Heather Smith
The mnemonic most used in my household is BRAT. As in BRAT diet … bananas, rice, applesauce and toast. Yes, the stomach flu has been making the rounds through each and every one of my family members and, while the pantry is stocked with Christmas cake, cookies and chocolate, and the fridge holds glorious amounts of wine; the BRAT diet is in full effect. Shame.

While BRAT may be my most used mnemonic, my most favourite mnemonic of all time … ever… is Spectacles, Testicles, Wallet and Watch.

The fact that Spectacles, Testicles, Wallet and Watch is used as a memory aid for the correct order in which to bless oneself makes me chuckle … because I have never worn my spectacles on my forehead and I’m pretty sure, after producing three children, that the old whotsits aren’t located in the stomach.

I like the word spectacles. It just bounces off the tongue, doesn’t it? Spectacles. Has anyone seen my spectacles? Spec-ta-cles. Oh, look here are my spectacles, right on my forehead where I left them. Spectacles. Spectacles. Spectacles.

The word "spectacles" too hoity-toity for you? Try shortening it to specs. Short, snappy and cool. Hey, man, seen my specs anywhere? The insult “four-eyes” too boring for you? Do as the Brits do and stick the word specky in front of it – specky four-eyes. Now it’s hilarious.

I’ll sign off now as I feel I may be making a spectacle of myself by overusing the word spectacles … and besides, my eyes are getting tired as I am not wearing my …um, corrective lenses.
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Heather Smith
There are some phrases I find really, really annoying. Believe you me is one of them. I am in no way a stickler for the rules of grammar. As a dialogue driven writer I write as people speak, the resulting text being full of shameful grammatical errors. Trust me, I’m no Lynn Truss – but believe you me? That just has to be wrong.

That said, I love to use the phrase "believe you me" … because I find that embracing things that annoy me makes them less annoying and more humorous. You should try it. It’s fun. Do it often. Your family will pretend to hate it, but deep down they’ll be amused.

Is it cold enough for ya and is it hot enough for ya are another two phrases that grate on my nerves. Hence, I use them all the time, making sure that is it cold enough for ya is always accompanied by an irritating vigorous rubbing together of the hands.

Riddle me this is another annoying thing people say just before they boggle your mind with a mind blowing brain teaser. Riddle me this is not, in and of itself, annoying – it is the fact that it is always said super smugly and condescendingly. Similarly, and equally annoying, is the finger aside of their nose move - the one people use to show that they know something you don’t know, that they alone are the keepers of some deep dark secret.

I haven’t embraced riddle me this or the finger on the nose motion yet but I plan on it. Here’s how I figure it will pan out:

To my children:

Riddle me this, did you brush your teeth yet?

Riddle me this, do you have any homework?

It’s so dumb, it’s funny. To me anyway – not sure how the kids will feel.

That’s how I’ll ask questions. Here’s how I’ll answer them. If a child of mines asks Mom, can I have some lunch? I’ll just put my finger aside my nose, tap it a couple of times, and then walk away.

What gruesome fun! I’ll experiment with nods and winks. I’ll perfect the knowing eyebrow raise and the superior smirk. The more annoying the better.

I hope you will all try this at home. Believe you me, you too, can learn to love the things you hate.
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Heather Smith
So what is it with ugly people on British soap operas? Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s fantastic - there’s nothing more refreshing than watching a program where the main character could eat an apple through a picket fence – but after years of watching American programming it always jars me a bit to see someone in a lead role with a face only a mother could love.

The differences between American and British soap operas are as big as the gap between Coronation Street’s Fiz Brown’s two front teeth. American soap characters are, for the most part, exceptionally glamorous and sophisticated. British soap characters are, for the most part, exceptionally ordinary and common as muck … which, in my opinion, makes them much more compelling than their U.S. counterparts.

The old dames of American soap operas (Felicia Gallant, Erica Kane) look elegant, refined, and as if they’ve had one too many trips to the plastic surgeon. The old dames of British soap operas (Dot Cotton, Vera Duckworth) look haggard, bedraggled, and as if they could do with a few trips to the plastic surgeon. Unfortunately, the acting abilities of the American soap actors are as fluffed up as their appearances, while the British actors keep it real.

