Days of Bathroom Letters are Over

I admit I can sometimes be a little hard on Howard on the blog. Though he knows that I jest in love I feel that on Valentine’s Day he deserves some credit where credit is due. I woke up this morning to a wonderful little box – containing beautiful pearl earrings. Which is awesome, considering I’ve already lost one pearl/diamond earring he gave me as a present on our wedding day (see my propensity to lose things here). But the man has certainly stepped up his game in recent years. I mean, this gift was almost as good as last year’s gift, when he got me the full collection of Harry Potter movies.

When I think about things like this it takes me back to the Howie I knew five to ten years ago when we were a young and clueless couple. Howie went from buying me a rose on our first date, to an unfortunate slump around years 4 and 5. I don’t know if it was the extreme sense of comfort and “easy-goingness” of our relationship, but there was a period of time that can best be characterized as the Toilet Love Letter years. And oh, how I am so glad those days are gone.

One particular anniversary (maybe our fifth) I presented Howie with a nice little card and present – probably a DVD or CD of some kind. To my dismay, Howie had to break the news that he unfortunately had not had time to go out and get me something – but not to worry, he’d have something tomorrow. Tomorrow came and went, then the next day, and pretty soon a week had passed by with no anniversary present. As if my scowl wasn’t enough, Howie asked what was wrong.

Cheryl: “I don’t know what to say anymore Howie! Do I have to BEG for an anniversary gift from you?! You promise and promise and still nothing!

Howie: Baaaaaaabe….stop…..

Cheryl: Well it means nothing now! I don’t even want a gift! All I wanted was to feel a little bit of appreciation from you – you could have at least written me a letter or something!!

Howie: Well I did write you a letter!

Cheryl: You did?

Howie: Y…yeah… Let me go get it.

(Howie walks out of room. I hear some rummaging and papers. Then I hear the bathroom door lock. Ten minutes pass by, he emerged from the bathroom. Love letter in hand.)

Howie: Here you go!

Cheryl: Did you just write this on the toilet?

Howie: No.

Cheryl: Seriously Howie?! You just wrote me a hap-hazard letter on the TOILET?!

Howie: I don’t see what the problem is, it’s a nice letter!

From there the conversation digressed into an emotional rant in which I was convinced Howie didn’t have a romantic bone in his body. Let’s just say that was the last time Howie wrote me a love letter in the washroom… and the last time we ever celebrated “dating anniversaries”.

Regardless, Howie and I have grown up a lot in the 10+ years of our relationship. He’s like a fine wine that gets better with age. I feel so blessed to be married to my best friend and appreciate the fact that we can look back on the Toilet Love Letter incident and laugh.

Howie, Happy Valentines Day. I love you more than chocolate.

God was never “removed”

Fellow Christians… it is time to stop using the “don’t be surprised when tragedies like this happen because God isn’t allowed in schools” line.

It may sound like a witty remark to make at the time but in no way is this attitude or perception even remotely Christ-like. Are we so small-minded to think that just because government schools can’t show a preference for a particular faith that God has somehow been “systematically” removed from the schools? That certainly isn’t the God I know. The God I know is so much bigger and greater than anything on this planet that no human policy could ever “keep him out”.

God was not only in Sandy Hook, but God was and is in every school. Public, Christian, Jewish, Muslim, schools in North America, schools in Africa, schools in Europe, and yes, schools run by the Taliban. God is everywhere. God loves everyone. He can never be “removed”.

If you claim to be Christian but have those kind of sentiments – how do you explain the shooting on that Amish school in 2006? Wasn’t God extremely present in that school? How do you explain the fact that several victims of Sandy Hook were Christian and came from active church-going God-loving families? God wasn’t “systematically removed” from schools. Let’s not kid ourselves by thinking we have that kind of power.

But besides that… having the “don’t be surprised when tragedies like this happen because God isn’t allowed in schools” attitude is un-Christian because, well, that’s just so NOT what Jesus would say. If the gospel has revealed anything about Jesus it is that he was the most loving and NON-self-righteous being in the entire cosmos. Jesus would have rushed to the victims side and asked “My heart breaks with yours! What can I do!?” not exclaim “See what happens when you don’t invite me over?”

Furthermore, I don’t remember a single story about Jesus’ life where he was concerned about changing the policies of the secular Roman government and education institutions. As far as I recall he spent the great majority of his ministry demonstrating unbridled love to the sick, poor, and social outcasts. He was far more concerned about restoring humankind’s relationship with God than making sure the Roman government and religiously pious all agreed with him.

The bottom line is this… God doesn’t “allow” these things to happen. God gave us a free choice – and free choice involves good, not-so-good, and downright evil options. When evil entered the world, the world became broken, justice became broken. And because justice is broken, innocent people tragically pay the price for other people’s evil actions. It will be like this for as long as this world exists. It is awful, it is unfair, and it absolutely breaks God’s heart. But amidst such terrible pain, he is still with us. He will never leave us.

So I beg you, if you claim to be a Christian, start being Christ-like. Lose the smug “Tsk tsk. Isn’t it awful what happens when God isn’t ‘allowed’ in schools, and NOW they hold prayer vigils?” attitude and start extending actions and feelings of nothing less than raw compassion and love. Stop wasting energy trying to convince secular governments and schools that they need to “let God back in” and start spending time actually outside of our churches talking and doing things for people who need love. We are not supposed to be concerned with kingdoms on earth. We are here to show love and compassion. It’s what Jesus would do.

