Friday, August 29, 2008

Changing gears

So this morning my horoscope said "Sudden challenges present themselves. Be prepared to change gears at the drop of a hat." Which is funny, if you know that I spent most of yesterday afternoon dealing with the sudden and complete collapse of Zoom airlines ... the airline upon which Serdic and I had booked our flights to and from London (leaving in less than two weeks). It was a bit of a scramble, but I was eventually able to book flights on the same dates with Air Canada (for $200 more per person!) and I think we are still all systems go for our trip. I was not expecting to have to spend an extra $2000 yesterday, and I am very fortunate that between us we were able to make the snap decisions and do the financial juggling necessary to make it happen (cell phones and online banking with joint accounts -- what a world!*). It really brought home for me how much my financial situation has changed in the last year ... there was a time not so long ago when coming up with $2000 on the spur of the moment would simply not have been possible, and we would have had to cancel the trip, or at least postpone it until the refund from Zoom was processed (Visa promises me that they will get my money back, but it will have to be after the scheduled dates of travel, after Zoom "fails to provide the service," so things will be a little tight until then, but it's doable).

*On a side note I am constantly amazed by how much money passes through my bank accounts every month without ever actually physically being money. My paycheque is deposited automatically, all bills are paid online, 99% of the shopping is done with debit/credit cards, my savings accounts are all automatic contributions online. I try to imagine sometimes what life would be like if we were still bartering livestock for services rendered! Now I go whole weeks without even seeing any physical, tangible money. (If only I could go whole weeks without spending any!)

So, as always, never a dull moment. This Zoom thing is a hiccup, but it seems to be sorting itself out and we are fortunate that we are in a position where we can make alternate arrangements (and are not stranded in another city trying to get home). Many people are less fortunate than we, and I try to remember that. Even as I was cursing and throwing things yesterday.

But I sure hope no more "sudden challenges" are on the horizon.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

A picture's worth a thousand words

We've been enjoying some beautiful weather here in fair Ottawa (finally, after what has been an extremely rainy and cold summer) and Serdic and I have been trying to get out for walks as much as possible, both to take advantage of the nice weather and to get in shape for England (lots of walking!). Also, I want to play with my new camera. So here are some photos I've taken over the last couple of weeks ... click on the "all sizes" option above each photo to see it larger, and you can get a good sense of the clarity and quality of photo this camera takes. I am very pleased with it so far, and I don't even really know how it works yet!

Check them out here.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Random thoughts

So Serdic tagged me in a meme. 6 Random Things, huh? Let's see.

1) I believe in ghosts. Not to say I necessarily believe in white sheet draped creatures swooping through haunted houses, but I believe that the spirits of people who are extremely attached to a certain place for one reason or another can continue to inhabit that place after the person has died. Someday I'll have to tell the story of my own encounter with a ghost! (I keep trying to turn it into a novel, but that's still a very nebulous dream at the moment.)

2) One of the great loves of my life is musical theatre. Not as a performer (my last appearance on stage was at the age of eight, in a production of The Sound of Music) but as an audience member. There's no place on earth I'd rather be than in a theatre as the lights go down and the orchestra strikes up the overture. Heaven on earth. Next February will mark the tenth anniversary of my first trip to New York and my first Broadway show (also The Sound of Music, coincidentally) but I love theatre in all its forms, from tiny little high school productions to community theatre to professional big budget spectacles. On one trip to NYC in November 2001 my friend Stacy and I saw five shows in 48 hours (Friday 8 p.m., Saturday 2 p.m., Saturday 5 p.m., Saturday 8 p.m., and Sunday 2 p.m.) and on Saturday as we literally ran from theatre to theatre I remarked to Stacy that I thought this is probably what heaven is like. You get up from one show, run down the street to the next theatre, settle in and they perform a fantastic show for you, then you get up and run down the street to the next theatre and do it all again. I have very fond memories of that trip, and of every show I've ever seen.

3) I'm having trouble coming up with six things, so I asked Serdic what I should say. "What do you find random about me?" I asked. "Everything, dear," was the reply.

4) I can never answer those "what's your favourite book" questions. I always have sixty-two answers, depending on my mood. I have lots of old friends that I come back to time and time again, but I can never choose just one. At this time I have four books on the go, three I have never read before, and one old friend. Oh, and also the People magazine that I picked up yesterday.

