Travel

I don’t mind when my husband goes away on a boys’ weekend – really – I don’t. I have noticed, however, some fairly significant differences between a boys’ weekend and a girls’ weekend.

golf

For starters, men don’t know how to count.  A boys’ weekend is never forty-eight hours – it’s more like ninety-six hours.  Women have a different word for that – it’s a freakin’ vacation, is what that is. A girls’ weekend on the other hand, starts on Friday and ends on Sunday. It’s. A. Weekend. We’re gone for maybe forty-eight hours, but usually more like thirty-six hours.  That’s ok though, because by my counting, I can plan two girls’ weekends for every one boys’ weekend.

Planning a boys’ weekend is pretty easy too:  pick a date, pack your golf bags and head out the door.  Planning a girls’ weekend involves, um, more.

I’ve noticed most moms, myself included, are exhausted just getting out the door for a girls’ weekend given the Herculean effort involved in organizing a weekend away.  Yet, despite the effortlessness that seems to accompany planning a boys’ weekend, I have noticed that they don’t seem to come home very well rested at all.

During a girls’ weekend, I may text my husband that I arrived safely, ask if he found the casserole in the freezer, and remind him about our son’s baseball game. I would never text my husband asking him, “Can you check on our line of credit?” or better yet, “I talked to the police officer and it’s cool”. There’s not much to text from a girls weekend.  “I ate and I slept” isn’t all that exciting. I could ratchet it up a bit and say, “I laughed so hard that wine came out my nose” but am not sure if anyone at home would be interested in that one either. Or better yet, “spent four hours at the spaspa today – better than sex.” Yeah, I pressed cancel on that one too.

Returning from a boys’ weekend and walking into the house involves the onerous task of dumping the dirty laundry into the hamper and storing the golf clubs in the basement.  Returning from a girls’ weekend and walking into the house, well, it just brings tears to my eyes.

So despite their differences, what happens at a girls’ weekend, stays at a girls’ weekend and for sure, what happens at a boys’ weekend, stays at a boys’ weekend.  Maybe the texts should too.

Soul Sisters Weekend 2014 seems just a little too long away…

There are two reasons I would travel in a snowstorm: I am in labour and need to get to the hospital, or one of my kids has a hockey game. “You’re crazy,” said my husband, “Who goes out in a weather like that to have a baby?”

blizzakThis past week, we have had the kind of winter weather that Bridgestone will use for its Blizzak tire commercials for years to come. Saturday, I drove two of my kids to their hockey games in near-zero visibility. “Really?” you ask. “Zero visibility? Well, then how did you get there?”

Because I am a hockey mom.

My vehicle and I instinctively know how to get to all the local arenas.

As I read the Saturday morning paper with my coffee I thought, “Humph! One centimetre of snow.  No big deal.”  My faith in the accuracy of meteorologists is about as high as my pile of pile of fresh, scented hockey equipment.  I dropped my speed by 10km per hour when I saw the first car in the ditch and another 10km when two fire trucks screamed by me clearly en route to another accident.  Mother Nature loves a smug winter driver (and so do tow truck drivers).

Yesterday, Ottawa was blanketed with 25cm of winter wonderland fun. The school boards called a snow day. The hockey associations did not. I helped push one car out of a snowbank and two hockey bags into the back of winter drivemy SUV. The car was a Toyota Yaris with no snow tires and had no business being out in this weather. The hockey bags? Well, they had a much easier time making it out of the parking lot.

For the better part of the last thirteen winters, I have driven my three hockey players through some crazy weather – the kind of weather that halts airport operations and sends emergency road crews into high gear. I guess snowplows and hockey moms have a lot in common.  My passengers are usually oblivious to the white-knuckle driving conditions that have often punctured the excitement of trips to practices, games and tournaments, but we hockey moms are not.  We are reminded that ‘the first goal of hockey is having fun’ yet there is nothing too fun about some of the winter drives I’ve had to and from the arena.  I don’t know why we do it. I tip my cup of Timmies to the snowplows and give them a wide berth.

