February 22, 2012

I like traditions.  Connections.  Nostalgia.
 
I like to see the same Christmas ornaments hung on the tree, and taking the annual vacation to the same spot.  I like the seeing stores pass from father to child, eating Poulane bread in Paris made the way the monks have made it for hundreds of years and eating a White Spot burger with family members in BC. 
 
Traditions are connections to something.  My friend Nancy’s annual New Year’s Eve evening with friends connects her with her friends, the memories made over 12 years attending together and the relationships made at Queen’s University.  Annette’s are her recipes of course, so many named for friends and relatives that passed it along or made it first reminding her of meals shared by all of her families and what she has to share with others.   Emile’s annual fishing trip (although something of a past tradition) with the boys connects him with Celestica, the days of so much disposable income and few responsibilities for 5 young men.   My mom’s Christmas carolling candles that she sets up every year (without burning) takes her back to Christmases with her own mother before cancer changed that.  But those candles are also infused with all the Christmases she spent with my Dad, me and Todd and representative of the Christmases we will spend together again.  
 
These traditions represent and remind me of connections I have with family, friends, my country, society, and the world.   More than memories – feelings – of times past, when I was alive and when I was not.   I must note, that not all things “traditional” should be around.  Only traditions that make everyone affected feel happy or at least neutral.    If you pull out Christmas ornaments that your grandma made for you that you stored your damp basement and they got mouldy, then you should not hang on to them.  Sure, maybe tell her to crack out the crochet needles, but toss them.  Be sad, but be happy that the blackened stained furry snowflakes are no longer in your basement.  If you get married and the annual summer cottage vacation doesn’t work anymore, you’re going to have to compromise on how to hit the cottage with your family but still do something else some summers.   If you always make the same beef gravy that requires 4 days of simmering and stress, seriously, find a restaurant that will sell you small portions of it (and smuggle it in the back door if you have to).   Sometimes you’ve just got to move along, people.
 
Not sure what started this deep thought today . . .I was eating lunch with Grandpa at his residence today.  We talk often, but also sit in silence sometimes.  That’s okay.   The silence let me think of all the meals we’ve had together – alone, or extended family.  Most of them because of my parents’ tradition of bringing us to Vancouver at Christmas and the summer.    And the tradition of my grandpa and my uncle with family coming to Cranbrook each summer.  And one I have carried on sporadically returning when I can.
 
I remember the time Grandpa dined and dashed from a local White Spot. (Can you believe it?  We went back 3 hours later when he realized he hadn’t paid the bill.  The manager was astonished)!  How about that fancy BB Beltons dinner with the whole family once – my mom wore her white beaver fur coat, and my uncle told the waiter he didn’t wear socks because we couldn’t afford them after paying for the coat.  The Christmas dinner when the “Turkey Protesters” sent open letters to the major grocers claiming they had injected the birds with poison (these letters really arrived).  Despite doubts of how people could take a syringe of poison and inject a frozen turkey  (FROZEN!!!) with it,  Grandpa and I made an emergency run to IGA (who did not receive a poisoned turkey letter).  The man drove like a lunatic trying to get one of the last turkeys in town and frightened me to death.  He sent his soup back twice to have it heated up at Red Robin. (the third serving almost melted the spoon).  The time with all of us at the temporary White Spot at Expo 86 when my uncle sent back his mushroom burger after eating more than half of it to say it didn’t have a PATTY! (um, how do you not notice that?  The waiter was gobsmacked, my grandpa laughed for a week)  The many meals Grandpa spent with our delighted cat under his chair sharing his steak.  And who can forget when he swallowed the tab off a beer at lunch.  He framed it.  And, no I am not kidding on that one either. 
 
Tomorrow lunch with my grandma (Dad’s mom).  We’ll see what the day holds!
 
 February 22nd, 2012 Extra-Ordinary Event:  Holding my traditions – and the feelings they recall and the future they imbue – close.

February 21, 2012

I got 3 hours sleep last night.  Or 4.  I know I saw the clock at 1:37 am and got up promptly at 5:30 am.   I was having weird dreams about Captain Hawkeye Pearce so I don’t think those count as REM sleep.

