Friday, May 30, 2008

Thorn In My Side

Some of my unhappiest moments in high school were spent in French class. Our teacher, a thin and beautiful, if middle-aged, Parisian French woman did what she could to make the class interesting. However, she was fighting a battle she could not win. We lived in far Northern BC at the time, and French was the most purposeless subject ever. Who the hell spoke French in Northern BC? No-one who didn't want a sound beating by a bunch of farmers and ranchers, that's who. School should have been about learning relevant, useful things. I hated French with a burning passion and resented every single minute I was in that classroom.

Skip forward twenty years, and over a few provinces. I now work for the Feds, in the Politically Correct Capital of Canada, and French is as much a thorn in my side as it ever was. My career is dictated by how well I can, or can't, parley-vous, despite the fact that the working language for every unit in Canada except the ones in Quebec is English (and believe you me, I'd work at Mickey-D's before I allowed myself to get transferred to La Republique.) My future career in the public service will also be determined by how well (or not) I speak a language I will never use.

What I don't understand is how it came about that roughly 23% of the total population of Canada can dictate how the other 77% of us live our lives and do our jobs. For the number crunchers, this is the total percentage of the Quebec population compared to Canada's in general. I know that only 50% of that 23% are unilingually French and the rest are bilingual or English... but there's no easy way to separate the lunatic fringe of Language Zealots from the rest of 'em.

Yes, I understand their society is all unique and wonderful, that their cheese curds are yummy and I love the convenience of buying wine at a corner d├ępanneur rather than the liquor store. I love the European feel of Quebec City, the flair that Quebecers tend to show in the matters of personal grooming and attire. I love the fact that roughly 83% of the exotic dancers throughout Canada come from La Belle Province. (Don't ask me how I know that.) It kinda takes the heat off the young women in the rest of the provinces, you know?

Most every French person I have met has been lovely. They did not personally beat me on the head with their Larousse, or act with the overbearing arrogance that the French language laws suggest the province in general suffers from. They are generally witty and warm and don't hate me because I refuse to speak their language, whether I can or not. (Mostly, not. Unless I'm drunk. Then I'm fluently bilingual.)

Yes, Quebec is great and all that. French people, nice. Most of 'em. Just get your freakin, over-reaching, meddling fingers off my career. I'll make you a deal. You keep your language laws in your province, and I'll stay in mine. Let me do my job without having to speak another language. Hire me, rate my performance and judge my career progression by how competent I am at my job, not by factors that are completely irrelevant to my job performance.

If I lived in Greece and spoke Greek, then moved to Italy, I wouldn't expect the country to legislate that everyone else had to speak Greek just so I'd fit in and feel all special. I'd damn well learn Italian and get on with it. You may make the argument that Quebec is a part of Canada, not (yet) a separate part, thus the example doesn't hold. Hasn't Quebec been screaming "distinct! different! nation!" all these years? They can't have it both ways. Well, actually, they can, because they have the rest of us in a political stranglehold and everyone is too afraid to call it like it is.

I'm sick of it. Truly. And I can't wait to move out of this sterile, God-forsaken city, the source and prime example of all that's wrong with the great Canadian bilingualism experiment. I long to be back out West, where my ears and eyes aren't assaulted with the constant doctrine that I'm a second-class citizen because my only tongue is English.

My brother had the stones to pull his son out of the mandatory French classes they were jamming down his throat back on the West Coast. The school board was horrified but my brother, in one of the acts I admire him most for, stood his ground and had his son taken out of French in favour of a more useful subject. Which is anything, really. I wish my parents had done the same when I was a child; perhaps I wouldn't still be sitting here getting furious all over again about the lost time twenty-some odd years later.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

It's A Girl!!!

The unexpected happened last week.

It was DH's day to do a massive clean on his fish tank. It being 50 gallons, there's a lot of work involved, and more than one trip to the pet store ensued for various filters and plants. I went with him the first time, and as we waited in the queue, we visited with the kitties from the Humane Society. I began talking to a pretty little calico but the sweet mew of a torti caught my ear, and I stooped for a chat with her and a furtive scratch on her forehead through the cage door.

