London Bridges

london bridge 2This is a happy picture of me in 2014 when my husband and I spent some time in London on a whirlwind trip of a lifetime.

We made sure we got some shots and a video on London Bridge for our son and baby daughter, who’s favourite kid-song at the time was “London Bridge is Falling Down”. A windy, rather non-descript bridge, shadowed by the pomp and circumstance of Tower Bridge just down the river a ways, but both busy with traffic and people rushing to their jobs.

Nonetheless, historically important to visit and document, and I am so very glad we did. We even took photos as we boated underneath on our way to Greenwich. london bridge underneath

Google the history of that song, and it could date back to the Vikings, potentially. My Fair Odin?  Wikipedia

Memories from our trip aside, London, and Britain as a whole are on my mind today.

London is this intoxicating , sprawling entity. Teeming with people, a millennia of culture and modernity symbiotically  thrust against one another to melt into this glorious palette of urban life. It is a cacophony of tastes, sights, smells and memories. It was heady and overwhelming, but I grasped – with clarity – the way this place made me feel. I was more at home in London than I have ever felt visiting any city for the first time, ever. I wanted to stay and just absorb everything, let it set into my bones and alter my perceptions, one street block at a time.

I have been *there*. I fell in love with a city *there*.

My heart, after last night’s news, has travelled back, and is heavy. I think people, as we are bombarded by all the reports and happenings all over the world, focus on the ones we can relate to. Places we visited now the centre of the crime. We remember what we saw, trying to reconcile to what the news shows us now.

All this to say; London, and England at large, have survived worse, and will continue to do so. Of this I am certain. The way Londoners (and Mancunians!) have responded with British resolve, strength, and cheek is appropriate, and despite stereotypes being what they are, refreshing. Stiff upper lips are warranted, even when there is grief and sorrow aplenty.

These recent attacks are terrible, and of course, the litany of opinions will drown out this simple fact about the most recent terror attack on London Bridge: That someone chose to take life for hateful reasons, and no matter what the reason, cause, or hatred… It cannot stand.

freedom pericles

The Bomber Command Memorial – Wikipedia

Someday I will go back to London, to dive back in and fall in love with the concept of a city as a living being, made up of all the world at my feet, imbued by history and time passage. I will celebrate that, and pay tribute to the lives lost within, as I did the last time I visited.

Because that is the heart of it. London bridges cultures, invites them to thrive and grow in a city that has stood for over a thousand years with that influence. It has survived countless wars, invading hordes, fires, and bombings. London is a city of the world, not just England.

It will survive this too. ♥

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I Am Not a Poet

I am not a poet.

I read in choppy snippets when my circus lets me. I don’t do justice to heavy, important books when I can’t dive into them, so the drug-store romance novellas are my escape when I have time. It isn’t Dostoevsky, or Atwood, but it is words. On a page Kindle.

Lately, as “busy-and-tired” becomes my perpetual state, I’ve gravitated further towards what I can digest in micro-bites. Poetry fits into the nooks and crannies of time I have before demands of the rest of my life take over. I sit down in the chair the poem makes for me, and live in its world for a moment, relishing the swirls and patterns the words dig out of my imagination.

Heady, but brief.

Sometimes I’ll try my hand at writing a poem. A phrase or a word will come to me and I write it down hastily in my journal, often times so scribbled I need a personal Rosetta Stone to decipher it.

This is not helped by bumpy bus rides.

I call them “Navel Lint”. They sound like first world problems met a TV drama and moped about in the rain with cold tea and no jacket. My untrained mind just barfs up a bunch of ^%&* where most properly blooded writers would utter rude noises and promptly toss it on the pyre.

Poems are supposed to whack you over the head with significance in carefully crafted, sparse verses. My prolific word count makes them seem more like a barrage of superficial feelings and profound epiphanies mashed together and thrown at the wall to see if it sticks.

It doesn’t.

I first tried my hand at poetry when I was in primary school. I was challenged to write about something other than horses for a writing assignment. “You need to expand your world!” my teacher said. I was quite happy in my green-grass-and-tweed fenced paddock. I didn’t want to delve outside it. But when I was told that I would fail if I handed in one more story about a horse, I capitulated, the fear of a bad grade potent.

So I wrote poems about darkness, death, unhappiness, and the general horribleness of life as a tween. Navel Lint, but in a vengeful sense, as I wanted to write the most terrible poems ever. Maybe if they were horrible enough, I could go back to writing about horses. Clearly it was all I was good at, because who wants to read poems about death?

I received an A+, and a note home to my parents about therapy.

I’ve long since lost the poems I wrote those 30-some-odd years ago. They have faded from memory, the ideology of that young girl replaced by the real world. The act is remembered, but the words slip from me. I would love to remember them, if for nothing more than posterity.

To laugh at the stilted, spiky, aggressive verses needling shouts of protest at a teacher who – in her brilliance – pushed me out of my comfort zone. And I went, not looking back, the line in the sand erased by the tidal wave I rode when I realized I could write about anything, in any way I wanted.

So in that moment;

wearing red duck boots,
covered in horse smell,

my mind switching gears like a wobbly bicycle,
held upright by a tooth-marked pencil in grubby chore-stained hands;

I was a poet.

 

Writing

I am writing. It may be terrible stuff, not fit for public consumption, but it is on the page. That is the start, it can be improved from there. Rewriting IS writing. The first draft of anything is *^&%. Write drunk; Edit sober.

You get the point.

To shake the cobwebs out last year, I started a Wattpad for tiny story slivers I get. the ones that I don’t think would flesh into books, but deserve to have some space because I like where they go. It is sporadic, but it is there. I also wanted to test the platform on the encouragement of a woman I met at an Ottawa Romance Writers Association get together, and gave a lift home to.

I’ve been too shy to go back to ORWA, and feel silly for it, but I did take her advice and looked it up.

You can find my small selection here:

First, Finallys, and Forevers

This is what I want to write, and the past year has shown me I enjoy romance the most as I experiment. I love the happily ever after. I love the emotion, the rush of new love, lust, arousal. I enjoy the creation of a story line that can be bonkers, yet feel believable when two people are meant for each other.

So if you would like to, have a read. I’m hoping I can add more to it in the coming days. ♥

Parachute

I had to buy a new umbrella yesterday. The one I was fighting with in the whipping wind had inverted itself half a dozen times after only two blocks.

There is a tiny Chinese shop near my work, filled to the brim with all sorts of nick-nacks, pottery, Asian foods, teas and ephemera. the aisles are so narrow, you have to slide down them sideways to explore the depths, and when you walk in, there is an odd mixture of plastic off-gassing, Chinese spicing, and dust that hits your nose. In the window are quirky ceramic figurines and folk art tin dolls staring out, the best seats in the house. At the door, you can pick out a belt from the rack. Nothing is expensive, and there is clutter, filled to the brim with potential treasure.

I used to love going to this shop with my parents when I was little, the wonders in every nook and cranny an entire world of endless possibilities to a youngster. Blue and red-glazed ceramic tea sets shon like jewels, plastic wrap on ramen noodles crackled when you held them in your hand. It was always an adventure.

