Friday, July 23, 2010

The Little Things

Sometimes, the little things that people do have a huge impact on the lives of people around them.

My father-in-law and mother-in-law had been planning a return trip to the Maritimes to re-visit all of the places my mother-in-law liked best from last year's trip before the cancer robs them of the time for special memories. High on that list was a visit to Rita McNeil's tea room. (For those of you who don't know, Rita McNeil is a Canadian singer who is often ridiculed because she is a large woman.) They had scheduled their trip to coincide with Ms. McNeil's presence at the tea room. The whole trip had to be cancelled at the last minute, because my mother-in-law is simply not well enough to make the trip. My mother-in-law was disappointed to miss the tea room again and knows there won't be another chance. (It wasn't open when they were there last year).

My husband's cousin is a dog breeder, and my in-laws own three of her champion line Boston Terriers. They take turns dog sitting, although when the dogs come to Camp MacColl, I think they get the better end of the deal. One of Judy's dogs has been in residence with my in-laws, and Judy came to pick him up yesterday. She came bearing a very large, festive basket...from Rita McNeil's tea room. She had phoned down and explained about my mother-in-law's health, and her disappointment at missing her chance to visit the tea room. Ms. McNeil's son took the phone call, and arranged the basket, which included 2 kinds of tea, some of the oat cakes that the tea room is famous for, and a bone china cup and saucer.

Nestled in the middle of the basket, though, was the best present that my mother-in-law could ever receive. You see, Ms. McNeil raised a good boy, and he took the time to ask Rita McNeil to put a little note in the basket for my mother-in-law, and Ms. McNeil did.  It was a personal note, hand written and clearly not a form letter. It was short and cheery, and has sent my mother-in-law over the moon with delight. She plans to have it framed.

It probably took 10 minutes of Ms. McNeil's time to jot the note and pop it in the basket. That 10 minutes of time will provide hours and hours of joy for my mother-in-law at a time when joy will be at a premium as her health deteriorates. I don't think I've ever heard my mother-in-law so bubbly and delighted as she was with that small note.

People in the public eye are constantly under a microscope. Their appearance, their weight and their every action is scrutinized, criticized, ridiculed and held up for inspection. The price of fame is a loss of privacy. I worked for many years in Customs at Pearson Airport, and with exceptions I could count on 1 hand, the famous people I encountered were genuine, considerate of their fans, polite and patient. Sure they all had off days, and who isn't grumpy after a delayed flight or a lost suitcase? Time and again, I would see them stand for long periods of time signing autographs, posing for pictures and treating their fans with respect and courtesy, which often wasn't returned. They didn't expect special treatment, and it was often the people around them who were rude to the fans.

Joke if you must about Rita McNeil. Her small act of kindness made the life of a terminal cancer patient bright, light and happy. The little things really do make a difference.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Letters I would never send...

Mommy Maria's blog inspired this post. It's been THAT kind of a week here, so I think I'll do some "letters I would never send" compositions of my own. Make sure you read Maria's. I dare you not to nod and laugh out loud...

Dear small child: You've learned to whistle! Good for you. I'm proud of you, and how hard you're practicing to perfect it. Now STOP DOING IT every waking moment.

Dear family: Stop waiting for the dish fairy to magically transport the dishes to the kitchen. Pick them up and put them in the sink already.

Dear tween boys in the park: So you know the F-bomb. Good for you. It is not necessary to use it as a noun, verb, adjective and adverb in the same sentence. I would prefer that my child does not pick up that particular language skill quite yet.You are not going to shock me with your language: I worked in Customs.

Dear graffiti artists: Painting the only play structure for the little kids with obscenities and pictures of the one finger salute, breasts and penises only shows that you are not as cool as you think you are. And there are generally two testicles or 5 fingers, just sayin...

Dear city workers: clean the damn play structure already. It's covered in obscenities and graphic pictures.

Dear Ellen Degeneres: Come to K-W for Oktoberfest already. I'm tired of the campaign.

Dear Richelle Mead: thank you for Dimitri. Now hurry up and write the next installment!

Dear women's plus size clothing designers: Not all of the female population are comfortable with their bra straps showing. Not all of the female population want the girls showing in their entirety. Some of us have a modicum of modesty left. I don't WANT to wear a camisole under a's HOT. Cut it higher and make the straps thicker. Seriously.

Dear women's clothing designers: We are not all twigs. We are not all 20. And can you get together and agree on consistent size measurements please. I don't have time to try on the same dress in 3 sizes to find out which size 16 yours is...

