I’ve learned the art of celebration from my mother.  For as long as I can remember, she has shown me that special days are worth celebrating, and that ordinary days can be special too.  It’s because of her example that I’ve come to love parties, cakes, candlelit dinners on weeknights, unexpected surprises, and all things lovely and wonderful.

 

A couple of months ago, she gave me a book to read called “Living Beautifully Together.”  It’s all about how to take everyday moments with family, friends, and loves, and make them into something special, on purpose.  I came across a line in which the author talked about finding ways to make life with your spouse meaningful even after you’ve been married for thousands of days.  It got me wondering exactly how many days it had been since I said “I do,” so I took to my calculator.  After thinking about leap years, I quickly abandoned it in favor of the much smarter Internet and discovered that we were only several weeks away from a pretty big landmark.

 

That brings me to today.  It’s a Tuesday morning at 9:46 am.  I should be at work, part way through a lesson on future verbs, but instead I’m on the couch in my pajamas writing this.  Ian should be walking to his office in the pouring rain, but last time I checked, he was still sleeping.  Today is our 3000th day of marriage, and to celebrate, I arranged for a surprise day off.  I started off joking around last night about not going to work, and finally had to show him the correspondence between his office manager and me to get him to believe it was true.  But, true it is, and here we are, not at work with the day as our oyster.

 

So, here’s to my mother who taught me that every day is unique and worth celebrating.  Here’s to my love on our 3000-day anniversary.  And, here’s to you.  May you find something special in this day, and a way to celebrate the special thing you find.

Ladies and gentlemen, can I have your attention please?  There’s something I’d like to say.  It’s official.  I have moved to Vancouver, British Columbia.

 

(insert applause, congratulations, and extreme confusion here)

 

I can imagine the look on your face as you try to do the math, remembering perhaps my goodbye party, photos of my new apartment posted on Facebook, or sappy, dejected blog posts lamenting my unemployment.  You’re asking yourself, “Didn’t she move, like, two and a half years ago?”

 

And I would have to say that your memory serves you correctly.  In fact I’ve lived here since October 19th, 2009, but I guess you could say I’ve been in a bit of a “friends with benefits” kind of situation with this place, and last week I finally decided to commit.  That is to say, I signed up for health care, and I got a driver’s license.  Up to this point, I’ve been sneaking around using my Ontario health card at walk-in clinics, and every time I rent a care I have to pretend I’m here on vacation, getting super excited when the rental agents circle potential tourist destinations on a cartoon map of downtown for me.  It was getting old.

 

My reasons for resisting are twofold.  First of all, it costs money, which was something I had none of when I first arrived and just didn’t feel like using on kind of boring-ish things once I became employed.  I was very much in denial of the fact that in BC you have to PAY FOR HEALTHCARE!!!  Newsflash to British Columbians:  Did you realize that in the rest of Canada, healthcare is FREE?!  That’s right, no monthly premiums, just free.  I really didn’t want to admit (and STILL groan audibly in the mail room whenever I receive my bill) that I’ve moved to a place that’s already more expensive than anywhere else in the country, and to top it all off, they make you pay for something that I really thought was on the house in the great white north.

 

My second reason for holding off so long is that I really like the feeling of having one foot out the door when it comes to living arrangements.  It means first of all that I still belong to my home.  As much as I love the rest of the world so much, I still love my home the most, and I want to BE from that place, even when I’m not in it.  I cringe when I’m grocery shopping and I see the brand name “Western Family.”  I don’t WANT to be a Western Family!  I’m an Ontario girl and I always will be.  So even though it was just a blue driver’s license with a white trillium and a very unflattering picture of my face, it was hard to give up something that cements my affinity with the land that is woven into the fabric of my heart.  When I finally decide to pledge myself to a place, I want it to be there.

 

I also find strange comfort in the possibility of being able to drop everything and move to the other side of the planet at a moment’s notice.  I want to be transient because there are so many places left to live!  (By the way, Mom, transient doesn’t mean homeless.  It just means staying somewhere a short time, and I don’t think that’s such a bad thing…)  When am I going to live in Paris, Tokyo, Barcelona, or a rice field in Cambodia?              It’s silly to think that changing my driver’s license could stop me from moving, but for me, there’s the idea that taking steps to commit to a place will make it just a little bit harder to leave.  Just like it’s hard to leave a crap boyfriend after you’ve invested a lot of time in the relationship, even when you know it’s over.

