Monthly Archives: January 2012

New Year’s resolutions

Sylvia and I went for a ski yesterday:

First ski of 2012

(This is the only photo I was able to grab before my phone battery died.)

Despite the head cold, it was a great ski. The altitude that knocked me flat last year didn’t bother me at all. Could be I was too distracted by the deer (deer!) darting across the trail, or the stunning views of the North Saskatchewan River valley. Could be my New Year’s resolutions* are paying off. Either way, I had the perfect wax (Blue Extra) and and even better skiing companion. When we got back to the chalet, Sylvia opened her eyes (she had been napping) and said “Moar! Moar ksski!” (Translation: “More ski!”)*

The end of January is a good time to talk about New Year’s Resolutions, don’t you think? Because you only need to admit to the ones you’ve kept up.
I have two resolutions/goals for 2012.

1. Do something – anything – active every day.
So far I’m at about 97 per cent. Saturday really threw me for a loop because the head cold positively flattened me. It continues to make my life miserable, but I’ve been upright for 8 hours already today so things are looking up.

2. Do something – anything – towards advancing my freelance contracts or professional goals every day.
This is especially important now that I’ve quit my job. I now have time to do all those things I couldn’t do with a full time job, I just have to make sure I do them. Tiny steps are easier to handle than massive projects, which is why I have a daily goal rather than an annual thing. So far I’m at about 80 per cent, but we had a road trip and a week without Internet. This should be up to 90 per cent by the end of February.

*This marks Sylvia’s fourth phrase to date. The others were:
“Hi, Dad!”
“Mom and Dad.”
“More books.”

So far that’s a pretty good start.

Also, it kills me that she sounds like a lolcat. Tee hee.

Thursday roundup

It occurred to me my About page is woefully out of date. I updated it.

And then I registered for a blogging conference, because all the cool kids are doing it.

I’m struggling with the notion that I am not cool enough for a blogging conference. On the other hand, it’s three nights in a fancy hotel. At least, fancier than I usually go for on Hotwire.

And then I read a bunch of awesome posts by a bunch of awesome people, but the one that sticks with me is Stop Calling My Daughter Skinny, by Maija.

I have a daughter, and I want her to be strong and healthy. When I was eight, I don’t believe I knew what skinny or fat was as it applied to people. I was well into my 20s before I even considered my shape was something I should pay attention to. I always thought my body was for swimming and cycling and making babies. That other people might be appraising it never occurred to me.

(I have lots of flaws, but a lack of self esteem is not one of them. Thank you, Mom and Dad.)

I want Sylvia to grow up the same way. Strong, healthy and at ease.

However, this post by Alice Bradley: On Being an Object and Then Not Being an Object reminds me that at ease will probably be the bigger challenge. Because while I can exert the most influence over how she will perceive herself, I’ve got no control over how the world will treat her.

Finally, I spent several glorious days in Edmonton with Claire. Antics ensued. Full report to come.

Until then, Sylvia thinks nature is awesome. You should too.

Winter delight

Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa… (or why I quit my job)

I e-mailed my (former) boss yesterday, and included the line “Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa.”

She fired back with “Ha ha. How I miss that expression.”

Which kind of answers the question: why did I quit work?

When “Aaaaaaaaaaaaaa” becomes such a familiar part of your lexicon that your boss recognizes it even as a written interjection, it’s probably time for a change.

I quit my job last month. Four weeks ago to the day. I tendered my resignation several months before that, for many complicated reasons. Not least of all because those “Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa” moments had become a habitual part of my day.

I went back to work when Sylvia was 1 year and 5 days old. My first day, I was so busy I didn’t even know I had a daughter. I knew she was in good hands, being cared for by a trusted friend, but beyond that I didn’t have time to spare her another thought until 5 p.m. I probably could have lived with that, but my job didn’t always end at 5. In the coming months, my weekly hours crept up from 35 to 40, to 50, some weeks 55 or more. It demanded all my energy and focus, even when I was away from the office.

Then there was my body.

