Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Pond-hopping Huffs

Well, it’s out there in the public consciousness now, with special thanks to Chris (not Fis-Chris, but Fitness Chris) who announced it with a microphone at the gym a few weeks ago, when I wasn’t there (who does that?), and then I knew I had to tell work: 

We are moving to London.


Naturally, “London, Ontario?” is the first question that anyone asks.


Ummm…London, Ontario… I mean, you’re a nice city and all, but… no.  I was there for the Ontario Provincial Fitness Championships, way back in ’01 and ‘03 (winning in ‘03, thank-you-very-much-please-see-photo-of-when-I-was-awesome) (I had A VEIN ON MY ABS), and it seemed…nice.  I was there at some other time to visit Sean for his birthday (maybe in ’02?).  Great city, sure.

Photo of when I was awesome, circa 2003.  Sigh.

But no, we’re not going anywhere that convenient, close (everything is relative), or safe.


By “safe”, I mean, “what I’m used to” or “a place that I am employable in my comfort zone”.  Like – and I can’t believe I’m saying this – Medicine Hat.


The second question that everyone asks is, “But isn’t this the year that ‘nothing was going to happen’?” 

Yes, yes it was.


Last year, just in the span of four months, we bought a house, Tamsin started school, we got a dog, and I had somebody’s baby.  The years up to that involved scrambling with three babies/toddlers/preschoolers/kids, taking on more responsibility (and prestige!) at work, Chris being away for days/weeks/months at a time, recovering from basement flooding and renovations, having umbilical hernia surgery, and travelling to see family in Las Vegas and Halifax, while playing ball hockey, teaching fitness classes, and trying to remember not only what my husband looked like, but why I was married to him in the first place.  This was supposed to be the year that we just LIVE without having any kind of major change. 


Speaking of segues, the key -- if I may give out unsolicited advice -- is to be very careful and judicious when writing your wedding vows.  These are capital-V Vows, made out loud in front of a whole crowd of people that you know well enough to call you on it later, even if you don’t remember what you said, didn’t mean it, or wish you hadn’t said it.  On top of the ominous echo of “the rest of your life” that looms over every wedding day (can’t you hear it???), I made the grievous mistake bold move of publicly promising to not only love, honour and humour Fis (see?  I was thinking for that part, although I honestly didn’t realize how hard it would be to even humour him, sometimes*), but also to “follow him wherever his ambition takes us”.  Since that one sentence landed me in Medicine Hat, eight months after the wedding, you’d think that I would have asked for a re-do.   


But, 10 years later, here we go. 


The kids are all keen – for the few months before it became official, we talked up Quality Street, Cadbury, and Harry Potter.  We looked at Google Maps and wondered out loud how much we could travel, if only we lived over in Europe (aside:  does England still count as Europe?  Did you know that England is an island?  And do people still call it “England”?), and they were sold.  They even jumped up and down with joy when we told them.  They are already enrolled in a nice little school, and it sounds amazing.


Chris has a great job that is taking us there, and I have… the opportunity to do something new, “whatever I want”.  I will be cleaning my own (damn) house and walking my own (damn) dog.  I will continue to try to turn Ziggy into a well-behaved little mutt (or one of us will die trying).  Who knows, maybe I’ll even style my hair on a regular basis.**  I have certifications in fitness that are, I think, useless in the UK.  I have mad managerial and paralegal skills that are appreciated here in the Federal Government, but possibly/probably don’t translate into the work available at the Embassy… or maybe I don’t want to do that kind of work for a while.  I could write (for whom?  About what?).  Sightseeing, hosting visitors,*** dog-training, and Domestic-Goddessing the crap out of my household might hold me over for a while, but I can’t see me lasting for long without my own thing. 


If only I knew what that was.


So, what would you DO (not just “do”, but “DO”) if you were me?  I am open to any and all suggestions - email me or call me with them, and I'll seriously consider every one.**** 




* Also, he points out that this blog doesn't exactly "honour" him.  Piff.
** Well, probably not, but I could.
*** Guest room/pull-out sofa in living room.  Nuff said, come visit.
**** Submissions so far include "French training" in England, a Master's degree, and "Finishing School".  Humph.

Sunday, 18 June 2017

Father's Day Post: When I was five, I stole a dime

Lately, I’ve started questioning the point of being a good person, doing the right thing, and playing by the rules.


There was a quick workshop on “Incivility in the Workplace” a few weeks ago, in which the take-home message was “civility breeds civility” – namely, that it is up to me to make the workplace, and indeed the world, delightful in every way I can, and in return, I can expect that others will follow suit.

Here’s the problem:


That doesn’t work.


