Saturday, May 28, 2011

Two Roads Diverged in a Yellow Wood

Last summer, when I first introduced you to the forest near our home, I called it, "a magical place, which I look forward to exploring in all seasons." Well, I almost missed spring! Steve and I finally went for a walk in the woods today, and it is lush and green.

Much like the summer pictures, but wetter
and with plenty of that yellow, of which Robert Frost wrote.
But if you look closer, there are spring things happening.
Berries? Already? Yup.
And in the centre of the bottom row: Jack-in-the-Pulpit
Next year, I'll try to get there early enough to snap some fiddleheads (both literally and figuratively). But for now I shall leave you with The Road not Taken.
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveller, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that, the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no feet had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I --
I took the one less travelled by,
And that has made all the difference.
Unlike Robert Frost, we do get to come back to these woods - our woods - "another day,"  so no sad sighs from us.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Don't rub it in.

Steve has a high pain threshold. He regularly notices that parts of his hands, legs, or arms are bleeding and can't figure out how or when it happened. I'm not kidding; this happens at least once a month, and often it's not just a little nick, but an actual drip-drip kind of bleeding.

He also has a slight masochistic tendency and loves nothing better than a really good deep-tissue massage. The kind that leaves bruises. He likes it when the massage therapist reaches in under his shoulder blade to loosen up those muscles. Or digs her knee into his buttock muscle.

Okay, that last bit sounded rather inappropriate, but it was actual therapy, folks, nothing dirty. Sheesh. My husband and Jack Layton have something in common.

Me? Not so much.

Despite having given birth to three of my four kids without ANY pain medication (except for an early-labour glass of wine because I'd been told that it would stop false labour, but not the real thing, so the glass of wine was a test), I am a complete wuss when it comes to massages. I like a gentle massage that just gets the blood flowing. But not so gentle that it tickles.

I'm a tough customer.

I also feel the same way about massages as I do about pedicures: impatient. Just get it done, already. After a fairly short amount of time I'm just ready for them to stop touching me. Not a terrifically relaxing feeling.

All in all, for relaxation, I'd rather just take my Kindle and a glass of wine and soak in the tub or sit by the pool.

As the Bloggess said after her recent Swedish massage, "That was not relaxing at all. Next time I’m just skipping straight to the drunk part."

[English Nazi note: I put today's title in "sentence case" (and I'm not even sure if that's what it's called, but I think Jeff used that term once, and it sounded right, so I'm using it here) because I can't remember whether the "it" and "in" are supposed to be capitalized in "title case." Jeff, please weigh in.]

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Caution: Hypochondria Can Make You Sick


Just don't. You would not believe what can happen when relatively simple, easily treated things like, oh, warts or ringworm go untreated. Or what meth addiction can do to a person in very short order.

But here's my problem: I'm a bit of a hypochondriac and I'm also very curious about things. It's a toxic combination.

Before the Internet, this wasn't a big problem. I found this handy little reference book in a remainder pile one day, and it became my "hypochondriac handbook" as I like to call it. As you can see, it's well worn. Its cover has fallen off and the pages have yellowed, but this thick book got me through the early years of parenting.
Complete Guide to Symptoms, Illness and Surgery
[Punctuation added.]
It has a straightforward set of diagnostic tables at the front and more complete information about hundreds of disorders in the middle. And NO PICTURES. (I used to lament this.)

Then the Internet arrived and the world of hypochondria opened up. Then Google happened and surprisingly accurate and comprehensive information about the most exotic extremes of ordinary disorders was just a click away. Medical sites with diagnostic tools flourished like ants at a picnic.

Then came Google Images. It is a hypochondriac's nightmare. Now, instead of joking about my persistent headache being caused by a brain tumour, I can search for images relating to brain tumour. (Don't. I just did. And you have. No. Idea.)  As if I weren't anxious enough just worrying about pain, now I have to contend with hideous deformities.

