Cat scratch fever and the great escape

Two of my cats are rescues from Egypt. They are nuts, especially Mark, who is huge and lean and retains much feralness deep in his DNA.

Egyptian street cats should not be adopted here in Canada, no matter how adorable they are as kittens. Trust me on this.

I’ve been working in the yard and they are begging to come outside. They climb the screens.

A few days ago, I let them on the back deck. Cairo immediately plopped herself in a sunbeam. Mark ran the perimeter of the yard, howling at the top of his lungs. All was fine as I raked and weeded, talking away to both of them, who answered like the small unruly children they are.

Mark found a breach in the fence, gave a single curious yip, and dared me to come after him. He looked at me and blinked slowly as I hollered for backup after spotting my neighbour, Sarah, pull in from school. She volunteers at the local animal shelter and is also my cat sitter. She loves the little lunatic.

Within half an hour, she was questioning her love. We were down in the muck unsuccessfully bribing a cat. He stayed just out of reach, then finally took off. I sent her home, and went inside to consider that I was now a two-cat woman and may actually have a new lease on life.

I glanced into the yard an hour, later in time to see Mark strolling on the wrong side of the fence. I gingerly approached him, and he hesitated. I leaned over and grabbed him, and was rewarded with a deep scratch on my chest. I will be wearing turtlenecks as we head into summer.

My sister Gilly stopped by a little later; she also volunteers at the animal shelter. As we spoke, she pointed to the shed. Mark had climbed to the top of it. I very calmly yanked open the screen door.

“Marco, Marco, you’re going to die, get down!” I screamed.

Gilly laughed.

“He’s a cat, he’s fine,” she said, as he dove over the fence into another yard.

She started giving me rescue people tips while I planned my life with just two cats. Cairo sat at the back door, yelling her head off at her stupid brother.

We eventually spotted him at the fence line, crying.

The fence is high. My neighbours weren’t home. I ran and got a lawn chair and told Gill to keep talking to him.

“You’re going to go over the fence? Are you bendy enough?” she asked me.

“I’m fine. I can do this,” I replied.

“You’re wearing slippers,” she said.

I stood on the lawn chair and slung myself to the top rail. Mark and Gill both watched as I heaved my decidedly more-bendy-in-my-dreams body over. I clucked to Mark, who took off like a balloon across a parking lot on a windy day. We both called to him, trying to corral him.

I eventually got my hands around him and tossed him over the fence.

Gilly handed me the lawn chair so I could get home, and took Mark into the house. I got stuck on the way back, my feet exactly one inch too far apart as I straddled danger and safety. Praying nobody would choose now to look out their back windows, I finally collapsed into my yard.

Gilly came back, and we both stared at the lawn chair in the neighbour’s yard. Our surreptitiousness would be sorely challenged if we left behind such a big clue.

Using a two-by-four, I tried to lever the chair over. It came maddeningly close and fell.

Gilly got a rake, we managed to get the chair up into the air and grab it.

Mark yelled from the back door and Cairo swatted him in the head.

Free to a good home: hellcat.

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Back to beige

I’m painting the house beige, again.

It was always beige on my mother’s watch, because she liked things to match and be nondisruptive.

I do not do beige. I used to do all the painting for her because my father refused to do anything on the interior of the house. He’d rather have felled a tree than oil a squeaky door hinge, and thus it fell to me to build scaffolding out of step ladders and two-by-fours, risking life and limb in high stairwells as I broke every building safety code. My mother would clutch me around my calves, begging me to be careful and telling me I’d missed a spot.

I stared at a wall of paint chips a few days ago, a realtor’s words ringing in my ears: it’s not for you, keep it basic. When he’d first spied my place, his eyes had widened.

“Oh, I can see you’re artistic,” he said with a straight face.

I know now that is realtor code for “so that’s who buys that.”

My walls are fierce with colour and yes, I know it makes rooms look smaller, but they’re my rooms and I paint with love and emotion. I looked at the beige array before me now, small chips taunting me with their nothingness.

