Winter has arrived

December 26, 2009 at 6:23 am (Stuff that's on my mind)

Now that fall has come and gone, little outdoor creatures are scrambling to find a warm, dry place to hide out from winter’s brutal cold.  Based on observations made over a number of years, our basement is apparently the ideal place to do exactly that.  So with this in mind, I’ve been reminding Malcolm to make sure he closes doors tightly behind him when he goes out.  I’ve seen entire days pass where he’s been working outside, making numerous trips in and out of the basement, and the door only moves twice – once to open when he goes out in the morning, and once to close when he comes in at the end of the day.  I’m sure he was born in a barn … I’ll have to ask his mother about that.

Anyway, now that winter has arrived, it becomes more important than ever to keep our home tightly sealed against all the woodland creatures that would love to move in and keep us company over the winter.  Because I don’t do rodents.  At all.  You want to see someone break out in a high-stepping dance complete with ear-splitting screaming?  Just let a mouse run across the floor in front of me.  There’s a rule in this house – outside they’re okay, but if they come in, they die.  Simple, right?

Well who knew the little varmints could be so clever?  We were away for the summer, and when we moved back home, I began the customary cleaning and organizing that follows this move every year.  Our first Sunday morning back home, I was cooking breakfast, and then turned to make the toast, but for some reason, the button on the toaster wouldn’t slide down.   No problem, it’s a 4-slice toaster, so I figured I’d deal with it later, and moved the bread to the other two slots, but the same thing happened.  I could explain what was going on, but a picture does it so much better.

Here is our toaster:

Here is what I emptied out of our toaster:

Also?  I found a little shot glass in one of the cupboards with nuts already shelled or cracked.  For all those occasions when you’re pressed for time and want a quick and easy snack to go, instead of wasting time gnawing through the shell.

Now obviously, this was the work of a chipmunk, not a mouse, but you know what?  It doesn’t matter.  Mouse, chipmunk, squirrel… none of them belong in my home, sharing living space with us.  Well, unless they’re willing to pay rent.  Then I suppose I could be a bit more flexible.

But seriously, once I discovered the stash of nuts, I knew I had to do an even bigger cleaning job.  And a rodent hunt on top of that.  So I went through all the cupboards and drawers, got rid of all the poop, and cleaned all the dishes, glasses, cutlery… everything.  Thank goodness for dishwashers!  I also set traps in several locations, but never caught a thing.  And here’s where the cleverness comes in.  Once I removed the nuts, the chipmunk left.  Obviously, it figured out I was not to be messed with!


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Recent, Unrelated Observations

October 12, 2009 at 12:52 am (Stuff that's on my mind)

I dye my own hair.  My hairdresser knows this, has often admired the colour, and on more than one occasion, has recommended my hair colour to another customer.  Therefore, during a recent visit for a trim, it was rather disconcerting to look in the mirror and see her standing behind me combing out my newly dyed hair, while trying unsuccessfully to stifle her laughter.  What’s that?  I missed a spot?  Yeah, okay, well there might have been some wine involved the last time I coloured it.

On the topic of hairdressers, if her assistant favours heavy use of backcombing and aerosol hairspray to style hair, it just might be time to head back to school for a little refresher course.

Running into friends you haven’t seen since high school and seeing how much they’ve aged, particularly when you’re convinced you haven’t, proves one thing… they really ARE good friends!

If there are boxes in the basement that still haven’t been opened since moving in 17 years ago, it’s a pretty safe bet they can just be tossed, still unopened.

Windex can clean pretty much anything.

Never underestimate the value of a well-placed comma.  It could have turned this – “I think it’s awesome to tell the truth” into this – “I think it’s awesome, to tell the truth”, and prevented the remainder of that chat from going to a place where neither understood what the other was talking about.

Why do people say “not to mention…” and then go ahead and mention it?  If it truly “goes without saying”, don’t say it!  And if you hear “to make a long story short…”, you may as well settle in and get comfy.  It’s a pretty safe bet you won’t be getting the Coles Notes version of the tale.

I was talking with my sister-in-law today, and it’s unanimous… losing your job causes an immediate 10-pound weight gain.

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Celebration Time!

October 4, 2009 at 3:04 pm (Stuff that's on my mind)

Today is five years since I quit smoking.  And I am so proud of that, I thought it deserved a blog post all its own.

