Monday, September 17, 2012


It was Christmas 1989 when I received one of the coolest gifts an 11-year-old could have gotten that year: a Nintendo Entertainment System.

That’s right; we’re talking the original Super Mario Bros. video game with the Duck Hunt bonus, complete with a gun that was ready to take out some clay discs and a gaggle of waterfowl.

In a word? Awesome.

I was a typical girly-girl growing up in that I loved my Barbies, but at that age, nothing held my attention more than my Nintendo. I played it non-stop, much to my parents’ displeasure, since we only had one TV and I was now monopolizing it with my obsessive game playing.

Once I (soon) conquered the original Super Mario Bros. and it no longer presented a challenge to me, I made the natural transition to Super Mario Bros. 2 and eventually 3 – all within a two-year-span.

My personal gaming claim to fame came one dreary Saturday in the fall of 1991 when I sat in front of the television and played Super Mario Bros. 2 ALL DAY LONG, only pausing to eat and occasionally use the washroom. (Go play outside, you suggest? What 13-year-old should be doing that? Ahem.)

On that lonely Saturday, not only did I complete the entire game, but I did it without warping ahead (i.e., I intentionally played every single level without skipping any), and I didn’t die even once. Seriously. My avatar was the Princess, and she and I totally kicked some Birdo butt.

I remember being elated but also going to bed that night with the worst headache. When I closed my eyes, I could still hear the game’s theme music and see the different levels progressing in my mind. It became very clear that both my health and my sanity were at stake, so I opted to take a break after that and momentarily walk away from my video game addiction.

Luckily, this wasn’t difficult for me to do, given that I was getting older and having to work harder to maintain my grades in school -- which, of course, meant giving up whatever free time I once had after classes let out.

Fast forward past high school, university, marriage, and becoming a mother, and you’ll see that I never did fully regain that free time I once enjoyed at the end of the day. But then a few weeks ago, my husband and my 18-year-old nephew (who’s been living with us for over a year since he moved here from Florida) decided to set up my beloved Nintendo once again. (Yes, I’m a borderline hoarder, and I still have my original Nintendo and all its games.)

Twenty-three years later, and it still works wonderfully.

So. Totally. Awesome.

My husband and I began playing this past Friday night after we put our daughter to bed, and we quickly lost track of time, going to bed ourselves long after midnight. (Given that my usual bedtime is ideally around 10pm, this was practically an all-nighter for me.)

It was so much fun to be engaged in Mario’s exploits again that we continued playing on both Saturday and Sunday nights as well. Everything was going smoothly until we heard our daughter cry out from her room Sunday night.

I want Mommy. I need to go pee.”

Conscious of the fact that she is a master at stall tactics and will say anything, ANYTHING to get us to come up to her room at night, we were sure this was a ploy on our daughter’s part. But could we take the chance that this was a bluff and just let it go?

No, we could not. Our daughter is newly potty trained, and to ignore her request to use the potty would be an absolute parenting fail.

So my husband dutifully went upstairs to tend to her needs while I, naturally, continued playing video games.

Ten minutes later I heard a very excited, “Hi, Mom!” from my daughter and a less than enthused, “She did NOT have to pee,” from my husband as they both walked down the stairs toward me.

Okay, so it was now 11pm, and our daughter was up. Should we stop what we were doing and instead read to our daughter or somehow coerce her back into a deep sleep? Ummm, no, that’s what GOOD parents would do! Instead we opted to keep playing on the Nintendo while she toddled around and half-heartedly played with her own toys.

(See above regarding ABSOLUTE PARENTING FAIL.)

About 30 minutes later, my daughter finally turned to me and said, “Mom, I need to go to sleep,” as she began making her way back to the stairs.

Our video-game trance was broken long enough that both my husband and I finally got off the couch and lovingly escorted our super-awesome daughter back to bed. We figured she deserved at least that.

(But then we giddily proceeded back downstairs and continued our Nintendo game where we left off. SCORE!)

Moments later, my nephew returned home from his night out and proceeded to go straight to bed himself, given that he had to work early the next morning.

(Dang, the KIDS knew their limits and were trying to get some sleep that night, whereas we – the supposed adults – would have happily stayed up all night with Mario and Luigi.)

What’s wrong with us?” I finally asked aloud. “We’re 34 years old! What are we doing?”

Yeah, I’m sorry in advance that tomorrow is totally going to suck for us at work,” my husband replied.

