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Monday, September 10, 2018

What's in your spousal account?



This has been a season of marriage. I’ve been to bridal showers and a bachelorette and we’ve hosted a wedding. More than once at these gatherings I was presented with a small square of colourful paper and asked to write my Advice for a Happy Marriage on it. In 300 words or less. That is a tall order.
The Farmer and I just marked 11 years together. This marriage is easy. I know we are lucky – but we are also experienced. The luck part is that we don’t have too many conflicting views about how to run this thing. We agree that we each need our time to ourselves, to pursue our own interests, and we should be supporting each other in those pursuits. We agreed on that from the beginning. The Farmer warned me, I guess, from that first date, that hunting and fishing and watching war documentaries are just some of his favourite things. Hunting season at our house is like playoff season to the sports fan. And the war documentaries? They are just a constant. The television is always broadcasting some grainy black-and-white footage of soldiers or airmen in combat.
 I actually have a theory about that.
I think it’s quite possible that the Farmer is drawn to war documentaries as a form of past-life regression. That’s the only way I can explain his fascination with fighter pilots and infantry. I know his father trained on a fighter jet but the war ended before his training was complete – so I don’t think he is the inspiration behind this particular obsession. I think the Farmer was a fighter pilot in WWII. He likely came to a dramatic end, and he is back here now feeling some kind of spiritual connection to what he sees in those documentaries. Like a cellular memory.
The Farmer knows that, although he also loves a good crime documentary, I can’t handle the gory bits. Courtroom photos of body parts and blood give me bad dreams and night terrors. The same goes for the nasty things that are displayed on TV as part of life and death in the animal kingdom. I don’t need to see a lion taking down a gazelle, thank you very much. My husband knows to change the channel when I walk into the room. And part of a successful marriage is the give and take of the television remote.
So back to the marriage advice. When asked, I usually write down my favourite bid of advice, which was given to me by a grand old church lady when I was a young wife (the first time), in 1987. She said, “My piece of advice to you is not ‘never go to bed angry’ but rather ‘if you must fight, fight naked.’” It’s funny how I can’t remember much from that time but those words have stuck with me!
My second favourite piece of advice was given to me by the Farmer himself. I think he included it in his wedding vows, which he wrote with equal measure of humour and sincerity. He said, “I promise to never speak an unkind word.” That is profound. And it might be difficult for some people but, as I said earlier, I am lucky. The Farmer is pretty easygoing and easy to live with. Of course, he didn’t say “never mutter an unkind word under your breath, so quietly that the other person can’t hear you.” That may have been done once or twice. I’m only human.
And my final piece of advice is to think of marriage like a bank account. You will make deposits into your account whenever you do something thoughtful, caring and loving for your spouse. Those deposits will sit there in your spousal account, waiting for that inevitable day when you totally screw up. We all make mistakes and unintentionally hurt, annoy or frustrate our partners. That is when it comes in handy to have a healthy balance in your spousal account. It will be difficult for your sweetheart to be mad at you for long if you are usually a great partner who carries their own weight, shows consideration, appreciation and interest, and puts their spouse before themselves.
Of course, it’s totally within the rulebook to remind your partner of the balance in your account. In fact, you might have to, depending on how badly you messed up.

Here’s to the next generation of newlyweds. Good luck to you all. 



Monday, September 3, 2018

Would you like your Thanksgiving turkey to go?


The turkeys delicately pick at their feed. They strut around the barn calmly and wander outside for fresh air on occasion. They are quite nervous, however. If there are strange noises or new arrivals in the barnyard, they are more likely to stay inside.
But there is always one in every bunch, or rafter, of turkeys. One rogue turkey goes wandering every chance he gets. The Farmer keeps finding one bird out of the penned area, wandering the barn. If the door is left open, he is often found poking about outside.
I asked my husband how he knows it’s the same bird every time. They all look the same to me.
“Oh, it’s him,” he says. “I know his face.”
We took a week off the farm earlier this month to enjoy a cottage on a lake. The Farmer had to come home every couple of days for real estate business, and to fill the feeders in the chicken and turkey coops. Every day he counted beaks. All was good until the last day of our trip. One bird was missing.  
Travelin’ Tom had busted out of the coop once again. He was sighted high-tailing it through the soybean field, leaving a tuft feathers behind where he had squeezed through the barbed wire fence. The Farmer attempted to follow this trail, but he couldn’t find Tom. My husband, intrepid hunter of wild turkeys in springtime, sat out at night with a flashlight in an attempt to blind and nab his own bird. But the turkey wasn’t coming out of hiding.
One Saturday night, on our way out to a friend’s house for a barbecue, we saw Tom. He was just standing in the bushes at the side of the driveway, watching us go. I think I even saw him wave.
“Saw the turkey,” I said to my husband, under my breath. I hoped my already hard-of-hearing husband didn’t hear me, because we were late for the party and I didn’t want his turkey-hunting obsession to ruin our evening.
“Huh?” He slammed on the brakes. Just then a bloom of white feathers burst out of the undergrowth and took off down the tractor lane toward the barn.
“Oh. Looks like he’s headed home anyway.”
But Tom wasn’t quite ready to return. Perhaps our domestic bird had encountered a gang of wild turkeys who had taken him under their wing, so to speak. A band of feathered friends who taught him how to forage for mushrooms, bugs and berries in the forest. They probably showed him the creek that runs alongside our property, with its fascinating collection of crickets, frogs and fish. I don’t think he could fly up to roost with his wild friends in the trees but I imagine he gave it a good old college try. His adventurous spirit kept him out of doors for several days and warm nights. When it started to get cooler in the evenings, however, Tom wandered back home. He was spotted in the front yard after Sunday dinner.
“Ooh. There’s the turkey!” I notified my husband. The bird was standing in the corner of my flowerbed, munching on a hosta. Most Sundays we have at least two if not three dogs in attendance, and this week the dogs got to the bird before we did. The turkey mustered every ounce of strength he had to launch himself up into the air and over the stone fence into the bush. My daughter Annie, who had been brought up to date on the situation, called her trained hunting dog to action.
Rupert the aged yellow lab with the bad hip put on his game face. He bounded like a deer into the bush and after a bit of rustling and a spray of feathers, he emerged with the massive turkey in his jaws. Annie gently collected the bird and praised her dog, who had been careful not to harm the turkey. The bird, for his part, had gone peacefully into the arrest, playing dead. This is a good thing because he could have done quite a bit of harm to both dog and humans with his talons.
Annie carried the bird back to the barn and made sure the door was barred shut. Quite an amount of gobbling and squawking ensued, as Tom regaled his friends with his tales of excitement and intrigue.
I’m going to save Tom for someone special this Thanksgiving. He will be a meal that comes along with its own story to tell over dinner.
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But...that's not my cat


