. Unfortunately, I didn’t realize that one of the pans had just come out of the oven. I grabbed it with my BARE hand, and I now have a HUGE burn on it. I couldn’t remember if you were supposed to put butter or ice on it, so I put both.” (Jess, circa 1992)

Um, no. Just ice. But good try.

Anyway, those were all nifty little jaunts into baking/making stuff for people. But my REAL love, when I was under 10, was milkshake creation. And so, without further ado, I present:

“Jessica’s Menu of Milkshake Delights.” (Circa 1990)

Now, sometimes in your life you find something that basically suggests you were predestined to do the job you ended up doing. My job in Webkinz World initially involved writing copy for plush pets, their tasty foods and various items you could purchase for your pet.  I found a type-written (as in, on a typewriter) menu that was basically a precursor to the work I’d eventually be paid for. And this trip down memory lane will prove that I was always meant to do that job:

“Visit Jessica’s restaurant and enjoy one (or many!) of these tasty delights!”


  1. Hawaii Cooler – This drink comes in a frosty cold glass. It is flavoured with coconut and even comes with a cluster of coconut and a cherry on top. It quenches your thirst and satisfies the traveler in you! One of our best sellers! (Oh, God. Little Jess, no one has even visited your restaurant at the time of this menu printing. If by ‘best-seller’ you mean ‘one that I like drinking the most,’ then fine. You’re right.)

  2. Peppermint Twist – Now here’s a shake with pizzazz! The amazing peppermint taste is one thing, but the candy cane at Christmas is another! So get off your chair and shake it! (OK, two notes: 1. You’ve never ‘shaken it’ in your life, darling. Unless ‘shake it’ refers to the inhaler you used to carry around. 2. Pizzazz? How old are you…10 or 70?)

  3. Almond Joy – Sure, you’ve seen the candy bar, but here’s real joy in this milkshake! This combines the amazingly pure taste of vanilla with that unique and wild taste of almond (comes with almond on top if requested and available). (Um, unique and wild? Almond? Girl, what? Also, why you playing with your life like that? You’re technically NOT allergic to almonds (only safe nut!), but why tempt fate? Cross-contamination is totally a thing, although they don’t really have a word for it in your world yet.)

  4. Nutty Crunch – A smooth creamy taste of vanilla blended with chopped nuts – a nut lover’s dream! Perfect for the nut in your life! (Nut types and flavours may vary. If you require specific nuts, please inform your server). (GIRL, WHY?! Y’all are going to DIE. Y’all need to wear gloves and a face mask when making this horrendous creation. NOT WORTH IT, GIRL!)

  5. Very Cherry – Wow! A real burst of fruit! A cherry-flavoured milkshake with REAL chopped cherries.* Yum! (*Maraschino cherries.)

  6. Snowstorm – A plain vanilla milkshake with sprinkles on top (may remove sprinkles if desired). Most children love this old-timer! (What kind of monster removes sprinkles from a milkshake?)

  7. Chocolate Chip- Our customers love this vanilla milkshake (also comes in chocolate). It’s a dream, mixed with fine, fresh chocolate! When they leave, they are often still singing “Chip, chip hooray!” (No one does this except you. This is why we can’t have nice things.)

  8. Shamrock Delight – With this mint green milkshake, you’re sure to have the luck of the Irish! Comes with pretend clover. If you are a lucky winner and receive a clover with four leaves, you’ll automatically win a prize (see your server for details). (Thankfully NO ONE ever ordered this, so I never had to come up with a prize. It likely would’ve been a gumball.)

  9. Christmas Carol – A red milkshake – comes with a candy cane or a cherry on top – not flavoured as anything in particular. Also, this comes with the words to one of your many favourite songs. (I’m guessing I meant “Christmas-related songs/carols,” but it wasn’t really clear. Also, how can something not be flavoured as anything? Perhaps there was a lot of water and…red food colouring?)

  10. Have a Heart – Yes, we’re also here for Valentine’s Day! Here’s something to get for the light of your life on that special day! A red coloured vanilla milkshake AND a coupon for your next milkshake – on us! (No one wants another milkshake, chica.)

  11. Chocolate Lover’s Dream AKA Easter Bunny – Yum! For all of you chocolate fans, this is for you! A creamy blend of chocolate eggs and chocolate chip swirl. This is truly the one for Easter. (Sounds yummy, not gonna lie.)

  12. Chocolate – Well, this is one of our oldest but sometimes the best seller of the month! (Welp, someone is never, ever gonna be a marketing expert. Like, for realsies. “Try this. It’s something that has been on the menu for a long time. It’s…you know, OK. Like, some months people like it a lot.”)

  13. The Terrorizer – The true freak of Halloween! This yellow milkshake will spoil anyone’s appetite after your server tells you what it’s made of! (Um…what? What the holy hell did you put in this milkshake, young Jess? Oh, just yellow food colouring? Just that? Welp. Good marketing, I guess. Forget what I said earlier.)

  14. The Secret Garden – This vanilla milkshake is covered in flowers! Oh no! What happened to the cook’s recipe book? (Er, how were you gonna pull this one off, J-Skillz? Like, paper flowers? Cookies? Um…real flowers? We didn’t have a TON of edible flowers nearby. I guess the dandelions on the hill behind the house? I think they spray those, though. Maybe not those.)

You can ALSO order EXTRAS!
*Sprinkles
* Chocolate Sauce
* Cherries
* Chocolate Chips
* Red
* Green
* Blue
* Yellow
* Orange
* Purple

(Um…they can be that colour? Or…the colours are…on the side? Er?)
Happy Drinking! (I’m sure many an alcoholic drink was consumed after visiting the Restaurant of Milkshake Delights)

* Every time I visited Ottawa, I had an allergic reaction. Two super-scary ones (one while my parents and Benedryl were away) and several minor ones. One at leadership camp. Many at home (including a very scary one that I honestly thought would be curtains for Jess). And THREE from effing Blizzards. Eff you, Dairy Queen! Clean your mixer better between Blizzards, dammit. Oh, also honey on “Honey Day” in first grade. Why honey day? I have no idea. But yes, you can be very allergic to honey. Like, REALLY allergic.

 

** I taught an all-boy grade five class in my final year of teacher’s college. Kelis'”Milkshake” was very popular at that point, and the boys would absentmindedly sing the song during recess. One day, one of the boys came up to me while I was on yard duty and said “Why does her milkshake bring all the boys to the yard? It must be a pretty tasty milkshake if that many boys like it.” I kind of paused and then another one of the kids said, “Wait, it’s not really about milkshakes, is it?” I pretended to see a fight breaking out between a couple of first-graders and ran for the hills.

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Life Lesson #61: Summertime is fun time! Mostly, anyway.

It’s summer-summer-summer time! Time to sit back and unwind (as Will Smith said). I must admit, summer is my least-favourite season (fall, spring, winter, summer, in case you were wondering). Not to say I don’t/didn’t enjoy me some good summertime fun. I sure do/did. In fact, let’s take a trip back to 1989. It was the end of third grade, and I had pretty high hopes for what might happen on Canada Day that year:

“I’d like the whole family to get together. We usually go up to Ottawa in the summer. We watch my poppa set off fireworks, but first we go to Aunt Nancy’s and Uncle Scott’s for a barbecue of hot dogs and hamburgers. And pie! Then we head back to Gramma and Poppa’s place and set off the firecrackers. They are very fancy fireworks. The neighbours also watch. They are usually impressed.”

Impressed and, if I recall correctly, terrified.

I have vivid memories of being a kid and standing on my grandparents’ front lawn while fireworks lit up the dark sky. And of various neighbours and family members murmuring “Do you think that one is too big for a neighbourhood show?” and “Are those sparks going to set that guy’s roof on fire?” and “Is that one lit? You go check.” “No, you go check.” “No, you go -” “Ah, yeah. It was lit. Dang, those were my eyebrows.”

I’m not 100% sure WHERE my family procured their fireworks from, but I assume it was some kind of stadium-fireworks-supply store. Because I am totally sure that neighbourhood fireworks shows should be comprised of:

  1. The green and red poppy balls
  2. The sparkly ones
  3. The worm ones
  4. Sparklers
  5. The burning school house

And the ones that we set off in Ottawa were more like:

  1. The explosive one
  2. The really loud banging one
  3. The screaming one
  4. The super-explosive one
  5. The roof-igniter
  6. The burning school house. Obvs.

