Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas!

It happened on Saturday.

There I was, with my family all around, a glass of wine in my hand, a belly full of good food... there was a diamond waiting nearby for an unsuspecting finger, the tree glowing softly and my son's laughter as he played with his new toys. Then it hit me.

I was home.

It felt really good.

Merry Christmas, gentle reader. May your hearth be warm, your table laden and your house filled with laughter.

Jxox

Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Quinn's Christmas Card Shoot, 2008

You'd think that I would learn...

For the past two years I've done a Christmas Portrait of Quinn for the card. In 2006, when he was 7 months old, I dressed him as an elf. In 2007 we decided that further costuming might promote further therapy sessions as a teenager, so instead I dressed him in his Christmas best. Both were challenging and both had some very unexpected results.

This year, now that he is going on three, I thought things would (again!) be a little different. New house, better lighting, more directable... but no. With the move and our schedules and whatnot, we only had one afternoon to do this, after naptime, between 3 and 5 before the light totally faded. I'm battling a monster bug that will not go away; as I write this it's been almost a week and I still have a hot water bottle pressed to my ear and I'm now coughing up unspeakable horrors. I feel like crap... and was in no mood yesterday to argue with a figity toddler. As it was, most of yesterday (our only day together this week) was "here's your breakfast, here's the tv, here's Mommy dying on the couch". You can feel the magic. can't you?

Quinn didn't get up from his nap until 3:30, which ate into our primo light time. I wrestled him into an outfit that I thought might work well and brought him downstairs to the tree. I explained to him what was going on and he seemed contented with that... momentarily. Then it became obvious that he thought this was a new game that I'd like to call "Let's make Mommy Blow an Aneurysm".



Simple directions such as "look happy!" and "blow me a kiss" only encouraged him.


Uh Oh!

Ok... THIS he gets from me.


It was torture at the time, but once I topped up my meds and sat down to edit I started to laugh uncontrollably. In the last year he has developed quite the personality. I also found a few gems that would not make it as the card, but are special nevertheless. Every year I wonder why I do this to myself, and every year I am rewarded with images like these:



I managed to get THE ONE and send it off to the printers last night... but I'm saving that little surprise for later. You can find the whole Christmas Outtakes set on my Flickr sets page.

I hope your Holiday preparations are going well... now if you don't mind, I'm going back to bed.

Jxox

Friday, December 12, 2008

Get Over Yourself!

Maybe it's me.

Maybe it's my own personality issues...maybe it's the magnetic field that I have that seems to attract odd behaviour. Maybe it's Karma, maybe it's just my lot in life, who knows?

What I do know is that quite a few of you out there seem to need a reality check. Normally I would just let a lot of this stuff slide, but honestly I have too much to do in the next little while to have this negitivity clinging to me.

Besides, a few of you are long overdue for a bitch slap from me, whether in writing or not. I'll warn you gentle readers... my normal restraints have slid a tad.

I don't know, but is this the normal amount of crap that people eat in a week? Again, maybe it's me...

To the Security Guard who asked if I was having a Christmas Baby:

Are you fucking with me? I know I am overweight. Believe it or not, I can still see my reflection in a mirror. What possibly would make you think that it was OK to just assume that someone was pregnant and then bring it up in conversation? Or assume that I was full term? Nice observational skills, dickhead. I'll keep that in mind next time you are assigned to "watch" one of my patients.

Open your eyes and shut your trap for a change.
Get over yourself!

To the "Frenemy" who ruined my birthday:
WTF is your problem? I stopped answering your phone calls because you told me to do some situps when I was five months pregnant and basically berated me for stopping my gym membership (even though I was ordered to stop by my Doc). Then you and your co-hort were shocked that we bought a car before the baby was born, because after all, we could never afford such a thing ever. Then I became a sales call when you switched tracks. I don't think so!

My birthday this year was awesome, that is until I made the mistake of picking up the phone as my son and I awaited the return of Sean and our Japanese food. Your shocked pause on the phone said it all; when I said no, we BOUGHT a house (as opposed to renting, which you naturally assumed). I'm tired of being poor little crazy Jenni from the unstable home... I haven't been her in a long, long time. I have a really good job and I make some pretty good money. Ok, it may not be as much as you make, but I wasn't born with a silver spoon in my pouty yap. I've managed to repair my marriage and have a beautiful brilliant son. We own a house and a car. All without your help. All without you.

Hopefully motherhood will snap some sense into your head. With your narcissism however, it's highly doubtful. I bet you think this blog is about you...
Get over yourself!

To my Pseudo-(and hopfully soon to be Ex-) Sister in Law:
Seriously, WTF? What is WITH the attitude? I'm sorry to break it to you sunshine, but the world does not revolve around you. You think you know everything, but most of your "knowledge" is based on urban myths and stuff that some girl at work told you.

I know it may be hard to believe, but some of us work 'round the clock. We do this, put our health, our sanity and often our asses on the line for people like you... so you can bemoan and berate us at will. After all, you know everything, right? That also means that sometimes we sleep during the day. That doesn't mean we're lazy... that means we are working when you are not. Often, that means that we're busy trying to wrestle a guy so we can stick an IV in him at 3:15am when you are snug in your bed dreaming about what new drama you can throw in the morning.

While we are at it, where the hell do you get the gall to talk to me about raising my child when yours are such disasters? Seriously, your biggest problem is that your eldest is already smarter than you. Your continued search for something "wrong" with her is bordering on M√ľnchausen by proxy at this point. Now the latest... you won't let your supposed "husband" off the leash long enough to help out his brother and family because... why? Your continued selfishness and spite is legend; how the hell do you sleep at night? You continue to deny my nephew a safe haven under your roof... why? Oh yes. You may have to compete with a child.

