Tuesday, June 25, 2013


According to Wikipedia:
The sleepover is often called a "rite of passage", as a young child, or a teenager, begins to assert independence and to develop social connections outside the immediate family.
Now I'm no sociologist, so I hardly understand the deeper societal and familial impacts of this teenage ritual. But I know this. There was nothing more fun than a good 'ole sleepover with your best girlfriends.

What's not to love? I mean, you sat around in comfortable clothes all night. You did each other's hair and make-up. You talked about boys. You read excerpts from your diaries to one another. You watched girly movies like Footloose and Beauty and the Beast. You gorged yourself on sugary pop, chips and dip, and cookies. You played silly games like Truth or Dare. And you stayed up way too late.

So. Much. Fun.

*Credit: lovelulumae.blogspot.com

But the best part about sleepovers was all the giggling. There was so much giggling. It was inevitable at any sleepover I ever attended that a parent would knock on the door and tell us girls to keep it down in there because our incessant giggling was keeping the younger kids up. 

God I miss those carefree nights. 

Which is why, just this past weekend, I found myself putting together an overnight bag and heading down to the Chateau Montebello with two of my dearest girlfriends for a little 24-hour getaway. 

It was kind of a last minute thing. The stated intention was to celebrate a 40th birthday. But really, we all just wanted to get away from our husbands/partners/dogs/cats/kids/step-kids/jobs/households/and-other-assorted-responsibilities for one night. We all just wanted to spend some quality girl time. 

And you know what? There is not a lot of difference between a sleepover when you are clinging to your 30s and one when you were desperate to leave the awkward 'tween years.

Okay. So the comfy pj's were replaced with evening wear suitable for a night on the town. 

But everything else was remarkably similar.

True, we didn't do each other's hair and make-up. (Well, I guess I did straighten K's hair for her, but that's only because she didn't believe me that it could look good worn down). But we did pay professional aestheticians to make us pretty as we relaxed in the hotel spa.

We still talked about boys. Although they are no longer the boys in chemistry class or on the football team that we had the biggest crush on. Now, we're married to them. Or living with them. Or divorced from them. Or in therapy with them. Or in therapy because of them. 

We didn't read aloud from our secret diaries - mostly because none of us have the time to keep secret diaries anymore. But we did share our secret fears about everything from work to relationships to finances. We did seek advice from one another about how to have that conversation with our bosses about the promotions that we feel we deserve. Or about whether or not we should move in with the new beau. Or about whether or not we really want to get married again. 

There was no girly Kevin Bacon movie to watch. But we did compare notes on one another's freebie lists (of the 5 celebrities you are allowed to sleep with should you ever meet them - watch Friends). And we seamlessly followed up this philosophical conversation with a debate about Sheryl Sandberg's Lean In, a book that claims that women inadvertently hold themselves back from succeeding in the work place.  

As for food and drink, well, there is still a lot of it. A LOT. We still gorged ourselves. Only the sugary pop was replaced with prosecco and rosé and martinis and negronis and Spanish wines, and even a little bit of scotch. And the cookies and chips were set aside for a four course meal in a luxury restaurant. The effect of all of this gorging is the same as it was back then - by the end of the night, none of us could move, and all of us looked forward to replacing our out-on-the-town clothes with the more appropriate sleepover attire of pants with an adjustable waist band.

We didn't play Truth or Dare. No, the "dare" part is dropped, and we play, simply, Truth. We tell each other true stories of all the crazy/silly/stupid/outrageous/wonderful thoughts that we have been too stressed out to articulate lately or that we simply can't tell our husband/partner/kids because they won't understand. And it feels good to get some of these thoughts off our chests without the threat of having to do a naked cartwheel on a silly dare.

Even though we haven't stayed up past 11:00pm in years, we still stay up too late. At 1:00 in the morning, we are still chatting and telling stories and giving one another advice and fighting sleep. And of course, giggling.

