Last weekend, my daughter and I attended the annual Cornwall Girls Hockey Association Fall Tournament – as we have done the first weekend of every November for the past nine years. It’s become another hallowed hockey tradition in our family and I’m not allowed to mess with it.
Only ‘mess with it’ I did.
This was our first tournament after my book, “Offside by a Mile – Confessions of a Hockey Mom” was published. Now that I am a famous author and all, I get to go on a luxurious book tour and jet set to exquisite book signings all over the world, and be interviewed by incredibly famous people. Except in my case, I jet set to cold hockey arenas all over eastern Ontario and get asked riveting author questions like, “Do you know where the washroom is?” That’s fame, people.
So Saturday morning, I left my daughter1 sleeping soundly at the hotel the morning after her first round robin game, and headed back to the arena to set up my book signing table amid all the hockey bags, coffee-sipping parents, and the typical hockey tournament vendors (hockey hoodies, sports equipment, sports photography, etc.) selling their wares. Since I wasn’t selling – or wearing – hockey hoodies emblazoned with “I’m a Cougar Mom” or “I’m a Wildcat!” it took a little while for people to wander over, and ask me about the book.
As it turns out, it wasn’t just my potential book buyers that were asking questions. I was asking a lot of questions. I met people from all walks of hockey life. I met people who had just as busy a hockey life as I have (ok, some even busier) and many more offering a completely different hockey perspective on which I had zero experience.
Have you heard about the one where a dad takes his son to hockey for the first time, then somehow becomes the volunteer hockey coach? Sure, you have. We all have that ‘dad’ either living in our house or right next door. Well, I met such a hockey dad who went on the coach at a pretty senior level and then ultimately became a hockey scout for the CHL. He opened my eyes to a fascinating side of hockey that I will never know anything about, but for the stories he told me last Saturday.
What about the one whose kids were going to the NHL? Have you heard that one? We all have. And then reality sets in and we realize our kids have a much more likely chance of dying while taking a selfie than playing in the NHL, so we refocus our efforts! I met a very interesting man who talked about his kids’ experiences with athletic scholarships to US schools. Good, bad and ugly … mostly ugly.
Have you ever bought an action photo of your child at a sports tournament? I made eye contact and small talk with the photographer traipsing back and forth between ice pads taking photos and he finally came over and talked to me for a bit. Seems his business got started when he was taking photos of his grandkids playing hockey. He quickly realized he was shooting more than just memories – he had a great business opportunity in his hands. He shared his woes of weekends spent in cold arenas at just a time when he should be finally warm. He too shared a perspective of hockey that I never knew about (and that all photographers focus on the younger age groups when parents are still innocent and beholden!)
I met a fascinating dairy farmer who, when he wasn’t in the barn or on the tractor, was in a hockey arena (or some other sport venue) with his four kids. He was sad that none of his kids was going to the NHL, but sadder still that none of his kids were going to be a farmer. I’ll say this about farmers: the most sincere handshake I’ve ever received.
Then, I ran into one of my daughter’s teachers at the tournament with her two young daughters. I was able to bring the usual parent-teacher awkwardness to a new level when I warned her to please not take the chapter about me being a prostitute and Hookin’ for Hockey too seriously.
And finally, as I expressed my gratitude for my little corner of the arena foyer to the tournament organizer, I discovered he doesn’t even have kids in hockey anymore. All day long, I had been telling people that I got to finally finish my book when my two boys retired from hockey and that, with only one child left in hockey, I can see the light at the end of my hockey tunnel. Yet, here was this hockey dad who continued his relationship with his kids’ hockey association, long after his kids did. I told him to go buy a condo in Florida already! For some, like him, there’s more to hockey than skates and sticks.
I told each and every one of them, “Hey! You too should write a book!” and they all laughed. I guess we each recap our hockey memories a different way.
My daughter has no more hockey tournaments planned until after Christmas. But that doesn’t mean that I won’t plan another hockey tournament for myself … and my book. Because …
It’s the people that you meet.
1 And just so you don’t go calling Children’s Aid on me and all that, she’s fifteen years old and her teammate mom’s and my friend were on it, ok?!
There is so much planning that goes into a guys’ weekend away. The date is chosen months in advance to ensure that it doesn’t conflict with anything important going on with work or with family. If it does, it might become necessary to reschedule, setting off a series of emails to put forth alternative dates to everyone attending. Accommodation is carefully selected to ensure a wide range of tastes and budgets are taken into consideration. One of the men is charged with arranging all the restaurant reservations, being mindful of everyone’s medical conditions and dietary restrictions (though thankfully this task is rotated I believe to make sure not one person is doing it every time). And certainly it’s a big chore to make sure any excursions that are booked suit a wide variety of interests within the group of weekend warriors as well.