Dear husband: fanning the covers after a dinner featuring beer and sauerkraut does not "share the wealth." It annoys the wife.

Dear husband: I am reading my book. It is a funny book and it's making me laugh. Do not ask me what I'm reading. You can read it when I'm finished, but right now, I'm in the zone. shush.

Dear woman in the supermarket pawing through the cherries to get the best ones: Knock it off. I don't want your pawed through cherries. Just pick up the little bag like the rest of us and move along. And don't even think about stopping at the grapes to do the same thing.

Dear sample lady: You should perhaps mention the fact that there is freaking peanut butter in the ice cream before you hand it out. I just don't like the taste, but do you realize you could kill someone? sheesh. blech, plooey, blech. 

Dear woman in the checkout line: Yes, I get it. You're in a hurry. That's why you're in the self checkout, 8 items or less line. So am I . And I'm ahead of you  so stop huffing and puffing, this house won't blow down.

Dear people in restrooms, small child at home: flush the damn toilet already. If it takes 2 flushes, flush it again. jeez.

Dear telemarketers: off my planet.

Dear BP: how could you NOT have a shut-off valve on the damn oil well? What did you THINK would happen? And yeah, there are some of us in the world who care about pelicans, turtles and crawfish fishermen.

There, I feel better now...

Tuesday, July 13, 2010


Life is about choices. Some of them are forced upon us by circumstance. Some of them are made impulsively, some willfully. And sometimes, there is no win to the choices we make.

This is Max. He's been a part of our lives for 11-12 years. He's a loving, loyal friendly little cat with a purr like a tractor, and is always in the room with his people. If some of us are upstairs and some of us are down, he would wait in the middle. Since our daughter arrived, he's guarded her fiercely, and would spend many hours hanging out in the rocking chair in her room while she napped in her crib. He was patient with her chubby fingers, and would just wait for me to extricate him from her toddler grasp. Never once did he snarl, claw or snap at her. He curls up on her bed at night and tries to help her go to sleep. Sometimes even he gives up when she's carrying on and comes back downstairs with us, but most of the time, he waits until she's asleep.

Max has a past. We don't know all the details, but he has a bump on his nose and when we first adopted him, if you moved your hand to quickly, he would flatten and cringe. He was also terrified of being hungry. He's gotten over those fears over the years, but he still reacts to any changes in the house. His way of comforting himself is to pee on things. He peed on a lot of things.

Over the years, we've replaced carpets, briefcases, sports bags, backpacks, shoes, clothing...At first, he would pee on anything plastic that was left on the floor. He peed in a friend's car seat when she brought her newborn baby over to visit and I forgot and left it on the floor in the hall. He peed on my best friend's suitcase, camera bag and toiletry bag. He peed on toys in Laura's room, on papers in the basement and seems to have a particular hate for junk mail. Over the years, we've warned guests to leave suitcases in the bathroom with the door closed, or to drape them with things that smelled like us so that Max didn't take matters into his own hands.

He's been checked by a vet. We're using low ash food for crystals. I've had an animal communicator in. I've had an animal behaviourist in. I've used Rescue Remedy, I've used specially blended herbal drops. I just about set fire to the house with Feliway diffusers. I've used $18 a bag litter that lasts 2 weeks...when the stress level goes up, so does the level of cat urine.

He's squatted in front of me and peed on the carpet when the litter was clean. He's left a 6 inch puddle of pee beside my chair. He's peed on more floormats than I can count. He has a hate for cases of water, bags of salt for the water softener and Christmas gift bags.  When we were toilet-training our daughter, they were both peeing on the floor.

And then Max started peeing on furniture. First, he jumped on a small end table my mother-in-law gave my husband and peed all over my paperwork on it. Then he jumped on the coffee table in the basement (another gift to my husband from his mom) and peed on the papers on it. Then he peed on the cushions of the deacon's bench on the landing. And a few days ago, he peed in a little wicker chair, ruining the cushions and my daughter's backpack, and a bag that had all of her homework for the year in it. I can sew new cushions, but the trend is alarming. Floors are one thing; furniture is another.

My husband is already stressed trying to work full time and deal with his mom's health. His dad has some health issues too. He'd run out of patience with Max 5 years ago and tolerated him, barely. Peeing on furniture ended his tolerance.

