Burned by a Recall

Call me shallow if you wish (I would to be honest), I get an unreasonable amount of joy from my dishwasher. It has consistently been there for parties, family get-togethers and everyday meals. Quietly and uncomplainingly, it  washes, rinses and dries like the “high end” machine it was promised to be. It has a large capacity, practical layout and (for some reason) a snazzy blue interior light. I didn’t buy this model on a whim; I did my research. This was highly recommended by the leading consumer review organization and it hasn’t disappointed.


Until now.


Besides me there are at least 60,999 Canadians and 459,000 Americans that can relate to what I’m about to tell you: My dishwasher’s been recalled


No big deal. I mean sure, it can overheat and burn down the house, but this has not happened in Canada (yet).  Also it can easily be fixed. According to Consumer Reports, I just need a new power cord–a “simple” repair that “should take less than an hour.”

Next Step: call the Safety Recall Hotline (Get it? Hotline!).


When you call the hotline you are given a choice of the affected brands—Bosch, Gaggeneau, Thermador, etc. and told to push the corresponding button on the phone.


My dishwasher is a Kenmore Elite. (It wasn’t purchased because of its name—I may be shallow but I’m not pretentious.) I bought it at Sears. Sears Canada has recently declared bankruptcy.


But I digress.


I pushed the number as instructed and got Tom. Now I’m not sure how Tom lucked into taking the Kenmore calls, but I’m hoping he makes a little bit extra because of it. Tom and I established that my machine is on the recall list. He then went into small talk mode and asked he how my day was going. Tom’s a pleasant guy. I told him it was going fine aside from the fact that I had a dishwasher of death, and that I was considering taking a Valium. (The Valium comment was neither appropriate nor true.) Tom told me he’d never heard that one before. Paused. Then said, “Please don’t take a Valium.” It seems that Tom’s also a caring guy who may someday have a future in counseling.


Tom told me he was putting me on hold connect me with Melissa, but that he would be talking to me again. (That Valium comment must’ve really shaken him up.)


Super soothing, Zen waterfall music then began playing for about five minutes. I assume it was a special mix for stressed-out, Valium-threatening, Kenmore owners.

In the time it takes to slow the heart rate and bliss out on cleansing breaths, Tom was back and ready to connect me with Melissa. She reviewed my information and ordered me to STOP USING THE DISHWASHER IMMEDIATELY. She then said she was connecting me with Chuck for further instructions. (In retrospect, Tom had likely advised her to keep the call as short as possible.)


After another calming musical interlude (there may have been the addition of wind chimes), Chuck was on the line. Chuck’s role was to refer me to the nearest repair facility. He needed my Postal Code and told me he was being directed to “something called Lethbridge.”


“I live in something called Lethbridge,” I told him. Chuck explained that his database wasn’t the greatest and he sometimes gets recommendations that are nowhere near where the (unfortunate) dishwasher owner resides.


In my case, the shop was just down the street and I was confident that I would have a working dishwasher in no time.


When I left for work on Monday morning I made sure the kitchen was sparkling clean so the repairman would think I was a good person who always has my act together. I called the repair place as soon as it opened and slowly started to realize that I was a naïve and deluded woman. “The shop hasn’t gotten the replacement parts,” the receptionist explained as if talking to a five year old about why she couldn’t go trick or treating every night. “It could be months before we get them.”


“Bbu but,” I stammered, “I was told to stop using the dishwasher.”


“You absolutely CANNOT use it,” she said, explaining that using it would void my house insurance in the event of a fire.


Sometimes when I washing dishes in the sink, I open up the dishwasher and admire its beautiful blue glow. Maybe that’s what the light is for!


Things could be a lot worse though. When I was researching (and I use the term loosely) this post, I found an article on the Digital Trends website that said:


While they don’t happen all the time, recalls are not uncommon when items are mass produced. Last year, Samsung had to recall washing machines due to an issue with exploding.



Answering a Wrong Number in a Post-Truth World

IMG_4583I’m a Canadian who has been on this earth for more than half a century. So far my lack of dying has led to many things, among them are making and answering a lot of wrong number calls. Until today, this is pretty much how all of them went:


(Phone rings, or vibrates, or makes some kind of noise to indicate that there is an incoming call.)


Person being called: Hello?


Caller: Hello is (insert name) there?


Person being called: Oh I’m sorry, you must have the wrong number.


Caller: Sorry about that. Good-bye


Person being called: Bye


(Call ends)


Here’s how things went this morning:


(Phone rings—it’s the landline. We established in paragraph one that I’m old. I check the call display. It’s coming from Colorado. I pick up the phone.)