My favourite fireworks moments were (in no particular order):

1.Grandma warns everyone of impending doom. My grandmother was nothing if not overly cautious. She stood at the window and gazed out at us (fools!) from her living room. She was holding one of my many cousins. The cousin was screaming. Grandma was shaking her head and glaring. Ah, fun times.

  1. Poppa isn’t sure the firecracker is lit. This happened at least once a year. Poppa would light the fuse, nothing would happen, he’d venture back over, the firecracker would start to sputter and he’d run for his life before his eyebrows were singed off.
  2. Someone’s roof nearly caught on fire. Note that no actual roofs really caught ablaze, but there were some mighty close calls. Also, there were so many giant trees in the neighbourhood, it’s amazing we didn’t burn the whole valley down.

What else did we do in the summer? Well, when I was seven, we tried eating something healthy.

“Today, me and Kenneth got some vegetables and made salads, one for everyone. I have to say, they were only OK.”

Yup. Salad sucks. I mean, what? No. Salad is delicious (no, it isn’t). At my house, growing up, we didn’t exactly have a balanced food pyramid. Ours was basically inverted. (Lots of fats and sugar! Minimal veggies and fruit! Still a significant number of carbs!)

We tried growing a garden (several times), but the only things that ever grew really well in our old backyard were two crab apple trees. And, if you’re a long-time reader, you know what we did with those suckers: badminton-ed the heck out of them over the fence into Pool Guy’s pool. (And I ask again, for the umpteenth time, WHO HAS A POOL IN MALVERN? You’re basically begging us to fire crab apples into your yard.)

In case you’re concerned about the food situation that occurred during the rest of the summer of ’88, here are a few excerpts (apparently, I was quite intent in keeping record of our desserts for posterity. In that respect, nothing has changed.):

“Today we went to the Dairy Queen for chocolate-dipped cones!”

Side note: that’s pretty much ALL I could eat at the Dairy Queen. FYI: if you have a fatal peanut allergy, don’t ever get a Blizzard. They don’t wash the mixer off properly between flavours. I say this as a person who has reacted not once, not twice, but thrice to Blizzards. After the last bout of anaphylaxis, I decided to maybe never go there again.

“Today Mom and Mrs. Campbell went to a chocolate show called ‘Death by Chocolate’!”

I am 100% sure I got some kind of delicious souvenir from this. Which, as another side note, would’ve been almost as tasty as when Mom took cake decorating classes and then brought home the Styrofoam cake dummies and let me pull the royal icing decorations off and eat them. For breakfast.

“Today we made SO MANY Rice Krispie squares!”

“Today we went to Baskin Robbins for ice cream!”

(Note that these entries occurred over the course of a week).

Let’s fast-forward to 1996. I was 15. Too young to drive, too young to have a decent job…and anyway, I was headed to Hawaii!
Wait, what?
I know, I know. Right about now you’re all “OMG, you lived in the ‘hood, but you visited Hawaii? Lies!”
Let me just explain that my dad traveled almost non-stop for my entire childhood. Like, gone over 200 days of the year traveled. Like, lived in Norway for 6 months without a visit traveled. Like, had his own apartment in Chile, Calgary and England (technically, the last one was a house). Like that. So Dad got to keep his air miles (which were plentiful) and every now and then we’d take a really nice trip (like to Hawaii). So now you know. It’s possible to live in the ‘vern, but still have been to paradise on holiday. And what did we do there? Glad you asked!

“Well, it’s been an eventful trip here in Hawaii. We’ve run over a mongoose, seen several geckos, visited “Billy Bob’s Park ‘N’ Pork,” and tried to identify a species of very flat frog. Turns out, it was a very dead frog.”

Three things:

  1. The mongoose had it coming. OK, I have no idea if that’s true or not. I just tell myself he was a bad mongoose with evil intentions to make it seem less horrible that we ran him over. I’m sorry, former mongoose. RIP.
  2. Billy Bob’s Park ‘N’ Pork was a real thing. I don’t think we ate there, but I do remember stopping. Somewhere, there’s a picture or beer mug or both.
  3. Yeah. The frog. So we saw this frog sitting in the grass and my mom was all, “Oh, wow! What kind of frog is that? Do you think it’s poisonous? Go check it out, kids!” Now, to be fair, it was sunset and the lighting was pretty bad. But after staring at said frog for several minutes and waiting for it to do something (anything!) Dad procured a stick and gave it a good poke. And, of course, nothing happened because it was dead (and desiccated, in case you’re wondering).

After Hawaii, we headed out to Ottawa. (Three days after coming home. Way to pace your summer trips, Boyd family!) And what did we do there? One very nineties experience, coming up!

“Wow, LaserQuest sucks. Of course, that could be because I was beaten by a four-year-old, but that’s fine. It’s not like I’m going to need laser-shooting skills to get through life or anything.”


“You’re going DOWN, lady! Timmy is a genius at LaserQuest!”

That was my first, last and only experience playing laser tag. And yes, a four-year-old actually out-shot me. But 15-year-old Jess was right: I have never needed laser-shooting abilities to do anything. Actually, now that I come to think of it, there are many skills I either had to acquire (through public education) or tried to acquire (just for funsies/to fit in with the ’90’s crowd) that I have never, ever needed. They include:

* Ability to win at laser tag

* Calculus of any kind

* Physics of any kind

* Volley-ball serving and/or returning or whatever the hell you do in volley-ball that doesn’t fall under the category of “trying not to get beaned in the head.”

* Long-distance running

* Cartwheel turning

* Swing dancing (Though lord knows, I tried. And failed. Miserably.)

* Roman numerals (Like, really? Google can help with this, should the need ever arise. It won’t.)

* Small engine repair

* Chemistry (Sorry, Dad.)

Anyway, this summer has been pretty fun so far. One of the major non-kid highlights was seeing Idina Menzel (again)! This time, I dragged the bestie along. We had, as always, a memorable time. The top three moments were:

  1. Telling Jay he’s just like his mom (he is basically a boy version of Barb).
  2. Jay’s awesome quote. One of many.

    (We were out to dinner and the server asked if we wanted bubbly water or tap, and Jay said “Bubbly water, please.” At the same time, I said “Tap water.” We agreed on bubbly and when the server left, he said this most memorable of quotes.)

  3. Idina singing “For Good,” which is kind of my song with Jay. He’s totally the Glinda, and I’m 100% Elphaba, but he’ll probably say it’s the other way around. But he’s wrong.


“YOU were supposed to be the Glinda!” “Says YOU!  The problem is, I’m CLEARLY the Elphaba!”And I can’t stop laughing at this picture because it’s totally something that would happen to us. You’re the best, Jay! But you’re still Glinda.

Anyway, it’s mid-August. The kiddos go back to school in less than a month. (And so do my teacher/principal friends. Sorry, guys!) Enjoy what’s left of the sunny days and warm-ish nights. And eat some popsicles for me. They don’t count in the summer. They’re practically REQUIRED eating.

According to my childhood food pyramid, anyway.

 


It’s almost time for schoooooool!

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Life Lesson #38: If you’d impress the person you were at 13, you’re either doing something really right or really wrong.

So it’s nearing the end of another school year, and Vivi couldn’t be happier. She hasn’t had the easiest first year of school, and she’s basically counting down the days until summer vacation. And to that, I say: who is this child, and why does she not have any of my school-loving genetics?


Yay for school! Yaaaay!


She is super-happy for summer. Insanely happy.


Lily, not so much.

Like, really?

Anyway, with the end of school comes a few standard things:

  1. End of year party – cue the Food City cupcakes with the mountains of neon frosting that’s made of…uh…sugar? And…maybe shortening? I don’t know.
    I don’t care what you’re made of. Get in my mouth.
  2. End of year gathering of papers. We’re starting to get more and more of Vivi’s drawings/musings home each day. I worry for the future of our forests.
  3. The final day – the fond farewell to school for two whole months. TWO WHOLE MONTHS!

