Saturday, December 27, 2008

Thriftiness is in the eye of the beholder

An article featured on the front page of yesterday's Edmonton Journal reported on a study about coupon-users and those around them, as conducted by researchers at the University of Alberta.
 
The general consensus was that A) we view people who use coupons, and those standing next to them in line, as being cheap; and B) statement 'A' is no longer true provided those people in question have above-average looks.

Translation: As long as you're hot, the rules no longer apply to you, and you can get away with anything.


Friday, December 26, 2008

Boxing Day blues

Box.ing Day - noun - public holiday celebrated the day after Christmas in Canada, Australia, and Britain
 

                                        


Have you ever noticed that, as soon as the clock strikes midnight on December 25th, everyone forgets about Christmas and just focuses on the big sales of the season? Granted, Christmas IS technically over by midnight, but it's just so sad to me how quickly everyone wants to move on.

For me, I tend to be so busy in the weeks leading up to Christmas that I can't really appreciate it entirely. I don't always have time to watch all my favourite festive classics on TV, and it just doesn't feel like Christmas until, well, it actually is Christmas. And by then it seems like everyone else is all Christmased-out.

I'm lucky enough to work for an institution that allows me to take time off from December 25 to January 1, so now this is my time to really relax and get into the festive spirit. Sadly, though, all the yuletide programming on television has already come and gone, and I'm forced to rely on pre-recorded movies to keep the festivities alive (last night we watched The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, a true classic from my childhood.)

All is not entirely lost, though. I did turn on 104.9 EZ Rock radio today and heard Anne Murray crooning to Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas, so at least they decided to continue their holiday programming for one more day. But by tomorrow I know that they, too, will have reverted back to their regular mundane programming.

So if nothing else, I'm just very thankful for the Fireplace Channel -- the very comforting Fireplace Channel -- which I know will at least stick around for another week.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Palace of the End... at The Roxy

event>Last night my husband and I went to see Palace of the End, which is playing at Edmonton's Roxy theatre until November 16. The production stars Nadien Chu, John Wright, and Natascha Girgis, who were all phenomenal. From start to finish, this is a gripping tale that was often uncomfortable to watch, and yet, I didn't want it to end. Marianne Copithorne did a terrific job in directing these three actors, and I walked away wanting to know more about them and the individuals they portrayed.

But my husband and I did have just one beef about the script: There was far too much anti-American soldier rhetoric!

 

In my opinion, world leaders such as George W. Bush and Tony Blair are fair game (to an extent) because they're the decision makers. But the soldiers? Not so much.

Yes, some of them committed heinous, unthinkable acts -- which were described in excruciating detail at various moments in this production -- but to label all American soldiers in this manner is unfair and, quite simply, misleading. If my husband were a less reasonable man, he would have walked out during the first monologue.

To put things in perspective, is it fair or accurate to say that all Iraqis are terrorists? Of course not.

And nor is it fair or accurate to paint all American soldiers as arrogant bigots who are keen on abusing their power via unspeakable acts.

But as  mentioned to us this morning, we're to expect this sort of portrayal everywhere in the world except for in the U.S., and that's truly unfortunate.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Courtesy of the Arlington National Cemetery website...


In Flanders Fields
By: Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, MD (1872-1918)
Canadian Army

IN FLANDERS FIELDS the poppies blow
Between the crosses row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
 



McCrae's "In Flanders Fields" remains to this day one of the most memorable war poems ever written. It is a lasting legacy of the terrible battle in the Ypres salient in the spring of 1915. Here is the story of the making of that poem:

Although he had been a doctor for years and had served in the South African War, it was impossible to get used to the suffering, the screams, and the blood here, and Major John McCrae had seen and heard enough in his dressing station to last him a lifetime.

As a surgeon attached to the 1st Field Artillery Brigade, Major McCrae, who had joined the McGill faculty in 1900 after graduating from the University of Toronto, had spent seventeen days treating injured men -- Canadians, British, Indians, French, and Germans -- in the Ypres salient.

It had been an ordeal that he had hardly thought possible. McCrae later wrote of it:

"I wish I could embody on paper some of the varied sensations of that seventeen days... Seventeen days of Hades! At the end of the first day if anyone had told us we had to spend seventeen days there, we would have folded our hands and said it could not have been done."

One death particularly affected McCrae. A young friend and former student, Lieut. Alexis Helmer of Ottawa, had been killed by a shell burst on 2 May 1915. Lieutenant Helmer was buried later that day in the little cemetery outside McCrae's dressing station, and McCrae had performed the funeral ceremony in the absence of the chaplain.

The next day, sitting on the back of an ambulance parked near the dressing station beside the Canal de l'Yser, just a few hundred yards north of Ypres, McCrae vented his anguish by composing a poem. The major was no stranger to writing, having authored several medical texts besides dabbling in poetry.

In the nearby cemetery, McCrae could see the wild poppies that sprang up in the ditches in that part of Europe, and he spent twenty minutes of precious rest time scribbling fifteen lines of verse in a notebook.

A young soldier watched him write it. Cyril Allinson, a twenty-two year old sergeant-major, was delivering mail that day when he spotted McCrae. The major looked up as Allinson approached, then went on writing while the sergeant-major stood there quietly. "His face was very tired but calm as we wrote," Allinson recalled. "He looked around from time to time, his eyes straying to Helmer's grave."

When McCrae finished five minutes later, he took his mail from Allinson and, without saying a word, handed his pad to the young NCO. Allinson was moved by what he read:

"The poem was exactly an exact description of the scene in front of us both. He used the word blow in that line because the poppies actually were being blown that morning by a gentle east wind. It never occurred to me at that time that it would ever be published. It seemed to me just an exact description of the scene."

In fact, it was very nearly not published. Dissatisfied with it, McCrae tossed the poem away, but a fellow officer retrieved it and sent it to newspapers in England. The Spectator, in London, rejected it, but Punch published it on 8 December 1915.


