Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Intervention

I've been spending WAY too much time online lately. I had to finally intervene on my own behalf this week. The addiction had reached ridiculous proportions and was affecting my family life. While I can't truthfully claim it's just one website, I think it's fair to say that the bulk of the blame goes to Facebook.
Is anyone else having this problem? I get on for the sole purpose of writing a few emails and generally interacting with friends I otherwise wouldn't be in contact with, and suddenly I find myself looking at people's "Which Days Of Our Lives Character Are You?" quiz results. Before I know it, we've missed our all-important mid-morning snack, I have 3 days' worth of laundry piled up, and I have nothing to show for all that lost time.

Facebook has been a great thing for me in terms of reconnecting with people I'm thrilled to be in contact with again. But then there are the friends who just seemed to add me to collect another friend, and the friend requests from people I've never even heard of. It reeks a little too much of junior high. Of wanting to be popular. Good grief--have I not moved on just a little in the last 2 decades?!

And here's my worst confession of all. You may hate me after reading this, so be warned. About a year ago, someone I was quite good friends with in high school added me as a friend. I was happy about it and sent him an email updating him on my life and telling him to update me because I'd love to hear what he's been up to over the last 18 years or so. He never wrote back. A few months later, I emailed again, just to be sure I hadn't somehow missed him. Again no reply. I wasn't going to be a pest so I let it go for a few more months, all the while being inundated with his status updates, 438th added friend and fan pages. Then, last week something happened. His status update announced that his dad had died. My first reaction was to "comment" as 25 or so already had. You know, say something consoling. Then I immediately thought to myself (and this is where you're going to hate me) "Ugh, if I comment, I'm going to get dozens of notifications that others have commented after me." And I didn't want that, so I didn't comment. Terrible, right?! It gets worse.

Once I realized that I was so adverse to getting all those notifications that I was actually willing not to send him my condolences, I realized the truth. We are not actually friends. So I deleted him. And now I'm contemplating deleting a few others I haven't actually spoken to since they added me as a friend. Most of them have so many friends, I'm sure they wouldn't notice if I was gone, and frankly, it'd free up all those updates for people I'd actually like to hear about.

But it isn't just the friend issue. It's all that time-wasting. The applications, the groups and the "causes". I could literally spend a week on facebook and come away with nothing more than a melting sensation in my brain.

So, I made a decision. I would get on facebook first thing in the morning, update my status so those who care don't think I've died, talk to whoever I want, maybe look at a few photos (because I do like that we can all share photos of our kids or pets or vacations) and then I'm done for the day. The computer goes off and I go about my life like it's 1976 and I have no idea what a computer even is.

And guess what?! When you're not online all morning, or back and forth checking your perpetually running laptop, you get a lot done!!

This weekend, using time I would've otherwise spent floating around the internet, I rearranged a little furniture, threw away the first gift I ever bought the Captain (farewell broken $15 phone!) and made my boys their very own card-table playhouse in the basement. It turns out there ARE (almost) enough hours in the day. You just have to not spend them all online!

So, after checking out all those blogs I love and checking in with the people I love, my computer time for the day is over. The world will not come to an end if I wait until tomorrow morning to check my email again, and maybe I'll throw a ball for Rosemary's Baby and put together a lego structure with Firstborn.

But before I go, I might just check out that Days Of Our Lives quiz. You know. For research purposes...

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Before I Die

There are some really handy things floating around out there in cyberspace, and one that's great for the blogger who likes to just sit down and start writing about any old thing is the writing prompt. I personally like the One-Minute Writer and, occasionally, a new one I've found called Plinky.

Plinky is hit-or-miss for me, possibly because it's actually intended for the youngsters. For example, today's prompt is asking me what I'll do when the zombies come (THE ZOMBIES ARE COMING?!! RUN FOR YOUR LIVES PEOPLE!!!). But a few days back, Plinky had a great prompt that got my brain working. It asked me to list 5 things I want to do before I die.

When I say my brain got working, I don't mean that a bunch of ideas started chattering away in my head. I mean that after several minutes of hard thinking, literally nothing came to me. And frankly, that was a little bit scary.

