Friday, August 31, 2012

tides

Things around here have been taking a very marked swing for the better. Bunny and I decided to stop driving ourselves crazy and make some decisions that are right to no one but us and our immediate family (and gosh darn but I'm a little overwhelmed with how supportive they were). We've been inundated by so much sorrow and so many sad things and just so many changes and upheavals in general this year that we decided it was time to drown things out in joy.

Just a day or two of pure unadulterated happiness with no one but each other. I've got to tell you, it worked.

Doing the big happy has sort of rebalanced my mind, a little bit. I feel like the universe is more as it should be and having the happies to offset all the hard has really helped spin my brian and my heart around into a more peaceful place.

In everyday conversation I can even mention the big sad stuff in a casual, matter of fact way without needing to have a nervous breakdown. Which maybe, just maybe, means I'm about ready to talk about it here. (Now I just need to figure out what to say.) So I'd expect some announcements to pop up here soon, both pulling back the curtain on the big upsetting thing I've been worked up about and confirming what you may already suspect about the big happy.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

review: the lost gate

I'm a pretty hard core science fiction and fantasy fan. It's my favourite genre to read and to watch, and I find it compelling to explore new worlds where the rules are so different from ours. (This, of course, all made sense when half of my first year philosophy readings and problems sounded like science fiction - I like metaphysics and value theory and these genres are very complimentary to that.) So why of why did it take Bunny to introduce me to Orson Scott Card?

I'd heard about him when I was younger and a friend whose taste in literature I didn't share described him as being very "out there". I should have realized then that I had all the recommendation I needed. On my first vacation with Bunny, a camping trip six months in during which he later told me was when he'd first realized he wanted to marry me (which was news to me, as I'd spent half the trip a cold, damp, whiny mess and he'd thrown a bit of a snit fit after the weather just wouldn't let up) I raided his bookcase for some reading material and he very highly recommended Ender's Game as well as the first three sequels. I devoured those books. Over the years I've picked up a handful of Card's standalone science fiction novels.

When I found The Lost Gate at the bookstore I was more than intrigued. The back cover talked about mages ... Card didn't write fantasy, did he? I was a little apprehensive, but remembered how much I'd loved the world building and the plotline in Ender's Game and decided to give it a whirl. I'm glad I did.

In the afterword, Card says he feels that the magic system he'd built for this world was his best magic scheme, ever. While I haven't read any other fantasy works of his I have to say he's probably right. Because this is one of the best magic systems and some of the best worlds I've ever read.

He manages to somehow incorporate myths and legends, magic, two different worlds and a group of mages who are the descendents of gods (and may have the potential to be gods again) in a completely seamless manner. His main characters are developed and nuanced. The plot moves so well I stayed up reading one night until I couldn't see straight.

I don't want to say to much about the plot itself because really, I think you should all go read it and figure it out for yourselves. My only complaint was that it was over too soon - I wanted to hear how the story progressed. (It sounds like there are some sequels planned. Good thing!)
The other morning I cleaned up all my jewellery, dragged out my jewellery box and actually filled it. Well, to say I cleaned up all the jewellery isn't accurate as all the costume stuff is packed up in plastic baggies in the "bathroom box" out in my mother in law's garage, but I did deal with all of my "good" jewellery.

Which is a pretty strange mix. I'm not a fan of too much overstated jewellery and like to keep even my statement pieces somewhat simple. I don't own a whole lot of the stuff, simply because I don't wear too much. I'm starting to want to branch out into a little more everyday jewellery that's actually nice but still somewhat understated (which is a very fine line!) and it's got me taking stock of what I actually do own and love.

About two thirds of my "good" jewellery is handmade, by either me or my mom. Gemstone and semi-precious stones strung into patterns with all sorts of sparkly little crystals. Of the remainder, half are hand me downs and half are gifts. I've literally never bought good jewellery for myself. (I do someday plan on remedying this, but I need to figure out what I want before I do that.)

The box has three small drawers full of these pieces, as well as a small ring section that's almost entirely filled (where did I get so many fancy rings? I don't even wear rings other than my engagement ring and wedding band as a general rule) and two little doors that open to hang short chains and lockets on.

It's very nice to have everything stored nicely now, but I'm already thinking I need a new solution. I could throw a couple more brooches or pairs of earrings there, and I have room for another couple of chains to hang. But I couldn't possibly fit much more in than that. For someone who doesn't wear much in the way of jewellery it's a little bit surprising to me that I've almost run out of space in the jewellery case already. I already need a bigger storage solution, but that seems crazy.

How extensive is your jewellery collection? What sort of storage solution works best for you?

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

bending with the breeze

This year, with its one blow after another nature, may be the single most transformative year of my life. All that tragedy can't help but change a person, at least a little bit. It's not the sort of change and transformation that you can anticipate, like graduating from university or planning to get married or buy your first home. The situations just wake up and say "Hi, it's the 17th of the month, and life's about to change again".

Life changes don't let you plan, they just happen and take you along for the ride. It's a bit like running around in a giant hampster ball, trying desperately to keep up and never completely in control of your direction. The changes this year have been the sort of changes that you can't figure out a way to undo, the best you can do is adapt and learn to live within the new parameters of your life.

