And then, there was drywall...

by Andrea Mulder-Slater

No, really.

What's that up your nose? Oh nothing, it's just a bluebird - of happiness...

by Andrea Mulder-Slater

When I was a kid, it was a family tradition to pick up the national newspaper on Saturday, find the Dave Barry column, sit down with a giant cup of acidic coffee and listen to my dad read the words that made him laugh so hard his eyes would fill with tears.

My entire family (all three of us) loved Dave from the time we discovered a little piece he wrote entitled "How to Build a Board", or something like that. It was in the back of Popular Woodworking or Popular Mechanics or Popular Science or some other popular  magazine. The column talked about how best to construct a plank of wood so it would be useful for killing spiders.

The color of the wood stain was key.

What occurred to me, is the awesomeness of what I'm about to share with you.

Last year, as part of my ongoing commitment to take on projects that help everyone in the world except me, I organized a fundraiser for our local arts centre. I called it "Guess Who". It was the second annual and it involved collecting over 100 works of art from everyone I could find - including celebrities.

The idea of the event is that all the work is the same price and it is all signed on the back. So - people don't know who they are buying, until after they've paid their money. Clever, right?

Year one (2010), I managed to wrangle 86 people including artist Robert Bateman, television personality Seamus O'Regan, Brenley and Lisa from Madison Violet, Bruce Springsteen photographer Peter Cunningham,   comedian Lorne Elliot and some guy who once saw Madonna in the airport,  into sending me their 6" x 8" creations. Burton Cummings didn't return my phone calls and I was this close to having a Jian Ghomeshi original until... well, that's a sordid tale, best left for another day. 

Last year (2011), I was aiming for even more celebrity participants so I started canvassing early. Robert Bateman agreed for a second (but final) time, comedian Brent Butt said yes as did author Robert Munsch, Canada AM's Jeff Hutcheson, and Neil Osborne (54-40 people, 54-40!).

Then, on a whim, I decided to ask Dave Barry if he would whip up a little something for us. I found some contact information,  crafted an email, sent if off and waited. Then a response arrived. I was busting... until I opened it...

In a nutshell, it read: "Blah, blah, blah. Due to the fact that Dave is affiliated with his own charities, he does not book any fundraiser events. Blah, blah, blah."

Damn. Dave's people misread my request. I thought about sending a box of rubber chickens to the address listed on the email, but instead, I went with a different approach.

I searched for (and found), a different email address for Mr. Barry. Another message went out -- and, like a boomerang,  this one came in...

I responded with something to the effect of -- "Yes! Yes! Of course I'll send a canvas. I'll send paint. I'll send pie. Apple pie. With whipped cream. And a rubber chicken. Or a real chicken. Whatever it takes. Whatever Dave wants. I. Will. Send. It."

And then...

Naturally, I was thrilled. No. I was exquisitely elated. Giddy thoughts filled my brain. And secretly, I hatched a plan to squirrel away the Dave Barry original as soon as it arrived. I would create a counterfeit in its place.** Yeah, that's what I would do. I'm an artist dammit.  No one would be the wiser.

I ran up the stairs (tripping along the way) to tell Geoff and Jan my news. I told my 3 year old daughter too. Her reply?  "Why is your lip bleeding mommy?"  The importance of the moment was really lost on her. I also shouted to my deceased father (because sometimes, I hope that he might hear me), "Dad! Dad! I got Dave Barry!"

On the day the canvas was returned,  I walked around the house, grinning like a bushel basketful of possum heads, as memories of sitting with my mom, waiting to hear my father speak Dave Barry's words, flooded over me. The bluebird of happiness had truly flown up my nose and laid one hell of an egg.
So what if  my buddy Dave (that's what I call him now) had signed on the front instead of the back. I didn't care. It was nothing that couldn't be covered up with a little paper and tape. Which is how it was presented at the fundraiser where a wonderful local lady bought it, just because it made her smile. And as it turns out, she is a huge fan.

Lucky puppy.

Meanwhile, with the help of Dave's blue and yellow artistic gesture (and the efforts of more than 100 other canvas decorators), we raised nearly $14,000 for arts education. And that does not suck.

No, really.

**No, I didn't make a copy and keep the original. Honestly.

Word Filled Wednesday

by Andrea Mulder-Slater
No, really.

