A Use For Small Talk

After discovering a large, rapidly growing puddle in my basement, I called my mother to get the phone number of her friend who is a contractor. While reciting his contact information, she accidently switched two of the digits which led to the following sequence of events.

I call the random number, because it is long distance, the man does not pick up. Hence I begin to text about my household issue to the random number, who I still think is Garry’s*, my mother’s contractor friend. At the same time, the wrong number recipient reconsiders failing to answer my call, figuring that it may be a long lost relative offering him money, or a cruise, or a hooker. Actually I’m not sure about the last one; he seemed like a standup guy, although I’m fairly certain he would have accepted the money or the trip. At any rate, the mystery man, who I think is my mother’s contractor friend, calls me back while I am texting about my small basement lake.

The Great Unwashed – Hello! Gary, thank you so much for calling me back.

Mystery Man who is not Garry- Hello? (Admittedly I found it odd that his voice sounded so different on the phone from in person but I forged ahead with the conversation.)

The Great Unwashed-  It’s Unwashed, the Great Unwashed, there’s water in my basement. Like a lot of water. A large puddle actually. Is this a problem? I don’t know what to do, I mean I’m considering getting frog eggs and growing some tadpoles in there but besides that, I haven’t a clue. Also the puddle is located between the only two useful parts of my basement; the stairs and the laundry machine which means I have to walk around the side through the den of spiders if I want to wash my sheets. This is bothersome today because Maddie, my dog just dried her wet, muddy fur on my bed.

Random Guy who is not Garry and is super confused- Um. I. I’m not who you’re looking for.

The Great Unwashed- You’re not?

Complete Stranger – No. You have the wrong number.

The Great Unwashed- Do you know anything about basements? Because your number is the only one I have at the moment.

Kindly and Extremely Understanding Stranger who is still talking to me  despite the fact that it’s long distance and using his minutes- Only the average amount of  basement knowledge.

The Great Unwashed- Well I have a sub-average amount of knowledge about basements, obviously given that I’m considering growing frogs in mine.

A pause while the recipient of my wrong number considers this thought.

The Great Unwashed realizing that my calamity has reached new heights as it’s now pulling in people I don’t know, who don’t live in my city- You know what? It’s ok. You have yourself a good night.

Somewhat Confused Mystery Man- You too.

I had always thought pleasantries and small talk were a waste of time. Now I see that their usefulness lies in figuring out early on that you’ve called the wrong person before you tell them all about your house owning woes and plans to breed Kermit the Frog next to the washer and dryer.

Kermit is feeling unsure about living in my muddy, flooded basement. (Photo Credit: Jim Henson Productions)

Kermit is feeling unsure about living in my muddy, flooded basement. (Photo Credit: Jim Henson Productions)

*Names have been changed to protect the identities of contractors I later got in touch with and coached me through a muddy situation.

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Bedtime Stories for King Charles Cavalier Spaniels

Once there was a girl. She was beautiful, interesting and funny. For the sake of preserving her lovely identity I called her Sula. But then she began a blog of her own and used her actual name: Lisa.

This is Lisa. I told you she was beautiful. (Photo Credit : Northofthegrid.com)

This is Lisa. I told you she was gorgeous. (Photo Credit : Northofthegrid.com)

Lisa is the modern day Wonderwoman; she makes her own jams, roasts pigs on spits, goes on grand adventures in the wilderness, was scooped up by the government to work on important projects, all the while keeping a spotless house and entertaining no less than fifteen people at a time.

When I see t head scarf, I know she means business. (Photo Credit: northofthegrid.com)

When I see this head scarf, I know she means business. (Photo Credit: northofthegrid.com)

And she was my best friend. And I loved her. And I’m pretty certain she at minimum tolerated me, because we spent every Thursday night together, and some Sundays, often another evening too. Our project nights that were spent working on quilts and scrapbooks were precious. When a mutual friend was asked whether he ever hung out with the two of us he replied “When you get close to them, they hiss and spit.”

