Memories of Trips to Grandma’s House

After living in the country for more than two years, I can say with absolute certainty that I like it here.

The peace and tranquility I feel, away from daily doses of traffic jams, chronic noise pollution and a higher concentration of people with an innate talent for exasperating others, have been worth the time, the energy and the price of admission.

Despite this having been a truly joyful experience, there has been one inescapable irritant: Asian lady beetles.

For those who might not have had the pleasure (or displeasure) of meeting them, they look very much like lady bugs, but with a more orange-coloured outer shell.

While I am told that they aren’t destructive to property, one could be inclined to just ignore them… but it’s impossible. The problem is the numbers… on a crisp, sunny fall morning, my partner and I could be squishing dozens of them as they try to enter the house in search of a warm place for the winter.

And when you do catch one and squish it, they release this rancid peanut butter smell that is beyond gross.

The problem is that they have no natural predators around here. Whomever thought that it would be a good idea to bring them in to take care of aphids on soy bean plants (which are in abundance in our rural surroundings), they didn’t quite think through their plan.

In our first fall in the country, we tried several natural solutions suggested online to try to deter them but it was a losing battle. The invasion persisted.

In the second fall, we hired a company to spray the house to control them. The process was very effective. The only downside was that we had to be out of the house for six hours after the spraying.

If it was just my partner and myself, that wouldn’t be a problem. We’d just make good use of the time. However, there is a third party in the picture: Ivy the Wonder Cat.

The first time we had the spraying done, I made an appointment with the vet for her annual check-up and vaccinations. I asked if they could keep her a little longer and to run additional tests to monitor for a minor issue identified a year earlier. Fortunately, the additional tests revealed that the issue had cleared up.

This past fall, when it was time to spray again, I preferred to not risk overstaying my welcome with the vet. I was very comforted and grateful for the kind offer from relatives who offered to take us in for a few hours.

Just the same, the night before, I had a very hard time falling asleep. The morning’s logistics and the checklist of things to bring left me feeling a little overwhelmed.

Even though I wrote everything down to get it out of my subconscious, the fear of what could go wrong persisted. For a sensitive cat who lives for structure, I knew the disruption could be a challenge.

Questions swirled despite my attempt to count sheep well into the hundreds:

What if she takes out her frustration from the break in her routine on their furniture? (Answer: I’ll have to deal with it in the moment. Solution: I brought one of her scratching posts, just in case.)

What if Ivy has one of her monstrous bowel movements and stinks up their place? (Answer: bring the scooper and extra plastic bags.)

How do I transport all of her stuff so I’m not making 47 trips from the house to the car and then to their apartment? (Answer: put everything in one of the big suitcases.)

What if the exterminator shows up early? What if I can’t get Ivy into her crate in time? (Answer: We’ll just have to deal with it if/when it happens.)

Then my mind veered off into another direction: How the heck did my parents, friends and relatives do it when transporting kids, with diaper bags, diapers, portable playpens, bottles, car seats, extra clothes, etc.

In winter, it was the additional matter of snowsuits, tuques, mittens, scarves and winter boots.

And at Christmas, there were also the contributions to the festive meal and gifts to be transported.

I marvelled at their accomplishment and how they made it all look so easy!

On the morning of “spray day”, as I washed out Ivy’s litter box and prepared her suitcase of essentials, I couldn’t help but feel a flashback to my own childhood, a throwback to about 50 years ago when my own mom and dad were packing to drop me off at my grandparents.

Upon arrival, Ivy scoped out the new surroundings… repeatedly, methodically, for about an hour, meowing the whole time. Fortunately, because Ivy is well acquainted with our relatives, their home was probably host to familiar and comforting scents.

When my partner arrived an hour later (when the procedure on the house had been completed), Ivy settled down completely. I presume that knowing that her two dads were there, everything would be fine.

While she didn’t really nap during the time we were there, she was surprisingly well-behaved. The furniture and rugs were intact, she used her litter box properly and she didn’t show any signs of stress despite being away from home. Thank heavens!

All in all, it went better than I thought it would.

When it was almost time to leave, I took my time to pack her things up to make sure I didn’t forget anything.

Just the same, after dinner, we got the call that we forgot something… the pooper scooper and the extra bags I brought in case Ivy made a big stinky deposit. I made arrangements to promptly pick them up the next day as a used scooper is not the most glamourous thing I could have left behind as a sign of gratitude for their kindness.

That being the case, I still find it amazing how much stuff a cat needs, even for just the basic essentials for one day.

I presume that if we have to make visits like that on a regular basis, I might get used to the drill and relax more… especially the night before. Practice makes perfect, they say.

The whole experience just reminded me of how much thought and energy goes into parenting, even for something as simple as a stay at a relative’s house.