Adapt I have done. I've had to try to learn how to be my best self even in my worst circumstances. I've had to figure out a way to stand up with some grace and dignity when the world is falling apart around me. I've had to suck it up and pull myself together for job interviews and for work. I've had to look for silver linings, because even when life is one hard blow after another you can't let yourself be unhappy forever. You can't simply wallow in the misery; getting up in the morning, getting dressed and going through the motions isn't enough because there aren't enough days left in anyone's life and we have to live each one as best as we can.

Sometimes that means crawling back to bed to cry. More often than that, it means finding something in the day to look forward to, acknowledging and accepting the sorrow while refusing to let it define you.

I've surprised myself a little bit with how I've handled everything. Seeing myself somehow able to maintain some semblance of professionalism and competence at work in the last month while I was completely preoccupied by the train wreck that was July's suckage was a shock to me. I've always been very affected by the difficult moments in life and I haven't historically had an easy time containing that while at work. I've noticed some of my worst qualities taking on softer edges; curbing my temper when I want to lash out at anything and instead admitting "So, that thing that happened a few weeks back? It's making me feel like XYZ right now, and I really need for you to do a little WXY to help me out with this". Doing that instead of just directing my anger at Bunny for no apparent reason is a huge deal for me.

All this upheaval and sorrow has, somehow, led me to a sense of peace that didn't exist before. Truly encountering a terrible situation that I couldn't change, that nobody could change and recognizing that fighting was futile has given me some serenity. I can control myself, my actions and how I handle my emotions but I can't control too much else. This is a fundamental truth of life, but I hadn't really embraced it before. I don't think I had the experience necessary to embrace it. Maybe some of it is to do with the fact that I had never truly been affected by a death in my adult life, and maybe some of it is to do with the fact that the difficult situations I faced as a child where human ones, caused by human monsters and I felt like I should have had more control than I did. I never learned to respect the limits of my own influence.

I don't freak out as much as I used to. Crying because I lost some jewellery seems pretty ridiculous after the year I've had (unless the jewellery is really just the straw that broke the camel's back). I'm more willing to put myself out there, and I'm learning how to speak up for myself a little bit. I spend more time being sad than I used to, and I'm a little withdrawn lately but that's situational and I push myself to break out of the cage a little bit.

And that's just scratching the surface. It's affected how I relate to other people, both those in my life and strangers. It's affected how I relate to the universe and my relationship with the grand Whoever up there. It's changed a lot of things. The only thing that I'm sure of is that there's more change coming.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Tuesday happies

Smile day! I'm in a good mood but I'm super busy. Here are a few of the awesome things going on in my life:

  • new earrings from Bunny, because I love having things to wear that remind me of him
  • those crazy blue boots
  • shaking hands with Susur Lee when I was at his restaurant last week
  • knowing that I like prosecco much better than champagne
  • Orson Scott Card, because I'm always amazed by what an amazing writer is
  • getting positive reviews at work
  • friends being understanding, even when they're upset, when I tell them a big bit of super secret news
  • travel mugs, because taking coffee in to work is a good thing
  • my new wallet/clutch because it's classic and adorable and this amazing shade of powder blue
  • the Coach Outlet in Cookstown, where I plan on scoping out some awesome new purses
  • my new vase-like thing, beautiful, functional glass that might as well be art
  • new bras that fit better in the band. Not falling out in a thing to be loved.
How about you? What's making you happy this week?

Monday, August 27, 2012

from the drafts: two of the cutest dogs in the world

*If you remember, last February my dog Cheyenne fell down the stairs, hurt herself terribly (the vet's best guess was a broken back) and we had to put her down. I originally wrote this the night before we put her down, and after I came home from letting her go I couldn't handle posting this.

This week I'm super busy with some crazy awesome plans and just don't have time to do as much writing as I'd like. I figured since apparently I'm not ready, willing or able to be too forthcoming about the emotional mess I've been navigating my way out of for the last month or so that I'd give you this piece.

An ode to Cheyenne, who taught me what unconditional love means, written when I was still holding on to hope that she'd be ok, for just a little while longer. (I've held on to a lot of lost hope this year.)

I happen to be very lucky in having two of  the most amazing dogs in the world. The one I live with, Jethro (also: Pooperpants) is a gorgeous Brittany Spaniel who lives with Bunny and I. At some point, he's supposed to be a stud dog and he's also a total little snuggle monster. He's given us a scare once or twice with seizures, and we love him to death.

My other dog is Cheyenne, an Australian Shepherd we brought home, unplanned, from the pet store on my sixteenth birthday. My mom had long ago decided that if we ever got a dog, as she kept promising, we would call her Cheyenne. That was the name on the window, and my mom asked if I wanted to see her. The poor thing looked like a little rug. At four months old she was timid as a mouse, scared to make any move and desperate for love.

I couldn't leave the store without her, and my mom couldn't either. Home came the dog. When my brother got home to the quiet scruffy thing in the back yard that night his stunned reaction of what the hell just happened was hilarious. Oddly, he'd always wanted a dog and I'd always wanted a cat but we'd bonded with opposite animals. That dog loved me like nothing else, and I loved her back. She cuddled me through some of the roughest times in my life.

Tonight my mom called. Cheyenne has had a fall down the basement stairs and isn't doing so hot. Either she's hurt her leg or her hip, my mom's not sure which. She won't walk on her own. Then again, she's old and has had walking problems for awhile, so it's probably no big deal.

