Monday, 23 November 2015

This post is irrelevant

Sometimes I read books that have nothing to do with real life, either because they're fantasy, they're fiction, or they're true but from such ancient history that they can have no real value or meaning to anyone anymore.  After all, we don't live in the time of Austen.  Of Bronte.*  Of Shelley.  Of Ingalls Wilder.  (to name the last four authors I've read, anyway)

My kids will (probably) never have to draw water from the river, or build a log cabin with their hands.  They won't carve arrow tips.  They won't wear extra petticoats for warmth and/or modesty, or play with a pig's bladder for fun because their only other toy is a corn cob.  They won't have to face the dichotomy of getting married or becoming a governess.  They use snail mail only for thank you cards, Christmas cards and letters to Santa.

For that matter, any story written before 1990 has serious issues with its relevance to the life of a modern child.  I mean, why would you ever read a story about people who don't even have cell phones?  How could their experience possibly impact my own?  What relevance does it have?

The greats are great, and important, perhaps just because the stories they told were the first of their kind.  The experiences are completely unlike any that most of us will ever have.  But does that mean they're irrelevant?

Every day, this overpopulated world is full of more imitators and entrepreneurs with more time and more opportunity and better tools and more education.  But these classics still hold up today, awe-inspiringly so, in terms of wit, style, and brilliance, often despite -- or because of -- their simplicity.  These men and women didn't have the luxury of spell-check or a delete key.  Their stories were written by hand, crossed out and written again, without being able to cut and paste that paragraph onto the next page.  They were written, painstakingly, for a reason, to share their unique experiences (or unique take on shared experiences) with others, to caution, to moralize, to celebrate, but to share.  Every great artist could paint and sculpt and keep it to himself.  Every great singer could sing alone in their room.  But my historical authors, every one, were leaving their own mark, whether by letter written, book, or poem, published or not.

Isn't social media just the expansion of this human cry?  Every stupid Facebook post or thoughtless Twitter tweet, every (uh oh:  ignorance about to be exposed) ... on snapchat or imgr or whatever-the-kids-are-into-these-days, and yes, every self-important blog post...all of these, every one, are all really just the artist/writer/originator/person, crying out into the darkness in the best way they know how:

I was here.  And I mattered.

* will happily accept pointers on how to get those two little dots on the e using an Alt combo

Monday, 16 November 2015


Vaughn doesn’t get too much air time on this blog, lately, but he’s an amazing, interesting, complex kid. 

He’s reading… not just words, but BOOKS.  He’s reading English voraciously, French daily (with a beautiful French accent).  He does his math homework incredibly quickly-yet-correctly, and easily meets any math challenge we give him, or at least has the idea of how to solve the problem.  He loves science experiments, and over the summer, spent hours on the driveway with cups of water, vinegar, baking soda, cornstarch and food colouring.  He makes tiny, detailed drawings, often of ships, tanks, weapons (sigh), but also of cats and people and Pokemons.  He is dentally advanced (or possibly just isn’t taking care of his teeth), as he’s lost 7 teeth so far – last week alone, he lost 2.  The tooth fairy is being scarily generous, and with a few more teeth out, I believe he’ll be able to buy a fairly decent used car with his earnings. 


Now that he’s lost two on the same side, he has a “straw hole”.


Of the three kids, he is the most cautious around animals (well, around everything, really) but wants a dog so badly.  He’s nervous around dogs, which is why it is especially endearing that he is keeping track of all the dogs that have licked him – because it means they’ve made him part of their pack.  As of Saturday, he is now in SEVEN different dog packs.  Wow.  He has, however, since we first talked about getting a dog, refused to pick up poop.  Just a few months ago, I asked him again, and he said he would NOT.  I said, if you won’t pick up poop, then we’ll never get a dog. 

He paused, considering (his pauses are great), and said, “I will pick it up, but I won’t enjoy it.” 

To which I replied, “No, you also have to enjoy it.” 

“NOOOOOO!” he screamed, grinning.  (He gets me.) 