And, yet, we continued on, deciding to pack it in more than an hour later. (Okay, that’s a lie. The truth is we ran out of lives and had no choice but to turn off the Nintendo.)

As we tidied up downstairs, my husband commented that we should bring our video console with us on the Caribbean cruise we’re taking this weekend.

Think about it – we have three At Sea days. What better way to spend those days than playing Super Mario Bros. in our suite......?!

On that note, if we end up returning from our vacation in paradise still looking pasty and white, then you know what happened.

Curse you, Mario Bros.! Curse you for being so delightfully addictive!

Friday, September 14, 2012

Friday’s Top Five - Things I Love About My City (Edmonton)

True dialogue:

Me: I think I better write about something positive this week for fear of being lynched on the bus.
Dani: Agreed. But it’s pretty hard to lynch someone on the bus when they’re standing between two backpacks.

Despite the fact that I’m obviously more unhappy than I am pleased with my city, there certainly exist certain aspects that I do love about Edmonton and that help make this place somewhat bearable for me.

It’s funny, because each week in the Edmonton Sun newspaper, the Sunday edition features a 20-questions-style interview with a local celebrity, and one of the questions is, “What’s the best part of Edmonton?” And nine times out of 10, the interviewee will respond with, “The people.”

Which I, of course, have always thought was a total copout of an answer and proof that they just couldn’t think of anything else nice to say. (That, and they’re also attempting to suck up to local residents and mere mortals such as myself.)

But the more I’ve reflected on this issue in the past week, the more I’m able to understand where they might be coming from.

By no means do I feel Edmontonians are superior to the residents of any other major city -- but if you ask me what keeps me living here despite my obvious hatred for the climate ¾ of the year, then my response is: family and friends. That’s it. If not for them, I probably would have bailed a long time ago.

Regardless, there do exist a multitude of more tangible entities in Edmonton that are truly wonderful and should be commended.

Friday’s Top Five - Things I Love About My City (Edmonton):

5) The abundance of playgrounds.

This is something I never really appreciated until earlier this summer when my visiting-from-the-US mother-in-law made the simple observation that, regardless of which direction you turn when leaving our house, you will encounter some type of children’s playground within a few blocks. And this isn’t unique to our area, either, as it’s true of virtually every community in town.

And the added bonus is that many of these playgrounds are also equipped with a spray park. Yes, a complimentary, open-to-everyone SPRAY PARK!!

These days we can’t drive or walk anywhere with my daughter without her noticing a playground and announcing, “Oooooh. A Park. I want to go to the park. I want to go down the slide. Mommy, I want to go! MARINA WANTS TO GO NOW!!”

Okay, so the child obviously enjoys going to the park. (And boy does she hate it when it’s time to leave.)

4) The Edmonton Public Library.

I’m sure this isn’t unique to just Edmonton, but our local public libraries have some truly fantastic resources available for children and families.

My daughter was one of those naturally shy babies who was essentially afraid of everyone outside of our immediate family. The symptoms started when she was only three months old, and I remember being near tears in the pediatrician’s office as I tried to speak with him about this over the sound of my daughter’s terrified screaming (you know, as I also tried to gently hold down her flailing limbs so he could examine her).

I asked if this was something that would get better and if she would soon grow out of her fear, and his response was, “Not necessarily. Some kids are just shy, and that stays with them into adulthood. That’s who they are.”

Meanwhile, everyone else with an opinion was more than happy to tell us we suck as parents and this was all our fault. (Okay, nobody actually said that to us in so many words, but as a stressed out / sleep-deprived / hormonal new mom, that’s how I took it.)

So, shortly before my daughter turned one -- and once I had put on a brave face and just sucked it up myself – we began taking her to the library each week after work in an effort to help her interact with other families in a calm and fun setting.

The first day was a challenge, as could be expected. We attended a “Daddy & Baby” class in which dads and their little ones sit and read books or sing songs in a somewhat organized setting. She had no interest in the other dads or babies there – in fact, she panicked if anyone else even looked at her – but it was a start.

As she got older, we later began attending the “Sing, Sign, Laugh and Learn” classes that not only did the things mentioned above, but they also taught us to communicate via sign language -- a fantastic tool for when your toddler needs something but just doesn’t have the words to articulate it without having a fit.

