Acute Viral Nasopharyngitis

Thumping headache–check
Raw sore throat–check
Mucus everywhere–check
Annoying cough–check

I have self-diagnosed acute viral nasopharyngitis AKA the common cold.

I’m miserable, whiney and, in all honesty, no joy to be around. For the first time since his departure, my sailor is likely relieved to be in Afghanistan.

Last night I tossed and turned so much I woke the dog, not just once but several times. Disgusted, she finally heaved herself up with a grunt and sat at the foot of the bed with her back to me.

How did I react? Like a normal, intelligent adult who realizes the dog has a pretty good life if she’s sleeping in my bed in the first place? (I’ve read that many of her canine cousins live outdoors in unfurnished structures called dog houses.)

I apologized. Sick and wretched in the middle of the night, instead of trying to make myself comfortable, I asked the dog for forgiveness. (I don’t even apologize to my sailor this profusely when my coughing wakes him, but then he never turns his back on me to demonstrate his annoyance.)

Did my apology work?

Not exactly. I had to pat the bed invitingly and give her a tummy rub when she deigned to come back to cuddle with me.

I need to add some cough syrup to my over the counter arsenal because I can’t face this disapproval again tonight.

The Awful Truth

When I was seven my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer.

Because we lived in a small town she had to go away for her treatment. It seemed like she was gone forever.

Because my parents were old-fashioned and old school, we weren’t told exactly what was going on, just that my mom was undergoing “tests” at a special hospital in Vancouver.

Because my older brother had a cruel streak, he told me our mom had died and our dad was too upset to tell us the awful truth.

When I was seven I started biting my nails, eventually gnawing off the entire nail on my ring finger.

My mom finally returned home to us, weak and worn out after her gruelling treatment. She was shocked by my bare nail bed and took me to the doctor. He made me wear a bulky splint on the finger until the nail grew back in, thin and translucent as onion skin.

I bit my nails for years afterwards. It’s not a habit one can kick lightly.

I finally stopped, as suddenly as I’d started, about a year after I finished university. I still don’t know what prompted it. It certainly wasn’t due to any will power or conscious effort on my part.

Recently I’ve started chewing on my fingers again–not so much my nails, but hangnails, loose tags of skin and even the edges of my cuticles. I tear at them with my teeth, often drawing blood.

It’s gross and it’s dirty and I’m embarrassed by the appearance of my hands. They tell the world I’m not coping too well right now.

And I can’t stop.

Winner, Winner–Chicken Dinner!

A quiet weekend, but that’s about all I have the energy for these days.

Lots of time in the kitchen, but I enjoy cooking when it’s not the weeknight dinner scramble.

We ran out of cookies and my boy requested a new batch, so baking was first on the agenda. This time instead of chocolate chips (which I adore), I used Reese Peanut Butter chips in my go to Martha Stewart recipe. My boy loves anything peanut butter flavoured, but I’m not wild about these chips. Hopefully this means I won’t end up eating all his cookies. In the total absence of self-restraint, I have to bake treats I don’t like too much.

The highlight of my kitchen adventures? A roast chicken with parmesan potatoes and baby carrots for Sunday dinner. Nothing makes the house feel as cosy on a rainy afternoon as the scent of some unfortunate creature roasting slowly in the oven. As usual, the dog parked herself in front of the stove, sniffing and drooling. I think she expects the ill-fated hen to stage a break out. It hasn’t happened yet, and I’ve tripped over the dog more times than I can remember, but I don’t have the heart to shoo her away and destroy her dream of meat that’s as big as she is.

With any luck, I’ve generated enough leftovers that I won’t have to do any major cooking until Wednesday or Thursday. If that happens, I’m the real chicken dinner winner.

Not A Lot Goin’ On

007Technology is great. Mostly

For instance, recent advances allow us to be tied to our jobs in ways unimagined by previous generations.

Your boss will try to convince you this is a good thing.

Like when our school district switched to an extraordinarily complicated online IEP programme, our administrator told us with a straight face, “It’s worth all the aggravation of learning this new system because you’ll be able to access your work from home now!”

Right–because being able to take work home is the dream of every employee.

Believe it or not, there are other negative aspects to the mushrooming technology we enjoy.