She's eating, though, and drinking. Which are all good things.

One of the lovely things about being off all the time, though, is that I can just hop a bus up north for the hell of it and go see her. So I'm doing that. I get a day cuddling with my first puppy love.

Friday, August 24, 2012

yesterday

Yesterday festivities still require some recovery time. Plus today there is some more fun planned.

In the meantime, how cute are these shoes? Even my feet have a hangover.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

this break from your regularly scheduled programming ....

Is brought to you by the fact that Bunny and I are off doing something very exciting today and enjoying the aftermath tomorrow.

Enjoy your weekend, everybody and we'll see you on the flip side.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

chicken stir fry with sesame-hoisin sauce

This whole living at my mom's thing really cuts into my kitchen routines. There's less baking going on, and I feel a little bit discouraged from baking due to all the bakery junk my mom brings home (I don't touch it, but Bunny does and I feel like I'm clogging up the house with junk when I bake now). Even cooking is sometimes a non-starter, if I'm working late, or just into a long week, and often as not the days I feel like cooking someone has already beat me to it.

Also, the "lazy meals" tag here might seem a little out of place. There's a lot of chopping and such for prep work. However, if you plan your meals in advance you can do this ahead of time ... or just buy precut veggies and chicken. If you don't have overnight to marinate your chicken, just marinate it for as long as you reasonably can. It adds extra flavour and juiciness but it isn't necessary.
So I'm not ashamed to admit that I'm leaning on some reinterpretations of old favourites right now. If redoing the same stir fries and tacos and pastas keeps us fed I can be happy enough with that. I have to do a bit of a twist, though.

Tonight's chicken stir fry is a bit of a combination between soy marinated chicken and a hoisin stir fry. I wanted to give the chicken a bit of a marinade to help give it more moisture and depth of flavour before adding it into the stir fry, but I found that I actually didn't want the marinade to be the same as the stir fry sauce.

As with all my recipes, this invites some interpretation. If you don't like the vegetables I've chosen, switch them up. If you're not into chicken, try pork or beef. If you don't like the heat, leave the chili oil out.

Ingredients:
  • 2-3 bell peppers, cut into strips
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 1 medium zucchini, sliced
  • 2 cups snap peas (or snow peas)
  • 3 skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite sized chunks or stips
  • a handful of sesame seeds, to garnish
  • vegetable oil to cook with (about 2 tbsp)
For the chicken marinade
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp sesame oil
  • 1 inch chunk of fresh ginger, finely grated
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced or grated
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
For the hoisin sauce
  • 1/2 cup hoisin
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 tsp white sugar
  • 1tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 tsp chili flakes in oil
  • 2 tbsp sesame oil
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, minced or grated
  • 1-2 inches fresh ginger, grated
Directions
  1. The night before, or early in the day, prepare your marinade. Wisk together the soy sauce, hoisin, sesame oil, ginger, garlic and lemon juice.
  2. Place your chicken strips in a large freezer bag (or just a bowl, if that's how you prefer to roll) and pour the marinade overtop. The nice thing about a bag is you can squish things around for optimal coverage.
  3. Chuck it in the fridge for the night and let the marinade work it's magic. The longer the chicken marinates, the more juicy and flavourful it will be.
  4. The next day, prepare your vegetables.
  5. Prepare your stir fry sauce, by combining hoisin sauce, soy, sesame oil, water, sugar, lemon juice, garlic, ginger and chili oil. Wisk it all together and set aside for later.
  6. In a large skillet over high heat, heat about 1 tbsp of vegetable oil. When it's sizzling hot, drain most of the marinade from the chicken and put the chicken in the pan. Cook for about 5-7 minutes flipping frequently, until the chicken is completely opaque.
  7. Remove the chicken, set aside for later.
  8. Add a little bit more oil to the pan. Once that's nice and hot, add the snap peas. Cook these about 2-3 minutes, stirring frequently. You're looking for this to turn a bright, vibrant green.
  9. Add the pepper strips to the pan, continue to stir frequently. Do this for another minute or two.
  10. Add the zucchini, continue to stir. Cook for about one minute.
  11. Add the chicken back to the skillet. You'll want to stir it all up at this point so everything is fairly evenly distributed. Pour the sauce over the whole mixture and cook this up for about 2-3 minutes. You're looking for the sauce to start to gently simmer and get some heat in that.
  12. Serve over a bed of rice or noodles, with a sprinkling of sesame seeds on top for extra fanciness.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

tick tock

There's something exciting coming up for Bunny and I, that we're keeping a little bit quiet. As I write this I have about a week's time to get my ducks in a row and figure out everything I need, and make sure I have it all in the right place.

My to do list is pages and pages long. The weekend that's coming for me (and will have just passed by the time this goes live) is super busy, but Bunny and I are both off and have a shopping list half a mile long.

Once that's done - we're set. Excitement and further details to come.

Monday, August 20, 2012

the difference

99% of the time I'm fairly oblivious to the somewhat substantial age gap between Bunny and myself. It's more a chance to tease him about being an old man than anything else, although sometimes it feels like a cultural difference being that we grew up in different generations. It just doesn't figure into our relationship.

