My Date With Tim Horton’s Poutine

My teenage daughter and her friends wrote their final, final exam of Grade 10 this morning.

Pick us up and take us to Tim Hortons, she wheedled and pleaded.

As it happened, she went to school without her bus pass – having conned her grandparents into driving her there – so once I received the ping that the exam was done and dusted, off I went, having retrieved her wallet.

I dropped them off at the requested Tim’s location, plugged my phone in to charge in the cigarette lighter, and ordered the unthinkable at the drive-thru window: poutine. Ingredients? Seasoned potato wedges, which are sold as a side for sandwiches, in their native form; Québec cheese curds; and gravy from an unidentified source, so let’s just say an industrial size vat.

I’m going to posit that the most expensive ingredient in this confection is the Québec curds. Years ago, when I was young and also quite skilled at bamboozling my grandparents, Pop and Grandma would buy Québec cheese in insane quantities to bring back to South Jersey and portion out to all of their friends, and it was pricey then. Take that, Trump and your stupid comments about the North American dairy trade. Americans know what they like with their saltines and oyster crackers at 3:00 snack time.

So I ate, and my daughter texted me.

you can come in if you want

i have a charger in my bag

I’m ok. It’s breezy out here, I replied, in between bites of melty curds.

are you sure

Yep. I was.

The next thing I knew, she and one of her friends were back at the car to grab something out of a backpack. Satisfied that I wasn’t carjacked, I suppose, and my daughter shocked that I was eating lukewarm potato wedges covered in curds and gravy; they disappeared and moments later my kid was back with another friend, bearing a box of leftover donut holes.

Here. This is for you. We wanted to make sure you were eating properly.

In a way, the snarky little darlings had a point. You don’t go to a coffee shop to buy poutine, Québec cheese or no Québec cheese. You get a double double in a paper cup and a box of donut holes. Or if you’re a certain age and your doctor has started recommending more fiber in your diet, you order the raisin bran muffin warmed up with a pat of butter on the side.

To the chip truck owners of Western Québec, I see you and I hear you and I will make it up to you soon. I promise.

Douchebaggery and Entitlement (Or, It Must Be Thursday)

timelapse photography off water fountain

Photo by Gabriel Peter on

Tis a week before pay-day, and I’m bored with reading about the Duchy of Sussex’s charm school dropout side of the family. So I decided to catch up on what everyone else has been tweeting about, financially important things you should do before age 35.

I should have saved twice my salary. *Cue a bitter fountain of tears*

I am actually one of the Canadians who can’t even manage to save $500.

It should be easier than it looks. I don’t have student loan debt. I live with someone whose annual income is on-par with mine. But I’m 46, and still have kids at home, teenagers at that, with cell phones and the need for new clothes and groceries. Aye, the groceries.

Never mind the consumer debt. I got out of it once; it was nice. Did I mention the teenagers? Or, despite subscribing to online newsletters about responsible spending and saving, and making the effort, I still can’t quite get there? I do everything online. No cheques. No overdraft protection. Always try to avoid bank fees where possible. Cash only.

I have an 18-month-old granddaughter. I like to help out. The amount spent there isn’t garish by anyone’s standards. If I see a deal on diapers, or a book or a toy that combines fun and learning, I’m on it. She’s been eating what her parents eat, by and large, for a while now, which keeps the spending on baby and toddler food to a minimum.

All this said, I get angry when I hear about grown-ass men who have to be forcibly evicted from their parents’ home, where they contribute nothing, not even civilized conversation. Get a hair cut and get a job, ya damned hippie. Be a decent example to your son.

And then there’s Kevin Federline. Due to his overall irrelevance since 2008, following the nuclear meltdown of his marriage to Britney Spears, he’s had primary custody of their two sons and enjoyed monthly child support to the tune of $20,000. Now he says he needs three times that amount. I smell the smell of a man who’s been using one ex-wife to pay for the children he has with other women, which he should be ashamed of, frankly. Ya, ya. Nobody wants you when you’re down and out, right Kev? Oi! Hair cut! Job! Go get ’em.

It pisses me off when I see the 1% being stupid with their money, and still managing to come out ahead. Damned right I support increased taxation on the wealthy, even though I will never see any of it come back to me in the form of child tax benefits, since I owe the government money for the foreseeable future.