I am convinced that the only way someone like Eastenders’ Dot Cotton, as much as I love her, would get a part on American television would be in the role of someone needing a face transplant on a Sunday night Hallmark Hall of Fame tearjerker. And that is a shame, considering her incredible talent.

In my opinion, the UK soaps are hands above the US ones and the reason is simple: they are realistic and believable … and in every gappy-toothed, big nosed, cross-eyed character, we see a bit of ourselves.

And I'll tell you something for nowt: I’d take Jack Duckworth over Jack Deveraux any day.
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Heather Smith

Christmas, a time to celebrate the birth of a great man, one Henry John Deutschendorf, aka John Denver.

As those closest to me know, John Denver is my guilty pleasure. You know, I always say that … guilty pleasure. And why? Is there something embarrassing about having a thing for John Denver? I think not. Therefore, I am now mentally putting a giant X over the word ‘guilty’ with my imaginary Sharpie. There. That’s better. John Denver is simply … my pleasure.

What is it about JD that I love? His voice, for starters. John Denver’s voice puts me in a peculiar state of relaxation. Trance-like, almost. That’s not so unusual is it? After all, people get high off music all the time, don’t they? Kraftwerk gives my husband an electronic kind of a buzz - for my dear old Dad it’s Pavarotti that sends him flying. But John Denver? He gives me a special kind of high. A rocky mountain one, to be exact.

A few years back I switched on PBS and there it was: The Wildlife Concert. I was suddenly afflicted with some kind of paralysis in my clicker hand. I watched the entire thing. I didn’t even care that it was pledge week. When the old folks appeared on the screen to babble on about money I just sat back, totally relaxed, basking in the glory of what I had just heard. I closed my eyes and imagined myself prancing through the plains of Colorado in a pair of bell-bottoms when who do I happen across but John Denver himself. He’s sitting cross-legged on the ground playing “Thank God I’m a Country Boy” on his acoustic guitar. He takes one look at me through his wire rimmed granny glasses and says “Far out!”

A night in with John Denver on the telly makes me want to scrub down from head to toe with a bar of Irish Spring until I achieve a healthy, squeaky clean glow. It makes me want to put on a sweatshirt adorned with the print of a bald eagle soaring gracefully over the Rockies and slip into a pair of crocheted slippers with baubles on the toes. John Denver makes me feel square. And sometimes it’s hip to be square.

The only thing that makes me happier than sunshine on my shoulders is John Denver’s voice in my heart. Go ahead, stick your fingers down your throat and pretend to gag. I don’t care.

John Denver was a great man, a talented singer-songwriter, a passionate environmentalist, and an outstanding humanitarian. On December 31 please remember this respectable, bespectacled fellow.
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Heather Smith
Ever notice how exciting it is when you hear a song you really like on the radio? You’re driving along in your car listening to song after song of schlocky garbage and then BOOM! something awesome finally gets played. You bop and you sing and you drum the steering wheel, all with a huge goofy grin on your face. But the weird thing is, that very same song could be on a CD in your car somewhere, right at your fingertips. In fact, it could even be sitting in your CD player … all you have to do is press play. But somehow having it magically played over the airwaves is more exciting. Why is that? Is it the element of surprise? Is it that you feel some kind of vindication? “See? I told people this song rocks! Now here’s proof!” Or is it that the song seems that much more special because it was played between a crappy Celine Dion song and a cheesy Lionel Richie tune, a rose among thorns, if you will.

Sometimes, the song that excites you the most is one you would never listen to normally. Picture yourself driving down the highway and, say, Abba comes on. Admit it, you’d voulez-vous with the best of ‘em. Uh-huh.

If I was driving down the highway and Anne Murray’s Snowbird came on I would do my best Tom Cruise impersonation – I’d jump up onto my seat (adopting a poop-in-the-woods squatting position), pump my arm as if I’d just won a million bucks, and yell YES over and over again until it starts to feel awkward. (Yes, I realize I’d be driving but I’d still do it, it’s SNOWBIRD for God’ sake.) The volume would be cranked way up and I’d sing at the top of my lungs: Spread your tiny wings and fly away, and take the snow back with you where it came from on that day.

