Monday Musings: 4 weeks to go

Ever since we bought our place in Vernon, it’s seemed like something so incredibly distant.  We bought back in July knowing that our place wouldn’t be ready until January at the earliest.  That seemed a lifetime away. Even as we sold our old place and moved into a rental in October, January still seemed like a million years away. Then our possession date got pushed back to March and I really started to feel like we were never going to make our move. Long story long, it’s never felt like our move was coming any time soon.

Now we suddenly find ourselves just four weeks away from a scheduled possession date. That’s four weeks to get our place packed and reorganized, get everything organized to move into our new home and, most importantly, to say goodbye to the people and place that have been our network and home for the vast majority of our adult lives. As we start to make lists of things to do and people to see, and slot those people in to dates, it’s clear that there’s really not much time left at all.

I’m generally pretty pragmatic about such things in life. I’ve moved a lot, left people behind a lot, managed the logistics of big moves more times than I want to remember. There’s steps to be taken and things to be done.  In some ways it’s old hat to me, but what never gets familiar is that sinking feeling when you realize: right…things are actually going to change in a really big way. 

A move to a new city shakes up all the comfortable, routine patterns of your life. It’s little things, like your local grocery store, the place you go to get a bottle of wine when you realize you’re out of wine, where you find the best coffee, who makes the best donuts, or where you go when you want an ultra satisfying dinner out.  But it’s also the big things, like being able to call up a friend and see her at the drop of a hat, like realizing the Sunday family dinners (which, ironically, were mostly hosted on Saturdays) that you used to have monthly are at risk of never happening again or at very least will require some serious logistical masterminding, like realizing we’ll have no family closer than a four hour drive away from us, like absolutely everything being new and different, even if only a little bit.

Don’t mistake this as second-guessing our decision to move. I couldn’t be more excited to go. I’m excited for the potential positive impacts to our lifestyle and to our careers, and incredibly excited to be so dangerously close to all of the wine. But one can be excited for the future while still experiencing a feeling of heavy loss for all the good I’ll leave behind, of which there is a lot.  Amidst the excitement of leaving, and all the waiting and having it feel like it took forever to get to moving day, I carry a bit of that heaviness and grief with me every single day. And I know that feeling of loss will continue to grow over the coming weeks as I start to realize that every time I see friends or places I love, it’s one visit closer to not seeing them in person as often.

In some sense, it is beautiful, this conflict between excitement and sadness. It tells me that this place and its people matter to me and that I need to make sure that I stay connected even if at a distance. It tells me that, even though I am leaving, there is a lot of potential to expand the people and places I love once we (finally!) get to Vernon.

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Monday Musings: Old Haunts

This weekend was my father’s birthday, so off we went to Cochrane to celebrate with him.  In efforts to help him ring in his 70th year in style, we took him out to the mountains, one of his most favourite places. I won’t lie, they’re also one of my favourite places.  Banff and its surrounding area has always held a special place in my heart, and it occurred to me this weekend that somehow I let myself go a year and a half without stepping foot within park boundaries. I didn’t know just how much I missed it, just how much a part of me it is, until I found myself there again this weekend, standing on the banks of the Bow River staring up at the mighty Mt. Rundle.

Without a doubt,  this is the longest I’ve gone without visiting Banff since I was a child. When I was a kid, we camped around Banff every single year.  It captured my heart so much so that I moved there as an adult. I spent almost four years in Banff, and they were truly some of my best years.  I had hiking at my doorstep. In fact, it’s the place responsible for my true love of trails and the birthplace of my trail running adventures. For the first time in my life, I was part of a small community, the kind  where you couldn’t go anywhere without running into someone you knew. I was part of a quirky, delightful, challenging and absolutely fascinating team within an organization that helped me carve out a path for myself that I never would have considered otherwise.  Many of those quirky and wonderful teammates became friends, friends I still see to this day, though not as often as I’d like. It was a life-altering experience in many ways.

So this weekend, as we visited Banff and surrounding areas I found myself lost in my old haunts: browsing through the Christmas store even though it was nowhere near Christmas, agonizing over what type of fudge to choose from the Fudgery, cutting down back alleys to avoid the hordes of tourists,  thinking of nights out at virtually every restaurant and bar in town, remembering the smell unique to the Rockies in winter (a mix of snow and trees), staring in awe at the grandeur of the scenery in all directions,  and reveling in the familiar motion of winter hiking and the feel of dry, rocky mountain snow (so much better than west coast snow, by the way) beneath my feet.

