Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Healthy




I've been thinking of my 2016 word of the year choice for a couple of weeks now.  I was pretty sure that it was going to be HEALTHY, so it's very ironic that as I type this I can barely stand up due to a sore back.  I really need to be HEALTHY right now.  I also really need my family to be healthy, though thankfully, Hilary is on her way there!

To me being healthy encompasses many areas of my life.  I want to:
  • eat healthy
  • improve my physical health*
  • have healthy relationships
  • be emotionally healthy
  • improve my overall mental health
These are all areas that I don't give enough attention to.  It's easy to get caught up in the day to day requirements of life and to let things start to slip.  So for 2016 I'm going to keep being HEALTHY at the forefront of my thoughts.


*Caveat - this one starts on January 7th after my GallBladder surgery.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

What did you say?

For years now my family has joked about my hearing loss. It’s not a profound loss by any means, but it does lead to a lot of frustration on everyone’s part. Too many times someone will ask me to get them a drink and I’ll respond with “Why would we build a rink?”

I’ve had my hearing tested a few times in the past, so I had a baseline when I went in a few weeks ago for another test. I was missing out on a lot more conversations lately, having to get people to repeat themselves more and just generally noticing the loss more.

Hearing loss is measured in decibels from 0-130. Normal hearing is considered anywhere in the 0-20 range and complete deafness starts around 90. It’s also measured across several different frequencies. You can have more of a loss with high pitch frequencies or low, deep frequencies.

My hearing test looks something like this:


I have a mild hearing loss in the higher frequencies. Compared to my last test from 2 years ago, I’ve lost about 10 decibels over all. My hearing also tested worse if there is any sort of back ground noise.

It was time to discuss solutions. I’m already using as many “tricks” as possible. I keep people on my right when we are walking and talking; I make sure that I can see a person’s face when we are in conversation; the phone is turned up as loud as it will go and we’ve used the close captioning on our TV for years. I’ve even used the closed captioning devices at the movie theater. After some discussion with the audiologist, I decided to try hearing aids. Since my hearing loss is fairly even in both ears, I would need 2 to keep things balance. Luckily they offer a 30 day, no money down, trial period.

They are so small!

I didn’t expect to find a lot of difference with the hearing aids in. After all, my hearing loss is minimal. But what a difference they have made! The first thing that Hilary noticed was that I wasn’t talking as loud as I usually do. When you can’t hear yourself, you naturally increase your volume. Conversations have been easier and clearer. I’m not missing key information from dialogue on TV. At work I was able to participate in a group conversation, where I would normally have just sat back, smiled, nodded occasionally and laughed when everyone else did because I couldn’t follow what was being said by everyone.

It’s been less than a week but I can already say that the trial is a success. I will see the audiologist again next week to check in on how it is going. And then I will have to make the big decision on whether or not I keep them. They are a significant financial investment, and while they are wonderful and do make a difference to how I hear, I’m not sure I’m ready to fork over that much cash right now.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

I was DETERMINED

My word of the year for 2015 was DETERMINED.  I had many categories that I was determined to do well in, or improve upon.
  • Laugh more
  • Love more 
  • Eat healthier
  • Run more
  • Do well at TKD
  • Enjoy life to its fullest
  • Have a great year
Well.  2015 turned out to be a very interesting year overall.

I certainly RAN more.  I trained for and ran my first half marathon in September.  That took a lot of determination.  Of course, I haven't really run much since then.....

I did not do as well at TKD as I had hoped, mainly because I stopped going in February.  Training for a half marathon takes up a LOT of time, and I just didn't have an extra 3 hours a week to attend classes. Or so I told myself.

I didn't really eat healthier this year.... I sorta did in the first half of the year, but have fallen so far off the wagon that I can't even see it's tire tracks any more.

BUT

I've laughed and loved and enjoyed life.  And to me, those are the 3 most important points.

2015 brought so many things with it.  A great family vacation, wonderful visits from relatives, the kid growing into a teenage and of course, the dreaded cancer and the awfulness of it's treatment. But for all it's horrors, the treatments worked and we are no longer living with cancer amongst us. That alone is letting 2015 finish out as a great year.

I think that being DETERMINED has served me well for 2015.


Friday, December 18, 2015

Much Ado About Nothing


Every year the grade 7s at Liam's school study a Shakespeare comedy and then put on a stage production a a local theatre.  This year was Liam's turn to star as Conrade in Much Ado About Nothing.


