Things That Go Bump in the Night

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It’s hard to sleep tucked up in my lonely bed. I often read to pass the lonesome hours. Sometimes reading makes me sleepy, but other times, if the story is too stimulating, it has the opposite effect.

At home without my sailor I should have known better than to choose a vampire novel and not just any vampire story, but one written by the king–Stephen King.

I read the opening chapters hoping the unspeakable evil would bypass Jerusalem’s Lot, the novel’s bucolic setting. Of course, it didn’t and the malicious vampire arrived to suck his way though the unwary populace.

Deep into the novel, the plot was gaining intensity. The heroes had arrived at little Mark’s house to warn his parents about the new monster in town when the lights suddenly went out. (Anytime the lights dim in a movie or novel, you know it’s not going to end well.) In this case the fiend strode forth from the shadows, angry a group of mere mortals were attempting to thwart him and thirsty, terribly thirsty.

This was enough for me at zero dark thirty–time to put the book down.

I clicked off my lamp and gasped loud enough to disturb a snoozing Chihuahua. My room was black as the tomb.

My nightlight had burned out!

I’m certain there is some obscure law of physics to explain why a nightlight only burns out on a night you are home without your sailor and have just read something really really scary.

I chewed my thumbnail and looked around. Was that a faint scratching at the window? With a whimper I assumed the universal posture of the scaredy cat–I huddled under the covers and hoped for the best.

The next morning me and my big under eye circles went shopping for a replacement nightlight and a new welcome mat. (My research indicates a vampire can only enter a home if he’s been welcomed in. I’m not taking any chances.)

The Grateful Diaries

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I am grateful for hair stylists.

I spent the better part of today at the salon getting my hair fixed. Anyone who has ever seen my hair in its natural state knows this time frame is not an exaggeration.

A few years ago, I modelled in a charity fashion show at the Wardroom in Halifax. A fellow model (and still a good friend) convinced her hair dresser to donate an evening of her services to the cause we were supporting. Woo hoo! We had a professional stylist on site to prepare us for the cat walk!

When she introduced me to her hair dresser, my friend said, “This is Nanette, the one I told you about. She has difficult hair.”

“I see what you mean,” said the stylist, giving me the once over. “I’ll plan to spend a little extra time on her.”

Fast forward to this afternoon.

I left the salon feeling pretty darn good. My hair was silky, straight and resplendent with subtle caramel coloured highlights. If only my sailor was around to appreciate my new look!

I stopped at the grocery store to pick up a few things. The cashier was a woman I know slightly because I once taught her son. She is a lovely lady and a dedicated and devoted mother.

I said hello.

She peered at me for a moment before answering.

“I didn’t recognize you. Your hair looks nice!”

That’s how I learned I still have difficult hair.

Skinned Knees and Flattened Dogs

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Disclosure–no dogs were actually flattened or otherwise harmed in the writing of this post.

(I love all animals, dogs especially, and I support the SPCA through regular pay roll deductions so when I thought I drove over a small dog this afternoon, I was shaken, not stirred, and quite upset.)

Our department met for a going away lunch for a counsellor who is moving to a different district. Despite the weather forecaster’s promise of a cloudy dry day, it was misty, almost drizzly. Naively believing the forecast, I wore a jacket without a hood and left my umbrella at home. By lunch time my hair had swollen to grotesque proportions in the humidity, and as usual, I was running late, but I absolutely wasn’t speeding. I drove with my normal care and attention.

I passed a vehicle parked on the side of the street as the driver opened the back door. A small, Jack Russell-y dog leapt out and ran, seemingly straight under my car. I slammed on the brakes, my heart thumping like a jack hammer.

The dog’s owner, a weasly little man considerably less attractive than his pet, waved me on. “He’s fine!” He yelled. “You missed him!”

I never actually saw the dog when I looked in the rear view mirror, but I checked the car when I arrived at the restaurant and didn’t see any bits of dog stuck to the tires, so I have to believe I didn’t flatten that lovely little terrier.

Inside one of our group decided to take a series of photos to record the event for a co-worker who couldn’t make it. Given my frantically beating heart and earlier discussed hair issues, I didn’t want my picture taken, but she persevered, taking numerous shots from different angles from each end of the table to get all of us in. I looked away.

What’s the etiquette around taking the picture of someone who obviously doesn’t want to be photographed? Surely, having the technology to take multiple photos anywhere, anytime doesn’t give one the right to do so.

Oh, and the skinned knee? My boy fell down playing dodge ball in PE and now has a huge seeping scab as big as his knee cap.

I had to grab him a band aid on my way to the wine after school.

Rice Pudding, Part Deux

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In my never-ending quest to rediscover the yummy baked rice pudding of my childhood, I tried a different recipe.

This one is from ladyredspecs at Please Pass the Recipe. It’s quite simple, apparently transcribed from someone’s grandmother’s 1907 edition of Mrs. Beeton’s.