I relayed this anecdote to Lisa one night sitting in front of her fireplace while she carefully constructed an ornament to go in her Christmas cards. (It was May, did I mention how organized she is?) Laughing she replied “I can’t refute that.”

This is her boyfriend. His back spans the width of a Volkswagon. I considered fighting him for Lisa, but it didn't seem wise. (Photo Credit: northofthegrid.com)

This is her boyfriend. His back spans the width of a Volkswagon. I considered fighting him for Lisa, but it didn’t seem wise. (Photo Credit: northofthegrid.com)

Then the inevitable happened. Lisa dreamed bigger. Having a Bachelors and a Masters of Science was simply not enough. Universities fell over one another vying for Lisa to study for her Doctorate in their hallowed halls. Eventually she chose a program and a school four hours away. The day Lisa accepted the offer was jubilant, sure it meant she would move, but that was months and months from now. The task of the day was to open a bottle of wine and celebrate.

But gradually, our Thursday Project Nights passed until suddenly it was February and Lisa was to start packing soon. Taking a deep breath Lisa and I reminded ourselves of the many weeks we had left together. But then the dark winter days lengthened and suddenly Lisa’s house was a labyrinth of boxes. My cherished Thursday night hideaway was gone, buried, under piles of outdoor gear and cooking utensils. Then the terrible day arrived when Lisa loaded up her truck one last time and left my city, formerly our city, forever. The only one who was more heartbroken than me, was the young man in the photo.

I comforted myself with the fact that my dear friend was moving onto better things; to study shore birds in the arctic circle, to rub shoulders with the best and brightest of Canada’s scientists, to chase after her dream of becoming a world renowned ornithologist.

 

Ornithologists study these creatures. (Photo Credit :northofthegrid.com)

Ornithologists study these guys. (Photo Credit :northofthegrid.com)

At the very least, I could content myself with the knowledge that Lisa left me to care for the one creature she loves most in the world.

This is the greeting that Maddie receives from most people. She's an exceptionally adorable pup. (Photo Credit : northofthegrid.com)

This is the greeting that Maddie receives from most people. She’s an exceptionally adorable pup. (Photo Credit : northofthegrid.com)

And that I can visit her anytime I like when she returns from her northern adventure.

If you would like to read more about Lisa and her wild, adventurous life, check out her blog:

northofthegrid.com

It’s a great resources for scientists and people who don’t camp in the Arctic circle for months on end alike.

 

Vintage Underpants: The Great Untapped Resource

Among my family and friends, I am known for being frugal. I go to great lengths to protect both the environment and my pocketbook. As a die hard conservationist, I am always on the look out for new uses for old possessions. While studying a pair of holey underoos the other day, an idea came to me; underpants- a long ignored, near natural resource. Found in every home and often on many a person, this sometimes hot, sweaty commodity has many uses.

Look out solar power, granny panties are about to to become the next big thing in environmentalism. (Photo Credit: target.com)

Look out solar power, granny panties are about to become the next big thing in environmentalism. (Photo Credit: target.com)

A Protest Against The Neighbour’s Annoying Wind Chimes

Can’t bring yourself to steal that tinkling nuisance, that keeps you awake, from the house next door? Tie your husband’s old tightie whities together in an artful pattern and string them proudly across your house like a set of summer cotton Christmas lights. Then offer to make a trade with your neighbour; you take down yours and I’ll take down mine.

