Let’s Talk About Your Lover

If you’re North American, which the vast majority of my readers are, you know to whom I’m referring. Or rather, I should say to what. Let’s talk about your and all of North America’s torrid affair with the car.

Like many a star crossed lover, all of us are blind to our dear one’s faults. Specifically, your car’s habit of draining your bank account. Now before you go on about the amazing mileage your hybrid/Civic/motor home gets, let me be clear- fuel is just one piece to that expensive gold plated puzzle.

Jeff Yeager, a dyed in the wool cheapskate and an avid cyclist estimates that every kilometer driven costs a person between fifty cents to a dollar over the life of their car. The average person drives around 20,000 kilometers a year, which by Jeff’s calculations means that you are spending at least ten grand on your beloved every year. Makes your spouse’s request for that fancy pants new television seem reasonable doesn’t it?

Now before you throw up your arms and recommend Mr. Yeager move to the backwoods with all the other crazies, hear me out. While I’ve gone car free, ultimately I found the experience too limiting once my son came on the scene, so I purchased a van, so I’m just as curious if Jeff Yeager is correct as his calculation is based on the notion that people buy a new car every six years. Let’s walk through the math together shall we?

I purchased the van for $35, 880. My previous truck I drove into the ground. My GMC Jimmy was old enough to vote when I finally retired it at my mechanic’s behest. The odometer read over 400,000 kilometers. I had planned to take my truck out for its first legal drink at 19 years of age, it didn’t make it quite that long but it was close. For the purposes of this calculation, we’ll assume that most people aren’t aiming for their Ford to pony up to the barkeep for a state sanctioned brewski. According to the Fiscal Times, the average person keeps a car for 11.5 years. To me, this seems short so we’ll choose lucky number 13.

My driving record is the squeakiest of squeaky clean records, partially because I drive slowly but mostly because I don’t actually drive, making it difficult to get into accidents. Thus my insurance is relatively low, coming in at around $1,350 a year. Multiply that by 13 years (17,550) and already between the purchase price of the vehicle and insurance, we’re at a total of 53,430- I haven’t even driven the darn thing yet!

But before inserting the key in the ignition, don’t forget, the government needs in on some of that fiscal action so add in 50 each year for plate and or license renewal. Total 54,080.

Ok, time to drive this bad boy. Tragically cars don’t run on unicorn farts and cotton candy, so we’ll need to purchase gasoline. Let’s conservatively say you fill up twice a month. That mileage you mentioned before really adds up huh? With an extra fill up a couple times a year for those long holiday car trips. So fifty-five dollars twice a month, multiplied by twelve months with a couple fill ups throw in on top, multiplied by sixteen years that’s … that’s…. $21, 120. Sweet Jesus! And I thought the car was expensive! Clearly gasoline’s costs aren’t limited to the environment.

All of that is with my nice math and conservative estimates. Because if 20,000 kilometers a year is actually divided by your car’s mileage; let’s be generous and say that your vehicle gets 650 kilometers to the tank. (At the end of its life, my truck got a sad 300.) The average yearly mileage, divided by 650 then further divided by twelve, the tanks of gas per month actually equals 2.564, which doesn’t seem like that much more than twice a month but comes out to $27,076; a difference of $5,956! I could go on a cruise for that kind of money!

Let’s all pretend we’re going to take the bus to work once a week and make the kids walk to school so we can choose the first number for fuel. What’s our total now? $75,200? Geez Louise, that’s a sizeable down payment on a house.

Repairs. I’m assuming all of you don’t like to incur the wrath of your mechanic, so you probably change your oil a couple of times a year. Since we were chintzes with fueling up, I’ll have us change our oil 3.5 times a year (don’t tell my husband or my mechanic). So if we patronize one of those quickie oil places that brings us to $77,475. Phew, that wasn’t too bad. Bring on the broken alternators.

According to the Globe and Mail, after a car is seven years old, a person can bank on spending $1,100 on repairs annually. Before then, it’s lower, but not much. This leaves our final total at $ 84,400. Yeesh.

