Archive for December, 2005

New Year’s Expectations

December 31, 2005

New Year’s Eve has always struck me as kind of a weird holiday. It’s one that always has ridiculous expectations attached to it – you feel like you should be doing something particularly awesome, or exciting, or unusual, even though you’d probably rather just be doing the same thing you usually do. It kind of goes along with Valentine’s Day in that respect – the expectations are always more than you can live up to unless your life is far more exciting than mine.

I have had a much better time on New Year’s ever since I decided that I didn’t care if my evening consisted of much of the same as the rest of the year. We usually go to a party, and since there are often still out of towners around it’s guaranteed to be marginally more exciting than our average parties, and that’s really all that matters. There is sometimes drinking, though less than there used to be. There is always snacking. There are often games, more and more so as more of us get into the nerdy board game thing. And there is gossip, and laughter, and kids running amuk, and generally just a good time. We burn our regrets, which is always good for the pyromaniacs among us, and things are not so exciting that they are particularly worthy of an entire journal entry.

But they are fun, and familiar, and easy. We briefly flirted with the notion of dressing up and going out to an elaborate New Year’s party, but we decided this was much less work. It’s cheaper, too – no tickets to buy, no outfits to find, no parking to wrestle with. Just a few dozen of my closest friends, a drink or two, and a nerdy board game or three. Sounds like a party to me. Does that make me old? Probably. But I’m starting to think that’s not such a bad thing.

One small step for monkeys…

December 30, 2005

One giant leap for hippo-kind.

I just figured out how to make my handy-dandy little title image up there (the one with the monkey and the hippo) into a link back to the home page, and now I’m quite pleased with myself.

Now if only I could figure out how to make things stop opening in new windows with every fucking click on my blog, I’d be a happy camper. I took out all the target=blanks! Why am I so dumb? Anyone out there care to help?

Edit: hey! I did it! Go me!

The Annual Post-Winter Deforestation

December 30, 2005

Man. I do it every winter. Every spring, I vow never again, since recovering from it is a solid hour’s work. And yet here I am, the night before a wedding, deciding to wear a skirt. Which means spring is coming early to my legs.

It’s the annual post-winter leg deforestation at my house.

Every damn year, I figure shaving my legs is more hassle than it’s worth. I grow myself a nice little layer of extra warmth, and get an extra five minutes sleep in the morning. Usually, I can get away with it for several months. Which is terribly lazy, I know, but it’s so convenient! Generally, I like having shaved legs – I enjoy the smoothness. But if nobody’s going to see them but me and Jamie? Hell if I can be bothered to shave them. Jamie, bless him, doesn’t give a rat’s ass. He likes smooth legs but doesn’t notice hairy ones, which is probably just as well.

But, given the unseasonably warm weather, I opted for a skirt and bare legs tomorrow. Which means that the annual jungle attack is a few months earlier than scheduled. There are, of course, advantages to this. The overgrowth is not as bad as usual. It’s a faster job, and my legs will not be quite as shocked after two months neglect as they would be after five. And there are definite advantages to living with a boy. I stole his beard trimmer and got things down to quite a manageable length to attack with my trusty Intuition. It’s much quicker and definitely cheaper than going through three razors.

That doesn’t mean it’s not a pain in the ass, though. Stupid leg hair.

Speeding Time

December 28, 2005

The mad rush of family gatherings has dissipated somewhat, much to my relief. So today I am sitting around in my pajamas and watching Degrassi Junior High. If that isn’t a quality way to spend an afternoon, I don’t know what is. My goodness, this show is campy. Hurry up with the Degrassi High DVDs, Degrassi people!

Jamie is in the study building the elliptical right now, and there is so far a surprising lack of expletives coming from that direction. Maybe he shut the door, because otherwise it seems rather suspicious.

Nice glasses, Wheels. Hee.

