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The perils of long-term parking

23 Nov

On Monday, Michael had to fly to Ontario. He had to be at the airport very, very early, so even though we live close to the airport, he took the car down and saved his sleep-deprived self a few minutes and a very cold, very windy walk.

That morning, the winter temps in Whitehorse had dropped down to below -30°C (that’s -22°F for you dark ages, uh, old-fashioned folk!) and I didn’t relish the idea of walking down to the airport and bringing the car back, especially after spending the entire morning running from bank appointment to hardware store to big box store and then back to the bank because the advisor had made an error.

Next day, the temperatures weren’t any better, plus the dog injured his knee, plus it was my birthday, plus the piano tuner came to work on my new piano (SQUEEEE!!!! DID I MENTION I HAVE A NEW PIANO?!?!), plus I had a rehearsal, and anyway, to make a long story short, I didn’t get the car.

Parking rates at the Whitehorse airport are very cheap, as you might deduce from my laissez-faire attitude.

But also, our car generally doesn’t LIKE to start at 30 below. And it’s not really a good idea to try to start a car with such a cold battery. One ought to have it plugged in for a couple of hours. Which you can’t do at the airport.

Michael flew home today. And it warmed up to +1°C. (That’s just above melting.) So I finally walked down to the airport to get the darned car. Actually, I walked down twice because I was almost there the first time when I realized I hadn’t brought along my credit card with which to pay the parking fee.

As I approached the area where Michael had told me he’d parked the car it hit me that not only had we had a week of 30-below weather, we’d also had a huge dump of snow. And yesterday was an incredibly windy day, with snow drifting across the highways and building up on inanimate objects.

Do you see where this is going?

Image

Well, the photo is not that dramatic, I suppose, but there is a snow drift a good 20 inches deep there. (Oh, there I go using Imperial measurements. Canadians are nothing if not inconsistent with measuring conventions.)

Thank goodness we always keep a small shovel in the back of the car. I spent a good 10 minutes tunnelling my way through that drift so I could get the car out. My anticipated 25-minute errand to get the car turned into an hour-long saga.

But at least parking there all week only added up to a whopping $9.00.

Dish logic

7 Oct

While washing dishes this morning, I was thinking about Tim Minchin’s graduation address, in which he compares ideological political debaters to two tennis players trying to win a match by lobbing balls over a net at opposite ends of separate tennis courts.

“How apt,” I thought. “It’s the perfect metaphor for the very thing I’ve often….” My line of thought was suddenly interrupted. “But he said, ‘It’s like two tennis players’, so in fact, he was using a simile.”

A smug, self-satisfied internal smile ensued from some smart-ass part of my brain.

“But that doesn’t make any sense,” I argued with myself. “Because, it’s very clear that comparing tennis players to debaters is actually a metaphor. And in fact, if you think about it, a simile must be just one type of metaphor.”

A quick run over to Google confirms.

The Oxford Companion to the English Language (1992) pp.653–55:

METAPHOR … (1) All figures of speech that achieve their effect through association, comparison, and resemblance. Figures like antithesis, hyperbole, metonymy, simile are all species of metaphor.

I remember very clearly being taught that similes and metaphors were two different things. I wonder if that’s been refined now in our school system, or if there’s some standardized test somewhere that insists one is not the subset of the other.

This is the kind of ridiculous thing I think about while washing dishes. Kinda nice to let your mind wander down shady, overgrown paths on occasion.

Oooooh, a metaphor!

The first time I (almost) married

10 Aug

When I was in Grade 3, I had a giant crush on a boy in my class. Joel liked me, too. He would hang out with me and my best friend, Tanya, at recess. He would tease me in class. He would bring me little gifts: a lipstick, for example, or a bottle of nail polish. (Both of these used and more than likely stolen from his mother’s dresser; it seems that even in childhood, all’s fair in love and war.)

One day Tanya and I were playing house in the schoolyard. There was plenty of snow and we planned out an elaborate house with a living room, kitchen, halls, and bedrooms. We stomped down the snow in our house to make the rooms, and built up the snowy walls to further define them. Joel joined us in our game and by the end of recess the house was complete. As our crowning achievement, Joel and I decided to get married at the next recess, with Tanya acting as the officiant.

I don’t know how it happened, but word spread through the classroom and by afternoon recess, I found that the entire class was in attendance for the wedding.

