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Thursday, January 10, 2013

The Leaky Roof Chronicles

This week’s edition of the Thursday Diaries was one that I had a difficult time choosing.  At some point during the brainstorming sessions for this week’s entry, I had three different topics that I could choose from.  And, you know something?  All three topics of discussion had their merits.

At some point (like probably during the rest of the month of January), I’ll be discussing all three topics.  But for this week, I simply couldn’t decide what one to do.  So, I took all three topics, wrote them all on three different sheets of paper, and pulled it out of a baseball cap.

And this was the winning topic for this week.  Enjoy!

January 10, 2013

It’s absolutely mind-boggling to see some of the magazines that are out there these days.  There are some who seem to believe that the publishing industry in regards to monthly magazines and periodicals is on the decline, but glancing at the magazine rack at the retail store I work in, you’d never know it. 

And the best part about magazines is that you can pick up one that is virtually on any subject in the world.  For people who are into cooking, you can read “Family Circle” or Rachael Ray’s magazine.  For teenage girls who are enamored with One Direction or Justin Bieber, there are dozens of teen magazines for you to choose from.  Unfortunately, the only magazine I have heard of that caters to teen girls is “Tiger Beat”, and I really couldn’t tell you if that magazine is still in publication!

For people who love seeing the world, “National Geographic” is a good choice.  For people who love celebrity gossip, “Star”, “People”, and “Us Weekly” are popular choices.  For people who enjoy getting the hottest styles and fashions, there’s “Vogue” and “GQ”.  And for you guys and gals who want to spice up lives, I hear that “Cosmopolitan” and “Men’s Health” are popular choices.

As a kid, I grew up reading magazines on a regular basis.  Weirdly enough, the first magazines that I began “reading” were old copies of “Reader’s Digest”, and ironically enough “Canadian Living”!  And, when I say that I “read” them, I was actually looking at the pictures and the ads. 

When I grew old enough to actually read entire articles word for word, I started reading kid’s magazines, such as “Highlights for Children”, “Chickadee”, and “Owl” (the last two magazines I had a subscription to for at least four or five years).

These days, I don’t tend to purchase a lot of magazines, but whenever we have magazines in our employee lounge, I’ll give them a flip through.  I tend to read the ones that are based on pop culture first and foremost (mainly to get some future ideas for this particular blog), but for the most part I’ll read anything that is in there.  I’ve looked at “National Geographic”, “Sports Illustrated” (even though I have almost no interest in them), and yes, I’ll cop to leafing through a copy of a teen magazine that was left behind - if for no other reason but to make fun of the atrocious spelling and sentence structure.

(I am an unapologetic Grammar & Spelling Nazi...especially when it comes to publications that can be viewed by thousands of people.  But, to be fair, if anyone spots a mistake in anything I write, I would want to hear about it!)

There is one type of magazine, however, that I absolutely will not pick up and read willingly.  It doesn’t matter how popular they are, and it doesn’t matter what ideas are presented in them.  I don’t like reading magazines that have to do with home makeovers or changing your living space, or anything like that.

These include “Good Housekeeping”, “Better Homes & Gardens”, and “Martha Stewart Living”, among others.

(Well, okay, I just lied.  I have looked at an issue of “Martha Stewart Living”, if for no other reason but to make fun of it.  I apologize to those who enjoy Martha Stewart, but she just isn’t my cup of tea.  I hope that’s a good thing.)

Surprisingly enough though, the content inside of the magazines is not the reason why I don’t like reading them.  I will admit that some of the magazines do come up with interesting ideas on how to improve a living space.  Mind you, some of the designs that I have seen in these magazines look like what might happen if you swallowed an entire bottle of French’s mustard and spewed it all over the walls, but again, different people have different tastes.

(Of course, the magazine that had the mustard walls could have been one that had a publication date of September 1977...)

No, the reason why I don’t really like looking at magazines in which to improve your living space is quite simple actually. 

It’s because I don’t have a home to decorate.

I suppose I should explain.  It’s not like I’m homeless or anything like that (it’d be fairly difficult to update a blog every day for the last twenty months if I didn’t have a place with regular Internet access).  But my living space isn’t exactly the most glamourous or comfortable, to be completely honest.  In fact, I’ll be the first one to tell you that my current living situation is such that I can’t really call this place my “home”.  To me, it’s just a place with four walls that happens to be the place where I eat, sleep, and shower.  That’s really it.

And, you know something...looking back on my life, I can’t ever recall a place in which I was actually proud to call my home. 

