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Monday, March 31, 2014

March 31st, 1984

We met in Grade 6.  Well, "met" might not quite be the word.  His family had just moved to Richmond from Boucherville, Quebec and we ended up in the same class at James Gilmore Elementary School.  I don't remember much about him when he first arrived, except that he had a striped t-shirt and he played the snare drum.

We probably got to know each other a little more when I took up clarinet and we were in the school band together.  But it wasn't until high school that we really got to know each other, when we both became involved in the drama club.  I don't really know why I joined the drama club, I had no aspirations to act.  It could be that one of my friends joined up and I just followed.  Somehow or another, I always ended up playing a wench.

I remember auditioning once for a very small part answering a telephone.  I didn't get the part.

He, on the other hand, definitely had a flair for drama, and he got several leading roles.  During our high school years, we would occasionally see each other, but it wasn't really "dating".  That didn't happen until 1980, when he moved to Victoria.  He had graduated from college and got a job there. Oddly enough, this is when he seemed to miss me and he began writing me letters out of the blue. No such thing as email or Facebook friending back then, letters and telephones were IT :-)

Our long distance romance was tough, but we lasted through four years of that, only breaking up once for a short time.  He decided to buy a house and asked me if I wanted to buy it with him.  I didn't want to in case we broke up again.  I mean, it could happen!  But he bought it anyway and not long after, we decided to move in together.  I took some holidays and came to Victoria to look for a job first, but didn't find one right away.  He suggested I move over anyway, so I did.

It was about eight months after that, that we got married.  March 31st, 1984.

Soon we will mark our 30th year of marriage, but we actually like to count back from the year we met, 1969.  I don't really know why we started doing that, but when you think of it, how many people do you know who are married and who met when they were in Grade 6?  We like to think that our history has a lot to do with our being able to stick together.  It's like we grew up together.  And hopefully we'll grow old together.

We know each other about as well as any two people could.  We have the things we like to do together, like our trips to Hawaii and working in the yard, and golfing, and we've even worked together on many television projects.  And we have things we do apart...I think that makes for a healthy relationship.

We decided early on that when we argued, we had to be fair with each other.  That's not to say arguments never got heated, but there would be no bullying, or nastiness just for the sake of nastiness.  I don't know how we were mature enough to figure that out so early, but I think it helped us get through a lot.   And like any marriage, we've been through plenty.  I wrote a song about us a few years back called Meant 2 B:

I like to rise with the light of day
Get a good head start on the world that way
But he can hardly find the strength
To tumble out of bed

And when we talk, I'm a lightening mouth
I never think it all through before it gets out
And I watch in agony
While he ponders what to say

I'm a little left, he's a little right
But when we're in between, we hold on tight

Cause it's meant to be
Oh he knows the worst and he loves the best of me
The verdict's in and the stars agree
Love was meant to be this way

The money comes and the money goes
He holds it too tight and I just let it flow!
And while he works and he plans ahead
I live to play today!

Yeah, and if I were a TV set
He'd have a lot more time for me I'd just bet
And if he were a romance novel
I'd never put him down

He's a microwave to my "slow cook" 
I could almost write a whole damn book!

But we're meant to be
Well he knows the worst and he loves the best in me
The verdict's in and the stars agree
Love was meant to be this way

Late at night he's always up for more
Of what I can't keep my eyes open for...

But it's meant to be
Well he knows the worst and he loves the best in me
The verdict's in and the stars agree
Love was meant to be this way
Love was meant to be this way...

30 years and we've only just begun :-)
Love always, IJ

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Rags to Kitchens, Part 1

Sunday, March 16th, 2014

Last week I wrote about my distaste (understatement) for cleaning the house.  There was a reason I was thinking so much about cleaning last week.  That is because we are going to have Amy McGeachy, the host of "Design District", the home design television series, visiting us tomorrow.   We will be doing a lot of house renovations in the next while and we want to get some of her ideas. The first room on the list is the kitchen.

