Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The long road "home"

4375 km.
8 states.
7 days.
1 province.


I have never before taken a road trip like this one.  When I was young, my mom and I would fly to Florida every year over the Christmas break, but we never got in the car and drove for days.

My husband, on the other hand, did take many road trips with his family and he has some fantastic memories.  I get snippets of what it was like when he tells the boys to stop complaining about being bored:
"Boys, when I did road trips with my family, we had no DVD players and I had to listen to whatever music my father chose".  My father-in-law was, and still is, a big fan of broadway music.  And now my husband is too.  Imagine the eye-rolling going on in the car when my hubby started singing along to Miss Saigon.  And that was me.

We planned every stop, had every hotel booked and made a few changes and detours on the way.

We had one day that involved 13 hours of driving, but wound up being a harrowing 19 hours on the road - with some time spent in a ditch in Minnesota.

The day started off in Wyoming where we stopped at Devil's Tower to pay homage to Close Encounters of the Third Kind.  It is a national monument, by the way, and set in a gorgeous park.




As you pass the gates of the park, if you can take your eyes off the Devil's Tower, the landscape changes from dry, flat prairie to an interesting mix of green, red and yellow.  The place is flooded with prairie dogs who will pop their heads up to watching you pass by.  There are deer and birds everywhere.



We made our way out of Wyoming and into South Dakota, where we took another detour to see another famous landmark:

Truly, a little underwhelming.

We passed through South Dakota and headed into Minnesota.  The plan was to spend 2 days at the Mall of America, but we hit a sudden snowstorm just outside of Minneapolis that sent us spinning into a highway ditch at 1am:


video

Needless to say, we are thankful we were all unharmed.
But everything happens for a reason.  My hubby took the car into a dealership later that morning and we discovered that a) the car was undamaged from the spinout; b) the filter that feeds air into the car was clogged; and c) a water hose was cracked and leaking.  If we hadn't had spun into that ditch, who knows where or when the car would have stopped when the hose gave out.  There are some neighbourhoods you don't want to be stopped in.

Overall, the trip was a lot of fun.  After days of driving, we surprised the boys with a stop in Wisconsin at Great Wolf Lodge.  And I was pleasantly surprised to discover an outlet mall across the street.

After a night in Wisconsin, we spent a night in South Bend, Indiana and made our way into Toronto the next day.

I wish I had some sage observations of the trip, but I think this wet-wipe from Famous Dave's in Indiana is sufficient:




Thursday, March 17, 2011

A wave, a smile, a nod and a great sense of loss

The packers arrived today and the house is a flurry of panicked activity.  My husband came home from Toronto a day early to help me out with everything that still needed to be done.

My obsessive need to get this house move-out ready has paid off.  The packers were very grateful to have an easy day.

Naturally, I am filled with sadness today.  For the third time in seven years, we are moving long-distance and I am tired and emotional.  Now that I can sit back and let the packers do their thing, I can deal with my feelings.  A good friend mentioned over breakfast that I was too busy to actually think about the emotional impact this move is having on me.

She was right.

I am feeling a great sense of loss.  We stumbled into this community by accident.  The house was affordable, the back lane seemed like a good place to play, and all the amenities were close by.  For 2 academic years, I commuted the boys to school in Vancouver and really did not get an appreciation of my neighbourhood.

Now that boys are going to school locally, I have daily been amazed by the camaraderie, the compassion and the comfort this community provides.

I have lived in 9 different communities over the course of my life.  I grew up in an apartment building where all the kids knew each other and played together all the time.  We knew our neighbours and our parents knew our friends' parents.  It was safe.

But since then, I have never lived in an area like the one I am in now.  Maybe they don't realize it, but the people in this hood know what makes a community.

British author Anthony Burgess said it best: "Without a sense of caring, there can be no sense of community."

So to all of you in the Sullivan/Panorama area, a huge THANK YOU!  I will miss you all terribly and I can only hope that our new community is as wonderful as this one.

