Monday, December 23, 2013


YGK Ice Storm 2013
Originally uploaded by Julep67
So we had a little bit of freezing rain over the weekend. By a little bit, I mean, over 50 hours of the stuff.

It fell gradually, started on Friday morning, ended sometime on Sunday. On Saturday evening, I proposed a new drinking game to my friends on Facebook: “Okay kids, suggesting a drinking game for tonight: drink every time someone on the weather network says accretion!” Not sure how many actually participated but a low player turnout could be directly related to a lack of cable television, or even electricity at that point. Accretion was the word of the weekend.

Over the past few days, I couldn’t help but be reminded of the ice storm that hit Kingston in 1998. At that time, I lost my power for a week. I had friends staying with me for the first few days and once they left for warmer places, I packed up and moved in with my parents. This time, I kept an eye on power outages via the Hydro One app on my iPad. Fortunately, while there were problems all around us, we were warm and bright all weekend.

Seeing the photos coming out of Toronto this morning, it looks a lot like I remember Kingston looking in January 1998. A number of people I know gave birth to “Ice Storm Babies” in the summer/fall of 1998. Can’t help but wonder how many Ice Storm Babies will be born in Toronto later on in 2014.

There is still a buttload of ice on our trees and on the lines around our neighbourhood. I wouldn’t say we are out of the woods yet. Mark’s out at work today and I worry. He’s in a small car, driving folks around on side streets which likely haven’t seen a sander in days. I’m sending good thoughts his way and hoping that will help.

I’ll send them off to you all as well. Stay safe folks, keep warm and dry!

Saturday, December 07, 2013

memory lane

I think Roddy Frame was onto something when he said, "the closest thing to heaven is to rock'n'roll."

Happy Saturday kids.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

keep calm and shovel (maybe)

Winter garden
Originally uploaded by Julep67
Twas the night before the first forecasted large-ish snow storm of the season
And all through the town
Some folks were freaking out
Others were playing it down

Seriously folks?? We live in Canada, in Southeastern Ontario. This particular part of the world does get snow. Every year. We had some arrive on Saturday afternoon – it didn’t stick around very long but it was here for a few minutes. Just because the folks on the weather channel are all worked up into a lather right now, that doesn’t mean that you have to be as well.

Just stay calm. We may not get that much snow. Even if we do, there is really no reason to crowd the grocery store tonight. I doubt very much that too many of us will be trapped in our homes due to heavy accumulations of the white stuff. Right now, my front lawn is green and it's raining a bit. I suspect I'll still be able to see some blades of grass in the morning and am really not stressed about the "storm."

If you’re feeling anxious about the impending “storm,” here is my advice to you:
  • Enjoy the peace and beauty of the freshly fallen snow (if we get any).
  • Try not to grumble too much if you have to shovel in the morning (think about how awesome your lungs will feel as you do that cardio in fresh, clean, cold air).
  • Remind yourself that whatever falls tonight will likely be gone by the weekend, if not before.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

5 years

Lazy Sunday, Gracie-style.
Originally uploaded by Julep67
5 years ago today, Gracie came home with us. She was a tiny, frightened, timid girl. When I carried her into the yard that first time and introduced her to Sam, she started to relax a little.

It took a long time for her to be completely comfortable with us. In her previous home, I think she was yelled at. A lot. She's a sensitive girl and that must have been very difficult for her.

Five years later, she's evolved into a brave, confident girl. Gracie struts around the house and yard with her tail high and swinging. A working dog, she likes to be the boss and tries very hard to herd us whenever she can. She's also very sweet and if she likes you, won't leave your side if she can help it.

Happy Anniversary Gracie. It's been a wonderful five years. Thank you, so much, for adopting us. We love you.

Monday, October 28, 2013

How in the world were they making that sound?

Was so sad over the weekend to hear about the passing of two amazing, talented people:  Marcia Wallace and Lou Reed.

They both died at the age of 71, after periods of poor health.  Marcia was a long-time survivor of breast cancer, Lou had recently received a new liver.  When we heard about Lou Reed yesterday, I thought that perhaps it was another hoax (there was a widespread hoax about his demise in 2001) but sadly, it was true.  They are both gone now but have left us so much to enjoy while we miss them.

Mark shared this on his on his Facebook page and I thought I'd share it here.  Jonathan Richman says it better than any of us ever could.

Monday, October 21, 2013

attempting kindness

Originally uploaded by Julep67
I’ve been exerting a lot of effort lately to be kinder in general and less snarky in particular. I wouldn’t have thought that being generally nicer would have been all that difficult. I realized recently that a lot of what I tweet, or sometimes write here, isn’t very nice. It’s sometimes downright mean and frequently snarky. It’s so easy to react quickly with a negative tweet or snide comment on facebook. Counting to 10 and cooling down a bit before I hit “send” it tough but I am feeling good about it.

A couple of times, very recently, I’ve had many snarky and mean-ish things to say about a couple of local contractors we are working with (one for our home and another is a vendor we use at our income property). I’ve been less than impressed with the customer service I’ve received from both. In one case, the contractor has actually endangered our dogs not once, but twice. Rather than name and shame, for the moment, I’m going to take a page out of the “if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all” book. Honestly, more often than not in the past, I was more inclined to take a page out of “Steel Magnolia” and live by, “If you can’t say anything nice, come sit by me” instead. I’ll say nothing at all for now, until the issues are dealt with and I can share a complete story, not just a bitter bit in the middle.