 

So, here I am.  Investing.  Committing.  In Vancouver.  It makes me cry a little inside (and a little outside, too.)  But my mother, though she doesn’t understand my desire to remain rootless, was wise to remind me that it is possible to sell a house, break a rental agreement, change your license back, and take kitties on a plane.  I might be here now, but who knows what’s to come.

The purpose of a resume is to outline for a potential future employer the vast array of skills one has gained from past work experience.  I’d like to think that I’ve successfully worked this information into my own resume, but when examined more honestly, what it really outlines is a list of places at which I’m pleased not to be working.  In honour of my two-year anniversary at my (happy) job, I give you several excerpts from my resume, emotionally.

 

Paper Girl

Most people commonly give this one a go when they are children, in order to start making a little extra money to buy gummy worms at the corner store.  I, however, waited until I was 15 to become a paper girl.  Or rather, my mother waited until I was 15 to sign me up.  I was paid a whopping 1.5 cents per paper on a modest route of about 70 houses; I did this every Wednesday and Friday.  Yes, that’s right, my income from my first job was $2.10 a week.  Given that most people would probably PAY $2.10 a week NOT to deliver newspapers, The Guelph Tribune made it possible for paper boys and girls to supplement their incomes by collecting voluntary pay.  Even though most people don’t really want to donate money for a free newspaper, this was my favourite part of the job.  It was physically less demanding, I always liked interrupting people during dinner and looking into their houses, and I was able to at least double my revenue.  I also increased my profits by being innovative and trying to find faster, easier, and more cost effective ways of doing things.  My strategy as a paper girl was to have my kindly younger brother do my deliveries for me, without pay.  Dan, if you’re out there reading this, I probably owe you about $25.

 

Meat Girl

When I grew out of paper-girling and got my driver’s license, my mom made me a list of places and told me to go to each one and apply for jobs.  The first place I went was Ed’s Food Basics, and by the time I got home, Ed’s wife Gerry had called me for an interview.  I imagined myself being a grocery store cashier, and was a little bit surprised when my interview turned out to be in the meat department.  The interview consisted of two questions, and luckily I got them both right.  I definitely aced both “Can you work alone?” and “What time can you start?”  The immediacy with which I was hired led me to believe that I possessed some special skill in obtaining employment, and that finding jobs would thereafter be easy for me.  It never occurred to me to think that I was applying for a position that required no special skills and I happened to be the first one to come along.

I learned many valuable lessons as a meat girl; trotters are pig feet, tripe is stomach, and headcheese is jellied cow brain.  I don’t like the smell of burning blood.  While frozen fish may come in bags, the bags will likely not be tied or sealed.  Never pick up a frozen turkey by the attached paper price tag because someone probably got frostbite fastening it on.  Look the other way when strange men stroke packages of bacon whilst muttering, “Poooooor little piggies.”  Shelves should never be left “higglety-pigglety” at nighttime.  When you can’t find anything to do, clean.  It bears mentioning that by the time my brother applied to join me as meat boy, Gerry had added a new question to her interview repertoire.  When she asked Dan to tell her a little bit about himself, “I like meat” was his answer and he got the job on the spot.

 

Water Girl

I held steadfastly to my position as meat girl until I went away to university and I needed to make more money.  Thus I became an employee of Aberfoyle Springs, which, at some point during my four summers there was bought by and became Nestle Waters.  Working at this job, I coined the term “The Pit.”  The Pit is that feeling you get on Sunday evening when you start thinking about going back to work, and suddenly you feel as though you’ve swallowed a cinderblock.