I do not own, nor would I ever own, a CD with Snowbird on it. But believe me, I’d belt ‘er out if it came on while I was driving the car. Weird, huh? I am willing to bet that there are many people out there who have never owned a Queen album in their life, but on hearing Bohemian Rhapsody would spontaneously reenact that famous scene from Wayne’s World, even if they’ve never seen that scene. I am convinced that head banging to Bohemian Rhapsody is natural human tendency.

For some people, however, having their favourite song played on the radio has the opposite effect. These people are music snobs. I know a music snob. I know one very intimately. I won’t name names. (Rob) If a music snob’s favourite song is played on a mainstream radio station you might as well rip their heart out and stomp on it while doing the Birdie Dance. For a music snob, hearing their favourite song on the radio is a soul crushing experience. A music snob’s favourite song should only be reserved for the listening ears of the musical elite because if Joe Blow down the street suddenly discovers it, and God forbid, LIKES it, the music snob’s favourite song loses its power … it shrivels up, withers away and dies.

And on that note I leave you… with Anne Murray’s Snowbird stuck in your head. Bwa-ha-ha-ha!
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Heather Smith
Many, many, moons ago a young man named Ethan Zahn revealed his biggest fear: throwing up. I immediately felt a connection to this curly haired cutie. “I hear ya, soul brother,” I thought. “I hear ya.”

Last night at 3am, I awoke with Rosie at my bedside. “My stomach hurts. Really bad.” My warm, relaxed body stiffened. All the hairs on the back of my neck stood on edge. It was as though Freddie Krueger was standing over me, not my sweet nine year old daughter. I think I even stopped breathing.

I knew what I had to do. I had to go lay down with her, comfort her, be there for her when the inevitable happened. The problem was, I didn’t really want to.

I headed off to Rosie’s bedroom with lead feet. I looked back at my snoozing husband, I shall be brave, my dear. I shall return a different woman, one much tenser and, in all likelihood, a bit smellier. Then I went to the gallows, alone.

I lay down with Rosie, keeping her company while we waited for the eruption … ‘cause in the end, ya gotta do what ya gotta do. Yeah, I’m a good mother. Anything for my kids. Did I mention that I strategically placed a giant stuffed chimpanzee between us as a vomit shield?

The poor kid was getting worse. She was not feeling good at all. To keep her mind off things we moved to the couch. We watched Merry Christmas Drake and Josh (wow that Josh kid has lost A LOT of weight) and were, thankfully, only ten minutes into Hannah Montana (the one where Hannah’s brother destroys her teddy bear so she steals his prized baseball in retaliation – fascinating) when it happened. Rosie spewed. On the carpet. (Yes, I had a bucket ready, I’m not an idiot, Rosie just decided to run for the bathroom instead.)

I woke up the one-man cleaning crew.

While Rob was on his hands and knees longing for his bed, picking carrot chunks out of the carpet fibers, I was in the bathroom with Rosie longing for the days when she wore her hair in a short bob.

A short while later the carpet was as clean as our carpet gets and Rosie was asleep in bed. I stayed awake … listening … but, miraculously, heard nothing but my husband’s snoring. It was over. Phew. Now I could think about other things. Like whatever happened to Ethan Zahn?
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Heather Smith
So I just turned forty. It’s awesome. That bit o’ pudge around the middle? What about it? I’m forty - whadaya expect? It’s very freeing being forty. I think I’ll give myself a break from the Pilates.

I expect it only gets better from here on in … I can’t wait to smack a young hoodlum upside the head with my umbrella and get nothing more than a “Stupid old biddy” yelled in return. I’ll croak back as loud as my aged vocal cords will allow “Oh Yeah? Sing it loud – I’m an old bat and I’m proud.”

I know, without a shadow of a doubt, that I’ll rock a plastic rain bonnet. Sensible shoes? Bring ‘em on. You can keep your silver haired sophisticated old lady from the Centrum Silver Vitamins commercials with her classy hairdo and pearls – I want a slight stoop and a cane, one made from a dense wood (all the better for whacking).

I can’t wait to be known as The Curtain Twitcher. I can’t wait to wear lipstick way outside the outline of my lips. I can’t wait to shock people with a curse word … or two.

These are my thoughts on aging. Don’t like them? Then get the hell off my lawn!
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