I spied the umbrella at the door out of the corner of my eye as I stomped past, irritated and frustrated. I halted, turned around, went in, and bought it on the spot, emphatically stuffing the smaller one away in my pack, the cashier nodding sagely at my wisdom of puchasing a bigger, sturdier model. Eleven bucks. I didn’t care that it was half my height and had a huge steel tip. It really didn’t matter that when unfolded it was the diameter of a golf umbrella. What made me pick it out of bin with all the other off black selections were the colours. Red, yellow, blue and green sections, neatly swirled and corded against the handle.

When I unfurled it outside, fuzzy reminders of my Kindergarten and Grade One memories came flying forward.The sound of shrieks of laughter, the rustle of the material on our hands. The anticipation of gym class when the bright bag was dragged out from the gym locker.

My umbrella was a parachute

I remembered it all. We would stand around it, each clutching a tiny length of the edge, all fidgeting and impatient to begin flailing with all our might to make the parachute come alive. The teachers would toss balls into the middle for us to launch into the air, we would all run underneath, shrieking and giggling. We would lift it up and fold underneath it, a circle of colour-tinted faces, wiggling our bums to make sure we didn’t fall off the edge and make the dome fall. if you got picked to go in the middle while everyone shook the material around you, all you could hear was thunder, all you felt was special.

And just like that, my frustration and irritation were gone, and I was walking down the street with an old, happy memory, and a new umbrella. ♥

Jeans

My daughter had a massive, soul-wrenching tantrum this morning because she did not want to wear jeans to school.

Yup. Full on messy-cry, with dramatic wailing and arm-folding. I wanted to give in, and let her wear shorts, but I had already said no (because it was cold out and if she wore shorts she would be freezing her tiny tookus off) and parents have to stand their ground, don’t they? I mean what kind of message am I sending if I give in every time she cries her little heart out at some perceived slight?

I felt like an incomprehensible bitch for standing firm. Yes. I am a terrible parent for making my child dress in really cute  flower-embroidered jeans and an appropriately branded Frozen T-shirt. Horrible.

To make matters worse, her brother waltzed out of his room in shorts. *facepalm*

She proceeded to make it known that she could not change into shorts at school if she got hot because her teacher would not let her unless she had an accident, which she does not have. “ButmomIwillhavetoweartheseallday” was the hiccuped response as both her father and I attempted to get her dressed because we had to leave for school soon.

She was beside herself with incalculable woe that it would be too hot for jeans. So I put a skort in her bag and said “I’ll send a note to the teacher”. For the next fifteen minutes, my child badgered me if I had, in between bites of breakfast.

I had no intention of sending a note. I intended to ask the teacher’s assistant if she could be allowed to do that, when I saw her at the school. Yes. Terrible. Lieing to my child so she would Stop. Freaking.Out. Parent of the year, right here. *points*

I didn’t need to even bother, because the first thing my little girl did upon seeing one of her teachers this morning, was ask to change into the shorts in her bag. She stood, dejected, her massive backpack drooping, her lower lip stuck out a mile, and with the largest puppy-dog eyes I have ever seen on her, said “I am going to be too hot later, I want to change into my shorts.”

Yep. I am like a mean step-mother (which is what she said to me the other day when I wouldn’t let her do something. Thank you Cinderella).

Increasingly, I am discovering that I have a girly-girl who is so independent in her thoughts, I am not going to be able to make a single decision for her soon. She dictates what she likes in clothing already, and let’s not even talk about nails and hair and all things glittery and pink. I will hold up three outfits in a store and she picks the one she likes. Which is never the same one I like. Even though I try to engage her in talk about how strong and smart and amazing Disney princesses’ actions are, it is all about the massive glittering ballgown and the idea of being pretty, right now. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to be pretty, but that ain’t all it is cracked up to be in the real world. I want her to equate value with actions and knowledge and all those other noble concepts… Not her physical appearance.

Yes, I know… She’s only in JK. *deep breath*

Sometimes, my attempts at levelling out the horrific messages that the princess culture elicits works, and she pretends to be this strong, smart and kick-butt princess who rescues people (or drives trucks, flies, makes forts, works in a restaurant to bake things etc etc), and she does consider Wonder Woman to be a superhero princess (I’ll take it), but I swear I am losing the battle against the pink and purple tulle frocks. I am just hoping, as she gets older, some of what I am trying to shepherd her towards will stick. I don’t mind if she plays with Barbie, as long as her dolls don’t become helpless girls who need Ken dolls to rescue them.

She is headstrong, and she is powerful in her opinions. She is loud, expressive, and she already has the ability to wrap her father around her finger (in some things only, he’ll deny he’s fully suckered). She is artistic beyond measure and I think she’s going to find her interests in some form of creative outlet. I don’t think she’s going to be horsey. We’ll see… I am hoping at least one of my kids wants to take part in Mommy’s expensive habit. It will make it miles easier to eventually own another horse if they like it too.

No matter what, she is magnificent already, and at four years old I am in awe that this child came from me. I simultaneously see too much of myself, and nothing of myself, in her (read: I am so screwed when she is a tween). If she wants to exert her own views over jeans, which means we have a battle of wills, so be it. We’ll figure it out together. It is why I accept the frilly and frou-frou and girly stuff.  I don’t want to become like my own mother, who eschewed femininity in so many ways that handicapped me later on in life. I want her to have balance. Be a girl, with all the intricacies and layers it requires to go from girl to woman with confidence.

And in reality, maybe I’ll just have to find jeans with a tulle tutu attached to them to save us from another morning like this one. ♥

Be…

When you boil it down, a flitting idea can sometimes provide more sense than the staid plodding of reflection and study. It can take a simple tick of a second to have clarity, when you have already gone ’round the Mulberry bush an unfathomable amount of times.

Murky as that may sound, it is a concept I push around my brain that we humans tend to make our lives difficult, by sheer nature. Not an insult to humanity at all, for those in the gallery now grumbling that I paint with a heavy hand. In fact, sometimes I think our deductive, critical thinking ability is a fascinating study into the intricacies of our thought patterns and instincts, as opposed to a mammal who cannot reason.

Case in point. In a multi-faceted-million different ways, we create difficulty through the want or need for something. It can be as abstract as the desire for “happiness” or a tangible want like a new home/car/thing. We, as a species, seem to always pursue the need for “more” of something. Notice I say more, and not less. If you want less of something, adversely, you want more of something else to counteract it.

I don’t think there is one person who can legitimately stand up and say “I have never wanted more!”. Age brings wisdom, and perhaps someone with battle experience will stand up and say “I have learned how to be content with what I have”, but I am not sure there is a finite time frame on that particular life lesson.

The navel gazing I am doing here is not a random instance. Through action of decluttering and getting ready for the school year, impending winter, and the financial obligation of Christmas, I have found myself asking the questions of happiness and the importance of the million different activities and responsibilities my world has.

Cue the uncertainty, and the need for more clarity. Commence dissection of everything in my path. Always a helpful and healthy thing to do to de-stress and centre one’s self as life gets busier, yes? It makes me want to run away to join the circus, when in fact the circus found me in the form of two small children, a husband, a full time job, and passions I have to balance, juggle, and evaluate.