How to out-crazy a middle school bully

by Andrea Mulder-Slater

I hated the school bus as a kid. I loathed it. I despised it. I dreaded it.

For good reason.

From the time I was in grade one, a girl named Jill* bullied me - relentlessly - on the big yellow torture tube. She called me “the little rich bitch”, she sneered at me and she tripped me (regularly) when I walked down the aisle with my Holly Hobbie lunchbox.

Here’s the thing. I grew up in a house that was pieced together from old motel units. For a number of years, it had no floor. There are pictures of me, as a toddler, wandering across a makeshift pathway, made up of 2x4s in the living room. We had no curtains until I was seven.

I was not rich.

Sundays are for snow or sand... whichever.

by Andrea Mulder-Slater

What do you do when you can't get to a warm, sandy beach - y'know, because it's the middle of winter? Easy. You go to the home improvement store and mess with their displays.

Or, you just give in and brave the cold. Either way...

No, really.

My quiet sucks

by Andrea Mulder-Slater

Geoff was up well before daylight today. The basement floor was poured at the new house two nights ago, and warmth from the fireplace heat dump is required to help it set up. So he drove out to put another bunch of logs on the fire. For the record, I dislike the word "dump" immensely. Growing up, "dump" had a very specific meaning and I can't shake the connotation. I'm immature like that. It's like when kids hear the words "shuttlecock" or "Bangkok" or "crap". See what I mean?

I heard the outside door close, just barely, when Geoff returned home. I think my Montana Moose threats are working because lately, he has passed the stealth test again and again.

I however, need a refresher course.
I got up to share a coffee with Geoff. Well, we weren't really going to share the same coffee. There was plenty for both of us. Plus, he drinks his coffee black and I take cream. In any case, he was sitting - quietly - at the kitchen table, earphones on, in front of his laptop. Atta boy! I should explain my wild love of quiet. The thing is, our daughter sleeps in when given half a chance. And as much as I love her tiny little chubby cheeks, I don't necessarily want to hear her big voice before having imbibed much caffeine in the early morning hours. Call me selfish.

Since Geoff was focused on the Internets, I thought I would grab my laptop, which is like his - only bigger. His mini-computer weighs about a pound and floats when you drop it. Like a Toyota. Mine on the other hand is like a Buick. It's big, it's heavy and you need to start it about an hour before you want to "get into it". It's running on Vista - Home Edition -  because I'm cool like that.

I went to switch my behemoth on, but the battery died before the start up process was complete. So, I went to get the giant power cord which I think might be heavier than our pick-up truck. While carrying it to the kitchen table,  it slipped out of my grip - right down to the floor. And it went BANG(KOK)!.

Geoff looked up from YouTube. I think he smiled. It was still dark, so I couldn't tell.

Me: Here I was trying to be so quiet.

Geoff: Your quiet sucks.

And there you have it. What's another way of saying the pot better stop calling the kettle black?

How about: Don't remove a fly from your friend's head with a hatchet. Yeah. I like that.

No, really.

People... as seen by a 3 year old

by Andrea Mulder-Slater

Yesterday, the 3 year old announced that she was going to draw a girl. Next, she drew a boy. Then she drew the entire family. Later... a village. And just like that - she is drawing people.

Every person is drawn the same way, with the same proclamation, "A head, and two eyes. Some hair. And some legs!!!!" 

The drawings are always followed immediately by a happy dance, some enthusiastic jumping and a loud chant of some sort. Point being, the kid is exquisitely elated with this new found skill of hers.

She is also drawing the letter "x" (or "t", depending on which way you twist your head) with abandon. This makes me smile.

Meanwhile - today, she informed Geoff that her dollhouse toilet is attached to a pipe which goes down to the basement, out the wall and into the backyard. Huh? She's clearly spending far too much time at our new home construction site.

Life is good.

No, really.

That is one badass farm

by Andrea Mulder-Slater

My daughter is crazy about tiny plastic toys. It’s an obsession that began just after she turned 2 years old. I blame the owners of Sundog Books in Seaside, Florida for getting her hooked. That’s where she first saw them... a large round basket full of 'em. We're talking a massive collection of dogs, cats, birds, snakes, bees and beyond - designed to keep the kids occupied, so parents can stand around pretending to read Noam Chomsky books. For those who don't know, Seaside is a beautiful, but exclusive place with lots of expensive people running around. How we made it past the imaginary gates, is still a mystery (to the guards).