 I am here at the airport awaiting my flight.  Emile and I left Huntsville at 6 am so I could get to a meeting in Toronto at 9  am.  I do not like seeing that side of dawn. 

 There is a funny detached feeling I get when I have had such little sleep. It allows me to function despite my inability to remember basic facts like the day or what gate I am leaving from. But I can sit and read, do a crossword, and be calm despite my plane being a bit delayed. I have a slight glaze to my eye and conversations are a bit choppy. I am pretty agreeable too – if the Pita guy asks me if I want a smoothie combo with my pita, I agree. Problem is then I can’t make a decision and order something out of the ordinary. Like a immune booster which featured echinechia, bee pollen and other strange things. ( I already had a Perrier in hand too.)

 If I have had only 6 hours sleep watch out. I am crabby, cannot concentrate, and wish desperately for a bed. The magical properties that keep me functioning with 3 hours are not applied in this case. My food choices must be from the sin food groups – bad fat, sugar or refined carbohydrates. I eat and grumble, fall asleep drooling, and am too tired to do anything.

 It’s 5  am Vancouver time now because I went to bed at 8 pm. After the immediate tasks at hand were completed my magical “3 hours only” powers begin to dissipate.  I collapse instantly.

 February 21 Extra-ordinary Event: Keeping awake to 8 pm- it must have been the bee pollen.

February 20, 2012

I really don’t have much to say today –  I spent today getting ready for our trips.  I didn’t spend much time recognizing the extra-ordinaryness going on around me.    It takes practise, I will keep practising!
 
But I will share something with you that I think is extra-ordinary.
 
Another person showed up in the news today after having a face transplant 3 weeks ago.  He was horribly burned as a baby in a house fire and has not been able to ever lead a normal life since.  Can you imagine how you would have developed if the people you meet or interacted with were either scared or pitied you from the time you were a baby?  I find that surgeons can now help people with such disfiguring injuries absolutely mind blowing.  Every time that a story like this comes up in the news, I try to check the status of all the 20 face transplants completed to date – what do they look like, how have things improved, has their life improved?  I am fascinated by their journey, although so many of the patients limit their media exposure after their surgeries.  I can imagine after years of not being able to leave the house, that it must be so wonderful to NOT be studied, or observed, but to be one of the many people in the world going about their business.  They just want to be left alone to not be extra-ordinary.
 
I also find it amazing that the bone structure of the patient tends to override the features of the transplanted face.  That the patient will often start to look like their old selves – although still different – after a year or two.  
 
Isabelle Dinoire – the first partial face transplant face – said she initially felt disgusted having someone else’s body on hers but has learned to accept it.  She also started to sprout hairs on her chin which she does not like very much.  Really, does anyone? 
 
February 20 Extra-Ordinary Event:  Full Face Transplant.

February 19, 2012

Tiredness comes in all forms. Sick and tired. Emotionally wrung out. Mentally exhausted. I workout fatigue. Shock.
 
I am physically and emotionally tapped out tonight. This happens when you are a hero. When you put your own safety behind the lives of others. When your country calls. When the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few. . . or one.
 
We got a lively call yesterday to invite us cross-country skiing. We hadn’t been since last year but it would be fun and promised a picnic lunch and a hot tub afterward.  A gorgeous day getting our exercise with friends and enjoying the beauty of Muskoka in the winter.
 
This morning dawned cold and sunny – a reverse omen of things to come. The sun was glinting off the snow and Emile and I fuelled ourselves with leftover pancakes and green monster smoothies. We pulled on our polar linings, mittens, toques, scarves and super warm socks. We prepared well for the day’s events. Or did we?
 
The day began at the rental shop and purchasing of passes and getting our skis. The first person we ran into was our massage therapist.  Yes, we are the kind of people who have a massage therapist. Yes. Why? Because when you get working notice of unemployment, you max out your benefits. Emile and I had $500 each to spend in 6 weeks on massages.  And spend it we did, we are regulars now.  And now another NEW start of benefits to spend in 4 months.  I am going to be so limber.  But I should have taken the sign – a raven so to speak.
 
As I left the rental centre, I looked at the trail status sign – everything was open, and most everything groomed.  As it was such a beautiful day and Family Day Long weekend, it was busy at Arrowhead.  It was nice to see so many people out snowshoeing, skiing and tobogganing.
 