I'm probably not going to change my habits, because ... holy cow! Those pictures! But  I will promise not to post them on Facebook or here in my blog. You're welcome.

P.S. So ... did you google warts, ringworm or brain tumour?

Monday, May 23, 2011

Quarterly Performance Evaluation

Yes, I'm running a little late for a quarterly review of my New Year's Resolutions, so sue me. Truth is, while they have passed blissfully out of your synapses, they've been nagging at the back of my brain ever since I published them. Curses!

Here's what I wrote:
  • Stop driving the car to work so often. (Limit to once per week.)
    • Reduce $ spent on parking - more to put toward line of credit.
    • Walk at least 10 minutes a day [baby steps, people, baby steps!]
  • Set up an automatic transfer to line of credit.
  • Make a "date" with each kid for a Saturday brunch, one kid per week.
  • Go for at least one walk per week with Steve. Increase to three or more times per week over the year.

Can you believe I put those in writing? What was I thinking?

If I recall correctly, I was thinking that if I published them for the whole frigging world to see, I would be too ashamed not to keep them. Well, hah! Evidently, I am not as easily shamed as I thought.

[Not sure that's entirely a good thing.]

  1. On the first item, I totally flopped. Indeed, I bought a parking pass and stopped pretending I was a bus commuter.
  2. On the second, I succeeded! Automatic payment is set up, and I also set up a separate account for my "spending money" so I don't accidentally dip into my longer term funds.
  3. On the third, while I haven't scheduled one-on-one time with each kid, we have been enjoying weekly breakfasts out. That counts, right? No?
  4. As for the once-a-week walk with Steve ... well, how about once a month?
So, not very stellar. I think I'll give myself a "pity D," only because I really hate giving Fs as they're so demoralizing.

Conclusion: substantial room for improvement. Scratch number one off the list, but make greater effort on number four to compensate. And at least make an attempt at number three.

I think I'm on probation.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Beauty and Ugliness

There is a great line in Walter Mosely's Six Easy Pieces:
He was living in an apartment building on San Pedro. It was a turquoise and plaster affair, designed to be ugly so that the tenants would know that they were poor.
It caught my attention because I've been thinking about beauty for a long time - not just beauty, but the whole beauty-money equation.

It started when Steve and I were house-hunting in Toronto, way back in 1996 (I think; Steve will correct me if I'm wrong).  We looked at the military PMQs (private, married quarters), where we had two options. In the officers' area, there were smaller homes amidst mature trees in a parklike setting - quite beautiful. The houses themselves were nothing to write home about.

Up the hill, there were the larger, enlisted quarters, plonked in a loose circle around a shade-deprived playground. A few homes had a shrub bravely planted by the front door, or a desperate garden patch, but, by and large, it was desolate.

And ugly.

In fact, anything we could afford was either too cramped for a family of six or ugly, or both.

In the end, we decided that the kids and I would stay behind in Ottawa for the months while Steve was on course because I sensed that, for me, it would be too depressing to spend all that time surrounded by ugliness.

For Steve, aesthetics were not a factor in his feelings of quality of life. He was content to stay in an apartment with builder-white walls and no artwork (aside from the kids' masterpieces which were sent on a weekly basis).

This has been a constant dance in our marriage: how important is beauty? And by "how important," I mean, "how much are you willing to pay for it?" Because, like it or not, beauty costs money. The landscaped yard vs. the mown lawn? The nice hotel vs. the grotty motel? The house with the industrial view vs. the house with the park view?

I must amend my statement. Beauty doesn’t always cost money. There are plenty of places where nature and public artwork provide an aesthetic delight free for the taking – watch the sun rise or set, walk along a river, take in the public art outside of downtown buildings. And those who are creative can create beauty, sometimes out of almost nothing, it seems.

But I stand by my thesis: there is a cost to bringing that beauty closer to where we live.

