Sunday, September 30, 2007

We're in!

So we are in the new place. Yesterday was a very long day. (Made bearable and fun by our lovely family and friends who did so, so, so much to help out. Thanks, guys!)

We have snuck into Serdic's work so that we can both satisfy our internet addiction ... having no internet in the new apartment for a few days is going to be a trial. Although it's not like we don't have enough to do in the apartment ... being without internet means we might actually get it done before we go back to work on Tuesday!

Leaving my old place was very hard (there may or may not have been tears). I have been extremely happy in that apartment for nearly five years, and I've grown a lot and figured out a lot about myself. I think I truly for the first time became a happy person, comfortable in my own skin, while living in that apartment. So it was hard to leave. And I'm going to miss Serdic's apartment, too -- a lot of my favourite memories of the beginning of our relationship are in that apartment. But onward and upward ... the new place is gorgeous and spacious, and I think we're going to be really happy there. It's feeling a bit claustrophobic at the moment, with the piles of boxes and nothing where it's supposed to be, but the potential is there to make a really lovely home. We're really excited about that part, and hopefully by this time tomorrow we'll have made a good start at it. This is the fun part!

Friday, September 28, 2007

T Minus Nine Hours

Packing is nearly finished (we are nose deep in my shit belongings). Moving about to commence.

Pray for us, faithful readers.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Odds and ends

T minus 2 and a half days until The Move. Gah.

We received the new editions of the Library of Congress Subject Headings yesterday (this is perhaps my most frequently used daily tool in my job). Perhaps you have to be a librarian (or a cataloguer?) to understand how exciting that is. But everyone can understand the delicious smell of new books, fresh off the press. Yay. And I didn't even spill coffee on my copy on the first day which is, you know, unusual for me.

Saw a production of The Penelopiad at the NAC last night. Adapted from a story by Margaret Atwood, one of Canada's greatest and brightest literary lights, The Penelopiad tells the story of what Penelope and her twelve doomed maids were doing while they waited for Odysseus to come home from his Odyssey. Not exactly an uplifting story, which is par for the course with Greek myths, but beautifully presented and performed, with clever, inventive and moving story telling, capped off by a brilliant performance from the leading lady. Highly, highly, highly recommended. It plays at the NAC through next weekend, I believe.

People who are on my nerves today, in no particular order, include but are not limited to:

1) The lady who, during "rush hour" lunch time in the coffee shop, took several minutes to decide which biscuit she wanted to go with her soup, and had to be told the choices six times. They're biscuits, lady. Five minutes after you eat it you won't even remember what flavour you chose. Get on with it, or let the rest of us go ahead while you debate your options.

2) The bus driver who insisted on having the heat on high this morning, for some reason known only to him, as it was approximately 30 degrees (celcius, which translates to "too damn hot for the end of September" for my American friends) outside. Meaning a) I couldn't rest my leg against the side of the bus because the heat was burning right through my pant leg, so I had to sit in an uncomfortable position for the entire ride, and b) people started opening the windows, even though it was raining, which meant everyone got wet.

3) Gatineau's urban planners.

4) The lady who just got on the elevator with me who tapped her foot, chomped her gum, and obsessively pushed the button for her floor over and over and over. I get it, lady. You're in a hurry. You are very busy and important. Bully for you.

On a better note, the people I love today include but are not limited to:

1) Serdic, who while I was at the play hauled load after load of garbage and recycling out of my apartment. And for a multitude of other reasons.

2) My friend J, with whom I went to the play last night. I always love spending time with her.

3) My favourite coffee shop girl, who remembered I don't like tomato and so picked it all out of my tossed salad, making sure I got lots of peppers and cucumber instead.

4) All of our family and friends who are going to help us with The Move. We are very blessed when it comes to friends.