Except sometimes it does. Sometimes I have a hard time with being so young in comparison to him and I feel like I have to hurry up and catch up with him. Sometimes I feel like he's running miles ahead of me and he needs to just slow down and wait for me. Having 11 years between us means that even if we're on the same page most of the time with what we want and need out of life that sometimes there are very stark differences.

Like with the whole bit about buying a house. He's had almost twenty years of being an adult and working towards his adult priorities like home ownership. The last career he was in gave him a salary that essentially meant he could have anything he wanted - like six weeks in Southeast Asia or buying expensive toys on a whim or a real opportunity to buy a house. Me, on the other hand? Well I'm still pretty fresh out of school and working on figuring out what I want out of my working life and how careers and money fit into everything else I want.

I want so much else. I want a family and vacations and babies and long nights spent alone together and to see the pyramids and to have fulfilling hobbies and the sort of financial situation that makes me feel secure, in everything. I want to hand make a couple items of clothing just to say I did.

Some of the things that Bunny wants out of life right now mean that I need to grow up faster than I'm ready. Some of the things I want out of life means that Bunny needs to slow down and spin his heels for a bit waiting, which might feel a little like stagnation to him. When Bunny decides he wants something it's with a certain sense of urgency, as if time is running out and he needs to do everything he can to get where he's going in time to enjoy it; I'm left feeling a little like I need to hurry up so I don't miss the boat.

It seems to silly that something as silly as the numbers on our birth certificates can dictate some of big negotiations and compromises in our relationship, especially when ususally it's such a miniscule part of who we are as a couple. It doesn't factor into our day to day lives at all. It's never a point of real contention, it's just a very emotional negotiation sometimes.

Friday, August 17, 2012

kicked

Today has kicked my @ss.

It's the three month anniversary from Poppa Bunny's death. It's the one month anniversary from the other thing that I'm not ready to talk about. (Actually, I wrote a post that was supposed to go up today. I just ... I don't know. I don't know if it's ok to talk about more directly. I don't know if I feel ok being that exposed over the internet.) And last night we took the cat to the vet - and she had her exam in the same room we put Cheyenne down in.

I'm a little overwhelmed just emotionally with all that. I imbue too much meaning sometimes in dates and anniversaries and connections.

On top of that, I have the most ridiculous back cramps I've ever had and I got a massive migraine about an hour into my day at work today. Eight and a half hours, on the phone with clients, with flurescent lighting, staring at a computer screen is not the ideal migraine situation. Luckily management at my work seems like they genuinely care about people and I had a few people check in on me to make sure I was ok. And they let me wear my sunglasses at my desk. (Isn't it a good thing I got prescription shades? I'm thinking yes!)

So, we wimped out on dinner tonight. Cooking isn't happening. Gotta love the Swiss Chalet.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

negotiation and priorities.

Bunny and I just had an interesting talk about our living situation and whether there were going to be upcoming changes to that. We were supposed to spend tomorrow scoping out some new apartments. That's been scrubbed from the agenda. The discussion is still ongoing, and I have a final veto card right now on how long our current situation is ok for.

You see, Bunny has this idea that if we stayed with my mom for a year we would in a position to buy a house at the end of it. He's probably right. I've had this thought myself, and I've run the numbers. He has some money in a retirement account that he is determined to use for a house and I've been beefing up our E Fund to start to include closing costs. His freelance gig brings in some very good money, even though both of our day jobs are on the lower ends of the pay scale. It's not unreasonable to think that we could save upwards of $20,000 in a year. We've done it before, albiet with very different income sources, and with the lack of housing expenses we can easily pull this out of the hat.

Given the commuter town we live in and the housing prices here we could potentially have a 20% down payment in a year's time. (20% is the minimum I feel comfortable with, and that's nonnegotiable. I won't buy a house I don't feel I can afford, and if we can't get our downpayment up there I don't have confidence that we can pay it off long term.)
We have a lot to think about with this. Whether it makes sense. How it fits in with our other prioritites, because some of those don't fit well with living at my mom's. Does the financial sense also make emotional sense? Are we going to go crazy without having our own space? Are we ok with giving up the independence of living alone? Are we rushing into too many fast decisions this year with all the bullshit that's gone down?

We're leaving this as a "to discuss later" issue. We decided that we'd cool our heels on the apartment search for now, because we can always start again if there's a pressing need. We'll re-evaluate this is a couple of months.

It's got me thinking about the nature of a long term committed relationship. (I'd love to say about the nature of marriage, but we haven't quite finalized that yet). Long term relationships are an exercise in negotiation. In checking in with your partner and making sure your values and priorities still line up, trying to adjust things so that if things favoured one person for a period of time that the other person's needs are put first later. In standing up for your needs and desires and compromising on them.

Priorities don't always line up. Bunny puts a very high priority on his hunt trips; I could care less about hunting and I'm not interested in vacation that's essentially time away from me. What I do prioritize, though, is Bunny's happiness and ability to explore his independent hobbies which means that sometimes, I need to say "Ok, go drive up north and roll around in deer urine". He has to compromise too, sometimes by spending less time up there on a trip, or by cutting out a visit entirely, or even just (just!) by making an 8 hour drive to pick me up so I can spend a couple days with him while he's being all manly man.

