Bits and bobs

Random thoughts about random things by a random person


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The five-hour lunch

A friend of mine got back from a trip to Paris a couple of days ago so we arranged to meet for lunch today to catch up. We both had stuff to do in the afternoon, and we have been known to have some lengthy (and happily entertaining) visits so we decided to meet at 11:45 to give us ample time to visit AND get our various errands done. How naive we were!!

Today was more marathony than even we usually do. You’d think we hadn’t seen each other in years instead of a couple of weeks. 🙂 I think our previous record was 3.5 or 4 hours. Today we topped out at 5.25 hours! We both got there at about 11:40 and we walked out at 4:55. Not a word of a lie. The only time I looked at my watch, I thought it was probably somewhere around 3:00. Imagine my surprise when I saw it was heading towards 5:00! It did not seem like we had been there for 5 hours!

Have you ever had one of those lunches? If so, because I’m dying to make a list out of this, the following might sound familiar…

You know you had a great marathon lunch when:

  • The sun hadn’t reached its noon apex when you arrived and was about to set when you left.
  • The people at the table next to yours were having breakfast when you were seated and the people sitting there when you left were having dinner.
  • There was only one person left from the shift that was on when you got there.
  • You showed up and the hostess said, “We just switched over from the breakfast menu to the lunch menu. I hope that’s OK?” And when you left a different hostess said, “Have a good night!”
  • You had so much fun you don’t even mind that you got nothing only your list done afterwards!


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Always learning…

As I mentioned in my last post, I turned 49 not too long ago. I’m well over half-way through my use of this mortal coil and yet I am still constantly learning things about myself.

For example, I started work in a new area in July, after having worked in a couple of areas where I had felt a great deal of dissatisfaction and frustration. Today, I was catching up with a couple of former colleagues and they asked how things are going with this new position. I told them how much I’m enjoying where I currently am and they asked why.

I gave it some thought before answering.

There are a lot of things about where I’m currently working that would make, for many, it a very unattractive position. The program area is in a state of review and change. From day one, I was out of the gate, running. I’ve spent a large amount of time scurrying around (literally and metaphorically), trying to get up to speed on the program itself, while also making sure that everything related to the changes (system- and program-related) are being properly taken care of.  There are a lot of different pieces and stakeholders to keep track of and work with and I have to make sure that I’m available to provide needed support to the folks that I lead. And did I mention that we are very definitely on the radar of senior management so, yeah, there’s that. 

All that to say that it’s not a job that a lot of people would want to walk into, especially the way I was feeling by the end of June! And yet I am the happiest I have been at work in at least three years.

“Why?” I answered. “Because I feel useful, relevant and supported.”

I was kind of surprised at my response. I would not have thought that those things were so important to me. As I reflected later, I realized that not only are they a huge part of why I am currently happy and satisfied, they are also a huge part of why I was so dissatisfied in my last couple of positions.

I also realized that I shouldn’t actually be that surprised. I’m no psychologist or work motivation expert, but I imagine if we peeled back the layers of why people feel the way they do about their work, those three characteristics would, in some fashion or another, rise to the top of the reasons for their satisfaction or dissatisfaction.

Now, I’ve known and understood that concept in a general nature for years, but I hadn’t realized how much it applies to me. Who knew! I’ve lived with myself for 49 years and I’m still able to surprise myself! I have about another 12 years to work before retirement – I wonder what other gems I’ll learn about myself between now and then??

Curiouser and curiouser!


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50 things: What am I – crazy??

I turned 49 recently. You know what that means – the next one’s the big 5-0. Technically, I’m already in my 50th year, closing out my 5th decade. So not only is 50, well, 50, it also marks my foray into my 6th decade, which means I’m also sort of almost 60. How crazy is that???

Anyway…since I’m already in my 50th year, I thought I should do something to really mark it or celebrate it throughout the year. So I got to thinking – inspired, actually, by somebody’s blog (sorry…can’t remember whose) where she talked about doing the same thing for a big birthday she had just achieved. Because I am sometimes wont to bite of more than I can chew, I decided not to do just someTHING (singular) during this hopefully auspicious year, I decided to do 50 THINGS (plural).