Back when I was a kid in elementary school, we had yearbooks for two years: grade 2 and grade 8. I have no idea why we had a grade 2 yearbook, but whatever. It’s adorable, and Mrs. Lee was a pro for making 7-year-olds contribute. Grade 8 was more self-explanatory (we were graduating and going to HIGH SCHOOL, after all), but apparently not to Karl.

I was cleaning out the room of doom in the basement (it’s just boxes and boxes of my life/Karl’s life. So much stuff.) and I found my grade 8 yearbook. I was super-excited! Karl, on the other hand, wasn’t sure what to make of it. His exact words were: “They black-and-white photocopied each entry and put them in a duo tang?”
And I said, “Dude, how many times I gotta tell you? I GREW UP IN THE ‘HOOD!” and then Karl commented on the Starbucks ball cap I was wearing (also found in the room of doom) and I said, “I got it for running in a marathon.” And he said, “A marathon? How many kilometres?” And I said, “Five.” And he said, “That’s not a marathon. And also? No chance you ran.” And I said, “Fine, I walked.” And he said, “And you hit the wall at what, one kilometre?” And I was all “I got the hat, didn’t I?” And he was all, “Everyone got one, didn’t they. Yeah, they did.” This is a picture of that interaction:


I don’t understand your life.

Whatever, Karl. Your jealousy is showing.


Karl out.

Ahem. Back to the duo tang yearbook. Be prepared, kiddos. It’s quite the…uh…trip back in time… to 1994, to be exact. (To those who read this blog who are actually IN the yearbook, I promise to only put the good stuff you had in your yearbook entries. Nothing embarrassing. If there is something embarrassing, I promise not to attribute it to anyone.)


My drawings of the actual yearbook covers. We each made our own. My top 3 faves.Attributed to no one. 

So the first thing to note is that everyone’s entry had to follow a basic format: your dream job, your probable job (keep those Malvern kids’ hopes low and attainable!), who you liked, most embarrassing moment, your style, etc. Everyone else printed or wrote or typed their entries in a normal-size, easy-to-read font.

Except yours truly.

I had too much to say and only one final chance to say it all. Let’s go through the entry, section-by-section (more or less. There are sections that are really rambly, so Imma précis them for you).

My name: Jessica May (I hate my middle name) Boyd. AKA: Mother.

I think it’s key that I added my gang (or ‘street’) name. For interest’s sake, no one else listed their gang name IN their profile, but several people used them when signing my yearbook. They are (in no particular order, attributing them to no one):
Chaos
Mugsy (OK, more of a nickname than a street name, but…you know)
King
Red Neck
Chippy

Hee hee. Oh, 13-year-old kids. You’re so silly.

Next up, my ambition: “My ambition in life is to become a writer. A well-known, famous one at that. Fame and fortune (like being a zillionaire) would be good, but at this point I really just want a book published.”

Great news, Jess of 23 years ago! That’s happening now. Well, in two months from now. Sorry about the wait. It was unexpected.

“My probable fate is becoming a gossip columnist for the Weekly World News. Pretty soon, I’ll be writing stories like: “Elvis-Impersonating Kangaroo Spotted at the 7-11 in Boise, Idaho!”

I don’t know what the hell I was on. I really don’t. Again, it’s a miracle I wasn’t a complete social outcast.

Other people’s probable fates included:
Cleaning people’s houses
Janitor
Producer (this dude wanted to be a rapper)
Bum (this girl wanted to be a writer or drifter or both)
Teacher
McDonalds employee
Teaching kids to swim in a wading pool
To be on the streets as a rich criminal and be a PIMP on the microphone (um…yeah)
Cleaning toilets
Surgeon’s personal secretary (she wanted to be a surgeon)
Sweeping floors
Argumentative secretary (she wanted to be a lawyer)
Backup plans: we had them.

“My pet peeve is snobs. People who think they are, own and run the world. How annoying!” Preach it, geeky sister. Preach it.

Other hilarious pet peeves included by my fellow classmates included:

* People who say “guy” (This is a Scarborough thing, I think. Just like “Dry” or “Dry guy” or “Dry in your eye.” It basically means “Oh, snap.” Or “That’s unfortunate and lame for you” it kind of involves some kind of social mockery as well. No one outside of Scarborough seems to have the faintest clue when I reference this. But it was a thing! For reals! Scarborough peeps, weigh in!)
*When girls think they are ALLL THAT but really they aren’t. But you always play along so one day they get dissed HARD. (Dude. Duuuude. That’s not cool.)
* When Jenny and Shang attempt to rap (You girls don’t listen to the haters. Rap away, ladies!)
* When Kenny tries to act like a gangster (We had two Kennys…Kennies? in our class. They could both have been excellent gangsters, so I’m not sure what this person’s issue was.)
* People who scream when it isn’t necessary (Preach it, introverted brother!)
* People who act stupid, because when they do I just feel like punching them out. (Word.)

Ahem.

“My most embarrassing moment: “This will be remembered by those of you who were in Mr. Brown’s class. In the “music contest” MaryAnne and I decided to play “The Muppet Show Theme” on our instruments. Her keyboard, my trumpet. Even worse, we dressed as “Miss Piggies” and most of all, we never practiced together before, so when we started to play, she got faster and I got slower and the song was all out of whack. I got so frustrated, I dropped my trumpet, ripped off my pig nose, put my hands on my hips and said (loudly, I might add), “MaryAnne, where are you?” Everyone laughed.”


This was a terrible idea. A truly terrible idea.

Um, yes. I remember this. I have no idea what possessed MaryAnne and I to think we could just kind of wing it. If I recall correctly, the winner of the “music contest” was the other Jessica in my grade (who moved away not long after) who sang “Bird on a Wire.” It was the first time I had really listened to the lyrics, and I was struck by how dark they were. But that aside, Jessica S. did a much better job than this Jessica.

“Favorite Expressions: Well duh!” Yes, I said this a lot. Please forgive me. It was the nineties.

“Common expressions and fads: Everyone else knows better than I!”

I knew how incredibly weird I was. I knew I had no idea what was cool. Nothing has changed in that regard. Let’s see what others considered common in the ‘Vern in the early nineties:

Expressions:
* Step and keep on walking! Chill out! Take a pill!
* It’s not nice to talk about other people’s moms.” (This was the age of the “Yo Mama” jokes. I remember being in a high school play and literally going around the room and hearing everyone tell “Yo Mama” jokes for, like, half an hour. Also a Scarborough thing?)
*Cool, Dude
*Sure, buddy
* Anyways
* Suck my arm
* Comb your head, naughty dread
* Naaa, really?
* I ain’t no garden tool (think about it…think about it…there, you got it, right?)
*Guy
* Stank
* Don’t cry now
* Ah, zut!
* Get a life!
* Break yo self

Fads:
Wearing baggy pants
Listening to music
Platform shoes
Baseball hats

Note: I literally did none of those except the ‘listening to music’ part. And, to be fair, my musical interests ranged from “Celine Dion” to “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” to “That really loud gangsta rap the dude across the street is blaring” to “Oldies” to “Current Pop” to “Whatever Much Music is playing” to “The tapes we make the bus driver play on the way to shop class which seem to have lyrics that perhaps aren’t intended for people of our listening demographic.”


“And then he did WHAT to her WHAT?!” “Put on ‘Murder She Wrote.'”

“Things that make my knees wobble: (random assortment): Large dogs, gym class, blood, the dentist

I can explain.

Large dogs – this harkens back to my childhood BFF’s dog, Choco, nipping my hand every damn time I was at her house. Which was every damn day. German Shepherds still make me nervous.

Gym class- ugh. Need I get into this? You all know how I feel about forced athletics/athletics of any kind/movement in a coordinated, non-spazzy way. Not positively!

Blood – oh, God yes. More vomit than blood, actually. I can’t deal with that. (Well, I can deal a bit now that I have my own kids…but still. It’s my least favourite thing to deal with.) I actually had lunch with two of my dearest lady friends and we got talking about vomit. I said that if anyone vomited on me (other than my kids), I’m afraid I’d be all, “OK, I’m deleting your number from my cell phone and we can never speak again, oh God I’m traumatized for life.” Yup. No vomit. Blood…not if I can help it, but I can handle it better. But barf elsewhere.