I was mortified. What had begun as a sweet game with the boy I liked suddenly became a public exhibition. I couldn’t take it. I ran away and hid from my class for the rest of that recess break.

Poor Joel. My desertion had humiliated him and he never really spoke to me again. I always felt rather sorry… but I guess I learned to be careful about who I agreed to marry.

Remembrance

11 Nov

Halia, whose name means “in remembrance of a loved one” holds a poppy from our garden (2010)

I have a bit of a complicated relationship with Remembrance Day. Growing up, there were ceremonies at school every year. The focus always seemed to be on World War II.  (In fact, I seem to remember feeling that war was a thing of the past.) I remember classmates talking in class about grandfathers or other relatives who had been at war, who had died, or who hadn’t.  I felt painfully awkward…because the side of my family I know best is my dad’s side. The German side. No one ever said anything, but as a child I always had this sense that my family was on the wrong side.

I know very little of my German family’s experience of World War II. When I visited my Oma and Opa, I saw the rusted old bike leaning against the fence on one side of the yard, obscured by weeds; every autumn it became increasingly buried in the fallen leaves of the giant chestnut tree. That bicycle wasn’t to be moved because, rumour had it, it had saved Opa’s life more than once during the war.

I really don’t know what role Opa played in the war effort in Germany. I have a vague notion that it was his language skills that were used, since he was multi-lingual. (I grew up believing he spoke seven languages, but my dad made a joke once that Opa’s languages are a bit like a fishing story, growing with each retelling. So, really, I have no idea how many languages he spoke.) (But wherever did he learn Chinese in the first place?)

My Oma would sometimes tell a story of the years following the war. She lived in Berlin with her two sons, my uncles; food was not plentiful and certainly not very exotic. I think perhaps it was my uncle Diethelm (but perhaps it was Friedhard?) who figures in the story, seeing an orange for the first time around the age of five and thinking it was a ball, having never seen an orange before.

I always felt it was taboo to ask my family about their experiences during the war years, so I never asked.  I don’t think I felt this way just because they are German. I know Michael has said that his Grandpa wouldn’t talk about his war experiences, either. And, though unable to fully imagine the horror of fighting in a war, I can imagine why none of them would want to talk about it.

On the other side of the world, what was the war like for my family in Taiwan? At the beginning of the Second World War, Taiwan had been occupied by Japan for 44 years. I have only a few stories about what life was like. How my grandmother was one of only a handful of non-Japanese students who made high enough marks to make it into a prestigious school. How her pierced ears made her a target for mockery, being called a barbarian because piercing was not a Japanese custom. How my grandfather’s brother went off to fight (in what war?) and never came home again. How my grandfather himself studied medicine and became a doctor in Japan. That the Japanese ran horrific prisoner of war camps. Tidbits, really.

And so, for many years, the not talking and not asking aspect of Remembrance Day left me feeling, more than anything, ignorant.  Like there are things I can’t honour and pay my respects to, because I don’t know a thing about them.

This is not to say that I feel nothing on Remembrance Day. The speeches and ceremony never fail to get me right in the gut, never fail to highlight the great cost of the sacrifice made by those who fought, and the price paid by the families they left behind.

And of course I now know that World War II is not the only war of significance to remember, nor is war a thing of the past. I haven’t had a chance to participate in a Remembrance Day ceremony in many years, but today Jade accompanied Michael to the ceremony here in Whitehorse. I hope, as my kids grow up, I can help fill in some of the blanks I didn’t have the courage to ask about while I was growing up.  So they can know what it is they are remembering and what they are honouring.

This is what’s wrong

15 Oct

Last night I decided to have one last look at Facebook before going to bed. It turned out to be a bad move. I went to bed seething with anger.

I have quite a few young friends on Facebook, many of whom are people we met when we lived in Fort Liard, and who were barely teenagers when we moved to Whitehorse. One young man I’ll call “M” posted a status update he clearly thought was hilarious. And I didn’t. Well, have a look for yourself.

I enjoy irreverent humour, naughty humour, and sometimes even bathroom humour. But this is not irreverent or naughty; it’s degrading and abusive. I could see that my young friend M didn’t get it. What was even sadder is the person who posted “LMAO” is a young woman.

I was so so angry, I shut off my computer and headed for bed. I started brushing my teeth and thought about M. At barely 20, even though he “should” know better, he’s still at an age where this kind of stupidity, er, ignorance is not surprising.

So I came back on Facebook and posted my second comment.