Now, rather than rant and rave about how frustrated I am, I thought I share something good instead. We are presently selling our rental property. It’s a great little house in a terrific neighbourhood and we’re had a terrific city councillor, Sandy Berg. Today, I contacted her about an issue with our driveway (the street has been ripped up a couple of times over the last year to allow for water and sewer works). She got back to me almost immediately about the issue and has put in a request with the appropriate folks to get in touch with me about resolving it. How nice was that? Kudos to you Sandy Berg. I think you’re doing a terrific job representing Kingscourt-Strathcona and would like to say thank you for everything you do District 8 in the City of Kingston.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Fun For Friday

So yesterday I had a horrible headache. I think part of it was weather related, part of it was not enough caffeine (which I didn't realize until today, d'oh!) and part of it was caused by a noisy leaf blower which was blaring outside my office window all day long!

I resisted taking anything for it because I was afraid I'd fall asleep at my desk and opted to drink lots of water and be as quiet as possible. Late in the afternoon, the leaf blower stopped and my head ache disappeared. Nice!

Today, my head has been fine, I've had a couple of cups of coffee here at work and I've been listening to some fun music from what I can only describe as my guilty pleasures playlist.

Thought I'd share one of my guilty pleasures with you. If this doesn't get you dancing in your seat (or better, on your feet), nothing will!!

Happy Friday & Boogie Oogie Oogie!!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

thank you, sincerely

I know that events like BlissDom Canada need sponsorships to survive. Each year that I’ve attended BlissDom Canada, the sponsors they partner with have impressed me. One which stands out in particular is Chevrolet Canada. In 2011, I won a trip to Orlando, Florida (courtesy of the folks at Visit Orlando and Chevrolet Canada). We planned to take the trip during our regular vacation time during the summer of 2012. Because of Mark’s cancer diagnosis and subsequent surgery, we were unable to make the trip. Both sponsors, upon hearing that we were unable to go, stepped up in a big way. The Visit Orlando folks sent us a huge box of Florida related swag and the Chevrolet Canada folks offered us the use of a Chevrolet Orlando for two weeks anyway. We happily took them up on their offer and, in conjunction with the Taylor Auto Mall here in Kingston, we picked up a shiny new Orlando and drove it around town for 10 days.

When I attended in 2012, again, Chevrolet Canada impressed me. Not only were they an on-site sponsor (providing once again their AMAZING re-charge lounge) but they provided transportation throughout the weekend. I’m always impressed with the friendliness of their staff as well as their generosity. This year, it was nice to see them back at BlissDom Canada, doing all of their amazing sponsor-y things (shuttle service, test drives, re-charge lounge, general awesomeness) AND promoting their wonderful hockey helmet program. I told one of the lovely Chevrolet Canada reps in their booth that the ads I’d seen on television (and I don’t watch many ads) always make me cry. When a big car company can make ME cry over a hockey helmet, they are doing something right! Thank you to Adria MacKenzie and the folks at Chevrolet Canada for everything you do for those of us who participate in BlissDom Canada!

The other sponsor I’d like to thank is Sleep Country Canada. My first interaction with Sleep Country Canada happened last year when I met Christine Magee at registration. Until that moment, all I knew about Sleep Country Canada was that there was a store in the west end of Kingston and they had that oh-so-catchy jingle! I spoke with one of the Sleep Country consultants about pillows and neck pain I was experiencing. I was given valuable advice (and a gorgeous pillow!) which has completely eliminated my neck pain. I also had an opportunity to speak with Christine Magee. We discussed the research her company is doing into sleep disorders and I was very impressed. In the year since that first encounter with Sleep Country Canada, I’ve recommended them to several friends and we do plan to purchase our next mattress from them.

This year, I was happy to see that Sleep Country Canada had returned to BlissDom Canada. I enjoyed chatting again with their representatives and I received an amazing Tempur Pedic pillow as a gift. As soon as I got home, I started using that pillow as a lumbar support when I’m in the living room or at my desk. Until I started using the pillow, I didn’t realize that I was having mild lower back and shoulder pain. The extra support from this tiny pillow has made all the difference in the world for me. These two small items from Sleep Country Canada have definitely improved my physical well-being and I don’t think I would have discovered them had it not been for BlissDom Canada. Thanks so much to Christine Magee and the folks at Sleep Country Canada for supporting this very special conference!

Monday, October 14, 2013

BlissDom Canada, you've literally blown my mind

A little over a week has now passed since the end of BlissDom Canada 2013. This year, more than others, I had a tough time processing everything I learned and experienced over the weekend. Last week, when I returned to the “real world,” I felt very vulnerable. Silly things like commercials or photos I’d see online would cause me to well up far more often than they normally would.

Over the past week and a bit, I’ve not felt very articulate. I’ve started this post many times and have several unfinished versions in my draft folder. If I’m honest, I don’t know if I have the words to describe the change that I’ve been experiencing. I do know though, that those drafts are going to find their way onto these pages in the coming weeks. This particular BlissDom Canada weekend has inspired far more than one post from me this year.

