Monday, December 29, 2014


It is a fact of life that the beginning of a new year is the time to make a fresh start. Plans for what's better, what's different, what we'd like to accomplish are all common themes. I've never been a resolution sort of person, but ever since we bought a house in September, everything feels kind of fresh and full of potential.

The holidays are like a reset button. You get your fill of bad habits, unhealthy foods and lazy routines so that when the new year starts, you can wipe the slate clean with no regrets and focus on things that will make you feel good about yourself - or at least satisfied that you've put those bad things behind you.

I'm no stranger to this routine. As the year draws to a close, I'm more prone to say things like "I want to learn to sew!" I have always talked about taking singing lessons and all the places I want to travel. Recently, I've entertained the idea of painting a triptych because I now have exactly the right spot to hang them. I want to get my hands dirty in the garden that I've half-planned in my head and spend more time outside on the patio that doesn't yet exist. At the very limit of my imagination is the idea that I could run a half marathon.

What would we do without New Year's plans or resolutions? I don't know if I'd be happy knowing that I'd accomplished everything I'd ever planned. Isn't part of life the act of striving for those things we want - or think we want? I'm not just talking about material things; learning a new skill must be very high on the list of common New Year's resolutions. I love to learn, so the idea of taking a course in the new year or trying out a different activity is always exciting, and while ideas crop up throughout the year, it's the ones that spawn around New Year's Eve that seem to bear a special weight.

So, in 2015, I might take singing lessons, or learn to sew. I'll probably hang that triptych (even if I don't paint it myself), and I'll almost certainly start a garden in spring. I'd love to plan an outdoor space where we can entertain guests, and I've already started thinking about our next travel destination - Hawaii, I hope. I would like to think that I'll accomplish that half marathon, but if I don't, there's always next year to strive for, right?

Monday, August 22, 2011

Just the Facts.

July felt a little busy. At the tail-end, we bid farewell to Christopher and Nancy and the girls, who's visit was a whirlwind, but lots of fun. Maverick was very sad to have his happy pack diminished, but Scuttle was quick to re-claim her lost territory. By the way, I've revised my understanding of the expression "pitter patter of little feet"; these little feet belonged to a stampede of angry bison.

Within a week, we attended the wedding celebration of our good friends Jennie and Kevin. It was a delightful party with dancing and punch and video messages for the bride and groom to review later. I wonder if they ever did? I think our message was far from eloquent. No one warned me we'd be on camera! I could have prepared notes!

Naturally, we were both busy with work, and I had also decided to apply to the Institute of Children's Literature. I had to write a short story for submission and analysis and managed to meet the deadline despite feeling pinched for time and terribly distracted. I heard back a few weeks ago; I was accepted and am now feeling pinched and distracted about completing my first assignment. Naturally.

As many of you know, Phillip and I prefer to take our time when it comes to anything we deem a significant purchase. In this case, we had been considering a new dining table for a while and finally took the plunge when the piece I'd been admiring was optioned for free shipping during the month of July. The table arrived in time for Nancy and Christopher's visit, but it had to be covered with a plastic table-cloth because the wood was unfinished. Once the house was again empty of little children prone to poisoning themselves with such things, I began the long process of treating the wood with tung oil.

This particular table is made with reclaimed saal wood and is quite dense (not to mention incredibly heavy), so the first few layers were cut 1:1 with citrus solvent so that it could better soak in. Each coat was left for several hours over a period of a few days until the wood was saturated. After letting it dry for a day, I began another series of coats using pure tung oil, leaving it overnight before wiping off excess and adding another coat. Directions that came with the oil and solvent indicated that one should let the wood tell you when it was finished. This seemed to happen for the table after six coats. I'm quite pleased with the result.

It has been over a month since I finished the project, during which time we kept the table covered so it could fully 'cure'. In the interim, another surprise was added to our busy month. We gained a flat mate.

I will not reveal personal details here, but suffice to say, Doris, a good friend of mine that I met at Mueller College, found herself in a very difficult situation. I knew things had been rough for her for a little while, but hadn't realized the extent of it until she asked to meet me for coffee to say goodbye. I was very saddened to learn that she was planning to move to Texas even though she really wanted to stay in San Diego. She was hoping to find work there and save up enough money to return for her graduation ceremony here. All of this seemed so unnecessary and complicated that I spoke to Phillip that night about it. The result is that Doris will be staying with us until the end of October so that she has a safe opportunity to get back on her feet in time for graduation.  She is already working, and the bonus is that when we leave for Oregon next month, Doris will be here to look after our house and pets.

