Thursday, January 31, 2013

Thankful Thursday: Growing

They grow up so fast!
For the past several Saturday mornings, Steve and I have been learning how to be better parents.

You might think (those of you with young children) that the hard work of parenting is over. I sure thought it would be.

You - and I - would be wrong.

I really thought that loving my children would be enough, that my instincts, prayers, and good intentions would see me through. But I've come to realize that (a) my instincts often misfire, (b) my prayers too often come in moments of desperation, and (c) my good intentions fly out the window when my feelings are hurt or when I'm afraid.

But I've also learned there are actual skills to parenting. And skills can be learned.

So we are learning about mindfulness, about being effective, rather than right.

So this week, I am thankful for the course we found, for the children who have been my guinea pigs, and for the husband who is beside me on this roller coaster.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Dreaming of the Emerald Isle*

*Note: it is an isle, not an aisle. Isles are found in a body of water; aisles are found in a grocery store or theatre. Isle is short for "island," which does not have an A at the beginning. Hope that helps.

In April of last year, I mentioned that Steve and I were talking about taking a trip to Ireland. Well, we spent the afternoon today with a travel agent, sucking his brain for all his insight into destinations and travel packages.

While we could have built a custom package, neither of us feels confident enough to drive in Ireland, and neither of us really has the time to plan a full itinerary. So we've decided to go with a package and will head over at the end of April this year.

Here are the highlights of the 12-day trip we've selected:

View Ireland Tour 2013 in a larger map

Dublin - St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Phoenix Park, the Georgian Squares, and Trinity College (The Book of Kells).

Belfast - City Hall and Queen’s University

Giant's Causeway - a UNESCO World Heritage site - a geological wonder formed by huge basalt columns.

Londonderry/Derry - Walking tour along the City Walls including views of St. Columb’s Cathedral

Omagh, Connemara, Galway, Limerick
Adare (Ireland’s prettiest village with its thatched cottages.)
Ring of Kerry
Blarney Kiss the Blarney Stone at the Blarney Castle.

If you click to view the map in a separate window, you can see details of each stop.

The site that I am most excited about is the Giant's Causeway. But there are a few locations that we'll be missing, most notably Inishmore Island (in the Aran Islands). With our time constraints, we could not find a package that included both the Giant's Causeway and Inishmore. In fact, we couldn't find any packages that did so. (Very few include much of Northern Ireland.)

It may mean we have to take another trip back to Ireland. I'll keep you posted.

The Giant's Causeway, County Antrim, Ireland
Photo by Flickr user Code Poet

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Thankful Thursday: Baby, it's cold outside!

Emily sitting before the fire, braiding a bracelet.
Holy frijoles, it is COLD outside! As in -30º C/-20º F cold. "Wear snowpants to the bus stop" kind of cold.

So it's particularly nice to come home to a roaring fire and the inviting scent of wood burning. The warmth of the living room has even drawn the older kids away from the chillier sunroom and into the room where Steve and I usually lounge.

We're chatting and sharing updates. It's like something out of Little House on the Prairie! Next thing you know, we'll be playing Backgammon!

We're enjoying the warmth in more ways than one.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Black Thumb

My mother had what they call a green thumb: she was a natural with plants. Still is, as far as I know. In my youth, she had a botanical garden in our bay window: geraniums, African violets, Christmas cactus. Other green things.

After I left home, she discovered orchids and performed magic with those as well.

Me? I kill things that are green.

While Steve and I were engaged, he asked me to babysit his jade plant, one he'd inherited from his sister. He was gone for three weeks, during which time I managed to kill it with overwatering. As it got sicker, I watered it more frequently. Those succulent leaves started committing suicide.

Recently, I decided to take a chance on growing an indoor herb garden. You never know, right?

Wisely, I only bought one plant to start with. I should have taken a picture when it was fresh and new. Instead, all I have is this:

We did manage to use fresh basil in a couple of meals before I started overwatering it because some of the leaves were wilting.

You'll see that I have it in a larger pot, so it can drain. I thought that was enough. I was wrong. So now it's in rehab, drying out. I'm not sure which one of us needs to follow the 12-step program, but I plan to watch its drinking habits to keep it out of the drunk tank.

I probably shouldn't offer my services as a house-sitter.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

When I was Very Young

I read an interesting article today, entitled  "Our favorite ladies share their twentysomething mistakes." At the ripe old age of fifty, I think that's an interesting question, and one I really couldn't have answered even ten years ago.