I have talked about how my family never really had much disposable income to their name.  Growing up as a boy, times were really difficult, and my family essentially lived from pay week to pay week.  We certainly weren’t the first family to do this, and we unfortunately aren’t the last family that had to do it either.  But, it was really hard.

You see, in all their years of living, my parents have never been homeowners.  They rented their living spaces.  And, during the early 1980s, finding a decent place to rent was incredibly difficult.  Even as early as 1981, my hometown was making the transition into a community for the wealthy to retire, and as a result, homes in the area were ridiculously overpriced (and still are in my honest opinion).  Hence the reason my family rented.

By the time I was five years old, my family moved to four different houses.  I was a little bit too young to remember all the moves, but I can only imagine how stressful things were for my parents and two older siblings.  To make things even tougher, my family was a single-income family (which actually ended up being a good thing in the long run as there was always one parent who was home in case I or my siblings had to go home sick, or go to a doctor’s appointment in the middle of the school day). 

So, from birth until age 5, I must have been rather confused.  It was like we had moved to a different house each year, and we had to get used to another house layout each year.  Again, I don’t remember much of that period, but as I said before, for my family, it had to have been extremely difficult.

But that was what families had to do when times got tough.  They had to go where the rent was the cheapest because we couldn’t very well live on the streets.  Canadian winters get awful chilly, you know, as I can well attest to typing this out in the middle of January!

Of course, with the cheap rent came the fact that the houses we lived in were real fixer-uppers.  My poor sister, god bless her, got stuck with the bedroom that always had the leaky roof.  She often joked that she must have been born with a black rain cloud over her head, as she spent the majority of her teenage years with a giant rain collecting bucket on the floor next to her bed...

...which she promptly passed onto me the moment she moved out on her own, and I ended up with her old room even after my father tried to fix it so that it would never leak again! 

But, you know, I give him a lot of credit for trying to fix things. In fact, one of the pluses to living in houses that required a lot of tender loving care was the fact that my father became quite the little handyman.  I guess I always liked to compare him to Luis from Sesame Street in a way!  He would fix holes in drywall, wallpaper rooms so that they didn’t look as dingy, repaint walls that desperately needed it, and yes...he even fixed the ceilings in my sister’s room so that the leaks weren’t as severe.  It was all that he could do.  We were renting the property, and the original homeowner’s didn’t exactly raise a finger to actually pay to have it professionally done (mainly because if they had, the rent would have increased, and we would have had to move anyway). 

Still, it was really frustrating to move into a home and wonder if this time you’d actually get to stay there.  You see, in past instances, the decision to move was not ours to make.  They were often made for us in some of the most inopportune times.  In one instance, a wealthy developer bought up all the houses on a city street with the intention to tear them all down to build a mini-mall on the premises.  The house my family was renting just happened to be one of the houses that was sold, and we were forced to move because of progress.

That was back in 1986, I believe it was.  27 years later, a parking lot sits.  No mini-mall.  No corner stores.  Not even a flippin’ gas station.  So, my family ended up losing our home because of “progress”.  Needless to say, there’s a certain furniture store in town that my family and I have boycotted ever since, and I’m at the age now where I don’t care who knows it.  I may have been five years old at the time we had to leave, but I have such fond memories of that house, and I wished that we could have stayed.

(Even though the roof leaked.  J )

And, then there was the house that we moved into when I was five years old.  It could be classified as my true “childhood home”, as I lived there from 1986 until 2000.  We were kicked out of that home after the original landlord died, and their children decided to sell it to someone else.  Guess who ended up evicted with very little notice?

Now, don’t get me wrong.  These things happen to a lot of people.  But, it just seemed to confirm my belief that there was no point in trying to make the place our own if it would just be taken away at a moment’s notice.  Even though my family was there for fourteen years, we never really added our own personal touches to the place until a year or two before we were told to leave because we had such bad luck with living spaces before.

And, I suppose that’s what has fueled my desire to hopefully have a place that I can truly say is my own to do with whatever I please.

I’m not looking at living in the Taj Mahal, or even the Trump Tower in New York (to be honest, both places are a little too garish for my liking).  But at the same time, I do want a place that I can be proud to call my home.  I’m going to be 32 this year, and I STILL haven’t found that place yet.