It was a feast for my soul in so many ways. It reminded me of times when I was at my most active, invigorated by fresh air and the constant presence of epic mountain scenery.  It felt like coming home again. I always hear that expression ‘you can’t go home again’ and, to be honest, I’ve never felt it to be true. Of course places change and evolve. Even in Banff, so many storefronts and restaurants and neighborhoods are different than they were when I lived there.  That’s not the point. Home is nothing more than a feeling.  Being able to step foot into a place and have it feel familiar, even when the sights and sounds around you are not exactly the same, to have it instantly transport you back to a wonderful time in your life, that is what home is.  And I can tell you that any time I find myself in and around Banff,whether in town on on the trails, I am home.

 

Mid-Week Tangent: Christmas at New Years

We’re a couple days past Christmas now, and perhaps the sparkle and magic of the holidays is starting to wear off. Perhaps this is making you sad.  Sure, New Years Eve is coming, but let’s face it, NYE is sort of a heinous excuse for a holiday. There’s all this pressure to have big plans which almost never turn out to actually be fun.  If this is the reality staring you in the face right now, I have an idea to share with you, a way that you can both avoid the horror of making ‘big plans’ for NYE and extend the Christmas magic a little bit longer. It is truly the greatest win-win and I promise you this is going to become the next big trend. Just remember you heard it here first.

What is Christmas at New Years? It’s only the best thing ever. Yes, it’s exactly what it sounds like. Its simplicity is what makes it so great. Here’s the deal: many of us have multiple family engagement over Christmas itself. Rather than offending anyone by declining their Christmas invites, why not propose two Christmases: one at Christmas and another at New Years? We did this for the first time last year when faced with the fact that we couldn’t see my parents and my boyfriends’ parents at Christmas because my parents live in a different city. What were we to do? Well, we spent Christmas in town with his family and then flew out to see my parents for Christmas at New Years. It was the best! We did all the same traditions all over again! Christmas felt never-ending!

Here are just a few of the perks of celebrating Christmas at New Years:

1. If you do have to fly anywhere, flights are ever-so-slightly cheaper over New Years than Christmas.

2. TWO sets of stockings on TWO different days! Technically, it’s not more presents, but it is spreading the presents out over more time, which gives the illusion of more presents.

3. The potential for TWO turkeys!

4. It’s an excuse to do even more holiday baking! You might say ‘but I’ve had my fill of holiday baking by the time Christmas is over!’  To you, I respond: there is no such thing as ‘having your fill’ of Christmas baking! More is always better.

5. No hurt feelings. If you make New Years into a true Christmas spectacle by replicating the experience of stockings hung by the chimney with care, etc. etc., you can celebrate the holidays without one set of parents or one part of the family being offended that you didn’t come for ‘real’ Christmas.

I promise you, you will not regret this choice! We loved last year’s experience so much that we are doing Christmas at New Years yet again this year. You’re welcome for this opportunity to a) get more out of Christmas and b) hop on the trend train before it becomes so ubiquitous that you start to find it obnoxious.

Monday Musings: Merry Christmas

It is Christmas Day, and whether you celebrate traditional Christmas or not, it is one of the few days of the year when most things close down, when there is quiet, and when there is opportunity to spend time with family and friends. Wherever you are and whatever your spiritual beliefs, I hope that you are finding love, kindness and happiness today.

And for those of you who, like me, love to celebrate Christmas with a fervour most common in five year olds, I wish you the merriest of merry Christmases!

Mid-Week Tangent: Worst of the Holiday Movies

On Monday, I wrote about made-for-TV  holiday films that are so bad they’re good.  You know the movies, the ones that you just can’t stop watching even though you spend at least half your time wondering why you’re watching it.  Well, today I have another treat for you. Today I cross the line into the land of the legitimately bad Christmas movie. Thanks to our aggressive viewing schedule, we’ve seen some doozies this year.  I could go on forever about the crap that we’ve sat through, but for your sake I’ll narrow it down to my top three.  Without further adieu, here goes nothing!

3. Four Christmases: I’m constantly amazed at just how bad a movie can be even when it stars a bunch of A-list actors. To be fair, Vince Vaughn can annoy me at the best of times, but I can usually rely on Reese Witherspoon not to drive me nuts.  Not so this time around.  Start to finish virtually all the characters annoyed me. Who are these people with insane families? Do families who constantly look for ways to shame and embarrass each other actually exist? Am I just sheltered and blessed with a relatively normal family life? No matter the answer to any of these questions, this movie is a steaming pile of crap.