In fact, I don’t think it’s funny in the context of the movie. (I’ve never watched Goon, but based on this glimpse, I suspect I’d find a lot of the movie disgusting.) I was trying very hard to set aside my anger and explain what makes this kind of public declaration unacceptable. It’s so hard to be reasonable and coherent when I feel this way.

I knew posting this comment made me look like a killjoy; to the group around this young man, I would probably appear to be just another a humourless adult who takes pleasure in berating youth. But to me, this kind of attitude is absolutely dangerous, especially in a community where violence against women is all too common.

After posting this, and fully expecting to be called out, I went to bed shaking.

You’ll be happy to know that I found a contrite message from M this morning. I’m proud of him. A few more people had chimed in on the thread to say they thought it was funny, but no one yelled at me. I’m glad I did a little something. I hope that speaking out this once makes a difference in M’s life, that he’ll think twice next time.

I never watch movies anymore, but it makes me wonder how much popular culture out there promotes this kind of degrading attitude towards women. I can’t do a lot about that. But at least I can help shape some small attitude shifts, just like this, every once in a while. It’s better than despairing.

Your life is easier than my life

12 Apr

This attitude is a pet peeve of mine. It annoys the hell out of me when I hear comments like this, whether it’s directed at me or at someone else. That other guy over there has it better because he’s got more money. She’s got it easier than me because she’s so pretty. He’s got a cushy job. She’s only got one kid.

WHATEVER.

Image from believe-toachieve.tumblr.com

EVERYBODY’s life is hard. We all take on as much as we can, and then we take on a little bit more, don’t ask me why. Even if you live the simple life, there’s not enough time in the day to do everything you want to do, and there are always outside demands. We are all struggling to find balance. We are all battling our own particular demons. We’re all fighting to stay on top of the day-to-day stuff. Even the kids. They are busy learning their own hard lessons.

Occasionally, I’ve encountered the opposite, with someone telling me she feels better about her own life because mine is so hard. Particularly when Jade was suffering countless seizures in a day, it was kind of a silver lining to know that some people might appreciate their own blessings a little more. And there are families I feel the same way about, who make me draw my girls a little closer and send up a little prayer of thanks.

I just recently had an epiphany, though.

Although I was doing a good job of reminding myself not to compare my life to anyone else’s, I was still falling into the trap.

Jade has been on the keto diet for over three years now. It’s done amazing things for her. And I am grateful. So grateful! I remember thinking, when we were in the thick of things, “If only we could make the seizures stop, life would be so much better again. Things would be easier again.”

And it’s true. I am so glad we aren’t holding our breaths all the time, waiting for the next seizure to hit. There is a lot of tension gone.

But guess what? Life isn’t easy right now. I have all sorts of new things to worry about these days. Not complaining: that’s just life.

And until this epiphany hit me, if you could read my thoughts, you’d have heard this one a lot, “Things will be so much easier when we can finally be off the keto diet.” In other words, I was looking at my future self and thinking “Her life is easier than my life.”

It’s true. There are things that the diet is preventing us from doing. Like taking Jade to Germany or to Taiwan to visit my family, for example. Or even going on extended road trips because I can’t bear the thought of all the preparation that has to be done in advance.

When keto becomes history in our daily life, I will not be sad to let it go. And life will be easier. In one sense. But I’ll bet there’ll be new things to balance and new challenges to forge through. Because that’s life.

So maybe I need to stop wishing we could be done with the ketogenic diet and just start appreciating, a little bit more, the blessings I have in my life now.

And thank God I am the capable person that I am.

The definition of good timing

9 Mar

…when your daughter, who is drinking way more than she ever has in her life (in an effort to prevent kidney stones) crawls into bed with you in the middle of the night and snuggles up, only to wake you an hour later because she peed in your bed.

…and the arm of your pajamas are soaked, so you strip her, and you strip yourself and put everything in the washing machine, and freeze a little as you dig a set of freshly-washed PJs out of the dryer.

…and you head back to the bedroom to check out just how bad your mattress is.

Then you’ll be glad you didn’t get around to changing the sheets on your bed this week. Well, that’s good timing, I guess, you might think to yourself.

Then…

…you wrestle with the heavy mattress, which has just one slightly-damp spot on it, because it really needed to be flipped and rotated, anyway.

…and you wonder where the heck your husband disappeared to as you grunt and sweat to flip the darned thing over.

…then you put fresh sheets on, and while you’re at it, change the pillowcases, too.

