Friday, 26 April 2013

Minivan Madness - Moving Home again with "Stuff".

Do you ever have a few days when you just cannot for the life of you, say anything interesting.  Truly, I am having a week like this.  Now it is not that I have done nothing this week, or talked to anyone this week.  I have had a "normal" week with not too much on the go, but not so little that I should have nothing to say.  However, even when I have nothing to say, I always have things to write.

Part of the my quiet this week comes from solitude. Derek is away again and Bridget is yet to move home.

When we had a home full of sticky goo, I longed for a few minutes of peace.  I loved the wee ones, but there
was always someone laughing and always someone crying.  It was never quiet.  We rushed around doing all the standard young family activities; swimming lessons, sleep overs  and Santa visits, Birthday parties, Beavers and Blanket forts. When Baby Bridget arrived we were full steam ahead. She spent the first 6 months in her car seat being carted around.  Any moment I had to myself was magical. A nap was the most coveted thing.  I was tired for about 20 years. I cherished my alone time, whenever I could find it.

When the kids were really little and in booster seats and car seats and bucket car seats (I am aging myself here) we could actually fit all 3 kids in their various types of seats, wedged across the back of our sporty, 4 door Grand Am.
 We resisted the minivan as long as we could.  Then we dived right in.  I mean who doesn't want a vehicle that someone can pee from without even getting out of the car.  We had 3 vans over the course of 3 kids. The first had a "driver side air bay", so we made the kids drive.  There was  a sliding door on only one side!!  The seats came out, but only a weight lifter could carry them.  We had cup holders, but they were not designed for juice boxes and were pretty much filled up with sticky crayons.  There was a tape deck for entertainment.  When we progressed to dual sliding doors, we were thrilled as now we could pee  from either side.  No line-ups.

  Men in minivans lose a piece of their manhood.  It really doesn't matter how many sheets of drywall you carry.  It doesn't matter that it has roof racks or a trailer hitch.  There is just nothing masculine about a minivan. No one, no matter how popular they were in high school, ever looks appealing driving a minivan.  It  is just not happening.  I think the minivan is a form of birth control.  "OK, I think our family is big enough now".

We tried to reestablish our sense of self with our last van, which was black and called "The Thunder".  However, it didn't help.  When our kids got old enough to drive, they were mortified to be driving a minivan, no matter what kind of  hot shot name it had.  Such are kids.  We got a van because we had the little buggers and then they are embarrassed by our  lack of cool.  However, when it came to moving stuff there was nothing better.  Kate realized this when we moved her to university at Western.  She got her stuff and then pretended not to know us.  No matter what the kids think was our motivation with the whole minivan stage, it was certainly not our intent to be regarded as bad ass.  It was when the last minivan drove away that I regained my dignity and Derek rediscovered his testicles.

Today we are giving up our empty nest.  Bridget is coming home for the summer after her first year at Ryerson, in Radio and Television Arts.  I was so excited about my trip to Toronto to pick her up.  I missed the traffic, as it was snowing when I was leaving. Of course it was snowing, it's April, c'mon, really??

Bridget was all packed and had assured me that since we had already made 2 trips previously, all that was left would easily fit in our car Latifa.  She is a Ford Focus.  Black of course because I regained my cool.  I saw a picture on Bridget's Facebook page last night of all the  remaining 'stuff" there was.
Note the Spiderman Umbrella

I was concerned, particularly as Derek is away.  Derek is spatially-gifted.  I am not sure whether it is a guy thing.  He can pack anything, big or small, into anything as long as he has bungie cords.  God that man loves his bungie cords. He even bungied the kids in the back of the Grand Am. Finding a spot for everything is truly a skill and short of changing a tire, there is really not too much sexier than Derek packing a car.  Derek packing a minivan just doesn't do it for me.  Where is the challenge there?

