4:35 PM

Everything I know about Christmas

I learned from my mom.

The joy of baking and the smell of butter, nuts, chocolate and cinnamon filling the house. That's still the smell of warmth and home-iness for me today.

The pleasure in giving those treats away in pretty packages. And trying to have some on hand by Christmas day!

And the old classics on TV; Frosty, Rudolph, Charlie Brown and The Grinch...guess they weren't "classics" then.

And learning to play carols on the piano and singing badly along.

That adding sparkle and twinkle and color to a house is partly lights and tinsel and partly the same decorations that go up year after year...many homemade and given by others and not about matching or color schemes or themes.

That wishlists are starting points and no guarantee. And they're really just a way to dream and imagine and maybe even realize how little you need.

That the hustle and bustle should be less about shopping and more about stopping in. My mom was not generally a fan of stopping in - that's my dad's domain but at Christmas there was no end of friends stopping by and Christmas Eve was about us going to friends' homes all over the place.

That Santa is more about magic than anything else. And a great motivator for an early bedtime.

And grownups still love cookies and milk.

And stockings are the best part of the gifts.

That Christmas morning is about chaos and mess and unhealthy breakfast and that's absolutely ok once a year.

And that the whole thing should be capped off by family gathered together with hospitality, laughter and thankfulness.

Merry Christmas!

7:42 PM

The Physics of Dog

How does this:

Get out of this:

(note the carabiner holding the door closed at the bottom centre)

7:46 PM

I knew I preferred road travel!

I made what was supposed to be a quick trip back to the home town for a surprise birthday party for my dad. A party for 40 friends at the legion seemed like the right thing to do for someone turning 65. It remained a surprise and was well received.

As much as I love a trip home I honestly don't ever love the pressure of getting packed, finding a spot I trust to leave the dog, asking the neighbors to watch my house and then the whole airport experience. And in the interests of time, air travel generally wins out.

Well maybe not any more.

I took my usual decongestant before boarding the plane although I felt fine. As we were landing my ears crackled, popped and then wouldn't pop and just plain hurt like a bugger. I got off the plane and assumed that my hearing etc. would all return as normal and we carried on with the million and one errands necessary to pull off the party.

By later that evening I felt like I had a cold. Nonetheless I allowed myself to be dragged out for a girl's night out aka a reminder that I am no longer 20. The day of the party I had a smidge of a hangover and still felt like a cold was coming on. Today before catching my flight my sister decided I should check with a pharmacist because I was now having bedspins at night and had one very stuffed up ear and earaches.

The pharmacist said that if I was taking decongestants and my ear still wouldn't clear I should see a doctor. Pshaw I thought but then got "the look" from my sister.

After a 2.5 hr wait at the walk in - they should be called walk in and wait, I saw a doctor who gave me a lecture including sketches on the dangers of air travel when you have injured/ruptured your middle ear membrane and prescribed some nasal spray (yuck!) to try and get my eustachian tubes to open. And a suggestion to see an ENT since this has probably happened before and will continue to happen since he thinks there is something wrong with my septum. All said as though I was an idiot who should know better.

Next up, a ton of phone calls and emails to sort out a plan b.

And a inclineation not to get on a plane again....

Also wondering...where do you get new plumbing for your head?

7:56 PM

Commercials I like

Ok total random thought tonight...maybe too much tv!

Normally I hate "feminine products" commercials but I have to say that the Kotex commercial where she asks men to go into the store to buy tampons for her is priceless. Especially the guy who offers to buy toilet paper instead.

I also love the way dude says "calms" on the Sensodyne commercial. I'm not sure he'd be my choice over Barry White for voiceovers (I have this idea that you should be able to choose the voice for telephone banking, elevators, your car etc) but it still catches my attention.

6:30 PM

Winnipeg vs Calgary; the good, the bad and the ugly

I just returned from a trip across the prairies back to my hometown of Winnipeg. It wasn't my first drive back and forth and it probably won't be the last. It was one of the tougher drives - note to self: the May long weekend can bring snow to Calgary but the rest of the prairies aren't out of the woods either!

I couldn't help but compare the two cities/provinces at times.

The good:

Calgary is green (for Calgary) but Winnipeg has it beat for just how green a city can be - loads of trees, flowers in flowerbeds and pots and green grass. (and check out that sky!)

The Wagon Wheel is open again in Winnipeg and their clubhouse and chocolate shake still beat anything I've found out here. They cook 5 turkeys every morning to make their clubs and if you order gravy with your fries it is real roast turkey gravy! The shakes are made from hard ice cream in the old school shake blenders with metal cups. Awesome. I also had charbroiled pork vermicelli from Pho No.1. It was a huge portion; nicely presented and the pork was amazing. And I think it was around $7 - a price you'd never see in Calgary for anything that size or that good.