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Summer highlights – 2009

October 1, 2009 at 10:11 am (Stuff that's on my mind) (, , , )

More highlights of this past summer…

After breakfast one beautiful sunny Sunday morning, Malcolm and I decided to take advantage of the great weather, shine up our motorcycles, and go for a ride.  Can you believe it was August before we finally got around to taking our first ride?  Of course, since June and July were both so miserable and wet, the official arrival of summer in Eastern Canada was pushed back until August, leaving a very short time span to fit in all the summer fun.  Anyway, that Sunday, we rode through the Kingston Peninsula, Hampton, Norton and Sussex, and arrived, 100km later, at Roland and Tracy’s trailer just above Sussex.  Malcolm’s mother and her new boyfriend were also there, so we enjoyed a visit with everyone for an hour or so before deciding it was time to hit the road again and head back to the beach for a barbecue.

Sadly, while Malcolm had his kayak out on the river twice this summer, I didn’t have mine out even once.  However, I did have the opportunity to enjoy the water on two occasions, albeit in two very different extremes…

My sister Cathy and I had been talking for a few years about going whitewater rafting, and since we both found ourselves in a situation where we had the time and resources, this turned out to be the year to do it.  So we chose a date, made the reservations, and tried to quiet our nerves.  Okay, I tried to quiet my nerves!  When the time came, I picked her up at her home in Fredericton, and six hours later, we arrived at Crab Apple Whitewater Rafting, located at The Forks in the heart of Maine.  The next morning, we met with the rest of the group for our safety instruction.  After being told about all the things that could happen to us on the water, and learning what to do in various situations, I was even morenervous.  Our guide noticed that we were the only two wearing only a swimsuit and shorts, expressed concern that we might get cold, and recommended renting a wetsuit.  While Cathy opted to take her chances dressed as she was, knowing how easily I get cold, I decided to rent a jacket.  Then after being fitted with our PFDs, we were loaded into the bus, and after a short 20-minute ride, arrived at the base of the Harris Station Dam, where we entered the Kennebec River. 

Then the fun began!  Rapids everywhere!  And waterfalls!  We hit them head-on, sideways, and backwards.  There was laughter and shouting and lots of screaming.  Okay, I admit, I was the only one screaming.  We were soaked within seconds, but fortunately, the water was very, very warm.  After two hours of non-stop excitement, we paddled to the edge of the rushing, thundering river to climb ashore and take a break.  When we were sufficiently rested, we pushed back into the current, and after a couple more series of smaller rapids, sat back and let the raft drift back to the lodge, where we relaxed in the pool and hot tub before enjoying a delicious barbecue meal.  After eating, we watched the video coverage of our trip and viewed the many pictures that were taken, bought a copy of the DVD, and then, after many heartfelt thank-yous and promises to return, we headed out for the six-hour drive back to Canada.  All in all, a most excellent trip!

A couple weeks later, we got together again for another water adventure – we went tubing on the Nashwaak River, just 15 minutes from Cathy’s home.  This trip couldn’t have been more different from our whitewater rafting trip.  We rented inner tubes, were driven upriver, and then entered the water and floated back to where we began.  It was a three-hour float, and very, very relaxing.  We plan to do it again next summer, but we’ll go earlier in the season so the water will be deeper.

I recently watched a show on HGTV about buying a vacation home Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic.  Although we’ve never been to Punta Cana, we have vacationed in Puerto Plata, and saw enough to want to return to the D.R. some day.  So on the show, they were saying you could get a 2 bed /2 bath condo in Punta Cana for 140K+, and a 1 bed/1 bath on the beach for 160K+.  Judging by the properties they showed in the episode, Punta Cana could be a great place to live in the winter and rent out when we’re back home in Canada.  Definitely something worth thinking about.  But I’d have to get a job to finance that.  LOL

Speaking of which, I said right up front that I wanted to take this summer off, and I have.  And I used that time to research what type of work I might like to do for the next 10 years or so, until I really retire, and whether I’m qualified now or need further training.  I’ve decided that I’m finished working in IT; I’ve done the projects, deadlines, overtime and on-call.  Now, I’d like to take advantage of the office skills I’ve accumulated over the years, and land a job as a receptionist / office administrator / administrative assistant.  I’ve written my resume and have begun applying for these types of jobs as they surface.  I haven’t heard back from any of them yet, but it’s still early days.  Also, I’m very fortunate that I have the luxury of being able to apply for only the jobs I’m interested in, instead of applying for many and accepting the first offer I get.  Even so, I’m crossing my fingers that my dream job is just around the corner.

