Sunday, May 4, 2014

I Love Newfoundland. OK??

I received some negative comments from my last post, I Hate Newfoundland. I'd like to address some of those people.

Do you people think I truly hate Newfoundland? Do you think I'd still be living here if I actually hated the place that much?

Our entire cultural history and the innate resilience we possess as a people is based on the love-hate relationship we have for this place. From our hardships, we have become a culture of balsy, brazen, but sweet and kind-hearted lads and lassies.

Bernice Morgan's novel, Random Passage, depicts the early fishing colony settlements establishing themselves in an unforgiving, harsh, desolate, sometimes deathly landscape – where one slip on an ice-flow can send a sealer to his frigid death. While the fishery is their main way of life, the settlers are cheated by the low fish prices from the greedy merchants of St. John's. It is their strength of character and their love for each other that allows them to survive.

Annie Proulx's The Shipping News depicts a time in our history when cod stocks were at an all-time low. Oil companies were moving in and changing the economy of the place, and generations of men who had made their living in the fishery are wandering around their homeland like lost children with no sense of purpose. This is a key time in our culture that generations before us had to endure – and they endured largely thanks to their sense of humour.

Lisa Moore's February, Joel Thomas Hynes' Down to the Dirt, Wayne Johnston's Colony of Unrequited Dreams...the list of acclaimed Newfoundland literature that is inspired by the harsh weather and socio-economic tragedies in this place is massive. It is perhaps the biggest inspiration for Newfoundland writers.

The entire history of Newfoundland and Labrador is an undulating series of hardships. Our history is an ebb and flow of challenges. The fishery, the mining industry, soon enough, the oil and gas industry – it's all about highs and lows, ebbs and flows, riding and crashing waves. There are times of prosper, there are times of desolation. Danny to Dunderdale, there's another example right there.

But a big reason people still live here is...the people. The elements of our collective personality include a wicked sense of humour, an unyielding sense of togetherness and community, and a love and respect for those of us who were born here and who choose to stay here – despite dismal times. Together, and by being able to laugh, we can get through the rough times. If we can't laugh about just how arse-up this place is, we'd have been gone ages ago. We'd all be off sniffing each other out on the beaches of Florida - our ears perking up at the sound of that weird old endearing accent, likely making chit-chat with complete strangers (most likely about the weather, leaving the complete stranger confused as to why said person is so obsessed with the weather).

But I've always found the dynamic of those of us who live in Newfoundland interesting...we're the first to pick each other up when we're down, but in the same breath, it doesn't take too much for us to spit insults at each other. Despite our warmth, we can be a bit catty. I sometimes wonder if that prevents us from reaching our full potential. Maybe we need to be more critical of ourselves in a more constructive and accepting way.
On that note, let me share a couple of the not-so-constructive or accepting emails I've received from Telegramreaders on said post:

"Disgusting article. What a pile of crap.” – from a-holemcgarnagall

Great comment, thanks, my friend! You were a real value-add in this discussion.

"Wow this woman looks old enough to have some common sense and know that you should not whine about a province that is providing a living for you and your daughter. Maybe she was not capable of looking up the weather in the province before she decided to live there. By the way you are no Rick Mercer, he has comic talent you just come across as a whiner.”
- from Ignorantmeanjerk

Wow. Thanks, lady. First off, very shortly before I wrote this post, I was at home with a baby, unemployed. On maternity leave with no job to go back to. So there's that. Secondly, I'm quite capable of looking up the weather, thanks very much. I'm just as smitten with Snoddon as the next bloke. Although, most of the time there is no point in looking up the weather, because it changes so frequently. I don't know if you'll recall, but a few foreboding “weather bombs” have been predicted, we've all battened down the hatches, and ended up with a bit of rain. Now that's not Snoddon's fault! The weather patterns change. You wouldn't go telling Snoddon he should learn how to look up the weather, would you? Additionally, in reference to your comment, “...before she decided to move here” - I did not “decide” to live here. I was born and bred here. My family and friends-since-birth live here, and I just can't seem to tear myself away from them, and from most of the other people who live here (not you though, I wouldn't miss you). I've tried to move away a few times, but my heart just ended up breaking and I had to come on back. Lastly, thank you for insulting my comic talent, or rather, my lack thereof. That was real sweet of you! I by no means put myself on any sort of parallel with Rick Mercer – a famous and talented man who makes his living by being funny. I certainly don't proclaim myself to be a comedienne. I'm just a lowly commoner, cowering behind my laptop, banging out my unabashed opinions from the safety of my own home, without worrying about anyone challenging me back. Sound familiar? I like to think that I can sometimes insert something that might spark some thought into my writing, or something that might challenge people to respond with educated and articulate remarks. I guess I did a crappy job of doing that in my last post! Anyway, enough about me. Thanks for your snarky old comment.

Beautiful Cape Bonavista. I'm not giving you mean commentators the finger here, cross my heart.

To the above commentators who don't enjoy my sense of humour – or lack thereof, according to you – I am choosing to turn the other cheek. I chose to put myself out there and share this blog on this website, and I accept that not everyone will like it. Blogging is a very personal, raw form of writing and this is my outlet, and it takes courage to write it. It would be nice if you respected that.

My writing style for this blog is sarcastic, much of the time, as is stated in the blog description. It's not for everyone, so if my blog post blocked the side of the bed you usually get up on, I do humbly apologize (remember how I said my blog was often sarcastic? This is one of those times).

With all-do respect, I talk to a lot of people in the run of a day, and I know for a fact that A LOT of people whine about the weather in Newfoundland. I'm not the only one. And a lot of people use humour as a way to lift themselves from the depression. Many people (myself included) in this province suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder. SAD can turn into serious depression if not treated. For me and for many others, funny things really help. That's what I trying to express.

If you don't think I'm funny or if my posts offend or bother you, my advice to you, dear reader, is – just don't read them! There's lots of other stuff out there you can read. Go on a lark with Dave and Morty if that's the sort of thing that makes you giggle over your tea and jam-jams. Whatever floats your boat, man! I don't care what you do. And if you don't like my writing and you want to comment, go mad! I invite and encourage constructive criticism, but if you're just going to be mean and hurtful, then you're no more evolved than a snot-nosed kindergartener tossing out insults to their classmate presenting a craft that they worked hard on, and put their heart and raw emotions into.