So it all balances out.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Pack Rats Anonymous

So I've started packing and, uh, I'm screwed. I packed all day yesterday (except for the two hour mid-afternoon nap Serdic and I took, which we both agreed was one of the Top Five Best Naps of All Time) and feel like I haven't made a dent. I know I must have, because there's a huge stack of boxes in my living room, but I've been doing the easy stuff first -- books, CDs, DVDs ... stuff that's coming off shelves and fits nicely into rows in the boxes. So all the shelves are empty, but all the big stuff remains. I did empty out the drawers of my desk last night, which was interesting. When I moved to Ottawa from London (Ontario, not England, sadly enough) I was in classes right up until a couple of days before I moved, so I just threw everything in boxes and didn't do much of a purge at all, so there is some stuff in this apartment that I haven't looked at since I was in London, and it's just gotten buried under other stuff. I came across all kinds of neat things, and all kinds of garbage.

It's interesting in general to sort through the last five years of my life as I get ready to move. To decide what I want to keep and what I don't need any longer (I am a pack rat so the second list is very long indeed). Sometimes it's bittersweet, like the moment last night when I stumbled across a birthday card from a couple of years ago from my grandparents, where my grandad had written his own message inside. That's unusual -- my grandmother usually just signed both of their names to any card they sent me. But for whatever reason (I suspect this card was the one I received the summer he was undergoing chemo and was quite ill), on this card he wrote a lengthy message of his own about how much he loved me and how proud he was to call me granddaughter. Something that was lovely at the time but got tucked in a drawer and forgotten is now a treasure beyond rubies.

It's also interesting to have someone else to share the chore. Serdic has been so good to me, hauling garbage and recycling down to the basement, cleaning and scrubbing and moving boxes, helping me figure out a plan of attack, and when things become overwhelming keeping me focused on the end goal, which is being snug as two bugs in a rug in our new place in less than a week.

Today, I tackle my front hall and bedroom closets. Pray for me, faithful readers.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

What he said

I was all ready to post a moving update this morning, but Serdic has it covered. Yay for firm moving in dates! Yay for building a home together! Boo for everything I have to do in the next ten days.

I will add a couple of things. One of my major responsibilities here has been that we are going to use my phone, cable, and utilities accounts (Serdic not having cable, his utilities included with his current abode, and us not needing two phone lines) and so I needed to make the arrangements to transfer them over. Serdic has taken care of so many of the arrangements to this point, being the one to do all of the phoning around, booking viewings of apartments, connecting with our future landlord for lease signings and move dates, so this is the least I could do. But there is a reason I have let him handle all of that ... I hate making phone calls. I don't know why, I just have this irrational hatred of picking up that phone and dialing. I don't mind talking on the phone (as those who have spent hours on the phone with me know all too well) but I hardly ever initiate the call. Serdic says one of the ways he knew I loved him was when I started phoning him, and I still don't do it all that often, preferring to drop an email if I can. Which is just silly. I'm the same way with just about everyone I know, up to and including my grandparents, sister, and closest friends. I think it stems from my insecurities and lack of self-confidence ... I'm always worried I'll be bothering/interrupting/annoying the person I'm trying to call. Which, again, is just silly. But there it is.

But. These accounts are in my name, therefore Serdic can't make these phone calls for me. (He would if he could, because he's just that damn awesome.) So I have been putting it off. And it has gotten into a vicious cycle, as now I feel guilty about putting it off, so I continue to put it off because I don't want to deal with it because I feel guilty. I felt like I was letting Serdic down, and I was mad at myself because I just had to do this one little thing and why was I being so stupid about it? Unfortunately, hoping something like this will go away hardly ever works, so today I sucked it up and called Bell to transfer my phone service and find out our new phone number (which we need to provide to other people).

And of course it was fine, and no problem, and the customer service agent was terrific (I actually dropped Bell an email -- see? -- to compliment her, because I think we are all so quick to complain but we don't take time out often enough to say "well done, you") and we are all good to go. I figured out how to transfer my utilities online, and also set up a mail forwarding account with Canada Post for the next six months. So now I just need to call Rogers to deal with the cable, and that's the major bills dealt with (already changed my address online with bank last week). Just doing something about it has made me feel so much better, as of course is so often the case.