In fact, more than 20 years later, there is still a lot of giggling. We've been giggling all day long. We giggle when I tell my friends that I fell asleep during my facial and missed all the best massage parts. We giggled more when I recount the story about the guy in university who tried to pick me up after hearing me sing at an open mike night by telling me that he wanted to audition with me for a spot as a lounge-singer-and-piano-player-duet on a Caribbean cruise. We giggled even more when the three of us notice that we are being checked out by a table of men about 10 years younger than us, realizing that we have, in fact, become cougars. And we giggled the most when we call my husband - the sommelier - to ask him to help us pick a white wine to pair with our dinners that is not too fruit forward. "You know what I mean, right honey. We want a wine that is dry and tight." "Ummm... are you sure that's what you mean?" he said.

There is so much giggling. And it feels so good. 

Why don't we do this more often?

I know, I know, I know. We have husbands/partners/dogs/cats/kids/step-kids/jobs/households/and-other-assorted-responsibilities. We have too much to do and we are under too much pressure. We have calendars jam-packed with activities. We can never coordinate a date that suits us all. We are too damn busy. 

So many excuses. Some of them good. Some of them not so good. All of them getting in the way of experiencing those most enriching and replenishing of life's moments. 

Girlfriends are good for the soul. And we need more sleepovers. 

Monday, June 24, 2013

Reflecting on the years gone by... Two, in fact.

Happy St. Jean Baptiste Day to all Franco-Canadians!

Happy Anniversary to my sister and brother-in-law, who today celebrate 13 years of marriage.

But most of all, Happy Birthday to the F-Bomb!!!!

That's right - today is Mr. Fergus' birthday! His third birthday, in fact. 

If you are like me, you grew up believing that 1 dog year = 7 human years. Which would make Fergus 21 years old - legal in all 50 states (if there was such a thing as a doggie bar). But in fact, thanks to the magic that is Dr. Google, I've discovered that this formula is overly simple and not-at-all accurate. Evidently, according to people who know dogs, the ratio of dog-to-human-years is much higher at the beginning of life, decreasing with age. Fergus, therefore, is closer to 28 years old. See:

Canine Age
Human Age 
2 Months
14 Months
6 Months
5 Years
8 Months
9 Years
1 Year
15 Years
2 Years
24 Years
3 Years
28 Years
4 Years
32 Years
5 Years
37 Years
6 Years
42 Years
7 Years
47 Years
8 Years
52 Years
9 Years
57 Years
10 Years
62 Years
11 Years
67 Years
12 Years
72 Years
13 Years
77 Years
14 Years
82 Years
*Credit: www.dogyears.com

Either way, my little boy is all grown up.  

Sniff Sniff...

Everybody keeps telling me that very soon, Fergus will start to calm down. "Once he's 3," they say, "he won't have all of that crazy energy!" Well, I don't know what "they" are thinking, but he certainly shows no signs of slowing down any time soon. I suspect that he'll keep us hopping until he's 14 or so (82 for those of you counting in human years). Yup... he'll be the Jack LaLanne of the canine world.

At any rate, I'm a crazy enough dog person to write a blog about my dog, but I'm not crazy enough to throw him a party and buy him a doggie birthday cake or make him wear a birthday hat so I can take pictures. But I did wish him happy birthday when we woke up. And I did take him this morning to his favourite spot in the whole world - the Arboretum - for a run and a swim. And I did give him a peanut butter stuffed kong when I left the house. And once it's thawed out a little, I will give him a bone to chew on for the evening. So I guess we are sort of celebrating a little.

I also can't help but wonder where the heck the time has gone! Has it really been over two years since he came to live with us?

Yes. I suppose it has...

And what a fun time it has been. This past year has been no exception. Whether continuing on with old traditions or discovering new adventures, we've enjoyed another year of Mr. F's company.

So Happy birthday, Mr. Fergus. Here's to many more years to come!

