Friday, November 28, 2014

Of blizzards and aching thighs

Boy, the things I do just to return some library books and videos on time.

This is what I was thinking this morning as I braved the unplowed library parking lot and the unshoveled sidewalk in the -20 C weather just to get my stack of borrowed items back to the library.

I'm totally hardcore and bad ass, I thought to myself as my thighs ached from walking 50 feet through knee-deep snow. (Knee-deep for me because there were snow drifts and I'm short, yo.)

And then I snapped back to reality and was all, like, what have I become???

Twenty years ago, Divulge with Dani and I would have walked (up hill, both ways) from our homes to get to the library and back in the middle of a freakin' blizzard. Because we had no choice.

We would have brought my beloved Lindy with us -- because she loved her walks, even in a blizzard -- and we would have cursed our fate the entire time, but we still would have done it.

We were bitter and envious of all the kids from privileged families who not only managed to get their licenses on their 16th birthdays, but also had brand new vehicles.

And there we were, walking through blizzards because we had no choice.

Yet, today, I looked back on my former self and kind of wished I had the strength to do something like that again.

I'm sure that I could do it, you know, in the event of an emergency or something. But these days I would never just voluntarily walk that distance in that kind of weather just to return some library items.

Hell, it was a challenge just motivating myself to drive out there at all today.

This is the laziness that I have become. And this is why I longingly look back on those days when Dani and I were getting a poor man's cardio workout without even realizing it.

Sometimes it's the simple things in life that we long for again.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Regrets, we have a few

All parents have regrets about something they did or didn't do, and of course my husband and I are no exception. We make mistakes daily.

One thing we wish we had put more effort into was researching life insurance for us and our kids.

We seem to be okay in all other departments; we've set up education and retirement funds for both children. But it's the nagging thought that all of us are going to die at some point that has us flustered and not even sure where to begin in terms of protecting our family from financial ruin.


The back story: When our daughter was born, we booked an appointment to have someone come to our home and talk to us about life insurance. Admittedly, we weren't really prepared for this appointment, and much of what the gentleman told us just went over our heads.

But, of course, we signed up anyway and arranged to have monthly withdrawals come out of our account.

Four years have now gone by, and so another representative from this insurance company came to our house over the summer to ensure we were still happy with our plan and to let us know about other plans they carry.

During this conversation, it was revealed to us that the plan we had signed up for was only a term (temporary) plan. Meaning, in 11 years time, if we're still healthy and alive and the insurance remains intact without any claims, then it just expires and we lose all of the money we paid into it.

Huh?

My husband and I are baffled by the fact that we signed up for something in which we could stand to lose such a large sum of money and potentially receive nothing in return.

We expressed this shock and disappointment to the new representative, and he offered us an alternative. Essentially, if we acted right that very day, he could convert our plan into a more appropriate lifetime plan, so that way the money we had already paid into it would not be lost.

However, in order to successfully pull this off, we would have to then drastically increase our monthly payments, which, with me being on maternity leave, just isn't possible right now.

So he then suggested that we cease contributing to our RRSPs and instead use that money for these life insurance payments.

RED FLAG! RED FLAG! RED FLAG!

We've worked so hard over the years to ensure we're able to max out our RRSP payments each year, and so the thought of just abandoning them is terrifying to us.

But this representative's reasoning was that, with this new life insurance plan, we won't have any need for RRSPs. As in, we can borrow money from our own plans to be used in retirement -- interest free and tax free -- and not be penalized for it.

It was all very new and confusing to us, which made us very non-committal at the time, so we instead just decided to cut our losses and cancel our plan altogether.

And, essentially, we're now back at square one, looking for a life insurance plan that best suits our needs.

We want a plan that won't break the bank in terms of monthly payments, yet it has to grow enough to the point that our family will be secure should anything tragic take place.

Does anyone have any suggestions? We want to go through someone trustworthy and who is not just trying to make a sale.

Please share your thoughts with me!


Thursday, November 6, 2014

Where music dwells

Unless I'm trying to sleep, complete silence makes me antsy.

From elementary school to university to now, I always have some music (or a hockey game) playing quietly in the background so that I can focus on whatever I'm doing. If it's too quiet, I can't concentrate, which is why I was often found studying in the campus libraries with my yellow Sports Walkman.

Yes, a Walkman. With cassette tapes. I really am that old.

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Why do you have to turn on a radio every time you enter a room, my husband now asks when we're at my mom's house. I'm waiting for him to ask the inevitable, why do you even have a radio in every room, but he never does.

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My listening tastes seem to change as often as my hair colour, or my dress size, for that matter.

At age six, I'm in bed listening to my Rainbow Brite  Paint a Rainbow in your Heart tape in my cassette player. I don't have headphones, so I hide the player under the covers so as not to be discovered. I love this tape, and it helps me to fall asleep. Make Room for a Rainbow Inside is one of my favourites.

At nine, I want to be Dolly Parton. I want her voice, her laugh, her waistline. But not her breasts. How are those even functional? I have a twenty dollar bill in hand and walk over to the nearby Zellers store, back when there was still a Zellers and when Meadowlark really fit the description of a shopping mall. My sole intention is to purchase Dolly Parton's Greatest Hits, simply because I love the Islands in the Stream duet with Kenny Rogers. I listen to the entire cassette, from  9-to-5  to  Two Doors Down  to  I Will Always Love You, and I pretend that I'm a farm girl, like Laura Ingalls, because that's the simple life I dream of living.