To put my thoughts in context, I was twenty years old in 1982, and I was in second year of university, studying English literature and education. I had just had my heart broken. I was living with a gaggle of women in varying states of emotional disarray.

By the time I turned thirty in 1992, I was married, had completed both of those degrees as well as a diploma in Advertising, and had two children (and a third on the way).

That was one busy decade!

In that decade, my father died, and I went into my first major depression since my time at university.

So what mistakes did I make?

I think my biggest mistake was that I did not go on antidepressant medication when I hit that major depression. Pills, I opined, were for lazy people who didn't want to do the emotional work of dealing with their messed-up childhoods. For people who just wanted an easy solution. Who wanted a bandaid.

It was a horrible, horrible year. My father died in March 1990, and my son was born two months later - the day after I completed my two degrees. Along with grieving my loss, I was coping with a fussy baby.

(I often use the euphemism "colicky," but really, he was just very, very needy. He slept well at night, and never screamed with belly pain, but he was not happy. He needed to be held, rocked, jiggled, or fed constantly. It was exhausting.)

At the same time, Steve was working on his Master's thesis, so was less available than I might have wished.

We were broke. (Mortgages were at 12% and we had just bought our first home.) We were stressed out.

I saw a therapist. As my depression took its toll on our marriage, we separated for a painful week, and then we started seeing a marriage therapist.

But I drew the line at taking pills.

Looking back, I can't help but think of how medication might have enabled me to benefit much more from the therapy. It would have saved me from hurting Stephen. It would have allowed me to enjoy my children and my time at home with them.

Monday, January 14, 2013

We are experiencing technical difficulties

That is not a picture on the screen; it is a flickering screen.
The HP G42: a great little laptop.
I don't think I ever gave an update on the laptop repair. That post ended with the laptop in several pieces. Weeks later, after a failed attempt to replace the cables, Peter simply put the whole thing back together and, guess what! It worked!

Although Peter did achieve a miracle almost as astounding as turning water into wine, I was pretty sure that the fix was only temporary. Well, last week, it started flickering again, worse than ever. So I acquired a used laptop through Kijiji, a laptop that was reviewed as having a fantastic monitor - something I want for my photo editing. I'm working on it right now, and I can tell you the graphics are wonderful.

Setting up the new laptop went pretty smoothly, but then I made things more complicated. I decided to:

  • Use the old laptop as a desktop computer
  • Install a new printer
  • Transfer all my files from the old computer to the new one using DropBox
What could possibly go wrong?

I should note that, although Steve is a software engineer and works in high-tech, I am our household IT manager. I update the software and networks, I manage our antivirus subscriptions, I select and connect all peripheral devices. 

The one thing that I had worried about - and which had caused me to defer replacing our 32 GB desktop (lol!) that was still on Windows XP - was transferring the modem. Turns out, all I had to do was move the Ethernet plug from the desktop to the laptop. If the network was ever offline, no one noticed. 

I've got most of my programs installed and running smoothly (including e-mail).

The printer, however, has been a real nut to crack. I have the driver CD, but Steve's and Peter's netbooks do not have CD drives. And even with the CD, my computer refused to acknowledge that I had the correct drivers. 

I'm still working on that. With much frustration.

While that was going on, I uploaded my kazillions of files to DropBox. DropBox is an excellent way of sharing files over the Internet. You upload the files to, then anyone with access can view or edit the files from their own computer. The way DropBox works is that it synchronizes to a folder on your computer's hard drive. 

I made two mistakes:
  1. I accidentally uploaded the same HUGE directory (all of my photographs from 2012 - about 20 GB of data) at least THREE TIMES to different places in my DropBox account. 
  2. I copied the files to the appropriate directories on my new laptop but did not delete them from DropBox, thereby making a FOURTH copy of the same files.
I made the same mistake with other directories. The upshot was that the 680 GB hard drive on my new laptop was 80% used up. On top of that, we used 110 GB of data, well above our allowable monthly plan. We've never come close to that before. Ouch!

And everything started to churn soooooooooooooo slowly!

So, I decided to burn the files to DVDs, to save disk space. I've already done so a couple of times, but was worried about corrupt files. You can never have too many backups, right?

That's when I learned that the DVD drive on my new laptop is not functional. It handles CDs just fine, but as soon as I insert a DVD, it thrashes and buzzes something awful. Even worse, there is no manual eject button- it only has a software eject, which does not work consistently. I've tried downloading drivers, but they either do not install or they fail to solve the problem. 