Am I describing something familiar? Hopefully I am not the only one looking to understand their personal definition of happy amongst the chaos of life. What does that include? Where is it located? Answers! I need answers, Dammit! Instant gratification has been hard-wired into my MTV generation, and it often frustrates me when the solution isn’t laid out and apparent at first ask.

So… In this whole mess that likely has you scratching your own head, there was a moment last week when I was quiet in my mind, and when prompted to write about describing a quiet moment, I remembered it, and voila… blog post from a writing exercise.

I was not running at full tilt with to-do lists, undone chores and what-if worries clouding the sky. There were no decisions debating in my head, no funk following me akin to a black cloud.  I was simply there, being present to what I was doing right that second. It was silent around me, I was alone, and I was fully absorbed in my task. This is a jolting experience, no matter what you are doing, I can tell you. It made me stop in my tracks, realizing my head wasn’t full of everything else but what I was doing. Tension, stress, and worry were not there. I was simply happy.

In place of being present in the moment, lately I have socketed the strain of all those questions I talked about above. I have let it drag me down, push me into a consistent state of tension, and coloured my view. Instead of letting the answers reveal with time, I let them devolve into a noisy tangle, distracting me from the normal joy I find in the things I do. I won’t detail what exactly that means in my particular life situation, no one needs to hash out semantics when it really isn’t of importance to the concept of a piece of writing.

Summarily, I realized that I have been making my life difficult simply by trying to envision how to make it less so.

In writing this out, I did decide one thing. More moments like that. To simply Be. Stop living in my head and let it go. Be present. this will help the answers come, the clarity to appear. Stop bashing the questions against the proverbial rock. You get my point.

Albeit, the idea of this is still a pursuit of something “more”, but it is hopefully a positive one.

Chasing Llamas

Life has ebbs and flows, and sometimes they are frustrating, other times they are simply what is and lived through. This is also true when you are a writer. Sometimes you are a slave to your keyboard, getting the words down as quickly as you can. Sometimes it is like this:

Summer has not been easy this year with regards to time spent on my multitude of writing projects. With best intentions, if I try to sit down to write in my house when I have the actual physical and mental energy to write, guaranteed that a child will need me as I park my bum in my chair and lift my tea for that first sip of writer’s ambrosia (aka Red Rose with a dash of honey and milk). If I banish my darlings outside to play, one of them will come in to a) tattle on the other or b) be crying because they hurt themselves, or each other. SO if there are children afoot, my writing stays aloft in the file folder, silent and sulking because I am unable to focus on it.

If not spending time being a normal, every day parent, sometimes I do get time to write during the day when I have energy for the practice. But, within two minutes of opening my file, I will have to pee, then notice that the bathroom sink is a mess, then notice there are no towels to dry my hands, then remember the load of towels needs to go in the washer, and then find out that the washer wasn’t emptied, then…

So that file I opened before I had to pee? Barbara Demarco-Barrett I ain’t, and it gets abandoned for laundry. And by the time I do get a few moments to sit down again? I don’t want to be mentally zoned in, crunching emotions into sentences by sheer will. I want to play a game on my iPad and zone out until the next energy wave hits and I have to again be a parent and adult.

Fall for me is normally a time when my creativity revs its engine, and my muse comes home from summer holiday. I suppose it is the impending coocoon of wintertime that brings out the idea of settling in for more creative devotion as the sunlight fades earlier and earlier. Hot teas, bulky sweaters and more time for introspection can lead to gains in my daily word count.

Ergo, the urge to “put pen to paper” has been poking me like a big pointy stick, and I have sat staring blankly at a file on my laptop at night for the past week, wanting to focus, wanting to get inside the head of a character to see my way through a situation.

But by 9 PM,  my brain has had it, and I am chasing the *^%&ing llamas.

I am hoping to catch them soon.

Big Jumps

I am browsing through the pictures for this year’s Burghley cross-country course, in anticipation of watching some crazy, over-the-top jump action by some of the most daring and finessed riders and horses in the world. Burghley is a CCI**** three-day event, so for those who don’t know what that means… Well, it means BIG FICMIG JUMPS.

The best in the world compete there. On North American soil, it is similar to the calibre of Rolex in Kentucky. To appease the folks right now who are going “WTF is she talking about?” I give you the Wikipedia on Three-Day Eventing.

SO, after all that, I can safely tell you this is not the hunters, folks (They don’t have “hunter” per se in England anyways, but you get my point).

The fences for this years Capt. Mark Phillips course look alternately fun-as-Hell and &^%*-your-pants-scary. I imagine the latter would be much more prevalent if I was walking the course in person. Some of them are knee-wobbling just on reputation alone, like the Cottesmore Leap.

I am awed and inspired by these riders, and although I don’t event anymore, nor am I riding at an eventing barn (which is perfectly ok), it still tugs my heart and curiosity forward like moth to flame. The thrill of galloping cross-country, jumping tables and ditches out of stride, and successfully navigating your horse through tricky combinations of jumps at speed is adrenaline addiction cultivated. Achieving precision and obedience of dressage on a horse also trained to be brave and self-decisive on cross-country is a special skill. The mindfulness and patience to navigate a show jumping course with a tired horse on day three requires patience and grit.

The biggest cross-country course I ever walked in my day was at Farm of the Mountain in Napierville, Quebec. I’m not sure there is still a horse trials there anymore, but it was a go-to competition back in the day. On a whim, I decided to walk the Advanced course while I was there to spectate. Now, let’s pretend it wasn’t over 20 years ago. Seriously. Let’s not go there.

The memory that sticks out is standing underneath the back rail of an airy oxer over a shallow gravelled ditch. From the front, the jump looked inviting and straightforward. But when I hopped down into the ditch underneath it, looked up and reached my hand over my head… I could not touch the rail. I was too short. (this is a normal problem for me but here it was exaggerated, let’s be honest).

That fence scared me. Not just in a good nerves “git ‘er done” excited kind of way, but in a “HELL NO” kind of way.

At the time, I owned horses that would never reach that level, and so to be fair, I had never jumped a jump like that. I never have, because I am scared to. I’ve had the opportunity to ride seasoned horses over the years that could leap such a fence, but I never challenged myself to actually do it. It was always just that little too far to push myself, and I would decline. I’m a big chicken. 3’6″ makes my stomach clench. I know I am not alone in this, big jumps can be intimidating and require a certain level of skill that some people can doubt (in themselves and their horses). To jump big jumps, you have to implicitly trust your horse. That takes time and patience to earn (both for horse and rider).

But… If I ever get the chance again, would I like to try facing the *gulp* of trying larger jumps, now that I have perspective and a bit more understanding of how to control my nerves and expectations?

Still not sure. Maybe. I dunno… I am rather happy to be tooting around at 2’3″ and 2’6″ in my lessons, and living vicariously through the live feed on Saturday. 

Dreams in Sweaters

I had a dream a few nights ago. In the small amount of time I got good, actual sleep, it slammed into me. It was so vivid, I woke up shaking.

When I finally realized it was a dream, the image was still there, a mist in the air in front of me, and in the quiet of night I let it linger as I pulled myself groggily from the grip.