Neighbors are often friends in Winnipeg. I know that happens here in some areas but even my dad's new, younger than him neighbors were willing to give him a hand and chat. The longtime neighbors stopped over when they saw my car in the drive and my sister was making s'mores with her neighbors around a firepit when I arrived at their house.

You can't beat the lake...the big lake. We went to Gimli and although the water was still really chilly it was a busy spot; not a surprise being about an hour from the city. And beautiful.

Kids' sports are like mini socials. The games are well attended and people chat while they watch. I had a super conversation with a mom of the opposite team's goalie at 3 on 3 hockey and had never met her before. I don't have kids in sports here but random, pleasant conversations with non-crazy strangers isn't something I've encountered in Calgary.

The bad:

The roads in and around Winnipeg still leave a lot to be desired. Particularly highway 8 to Gimli which is both narrow and rough in spots and the Transcanada which is an embarassment across most of the prairies since it is our national highway. The absolute worst spots were around Moose Jaw SK. Winnipeg also has an interesting habit of marking pavement and putting up barricades where there is clearly no construction actually happening.

Lots of rain in Winnipeg means lots of people get water in their basements. And the City says that it isn't their fault the system can't handle it. Basement flooding has been a problem in Winnipeg for as far back as I can remember my parents rushing around bailing out window wells and hooking up pumps. Torrential downpours happen often enough and the current storm sewer system can't handle them - time to acknowledge that and make some changes which should include backup systems/pumps.

Although Winnipeggers will be shocked to hear this; the increased house prices and high taxes mean that their cost of living is as high or higher than Calgary's - with lower wages. It appears that the real estate market there is still hot, hot, hot. Some things are less expensive but not nearly as many as there were 4 years ago.

The ugly:

The lower speed limits (100 on the highway when it's 110 even in SK), abundance of traffic cameras, high $ tickets and poor traffic flow (including unpredictable drivers which never seem to get pulled over) mean that driving in Winnipeg is not fun. Things may be closer and commutes shorter in distance than Calgary but driving is slow or full of lots of stops (and people stopping on yellow out of fear of those cameras) and is an exercise in frustration and surprise since you will have no idea who is about to cut in front of you, stop suddenly or change speeds randomly.

Downtown Winnipeg also feels grungy and unsafe. I parked on McDermott near Main at 11:30 a.m. and was happy to have another female leaving the parkade on foot at the same time as me. Even walking into the Lombard at Portage and Main didn't feel like the office-crowd spot that it used to and walking through the Exchange to grab a sandwich at prime lunchtime was dodgy at best. I had come to expect the drive along north Main street to be depressing but it seems to have spread right into the rest of downtown.

All in all, I had a great visit which went by way too quickly. And of course the main draw for Winnipeg that you can't beat is that Winnipeg is still home to my closest friends and family.

11:18 AM

Hello my name is...

and I have a fabric addiction...

11:38 AM

Dear Mazda

I used to love you. I loved my 1990 red miata even before you coined the slogan "Zoom zoom".

A couple of years ago I decided to try a new zippy little Mazda. I have to say it doesn't come close to living up to the 1990 miata. I'm sure you don't care but here's how you disappointed me:

It doesn't stick to the road

Hey Mazda - we have this season called winter here. And generally in winter it's pretty important that you don't slide off the road or into other vehicles. It helps if you don't hydroplane in the rain too.

It still doesn't stick to the road

After over $1300 in winter tires, the little bugger still wants to act like a hovercraft. This is not good for my nerves on my lengthy commute amongst big trucks and other vehicles not struggling to stick to the road.

It can't have a remote starter without invalidating my warranty because?

Hey when Santa calls (aka Dad) to find out about getting me a remote starter to make my winter mornings a little nicer you shouldn't tell him that unless he spends a fortune with you, this will invalidate my warranty. Especially when I paid extra for an extended warranty because I thought I would love this car forever. Paying you triple for something that is commonly sold aftermarket is just not cool - although my car is when it's -35.

Regular servicing empties my piggy bank

I know that all manufacturers may be guilty of this one but $300 for a service on a car that involves checking it over and changing the oil is pretty blatantly a cash grab.

There are not diamonds in the air in Alberta

And yet my windows have scratched like crazy. When I ask your dealer about it, the correct response should be "we'll check into it" not "hmm, that's really weird".

Opening the door with a fist should not be a well known approach

The ding on my driver's door above the handle, you know, the one that's there because someone figured out that if you punch the car there it will unlock on the 2006? Well the 2007 looks identical so guess what's been tried on mine. And you won't fix it under warranty...thanks.

