Friday, May 13, 2011

This is why I'm me

I remember being whisked off to a corporate retreat almost twenty years ago, and I was such a frigging (blessed) naive innocent that I truly believed we had been invited there to have meaningful discussions as a group, such discussions facilitated by someone from Corporate Office, who would help us see things in a new light.

OKAY, I already said I was naive and innocent.

So whatever, 12 of us ended up at the Banff Springs Hotel for three days of indoctrination (I know now), but at the time, I really thought my company was trying to help us grow as people and professionals.

Stop laughing.

So whatever, on the second day our insructor led us through some foolish exercise, which made all of us laugh a lot and we all had fun, but apparently there was a moral: "The entire team is only as strong as its weakest link."

But me, all dumb and 25 years old, really thought this was a sharing, learning experience so I said, "But that's not true! The prophet Kahlil Gibran teaches us that we can not judge the strength of the ocean based on the foam that washes up on the shore."

And I SINCERELY believed I was doing good, that I was initializing deeper philosophical conversation.

To say this did not go over well is putting it mildly.I was made to feel like a mass murderer who had just skinned a kitten so I could place the pelt on top of some three year old beauty queen. (read: NOT GOOD)

At the end of my Day of Humiliation, we had to retreat to our hotel rooms to do our homework, and share our answers with The Group on the final day. I remember neither the questions nor the multiple choice answers, but it went something like this:

1. Your employee was last seen at the staff bar, completely loaded and unable to walk unassisted, at 3:30 am. He calls in sick the next morning. You:

a) tell him you hope he had fun and get him a coffee and an aspirin
b) tell him you were at the bar, too, and thought his half naked dance on the pool table was fabulous
c) give him a gentle pat on the head, and suggest he consider rearranging his schedule so he can attend Cheap Beer Night without affecting the department
d) Write his ass the fuck up

Question Two:

2. You have given your employee direct instructions, and a purchase order, to buy photocopier paper from Company A. Instead, he orders from Company B, at a higher price, because they are going to give him a new video game console as thanks. You:

a) thank him for considering all the perks, after all you didn't KNOW about the free game system
b)Ask if he will give the game system to YOU, after all you are the department head
c) Ask if you can at least come over to his house to watch him play
d) Write his ass the fuck up.

Needless (I HOPE) to say, when I turned in my homework the next day, almost all of my answers were D. Cause,see, I answered HONESTLY, I didn't answer in the spirit of the bullshit ocean wave crap.

Did not go well.

And around Question Five, when we were sharing our answers as a group, and everyone else around me kept answering A or B, and I was the solitary D on EVERY QUESTION,a woman I (previously) considered to be my friend said, "WOW, what kind of parents did YOU have??"

EXCUSE ME?? You want to criticize me? My decision making process? My motivation? The fact that my favourite colour is purple? Fine. But what the HELL do my amazing, loving parents have to do with it??

"Well, you're just so judgemental, I figured there must be a REASON, it must be the way your parents raised you." God I hated her in that moment, and that one sentence from her lips literaly ended our friendship, and as much as I mourned the loss of April in my life, I do not and have not ever regretted it for a second. Either you get me or you don't.

You're goddamn right that's the way my parents raised me. They raised me to take responsibility for my actions, to own up to my mistakes, to celebrate myself when I do something well. What they did NOT teach me was to be a slacker or to put blame on others for things I did myself.

And I am better because of it. I am ME because of it.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

I remember

how scared I was when Husbandly One had his emergency appendectomy. I mean, yeah, in overall medical terms an appendectomy is NOTHING...but it was still "something" and it terrified me.

I thought that was the most scared I would ever be.

TURNS OUT it scares me even more when it's my fourteen year old son. Surgery shortly, wish him well.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

My Kobo is Dead

Kobo is an e-reader, like a Kindle (which is not available in Canada, in case you were wondering.)

My Kobo is currently nothing more than a $150 paperweight, and so I am taking it back to Chapters tomorrow. No, I do not have the receipt for my particular machine, but they are free to peruse my credit card records where they would see I have bought FOUR of these machines in the past six months (no, not for me, Christmas gifts).

One of four things will happen tomorrow:

1. They will fix my machine.

2. They will be unable to fix my machine, but will replace it. (The Kobo was only released in April 2010, it's not like I've had it forever.)

3. They will be unable to fix it but will offer me a newer version for just a few dollars for the upgrade.

4. They will shrug their shoulders and not give a shit.

I suspect the fourth option is the most likely....but hopefully they have learned the lesson that now defunct Borders has to teach.

I'll let you know how it turns out.