Just wait until you see my boxer brief Christmas wreath. (Photo Credit: tillerytimes.blogspot.com)

Just wait until you see my boxer brief Christmas wreath. (Photo Credit: tillerytimes.blogspot.com)

A Quilt That You’ll Never Have To Share

Stitching your old undergarments into the world’s grossest blanket is a win win winter situation; warm toes and you’ll never worry about anyone taking it. Unless of course you own a dog, in which case that baby’ll be toast or possibly an appetizer depending on the time of day that your canine eats it. Women’s underwear are the most common item to be surgically removed from dogs’ stomachs

Women's underwear are the most common item to be surgically removed from dogs' stomachs. Also I feel like this artist would appreciate a underpants quilt. (Photo Credit: www.bitrebels.com)

This artist would appreciate a underpants quilt. (Photo Credit: http://www.bitrebels.com)

Bring Your Family Closer By Instilling a Uniform

Pull a Madonna and force your nearest and dearest to wear their old boxer briefs outside of their clothing at all times. The teasing and humiliation will inspire a sense of loyalty as you take turns shielding one another from mocking.

Middle age husbands rock this look. (Photo Credit : main.stylelist.com)

Middle age husbands rock this look. Or at least that’s what you’ll need to tell them. (Photo Credit : main.stylelist.com)

Use It Up, Wear It Out, Make It Work, Do Without

Old underwear are never truly used up, there’s always a swath of fabric to be saved, use these tiny scraps to patch your other less worn underwear. Who needs Victoria Secret when you have underpants that look like they were made by a schizophrenic five year old wielding a glue gun? Of course you could do without, but that option gets pretty chilly in Canada for most of the year and you’d be depriving yourself of what is clearly the next big trend in environmentalism.

These are just a couple of suggestions for your old bikini briefs. Do you have any more? Share them in the comments!

Negligence and Garbage Soup

I was caught in a garbage-poo-water tidal wave on Friday. It was a situation of my own making, which is frustrating because when you’re left standing completely soaked from the waist down, smelling like a mixture of old socks and rancid chicken, you only have one person to blame.

The Friday before last was garbage day and the truck arrived to empty the containers before I left for work. Ordinarily I would have left the bins on the curb but that day my grandparents were supposed to arrive for a visit before I got home from work. So I hurriedly grabbed the large can and blue bins and placed them next to the house, rather than in their place under the awning in the backyard.

Then because I’m an idiot, I left them there. For a full week. On the surface, this shouldn’t have been an issue. Being a minimalist environmentalist means producing shockingly little trash, hence there was little need for me to use said containers. In fact, after a week the only items in the garbage bin were from my grandparents. The bags were easy to see what with the fact they were floating.

It rained a lot this week. And by a lot, I mean every night, for hours and sometimes during the day. My recycle bins were both thoughtfully equipped with drainage holes. Unfortunately the enormous black trash can was not. The week of rain and my own stupidity had created a giant cauldron of garbage soup. The piece de resistance was the bag of dog poo bobbing on top.

On Monday when I thought of the garbage cans right before bed, there was already a foot of water, which had cooked in the midday sun, effectively creating a bacterial paradise. Tuesday, when I looked out the window at the rain, the bacteria were screaming “WOOOO! Come on in dirty water from the eaves troughs, it’s a party!” and taking off their microbial tops in the riotous fun. Wednesday the sun shone the entire day and the bacteria got together and made sweet, sweet mono cellular love in the afternoon. Hence on Thursday there was a population explosion, also the mosquitoes decided to get in on the fun and lay some eggs in there too.

When I arrived home on Friday, the water line was two centimeters from the top of the container and it smelled atrocious. Pulling gently on one of the two black handles I tested the weight. Garbage-poo water sloshed over the side from the slight movement. “Eeek” I cried jumping backwards as the splash sprayed the ground. Removing my shoes and placing them in the backyard, I stared down the product of my lazy idiocy.

Because the fates have a dark sense of humour, the can was situated right next to the hole in my basement wall. Meaning that if the garbage bin was to tip, my basement would be flooded with garbage soup. I had only one option; drag the can as far away from the house as I could and empty it there. Ideally not on my neighbour’s lawn, as I hadn’t yet determined who placed the angry note in my shaggy grass.

Taking a deep breath, I accepted that I would be soaked while completing this disgusting chore and I tugged slowly on the handle again. Once more a small wave of disgusting garbage water splashed onto the driveway. Determined to preserve the integrity of my basement, I pulled. The can moved a little, the water moved a lot. My foot was wet.