And while I have been doing all that, my beloved has been doing this.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Musings from a bus

In theory, I am a firm supporter of public transit. I think it's good to reduce the number of cars on the road, public transit for me is definitely cheaper than maintaining a car, I don't have to worry about weather or traffic and can just settle in with a book and my iPod, and I am willing most of the time to deal with the increased inconvenience of not having a car in order to be a good citizen and save money. But there are definitely times when I hate, hate, HAAAAATE taking the bus. And as I think about it, I realize that 90% of that is because of the other idiots who take public transit as well. And I'm not even talking about people like the ladies I overheard last year talking about how they refused to take the #2 bus anymore because of all the, and I quote, "coloured people" who ride that route nowadays (the girl sitting next to me and I exchanged the most perfect raised eyebrow "Whaaaaaaa?" look when we heard that), but just your general garden variety urban assholes.

I have long thought these Urban Asshole Notification Cards were inspired, and wished I had the guts to order a pack or two and use them. But I think we need to make up ones specifically for users of public transit. Violations would include:

1) Getting on an empty bus with only one other person and sitting down directly beside that other person. Sure, just like sitting next to the only other person in a movie theatre, there is nothing specifically rude or wrong about sitting where you want to sit, but why bypass all the other empty seats in order to be in someone else's personal space?

1b) Taking up more than your allotted space when you do sit next to someone. Now, I'm a big girl, I realize this, but when I am sharing a seat on the bus with someone I make every effort to make myself as small as possible and not intrude on my seatmate. And that includes making sure my purse and any other bags stay on my side of the dividing line. Men who sit with their legs spread and slouched down in their seats? That doesn't make your penis any bigger, sorry.

2) Conversely, the bus is packed and people are standing in the aisles, and yet somehow your backpack still needs its own seat. There better be an original of the Magna Carta in that backpack, because otherwise I'm not understanding what, exactly, is so special about it. Move it, asshole, and let someone sit down.

3) Getting on the bus and standing in the aisle directly behind the driver, instead of moving further back. Forcing everyone who wants to get on or off the bus to squeeze past you.

4) Wearing a backpack while standing in the aisle ... you are guaranteed to be smacking someone who is seated in the head with that backpack every time you move.

5) Waiting until you are on the bus to start looking for your pass/fare. You have been standing at the bus stop for ten minutes, putz. Why do you now need to hold up a line of people waiting to get on the bus while you fumble through every last pocket (and they are invariably wearing cargo pants with eleventy billion pockets)? Minus an extra ten points if you do this on a rainy day, making everyone else behind you wait in the rain.

6) Carrying on a loud conversation, either with a companion or on your cell phone. Nobody cares, nobody wants to hear it. Keep your voice down.

7) Testing all the different ring tones on your cell phone. Yes, faithful readers, I have seen this more than once. Sure, it's something to do to occupy yourself on a long bus ride. Too bad you're going to burn in hell.

8) Plopping down in one of the priority seats at the front of the bus, pulling out a book and studiously ignoring the elderly, disabled or pregnant riders who get on after you. You're able bodied and healthy -- be thankful for that and let someone who needs it have the seat.

9) Carrying on a lengthy conversation with the driver about anything other than the route or what stop you need. He or she is doing a very difficult job, and has the lives of many other people in his or her hands. No one cares what movie you saw last night or your thoughts on the current political climate in Ontario. Let the driver do his or her job without distraction or irritation.

In short, sit in your seat, keep quiet, don't intrude on other people and be courteous to those around you. You wouldn't really think it would be that hard, eh?

Tune in next week when we continue our lessons in how not to be an urban asshole, with sessions on elevator ettiquette and "Sidewalks: For walking, not gawking ... or biking."

