Monthly Archives: December 2014

Hump Day: Looking back at failed resolutions, and planning more

Hump DayHump Day
By Brian Cormier
Wednesday, Dec. 31, 2014
Moncton Times & Transcript

The worst thing a columnist can do is to go back to writings from yesteryear to see what he wrote about resolutions. What I found was a long trail of broken ones. As well intended as they were at the time, it’s depressing to see that most of those big plans fell by the wayside.

I’d say the average resolution lasted until Jan. 8 – one week! That first week of January is always a good one for people, isn’t it? We all stick to our diets. We all exercise every day. We all read more, go to bed early, watch less television and start writing our novel. The world is our oyster. Life is good.

Come the second week of January, though, we’re back in front of the television with empty beer cans around us and chips strewn all over the floor. We tell ourselves we’re just taking a break from our resolutions. We’ll get back to them next week. Besides, there was a snow storm and we couldn’t get to the gym one day. It’s not our fault; it’s the weather’s fault. See?

Now, because I’ve always believed in being honest with you, dear readers, here’s a list of some of my biggest failed resolutions in the past few years.

new year resolutionsBecome a ballerina: This was not unrealistic. People can overcome obstacles all the time. Now, I have to admit, this was a major one to accomplish. I’m not exactly the ballerina type, after all. First, I had trouble finding triple-E wide ballet shoes. Then, I had a lot of trouble pulling my hair back into a bun. I had a super-strong weightlifter pull enough of the back of my head into a bun, but then the front of my face looked like I’d had 12 facelifts. I couldn’t close my lips, either, so I looked like I was always smiling. Apparently, I terrified children.

Then there was the matter of the tutu. Apparently, I don’t look good in pink. Finally, after many hours of practice, I made my first leap into the arms of an awaiting dancer who was supposed to hold me above his head and spin me around as I held my arms out in glorious dance triumph. It didn’t go well. They’re still holding fundraisers for his rehab cost and he screams whenever he sees someone wearing pink. Poor thing.

Then there was the promise of being rich by year’s end. I think I make that one every year. The only problem with that one is that I’m too chicken to rob a bank and sometimes I forget to buy lottery tickets. Oh, I suppose I could just work for it, but what kind of resolution-maker would I be if I only resolved to work harder, save more and spend less? That’s for suckers. I don’t believe in carrying guns, either, so robbing the bank may not be too effective. Do you think they’d hand over large stacks of $100 bills if I threatened them with a wooden spoon?

One year, I promised myself that I’d be a world-famous singer. The problem is that I forget the lyrics to Happy Birthday, so remembering the words to a big complicated song probably wouldn’t work out too well for me. The same goes for that resolution to win an Oscar. I usually fall asleep watching movies, so when the director saw me snoring away on the back of the horse during the movie’s epic American civil war battle scene, my award-show hopes pretty much went down the drain. I discovered that I fall asleep in the middle of a movie even if I’m starring in it.

So, that was the end of that and the world will never get to see walk up the dozen steps from the front row of the audience to the stage during the Oscar broadcast as Meryl Streep hands me that golden trophy, weeping as she tells me through gut-wrenching sobs that I’m her inspiration.

Because the new year is just starting, I’m not sure what my soon-to-be-broken resolutions are yet. There are always the old standbys, but they seem boring. I say come up with something that scares you, like skydiving, or hiking through lion country in Africa while covered in gravy. Make them big.

However we all decide to improve ourselves over the next year, it’s important to note one thing: Jan. 1 is just a date and Jan. 2 is just as valid a date to start a new habit. So is Jan. 3… and 4. The most important thing is to never give up. Ever. Good luck!

Hump Day: Use the 40 gold rings to pay for cleaning up after the 40 cows

Hump DayHump Day
By Brian Cormier
Wednesday, Dec. 24, 2014
Moncton Times & Transcript

We’ve been hearing its roar for months. We winced as it got closer and closer. Some of us covered our ears, not wanting to believe the ever-increasing sound levels of the music and bells. We covered our eyes not wanting to see the lights and shiny baubles strewn all over the place. No, despite our complaining about it, we couldn’t stop that approaching freight train called Christmas.

Yes, Christmas is here. It’s sitting on your front doorstep and it’s not going anywhere until you let it inside. If you aren’t ready by now, you never will be. Either you need to wave the white flag and surrender if you didn’t get everything done or declare complete victory over all the hustle and bustle if you managed to make Martha Stewart look like a disorganized, forgetful, persnickety perfectionist who should hang up her apron in shame.

By now, if someone asks you if you’re ready for Christmas, you’d better say ‘yes’ unless you plan on spending the next few days in a straitjacket as you watch how others are celebrating with hors d’oeuvres, baked holiday goodies, turkey, meat pies, poutines râpées, seafood and other delicious treats.

