Sunday, January 29, 2012

I can't blog right now...

because I'm trying not to eat too much.  I find that if I sit quietly on the couch and watch TV, or sit at the computer and don't get up, I don't eat too much.  If I move around the house at all, food starts jumping into my mouth.  It's true!  I'm helpless!  Carbalicious stuff and chocolate hurls itself right at my head and if I don't want to end up seriously injured I have to open my mouth in self-defense.  It's rough.

January hasn't gotten me too far down yet.  I started a new library tech course called Subject Analysis and Classification.  My instructor immediately informed us that this was one of the most challenging courses in the curriculum, and the most difficult to learn online, and we were all absolutely going to feel VERY CONFUSED AND FRUSTRATED at the beginning, if not for the entire duration.  She stopped just short of saying, you might as well just go eat ice cream and watch Luther and flush any thoughts of having a marketable skill again right down the crapper.  Somewhat surprisingly, I didn't flip out and go OH MY GOD I'M TOTALLY GOING TO FAIL and drown my sorrows with ice cream and Luther.  Well, not immediately anyway.  I didn't get out much this week, but most of the neighbourhood is a glittery smooth ice sheet of death so it was a good excuse.  I do need to get some exercise this week, though.  If only to keep up my strength for fending off the food that keeps flying at my face (hey, alliteration!).

I will conclude with one final St. Lucia-related anecdote that didn't fit in any of the other posts.  We flew home with the family we had met, and we were standing in Toronto waiting for our bags to arrive on the baggage carousel -- they were staying the night in Toronto before driving home to Peterborough, we were trying to catch our flight home to Ottawa, and the time was tight, and the bags were taking a really long time to get there.  When the carousel finally ground into motion, we started hugging each other so our family could grab our bags and run (thereby becoming those people I always feel like laughing at, tearing through the airport with desperate eyes and flailing briefcases).  As we disentangled from each other and started to move away, Eve announced, "Eric and I just had an awkward hug!"

Won't be your last, sweetie.  Not by a long shot.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Do we all look the same to them?

We met a really nice family from Peterborough a few days into our trip.  They had a boy and a girl, in reverse order from ours, but Eric was only two years younger than Angus which was fine for water sliding and getting cheeseburgers and playing ball in the pool, and we all know how Eve feels about "people who are older than me that aren't my brother".  Mike -- the dad --  was funny and friendly and has a job similar to Matt's, and  Ashley -- the Mom --  was forty and had a perfect bikini body and I STILL liked her - that's how nice she was.

We still had a lot of  family time, but we'd usually meet up with these people for a beach walk in the afternoon, the kids would run off to get cotton candy or go on the water slide or the lazy river, and we'd hang out and play pool and challenge the bar staff to come up with new and exciting drink combinations in the evenings.

There were two poolside barbecue nights - one was a Caribbean night and one was Western night.  Both had live music and entertainment, which was definitely....entertaining.  On Caribbean night, resort staff dressed in red satin and limboed under a flaming pole:

For Western night, they had to dress Western - I wonder if there was a choice between that and the flaming pole because I'm pretty sure the fiery stick would be looking fairly good to me at that point.  Not only that, but the MC's accent made 'cowboys and cowgirls' sound like 'callboys and...' well, you get the picture.  Until then, I was thinking this looked like a pretty good place to work.

There was a St. Lucian country singer who was actually really good.  The staff was always walking around singing all the time anyway, but usually it was reggae stuff - then as I was at the buffet I heard them all singing along with the entertainment and I was thinking "geez, they know all THESE songs too?"  Then I thought maybe it was just because there was a Western night every week or two.  But apparently the story is that a lot of the young people from the island go to the southern United States and work as migrant workers.  Then they come back, bringing tales of wonder and adventure and also the musical stylings of Toby Keith, Alan Jackson et. al.