DH finished paying for his stuff, and we stood there talking to the kitties for a bit. He, too, stooped to have some time with the pretty little torti. Just then, one of the associates approached and began doing paperwork on the cats, involving checking the numbers on their collars. He started with the one we had been talking to, scooping her out of her cage by her belly. Although it looked like not the most comfortable position, she licked his hand and purred as he manipulated her. We chatted for a couple more minutes, then left to finish the fish tank.

Another trip later in the day, and DH took SD2, who started whispering to the same cat.

We have a cat already in the house. Mina is 9 years old, and affectionate as heck to DH and I... when she feels like it. Many a happy hour we have spent with her purring on our faces. However, she *hates* the girls, hissing at them whenever they enter the room.

The little kitty remained on our mind, and DH and I actually were both separately running through the mental check-lists of things we'd need to do to introduce a new kitty into the house. Once we knew that the other was on the same track (as usual), it was pretty much a done deal.

We adopted her on Sunday, and it was so very much the Right Thing To Do. She, now named Ginger, is the happiest little cuddlebug I've ever seen in my life. The girls are delighted that there's a cat in the house that actually likes them, and DH and I are charmed with her petite frame, long legs, beautiful colouration, and above all, her sweet nature.

Mina is less thrilled, though we are observing quarantine for Ginger for a couple of weeks, so they've just seen each other through glass. Much hissing was to be had; I don't think it will necessarily be a smooth integration, but I know that Ginger chose us for a reason and it will all work out. Yes, Mina may wear her hisser out, but she may also lose a little weight with a young upstart herding her around the house!


S6301179

S6301174

S6301183

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Nightmares

I usually have very vivid, odd dreams, but not often nightmares. Last week was lousy with them.

The first one I brought on by myself, though accidentally. I was looking through my picture archive on my computer and came across one of my first husband. In the months after I left him, before I moved out of the city altogether, I'd run into him occasionally. I always had nightmares after I ran into him. Given that, I had grounds to reasonably suspect that simply looking at his picture might bring the same unpleasant associations.

Part of me says I should delete all pictures of him, but another part of me finds it educational, in a "holy cow we're stupid when we're young" fashion, and as nightmarish as our marriage was, it served its purposes. Being married to a creepy, controlling sociopath taught me the many advantages to the previously-considered dull "nice guy."

Holy cow. I digress.

The second dream took place in a field. I was preparing the soil for planting and was hoeing away at the lumpy clay when I became aware that the field was crawling with snakes. (This is not the bit that makes it a nightmare- I really like snakes, find them fascinating.) There was one that was five feet long and coloured like a grossly over-sized earthworm. They were everywhere.

I bent over the hoe to break up the soil further, and felt the *snick* of tiny fangs as one snapped at my hand. I stood up, in my dream, and came to some decision, or reached some final inevitability. I bent down and chose a snake that I knew was poisonous, about two feet long and brightly coloured. Standing up again, and glancing off into the overcast gloom that hung over the field, I pressed the snake's fangs against my left forearm. The sharp icy spike of the fangs was soon eclipsed by the acidic burn of the venom that ate into my veins. I remember feeling relieved.

Creepy, huh?

The third nightmare is reoccurring. In this one, I am sitting on the front stoop, sun full on my face, sipping my morning coffee. The dew shines on the grass, the birds sing, and the neighborhood is peaceful and still. Suddenly, the peace is shattered with the piercing sound of spoiled children bickering; raised voices and snotty little whines that grate the silence to shards. I frown in annoyance, wanting their parents to straighten them the hell out so I can get back to enjoying the silence.

Then, with a sickening dismay, I realize the sounds are coming from my house. The irritatingly noisy and recalcitrant children are my problem to deal with, not somebody else's.

I can't seem to wake up from this one.

Monday, May 19, 2008

What's to See in Montreal?

My mum and grandma are coming out for their first time ever this July. Neither of them have been this far east; mum's on Vancouver Island and grandma's in central Alberta, so this trip is A Big Deal for all of us.