Unfortunately for all concerned, this trip was on me.  I am spatially-challenged.  I have trouble bringing home groceries in 1 trip.  I can't do puzzles to save my life and I hopeless at organizing a cupboard.  It is just not what I do.  I also maintain that after I did my part giving life to these sticky kids, all heavy lifting would be done by someone else.  I tried to tell Bridget, "I drive.  I do not pack.  I do not carry.  I do not unpack.  I am the Mom."  So today Bridget missed her Dad.  We both agreed as we drove home that it would have been so nice to have him along for this trip.  She missed him.  She missed that he would have unloaded the car for her.

Today, I reminisce about the minivan madness as truthfully, I have never missed the bloody things more. Everyone seemed to have extended cargo vans, hummers, Winnebagos and U-Hauls.  No one there had a super cool black Ford Focus.

Big Ticket Items in Little Black Car
Bridget and I made trip after trip up and down the elevator and then packing in the rain. Every time she came down, I just shook my head.  There were just so many things that I don't think she used.  I don't mean clothes (but yes there were so so many).  I don't mean shoes,  but again, so so many.  What I mean is 2 lacrosse sticks, a snowboard and boots, helmet and goggles as well as a guitar, tuner and stand. Thank God it was a long winter or I imagine my golf clubs would have been there.  All this stuff begs the question, Why?  If I recall correctly, I think they were all attempts to strike up casual, friendly "wow what a coincidence..." conversations with a boy at her residence.  I don't know if it worked, but I am sure it was fun trying. I applaud her scheming.  "So this weekend, after my lacrosse tournament, I thought I might head up to Blue Mt and do the half-pipes.  I will bring my guitar for the apres ski..It is tuned and ready to go".

So everything  finally fit in a very amateur, disorganized packing job.  Clothes were squished.  Make up bags thrown around.  Large ticket items stowed between the seats.  Dishes were broken.  Food was left behind. Trunk was shut. Doors were slammed tight and I could even see out the back window.  I fear though that there is nothing very feminine or attractive about being able to pack a Ford Focus, but we did it and without 1 single bungie cord.   Kudos to Bridget and me.  Welcome home little one.

Sad Little Student

Sunday, 21 April 2013

It Takes a Village and Then Some

I have had a slow week as far as interesting things that have happened.  I have gone to the gym and fell over at yoga.  Some weeks are just more interesting than others, so I have decided to write about people instead of events.  At the risk of being called sexist, I am going to talk about my women.  Nothing slanderous or catty, that is not my style. I am not sure why it is anyone's style.  As women we can get a bad rap as far as working against each other, or with ulterior motives.  There is all that talk about Cat Fights.  My experience is more like Pillow Fights.

Recently I had the opportunity to spend a few minutes with a friend.  We have  "run in the same circles" and have for many years.   We were able to catch up on our lives, our families and the lives of our mutual friends.   It was in recounting the current happenings of all these women, their children and the men in their lives, that I think we were both touched by our good fortune.  We have a Village in Orangeville.  These are the people with whom I laugh and with whom I cry.

Many years ago, when I had the sticky kids underfoot, we were women who were to a certain degree, overwhelmed with the responsibility of raising our children and keeping our homes as happy and somewhat organized.  Some of us worked "outside the home".  Some of us had supportive husbands.  Some of us had family close by and some of us didn't.  It just seemed that among the women I "found" at that time, we supported each other, mostly without judgement.  What some of us had at that time was the luxury of time to form friendships that were more than casual or superficial. This was possible through the relationships our children had with each other.  We made grilled cheese and pots of macaroni and cheese.   We went to the park.We changed diapers and wiped noses and bums.  I remember these times fondly, though I may have glamorized them to a certain degree. I also recall many times I waited impatiently for nap time and the point where "Captain Fun" would return, as I was running out of patience for questions like Bridget's famous " which is bigger, a house or dinosaur poo"?
Captain Fun

I have been blessed to continue to have a  continuing relationship with some of these women, I refer to as "My Village".  While childhood friendships of our kids have drifted, we have maintained relationships even as the luxury of time has changed.  Our attentions are divided.  We can add to our experiences the abundance of life lessons learned by our friends. To do so, we have realized the importance of honestly sharing our experiences.   The important part of these relationships is that we try not to paint a rosy picture.  Painting a rosy picture just serves to make our own lives that much more overwhelming.  We have gone from the mantra of "You Go Girl" to "Suck it up Sister" to now "Everyone has Sh...t".