I spied one in the middle, slightly darker (or less beige) than the others, called Saskatchewan Prairie. I cannot tell you how much I wanted to buy this paint. I wanted to lob one last blast from Dad into this house, to sell off his life’s work with a nod to his birthplace.

I dutifully bought the more beige sampler, something called Buckskin, but still clutched the Saskatchewan Prairie paint chip hoping I could talk my painter into seeing it my way.

I’d forced Mom out on a limb once, convincing her we could lean a little green when her furniture had delicate uses of the colour. She eventually agreed, though the colour was more like a vat of white paint with a breath mint dropped in it.

When we were young, my Dad only bought paint that was robin’s egg blue for our bedrooms. If our rooms got repainted, it was the same colour. Over and over. I can still see tiny glimpses of it deep in the closets sometimes, and it reminds me that if Dad actually had done a little more inside, maybe my crazy colours wouldn’t seem so foreign.

So my walls are going beige — sorry, buckskin — as we speak. It’s boring, but I’m keeping in mind my imaginary nonartistic buyers who won’t know nor care what lies beneath, or maybe one day will scratch the surface and gasp in horror.

We slapped up the buckskin on a few walls to see how it looked, and I said it looked beige. Jeff, my painter, pointed out the differences in tone from hallways to rooms depending on the time of day and lighting. He said a bunch of other things, but I was still holding Saskatchewan Prairie and making a crabby face.

“I’ll do what you want,” he began, but I stopped him.

I knew it would be too dark, and I knew I’d be wrong to choose now to flex my painting expertise. I ran around holding Saskatchewan Prairie from wall to wall, as if the few square centimetres would tell me a different story in a different place.

It didn’t. There is a time and a place to paint with love and emotion, and this isn’t it.

Maybe I’ll leave a small speck of robin’s egg blue in a bedroom closet.

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Murphy Brown had it right: find yourself an Eldon

I found a husband on Facebook.

He’s actually somebody else’s husband, but he’s working out quite nicely. He does floors and windows. Right now he’s in my garage sanding cupboard doors, while I’m inside sanding and painting the cabinets. When he comes in, he tells me I’m doing a fine job even though we both know I’m not.

After my whining on Facebook that my bedroom windows were all falling down, Jeff showed up. We’d never met, but had mutual Facebook car friends. The fact that his wife Linda is a Motherlode fan may have helped a little.

He offered to drop by to take a look at the windows, first explaining that he’d renovated many places and had all his own tools. I may have swooned. A few weeks ago in this column, I mentioned my Internet window tool fiasco.

He knocked on my door and I showed him my Internet tool, which isn’t nearly as hot as it sounds. He thrust up my window — also not as hot as it sounds — and watched as it shuddered in a collapse worthy of any high school, Shakespearean Lear.

“All the windows do that,” I explained.

It was true. My parents had them installed a million years ago, but they’d never worked properly and if I was cruel, I’d name the company that installed them. I’m not and I won’t, but if you buy something that costs a ton of money, make them come back and honour the warranty. Just sayin’.

“I have to source parts for them,” said Jeff.

My ears perked up. I’m fond of someone else doing the research. And the ordering. And the fixing.

“Leave it with me, and I’ll email you what I find out. But I really think it’s an easy fix.”

Like lightning striking or unicorns skidding on their butts down rainbows, a light bulb went off in my head.

“Do you do other things?” I asked Jeff.

Again, not as hot as it sounds.

“I need my kitchen cupboards painted. I need a hole in the dining room fixed. I need three doors hung. I need an outlet replaced. I need six rooms painted. My yard is a mess …”

He held up a hand and smiled.

“Let me find out about these windows,” he said.

“I’ll give you my Visa card,” I replied, lunging for my wallet.

I actually thought there was a very good chance I’d never hear from Jeff again, no matter how much Linda might enjoy reading Motherlode. I’ve pushed my limits with more than one man, and while I like to think it’s the overwhelming amount of work my house needs that seems threatening, I admit it might actually be it’s owner who can be a bit much.