So this isn’t really a wrap up of what happened to me over the weekend, that will come later on. I see this post as a jumping off point for me as I continue to make some changes in my life. For the sake of brevity, I’m going to leave you with three of the many lessons I learned:

1. I have already started making changes in my life. I attended Gillian Duffy’s “Taking that First Step” micro session as I was looking for inspiration to change. I had met Gillian last year at BlissDom Canada and so admired how she was able to box up her life in Canada and follow her bliss around the world. What I discovered during the micro session was that I was already actively making changes in my own life. Speaking with Gillian and the other participants made me realize that I too was being courageous and was actively working to improve things in my own life.

2.It’s okay to say no. The hands on workshop entitled “CHANGE: What Do You Stand For?” with Jennifer Hunter and Tania Carriere reinforced something for me that was very important. Jennifer & Tania reminded me that there are things you need to say “no” to, to leave room for the “yeses.” I don’t think I’m alone in not wanting to say no. I like to think that I am competent, confident and capable. Somewhere along the line, I think I told myself that saying no was equal to admitting I was weak. On some level I knew that this wasn’t true but hearing Jennifer & Tania state it was like a slap in the face and I realized that it’s absolutely okay to say “no” sometimes.

3.Leadership is not how much money you make or what your title is. I feel like I could write an entire book on the things I took away from Drew Dudley’s closing keynote. One of things that resonated most with me was the idea that “Leadership is not how much money you make or what your title is.” Drew was right when he said that most of us don’t want to identify ourselves as being leaders and yet, we are. There was a lot of talk about the power of kindness over the weekend. Personally, I’m trying to be kinder and it’s not always easy to do. Doing positive things for ourselves and for those around us, especially when they aren’t aware that we are doing them, is very rewarding.

Thank you BlissDom Canada, for once again rocking my world and blowing my mind. Thank you to the speakers who inspired me. Thank you to the friends I have made through BlissDom Canada for listening to me, for sharing your stories, for making me laugh, smile and sometimes cry. Thank you, most of all, to the amazing BlissDom Canada team (not to mention their generous sponsors) for doing all of the heavy lifting and creating something really very special and uniquely Canadian.

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

happy birthday John

Today would have been John Lennon's 73rd Birthday. It's also his son Sean's 38th birthday.

In honour of their birthday's, I think you should listen to your favourite John and/or Sean song today and celebrate.

In case you were wondering, my favourite John song is "Across the Universe" and my favourite Sean song is "Headlights" (because I'm a sucker for some hand claps).

Happy Birthday Sean and John.

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Ready to get my Bliss on

surprise package
Originally uploaded by Julep67
For the third year in a row, I'm getting ready to head off to Blissdom Canada this week. The organizers put in an incredible amount of work for us, securing terrific speakers and wonderful sponsors.

The first time I attended this amazing social media conference, I was very nervous about attending. I had never been to a “blogging” conference before. While I have had this blog for a long time (since around 2000, in various formats), I don’t have much of an audience. Most of the time I know that I’m writing for myself and I’ve always been fine with that. I soon realized that while some of the folks attending were very popular bloggers, most of the folks there would be a lot like me. The time we spend in front of our computers is time spent alone (for the most part). This was an opportunity for me to step out from behind the computer and meet the real people from my online community.

I threw myself into my first Blissdom Canada experience with two feet. I went to breakfast that first morning and introduced myself to anyone who I could make eye contact with and met some wonderful people. When I had a chance to meet Gail Vaz-Oxlade, I got very emotional and tears welled up in my eyes. She took one look at me and said, “What’s going on? There is to be no fucking crying in this room!” and followed that up by giving me a big hug. Toward the end of the weekend, I remember tweeting something along the lines of, “I came to Blissdom Canada wanting to become a better writer and am leaving wanting to be a better person.” To say that I was inspired by the weekend was a huge understatement.

Getting ready for Blissdom Canada in 2012, I was nervous again but really excited. This time I had a better idea of what to expect and had made connections with some people I was looking forward to seeing again. The nerves were still there though. I knew that a lot of the attendees knew each other pretty well and were attending in small groups. I was attending on my own, traveling solo, not part of a posse.

The first night of the conference, I saw a tweet go out from someone who was looking for a dinner buddy. I tweeted back and before I knew it, I was in the hotel lobby getting ready to go for dinner with @AureliaCotta, @5minutesformom and @dorisdays88. After we finished our meal, our small group merged with another group and before I knew it, I was part of a mass of people walking to a party a few blocks away. Definitely not something that I would I have thought I would ever do on my own but Blissdom Canada brings together amazing people and I got swept up in it.

In less than 48 hours, I’ll be traveling to Mississauga to attend my third Blissdom Canada and I can say that the nerves are totally gone and I’m just really excited about going. Instead of traveling by train as I have the past two years, I’m hitching a ride with Sarah of who kindly offered a seat in her car. As I have in other years, I know that I’ll come away from this weekend feeling emotionally exhausted but inspired and happy.

I would say that’s worth getting excited about!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

New Year Clean Colon

The first of September in our house is a lot like the first of January in others.  I work at a University so things get kind of kooky once the students start returning to town.  To me, the fresh re-start begins during frosh week and not at the beginning of the calendar year.

Now, the academic year doesn't have a direct effect on what I do every day normally but, unusually, the arrival of frosh week coincided with work getting super busy again.  For a number of reasons, last year, a lot of my colleagues either took no vacation or a very abbreviated version of their normal holiday.  This year, more folks took their hard earned vacations and I think that the convergence of everyone coming back to work at the end of August caused stuff to get nutty.

