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Precious, precious parking

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One of my biggest pet peeves is paying for parking mostly because I rarely carry cash with me anymore. Yet I know there are some places where paid parking just a given: sporting events, the airport, train stations, and most downtown hotels or public parking garages.

As I pull into this parking lot however, in front of the medical office I am about to enter, I am struck by a great injustice that is “parking”. I see the parking signs “Pay for Parking Here”. Right in front of a medical office. Everywhere else on this busy, primarily retail road in Ottawa the parking is free. And given that this is a medical imaging centre and a physiotherapy office, the irony is crueler than the inconvenience of digging for coins in the depths of my purse.

Across the street is ample free parking in front of Home Outfitters, Future Shop and ToysRUs and all the usual big box outlets. I think to myself, “I could just park over there, and cross this busy four lane road, and just show them, that I am NOT going to pay for parking.” But I’m in a hurry, barely on time to my medical appointment, and have to get back to the office as quickly as I can. So, I do what everyone else seems to do when visiting this office:  I pay for the parking.

I half expect to be asked to pay for the elegant blue booties I’m asked to don so that no one in the office is inconvenienced by my winter slush trail. Maybe that receptionist who shows me to the physician’s office is expecting a tip? I can assure you that ultrasound technician isn’t getting one from me after she had the gall to serve up that jelly to me (on me) stone cold! And what? No customer feedback card? Clearly, no one here is too concerned about repeat business.

What strikes me unreasonable about being forced to pay for parking here is thinking of all those who are coming to this clinic, though, because they are not so able-bodied. They’re here to improve their not-so-able body. It’s offensive that they’re being taken advantage of and being forced to pay for parking in sea of free parking lots that they really cannot access without a great deal of effort.

I think back to the days I dragged my 2 and 3-year old boys to my medical appointments when pregnant with their sister. I came across the same situation: want to eat or shop here? Your parking is free. Have a medical issue? That will be $5 an hour, please.

Clearly, our socialized healthcare does not spill over into the parking lot. Ah well. Guess I should be grateful. I can still walk; therefore, I can still dance … and still pay for parking.

Rant over.

parking

The day Riberto came to yoga

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It is early morning and still dark in my makeshift yoga studio with only the dim light of a lone streetlamp streaming through my living room shutters. This sliver of light settles on my yoga mat stretched out and beckons my stiff and aching aging body. I’m a two-faced practitioner: there are mornings I love waking up early and allowing myself an hour of stillness, breathing and asana and there are other mornings where yoga and the fact that it’s 530AM just suck and I pull the covers over my head and hit the snooze for the tenth time.

This morning was of the “this sucks” variety, when I think all my yoga teachers are conspiring to convert me to kale smoothies with chia seeds. No amount of blissful shavasana will inspire me to give up pinot grigio and poutine.

I have managed to get myself onto my mat with open heart and mind even if neither of my eyes are. I do this because I know from experience that if I leave my yoga to the evening, that battle will be won by Facebook, laundry and my daughter’s Elizabethan-era food project (damn you, Grade 9 English curriculum).

I’m about halfway through this morning’s yoga routine and starting to finally feel my mind and body slowly cooperating. I open my eyes after one pose and notice a tiny fluff off to my left in the foyer. I close my eyes again and curse the shedding hairy dog mess, but when I open my eyes I notice that my “fluff” is no longer there. In fact, it’s moved an entire foot! Believe me, I am not generating enough kinetic energy here to make a feather move so I interrupt my practice and crawl on my hands and knees over to the foyer. I then realize that this is nothing close to a dust bunny dog hair fluff but is instead a frog!

A little frog the size of my thumb has somehow found its way into my home, more remarkably into my living room and even most astonishingly – uninvited – into my yoga practice! Not what I would call a Zen moment.

We stare at each other for a moment but I know I have to do something with this yoga intruder before my dogs find him and eat him – or my daughter finds him and decides to make a pet of him (which would actually be worse, I think).

I return Riberto to the wild outdoors using a soup ladle and kitchen towel. After which I think it was only fitting that I finished off my morning with bhekasana, or frog pose. I suppose Riberto was simply an emissary send to help me get it right!

The aspiring yogini and helpful frogini… Hand in hand – or hand in webbed appendage, as the case may be.

And that is my story about the day a frog came to yoga.

Namaste.

 

The New Year is a Time for Purification

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I keep all my New Year’s resolutions to myself – that way no one can hold me to them.

alcohol freeAs many of my friends know, every January I abstain from alcohol.  Stop laughing, I’m serious. This annual resolution – or 1/12th of a resolution – seems to be difficult to keep to myself and elicits much commentary by my friends and family alike. They are all very supportive, in a this-I-gotta-see kind of way.