And on that note, it’s time for my daily perusal of the online job sites.

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The Ernie Haase and Signature Sound concert, summer 2009

September 6, 2009 at 9:29 am (Stuff that's on my mind) (, , )

First of all, I need to apologize for my extended absence.  Really, two months of silence is quite unacceptable.  However, in my defense, I just haven’t been in a good place psychologically to offer regular updates, but more on that another time perhaps.  For now, I’ll (hopefully) entertain you with a few posts that describe the highlights of the past two months…

On Saturday July 11, I attended an Ernie Haase and Signature Sound concert at the beautiful Merrill Auditorium in Portland, Maine.  It was a six hour drive from the beach to Portland, and all of it in 27C sunshine.  So naturally, I took advantage of the great weather and drove topless.  The car was topless, that is.  I personally had enough coverage to remain legal.  Barely.  Hah, no pun intended!   And of course, since the effectiveness of my sunscreen ended long before the end of my trip, I ended up getting burned.  Ah well, it happens every year, so despite the discomfort, at least I was happy to get it out of the way.

So the concert was scheduled to begin at 6:00 p.m.  I know, this seems like an oddly early hour.  But consider this – the start time was perfect to attend a 2 1/2 hour concert (intermission included), and because it was summer, still be able to drive back to the hotel before total darkness descended on the city.  So considerate of Ernie and the boys to think of all of us who had travelled great distances to see and hear them, and who perhaps weren’t entirely comfortable driving through an unfamiliar city in the dark.  This, of course, did not apply to me since I am notoriously anal, and a week before the trip, poured over Google Earth for several hours, plotting the perfect routes to Portland, to the hotel, to the concert venue, and back to the hotel again.  So when I encountered an unplanned detour on I-95, it only threw a minor wrench into the mix. 

I have to admit though, I found it a little irritating that because of the detour, I was forced to travel the Maine Turnpike, and therefore, pay the tolls.  It seems to me, if all options for avoiding the toll highway have been removed, the tolls themselves should be, too.  But when I politely (it’s the Canadian way) mentioned this to the woman in the toll booth, she pointed out with an equally bright smile that even though the alternate route was closed, I still had to pay the tolls because they had no way of knowing if I REALLY had planned to take that route had it been open.  Seriously?  Did you see this face?  I guess I have some work to do on my ‘Honest-To-God-I’m-Being-Totally-Honest’ look.

Anyway, I arrived at the Merrill Auditorium early enough that evening to browse the product tables before the concert began.  I had listened to my entire EHSS collection on the drive down, all 8 CDs, not counting their Christmas one, so I was thrilled to find two new CDs to add to my collection.  I now have everything they’ve ever produced.  Yeah, I’m a SG (Southern Gospel) junkie.  I also bought an EHSS colouring book, meant for kids of course, but since I often break out a colouring book and crayons as a way to relax, it was an irresistible find.

So shortly after I was seated by one of the friendly ushers (7th row centre – an awesome seat!)  the concert began, and as usual, the guys were in fine form, and gave a high-energy, toe-tapping, hand-clapping, can’t-help-but-sing-along show.  The overall look was a bit relaxed, at least more relaxed than when they travel with the Gaither Homecoming Tours.  Well, except for Ernie … he was wearing a black on black suit that just seemed to gleam under the lights.  I was quite fascinated with it, and found myself wondering several times throughout the evening what material it was made from.  Sadly, I was only able to get a few pictures before my batteries died.  And oddly enough, none of my backup batteries worked either, even though they had all been tested and showed 100% charged.  So I finished watching the first half of the show sans camera, and drooling enviously over the camera of a woman three rows in front of me – envious because her screen showed such a bright, clear picture.  This woman, incidentally, took an occasional still photo, but used her camera more for taking videos of parts of songs, and often entire songs.  More about that in a bit.

