There must be 50 ways to celebrate your lover

Ah, my wife.

I present to you a woman who never gives herself enough credit. She never thinks she’s smart enough, funny enough, pretty enough, good enough.

Well, today, now, here, on the 50th anniversary of her birth, I’m here to celebrate the woman that never celebrates herself. The one that always…always…puts others before herself.

So, let’s look at these one by one, shall we?

She never thinks she’s smart enough. Yet, I can’t tell you how often she’s taken charge of a situation and, going on nothing but gut instinct, made the decisions I was too stupid or too locked up with emotion to make. And each time, I didn’t just question the decision, I openly opposed it. It was wrong. Every time, I knew it was wrong.

Yeah, the only damn thing that was wrong was my opinion. Karen was right. Karen is always right.

It’s tough for me to write that, but in my heart, I know it’s true. It’s hard to admit that I’m not as smart as I think I am, and that my wife often outsmarts me. Doesn’t matter if it’s a big life decision, or something as simple as watching an episode of Criminal Minds and she always guesses the plot before I do. She does it every damn time. And I’m the writer, dammit!

She never thinks she’s funny enough. Okay, well, to be fair, I’m a sarcastic joker and I’m always on. I’m sure that gets tiring. But then, add into the mix our daughter, who inherited the sarcasm gene from both parents. And there’s Hunter, our son. He’s hilarious. In fact, our daughter actually created a Twitter feed for him, Willy’s Wise Words. And then there’s our friends Ryan and Lisa. Ryan’s gotta be one of the funniest people I’ve ever met, and his wife is hilarious too (especially when she cracks a joke, laughs at it, and says, “I’m funny!”). So, in a group like this, it’s hard to consider yourself funny.

And yet, Karen is often hilarious. She won’t let me post the video, but there’s a lovely few minutes of footage of Karen when she had dental surgery, and being stoned afterward on the drugs that’s simply gutbusting. There’s also this one, where Ryan plays on Karen’s fear of defying superstitions (specifically, opening an umbrella indoors).

How about that scream, huh? Jamie Lee Curtis had nothing on her.

But even this past week in Vegas, Karen had us in stitches by simply doing the John Belushi SNL sketch about cheeseburgers. You know the one.

“Chee’burgarchee’burgarchee’burgarcheepcheepcokenocokePEPSI!”

Yet, when Karen does it, she does this weird thing where her face freezes up and her lips don’t move. It’s unexplainable, and a riot to watch.

So is watching her try to curl her tongue. Or when someone’s getting to her and her chin sharpens. I can’t explain it any better than that. Her chin gets…pointier.

And then there’s what happened this last night. We went out to dinner and, as I sat across from her, I reminded her this was her last meal as someone in their forties. Then I said, “Jeez, tomorrow, I’m gonna be married to an old lady.” And her immediate response was perfect.

“You won’t be if you keep that shit up.”

She never thinks she’s pretty enough. I remember, long ago, I worked in a camera store, on the camera sales side. On the opposite side of the store was photofinishing. I stood with one of my coworkers and we watched this hot woman come in and drop some film off. The coworker nudged me, and said something like, “Damn, she’s got a great ass.” Then she turned around and he said something about her being hot. I ignored him, because she walked straight across the store to me, leaned over the counter and kissed me. My coworker’s jaw damn near bounced off the counter. Yeah, that hot girl was my girlfriend. And now, just a hair under 25 years later, she’s my wife.

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The amazing thing is, over those intervening years, she’s only gotten more beautiful. Maturity suits her.

Vegas

She never thinks she’s good enough. This, above all the others, shocks me. Over the years, I could not have asked for a more wonderful wife. She always supported me in whatever I tried to do, believing in me when I didn’t believe in myself. She always put my needs and others that actually didn’t deserve her attention ahead of her own. She would bend over backward to help anyone in need, even those that had been horrible to her. If it weren’t for my wife, I would never be the guy I am today.

And she’s the ultimate mother. Seriously, if it had been up to me to raise the kids, they would only have memories of sitting in front of a television with some sugary cereal to eat, and maybe a lot of Beatles and Pink Floyd playing in the background. Karen planned all their events, their lessons, their sports, trips, vacations…everything. I’m useless when it comes to this stuff. Seriously, I’m lucky to get myself dressed in the morning.

And overall, beyond all that, she’s been my partner through life. We’ve navigated many rough waters together, sometimes paddling in sync with each other, sometimes trying to paddle in two different directions, but always in the same boat. And our destination is clear. We’ll be there for each other, no matter what. But for me, Karen’s the one I turn to, the one I talk to, the one that is my rock.

My point here is, though she’ll never admit to it, she is smart enough, funny enough, pretty enough, good enough. She’s more than I deserve, and all that I desire.