This reminds me to call my son – he’s 21 – and tell him to get on with opening a Registered Retirement Savings Plan. His contribution limit isn’t that steep. I don’t want him to look back at age 35, or even 45 or 65, and wonder where all the years of savings went.


The Wedding, A Happy Ending?

Is it too soon to say that everything is coming up Meghan, and literally in the nick of time?

This isn’t to say that her family has completely disappeared from the picture. Her father reportedly had surgery; her odious half-sister may or may not have invented an automobile accident involving a paparazzo; and the ex -in-law and her kids won’t be offering their tuppenny’s worth on Good Morning Britain.

While convention would have allowed Meghan’s mother Doria Ragland to escort her down the aisle, or Meghan to go it alone, Kensington Palace released a statement today that the Prince of Wales, her future father-in-law, will take her arm tomorrow morning.

Prince Charles has attracted his share of controversy over the years, but I could never think of any reason to contradict him as a parent. I think it’s sweet and fitting that he is walking her down the aisle. It is not a secret that he wanted a daughter of his own, and I believe that if a similar situation had arisen with the Duchess of Cambridge, he would have been there for her, too.

So, now that the wedding rehearsal is done and dusted, and things are calming down, I cannot wait to see the dress. And the cake. And hear Harry’s string of names pronounced with an actor’s polish during the vows.


Meghan Markle: Wedding Bell Hell?

What bride would want to be in Meghan Markle’s shoes right now?

The latest hiccup, that her ailing father isn’t going to walk her down the aisle at her wedding on Saturday morning, comes as no surprise, mostly because her half-sister Samantha is behind the reason, again.

I don’t understand the need people like Samantha have to keep throwing their weight around, making people miserable. So your sister got an upgrade in the marriage department? What’s that got to do with you? Nothing. I’d suggest looking inwardly, given that your sister has found little to no reason to maintain contact with you for almost a decade or more.

Another sister, an ex -in-law this time, is now in London with her sons for the wedding, but not as invited guests. Apparently, they are going to be “special correspondents” for Good Morning Britain. (Confidential to Meghan: upper-class people have eloped for less. Just saying.)

I suppose it’s too much to hope for that Meghan Markle and Prince Harry will have a peaceful wedding day, and that her family settles down and realizes that it IS all about HER, as it should be. The dress. The ring. The groom. All of it.




These (Not Very) Happy Golden Years

I went stateside on Saturday. Purpose of the trip? the Customs guard asked my father, who was driving. Shopping, the weary man replied, gesturing at my mother in the front passenger seat.

These trips don’t happen often, but when they do, they’re generally bittersweet.

We live an hour away from a border crossing. The agents there are pretty chill, despite the job they’re tasked to do. One was wearing his sassy pants the day my daughter and I were on a road trip by ourselves. Purpose of the trip? he asked. Shopping in St. Lawrence County, I said. Why? he replied, and I am still stumped for the right words to describe the expression on his face, a combination of not-quite disdain, leaning more towards amusement.

My earliest childhood memories begin in 1976. I was four-going-on-five, and Little Egg Harbor Township Elementary’s Lisa Simpson, had there been an animated Simpsons family to watch on television back then. We stayed with my grandparents in their home for the school year, and then we moved back to Canada, to our unsold home in east-end Ottawa.

Most summers, Christmases, Easters, and March Breaks were spent in South Jersey. We also spoke to our grandparents on the telephone for at least an hour once a week in those pre-Internet, pre-smartphone times, and as a result we never lost touch with what, for me, was home.

A drive south on Route 37 in Northern New York is a sociologist’s report come to fruition. Prosperity and poverty co-exist, on awkward display, at literally every other house or piece of unworked land. And in my heart I know it’s no different anywhere else we might go on the East Coast. (I’ve never been west of Pennsylvania, so I can’t speak to what’s happening out there personally.)

These are the times that try men’s souls, quoth the Founding Father Thomas Paine. We’re a long way removed from the days of publishing pamphlets to get our messages across, but if this blog o’ mine is going to have any purpose, I will have my say on politics and policy on both sides of the border.

