The Answer to My Husband’s Question of “Why Do We Have 38 Bananas, 7 Liters of Milk and 12 Pounds of Baloney?”

Hello my name is Sarah and I’m a gambling addict. I wasn’t aware of this quality of mine until recently; my extreme inner cheapskate would never permit me to actually spend money on gambling, even quarter slot machines eat at my frugal soul. Sitting at the slots, I would agonize internally- “That was a quarter you just lost” I’d admonish myself, “That money could have purchased eight whole peanut M&Ms out of a candy machine!” So slots are out, as is poker and any other card game because I’m not one for games. The lottery is too unlikely as a winning venture and even scratch cards tend to get on my money saving nerves after a couple of losing tickets, but contests run by businesses? Count me in.

Once upon a time, before caffeine spelled my imminent demise, I loved coffee, and in the New Year, I LOVED Roll Up The Rim To Win, an annual event at the Canadian institution of Tim Horton’s. As a student, my once daily cuppa joe would become a jittery morning, afternoon and sleepless night, three-times-a-day habit during the contest. All in the name of rolling up the rim to discover a free doughnut or coffee. But then, tragically, I grew up and got myself a drip filter, thus my inner cheapskate killed this once beloved tradition in favor of saving money by brewing coffee at home.

Now enter the Prairie past time of “Fuel Up To Win”. The name is deceiving because if Tex and I were dependent on putting gas in our car to participate- we’d lose. Even if we were to drive all over town every single day- we’d fuel up once every two months, it’s just not a large place. As avid cyclists and staunch environmentalists, we use even less fuel. The contest began at the pump, but extended to the grocery stores, meaning that each time a person buys milk or kielbasa, you’re given a ticket to win. In other words, I’m in cheapskate gambling heaven.

Purchase $25 of groceries, you get one ticket, $50 of eggs and the like will get you two tickets but packing your cart with $100 worth of yogurt and such will earn you three tickets to win. Here’s the frugal catch – it’s $25 and UNDER. Meaning a person could buy $11 dollars of groceries and still get a chance to win- or even two dollars! This is why I’ve found myself visiting the grocery store every single day. Sometimes twice.

Occasionally I’ll get lucky and some distracted shopper will leave hard earned tickets behind at the cash. At which point I’ll ask whether I can have them. And God bless the underpaid youth- they always nod and push the tickets my way while scanning the rest of my order. It creates the kind of feeling that one only gets when they realize that they’ve accidentally placed a “Z” on a triple letter score in Scrabble. It’s brilliant, it’s wonderful, it’s beautiful; it makes you want to fall on your knees in appreciation of the youth’s ambivalence. As it is, I just shove the tickets into my pockets and speed away before the cashier changes their mind.

Then comes my favourite part- the actual ticket. Tim Horton’s coffee cups have nothing on this game. First of all, there are THREE tickets- they’re all placed on a game card. The playing card itself has separate sections so one filled section may earn a barbeque or another will earn $50 in grocery gift certificates. And then there is the piece de resistance- the section that if all the matching tickets are found, gets one person $100,000 dollars cash. All this just for buying chicken wings that I would have purchased anyway!  My inner frugal miser is doing joyful cartwheels in a bouncy house over this.

Yes, often there are duplicate tickets, but amass eight of those and you’ve got a chance to enter yet another contest! Oh my cheapskate self is crowing with pleasure. Then as if all of that wasn’t exciting enough, the three tickets are packaged within a larger ticket that could be a coupon, or another chance at a different contest or perhaps a free KitKat. Free chocolate? I’ll take eight!

So all of this excitement has led to frequent trips to the grocery store. What I’ve discovered is that, after visiting the grocery store every single day, sometimes twice for two weeks, is that one eventually runs out of groceries to buy. It’s gotten to the point where I’m avoiding purchasing such staples as toilet paper or dish soap because I could buy those any day whereas today we definitely need apples. The contest has also led to an overconsumption of kale on my part. It’s the one food item that I can justify eating in mass quantities in order to have something to put on the grocery list the next day. And while I could spend only a couple of dollars purchasing one item, I feel that’s a bit like gaming the system, especially during my second visit of the day after my son has enjoyed his second free cookie from the bakery. (Yes, I stuff my two year old full of baked goods so that he’ll willingly accompany me to the grocery store a couple of times a day. You can judge me after I’ve won a free lawn mower.)

A friend nicely pointed out that I may have a problem. Which is true. But it’s a short lived one- the contest closes in mid-April. In the meantime, I’ll just have to live with myself on days like yesterday, when it was too slippery to drive and too snowy for the stroller so I hauled my thirty pound toddler over two kilometers on a sled in the name of kale, frozen pizza and a “Fuel Up To Win Ticket”. Such is the life of an addict.


What the Hell Wednesday – Mixed Martial Arts and What Actually Goes On in Cars During Highschool

Would you encourage today’s generation to join the military?

