A Canadian gal living in Britain with 3 men and a dog. Wine helps.

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Friday, December 31, 2010

For Auld Lang Syne

I can't believe how quickly this year has flown by.  With most years, there has been good and there has been the not so good.  With one very big exception, 2010 has been a very good year for us.

The Best Bits of 2010:

The arrival of our beautiful Clara in February and our subsequent visit to meet her in October:
  • Although it was a very difficult time, being able to be with my mother and family during her surgery and recovery was probably the best thing I've done this year. 
  • Alex getting his driving license in July, and subsequently a car (although in some ways this has been a catch 22 - worry and fear, need I say more?) 
  • Alex also began the first stage of his education/apprenticeship in his quest to become an Electrical Engineer.
  • Andy and I managed two short breaks away this year, to Sheffield last January for my birthday (a great surprise) and a road trip to Northumberland and the Scottish borders with Molly last spring.
  • The safe arrival of another beautiful daughter for my dear friend Catherine in September.
  • Andy and I being in such a good place as a couple - it's probably been one of our best years yet.
  • We finally paid off our car in September. No car payments - yay! 
  • Andy and the mother of his children have managed to reach an armistice and can now communicate with each other, a  big relief to all of us, especially the children.
  • I completed the 30 Day Shred in November and although I didn't lose a lot of weight, I lost inches, toned up and feel much healthier for it.
  • Andy woke up with his children in the house on Christmas morning - the first time this has happened in nine years.  It was truly a wonderful Christmas.
  • This year I learned to accept a personal situation I cannot change and have actually made peace with it.  For that I am probably the most thankful of all as it has been the hardest reality I have had to accept in my 30-something years. 
  • My beautiful baby sister has managed to lose 38 lbs.  I cannot wait to see how fabulous she looks and kick some ass with her at the gym when we are next together.
  • All those I love have survived to see out another Christmas and ring in 2011.  For some of you I know it's been a different story and I hope you have the strength, peace and support to see you through.
Here's to a great New Year!

Well naturally, I'm hoping that by this time next year my mother will be cancer free and we will have many more years to look forward to.  

To celebrate how well she has done and how far she has come, I will be boarding a plane to spend two weeks with her at the end of January.  When your mother comes down with such a scary illness it's not a time to delay visits, even if she is doing amazingly well.  Its time to go home and be with her and my family; to re-affirm how grateful I am to have them in my life.   I think a celebration with mom and my sister is well in order. 10 months is a long time to wait for a hug. 

I had to time my visit home carefully, as my sister in law is due to have her baby around the middle of February and they have already asked me to be on standby to help with the baby after its arrival.. I cannot thank them enough for how involved they have already made me feel with this unborn niece/nephew of ours.

Because my husband has been so stellar this year with family visits, etc. I've told him its his pick this spring and we are in the process of planning a week's holiday to somewhere sunny and hot. 

There are a multitude of momentous birthday's this year - my niece turns one, my brother turns 30, two dear friends turn 40 and 50 respectively, both of my in-law's turn seventy and my dad turns 60.    And that's only getting started.  Hmmmm I'm realising that in saluting these milestones, it will prove to be an expensive year.  But what price can you put on celebrating the lives of loved ones?

Tonight I will raise my glass, hug the ones I'm with and welcome the start of another year;  I hope 2011 brings us all good tidings, however if there are to be bad times ahead, that we (this includes all of you) at least have the comfort of loved ones to bring us peace and help us through the hard times.

Happy New Year Everyone

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Falling on my knees (and not in my typical fashion)

I know I’ve already made a wish list this year however that one was more of a guideline to help my husband out and make his shopping experience as pain-free as possible. And there would be critics out there who might say I’m a selfish and demanding wife.

I have a much more serious ‘wish list’ though that I would like to publish. I hope more than anything that a few of these wishes come to pass; I’m not someone that reads horoscopes or has a whole lot of faith, but I do believe in karma and a very small part of me believes in angels. So in keeping with my tradition of staying off Santa’s Naughty List (thankfully, I haven’t been on that list in a very long time), here is my authentic Christmas Wish List:

My mother is a good mother. No, let me re-phrase that. My mother is a wonderful mother. Full of goodness and sacrifice; she hasn’t led an easy life and despite this remains remarkably upbeat. My biggest wish this year is that she continues to thrive on her current treatment and makes a complete recovery. This is the time in my mom’s life when she needs to be surrounded by loving, caring family and friends, and although I can’t be with her to celebrate this very important Christmas, she knows how much I love her and that early in the New Year, I will be making plans to personally hug her again.

