Wednesday, May 15, 2013


I was born and raised Catholic. I was also a born and raised stretcher of the truth. The two don't really seem all that connected, but like everything else in my world, they are.

As a kid you really couldn’t believe a lot of what I said. Living in the average middle class wasteland, I just really wanted a story that would make me stand out from the crowd, a beacon of hazy coal dust light in my boring old town.  Whether it was some exotic vacation I was about to go on to spend my days lounging pool side with servants (small town prairies.. my grandparent's pool and my Gramps playing the role of servant), a road trip to an exclusive farm with horses that celebrities come to buy (rural prairies... my aunt's farm.  One time a singer from the obscure 90's group Farmer's Daughter looked at one of her horses), I loved telling, and more importantly, creating, tall tales.

9 year old me.  A dance photo.. not the way I customarily dressed.

Reconciliation is traditionally the third sacrament celebrated by a kid born in to the Catholic Church. The first, and the one most of us can’t remember is Baptism, followed by First Communion (i.e. the little bread pieces Catholics eat at church) in about Grade 2, and the piece de rĂ©sistance, Reconciliation in Grade 4. I went to a catholic elementary school in my small town. We had mass in our school gym once a month, and were even given the opportunity to have the sacrament of Reconciliation bestowed upon us in the back office of my school library.

Reconciliation might be the thing that us Catholics are best known for. In movies you will see us enclose ourselves into a weird little phone booth, and confess our deepest, darkest sins to the priest behind the screen. Then the priest tells us how to ‘reconcile’ our sins, provides guidance for the future, and forgives us the aforementioned sins on behalf of the big guy.  He gives us penance to complete, like saying sorry, or a few Hail Mary's.. that sort of thing. Let me assure you, in today's Catholic Churches this is done more like a therapy session and less like.. well like a diabolical conversation between the mystery man behind the screen and the sinner on the other side. Cinematically, I can understand why they chose to film the latter. However, after your First Reconciliation, which takes place in grand ceremony at the church, most of us Catholic kids settled for the once a year reconciliation that was provided for us at our school, like I said, in the office at the back of the library.

As anything in elementary school, this was a big deal. At recess we talked about what sins we were going to say, and ran to each other after the big reveal to retell absolutely everything that was said, and exactly what our penance was to be. Well, at least I did. See, as a bored, totally average kid my sins were pretty mild. As we all started sharing stories I realized that even my worst sin, telling my mom to shut up after she had already walked out of the room and was for sure out of earshot, was utterly boring.

Other kids were stealing things, and tasting alcohol, and sneaking out of the house at night.

How could I be so boring??

I knew that shortly after recess I would be called. The confidence with which you knew the order of things in elementary school was fantastic. I was an “H” last name, so I knew I was right behind Chloe*, and in front of Nathan.

Chloe came from the bad side of town. The apartments. Somehow dubbed smurf village, the kids that lived there certainly weren’t experiencing the same kind of middle class existence that I was. She was on the list of kids my parents always said “No” when I asked to go to her house after school. So, naturally, in my creative little mind I had all kinds of explanations to my parents decidedly negative opinion on Chloe’s house. I just knew that she probably had pop on a school day, probably got to watch TV past 7, even if it had a warning on it, and was probably allowed to help herself to all sorts of sugary delights whenever she pleased. My horrible parents didn’t want me to see what life was like on the other side.

I second guessed the imagined life I had made for Chloe when she came out of the office.  Chloe’s face didn’t really look like a kid who was living the 9 year old dream.  Like only a 9 year old can do, I put that out of my mind as I marched towards my reckoning. 

I took a deep breath, made a vow to myself that I would not sob through this entire procedure as I had the first time, opened the door and sat down.

There was Father Abello sitting in an office chair, in front of stacks and stacks of books on the back desk, looking every part the keeper of secrets.

As I sat down and he said hello, I started crying.

Damn it.

Crap, now I thought damn it and that probably wasn’t good. BUT on the upside I did have another sin to confess to now. Cussing.

After he reassured me that it was ok to relax, and get myself together, I started talking. It felt like a dam had been released and I confessed every sin I could remember.

Reading my sister's diary with my cousin and kissing her Joey McIntyre posters when she wasn't home.

Eating 4 oreos and telling my mom it was only 2.

Taking three quarters out of my brother’s stand to get candy at a hockey game.

Picking up the used pull tickets at a hockey game and putting them in my pocket. Wait. That wasn’t a sin? I clearly needed a better explanation on how that all worked but I really thought my hidden stash meant I had a chance of winning. OK strike that sin from the record.

Then it happened. Before I knew what was coming out of my mouth, like an out of body experience I had seen on Unsolved Mysteries, I heard and witnessed my 9 year old self say this:

“And I haven’t been practicing my figure skating like I should be”

Um, ya.  I wasn’t in figure skating. I never had been.

