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“Anything to declare?”

ErmaThat’s what he asked me.

“Anything to declare?” asked the Canada customs official.

Such a loaded question! They should really consider rephrasing that standard question asked by border services agents of all international travelers. You’re asking a woman if she has anything to declare?!

Oh, do I ever!  Let’s have a cup of coffee and talk about it! Indeed, I have something to declare!

I’ve taken a few days to reflect upon my experience and learning at a humour writers’ conference I recently attended. I now declare that I was deluged with new inspiration while at the Erma Bombeck Writers Workshop held bi-annually at the University of Dayton in Dayton, Ohio. By the way, you may not know this but the word deluge is a French term for being word-swarmed. But you know, there are advantages to being deluged, or word-swarmed – in addition to all the mind-blowing quotes I garnered from the speakers, I was able to pick up a few gems from the attendees too. For example:

Boom Boom Boys:
File this under “It’s Not What You Think …”. Please just know that I will be petitioning Drum Corps International to reschedule their 2016 competition not to coincide with the Erma Bombeck Writers Workshop.

Beta reader:
This is not the video player predecessor to VHS, but instead an indispensable trusted confidant who will read your work and provide you with much needed feedback before publishing (but not a professional editor, qually indispensable).

The FuckItBucket:*
I-am-so-done-tormenting-myself-over– useless -crap…

The Dayton Dribbler :
Not to be confused with the University of Dayton basketball team’s March Madness success, but rather the highly over-rated Marriott shower pressure.

The Quiet Zone :
Can we not all just agree that sleep is for sissies, retirees, and that man in 14C on UA4461? Also, is probably not the best gathering place for the Boom Boom Boys.

Ermatologist, Bombeckian, Bombie, Ermite, Bombette :
One of a massive throng of several hundred women (and eighteen men) ravishingly beautiful, startling witty and extraordinarily talented writers.

 

“Ma’am, anything to declare?” the customs official repeated.

I have words to declare, sir. Enough words to sustain me through many writing projects. 

And with that, my passport is stamped – a most noteworthy and emphatic endorsement of my efforts –  and I am on my way.

This post was brought to you by a deluge of words and inspired by an amazing coffee cup.

20140415-133632.jpg

* Okay, look. I know I don’t usually swear on my blog, and actually rarely swear at all, but when I heard this phrase, I fell in love with it and can’t seem to stop thinking about it. And since I am now over the age of fifty, I can put ‘restraint’ in my FuckItBucket.

Bring it (getting ready to be Bombecked)!

Very soon, I’ll be boarding a plane for the Erma Bombeck Writers Workshop in Dayton Ohio.  My first experience with this workshop (and any writers workshop, really) was two years ago.  I would guess that eighty percent of the 350 attendees were woman like me, of a certain age like me.  Throw in a few punchlines and a little wine and you have a fermenting cocktail (which I will affectionately refer to as the Dayton Dazzler)! While in the company of so much comedic virtuosos (both the faculty and the attendees), not to mention the neighbouring drum corps competition, I was able to come away profoundly inspired but also a little intimated (and moderately deaf). I wrote about this anxiety in a post-workshop post about The Burdon of Bombeck (as in, “Hi my name is Astra and it’s been sixteen days since I last wrote something funny”).

There have been so many questions posted on the attendees’ Facebook site by newbies!  I feel I’d be doing my part as a veteran Ermatolgist (as coined by the ever wit-faced Amy Sherman) to address them so the freshman Ermatologists have as much fun as us upperclassmen!

Do people have wine in their hotel room?

You don’t get out much do you? People have wine in the hallways, in the bathrooms and occasionally even in the bar. Bring it.

Do I really need to bring business cards?

You must have some other mechanism by which to make yourself truly unforgettable.  Bring it on.

Is it okay to wear bathrobes and fuzzy slippers to the sessions?

Not many people can rock that look but if you can … I say bring it!.

Carry-on or checking a suitcase?

You can’t take liquids in a carry-on (unless three ounces is what you call a drink, in which case we likely won’t meet this weekend), so I say bring it (the suitcase that is)!

Will there be t-shirts?

There will be t-shirts, glowsticks and glow necklaces, Hang Ten foam fingers, sun-visors, ball caps, slotted sunglasses, and over-sized multi-coloured beach balls.

I’m actually not 100% sure about any of that but it will be an event worthy of such rockin’ stuff!

Do people change for dinner?

Absolutely; I’m a totally different person at dinner. Who isn’t?

What goes on Saturday night?

What happens in Dayton, stays in Dayton (that’s all I’m gonna say)!

What a difference two years makes!