The kids all worked on making the sets, but they had proper theatre costumes.  Liam was not impressed that he had to wear tights, but he managed.  Unfortunately because of his injured toe, he couldn't wear his boots.


All the kids did an amazing job, delivering their lines on time and with a lot of humour.



Liam isn't planning a career in acting, but he had a wonderful time last night!



Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Fifteen Dollars and Thirteen Cents

I never wanted to be a landlord.  I grew up with my parents dealing with tenants and all the shenanigans that go with them.  My mother can tell you stories that would make your stomach turn and have you weeping for humanity.

Alas, I am a landlord.  When we bought our house 10 years ago, one of the deciding factors was that it had a basement apartment that we could rent out that would pretty much pay the mortgage. Having one tenant couldn't be that bad, right?  Mom and Dad had up to 36 at time.

For the most part our tenants haven't been too bad.  Sure one of the best ones we had required 2 months of cleaning and Hazmat suites when they moved out, but at least they had paid the rent on time and were friendly.  Others left too soon, and some not soon enough.  But only once have we had a tenant move out without paying their rent. 

I might have let it go.  

We knew they were moving, they just skipped out a month early, and to be honest, we were happy to see them go.  They didn't understand the concept that no smoking meant not smoking anything, not just cigarettes.  They were often late with their rent; they didn't shovel the driveway like they were supposed to, so the ice formed a damn and flooded into the apartment. One of the original people moved out and other friends moved in; in the end I think there were actually 4 people living there instead of 2.  It was hard to tell because there were always people coming and going. We lined up another tenant for when they had given notice and we were ready to move on.

Till I checked out the apartment.

They left behind bags of garbage. They left behind furniture that I had to pay to dispose of.  They broke most of the blinds.  They tried to wallpaper one wall, but didn't bother to measure and when it wouldn't stick properly they used thumb tacks to hold it up. They painted another wall, but only as high as they could reach from the ground.  They moved out and left the doors unlocked and never returned the keys.

After all of that and the general grief they had caused us over the past year, I decided to not let it go.  I would take them to small claims court, even though I thought I would never see a dime.  I knew that I would win; I had a signed lease that said I was in the right.  The problem is that if they don't offer to pay up right then and there in court, I would have to go through the hassle of hiring the sheriff and having their wages garnished.

Even then I might have let it go.

We served her with papers and went to court.  She showed up, all full of self-righteous indignation that we dared to think we were right and that she would have to pay us.  The court took one look at the lease and told her she was wrong.  An agreement was made for her to repay us over the next several months.  She was to contact us within a week to let us know her repayment plan.

She never contacted us.  I decided to not let it go.

We went to the sheriff, filed the paperwork and waited.  

And today, we finally got our first check!  $15.13  It's worth every penny!







Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Happy Birthday Grandma

My Grandma was born Winifred Thelma Westall on November 18, 1922.  Everyone calls her Winnie.



In October of 1941 she married my Grandpa, Abraham Joseph Roussy.  They had 4 children, 3 grandchildren and 3 great-grandchildren.





Today she is celebrating her 93rd birthday.



Happy Birthday Grandma!

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Liam and birthdays

Hilary's 40th birthday was spent sitting in an ER room with Liam while he went through his first migraine.  We were supposed to be sitting poolside at the hotel we had booked, but kids have the darnedest way of changing your plans.

My 45th birthday doesn't have the same pizazz as an ER trip. I just got to sit in the waiting room of our doctor's office so that this could be dealt with.


Last week while we were on vacation, Liam casually mentioned that his toe had mould on it.  Intrigued, I got up to check it out.  Yeah... that's not mould buddy.

After having already spent 3 hours of our vacation sitting in a walk-in clinic for his ear infection, I decided to attack the mould with peroxide and Polysporin till we got home.  He now has a 10 day course of antibiotics and ointment to try and clear it up.

Another birthday to remember.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Goodbye Elementary

We had a very busy and exciting day.  Fair, school picnic, a concert and Grade 6 graduation!  

This was Liam's last school fair.  Twice a year, for the past 9 years, we have attended a school fair where we got to see what Liam has been studying.  This semester they studied biomes. Liam's areas of study was mountains, with focus on Mount Everest and Snow Leopards.  He wrote a story about the two and Fair culminated in a book signing!