That the doctors, nurses and every other person who have cared for my mom in such a remarkable way, continue to receive the support they need to do such brilliant work. Cancer treatment has moved mountains over the last decade and if we didn’t have such a dedicated medical community, or people willing to donate towards such a worthy cause (be it monetary or time) we might not have had mom with us this Christmas, a possibility I could not bear to contemplate.

That those of you who don’t spend enough time with your loved ones wise up and do something about it. Life can be too short and we shouldn’t be seeing those who matter to us only during the holidays.

Christmas can be tough on a lot of people for various reasons. Many of you or your loved ones may be experiencing hard times, be they emotional, physical or financial. I hope your burden eases and that you have somebody with you to help you through these not so easy days.

That every one of us keeps an open mind and accepts people for who they are. We may not understand the reasons why people make the choices they do, however it is up to ourselves how we choose to react.

Lastly, I wish you all a very happy, healthy and peaceful Christmas.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Charlie Brown, you'd be proud...

I don't know if you are aware but in three days it will be Christmas Eve. 

I will openly admit that the week before last found me struggling to find anything close to a festive feeling.  I wanted to be able to share rosy, cheerful thoughts with you all about the upcoming holiday but as those thoughts weren't forthcoming, I'm afraid I had nothing to share.  And one whiny blog a month is more than enough. So I spared you, and for that, you are welcome. 

Unless of course you wanted to hear the story of my husband and I falling out over what colour lights he's put on the house or what size Christmas Tree we should get when we always get the same size...

On second thought I will share the story of our tree with you and my reason for this should be clear once you have read it: 

Andy opened our visit to the farm where we always get our tree with his usual 'we'll be wanting a 7 ft tree'.  (Nice try, Andy, but we always get a six foot tree).  Every year I have to remind him that a seven foot Christmas tree is too big for our living room.  I will give him full points for his annual attempt to get a bigger, more expensive tree. This year however, there were no decent 6ft trees to be had so I gave in and we picked out an enormous, but oh-so-glorious 7ft tree.  When you walk into our living room it not only smells like evergreen, it looks like our couch has been stuck in the middle of a forest. If we still lived in Canada I'd be worried that a passing bear might become confused and decide our couch would be the ideal place to crash for the winter months;  good thing that we don't have wild bears in England, and if we did they would be hibernating long before Christmas.  Although it is massive, I cannot lie:  It's the most f**king amazing tree we have had to date.  It's so big we had to find a new corner for it and buy a few more decorations and next year we will definitely revert back to a realistic 6 footer, but for now we are rocking this Christmas Tree.

And not only is the tree beautiful it has proven once again that my husband really should know that 99.9% of the time I am right.  Maybe on Christmas morning I will let him be right about one or two things as my gift to him, because I love him that much. 

I took Monday off this week in order to get some extra Christmas shopping done and can now say that I'm 95% finished.  We just have to do the last food shop and grab a few stocking stuffers. I took advantage of a quiet house late yesterday afternoon and managed to get quite a bit of baking done.  I'm dismayed that my caramel-chocolate shortbread squares didn't turn out though and will blame it on the neighbour (whom I'd never met) that came looking for help in getting his car started just at the crucial stirring point for the caramel.  It hasn't set right and because its a time consuming and calorie-ridden treat I will not attempt to make it again; there are enough calorie ridden goodies in my fridge at the moment and I haven't decided yet if I will attempt anymore baking. 

Last week we had a Christmas party for the clients of our service and this combined with a couple of festive evenings with friends enables me to report that I've found my Christmas spirit and am even hoping that the sprinkling of snow we have stays on the ground in order for us to have a white Christmas.  (This could be a very real possibility as we are experiencing record breaking lows in the temperature).  A lot of people are complaining about the cold but I don't mind it as it's what winter is for me.  I'd rather have the cold crisp air accompanied by lots of sunshine than the usual damp and dismal weather with matching grey sky England is known for.

 As much as I would have liked loved to have celebrated Christmas with my Canadian contingent, I'm relieved that we aren't facing the hassle and stress of trying to catch flights in all the turmoil that has been caused by the weather.  If we were going home to Nova Scotia I'd probably present to my family in a very drunken state due to all the stress and as my mom has already been exposed to drunk Jody once this season, I'm pleased I can spare her the hassle of that at least.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

I know we have to take the bad with the good, but I'm so over it now

As you know, last Wednesday we woke up to this:

Beautiful, isn't it?

I couldn’t be more ecstatic. Exactly one week later I’m not feeling so joyful about the snow that has hit Britain with a vengeance.

This country is not prepared for it; I try not to get annoyed and make comparisons to my native land as we always get weather like this, often much worse. Whole areas don’t grind to a halt for a week and all roads and sidewalks are normally ploughed within a few days. Salt/grit is adequately laid before and after the snow and walkways to shops, businesses, etc. are often shovelled.
The sense of community & camaraderie has been has been great for the most part, yet I wish the powers that be in this country would spend the money that would ensure it was better prepared for this weather. It’s time to face facts: the climate in Britain has changed and after two years running, no more excuses.