I was pretty much done with you the year you got us all banninated from the family.
Grow the fuck up. Get a clue.
You know this blog is about you...
Get over yourself!

To the City of Brampton:

Your "snow removal" skills are "teh suck". Seriously... I tried to take Quinn out in the stroller the other day and instead of a "store adventure" we had an "Arctic adventure" with all the snowbanks, bow waves and ice flows that we had to navigate through just to get to the Giant Tiger down the block. The stroller is a heavy duty model but I swear, to have kids in this town I have to swap it out for a Snow CAT for four months of the year. Those little mountains of snow at the end of a plowed sidewalk? Impossible to navigate with a stroller / wheelchair / scooter. All the "plowed" sidewalk in the world is not going to do any good if a) it's only a foot and a half wide and b) it is interdispersed with iceflows that would make Admiral Byrd blanche. You have no idea how hard it is to have 100lbs of stroller, kid and groceries trapped in the snow and still try and make it across the street before the light changes... and have assholes honk at you to hurry up for your troubles.

Get some equipment and do it right! Some of us don't like being trapped indoors all day.
Get over yourself!

[While we are on the subject:]

To the drivers who honked while I was trying to dislodge the stroller from the snow:

Are you fucking with me? Seriously, the last time I checked pedestrians still had the right of way. You would know that, if you actually took your drivers exam instead of purchasing it here in Brampton. You and your Grannie and the whole un-belted fam-damily can wait 30 seconds while I lift my son's wheels from their icy prison. You and Grannie and the fam-damily can wait another 20 seconds or so as I get things going and make it across your lane before you peel off indignantly to try and get wherever the hell it is that you think is more important than my destination. Your colleague who is trying to turn left can also wait, because as I've mentioned before I have the fucking right of way!

Learn to drive! Learn some manners!
Get over yourself!

----------------

Now, gentle readers, if you will excuse me, I have a date with some Ginger tea and a homemade cookie. Thank you for your indulgence... now I will go chill out and get over my own self as I throw down an imaginary microphone and yell "Jen...OUT!"

Jxox

(A shout out to Skye for the Carly Simon sub-ref.) :D

Monday, December 8, 2008

11 in Explore

Here's a different 11 in Explore...

A Different 11
1. Fire Bull, 2. Waiting to Bloom, 3. Infinite Jonquils, 4. A Field of Crocuses, 5. Feelin' Blue II, 6. Icy Chain II, 7. Laughing at Daddy's antics, 8. Morning Trio, 9. How's YOUR day?, 10. Grey Squirrel, 11. Dancing Geese

It's interesting (well, at least to me) to see the changes since the last time I had this many in Explore... and the first time.

Yes, I have been terribly lazy on the updates as of late. Hope to fix that soon.
Jxox

Friday, November 21, 2008

A Painting Project, Part 2

Holy doodle, I'm living on the Advil after this one.

It took me a total of three days, but Quinn's room is finally finished. Well, the painting that is... the furniture will come tomorrow with the big move and the pictures/art/cool things will be hung over time. I'm in no hurry to wreck my new walls!

So, where did we leave off? I think I was getting ready to paint the first coat of the green. It went on rather thinly (I guess as it is a lighter colour) but being green, it hid the purple very well.

After the First Coat of Green
After the first coat of green...

The Closet After One Coat of Green
The closet is thankfully, no longer pink.

After cleanup, this (and the continued conquest of Mt. Laundry) had eaten up my second day. By Wednesday morning, I was itching to get going and get the second coat of green. Four hours after that, I took the tape off... and had to go around the room with tiny brush and touch up where the tape had pulled off some of the blue. That being finished, my friend Tracy helped me stick up the animal alphabet so that it was a) quasi straight and b) quasi balanced, two things that my astigmatism mess with frequently. It's so bad I have to use a level to hang a picture. No, really...

Detail of Animal Decals
Animal decals, courtesy of Bang on the Door.

I rehung the mirror in the closet and hung the drapes on the window. Viola!

Finished Closet with Mirror
The now green closet with the mirror. Quinn can practice his funny faces to his heart's content.

Finished With Drapes
The finished room... sans furniture of course.


I couldn't wait until the boys got home that night to check out my handiwork. Sean was suitably impressed and I think Quinn was too... it was hard to tell as he kept running around the room in circles, chanting the alphabet really fast and then falling down laughing. Maybe it's the new daycare provider.... :)

So there you have it. The purple princess nightmare is dead. That will be it for painting projects for a while... well, at least until the warmer weather. Now all I have to do is survive this move tomorrow and open a cold one at the newly christened Black Cat Bar. Sable would have been proud.

Wish us luck.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

A Painting Project, Part 1

We move in on Saturday, but I'm already hip deep in my first renovation project.

As I mentioned in my last post, the house is newly painted in modern colours that I love. All but one room, that is. My bedroom is a lovely green, the spare room is a rich heritage blue and Quinn's room... well, his room was a pink and purple nightmare. Fit for a princess, but not my little prince.

The Princessy Pink and Purple (of Doom)
A view of the closet. To quote Quinn: "It's so princess, Mom!"

It had to go. Now.

I had a lot of paint leftover from the nursery project and wanted to incorporate the dresser and rocking chair into his new room. After much deliberation, I decided to paint the walls with the blue and have a green stripe running midway up the walls and entirely around the room. Once we got to the house and discovered that the closet was pink, I decided to paint the closet green as well. The first thing I had to do however, was to try and nuke the purple with a layer of primer. After that had dried and cured, I measured out a foot wide stripe in the middle of the wall (you'll see why later) and marked it out with my new handy dandy plum bob/chalk line.