Thursday, November 6, 2008

Greedy business, not good business

 

 
Some One local business woman would do well to remember the golden rule of customer service: For every satisfied customer you have, they'll tell one -- maybe two -- people about their experience. But for every unhappy customer you have, they'll tell an average of 10 other people about their experience with you.

And this woman should also remember that I know more than 10 people. Many, many more.

And I'm more than happy to talk.
 

Sunday, November 2, 2008

You should have that looked at...

Those were essentially the final words said to my friend Angie by her then-GP last month. Stunned, all Angie could think was: That's why I'm HERE.

Given that her regular doctor of four years was basically refusing to treat her -- she never even physically examined her during her most recent visits -- and given that this supposed care-giver would now be concentrating on corporate medicine (whatever that means), Angie had no choice but to seek additional help. In total, she saw six doctors in the span of a month before "an overworked ER doc [looked] beyond the obvious" and diagnosed her cancer. Stage 4 cervical cancer that has metastasized to her lungs.

Rewind the clock to two months ago, and everything appeared fine. Angie is only 38. She's incredibly fit and eats all the right foods.

"I lost 50 lbs and quit smoking... and 
NOW I have cancer."

Seriously, if someone like Angie can get sick, what hope is there for the rest of us mere mortals? I told my husband this morning that, starting tomorrow, we're going to be eating nothing but fresh berries and spinach.

[insert awkward silence and a look of fear on his part]

And then for good measure I threw in a, "Your life will be miserable, but at least it will be long!"  Because, you know, that's what every man wants: a long, miserable life.

But Angie's illness has really put things into perspective for me -- and it's also made my blog about an injured ankle seem incredibly petty. Things can always get much, much worse.

I've heard that approximately 33% of all cancers are preventable, but obviously -- even if you do everything right -- anyone at any time at any age in any country can still get sick. And for no obvious or explainable reason.

Despite all this, I'm still semi-serious about my nothing-but-berries-and-spinach diet... you know, just in case.
 
~ I love you Angie! ~
 

Monday, October 13, 2008

Thanksgiving blessings


So I've sprained my ankle. Again. And I'm miserable. Again.

In an effort to un-do some of our Thanksgiving weekend gluttony, my husband and I went for a quick jog last night, and that's when I rolled my ankle. It's the same ankle I injured two years ago -- I was on crutches and wore a brace for several weeks -- and although it's no where near as bad, it still sucks.

I spent most of the night awake, cursing my fate and wondering why this was happening to me again. But given that today is Thanksgiving in Canada, I've had some time to reflect and realize that I need to stop feeling sorry for myself because of this unfortunate setback.

I'm thankful I can still walk, albeit slowly and with a limp, but without the aid of crutches.

I'm thankful that I have a supportive husband who, it seems like every hour since it happened, has offered to bring me into the ER.

I'm thankful that I've had today off work and have been able to rest my ankle while watching such classics as Scooby Doo and The Cosby Show.

And most of all, I'm thankful that it's not as bad as it was two years ago, because I know first-hand that things can always be much, much worse.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Bus Etiquette 101

A couple of my vents were published in today's Edmonton Journal; one involved our city somehow finding the money to throw a 'winter festival' while still lacking funds to provide adequate snow removal.... and the other involved the lack of bus etiquette I'm bombarded with on a daily basis.

Let me be frank: Unless your backpack / purse / school books paid transit fares, DO NOT place them on the seat next to you. That seat should be available to actual paying customers who shouldn't have to plead with you to move your crap out of the way. That's right. I said it. Crap.

And while we're at it, I think it's fine that you may not wish to sit next to the window. But please do not, do not, do not then just sit in the aisle seat, thus blocking everyone else from accessing said window seat. If I have to stand because you refuse to move over or let me in, then you might as well place your backpack / purse / school books on that seat, because you're no better than the rest of 'em. (And just as inconsiderate.)  

Wanna know what else annoys me about certain other transit riders? People who insist on having really loud conversations, either while on their cellphone or simply with the person sitting next to them. Nobody else on the bus cares what you did last night or if your kids are misbehaving or how lame you think your economics prof is, so bring down the volume and keep your conversations private.

And speaking of which ....if you're sitting next to me and trying to strike up a conversation while I'm reading or quietly staring out the window ....and if I don't make eye contact and only answer in mono-syllabic phrases such as "Yup", "Nope", or "I have a Taser", then please leave me alone. Everyone needs their quiet time to reflect and decompress from the day that was, and that time for me is while I'm on the bus. (And, yes, I know that "I have a Taser" is more than one syllable.)

I could go on about Mr. I'm-playing-my-iPod-this-loud-so you-can-all-hear-what-super-cool-music-I-listen-to or Mrs. Look-at-me-being-environmentally-saavy-and-riding-the-bus-with-my-kid-and-our-SUV-sized-stroller, but I might end up getting hate mail.

I guess the only thing then left to say is this: If you're ever in the position of riding ETS, just be considerate and respectful of your fellow transit riders. None of us really want to be there, so please try not to make it any worse with your obnoxious behaviour.

Oh, and for the record, I do applaud moms who are green enough to ride the bus, but is the excessively super-sized stroller really necessary? C'mon, ladies, it takes up five seats! Perhaps it's time to down-size the stroller, n'est pas?

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Connect four

Four countries I visited this year:      

  1. Barbados
  2. Antigua
  3. Dominica
  4. St. Lucia

Four books I've read so far this year:

  1. Dear John - Nicholas Sparks
  2. Water For Elephants - Sara Gruen
  3. Valley of the Dolls - Jacqueline Susann
  4. Fifteen Days - Christie Blatchford

Four people who e-mail me regularly:

  1. Steven
  2. Carla
  3. Greg
  4. Dana
Four songs that defined this summer for me:   
  1. Chicken Fried - Zac Brown Band 
  2. All Summer Long - Kid Rock
  3. Last Call - Lee Ann Womack
  4. All I Want To Do - Sugarland                                                                           
Four TV shows I never tire of watching:
  1. The Unit 
  2. Third Watch 
  3. While You Were Out 
  4. Mantracker
Four things I will one day own:
  1. A house
  2. A Toyotal Highlander 
  3. A pug 
  4. A pitching machine
Four countries I'm visiting next year: 
  1. Honduras
  2. Belize
  3. Cayman Islands
  4. Mexico (...for the fifth time... poor me)
Four board games I love:
  1. Scrabble
  2. Scattegories
  3. Pictionary
  4. Clue
Four voices I wish I could be mistaken for:
  1. Jennifer Nettles
  2. Pink
  3. Jewel
  4. Who else is there? Anyone?

