Monday, July 30, 2012

Sick day

I was feeling a little more down in the dumps than usual last week -- and weepy. Example:  just reading about the Olympics opening ceremonies on Friday morning (several hours before they actually started!!) got me reaching for the kleenex.  I chalked it up to hormones (Aunt Flo visiting).  Spent the weekend cleaning house, doing laundry, not eating or sleeping particularly well. Woke up yesterday morning at 6 (!) & when I couldn't get back to sleep, got up around 7.  Spent WAY too much time on the computer yesterday, pursuing my ancestors on Ancestry.com ; ) (and did so slouched on the couch with my laptop -- not the best posture :p). And around bedtime I was hungry, but ultimately decided to go to bed without eating anything.

Woke up this morning & I felt awful -- headache, stomach didn't feel right, a bit queasy. Not sure if it was something I ate, or didn't eat, sleep deprivation, lingering hormones from AF's visit :p or what.  Took my shower, hoping that would wake me up a bit, but I still felt awful -- so I called in sick (left a message on my manager's voice mail) & went back to bed. Felt better (albeit not quite 100%) after sleeping for a few more hours & having some breakfast. It's only my second sick day of the year, so I am trying not to feel too guilty.
I have to wonder, though, how much of how I've been feeling is psychological. Now, I've been feeling pretty good lately about myself, my childlessness, my prospects for a comfortable early retirement, even about work. 

But the elephant in the corner of the room, of course, is that it's that time of year again, and Aug. 5 & 7 are fast approaching. Usually, dh & I are on vacation the last two weeks of July, visiting my parents, and that tends to distract me from the reality of August looming on the calendar -- but we're going later this year, and I guess I have been consciously & unconsciously seeking other distractions. 

I remind myself that it's been 14 years, that I still wound up with a good life and so much to be thankful for, that it's only a day(s) on the calendar, and Katie is always with us.  For the most part, time has softened the blunt edges of raw hurt. 

But some years, Aug. 5 &/or 7 are better or worse than others, for whatever reason (not always evident).  Some years, Aug. 5 is harder than Aug. 7, & sometimes it's the other way around. And I never really know what it's going to be like & how I'm going to feel until it's here.  

As a precaution (& also because I have a lot of unused vacation time I'm in danger of losing), dh & I are taking an extra-long five-day weekend coming up -- taking off Friday & Tuesday (Monday is a civic holiday).

August already?  Gulp.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Current

Since my blogging mojo/inspiration seems to be on vacation lately, I am turning to this fun set of questions, which I stole, er, copied, from By the Brooke.  ; )

Current Book(s) -- I find it hard to believe, let alone write this, but I am currently on just my SECOND book so far this year. Ugh. :p  I am  hoping to boost that number once I head out on vacation.

My first, which I started between Christmas & New Year's & finished shortly after my birthday, was the ubiquitous Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson -- I vowed not to see the movie (either Swedish or American versions -- American version came out at Christmastime) until I had read the book. (I still haven't seen the movie, but that's another story.)

Dh read it before I did, and thought it was "sick" (in the old-fashioned, negative, non-hipster sense).  I wasn't quite as disturbed by it as he was, although there was a tad more violence than I had bargained for. Also sex. While Lisbeth Salander is indeed a strong and unique female character, I found it kind of funny how she & just about every other female character of any note in the book hopped into bed with Blomqvist with little or no prompting. Of course, this is a MAN writing the book, right?? ; ) Being part Swedish, I also enjoyed the Scandinavian setting.

I began my current read shortly after our recent trip to Kingston, and mentioned it in my subsequent post:  John A.:  The Man Who Made Us by Richard Gwyn -- volume one of his two-volume biography of Canada's first prime minister, Sir John A. Macdonald. The book won the Charles Taylor Prize for Literary Non-Fiction and, although I am only about a third of the way through the book, I would say deservedly so. I've long been a big fan of Gwyn's (30 years ago, I asked for, and got, his book about Pierre Trudeau, The Northern Magus, for Christmas) -- he is a well-known political observer and a wonderful storyteller who has a knack for bringing history to life.

