Thursday, January 29, 2009

And Now For Something Completely Different

I've been writing some pretty long-winded posts lately. So let's try something new. Let me see if my readers can look over this one without having to wonder if they should go get a snack first.
It shouldn't be too hard. Rosemary's Baby has just walked in wearing no pants and carrying a pork shoulder from the fridge. Sitting here much longer would be like inviting him to burn down the house. I know, I say that like it's a bad thing...
My picture today is of my "new" baker's rack. I'm pretty excited about it because it replaces an old wood shelf originally intended for use in the garage. It is a hand-me-down (along with two other bookcases) from my friend, the Lawyer, and her husband, who works with the Captain. They're moving out of their house on base and were going to put it on the curb.
I've given away my fair share of stuff, but I've also acquired some pretty great scores from friends and it's gotten me thinking about not only the environmental advantages of losing one's inner snob and diving into the world of used goods, but also the financial.
In the current economy, we could all benefit from tightening the belt a little. Even when the economy is good, don't we really have better things to do with our money? Well, I do. So I'm encouraging everyone I know to lower their standards slightly and consider the occasional second-hand treasure hunt.
Sister #1 emailed the other day and said she'd had her very first consignment shopping experience, found some great clothes for her girls for a great price, and was now hooked. I wouldn't call Sister #1 a snob, but she's never been one to get as excited as I do about someone else's old handbags or crafting supplies. So I figure, if she can get on board with this, so can the rest of humanity!
So, to keep it brief, my tips are as follows:
1. Garage sales are the best places to find things for next to nothing, but they require inordinate amounts of digging.
2. "Clothing Bin" stores are a close second, but I've only ever seen those in the Maritimes, so the air fare incurred if you live anywhere else would cancel out your savings.
3. Value Village and the like are great, especially if you live in a big city. My Holt Renfrew cashmere blazer came from a Village des Valeurs in Montreal for a thrilling $7, and whenever the kids are pushing me to the brink of sanity, I lock myself in my bedroom, slip that blazer on and repeat the following mantra: "eventually they'll grow up and move out."
4. Consignment stores are a little more expensive, but they don't take junk, so there's far less digging to be done. Again, if you live in a large-ish city, consignment stores can be your friend.
5. If you're considering buying underwear or deodorant at a garage sale, your standards have dropped just a little too low.
I have yet to try antique stores or a swap party. The latter intrigues me to no end, but what group of friends out there all wear the same size?!! And don't forget freecycling and flea markets!
This still seems a bit long-winded, but what can I say? I'm saving the environment and the economy. That's got to count for something, right?!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

When it Rains, it Pours

Last night, the Captain came home and got to work on the washing machine. We've had an ongoing issue with the whole thing shutting down at the point where it should be draining. The Captain says the pump's wearing out. After 3 years of moderate use, followed by 5 years of heavy use (remember, I've been doing a dozen cloth diapers a day since Firstborn was a wee little thing. And not cleaning out the drain filter. Allegedly.), the poor washing machine is coming to the end of its lifespan.
Usually, turning it off and on again will fix the problem, and when it doesn't, there's a connection just underneath that we can wiggle. But yesterday, neither of those things worked. After some time (and some swearing), the Captain was ready to give up. In a moment of mild frustration, he gave the bottom of the machine a little kick. And voila! We have drainage again!
So, while we search out a deal on a new washing machine, we figure there are a few loads left in the old girl. And this would just be one of those things that happens from time to time if it wasn't for everything else.
And by everything else, I mean EVERYTHING else. I don't know what on earth is going on around here, but all of a sudden lately, everything is giving up the ghost.
Here's the lowdown:

The Vacuum Cleaner: We actually had two vacuum cleaners until just before Christmas. The Captain, in a rare mood to clean, decided to give the living room a once-over while he was home on leave. He plugged the old upright into an outlet we had not yet used (installed during the ill-fated kitchen renovation) and turned the thing on. It was immediately apparent from the screaming noise coming from the old vacuum that something was wrong. The Captain fiddled with it a bit and then shrugged his shoulders, concluding that it was ten years old and bound to die at some point. Luckily, we also had a Shop Vac. So, out to the workshop he went, brought that in, plugged it into the same outlet, to have the exact same thing happen. After some messing around with the electrical box downstairs, he realized that our new electrical outlet was wired up for way too much power. And now we were down two vacuum cleaners.
So, we waited for a sale and ordered another one. When it arrived, the Captain pulled it out and proceeded to set it up, only to find that a caster on the bottom was broken. We called Sears to see if we could get the part sent, but they determined that the better option was for us to box the whole darn thing back up and take it to our delivery place for a straight exchange. So, the vacuum is half in the box and we're just waiting for a call to say the new one is ready for pickup. It kind of seems like an awful lot of trouble for one broken wheel...

The Mixer Bowl: On Saturdays we have a little tradition we like to keep up. I make pizza and we watch the hockey game. Well, Rosemary's Baby broke our fourth TV antenna (yes, that's broken too!), and we're kind of holding out, in hopes he'll stop breaking things, before we buy another one. So, we really don't see too many games these days, but that's no reason to stop making pizza. This past weekend, I went about my usual pizza-making routine. The dough was happily kneading in the stand mixer, and I, for some inexplicable reason, decided I'd head into the bathroom to shine up a pair of boots. About 2 minutes into that, I heard an almighty crash and the Captain yelling some things I won't repeat. I ran back into the kitchen to find that the mixer had made its way to the front of the counter and toppled off, pulling the plug right out of the wall and bending the prongs. Miraculously, our extremely expensive mixer was fine. The bowl, not so much. There is a large, jagged crack from top to bottom and several chunks broken off the sides. A replacement will cost $60. Yes, I said $60. FOR A PLASTIC BOWL! In the meantime, I have electrical-taped it back together and I am now required to hold it in place while any mixing or kneading is happening. That's what I get for trying to multi-task.

The Car: We continue to be driving around with no front turn signals or daytime running lights. The less said on this, the better.

The Bathroom Light: This is not exactly broken, but when the weather warms up (or, here in Manitoba, milds up), it starts dripping condensation. Our house, built by a farmer in 1967, should really just be knocked down. One day I'll tell you all about the feminine hygiene products Thelma and I found inside the walls. No, I'm not kidding.

The Coffee Roaster: I think perhaps I've mentioned before the Captain's penchant for roasting and grinding his own coffee. While he was away this fall, the old roaster burned out. Since the Captain was in the States at the time, he found himself a good deal and ordered a new deluxe roaster. When he brought it home, it, too, was broken. Since then it's been a series of emails with the seller about how to fix it. Now we have a new one on its way. I hope. Because since November, I've been roasting half a cup of green coffee beans a day in a popcorn maker. If I cared about coffee, I might not mind. But every time I pull the air popper out and watch the mess of coffee-chaff cover my kitchen counter, hear the smoke detector go off from the blowing heat, and have to listen for insignificant cracking sounds to indicate my coffee is sufficiently roasted, I also have to restrain myself from running in here and blasting off a cranky email to the Captain at work asking why on earth we can't just buy ground coffee in a can like normal people?!

The Stove: This is one of those things where you get what you pay for. We bought our stove at the Calgary Sears Outlet. Who knows why it ended up there, but whatever was wrong with it, it never really got fixed. For years, we have been woken up at 3AM on the occasional random evening to hear it beeping. Sometimes we have to go downstairs and flip the breaker because it suddenly decides it isn't working. This always resets it and we go about our business as usual. This weekend, we discovered a strange phenomenon we've never encountered with it before. It's not exactly a problem, just a new weird quirk. On Sunday, I made oven fries. I set the temperature to 500 degrees fahrenheit. High heat in the oven does sometimes cause funny little twitches on the burners. Little beeps or unrelated lights going on and off at random. But this time, something new has happened. Something lasting. Our oven, all of a sudden, has switched from fahrenheit to celsius. We've had the thing for 5 years and we never had any idea it could recognize celsius. As far as I can remember, the instruction manual doesn't mention anything about this, so I have no idea how it happened. However, since we live in Canada, being able to convert fahrenheit to celsius is actually a handy skill to have, so I'll consider it one of those situations where I've been forced to learn something and leave it at that.