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Shameless plugs!

My husband is a proud leader within the Santa Maria Goretti Knights of Columbus council #12836, and this year he's orchestrated a fundraiser for the City Centre Education Partnership, which will be held on Saturday, October 25, 2008.

Night of Wishes will raise funds that will be used to help ensure inner city students get a proper lunch and gain access to educational opportunities that are available to children in Edmonton’s more affluent schools.

The City Centre Education Partnership (CCEP) is responsible for overseeing several inner city schools -- namely Eastwood, Delton, Norwood, McCauley, John A. McDougall, Spruce Avenue, and Parkdale -- and they seek to foster environments that are conducive to bringing about positive educational outcomes for inner city children. The CCEP is committed to ensuring that poverty is not a limiting factor to students achieving academic and personal success.

------
This is the third fundraiser we've been involved with, and so far it's proven to be a very humbling (and sometimes trying) experience. We just didn't appreciate how difficult it is to solicit donations and contributions from community businesses / family members / friends until now that we've actually had to go out there and do it ourselves. It takes a special person to successfully do this time and again; the rejection we've sometimes received has been harsh, but when we've been successful, it really has been rewarding. One extreme to the other.

Many of our friends and family have realized how difficult and time-consuming organizing such a function can be, and they've graciously stepped up and offered their assistance.

Special thanks, in no particular order:

  • To Carla (and Folklore Publishing), for offering five fabulous books that will be up for bids at our silent auction. (How the Italians Created Canada - I freakin' love it!!)

  • To Danielle, for not hesitating to buy a ticket, speak at her RCIA meetings, or to guilt attempt to convince her employers into making a donation.

  • To Dominic, for volunteering to help out with the silent auction and for suggesting we start up a Facebook site for our fundraiser.

  • To Rachel and Daniel (Diamonds Photography), for graciously offering a one-hour portrait session to be auctioned at our event. You guys really are the coolest.... ever.

  • To Chiza and Darcy, for also volunteering your presence at our auction tables. (Darcy, if I owned a "Philosophy Factory", I would totally hire you in an instant!)

  • To Dean, for buying a ticket and contributing a door prize even though you may be out of town that evening and not able to attend after all. Incredibly generous of you!

  • To Teresa, for stepping up and offering multiple items to our function..... and for also harassing Toni to contribute something as well!

  • And to David, for offering some very generous gift certificates from Il Pasticcio (only the best Italian restaurant in town, in my opinion!) to be auctioned at our event.
Night of Wishes is just over a month away, and I admit it's tempting to want to enter panic mode -- Do we have enough items? Have we sold enough tickets? How should we decorate? -- but this is a marathon, not a 100m race, right?

------

Event Details:

What:    Night of Wishes 
               - Suporting the Children & Youth of the City Centre Education Partnership
Where:  Santa Maria Goretti Community Centre
When:   Saturday, October 25, 2008
              Cocktails - 5:30 pm
              Dinner - 7:00 pm 
              Dance to follow

Tickets $35.00 each (includes dinner & dance)

~ Lots of Door Prizes available to be won!
~ 50/50 Tickets are 10 for $5.00
~ Silent Auction will run throughout the evening

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Some Republicans really do embrace science... and God!

Thank you, U.S. Secretary of the Treasury Henry Paulson, for showing the world that not all devout Republicans believe a) that it's okay to drill for oil in a wildlife refuge or b) that global warming isn't heavily influenced by man. Thank you, for embracing the science behind the research. Thank you, for engaging in free thought.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Pick me, Redneck Mommy!

Tanis Miller, creator and genius behind one of my favourite blogs, The Redneck Mommyis randomly giving away a brand new digital camera on her website (yeah, she's way cooler than I will ever be). If you stop by her site and say hello or, better yet, briefly post about your favourite concert-going experience, she'll enter you in a draw for said camera.


Wayward_Yankee dusted off his laptop and beat me to it, as comment # 292 belongs to him:

  

The best concert I’ve ever been at was Joan Jett and her manager, Kenny Leguna (from the 60’s band Tommy and the Shondells). They were rocking it live at K2, Uzbekistan.

Let me tell you, nothing beats the intensity of standing among a hanger full of sweating, smelly, overworked and homesick soldiers who are all yelling “I LOVE ROCK N’ ROLL!”

And yes, I had a camera there. Actually, my job was to take the pictures.



Meanwhile, a little later at comment # 301, you'll find my little contribution to the digital camera lottery:


You know that wristband lottery method of selling tickets to concerts? Well, once, just once, I was lucky enough to be picked to go to the front of the line and have first choice for available seats….. to a George Strait concert!! Yeah, baby.

So naturally I chose front row centre and then had a friend take photos of me at the concert, standing in front of the stage with ol’ George singing a mere 2 ft. behind me.

Oh, and I got to shake his hand. *giggle*

(Totally made up for all those years of sitting in the nose bleed sections and ‘enjoying’ concerts through the use of my binoculars.)

Friday, August 29, 2008

I am a bootcamp graduate!

I have to admit that, after the first class, all I wanted to do was quit. I felt like, “Okay, that was fun to try… now on to my next adventure!” 

But fortunately for me, one of the first things our instructor at Real U Boot Camp told us that initial day was that she had only two rules: No unexcused absences, and no quitting.

I first discovered Real U via Chris Zdeb's 'Real People' article in the May 24th edition of the Edmonton Journal, and I figured that if a pregnant woman could do it, surely I could do it too... right?? I even toyed with the idea of signing up for the advanced version of Real U, Soldiers of Fitness, which is the be-all-you-can-be of military-run boot camps here in the city.

