Take My Wisdom Teeth, Please

by , on
October 11, 2017

When I was a kid I didn’t hate going to the dentist. It was usually just fine. Until I had to get a retainer.

Actually, even then I didn’t really mind because I always wanted to be like my older sister. But I grew to hate my retainer, and when they told me they wanted to put braces on me as well as the retainer I said no.

I’m not sure if that’s when I stopped seeing that dentist, but that time did come. For a time I just stopped going, until I was 18 and I had a big, painful cavity that I could not ignore any more. That is when I went to an emergency dentist near my house who used her entire body weight to pull what turned out to be a baby tooth that had never fallen out. It was a horrible experience. She lectured me. It was painful. I’ve never forgotten.

And then my mother told me that she had found a new dentist. A woman she quite liked, and I should try her out too.

I like that dentist. I went to visit her regularly until I moved away for school, and when I came back she had retired and handed her practice over to a man who froze my jaw to fill a cavity and then walked away and left me sitting there for more than 30 minutes.

Seriously. I sat there staring at the ceiling and trying to figure out if I could just storm out, and whether I would be able to enunciate enough to explain the problem. I never wanted to go back to him, but I also ran out of insurance so I couldn’t go back either way.

When I was pregnant – and employed with dental coverage – I realized it was really time to go back. I waited until after birth, since I was scared that I would need treatment and would then have to weigh my options. I asked Facebook and Twitter for recommendations and made an appointment.

It’s been 7 years, 9 fillings, 5 root canals, 3 wisdom teeth removed and 2 crowns, and I love my dentist. She is kind, funny, gentle. She’s from Cape Breton for God’s sake. She is matter-of-fact about the treatments I need and very cautious when it comes to pain management.

She is such a good dentist that even my sister, who hates dentists more than I do, sees her on a regular basis and likes her. And now my kid gets to see her too, and likes her. My kid doesn’t stress about going to the dentist at all.

And a funny thing has happened since I started seeing a dentist I like. I have listened to her advice, I have gone for my regular cleanings and check-ups. I have started flossing like I have been told to for decades. The result of all of this? Clean check-ups. I had no cavities 6 months ago, no cavities today.

It’s almost as though the experts were right all along.

And with that, I share this classic. Gets me every time.

Taking An Opportunity

by , on
October 10, 2017

My husband went out on Friday night and the kid was feeling restless. I wanted to just lie down and read my book, but she wanted to do this or that. Finally at around 6:30 pm I started googling and I decided we would go on an adventure, the kid and me. I picked out some warmer clothes for her and didn’t tell her anything, just to bring her iPad and headphones.

There are almost always things going on in Ottawa. We are the capital of the country, after all, and this year the 150th has brought a whole bunch of celebrations to our sleepy little city. I considered Mosaicanada, which closes on October 15, but we didn’t have time to get there before it shut down for the day. I considered Mìwàte, the illumination at Chaudiere Falls, which just started this weekend, but I wasn’t convinced I wouldn’t get lost trying to find a parking spot.

And then one of the lists of things to do I subscribe to reminded me of Pumpkinferno at Upper Canada Village.

Pumpkinferno is a glorious display of carved pumpkins, lit up in all colours. I knew it would be beautiful, and I hoped the kid would think it was magical.

Unfortunately, our adventure turned into a bit of a debacle, and I will now offer advice to anyone going to Pumpkinferno at Upper Canada Village:
1) Buy your tickets online in advance (there were two lines and the one for ticket holders was much, much faster)

2) Get there early. It took us about 30 minutes 2 km down Upper Canada Rd. And then we had to find parking, walk to the front, find the end of the ticket line and wait again. I think if we had gotten there before the 7 pm start it all would have been much smoother.

3)Bring provisions. I would have brought more water and snacks if I had realized just how long we would be out.

4) Bring entertainment for the kids. If she hadn’t had her iPad during that crawl to the finish line things would have gotten ugly.

Overall, Pumpkinferno was very cool and Joe said the kid was 80 per cent positive when she told him all about it the next morning. But seeing a Chinese dragon carved our of I don’t know how many pumpkins, walking through a pumpkin forest, seeing the classics and looking into space, was pretty freaking magical.