I have wanted a new kitchen since time began.  Well, at the very least, since I actually had a kitchen to hate.  I have hated all of my kitchens, mostly because we have lived in older homes, our present one being no exception.  It was built in 1944, but when we moved into it, it had last been "renovated" in the 1970's.  The kitchen was completely painted a pale, high gloss green...everything was that colour, including the inside and the outside of the cupboards.  And it had a carpet.  Yes, a carpet.  It was brown.  You didn't want to walk in there with bare feet.  Eeewww.

Eventually we pulled the carpet up and replaced it with linoleum, and we repainted the walls and cupboards a couple of times, and once we even put new laminate on the counter tops.  But even with new hardware, the cupboards were a pain in the butt to keep closed and nothing ever sat quite right. We replaced appliances, we painted again.  Paint upon paint, splattered on the linoleum floor that kept getting new dings and nicks.  Ugh.  The idea of a whole new kitchen makes me delirious with excitement.

A number of years ago we decided we had to completely overhaul our back yard.  We invited an English couple, gardening experts, to come and give us some ideas.  I still remember the look on their faces when they saw the condition it was in, and when we told them how much we had to spend.  Not much.  We've actually come a long way in our back yard with a lot of grunt work, and it is a relatively decent place to spend time in now.  But I'll never forget that look.

Which is why I have spent all week fretting about cleaning before Amy gets here.  OMG.  I half expect to see the same look of horror when she sees our crappy little kitchen.

Monday, March 24, 2014

When we first moved in our house in 1988, as you can see from the photo on the left, almost everything on the main floor was painted a pale green colour.  The floor in this shot is vinyl, because we almost immediately removed the brown carpet!

We lived with it that way for close to twenty years and then finally repainted, but I'm not really sure that the colours I chose were all that great.  More of a stand out, but not great.

The picture below gives you an idea of what we did.  We also replaced the laminate counter tops ourselves, going from white to black (not seen in this picture).

It was a valiant effort, but we knew it was really just temporary.

When Amy came last Monday I felt like I was still making excuses for our crappy little kitchen. You know, things like 'we've been more interested in paying off the mortgage' and 'we wanted to do it ourselves but didn't know what we were doing' kind of excuses. She said that she had grown up in a house about the same age as ours, which was built in 1944, and that made me felt a little better, but not much :-).

I learned a few things immediately.  The counter tops are a few inches too shallow.  The cupboards are too low.  The stove is in the wrong place.  Actually our stove and fridge are right beside each other, so having them separate will take some getting used to.  And there is wasted space in a little nook that the previous owners had a small round table and chairs in, but which we don't use.  Except that my daughter uses it for all of her baking equipment and supplies.

There she is on the left working on a cake in the cramped little nook with all of her stuff.  Ugh.

You'll also notice the fridge magnets.

Well, I thought they were cute at first.  They are all from places we've travelled to.  Along with some other crap.  And I'm sick of them.  However, they are going to create a heated debate between my husband and myself...I can already tell. He loves his tacky little fridge magnets.

You can see that the giant fridge also blocks off that corner and what you can't see is that there is a door to the dining room on the other side of the fridge.  On the left side of that picture, just out of view, is the door to our laundry room.

We talked about the possibilities...from tearing down walls, to a less ambitious, but still daunting task of replacing all cupboards and flooring, and repainting.  She took note of our tastes, the way we use our kitchen, and she took a lot of measurements before she went on her way to come up with some ideas.  In the meantime, we've been visiting Home Depot and Lumberworld and speciality counter top shops, gathering catalogues and realizing how little we do know.  Yikes.

The time line will be as follows:  once we decide what we want done, the cupboards, etc., are ordered.  They usually take about 6-8 weeks to arrive.  A contractor will look at areas that have to be torn out or adjusted, such as that area just above the cupboards, which would have to be removed.  He'll be looking for support beams, or other things in order to decide if the changes can be made.