He is not all sunshine and roses, however – far from it.  He is sensitive about certain things, and insensitive to others (by “others” I mean “Ailsa”), and can be stubborn and angry and carry a dark cloud over his head…until you make him laugh.  He stomps up to his room in true teenage fashion for almost any reason, and is only truly happy when he is tormenting his little sisters.  In fact, his real, gleeful laugh is a clear indication that he is being a stinker to at least one of them.  He loves them (but usually will not admit it), and, with Tamsin especially he is (sometimes) very tender and kind. 

But anyway, to bring us back to the cryptic post title above (has anyone figured it out yet?), his brain works in strange and brilliant ways.  With it being mid-November, dining-room table talk is revolving around Miss Tamsin’s upcoming birthday celebration…and Christmas (he’s started three lists so far).  Vaughn has also started putting thought into his own birthday, which is coming up soon (seven weeks is sort of soon).  This morning, we were eating breakfast, and he said, “Do you remember your last Christmas with just you and Daddy?  And I was in your belly?”  (This, of course, from photos and stories we’ve told him)  “My birthday is just a little bit after Christmas, so it’s like I’m Jesus’ little brother.”


(There are several flaws in his logic, but the only one of which we got into this morning was the 2000-year age gap.)

Thursday, 12 November 2015

You drop the beats, I'll drop the pretense that I'm successful at being a human being

I got off the bus last Wednesday morning, awkwardly and fumbling as usual.   Walking up the fairly-deserted Sparks Street towards me was a well-dressed 20-something man, doubtlessly on his way to work, too.


As he approached, I suddenly heard a distinct rap beat, and I smiled, thinking -- ok, judging -- how much swagger he must have, strutting down the street at 8am on a Wednesday, with his own rap songs for everyone around him to hear.  More swagger than I could ever have, that's for sure.  Good for him!


He passed me by, and, a few steps later, I realized that I could still hear the beat, which had clearly resolved itself into "She's Crafty" by the Beastie Boys, a bold choice for an 8-am strut to work by anyone's standards.  A few more steps, and it was still there.  Wholly more disturbing than the thought that Mr. Swagger had apparently turned around and fallen into step (strut?) right behind me was the sudden sinking revelation that I was possibly...probably...definitely-and-of-course blasting Beastie Boys (albeit inadvertently) on my walk to work. 




Despite the sick beats, without any swagger whatsoever, I stopped to desperately root through my bag, looking for the source of the (awesome yet embarrassing) music.  People passed.  ... Not my iPod...not my smartphone... not my BlackBerry... it was somehow coming from my Kindle.    More people walked by me.  Maybe they looked over, I don't know.  My head was down, my face was red.  I finally fished the Kindle out and looked at it blankly as the song continued.  It's an older model, no touch screen, and an awkward keyboard, even without these anxious, sweaty hands that tried really hard to Just Make It Stop.   Um... Home?  Menu?  Settings?  Experimental?  Ah!  Good.  By this time, the song was into its second chorus.  Let me say that I've never really listened to the verses of this song before, and have happily bopped along to "She's Crafty!  She's just my style!" at home and in the car, but now that I've looked them up, well, they're not exactly the most appropriate choice for my morning commute.


Anyhoo, to sum up, Humpday started with yet another slight embarrassment...again and as usual.  Instead of wailing, “Why do these things happen to meeeee?” (Wise people don’t ask questions they don’t want to know the answer to), I like to think of it as a sign of personal growth and take pride in the fact that at least I am never surprised when stuff like this happens, but I am getting tired of the slow-dawning feeling of disappointment.  (Not again.)  I am doing better at suppressing the face palm, however. 



* I've heard that some people walk around with just one device that has the same capability of my four (or that my phone can do all of those things by itself).  To those people, I say:  Hey, I didn't replace my GPS when it was stolen out of my car.  So that's .... something?  kaff

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Depressing Post Title: You Can't Spell "Friend" Without "End"