Right now, Bunny's feeling like home ownership is a big priority for him - he's looking at the long term independence and the comfort and stability of setting up our own home. My priorities are skewing a little differently: I want to make sure our living situation doesn't damage my relationship with my mother (we don't historically live well together, although we're doing well right now), I want the independence of living on our own, and there's some things I really want to do to grow our baby family. The priorities all work together - we're both thinking about a future that makes us happy, having our own space and independence. The specifics just don't all line up. So we have to figure out a way to align our priorities for that.
Life in a relationship in general may be one big long, ongoing negotiation. Checking in to see where the other lies on one aspect of life that hasn't been discussed recently, recalibrating things when they've gone off course, and letting each other know when our internal priorities move. (We are all human, we can change our minds and our priorities.)

My question for you: what have been your biggest points of negotiation and compromise in your relationship? How do you make seemingly opposite values line up?

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

review: The Joy Luck Club

About a month ago, I reviewed another Amy Tan book that I quite loved. Not too long after that I finally got my hands on a copy of the Joy Luck Club which was what I'd orginally intended to read.

Tan has a very definite writing style, and it's one that resonates with me. I like the way she structures her stories, the way she lets her characters develop and grow. At the same time she's also able to give each of her characters a distinct voice which adds amazing richness to her writing. One thing that these books together with the George RR Martin ones I've been reading has reminded me of is that I love stories with multiple (and sometimes competing) protagonists. I like getting involved in a variety of characters.

The Joy Luck Club was a much easier read than the Bonesetter's Daughter, and was paced faster. I think it was also shorter, but that's neither here nor there. It takes us into the lives of four Chinese families living in San Fransisco and probes the relationships between the mothers and the daughters, and the disconnect of the two different worlds they have grown up in (China and America).

I think there were probably about a half dozen "a ha" moments for me in this book, where a passage really seemed to get at the depth of human experience, of how we as women relate to the generations ahead of and behind us, and how even if we think we understand people we may not really - but sometimes the people who we think we understand the least are also the people who we really understand the best. One storyline in particular, where a daughter constantly feels like her mom is judging her and her choices but it seems that the daughter may be drawing these out of her own misgivings or fears, strikes a cord with me. We can't always be aware of the intentions behind another's actions or words, and we can't assume that we know what these intentions are.

I wasn't quite as impressed with this book as I wanted to be, though. I think I'd hoped for something longer, more in depth and maybe with a narrower focus; that expecation came from the Bonesetter's Daughter, which was very heavily focused on two characters in particular. The Joy Luck Club had a broader focus; it explored a very small community, and its history and the way each person fit into that community. It was a broader exploration of mothers and daughters than what the Bonesetter's Daughter focused on. Sociology instead of psychology, if you will.

Even though it wasn't quite what I expected I flew through this book. Could not put it down, would grab it even if I only had 30 seconds to devote to reading. (Seriously.)

Monday, August 13, 2012

summer obsession: old dresses

Dresses are, hands down, my favourite part of the summer season. I keep wearing them through the year, styling them with pantyhose or tights or leggings, but dress season really is summer. Really, some of my lighter dresses are only appropriate for summer.

I tend to buy a couple new dresses every year. Every year I get most excited about my newest dresses. Without fail, every year, the dresses I receive the most compliments on? My old dresses. The one I bought the year before, or five years before that. My most complimented dress this summer is a jersey goddess-style I dress I bought from Walmart about seven years back. That gets more compliments than any of the new dresses from this year. Second most complimented? A simple fooler dress I bought last year.

Understanding this has really affected what I look for in a dress. Trendy doesn't seem to fly for me, and trendy dresses are out of style so quickly. What does work for me? Simple and classic. Fun cuts, even trendy cuts, work if they're in neutral or timeless colours. Obviously of-the-moment patterns can be pulled off, if they're in very timeless cuts. I know from experience that if I purchase something with an empire waist or a fooler or shift style that I will continue to get compliments on it for years. I'm still learning what other styles are timeless on me.

And, while I've mentioned it before it does bear repeating: wearing a dress is perhaps the simplest way to look chic and pulled together when you don't have time and don't feel like expending a lot of energy. By and large dresses look fancy just by virtue of being dresses. Throw on a blazer or cardigan and some cute shoes, instant put-together!

Today was simple: sheath dress, picked up at a garage sale a few years back for $5, which is pretty hard to beat. Grey pinstriped pencil-style skirt and a black fooler top. I threw on a cropped black blazer and some wedged sandals and I was done.

Do you like wearing dresses? If so, what are your favourite styles and cuts of dresses?

Friday, August 10, 2012

life, and letting things settle

I seem to be very slowly, very steadily acclimating to my recent big emotional disaster. In fact, I may almost be ready to talk about it more directly - I'm just not sure if I should or not. Which bothers me, because there isn't really a should and should not when talking about life issues. But this is a bit of a taboo topic, even if it's a pretty common experience and I'm not 100% sure yet whether I'm comfortable opening up those floodgates and starting that discussion. I'm also unsure if I have any business starting that conversation. What I do know is that when this all started, I needed a place to talk about it and they all existed on secret corners of the internet; the support group type pages. Which was just not what I needed. I didn't need a place that was dedicated to the issue, I just needed to be able to not feel alone and being surrounded by people who had all been there was overwhelming.

I'm trudging along the road to improvement. It's been awhile since I've cried, or felt like I needed to cry about it and even those moments are more passing. My confidence in myself is slowly starting to reappear, though it's still pretty shaken. I don't feel like I need to shout to the world that I just went through this terrible thing and give me a d*mn break already, anymore.

