That new fashion craze called The Hot Flash

It’s nature’s cruel trick that women don’t so much pass through rooms as they do through temperature zones

My mother used to wear a small sweater vest that her mother knit for her.

It was oatmeal-coloured, with tiny brass buttons that had a depression in them, and little bumps in the depressions. I would sit on her lap and put my tiny thumb into those tiny depressions, making my mother’s lap the most calming place in the world.

The vest would end up in various places around the house throughout my mother’s life. She’d take it on or off as needed, and I never understood the concept of trying to regulate your core temperature by leaving your clothes lying all over the house. She’d say it was because in England, where she grew up, houses were damp and cold; it was also the only thing she had that her mother had made her, which kept her warm in another way though I mostly recall her taking it on and off, and on and off.

Now I understand. I spent 50 years on a flight to the Menopausal Resort and Spa and the thermostat in my room is broken forever.

I don’t wear tiny sweater vests (though I still have my mother’s), but I have hooded sweatshirts everywhere. Right now, there is a pair of jeans in the living room and a pair of sweatpants in the rec room. It seems I don’t pass through rooms as much as temperature zones, and it might be the Caribbean in my living room one moment and the Arctic the next. Nobody else complains, so I know it’s just me. I shed clothes and need them again at random.

I’m actually lucky. By nature, I run cold. I’ve spent decades arguing with my sons about why we don’t really need the air conditioning going, until I discovered an 8-year-old Christopher lying in bed, ceiling fan on helicopter (that’s what they called it) and two additional stand fans directed at him. I put on the air conditioning. Just because I’m experiencing something different from you doesn’t mean I’m right, even if I do pay the bills.

I learned this lesson in time to preach it.

I sit on the back deck, working, and Mark the Cat thinks it would be great to curl up on my feet. It’s like sticking a thermometer in a mug of hot chocolate. Mark shifts a little to get more comfortable and I wonder how my mother handled all those warm little bodies snuggling on her lap as her temperature spiked and dropped. I didn’t understand why the freezer aisle at the grocery store was her favourite.

I stare at the neighbours’ pool, the aqua surface glistening through the fence. We used to beg my father for a pool, and he’d get all gruff and crabby and tell us pools were stupid and didn’t we know how lucky we were to have a cottage? I regret my mother never used her internal incinerator secret weapon to make him put in a pool. You may not be able to get a man to know what it feels like, but you can sure as hell make his life miserable while you go through it. (See also: labour.) Each time a hot flash hits, I Google how much it would cost to put a pool in. The problem is, I’m Googling in August, but I’m also Googling in February. And I can’t afford a pool.

I’ve devoted time to wondering why we’re designed to get flabby upper arms at the same time we most need sleeveless tops. I’ve considered when the driveway is covered with snow, I could probably just lie down on it and melt everything. I’m also aware that my mom lived through this without central air for years and years, though she didn’t complain as much as I do.

Maybe I should go find that sweater.

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A screen, a cat and eight remaining lives

Ari was cutting the front lawn the other day.

I work upstairs in the rec room, but the growl of the lawn mower was music to my ears. Unlike my father, who would run around slamming windows if the air conditioning was on while yelling at us for cooling off the whole outdoors goddammit, I like a little air moving through. Sorry, Pop.

I disappeared into whatever I was working on and barely registered the lawn mower pausing. Figuring he was just emptying the catcher, it took me a moment to realize he was running up the stairs to his room. I heard a window bang shut, and wondered if he was channelling his grandfather.

More like his cat, Frankie, was channelling Houdini.

As he cut the grass, Ari happened to look up. Frankie had pawed open a hole in the screen of his second storey bedroom and was sitting on the roof that covers the front porch. Just watching his daddy do his chores.

I replace screens all the time. I keep those little rolly tools at the cottage and at the house. I buy screening and piping like other people buy spare batteries. I know I’m going to need them. I can replace the mesh in a patio door in about 20 minutes. It takes one of my cats 20 seconds to rip it.