In fact, I’m going to be telling you all a secret that I’ve never revealed to anyone before.  When I was younger, I never had birthday parties at my house.  I very rarely even had friends over to visit, and whenever I did, they were always kept downstairs (at the time, the downstairs area was a little bit nicer than the upstairs).  I remember in many instances my friends asking if they could go upstairs in my room and play...and I always made up some excuse as to why they couldn’t.  I told them that my room was messy and that I hadn’t cleaned it up, or I told them that it was being painted, or I would tell them that my sister was using it to store some of her stuff (true story, and the friend actually bought it).

Well, here’s the real reason.  I was ashamed of my room.

Before my sister moved out, my room was basically the size of a closet.  Just enough room for a bed and a chest of drawers.  That’s it.  And, then when I moved to my sister’s previous room, the ceiling had leaked again and was partially collapsed, leaving a gaping hole.  You really think that I wanted word to get out that my bedroom was a complete write-off?  At least it wasn’t as bad as the storage room next to my bedroom, which had so much water damage, we actually had to keep it locked up.

Looking back on it, I suppose that it was a little bit silly of me to think this way.  I mean, there were always ways to camouflage the ceiling (like putting up a parachute and stapling it to the ceiling), and if they were my true friends, they would have understood.  But as a teenager, I was so ashamed of my living space that I never bothered to decorate it the way I wanted it.  My room was just bright white walls with no concert posters or bright colours hanging off of them.  It was completely devoid of all personality.

Even now as I look around my living space, it basically has no personality because it’s not really mine to play around with.  And, it’s something that I really want to change about myself, but just as my parents had before me, I don’t exactly have a lot of disposable income to my name, and if you thought rent was high in 1981, it’s almost tripled in 2013!

Still, I can’t exactly give up on the quest to finally have a spot that I can truly call “home”.  I know that the saying goes that “home is where your heart is” (and believe me, contrary to what you might have thought, I do believe that to have some truth to it), but when you have a heart that is easily confused, such as mine, it makes it easier knowing that you always have a place to go where you can feel safe and comfortable being who you are.  And, don't get me wrong...I know that I am lucky compared to some people as I more or less have had a roof over my head (even if I did get wet every time we had a freak thunderstorm),  At the same time though, I've always wanted a place that was never under the threat of being taken away because of the death of a landlord, or because of a shopping plaza that was never built.

I always said that my perfect place would be a writing studio that is built inside of a home.  It would be decked out in various shades of blue and purple (my two favourite colours), and I would design it in such a way that it would bring me instant peace, calmness, and serenity to be alone with my thoughts. 

And, one day, I will get that writing studio.  If I keep telling myself that, it has to come true one day, right?  Until then, it can only exist in my dreams as I try to brainstorm ways in which I can pay for it.  But one thing I can at least say is that in my case, I still have some time left to make it happen.  I have no clue how yet, but I’m cautiously optimistic.

I just feel bad that my parents never had the opportunity to own their own home.  But, lord knows that they worked their fingers to the bone to provide for us.  And, for that, I’m ever so grateful.  If it’s entirely possible for me to do, I wish I could find a way for them to live out their last few years in a house that they absolutely deserve because they never did have that chance.

A house that doesn’t leak!

In fact, I wish EVERYONE had a house that didn’t leak!  It’s no fun, believe me!


  1. Your post gave me the feels! :( It’s not easy living in a home that’s pretty much run down, even more so when it wasn’t your decision to begin with. I’m pretty disappointed with the old residents of your home. They really didn’t care much for who was going to move in next, didn’t they? I like your upbeat attitude though. If I were you, I would’ve already moved out when the roof collapsed. Have you ever played Portal 2? There’s a nice quote from that game that pretty much fits your situation. It’s paraphrased so bear with me: “When life gives you lemons, don’t make lemonade. Make life take the lemons back! Get mad! Make life rue the day it decided to give you lemons!” I hope you can pull up the money to get your roof fixed permanently or to move to a better home!

    Sasha Herrick

    1. Hey, Sasha! The leaky roof actually followed me through three different houses from the time I was about four until age twenty...LOL! But in situations like those, you kind of have to keep a positive attitude...after all, it couldn't get much worse.

      Well, aside from the roof collapsing!

      Thanks for writing!

  2. Hi Matt! You know, I was pretty much like you when I was younger. I rarely had friends in my place, but that was because I really hated how my house looked like before. If a shanty and a hut ever had a baby, that’d be my house (exaggerated, of course, but you get the picture). A run down roof, the wallpaper peeling off the walls, and it basically stank of rat. It was only when my parents were finally able to save enough for us to move to a new home did I have friends over, but by that time, we had already moved to a new town and I have left all of my friends behind.

    Rolf Matchen