How our parents did it as often as they did is a mystery to me, but I feel huge admiration and respect for the way that they made it look as easy and as seamless as they did.

Let’s not forget the heartfelt thanks for the relatives who opened their homes to us, always saying it was a pleasure to host us.

How lucky we are to have such a village to help us raise our cat!

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Sincere thanks for reading!
Have a great day,
André

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The Power of Second Opinions

piggy bankWhile I consider myself an optimist who likes to think the best in people, I thank my Mom for raising me with a healthy degree of skepticism to keep things in balance.

If she didn’t, I think it would be safe to say that the Pollyanna in me might have fallen off the turnip truck, not seen the forest for the trees and may have gotten into financial hot water.

One life lesson that has proven invaluable has been the idea of getting a second opinion (…and sometimes a third.)

I don’t think a second opinion is needed when making small, routine purchases. Let’s face it, despite being starved for conversation after the pandemic lockdowns, we probably won’t make friends while canvassing for second opinions about long-lasting breath mints at the express check-out counter.

But to me, there are times when a second opinion makes sense to validate the necessity of an expensive transaction and that the associated costs are justified. Also, having a few moments to just take a deep breath and to absorb what we are being told without freaking out is an added bonus. Continue reading

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When Bath Towels Shed Like a Cat in Spring

a set of fluffy white towelsAfter the big move to the country, as I was unpacking my towels, I experienced a bit of a life-flashing-before-my-eyes moment, as each towel colour seemed to hold an association to a specific period in my life.

I guess the fact that I bought my bathroom towels in batches to coordinate with my decor each time I moved might have had something to do with it.

When I first moved out on my own, my bathroom (actually, my whole apartment) was decorated around basic black and white neutrals with red accents. It was easy, it was inexpensive (luckily, budget-friendly flat-pack furniture often came in either black or white), and it looked deliberate and pretty well put-together.

My linen closet was stocked with a first purchase of black towels. I enjoyed them because they were very low maintenance in the sense that they rarely needed special treatment. To me, they never showed stains the way a lighter colour might.

The only issue I had was the dust and the lint that they produced when they were brand new, despite several washings.

I found myself cleaning the pale bathroom floor more often than I would have liked simply because of the little black fibers and spots of lint that littered the floor. It only took a couple of days for the bathroom floor to look like it hadn’t been cleaned in weeks. This was more than the Type-A part of me could tolerate. Continue reading

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Too Excited to Sleep

cute stuffed toys in the shape of sheep I don’t know if it’s just me, but even after several decades on the planet, I can still get that giddy energy I did when I was a kid and sometimes find myself too excited to sleep.

When I was growing up, I remember being afflicted with that joyful sense of sleeplessness before my birthday, before Christmas, before summer holidays and before the first day of school (not for the school part itself, but to see my friends and favourite teachers again).

In the younger days of adulthood, I had those same moments but for different reasons. The start of a new job, an upcoming trip, a first date and the move to a new dwelling all brought with them a jolt of energy that could leave me looking a bit tired and puffy-eyed the next day.

A decade later, I noticed a shift to more experience-based reasons for being excited like once-in-a-lifetime concerts, Broadway shows, unique travel destinations, and celebratory meals with friends and family.

I get a chuckle out of how I’d even get too excited to sleep the night before the delivery of a new kitchen appliance. If that’s not an adult thing, I don’t know what is. Continue reading

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The Mystery of the Exploding Tissues

I think it would be fair to say that most people experience the “exploding tissue in the washing machine” situation at one time or another.

You know… it’s those times when despite having thoroughly checked the pockets of the garments being loaded into the washing machine, a tissue still sneaks in, goes through a full wash cycle, and explodes into a million little pieces.

Given my emergency preparedness training at work, it should come as no surprise that I always kept a tissue neatly tucked in a pocket (especially since the pandemic) to catch unplanned, unscheduled or unexpected sneezes.

That being the case, over the years, I was no stranger to the occasional case of exploding tissues in the wash.

It’s not that I didn’t check my pockets. I did… I do… I always do… but once in a while, I might miss one.

That being the case, I developed and implemented a two-step checking process to try to catch those sneaky little buggers (or “boogers” in the case of used ones):

Step 1: I check the pockets before an article of clothing goes into the laundry hamper.

Step 2: I check the pockets again before the clothing goes into the washing machine.

This two-step process has proven to be invaluable as I have found myself breathing a sigh of relief in catching some just before a wash load, especially a load of dark coloured clothes.

But still, every once in a while, a tissue sneaks through and makes a mess.

Why is this? Continue reading

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When Work Doesn’t Feel Like Work

An overhead shot of a writing desk, containing a pen, a pad of paper and a cup of coffee.Not too long ago, I was having a discussion with the cat, trying to nudge her along in her morning routine so that I could get back to the computer and my latest writing project.