My Dad's full size Buick got better gas mileage

Um, it's a little car. And it's a little zippy but not exactly ripping off the line kind of zippy. Why does it go through gas like a 12 yr old boy goes through pop?

It has a recall for what? RUST?!?

Ok, it's not even 3 yrs old. And you're calling me about a voluntary recall for rust? Seriously Mazda, WTF? My 14 yr old Ranger has one teeny tiny spec of rust and I'm not happy about that. How do you think I'm gonna feel about rust on a vehicle that I bought new for mucho dineros?

I don't know about you, Mazda, but I'm starting to feel like this relationship might not be working for me. Just sayin'...

7:56 PM

When do you know what you want to be when you grow up?

When I was little I had a book about a little girl deciding what she wanted to be when she grew up. I didn't really like the book because I couldn't really understand how she was going to decide. That should have been a sign....

I thought deciding in high school what career path you wanted to take (and therefore deciding on University or Community College or trying to talk your parents into a year off) was difficult. Then after postponing it with a B.A. what I wanted to be became kind of an ongoing decision more about how to pay the bills than what I really wanted to do.

There were some boyfriend decisions...do I want to date him? or get serious? and at a fairly young age the decision to move in together and then get married. Four years later was the biggie - the decision to separate and then after years of fighting over what little a couple of 20 yr olds can accumulate, divorce.

Shortly after that came the first big career decision involving a relocation. Out to Calgary for the first time. When the job didn't pan out and income was tight came the decision to return to school and move home. This time I was a little more focused...well, after I decided between Law, an MBA and settled on a 1 yr diploma that seemed a bit risky but with quicker payoff than multiple years in school.

Next up was the decision to relocate again. This time for love. Out to the West Coast I went; just in time for the internet/tech bust. After some job and soul searching and an illness for someone in my immediate family I boomeranged back home. A few job changes followed and a separation then another go of things romantically...rinse and repeat. (In high school I think I once claimed that nothing is irreparable...ok, I was wrong.)

There were a few job changes but I thought I'd mostly decided what I'd wanted to be in the career area, at least for a while. And I thought I still wanted to be part of a couple so then came the dating someone from work decision (not a good idea...just saying in case you wanted to avoid that choice yourself).

And with almost cyclical regularity, another relocation. This one prompted by a new husband - the decision to get married this time seeming like an easy decision since when the question was asked things seemed next to perfect. (Note to self - not being cynical, but beware of things that seem too good to be true.) And the relocation involved remaining with the same company but changing roles so kind of a double whammy on the decision front.

Once relocated there was a few months before a career change - hmm...guess I didn't know what I wanted to be yet after all!

And not too long after that huge fissures formed in the perfect facade of my partner and I faced the difficult decision about what to do next. It became first a decision to just try to hold onto myself. A decision I never thought I'd have to make again. And of course this came bundled with other decisions like keep the house? sell the house? stay out west? crawl back home? file for a protective order? install an alarm? (so if more than one orgasm in short succession is multi-orgasmic then is more than one decision in short succession multi-decisive or a multi-decision?)

I think this was when I learned that sometimes no decision is still a decision which is sometimes ok when you've already made a really big decision. So I kept the house and stayed put and just tried to get it back together with as few additional moving parts to the big decision as possible.

So of course when I was mostly pulled together it was time for....a career change! This time with less decision on my part and more hustle.

And so this brings us to now...after life not requiring a major decision for a while it seems like they've banded together to form a gaggle of decisions to once again make me think about "what do I want to be when I grow up?"

  • a mom?
  • a mom by birth more specifically? (per the nurse "at my age")
  • an out of province auntie?
  • an in province auntie, sister, daughter (possibly requiring therapy) and friend?
  • a reasonably well paid Albertan where my increases at least seem to keep pace with the high cost of living
  • resident of a province where a raise is not considered a requirement and the cost of living seems to be rising faster than the Red River in the springtime?
  • and if it's an Albertan resident, is it a more rural Albertan battling the ridiculous daily commute or a house poor city dweller close to conveniences but with much less house for more money and possibly requiring a rottweiler companion for security?
  • a single spinster homebody? (maybe then I wouldn't worry too much about the 30 day challenge and the excess of "assets" I currently possess)
  • ready to run the dating gauntlet again? (and how does this affect the first two decisions in the list?)

I really think when they start you off thinking about what you want to be when you grow up they need to be really clear that this isn't a one time decision. (Perhaps a focus on decision-making in school starting at pre-school?) And it's not just about being a doctor or firefighter or construction guy or dentist or whatever. I knew that Little Golden Book from when I was a kid oversimplified it. It's a whole frickin' host of decisions!