50. F-I-F-T-Y. Five-Zero. In one year.

I didn’t, in fact, stop there. I started to get REALLY crazy and create goals of fifty of each type of thing. I reined myself in somewhat on that one. For example, instead of reading 50 books this year, I’ve pared that down to 25. That’s perfectly achievable. But trying to come up with a list of 50 things, each of which would require 50 things was the very opposite of achievable – I would have to quit my job in order to have the time, even assuming some sort of fairy godmother swooped in to provide the necessary means to meet my financial obligations.

All that said, it’s really hard to come up with 50 things! So, I decided that coming up with the list itself needs to count as one of the things. Seriously – don’t laugh! It REALLY is challenging!

Here’s kind of where I am so far:

  • health goals (walking, exercise bike, taking stairs at work, crunches, push-ups),
  • food goals (trying new recipes; eating vegetarian once a week at least)
  • arts/crafts goals (voice lessons, drawing lessons, painting lessons, writing more blogs)
  • entertainment goals (watching old Hollywood movies, watching more international movies)
  • educational goals (relearning things I used to love – you’ll REALLY need to hold in the laughter here – basic geometry, algebra, and chemistry; learning something about 25 different countries; learning about 25 historical figures; finishing 2 Russian language CDs I’ve had for years; finishing a Spanish course I bought ages ago)
  • spiritual goals (making meditation/prayer a more sincere part of my practice; working on mindfulness; reading scripture more regularly; learning about other people’s practices)

There’s some other stuff in there, too, but this will give you a good overview. None of them are earth-shattering. For me, the big thing is they have to be achievable. I want this current year to be one of success and, particularly, one where at the end of it I truly feel like I’ve become a better person. I’m hoping that I’ll pick up some better habits along the way and that some of the things I dip my toes into this year will become life-long interests. Some of them already are, but I’ve let them fall to the wayside, and this challenge is a way to bring them back into my life.

I have 26 things in my list already. I’ll obviously keep adding to it as I go along. And I’ve also given myself permission to change things as I go. For example, I might have to reduce the individual things under each item. I might change it to learn only about 12 countries and 12 historical figures as I come to really see how much time is involved if I try to force myself to do EVERYTHING. Right now it’s do-able. But by the time I have my full 50 things, I might realize that what I’ve come up with right now is not realistic. The thing I for sure DO want is that I will have done 50 different things. That’s the piece I’m not willing to sacrifice or bend on. So the other stuff is fairly fluid at this point.

Anyhooooooooooo… I’m documenting this so that in about a year I’ll write a follow-up post to see what I’ve accomplished and, even more importantly, how I feel at the end of it.

Stay tuned!!


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You have great teeth!

About two and a half hours ago, I was sitting anxiously in my dentist’s office, waiting for my semi-annual cleaning. I’m always nervous when I go to the dentist and today was no different.

I’m not afraid of the potential pain – that’s never bothered me. Even that one time about 20 years ago when I had to get a filling and the shots never fully deadened the area. I can’t remember how many shots they gave me before finally saying they couldn’t give me any more and I had to get the filling sans deadening. Don’t get me wrong – I’m not a masochist. I didn’t enjoy the pain. It was just a necessary thing and I knew it wouldn’t last too long. I also know it’s a very rare thing.

What actually makes me nervous is the “grade” I’m going to get. Will they scold me for not flossing enough (even though I floss every day)? Will I be in for a lecture because all of a sudden have a whole mouthful of cavities has appeared out of nowhere? Will I pass or will I fail?   WILL I PASS…. OR WILL I FAIL?!?!?!

Of course, I know they don’t literally grade you. But that’s what it feels like as I sit there waiting. Actually, the whole entire day of my appointment has that anxiety. It’s like that time between when you do all your exams and you are waiting for your transcript.

I turned 49 a few weeks ago so it’s been a LONG time since I’ve waited for any transcripts. You’d think I’d be over it by now. But I’m not. I want to know. Aaaaaaaand yet, I don’t. Ahhhh…that great dental paradox!