I can’t imagine my life without this woman and, today, as she celebrates five decades of life, I’m glad that she chose to spend more than half of it with me. I hope she’ll be with me when we’re staring down 100 years.

I love you, babe. Happy birthday.

 

A mother of an anniversary

Cuz I know the kids are well
Yes, you’re the mother to the world.

Genesis – Please Don’t Ask

Twenty-three years ago, I wasn’t thinking about Mother’s Day. I wasn’t thinking about mothers. I wasn’t thinking about the woman I was going to marry that day as a mother.

I remember thinking that I couldn’t imagine being married even five years. It wasn’t that didn’t want to be, I simply couldn’t wrap my head around it.

And yet, here we are, twenty-three years later, and I’m still married to that same woman. And now, a lot of what defines us is our roles as parents.

And Karen, my wife, is an amazing mother that doesn’t get enough recognition for what she does. Let me give you four examples.

The first example is about twenty-five years old. Yes, before we were married. Karen and I were dating, and we were engaged to be married, but it was a while off.

However, my nephew was being systematically abused by his mother and ignored by my brother, his father. The boy wasn’t even three yet, and he’d already experienced his mother stubbing a cigarette into his leg to punish him, he’d seen her stab her boyfriend, and she’d locked him him his room most Friday nights so she could go out to bars. Yeah, not a candidate for the winner of Mother’s Day.

And we were doing what we could to get him out of the situation. Karen was the one that suggested we move up the date of the wedding and adopt him. A child that she’d only met about three weeks before. Because that’s who she is. She had the mothering instinct long before she was a mother.

It’s along story as to why that didn’t come to pass, but I blame that on the misnamed Childrens’ Aid Society. But that’s another story for another day.

The rest of the examples all come from the past year.

The second example comes from last July, when I participated once again in the Muskoka Novel Marathon (quick note, I’m still looking for donations for this year’s marathon, if you’re so inclined. End of quick note).

Anyway, at the MNM, Karen decided to come up with me and, because she was there, offered her services to help out wherever she could. It was with some trepidation (we found out later) that they paired Karen up with the Den Mother, the much-beloved Mieke Byl, who was a one-woman kitchen machine.

I found this funny, initially because, if you know Karen, you know how she is in a kitchen. If you don’t…well, the jokes started with, could Karen even find the kitchen? Yeah, she’s that good.

And Mieke had been doing this for years, with little or no help. She had a routine and she knew it well. Then Karen, this interloper, came in.

And they got along famously. All day, as I sat and typed away, I could hear laughter coming from the kitchen. Whenever either of them came out, they were all smiles.

But more than that, Karen came to have the same love and caring attitude toward the marathoners they both supported. Though Karen didn’t have the Den Mother title, she truly became a mother toward the marathoners, even going so far as to help one with a piece of their story involving a wedding dress. Because that’s who she is. She’s willing to help out others and step into the mother role whenever needed.

The third example was last September, when our son brought home a friend. He was a kid we’d had stay over multiple times in the past couple of years. His mother kicked him out of the house with startling regularity for the smallest and the stupidest of infractions.

This time, he’d been out of the house for three days with no money and nothing but the clothes on his back. The same clothes he’d been in for three days. And he’d had to break into the garage of his mother’s house and climb into the rafters to sleep, pulling some boxes around him in case she happened to see him. This was mid-September. In our part of the world, it can get pretty damn cold at night.

We couldn’t see that happen. Without hesitation, Karen kicked into gear and moved him in with us. She got him clothes, a bed, and furniture for the bedroom. She fielded the ridiculous calls from his mother (“You better not have the school call you when he’s absent, because I need to know where he is at all times”…from the woman that didn’t know where he was for three days). She did it all. Because that’s who she is. She will not stand by while someone is mistreated.

By the way, tomorrow, that kid will have been with us exactly eight months.

And then there’s the last example, from last night. Karen had previously told all the kids, no friends sleeping over this weekend. This is our anniversary weekend and it’s Mother’s Day on Sunday. So, this weekend is for us.

Again, our son came to us. He mentioned that one of his friends had no place to sleep. His mother told him he couldn’t come home (I’m guessing she had a date or something). And his father, who was in Ottawa, refused to let him stay in his house.

Honest to God, I don’t know why we don’t force people to get some sort of licence to have children. There’s so many shitty parents out there.  Meanwhile, I’m sure this kid’s mother didn’t get the irony of not giving her own child a place to sleep on the eve of Mother’s Day.

So, when our son came to us, Karen didn’t hesitate. “Okay,” she said. “He can stay. I won’t send a kid out of my house with no place to sleep.”

Because that’s who she is. She’s always put everyone else’s needs above her own.