Mum had the excellent idea of taking the train to Montreal for the day. T
his sounds like a lot of fun! I've never been there, so I don't really know the lay of the land. Do you have any suggestions of sights that we could go see? (Keep in mind we'll be restricted largely to walking, though a taxi here and there might be okay, too.)

Are there any yarn stores in the downtown core I should be aware of, so I can "accidentally" trip into one or two?

Next Stop: Armhole

I can't believe I'm almost at the armhole! That's a good 30 cm. of knitting; it's hard to tell scale by this picture. I am deeply in love with this cardigan.

S6301172

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Stash Enhancement

I was lucky enough to win a $50 gift certificate in a quilt shop in Brockville as a result of the Stash and Dash Poker Run in March. DH graciously offered to drive me down yesterday to spend the certificate.

I have a plan for a quilt for my niece in the making. She just moved into her first "big girl" bed, and the soft flannel quilt I made for her as a baby just wouldn't cut it anymore.

Abby's Quilt 2

So while we were on the shop hop I picked up a couple of charm packs by Northcott, thinking they would make a pretty quilt for a young girl child. The fabric was a hint old-fashioned with dusty pastels and floral motifs. I went to Brockville with the idea of choosing complimentary fabrics to make her quilt with.

We found Picket Fence Fabrics with minor difficulties introduced by my failure to read. King Street East is not the same thing as King Street West... who knew?! Once through the door, it was apparent that this was a special shop. Though they had just moved and were still awaiting stock and decorating, the space was bright and cheery, and the owner, Jennifer, could not have been more helpful.

DH found fabric right away for the reverse side of the quilt. I love this fabric so much that I believe this side will be the feature side

S6301168

S6301165

and the florals will just hang around on the back.

S6301170

Jennifer knew her stuff and wasn't afraid to share. She demonstrated two different techniques for me when I expressed unfamiliarity, referred me to books and websites, and generally made our drive totally worth it. Of course, I spent that $50 gift certificate and then some... for what was supposed to be a relatively cheap quilt (is there such a thing?) I spent too much. However, that beautiful Japanese fabric just had my number.

She also introduced me to fusible binding. How is it I've been a quilter for 8 years and I'm just hearing about this modern miracle now??!

Let 'Er Rip

Last night I did something that I had been avoiding doing for some time but that needed to be done. Trying to not think about it too hard, I picked this up...

S6301000
(though it was several inches longer than when this picture was taken)

... and pulled the needles out. I sat there frogging it gingerly, delicately as DH and I watched a movie... he saw but didn't ask why. I think he knew. He always knows.

I'll tell you why. It wasn't living up to my expectations. I had made several errors in the pattern, and although they didn't show, I knew they were there. As well, this yarn deserves a better end. It's high-class, up-town delicious cashmere and silk, and it deserves to be knit into something complex and amazing, not just a simple pattern of knit rows and yarn-overs. The yarn told me it wanted to grow up to be something better, and I listened.

Part of that made me immediately frog this project was Anne Hanson's newest scarf, the Fiddlehead. Now, doesn't this look like something cashmere would like to grow up to be?

(I think part of it is that I can't fathom myself actually wearing anything I make from this ethereal yarn. I am the opposite of ethereal, what with the Army boots and all... :) )

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Breakfast

S6301164

My husband makes pancakes for the family on Sunday morning. A late riser, I'm usually just rolling out of bed by the time he's rounded up the girls and gone for the day, out to play in the woods at his brother's property.

I came down to this pretty little "Still Life on Mother's Day Morning." My husband's card was mooshy and lovey as always... I swear the man trolls the card shops for hours looking for Just The Right Card. (To make you even more envious, he doesn't just wait for Big Events to give them to me. He's a big one for random romantic moments.)

The girl's cards are a little more ambivalent. SD1, the founder of hell month, writes, "may get really angry But you'll always be the greatest step mom ever". She signs it "HRH of Loud Noises." Too true, and funny as heck. SD2, who's a little meeker and more political despite being younger, simply hopes that I have the best day out of all the days of the year.