I had been galloping. I could feel the wide, pebbled reins in the dark, I uncurled my hands to touch my palms where the edge of the rubber would be, crossed over, rubbing the callouses. I could smell the oiled leather, I could hear the rhythmic snorting. I could taste the grit of the track in my mouth. I could almost sense the bunched muscle of horse stretching out to fluid in an explosive instant of sheer power. Even awake, the other half of myself was still there, somewhere, perched solidly and holding the entire production together.

Of course, not really, because I was not at a farm, in the sunshine, on the back of a horse. I was in the city, at 3 am, in bed.

I stared at the dimly lit ceiling, my heart beating a mile a minute. I haven’t had that dream in a long time. At various points post-racehorse life, it was a regular occurrence, my spirit still unable to let go of the hardest and most rewarding job I ever dove into (before I had children).

I used to have this dream when I was restless. I used to have this dream when I was sad. But I am not any of those things right now. It may stem from the fact I was watching GoPro videos of racehorses breezing, and a special video of American Pharoah right before the the Travers Stakes. I found and was entranced by a really cool video of Ingrid Klimke at Aachen, I think, going cross-country. Goosebumps and respect when I finished watching that video.

My brain doing a dump, so to speak, relating it back to my experiences, tucked away in the recesses of my memory.

As I think on it now, a few days later, I am reminded of how much fun Fall is with horses, and how much I loved galloping this time of year. This time of year the bugs leave, and the riding is less sweaty. The majority of the August heat dissipates to crisp headwinds, and fresh horses. As the alter-ego to Spring legging-up once the mud dries, Fall is the perfect time to take your horses down a peg, get them ready to rough off for the winter, scale back the intense schooling, and hack out more often.

Maybe that’s where my head is at right now, hence the dream. Fall is around the corner, my kids are about to go back to school, and I am anticipating sweaters, and fall leaves dancing in the wind. It reminded me so much of how I loved flying through harvested corn and wheat fields, skirting the edge of a well-mown hay field, or even up the side of a county road, the shoulder providing enough softness to let loose for a quarter mile, the speckled shade multi-coloured with fallen leaves.

Fall was also a countdown on the thoroughbred farms, because soon the track would be covered in snow and we would be doing endless circles in an arena, on the horses going south for early meets.

I used to hate that dream, because it was a reminder of everything I had once lived for, missed terribly, and could likely never go back to. I don’t hate it now. Not even a bit. I am relieved my body still remembers what it felt like. It is permanently part of me, for which I am grateful.

Horse Show Mornings

A friend on Facebook posted a picture of the laneway down to the paddocks at the facility I ride at.

It was a Saturday morning, she had just arrived to start her day showing one of the horses, and it was such a beautiful shot of the mist still lingering around the trees and fenceposts. Silent and peaceful ahead of the cacophony of a show barn on show day.

I sat and stared at that picture for awhile. The ache was not full force, but right then, I wanted to be there, experiencing the bustle of the morning. So many sensations worked their way through my memory, weaving in and out as I fell into the rabbit hole of the past, especially of the farm, and my horses.

I loved the walk up to the barn in the morning, seeing my horses gallop up through the mist when I called them for their early breakfast. They would careen through the loafing-shed pen, freshly coated in a healthy layer of dew. They would nicker and revel in post-gallop full body shakes, sending droplets of water in all directions, eyes bright in anticipation of their grain.

I used to stand at the gate, coffee in my hands, my own eyes heavy from a short night’s sleep, and let them blow their grassy breath on my face, jostling for position until we brought them all in. Happy snorts would fill the air in the barn. My herd knew when it was a horse show morning, because they were all in the barn late while the lucky candidate was braided (after dark) the night before. Horse show mornings meant early grain, and excitement as one of them got to leave for the day.

Those first few moments of quiet and peace, seeing the mist rising in tendrils off the pasture, hearing the early songs of birds from the big Oak trees, and feeling the first frisson of anticipation for the day was one of my absolute favourite things. Sometimes I would stand in the big rolling doorway once we opened it, leaning on the doorframe, just breathing in the moisture from the air, centring my mind before I had to get moving.

So that picture, in a heartbeat, brought memory into sharp focus, in contrast to the gossamer edges of the foggy fence lines and sand ring it captured.  It brought a wish for one of those “this is why I do it” validations that scatter through the effort and craziness that is showing horses.

Maybe someday I’ll be standing in the doorway again, having a Horse Show Morning moment. It won’t be exactly the same, of course, I don’t own my own horses or take care of my own barn anymore.

But I have a hunch it will feel very familiar. 

Heels Down and Don’t Forget the Pads!

There is an art to breaking in new boots. I am reminded of this as I break in a pair of tall Doc Marten’s today, their first walk from the bus. I forgot my blister pads. Dammit. I should know better.

You see, this art is equal parts patience and tolerance to pain. Both are necessary to walk through the first few weeks of pinches, blisters and stiffness new boots require. I’ve done my fair share of breaking in leather riding boots, and I have a distinct challenge.

I’m short.

Like, midget short. Tall boots have, historically, not come in my leg length, unless I go full custom. Which I have, and since having kids, do not fit into anymore. *cue sobbing and incalculable woe*

Every pair of tall leather riding boots I have ever owned have required me to be creative in my endeavours not to grind my heels and calves to a pulp, or lace the back and inside of my knees with criss-crossed ribbons of blood. I have used gauze padding, gaffer tape, Vaseline, hot water soaks, and the almighty panty liner.

Yes, really. Panty liners.

My very first pair of tall leather boots were on sale at Horse World for $100. A steal! My feet had stopped growing, so my father relented and I practically danced out of the store, jubilant to finally be joining the “grown up” ranks of riders sporting classy, professional looking boots. No more rubber Aigle’s for me! Clanking in the box beside them were my new boot pulls too, because back in the day, we didn’t have fancy zippers and spandex gussets. You pulled those suckers on, and yes, pulled them off too, sometimes getting sweatier doing that than when you were riding.

We worked for our sleek calf-line and tailored ankle, dammit. This was why, if a rider was in the ER for a suspected broken ankle, you would hear them say (paraphrased) “you will cut those boots off over my cold, dead body. Give me a biting stick and pull it off, dammit, I don’t want to break in a new pair mid-season”.

Yup. The struggle was real, yo.

The first ride in my new grown up boots, I was so excited, I don’t think I even noticed the river of blood running into my breeches as I rode. It wasn’t until I pulled them off that I saw the back and side of my knees, completely red. Upon peeling my breeches off, the horror hit, and then the pain as air met wound. Blood blisters the size of Manhattan (not really, but picture it, for dramatic effect) were oozing, pulsating, and generally looking like someone decided to take a cheese shredder and run it over my skin a few times.

My very first experience breaking in leather boots. How cool! How awesome! Why had no one warned me of the Defcon-4 level of pain I was now enduring?

Since Google did not exist yet, I looked to my books and fellow crazy horse people for advice. “Ride through the pain”, “Bandage and tape felt to the tops until they relax”, “Hot water soak them to relax quicker” was all sound advice. My Pony Club commissioner, Kim, gave me advice that I took to heart. She simply said “Tampax pads on the knee, pull on the breeches, and you’re good to go.”.