Yes, millennials are damn irritating and I take any opportunity to ship their voice-conversation-phobic selves away. The old people can stay though. Also the quietest of the children.

Did you have a car in highschool?

Oh yes, I had a car in highschool. I did not have a choice in the matter. Five long months after I turned sixteen, my mother frog marched me to Canada’s version of the DMV and we waited. And waited. And waited. And waited. FOR SIX HOURS. When I finally got to the desk, the woman pushing the button said “smile” brightly to me and I sneered a curt “No” at her. I am a peach, let me tell you.

Anyways, back to the car, ever since I can remember, I have hated driving, hated being in the car, basically despised everything having to do with four wheels. This is definitely a person who should receive their own car. And so I did because my parents are both exceptionally generous and delight in my misery.

To make the best of it, I prided myself in having junk in the trunk. Actually. At any given time, there five/eighths of a plastic skeleton, thirty or so mostly dried up markers, a bucket of feathers and bowling pins in the back of my highschool car. I’m uncertain whether the goal was to scare, amaze or put on an impromptu cabaret, regardless it was a mess.

This car followed me around for thirteen long years. After 350,000 kilometers and more than a decade, I junked it, converted to a hippie lifestyle, grew dreads and began making my own kefir. Not actually though. I did live without a vehicle for a year. And then I got pregnant and it was decided that hippie-ism is romantic but impractical with a newborn so we have a van that sits in our driveway during the warm months of the year here. Meaning two, not actually but close.

Have you ever done drugs?

Never. My sister once taught me the smell of good weed and bad weed though. For those not in the know like me- there is a difference, I couldn’t tell you what now but rest assured, I’m well informed. Also, I accidentally brokered a drug deal because I knew the frat boys next door liked to party. But no, the closest I myself have ever come to drugs was in university when I discovered a bag of what I believed to be desiccated broccoli under my bed following a visit from a friend of a friend of a friend. I was understandably horrified because it’s one thing to be unwashed but to drop vegetables under ones bed and leave them there until they crumble like old green leaves? That’s revolting. I took said baggy to my friend who had invited the friend of a friend of a friend. This friend always had a spotless room, I clearly needed tips. I showed her the bag which she took for some reason and she gave me tips on life- like the importance of making your bed every day.


What were you like when you were 40?

Well I’m not, so I’ll tell you what I will be- first of all I’ll have so many abs they will start calling it an Unwashed Dozen, I’ll likely be a prized Mixed Martial Arts fighter known for my signature move- the ear bite which is two parts distressing and one part disgusting. And I’ll own roof top llama farms, a concept that I will have helped to create, starting a worldwide movement. No one will ever see me without my rocket boots.

Did you ever think of joining the military?

No, I resent being asked to carry heavy objects and my understanding is that the military has an infatuation with moving heavy objects around and teaching people to lift heavy objects. Ostensibly they call it “training” I call it “torture” or as it’s known in today’s world “helping friends move”.

If you could do it over would you join the military?

Storyworth, you seem to be on a real military questions kick, are you secretly trying to figure out whether I’ll help you move? The answer is no, I’m busy developing my signature ear bite to rise to MMA fame.


All of these questions were taken from the website Storyworth, when they’re not convincing people to enlist, they are a company that sends your loved ones questions, which are only half about the time they served and compiles their answers into a book that will be beloved by the whole family for years to come. Check them out.


What’s The Opposite of Breaking Amish? Do I Still Have To Be A Millennial Now?

God I love the peace of it. Imagine if the solitude and stillness of that log cabin in the woods was your life. To me, that’s what life without the internet is like. When I tell people that I’ve lived three or four years of my life since adolescence without internet, they sputter and say “Three or four years? I thought you were going to say months! But how can you possibly live? Surely you had a smartphone?”

Actually up until two years ago, I didn’t have a smartphone. When my son was born, I acquiesced to demands and acquired one, ostensibly because the camera was better than my actual camera. And it was, but what I noticed early on, was that I wasn’t spending most of my time taking pictures of my beautiful son. No, mostly, I was surfing the web and trying to find out whether Khloe was the fat or skinny Kardashian (answer – both?).

Around this time last year, my phone began to bug me, with its constant, addictive siren song. So I downloaded apps to record how much I was using it, because the only way to fight addiction is to use more right? My worst fears and suspicions were confirmed- I used my phone far, far, far too often.

I tried to cut down, but that was a little like trying to swear off carbs while living in a bakery. So instead, I just started to track my use of it. And it got real scary, real fast. Because I pride myself on using my time well, on actively creating a life that I desire, whether spending time working towards goals or living my values. On a day when I was working, I used my phone just under two hours a day. That time adds up quickly-fourteen hours a week. Now it would be one thing if I was say writing, or talking to loved ones, but most of the time, I was reading news stories about how to kick sugar habits and updates about the latest Disney Fan Conference. It’s best not to ask how many hours I used my phone on weekends.