PS  - Mike Huckabee I’m talking to you

A Lovable Little Mom-preneur!

I used to think that my millennial wife life was busy. Then, I interviewed Laura Nunn of Lovable Little Tree Huggers and realized that adding two little boys to the mix makes my “busy” pale in comparison to hers! (Apparently children are much more work than mini schnauzers). Laura is wife to youth pastor Andrew and in addition to having a toddler (Ethan) and infant (Seth) sons, she keeps busy mentoring other people’s teens at Acton Beth-el Christian Reformed Church.

But if that wasn’t enough, Laura’s name can be added to the growing list of “MOM-preneurs,” a newly coined term in recent years that describes moms who establish businesses at home while also acting as the full time parent of their children. But Laura would blush if she heard me calling her an entrepreneur. In her mind, she’s just a mom who cares about the products she uses on her family, but I’ll let you decide! Either way, you have to agree that she’s a stellar example of someone who turned a passion into a thriving business!

Laura, please describe your business in a nutshell for people who are new to Lovable Little Tree Huggers!

Gladly! Lovable Little Tree Huggers is an online natural baby product store that primarily carries cloth diapers, organic bath products and “babywearing” products.

Where did the idea to start your own “green” baby product store come from?

Well, I was always a person who was conscious about the types of products that I used on my body and within my home. I am the kind of person that separated recyclables even when I was camping! When I had Ethan and became a parent for the first time, that “environmental” part of me naturally extended to parenting. In fact, I would say I thought about the types of products we used even more once a baby was added to the mix. As Ethan grew up and we entered the world of “green parenting,” I noticed that there were so many different products and options and available (especially with cloth diapers), and we naturally discovered some that worked best for our family on a trial and error basis. Eventually, I found myself sharing that knowledge with friends and fellow parents, so the idea for a store was born out of a desire to pass along the knowledge we gained from testing the products ourselves.

How bad do you want to squish his cheeks and say “SMOOTCHIE FACE!” right now?

What’s it like being a small business owner?

First, I never expected to be a small business owner. The idea actually scared me because I did not consider myself a business owner at all. If it wasn’t for my husband Andrew who kept pushing me to go for it, I’m not sure I would have taken that leap! But now that I’m doing it, I have to say that I love it because I’m so passionate about what I’m doing. When I first set up the business it was overwhelming. I had to figure out all of tax, registry and website stuff. Luckily I have friends that were able to help me out with those things. Overall it’s a learning process! I’ve also participated in some mompreneur networking things like “TweetUps” and belong to a Mums and Chums organization which connected me with some great peers.

How do you promote your business?

Word-of-mouth is the main way that I attract new customers. Customers who have had a good experience with me often tell their friends and it’s through forming new relationships with people wanting to learn about cloth diapering or natural parenting that I get new customers. The gift registry is a very popular thing on my website and cloth diapering supplies are the most popular of the products. It can be a investment up front so it’s a great thing to be a gift registry. Andrew is also one of my biggest promoters – especially with the “dad” crowd. He promotes my products even more than I do, and it’s great because he can relate to the other men who are hesitant to start cloth diapering. Besides word of mouth, I also do some consumer shows. This allows people to touch and feel my products before they order.

What are some of the challenges?

The biggest challenge is always time. There is always something to do, something I could improve on the website, new products I could look into, different marketing things I could think of. But for me, being a stay-at-home mom is my primary responsibility and focus. I’ve tried setting aside certain days or evening where I can focus solely on the business but sometimes that’s not only possible. Thankfully, my husband Andrew has been a huge supporter from day one so if I need to do some work on the business he’s always there to help me I started this business because of a passion to help others, not with the intention (at least right now) to grow this into a huge operation. Running a business is a challenge and a blessing – it allows me to contribute to our household and to focus on my family.

The other challenge I find I face is balancing my desire to provide natural product as affordable as possible with my desire to still make a decent profit. Many times I find myself hesitant to charge what I really need to!

What is your definition of success for Lovable Little Tree Huggers?

A lot of people ask why I’m not doing more things to push my business. But to me, success is meeting couples and then watching them convert to “green-parenting.” I find it awesome! If I was able to make the world of cloth diapering and natural parenting accessible and attainable to people, that feels like success! The fact that I get to make a little extra money while doing so is like the icing on the cake. Being an educator, influencing people in my circle, providing talks at the Early Years centre, and helping people who don’t know where to start is success in my mind. It is less about millions of customers and more about building a base of happy, satisfied people.

What is your plan for your business in the next five to ten years?

That’s a good question. Well, I don’t want it to be huge. I want to stay home with my kids. If it grows when they are in school that’s good, but I don’t envision growth in a bricks and mortar type of store, I always want to be able to run this from my home and stick to my core products. I’ve actually declined inquiries for franchising because I want to keep this at a manageable size that I can control from my home in my available time.

And of course, converting more people to natural parenting is a goal!

What advice do you have for other millennial women who are thinking of starting a business?

First, you absolutely must have a passion for what you are selling. I’ve seen friends do things like bakeware and scrapbooking reps, but they end up hating their job because they weren’t overly passionate about it. The other thing I would say to young women who are thinking about starting a business is to just go for it! There is so much information and resources and friends that are willing to help you out with the things you don’t know, and as long as you have a passion and see a need it’s worth trying out!

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I asked Laura if there were any plans to carry natural dog shampoos in the future and she said she would have to think about it. But regardless, I was so impressed with her passion and products that I’ve decided future Howard IV will most definitely sport cloth diapers!