I am 35 years old. I figure my life is roughly half over. While it's good that I'm satisfied with my life, at this point I should not have accomplished everything I ever wanted to do. I should still have a few mid-life dreams left in me!

It's not like I'm dead inside. I'm passionate about crafting and writing and reading and cooking. I'm looking forward to warmer weather so I can start running outside again and being the Captain's lovely assistant in the vegetable garden. I look forward to eating barbecued everything all summer long and spending afternoons out back with the kids listening to the cows moo, and throwing balls for them (the kids, not the cows). And hanging the laundry again will be heaven. I think our hopes and aspirations don't necessarily need to be a huge, big-budget production.

Regardless, I'm determined right now to come up with 5 things I'd like to do in the next 35 years.

(Fingers to temples, eyes squeezed shut...here it comes!)

1. Learn to Ice Skate: Have you ever met a Canadian who has never put on a pair of skates?! Technically, I wasn't born here, but that's no excuse. Because I don't skate, neither do my kids, so it's a perfect reason to learn. Plus, it really looks like fun, and I have a big front yard (which gets conveniently flooded in the spring, and should therefore be a perfect area for skating in the winter if I could just get off my butt and employ the garden hose). I'm making this one a priority for next winter.

2. Travel: When I was in my 20's and didn't have anything holding me back, I wanted to see Asia. Instead, the Captain and I stayed home with our dogs and argued about what to watch on TV. Regret is a waste of emotion, and we saved enough money back then to make our current lifestyle possible, so in the end, no harm was done. I don't even much want to see Asia anymore. And the idea of packing my kids into the car for a long road trip or (horrors!) trapping myself with them on a plane fills me with dread. But there are a few new places I'd like to see perhaps when we're all better travellers. Ireland sounds rather pretty, and they have pubs--what could be better?! I'd also like to take one of those haunted walking tours in New Orleans. And I've never had a warm winter vacation, which is just as Canadian a thing as ice skating, so maybe a road trip through the Southernmost American States is something I should be looking forward to. I hear the burger joints are to die for!

3. Education: I spent several long, boring years writing papers and taking tests. That's not the kind of education I'm interested in. But a cooking class, or something crafty? That sounds like a good time to me, and a chance to maybe stretch my brain further than I'm likely to in my own kitchen or sewing room. If there's one thing I learned during my 5-year stint as a classroom teacher, it's that if you're interested in what's being taught, lifelong learning isn't a chore. It's a pleasure.

4. Work: Though I loved teaching, I don't feel much desire to go back to it. Now that I have kids of my own, it feels like something that would intrude on my life, rather than enhance it. However, this doesn't mean I don't want to eventually do something again work-wise. I heard about a couple of vacant jobs from friends in the past year that sounded interesting. One even involved sewing! I have moments when I think I was a fool not to print off a resume and apply for that one. But I'm not in a hurry just yet. However, once my kids are a little more independent, working would offer me something I'm missing. A chance to do something more grown-up and social? A chance to contribute to the planet in a way that I can't right now? Or maybe I just want more cash for craft supplies. In any case, I will eventually get there, and it's an exciting prospect. Who knew?!

5. Oh This Is Just Sad: One day, more than anything, I would like to have a perfectly organized closet, in which everything is regularly worn and enjoyed. I'd be able to walk into it and feel an immediate sense of well-being. I think this is more of a pipe-dream than a goal...

Apparently, I do have a little hope left in my aging brain, and I plan to get on this stuff as soon as is humanly possible. So, if you're driving down the back roads of rural Manitoba next winter and see a crazy woman in a bike helmet sliding around on her front field, don't be alarmed. I'm just following my dreams.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Guess Where You End Up If You Google "Crazy Woman"?!

I've made a new discovery!

Okay, the Captain made it for me, but it's cool just the same.

For a while now, I've been telling him that no one is actually reading this stuff, aside from my small-but-faithful band of followers (does anyone else HATE that term? When I use it, I feel like the kooky leader of one of those "religions" where you have to cut ties with your loved ones and hand over all your banking information). And I don't mean that in a complainy way. It's just been my argument when he's raised an eyebrow at me for publicly describing all those terribly shocking items about him (What?! He's messy?! We argue sometimes?! Crazy!!). So, to prove me wrong, he set me up with something called a stat counter. And, oh my, is it ever awesome!!

