Harry & Meghan…the response is the reason

Unless you are returning from the International Space Station, you will know that the British Royal Family is evolving. Notice I’m not using any negative connotations to describe this.

I have just listened to a brilliant speech Princess Harry has given at a Sentebale in London. He addresses the audience not as a Prince, or a Duke, but as Harry. He speaks from the heart about HIS decision, for HIS family. He reaffirms his family’s commitment to the Queen, the family and to the United Kingdom.

But enough’s enough. He’s tired of the attacks, the scrutiny, the pressure and the life laid out for him that he’s never asked for, or wanted. Footage of him from 10 years ago shows his cautious view of his role. Harry is more comfortable with people, not media. He’s very much the boy following his mother’s coffin and the man who will not let history repeat itself.

When the Crown failed to act in his and his family’s best interest, he forced their hand. As soon as he did, the cycle he hoped to escape from, circled around again. Meghan was the issue. She was trying to return to acting. William didn’t like her. Meghan and Kate were competitive. At best it’s exaggeration. At worst it’s all lies. Worse yet, it’s a family matter that is playing out in the public. The media who weaves this narrative is the benefactor and cause of this soap opera.

I feel badly for all of them. It’s a nightmare to watch, I cannot imagine what it’s like to live through.

Unlike some monarchy challenges, this one is being handled well now that they’ve been forced to deal with it. No public funding, no HRH, no senior royal duties. Participate in events where invited by the Queen. Review this new “normal” in a year.

It’s smart and it makes sense. The “Royal Family” cannot continue to grown and encompass each of the Queen’s four children and by extension, her grandchildren and great grandchildren. There are a couple more members who should look at this development and realize the with Will having an Heir, a spare and a spare spare, there is little need for cousins to be paid from the public purse. Beatrice & Eugenie, we’re looking at you.

I wish the best for this young family and hope that this year brings peace, compromise and path forward that will allow a balance between duty and free will.

New Traditions

If you don’t have traditions at Christmas, I ask you, do you really have traditions at all?

We always enjoyed putting up the tree, decorating the house and getting gifts wrapped in preparation for the big day. Now, to be fair, the struggle of shopping beforehand is somewhat of a tradition as well, but let’s not focus on the negative just yet!

This year, instead of stressing over parking spots and jostling through the crowd, on two separate occasions I just left the parking lot and returned home. I wasn’t up for playing bumper cars with overly stressed and aggressive motorists. I like my Jeep too much.

It doesn’t hurt that there aren’t as many gifts to buy as in years past. With some family members opting to go gift-free, it means less need to shop, haul and wrap. This is definitely a change. I will never forget the Christmas about 15 years ago when I sat up until 3 a.m. wrapping presents, only to get up at 6 a.m. to head to work. In.Sane.

There are other changes as well this year. First Born Son, who has been less and less interested in decorating in recent years, wasn’t around for this year’s exercised, which may have been for the best, because honestly, he was getting vocal in his dislike of being asked to hang Baby’s First Christmas decorations. Second Born Son, who always enjoys the trimming of the tree, not to mention the selecting and installation of the tree, was away for the weekend. We couldn’t put it off any longer, otherwise we’d decorating on Christmas Eve.

It was mid tree anchoring when The Big Guy and I realized that THIS is our new tradition. No guilt, no inflection. Just reality. Our kids are getting older and things will change – especially if we have done our jobs right and raised two confident, independent young men. It’s a change.

Another change this year is the addition of a third tree. Yes you read that correctly. Three trees, more than two, less than four. Never saw myself being a “crazy tree lady” but hey, it takes care of the decorating in the kitchen. It’s the only artificial one since it’s adjacent to the fireplace and if it was real I’d have to a) run a hose directly from the sink to make sure it stayed hydrated or b) be prepared to have chestnuts roasting on an open fire.

The other two trees are real. When we were picking out these trees at the local tree farm, I was chatting with one of the employees about our shared experience of man-children who may or may not have outgrown their youthful Christmas traditions.

She asked why we were getting two trees. I explained that I have one in the living room with the more formal, cohesive decorations and one in the basement where we break out the amazing ornaments from the boys’ childhood. Adorable baby baubles, John Deere tractors, Pirates of the Caribbean, hockey skates and handmade treasures from art classes all find their home on this tree. It’s in the rec room where we will play pool, throw darts and listen to music. I never want to forget these decorations. I want them out every year. The lady was impressed with our tradition and insisted she was going to do the same thing with her 20-something kids and their ornaments.

