Friday, April 27, 2012

Near-death experience had multiple legs

Spring has barely sprung and I have already had a near-death experience. It was awful and I tremble just sitting here thinking about it. I was moving a few items around in the shed, doing some of that spring cleaning that is so popular this time of year, when ‘it’ nearly got me.
Had it not been for my ninja-like reflexes, ‘it’ may have been the end of me. ‘It’ was the biggest, blackest, hairiest, nastiest, ugliest spider I have ever seen in my life.
This thing was a monster. It was so large a tarantula would call it ‘Sir.’ I moved some gardening implements and it scurried out from its dark hiding spot of doom and ran at me like the multi-legged demon spawn it was.
I did what any 250-pound man would do: I jumped straight up and yelled like a small, frightened child. My reflexes saved my life. Not because the spider was deadly, but because if it would have actually touched me I likely would have died from a heart attack.
As it was, my heart was beating out of my chest as my foot came crashing down on the arachnid with as much force as I could muster, turning the terror into a splootch mark on the floor. Thank God I have big feet – all the better to stomp a spider into oblivion with, my dear.
Now before People for the Ethical Treatment of Spiders, get their tie-died undies in a knot, I would like to
say it was either him or me. It was a fight to the death. The spider made the first move so technically I acted in self defense. I was just innocently cleaning out my shed when this beast from the deepest reaches of insect hell launched a sustained and aggressive attack.
Some may argue the spider was merely trying to get away, and that it was I who was at fault. To those people I say pooh-pooh to you. The only good spider is a dead spider. In case you have not figured it out by now, I do not like spiders.
I have never been fond of arachnids, but my stark-raving fear of the beasts was born from an incident in my youth. It was an event so traumatic I have a hard time talking about it even now. It was during a school camping trip to an area lake where me and a few friends (yes I actually had friends in elementary school, and not all of them were imaginary) were running through the woods when I plowed into a massive spider web that enveloped my entire body.
OK, it was not that big, but it did wrap around my face and head. Anyone who has done something similar knows how freaky it can be, but wait, it gets worse.
The spider was in the middle of the web when I crashed into it. As I went through the web, the spider, that was just slightly smaller than a Alaskan King Crab, ended up in my left eye socket where it wiggled around before scrambling up my face and into my hair.
Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeek - is an understatement. Not only did I squeal like a frightened baby pig, I jumped and thrashed and danced around like I was on fire.
Of course my friends had no idea what was going on and when I calmed down enough to tell them, they offered me all the sympathy they could muster – by laughing their heads off.
Prior to the incident I was not a huge fan of spiders, but they did not induce the heart-stopping terror I deal with today. So every time I see a spider I consider it self defense and a fight to the death.
If I have said it once, I have said it a thousand times: the only good spider is a splootched spider.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Spring is a scary time of year

Lately, I have been living in a constant state of fear. No, the mafia is not after me and there is little chance Brian Mulroney will ever seek political office again, but I am still a nervous wreck.
Each day after work I enter my home with caution because I don’t know when it will happen, but I have no doubt that it will happen. And I will know when it is happening the second I see my wife. That glazed over look in her eyes, the perspiration on her brow, the rag in her hand and a lemony fresh smell permeating every corner of my home can mean only one thing: spring cleaning has begun.
Oh, the humanity.
I have survived 24 spring seasons with my wife, all of which have brought an onslaught of cleaning akin to a shark feeding frenzy, only more frantic and much more prolonged. A shark will be done with its victim in a matter of seconds but the cleaning frenzy can last for days. I know I will walk into my humble little home one day and get sucked into the cleaning vortex like a doughnut to a cop.
There is no escaping the black hole of spring cleaning, it will pull you in no matter how hard you struggle, which is something I realized many years ago.
Once the spring cleaning juggernaut has been set in motion there is no stopping it, altering it or avoiding it. I just hope I am able to survive it. My wife is a wonderful person, amazing mom and my best friend, but when spring cleaning time arrives she can be a little, well, let’s just say militant. A Marine Corps drill instructor could take lessons from her when the cleaning fever grips. Her plan is simple: all we have to do is clean, scrub, vacuum, disinfect and sterilize every single square inch of the house. Just the smell of lemons causes me to twitch uncontrollably.
The most time consuming part is going through the downstairs carpet with a magnifying glass and a pair of tweezers, looking for any lint that may have survived the 135 vacuumings it was already given. I am kidding of course.
The carpet is only vacuumed 132 times. One year we even cleaned under the stairs. Why? I have no idea, but it was vital to the continued existence of the human race (and a happy wife) so I spent an afternoon digging out our Christmas decorations, hockey skates, odds and ends before cleaning, vacuuming and scrubbing the section of the house that no actual people use, but now the boxes have a nice, clean place to sit.
No section of the house is left untouched including, or should I say especially, the kid’s rooms.
The normal state of a teenager’s room is reminiscent of a Second World War aerial bombardment scene, so it is near the top of the cleaning hit list. Fortunately my kids are old enough to help their dear, sweet mother with the cleaning and hopefully it will be enough of a distraction for me to make good my escape. Finding a good hiding spot is hard work because she can track me down like a bloodhound on steroids. When things get too bad I retreat to the Man Cave – the last bastion of safety from the frenzy.
“Honey, where are you?”
“I’m in the garage, Sweetheart.”
“What are you doing out there?” “Um, er, cleaning, yea, that’s it. I’m spring cleaning the garage.”
“OK, but when you’re done I have a few things for you to do in the house.”
A few things? That’s kind of like saying Titanic had a slight mishap.
But I know that eventually I will run out of food and water in the Man Cave and I will have to venture into the house to resupply where I will more than likely be recruited (see forced) into tending to those ‘few things’ she has planned.
Oh well, it could be worse, she could also be gripped by summer, fall and winter cleaning.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Papa Bear not too sad to see Junior Bear leave the den