I am talking about this because normally, the only time I can usually carve out to do a little bit of writing here is over my lunch hours.  That bit of precious time has ebbed away recently. 

Just before Labour Day weekend, Mark celebrated one year of post cancer surgery goodness with a colonoscopy.  Lucky boy huh?? This time, he didn’t find that the preparation was as horrible as it was last year.  I think that the anticipation was a little worse though.  Last year, we hadn’t even thought about cancer.  This year, we were both thinking “what if it’s back?” 

Instead of a scope technician, his surgeon performed the colonoscopy this year.  He found 3 polyps (which have probably been biopsied by now) and Dr. M indicated that they didn't look like anything we should be worried about.  It was a huge relief.  I find that you don't realize exactly how worried you are about something until you stop worrying about it.  Limp dish rag sort of describes it I suppose.  We found out this week that Mark has his next follow up appointment with the surgeon in late November.  Given that they aren't rushing him back in to see the doctor, I'm taking that as a good sign as well.

I still have a couple of posts in the works about his cancer story to finish up and post.  That story is more about the journey through surgery and recovery.  As you can tell, so far anyway, we're enjoying a happy ending of sorts.  Once you have that cancer diagnosis, you never fully relax but we're not on high alert right now like we were this time last month.  That's a nice feeling.

Friday, August 23, 2013

False Start - A Cancer Story, Part Two

In June of 2012, Mark had surgery to blast some horrible kidney stones.  The surgery was done at Kingston General Hospital so, when his cancer surgery was scheduled, we were familiar with the pre-surgery drill.  On surgery day, we knew exactly where to go and what to do.

The weekend leading up to his surgery was horrible.  We were beyond stressed out, worried about the actual surgery (possible complications include death, no fun), worried about what they may find once they did the operation.  The tension in the house was brutal.  Neither of us slept well the night before he was due to go under the knife.  When we arrived at the KGH and checked in, I sent out this little update:

Update 1 - mid-morning

We are at KGH - arrived for 10 am, suspect Mark will go in at noon but don't know for sure. Much busier today than when we were here for Kidney surgery.  I think this is cancer and heart surgery day, lots of quite young adults.  Lots of worried faces.

Will let you know when we are at the next stage of this trip / when he actually goes in to the OR.

As I was typing that message, Mark was putting on his compression socks and the nurse was putting an IV into his arm.  His bum had just hit the gurney when we found out that he was bumped for the day.  There had been a couple of bad accidents over the weekend and a bed shortage resulted.  Everyone in the admitting area was surprised and very sweet and apologetic but we were UP-SET.  Mark got dressed and we left.  I remember that I was just barely holding it together.  We walked outside and I called a taxi to take us home.  While we were waiting for the cab, we silently stood in the sunshine.  We were both in shock.  All of that stress and grief over the weekend, not to mention the lack of sleep, had us both in a haze. 

During the summer months, a small number of homeless people hang out, in the smoking area outside of the KGH main entrance.  I was not aware of this but cab-driver Mark pointed it out to me.  These folks had what he called “ a homeless tan” which, I guess, you get when you have to spend most of your days outside.  I think that it must be easier to ask for food or cigarettes by the hospital entrance because of the volume of folks coming and going all day. 

While we stood in the sunshine, trying to absorb what had just happened, one of these men approached us, made a comment about Mark’s hair (he has long hair and wears it in a single braid down his back).  I think that the man thought Mark was of aboriginal descent because of the braid.  He started to make a comment to Mark about his hair and the spirits or something and Mark turned to him and said, “No.  Walk away please.”  The guy didn’t stop; he continued to approach us, commenting on Mark’s hair, and trying to offer us “blessings.”  I lost it.  I started to cry.  I got really upset and asked the man to leave us alone.  He wouldn’t go, he kept insisting that he wasn’t bothering us.  He was bothering us though.  In his defense, he had no idea how fragile we were and probably couldn’t fathom that anyone wouldn’t want to be blessed by his god.  When he wouldn’t leave, I yelled at him this time.  I asked him to “fuck off and leave us alone.” It was not my proudest moment and it didn’t help that he started yelling back at me about how his god hates swearing and that I would probably burn in “hell.” Not threats that really mean anything to me but I didn’t need to be in a shouting match with a stranger all the same.  Fortunately, by this time, the cab was pulling up and we were home a few minutes later.

Once we arrived at the house, we both calmed down.  I called his surgeon’s office and the amazing EA there was able to get us a spot in surgery for the following day. 

Something about having the surgery cancelled and then this argument with the homeless man broke the tension we’d both been feeling.  I remember that we both slept like logs that night and felt better prepared to deal with whatever would happen in the days ahead. 


Thursday, August 22, 2013

Off Target?

Earlier this week, when stories started showing up in my newsfeed about how the newly opened Canadian Target Stores were contributing to a loss of profits for the big box stores.  If I had seen these stories a couple of weeks ago, I would probably have been surprised.  Prior to going on vacation, I’d not visited a Target store. 

Over the years, many of my friends had raved to me about the deals they had found at Target stores in the states.  Stories had been told about lovely stores, filled to the rim with bargains.  I am not much of a shopper normally but I found myself really looking forward to visiting  to newly opened store here in Kingston.  Common sense told me to to wait a couple of weeks to let some of the hoopla die down before  venturing out.