To sum it all up, I'd like to repeat with every ounce of sincerity (no sarcasm here) that I love Newfoundland. Here are a few reasons why:

E Elli Photography. Who wouldn't want to live here? And it does look like this (kinda...sometimes...)

  1. I love the way everybody says hi, how ya doin my ducky, what've ya been up to, I saw your mudder at the Dominion the other day, she's lookin' wonderful. You don't get that in other places. It's unique to “this terrible wonderful place,” as described in Kenneth J. Harvey's Blackstrap Hawco. The sense of familiarity, comfort, safety – those are the words that describe “home”.
  2. I love the smell of the sea air, and I even love the smell and the sound of seagulls (in very small doses, and from a very far distance away).
  3. I love the rugged, natural beauty of our land. To me, it reflects the nature of our people and our culture and our history and our very existence – surly, sometimes nasty, but strong, resilient, brave and beautiful. It is the very nature of our collective personality that I try to emulate in my own being.

So don't tell me I don't love Newfoundland. Or I'll smack the lips right off ya ;)

Cape St. Mary's. A spectacular seascape. 

Monday, March 17, 2014

I Hate Newfoundland.

In an earlier post, from back in early November, I wrote about how I was in a bit of a funk.

I was so young and stupid back then – thinking I had it bad. Now, over four months later and after a ridiculous amount of snow and colder temperatures (record colder temperatures, perhaps? Snodden? Eddie Sheer? Back me up here, wouldja?), my skin is sallow, I have circles blacker than the midnight sky under my eyes, and I feel like I have eternal PMS. Ahhhhh, one of the wonderful things about living in this wonderful, terrible place.

So I decided to look back at this foolishly optimistic list and update it from my current jaded and much angrier point of view.


I've been in a bitter depression for what seems like a long time. I feel like punching the wall, and then jumping on a plane to Costa Rica, where I would give the finger to the land below me as I jetted away to live in a grass hut and do nothing but dangle my feet in a pristine pool of water and pick coconuts off the trees and pet the little forest monkeys all day long for the rest of my life. My daughter would grow up wearing no clothes or shoes (which she would love because she hates getting dressed and wearing socks). It would be grand.

People get into funks for all sorts of reasons...they're feeling tired of the same old routine, they don't like daylight savings time, they're bored with their husbands, they're stressed at work, or they live in a lonely and cold Godforsaken island where the streets aren't plowed and it's perilous to go for a walk to get a bit of Vitamin D (for those who aren't familiar, it's the vitamin that's necessary to evoke the feeling of happiness in a person). That last reason, I'm pretty sure, is the reason that everyone who lives in the beautiful, hateful province of Newfoundland and Labrador is ready to burn our flag right about now. At least burning our flag would generate a bit of heat.

Thank God for happy memories (and Photoshop).

There's a reason they don't include these terrifying images in the tourism marketing materials.

And colder temps than ever, AND these rolling blackouts?! Yes, b'y. Shag it all.

If I'm not wined up, I'm even more wined up, if you know what I'm saying. I bark things at my house-mate (the big hairy one, not the cute little one). I'm not very nice to be around a lot of the time, I know it.

So here is an updated list of things I've been doing in a weak attempt to stay sane and avoid pulling up outside CBC or NTV and beating Ryan Snodden or Eddie Sheerr with my ice scraper (sorry you guys - I know you don't make up the weather, but Mother Nature conveniently lives in some other plane of reality so is as inaccessible as former premier Kathy Dunderdale in these desperate times).

1. Attend some hard core boot camp and kick boxing classes. I've been doing some decent boot camp classes at the Y, which does help with the anger and resentment we hold for this awful season. The last few times at boot camp, the deadly instructor set up this man dummy and we got to kick him in the chest a bunch of times, and then punch a punching-bag-type thing. It was awesome and cathartic. I'm currently searching for some good kick boxing classes. I have a lead, so will let you know how that pans out.

2. Listen to angry music. Like Guns n' Roses' Get in the Ring, or AC/DC's Highway to Hell. We're already in hell, so we should be able to relate to that one.

3. Watch some shows or movies that point out how terrible life can be. We get together with some friends every week or two, and watch a movie. Leading up to the Oscars, we decided to try and see as many of the nominated films as possible. So we saw such movies as 12 Years a Slave, Dallas Buyers' Club, August Osage-County, Captain Phillips, Nebraska, Frozen, Her (amazing frigging movie), and I'm sure there are others that I'm forgetting. These movies are all fairly depressing (even Frozen, in that they live in a world that is always winter – just like us!). So in addition to watching these sad and disturbing films, and commiserating our poor, depressing lives, they also remind us that it could be a whole lot worse than it is. Seriously. I just finished watching True Detective and it is truly poignant. It is also very depressing, and while it will most definitely disturb you, it will also make you bless the life you have. A shitty winter really isn't THAT bad.

4. Read a funny book. While doing angering things is somewhat satisfying, you've got to throw some fun things in too. So right now I'm reading Chelsea Handler's new book, Uganda Be Kidding Me. She is a very funny woman, and I love her. Her other books will make you guffaw to a satisfying degree – in particular, Chelsea Chelsea, Bang Bang. Other funny and satisfying reads include Tina Fey's “Bossypants”, Kelly Oxford's “Everything Is Perfect If You're a Liar”, or Kevin Nealon's “Yes, You're Pregnant, But What About Me?”.

5. Stock up on whiskey. Drinking hard core booze is what our ancestors did to stop from killing themselves, so who are we to mess with tradition? A shot of that stuff warms you up right quick, I guarantee it.