In absence of felt, and because I needed something to absorb grossness from the back of my knees, I dutifully taped some hastily bought panty liners to my open wounds, gauzed them in place, and pulled the boots back on the next day, wincing, maybe crying a little, and walking like a stiff-legged marionette. I’ll admit my horse’s feet didn’t get picked that day. I couldn’t bend my leg!

But, I was badass. I was going to ride through the pain! Grr! Argh! Also? I refused to ever wear my rubber riding boots ever again. They were so childish. I was an accomplished teen rider, yo! I was also stubborn as a mule… Even with the tears and the days on end of not being able to sit properly in chairs. (edit: I did so wear them again, for a couple of days to let the blisters heal)

Those first leather boots did eventually relax, and became absolutely wonderful. The scars healed, with only a tiny remnant on the inside of my left knee. It gets opened back up each time I break in a new pair. Battle scars. Stories.

Once, using this method to break in boots, I rode a dressage test with Always taped to my legs inside my breeches, and white no-stick gauze with white electrical tape pasted to the outside. No blood seeped through, and I even remember I scored a 7 on my free walk (our first mark above 5 that didn’t have a remark of “stiff/above bit”!). This was a small miracle, because I was riding my anti-dressage Appaloosa who decided to impersonate a vertically challenged giraffe as soon as she saw a white-fenced rectangle. Even in the free walk. She would periscope, looking around as if lions were everywhere.

Once, in lieu of a pantyliner, I grabbed some Animalintex to pad out the backs (overtop of my breeches), because I needed something quickly and had forgotten to pad the outside of the knee. White fluff floated out from behind my legs for the entire lesson, baffling my instructor.

I’ve soaked in the bathtub with my boots on (reading Horse Sport for classical dramatic flair, whilst sipping wine) to get the leather to relax quickly. I have used heated “magic bags” to warm the leather and stretch the toe box out, and I have worn riding boots around the house for days on end to break them in before ever swinging a leg over. (my boyfriend at the time, he didn’t mind so much *wink*).

I bought my first pair of tall boots in a long time, this summer. I had been using paddock boots and half chaps, but missing the stability a tall boot gave the leg. I was not looking forward to the breaking in process, envisioning hobbling into work, bandages on the back of my knees, blisters taped up, gaffer tape, and weird looks.

So when the saleswoman looked at me and said “what length do you want? I assume a short?” I nearly kissed her. I tried them on, and yes, even the “short” was tall on me, but I wasn’t immobile. They were stiff, but not so stiff I couldn’t immediately zip them up and do some air squats. Wild. The first couple of rides were stiff, and I was sure I waddled a bit. But there is one difference with these as compared to all the other boots I have ever broken in (even my customs)…

Not one panty liner was needed.

Dude, Where’d You Go?

One thing about life: It never stays the same. To be cliché, the only constant is change. I could go on, but y’all know what I mean.

I haven’t really blogged in over a year. My world was getting hectic, with two kids, a job, a home etc that something had to give. So I stopped blogging. I always felt guilty about not blogging, the pressure to add a new post winding the coil of an already long responsibility-list. That lifted when I stopped.

I also felt like I had nothing good to say. No one likes a whiner.

So where have I been? What am I doing? Newsy updates below for those who aren’t on the Facebook-thing. Continue reading

A Collection of Easter Blorts

I have not even gotten close to organizing the 1,654,895 pictures I took in England. I have decreed I need to spend some time organizing all my pictures because I have six years of memories sitting on a hard drive. Scary stuff. So Dropbox will be getting a workout soon… Once I get through the rest of my to do list.

I use to scrapbook. I have a butt-tonne of scrapbook paper and tools that I do not use, and haven’t since my daughter was born. Part of me would love to get back to it, but I also love the idea of creating some digital books with my mad (read: basic) photo editing skills. Scrapbooking feels like too much work right now. All the cutting and pasting and designing and the crafting makes me tired even thinking about it.

Much like my writing, right now. I desperately want to write, an even had some alone time over Easter to do so. I was excited to have that time, after a busy day of cleaning and shopping with a friend. I was tired, but did not want to waste the opportunity. So I dug out my keyboard and set up.

I stared at a blank page for two hours on Saturday night, starting and stopping on different ideas, eating a delivered pizza, poking my completely blocked brains until I gave up and played Heroes of Warcraft Hearthstone. (PSA: Mildly addicting. You have been warned…)

So, I have some mini blog posts I have worked on over the past few days, here for your enjoyment.

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Britain Trip Memories – Grocery Stores, Pints, Pubs, and… Eggs?

I have a distinct memory specifically of eggs. There’s more to this post than eggs, but I start off with a picture…

Eggs! On a shelf! In a not-busy Sainsbury’s in Kensington. Yes, I got weird looks from the natives, while taking this picture.

You see, in Britain (and other countries of the world) selling eggs in the store, off the shelf, not refrigerated, is… Normal.

I had heard of this, of course, but had forgotten.

On our first night in London, we “popped” (If you can call it that. my feet were Disneyworld sore. Y’all know what I mean…) to the local supermarket, named Sainsbury’s.

Pimm’s and a Pint in a spot near Trafalgar Square. Ahh…

We went to pick up fixings for a picnic lunch the next day, some dinner (aka salad, strawberries, wine, and a roast chicken) and various other healthy snacks to tide us over while visiting one of the most expensive cities in the world to eat in. It was fun to poke around the aisles, find the differences in our food versus their food. To peruse the wine selection and have some smartly-dressed gentleman force an Italian red into my hands saying “This one, dear, won’t taste like petrol.”.

My husband’s first pie and chips in a pub. He says this was a highlight of our trip… having a pint and a pie in a pub.

So when we happened across the egg aisle, I stopped, staring at the incongruity to my grocery shopping sensibilities. It took me a few seconds, then I remembered that article my husband and I had read not too long ago about why we have eggs in the fridge, when the rest of the world laughs at usdoesn’t.

It has to do with the processing of eggs in North America. Apparently, us North Americans buy eggs that have been washed during the inspection and grading process with special soap-chemical stuff. This removes an important cuticle on the shell. That loss makes eggs susceptible to bacteria, hence they get refrigerated to prevent growth of said dangerous wee beasties. When the eggs aren’t washed, that cuticle stays in place and is like steel-plate armour for the egg, against marauding e coli and salmonella. Their eggs are shinier, and the shell is a lot thicker *tap-tap*! It reminded me of when we used to buy farm fresh eggs.

There is other important info to go with that (SCIENCE!), but I digress.

I think seeing those eggs was one of many small (most-often joyful) observations I filed away as we experienced food first in London, then Essex, where our friends make their home. We share a lot of traditions in our food (heck, I love our locals here in the Byward Market, and the Fish and Chips can be just as good) with Britain, you know. It was really fun to ensure we did stop at a couple of pubs for pints. I, for one, will never tire of remembering the moment my husband broke open his first “pie” at the pub near our hotel. The expression on his face was priceless. Pies aren’t my thing, I prefer scampi and chips, that sort of thing. It was also a truly wonderful thing (Yes, it was totally a thing. An EPIC thing) when we grabbed Indian food on our last night before flying home. THAT is a post in itself, at some point.