In any case, from that day on, we’ve fed the girl’s habit by purchasing a crap load of fake creatures. Sometimes, she takes baths with them. And sometimes, they become part of her nana’s sculptures.  Like this one which I like to call, "Frog. Dog. Love".

Last year, someone bought her a set of plastic dinosaur toys. It might have been me. Or her nana. Either way, she was immediately fascinated with the box and became even more enchanted once the lid popped off and all the “sauruses” fell out onto the floor.

Beneath the dinos, the manufacturer had generously stuffed several gray plastic rock-like lumps and a number of greenish shrub-type bits. Thoughtful, right? But then things got strange. At the bottom of the container,  filled with prehistoric playthings, were six bridges... solid, perfectly constructed bridges.

Now, I’m no natural science expert, but from what I can recall from my 6th grade science class (which isn’t much), dinosaurs didn’t have any structures at their disposal that might have helped them to traverse rivers, ravines or gullies.

I decided this must have been a mistake - an isolated incident. But then I discovered something that I think might lead me - well, all of us really - to the real answers. I’m talking about information you were never given in elementary school.

Pay attention. This is serious. And awesome.

The following is a photograph of a playmat, which came with (yet another) tube full of plastic toys that someone gave to the 3 year old for Christmas. It might have been me.

Have a look and see if you notice anything odd.

No? Well, let's take a closer look. Here we have a cow, grazing by a log bridge, just up the hill from... a lion. A lion???!! Oh wait, there's a wooden gate. That makes it safe.

And here -- some sheep, safely contained in a fenced in area while just down the path, past the rock wall and over a bridge, we have a hippopotamus and... a leopard. This is one badass farm. And it gets worse.

In this detail, near a stand of trees, there is a giraffe, the same pair of sheep and two prehistoric dinosaur-type creatures. Take notice of the fences, pathways, bridges, gravel pit and, what is that --- a river of blood?

Back to that lonely cow, who in addition to the lion downwind of him, has a dinosaur creeping up from behind a waterfall. At least it's a brontosaurus. Those are herbivores, right?

All of this leads to one thing. Confusion. Or fear. Is someone trying to tell me something? Is this some sort of prophetic image? Are those "who know" trying to get a message across to the rest of us, via the children of the world? I believe the answer is yes. And I think I know what the message is...

Quit buying crap from The Bargain Shop.

No, really.

This post's first title was "That is one bad ass farm"

Now, I can't be certain, but I think a bad ass farm is far different from a badass farm. Same words - very different meanings.

A bad ass farm might be interesting to talk about - but not really where I was going with this rant.  

"What might a bad ass farm look like?" I joked to Geoff.  

"I'll let you know in about five minutes," he said, (laptop in hand).

I'm still waiting...

Calcium pills should never be swallowed at night

by Andrea Mulder-Slater

Lately, between the full moon, Tim Roth and the endless stream of creative thoughts and dark imaginings that regularly occupy my mind, sleeping has been near impossible. For more than a week I've been working on five or six hours at best - when I'm lucky. This wouldn't be an issue except for the fact that when I get less than eight to thirteen hours of rest a night, I become paranoid and obsessive... far more than usual.

To be clear, it's not that I can't sleep. I just can't sleep at night - or, when it's appropriate to sleep. Case in point. We were driving back from the city (Jan and the 3 year old in the backseat, Geoff and I in the front,  a thousand pounds of  hardwood for the new house in the truck bed)  when I conked out - head titled back, mouth wide open - right in the middle of a conversation with Geoff - who was (fortunately) in the driver's seat. Could've been a far more eventful trip had our seating positions been reversed. Still, I think he might have been slightly offended that his voice is more effective than sleeping pills. 

The point is, that when we got home, I was ready to crash. I made a decision to get to bed early - skip the nightly Netflix ritual - and have a wonderful, restful slumber. 

On the way to bed, I stopped to take my vitamins, starting with my calcium pill - a giant torture device of a tablet which makes me healthy. I think. 

I swallowed it. And it got stuck, partway down my throat. I didn't think much of it, figuring it would work its way down eventually. 

I took a couple swigs of water. 

It didn't budge. 

I thought laying down might help.

It didn't.

I got up and ate some yogurt, because it seemed like the right thing to do.

It wasn't.