And it’s only November …

Hockey parents have this reputation for excessive drinking which I believe is unwarranted.  The truth is, hockey parents do like to drink a lot but, come on, it’s not because we’re hockey parents, it’s because we’re parents. Period. I can assure you that I was drinking long before my kids strapped on their first pair of skates!  For some reason, that does not seem to surprise anyone.

So you know who I think started this nasty rumour about hockey parents and their drinking? I think it was that it was those crazy little hockey kids who drove us to drinking in the first place – they’re the work of the devil.

My daughter asks me stuff like, “Oh, do you really need alcohol to have fun?” I pondered that this weekend as I looked around what passed for a hotel room smaller than my university dorm room and I answered, “Yes.  Yes I do. It is way more fun to be stuck in a little run-down hotel in the middle of nowhere with a glass of chardonnay than being stuck in a little run-down hotel in the middle of nowhere without a glass of chardonnay. In fact, I think you’re having way more fun yourself when I’m here with my little glass of chardonnay, because you’re out there doing God knows what and I don’t even know where you are until I need another little glass of chardonnay and I find you in some random hallway with all your friends eating popcorn” and thankfully not my chardonnay (not yet anyway; I’ll give that a few more years).”  She should know that hockey weekend would be way less fun for the both of us if I was without chardonnay.

How about this one: “I don’t know how you drink that stuff … it tastes terrible!” I don’t believe  it has ever been – nor will it ever be – about the taste. Wait until you have kids – especially hockey kids – and I assure you that little glass of chardonnay will NOT taste terrible, it will be medicinal magic –so will the second glass. And so on …

And when she tells me that I don’t need my wine to have fun, I tell her she doesn’t need the $12 buffet to have fun either.  What’s so fun about paying $12 to witness a couple hundred screaming little girls waiting half an hour for the one single waffle iron that every single one of them seems to “need” at 9:00AM on a Sunday morning?

I’d say we’re even.

white wine

 

Note: This is not a sponsored post, meaning , I was not offered any free booze to write this post. I had to buy it myself. And for you hockey parents, please rink dresponsibly.

 

 

According to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), the most dangerous jobs in Canada are in the construction, manufacturing and transportation sectors.  Surprisingly, no mention of mascots.

toufou1I was shocked when I discovered recently that Toufou, the beloved moose mascot of Tremblant Ski Resort in the beautiful Laurentians north of Montreal, now has security detail assigned to him. Evidently being a mascot is more of a high-risk occupation than I thought. Zut alors!

Everyone makes fun of mascots; it’s not just me, right? They’re obnoxious and kind of freaky but I don’t want to see them hurt. Except the one who knock over my beverage … him I want to hurt.

My daughter was a TouFou-stalker, but a I’m-a-cute-three-year-old kind of stalker. The minute we’d arrive at Tremblant, she’d look for that crazy moose everywhere and if she caught sight of him, she’d knock over everything in her path to get to him (including my beverage).  As a 12-year old, she now understands fully that TouFou is not a real moose, but it is still an annual tradition for her to have her picture taken with him.

So upon arrival to Tremblant over March Break, we strolled about the pedestrian village and it did not take too long for our first TouFou sighting. As my daughter posed for her annual photo with Moosey (as she still affectionately refers

IMG_1517

to her childhood friend), I joked with his security guard: “Mais voyons donc! TouFou’s making the big time now, eh? Needs security?” The security guard nodded but was not offering up any details about would not offer up any information as to his raison d’être.

As March Break lore goes, TouFou once got a little too personal with a few ladies who were dancing to the music in Place St. Bernard square. Seems the boyfriend of one of those ladies (probably after too many trips to the dépanneur) did not appreciate TouFou’s mingling with his lady and decided to teach that maudit TouFou a lesson toute de suite. Even worse, instead of telling simply telling their friend to manger de la marde, a whole group of his buddies joined in in giving TouFou an old-fashionable mascot thrashing.

I sure hope TouFou wasn’t seriously hurt but it certainly explains why he is now accompanied everywhere by someone whose vision is not impaired by a 2-foot wide head. But I also couldn’t help laughing at the stupidity of this obviously drunker-than-a skunk (or moose) reveller.