5) I am a very bad packrat. I keep EVERYTHING. It is a sickness.

6) I present six random photos taken with my new camera yesterday (have I mentioned how much I love my new camera? Because I do. A lot.):

I don't think I have six people to tag, but I'll tag Cupcake, PetDoc, Noise (they share a blog but they can make separate entries!), BluffDwellers, and Charlotte. Feel free to play along if you like, and if you don't, that's ok too!

Friday, August 15, 2008

Defy gravity

Well, it's been quite a week. Thanks to everyone for their birthday wishes on Wednesday -- I had a perfect birthday and felt showered with love and good thoughts. I am very blessed to have so many wonderful people in my life, and it was a nice day to remind me of that. My parents were up for the day, as they were flying out of Ottawa that evening to visit PetDoc and Noise in London (we go in 26 days! wheee!), and my grandmother (whose birthday I am honoured to share) and my Aunt C came along as well. We had a lovely lunch out at one of my favourite restaurants, and Serdic was even able to slip away from work long enough to join us for lunch. After lunch we retired back to our apartment for cake (Serdic's famous cheesecake) and a visit, then I took the folks to the airport and saw them off to London. After dinner I went to a choir rehearsal (one of my choirs is singing at the Ottawa SuperEx next week, so we had a quick rehearsal to brush up some of last season's repertoire) and got to make music with my friends, one of my favourite things in the world to do. All in all, a great day.

I was also spoiled rotten, as usual. My big present this year was a joint effort between Serdic and my parents -- a digital SLR camera. It is quite a camera, I have to say. Definitely a huge step up from my old one, and, I'm not ashamed to admit, more than a little daunting. There are just so many dials and buttons and numbers that don't (yet) mean anything to me. Serdic decided I needed a better camera after I had those photos noticed online for the Quebec exhibition and the online travel guide. I do think, without blowing my own horn too much, that I do have a fairly good natural eye for photography, and I definitely enjoy it, and so Serdic decided it was time I had better equipment to work with. This camera is definitely that, and very intimidating, but I'm really looking forward to figuring out all the bells and whistles and learning how to take even better photographs. I'm hoping to get out and about a lot over the next few weeks so I can figure this thing out before we go to England!

I was given lots of other generous and thoughtful gifts, of course, and I am grateful for them all, but I just want to mention one other one. It is well known in my circle that Strongbow (English cider) is my drink of choice when we go out, and everytime we go to a pub where they serve it in Strongbow branded glasses, I lust after them and wonder if I can get away with smuggling them out in my purse. So my friend Pixie called around (by which I pretty sure she meant badgered and pleaded) all the pubs in Ottawa until she found one willing to sell her four. So now I have my own set of Strongbow glasses. Isn't that cool?

The festivities continued last night as Serdic and I attended a performance of Wicked at the NAC. I have wanted to see Wicked for at least five years now, so I was very excited when it was announced it was coming to Ottawa, and even more so when we got tickets for my birthday week. And the show last night did not disappoint. For those who are not familiar with it, the show is based on a novel by Gregory Maguire which presents an idea of what the Wicked Witch of the West's side of the story might be, and how she came to be "wicked." The score is one of my favourite scores written for the theatre in the recent past, and it was performed beautifully last night. All of the actors were strong and the production values were top notch. The act one finale, "Defying Gravity," was for a long time a sort of theme song for me (I particularly liked the line "And if I'm flying solo, at least I'm flying free") and last night it blew me away. The special effects in that number (I won't give it away) are stunning as well. All in all I loved it and never wanted it to end, and I would highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys theatre (it's playing here for the next two weeks).

I'll leave you with a few photos taken with my new camera, a couple of Miss Bella, and a few of the lovely flower arrangement Serdic's parents sent me for my birthday (isn't that sweet?).

Monday, August 11, 2008

Further Traffic Follies, and other adventures

Would you believe I was involved in a second fender bender last week (on Thursday)? This time I was not driving, I was on the bus, but the bus bumped the car in front of him at a red light (the bus driver appeared to think the car driver had an opportunity to turn right, and didn't take it, so he laid on the horn and then inched forward bit by bit until ... bump). The car driver was (rightfully so, I think) irritated by this (there was no damage to his car, but it is the principle of the thing) and insisted on having a supervisor and the police called, so we all had to pile off the bus and wait for the next one.

