Middle Age and the Miata

Miata editAs I swerve, merge, brake and cautiously accelerate my way through a human race in which social strategising seems the norm, I find myself arriving at a number of conclusions. One particular discovery that my teenage kids regularly and graciously – if you happen to consider chortling and eye rolling gracious – help me to realize: in the highly unlikely case that I ever was, I am no longer the least bit cool.

But, not only am I un-deniably un-cool, I seem to have acquired an actual aversion to cool. This became especially apparent a few months ago when my husband and I were the recipients of a generous hand-me-down from my father-in-law, a renowned lover of big-boy toys. The gift: a 1990 convertible Miata.

Although the words a stereotypical woman might use to describe this vehicle are “cute,” “shiny” and “red,” there are far more descriptive (perhaps even expletive) words that make it painfully – literally and figuratively – obvious that I really do not even come close to budging, let alone burying, the needle on the Cool-ometer.

After spending most of my life attempting to blend into the background, this fire engine red Miata effectively obliterates any sense of security I derive from the anonymity I hold comfortable and dear. And, although I really do like and enjoy the car, just about everything about it provides not-so-friendly reminders of my age and accompanying emergence of physical challenges.

The simple act of getting into the car requires precisely choreographed moves to execute a smooth and painless entry to avoid hitting the frame of the car…which reminds me of a car better suited for a shelf in a store. This was a lesson learned along with other mishaps which include, but are not limited to, a bruised knee, swollen fingers and forehead abrasion…all before the key was even in the ignition!

Although I’m well practiced at driving a standard transmission, our four-door practical family car is much easier to operate than the gear shift in the almost-antique two-door Miata. When changing gears in the Miata, I routinely rev its engine, each time cringing and cowering, desperately hoping nobody hears or sees me. A younger, cooler driver would offer this as a bold and intentional exclamation, smart enough to realize it’s more subtle than shouting, “Look at me!” but not quite clever enough to realize how ridiculous they look in such an obvious attempt to appear cool. For me, the revving is about how my middle aged, sluggish synaptic connections disentangle, journey from my foot on the clutch, all the way up to my brain, re-engage and head back down to my other foot on the gas…that, and an anxious attempt to avoid the more conspicuous of two results: stalling.

And of course, what goes in must come out again. I suspect that 20 years ago, my appendages and somewhat smaller self to which they were attached would have flowed in and out of that seat with fluidity and ease. Now, as I inch ever closer to half a century, extricating myself from this car is an embarrassing exercise that involves laboriously grasping parts of the car, hoisting, balancing and rocking until finally my limbs are free from the tiny compartment that some car designer – whose real job as a contortionist – mistakenly and ridiculously thought provided adequate room.

When I lament about the effects this car has on me physically, my husband recommends that I focus instead on the many positives of riding in a convertible. He, who lacks hair but not humour, encourages me to sit back and enjoy the wind whipping through my greying tresses as we drive through the lovely, fresh air. Once, when I wasn’t feeling particularly care-free about that aspect of riding in the Miata, he suggested that I might consider tying on a sheer kerchief, like the ones our grandmas wore, if I felt the need to protect my hair from the wind.

I’m thinking this car may be steering our relationship in a new direction, which may be a little more heated than cool!

Want to read more about getting older?

My Dear Friend, Denial

⇒Playing Through the Ages

Happy Mothers Day

In honour of Mothers Day, I am sharing some columns from my family’s earlier days.

I’ll call this collection…How Life with Kids Has Enriched my Life

It’s been educational:  Techno Gender-ational Gap
It’s been entertaining:  Real Family Life or Reality TV
It’s been (physically) painful:  Not exactly A Day in the Park
and finally, it has most certainly been:  More than I Could Have Hoped For



Check your Cheques

My son wrote – and bounced – his first cheque. (But it was my fault!)  chequq

….and I don’t mean that in the “if only I had taught him better” sort of a way.

Nope…Nick ordered, received, and (somewhat) meticulously wrote cheques for his accommodation at school in the fall. He then (kind of) diligently found an envelope and stamp, and mailed the cheques to his landlord, who, as promised, began collecting the rent payment on May 1.


In my ongoing efforts to extreme-organize, especially now that my nest is half empty (um, I mean full! My nest is half full!), I spotted the sealed envelope, swooped in, picked up the remaining cheques and placed them safely in the same desk drawer in the den as my cheques.  There, we’d be sure to find them the next time he needs them.


Yesterday, there was a phone message for Nick to call the bank. I immediately texted him and told him to call, and his response:  uh oh, maybe I bounced the cheque.  Did dad put the money in my account for my May 1 payment?

After a few calls back and forth – Dad to Nick, Nick to the bank, again – Nick back to Dad – and much wondering (and maybe even some under-the-breath name calling about responsibility and growing up…ouch) if Nick had used his bank card and drained any of the funds meant to pay his first month’s rent.


The mystery was solved with Nick’s final call to the bank – he had previously learned the amount of the cheque, but not to whom it was written.

Turns out…

It was ME who wrote the cheque to the dog groomer the week before! I had grabbed a cheque from the drawer, assumed it was one of mine, and paid the groomer the same way I always do when using a cheque…except usually on my own account.

I apologized profusely.

Nick breathed a heavy (and smug) sigh of relief.

My husband suggested I wear my glasses more often.

The Opposite of Bragging

While growing up with a family of good friends of mine, I was endlessly amused, not only by the antics of my friends, but by their mom’s reaction to these antics.  Having lived with the family for a couple of years while at school, I experienced some of the (ahem) misjudgments of these three boys, and often sat at the kitchen table with the mom, while she weathered the worry and angst that is common for the mother of teenage sons, in the moment (or several hour timespan), and in the aftermath of said misjudgements!