I’ve had cats do artful little tears in screens as long as I’ve owned cats. I’ve never had one flat out burst through it like those old Kool-Aid commercials, until Frankie came along. Sweet Pea sits in my bedroom window serenely watching the birds, knowing a two-storey plummet would be painful.

Mark and Cairo, my terrorist cats, have carefully torn out the corner of the screen door, an inch at a time like tiny prisoners digging their way to freedom. They don’t actually escape through it, however. They merely stick their paws out. I’m sure Frankie would be glad to show them how it’s done, but then I’d have cat-shaped holes in every screen in the house.

When Ari was small, I caught him and a few friends debating how to get the screen out in the bedroom he had then. At the back of the house, his window was directly over an awning over the back deck. I passed by in time to hear him explaining to his friends that if they could just get the screen out, they could bounce on the awning.

There are days when you wonder how any child makes it to adulthood.

There are also days when you want to go back to childhood to remind yourself there is nothing better than being a kid about to get up to no good.

I firmly believe that Frankie is Ari’s payback for such mischief.

I didn’t normally have to worry about the cats doing the damage. The boys and their friends would walk through screens all the time. I took to putting dangly pierced earrings at eye level to warn them the door was closed, which worked depending on the level of inebriation.

We’re debating putting a piece of Plexiglas at cat level this time though it occurs to me, if do that at every weak point in a screen, I’ll just have a window.

I’d already packed a roll of screening to go to the cottage to replace the big screens up there. Now I will buy a new round and get to work here at the house.

Ari doesn’t know it yet, but he’s getting a crash course in how to replace a screen.

Something tells me he’s gonna need it.

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Caged children — I don’t know what to do, either

Some days, it feels near impossible to write something called “Motherlode.” This is one of those days.

For 15 years now, I’ve shared my kids with you. I’ve written through laughter and I’ve written through tears. You do deserve to see how the sausage gets made, if only because we’re all doing a version of our own sausage production. To gloss over the tough stuff is disingenuous, and sharing the humour keeps us knitted together.

Children are not easy, and parenting is tough. I’ve yelled too often and stressed too much and often wondered if the grass really is greener on the other side. But then, this world is tough, and a reprieve from it is not only welcome but necessary. Just because I tell you something stupid my cats did doesn’t mean I’m not also freaking out over some decision one of my sons made. I’m selective in where I report from the roller coaster.

Today, all of it is background noise. It’s muted in the face of what is happening on the southern United States border, and what the Trump administration is doing to that nation. How the hell can I trundle along like it’s not happening? I’ve never felt so helpless in my life. Never.

A very intelligent friend of mine just asked on Facebook — Facebook, of all places, which uses your information against you — what we can do. And I have no idea. I can tell you that I won’t set foot in a Hudson’s Bay or a Winners until they stop carrying merchandise that allows this sinister man and his family to profit even more from his corrupt reign. But when I watch hate and intolerance continue to win big points in what was once one of the most amazing countries on Earth, I’m at a loss.

Children are being torn from their parents and put in cages. Those in charge are comparing it to summer camp. Those in charge are laughing at recordings of desperate children. Those doing their dirty work are just following orders. We are now living in a time when inhuman actions are happening at such breakneck speed, the only way to cope is to go numb.

We can’t afford to go numb.

We can’t afford to go numb.

We can’t afford to go numb.

I lie awake at night and count how many kids I could take in, where they could sleep. It’s entirely ridiculous, but how anyone who has ever loved any child could feel any different is beyond me. A year ago, I wouldn’t have considered that babies in the U.S. would be torn from their mothers’ breasts and stuffed into a cage.

Caged children are the bargaining chips in a country gone mad. Read that sentence again. Children will have been indelibly traumatized even if this ends tomorrow, which it won’t. Legitimate news organizations are now reporting that many of these kids will never be reunited with their parents in the chaos and fallout. Yes, they are legitimate news sources. You can cram your Fox News and Breitbart and Rebel Media up your butt.

Children destroyed so some rich people can get richer, angry people who voted for a liar can feel better about themselves, and a vainglorious, debased spiteball can pretend he’s king.

A man who cosies up to murderous dictators and throws allies under the bus on a whim; a House and Congress who sit on their hands — hands that are covered in blood and money — and let him; and a vocal electorate who believes the way to better their lot in life is to snuff out someone else’s.

