Category Archives: Lists

Washington, DC

reflecting-pool-sunrise

I’m currently at the American College of Rheumatology meeting, the annual event when the Rheumatologists of the world descend on an unsuspecting U.S. city like a swarm of locusts. This year we are in Washington, a city that was one of my regular tour stops when I worked in professional tennis.

Being here this week, in the wake of the American presidential election, I feel very unsettled… like I’m at the scene of a terrible accident but I can’t turn away. I’m staying very near to the White House and every time I walk by and see the protesters I want to hug them and tell them I know how they feel, but I don’t know, not really. I get to go home to Canada and watch their next four years from a distance.

Since I don’t have anything to say that hasn’t already been said about the election results, I’m going to instead focus on the positive.

11 things I love about Washington

1) The opossums – Like Toronto has its giant squirrels,  Washington has opossums. When I was here for a tennis tournament, all of my sightseeing was done at night and these guys used to pop their heads out of garbage cans and startle me every time. I saw one on my way home from dinner last night and his big-butt ramble across the park in front of me made me smile.

2) The Smithsonian – This is an obvious one, right? Amazing collections in vast quantities and all for free. You can spend days in roaming the exhibits and still not see it all.

3) The National Gallery of Art – The Smithsonian gets most of the attention here in Washington, but as far as museums go, I’ve always had a thing for art. In this gallery, I particularly love the amazing realism of the Vermeers and the bronze sculptures by Degas. I spent some time here yesterday afternoon after a long meeting and the place worked its usual magic on me.

4) The monuments and memorials – I’m lumping them together and I know that doesn’t do them justice but naming them all would use up my entire list. My favourites are the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial and Reflecting Pool. I love the stark marble obelisk tower, the grand scale of the statue of Lincoln, and how they are brought together with the simplicity of the water on a still day.

5) The White House – A favourite haunt of the aforementioned opossums, the White House and it’s grounds are stately and elegantly beautiful when lit up at night. I especially love the current family in residence and will be sad to see them move out.

6) The streets – Like New York, I love how the city is so well planned with alphabetized and numbered streets. Washington is a joy to navigate.

7) The people – Like all great cities of the world, Washington is a big melting pot and I love chatting with the eclectic people I meet. This week, my favourite was Jorge, our always smiling hotel doorman from El Salvador.

8) Georgetown – I love the juxtaposition of the milling students and the multi-coloured row houses that must cost a small fortune.

9) The Holocaust Memorial Museum – Do I need to explain?

10) Random important but obscure organizations– I love how you can just be walking down the street and pass by something like the National Association of Wheat Growers. I don’t know why but it makes me chuckle every time.

11) Dupont Circle – The very first time I worked in the city, I stayed very near to this great neighbourhood and spent my free evenings wandering the sidewalks, mingling with people as they spilled out of the busy restaurants and bars and watching chess in the park. Simply put, I fell in love. I spent my afternoon wandering there again today and rekindled the relationship.

How do you feel about Washington these days?

 

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11 things for which I am thankful

Thanksgiving centerpiece from our backyard.

Thanksgiving centerpiece from our backyard.

Happy Thanksgiving to all of my Canadian readers!

We hosted both sets of parents for dinner yesterday and now I’m taking a moment to put my feet up and reflect. I have so much to be thankful for…

11 THINGS I’m thankful for

1) My dog – Is there anything better than the unconditional love of a pet? He has only been with us for six months, but Dexter has quickly become a full member of the family. He came to us as a chained dog who didn’t know how to show affection. Now he is quick with his kisses and never wants to miss out on a family hug. He’s also learned how to play without getting rough. I’m thankful for the daily smiles he brings us.

2) My country – We are about to vote so I’ve been reflecting on my country a lot recently. Although there have been some things that we haven’t done right lately, I still feel supremely lucky to live in Canada. We owe a big part of our happy and healthy lives to the fact that we were born and live in Canada and we try to instill this appreciation in our children as well. My time off with my babies, our healthcare, our beautiful wilderness, our clean water… there are a lot of Canadian things for which to be thankful, eh?

3) My job – I have a great job. It pays well and has excellent benefits. Also,  I only work four days a week so if gives me a day off to get all of the other stuff done. I love my time spent with patients and truly like my coworkers. I’m thankful that I get to do something that I enjoy and that I’m good at doing it.

4) My creativity – This isn’t something I’ve always appreciated or used effectively, but it has now become a keystone in my life. Whether it is painting, knitting, felting a necklace, or writing, my creativity is an outlet that helps keep me mentally stable. It allows me to step away from the everyday and reorganize my psyche. I’m thankful for the way that my mind and hands connect.