I think this says it all

Now these relationships are then supported by  "long distance" friends.  These are the women and men with whom we share a different history.  A history before marriage.  We share memories of lives spent without children.  It was over the past week, while I was passing an "uneventful" week, that I had the luxury of  "catching up" with some friends. We know each other's children, some with whom we share the esteemed status of "Godparents". We remember pregnancies and labour stories and our sticky kids before we had a Village.  These are the people that travel for happy occasions and sad occasions.  These are the people with whom long distance calls are never strained.

I am not yet going to touch on the relationship with have with childhood friends.  That will be next week, after brunch with the women who know me even more differently.  We remember a different side of each other.  We remember each other when our lives were much less complicated.  When we had not yet had the life experiences from which our glimpses of wisdom have been grown.

Bridget, Christine, Diane and Janet
 I look forward to this.  I really want to realize the women these girls have become.  No one really wants to be remembered for who they were in high school.  I look forward to the chance to redeem myself.

Another group of women I wish to acknowledge are those who have experience beyond those of "mid-life" women.  These are the women who share stories of things not yet experienced.  These are things I look forward to with anticipation.  There are also lessons I dread.  They are a glimpse of what is yet to come.  For me, these include my mother and my many aunts. They have shared their experiences with my cousins as well, helping them to develop into the women they have become.

2 Lovely Ladies, My Mom and Aunt Arden
Today I have been spending time with my most supportive women.  These are my lovely sisters.  They know way too much about me and accept me regardless.  We too, share our sh...t and we learn from each other's experiences.  They are all the friendships of which I speak, rolled into 3.
Camera-shy Karen, Terry, Julie, Janet

We know each other now. We remember each other's sticky kids and the ever famous stories of their births. We remember each other before motherhood, before our husbands, before our crazy youth in Richmond Hill.  Each of us were the other's first friends. It is probably for these 3 women, that I am the most grateful.

This afternoon we are experiencing Reflexology at Julie's home in Toronto.  We are also drinking wine.  We are celebrating Julie's belated birthday. She is really quite old now. She has thrown herself this Reflexology party as a purchase from a Silent Auction organized by my niece Natalie, to benefit the United Way.  

Pauline Jennett, Reflexologist and camera-shy Karen

We share. We commiserate.  We accept without "too much" judgement.  We encourage each other. Mostly  we Eat Sit Talk.  I expect I will be just that much wiser after tonight.  Such is a visit with the 3 other Wells girls.  Here is hoping we pass along our life lessons to our daughters and nieces and that they listen without "too much" judgement, at least to some.  

Thank you Pauline Jennett (The Interior Touch) for the chance to take a load off and relax with the women I love.

Karen, Terry, Julie, Janet


Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Canadian Winter - OK Enough Already!!!


Well, here in Canada, we have been hit hard by Old Man Winter.  It just won't end.  Many Canadian's have just about had it.  We have had a winter like I remember as a child. The snow banks were huge.  Not sure if the size of the snow banks was a function of my size, but I really don't thing so.

Last week it rained, snowed and iced. Ice storms are not unusual in Canada and can be quite destructive. In 1998,  my family in Quebec was without power for almost 3 months, as they live just south of Montreal, in an area deemed "the black triangle".  My brother-in-law George and his family were also hit very hard near Ottawa, bathing their baby, Emily, in snow and ice warmed on the wood stove. He and pregnant Carole watched from their backyard as crews of people flew in to help. George, being Irish, had the wood stove fired up in case they "fancied a cup of tea".

In a short span of time, we had every type of weather known, sun, sleet and snow.  Adults were frustrated.  Children were confused.  My friend Sadie had been whizzing by on her 2-wheeler as fast as her 4 year old legs could carry her last weekend.  Now she and her bike are sad.

Sad Little Bike

 I am trying not to moan at all about the winter. I am keeping a low profile. I have forfeited a true Canadian's right to complain about snow in mid-April.  I do, though, want to join in and be one of the Canadian crowd, frustrated and fed up with a winter that started in November.  I just try to look solemn and nod in solidarity, hoping no one remembers I spent 6 weeks wearing flip flops  in Barbados earlier this year..