Not all traditions are good ones. For years the real trees we erected had a familiar pattern of behaviour. We’d put them up, decorate them and within an hour or two, they’d be on the floor – ornaments smashed and branches twisted. Eventually we smartened up and used a counter weight to ensure the tree wouldn’t land in the middle of the living room.

I also used to do a great deal of baking. Hours of butter, flour and chocolate. The evolution of our family has resulted in some dietary restrictions. No nuts and no dairy. That takes out a BIG chunk of Christmas baking!

One thing that hasn’t changed is my thoughts of my Dad during Christmas. He loved this holiday and went all out with decorating. Ironically, as The Big Guy strung the lights on the upstairs tree, he noticed a number of the bulbs were out. He smiled and said to me, “When you are talking to your Dad, can you ask him to take care of these lights?”

The moment brought a smile to my face. Dad has been gone for more than five years now. Invoking his name while we decorated was perfect. Dad would spend hours in his chair going through strings of lights, finding the burnt out bulbs and bringing back strings that had been destined for the landfill. We could have used him last weekend.

A couple of years ago was another change in tradition. My sister and I took over the tradition of hosting Christmas dinner. Our Mother had cooked for the better part of 45 years and we felt it was time to give her a break. At first it was a change for her, but now she’s glad to bring something to our homes, without the stress of planning and cooking for hours.

Moving forward we have decided to start a new tradition – to include the girlfriends of our sons. While we don’t expect them to join us on Christmas Day or Boxing Day when they have their own family commitments, we plan to have an afternoon filled with food, fun and festive movies. We will have memories thanks to the evolution of our family and our willingness to adapt.

It won’t be the same, but it will be awesome.

Merry Christmas to you and may you embrace your new traditions.

If You Didn’t Put Up, Shut Up

For the past four months, Canadians have either been anticipating or been actively engaged in a federal election.

Unlike our America Cousins, we don’t draw these things out. We like to campaign quick, vote in October and get back to important things like hockey.

This election was frustrating. Unlike your Grade 7 Social Studies class on government, there were few defined and costed platforms that really landed with voters. No need to talk about hearing what Canadians want and certainly no creative ideas coming from “leaders”. However, there were plentiful jabs, slanderous comments and stomach churning commercials “endorsed” by full grown adults even though the content was beyond immature.

One good thing about the day after the election is you get to see how many people showed up to vote.

This year it was only 66% of us.

This makes me think of people around the world who walk for days if not weeks just for the opportunity to vote in their election. People die to fight for the right to vote. Women in this country protested and died for the right to vote IN THIS COUNTRY.

And almost half of us didn’t. Even. Bother.

Shame on you if you didn’t. Kudos if you did.

It’s tiring listening to people rant about politics and not taking action when the opportunity presents itself. It’s even more frustrating because we are so critical of the U.S. political reality; the non stop election cycle; the immature name calling and lies.

I think Canadians can do better. Until we demand better, we can expect no better from our “leaders”. With a minority government we have roughly 18 to 24 months until we get back on this merry-go-round.

So let’s do better. All of us.

Shame On Us

The adult outrage against Greta Thunberg prompts this column. I dedicate it to her.

Her recent “How Dare You” speech at the UN National Assembly didn’t just get applause, but ridicule. How DARE this 16-year-old GIRL speak in such a manner? Within days social media was poisoned with memes of her outraged visage overlaid with mocking words pointing out her age, gender, her Aspergers or her appearance.

Shame on us.

I was fortunate enough to grow up in an environment where caring for flora and fauna was something to be proud of. When I had a home of my own, I wanted pets and to care for plants. We recycled, composted and had a barn pail for food scraps that went to our family farm for barn cats. We had less garbage with two small children than families on our street with only two people in them. I still have a laundry line. On days when it’s not conducive to hang wash outside, I have drying racks I my laundry room. I have switched to environmentally responsive dish soap and laundry soap. I have reduced my single use plastics to the point that I have carried numerous purchases from the grocery store to my vehicle because I left my reusable bag in the back seat.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not perfect. I’ve made choices that didn’t put the environment first. I’m trying more and more every day. I think that’s what we all need to do – try harder.