So guess what, just when you might think you know what you want to be when you grow up or think you're there? Life's got entirely different ideas...

10:16 PM

Catching up with the wagon

Well I've more than fallen off the wagon...I think I fell into a mega-deep pothole and then was run over while being lapped by the wagon. I've given in to cravings, to lazings and when I caught a glimpse of myself in a large mirror today I wasn't totally shocked but wow was I disappointed in myself.

So....I'm thinking that I will start a 30 day challenge. Here's the deal:

30 days of activity - min 1 hr per day
30 days of cleaning up my eating...and an attempt to battle my sweet cravings

The last few days have been good. It has helped that the weather has been great!

Friday I took the dog to the offleash and we walked for an hour - ok, he may have run some too. Saturday we went to visit another hound at the pound and stopped at a different offleash for about 35 mins. A little weak but still better than not moving at all. Today, I tried out a hot yoga class and we went back to the offleash.

So far so good...I need some help with sweet cravings and to get back to incorporating veggies in my diet - love em but seem to have lost em...

10:25 PM

Still on the uphill

5k in 41 mins 30 secs

I'm still at 2 and 1s....that's 2 min walks and 1 min runs. Next up 2 and 2s I think in another week. And more importantly a more regular gym attendance. One week between runs is too much.

10:36 PM

In with the new and out with the old?

I don't know about you but when it comes to resolutions, I rarely look back on past ones. I suspect that's because they tend to be very similar year to year. But in the interest of progress (hopefully) I thought I'd review last year's before making new ones this year.

Last year:

Get my body in better order aka Get my a** back to the gym or into some kind of exercise regime and stop eating the leftover Christmas baking. I did mention Hiphop Abs in passing previously but I was only half joking...it might be worth a shot! A subsidiary of this resolution is to get my closet in order...looks like it's time to pitch some more things and tidy up again. I also need to figure out a better way to store shoes, purses and jewellery so that I actually might use them to better advantage. Of course if the ladies from the Cityline fashion segment want to stop by and help me pull together some outfits that would be fantastic.

Get my financial house in better order - this will involve getting up the guts to speak to one or more mortgage consultants about refinancing with a better rate and shorter amortization which on paper should result in paying down the mortgage quicker as well as decreasing my payments a little. Next up, if I get a raise (which I'm supposed to so I should say "when" not "if") I should increase my RRSP contributions (which are paltry right now) since I can't contribute to a pension plan for another year and a half. And there is always the ongoing battle to pay off the credit cards. I managed not to use them for Christmas purchases so hopefully I am off to a good start. I know that you should pay them off monthly but I haven't ever managed that so that is a big goal for me.

Get my home records in better order - there is a new desk and file cabinet waiting to be put together in my office...in truth the file cabinet is part ways together but it wasn't going well so it needs to be continued. I have lots of filing to do but am hopeful that once I get started I will have a system that I can stick to.

So how did I do?

Well, I fell off the gym wagon sometime in late summer after an attempt at a boot camp. And I bought Hiphop Abs but never felt compelled to bounce around my livingroom to it.

I did kind of refinance the mortgage; I couldn't bite the bullet on the giant penalty but I did blend and extend. Essentially keeping the penalty about the same but making some better progress on the balance...minor but still some progress. I haven't done anything with RRSPs...oops I bought an old pick up truck....but it's shiny red...maybe I could retire with the truck and trailer? I did make some progress on credit cards but there is more to go.

And the filing cabinet is together but the desk is not. I'm due to go through the pile of old bills and mail and file again but there is somewhere to put it. I doubt I will ever be the most organized person in the world but hey, baby steps.

Soooooo what does that mean for this year?

Well I hauled butt at work last year and that has paid off with a new job. So one of my resolutions is to take advantage of that learning opportunity as much as possible. And at the same time try to find some balance.

Which leads to the next resolution - to not fall off the gym wagon altogether. I actually started back at the gym in late November. I even managed 3 times on the treadmill over my Christmas holidays - not stellar but better than nothing. Tonight was 5k in 43 mins. A far cry from where I was but I'm at 2.5 min walks and 1 min runs and hope to get to 2 and 1s and then start increasing my runs.

Beyond that it's to figure out what next. Am I still leaning towards a 5 yr plan with a return to the prairies? 'Cause this Easter I will have been here for 4 yrs already. Or am I starting to settle in here? And if I am, is that in this house/area or am I starting to feel ready to move? And am I happy being a party of 1 or am I going to shift my focus to being a party of 1.5? Or should I work on being a party of 2 and then 2.5?

Maybe this is the year to find the start of the next path I want to be on? And to get my bod and brain in shape to take it.