Muskoka’s weather has been warm and cold as of late and this has resulted in a sheet of ice covering most areas and icy packed snow. While Emile and I readied ourselves at the rental shop, our friends waxed their skis and selected the trail we were going to handle.  Emile and I seem quite competent in everything we do, but let me assure you it is the attitude in some cases, not actual skill.  But Rob believed in us and selected Hardwood Hills, a moderate trail that was only 3 kms long, not hard, not easy, but moderate.  Only 3 kms long?   Easy!
 
Terror began right at the beginning with a “gentle” slope.  When you grew up on downhill skis – which are twice as wide as cross-country, and the technique is tremendously different – getting down a hill cross-country is different (and very tippy).   Let me tell you something about me downhill skiing – I NEVER fall.  I doesn’t matter what is happening, I will never fall.  I will twist my body in weird contortions, stop quickly, use my poles, – whatever it takes to stay upright and away from the cold and injury inducing ground.   As I do not know how to telemark, and my feet are wider than the skis, and I was terrified as I didn’t really know how to stop, I fell.  And I couldn’t get up.  How you get up on downhill skis is not how you get up in cross-country skis (apparently).  After a few minutes of graceful manoeuvres, I made it up again.  The worse part is this gentle slope was to get you to gain speed to make it up the hill next.   But in this case, we needed to use plain knee-pit grease to get ourselves up that hill.  I somehow managed to, but Emile eventually took off his skis and hiked up.  At the 200 meter mark, we both needed a rest.
 
And the trail continued like this, with marginal increases to our skills in the face of patient coaching from Rob and Nancy.  Emile ran me over one time, but other than that, I didn’t fall again.  Soon 3 kms were near and one last hill to go down.  We all stopped at the top and we each took turns going down – I suspect Rob and Nancy didn’t want to get run over.  I went third.  I took the hill as slow as I could, but despite my efforts, was clipping along at a very quick speed (at least in my perspective)  Near the end was a turn and as I clumsily rounded it, 8 skiers – including women and children – gathered at the bottom getting directions from Rob and Nancy.
 
We all ask ourselves how we would handle situations that require heroics.  Would cowardice rear its ugly head, would our actions be effective, would we panic?  I considered my options, trying the brakes, trying to turn into a little run away lane.  But with my normally unused cross-country muscles exhausted and my lack of skill, I simply could not steer well enough.  In desperation, I threw my body to the ground and came to a rest about 10 feet from the group.  They were saved.   I was broken. 
  
February 19th, 2012 Extra-Ordinary Event:  The tremendous bruise on my left thigh and buttock – a reminder of the hero I am.  And the people I saved.

February 18, 2012

Follow-up from February 17th:

 Text Conversation:

Me:  Any yen for anything for dinner?

Emile:  Pancakes??!

Me:  Ok

Emile:  Sounds Great!

 So last night we had pancakes for dinner. And bacon and maple syrup. No leftover squash – everyone was too afraid to heat it up.

 February 18th, 2012

 Being unemployed as I am,  I do all the laundry.  I do all the laundry even if the situation was reversed. That is good for our relationship – it saves Emile from being henpecked to death as I remind him yet again to lay my black turtleneck flat to dry.  I never touch the litter box or take out the garbage or recycling.  I do the grocery shopping, Emile cuts the lawn, we share the cleaning (although he is better at it than me) and I handle all the money (carefully siphoning funds off for facials). 

 But there are rules for the laundry.

 1.   I don’t check pockets.  You left in there, you’ll deal with it being washed. 

 2.  Underwear and undershirts get folded the way they went into the wash.  If it went in the wash inside out, that is how it is delivered to your room.

 3.  If a sock is missing its mate it goes to your room regardless.  Singles gather in your sock drawer not in the laundry room. 

 4.  Laundry is piled in the order of it being folding.  I do not categorize items when they come out of the dryer.

 5.  Laundry is dropped in your room and you are responsible for putting it away. 

 Yes, it is no picnic getting your laundry done around here! These rules usually result in Emile having up to 3 piles floating around invariably have at least one single sock and most of his shirts inside out.  So, now and then, he has the big task of putting everything away.