Emboldened by my lack of gagging over my soaked foot, I decided to try and wheel the garbage can as though it was full of refuse and not one hundred pounds of mobile liquid and bacteria. I tipped the bin slightly and the garbage soup yanked against my tiny pipecleaner arm, pulling the container down sharply, creating a tidal wave which spread across my driveway and drenched my legs and shorts. Shrieking, I tried to jump away but then glancing back at the hole in the basement wall, I charged back into the growing puddle of garbage water, righting the can.

Having dumped most of its contents onto my driveway and effectively into my basement, the can was much lighter as I pulled it haltingly towards my front lawn. Tipping it again, I let out a much smaller shriek and attempted to direct the remaining garbage water onto the grass.

I realize this is just an unfortunate coincidence, but I’m beginning to feel like I’m bad at this whole home ownership thing.

Shelf Theft and A Lack of Character

I’ve found myself fantasizing about hard wood lately. Now before any of my readers get some big ideas and start sending me dirty pictures, allow me to explain. Having recently moved houses, my possessions have been dramatically rearranged. For example my books, which once called a series of shelves home are now in piles on the floor of my dining room. The plan was to put them in the giant glass front cabinet from my grandmother’s house, however there was one issue, well two if we’re being exact. The first is that I had no car. The second problem could not be solved by a trip to the local Enterprise; I have no muscles. Or rather I have insufficient muscles to move a piece of furniture that was made when people didn’t move often and shelves came from a local, swarthy carpenter and not from a machine in Sweden.

I could have acquired a bookshelf from a big box store, but as I mentioned before; I’ve been dreaming of wood. Mahogany, red, oak, I’ want them all, and the heavier the better. If only I myself had been born a large, male, swarthy carpenter, then moving such a well made shelf would not have been an issue.

I had plans, big plans. Plans that involved my father and one other large man moving the shelf from my grandmother’s house two hours away to my cozy dining room. Alas it was not to be. Despite having promised the shelf to me, my cousin, who at six foot seventeen, or some other height that is equally giant, spied the shelf in question, liked it and took it.

Two possible conclusions can be drawn, either my grandmother tired of parking her Corolla next to fifty years of exquisite workmanship while the shelf waited in the garage for me to retrieve it or somehow, without meaning to, I royally ticked my grandmother off. Seeing as my track record includes having my Grandma hauled home by the police and nearly killed (two separate incidents if you can believe it) I’m leaning towards the second option.

To better understand why there is a literary mountain piled next to my china hutch, I’ve decided to create a list of all the possible ways I could have POed my dad’s mom.

An Incomplete Collection of My Faults and Shortcomings Compared to my Enormous Perfect Cousin

I frequently appear at my church half naked or only partially dressed: If you would like to read the accounts of all of the times I’ve managed to flash the elders in my congregation they are available

Here

Here

And here

In essence getting dressed in the morning is obviously not my strong suit, whereas my monstrously tall cousin, not only suits up for Sunday morning services, but he also has been known to attend Bible study. Point for giant cousin.

I have been known to say what I’m thinking: This character trait would work better for me if I had nicer thoughts, as it is the words “Your baby looks like a homely Steve Buscemi” never go over well. By contrast, my cousin is one of the nicest most genuine people I know, book case stealing aside. Point for my cousin.

I cannot grow facial hair: Apart from the occasional absurdly long chin hair, I can neither grow a moustache nor a scraggly beard, on the other hand, at Christmas my cousin’s face did a remarkable impression of Farley Mowat’s when he emerged from a two month stay in the woods having subsisted on roasted mice.

Clearly my grandmother admires the wild-man look and lifestyle, point for my cousin.

It would seem that I am deficient in all aspects of life, from grooming to character, little wonder that my cousin is now stowing his worldly possessions in a gorgeous glass front cabinet, while I am pondering a trip to the local IKEA.