Speaking of which, we have another wedding coming up, and with a nod to our old tradition, we are using the event as an excuse to take a little breather from work for ten days. Phillip will be in San Francisco for a conference the week before, which works out rather well.  I will fly to meet him, and we'll rent a car to drive from there to Portland, Oregon. We anticipate a leisurely pace by way of some beautiful coastline and national parks, including a day of hiking among the the redwoods. Visiting these ancient giants has been on my 'must-see' list since I learned about them as a kid. I plan a full recharge of my inner dryad!

And so, another month has rolled over us, leaving us blinking and wondering where the time goes. When we're not crazy busy, we're grateful for long walks with the pooch on Sundays (when we're both free), beautiful weather and good fortune.

Thursday, June 02, 2011

A Not-So-Final Farewell.

A billboard near our house. Until recently.
It has been far too long since our last update, but I would have had a pretty good excuse if I had ever bought into the warning depicted in this image. Alas, I'm a sensible, rational person, so I cannot say “the devil made me do it” either. In fact, it's my own fault. Plain and simple. Wouldn't it be nice if more people could just own up to oversights, mistakes, poor judgement and dumb moves? Apologies. Accepted? Good, let's move on.

The potential end of the world not withstanding, Phillip and I have been fairly busy, and with both of us working, there has been a tendency to truly slack off when we have the opportunity. March was particularly nice, because we visited Joan and Paul in Florida. The weather was extremely cooperative and the beach was so inviting – such crystal blue, clear water! - that I bought an overpriced swimsuit just so I could truly enjoy it. For those of you who know me well, this is notable simply because I am not fond of swimming in the ocean. San Diego is beautiful in many ways, but the beaches here can't compare to Grayton. I guess we can't have everything.

Our return trip was uneventful except of course for the usual frustration with airport security. Phillip found it particularly ironic that there were two boys with toy guns going through security without undue attention, despite the fact that we're all subjected to invasive searches as a result of living in a fear culture. I sigh and ask for a pat-down rather than the scanner and we wait far too long for someone to respond to our request. Of course, once we'd declined the scanner, we were not allowed to pass through the normal metal detector, despite the fact that other people were randomly chosen to speed things along. Good enough for them, but not the trouble-makers, I suppose. Sadly I don't anticipate any of these policies to ever become easier or more sensible.

Speaking of travel, plans have shaped up, been discarded, rehashed and changed around frequently for 2011. In January, we talked seriously about Hawaii, then reconsidered in light of friend's plans to visit Colorado. That slowly morphed into a driving trip idea before both were discarded. But only temporarily. We still want to visit Mathew and Paula in Denver, so the driving plan is back on the table as of this week. There was the potential of including Maverick, but that is definitely not going to happen this time. (One day, though, if I get my way.) Then our dear, yet easily distracted Lincoln informed us of plans that might pull us to Britain instead. Of course all of this must be balanced against our must-do trip to Australia in 2012. Time and money are obviously a huge factor and as much as we want to go everywhere and anywhere, reality keeps biting us in the arse. So back to the drawing board. Lincoln, if you're reading this, take a hint.

Back home, Phillip's work is a bit topsy-turvy. Restructuring has put two employees under him, much to his dismay, but I think he's a better manager than he will admit. As for myself, I now have a good number of regular clients who consistently request me, which is nice. It's the best thing about my job right now, to be honest. While the company I work for is a great place for therapists to start out and gain experience, it is definitely not for everyone. Appointments are frequently mishandled; I have developed the habit of calling before every shift to make sure I actually have an appointment in my first hour, otherwise I could find myself sitting around without pay. I also recently discovered that some of my clients were being scheduled with another therapist of the same name. While I respect and really like this other therapist, I earned those clients and expect them to be given my next available appointment! The pay structure is … quirky. We are asked to sign in and otherwise behave as employees, but we are paid like contractors. It is also up to me to double-check my client printouts every pay period to make sure I've been paid the correct amount for each appointment. The printouts do not specify anything more than base pay and totals, so we have to keep our own records in order to compare the balance. All this to say that I'm looking into getting my business license and hopefully, by the end of the year, be earning fair wages.