This year at the end of school picnic they had the grades 6-9 bands play for the crowds.  I had missed Liam's concert in February, so this was he first time I got to see him in action with the band.



After the concert, they gathered the graduating grade 6s all together and handed out their certificate.  Each kid then when through the line of their teachers and got a hug from each of them.





And with that, Liam has finished elementary school.  The adventures of Middle School will start in September.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Burgers

Even though there is STILL snow in our backyard, we decided to have burgers this weekend.  Not just any burgers, but homemade sliders, with homemade buns!  Hilary's Mum told us about a great potato burger bun recipe from Cook's Illustrated that she uses for burgers, so we gave it a go!


It's been a long time since we've made bread, but I think we are bitten with the baking bug again.


We had 3 different styles of sliders.

Bacon, cheddar and dill pickle.

Avocado and spicy Thai  pickle

Blue cheese and caramelized onions.


My favourite of the 3 was the Blue cheese and caramelized onions.  Hilary also made plain burgers for Liam.  When we were in the Dominican he was eating 4-6 sliders a day from the burger bar.  We didn't have a lot of hope that he would like them at home, but we thought we would give it a shot.  He scarfed both of his down in minutes and asked if next time we would make him 4!  You got it buddy!

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Ancestors

I have long struggled with the definition of "ancestor"

Webster's defines the word as "a person who was in someone's family in past times : one of the people from whom a person is descended".

As an adoptee this becomes a bit of a head scratcher. Are my adoptive parent's "people" my ancestors? They are my family. But so are my birth parents, and their people. Does ancestry imply a DNA connection? Or is it a weird bit of both?

There is a new show out (at least new to us) put on in part by Ancestry.com They help famous people research their ancestors and you get to follow along on their journey to find out if Great-times-8 Grandma was an axe murder or the local librarian. (Hint, in the episode we watched, she was an axe murderer!)

There seem to be 2 types of people doing the research. Group 1 finds out some trait about one of their ancestors and immediately decides that this is why they have that same trait. "I'm musical because I share 1/100th of my DNA with someone who sang in the church choir 300 years ago" or "I'm a strong believer in human rights because my great-great-great grandfather helped out with the Underground Railroad." Group 2 doesn't attribute their own successes/failures, likes or dislikes to their long dead kin, they just think it's cool to find out the history of people.

I find these shows uncomfortable to watch, mainly because of group 1. Knowing that my adoptive Great-Great-Great Grandparent did XY or Z really has no bearing on my ability to do the same thing. But I doubt it matters if my biological Great-Great-Great Grandparent could do it either. Do I get my sense of humour from genetics or being surrounded by funny people as I grew up? What makes me like animals, music, reading or anything else? Am I the product of my ancestors, or am I just only me?

When I was 11, I became very interested in tracing my adoptive family tree and spent a lot of time working on a big chart, filling it out from found obits and family stories. Since my adoption was during the closed-era, I had very limited information regarding my birth family and I figured I would never be able to find out anything about them. My interest with my adoptive family's history was very much an attempt to be able to connect with the past, any past. It felt important to me at the time to be able to say that these were my people and this is where I came from.

When I was 13 my mother, grandmother and I travelled to England to meet my grandmother's cousin. The trip was steeped in history, visiting gravesites and castle grounds where "our" ancestors had worked (we didn’t stumble across any long lost royalty, just a couple of gardeners). About halfway through the trip, I had a complete breakdown one night before bed. "I" had no ancestors. I didn't have any people that I came from. These stories and this history wasn't mine.

One of the few things that my birth mother sent me after we were reunited was 20+ pages of her family tree. She and her daughter that she raised had worked on it together for a school project long ago. She thought that I would like to see where I came from. It was a bitter sweet gift. Finally after 30+ years of not knowing where I came from, I was holding it all in my hands. But it didn’t mean anything to me. They were just names and dates on a piece of paper, with my name and birthdate penciled in like an afterthought. I realized that I had no connection to any of these people, even if we did share our genetic makeup.

It’s very difficult sometimes to feel like I belong and have a connection to the past. Other times it feels like my history starts with me, that there isn’t anything that came before me. I think I will follow the advice of Ralph Nader “We must strive to become good ancestors.”

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Checkers

Whether you are 6 or 12 years old, checkers with Grandpa on Easter weekend is always fun!




Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Out loud

Today is World Read Aloud Day.



One of my favorite times of day is the last hour or so before bed. For the past many years this has been the time that we read out loud. Hilary started the tradition by reading the entire Harry Potter series out loud to Liam. Actually, to both of us, because I would listen in too. It took just over 3 years to get through the whole series. Then I took over reading and we have made it through a variety of books. One of our favorite author’s is Kenneth Oppel  who hooked us in with his Sunwing series. Last night we finished one of his newest book’s, Boundless, a wonderful tale about a train full of adventure. Liam especially loved all the Canadian references (the Boundless starts out from Halifax and works its way across Canada) and it allowed us to have some great discussions on the building of the Canadian rail system, the involvement and treatment of the Chinese workers (one dead Chinese for every mile of track), racism against M├ętis people and the story of the last spike.

The books we read out loud are sometimes books that Liam could easily read to himself, and some may even be slightly below his reading level. We are starting on the 3rd series of books from the 39 Clues set, which Scholastic lists as being a grade 3-5 reading level. While this series is an “easy” read, they include a lot of history, geography and facts about world treasures. It opens up discussions about Russian Monarchs, the Sedlec Ossuary, Egyptian mummies, famous paintings and so much more. We often stop reading to turn to the internet to do more research on the topic in question.

I never thought that we would still be reading out loud once Liam was a tween, but it is something that we all enjoy and he is disappointed on nights that our schedule doesn’t allow us the time. I always equated reading out loud to kids with “bedtime stories”, something that you did when your child was young, and that they (and you) would eventually outgrow it. This article  lists 7 reasons why reading aloud to older kids is still very important. One of my favorite reasons is “life lessons”. So many times something has come up in a book that has allowed us to stop and have a great conversation about a topic we might not otherwise talk about.

The other out loud option that we love as a family is audio books. We listen to them in the car and at home. Liam has even been known to take his ipod and speakers into the bathroom while he has a bath so that he could keep listening to a story. We have the entire HP series on audio books and Liam (and I) will listen to them over and over, to the point that it feels like the reader Jim Dale, is member of our family.

We are getting ready for a weekly long trip for March break. We are going to be completely tech-free for 7 days, including no audio books. The dilemma is how many and which books to take with us? I’m envisioning us needing to dedicated an entire suitcase to our reading supply. This is not, however, a bad problem to be faced with, just a heavy one.

Do you read out loud to your kids? 
If you don’t anymore, what age were they when you stopped? 
If you do read out loud, what kind of books do you read?

Friday, February 13, 2015

The Evolution of Coming Out

Because society assumes that everyone is straight, those of us who are not end up having to “come out” and let people know that we are gay. I first started doing this when I was 19 and how I have come out has evolved fairly drastically over the years.

The first time I came out  was a horrible experience. It was in the middle of the AIDS epidemic  and around the time that the Ryan White story was first airing. Being out and gay was not considered a good thing and we were feared by many. The first person I told, in a letter because I couldn't bring myself to say it out loud, was my best friend. That was the last time I would speak to her for more than 20 years.*

Back then, coming out could also mean losing your job, which happened to me. You learned very quickly to read people, to sit back and wait before sharing personal details of your life.

Coming out got easier as society became more accepting. Luckily I live in one of the most accepting countries, as many LGBTQ people are not yet at a point where their coming out is easier. Many are still persecuted, or worse, if they do come out.

Coming out also got easier as I got older. I learned to fight for my rights, leading one company I worked for to include same-sex families in their new benefits packages that they were rolling out to employees. Before I spoke up it had never crossed their mind that they should.

Yet there were still difficult times. Canada may have passed anti-discrimination laws, made gay marriage legal  and as a whole seems like a very inclusive country. That doesn’t make every individual suddenly open minded and ready to embrace us.

I’ve had problems booking a motel room for our family of 3, with the owner insisting that since there was only one bed (Liam was going to sleep on the couch) that Hilary and I would need 2 rooms. I’ve had people physically step away from me, not wanting to shake my hand and I’ve had people who were previously friendly, chatting around the water cooler, suddenly avoid casual chit-chat before work.

Having worked at my last job for more than 10 years, and with Liam now in his 9th year at the same school, my opportunities for meeting new people and having to come out to them were fairly limited. When they would come up, a new kid joined Liam’s class or a new hire at work, I was surrounded by friends to whom I was already out and who were supportive. It made for a very safe and comfortable environment and I rarely gave much thought to “coming out” and would more likely simply refer to Hilary as if the new person already knew that our family was made up of two women.