It was comforting and welcoming, in a way, to find those similarities. It was immensely interesting to experience the differences too!

Anyone who has small kids here in Canada will get a kick out of this. My two were amazed. Finz? What?

Food is a factor that brings cultures together. People of different descent can share a meal together and it can break down barriers. Food can be a source to understanding the way of life in a foreign place. In other words, I think it would be a shame to travel to other parts of the world and only eat hamburgers, if you get my point.

Now, England is not really a “foreign place” per se, but the nuances of how the food was cooked, displayed, and packaged was a highlight. It may seem mundane to some, but when I looked at the sandwich selection at the Starbucks coffee stores we visited, it was quite neat to try them, and understand what a breakfast sandwich was in Britain, as opposed to Canada (read: My husband does not think British people know what an egg sandwich is supposed to taste like). I rather liked them, but didn’t partake of the “brown sauce” they kept trying to give me. I didn’t care for the taste, much.

I got a true kick out of seeing products on the store shelf that my grandmother used to buy at Marks & Spencer in the Don Mills Shopping Centre. I reminisced about the breakfast sausages, Jammy Dodgers, Lukozade, Polos, etc. I remembered how she used to lament at the quality of tea, and would not drink anything but Red Rose (Only in Canada, you say? Pity…).

I realized that I was exposed to a lot of “British” foods while I was growing up, because of my Grandmother. She was staunchly British, despite coming over to Canada as a young girl, and when I was really little, I thought she was a sister of the Queen, since they both had coiffed grey hair, conservative tailored skirt-suits, and owlish glasses. I wonder sometimes if that isn’t why I have an emotional response when I see the Queen on TV (or in person… Yes indeed, another blog post in the works, y’all).

I am digressing again… Let’s just say there were a lot of memories of her (Grannie, not the Queen) triggered during our visits to the Sainsbury’s.

I was on the plane home when I had a random thought, thumbing through pictures on my phone. “I wonder if Grannie had thought it strange to see eggs in the fridge when she came to Canada?” and marveled at our shared heritage, experienced so specifically through food.

 

Britain Trip Memories – Temple Church

I am going to share some random snippets of my big trip to Britain over the next few days, I hope.

Many people, as we geared up for the trip, warned me that my romantic ideas of Britain and its history would not live up to the reality when I actually went. It put the seed in my head, and I worried that I would be disappointed, or unable to reconcile what I wanted to experience with what I actually did experience.

That somehow, the number one destination on my travel list would not be what I thought it was.

However, one thing I promised myself was that as we travelled, I would be present in the moments. I would open myself to emotions and feelings that came to me, and allow myself to immerse into where I was at that moment. Embrace the unexpected, accept the results. If something was disappointing, so be it. If something was utterly amazing, embrace it.

In the end, I had a multitude of immeasurable moments. I am sure my husband was secretly laughing at me the entire trip because invariably at several points I was the round-eyed tourist gasping at every monument, vista, historical anecdote, and remembered “old thing”.

I hope to quantify some of these memories (or try!), as I remember them. After the break, is my first.

 

Continue reading

New Car Smell

My kids got to experience new car smell on Saturday for the first time. My son doesn’t like it. My daughter thinks it smells like “magic wands”….

…I have no idea either, but it was adorable, therefore valid.

So, to sum up the past few weeks chez-nous, in handy-dandy list form:

  1. 3 year old birthday girl party shenanigans including a shopping spree, high tea at the Chateau Laurier all dressed up, and Rainbow cake.
  2. Car starts making rude, inconvenient noises exactly fifteen minutes after paying for pricey High Tea birthday lunch.
  3. Prep for departure to Britain (a la Flight of the Bumblebee), whilst dealing with a car that now sounds like a Lada.
  4. Discover that the transmission in imposter Lada is kaput, and has been dubbed a “lemon” by car aficionados. Estimated price tag to fix? &*#$ing expensive. Told not to drive car. Cue much swearing and woe-ing.
  5. Frantically scramble to find another way to drive to Montreal to catch our flight and not freak out about money. Book Via and rental cars.
  6. Leave for trip, have glorious time, enjoy every green-grass, sun-soaked moment. Wave at the Queen. Eat and imbibe way too much. Apologize to our livers on the plane home with litres and litres of water (ok, still apologizing).
  7. Come home to rude, inconvenient cold. Rent tiny “smartie” like car that can barely fit a loaf of bread in the hatch. Drive home with luggage safety-belted in the back seat. Pretend they are our children, being beautifully quiet.
  8. Spend the week recuperating, cuddling real children incessantly, trudging back to work, and researching vehicle options.
  9. Drive off the lot with brand new car less than a week after landing back in Canada.

*thud*

I was exhausted by Saturday night. We’ve been so stressed about how to replace our car, wondering how we were going to bury the negative equity, or even afford to replace it, that when we signed the paperwork for our new Ford Escape, I just about did a messy, happy cry right there in front of the business manager. Seriously. Never had we thought we could drive away in a brand new car, dealing with the craptastic situation of dead car + existing car loan + needing to keep the lights on and the children fed.

I am going to give a HUGE shout out today to Lincoln Heights Ford. We bought our Freestyle (of recent transmission FUBAR drama) from them, and when we came to them and said “what are our options?”, they treated us phenomenally. No pitchy salesman, no pressure tactics. Straight-up advice and up-front business (It does help that hubs, before he met me, worked there). We got to keep the demo overnight too!

We are deliriously happy. And my husband has officially purchased his very first new car! That is always a reason to celebrate.

So we did, with Indian food for lunch (the kids liked it! Shovelled it in, in fact!), because we are now trying to recreate the Chicken Tikka Masala experience we had in Paddington. I kid you not, the look on my husband’s face when he tasted the dish that night was exciting! We don’t do Indian food very much here. I heartily approve this mission we are now on since I loves me some good Indian food. Anyone else want to help?

I plan on writing more about our amazing vacation, once we’ve had a couple of “normal” days. I can’t wait to tell everyone about what a life-altering journey it was. It was a necessary holiday too. it made the -26 Celcius yesterday suck just that little bit less than normal (ok, so it still really sucked, but I imagined green grass and daffodils as I shivered).

Cheers! ♥

 

Prepared

This time next week we will be three days into our epic UK Adventure. I am so excited right now I can barely concentrate on anything. Partially because I am in the throes of last minute list preparation. Yup, with tabs and colour-codes.

I have started to pack. Yes, I am aware we still have four sleeps to go. I think it may drive my husband crazy by the time we leave (read: *persternagpester* have you done this yet? *pesternagpester*). There is so much to do before Sunday, and all I can think about is “Will I forget anything? Did I remember to buy extra night time pants for the kids? Did I print enough copies of #alltheinfo for our trip? Did I list the comfy underwear? Should we have an extra toothbrush handy? Should I bring two scarves or one? Where are the light timers? Did husband inform the neighbours? I need to vacuum. Did I update my iPhone list with the changes I made on the spreadsheet? Should we take the whole shampoo bottle or buy travel sized?”

*flail* *gasp* *wheeze*

Yes, I am that kind of person.