The TV: Well, this has been on its way out for a while. It still hasn't died completely, but we're just waiting for one big poof, and bye-bye TV. We have a small portable downstairs, and we actually watch most of our TV on the Captain's laptop these days, so the only people really affected when the old monstrosity finally gives out will be Firstborn and Rosemary's Baby, and they can just head downstairs to their playroom to watch the other one when it does happen. The Captain has proclaimed that there will be no expensive TV purchases made in this house until Rosemary's Baby stops trying to hug Barney through the screen. I'm inclined to agree with him on that one. It's amazing how fast you can get used to having no TV, or watching it on a tiny screen.

And I guess, for now, that's it. I've probably forgotten several things, but I'm starting to depress myself thinking about how much all of this is going to cost. The moral of the story is to live with as little as possible. That way, if it does all break at the same time there's not that much to replace. That said, living without say, a stove or washing machine is a bit primitive, even for us.
I'll let you know how I feel after I've had to spend 3 weeks washing all our clothes and diapers by hand in the kitchen sink.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The Big Five-Oh!

I've never looked forward to January. It's always just been a fact of life for me that after Christmas there's this period of dull, dreary life-apathy until Easter rolls around. Sure, there are a few little breaks. I make resolutions to try to keep me motivated through the new year. Then Valentine's Day is here and I have an excuse to make chocolate fondue, or heart shaped vegetable patties for the Captain's dinner. St. Patrick's Day is always fun. But really, overall, it's like this long, miserable slog to spring. Well, not anymore!
If there's only one thing I've learned from the native Manitobans I've met since moving to this freezing ice patch, it's that you have to just make the best of winter and use it to your advantage. Does this mean I'll be taking up skiing, snowboarding and ice fishing this winter? Perish the thought!!
I am a hibernator. The lack of sunlight and fresh air is probably part of the problem. So, yes, I'll attempt to get out more. But what I'm really talking about is creating more reasons to celebrate.
The Captain and I celebrate our birthdays just a couple of weeks apart in the summer, and our anniversary falls smack in between. Firstborn was a September baby and Rosemary's Baby came around shortly before Christmas. As a result, we have no birthdays to celebrate right at the time of year when we need to pack in all the celebrating we can. So I've devised an occasion that I think is nothing less than inspired. I call it the "Half Birthday."
Today is the Captain's half birthday. He is exactly halfway between his last birthday and the next one. Now, I see no need, in this economy, to go overboard with gifts and full-sized cakes and whatnot. But a few chocolate cupcakes never hurt anyone. If anything, they create just enough goodwill to be considered a health food.
I also have another small, personal victory to celebrate. Today marks my 50th post. Who knew way back in September that this wasn't just another of my whims, destined to be set aside and forgotten after only a few posts?! I'm actually more passionate about blogging now than I was 50 posts ago! At this rate, I may end up writing a book! Alright, I'm getting crazy. But 50 posts is still a pretty good reason to celebrate.
So those cupcakes I was talking about yesterday (which turned into bran muffins when I realized the effect of cupcakes 2 days in a row on my waistline--see photo above), will be made today. And frosted. And Firstborn will make up a Half Birthday song for us to sing to the Captain. And we will get through another day of winter unscathed. It's all good.
As for the rest of winter, my half birthday will come the day after Valentine's Day (both of which I'll be celebrating with the kids while the Captain gallavants around France. Okay, he'll be stuck in some godforsaken French field ordering someone to shoot something, without even a day off to go buy me a classy souvenir or take a shower. Still. He'll be in France.). Firstborn's half birthday is a few days after St. Patrick's Day. And by the time we celebrate Rosemary's Baby turning 3 1/2 it'll be time to get the garden put in and we'll be home free. It's the perfect plan!
So, stick around for my next 50 posts. Between the mess, chaos and mayhem around here, I should have enough material to keep me blogging until my laptop dies.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Three Years Later