Just imagine the conversation with his girlfriend:

GF: “Seriously? C’est quoi ton problème?”

BF: “Well, he was – like – trying to grab your butt!”

GF: “Grab my butt. Really. With his paw. Uh-huh.”

BF: “I don’t like you dancing with other guys.”

GF: “Other guys? or just 7-foot tall biped moose?”

And what would a father say to his son after such a brawl?

Father: “Nice shiner, Son! What did the other guy look like?”

Son: “Uh, well gee Dad, I honestly didn’t get a good look at him”, which is probably safer than “he wasn’t wearing any pants but I’m pretty sure he had antlers”.

Franchement! But honestly don’t feel too bad for poor TouFou, he still gets all the girls!

As for the stupid idiot that prompted Tremblant to assign security to TouFou? Well, thanks to his girlfriend and father, he’ll be in therapy for years … once he’s out of juvie, that is.

tremblant

Not long ago, my daughter persuaded me to try surfing. I don’t mean internet surfing (on that I am a pro thanks to my highly evolved procrastination skills), I mean the real shaka bra water sport surfing (on which I am most definitely not a pro).  Not that it mattered to my daughter, but Mai Tai and I were perfectly happy enjoying my first visit to the Hawaiian Islands without this sharp turn outside my comfort wake.  Nevertheless she begged for an exciting and inimitable mother-daughter day – and 12 year olds are good beggars (until they turn 16 and can then drive themselves). “What the heck?”I thought, “When in Hawaii …” Well, I can now tell you the correct answer here is, ‘drink a Mai Tai’.

Despite a profound lack of experience and misguided sense of athleticism, I relented.  I was counting on my strong Canadian running legs to carry me over these waves, forgetting that my strong Canadian running legs were old and not at all that strong. I then carefully chose a surfing company that specialized in Beginners and Cowards because I am both (I kid you not; it’s right there on their website), and guaranteed their students to be surfing by the end of the lesson (though no reference was made to exactly how and the word ‘gracefully’ was omitted from their pledge). I was relieved to be paired with a father-son duo who, like me, had no previous surfing experience.

First wave.  Paddle. Kneel. Stand. Surf. After this unsuccessful first attempt at shredding the nar the other youngster in our grouping asked me excitedly, “Hey Lady, was that you who did that amazing face plant out there?”  Three words I do not ever wish to see, hear or experience together again: amazing and face and plant.  After making sure my bathing suit still covered the significant – I mean appropriate – parts of my body, I quickly wiped the salt water out of my eyes (sea water not tears, thank you) and made my way back to the waves’ breaking point for round two.

Next wave, please. “You’re lovin’ it, right Mama?” Our native Hawaiian instructor, Kihe, had taken to calling me Mama during our land lesson and I carried this nickname into the water.  “Oooooohhh Mama,” he continued, “Here comes a 40-footer!” I don’t think Kihe was aware that I firmly believe that ‘here comes a 40-footer’ is only good news when referring to yachts, not waves.  Noting the panic in my eye, he assured me with a twinkle in his, that he meant the next wave was 40 feet wide not 40 feet high. Funny guy. I smiled nervously and paddled furiously as Kihe instructed me to do.

Paddle. Kneel. Stand. Surf. “Get out of my way!” shouted another novice surfer who erroneously assumed I actually knew how to get out of his way. “Addictive my eye” I muttered to myself, as we collided.  “Deadly is more like it.” There was water in parts of my body where water should not be. My instructor, Kihe, reminded me at my next turn that I need to keep my eye on where I want to go.  “If you look at other people, you’re bound to hit them.  It’s the same in skiing right Mama?  You look at a tree; you’re going to hit the tree!”  Oh my God, how did he know about me and the tree?