And even if it isn't, thanks to all of you I am leaving with the tools I need to start building a great community.

Take care of each other.

XOXO

Friday, February 11, 2011

Skeletons in the closet

It has not been the best of days today.

First, the early morning wake-up from the boys was not welcome.

Then the crappy weather set me off to a bad start.

And we had two showings scheduled for tonight - right at the dinner hour.
I spent most of the day - save an outing to get the boys' hair cut - running around the house cleaning, making sure it was show ready.

The boys were out of their minds with boredom and I did not have the energy or the desire to engage them at all.  I truly sucked at the single parent role today.

This evening, after the boys were in bed, I decided it was time to tackle my closet and my dresser.  What started as a cathartic purging experience ended with me sitting on the bed close to tears.  Why?

Because I came across those skinny jeans that I have not been able to wear for the last 8 years.  The skeleton in my closet.

I was in love with those pants - so in love with them that I bought 3 pairs.  They moved with me from Toronto to Calgary, even though I was already pregnant with Westin and I knew it would be a while before I could wear them again. Then they moved again from Calgary to Surrey, even though I knew that my body would never be the same again after 2 kids and getting closer to 40.

But tonight, I had to let them go.  And a little part of my skinny youth died.  I know that sounds dramatic, but the last time I wore those jeans I was a completely different person.  I can remember how I felt the day I tried them on and how they made me feel whenever I wore them.  I think I sighed out loud as I put them in the garbage bag. And I am still feeling sad about them now.

As dumb as this sounds, I will never forget those jeans.  Just like I have not forgotten the fab embroidered capris that I wore to death more than 10 years ago.  It's harder to let something go when you can no longer serve it's purpose than when that something can no longer serve your purpose.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

When you really listen, people have great stories to tell

I have been blessed with the gift of listening.  My whole life, strangers have felt the need to tell me more information than I asked for.

A simple "Hi, how are you?" resulted in a cashier telling me about her 7 kids and how one of them is very ill.

But last week, a posting on Craigslist brought a really interesting man to my house.  We'll call him G.

G had answered my listing on Craigslist for free VHS movies.  He was the first to call, so he was the first in line to come and get them.  I did not imagine that 2.5 hours later I would know his whole life story, with such incredible intimacy, and I never dreamed my husband would be chummy with him.

While G browsed the movies and packed boxes, here's what I found out.


  • He lives not far from our house.  That night he was having dinner with his family at the in-laws'.  G and his brother-in-law do not get along, and his BIL was being a "goof" so G left the dinner to go home.  When he got home, he started cruising Craigslist and found the movies.
  • He grew up in Calgary and went to Queen Elizabeth Elementary.
  • His brother is an RCMP officer in the Yukon and he really wants G to join the force and move out there.
  • G just got laid off 2 weeks ago.
  • He has 3 kids and his wife is a SAHM.
  • He lives in a rancher.
  • He thinks maybe he would like to be a firefighter.
The list goes on.

But today, G is back at my house to pick up some more stuff.  And while he was here, another man showed up to buy the exercise bike we are selling.

G was kind enough to help the gentleman get the bike out of basement and into his truck.  In the process, he proceeded to talk about what has happened since we last saw him.

Today, we know that G
  • is 38 years old
  • got a 46-inch plasma TV and a pool table from Cragislist for free
  • his wife signed him up to be a volunteer firefighter
So here's where it really gets interesting.
"Really?" says the man with bike when he hears about the firefighting.
"Yeah, somewhere in Surrey", G says.
"Well, I'm a firefighter in Vancouver."

For a good fifteen minutes, I stood there listening to two complete strangers talk about firefighting.

What struck me was this random meeting between two men could possibly set G on a new course in his life.

And all because I posted something free on Craigslist.



Thursday, February 3, 2011

The countdown is on

Moving sucks.

I can say this with some authority since in the last 7 years we have moved from Toronto to Calgary, Calgary to Surrey and now we are getting ready to move back to Toronto.