Next, I devoured a Mini Babybel cheese that I found in the fridge.

The calcium pill remained firmly planted.

An hour passed with me shoving assorted bits of food and drink down my throat, to no avail. By this time, the rest of the household was asleep. Geoff looked so peaceful snoring beside me. Lucky bastard. Meanwhile, I was in pain and suffering from indigestion. I reached for a Tylenol. Then I remembered it would have to get past the calcium pill to be useful. I considered just sucking on it, like a cough drop. But decided instead to Google my predicament.

Ehow had this advice: "Try your hardest to get yourself into a peaceful state of mind. When you are relaxed, it can sometimes be a little easier to swallow pills. For this reason, try unwinding by meditating or doing some deep breathing before you attempt to swallow pills."

Yeah. Too late. 

As I searched further, what became clear, is that this is is a worldwide epidemic. Hundreds of thousands of people are out there - at this very moment - with pills of all sorts - firmly lodged in their throats. Who knew? It's so widespread, I'm surprised the pharmaceutical companies haven't come up with a new disorder... requiring treatments. It could be called pillstuckinthroatitus and capsule bombs could be prescribed, y'know, to blow up the offending pills.

Nearly two hours into my ordeal (I was tired - I read slower when I'm tired), I came across this advice.  

Eat a piece of bread.

I went to the kitchen again. Rice cakes, crisp bread, crackers... the only grain based products I could find were hard and crunchy. Then, in the back of the fridge, I spotted one lonely piece of rye bread. God knows how and when it got there. Either way, I didn't care.  I grabbed it and like an addict in need of a fix, devoured it the chewy leather-hard solution to my problem.

It worked. The effing calcium pill jumped from the ledge and went all the way down my esophagus. 

That was last night. This morning, I used a coffee grinder to pulverize all my vitamins into a powder which I sprinkled on some yogurt. It smelled horrific and tasted like puke. But a piece of chocolate fixed that. Sort of.

Maybe I'll sleep tonight. 

No, really.

Damn you Tim Roth. Damn you.

by Andrea Mulder-Slater

Tim Roth has taken over my life. 

It all began at the holidays when I noticed Geoff making frequent retreats to the bedroom with his laptop and a set of headphones.

Me: Um, what are you watching?

Geoff: Lie to me.

MeI’m pregnant.

Geoff: WHAT?!

Me: You said I should lie to you.

Geoff: Well played.

Turns out that while searching for a Tim Roth movie on Netflix, Geoff had fallen victim to a television series called Lie to me.  He told me how the show was about Cal Lightman, a deception expert - played by Roth - who reads people by analyzing their micro-expressions. He further explained that the crime series was based on the real life research of a behavioral scientist called Ekman.

Analyzing. Behavioural scientist. Micro-expressions. It all sounded about as exciting as disinfecting my loofah sponge.

But Geoff was captivated and like a devoted addict, he invited me to give it a try.  Y’know, just once.

I thought about it. I really did. But then I remembered how years earlier, Geoff had dragged me into his own private hell of Dallas reruns. It took me the better part of six months to get the Ewings out of my system. I still can’t hear the theme song - or the name Bobby - without twitching a little bit.  

Before I knew it, he had our friends hooked, and reaching out for help, “We stayed up till 1:30am watching that darned Lie to me. It’s really good and we kept saying 'just one more'. So now we’re total zombies.” 

Then, he got my mom. She watched six episodes on her first night. Six episodes! She was so exhausted the next morning; she tried to start the car with a butter knife.

My aunt was next on the list.  She went hardcore and started with Season Three… four at once. We’re not sure if she’ll ever be the same again.

When Geoff offered me a late-night bag of BBQ chips if I promised to sit through just one episode, it was only a matter of time before I too succumbed to temptation.  I saw the pilot and it was delicious – even better than the chips. That was five nights ago.

Then, a trend began. Night after night, episode after episode, Geoff and I waited for the day to be over – for our 3 year old daughter to be in bed – so we could watch Lightman, Foster, Loker, Torres and the rest of them, suss out the liars and the cheats. Now, with Season One behind us – and three episodes into Season Two – there’s no turning back.

I’ve got giant bags under my eyes, I’m walking into walls and I’m pretty sure I’ve been asleep for most of today. I might be napping now.

And that’s not the worst of it. I can’t look at another human being without going all “Lightman” on them. I’m looking for dishonesty at every turn. I'm a deception detective. 