 In the course of trying to get people up dancing, the guy to the far right of this picture in the white pants was dancing by himself, wrapping his arms around himself and then opening them imploringly to the crowd.  Ashley loves country music and was outfitted in Western style, and said she was going to go dance with him.  Her husband was cool with this, since he doesn't like dancing.  I tried to get a picture, but it didn't really turn out.  Anyway, when she came back to the table, she said he asked who her husband was and if he minded her dancing with a stranger and she pointed him out - 'dark hair, plaid shirt'.  The guy said he'd bring her husband a rum and coke.  We started talking, and in a few minutes we saw the guy approach our table.... then walk right by it and deliver a drink to a gray-haired man wearing a t-shirt, whose wife (or date) was wearing a cowboy hat, but there the resemblance ended - she was a good fifteen years older and much less good-looking than Ashley.


I told Ashley she should go up to him, grab his shirt and yell, "Did I mean so little to you?"  Then we went to dance and the other couple came up and every time I saw them I would almost fall on the ground giggling.  This was me and Matt imitating their theoretical discussion: "Why the hell are you giving me a rum and coke?" "Because I danced with your wife!" "WHAT?! WHEN?! -- You said you weren't going to do that any more!" "I've never seen this man before!"

Ashley took it pretty well.  The drinks were free, after all.  But she did say philosophically, "I was just another white chick in a cowboy hat to him".

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Eve making friends in St. Lucia

Yasmine and Amina from Oxford, England.

Brenna from Peterborough, Ontario.

Big snake.  He was local.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Unearned Grace

That is what last week felt like.

We all know I don't travel willingly or well.  I like my bed, and reliable Western toilets.  I'm suspicious of many foreign foods (unlike my husband, who, as my children never tire of reminding everyone, ate a shrimp that was recently dead enough to hop on the back of his tongue).  I have difficult and temperamental hair.  And I don't really mind the cold or the snow that much.

So yeah, I'm the kind of ingrate that, when her husband says "let's go somewhere hot and do nothing for a week in January" whines, "do we HAVE to?"  Because I'm awesome like that.

I never know what I think about vacation travel to other countries.  It wasn't something that most people I knew did while I was growing up.  We went to Disney a couple of times, but other than that we just went to Saskatchewan and hung out on the various farms every summer.  One boy I knew went to Mexico in grade six and that seemed impossibly exotic.  My husband's father was a doctor and they did a few Caribbean vacations of which he has fond memories.

A guy I knew in university said he didn't really see the point of travel just to not be where you lived.  At the time I thought this was intelligent and profound.  Now I think that sometimes the point of travel is just that - even if the entire experience is dreadful, there's something to be said for having the place you live made strange for a time.  And I realize that my 'antiseptic week by the sea' as a well-travelled professor used to call it, doesn't make for the most immersive experience in another culture.  Still, you get glimpses, along with your strawberry peach margaritas.  And the fully immersive experience - travelling with a knife and a toothbrush among the natives of a strange country, trusting to fate and your wits?  For someone like me, it just ain't gonna happen.

I worried that we were going without cousins or friends - would the kids be bored?  My husband is smarter - turns out that, when you force your kids to spend time with you, you actually start having conversations and trying things together and remembering what you like about each other... least for a few days before your daughter makes friends with a couple of little British girls that don't seem to have any parents and abandons you entirely, and then you meet a nice family from Peterborough with a girl and a boy which saves you from a little TOO much 'together time'.

One of the funniest things about this vacation was that everybody in our family spent a fair bit of time reading EXCEPT for me.  I didn't read a word.  I played with the kids, I sat in a lounge chair and stared up at the coconut palms, I walked on the beach, I went to dinner with my family.  At night I laid in bed with Eve and watched her sleep while listening to music on my iPod.  And I was perfectly at peace.

And as for shaking up the routine?  I think that when I find myself riding in an open Jeep at sunset, being driven on the left-hand side of the twisty mountain road, the wind whipping my hair into a Medusa-like frenzy, volcanic mud drying in my cleavage, we can safely say I'm a fair distance out of my comfort zone.

My husband is a smart guy.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Easing back in

Scene: our third night in our hotel room at the Coconut Bay Resort in St. Lucia.  Two double beds, girls in one, boys in the other.  Darkness, cane toads singing, fan spinning lazily overhead.

Angus: What are we going to do tomorrow?

Me: Same thing we do every day, Pinky - try to take over the world!

Angus: I'm really not crazy about going to sleep hearing my mother quoting The Brain.