Taking that total and dividing it by 260,000 which is the projected distance after 13 years, each kilometer costs 32 cents per kilometer driven. So while not quite the fifty cents to a dollar per kilometer cost proposed by my favourite cheapskate, car ownership is by no means cheap, for you or the environment.

$84,000 over the course of your car’s life or 0.32 cents per kilometer and those are with conservative estimates. How are you feeling about your demanding and costly lover now? Imagine how your life would look if instead of working to pay for your car, you invested that time in your kids. How would you feel physically if you walked most places? What type of model would you be within your community if you biked everywhere?

A reality of living in a rural area is that car ownership isn’t optional. Car use however, is. The odometers on mine and my husband’s bikes read 1300 and 600 kilometers respectively. According to our calculations above that translates to just over $600 dollars in savings.  I didn’t even mention the effect on my husband’s pant size – it’s shrinking. Also that doesn’t account for the carbon emissions saved. This is what we’ve accomplished in six months; imagine the impact and the total after a couple of years. Just some food for thought.

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Random Tiny Strangers’ Sharts And Other Revolting Revelations In My Life

Mini-Tex is approaching the two year mark. Which means potty training. Only not actually because we’re spending the next six months bouncing around the country and the one thing that’s crazier than trying to potty train a small person is trying to do it on the run. At some point, likely during a summer, ideally before he’s twelve, we will attempt to potty train Mini-Tex. At this juncture however, we are going to be content just having a potty.

Or at least we would have been if we had a potty. As it was, this morning we didn’t. This isn’t a problem for most people because they

A) Live in a place where they need more than just their fingers and toes to count their neighours.

B) Live in a place where the only store isn’t the “Super Val e Mart”

C) They’re not insistent on buying all children’s goods second hand.

As it is, I live in a place that makes Dog River from Corner Gas look big. We are F  A   R from everything. We are two hours away from a large pharmacy let alone a children’s store, and we are four hours away from a major centre where second hand children’s stores are found.

As luck would have it, Tex was traveling on an overnight jaunt to the big smoke for work. On his last trip, he secured not one, not two but, three pairs of dinosaur pyjamas. An article of clothing our son had been begging for for the past six months or so. Tragically, I forgot to ask my husband to pick up a potty.

Thus today, when Tex was all set to travel back home and just sent a cursory “So do we need anything from the city?” text to me, expecting to hear crickets in return, I jumped on my phone. “Yes” I hastily replied “A potty”.

Ironically, one of my favourite character traits in Tex is his desire for everything to be spotless. While I am perfectly happy to wallow in my own personal gime, I would prefer that my living quarters are relatively clean. Tex cleans items and places that it would never occur to me to clean- ever. For example, the cup holder in the car. To me, it’s a spot that just becomes progressively stickier over the course of your car’s life. My view of a microwave is that it’s something you use and slop stuff on, until you move houses at which point, you receive a shiny new microwave to splatter with spaghetti sauce. And as for under the couch? Well I’m small, so not only is there no need to move said heavy couch, but it’s also verging on impossible, so the dust bunnies can procreate, colonize and form their own society there as far as I’m concerned.

Tex, on the other hand is a completely different story. When we first met, he was horrified by the shortness of my showers. At one point, he asked whether he could wash me, and it wasn’t in a sexy way (for the record I said “No”- Tex scrubs his skin like he’s Cinderella and removing every iota of dirt is his only shot at attending the ball). My pans, which were thoroughly abused and not well scrubbed in their previous existence with just me, have a new lease on life. And our car receives a twice yearly detailing that would probably cost hundreds if done professionally.

This was the man I sent to choose a second hand potty.

Now I should state, as grimy as  I am, I have limits. And I also keep the well being and personal tastes of other’s in mind. Hence, when I donate an item to Goodwill or what not, I will wash it thoroughly first. And if I don’t feel I’m up to the task of washing it, I’ll kindly ask Tex. Meaning that, if I were to donate a potty, it would be clean. That said, upon buying a used children’s potty, I would immediately scrub it (or let’s be honest ask Tex to scrub it) regardless of the state it was in.