Me: Hello?


American (sounds like a grumpy old man): Who is this?


Me: Who is this?


American: I dialled (almost but not quite my number).


Me: I’m sorry, you’ve called the wrong number.

American (Raising his voice):  No I didn’t! It says right here on my phone that I called (almost but not quite my number).


Me: Clearly that isn’t the number you dialled, because you’re talking to me and that isn’t my number. Bye


(I hang up phone.)


It’s not hard to figure out what happened. The man misdialed the phone, probably forgot his reading glasses and couldn’t quiet make out the number he called. It happens. What doesn’t normally happen though, at least not until this post-truth era, is that the clear and undeniable evidence of dialling a wrong number is disputed. It’s as if the American’s relentless exposure to “alternative facts” and the labelling of anything someone doesn’t like to hear as “fake news” has impacted the man’s ability to even recognize a wrong number. Perhaps it wasn’t an accident that I got this call at 7AM. Google tells me that’s when Fox and Friends is on television. Apparently that program gets some people quite riled up.

Facebook’s Brilliant Plan to Reduce Friend Envy

It has recently come to light that constantly being exposed to your Facebook friends’ never-ending stream of high-end, luxurious, completely out of your league vacation photos can (I may be paraphrasing here) make you feel bad about your pathetic little life. Heavy Facebook Use Makes Some People Jealous And Depressed: Study This can be especially true after a particularly bad day at work spent with a spitting, biting, snot-flinging student.

But I digress.

Before the green eyed monster destroys your social media experience altogether, Facebook has created a new feature that is guaranteed to make you feel better about your situation. Although not yet available in Canada, Facebook Legacy enables people to continue their accounts after they die. http://newsroom.fb.com/news/2015/02/adding-a-legacy-contact/ The idea is that the user appoints a legacy contact who would operate the account post-mortem. They won’t have total control. For example they can’t see  private messages or post status updates. The private message thing is probably wise. It would be very difficult  for an after-life social media spokesperson to carry out their duties if they got annoyed by a message written back in the living years. As for the status update: there’s really only one that would be appropriate.

A status update for al eternity.

A status update for al eternity.


A legacy contact does have the ability to update the profile picture. Depending on how they choose to handle this responsibility, they could really help to put people’s insecurities in perspective.

“You know? Compared to that decomposing corpse, I’m looking pretty damn good.”

For those friends who constantly compare their lives to everyone else’s (i.e. everybody); the fact that they have a pulse will suddenly be a point of pride.

“I may never have been upgraded to business class, but my heart’s still beating.”

Facebook Legacy’s strangest feature enables the contact to “Respond to new friend requests from family members and friends who were not yet connected on Facebook.” I think that means that people can continue to collect friends after they die, a definite case of shutting the barn door after the horse has gone.

Post-Post-Tropical Storm Arthur: Unsung Hero Edition

When the summer was still young and promising (July), Mr. HbH, Sporty Son and I made the long trek east to see the Halifax daughters. Naturally we were wowed by the scenery, food, cultural activities and wonderful company. We also experienced our first hurricane tropical storm post-tropical storm. Arthur was its name and we were fortunate that in Halifax at least, it wasn’t nearly as bad as it could have been. There was very little if any rain and the wind was not that different from Lethbridge on an extremely windy day.

Check out the banner.

Check out the banner.

The chance however of being hit by flying tree parts was significantly higher than in southern Alberta as we noted while dodging a few twigs and branches on our walk to the waterfront.
But this story starts before the walk of danger, back to the moment of Arthur’s early morning arrival. It first became obvious to us when we were awakened by the distinctive sound of metal hitting concrete over and over and over again. Imagine our hardship, especially for Mr. HbH who has not yet mastered the sandwiching your head between two pillows method of drowning out night sounds. But we struggled on, making the best of our day and returning in the late afternoon to our hotel that had temporarily lost power. We sat down to relax for a little while, cracked open the window, and there it was…that noise again. It turned out to be a beverage container that was trapped in a mini whirlwind in the parkade that was below our room. (Did I mention that we got a great rate?) Mr. HbH, my sleep deprived hero, sprang into action. Running down the four flights of stairs at a speed that Arthur would be proud of, he exited the hotel, then climbed to the top of the parking garage; quickly locating the offending object.

Tracking it down.

Tracking it down.

It didn’t stand a chance!  Before Sporty Son (despite his quick reflexes) had a chance to take another photo out the hotel window, Mr. HbH had stomped that thing flat.