6. Get in the tub and browse Twitter until you shrivel like the prunes your nan used to tell you were good for making you go to the bathroom (repeat from my original post). One thing social media is great for is turning your mind into a blank slate, if that's what you want. It can also switch your brain on and make you think, if you want it to. It all depends on which links you click. There could be a scholarly, exploratory essay on Mayor Rob Ford's slovenly drug-smoking, or a little blurb on Drew Barrymore's latest pregnancy. You can choose to enrich your mind, or empty it, but either way, your mind is not focusing on whatever is stressing you out.

7. Buy a little something for yourself. Some good suggestions include wine, whiskey, Guinness, or wine. Or if you're at Costco, for example, and have a cute baby in your life, pick up one of the adorable summer outfits they have there for just $7.99, and hope to God that she'll get to wear it.

8. Hang out with some wicked girlfriends (this one also holds out from the original post). If you're anything like me, you're more liable to dress up for your girlfriends than any man. Now, before you men get your pee hot, hear me out: We're just a lot more likely to receive appreciation from our lady friends, I'm sorry to say. They appreciate the work and planning that goes into a fierce outfit. Guys don't give a fluff about anything women wear. They'd rather you be brazen-arsed nakid. So anyway. Drinking wine and lots of it, having most excellent conversations that connect you with others of your kind and make you realize that you're normal, will revamp your spirit. Case-in-point: I hung out with some deadly friends this past weekend and guess what...two of them ended up going home and banging their husbands afterwards! You know who you are, ya saucy minxes. So guys, you really should be encouraging us to get together all the time. I've always believed that the Lorena Bobbitts and Brynn Hartmans of the world didn't have a solid group of girlfriends to whom they could vent. If it weren't for girlfriends, we'd all end up murdering our significant others at some point. Either that, or we'd "accidentally" end up shooting them in the woods while hunting together, or we'd just lop off their penis. So fellas - there's also that reason for wanting us to hang with our girlfriends. That said, women are really good at bitching when they get together. Sometimes, it makes us feel better to complain about things. So guys, you should be happy that we have our friends to vent to, otherwise, you'd be screwed and we'd make your lives even more miserable. Love you! :)

9. Drink wine, and lots of it (another one that survived from the original post, because this stands no matter what time of year it is). Even if it's not with a group of girlfriends, my God, there's nothing like that red wine glow, is there? After a stressful day, that first sip trickles down through your veins and warms up your whole body. Your cheeks get all rosy and you feel like someone has wrapped you in an electric blanket and is hugging you all night long. Maybe this deep infatuation with an alcoholic beverage is known as appreciation for fine wine, maybe it's alcoholism – I'm not sure. But red wine is my personal poison and saviour. Yours might be a giant glass of vodka, a dirty rum and coke, a Wildberry Cooler, a Pepsi, I don't know. But whatever it is, treat yourself every once in a while (every day, sometimes several times a day if necessary).

Ohhhhh yeahhhh.

10. Eat a lot of chocolate. Just don't eat so much that it lowers your self-esteem. Been there. Guilty as charged. Show some restraint. Then again, maybe it's a good idea to put on an extra layer of blubber to last us through these power outages, so notch that last bit of advice – eat up and don't feel bad in the slightest!
12. Do a yoga class. For the hour that you're in that room, you can pretend you're practicing on a beach or in your grass hut in Costa Rica. Melanie's Core Flow class at Nova Yoga, is an hour of heat for me on most Tuesday evenings.

13. Snuggle your baby or puppy (again – left over from the original post, and holds true any time of the year). If you're lucky enough to have either one of these critters in your life, give them a snuggle, play with them, or just watch them roll around on the floor. It will put a smile on your face. What problems do they have? None, for God sakes. They have someone to prepare all of their meals, do all their laundry, carry them around whenever they don't feel like walking, and even wipe their arses. They don't have to work or worry about money or gaining weight or improving their relationships. No wonder they don't have wrinkles and are always smiling! Their carefree-ness and just darn cuteness will lift your spirits.

One last bonus tip – watch this Rick Mercer video. We can all relate.

Now, let's all hope that when Dannyville gets built that it will have a big dome over it that makes it warm all year. Of course, because the island doesn't have the power to handle that, we may have no electricity for half of the year, but at least it's something.  

PS - this blog can also be viewed on TheTelegram  website.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Me and You: A Year in Review

OK. So I'm a little late on the draw on this one, but I've been sooking for weeks now about my daughter turning one, realizing that before I know it, she'll be spitting, “I hate you!” at me like some she-devil banshee terrorist. Right now she's so cuddly and cute, and I know that years down the road, I'm gonna need to remember this time so I don't send her off to work in a steel mill or something someday. So if you want, here is:

An open letter to my baby girl on her first birthday (which was about a week ago).

It was a Friday night.

We thought we'd have one more weekend to sleep in. Planned to get up at our own pace and enjoy a leisurely breakfast at The Guv'nor – one last weekend to ourselves before you rocked our world.

It was that weekend you communicated to us that no, in fact we would not be enjoying a leisurely breakfast at The Guv'nor after a luscious sleep-in. You didn't tell us that what we would actually be doing was sitting in the hospital at about 4am that Saturday morning – me sitting in a chair peeing amniotic fluid all over the floor, your father sitting next to me lamenting his forever lost sleep-in.

There's not much to tell about the labour. Basically, as I slipped into my very sexy nightie, which was stretched to the point of repulsion, I got the sensation that I was peeing myself. A few hours later, we figured we should see if it was amniotic fluid, and guess what? It was! So after I spent some time sitting in the chair and peeing amniotic fluid on the floor, they decided to move me to the bed to pee all over that for a while, so I could try and get some sleep.

I walked around for a little while, breathing through those guttoral pains that made me feel like my uterus was being pulled from my body yet the relief wouldn't fully come because, of course, my uterus wasn't being yanked out through my bowels. Then one of the nurses told me, “Sure if you're in this much pain now, I don't know what yer gonna do when ya reaches full on labour, sure you're only at a two now.” She had a neck and chin like Beaker on the Muppets, and her eyes bugged out just like his.