We continue to attend these weekly sessions still today, and the progress she’s shown is remarkable. She loves her teacher and the other kids (as well as their parents), and she even talks about them by name when we’re at home. (“Tomorrow is Saturday. I go to library class on Saturday. I go to see Marcus and Stas and Katherine and Taylor and….”)

She’s become a fearless little super star at the library who loves to sing, dance, and perform with everyone else. Total transformation from the first day there when we had to virtually drag her in.

Oh, and did I mention that all of these classes are free? That’s right, FREE.

Libraries. Totally. Rock.

(Meanwhile, back on the farm, my daughter is still terrified of the pediatrician and will only enter if I haul her in kicking and screaming, but I digress.)

3) Vicinity to diverse landscapes.

Feel like spending the day in the Rocky Mountains? Then just drive west for a bit.

Want to go to the beach? Wizard Lake is a mere 45 minutes away.

Or are desert landscapes more your preference? Then Drumheller is a must.

The beauty of living in Edmonton is that you don’t necessarily need to fly out to a full-fledged all-inclusive resort to feel like you’ve escaped the city and gone on vacation. There are a number of quick-escape day trips you can take – although the only problem is that once you’ve started exploring each locale, you quickly discover that you wish you had more time to just relax and enjoy the scenery.

In other words, one day is not enough!

I think a lot of people head out with the intentions of it just being for the day, but then they quickly find themselves calling in sick for work the next day. (I’ve never done this, per se, but I have no doubt that it occurs. Ahem.)

It’s so nice to have the option of what type of panoramic views you’d like to enjoy on any given day, and I’ve said all along that if only there was an ocean nearby, then Alberta would have it all.

2) Non-stop summer festivals and tourist destinations.

Whenever out-of-town family and friends express interest in coming to visit us, our response is always, “Wait until summer.”

Yes, the frozen tundra does actually thaw for the summer months when we’re able to enjoy some spectacular weather and, moreover, there’s ALWAYS something to do.

We love the convenience of bringing guests to visit West Edmonton Mall – and the novelty never wears off for visitors – but it’s also nice to show them the outdoors via one of our many local festivals.

Without fail, there are always back-to-back events taking place in the summer. From the fireworks display on Canada Day, to Klondike Days and A Taste of Edmonton later in July…. Plus the Heritage Festival in August and the multitude of nearby farmer’s markets throughout the city – I just love it all.

Plus, as an extension of point #3 above, there’s always something to see just outside of the city as well. We frequent the Devonian Botanic Garden each summer, and this year we even ventured out to the Prairie Gardens & Adventure Farm in Bon Accord -- which is now my daughter’s new favourite place simply because they have GOATS and CHICKENS and a CHOO-CHOO TRAIN.

It just doesn’t get any better when you’re a kid. (Or an adult, for that matter!)

1) The River Valley.

If I was a local celebrity responding to the Edmonton Sun’s 20-questions-style interview, I would readily declare that the River Valley is by far the best thing about Edmonton (in my opinion, of course).

This is an excerpt about it taken directly from the Edmonton Public Library’s website (Hey, Library, did I mention that you totally rock?!):

River Valley - Edmonton:

- The valley was formed by post glacial erosion over 20,000 years ago and has been eroded by the river to form terraces, meanders and flats. The valley is 60 metres deep from clifftop to river and varies in width from 1 to 1.6 kilometres

- Early settlement around Fort Edmonton was located in the valley and along its upper banks

- In 1907, Edmonton's city council recognized the benefits of preserving the river parkland

- In 1915 the Provincial Government adopted Frederick C. Todd's report which recommended protection of the River Valley environment so that Edmontonians would be provided with a contiguous recreation and open space system.

- The North Saskatchewan River Valley and Ravine System encompasses an area of 7,425 hectares (18,348) acres which is mostly designated for recreational use. That is 12 times larger than New York City's Central Park. Edmonton's river valley the largest stretch of urban parkland in North America

- The valley system includes 14 ravines, 22 parks, over 100 kilometres of trail and four lake systems

- There are 58 kilometres of paved trails, 39 kilometres of granulated trails, 28 kilometres of pedestrian trails, 7 kilometres of equine trails, and 48 kilometres of ski trails

- The valley also includes: 2 ski hills, 6 golf courses, 1 driving range, 29 day campsites, an equine centre, 25 reservable picnic sites, 2 outdoor pools, 70 staircases, 95 viewpoints, 6 toboggan hills, 58 minor bridges and 5 major bridges

- There are 39 facilities in the River Valley as well as major attractions such as Muttart Conservatory, Fort Edmonton Park, the Valley Zoo and the Kinsmen Sports Centre

It’s true. I love the River Valley and wish that I could visit it every day. In a way I guess I sort of do, in that I’m fortunate enough to pass through during my daily commute to and from work, travelling across the river and passing the equine centre listed above.