Paddle. Kneel. Stand. Surf. Contrary to my wildest dreams but true to the surfing company’s guarantee, I managed to catch a ride on the next wave. There is no doubt in my mind that those 60 seconds of adrenaline were definitely worth the ensuing two hours of work trying to recreate that experience.  For the love of Job, surfers are the most patient people on the planet. And strong.  In case you’re ever wondering why there are so few printed manuals on surfing out there it’s because video would make the following instructions come to life much more effortlessly:  Paddle, paddle, paddle, paddle, paddle, paddle, paddle, paddle, paddle, paddle, paddle, paddle, paddle, paddle, paddle, paddle, paddle, paddle, paddle, paddle, kneel, stand, surf, kneel, paddle, paddle, paddle, paddle, paddle, paddle, paddle, paddle, paddle, paddle, paddle, paddle, paddle, paddle, paddle,.  Repeat. So where was the part where you just lay down on your surf board and just … well … lay there? That would be a good part; definitely part of my comfort zone.

My daughter stayed behind for a few more rides as I let my surf board and the tide carry me to shore. So endeth the surfing lesson and my retreat to my comfort zone.

Soon thereafter, my son suggested we visit Black Rock for some ‘totally sick cliff jumping’.

‘Yeah.’ I thought, as I mixed another Mai Tai. ‘Send me a post card.’

 

Maui Wave Riders

Author’s note:  to the professional photographer capturing all these wonderful memories on film, I respectfully request to destroy all evidence.  Thank you.  The entire world thanks you.

Have you ventured outside your comfort zone lately?

I recently visited the Museum of Science in Boston with my family and discovered something rather distressing.  We went to the Hayden Planetarium’s presentation of  Undiscovered Worlds: The Search Beyond our Sun which revealed to me in dramatic fashion and great astronomical detail by Harvard and MIT PhDs that I am, against all superior judgment, NOT the centre of the universe.  Okay, that was a bit of a cosmic shock, if I may say so, but I guess I had it coming.

For some people, it’s important to be one leap for mankind closer to answering the almighty question, “are we alone?”, but for me the answer to that question now points to more species slowing my high-speed internet and clogging my satellite TV.  Sad face.

In the two and a half decades since I have graduated from university, astronomers have discovered the existence of exoplanets – planets that are outside our solar system.  An unbelievable 800 or so such planets have been discovered. As astronomers find more of these exoplanets, like HD 142 b in the constellation of Phoenix (yes, that’s far, far, FAR away – farther away than Pluto), I am not only closer to realization that I am not a dominant force in this universe, I now also have to get used to the fact that I am really rather insignificant.  If  our sun is nothing more than a pinhead on a vast sandy beach in the cosmos, what does that make Earth?  More to the pinhead, what does that make me?  A tiny speck?  A speckle of a speck?  A “pinhead” used to be a bit of a derogatory term, but now I find out that being a pinhead at least has some significance in our cosmos … while I have none … barely even a speck of dust! This, on a Monday morning.

During the presentation, I found myself thinking Dr. Seuss’s Horton Hears a Who, clearly providing some explanation why I am not an astronomer from MIT or Harvard.  Horton said, “There’s a tiny person on that speck that needs my help!”

In the vast cosmos, I am not even a tiny person on a speck.  I’m not even a speck.  I slowly started to feel invisible, like I do at BestBuy on the Saturday afternoon before Christmas.  Or when asking for technical assistance from my internet provider.  Or while waiting 45 minutes for my scheduled doctor’s appointment.  Or when having to wait for my kids down the street around the corner from their teen party.  Come to think of it, apparently I have a great deal of experience being inconsequential!  Horton, I just want you to know that I aspire to be more than just a pinhead.  I’m working hard to be the best terrestrial speck possible!  In the immortal words of Horton, “A person’s a person, no matter how small.

If there was a bright star in this cosmic disappointing discovery it was in reminding my family that THEY are not the centre of the universe either.  And that my star-gazing friends, made my starry, starry night.  Nananabooboo!

Do you wonder if we are not alone?  Or like me, would you rather be left alone?