Let me know your thoughts about Laura and Lovable Little Tree Huggers! Would you ever consider “green parenting?”

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Email: laura@lovablelittletreehuggers.com
Website: www.lovablelittletreehuggers.com
Twitter: @MamaTreeHugger

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Disclaimer: Just because I mentioned “future Howard IV” does not entail I agree to, or am making any promises to name any offspring “Howard.” The reference in this post was strictly intended for humorous purposes.

 

A Better British List

Last weekend I made quite the shocking discovery. While conducting some research on possible movies to watch, I came across the most blasphemous list of top British period dramas in the IMDB. The cause for my harsh accusation stemmed from this particular ranking:

  • #2 Pride & Prejudice (2005) ft. Kiera Knightly;
  • #3 BBC’s Pride & Prejudice (1995)  ft. Colin Firth.

Yes, consider the travesty… the creator of this list should be severely punished. It is inconceivable that any true appreciator of British period drama could have written this list. Not only was BBC’s P&P not in its rightful first-place position, but Kiera Knightly’s version trumped it! I nearly needed my smelling salts to keep from fainting.

Since my earliest memories, I have been curiously drawn to two things: pioneers (including pioneer-esque lifestyles) and British things. From scones, tea, refined accents, romantic castles, the royal family, to Mr. Bean, the British people know how to do things. My favourite film genre is undoubtedly sweeping British period dramas, especially when Colin Firth is involved. I wouldn’t go as far to call me an “expert,” but I will claim to have much better taste than the impostor who wrote that excuse of a top British romance list.

And so, for the true appreciator of fine quality British period dramas, feast your eyes on the following list of my personal top films:

1. BBC’s Pride and Prejudice, 1995

Yes, you knew this was coming. Undoubtedly, this particular portrayal of the classic Jane Austen romance in the 1995 mini-series is the truest in form to the late Ms. Austen’s famous 1813 novel. Exploring the tribulations of a woman’s dependency on marriage for economic status in the early 19th century, the themes of propriety, class, education, and family still speaks to modern audiences. Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth as Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darsy respectively held one of the most realistic and heated chemistries ever on screen. Especially exceptional when you consider their first kiss occurs in the film’s final minute!

2. Anna and the King, 1999

I’m going to get some slack for this, but Jodie Foster is absolutely divine as the widowed English schoolteacher who sets out to tutor the King of Siam’s offspring in the 19th century. Though the film is set on the opposite side of the world, historical British themes of colonialism, women’s roles, royal duties, and class are woven into a a sweeping romance that climaxes in one final, slow dance. You will definitely need tissues handy for this one!

3. Downton Abbey, 2010-present

BBC does it yet again in this television series following the lives of a British upper nobility family and their household of servants at the turn of the 20th century. War, heirs, affairs, scandal, bankruptcy, murder trials, running off with the chauffeur … this show has it all. The costumes, sets, and ensemble cast are a feast for your senses. I challenge anyone to watch the first episode and not become addicted.

4. The Duchess, 2008

Kiera Knightly has her place in this epic biographical picture about the life and times of the Duchess of Grey, the “it” girl of the 18th century. Trapped in a loveless marriage at age seventeen to a Duke twice her age, the Duchess rises to fame as a trend-setter, social butterfly, and arguably the first female politicker in British parliament. Despite being adored by British society, she can’t manage to draw the same affection from her own husband. I’d recommend this movie even if just to drool over her fabulous costumes.

5. Atonement, 2007

Clearly I have nothing against Kiera Knightly because she appears yet again in my fifth pick, a tragic love story set before and during the First World War. An upper class thirteen year old girl irrevocably changes the course of several lives when she accuses her older sister’s lover of a crime he did not commit. This is another one in which you will need to keep tissues handy.

I’m sure I will have many people disagree, so if you do, all I ask is that you use this as an opportunity to comment!

What films or series would you add to this list?

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UPDATE: North and South replaces Atonement in Top Five position!

After watching the 2004 mini-series North and South, I must bump Atonement out of the Top Five list. North and South follows middle-class southerner Margaret Hale as she is forced to move up north to the cotton-milling industrial town of Milton. Richard Armitage’s portrayal as brooding, misunderstood cotton mill owner is nearly (and I said nearly) as wonderful as Firth’s Darcy.

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Liked this post? Check out my previous movie kerfuffle with Howie

One Cupcake at a Time

In a new and exciting series, I’m meeting up with inspiring millennial women who are challenging the perception that ours is a generation of spoiled, lazy and entitled young people. Featured in this inaugural series post is Kendra Coons, a fun, outgoing, and (despite her short stature), an exceptionally big-hearted young woman. I had the pleasure of getting to know during a volunteer stint in Peru, where we became friends amidst a community greenhouse project. Globetrotting on pause for the moment, Kendra currently resides in Toronto where she’s turned her apartment into the Bake-a-Change headquarters. Intrigued? Do read on…

Q: Kendra, in a nutshell, describe what Bake-a-Change is for people who have never heard of it.

A: The way I like to describe it is a modernized, glamourized bake sale. People place orders for whatever type of baked goods they want, (cupcakes, cake-pops, cookies, we’ll do anything), we bake it from scratch, deliver, and then all profits are donated to the charity of their choice.

Q: Mmm… sounds delicious. What charities are you currently working with?

A: I’m working with over a dozen charities right now that range in causes from the environment, health, animals, children and youth and lot more. But if a client has a specific charity that’s not currently listed on the website, we make that new connection and arrange for that donation to go exactly where the client wishes.