Still, the debacle – which is a great word, by the way – made me hungry to experience a little more hometown tourism. I have heard so many things about Mosaicanada that I didn’t want to miss it, but I also hadn’t taken the opportunity to just go at any point during the summer. We were going to be downtown adjacent this weekend, so I decided that’s what we would do Monday morning, since we celebrate Thanksgiving on Sunday.

And then we woke up and it was raining. But I said screw it, we won’t get another chance, let’s get dressed appropriately, get down there and see what the weather is like.

The weather, it turned out, was very wet. But when what you’re looking at is a bunch of floral art, wet is pretty much okay.

Both of these little day trips were a little bit about Canada, a little bit about Indigenous peoples, a little bit about art and celebration. Two very different mediums used to make magical things.

I get the feeling we should not miss some more can’t miss things in this great little city of ours.

In The Dark

by , on
October 8, 2017

As a kid, I used to devour Time Life books about the supernatural and unsolved mysteries. I re-read Scary Stories To Tell In the Dark over and over again. For most of my life I have been fascinated by the Zodiac and Jack the Ripper.

I spent weekday evenings with Robert Stack.

And I thought I was weird and that this fascination was shameful until the internet came along and I discovered that I am just one of a population of people with a curiosity about the strange, the unexplainable, the depraved.

If I had my way, when you die you get to find out the truth about all the mysteries and conspiracies – who killed JFK, who was Jack the Ripper. And the whys. Why did this serial killer or that mass murderer do what they did. What was wrong with Aunt Diane? What happened to those three kids in West Memphis (those three kids being Stevie Branch, Michael Moore and Chris Byers, the actual murder victims – Surprise, the Paradise Lost documentaries are biased towards the accused). Who killed JonBenet? Where was Asha Degree going? Did Adnan Syed kill Hae Min Lee?

Is the theory that OJ was covering for his son true?

The fact is that barring deathbed confessions, we will probably never know the answers to these mysteries, and that’s part of the reason it’s so fascinating to delve into them and try to work it all out. It’s a giant puzzle.

Then again

by , on
October 6, 2017

If I could talk to 15 years ago me, she would be astounded.

Poor little 21-year-old me thought she knew exactly the way her life was going to go. She was doing really well in school and had her path planned out – become one of the best sports journalists in the country, travel, write a book.

She’s going to have her dreams crushed a few times before she re-jigs. And once she re-jigs, this dude is going to walk right in and change her whole life.

That instead of being a spinster, working, writing and travelling, she will be a married suburban mother with a Masters degree. And a schnauzer. Her heart will be full.

In fifteen years she will have graduated with a diploma and two degrees, she will have met a man, moved in with him, bought a dog, gotten married, had a baby and bought a house. She will have been a close-up witness to history while working on Parliament Hill. She will have major disappointments in her early 20s and recover from them all by her 30s.

And while she thinks she understands herself at 21, she’ll only begin to have a grasp after her 30th birthday, when she suddenly has all the things she had convinced herself she never wanted. And she will be at peace with all the things she has let go.

I would also tell her to change for the reception, she’ll be more comfortable.


Dog Days

by , on
October 5, 2017

There are many reasons that working from home works for me, but the gift of time is my favourite.

I get to read the news, put my daughter on the bus and then hang out with my dog while I type away on my computer.

He’s an old dog, and I get to be here with him, patting him, walking him, cuddling him or just leaving him alone to sleep. I know it will come to an end, sooner than I would like, so I’ll take what I can get. He’s my buddy.

We’ve had times like this before. I was a student when he came to live with us, so I had more time at home, including two weeks of Christmas break when he was brand new and teeny. That very first night he cried the whole time and none of us got any sleep, but then after Joe left for work the puppy and I napped together for the first time. It was lovely.

I took mat leave early, expecting the baby to come around her actual due date, and he and I took naps and walks and had a nice little baby moon before his spot on my lap was overtaken by a small, screaming thing that he didn’t understand. He’s gotten quite used to the routine. We walk the kid to the bus, take a stroll around the block, and when we get back he runs upstairs and into the office, settling in his dog bed while I get seated at my computer. If I have to go into the bedroom to get something or, as last week, I work from there because I have to work lying down, resting my back, he’ll cuddle right up to me. Sometimes being rather forceful about receiving head pats.