When I arrived at 6:00 am for my first of 7 12-hour shifts in a row, it was like being thrown in the deep end of a swimming pool.  Only, in this pool, the water is in bottles and there’s a lot of heavy machinery at the bottom.  The arrival of a new staff member (me) seemed to be a bit of a surprise, and so I was made Bottle Marshall.  I later learned that this is the job for people who don’t actually have a job.  You are given a long pole and made to look up at a conveyor of empty bottles running along the ceiling.  If a bottle were to get stuck, you would tap it with the pole.  They didn’t actually NEED a person to do this job, as the bottles would usually un-stick themselves; the position was more of a staging area so that new employees could feel useful while the supervisor figured out what in the world to do with them.  By about 9:00, as I was imagining most regular people starting work, I was taken to another part of the factory where the line had been shut down for sanitation.  I was made to put on a full rubber suit and a sort of protective mask/helmety thing that seemed appropriate for welding.  I was then given a hose and told to spray everything.  I was part way through spraying when someone said, “Oh, by the way, that’s acid.  Be careful.”  At some point during the day, a woman quit.  That woman could never have imagined that her decision to seek other employment sealed my fate for the remainder of my years there.  On that day, I became the CPA girl.

CPA (Central Palletizing Area) is a lonely place in the far reaches of the factory.  The pros of working there: it was cold, I was alone, and I wouldn’t have to wear the rubber suit or spray acid again.  The cons: it was cold and I was alone.  My job was to watch over a collection of palletizing machines, and if anything got jammed, I would un-jam it.  There rarely seemed to be an in between kind of day.  It was either 12 hours of jams and alarms and nobody was there to help me fix them, or 12 hours of nothingness, and nobody was there to keep me company.  On those days, I used what little resources I had available to me to create my own entertainment.  I spent an entire summer weaving a 100-meter long paper chain, which my mother now uses as a garland on her Christmas tree.  Another year, I made head-sized balls out of plastic wrap and then covered the balls in different coloured labels.  I then drew faces on those coloured balls and played hide-and-seek with them.  I grew rather attached.  They were sort of my friends.  Another year I swept the floor every day.  And another year I couldn’t be bothered, so all I did was think.  The biting memory of the monotony has dulled over time, but I still feel The Pit faintly when it happens that I have to drive past.  And it goes without saying that I’ll never look at a bottle of water the same way again.

 

Advertising Girl

What I thought was going to be my life calling turned out to be the worst job in my employment history.  I applied for a writing job at a small magazine publishing house in my hometown.  The interview was going smashingly, until the interviewers noticed that little bit on my resume that says I can speak French.  Because of this, when they offered me a job, they decided to make up a new position instead of hiring me for the one I wanted.  I was in desperate need of a job, and I’m not one to shy away from a challenge, and so I became responsible for selling advertisements to hotels, inns, and B&Bs in Quebec.

As it turns out, I’m horrible at selling advertisements, and I’m even worse in French.  Days and weeks dragged on without my having sold a thing.  I had The Pit so badly I couldn’t sleep at night.  As I walked to work every morning, I often delayed my arrival by walking around the block several times, praying that the door would be locked when I got there, or better yet, that they would decide to fire me.  Alas, neither of these ever came true and for the first time in my life I had to quit a job simply because I was doing terribly at it.  My consolation: I definitely left with my dignity intact by quitting before I got fired.  When I got home and started the tedious task of job searching yet again, I saw that my position had been posted a few days before I quit.

 

I count myself fortunate to work at a job where two years have flown by, and the only reason I get The Pit is because I have so many fun things to do on the weekends!

An entire summer’s work: my paper chain on the family tree

(Hello, Blog, it’s been a while!)

Here comes another set of memories from the vault of my child mind.  Let’s talk about the neighbors I had as a wee one at 53 Boullee Street, London, Ontario.

 

Mike and Cheryl

My only recollection of Mike is as follows.  I was riding my bike around and around in circles in his driveway on an afternoon when nobody was at home.  The benefit to doing this in the neighbor’s driveway as opposed to my own simply comes down to gravel versus paving.  Intent as I was on my circling, imagine my surprise when Mike pulled into the driveway in his pickup truck.  I peddled away as fast as my two wheels would carry me because I was afraid that he would be angry and run me over.  Yes, that’s right, I really thought he was going to hit me with his car.  Actually, that was a pretty common fear for me.  I usually paused for great lengths of time on street corners whilst adults, becoming increasingly frustrated, tried to wave me across the street.  But I always stood my ground, certain that as soon as I stepped a tippie-toe onto the asphalt, they would somehow change their minds and decide to plow me down.  Somehow I managed to overlook the fact that it’s generally frowned upon to hit children with cars.  All that to say, I got away from Mike quickly, and thank goodness for that.  Cheryl, his wife, didn’t alarm me quite so badly.  She once let my brother and me (henceforward referred to as “us”) eat chives from her garden and my mother smelled them on our breath.