Today is an anniversary of sorts. Not one I necessarily pull out the cupcakes for (that'll happen tomorrow. Stay tuned!), but an anniversary to be marked nonetheless. Three years ago today, we arrived in Manitoba.
When we left New Brunswick--gorgeous, beautiful, temperate New Brunswick--we were experiencing a particularly warm period, considering we'd just passed mid-January. When we arrived at our hotel in Maine, we were wearing sweatshirts. In retrospect, we were incredibly lucky with the weather and driving conditions. A road trip across Canada (and a few of the more northerly American States) is not something you'd usually want to do in the dead of winter.
As we continued to make our way west, the air temperature got steadily lower, and by the time we made it to North Dakota, we were driving in a white-out. All the Captain had to help him stay on the road were the taillights of the transport truck in front of us. When they closed the main Interstate, we had to follow that truck onto a back road, where we discovered that winter driving is as much a matter of finding religion as it is finding the yellow lines.
When we flopped, exhausted, onto the bed at our motel in Fargo, my purse got knocked over and emptied. The Captain, who likes to read about gross things on the internet, then insisted we pull the top bedspread off the bed before we did anything else. The result of these two things happening one after the other was ten minutes of me thinking I'd dropped my wallet back at the diner in Wisconsin, calling said diner, and trying to formulate a way to get back across the border without any ID when they told me they hadn't found it. Then it turned up under a pillow, narrowly averting an impending aorta explosion in the Captain's chest.
But the food! If there's one thing the Captain is great at, it's planning a road trip around the greatest eats our route has to offer. From the fried haddock at the Maine Diner, to the delicious caramelized onions on the burgers at White Hut, to the Steak N' Shake's milkshakes, that trip will live in my memory for all eternity. If there's only one thing you get from reading my blog, let it be this: do not EVER pass through Syracuse, New York without stopping at Dinosaur Bar-B-Que!!
And then we crossed back into Canada. Firstborn, who'd been suffering from a fever the entire trip, needed a diaper change, so we stopped at the first rest area we could find. I hopped out of the car to be hit with the most chilling wind I'd felt in years. There was no doubt about it. We were in Manitoba.
But I was going to make the best of it. I'd loved living in New Brunswick so much, the beautiful autumn colours, the user-friendly base we'd been living on, and the easy neighbourliness of Maritimers. Firstborn and I had started taking walks to the store, the library and the park shortly after we'd gotten there. He was an only child for most of our stay, and it had been the happiest time of my life. I was sad to leave, but life is what you make of it.
When we got to the base, two hours after crossing the border, my optimism was fading. The snow, the barrenness of this province, and the frighteningly run-down state of the nearest communities to our new base didn't inspire a lot of confidence. And when we pulled into the main gates to find no grocery store, no library, and a street that seemed like a ghost town (a huge number had just deployed to Afghanistan), it was all I could do to keep from crying.
It turns out that in the unlikely event a military family is posted to a new base in winter ("posting season" is usually May through August), it's best if they don't have an eight-week old baby in tow. Rosemary's Baby was the easiest baby in history (because he was saving it all up for toddlerhood), but the hormones he left coursing through my veins did not mix well with everything else that was going on at the time. Let's just say the next two months were hell and leave it at that.
But then the sun came out and the snow melted. I'd made a couple of friends and suddenly there we were, me, Firstborn and Rosemary's Baby hitting the park again. We found a house to buy. It was exactly what we'd always wanted. Space for kids and dogs. Privacy from prying eyes (not that we have anything that exciting going on, but military bases do attract their fair share of busybodies). A huge garden for the Captain.
And now here we are three years later. We have a few good friends, a house we love, a great school for the kids, home-grown vegetables and fruit, and dogs who no longer look like they belong at fat camp.
I still look back on New Brunswick fondly. But it turns out that life really is what you make of it. If the Captain came home today and told me he'd been posted someplace else, I'd be just as sad to leave as I was three years ago. Life in Manitoba is just fine with me.
Maybe I'll make those cupcakes after all.

Friday, January 23, 2009

TGIF, Indeed!