The dentist – I like my dentist now, actually! Now that I don’t get yelled at for the state of education in Ontario every time I get my teeth cleaned. This dentist just chats about the weather and her ski holidays. And she has a prize tower!

Why was “gunshots ringing out in my neighbourhood” not on the list? Meh. It was the norm.

“My favourite excuses: The gerbil ate my homework.”

Er. yes.

My favourite people category was long. I liked most of the kids/teachers I knew at Stirling. In fact, you might say I had a soft spot for the place. Here’s my closing remarks:

“My life at Stirling has been a beautiful and joyous one. I love Stirling dearly, and after 10 years I could never imagine attending any other school. After so many years of tears, hopes, laughter and dreams (many of mine come true), I feel as though I’m leaving home. Half of me wants to stay at a place I know, and have grown to love. Half of me aches for new faces, new atmospheres, and the security of knowing I will always be welcomed back with open arms and loved at a place that is a second home and people who are a second family to me. Stirling, I love you forever.”

Whoa. I liked school. Maybe too much. Of course, that’s probably better than the kid who wrote this:

“Favourite expression: I hate school
Common expression and fad: I hate school
Things that make my knees wobble: Going to school
My life at Stirling: Terrible
Favourite excuses: I didn’t do it.
How I feel about graduation: Just another ordinary day”


Opposite ends of the spectrum, we were.

Finally, what’s a yearbook without signatures at the back? Wait, don’t answer that. It’s a sad yearbook, is what it is. But mine had messages a-plenty! Here are a few favourites:

Mother, we could be in some of the same classes next year! Yay!

Hey Moms! See ya at the Hill next year! PS: Thanks for all the food.

Have fun and keep writing poems.

And my all-time favourite:

‘Sup Jessica! You’ll be the best writer in the mother-fucking world! Do good in high school.

Oh, I will, kind yearbook signer. I will.

Happy summer, y’all!

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Life Lesson #7: Don’t hide your light under a barrel. Be your own person, carve your own path, do your own thing. You’re going to be fine, I promise.

The first title for this blog was going to be: “If you’ve never been in the newspaper, just make up your own articles. And headlines. And newspaper.” But as I wrote it, I realized: it’s about more than just newspapers.  It’s about…well…read on and find out!

As we all know, I have a long history of newspaper-related experiences. In case you need a refresher, here goes:

  1. I wrote a newspaper with my brother and cousin when I was a kid. It was called JAKE News (Jessica And Kenneth Emma, in case you were wondering what JAKE was all about). It was written in my grandparents’ basement and it was fabulous. You can read more here.
  2. I was the agony aunt (the former star of screen and stage, Esmerelda Desmond) in high school. I wrote a lot of my own advice letters (that is, I pretended to be people who needed advice, then wrote them back). But whatever! I actually have my final Auntie E column (that appeared in the yearbook the year after I graduated). Wanna read it? Wanna momentarily step into the mind of eighteen-year-old Jess? (Karl read the article and said this: “Wow, there’s really no surprise you wrote that. It’s so you.” So I guess maybe it’s like stepping into eighteen-year-old Jess and current-day-Jess’ mind all at once. Although current-day-Jess’ mind is far more exhausted and maybe a bit more experienced/bitter. But basically the same general idea.)


Help me, Auntie Esmerelda!. High school is over! It’s OVER! Noooo!

Dear Auntie Esmerelda,

You’ve got to help me! I’m graduating from West Hill this year and I don’t know what I’m going to do with my life. I’m completely clueless! Please tell me something – anything- that might help me face ‘the real world.’

Thank You,

Cher-Lee U. Jeste (Eighteen-year-old Jess created farfetched and interesting names.)

 

Dear Cher-Lee,

Well, you sound very distraught, my dear, but frankly I don’t know why. Compared to high school, the real world is a walk in the park. However, if you fail to take comfort in that, take comfort in this: eat chocolate. The long term benefits of chocolate have been proven by science, whereas my advice has no other basis than that of my own brilliant existence. (Note: I kind of based this article on this song. It was pretty popular at the time, and I dug the concept of giving one final article of advice, based on my own thoughts about life).

I will dole out this advice now.

Act. Acting gives you a chance to be someone you can’t be and to try on different parts of your personality for size. (I was a terrible actor and probably should never have acted. Well, beyond the very first play I was in. I kind of modeled the character on Lilith from Frasier, so it worked out OK. But beyond that? Someone should’ve taken my acting licence away. And burned it.)


This is the role I was meant to play!

Sing. Whether you can or can’t, you’ll be making a joyful noise and that is all that matters.  (I can’t. Really. And it’s tragic, because I have an incredible memory for lyrics, but I can’t carry a tune in a bucket.)

If you’re going to go down, go down dancing. (This sounds way dirtier than I had meant it to.)

Don’t let people hurt you. If they do, don’t vow revenge. Life is funny. It all works out in the end.

Buy a monkey. You can teach him to speak English, and he can teach you to speak Monkey.  (I can’t take credit for this one. I had a very dear friend in high school who always claimed he’d teach a monkey to speak English, and vice versa. He never has, to my knowledge, but it always seemed like a fun idea.)

Always think of others; not what they think of you, but how they are feeling. Empathy will take you far.

Bake cookies. (Damn right.)

Laugh loud. At yourself first, then at the situation. There will be times in your life when all you will have to sustain you are memories. Create as many of those as you can because you never know when the sand will run out, the alarm will go off, and you will wake up from this dream. (Getting deep up in this joint, Lil’ Jess.)

Hug people. More than anything else, people need to know they are loved and wanted. Let people know you love them.

Don’t leave anything unsaid. (Yes. Preach, former self!)

Never regret the things you’ve done. If you must regret something, regret the chances you never took or the opportunities you didn’t pursue.

Dream big. Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t be or do or change something. No matter who you are, or what your circumstances, you can do wonderful things. (True dat. Unless you’re planning on becoming a math major with a 13% average in calculus. In which case, you can’t.)

Keep your promises. If you say you will do it, do it. Your word defines how much trust people place in you. (This is pretty much my mantra.)

Don’t lose touch with those from your past, and don’t be too proud to forgive, forget and patch things up.

Worry. Even though people say don’t, you will anyway. But make it about something important. Not whether or not you passed a test. Test are designed only to measure knowledge, not worth. (Especially tests of athletic skill. Those ones are really unimportant.)


I feel like I should be exempt from gym forever on the grounds that it’s safer for all of us.

Keep going. Even when life seems to have reached its nadir, look up and find the light that will lead you back to happiness. (This is as close to religious as young Jess gets.)

Have hope. Without it, there is no reason to live. Hope is what carries us through the times we know the answer is probably no, but keep believing it could be yes.

You are a good person if you try to be a good person. (I would amend this: you are a good person if you try to be a good person – like REALLY try. Not just half-assed try.)

Always try your best. If you fail, try again. If you fail again, try something new. You will find your niche in life. You’ll discover your calling and you’ll end up in a place that you probably never could’ve imagined.

And if you ever grow tired or weary or frustrated, and it see ms like life is at a dead end, remember: eat chocolate. Trust me.

Good luck to everyone.

Love,

Auntie Esmerelda

Boom.

A dear friend of mine once said this article would be among his possessions when he was old and senile. He’s a good one, that dear friend.*

  1. Being Plumpy the Advice Hippo at Webkinz World. I loved being Plumpy. She was so…blue. And adorable.

I also, however, often wrote diary entries as newspaper articles. Why? I don’t know. Maybe to break up the monotony. Maybe to appear more interesting than I was (am?).  Whatever the reason, here are a few of the top headlines!

10 Year Old Boy Irritates Caregiver
At Highland Creek Library this morning, a ten-year-old boy opened the car door with a great deal of force, hitting the van parked in the next spot. Unfortunately, the van was occupied. Tremendous side-eye was given. No injuries reported.

25 Year Old Woman Nearly Run Over By Maniac
(Honking horn bothered woman’s autistic charge)

Woman Does Not Tutor Little Girl
The same woman who was very nearly run over by aforementioned maniac driver was feeling rather under the weather, and decided it was in everyone’s best interest to head home and take copious amounts of Gravol.