5) My neighbours – We moved into this house when I was pregnant with ET and CJ was not yet two. It quickly became a home. We are surrounded by wonderful people who look out for our kids as if they were their own and the boys have best friends to play with everyday. Our neighbours are friendly and funny and I love spending time with them. I’m thankful for their friendship and for their kids who keep my boys occupied.

6) My friends – I can be a hard person to be friends with. Sometimes I’m distant or distracted, or even downright unresponsive. Still, have the most amazing friends. They are supportive and loving and make my stomach hurt with laughter. I’m very thankful for those that have persisted and not allowed me to push them away.

7) The Sister – I have the most wonderful sister. Sometimes I just sit back and marvel at the pure love that seems to shine from her. She has laughed in the face of misfortune and come out more radiant than ever. She may be the kindest person I know and I’ve been the luckiest of people to have her in my life. I’m thankful that she has always been with me as my steadying force.

8) The grandparents – It is so wonderful to watch my children interact with their grandparents. We are fortunate to be living near them and they have contributed so much to the raising of the boys. CJ had a project to do this weekend about spending a million dollars and part of it was to interview an older person to find out what you could buy with a million dollars fifty years ago. This turned into a wonderful Thanksgiving dinner conversation of reminiscence among the grandparents about  the cost of haircuts and movies which led to a hilarious discussion about moonshine and barnyard stills. I’m thankful the boys will always remember their grandparents’ laughter.

9) The Husband – Not only did he set a beautiful Thanksgiving dinner table, he also cleaned the chandelier! More importantly, he is the one who is on the ice every weekend morning at 7 AM helping to coach the boys’ hockey teams and on the bench in the afternoons running the defence. He is the one who is taking courses to be the best Cubs leader he can be and helping the boys build their Cub cars and earn badges. He is the one who is checking the math homework and listening to them read (his French is much better than mine!) While I may be the parent who makes sure that the kids are fed and clean, he is the one who does everything else. I’m thankful to have such a great partner in parenthood.

10) My boys – Except for ET’s current broken arm, my boys are healthy and have always been so. (Excuse me while I go knock on wood.) Whenever I’m grumbling about the toys strewn about the basement or sports equipment left in the driveway, I stop myself and remember those who aren’t so lucky to have rambunctious boys running around making messes. I’m thankful to have loud, loving and happy kids.

11) My life – As you can see, I have a blessed life full of wonderful people and gifts.  I’m thankful to be alive and surrounded by love.

What are you thankful for?

11 things I miss about New York

Arthur Ashe stadium

Arthur Ashe stadium

Even though my entire life used to revolve around tennis, I very rarely catch a match on TV anymore. When I first retired, I didn’t watch because I was honestly sick of tennis. Now, I watch it so infrequently because it just doesn’t fit into my life anymore; I work, I have kids, the matches are on at weird times, etc…

This weekend, The Husband is away and I’ve been watching oodles of US Open to while away the evenings. It has brought back some really fond memories of the 3 weeks I would spend there every year.

11 things I miss about New York City

1) The tennis – While the Australian Open will always be my favourite Grand Slam, there was something uniquely electric about the US Open. Maybe because it is the last major of the year, there always seemed to be an all or nothing quality about the play. I never thought I’d say it, but for the first time, I actually miss the tennis.

2) The people – New Yorkers get a bit of a bad rap but they are some of the friendliest people in the world. They may not always hold doors open for you but they will be the first ones to stop and help if you look lost. Also, they are funny, in a really smart way, and are always quick to strike up a conversation.

3) Central Park – Although there is some sad history behind Central Park, such as the razing of Seneca Village, as a visitor, the park was always a highlight. Whether it was taking a walk on my day off looking for dead bodies (sorry, too much Law and  Order and NYPD Blue) or a picnic with friends, the park was always full of interesting activity and a great place to take a load off and just people watch.

4) The subway – Unlike a lot of places, the subway in NYC runs 24 hours a day. It is super easy to navigate and I always felt safe. The number 7 train runs directly from Central Station to Flushing Meadows and was always a lot quicker, and more frequent, than the official tournament bus.

5) The architecture – The Empire State Building, the Chrysler Building, the Flatiron Building, the Woolworth Building, Grand Central Terminal… need I say more?

6) The bridges – Maybe it is because I come from a bridge city, but the bridges of NYC always appealed to me. Walking across the Brooklyn Bridge is one of the best things to do in the city, especially at sunset.