I have a dear friend who had a much needed and well-deserved holiday at March Break. When I suggested that her trip to Cuba must have provided a needed relief from winter, she replied that the break was a tease and she felt it made the rest of the winter tougher.  I just couldn't resist.  I took my life in my hands:  "think how I feel.  I was down south for 6 weeks.  Just imagine how difficult that was for me!!!".  It is no wonder no one really likes me anymore.

On Friday,  many Canadians were having a "snow day".  When the sticky kids were home, snow days were very exciting.  I tried to embrace them. I dressed them in full snow gear, which in Canada includes long underwear, turtle necks, snow pants, Balaclava's, scarves, mitts and jacket, thermal socks and snow boots.  It was so lovely when they were little and you could bundle them up.   There is definitely no concern over "your boots are on the wrong feet".  I mean really, if the child doesn't care, why should we?

It is a sad day when your 10 year old refuses to dress warmly. It starts slowly, with the balaclava and in no time they are out the door in with runners and a t-shirt  assuring you they are indeed "not going to catch their death of cold".  All have, in fact, lived.

A snow day without kids at home is really a day when you realize your nest is truly empty. It is, I admit, sad.  I wish I had embraced snow days more.  As a mother without children at home on a snow day there are no crafts, no baking, no family channel, no naps. Ok, there are still naps.

Over snow/rain/ice days, Canadian driving is challenging.  Derek and I did a lot of driving this weekend.   The driving was challenging, my car, Lateesha, seemed to have a mind of her own, rocking and pulling.

Well on our way home, after a lovely visit with our long time friends who make up our village, the source of the hydroplaning and rocking became apparent.  On the 402 just somewhere beyond in the middle of nowhere, we had a flat tire.  I immediately pulled out my iPhone and my CAA auto service card.  I love to use my CAA card.  I feel it shows my foresight and intuition, that in some way, I will need roadside assistance.  I often do.  They certainly make no money from me.   While I was wandering around the side of the highway trying to figure out and then explain where we were, Derek took his life into his own hands and he just up and changed the tire.  Who knew he had this secret skill.  I felt pretty sure that this would be the last time I would ever see him, as trucks flew by.  Now I was furious that he endangered himself and in so doing, negated the need for me CAA membership.  I have to admit though, I have never found him sexier.

The car is now running better with a cute little donut  but I think Lateesha is a bit embarrassed that her tires don't match.

My sister would say:  "It could have been worse.  It could have been raining".

This year in Canada though, I would say:
"It could have been worse.  It could have been blowing snow.  It could have been ice pellets.  It could have been hail.  It could have been snow squalls.  It could have been freezing rain.
 It could have been sleet...".

You get my point.

Friday, 12 April 2013

In Times of Tragedy

I haven't written in a while, as I was trying to figure out what I wanted to say.  I often write of the misgivings of life, the bumps, I call them, with humour and hopefully with at least a tiny bit of insight.  As we all know, life such as it is, is bumpy.  Sometimes these bumps are just bumps.  We have petty family disagreements.  Who gets the car?  "Who's turn is it to...".  Those feeling unfairly put upon, or invisible or denied.   We have bumps during our days, cranky clients and crashing computers which throw a wrench in our plans.  We have mechanical mishaps, fuses that blow and flooded basements.  These things can be frustrating and at times, are a bigger burden than, perhaps, they should be.  However,  it means that at this given time, these are the  bumps that present themselves and from which we learn.  When these bumps are the sole concern, we should, but often don't, consider ourselves blessed that they are the extent of our burden at that moment.

Then there are the hurdles.  These are the life events where everything stops.  Busy work schedules are completely abandoned.  Travel plans are cancelled.  Family comes to be together and friends try to offer support.  Such is the sadness of illness and death.