Jeez, thanks missis. Way to pump me up. So I said, “well I guess since I'm such a little girl, you might as well hook me up to the epidural.” Half-joking. But off she went! No pep talks or encouraging me to resist the drugs for a while from this one. A little, “you're strong, you can do it” woulda been nice. But the nice lady instead scuttled off to find that Saint who is also known as the anesthesiologist (The Drug Angel, as I like to remember him).

So there I lay, like a beached whale, peeing on the bed in one steady stream until the fluid was gone from my body. Swollen up like a hot air balloon from the fake fluid that was being injected into me, I was. You sure didn't seem like you were going anywhere anytime soon.

Hours and hours and hours and hours passed (about 24, in fact). Every three hours, I'd ask the nurse to check me again, to see if I was any further dilated. She checked and said, “you're fully dilated!”.

I was all like, yessssss, let's get this show on the road!

And then she said, “Oh, wait now, sorry. You're still only five.”

And I wanted to punch her in the face, but instead I laid there and started weeping. This nurse didn't say anything but an uncaring, “Are you OK?”

No, I'm not OK. I've been sitting here waiting for something to emerge from my vagina for over 24 hours. I'm exhausted. I'm scared. I'm wondering if this is EV-ER going to happen. I'm bawling here. What about this situation makes you think I'm OK? And can you act like you care about how I'm feeling, maybe?

That's what I wanted to say, but instead I just whinnied, “I'm just so tired.”

Finally, your heart rate spiked and after monitoring it for a little while, they decided to slice me open and pull you on outta there. Sorry, missy! It's time to go to school! Let's open those blinds.

I was so out of it by the time they decided to do this, I felt like I was in A Clockwork Orange-like experiment (FYI - that's a movie that you won't be allowed to see until you're at least 25). The lights of the operating room were bright and unnatural, and I was shaking uncontrollably, like Axl Rose at the end of the Don't Cry video (someday I'll show you the man with the wee white biking shorts, but not until you're at least 30).

I figured that when they passed you to me you'd be as stoned as former Toronto Mayor Rob Ford in the video of him smoking crack, what with all the drugs they'd been pumping into your little den in there.

But when I heard your little baby lamb cry it was the best sound I'd ever heard. Before they passed me to you there were bets flying around the room about how much you weighed.

9 pounds!” I heard someone yell.

Shit, it's a good thing they did cut you out, I thought.

The nurse passed you to me, all wrapped up like a burrito. Your eyes were wide and bright, and you were blinking and staring at me in wonder, waiting for me to fill you in on what's been going on out here.

Hi,” I said, and I kissed your tiny little cheek.

In my mind, I said 'hi' really cute and sweet, but in the video your dad played back to me afterwards, I warbled the words so that I sounded like Barney Gumble on The Simpsons, and I looked kind of like him too, all swollen with googly eyes that couldn't really focus on anything because they were too tired and drugged up.

Don't do drugs.

But you were so CUTE!!! You had a full head of fuzzy blonde hair that stuck up in the back like a little duckling, and I wanted to just eat you for every meal of the day. My jaw is now perennially sore from constant clenching. This issue has become progressively worse over the past year, because you keep getting cuter and cuter every single day.

In the hospital, I thought you had a really nice, kind of a tan-like complexion. But actually, you were a bit jaundiced. And it took you a while to gain weight (which is ironic, because now you're quite rotund, in a really cute way). And I was afraid you had epilepsy because you were being a bit spastic at times, which is normal for newborns, but I was extra afraid because I have epilepsy and I really didn't want you to have it.

So because I was a brand new mom and I was kind of freaking out a little bit, they kept us in the hospital for a little longer than normal.

But I'll let you in on a little secret – I kind of liked being in the hospital with you for a little longer than normal.

Fact – hospitals are gross and smell like urine and feces and Mr. Clean. And the food is terrible (what is the deal with that toast they wrap in tin foil that is like it's wet when you open it up??). But, it was just me and you in there. I would watch you sleep in your little glass box right next to my bed, and I'd pick you up to feed you and you'd blink your little bug eyes at me and you did this little thing with your tongue like you were eating a banana in a really gross way and pushing the chewed up fruit out to show it to me with your tongue. It was sooooooo cute! Every time you did it your dad and I would crack up.

It would be the middle of the night and it was really quiet and it was just you and me. Staring at each other, cuddling into the stinky, stiff, not-very-cozy hospital blankies.

 Wes'side, yo!

Quite an emotional time, it was.

Someday, you'll hear about the baby blues. Again, this better not be until you're considering having a baby, at approximately the age of 40.

The baby blues makes women very emotional after their burrito is born.

Your dad snuck a beer into the hospital for me, because beer helps the milk come in.

I cracked that Guinness and I took a long, cold sip, and I burst into tears.

This is the best beer I've ever tasted!” I wailed, emitting loud sobs that sounded like a donkey hee-haw-ing.

Finally, we got to go home. We were so nervous putting you in your car seat. I tried to strap you in and I couldn't. I didn't know how. Naturally, I burst into tears.

How am I supposed to be a good mother if I can't even strap my own baby into her car seat???” more sobs, as my mother and your father rolled their eyes at each other.

Because my feet were too portly to fit into my over-sized winter boots, I put on my slippers and we scuffed off to the car. I sat in the back seat with you to make sure your head didn't snap off and roll under the driver's seat on the way home. You know what it's like under there? A forgotten Smartie could be under there for YEARS! We just couldn't run the risk of having your pretty little head snap off, only to have it lost underneath the driver's seat for all of eternity.

When we got home, I had the opportunity to learn first-hand what an industrialized cow must feel like. When I say industrialized cow, I don't mean a businessperson-type cow who goes to work in the city every day, checking her watch and straightening her pant-suit as she steps onto the subway.

No, when I say industrialized cow, I mean the kind that is hooked up to a milking machine 24-7, plunked in one spot, just giving milk away. A milk machine.

It didn't take long for a sizeable indent to form on the couch cushion that sat next to the nursing pillow and breast pump. I formed my little (Ok, BIGASS) nest there – with my remote controls, water, Mad Men season five all cued up and ready to go.