Regardless of the stress, we usually end up being ready for the big day, even if it means changes in plans. As the weeks ticked away, my glorious plans to put Martha Stewart to shame were whittled down one by one. The several dozen cookies became, well, zero dozen cookies. The house decorated so pristinely that Michelangelo would be jealous ended up being the same old decorations I’ve had for years. And the hand-crafted gifts that would trigger outbursts of tears from the recipients? Well, they’re going to have to do their crying over gift cards.

In the end, though, this stuff doesn’t matter. Sure, it’s nice to look at and the food is delicious. But really, it’s the people who count, right? As long as we have good family and friends around us, it’s all good. I’m also pretty sure that those who receive gifts from you will appreciate anything they get. And if they don’t, just throw a five-pound fruitcake through their front window.

I’m just thankful that I didn’t decide to compete with the gift giving in The 12 Days of Christmas song. According to my research,that would have meant 364 gifts to one single person over 12 days.

partridgeThis would equal a partridge in a pear tree every day for all days (12 partridges); two turtle doves for the last 11 days (22); three French hens for 10 days (30); four calling birds for nine days (36); five gold rings for eight days (40); six geese a-laying for seven days (42); seven swans a-swimming for six days (42); eight maids a-milking for five days (40); nine ladies dancing for four days (36); 10 lords a-leaping for three days (30); 11 pipers piping for two days (22); and finally 12 drummers drumming on the last day.

Could you even imagine the mess and noise from that donnybrook? First of all, that’s a grand total of 184 birds of various species, probably ones that don’t get along. So you just know there’d be a lot of squawking and feathers everywhere. And those eight maids are milking cows – so don’t forget the cows, who’ve probably stepped on all those eggs laid by the geese. And then there are the 34 pipers and drummers. That sounds fine for a Christmas parade, but in one little room during the holidays? If there’s a 13th day of Christmas, it had better come with earplugs.

And don’t even get me started on what ended up happening with the dancing ladies and leaping lords. Cover the children’s eyes! Have you no shame, ladies and lords? It’s Christmas, for goodness sake! What will Santa say when he comes down the chimney? Well, he probably won’t be saying much because he’ll join in with the elves in illegal betting on which swan will be the last survivor after 40 of them start fighting in the bathtub.

I hope the SPCA has extra staff on duty. It sounds like they’re going to have their jobs cut out for them if anyone actually takes that song to heart and tries to impress their sweetheart with some of the most impractical animal gifts anyone could ever give.

Fear not, however, because there are still those 40 gold rings, right? Well, the pawn shops open after the holidays and you can always sell them to hire a cleaning service for the mess. Something tells me you’re going to need it.

Hump Day: Push to be perfect at Christmas, but settle for ‘good enough’

Hump DayHump Day
By Brian Cormier
Wednesday, Dec. 17, 2014
Moncton Times & Transcript

Are you panicked yet? I know I am.

Every year, I act surprised that Christmas is already here. It’s not as if we haven’t been bombarded with reminders since August when retailers started slowly but surely putting up their displays. Actually, one national greeting card chain started selling their specialty ornaments in July.

The decorations are up and the cards have been sent, but the shopping? Not so much just yet. And the wrapping will have to wait for a few days until I have everything done. There are also a number of gifts coming in the mail via eBay purchases from sellers in the United States or gift cards from cashed-in credit card points that are supposed to arrive perilously close to Christmas. I may have to give a few IOUs if they don’t arrive on time.

I’ve always had pretty good luck buying stuff on eBay, a popular auction website. Only one thing I ordered has arrived completely destroyed – a ceramic bowl. Now, why I ordered a ceramic bowl to be shipped through the mail, I’ll never know. I would never do it again, but I assumed the seller would wrap it in two-feet-thick bubble wrap. They didn’t. They pretty much just stuck it in a giant unpadded envelope and threw it in the mail. The chances of it making the journey from Texas to Moncton in one piece were pretty slim. It was doomed from day one.

I try to buy local as much as I can but sometimes an online price is just too spectacularly good to ignore or the item you want isn’t available locally at all. One quite expensive gift was ordered from a large online electronics retailer because the price was unbeatable – 25 per cent lower than anywhere else and even lower than prices in the United States. Wow!

christmas panicThe item was ordered on Nov. 30 and was supposed to arrive in one or two weeks. Wrong. I received a subsequent email saying the order wouldn’t be here until Jan. 5. Considering it’s a Christmas gift, that was unacceptable, especially since the website claimed a two-week maximum turnaround time for the order. After contacting them, they said they’d put a rush on it as much as they could and the new shipping date was set at Dec. 19, meaning that it would likely arrive on Dec. 24. I’ll believe it when I see it, but on Christmas morning someone may only be opening up a photo of what their gift was supposed to be.

It doesn’t matter, of course, since the gift is for an adult, however getting IOUs on Christmas morning is not the preferred option, especially considering that the holiday doesn’t exactly come as a surprise every year.