However, after a briefing from my friend Cindy -- an SOF regular -- I quickly established that Real U would be a much better fit for someone of my physical capabilities.

Although she was incredibly positive and reassuring about there being SOF members at varying levels of fitness who were managing just fine, all I could focus on was the one comment Cindy made about herself: "Before this, I was working out about 7-9 times/week, and I'm definitely finding it a challenge."

Ahem. Seven to nine times per week? That was the deal breaker for me; Real U Boot Camp would have to be my starting point, not Soldiers of Fitness.

And although I never expected this beginner's boot camp to be easy, I also never expected it to be as difficult as it sometimes was. 

We met three times a week, at 5:30 in the morning, for an hour each time. (None of us dared to be late for a session, for fear of our instructor then punishing the entire group with a series of much-hated burpees.) 

Mondays were all cardio. We ran through Laurier Park's trails and out to the stairs (they were a killer!) by the Quesnel bridge. Once there, we did different exercises.... hill training..... racing up and down the stairs several times..... different sprinting drills, etc. Basically, it was constant cardio, and we were timed on certain drills... just so that we could then do everything all over again in an effort to beat our own times. Loads of fun! (I always arrived home dripping sweat, my hair soaked.... and yet it felt so good!!)

Wednesdays and Fridays were very different. We usually warmed up with a 20-minute run / walk / series of exercises, and then our instructor had us do different drills that involved both running and weight training and things like push-ups, squats, crunches, etc. Definitely more my style, given that I struggled most during the running-intense sessions.

My favourite class was by far last Friday -- Buddy Day. If you know of anyone who is currently registered for either Real U Boot Camp or Soldiers of Fitness, definitely ask if you can join them on their Buddy Day. It's free to attend, and you get a taste of whether or not this boot camp stuff is for you. (And did I mention that it's free?? Take advantage of this while you can!)

I've been blessed with a husband who has suffered through the U.S. Army's basic training and early-morning PT sessions for years, so of course he was more than willing to join me on Real U's Buddy Day. So off we went last week, me and my victim fitness partner. 

And he was actually very impressed with it.

At first during our warm-up run, he was just running alongside me, which of course was far too easy for him. I told him not to worry about me and to go at his own pace so he would at least still get something out of it.

So off he went.... running laps around the rest of the group, haha. (Show-off!!)

Plus, when we did push-ups, he used proper form, not the girly version with his knees on the ground. (Read: the only type I'm currently capable of executing with any real consistancy.)

So I guess even though he's in better shape than me, he still got a really good workout out of it because he pushed himself and worked up a sweat just the same.

Today was my final session, and although it was incredibly difficult at times, I'm really going to miss Real U. We had such a wonderful, supportive group, and although it sounds cliched, we really were all in it together -- regardless of our personal levels of fitness. I'm going to miss the early-morning (and as of late: pitch-black-outside) meetings, and I'm especially going to miss my body's natural release of endorphins that followed each class.

Many of my classmates signed up for next month's session as well, which is a testament to the instructor and to the program itself. But because I've decided to wait until June before doing this again, my biggest fear now is that I'm going to become complacent and lose all this progress I've made over the last month.... 

... which is why I'm now going to sign up for the Running Room's Learn to Run clinic instead! The main thing I struggled with at boot camp was all the running -- aside from that, everything else was definitely doable -- so for now I really need to concentrate on being able to run without struggling and falling behind everyone else. (Plus, my friend Carla and I volunteered at the ING Marathon earlier this month, and I won a Running Room gift card, so I really have no excuse not to join. Yes, I think it was a sign from God.)

[Jo's Note: A teammate of mine from Real U (who had been taking this class for a few months now) mentioned that, although we signed up for the beginner version, our instructor was actually putting us through the intermediate training instead, which made me feel sooo much better about myself, haha. One of the girls in her last month's class missed a session, so she went to another instructor's class to make up for it..... and she said it was much easier compared to what we were doing. Now I don't know all this for fact -- this is all just heresay -- but I guess whichever instructor you sign up with can make a bit of a difference with regards to the intensity of each class. Personally, I'd like to believe that we were actually doing the intermediate boot camp training; the fact that I could still do it even though it was a little more difficult than the beginner's level is a very good feeling!]

Extra Stuff:

Although there's not a lot of info out there about the Real U Boot Camp just yet, you can find plenty of Soldiers of Fitness references that will hopefully provide answers to some of your boot camp curiosities:

- For a personal account of the SOF experience, check out this blog from Goodwill Carlos in Calgary. Truly inspirational!

- And for video footage of other SOF members being put through the paces, check out this video clip, courtesy of YouTube.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Whipping my assets into shape

My friend Andi once told me that she loved the movie G.I. Jane because watching Demi Moore become super-buff was motivation enough for her to do the same.

And while I admit that observing U.S. Navy Seals in all their glory is indeed inspiration for me as well, I must concede to another guilty pleasure: The Real Housewives of Orange County.

Yes, they're infuriatingly spoiled and vain and surgically enhanced, but the Housewives' world is so bizarre and so different from my own that I can't help in being oddly intrigued. Plus, because they look good, I want to take better care of myself in an attept to look just as good.

Minus the surgical enhancement, that is.*



*Sadly, my budget is slightly less than that of the Gold Diggers ... er ... Housewives.

 

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Women's Health knows best

The advertisement in the July/August 2007 back issue of Women's Health magazine was addressing -- no, threatening -- me: Don't let another summer go to waist.

I was lamenting to my husband the other day that we need to start getting up earlier to go running again each morning. We do it in winter at O-Dark-30 and in seemingly uninhabitable sub-zero temperatures, so why aren't we doing it now, when the sun is rising at it's earliest and it's safe to go outdoors with some skin slightly exposed?

The last thing I want to face this fall is that oh-so-familiar feeling of 'Why did we waste this summer sleeping in and staying indoors? Why didn't we take advantage of the sunshine to get in shape?'

As they say, the time for change is now. 