Current Playlist -- I don't have an iPod, but I do sometimes listen to CDs on the stereo while I'm cleaning house (particularly if dh is outside mowing the lawn). After posting about the music of my youth awhile back, I ordered Raspberries Live on Sunset Strip & have enjoyed listening to that. My most recent purchases this week at HMV were a greatest hits package by Colin James, a well-known Canadian rock/blues singer & guitarist (and Stevie Ray Vaughn protege), who recently played a lunchtime concert in a neighbouring office tower, and an early CD by Great Big Sea, a Celtic-influenced band from Newfoundland, whose song "Ordinary Day" has been played several times on the radio lately.  (More on Newfoundland in a moment...)  

I listen to the radio in the morning while having my breakfast & in the car, & have not been able to get this earworm out of my head. I didn't even know the name of the band until I looked it up one day. Figures that it's a boy band. ; )  Guess my tastes haven't changed that much over the year.

Current Shame-Inducing Guilty Pleasure -- Brown Sugar Sea Salt Caramel Fudge (available at Chapters/Indigo stores in Canada).  I blogged about this before here. And I'm still addicted. ; ) 

Current Color -- aqua/turquoise, paired with black or white. So summery. : )

Current Drink -- Starbucks black iced tea lemonade. : )

Current Food -- No particular favourite at the moment. Looking forward to my dad's yummy barbecued steak & fresh veggies from his garden soon. : )

Current Favorite Show -- Dallas. : )  Also -- Republic of Doyle, a CBC comedy/drama/detective show. Not sure if it's available in the States or elsewhere (unless you happen to live near the border & get CBC).  It's about an ex-cop dad & his hothead rogue of a son (who drives a gorgeous blue classic Pontiac GTO), who run a detective agency together, conveniently located above a bar in St. John's, Newfoundland, of all places. (Who knew there was so much crime to solve in Newfoundland??) Allan Hawco, who plays the son, Jake (and writes and produces each episode too), is a scruffy charmer (if a bit of a smart-you-know-what), who rarely fails to (a) get punched & (b) take off his shirt in every episode. (Note:  (b) is why dh thinks I watch the show, lol.) 

But the real star of the show is Newfoundland -- every episode is like an hour-long tourism ad for the place, & I never fail to go to bed thinking, "I've got to get there one of these days..."   I got watching an episode one night earlier this spring and now I'm hooked -- am catching up on the episodes I missed earlier this season in reruns, and hoping to get the first two seasons on DVD (this is season #3) to get the whole story from the beginning. The show has happily survived the most recent round of cuts at the CBC and recently started filming season #4.  Unfortunately, I don't think the new season doesn't begin until January. :p

Current Wishlist -- More hours in the day.  My Google Reader is choking with unread posts at the moment. Also, a beautiful, weedfree backyard & patio that somehow maintains itself until this time next year, when we're slated to host the annual get-together/reunion for dh's mom's side of the family. :p 

Current Needs -- a vacation. :p  And a Princess fix. ; ) Both to be remedied shortly. ; )

Current Triumphs -- Some good genealogical finds lately. : )

Current Bane of my Existence -- The Bridge. :p  For the past 21 years, dh & I have had more or less the same morning routine, whcih included driving our car & parked at the local commuter train station, then taking the train into the city. Over the years, the lot has become more and more congested. Parking is free, but they began introducing a limited number of paid ($60 a month) spots that have gradually been expanded. 

In April, around Eastertime, half the lot was CLOSED to make way for construction of a new multilevel parking garage, which won't be finished until late 2013 (or so they say...).  Almost the entire remainder of the lot where we had been parking is now devoted to reserved (paid) & disabled parking spots, & the few free spots that are left get snapped up very quickly. The rest of us must now park in either (a) an overflow lot, a 5-10 minute walk down the track (OK now, but dark & cold in the winter), or (b) in a recently built parking garage that was built at the local mall -- directly across about 8 lanes of traffic on one of the busiest stretches of highway in Canada. The parking garage at the mall is connected -- well, sort of -- to the train station by an overhead (enclosed) pedestrian bridge that runs across the highway.  Eventually, the walkway will be connected directly to the parking garage, so we'll just get out of our car in the morning & walk across.

