Monday, 24 June 2019

Me vs Being a Horse?

My sister is getting married soon, so I thought what better time to relive some warm sisterly memories than right now.

As I've discussed in the past, my sister is revoltingly talented. What she wasn't as a child, however, was capable of walking like a human being.  For reasons only a 9 year old would understand, her and her friend wanted to be horses. Not to ride horses, but to BE horses.

And what does being a horse encompass you ask? Let me tell you. It means offering to hitch yourself up to large logs in order to pull them like a draft horse. It means perfecting your horse noises (Neigh!). It also, more importantly, means walking and running on all fours. Horses don't walk on two legs after all.

And so they practiced. And they got good. And my sister, who excels in most things, also excelled in this. Over time, the two girls developed a loping kind of canter, a smooth-ish walk, and an ungainly but surprisingly quick gallop, all of which were done on all fours, with legs and arms extended to their fullest. There were times when I truly believed that my sister could move faster on four legs than on two.

As an older sister, the single best part of this for me was that over time they performed these equine feats so frequently that they would appear to forget what they were doing and just drop into horse stance. Anywhere. Literally ANYWHERE.

I would be walking home from school with my sister and suddenly she would drop to all fours and run.  It seemed  like anytime she started running like a human, there was at least a 40% chance that she would end the run in horse mode. From where I was standing, it was a completely subconscious choice to do this, and it was absolutely hysterical.

My unqualified favourite time this happened was at the local ice rink. We were at public skating, just going around in endless circles when it happened. I guess at some point we achieved critical horse speed, because out of nowhere my sister dropped automatically into horse stance and tried to run. 

Now if you've ever experienced ice, you'll know that it isn't known for it's traction. Horses, as a rule, also don't often wear ice skates. Ice, combined with skates designed to glide on ice, and the act of not actually being a horse created a trifecta of disaster which saw my sister face planting on the ice after taking about 2 to 3 loping gallops in public. She wasn't hurt, and I enjoyed the spectacle immensely. 

I can tell this story now, because my sister has not been a horse in years, and recently got back from winning a world championship medal with Team Canada's women's paddling team. I'm very proud of her, but I also like closing my eyes and remembering that while she may be athletic and talented now, there was once a time that she tried to run like a horse on the ice and failed spectacularly. Neigh!

Friday, 21 June 2019

Me vs The Utter Joylessness of Adulting

So it's been a bit more than a cup of coffee since I've sat down to write anything. I've got a thousand reliable excuses, but the reality is I'm just tired, frustrated, and binge eating m&ms while watching Netflix.  

I think a large part of it is that adulting has been steadily chipping away at the armor of my sanity for the last 4 years. In all my time as a homeowner, I've never had even half of the problems we've had since moving here, and it's breaking me down.

I'll caveat this by saying that I realize that my complaints are for the most part solidly first world problems....except the water issues, those throw me down a few "world" levels. We've been very fortunate to be healthy and generally happy as a family. 
That said, our problems are still problems. They're still draining emotionally, physically, and financially, and it sucks.  

Besides being set upon annually by ants, ticks, wasps, mosquitoes, and a very persistent bear intent upon tearing apart my garden boxes one by one, the house itself seem to dislike having people living in it.

The water situation feels barely liveable some days. We're constantly fighting sediment gumming up 
fixtures and appliance, and have had what feels like endless water depletions, as one tap or another won't shut off because some bloody part of it has been worn down by grit.

We do have enough water to basically run the house, but the well we dug to increase the capacity went...poorly. (read about the unstoppable shit show here), and we've decided to give up after paying some jackass more money than I care to think about, for what amounts to an unsightly pipe in my yard. At least we have sufficient water for the house. Small miracles.

We also decided recently to get a high quality (read: expensive) filtration system so that the water doesn't smell and taste quite so terrible, and the persistent sediment is removed. I've had more fart showers than anyone should have to endure, and I'd like to come out of the bath feeling cleaner than I went in for fuckig once.  It would also be lovely if the water coming out of my tap didn't kill fish.  I don't even like fish, but I feel like if the fish can't survive in the water, I probably shouldn't be consuming it either.

The system went in and for a glorious 2 weeks I had relaxing, fart-free showers. It was the best of times....and then it ended. The $&%$ing system began leaking just enough to be defective, but not wrong enough to get the repair guy in quickly. So for a week and a half I just changed out the towels at the bottom of the tank every couple of days so it didn't form pools. Eventually the guy made it back into town and "fixed" the system, however to date, the tank still leaks and for reasons that I can't explain, I'm back to fart showers. 