The entire week prior to the boys’ weekend away is devoted to doing laundry making sure that not only all his clothes are washed for the weekend in order to have maximum personal choices when packing but that all the clothes of his family are also washed and folded. It can be tricky organizing rides for all his kids to any of their weekend activities for which his wife might have a conflict. The last minute grocery shopping and meal preparation is exhausting but necessary as well so that the wife doesn’t resort to take-out for three meals in a row.
I can only imagine how tricky it must be for dads to constantly have to quarterback the social lives of their kids over the weekend through numerous back and forth texts granting permission to do this but forbidding to do that.
And that ultimate sacrifice of precious “me” time he devotes during his weekend getaway shopping for that special little trinket that made him think of his, ever so grateful for her efforts during his absence? That is priceless.
Luckily we women have it so much easier. We just grab our clothes and go.
I’ve been a lot of widows in my life: a golf widow, a hockey widow, work-travel widow; never a real widow. But that doesn’t mean I haven’t thought about it. Like this week for example …
He departed for the International Old-timer’s Hockey Tournament in Munich, Germany, a mere 6,300 kilometres and six time zones away, and will be gone for six days. This boy’s weekend was pitched to me some time ago as a fun, international hockey tournament for his group of friends that are adult recreational hockey players. “Great idea,” I thought. “Go; you’ll have fun.”
Of course no one goes to Germany for a weekend so the “weekend” turned into six days, which I should have predicted because his golf “weekend” in the spring is also a six-day event. Some people will say it’s just a coincidence that this tournament coincides with Oktoberfest. Those some people must think I’m stupid. First of all, he left with no hockey equipment, claiming he was just a sub, a call-up in case he was needed due to injury or some other Oktoberfest-induced incapacitation.
And he casually slips me the itinerary as he slips out the door to the airport …
There are exactly two mentions of this hockey tournament in the two-page itinerary – on Saturday and Sunday. There are at least nine references to “free time in Bad Tolz”, “free night on your own”, “free morning on your own”, “dinner and party”, “Munich dinner and beer tasting”, “party at Oktoberfest tent” and finally, in case he’s still at a loss with what to do with himself in Europe, a “free day on your own”. With this kind of itinerary, the risk of Oktoberfest-induced incapacitation is less of a risk and more of a inevitability. I sincerely hope he’s not the only substitute (I fear he might be a little unreliable in that category … with this kind of itinerary).
There used to be a time that I didn’t like to go away for weekends on my own because it was too much work. If that sounds like a paradox then you must be a man. I then decided it was time to take care of “me” and I would plan weekends away but not before I arranged any necessary carpools for all my kids’ sports and activities, left a refrigerator full of meals and out clean clothes away in their closets. So naturally, I spent the first twenty-four hours of my weekend away … sleeping.
Soon after having kids, my husband and I agreed to two trips away without each other the year, and no carry-overs. That was until I realized that most of his weekends away were six days long. In the early days, it took a lot of energy and planning just to walk out the front door (but always worth it). As the kids grew older I got bolder! I now take at least three or four weekends away and still leave a few days on the table! There’s my annual Soul Sisters Weekend with my sister, my sisters-in-law and my female first cousins. There’s my now-annual reunion with my college friends. There’s my annual writers conference (where with writing part is often kind of like the hockey part in this trip of Peter’s). Rarely do my weekends away involve anything golf or hockey-related. But yes, sleeping is still very much a big part of my weekends away!
There’s room for improvement here so am open to suggestions (… and invitations!).
Where to next …?
My daughter and I were hockey implants this past weekend.
It’s not what you think.
Technically, she was the implant, I was the transplant.
She was invited by another team to a hockey tournament in Jay Peak, Vermont (uh huh, so skiing was also involved too!) as a pick-up player. Several players from a team in her association were unable to attend this tournament so they get to pick up players from another team, hence their invitation to us – I mean, my daughter. It was her job to play hockey for this team; it was my job to get her there (well, my husband’s. Given there was skiing involved, we made this a ski-hockey-waterpark weekend).
It seems a lot of parents of recreational hockey won’t travel to out-of-town tournaments. Cost, time, winter roads, whatever. But out-of-town hockey tournaments is what I love about being a hockey mom (in fact, they may even be why I tolerate minor hockey).