Can’t wait to be Dayton Dazzled and Bombecked!

Erma

Thawstruck

You can tell an awful lot about a woman by the contents of her freezer.

I have a friend who, despite having three kids, has a truly immaculate home, unlike my own home with three kids which seems to be rife with kid clutter and dog dirt. Whenever I come home from her place, I am inspired to tidy up just a little.  If nothing else, to at least wipe the dogs’ drool off the patio door. Well, this time I went for broke:  I cleaned out my bottom-drawer kitchen freezer!

There’s a certain je ne sais quoi about my kitchen freezer. In fact, a freezerful of je ne sais quoi. As I was cleaning it out, I was not at all surprised by the number of containers with unidentifiable contents, or the amount of food with freezer burn beyond rehabilitation.  I was, however, a little grossed out with the amount of dog hair I cleaned out of my freezer – which seems to be immune from freezer burn. Pretty sure this explains the string of declines for any dinner invites I extend.

Delighted with my Saturday morning’s accomplishment, I gathered the family (except the dogs) around the kitchen frig and presented them with my handiwork. “Ta da!” I announced, to a primarily indifferent audience.

“What’s that?” asked my husband, pointing to a little square Tupperware container amongst the ice cube trays and frozen treats.  “It’s Fishy” I whispered. “It’s fishy?” he asked. “Why does fish get its own corner of your freezer?” which would be a very good question in a normal household. “Shhh! Not fish,” I corrected, “Fishy.

“Fishy’s alive?!” screamed my daughter jumping up and down. Sigh.

“No honey, Fishy is not alive.  He is still very much dead.  He just happens to be still very dead in our freezer.” A now thoroughly confused husband then said, “I’m going to regret asking this, but what is a dead Fishy doing in our freezy?”

“Well, when he died, we were on our way out the door and didn’t have time to give him a proper funeral.”

“Sooo, when exactly did Fishy die?” asked my husband, glancing over at the fish bowl on the kitchen counter that contained a very much alive Beta fish.

“Three years ago.” I answered “Give or take …”

Needless to say, after having her dead fish replaced with a new alive one, the urgency surrounding a proper pet burial had diminished, and we all sort of forgot about the whole thing – until today.

Despite the wasted food and a long-overdue funeral, I truly feel like I accomplished something that morning.

The patio door, however, is still covered with dog drool.

This essay was written for the Erma Bombeck Writing Competition.  It didn’t win but was great fun to write.  I put on my best “Erma”.  As many of you know, I learned so much from the Erma Bombeck Writers Workshop held every other year in Dayton, Ohio, its faculty and most importantly its attendees.  You can read the winning entries here.

Playoff Hockey – It’s the reason for the season.

If the regular hockey season is responsible for my proclivity for coffee and pinot grigio, then the minor hockey playoff season is to blame for my increasingly regular consumption of energy drinks and tequila.

playoff ladder

The intensity of the playoff season is largely due to its unpredictability. Until the regular season league standings are final, we never know who we will face first in the playoffs, when the games will be, where the games will be and what practices will now be added to the schedule – or even if we’ll make the playoffs at all!  Hockey dads have no doubt analyzed numerous playoff scenarios and while I’m reasonably certain these scenarios where rhymed off several times over various dinner conversations, I think I tuned out around mid-January!

There is an entirely different atmosphere around playoff hockey, filled with traditions and superstitions.  Although most players are too young to sport playoff beards (at least until about Midget level anyway), nothing says ‘playoffs’ to a minor hockey player like a new outrageous hairstyle.  I really thought I’d seen the last of the mullet in my high school years, but it makes an unfortunately popular comeback around playoff time. And in striking contrast to the mullet, another playoff favourite is the military buzz.  The mane of choice for my two boys was decidedly the “hockey flow”.  A respectable playoff flow necessitates serious lock-nurturing of this long-ish hair (meaning, sporting a toque or baseball cap pretty much 24/7 to “get her goin’.”). If you ask me, a flow is just a millennial mullet (but no one is asking me).

Playoff hockey also intensifies players’ irrational behaviours.  Superstitions that are typically reserved for just the goalies during the regular season suddenly become major team events during playoffs. It could be the same t-shirt, the same toque or ball cap, and yes, even the same socks, all to be worn with religious regularity and without interruption right through to the Championship game – or elimination (which I am forbidden to speak of except in secret hand signals to my husband). The same goes for seating arrangements in the dressing room, and even in the car during carpools.Those who aren’t quite daring enough to trim their locks (meaning their mom didn’t give them permission) may be otherwise playoff-inspired to tint their locks (if their mom gives them permission). A whole bench of Billy Idol look-alikes.  Girls’ playoff hockey hair is certainly not left out in the cold either, as the low-lights in various team colours are decidedly playoff chic.

faceoff

Is it just me or does it seem that, between the hair, the rituals, the music and the whatnot, the more painstaking the preparation for playoffs, the sooner the team is eliminated from action? I wouldn’t dare say so before or during playoffs – that’s an epic jinx – but sometimes the lead up to the playoffs lasts longer than the playoffs themselves!  Oh well. At least their fashions are all set for NHL playoffs, and hopefully I can finally wash those socks!