Got it! Check out his left hand.

Got it! Check out his left hand.

In his rage he didn’t even put it in recycling, but threw it straight into the garbage. After he had a chance to recover, I convinced him that for the sake of journalistic accuracy he should show me exactly where he’d disposed of the can. That’s when we discovered that it once held one of the most Haligonian of thirst quenchers: Alexander Keith’s India Pale Ale.

Not nearly as nasty as it was before I cropped the photo.

Not nearly as nasty as it was before I cropped the photo.

Others in Halifax also faced obstacles. IMG_2321

Outside the city things were much more serious with thousands of downed trees and power outages that went on for many days in some cases.

During a trip to the Annapolis Valley a couple of days later we stopped at a small shop for ice cream. It had the following sign in the door:

Cash Only No Power

Cash Only
No Power

Cash? It had been so long! Everything goes on the Visa card at the HbH house so we can use travel reward points to visit our far flung relatives, It turns out that cash is made of colourful plastic strips with really cool effects and also comes in the form of metal disks. Luckily Mr. HbH had some.

Looks somewhat familiar.

Looks somewhat familiar.

Our compulsive use of the Visa card made it possible to travel to Halifax and rent a car entirely on points. Being the master budgeter that I have had to become, I booked the trip using the minimum number of points possible. This meant an overnight stay at the Toronto airport both leaving and coming back. IMG_2438Sometimes even heroes have to make sacrifices.


Think Before You Shop

When you choose to shop at Wal-Mart instead of the local Canadian-owned stores, the impacts can be far reaching. My son with autism and many other adults with disabilities lost their jobs this week.   Local food banks and schools lost some valuable support. 

Empty Nesting’s For the Birds

I have been putting off posting lately, because the most topical thing in my life right now is the emptying nest which has previously been covered ad nauseum on these electronic pages. I have been working on an informative and extremely important piece about never missing an opportunity to use a public washroom especially when traveling across the Canadian prairies. But that has been stalled. (Get it? Stalled!) For this afternoon I received a message from the blog gods…

Sporty son returned from piano lessons (He’s well-rounded.) and informed me that there was a baby magpie learning to fly on the front step. I grabbed the camera with the best zoom lens (for proud parent attack prevention) and headed out to snap some photos. By the time I arrived, the baby bird had already made it from the step to the adjacent planters. It progressed to the flowering plum and then to the sunporch windowsill before getting back on the ground and hiding behind the cedar tree. IMG_2144

IMG_2157I suspect my crew (Sporty Son) and I were causing a bit of performance anxiety, so to speak. We we left it to try soar on its own. (Also it started to rain and we were getting wet.)

Meanwhile in HbH household news: Engineering Daughter (ED) has completed her degree and flown off (See what I did there?) to a job in Halifax.

Of course I am thrilled for her, but not so much for myself. This isn’t some temporary go-to-university-come-home-for Thanksgiving-the Block Party-and-other-random-events-phase. This is a real-life career for a full-fledged (fledged!) Biomedical Mechanical Engineer. It’s even in her chosen field.

So what’s the problem?

Well, Halifax is about 5000 kilometres away from Lethbridge. Screen Shot 2014-06-13 at 5.10.53 PMIt’s a long way to come home for a weekend! It’s also vibrant, beautiful, and home to Dalhousie Daughter and (shakes head) Maritime Man.

Maritime Man got this whole flying the coop (!) scenario going when he offered to hand out Engineering Daughter’s resume to an engineer he knew. Faster than you can say, “Mom’s heart is breaking,” she had an interview and then a job offer.

Kidding aside, I harbour (harbour!) no ill feelings for Maritime Man and the mass (well two plus a niece who could pass for a sibling) HbH daughter emigration. I would have jumped at the chance to do the same thing at ED’s age except for the part that I’m neither an engineer nor in any way mechanically inclined.

In the (ironic but wise) words of a friend of mine who seems to have forgotten her own fairly nasty bout of empty nest syndrome:

“You’ve got to let them spread their wings.”

Or at least make a break for it.

Or at least make a break for it.

I Effing Hate Housework

For many people, blogs are a means to try and come to terms with difficult situations that they face in their lives. As someone who tends to see the funny side of life most of the time, I have to admit that it’s been very difficult discussing or even thinking about the painful and upsetting news that was revealed to me almost 10 months ago…

It was July 1, 2013. We were gathered on my parents’ terrace celebrating Canada Day. The sun was shining. Burgers were barbecuing. Conversations were light and full of laughter. That is, until my aunt, my mom and my sister began discussing cleaning ladies. Correction: cleaning LADY. It turns out that they all have one and it’s the same woman. This was news to me. Fighting through my jealousy and disappointment, I tried my hardest to put my best HbH face on it, “You all share a cleaning lady?” I squeaked, “Why didn’t you tell me? I would’ve liked a chance to hire her too.”