It really is beautiful to see, and for a few moments you can almost forget that you’re in the city at all.

Danielle and I have long been huge fans of the River Valley, and we often escaped to one of the many ravines or trails for hours on end during our youth. (You know, because there was no Internet back then, and we didn’t have cars or boyfriends or any other place to be at the time. Ahem.)

MacKinnon Ravine and Laurier Park were our most-visited areas, but we also occasionally frequented Mackenzie Ravine, which links the two regions.

Jo’s Note: We only went down into Mackenzie Ravine a couple of times because, frankly, bad things happened to us whenever we ventured that way. I’m sure it had ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to do with the fact that we were UTTERLY UNPREPARED for the hike and were armed with nothing but our flip-flops and a water bottle, but I digress. If nothing else, at least we always managed to keep Lindy, my always faithful companion, safe from being mauled by circling coyotes.

(Okay, we don’t have proof that they were actually circling us, but we suspected as much.)


All right, that's it for this week. Head on over to see what Divulge with Dani and (potentially) Juice with Junior have come up with as well.

Sept 15 @ 10:15pm - My husband has again decided to weigh in on the subject matter as well, so please check him out at Wayward Yankee.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Sitting Still Is Killing You

Dang, maybe I should be grateful for having to stand on the bus each day after all.

Check out the below article, courtesy of the

It will scare you into throwing out all your chairs.

Sitting Still Is Killing You

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

9/11 Eleven years later

I intentionally wasn't going to comment on the significance of today, but then my friend Diana (who is originally from Maryland but occasionally has a mean Carolina drawl) said something that I felt compelled to share. Here is her story:

"I remember I was in shock for many days afterwards, like everyone else. Cell phone towers being jammed, all the channels on TV either "Down until further notice" or showing news footage, not hearing any planes outside for days (aside from F-16 fighters in the sky the day of). None of that made it seem real. What DID make it seem real? Jon Stewart's first show back, September 20th. It was the first time I heard him completely candid, open, honest, and emotional, and it was at that point I realized it happened and I couldn't pretend that it didn't anymore. Seeing one of the people I rely on to bring happiness and joy to millions break down into tears really jarred me. So, with that being said, here's my "I remember" 9/11 post of the day."

---I wasn't able to embed Jon Stewart's video clip, but you can watch it here.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Friday's Top Five - Things I Hate About My City (Edmonton)

One of my biggest pet peeves is people who are chronic complainers about everything under the sun, yet they never take action to attempt making the situation better. (Don’t like the policies of your current government? Then make a phone call. Write a letter. VOTE!!)

But today I’m taking a step back and becoming one of those people who just vents for the sake of blowing off steam. (Sadly, I know I won’t feel any better for ranting… rather, all this will serve to do is increase my blood pressure and lower my life expectancy, but I digress.)


Top Five Things I Hate About My City (Edmonton):

5) Public transit and its users.

Given the lack of parking spaces in this city (thank you, piss poor city planners) and the unaffordable cost of driving and parking my vehicle in spaces no where even close to my work, I have no choice but to take public transit each day.

In a lot of ways, it really is the more convenient option for me personally because of my extreme lack of patience for traffic and drivers fiddling with their hand-held devices, but it sure is a pain in the ass most days.

My major issues with public transit and its users in the City of Edmonton are threefold:

a) There are not enough buses or trains travelling frequently enough to accommodate all of its users. I work on a busy post-secondary campus and, for 8 months out of the year, I don’t get to sit down on either the bus or train. It is standing room only (not just during peak hours), and often times there are people left behind because there just isn’t enough room for everyone. So incredibly frustrating. And also a reason many people are often late for class or work.

b) All bus stops should be equipped with a somewhat roomy and somewhat clean shelter to protect its patrons from the elements. Yes, I repeat, ALL BUS STOPS. I won’t rant about our climate (yet), but it’s ridiculous to me that the majority of our bus stops are out in the open. People die here and lose limbs from exposure. While effective indoor heating systems would be ideal (and also expensive), wouldn’t it at least make sense to have mandatory shelters at all stops to at least shield people from the unrelenting and unforgiving prairie wind?