It’s a cost I’m willing to pay because beauty matters to me. It explains my forays to IKEA and Home Depot and the garden centre. It explains why I pause and take pictures of wildflowers. These things feed my soul.

My cousin posted a Facebook status the other day:
white heron gliding into the meadow outside my window. my heart soars as I work and welcome her.

Such a simple thing: a bird in flight. A moment captured in the midst of a busy mother’s workday. The spontaneous connection between one creature and another.

Of course, the words, “my heart soars,” immediately brought to mind Chief Dan George’s eloquent poem. Any words I could add after this would be superfluous, so I leave you with his thoughts.
The beauty of the trees,
the softness of the air,
the fragrance of the grass,
   speaks to me.

The summit of the mountain,
the thunder of the sky,
the rhythm of the sea,
   speaks to me.

The faintness of the stars,
the freshness of the morning,
the dew drop on the flower,
   speaks to me.

The strength of fire,
the taste of salmon,
the trail of the sun,
and the life that never goes away,
   They speak to me.

And my heart soars.

Update: I didn't realize that Chief Dan George was Canadian.

Saturday, May 21, 2011


Apple (?) blossoms across the street from our house.

Are these cherry blossoms?
They're also across the street from us.

Saw this at the nursery. It is not winter-hardy in Ottawa
so I didn't get one. But it is quite showy!
(It wasn't all that large, maybe 2.5 inches diameter.)

A magnolia bud

Lily of the valley in our front yard.

Magnolia blossom, our backyard.

Another showy flower from the nursery,
also not winter-hardy for Ottawa, so I left it there.
A tulip from the tulip festival that didn't make into my post about that weekend.

Suddenly, it's spring!

I went away for a few days (after days and days and WEEKS of rain) and when I came back, this - along with sunshine - is what greeted me:
Actually, those are what greeted me in the park
across the street from our house when I got home from work.
This is what first greeted me at the Ottawa airport:
I do love that waterfall.

In Ontario, this is a long weekend, Victoria Day weekend, in honour of Queen Victoria. (Also known as May 2-4 weekend, as in "a 2-4 of beer.")
She was not known as a real "party gal,"
but we do have a long weekend in her honour,
so I like her just fine.
Most Ontarians start working on their gardens this weekend. Before this date, at least in Ottawa, there is a very good chance that there will be a freeze (or snow, even), so if you plant before this, you do so at your own risk.

Given the desolate state of our landscaping, it won't surprise you that it was with much enthusiasm that Steve, Emily and I ventured to the gardening store, Artistic Landscapes and Designs. The plan was to buy more chicken rock. We did that, but also came home with several shrubs, including a magnolia! I've never owned a magnolia, but have wanted one ever since we lived in Alabama.
Our very own magnolia!
We also got a Japanese maple with feathery red leaves and a blue spruce, along with some dogwoods and a purple sandcherry, and a bearberry.

I worked in the backyard through the heat of the mid-day - and have the sunburn to prove it. [No fewer than three of my cousins have been diagnosed with skin cancer, so you'd think I would know better!] As the afternoon shade reached the patio, Steve and I sat down for some chips & salsa and Corona. Aaah.

After that bit of refreshment, I popped out front to survey our front yard. The neighbours all have well trimmed lawns and mature gardens. Our yard is ... how do I put it nicely ... naturalized. We have patches of wild violets and a large swath of lily of the valley and a mangy spattering of grass.

Ever since I was a little urchin with an ear-piercing soprano voice and sang, "White Coral Bells Upon a Slender Stalk," I have been enchanted with lily of the valley. It doesn't hurt that they appear as darling little cups in fairy tales.
Those little curls on the bottoms of the bells?
I was afraid that we had destroyed these little gems, but they have come back abundantly, and I am glad. I won't show a picture of the whole yard; it's too embarrassing.