During the intermission, since my shopping was complete, I remained in my seat and chatted with my neighbours.  The lady beside me was surprised that I was there alone, but was totally floored when I told her I had driven six hours from Canada that day.  When she asked me about it, I simply replied that since the guys had travelled so far to entertain us, driving six hours seemed to be the least I could do.  Besides, I continued, they were worth it.  And she couldn’t disagree with that.  Oh, and the lady ahead of me who had been shooting videos?  My best guess as to what happened next is that while on stage, Ernie had seen her holding the camera for long periods of time and figured out what she was doing.  Okay, to be fair, you didn’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure that one out.  Anyway, this may not have been a problem except … they had videos for sale in the lobby!  So when this woman returned to her seat just before the second set began, the head security guy was waiting for her.  Between the gesturing and the few words I could hear, he basically told her that shooting videos of the concert was not allowed, and she could buy one or more in the lobby.  She seemed to accept it calmly enough, but after he left, she had a very … animated conversation about it with her seat-mates, with lots of hand-gesturing, head-shaking, shoulder-shrugging, and eye-rolling.  I just LOVE people-watching!

When the second half of the show began, Ernie announced the winner of the door prize – $100 of EHSS merchandise.  The woman who won didn’t appear to be overly thrilled – perhaps she didn’t care for being called out in such a large crowd, but when Ernie said he’d throw in a special prize and said she could take Ryan Seaton home with her, she got pretty excited about that!  LOL! 

Here’s a shot of the four guys:

Ernie Haase and Signature Sound

Ernie Haase and Signature Sound (L-R: Ryan Seaton, Ernie Haase, Doug Anderson, Tim Duncan)

So after the concert, the crowd slowly filed out of the auditorium, some leaving immediately, but many remaining to have a picture taken with the guys, get their autographs, or just to thank them for a great concert.  While Ryan, Doug and Tim were greeting fans on one side of the lobby, I was in the crush of people waiting to see Ernie on the other.  The woman who had been shooting the video during the concert was gushing over him, oblivious to the possibility that in all likelihood, Ernie himself was the one who busted her, and he was being his usual charming, gracious self.  (BTW, she’s the one in the dark hair in the photo above.)  Anyway, as I got closer, I began to think about what I was going to say to him.  I couldn’t get a picture of us together because my batteries were dead.  I’m not an autograph collector, so that wasn’t an option.  Also, I didn’t have anything he could have signed.  Well, skin I suppose, but it really wasn’t that kind of concert.  So.  I’m left with, “Hi.  I love your suit.  Can I touch it?  And oh, by the way, I really enjoyed your concert tonight.”  Seriously???  I consider myself to be pretty good with the English language, and that’s the best I could come up with?  I may as well have had “Idiot” tattooed on my newly sunburned forehead.  Which is why I stepped out of line at the last minute and made my escape.  And drove back to my hotel in the still-lingering daylight.

Sunday morning, after breakfast at a nearby fast-food place (I won’t say which one, but their Egg McMuffin was delicious!), I began the six-hour drive home, listening to my now complete EHSS CD collection all the way.  Sunny 27C again.  Topless again.  Sunburned again.  It was painful to the touch on Monday, but by Tuesday, the pain was pretty much gone.  Then things got interesting.  By Tuesday night, I noticed my forehead was slightly swollen and the skin felt tight, and my eyes were a bit puffy.  However, the full extent of the damage wasn’t revealed until the following morning.  My eyes were even more puffy, but my right eye in particular was so swollen I could barely open it.  In fact, it was so spectacular I had to take a picture of it.  I realize there are some who read this blog who don’t know what I look like on a good day, so to give you a better idea of the damage done, I offer before and after pictures.  For the curious, in the photo below, I am sitting with my amazing husband, Malcolm, and we are holding our adorable grandsons, Zavier – 2 weeks, and Zachary – 18 months.

This is my face:

 My face

 This is my face after a bad sunburn.  Any questions?

My face after sunburn

Bottom line:  Was the weekend worth it?  Without a doubt!  Would I do it again?  Absolutely, but next time I’d use more sunscreen.  And practice some “Meet-The-Artist” lines well in advance!