I went back to work weighing less than when I got pregnant. I was wearing clothes I hadn’t worn in two years, I was feeling strong and fast. I ran a 16-km road race, then… that was it. The days got shorter while the workdays got longer. Travis went away to work, and all my free time to exercise evaporated in less time than it took to call the babysitter and say “I’m going to be late tonight…” And before I knew it I was rotating my closet again, shuffling my fitted wear to the spare room and breaking out the clothes I hadn’t hoped to see til I was pregnant again.

Then, there was an election. I worked late, too late. And the work I produced? Well it wasn’t worth it. If I was going to be away from home, I wanted it to be worth my while. And that particular night, driving home in the driving rain, I knew it wasn’t.

Finally, three months of single parenting was enough. Travis was working away, and while I had a brief taste of it last winter, the extended separation was hard on all of us.

Any single reason wouldn’t have been enough to make me leave, but all together they added up to good timing. By quitting my job, I could lose the permanent lockjaw (my physical manifestation of stress), spend more time with Sylvia, get fit and keep the family together. Was there even another option?

It probably doesn’t make the most sense financially, but for now at least it’s working for us.

There’s another question I get mostly from other moms wrestling with a lot of the same questions, or colleagues who know just how insidious the reporting business is. That is, was it hard to leave?

For all the same reasons above, it was easy to leave work, but it was hard to leave behind my colleagues. I’m still constantly on the lookout for news (coming soon, a post on how NOT to crash a funeral in a strange town), ear tuned to the radio and mentally editing everything I read… but those are habits I’ve learned to live with. And when my fingers get itchy for telling stories there are places to do that. The job was easy to abandon. The journalism – not so much.

Other factors people have wondered about: My $80k degree, my “lack of contribution to the household,” my need to keep busy…

The degree wasn’t a big deal. I don’t feel I’ve squandered my education at all. I’ve resigned from one job, not entirely from the workforce.

I am still contributing to the household. I am taking in a bit of freelance work, and I’ve eliminated the cost of childcare from the budget.

I am keeping busy. Between freelance contracts and my own projects (Spoiler alert: it’s not a novel) I am hardly sitting around eating cheesies all day. (That would be counter-intuitive, seeing as my health was among my four major reasons for leaving work… give me a little more credit).

Whew, that was a lot of words about quitting my job. So how are things with you?

First encounter of the ignorant kind

At the grocery store, 8:40 p.m.

Sylvia and I are going through the checkout when a couple pulls their cart in behind us. The man very much resembled our friend Dave.

I did a double take, and since I was looking at the guy strangely (for the second time) I offered an explanation:

“I’m sorry, you are the spitting image of a fellow I know in Newfoundland. I just had to do a double take.”

He stared at me for a full 3 seconds and I was wondering if he even heard me when he replied:

“I speak English.”

It took me a minute to understand. Because I inherently believe, rightly or wrongly, that people are good. It always takes me a while to catch on when I am being insulted.

And because I am equally flustered when I realize once again to my dismay that there are true idiots in the world, I can never get a comeback out fast enough.

So I say, lamely and with a bright smile, “Well it’s all the same language.”

He shakes his head and says “I don’t know, with you Easterners. We speak clearer.”

And then the cashier gets in on it:

“Sometimes I wonder – with all the Filipinos and Vietnamese, is it really the same language they’re trying to speak?” she says. “I’d rather listen to a Newfoundlander than try to pick out what the Filipinos are saying.”

And again, because I am slow to come back and because my impressionable daughter is with me, I say “Well I guess it just reminds us all to pay more attention to each other.”

Stuffing the receipt in my wallet, we hightail it out of there before it escalates.

On the drive home, blood boiling, I came up with several comebacks for the man.

“Well YOU speak like an asshole.”

“Don’t you mean you speak more clearly?”

“Easterners are driving your economy, so you better learn to like us.”

And the ever eloquent, “Fuck you.”

I’m sorry I ever mistook the man for our friend Dave.

Dave is a gentleman.

If I knew which truck was his in the parking lot, I’d have keyed it.

A blogger without a camera is a lame, lame blogger.

I have a confession to make.

I… forgot my camera.