…and you trip all over the clothes lying about the floor as you switch from one side of the bed to the other, tucking the fitted sheet under, lining up the flat sheet, noting that it’s taking you a good 10 minutes to get it just right so that the scratchy Hudson’s Bay blanket is encased in the flat sheet so that it won’t grate your face in the night, thinking this would go so much faster if only another adult were around at the moment.

…and you finally, finally, settle back into bed, in those cool, crisp sheets, read the alarm clock (4:55), and switch off the bedside lamp.

Then…

…your husband walks in, having snuggled a very distraught girl back to peaceful sleep in her own bed.

Then you might tell him he missed all the fun of helping you change the sheets on your bed, and doesn’t he have excellent timing?

Ctrl + Alt + Delete please

3 Jan

Art by Anne Taintor. I totally borrowed this image without permission, so I'm linking to the store where you can buy these awesome sticky notes. (Click image.)

It’s one of those Murphy’s Law days, where it feels like anything that could go wrong, is going wrong.

I had a long list of stops to make today, with Halia in tow, so I wanted to be out the door by 9:30.

The van wouldn’t start because it never does when the thermometer dips below freezing. Stupid battery. So I hooked up the booster pack and then proceeded to break my fingers uninstalling Halia’s carseat from the back row for reinstallment in the middle row. Now that her cousin’s carseat is no longer in the van, Halia insisted we move her seat back to its rightful place.

After successfully moving the carseat, I tried starting the van again, in vain. I had to interrupt Michael’s client meeting to get him to boost the van from the truck.

As soon as I got the van started, it dinged at me to remind me the gas tank was close to empty.  I’d had to drive around for a few things on January 1st, when no gas stations were open, so the tank was getting down to its last fumes.  I was halfway out of the neighbourhood when I remembered the banking paperwork I had to take with me, so I drove home. Then down to the gas station. (Made it! Whew!) Where the van wouldn’t restart.

A gruff old guy was kind of enough to give me another boost (after I’d dropped my keys in the gas station garbage, fished them out again, and made a fool of myself trying to untangle the booster cables) and he even peered into the engine to tell me the alternator was working, but it looked like one cell of my battery had boiled.

Every month I have to go to the bank to take care of some business that is stuck in the dark ages and can’t be done online. I walked into the bank and was delighted to see there was no lineup.  One teller was just coming free, hurrah, and it was… oh no, it was the guy I dealt with last month who had no clue what he was doing and caused me to be in the bank for over 45 minutes.  I will say he was a bit quicker this month, but I’m sure the long line of customers that formed behind me didn’t appreciate that I was taking up two tellers after he got stumped.

Then there was the soaking of my jacket sleeve by the faucets at the library bathrooms, forgetting things at the grocery store, and the frightening cost of Nanuq’s medication refills, but the coup de grâce was when I decided, after all the other tasks were over, to let Halia have a snack in the van while I quickly ran into the pharmacy to buy her vitamins.  I left the van running this time, to keep it warm and to prevent the need for another boost, but when I got back outside, the van was locked! This never happens.  The van doors only lock when the van hits 30 kmph, or when it’s manually locked, and I sure as heck did not lock my kid into the running van.

I phoned Michael, who was on the road heading for another client meeting.  He had to turn around and go home to get the other van key for me, making him late for his meeting. Thank goodness Whitehorse is so small; I think it took only about 20 minutes for him to get there, maybe less, but I was freezing my buns off by the time he arrived.

Halia was fantastic through it all. I hope it wasn’t just because I’d promised her a chocolate-chip cookie if she kept her listening ears on all day. But you know, on a day like today, I’m not at all above bribery.

And I’m not above having a chocolate-chip cookie for myself, either.

That year-in-review thing

31 Dec

I’ve been trying to hold onto the holidays. Dishes have been languishing, laundry (mostly clean, but still) has been piling up. I’ve let a lot of things slide over the holidays: our strict daily schedule, playing music, any kind of caloric restraint, not to mention blogging, but that’s not a new thing this year, is it?  My sister and her hubby and their adorable babe have been visiting, and I’m sure my sister thinks I’m the laziest homemaker on the planet.

It’s not really possible to be on full holiday mode as a mom, of course. The mornings are still early, the meals still must be prepared. We have been eating well. And we’ve had a wonderful time visiting; talking late, playing cribbage, rummoli, and even a round of The Game of Life. Halia has been trying to get her fill of hugging and kissing her little cousin.  Michael even took Uncle Mikey bison hunting.  They just missed the bison, but they got some great stories, and we got some bison steaks at the Super A and grilled them up tonight.