So, with my bank account drained and my back sprained, I shall relax for the rest of this weekend and enjoy our patio. If you happen to be in the neighbourhood, do stop in for a beer.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Home, Sweet Home

One afternoon when I was an "emo" university student (whole decades before the term "emo" was coined), I lay in a patch of afternoon sun on the living room floor of the house I shared with four three other girls, and I listened to Lene Lovich singing:

Home is where the heart is, home is so remote
Home is just emotion sticking in my throat
Let's go to your place
Let's go to your place
It perfectly captured my mood. The home I'd grown up in, and where my parents and younger sister still lived, no longer felt like "home" to me. It was a place I avoided or visited when I felt guilty that I'd been neglecting my family too long.

But there was no other place to supplant it. The house I shared was just that: a house. We were transient friends. In an emotional sense, I was homeless.

I went "home" that Christmas. It was kind of a disaster that ended with my being "kicked out" and "running away" at the same time. [Sort of like saying, "You can't fire me! I quit!"] Lots of drama. I cut my visit short.

A day or two after returning to the house I shared, Steve, who was then a "friend of the household," not really dating anyone, but always welcome to join us for a meal or crash on our couch whenever military dorm life got too oppressive, walked in our front door. My heart just leapt! I jumped over the various bicycles, boots and brooms that crowded our hallway and gave him a great big hug.

I couldn't have told you why I was so glad to see him, but I remember that it felt like something had slid into place.

No, we didn't start dating, though he did ask - who could blame him?

Some months later, however, we did go on a sort of pretend date: it wasn't romantic, but it was just the two of us, and we both knew it was a special occasion. I gave him a teddy bear (which we still have) and actually made a home-cooked meal. (Shake 'n' Bake, if you must know.)

[Have I already told you this story? Stop me if I have. It's a favourite of mine, so I often drag it out and force our children to listen to it.]

Later that evening, alone in the house, Steve sat at a desk studying Physics while I read Victorian literature. I glanced up and saw him down the hall. He must have felt me looking at him and smiled at me. I can still see his face like a snapshot.

And I thought, "Yes. I could handle seeing this for the rest of my life."

[Are you sure I haven't told you? I'm sure I have.]

Looking back, I think those two moments mark the beginning of when Steve became my home: a place of comfort, acceptance, and nurturing.

Maybe that's why being a nomadic military family hasn't been so hard on me: my home is not location-based, it is relationship-based. In any case, I am very happy to have my home, sweet home.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Temporary Insanity

I was struck by an insanity spell on Saturday. Earlier in the week, in anticipation of my Aunt Winkie's visit, I decided that it was about time we painted the open ceiling in our makeshift basement guest room.

Now, if I had planned it right, this would have worked like a dream: do the prep work, rent the equipment, and buy the paint the night before, then get up early and get going. That's not what I did.  I noted that she wasn't due to arrive until about 6 p.m., so I reasoned I had plennnnty of time to do the project on Saturday.

I woke up with a very sore throat, developed a migraine, dawdled over breakfast, browsed through Home Depot, then made it home in the early afternoon. I ate lunch, checked Facebook and e-mail ... Around 3:00 p.m., I made it down to the basement. No panic.
The room all draped and prepped.
I was only doing the ceiling, not the walls.
Once we figured out the sprayer, things went quickly.

The "ceiling" primed.
But - oops - I sprayed a little heavily. Very, very heavily. (When will I learn that priming does not have "opaque coat" as its objective?) The paint started dripping on me, on the floor, on anything that wasn't covered. It was a right royal mess.

And, although the paint can said it would be dry enough for a second coat in one hour, it was still dripping and wet (not even tacky) after two. And I had completely forgotten that the paint would SMELL for a few days - what a way to welcome your guest!

THAT's when I started to panic. It was a disaster.

This is as good as it got.
At least the bed looks nice and is comfortable.
At 5:30 p.m., we were gathering up all the drop cloths, wiping the paint puddles on the floor and scrambling to get the paint off ourselves before Aunt Winkie arrived, when she called to give us a courteous ten-minute warning.