I've said it before and I'll say it again. I don't know how you working mothers out there are doing it!
Today, I had a solo trip into Booming Metropolis. The Captain had a little more leave to burn before beginning the insanity that is the work-up to deployment, so he took this week off and was, therefore, home with the kids. I don't know why I never learn, but these solo trips always loom large for me as something akin to a spa day. I picture myself having a leisurely drive into the city, coffee in hand, running a few errands, shopping, lunching with a friend and coming home renewed and relaxed.
Here's the real story.
My 45-minute drive into Booming Metropolis was, I admit, uneventful. But that's only because out here in the middle of nowhere, we don't see many cops on the roads. If we did, I'd probably have gotten a ticket. The car is broken right now. Very broken. Both front turn signals are out, as well as the daytime running lights. Our local mechanic can't fix the problem, which means it isn't anything as simple as the bulbs or fuses. We have it booked in at the dealership next week for what we expect to be a horrendously expensive repair. For now, we are driving as little as possible, but we were in desperate need of a big grocery run, which is why I took the chance and drove it today.
Arriving safely in Booming Metropolis, I went about the business of running those few little errands, mostly without incident. And then I went to the Superstore.
The Superstore, if you're not familiar, is one of those places where you trade your personal space and relative sanity for some great grocery deals. The place was wedged. I wanted to shriek "Why aren't you people at WORK?!" but I was afraid they'd ask me the same thing. And, honestly, I don't have a satisfactory answer.
So, I steered my cart carefully through the store, waiting patiently for the irritatingly oblivious to compare shampoo labels while their carts stood in the middle of the aisle, blocking all movement for the rest of us. I chose my aisles carefully, knowing if I went down this one or that, I may find myself trapped there for 15 minutes or more. And I grabbed at things as I moved past the displays so as not to stop the flow for the people behind me. It wasn't shopping nirvana, not by a long shot.
One embarrassing visit with some male pharmacy workers, six missed items on my list, and two broken bags in the bulk foods section later, I'd officially had enough. By this point, my cart was overflowing and almost impossible to push through the aisle, let alone around the corner. This is the danger of living so far outside of the city. When you do go in, you have to make it count. So I found the first open checkout line and proceeded to unload my stuff.
The scanner wouldn't recognize any of the store's own coupons, so I didn't save a quarter on toilet paper, the debit machine hadn't been working properly all morning, so I had to try three times, and I had so many groceries that now I was the one holding everyone else up. All the while, I kept repeating my mantra. "At least the kids aren't with me."
But it doesn't end there. After paying my heart-stopping $350 grocery bill, I heaved my unmanageable, brimming cart through the snowy parking lot, stopping every thirty seconds to pick up boxes of bran flakes and tubs of ice cream as they slid off the bottom rack. I stood in minus 30 degree winds and loaded my haul into the hatch of the car, at which point my bulk bag of popcorn split open. And then, finally finished, I returned my cart to the cart corral. Except my coin wouldn't come out. It was jammed.
Now, if it was just a loonie, at this point I'd have cut my losses and gotten the hell out of there, swearing never to return, even if maple baked beans WERE on for 50 cents a can. But I had one of those cart keys. They were some sort of charity promotion. They cost $8 and they fit onto your keychain so you'd never be without a coin for a cart again. So, into the store I went, where I was informed irritably, by the most unfriendly store greeter I've ever met, "I can't help you with that. You'll have to go to Customer Service."
The lady there was more pleasant, but she couldn't help me either. After a few minutes of trying to jam the thing out, she said the best she could do was give me a loonie. So long, cart key. It was fun while it lasted.
When I did finally pull out of that parking lot, driving even slower than usual due to the fact that no one in front of me could tell what on earth I was planning on doing, I felt like I'd just finished a full eight-hour shift at Taco Bell. I'm pretty sure I smelled like it too.
When I pulled back into my driveway, praising the gods for not letting me t-bone the car, I promised myself I wasn't venturing any further than the compost heap for at least a week. And then, joy of joys, the Captain appeared to help me lug everything in. Good old Captain.
But of course, I'd forgotten something. Good old internet banking. Luckily, the Captain was happy to remind me.
"I've come to see what $350 worth of groceries looks like."

