Saturday, February 23, 2013

To Make You Feel My Love

I wrote this for my Grandma for her birthday this September.  I couldn't make it because I was about as big as a house, waiting for Grady to arrive.  She's in my thoughts today, and I hope by putting this back out in the universe, maybe she will feel the love through the miles.

The one thing that I forgot to mention, which I will attribute to pregnancy brain, is that Grandma thinks we are THE most good looking family since the Kennedys.  I mean, she's not half wrong.  Like Gramps used to always quip "What would be do if we got an ugly one??".  Ask every grandchild and they can tell you the celebrity Grandma swore we looked like.  (I was Kathy Ireland.. no big deal.)

Grandma and her beauties at Danielle's Wedding.  I was so happy I couldn't keep my eyes open.  We are missing the youngest Granddaughters, who are also exceptionally good looking.  ;)

Dear Grandma,

People wait too long to say things they really mean. It’s all too often that the memories come flooding back, but too late to see the reaction from the one person that matters. So Grandma, since none of us knows how much longer we have, I thought I’d write you a letter in honor of your 50th birthday. ;) You are certainly one of a kind, and there are a few things I’d like to take the time to say thank you for.

Grandma and Ariel at her Party
Not a lot of Grandma’s have the kind of courage it took to break the news to me that Jen Aniston and Brad Pitt broke up. I remember feeling upset, and confused until you sat me down and told me about Angelina Jolie. So thank you for being possibly the coolest Grandma anyone ever had, I mean I never had to worry about staying up to date with pop culture; I knew my Grandma had her ear to the celebrity-gossip ground.

Your den was an oasis to a young book lover. Flipping through your impressive collection of biographies, novels, and grocery store magazines kept me busy. I’ve always admired how much you read, and the diverse books you choose, and I thank you for fostering the love of reading (and subsequently, writing) in my life.

Cherrie’s Jubilee- Seriously.. you took my enjoyment of desert to a WHOLE new level after discovering that not only does my Grandma make a beautiful desert, this wild lady will light the darn thing on fire. As a kid, sitting at your beautifully set dining room table, eating on lovely China and drinking from crystal glasses made me feel a little bit like a princess. Then you lit stuff on fire… well Grandma, thank you for introducing me to the finer things and life. I will, however, choose not to thank you for the extra weight I carry around after discovering these finer foods in life ;)

Just an average dessert for the Grand kids.  That was just how she rolled.

Everywhere in your house there was a little piece of history. Beautifully maintained pictures of our family’s past adorned your walls and your coffee tables, and you never seemed to tire of answering, for what was probably the thousandth time, who that little boy and little girl were in those pictures. I know for certain that my love of history, particularly our own genealogy, was a direct result from looking into the eyes of my ancestors in those beautiful photos above your bed. While I have made great progress in the Hunter side (I will send an email with my dad from a cousin of Grandpa’s who grew up with Mamie, and has plenty of stories to share), your past was never much of a mystery because it was played out on the walls of your house. The stories you shared of growing up with three brothers whom you loved so very much, painted a vibrant picture in my head of what life in depression era Saskatchewan must have been like. So again, thank you for passing on your passion for history to me. While mom and dad still wonder why I got a history degree instead of, let’s say something more useful in the workforce, (haha) I know you get it.

As many of us remember, summers meant we were at your place.. a lot. I remember many a tea party had with you in the pool, where we would have to think of only things with ‘water’ in the title to eat. (Let’s just say every time I read a menu that has water chestnuts in it, I think of you.) You let us dig into the trunk of old costume jewelry and parade around in fashion shows, or perform our newest dance routines. You let us play restaurant, and store, and ALWAYS went along with our make believe. You gave us the most complex orders, and took us far more seriously than our parents did. You kept a house smelling like pledge (seriously, that’s impressive.. I don’t think I have ever seen dust in your house), and beautifully lit with candles, decorated with delicate picture frames, vases, and breakable ornaments. Your house always looked so beautiful, and I’m sure strangers would have had no idea that on any given summer weekend, 10 or so kids snuck through the house wet, with food we weren’t supposed to have, in places we weren’t supposed to be. I thank you for teaching me there is no reason that you can’t live in style and grace, even with a household of rambunctious kids.