On a happier note, Phillip and I were both recently given a clean bill of health from our new GP. Neither of us had undergone a thorough physical examination in several years, so after receiving a recommendation for this doctor from a co-worker, my darling husband scheduled appointments for us both. Pelvic exams and all. Thanks, honey. I kid; it was good to get it done.

Until next time!

Sunday, February 06, 2011

February Rising

Canadian tradition dictates that I must comment on the weather. It has been strange. I'm not just making small talk here. A third of the U.S.A was blanketed in snow, including a portion of Texas, where I have first hand reports from my writing buddy that he enjoyed a half-day of wintery wonderland. It hasn't quite gotten that crazy here, but the wind has been fierce while temperatures dove to record lows. Phillip says this is “global wackiness”, not global warming. I tend to agree.

We did have one perfect weekend recently and decided to embark upon a much-delayed and discussed trip to the desert. We went as far as Ocotillo via Highway 8, then took the Imperial Highway back through Julian, where we stopped for sandwiches and coffee. All in all a day well spent. Along the way we were stopped twice at border patrol stations – apparently the remote area we drove through is a common corridor for immigrant trafficking. Is that a term, or did I just make it up and thereby offend a bunch of people? Let me know.

The border guards at the last spot, after being told we were simply visiting the wilderness, enjoyed a good belly laugh as they approached, making jokes like "where's the rest of your car?" before pointing out that  Zoomy (as we fondly call the Smart Car) would not make it into the recreation / camp areas due to the rough roads. We'd already determined as much based on a parks map that indicating four-wheel drive access only. City slickers that we were, we laughed along with the guards and waved a fond farewell, then stopped at the side of the road whenever we felt like it for short hikes and photo sessions.

It was during our visit with Brian and Jackie that we were reminded of how little of California and surrounding states we've really explored, so Phillip and I spent some time recently looking at a map and happily discussing places we'd like to visit. We've never been to the Grand Canyon, so that naturally came up, and we have friends in Colorado we'd like to see again, thus we have two easy trips to contemplate this year. Not much planning has occurred yet, particularly because we have another couple that would like to visit Colorado as well and as anyone who has traveled with friends knows, coordination is key.

In the meantime, things here are going along smoothly. I'm enjoying my job and thinking of increasing my hours while Phillip is continuing to impress his bosses in his usual fashion. Portland has taken a back seat in our plans for now, due to initial real estate reports that indicate our home is worth $100k less than what we paid for it. That sucks, but I remain optimistic that things will work out. Phillip's taking care of the pessimism side of things.

If there's one thing to make me shake my head, however, it's the driving habits of San Diegans. I think I've now officially seen it all. Talking on a mobile and texting is old news at this point. I've also spotted people reading the newspaper or a book, applying makeup and using an electric shaver. Phillip was driving for our trip out to Ocotillo, so when I spotted a woman eating from a plate, with a fork, while driving her giant SUV and chatting with her passenger, I boggled and stared at her with my jaw hanging open. When I later mentioned this woman to a friend, rather than boggle with me, he asked “what was she eating?”!

Sometimes distraction while driving is inevitable. Most recently, it was Maverick's fault. Phillip was taking him for his afternoon walk and, while crossing the street, felt a consistent tugging at the leash that quickly became irritating. Wondering why the pooch was lagging so badly, Phillip looked back to see that he was actually dragging our gross little dog while he pathetically tried to wipe his butt along the asphalt and looked quite aggrieved that he was being rushed during this important ritual. Phillip admits that he started laughing and when he looked up, he saw a woman in her car laughing with great gusto as she drove by. Happily, she did not crash or run into anyone. At home, Phillip was faced with the unenviable task of cleaning black road dust off Maverick's hind end.

With that send off, I wish you all health and happiness this month. Next month we're planning to visit Florida and will update when we return.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Zen Pandas, the Sahara in Quebec, and Visiting Family

We're home, safe and sound, full of gratitude for family and friends, particularly the ones that put up with us in their home. Thank you!

As most of you know, we're fond observers of human foibles and always keen to learn a few life lessons from these observations. This visit “back home” did not disappoint.