After a Coat of Primer
After the primer. You can see my chalk lines. It still looks purple.

The next half hour or so was spent taping off the stripe so that I could put a coat of blue on. I wouldn't be honest if I didn't add that it was tedious.

Tape Job
I has tape.


This is what the room looked like after one coat.

One Coat Down...
You can still see the purple.

I ended up passing out in a lawn chair (the only other inhabitant of my living room other than toys) as I waited for my family to arrive and check out my handiwork. They were pleasantly surprised. Quinn said "Wow! It's so blue!", which I took as the greatest of compliments.

After a nights rest (ha!), I started back at it today. The room got a second coat of blue and that killed the purple once and for all. You can see my new Ladybug on the floor there.

Two Coats of Blue
Much better. Die, purple, die!

I let that dry and cure and then ventured to rip off the tape. This is always a bit nerve wracking as I always expect half the paint to rip off with it. This time tho', things worked out pretty well.

Awaiting More Tape
Ready for the next round of tape.

While cleaning that up I paused and thought that it looked really cool with the blue and white, but had plans for green and must therefore press on. Then I remembered having the exact same thoughts when I was at this stage while painting the dresser. It must be the fumes.

More to come... I started the green stripe/closet today and plan on giving it a final coat tomorrow. My girl Tracy is coming over to help with the house and I hope to have it done by then.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

We're Movin' on Up!

It may not be the east side (it's the northwest side, actually), but we are definitely getting our piece of the pie.

As you well know, we've been looking for a house for quite some time. Shortly after our first one fell through, we found it. Actually, it was one of the 13 that we looked at, but at the time decided it was too expensive. Fate, karma, chaos... whatever it is that rules my life in particular, decided it was the house. We could not get it out of our minds and as soon as our other house fell through, right on cue the price dropped dramatically. It was to be ours.

Now, in the efforts of maintaining some privacy, I'm not going to spill all the goods. What you will be interested in knowing tho', is that it is a two story detached, on a court in a quiet mature neighbourhood. It has a lovely open concept main floor, a kitchen with an island, a walk in closet in the master bedroom and new laminate flooring throughout. The only carpet in fact, is on the stairs, in the basement and in the kids rooms. Even the master bedroom has laminate, which gives the room a bright airy feel to it.


Home Sweet Home
Welcome to our new house.

The garage has been divided laterally in half, creating a mud room and a storage area in front. The basement is fabulous and meant for entertaining... not only is there a beautiful bar, but we also have our own fireplace! This house offers so much, not the least of which is the "move in ready" quality of it. The only room that needs painting will be Quinn's. Right now it's a garish girlie purple. You can be sure that there will be many pics to come of it's coming transformation. He seems to be excited for his new "boys room". His one request, thus far, seems to be "and a pi-wowl [pillow] too Mom, ok?"

The rest of the house is newly painted in colours that I love. I really am looking forward to making this house our home.

The Dining Room and Beyond...
The view from the dining room through the french doors to the gazebo deck. No, that is not our furniture. (Like we own anything that looks THAT good! Well, so far.... )

This house promises us so much. After living in apartments for the last 15 years or so, it is a welcome addition to our family. As I've said before, for every new expense, there is one that we're overjoyed to rid ourselves of.

Now comes the hard part. We've been packing for what seems like an eternity now and there is still so much left to pitch/put in a box. We're down to the last week before we get the keys and I must confess, I'm starting to panic a little. I have a write on/wipe off calendar in the kitchen and a giant war room-esque whiteboard in the dining room that maps out our every move over the next two weeks. There are appointments with the lawyer, cleaning days for both residences, painting days for Quinn's room, storage units to empty, boxes to relocate, laundry to do, daycare to go to, new daycare to find, meals to cook and full time hours to work. I also start my new job on Monday. My face looks like I've hit puberty again and half the time I feel like my skin is too tight or that I have a head full of bees. I know this will pass, I know this is just "stress", but to quote Richard Carlson, "stress is nothing more than a socially acceptable form of mental illness". I'm trying to combat my anxiety positively and trying to not eat (too much) junk or lose my patience. I am lucky enough to have colleagues that took some of my shifts the week before the move; I now have that week to settle down and savour the little things... such as creating the "boys room" for my little fella or seeing him run around the backyard with his pals for the first time. Holding the keys in my hand, walking over the threshold into our new home... There are going to be so many moments to cherish. I may need a mood stablilzer to get there, however. :D

It's all good.... really, really good. I just have to keep putting one foot in front of the other. Just for a little while longer...

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Goodnight Opus

After almost thirty years, the beloved penguin has been given his final resting place.

Citing many things, including an ugly social and political climate, Berkeley Breathed has sent Opus to his "paradise". In the words of the shelter worker that delivers the news to Steve Dallas, "A good place. Warm. Safe."

I can assure you, there isn't any place warmer or safer.

That's probably why there hasn't been a dry eye in our house all day. Opus' final resting place guarantees his innocence will never be lost and has managed to touch us deeply. Berkeley himself has been quoted as saying:

"As I drew him finally at the very end, I knew that that was the end — [Opus'] childhood was gone. ... It took me a few minutes. I had to pull myself back together again and face the fire."

You can find the final strip here and the very final frame here.

May you always run nekked through the bluebells saying "thhhhhppppttttthhh!". May your dandelion patch always be in bloom.

Goodbye Blubberbutt.

We're gonna miss you.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Hallowe'en Hijinks, 2008

I know there is a lot that I need to catch up on here, but I could not resist a little hallowe'en update.

After a busy day of catching up on my phonecalls and cleaning like a madwoman, I made a quick "kid" dinner (KD and hotdogs) for the boys when they got home. We had plans to meet up with the Fearsome Foursome (AKA Skye, Erik and the twins) for a little Trick or Treat fun, so we had to hurry to get us all ready.