Perhaps it is a Papa Bear thing, but I am just not that upset Junior was gone for three months, back for a few days and now gone again for another three months. I have heard it called the Papa Bear syndrome because a male bear will drive his own young out of his territory, while the Mama Bear is a little more willing to keep them around. Junior is spending six months on the road with a youth organization.
Four of those months will be spent in the U.S., before he and his classmates head off to Scotland, Ireland and Britain for six weeks. It is then back to Boston for a graduation ceremony before coming home to resume his role of annoying his siblings and eating everything in the house.
I did not exactly force Junior out of the house, and I admit there was a twinge of sadness when Scooter first boarded the plane back in January, but not nearly as much as what my wife, the Mama Bear, experienced.
As Junior was passing through security to enter the big bird that will take him on a big adventure, I could see a glistening in my wife’s eyes.
She had a far off look as if she was scanning the past 18 years of his life - remembering the squeaky little bundle we brought home that summers day long ago, his first day of school, the time he set the kitchen on fire, aaaah the memories.
I had a far off look as well.
My mind was also focusing on the situation, but Papa Bear was looking at things from a different angle. It was more along the lines of, “How in the hell am I going to pay for this?”
If there was a tear, it was shed for the fact I would not be getting a new-to-me motorcycle this year as any and all spare cash (as if there really is such a thing) was being used to send Junior on the biggest adventure of his young life.
But it’s all good. I can live without getting a new bike. I will just keep riding the one I have, no problem. And we don’t need to eat food every day. Skipping a meal once in a while is probably good for you. It is a sacrifice to send Junior away, but it is well worth it for such an amazing experience.
Anyway, back to the waiting area of the airport where the wife was missing her little boy and I was mourning the loss of a new motorcycle.
We watched as he entered the boarding area and then he was gone and it would be 12 weeks before we see him again…I mean except for emails, and Face Book and Skype and…
But still, he was not on my couch and he was several thousand kilometers away so there was separation. Fast forward to Easter weekend and I am back standing in the waiting area of an airport, but this time it is to pick Junior up for a few days at home before he jumps the pond and experiences the UK. When Junior and I saw each other, there were smiles all around and an awkward semi-hug thing between us.
You know, the kind of hug two men give each other when they want to show some affection, but are not real comfortable in expressing it.
It was more of a shoulder slap/lean towards each other thing than anything else, but we each knew what the other meant and were appreciative of it. Of course his mom gave him a big Mama Bear hug as did his little sister.
His little brother gave him a punch in the shoulder, which was promptly returned as a sign of brotherly love. All too fast the visit was over and Junior was once again boarding a plane. So now it will be three more months before he is back on the couch and raiding the fridge. T
he Mama Bear is sad, of course, as is Little Sister Bear. Little Brother Bear is taking it in stride as is the big, ol’ Papa Bear.
But the saddest of them all is Little Dog Bear, who simply can not understand where his favourite person keeps disappearing too.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Annual migration leads to my basement

