Monday, December 21, 2009

Private Holiday

5 years ago, my mother passed away.

I post this sad fact not in an effort to extort sympathy from my readers, nor to explain why, if you saw me, I was subsisting largely on Egg Nog Lattes and Moose Munch.

I still miss her every single day.

It seemed cruel, then, that her passing coincided with what had always been one of my favourite times of year. Even when I remember that she was very, very sick, and even when I remember that if she had recovered from the direct cause of her passing, she probably wouldn't be with me now. It still seems unfair that Christmas carols make me cry.

Now, I try to remember that her passing coincided with another winter holiday: the winter solstice. Most precisely, the day after the solstice; the day when the light begins to return. Yesterday was the shortest day of the year, the darkest, longest night. Some traditions burn fires on this longest, darkest night to call the sun back, to serve as symbols of faith that the sun will return, warmth will be restored, and the wheel of the year will keep turning. And tomorrow, the daylight will last a bit longer. According to Weather Underground, 1 entire second more of daylight.

And it is in that one second, meagre though it is, that I find my hope, that I find cause of celebration. Because as sad that I am that Mom is gone, in that one extra second of light, I can find hope. That one second of hope leaves me just a little bit stronger for all of those seconds when there isn't much to be found.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Surprisingly Good Weekend

So, remember how a while back, I predicted that my car was plotting something? I was right. I'm probably not psychic, but it is a nearly eight-year-old Saturn, and while Saturns are super cars, this particular one has over 144,000 miles on it, and so it is nearing the days when nothing more difficult that short trips should be asked of it. Friday, after packing up to go on a short trip out of town, loading the dog into the car, and setting off, it struck. Before I even made it out of London, smoke began pouring out of the hood. I said a few choice words, and then pulled over and called the auto club; upon peering into the engine compartment, I saw oil all over the place.

After the nice auto club man came and towed me to a service place, I, the dog and my overnight bags took a cab home, and I spent the next several hours fretting about what could be wrong with it, fearing that the call would come and would go something like this:

Service Advisor (SA): Well, ma'am, you aren't going to like this.

Me: More than I didn't like smoke pouring out of the hood? Are you sure?

SA: It needs a new fibity-widget, and that will cost $5,000 just for the part.

Me: Really?! But the car isn't worth that much. I could replace the engine with one from the scrapyard for that much! Hold on a second, I'm feeling a little woozy.

SA: So, should we go ahead with the repair, or would you like to talk to someone in sales?

My fretting, it turns out, was pointless, because the repair was surprisingly cheap-- a gasket related to the oil filter needed to be replaced, and the engine needed to be "shampooed." (Seriously... the air coming out of the vents now smells a bit like rug shampoo. Like I tell Sally all the time, I can't make this stuff up.) Whew. So after the cab ride to pick up the car, I was restored to my former level of mobility.

This morning, I talked to the Dear Husband using ooVoo for quite a while, which was very nice, as I think we are both getting quite lonely. We didn't talk about anything interesting or important, it is just nice to see him, even if it is only for a bit, and only over the webcam.

My goals for today went like this:

  1. Grade 7 papers (I started this morning with 28 left to go... at 7/day they'll be done by the end of Tuesday, which is my deadline.)
  2. Go to the library to return a book and pick up 3 more
  3. Acquire provisions for and bake cupcakes
  4. Outline a paper that is due in a week
So I took myself out for a waffle and eggs (yum!) and marked 2 papers over coffee, went to the library, where I became one of the only people on the planet to check out a play for the stage directions, then headed to the grocery store.

This is where my day really started to rock: I happened to look down as I passed a bargain bin of DVDs, and they had the 3rd season of Six Feet Under for $12.99. Even though it wasn't on my list, I had to. To add to the deal, the store was running a store-wide no tax promotion!

Now I'm making these cupcakes and they smell pretty amazing.