And I’m not the only one. When our hockey years are behind us, I can guarantee you that all three of my kids will look back on their minor hockey careers and the out-of-town tournaments as being the bomb dot com. (I learned that phrase from my daughter and I can’t stop using it.)
Out-of-town hockey tournaments offer an opportunity to play teams from other cities (heck, from other countries, as was the case this past weekend!) and is like a mini-vacation (despite a typically busy game schedule particularly if your team advances beyond round robin play). It offers a brief but reliable antidote to the ho-hum doldrums of the cold, Canadian winter. It offers families the chance to dispense with normal routine of school and work – and to travel and sleep in close quarters (the only form of winter camping I’ll agree to). It offers the potential of a new town or city or food or folklore to explore and who can deny the enriched learning experience kids derive from hotel swimming pools, mini stick hockey in the lobby and terrorizing hotel security guards after quiet hour (despite me having signed numerous waivers over the years promising precisely not to do so!)??
Some of the teams my kids have been on have had six tournaments a season (when playing competitive hockey) and some of our teams have only been to two. Regardless of the number or the timing (except for maybe The Great Hockey Weekend of 2012, which we do not speak of in our household), I will never vote down a hockey tournament weekend.
I like hockey tournaments. I know my kids love hockey tournaments.
I liked being a hockey implant and I’m certain my daughter enjoyed being a hockey implant too.
And I think we make the perkiest of hockey implants out there!
Two guys run into each other in the doorway of a Tim Horton’s coffee shop; one leaving and one arriving. One guy says, “After you…” to which the first responds, “No, after you …”
And there ensues The Great Canadian Stand-Off where our national proclivity to politeness and addiction to Tim Horton’s coffee, collide. You know this could go on long enough that the required twenty minutes sitting time of Timmies coffee would expire and I would have to wait for a fresh pot to brew. Someone would have to break the stalemate.
Might as well be me.
Between my thirst for a Double-Double Dark (not to mention my need to go pee after my last Double-Double Dark) and my son’s yearning for a maple dip (do you need Eh dictionary yet?), we were not above trampling Canadian ideals and pitching forth through these blocked doors.
We waited a respectable thirty seconds and one more round of “No, I insist …” and “No, really … you go first” before I barged in between them and scurried to the ladies room.
But not without voicing a quick, “’Scuse me! Sorry!” over my shoulder, of course!
What can you do, eh?
Is it just me, or does that title make you giggle too?
CBC recently reported that Air Canada pilots were leaving pornographic material in the cockpit. Apparently the airline’s chief pilot and director of fleet operations expressed his disappointment that he has to warn pilots again against doing so.
Again?! The airline’s chief pilot had to express his disappointment … again?! I can’t believe this is actually a recurring issue within our national airline!
Some sources say that the pilots doing so are just trying to upset their female colleagues for infiltrating what has been primarily a male-dominated role.
I’m not sure what upsets me more: knowing that the pilots may be considerably distracted while piloting the plane I’m on (and we all know the judgement of men is seriously impaired when “distracted”) or the fact that they chose the most ridiculously juvenile tactic possible to upset Air Canada’s female pilots! What are they? Twelve?! Hopefully some of the smarter Air Canada pilots are comforting their male colleagues by telling them they’re going to get fired long before any female pilot quits over finding a porn mag!
May I also just say that this interesting journalist material contrasts sharply to the En Route magazine left for the rest of us in the cabin (not that I’m complaining).
Between this and the Jian Gomeshi debacle, Canadians are seriously getting a bad rep of late (a beaver as our national mascot certainly doesn’t help). Just to make it even juicier, the internet porn site Brazzers recently offered free membership to Air Canada pilots. Yes, Virginia, there are internet porn sites. All the Air Canada pilot new members have to do is tweet out the porn site. Hmmm, and just how many pilots will stupid enough to take them up on that offer? Then again, if they were stupid enough to leave porn in the cockpit …
Maybe the motto per ardua ad astra (“through adversity to the stars”) needs to be modified a bit for Air Canada to per ardua cum astra (“through adversity with the stars” … the porn stars…). It’s almost too perfect.
I for one sincerely hope that those pilots get back to the serious business of flying a plane, and leave the gender discrimination to fashion designers and household cleaning product ads. And I, for one, will be referring to it as a flight deck from now on!
Please ensure your seat belts are securely fastened, folks!
