Auf wiederschreiben.

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I’m pretty pleased that I made it through the whole of Holidailies thing this year and did indeed post every damned day. It has been a very long time since I’ve written anything regularly and this has unblocked quite a lot. But it was pretty hard.

Without outside guidelines/restrictions/etc., I honestly don’t know if I would post a lot at all, but I’m going to try to say something, anything, at least once a week and see how that goes. One person might be my total readership, but that’s fine. I think Doogie Howsering isn’t a terrible thing.

Many thanks to Jette and Chip and to anyone who read even one of my entries.

See you next year?

Comment dit-on “Winging it”?

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Frantic day at work today, exacerbated slightly by a trip to the mall (ugh) to find a 2011 daybook for the office downstairs. This proved trickier than I thought and took far longer than it should have. One story didn’t have any planners that would lie flat (the daybook is always open), the second didn’t have anything suitable for under $30, so I went to the Scary Place, aka Librairie du Soleil, which always has a great selection of notebook-y agenda-type things. But is scary.

My progressive parents were all about the then-new French Immersion program in the 1970s, so signed my older brother up right away. Neither of them were terribly adept in the language (my dad went to high school in Ohio, my mother got an hour a week of French when she was in school – though, it has to be said, her grammar was quite good, so rote learning isn’t all terrible). So, from kindergarten (1981) through grade 12, half of my academic life at least was spent in French. I took math (until grade 12, when that was no longer an option), gym (in elementary school), History, and Geography in French. Oh, and French class, of course. I muddled through, in my typical way, with very little effort in and less than extraordinary grades as a result.

When I graduated from high school, my diploma came with a certificate declaring that I was bilingual. It didn’t matter that I was a solid B student and that my grammar was frequently appalling. I could speak French, according the Government of Ontario.

Which, ennnnh, fast forward 14 (!!) years, I don’t speak French as well as I used to, which is really not a good thing. I mean, I get by, but I am so easily flustered that I tend to clam up in situations where I need to speak and take about a hour to write a two-line email, and even then, I forward it to Richard for him to look over. A few years ago, I went to the Alliance Française for an assessment and was told that my comprehension was exceptional, but that my written French especially was ‘B’ level, which is, well, pretty crap considering. There was no class for me, so I took private, customised lessons for a while, but it was quite expensive and I couldn’t keep it up.

The AF, in Ottawa at least, goes by Federal Public Service guidelines, because the bulk of their students are feds. There are four levels: A (very beginner), B (meh), C (hey, pretty good for an anglo) and E (exceptional, excellent, if you test at this level, you need never be tested again). So, being at B level (B3, which is the highest B, but still) is a bit disheartening. But I don’t deserve a C. I mean, going into that French language bookstore today nearly put me into a full-blown panic…well, once the cashier told me that my selection of Le Français au bureau, which I picked up to maybe help me with my utter lack of business French skills problem, was a ‘très bon achat!’. I stumbled in my response, which was something like ‘Uhhh, oui, ça me prend des heures pour composer des…er…courriels’.

Yeah, I am a rock star. I said nothing during the awkwardly long pause while the Interac payments was processing and muttered ‘merci, bonne journée’ and got the fuck out ASAP.

And YET, when I was in Paris, I did not feel this intimidated. At least not about my abilities going into a conversation. (I will admit that I got irritated by my own accent when people switched to English, though.)

My pseudo psychiatric reasoning, which I am basically coming up with as I write, is that I totally had a superiority complex compared to other tourists in France (‘Well, compared to that American family over there who can’t understand the word “toilette”, I’m an utter genius!’) and also I didn’t have the fear of ever running into any of the baffled French people I spoke to again. Whereas in Ottawa, my French is good, not great, and there are plenty of totally bilingual, or unilingually French-speaking who I might see again tomorrow. And they might laugh to themselves because of my ‘must flee!’ mentality when I forgot what the subjunctive is (which, frankly, I do in English) or can’t remember how to give someone directions involving the phrase ‘go straight ahead’.

Which, of course, is patently ridiculous. I don’t judge French speakers who struggle with their English. I admire their resolve and ability. I am not hopeless either; sadly, my boss depends on me for dealing with anything remotely French because his is infinitely worse than mine. But I am ridiculously hard on myself, so that’s yet another thing to contemplate from now on. Along with the massive tome of Frenchness that lives on my desk now.