For those who don't know about this (and, let's be honest, I'm probably the last to know), my stat counter keeps track of how many hits my blog gets in a day, and it shows me a map of where in the world they came from. It turns out I'm pretty big in the U.S.

What I want to know is, how are random first-time visitors finding me? What do you have to be googling in Melbourne, or Berlin, or San Diego to end up loading the page of some woman of dubious sanity in the middle of the Canadian prairies?!

Regardless, it's kind of fun to know that there are people out there checking me out. As much as I started this to try to have some record of every insane thought that pops into my head during the day, I also kind of like the idea that other people are interested to hear it.

Of course, it could all be a fluke. Perhaps people are legitimately searching for "poop murals", "blue bathrooms" (yes, I've included yet another photo), or "Tom Cruise" and load my page thinking they might find something informative. If that's the case, I guess I should issue a public apology, for you will never find anything even remotely helpful here. Unless you're doing a case study on the mental and emotional effects of stay-at-home motherhood, first-time rural living, or military madness. And realistically, how many people are doing that?

So, despite the pressure to be interesting, I'm kind of stoked to be getting a few hits every day, and even though I barely passed geography in school, I've gained a newfound interest in map-reading. Because, unlike in high school geography, the map I'm reading now is all about ME!

And when you really think about it, isn't that the real point of blogging? To want to talk non-stop about yourself, no matter how uninteresting you actually are, is kind of a side-effect of being human. There is, of course, another side effect too. So, Captain, treasure this moment, because it doesn't happen too often.

I admit it. You were right.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Spring Has Sprung!

Alright, well not exactly, but I can see part of my driveway! That's got to count for something, right?!

In honour of every living thing out here coming back from the dead (eventually), I've decided it's time for a couple of new purses!

As you may or may not know, I do not need even ONE more purse. Actually, I need to get rid of a few (dozen). But you may also know that I love to recycle old stuff, and these two projects have actually not cost me a darned thing and have provided me with a bit of fun in the process. So, I consider that to be the actual reward here. Having two new purses is just a happy by-product. Really...

These projects began with a couple of pairs of pants that, for one reason or another, were no longer wearable. The jeans were destroyed enough that they couldn't be donated, so my options were to recycle or trash.


Now, I know the youngsters on the interweb like to take the tops of their old jeans and make themselves a bag with pockets and such. But at my age, I'm looking for something slightly more sophisticated. Okay, fine. I'm looking for something that doesn't advertise the size of my butt while I'm walking around town or digging for my wallet. So I discarded the top end of my jeans and worked with the legs instead, and that gave me enough fabric for the purse and the lining. The inside isn't gorgeous, but as my mother (who is a sewing pro) always tells me, no one is looking at the inside. I made a nice easy velcro closure, but it needed something decorative, so I went into my enormous bucket of buttons (does anyone out there want some buttons?!) and found a nice big one to cover up some of my uneven stitching, and used a leftover bit of nylon belting I had in just the right colour for the strap. Then I hit my bead stash and made a little "dangly" to attach to it for interest. I'm not sure I love the little bow, but for a first attempt, I'm pleased enough. The bag is sturdy, which is necessary for me, what with all those extra matchbox cars that seem to make their way into my purse when I'm not looking.


And here is attempt number 2. This was a pair of capri pants that were way too small, but that couldn't be returned due to the fact that they were bought online in a clearance sale (insert slap to forehead here). I used the exact same principle that I did with the denim purse, but made it slightly smaller. These pants also had some strap-and-buckle accents which I sewed together to make the strap. Since all my fashion magazines promise me that plaid accessories are great right now, I figure I've made a silk purse (so to speak) out of a sow's ear.
And now I really must restrain myself on the purse front for a while. Luckily, I have some fun distractions. My mum just sent me several embossing folders and cutting dies for my Cuttlebug (thanks Mum!!), so I have some cardmaking to do. I've been spending (read: wasting) time at Burda getting inspired to sew all sorts of useful things for myself and others--truly, there are some amazing crafters out there! And I'm also enjoying locking myself in my new bathroom and pretending the screaming kids, ringing phone and mounting piles of laundry don't actually exist.
Happy Vernal Equinox! Bring on the spring flowers!!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Forget Leprechauns! This Year I'm All About the Smurfs.