It has always astounded me that people who live in such abject poverty saw in 45 (I refuse to address him by his name) their saviour. It may well be, to paraphrase a post on my Twitter feed this morning, that when they listen to him, they hear their own beliefs and biases writ large; but a year and a quarter in with his administration, and from a socio-economic point of view, I’m pretty sure tax cuts for the rich weren’t what the majority of the electorate was after.

Now, more than ever, job losses are a typed announcement taped to the doors and windows of failed businesses. My parents and I spoke at some length with our waitress at a soon-to-be shuttered Friendly’s ice cream shop in DeWitt, NY as we ate our lunch and paced ourselves through dessert sundaes for which lesser trips were taken. She already has two other jobs, but she needs all three to support herself and her family. We’re usually 20% tippers, but she got that and a couple dollars just before we left.

I’m seeing a shift from capitalism to corporatism, and I don’t like it. Am I guilty of encouraging this shift, some might say, by shopping online? Yes, but I don’t do it all the time. We as a Western society are stuck in a chasm born of so-called opportunity, convenience, and ease of use, and I’m at a loss as to how we get out of it.

This is what I do know. John Phillips of the Mamas and the Papas was onto something when he composed the lyric “all the leaves are brown, and the sky is grey.” He was singing about the bleakness of winter, but a month into spring in 2018, in a country I dream sometimes about moving back to, it is a vastness that only an open eye can see.


Much Ado About A Name

The little prince finally has a name: Louis Arthur Charles.

I can understand why the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge chose Charles. Equally, Arthur. I had hoped that the baby’s older brother, Prince George, wouldn’t have to share his name – an extension of his identity – with him, but apparently Louis for the House of Windsor has the same function as the name Leslie in my family: honouring a strong paternal figure across the generations.

I do wonder, though, if – if one is honouring grandparents, etc. in the naming of a newborn son – the Duchess’ family line was plumbed for ideas? And why not Philip? Perhaps for a third son? It’s a thought.

I don’t know why you’re obsessing over it, Mom, my teenage daughter chided. It’s not like he’s your kid, and they weren’t going to name him something popular.

True enough.

Regardless of what he’s called, publicly or privately, I wish him a lifetime of happiness and success in every capacity his position affords.

Spinning The Wheel

Even at this physical distance, I am still trying to process what happened in Toronto this week.

As the mother of two sons who have diagnoses on the autism spectrum, and equally the mother of a daughter, and a grandmother of a lovely, sharp female toddler; I may well be stumped for the right words, too.

Marc Lepine. Elliot Rodger. Alek Minassian. The misappropriation of the term incel.

At the risk of overstating the obvious, Western culture really hasn’t learned a damned thing or made the tamping down of misogyny a priority. Who, or what, can we blame? This is a world that welcomed a perverted parasite to the Oval Office with open arms, and everyone else who can see the emperor for the naked criminal he is are no closer to evicting him, try as they might. He’s all about his base, and it continues to be a dispiritingly strong one.

I also think parents still aren’t talking to their children about consent and entitlement in personal and romantic relationships. Look: it’s never a bad time to do it. And a child’s level of ability, or disability, shouldn’t even play into it. I am signed on to take a workshop next week on the topic of sex and disability, to help me bring my younger son up to speed, in a way he will hopefully understand, but I know there will be a need for remediation based on his personality, if only to remind him to keep his hands away from the front of his pants in public.

It is also incredibly important to keep top of mind that autism did not rent a cargo van and mount a sidewalk this week. Autism is not facing ten counts of first-degree murder and thirteen fourteen counts of attempted murder. Autism does not leave a breadcrumb trail of YouTube videos and a lengthy manifesto rife with vitriol towards the women who turn it down for sex. Autism does not radicalize itself.

We need to start with that, and prioritize conversations about mental health, generally, at home, at school, and in the workplace. Places where people gather, as a matter of course, on a daily basis.

And, since the personal is also political, we must reclaim the base. I am surprising myself by agreeing with Kanye West: self victimization is a disease. No one’s interests are served when it’s the practice to mollycoddle people who routinely behave badly and have learned that there is no real, lasting consequence for it.

If it is my job to teach my children how to get along in the world, why are so many others not out there doing the same? It’s time to get real.

It’s time to replace blame with basic human kindness. It’s time to turn the wheel.