We can’t afford to go numb.

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This is not my father’s Conservative Party. Don’t be conned

One year and 134 days. That’s how long Trump has been disgracing the office of the U.S. presidency. There’s a countdown timer on the internet; in fact, there are tons of them. I’m not the only one tired of waking up wondering what fresh hell has been unleashed overnight by the feeble-minded racist with the attention span of a toddler who is determined to reduce the country he leads to a pile of ashes.

But my anxiety is more for our country. I’ve watched a vile underbelly here rise up, emboldened by the actions of those to the south who are capitalizing on a terrible moment in history, one most of us thought could never be revisited. Pure hatred pours out of our headlines; what the hell is wrong with people?

I thought it couldn’t come here. I thought Canadians were better than this. I’m wrong. I’m watching an alleged former drug dealer who has proven he has zero grasp of how government works be nominated to run this province. And where once I might have been convinced that a terrible leader like Doug Ford could at least be surrounded by decent people to steer him right, I realize that is simply wishful thinking. Who stands proudly beside a man who, in his brief and shambolic political “career” at the municipal level (and he has exhibited little knowledge of knowing what each level of government is actually responsible for) repeatedly voted to cut the very things that a great city needs? Infrastructure, libraries, child care and water treatment. Remember Walkerton, anyone? Hey, let’s do that again.

Ford is a fan of restricting women’s right to choice, welcoming his caucus to go there. Bill 163, which finally blocks those who protest and harass women at abortion clinics, had total support from all parties (except for whackjob — sorry, “fringe” — MPP Jack McLaren) but still, to woo the religious right, Ford proudly (or cowardly; your call) came out against it. Getting rid of a health curriculum that is based on teaching our kids about consent and respect is high on his hit list — a program that brings Ontario up to date, not down some Marquis de Sade rabbit hole.

What are Ford’s foot soldiers — those MPPs who stand to get elected under his banner — going to do as their leader changes his mind depending on his audience? Will they have the stones to stick to original commitments or will they, like their counterparts in the U.S., instead stand for looking as inept as the man they support? Remember: many of those candidates made it onto the ballot over local riding objections. Imagine working years for a democratic process then having Mike Harris’s son be installed.

Forget the “but he’s a businessman” rhetoric. Citizens are not customers, and that is where the truly foolhardy get confused. If Doug Ford ran a restaurant, who do you think he would treat better? A well-heeled customer who dropped a lot of money in his establishment regularly, or someone who popped in and asked to use the washroom? A responsible government must be fair in its advocacy of doing the best for the most. Doesn’t make everyone happy all the time, but that is why it is work. Ford showed up for his last political job less than half the time. I wonder if he golfs.

You should care that his idea of a platform is, loosely, that he’ll figure it out as he goes along. We have a front-row seat to how that’s working. A week before the election, he finally offered some numbers on what his promises would cost, but not how they’d be paid for. That’s not a budget, that’s not a plan. That’s filling up your cart and getting to the checkout and clutching your pockets, surprised you have to pay. There is nothing more dangerous than ignorance and arrogance holding hands, and that is Doug Ford. Even as the U.S. provokes an all-out trade war with Canada, Ford remains “unwavering” in his support of the worst president in U.S. history. He will tie us to a regime that is going down, and most likely to jail.

I have always been a huge believer that people should vote. Become engaged, learn, vote, whoever you vote for. This time around, I have to wonder what kind of people can be bought with cheap beer.

He’s insulting you.

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I refuse to let their memories go the way of the VHS tape

It took a few weeks for it to register; the darkened interior of the convenience store at the end of the plaza, the one we used to go into every Friday when the boys were small, backed up what the sign posted in the window was saying.

For Lease, the sign said, two simple words. “Another gone,” said the voice in my head. “Say farewell to another marker on the road of change, the twisted path of growing up and moving on.”

Six Penny Mini Mart had mostly become the cigarette and lottery ticket stop that most variety stores have turned into. I used to buy multiple weekend newspapers at this place, the one I’d come to consider my local. Sometimes milk, sometimes bread, and of course there were the years when movie rentals took up half the floor space.