Getting fighting fat.

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Short entry today as I have finally stopped cooking and baking and eating for the day. Last winter, I spent a huge hunk of (almost) every Sunday making soup and prepping stuff for the week so that I wouldn’t go to Nate’s Deli (RIP) or other dangerously fast food-y places at lunchtime all week long. So today, I made tiny crustless tuna and dill quiches, potato and lentil soup, and, god help me, more scones, all easily transportable and/or freezable things. I ate four of the latter, basically undoing any good works I did by running this weekend, though. GO ME!

(Actually, last night’s fish & chips dinner, even though I didn’t finish, probably did that already.)

Seriously, though, I am trying to be more mindful, at least during the week, so that I can actually maybe lose some weight when training for the half-marathon (which, yes, I will continue to harp on about until May, and probably beyond). Like Jan, who discussed this in one of her recent entries, even when I was running regularly, I still didn’t get thin. The lowest I got was about 18 pounds above ‘normal’ according to BMI indices. My total weight loss was, like, four pounds total. But at least I looked and felt less blobby.

Now off to freeze those scones so that I can’t just maw down on the rest without some long, difficult consideration/thawing time.

We’ve all got problems.

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Despite my obnoxious know-it-all-ism, I tend towards shyness. A friend of a friend recently asked him if I didn’t like her, because I wouldn’t look them in the eye. No, it’s not that, I just have trouble looking anyone in the eye, really. Both of my brothers are the same way (both with the know-it-all-ism and weird eye contact thing). Fear of conflict? (Totally self-diagnosed) Aspergery tendencies? Snootiness? No idea. I am just really intimidated by looking into people’s eyes if I don’t know them really well. Almost in a ‘oh no, what if they can read my mind?!’ kind of way, but on a really mundane ‘oh no, what if they realise how truly not clever/interesting?’ level.

This is probably why I’m back to blogging a bit. I can use my (few) readers for therapy (a bit). But you’ve also probably noticed that I don’t really get into personal problems on a profound level; this is because I am a very private person, generally, but with (sometimes) an awful lot to say. I want to share, but I kind of feel like 90% of what is in my brain should stay there for ever. I do a lot of self-analysing and I think I can figure out the root of a lot of my issues (abandonment, commitment, etc.) on my own. Which might not be completely correct, but for now, it works for me. (I also have a rule that I won’t post anything that I don’t want future employers to read, so don’t expect this to change, should you continue reading post-Holidailies.)

I’m not really looking at committing myself to resolutions this year, because frankly, I think people should try to improve themselves every day, not just for a few weeks in January. But, hypocritically persons, I am going to start working on better connecting and opening up to people a bit better. Not in a oversharing way crazy-girl-in-the-bar-telling-you-about-her-herpes outbreak way, obviously, but with less snarking and more actual discussion. Wish me luck.

Such is life. (An inauspiciousish beginning.)

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Hey, it’s 2011! Here are some of the unexpected things that have happened so far:

  • Nearly missed midnight because we were watching Despicable Me (after hitting the pub and my brother’s party). Toasted with whisky instead of the fizz I brought because we were tired and lazy.
  • Woke up repeatedly due to my friend Richard’s snoring. He snores anyway, but has a wicked(er than my) sinus cold that is ampli/snottifying everything horribly. Seriously. By 5am, even though I was on the couch in another room, I was listening to my iPod with a pillow over my head trying to drown the sound out.
  • As a result, I spent much of the day trying to nap and/or reading To Say Nothing of the Dog while Richard played Fallout: New Vegas because I didn’t have the energy to do much else.
  • Found somewhere to buy a January bus pass, even though nearly everything was closed.
  • Got to write a witness statement for the Ottawa Police after two dumbasses decided to verbally and physically abuse the driver of the bus I was taking home. (Ottawans will not be surprised if I say that yes, it was on the 2.)

The upside in all this is that I didn’t have to deal with raucous crowds last night, met a lovely cabbie who is in his 36th year of driving who had great stories about The Crazy on NYE’s past (he doesn’t work them anymore), enjoyed a movie I hadn’t been entirely sure about seeing, and got to laze with wild abandon. So, a mixed bag so far, really, but that’s life, right?

Gonna make it through if it kills me. (Bears!)