And yet, for all of that, she never gets the credit she deserves. I tend to get some attention because I’m the one that types out these stupid little blogs and messages. But it should be known that, if it wasn’t for the woman that I married twenty-three years ago today, if it wasn’t for who she is, the mother she is, the wife she is, the person she is, I wouldn’t be who I am today.

So, this is for my wife, the mother of my children, and the surrogate mother for many others.

Happy Mother’s Day, babe.

And Happy Anniversary.

I love you.

Me and the coolest woman in the world.

Me and the coolest woman in the world.

And so this is Christmas

And so this is Christmas
And what have you done?
Another year older
And a new one just begun.

Happy Christmas (War Is Over) – John Lennon

This isn’t going to be one of those funny, heartwarming Christmas blogs. This one won’t put the fun in dysfunctional. This one’s pretty much all dysfunctional. So, if you’re looking for funny, if you’re looking for heartwarming, look elsewhere.

Every Christmas is a struggle for me. I have a family that loves it. The Girl will start looking forward to Christmas carols as early as July, and the second Halloween passes, she’s playing them. The Wife spends hours making the house look beautiful and Christmas-y, warm and inviting. The Boy starts throwing out hints for gifts as early as October.

Bauble On Christmas Tree Background by Petr Kratochvil

And then there’s me. I tend to try and shy away from the season as much as possible. Every year it’s a struggle to get me to decorate the outside of the house. It’s not that I hate Christmas, though that’ll always be my pat answer to anyone that asks. No, it’s just that I absolutely want to avoid it with all my soul.

When I was a kid, I loved Christmas. Even when there wasn’t much under it, I didn’t care. It was just a wonderful time full of anticipation and wonder. The world was white, perfect for showing off all those lights and decorations. The smells of the food that would be prepared days in advance would drive me crazy. Family was always stopping by, or we were visiting.

Christmas Tree Lights Effect by David Wagner

Christmas Tree Lights Effect by David Wagner

Maybe this all started the year my mother and step-father broke up. Because it happened Christmas day.

Or maybe it started the year after, when my mother was alone, and none of us had any money for gifts. But still, we were together.

Even if it was then, I should have gotten over all that in the years since, when I got married and had children of my own. And for a time, I must admit, it abated somewhat. It never went away, but it lessened for a while, this desire to avoid it all.

God knows my in-laws make it amazing. My father and mother-in-law are absolutely amazing, and every year, they come over Christmas morning for a big breakfast. Then we all head over to the Wife’s sister’s place where she and her husband put on a ridiculously amazing Christmas dinner. All of the Wife’s family is there, including all our nieces.  There’s always a lot of laughter and fun.

Yet still, for all of that, in the back of my mind, a big part of me just wants to go home and avoid it all.

I love the family I married into. I couldn’t have found a more amazing group of people. They’re funny, supportive and they treat me as their own. And our friends always make it better too. Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve wouldn’t be the same without the Hickey family. There’s no one like them and I’m thankful for their friendship and love and support every day of the year.

I have other friends that know what I’ve gone through and are always there to talk me through it.

And maybe that’s it.  Maybe it’s the fact that, because my mother has never accepted my wife, she is no longer welcome in my home. Maybe it’s because my brother can’t be trusted with anything. He made the choice a long time ago to not act as a brother would. Maybe it’s because I haven’t really talked to my sister in almost three decades because she made the choice to live in a paranoid wonderland of hate and poverty. Maybe it’s partly due to knowing I have this other group of nieces and nephews…Todd, Tabitha, Ryan, Kelly, Buddy, Genevieve…probably even more that I don’t know about…all these people that I last saw as young children that are now all adults…and I know nothing about them. I haven’t seen any of them in far too long.

My brother and sister I’m done with. My mother I’ll visit at times during the holidays, to be served up the usual helping of guilt and sadness. It’s something I refuse to subject my family to anymore. So I guess I’m part shield, part martyr in that respect. But I do it to protect them. I’m sure the rest of my family has heard a startlingly different view of this and view me as the asshole with a bitch for a wife. I’m past caring about that, to be honest. If I’ve learned nothing else, I’ve learned people will think what they want and I’ll have little control over it. The ones who have taken the time to know both myself and my wife know the truth.

Anyway, back to Christmas.

Maybe I’m being selfish. I have all the family that anyone could want. And I feel extremely selfish for wanting someone from my side of the family to treat me that same way, to give me that same courtesy that these other people–people who didn’t know me half as long as my family have–show me. I feel selfish because I already have more than most.

So, as I attend all these Christmas functions, there always seems to be this black hole that sucks and pulls at me. It shouldn’t be there, I shouldn’t give it that power. I know I should turn away from it and look at all I have and how incredibly lucky I am.