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That wonderful man of mine

June 29, 2009 at 12:13 pm (Stuff that's on my mind) (, )

Anyone who has an account on Facebook is aware of the number of personal quizzes, or memes, that are making the rounds.  I don’t usually bother with them, but one of my favourite bloggers, Heather Armstrong of, brought one over to her blog and it was hilarious.  It asks several questions about your life with your significant other, and I thought I’d duplicate it here to give you a peek at the person I’ve chosen to spend my life with.  Many of you probably don’t know a lot about Malcolm. That is about to change…

What are your middle names?
My middle name is May, after my paternal grandmother.  Malcolm’s middle name is George, after his father.

How long have you been together?
We dated for 2 1/2 years, then took a 7-year break, then got back together and lived together for 4 years.  We’ve been married now for almost 17 years.

How long did you know each other before you started dating?
We knew each other for the full 3 years we attended high school together, but we didn’t actually go on our first date until about 2 weeks before graduation.  That sign on my forehead advertising my availability?  I guess I should have used bigger letters.

Who asked whom out?
He asked me.  There was no trepidation.  He finally saw the sign and knew I was a sure thing.

Where was your first date?
He picked me up at 10:00 after my shift at the grocery store where I worked after school.  We drove to Fredericton, about an hour and a half away in those days, and found this little restaurant called “The Cabin”.  I have no idea what we ate, but I remember we talked for hours.  When he drove me home, we sat in my parent’s driveway and talked even more.  And we still find so much to talk about all these years later.  Oddly enough, he doesn’t find that nearly as endearing as I do.

How old are each of you?
I’m 48, he’s 49.  There are only 6 months between us, but it amuses me to no end to constantly point out that he is indeed older.  In fact, when he turned 40, I wrote a poem and had it published in our local newspaper, complete with his photo:

He’s up before dawn to deliver the milk
In summer and winter without any help.
The animals love him, they all know him by now,
The dogs, the cats, and even the cows.
But today’s his day off, and so he’s at home
With the TV and remote, sitting close by the phone.
This special man will be quite embarrassed
But on this day, I couldn’t care less.
The love of my life turns 40 today
And on this occasion I have one thing to say:
You can cry and whine and beg and plead,
But Malcolm my darling, you’re still older than me!

Whose siblings do you see the most?
Malcolm is the second of six kids, I’m the oldest of three.  Although several of them live fairly close by, his brother is the only one we see on a regular basis.  He is our mechanic, and between Malcolm’s milk truck, the half ton, and my cars, we more than do our part to keep him in business.

Which situation is the hardest on you as a couple?
Malcolm likes to be places on time.  I do as well, but I am a procrastinator.  I will put off everything until the last possible minute.  I am also a lousy estimator of time.  So if I think I need a half hour to get ready for something, I really should have allowed 45 minutes.  But I’m working on that.  I’m always working on that.

Are you from the same home town?
No.  Malcolm was born in a small community outside Saint John called Musquash, but moved to the city when he was still very young.  I grew up in the rural outskirts of Saint John and didn’t move into the city until I moved out on my own at 18.

Who is smarter?
We have actually discussed this on occasion and agree that we are very balanced when it comes to intelligence.  We each have our strengths, which make up for the other’s weaknesses.  Malcolm’s strengths involve dealing with people, working with numbers, and building and repair, in both construction and auto mechanics.  I am very strong in logic, spatial thinking, and communications.  Malcolm is the king of the quick wit.  But I have learned at the feet of the master, and can now often out-wit him, much to his surprise and chagrin. 

Who is the most sensitive?
With a long-term relationship comes the intimate knowledge of how to hurt your partner.  With maturity comes the ability to speak without inflicting pain.  One of the most powerful things about love is the willingness to lay yourself open to the possibility of being hurt.  And one of the most rewarding things about love is the knowledge your partner is sensitive to your needs and will never intentionally hurt you.  Malcolm and I both possess this knowledge and practice it daily.

Where do you eat out most as a couple?
Every Saturday morning we have breakfast at the local Legion.  Every Sunday morning in the summer, we have breakfast at the restaurant in the campground where we stay.  Special occasions are typically celebrated at the Reversing Falls Restaurant, where we like to reserve a window seat in the Chandelier Room.

Where is the furthest you two have traveled together as a couple?
Cancun, Mexico.