7) The shopping – I hate to shop. Everyone who knows me knows this, but there was something about New York that would inspire me. Perhaps it was because I had lots of time in the city, or that I was headed home after the event, but I always enjoyed shopping in New York. Ahhh, I miss Century 21!

8) The culture – I loved being able to go to  a play or a show at the drop of a hat. And oh, the museums! It was a great city to have days off in which to play.

9) The streets – New York is such a great city in which to walk around. I come from a city that was designed by drunk city planners. Take my word for it, although it is beautiful, Halifax is not an easy city to get around. Manhattan, on the other hand is a paradise for the “directionally challenged”. Perpendicular “streets” and “avenues”, all named in numerical order… it is a beautiful thing. And I loved being a part of the bustling sidewalks.

10) The food – What can say about the food except, YUM! Anything and everything you possibly want can be found within a short subway ride or walk.

11) My friends – This isn’t specifically a New York thing except the US Open (like all the majors) employed a lot of officials, so almost all of my close friends would be working the event. Plus, it was the last big tournament of the year so, once it was over, there would be a three month break before we all got together again in Melbourne for the Australian Open. There were always a lot of group dinners and excellent camaraderie. Dear friends, I miss you the most!

What city do you love?

11 ways I know we’re parents of little boys

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I know none of these are exclusive to a house with boys but, as a whole, I think the gender of our children is pretty clear.

1) Random toy collections litter every surface of our home. 

2) There is a high-tide line in our bathtub. 

3) “Wash your hands before you touch anything!” is a standing order. 

4) We have a mysterious “trail-mix” factory in our car.

5) We are grateful everytime the puddle on the bathroom floor is only water.

6) We know the excruciating pain of stepping barefoot on Lego. 

7) The only “F word” in our house is fart. 

8) We have a “no bugs/rocks/sticks in the house” rule. 

9) We can’t make plans until we check the kids’ hockey schedule.  

10) The laundry never ends. 

11) Our house had a stinky dog odor before we even got a dog!

Do you have boys, girls or a mixture? Does your house have a particular gender flavour?

11 answers to 11 questions

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It’s Friday night and I’m tired and uninspired. It must be the fatigue from my return to work but my brain has adamantly refused to be creative this week. So, in order to shake off the cobwebs, I’m going to pull out an old blogging standard and answer some questions.

Here we go!

11 random questions I just asked myself

1) What is your favourite physical attribute?
My smile. I always try to keep it genuine.

2) What is your favourite aspect of your personality?
My humour. It has gotten me through some pretty rough patches.

3) What is the strangest lie you have ever told?
When I was leaving the closing ceremonies of the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, Australia, I convinced a train car full of people that I was the short stop for the Canadian softball team. (I happened to be wearing my Team Canada sweatshirt.) Everyone assured me that our 8th place finish wasn’t too bad.

4) If you could be a superhero, what power would you possess?
Super-speed. I would love to be able to zip around and get things done really quickly while everyone else puttered along at a normal pace. Then I could just sit back and chill.

5) On a scale of 1 to 10, how weird are you?
7.3

6. How do you feel about garden gnomes?
I used to be agnostic. Since Harry Potter, I never turn my back on them.

7) What time is it?
10:42 pm

8) Who is your current celebrity crush?
Richard Armitage. He’s a great Thorin Oakenshield, but I originally fell head over heels in love with him (sans facial prosthetics) as John Thornton in BBC’s adaptation of North and South.

9. Would you rather live in the fictional future or the fictional past?
As much as I love sci-if, I have to pick the past. I think my bosom was made for a corset.

10) What aspect of your personality do you hide from others?
I’m a huge romantic and love getting swept away by Jane Austin and BBC period dramas. See questions 8 and 9!

11) Are you ever going to finish writing your novel?
YES! Stop hounding me!

Do you have any questions you would like to ask… or answer?

11 reasons I’m sick of winter

Templeofcats.com

Templeofcats.com

Apparently spring is on its way, not that the official date of the vernal equinox has ever mattered here in Nova Scotia. Our winter has a serious attitude problem and will hang around as long as it damn well pleases… thank you very much.

Usually I don’t tire of the snow and cold until at least the end of March but I think that the trip to Florida might have tripped a switch in my brain a few weeks early. This is all to say that I’m tired of winter and just want it to go home.

11 reasons I’m sick of winter

1) Fighting with the kids over snow pants – I know I’ll have the same complaint in the summer with regard to sunscreen and hats, but a certain eye rolling eight-year-old is really getting on my nerves with his daily no-snow-pants campaign.

2) Trying to stuff liners back in boots – Why are those removable liners such a breeze to remove and such a bitch to get back in? My fight with them in the morning inevitably leads to a bent back nail and then my hands smell like sweaty kid feet.