While I could go on and on, I suppose I should let you get back to your party, and enjoy all the family around you. Of course my mom and I would love to be there, but with this baby making his grand arrival anytime, we have to stay put. I promise to bring the little guy to meet his Great Grandma as soon as we can, but until then, enjoy your meal at Hopkins, your family surrounding you, and every year being celebrated today.

With as much love as a computer written letter can convey,



I always told Grandma I would write a book about her.  Hers is a story about a woman so incredibly complex, beautifully human, with crescendos and lows, but who never stayed down.  Trust me when I say I will one day tell her story because it's exactly something she would love to read. 

Promise #1 Kept- Grady Meeting Great Grandma Hunter

For the lady who is in my thoughts today.. I pray for the day when you will be with Gramps again, no pain, walking hand in hand, through the most beautiful of paths.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

A Week In The Life....

For the greater part of the week, I was certain I was going to die.

Let me explain.

I love the sun, I love the heat, and I love the bronzed glow that comes with a day spent in the sun. I loved it so much that I have even gone into those creepy little coffin-beds since around the age of 16.

Exhibit A- Highschool

Lately, I have been starting to notice more and more moles on my skin, some of which were following the ABCD’s of melanoma. Naturally, I lost my mind. Combine this with those commercials that are on the radio non stop about the 75% increased risk of developing melanoma if you were exposed to tanning beds, and well I was a bit of a nervous wreck.

I finally got in to see my dermatologist and after scanning my whole body, I showed him one I was nervous about and he replied

“Yes. I’m very glad you came in today. Good catch. Let’s take that one right away. Once I take this off, you stop worrying, ok. I will worry about it once I send it in”.

Here is what I heard:

“Yes. You have the worst kind of skin cancer there is. Say good-bye to your family now. Please worry, you should.”

Now, let’s all take a moment to think about poor Mike in this situation. I got into the van after he picked me up and basically told him it was all over. Our lifelong love affair was coming to a crashing halt because I loved being tanned more than my own life. I couldn’t even look at old pictures because all I could see was poor orange decision after poor orange decision. I silently worried and didn’t sleep about what was going to happen to my kids, how everything was going to be affected because I chose vanity over pasty skin. I was not overreacting. I called my parents, my sister and my aunt and had near nervous breakdowns with almost anyone I talked to who all basically told me the same thing.. ‘You’re fine. They take moles off all the time’.

Exhibit B- University
(Please notive my Sister in Law's beautiful fair skin.  In my natural state, mine is not this radiant)

But I was sure that this was my penance… this was my time to pay the piper. Years of looking like I was fresh off the beach had came to bite me in the ass. I did the one thing I tell EVERYONE not to do.

I googled it.

If I wasn’t convinced before, now I was certain. I educated myself on the stages, and how it can spread to other parts of the body. After looking at the symptoms list, I embraced my curves for possibly the first time ever when I read:

Unexplained weight loss

Ok, things were going my way. This, was definitely NOT my problem right now. But, just to make sure I got a big bowl of ice cream.

Again, let’s have a moment for my dear husband. He had to hear this anxiety ridden diatribe against the sun (more pointedly tanning beds.. I cursed Fabutan on the way by everyday), and had to calmly assure me I was fine.

Finally the day came to get my stiches out. I asked if they had the results yet and they said they didn’t just yet. A week had gone by now, but sometimes it can take a bit longer. You can only imagine where that took my nervous mind.

That night, laying in bed I started to stress out again. Mike was just trying to sleep… but my brain was on overdrive so he had to listen to my hearty banter with.. myself.

Finally, he slowly rolled over, looked at me, and said,

“Brittany. .. I love you. But shut up and go to sleep”.

Yesterday I found out everything is fine.

I promptly drank wine and ate chocolate, and apologized to both everyone around me, and to my central nervous system for the completely unnecessary workout.