The social schedule is continuing at a clip this week, although it’s with my friends rather than relatives, for the most part. Dinner plans, a wedding, New Year’s Eve party, and suddenly it’s a new year. I find myself wondering where exactly the last year has gone. I have a lot to show for it, I suppose – two trips, one move, and getting married – but I don’t feel like a whole year has happened since the last time New Year’s rolled around. It alarms me that people say time goes faster as you get older. If time keeps speeding up at this rate, by the time I’m 50 I’ll barely have time to go to the bathroom between New Year’s Parties.

The Eye of the Storm

December 26, 2005

It’s quiet in my house. There is an occasional hiss from the roast in the oven, the washing machine clicks periodically, and the downstairs neighbours laughter drifts upstairs from time to time. But mostly, it is quiet.

It is a temporary quiet, though, a brief respite from the hustle and bustle. Jamie has gone out, driving to the airport where he will pick up his dad and his dad’s wife, here to visit for a few days. They will stay with us tonight, our first official houseguests since we got married. The house is unrecognizable from two weeks ago. Everything is packed away, tidy and orderly. No boxes linger from our summer time move, things having finally been sorted after months of patience from Jamie, who hates unfinished jobs. After putting it off for so long, it only took me about an hour, which is kind of disgraceful when you think about it. The floors are sparkling, the kitchen is gleaming, the bathroom is spotless. We are ready for guests. Dinner is in the oven, wine is in the fridge, dessert is waiting to be finished. But for now, I enjoy the brief moment of peace before the noise descends again.

I like Christmas, I do. I had a great time yesterday, talking and visiting and eating and opening presents. But I am not, by nature, a terribly social person. I like socializing a lot in limited quantities. I will have a great time at the party but will almost enjoy coming home even more, to a place where I can be quiet and just sit, nobody to disturb me but my own self. And in a week where the parties and the events are thick and furiously flinging themselves at me, the moments of quiet are all the more welcome. I will have to get back to it in a moment – the towels need to be put in the drier, the roast checked, the potatoes mashed. But for now, I sit in the quiet house and I watch my brightly lit tree and I close my eyes and soak up the silence, filling myself with it to balance the oncoming rush of sound and excitement.

Merry Christmas!

December 25, 2005

It’s early. Earlier than usual for Christmas these days – ever since my sister and I got to be lazy teenagers Christmas morning stopped being a first thing event. This year, though, her boyfriend waits anxiously at my parents’ house, and out of niceness to him we’ve gotten up early. (I have, anyway. I’m not sure about my sister.) Jamie is in the shower, and I sit in the living room with the Christmas tree, enjoying what is sure to be the last moment of peace in a hectic day.

I am surprised by how easy this is. I always thought that the first Christmas I didn’t spend at home would be strange and unhappy. And last night was the first time in my life that I didn’t spend Christmas Eve sleeping in the same house as my sister and parents. But somehow, it doesn’t feel strange. I am comfortable here, in our little house, and our tree is already filled with memories. It feels right somehow, despite its unfamiliarity. Last year, I felt like I didn’t quite belong anywhere. Erin and I left our apartment to go to our respective parents’ houses, where we slept on uncomfortable beds and argued with our sisters. It felt weird to sleep at my parents’ house again, but would have been stranger to stay alone in my apartment. (It was, however, one of the best homecomings ever when Erin and I both got back to the apartment and got to spend the entire day gossiping about our presents, watching tv, and lounging on the couch.)

But now, I have my own little family, and staying here in my delicious bed is not strange at all. Last night, after church, we opened our presents to each other like we always have. (Jamie only allows it because it’s after midnight and therefore technically Christmas.) He went to bed, and I stuffed his stocking. Neither of us fell asleep easily, not helped by the random phone call from an unknown caller at nearly 4am that had me totally convinced that my cat had actually died this time. (So far so good – kitty is still fine.) (My cat almost died on Christmas last year, so we’re all a little paranoid.) He got up before me this morning, though I was already awake, and stuffed my stocking. And we got up, and opened them, and it felt like I’d been doing it all my life.

All those years of worrying about how I would ever live with a different kind of Christmas, and now I find myself wondering what, exactly, I was so afraid of.