At the coffee shop…

Me: Is that coffee fresh?
Kid: Sure it is.
Me: You just touched the back of your neck.
Kid: I had an itch.
Me: You’re lying!

At the post office…

Clerk: Nice day.
Me: You don’t really mean that, do you?
Clerk: Huh?
Me: What is it about today that makes you feel contempt? Is it the rain? What happened to you in the rain?
Clerk: What? I’m fine.
Me: Your lying!

In the grocery store…

Me: Can you help me find the oat bran?
Grocer: We’re sold out.
Me: I believe you.
Grocer: Good, now can you please stop staring at my nostrils?

I’m a freaking monster. I’m even speaking with a bloody British accent.

Damn you Tim Roth for being… Just. That. Good.

Also – Geoff deserves a smack.
No, really.

That awkward moment when you realize you're old. And crispy.

by Andrea Mulder-Slater

Something dreadful happened to me in bed this morning. 

I woke up, turned over and stretched – like I always do. That’s when it occurred… A pain shot from my right ear, down my neck and straight through to my shoulder blade.

Even now, after having downed a painkiller (or two), I still can’t turn my head more than an inch, or look down at my feet without excruciating twinges of epic proportions. It’s the latest in a series of events, which have led me to believe that I might be getting older.

Last month, I turned the age that Meg Ryan's character was dreading in When Harry Met Sally. To celebrate my big day, the family and I went to the city for a hair appointment, a lunch and a visit to the bookstore. Geoff took the girl to go and ride an escalator, while at the salon, Jan and I waited our turns.

My stylist - busy with another client – glanced over at me and called his assistant over. I couldn't help but overhear their conversation.

My stylist: Can you give Andrea a “treatment”.

The assistant: Which one is Andrea?

My stylist: The one who needs a "treatment”.

She came and scanned the handful of clients in the waiting area. “Andrea”, she said (her gaze fixed on my head), “can you come with me please?

Evidently, I was looking crispy or brittle or just plain dried out.

Either way, it gave me a complex. Why now, after eight years, did my stylist think I needed “a treatment”?

Later that day, as I was inspecting my face in the mirror, I noticed something alarming. What in holy hell had happened to my eyes?  I looked like a toddler art project where tiny raisins had been stuck into playdoh. Dried up, wrinkled play doh.

I’m not sure when I became old. I used to be so young. I suppose my first clue should have been when I was referred to as a “geriatric mother” when I became pregnant with my daughter. I was only 36. Mind you, by the time I gave birth, I did feel like a crusty old sod  – what with the walker and the cane. But I digress.

The point is - I’m old. It’s happened and there’s no turning back.

Not that I didn't anticipate the arrival of this day. Through the years, I’ve purchased various skincare products designed to stave off creases and as a result I have a stash that rivals Sephora. But, I’ve never actually used any of it - beyond removing the lids and sniffing.

However, in light of recent events, it occurred to me that I had better start applying a few concoctions to my face. And fast. But then I came across the book, “There’s Lead in My Lipstick” where I discovered that cosmetics companies are out to kill us all.

So instead, I’m ready to learn from the kids who have fresh complexions and soft hair  - y’know, the sort of stuff that we elderly gals so desperately try to emulate. Their secrets are simple and cheap. Don’t wear makeup, eschew deodorant, stay clear of hair care products and bathe only on rare occasions. And, most importantly, act like you know it all.

The next 10 years ought to be interesting.

No, really.

Most Read Posts of 2011

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

by Andrea Mulder-Slater

Now that it's the second day of the new year, I figure it's safe to start reminiscing a bit. With that thought, comes a list - and a craving for a latte. An large egg nog latte. And maybe a bag of salt and vinegar chips. So much for resolutions.

Here are the 11 most read posts of 2011 (written in 2011)...

  1. The Social Net Worth
  2. I'm such a (coffee) charmer
  3. Feed the Birds
  4. I've got household bugs, filthy teeth and a flying...
  5. My life as I know it
  6. Art Appreciation Made Easy
  7. The Christmas freeze and dash
  8. Novocaine - fun. Metal probes - not fun
  9. Slam that door again and the moose is coming for you
  10. For the love of God, don't mess with the Particle
  11. There's a search engine developer in my bedroom

Happy New Year!

No, really.