I always look forward to St. Patrick's Day, even though there's no evidence anywhere that I have any Irish in me whatsoever. Why? One word: FOOD!

Every year, I make a batch of Irish soda bread, some cabbage and potatoes, and my favourite thing ever, the Steak and Guinness Pie! Of course, I also have a drink (or three), and I usually make the kids some sort of greenish milkshake-type concoction as well.

The music I could live without, but who can pass up an excuse to pinch everyone who forgot to wear green? Of course, if you REALLY like doing that, don't move onto an army base. It's kind of counterproductive.

But today, my favourite colour is actually not green, it's blue. And that's because blue is the colour I chose for my bathroom walls! Yes! After years of white (because we rented), followed by a couple of years of brown (because that seemed like a safe choice), I've finally taken the leap into colour! And I love it!

I didn't do it by halves either. No wishy-washy pastels for me. I grabbed that paint sample in my fist, and pointed to the first bright, deep shade that called out to me. It was called something like "Prelude" on the sample, but after a few comments from friends and family on my colour choice, I've realized what shade of blue it actually is. Smurf! And I'm still not apologetic. So there!

Renovations are like childbirth. While they're happening, you swear you're never going to put yourself through it again. When they're over, you immediately forget the pain and want to know where to sign up for the next one. So, look out dining room. You're next!

Today, I'm loving my new bathroom AND eating food made with beer. What could possibly be better than that?!

Happy St. Patrick's Day!


Friday, March 13, 2009

My Child is a Diabolical Genius

For those who aren't sure (and let's be honest, sometimes I'm not even sure), the Captain has been home for a couple of weeks on leave. Next week he goes back to working his normal 9-to-5 (ish) day until the crazy exercises start in April.

While he's been home, he's been enjoying walking up our rather long driveway in the afternoons to meet Firstborn when he gets home on the schoolbus. I enjoy it too, because it's darned cold out there.

Yesterday, he was getting ready for the driveway trek when the phone rang. It was the school resource teacher. At first, I thought Firstborn had done something uncharacteristically naughty, like throwing snowballs perhaps, on the playground. But it turned out his uncharacteristic naughtiness had surfaced in a slightly more sophisticated manner. Firstborn had concocted himself a cunning plan.

While all the other kindergarteners were lining up to either get on the bus or meet their parents at the door, Firstborn slipped into the wrong line. When the substitute teacher who was in for the day asked him why he was in the wrong line, he informed her, apparently quite convincingly, that his mum was coming to pick him up today. Had his regular teacher been there, she'd have marched him to the bus, following the standing rule that if I haven't written a note, he gets on the bus as usual. My crafty little spawn obviously knew this was his chance to score himself an unscheduled playdate in town.

The mother of Firstborn's best friend lives in town and picks up her son every day. When she saw what was transpiring, she was immediately suspicious. She's never seen me pick Firstborn up before. So, she stuck around to make sure he wasn't stranded. And when it became clear that I was not, indeed, coming to collect my child, she had the school call me to say she was taking him home with her.

Though we appreciate out-of-the-box thinking, we knew we couldn't reward Firstborn with a playdate, so the Captain got in the car and headed straight over to march our sneaky little monkey home. He got there just as Firstborn was enjoying a donut and a card game. As you can probably imagine, Firstborn was not pleased to be dragged out of there crying.

Then, of course, we had to dole out some sort of discipline. Honestly, I can see why people let their kids go wild. Taking away Firstborn's computer time for the night meant an evening of crying and whining that would test the mettle of the world's strictest disciplinarians. But we stuck to our guns, and today Firstborn promises never to pull such a stunt again.

The stuff no one tells you before you have kids...

And lastly, before I forget, I am one week into the bathroom renovation and finally able to bathe! Yay! There's still a heck of a lot more to be done, but life sure looks different when you don't smell like you've been sleeping in a dumpster.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Boy-Friends

A few months back, in some magazine somewhere, I read an article about the French president and his hot wife, Carla. The point of this article, as I remember it, was to try to figure out the wife. At one point, the writer suggested that we all knew her "type" and then went on to elaborate that she was the kind of woman whose friends were mostly male. This clearly wasn't meant to indicate anything good.