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

A Couple of Projects

It may be unnecessary to mention this, but these projects are completely unrelated.
We attended a birthday party for a one year-old on the weekend, and I've taken to knitting gifts for babies lately. I don't know. Those boxes full of little plastic bits and pieces that take the parents an hour just to unpack leave me a little uninspired. Plus, I worry that someone else will come with the same thing, and I never remember to get those gift enclosures you're supposed to ask for at the cash register. If I make something, I know they're getting something unique, even if they're too little to care. So, I made Po, the littlest of the Teletubbies. Rosemary's Baby seemed pretty interested, so I should really make one for him too, as soon as I can catch my breath.
My other project was to make 75 wedding invitations for Sister #4. This is why I am out of breath. It really was enjoyable, but boy I wouldn't want to do it for a living. I had so much fun using my awesome new Cuttlebug to emboss the front flaps, and the back of the invitation, envelope flap and response card all have a flower stamped in blue (all from Stampin' Up) to tie them all together. My sister is marrying a U.S. Marine and fell in love with a design on an invitation website. The price, of course, was scandalous, so we set about making something with a similar picture, but for a fraction of the cost. I mounted the drawing onto a slightly larger blue circle, then onto a white scallop circle I punched using a Stampin' Up punch, attached ribbons and voila! Multiply that by 75 and you'll know why my back hurts.
Anyway, I will follow up with a real post in the next day or so. Between the projects and the ongoing craziness of life, I'm a little pooped! Bear with me.

Friday, January 16, 2009

When the Temperature Dips Below -50, It's Time for a New Handbag

Here in Southwestern Manitoba this week, the weather has been a little...chilly. Yeah, yeah, I know. We've all been feeling it. Every time I log onto my facebook page, I read more status updates about -25 -this and ice-and-snow-that. Well get this. Yesterday morning, out here in the middle of nowhere, with the wind chill, we hit -52 degrees celsius. Do you know what that feels like?! Poor Rusty took one tentative step out the back door for her morning pee and immediately started limping. I'm taking this to mean it's okay to start dressing my dogs in coats and booties.
Now, don't get me wrong, I hate competition, so I'm not pooh-poohing the rest of you (wimps) who are also not enjoying the typical bitter Canadian January temperatures, but it's been extremely cold here. When this happens, the kids get a touch of cabin fever (Rosemary's Baby poured a jug of Kool-Aid down the back of the TV set. Perhaps it's time to involve a child psychologist...) and I'm a bit antsy myself. I need something to do at all times. This is prime comfort eating/dressing/shopping time for me.
So, between planning my groundbreaking novel (FYI, my novel has been in the "planning" stage for about 20 years, so don't hold your breath), complaining about how cold I am to anyone who will listen, and eating various canned goods from last year's garden, I've also been doing a little thinking. And a little online window shopping.
I've come to the conclusion that the best reprieve from the miserable, freezing bleakness of winter is a colourful handbag. Now, I know I said (in writing) a while back that I was going to behave myself and start enjoying the bags I already own. And I know that I also resolved to clear the clutter around here just a couple of weeks ago. But things are getting desperate, people! Despite forecasts of blissful, balmy highs of -1 this weekend, and--dare we dream--PLUS 6 on Monday (can you hear the angels singing?!), I'm pretty sure a sensibly-sized purse in a bright shade of blue or green leather (or pleather. I'm not that picky) is the only thing that will keep me going until we've seen the last of the snow. I've come across some gorgeous creations online (but I wouldn't pay $1500 even if I had it), as well as some very nice bags in the $30 range during a recent trip to Zellers. And like every other necessity that's popped into my mind during one of these cold spells, this is the absolute last thing I'm going to need in order to make my world complete! Really!
Alright, perhaps shopping isn't the answer. Eating certainly isn't the answer, since the extra roll around my middle from Christmas isn't keeping me any warmer. So how on earth do I go about staving off the doldrums that inevitably set in once the holidays are over and we still have 3 more months of winter to contend with? Sigh.
Better get working on that novel.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

John Gray's Next Book Should Be "Mars vs. Venus: World War III"