This mom, clearly so very fond of her boys, would gather regularly with friends, who also were raising teenagers.  Instead of attempting to out-do each other with stories of fantastic marks at school and feats of heroism, volunteerism, and all forms of wonderful things many folks brag about, these moms instead spoke of, and sometimes tried to outdo each other with stories of the plain and simple dumb things their teenagers would do.

While raising my own son, I often recall that household, and I remember this mom and how she coped,  and this helps me keep it all in perspective.  I am crazy about my kids, but frankly, some of the stuff they do is worthy of…well you know, worthy of the-opposite-of-bragging-about on a blog.

So although I’d love to tell you that my son came home from school last week and promptly sorted, laundered, folded and organized all of his clothes, and neatly stored his school supplies , I instead offer…the opposite of bragging.

We’ll call this one:  Breakfast On Bed

I walked into his room, which was more than a mess, and noticed that part of his uneaten breakfast sat, on his headboard.  Yup, he’s home!

food on the bed


(Dancing) Chicken on the BBQ

I have a neurotic “thing” about advertisements that use singing and dancing cartoon cows to sell tasty and delectable steak.  I’m OK when these bouncing bovines advertise yogurt or cheese, but when cartoon animals advertise human consumption that require the “actors'” own slaughter, I cringe a bit.

So, as a true hypocrite, I bring you this photo of a recent dinner cooking on the BBQ.  I’m totally amused at how this chicken stands upright, legs poised and ready to break into a fox trot, tango or…chicken dance!

(See what I mean?  Neurotic.  Thing.)

Enjoy your Saturday, everyone!



Home-Roasted Peppers

gonna be good!Such a simple process, but so worth the yummy roasted flavour!  There is nothing like home-roasted peppers with pasta, on sandwiches or as a base for dips.  I only recently started roasting my own peppers, and in the winter, I might still be known to steam them in strips for a pasta sauce, but there is nothing like the flavour of bbq roasted!

doneThe very easy process:
  • Pre-heat bbq
  • place peppers on grill, at medium heat
  • turn regularly with tongs
  • once all sides blistered and somewhat blackened, remove from bbq and place in a paper bag, crumpled shut
  • after about 10 minutes, remove the peppers to a cutting board.
  • I usually cut the top off and pour the liquid out
  • remove and discard seeds and membrane, peel the skin off, and cut the pepper into slices, or quarters

THIS…is a beautiful thing

and done

Try these roasted peppers with

Easiest Alfredo Sauce






Driving Advice…From the Non-Drivers

Now that both my kids are legally licenced drivers, I recall these days with a bit of fondness…and now-unfamiliar feelings of superiority. 

It has come to my attention that I am under the constant scrutiny of a microscope of sorts.  Operated by my children, this highly sensitive device is astonishingly proficient at detecting and magnifying infractions that provoke the users to critique and admonish…while prompting my own sullen realization that the rules from which I have inadvertently strayed are generally those that I have myself created or enforced.

As a parent, I am aware that my children have taught me countless lessons.  Perhaps the most valuable is the importance of very carefully considering my words and actions because of the impact they could have on others, including/especially yours truly.

In other words, I am learning to keep the rope short on which to later hang myself.

There have been other lessons that sometimes emerge from the most unlikely places.  One that I find particularly amusing is, given my kids’ non-existent status with the motor vehicle licensing department, their on-going efforts to, what appears to be, improve my driving.

I admit that it is entirely possible that I have developed a bad habit or two since I started driving about a quarter of a century ago.  My kids, born 13 and 10 years ago, are somehow aware of these habits and comment on, criticize and correct much of what I do behind the wheel.

As a law abiding citizen respectful of speed limits, I do mistakenly exceed them from time to time.  Apparently my kids’ radar shifts into high gear when this happens, and they smugly issue a reminder of the limit.

Exaggerated throat clearing and foot tapping can be heard as we drive out of the driveway when I sometimes pull my own seatbelt into place once the car is moving…after having insisted that the kids’ belts be fastened before we begin to drive.

I am defenceless against many of these reprimands and take full responsibility for creating these backseat drivers.   When frustrated by the carelessness, or – ok, lets call it like it is – stupidity of some drivers, I may mutter a criticism of my own under my breath.  I am then scolded for name calling which I, when using my other set of parenting skills, have told them is never acceptable.

Recently, when pulling into the parking lot of my kids’ school, I paused to see if the car ahead of us was going to park or back up.  As I patiently waited, I was startled by my daughter instructing loudly from the back of the van, “Mom!  Park!”  Calmly, I described the situation ahead of me, relishing the opportunity to explain that I was not actually doing anything wrong.

But after there was no retort to my even-tempered response, I realized that what I had mistaken for impatience in her voice was actually elevated volume because my nine-year-old parking consultant was bellowing orders…while wearing ear phones.

I can safely say that my kids’ unsolicited commentary is not because of fear for their physical well-being. It’s entirely clear that their comfort and confidence is unflappable as they use their knowledge of the rules of the road to critique what they feel are my inadequacies.

When my driving coaches eventually get behind the wheel, my advice, on the other hand, will be safety driven and I desperately hope they remember well and abide by all the guidance they have given me.

Lucky for them, my approach will be kinder, as I have learned the benefits of positive reinforcement and constructive criticism.  Although they’re pretty good with their manners in general, I’m still patiently waiting for, “Wow, Mom, nice job coming to a complete stop at the stop sign!”

originally published in the Waterloo Region Record