Jeff came back. Jeff fixed a hole in the dining room. Jeff fixed the windows. Jeff built a custom landing rail. Jeff has sorted out a flooring issue. Jeff has custom fit a folding door I bought 20 years ago.

Jeff is transforming the kitchen cabinets and I am helping, though I have a niggling suspicion my help is much like when a toddler helps you do anything; it takes twice as long and you fix it when they’re not looking.

I handed him a mug of tea one day.

“You’re like a husband without the sex,” I laughed. “You ever watch Murphy Brown?”

If you’re of a certain age, you remember the show. Murphy had Eldon, who truly was the perfect man. He fixed things and painted things and gave her advice. Every woman I know wants an Eldon.

When all this is done, I think I owe Linda a dinner.

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Food is love: take your adult kids grocery shopping

I called Christopher, 25, to see if he wanted to come grocery shopping.

This is a great way to spend time with your sort-of adult children. We talk, we laugh, they lift, I pay.

As they all move out, my grocery bill has tumbled and I’m doing what my mom used to do — taking a little of the pressure off young budgets. They jump at the chance and I pretend it’s because they want to spend time with me, though we both know it’s because they want to get the good cheese.

Christer came with a list that Pammy had given him, because letting a man/boy wander around a grocery store when he’s hungry is a good way to ring up many, many things that do not remotely signal meal planning or nutrition. I giggled when I saw she’d written “romance lettuce,” and will now never call it anything else.

“She just wrote yogurt. What kind?” I asked Christopher.

He shrugged. I called her.

“Does Pammy still like this kind of soup?” I asked him 10 minutes later.

He shrugged. I sighed.

“Oh! I know what I want. Pickles.” he said. “But just normal pickles.”

He was peering at an entire section devoted to everything but normal pickles.

Zesty, garlic, baby, dill, sweet, this brand, that brand, he stared at them all.

“These are on sale,” I said, which made them the right kind.

He put them in the cart.

I glanced at the list and saw that Pammy had listed four dates with X’s beside them.

“She’ll be working so I have to fend for myself,” explained Christopher.

He tossed some chicken pot pies into the cart.

“Wait, they have better ones on sale,” I told him. “Put those back, and we’ll get one of the big ones instead.”

His eyes widened when I showed it to him.

“This is perfect for when she’s gone,” he said.

“That is big enough for a family of four. You can’t eat all that,” I told him.

“Well, I’ll just have it for lunch and dinner one day,” he reasoned.

The list had no snacks on it, something that my son managed to correct in nearly every aisle. Both my boys know I like to spoil their girlfriends, because neither girl ever asks for anything and both are always grateful if I remember their favourite things.

Ari and Christopher have both mastered getting what they want into the cart by telling me Pammy or Taryn wants it.

As we unloaded at the checkout, Christer held up a bottle of bathroom cleaner.

“Oh, and this whole grocery thing? Do you wanna know what’s really crazy?” he asked me.

“How much you have to spend on things that aren’t even food. It’s nuts,” he said, shaking his head sadly.

I had a flashback to his brother, Ari, explaining that he didn’t have to clean the shower, because it was getting hit with soap and water all the time, so it was essentially self-cleaning. I’m not sure if I’d told Taryn this story, but she’ll find out soon enough. They move out next week.

“No kidding,” I said to Christopher.

“All those things you used to laugh at me for stocking up on when they went on sale. See?” I added in my older and wiser voice.

“Toilet paper!” he continued. “Do you know what a ripoff toilet paper is? It’s like wiping your butt with money.”

The woman at the checkout chose now to look up. I pretended I hadn’t heard him.

I glanced at the chocolate Easter eggs he was putting on the conveyor belt.

“What? They’re Pam’s favourite!” he said.

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Sometimes we forget how lucky we really are

When Dad was alive, he used to play the lottery.

Not every week, and never more than 10 bucks. He had a foil pie plate he kept in the dining room. He’d taken a narrow strip of left over trim from some project somebody started and never finished, sawed it into 49 little squares, and marked a number on each with a black Sharpie. I can still see his handwriting.