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There is really not a whole lot of excitement in my life of late. I mean, how tedious is it to read about other people’s awful sleep? Or aching arse from returning to the world of The Running? Or how they are going spend today in Excel hell because month-end somehow crept up on them? Also, I’m tired.

So, instead, watch a video (narrated by David Tennant) of clever polar bears thwarting attempts to film them. (The snowball cam decoy is a delight.)

Heat wave!

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I am trying to psych myself up to go running for the first time since October.

Why? Well, we’re in a heat wave (it’s only -2°C), some of the sidewalks are clear, and I signed up for a half-marathon last night.

I ran one last May. By ‘ran’, I mean I completed. The last four kilometres were brutal, especially the 19th. But I couldn’t quit. There were thousands of people lining the route, including dozens of wee kids high-fiving all over the place. I saw my friend MoFo about 1.5km before the end, during one of the wee running breaks (I wish I were kidding) I was taking at that point. I finished in two hours, 34 minutes. I know I am capable of much better. Especially if train properly, which I sure didn’t last spring.

Of course, I totally fell off the running wagon last summer, and in fact downgraded from another half- in September to a 5K instead. I only started running ‘for real’ in July-ish 2009. It’s supposed to take three weeks to make a habit stick? It can take about 35 seconds for it to disappear.

Which is a shame. It is not only great for keeping me less fat (I am no svelte nymph and never have been), but it is the closest thing I do to meditation. OCCASIONALLY, commuting by bike nearly works, but then some bastard will cut me off or I’ll hit the 19th red light in a row and calm becomes rage instantly.

So, for my mental health, I’m going to go run around in circles in the snow for a bit.

UPDATE (about an hour later): I did get out. I did 5.47km in 37:39. All things considered (residual mucous, not having run in months, eating my weight in cheese in the last week), I should be pleased, but man, I really have a lot of work to do.

Tenuous links with fame.

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You know how there’s an epidemic of ‘famous for being famous’ types from reality television? Everyone wants to be a star, it seems, sometimes. I kind of do too, but in a behind-the-scenes or Radio 4 panelist kind of way as I don’t normally like to draw attention to myself (dreams about hosting HIGNFY or appearing on QI notwithstanding).

I do have a remarkable number of connections with famous (and famous-ish) people who are friends (writers, comedians, actors, singers – the two most famous, despite living in London and Los Angeles leave fairly quiet lives, from what I gather, but hang out with producers and television stars rather than projectionists and public servants), but this entry isn’t about them and their showbiz existences.

Despite my humble beginnings and customer service industry-based job (for now), I have connections. Tenuous connections. Some so hilariously thin that they are practically transparent, but I claim them anyway because I am nerdy like that.

3 – Celebrities I have made an arse of myself in front of. (Patrick Watson (veteran Canadian broadcaster), Evan Solomon (CBC Journalist and founder of the very missed Shift), and Paul Merton.)

The first two occurred within weeks of each other, during the few months in early 2004 when I lived in Toronto and interned at the CBC.

  • Mr Watson (who had just presented a lecture at U of T) was the victim of my babbling of the links between History and Journalism and a bunch of stuff that didn’t make sense; he smiled and nodded politely.
  • Mr Solomon, a longtime crush was talking about the Oscars (in the office) with a producer I vaguely knew, and I clumsily, and ineffectually tried to get involved in the discussion. He looked at me awkwardly, then went back to his office. I don’t remember what I said, but I suspect that it wasn’t brilliant.
  • Mr Merton (and Mike McShane) were approached by the very daft me who decided to thank him for a very good show. I mumbled “Thank you very much, it was a great show”, paused, and then ran away after he said “Thank you”. Well, I didn’t run, more shuffled away awkwardly.

3 – Degrees of Kevin Bacon. I went to school with someone who had a small role in Martian Child, which also starred Oliver Platt, who was in Flatliners with Kevin Bacon.

1 – Meeting with David Sedaris (at a book signing). He drew me an owl.

2 – People I went to school with who starred on “You Can’t Do That On Television“.

2 – Famous people spotted at the Ottawa airport. (Mark McKinney of “Kids in the Hall” fame and former Prime Minister Joe Clark – he also used to rent movies at the video store where I worked during university.)

2 – Prime Ministers to whom I have sold movie tickets. (Paul Martin and Stephen Harper – I have also sold tickets to former Governor General Adrienne Clarkson and John Ralston Saul.)