Usually I sit there, mouth stretched wide with the hygienist scraping the plaque and tartar away, listening to see if I can figure out the verdict by the amount of scraping she has to do. “Hmmm…that didn’t take too long. Maybe I did good! Oh…nope. She’s just changing tools. Dang.”

Sometimes I get brave and I ask, in a feigned casual, not-that-I-really-care voice: “So…how does it look in there?” It has been a VERY long time since the answer has not been a good one. So long, in fact, that I don’t even remember when. Even when I wasn’t flossing daily or having regular cleanings, they’ve told me that I should keep doing whatever it is that I’m doing. Needless to say, like any good cheater, I have never admitted my heinous hygiene habits. And now that I have good habits, I’m kinda like that person who always gets A’s on their tests, but invariably they swear they’ve failed.

So, even though I always get a good grade, I still worry. And, as I said, today was no different.

So you will understand my absolute joy and pleasure when, about 5 minutes into my cleaning, the hygienist – fully of her own accord – said…

“You have great teeth!”

 


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How not to impress people on the first day at your new job, or “What did you do now?”

(Queasy stomach alert: If you don’t like injury stories, please don’t continue. It’s not totally a hurl-your-guts story, but some tummies are extra-sensitive and if you are on that side of the scale, you might wanna pass on this one…)

I started a new position at work on Monday past. Unlike most new positions the last several years, there wasn’t anyone I knew at this new one. I was starting with a completely blank slate (other than the references that got me the job). There’s a lot of power with a blank slate – you can put ANYTHING on it. And on that first day, being the time of first impressions and all, what you put on it can be very, very…very…important.

What did I put on mine? This:

 

No, no…please – hold the applause.

Like most of the injuries I’ve had in my life (including breaking an ankle BEFORE a softball game), I don’t have a great story to go with it. Not even a lame “I took a dive to save a tipping printer” office story. Nope. Wanna know how I did it? (Don’t bother popping popcorn for this…honestly, it’s not worth it…)

Picture it: Sicily… Just kidding. That’s a different show… 😉

Seriously, though…I was heading down to the cafeteria for lunch. I pushed the elevator call button and leisurely paced back and forth in the hall while I waited. Soon enough, I heard the chime announcing an elevator’s arrival and I turned to head towards it. (In a movie, this is where the music would become louder, to indicate something big was about to happen and bring you to the edge of your seat.)

I’ve mentioned my age before, but in case you’ve forgotten, I’m 48. I’m not new to this whole “foot at the end of your leg” thing, or walking, or any of that stuff. I’ve been doing it for quite a while now. Yet somehow (and I’m really and truly not sure how), I stumbled as I turned. I didn’t trip on anything…it’s a flat floor. I didn’t slip on any spills…it’s a carpeted floor. There weren’t even any wrinkles in the carpet. I just…stumbled.

Not being one to give in to a challenge, I was sure I could recover. I took a step forward and tried to regain my balance. Nope…didn’t work, so I took another step. Nah ah…so another step. And another. And another. Flashing occasionally in my mind at the same time was, “Man, I’m glad nobody else is here!” With each step I was angling closer and closer to the ground and after about the fifth, I knew it was a losing battle. Well, to be honest…it was a lost battle because down I went – THWUMP! And I went down harrrrrd – right in front of the now-open elevator doors.

Having my priorities in the right place, the very first thing I did was look inside the elevator. The Bad Fall Gods had taken pity on me again. Not only was there no one in the hallway, there was no one in the elevator!! YAYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY!!!! There are definite perks to taking a late lunch.

Then I got back to the business of the moment: How badly was I hurt?

I did a quick check (still on the floor). Nothing was broken. My head felt odd and fuzzy, but only inside as I for sure hadn’t smacked it on the floor as I went down. My shoulders were feeling the impact, though, and I knew that would only get worse as time went by. I must have landed on my forearms as opposed to my hands, so thankfully there was no damage my wrists.