"Helping" me house clean by herding the vacuum
More "helping" by lying on the newly mopped floor
Hanging out with his best buddy in the Arboretum on a beautiful spring day
Taking a break from chasing his ball through the Arboretum
No stick is too big for a game of fetch in the Arboretum
Birthday swim in the Arboretum
Hanging out at Dogs at Camp while we were on our European adventure, waiting for his dinner
Cuddling with Monkey

Spooning with Monkey
Hanging out with his cousin, Toby, begging for food
Sleeping on the job when he's supposed to be nursing me back to health post-surgery

Thursday, June 6, 2013

The end of the road

All good things must come to an end. Including vacations.

I got that message all too loud and all too clear when I ventured back to work this week after 17 days away from the office. What a mad house!

Such a mad house that I still haven't had time to debrief on the last leg of my journey! Unacceptable!! Because this, I am sure, is the part that you have all been waiting for. This is the part about.....

...drumroll please.....


That's right, kids. I finished off my petit tour d'Europe in Winnipeg. 

It's okay if you are thinking WTF - really it is. My husband thought that too when I first suggested it to him. But I have a bunch of super good reasons for ending my trip in Winnipeg. And here they are!

Special birthdays:
Sixteen years and about 8 months ago, I got a phone call from my baby sister, who was less than 1 month into her first year of university, telling me that... oops... she was pregnant. Not exactly part of the plan. Nonetheless, about 8 or so months later, my beautiful niece was born. And on May 28, she turned 16. 

She's the one on the left. And yes, she is gorgeous. Just like her Auntie Jay (ahem).

(She is also taller than me but I don't want to talk about that).

At any rate, a girl doesn't turn 16 every day. And an Auntie who lives all the way in Ottawa doesn't get to see that girl very often. And so a trip to Winnipeg was definitely in order. But not just any visit. This time, M and I spent quality time together. At the spa. Where I took her for a mani, pedi, and facial. Just the two of us. I even took her out of school early. If that doesn't earn me the title of "Best auntie ever", I don't know what will. 

The other kid in that picture:
Then there is the boy in that picture, my badass nephew, A. He is quite possibly the funniest kid that I have ever met. From the time when he was two and he made me watch Finding Nemo 737 times in one visit, to the imitation he does of my father dancing, that kid has me in stitches every time. Plus, I forgot his birthday way back in February, and so frankly, I had some sucking up to do. Which is why Hubby and I spent a bunch of time with him. 

We went to watch his basketball game. They lost, but he got two baskets and two assists:

We played basketball with him in his back yard:

But most special of all, we took him to the first Bomber practice of the season at the brand new Investors Group Field, where we hung out watching our favourite team play our favourite game:

Other people's kids are so much fun!!

Football, football and more football:
Okay, there wasn't actually that much football. But my cousin, who was a star junior and university quarterback - and Vanier Cup champ - got married. And a lot of his friends at the wedding were clearly former football players (or else they were bouncers wearing very big rings). So I did get to chat about football with a good many people over the course of the evening. Which or course, made this football-lovin' girl pretty happy!

And of course, we got to see Winnipeg's new stadium. Which kicks some serious ass! And which got me all excited for my team this year! I mean, they are bound to have a great inaugural season in their new stadium. Right?!? Please someone, tell me that I am right?!?

I always post my best times when running in the prairies:
Probably because it is so flat. That's right - this is what passes for a hill in Manitoba:

Yep - a footbridge over the river is indeed the steepest incline that I came across. 

Quite apart from the flatness of the surroundings, when I go for a run back home, I am always reminded of two things:

1 - it may be flat, but holy gawd that wind really hits you, doesn't it? I mean, there are no buildings or trees to stop those 50km/hr gusts that hit you in the wide open prairie; and 

2 - damn it all if that view is not stunning. I know, I know. It's flat. There are no majestic mountains and no spectacular oceans. But there is nothing quite like that big prairie sky. 

It just goes on and on and on forever. And it takes my breath away. Every. Single. Time.