So what is my best advice for survival of the post-season?  Take it one superstition and one tank of gas at a time.

Now, where’s my shaker of salt?

R-E-S-P-E-C-T … Sock it to me OMHA !

 

The Ontario Minor Hockey Association is expanding its existing Respect In Sport training program aimed at ensuring a safe and enjoyable atmosphere for all to enjoy Canada’s great sport of hockey. The association plans to make it mandatory for all coaches, on-ice volunteers, on-ice officials, and at least one parent from each registered player to take this course effective the 2014/2015 hockey season.

hockey_stick_and_a_puck2“Canada’s leading online bullying, abuse, harassment and negligence prevention program for parents, coaches and community leaders” takes about an hour, costs about $12 and is offered online… and will soon be mandatory if your child plans on playing hockey.

I know why Hockey Canada implemented this program and why OMHA is making this mandatory. I’ve been to hockey games where a few parents have gotten out of hand and yelled at the officials, yelled at the (child) players, yelled at each other.  I’ve been to hockey games where the officials themselves seem bent on punishing one kid, or one team or one coach.  I’ve seen coaches be issued a penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct (usually the stands are too far away to hear what that unsportsmanlike conduct is all about). I’m pretty sure what the association is doing is trying to deflect the current image the sport that hockey holds to some.  In short, they no doubt hope to curb the behaviour of ‘hockey parents from hell’ and prevent videos like this one

from ever taking place and ever going viral.

But on the whole, it’s quite rare.

As a fourteen-year hockey mom veteran, I can say so.  I can also say the only time I misbehave at hockey is when there’s no Tim Horton’s in a 2km radius of the arena (and, if you live in Canada, you know that would be a long shot). I can’t believe a sports association is making this a condition of my child’s participation.  The wrong group is being asked to set the example for, and fund, the rehabilitation of the few bad apples. Plus, I’m really bad at tests. What is there’s a final and I fail? Who’ll take my kids to practice then?  Hmmm, on second thought, maybe a ‘fail’ would be a ‘win’ after all!

The goal of hockey is to have fun. As if the cost of hockey hasn’t become prohibitive enough, this is just another potential barrier to getting kids into this national sport of ours.   Hockey is not an elitist sport but to suggest that specialized training is required of the parents for their children to even participate, sets it above other sports.

Rather than collect $12 from the vast majority of hockey coaches, officials and parents who are there for the kids for all the right reasons, why not levy a fine on those relatively few hockey parents that are offside? Suspend them, fine them, and ban them if necessary.  My parents taught me how to behave in public and I’m trying to do the same by my own.

If you have no respect in life, you will have no respect in sport, and no $12 training program will change that.

<steps down from soap box >

 

Texting the “Boys” Weekend

I don’t mind when my husband goes away on a boys’ weekend – really – I don’t. I have noticed, however, some fairly significant differences between a boys’ weekend and a girls’ weekend.

golf

For starters, men don’t know how to count.  A boys’ weekend is never forty-eight hours – it’s more like ninety-six hours.  Women have a different word for that – it’s a freakin’ vacation, is what that is. A girls’ weekend on the other hand, starts on Friday and ends on Sunday. It’s. A. Weekend. We’re gone for maybe forty-eight hours, but usually more like thirty-six hours.  That’s ok though, because by my counting, I can plan two girls’ weekends for every one boys’ weekend.

Planning a boys’ weekend is pretty easy too:  pick a date, pack your golf bags and head out the door.  Planning a girls’ weekend involves, um, more.

I’ve noticed most moms, myself included, are exhausted just getting out the door for a girls’ weekend given the Herculean effort involved in organizing a weekend away.  Yet, despite the effortlessness that seems to accompany planning a boys’ weekend, I have noticed that they don’t seem to come home very well rested at all.