As Ari and I drove past it the other day, I lamented that it had shut down.

“Oh,” he replied. He shrugged.

“We used to go there every Friday night. Don’t you remember?” I asked him.

“Well, yeah, but when was the last time you went in there?”

It had been a few months, and that stop had only reminded me it had been years before that since I’d set off the bell on the door.

I’ve often accused my sons of believing that my world stands still if they are away, as if I can only reach full animation if they are with me. I’m guilty of the same thing, though, of believing nostalgia and memories are enough to fuel the places — and the people — who have disappeared from my life. Seeing that For Lease sign was like stumbling over a miscounted step in the dark; it’s something you take for granted until you’re brought up short.

Every Friday night, the boys got to choose a video to rent. It only cost a buck if we got it back by noon the following day, and at a time when the video giants were charging four dollars and even five for a movie, our tiny entertainment budget appreciated Six Penny’s offerings. Not always the most current, never more than one copy, but for two little boys and their frazzled mother it was fine. Before I could even open my mouth, Ari spoke.

“‘Joe’s Apartment.’ Don’t say it,” he laughed.

Every Friday for an entire year, they’d chosen the same movie. Don’t worry if you’ve never heard of it; it was fairly terrible but featured a guy with a horrible apartment and included its own theme song called Sewer Surfing. There were cockroaches in it, if you need further recommendation. They loved it.

“You know, I’ve ordered that movie every Christmas for years from some shady place or another, trying to get it into your stockings,” I told him.

It’s true. I’ll find it deep in some listing, usually for a few bucks, and order it. It’s never been delivered and I forget about it until the next year. I’ve gone from paying about fifty dollars — a week at a time — for a one buck movie, to paying a few bucks repeatedly for the same one. I want to say it was “Citizen Kane” or “The Grapes of Wrath,” but it’s not. It’s “Joe’s Apartment.” And we still have never owned a copy.

“I think you can quit ordering it now,” said Ari.

“I think it would be fun for you guys to watch,” I said. He shrugged again.

I’m going to still keep an eye out for that movie, even if I have to give it to Ari’s kids one Christmas so they can make him crazy with it.

Every family needs traditions

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Officially Gazelles


We came, we saw, we didn’t exactly conquer.

Except, in a way — in many ways — we did.

The Rallye des Gazelles — the Gazelle Rally — in Morocco on paper looks like the epitome of adventure, the final frontier in personal challenges. It is even more. An international event in its 28th year, it pits teams of women against the unforgiving terrain of the Sahara desert in the most remote areas of Morocco for eight days. Shortest distance between two points wins, not speed. But those points, plotted with compasses and rulers on topographical maps, are elusive and sometimes impossible to find. Especially for a couple of newbies trying to learn hundreds of things simultaneously and realizing how overwhelming that is.

My sister (I was the driver, she the nav) put more than 2,000 kilometres on our truck in that time. Much of it was spent dipsy doodling around, terribly lost; the website supplies a real time overview of how teams are doing, and back home Gilly’s husband and our other sister, Roz, were yelling at their monitors.

Manny actually posted on Facebook, “I think they just found a shoe sale or something, not sure where they’re headed.”

Good thing we learned this later. I would have driven directly home and smacked him.

I’d realized on Day One that to report on this event while driving it was a near-impossible order. I’d mistaken my ability, and that of the Wi-Fi that never materialized at the bivouacs. On Day One, we hit a few checkpoints, and headed back so I could resolve filing issues. On Day Two, we found eight checkpoints by early afternoon. That is crazy good. So good, we decided to get the ninth and final checkpoint because, of course, we did.

When you go through big sand dunes, you drop your tire inflation. No problem. Got through the dunes.

On the other side, we faced endless rock. Sharp, endless rock. No problem. Got out the compressor. The compressor was busted. I had to creep the truck on extremely low tires for hours.