Kids today are so lucky. They have fewer chores (because they’re so busy) and they get to go everywhere (because they’re parents feel guilty leaving them at home). Parents today are much more adventurous in travelling with their children. I realize I’m part of this culture, indulging my children in all sorts of travel adventures. In return, I hope my kids will look back upon our family travels and continue to be inspired by the world and long to see more of it … preferably on their own … soon.
So my daughter recently experienced the pinnacle of childhood adventures: the solo voyage. As in sans parents. When family and summer scheduling conflicts prevented us from attending a much loved beach week on the Outer Banks of North Carolina, my daughter somehow managed to finagle an invite from her uncle to go to the beach with his family – complete with puppy dog eyes, curled lip and promises of ‘I won’t be any trouble at all …’, I have no doubt . Naturally he, being entirely defenceless to the puppy dog eyes and curled lip look, agreed.
The first significant hitch she encountered was US Customs. I guess runaways are extremely clever these days, including those with an official consent to travel form notarized by a lawyer, signed by both parents AND carrying a return airline ticket. Evidently US customs officials are impervious to the puppy dog look and curled lip routine but good on her for trying. She fared much better with Canadian Border Services upon her return and the usual, “Are you bringing back any weapons, alcohol or tobacco?’ was replaced with “I bet you had a lot of fun! Welcome back.”
This solo adventure of hers took another unfortunate turn when Hurricane Arthur decided to take its own unfortunate turn towards the Outer Banks of North Carolina where she was staying with my brother. If anyone could turn a hurricane on its heels it would be my daughter, but alas, the Governor did not think know of her powers (primarily reserved for use at our family dinner table), and Dare County issued an evacuation order for Hatteras Island. While I am certain she had visions of a SWAT team lowering their ladders from helicopters evacuating stranded tourists such as herself, she soon found out what it really entailed: a day’s driving stuck in the worst traffic jam imaginable.
And now she is off to sleep over camp for two weeks (something she has done now for seven summers). While there will certainly be someone there to feed her and do her laundry, I know she will return from camp grateful for a flushing toilet.
My sons are also on their own solo adventures this week. My 18-year old is at the national Canadian Big League Championships in Thunder Bay, Ontario (ten days of residence living at Lakehead University will be good training for his body to get used to dorm beds) and my 16-year old is experiencing Ottawa’s largest outdoor musical festival, Bluesfest 2014 (requiring him to master one of the biggest travel obstacles for today’s youth: public transportation). Their adventures, however, will probably not be titled Adventures in Solo Travel but rather Travel in with Solo-Cup Adventures. Sigh.
So this house is just a little too quiet for me right now and I think it’s time to embark on some solo (or solo cup) travel adventures on my own. But I am a seasoned traveller, right? None of this Customs nonsense, lousy beds, public transportation woes or guilt can get in my way, right?
A few months ago I wrote a post about my eldest son’s applications to post-secondary institutions. And now with a few offers in hand, my eldest son has some decisions to make.
Much to my son’s surprise (not mine), bit by bit those offers started trickling in and we carefully picked the ones we would go and visit. Unlike the parents of many university-bound kids, I chose not to take him on road trip visiting every single post-secondary school between infinity and beyond. Instead, I promised I would take him to visit those to which he received offers, and was most keen to attend. Never having been on a single university tour myself when I was applying, I did want him to make an informed choice. Depending on the location of these choices, however, a campus tour can set you back the price of a school year’s tuition!
The campus tour is generally pretty standard: the major academic buildings, the library or libraries if the school is large enough, at least one dorm room, at least one dining hall or the dining halls, the sports complex, and all the major support services (academic, health, etc.). It is also possible to arrange more in-depth tours with various faculties and even arrange to meet faculty members or varsity coaches. I’ve quickly realized that a good university tour guide is more than someone who can walk backwards and talk at the same time – they can make or break a prospective student and their family’s first impression.
If you’re lucky, you’ll get the uber- energetic student or recent grad that could not imagine life without this university. As annoying as their enthusiasm and university loyalty can be, the tour will not end until you know everything about the school including the words of the favourite university drinking song or have the university’s motto emblazoned on your brain. Alternatively, you may get a less enthusiastic tour guide who appears to have better things to do than make converts of wide-eyed, naïve high schoolers, and who showcases themselves and their accomplishments inviting you to come the their university so you can truly be as impressive as they have become (doing university tours for a living).
So now begins my son’s decision-making crunch time. He has ultimately has about three weeks now, to make his decision and pay his deposit (as you can guess procrastination runs in our family!). In that time, he will reflect not only on the wisdom of all that he has learned about these respective universities, but also on the words of wisdom of the tour guides.