Webkinz Comment Box Receives Over 600 Emails
“It’s a two-day record,” says Creative Lead Karl. Creative writer Jessica is far less enthusiastic.

No. No. NOOOOOO!

Exhausted Writer Answers Emails
“I still have about 500 more emails to answer,” says the creative writer from her home north of Toronto. I was also planning on writing a musical. My mental deadline was yesterday.”

And hey, remember how I’ve never been in a  REAL newspaper before? Maybe THAT’S why I was making up headlines – so I’d feel better about my complete and total absence from anything resembling newsprint. And that was true, back then.

But it’s not true anymore! Guys,  guess what? I was totes in the newspaper! OK, so it was the LOCAL paper (and my story ran a week after the story that was titled something like, “Viola the Tiny Dog Escapes from her Yard.” But that’s cool! Whatevs! No big thing! Wanna see me in print? Wanna? Wanna?!

OK, here.

See! It’s me! And since we’re talking about stuff that’s awesome, here’s another thing: my Kickstarter campaign succeeded! Bear Hockey, my picture book, will be printed and sent out and a REAL, HONEST-TO-GOODNESS thing! Whoa!

And that’s what’s happening in March.

* This dear friend just got engaged to a wonderful lady and I could not be happier for him. Since it’s my blog, I get to take a little detour and tell you all about Alok.

I have known the fabulous Mr. Ghai since grade 10 drama (we were always in each other’s group and put on some pretty damn good, if melodramatic, skits, if I do say so myself).  We went to the same university and Alok listened to my myriad complaints about residence, spent hours hanging at Bethune and ate most of my meal card (sorry about the crappy  food…really sorry about the Kraft Dinner).

Aside from all that good stuff, he is one of the smartest, most genuine people I have ever met.  He’s part of the family. He’s the guy you want on your pub night trivia team. He’s the guy you fear playing against.  Alok knows a TON of stuff about a TON of stuff. In fact, we used to play this game, when the internet was only beginning to be a thing. We’d send each other lyrics on ICQ (I know, I know!) and we’d challenge each other to name the band/singer/song title as fast as possible. 9 times out of 10, Alok would  figure my lyrics out in less than five minutes and I’d look at his and be all, “I dunno. Oasis? Radiohead? Coldplay?” And he’d be all, “Oh, Jess. Try harder!” And then he’d take pity and tell me the answer and encourage me to listen to more than just my standard diet of 80’s and 90’s top 40. And sometimes I did. In fact, he has always encouraged me to learn, to keep up with him mentally (good luck on that one) and to watch hockey, dammit (good luck on that one too).

To say I’m happy about Alok finding an amazing  lady to spend his life with is an understatement. He deserves nothing but happiness and joy, and I know that his future with Stephanie will be that and so much more.  Steph, you are incredible and so, so perfect for Alok (and the fact that you’re a Habs fan is delightful). Oh, you crazy kids. A million congratulations. I can’t wait for the wedding.

 

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Life Lesson 49: You will get better at something if you do it a lot. Theoretically, anyway.

So, as you probably know if you’ve read more than one entry on the ol’ bloggy here, I’ve always been a writer.

Always.

I’m talking “from the time I could actually write, I have been a writer.” Case in point: when I was in junior kindergarten, my teacher (the sainted Mrs. Sawision), asked us to write our own version of Goldilocks and the three bears. Easy-peasy, right?

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“My first writing assignment?! You can count on me, Mrs. Sawision!”

Right.

So she gave us this notebook. My very first little stapled notebook. And I LOVED IT.

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“SQUEEEE!”

Also, we made a little popsicle stick puppet that ‘walked’ through the story. Which amped my love of Goldilocks up to a bazillion.

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And for some reason, I figured that I had to fill up the entire notebook with my own Goldilocks story. Which was sort of not exactly true (all the other kids used, like, three pages). But you know me. If Imma do something, Imma overdo something.  Also, I wanted a new little notebook to fill.

So this is pretty much what lil’ Jess created:

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And then, after filling up all twenty pages, I handed it to my teacher. And she said, “Wow.”

Which I immediately took as a glowing review (my very first) and caught the writing bug right then and there and vowed to write stories forever and ever.

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“She loves my work! I must do this forever!”

And I did. But they weren’t all gold. Let’s have a few examples of ideas that should never see the light of day, shall we?

First, let’s go waaay back to 1992. I was twelve. I thought it was a good idea to create this *awesome* story that was kind of a nod to The Magician’s Nephew (I was kind of obsessed with the green and yellow rings in the story) combined with…uh…these neat rock spheres I collected (they were just marbles made from actual gemstones. NBD now, but HUGE BD when I was a kid).

So the story outline went like this (taken from my old ‘good ideas’ book. So inaccurately named, that book is):

“A girl has to collect rings and balls. The balls and rings are made of different stones (amethyst, rose quartz, turquoise, etc.). They are placed all over the world in different locations, and she has to find them and bring them together to restore the type of magic they carry. They have to be returned to the pyramid of secrets (probably in Egypt?). There are BAD rings and balls too, though. So she has to avoid those. This would be the balls and rings and the powers they control:
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The bad powers would be:
Hate, distrust, meanness, wretchedness, ugliness, wickedness”

Um. Wow. There are so many problems here. Here are some notes, little Jess. Let’s take this slowly so you really absorb the issues you’re facing:

  1. There’s no actual plot, per say. It’s just a series of events, really. There’s nothing to overcome, no issue, no challenge. Nothing. The way the outline is written, I assume the girl (name?!) will just wander the globe happily, searching for balls and rings and will eventually bring them all safely back to the pyramid. Which is in Egypt. Can we throw, like, a monster or something in there? Maybe a dragon? Maybe an alien? Maybe an ANYTHING AT ALL?
  2. Also, the ‘bad powers’ don’t seem to be associated with balls or rings or…anything? Do they have a gemstone equivalent? Like…I dunno…garnet=distrust? And also, wretchedness?
  3. Ugh, let’s just move on. Throw this one back in the bad ideas drawer, girl. Just…throw it back.

But there is a glimmer of hope…check out an excerpt of this masterwork. It was part of a short story assignment. Apparently we had to write four of them? I dunno. Maybe I just got carried away. This happened a lot (once, my grade 8 teacher threatened to not read past the first page of my five-page poem. He said he’d just grade me on that and he hoped it was a complete plot/concept. It wasn’t and he did read the whole thing and dammit, I earned that A).

And now, “Lindsay Murray Eats a Bakery”
“Mrs. Boyd’s Just Desserts. That’s where I, Jessica Boyd, am right now. This is a major first for me because I’m watching my mom’s bakery while she goes grocery shopping. Just me. Alone. A twelve-year-old girl. With Swiss pastries.”

OK, good set up. Let’s see where this goes:

“Everything was just going along wonderfully . I was popping cakes in and out of the oven and working on my homework. That was Thursday. Little did I know things wouldn’t always be that easy!”

Ooh…cliff-hanger Let’s see what happens next:

“My mom thought I did a wonderful job, so when Sunday rolled around and she was headed to a party she catered, I was bakery-sitting again. This was a very different experience, though. At 10:00 my best friend, Lindsay Murray (or as I call her, “The Bottomless Pit” as she loves food), walked in.

“Jessica! My best buddy! You have food!”
Lindsay rushed over to the cakes.
“Lindsay,” I said, warningly.
“Oh, Jess. Just one piece. PLEASE.”
“Not unless you’re going to pay for it.”
“Jess, what’s a piece of cake between friends. Friends for NINE years, don’t forget.”

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“DING!”
“Lindsay, my danishes are done. Wait here and whatever you do, DON’T EAT ANYTHING.”
I quickly got the danishes and ran back to the front of the bakery, only to find…
“LINDSAY!” I yelled.
There she was, sitting in a corner with chocolate cake smeared all over her face. It was then that I realized the cake wasn’t eh only thing she ate. No. She ate EVERYTHING. Every crumb. There wasn’t a speck of food in the bakery (other than my danishes).
“Linds,” I said. “Boy, are you in trouble.”
“Groan,” Lindsay moaned from her corner. “I’m really sorry, Jess. I just couldn’t help myself.”