Puppy being subtle

He really appreciates when I take the time to work on the deck – which I’m doing whenever the weather suits, while I can. I set up my laptop and he roams around, sniffing out all the new smells, lying in the sun, or sometimes just standing back and letting the wind blow in his ears.

He’s a very good dog. He chose us that first day that we met him, and I’ve loved him dearly ever since. Even when he ran out the front door on my wedding day and I had to chase him down while wearing my dress. Jerk. But chase him down I did. Because he’s the puppy.

Now he’s in the twilight of his life and I’m not quite sure what I’ll do without him. So I’ll try to make the most of whatever time he has left. We’ve already had two close calls, times when I thought we were going to have to say goodbye. The first was seven years ago and he still suffers from it – one leg is partially paralyzed and he’s having more and more trouble with the stairs. Two bladder surgeries, seizures, a heart murmur and a bad thyroid. Thousands of dollars at the emergency vet.

But he’s my buddy, and I’d do it all again.

It’s all political

by , on
October 4, 2017

There are people who say they don’t like to talk about politics. People who complain that athletes or actors should stay out of politics. People who don’t want to get political. These people fascinate me, because as far as I’m concerned life is political.

Movies and TV shows are political, sports is political. The weather is political. How you choose to spend your time is political. The fights you choose to stay out of or ignore, how you choose to spend your time – those are political decisions you’re making.

I don’t believe that a person exist who does not have opinions on something. Who does not have beliefs about right and wrong.

I do believe that by ‘not being political’ you are doing just that. Staying silent is the choice you’ve made. When I stay silent it is to listen to the voices of those who know better than I do. When I stay silent I’m not actually silent, I’m trying to amplify the voices that need to be heard.

Some days that’s all I can do. Some days I spend educating myself. Some days I protest.

Some days I lie in bed wondering what the hell is going on. But never do I stop caring. I am unable.

In fact, I am so unable that I can’t fathom those people who seem to walk around in ignorant bliss. Is it really easier to ignore it all?

In Quebec City With the Sea Mammals

by , on
September 27, 2017

At the very end of the summer I took a few days of vacation, too advantage of Via Rail’s summer deal allowing kids to ride the train for a mere $15, and took a page from my bucket list, and off to Quebec City we went, just me and the kid.

I booked the train and the hotel and nothing else for us. We knew we wanted to visit the aquarium, and I wanted to visit the old city that Quebec is so well known for, maybe get out to the historic Plains of Abraham. I asked friends if they had any suggestions and suggestions they had.

Not one, not two, but three fellow parents told me the Museum of Civilization was a must.

We had a good time on the train, the two of us, and lots of space, but the cab ride to our hotel was something else. After being inside the train for six hours we had wind on our faces and beauty all around us. Steep hills and shining water.

As we settled into the hotel (after we went for a swim) I tried to plan our two days there. We had one full day, and most of a second as our train back didn’t leave until 3 pm. The aquarium was walking distance from out hotel, but the old city was decidedly not.

The kid wanted to do the aquarium first and foremost, above all else, but I made a deal with her and we agreed that our full day would be spent on a hop-on, hop-off tour bus. One that stopped at this kid-friendly musée. We hopped off there, and at the Plains of Abraham (where we had ice cream, because what else do you do at such a historic location?)

The star of day one, though, was nothing that we saw on the bus tour. Quebec City during the summer has, right at the base of a statue of Jacques Cartier that apparently doesn’t actually have his face, buskers performing every 30 minutes to crowds of tourists. And we happened to arrive back from our tour, too early for our shuttle back to the hotel, right as two acrobats began their performance. My kid, the gymnast, was enthralled. She didn’t want to leave – until I told her the next shuttle would be a two-hour wait.

And then finally on day three we walked down to the aquarium.

While we saw fish, stingrays, all kinds of seals and polar bears, the stars of our visit were the walruses.

When she was younger, my kid would do cartwheels anywhere, anytime, all the time. She did cartwheels so much of the time that I started taking pictures in different locations and posting them to a cartwheel album on Facebook, and I promised my friends that we would get plenty of Quebec City cartwheels.

When the walruses started coming up to the glass to check out the people checking them out, I saw an opportunity. I stood back, got my camera ready and told the kid to wait until she saw the walrus back at the glass and then do her cartwheel. So she did, and I snapped.

And then it became apparent that walruses are fascinated by cartwheels.

All this to say: We made new friends.