Back in the day, before we were married, the Captain and I did a lot of bickering. Those of you who know us might find it funny that I speak in the past tense here. We still bicker. Lots. But back then, it was way out of control. I'm pretty sure there were several tables at our wedding where bets were being placed on how long we'd last, and I doubt anyone today is collecting on their optimistic wager of "over a decade".
Early on, we found a book that we liked. It was called Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus and it was written by a self-help guru named John Gray Ph.D. In later years, we would be disappointed to discover that the Ph.D. portion of his title came from an unaccredited university, that he lived a good chunk of his life as some sort of new-age monk, and that John Gray was, in general, not the sort of Ph.D.-holder we were looking for to save our relationship. But for those first blissfully ignorant few years, we thought the book made sense and attempted with all our might to incorporate it into our daily lives.
The Captain and I love a good road trip, and we took quite a few before the kids and dogs made the whole thing a little more trouble than it was worth. During one such trip through the Smoky Mountains, this book became rather a point of contention. We were trapped together in the car for hours at a time, and we both did and said a great many things that irritated the other. Neither of us thought our partner in life was keeping up his end of the bargain according to John Gray, and after the car overheated and a water pipe burst at the top of a mountain, sending us both (figuratively) over the edge, we coined a new, angry phrase, which was " READ THE F#%*ING BOOK!!!" We can laugh about it now, but at the time I think we were both contemplating a murder-suicide.
Somehow, over the years, we've kind of grown up and mellowed a bit. We've figured out how to deal with each other and how to avoid setting each other off. We've miraculously lasted longer than many, against all odds it would seem. And yet sometimes we still fall into those old patterns and end up bickering about me wanting to go into Booming Metropolis while he stays home with the kids, or him wanting to set up his entire spring planting operation in our bedroom (yes I'm serious, and the grow lights go on at 5AM). But I guess that's the nature of any relationship. No two people can keep up the perfectness 24/7, and thank goodness.
How else would the likes of John Gray Ph.D. stay in business?

Friday, January 9, 2009

Oh Captain, My Captain!

This one's going to be short and sweet. I know that's a little ironic considering I've already been MIA for the better part of a week now, but look what the Captain bought me!! Yes, it's a Cuttlebug!!
The Captain is funny about the whole Christmas gift-buying thing. If he knows I want something but I don't ask him for it, he'll go out and buy it for me, all excited and pleased with himself because he knows it will be a fun surprise. But if I make the mistake of actually mentioning that I want something (or, say, listing it right in my blog), for him the fun kind of dissipates and he doesn't bother, preferring to think of something else all by himself. So I wasn't surprised when I didn't find the Cuttlebug sitting under my Christmas tree, what with the fact that I've brought it up, oh, 245 times a week for the last year. But this week, it went on sale for a fantastic 50% off at Michaels, and in a convenient coincidence, I'm also in the midst of making 75 wedding invitations for Sister #4. It's like the gods WANTED me to have it!
So, tonight, on the last day of the sale, the Captain (that sweet, silly, grouchy man-child) drove a good hour out of his way and bought me my Cuttlebug and 2 embossing folders. Naturally, I've spent the entire evening playing with it. I had to take a break because after embossing everything I could get my hands on, I found myself wondering what would happen if I put some less orthodox materials in there. The tax forms, the curtains, the dog's tail...
Anyhow, I think it's safe to say I may be busy with my new Cuttlebug for the next few days, but I'll try to take breaks to report on my progress.
And, you know, feed the children.