More in my series of Manhattan memories…

Back in 1986 I was living at the 92nd Street Y on the Upper East Side of New York City. I was working on an internship during my first semester junior year of university. If you read about my first go at life in the Big Apple, you’ll understand that I had some pretty powerful misgivings about my choice to move here which hinged more along the lines of sheer terror. However, Life improved steadily after my first day on the job and I soon fell into a fairly predictable pattern with a pseudo-real job that occupied a good part of my time. Laptops and Blackberrys had yet to sap a working girl’s downtime so the evenings and weekends were still relatively mine to explore what this city had to share with me. Though a paycheque was now a regularity, money was as tight as a pair of David Lee Roth’s pants, and the shopping that many associate with New York City was well out of my reach. Nevertheless, I was still a student at heart and so my focus, particularly on weekends, gravitated toward booze and bars.

Free passes to Manhattan dance clubs occasionally landed on my VP’s desk and she generously passed them over to me. Her son was away at university, you see, otherwise he would have been the lucky one. Theses passes to contemporary Manhattan night clubs offered free admission and free alcohol …

the fine print being that the entry pass was only good until 7:00pm and the free alcohol was only until 9:00pm …

What New Yorker would dream of setting foot in a Manhattan club any time before 11pm? Well … um … me! Access to a hot New York night club and not paying for booze seemed like a pretty good to me at the time, and I could always find another “Y” friend to tag along. The only other patrons in these hot New York nightclubs at 7:00 o’clock on a Friday night were employees and other freeloaders like me. So what if only one bartender was on duty tending about 50 other pass holders? I was – and still am – very patient when it came to free booze. My drink of choice on these freebie nights was Stolis and Cranberry. Once the clock ran out on free drinks, we could afford maybe one or two beers (but definitely NOT a Stolis and Cranberry) to last us the rest of the evening. One drink in a Manhattan nightclub probably equated my entire week’s beer budget back on campus! We would often stay really late and dance the night away. If we were really lucky, some unsuspecting male would be the object of our attention for at least another drink. If that unsuspecting male expected some sort of repayment for his generosity, we’d hit the dance floor which was by then so crowded, it was pretty easy to disappear. The volatile success of a New York City nightclub would account for why I can’t, for the life of me, remember many of their names, but I do know we went to the Limelight a few times (as long as the passes were forthcoming). I’d come to enjoy these weekend forays into the night club scene and what late-night New York and its noisy food vendors had to offer in the wee hours.

Bars too have come and gone with the times but late night New York conjures up another boozy Manhattan memory for me: The Back Fence on Bleecker Street. A genuine no-frills character bar in GreenichVillage, I was saddened when I heard it was closing in 2013. I understand it was once featured in the book “1,000 Places to See Before You Die” which is fitting, because I probably went there about 1,000 times in 1986! Arriving early enough meant you could get a table near the postage stamp-sized stage but came with a two-drink minimum. Then again, a glass of bad draught beer was probably under a dollar at the time, so we could manage. There was sawdust all over the floor and during the first set, we munched our way through dinner of the free peanuts in a shell offered by the bar. We carefully piled our empty shells into the ashtray only to have the biker-dude-waiter empty the ashtray onto the floor while asking us, “Two more?” I have no idea if he was a biker dude, but he had a pony tail, tattoos and a leather vest which my biker-dude edification up to this point in life meant he was a biker dude! The lead singer of one band could belt out BTO’s “Let it Ride” and when I saw the movie, The Commitments, I swear I was looking at the same lead singer!  Another guitarist played “Sultans of Swing” even better than Dire Straits.  Best live music ever, and the musicians encouraged the crowd to sing along. I always consented.

Ah, the Limelight, the Back Fence, and yes, even the subway. Start spreading the news, I was getting to like this town.

After writing recently about surrogate mothers of the emotional not biological kind, I was inspired to write about my life in New York City.   I am a Canadian but I lived there for a little while during my university days which is now some 26 years ago.  It actually sucks that I had to use a calculator to figure that out just now.  I can’t explain how some of my memories and images of New York are still so very vivid, when I forget why I’ve grounded my kids just 2 minutes after doing so!