For the first three weeks, it was pretty much this:

Wake, feed, change, pump (I was trying to get a milk supply so I could go out drinking at some point), wash and disinfect bottles and pumping gear), sleep for 10 minutes, feed, change, pump, shower? (sometimes), try to eat something, repeat.

Then, when you were two weeks old, your dad went to the hospital to get his neck sliced open.

He had a compressed vertebrae and for years his shoulder strength had been deteriorating. So he finally gets a date for the surgery – and it's two weeks after you were born.

Of course, I imagined him dying on the operating table, and me having to explain to you how much your daddy loved you and was so excited that you were here. I'd have to tell you what he was like, what he did for fun, what things that you do that he used to do, ways that you're like him...I tried to come to terms with the fact that I was about to be a single mom – all that optimistic stuff that moms with the baby blues think about.

But now, I did look at the positive too. There was a chance that the surgery may have altered his voice. So in the event that he didn't die, I imagined him coming home talking like James Earl Jones, or Tom Waits, or better yet – Leonard Cohen (YUM!). There's always a silver lining, little one!

As you started to grow, you just got cuter and cuter, and fatter and fatter. You looked like Cartman from South Park at one point.

(Don't hate me for this when you're older, please).

And then, you started to smile. You REALLY started to smile. And laugh. And squeal. And then I REALLY fell in love with you.

We became good buds, didn't we?

Two townies.

We'd go for walks, sit on the deck in the summertime, swing in your swing, sit in your pool, you'd do my toenails (well, study my toes in great depth and try to stick them in your are soooo gross!). 

We went to the Y, we went to stroller fitness class, we visited some friends, we hung out with your Gran. We'd sit on the couch and cuddle and look at books and sing songs.

I'll admit it – we even went to a bar a couple times. But as you'll understand when you're old enough to appreciate this, when it's a hot and sunny summer day in St. John's, it's pretty much a requirement to hit the Sundance deck if you're not at work. So we did, with some buddies.

I started to see what your personality might be like, and guess what? You're NUTS!

You became super silly. 

You were always laughing and giggling and getting excited - sometimes about nothing, but quite often when someone coughed or sneezed. For some reason, you found the misfortune of others quite entertaining, and your little mouth would extend into an ear-to-ear grin every time someone would cough or sneeze. One of the first ways you learned to communicate was by doing a fake cough and then laughing.

You learned how to make all kinds of new sounds and then you'd repeat them. A LOT.

Dad-dad-dad-dad-dad-dad-dad-dad-dad-dad ba-ba-ba-ba-ba-ba-ba-ba mom-mom-mom-mom-mom.

You'd climb in the Costco bag while I was trying to put groceries away:

You'd get in the turkey roaster while I was trying to cook the Thanksgiving turkey:

Ok, ok, I admit it, that's not true. You didn't crawl in there yourself, I put you in there because I thought it would make a funny picture. And I didn't cook a damn turkey, either!

You came up with new expressions.

Like this one:

And this one:

And this one:

And this one:

Soon enough, you were standing up, following me around the kitchen (now get tall enough to do the dishes, will ya?).

By the time you were 10 months old, you were full-on walking. Tearing around the house, bolting for the stairs, trying to put your hands in the toilet and throwing EVERYTHING on the floor.

You really entertained us. After you went to bed, your dad and I would pull up our phones and show each other cute pictures we'd taken of you that day. Sometimes we'd look at the baby monitor to see how you were doing up there. 

Sometimes we'd see something like this:

Or this:

You're always watching!

Now you're making new sounds and learning to do new things every single minute. At one-year-old, you're 24 pounds, fully walking (almost running), with an impressive number of little chompers. You love avocados and mozzarella cheese. 

And birthday cupcakes, apparently.

You love to clap your hands and wave "bye-bye", give high fives, roll a ball, build towers out of blocks (well, short block towers...we'll pick up Jenga in a couple more months). You love going in the pantry and closing the door behind you, pretending it's your own little house. I knock on the door and say, "Hello? Elise, are you home? Can I come into your house please?" And you open the door with a big old grin on your face. 

You love to walk on the snow in your real, outdoor winter boots and hear the crunch-crunch-crunch underneath your feet. You love playing with Lily, Gran's puppy dog.

On occasion, I've seen you pick up the phone and mimic a sentence, pretending to have a grand old yarn with whoever's on the other line. 

You love strumming the guitar and plunking on piano keys. My hope is that you'll be in a super cool girl band in a few years (maybe a Christian rock band though, or whatever it takes to keep the boys from sniffin' around.)

I don't turn on the TV much, but for some reason, you love Family Feud. You become entranced when the theme music comes on. Who can blame you, I suppose. Steve Harvey is one funny mofo.

You still think coughing and sneezing are freakin' hilarious. And I've seen you fart and laugh at yourself, too. There's a time and a place for that, missy, you'll learn that soon enough.

So from this:

To this:

I love you more than I ever could have imagined was possible, and your goofy little smile makes my chest hurt because I love you so much. 

I will forever cherish the first year we spent together, as best buds. You have changed my world in the best way possible. You are the light of my life. 

You are silly and loveable and chubby and squishy. I have loved watching you grow over this past year, and I can't wait to watch you grow more. I can't wait to draw pictures with you, have conversations with you, bring you to your first movie. I hope from reading this that you can tell how special you are to me. 

And I really hope you read this when you're 13, and aren't too evil with teenage girl hormones to see the humanity in your poor mother.

I love you with all of my heart and soul.


Your Mom.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

The best vacations are the worst vacations, and the worst vacations are the best vacations

So, it's finally February.

If it was Halloween, January's costume would've been March or April. We'd all go outside and hang clothes on the line, prance and dance and whistle around the house while we did our spring cleaning, go online and get excited about this year's spring fashions. 

Then? The next day? – BAM! Snowstorm! Weather bomb! Below-zero temps cold enough to freeze your nose water into one long and very elegant snot icicle! Oh wait. It's not March or April. Spring isn't almost here, after all. It's still just January. Ha ha, January. You really did a number on us there! You are so funny (I fucking hate you, January).

So since this winter seems longer than the one on Game of Thrones, I'd sure love a vacation right about now.