Q: So I have to ask, how did you wind up starting this?

A: Funny you should ask! Well, I have some very supportive friends that helped “push” me into this. Essentially, I’m obsessed with holidays, specifically baking for holidays. So every Christmas, Halloween, Easter (you get the idea), I used to bake for for all my friends and family. Eventually, though they loved the desserts, they begged me to stop bringing them so many treats and encouraged me to use my baking talents for my passion for non-profits. By day I’m a full-time professional fundraiser in the non-profit sector, so it was a natural progression to combine that love with my love of baking.

Q: So far, what has been the general response to Bake-a-Change?

A:  Honestly, I did not expect anything to really come of this. I thought I would just make a little Facebook page, get a few orders from my network, and have a little hobby but it kind of snowballed from there. The response has been overwhelming! People have been so supportive and positive about what I’m doing. My roommates especially have been incredibly helpful, allowing me to take over our kitchen with cupcakes, helping me bake, even my neighbors have opened up their kitchen to me! One of the most amazing things was being contacted by Jenny at Tangerine Chan productions, she offered her videographer services to create an amazing promotional video! (Coming soon!)

Q: What has been most challenging?

A: There’s just a huge learning curve in setting up and running a business. At one point I accidentally deleted the whole website. Not even joking. But at the same time I’ve managed to find a lot of help in my network. I’ve had friends assist me with setting up a website, designing a logo, so I’ve been learning along the way. At this point the most challenging part is just managing to get all the orders out the door. I’m using an oven right now that can only bake twelve at a time and at this point I’m probably averaging 500 cupcakes a week!

Q: What do you hope Bake-a-Change looks like in ten years?

A: In ten years I want to be running the bakery full-time, with some staff and volunteers. I’m hoping to initiate and manage special projects abroad that Bake-a-Change’s profits would contribute to. This is more than a bake shop, this is a non-profit organization. I’d love to support some projects with Awaiting Angels, that organization in Peru we worked with. Oh yes, and I’d like to have an oven that bakes more than twelve cupcakes at a time.

Q: What are some of the immediate priorities for Bake-a-Change?

A: I am always interested in meeting with people who would potentially like to volunteer with us. People with viral marketing experience would be helpful to us right now, as well as anyone interested in baking and decorating. In the next year, I’d like to put together a project on Kickstarter to raise money for a physical location – hopefully in Stratford (Ontario).

Q: Kendra, exactly what is your favorite cupcake flavor?

A: Okay this will sound really weird, but I’m actually not much of a cupcake person.

Q: Sorry, did I hear that right?

A: Yes… it’s quite shocking. But I’m told my raspberry lemonade cupcake is amazing! Personally I’m into gingerbread, or pumpkin spice tiramisu.

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Kendra reminds me that we don’t have to know all the answers in order to start something great. Often, it’s taking that first step that’s the most scary, but once you do, amazing things can start to happen – Kendra’s proof of that.

After wiping the drool from your chin I suggest you check out Bake-a-Change here! And while you’re at it, consider ordering cupcakes with a cause next time you have a little soiree, or just crave cupcakes and want to feel less guilty about indulging!

If you ordered cupcakes from Kendra, what cause would you donate proceeds to?

Web: http://bakeachange.com/
Twitter: @BakeAChange

Email: kendra@bakeachange.com
Phone: 647.210.1593
Locations served: Greater Toronto area, Kitchener-Waterloo (other locations upon request)
Causes: Current list here
Events: Corporate events, weddings, private parties, individual indulgences, etc

Photo credits: Alvin @ Tangerine Chan Productions

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Liked this post? Read some of my other musings on the millennial generation…

Too Poor to Have Kids?
New Number One Reason for Divorce

First year of Marriage: check!

I can no longer describe our marriage length in terms in months, for we have officially passed our first-year anniversary! Baby, we did it! They say the first year can be one of the most difficult a couple can go through, so if minor arguments over movies, cell phones, and pants were the “tough” parts, we are doing ok!

Apparently for us, it’s year two that’s proving to be more difficult, as we discovered about 4.5 hours into the first day of our second year. Oh the stories I could tell you about our “romantic” weekend at Granny’s cottage… I would require more than a simple blog post. But for now, I will settle on sharing just a few details about our anniversary weekend; dog vomit, fish hooks, and all.

Things you need to know before reading further:

  1. Our wedding anniversary fell on a long weekend which we decided to spend with Howie’s entire extended family at his Granny’s cottage
  2. Our dog Monica has an extremely sensitive stomach
  3. Howie’s cousin Dean owns a old, long-nailed, scabby-legged Jack Russel with a severe non-stop shaking issue, his name is Whisky

We were blissfully asleep in Granny’s guest room, when all of a sudden at 4am, we awoke to a sharp, irritating yelp going off about every five seconds. Was Granny having a nightmare? No, Dean had gotten fed up with Whisky’s barking and moved him from the bunkie into the main cottage, for all to hear.

Granny: “Dean! Dean! Get that dog out of here!”

Whisky: ARP! ARP! ARP!

Granny: “Whisky shut up! Be quiet!”

Whisky: ARP! ARP! ARP!

Granny: “Dean I mean it! Get that dog out of here!”

Dean: “Geez Granny I can’t take him anymore!”

Granny: “Well don’t bring him in here! Get out!”

(Silence)

Finally, we could go back to sleep. But wait, what’s that? Oh yes. Monica just vomited all over Granny’s bedspread.