It's Canada Day, the weather is lovely, and our little dog would love nothing more than to take us for a walk down to the river.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Still seeking that runner's high

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover. 
- Mark Twain


I did it. I ran my first 10 km race today. And although I'm disappointed in my overall performance, at least I can say I did it.

Monday, May 26, 2008

A comedy of errors... but I ain't laughing


Difficulties are meant to rouse, not discourage. The human spirit is to grow strong by conflict.
- William Ellery Channing


So in an effort to regain my pre-gluttonous running shape from a month ago, I decided it was time to detox. 

I'm sure that part of my sluggishness these days is due to malnutrition and mild dehydration (read: Pringles aren't the ideal get-me-going-in-the-morning breakfast choice), so it was back to the basics for me today: Fresh fruits, vegetables, and at least two glasses of water every few hours while at work.

Except that life had other plans for me.

It didn't start out all bad, though. The sun was shining again, and I had a fabulously healthy breakfast. And because I don't like the water in the fountains at work, I packed extra bottles of water from home to get me through the day. And that's where the fun began.

While on the bus on my way to work, I was so engrossed in my book (Jo's note: Fifteen Days by Christie Blatchford is a must-read!!), that I failed to immediately notice the expanding, uhh, moistness developing in my lap. 

..... wait for it .....

Yes, one of my water bottles leaked through my bag and onto the most unfortunate of places in my lap. (Geez, to what did you think I was alluding??)

So I hurriedly scampered off the bus at my stop, strategically holding my backpack in front of me, and trying not to make eye contact with anyone as I ducked into the first restroom I could find.

Thankfully, it was vacant, so I emptied the soaking wet contents of my bag onto the counter, and I tactfully placed my lower body (read: hip-ular area) beneath the hot-air dryer.

But the the dryer suddenly stopped after only a few seconds, and I couldn't get it to start again.

Flustered and thinking things couldn't get any worse, I once again strategically placed my now-empty backpack in front of me and gathered my still-soaking wet items in my arms, doing my best not to drop anything while navigating my way through the building in search of another restroom.  


There's one! -- but it's out of order and under construction. Doh.

There's another one -- but it's crowded, and I really don't want an audience right now.

Finally! An empty restroom all to myself and in working order!


... Or was it? Of course not. The dryers wouldn't work in that one either. Honestly, of all the days for the building to blow a fuse....

By the time I gathered my composure enough to see the humour in all of this, my crotch had air-dried on it's own. And although the same could not be said for the wrinkled, ink-stained pages in my daytimer, I still made it to work on time.

But somehow I think this was God's way of punishing me (laughing at me?) for becoming so complacent when it comes to healthy living. 

Either that or it was a sign that Pringles in the morning really are the most ideal choice after all.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

In need of that runner's high

Challenges are what make life interesting; overcoming them is what makes life meaningful.
-- Joshua J. Marine


Have you ever had one of those days when you were just so overwhelmed with a feeling of overall contentment? When the sun was shining brightly in the clear blue sky and you felt as if you could take on the world and achieve all the things you've ever wanted to do?

Well, today wasn't one of those days for me.

We returned from our Caribbean paradise almost three weeks ago, and since then I haven't quite been able to get back into my running groove. Before our trip, I had been filled with such hope. The sun was emerging earlier each morning, and I was rising with it, running nearly everyday before work, steadily improving both my time and my stamina.

But this morning I felt as though all that hard work had been undone during the interruption that was our trip. Kind of a one-step-forward, nine-steps-back sort of thing. 

Maybe it was the gloomy sky this morning or the fact that I haven't gotten enough sleep the last few nights, but regardless, it sucked.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Frugal fantasies

My husband sent me this notice in my e-mail last week suggesting I should explore the frugal tendencies of Donna Freedman:

---
Jo,
 
This woman is SO you, and I think you should write a blog about her, or better yet, start writing your own book on this subject:

A day in the (frugal) life - By Donna Freedman

 
---

Later when my husband called me from work to see if I read the article, he conceded that I wasn't as extreme as this author but, with a little effort, I could be. So I said sure, I would look at taking her book out of the library the next time I was there. And my husband's response?

"Yeah, don't BUY her book, BORROW it from the library!"

Haha... ummm.... should I be proud or ashamed here??

Saturday, March 15, 2008

A list for all occasions

I'm sure some of you have noticed that I like making lists. And I like being in control. In fact, there are few feelings I hate more than not being in charge of my own daily destiny, if you will.  

This past Tuesday I had done all I could at work and was waiting on others to complete their parts before I could move on to other projects (I hate that feeling too), so I had some free time. And all I could think about was how much more I could have accomplished during that time if I was anywhere else but at work. But since I was stuck, I instead made a list of the endless tasks I had waiting for me that just couldn't get done while at work. I even set an exact time for each item in my daytimer so that my evening (and week, really) was all perfectly planned out:


4:20 p.m. - drive to Rona and settle our bill for the equipment we rented

4:30 p.m.- stop at the local police detachment on the way home and apply for the security check required by my employer

5:00 p.m. - work out on the elliptical trainer while catching up on  videos that Carla loaned me because they're 'must-sees'

6:00 p.m. - eat dinner while reading the paper and going through the endless pile of mail we receive each day, then start up the slow cooker and prepare enough food to last my husband for lunch and dinner over the next two days

6:40 p.m. - arrange to get my cousin Kim the magnetic "Support Our Troops" ribbon she's been asking for for her Jimmy

6:50 p.m. - finish filing my taxes, as well as those for my mom, uncle, & cousin (I already did hubby's on the weekend ....oh yeah!)

9:00 p.m. - take the little dog for a jog before bed



And it would have been a perfectly executed plan, too, had I just been able to start it.

Shortly before 4:00 p.m., I got a call that my mom wasn't feeling well again, and she was on her way to the hospital. Same symptoms as in October, but worse. So off we went, to the ER, and there we waited. And waited. For FOUR HOURS before even seeing a doctor.

Oy. Do you know what I could have done in those four hours?? Yes, see above. 