Every time you came in the house, you couldn’t leave until you’d pulled a few numbers. None of this machine-generated quick pick nonsense for Dad. We would tell him we didn’t want to choose numbers. We’d tell him to pick his own numbers. Mostly we’d pray for there to be a child around because children love doing this kind of thing. Children, and Dad.

I’d watch him sitting at the table, peering over his glasses as he scratched in the numbers on his sheet. It was odd, really. My father was the last person on earth to do anything by chance, yet here he was getting a chuckle out of trying his luck.

He was not a lucky kind of man, if you discount the fact that he got my mother to marry him and had some awesome daughters. Everything he got was hard fought and harder won, and I’m not sure if he played lottery numbers because he had a belief that his luck was going to change in one fell swoop, or because he could make us all do it with him.

On rare occasions he’d win $10, which meant that like most gamblers, he figured he was breaking even. He’d say he was plowing his “profits” back into the pot, which meant putting the purple tenner in the metal pie sheet full of broken bits of wood back on the dining room table. Mom loved this kind of decoration in her immaculate home.

I got stuck behind a woman in a convenience store the other day who had a system that rivalled NASA’s rocket launch program. I watched her fiddling about for an eon before remembering what a psychic told me decades ago. He said I’d never win the lottery, and it was a relief. It was like when Mom let me quit taking piano lessons. It gave me time to go and be good at some other thing, or at least stop being bad at this one.

When I’m with American friends, the ultimate conversation stopper is never about Canadian politeness or free health care; it’s about the fact that we don’t pay taxes on lottery winnings. They may envy many things, but none so much as a government that doesn’t take a wrecking ball to their powerball.

There was a time – before the psychic – when I thought a lot of money would solve a lot of my problems. Age has put the boots to that silliness; I know now if you can throw money at your problems and make them go away, you are lucky.

The truly heart-wrenching stuff, the things that really matter, take a different kind of currency. I swear that in a parallel universe, they’re playing their own carnival game where my heart is in a glass box and people get three swings for a buck.

I asked Dad once why he mucked about with splintered bits of numbered wood, if he really thought he was going to win the lottery. I’ll never forget what he told me, because it’s as true today as it was when he said it 40 years ago.

“Honey, you were born in Canada. You already won the lottery.”

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When you have no money for the beer getting place

“I still can’t find my wallet,” yelled Ari, 22.

Now, how is this my problem? It’s not my problem. But in the same way nobody in the house may rest if I can’t figure out how to scan something in the printer, nobody can rest if Ari can’t find his wallet.

We used to do this to my mother. It’s like ovaries are actually sonar detectors. I used to call Mom when I didn’t even live at home anymore and ask her where I’d left things. In my own home. She knew me so well she could usually figure out which coat pocket I’d left a set of keys in, or where I’d set something down while talking on the phone. It seems I got her hands, her smile and her ovarian sonar.

“Go out and check the cars,” I told him.

“I’ve already checked the cars. It’s not there,” he said, mildly exasperated that I wouldn’t believe him. I gave him that look that reminds him he’s a lot closer to being born yesterday than I am.

“Go out and check….”

He was heading back out to check the cars, because he knew I wouldn’t even begin to help until I’d seen with my own eyes that he’d ruled out the cars. He came back in holding his wallet.

“Told ya so,” I said.

“I couldn’t see it last night. And I wanted to go buy beer,” he said, ignoring my credit-taking initiative.

“Poor baby. A Saturday night without beer,” I laughed.

“Oh, I got beer. I just called Sarah.” I gave him the look.

Sarah lives across the street. Together with her brother, the four kids have grown up together. When we moved in, Ari and Sarah were not quite two years old. They all looked so much alike when they were younger that when I had all four of them with me, people assumed they were siblings.

Their lives have been entwined ever since, two mothers fluidly overseeing mealtimes, cottage trips, school runs and parties. The line is so blurred that to this day, if someone asks Sarah how many brothers she has, she says three.

“You mooched beer from Sarah?” I now asked Ari.