Who has the craziest exes?
Malcolm has an ex-wife who we are both friendly with and see quite often, especially when the grandkids are visiting.  But she’s not crazy, so there’s no problem there.  I, however, have a psycho ex-boyfriend from a relationship that ended 23 years ago.  Over the two years we were together, he threatened me with physical harm, threatened to kill me, and left me with emotional scars that have taken years to heal.  So I guess I win this one.  Or maybe I lose.

Who has the worst temper?
Malcolm and I are both very even tempered.  Although occasionally he’ll accuse me of PMS-ing.  Yeah, that’s helpful, like adding lighter fluid to a fire helps put it out.  But I generally get over whatever’s bothering me fairly quickly.

Who does the cooking?
I do the majority of the cooking, although Malcolm is more than capable of putting together a decent, tasty meal if he has to.  Also, he is the definite king of the barbecue.  No one, and I mean NO ONE can turn a piece of tender, fall-apart-in-your-mouth steak into a hunk of toughened, charred meat faster than I.

Who is the neat-freak?
Malcolm likes things neat and tidy.  I do too, but I am essentially lazy when it comes to housework.  Which doesn’t mean I don’t get things done … it just means I typically hear some grumblings before I eventually get it in gear.

Who is more stubborn?
Malcolm.  I can be stubborn too, but I typically give in after thinking about the issue for a couple days.  I used to fear I was simply acquiescing to his will, but now I know in many things he is right, and it just takes a bit of time for me to come around to his way of thinking.  I hope he never reads this.

Who hogs the bed?
Malcolm.  I have woken numerous mornings, right on the edge, grasping the nine inches he indulges me with.  And that’s not nearly as exciting as it sounds.

Who wakes up earlier?
Malcolm.  He gets up for work at 1:00 in the morning.  I, on the other hand, being retired, enjoy the luxury of waking sans alarm clock, usually around 9:00 a.m.

Who is more jealous?
Malcolm doesn’t have a jealous bone in his body.  In fact, he feels a sense of pride when he sees other men checking me out.  Me?  I used to be over-the-top jealous.  Now I’m learning that when I’m feeling threatened, I can immediately discuss it with him.  Within seconds, he can bring me down from a state of irrational fear to a rational calm, where I can forget about it and go on with my life.  And the best part?  As my self-confidence soars, these attacks of jealousy occur less and less often.

How long did it take to get serious?
Five weeks the first time.  But after the seven-year break?  Only about three weeks.  Then he moved in with me.  I wasn’t taking any chances of losing him again.  Still took him another four years to decide he wanted to marry me, though.

Who eats more?
Malcolm, but only because of his job; he’s so much more active than I and therefore has a much higher fuel requirement.  I, however, am the queen of chocolate.

Who does the laundry?
I do the majority of the laundry, although Malcolm will occasionally do his own clothes.  Never mine, though.  He claims he doesn’t know how.  He has this belief that my clothes need special care or something (they don’t).  A couple years ago, I hit on an idea to make everything so much easier.  Since a large portion of my time was spent sorting the clothes before I even walked into the laundry room, I figured if we had three hampers, we could sort the clothes as we took them off.  And to make it even easier, I made signs to go above each hamper, listing what each one was for.  Somehow however, it all went horribly wrong, and I ended up causing more confusion and frustration than what was there before.  Although the concept of separating the whites/lights and colours was clear enough, when I broke it down one step further and indicated light grey sweatpants and sweatshirts should go in one hamper with the whites, while the navy, black, and burgundy ones should go into another with the colours and darks, well, that was almost enough to make someone’s head explode.  Because he figured they were all sweatpants and sweatshirts, regardless of colour, and should therefore go into the same hamper.  Eventually I admitted defeat and now we use the one-hamper system again.  And I sort all the laundry on laundry day.  And it takes longer to do it.  But at least I don’t have to listen to the moaning and whining about The Signs.  THE SIGNS!!!

Who’s better with the computer?
Well technically, my 16 years as a programmer, followed by three years putting content up on the company’s website, would indicate that I am better.  However, with no computer training, Malcolm has no fear of exploring new things, and therefore it could be argued that he is better.  But when it comes to electronics in general?  He is definitely better than I.  He used to comment that he couldn’t understand how I could write 15,000 lines of code to run complex billing systems, and yet I’d come home and couldn’t figure out how to work the VCR.