However -- that section of the walkway hasn't been finished yet. (Hopefully, it will be before the snow hits.) So, every morning, once we leave the car, we have to go down two flights of stairs to the ground level. Walk across the parking lot for the adjacent office tower (we're not allowed to park there) -- and then up a steep flight of xx stairs to get to the bridge.  (There is an elevator now, but it wasn't working the first month or two (!).)  The bridge actually angles UP, so you are walking UPHILL after navigating the stairs. Even after four months, I still find I get winded (more or less, depending on the heat & humidity levels, whether Aunt Flo is tagging along, etc.).  And then down the stairs to the train platform at the other end.

When we get off the train in the afternoon, we make the trip in reverse -- up the stairs (54 of them, in three stages of 18 each with a platform in between), across the bridge (downhill this time, thankfully -- although the bridge is NOT air-conditioned OR ventilated, so it can be like an oven in the heat & humidity...!), down the stairs and across the parking lot, up two steep flights of stairs to the parking garage & to the car (hopefully before all the other cars start leaving & block a quick exit). I keep muttering, "This has got to be worth a few pounds..." but so far, it is not showing up on the scale. :p  To accommodate this change in our daily routine, we've had to set the clock and leave the house at least 10 minutes earlier than before (which was already way early). Ugh.

It's not just this change we're dealing with -- it seems like there is construction everywhere we turn these days. Union Station -- both the actual train station & the subway station in downtown Toronto -- is under renovation right now -- badly needed, & I'm sure it will be great once it's all done (assuming it's all done before we retire...!), but there are parts of the station that are closed off to traffic, and dirt & noise and workers & drywall & equipment everywhere. The crowds can be awful sometimes. Also, several of the office towers we walk through via the underground PATH concourse every morning en route to our own office are also undergoing renovations -- drywall up everywhere, new flooring being installed, usual paths blocked off without warning, stores moving. It may seem like a little thing, but the cumulative impact of a lot of little stresses can add up after awhile. One more reason to look forward to retirement...!

Current Celebrity Crush -- At the moment?  The Olympic men's rowers. Their athleticism is truly incredible -- and their physiques are something to behold.  I started watching the rowing events at the 1992 Olympics, and have been hooked since then. I had a major crush on Derek Porter, who won gold with the Canadian men's eights in 1992, and narrowly missed gold in the singles in 2006. I understand he is a chiropractor now. I am generally a bit leery of chiropractors, but this guy is welcome to crack my spine anytime. ; )

Current Indulgence -- Besides Brown Sugar fudge... 'tis the season for Starbucks black iced tea lemonades & Dairy Queen Skor Bar Blizzards. ; )

Current #1 Blessing -- air conditioning!!  : )  Although it hasn't been quite as hot & humid in the last few days as it has been lately.

Current Slang or Saying --  Hmmm, not sure I have one.

Current Outfit -- Around the house: denim "boyfriend" shorts from the Gap with a tank top from Old Navy. At the office:  capris & sandals with a sleeveless tunic in a bright summer colour or pattern under a coordinating cardigan (all items probably from Reitmans).

Current Excitement -- The Olympics. Lots of family birthdays right now to celebrate. Counting down the days until our extra-long weekend coming up (albeit one that includes -- by plan -- Katie's "anniversary" dates) and then our trip home to see my parents -- and The Princess. : ) (See "Current Needs,"  above.) 