For the record, I have sworn off tanning beds.

Jamaica- Still gonna happen, just with sunscreen

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Valentine's Day Flashback...

Look at these two.

So unaware of how this was the beginning. Just two teenagers infatuated with each other, spending all their money to buy that hockey stick chain around his neck, and that bracelet around my wrist.

I shall refrain from commenting on how ridiculously in shape we both were.. well I think I was mostly just skinny. Can I please note for the record this was the time when Mike could sit down and scarf a Costco bag of Munchie Mix, eat a huge meal with seconds, and head out to Burger King an hour later. I also clearly hadn't figured out how to match my make-up shade to the rest of my body.

Happy 15th Valentine's day together Mike.  I can't wait to have a glass of wine with you tonight while we pretend the kids aren't fighting, and the baby isn't crying. Just looking at this picture fills my head with so many fantastic memories, and makes me feel about a million years old. I can't wait to totally gross Ben out with how hot I thought you were, and how pretty you thought I was.


Friday, February 8, 2013

Things I Said I Would Never Do....

Ben’s hockey team all got new tracksuits, as did all the coaches. Mike has coached Ben in hockey since he started, and I’m so proud that I have a husband that not only takes time out of his schedule to be with his son, but also helps to coach other kids.  But as I was snapping pictures of Mike and Ben in their matching suits, admittedly even a little misty eyed about it, I suddenly realized that 16 year old me would have rolled her overly mascara-ed eyes and made a remark about how totally dorky that dad was, and how much cooler I was obviously going to be.

Well time make a liar out of all of us, doesn’t it??

The more I thought about it, the more and more I realized I have turned into exactly what my 16 year old self would have snickered at… shall we begin?

1) Matching:

Ok, so we talked about my pride in the matching suits. I also contemplated matching riding outfits for Belle and me. Luckily even my own mother rolled her eyes at that one. I promise to NEVER have matching black-or-white-shirts-with-jeans pictures though. Ok.... I don’t promise that. Because I’ve already reneged on so many promises I made as an idealistic teenager.

2) Minivans.

Like, I freaking LOVE my minivan. SO much so, that I scoff at those mothers shoving their kids into an over-priced, gas guzzling SUV. Oh yes, 16 year old me was certainly NOT driving a minivan, but then again I was also using Sun-In as a primary hair care method, so clearly my then-judgment is not to be valued. The thing that still makes me laugh is that people honestly give me a hard time for driving a minivan. Um, hello people. I have three kids. So you go ahead smooshing your kids into your luxury SUV, rocking your mom hair, and I’ll go ahead and exit my minivan with beach waves.

3) Baby Pictures/Stories

Oh, yes they ARE hilarious. And no, I don’t care what color you are turning, watching your buddies hear about your explosive poop in a Maui restaurant.  It is just too funny not to share. And other kids weren’t as cute as you are, so please, let me show them what perfection looks like.

4) Rocking Out In Said Minivan

Right now, I have the luxury of having my daughter think I am ridiculously cool, while my son is getting too smart for my fail proof “Don’t worry, this is cool” excuse. I swore, after HOURS of torture courtesy of Elton John, Barbra Streisand, and Kenny G, that I would never torment my kids on long road trips.

Me: “Kids say hello to New Kids on the Block, Britney Spears and Spice girls… they are totally hip and happening right now. What, you can’t hear your DVD?? Just enjoy the smooth beats of Backstreet Boys and relax.”

As a result, Belle goes along with me, bobs her head to the music, and can sing “Hanging tough”. Ben, however, sinks down into his chair, and pretends he doesn’t know me.

5) Putting Make-Up On To Go In Public

When I was 16, I would routinely go out with my hair in a wet bun, no make-up on, wearing sweats and looking fantastic. Those days are gone. I now require routine maintenance. I used to get so annoyed when I would have to wait for my mom to get in full hair and make-up before driving me to the mall. Now I get it. I get that as you get a little older, good hair is essential to distract from the ever increasing, and suddenly so obvious frown lines.