In the German tradition, there are jelly donuts (Berliners) awaiting me. Nem is offering me a Boston Cream, and I’ve got to wrap up before the next round of crib starts.  Below, my traditional end-of-year summary, comprised of the first sentence of my first post of each month. I know I’ve been a hit-and-miss blogger this year, so I guess I shouldn’t be shocked that I missed the entire month of August.  I guess that’s what happens when there’s so much living to do.

January: It’s a shameful almost-secret that once upon a time, in the dark ages of the blogosphere, I started my blogging career at MSN LiveSpaces.

February: I wanted to tell you about Jade’s fabulous birthday party, but we all had such a good time that we totally crashed and burned the next day.

March: My throat is sore, I’m tired, and I’m vaguely achy in my joints.

April: I have news.

May: I just got Halia to bed.

June: There are so many awesome things going on in my life right now, but I’m spending a disproportionate amount of time feeling anxious and overwhelmed.

July: I’m in Ottawa.

August: (Gasp! I made NO blog posts in the whole month of August.)

September: I went to The Medicine Chest yesterday morning to have a prescription for Famiciclovir filled.

October: It’s noon and I’m still in pajamas.

November: Tonight is the final rehearsal for the concert I’m giving at the Old Fire Hall on Thursday.

December: It’s midnight.

It’s been a pretty great year overall, a year of big changes for me. I’m proud of myself for deciding to give up my government job (and grateful to Michael for supporting me) and for taking big steps with my music.  I’m looking forward to 2012 with lots of excitement and anticipation, and I am wishing you the same joy, with many blessings to come.  Happy New Year!

That kind of day

31 Oct

The house is a disaster.  As usual.  I had to go downtown with Halia to pick up receipts from seven restaurants at which I helped organize music for last week’s BreakOut West weekend.  But first I had to drop off some paperwork at an office, then duck into Home Hardware to get some red tape to finish off Jade’s clown shoes.  The cashier gave Halia a green sucker.  I hesitated, recalling the chocolate mousie fiasco, but I hate having to say no all the time.

I buckled and unbuckled Halia, then did it again.  And then again.  One cafe couldn’t find the receipts right away so I bought a macaroon as a treat to share with Halia while we waited.  After I got it, the server said, “Oh, it’s not vegan like I thought.  There’s dairy in it.”  Too late, I had already bought it.  Halia had to go pee (of course) so we rushed to the bathroom, me stressed out that my parking meter was going to run out.

We stopped to give a busker a twoonie and he smiled and gave Halia a bag of Cheetos.  I let her have a few before I realized they have wheat AND dairy in them.  Argh.

Back at the van, I breathed a sigh of relief that there was no ticket, as the meter had run out a couple of minutes earlier.  I plugged the meter and we ran down for a 5-minute visit to Arts Underground.  It’s the last day of my friend Jesse’s art installation there and I hadn’t had a chance to see it yet.  It was a quick visit because I still had restaurants to get to and had to run home before Jade’s school bus arrived.  I was glad I got a chance to see it, though.

I let Halia have a 30-second ride (for 10 cents!) on the mechanical horse.  She loved it.  Then it was back into the van.  But what was this?  A $25 parking ticket!  There were still 7 minutes left on the meter.  Furious, I re-buckled Halia and we drove over to City Hall to make a complaint.

The gal there couldn’t do anything, but put me on the phone with bylaw so I could talk to them.  The bylaw receptionist said she’d get the bylaw officer to call me when he got back to the office.

I had to skip the rest of the restaurants because Jade’s school bus was heading for home.  I stewed about the ticket on the way home.

At a red light, I looked at the ticket again and realized the time on it was 2:50 p.m.  2:50 p.m.?  That meant I got the parking ticket between the first time I plugged the meter in the second, in the five or so minutes that the meter had expired.  I just hadn’t seen the ticket on the window when I put the next quarter in.

The worst feeling, when you’ve been righteously angry and indignant at someone, is the realization that the only person you have to blame is yourself.  Or at least, the almost-three-year-old whose bladder needed emptying at an inopportune time.

*sigh*

I’m still waiting for the bylaw officer to phone me back.  I guess I’ll have to serve up the humble pie.  It goes well with Halloween treats, doesn’t it?

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