Granting permission

by , on
September 27, 2017

I remember turning 18 when I was in high school (because I went to high school in Ontario when you did that) and suddenly having the power to sign for myself.

If I felt sick, I signed myself out, if I got my report card, I handed the slip right back with the signature I was still practicing. That was the most obvious sign that I was suddenly an adult.

(Also the time I signed myself in late because I had gone to vote).

And here we are almost two decades later and I find myself, inconceivably, signing school forms for my own child.

It was another sign of how very fast time flies that dawned on me when she handed over a form I had forgotten to sign last week.

One would think that having a 7-year-old, the grey hairs on my head, or even celebrating my 10th wedding anniversary would suggest to me that I am an adult (not to mention the fact that it has been almost two decades since high school – class of 2000 y’all). And I’ve voted many, many times since them. Oh, and owning a house in the suburbs with two cars and a dog.

12-year-old dog who has been with us since he was a puppy.

But still, mentally, I feel about 17 years old. Not quite ready to sign my own permission slips.

I mean, my sense of style hasn’t changed much and my confidence still lacks – possibly because I regularly forget all the things I have done between then and now.

And, of course, this leads me to think back to when I was 7, which doesn’t seem like 30 years ago, and my own 7-year-old, who will be 17 before we know it, and then 36. Only then will she believe me when I tell her how fast time moves. Hopefully I will feel like a grown up by then.


by , on
September 22, 2017

My grandfather would probably scoff, loudly, if I even insinuated that he is a feminist. That’s not the world he grew up in. He went to university, got married and took care of his family. He still does. He spent his life doing what a man is supposed to do.

But without my grandfather in my life, things would have been very different for me, and I wouldn’t have become the strong independent woman that I am. I would be a completely different person, I think. If I hadn’t been so sure of being on my own and taking care of myself, I wouldn’t have the marriage that I have today. I wouldn’t have the daughter that I have today – I would be someone totally different, and so would she.

My grandfather would never call himself a feminist, but he prepared me for the world. He spent my childhood teaching me how to build and repair things. He taught me how to drive, and while he was doing that he also taught me how to change a tire, so I would never be stranded.

When I moved away for school he gave me a gift – my own tool box, fully stocked with tools I might needs to take care of my apartment. My hammer has my initials carved into it.

Perhaps most importantly, he continued to not only support me, but tell me how proud he was of me, through every misstep.

He wasn’t raising me to be a feminist, he was raising me to be a competent adult. I just became a feminist along the way.

Strands of time

by , on
September 13, 2017

I seem to have moved from finding my first grey hair to rapidly going grey over the past year or two.

I was excited to find my first grey hair – or white, really, though it’s hard to tell against my medium brown. It felt like something concrete to demonstrate my adulthood. Like people can’t necessarily see my decade-old marriage or my little girl, the house we own together, my degrees and job experience. But a person can see the grey at my temples and judge that I have a bit of life experience.

But now that the greys are coming swiftly, and I know that I likely won’t dye it away, I am concerned about not recognizing myself.

I have always had dark hair. Even when it lightened up a bit over summers it was dark. When I was in my 20s I had a habit of dying it an even darker brown (and got many a compliment). Once I dyed it purple, but never bleached it beforehand.

I have never, ever seen myself with light hair and I seem to be going the way of my Tutu (mother’s mother) and turning not just grey but bright white.

I find it so strange. I’m not particularly afraid of dying, but I am afraid of what aging will do to me. Will I get cancer like several members of my family, will I get Alzheimers and will they have a good treatment for it by that time, will I have a massive heart attack one day like my father.

I’ve done a few 5k races over the past couple of years – I’m doing another on Sunday – and I have found that when it gets really tough, when my hips hurt and it’s hot and my feet are cement, then my brain starts thinking more about what I’m doing to it and why, and my brain answers: I will not age like my mother. I will not. Age has not been kind to her, though in a lot of ways life just hasn’t been kind. But there are health issues that I’m dealing with right now that I do not want to be dealing with in half a lifetime. If I make it that far.

I know people who relish each and every sign of aging, because it means they are still here. Lord knows the thought of missing any little bit of my daughter’s life hurts my heart.

I’m not afraid of getting old, but realizing how fast life moves gives me pause. I’m not afraid of dying, but I’m afraid of missing out.

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