“Well, Taryn was at work and you were out. I really looked everywhere and couldn’t find my wallet. Everybody was meeting on line for a game, and I wanted beer. So I called Sarah.”

“And asked her what?”

“I told her she had to come with me to the store and buy me beer,” he explained patiently.

I pictured what I knew had happened. He’d called Sarah, explained his predicament, and she had sighed. She’d then put aside whatever she was doing and come over and got in the car to go with him to the beer store.

This is the same girl who, when the two were away in residence for their first years of school, coordinated each of them taking first day of school photos to send to the two mothers, who were no longer be able to take them.

Have I mentioned how much I love Sarah?

“I can’t believe you did that,” I told him, though of course I believed he’d done that. “You make sure you pay her back today.”

“She said not to worry about it,” said Ari.

“You pay her back now!”

I might have yelled this.

“I already did! Geez!”

The only thing better than your mom finding your wallet is your friend buying you beer.

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When you finish all your popcorn before the movie even starts

Depending on how closely you’ve followed this column over the years, you might recall Ari’s friend, Ben.

Ben swallowed a baby carrot at our cottage a few years back, providing an entertaining evening in the local emergency room. The cottage has provided much fodder for this space over the years, as have the various kids who have crashed on my couches, emptied out my fridge and barfed in my shrubbery. A trip to the cottage simply turned out to be a touring road show of a Broadway hit: same show, different location.

I’m having a difficult time keeping up these days with who is away at school, who is away for work, and who is away at all. I marvel at how well they all keep in touch, with many of them flung across the country for months at a time.

Ben, he of the carrot, works out west now, fighting fires.

I have “kids” in Ottawa, Calgary, Mississauga, Florida, Toronto, still here in town and who knows where else. The gift of friendship they give each other benefits this mama in many, many ways. I always know when Ben is in my house because all I can hear is a deep, booming, “I love you, Lorraine!” from wherever that six-foot-six boy is standing. What can I say? He was raised right.

Ben has been home since Christmas and is packing up his truck as I type this. It’s a long drive back to Alberta, and his mother has been doing that mom thing and assembling a road trip kit while he spends his time enjoying the last moments before his next work hitch. I suspect this return trip will be a little tougher on him with a girl, Rebecca, now in the mix of things he must leave behind.

The kids did their usual celebration/farewell on Friday night: karaoke at their favourite pub. This is also their Christmas Eve tradition. A couple of drinks in someone’s rec room, then a walk, no matter the weather, to that place where everybody thinks they can sing and very few can. Taryn has promised me video of Ari singing; Ari keeps quashing the idea. I plan on prevailing.

I happened to glance out the front door the following morning in time to see Ben’s truck. He’d come over to say goodbye to Ari and Taryn, Rebecca in tow. I watched through the window but I didn’t go out; I like the hellos far more than the goodbyes.

Ari came back in as Ben pulled out of the court.

“Well, is he all set?” I asked.

“Yeah, pretty much. But remember all that stuff I told you his mom packed for the trip?”

“Sure,” I replied.

“Well, we demolished the chips last night, all of them. And she’d put in a bunch of chocolate Easter bunnies. Those are gone, too,” he smiled.

“He has a long trip; you guys are idiots,” I said calmly.

“Well, Brenda also put in a McDonald’s gift card for him, and a huge bottle of Tylenol. Like, that Costco party pack size of Tylenol.”

When I hear things like this, all I can remember is kids yelling, “you just don’t understand me!” at their parents. Sure we do. Chips, chocolate, McDonald’s and Tylenol.

“Gonna be a long trek across the country with just a McDonald’s gift card,” I laughed.

“Oh, it gets worse,” Ari assured me. “Ben just took the gift card and spent it all on chicken nuggets, then ate them all after we left the bar last night.”

Brenda, I love your boy. And bless you for solving all his headaches in spite of how many he’s given you.

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Why cellphones don’t belong in classrooms

A senior public school in Toronto has banned the use of cellphones in the classroom.

They all should.

This topic has been hot for years, but debate regarding which outside influences should be permitted inside a classroom has been around forever.