At eleven, I discover boy bands. The New Kids on the Block send me into hysterics, and I spend a small fortune buying teen magazines at Coles in Meadowlark, just so I can cover my bedroom walls with their pictures and hopefully find out about Donnie Wahlberg's favourite foods. I'm told, these days, that he's a big fan of burgers.

At fourteen, I leave all my friends and choose to attend a different high school that's better suited for me. During this time of discovery, I stop listening to John Garabedian's Open House Party radio show on Saturday nights, and I instead change the dial back to CISN country. I always have a blank cassette tape ready in my tape recorder in case Garth Brooks' The River begins to play on the radio.

At eighteen, I still love country music, but I'm in university and my tastes are broadening again. When my mood dictates it, I change the radio station in my bedroom to Mix 96 and listen to some hot adult contemporary music. Because that's what I am now, an adult. (But not really hot.) Alanis Morissette, Sarah McLachlan, and Jewel help to see me through the college years, but I still don't stray too far from country all that often.

At twenty-eight, I'm pretty much listening to only country music, except for when I'm at work and forced to listen to the very tame music on satellite radio. But I'm strong and confident and growing tired of the hi-jinks on CISN, so I switch over to Big Earl 96.3, which is some welcome competition in the FM country stations. For some reason, CISN won't play Eric Church's music, but Big Earl will! And so it's Earl that wins my heart.

At thirty, I'm married and finally in a job I like. Big Earl has gone under and so CISN is again my only option for country music on the FM dial. But I hate it. It's juvenile, there are too many commercial breaks that last too long, and they just don't play the oldies anymore that I still love. So I take the plunge and switch to AM listening. CFCW has my heart now, and I stop and marvel each time I hear Glen Campbell's Gentle on My Mind.

At thirty-two, I'm a parent for the first time, and my life is all Dora and Elmo and Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. I've heard Jewel's version of this song on repeat at least 3 million times, which is only a small exaggeration. But this isn't a complaint. I'm grateful that my daughter loves music and that Jewel thought to make an album of lullabies for families to enjoy. But when I'm not in mommy mode, I'm still listening to CFCW and doing what I can to win their Recipe of the Morning food contest.

At thirty-six, I'm a mother for the second time, but my beloved CFCW is changing. And at this age and hormonal frame of mind, I don't handle change all that well anymore. (Did I ever?) Danny Hooper left the morning show a year ago, and now Sharon Mallon has announced her retirement. But how will I make it through the day without her stories? Or the Recipe of the Morning?

I've grown to love this station because its announcers are real. They share their lives with the listeners and don't waste my time playing juvenile games. But that seems to be changing now. While I really do love the new morning show hosts, I hate the call-in aspect that they've now incorporated to their program. As in, If you've ever brought shame to your family while on vacation, call us now! We want to hear about it!  Or something like that. Every damn morning. I just hate it, and it's a big part of what drove me away from being a CISN listener.

Frankly, this sort of thing is just a time filler and is a mediocre replacement for genuine story telling. It's like the announcers are just phoning it in. Pun intended.

But I'll still stick with CFCW. And I'll still read Sharon Mallon's blog, because she really is the best storyteller I've ever encountered. And when she finally publishes her book, I'll be sure to read that, too, albeit with the radio playing quietly in the background so that I can concentrate.




Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Forward



What I'm looking forward to at this very moment:

Setting down my son for his nap.
Taking a shower.
Putting on some slippers because I have no circulation and it's darn cold in here.
Sauteing some garden-fresh tomatoes with a garlic clove for lunch.
Drinking the rest of my smoothie, not because I like it, but because it's good for me.
Finishing the Excel spreadsheet I started that depicts the state of our finances, including what's left on our mortgage. Because I'm a little OCD like that.
Watching the gloominess of the sky open up so that I can see a blue, clear, sky once again.
Seeing my daughter's happy face as she runs toward me when I pick her up from daycare.
Having my husband arrive home late tonight after his 12-hour work day.



What I'm looking forward to this month:

Finishing my Christmas shopping, because I loathe leaving it to the last minute.
Taking down the Halloween decorations and setting up the Christmas lights before it snows.
Buying a new daytimer for the upcoming year.
Finally organizing our office so that it's presentable and functional once more, because, frankly, I can't stand to even walk past that room in its current state.
Finally organizing our laundry room, because, see above.



What I'm looking forward to for 2015:

Writing in my daytimer.
Being at a healthier weight than I'm at now.
Maybe talking my husband into getting some sort of pool that we can enjoy as a family.
Having a healthy family once again. (I'm talking to you, Mom.)
Writing more. And Reading more.
Hopefully going on vacation to some place warm.
Camping, even if it's just in the back yard.
Attending not one, but two, destination weddings.
Lilac blossoms.
Having my son use his passport for the first of what will hopefully be many times.
Wearing shorts and skirts and sandals and not having to remember to bring a jacket every time I leave the house.
Moving more.
Helping my daughter overcome her fear of all things wild. Including spiders.
Eating less fast food.
Selling more baby clothes on Kijiji and at consignment stores. Even though it breaks my heart to part with them.
Cooking more meals as a family. And actually having my daughter eat what I cook without having to wage WWIII every night.
Loving more.
Yelling less. Better yet, not yelling at all.
Laughing more, even if it's at my own expense. I need to take a lesson from my husband and stop taking myself so seriously.
Living more.