But it didn't end there. Finally seeing the doctor just started up a whole new waiting game for us (the bloodwork, the CT scan, the surgical consult....), and it was another six hours before we were finally able to leave. 

By this point it was nearly 2:30 a.m., and my alarm was going to go off in a few hours so that I could get ready for work again. And I had accomplished nothing! 

To make matters worse, not only was Tuesday night a write-off, but so was Wednesday night. (After spending the previous night in the ER and then having to work all day, you have to expect that I was just going to crash as soon as I got home on Wednesday. And Thursday. Ahem.) It wasn't until Friday that I was finally feeling like myself again, but of course I couldn't get anything done because I was at work until 10:30 p.m.

So here we are, Saturday morning and I've started none of the tasks I had intended to complete no later than last Tuesday evening. *Sigh* Here's hoping I can at least get them done by THIS Tuesday...

Oh, and in case you're wondering, after spending over 10 hours in the ER with my mom this past week, the final diagnosis for her pain is leaning towards an inguinal hernia that's pushing on her appendix. 

Yeah, I totally called that one, like, four months ago. It's true. Just read my blog. 

Thursday, March 6, 2008

You are what you eat

So today I attended an all-day orientation for work in which we were served a continental breakfast and then a super-fabulous buffet lunch -- and for probably the first time ever, I did not have one single dessert-type food at either sitting.

How could I, when one single breakfast muffin contained (on average) 610 calories??

Using a Calorie Calculator, I figure that I should be consuming no more than 1500 calories per day, so why would I waste more than a third of them on one measly muffin? 

The sad thing was that one of the other women seated at our table had not one but two of those muffins before 10 a.m. ...and she was just a tiny little thing! No, life isn't fair, but this is the reality of my existance.

*sigh*

Maybe in my next life I, too, will be blessed with that freakishly high metabolism.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Valentine's Day scrooges

 

" I hate Valentine's Day. And I hate Cupid... stupid fat baby going around shooting people with a bow and arrow."
-
Reba Hart, from Reba


While many opinions exist as to the origin of St. Valentine's Day, it's modern day existance serves to bring out only the best in my husband.... and the gag-reflex in others. 

I admit, until I met my husband, I used to be one of those grumps. You know who they are: They sneer at anything overly sweet or romantic. They roll their eyes at couples showing any sort of affection in public. They grunt and simply walk away when coworkers greet them with a "Happy Valentine's Day!" They are the modern day Valentine's Day Scrooges. 

Okay, so while I was never a real Scrooge, I just hated everything to do with Valentine's Day. And it was all because I was single. All this day ever served to do was remind me that, while others were engaging in romantic bliss, I was alone... so very alone. 

One of my former employers recognized this in many of her employees, so she arranged for all the female staff members to receive a single red rose at work each Valentine's Day, which I thought was a really nice touch. Even though it wasn't coming from a boyfriend/spouse/significant other, that rose made me feel special and helped take away some of the bitterness I felt towards everyone else receiving gifts on that day.

Thankfully, though, I won't ever have to feel that way again. This year my husband has made Valentine's Day a week-long event. It started with a bouquet of yellow daffodils (my favourite flower) and three red roses. Then came the surprise (hand-delivered at my work) "Haley the Kissing Hedgehog". Then the heart-shaped candies and rose-shaped candles. Then the hair straightener (something I've wanted for a long time but would never buy for myself). And finally a heart-shaped ice cream cake (see photo above) and heart-shaped pizzas for dinner. 

Between Christmas, my birthday, and Valentine's Day, I've been showered with attention from my husband over the last month and a half. And while I'll never forget how awful it felt to be alone on this day all those years ago, I've happily put it behind me and will forever be grateful for the relationship I have now.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Caution: Wind Gusts

Me:             "I hate the wind! It can ruin a perfectly good day!"
Husband:   "But what would the Prairies be without wind?"
Me:            "Pleasant."





If You're Not from the Prairie
David Bouchard

”If you’re not from the prairie,
You don’t know the wind,
You can’t know the wind.
Our cold winds of winter cut right to the core,
Hot summer wind devils can blow down the door.
As children we know when we play any game,
The wind will be there, yet we play just the same.
If you’re not from the prairie,
You don’t know the wind.”





Who Has Seen the Wind?

Christina Rossetti (poem), W.O. Mitchell (novel) 

Who has seen the wind?
 Neither I nor you:
But when the leaves hang trembling
 The wind is passing thro'.

Who has seen the wind?
 Neither you nor I:
But when the trees bow down their heads
 The wind is passing by.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Road ragin'

"I don't have road rage, but other drivers do.... and that makes me REALLY MAD!"
-
Me, circa 2001


Yes, I coined that gem while at work several years ago, and my friend Angie still, to this day, can do a hilarious reenactment of the event. 

Not so amusing, though, is that a few days ago my husband was the victim of a frightening incident involving road rage. He was nearly hit by another driver in a red Pontiac who failed to stop at a stop sign. To get the other driver's attention, my husband immediately honked at him. And unfortunately the other driver didn't take too kindly to that.

The Pontiac's driver proceeded to cut off another vehicle in order to then ride my husband's bumper before changing lanes and then cutting back in front of him. The driver then stopped his vehicle in the middle of rush hour traffic -- forcing my husband to stop behind him -- as he turned on his four-way flashers so his passenger could get out. 

The Pontiac's passenger, who literally appeared to either be drooling or frothing at the mouth (drug addictions can do that to a person, or so I hear), stormed toward our vehicle, fists raised and mouth-a-cursin', and started pounding on my husband's driver's side window. The incident was over within a few minutes, but it left my husband understandably shaken.

But, sadly, this isn't the worst of it.

My husband filed an official complaint with the Edmonton Police Service (EPS), but after having read his statement, the officer in charge proclaimed, "Well, this was really your fault, you know." And he said it more than loud enough for everyone in the waiting area to hear him. 

"I'm saying this out loud so everyone can hear me: You should never honk at other motorists, because it upsets them."

While I will concede his last statement -- yes, we all know no one likes to be honked at -- I'm appalled that he would suggest my husband was somehow to blame for all this.