What I wouldn't give now to be boarding a plane full of rowdy Newfoundlanders wearing flip-flops and straw hats, their tangerine “base tans” lighting the airport up like the Sprung Greenhouse, to head down to Cuba or the Dominican or Mexico. I don't even care if the Faculty of Business Administration's Class of 2014 is on there, all cozy in their jogging pants that say, “Juicy” on the arse, gettin' all riled up about their upcoming week of puking pink and blue tropical drinks all over the pool deck and giving themselves sun stroke.

Just. Get. Me. Outta here.

But, I can't afford a vacation right now, I've been too busy paying for diapers and booger wipes and baby formula.

I thought about doing what my friend did when we were in university, which was to blast the heat in her bedroom and open the window to “create summer”.

But the fact that I now have to pay my own electric bill has deterred me from that idea.

So instead, I just have to fondly recall vacations of yesteryear. 

The most memorable trips are totally the ones where something very uncomfortable and/or potentially life-threatening happened. So, I'm gonna daydream about my worst-best vacations of life, thus far.

Florida, 1988.

For five weeks and with four other families, our family retreated to Isla Key in St. Pete's Beach. We all stayed in the same condo complex, which I'm sure went over real well with the residents.

After all, what Floridian wouldn't love a hoard of Newfoundlanders who constantly took over the entire pool deck and hot tub and had loud BBQs late into the nights? Our home videos of that trip consists of a LOT of footage of the condo complex – a serene-looking tropical paradise – with the sounds of shrieking children coming from all angles. I really feel bad for anyone staying there who was not from Newfoundland.

My shorts pulled up past my belly button, my brother's Alf muscle shirt, and the leashes my parents made us wear the whole time we were at Disney World (I believe this shot is from Epcot Centre) make this shot simply wonderful.

One day, my friend Stephanie got stuck under the water, underneath a floaty pool chair that my brother was on, and almost drowned. She flailed around, beat on the bottom of the chair, yet somehow couldn't manage to reach that surface. For some reason it took us all a few minutes to hear her underwater screaming. I think we'd been playing some kind of game where we were trying to understand what each other were saying under the water. When she finally made it out, she leapt onto the pool deck and violently vomited her strawberry ice cream all over the shrubbery and a few of the deck chairs. Her mother was clearly humiliated, as the others who lounged around the pool with their books and Hawaiian Tropic glanced over in disgust and repulsion.

Pictured here are (L-R): Stephanie, looking like Sioux Chief Sitting Bull offering peace, and me, looking like Corky from Life Goes On.

Tijuana, 1989

When I was 10, our family and another family went to sunny California.

I was totally stoked. I had just gotten a sweet perm (after which Stephanie asked me, “Are you gonna be vain now?”), and must admit, was feeling pret-ty smug about my rockin' waves. 

Hell-o! What a difference a year and a perm makes, am I right guys?! 

In my mind, I looked just like Jesse Spano (but looking back, I looked more like Kimmy Gibler). Enamoured with the lustre and magic of Hollywood, I imagined myself running into Michael J. Fox on the street and having him fall in love with me.

We jumped on the plane - me with my new Canada shirt on because despite my fascination with Hollywood, I didn't want anyone mistaking me for an American. Due to my current obsession with pretty but cursed-with-poor-luck figure skater Josee Chouinard, I also decided to speak to the stewardesses with a French Canadian accent. My parents (and the flight attendants) must've thought I was a complete moron.

I loved the smell of the air when we stepped out of the plane. So hot you could smell the pavement and suntan lotion wafting through the atmosphere.

Our first stop was San Francisco, then onto L.A., finally finishing off the trip in San Diego. Since my parents hadn't booked our accommodations in advance (smooth move, guys), we were one night in San Diego without anywhere to stay. So because my parents were also hungry for some cheap leather, they decided to take us to beautiful Tijuana, Mexico.

Quite the learning experience, that was.

We left our rental car at the border and decided to cab it for the day and night we were there.

The two dads asked the driver to take us to our hotel. The driver weaved through very shady-looking streets lined with scruffy, smelly, frowning Mexicans who glared at us as we crawled past in the cab, which was probably going about 20. Silent and terrified, we were all thinking the same thing – that we were about to die a bloody death in the streets of Tijuana. We were destined to be on The National – that is, IF anyone ever found our remains.

Finally, we ended up back at the border. Buddy was obviously trying to scam us for more money.

What ensued was a somewhat heated argument between the other dad and the cabbie, after which we stupidly climbed back in his car. Why we didn't just get a cab, I'm not sure.

Anyways. We finally arrived at the hotel, where the surly cab driver passed the concierge our bags and muttered with disgust, “Canadians,” as he spit some Mexican tobacco onto the ground.

Our room at The Radisson was coated in a fine film of grease. The furniture, the bedding, the electronics, the Mexican Holy Bible – they were all sticky. The little girl in the family we were traveling with was afraid to lay her Zeddy teddy bear down anywhere because he might get dirty.

We decided to escape the filth to enjoy a nice meal at a sidewalk cafe.

The beautiful vista of naked, dirty babies crawling around on the street and large, bloody cow carcasses hanging in the shop windows was really quite alluring.

As the waiter made his way around the table to take our orders, a small Mexican with a sly look on his face and a wilting, yellow carnation sidled up to me and stroked the flower against my cheek.

She's 10.” my mother barked as he backed up, still staring me with an alarming Tim Curry sneer on his face.

Pictured: The Tim Curry Sneer.

I imagined what my life would be like if my parents somehow crossed the border back to California without me. While I would initially likely end up this dirty little man's child bride, I hoped I would eventually develop the tenacity and grit of Jodie Foster in Taxi Driver

This is how I imagine I would've looked at 11-years-old if my parents had left me in Tijuana.

Years later, they'd come back looking for me, and they'd hardly recognize me. A single tear would drip down my mother's face.

She's 10,” she would whisper to herself before collapsing into my father's arms – a heap of heaving sobs.

Yup, visiting Tijuana as a 10-year-old was quite the learning experience.

But, we did end up with some sweet leather coin purses.