Cheryl: “Howie! Howie! Monica’s puking! No! She’s ruined Granny’s sheets!”

Howie: “Monica noooooo!”

Cheryl: “Get her off of here Howie! This is why I tell you not to let her sleep up here!”

Howie was in the process of putting on his shoes and taking her outside, when…

Cheryl: “No!! She’s got diarrhoea all over Granny’s carpet!”

Howie: “Monica! Let’s go outside!”

Howie took Monica outside while I tried as swiftly as possible to clean up the sheets and the carpet. Then Granny woke up. Long story short, she provided a lot of advice on how to clean up everything. From using copious amounts of Sunlight dish detergent to using two feet instead of my one foot to blot out the stain. I felt terrible.

By the time the messes were taken care of it was almost 6am so I joined Howie outside and we went on a little de-stressing walk. By the time we came back the sun was fully up and we weren’t inclined to go back outside. I decided to read my book in the lawn chair  while Howie went fishing.

Howie: “Darn! I don’t think there is the right kind of attachment in here…”

Cheryl: “What do you mean?”

Howie: “I’m just worried that this lure could fall off, I don’t have the right kind of clip to make it stay on.”

Cheryl: “Well then don’t use it.”

Howie: “But I really like this one.”

(Pause)

Howie: “I’m sure it will be fine. I won’t lose it.”

Cheryl: “Howie, don’t use it if you could lose it.”

Howie: “It will be fine.”

Cheryl: “Ok, but I’ve warned you.”

I go back to reading my book. In what seems like two minutes later…

Howie: “Cher! I’ve lost the lure!”

Cheryl: “I told you not to use it.”

Howie: “I’m going in.”

Cheryl: “You’re what?! Going in?! Howie why?!”

Howie: “I lost it right near the dock, people could step on it if they go swimming!”

Cheryl: “Oh Howie…”

Howie proceeded to strip down to his boxers, then started creeping up to the four-foot deep water area where he dropped the lure.

Howie (crying out in little girl-like yelps): “Ah! Ah! Cold! Cold!”

The water crept up even higher over his thighs.

Howie: “AH! COLD! WORST PART! AH!”

Cheryl (uncontrollably laughing): “Oh… this is awesome.”

Howie was holding up the sides of his boxers, in a futile attempt to avoid getting them wet.

Cheryl: “Howie! Why are you holding your boxers up? Just take them off!”

Howie: “What if Granny sees my wiener?!”

Cheryl: “Oh Howie, it’s 6am, no one is looking.”

Howie: “I can’t risk it!”

Howie got to the spot of the lure. At this point I think it’s finally sinking in (no pun intended) that he’s got to submerge his upper half in order to retrieve the lure.

Howie: “Cher! Can you bring me my t-shirt?”

Cheryl: “What for?”

Howie: “I’m going to use it like a glove so I don’t prick my fingers on the lure!”

Cheryl: “Augh Howie! Then your shirt will get all gross and lake-y!”

Howie: “Just pass it to me please!”

I passed Howie his t-shirt. Like a heroic duck, Howie bobbed under the water and came up with the lure in his t-shirt wrapped hand.

Howie: “YES! Got it!”

Cheryl: “Good work babe.”

Howie: “Ha ha! How is that for impressive eh?”

Cheryl: “Very impressive babe.”

Howie: “My eyes sting.”

Cheryl: “Why would you open your eyes in that water?”

Howie: “I don’t know.”

And thus began year two of our marriage. Let’s hope the following 364 days are not as eventful, or early…. or involve so much vomit.

How did other newlyweds celebrate their first year of marriage? Please tell me it was as romantic as ours!

Goodbye Old Friend

Rookie, August 30, 1996 – August 15, 2012

I need to take a break from my usual humorous overtones to pause and reflect on the passing of one of my best friends, and probably the best dog a family could ask for; Rookie. I didn’t expect to feel so emotional over his death. I realize he was a 16 year old dog, but there’s something about Rookie and what he meant to us that deserves such a reflection, an obituary of sorts. So please help me in remembering a faithful old friend, a gentle, loyal soul, who’s breath was so bad you preferred his flatulence, but we loved him anyway.

We were driving home from a family camping trip when my parents turned back and asked if we wanted to get a puppy. What?! A puppy?! Were they serious?! After years and years of pestering them for a dog was this their idea of a sick joke? What kind of parents would toy with their children’s emotions like this? Alas, they weren’t joking, this was real. We were going to get a puppy! I was ten, my brother eight, and my sisters six and three.

What followed over the next month was an arduous selection process whereby we had to choose what type of dog we were going to get. My dad was gunning for a giant, masculine, Man’s-Dog: the bullmastiff. My mom was promoting a smaller, allergy-friendly type: the miniature schnauzer. We visited breeders of both types and had so much fun playing with the adorable eight mini schnauzer puppies. Their mother and the other adult schnauzers were exceptionally friendly dogs too! I wish I could say the visit with the bullmastiffs went as well, but unfortunately it resulted in four children deathly afraid to get out of a minivan. When it came down to the vote, despite my dad hijacking my youngest sister’s ballot, the miniature schnauzer was overwhelmingly preferred.

Meeting Rookie and his siblings, 1996

Choosing a name for our new family pet wasn’t quite as difficult. One day when we were visiting my grandparents my Grandpa suggested “Rookie” as he was watching the Toronto Jays game. Rookie, eh? That’s sounded about right. After all, he was going to be our very first dog. Taking Rookie home plays back in my mind like some sort of 90s family movie. Sunshine, laughter, and frolicking around the yard. Rookie fit into our family like a glove. He slept in his little crate at night, not making a peep, had a few little accidents in the house, but was otherwise very much housetrained.