2. A Christmas Story 2: Did you know this movie existed? I didn’t. Apparently it went straight to DVD and for good reason. Why must casting agents cast the most annoyingly precocious children in roles? They are not cute nor funny.  I’m sure Randy in A Christmas Story 2 was meant to be precocious, but he just came as off as a jerk.  He could not hold a candle to the original Christmas Story’s Randy who makes that whole movie with his whiny “I can’t put my arms down” and hiding under the kitchen sink because “daddy’s going to kill Ralphie”. That’s genius.  I guess his sequel counterpart didn’t stand a chance with that kind of greatness preceding him. And don’t even get me started on Daniel Stern as the father. No. Just no. What ultimately impressed me most about this film was that they somehow turned our dingy, Vancouver train station into a holiday magic filled department store. Like seriously, how did a low budget film like this manage to shut down a functioning rail terminal for filming?

1. A Christmas Tail : Two strangers decide to share custody of one cute dog and romance ensues. Yup, you read that right. if you’ve ever wondered if you can watch an entire bad movie just because of a cute yellow lab, this movie proves that the answer is yes.  Other than the fact that the protagonist had what is essentially my dream job–creating ice cream flavours–this film made no sense. The dog ends up in a shelter three times and is immediately adopted out to new people each time. I’m no animal shelter expert but I’m fairly confident that’s not how it works. The movie’s also full of so many everyday villains that it made me wonder what’s happened in the writer’s life to make him or her see humans in such a negative light. I mean, what kind of person would tell his girlfriend the dog had run away when in reality he’d dropped the dog off at the animal shelter just because he didn’t like the way it looked at him while they ate dinner? That’s true evil. The quick review on this one is simple: really bad acting, really really bad writing, and a storyline that has virtually nothing to do with Christmas are saved by a really adorable dog.

There you have it, the worst of the worst…for now. Because you know full well I can’t stop myself from watching even more festively awful flicks…

Monday Musings: holiday confessions

It is only one week to Christmas!!!!! Can you barely contain yourself? I can’t! If you’ve been reading my posts during December, it’s likely clear that I land quite high on the spectrum of holiday enthusiasm (as illustrated below).

In light of this, I thought it only fair to share my biggest holiday confession, my guiltiest holiday pleasure: I love, love, LOVE made-for-television Christmas movies. The cheesier the better! Bonus points when they include 1 or more 80s sitcom stars. I am not kidding when I say we have watched at least one Hallmark-style made-for-TV movie every night pretty much since the beginning of December. We still have at least a dozen more for us on our PVR. My extra confession is that I experience mild anxiety when I contemplate how we will possibly fit them all in before Christmas.

Let’s leave that sad fact alone for a moment and focus on the fact that I’ve watched so many of these movies now that I’ve compiled my definitive (at least until I watch the next twelve on my PVR) list of made-for-television holiday movies that are soooooo bad they’re almost good.  Man, oh man, these were all so awful we couldn’t stop watching. In case you didn’t know,  that’s a different kind of bad than so-bad-you-can’t-watch-them bad. But enough preamble. Let’s see my top 5!

5. Christmas Cupid: This one was the closest to legitimately bad. To quote my boyfriend: “I can’t believe we watched that whole thing. We could have found so many better things to do with our time.” This one takes the cake for having the least to do with Christmas of any holiday movie, other than taking place around Christmas and having a loose narrative connection to A Christmas Carol. Not only that, but Christina Milian almost lost out at her chance with Chad Michael Murray.  I mean, come on, anyone who watched One Tree Hill knows that you don’t turn down CMM for some smarmy guy just because he supposedly has power and money…especially when it’s not like CMM was slumming it in his career. He was a doctor for God’s sake. Give your head a shake Christina Milian.

4. A Dogwalker’s Christmas Tale:  The only award that this movie gets is for having the most literal movie title in history. It is actually about dog walkers at Christmas. But wait, there’s more. They’re trying to save a community dog park from an evil corporation with plans to convert it to a fancy day spa. What’s shocking is that they succeed, because apparently corporate executives will take their lead from an 18 year old who was basically described as beyond vapid.  Never mind the story, though, what really rattled around my head the entire time I watched this film was the following question: can your acting skills actually regress over time? I can only assume the answer is yes based on Jonathan Bennett’s acting.  I remember him being plausible as an actor in Mean Girls, but he has been hosting Cake Wars since then. Over time, perhaps that wears down your the refined subtlety of a good actor. Every line he delivered had the forced enthusiasm and approval-seeking pause of a food competition host waiting for a pun to land with a panel of judges.

3. The Perfect Christmas PresentHang on to your hats, guys and gals, the lead character in this movie’s sole occupation is creepily stalking his client’s loved ones so he can suss out the perfect, elaborate, over-the-top gift…that his client can then take credit for. With a premise like that, you know this one’s going to be fraught with opportunities for misunderstandings, minor betrayal, and love-almost-lost. This film has all of those things. But, of course, the jilted ex-boyfriend and the new suitor find a way to put aside their differences (i.e. the fact that new suitor essentially stole ex-boyfriend’s girlfriend) to save the day and bring new love together. Holiday magic, start to finish.