It kind of got my back up, because before I met the Captain and started riding around in his car with him, arguing about what to listen to on the radio, I spent most of my free time riding around in a car (arguing about what to listen to on the radio) with three good friends. And those three friends were all male. In fact, most of my friends back then were male. And I'd say that now, though I really only ever get together on my own with other women, and I value those women immensely, a good chunk of my "friends" are still guys.

One such buddy is celebrating a birthday today. And because he is the guy who knows about all things male, we will call him the Man.

The Man is actually a friend of the Captain, or to be even more technical, they are co-workers. But the military, more than any other profession, tends to blur the lines between the social and the professional, and before you know it, you're getting together with your work peers for parties and barbecues and you know everything there is to know about their personal life, either straight from them, or through local gossip.

With it being the military, there are also a lot of women left on their own to fend for themselves in emergencies. For this reason, it's great to have an extra guy around when your own is trudging through a field or shooting at something on another continent or whatever. And it is for this reason that I love being friends with the Man.

When the truck breaks down, or a window gets broken, or I need help figuring out how to use a power tool without slicing my own arm off, he figures out my situation and tells me what to do. Being female, I then hear exactly what I want to, do whatever I please and generally set back the women's movement another ten years. But that's not the point. The point is that I have that nice secure feeling of knowing that if a plane flies through my living room window while the Captain is elsewhere, the Man will be out there somewhere applying man-like logic to the problem.

The man has a wife (who I also love) and kids, and one day someone asked me if the Captain and the wife didn't find my chatting with the Man a little weird. I wasn't confounded by this question. I do understand that for some women, this whole idea is foreign and strange. And, having once been in a relationship with someone who couldn't be trusted around members of the opposite sex, I understand where the question came from.

But here's the thing about men. If you and the men you're friends with are unavailable to one another (which is obviously the case here) and not looking to do something really gross to the other parent of your children (again, not something any of us would do), men are darn good fun! Getting together with other women can sometimes turn into one long angry vent, or a gossip session, or an excuse to be judgemental. With men, what you see is what you get. You talk about how to fix a leaky tap and then you have a laugh about something goofy. It's refreshing.

So, today, I want to wish my boy-friend a very happy birthday. And also to ask him to please come over and fix the rest of my house before I lose my mind...

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Quick Reno Update

Well, I haven't taken any hostages yet.


Actually, things have been running pretty smoothly, but you know how these things are. You can't really relax in your own home when you constantly have people working there. And when you haven't had a shower since Friday. Hopefully tonight...


The place is a mess, but the bath is halfway installed, and we have a new layer of floor. I took a break for some retail therapy yesterday and bought myself 4 new sweaters. That really helped.


Oh, and Janine's very lovely plug has doubled my loyal readership. I'm practically famous!


So, all-in-all, things could be worse.


I still wouldn't mind a bath though...

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Some Letters

Well, it's that time of year again. Time to catch up on my correspondence!


Dear renovation-related headache, mold/dust cough, and raging case of B.O.,
Please go away soon. I'm not sure what I was thinking...
Sincerely,
A Crazy Woman

*********
Dear Mel Gibson,
Remember back when you were a cute guy we all wanted to see make another Lethal Weapon sequel? What on earth possessed you to start opening your mouth in public? And behaving like a drunken frat-boy? If this doesn't stop, you're going to go the way of Tom Cruise. Way to blow it, Riggs.
Yours Truly,
Someone who isn't sure if anyone in Hollywood is lustworthy anymore

**********
Dear local small-town newspaper columnist,
Okay, I admit I'm still a little mad about your lack of support for teachers, so you may want to take this one with a grain of salt. That said, are you aware that the words "who" and "that" are not interchangeable? Also, when you ask your readers a question (even when it's a long-winded rhetorical one with no noun in it), it should end with a question mark.
Sincerely,
Someone who'd print up her resume and apply for your job if her kid wasn't banned from every daycare centre in the immediate vicinity.


Whew. Some days, it's just good to get this stuff off your chest!