Me: Would you rather I go back to I'm Sexy and I Know it?

Angus: FINE, fine, we'll take over the world.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Meet the new year, same as the old year

I don't know how the hell all you people get your yearly review posts up before New Year's Eve - aren't you busy cleaning up from Christmas and watching bad movies and reading a million books, hoovering up the potato chip crumbs from the bottoms of the bags and staying in your pajamas until the last possible minute before getting dressed to go next door on New Year's Eve?  No?  Besides, isn't it a tiny bit irresponsible to review a year when it hasn't fully finished?  What if something happened in that last twenty-four hours that changed EVERYTHING?  Won't YOU all look silly having to tack on postscripts to your prematurely done posts then?  

I'm stealing Hannah's format for this post because, well, I liked it.  If she'd waited a couple of days to post it, I wouldn't have been able to - ha HA!

1. What did you do in 2011 that you'd never done before?  Ziplining, along with various other traipsing around among tree-tops stuff at the Lafl├Ęche Caves in Quebec.  It was invigorating.  I only screamed a little.  Also, I read a post at Bolo (Blogging Out Loud Ottawa).  It was invigorating.  I only screamed a little.

2.  Did you keep your New Year's resolutions, and will you make more for next year?  I don't make resolutions as such, not big grandiose ones, because I think they set people up for failure.  I did start blogging and start my library tech courses in January though, so I guess you'd say I just try to do things that keep me moving forward (or moving at all).  

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?  A good friend's sister.  I held the baby when she was 11 days old.  A lot of my friends have no interest in the newborns any more, or only to say "god, I'm so glad it's not me".  I still love the babies.  I also met my nephew in Edmonton at Easter when he was four months old.  I try not to think about this so much because it reminds me how sad I am that we don't live close to my brother-in-law and his family.
4.  Did anyone close to you die?  Obviously not too close, since I'm having a 'let me stop and think' reaction.  Matt's grandparents, who we've seen a lot since we moved to Ottawa, moved to a retirement home about a year ago, and his grandfather is in pretty serious decline, but we saw them over the holiday and he was in fine form again - he's ninety and it's still going to be a horrible shock when he dies.    

5. What countries did you visit?  Just the ones on our first Disney cruise last January - Mexico, the U.S., the Bahamas.  I've been to Italy and Austria with Matt on business trips, but the last one was when Eve was in nursery school, so... five years ago. We're going to St. Lucia next week.  I'm dreading it - I'm an anxious traveler.  It'll be great, right?

6.  What would you like to have in 2012 that you didn't have in 2011?  A little more energy, maybe?  At least in the winter months.  The summer was awesome, but last winter was hard, endless and filled with sickness and despair.  I hope I use my coping tools better this year if that happens - I know there are people who are willing to help, it just gets hard to remember how to ask.

7. What date(s) from 2011 will remain etched in your memory and why? I suck at dates.  I remember Pam dropping off cupcakes at my front door when I couldn't get out of bed; I remember Eve saying that swimming with the stingrays made it "the best day of my entire life"; I remember Angus's baseball team winning the Provincial finals and the none of us could stop smiling; I remember Zarah introducing me to Leverage; I remember the one time this year Angus brought his dishes up from the basement without being asked (okay that date I really SHOULD have circled).

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?  Probably reading out loud at BOLO - considering I had to choose a post, submit it within the deadline, and then actually go and get up and talk in front of people - you must understand, I would be sick to my stomach for DAYS before any assignment that involved public speaking in high school and university, and I would do ANYTHING to get out of it, so volunteering to blog OUT LOUD was definitely out of character.  It was a total rush.  I also drove all over the province all by myself (as in, I was the only adult) with Eve, but that was probably more my GPS's achievement than mine (and I want to give her FULL CREDIT and declare my love for her in front of god and everyone - I would give up my dishwasher before I would give up my GPS.)
Pam, me and Zarah at BOLO.

9. What was your biggest failure?  Healthy eating and exercise, like every year.  I try to make plans for improving without self-flagellating too much.  Also, household organization and de-cluttering.  Ye gods and little fishes, the crap, it multiplies.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?  Just the interminable, nagging airway issues last winter - sinus infection that went to a respiratory infection that didn't leave until the snow melted, twice.  And some spectacular bruises from ziplining, but those just made me feel badass.