We bought a house six years ago.  Four months later, when the basement flooded and the cleanup crew discovered the extent of black mold under the laminate and on the freshly-painted (by the seller) drywall, the rust under the freshly-painted (by the seller) metal studs, they informed us that the mold was a pre-existing condition, that water had been coming in for a very long time, and people that paint metal studs have something to hide.  The insurance company didn’t cover most of the damages, because it was a pre-existing condition.  So, the seller lied, repeatedly, and we not only exposed two very young children (4 months and 21 months) to a known hazardous substance, but lived in chaos and clutter* with four, then five of us sharing the 800-sq-ft above ground, while spending a lot of money in decontaminating/remediating the mold, excavating and sealing the foundation, then refinishing the basement.**  We thought about it, and decided that, no, it wasn’t right.  The seller had lied.  He had lied and covered up the problem with paint, and caveat emptor SHOULDN’T apply.  We did our due diligence and got screwed.  We attempted a civil action, which settled (6 years and $20K of legal fees later) out of court for $1000.


We had tenants in our condo that promised not to smoke inside.  They were an older couple who demanded a 5-year lease, broke things, verbally abused me every time I called, because she thought I suspected her of smoking in the unit, and she had promised not to.  She ended up damaging a large area of our laminate flooring (which they covered with a rug so that we couldn’t see it for a year or two), breaking appliances and plumbing fixtures, and, after our final disagreement -- in which the fridge broke and we offered coolers the same day, had it replaced it within 2 days, and offered to compensate them $100 for the food that spoiled, to which she screamed at me that she had at least $300 worth of filet mignon and shrimp in the freezer, then told Chris in front of the kids that I was a F%&* B%&* -- then decided to give her 60 days’ notice 45 days before she vacated.  From that time, she smoked so much inside the master bedroom that the ceiling yellowed and stained…  We had a legal lease, and a verbal agreement that no smoking was allowed.  She claims that the water damage to the flooring was “normal wear and tear”, and that the dishwasher was still working when she left, contrary to the burnt plastic spatula we found fused to the spinny part of it on her move-out.  We followed the rules.  In return, I had stress-to-the-point of nausea every time I had to deal with her, and am left with severely damaged property.  I have lost faith that a civil action would do anything, and I have no interest in trying again.


People at work – SO many people – don’t do their jobs.  They don’t want to one aspect or another of it, so they pretend that they don’t know how, or that they don’t want to make a mistake.  And they get away with it.  They bend the rules and try to get as much from their “entitlements” as they can out of their employer, even if it’s not ethical.


More than usual, lately, I’m noticing that people are rude.  They’re mean.  They take advantage.  They are belligerent and fight back when their unreasonable demands are declined.  How can I teach my kids to follow our examples of following the rules and being the bigger person, when most of the time, we seem to be the only ones following the rules and being bigger?  Why should I bother? 


So, yesterday… I sort of gave up.  I gave in and made a bad choice, in the theme of “why shouldn’t I benefit as well”?  Why not try to take advantage of a system that other people successfully exploit?


And I got called out.


And I felt terrible. 


And I couldn’t sleep last night.  


Although it was a small thing, a leave request that was mostly on the up-and-up -- but not completely – in submitting it, I compromised my integrity and my belief in following the rules and doing the right thing:  my character.  And someone I respect saw me do it.  I have (probably) forever damaged our relationship, and her view of me, and if I haven’t, I’ve done it in my head, anyway.  I feel sick about it.  I have damaged my perception of myself, and I feel guilty and terrible, the way I felt when I stole a dime from my dad’s piggy bank when I was five.  Even before he knew I had taken it (and he never called me out, even though I knew he knew), I felt shaky, sick.  I didn’t come clean, but I immediately offered to give him one of mine to try to make it better, already knowing that I couldn’t make it better, because I did something wrong and he knew that I was so flawed, so bad, that I would steal.  And maybe he didn’t know, but I knew, and that was the same feeling.


So, there it is.  That’s why I do the right thing, why I always try to be a good person. 


Last year, I did a really good thing.  A shout-out-loud, “I’m a good person, dammit!” kind of thing, and I joked throughout that I was doing it because I needed the karma, because really, I’m a terrible person. 


I know that I’m not “terrible”.  But I think, truly, I’m only a good person because doing the wrong thing feels so, so terrible.  Does that still count?

And how can I pass this on to my kids?







moreso than usual, that is

** thanks, Dad!  You're the best basement-finisher/Captain Grammar I know.   And the basis of my entire moral compass – I am your fault.  Also, I owe you a dime. 

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

You think YOUR dog is cute?

...so did I, until he got his haircut.

Ziggy on Monday morning:  scruffy, fluffy, adorable.

Ziggy on Monday evening:  oh dear.

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Flattery is the sincerest form of ... wait, no... hang on...