And it goes on. And on. And eventually, we decide the only solution is to re-bake everything. But there’s a catch: Lindsay has a curse when she tries to bake from scratch. So I mostly do the baking and she helps here and there and then…

“We baked all afternoon. We displayed everything so it looked exactly like it did before Lindsay ate it all. At exactly 8:00 sharp, my mom walked back into her bakery to see…PERFECTION!”

Ah, don’t worry. It’s not so easy…

“Wow,” Mom said. “Am I ever hungry.” And she took a bite of one of our chocolate chip cookies. Just then, a horrified expression crossed her face…” THE END!

Yup. End on a high note.

In other news, I was actually a really good baker when I was in seventh grade, so I’m not sure why I was so down on my cookie baking skillz. I had them. Even then.

Want another? OK! More stories! More! More! (Seriously, I have a never-ending supply of these suckers. Thus, the blog!)

Back in grade three, poor overworked and underpaid Mrs. Matheson gave us the writing prompt: “I once got hurt when…” which, having taught school a bit myself, strikes me as an odd thing to give kids to write about.  But whatever, Mrs. M was retiring so she was prolly all, “WTF have they NOT written about yet? I dunno. “What’s your favorite alcoholic drink, kids? Mine’s a martini. Jesus, I could go for one of those right now…”

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Ahem. Anyway, this is what I wrote:

“I once got hurt when I was in my poppa’s car. Opened the door and scraped my knee on the rust. I was crying because my knee was extremely bloody. My grandmother put alcohol on it and bandaged it and I had to go to bed. Where were my mom and dad when this all happened? In the Bahamas.”

Not a bad story, actually. Kind of gross, but not the worst story ever. I give you a B, little Jess. Maybe a B+.

One more story? OK. Since you asked so nicely. This one is only from six years ago. I had this brilliant idea to create a notebook of random writings. They are 1000000% not all gold. Most aren’t even bronze. Or, like, cubic zirconia. But this one was actually kind of cute and fun. It’s called “Bobo the Robot”.

Enjoy.

In a city of robots, everyone had an important job to do.

Weldrick welded metal sticks and stuck them together.

Pounder pounded posts to make walls.

Zippy zoomed up buildings, fitting pieces into place.

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Chopchop cut things. Logi watched for bad weather. Mender mended things. Heft lifted heavy stuff. And Gig dug big holes.

And…what about this little guy?

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It’s BOBO!

Bobo…he…uh…let’s see. He…um. What did Bobo do?

Oh, right.

Watch this. Wait for it…

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Right. Bobo blew bubbles.

Which really didn’t help out anyone a great deal.

The robots all worked very hard. They loved to build, especially HUGE buildings. Bobo mostly just watched.

One day, the robots were almost done making the biggest building EVER when Logi made a terrible announcement. “There’s  a meteor in the sky! Heading RIGHT for Robot City! Headed right for our gigantic building!”

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Everyone panicked. All their hard work would be ruined! While all the robots ran around in circles, Bobo calmly sat and watched.

While all the robots hid their eyes, Bobo stared at the sky.

Then, at just the right moment, he stuck his blower into the bubble juice and blew.

And blew.

And blew.

The BIGGEST bubble anyone had ever seen. It was so big that it covered the entire town.  When the meteor hit the bubble, it went…

BONK, BONK, BONK.

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And bounced down the hill, right out of town.

“HOORAY!” yelled the robots.

“POP!” went the bubble.

“BOBO!” shouted Bobo, the robot who saved the town.

So being a writer is kind of my schtick. After doing it for so long, I feel like I’ve definitely improved (although I still enjoy filling up notebooks and starting new ones). I loved working as a legit PFW for 8 years. I loved being an advice hippo (shout out  and big ups to Plumpy).  And now? Now I’ve started a publishing company (Buttertart Books) and I’ve got an awesome book (Bear Hockey) coming out in February. Hopefully the first of many, many fantastic books. Amazing books that will have zero rings or balls.

That sounds so wrong.

Ahem.

Writing! It’s what’s for dinner.

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Life Lesson #13: Always find the silver lining. Even when the lining actually looks a lot more gray than silver.

October has been a month. A horrible month of sickness, disappointment, failure and a couple of bright spots that included learning and/or growing.  Also, pumpkins in as many forms as I can eat/drink them. Basically any form. All forms. Beware, pumpkins. I am coming to ingest all of you.

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“Pumpkin spice EVERYTHING!”

Anyway, October. It was supposed to be a grand month of epic awesomeness. I launched my first Kickstarter campaign and it did really well for a few days. And then…nothing. It was a normal slump, I told myself. Things will pick up again, I said to me. But they didn’t. And I had to deal with the hard truth that maybe I needed to do a lot more marketing than I had the first time. So I took it down and I’m retooling the campaign and starting it up again in February.

So that was a bit of a bummer.

And Vivi…oh, Vivi. She doesn’t exactly LOVE school. She kind of likes the last two hours of school, because she knows I’m coming to get her at lunch (she’s at school for nearly FOUR hours in the morning – we’re doing ‘half days’ which are a lot more like ‘3/4 days’) and she can mentally do two hours, but not all four.

Which, you know. Makes the 8:00 AM school start time HELL ON EARTH. She is so miserable in the morning. But we persist.

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We try to stay positive. She’s doing exceptionally well, academically (she’s actually been integrated into the SK program, despite being 3 and a JK). She knows most of the children’s names. She likes her teacher. She just hates the early morning and the long day.

Understandable.

And also? I broke my freakin’ toe. I mean, I didn’t see a doctor or anything (heaven forefend), but it turned purple and I couldn’t move it and…it was probably pretty broken.

And, once again, I did it in the most clumsy, awkward way possible: I dropped a dinner plate onto it, vertically. It’s like those experiments when you flip a coin 50 times, and everyone is all, “Oh, I got heads 26 times and tails 24 times.” But I’d be all, “Oh, I got heads 5 times, tails 6 times and side coin 39 times. Also, the side coin severed my baby finger.”

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Wait, so you guys DON’T have severed fingers? Just me? Aw, man. Not again.

Finally? We’ve been sick about 3/4 of the month. By ‘we,’ I mean ‘Vivi and Lily and me.’ It’s been a disgusting, mucus-filled, coughing-hackstravaganza. I am so effing sick of being sick.

So life isn’t always easy, obvs. These problems are extremely (totally, 100%) small potatoes, compared to what others are dealing with. Heck, even compared to what little Jess dealt with in the past. Speaking of which, let’s speak of those things! Let’s do it now!

“Dear Diary,
Today was one of the worst days of my life. My budgie, Pretty Boy, died. No one killed him* or anything, he just died. Also, I fell through the hole in the tree house. It hurt a lot. If there is one good thing, it is that I will meet my baby cousin Devon today. I will keep you posted about how that goes.”

Update: It was OK.**

Oh, Jess. That was a shit-tastic day, for sure. First of all, Pretty Boy was the second of three eventual budgies who would succumb to a very, very early death. First, it was Tweety. She grew a gigantic tumour and things went downhill from there. Then, Pretty Boy. I think he had some kind of undiagnosed bird heart condition because (according to my grandfather, who was bird-sitting at the time), he just ‘keeled over.’  Finally, Polly (the third budgie to go to the great bird cage in the sky before her time) laid an egg. And we didn’t know that it was a problem and that you have to give the bird all kinds of supplements and whatnot to help them out, but apparently you do.

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RIP, my feathered friends. May your cuttlebones always be fresh in the big bird cage in the sky.

 

Bawhoops.

And then…and THEN…falling through the tree house. Now, to be fair, this was not 100% my fault. It was about 85% my poppa’s fault. If you recall, my grandfather was a delightful man. An excellent story teller, a kind individual, purveyor of all things candy-related. But he was, how shall I put it…not world’s greatest builder. In fact, not even in the top ten (million).