I ran into an old friend today.  Ok, it was an ex-friend.  The kind of friend that you have so long that you don’t really have anything invested in the friendship except that you’ve been friends for so long, and you’re constantly questioning why you’re friends with this person, but to stop being friends, well, feels like a failure.
I have no idea what caused the final split.  It wasn’t like an ex-boyfriend, where there is a definitive, solid reason (or, in some cases, manifesto) for why you shouldn’t be together anymore, but more like coming away from conversations with feelings of confusion, disconnectedness, and, my absolute favourite activity:  judging.  The friendship had fallen apart, years before, with her quietly, yet clearly unfriending me (this was before Facebook, so it was particularly jarring), but we reconnected and seemed to patch things up, without ever talking about why we had come apart in the first place.  The more recent – and final – time was a little over three years ago.  Up to that point, we talked, emailed daily, and saw each other once in a while, but anyone who knows me knows that I can give a lot, as long as you’re not asking for time.  I can be supportive, funny, judgy-against-your-enemies, commiserating… I can bake, lend you stuff, but I can’t give you coffee dates or shopping afternoons or wine dates or dinner.  Time doing that makes me feel guilty for not being with my husband, my children, my house, going to the gym, knitting mittens or stockings…you name it, which makes a night out stressful.  (See also, Failing at Everything.)  I like to think that what I have to give is, well, the written word and/or occasional skype date… when I have time.
Ok, so maybe reading that over shows me that I’m a terrible friend.  But maybe that’s just the kind of friend I want for myself.  I love getting letters, emails and texts.  I don’t delete emails from my friends – I keep them and read them over, and laugh at what you’ve said, at my response, at your response.  I write and rewrite my letters and responses.  I choose my words carefully.  That is the time I have, and that is the friend I am. 
So, three years ago, this ex-friend and I were having a mild conflict during an email discussion, and I tried to de-escalate.  “I’ll talk to you Monday,” I think I wrote. 
I waited that Monday…Tuesday… thinking that if I meant something to her, or at least our friendship meant something, that she would eventually reach out.  She never did.  I still think of her all the time, and she shows up in my dreams, and it’s fine, until I wake up.  I’m always wondering how she’s doing, how her son is.  I’m not on Facebook, so I really have no window into her life.  It still hurts. 
So today, when I saw her at the gym, I was stunned and shaken.  I walked up and said, SO awkwardly, “Hey.”  Her nonchalant “hey” makes me think that she had seen me first, but didn’t want to talk to me.  I walked away (awkwardly).  Later, in the changeroom, I was still shaking.  I overheard her and her friend talking about me – no, not talking about me, but referring to me – and when I turned around to say, “Please talk to me – tell me to my face what you want to say,” she was gone.  When she got out of the showers, I waited till she was not naked (I’m cool like that), and walked up again, asked about how her son was doing, and she asked about my kids.  It felt weird and awful, like trying to talk to someone who has no use for you but is trying to end the conversation quickly.  I left, nauseous and shaky and awkward.
I’m sad that she’s out of my life, without actually missing her.  I’m sad for the experiences we shared together, and not knowing what went wrong, without wanting her back in my life.  It’s a strange place to be, but I feel that, after a week or so of obsessing over this, I might just be able to let her go.
In the meantime, is anyone out there looking for a lousy friend?  I’m (sometimes) available.

Wednesday, 4 November 2015

Party of Five...Halloweenies, that is!

Of COURSE the kids love Halloween - they're 50% Halloweenie, after all!

This year was no exception - the kids chose their costumes fairly early on (two of them "may" have been helped along with subtle hints, as it would be a shame to have, say, a beautiful, hand-sewn lion costume only worn by one Huffling, or a princess froggie only worn by one ... um.. my niece).

Harry Potter was a given for Mr. Vaughn, as he is keenly into the 4th book, and is eagerly looking forward to watching the 3rd movie (trying to deflect that one as long as possible - they start getting scarier and scarier).  He knows quite a few spells, and I am never safe from someone sneaking up behind me and yelling "Expelliarmus!"...which inevitably makes me jump and drop whatever I'm holding... because it's magic, duh.

I, as usual, completely missed the point of Halloween, which is apparently to dress provocatively and live out one's illusions of sexiness.  I was a ... um... sexy?... killer whale, posed here with a priest.  Note that I was not convincing enough in pushing my old nun costume on Chris, which would have entailed showing a good expanse of ankle.  I also wanted him to wear lipstick.

He said no.

"I don't want to dress up like a woman," he said.