Our first stop was unexpected, in that our flight out of Chicago was cancelled, but it was actually rather refreshing to pause in our journey and spend a night in a hotel before continuing onward (with fingers crossed regarding the first stand-by flight). It has actually made us consider taking a deliberate breather in future journeys, as flight travel has become so tediously painful nowadays. I'll let Phillip rant about that in another post, I think.

Ottawa was satisfactorily blustery, with snow scattered attractively about, yet not too cold. So it was that a couple of thin-blooded types like us could enjoy a long walk through the market and downtown and feel like we'd braved the elements. We DID stop for a latte along the way, but that's only civilized, no?

As for indoors - it was loud. But we'd prepared ourselves for that and enjoyed the company of all the little ones who ran amok and generally made Christmas what it was supposed to be; raucous, cheerful and gratifying. Phillip in particular came away with a valuable nugget gleaned from “Zen Panda” - one of the bedtime stories he read - that perfectly suited the sometimes-stressful moments that can arise during the holiday.

To summarize, a young monk and his older teacher are stopped along their path by an imperious old lady who demands to be carried across a muddy puddle. The wise teacher complies and continues along his way while the younger monk fumes with indignation at being treated so disrespectfully. Finally, the old monk turns to his apprentice and says “I set the woman down hours ago. Why are you still carrying her?”

I love the simple, yet powerful message in this delightful story and have promised myself to hold it close in the future.

Weather held out beautifully as we left Ottawa for the Eastern Townships, turning much more wintery after we'd passed through Montreal. It is amazing how we seemed to hit a wall of swirling snow, which can be hypnotic. The roads were greasy at times, but we hit no serious difficulty, making it to my sister's house in good time. There was more loud little people and louder big people with hugs and cheer. We ate like kings, thanks to Nikki and Mario's generous cooking, but slept in the Sahara.

Bet ya didn't know there was a desert in Quebec, huh? Yup, it's at my dad's house. His thermostat consistently reads about 29*C (84*F) and we could have walked around in our skivvies if we'd been so inclined. Poor Phillip was already suffering a sore throat, which was exacerbated by the dry heat at night. He had difficulty sleeping, so his final recourse was to tent a shirt over his face to reclaim a bit of humidity from his exhalations. I guess it helped because there was no desiccated skeleton left behind. We drank a lot of water and frequently had the urge to don pith helmets. The camels were lovely.

Onward to Chaffey's to visit another family group, and benefiting from our recent experience, we paused along the way to eat lunch at the beloved Manx pub. The roasted potato-garlic soup was divine. If you haven't enjoyed the Manx yet, do it! It is the pub by which we judge all others. At Dad and Donna's we felt outnumbered by kids, but it was fun to watch them (from afar) as they marched around the house on various adventures. I drank a good deal of Guinness during this portion of the visit.

One thing Phillip and I were curious to note is that Strawberry Shortcake dolls have made a comeback. In my day, she was kind of like Raggedy Ann, in that she wore peasant dresses and had yarn-like hair. She and her berry good friends were moderately cooler than the rag dolls in that they each had a yummy fruit scent.

Recently, she's been updated to be a little hipper; she wears a miniskirt with her traditional striped stockings, her hair is long and wavy and her bonnet-like hat has been modernized to be a newsboy-style cap. Very chic. She must have managed some corporate takeover in order to gain an edge in the increasingly cut-throat world of toys. Nieces and nephews would be wise to keep an eye on the seemingly innocent character.

Speaking of berries, Phillip smelled like raspberries after using some body-wash that someone had kindly provided for our shower. I commented on his fruity scent (wondering if Ms. Shortcake was in on it) and he replied that it was Avon. I scoffed that Avon was evil and Phillip responded that if such was the case, the shower-gel was likely distilled from the souls of raspberry orphans and he would go to hell for using it. I love his wacky brain.

Most of you are likely anticipating Phillip's next post, so I will leave off here and let him share his wacky inner workings next time. Until then, thanks again for the welcome and hospitality and may 2011 bring you all much good health and joy.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Air Travel and Punctuation

X-mas will soon be upon us and Kat and I are looking forward to visiting Canada. We've booked two weeks worth of time, which should be enough for visiting everyone and having enough 'down time' that it doesn't feel like constant running around.