1 – Member of Rush I’ve been introduced to (at a work event). (Alex Lifeson)

approx. 900 – Local CBC personalities I have dealt with through work, either by selling stuff, hosting press screenings, or holding fundraisers.

2 – Confirmed celebrity sightings on the streets of Los Angeles. (Zach Galifinakis and Tori Spelling (with husband))

3 – Confirmed celebrity sightings at a George Carlin tribute attended in Culver City. (Roseanne, Gary Shandling, and Tim Robbins, who was hosting, and TALKED AT ME (to ask me to join a mailing list – I said yes, and forced myself not to mention that his was the first cinematic penis I ever saw)).

1 – Confirmed celebrity sighting in London. (Sir Trevor McDonald)

1 – Party attended that Tom Green et entourage were turned away from. (It was the work Christmas party and the whole joint had been rented out (one corner by us, the rest by all the HMVs in town.)

I also, per a old woman working as a pizza delivery person once told me, live in a house once occupied by Maude Barlow. I have been part of a short-lived women’s group with former mayor Marion Dewar (a wonderful woman, may she rest in peace). I have met Ed Broadbent a few times (I *did* volunteer on his campaign, mind). I was introduced to porn star Sasha Grey (she is very small) and held by John Newmark, Maureen Forrester’s accompanist, when I was a baby (he claimed that the ‘OC’ on his Order of Canada badge stood for ‘Old Cocksucker’, BTW. My de facto godfather trained with Mme Forrester.)

My best friend’s family is friends with people featured in A Year in Provence (who are no great fans of Peter Mayle, since their real names were used in the book). Many friends and coworkers have partied with Drew Barrymore (from her (few) days of marriage to the aforementioned Mr Green).

If this isn’t proof that the universe revolves around me, then I don’t know what’s true anymore. Wait, what?  No, actually, this is more a reflection that the world, at least my world, is both very small and epically large and interconnected. Charlemagne has more heirs than there have ever been people in Europe. So I am related to him. Which means Ewan McGregor is probably somehow my cousin. As is Silvio Berlusconi. And Catherine Deneuve.

Okay, to be honest, I’m not entirely sure what my point was here. Perhaps that celebrity is ridiculous? And everyone has a link to something more interesting/famous/useless than themselves? Who can say? I’m still on cold medication and in no state to be teaching lessons to anyone. Happy Boxing Day-in-lieu everybody!

Letdown (and hanging around?)

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I have a whole day off and I’m terribly inspired to write (unless you want to hear about the radioactive (cartoon-style) snot that is fighting its way out of my head). Which is a shame. It’s a beautiful, albeit cold day (no snowpocalypse here – it hasn’t been snowing at all lately) and I had planned on making my illustrious return to running this morning until the mucous monster struck with his razor blade-wielding friends.

Instead, I am going to pretend it is Sunday and read the NY Times I didn’t get to read due to the visiting of old people and slot machines (I won $48) yesterday.  I made scones for the first time in years and I’m eating them with homemade raspberry-blueberry jam I made last summer. The cat is snoring very noisily and meorfling in his sleep. Seems a nice way to spend a sicky, in-lieu holiday Monday.

Grateful and yet ungrateful.

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So, yesterday’s open house was much smaller than last year’s, which I was expecting. We do, however, have enough food leftover to feed several armies. As I have the next two days off, I am hoping salmon mousse will keep until Tuesday; then I can feed it to the starving masses at work.

With that preamble, for the first time ever, I have asked someone to return a present. I won’t say what it was, but it was something I had mused about and dismissed as too much work a while back, but I guess I wasn’t vocal enough about it. The gifter was very gracious about it and said he’d rather know that I won’t use it than find out later that it was still in the box, unused and resented. I still feel rotten about it; I am not a terribly high-maintenance person, so this is a major psychological hurdle for me. Which makes no sense, because I am one of those ‘I have gift receipt, so return it if you must’ kind of gift-givers and I’m not particularly upset if someone isn’t thrilled with a present (this is very rare – or I have very polite friends). So, yeah, I feel like a poop, but hey, it means I get a new present later, eh?

Anyway, since I don’t have utterly mental family to deal with this holiday season, I’m off to do battle with a friend’s family instead. Two of the aunts are no longer speaking, so we have to do separate visits now. Gah.

Off to practice smiling and nodding politely.