I was out at lunch today, getting my nails done*, when Sarah, an old family friend, recognized me.  She wasn’t someone that I had been close to, but she was a navy brat like me, and her family often turned up at the parties we’d go to on New Year’s Eve when I was a kid.  Though I hadn’t seen her in probably 15 years or more I had been thinking about her just a few weeks before, for the reason that she and her sister look absolutely nothing alike, just like my beautiful girls.


With the three kids together, you can see the family resemblance.  Ailsa and Vaughn have the same nut-brown colouring.  Vaughn and Tamsin have the same features, but where he is nut brown, she is pasty white with bright orange hair, so it’s really only noticeable in black-and-white photos.  Ailsa and Tamsin don’t even look related, to the point that I’ve had to answer questions about it from well-meaning cashiers, assuming, probably, the “different-daddy” factor.  Nope, same dad.  I often look at Chris with suspicion about the first two, who look nothing like me, but then the patiently tries to explain – again – that “that’s not how that works”.


To digress, this was true of Sarah and Elizabeth, too.  One is blonde and blue-eyed, the other with dark, dark, hair and eyes.  Both beautiful.


I attempted to explain this to her, in my quick, too-talkative, over-sharing, awkward way.  She told me that I hadn’t aged a day, and looked exactly the same as when I was in high school.




I was only slightly flattered.  I mean, I wear sunscreen every day, eat well, and yes, I work out, so despite being 41 and having had 3 kids,** I guess that’s a compliment, and one I’m sure many women would die to receive.


Inside, I’m still partly that little kid.***  But really want to think that I’ve grown, that I’ve changed, that I’ve gained grace and style, so that who I am now (and yes, what I look like) impresses the people I haven’t seen in a long time, if I ever would go back to a high school reunion, which I wouldn’t.  I feel that, aside from my voracious reading, fitness level, and constantly inappropriate sense of humour, I’m almost unrecognizable as the shy little person I was in high school, who didn’t talk, didn’t explore, didn’t stand out.  I’ve travelled, learned, and stretched out my comfort zone to what, to me, are extreme levels.  I’ve grown only slightly in self-confidence, but learned that great posture tricks everyone else.  And as for my newfound… uh… poise?...  grace? … uh… considerably less nervousness and goofiness?  


Ok, no, I see her point now.  




* If I haven’t vented about this already – and I’m sure I have -- one of the (fewer and fewer) things that Chris likes about me is how I always have nice nails.  One of the (more and more) things that Fis dislikes is the smell of nail polish.  “You can’t have it both ways!” I’ve yelled.  “If I can’t do my nails at home, I’ll have to pay for a stranger to paint them every week!”  “Fine,” he said, calling my bluff.  It’s not every week, in fact, it’s probably 5 times a year.  You know all the time and money that normal people spend on their hair?  Look at my hair and see how much I’m saving in time, money, and vanity.  Then stop judging me and/or telling me I’m paranoid, which is also judgemental, thank you very much.  So there.  Stop staring at my hair.


** (but 4 babies)


*** A little kid that drinks a lot of wine, that is.

Monday, 20 March 2017

CBR goes off script, briefly

Spoiler Alert:  Review #2 contains a key plot point in Passengers that was a surprise to me.

Brief Review #1

The Cranky Book Reviewer wants to be cranky about the book I just read:  Will You Be There?, by Guillaume Musso.  The prose is painful.  SO painful.  The plot, however, is brilliant, which made me devour it in under a day, all the time being smugly judgy about how badly it is written. 

Turns out it's been translated from French, which explains a lot, but still.  Great story, bad writing.  One thumb up?

Brief Review #2

(of a film)

(hence, off-script)

(but definitely still cranky)

We watched Passengers on Friday night.  It started off interesting, and then the characters were developed, and it turned into the Best Stockholm Syndrome Love Story ever!  Oh wait, no it's not.  Because you stole her life, Jim!  I really don't feel that they fleshed that part out enough.  It would be like making a romantic movie about Elizabeth Smart, if she hadn't been rescued, and spent the rest of her life playing house with her captor.  Yes, that is in bad taste.  As was this movie.  Two thumbs down. 

Also, how much did Andy Garcia make for his "role" in the movie?  He had more air time on the trailer than he did in the actual movie. 

What's in YOUR Purse?

This morning, while looking for my work pass, I pulled out:


  • My wallet
  • My bus pass
  • My ball-o-chapstick
  • A ziplock baggie containing less-than-100-ml sizes of hand cream, lip gloss, lip stick, sunscreen and mascara*
  • My hand-knitted coffee-cup cozy
  • 2 napkins from Tim Hortons
  • Keys
  • My Kindle
  • 2 pens
  • Wafer-thin mints (pronounced “waffer”)
  • Ticket stubs from Trolls
  • 2 receipts from Loblaws
  • A purse-hanging hook
  • A magnifying glass
  • A tape measure
  • A dog sweater
  • 2 turquoise hair elastics
  • A hardcover library book
  • A purple hairband
  • A round of Babybel cheese (put in that morning)
  • A Tupperware container of rice/veggies/sausage for lunch
  • One of those green Starbucks stirsticks/spill-preventers
  • Loose change
  • Assorted female stuff
  • …and my work pass.