"You wouldn't be dressing up like a woman," I insisted.  "You'd be a man in a nun costume wearing lipstick, which is much funnier."


Because Halloween was so hectic, with trick or treating and, well, trick or treating, we waited till the day after to make our Halloween Feast!   The Domestic Goddess resurfaced quietly to impress the kids, the husband, and horrify the poor, unassuming houseguest, Uncle Rob.

First, I slayed a monster, and cut off his feet at the ankle:

"Feetloaf AGAIN?"

THEN, I cooked his brains until they were a nice medium rare.
Mmmm.... brains.  This was surprisingly hard to cut into, emotionally.  Tasty, though.

Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Peggy's Post

Two stunning photos from our excursion to Peggy's Cove, August 2015:

Sunday Stadium Workouts Come to Ottawa

Stadium Crew:  Sunday, September 27th
The view from the bottom of the steps, looking up, up, up, is daunting.  The view from the top is dizzying.  There’s a new fitness experience in Ottawa this fall, making use of Lansdowne stadium, and it’s open to everyone.  

Free fitness movements are a growing trend.  The most famous of its kind, The November Project (, was started in Boston in 2011 by two Northeastern rowing alumni as a method of staying motivated to train in the cold months.  Over the winter, the group gained momentum and members.  Today, upwards of 200 people meet three times a week at 6:30 am to run stadium steps or hills in Boston alone, with satellite groups all over the United States and Canada (the Toronto group meets Wednesdays at 6:30 am at Casa Loma).

Free fitness is not a new concept in Ottawa.  Lululemon provides instructors for the free and immensely popular Yoga on the Hill every Wednesday at noon from May 6 to September 30.  As of July 30 this year, a free Bootcamp ( is hosted on a rotating basis by several of Ottawa’s fitness companies and professionals, Thursdays at noon.

But certified fitness instructors Tracy Glennon and Andrea Laporte decided that Ottawa was in need of more.  Both employees of GoodLife Fitness (Tracy is a Group Fitness Divisional Manager and Andrea is a Group Fitness Manager), whose new Lansdowne location is the meeting place for the stadium workout, they asked if they could have access to one of the city’s most incredible facilities for  a new kind of workout.  The stadium owners, the Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group, agreed, and a crowd of about 15 friends and fitness colleagues came out for the first stadium workout on Sunday, September 13.

After a thorough warm up at field level, during which everyone sensible should be wondering why they are doing this so early on a Sunday, the participants head up the steps to the North Side stands.  They are divided among the stairways, then are put through their paces for 60 minutes.

The workout is, admittedly, not suitable for everyone.  Although the leaders offer options to reduce the intensity and impact, and remind participants to work at their own pace, the hour-long interval workout uses the stadium stairs as its gym.  The intensity of the moves varies, but make no mistake, this can be as challenging or hardcore as the individual.  Sprinting up the steps, high-knee runs, two-footed jumps, lunges, pushups, squats, and planks…. The most shocking move yet?  Walking up the steps on your hands, with your lower body being supported in a wheelbarrow position by the person behind you.

The group, so far, is heavily weighted with other fitness instructors, who can be heard calling out support and motivation to their fellow participants.  For others, the challenge is personal.

Last Sunday, when the whistle blew to signal the end of a second set of two-footed jumping all the way up to the top of the stadium, one of the participants yelled out in frustration.  “I was three steps away!”  She vowed to make it to the top in two minutes next week.  

No equipment is mandatory, other than good athletic shoes, but a water bottle is a good idea, as are gloves; after all, you’re putting your hands on stadium steps that have, at the very least, bird poop on them.

The workouts will continue at Lansdowne every Sunday at 8 am until the end of November, after which time there may be issues with snow buildup on the steps.  The instructors hope to negotiate something with the City by then.  In the meantime, Tracy is passionate about building this group.  “Spread the word.  Bring someone you like.”  She laughs.  “… Or someone you don’t like.”

What it is:  Ottawa Stadium Workout
When:  Sundays at 8 am, until the end of November
Cost:  Free (GoodLife will validate parking)
Open to:  Adults, 18 and up (must sign waiver)

 #StadiumWorkout #ottawa #FreeFitnessMovement