But moving especially sucks when your husband moves ahead of you and you have no idea when the house you are living in will sell.  To add salt to the wound, all your family is in Toronto.

I was fine with everything until this morning, when I realized that come Sunday, I will really be missing my husband.  He has slowly been falling apart for weeks and now that he is ready to go, I can fall to pieces.

I'm not going to whine about being a single mom, because I am not.  My mom was a single mom, and I know it completely sucks a lot of the time.

I'm just going to be lonely for a while.  Hopefully, the weather will change soon and I can hang out in the back lane with the other wine-drinking moms.  I think this time I will have the biggest glass.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Laughing out loud

I recognize that humour is completely subjective and some things I find funny, others won't get at all.  What makes some people laugh, makes me angry.  But I have always had a sense of humour about myself and have been quick to laugh when a good joke is told at my expense.

For example: I was married before I  met the love of my life.  It was a bad marriage from start to ugly finish and I should never have married the guy.  But and I did and it has made me richer in a lot of ways.

The joke here was made by one of my very best friends.  I was separated from husband #1, shacked up with soon-to-be-husband #2 and pregnant with our first child.  Essentially, my good friend pointed out, I was married to one man, living with another and pregnant with a bastard child - all that was missing was the trailer.

I still laugh out loud at that one.

The legacy of my first husband was that he had me believe I was, among other things, a lousy cook.  Of all the hurtful things he said and did, this was the one that really stung, especially when criticism was delivered after I had worked hard to make dinner.

"How do you expect to ever be able to take care of a baby when you can hardly take care of us?"

Asshole.

Now that I truly am a stay-at-home mom I have had time to prove to myself that I am an awesome cook and baker.  True, some of my more daring experiments don't always work out.  My current husband has learned that if you don't like something I made, tell me.  It won't hurt my feelings, and if you pretend to like it, I am going to make it again.


On the weekend, I made a chicken pot pie that I had to hide so hubby would not eat the whole thing.  And he kept telling me how good it was, so many times in fact, that I was almost embarrassed.  The boys  loved it too which, as anyone with kids will agree, is the true test.

My kids always tell me that no one makes chocolate chip cookies as good as I do and they gobble up my tomato sauce that is loaded with pureed veggies they don't even know are there.

So even though I still have pangs of pain, the joke is on hubby #1.  I found my niche and my happiness and a family that is grateful.



Monday, January 10, 2011

Feeling stripped down

For the first time in 20 years, I was without a vehicle today. It was a strange feeling this morning when I opened the kitchen blinds and no vehicle was sitting in the driveway. Hubby had some business to take care of that required him to fly to Edmonton and the $70 cab fare to the airport was just too hard to swallow. So we decided that it would be prudent for him to take the car. He suggested we drive him there in the morning, but losing an hour and a half of sleep and waking the boys at 4:30 am to save myself from a 15 minute walk is just stupid. Today, my cheapness won out over my laziness. That is a war no-one wants to see.

I was a bit stressed out about the walk to school for two reasons.

1) My boys could whine and moan the whole way there, stressing me out even further.
2) I wasn't sure how my knee would handle the uphill climb on the way home.

Make that three reasons: 3) I could moan and whine the whole way there.

Well, the fates smiled on me today. First, the boys completely understood that we did not have a vehicle today and were actually - wait for it - co-operative. It had started to snow and it was nice to watch the boys trying to catch snow flakes on their tongues. And my knee did not squeak once on the way home. Success!

What really made me feel naked today was the absence of my blackberry - hubby had that too. Naturally, since today is Monday, it did not take long for the voicemail to fill up. I thought I would be completely lost without it. I was completely surprised to discover that not only did I not miss it, I actually had a day without disruptions.

I had time to get a large chunk of work done.

I had time to have a picnic with my youngest on the kitchen island.

I had to time to let him whoop my a$$ in Wii.