I had just lied to a priest.

Oh my god this was bad.

My next thought as I heard my self stammering on about a coach that didn’t exist, was that maybe I could conclude with

“And all the other white lies I can’t recall”.

The thing that baffled me was that I was in a variety of activities, all of which I’m sure I didn’t practice enough. Ballet, swimming.. the list went on. And yet I chose to make one up. What kind of kid makes up lies about sins that never happened?

Me, I guess.

Because I was so confused what to do next I just started crying. Weeping really. Father looked at me and started to offer me ways to do penance, starting with practicing my figure skating more. Hearing him restate my lie made me weep even louder, with the weird hiccups that started to hurt as I forced my little body to stop the madness.

I can’t really remember what else he said. My fate was sealed. What kind of terrible person lies to a priest in front of God and 100 or so Young Adult fiction books.

I came out of the office red faced and ashamed. This was yet another notch in my “I can’t believe I did that” belt and I was only 9. Up until this point the very worst thing I had done was finding out where they kept the empty recycling bottles at the hockey rink, and grabbing a few every time I was there for my brother's hockey, and returning them into the concession, again, for a free blue whale. I mean that was pretty brilliant, and no one was really getting hurt.

This was a sin far greater than those that came before.

As I accepted the fate that lay before me, I sadly walked towards my class knowing I should enjoy my time of earth. My afterlife was clearly going to be in the fiery depths of hell.

As I rounded the corner of the foyer, on my way down the hall, I saw an angel. She spoke two words to me and made me forget all about the fiery depths, and put my mind at ease.

As I hurriedly reached my class I exclaimed the miracle to my class. 

“Nathan!! I just saw your mom in the foyer! It’s HOT LUNCH!!!

*Names of the innocent have been changed.

Friday, May 10, 2013

And That's Why Luaus Are At Sunset....

I’m very thankful for my sister. In fact both my brother and I are for many reasons, like for instance the text she sent us last night.

“What should I get mom for Mother’s Day?”

Of course both my brother and I had been thinking about it, BUT as we both have the tendency to do, neither one of us did anything about the thinking. Long story short I neglected to even get the card in the mail on time (Like my brother said, if it wasn’t for Mandy mom would get her gift on Labour Day..) so I thought maybe I could put down a few thoughts about my mom.. and share it with everyone like I have been threatening to do for years. I know many of my immediate family members have been waiting on this blog since it was the very first book idea I said I would publish many, many years ago.

So here it is mom, a sort of grown up homemade Mother’s Day Card (but don’t worry Mandy got you something nice from all of us).

Matching Dresses.  Thanks Mom. 

That’s Why Luaus are at Sunset.. and Other Lies My Mother Told Me

My mom likes to tell stories. Whether they are her stories, or someone else’s, she loves to be the one who swoops in and tells THE most important part of the story, or the punch line (we will get to her efficacy of delivering a punch line later) before the person who spent all the time laying down the foundation for the funny little moment, or the surprising ending, can.

My whole life, my mom has explained the universe to me. That’s what moms do. What I started to learn as an adult though, is that sometimes my mom’s explanations or stories are not necessarily from fact. Let’s be clear here, she is not a habitual or compulsive liar, I think it’s just a leftover instinct to rationalize a world that can be hard to explain to your kids. I catch myself answering questions like this all the time.

“In this town McDonalds closes on this day.”

“Mommies are just smarter than Daddies.. we don’t know why.”

“Yes Mommy was a princess when she was younger.”

“I don’t know what vegetable that is, but I’m sure it’s a cousin of an artichoke.”

You catch my drift? As moms of little children we are often zooming around a thousand miles a minute with little people asking questions about everything, and while they can be as benign as “Why do people have eyes?” (Annabelle asked me that yesterday) to “How do you get to heaven.. float or take an invisible elevator?” (Ben’s question after my Grandpa passed away). Basically, you try the best to answer the questions as they come, but sometimes when pushed for a more intricate answer, it’s easiest to just say what you think the answer is.

The thing is, as you get older, and think back to things that your mom said or did.. you start to realize that maybe she made a bit of that up. And then you realize that she hasn’t really stopped the habit of trying to rationalize the world for her adult children. And now, as we have caught her, and DAD at some instances doing, we have figured out that in some cases, mom is just making sh#t up as she goes along.

Driving in Maui a few years ago, we were all talking about the Luau we were headed to that night. Suddenly mom piped in and said, “You know why Luaus are at sunset.. right?” She continued, “It’s because it’s all native Hawaiians that work at the Luaus, but they don’t pay a lot of money, so they have to have another job during the day in order to make ends meet. So that’s why you can never go to a Luau during the day.”