Sunday, January 4, 2009


The thing about New Year's resolutions (for me, anyway) is that I wake up on January 1st, make some dramatic proclamations about eating healthier or cleaning up this pigsty once and for all, and begin my year with a clean, crisp idea of what will be achieved. And often, I do accomplish these things. But it's the two or three days after New Year's Day that kind of do me in. After I've picked the goals for the year that are important to me, a few more start creeping into my head and I mentally add those as "unofficial" New Year's resolutions. Then I add a couple more. And before you know it, my head is spinning with all the things I have to pull off over the coming year. One came to me today after I read a prompt on this blog. Check it out--it's very cool.
Last spring, I had a car accident. In the past, I've scratched the truck trying to get it through the back gate, and I did have one fender-bender early on in my driving career, but this was nothing like those accidents.
The Captain was miraculously home that day. He was on a week of leave between a month-long exercise and a 2-month-long course. So Rosemary's Baby was home with him, and Firstborn was at nursery school. I still look back on this in wonder and amazement, since the route I took that day would, 99% of the time, find both kids in the car with me. If I could pick out one day of my life where God stood up and proved his existence to me, this would be it.
I was driving to a doctor's appointment, down a rural, unpaved road with a speed limit that I now consider dangerous and ridiculous. I was doing 10 km/hr over that limit because I was running late and panicking about it. After rounding a curve, something happened. I may have hit a pothole (the condition of that road is routinely atrocious), or I may have just turned the wheel a little too hard on the curve. I don't know. What I do know is that I was driving too fast. The back end of our Hyundai Elantra started to fishtail. I tried to steer my way out of the problem, but I overcorrected and the wheels locked. At 100 km/hr, my car spun 180 degrees onto the gravel shoulder, then rolled a full 360 degrees, landing on its now completely flat wheels into the ditch. When the car rolled, amid the smashing of glass and flying around of everything inside the car, I could feel my seatbelt holding me in securely. It didn't completely protect me from a nasty bump to the head that left me mildly concussed for about a week, and with neck pain for a good month afterwards, but considering I hear about similar accidents killing people my age and younger almost every weekend, I commend my seatbelt on a job well done.
To make a long story short, I walked away (with the help of a lovely couple who turned out to be related to my next-door neighbour. Small world!) with a few cuts and bruises, most of my belongings were thrown from the vehicle, the car was absolutely totalled, and the Captain was none too pleased with me once it was determined that I wasn't dead or dying.
Since that time, I've noted 2 things about this incident. The first is the friendliness of Manitobans. That route is not a busy one at all. It is used mostly by military members who live a few miles off base, and by local farmers. I was stuck by the side of the road for about an hour while the Captain dealt with the insurance people for me, and I'd estimate about 20 cars came by during that time. Though I was, at this time, just pacing by the side of the road waiting for things to happen, clearly unhurt and not needing medical attention, not one car that passed me just kept on going. Every single one of them stopped to see if I needed assistance. I can think of a few major cities in North America where I'd have been more likely to get mugged.
The second thing that struck me about this accident is WHY it happened. Sure, I'm a lousy driver (for the record, I now drive like a little old lady), but I was a lousy driver for 17 years before this happened, so something bigger was at work here. For years and years, I have lived in fear of inconveniencing people, putting them out, and ultimately having them (horrors!) not like me! I go out of my way not to need assistance from my friends and neighbours unless it's absolutely unavoidable. I'm way more friendly than I need to be with the people who ring up my order at the store and thank them profusely for bagging up my milk for me. This incident was exactly like that.
I tore down that road because I was 5 minutes late. And for the sake of 5 minutes of inconvenience (for a doctor who wouldn't have rolled in to check my pee sample until I'd been sitting there for 20 minutes anyway!), I nearly killed myself, forever ruined my driving record, incurred an $8000 insurance claim and created 10 miserable weeks of stress and inconvenience for the entire family (the Captain refused to let me pick out a new car without him--probably a smart move--so I was stuck with our 17 year-old tin-can of a truck until he could find a new car himself). And I swore this was the wake-up call I wasn't going to ignore.
So, to add to my previously-stated New Year's resolutions, I will also be continuing my efforts to be less of a people-pleaser, at least in situations where the risk outweighs the consequences. I no longer go into Booming Metropolis just because I feel guilty for not visiting my friends enough, and I never, ever even consider driving faster to keep someone else from being annoyed with me. When I have a decision to make, the first question I ask myself is "Am I doing this for me, or am I doing it to please someone else?" If it's the latter, I don't do it. No exceptions. No apologies.
There have been a lot of little resolutions popping up in my mind over the last couple of days, and while I'd like to see some success with the little ones as well, big ones like this will get the majority of my attention.
The photo today is of the car the Captain picked out for us, using only the internet and his exceptional research skills. It's a 2004 Chevy Malibu Maxx. It looks a lot like our old Elantra, and it runs a lot like it too.
I will endeavor not to crash it this year...