As night fell, we were on the edge of a monster cliff, unsure how to get down. I dropped it into an oued (a dried out river bed) at long last, but had no idea where we were. You can’t navigate in the pitch black; it’s so dangerous when you can’t see what you’re running over. We called for help to get back to camp (you try never to call for anything due to penalties) which I hated to do — there would be other nights we’d sleep in the desert and let the morning sun point us in our direction. But that night, I had to work, and it put us out of points contention though we were still able to compete in the entire race.

We were later told we were running third after our eight checkpoints that day. Out of 147 teams, this was our tiny moment of fleeting glory. When the mechanic showed me the busted compressor part, I finally cried.

The bivouacs reminded me of M*A*S*H episodes, complete with a helicopter overhead. I kept thinking we’d run into Hawkeye. You learn a whole new way of living, instantly. We each had a tent, but the first night was pretty cold so Gilly announced we’d share the little two man tent for warmth. Moroccan food is excellent, but we soon learned there is no winner in a chickpea battle in a pup tent.

We were pouring sand out of our boots and anchoring the tent with gear bags so it wouldn’t blow away in the incredible wind and sand storms they get. I faced the most extreme driving I’ve ever done, and I’ve done some extreme driving. We were tested so hard emotionally, physically and mentally with 4 a.m. wake-up calls in a cold, dark tent, with fear and frustration, with tears and elation.

We did this.

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In case of emergency, don’t bother calling my kids

I went looking to buy a new wallet, and realized none of them had that little I.D. card that wallets all used to come with.

I used to love that little card, mostly because I had no other cards to put in a wallet. But listing my name and address and phone number on that teeny scrap seemed important. More important still was the emergency contact name.

I used to make the boys put one of my business cards in their wallets, in the desperate hope that if they were lying in a ditch, someone would rifle through their belongings and decide that I was the one to call. My business card is actually pretty useless; it says my name, which is different from my sons’, and website and phone number, but not what I do. I thought it would be unprofessional to put “mother” on it, though that is exactly what I want it to say if my kid is lying in a ditch.

I worry about these things. People only use their phones now, and I can picture police or hospital personnel scrolling through a list of nicknames and abbreviations and wondering who to contact, if they can get into the phone at all. The people closest to me are all identified in my phone by their first names only; if I’m the one lying in a ditch, it very well might be a public relations person from Subaru or Ford who gets the call, because they’re not named Ari or Christer or Mike the Miracle Worker (my trainer).

I’ve told the boys to put my full name in their phone listings alongside “Mom.” I doubt they did it; these are kids who once explained to me that the headphones they bought were not noise cancelling, but Mom cancelling.

My best hope is that anyone figuring out how to contact me in an emergency is also a mother; a scroll through our texts would be instantly deciphered by any mom.

Me: “Are you dead in a ditch?”

Ari: “I wish.” (This was a morning after a night before he’d prefer to forget.)

Me: “Are you coming home? Asking for a cat.”

Me, again: “When you come home, stack the cars in the drive for morning. Frankie is in your room and his litter is stinky.”

My text history with Christopher is just a string of unanswered questions. Either way, I reckon a mother would recognize the pattern of communication and yell, “I found Mom!”

Before I go anywhere for work, I have to fill in emergency contact info. I always put my sister Roz, because I know she will answer her phone unless she thinks the people who find me in a ditch disguise themselves as telemarketers. The thought that the life-saving people would call my sons and discover neither of them has ever initialized the message recording thing on their phones worries me. Both boys would see a number they don’t recognize and carry on, oblivious to my ditch dwelling predicament.

Maybe it’s not the wallet people who have to sort this out, after all. Maybe all cellphones should have a default emergency contact setting somewhere, somehow.

I’m going to make up my own little contact card for my new wallet when I get it. I will instruct those trying to contact my sons on my behalf to text them one of the following sentences:

“A package arrived here for you. Want me to open it?”

“How much was it I owed you again? I’ll transfer it now if you let me know.”

I guarantee they will get a response in 30 seconds.

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Doritos for women? No. We need silent packaging

You’ve heard by now, certainly.

We can look forward to a new snack food, Doritos for Women. They won’t call them that, but in a stunning misfire that made the chips maker, PepsiCo, look pretty stupid, we’ve been told they are working on a new chip that I will prefer.