Ghosts of Christmas Past

December 24, 2005

This time of year always brings with it a strange sort of time warp. In the last few years, more and more people have been moving away as life takes them down various paths. A new job here, a graduate degree there. Med school here, significant others there. Nearly every year now we lose someone, and as our group of regulars gets smaller, our phone bills get larger.

It’s inevitable, I suppose, when your friendships begin in university. Nothing is permanent in university. You forge friendships, find kindred spirits, and spend an insane amount of time together as the years go by. It feels, while you’re there, like nothing will ever change. It always does, though. Those who came from other places drifted back to their homes, leaving their university lives behind. My best friend and I have not lived in the same city now for nearly four years, and there are moments when I long for the days that we’d call each other up, just to chat, and hang out doing nothing without appreciating how easy it was. But we’ve found new ways to stay in touch, worked out different strategies. Our friendship has never floundered, but it’s not the same any more. No more is Jana the one I call when I’m grouchy and need to get out of the house. Never again will I be able to just drop in on her without thinking about it. I’m used to it now, but I still hate it.

Even those who didn’t come from elsewhere for university have drifted away. One, to do a doctorate in Vancouver, taking with her another friend, her boyfriend. Another to a job in Vancouver, taking with him his wife, another friend. My sister, too, has followed the trend to B.C., where her boyfriend does his doctorate and she lives out the dream to live by the ocean. Yet another, in med school in Ontario, along with her husband. Too many of my favourite people, not here any more.

But the good news about losing those who lived here as children is that they come back. Families, friends, lives wait for them here, and every Christmas nearly all of them return. And so, this time of year, things are as they used to be. We have parties, and there is laughter and some tears. The details of the last few years fade away and we return to our former selves. While I love my life now, and wouldn’t go back to my university self without somebody paying me a lot of money to do so, at this time of year I have the best of both worlds. My friends are here, where they belong, and I try to get my fill of them. Packing in extra moments, staying up late, always wanting one day more. I know it will never be enough, and no matter how much time we spend together I will still miss them when they go. But for now, it is enough to be together without the struggles of distance. It’s the best part of Christmas these days, having those who have left return to us. And the time warp it creates is what I look forward to every year.

Trojan Horizons

December 22, 2005

I was at the mall earlier doing the last of my Christmas shopping (now DONE, woo hoo!), when I was reminded of a rather memorable day in high school. It seems a bit of a random connection, but it only took a moment to send me back to that day. And naturally, that left me giggling in the aisles of the drugstore, which never leaves you looking particularly sane. I will leave out the details of what reminded me in the first place, since it isn’t my story to tell. (Nor do I know whose story it is to ask permission.)

When I was in grade 12, I got to be very close friends with a girl that sat next to me in band. We’d known each other sort of peripherally all through high school, but both of us were a bit at loose ends that year – her friends having mostly graduated already, my friends having drifted in directions that didn’t interest me much. (Mostly of the illegal variety. And while I was fond of the occasional drunken binge, I wasn’t much for the smoking lifestyle they were adopting.)

One of the unusual things about this friend was that she had been dating the same guy since the very beginning of grade 10. He was two years ahead of us in school, although not that much older than my friend, as she was significantly older than me. (Having come from Britain, I was young for my grade. She’d come from the U.S. and was a little old for our grade.) It was pretty impressive in those days to manage to date an out-of-high-school guy for that long, and their relationship was pretty much a given.

But even a nearly three year relationship had its challenges. And the most memorable example of that was the day we went to buy condoms.

Although I had a boyfriend at the time, we hadn’t been together very long and the sex conversation was still a few weeks away. (It also ended in a “maybe not so much” decision, which, given the later end of our relationship, was probably for the best.) However, being the good friend that I was, I agreed to accompany her to the drugstore to make the fateful purchase.

We went after school one day to the London Drugs near our school. She had a car, which was very convenient, and drove me home every day if I wasn’t going to her house, usually stopping for slurpees or something along the way. This time, we were stopping for condoms.