While I was on my holidays, my mother and I took a trip to Target.  We were there before the doors opened because we are both early shoppers and don’t care for crowds.   When we walked into the store, it looked very pretty, shiny, new.  The folks working there were friendly and courteous.  I can’t really fault the staff in any way.

I had a pretty long list of things I wanted to look for:  a new fall handbag, a comforter for our bed, a pastry blender, some health and beauty aids and other household items.  Overall, I have to say that I was very disappointed with both the prices and the selection.  Perhaps the store was “picked over” because of the recent grand opening but I was surprised to find the shelves half empty in the linens department.  The accessories department was very similar, a small amount of stock and really not great prices.  I experienced a fair bit of sticker shock. 

Eventually, I did find a few things I needed:  a new wall clock (for $5!), some nail polish (their make-up area is gorgeous and well stocked), shampoo and lint rollers.  For the rest of the items on my list, I had to go elsewhere. 

As disappointed as I was, I told myself that perhaps this was just the result of a very successful grand opening and promised to return.  I’ll give them one more chance but that's it.  I felt extremely let down by the store.  The week they were opening, I was tweeting back and forth with them, trying to find their flyer online (our store’s flyer did not go live on the day the store opened – it was posted after their “grand opening” – the date of which could not be found on their website).  I found that whole exercise to be really frustrating and should probably have seen that as a sign that this was not going to be a terrific experience for me.  No wonder I try to shop online as much as I possibly can!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

One Year Later - A Cancer Story, Part One

I returned to work yesterday after a two week vacation.  We actually stayed home so technically, I suppose it was a “stay-cation” so to speak.  Originally, Mark had planned to take off the second week with me.  With very little arm twisting, I convinced him to take the whole two weeks off instead.  Business is very slow for him in August so he wouldn’t be missing much and, that first week was a short one due to the holiday.  Now that we’re both back to the grindstone, I know he is glad to have had a long, two-week break.

This is the first time since we’ve been together (14 years) that he has had an actual 2 week vacation.  Last year, he missed several weeks of work, but recovering from surgery isn’t exactly a holiday.

Speaking of that, it’s very hard to realize that at this time last year, Mark was in the hospital, waiting to be sent home after having a piece of his bowel removed.  It was a bit of a scary time for us.  We knew that the surgeon felt that the operation was a success but we didn’t know what the results of the biopsy would be for a few weeks.  His cancer could have spread to other organs or to his lymph nodes.  At that time, we just had to be patient. 

In honour of the anniversary of his surgery, I’m going to share some posts here which I have kept private until now.  They were emails I sent to our friends and family while Mark was in the hospital.  Over the next few days, I’ll be publishing them here as a series.

Early detection was the key to our good luck and I feel like it would be good karma to share our story on the outside chance that someone else is going through what we have already lived.

This first missive was sent out to some close friends on August 14, 2012:

On July 30th Mark was officially diagnosed with Colon Cancer.  We were 99% sure he had it after a colonoscopy on July 13 (the doctor doing the test basically told him he did and they sent the nurse navigator in to see us and they don't do that if it's just a polyp).  While he was having his pre-surgery tests for his Kidney Stone surgery, he was diagnosed as being slightly anemic.  When he did his fecal occult screening test, it came back wonky, hence the colonoscopy.  He had a CT scan the week of July 23 and it looks like all of his vital organs are clear.  The surgery he's having is a hemi-colectomy.  His tumor is in the ascending colon so they will basically take out the right side of his colon and reattach it.  He is having his surgery today and he'll be in the hospital for about 7 days (until they are sure that everything is healing correctly, he is eating normally and his bowels are working - apparently your stomach become paralyzed during this surgery so they have to make sure it's working again).  I'll be taking an extra week off to be home with him for at least the first week when he's home from the hospital.  It's pretty major surgery, he'll have an 8 inch incision so, as Mark said to the surgeon, his swimsuit modeling days are over!  As cancer goes, this is a good one to have.  When they remove the colon, they will biopsy the lymph nodes and if they are clear, he will not need to do chemo so we're hoping for that.  It seems like it was caught early so we're pretty optimistic.

Of course, Mark is all "sure, you're tired, but I HAVE CANCER" or to which I keep having to remind him, "Yeah, but you won't have cancer in a few days so shut up about it already!"  Fun and games with the cancer jokes!

We're keeping this one really close to the chest because we don't want everyone and their uncle talking about how so and so had it and they died or had five million terrible things happen to them.... also, he does not want it getting onto Facebook.  If it were to get back to his demented sister in law, she'd just be way too happy to hear that he had something like this.  asshat.  We have told my parents and Patrick (and swore them to secrecy) and some folks at work because I have no idea exactly if I'll be back to work on August 27 or beyond that.

So that’s what we’ll be doing this week.  I expect that he’ll be released around August 20, barring any complications and will be home from work for at least 3 to 4 weeks recovering.

I’ll probably drop you a line in a mass email later  today to let folks know how he made out with his surgery (he told a few of his friends finally – no one his family knows still, over the past couple of days) and will keep you posted.

Thursday, July 25, 2013


Have you ever heard a word, maybe a word you hadn't heard in a while and thought to yourself, "hey, I like that word!"

Every once in a while, this happens to me.  It happened today.  That word is vexatious.  Vexatious is my word of the day.  I will attempt to work it into conversation if possible, for the rest of the day.