TV on DVD springs to mind.

Sure, it’s great to be able to watch your favourite shows whenever you want with no pesky commercials. The downside: your favourite shows playing constantly in the background without even one commercial break for respite.

My boy is on a Corner Gas kick.

Don’t get me wrong–I love Corner Gas. It’s the best Canadian show I’ve ever seen. (If you’re familiar with the work of the CBC, you’ll realize this is faint praise, indeed.)

Corner Gas is a great family friendly comedy that’s actually funny. It has quirky characters, a unique setting and cleverly written scripts. The bluest language you’ll hear is Oscar calling someone a jackass. He’s usually right.

I proudly recommend this great Canadian sitcom.

When our boy discovered it, we bought the first four seasons on DVD because, well, there’s not much on TV these days that I consider kid-appropriate. Corner Gas is, and it’s a good enough show that my sailor and I like it, too.

But not constantly. It’s been running nonstop every evening since school started three weeks ago.

It’s enough to make me curse the jackass who invented DVD players.

Writers’ Groups: The Good, the Bad and the Nasty

020My friend M is working on her first novel. She’s making good progress and enjoying the process, but her mom is pushing her to join a writers’ group.

A writers’ group is somewhat like a marriage. When it’s good, it’s amazingly good. When it’s bad, it can suck the creative life out of you.

I once belonged to what I thought was a good group. We met monthly and handed out copies of work to be critiqued and discussed. One member, Kathy, admitted she was working on a novel, but she never brought sections of her book to the meetings. Clearly she didn’t feel supported and safe within the group. Kathy eventually dropped out to devote more time to her novel.

She sent a couple of emails afterwards. Nothing too heavy–just saying hi and checking in. I was happy to discuss my writing journey and hear about hers. Not so our fellow gang, er, group members.

Julia, the defacto leader and the one I thought was the nicest of the bunch, announced that Kathy had the nerve to email her. “I refuse to acknowledge her since she left our group. She’s dead to me. Dead!” Okay, Julia may not have used those exact words, but you get the idea.

Yikes, I thought, that’s pretty harsh, but Kathy never really fit in with the group. Not like me. I was one of the popular girls. Everyone liked me and always complemented my writing.

Flash forward about a year to when I’d begun seriously working on my first novel.

I’m a busy person. I have a fulltime job, a family, an emotionally needy Chihuahua and a husband who disappears for months at a time. Something told me not to tell the group I was trying to write a novel. Maybe it was the way they criticized books written by local authors, even bringing them to meetings to gloat over typos or cheap bindings.

I continued writing short stories and essays for the group while working on my novel on the sly. That extra writing, as well as the meetings and critiquing their work began to take its toll. It pulled me away from what I wanted to concentrate on–my novel.

I’d learned from Kathy’s mistake. I didn’t tell them about my book. Instead I said I couldn’t make the meetings anymore because of a scheduling clash with my boy’s Tae Kwon Do. Darn it all–it was the same night, same time! No, there was no way my sailor or even a friend could take him. It had to me. Sigh–a mother’s work is never done.

Whew! I extricated myself from the gang with no hard feelings. I was quite proud of myself.

Pride was about to goeth before a fall.

A little later I emailed Julia. (What was I thinking???) She has an impressive website and I wanted to talk about website design. She didn’t respond. Worse, I’m certain she slagged me at numerous subsequent meetings. They’re probably still talking about me. “Did I tell you Nanette emailed me? She wanted to ask me about designing a website! I have no interest in communicating with her! Ever! She left the group!”

I’ve achieved a Kathy-like level of exile.

So back to M: Choose carefully when you join a writers’ group. Some of them take their membership commitments very seriously.

Recovering From the Weekend

016It doesn’t seem long ago that recovering from the weekend meant drinking lots of orange juice and vowing never to drink again or at least not until the next weekend.

These days, although the weekends are never as fun as they used to be, it takes considerably longer to recover from an especially challenging one.

On Friday after work when all I wanted was a glass of wine and a half hour to myself, I discovered (shudder) a flea on Penny’s tummy.