You can take the girl out of the prairies, but...

Some other views from my little treadmill on the plains:

Is it any wonder I ran every single day?

Gotta get back to that hamam:
Ah yes... The Turkish bath in the Ten Spa at the Hotel Fort Garry...

I've already blogged about my first impressions of this most glorious of spa experiences. And let's face it - I can't top that post. So I won't bother to even try.

But I will say two things.

1 - Hubby came with me. And I gotta admit, I was a little bit nervous about him being there. I mean, he doesn't even like to relax. Seriously - he is utterly and entirely incapable of doing nothing. He starts to twitch after about five minutes of being idle. So I kept thinking, "Oh god, he is going to hate this, and then he is going to be mad at me for spending so much money on this." But I guess there is something about being lathered up by a pretty hamam attendant that makes a man relax. Because I have never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever seen him so relaxed. True to his overly-logical-and-slightly-uncomfortable-expressing-emotions style, all he will tell me when I ask him what he thought of the whole experience is "It was very soothing." But when it was done, he happily lounged around the relaxation room in his white robe, flipping through a GQ magazine and sipping on his tea, in absolutely no rush to be anywhere else. Which is not the man that I have known for the past 11 years.

Of course, the jet lag might have had something to do with his lack of motivation to leave the comfort of that couch...

2 - Unlike the first time, I was utterly relaxed from start to finish. There was no breaking out into a cold sweat when I wrapped myself up in a barely-there peshtemal. There was no worrying about what others in the hamam thought about my muffin top. And there was no clenching my legs tight together so that the attendant could not get an inadvertent peak at my lady bits. And when you are less worried about safeguarding your modesty, you are more able to really experience the hamam. This time around, I noticed things. The scents. The feel of the warm tile on my skin. The way my heart rate sped up as the heat rose. The way that my breath caught in my throat when the attendant poured cold water over my entire body. The way that the cloth used to lather me felt like a giant feather gently tickling my skin. When you are able to fully and completely let go of all of your worries and inhibitions, every second of the experience is magnified by, like, a million.

Of course, it helps that this time, I shaved...

Catching up with old friends:
There is never enough time to see everyone that I want to see when I go home, but it is nice to connect with some of the old high school crew. And thanks to the magic of Facebook, and my incessant need to always post a status update, it is guaranteed that some old friend of mine will get wind that I am around and will take the opportunity to hook up. All it takes is a local watering hole and a pint of beer for those high school memories to flow. Which means endless giggling for at least a few hours. And who giggles enough these days, anyway?

Family, family and more family:
The last time I saw most of my family in one spot was my wedding day almost four years ago. So it's nice to take the opportunity to get a little tipsy with my aunts and uncles while we talk about running and Bruce Springsteen concerts. And it's entertaining to sit down and talk about current affairs with my more politically active family members. And it's fun to laugh at all the Toronto Maple Leaf fans in my family for the monster collapse that was Game 7 of the first round of the playoffs against Boston. And it's a blast to tear up the dance floor at a family wedding with the mother of the groom. Visits to Winnipeg always remind me that, while my family may be a little on the crazy side, we share an awful lot of good times together, and dammit if we aren't a really fun crowd. And is there really a better way to unwind?

Who says you can't go home... after visiting the cultural centre of Europe:
Yeah, it's not exactly an elegant place to visit. And country music is way less classy than the opera. And a grain elevator hardly compares to the baroque gardens and extravagant palaces of Hapsburg Austria.

But Winnipeg is home.

It's true that I don't live there anymore. And it's equally true that I'm quite likely to never move back there, having made a life that I am quite happy with in Ottawa. But there are so many things about Winnipeg that make me feel at peace: that big sky; my beautiful niece and my handsome nephew; my favourite football team; my oldest friends; my crazy family.

And of course, that hamam...

So yeah. We ended our European vacation with six days in Winnipeg.

And it was awesome.