It will be quieter. It will leave less messy gunk behind on my fingers. It will fit in my purse, even though I don’t carry one. PepsiCo is only thinking of me.

I admittedly eat only a handful of Doritos a year, because I’m quite certain each chip contains more chemical residue than a countertop in a meth lab. The only thing the colour of Doritos that occurs in nature is Donald Trump’s head, and I’d take a huff of that meth lab before I’d touch that.

So Doritos for Dames, or Lady Doritos (as someone in my Twitter feed called them), or Girl Chips are apparently the way forward in snack innovation. An interview in Adweek with PepsiCo quotes CEO Indra Nooyi saying women “would love” to lick their fingers and pour Doritos chip crumbs into their mouths, they “don’t like to crunch too loudly in public” and “don’t like to pour the little broken pieces and the flavor into their mouth.”

Their own spokesperson rapidly shot that down, declaring that Nooyi’s remarks were inaccurate. Call me crazy, but when the CEO trots out this new concept complete with the merits on several different levels, I doubt she was talking out of her boardroom. This discussion happened and word got out before their own marketing department could spin all the in-house dialogue out of the equation.

This reminds me of Coke inventing a problem to solve and the introduction of New Coke. That happened back in 1985 as people around the world discovered what it would take to get average Americans out of their La-Z-Boys and revolting in the streets. The difference now, of course, is the internet. It took New Coke 77 days to fold up its tent, mostly because the word filtered around by hard copy headlines and the tail of the nightly news. Female Doritos got about 77 minutes before they were walking back the concept.

I’m stunned that a huge corporation like PepsiCo could get it so wrong. We may live in sensitive times, but we also live in more enlightened ones, I would hope. The only thing you can market exclusively to women are tampons or nursing bras.

When we were kids, my mother used to wait until we’d gone to bed to break out the potato chips. They were kept in a tin we had to use a chair to reach, with Chip King emblazoned on the side. The chips were delivered to the house. No word of a lie. And at night in front of Star Trek or M*A*S*H my mother would try to sneak open a bag of chips.

And we’d be out of bed like stirred up wasps, standing before her, arms outstretched. No matter how quietly she’d tried to ease open that bag, we were like cats responding to the call of the can opener. I used to think she was mean, but every mother I know since has something squirreled away, somewhere, hidden from the locusts that are children.

If PepsiCo had actually asked any real women (if this really was a quest to make our lives easier or more enjoyable), they never would have heard “make the crunch go away” or “make me look more graceful as I lick my fingers like a hyena.”

Doritos never needed to make quieter chips. They just needed to make silent packaging.

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Pillow talk that divulges nothing

A woman approached me as I was trying to decide which duvet cover to purchase.

“What do you think of these microfibre ones?” she asked me.

She was holding a small package containing a sheet. I was stumped.

“Are they fleece?” I asked her. “I bought fleece sheets at Costco last year and ohmygodineverwanttogetoutofbed.”

Granted, I’m not someone who has a hard time staying in bed, but still.

“Oh, Costco costs too much. I just want a fitted sheet, and thought I’d check here,” she said.

We were in a place that costs less than Costco. She made me feel the sheet through a little opening she’d made in the package. I remained stumped.

I needed a way to gently exit the conversation, not because I didn’t want to have it — I enjoy talking to strangers — but because I knew I couldn’t help her. I did not know what these microfibre sheets were that she spoke of, only that any time I buy cheap sheets nobody will use them so we take them to the cottage so nobody can use them there, either.

“I have no good guidance on this matter,” I told her. “I spend too much on sheets and bedding.”

I also spend way too much time in bed drinking wine and watching Netflix, but I wasn’t sure about revealing this to Microfibre Lady.

I was buying a new duvet cover because my favourite one, which is basically all white, was covered too often in cat footprints. Someone needs to make a duvet cover that is white with cat footprints. I’d buy that. In fact, I’d pay a lot for that. Anybody with cats knows you make adjustments when you have cats. When you see a dent in your pillow, you pretend the dent is the size of your head, not your cat’s butt.