I'm looking forward to being in Canada, but not looking forward to getting there. Air travel has become annoying, insulting and uncomfortable. I spent a good hour during Thanksgiving trying to understand why just about every American I talk to has no problem being treated like a criminal for attempting to get on a plane. Nude scans and intimate pat downs get a collective shrug from everybody. This is a country where the license plate in New Hampshire state have "Live Free or Die" as a motto. I'm starting to think they should be "Embrace Fear". Rather than bore people with my dislike of the new security rules I'm working on condensing it all down to a couple of bullet points so I can sum things up in 30 seconds or less. That way I waste less time ;)

Now I'm getting old I can fondly recall the day when air travel was considered classy and you used to get free wing badges, tours of the cockpit and free playing cards. Now children get intimate pat-downs from the TSA.

Kathleen's documentation for her massage certification finally arrived, yay! She took the documentation in to her workplace only to be told that she had been transferred to another location. Happily it is closer to home and has more athletic clientele. On her first six hour shift she did four massages and is back at work again today, probably going to do four more. She took a epsom salt bath last night to deal with the sore muscles. Sore muscles aside she really enjoyed the first day at work. Making people feel better, and getting paid for it, is a great way to spend the day.

During a particular stressful period at work last week (on a conference call trouble shooting one thing while carrying on two IM conversations dealing with other issues) I received an email from a co-worker with some serious punctuation abuse. I've learned to understand (not accept) that people under a certain age feel the need for punctuation, grammar and spelling in communication are far less important than brevity and the urge to follow memes. I figured work emails should be a bastion of normality. The offending email carried a question as to when we thought an application would be ready, the sentence was followed by not two, not three, but four question marks. As I stewed in righteous indignation trying to think of a properly business-like but snarky comment I was distracted by yet another IM, which was good.

When I finally got back to responding to the email I realized that we've moved in to an era of grammatical anarchy. Grammar, like the Catholic church, should change with the times. The Catholic church has decided that condoms have their value so why can't I roll with the times and accept free flowing punctuation? So here are some rules I came up with in regards to question marks:
  • One question mark: interrogative.
  • Two question marks: surprised interrogative.
  • Three question marks: jaw dropping, OMG surprised interrogative.
  • Four question marks: heart-stopping, panicked, shocked interrogative, as in "Is that Jesus stealing my car????"
Work based emails do not require quad question marks. Ever. Okay, if the CEO of your company decides that being payed 107 times the average worker is acceptable and was going to decrease his pay to that amount *then* you can use four question marks. For your information 107 times an average worker is what CEOs made back in 1990, now it is way higher.

I went to the REI 'returned and already opened' sale this morning. I told myself it was to look for good deals on X-mas gifts, but really it was just to see what fun stuff I could buy myself. The REI staff had tags on all the goods with the reasons why they were returned, it made for very amusing reading. Some of my favourites:
- Didn't like the way it was damaged after I fell.
- After only months of use it started pilling.
- Wore where seatbelt rubbed against it.
I wandered around amused at how petty people were, chuckling at the returned items. I then wandered over to the electronic area looking at high definition recorders (sporadically stops recording), GPS watches (didn't give good location information) and waterproof watches (the band was frayed). I figured I could get a good deal, REI was a respectable place and people were overly fussy. I noticed a GPS on sale (turns off randomly, hangs, battery life very bad) that had 'works fine' written on the tag. I recognized the GPS as the one I had returned months ago. All of a sudden all those petty return comments seemed not so funny. I didn't buy anything.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Of Plumbing and Self Abuse

Before you jump to conclusions, hear me out. Over the last couple of weeks I've found myself doing a lot of plumbing. This hasn't been a conscious decision, truthfully I just can't see myself waking up and thinking "today is a good day to replace faucets!", but as is often the case, it comes about of necessity. Over the six years of our residency here, every bathroom drain had become sluggish. Drain cleaning liquids didn't work and it got to the point where having a shower in the upstairs bathroom resulted in water pooling up to one's ankles.

Kathleen had some trepidation about me tackling the issue as I don't have a proven track record of fixing things. Nonetheless, I was determined. I'll spare you the gory details, but cleaning out six years of buildup was really gross. Ugh, I'm suffering flashbacks right now. The upside was that two summers of my youth spent working for a pool company gave me enough knowledge to pull pipes apart and put them back together again. Plus it only cost five dollars worth of tools, so I consider it a job well done.