About two or three days before the new cupboards arrive, the tearing down of the old stuff begins. It means about two or three weeks with no kitchen.  If all goes well :-|  Amy said that a lot of people have their kitchens renovated in the summer, because they can use barbeques, etc., to cook some meals in the meantime.  By the time we get going on this, it probably will be summer anyway.

As our kitchen goes through the renovation process, I will post our experiences here.  Wish us good luck!

Saturday, March 8, 2014

I Hate Housework

NOT my room.
My mother kept an impeccably clean house.  I guess that's to be expected, since before becoming a nurse, she cleaned houses for a living.  My father was just as fussy about cleanliness.

I, on the other hand, was born a slob.  I think it's a good thing my parents only had one child;  if they had had more children like me, their clean and tidy lives would have soon become absolute mayhem.  My mother was constantly after me to clean my room.  She threatened to declare it a disaster area with an enter-at-your-own-risk sign, many times.  But that didn't work.  I rarely if ever made my bed.  My clothes were consistently strewn anywhere I took them off, especially socks.  When I was about ten years old, my parents bought me a new desk and dresser for my room and my mother lovingly painted them.  Then, with pencil, she wrote on the edge of each dresser drawer what it would be used for; "socks, underwear", "shirts", "pants", etc.

Much to her disappointment, that didn't work either.  The pencil marks wore off and I was always going to be a slob.

I lived on my own for several years before I got married.  Heaven!  No one to tell me to clean my room or to do the dishes or vacuum, or anything!  I made slobdom an art.  There is no such word as slobdom, according to spell check.  But I know it exists because I lived it.

I could easily have married someone who was impeccably clean like my parents; a marriage that would have lasted maybe a month.  Instead I married someone who was pretty much like me, thank goodness.  We were not hoarders, nor did our living quarters invite rats.  But we certainly weren't vacuuming every second day.

Something was happening to me, though.  I started to get tired of the mess.  And I had two children. Not only did I start to feel guilty about a messy house, but the work to keep it clean began to grow.  And I got angrier.  My daughters learned to stay away from me when I was in a housecleaning fury.  In fact, all of my family would disappear when I got like that.  Eventually, I learned to clean house when they weren't around because I really hated seeing them all sit there and do nothing while I did everything. EVERYTHING *** **** it!  I found myself exactly like my mother (surprise!) pestering my children to clean their rooms, to put away their dishes;  our favourite line to throw at them was "when you're finished play, put it away!"  They could repeat that rhyme with gleeful little smiles, but they rarely actually acted upon it. That's when it struck me.

Did I somehow psychologically realize at a very early age that I would eventually be in the same position as my mother?  Did this give me an excuse to be a slob in my early years because I was going to have to be the resentful house cleaner later?  I think there's something to that.

I can't tell you how many times over the years I tried to schedule my cleaning around everything else. Well, I could clean on weekends, but aren't weekends for relaxing a little after a long week of work? That wouldn't last long.  When I started working from home, I thought "Perfect, now I can put time aside every day to clean."  That didn't work either.   I've discovered every excuse in the book NOT to clean.

  • The garden needs weeding (I much prefer gardening to cleaning)
  • I slept in and I can't possibly start cleaning in the AFTERNOON
  • I need to go shopping.  For that new top.
  • I have to go out tonight and I don't want to exhaust myself
  • There's always next week

For those of you stricken with a similar malady, please add your excuses to the list. I'm 56 years old and I'm still nowhere near the housecleaning busy bee that my mother or father was.  The only real impetus to clean like crazy is when we have company coming.  Heaven help me if my friends see how we REALLY live. And you can't have a dirty house when the dishwasher repair guy comes.  What will he think?

I've even heard of people who will clean the house in anticipation of their housekeeper coming to clean. Well, outside of the jealousy I feel that they even have a housekeeper, I understand completely. You don't really want them to know, do you?  What a pig you are, that is.   There, that felt better.