Back in the day, I wasn’t allowed to have food or drink or a calculator with me; I also had teachers who forbade knapsacks, no doubt because I might be hiding food or drink or a calculator in one. Schools draft policies delineating what students can wear because it only takes one girl showing the bottom of her butt, or one boy showing the top of his, for educators to say “enough.”

What do all of these things have in common? They’re distractions. Some distractions are difficult to control, like the raging teen hormones that make many teachers’ jobs a nightmare at times. Some are easy to control, like blocking out the window in the door so kids aren’t glancing at who is in the hallway outside.

But cellphones are the perfect storm of distraction, their immediacy trumping all else, including reason. I don’t blame teachers for not wanting to compete with them.

The argument rages because it seems counterproductive to remove technology from a learning environment when it should be seen as a tool, not a traitor. The problem isn’t that cellphones and tablets aren’t amazing; it’s that they’ve reduced us all to having the attention span of a 6-year-old in an arcade. Good multi-tasking is not a real thing, nor is it something to brag about. It just means you are doing, through either choice or necessity, several things in a half-assed way instead of one thing well.

Consider that cellphone use in a car — especially texting — has now surpassed intoxication as the most deadly behaviour taking place behind the wheel. I’ve done both (controlled circumstances, closed course) and can vouch for that. Drunks are at least trying to focus on the road, whereas texters aren’t even looking at the road. But the science goes deeper than even the physical aspects of the application. Your brain, while engaged with a cellphone, has effectively shut out everything around it. When the thing it is shutting out is a classroom, we have a problem.

I’ve heard arguments from parents and kids alike. Parents can be the worst transgressors of all. I know parents who will text their kids, knowing they’re in class.

Seriously? What is wrong with you? If Ari texts me, the first thing I ask is where he is. Not to make you roll your eyes, but folks, if you’re not part of the solution, you really are part of the problem. You have to backstop your school by insisting your child is respectful to the teacher and the other students. That means learning something. That means not cheating others of learning something.

When there is some horrific shooting or lockdown on the news, there are always the requisite anecdotes of students using their phones to establish contact to relieved parents outside. I get it. But you will never get good legislation from emotional circumstances.

Cellphone use isn’t just about people playing with toys; there is a very real physical addiction to the devices, and an incoming text sets off dopamine receptors in your brain just like a slot machine paying out or a drug addict getting a fix.

To the kids who think they’re perhaps being singled out: you’re not. Very few adults are able to disconnect from their phones. Maybe by instituting curbs in your behaviour, we can start to get a grip on our own.

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Your trash, my Dad’s treasure

The cars ahead of me slowed inexplicably, something that happens more and more often as this once-a-town, now-a-city continues to push at its seams.

We have too many stop signs and traffic planners who can’t spell synchronicity and the fact remains: it is getting harder and harder to get anywhere.

And here we were again, a chain of cars ahead of me slowing to a stop for no discernible reason.

Then I saw it. A pile of household goods at the foot of a driveway. Hmmm.

A set of built-in bookcases from a 1960s rec room, a white industrial sink with a trail of rust from tap to drain and a bike frame. My city calls this Bulk Waste, when you can periodically put to the curb oversized household goods for disposal.

My father called this good garbage day.

Some households note important dates on the calendar, like anniversaries, birthdays and Christmas. Sommerfelds noted Good Garbage Day. My father would prowl around in whatever station wagon we currently had, declaring treasure amongst other people’s trash. My mother was humiliated, because this was before the reduce, reuse and recycle mantra was being chanted by schoolchildren everywhere.

The problem was my parents were one of those epic, romantic mismatches; Mom was the neighbourhood Avon lady and my Dad saw nothing wrong with rapping on a door and telling the homeowner that whenever they wanted to get rid of that lumber down the side of the house, to just call him and he’d come take it away in his station wagon. My mother didn’t actually die of mortification, but she came close on more than one occasion.