Poppa had created a quasi-sketchy ‘tree house’ and then sort of forgotten to put a board over the corner bit. Thus, there was a gaping hole just the right size for an eight-year-old of average girth to fall through. And fall through I did! My natural clumsiness drew me to the hole like a magnet. Fortunately, I had the wherewithal to flail my elbows out at the last minute and catch myself. Picture it! I was dangling about 7 feet in the air, holding on for dear life. I remember telling my brother to run and get a grown up. With my writerly upper-body strength, there was no way in hell I was going to be able to pull myself up. And falling would’ve hurt a lot. A heck of a lot. So Kenneth got my dad who came out and kind of boosted me back through. I limped down the ladder and into the house.  I had scrapes all over and my arms hurt quite a lot.

And that’s when they told me my budgie died.

Womp, womp, wooooomp.

Next up, a generally crappy day in second grade:

“Today Mrs. Lee was away and we had a supply. She was OK, but not as nice as Mrs. Lee. Also, I tried flying my Food City kite, but it’s not very good. I wish we had a real kite.”

Yeah, you guys remember the Food City kites of long ago? The ones mentioned here? Well, they definitely were the worst.  I tried to explain about them to my three-year-old and she was REALLY confused. She said, “Why would you tie a plastic bag to a string? Why wouldn’t you just buy a kite?” So then I tried to explain, “We so poor in the ‘hood,” but I’m about 100% sure she didn’t understand what I was talking about. So I told her it was just something kids did in the eighties, and that seemed to make her happy enough.

There are a few funny and terrible days back in 1988, so let’s have a look at some more of them!

“Today Mom took care of the horrible H kids all day. I do NOT like them.”

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Below, I drew a picture of myself saying, “Boys are NOT better than girls!” BTW, I totally remember the last name of the horrible kids, but I’m omitting it because they were just awful humans back then. What I remember most about the H kids is this: they were big and loud and rough and awful. I’m sure they’ve grown up to be kind, gentle, intelligent men. I hope so, anyway. Because if not, somewhere out there, there are a pair of 30-somethings that enjoy bunk bed wrestling and making fun of awkward girls waaay too much.

“Today is Friday the 13th. That means bad luck. I got just a bit of bad luck when my mom broke a bottle. Ouch.”

I’m not sure if the ouch is related to me being like, “Oh, ouch, Mom. Way to be clumsy!” or if it’s more like, “Oh, ouch. I then stepped on the bottle and totally got glass in my foot.” My bet is on the latter.

Let’s finish off with an awesome angsty 7-year-old entry. It’s so pre-teen. Oh, Jess. You were always so mature for your age.

“I was thinking about how hard it is to be the oldest kid in the family. It’s not easy! When you are the oldest in the family you have to play with your younger brother or sister and you also have to get them stuff, like drinks or freezies. I guess the oldest person in our whole family is Great-Aunt Jean. She’s 95. Now that’s old!”***

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What we learn from this quasi-accurate ‘family tree’ is that Great-Aunt-Jean was actually my poppa’s aunt, making her my mother’s great-aunt and my great-great-aunt. Hence, why she was eighty-billion years old.

I guess the take home message from that diary entry is that even if you start out all angsty, you can end on a positive note. Which is kind of what I’m looking to do with my October experiences. Find the positive! Let’s see what we can do, shall we?

Negative: ended the Kickstarter campaign early. Positive lesson: revamped the campaign for February. Guaranteed success!

Negative: Vivi hates school. Positive lesson: teaching her perseverance is going to help her in life!

Negative: Broke my toe. Positive lesson: be more careful, Jess! Also, my bones knit quickly!

Negative: We’ve been sick all freakin’ month! Positive lesson: I’ve learned to not be so grossed out by sick people!

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Nope, actually still REALLY grossed out by sick people.

So that’s where we’re at, people. October, this year you suck. I used to love you. I hope to love you again next year. But for now? We are not friends. All I can do is hope that November is totally awesome and amazing. And healthy. For the love of all that’s good and holy, let us get healthy again.

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C’mon November! Don’t suck!

*Budgie murder wasn’t even a thing in the ‘hood, but I figured I’d better clarify that the death was completely accidental, just in case the police came around asking questions.

** No offense to my cousin. I remember her being quite adorable. But when you’re up against a terrible day like that? It’s tough to come out on top.

*** Fun Great-Aunt Jean fact time! When I was seven, we had dinner with my aunt. She chain-smoked and drank Crown Royal (I’m not 100% sure she actually ATE anything, actually). She also said the following things:

  1. I was nowhere near as good-looking as she was when she was my age.
  2. My hair wasn’t as luxurious as hers was, nor was it as long or as nice a colour (when she was my age).
  3. Rolos would give me horrible acne. I was eating (and enjoying) a pack of Rolos (my first ever, actually) when she said this.

She called my house later and apologized to my mother for telling me point number three. Rolos probably wouldn’t GIVE me acne, she explained. Just exacerbate whatever acne I would obviously have, due to my skin (which wasn’t as nice as hers at the same age). After that dinner, she moved down on my ‘favourite aunts’ list to ‘below an actual ant.’

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Life Lesson #6: School is cool! Do hugs, not drugs!

When I first found out I was pregnant with Vivi, I figured I would just home school her for kindergarten and send her to school in first grade. And this was the plan, until she turned three.

It was then that she informed me that Lily and I were great and all, but that she’d really like some friends her own age that would play games with her non-stop and not say stuff like, “Oh, God. Do we have to act out the story with the stuffed bears AGAIN?” or “Blaggle plaggle?” (You can determine which was said by me, vs. which was said by Lily.)

Anyway, the long and short of it is this: Vivi is going to school in two weeks. Cue the clutching of pearls and packing of snacks.

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“Who likes Goldfish crackers? I hope you do, because that’s what you’re getting!”

I personally LOVED elementary and high school. I hated university, aside from the actual classes themselves, but there you go. (I loved the working world, so I don’t know what the hell university’s problem was. Maybe the specific university I went to? Looking at you, York U.)

There are a few things I want to share with Vivi – lessons I learned when I was in school that I hope will help her go far, be a star, do hugs, not drugs and remember that gang membership is not desired nor required.

Keeping in mind, of course, that I went to school in the ‘hood in the eighties and nineties.

But I’m sure the lessons are still relevant.

Somewhat.

Somewhat relevant.

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Ahem. Onward!

Lesson 1: Sleep is important. Get lots of it!

“I should go to bed earlier. I am SO TIRED. Lindsay said once that we should have beds in class instead of desks. I think I’m inclined to agree.” – Jess, age 12

Beds in class? That would be kind of rad. Although I 100% would’ve slept through every single math lesson ever. It was hard enough to stay awake in an uncomfortable desk. If I had a pillow of any kind, I would likely still not be able to do basic long division.*

Instead of beds, my grade 7 teacher said it would be better if he could electrify each desk and had a control panel at the front of the room. He would be able to hit a button if someone was daydreaming and shock them back into paying attention. I thought it was an extreme idea when I was a student in his class, but when I had a grade five class of my own to corral, I kind of saw his point. Good thinking, Mr. Whillans. Good thinking. Patent that idea before I steal it.

Lesson #2: Wash your damn hands. All damn day. And Purel non-stop.

“I think I’m sick again. My ears are plugged up, my throat is sore. Goddamn it, why are kids so germ-filled?! ” – Jess, age 22

That particular year was insane. That’s really the only way to explain it. I tutored two awesome kids, I volunteered at my old school, working with grade four students and kids in a diagnostic kindergarten class. I also volunteered in a preschool classroom one morning a week (as a ‘community involvement’ part of one of my courses) and I practice taught on Thursdays. Also, I had to do the classes for my psych degree, and the rest of my B. Ed courses when I wasn’t doing all those other things. And I also had friends and family and other people who expected me to, you know, be awake when we hung out.

The long and short of it: I was sick. A LOT. Mostly because I wasn’t getting enough sleep and I was exposed to EVERY SINGLE GERM IN CREATION. Kids are germy. Very, very germy. And, by my quick calculations, I was seeing (counts on fingers),  somewhere in the area of 60 kids a week. And you can guarantee that at least one or ten had some sort of hacking-coughing-eye-runny-snot thing going on.  So my advice to Vivi is this: TOUCH NOTHING AND NO ONE! WASH YOUR HANDS ALL DAY LONG! DON’T BRING HOME LICE OR STOMACH FLU. SERIOUSLY. I WILL LOSE MY ISH.