But I can’t help feeling like an orphan at this time of year.

oliver_more

So for any of you that know me, please don’t ever shy away from wishing me a Merry Christmas. Just understand that I may not wish it back with the same level of passion. This is the time of the year when those cracks in my own family have the most light shone on them. The time when, at least for me, they become most obvious.

And so this is Christmas.

You say it’s your birthday…

 

So today I turn 49.  I’m at the ass-end of my forties.  Or, as my wife would remind me, I’m in my 50th year.  “That’s what they’d put in your obituary,” she likes to remind me.

And as I stare down those last 365 days before I hit fifty, I don’t have any great insights to deliver.  I’m not any smarter today.

All I can say is, really, with very little exception, I still very much feel like I did when I was in my late teens.  I feel healthy, I’ve got the same stupid scatalogical sense of humour (yes, fart and shit jokes are just as funny to me 30 years later).

If anything, I guess I may have learned a few lessons over the years.  Maybe more in the last year.  I’ve learned more about myself, I’ve learned more about the influences my mother and father and sister and brother all had on me.  I’ve learned much more where I got my values from.  And I’ve learned to value things in my life a little more.

I’ve learned a lot about myself this last year.  Most of it I didn’t want to learn, much of it I didn’t like when all was said and done.  But it’s me, warts and all.

And I’m lucky enough to have those around me that help and support me.

I’ve also got deeply into the writer’s community this year.  That’s been a lot of work, but also a lot of fun.

I sent my daughter off to school this year.  That was much harder than I ever thought it would be, but also very rewarding to watch my teenager blossom into a young woman.

I’ve watched my son sprout about a foot taller.  He hasn’t beaten me for height just yet…but it’s mere millimeters away.

I’ve gone through a lot of changes in the last year.  But fundamentally, I’m still that same awkward, shy, insecure person I was thirty years ago…but with enough experience to get me over the initial reservations.  So instead of shying away from anything, I go for it and embrace it, no matter how much it hurts initially or how much I figure I’m going to fail.

And the cool thing?  I can see my son following in my footsteps.  How do I know this?  Because he’ll try new things.

Like…baking birthday cakes.

So today, I had to actually go into the office for work (normally I’m the work-at-home dude).  When I came home, we had to run right back out again, but I thought I smelled something good cooking.

I did.  The Boy told me…well, let’s see if we can recreate the conversation, shall we?

“So, I need to tell you something,” says the Boy.

“Okay,” I say.  When he starts like this, God knows where it’s going to end up.

“I uh…” he pauses.  I look over and he’s got a look that can only be described as rueful.  “I tried making you a birthday cake.”

“Aw, cool,” I say.  “Thanks, buddy.”

“Yeah well,” he says, and knowing the Boy, there’s a “but” statement coming.  “So I did that…but…”

“…yeah?” I say.

“Okay, well, I put a lot of work into it.  It took, like, an hour and a half, and I really tried.”

“Okay,” I say.

“And I even did two different things.  A chocolate cake mix and a brownie mix.”

“Separately, right?”

“No,” he says, the enthusiasm quickening his speech. “I made ’em both together.”

“Like, mixed together together?” I say, a touch frightened.

“No!” he says, indignant.  He gives me an I’m-not-that-stupid look.  “Side by side in the same pan.”

I briefly consider the different baking times for cake versus brownie, but the fright comes back and I push it away.  Keeping my voice neutral, I just respond with a noncommittal “okay.”

“Yeah, well, so, I took them out of the oven and I thought I let them cool long enough…”

And this is where he fades off, obviously unwilling to reveal the rest.

“Okay, they cooled off,” I prompt.

“So they cooled off, so I stuck the birthday candles in them, but I guess it hadn’t cooled off enough, so…like…”

His face grows pained.  “So the candles…kinda…melted into the cake.”

I fight the smile.  “Oh dude, you should have left the cake for a while.”

“I know, I know, but I thought they were cool enough.”

At this point, I can’t keep it in and start laughing.  Then he does too.

Then finally we both settle down.  “You’re a boner,” I say.

“Shut up,” he says.  “It’s the thought that counts,” he finishes.  Then, after an appropriate pause, adds, “Bitch.”

Which gets me laughing all over again.

In the end, after dinner, he unveiled the cake/brownie mutation and the candles are indeed a sad and sorry sight to behold.  And they seem to be in a weird pattern.  He says helpfully, “Before they melted, they spelled out ‘F-A-T’…as in ‘you’re fat’.”

Me and The Boy...and The Cake

I thank him, blow out the single forlorn burning candle, and we eat the cake.  I pick out the chewy parts.

The skinny parts? They're the parts that were IN the cake!

I love my family.

Happy birthday to me.