Who drives when you are together?
Malcolm.  He drives for a living, so I feel very safe when he’s behind the wheel.  Even though I like to tease him on occasion that the older he gets, the more he drives like an old man.

So there’s a bit more insight on my wonderful husband and our life together.  Feel free to answer any or all of the same questions about your significant other in the comments, or leave a link to your website if you prefer answering there.

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Mirror, mirror, on the wall…

June 12, 2009 at 1:12 pm (Stuff that's on my mind) (, , )

I just returned home from visiting our wonderful friends Shellianne & Dougall in Halifax, and spending part of two of those days with my dear friend Ralph, who was also there on business.  I’ve mentioned Ralph before when he was here about six weeks ago, and I had the opportunity to spend a few hours with him before he flew back home.  However, after spending time with him during this visit in Halifax, I feel strongly there’s something that needs to be said.  And I’m going to try to do it with as much tact and diplomacy as possible, and hope I don’t hurt anyone in the process.  So here goes…

Why is it that our society places so much importance on physical appearance?  Is it really that important?  Is it important at all?  Are we so shallow that we can’t see beyond a person’s height, weight, or looks?  And what if someone can’t get beyond his own perceived outer imperfections to see the wonderful inner qualities that make him who he is?  You know, the qualities that really count.  Ralph has more of these qualities in his little finger than some people will ever have in their entire bodies.  And in order to make my eventual point, it’s necessary to detail some of them here… 

Ralph is a very intelligent man – not only in terms of what he does for a living, but he is also well-read and well-informed.  He is not a sheep following the masses; he reads up on topics that interest him and forms his own opinions.  And if you disagree with his point of view?  That’s okay too, because he thoroughly enjoys a lively exchange of ideas and opinions.  And he has opinions on a wide range of topics – from volunteering at animal shelters vs. homeless shelters, to politics, to the current economic crisis.

Ralph is a father, and if you want to see his eyes light up and his face glow, ask him to tell you about his child.  It’s so obvious when you see him come alive and hear the pride in his voice that he’s a very connected, loving and caring dad.

Ralph has a dry humour and a very quick wit.  I can’t count the number of times he has made me laugh out loud with his lightening-fast responses to my emails, and his unique way of looking at the world.

Ralph is intuitive and empathetic.  When I was feeling so lost after being given my early retirement, he sensed my need to talk it out, and actually listened to what I had to say.  He told me that as bad as I felt, he thought I was doing amazingly well, and that in the same circumstances, he probably wouldn’t have even been able to get out of bed for two months after going through something like that.

Ralph has so much compassion for other people, and when I saw an example of this earlier this week, it almost blew me away.  We were strolling along the streets of Halifax after dinner one night when we were approached by a homeless man asking for money.  Ralph stopped and turned to face him, gave him validation by looking him in the eye, quietly listened to his story, saw the desperation in his face and heard the panic in his voice … and then gave him some spare change from his pocket.  When I asked why he did that, he replied that the guy was clear-headed and obviously not drunk or on drugs, but also quite simply, because he could!  What an eye-opening experience to witness that!  I’m ashamed to admit that when approached by someone looking for money, I avoid eye contact, mumble something unintelligible and hurry away.  And then feel guilty that I have and they have not.  I’m fully aware that I was taught this because my parents were raising three girls and were concerned for our safety, but still, the next time it happens, I’ll definitely remember Ralph’s example and perhaps react differently.

There are so many more great things about Ralph, but to detail them all would turn this post into a novel, so I’ll just summarize them here.  He is honest, thoughtful, polite, and courteous.  He is kind, fair, charming, and gracious.  He is great fun to be with, loves to tease, and can make six hours fly by so fast they seem like only one.  He is everything any mother would wish for her daughter, and everything any father could hope for in a son.

But here’s the difficult part of this post … I’ve known Ralph for many years, and it absolutely kills me that he doesn’t see beyond the reflection in the mirror.  He doesn’t see the person who I see and have come to love dearly.  (And for anyone who has a problem with that?  Relax!  There’s a difference between loving someone and being “in love”.)  Will he ever be on the cover of GQ magazine?  Not likely.  Will he ever work as a male model?  Probably not.  But you know what?  That’s okay because those things aren’t important.  Those things only deal with the outer packaging.  But do you know what are important?  All of those qualities that I just listed above.  That’s right, all those things that Ralph possesses in abundance.