It’s a fact of nature that animals migrate during the springtime.
Countless documentary type shows have chronicled the migrations of beasts large and small as they return from their winter feeding grounds to their summer homes where the living is good and the food abundant. And with the same regularity, many of these creatures migrate to the basement of my home. No, my house is not full of returning geese or migrating wildebeasts, but every spring my home fills up with teenagers – lots and lots of teenagers.
There is always a teen presence in my home year round, but in the springtime those numbers multiply – a lot. Previous years have seen the migration take on National Geographic proportions. They would come out of the woodwork and land in my basement.
Like their wild animal counterparts, they are loud, full of energy and are always on the prowl for food. Last year was the busiest on record with seven additional teenage boys spending most of Spring Break using my house as a gathering and feasting area.
Kind of like a natural oasis for teens. This year there is only four of them crashing in my basement for Spring Break, and saying ‘only’ is kind of like saying it was ‘only’ a tornado. If they are not hanging out in my basement, who knows where they would be gathering. It’s not that my son and his friends are bad kids, but they are teenage boys so they think and act accordingly. Anyone out there with teenage sons knows what ‘accordingly’ means.
First, it means they will eat everything in the house – and I do mean everything. Even the cat and dog start to get a little nervous when the feeding frenzy begins. I guess their primal predator survival skills kick in and they lay low until the frenzy stops.
We cook enough food on a daily basis to feed a small army, which is still not enough for a horde of hunger-crazed teens. Is it ever enough? I will have to get back to you on that one. Teen boys are also full of energy which they distribute throughout the world by doing stupid stuff – like jumping off the sun deck onto the trampoline, or trying to skateboard down a handrail that is 300 feet long, or seeing just how far they can jump their mountain bikes.
Teen boys are also loud – very loud. For some reason the louder they are, the more fun they are having and the more fun they are having the louder they are. The TV and stereo also must be cranked to a volume loud enough to drown out the sound of a landing jet liner.
For such young people they sure have poor hearing to need everything to be so loud. I have heard it said, “If it’s too loud, you’re too old.” If that is the case, I officially declare myself too old to deal with the noise. But there is just no way a herd of teens can do things quietly. I have accepted this as just part of how life is. The upside of my home being a clubhouse of sorts is I have developed the ability to block out unwanted noise. This skill has come in handy on many occasions at work.
 When some of my co-workers are stressed about all the ‘crazy’ background noise of the workplace, I can sit at my computer, happily typing away as if nothing were amiss.
 “Doesn’t all this noise make you crazy?” asked one frazzled co-worker during a particularly loud afternoon.
“I have teenagers, it will take a lot more than a few people talking on their phones to knock me off my game.”
Now if you will excuse me, I must go grocery shopping – where they know me by name and there is even some talk of getting me my own parking spot.

New way of going green

I know I am not the only person who has had this happen to them because I have witnessed the dilemma from both sides of the table.
The other day I spent a few minutes chatting with a buddy of mine after church.
Nothing odd or embarrassing about that – well, wait for it. The conversation was not the problem. The problem was I had a booger hanging from my nose that was just slightly smaller than a Smart Car.
I had no idea this Green Monster of Ick was crawling its way out of my nose ready to destroy the world like a Canadian version of Godzilla.
However, as soon as I ran into the Missus, she kindly pointed out I had this thing sticking out. The only thing that kept it from escaping completely was my abundant nostril hair. Now, the question is: was the Booger of Doom hanging out the entire time I was talking to my buddy, or did it get loose after the conversation? He never said anything about it, so maybe it wasn’t there. But if I were on the other side of the situation would I mention it was there?
“Hi Gary, how are ya? Good to see you. By the way, you have a giant snot slinky slithering out of your nose. So, how are the wife and kids?”
 It is not something you can casually slip into a conversation without the recipient of the news feeling at least somewhat embarrassed. And once the protruding bit of nose phlegm is pointed out, what then? Does the bearer of the booger just go macho and wipe it away with their hand? If they do, will you shake their hand at the end of the conversation? I thought not.
They could excuse themselves, head to the nearest box of tissues and reign in the offending piece of matter, which is probably the most sanitary and least disgusting thing to do. Of course, the conversation is over at that point.
"Sorry pal, I’ll be right back I just have to shake this booger loose.”
Not many conversations get restarted after such an interruption, unless the conversation is about boogers hanging from your nose.
If so, you have the perfect conversation starter at hand, or rather, in nose, or should it be partway out of the nose? I don’t know, booger etiquette has never been my strong suit.
When you are a kid, having a greenie hanging out is a topic of laughter from the boys and, usually, an ‘Ewwww, gross’ from the girls. Why boys find gross things funny is a topic for another column. But the younger the kid, the less they care about nasal discharge.
Every parent out there has seen their kids come home with ‘glassy sleeves.’ To a kid, sleeves were invented to be portable tissues. What other purpose do they serve than to slide across your nose? To a kid, none. Being a snot collector is about all they do.
And children use the full length of the forearm – from elbow to wrist – without so much as a second thought. Hey, I can remember being far too busy playing to go find a tissue and wipe my honker every few minutes. Besides, I had these cool sleeve things that were the perfect built-in tissue.
The sleeve device was always with me, I had two of them should one lose its absorbency and I did not even have to stop playing to take care of the situation.
Of course, as an adult I now know how truly revolting walking around with a sleeve or two covered in nose goo is, which is a strong argument for washing the children’s clothes separately from the civilized people in the house.
Like death and taxes, boogers are a part of life. I just hope to avoid all three for as long as possible.