And then one deceptively quiet evening, three large wall tiles gave up the ghost mid shower. They came right off fucking the wall in my hands. It seems they'd been loose for some time, as behind them was a colourful selection of mold and moist drywall bits. Of course now I'm terrified that I've been inhaling mold spores for the last few year.  I've also developed a cough.  I'm quite surprised I'm still alive.
And as one would expect, the builder has politely requested that we pound sand.

But it doesn't end there....

Our first camping trip of the summer saw the fridge in our trailer, which had worked flawlessly all last year, conk out in a very permanent way. The toilet also backed up, and I can't begin to explain how that happened, as it's basically just a hole you shit in with a tank underneath. 

We also got rid of a lot of our garden, as I can't keep plants alive (which is a whole issue in and of itself), and we had a beautiful rock fountain put in. It is stunning (and just to be clear, I have no complaints about the person who put it in). 
And it worked for about 3 weeks. 
Again, for reasons that escape me, the pump does not pump. You plug it in and exactly nothing happens until you take it OUT of the water, at which point it sputters back to life. Put it back in the water and it goes completely dead. This is roughly the EXACT GODDAMN OPPOSITE of what a WATER PUMP is supposed to do. 

And my cat just puked on the carpet. I'm not even making that up. 

I quit.

Monday, 4 February 2019

Me vs A Lack of Foresight When Dressing for the Weather

Some days you just don't want to put on pants. On those days, you need to ask yourself "should I put on pants though?"
In my case, the answer should be yes. Always. Unfortunately, so often it's no. Because apparently I never learn.

Just over a year ago, my car went off the road into a ditch as I was driving home. Long story short, I was in my pyjamas, the zipper on my jacket broke, and my 3 year old wasn't wearing shoes. It was -20 outside, I had to walk home, and there was snow. I should have worn pants.  My neighbour who towed me out of the ditch probably also thought I clinically insane. (Read the whole saga here)

Fast forward to the present. 

We have snow, but it has rained more than average for the season. Overnight, the rain freezes, and turns the road into an ice rink. On the day in question, my husband texted me in the morning to let me know the roads were slippery. I should have put on pants to take the kids to school. I did not. 

In my hubris, I threw a jacket on over my pyjamas, put on some boots that I now realize look very much like slippers, and I drove the kids to the bus stop about 4 kms from our house.  I had zero problems. 

Academically I knew it was icy. I could see the sheen. But my vehicle with it's 4 wheel drive and studded tires handled it like a champ. Rocky music was playing in the background.

Like a normal, sleep deprived parent, I waited in my car with the kids at the bus stop. No one besides the kids needed to witness my state of makeup-free undress, and frankly they're pretty used to me in pyjama pants. Honestly, why wear anything else if you don't have to.

That said, I do have a bar. I believe that if you have to go out into the world and interact with other functioning adults, you should be wearing pants. Dropping kids at a bus stop does not require interaction, hence no pants required. This works 98% of the time.

On this day, it did not work.

I got to the top of my road, which is at the top of a rather steep and winding hill. There were a few trucks parked up there and one of the drivers hopped out and flagged me down. He proceeded to tell me that I probably shouldn't go down, as the hill was a sheet of ice, and 3 cars had already tried and had failed spectacularly at staying on the road. One truck was currently laying on it's side up against a tree, and after seeing it I can only say that it's a miracle no one was seriously hurt.

Logically I knew I was stuck at the top of the hill, it wasn't worth the risk to attempt to go home, however all I could think to say to this kind man trying to make sure I didn't get myself killed was "But I need to go home, I'm not wearing pants".

I have a way with words.

One of my coworkers happened to show up on the scene shortly after I did, and was professional enough not to make too many jokes at my expense. I explained that I needed to get home and put some actual clothes on, as I had things to do in town, and that I was weighing the pros and cons of hiking overland rather than following the road. 
My husband, who maps things for a living, wanted
me to tell you he had no part in the drawing of this shitty map.
Also, this map is not even remotely to scale. 
Pro: I figured that it would cut 45 mins off the hike, as the road went down the hill and then back up the other side of the little valley, and I planned to cut directly across through the forest. This would also allow me to avoid walking along the icy road, where I was pretty sure my tractionless slipper-boots would see me on my ass frequently.

Con: There was an excellent chance that hiking alone through the forest would result in my getting eaten by a cougar.

For reasons that still elude me, my saint-like coworker offered to hike into the forest with me to find my house and make sure that I didn't become breakfast for a large cat along the way.  So off we went, headed in the general direction I figured my house was in; me in my pyjamas and slipper boots, and him dressed like a normal person who was humoring a crazy person on an unplanned hike through the forest first thing in the morning.  