6) Becoming Overly Emotional at Childhood Milestones

How dorky did we all think the parents were at Grad, when they wiped tears, snapped pictures, and lamented about how it felt like ‘just yesterday’ that we started kindergarten?

Well, I cried like a baby when Ben turned 3, when I realized that as far as most developmental milestones predicted, his personality was pretty much set at this point. This meant that all the mistakes I had made, everything I wished I had done with him that I hadn’t, had solidified itself in his FOREVER personality. Fast forward to Grade One, which had me in a sniffling puddle as I realized that from here on out, his teachers and friends were spending more time with him than I was.

Now with Grady, every time I put things away he has outgrown, I get teary thinking that the next time I see these items, they won’t be on my own kids. Now that he’s almost all but outgrown snuggling into my neck, I sighed and told Mike, “I guess the next time I feel that joy is when we have grandkids”. Mike looked at me, holding a 3 month old like I was crazy. Apparently ‘living in the moment’ is not my strong suit.

This is an entry that will remain open-ended. They are sure to be many things I think of, that I promised myself, at a younger, far more attractive age, I would never, ever do.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Creative Energy

Trying to be creative at the best of times is difficult. When asked to make something creative, which inherently means giving something of yourself, you have to harness the creative energy within, or create something that just might not be there at that particular instant.  In order to do so, people hide themselves in studios, or need to be outside, listen to music that inspires them, or need dead silence to hear themselves think. Some need nighttime, some sunshine. A few like coffee, most like beer

I don’t know exactly what it is, that helps me just yet, but I can tell you what it is not. Please read below for a brief transcript of events that took place shortly after I sat down to write tonight.

Mike stomping down the stairs, Grady in tow, crying his cranky little heart out.

Brittany: Mike.. seriously I just need like 10 minutes.

Mike: Brittany, just keep writing I just need to do a few things. Don’t worry!

Mike puts Grady in the swing. Forgets to turn it on. Starts flapping garbage bags to open them like it’s his job. Grady is now crying. Mike is now moving things out from under the stairs. Now things are falling.

Ben : Daaaaaddd I want you to play NHL with me!!!

Belle: Mooooom I need to poop!!

Mike: Noisily still being ‘quiet’ You guys go upstairs, Mom needs to do some work down here!!

The kids disregard above statement, and are now at my desk, Ben wants markers to make a book, Belle wants ME to get her a cheese string, and play dolls with her. Grady is starting to scream as he kicks in his motionless swing.

Mike is doing his work perfectly uninterrupted.

After they finally went upstairs, I did manage to keep my rage in control, but also lost every ounce of creative energy that was pulsing through my veins. I sat looking at the computer screen and repressed the anger while I false started a few different entries. Now a blank word document sits before me, the cursor taunting me.

So, I did what I feel most literary greats would have also done in my case. I opened a beer, and absent mindedly clicked around the internet until I felt like I had enough alone time for one evening.

I’ll come back to it tomorrow..

My three little hot messes of children.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

The Ballad of Sophie

*Subtitled ‘This is what I will show Belle someday after she comes homes from therapy with a break through that it was losing her cat at 3 ¾ that made her have attachment problems’*

I promised Mike I was going to the SPCA to simply look at a kitten I saw online. Of course I filled out the paperwork before he even got there, in order to beat the gay couple I was staring down for the delight of owning the fluffiest, whitest little speck of fur I had ever seen. I got my act together first, lied about having permission to have a cat in a rental, or having any other roommates who were supposed to cosign with me, and walked out with a kitten. I was told she was a runt, was never going to get very big, and was sweet and laid back.

Those motherf#ckers lied.

I brought home a cat that was STARVING! Have you ever seen a kitten jump into a fridge and savagely attack fruit?? I have. Have you ever seen a cat so unsure of its next meal that it got its head stuck in a mason jar glass, and despite being in the stages of passing out from lack of air, it continued licking the side of the glass? Yup, I saw that too. This cat was ‘sweet’ and ‘laidback’ because apparently it was severely malnourished. After a few days of meals, and whatever else got left on the counter, Sophie, as she had henceforth been named, turned into a beast.