As a supportive community of family and friends, we become aware of a tragic loss and we launch.  There are those who try to find the right words.  There are those who realize there are no right words.  We offer help "let me know what I can do", because we honestly don't know how to ease suffering without intruding and over-stepping.  My week has been such.  I watched from afar as my dear friends' sister suffered a short and terrible illness and she died, 1 week ago.  She had the blessing of a large family by her side. including a little girl with squeaky shoes and her second, yet, unborn, granddaughter, kicking her hand.  I have watched this family grieve, as they, unfortunately  have many times this year.  Another life has ended and to say "unfairly", just doesn't touch it. A young woman with a life that was too short.

It is at these times, that we, of significant age. can look back.  At this point, it is unlikely that we have been blessed with lives that are yet untouched by tragedy.  We have been the ones who have looked to others  for support.  We are those who were on the receiving end of other's well-intentioned attempts to comfort and at the receiving end of the kindness of friends and strangers.

Now this meandering brings me to my point.  My dear friends' sister was one of the many people who we recall stepping up during my family's dark days.  There were meals.  There were prayers and their were hugs. What I recall specifically was my thankfulness for the times she showed up at our door, unsolicited, and took our children to her happy home.  She gave my child a break from the solemn house in which she  was, more or less, trapped.  I remember her for this.  In fact I will never forget her for this.  She had a unique ability to make each child feel that they were the one and only child that she loved.

So I try awkwardly to support my dear friends by a strong shoulder on which to cry and to attempt to do  the practical things that might make this time at least a little bit less complicated.  As is my inclination, the only thought in my head is "what can I bake"?

 I am now coming to realize that any and all gestures are wonderful.  These things truly help.  However, what I think families need to know in times of tragedy are those things I cannot bake.  They need to know what we loved about their sister, their wife, their mother,their aunt and their friend.  They need to know the stories of her kindness to everyone and especially to all the children who were blessed to know her.  As it was so eloquently put by my friend, of his sister," she was a mother to so many", including my Bridget.  I think the family needs to know the things we remember.  Things we will never forget.  Families need the pleasure of  the stories. They should have the blessing of our memories with hopes that they will be comforted in some way, by the timeless ways in which so many of us were touched by her  May these memories make them smile when they tell the children, whose lives she was yet to touch, just the sort of kindness that was Lorie's style.

Thursday, 11 April 2013

I Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest and into the Closet

I Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest and into the Closet

The current view of mental health, in our enlightened society, has evolved away from one of "the absence of mental illness".  We speak of balance and boundaries, triggers and exercise.  We speak of  "mental health days" and professional counselling.  We even  regard the use of medications with a more open mind.

Unfortunately at age 40, I learned first hand that there are an unfortunate few for whom mental health does not solely mean the pursuit of life balance.  There are those of us who now have gone full circle and are back to viewing mental health as the absence of mental illness.  So, in light of mental health week, I choose to share a story that I have not yet put to paper.

About 10 years ago,  I was keenly aware of a family member who was struggling with  undiagnosed and untreated mental illness.  I established a close relationship with him.  I worked to facilitate professional help for him.  Unfortunately, he reached a point where he shut me out.  He then took his own life.  I honestly, and with sadness, admit that I was not the least bit surprised.

Following his death, as I felt somewhat removed from this tragedy, I was in a position to take on tasks that were time-consuming and/or unpleasant.  I had a completely different perspective than everyone at this time.  I was optimistic.  I was energized and I rarely slept.  I was very effective at completing all tasks and I felt I was the one best suited to do this and that  no one would be able to meet these demands except me. I spoke very quickly and  I became agitated when people couldn't keep up.  I became impulsive, speaking out of turn.  My thoughts raced to the point of being unbearable.  Sleep became impossible.  Anxiety began to paralyze me.  My thought processes were no longer rational, with feelings that became those of profound knowledge and power.  I was aware that something was wrong, though I denied this for a number of days.

When I was finally honest with those close to me,  I was admitted to the psychiatric floor of a large hospital.  It was a young social worker who questioned the general view that I was over-stressed, sleep deprived and just needed some rest.  He saw the signs of mania.  I was observed and assessed by those who truly understood what was once called "Manic Depression" with symptoms characterizing a Bipolar Disorder.  After a number of days, it became obvious to all, and finally to me as well, that my mind was not going to quiet down.  I was not sleeping. I wrote incessantly to try to slow my thoughts.  Finally I accepted this and agreed reluctantly to begin treatment.  This started as a cocktail of mood stabilizers which would be adjusted over the following 4 weeks in hospital.