On Friday evening I gave the poor dog a toxic flea bath, hoping only the fleas would succumb to the poison and the dog would emerge unharmed by this traumatic experience. Not one dead flea dropped off her when I rinsed her and neither my boy nor I have been bitten, so hopefully it was just a lone vermin and not a full-blown infestation. Just in case, I stripped the beds and washed all the bed clothes in hot water. Then I vacuumed the entire house, including everything upholstered to catch any malingering fleas hoping for a free meal from the delicious mammals in our home.

Then I had to scrub the tub because we humans probably shouldn’t bathe in flea shampoo residue.

On Saturday morning when all I wanted was to bring a mug of coffee back to bed so I could lounge and read for a while, my boy woke up extra early with a stuffy nose, a sore throat and a nagging head ache. (Oh the joys of back to school and exposure to the cocktail of germs and viruses to which our children are exposed!) At least the house was clean, so after grocery shopping and an assortment of other really fun errands, I could devote myself to waiting on him hand and foot while worrying that I’m going to get whatever he has.

Since I need some joy in my miserable life, on Sunday I accessed some much-needed mall therapy. Yes, I know I’ve vowed to limit shopping, but I exercised admirable restraint given current challenging conditions: a couple of books, a scented candle, lip gloss (for medicinal purposes) and a pretty robin’s egg blue notebook.

What I saw, loved and didn’t buy even though it called my name: a supple leather Kate Spade handbag at Winners.

Even my sailor was impressed when I told him.

His reply to the news: I can’t believe you left without the Kate Spade bag!

How many sailors understand the allure of a Kate Spade purse? Clearly we were meant for each other.

Shop My Closet

005It’s not secret that I love to shop. Spending a day roaming through the mall is one of my favourite things to do. I don’t always buy things. It’s just fun to look.

Of course, you’re more likely to find that irresistible _______ (insert appropriate noun: dress, shoes, jeans, top, purse, sweater, other) if you spend all your free time shopping.

Once said special item has been located, it’s almost impossible to walk away without it. After all, you might never find something as _______ (insert appropriate adjective: cute, flattering, comfortable, slimming, unique, other) again. You’d be a fool to walk away from it, even if you already have three to five similar items at home.

I’m resolving to shop my closet until my sailor returns. We have big plans for our future which include a university education for our brilliant boy, a boat for our brilliant sailor and a trip or three back to Paris for our brilliant blogger. It’s time to look ahead to the big picture instead of falling for the instant gratification of whatever catches my eye at the mall (or lately, online.)

This will be easier said than done as nothing fills the big sailor-shaped void in my life like something pretty and new, but I will do my best to limit shopping for stuff I don’t need.

Things I will continue to buy without guilt:
1. Books (did you hear about the woman who discovered live bedbugs in a library book???–ewww!)
2. Skin care items (yes, I splurge on Clarins, but skin is actually a vital organ so this technically counts as health care.)
3. Salon visits (I have challenging Ukrainian wavy hair–thanks, Dad!–that needs serious TLC from highly trained professionals!)
4. The occasional latte while I’m on the go (life is tough and everyone needs a little treat now and then–this is mine. I’ve already switched to wine from a box. I can’t give up my Starbucks fix.)

It’s Not You, Honest!

035Dear Professor Scott,

I’m breaking up with you.

It’s not you. It’s me.

I enjoyed your video lectures, particularly the way you add cool special effects to your monologues. Social Psychology is fascinating and you’re an interesting teacher–really. (It’s not you, honest!) The required reading was good, too. Clearly you put a great deal of thought into choosing an appropriate text. Even the assignments were well designed. The one I completed was difficult enough to challenge me without frustrating me because it was too hard.

Sadly I have to break up with you because of me. I can’t devote over two hours a week to watching the video lectures. Add the thirty-five pages of required reading as well as the weekly assignment and exam and I was swimming in Social Psychology without a life jacket.

Maybe we can resume our association when I have more time and fewer responsibilities. Right now I’m singlehandedly responsible for the wellbeing of one busy boy and an emotionally needy Chihuahua. I’m taking care of a house and garden while working fulltime and doing my best not to burn out before my sailor returns to lend a hand or two. Instead of being something fun, Social Psychology was turning into the straw that threatened to break this camel’s back.