Quinn chose his own costume again this year. A week or so ago, we were at the SuperStore and had it narrowed down to three: a lion, a frog prince (Mommy's pick!) and a bat. After much discussion, he chose the bat. Since I have a penchant to wear horns and my usual all black, I thought he would make a lovely little minon. At the same time, we picked up a gore kit for Sean and a little half mask and "boney" gloves that he could wear at work. We were all set... we just had to put it all together in less than an hour.

Well, as you can guess, that didn't happen.

For those of you who ever think of getting one of those kits in the store, don't. They are crap. After mucking about with it for half an hour, I tore all the little lacerations and boils off of his face in disgust and started over. It took me less than 10 minutes and I had a pretty good looking freshly dead guy just by using the leftover adhesive on his face, toilet paper and the makeup in my bag (M.A.C. of course!). Trust me, I know dead. He wanted a bloody mouth and chin, and I have to say, I am not happy with that result at all. Next time, I'll get him to bite a pomegranate or somthing.


Zombie Dad
Zombie Daddy. Apparently looking for brains and the early 90's...

Once we got that sorted, it was time to dress our little bat. Mother Nature had been kind to us with warmer temperatures, yet we still had to put a sweater and track pants on under his costume. While I dashed off to finish up my face (I just did a my makeup a little more dramatic and arranged my horns in my hair), Sean took Quinn into his room to get him dressed. They were in there for quite some time and there was a lot of yelling off and on. I would find out later that Quinn needed two diaper changes in that time; one of which occured at the exact moment he was finished getting dressed. Of course.

All of that made us trying to leave the apartment at seven, 45 minutes after I had planned to leave. I was not impressed. However, we made it to our rendevous point and were pleasantly surprised. Actually, delighted would be a better way of describing it as we were overjoyed to find ourselves in Hallowe'en Town. Almost every house on the street had a display. There were skeletons, graveyards, ghosts, goblins, zombies, lightning, scary sounds... anything you could think of.

Hallowe'en Spooks
Some Spooky Sentinels


I remarked to Sean at the time that it was like when we were kids, but that is not correct either. It was better than that. Much better. We felt like kids again... and got to share the night with our child as we took him door to door on his first trick or treat night.

We met up with the Fearsome Foursome and their friends and the kids were estatic to see each other (they've been jonesing for some toddler fun for a bit now). They had a little visit with each other as the flow of kids continued around us. We chatted with their friends and marvelled at their glowing pumpkin display. It was quite a hit with the little folk.

The Toddler Sabbat
A Toddler Sabbat


We were only out for an hour or so, but Quinn was getting tired from all the walking and he couldn't quite manage to carry his treat bag any more. Since I didn't get a decent pic of him before we went out, I snapped a post-trick or treat photo of him in the garage.

Twick or Treeet!
A tired little bat. I swear, every house gave him double candy.


On the way home we stopped at the liquor store downtown because, after all, it was our anniversary (our 11th). It was during that trip that my attempts at zombie makeup were validated as Sean got two "Holy Fuck"s and a "What the....???" as he perused the wine selection. I thought it was pretty cool, especially in a part of town where crackheads and real life zombies are sadly a daily occurance.

We got home, tucked our little bat in and... promptly fell asleep on the couch. We both woke when the movie was over and went to bed laughing.

As Quinn would say, it was a "most lovely day". :D

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Just a Few Seconds

It's still early, but my morning has proven too "interesting" already...

Quinn woke up early this morning, apparently after a bad dream, screaming "Mmmmoooommy!" and I couldn't get out of bed yet as my work day yesterday was one of the more exhausting ones. When I did manage to shuffle out to the living room I found out that his first words to Daddy this morning were "I miss Mommy". My eyes immediately welled up as I know my current schedule and the upcoming move are really affecting him. No guilt there, people... In any event, after a half hour of cuddle time, it became a fight trying to get him dressed and out the door to daycare. Sean actually had to rip him off my neck as they were already late. As I listened to my son screaming all the way down the hall, while waiting for the elevator and then fading off into the distance as the elevator descended towards the garage, I thought to myself "this parenting thing is NOT easy".

I grabbed a drink, sat down in front of the computer and starting sifting through my email. Quite a few jokes from friends... a bit of spam... and then a note from my cousin. As I read her words, I could feel the tears threatening to spill over again. This parenting thing is NOT easy... not by a long shot. At the risk of offending her (as I have not asked her permission to do this), I will reproduce her note here, word for word.

"Last night Bill and I were driving along Montreal road towards Orleans with Liam [their one year old] and Fritzie [the dog] when all of a sudden, out of the blue, a young man (19 years old) was airborne heading straight for our car ( I thought he was on a skateboard at first but later found out it was a piece of car that followed him). He had been hit by a car in the opposite lane and was thrown 30 feet into our lane. He landed just a few feet short of our vehicle on the pavement, we slammed on the breaks. It was like dead weight hitting the ground....I can only imagine he lost consciousness when he was hit (the car was driving the speed limit apparently) and it was a large Lincoln/Crown Vic type car. He did not respond when Bill yelled asking him if he was alright, he was barely breathing. In the meantime I called 911 while Bill stayed with him as other onlookers gathered around the scene. The fire department, police, ambulance showed up in less than five minutes and took him away. Apparently, both lanes had a green light and this young man with his Ipod on ran across the street (on a no walk signal) to get to the class we assume - it looked like he was a Police Services student at the college over here. We heard on the news last night and this morning that he is still in critical condition.