In Newfoundland.

I know. I know. I’m sorry.

The trouble is, I was so accustomed to carrying a work camera with me at all times that I kind of sort of forgot there were other cameras in my life.

And when I quit my job, it was Christmas and hectic and I wasn’t really thinking about photos. (What? People take photos at Christmas?)

And then we drove across the country, and while we had planned to take a photo of Sylvia at every provincial border… she was asleep for every single one. And now we’re in Drayton Valley, and certain grandparents are pestering me for daily photos of their granddaughter, and I have nothing to offer because… I forgot my camera.

But all is not lost! I do have a camera built into my cell phone, though it is TOUCHY and takes mostly crappy photos. I guess until I conjure up $2,000 to buy myself the same camera I used daily for the past four years, it will have to do.

Now on to the photos!

Drayton’s homage to derricks:


Now imagine several blocks of this.

Next up, sure signs Sylvia’s been in my purse:

Those are tiny toddler tooth marks on that clementine, and a miniature Toblerone that’s been gummed to within an inch of its life. I’m thankful she at least didn’t try to eat my pencil case I guess.

Finally, did you know Walmart sells divorces now?

I especially like that it’s shelved with the seasonal books. Actually, I took that photo on Blue Monday, so maybe they actually did get that part right. (Wiki is blacked out – you’ll have to wait til tomorrow to read it).

Oh, were you expecting photos of Sylvia? Yeah she moves too fast for my camera phone. You’ll have to wait until I win the lottery. Or else have my camera shipped from home.

Kobo and DV first impressions

So remember how last week I was all enamoured with my Kobo?

Yeah, not so much.

I bought my first in St. John’s on Dec. 27. It was blue. I exchanged that one for a green model in Sault St. Marie on Jan. 4. I exchanged THAT one for a black version in Medicine Hat on Jan. 7, in part because the store manager told me “we don’t seem to get as many returns on the black ones.” Well, this one is going back. And this time I’ve trading it in for a different model altogether. E-reader suggestions in the comments welcome.

We’ve arrived in Drayton Valley, where their unique downtown “sculpture” makes me feel like the whole town is under construction, or possibly envious of the Centre Georges Pompidou. (Photos to come). It took me a couple passes of main street to get the gist of it – this is oil country and they’re paying homage to the derricks and oil wells that keep them here.

There are oil wells everywhere. We went to a playground yesterday, and between the jungle gym and the swimming pool there was a pump jack nodding away. Another next to a ball field, three more in the farmer’s field just a few hundred meters from our front door.
Whenever I’m somewhere new I have hyper-vision, in that I notice everything. (Except where Royal Bank is, because apparently I drove past it twice today while looking for it…). So I notice the pump jacks, how many, what colour, and how fast they are siphoning oil from the ground.

My first impression of Drayton Valley is easy: Not so nice as Rocky Mountain House. But it’s growing on me. The pool is very warm and welcoming. The Child Care Centre is amazing. Too bad we can’t take advantage of it, but it pleases me to know all the local families have such a wonderful option for childcare. I have yet to discover the cross-country ski trails, because DV is in a state of winter denial. (But oh! look! It’s snowing RIGHT NOW. How timely!).

We’re living slightly outside of town, which means we won’t be doing as much daily errands in the Chariot as we did last year, but I have access to lots of quiet running routes.

Pro: I don’t need to take off the distance of my runs in the car, because all the Township roads are 1 mile, or 1.6 km, apart! (Twerp roads, I like to call them. Travis loves it when I do that.)

Con: I can see just how long it’s taking me to run that 1.6 km, and it’s a lot longer than I’d like.

All in all, Drayton will serve very nicely as our temporary home. The altitude is still kicking my ass, however.

Road trip fin

We pulled out of the Soo early, in order to beat the rush to… the other Soo. We crossed the St. Mary’s river, and the Canada-US border at 6:45 a.m. No hassles at customs, and we immediately filled the gas tank with cheap fuel. This was one of the big reasons we decided to take the South-of-the-border route. That, and the fact that the north side of Lake Superior makes Newfoundland look overpopulated, and we wanted pit-stop options seeing as we were travelling with a toddler, in winter. (Spoiler alert: The emergency winter driving bag didn’t get used once, so we clearly made the right choice). The southern route was also 100 km shorter than either Canadian route. That’s one less hour Sylvia would need to be strapped into her seat, and that was worth more than cheap fuel and convenient stopping places combined.