The first clue that this cat was going to cause me stress came 1 week after I got her. I came home to find that white little fur ball attempting suicide on the chain from the blinds. She had herself so tightly wrapped up, I had to get my upstairs neighbor to come downstairs to help me free her.

This had been two cries for help from Sophie in one week of owning her. (Her freedom from the mason jar came on behalf of the plumber who was working on my apartment). Nevertheless we soldiered on. After killing of many beta fish, and every single plant I tried to grow, Sophie managed to make it through her first week with me, alive.

Shortly after getting her I ended up moving into another apartment that was in an old heritage building in downtown Regina. The windows were older, and the ones in the living room had no screens. Despite my best efforts to keep them closed, one got left open and I wandered into the living room one morning to find Sophie attempting suicide for the third time in as many months. She was half way out of the window, 2 stories up. As I always did for Sophie, I talked her off the ledge and explained she had a lot to live for. I was pregnant! She was getting, what I was sure she had always wanted… a playmate!!

Sophie was not happy. Sophie did not want a playmate.

Sophie got a second playmate.

Sophie started peeing on things. He litter box of choice?? Our mattress. This was the 4th suicide mission for Sophie. Once again, I saved her. I convinced Mike to let me take her to the vet because I knew (desperately hoped) something was wrong.

There was. And there was a HUGE bill to go with the problem. Let’s call that her fifth attempt at ending her life with us.

Then she peed on our bed again. Yup, that was six.

I managed to convince Mike that it was actually our fault as we left her to roam around the house while we were gone, and obviously the mattress hadn’t been carefully neutralized. Sophie negotiated herself a permanent citizenship in the basement unless we were home.

To add to the anger-induced incontinence, Sophie never warmed to anybody other than Mike, myself, and more and more, Annabelle. She scared grown men and women alike who came to visit us with her creepy-as-hell howling and screeching. When people tried to go somewhere remotely close to her food, water, litter, or whatever else she decided was off limits, Sophie let out a war cry that had even veteran animal lovers, heading for cover. We’ll chalk this up at her seventh, and eighth attempt to end her citizenship at the Klassen house. At this stage, it was only Annabelle who saved her. Sophie basically let Annabelle do whatever she wanted to her (Including feeding her like a baby with a fake bottle, and pushing her in a stroller), and in turn Mike couldn’t quite bring himself to send Sophie to live with another family.

Well, they say cats have nine lives and Sophie sealed the deal when, after years of being.. well, let’s say decent since good probably doesn’t quite seem appropriate, she started anger peeing on our bed again.

Not even little Annabelle could save her I’m afraid. Mike calmly informed us Sophie had finally succeeded in behaving so terribly that she had to go. After long conversations with cat lovers, and a conversation I tried to have with the cat herself, we came to the decision that Sophie was honestly no longer very happy in our chaotic, busy household anymore, and if there was someone who could offer her what we couldn’t, we should give her away.

Sophie left our house yesterday with Mike and Belle to go to an acreage that takes in cats like her, and places them in homes more to their liking. After I got over the initial feeling like I failed miserably as an animal lover, my friends and family reminded me that poor Sophie would have been a goner a loooong time ago without me.

Unfortunately, it will only be Annabelle and I who will go on to remember her fondly. It won’t be Janelle, who got cornered and attacked by her in the dark while staying with us recently, or the other friends and family who have come to visit us and gotten caught upstairs, unable to come down past the howling cat. And, it really, really, really won’t be Mike who has cursed the cat since I brought her home, and who had only his side of the bed peed on.

Dear Sophie, you and I tried to make it work for almost 8 years. Alas, it was not to be. I hope you find that quiet, cat lady-type home you have longed for.

An offshoot of these events has been the sense of alarm my parents feel after seeing how Mike and I dealt so swiftly with what went on:

As quoted by my dad yesterday

“We better not get old and start pissing the bed, or Brittany will send us out to ‘the farm’”.

Sophie-- in her happier moments.