Just to explain, the meaning of the word really doesn't come into it when I find a word I like.  For me, I think it more about how the word sounds or looks that does it for me.

Funny thing is that the word "vexatious" is completely contrary to what I'm presently thinking about.  At the moment, I'm thinking about how happy I am that I supported the Polyphonic Spree in their kickstarter project for their new album.  As a backer, I got a pre-release download of their new album, "Yes, It's True" the other day.  I have been listening to it at work, off and on for two days now.

It's a great album, a solid collection of wonderful songs and not one in the bunch that you'd go "meh!" and skip over.  If you are looking for a happy, upbeat, awesome soundtrack for your summer, go over to their website: for more information about the record, the band, and how you buy their stuff (either locally or online).  The album is officially out on August 6 and I can totally vouch for it's general wonderfulness.

The Polyphonic Spree - "You Don't Know Me" (Lyrics Video) from Good Records Recordings on Vimeo.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

summer thoughts

Just some random thoughts on a Wednesday:

1. Regarding the weather: there is really no pleasing me. First it was too wet and now it's too humid. Does being Canadian give me a license to whine about the weather?

2. Laughter is the best medicine: because so much of what I am reading in the news lately is breaking my heart (trains exploding, flooding, random horrible acts of animal cruelty, children dying after eating their lunch at school, etc.), I've been listening to a lot of funny stuff to try to distract myself and create some balance. As you know, I'm a regular listener of Marc Maron's WTF podcast. Thanks to my brother, I have started listening to BTW with Jeff Garlin (thanks Patrick!!). In between, small doses of the Lonely Island and some 70's cheese, are helping to lighten the mood.

3. No Gleeks in our house: Am I the only person on the planet who had no idea who that dead Glee guy was? On Sunday, when I saw his name trending higher on Google News than Trayvon Martin, I thought he must have been someone important. When I read one of the articles, I quickly realized how wrong I was.

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

This is a public service announcement (without guitars)

UPDATE (July 17):  The story I mentioned in this post, via the folks at Birch Haven, was actually the same story which was picked up in the news about the W-Mart in Kemptville (I have never heard Kemptville referred to as "K-Town" - a common nickname for Kingston).  You can read more about the story here.

Have you ever sat in a parked car, on a hot day, with the window opened a crack?  If you haven’t, you should  try it.  It does not feel good.  Actually, it feels horrible and very quickly, you’ll find that you are feeling very ill.

Image courtesy of the Manitoba Pug Rescue.

Every summer, unfortunately, my Facebook feed and inbox fill up with stories about dogs that are left in cars while their guardians are shopping, eating, etc.  More often than not, the stories have a tragic ending.  The poor dog has died from heat exhaustion.  Occasionally, the dog survives but only after having endured what I can only imagine is a horrible, painful, experience.

Whenever we are out doing errands, I’m always keeping my eye out for dogs stuck in closed cars.  I have the police and animal control numbers in my phone.  I would have no problem calling in help or breaking a window to help a dog in distress.  I was really upset to read about an incident which happened in my hometown this week.

From the folks at Birch Haven Rescue and Rehabilitation Services (BHRR), a wonderful local rescue specializing in giant canine breeds and equines:
Very disappointed in Wal-Mart in K-town and four of their staff including a supervisor.  PLUS, the owner of a dog.

They saw nothing wrong in this Newf (possibly x) locked in a truck with the windows barely half open in 26 degree weather before the humidex!

Well, I did and as they would not call the police or ensure the dog was safe, I and Sean did.

One of their staff told me 'oh, the owner says he will be right back' and that 'the windows are partly open, he is fine.'

Another staff member said 'we got in trouble last time we called the police, so you have to.'

The owner said 'he is fine, the windows are down.'

The supervisor said 'we monitor the time for clear distress and if need be, call the police.'

I said to the Supervisor, If you wait until the dog is showing clear distress and you then call and then leave it up to the police to get the dog out, the poor dog is not going to have a good chance....

The dog was in the vehicle to no less than 20 minutes (from another Customer who was also watching who heard me talking to other staff - from where I noticed it was not yet ten minutes - I had my timer going on my phone) and I tried to educate on heat safety and your pet and no one cared.....NOT one!

The dog is fine.....this time....thanks to Sean & I.

Police made aware and they also have his license plate and I shall escalate with Wal-Mart as this protocol they have is going to kill lives. Police supported the breaking of windows and any means to get the dog out. Thumbs up to them!

Please please everyone, leave your pets at home......not in the vehicle.

We take our dogs to the park, to the vet, to the groomers, etc. but we would never leave them the car (no matter what the weather), unsupervised.  If we are going somewhere that the dogs can’t go to, we leave them at home or we don’t go.  This seems like a simple concept to me. 

I would encourage all pet owners to do the same.  If you can’t stay with them in the car to monitor them (or to keep the air conditioning running), leave them behind.  You’ll be happier, they’ll be happier, and no one has to die.

In case you missed it, here is a link to a video which was produced last year by Dr Ernie Ward.   You can see exactly how hot it gets inside a car, and how fast it happens.  You may be surprised.

Monday, July 08, 2013


Originally uploaded by Julep67
Much like many folks across the continent are, we’re having a heatwave here. Actually, it’s more like a humidity wave. The air is thick and smelly. The sun is really hot. The combination of the two sends me diving for shade or an air conditioned room. Kind of sad when you think about how much we look forward to the summer.