Anyways so away Tex goes to the second hand children’s store. “What kind of potty?” he asks me. “A boy potty” I type back, hoping for something with either cars, fire engines or dinosaurs on it, Mini-Tex’s three interests at the moment. Tex shoots me a photo back “It’s Elmo, all the other ones are for bigger kids to sit on the toilet.” “Awesome” I reply.

I thought that was the end of it. But oh no, Tex arrives home, and cleans the living daylights out of the Elmo potty with bleach until it sparkles even brighter than when it came off the factory conveyor belt. Then Tex, who loves putting batteries into items almost as much as he loves cleaning, demonstrates the piece de resistance. With the juice from two double As, the tiny potty makes flushing sounds.

“You did so great” I said, hugging my husband tight, “I’m sure this was the best one there.” “Well” confesses Tex “there were other boy ones but they had little kid sharts all down the sides.” He didn’t need to say anymore, I tried to suppress a grin picturing my husband eyeballing random tiny stranger sharts on Lightning McQueen potties.

I have a really nice husband. In the grand scheme of gross, awkward shopping trips, I think this one even tops the time that my Dad had to pick up a year’s supply of birth control for my sister. After calling all around the city, he found a store with a large enough supply. Upon entering, the cashier yelled out “Hey it’s the Yasmin guy!” Embarrassing, but not quite as bad as having to pick between plastic seats coated in the sharts of toddlers.

 

This post is dedicated to my mother, who told me not to put up something nice about her even though it’s her sixtieth birthday today. Mom likes to joke that my husband has OCD. Only she doesn’t think that it’s a joke, to which I respond “Our cereal isn’t alphabetized”. That’s totally a criterion from the DSM IV, I am totally up on all things psychology. Also I don’t think people with OCD marry dirt squirrels like me and certainly not dirt squirrels with sweaty runner moms. Happy Birthday Mom, your nice post is forth coming.

 

Tips on Surviving Existential Barfights

I’ve written through a lot. I’ve written while moving across the country. I’ve while caring for a newborn full time. Heck I’ve even written while going to school full time, working part time and traveling on the side. But this, this new full time working mom gig? It’s an ass kicker.

Every.

Single.

Day.

And I totally have endless respect for all the moms out there who do this day in day out. However three months in, I can tell you conclusively, without a doubt that this is not for me.

Even if I were to get past the whole “missing my baby like a phantom limb” syndrome aspect. I would still hate it. For one reason; I like being a bee.

That last sentence makes zero sense. Which is fine, because I personally make zero sense. To the point that it’s become a running joke among those who live with me. But also because I am actually too mentally exhausted to make sense. Which would also be fine, however I’m too mentally pooped to be funny as well.

That is not fine. Funny is a part of who I am. One of my favourite characters ever in literature is this lesbian, hermit poet who lives in a two room shack on an island without indoor heating or plumbing. If she was a real person, I’d want to be her friend. She wouldn’t want to be mine, but that’s fine, that’s just Kit. Anyways, in the book “Spiral Garden”, Kit says “A lot of writing poems is me sitting on my porch under a blanket drinking instant coffee and plotting how to steal [her next door neighbour] Gerald’s gnomes.”

That line captures my creative process perfectly. Most of my best work comes from me just sitting, thinking and enjoying my existence. Also stirring up trouble but not the gnome stealing kind- my neighbours only have ornamental owls. As a working mom, any extra time you have goes towards quality time with your child. It helps assuage both the phantom limb syndrome and the crippling guilt that you are in fact missing out on every important moment of their childhood.

So there goes my funny. But even worse, being a working mom means that the time that you aren’t spending at work being a responsible bill paying adult, you are at home, again being a responsible child care providing, dinner making adult. There is very little to no time left for; breaking and entering into nunneries, robbing drug dealers, or running into every social or organized engagement a hot, sweaty, baby wearing mess– essentially my bread and butter in terms of stories.

So I’ve decided to claw all of that back. Because this is a society that quite literally doesn’t respect or value bees, or their way of life. There’s an erronous perception that bees are perpetually busy, in motion, always foraging, building, breeding, and raising other bees. But in fact, bees spend a lot of their life quietly resting. And live longer, healthier lives because of it.