 I don’t know why, but I love laying in bed watching Emile put laundry away. He is his usual fastidious self in some aspects (the careful hanging of his shirts on his coloured coordinated hangers) and “stuff it in” with socks and underwear.  I guess I like the normalcy or distinctly NOT extra-ordinariness of it.  We talk about this and that, laughing about unfunny things and generally appreciate each other as Emile accomplishes his task.  It occurred to me tonight that most people do not thank their laundry people very much.  But my husband does.  Every time he is putting it away or sees me lugging it around, he thanks me.

 February 18th, 2012 Extra-Ordinary Event: Realizing that sometimes the most mundane moments are the most Extra-Ordinary and that not everyone gets thanked consistently for clean laundry.  I’m just lucky.

February 17, 2012

Oh leftovers, my friends.

When I was a kid, mom would have these “Eat Out the Fridge” nights. That was when she didn’t want to cook anything else the leftovers in the fridge would go bad. She would pull everything out, and announce that everyone should claim what they want. I suspect while I am in Cranbrook later this month, we again will have “Eat Out the Fridge: The New Generation” nights. It makes it sound like we had one of those scary fridges where you’d find tossed around mismatched Tupperware with rotting food floating around. It was not like that – at all. In fact imagine the worst fridge in the world and then think exactly opposite of that.  For those of you who know me – um, I guess that would be all of you – you think I am pretty organized, focused, a planner. In fact, I would dare say some of you would say I am one of the most organized and planned ahead people you know. However, that would be those of you that do not know my mother.  Or for that matter, my brother. In fact, I am considered something of a black sheep of the family due to my lack of care, consideration, organization, and planning.  It boggles the mind, doesn’t it?

Mom would also have “Pancake Nights” for us when we were kids.   For those of you who know the story, this is where the famous “OTST” or “One Time Special Treat” came from when I asked Mom if we could drink syrup for dinner instead of milk with our pancakes. She doesn’t even remember me asking that, but I worked up my strategy for that request for MINUTES when I was a kid.  She probably was fighting urge to make us Beef Stroganoff or something, but my brother and I looked forward to those nights. Pancakes for Dinner. Does it get any better?

Back on track.

So, today, thanks to both Nature (DNA) and Nurture (organization central home) I did what my I was compelled to do. Sort through the fridge to toss any withering veggies, freeze the old strawberries, and review the leftovers to consider what to have for dinner tonight.  A couple of nights ago, I roasted Acorn Squash and chopped pecans and then tossed them in locally produced organic Maple Syrup. It was so good. Yum. So, once the sorting and cleaning was done, I decided to have said squash for lunch. I tossed half in a bowl and threw it into the microwave, put the rest of it in the fridge for Emile to enjoy. I was leaning against the counter when I started to smell something burning. What is that!? I opened the microwave and found black smoke swirling around. Huh? Acorn Squash, Pecans and maple syrup? Burning after 25 seconds in the microwave?

February 17th, Extra-Ordinary  Event: Starting my squash leftovers on fire but eating them anyways despite being smokey and lukewarm.

February 16, 2012

You’ve got to grieve sometimes.
Today was Emile’s last day at Delta Muskoka Resorts as Systems Manager.  It’s somewhat lacking in impact as he starts tomorrow at ClubLink Muskoka Resorts as IT guy (he doesn’t really have a title, just get them up and running and keep it that way!).  Grandview is closed, most of the team members are laid off, and Muskoka has lost another 100 jobs.  Emile got his first job at Grandview when we first moved to Huntsville, and spent 3 years there before returning last summer.   I am sad for him, I am sad for us, the displaced team members (and their families) and Muskoka.  In four months when Emile’s ClubLink contract is up, we will start another path, find a new place, build a new life.
I know things could be worse, I know that I should thank God for unanswered prayers, I know we can remember we have our health and each other.   But I don’t particularly want to today.  There is enough time for all of that tomorrow.  Today I want to be sad a little for Grandview and all of the other things that change even when we don’t want them to.
 
February 16th Extra-Ordinary Event:  Being sad with my husband about the end of his work here and being okay with being a little sad.