Some people can take a castoff appliance, rewire it and declare it new. Some can refinish wooden furniture. Some can upholster, paint, reinforce and rebuild. My father could do none of those things. He would take things that others had thrown away, bring them home, and tighten up some lagging section with various sized bolts which would ultimately just remind us why someone had thrown it away in the first place.

I learned a lot at my father’s elbow, driving around town like some crazy version of Bonnie and Clyde — if Bonnie and Clyde were father and daughter instead of killer romantics and held up garage sales instead of banks. It’s not like you had to drive a hard bargain: junk put out with the garbage is pretty much garbage. But you did have to get there early, because the best parts of Good Garbage Day could be over in the blink of an eye.

I was more enthusiastic about this form of retail when I was younger. I recall a small table on castors that I trundled home after school one day, one of its wheels missing and making the trek somewhat taxing. No matter; I’d found a mostly-intact table, for free!

My Dad stared at the missing castor, and promptly poked around until he found a huge bolt that could be made level to the remaining three wheels. My table no longer wheeled, and was a little tippy, but it had a back story. It would take me several decades to recognize that this describes some of the best things in life, including many of my people.

After silently cursing the backed up cars picking over my neighbour’s castoffs, I came home to a note from my sister, Gilly. She said earlier in the day, she’d been caught in weirdly slowing traffic. When she realized it was Good Garbage Day, she’d thought of Dad.

Twenty years on, we still think of you, Pop. Holding up traffic and cherry-picking the neighbour’s garbage.

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First came the mom-cancelling headphones

My laptop started doing weird things six months ago, but I found a way to wiggle something back into place and if I held it just right, it still turned on.

I knew then it was on its last legs, and like everything you solve with a MacGyver fix, you know it can’t last forever. The problem? As long as the fix is fixing, you forget you have a problem.

The other day, it finally crashed for the last time. I took it to Ari and asked what I should do. He glanced at the purple screen, pushed a couple of buttons and pronounced it dead. It promptly went black, as if it had just been waiting for its last rites.

“I told you it was going,” he told me, needlessly.

“I get it. But I need to replace it right now. I need this for work,” I reminded him.

“Best deals are online. But if you pay extra, we can get it shipped here by tomorrow.”

“How much more is it?”

“Forty-five bucks,” he replied.

I told him we would not be paying for express shipping. When it showed up the next day anyway, I vowed to never pay for express shipping for anything, ever.

I’ve got a new Chromebook, and I don’t think I’ve ever had a computer so easy to set up. Ari had been pushing me in that direction all along, but the idea of new computers or phones makes me miserable. I do not like change; my world may look like thinly disguised chaos, but there is a very real and complete method to my madness. The slightest ripple in my daily structure leaves behind fault lines, and I wonder when I became so precious.

If you’ve moved to Chrome, you’ll understand how the Google Cloud works. All your things get automatically sucked up into the computer cloud for storage, instead of on the actual computer. This cloud then sits above all your devices, so as I change from phone to laptop to desktop to iPad, everything tags along for the ride.

It’s fly-around Internet at its very best, and I know I should have listened to my kid sooner. After years of fumbling with losing things, backing up and then losing the backup, and cut and pasting work to pass from one device to another, I now have the full autonomy my son has been barking at me about for a couple of years.

As I was patting myself on the back for setting up the new laptop myself – a first – I heard Ari talking with his buddies. It seems someone else’s mom was shopping for a new computer, and I heard them all chime in with the same advice Ari had given me.

“Yeah, tell her to get a Chromebook,” said one voice.

I liked hearing all these computer geeks recommending the same thing. I can’t keep up with a technological world that is moving at warp speed, and it’s tough enough sussing out the automotive features I face each week. I’m grateful when Ari spares me the hassle of sourcing the computer issues, and I think it’s sweet that he knew the Cloud would make my work life a lot easier.

I passed through the room a few minutes later, still liking the little glow I felt in having all these kids ready to give advice to those of us less skilled. And I was just in time to hear my own kid adding to the conversation.

“Chromebooks are definitely the best way to cut down on the dumb mom questions,” said Ari, and his friends all cheered.

Brats.

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