So in January, I’m leaving my job, and returning home to be my son’s mom again. It’s the first in my set of steps to regain a sense of balance in a world that so desires busyness. The second step, and this will undoubtedly generate hatemail and backlash from my family, is chucking my smartphone. I’ll still have a cell phone, but not one that can tell me the weather or the ingredients to butter chicken. I’m going to call the two years with my Samsung a failed experiment in a test of human will power. I’ve long felt that the internet robs us of our solitude. I’ve decided to take mine back forcefully.

So I guess the best way to avoid existential barfights where life beats you up badly and steals all your free time, is to avoid them. Sorry, I probably should have lead with that rather than forcing you to peruse 700 ish self indulgent words. The Great Unwashed and her funny shall return in 2018. Until then I invite you to enjoy such hits as “My bitter complaints against car makers” and “Thoughts About Instant Soup? Could They Actually Be As Boring As Imagined? SPOILER! They are!”

This post is dedicated to Tristina from CracTPot; your words “I’ve never regretted writing” both inspire and incite me to continue writing.

 

 

This Truly Isn’t Actually A Post. Please Stop Reading Here. It’s An Email. Who Puts Emails On Their Blog? The Same Jerks Whose Titles Are Five Sentences Long Probably. Also, Who Wants To Play “Stuffed Confetti Duck Hunt” With Me?

Dear Sula,

Ugh, just when I think I understand how the internet works- it turns out that I know nothing. Technology is unfair. Thank you for the lesson on Blind Carbon Copy. I’m now questioning everything that I thought I knew about email. I should probably just throw in the towel and get myself a carrier pigeon.

So I was thinking about life, our friendship and Sly Nyguyen. Because as “I Heart Huckbees” taught us, everything is a blanket. And even big movie stars sometimes screw up and act in seriously bizarre movies with no plot.

Anyways, so life. I’m reading David Sedaris’ biography and I’ve come to a number of conclusions the most important.

  1. My life is boring; I have no drug addictions, dependences and am a part of no minority groups. My strife is not strife. In fact, my life is so easy that it doesn’t even fall under first world problems.

(Aside- there is a convention of RVs going on outside my window. I wasn’t invited. Probably because I’m dull and putting people to sleep at the wheel would result in lots of casualties when giant RVs are involved.)

The worst thing that happened to me this week was I couldn’t find a matching sock because it was still in the hamper- so not strife. No one wants to read the book “The Sock that Wasn’t Missing”.
(Another aside, there are men preparing for a football game outside my front window. Possibly this is why there are collection of RVs? They’ve been out there all day and will be out there all night it looks like, presumably watching said football game that they are preparing for.

I cannot even fathom a sport that I would love so much that I’d spend all day in the sun marching up and down a field for it. Let’s invent a sport that you and I both can love. The sport would have to be outdoorsy and a little dangerous to suit you but at the same time whimsical and ridiculous, so I’d like it too.

Oh I know! Stuffed confetti duck hunt! It will be like skeet shooting but instead of  ceramic plates, which can’t be reused and are therefore not environmentally friendly, we’ll use plush ducks (fake obviously so as not to attract the ire of the silly PETA people and made from secondhand dog toys so as to meet my hippie ideals) filled with colourful seeds. So a person throws the ducks in the air, and then they explode wildflower seeds everywhere so gardens bloom afterwards. We’ll call it Quack Boom Rainbow. Or Quack Quack Boom? Quack Quack Colour?

This is what my life has come to. No longer am I out stealing stolen goods from under privileged youth, instead, my life is so perfect and dull that I’m reduced to brainstorming names for imaginary games that I invented.

Ooooh. What if instead of ducks, we shot plush raccoons? Because some people like ducks whereas raccoons, well they’re just the jerks who tip over your garbage cans and randomly move into your garage like unwelcome anarchists staging a protest about string cheese. And then you can’t get rid of them ever. I would love to shoot a polyester, confetti-filled raccoon. )

I can’t even remember what my point was. Also I’m pretty sure that the above paragraphs are an abuse of parenthesis.