Friday, March 6, 2009

So Long, Grungy, Rusty Bathroom!

Before we bought the house that love built, I figured I'd be a great handywoman. I watched Trading Spaces religiously, enjoyed This Old House and even followed the Captain around Rona on weekends. Flooring, paint, decorative moldings! It all looked so easy, and so do-able.

Then one day, on a whim, I ripped down the living room walls.

It was a bit of a disaster. The kitchen was, at this point, already demolished and half-put-back-together. The Captain was, as usual, away. The guy we hired to do the kitchen job was in and out on his off-hours working to get things back together. The whole nightmare pushed me to the edge of reason.

Eventually, everything got returned to (relative) normal, but only after I had spent three months with no kitchen to work in, and no living room to relax in after the kids were in bed, and had caught stomach flu three times, probably from having to do the dishes in the bathtub. It's incredible what a bit of chaos at home will do to a person. If you'd told me beforehand that things could be that bad, I wouldn't have believed you.

So, I'm questioning my own sanity right now as I reflect on the fact that tonight, we have that same contractor coming in to completely gut our only working bathroom. Now that the kitchen and living room look so nice, we're scared that when the time comes, we're not going to be able to sell this place with that grotty old bathroom.

The job should only take a few days, but this house, which was built by a farmer in 1967, has thus produced some pretty funny quirks when examined more closely.

When Thelma and I pulled down those living room walls, we were confused, then horrified, then amused to find an electrical box with a too-long screw sticking out of it and pointing at some dangerously-close wires. The Farmer's solution was nothing as simple as finding a screw that fit. Come on, that would be too easy! No, he grabbed a few of his wife's wear-'em-with-a-pink-belt maxi pads, stuffed them between the screw and the wires and slapped up the drywall. Brilliant!

So, between the reality that I will probably go four days without a shower and the fear that I may find something behind the walls that slows down the job or, at best, frightens the bejeezes out of me, I can't say I'm looking particularly forward to this renovation.

What I am looking forward to is knowing that one day, I'll be able to get this crazy place off my hands and buy a house in a nice urban centre that doesn't need so much as a lick of paint. I wonder if I could get the Captain to go for that...

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

36 Years and Counting!

I've heard it said that by the age of five, we have each created in our own mind a picture of what marriage and our perfect partner should look like, based entirely on what we've seen at home. I think this is probably true. It would certainly explain how I found myself married to a cranky, anti-social man who'd like nothing more than to sit in front of the TV with a beer in his hand all weekend long, but rarely does.

When my parents were married, on this date in 1973, I think life must've looked a lot different than it does now. I can actually picture it in that brown-and-orange hue that seems to turn up on every drugstore-printed family photo from that era. The bell-bottoms. The Brady-Bunch style butterfly collars. The POLYESTER!!

True, people back then had a penchant for fabrics that will never biodegrade. And they wore them in patterns that are best forgotten, though they have a habit of turning up frequently in my worst nightmares. But that's not really what I'm talking about.

When my parents were planning their wedding, I'm pretty sure my Dad never received a frantic text message from Bridezilla, all in caps, cyber-screeching about the designer gown being half a size too small, or the sound system not being big enough to be heard three towns over. Likewise, I don't think the terms "reception site directory" or "wedding planner" ever entered my Mum's vocabulary.

Things were just simpler. You met someone, you got along, maybe you got them pregnant (no one's pointing fingers...), and then you had a nice, respectable, simple wedding with a reasonable number of family and friends in attendance. No gift registries to manage, and no online wedding sites telling you how to do it.

And then you went off and lived your life within your means, had a few kids, maybe bought an affordable car, lived in a house that didn't financially cripple you, and used a pay phone when you were out shopping and wanted to call home.

Today it seems like you need 1 1/2 cell phones per household member, enough garage space to house 3 SUV's and a sports car, a computer for each family member and a high-speed internet connection to keep you in touch with the world, the weather and the other people with whom you live. No wonder money is the single biggest cause of strife in relationships.

When did the world become such a complex place?

I think what I figured out by the time I was five was that the secret to having a successful marriage, and a successful life, is to keep it simple.

Happy Anniversary, Mum and Dad!