My aunt explained that she was probably already fully booked since she also worked for my cousin. So there you have it. I learned that fateful Canada Day that every blood relative I have in this city over the age of 30 shares a housekeeper that I knew nothing about. No wonder I’m haggard.

This provides a nice segue into the next part of this post. The f-word. It doesn’t bother me too much when people over the age of 15 use it in an appropriate manner. (You can’t work with special needs high school students with “severe behaviours” and get too hung up on the f-word.)

But what would I consider as being appropriate?

Hmmmm, I believe, “Are you effing kidding me?” would have been a completely reasonable response to those smug, tidy-homed, maid-hogging relatives.

Which brings me to my current situation. Our house is officially for sale and although we haven’t advertised it yet, we have been showing it to a few people who have heard we are planning to move. That means we need to try to keep it looking like this:

Typical day in the living room.

Typical day in the living room.

Master bedroom as it usually appears.

Master bedroom as it usually appears.

It’s effing hard…. But thanks to a link from Canadian Living magazine, I have learned of an App that not only helps keep my home organized, but uses a lot profanity in acknowledgement of it being unpleasant work.

Unclutterer site was nice but I couldn't stay on task with so many interesting articles to read.

Unclutterer site was nice but I couldn’t stay on task with so many interesting articles to read.

This was more to my liking. Simple and blunt with a sense of humour.

This was more to my liking. Simple and blunt with a sense of humour.

It’s available through the App store as Unfilth Your Habitat, but it is made very clear that filth is not the f-word that the app is referring to. It is described as “terrifying motivation for lazy people with messy homes” which describes the HbH household to a tee.

Screen Shot 2014-04-26 at 1.15.33 PMIt gives you random challenges lasting either 5, 10 or 20 minutes that lets you earn stars upon completion. It uses un-inspirational yet true motivation techniques such as , “THIS IS NOT DIFFICULT, YOU’RE JUST KIND OF LAZY,” and for every 20 minutes you work you get a 10 minute break. With a tool like this who needs an effing cleaning lady?



Move over Hot Cross bun. Make way for the Resurrection Roll!

So last year.

So last year.

I know the title of this blog post makes me sound like some sort of biblical-themed baked goods expert, but truth be told, until yesterday I was unaware of the existence of the Resurrection Roll. Not until I was speaking on the phone with Dalhousie Daughter who said she was eating one. I reminded her that it was Good Friday and she shouldn’t be disrespectful.

“No,” she said, “I’m not. It’s like a croissant with a marshmallow in it that is used to teach kids about the Easter story.”

I said something similar to “Get out of town,” fingers flying to Google.

I got almost 2 million hits. I will be providing a link below, but the gist of the recipe is this: You get a tube of Pillsbury Crescent Rolls. Once you get over the mini-trauma of popping it open you give each child a triangle of dough. That represents cloth.

Then each child gets a marshmallow. That represents (you guessed it!) Jesus.

You dip the marshmallow in butter which represents the embalming oils.

Roll it in cinnamon and sugar representing spices used to anoint the body.
Then you seal the marshmallow in the crescent roll dough which represents the body being wrapped for burial.

Place on a cookie sheet (not sure what that represents).

Now here’s where a little poetic license comes into play. The cookie sheet is placed into a pre-heated 350 degree oven for 10 to 12 minutes. This represents the tomb. A really, really HOT tomb.

While he’s in the tomb read some appropriate Bible verses.

Take out after 20 minutes and let cool.

When the kids bite into the crescent roll the marshmallow is gone. “Jesus is no longer there! HE IS RISEN!!!! “ (No word on how to explain the residue.)


I’ve got to admit that Resurrection Rolls  are a pretty creative way to use processed foods to explain the Bible to kids. But why stop there?

You could take a marshmallow and put it on a bowl of blue Jello. Voila (Matthew 14:22-36; Mark 6:45-56; John 6:16-24) Jesus Walks on Water.

Or take a Jumbo marshmallow and surround it with Goldfish crackers and chunks of Wonder Bread. Bam! Jesus Feeds the 5000 (Matthew 14:13-21; Mark 6:30-44; Luke 9:10-17; John 6:1-15).