Ahem.

I mean, “Keep your hands off your face and out of your mouth, hon. Just try your best to keep them clean. And I was serious about the stomach flu and lice. DO NOT. I JUST CAN’T.”

Speaking of head lice, that was my mother’s one school rule. Not “Do your homework every night.” Not “Don’t forget to study, kids.” Nope. Just…”Don’t get head lice. Seriously. I will kill you.”

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“Head lice equals death! Head lice equals DEATH! Do NOT try me!”

And so, even when the entire school had head lice (I kid you not, it was probably, like, 3/5 of the student population), Kenneth and I remained lice-free. Because it was that or death.

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“Dude, I think she’s serious about killing us over head lice. We should stay away from everyone forever.”

Life Lesson #3: If you really don’t want to do something, don’t do it. Especially if it’s an extracurricular and you think that you SHOULD do it just to fit in or something ridiculous like that. Also, don’t be a prefect.

“Thank GOD my ski day was canceled. I did NOT actually want to go. I just hope it’s not rescheduled.” – 13 year old Jess

Spoiler alert, non-sporty Jess! It was rescheduled and you were a terrible skier (see: here). I don’t know what possessed me to sign up for ski day. It was optional, and I should’ve opted out. Maybe I was stoked to miss a math test, maybe I hoped to uncover a hidden sports skill, maybe I just figured I’d spend the day in the lodge, drinking hot chocolate and doing crossword puzzles (probably that one). I have no idea.  Mostly, I didn’t go for stuff like this. I just joined clubs that I loved. I was a hard core band geek, I was a pretty awful actor in a few plays, and I was the agony aunt and editor of the newspaper for a few years. Non-sporty things. Sitting down things. Things I liked doing. There were, however, two instances where I joined clubs that I strongly hated.

Instance the first:  I was in ninth grade and figured I should belong to something other than band. (Note: band was the bomb shnizzle and I quickly realized that it was full of wonderful people and it was, by far, the best club I’ve ever belonged to. Band geeks unite!) The club I joined was…wait for it…Environment For All. It was meant to be some kind of ‘let’s save the earth by recycling and not littering’ deal. Except it was run by two girls who couldn’t agree on ANYTHING EVER. They spent the vast majority of each meeting arguing.  (The meetings, by the way, consisted of them, myself, another girl in my grade and, like, the kid who was trying to finish a lab report in the classroom where we held the meeting.) So absolutely nothing was accomplished, and I ended up with indigestion every Tuesday and Thursday at lunch because after all the in-fighting, I had about 5 minutes to snarf my sandwich and book it to French. Laaaaame.

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“I hate AIR pollution the most!” “Well I hate LITTER more, and you’re a MONSTER!”

Instance the second: I was a prefect. An effing prefect. Initially, I thought it was an honour to be asked to join. You know, ‘only the best’ kind of thing. But in reality, it was a clique.  And also? ‘prefect’ is code for ‘sucker who does the crap jobs that no one else wants.’ It was also a scheduling nightmare. Especially for those of us in the band. We performed at most occasions, which were also times that prefects were required to sell drinks and snacks and take coats and…I don’t know. Get locked in stairwells? That happened a lot. Anyway,  I always ended up doing prefect work wearing a band skirt on the bottom** and a gigantic prefect sweater ***over top.  I hated it. I wanted out. But it seemed that once one was a prefect, one could not escape the cult. So, instead of escaping, my friends and I ended up doing stuff like this in order to make ourselves feel better.  Interestingly, being a prefect almost got me killed one night! But I’ll tell that horrible story another time! Next lesson, STAT!

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“Please kill me. Also, would you like a Coke for $1.00? Maybe a floornut?”

Life Lesson #4: When it comes to friends, look for people who make you laugh, keep your spirits buoyed, challenge you to think, and are as drama-free as possible.

“Thank goodness for good people. I’ve been lucky to have some of the best in my life. My friends are absolutely amazing.” – Jess, right now

Oh, Vivi. You wear your heart on your sleeve, and you want to be a friend to all. This is a tough combination. Trust me, I know from personal experience. Go into every situation with an open mind and a positive spirit, my love. But guard that heart of yours. Don’t just give it away to anyone and everyone. Those who are worthy of it will become obvious. I have been exceptionally lucky. My friends are family, and I love my peeps fiercely. I can only hope you are as fortunate. Many of my friends have been in my life since high school. Heck, Auntie Stephy has been along on this ride since we were seven. Aside from avoiding drama, here’s my friendship advice: Don’t ever take your friends for granted, don’t turn your back on them when the going gets tough, and do your very best not to let them down.

And if you end up with a fake friend, end it. You’ll find the good peeps. Don’t stick with someone who treats you badly. Ever. Because Mama is from the ‘hood. So. You know. Hold my earrings (pulls hair back into ponytail, cracks knuckles).  Mama will handle things.

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“Mama gonna run tings!”

Life Lesson #5: Grades are important, yes, but mostly use your school career to figure out what you love, what you want to do when you get older, and what you definitely do NOT want to do.

“The music room was a lot of fun. And English. But I could’ve done without math. Dear God, I hate math. So much. And gym. If only I could replace all of those horrible subjects with more music and English. And maybe something crafty.” – Jess, age 14

Here’s the thing, Vivi: I know you’re a smart kid. I’m not just saying that as your super-biased mom (although I am that, too). I know you’re brilliant. So you can’t come home with crappy grades or half-done projects. That just won’t fly. But I also know that you’ll probably have some subjects you don’t love. Just do your best, dear. And as for gym? Yeah, I kind of figure you’ll have issues there. You’re, how shall I put  it? Fairly clumsy and uncoordinated. And we’re working on it. We really are. You love your dance class and you enjoy all the running around and climbing we do in the backyard and at the park. But I see in you the same kind of issues I had with spatial skills. As in, you don’t have many. So maybe it’ll take you 39 throws to hit a baseball in gym, and perhaps that will sour you on the experience.  Or maybe not! Every time we talk about gym, I really fake enthusiasm as much as I can. Through gritted teeth. Because I HATED GYM.

Ahem.

What I’m trying to say is this: enjoy yourself. School is a very brief part of your life, overall. It’s a time to learn as much as you possibly can and figure out what it is that you’re passionate about. What makes you happy and what makes you curious. What you’ll want to pursue after you’re done elementary and high school. If I had to guess right now, today, about what you’ll end up being (career-wise, that is), I’d say:

  1. Dentist. You always say you want to be a dentist, so I figure you will be.
  2. Writer. You are full of stories and you absolutely LOVE hearing other people’s tales of…just about everything. I’ve never met another child who constantly begins a sentence with “Tell me a story about…” All day long.
  3. Artist of some kind. You draw exceptionally well for someone your age.

Sadly, I don’t think ‘engineer’ is on this list. Maybe Lily will do that and make your baba’s dream come true.

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Or maybe not.

The point is, you’re going to do great stuff, kiddo. I know kindergarten seems like a HUGE first step. It is. But you’re going to love it and they’re going to love you, after the initial confusion wears off. And no matter what, I’ll always be waiting for you at the end of the day with a snack, a listening ear, and a lifetime of advice that you’re not going to listen to anyway.

I love you, baby girl. Happy kindergartening.

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-Mama

PS: I act like this is all cool and NBD, but inside I’m freaking the eff out. How did my baby end up at an age where she could legit go to school? It’s insane. I’m going to totally sob the whole way home from dropping her off and console myself with a large coffee and extra-large cookie. Seriously. Kindergarten. How did that happen so fast?

*Which I can totally do as long as it’s one number into a multiple digit number, and not one of those crazy multiple digit numbers into even larger numbers questions. Those are still iffy. I think I was away for that unit. Probably because I was sick.

**The band skirts were called ‘curtains’ because they were long and resembled curtains. And also because they were made of old curtains.

***All prefect sweaters seemed to come in ‘large’ ‘extra large’ ‘unflatteringly large’ and ‘muumuu.’ No one’s sweater fit them properly. No one’s.

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