3) Wet stuff drying on radiators – We have beautiful old hot water radiators throughout the house but all winter they are draped with hats, mitts, jackets and snow pants. Oh and those boot liners, of course.

4) Static electricity – I now live in fear of opening any door with a metal knob and folding clothes full of fleece sweatshirts just makes my skin crawl. I feel like the cat in the picture.

5) Hockey gear – Starting on Friday evening, The Husband and both boys spend the majority of the weekend on the ice. There is a pile of sticks in the corner beside the front door that never moves and all weekend there are huge hockey bags in the foyer that just get stepped over until they’re put away on Sunday night. Say nothing of the furnace room in the basement where the gear gets aired out through the week on “sports trees”.

6) Noisy boys inside – How I long for the carefree days of summer when the boys and their friends would be outside until I called them in for bed. I would even feed them just by tossing food outside. These days, the weather is either too wet or too cold. After an hour, even I can’t force them to stay out any longer. I’m currently in the process of building a shrine to the real estate gods to thank them for our basement.

7) Salt stains – Who doesn’t hate the stiff white hems of pants that have soaked up the melted slush of the sidewalks and that horrible white crust that forms on your black leather boots? It also makes it harder to find your car in a parking lot because everyone’s paint now looks to be the same dirty shade of grey.

8) Dark and grey days – The days are finally getting longer, which is a good thing because months of waking up in the dark and coming home from work in the dark have caused my other senses to kick-in to overdrive. Have I mentioned the stinky boot liners?

9) Dry skin – My trademark black clothing, while slimming and easy to coordinate, only serves to highlight my seasonal full body flakiness. I’m also wearing away the door jambs around the house with all of the back scratching I’m doing.

10) Getting out of a warm bed – It is an internationally well-known fact that I’m not a morning person. Add frigid air and a cold floor into the mix and that snooze button is being hit at least three extra times before I will admit to being awake.

11) Talking about the weather – In warm weather climes, what do people talk about in elevators? Seriously, how do you break the silence with strangers if you don’t have the windchill to discuss?

Yes, I see the irony in my last point.

What do you hate about winter?

Games my children play

International Quidditch at Oxford University

International Quidditch at Oxford University

It’s been a while since I given you a List of 11, so today I present…

11 Games my children play

1) Zip cord – Invented on a rainy day, a string is tied from an upstairs baluster to a piece of furniture in the living room below. Every possible toy imaginable is then slid down the rope. Scores are awarded based on speed of slide and distance travelled.

2) Baby Koala – One of my least favourite because it involves ET crawling around whining like a baby… or baby koala, I guess. CJ takes care of him and supplies the eucalyptus leaves.

3) Hug Match – Wrestling, but given a cute/sly name so that Mommy won’t get angry when they break something.

4) Yeti! Yeti! Yeti! – A throwback to the annoying Pablo the Yeti character from the Backyardigans. My boys’ game has nothing to do with the Backyardigans except for the loud and grating call of “Yeti! Yeti! Yeti!” that CJ makes as he crawls around the floor chasing ET while covered in a blanket. The game always ends when my last nerve is frazzled and I order them outside… NOW!

5) Spy – Self-explanatory, I think. The beauty of this game is that it is inherently quiet and can be played in any venue. Indoors and outdoors, at home or at the grandparent’s… even once in church!

6) Slinky Kitty – This might sound a bit like an adult bedroom game but it’s much more innocent in our home. ET stands upstairs and drops poor Kitty wrapped in the end of a slinky. CJ is down below and tries to grab Kitty before he springs back up.

7) Wipeout – Similar to the TV show but a winter sport played around obstacles involving telephone poles, shovels and snow banks.

8) Quidditch – Just like J.K Rowling’s version but played in our backyard while riding hockey sticks in lieu of brooms… oh, and goals are scored in garbage pails.

9) Minecraft – Yes, I know everyone’s kids play Minecraft but mine play it outside without a computer. From what I have observed, the game is rooted around BDN’s son being a villager who makes an unacceptable barter trade. Of course, this leads to the arrival of an angry horde and chaos ensues.

10) Catch – A pretty standard game of catch but my boys stand only a few feet away and toss gently underhand. Apparently, they are aiming for a world record number of catches rather than an impressive degree of difficulty.

11) Queen Elizabeth – It is played outside with the whole gang of neighbourhood boys and CJ always plays the part of Queen Elizabeth. I have absolutely no understanding of this game.

I’m not sure what this list conveys about my children… I just wanted to share some of the craziness!

Do you have a favourite invented game from your family or your own childhood?