But like many of you, I felt my heart skip a beat when I heard there’s only one week until Christmas, leaving me only seven days to have the entire house look like a full-page centre spread in a decorating magazine. By the time Christmas Eve arrives, I’ve pretty much given up on that fantasy, but it’s always nice to have something to aim for.

I even looked at the dog today and thought to myself that her fur was getting a bit tangled. Time for a new hairdo! Hopefully, the groomer can fit her in before Christmas. If my house can’t look like an ad in Better Homes and Gardens, well then at least my dog can look like she just won a beauty contest. A small victory.

There’s a real push on to have everything perfect for Christmas, but I’m probably going to have to settle for ‘good enough.’ The bathroom will get painted at some point. (If you need to use the facilities when you come to visit, you’ll be asked to use the back yard. I don’t want anyone seeing the disgusting ceiling.) There’ll be clutter here and there. The new kitchen range hood may still be in its box. The new ceiling fans, too.

I’ll try to fool everyone who comes over. I’ll have an excuse for everything that’s not Oprah Magazine perfect by Christmas Eve. If a gift doesn’t arrive in the mail, I’ll blame someone else, certainly not myself for waking up 10 days before Christmas and deciding that ordering something from California via regular ground mail was a smart idea.

So if you’re expecting a gift from me on Christmas morning and I tell you that Santa Claus twisted his ankle and will only deliver it next week, just smile and humour me. Next year will be different. Right?

The incredibly annoying journey or, return of the prodigal junk

Hump DayHump Day
By Brian Cormier
Wednesday, Dec. 10, 2014
Moncton Times & Transcript

A few years ago, I wrote a couple of columns about how I’d decluttered my house and how good it was for the soul. I’d taken care of most of it. That pile of paper here was sorted. The pile of books there was either on a shelf or given away. The mountain of paperwork over yonder was filed, sorted and completely organized. The miscellaneous stuff strewn willy-nilly had found new homes either stored in a cupboard, given away or thrown out.

I felt unencumbered. I felt like standing in the middle of the street singing the theme song from that old movie, Born Free. And I was so smug about it, too.

You know those stories about a family going on vacation with their dog only to lose their pet and then the dog comes home two years later after walking across the continent? Well, all that junk walked across the continent and it’s back. I’m pretty sure some of it literally dug itself out of the dump and crawled back into my house when I was sleeping.

Actually, it wasn’t just a ‘few of years’ ago – it was more like seven years ago when I went on a major cleanup of the house. I was ruthless. Nothing was off limits unless it was nailed to the floor – and even then it had to be nailed down pretty hard.

messy officeSo here I find myself seven years later having realized that it’s time to go on another junk-ridding spree. The unread books are stacked a mile high. My home office is a disaster of paper and files. And my dining room table? Well, I’m ready to have its photo put on milk cartons like a missing child because I haven’t seen it in a very long time. I know it’s there somewhere under all that junk piled on top of it.

How did this happen? I was so good for so long, but things just started to creep back in. When I don’t know where to put something, well, it just goes on the dining room table… or in the corner on top of something else. I need to take control again and go through the place with a flame thrower.

And don’t even ask me about my kitchen counters. With a sorry lack of storage space in the kitchen, the counters have become the depot for every small appliance I have, including the blender, coffee maker, coffee pods, mixer and a bunch of other things. I’m pretty sure there’s a family of possums living in the far corner of the counter. Do we even have possums in New Brunswick? I don’t think so, but if we did they’d probably be living in that ‍cluttered nook that I can’t reach.

I own too much stuff. I think a lot of people probably empathize with that. I don’t plan on moving anytime soon, so doing a major triage is going to have to happen on purpose, not because I’m getting ready to move. Am I the only one who uses the largely unused dining room table as an open-air junk drawer? I would much rather see a nice, clean table that’s inviting. The thought of actually eating at my table is so foreign to me at this point that I can’t even fathom it. Somehow, it turned into a catch-all for stray stuff around the house.

I realize these are all first-world problems. ‘I have too much stuff. Oh woe is me!’ I shouldn’t be complaining, but having let my formerly organized kitchen – especially – get so far behind is maddening. I could kick myself. (I can see the line forming at my door now. ‘I’ll kick ya if ya want to get kicked!’ You’re all so kind.)

It’s time to commandeer some help here and hunker down and just do it. I’ll have to find a kind friend or two to help. In all fairness, it’s probably not bad as I think. If I tackle one room at a time, I could get most of it down in just a few evenings – dedicating one evening to each room, although the kitchen and office may take a bit longer.

Heck, if I don’t know what to do with half the stuff I need to get rid of, I’ll just store it for a few months – at least so I can stop feeling so smothered in ‍clutter. Even the equivalent of a large walk-in closet would be fine – just to get it out of here.

The time has come and I’m getting pumped for another major cleanup. Sleep with one eye open, ‍clutter.