I know there are a few things that are coming up that are going to remind me of how much this sucks. I know that there are certain events and happenings coming up in my extended community that are really happy, overall, but are going to make me feel very sad just because they remind me very strongly of this. But you know what? That's ok. I don't have to be "better" all at once. That takes some time.

Thursday, August 09, 2012

book review: lady of the rivers

I didn't have super high hopes for The Lady of the Rivers, even before I started reading it. I'd already read the first two books in Philippa Gregory's series about the War of the Roses and the women who were players at that time period and enjoyed them for the most part, but I was confused as to why the book seemed to be going backwards rather than forwards. The first book of the set had been about Elizabeth Woodville and I thought it was completely backwards to read about her mother as the third book. Plus, I just hadn't found Jacquetta to be that compelling a character in The White Queen so I had no expectations that I'd be particularly thrilled with her as the protagonist.

Even as I started reading the first chapters I had apprehensions. Some of the more minor plotlines touched a particular nerve that's just a little bit raw right now and I held the book at arms length, and put it down more often than I usually would have. Plus the whole "having a job" thing? That has taken up a lot of my old reading energy.

Boy was I wrong. It took awhile for the momentum to really pick up, and I didn't have any periods that I just couldn't put the book down but I enjoyed the read. It was interesting to see some of the immediate history to the other two books, and I found that having some insight into King Henry and Queen Margaret's reign and how things had begun to devolve into the situation to be enlightening.

The Lady of the Rivers isn't as quickly paced as some of Gregory's novels are, but it also covers a longer timespan. The book starts with Jacquetta as a teenager in France, living in the aftermath of Joan of Arc's defeat and her eventual execution; our heroine goes so far as to have something of a friendship with Joan of Arc. The story continues through Jacquetta's two marriages, showing her role as a lifelong devotee of the Lancaster cause and one of Margaret of Anjou's closest confidantes and ends with her husband and son, defeated, swearing fealty to the York cause and the lead up to her daughter Elizabeth Woodville falling in love with the York king, Edward. Given the timeframe and how many significant events and battles took place it does somewhat make sense to me that the book can't be quite as quickly paced.

There are stops and starts. Jacquetta's life was punctuated by the birth of over a dozen babies, long and heart-rendering separations from her husband and so many rises and falls of fortune that it wouldn't have been honest had the book moved too quickly. Life doesn't always move quickly, and sometimes waiting and longing can take the most space in our lives so it was only fair that Jacquetta's story had many waits and many moments of longing and missing her beloved husband.

While all of Gregory's stories examine the power of women, and how a woman could make a life for herself at a time when the world was absolutely dominated by men in a very pronounced way, I found Jacquetta's to be particularly interesting. The family legend of Melusina and powers to foretell the future passed through the female line add an extra degree of danger and excitement given how persecuted witches were at the time. Gregory's Jacquetta walks a delicate line, balancing acceptance and denial of her powers, at time running towards them and at times away all the while being acutely aware of the danger of not just witchcraft but of being a powerful woman in the world in general.

With the Cousin's War series in general, I'm finding I have to let go of my expectations a little bit. The characters and relationships being explored aren't necessarily history's stars, they are those who are near the centre of the story but not quite the star. These women are pushed around more than, say, Anne Boleyn or Elizabeth I; they have to find more subtle and careful ways to wield their powers and they're more aware of the danger that power holds for them by virtue of being women.

Letting go of the desire to read about the star characters has made this book much more interesting. In fact I actually found that I could get more involved and interested in these characters because I knew less about them to begin with. I didn't have pre-conceived notions of who Jacquetta was and what was significant in her life which let me really get into Gregory's interpretation of the character.

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

changing the plans

I am sick of trying to plan a wedding. So sick of it, in fact, that we're not really going to do that anymore.

Bunny and I have had a harder time with this than anticipated, actually. We had a vision, up to and including a venue and guest list, more than a year in advance of even getting engaged. A wedding vision that we really loved, in fact. As things started to get closer to actually happening, though, and we started to have to put our money where our mouths were, plans changed.

The wedding we wanted was expensive. Not crazy expensive, and we could have easily afforded it (to put it in perspective, we could pay down the entire wedding that we were going to have just with our current bank balances) but spending such a chunk of money on one day makes both of us feel uncomfortable.

Then all the cr*p that's gone down this year has really made the initial wedding we planned feel not quite right for us anymore. To have twenty guests but not be able to have Poppa Bunny there just seemed like too much to handle. So we scrapped it, and I agreed that I would do the big backyard party that Bunny wanted but filled me with dread.

Done. Right? Wrong.

You see, Bunny wanted the big party, but when we got down to the nitty gritty with it he wasn't so happy. He didn't believe me when I said the guest list for a big family party would be over a hundred people, minimum, until we wrote it out together. And then BAM! We started to do a rough budget of beer and hot dogs for 150 people and he got some pretty serious cold feet, to go along with my "I'm scared of a big party" cold feet. We spent a couple of weeks going back and forth, feeling out ourselves and each other and really asking ourselves "will this make us happy."