Since I bought the laptop through Kijiji, I have no warranty or service coverage. Looks like I'll be taking it in to the shop sooner rather than later. 

On the bright side, the old laptop still burns DVDs, so I've reduced the DropBox burden down to less than 10 GB. It's connected to the printer and not having any problems at all. Like I said, it was a great little laptop, it just didn't have a working monitor. I miss it already.

And the kids are loving the improved performance of the laptop compared to the old desktop. 

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Dear adverb, I miss you. Terribly.

I keep looking for you, but you are nowhere to be seen.
By cropping tight around the subject you eliminate the background "noise", ensuring the subject gets the viewer's undivided attention.
I want to crop tightly, but can only crop . . .  tight. Crop tight . . . what? Crop tight pants? It feels unfinished, unsatisfying. Unsatisfactory.


See, now, he would've lost me with the "I want you so bad" text. Surely he wants me badly. Unless . . . he wants me to be bad? Oh. I may have misjudged this one.

From Twitter
Does he mean that it's always a fake attractive love triangle that ends in murder? Ugh. I just don't know.

Twitter, of course, is not the best place to find examples of good grammar. In fact, I went there specifically looking for examples of adverb abuse for this blog post. I was not disappointed.

From FML
In the case of this tale of woe, I think she (or he?) got what she deserved, because of two errors:

  1. he may snore loud snorts, but if the word "snorts" is missing, he must snore loudly; and 
  2. he doesn't lay on his side, he lies on his side. Either that, or there is a noun missing: he lays [his arm] on his side.

Oh, adverb, you are as fleeting as spring snow, as elusive as a rainbow. Bravely you struggle against grammatical entropy, valiantly will I fight for your cause.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

My Own Worst Enemy

Steve bought the baguette and the brie, neither of which you would call bare-bones essentials.
I bought the tomatoes and fresh basil.
Recently, Steve and I have decided to divide the grocery-shopping responsibility. Previously, it fell entirely to Steve, largely as a measure to keep our spending under control (as mentioned here). But, as I briefly sorta, kinda mentioned here, I've taken on the job of shopping (and paying) for the fruits and vegetables.

What I didn't really say in that post was that the reason for this is that Steve is kind of stingy. A bit of a skinflint. He has strong Scottish blood and keeps a close eye on his money. Scrooge would consider him a model of fiscal behaviour.

I love him like the Dickens, but the man is tight.

[Given my profligate ways, it is just a darned good thing he came along. Every now and then, I run up my credit card, then spend months chipping away at it. Our finances are mostly separate (all accounts are joint, but each of us is "prime" on one or the other), but, of course, if one of us goes into debt, that leaves less money for us to spend over all.]

Occasionally, this difference in attitudes towards money strikes a nerve.

This morning, for example, Steve joined me at Farm Boy. Almost the first thing on display was a bank of strawberries. This ensued:

"Do you want to get some strawberries?" I asked, thinking that they would be yummy sliced onto a salad.

"They're expensive right now, because they aren't in season," he noted.

"Just get them!" I snapped. Rudely. "Never mind the price! I'm paying!"


Quite rightly, he was offended. I apologized, and we continued. On the way home, we calmly talked about why I'd rather spend more on appetizing, healthy foods than on inexpensive snacks. He pointed out that he doesn't always try to buy the least expensive item anymore.

"You'll notice that I even bought the really soft toilet paper this time," he joked.

Thank god we can laugh together.

What I didn't tell Steve until we got home was that I had spent more money on this particular grocery expedition than I ever had before. Including shopping for holiday meals. More than $150, in fact. On fruits and vegetables, people! Ostensibly enough to last one week.

After the comment about the strawberries, I had picked up every single impulse item on display.

Pistachios! Leek-and-potato soup! Cherries! Pomelo! [What is that, even?] Four bunches of flowers! A basil plant! Granola! Gluten-free snickerdoodles! Croutons!

I almost bought a $12/lb prime-rib roast.

You'll notice that only two of those items actually qualify as a fruit or vegetable.

Oh, Wynn Anne, Wynn Anne, Wynn Anne.
In my unintentionally passive-aggressive effort to prove that money is not the point, I managed to shoot myself in the wallet.

I'm 50 years old, and, my god, I have a lot to learn.

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