I was just towelling off after my shower when the doorbell rang. Steve looked like he had been pelted by a bird with the runs.

It was nuts. 

Fortunately, Winkie is a good sport. She told us she did wake up in the middle of the first night and think, "I don't know if I can handle the smell," but then promptly went back to sleep. (We Simpsons are generally good eaters and sleepers.) Thank goodness.

After all that, we didn't even get the actual paint on, we almost forgot to return the rental sprayer, and ran up a rental bill of over $200!

Our dinner at Stoneface Dolly's on Saturday and our Sunday jaunt to the tulip festival were great compensation, but I think I've added another story to the ludicrous History of Wynn Anne's Bright Ideas.

Next time she visits (if she's brave enough to do so), I will leave well enough alone and just buy a fresh bunch of pretty flowers.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Tiptoe Through the Tulips

One of the many huge plaster tulips around town
that have been painted by local artists.
Here it is from further away.

I convinced my Aunt Winkie to drive up from Toronto for the Tulip Festival in Ottawa. She came all that way, so despite the less than stellar (or solar) weather, we went down to Dow's Lake for a walk in the park. We didn't actually tiptoe through the tulips as there were lots of signs warning us not to.

The tulips were not in full bloom, but they were quite spectacular. Here are a few pictures to whet your appetite to visit Ottawa's parks.
Click to enlarge.
I think the one at the left is my favourite. It's called China Town.

It was just spectacular. And I'm SO glad I've taken that photography class; I could never have taken these pictures without it.

Yay, spring!

Friday, May 13, 2011

Seeing Things

The snow is gone. The buds are pushing. Our pool is dredged, lined and filled. The city is bursting with colours - daffodils, tulips, and dandelions. And this is what our backyard looks like:

Our barren garden.

There is actually a blissful strip of greenery which Steve is watering - the ditch lilies we've transplanted from beside the house. But all in all, it's pretty depressing, isn't it?

Steve and I have been looking out our kitchen window at this sad stretch of dirt for the past many weeks months, partly with despair, partly with the feeling of potential. Always with a feeling of: this is work. And the quandary of where do we even start?

So last night, I opened this picture in PowerPoint and started pasting in pictures of all the things I would love to plant back there. This is what I came up with.
Like I said - this is Powerpoint, not Photoshop.
But you get the idea, right?
Just look! Lilacs, clematis, lilies, hollyhocks, sedum, hostas, phlox, snow-in-summer, cedar. Swoon.

Of course, the yard would never look like this because all of these things bloom at different times. But isn't it a completely different view? And even if I planted all of these plants this weekend, it would be five or ten years before it looked like this, but still it is so exciting to get a visual to strive for!

And that's just one corner of the yard! Here's more:

Different view of the same corner shown with Steve in it.

The "utility" corner, which needs a shed, a path and some plantings.

We don't have the time, energy or drive to plant this entire garden in one massive onslaught. Instead, Steve and the boys will continue to putter away at the terracing (easier to see in the first picture, if you click on it), and I will gradually do the planting, starting with the larger shrubs and a tree or two.

In the meantime, I am more than happy to receive any plants or cuttings that you are willing to share from your gardens. [Read: Oh, please? Do you have a hosta that is ready to split? A peony that needs to be divided? Some sedum to spare?]

Much as I hate Ottawa winters, I will admit that I LOVE Ottawa spring and summer - so lush, so green. Mmmmm.

P.S. We are now accepting bets on when we will open the pool for the season!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Get it Right the First Time | UPDATED

All for show.
Excuse me a bit while I vent my curmudgeonly spleen.

This just in: Mariah Carey and Nick Cannon renewed their wedding vows while still in hospital after their twin babies were born.
This just in: Heidi Klum and Seal renew their vows every year. (Every year!)

Update: Both Nick and Mariah and Heidi and Seal divorced in 2014.