I thrive off being over-prepared. I get positively giddy when I am packed and ready and I know I have covered the bases! Think of something you do that gives you immense satisfaction when it is complete (reading a book, cleaning the kitchen, wrestling the kids into bed…). That is how I feel when I am all packed for a trip two days early and with three of everything.

Remember, I showed horses. If I forgot to bring an extra pair of stirrup leathers, one would break. If I brought all the extra emergency bits and bobs, then the day would go smoothly. I used to keep a “show bin” ready with duplicates and second pairs of everything except my saddle (and horse… Heh). They would get re-arranged and counted before every show, even though nothing had been touched since the last show. A list was taped to the top. It was double-checked. The leather parts  would be cleaned each week the same as my primary show tack.

The day before the show, I was always scrubbing and oiling and polishing to exhaustion (Let’s not talk about the plaiting… That was always done with the midnight oil burning). Oi.

I think my need to plan like this has developed over time to be a superstition, long past my competitive days. If I do not have the “what if’s” covered, I don’t feel prepared, safe, and capable. I worry that if I don’t have the Advil packed, we will need some and will have to spend money. If I run out of underwear, and have nowhere to wash them, well… Eww. My worst fear is being somewhere and not having the right clothing, or enough of something to make do. God forbid we run out of money because we had to buy something that we should have packed! Poor planning, and failure on my part!

Let’s not go into how much &^%* I would lug to paintball tournaments, shall we? More than once I got labelled “Team Mom” because I had all the stuff people need at tournaments but would forget to bring. Yeah… Nothing like packing rolls of TP and having the security search your bags with a “WTF lady?” look on their face… Because hello… Porta potties never have enough and I didn’t want to break the budget to buy some when I got to where I was goin’.

No seriously… That was how tight I budgeted sometimes.

I am aware that likely, I would be fine, and buying an extra bottle of Advil is not really going to bust the travel budget now that we are way more financially strong… But from being broke for years, and traveling on literally nothing, old habits die hard. If I forgot a sweater and it got cold, there was usually no money to buy one, because I had to put gas in the car to get home. So I suffered. And that sucked, yo.

This has transferred over to parenthood, of course. I pack everything the kids might need. Extra undies. Extra wet wipes. Any and all medications that one could possibly need with small children. Their little bags bulge with the possibility of warm or cold or even rainy weather wear. Most of the time, we don’t need half of it… But in case one of my precious cargos develops a fever, gets covered in their lunch, get soaked in the rain, or has a hard day riding the potty train, I am covered. I am prepared. No one needs to suffer.

So now, with a trip far away from where I live, I am doing it again. I have to pack for the kids being at Grandma and Grandpa’s for the week, us going to Britain for a week, and organize all the important papers and things we need to get into the country we are visiting. I am wondering at what exactly I can bring and what I should leave. I am planning and re-planning outfits, footwear, hats and jewelry. I am allowing for a  bit of room to bring home awesome things for friends and family (and me! Can’t forget me!). I am doing the “what-ifs”.

But, by the end of it, on Sunday, I will be zen and happy, and satisfied with my efforts.

Why?

Because I am prepared. ♥

Reasons Why my Unicorns aren’t Farting Rainbows*

*Note: No Unicorns were harmed in the writing of this post. Their digestive tracts are just fine.*

It is apparently warming up this week.

A friend informed me this morning that it might rain. Ok, warmer weather means I might be able to get out and run, but rain? Come on now, is it too much to ask for non-freezing eyelashes AND sun? Obviously not. *grump* It has been a long, long, long cold and snowy winter for us here. If I have one more day where I am chilled to the bone on my legs and extremities by the time I get to work, but sweating inside every building I go into before I can take all the winter layers off… Well… Seriously, I don’t know what I’ll do, but it may involve foot stomping and fist-shaking.

In reality, I do not do temper tantrums very well. I’d be better served simply adhering Bitchy Resting Face™ and retreating into self-administered alone time on the bus until I feel as if I have stewed long enough over things I cannot control. *mumble* stupid Polar Vortex *mumble* living where air hurts my face *mumble* have you seen my stapler *mumble*

I had intentions of running last week and it did not happen. At all. I even put it out there to my fellow running friends, and… the Sabby Machine ran outta gas. I did not go. Why? I didn’t make it a priority. I couldn’t find the energy or time.

I didn’t want to.

I have not run in a month now. I haven’t yearned for it once, and haven’t had the energy to even contemplate it some days. It seems weird because I love it so much (and feel like I miss the idea of it, most days), but the thought of putting on all the clothes to go out the door and run makes me just sit right back down on the couch, grab my iPad, flip to a random mind-numbing, addictive game, and go “ugh”. Don’t even get me started on going to the gym to run on a treadmill… the few times I have, I have walked away and quietly cried in the shower afterwards because it felt so terrible. It hurt, it felt wrong, and it was hard as *^&% to simply just keep moving.

The one highlight of this was the running I did in January was wonderful, and the track workout I attended was really, really fun. New shoes work, it felt good to be active, and then… The bottom fell out.

I have a race in April. It is almost March and the last long run I did was 8k, which is half the distance I have to cover at the end of April. I am seriously thinking of selling my bib, or giving it to someone who wants the challenge. I will NOT be ready in time to run the whole thing. The idea of running a race, any race, is so exhausting I just don’t think about it. Or when I do, I stop because it leads to me being a Negative Nelly about myself because I am not pushing my fitness like every single other friend around me and how dare I even call myself a fit person anymore when I have gained ten pounds since Christmas and… *deep breath*

…Let’s not get into that whole “Inner Critic-Shut, Up!” business today. I feel like I have beaten that into the ground with the “Be positive! Be ready! You can DO EEEEET!” and I am tired of that, too. I have drained the bank with positive self talk, uplifting imagery, reminders of past accomplishments and all that stuff, but it does not matter when you have no motivation. No get-up-and-go. No power. Add life/family/work stress and WINTER… And that cocktail knocks you on your arse every time.

There are no words to describe how much I am looking forward to going to Britain in three weeks. They have Spring grass, even if it is temperate and rainy (and, I hope, receding floodwaters soon, dear friends)! GREEN GRASS, PEOPLE! *gasp…wheeze*

Finding the time to go has been hard too, for a multitude of reasons I won’t go into here, cuz really, we all deal with it and some of it is way personal, yo. After an “in the kitchen” chat with some girlfriends not too long ago, I detailed it all out. Cheaper than therapy, people. Find yourself a group of like-minded women (or men, y’all talk about this stuff when watching the game, right?) and throw your problem to them. They can sometimes see things you can’t. It can also be super intimidating to do, and it was scary to be in that group and having them tear my problems to pieces. I look up to these women. It was hard to let them see my failures. Some ouchy things were said (in a loving way) and it was good in the end, because I sorted out some *&^%. It was a tough evening, though. I got home and had a really big, messy, sobby sob-session. I didn’t even take off my makeup, so you can imagine what I looked like after that. *screams in terror*

The other factor that has kept me from physical activity in the past month or so is pain. Good old fashioned aching, hurting, creaking, tottery pain. I did not understand exactly why I was in pain until I saw a doctor last week.