It took a while for us to scope out the right aisle – we didn’t want to seem like we were looking for anything in particular in case somebody asked us if we needed any help. So we wandered the aisles for nearly half an hour, trying to look nonchalant and probably totally failing.

When we found the fateful aisle, we stood in front of it for a moment, trying to appear immensely interested in the tampons that sat next door. (I can actually also remember the moment that I bought tampons for the first time. It was a similar experience.) Every time anyone walked past the aisle, we scurried away, hiding around the corner in the hair accessories until the coast was clear.

Once we finally had a chance to check things out closer, we were totally overwhelmed with the possibilities. There were so many kinds! Brands, styles, sizes…for two virgins, age sixteen and eighteen, it was an intimidating prospect to choose one kind. And when you’re running away from the display every two minutes, it’s hard to get a good sense of your choices.

We made a decision eventually, choosing as basic an option as we could come up with, opting for the brand with the most name recognition. (Although to this day, I don’t understand why anyone thought Trojan was a good name for a condom. Why name your supposedly imperturbable fortress after the guys who managed to sneak in past the guards? That doesn’t really inspire me with confidence.)
We tried to be as inconspicuous as possible as we walked nonchalantly up to the cash register. I seem to recall that I had to do the buying, as my friend was too embarrassed, which in retrospect seems rather unfair – I had to suffer and didn’t even get any action out of the deal. But we picked up a few other things along the way – nail polish remover, I think, and probably a snack. But oh, how we giggled. We made it out to the car and sat for a few moments, delighted with ourselves and amazed that nobody had tried to stop us, nobody had seized the condoms and declared that we were clearly not old enough to be buying such things. And it was that day when the world opened up a little further. It was the first step in realizing that I did have freedom. Sure, it was limited by a lot of things – parents, school, society in general – but it was then that I recognized just how many of the limits I’d always thought existed were self-imposed.

My horizons were broadened that day. I hadn’t thought of it for a long time, but even now I smile to remember that moment of clarity where we felt unstoppable.

The Grinch

December 21, 2005

I tell you, there is nothing better for a slight case of Christmas grumps than the Grinch. Not only is it a cautionary tale of the perils of grumpiness (although the Grinch does have a most excellent dog and a rather jaunty theme song, which might be an argument in favour of being a villain), but it is statistically proven* that seeing the Grinch’s heart grow THREE sizes that day is a guaranteed pick-me-up. It may also cause a little bit of sniffling. Shut up.

It is a pretty kick-ass theme song, though. Seasick crocodiles and everything!

I read the story in my Christmas program a few weeks ago, and no kidding, I had a hard time getting through it without my voice breaking. I felt like a dork until I caught the eyes of a couple of parents who were sitting in on the program, and every single one of them was wiping their eyes.

Also? The Whos have some really awesome presents. I don’t get anything nearly that cool for Christmas.

Anyway. If you feel yourself overwhelmed with the Christmas Grumps, I recommend a dose of Grinch. Cartoon if possible, book is next best, and if you can’t manage that, the text is here: http://www.geocities.com/Heartland/Lane/3994/grinch.html

*In my survey of one.

It tells its own story

December 19, 2005

I went out shopping today after work. It started out with a stop at the bookstore to buy my book for book group on Wednesday (because the hold list is just not going to move quickly enough for me to get it from work), but since I’d found an excellent parking spot on the notoriously hard to park at Whyte Avenue and had paid for my meter, I figured I’d do a little browsing along the way before heading home.

My successes were somewhat limiting, but I had a good time imagining the story that was laid out along the street. The first thing that seemed somewhat out of place was an open bottle of booze, still in its paper bag. The booze itself was not at all out of place on Whyte – it’s well known for its debauchery. (Is that how you spell that?) But the fact that the bottle was still half full was somewhat surprising. That’s a lot of perfectly good booze to waste.

It became less surprising when there were puddles of barf every ten steps for the next two blocks.

Sometimes, life just doesn’t require a narrator.