I do this because, like many, I tend to overindulge in the all manners of food and beverage during December and have convinced myself that abstaining from alcohol for one month will set my life back to  Zen.  No way am I giving up comfort good in January so alcohol seems to be the appropriate sinful pleasure to slash instead of slosh. I’m pretty sure I can pull this off. God knows I was pregnant three times and breastfed three kids while abstaining from alcohol. But as the gap has grown considerably between the present day and my birthing and breastfeeding days, and I find it more and more of a challenge to do this annual “cleanse” – or is just because now I am mother to three teenagers? Judging from my Christmas presents, my teenagers may also think it’s a challenge for me.

For my first cleanse five years ago, I decided to go flat out and tried ‘Dr. Joshi’s holistic detox – 21 days to a healthier you’ made famous by Gwyneth Paltrow. I know, but I liked her back then, didn’t you?  Joshi promotes a detox diet regime – with no red meat, no dairy, no fruit, no wheat, no alcohol, no coffee, no sugar and no artificially processed foods. Yeah, so basically cardboard (you might know this as rye crackers). I recall reading a Canadian Living magazine writer’s review of this cleanse at the time and she wrote that she felt awful the first three days, then rather “kittenish” when she awoke the fourth day.  Clearly the kittens she knows are starving, acerbic, hypersensitive creatures with a razor-sharp tongues because that’s pretty much how I felt the fourth – and subsequent – days.  Of all the forbiddens on Dr. Joshi’s list, the hardest for me to give up was my coffee. It was not an enjoyable January and I have since then decided that giving up the alcohol is going “cleanse” enough for me. My friends and family generally agree.

The January detox doesn’t start until after the Kingston hockey tournament and it ends January 31st when the Nepean and Cornwall hockey tournament begin. Am I making excuses? Have you ever tried to make it through a minor hockey tournament weekend without alcohol? I rest my case.

So right out of the gate, my month-long January cleanse is reduced to 27 days. I am almost half way there, already.  Hooray! A toast to me! Oh wait …

Wish me luck on the home stretch… and keep all sharp objects (and chardonnay) away from me.

What are your New Year’s Resolutions?

no alcohol

I’ll never shake hands with the vet again.

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My dog Koda has a problem with impacted anal glands. Wait … don’t leave. I swear that’s what the vet told me! Let’s just say, she could have told me he needed canine breast implants, and I would have just handed over my credit card. Vets are awesome. I vow never to shake hands with one again.

So now Koda is on all kinds of meds for about two weeks.  Five pills a day, a syringe full of something else and – you probably guessed – antibiotic ointment twice daily to his badunkadunk.

Remember that stage when you disguised all your kids’ medications in every which way just to get them to take it?  The crushed Tylenol in strawberry jam? The liquid antibiotic sundae? Yeah, that’s the week I’m having.

“Peanut butter for breakfast?!” drooled Koda. “Yes! Yes! I’m a good boy! Yes I am! Gimme the peanut butter! I want the peanut butter!”

His brother Murdoch slinks out of the kitchen. He’s no fool. “You idiot!” yapped Murdoch, “It’s a trap. Why do you think you’re wearing the cone of shame?!” He knew well enough to stay clear during med rounds.

I was able to dispense Koda’s meds a total of exactly three times this way before he figured it out and licked all the peanut butter off the pills.  Time to move on.

“Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy! I get wieners for dinner! It must be Christmas!” panted Koda. “Yes! Yes! Gimme the wieners! I want the wieners!”

Murdoch looked disgusted, “You forgot to say, ‘Hold the Cephalexin’, you twerp!”

Twice burned now, Koda is not falling for any more food tricks, much like my second and third children didn’t fall for the antibiotic sundae. Murdoch is clearly coaching Koda much like my firstborn coached his young siblings I now realize.

“Here’s what we gotta do,” arfed Murdoch, nudging Koda with his snout, “You just gotta suck it up, Man! It’s not a bad gig. Down the pills … fake a whimper … and presto! The bacon comes out! Don’t worry. I got your bacon – I mean – tail!”

Easy for Murdoch to say. He didn’t endure a reverse-Brazilian!

Another whole week of this circus.

koda cone of shame

Dear “16-Year Old” Me

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I love to read.  I love to talk about my reads.  I love to share my reads.  This is one of those ‘shares’.  There have been some books make me laugh, some that make me cry and some that make me wonder.   Isn’t it wonderful that books can do that to a person?  I read today, while wearing my HR professional hat, that 2 out of 5 Millenials (those born between 1981 and 1995) have not bought a single book in the last two years, besides school text books (2011 Cicso Connected World Technology Report 2011).  So sad.  Anyhoo, besides the books that make me laugh, cry and wonder, there are also those books that make me tremble andd shudder – more so because it is NOT a textbook – here’s one of them:

Dear Me is a book, an anthology of letters, written by famous present-day people to their 16-year-old selves. Compiled and edited by Joseph Galliano, the UK-based book contains the letters of such notables as Elton John, Yoko Ono, Jackie Collins, to name a few, to their younger selves.