We really hope he makes it. If you don't mind saying a little prayer for him that would be nice. As I was rocking Liam to sleep last night I realized just how precious life is and how it can be changed or taken away instantly, without warning. That 19 year old boy was some other parent's baby lying in the middle of the road - I couldn't help but think about the call his parent's got shortly after that accident. And, I was awake thinking about how in this day and age we're so afraid to touch people (especially where blood is involved) for fear of contracting AIDS, hepatitis, and other contagious diseases. All I kept thinking was..... if that were Liam or any other member of my family I would desperately want someone to not only sit by them but to touch them and hold their hand. It's sad that we can do that as openly anymore. "

I immediately felt for this young man, for his parents. My colleagues with older children always tell me that you never stop worrying about them no matter what age they are. This young man appears to have made a stupid choice and quite possibly will lose his life over it. I wonder if he got along with his parents. I wonder what the last conversation he had with them was. I wonder if he was happy, had a girlfriend, had friends, had hobbies... or if he felt alone, abandoned and walking into traffic with an Ipod wasn't the accident that it seems.

Immediately after this thought, my sick sense of humour pictures him in the afterlife and the irony of "the unobservant police services student being hit by a Crown Vic" giving this kid and the boatman a good laugh. I hope so. I find a little comfort in this. Coping mechanisms? Check.

I do really feel for my cousin, as she and her little family were trundling along happily until this young man was literally thrown in their path. They are not doctors or nurses... or security or cops or EMS... they are not accustomed to the brief intersections we make into others lives. We pop in, usually after tragedy, do our thing, pop out again and have little concept of the impact we actually make on people. I know there will be quite a few of all of those professions reading this. I also know many of you will take in a little bit of air, think "Wow. That's awful. Hope he's ok." and then move on to the next thing. We leave the facts to the news and the emotions to the grieving family. We do this for survival. We do this to keep our ghosts to a minimum.

That is, until it is our family member, our child.

My mommy-guilt was in full tilt boogie this morning, but it is nothing compared to the vigil that this boy's mother now probably keeps. Parenting is a rough sport... and it is stories like this that remind us how rough it can actually be.

It only took a beat or two for this young man to make his choice... one that has changed many lives, including his own, forever. Hug the little ones (and the big ones as well) a little tighter this morning.
That only takes a few seconds too.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The Low Down House Huntin' Blues

Buying a house is an ordeal.

Seriously, I'd rather take a full on panel interview for a psych job over this. Just imagine: I am someone that picks brains for a living... put yourself in a room full of professionals doing the same to you to see if you are "worthy". It's daunting, but peanuts compared to this house hunting thing. Throw in a root canal and a GYN exam and you're still not even close.

First you need to assemble your core team: real estate agent, mortgage broker, lawyer. If you're smart, you'll add house inspector to that list. Don't forget the insurance agent either. You'll also need all your ducks in a row, so expect to have to deal with oddball things like Revenue Canada if you're like me and your toddler ate your last notice of assessment.

Then you start looking. We've been regulars on MLS.ca for over two years now, so we thought we had a pretty good idea of what we were looking for. Well we do, but apparently it doesn't exist that often in Brampton. We saw some pretty silly things: an entire yard covered over in deck, "finished basements" with bare concrete floors and some pretty...er... interesting decorating ideas. One of my favourites was lighting fixtures at eye level around the room. That's great for an interrogation chamber, but not so good if I want to hang out in my rec room and watch TV. Oh, and FYI, blobbing a paint-dipped sponge over a wall is NOT a good idea, ok? Especially when you cheap out and use a square one... that leaves square edges and random squirts here and there. It was like a horrific episode of CSI meets Spongebob for heaven's sake. Just say no, ok? Think of the little sponges...

Husband I went to 13 houses in two days. That in itself was pretty crazy, but we found one we liked. It was redone on the main level, had 4 bedrooms, a decent yard and a finished basement. Ok, so the basement was a 70's nightmare, but it could be dealt with. So could the little cosmetic-ish problems here and there. We signed papers, got the mortgage, got everything together and ready to go. We just had to go through the house inspection.

That was yesterday... Three solid hours of feeling my insides twist as I heard things such as "aluminum wiring" and "this vent goes nowhere" and that the a/c was old and full of freon and that the furnace had not been serviced in 10 years. To add insult to injury, the damn stove didn't work! Some people have a funny idea of what "in working order" means... in my world it doesn't mean "two out of four burners... and only the little ones, fatso."

I will say that the $400 bucks I spent on the inspection was worth the price of being able to walk away from $30, 000+ worth of repairs and upgrades. In the meantime however, it's back to the drawing board. I know our new home is out there, we just have to find it... and soon. Just watching my son blissfully roll around on the grass in our friend's yard yesterday was enough to break my heart and hammer that one home all over again.

Once again, amor fati. It's all good..

Friday, September 12, 2008

The Secret Evil Plan, Revealed! (Sort of...)

"Tomorrow's getting harder make no mistake.
Luck ain't even lucky
Got to make your own breaks..."
--Bon Jovi, "It's My Life"


This entry has been a long time coming. It's one that I've written a thousand times off and on in my head... and I must confess that most of it was supposed to go in a different direction than what it has. But, here we are.

I've told my story many times before... I've made no secret about the bad choices that I have made here and there over the years. From ennui to bankruptcy, a failed business venture to a stellar comeback, a breakdown and breakup to building a family together... it's all been quite a ride.

Two years ago, on New Years Eve, The Secret Evil Plan was born. We had to find a way to dig ourselves out of our mess once and for all. Partly financial, partly emotional, partially professional... we had to find a way out of the rut that we were stuck in.