It was NOT my husband's fault that this moron ran a stop sign and nearly hit him. 

It was NOT my husband's fault that said moron was too clueless to even realize he had just broken the law. 

And it was NOT my husband's fault that this clueless moron and his passenger clearly have anger management issues and should not be behind the wheel.

Under normal circumstances, I am a staunch supporter of the EPS. When stories of alleged police wrong-doing pass through the newsroom that need proofing, I'm constantly giving the benefit of the doubt to the officer's involved. I know that police work is often unforgiving, and many of our local detachments are understaffed. Their officers are overworked and underpaid, and they do the best they can with the resources they have.

But we could have done without the arrogance today.

I know the routine. My husband knows the routine. But, please, save the attitude for actual "bad guys" who are breaking the law, not those of us simply trying to bring some justice back to our roads.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

The Desert Voice

A good friend of ours is currently deployed overseas, but he keeps in touch by sending out monthly e-mails that often contain the latest edition of The Desert Voice, for which he is a regular contributor. A couple of months ago I asked him if I could somehow link to his publication on here, and he brought to my attention the Digital Video and Imagery Distribution System out of Atlanta, Georgia. In his words, you can log on and "see the publications and all the stories and photos that come out of Kuwait, Iraq, and Afghanistan."

1

While I'm especially partial to The Desert Voice, he's right, you can view everything that comes out of that part of the world. I know for a fact that all involved work very hard on these publications, so please be sure to check them out. Happy reading!

 

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

My champagne birthday



"A New Year's resolution is something that goes in one year and out the other."
-UNKNOWN

My husband admitted to me that he was actually a little disappointed with my New Year's Eve blog about turning 30. In his mind, rather than simply reflecting on someone else's list of great achievements, he had expected me to make an original list of things I would actually like to accomplish myself in the following year(s). 

Several years ago -- 1995, to be exact -- I had been obsessed with the T.V. show Northern Exposure and purchased a small notebook with the cast on the cover, and I finally put it to good use last spring -- yes, I began compiling a list of things I wanted to do before I die. And I guess that coincides with what my husband wanted me to complile on here several weeks ago. 

So here it is, straight from the bound cover of my Northern Exposure notebook, a smattering of some things I'd like to try in the (near) future:

1. Go skydiving.

2. Have my husband show me around where he was stationed in Korea and throughout the Middle East.

3. Run a marathon.

4. Take a road trip across Canada and the U.S. and visit all the provinces/territories/states. (I've only done this in part so far.)

5. Go white water rafting.

6. Take my husband on a Caribbean cruise. (Gonna do it this April!!)

7. Try surfing.

8. Go on a volunteering vacation.

9. Take an African safari, ride the Orient Express, and visit the Great Wall of China.

10. Go on a hot air balloon ride.

11. Scuba dive.

12. Visit Ireland and Stonehenge.

13. Take in a Broadway musical.

14. Float in the Dead Sea. (I had the chance in high school... but then the trip was cancelled due to "security" reasons, ahem.)

15. Touch the pyramids. (Is that even allowed?)

16. Visit Calabria and Libya.

17. Make a comprehensive family tree complete with photos and detailed descriptions. (Sigh... this has eluded me most of my life.)

18. Build a fire without the use of matches/lighters/kindling soaked in kerosene.

19. See the polar bears in Churchill, Manitoba.

20. Be a member of the live studio audience at any gameshow/sitcom taping.

21. Try caviar.

22. Plan a "Girl's Day" at a shooting range.

23. Attend an Olympic sporting event.

24. Milk a cow.

25. Continue ballroom dance lessons with my husband.

26. Bike across the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco.

27. Learn to play a musical instrument (and play it well, damnit!).

28. Attend an NFL game live. Or Nascar.

29. Visit the Anne of Green Gables house in Prince Edward Island.

30. See the Galapagos tortoise and Darwin's finches for myself. ("If there is the slightest foundation for evolution, the zoology of the Galapagos will be well worth examining...")

 
While it's far from being an exhaustive list, it's a start. And if I do manage to accomplish everything on this list, I'll be that person who just doesn't shut up at dinner parties. Or, as my husband put it, I'll be that person who quietly knows that someone else has no idea what they're talking about. 

[.....insert mischievous grin.....]

Thursday, January 10, 2008

We have a ghost!

After a long, busy day, I went to bed and quickly fell asleep at around 9:30 last night, but shortly thereafter, I was awakened by the sound of some rummaging in the other room. Assuming it was my husband, I called out to him. But, of course, there was no response.

Thinking I was just delirious -- partly from exhaustion and partly from the glass of wine I had before bed  -- I shrugged it off and figured I was hearing things. 

But then I heard it again. And then again. 

By now I was fully awake and sitting up in bed. At first it sounded like someone was moving things around, and then it was as if someone was getting up off the couch. I repeatedly called for my husband, but all I heard in response was more shuffling. 

Finally, I heard my husband at the stairs coming to bed. I explained to him what happened, and he assured me there was no one else in the other room. But he also shared with me that, if we do have a ghost, it would explain why he sometimes finds our touch-lamp turned on during the day when supposedly no one is at home. I was not impressed.

Furthermore, he shared with me the story of his mother's 100+ year old home that has a toilet sometimes flush on it's own for no explainable reason. No explainable reason other than a ghost, that is.  Regardless, he reassured me that most ghosts are "benign" anyway and that it was probably our cold pipes in winter making all that noise.

Hoping he was right, I decided to just let it go.

But while brushing his teeth, my husband quickly exited the washroom and returned to the bedroom -- toothbrush in hand -- just a few minutes later.

"Did you hear that? It sounded like someone bumping into things."

"Yeah, I heard it,"  I responded. "But I thought it was you."

"Babe, I think we need to take turns sleeping in shifts tonight."

Needless to say, we were (are) both more than a little spooked by this. Here's hoping our ghost is one of those benign entities my husband spoke about.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

In 2008, I resolve to turn 30.