We quickly had to adjust to the MILES-per-hour speed limit as well. Thankfully, we had our happy little GPS to do the conversion for us, and constantly update us when the limit dropped to 35 as we drove through towns, and back up to 75 on the Interstates. (FYI: Interstate is just another word for highway!) It was dark as we drove into another time zone, gaining another hour. The secondary road we were on was traffic-free, and we made our very first (and only!) roadside pee stop. Not bad for six days on the road! We drove through four states: Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota, and barely eked into North Dakota before stopping for the night in Grand Forks. I was especially proud to have navigated Duluth on my own, while the others slept in the backseat:

Somewhere between Wisconsin and North Dakota...

We fully expected three more days on the road, but we clocked 1129 km on Day five. Medicine Hat was just one (long) day away!

On Day six, we charted a North-Westerly course, heading for Portal and the Us-Saskatchewan border. We tried to stock up on duty free goods, but we hadn’t been in the States long enough to make it worth our while. We’re pretty sure the customs guy didn’t believe us when we said we had nothing to declare, but that was the truth. Earlier in the day we passed the town of Rugby, famous for being the geographical centre of North America (or so their “Welcome to…” sign would have us believe).

That afternoon, we passed the real highlight of the trip: Rouleau, a.k.a. Dog River, home of Corner Gas and the TV show by the same name. I’m kind of embarrased to admit how excited I was to see it! I wish we had stopped, but Sylvia was sleeping and Medicine Hat was so, so close…. We kept driving, but I could see the grain elevator in my rearview for, oh about 20 km.

Welcome to Saskatchewan:

Flatskatchewan

There’s about 35km of road represented on the GPS in the picture, and it was all as flat and as straight as the display would have you believe. That is some flat country.

Sylvia picked up one really awesome trick/habit on the trip. Whenever something would go right (ie: score flipside crackers at the american grocery store, get really good gas mileage, and every time the GPS would knock another 100 km off our distance to destination) Travis and I would do a little front seat celebration which included a “Whoop whoop!” and a fist bump. Sylvia would stick out her hand (and eventually, her fist) to be included. She’s kept it up since then, and everytime one of us utters the word “awesome!” (more often that you might think) Sylvia rushes over to dole out the fist bumps.

But back to the trip. Southern Saskatchewan is flat, but the driving was swift. Soon, we were sub 100 km to the Hat! We crossed the Alberta border to another round of fist bumps, (and an additional hour on the clock), and before we knew it, we were there. We spent a day and a half visiting family and friends, before heading North to our final destination.

The car got a good all-over cleaning before we left. High-pressure water sluiced away all the road dirt, you’d never say the Sylvia-mobile had just clocked another 1179 km, for a grand road-tripping total of 5634 km!

THIS is how you wash a car

The true final tally to Drayton Valley would be an additional 591 clicks, for a grand GRAND total of 6225. That’s a lot of going!

Sylvia was a star. An absolute star. We took turns driving and spending some time in the backseat. But even the hours she was awake by herself in the back, she was pleasant. She would let us know whenever we were passing a big rig, and dance along the the music, and eat snacks. We tried to find a pool at least once a day for her to swim in, but she never once screamed to NOT get back in the car. We didn’t have a DVD player, and while I fully expected to have to buy one en route we made it with nothing more than Raffi on endless repeat and the longest running game of peek-a-boo ever. EVER.

Here’s what worked:
– a constant barrage of snacks
– one parent in the back seat to entertain
– duck songs (AKA, Raffi’s Animal Songs album.
– juice
– handing her the entire bag of toys and letting her dump it out in her lap

… and what didn’t:
– a constant barrage of the exact same snacks she had yesterday
– colouring
– puzzles

Backseat trooper.