I picked myself up and tried to shake off the fuzzy headedness. That didn’t work (the headache lasted a few days), but since I was still hungry, I continued with my plan to get lunch. While sitting there, eating my sandwich, I discovered the carpet burn on my left forearm, which I did by innocently putting my arm on the table, as normal, to hold my book, the edge of the table cutting right across the scraped skin. O.U.C.H. I am very proud of myself, actually, for not having sworn like a sailor at that moment.

Anyhoooooooooooo…fast forward to me telling my new boss what had happened, which involved paperwork (every boss’s dream), and spending the rest of the afternoon repeatedly explaining to my new colleagues what had happened. If THAT didn’t fill them with confidence in me, I don’t know what would.

Take THAT, blank slate!!!

 


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Mother Mary Comforts Me

This is my mother.

Mom

This was taken at my oldest brother’s wedding on August 4, 2000. She loved that hat – she thought it was hilarious. (No…she did not wear it as part of her outfit for the day – she just wore it for this picture. 🙂 )

Her name was Mary. Mary Catherine, to be precise. The two previous girls born before her were both named Catherine and they died while still small infants. My grandmother didn’t want to chance it when Mom came along and added a “Mary” before the “Catherine”. It worked – she lived.

And she loved.

That, in fact, was her legacy.

She was a woman who loved nothing more than being a wife and a mother. When we were teenagers and able to take care of ourselves, we encouraged her to get a job. She did – at one of the mini-marts in town – but it didn’t last too long. She didn’t like it. She wanted to be home – she wanted to take care of the house and us. She absolutely loved being a housewife. I had assumed she didn’t work because she felt she needed to be home when we were younger, but no. She didn’t work because she wanted to be home. Not because she was lazy, but because taking care of our home and of us was her dream job.

I was thinking about that the other day when I was mulling over some ideas for this post. For the first time I thought that our efforts to encourage her to get out of the house because we no longer “needed” her – efforts that were intended to give her the freedom to do what I, at least, assumed was what she really wanted to do – quite possibly had the opposite effect. As an adult, I now know that one of the most painful times in a mother’s life is when she realizes her children no longer “need” her. It can be quite a punch in the gut. For Mom it didn’t just happen naturally – we practically shoved it onto her. “We don’t need you anymore! You can do what you want now!” Ouch. I’m 48 and I only just clued in to how that must have sounded to her back then. What she wanted was to be needed – by us – and we trashed that.

She’s been gone for over 10 years now. I miss her laugh and the way her eyes twinkled and scrunched up when she laughed. I miss her beef stew, baloney and gravy…and her bread. Oh my gosh – her bread! I still long for her cool hand on my forehead when I’m sick.

She didn’t get married till she was almost 34, which in the 1960s was quite old. For Mom’s plan it was quite old, too. She said she wanted to have as many kids as her Mom did, which was 15. She and Dad had the four of us within the first five years of their marriage and she also had four miscarriages so I don’t doubt that, had she married at the more typical age of her time, she very likely would have given her mother a run for her money!

Because she was so softhearted we could pretty well wrap her around our finger so she had to make frequent use of the maternal standard of “You wait till your father gets home!” She was also, to me, the more fun parent. Dad was the more serious one in the family, which was probably needed. His oft-used refrain was, “Mary, you’re worse than the youngsters!” Two memories I have that would have elicited that response were an ice cube fight when I was still in junior high or high school and then a shaving cream fight when I was in university. On both occasions, there was running and screaming and it was messy, but it was also funny and fun.

I’m so grateful for those memories.

I didn’t really get to know my mother as an adult. I had moved away by my early 20s. I visited for a couple of weeks every couple of years, but that’s not the same. As I talked about in a previous post, I had a year with Dad after I had moved back to Newfoundland in 2007, but by then Mom was already in a nursing home with Alzheimer’s (the reason for my move). It had been coming on for several years before it hit a critical point and she had to go into a nursing home in early 2006.

The first time I saw her when I got home that September, she looked at me with a mixture of confusion and curiosity. “You looks some familiar to me…,” she said, the question hanging at the end of her statement.

“I should,” I replied, ignoring the unintentional sting of being forgotten and forcing a laughing lightness into my voice, “I’m your daughter!”