If they could travel back in time to meet themselves when they were 16 years old, what would these Oscar winners, pop stars, best-selling authors, comedians, musicians and one Archbishop say to themselves? What advice would they give themselves? What would they warn them about and against? Well, some are short and sweet, while others are honest and heartfelt anthropological essays.  Just a few excerpts:

Liz Smith (actress):      ‘never mind if they laugh at you – hold on to your dreams to the very end’

Anne Reid (actress):   And stop thinking you’re an ugly duckling  You look great!  I wish I looked like you.

Debbie Harry (singer-songwriter):      That the most obvious is often the best choice and can lead to something wonderful and satisfying.

Alison Moyet (singer-songwriter):      You marry and have clever children and mess up just like your parents did.  Forgive them. You will soon need forgiveness.

Elton John (singer-songwriter):           Never chase love – it will find you when you least expect it

Archbishop Demond Tutu:      Don’t be infected by the cynicism of the ancients in your midst.

Roseanne Cash (singer songwwriter):            You deserve a lot better than the guy you are going to meet next year.

Adriana Trigiani (author):       16 is the new … toddler.

My oldest is about to turn 16.  If he were him 32 years from now, what would want to say to himself? What would his 16-year old self want to hear?  No, of course, he wouldn’t listen, anyway. 

What would I say to myself, with now some 32 more years of experience on this earth?  Somehow reading this book (and it’s a short, quick read), I thought this might be an incredibly inspirational exercise. Then again, why would anyone subject themselves to reliving the torture of teenagehood?

If I thought for a moment that my 16 year-old(s) will take this letter to heart, I’m as delusional at age 48 as I was at age 16. But if for no other reason than it allowed me to remember and perhaps be a little more compassionate as they live through their teenage years.

Dear 16-year old me,

So you’re Sweet 16. What a birthday party you’ve had having a dinner party you planned and prepared all by yourself around the theme “Scenes from an Italian Restaurant” from Billy Joel’s album which I know is your favourite album of all time, right now.

I know you like to cook. While many of your friends were drinking beer under the bleachers and ruining their parents’ knives heating them on the toaster, you put together some amazing dinner parties . Newsflash:  you will never be a chef. Sorry, I had to break it to you. But fear not, you’ll continue making messes in the kitchen for years to come and your kitchen will be the happiest place in your adult home.

Is there a reason you work so hard to be perfect? Stop now!  It’s annoying to others and bad for your self-esteem.  No matter how much pressure is put on you and how much more you put on yourself, you will never measure up to every person’s version of “perfect”. At the same time, you’re no better than the rest of them.  Stop try to be so high and mighty. It only serves to highlight your insecurity, which people will mistake for snobbiness.

YES!  FINALLY!  Contact lenses!! Not wearing those coke-bottle-glasses WILL make a difference in your life!

You’re about to take your very first airplane ride to New York City and vow that one day you’ll live there.  You will.

Later on this year, you’re going to quit ballet. You shouldn’t do that. It’s your only form of exercise. Who cares that you’re not going to end up in Les Grands Ballets Canadiens. It’s fun and you like it.  Why do you want to give it up?

On that note, it wouldn’t hurt for you to put those textbooks away and get out and get some exercise. Those “Freshman 10” (oh – you might as well know now – it was more like the Freshman 20) might never happen if you embrace fitness sooner than later.

The diary you’ve been keeping?  Your daughter’s going to find it.  You should find a better hiding place or practice poor penmanship sooner than later.

It’s a few years off but don’t bother rushing sororities in university. You know it’s not “you”. The sooner you stop sucking up to people you already know are full of it, the better. On the other hand, being a “little sister” in a fraternity? Good one.  Free beer.

In a few years, your parents are going to tell you you’re making a big mistake by quitting a perfectly good job and high-tailing off to Europe for 5 months with your loser boyfriend. You’ll second-guess yourself, but don’t worry about. They’re wrong. That trip will turn out to be the best ‘mistake’ you’ve ever made. And that loser boyfriend has provided over twenty years of love and laughter, not to mention a lifelong security net.  But your wanderlust, however, will never settle down.

Friends really do come and go.  Sometimes you don’t take care of them, and this is a big mistake. You’re going to regret falling out of touch with some of those with whom you shared Life’s richest moments. Some of your friends will love you more unconditionally than even your family.

Love, Me (You)

There. I did it.  And now that I’ve done it, I think I could easily edit it another dozen or more times.

I can’t say that this was a life-altering exercise nor can I say that I relived all my life’s so-called regrets, either.  But for a moment, however brief, I do remember what “16” felt like…and I pray that sentiment helps me parent my own 16-year olds with a little more empathy.  Not ‘understanding’.  No.  There is no way they’ll believe you understand them.  No. Way.