The answer was a pretty resounding no. We can't wrap our heads around the money. Neither of us has the time, or the inclination, to do the planning. We're people who can't even be bothered to throw ourselves birthday parties (seriously, the last time I had a birthday party I was 13, and I had two guests), so should we really be all that surprised that we're not into planning a big party around our wedding? Nah.

So, we have a plan. I have attire, although we need to find some for Bunny. We have rings. We have witnesses. We just need to make one call and put a little bit of money on the credit card (well, I guess two calls since we're planning on getting a hotel for the night)  to secure the date. The need-to-haves are taken care of. We're good.

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

excuses vs. reasons

Recently, I found out that my little brother is going skydiving. Reaction? That's so cool! Have fun! I'm jealous! Don't tell mom till you've reached post-skydiving safety and can tell her that there's not a smidgen of anything to worry about.

I'm jealous that he's going skydiving, and I've always wanted to go. So what the heck has stopped me?

It's not cheap by any stretch of the imagination, but it's a pretty insane life experience and I completely believe that if the money is there skydiving is worth it. So that's not it.

What I'm trying to figure out now is am I holding myself back out of fear, or practicality? The single biggest reason I've never been skydiving is that I'm a terrible flyer. I get airsick, although I can live with that. My bigger concern is my ears, or more correctly the scar tissue within my ears that makes them act up. My ears don't pop. Every time I take off or land I end up in some pretty intense pain from the pressure increase in my ears, and it doesn't let up for days. No amount of gum chewing, swallowing, hiccups, holding my nose and blowing or anything that has ever been suggested has ever worked to help me with this. Come landing I am in agony, and often tears. Sometimes I get off a plane and can't hear properly for about three days. Often just getting on a plane is enough to give me a nasty ear infection. This is true even on small planes (I have uncles who are pilots, so this has been tested out on family planes in the past).

That being the case I almost feel like skydiving would be torturing myself: I'd want to enjoy this amazing experience, but be in too much pain to do so. I think skydiving would be thirty amazing seconds, but I don't know if they would be amazing enough to offset the amount of pain I would be in. It doesn't seem like a desire that's in line with my body's current physical limitations, and this is a limitation that I don't think I have the power to change.

But I really want to go skydiving. As a general rule I try not to let physical pain stop me from doing something that I'm really, really excited for. What I'm trying to weigh right now is this: are my non-popping ears an actual, justifiable reason not to try skydiving? or am I just using them as an excuse not to go skydiving because it's also just a little bit terrifying?

I could use some opinions, here. To skydive or not to skydive?

Monday, August 06, 2012

take your cliches and shove em

So, I've got this big thing going on that I'm not quite ready to talk about, if you remember. I'm slowly easing my way into it, I've talked a little with a few friends and it went a little viral with a very small group of girls at work who knew or figured out what was going on. I'm still nowhere near ready to open that up here, and I don't know if I will ever really, fully want to go into it (which makes me sad, because it's an issue that I think we should discuss more freely, but it's very loaded and emotional and still raw) but one thing that just keeps jumping into my head is how much I have been hating lately when people ask one of two particular questions.

If I never again hear "Are you ok?" or "How are you doing?" again, it may be too soon.

Now, when these questions come from people who don't know what happened it's not a big deal. I put on my big girl pants and smile and remember that I haven't given them a reason to think I might not be ok, or that the question would bother me.

As far as people who do know? From them, these questions absolutely enrage me. They make me angrier than I can say. Because when someone who knows asks me if I'm ok I just want to put my angry-temper-tantrum pants on and scream at them. "Of course I'm not ok! I'm sitting here right now going through XYZ/XYZ just happened. How in the hell could you think I'm ok???? I am miserable." Which, is a little bit of an overreaction. And these are people who are trying to show me that they care and are concerned for me and worried that I've got a lot of crazy sh*t to deal with right now. The "how are you doing" question has the benefit of being open ended and allowing me to actually be not ok and express my frustration. Unfortunately, it tends to come at places such as work where I really can't go into things and give an honest answer and have to revert to the default socially acceptable responses, even if it's just "I'm hanging in there."

Yeah, I am hanging in there. But that doesn't really describe at all how I'm doing. I'm plowing through things, getting through the day, so stressed out that I'm having trouble eating and am fighting to maintain my weight (imagine that, I'm trying to keep my weight up), and I have never cried so much or so hard in my life. (Sidenote: one day I actually cried so hard I threw my back out. Although it wasn't funny at the time, I'm finding that pretty hilarious right now. Who knew that crying could be such a physically energetic task that you could injure yourself? You can also take the fact that I'm laughing about this to be a sign of sure improvement and a step on the road to doing better.)

The other thing that's been driving me nuts are all the platitudes. I know that people mean well, but I don't want to hear how "everything will be ok in the end" (or all the other variations on that which would be dead giveaways to exactly what's going on so I'm going to let them be). I know the statistics. I know the facts. I know that this is not the end of the world, that there's nothing I can do to control this and that in the end I will get through the emotional aftermath in one piece. I don't need my friends to tell me that. In fact, I flat out don't want to hear it. It's a little bit insulting, in a way. It makes me feel like I should just pick up and be 100% back to normal because, well yeah the situation sucks hard but it will be ok. It doesn't give me the space for my emotions. For my grief.