Wait, I remember now- my life is dull, and I don’t have goals. David Sedaris had goals. Important goals, like staying sober and entering pieces into art shows or writing plays.

I don’t really have anything like that. I mean a couple of years ago, when my life was in ruins, I was all “These are my goals- I am getting my act together!” And I did. But I have a house, and a husband, and a son, and a job now. If I was to make a life list it would read something like this.

  1. Lose five pounds.
  2. Spend time with people who are not my husband.

Actually scratch that second one, it would read “Hang out with people who don’t live with you.” Because our au pair meets the criteria of the second goal and I’ve become super lazy, to the point that I don’t hang out with people who aren’t in my kitchen and my first goal could be accomplished with ease if I stopped treating chocolate cake like a food group. Did I mention how lazy I’ve become?

So from this line of thinking came my realization that we’ve entered the tweaking part of our lives. Not the “I’m hopped up on meth and tweaking” part but more the fine tuning portion of our lives. Ideally, we’re not just jumping up and randomly moving across the country for any old reason. Instead, changes, important changes, like reducing one’s daily intake of Black Forest cake are now the goals we achieve over time.

That was a really roundabout way of saying I now recognize that I haven’t been putting enough effort into being a friend to people that aren’t sitting on the couch next to me.

I was recalling when I first moved across the country and we had our weekly  girl chats. We’d sit there for an hour or so and it was OUR TIME. And it was awesome. However we’re about two years, a baby and an international border away from that point. Hence, an hour may not be an option. But what about fifteen minutes? Like fifteen dedicated minutes where I don’t have a baby saying “nursing, nursing” over and over, and you don’t have a hunky boyfriend asking you where to put the werewolf spleen for canning (or whatever beast is in season that month).

Because I don’t want to be lumped in with your former best friend Sly Nyguyen and not only because I’m certain I can’t fit into her tiny, pole-dancing shorts as a result of my recent obsession with a chocolate pudding cake. But mostly because you’re my friend and I value your words and the time we spend together, in whatever form it takes; in person, on the phone,  over Skype etc.

That’s my idea.

Also this may become a post. Because I had two hours of writing time set aside today and I used it talking to Gordy, vacuuming the obscure parts of the house that are difficult to cover with a baby on my back and writing this email. Technically I could stay up late and pen a post but did I mention how lazy I’ve become?

Miss you.

Love you,

Don’t lump me with those pole dancing ladies, it will be too awkward what with the fact that I stopped fitting into my sports bras over well two years ago.

Unwashed

This Troll Is My Grandfather

20171007_120126Because he’s crotchety and barks at people for no good reason. Not really, my grandfather isn’t like that at all, for starters, he only yells with good reason. The following is an abridged and incomplete list of reasons that my Grandfather has yelled being:

  1. Making noise in the backseat
  2. Not learning how to ride a two wheeler fast enough
  3. Pinching your sister
  4. Pulling your sister’s hair
  5. Calling your sister “weasel elbows”
  6. Doing anything besides sitting silently next to your sister without touching each other at all
  7. Trying to swim in a flooded basement
  8. Yapping at the neighbour’s car (that one was the dog)
  9. Not eating the fat on a piece of meat (that was me, the dog will ALWAYS eat the fat)
  10. Showing inadequate amounts of enthusiasm for Granddad’s current interest that he is explaining to you at length
  11. Being in the wrong gear while cycling uphill
  12. Speaking above a whisper volume when Granddad has a migraine

As you can see from the list, my grandfather is both an extremely reasonable and even tempered fellow, not at all troll-like.

But yet, I’ve kept this troll doll for ages. Clearly because of its wicked hairdo; I wake up every morning with my fingers crossed that my own tresses will have formed such an awesome “just rolled out of the cave and off to bludgeon a mammoth” style of their own volition.

All joking aside, I’m not a sentimental person. Tex actually stopped me from sending my framed degree from my Bachelor of Science to the second hand shop. Yet, I’ve carted this troll doll with me across the country and through multiple moves- why? Because I love my Granddad.