Tuesday, September 11, 2007


Things I will not miss about living in a highrise, part 1:

3 a.m. fire alarms. In the rain.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Something's cooking

So after my two long and apparently tear jerking posts last week, let's lighten things up a little bit. I've posted two recipes I've tried recently ... I admit to not being that great, or adventurous, a cook, but being with Serdic (who is a FABULOUS cook ... girls, you should be extremely jealous of the catch I have made, and not only because he knows his way around a kitchen) has forced me to step things up a bit and try to bring my "A-game" on a more regular basis. My personal trainer turned me on to a website called Spark People, which is a great resource for health and fitness, and I have been checking out some of their recipes. What follows is two of my new favourites, both of which I highly recommend ... you can eat healthily without sacrificing flavour. I have to keep telling myself this. *eye roll*

In other news, we officially signed the lease on the new apartment this weekend. We move in three weeks. Eeek.

Baked Honey Mustard Chicken

I made this recipe for the first time last week and we agreed that we both loved it. The chicken turns out really moist and juicy, and the sauce is great over rice. I used dijon mustard and thought it was a bit too tangy ... I would try using something a little softer next time, but all in all two thumbs up. It was crazy easy to put together.

1 1/4 lb. boneless skinless chicken breast
1/2 c. honey
1/2 c. yellow mustard (or dijon for a different flavor)
1 tsp. dried basil
1 tsp. paprika
1/2 tsp. dried parsley

Preheat oven to 350 F.Place chicken in a lightly greased 9x13inch baking dish.In a small bowl, combine the honey, mustard, basil, paprika, and parsley. Mix well. Pour 1/2 of this mixture over the chicken, and brush to cover.Bake in the preheated oven for 30 min. Turn chicken pieces over and brush with the remaining 1/2 of the honey mustard mixture. Bake for an additional 10 to 15 min, or until chicken is no longer pink and juices run clear. Let cool 10 min before serving.

Curried Mango Pork Chops

I've made this recipe several times now, and we both love it. I put the mango and coconut in the pan to heat them through with the other toppings, which I think helps the flavours blend a little better. It's a pretty easy recipe and goes really well with rice and some kind of green vegetable.

4 boneless pork chops, 3/4-inch thick
2 teaspoons curry powder
1/4 teaspoon seasoned salt
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
4 sliced green onions
1/4 cup raisins
1/3 cup chicken broth
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1 fresh mango, peeled, seeded and diced
2 tablespoons flaked coconut

Season chops with curry powder and seasoned salt. Heat oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Brown chops on both sides, turning once, for a total of 7-8 minutes. Remove chops from pan, reserve. In small bowl stir cornstarch well into chicken broth. Add onions, raisins, and chicken broth mixture into skillet; cook and stir until slightly thickened. Return chops to pan; heat through. Serve chops garnished with mango and coconut. Makes 4 servings (3 oz cooked pork per serving.)

Recipe courtesy of National Pork Board

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Happy Birthday, Grandad

Yes, this will make two very long and rambling posts back to back this week. Hopefully you'll bear with me. Obviously I'm feeling a bit introspective these days.

I've been thinking about my Grandad a lot lately, as it would have been both his 78th birthday and his and my grandmother's 56th anniversary this week. We lost him to cancer on December 28th, 2005, a date that I think will always stand out as a turning point in my life. Up until his death I had never had to deal with loss, had never really truly mourned. Sure, I had been to funerals, I had dealt with the loss of family pets, but this was the first time I had really had to come to terms, as an adult with the full understanding of what it meant, with the loss of a beloved family member. I realize how lucky that makes me, that I would be within sight of my 30th birthday with all four grandparents alive and well and active forces in my life. But it also made the moment all that more shattering when it came.