Instead, grown adults are hurling insults at a child. Pointing the finger at Millennials. THEY are the ones who want new cell phones. THEY are the ones who are mass consumers. THEY should not be lecturing their elders about environmentalism because the older generation consumed milk out of glass bottles and diapered their babies in flannel nappies. Ok, I’ll concede that point…. But the kind of change needed isn’t limited to how we consume dairy products. It’s decades of abuse and neglect of resources that could only tolerate so much. Decades of cars with little if any emissions regulations. Decades of big businesses not being regulated for physical and air borne pollutants. Bucks before polar bears, right?

The semantics of “global warming” vs “climate change” makes me want to stab myself in the face. ToMAEto TomAto. Talk about fiddling while Rome is burning.

I did share a meme that listed a number of suggestions that people could try that would make a difference. Everything from laundry and shopping to reducing how much garbage we generate. Within hours I had a reply to this post.

“Some of these suggestions aren’t practical. JS (just saying)”

Really?!?

Fortunately I took a sober second thought and instead of ripping this “friend” a new one, I replied the common sense that was implied by the post.

“These are suggestions that we can draw from – even one or two can make a difference.”

DID I REALLY HAVE TO SAY THAT?

Yes. Yes I did.

Shame on US.

I get it. If you live in an apartment, you likely don’t have access to a laundry line. But you could pop up a drying rack. Just work with me here, ok?

Just try.

Not on the Side of a Milk Carton…Yet.

I could spend the next couple of paragraphs listing off reasons why I haven’t written but it’s old and stale, so I’m going to say thank you for coming back and reading this. You have the patience of Job. Gold star for you.

I and indeed my entire family have fallen into the rut of the runaway reality. You know, where the weekdays run into the weekend and the weekend rolls right into the next week, and rinse and repeat…

I’d love to wow you with stories of summer adventures, alas, the two weeks I have with The Big Guy were spent with he finishing the landscaping – the second stage of the home reno – and me watching him. My role was head cheerleader, food provider and to keep track of his fluid intake to ensure he didn’t dehydrate. Of course it was the hottest stretch of weather when he worked on the project.

At the end of the day, it is gorgeous and we are delighted. We’ve also made a pact that we won’t do any more home improvement for at least a year. There is a basement bathroom to finish, and we still have painted plywood in our bedroom – but we know that won’t hit the top 5 list any time soon.

If you could see me right now, you’d see that I am holding up my right hand. I am vowing to write more frequently. In fact – today is Thursday and I’m going to have at least one post within the next seven days.

Promise. 😀

I’m Slipping…or Not.

Truthfully, I thought I was losing my ever-lovin’ mind.

It’s bad enough that I have glasses that help me when my eyes are tired, but to lose a pair? Come one. I’m 47, not 87.

With the chaos settling around the house, there have been a couple of things that have gone “missing” temporarily, then found, as we all learn where things are going to be stored. I’ve even had a couple of good purge days where I was able to be merciless and toss or repurpose items that were not living up to their full potential.

But the glasses were gone. I couldn’t tell how long they had been gone. I just knew that any time I wanted to drive at night, I really felt like I would do better if I was wearing them.

Finally over the weekend, I got serious about locating the glasses. Fortunately I had my prescription sunglasses, but the other pair were GONE. I looked in places that I thought they might be. I looked in places that I knew they wouldn’t be. It’s like I had them and then, suddenly, I didn’t.

Both The Big Guy and Second Born Son were aware that I was looking for these glasses. SBS immediately indicated he had no idea where they were, but if he found them, he’d let me know. TBG, however, was far more invested.

As anyone knows, when you are looking for something, have someone making “helpful” suggestions is, in fact, far from an aid in the objective. TBG asked if I checked my purse. I had. He asked if I looked in the Jeep. I had. He asked if I looked in any of the new handy drawers in the kitchen. Of course I had – that was the first round of searching. He tried his “Dad Voice” on me, lecturing me about keeping track of my things. I reminded him that I already had a father and TBG need to slow his roll. I added the eyebrow for emphasis. I’m pretty sure my eyebrow trumps his Dad voice.

It wasn’t until Sunday that all was revealed. Heading out the door to grab some groceries, I happened to look up to the very top shelf of the front door closet and there they were; on the highest point on the highest shelf, in an area that I cannot reach without a stool to stand on. Remember, I am not short. I immediately knew what happened.

This shelf is a favorite of TBG’s for when he wants to quickly clear the hall the table of any items that he deems to be clutter, junk or simply don’t belong to him. I grabbed the nearest chair, hiked up to grab my glasses, and set out to find the father of my children.