About 10 minutes into our unplanned adventure, I heard quietly behind me "You've come this way before, right?"

Conceptually yes.
But seriously, we go in a straight line. It should work.  And thankfully, shortly thereafter we came over a hill and there was the house. I definitely owe this guy a coffee on our next shift. 

I quickly got my shit together and we hiked back to the road and our vehicles. I carried on with the rest of my day until I decided enough time had passed to allow for the road crews to transform the rink into a road again. Crisis mostly averted. 

So the moral of this story is that you should always wear clothes when you leave the house or you may end up hiking through a forest in pyjamas with a coworker who will probably bring it up in conversation at some future team building event. 

And to really bring the story full circle, I'm also fairly sure that the pyjama pants I wore the last time I was stranded in the snow were the same ones I was stranded in this time. Might be time for a new pair....these ones seem cursed.

Saturday, 1 December 2018

Me vs The Creeping Inevitability of Elves PART 2: The Elfening

On November 30th, something very strange happened.

I got a text from my neighbour letting me know that a present had been delivered to her doorstep, addressed to my kids. 

Weird. We don't get door delivery, as we live in a rural area that Purolator denies exists. 

Then I got this picture:

My immediate thought was that my neighbour had "found" this package on her doorstep, and had gotten the kids a gift. They're great neighbours, and crafty, so this added up. I guessed it was probably an elf. 

This wasn't even a baseless assumption. Last year my daughter would go to their house before school and see their elf Armie move around the house, and she would beg for one. She was so desperate for her own elf, she wrote a letter to Santa asking him to send and elf to her house. It  included guilt-inducing lines like "Please don't be scared of my family".  How do you deal with that as a parent?

You find an elf. Except I live in a small town with limited shopping options, and I was already a couple of weeks into December at the time, so an official elf wasn't an option. Long story short, we got a stuffed reindeer named Hickory Von Fluffenstein instead (read the whole saga here). Crisis averted.

My neighbour knew all of this, and so I assumed she had gotten us an elf and had it delivered to us, C/O of her kids and their elf.  We picked up the package and the kids unwrapped the mysterious gift. It was an elf. 

I texted her back and said something along the lines of "Thank you for the elf. I guess we're part of the parents who have to remember the stupid elf each night club now :)". She responded with "It was an elf?". I  played along with what I assumed was fake denial on her part, but she continued to sound baffled, swearing that it wasn't her.

At this point the wisps of confusion began to settle in. I truly thought it was her, because honestly I couldn't imagine who else it would be, but she swore up and down it wasn't her.

This led me to extrapolate a couple of things:

1. Someone out there knows my kids wanted an elf but didn't have one. This doesn't narrow it down much as I'd previously posted about it.

2. Someone took the crazy initiative to go out and purchase an elf for my kids.

3. This mysterious stranger then made sure to deliver this elf anonymously to my neighbours, meaning they had to know them as well. Again, it's a small town so this is by no means impossible, it's just very dedicated to the process.

4. My neighbour's elf Armie is named on this package as well, meaning that someone has gone to extreme lengths to learn the name of my neighbour's elf to maintain the illusion, OR...

5. My neighbour's statements of innocence are less than accurate, and when put in these terms, that seems the most likely situation. That said, she is pretty strong in her denial, so it gives me pause. 

Whatever the case, we now have an elf. 
His name is Christopher Cookie. 

And whether the mysterious benefactor was my neighbour, or someone else who's Christmas game is very strong: Thank you, your gift has gone above and beyond. 

My kids are ecstatic and fully invested in the magic.  And despite being tied to this creepy little creature for the next 24 days, I'm deeply entertained by how this story has evolved over a year, and culminated in a mystery elf of unknown origins. The whole thing has thoroughly exceeded my expectations.

Well played mystery Santa, well played. 

Monday, 12 November 2018

Me vs The Piano Recital

I used to play piano, and my mother and I never agreed on how my end-of-the-year recital went. 
Here is that story.

I was young, ten maybe? I can't remember...time is hard. I do know that at some point in my early life, I took one single year of piano lessons. No more, no less. To be fair, my sister managed exactly one single lesson, before throwing the mother of all fits and getting out of my parent's "you must commit to a year of whatever activity you chose to do" rule, so I get some moral high ground for making it as long as I did. She did something similar for skating lessons, again skirting the rule that I was consistently held to.  My little sister could basically get away with murder. #oldersiblingproblems

But I digress.