The kicker? When I got off the bus and took a good look at what was happening, I realized that the guy in the car? Was our downstairs neighbour! What are the odds? I stayed out of it at the time, and haven't seen him since, but I am dying to ask him how the situation was resolved.

I offered to stay home on Friday, as I felt it was only right for me to stay off the roads, as my traffic jinx appeared to be extending to my friends and neighbours. It was suggested here at work that we could have a new national holiday, and call it The Singer National Safety Day. Everyone stays off the roads, and we all win. Good plan, no?

In other news, thanks to everyone for their support and suggestions on my recent weight loss/get in shape resolution. I am happy to report that I have lost four pounds in the last two weeks. I realize that the first ten pounds are the easy part, with the water weight and all the rest, but it's a step in the right direction. I have been taking my lunch every day, taking the stairs at work, and making some different choices in the grocery store/restaurants. It's starting to pay off, at least a little. I am now on the hunt for suggestions for exercises I can do at home -- I bought an exercise ball and a set of resistance bands, and while they came with suggested exercises I'd like to mix it up a little bit as well. Any thoughts?

Four weeks until we leave for England! Woot!

Monday, August 4, 2008

It must be Monday

So it's been a hell of a day already, and it's not even 9:30. Sigh. Where to start? Perhaps with the cats and other beasts who kept us up all night ... not our cat, but the one(s?) from next door, who are allowed to roam free. Last night they got into it not once, not twice, but at least three times with something else (I think it was raccoons, but I'm not sure), apparently over garbage can rights (they were knocking the cans around). Every time I had just drifted off to sleep the caterwauling (what a perfect word) began again, driving our own cat crazy (she was plastered to the window for most of the night, begging us to let her out) and making us come awake with a start. Then I would just get settled back down and my heart would stop racing and I would drift off to sleep and ... again. Our next door neighbours appear to be trying to turn their backyard into some kind of nature reserve (I think it just looks overgrown and messy, but what do I know?) and they have a backyard full of wildlife, birds, and their own cats (at least two different ones I've seen, there may be more). One night recently my friend S dropped me off after a girls' night and as we sat in the car chatting we saw both a skunk and a family of raccoons waddle across the road and disappear into the wilderness of the neighbours' backyard. So, you know, enjoying nature and wildlife is not a bad thing (although I would have more respect for their efforts if they weren't doing serious damage to the earth in other ways, like the vehicles they have rusting away in their backyard, but I digress) but if you want to establish a wildlife preserve in your backyard perhaps downtown Ottawa isn't the best place for you to be living?

Anyway. So I finally rolled out of bed this morning and headed out to work. Serdic is off today (the Ontario civic holiday, but as I work in Quebec I don't get it off) so I had the rare pleasure of taking the car (driving instead of taking the bus slashes my commute by 40 minutes, so it is a nice treat). And I was enjoying my drive immensely until I was rear ended at a red light -- I was turning right, stopped to yield to oncoming traffic (since I had, you know, the red light), and the guy behind me didn't stop. Sigh. Fortunately, no damage was done to either car, or driver (although I'm feeling a bit stiff and sore now, but I imagine that's just the tension), so we just got back in our cars and went on our way.

Arrived at work still a little shaken and spent ten minutes looking for parking -- the city has been slowly chipping away all the available parking around our building. The closest municipal lot has been closed (and is being torn up), the next closest has been changed to a park and ride for the bus system, and is by monthly permit only. All of the street parking is by permit only. Our building doesn't provide any day use parking, it is all by monthly permit as well. I finally found a municipal lot a ten minute walk away, where the meter ate up all my available change (usually those things have a credit card slot, but this one didn't). Fortunately it's a nice day and I can use the exercise so the walk is not really an issue, but it was just one more frustration this morning (and one more frustration in general about working in this location, but that's a rant for another time).

So I got to my desk, called Serdic to tell him about the car (like I said, no damage, but I wanted to check in with him), and promptly burst into tears as soon as I heard his voice. Sigh. After a good cry and chat with him and another cup of coffee, though, I'm feeling a little better and ready to start work. And the best news? Is that Monday only comes once a week.

When I was little, one of my favourite books was Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. Poor Alexander has a terrible day where nothing goes right, and he keeps threatening to move to Australia. At the very end of the story his mother reminds him that "some days are like that, even in Australia."

Just call me Alexander today.