A week later our kitchen faucet became harder and harder to turn off and eventually culminated in a bubbling spring welling out of the base of the tap.  As our kitchen counters flooded and water spilled over the floor, I - deliberately calm - walked all over the house trying to figure out how to turn the water off. This isn't something I'd contemplated before, so there was a lot of gazing in to corners of the garage and poking my head in to the back of closets. With the help of the the guy painting the house next door I managed to turn off the water to the entire condo (all four units) . I went back inside to inform Kat of my victory; she wasn't impressed and pointed out the two taps under the sink that she had used to stop the flow to the sink. I kindly went outside and let the rest of the condo have their water back, I don't think anybody noticed.

With the water turned off, and Kat trying to finish making biscuits for dinner, I disassembled the tap and cleaned it of accumulated crap (I'm getting good at that it seems). All the gaskets looked fine so I couldn't see why it had decided to let all the water through. As is standard in this world, things come apart far more easily then they go back together. Off I went to the Internet to find how to put the tap back together. Here is a little note for people who are thinking of uploading videos to YouTube regarding fixing taps: videotaping your hand pointing at the tap while you talk about how you fixed it is useless. I don't care how excitedly you gesticulate at the tap, if you don't take it apart and put it back together on video, it makes me question whether you ever successfully completed the task in the first place.

I got it back together using basic reasoning, and it works just like new. Kat was duly impressed. Whether she was impressed by me fixing it, or by me not making it worse I'm unsure, I'll assume the best. Oh yes, I changed the oil in my motorcycle this weekend as well, I'm going to be ruining my soft IT hands if this keeps up.

I pride myself on treating my body well and keeping in shape. I listen to my body, which is why I don't smoke (I can feel the smoke settle in my lungs, yuck), I didn't gain weight when I stopped being a bicycle courier (if the body isn't hungry, don't eat just out of habit) and no longer get hiccups (I figured out how to relax diaphragm and stop it from spasming). This makes it all the more frustrating when my body insists on a guerilla campaign against me. It waits until I am not in conscious control of my body before taking over and trying to kill me. Okay, that is a little over the top, it isn't trying to kill me, more like maim and cripple me.

It started with the snoring. Other than ruining a good nights sleep and annoying Kat it isn't that bad. It is frustrating that I can't seem to do anything about it.

Then, about ten years ago, my brain decided that a full set of teeth is conducive to good health so they had to go. I started to grind my teeth while asleep. This led to wearing down and chipping my teeth as well as throwing my jaw out of alignment from too much clenching and causing nasty headaches in the morning. I am now on my third night guard, or my 'chew toy' as I like to call it. I chewed through one of them, which obviously inspired the dog because he pulled my second off the nightstand and chewed it to pieces. From the looks of my third I'm soon due for another. The dentist loves this problem. I don't.

Having stymied my brain's attempt to make me eat only soft food, the brain is fighting back by attempting to cripple me. Kat has informed me that I now have the habit, while asleep of course, of flexing my feet constantly. Kat thinks this is at least part of the reason I suffer very tight calf muscles and sore achilles, and I agree that it makes a sad sort of sense. Now every morning I limp out of bed feeling like I just climbed 50 flights of stairs.

Kathleen's massage teachers think the foot flexing is a way for the body to rid itself of excess stress, which is what I also heard about the teeth grinding. There has to be a better way of getting rid of stress that doesn't include making me a toothless cripple. I'm still trying to figure out how to avoid this destructive behaviour, perhaps I'll have to get a treadmill and run myself to exhaustion every night. Of course since the behaviour is done at night how do I keep track of whether the grinding/flexing is decreasing? I don't think Kathleen is willing to stay up all night to monitor the situation for science or love. It's a conundrum.

I just checked my phone and it looks like Kat has finished giving a massage so it is safe for me to head home. Ooh, look, Stephen Thaddam (friend of some other Phillip Dean whose email I apparently share)  is online. I never did get back to him about whether "Explain the role of Guru Gobind Singh in founding the Khalsa community, and the importance of the five K’s for its members?" was a good entrance question.