Not sure what I was thinking but I decided that I’d try to get back into doing some baking. I used to bake all the time (although not that much during the summer) and have missed it a bit. Actually seeing what goes into stuff is a big part of my motivation. I can control the contents and the results are normally much better than store bought. The first thing I did over the weekend was bake bread. Not so much of a kitchen heater because I have a bread machine. I hadn’t use my machine in a while. In the old house, I didn’t have room to keep it out in the kitchen so I didn’t think about it much. The new kitchen has a perfect, visible, spot to store it in. I made some onion bread and it turned out well. It would have been tough to have wrecked it though.

In an attempt to make something “summery” and to try a new recipe, I baked a peach cobbler. Southern Peach Cobbler to be precise. I’m not posting a photo of it because it wasn’t the most photogenic dessert I’d ever made. It tasted okay but I’m not sure I’d make it again. If I decide to try it, I’ll probably put a lot more peaches in it. It wasn’t as peachy as I would have liked. The topping was interesting, like a sweet biscuit. This recipe was most like peaches and dumplings I suppose. I served it with some vanilla frozen yogurt. It was a bit summery but I think I’ll hold off again until the local peaches are around. It wasn’t a complete disaster but I don’t think it was good enough to justify heating up the kitchen on a summer day for.

Saturday, July 06, 2013

Accidental Gardener

Summer Flowers
Originally uploaded by Julep67
Our flower garden continues to surprise me.

When we first viewed this house, in November, we really didn’t pay any attention at all to the front yard if I’m honest. Our main concern was how to finish off the fencing in the back yard for the dogs.

Moving in January like we did, the first few months we were in the house, the front yard was completely covered in snow. I could tell that flower gardens did exist in the front because there were spindly bits of small bushes poking through the snow but it wasn’t really possible to figure out what was happening.

Earlier in the spring, while Mark and our friend Andy were installing the permanent fence at the top of the yard (we had installed some inexpensive snow fence during a freak mild snap which happened 2 days before we moved in), the front garden started to reveal itself.

Because had such a snowy, cold winter, the tulips and daffs were late in coming. We were pretty impressed when we saw them start to bloom. Neither of us is great at gardening but we enjoy a pretty blossom as much as the next person. As the weeks passed, more things were popping out and I could sort of figure out what some things were. Thankfully, my mum is a wonderful gardener and she’s been able to help me formally identify things.
Fortunately for me, the woman we bought the house from really seemed to know what she was doing in terms of how to plant perennials. I have not planted any annuals and there has been constant colour, in the numerous flower beds on our front yard. From what I can see, we should have things which will continue to bloom well into the autumn. We’re doing our best to keep up with some basic weeding but with everything else we need to do this year, I can honestly say that while we are enjoying the parade of mystery flowers, it’ll be a year or two before I can give it any proper attention.

I will, however, stop and smell the roses, poppies and peonies as they come and have been taking a few photos here and there. This garden is something I would have never done myself but I must admit, even in it’s semi-neglected state, it is pretty.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013


We got our first Barkbox in the mail yesterday. Barkbox is this cool, monthly goodie box that I recently subscribed to for Sam & Gracie. I found out about Barkbox via the Dogster newsletter. They had a promotion so I took the discount and signed up for a 6 month subscription, to see how it goes.

I was super impressed by the quality of the treats and toys that were in our box. All of the treats were grain-free and a couple of them were certified organic (which is important to us because our guys are on a grain-free diet). Their box contained a Jolly Pets Monster Ball and an Aussie Naturals Knotty Bear which both dogs tried their darnedest to destroy without any success. I put some dehydrated liver treats into the Monster Ball and Gracie must have spent 30 minutes trying to figure out how to get them out (before Sammy got involved). They had a tonne of fun and I admit, particularly with the bear, neither of these are toys I would have picked for them but they really enjoyed them. I avoid buying stuffies for them because they normally get quickly disemboweled but I think that Knotty Bear is going to last a while.

High quality treats and toys aside, the customer service at Barkbox was amazing and I love that a portion of their profits goes to puppy related charities.

This is not a sponsored post but I really really liked it (and Sammy and Gracie did too!) so I wanted to share.

Monday, April 22, 2013

mean people suck

A couple of weeks ago, I saw a post by the amazing Julie Cole, on the YummyMummyClub site.  Please, click the link and go read the page.  It won't take you long.

I was saddened but not entirely surprised to read about her horrible experience with a commenter on her site.  Trolls are everywhere and have been online as long as the internet has existed.  Folks like this, who leave mean, anonymous comments on posts like Julie's are really cowards and bullies.  I bet you a million dollars that whoever left that comment, would never have the nerve to say those things to Julie's face if they met her in person.  Somehow though, it is easy to be cruel when there are no real consequences.

When kids harrass / stalk / bully each other online, adults often acted surprised.  I think that a lot of the time, kids who participate in this behaviour, think it's okay because they see examples of this behaviour in every comments section of every webpage they have ever visited. 

This is no different than the kid who is picked on, abused even, at home (by a parent or a sibling) and who lashes out at school against other kids.  They are following an example that they have seen played out in their own lives. 