To add insult to injury, the tiny electronic box was spying on me! More than once, I’d notice that ads would pop up for items that I had never searched but had thought of often. I brushed off the unseemly notion, that is, until my sister and brother-in-law confirmed my suspicions when they tested out their phones’ listening skills by discussing a product that neither had searched, or had any intention of buying. Immediately they were presented with ads for said product.

That was it, following our au pair’s departure, we had gotten rid of the internet, and after two years of having my leisure time filled with nonsense like reading about Christopher Walken on Wikipedia (Why?!), I was done with my phone. In the two weeks since it’s become an expensive paperweight, I have to say, I’ve loved it. I’ve remembered the space that comes with no technology. I’ve enjoyed reading without the urge to check emails. I’ve felt more reflective and focused. In a nutshell, I remembered why whenever I’ve had the choice- I have lived without any of that internet nonsense. It detracts from the beauty and mental quiet of my life.

Tex and I are bouncing around the province and the country these next couple of months but I promise to give updates on my new Amish-like existence.

And to those who are curious as to how this was posted. The library in our town, like all libraries, has free wifi and exceptionally helpful librarians to distribute passwords.

Walking Through One of My Childhood Homes

I’ve been breaking into her house at night, wandering through the rooms, running my fingertips over the surfaces of the furniture. Just to remember. Just to be there. I walk in, and my route is always the same; tossing my jacket or sweater carelessly on the green leather chairs she recovered, stepping lightly onto the plastic walkway that protects the carpet from so many dirty footprints. I glance at the mail on the table in the entranceway, now the table that my TV sits on. Invariably there would be a letter from a charity. She loved supporting those organizations- if she wasn’t able to help someone directly, she’d offer money instead.

From there I walk straight into the kitchen. A couple years ago she painted the cupboards. It brightened up the space so much. The radio plays classical music because the radio always played classical music, that is until after dinner, at which point she’d retire to the den and watch the news before bed. When I was younger, before boyfriends and then husbands entered the picture, the kitchen table was the kid’s table. Our family was too large to sit altogether in one room, so us rowdy, cookie-loving cousins were relegated to the meal prep area. This was the table that I told the story of the gravy boat over. All the cousins went along with it, but only the youngest fell for the yarn- hook, line and sinker.

According to legend, gravy boats got their name because of the unmanned ships that pulled into each port every holiday, empty but for gallons upon gallons of gravy. Aunts, mothers and grandmothers would all arrives at the harbor with pails, buckets or even small bathtubs to be filled with that liquid goodness, the walk back to their houses becoming a waddle from the weight of the gravy. Sitting there as I told the story, each of the cousins pictured her, slowly but determinedly, hauling home the gravy for our holiday meals.

Throughout my teens, there were her classic cowboy chocolate chip oatmeal cookies in the cupboard next to the fridge. Later, when she stopped baking, there were still cookies in the cupboard but they were made by Dare. I remember the familiarity of the yellow cutlery tray; it contrasted the metal cutlery so forcefully, as though THIS cutlery tray would be recognized for its lifetime of service. From there, the view of the yard would be partially obscured by the plants sitting on the windowsill. She loved plants and gardening. Long after the winter, she would nourish her poinsettias; hers would be the last live one on the block.

To the left of the window was one of the kitchen chairs, which sat next to a table, upon which sat her telephone and address book. Past this table was the dining room. The center of so many gatherings. I never picture her here though- she was always a bundle of activity, bustling from one room to the next, one task to the next whenever the lot of us descended upon the house en mass. She is everywhere and nowhere; she’s in the kitchen checking on a dish in the oven, she’s clearing the table in the dining room. She’s sneaking up behind me to unsuspectingly to yank my left hand out from under my body and set me off balance, just to get a glimpse of the ring. She’s standing in the hallway, looking for bags to bundle together leftovers for guests, or in the den cross stitching. Or she might be downstairs, on her treadmill if footing is treacherous outside. God forbid she went outside, there’s no locating her- she’ll start in the backyard, weeding and watering, go to fetch something from the garage only to offer to help a neighbor. Could be someone next door or the woman two streets over who just had twins.

I pad quietly up the back hallway, looking at the pictures of my family; graduation photos, extended family, the picture of the whole family when half the cousins were still wishes for the future. Her bedroom is across from the den. As a little girl, I played here; lounging on the fur rug that I to this day don’t know whether was real or not. My last stop is always the bathroom. During family functions this was a haven of quiet. I’d hang out staring at the small blue tiles on the floor, the dated coloured bathtub that I remember being bathed in.