We Should Do Brunch

Much to my great pleasure and surprise, life stopped beating the snot out of me. Regrettably, life is still life which means it’s continuously handing me lemons, but at a more manageable rate thankfully, so I’m able to turn to those around me and say “Who wants dessert? Lemon meringue anyone?”

Which is my way of telling you, my fair readers, that I made everyone pie. Actually that isn’t true; I am neither that skilled nor that motivated. However I thought about making pie, in my world that’s practically the equivalent of the act itself. Often in my life I’ll think of jobs and assume because I’ve thought of them, that I’ve completed the tasks. Hence why I’m writing this post in the dark, let that be the lesson of the day; pay the electricity company, they have no sense of humour and a complete lack of regard for the fact that their customers contemplated paying the hydro bill multiple times.

I digress, for those of you who have been steered this way from North of the Grid, I apologize, not only is this not a science blog packed with useful information but we’re out of pie. My condolences, however the invitation did say come early. What you have stumbled upon is a humour blog that contains record of all of the nonsensical things I do to myself and loved ones.

And on that note, allow me to share my most recent paddleboarding experience. Last Saturday, having learned my naked, cold lesson the previous week, I arrived at the dock fully kitted out and ready to sit Maddie on a paddleboard for a couple hours with me.

This is Maddie her hobbies include chasing squirrels, trailing bits of sticks into the house and staring woefully at me while I paddleboard. Photo Credit : northofthegrid.com

This is Maddie. Her hobbies include chasing squirrels, trailing bits of sticks into the house and staring woefully at me while I paddleboard. Photo Credit : northofthegrid.com

“Hello” I said waving cheerily to the blonde, tanned youths working at the dock, “I’m the naked gongshow from last week. I’ve come to give a repeat performance.” At which point the youths all shaded their eyes, ostensibly to protect them from the sun but more likely because the young workers had no desire to see my doughy midsection again.

The young man, who I can only assume drew the short straw, held the paddleboard for me while I took out a bathmat and proceeded to press the suction cups to the nose of the watercraft. “This is so the dog will have something to grip” I explained while the silicon mat made “sqwoosh, shlup” sounds on the fibreglass board. Then I secured the dry bag, stuffed to the brim with a towel, sunscreen and a doggy snuggie to the back of the paddleboard.

Even canines like to get warm and fuzzy after they fall in the river. Photo Credit: community.babycenter.com

Even canines like to get warm and fuzzy after they fall in the river. Photo Credit: community.babycenter.com

Next of course came Maddie herself, who was looking bulky and resplendent in her lifejacket. That is, as long as resplendent means awkward and funny-looking. Then of course I had to remove her lead and secure it to the back of the board with the dry bag. It was at that moment, kneeling on the board with a dog on a bathmat on the nose and what was in essence a giant doggie diaper bag on the other end, that I realized that I had failed to grab a paddle. “Help!” I cried to the youth who had long since given up feigning interest in my floating sideshow and let go of the paddleboard, “I need a paddle!”

At first, I was handed a  broken paddle which was missing a section “This won’t do” I told the youth gesturing towards Maddie’s small shape on the front of my board “Do you not see all the extra weight I have to propel forward? I need a whole paddle.”

Eventually an unbroken paddle was found and away we went. The Provincial Park staff has since begun campaigning for a raise, supposedly to compensate for all the nut jobs they are forced to assist.

Green Confessions and Naughty Neighbours

I’ve never mowed a lawn. I went almost thirty years having never pushed a mower, cut grass or done any sort of yard work beyond a bit of weeding. I’d say I’m ashamed but the fact the matter is lawn mowers are ungainly, heavy tools and frankly they scare me a bit with all their blustering and vrooming.

My non grass cutting life was going fairly smoothly until I bought a house. Happily this house came with a lawn mower. Unhappily this lawn mower was one of the loud, gas guzzling variety. I allowed it to sit in it’s angry den until one day I arrived home to the following note left by an anonymous neighbour.

