THE SOAPBOX BY CARMEN MARIE FABIO

July 18, 2019

I must admit that have a weird and wonderful love/hate relationship with them. Being an extremely logical person, when something strikes me as being absurd I find the urge to voice my thoughts almost irresistible. Almost.

Top on my list of pet peeves would have to be ridiculous conversations. Not that the person I am speaking with is necessarily ridiculous, but the nature of the conversation itself.

And so it was last Thursday morning when I called my internet, television, and mobile provider. Their competitor had recently been in the neighborhood courting me to come back to them which I, being the queen of frugality, saw as the perfect time to negotiate a better rate. What could be the harm in trying?

A charming young man answered my call. I introduced myself and gave him my cell phone number. With this information he was able to inform me that I had been a loyal customer for over 30 years and he thanked me. That was a really nice moment.

I went on to explain the purpose of my call and wa...

July 11, 2019

How do you make a Phillips’ Screwdriver?
By mixing vodka and Milk of Magnesia.

I was reminded of this (bad) joke the other day when my son took a nasty tumble off his bike and came home with a bloody and scraped up knee. He had a shower and put some Polysporin on it while my husband and I explained how our generation’s parents had dealt with abrasions – Mercurochrome.

Anyone under the age of 50 probably won’t remember the bright orangey-red badge of honour that showcased our latest boo-boo to all the other neighbourhood kids. Just like Milk of Magnesia (that tasted like minty chalk) many tinctures of our youth are hard, if not impossible, to find today. Applied with an eyedropper from a small glass bottle, the antiseptic fluid didn’t sting but did have an odd metallic smell and, from my memory, did absolutely nothing to help healing. But hey, it looked pretty cool.

If Mom was out of Mercurochrome, there was always iodine. Less dramatic than the neon-hued alternative, iodine was the exact...

May 23, 2019

“I got a cat,” I said as five faces of dog-owners assembled in the local dog park stared back at me, blankly. Crickets chirped. A dog sighed.

“Why?” asked one of them after a protracted pause.

Because my friend’s brother was dying and she was allergic and was desperately trying to find a home for a beautiful 12-year-old tabby. I didn’t know it at the time but he turned out to be an obese, unpleasant, ill-mannered, and judgemental addition to my brood.

“He has no eyebrows,” observed my husband. “He never changes his facial expression like the dogs do. He just… stares.”

While he has somewhat settled in after living his entire life in a small apartment, never having been exposed to dogs, we’re all getting used to each other though my Doberman still refuses to make eye-contact with him following a ‘misunderstanding’ upon introduction.

Where the dogs wear their hearts on their sleeves, you never quite know what the cat is experiencing emotionally – it’s all masked behind the unblinking glare of...

May 9, 2019

I’m currently wearing shoes that are a half size too big on me – a lesson learnt the hard way as even though I’ve been buying the same model of Converse knock-offs at a local discount store for years, at some point the manufacturer must’ve decided to save a few pennies by making them a little bit thinner. I naively bought two pairs (one with flowers!) and only upon actually wearing them and getting the soles dirty did I realize they were way too narrow for me. Of course by that point, the sales receipt was nowhere to be found. Not finding the same shoe anywhere else, I opted to purchase the larger ones this year for extra room lengthwise and though it sort of works, I’m now tripping over my too-long feet.

I’m also become suspicious that shirt manufacturers are using the same cost-cutting tactics. Three-quarter length sleeves feel awkward on the arms like they can’t decide between going up to T-shirt length or down to the wrist and I’m convinced manufacturers purposely design them to sto...

April 4, 2019

In my experience raising kids, there are two very dangerous times of year – December and April. Not for any financial reasons but those seem to be the two months every year when someone comes down with gas**o, short for gas**oenteritis. The very word I fear saying or typing more than Betelgeuse or Voldemort (he who shall not be named) lest I invite its wrath.

I don’t know where this abomination of an illness came from but I honestly don’t ever remember having it as a kid. We only had to deal with comparatively tame stuff like Mumps, Chicken Pox, Measles, and Whooping Cough.

Out of consideration for those blissfully unaware, and for those with young kids who have been, or are going through it, I’ll refrain from going into extensive detail. Suffice to say, gas**o swoops down into your home like a hurricane in a trailer park, indiscriminately demolishing some members of the family while completely skipping over others, for no apparent rhyme or reason. If you’re the one family member who man...