The professional part was easy; I vowed to either start loving my job, or leave it. I accomplished that by transferring to Peel and then moving over to Brampton Civic when it opened. Almost a year later,
I'm part of an amazing team of people, have recharged my batteries and have rediscovered my desire to learn. It most certainly has it's moments, but all in all, it has been a good move.

My family is also in dire need of a house: one with a yard in a good neighbourhood where my son can grow up to be a productive member of society. Oh yes, one that we can afford as well. That part is also important. I've talked to many people about this since the creation of The SEP and it never ceases to amaze me how many people a) have seemingly not had to work for everything in their lives and b) how little others seem to understand about life in an apartment, especially with a toddler. I guess it's the circles I travel in, but my goodness, y'all have no idea. A lot of my pay  cheque is wasted on what I call stupid spending, such as buying in small quantities or picking up dinner on the way home. This drives me a little batty, but is the sad reality when you live in an apartment with a nurse. No storage to speak of and a schedule that makes both sides of the clock scream, makes for bad spending choices. Then there's the hauling of the laundry out once a week or so, which adds up very quickly (especially when the little dude needs twice as many clothes as the average kid to go to day care in the first place... his room looks like a store). Our rent is also more than many people's mortgages as well, and for what? Two bedrooms and a livingroom full of toys to trip over. We have to drive across town to get fresh air and to play in a park or in a friend's yard. We have a storage unit on the other side of town that holds some of our stuff. Daily we fight with the elevator, or the stench from the neighbours cooking, the neighbours fighting/partying/building stuff at weird hours... it's all a bit much. We just want a quiet, simpler life.

So, what was the answer?

Simply this: move. Find a town with a Schedule 1 facility that I could work in, find cheaper housing... find a place where my paycheque would go farther and our money would work for us. We did find such a place: Peterborough. My parents relocated to Buckhorn when they retired so we would be closer to them and we would have a little more help with Quinn. They were to open a shiny new hospital in June and since I had participated in one hospital move, I figured I would be more than an asset to their team. Housing is (on average) $50, 000 to 100, 000 cheaper there; we would certainly be able to afford a beautiful home with a decent backyard that I could while away my hours gardening in. There is a university and a college in town... both of us have educational needs that desire fulfillment (not to mention professional obligations in my case). We are also planning on more children, so once #2 came along, Sean was going to happily become Mr. Mom and figure out what he wanted to be when he grew up. The Secret Evil Plan was a dream come true. We would live the good life.

Little by little however, The SEP started to erode. In January I was told that although the new hospital was to open in June, they were not going to expand the Mental Health department until the following January or February. At one point, some admin was actually quoted in the Peterborough paper that they were not going to make "the same mistakes" and would hopefully "avoid the problems of" Brampton Civic. That meant one more year in Brampton. We were depressed, but initally decided to wait it out.

Lately, there have been quite a few signs that if we are not already in a recession, than we are well on the way to one. The banks tightened up lending practices, interest rates are climbing... and hospitals are making more cuts. In some cases, nurses have been laid off. Toronto East and Rouge Valley were the first to cut nurses. In my own hospital, each department has had the budgets cut back, and we are still trying to fill gaping holes in the schedules. Nursing is very cyclical, like the economy and fashion... and right now I fear we are on the downward arc. With this in mind, do I have any business getting a job in another city, moving there and buying a house only to be laid off later as I have no seniority? Where else would I find a job then? Contrary to what my parents think, I can't just go pick up a few hours at a nursing home. In Brampton, I have over six years in with William Osler at this point, which means I can "bump" back to Etobicoke if I need to, or seek employment at the myriad of other hospitals within my reach. We also have Sean's job here.

This pretty much killed the SEP in it's original form. Thus ensued many hours of alcohol consumption, discussion and often flat-out arguing about where the family ship was headed now. We needed a safe harbour. Where else then, but home?

As fate would play it out (as it is too often in my life), once we made the decision to stay, everything just seemed to fall into place. I was searching the MLS at work one night and a co-worker just happened by and gave me the name of a mortgage broker. A friend's mother is a real estate agent. I found some really cool listings at work while trying to stay awake and a friends daughter recommended a lawyer. In fact, this same friend and I saw one house in particular and remember looking at each other and saying "wow" at the same time... I also have a line on an exciting new position in my hospital. It all is coming together.

Yesterday, we closed the deal on our house (yes, at work!). On October 27th (barring a bad inspection), we take possession of our new home in J section. It's close to work, closer to friends and much closer to living the life we want. It's not perfect, it has a grass throw rug for a yard, but it is ours. We bought a house, without help, without chicanery... we did it ourselves.

They say that good things come to those that wait. I can say, that in this case at least, "they" were right for a change.

Amor fati. It's all good..

I has a house!!!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Anniversaries and New Beginnings

Today is an anniversary of sorts. One that I would be a complete fraud for not acknowledging.

Three years ago today, I quit smoking. This may not sound like such a big deal, but previous to this, I had tried everything... The Patch, Zyban, The Gum, self-hypnosis, cold turkey... even aromatherapy. I would quit for a few weeks and then work would get busy or I'd go out or indulge in one of my other vices and the damn monkey would be back.

I quit. For good.

On this same day, three years ago, I also quit being completely irresponsible. My drinking, my partying... By day I taught others how to get their shit together while my chest had a hole in it so big that nothing could stop the wind from howling through... no matter how much crap I poured in there. Again, I'd swear off time and again, I'd clean up my act just to blow it the next weekend or the next day off. I'd blame my stressful job, my upbringing, my health, my failed marriage, my failed life. In the end, it was all me.

I accepted limitations, I gave up bad habits, I made promises to the few extra surprise cells in my abdomen. I took on the worst patient I've ever met: Me.

Within two months, I was no longer alone and was able to see my future lay itself out in front of me.