I suppose that in celebu-land, home of the highest concentration of insecure narcissists on the planet, this sort of makes sense, but I still find it really annoying.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Relationship Status: It's Complicated

My mother, as a delicate young woman
Anyone who knows me knows that my relationship with my mother is ... complicated.

About 15 years ago we had a falling out, an estrangement. It was my decision to cut off contact, and I think I broke her heart. Maybe that's what I wanted then - to punish her. But, as with any dysfunctional relationship, the hurting went both ways.

Several years after my father's death, my mother married a man who had molested a pre-teen girl. My mother knew this before she married him. She accepted his remorse and believed she could be vigilant enough to protect her 11 grandchildren.

I knew otherwise: when I was a pre-teen my mother's father, my grandfather, molested me. She knew about this.

Feeling twice betrayed, I slammed the door shut. I was not going to let her hurt me again, and I sure as hell was not going to let her choice put my children in harm's way. [Yes, there is still a little residual anger there.]

So, as you might imagine, Mother's Day is a little complicated for me.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Photo Class: Favourite

(Or "favorite," for those of you south of the 49th parallel.)

This picture was taken using the manual settings on my camera and following the instructions we had been given, but has not previously been posted to my blog.
f/4, 1/320 s, ISO/400
He was an assignment for Emily's parenting class: my first grand(egg)child, Adrian Garcia Douglas. I'm ridiculously proud of the soft lighting and the way I captured the eggshell texture. Also, the picture is SOOC (straight out of the camera). Sadly, he met his demise on the way to the bus stop.

And, yes, someday I would like to practice these skills on a real grandchild.

Photo Class: Black and White

I've been a little tardy and am playing catch-up with the online photography class I've been taking. The challenge for this class was to convert a picture to black & white. Not every photo does well with this treatment, though some become very moody and artistic.

I've converted a few of my pictures to black and white along the way, and, in fact, some of them had such minimal colour in them that they were almost b & w anyway. But for this assignment I took one of the beach snapshots I'd taken and converted it.
f/5, ISO/100, 1/640 S
Because this picture is all about the lines and the contrast, I think it works well in black and white. I also converted this picture of Brian, leaning against Steve's shoulder. (When Brian gets bored, he gets both fidgety and floppy. We were in a restaurant waiting for our breakfast.)

ISO/200, 1/50, f/4
I think it also works, because it has good highlights and some nice darks. I also like that it captures his look of tolerance for his mother's near obsession with him. I'm like the paparazzo who just will not put away the camera and he's the tolerant celeb. The lengths he goes to for his fans.

Photo Class: Juxtaposition

Last fall, we left our backyard in tatters. A pool and deck had been installed, but almost every snippet of green had been stripped in the process. Steve started work on the landscaping - a monumental task because of the slope of the yard - but threw out his neck and had to call it quits.

Then the snow flew and the rain fell. Over the past couple of weekends, Steve has been puttering away again, moving 300-pound boulders to form terraces along the back of our property.
IS0/80, f/2.8, 1/400
Juxtaposition of barren and GREEN!
And look: green! In the process of digging and levelling, Steve rescued some ditch lilies. They aren't great horticultural specimens, but they are ALIVE!

I can't wait to start adding more green - and other colours - to the backyard. But it'll have to wait until I kick this cold. In the meantime, I'm using this photo as my response to the "juxtaposition" assignment for the online photography class I'm taking.

A Particularly Contemporary Dilemma

Nothing says "Internet Age" like the expression, "Pictures, or it didn't happen." That's because nowadays, it is highly improbably that anything of real significance will happen without being captured by a digital camera. Hence the retort to wild claims: show us the photographic evidence or we will not believe you.

And then, Osama Bin Laden was assassinated. With knee-jerk predictability, the hordes yelled, "Pix or it didn't happen!"

Thank heavens, the administration paused and thought better of it. Because, really, we don't need to see that. The pictures do, in fact, exist. I don't doubt that for a second.