Perhaps this isn’t exactly social psychology (is there such a thing as personal psychology?–maybe I should have stuck with you, Professor Scott), but I’ve learned something about myself from this experience. When I have down time, I just want to relax with some fluff reading and some good chocolate and/or wine. Exams, assignments and required reading seem too much like work.

I’ve always been proud of my education. I earned three degrees without ever failing or dropping a course. However, I never worked during term time and I had no responsibilities other than succeeding at school. As an adult with a job and a family attempting to take an online course for interest, I realize how fortunate I was to have had the opportunities my parents provided for me as a young woman. I am in awe of any adult who returns to school in order to make a better life for his or her family.

Professor Scott, please don’t take this rejection personally. It’s not you. It’s me. Really.


No Skype for you!

IMG_0227I’ve said before that we’re more fortunate than earlier military wives because we have technology that allows us a great deal of contact undreamed of by previous generations.

The only downside to these miraculous twenty-first century gizmos is the disappointment when they don’t work.

With the time difference and my sailor’s long work days, our Skype time throughout the summer was 9:00-ish every morning. I started each day energized by the knowledge that my sailor was okay and he could sleep soundly with my angelic tones ringing in his ears. It was win win–when it worked.

Towards the end of the summer, Skype suddenly stopped working so well. More often than not we were unable to make the connection when we tried to call. I almost cried on Labour Day when he emailed to say he was too tired to keep trying to Skype and he was going to bed. School started the next day so that would be our last chance to speak until the following weekend.

Weirdly, it’s almost better now that we can’t even try because I’m at work before 9:00. Knowing he was there, a world away but in my moment, trying unsuccessfully to link up with me was devastating. It soured the rest of my day. Now I’m working again, I know there’s no chance of a connection during the morning rush so it’s not so raw when another day passes without speaking to him.

If the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over yet expecting different results then my sailor and I are on the spectrum. We tried to Skype about fifty times this weekend (hmm-fifty shades of frustration?) The closest we got was a session of instant messaging. (Not nearly as satisfying as the instant massaging sessions we enjoyed parked at the beach in his Mustang when were first dating, but better than nothing.)

How did our mutual disappointment affect us? My sailor was his usual calm, collected self while I was a hot mess by Sunday afternoon.

Woo Hoo!–A J. Crew Review

011002I rarely order from J. Crew since they started gouging Canadians. (Insert sad face.) Before they opened their first stores in Canada, I could order off the American website. Now, I’m redirected to a special website with higher prices whenever I attempt to initiate an order.

Recently J. Crew offered an additional 40% off sale items. Wow! There were good deals to be had even for those of us paying inflated prices based on our nationality.

I got a pair of dark matchstick jeans. I have a few pairs of J. Crew jeans and their sizing is consistent enough that I can order online and be confident they’ll fit as well as my old favourites. I love skinny jeans like these. I wear them with ballet flats when the weather isn’t too bad and with boots for the rest of the long wet winter.

I also got a couple of long sleeve perfect fit T’s as well–navy and white. Long sleeve T’s aren’t too exciting, but they’re staples in my winter uniform of a cardigan with a top or T underneath. J. Crew’s are cosy and soft and I know from past experience they’ll wash beautifully and not become all shapeless and saggy after only a few launderings.

The highlight of my order (and evidence of my purse addiction): the beautiful Brompton Hobo in soft, smooshy pebbled leather. It has lots of pockets for organization and a cross body strap that’s a must for a busy day at museums and galleries or (who am I kidding) just grocery shopping and running errands. It’s a plain, classic bag with no logos or tags for those of us who prefer not to advertise for wealthy handbag companies. Its only embellishment is a darling little brass turn lock. It reminds me of the clasp on a diary I had as a child. (With a snoopy older brother on site, I needed a sturdy lock on my journal.)

I trolled blog reviews of the Brompton Hobo for over a week before finally ordering this bag. J. Crew stylists are usually spot on putting together stunning outfits, but they dropped the ball on the Brompton Hobo. It looks horrible in the style guide (catalogue). They’ve stuffed it so full it’s like a swollen leather animal with handles. In real life, it’s a big bag, but so soft and squishy it’s not nearly as cumbersome as in the catalogue.

Would I have paid full price for it? Probably not, but with the sale and the extra discount, I got a great deal on a tough leather bag that will look just as beautiful in five years as it does today.