A year and a half ago, when the house was sold, I wasn’t upset. She declared that she no longer wanted to cook or care for a home. Quickly, her things were packed up and sent to the senior’s residence of her choice. At the time, it seemed to me like her logical next step. I wasn’t concerned or sad- she had told me that she would live to be 104 and I believed her. But now that she’s gone, I find myself returning to her gardens, her kitchen, all the rooms that contained, if only ever for brief minutes in her bustling life, her. Those walks through memory bring me comfort.

Killing Old People For Sport- Likely The Most Questionable Aspect of Student Life

I’m grieving my grandmother’s death but actually, for the past ten years, she’s been living on borrowed time. In reality Grandma should have died the day that we attempted to move the giant, white, lead elephant that was masquerading as a freezer in her basement.

That morning, my mother asked me to go to Grandma’s to help my sister. Mom phrased the demand like it was a reasonable request, being a respectful child, who was still in university and therefore living on her parents’ dime, I obliged. So off my sister and I went, supposedly to move a freezer, but actually to murder our grandmother.

We got there and discovered that the appliance in question was NOT in fact one of those charming, petite chest freezers meant for apartments but rather was a hulking, metal behemoth designed to house enough frozen food for a medium sized army. In “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape”, the children burned down the house because it would have required a crane to move their deceased and beloved but morbidly obese mother. As far as I’m concerned, my grandmother’s freezer deserved this kind of ending. Not surprisingly, me, my sister and my grandmother discovered that we were unable to lift it ourselves.

“Not to worry girls” my grandmother cheerfully told us. “We’ll get Tommy from down the street- he’s very strong”. My sister and I pictured Tommy as a strapping nineteen year old who has a chin up bar installed on his bedroom door, the kind of guy who wears t-shirts with protein shake logos and whose vocabulary consists primarily of the words: bro, dude and Yeeeeeah! No – Tommy was another octogenarian, although supposedly a freakishly strong one based on Grandma’s faith that he could assist us in moving this freezer. Not recognizing that his demise was imminent, Tommy chatted happily as we walked back to the house, strategizing that we’d use carpet ends that Grandma had kicking around to slide the enormous, metal freezer across the basement and up the stairs.

It bears mentioning the stairs. Specifically the fact that had it snowed in my Grandma’s basement, the pitch of the stairs was so steep that Olympians could have competed for downhill skiing gold on these steps. Later in my grandmother’s life, when she finally acquiesced to having one of those chairlifts installed, cousins would take turns scaring the bejesus out of themselves by taking a ride, moving sideways down the steep slope. One can only conclude that four children gave Grandma nerves of steel even into her 90’s because I would smell like a decaying antelope before I’d ride that chair twice a day to do laundry.

I digress- this was the treacherous path that the gigantic freezer was supposed to take up and out of the house. Suddenly burning the place down to escape moving the  gargantuan appliance wasn’t looking so crazy.  When the freezer slid backwards down the stairs on the carpet ends and foiled Tommy’s plans to ease the process, it was decided that we would each grab a corner and hoist the enormous metal beast ourselves. Diana and I offered to lift from the bottom of the stairs but Tommy and Grandma insisted that they would take that position, essentially sealing their dark, flattened fate. It was like some sort of elderly Hunger Games with my Grandma and her friend volunteering as tributes. Despite our best protests, they gave Diana and me no choice.

Up the freezer went; slowly, painfully. There were a couple of tense, harrowing moments when someone had to adjust their grasp on the smooth metal. But after every other step Tommy would call out “Up we go now girls, Everything is tickety boo” or “Almost there now, Bob’s your uncle” while Diana and I exchanged skeptical looks because everything was NOT tickety boo and we had many uncles but Bob was not one of them.

The whole experience was horrifying, but the worst part was when we reached the steepest point of the stairs, the shape of the house meant that the top of the freezer almost met the ceiling, so for what felt like thirty minutes but was probably only three or four, we lost sight of Grandma and Tommy. I gripped the freezer tightly with my flimsy, pipecleaner-like arms, stepping up when Tommy’s muffled voice instructed, because even though I was going to be party to his manslaughter, the least I could do was listen to him. Once or twice Diana and I glanced at each other to silently commiserate about our poor choices that had led us here, an act that we’d no doubt continue for many years in prison as we served out our sentence for double senilicide.

Perhaps there was a guardian angel helping us, one who had spent its heavenly days bench pressing Bibles or other weighty items in the afterlife, but we managed to get the freezer up those steep, steep steps. To be honest, I can’t remember how we moved the freezer out of the house, or even how it was hoisted up into the bed of our truck. All of that is overwhelmed by the memory of the relief I felt when we turned the corner away from the stairs and Grandma’s white haired head came back into view.

The freezer made its way to Diana’s house at the university, where it remains, I’m assuming to this day because she left it there when she moved out. As sad as I am today over my grandmother’s recent passing, I’m grateful that she and Tommy survived that day and for all the memories we made during the years afterward.