Happy Anniversary, to me... and to my son. The centre of my little universe.

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There is something to be said for fresh starts.

As you all know by now, Facebook canned me for "spamming". I have yet to hear from them in anything more than an auto-reply fashion; I've just given up.

Today I started a new account. Come play.

Jen C. McArthur Logan's Facebook profile

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Finally, the last tidbit... I have had to completely overhaul The Secret Evil Plan. There are so many changes possible in the next few months... I'll give more details as they unfold.

Much to ponder... much to decide. Rest assured, gentle reader, I am keeping my head down and putting one foot in front of the other.

Jxox

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Balcony Update

Talk to any gardener this year and you're going to get pretty much the same answer: this summer was not the best. With all the rain, you'd think we'd have bumper crops, but you'd be wrong. The lack of sunshine and excess moisture has just delayed growth and made it easier for a lot of blights and pests.

Having said that, I'm not going to feel too bad about this year's results. Many of my plants had to be restarted, which got me even farther behind, but now things seem to be puttering along. All things considered, I think my "from seed" year is a success.

I have to find a sunny moment to capture all the fruits of my labour, but in the meantime here's a taste with some "white fountains lobelia". You will notice that many of them are blue. :)


Butterfwy and Blooms

Jxox

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

An August Angus Afternoon

I'm trying to catch up on a few things...

This year, the August long weekend found us in Angus. The in-laws have a (surprisingly) busy schedule, so it was nice that they could pencil us in for a visit.

Myrna's Garden is in it's prime... flowers everywhere. The weather was co-operating as well, so I got to take quite a few shots in glorious, glorious sunshine (the only commodity that is more precious than gas this summer). The garden is quite varied, and there were a couple of new flowers that I had never seen before. Yes, I have garden envy. Baaaaaaad!


Goin' My Way?
Goin' My Way?
Gooseneck Loosestrife

There were a few old favourites there as well... the one side of their house is dominated by a wild rosebush that is just lovely. Wild roses are one of my favourites...

This Bud's for You...
This Bud's for ME...

It was a good visit. Quinn had fun running around after his Grandparents and I got to put my feet up and bask in the sun for an hour. Lovely.

Jxox

Monday, August 18, 2008

Small Comforts

Hi All,

After another day of flaky power and water (and the accompanying discomforts each of these provide), I'm glad to say that I've had more important things to worry about than my banishment from Facebook.

In the last few days, I've been doing some looking around. It seems there are many people out there who have angered the FB gods... and many people that are just as confused as I am.

Here is an interesting article called "13 Reasons Your Facebook Account Will Be Disabled". Some of the comments below are almost as informative.

For the more paranoid of you, here's something you might want to watch as well.

I'm still waiting... but not holding my breath.

Off to the tub...

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Detox

I'm a hurtin' unit.

It's been over 5 days now since my last fix. Five looooong, tortuous days.

The first day was the worst... I was irritable, jittery and generally impossible to talk to. The second day was a little better, but day three brought on the twins: despair and black depression. I think I even felt a little nauseous.

At this point I've almost lost hope.

Of course, I'm referring to my Facebook addiction...

My supply of mindless fun has dried up and it's left me jonesing. After over a year and a half of persistant use, I've suddenly gone cold turkey. No more Scrabulous, no more poking... no more birthday wishes, no more virtual drinks... no more high fiving my colleagues for a good call or save... nada. No longer can I get a glimpse into others lives via status updates. No more riding a voyeurism high, one line at at time.

As I stated earlier, This was not MY idea, but theirs. I've been labelled a spammer, a low life... Someone to be shunned at all costs. So much so, no one has answered my numerous emails apologising for my errors and begging for forgiveness. The Facebook pushers are a cruel bunch; the've let me get hooked and cut off my supply. I'm not even sure who I should be whoring myself to at this point.

One day at a time, I guess...

Misty Island
Alone in the Fog... oh, how Histrionic...

Thursday, August 14, 2008

I Has a Hat!

As many of you know, recently my family and I went camping for a much needed holiday. Since this would mean potential prolonged exposure in the sun, we had to take as many precautions as possible. Although as of late I have been quite pale (that would be The Schedule and not seeing the light of day for a couple of years), generally I tan easily. I can thank my Heinz 57 heritage for that. My husband and son, however... well, they are a little more high maintanence.

Quinn would have fit in nicely in Louis XIV's time as he is the type of fair skinned blonde that is almost blue. Many times I have reassured concerned adults that dark marks here and there are not the result of some misfortune, but are in fact veins. Sean, on the other hand, is... a redhead. These people cannot go out-of-doors without becoming entirely covered in freckles (which, to most is only slightly preferable to being covered in bees) or spontaneously bursting into flame. With Sean we don't need sunscreen, we need an asbestos suit; I feared Quinn would take after his father. While stuffing the aforementioned Ion full with gear, we did not neglect to pack THE umbrella for use on the beach.

Over the last decade, (and especially now that I've made the camping trip pics public), many of you have asked about THE umbrella.... As promised, here is how it came to be with us.

Sean and I were married on Hallowe'en in 1997, quite informally and very spur of the moment. We took a few days off for our honeymoon and went to Niagara Falls... in November. It was either raining or threatening to rain the entire time we were there (and you get wet right by the falls anyway). It wasn't so bad really, as it was still warmish most of the time and I made do with a sweater. Then it got cold. Very cold. There were several moments where I cursed myself for not packing an umbrella... or a rain hat, rubber boots, a giant Glad garbage bag... anything practical at all, really. What I did pack was my suede coat, which was threatening to turn into a giant, black, wet dog-smelling mess. We had been watching tourists walk around all week with these really cheap tacky red and white Canada umbrellas near the falls (and giggling to ourselves). Now, in a fit of desperation and with vague hopes of saving my coat, I considered buying one.