You can imagine the sounds in the car as we all laughed and snorted informing mom that Luaus are at sunset because it’s an ancient sunset ceremony of the brining in of the warriors and food for celebrations. I mean I guess she’s maybe right about having to have another job thing.. but not so much about the reason behind the timing of the Luaus. She then admitted she didn’t know that as fact, but it was what she supposed. This, in essence, is my mother.

Another favorite story of mom is when she attempted to take a bus from Regina to the small town Mike and I were living in before we had Ben. My mom loves to chit chat ( a real shocker I know) and was having a great conversation with someone she ran into at the bus depot. They laughed and talked, boarded the bus and off they went. As they got onto the highway, Mom started noticing they were maybe taking a different way out of town. After the first stop she realized that she was, in fact, on a bus going precisely in the wrong direction. She was not coming to see me.. oh no. She was going to Saskatoon.

She was in luck though, my dad and sister were actually also on their way to see us from Alberta, and it would work out for them to pick her up from the bus depot on the way through.

That’s where her luck ended. About 30 minutes out of Regina they hit road conditions that were so bad, they ended up having to pull over, as were multiple semis and other vehicles. The roads were white, no driving lane visible, and getting closed behind them. Suddenly she saw Semi’s pulling up hauling RV’s. Well, between her and her newfound friend, they have discovered with joy that they were obviously being put up in RV’s for the night!

You can imagine their disappointment when the RV’s left, continuing enroute to their destination, and their bus followed the chain of vehicles ready to continue as well.

She never, ever got teased about this. Ok, still to this day we bug her about the RV’s when we see them on the highway. And, the worst part is we would never have been the wiser if she wouldn’t have relayed her blonde moment to us upon getting picked up at the WRONG bus depot. That’s a really good thing about my mom.. she can laugh at herself.

But these are all fairly recent stories, my favorite is actually from our childhood.

Christmastime. My favorite time of the year!

We decorated the tree, celebrated together in our house stuffed full of family, delicious food, lights, music and the excited anticipation of what Christmas morning would bring. Santa and his reindeer were spotted in the sky as us kids ran around drunk on the promise of candies, and toys, and ripping through presents faster than the year before. We, like most children hung our stockings, posing for the annual picture that Mom insisted Dad take, set out milk and cookies for Santa and his reindeer, and took ½ a Gravol and went to bed.

Wait. You didn’t have the tradition of mom giving you a little pink pill before bed at Christmastime? See, I thought all kids did until I got a bit older and started asking my friends about their Christmas Eve traditions. It turns out other people’s moms weren’t as sneaky as ours. We were definitely going to get a good nights rest.

Oh, Mom.

There are so many stories I have in my arsenal about growing up as your daughter. While I’ve poked fun of some of your more.. let’s call them original moments, most of them center around…

…A home cooked meal every night, despite you working full time (I used to get annoyed that I would have to turn the oven on as a teenager when I got home from school, to pop whatever lovely meal you had prepared the night before in. I really, really wish someone would do that for me now…).

…Taking us everywhere you went. Driving all the way from hockey tournaments to Disneyland and never knowing that Justin used to drive us around in the van when he was 14.

..Always doing my hair, and dressing me in cute outfits. But I will never, ever thank you for perming my bangs. That was cruel.

…A yard more beautiful than any one else’s on the block, rubbing our backs when we didn’t feel good, being hard on us and never believing me when I said a teacher just didn’t like me for no good reason (“What did you do Brittany?), waiting up every single night we went out in high school (I didn’t really like that much back then.. ), lying to me in labour with Ben that pushing would feel better, and listening to my baby breathing on the phone (“Isn’t is sooo cute Mom??!!”).

…Being the most loyal supporter of the three of us in hockey, dance, cheer, and even still horses. (I can actually hear Dad muttering “they eat, shit and spend my money” as I type.)

…Bossing Granny around and then being mad that I boss you around, and then laughing when Belle bosses me around.

You know, just regular, everyday memories that are all at once, average, but truly remarkable in the nature that this love was expected from you by us all our lives, because it was just always there.

So, Happy Mother’s Day Mom!! You truly are one of a kind.

We love you, and the stories you make up. xoxo

I'm pretty sure this is how you still see us.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Dating in High School

The actual pic Mike had in his wallet.  Do kids even give pictures anymore. 
( Also, am I old because I asked what the kids do..??)
 Every once in awhile I will hear a song that will transport me back to those times. I know, you are probably imagining something like Britney Spears or N’Sync (If you think the latter, we are not friends. Those who know me know I swear allegiance to BSB. If you still don’t know what I am talking about.. stop reading now.) Alas, it was not bubble gum pop that brings me back to those moments of over powering Coconut scented car trees, Jungle Juice, Sun In (Oh the perils of my past love/hate relationship with thee), and wearing skirts I’m sure are too small even for Annabelle.