And let’s be honest here for a minute … I think we all know at least one person, male or female, who’s got the pretty packaging, but then blows the entire picture as soon as they open their mouth.  To put it another way, they’re all flash and no substance.

I’ve also been asked what I see in Ralph.  Let me put it this way … a man can connect with some women by how he looks or the lines he uses.  But you want my attention?  Appeal to my brain, my intellect.  Pretty looks fade and smooth lines get old, but I’ll always be drawn to someone who engages my intelligence.

If I could wish anything in the world for Ralph, it would be that he could see himself through my eyes, and be able to embrace all the wonderfulness that makes him, well … him.  He’s a regular visitor to this site, so I hope I’ve given him food for thought so he might look past the mirror, and begin to appreciate the wonderful man he really is.

Knowing he’s a very private person, I asked, and received, his permission to post this.  Thank you Ralph.  Although written for you, I believe it contains a message we all need to be reminded of.

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The sound of music

June 2, 2009 at 12:00 pm (Stuff that's on my mind)

I just booked my ticket to see Ernie Haase and Signature Sound in concert in Portland, Maine next month.  But before I did that, I asked Malcolm if he wanted to go with me. 

He had attended a Gaither Homecoming concert in Saint John with me and our moms a couple years ago and seemed to enjoy it, despite having to watch the concert on the giant screens because our seats were so far back in the upper bowl, we had to be careful we didn’t bang our heads on the metal roof support beams when we stood up.  And that’s only a slight exaggeration.

However, when given the opportunity to attend the EHSS concert, he declined, offering quite an assortment of excuses reasons:

  • he had already attended one concert, and they’re all the same;
  • he’s already seen it all because he sits beside me, waiting impatiently while I watch The Gaither Gospel Hour every week on TV;
  • he doesn’t want to spend the time / money / effort to travel to attend a concert he’s already seen

As mentioned in an earlier post, I listen to a lot of Gospel music at home, sing along in harmony, and I use my headphones if Malcolm’s home too.  However, the full extent of how one lone harmony part would sound to someone else, especially without the benefit of the melody or background music, was never made more obvious to me than during the following exchange:

Malcolm:  “No, I don’t want to go to this concert, but I’m glad I went to that first one, though.”

Me:  “Oh really?  Why’s that?”

Malcolm:  “Because now I know what those songs are supposed to sound like!”

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The sound of silence

May 29, 2009 at 3:18 am (Stuff that's on my mind) ()

To relax, Malcolm likes to watch TV and I like to listen to Gospel CDs, which isn’t an issue until we happen to do them at the same time.  The problem is our house is small enough that even at opposite ends, we can still hear each other’s choice of entertainment.

To resolve this, Malcolm bought me a set of wireless headphones.  What a great idea!  I’d be able to enjoy my music without overhearing the TV, and he’d be able to watch his shows without my music distracting him.  Problem solved, right?  Um, not quite…

I like to sing along with whatever artist I’m listening to.  Which might be okay, except instead of singing lead, I usually pick up one of the harmonies.  Singing along with the melody would at least sound somewhat decent, but if someone else, say someone watching TV, can’t hear the music, and can’t hear the melody, and can only hear one voice singing harmony … well, you can see how this might be a less-than-pleasant experience.  And then when you consider the volume at which I’m hearing the music, coupled with the desire to hear my own amazingly talented voice (HA!), I end up singing much louder than I intended.

But Malcolm, being the wonderfully patient man he is, never said anything about it (although I did notice the TV would get louder and louder on a few occasions), until one afternoon I was wearing my headphones and “quietly” humming along while dusting in the living room where he was trying to watch something on TV…

Malcolm:  “Remind me again why I bought you those headphones?”

Me:  “It was so you could watch TV and I could listen to my music without disturbing you” … << pause >> “Ooooohhhhh….”  << suddenly doubling over with laughter >>

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Is it hot in here, or is it just me?

May 26, 2009 at 11:02 am (Stuff that's on my mind)

I’ve started having occasional hot flashes, so I thought it would be a good idea to let Malcolm know what the future might hold…

Me:  “And there may be times when I have mood swings, too.”

Malcolm:  “And this is different from today, how?”

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