I would like to write more about the days I spent on the psychiatric ward and the people I met.  What I can say briefly, is that I learned so much during my time spent with those whom we often mock.   I went in there feeling like I was "not like any of these really crazy people".  Then I watched as they improved.  They began to regain rational thought and I stopped seeing their illness.  I learned from them about the potential for recovery, as I was beginning to doubt my own.

I wish this hospital experience was the end of the story, but unfortunately, what goes up, often comes down and profound depression hit 4 weeks later. I dropped very low and I was back in the hospital for another 3 weeks.That was my last hospitalization to date, but I did not recognize myself at all throughout the following year.  I was lost in a roller coaster of anxiety, panic and depression.  I did not contemplate suicide, yet this is not uncommon in a Bipolar disorder. I certainly felt I truly understood how people came see this as a suitable option.

During my recovery, my story was told in many different ways, by people with varying levels of understanding.  Some were very supportive and stepped out of their comfort zone, visiting me in what some called "the looney bin". There were those who came out of hiding with their own stories of mental health struggles.  There were those who fed my family, cared for my children, did our laundry, cleaned my kitchen floor.  It took a village and fortunately for my family, we had one.

In contrast, there were those who did not feel comfortable and dropped out of sight. A few were cruel. Some people understood, others tried to understand and there were some who just did not get it at all.  There are still those who do not get it.  For this reason, my story, for the past 10 years has been shared on a "need to know" basis. When my experience might help someone, I am very open.  I hope I have helped some people accept their struggles and to seek appropriate help. It is with great despair,  however,  that I admit I may not share this on my blog.  I feel hypocritical, but I have learned firsthand, through lapses in judgement, to be guarded to a certain degree with my experiences.  Despite how far we have come, there is and may always be a degree of stigma associated with serious mental illness.

With follow up over the past 10 years, I have learned to give up control to the physician who knows and understands the intricacies of keeping me on track. I no longer resist.  I do not seek  to reduce my medications. I have tried and I have learned the consequences of poorly managed Bipolar Disorder.  When asked how long I would be taking medication, my psychiatrist replied "I expect for the rest of your productive life".  Since I do not plan to become "unproductive" at any point, I will be compliant with my medications for the rest of my life.

I firmly believe in the brain as an organ and perhaps the most
complex organ.  It can falter. My struggles are the result of a genetic predisposition and significant triggers.  I respect the genetic component as I have watched my children. I have seen red flags.  I have tried to lead by example as far as coping strategies, counselling and as a last resort, medication.  My children function beautifully.  I think that my personal experience has prepared me to recognize and advocate for my children.  I think my experience may have saved my son.

Now I am at a point that I have to stop writing.  Even recounting this story has my mind moving.  I will go to sleep and recharge my brain.  I will avoid my triggers and maintain my boundaries.  I will exercise regularly and I will eat right.  I will find help in talking with my village and seek counselling when I become overwhelmed.  I will pursue mental health in all ways possible but most importantly, for me, I will accept my vulnerability and I will be compliant with treatment.  In this way, I will continue to be neither limited nor defined by mental illness.

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Damn, I was going to go to the gym!!

I look at it the other way, if I tell you I am going to the Gym, then maybe I will.
Well, since the day Natasha tried to get my groove back, my dive into a healthy lifestyle has been a bit shallow.  I have been finding any excuse to sit proudly on my butt and feel there was something else pressing, to which I must attend.  I feel at times like Liz Lemon in 30 Rock who declares with every  opportunity:   "darn I was going to go to the gym".  Admittedly, I think I am in a bit of a funk, but I am going to try to run my way out of it.  Well, maybe walk my way out of it, since again, no one is actually chasing me.