Thursday, March 24, 2011


For the last three days, I have been knitting a circular scarf. It is designed so that you can wear it as a traditional scarf OR you can double it up around your neck OR you can triple it up and then pull one layer over your head like a hood. The pattern is beautiful.

I was well, WELL past the half way mark when I decided to stop kidding myself: I had screwed up by substituting the wrong yarn, and the diameter of the thing was less than half of what it should have been. Although it technically could have fit around my neck twice, I would not have been happy about it. And making it circle my throat three times would have resulted in asphyciation related death in less than five minutes.

See, with the new wool I just didn't get gauge (the number of suggested stitches per inch.) In some countries, the concept of "gauge" is caled "tension".

Tension. Interesting word.

If I have learned anything from knitting, it is that I need to chill out and relax. If I drop a stitch? Just work backwards and pick it up again. If my gauge is wrong, just accept it, pull it off the needles and start over. Knitting teaches you patience, it teaches a Type A personality like me to just let it go. Knitting has, in all honesty, done wonders for my mental health.

Funny how even the most spectacular tension error in my knitting helps to relieve the tension in my real life.

CHanging the world, one stitch at a time...

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Walking and Chewing Gum

When I was a litle girl, I loved to dance. In cutting edge 70's fashion mode, one entire wall of our living room was mirrored, and I would put a record on the turn table and dance for hours, watching myself. And I loved to dance for company. Not only would I perform on demand when my Mummy asked me to do so for guests, I would even ask the guests if they wanted to see me dance.


My mother had been a dancer in the National Ballet of Canada when she was only a few years older than I was then. She had so, so much talent (they recruited her, she never applied) but was tragically let go from the company at age 14 when she failed to grow above 4'9". And I think that, in so many ways, my young affinity for dancing allowed her to live vicariously through me, to give her the thrills and possible success that were ripped away from her, just because she wasn't tall.

So when I was seven, she approached a local dance instructor, one with a national reputation. She explained my passion, my natural talent....and I do not doubt for a second she "name dropped" her own illustrious dance history.

And between the two of them, they clearly decided that I, who had never had a formal dance lesson in my life, should go in to an advanced class.

It wasn't ballet, it was modern dance. I remember the black leotard and the white tights. I remember that I was the youngest person in the room by several years. I remember that all those other girls knew what the mistress wanted, but I flailed around like a beached whale. I remember being confused and hating it.

I went back for a second week. And a third. But I had been placed in a class so far beyond my seven year old capabilities that I declared I hated it. My mother had a long consultation with the mistress, I'll never know what was said although I suppose the mistress probably said I just needed a more entry level class. And I further suspect that my mother just couldn't accept that I was anything less than extraordinarily gifted -- after all, she had been -- so she let me quit dance instead of putting me in a class more attuned to my grade level.

True story. And one told without bitterness, believe me. But after that experience, I gave up on trying to use my body artistically. I'm not saying I did so with a conscious decision, just that I was allowed to pursue other interests instead, such as music and singing.

Today I am 41 years old and am a soprano in one of the most highly lauded choirs in Canada. I can sing, goddamn it, and I recognize that I can only do so because at a young age I was taken from the world of dance and put in to the world of music. For this I am sincerely grateful.

Except that I can't clap.

One of the songs we are performing this spring is te 60's hit "My Boyfriend's Back", and it involves a lot of syncopated clapping with the music, while singing. Now, I have rhythm, and I can clap in time for hours if you want me to. But add SINGIG, expect me to do two things at the same time?? I look like Steve Martin in "The Jerk". My choir director, after watching all forty of us clap and sing, actually said to me (gently), "Irma, how about you keep your hands a bit lower so they're behind Ginette's back?"

Guess two or three more dance lessons back in the day may have been useful.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Dear Husbandly One

You have no idea how much I mess with you, how much I screw with you when you're asleep. (Minds OUT of the gutter, please)

I have many hobbies that you know about, but I have hidden my favourite one from you for eight years now.

I love you.

No,seriously, "I love you" is my hobby.

My greatest delight is to wait until you are deeply asleep, and then say "I love you". Be it 11:00 pm, 2:00 am, or 6 o'clock in the morning, as soon as I say those words, you mumble "I love you too". Without fail, every time. You don't wake up, mind you, and sometimes what you say comes out as "Iwuvyewtooo", but you always always always always say it.

The MOST fun times are when I'm trying to get you up in the morning.


No response, you're sleeping after all.


No response.

"Hey baby, it's time to get up, come on."

No response.

"I love you."


"Okay, c'mon babe, get up."

No response again.

I love that part. Well, actually I love every part of everything about us, but your subconscious reply to me has to be my favourite.