Like most kids who have never played the piano a day in their lives, I began with the musical equivalent of a See Jane Run book, playing hits like Twinkle Twinkle and Row Row Row the Boat. Classics. I wasn't even bad at it,  which I believe was at least in part due to my freakishly long fingers, which give me just over an octave span. My grandmother was elated that I'd taken up piano, as she was a very accomplished pianist, and my mother had evidently failed by not taking up that mantle. Maybe I would be a prodigy.

Unfortunately for all involved, prodigies usually need some music reading skills and basic coordination, which was never something I was at all well equipped to deal with. I could, however, memorize things very well for short durations of time (a skill which would come in very handy in university testing scenarios). This meant that once I had painstakingly written out all the notes on the page and practiced ad nauseum so my left and right hands could function independently of each other, I could play it pretty well.

This ability gave my teacher the completely misguided impression that I was good at playing piano. I was not. I was good at memorizing a song for a period of time. He, however, failed to pick up on this and subsequently increased the difficulty level of my music selections rapidly. I went from learning to play basic scales, to playing Part of Your World from the Little Mermaid, and Everything I Do by Bryan Adams for the final recital. 

And I could play them. In very specific, low stress circumstances. A piano recital is not low stress. It is the antithesis of that. 

My mother's recollection of the recital was that I went on stage and did a surprisingly good job of playing what would be considered difficult pieces of music for a beginner. I contend that she was wearing rose coloured glasses: parent edition. She does admit that at one point in the mermaid piece, I got stuck in something of a loop, and may have played the chorus a couple of times before finding my way to the finish line. But she claims that at no time did it sound like a gathering of elephants simultaneously dying from a respiratory infection. 

I disagree.

My recollection of events is a bit darker, and the glasses less rosy. I clearly remember starting off well, and being like "yeah, this might be ok", at which point in my hubris, the wheels fell right the hell off.  The mermaid piece was, to be fair, recognizable, and I do remember something about a loop. I think I panicked and just replayed the only part I remembered over and over again until I felt that the piece had gone on long enough to resemble something close to the actual song in length, if not in actual musicality. Final chord, end. 
If only I could have just read the music, I could have saved it, but I couldn't, so I had only my terror-stricken memory of what it should sound like to rely on. 
It's possible I just screamed LOOK AT THIS STUFF, ISN'T IT NEAT at the top of my lungs  a couple of times and then tried to melt into the floor. It's all a bit fuzzy. 

But then came Bryan Fucking Adams. I hate him. 

Everything was fine, until it wasn't. Where is Greensleeves when you need it!!??? I don't really remember much about what, specifically, went wrong, just that it all went catastrophically wrong very quickly. This was a complicated piece of music I should never have tried to play under pressure, and I have no idea what kind of stroke my teacher had that caused him to make this critical error in judgement. 

All I remember is banging on the piano hoping to find at least a couple of notes in common with the actual sheet music. I had no idea where I was, I didn't flip a single page of music, and if the song was recognizable for what it was, I would be shocked. I just. hit. keys. 
For, like, three whole minutes. 
After that I pretty much just ran from the stage and burst into tears. I never went back. 

Everything I Do, I Do It For You was a terrible song, created by a terrible man, for a terrible movie, about some guy who (probably) did terrible stuff with a bow and arrow. To this day I can't listen to this song without flashbacks to the recital. 

But now I'm a rational adult, who is very bored during recovery from surgery, and I've had an out of tune piano gathering dust in my basement for two years for literally no reason, as no one in our family plays piano. I've decided to try again. 

And so in honour of this newfound motivation to not suck at something, my  husband bought me a piano book. It's basically perfect.  It insults your general lack of musical skill while trying to teach you how to be less awful at it. It even comes with drink recipes for when you're absolutely ready to rage quit and watch the world burn!

Surprising no one more than myself, I am not even completely terrible (which you should in no way interpret to mean I am any good, I'm just less bad than I'd assumed I'd be after 25+ years). I can play a scale like a boss, I can still memorize a page of music in a surprisingly short period of time, and I know what a time signature is, which helps a lot. 

Unfortunately, my overall music reading skills have not improved despite years of disuse, and I am painfully slow at working through a piece. My hands can't multitask, and I still have to write out most notes so I can play something besides a halting death march. 

The book accurately describes me a mentally underachieving pianist, and I haven't even reached the chapter on accidentals yet. I'm convinced that musicians who use them are complete sadists. Reading music is hard enough as it is without having to mentally transpose every G into a G# for an entire piece (...and that is not a hashtag, you insufferable teenagers).  

Overall, this should be an interesting experiment in teaching an old dog new tricks, but this time I'm skipping the damn recital!