I have had great intentions though. I have my gym bag packed and ready for Headwaters Racket Club.  I appropriately have a squash racket in the car. I have even remembered my lock combination (it is written on the back of the lock- speaking to my foresight and my trust of human nature).  I am revved up.  I have checked the schedule and I have planned.  When I think of my lessons in motivational change in healthcare. I see that I was pleasantly in denial for a while. I moved into contemplation, which is figuratively represented as sitting on a fence.  How appropriate, but I was actually sitting on a beach.  I am now moving from the contemplative stage of change to "Action".   I am in the Action Stage of Action.  I am working toward maintenance.  I want to reach this stage before Bridget moves home and kicks my butt at competitive Zumba.


So the actual trip to the gym eventually came when we got back from Barbados last week.  Derek and I made our way to the treadmills.  We couldn't find any treadmills together, so I listened to the news.  I had no idea how much is going on out there in the great big world.  I found out about Tartan Day.  I found out about the legacy of Margaret Thatcher.  This activity thing is amazing.  I am going to be so smart.  I will be all svelte and tanned and I will make random comments to people like "the long term repercussions of Thatcherism include..."

The next time we went, a respectable 2 days later, we did get to treadmills together.  Now, when Derek  and I try to walk side by side in the real world, for example, walking Crazy Dog, Derek meanders.  He walks like he drives, very slowly and carefully.  I say I appreciate this when he is driving, but admittedly, it makes me crazy.  Now when we are on foot, it is not only frustrating, it is really pointless to be so slow.  Derek may disagree, but there is no imposed speed limit while walking.  What I have found on the treadmill, is that we are very compatible.  Derek meanders.  I saunter.  He tells me about his day.  I nod without missing a step.  I am sure people see us and think we are so cute, these 2 pudgy people going for a stroll, chatting away.  What they don't realize is that we are actually racing.

So I will keep going  to the gym.  I am going to start slowly and then I will build up the frequency and the intensity, until I break a sweat.  If you are reading this and you see me at the gym, give me a thumbs up. It means I am dragging myself out of a funk and continuing to get back my groove.

I am trying reelly hard not to judge the speling acuraccy  of this.  

Monday, 8 April 2013

Chick Day - Hair to go with the Teeth

This is a post I started a few weeks ago when Bridget was home after her teeth extravaganza.   I am going to continue some posts like this.  I hope to introduce you to some of the women who make my life just a little bit nicer. 

After our 12 hour dental day, Thursday, Bridget needed some "home time with her mother". We watched Glee like old times and she drifted off to sleep on the couch in her fleece pjs, with her dog and cat.  I got to put a throw blanket on her.  This is probably the most satisfying thing.  I cherish it.  I will mourn the day I have no one to cover up with a throw blanket.  

Relaxing the the Animals

Friday is a chick day which includes hair cuts.  Many may be familiar with this hair experience as many of the people I love (AKA the people who read my blog), are women.  I have a few enlightened men who read this as well, and that, unfairly, I find even more flattering.  Now for the men with only a memory of hair cuts, I will review.  One day you like your hair. Then your husband likes it as it gets longer. Then your mother likes it. Then you get compliments from friends. But just before total strangers start commenting, you get up one morning and you shriek. "Oh my Gawd!! Look at my awful hair! I can't possibly leave the house." I am too embarrassed to even call my hairdresser. Fortunately, my lovely Sandra at Aart's Hair Studio,has seen me at my worst and she understands that I am going to try to convince her that "I really only need a cut"  She is patient. She squeezes me in. She knows that pretty soon I won't be able to go to work ever again.

So today it is hair day. Colour and cut, I agree.  I would put a 
My Sandra - So understanding
"before" picture here but just can't do it. So I sit here drinking coffee and chatting. I fully expect to be much more presentable in about 2 hours. 

Daughter Bridget is also having her haircut today.  This is a little mother/daughter time.  Casey, our dog, who looked worse than I did, is also getting a hair cut.  It is long overdue as I was away in Barbados and totally neglected her coiffing.  Casey the dog and I are usually on the same grooming cycle.  Its the day I wake up and shriek at my hair and at hers.  Bridget arranged her grooming today.  I arranged 
Amanda and Bridget

The reason I am posting about something as commonplace as a hair cut is because on this day, there was a videographer

taking shots for a sociology research study investigating the relationships between hairdressers and their clients. I agreed to allow him to take pictures as long as my hair was in front of my face.  Bridget agreed to a complete photo shoot.  How can see study Radio and Television Arts and balk at a camera.  How can she be an 18 year old girl, and balk at a camera.  
So I think to myself, if someone is getting a Master's Degree, studying the sociology of hairdressing, I should add my two cents here.  We love our hairdressers.  