What would you say to your 16 year-old self?

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Once upon a time, standing in line waiting to pay for my weekly groceries was the most frustrating waste of time imaginable.  Waiting.  Waiting.  No matter which line I choose, it’s the wrong one.  I love listening to the cashier’s idle chit chat.  Or better:  listening to the patron in front of me idly chit chatting WITH the cashier.  I am totally up to speed now following a stimulating debate on the merits of a proposed new stop light at South Riverand Main Streets.  I hadn’t realized the crimes of those responsible for the escalating price of blueberries.  I would have something enlightening to add but for the fact that I was totally engrossed in what new heights of drama trap Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes.  As my turn finally comes, I strategically place my groceries on the belt:  frozen foods first, followed by dairy, then pantry items, fruits and veg, with bread and eggs taking up the rear (okay, don’t judge me).  The teenagers don’t always bag them according to my established template, but they are learning to follow my instructions which I offer very patiently, given the constructive time I’ve now spent in line.

Now, another new level of frustration is rapidly encroaching upon my ever-so-ample free time:  the “dead” time I face when dealing with my computer!  I cannot believe the amount of time I spend upgrading browsers, downloading files, and installing new programs onto my computer.  It seems to take – as my daughter would say – forEVER!  I’m always optimistic that the computer is being honest with me as it reassuringly informs me “This might take a few moments…”  Then, I obediently sit there, doing nothing, but watch that ubiquitous little bar inch its way s l o w l y .from left to right.  I would have finished my memoir by now if not for the time computer is unavailable to me!!  After a few more wasted precious moments (see? the computer was lying), I start to second guess myself:  I probably just installed a virus, didn’t I?  This new program or website is now having a feeding frenzy on my hard drive, isn’t it?  I pray that little red X icon doesn’t appear signaling an epic fail in my attempt to be totally up to speed.  And how about that pleasant time spending trying to determine why, for no apparent reason, the internet goes down.  Suddenly.  Without warning.  In the middle of a critical email to a my daughter’s 6th Grade teacher about her overdue library book fine (clearly her older brothers never signed a single book out of their middle school library as I was not even aware middles school libraries charged overdue book fines)!!

This, of course, prompts new heights of wasted while I misdiagnosing my internet connectivity issues.  That poor soul on the end of the Customer Care line has spent four years in a post secondary computer engineering program in order to sagaciously guide me through the following highly technical instructions:  unplug your modem, wait 30 seconds, plug it back in, and try again.  Hey, what do you know?!  He was right!  Damn, if that wasn’t four years well spent.  And the four years he spent at university were also probably constructive.  However, this seems to do the trick, 90% of the time.  So I can now quickly get back to that upgrade I need off the internet…

Still downloading …

Still checking for updates …

Still installing…

Still finishing set-up…

Then, I get the ultimate message signaling success, but that somehow only sets me further over the edge, potentially requiring medication: 

“Please restart your computer now…”

Oo-la-la! Those French have done it to us again!

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french-cafeI guess I shouldn’t be so surprised.  The OECD, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, is an organization in Paris that determines the impact of government policies on societal habits.  I read a article today which summarizes one of their reports.  Not sure how they did this but the global sample size was actually pretty substantial.  They found that Canadians spend an average of 70 minutes a day eating and drinking.  However, 30% of Canadians have a body mass index (BMI) of over 30 (that’s bad by the way).  Compare this to the French, who spend an average of almost 140 minutes a day eating and drinking while only 10.5% of their population have a BMI greater than 30.  The eating and drinking time differential can be attributed to the length of time you spend in Paris waiting for a server to actually notice you (and your frustrated gesturing will only make him ignore you longer).   I just can’t quite figure out why the French are skinnier.  With all their café au laits, croissants, vin rouge, frites and patisseries you would think their average BMI would topple the Eiffel Tower.   Note to self:  about time for a café au lait break, isn’t it?
But it made me think for a minute:  how much time do I really spend eating and drinking per day (drive-thru and take-out dining in the car should probably not be considered).  I figure I spend about 10 minutes tops at  breakfast, maybe 20 minutes at lunch and I think I spend at least 30 minutes at the dinner table with my family (I know, I know – this really contradicts my previous post).   So I’m certainly one bringing down the Canadian average.  Note to self:   fix that.
The report also measured the global differences in time spend on leisure activities (Norway takes the prize with 26.5% of their time spent leisurely on hobbies, games, TV viewing, computer, gardening, sports and socializing) and sleeping (where the French took the gâteau yet again with an average of 8 hours and 50 minutes of sleep per night).
Note to self:    send resume to 

OECD
2, rue André Pascal
F-75775 Paris Cedex 16
France

See more at: 

http://www.oecd.org/document/17/0,3343,en_2649_34637_42671889_1_1_1_1,00.html

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