**Interestingly enough, no photos of Tijuana could be found. It's a true story though, I swear.**

Rome, 2005.

I was just wrapping up a “Mind-the-Gap Year” in London with my then-on-again-off-again-boyfriend. By the time I was ready to head home, he was most-definitely off-again. The reason why he was off-again was because he told me he was going on a trip to Germany with some work friends, but I instead found his backpack full of porn upon his return, which made him confess that he'd actually gone to Amsterdam.

In my dramatic 25-year-old mind, this was as bad as cheating on me with a transvestite hooker, or giving me AIDS. I flew into a horrified, tearful, melodramatic frenzy, and moved to the loving protection of two gay friends - Marc and Dan – who I am forever grateful for.

On the tail end of my time there, mom and dad and a couple of their friends – we'll call them The Ryalls - happened to be vacationing in Italy, so I booked my sad ass a Ryan Air flight to meet them for a few days. I was tragically depressed at my very dramatic break-up, so a brief escape from London was just what I needed.

Stress was kind to my body, I must say. My face broke out in a horrifying rash and I resembled a minor burn victim.

Shortly after my arrival at the flat my parents and the Ryalls were all sharing, I hurled myself onto my parents bed and started bawling. Mom came in and consoled me while dad and The Ryalls sat awkwardly at the kitchen table attempting to make normal conversation. It must've been tricky trying to pretend there wasn't a bawling, retching girl with a face like Freddy Kruger wiping snot all over the bedspread in the next room.

I think I'm gonna throw up!” I'd wail, as mom lovingly rubbed my back.

I'm sure this is just what the Ryalls had in mind for their Roman holiday.

One day, my parents and I visited the lost city of Pompeii. I loved getting lost in the stories from long ago...seeing the bodies still in the same position they were in when they were covered in ash and pumice from the eruption of Mount Vesuvios. Many of the buildings – the amphitheatre, the shops, the public bath houses and toilets – were still remarkably in tact. The ghosts of the citizens were still trotting down the streets in their sandals and man-dresses, ordering up pints and bathing with each other in the public toilets and bath houses. It was the most amazing distraction.

Me, in Pompeii. I didn't allow many close-ups during this vacation.

Our tour guide was a sleek, aging Italian woman who reminded us of Sofia Loren. She weaved the stories of the people and the cataclysmic volcano eruption together with such artistry – her romantic accent enhancing the tales and sending us back to 79 AD.

It was too bad about the fat American we were fortunate enough to have in the group. Often found perched up on a wall or stump, presumably because he was too lazy to stand up with the rest of us, he became known as Humpty Dumpty.

Sofia Loren was explaining the meaning behind the breathtaking mosaic murals on the walls in the shops and bars that still glistened behind the ash. Humpty rudely injected his own colour to the tale, by adding,

Ah guess they couldn't afford to go to Wal-Mart and buy some paintings so they just drew stuff on the walls!” he looked around at everyone, laughing like a pig, waiting for everyone else to join in. No one joined in. Sofia glared at him with utter disgust, and executed the perfect Masterpiece Eyeroll.

We went back to Rome after the wonderful escape to do a little window shopping, when I looked down to realize that my wallet had been stolen from my back-pack.

I lost 300 Euros, and my credit and debit cards.

My ignorant and naive 25-year-old self felt like I would never get past this life devastation. Clearly, I was destined for a life of poor luck. I mean, come on. I was 25-years-old, had no career, no boyfriend – loooooo-serrrr!

I got on my cheap flight back to London, which left at 3am or something ridiculous like that, and arrived in London at 4am. Terrified I would get raped or murdered walking back to Marc and Dan's flat alone at that hour, I was gutted to have to leave my parents. I couldn't wait to come home out of it.

Looking back, despite my sorry state of mind and unfortunate skin condition, I sure am thankful for parents who fed me heaps of pizza and pasta and Italian gelato for a few days.

Thanks, Mom and Dad.

The Eastern Seaboard, 2008.

Myself and whatever-he-is (here-on-in known as, Chris) had been seeing each other for about a year, and an opportunity to take a trip together came up.

I was going to New York City for a conference, so we decided to add Boston and Philadelphia to the roster. We had friends in both places, so figured it would be a fairly cost-efficient trip (yes, we are somewhat cheap).

You learn new things about a person when you travel with them. Patience, coolness, an ability to navigate new places, whether they can interact with people from different backgrounds and cultures – to name a few.

So in my mind, the first trip together was kind of a big deal.

We had a picnic and he rowed me around in a boat in Central Park, we toured NBC, rode the Staten Island Ferry over to the Statue of Liberty, walked to the Brooklyn Bridge, I bought a fake D&G bag from Chinatown – we did most of the things you're supposed to do when you visit NYC for the first time. It was great.

New York is not why I'm telling this story.

Next stop, Philly. We had decided to jump on the Amtrak to get to the next two destinations, and fly home from Boston. In Philly we ate a cheesesteak, strolled amongst the brownstones in the Historic District, got a pic by the Liberty Bell, jumped up and down on the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, just like Rocky Balboa. Grand old time.

Before I discovered pedicures.

Philadelphia is not why I'm telling this story.

Last stop? Chris' friend dropped us off at the architecturally spectacular and historic Broad Street Station to head to our final destination – Boston.

Boston is not the reason I'm telling this story.

What happened on the way to Boston is the reason I'm telling this story.

When we were about a half hour outside of Boston, the train stopped working. We were stopped dead on the tracks. Our seats were right outside of the bathroom, which also stopped working. The smell of raw sewage was enough to choke you. Our romantic train ride along the eastern seaboard was now tainted with the smell of poop and pee.

Since we were in the front row and there was leg room in front of us, we had decided to keep our bags just in front of us. Which was great. Except then a leak sprung right above them and water started drenching our luggage. We were forced to remove our shirts from over our noses and mouths (which we were using to avoid the rancid stink of the bathroom) to rescue our bags.

I nearly barfed from the sickening odour – that of a rotting carcass. Or Louie Anderson after eating a beans feast.