During a girls’ weekend, I may text my husband that I arrived safely, ask if he found the casserole in the freezer, and remind him about our son’s baseball game. I would never text my husband asking him, “Can you check on our line of credit?” or better yet, “I talked to the police officer and it’s cool”. There’s not much to text from a girls weekend.  “I ate and I slept” isn’t all that exciting. I could ratchet it up a bit and say, “I laughed so hard that wine came out my nose” but am not sure if anyone at home would be interested in that one either. Or better yet, “spent four hours at the spaspa today – better than sex.” Yeah, I pressed cancel on that one too.

Returning from a boys’ weekend and walking into the house involves the onerous task of dumping the dirty laundry into the hamper and storing the golf clubs in the basement.  Returning from a girls’ weekend and walking into the house, well, it just brings tears to my eyes.

So despite their differences, what happens at a girls’ weekend, stays at a girls’ weekend and for sure, what happens at a boys’ weekend, stays at a boys’ weekend.  Maybe the texts should too.

Soul Sisters Weekend 2014 seems just a little too long away…

They love me …they love me not …

There it is …

The deadline is looming…

Just a few days away…

We can see the “Submit” button from here…

Just have to click it and we’re done …

admissions officeI’ve been helping my teenage son complete his post-secondary school applications.  It wasn’t that long ago that I remember filling out my own university applications.  Actually, I do remember now – it’s been over three decades since I even looked at a university application!  Oh well, those applications – they were some great memories.  

I can’t believe how streamlined the entire process is now.  This whole world wide web online application thing is pretty nifty.  Since Canadian schools are the only ones on his radar, there are no SATs to take or scores to submit, so the application itself is fairly standard – at least for the Ontario universities.  What it lacks in applicant differentiation, it makes up for in efficiency and simplicity!  We entered his OEN (Ontario Education Number), his student number, his high school code, then pointed and clicked our way to the Submit button.  His application to Manotick Co-Operative Nursery School back in 1999 wasn’t even this easy – and that involved an in-person interview – because arranging an interview with an alumnus would have been over the top, right?

Now comes the hard part:  the waiting.  This I do remember being extremely tedious.  What follows, God willing, is the equally challenging task of deciding which post-secondary institution I want to visit on a regular basis – I mean – which is the right environment for my son.  Of course, the task of paying for that choice – er –  opportunity of a lifetime – is also still a task at hand as well. As I was saying, God willing …

I’m not sure about my son, but I found the entire university application process so easy, that in fact, I told him that I was thinking maybe of applying to university all over again myself.

Silence.

“You’re kidding, right?”

Of course I’m kidding dear!  I can hardly leave your father in charge of redecorating your bedroom, now can I?

Bring on those offers, Admissions, I got my paint chips all lined up!

paint chips

Canadian Hockey Offers some Happiness ( or C2H5OH)

Hockey parents have this reputation for excessive drinking which I believe is unwarranted.  The truth is, hockey parents do like to drink a lot but, come on, it’s not because we’re hockey parents, it’s because we’re parents. Period. I can assure you that I was drinking long before my kids strapped on their first pair of skates!  For some reason, that does not seem to surprise anyone.

So you know who I think started this nasty rumour about hockey parents and their drinking? I think it was that it was those crazy little hockey kids who drove us to drinking in the first place – they’re the work of the devil.

My daughter asks me stuff like, “Oh, do you really need alcohol to have fun?” I pondered that this weekend as I looked around what passed for a hotel room smaller than my university dorm room and I answered, “Yes.  Yes I do. It is way more fun to be stuck in a little run-down hotel in the middle of nowhere with a glass of chardonnay than being stuck in a little run-down hotel in the middle of nowhere without a glass of chardonnay. In fact, I think you’re having way more fun yourself when I’m here with my little glass of chardonnay, because you’re out there doing God knows what and I don’t even know where you are until I need another little glass of chardonnay and I find you in some random hallway with all your friends eating popcorn” and thankfully not my chardonnay (not yet anyway; I’ll give that a few more years).”  She should know that hockey weekend would be way less fun for the both of us if I was without chardonnay.

How about this one: “I don’t know how you drink that stuff … it tastes terrible!” I don’t believe  it has ever been – nor will it ever be – about the taste. Wait until you have kids – especially hockey kids – and I assure you that little glass of chardonnay will NOT taste terrible, it will be medicinal magic –so will the second glass. And so on …

And when she tells me that I don’t need my wine to have fun, I tell her she doesn’t need the $12 buffet to have fun either.  What’s so fun about paying $12 to witness a couple hundred screaming little girls waiting half an hour for the one single waffle iron that every single one of them seems to “need” at 9:00AM on a Sunday morning?

I’d say we’re even.

white wine

 

Note: This is not a sponsored post, meaning , I was not offered any free booze to write this post. I had to buy it myself. And for you hockey parents, please rink dresponsibly.

 

 

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