People who sell bedding should know what else I’d pay extra for.

I’d pay extra to be able to see what the sheets look like when they’ve been washed a few times. I’d pay extra for a store to stop pretending that a duvet cover can be labelled “full/queen” when those are two different sizes. I’d pay extra for all pillow cases to have that little fold over part on the end so the pillows don’t fall out. I’d pay extra for duvet covers to all have zippers, so when you wash them you don’t lose socks. I don’t wash socks with sheets, and I turn duvet covers inside out but somehow socks always end up in the corners, as if the cover goes into my washing machine like some kind of giant sock-eating Pac Man.

But I would gladly hand back all of those things for this one: label the sheets. How can my jeans have four tags on them, shirts have tags in two different places, yet sheets, the biggest, most cumbersome things we handle remain a mystery? Why can’t they mark king-sized sheets as such on the label? Same with duvets and covers? There is already a label there; mark the size.

I have three bed sizes in the house, and three more at the cottage. We still have the Snoopy sheets Roz bought Gilly for her sixth birthday, and Christopher’s Thomas the Tank Engine ones. I have no problem remembering these don’t go on my bed, unless I’ve pulled the short straw and ended up in the bunks. At home, there is a deficit of cartoon characters to lead me in the right direction.

As I left I heard Microfibre Lady asking a sales clerk for an opinion. She had no clue, either.

I should have told her to buy Snoopy sheets.

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Empty nest: quieter, but better feathers

I have been an empty nester for about nine months now.

If that’s long enough to produce an entire other human being, you would think it would be long enough to produce a different lifestyle.

You would think.

Instead, I have discovered that years of raising children hard-wires you in surprising ways. I don’t miss the noise and the mess, though I do miss having someone else to blame them on. I don’t miss the lights left on and the dishwasher they could never load nor unload. I don’t miss every day being laundry day and I will never miss gobs of toothpaste in the sink.

Some adjustments have been tougher. For a few weeks, I’d jump awake when I heard the garbage truck come into the street. Putting out bins had never been my job; took even more weeks to realize I had to bring them in again.

I took for granted the built-in cat sitting service I’d enjoyed for so many years. Now, I’ll be hauling a suitcase from the basement and finding my passport, only to have three sets of eyes looking at me and wondering where their passports are. There is no such thing as spur of the moment.

I still buy family packs of chicken and large blocks of cheese. I need neither. I don’t need to leave the front light on for a kid who may, or may not, be coming home that night. I got rid of the freezer in the basement because it was empty except for four bags of freezer burned frozen vegetables that I bought because they were on sale — two years ago.

For years, we’d had a large fridge that took up most of the kitchen. There was nowhere else to put it, because in the kitchen’s original design, the fridge had been tucked into a small alcove. The space had been laughably tiny — until the kids moved out. I bought a normal fridge because all of a sudden, I didn’t have to fit two hundred bucks’ worth of groceries in it. The supersized fridge went downstairs, where Ari lamented that I got a beer fridge much too late.

There are white sheets on all the beds, and white towels in the bathrooms. This makes me feel my extravagance knows no bounds, as does the fact nobody uses my toothbrush by mistake.

My driveway is not packed with cars every night, and I don’t do the evening holler to stack them according to what time everybody is leaving in the morning. I don’t have to dig through coat pockets looking for keys or worse yet, wake up a kid who forgot to leave them on the hook.

Those same cars are no longer blasting rap when I get in them. If I left the gas tank half full, it still is now. I text all those kids and ask if they’ve got their oil changed and their winter tires on and they text back, “Yes, Mother Goose.”

Ari had warned me when he moved out I’d no longer have him to fix my computer issues, but both boys overlooked that I’ve mastered sending them pictures of problems with captions like, “Where does this wire go, again?” I swear they do rock, paper, scissors to decide who has to deal with me.

I’ve gone from chaos to quiet, from cluttered to clean. I was ridiculously happy when they all lived here and I’m quite content to have them mastering their independence. I’ve always said I’m lucky enough to not only love my sons, but to like them.

They come home now and look around and ask why I didn’t do all these changes while they lived here.

And I smile.

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