I found him, unsurprisingly, cuddling Roman in the garage. Apparently I had interrupted a nail clipping session. Whatever. I held out the glasses for him to see. He was genuinely happy to see I had found them. Then asked the obvious question.

“Where did you find them?”

As I relayed the location of the glasses case, I could see the penny drop. He didn’t initially recall putting them there, and even tried to suggest that perhaps I had put them there, but couldn’t row that boat because he KNOWS I hate things being put up there. I would NEVER put my glasses there. He doubled down and tried to suggest that I should just be happy that I found them.

I suggested that he needs to stop “helping” me.

Because it’s causing me my sanity.

My Own Little Soap Opera

How does one explain one’s absence for half a year?

By being honest.

It’s been overwhelming.

<PAUSE> Yes, it’s early in the post for a “PAUSE”, but you need to know this is going to be long one, so take this moment to put on your seatbelt. Maybe a drink. And snacks. <PLAY>

Home reno. Work challenges. Physical challenges. Suffice it to say it all hit the fan at the beginning of August. Yes, I posted a lovely, if not sentimental entry on the 21st, but that, my friends, was Sarah cruising down the River Nile, De-nile if you will.

I do tend to be a “Glass half-full” kinda gal. I’ll power through a lot under the guise of ‘you can chose to be positive as easily as you choose to be negative.’ My theory was tested on August 3.

The Big Guy and I were heading out to pick up his aunt and uncle for ice cream in the Jeep. It was a lovely Friday evening. Our lactose laden dessert enjoyment was interrupted by a phone call from Second Born Son.

“I don’t want to ruin your visit with Aunt & Uncle,” he said, “and I don’t want you to panic (WHAT THA HELL?) but we have a ton of water coming into the basement right now.” he said.

Me – versed in the art of poker face, and trying desperately hard to not ask a million questions, calmly, and with a smile on my face, asked a couple of short, quick questions as I glided out of ear-shot of the family. I asked him to hold the fort and we’d be there ASAP.

“Oh, by the way, there’s no food here and I forgot to pick up something from work, so can you grab me a pizza for dinner,” he asked before resuming the bailing that was going on in our basement.

Yes, son. I can get you pizza. For the record “there’s no food here” means there’s nothing he WANTS to eat. I was not about to quibble. He was literally bailing out the basement.

With the serenity of Princess Grace, I drove the group back to the Aunt & Uncle’s house, then advised we couldn’t come in for the offered cup of coffee, because we had to get SBS’ pizza. As we rolled out of their line of sight, I updated TBG on the antics at the house. I then ordered pizza. It was ready as we rolled into town and we were back in our house within 10 minutes. It’s a 20 minute drive….but I digress.

We walked into the basement which looked like this…

2018-08-03 20.24.04What you see here is the carpet in our finished basement. It is saturated. On the left its the tarp on the massive storage hutch that is 10 feet long. It houses all of our photo albums, toys such as lego and board games. We don’t know it yet, but it’s saturated and will be tossed.

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This is but a sample of the buckets SBS had scattered throughout the room to catch the water that is coming though our finished ceiling. You can see how wet the carpet is – it’s only been 30 minutes.

2018-08-03 20.24.19This is one of two antique lights TBG has over his antique pool table. You can see the pool table in the lower half of the photo. He put the table cover, a quilt and industrial Saran Wrap on it to protect it. I teased him mercilessly about OCD. At this point, not only did I apologize for the razzing I put him through, but I also thanked him for doing so.

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Having run out of buckets, SBS thought quickly and started using coolers. More drips are coming through the ceiling.

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Here you can see the temporary wall that was put up to keep the finished basement from being overly impacted by the construction in the basement. BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

You can see the water marks coming through the ceiling tiles. Directly above the tiles is a trough that was cut in the floor upstairs. This was to allow trades to access wires, pipes from the kitchen that was being ripped apart, rather than taking down the basement ceiling. Cuz, you know, we didn’t want to take on another project.

BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

Dude. You laugh or you cry.

What happened was that around 6 p.m. there was a microburst – strong winds along with  a lot of rain. Because our windows had not arrived yet (due four days later) the opening for the large windows at the south of the house allowed a boat load of water into the house via the main floor. The wind drove the water 20 feet into the house, which is where the trough was cut, which allowed the water to “rain” into the finished basement.

Good times.

2018-08-03 20.22.14Here you can see the trough in the foreground. This is roughly half way into our original dining room. The water goes another 7 feet past this mark.