How about  a special favourite of mine, Jesus Turns Water into Wine  (John 2:1-11)?  You could take some souffle cups (those are the little cups you put ketchup at fast food places)  and have children use a sharpie to colour them brown for historical accuracy. These  represent the urns. Have children pour a little water in some  of the cups. Bring out a jumbo Marshmallow Jesus and have children pour water in cups/urns  where you’ve secretly  added Grape Tang crystals. The water turns into wine. (Icky, sweet non-alcoholic wine.)

Note to my American friends: Google tells me that Grape Tang is not available in the United States. You could drive to Canada and pick some up, or if that seems a little extreme, substitute Grape Kool-Aid for Tang. On second thought, given the events of Jonestown in 1978, Grape Kool-Aid might not be appropriate. Google also tells me that you have something called Sugar Free Hawaiian Punch Wild Purple Smash Singles. These would probably do the trick.

Happy Easter!



Teen Troubles? Try a little Barry Manilow.

Years ago, when (not yet) Dalhousie Daughter was in grade four, Mr. HbH and I went to a Meet the Teacher Night event. Her teacher at the time was (and is) caring and creative. She was very big on motivating the children and letting them know that people valued them. On this particular night each of the parents present were given a yellow index card. We were instructed to write a message to our child that would be laminated and taped to their desk.

Oh no! Around me I could see calligraphy, drawings of hearts and flowers, poetic messages of love and hope. The best I could come up with? “Clean your room!” Now, in my defense, that had been my go-to saying for a lot of years. But still…

I just have a hard time pulling off inspirational.

For example, when Dalhousie Daughter-to-be was in kindergarten, I took a parenting course offered through the school. The gist of it was that instead of freaking out, parents were encouraged to approach a problem thusly: “When you leave your dirty dishes on the table it makes me feel angry. I don’t want to feel angry, please put them in dishwasher.”

I tried the new technique a few times and thought it was working quite nicely.

“When you don’t make your bed it makes me feel…”

“Mom, mom,” interrupted Engineering Daughter-to-be who was in grade three at the time.


“Who are you making fun of?”

And so ended my new-found approach to parenting.

When the girls got to be teenagers, I would handle their angst-y moments by singing “I Can’t Smile Without You,” by Barry Manilow.

(My apologies for the capitalization and punctuation mistakes in this video, but when you take things off YouTube you have to lower your expectations a little. Also reading the lyrics will make the song easier to memorize for any of parents of teenagers out there. You’re welcome.)

It would sometimes take awhile, but my stirring rendition of Barry’s song would always end with a smile or at the very least a grimace.

I have carried this technique into my glamorous career as an educational assistant for special needs high school students. Surprisingly, it works quite well.

Disclaimer: You have to know your student quite well before attempting this or you may find yourself stuffed into a locker somewhere. Only some students are Manilow-worthy.

A couple of days ago Dalhousie Daughter texted me from Halifax with a mini-crisis involving (among other things) group project stress.

I reached into the old parenting toolbox and attempted to come up with a few useful platitudes. (More Mr. HbH’s department truth be known.) No platitudes were forthcoming.

Instead, I commiserated with her tale of the apparent incompetence of one of her group members, sympathized with her overwhelming workload and breathed a sigh-of-relief that my university days are long behind me.

I said that she sounded like she needed a break and suggested that she take her cousin, who is also studying at Dalhousie, out for a late birthday dinner. My treat.

She still seemed pretty down, so I realized it was a Manilow moment.


This obviously gave her time for my dinner offer to sink in. I apologized for not being very inspirational.

She replied, “You said I could go out and pay with the credit card. It doesn’t get better than that.”



An (Un)Valentine’s Tale

This semester I have a few students taking a grade 9 science class. I don’t believe it was intentionally in honour of Valentine’s Day, but yesterday we started the reproduction unit. Think back to when you were 14 or 15 years old. Remember how painful and awkward those classes could be? Are your palms getting sweaty? Are you starting to feel nervous just thinking about it? Well, I’ve got news for you, the new generation feels exactly the same way you did.

Yesterday’s assignment involved explaining the various asexual and sexual forms of reproduction. Once my group got over their initial trauma, they adopted a bit of a “Close your eyes and think of England,” attitude towards the whole thing.

“Listen,” said a student. “Let’s work as fast as we can and get this over with. The sooner we are done with this, the sooner we can forget this ever happened.”

Good point.

Today was a better day. The only scoring discussed was Canada-3, Norway-1 as they watched the Olympic hockey game.Screen Shot 2014-02-13 at 8.37.49 PM