It was 1985.  I was a second year student at an American university and running out of money real fast.  Several of my housemates were taking off their first semester junior year to do internships and I quickly signed up to do the same.  An internship would allow me to earn some desperately needed cash and earn credits at the same time.  My alternatives at this point were pretty dismal:  ask my parents for more money or transfer to a cheaper university.  The former was unthinkable, the latter was looking more likely, so I really wanted to make a go of this internship thing.  The counsellor in the career services office suggested a placement with large privately-owned restaurant company in New York City called The Riese Organization. I had never heard of them, but I wasn’t deterred. The list of chain restaurants and independents that they owned and operated was impressive. They did not have much of a human resources department so I wasn’t exactly sure what I was getting myself into but tell me, what college kid does?

I can’t remember now why my parents didn’t accompany me to New York to drop me off for this huge step in my life but I probably fed them some convincing lie about my confidence and capability to do this on my own.  My boyfriend at the time helped me move into my swell new Upper East Side digs at the The 92nd Street Y:  a 12’ x’16’ dorm room for which I would paying almost half my monthly income for the privilege and sharing it with my university friend, Anne, also doing an internship in New York City.  My scholarship and student loan money had been scaled back as a result of taking this internship but would be enough to cover my tuition fees.  In my pocket I had a Canadian cheque from my parents for the first month’s rent and about $50 in US cash.  To say that I was looking forward to my first paycheque would be a considerable understatement.

“Home” to this point had been various small pulp and paper towns in Northern Ontario or along the St Lawrence Seaway.  Now, “home” was to be Manhattan.  A Domtar* brat in Manhattan:  perhaps you are now picturing a Canadian female version of Mick Dundee exploding on to the Manhattan scene with impressive knife moves and an equally impressive accent?  Er, maybe just a red flannel shirt, eh?  I think I’m about to disappoint you.

I know the communal bathroom facilities of the 92nd Street Y shouldn’t have phased me, given my dorm days, but waiting for a shower to be free on my first day of work only added to my nervousness.  Though I had already scouted out my commuter route, I had never done so during a Monday morning rush hour.  Walking down Lexington Av to the 86th street subway stop I looked not quite like a fish out of water but – God help me – more like a pinball machine on acid. Clearly new Yorkers walk with purpose and Canadians just walk like dorks. Thanks to years of apologetic Canadian training, I spent the first 5 minutes on the sidewalk pardoning myself and saying “sorry!” to the shoulder of every YUPpie ** that slammed into me in its determined effort to get to the subway without making eye contact.

I exhaled with great relief upon arriving in one piece to the station, only to inhale next the wonderful aroma that is the New York City subway system … a strange mixture of je ne sais quoi that I describe to non-Manhattanites as fried-onion urine.  Breathe through your mouth. Naturally, I didn’t time my subway token insertion perfectly as most New Yorkers would and I had to endure the awkward forward thrusts of a few disgruntled commuters into my backside as I paused to allow the token to be acknowledged by the turnstile.  

Having mapped out my route I knew to take the green circle 5 express to 59th Street, transfer to the orange circle N or R train to Herald Square and walk a block over to my new “classroom” at West 34th Street and 7th.   Easy, peesy, piece of Lindy’s cheesecake, right?

Wrong.

The Express wasn’t working or was delayed – who knows as I had yet to acquire that uniquely New York ability to understand the person that is the voice of the subway loud speaker and who got that job after a very successful stint as the teacher’s voice in every Charlie Brown movie.  It was only after I’d been standing alone, minding my own business and quietly humming Aretha’s Freeway of Love that I finally noticed the mad exodus behind me back upstairs to the 4 and 6 Local trains. 

So I followed the masses without question and arrived to the local platform and a sea of human bodies.  I suddenly had a vague appreciation for what the Halifax piers must have looked like when my parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles arrived from post-war Europe.  Trains arrived and bodies heaved themselves into already packed subway cars.   Slowly but surely I inched forward until the subways doors practically pinched my nose as they closed, inviting me to “stand clear of the closing doors” as if I had a choice.  The next train would certainly have room for me.  A rush of wind passed as the train moved on and I realized I was standing well inside the yellow marker indicating the safe waiting distance for the trains.   I was one aerobic shoelace away from the track and I thought I would die right then and there. I looked left and right trying to determine which of these psychos was going to throw me in front of the subway and was suddenly envious of the rats on the track that had more freedom of movement that I did. I closed my eyes instead prayed for mercy – or a quick death.