Nope, it’s the words of 2Pac, old school Jay Z and Snoop Dogg. My hockey playing boyfriend, and his friends that were jammed in his ’88 Accord would pull in front of my house windows down, rap blasting as I ran out of the house to be smushed in between, or on top of his friends, reminding me the skirt was probably not the best choice.

Ok, now press play, then come back and keep reading.  Now you have the soundtrack..

But I’ve gotten ahead of myself.

The very first time I met Mike he was standing at the end of the hallway and he was laughing. If you’ve met Mike you know he has dimples and a smile with straight, (and now I hear expensive) beautiful teeth. I was new to the school, and my friend was pointing out all the cutest boys. I thought he was cute, but this was all in one overly pierced ear and out the other. I was still travelling back to my home town to hang out with my old friends, and of course, a different boy.

I finally had to stop the frequent bus trips (I can’t even imagine teenagers on busses these days.. do they exist? ) when cheerleading started up and we had to start cheering Friday night football games and my parents started suggesting I make friends within 100 miles. Every Friday night, the cheerleaders and football players would take the field while the rest of the school was drunk, in the stands having what looked to be a lot more fun than the sober behavior required while stunting. We cheered and led the drunk crowd in rousing renditions of “We Got Spirit”, and I watched my best friend flirting with hockey boys in the stands, as I got to look at the back of the football players wishing high school players didn’t have to wear tailbone pads. It was NOT the 90’s teen movie I had envisioned.

It didn’t take long for an arranged relationship, if you will, between myself, and the Captain, and quarterback of the football team. It would seem the rest of the school felt we were an obvious match. Apparently, they had been watching the same movies I had. It was an awkward meeting at an after party one night when I got introduced to the boy everyone else thought I should be dating.

In the debriefing that always takes place between two high school girls after an sort of interaction with boys, I told my best friend that he was cute, but wasn’t sure he was my type.

The next Friday my friend was determined that she was going to hang out with the hockey guys after the game. I told her I would meet up after my cheer duties were concluded, and I met up with the group in a parking lot. See kids, that’s where we partied in the late 90’s and early 2000’s. Parking lots, empty fields, and whatever idiot decided to host a high school party at their house. Anyways, I showed up to find my friend trying to her best to win the affections of the same hockey guy she had pointed out to me at school.. Mike. I could see he wasn’t really interested, but suddenly his friend was interested in me, and as a good friend, I agreed to go with them to grab a bite to eat.

The second thing I noticed about Mike was that he ate.. a lot. Not quickly, not shoveling, but with a slow and steady pace that was frankly, astonishing. He really still had zero interest in my friend, and the ginger that had eyes on me started to creep me out. The rest of the guys were loud and telling stories, while Mike sat back and watched, the ginger kept trying to touch me, and my friend tried harder and harder to be noticed. I just wanted to go home.

The next weekend was a long weekend, so I hopped back on that bus and headed home to see old friends, and as always, wanted to meet up with the boy I thought was still pretty awesome. I did, we all went out (again it was parties in parking lots and fields.. and a lot of driving around) and I looked at the boy I was sure was perfect in all ways and realized he was sorta dumb. And not as cute as I remembered.

But you know who I did start thinking about…

Meanwhile, my sweet friend was so excited to get another invite to hang out with the hockey boys. She showed up and was more than a little sad when Mike leaned into the car full of girls and asked where I was.

We made a game time decision the next day. A trade, straight across. I got the rights to ‘like’ Mike, while she got the go ahead to pursue my betrothed Quarterback with whom I was very certain I didn’t want to date. (And they say girls know nothing about sports… )

Before long I was looking for Mike in the crowd of drunk hockey players watching the football game, meeting up in between classes, and calling his house terrified his sister would pick up.

And here’s where I started the story. An old car, a bunch of white hockey players cranking up the music, and one blonde cheerleader, in a short skirt falling in love to the soundtrack of gangster rap.

Of course I turned up Spice Girls, Britney, and BSB as soon as I walked in the house and picked up the phone to tell my best friend Every. Single. Detail.

Look.  At.  That.  Skirt.  (And the Sun In.. ALWAYS the Sun In.)

Mike's Grad... I had to crop it because obvioulsy no one else in this pic is still together.

I'm so glad to have these memories.. and it wasn't all bubblegum and lip gloss.  Ok, a lot of it was, but we did some dumb stuff we did to eachother, and there were moments when I cried thinking he was going to just be 'some old highschool boyfriend' so it's honestly so cool to think that we made it to the other side of 'high school sweethearts'.