My love for my grandfather runs so deep that this tchotchke and I have been together for almost thirty years. At first I kept it because it was a fun toy, then I kept it because it was terrifying and I had grand plans of playing “hide the awful troll” in the same way that my sister played “hide the beady eyed ostrich”, scaring the bejesus out of me when the ostrich surprised me in unlikely places. But most recently I’ve kept it because it represents my relationship with my grandfather.

While unpacking after our recent move, I realized that I kept the troll out of the fear of not being reminded of the stories that accompany it. This is the point in life where being a writer is almost akin to being a super hero, as I realized that I could record the memories, and find a new home for the troll doll.

My grandparents took our family to Walt Disney World. It was supposed to be just me and Diana but then my mother threw a hissy fit, stating that my Gran and Granddad had never taken her to Disney World. This was how my father, mother and uncle went to Walt Disney World. I’d say “with us” but that isn’t true, looking back at the photo album my mother has and the notes she made about the trip, my sister and I spent about 95% of our time with our grandparents while my parents and uncle shucked their parental and uncle-y duties all devil-may-care, in favor of exploring the theme parks.

The first time I visited the Magic Kingdom was with my grandfather. My sister was ill and stayed back at the hotel with my Gran while my parents went on roller coasters and drank endless shots of tequila. (That last part may be a fabrication, but they did really and truly delight in not having a five and seven year old in tow.) The wonder and joy I felt at walking into the Magic Kingdom is tied with the sense of happiness and security I felt at having my grandfather all to myself in that wonderful place. My Granddad enjoys recounting the story of me running at a wandering character and hugging them with all of my might on that day.

That trip was the first time I realized that my grandfather was a flirt. Actually, flirt is the wrong word, my grandfather is charming, utterly charming and engaging with everyone. He just makes a point of being more so with the female persuasion. Disney Cast Members all wear badges with their names. Upon returning to the hotel, I remarked to my mother that Granddad knew all of the cashiers’ names.

As much as my parents delighted in their independence, my grandparents delighted in my and my sister’s joy. They rode the tea cups with us countless times. Diana’s and my explanation to my parents upon entering the ride with them (while they were sobering up before their next tequila binge) was “You spin the wheel whichever way Diana wants, as fast as you can, until Granddad yells “I’m gonna barf!””

My grandfather loves history, especially family history. Growing up, my sister and I donned crowns with electric candles on them and would wander around family parties at Christmas delivering hors d’oeuvres. Seeing us dressed as St. Lucia and honoring our Swedish and Scandinavian heritage made my grandfather so happy that we continued to dress up even as teens if asked.

Thus the Norwegian pavilion at EPCOT, which in the early 90’s still offered unique Scandinavian products rather than all things Frozen related, was a kind of heaven for my grandfather. For starters, it was staffed with gorgeous Norwegian women who were obligated to smile at my grandfather’s stories which he imparted in detail to his blonde, cheerful listeners. The variety of Viking related goods gave Granddad many talking points to remind Diana and me of our heritage. To this day my grandfather never misses an opportunity to share the tale of our brave ancestor Stoingvald who fought to defend his country even after his enemies cut off his legs at the knees. Our visit to the Norwegian pavilion of course prompted said story, so Granddad acted out the battle with Stoingvald on the roof of his home for all the tourists and smiley Swedes.

Granddad bought me this troll that night. I kept it because I wanted to hold onto the love that I hold for my Granddad and that my grandparents hold for me. I kept the doll because it recalled a time when vacations were as endless as the hugs and attention from my grandparents. I kept it to remind myself of my grandfather’s foibles and the way they make me smile. I kept it so I would remember all those stories each time my eyes lit on the troll while in the rec room.

But love, memories and stories aren’t housed in objects, they make their homes in our hearts. It’s through retelling that the memories live on. I don’t need the troll to remind myself to retell the stories of its youth, I can keep a picture of it and pen the words it holds for me instead.

 

This post is of course dedicated to my Granddad from whom all my stories originate because he is the original storyteller of our family.