God answered (the mercy part, not the quick death) as I was quickly pressed into the next subway car wedged between an attractive businessman and someone whom I’m certain was pleasing himself on my hip.  So much for my tutorial on the famous subway New York Times newspaper four-fold. 

Mercifully, the rest of my very first New York City commute occurred without incident otherwise I might just have gone to Grand Central and taken the first
northbound Amtrak home.  I sputtered into the office on the 6th floor with even BIGGER ‘80’s hair than I started with that day if you can possibly imagine, and announced my arrival to the receptionist.   Though my first inclination was to ask my new boss, “When can I go home?” I managed instead to say, “I’m so very glad to be here” and she had no idea how much I really, really meant it!

What was your first impression of New York City?

***

* Domtar – a large pulp and paper company with operations in many small Canadian towns and for whom my father worked for about 20 years; the fine paper division of Weyerhaeuser merged with Domtar in 2007 making it a US company.

** YUPpy – Young Urban Professional (’80’s lingo, you tads)

The Power of Words – Part I

 I am reading “The Tiger’s Wife” by Téa Obreht.  This is not a book review.

I recently came to the realization that I am a lover of the written word over the spoken word.   I believe the psycho-educational world would suggest that my personal learning style is visual versus auditory.

How did I come to this conclusion a full 25 years after graduating from my post-secondary institution of higher learning?

I purchased an audio version of  The Tiger’s Wife for my recent 4-hour hockey road trip to Rochester New York with my 14-year old son, given the likelihood of a fairly long break in stimulating conversation.  Though I have occasionally been pleasantly taken aback by car chats with my kids during road trips, I thought it best to be prepared in case the usual teenager behaviour presented itself.  Conveniently downloaded to my iPod, I had quick access to alternative dialogue (albeit one-way) with a quick touch of a button.  Eye contact with a US Customs and Border Protection official without surliness is key to accomplish smooth entry into a foreign country with a bottle or two of undeclared adult beverage, so I did ask him to kindly remain conscious until we’d crossed the border.  My teenager reluctantly agreed and just as predicted, following unhindered entry to US with aforementioned beverages AND a token ‘good luck at the tournament’ added for his sake, Offspring is comatose soon thereafter.  So I switch to my iPod book and I’m ready to listen.

Turns out I wasn’t so ready to listen.

When I have a book in front of me, I read it.  I pay attention to it.  I am into it.  If I am distracted or otherwise called to be engaged (like falling asleep, for example), I put the book down and I no longer pay attention to it.   I turned on this audio book however, and I soon myself NOT paying attention to it.   I was distracted by the scenery, the other cars, my hunger, my coffee, my bladder, my to-do list, a passing inspiration … my bladder again.  I stopped listening to the book well before our I-90 turnoff.  I’ve listened to audio books before without this apparent lack of focus (my son called it day-dreaming but – puah -what does HE know?).  I wonder if perhaps learning styles change as you age and mature.   

I am finding now, it’s almost as if I have to see the word, rather than hear it, to fully understand, appreciate, and retain its message.  The book publishing industry is counting on the likes of me.  In fact, they love me because I now own  both an audio version and e-book version of The Tiger’s Wife.  Yet I couldn’t help thinking recently that learning styles and their consequences in communication might also have vast implications for therapists.

 [What is she talking about?]