I run like a madwoman to the basement multiple times a day to scoop the litter as soon as anything shows up in the box. I live in terror that he will peed in my antique upholstered chair-the one we spent $1000 on last year to have  re-upholstered (after Max decided it was the best scratching post in the house) and then slipcovered to protect it from kitty claws. I have nightmares about the leather furniture. We'll both be on the curb if Max ever peed in the Lazyboy.

We've had a lot of stress in the family lately, and as my mother-in-law's health deteriorates the stress will only get worse. I work from home, I take care of our 5 year old daughter full time, I take care of my 83 year old mother, who is still pretty self sufficient, but doesn't drive anymore. I am checking in with my in-laws on a daily basis, and I have responsibilities to my church, my friends and my extended family. Most of the stress in my life is out of my control. I'm trying to lessen the impact of stress that is in my control. I can't do this anymore.

I feel like I've failed Max, although I'm out of options. I can't stand the stress or fear of him destroying furniture. Replacing backpacks is one thing; Upholstered furniture, or god forbid, beds, is another. We've tried everything. I'm not going to surrender him to a shelter. He's been through that once, and I'm sure it was for this reason. He's too old for someone to adopt him. So I made the only decision left and called the vet.

I've been trying to prepare our daughter. Max is her best buddy and this is going to devastate her. I've been warning her that Max is sick and I have to take him to his doctor. We've had a couple of deaths in the family/friends circle lately, so she knows that sometimes people don't get better, and they become angels. While not theologically correct, it makes sense to a five year old. Still, this is going to be really hard on her, and a prelude of things to come when the cancer wins down the road.

I believe that animals have souls. Now I know that it's not in the doctrine of the Catholic faith, so don't report me to the Pope. But God made animals, and God gave them the ability to love, and it's beyond my realm of comprehension that He didn't give them a soul, maybe not in the same vein as a human soul, but a spirit nonetheless. (I also believe that all living things have spirits).If that makes me a flake, I can own that.

So Daddy, later today, a dear little black cat will arrive in heaven. He's a good boy, loving, loyal and protective. Could you keep an eye out for him? Aunt Catherine, you always liked Max, so can you help him find his way? And Max, thank you for your loyalty, your companionship, your trust and your faith that we would take care of you. I love you very much, and I hope that you find peace now. I hate making this decision and I hope you'll understand and forgive me. I'll miss you my dear little panther cat.

Just don't pee on the angels' wings or in God's chair, okay?

Friday, July 2, 2010

Things you do when you're a mom

The things you do when you're a mom. It always surprises me, the lengths that I'm willing to go to to amuse and teach my daughter.

  • I am terrified of heights. I'm talking panic attack, fetal position moaning and rocking, stepping down off a chair is high enough fear of heights. Last year, my daughter, who is fearless, except for flies, wanted to go on the big ferris wheel at the CNE. I mean, the BIG one that takes you up 2 stories and then leaves you there while the other cars empty. She really wanted to sit beside mommy. I went but I insisted she sit beside daddy instead. As we reached the top of the ascent, the wind picked up and the cart started rocking. My daughter thought this was fun, and started rocking it MORE. My husband took one look at my ashen face, my white knuckle grip on the backpack and my clenched jaw to keep the primal scream inside and told our daughter to stop rocking the cart. I made it to the bottom. The next time, I watched the backpacks, on terra firma. I may have wimped out, but I don't think it's a good lesson for my daughter to see her mother curled in a ball sobbing hysterically.

  • I am a second generation thunderstorm coward. My earliest memories of thunderstorms involved being dragged to the basement in the middle of the night by my terrified mother. My mother, who at 83, still goes and sits in the stairwell of her apartment building in the middle of the night to hide from the storms. She and my father lived in Kansas when they were first married, and the tornado terror never left her.  When our daughter arrived, I was bound and determined not to create a similar terror in my daughter, just because her mom is. I told my husband from the start that if she woke in the night with thunderstorms, he needed to go to her because I didn't want to share my terror with her. So far, so good.
  • I hate fireworks. I hate the noise. The smoke triggers an asthma attack. I love to look at them, provided I am far enough away to not hear the noise or smell the smoke. However, our local university does a really good job of Canada Day, including a pretty impressive fireworks display.  Our daughter loves fireworks. She was old enough to go this year so we took her. She sat beside me, snug in her sleeping bag and yelled KABOOM at the top of her lungs every time the fireworks exploded in the sky. Then she laughed and said "that was a big one, mommy." Maybe all I was missing was yelling KABOOM! I still don't like them, but I don't like them less than before. 

  • I failed on the bees. My daughter is a terrified of them as I am. Oh well, can't win them all.