As the years went by Rookie’s presence just became a fixture in our house. He grew up with us, loved us, and we loved him. I remember the way my little sister forced him to be the Toto to her Dorothy, that time he grossed us all out by eating a dirty diaper,  how whenever we started tearing down our campsites to go home he jumped right into the van, as if he was afraid we would leave without him (silly dog). When I started dating my future husband, Rookie would jump between us whenever Howie got a little too close to me on the couch. I always wondered if Dad trained him to do that…

When he was about twelve my family added a second mini schnauzer as a Christmas gift to my sister Laura. Andy was a cute little rascal with curly black hair, Rookie was like an older, wiser grandfather. We were so amused by the way Rookie patiently allowed Andy to tug away at his grey beard, never getting angry, just issuing the occasional warning snap when Andy went too far.

Soon, Rookie’s age began to show. His fur became whiter, his eyes started developing cataracts, and his hearing pretty much disappeared. We made adjustments to suit our elderly friend because, well, that’s what he needed. We bought him sweaters to keep him warm, gave him food tailored to suit his aging body, continued to cuddle him even when his breath made you want to die, and carried him home when his feet got cold in the snow.

In the last few years Rookie spent most of his time snoozing on “his” chair, broken by an occasional burst of energy, usually in the mornings. Despite his declining energy, he was a special part of the family, we became quite accustomed to the quirks of having an old dog. When his back half started weakening, Rookie developed an amusing little walk whereby he had to trot three times with his front legs for every long, slow, back leg step. To help him out, we created a little stool so he could still boost himself up onto that beloved armchair.

Miniature schnauzer, old pets, dying pets

By the end, Rookie’s back half got weaker and weaker. The usual things like loss of bowel control, unbalance, and general agitation afflicted him. It was hard to know if it was the “right time” to put him down. My mom tried googling “how to know when to put your pet down” but the truth is, there isn’t a clear cut answer. Somewhere between loving your pet and never wanting to say goodbye is usually where you find it.

We all drove up on Monday evening to say our final goodbyes, hoping that somehow he understood we loved him, and didn’t want to have to say goodbye. On Wednesday night my parents brought him to the vet. They pet him, fed him lots of treats, and then held him as he fell into that permanent state of sleep. Then, Rookie was gone.

I think one of the hardest things about saying goodbye to a beloved pet is that in saying goodbye to him, you are closing a chapter of your own life. From school-aged children to adults that got married and moved out, Rookie watched us grow up, and he was always there at the door to greet us when we came home. Logically, we all know he lived a good, long, life. We know that 16 years is more than what most people get to enjoy their dogs, but it still sucks to have to say goodbye.

Rookie, you were the best kind of dog our family could have ever had. You loved us, made us laugh, provided so much joy, and asked for so little in return. You were loyal, affectionate, and could pull off a sweater like no other dog. We love you little buddy, may you forever rest in peace.

“Dog’s lives are too short. Their only fault really.”

- Agnes Sligh Turnbull

The Difference Between Men and Women III

Oh yes. It’s back by popular demand. The Modern Wife’s introspection into some of the most head-scratching differences between men and women as discovered through extensive research and observation of the male species. Well, the male species as observed in one specimen, namely my husband Howard.

So one would think that a date night at the movies would be easy right? I mean, in nearly ten years of having a relationship we’ve probably seen hundreds of movies together. However, the longer I’ve been with Howie, the tougher I’m finding it to compromise on our movie selections. It’s as if the longer we’ve been together, and the more “comfortable” he gets, the less likely he is to watch a chick flick with me. What’s up with that?

Travel back to December 2002 and you will find a sweet, caring, ever-so-eager-to-please 16 year old Howie who couldn’t be happier to escort his girlfriend of one month to Maid in Manhattan.  Fast forward about 9.8 years and into 11 months of marriage and you have a 26 year old Howard who dragged his wife not once, but twice to see Avengers in the theatre without even repaying the favour with a subsequent chick flick. Oh the humanity!

Chart A:  Howie & Cheryl's Movie-Watching Situation

Chart A: Howie & Cheryl’s Movie-Watching Situation

So with the final instalment of the Dark Knight series coming out this Friday you can imagine my “delight” to see yet another lame action movie based on comic book characters. My attitude is not sitting well with Howie, he is appalled at my lack of enthusiasm and can’t even fathom why I’m not pleased to be lining up 1.5 hours before the movie even starts.

After failing to pre-order his precious movie passes online due to an internet issue, Howie decided to drag me to the actual movie theatre on a Tuesday night so he could buy them ahead of time for this Saturday.

Cheryl: Hey! Since I’m going to see Dark Knight with you Saturday, why don’t we go and see Katy Perry’s movie tonight?

Howie: (Loud laughter) Yah right! I would never go see that movie! Why would you even want to see it?

Cheryl: I don’t know, it looked kind of fun… plus it reveals how her divorce with Russell Brand went down!

Howie: No way Cheryl. I could never see that movie.

Cheryl: Funny how you drag me around to watch your lame movies but you won’t even see one movie I want to see!

Howie: (Gasps, struggling for air) LAME movie Cheryl? I hope you are kidding. Dark Knight is probably going to be the most successful movie of all time. Have you even watched the previews? It’s sick! It’s going to be awesome!