11.  What was the best thing you bought?  The stuff to redo the kids' rooms, and my Dad's labour (which was bought exceedingly cheaply, even though it was a really nice bottle of scotch) - pictures soon.

12.  Whose behaviour merited celebration?   Almost everyone I know, at some point.  My kids just keep growing better - sweet, considerate, funny and enjoyable to be around.  And my friends are awesome.  Even when they're drunk and being asses.

13.  Whose behaviour made you appalled and depressed? Hannah's clients!

14.  Where did most of your money go?  Books and vodka.  Just kidding.  Food and St. Lucia.  And books.  And ebay, for cute clothes for Eve while Matt was away and I was engaging in retaliatory internet shopping.

15.  What did you get really, really, really excited about?  New Fred Vargas book.  Baseball Provincials and Angus's pitching record.  Visiting Zarah in the fall.  Girls' cottage week-end.  My Mom planting my front flower bed for my birthday.  My sister-in-law telling me she loved the Fred Vargas book I gave them last Christmas, when I was worried they didn't like it and were too embarrassed to tell me.  Finding the Giant Remote-Controlled Balloon Shark with FREE SHIPPING for Angus for Christmas.  

16.  What song(s) will always remind you of 2011?  I'm Sexy and I Know it.  

17.  Compared to this time last year you are...  um, happy and grateful that I spent Christmas with people I love and anxious about our upcoming trip, so pretty much the same.

18. What do you wish you'd done more of?  Walking.  Decluttering.  Organizing.  Swimming.  Fooling around with my husband.

19. What do you wish you'd done less of?  Coughing.  Sleeping.  Hurting.  Feeling guilty and ashamed for not feeling better. 

20. Did you fall in love in 2011?  Well, I'm married, but...hel-LO, Eliot from Leverage.

21. How many one-night stands?  only that one with The Hunger Games.

22. What was your favourite TV program?  Have you not being paying attention?

23. Do you hate anyone now that you didn't hate at this time last year?  I try not to hate, although if anyone mentions Penn State, it's tough.

24. What was the best book you read?  I think I'll leave this for my book review year-end/beginning post.

25. What was your greatest musical discovery?  I don't make great musical discoveries.  Other people make great musical discoveries, and then I'm generally too much of a philistine to properly appreciate them.  

26. What did you want and get? A little closer to my library tech diploma

27. What was your favourite film of the year?    I can never remember all the movies I've seen, but I LOVED Hugo, Arthur Christmas, The Muppets, Bridesmaids and 50/50,  really liked Inception and Rise of the Planet of the Apes, and HATED Smurfs and Spy Kids 91/2 or whatever the hell number it was - curse you, rainy summer day.

28. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?  I was 41, and I honestly can't remember.  My friends took me out for dinner (Pho Thi Fusion) and a movie (Bridesmaids), at some point in the week.

29. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?  Oh come on - that's a chump's game.

30. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2011?  Early Old Navy refugee.

31.  What kept you sane?  Pam, Zarah, my other friends and blog readers and a bunch of people I've never met that kept me, among other things, from having to bail on driving Angus and five other boys to a volleyball tournament because I couldn't stop crying.  Also, various assorted pharmaceuticals probably helped a little. 

32. What celebrity/public figure did you fancy?  Can't think of any.  Other than...hel-LO Eliot from Leverage.

33. What political issue stirred you the most?  Proroguing.  And a bunch of other ones that I won't go into because I'm still trying to stay sane and Pam's probably asleep right now.

34. Who did you miss?  My sister and her family, my brothers-in-law and their families, all my friends who live far away and all the people I've met on the internet that I would love to drink margaritas with on a regular basis.  Stupid geography. 

35. Who was the best new person you met? Hel-LO, Eliot from Leverage.

36. Tell us a valuable lesson you learned in 2011.  You can agree to go ziplining when you're drunk, but you should probably actually zipline sober.  

37. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.  C is for Cookie, that's good enough for me.  

Happy New Year.