Over the years I've put a name to this sickness:  "chronic chore disease". And apparently, I'm not alone. This disease affects two in every three of us.  Okay I made that up.  Research has shown that the only known treatment for this affliction is to clean.  But the affects wear off for about a week before symptoms arise again.  We need more funding to find a cure.  Please send all cheques to me.

Today, I have a new excuse.  I have a cold, thank goodness.
IJ

(By the way, that picture above is not my room.  It's NOT.)

Sunday, March 2, 2014

We're Not Good With Small Boats

Once upon a time, many years ago when my daughters were small, my husband and I decided to surprise them with a little canoe excursion on a local lake. We thought it would be great fun for them, even though my husband had never been in a canoe, and I had only limited experience using one.

We kept what we were doing a secret until we reached the lake.  Our daughters were both very excited as we rented the canoes and fastened life jackets to all of us.  My husband went with our youngest daughter and I took the older one and we set off in our canoes on the lake on a rather blustery day.

The first sign that we were going to have a problem was when I realized we were simply heading to the middle of the lake instead of sticking close to shore where it was safer for us beginners.  I tried to yell to my husband, but he didn't hear me because he was too far away and the wind was definitely impeding us.

The second sign was when my husband's canoe actually started to take on water.  The canoe was low in the rear and the waves from the lake were slopping over the side into the canoe one after the other.  I yelled over to him again, but he still didn't hear me and I could see it was getting worse.  I had been trying to steer our canoe back to the shore, but decided that I had to turn around to try to get to him before their canoe sank.

That's when I made a fatal error.  You don't stand up in a canoe.

You can see where this story ends.  We all ended up in the middle of the lake, hanging onto our canoes and trying to swim them back.  One of the guys from the rental place finally saw us and rowed out in a different type of boat to pick the girls up and take them safely to shore. My husband and I slowly swam in, hauling the canoes with us.  The drive home was soaking wet and utterly silent.

When we got home, it was the first and last time I ever saw my husband take a sip of alcohol.

Our daughters have long ago forgiven us;  they have both canoed or kayaked since, and now we pretty much laugh about it, especially when we go by that lake.

But.  When my husband signed the two of us up for a kayaking/snorkelling adventure on our recent trip to the Big Island of Hawaii, you could understand my trepidation.  I had not been in a boat any smaller than a BC Ferry since that disastrous day in the canoes.

The impetus for our adventure was that our old high school friends, who were going to be on the island the same time as us, had already booked the excursion, and we didn't want to be left out.  We were nervous, but ready to try again that early morning when we all congregated at the store front where the tour was booked.  I have snorkelled before, so I wasn't too worried about that aspect.  It was the damn kayaking part.

At the end of the little talk that was given by the business operator, all about the coral and species of fish we might encounter, we were directed over to the kayaks where two cute 20-something guides, twins Kai and Po, showed us how to handle the oars and sit in the two-person kayaks properly.  They told us that the males would sit in the back, the females in front.  Next, we were instructed how to paddle in unison, and that the rear person would do the steering.  They informed us that we would kayak across the large bay to the Captain Cook Monument, and then snorkel around the waters in front of it.  That's when I first realized that we were going to jump directly IN the water FROM the kayaks.  And even more alarmingly, we were going to "jump" BACK IN the kayaks FROM the ocean when we were finished our snorkel.  One of our friends kept retorting "Yeah, I'm swimming back.  All the way."

When we got to the small rocky beach that we were going to launch our kayaks from, anxiety was certainly high.  The first and second couple took off without incident, so my husband and I figured if they could do it, so could we.  Kai and Po held on to either end of our kayak and we managed to get in without too much embarrassment, and off we were.

Keeping the kayak moving in a straight line became an immediate issue.  I kept arguing back to my husband that he was supposed to follow my lead and paddle exactly at the same time, on the same side as me.  "You're not really a follower, are you?"  I yelled sarcastically.  Later in the day, he swore that the reason we kept going to the right was because I was weaker in one arm.  The argument continues to this day.