Now, let's be clear. "I'm so sorry to hear that" or "my heart goes out to you" and all variations thereof? Those are completely fine and very appreciated. It's good to hear that the people I surround myself with can sympathize with my difficulties. That they can recognize I'm having a hard time. It's the bit that, inevitably, comes next where they tell me how everything will be ok, or it was all meant to be, or whatever it is that makes them feel better about reassuring me that really gets me going.

It comes from a good place. I know that, and I understand that. I've probably done the same thing myself, with different situations. I have the good sense to (mostly) let it slide when people say these things to me, since I don't really have a better suggestion for them. If there was something that people could do to help me deal with things, I'd tell them something along the lines of "Thanks for the sentiment, and I know you mean well but I'm a little extra sensitive right now and hearing that it will all be ok is difficult for me. I know you're just trying to comfort me. If you want to do anything, I'd really appreciate it if you could come visit/go shopping to take my mind off things/etc." But the only thing I want is to be left with the space to process this.

When you're going through a difficult time, are there any innocent sayings that push your buttons more than they should? What do you find is the most helpful way to deal with them?

Saturday, August 04, 2012

feminism

I could write some commentary on this article here, but she's already said everything that needs to be said. This quote gets at it, but the full article is worth a read.

"If you are not a feminist (or something blamelessly ignorant, like a baby or a ferret or a college freshman), then you are a bad person. Those are the only options. You either believe that women are people, or you don't."

Also, beacuse the internet is full of goodness today, here is a gem from the Huffington Post with a take that I really embrace on the subject of "having it all" and what the means for women.

Friday, August 03, 2012

skinny jeans: a love affair

I have something to admit here. I'm just a little bit embarrased about it, though. See, I bought these new jeans, recently. They were on sale, and they were the a really nice dark indigo colour that I look for in jeans. They fit, and they were comfortable. Mostly they were on sale and I was feeling adventurous.

I've spent decades saying that I would never wear skinny jeans. I bought into the What Not To Wear kool-aid that taught for so many years that pants with any type of taper are universally unflattering. Somehow I had this idea in my head like even if skinny jeans weren't horrible, they could only possibly work on tall people, people with legs up to there. I'm short, my legs are stumpy, and my thighs (currently) are my least-loved body part. Clearly, skinny jeans would not be my thing.

Except they kind of are. I like how I look in them. I like how I feel in them. Like I'm not afraid to make daring clothing choices. (Even though, in the grand scheme of things, skinny jeans are not that daring.) I feel like, in skinny jeans, I'm not afraid of my body. I'm not trying to hide myself, even if I'm covered.

Along that line, here's what I think the old rhetoric against skinny jeans get wrong. Skinny jeans don't do anything to disguise the natural line of our bodies. They don't hide our legs, they don't do any visual tricks to make us look slimmer or cleaner or balanced differently from how we actually are. Skinny jeans are true to our bodies. They don't hide things.

I like how I look in skirts, with my legs showing. I like how I look naked, even if I might tweak a few things here and there. Why wouldn't I like how I look in skinny jeans?

How about you? Have you ventured into the world of skinny jeans? Do they get a yay or a nay?

Thursday, August 02, 2012

rings!

About a month back, Bunny and I were running around doing some shopping for me (buying a million blazers) before I started that new job that I'm super excited about. We were mosying along the mall, enjoying ourselves without too much expectation for the day until a sly idea popped into my head that changed everything.

"Hey, since we're here do you want to go see your sister?" His sister, being the lady who works at the jewellery store where we bought my rings. So visiting her has some very ulterior motives.

The plan was to just get him to start to look at some rings. Get some ideas in his head. I wasn't quite prepared for him to actually choose his ring. But choose his ring he did, and easily.

Tungsten carbide, for the motorcycle mechanic. More than slightly fitting.

It's actually a little bit fancier than I expected he'd go for. It's got some textural contrast, some stripes. It's really quite beautiful. And what do you know, but the price worked out to be, almost exactly, the amount of cashola I had sitting in my wallet at the time.

So Bunny has his ring. Now we just need to get some of these legalities taken care of, so he can start wearing it. (And we've got a plan on that, don't you worry!)

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

exhausted, part 2

Life if catching up to me right now. I'm tired all the time. I'm capable of taking a four hour nap and sleeping through the night. I get up in the morning just fine, but I feel like a veritable zombie for about the first three hours I'm awake.

But things here are getting back to the good. It's taken awhile, and I'm sure there will still be twists and turns and moments where there's nothing I can do to fix things or even make myself feel better. Which is ok. You know, life is not always going to be amazing. And all the cr*p hands I've had dealt in the last little while? Well, what doesn't kill you makes you stronger. Or reminds you of how strong you actually are. All the bull has also served to make me feel a whole lot more grateful about the things that are wonderful in my life.

There are exciting plans in the works for the next few weeks. We had friends up from out of town last weekend and ran around having loads of fun picking berries, going to the flea market and playing mini putt. Bunny gets to go up north next weekend and get something of a real vacation, even if only for a weekend (I have to work, so no fun up north for me) which I think he desperately needs.

Even the fun is exhausting, really. I have some real limits on how much of anything I can take in a given day right now, and they're much stricter limits than usual. I need more downtime. I need more sleep.

But! I have a day and a half off. That's time to sleep in, take lots of naps, go to bed early, and maybe (just maybe) pull out the mixer and try out some new recipes. I miss that.