I haven’t talked about it (especially around Husband who would just tell me I needed to get back on the exercise train. He has no motivation issues with his regime because Crossfit). I felt like maybe the pain was indeed the byproduct of not moving much (wasn’t convinced, I walk quite a bit every day to and fro work, from the bus etc). But doing a squat brings pain into my knees that lasts. Doing push ups makes my shoulders make that “poik” noise with each rep and ache for a day afterwards. Waking up and moving in the morning is a shuffle, then a slow hobble until I can actually open my eyes. If I sit for too long, I look like the Tin Man after a rainstorm when I walk. let’s not talk about Bad Bus Driver rides where I have sore arms from holding on. After my track workout, my abs were still quivering piles of ouch five days later, and I couldn’t lift my arm above my head for three on one side (aka: pulled somethin’-somethin’ in that there side muscle). My hands swell up like balloons if I do too much typing.

I know. Typing.

Don’t laugh. But y’all, it is my job. I’m a writer. Do you have any idea how much that sucks? I keep ice packs in the freezer at work to rest my hands on at regular intervals.

I have been living on Motrin and sometimes Aleve to ease the overwhelming day-after-day-after-day pain. I felt like I was falling apart, and thinking I was going to be dealing with this permanently. It was a new “normal” and it was, well… Depressing. Energy sapping. Etc. See above. Taxes and shipping are extra. Results not typical.

I saw my doctor earlier in the month, and he put me on a sleep medication that has been helping in a big way. Sleep is a wonderful thing, no? Then, last week, I saw another doctor and mentioned to her that the constant ache and pain was really wearing me down mentally and emotionally, on top of everything else. She put two and two together and went “Well, likely it is because you are depressed.”. Errr? Ok… Explain.

Apparently, with Seasonal Physical Depression (think similar to Seasonal Affective Disorder, also known as SAD), body aches and pain are magnified, and sometimes a symptom of. Clinical depression can also cause such aches and pains. It has very little to do with not moving. It has nothing to do with exercising too hard. Sometimes exercising can bring it on worse, even (think DOMS + emotional/mental struggles = feeling worse). It can also suppress your immune system. Wait… What? *atchoo*

So cue the rolling snowball. Not wanting to move because it hurts, having no energy to move, feeling worse about yourself because you aren’t moving, then dealing with the hurt when you break down and move because you browbeat yourself into it… And if the real reason (depression) is not being addressed…

Where’s my Bikini?

There is a big ball of brightness up in the sky. If I look up, my breath fogs my sunglasses and I can’t see, but I feel this strange sensation hitting my hurting, pink cheeks.

Heat. Warmth.

I am standing outside this morning, soaking up the sun, even though it is -26 Celcius with the wind chill, and I realize I must look like a lunatic. So I quickly levelled my gaze, and lo and behold, about a billion people in the area where I was were doing the exact same thing (most on a smoke break, but I digress). We are all sun-worshipping in down parkas, toques and Sorel boots.

For anyone who lives in warmer climes, it might look a tad ridiculous. For us, it is just another mid-Winter day in Ottawa.

Depiste the normalcy of cold temperatures and a lack of sunlight, tt has been a brutal, brutal winter here. I have not been running. At all. Nor gymming it. Nada. Just getting through the day is an accomplishment at the moment, and I am happy if I have energy at the end of the day to do something other than sit on the couch and stare blankly at my husband, who is staring blankly back. I feel so unproductive and behind on #allthethings.

$&^*, Spring had better get here soon. I’m not sure how much more blank staring can happen before one of us snaps.

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Old Thing, I think I love you

Exactly a month from now, I will be wandering around London with my husband looking altogether too touristy. Hey now, those sneakers are comfy, don’t judge.

We will both likely be very jet-lagged and doing our damnedest to stay awake. My husband will be trying his hardest not to either beat me over the head or tease me as I stare and exclaim every time I see a building/monument/old thing that further cements the fact that I am, indeed, in Great Britain for the first time in my life and OMGlookit!!!! A stone wall that is really old!

People are going to think I’ve lost my nutter when I take pictures of ordinary, every day things. Why is that woman taking a picture of cobblestones? Or that wall? Or that tree? Or that random doorway? Is she insane? She doesn’t even have a fancy pro camera!

Because those things, if they could tell a story, would have so much to say. By taking that picture, I can revisit and wonder at just what it has seen in the centuries gone by. I can imagine the people, their history. I can wonder at the changes. It can fuel my belief that in noticing these small, seemingly mundane objects, we are truly appreciating the past. The culture, the people, the lives lived. Think about it…  I will be standing in a city that was a city before people even knew the continent I live on existed! A city with untold treasures under centuries of buildings, roads, and progress. I feel as if I could stretch my senses and listen to the peoples of 1500 years ago, who lived at the banks of the Thames. That I can look down at my feet and connect with the person who laid the tile on the floor of the cathedral. It is heady, exciting… And hard to explain exactly why I feel like this.

I know… I can hear the collective twirling of fingers around ears. Crazy woman, dramatizing and romanticizing old places. They’re just buildings and walls. Its just a tree. That’s just a Roman road.

Truthfully, I think about our history when I am downtown Ottawa too, sitting under the massive old trees in Major’s Hill Park. I wonder what they were witness to in the past 200 years; the secret conversations, the changing faces. I daydream standing behind the library at Parliament Hill, looking out over the river and imagining the logjams, or the workers building the Rideau Canal locks.

Perhaps I should have been an archaeologist or a historian, if my path had been different. *adds to list of Sliding Door plot ideas*. I tend to get a little exuberant about really old things. I think I might just be that kind of person on a dig who would get excited every time they unearthed a pottery shard, or old button. Right…

Being as this is our first time to visit the UK, I am absolutely beside myself. We are going to a wedding (of good friends we are so excited to see!) at a Norman keep. I get to go riding. In England (bucket list item)! We get to walk onto London Bridge, take a picture or a video, and send it to our kids. All because London Bridge is their favorite song, and they know all the verses. Yes, there are multiple verses. Do you know them? I didn’t, until my son educated me. Its a LONG freakin’ song when you add in all the verses, you know.

And yes, my son knows that the Tower Bridge is not London Bridge. He is quite adamant when you try to trick him. Although he thinks the Tower Bridge is pretty neat , and makes up songs about it, too.

We are planning, in our short visit, to try and take in some of the must-see places in London before we jet out to where our friends live, to explore Essex in all its early Spring wonder. We don’t have time to do a trip out to somewhere outside of London before the wedding weekend, so we compromised. The next time we go, we’ll be able to say we’ve “done London” and can visit further afield, like Stonehenge, or visit the 432 castles I have on my Castle Bucket List. Tintagel, here I come!

And let’s not get into the trip I want to take solely to hike the length of Hadrian’s Wall. This will happen, people. Who wants to do it with me?

So i am asking you, friends, what should we see? We’ve got the usual suspects, such as Tower of London, Buckingham Palace, Hyde Park, Westminster, St. Paul’s Cathedral, Trafalgar Square, Kew Gardens…Fleet St., Picadilly Circus… It is a little silly all the places, right?  I could go on. So, let’s get down to brass tacks. What truly awesome bit of London should we explore? What old things should we love?

Help me find the stories.