And I can assure you that, if those pictures were released, sooner or later, you would see that. Here's how I know.

A little over a year ago, I attended a social-media "boot camp." Not much rigorous training went on, but we did have a captivating speaker who knew his way around social media the way I know my way around a bowl of ice cream. (I am a very skilled ice-cream eater.)

Anyway, the lecturer was whizzing along talking about how corporations have NO CONTROL over social media, that it is viral and that, once something is "out there" it is public domain and we cannot spin the message or, as the saying goes, "put it back in the box." Then he showed us the real, actual video of Saddam Hussein's execution. I was unprepared and shocked.

This is definitely not something I would have sought out.

The lecturer's point seemed to be that the video undermined the purported message of justice being carried out. (It looked like a snuff film, or what I would imagine a snuff film to look like.)

But what really struck me was that I was watching the taking of another human's life and I felt ... nothing. Really. I was horrified at the thought of watching something like this in a context of ... entertainment? It felt wrong. But I did not feel any empathy with the victim or with the witnesses or the executioner.

And that lack of empathy - with anyone involved - made me feel less human. Have I become so jaded by modern drama (like Inglourious Basterds or other Quentin Tarantino creations) that I can dissociate myself from this? Is that a good thing?

"Less human" may be the wrong expression. Maybe it is "too human" and "not godlike enough."

So, as I've listened to the calls for images of bin Laden's execution, I am pleased that the Obama administration has not released those images. We don't need them. They would put this event into the realm of entertainment, not history, where it belongs.

The world has no shortage of ugliness, of pain, or horror or of things that take something from our souls. Let's not clamour for more. On that note, I leave you with this verse:
"Finally, [fellow travelers on this sod] brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things."   ~ Philippians 4:8

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Flight-related Toilet Mishaps

[Tangent (is it a bad sign that I haven't even started writing the post, but I'm already on a tangent? Hold on tight, you're in for an erratic ride!): doesn't the word "mishap" look like it should be pronounced "mish-ap"? Some words are weird that way.]

So, while I'm NOT dying of pneumonia or the bubonic plague* (no buboes on me, thank heavens) and am also not able to use my voice, I've had some time to reflect on my flight-related toilet experiences.

Bathrooms loom large in my life experiences - as they probably do for everyone, if you are totally honest because, really, what's the most important thing after eating and sleeping? Emptying. It has to happen. If it doesn't happen - and the longer it doesn't happen - the more all-consuming (ooh - pun!) it becomes.

For example, if you were in urgent need to GO, you could be talking to a lawyer about inheriting Michael Jackson's estate and your brain would be all "Must go pee! Need toilet! Ignore boring law-speaker! Find toilet!"

So I happen to believe that toilet stories are both funny and universal, and I will share mine with you, since I do have some unique stories.

Story Number One: [hmm. "Number One" and "Number Two" might not be the best names for these .... Or maybe they are exactly the best ones!]

A long, long time ago, when the world was new and all, I was at Pearson International Airport waiting for my brother's plane to board. These were the days when flight attendants were stewardesses and would be fired if they weighed more than 95 pounds, when they still allowed smoking everywhere, and when the travellers who mattered were the businessmen.

I got bored and decided to check out the restrooms. I made a beeline for the nearest one, entered, and started freshening up my make-up in the smoked-glass mirror. (I was about 14 at the time; doing my make-up was what I did for fun.) This was made doubly difficult because of the dim "mood" lighting. I believe pop music was playing on the speakers. I half expected someone to come by with a bowl of peanuts and a cocktail.

Suddenly, I heard a deep, gruff voice. A masculine voice. I looked in the mirror where I saw a man looking at me over his shoulder. He said, "I think one of us is in the wrong room."

I skedaddled to the women's room, where I was greeted by harsh, bright fluorescent lighting and utilitarian mirrors. There may have been pop music, but there was certainly no intimation of cocktails.