 “You are an embarrassment to the neighbourhood. Mow your lawn! Even Gladys* did a better job than this. SMARTEN UP!!!!”

For the record Gladys is the eighty year old woman whom I bought the house from. She used a walker. Effectively my gardening skills are inferior to that of the extremely elderly.

So away I went to purchase a push mower, the kind that ran on my own sweat but hopefully not blood. I got the mower home and away I went. The satisfaction was immense and immediate. I discovered that mowing a lawn is like vacuuming but better because the effect is so drastic, one moment your backyard is overrun with weeds, the next it’s a perfectly cultivated,  fragrant paradise. I went up the lawn, and back, then turned and went diagonally across it. I swiveled the mower and made a loop-de-loop on the lawn. To finish, I made progressively smaller circles.  

A friend who had not witnessed my lawn cutting revelery came to visit on Sunday, by that point the patches I had missed in my erratic fit of yard work were becoming obvious as they seemed to grow by the minute in the sun.

“You’re supposed to mow in a pattern” he said helpfully.

“I did” I answered beaming with pride over my now not so newly cut lawn. “Paisley!”

 

*Names have been changed to protect the identities of those kind enough to gift me a gas guzzling, terrifying lawn mower.

 

Also for the record, I am the naughty neighbour in the title. Prior to cutting it, my lawn may have looked like something that Indiana Jones would have to take a machete to while trekking through the Amazon in search of a skull, or the death star. I never watched that series of Harrison Ford movies, regardless, I’m sure my lawn made an appearance somewhere.

Breakfast and Shoes

I ate my breakfast on the bus this morning. I’ve been doing that lately, carefully slathering two slices of locally baked rye bread with the cranapple butter that my friend left for me when she moved, then packing it all into my lunch bag and walking to the bus.

There is a swath of grass and a pond in between where two roads coalesce into one. I cross there every morning, inspecting the damp grass for frogs or more likely, geese poop. A trail of stones cuts through the green. Stepping across the heavy, grey slabs make me feel dainty.

Then up the hill, crossing at the lights and then again at the next intersection. Finally arriving at my stop. My work changed locations this year, so although I wait at the same intersection, the view is different. My former stop was along the busier of the two roads, waiting there in the morning light, the thrum of the city could be felt all around. The new stop is located on a main street but the pace slows because of the divide further down that I cross over. The stop faces a building with a mural of the queen visiting and waving at passersby. I often wonder how long ago the monarch graced my city with her presence, or whether the painting is an elaborate, hopeful figment of an artist’s imagination.

The bus arrives. Late. But I am late so the coach and I are friends. The driver recognizes me now and gives a smile as I step on. Quickly, I find my seat, bus surfing is not my forte and frequently ends with an “EEEEEeeeeee” as I go flying towards the front doors through the aisle, having lost my balance when it shifted into motion.

Sitting down, the city passes before me, the pawn shops, the closed storefronts, the meth clinic, the used car dealers and finally green trees hanging over quaint homes. The bus ride meanders from bad, to struggling, to quiet parts of town. Often I read. But sometimes I inspect the mixture of humanity around me while I eat my breakfast. Noticing people’s shoes, their hair, various body art they’ve adorned themselves with.

A person’s shoes tell you a lot. In poorer countries, it isn’t uncommon to not wear such things. Even here in the great white north, shoes are expensive. Steel toes means construction, trade or a job where heavy objects could fall on feet. Holes can indicate either poverty or comfort of a beloved sneaker. The grey, aged kind of dirty combined with holes marks a person who struggles, often worn by skinny people whose skin has a grey tinge to match their footwear.

My leather, orthopedic Mary Janes tell my story; I have never wanted for food or a roof over my head, I am well cared for, so much so that even the health of my feet is a concern. These are my thoughts as I carefully chew my breakfast, half lovingly provided by one of the many people who cares for me.