But never fear – just six hours later, we were up and running again.

When we finally pulled into Boston South Station, my friend (who is also Chris' cousin) was there to pick us up. We stunk, and we knew it, and we knew it even more when we saw the look on her face when she hugged us.

But thanks be to Louie Anderson, not an hour later we were back at her house, showered, enjoying a hot, fluffy stack of pancakes drenched in butter and warm maple syrup from Mike's City Diner.

Florida, 2011.

We started with Florida, why not end with Florida?

Overall, this was your typical trip to Florida. Plenty of driving around in a Morty Seinfeld-esque boat, sipping Corona on the beach, enjoying trips to Publix supermarket, a day-trip to Universal Studios.

Our old man rental car. She was a peach.

On our second last day there, we met a couple from Atlanta on the beach – Jennifer and Derrell (pronounced Deh-rell). Derrell was half black-half white. We somehow got to chatting, and they told us they were getting married and were on vacation and checking out a possible venue for their vows.

It was our last night (thank God; more on this later) and we were heading out for dinner. But Jennifer and Derrell insisted that when we got back we should pop up to their condo.

We got a whole bunch a shrimp, c'mon up,” Derrell seemed proud of his shrimp.

So when we finished up at Arigato's, we visited Jennifer and Derrell.

They were staying with Jennifer's parents, and when we arrived at the door, they were all very drunk.

C'mon in!” slurred Jennifer's father, in his southern accent, beer spilling out of the corner of his mouth.

Jennifer's mother was already passed out in the bedroom, and as we sat down at their table she scuffed out in her underwear, scratching her butt, and went into the bathroom.

Once we were sitting down, one of the most mystifying conversations I've ever had unfolded.

The first thing Jennifer's dad spoke was an elaborate but very repetitive tale of how went to Italy with his work. He made and sold plastic containers to restaurants, apparently. How this warranted a trip to Italy, I'm not sure, but he was clearly enamoured with the history and art in Italy. Other conversations would start, and he'd still be talking about Italy with whoever would listen. Heck, sometimes no one had to be listening but himself. Although he repeated each line of the story approximately three times, his love for Italy was actually kind of sweet. He just luuuuved Italy!

Daaa-id,” wailed Jennifer. “Stop talkin 'bout Italy! All he talks about is Italy,” she said to me.

We heard about the time Derrell had the shit kicked out of him outside a bar by a group of thugs because he has white friends. We talked about the overall racism that still exists in Georgia. 

Oh, and we talked about the fact that Derrell didn't know how to read.

I just read this book about a girl...uhhh, she wuz stuck in this house...” Derrell couldn't remember the name of the book.

It's the Diary of Ann Frank, Derrell!” Jennifer barked impatiently. “He don't remember the name a anything,” she turned to me, taking a long, calming haul of her cigarette and rolling her eyes at the heavens.

She was obviously intelligent and quick compared to these other yokels. You could tell she was interested in literature, travel, and culture, and was yearning to break free of the small-mindedness and backwards ideology of Georgia. She seemed embarrassed by the things that came out of her father's and Derrell's mouths. And she was pretty – almost exotic-looking, with golden skin and bright blue eyes, like Milla Jovovich in Return to the Blue Lagoon.

Derrell spoke excitedly about his line of work.

Ah work in a plastic factory,” he explained. “We make just about any kind a plastic you can imagine...ketchup bottles, the tops to soda bottles, mustard bottles, plastic forks, plastic knives, plastic spoons...”

Derrell didn't sit down the entire time we were there. He paced back and forth, bouncing his skinny ass up and down on the balls of his feet, his gold chains clinking against his football jersey, which hung off him like a Helen Roper mumu.

Suddenly, a strange silence befell the room. 

Jennifer's father had stopped talking about Italy, and was staring into the abyss - clearly playing out some mystifying and fascinating scenario in his head.

Out of nowhere, like a southern coyote in the night, he yelled, “Chariots of Fah-yer!”

Daaa-id, yer not doin' Chariots of Fah-yer!” Jennifer was almost panicked.

Chris and I looked at each other with a mixture of intrigue and fear.

Whenever he's on a beach, he likes to strip down in his underwear and run up and down the beach singin' the Chariots of Fire song.” Jennifer reluctantly explained, obviously disgusted with this tradition.

Imagine this beautiful vista. Now, imagine a spindly, very white, southern man in his underwear running down it.

There was no way Jennifer's father was going to let us go without doing Chariots of Fire, that was quite obvious.

He shoved the camera into Jennifer's hands (she had to record this tradition each time it was enacted).

Chariots uv fah-yer! Chariuts uv fah-yer!” Derrell excitedly chimed in.

C'mon, we're goin' down to the beach!” proclaimed Jennifer's father.

Jennifer rolled her eyes and slammed her chair back. Snatched up her pack of smokes and stomped towards the door. Of course, we all followed.

Once we got onto the beach, Jennifer's father did what was promised. He stripped off all but his tighty-whities and ran off into the moonlight – the reflection of his gazelle-like strides glistening on the wet sand. Jennifer recorded it and didn't crack a smile. Darrell stood there drinking his cooler. It was a little awkward, to say the least.

When Jennifer's father returned, jubilant and refreshed from his freeing run down the beach, Chris and I made our exit.

We've got some packing to do, so thanks for everything,” he said, “It was great meeting you guys!”

It was great meetin' yew guys too,” Jennifer said, as Derrell lunged towards me and embraced me. His skeletal body wrapped its arms around my neck, and when he pulled away his pillow-y lips grazed my cheek and came dangerously close to my lips.

Oooooo! You tryin' ta make out with me!” he winked.

I laughed awkwardly and shot Chris a Let's get the hell out of here glance.

I often wonder what happened to Jennifer. She seemed like she was trapped in her situation but wanted to break free. I wonder if she ever managed to find something more than being a cashier at Sam's Club. I wonder if she and Derrell ever got married. I wonder if her dad ever got to go back to Italy. And if he did, I wonder if he did Chariots of Fire along the Spiaggia di San Vito lo Capo.

My personal favourite rendition of Vangelis.