If there was a “What’s in Your Purse?” contest, I would totally win today.  Aside from the dog sweater, I stand behind every item. 


* Just in case I have to get on a plane and fly somewhere exotic with short notice, you know.  As one does.

Sunday, 5 March 2017

DG Rises to the Occasion (out of spite, but still)

Once upon a time, years and years and years ago, I dated a nice young man named Chris.  He was tall, fit, handsome, and blind as a bat without his glasses.  He decided to undergo eye surgery.  I had gone through it myself four years earlier, so I knew that he would need help for the first day or so until the fast healing process finished.*  Because he was so nice and I was so nice, I moved into his apartment for three days to cook for him and make sure he was ok.  And that's when I met Fis.

This was at the peak of my fitness training and his marathon training, so I cooked and ate very healthfully.  EXTREMELY healthfully.  So X-TREMELY healthfully TO THE MAX that there were no seasonings, sauces, or flavour, but I didn't know any different.  Hey, food is fuel!  So, when I cooked a nice dinner for my new boyfriend (Foreman-grilled chicken, steamed carrots, and 2 baby potatoes), and he choked it down and asked for more, there was an awkward silence because there WAS no more.  I mean, I gave him TWO whole baby potatoes because he eats carbs for his long-distance running.  How could he still be hungry?

Right, so I moved in and fed him healthfully and well for three days.  I made him protein pancakes (oats, splenda, egg whites and protein powder), my grilled chicken/carrot/potato specialty, and an amazingly delicious, flavourful casserole of spinach, boiled chicken, cottage cheese and lemon juice, to which I added pasta for, you know, his needs.  This was early enough in our relationship that he really should have been nicer about the whole experience.

To this day, he complains about those meals.  Thirteen years later.

The protein pancakes, he says (STILL), were poorly named.  With the consistency of a dry, hard tortilla, and the flavour of...nothing, really, they were Not Pancakes, and they were Not Good (in that order).  He didn't appreciate my efforts for a healthy breakfast.  Or with the grilled chicken.  But the worst offense (and he truly was offended) was making him the casserole.  I mean, I admit that the pasta really sucked the flavour out of the casserole (which I honestly believed was delicious), but it wasn't offensive.

But I digress.  Thirteen years have passed since then.

Last Friday was my last day "off".  I walked the kids to school with the dog, went to the gym, had lunch with friends and their baby, then went home to do my nails and watch a movie on NetFlix.  I was having a nice, selfish day, and was planning on throwing dinner together quickly and cleaning up the breakfast dishes at the same time.   Chris came in at about 5, on the way to pick up the kids at aftercare, saw the state of the kitchen and the lack of anything simmering on the stove, and told me that I could NOT feed them meatballs (I had stopped at IKEA on the way home) and that he wanted something healthier.

I was angry.  It was my Last Day, dammit.  I wanted to be selfish.  On the best day, I don't do well being ordered around by my husband, and ... no, wait.  I'll show him!  I'll make him something healthy.  

I found 2 chicken breasts in the freezer, which I popped into a pot of water with a splash of lemon juice and garlic powder, still frozen.  Yeah, boiled chicken is healthy, you jerk!  We had 1/2 a container of cottage cheese (healthy!) and frozen chopped spinach (so healthy!... moo-ha-ha-ha!).  I also found some black bean pasta I'd been holding onto.  OMG, Revenge Cooking is the Best!  I chopped the chicken, mixed up the casserole (also contains 1 tablespoon of light mayo, more lemon juice, and a bit of parmesan) and popped it in the oven.

I boiled the pasta (added the same amount of whole wheat pasta), then added a tablespoon of olive oil, 2 chopped garlic cloves, and two frozen cubes of tomato paste, sizzled it together, and voila, health on a plate, dammit.  As ordered, you dictator.  Take that!

Well, Vaughn loved it so much, he gave me a high five.  The girls said it was really good.  And Fis (who was out in full force), said, "Not bad."

So, yes, it was delicious.  Yes, I stepped up and pulled together an amazing, tasty, healthy meal in 30 minutes.  But where was the revenge???  Fis has still not had his comeuppance (though he might argue that 13 years with me totally counts as punishment enough), but although revenge might be a dish best served cold, I reheated it and had it for dinner tonight.

Yep, still good.

* This was before I found out how much worse Man Surgery is and how much longer and more painful Man Recovery is.