A few issues that have been occurring that I’m struggling to comprehend:

Why someone would struggle to ride a bike in this weather, and lots of people have. No one in Canada would actually be moronic enough to ride a bicycle with this much snow on the ground.

Why we have to pay a council tax in this country for services that are less than adequate, especially never more so than now. Essential services such as the bin and recycling trucks haven’t been around in well over a week. When my husband rang our council office to ask if they would be gritting the roads on our estate due to the massive amount of thick ice, he was told that they were waiting for the thaw. I think they will see Santa on his sled being guided by Rudolph before this happens. I’m happy to take our own rubbish to the tip if necessary yet I still don’t think we will receive a rebate from the council for the period of disruption.

I don’t remember the last time our post was delivered. Apparently our side roads are too treacherous for the post deliverers. Oh. Yet we are all supposed to drive/walk around our estate. I get it. Postal workers are in league of their own. (I think that is the situation in whatever country you reside in.)
Why people don’t heed advice when told not to drive past a certain point in the car park. Yesterday I spent more time going out and sorting out the car situation because apparently word spread that I was an expert on getting cars unstuck and off ice. I suppose I will begrudgingly concede to this – it is true after all. Besides, I do like playing the hero and it was kind of fun to be outside in the bright, cold fresh air. Although I think it did annoy the men to have a woman come to the rescue. However these situations would not have occurred if people had listened in the first place.

Taxi Drivers. Why do they think its ok to stop wherever they like to do a pick up, yet when one can plainly see me helping an elderly person down the walkway to my waiting vehicle its perfectly fine to yell at me for stopping on the side of the road. That was asking for trouble and the driver did well enough to hop out of his car and leave. Even my passenger (Beryl) was ready to yell obscenities at the obnoxious ass.

Teenagers that think they know everything:  I think this one is self explanatory.  It has  been a tough week of answering 'why not's' when it comes to safe/unsafe driving conditions.
Aside from all of this, getting to work has been a nightmare. Once I’m eventually off our estate (there is always a car spinning out and some point during the journey, whatever direction I take) traffic is clogged up and what is normally a fifteen minute drive is often trebled, or worse.

The heating has gone down in our offices and although we have small electric heaters plugged in it takes an eternity for our office to warm up. I don’t think I wore this many layers when I used to go sledding or skating back in Nova Scotia.

These, however have been my saving grace:
When I’m out walking Molly, or digging people out of snow drifts, I couldn’t ask for better insulation.

I’ve decided today that I need to tell myself that It Is What It Is. Complaining or losing my cool won’t help anything.

I do need to get back to the gym though and burn off some of this frustration.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Sometimes, wishes do come true

I don't know what's happening here in North East England but I'm sure not going to complain.  I thought the snow we got last Sunday was pretty much going to be it for us, however Mother Nature decided to bless us with her bounty and we received quite a snow storm late in the day on Tuesday that carried on throughout most of the night.  Wednesday morning we woke to a blanket of snow that would impress any Nova Scotian.  

Unlike hardy Nova Scotians the whole county came to a standstill.   We aren't equipped for this kind of snow.  At all. 

Me, unlike any other adult am ecstatic about it.  I've been waiting seven years for this and pretty much had given up hope.  I thought an inch or so is all I would ever see.  After all, it has been over 20 years since England has seen this kind of snow.

Hardly anyone ventured out and many services and offices shut down for the day due to the fact that no one could drive as the roads weren't ploughed.  Many people have only dug themselves out yesterday and today.  Some people have taken it way too far in terms of using it as an excuse not to get to work after Wednesday, however Andy and I managed as we are lucky enough to have a 4x4.  The estate we live on is pretty much an ice rink and the 4 wheel drive makes it that bit easier to maneuver the streets.  Of course up until yesterday we only ventured out to work and back.  Essential trips only - a lesson we are trying to teach our obnoxious 18 year old that doesn't really seem to be sinking in.

Bah what can you do?   18 year olds know everything, sorry for not understanding that in the first instance.

Back to the snow. Molly absolutely adores it.  She constantly stands by the back door asking to be let out in it and luckily enough for her, because we love the snow so much and have been working reduced hours, she has never had so many walks.

This afternoon we took advantage of last night's dusting to spend a few hours outside and captured our activities with the following photos:

Meet Jeffery

Molly had fun helping, but almost dug a whole in his side

The boys decided to build a snow fort...
I pitched in eventually

The finished product - cozy

Plenty of room inside

We had a reindog in the back yard :)