Her eyes brightened and a smile filled her face. “Jesus, Mary and Joseph!” she exclaimed, looking at the others sitting nearby. “That’s my daughter! Home from Alberta!”

She never forgot me again.

Over the next four months before she passed, we had lots of visits. Most times, the visits were at the nursing home, but sometimes I would take her for a drive in and around the city and to visit some friends and family. Inevitably, though, she would become anxious after only about an hour or so and want to go back to her “apartment”.

But Mom wasn’t really there. So much of who she was had already disappeared and more was lost as the weeks moved on. But I’m still grateful for that time that we had.  I can’t imagine my life now without those four months in it.

This post, however, isn’t about her passing. It’s about her birthday. Today is one of them.

Growing up, we all thought Mom was born on July 4, 1934. We teased her sometimes about being a cradle robber, as she was two years older than Dad – also quite unusual at that time. Then in the early 1990s, she had to get a copy of her birth certificate for something and when she got it, it turned out that she was actually born on July 12, 1933! 51 weeks older than she thought she was and, obviously, an extra older than Dad. It was funny and there was more teasing.

Despite what that little piece of paper says, it’s always felt more natural to celebrate her birthday on July 4, so that’s why I’m writing this today.

For Mary Catherine Cove (nee Turpin), b. July 12, 1934, d. January 8, 2008.

My mother.

Mom, where she best liked to be - the centre of our family

This is our family at my oldest brother’s wedding (the guy to Mom’s left) in August 2000.


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A mid-city treasure

I’ve lived in Ottawa for six and a half years now. Six and a half years and I had never been to this park before a couple of weeks ago. What’s worse is I have driven past it on my way home from work every day for the past three months. It’s not even out of the way. The entry to the park is literally on my regular commute home. Yup. True story.

I was just in too much of a hurry to get home at the end of the day so the closest I got was saying, “You know, Lucy… you really should check that place out. It’s beautiful!”

Well, at the beginning of June I found out that I would soon be changing work locations so I knew the clock was ticking and I needed to do it soon.

I know…I know… That doesn’t really make complete sense because I could go there anytime – it’s not like there’s some crazy municipal by law that only allows people to go there at the end of the work day. But here’s something important to know about me: I’m forgetful. “Out of sight, out of mind?” That’s me. Every day I would say I need to go there and by the time I got home 40 minutes later, I would forget about it till the next day on the way home.

But because I knew it would soon no longer be part of my regular commute, I made an extra-special effort to remember and actually made a plan to go on Friday, June 15. Yay me!! What’s even cooler than remembering to make the plan is that I remembered to follow it! Can I get a Woot! Woot!!

And, no surprise, I am so very glad I did. Not only is it visually beautiful, there is also the  roar of the rushing water of the falls. It was a bit too hot for me, so I didn’t stay for long, but I can totally envision me spending some chunks of time there in the fall, with a book, surrounded by the trees in all their autumnal splendor!

As you may have noticed in other posts, I am not a professional photographer nor do I play one on TV. As such, these pictures don’t really come close to showing you the real beauty of this park. However, they’re good enough that I think you’ll get the picture. (Bah ha ha haaaaaa – see what I did there???)

Hmmm…right about now you might be wishing I had taken a longer hiatus between posts… 😉

OK…No more corniness, I promise… here are the pictures and remember, “Take time to stop and listen to the waterfalls.”

Hog's Back Falls, Rideau River, Ottawa ON

My commute home has me on that bridge. The other side is Mooney’s Bay, a more placid part of the river. It’s definitely a part of the commute where I don’t mind getting stuck in traffic!

Hog's Back Falls, Rideau River, Ottawa ON

A bit of a different angle, taken a bit further down the path in the park.

Hog's Back Falls, Rideau River, Ottawa ON

Moving further along the falls… It’s not just the water that’s beautiful…check out all the different layers in that rock!

Past Hog's Back Falls, Rideau River, Ottawa ON

And now, past the falls, things have calmed down in this lovely pool!

Rideau River in Hog's Back Park, Ottawa, ON

To really prove this is in the middle of the city – some apartment buildings nearby.