2. My Christmas Love : My word, this film will really test your patience as the world’s most self-involved woman assumes that an elaborate, daily, live-action version of the 12 days of Christmas presented as gifts could only be for her. Even though she is in a house with three other people. And even though no note accompanied the gifts. *Spoiler alert (and surprise plot twist)*: the gifts were for her father the whole time! In the only touching moment of the entire film, it was revealed that his deceased wife had planned for this elaborate display of love prior to her death. Sadly that storyline took a back seat to his daughter’s antics, which involved her falling in love with no less than four men in the course of one week.  If you watch this, be prepared to be severely annoyed, but also watch out for dad’s amazing and quippy burns throughout. He’s the real gem of this movie!

1. Holiday in Handcuffs : I’m not going to lie. This is mostly #1 because it stars Melissa Joan Hart and Mario Lopez.  With that kind of dynamic, former 80s star duo, you absolutely cannot go wrong.  All I needed was AC Slater’s high-waisted, pleated, acid-wash jeans and I would have been in heaven. Sadly, the jeans didn’t make an appearance. Instead, plot implausibilities abounded in this flick. Somehow poor Mario, despite being kidnapped at gunpoint, finds it in his heart to a) not flee his kidnapper the moment he can b) play along with his kidnapper’s ridiculous ruse and c) fall in love with her even though at the time of his kidnapping he had been waiting to propose to his girlfriend. I know, right, you’re scanning Netflix and your local cable television right now to see if you can find this one. Trust me, as with everything on this list, you won’t regret indulging in its awfulness.

Happy holidays!

Mid-Week Tangent: where oh where have the advent calendars gone?

I made a very grave mistake this year, one that I am reminded of each and every morning when I wake up, knowing a new day is upon me and also knowing that I cannot rejoice in the new day arriving by opening a tiny cardboard window. This year I have failed to procure my Christmas advent calendar.  The only excuse I have is my cheapness, and it has haunted me for the last five days.

Let’s backtrack here. Last year, my boyfriend and I made what we thought was an amazing discovery: once December 1st struck, the advent calendars went on sale. And I’m talking about some steep discounts. We got our primo Lindt advent calendars for just 7.99, a good 30% less than the pre-December price. We thought it was the ultimate score.

Flash forward to this year. We’ve been brazenly walking past the advent calendars for weeks, confident in our ability to secure post-December-first calendars at a fraction of the cost. I’d even scoped out the Lindt advent calendar pattern that I really wanted, so supremely certain that it would be there for me this past weekend.  It never even occurred to me that last year’s experience may have been an anomaly.

On Sunday, while running errands, we looked  at our local Save-On Foods. Nothing. I wasn’t too stressed. We had lots of other options. Then we went to No Frills. Then Shoppers Drug Mart.  No calendars.  By this point, I was beginning to get worried. I tried to convince myself that it’s just because No Frills is a bit dodgy. I mean, they probably never had Lindt calendars in the first place. And the Shoppers Drug Mart by our place is rather tiny and has the most pitiful of Christmas sections. Surely those were the issues, and once we visited bigger and better stores we’d be rewarded for our savings mindedness.

Now, two days later, I’m no longer sure that’s the case. Today, we collectively searched six more stores, many of which were large stores in the city centre. There were still no advent calendars to be found!!!!! My boyfriend found some of the crappy advent calendars, you know the ones, the ones with confections that bear only a slight resemblance to actual chocolate. I ain’t got time for those.  My search was even less fruitful, though. I visited stores that didn’t even have the cheap advent calendars. Sure, I would have snubbed them even if they had been there, but it begged the question: where oh where have all the advent calendars gone????

I do not know the answer to this question. I have hypothesized that it’s because we live in the city now, and perhaps the excessive stocking of advent calendars only occurs in the suburbs where there are more families. After all, I’m not sure that the primary market for chocolate advent calendars is childless adults in their late thirties. Or, as an alternative, perhaps the retail machine has finally learned to order appropriate volumes of goods. Maybe last year’s scores were due to retailers over-estimating demand and we just lucked out. Perhaps, though, the reason is a lot simpler. Maybe it’s just the universe’s way of telling me not to be so bloody cheap. After all, can you put a price on tiny balls of Lindt chocolate for 24 consecutive days? The answer to that question is a resounding no.

I have learned my lesson now, although perhaps a little too late. Next year, I promise you I won’t tempt the advent calendar gods. Next year, I will fork over the full price without any hesitation.  Next year I will wake up every morning in December with the excitement that only comes from knowing that chocolate is in your immediate future.* There truly is no greater excitement.

*If you live in Vancouver and know where I can find full price or discounted Lindt advent calendars, please save me from my crippling regret and tell me where to go.