The words out of my mouth made me pause for thought: “Please Ivy, Daddy needs to get back to work.”

I think that I said the word “work” out of habit more than anything else. But I started questioning whether it really was the most appropriate word to describe the fun I have pursuing my calling for writing and storytelling.

If you have read any of my blog posts over the last eight years, you know that this what I have been preparing for, to apply everything I’ve learned about writing through the years and being able to create for the pure enjoyment of it.

It was my #1 plan for my retirement years, and I am finally at the desk, downloading ideas from my brain, at a rate that sometimes surprises myself. With so many writing projects that have been buzzing around in my head for years, I feel like I am in a pretty crazy catch-up mode.

But is it “work”? To me, it doesn’t feel like it.

The various definitions online seem to follow a common core, but some are tainted with a negative slant or synonyms like “toil”, “exertion”, “drudgery” and “grind.” Continue reading

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Why I Don’t Ask for Directions

a sign post showing city names and the distances to travel to themFor as long as I can remember, there has always been a running gag among comedians and comedy writers about how men would rather lose a limb than ask for directions. It’s a generalization that may not apply to every guy on the planet, but you’d think it was, given how many times that theme has come up.

I hate to admit it but I am indeed one of those men.

I grew up in a family that lived on maps. In our library, we had amassed a collection of maps from our family vacations in addition to a couple of our fair city of Ottawa.

Once I was old enough to go bicycling on my own, I took to exploring our suburb. I would pull out the city map and find a corner of our ‘burb that I hadn’t discovered yet. Once I had my itinerary laid out, I’d hit the road.

To this day, I know that suburb inside and out to the point of being able to call upon that knowledge when traffic is tied up on the main artery, and I can nimbly navigate around the obstacle.

That was my first exposure to using maps, which became a life skill in itself, along with knowing how to fold it neatly back to its original accordion-like creasing. Continue reading

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When Did My Arms Get So Flabby?

two pairs of fitness dumbbellsTo say that I have been busy over the last few years would be a huge understatement.

Buying a house, selling a house, packing, moving, unpacking, tying up loose ends before retiring, all while a worldwide pandemic was raging was tough.

When I retired, the first few months were spent clearing what I call “the backlog of backlogs”, tending to appointments and in-person shopping that I could not complete during the pandemic restrictions.

It was only after rejigging my retirement routine a few dozen times that I finally found time to catch my breath. That was when clarity started setting in.

I started noticing the finer details of the flora and fauna around our rural property. I found that my ability to remember names, dates and details was improving. Ideas for my writing would actually stick around for a while and not go “poof” if I didn’t write them down immediately.

But one day, after my morning shower, as I was applying my anti-perspirant, my new-found clarity turned to horror when I noticed the tissue in the triceps area flopping around. When did that happen? Continue reading

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Deadlines: Friend or Foe?

After three decades working in the public sector, I am no stranger to deadlines.

Frankly, I don’t have a problem with them. If a colleague, a client or an executive needs quick information to enable them to take action, I am more than happy to make that happen.

I don’t know who hit the fast forward button in late 2012, but it seems that around that time deliverables seemed to increase in quantity and deadlines seemed to get progressively shorter.

I tried to adapt as best as I could and along the way, I noticed a contrast in how I was able to take some deadlines in stride while others had hair-raising, stress-provoking, anxiety-inducing effects.

For example, preparing briefing notes and status updates didn’t scare me. If I was actively involved in a file, describing its background, evolution and next steps seemed to come pretty naturally. To me, those were low-stress, easy deadlines to meet.

For the most part, solving client problems was also a straightforward process for me, a lot like solving math problems in school. I was pretty comfortable with those deadlines as well.

But surprisingly, it was the written assignments that were more of a wild card.

If a request was for something short, concise and to the point, I could usually pull that together in good time, no problem there. Continue reading

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The First Snowfall of the Season

When I hear the quote from Greek philosopher Epictetus, “it’s not what happens to you, it’s how you react to it that matters,” I admit that the words are sometimes a bitter pill to swallow when my frustration is beginning to swirl.

However, over time, I have discovered the wisdom of those words when I have seen the contrast in my own feelings over a recurring situation, and how those feelings can change depending on any number of contextual factors.

The first snowfall of the season is an excellent example.

As a young boy, that first snowfall was consistently met with joy and excitement as it meant a switch in the games we played outside at recess.

Running after snowflakes and catching them on our tongues to see who could catch the biggest was a favourite (clearly, it didn’t take much to amuse us). Piles of snow would become the focal point of a game of “king or queen of the castle”. And of course we would blow off steam with the occasional snowball fight, just for the fun of it. Continue reading

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