Well, except for the times that your "Iwuvyewtoo" is also accompanied by your arms reaching up for me blindly. THAT, that is my favourite part.


Monday, March 7, 2011

Dear Brian

Bad news, honey. Yesterday the roof in our garage was leaking, and your step father and I spent quite a bit of time staring at the ever darkening ceiling, wondering what exactly we were supposed to do to stop it, to keep the water from entering the rest of our home. We poked a few holes in it where it was bulging, watched the water stream out, and hoped for the best.

We were so discouraged, darling, discouraged in a way that a fourteen year old could never understand. You see, it was only eight months ago that our aging roof was replaced. Unfortunately, we just didn't have the money to pay a contractor, and so Husbandly One hired a guy who "had done" roofing, went to Home Depot, spent a few thousand dollars on materials, and then he and this young man climbed a ladder to rip off our old roof and hopefully replace it with something better.

For the two hottest weeks of the summer of 2010, your step father and this man worked hard, every day, to give us a new and better roof. They worked to protect us.

As you know, the snowfall in our area this winter is the highest it has been in recorded history. A few weeks ago, Husbandly One went on the roof to shovel it off, and it was five feet deep. Think about that, Brian: the snow on our roof was almost as tall as you. He shovelled off everything he could, and we hoped for the best.

Yesterday, on a suprisingly warm March evening, I suddenly turned to Husbandly One and said, "What's that noise??" He couldn't hear it yet, but he knows that women often hear noises that men simply can not, and we both wandered around the house, trying to pinpoint the noise that had awakened my "Danger" impulse.

Then we opened the door to the garage.

And saw water pouring from the ceiling in a dozen different spots.

We ran for buckets, we ran for garbage cans, and then Husbandly One went up in to the attic to see what was going on. For two hours, he filled buckets of water in the attic and passed them down to me in the garage so that I could dump them in to a garbage can.

And finally he said, "That's it babe, there's nothing more we can do, let's go to bed."

So we crawled in to bed, but neither of us slept for a long long time, thinking about the damage to our home, the money lost...around 1 am, I finally heard Husbandly One sleep, but I kept watch.

At 2:30am, I heard a noise like nothing I had ever heard in my life, but I immediately knew what it was and I sat bolt upright in bed. Husbandly One was too deeply asleep to hear it, but he did feel me sit up.

"Wha issssh it?" he mumbled.

"The garage ceiling just collapsed."

We got up, and, with a lantern, went to check the damage. The ceiling had indeed collapsed, we couldn't even open the door all the way due to pieces of the ceiling hanging in our way. We thrust the lantern in to the darkness as well as we could, and finally Husbandly One said, "Well babe, there's nothing we can do about it right now. Let's go to bed. What's done is done."

We did go back to bed, but I lay awake unitl past 4:30 this morning, all I could think was, "The Christmas ornaments, the Christmas ornaments, the Christmas ornaments, the Christmas ornaments."

My dear son, perhaps someday you will read this letter. Perhaps you will be a grown man by then, and you will have forgotten how much you treasure those ornaments, how you force me EVERY YEAR to take pictures of each and every one of them in case something happens to them. You, like me, equate these silly baubles with our family history. Each and every ornament on our tree holds a story, each bears witness to who we are as a family.

And I left the fucking things in my garage, in a fucking cardboard box.

Today, when I got home from work, I immediately went in to the garage, dodging hanging sheets of pink insulation, hoping more drywall wouldn't fall on my head, camping lantern in hand as we clearly can not turn on the light in the garage. The water on the floor was almost two inches deep, but thank GOD no more was coming from the ceiling.

And then I saw the reason I went in to the garage in the first place, our Christmas boxes. I tried to pick the first one up, but the bottom gave way and so I came back to the house to get a baking sheet. I slid the metal tray under the box, and was able to bring it in to the house. Then I went back in for another one. And another one. And another one.

Let me be clear about this darling: all of our camping gear is ruined. So are my skis, so is our outdoor furniture, so are a million other things.

But I saved your ornaments.

I spent hours tonight, wiping off each one, then carefully tying them to hangers so I could hang them to dry in my craft room. My closet is now full of our memories, they are strewn across the spare bed, they are sitting on racks in the kitchen, they are hanging from the shower curtain, they are hanging from the curtain rod in our living room. I will not allow one single memory, one single story, one single laugh, to disappear in the face of this crisis. These things are YOURS and I will safeguard them for you.

Darling Brian, I will not tell you that no one will ever love you more than I do, after all I can not measure how your future spouse or children may feel, I admit they could conceivably love you "more" than I do. But darling kitty cat, I am your mother, and no one else will ever love you the WAY your Mummy loves you.