 

Anne and Henry

Anne and Henry were shacking up, and for some reason I thought this was illegal.  In the back of my mind, I was continually waiting for the day when the police would show up to arrest them for their crimes.  Not surprisingly, that failed to occur.  Despite his criminal nature, Henry was intriguing to watch from the secrecy of our tree house.  The most impressive sight we ever witnessed was Henry, thinking he was alone, stabbing an oversized sausage with a fork and eating it in no less than three mouthfuls.  Whenever we ate hotdogs after that, we nearly died of laughter playing Henry eating the sausage.  Once, Anne and Henry had a yard sale, at which my brother acquired quite a treasure.  It was a greasy, yellow mirror, and on it was a cartoon picture of a revealingly dressed woman.  The speech bubble coming out of her red lips said, “Hello, Sexy.”  He gave it to our mother as a gift, and we could never quite understand why she was reluctant to hang it up.

 

Cindy and Ray

Cindy and Ray had a kind of outdoor kitchen in their backyard, which I thought was really cool.  Cindy also appeared to me to be a very glamorous lady, the kind who cuts the grass in short shorts and high heels.  Any woman in pumps was an idol for me, and Ray was quite a friendly man, so it’s no big surprise that, just as we wanted to play Henry eating the sausage, we also wanted to play Cindy and Ray.  Only, our mother wasn’t quite sure what to say about it all because it turns out that Cindy was a stripper and Ray was her gay protector.  Still, we thought they were lovely.

 

Marg and John

I once saw them when they were on their way to a Halloween party, and because of this they are cemented in my mind wearing coordinating Star Trek costumes.  Their daughter was my sister’s childhood best friend, and together they did such atrocious things as open every dresser drawer in a bedroom (mine) and spread the contents hither and thither.  They also coloured faces (theirs) with black permanent marker and cried when they saw the results.

 

The Yucky Green Guy

He was yucky and he was green.  He was a kind of biker-ish looking man with yucky long hair and many green tattoos, hence the name Yucky Green Guy.  We found him frightening, and we played Yucky Green Guy when we wanted to frighten each other.

 

KGB Spies

Now, if the Yucky Green Guy frightened us, this couple was out and out terrifying.  My mother is convinced that they were Russian spies, a concept that was beyond my child mind’s understanding.  However, they were still pretty scary.  Whenever I saw them, I would liken my reaction to Kevin McCallister’s in Home Alone when he comes face to face with Old Man Marley on the sidewalk.  I wanted to turn around and run.  We always tried as hard as we could not to look at their house when we walked past, for fear that we’d see them peering at us through darkened windows and tightly closed blinds.  Once when, for some reason, I was walking home alone, the old man beckoned me with a curled claw finger and said, “Heeeeeellllloooo, little boy.”  I ran out of fear, and I ran faster out of perturbation, because clearly I was NOT a little boy (or maybe not so clearly, thanks to the imposition of a mushroom cut by my mother).  Another time, as we walked past with our new snow shovels in hand, they chased us down the sidewalk, cursing us, saying, “Go get your OWN snow!”  And finally, when I tried to set up a small business selling hand made artisan bookmarks on the street, the matron told me they were ugly.  The natural conclusion is, therefore, that they were spies.

 

I hope you’ve enjoyed this latest installment of little Lynnie as a child.

Come and enjoy the best conversation and snacks with Vancouver’s cutest English teachers!

When: Every Friday afternoon from 1:30 until 3:00

Where: Our classroom at 668 Citadel Parade  (downtown, near Stadium-Chinatown Skytrain station)

What: Super-fun and useful English classes for small groups

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Flashback to Christmas, 1995.  Mimi and Pawpaw, my great grandparents, give me a diary.  It’s green with poppies and a profile drawing of a forlorn looking black and white cat, gazing thoughtfully into the unknown.  Its most important feature is the lock.  The inside cover holds a note from Mimi in her curly script: “This diary belongs to Lynn Anne Harris.  From Mimi and Pawpaw.  “Happy teen years.”  1995.