Story Number Two:

I once flew on a custom-fitted airplane that had a window in the lav. The window was a standard airplane window, at about thigh height. It made that little restroom seem quite sophisticated. It also meant that the room was bright and perfect for - yes - freshening my makeup. (I guess makeup is still something I do for fun.)

So there I was, having used the toilet and washed my hands, and was reapplying my lipstick, when the door swung open! Because of the light from the window, I hadn't remembered to slide the lock which turns on the light. Fortunately, I was fully put together, but it was embarrassing nevertheless.

Story Number Three: The Worst One

I debated whether to tell you this one or not, mostly because I do something really idiotic in it. I was flying home on a business trip and had slid off my sandals. My feet were slightly swollen and I had chosen my shoes for looks rather than comfort. (Believe it or not, that is NOT the idiotic thing.) I needed to use the restroom and made a brief effort to find my shoes, but then decided to walk barefoot to the bathroom. THAT is the idiotic thing.

It wasn't until I stepped into the restroom that the full horror hit me: the floor. Was. Sticky.

Oh. My. God. Are men such macho-macho-I-will-pee-standing-up-because-I-can idiots that they will even do so while urinating into a teensy bowl during turbulence? YES! They ARE!

Did you know that those sinks are surprisingly small in comparison to a size 6 foot?

I do have other toilet stories. I should probably consider getting a companion dog to keep those things from happening.

* Caution: Wikipedia reference to the bubonic plague includes revolting photos.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Retroactive "Live-blogging" Tax Season 2011

You know what? I'm only half way through writing this and have come to the conclusion that it is boring as shit. Actually, shit is far more interesting (just ask any mother of a newborn). So let me just give you a couple of highlights:

- Steve did my taxes! Yay!
- Then, because I am sick, he took them to the post office and brought me back a chocolate-mousse pastry with a gooey caramel centre!
- If Steve did the numbers correctly, it looks like I'm getting a tax refund from Canada this year!
- Next year, I will have one source of income, in one country. My taxes will be straightforward, and I should be able to do them myself.

- Fin -

One of my very first posts on this here blog was about how much I detest doing my taxes. It's ridiculous, really. This year, I procrastinated worse than any year previously.

My taxes are complicated because I have five sources of income from two countries, I cashed in some RRSPs, sold a house (and made a profit), and ceased owning a rental property. Do you have any idea how many supplementary forms that demands?!

March 5, 2011
Filed my U.S. federal and state tax returns. Since they won't do direct deposit to a Canadian institution, I had them snail-mail it to me.

In the past five years, the amount I've owed Revenue Canada has been roughly equal to what I've received as a refund from Uncle Sam. So waiting for the cheques to arrive gave me a credible excuse to dilly-dally.

All my tax files remain neatly stacked in a green folder on the coffee table.

April 1, 2011
Cheques arrive.

All my tax files remain neatly stacked in a green folder on the coffee table.

April 8, 2011
Cheques are deposited, but require a two-week holding period. Yay! More reasons to procrastinate.

At some point, Steve took pity on me and bravely offered to do my taxes for me this year, which saves me great sums of cash. Hiring a professional to do just the rental property part cost me close to $500 last year. (Maybe Steve just got tired of seeing all my tax files neatly stacked in a green folder on the coffee table.)

April 23, 2011
Steve declares, "We should do your taxes this weekend." I proceed to place the newspaper sections erratically over all my tax files which remain neatly stacked in a green folder on the coffee table.

April 30, 2011
Tax Day. [Note: I learned after the fact that taxes are actually due on midnight Monday, May 2, but I'm heading out of town on the 1st, so that extension is kind of moot.]

- 2:00 p.m.
Open the green folder and realize that my Canadian T4 is not in there. I must have left it at work. 
Get a paper cut.

- 3:00 p.m.
Drive to work. Half way there, get a call from Steve saying that he has found the errant T4. Return home.

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