I hope he took good notes!
“Anything to declare?” asked the Canada customs official.
Such a loaded question! They should really consider rephrasing that standard question asked by border services agents of all international travelers. You’re asking a woman if she has anything to declare?!
Oh, do I ever! Let’s have a cup of coffee and talk about it! Indeed, I have something to declare!
I’ve taken a few days to reflect upon my experience and learning at a humour writers’ conference I recently attended. I now declare that I was deluged with new inspiration while at the Erma Bombeck Writers Workshop held bi-annually at the University of Dayton in Dayton, Ohio. By the way, you may not know this but the word deluge is a French term for being word-swarmed. But you know, there are advantages to being deluged, or word-swarmed – in addition to all the mind-blowing quotes I garnered from the speakers, I was able to pick up a few gems from the attendees too. For example:
Boom Boom Boys:
File this under “It’s Not What You Think …”. Please just know that I will be petitioning Drum Corps International to reschedule their 2016 competition not to coincide with the Erma Bombeck Writers Workshop.
This is not the video player predecessor to VHS, but instead an indispensable trusted confidant who will read your work and provide you with much needed feedback before publishing (but not a professional editor, qually indispensable).
I-am-so-done-tormenting-myself-over– useless -crap…
The Dayton Dribbler :
Not to be confused with the University of Dayton basketball team’s March Madness success, but rather the highly over-rated Marriott shower pressure.
The Quiet Zone :
Can we not all just agree that sleep is for sissies, retirees, and that man in 14C on UA4461? Also, is probably not the best gathering place for the Boom Boom Boys.
Ermatologist, Bombeckian, Bombie, Ermite, Bombette :
One of a massive throng of several hundred women (and eighteen men) ravishingly beautiful, startling witty and extraordinarily talented writers.
“Ma’am, anything to declare?” the customs official repeated.
I have words to declare, sir. Enough words to sustain me through many writing projects.
And with that, my passport is stamped – a most noteworthy and emphatic endorsement of my efforts – and I am on my way.
This post was brought to you by a deluge of words and inspired by an amazing coffee cup.
* Okay, look. I know I don’t usually swear on my blog, and actually rarely swear at all, but when I heard this phrase, I fell in love with it and can’t seem to stop thinking about it. And since I am now over the age of fifty, I can put ‘restraint’ in my FuckItBucket.
Very soon, I’ll be boarding a plane for the Erma Bombeck Writers Workshop in Dayton Ohio. My first experience with this workshop (and any writers workshop, really) was two years ago. I would guess that eighty percent of the 350 attendees were woman like me, of a certain age like me. Throw in a few punchlines and a little wine and you have a fermenting cocktail (which I will affectionately refer to as the Dayton Dazzler)! While in the company of so much comedic virtuosos (both the faculty and the attendees), not to mention the neighbouring drum corps competition, I was able to come away profoundly inspired but also a little intimated (and moderately deaf). I wrote about this anxiety in a post-workshop post about The Burdon of Bombeck (as in, “Hi my name is Astra and it’s been sixteen days since I last wrote something funny”).
There have been so many questions posted on the attendees’ Facebook site by newbies! I feel I’d be doing my part as a veteran Ermatolgist (as coined by the ever wit-faced Amy Sherman) to address them so the freshman Ermatologists have as much fun as us upperclassmen!
Do people have wine in their hotel room?
You don’t get out much do you? People have wine in the hallways, in the bathrooms and occasionally even in the bar. Bring it.
Do I really need to bring business cards?
You must have some other mechanism by which to make yourself truly unforgettable. Bring it on.
Is it okay to wear bathrobes and fuzzy slippers to the sessions?
Not many people can rock that look but if you can … I say bring it!.
Carry-on or checking a suitcase?
You can’t take liquids in a carry-on (unless three ounces is what you call a drink, in which case we likely won’t meet this weekend), so I say bring it (the suitcase that is)!
Will there be t-shirts?
There will be t-shirts, glowsticks and glow necklaces, Hang Ten foam fingers, sun-visors, ball caps, slotted sunglasses, and over-sized multi-coloured beach balls.
I’m actually not 100% sure about any of that but it will be an event worthy of such rockin’ stuff!
Do people change for dinner?
Absolutely; I’m a totally different person at dinner. Who isn’t?
What goes on Saturday night?
What happens in Dayton, stays in Dayton (that’s all I’m gonna say)!
What a difference two years makes!
Can’t wait to be Dayton Dazzled and Bombecked!