Cheryl: On a scale of one to ten on how excited I am to see that movie, I’m probably a two.

Howie: (Gasps, shocked) Two?! You are only excited at a two level?!?

Cheryl: It would probably be a low one if it weren’t for the frozen yogurt.

Howie:  I do not understand your taste in movies at all.

Cheryl: Well it’s way better than your taste. Remember how awful Avengers was? What was that? Some evil “moon-prince” wanted to make people bow down to his glowing sceptre? So lame.

Howie: (Coughs) Ummm… well millions of people agree with me Cheryl. It made the most money of all time, and it’s record is only going to be broken by the Dark Knight.

Cheryl: Just because millions of teenage boys also go to the same movies you do, does not mean you have good taste. This is the same audience that made Sponge Bob famous.

Howie: Whatever Cheryl. Clearly I have the better taste in movies. Yours are all the same. Couple falls in love, they have a problem, and then oh look! They end up together.

Cheryl: Not all the time, in The Vow it was left unclear whether they end up together!

Howie: Oh The Vow was one of the worst of them! You only like it because of that Tating Channum guy!

Cheryl: It’s Channing Tatum, and no, I don’t like the movie because of him.

Howie: Well I’m just as good looking as him anyway. Those girls of yours thought I looked exactly like him … (smirks)

Cheryl: Howie my girls’ group was standing like 100 feet away from you and couldn’t see that clearly. Plus, they were like thirteen years old.

Howie: Still…. (checks himself out in the mirror)

Exhibit B: Channing Tatum vs. Howie Martin (personally I prefer the one on the right)

At that point we had arrived at the theatre and Howie went in to buy the Dark Knight tickets for Saturday. He came out holding them as if they were the Holy Grail or something then placed them carefully in the centre console of our car. I will go and see Dark Knight with Howie. But he’s going to have to return the favour. It’s only fair.

I’m going to make him watch something so ridiculously sappy he’s going to be wishing he had agreed to Katy Perry. Yes… (evil laugh)… some sort of historically-set romance, preferably in 18th century England…with accents….and Colin Firth….

Are there any lucky ones out there who share their significant other’s taste in movies?!

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Liked this post? Check out the Differences Between Men and Women 1 and 2

Better than the Alternative


As people across Canada and the US celebrate their nation’s respective “birthdays” this week, my family celebrated a more personal one this weekend, my mom’s. We invited friends and family over to our parents’ backyard for a traditional barbecue full of sunshine, grilled meat, and cold drinks. At one point I asked my mom if she was feeling blue about getting older (as most women do) and her response was priceless; “I’ve got good friends, a great husband, and beautiful kids. My life is pretty good, and getting older is much better than the alternative. So I’m happy.”

“Getting older is much better than the alternative…”

The alternative she speaks of is death of course, and this got me thinking. How many of us truly appreciate aging? My guess is very few. Aging and getting older are treated like the black plague in Western society. We fear it, we try to avoid it, and we become very sad when the first few signs of it appear.

Consider this:

  • The global anti-aging market is expected to reach $291.9 billion by 2015, a growth fuelled as the affluent baby-boomer generation all reach their mid-fifties and sixties
  • The anti-aging market is completely resilient to economic cycles because of consumers’ unchanging desire to be young and healthy
  • North Americans spend $115.5 billion annually on anti-aging skin care products
  • Botox was injected into Americans 5.6 million times in 2011, the average treatment costing between a few hundred to one thousand dollars
  • Since 2000, the amount of people getting botox treatments rose 584%

I will admit I am no saint when it comes to this. I’m in my mid-twenties and I’m already fussing about some wrinkle lines appearing on my forehead. I bought expensive cream this fall and started rubbing it into my head every night trying to force the wrinkles away. Did the wrinkles go away? No. Do I still apply the cream? Yes. While I do not think there is anything wrong with taking care of your body and health, I think us North Americans may have gone a wee bit overboard on the anti-aging front.

I think the money we spend on avoiding age points to a deeper issue in our society. We are so preoccupied with maintaining youthful appearances that we’ve forgotten what a blessing growing old really is. In some cultures, elderly members of communities wear their wrinkles as a badge of honour because it is truly an accomplishment to have lived past forty-five. In communities where infant mortality rates are high, clean water is a novelty, and health care systems are under-developed, growing old is a feat, a rarity, and something to be cherished. If you never get older, it is because you are dead. Moving forward, we should all try to think of birthdays a bit more like my mom does. Birthdays are a blessing, it means we are here, we are alive, and we’ve lived through yet another year.


Imagine what we could do if that $115.5 billion a year we spend on avoiding age was put towards helping others grow old?

How to Be a Bridesmaid

While I may not be able to quite compare with Katherine Heigl’s ridiculously numerous bridesmaid appointments in 27 Dresses, it feels like I’m getting close. My tally is now at five, three of them being this year, and I don’t think it’s going to be quite over just yet. I know I am not alone because this is the stage in life where it seems everyone is getting married. If you aren’t in a wedding it seems like you are attending a wedding or shower or stagette practically every other weekend.

I love being a bridesmaid, I love being there for my sisters or friends. But I’m not going to lie, it can be stressful at times (both mentally and financially). But as any good, modern millennial gal will tell you, you do it because they would (or did) do it for you (or at least you hope they would).

grey bridesmaid dresses

With so many weddings and duties to juggle it can be hard to plan events that are special for each of your brides. It can also be intimidating because it seems like a lot of pre-wedding events are getting more and more extravagant these days from trips to Vegas to showers that are held in reception halls with full course meals. How much are these events supposed to cost? Where am I supposed to host them? Will the bride enjoy this idea? What am I expected to do?