We paddled and paddled in our somewhat ineffective manner to try and keep up with everyone else.  There was a bit of a headwind so paddling was a lot of work, but the kayaks definitely felt more stable than those canoes we remembered.  Kai and Po, who were together in another kayak, would occasionally stop and explain something about the geography or the history of the island.  Thank goodness they did, because our arms were definitely feeling the workout.  Part way through our trip, we came across spinner dolphins, who get their name from their trick of jumping straight up, out of the water and spinning in circles before toppling back in.  It was amazing to be with and watch them.

After about an hour of kayaking on and off, we reached our destination across the bay;  Captain Cook's Monument.  This was erected after Captain Cook was pretty much slaughtered by the Hawaiians, who at first thought he was a god, and then found out he was not.  The small area that the monument is situated on is actually still considered British territory.  The reason that we couldn't tie the kayaks to the shore was that it became illegal to do so, likely because the tying and the tromping around by humans was causing permanent damage to the monument.  I did see a lot of people walking around the monument anyway;  some of them were on hikes and were allowed to walk there.  Others were simply unaware of the legalities I suppose.

We fumbled around the kayak, trying to put on our snorkelling gear, and one by one, all of us tumbled into the water.  Okay, not so bad.

The snorkelling was spectacular;  so many different fish of every shape and size, type and colour, the coral, even eels and, thankfully, no sharks.  We were told there might be a couple, but they never showed up.  We spent another hour snorkelling with one of our guides showing us all species of fish, naming them and explaining their peculiarities.  It was perfect.

Two of our friends at some point, had had enough and made their way back to the kayaks, which were all tied together and floating some distance from where we were. The other guide (I never did get to know which was Kai and which was Po) was keeping them all together.  I didn't notice that my friends had gone back, but eventually my husband and I decided that we would return too, so we started swimming towards the kayak collective.

When we arrived, my husband tried first to get in our kayak.  And tried.  And tried.  The two ladies who had already gotten in their kayaks, kept quiet.  (Come to think of it, they never mentioned how getting back in had worked out for them).  As my husband finally, awkwardly tumbled back in, I took a big breath, knowing it was my turn.  I mistakenly figured it would be easier for me, a smaller, lighter person.  Nope. Kai (or was it Po?) showed me how to simply haul my whole body up, and land stomach first across the kayak.  Nope.

One of my friends offered to grab my hand and pull.  I tried.  Nope.

Holy crap.

I took my lifejacket off, hoping a little less weight and resistance would help.

Nope.

Finally, on one of my attempts, Po (or was it Kai?), pushed me up by my ass out of the water, and I flopped into the kayak face first, laughing hysterically.  When one is totally embarrassed and humiliated, ALWAYS laugh hysterically.  It distracts people from your shame.

The kayak back to the little bay where we launched from was quite a bit rougher because the winds had kicked up, but we managed okay. To tell you the truth, though, this time I hardly heard what Kai and Po were saying because my desperate paddling and panting pretty much overrode the sound of their voices.  We finally came close to the shore, and Kai and Po went ahead of us, instructing us to come in one kayak at a time so they could help us out.  Our kayak was first.

At this point, the waves were quite high, but they were behind us so we sailed in to shore quite quickly and with little effort.  Then we had to manoeuvre the kayaks sideways as we hit the shore, so that the boys could hold it steady as we disembarked.  One big wave hit, and then another as one of the boys grabbed my arm.  Safely on shore I looked back to see that my husband had actually been knocked out of the kayak by one of the waves, into the water.

Memories.

It was a limb we might not have otherwise put ourselves out onto, but we both figured that we'd definitely do something like that again.  The picture above is one my husband took of me as we headed out at the beginning of our adventure.  It occurred to me later when I saw the evidence, that my camera-happy husband was probably taking pictures for much of our paddling, and that's why we weren't getting anywhere very fast.  Thankfully, no footage of the humiliating belly flop into the kayak exists. Or I'd have pummelled him.