Why did she put the “Happy teen years” part in quotation marks?  Did she realize that maybe “happy” is not the best way to describe ages 12-19?  Had she written, “Let loose your inner angst,” I may not have responded to this gift with so much enthusiasm.  As it turned out, I spent the next seven years recording the heights of joy and the depths of misery in enough journals to fill a small suitcase.

But, back to the beginning.  The feline on the front of the diary reminded me of my own dear pet, and so I did what any logical pre-teen girl would do: every day I wrote a letter to my cat.

I started my life story on the day when most people undertake new projects: New Year’s Day.  I honestly believed that I was a really interesting person and that the things I had to say would someday be published and end up as required reading in high school classes across the country.  In hindsight I can see that, at the age of 12, I was lacking in literary skills, my spelling was mediocre, and grammatical errors were abundant.  However, I have come to see the teen diary as a vehicle for humor, and maybe my desire to share my feelings with the world was not so outlandish after all.  I just need to take myself a little less seriously.

The first entry is as follows:

“Monday January 1st, 1996

Dear Kirby,

Today was a wonderful day.  I talked to CLT on my new turquoise phone!  For most of the day I did my new latch hook pillow.  It is fun.  At 4:00, we went to M’s.  BM and I had loads of fun.  I got caught under the mistletoe by Penelope!”

While it is not insightful at all, and certainly not interesting, these seven sentences sum up a lot of who I was in the month before my 13th birthday.  An excellent day consisted of making as much use of the telephone as possible.  I liked crafts.  I liked boys.  Things were described as either “fun” or “boring.”

My friends and I developed code names for all of the boys in our lives, so that we could talk freely about our love in front of those implicated.  Penelope was the older brother of BM, one of my best friends, and for quite some time I firmly believed that no matter how many other boys I liked, in the end I would marry him.  Alas, we didn’t kiss on that night, or ever.  When I wrote “caught under the mistletoe,” I’m sure it chanced to happen that we were walking in opposite directions through a doorway at the same time.  Still, in the life of young me, that was big news.

I like the idea of baking.  I like the final product achieved by most attempts at baking.  But it’s time to admit that I do not especially enjoy baking itself.  I always thought my middle name was Martha Stewart, but it turns out that it’s actually Duncan Hines.  To be fair, I’ve created some extremely satisfying goods in my time, but I’m pretty sure I’ve produced an equal number of failures.

 

My first baking mishap remains etched in my mind.  I was 12 years old, and was trying to make a simple Oreo cookie-crumb pie-crust.  Who can blame a pre-teen for adding 3 cups of sugar to the mix instead of 3 tablespoons?  Turns out the crust isn’t supposed to be made from pure sugar.  Oops.

 

Have you ever tried to do your Christmas baking in a foreign country without an oven?  Well, don’t.  It will only make you curl up on the floor and cry like a baby.  And when you finally manage to eke out a few tastes of home, someone will steal your treats from outside your apartment door while they are cooling.  Just buy yourself a ChocoPie and get over it.

 

Did you know that the custard in a lemon meringue pie has to come to a boil before it is poured into the pie shell?  Bevelyn Blaire, the author of “Everyday Pies” forgot to mention that, and I served my husband and his guests lemon soup in a pastry shell for his birthday dessert.  I’m so sorry Bev, but I’m just not an everyday pie kinda gal.

 

Things can get kind of tricky when you think you’re more talented than you are and you try to make a chocolate cake and a vanilla cake at the same time.  They’re the same, only one’s chocolate and one’s not, right?  Not so.  Who knew?  One needs baking soda only, while the other requires baking soda and baking powder.  Realized that one too late.

 

And witness tonight’s baking disaster: peach tarts fail.  Honestly, the only things that come to my mind are expletives.  I spent two hours rolling out those dainty little tart shells.  Why didn’t that scrumptious peach filling stay inside?  Why do I have a baking curse?

 

 

After perusing through the mental files of my fiascos, and providing you with a sampling of them here, I would like to announce that I am giving up baking.  Cake plates and mini muffin tins, say your farewells!  If it doesn’t come in a box, I’m not making it.  So long to oven mitts, and timers, and pans.  Math and science are not welcome in my kitchen!

 

Goodbye to baking forever!!!  Or, until I fail at saying goodbye as well, and give the old mixer just one more shot.  Fondant icing, anyone?