As I looked at the handles sticking out of a can in a gift shop, I shuddered to myself. I hate spending money when I don't have to, especially on cheap junk that I will never use again. I also winced at how we had been making fun of these ugly things our entire stay and now I found myself faced with purchasing one. I chose one with a wooden handle which was slightly more expensive (I think it was a dollar more). My rationale was that the wooden handle made it slightly more dignified and I might stand a chance of using it again, even if it was only at a soggy Canada Day celebration some time in the oh-so-distant-who-do-I-think-I'm-kidding-never future. At least this is what I explained to Sean's raised eyebrow. I hung my head and headed for the cash. We paid for our new umbrella and spent another $4 on two crappy hot chocolates and left the store.

I stood under the awning of the shop and popped open my new prize. My jaw dropped mid-sentence and my eyes bugged out as I looked at what I had just unleashed.

It was a hat.

My umbrella was a hat.

Tourists were giggling at ME! At my HAT!

I was holding a giant ball cap-shaped, red and white, maple leaf emblazoned, honest to goodness patriotic Canadian nightmare that was too tacky to even crawl underneath to die.

"Oh!" I think I managed to squeak out as a guffaw burst out of Sean. Tears were streaming out of his eyes as he struggled to compose himself after seeing the look of abject horror I'm sure was on my face. Brown steaming puddles formed on the lids the $4 crappy hot chocolates and threatened to spill over as he shook with his attempt to control himself. "Do-don't worry," he finally managed to get out "no one is really looking anyway".

As we walked along the cobblestones it became very obvious that he was wrong. People weren't just looking, they were staring. Children were pointing. I was mortified. I took a couple more steps, drank some more of my crappy hot chocolate, lit up a smoke and tried to convince myself I no longer cared. I did such a good job of convincing myself that I actually started to skip at one point and stare back. We headed back to the hotel and hit the bar. Then I truly no longer cared.

THE Umbrella, 1997
[Scanned from bad LoMo... had to take it to B&W.]
Suffice to say, I was in "no longer care" mode.

THE Umbrella has lived with us with what was at first a begrudging truce and is now a sense of acceptance. There have been rainy mornings where for one heart-stopping minute I've thought that I'd need to take it to work, but I have always found an alternative and left it in the closet. It's true calling, it seems, is as a beach/sun umbrella. Perhaps it is the ready availability of alcohol or perhaps the general bonhomie at these things, I'm not sure, but thus far it has lived out its life going from one family picnic or outing to another.

That's how THE umbrella came to be and how it ended up at MacGregor Point. It is almost eleven years later and the damn thing is still going strong.


I Has a Hat!
I has an hat!As you can see, it's natural to hold it and want to scream.
Jxox

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Inaugural Ramblings

First of all, gentle reader, welcome to my new home.

I have moved my musings to Blogger for quite a few reasons, the least of which is my current misunderstanding with Facebook. I'll get into that a bit later... I'm hoping tho', that by keeping my blogs here and by archiving my photos at Flickr, I'll save some archiving time and energy that could be spent elsewhere.

I've been at MSN Spaces since December 2004 and to be honest, I'm more than due for a change. To be fair, they have kept up with the times for the most part, adding features here and there... but I can't access it from work (I do have break time, folks...) and I'm updating it with my photography as well as updating Flickr every time I upload new pix. Then there is changing links and updates on entries and ugh! Too much! I'm trying to simplify my life these days, so from now on, blogs will be here, photographs will be on my Flickr profile.

-------------------------------------

Now for my little Facebook problem...

When I joined Facebook, I had my blog entries syndicated through the RSS feed to my Notes; that way any of my interested friends could keep up to date with what I was on about at any given time. With the new format, I guess there have been some security updates... specifically scripts (I'm assuming...) that check for usage of features. Since the RSS from Spaces was wonky at best (remember all the double photo album entries that really didn't work?) I guess it did not like updating from my blog and triggered some alarm somewhere that got me warned and blocked from making notes for 24 hours for my so called spamming activities. Once I got unblocked, I tried to rectify the situation... and promptly got my profile disabled. Now, when I try to log on, I get this:

"Your account has been disabled by an administrator. If you have any questions or concerns, you can visit our FAQ page here."

Of course, when you click on "Why?", you get this:

"Facebook enforces limits on the site in order to prevent certain actions that can be considered abusive. Your account has been disabled for persistent and rapid use of a certain feature. Unfortunately, for security reasons, we will not be able to further explain these limits."

and,

"Facebook has limits in place to prevent abuse of our features and to protect users from potential spam."

and

"Unfortunately, Facebook cannot provide any specifics on the rate limits that we enforce. Please know, however, that the speed at which you are acting and the sheer number of actions you have made are both taken into account."

Er, yeah...

So, by updating my blog with their defective softwear, I now have to plead to them via email to the "appeals" department to reinstate my account. All because I tripped some security feature protecting all of you from my Mommy ramblings and pretty flowers; a security feature that they cannot tell me about, nor can they tell me how not to activate it in the future. I really had to hunt for the contact email as well... not fun.

The sad part about all of this is that there are many friends that I only communicate with on Facebook... friends that I have lost touch with over time and just found and re-connected with again. I'm hoping a few of them will catch up with me again...

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In any event, here I am. It's going to be a while before I get used to my new space here... please be patient as I move the furniture around and try to hang a few pictures. Rest assured, gentle reader, the door is still always open, the light is always on... and PsychoJenic is always in.


Sunset Silhouette
Courage doesn't always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, "I will try again tomorrow.--Mary Anne Radmacher

Peace, Love and Lipgloss,
Jxox