As a part-time wedding planner and frequent bridesmaid I’ve learned a lot about bridal etiquette, expectations, and how to be there for your friends or family members on their big day. Sometimes these lessons were learned from positive experiences, other times I’ve learned them from discovering what not to do. Regardless, I’ve compiled a list of “dos and don’ts” when it comes to being a bridesmaid.

So now, for your nuptial education, the Modern Wife Guide to Being a Bridesamaid

1. Should you be a bridesmaid?

This may seem like a weird question, but it’s a very important question to ask yourself before accepting the honour. Contrary to popular belief, you do not need to say yes. I’ve talked with ladies who were absolutely stunned when they were asked to be in certain weddings. A co-worker who needs to match the number of ladies to her husband’s groomsmen being one for example. If the bride is not a close friend, family member or someone you do not spend a lot of time maintaining a relationship with, it is perfectly acceptable to decline the offer. Being a bridesmaid is not a walk in the park, it requires time commitment, finances, and emotional support. Don’t just say yes out of guilt or obligation because I guarantee if you are questioning why she asked you, you probably aren’t going to be a good bridesmaid. Alternatively, even if you are close to the bride, you need to ensure that you are in a position to accept. Personally, being a bridesmaid has cost me between $800 and $1200 depending on the wedding. If you cannot afford to be bridesmaid say so up front, it is not rude to say no.

2. Remember who it’s about (not you)

Keep the focus on every single pre-wedding event on the bride. Plan events that reflect her tastes and her preferences. If your bride tells you she does not want to go to a bar and have to do embarrassing tasks, do not take her to a bar and make her do embarrassing tasks. Some girls are fine with being the centre of attention, some girls are petrified. As a bridesmaid, she’s putting trust in you to have her back. When it comes to bridesmaid dresses, it’s the bride’s decision. You would be surprised at the number of times I’ve heard of bridesmaids who believe otherwise. Many brides are kind and considerate people and invite their maids to offer input, some even tell them to pick what they want within certain perimeters. That’s great, that’s very nice, but she’s in no way obligated to do so. As a bridesmaid, I would wear a potato sack if my friend wanted me too. Luckily, none of my friends are that cruel. The point is, when you agree to be a bridesmaid, you are agreeing to look the way your bride-friend envisioned. If you don’t like it, smile, and say it’s beautiful.

 

3. Don’t begin any sentences with “When I get married…”

When I was getting married there were a few times when well-meaning people told me that they were going to do something totally opposite to how I was doing it. I’m no saint and I probably did this myself, but when you are at an event supporting a soon-to-be bride it’s not the time or the place to tell her that you would do things a totally different way than she would. Intended or not, it comes off as a subtle insult to her plans or vision. I’ve was told by different people during my wedding planning that they would never want to get married in the summer, they would never have so many bridesmaids, they would never make their wedding party drive themselves, they would never do pictures before the ceremony, and they would never have a long veil. All of those things I did. When people make those kind of comments, it rattles a bride’s confidence in her own decisions. As a bridesmaid especially, save those comments for a better time and place.

4. Be a stress reliever, not inducer

You are there to relieve stress for the bride, not induce it. This involves checking family drama, romance drama, guest drama, and other drama you may be experiencing from the wedding party at the door when you are with the bride. Unless there is some extenuating circumstance, the bride should never be pulled into this. It can be very stressful for a bride if she thinks her wedding party isn’t  happy. Be a bridesmaid that carries good news, good times, and hides the drama so your bride can feel like a million bucks.

 

 

5. Be aware of expectations

I’m going to break it down real simple, the following is a list of things a bridesmaid is financially responsible for:

  • Her bridesmaid dress
  • A portion of shower-hosting costs (when it’s hosted by the bridesmaids)
  • A portion of the bride’s costs of the bachelorette (help pay for drinks, bride’s portion of the limo, etc) If the bride wants an elaborate trip like Vegas than the bridesmaids are not obligated to pay for the bride’s travel costs.
  • Her own costs of attending the bachelorette
  • A shower gift (if there are multiple showers a bridesmaid does not need to bring a gift to every shower)
  • Contribution to a Buck and Doe if there is one
  • Wedding gift
  • Her hair and make up for the wedding (if the bride is not paying for it, most brides allow their maids to do their own hair and make up)

It is expected that bridesmaids attend a shower they are hosting, try to attend other showers (though this is not an obligation), attend the bachelorette party, attend other pre-wedding events, attend the rehearsal dinner, and obviously attend the wedding. Obviously, in today’s hectic and globalized world it is usually impossible to attend every single event leading up to the wedding. Most brides are really understanding if you speak to them up front about attendance issues. Ultimately, however, it is important to be aware of these expectations when you accept the duties of the bridesmaid.

After reading this guide you may be thinking, “who would ever want to be a bridesmaid?” Legitimate question, and the answer is; because most of us want to be there and support our loved ones! Sure, it’s a lot of work, but when you truly care about someone, you’re pretty much willing to support them through think and thin. That is why it is so important to accept the responsibility with your eyes wide open about expectations, it’s not a job you want to do for someone you feel indifferent about.

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Enjoyed this post? Check out some other ones from the Wedding Reflections series:

In Between Moments
Oversized Novelty Popcorn Machine
Something Old, Something New