I won’t lie, in my 20 years of riding public transit, there’s been more than one occasion where I’ve been waiting for my (late-arriving) bus and just haven’t been able to tolerate standing out there in the open for a minute longer. So I’ve turned around and just gone home. (Sorry, but life’s too short to be hopping on the spot and waiting for the bus while the tissue on my fingers and toes freezes and slowly dies.)

c) I have a problem with backpacks. And people who are so absorbed in their own little bubble that they have no awareness of anything happening around them. As stated, I work on a busy campus, and my coworkers and I are all in agreement that post-secondary students are by far the most oblivious transit riders we encounter. (Note: this was a problem when I was a student myself, and it hasn't improved since then.)

I've been THIS CLOSE to telling a few of them this week that, unless their backpacks or Coach purses also paid transit fare, then they should kindly remove them from the seats and allow actual paying customers to sit down.

Moreover, I've also been tempted to pull some of their earphones out of their ears and force them to look around a bit and realize that there are senior citizens STANDING next to them. In other words, pull up your pants and do the right thing by giving up your seat. (Is common courtesy a lost art these days??)

4) Urban sprawl & cookie-cutter houses.

Last week my family and I drove out to the ‘burbs to pick up a used children’s kitchen set from a family advertising it online, and we were dismayed to see how much the city has grown in recent years. Where there was once beautiful greenery and natural landscapes less than five years ago, there are now multiple strip malls and an endless scene of cookie-cutter houses. (Cue Joni Mitchell’s “Big Yellow Taxi” here.)

Sure, there are jobs in the city, which means families are constantly moving in and needing a somewhat respectable place to live, but do these new neighbourhoods all have to look the same? Couldn’t the City have hired a designer who is capable of exercising some free thought? (No, because that costs money.) For that matter, couldn’t our city bylaws at least be modified (or scrapped altogether) to allow for some originality?

I’m not kidding here. All our newer neighbourhoods are reminiscent of the Communist Housing Projects.

The city is now surrounded by rows upon rows (upon more rows) of identical houses and yards. They’re only allowed to have so many trees (of only certain varieties) strategically placed on their properties. And the colour palette for these homes is nothing short of bland and unoriginal.

When my husband and I first purchased our home almost three years ago, we were adamant about living in an older, maturely developed neighbourhood. Yes, it meant we paid a little more money for our smallish, 50-year-old house than what we would have paid for a bigger, brand new home in a newer neighbourhood, but we didn’t care.

At least we can look out the window and see an expanse of green space nearby. At least we have a sizeable yard and aren’t nestled like sardines among neighbouring houses. And at least every home in our area is somewhat unique in its colour/shape/design.

Houses in mature, established neighbourhoods tend to have old-school charm, whereas the products of our city’s urban sprawl have only a severe lack of character.

3) High cost of living.

My mother-in-law visited us from Upstate New York this past summer, and she was shocked, appalled, horrified, dumbstruck [insert your own adjective here] at the amount we pay for our monthly utilities and energy bills.

To give you an idea of what a cruel joke our living expenses are up here, we pay in one month what she pays in six. (Not an exaggeration.)  She flat out told me that, if she were to move to Edmonton, she wouldn’t be able to survive on her fixed income. And that’s the sad reality: Many people already CAN’T survive here, hence our ever-growing homeless and poverty-stricken population.

To top it off, Edmonton isn’t really that nice of a place to live anyway.

There are no mountains to take our breath away. No nearby ocean. And next to no mosquito control.

My sister-in-law, on the other hand, lives in a stunning gated community in the wilds of Phoenix, and her home is a virtual freakin’ mansion, complete with an interior courtyard…. yet she barely paid more for her home than we did for ours.

And it’s in an area of utter environmental beauty. In balmy Phoenix, no less!

So why does it have to be so expensive to live here? Oh, right: We have oil. And we have jobs.

I suppose I could tolerate the outrageous cost of living in Edmonton ONLY if it was a halfway decent place to live. But, for nine months out of the year, it’s really not.

2) Lack of snow removal.

Our present city council is obsessed with wanting to be known as a “World Class City”, but what they can’t seem to comprehend is that they need to first invest in the basics and take care of the city’s needs before handing out millions in tax dollars to a billionaire who’s stating that he’s building a downtown arena. True story. (*cough*Daryl Katz*cough*)

One of those basic needs I speak of is the simple act of removing snow.