They don't look so shabby, either!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Stuff I Learned Today

1. Irony is only ironic if everyone gets it. While this is a lesson that I learned in the course of reading dense literary/cultural theories of how we communicate in these post-modern times, it is also an important lesson for social networking.

2. Sometimes a day just has to be written off as a research loss. I had 0 attention span today. Indeed 0 seems a bit generous. It was so bad I was afraid I was sucking other people into my black hole of aimlessness.

3. Markers might make everything better. Okay, probably not, but I picked some up nonetheless. These.

4. Just because you get back on the horse doesn't mean it will be easy. Well, in this case, the treadmill. I ran for 1 minute out of every 5 for 30 minutes, and parts of me I forgot I had now hurt.

5. Cold weather is relative: last year we had -40 temps and it seemed unresonable. Today it was -9 C and I thought I might die. But last week it was nearly 10 C, so I feel like I have a valid excuse.

6. This would all seem easier if there was cake. But then, what wouldn't?

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Weird Consequences

So the bus drivers here in London have been on strike for over 3 weeks now. This has, on one hand, been a total pain in the rear. I like being able to walk to the nearest corner, flash a scrap of paper and my student I.D. and go where I need to.

Oh, sure, I love having a car, although I am terrified of what might go wrong next with my particular vehicle (it plots... I can tell that in the depths of its greasy soul it has something sinister in mind for my holiday travel). Even when there was bus service, there were certain trips I made by car because of the convenience/cost ratio. But, here in Ontario (and perhaps Canada at large), that ratio is different from what I am used to. Yesterday, when I was driving home, I saw gas at the low, low price of $ 0.96 / litre. That sounds low right? Down right.... 1990? Wrong. Time for some math:

1 gallon (U.S.) = 3.79 Litres
3.79L x .96 = $3.64 CDN / Gallon

Push that $3.64 CDN through a handy dandy currency converter and gas here is $3.46/ gallon in US dollars.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, the average retail price of gas this week is $2.63 USD. In the closest state to Ontario listed on the site, New York, it is $2.85. When the bus was available,I bought very little gas here in Ontario. Last academic year, I took the bus everywhere but grocery shopping and I visited my parents in the US at least once a month, and bought gas there, for the most part. (Incidentally, my parents are fine and we're not fighting. They're just doing this and their empty house is only so interesting.)

Enter the bus strike, cunningly timed with a sprained ankle (which is recovering nicely, thank you for asking), and the onset of winter-ish weather and suddenly, I'm driving a lot more than I used to. After walking for a few days, I found that my poor ankle, even with a brace, wasn't up to the task. So I sucked it up, bought a parking permit and have re-entered the car commuter rat race.

On one hand, between the extra gas and the $30 CDN / month for my parking pass, I'm definitely spending more money. (I'm also regretting that moment in 2002, when I told the car dealer "this 4 cylinder doesn't have enough oomph... what about the V6?" My bad.) On the other hand, some of the little things that ultimately add up have been falling out of my life. Since the start of the strike, I've had coffee from Starbucks 3x: once on a very bad day from a drive through near the grocery store, once in Michigan for a place to sit and use WiFi, and once as incentive to give a friend a ride... and he bought the coffee. I've also been to the gym a few more times than I might otherwise have been, because I can park next to the rec centre and don't have to wrestle my gym bag on the bus. I don't go to coffee shops to sit and work as much anymore, because parking near some of my faves is a pain. I don't go out to bars or resturants because I don't want to get kicked out of the country over a DUI (or whatever they call it here) and I'm a lightweight, so one drink might do me in.

So this strike hasn't been a total loss for me. I guess the big question becomes will these changes stay in place after the strike ends and I surrender my parking permit. Will the consequence of the strike be a fitter and less caffeinated me? Or just a me who is more grateful for the bus that picks me, my big butt, and my latte up in front of Starbucks?

I do miss the knitting and judging people, though. My sock output has suffered.