By now you've all probably received this list as an online chain letter in your e-mail, "30 Things Every Woman Should Have & Know By The Time She's 30," which originally appeared in a 1997 edition of Glamour magazine. Personally, I love it, and I never tire of reflecting upon it. 

Given that this is New Year's Eve -- and only a few short weeks before I turn the big 3-0 -- rather than making resolutions for myself, I've decided to once again turn my focus to Pamela Redmond Satran's infamous list, among others. So here goes nuthin'....


BY 30, YOU SHOULD HAVE:
 


1. One old boyfriend you can imagine going back to and one who reminds you of how far you've come. 

Yes, and yes. As I've often been told, the nice thing about time is that it blurs the bad memories and emphasizes the good.


2. A decent piece of furniture not previously owned by anyone else in your family. 

Funny, just last week my husband and I purchased a great set of living room furniture -- but of course it belonged to my sister and her family who are relocating to Michigan. Doh. But wait! Would our bed count?? It's decent! And new!


3. Something perfect to wear if the employer or man of your dreams wants to see you in an hour. 

Of course I have several perfect outfits I'm very proud of.... but whether they'll still fit after all this year's Christmas festivities is yet to be seen.


4. A purse, a suitcase, and an umbrella you're not ashamed to be seen carrying. 

Not only do I have all of the above, but also several backpacks. I really am quite fortunate.


5. A youth you're content to move beyond. 

Deana Carter said it best in "Strawberry Wine" when she sang, "I still remember when 30 was old." ----- I think the best part about this age is that I've definitely matured in recent years -- and thus I am certainly content to move beyond my youth -- and yet I don't necessarily feel all that old. Deana knew what she was talking about.


6. A past juicy enough that you're looking forward to retelling it in your old age. 

In researching this list, I stumbled upon several others including one that suggested I should "write the novel I know I have inside of me." My sister-in-law, Sarah,  was inspired by Jeannette Walls' The Glass Castle and is doing just that. And while my friend Louise has often said that if she could read any one person's diary, it would be mine, I just don't think I'm quite there yet. My past is juicy, yes, and I'll be sure to tell it when I'm good and ready. (A girl has to keep a slight air of mystery around her, dontcha know?)


7. The realization that you are actually going to have an old age—and some money set aside to help fund it. 

I'll be okay. But by God, I wish I had started investing in RRSPs at an earlier age!


8. An e-mail address, a voice mailbox, and a bank account—all of which nobody has access to but you. 

Yes, yes, and yes.


9. A résume that is not even the slightest bit padded. 

This is a tough one because, let's be honest, everybody sounds more impressive on paper. But, yeah, I really have done a little bit of everything over the years.


10. One friend who always makes you laugh and one who lets you cry. 

I've been lucky enough to find all these traits in one person. Kind of a 2-for-1 deal if you ask me.


11. A set of screwdrivers, a cordless drill, and a black lace bra. 

Doh! I was so close! But it looks like I'll be spending New Year's Day at Canadian Tire, you know, searching for a cordless drill.

 

12. Something ridiculously expensive that you bought for yourself, just because you deserve it. 

My luxuries usually come in the form of plane tickets. And I make no apologies for it.


13. The belief that you deserve it. 

See above.


14. A skin-care regimen, an exercise routine, and a plan for dealing with those few other facets of life that don't get better after 30. 

Oy vay. Yes, I have a regimen, a routine, and a plan, but now I just need to stick to them! Every New Year's Day, the Running Room hosts their annual Resolution Run in which participants start the year off right with a 5 km run -- and while my husband and I aren't officially involved, we have still resolved to run 5 km tomorrow. Couldn't hurt, right?


15. A solid start on a satisfying career, a satisfying relationship, and all those other facets of life that do get better. 

A solid start, yes, this I definitely have!


BY 30, YOU SHOULD KNOW: 


1. How to fall in love without losing yourself. 

After several years of trial and error, I can honestly say, "Been there, done that."


2. How you feel about having kids. 

I know how I feel, but I'm not telling. *insert evil laughter*


3. How to quit a job, break up with a man, and confront a friend without ruining the friendship. 

Yes, yes, and yes -- all are very difficult and sometimes very necessary aspects of life.


4. When to try harder and when to walk away. 

I admit I have a hard time walking away, not because I'm a perfectionist, per se, but because I'm stubborn as all get.


5. How to kiss in a way that communicates perfectly what you would and wouldn't like to happen next. 

I haven't had any complaints so far.


6. The names of: the secretary of state, your great-grandmother, and the best tailor in town. 

Thank God Condoleeza Rice is so recognizable, otherwise I'd only be 2-for-3 on this one.


7. How to live alone, even if you don't like to. 

I've never actually had to live alone before, which I know is difficult for many to fathom. I'm sure I could do it, but of course, I don't ever want to find out.


8. How to take control of your own birthday. 

The last few years, it's been all about me and what I want, so yeah, I think I've got it covered.


9. That you can't change the length of your calves, the width of your hips, or the nature of your parents. 

But by God, I continue to try on all three counts! Yes, even to this very day. *sigh*


10. That your childhood may not have been perfect, but it's over. 

I come from the if-I-block-it-out-it-will-just-go-away school of thought, ahem. Okay, maybe that's not the healthiest way to look at things! ---- In actuality, though, as I often tell my husband, we all had a miserable childhood (to varying degrees), and yet we still turned out okay. So get over it already! "The best revenge is living well" will always be one of my favourite quotes.


11. What you would and wouldn't do for money or love. 

Oh, it's a blurry line....


12. That nobody gets away with smoking, drinking, doing drugs, or not flossing for very long. 

It's the not flossing that will do me in, I'm sure.


13. Who you can trust, who you can't, and why you shouldn't take it personally. 

[Insert sarcastic tone] Anyone who knows me knows that I never take anything personally. Ahem. Okay, okay, I'm working on it!!


14. Not to apologize for something that isn't your fault. 

This is another hard one for me, considering I apologize for everything, including for apologizing too much. Must be the Canuck in me.


15. Why they say life begins at 30. 

I have all of 2008 to figure it out. Happy New Year everyone!!