Current Mood -- Tired, happy it's the weekend, sad that it's almost over. :p

Friday, July 20, 2012

Mid-July odds & ends

  • It feels like it's been awhile since I last posted. I guess it has been over a week. (a) I've been busy, especially at work :p  & (b) I really haven't felt inspired. Summertime laziness, I guess.
  • Plus, it was damned hot & humid here earlier this week -- even though I spend most of the day in air conditioned comfort, I find it still saps my energy.  Everyone at our office was complaining about how tired they felt. 
  • I am also sadly behind in my blog reading & commenting. I can't remember the last time my Google Reader was below 1,000 posts, let alone clear. Gulp. (I do read non-ALI blogs -- including a few political ones that publish dozens of posts daily & contribute to these inflated numbers.)  My apologies.
  • What can I say about last night's gun rampage in Colorado that hasn't already been said?  :( 
  • I got chills when I read that one of the victims had narrowly escaped being shot at the Toronto Eaton Centre last month, and had blogged about the experience.  (I blogged about the Eaton Centre shooting here.)  
  • Hearing about the gunman's booby-trapped apartment & massive quantities of ammunition and explosives reminded me of the huge cache of weapons, ammunition and explosive devices that was discovered in a home in a quiet neighbourhood in a town north of the city last week. Neighbours had to be evacuated and kept away from their homes for days while police went through the house. They had to be evacuated again this morning when the cops found yet more dangerous stuff cached away. What on earth is wrong with people these days???
  • There was another shooting locally on Monday night at a block party that left two people dead and 23 wounded. It happened just a few blocks away from where FIL lives.  This stuff is getting a little too close to home for comfort. :( 
  • Last weekend, 17 people were struck by lightning at an event in another suburban community near ours. None of their injuries were life-threatening, thankfully, but I know several people who were supposed to be there or who live nearby and could have been there. I haven't heard from all of them, and I am hoping they were all safe.
  • Dh & I were actually not far away at the time, taking in a Sunday afternoon matinee of Woody Allen's new movie, "To Rome With Love." It's not his best -- last year's "Midnight in Paris" was much better -- but I don't think it's his worst either -- it was mildly entertaining. The scenery, as you might expect, is fabulous!
  • Dh's & my favourite line of the movie comes near the end.  Jesse Eisenberg comments "I guess with age comes wisdom."  To which Alec Baldwin emphatically replies, "With age comes exhaustion."  Now I call THAT wisdom, lol. ; )
  • We recently ran into a former support group client, who endured infertility, multiple losses and a failed adoption before deciding, like us, to remain childless/free. It was a long and difficult road -- but she told us life is good these days. I am so glad!!
  • Today is my dad's 73rd birthday. (Happy birthday, Dad!)  I called him on Skype and got to see The Princess (there with her parents for dinner & cake) as a bonus. My sister was there too & warned me to start lifting weights -- the Princess is not quite 11 months old and weighs almost 26 pounds!! 

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Ain't it the truth??

Found on Facebook via Gateway Women, and -- well, you can see why I HAD to share it here. ; )  (And yes, sometimes it does feel that way, lol.)

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Anniversary weekend : )

Wow, I can't believe it's been almost two weeks since my last post. Time flies when you're having fun...

[Well, I have to admit (sadly) that it hasn't been ALL fun. :p  Work has been extremely busy, with several major projects on the go -- the kind that seem simple when you start out & then keep growing tentacles....]

Happily, though, last week was a three-day work week for me. : ) Canada Day (our national holiday, once known as Dominion Day -- which I think is a much more poetic name -- but I digress...) was last Sunday, July 1st & Monday, July 2nd was a bank holiday -- ergo, a long weekend.

And then Friday was our (gulp) 27th wedding anniversary. And while it wasn't one of those numbers divisible by 5, the opportunity for another long weekend just seemed too good to pass up -- so we both took the day off -- and headed out of town on a long overdue road trip.

We'd talked several times about going to Kingston, a small city 2+ hours (not too far) down the road. We'd passed by en route to Ottawa, some years ago, but had never been there, and had heard good things about the place from others. It's an old city, chock full of history -- particularly right now, with bicentennial celebrations for the War of 1812 underway -- home to Queens University (one of Canada's best), and some excellent restaurants.

Clinching the deal, dh read in the Canada Day edition of Macleans magazine that Kingston has the distinction of being Canada's most romantic city.  (I'm not sure he read the fine print, though (lol):  the title was bestowed by Amazon.ca, based on sales of romance novels, romantic comedy DVDs -- and CDs by the ubiquitous Canadian crooner Michael Buble.) ; ) 

A former coworker used to own a cottage nearby, and when I e-mailed her for advice on where to stay & eat and what to see & do, she had just returned from a few days there herself. "It was hopping," she told me. "Be sure you have a place to stay before you go." Several people advised me to stay on the waterfront.  The first hotel I called was booked solid. The second was too, more or less -- but there had just been a cancellation, and I snapped the room up. When we arrived on Friday afternoon, our room just had two double beds :p -- but we did have a balcony with a great view of the harbour and the hotel restaurant patio below. There was live entertainment both nights -- I sat outside on the balcony with a drink and a magazine, listening and watching the sun set -- ahhhh!!