I think it's important for all of us, not just those of us who have kids in the house (I don't have any kids in my house) to be good online citizens.  I'm not saying you have agree with everything you read but if you're going to disagree, offer an alternative opinion that is thoughtful, not mean.  It is easier to be cruel and snippy than it is to take your time and express a different point of view in a rational way. 

We don't all have to get along all of the time but I think we can certainly be kind and considerate to each other when we're disagreeing with one another.

Friday, April 12, 2013

sunshine on a rainy day

I recently listened to Marc Maron interview Dave Grohl about his Sound City documentary and got thinking a lot about Fleetwood Mac.

I was 10 years old when their classic album Rumors was released.  You could not escape those songs.  They were constantly on the radio, the sunny tunes, the biting lyrics.  Hearing Dave talk about Sound City inspired me to go back and listen to Rumors again, for the first time in a really long time.

Hearing those old songs transported me back to 7th or 8th grade.  At lunchtime, we used to go to my friend Shari's house.  Her backyard was spitting distance from the school yard.  We could go to her house, climb up the tv antenna and get into her room.  Shari's dad had the stereo system wired through the entire house, there were speakers in every room and the turntable was built into an end table in the living room, very cool to my 12 year old self.  We would put on her mother's copy of Rumors and dance around the living room until it was time to get back to school (we were usually running out the door toward the school when the bell ran).

This sunny little memory of the late 70's broke through the dark, rainy, icy morning for me and distracted me from worrying about the large, ice-covered tree branch that is swinging wildly outside my window right now.

Happy Friday kids!

Friday, March 01, 2013

happy birthday

Today is my nana's birthday. Birthday's are a very big deal in our family because they were really important to her. Her saying was something like, "if it wasn't for your birthday, you wouldn't be around for Christmas" (which when you are a little kid who believes in Santa, is arguably a bigger deal than your birthday).

This photo is probably the last one we took with ALL of the grandkids together. It was taken at her home on Christmas Day, 1985. Hard to imagine that it was almost 30 years ago.

She passed away in October 1997 and I still miss her every single day.

Thursday, February 21, 2013


It feels like it's been a very long time since I have sat down to write something and I guess that's because it has been a really long time.  Over 2 months now that I actually look at it.

Since mid-December, we've been busy getting ready to move, doing some renovations, moving and then doing more renovations.  It's been exciting and exhausting.  So exhausting in fact that we both got good and sick last week.  Our extra-long family day weekend was spent trying to keep warm / keep our noses from running / keep our stomachs from doing weird things, etc.

Not fun.

Until late January, I'd managed to get through the fall and winter without getting sick. Odd for me but I liked it.

Two days before we were scheduled to move (moving day was Monday, January 21), I came down with the flu.  I was shocked that this happened because I'd actually had a flu shot this year (I don't normally).  Fortunately, because I had the shot I suspect, the flu didn't stick around too long.  It did knock me out of commission for moving day though, which also happened to be US Inauguration Day so, while Mark was supervising the movers and freezing his butt off (of course our moving day was one of the coldest days of the winter at that point), I was at my mum & dad's house, watching the festivities in a nice warm house while the dogs were groomed and had a day at doggie daycare.

Poor Mark.  He was just exhausted.  I had done a lot of the packing but he did most of the heavy lifting and was in charge of things like installing new floors (in this kitchen and the kitchen at what I now call "the rental house"), figuring out plumbing problems (new house), and making sure that the rental house was ready for our tenants.  

How we didn't get sick then I'll never know.  Last week though, we both kind of hit the wall and our immune systems gave in and we both felt crappy all weekend.

I wish I had a bunch of fabulous before and after photos to post of the new house but unfortunately, the things we have had to do to the place aren't fun or sexy.  On the morning after we took possession, I spent $1000 on locksmiths, replacing the locks and repairing the doors on the house.  They were beyond messed up and I have no idea how the previous owner was able to use them.  We've also spent $1500 on plumbing repairs.  Again, not sure how a person can live without a properly draining, leaking, kitchen sink/faucet but I guess you can.  We've replaced the fixture, the traps, had the dishwasher properly installed and done some other repairs that Mark coordinated. 

Now that the plumbing is done (you have no idea how much I love not doing dishes in a bucket!), we're going to get some quotes on electrical work. We want to replace the panel and have new light switches installed in the main part of the house.  It's got some funky 12 volt relay system which is annoying and part of it doesn't work at all.  Until that is all done though, we can't do any painting (because there will be drywall to repair).  We'll also need to look into a couple of replacement windows but they may have to wait a while.

Slowly though, we're unpacking and getting settled in.  I can tell that the dogs are totally grooved into the new place and they love their gigantic backyard. 

The first few days we were here, I was pretty angry about the condition of the house.  The kitchen was filthy, just gross.  Thank goodness my mother very kindly helped me (I say helped but she did most of it, I was coming down with the flu) clean the cabinets out.  They were absolutely disgusting.  I was in shock by the amount of dirt we found in the cabinets.  That's right dirt, soil, dry mud.  Gross.  One should never have to clean dirt out of cupboards or hoover sand out of utensil drawers.  Personally, even if I lived like that, I would never want anyone to know and would NEVER leave a house in a state like that.  Be a pig in a privat but why leave that mess behind for someone else to see.


Fortunately, with each day that passes, my anger fades and this feels more like our home.  We're really happy here.  Once I can paint and get new window coverings up, I'll feel even better.  In the meantime, we're just taking it one day at a time.