My Grandad was much more to me than a kindly old man I visited on school holidays or a shadowy figure who sent annual birthday presents, the way I hear some of my friends describe their grandparents. He was very present in my life, an inspiration, a source of laughter and comfort, in every way that matters a hero to me, and to all who knew him. He was a minister in the United Church of Canada and his quiet, unshakable, simple (in the best sense of the word) faith shaped my understanding not only of God but of the world in general. My cousin L said in his portion of the eulogy that Grandad was one of the few people who truly believed that it's not whether you win or lose, it's how you play the game, and he demonstrated that to us every day, simply by living as faithfully and as well as he could. His loss has left a huge hole in our lives and our family, one that will never really be filled. I think of him, and miss him, every single day.

What follows is a portion of my eulogy from his funeral ... I don't think I could say it any better than I did that day to honour him.

How do we mourn someone who lived so well and died so loved? Love is the first word that came to mind when I started to think about what I wanted to say today. Love, for me, is what defined Grandad, and certainly love is what I will remember most about him. His family, his God, his Newfoundland home, his St. Lawrence river … his love for all these things and many more just shone out of him and shaped every day of his life. As a grandchild I felt the full force of that unconditional, unending, unlimited love. I will never forget how his face would light up whenever one of us would come into the room – even the last time I saw him. I walked into his hospital room and he turned and smiled at me and said “Good morning, honey.” His relationship with his grandchildren was most decidedly a mutual admiration society.

He had a store of love that just expanded exponentially to encompass every new thing and person who crossed his path. I always knew how much he loved me and how much his family adored him, but what has really struck me in the last few days is how much every person who ever met him treasured him. The messages that have poured in from people who knew him 40, 50, 60 years ago have humbled and awed me. My Grandad, the man who once dropped his pants in the middle of Christmas dinner to show us his new Christmas boxer shorts, is the same man who inspired such love and respect from all these people? Not that I didn’t believe him worthy of such accolades, but my focus tended to be more narrow, more concerned with what he meant to me personally. To realize he meant so much to so many people has made me prouder than ever to call myself his granddaughter, and I know it is something I will carry with me all my life.

There are no words I can think of that will do justice to all he was and all he meant, and continues to mean, to me. His humour, his smile, his faith, his stories, and above all his unceasing, boundless, overwhelming love. All these things I will carry with me, and all these things will give me strength and comfort in the days to come and for the rest of my life.

A card I was given recently puts it best, I think. “A remarkable man is gone now, and this world seems a little lessened somehow because he is not a part of it. A little less wise and great, a little less good and brave.”

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

In good company

I first became seriously involved with the "online world" sometime in the summer or fall of 1995. I don't remember the exact details of the timeline, but I spent the school year of 1994-1995 in Denmark on an exchange, and when I returned my parents had just set up a connection (dial up! ugh!) and were starting to explore what was out there. I knew about email and the internet before that, of course, but this was my first real exposure to what was available. So I sat down at the computer one sunny afternoon in late 1995 and typed "Andrew Lloyd Webber" into a search engine (I was, and remain, a huge musical theatre geek, and his name was the first thing that came to mind). I stumbled across a discussion forum devoted to his works, which led me to a discussion forum about theatre in general, both of which were populated by many of the same posters.

And a new world dawned.

Hard as it may be for you to believe, I did not fit in in high school (shocking, I know). Bullied, brainy, unattractive (or so I thought at the time), more interested in books and plays than boy bands or makeup, growing up in a small town where I had been labelled many years before as "not one of the cool kids" (and you know how labels stick in a small town), I had a lot of trouble finding my place. Denmark helped, big time, by letting me start over in a way, with people who didn't know me from before and who, gasp, seemed to like me just fine. I grew a lot that year. Coming back to the same small town and the same people from before was backsliding in a lot of ways. And then I found people online who were just like me. People who loved to debate the minute details of musical theatre, who had read all the same books, who didn't care about New Kids on the Block, who, like me, were struggling to find their place, who didn't fit in in their small towns or schools. I never knew there were so many people like me out there.