Our well-used, well-worn farmhouse was in the best shape it’s been in the past decade when we hosted our daughter’s wedding in June. We had new hardwood floors and fresh paint and the porch had been rebuilt after our October fire.
That was the fire that redeemed the trio of lazy cats who live in our basement. Well, one of them, anyway. The other 2 are just riding Sammy’s tail and reaping the benefits of his celebrated heroism.
Sammy is the one who led the charge up the stairs and down the hall to our bedroom that fateful night. Sammy is the one who woke me and alerted me to the fact that OUR FRONT PORCH WAS ON FIRE. The cats saved the house – and us! – that night. The firefighters said 5 more minutes and the flames would have reached the roof, burning the house from the top down, possibly without even activating the fire alarms. Nice thought.
So anyhoo, the Farmer’s rhetorical “tell me again why we have 3 fat, lazy cats in the house?!” was answered that night and I suspect he won’t be asking it again for a while. But this latest development in Life With Cats does not bode well for our felines.
The other day I was in the kitchen, having successfully (I thought) locked Sammy and his buddies outside, when I felt something brush my leg. “How did you get back in?!”
Someone decided to create their own cat door in our sliding screen patio door.
Our cats prefer to stay in the house and when a beautiful day with birds chirping and a breeze blowing lures them out onto the back deck, they like to reserve the right to return indoors at a moment’s notice. Thus the creation of a cat door in the bottom of my screen. I pointed it out to the Farmer, who shrugged and mumbled something about further destruction of his abode by animals of a feline persuasion. He’s much more of a dog person.
I guess that means repairing the door is not on the top of his priority list. Neither is painting the front door that the dog scratched up, actually. The Farmer’s mind is on Bass Lake these days, where he is building a cottage. It’s kind of like the shoemaker’s kids having no shoes and the hairstylist’s kids having terrible hair. I can’t get that man focused on the Honey Do list at home.
So Sammy lets himself out onto the porch through his handy escape hatch. He hides in the vines and cluck-clucks at the birds on the feeder. When he is bored with that, he slinks back inside through the broken screen. The screen is lifted and curled back about a foot and the rough edge is covered in cat hair. It’s quite a mess. I threatened to take the door off and bring it into Home Hardware to have the screen replaced. The Farmer said “Don’t be ridiculous; I can repair that myself.”
The other night we were watching TV when we heard cats howling at each other. I assumed the stray tom was back in the area and went out the front door to save my cat from harm. But there was no one out there. The howling continued, so I went back in through the house to check out the back porch. On my way past the den, I realized the howling was inside the house. And a cat tail was sticking out of the dog’s crate.
I pulled the sleep-curtain that covers Fergus’ crate aside and saw that Sammy (owner of the protruding tail) had cornered a white and brown cat in the kennel. We don’t own a white and brown cat.
“Hey honey,” I called to the Farmer. “Come see this. This is not my cat.”
I explained to my husband that the intruder must have entered through the cat door, like everyone else. He picked up the extremely friendly kitten and gently placed him outside, shooing him in the general direction of the house next door, where he actually lives. But a visit from the neighbour’s pet does not seem to be enough to encourage him to repair the broken screen door.
What will it take? Waking up to find a raccoon snacking on cookies at the end of our bed? Encountering a skunk in the hallway during a midnight bathroom break?
I may have to stage an incident to prove my point. In the meantime I am going to google how to remove a screen door.
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