March 21, 2019

“Keep it legal,” I usually tell my boys when they’re heading out the door to parties, going downtown, hanging out with friends, etc. It’s more tongue-in-cheek than anything – they’re not troublemakers – but one of those things I just have to say as a mom, like, “Be careful,” “Wear clean underwear,” and, “Text me when you get there.”

I watched with equal amounts of worry (I’m a mom, I’m hardwired to worry) and pride as they headed out last Friday to join the estimated 100,000 young people who congregated on the Island of Montreal to protest inaction on climate change policies. They got jostled, their feet got soaking wet, but they came home invigorated, not optimistic that they’d enact any immediate change, but with the realization that there really is strength in numbers and that young people, as we saw after the Maple Spring protests in 2012, can be a force to be reckoned with.

In my mind’s eye, I immediately conjure up images of people in their 20s and 30s wearing tie-dye and waving pe...

March 14, 2019

Two of my boys quit their part-time jobs this week, both reaching a culmination point of, ‘I can’t take this anymore.’ We’ve all been there.

One worked at a fast food restaurant and while he could handle shaving his beard, wearing a hair net and uniform, and smelling like grease, he took umbrage with a management style that included yelling as a morale booster. And no amount of free burgers can compensate having to clean up human excrement in the bathroom. That was probably the tipping point.

The other son’s decision was arrived at with more of a global perspective. Working as a fruits and vegetable clerk at a grocery store comes with a sense of futility, mostly at the amount of plastic packaging used, from the coconuts shrink-wrapped in plastic wrappers to the baking potatoes that come individually wrapped in foil, then plastic, then bundled onto a Styrofoam holder all held together with more plastic wrap. That and the Muzak that’s piped non-stop over the sound system.

And while one part...

February 21, 2019

PHOTO COURTESY UNSPLASH

“What kind of a girl are you?” asked a friend once decades ago when I told her I didn’t like shopping. Fast forward to 2019 and I still don’t like it. Every time I head out purposely to buy clothing, I somehow never really find anything I like.

While once killing time before an appointment, I was browsing through a high-fashion discount store and found a number of items I really liked. Pressed for time, I vowed to return and when I was able to a week or so later, all the pieces I’d found were gone. I was so angry I ended up buying a shirt I didn’t even like just because I went there with the sole intent of buying something. I never wore it.

My philosophy is that if it’s meant to be, I will stumble upon the perfect item of clothing when I’m least expecting it. In other words, it will somehow find me.

This philosophy has now extended to the animal population in my home that’s starting to gain in numbers on the bipeds.

My husband, being the earliest riser, wasn’t keen o...

February 14, 2019

From the time I moved to the Vaudreuil-Soulanges region, I was struck by the variety of birds that visited my humble backyard birdfeeder, so many more than what I ever saw in the city.

Downtown will give you crows, sparrows, Mourning doves, pigeons, and – if you live near a casse-croûte – seagulls. Even if there’s no water around.

Living in a semi-rural setting, I get to see cardinals, Blue jays, and chickadees all taking turns at the feeders I now keep in both my front and backyards. We see the odd Pileated woodpecker, robins in the spring, and once had a visit from a beautiful orange oriole. Other visitors over the years have sent the kids running for the Peterson Field Guide of North American birds to identify the newcomers, including Cedar waxwings and Brown-headed cowbirds.

I now buy the pricier mix of feed and take tips from bird-feeding friends on safflower and nyjer seed feeders to attract winter finches and grosbeaks.

It’s all rainbows and unicorns in this bucolic little setting u...

January 24, 2019

Besides the evening news and the occasional documentary or – rarely – a movie, I don’t watch a lot of television. So when my  youngest casually mentioned that a friend of his was giving him a TV his family didn’t want any more, I didn’t think too much of it. Until it showed up.

This Toshiba rear-screen projection behemoth that took two strapping guys to carry into my home was not an electronic device. It was comparable to one of those roadside billboards you see on your drive home that tells you to boil your water before consuming it.

Standing over four feet high with an almost five-foot width and two-foot depth to accommodate the cathode-ray tube, hubby and son slowly rolled it into the house (yes, it’s on wheels), taking care to avoid making eye contact with me.

The 51-inch screen and built in speakers all housed in black plastic with sharp aluminum highlights sat on the floor with all the charm of a rock in a soccer field. It blocked out half the window that looks into my back yard. It...

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