Sunset view from our hotel room balcony.

Friday was horribly hot & humid in Toronto, and only slightly less so in Kingston.  Princess Street, the main drag, runs uphill from the waterfront -- although thankfully, it was not as steep a climb as we had in Halifax a few years ago.  We spent a lot of time just wandering around the downtown streets and along the waterfront. Kingston is known as "the Limestone City" and has an abundance of well-preserved old stone and brick buildings.

We had a lovely anniversary dinner in one of the city's -- and Canada's -- most well-known restaurants, housed in a former stable (!) in a charming courtyard, whose original proprietor was a member of the 1960s band The Lovin' Spoonful. 


Where we had dinner on Friday night.


Afterward, we wandered through Confederation Park and around the beautiful old City Hall. There was a jazz concert in the plaza behind it -- which hosted a farmers' market the next day and becomes a skating rink in the wintertime.





Views of Kingston City Hall.
Saturday morning, we woke up to rain :p -- but thankfully, it cleared by around lunchtime. We took a trolley tour, which hit the main attractions (Fort Henry, Royal Military College, Queens University, Kingston Penitentiary (!)...) and showed us a few places we likely wouldn't have found on our own, including some gorgeous old homes. 

Later, we took a 1.5 hour boat cruise around Kingston Harbour & the Thousand Islands, which we also enjoyed. (We would have enjoyed it MORE if we hadn't been distracted by a family of four sitting near us in the dining area. Despite the abundance of scenery (not to mention the $25 per person price tag), the parents were both absorbed in their cellphones & an iPad and paying NO attention to their kids -- a boy & girl around 4-7 years old. The kids were running all over & hanging on the rail on the bow of the ship outside -- even though the captain announced as we were departing that there was to be NO climbing on the rails. Dh was having fits watching them, & even I was getting a little queasy. Yep, these are the people who get to have kids...! :p  It was one of the few jarring notes in a lovely weekend.)

En route out of the city on Sunday morning, returning home, we swung by Cataraqui Cemetery to pay our respects to Sir John A. Macdonald, Canada's first prime minister -- and, many would argue, still its greatest. If George Washington is known to Americans as "the father of our country," Sir John A. (also known as "Sir John, Eh?" lol ) most certainly would be considered ours. Journalist Richard Gwyn called him "The Man Who Made Us" in the first volume of his acclaimed two-volume Macdonald biography. (The second volume is titled "Nation Maker.") He was born in Scotland but spent much of his life in Kingston.


Modest sign pointing the way to Sir John A.'s final resting place.
The gravesite was not particularly well marked, with just a few small signs here & there along the winding roads pointing the way -- but we eventually found the plot, which is surrounded by a low, ornate iron fence,  marked by several historical plaques and a Canadian flag atop a high pole (which was actually difficult to see because of the abundance of tall trees).


Macdonald family burial plot
Sir John's grave is marked merely by a simple granite cross, inscribed with his name, dates and the words "At rest." I kept thinking that if this had been any American president (nevermind the very first, and a nationbuilder at that), there would have been a huge monument, guided tours, etc. But this was, apparently, what Sir John wanted, and it seemed typically Canadian somehow.


Visiting Sir John A. : )
Sir John, for all his many accomplishments, did not have the happiest life. He was haunted by the beating death of his younger brother by a drunken babysitter, which he witnessed as a child; his son & namesake, John Alexander, died at the age of 13 months;  the boy's mother, Sir John A.'s first wife, Isabella Clark, died of consumption (tuberculosis). He was mostly estranged from his second son, Hugh (who later became the premier of my home province, Manitoba), and his daughter, Mary (with his second wife, Lady Agnes Macdonald), was born with hydrocephalus and was both physically and mentally disabled. No wonder the man drank. (Although he maintained his wit:  Sir John A. famously quipped that "the people would prefer John A. drunk to George Brown (his political arch enemy) sober.")

Buried in the same plot with Sir John were his first wife, his parents, two sisters, and his sister's husband & inlaws. And,  most poignantly (for me, anyway), baby John Alexander.

I have read that, after Sir John A.'s death in 1891 -- more than 40 years later -- a box of the little boy's toys were discovered among his father's possessions.