I followed this recipe to the letter–almost. I seem to have a pathological need to change recipes. Occasionally my alterations result in genius (well, maybe not genius–who am I kidding.) Most of the time, I learn the hard way why not everyone is cut out to write their own recipes. In this case, I used a mixture of canned and fresh milk, added a splash of vanilla extract and, because I still hadn’t bought short grain rice, long grain it was.

Today’s effort is getting closer to my dear old mom’s version. Except for the long grain rice. It looked like plump juicy maggots in the bowl–not the most appealing image. (There’s a reason all the good cooks recommend short grain.)

Although my boy honestly declared it wasn’t quite up to Kosy Shack standards and he carefully picked off each sliver of leathery skin from the top, he did go back for seconds.

If he ate it, I can assume I’m making progress on the rice pudding front.

My goal: perfect rice pudding by the time my sailor returns from Afghanistan. Raised by a Canadian mother, the homemade treats of his childhood include pumpkin pie and Rice Crispies treats, but everyone needs a bit of Wales in their kitchen.

Worst of all . . .

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Standards are slipping.

I haven’t vacuumed in so long we’re ankle deep in Chihuahua hair. I’ve given up on dusting. We’re the only house on our street with an angora mantle piece.

But it’s the personal transformation that’s more concerning.

I’m looking pretty rough these days.

If it wasn’t for the bright red blemishes appearing across my face with alarming frequency, I’d be offered a senior’s discount because I’ve become so pale and haggard.

I’ve pretty much given up on contact lenses. It’s easier just to pull on my thick, spinster-style glasses in the morning.

Worst of all (and it pains me to even share this) I wore yoga pants to the mall!

I’ve reached the point where the dog, in her jaunty sweaters, in dressing better than me.

If my sailor doesn’t come home soon, he won’t recognize me.

Quiet, The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain

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“Balance teaching methods to serve all the kids in your class. Extroverts tend to like movement, stimulation and collaborative work. Introverts prefer lectures, down time and independent projects. Mix it up fairly.” (348)

My boy is quiet. That’s the way he is and there’s nothing wrong with it.

He has a teacher who seems to disagree. The few times we’ve spoken, she’s commented on his personality.

“He’s a good student, but so reserved.”

“He seems to be settling into my class even though he’s quite shy.”

Every positive statement is followed by a qualifier implying she’s assessed my boy’s character and found it lacking because it doesn’t match her own, more gregarious one.

Her job is not to judge my son (or any other child). Her job is to get to know each of her students and teach to their particular strength.

In the old days kids were fed information in a top-down model from a teacher as expert. It was pretty much a sink or swim experience. The kids who did well in this highly structured environment were successful at school. Kids who needed a different approach, not so much.

Teaching has gotten more complicated as we’ve learned more about the brain, how we learn as individuals and how experiences like poverty, abuse or neglect can impact learning.

If this teacher opens her eyes and sees each student as a unique person, she’ll discover my boy’s not the only introvert in the class (studies show one third to one half of us are introverts). She’ll employ strategies to enable him and his fellow quiet kids to reach their potential. While doing that, she can’t forget the extroverts and must also plan activities to tap into their particular strengths. It’s a balancing act that good teachers seem to get intuitively.

She should read Quiet, not just so she can better understand my son, but all the introverted, thoughtful children with whom she will come into contact through her career.

It’s given me lots to digest as a mother, a teacher and an introvert who has always felt like a bit of a loser because I’m just not as social and charming as some of my extroverted friends.

Bye Bye, Babies

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Ugh–the house is full up to the rafters. I don’t know how (or why) we accumulated so much stuff, but it’s dragging me down.

I read decorating magazines and watch HGTV relentlessly. I’m realistic enough to admit I’ll never have a perfect house like the ones featured, but I still look for inspiration. Maybe my house can resemble a professionally decorated home if the lights are dim or I’m not wearing corrective lenses.

The secret of these shows finally struck me one evening after Sarah Richardson unveiled a kitchen to die for–there’s no clutter! It’s the same reason a hotel room is so appealing and soothing when you first check in. All the surfaces are clean and clear. There’s room to move.

I’d like to see a show where they follow-up on these newly designed spaces a month or so later. I bet we’d see coffee makers, toasters, half-eaten loaves of bread and, if the homeowners are like me, an overflowing basket of bits and pieces that don’t fit in the junk drawer because it’s too full.

Now I’ve cracked the code, I can work toward my goal of a house that doesn’t exhaust me because it’s over stuffed.

De-cluttering is in full speed–handbags and clothing for the consignment store, more clothing, books and household objects for the SPCA thrift store.

I’m not the only one.

Everyone seems to be in the mood of lightning and emptying. When visiting friends, I’ve learned not to complement anything as they’ll pack it up and send it home with me. (This is how I ended up with a pashmina, a vase and a set of cushions that are currently taking space in the spare bedroom in the basement.)

I’m guilty of this myself, sending various guests home with a teapot, a pot plant and even a set of curtains.

If I can work fast enough, I’ll be able to enjoy a lovely, uncluttered home for a little while before all the Christmas parcels and presents begin arriving.