As a homeowner, if we don’t shovel the (city-owned) sidewalk on the side of our house within 72 hours of the last snowfall, we will be heavily fined. But for some reason it’s okay for city officials to send out a skeleton crew of workers in a half-assed attempt to clear our roadways of snow…. eventually.

And what they leave behind is even worse: Sheets of sheer ice that makes for deadly and treacherous driving conditions. (It’s no wonder I opt to take the bus instead of trying to navigate the roads myself.)

When my husband first moved here from Upstate New York, he, too, was flabbergasted with the state of our snow- and ice-covered roads and sidewalks. He constantly preached to me about what a perfect, loving, Utopia his hometown is, and about the fact that they’re masters when it comes to snow removal.

No one is allowed to ever park on the street, so our crews are able to remove the snow down to the pavement,” he bragged. “You can see the roads in winter, and there’s no ice at all.

Plus, we don’t even shovel our own sidewalks,” he continued. “Because there are workers who drive through all the neighbourhoods on Bobcats and take care of that for us.”

Naturally, I thought my husband was full of crap and only remembered his hometown the way he WANTED to remember it: as being perfect.

But then we travelled there shortly after Christmas in 2010, and I saw it with my own eyes. MY OWN EYES.

There, not even 20 feet away from me, was a worker on a Bobcat, plowing the snow off the sidewalk in my mother-in-law’s neighbourhood. And there was no snow or ice on the streets at all. Unlike here, where we say a little prayer each time we get into a vehicle in winter, we had no fear of the winter roads in my husband’s hometown.

I hate to admit it, but the place really is a perfect snow-removing Utopia.

And what really gets me is that, without fail, our clueless city council will announce (in December) that we’ve already blown our snow removal budget and should therefore just be happy with whatever we can get for the remainder of the season.

Umm, here’s a helpful hint: We live in Edmonton, the northernmost major capital city in North America. It’s a winter city. If you’ve blown your snow removal budget by December, THEN YOU NEED A NEW PLAN.

C’mon, people, prioritize here. We will never, EVER be a world class city if our government can’t even properly assemble a budget for removing snow. Just sayin'.

1) The weather.

Okay, you knew it was coming.

Someone once asked me about the things I hate most in this world, and at the top of my list was, “Edmonton from October to May.”

As a native Edmontonian, I used to fool myself into believing that I’m hardier than the rest. That no one else on Earth would be able to tolerate the climate in this miserable, frozen tundra, but that I’m one of the few who’s been able to survive, flourish, even.

Well, I’ve finally stopped lying to myself and others. To be frank, I really do hate it here. I would be able to tolerate all of this city’s other shortcomings combined if only we had a more temperate climate.

I’m not saying I want to live someplace where it’s hot year round, but I would certainly be infinitely happier to be in a place where people can’t potentionally freeze to death waiting for the bus. Or suffer heart attacks in their driveways while attempting to shovel the tons of heavy snow we’re burdened with each year.

(True story: During the winter of 2010/11, we had so much snowfall that the last of it finally melted in SEPTEMBER 2011. You know, right before the next winter season was about to begin. Typical.)

From September to October, there’s a chill in the air and a cool wind (of course, that ever-blowing prairie wind) that’s a mere blip of what we’re to endure during winter.... which then virtually lasts from November to April. Six long, dreary, unbearable months.

May is only barely tolerable because of the longer days, but it’s still often cold and wet and mucky out because of the snow melt and the sandy debris left behind. June, July, and August are (usually) wonderfully sunny and warm, but there are too many mosquitoes lurking outdoors that we’re often at their mercy and forced to take shelter indoors.

And then all of a sudden here we are. It’s September again. Blech.

Okay, so that's my rant. (And, no, I don't feel better for having lost my cool and published my thoughts on this blog. If anything, I do actually feel worse, as predicted.)

I'm sure those of you reading this are openly wondering why we even live here and, frankly, we wonder that, too. Truth is, family is what's kept us here. If not for that, we would have long since bailed on the tundra and gone somewhere more hospitable. At least from November to April.

Regardless, I'm sure you're dying to read about the gems Divulge with Dani and Juice with Junior have come up with, so please leave your comments and head there next.

Adios, and brace yourself -- winter's coming.

9:35am - This just in! My husband just couldn't stay away and has decided to post his opinion as well. Check him out at Wayward Yankee.