I formed some friendships in those early days that lasted the better part of ten years (although I am no longer in touch with anyone from those days, as we grew apart and lost touch, I still read one of the forums daily, and it is still going strong although, of course, many of the posters have changed). I had trips to New York City and Toronto, and other places, to see shows, I met some of my favourite actors and performers, I spent hours in chat rooms and on email, trading stories and song lyrics and planning our next get together. I was well liked, I fit in, I was part of a community of friends in a way I had never really been before. I had found "my people."

After I finished university I struggled again to find my place. I had my shiny new BA in English, but I didn't know what I wanted to be now that I was grown up. I was waitressing (not a total loss, in retrospect, as that was where I met Serdic for the first time ... boy, life is funny), half heartedly applying for jobs that sounded interesting, but with no real idea of what direction I wanted to take. Somehow I discovered the actor Colin Firth, developed a massive (although harmless!) crush on him, and got involved with a couple of online communities devoted to discussing him and his work. I even ended up moderating one group for awhile, and devoting a lot of work to keeping it going day to day. It gave me something to focus on, a bright spot in what was at that point a fairly dreary existence (yes, I do realize in the grand scheme of things I had it pretty good, but it's not a period of my life I look back on with great fondness), and there was a lot of laughter and excitement. Again, it led to field trips to meet other members of the list, and even a brief, although thrilling, sighting of the man himself in Toronto one year at the film festival. Things I never would have done or experienced on my own, made possible by these people I would never have met if it weren't for the interwebs.

I went back to school to do my masters, and eventually got too busy to moderate the list anymore, although I still remain a (mostly lurking) member of another list. But one friendship I developed out of those days still survives, and Cupcake remains one of my dearest friends. She talked me through a lot of hard times, a lot of self doubt and questioning, but also has been there in the happy times, always one of the first to send her best wishes and love and I know she's always cheering me on. Someone I've never "met," never even talked to on the phone. And yet she means the world to me.

I'm going to skip over the online long distance relationship that dragged on for two years, because, really, who wants to rehash that? ;-) I will say, however, that that relationship did a lot to prepare me for the relationship I have now, as I learned a lot about myself and what I do and don't want, and what I am and am not willing to compromise on/put up with. Would I have been ready for Serdic and what we're building together if I hadn't had that experience? Probably not. All things happen for a reason, right?

Currently I spend most of my online time with my group of about 30 friends who came together through, of all things, a message board dedicated to The Bachelor (ah, yes, my guilty pleasure reality tv secret is exposed). Within that board there was a thread where we were allowed to blather on about off topic things, and a core group of us developed a friendship. When that board was closed we moved, eventually, to our own private board, and the privacy of the new board (password protected, by invitation only, etc.) allowed us the freedom to talk a lot more openly about our lives. We're all over North America, but every couple of months two or more people from the board meet up for one reason or another ... although I have not met everyone on the board (I've met more than half of them) everyone on the board has met someone else on the board, which really strengthens our sense of community. I check in daily for the hilarity and gossip, but more than that they are usually the first people I turn to for advice, for comfort, to share good news or just a silly story about something that happened at work. We have done virtual baby showers for each other, and when my grandfather died I was showered with cards and gifts from them. We have gone through weddings, break ups, births, deaths, financial struggles, good fortune, and all of the ups and downs of life together. I cannot say enough about the support and love this group has shown me over the past few years, and how they have helped me find my place as a well adjusted, happy, productive member of society.

All this to say that I sat at my desk yesterday and cried tears of joy and thanksgiving for someone I have never met. Someone I do not know very well, but who I know is vitally important to Serdic (which makes her vitally important to me), and who has provided him with a lot of the things my online friends have given me (as detailed ad nauseum in the preceeding paragraphs!). Kiy and her husband have just, after years of waiting, been matched with a little girl, and they will soon be off to China to bring their new daughter home. It still blows my mind sometimes that the internet allows me to meet people all over the world, people I would never have been able to connect with otherwise, and share in their lives, their joys and their sorrows, and have them share in mine. For a girl who grew up believing she was weird, believing she would never really quite fit in, the realization that there are so many people out there "just like" me was a staggering one.

What a world.