Sandra is one of my peeps. She takes me at my most vulnerable (long wet hair draped in front of my face) and reshapes me. She lifts my spirits and my self-image. She makes me feel like a million bucks.  She is an Aartist. 

I would put an after shot, but I am really not that self-absorbed. Ok, I am, but I like to think I am too proud to take my own photo, which as you probably know, I am not.  

However I will put a picture of the most  beautiful lady of the day ... and it is not Bridget.   

Fancy Bitch in her neck-er-chief

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Dad/Daughter Day at the Dump

Dad/ Daughter Day at the Dump

Yesterday was a touring day for Kate as Derek is off for Easter weekend. We first introduced Kate to the charm of Speightstown, a mere stone's throw from our home at Mullins Beach. She was able to appreciate the parking arrangement. 
$1 per hour or "part thereof"
A far cry from the rates to which she has grown accustomed in downtown Toronto. 

This was purely a coincidence - but where is Derek's hat?

She is also encouraging her father and his identical twin brother to stop letting their mother dress them.  

A trip to Speightstown would not be complete with at stop at our favourite coffee  house for cappacino.  It is the Orange Street Grocer and the people are lovely.

Unparalleled Cappuccino
The focus of our excursion was Cheapside market for vegetables and spices but what would be complete without another tour of the landfill site at Mangrove Pond in St Andrew Parish in Barbados. As mentioned previously no one visiting the Burnside house can do so without a trip to the dump for a full appreciation for their role in Barbados. This site has evolved over the few years I have been visiting  It was once a big hole. It was then lined with rubber to prevent seepage and now it is an official landfill site. The Tonka trucks come in and waste is disposed.  
Tonka Trucks
Glamorous Yes!   It is actually quite a "site" to be seen. 

Dad/Daughter Bonding
This trip also spurned the age-old question to Derek "what do you do in Barbados"?  This is a question that we are often asked when people find out that Derek's work includes a large part of time spent here on the island.  Up until recently we were at a loss.  We kind of knew what he did, but unfortunately it was not very glamorous.  "So you are building a dump?".  "No" he would say,  my work involves all kinds of "solid waste management".  This was obviously of no help to us, as this was just not going to be the answer we were going to give! So we came up with:

"I am really not sure, but I know that he is involved in ensuring that Barbados continues to have clean drinking water".  It sounded both interesting and altruistic.  

So now the focus of Derek's work down here is shifting.  He gave us the lay man's explanation of the most recent project RJ Burnside is managing.  Very recently an innovative green energy project was proposed by the government of Barbados and passed through cabinet.  The Democratic Labour Party was re-elected in February, when I was here.  At that point all looked good for the moving the project forward.  The contract was awarded to RJ Burnside, this relatively small engineering firm that originated in Orangeville Ontario. 

The plan over the next 4 years is to develop alternative sources of energy to offset the cost of oil, presently imported from Trinidad.  The energy sources include solar, wind and off-gas energy at the Mangrove Pond site. It is also an important site of aLeachate treatment facility to reprocess the  water draining from the landfill site to prevent any negative effects of the landfill site on the ground water table of the island.  So he does actually ensure clean drinking water in Barbados as well.  

We continued our tour of the island with a trip into Bridgetown to market.  With every week's adventure, we always experience at least 2 hours when we become lost on the side roads of the country side.  This happened that day.  

When we finally arrived at the market and the Pelican Craft Centre, we found many craft shops closed and a very poor Karaoke day at Cheapside.  It was hot. It was crowded and we ran like tourists back to our car. 

So I would have to say, for our outing today, the dump was the high point, both literally and figuratively. 

Engineering and Science-based Solutions - R.J. Burnside