Then 5 weeks ago I started a new job. Suddenly the prospect of having to “come out” to a whole group of people, people that I didn’t know anything about, was before me. That was when I realized not only how much I have changed in the past 25 years, but how much society has changed too. Not a single person batted an eye when I mentioned Hilary. No one stepped back or even made it seem like it was worth mentioning. I was telling them about my family the same way they were telling me about theirs. Every single one of them, regardless of their age, background, strong religious belief or nationality simply took it in stride that I was gay. They were more interested in the fact that my hair was blue.

I’m glad that as a society we have come so far. There are still many problems in our world to overcome, but for me at least, it seems that the evolution has taken me to a place that I no longer need to "come out" and I can just be me.



*We reconnected briefly on Facebook a few years ago. She, now the mother of 4, apologized for how she handled things and realized that being around someone who was gay was not what she had once feared. She hoped that she had grown enough as a person to not pass that negativity on to her children and that should any of them come out to her, that she could be there for them.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Blue Stripe



After 8 months and who knows how many classes, I finally bit the bullet and signed up to do my Blue stripe TKD test. I spent the month of January focusing more on TKD and less on running to help ensure that I was ready. I had notes on my patterns pinned up in my cubicle at work, I watched YouTube videos whenever I could. I tried to get to classes early so that I could practice or ask one of the Black Belts for help with a particularly difficult area.

All that and I still didn’t feel ready.

The whole testing took just over 2 hours for all 14 of us. The little kids always go first. They are so cute, but watching them do their patterns – often messing up their lefts and rights – was making confused about my own upcoming testing moment. After the 5 year old crowd and the 2 adult White belts all passed their tests it was my group’s turn. There were 4 of us ranging from a Yellow Belt to my Green belt. I made it through the 6 patterns that I needed to know with a few minor issues, including stepping on the kid next to me! Every time I would try to move over before we started a pattern to give myself more room, he would move towards me again! Eventually the tester pointed out that I was moving to give us more space and that it might work better if he stopped following me.

Following patterns we had to demonstrate our techniques in both 3-step non-traditional sparring and fundamental movements. From there we moved on to 1-step and 2-step traditional sparring – usually the hardest area for me as we don’t often cover this in class and you are expected to learn it on your own from the book, or before/after class from a more senior belt.

I then had a breather while the last group went through their paces before I had to do a 2 minute round of contact sparring. Ooof. That was a long and hard 2 minutes! The woman I was sparring against is …. how should I put it…. Intense? Rough? Mean? Powerful? One of the parents even mentioned afterward that I had my hands full with that sparring match. I’ve been paired up with her in class before and I often end up covered in bruises from blocking her kicks or not blocking one of her punches. She is not malicious about it, but doesn’t always recognize her own strength, and never holds back, even when it’s a teaching/learning moment. I may invest in shin guards just because of her.

The last part of my test came as a surprise, as I didn’t realize that it was required for my Blue stripe. I had to break a 3/8” thick board with a front snap kick. Luckily I have done this break before, and it is one of the easiest breaks to do. You get 2 tries on your test – I broke it on my first kick.

After all of that – I passed!

Friday, January 9, 2015

The Next Chapter


The chapters of my working life can be measured in decades.

The first 10 years, starting when I was only 14, were spent in a variety of jobs from kitchen staff to nurse’s aide and bartender to shooter girl. Then, quite by accident, I landed what was supposed to be a throwaway job that turned into a 10 year career with that company. It is thanks to that job that Hilary and I ended up moving to Halifax. After 10 years though I was ready for a change. As luck would have it a new opportunity came along and I was able to move on – still on the same career path, doing the same type of work, just for a new company.

And now with my 10 year anniversary with this company just 2 months away, I am moving on again. 

I start a new job Monday morning.

Once more I am on the same career path, doing that work that I do. Will I stay with this company for a full decade, keeping my working streak? Who knows. That timing would make things interesting, leaving me with just one more decade after that before I would be of age to retire. I think only having 4 major job changes over a lifetime of working would be a pretty good way to end things. But then again, maybe I’ll spend the next 20 years at this new job.

Who knows, my future isn’t written yet.