Do you not think a marriage counsellor could increase their effectiveness and Saved Marriage Percentage (there’s no such thing in therapy, that’s just the goalie mom in me coming out) by ten-fold if they were to quickly determine which learning style and which media best served a couple’s communication style?  Think of how many relationships fall apart because of poor communication and misunderstanding.  A marriage saved resorting to communication-by-email, is still a marriage saved.  I have been told (though I protest) that my verbal communication with my dear husband is occasionally tinged with irrational emotion and impatience.  However, my texts, emails and Post-Its are calm and coherent, and they state my position and my needs without the exasperated non-verbals that men don’t understand anyway.  I have outstanding communication with my husband as long as we are texting (that’s Texting).  I think I’m on to something.  Imagine if counsellors take this a step further and introduce Parenting-by-Podcast.  Family counseling made possible through iTunes gift cards (written transcript available for the visual learner like me, of course).  

This is how my mind works sometimes – and then I wonder why it wanders during an audio book…

Do audio books make you day dream?

Second palm tree to the right and straight on ’til morning!”
– Peter Pan’s directions to Neverland, amended by a dustbunny

I need sun. I need the warmth of the sun. I am cold and I am pale. I’ve been wearing black turtlenecks since November. My toes haven’t seen the light of day since October. My get-up-and-go just got under the duvet, and from where I can see far enough to the pantry for more potato chips. I still have cold hockey arenas to bear for another few weeks. You know what else? I haven’t shaved since September. There. I said it.

“Little darling, it’s been a long cold lonely winter

Seasonal Affective Disorder is listed as a legitimate mood disorder listed in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV) and its symptoms include depression, hopelessness, anxiety, loss of energy, heavy feeling in the arms and legs, social withdrawal, loss on interest in activities once enjoyed, appetite changes and cravings for high carbs and difficulty concentrating. I think those also cover symptoms of prolonged motherhood, though they fail to include that mid-winter aversion to shaving.

Although mothers are found all over the world, SAD sufferers are predominantly found in the northern hemispheres where symptoms are the worst between November and February (in contrast to prolonged motherhood whose symptoms are year-round and the only known treatment is high school graduation).

“Little darling, I feel that ice is slowly melting”

My daughter's windowsill flowers waiting for sunnier days

One of the most prevalent and most often sought-after treatments for SAD is light therapy. For many – including me – this involves a trip down south and a drink with a little umbrella in it. However, I drew the shortest straw in the family vacation vote this year and we are NOT going south. In fact the GPS will probably not register anything remotely similar to “S”. We are heading farther North in my already too-northern hemisphere. While I may have had my fill of Old Man Winter, especially since he made February one day longer this year, the kids and my husband have not, and we are going skiing. Not quite the light therapy I had self-prescribed for my self-diagnosed SAD.

As my goal for 2012 is always to find the positive, and I know there will be a cozy fire, a nice hot tub and wine.

“Little darling, the smiles returning to the faces”

The cool thing about a ski vacation is that it is socially acceptable to spend extended periods of time hanging around in your underwear. So along with my wine, I’m packing my most sexy and enticing Hot Chillys thermal long underwear.

This ski trip may also delay the post-Canadian-winter leg shaving ritual a little longer, given the effective use of thermal underwear. I can also breathe a sigh of relief that the dreaded bathing-suit-shopping-trip is postponed a few more months, too.

But then there’s the hot tub. The hot tub is an issue.

A long day of skiing (or even a very short day) necessitates a trip to the hot tub. A trip to the hot tub necessitates a leg shaving. Well, actually necessitates a two-leg shaving. And not the cheater-shave either; the below-the-knees shave I do on a rare night out during hockey season that requires me to wear a dress and pantyhose. I need a full leg shaving. And I need a bathing suit. The last thing I want to do is go shopping for a bathing, right now. In addition to an extra layer of body hair this winter I’ve also acquired an extra layer of blubber, suffering through my SAD potato chip treatments.

I find I am in quite a quandary: hot tub = bathing suit = shaving. Then I come across a perfect alternative to a bathing suit:

A wet suit.

Thermal underwear and a wet suit.

I have now found a perfect alternative to shaving AND a surefire way to have the hot tub entirely to myself!

“How do you like me so far?”

About Astra
Ottawa mom of 3 poking fun at myself, motherhood, and minor hockey! I am steering through life dodging stinky hockey gear and empty wine bottles.
Buy Astra’s book “Offside by a Mile”!
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