I think I might do just that. A little gardening, a little knitting, a little sewing, and I might even fit in a little gaming. Hope your Mother's Day is as pleasant as mine is shaping up to be.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Happy To See the Sunshine

I think that what I endearingly call "Hell Month" is over. The step-daughter whose behaviour was driving me and my husband collectively nuts seems to have gained a little equilibrium. Either that, or the locks that we put on all the interior doors are cramping her style. Hard to say. Really, though, I think her only problem is that she's 12, has ADHD, and misses her mummy.

Her mummy's in Afghanistan on deployment and can't be bothered to call home to talk to her daughters. Frankly, I think I'd have emotional problems, too, if my mum treated me like that. I KNOW it's the mum's choice to remain so distant... when DH was in the 'Stan last spring/summer, he called me twice a day, pretty much every day. Don't tell me she can't. I am far from "(Step-) Mother of the Year" material, but this woman drives me mental. Seriously. Seriously! (said in the voice of Izzie Stevens, and with a tinge of the same hysteria.)


Anyhow. Between SD1 setting down, and spring here full force, I'm feeling better every day. I'm done my Philosophy course... I don't know my exact mark yet, but it's a doozy... I went into the exam with a 100% average (!) and got 94% on the exam, which was worth 30% of my total mark. Since my strong point is apparently philosophy and not math, I don't know what that leaves me with, but I know it's good.
(Edited to add: it's 98%. Not because I calculated it, but because they did.) I loved that course, and will pursue further courses on the topic.

I'm also done the quilt I showed you a while back, in the sandwiching stages. I'll post pictures soon, but it's way upstairs, and I'm downstairs... :) Plus, it needs a little attention to get the chalk marks out of it. Quilters... what do you use to transfer quilting patterns onto your fabric with? My method sucks. There must be a better way.

Speaking of quilting, there's the Ottawa Quilter's Guild quilt show this weekend at the RA Center. Do take some time to go and get all inspired; there's some lovely pieces as well as a merchant's market with some nice prices on fat quarters.

In the knitting corner, I'm still plunking away on the cardigan. I've also (nearly) finished a sock and have cast on the next one... I want these to be longer socks, but without the benefit of a scale, I can't tell when I've used half the ball. I'll knit the second sock until it's the length of the first, and guesstimate how many more rows I have left from there.

S6301159
Wendy Johnson's Double Eyelet Rib, in Fleece Artist Merino. (Say it with me. MMmmmmm, Fleece Artist.)

Before I go, shots of spring from the garden.

S6301147
Golden Locust buds.

S6301158
The strawberries are VERY happy to see the sunshine!

Monday, May 5, 2008

Hymn to the Gym

There will never come a day when you will wake up at 05:30 in the morning and not regret getting out of bed. I'm afraid it will never get easier. It will never be more convenient. It will pretty much always suck and you will pretty much always wonder, just for a minute, if you shouldn't give the gym a miss this morning. Sleep, you will reason, is better than exercise, and it's what your body seems to cry out for.

If you listen to the siren song of sleep, you will wake up a little later and get ready for work. The extra sleep may or may not have been enough, the grit may or may not be in your eyes. Your body may or may not thank you for the extra rest.

Your mind won't thank you. Your mind will whisper things to you all day long, backbiting you and running you down. Telling you you're not dedicated enough. Telling you you're fat. Telling you you're a bad person. Guilt and lessened self-esteem is the pay-off from missing your work-out, and day after day, it adds up until it's crippling. It's a bitter miasma, a dense fog, and you can't see clearly through it, or even really know you're in it. But you are, and it's bad.

You are the only person who can decide that your mental and physical well-being is important enough to make a priority. Your partner may be fighting the same battle, they can't help you. In those first blurry moments of wakefulness, you need to decide if your health and happiness are worth fighting for, and get the hell out of bed whether you want to or not. Those extra 15 minutes of sleep? They're not worth spending the entire day feeling inadequate for.

I'll tell you what you need. You need to sweat.

Now get out there and do it.