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This is our three-sided gas fireplace. You can see the water inside the fireplace. For those who don’t know, there is not supposed to be water inside a gas fireplace. See, learned something new today!

Within days the insurance company sent round a restoration crew to assess the damage. Their testing determined that the entire basement was compromised by water and would have to be gutted and rebuilt. All of our belongings that were displaced from the main floor were stored in the basement. Mostly in cardboard boxes.

BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH…you get the idea.

We just got ourselves another major project kids!

The restoration company was then tasked with removing the wood paneling, carpet and insulation. We had already removed the belongings and pulled out anything that had to be junked. They needed to come back a second time because they didn’t think the cork lining in the ceiling need to come down.

BWAHAHAHA.

There is so much more to the dealings we had with this company, but the one take away I will share with you is this…

This is my front foyer. In my front foyer, which is dark forest green, there is now a large white crack. I can span it with my forefinger and my thumb. This is the result of a hammer hitting the backside of the PLASTER wall – the basement as it were. This is damage done by the “wrecking crew” who removed the cork ceiling on the second trip.

NOW we have a front entrance that needs to be fixed. And painted. I need things to stop sliding downhill. TBG, SBS and I are basically living in our laundry room, which doubles as a kitchen, pantry and office. We are starting to strongly dislike each other. It’s nothing personal, it’s what is expected to happen when you cram people into too small a space for too long a time. SBS, never a morning person – yes, he’s my son, resents the tradesmen who are usually up and working in his house before he’s up and conscious in the morning.

Eventually, we start seeing progress.

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There were other little hiccups, like when the tint we agreed to for the gross orange brick didn’t turn out the way we hoped on the first try…

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See the dark brown brick? Yeah. that’s NOT the color we picked.

We did get it corrected, eventually.

Then we got the appliances delivered. And the range was damaged. It’s now the end of September. We are working with insurance to address the basement, and it becomes clear that if we want to get this basement done the way we would like to be, we need to take out the gaudy fireplace.

2018-09-30 09.10.512018-09-30 09.12.202018-09-30 09.18.252018-09-30 09.19.322018-09-30 09.19.422018-09-30 10.47.112018-09-30 19.54.40

It took an entire day to get it out and cleaned out. An entire day with three guys working on it. First Born Son regretting coming home that weekend, I can tell ya!

Trying to be a cooperative person, I tell the tradesmen that the basement project will not be started right away, but will need to be done before Christmas. This is to give us the finished space we need to access Christmas decorations and to have another area for guests to move into, and use the pool table (which was not – miracle of miracles – damaged) as we are entertaining both families on two different occasions this year.

I clean. And everything gets dirty moments later. I clean again. TBG and I installed the floor that runs from the existing living room all the way into the new kitchen and dining room. Naturally we do this on the hottest weekend of the summer.

My kitchen is put off a week at a time. I finally reach my limit and tell the cabinet maker, that I need SOMETHING to look finished. I need to see SOME progress. PLEASE FOR THE LOVE OF DOOR HANDLES CAN WE FINISH SOMETHING???

He takes pity upon me and gets the installation set. It is a revelation. Slowly, things start getting better. We are able to move out of the laundry room. The workers aren’t coming every day any more so SBS is much happier. I have a dishwashers, so I’M much happier. TBG keeps paying bills.

Then, one magical day in November, it was done. The fireplace was activated and the range hood was installed. These were the final aspects of the upstairs project. We won’t take about the basement because even though there’s flooring and painted drywall, there’s so much more to do down there.

But upstairs is a dream….

I’m a little obsessed with the dining room table – a great find by TBG. It’s 14 ft long and 54 inches wide. It’s AMAZING. The light is a collection of bulbs distributed by a ladder that came from TBG’s farm. We learned over the holidays that is is more than 150 years old and was made by the same person who built the family’s barn. Such a treasure!

Now, as I sit in the living room, looking at the dining room, having made two relatively stress-free Christmas meals in the enlarged kitchen, I can say that it was worth it. The ground broke the first week of June and we were able to use all aspects of the kitchen by the end of November. Some things were more challenging than we expected, but we have been positive. You know you are doing well when the contractors tell you you are patient people! lol

It’s a thrill to be in this space. To see a dream realized. To enjoy the home the way you imagined it could be.

Thank you all for your patience. Here’s to 2019 – it will have to work hard to compare to 2018!