I had time to think about what a great day it has been without that little tyrant buzzing incessantly in my pocket.

And I enjoyed walking to and from school today. Thankfully one of my neighbours helped me out by picking up my youngest after kindergarten. I think this would have been a different post if I had walked to and from school six times today.

I suppose this is what it is going to be like for our leaner, greener year. I'm not loving it yet, but I'm also not looking for solace in a bag of Doritos.




Monday, January 3, 2011

A leaner, greener 2011

I have a renewed energy going into 2011. Since 2010 ended with such a pffft, I had no choice but to look ahead with a positive attitude.

To start off, on November 1st, my wonderful husband was outsourced from his job. It was an unbelievable blow to our family, since we had planned to retire from the company with a very well-padded rrsp and loads of stocks to pass on to our sons. In one afternoon, that little dreamy bubble was burst. To his credit, my husband immediately started working the phones to find new employment. After almost 2 months, he found something, but it is far from his dream job. The work will not be challenging to him and the compensation is well below what we have become accustomed to.

Leave it to a 6-year-old to find the wisdom to assess the situation: "Well, if this new job means less toys and more daddy, then I think that's a good thing." BAWL.... Of course, our 5-year-old was more practical: "I want more daddy and more toys!" Bless them.

So we have had some adjusting to do. We have been looking long and hard at our finances, which have always been somewhat of a mess. We met with our bank and re-negotiated our mortgage. Huge savings there. We are cancelling all the frivolities in our life - and the cable is the first to go. We hardly ever watch TV. Our lives and schedules just don't mix with TV listings, so we always stream the shows we like to watch over the internet. That will save us $780 per year.

When I actually sat down to make my case with my husband, I had all my numbers ready.
  • If we had to rent every episode of the top 3 shows we like, the average cost per season would be $20.00 per show, or $60 per year. I told him if we rented every episode of every Star Trek franchise (of which there were 5) it would still cost less than $700. SOLD
  • We hardly every watch TV through the week. On the weekends, we might watch for 5 hours over the course of Saturday and Sunday. If I had to estimate, I would say we watch 10 hours of TV per week. With cable, we are paying almost $20 per week (or $2 per hour) to surf channels. Our internet surfing is costing us about $12 per week (or $0.34 per hour). SOLD
In December, I started going back to the gym. After two visits, I tore the ligaments in my left knee and I was really suffering a lot of pain. The doctor told me I had to switch to non-impact exercise like an exercise bike or aquafit. GAAAAA. I have never loved aquafit, and the class times at the Y don't work for me anyways. We have a bike in the basement that is just sitting there waiting for some love. And the Y increased their monthly rates this year, so it just seems appropriate that I cancel.

Truth be told, I did not really need an excuse to cancel the Y membership. While I feel crappy about not going to the gym, I feel great about the money we will be saving.

And then I started having chest pains. The cardiologist says there is nothing wrong with my heart and I most likely experienced either a) anxiety (ya think?) or b) severe reflux from not eating properly (as in yes, I skipped breakfast again). Still, the non-heart attack was scary as hell and really made me realize I am not ready to die. I have to see my kids grow up and I have to get some life insurance.

So now January is here. We made no resolutions this year, but we are trying to trim our budget, our bodies and our carbon footprint.

We are down to one car and we are going to see how sustainable that is for our family. Digital Shoebox contracts and invoices are now completely paperless. We have tossed the junk food from the pantry. If hubby can work mostly from home, we can both walk the kids to school and plan physical activity we can do together (get your mind out of the gutter...but that would be fun too!).

2011 is going to be a lot of fun for us. I love knowing that we will be bonding more as a family. I am also getting back into my writing and getting my house in order. The boys now have their own space in the basement and I have my main floor back. I am completely stepping out of my comfort zone and trying to go without some luxuries. Vacations will be put on the back burner as will our plans to buy a vacation property. I am okay with all of it. This family has never been without the things we need and we can certainly live without some of the things we want.