O, Canada! Updates from up north: Life umbrellas, cross-country Canada, & the gift-wrapping Grinch

It's been a long time, been a long time, been a long lonely lonely lonely time... since I did a life update blog post that is!  The last one was back in June, and so much has happened since then that it makes the ol' noggin spin.  So let's get on with the show, eh?

When it rains, it pours, but family and friends are damn good umbrellas

Back in July, there was one week where the life shit seemed to hit the fan.  It started with an unexpected launch at work that caused me a lot of stress and extra work.  Then, our landlord dropped a little nugget that he was selling our house to his daughter when our lease was up.  He said that was "always the plan".  That was news to us because we only found out after I contacted him to renew our lease.  We ended up moving to a great house in Greektown, about a mile north of where we were living in Leslieville.  The house is great, the neighborhood food is obviously incredible, and my commute to work is shorter.  It ultimately worked out for the best, but moving isn't exactly a low stress activity.

Both of those things, however, were small potatoes compared to what came next.  That same week, I got a text from my mom that said, "Don't freak, but my brain scan came back clearly larger with some brain swelling."  The 'larger' she was referring to was a meningioma she already had, a benign brain tumor that was diagnosed a year ago. Uh, well she knows me all too well because the second I got that text I started panicking.  And not in a fun "at the disco" kinda way.



I calmed down after talking to both her and Elliot, and even more so after she visited a neurosurgeon and was scheduled for a craniotomy (a surgery to remove the tumor).  My work team was so supportive, and my manager didn't think twice about letting me remotely work in Chicago for the two weeks following her surgery.  The surgery went really well, and we soon learned that not only was the tumor benign, but they were able to remove 95% of it.  Despite having her skull literally cracked open, my mom was home after two days and up and moving after four.  By the time I needed to head back to Toronto, she and I were back to watching true crime shows together.  Mother-daughter Murderinos.  Four months have passed, and she's back to her ol' self, only now rocking a badass hairline scar.  Although it was a scary time, my family was blown away by all the love and support we received from family, friends, and total strangers.  While we weren't surprised by how many people love my mom, we were still humbled by all the kindness shown to our family.

So even though it felt like life was pouring down that week in July, it was a good reminder that the best umbrellas are the people in our lives.

Lord, I was born a ramblin' (wo)man

Lil' sneak peek of our Quebec City trip

Lil' sneak peek of our Quebec City trip

Contrary to my life update posts, I've been pretty good about documenting our travels across Canada.  In case you missed them, in August we did a road trip around Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island; September brought us to the snow-capped Canadian Rockies of Banff and Jasper, and October made us go "Ouiiiiiiii!" (read as "weeeeee!") with all the colors and European charm of Quebec City.  A lot of our Canadian friends have joked that we've already seen more of Canada than they have, but there are still so many more places we want to go.  For some reason I've got this weird fascination with Newfoundland, so we'll plan on going there sometime next May to see icebergs and get all skol and shit in L'Anse aux Meadows.  After we left Banff, El got really into grizzly bears (¯\_(ツ)_/¯), reading up on them and sharing what he learned with me, so I anticipate another trip out west to see some in person.  Intentionally this time though.

Besides our own travels, I was on the go for work quite a bit, visiting Montreal, Calgary, and Ottawa in back to back to back weeks.  Although it was a pretty hectic schedule, it was awesome to visit the other work locations and meet coworkers I've only interacted with via video chat.  Back at the end of October, I also got to go to Phoenix for a week to do some trainings for a different line of business.  The temp was still in the 70s, and I got to meet and work with some great teams that week, a fantastic learning experience for me.  I also was able to get Dutch Bros. after a four year hiatus, which was one billion percent worth the 20 minute train ride I had to take to get it.

Random this and that: Let's uke it out

The uke was good stress relief during playoff game intermissions

The uke was good stress relief during playoff game intermissions

I've been sticking with my ukulele lessons, with my teacher Shannon come to our house for a thirty minute lesson every Thursday.  According to Elliot, the poor soul who's had to listen to me incorrectly play the notes of "In the Hall of the Mountain King" (aka another classical song you'll only know from Looney Toons) over and over again, I've definitely gotten better.  I'm still a long ways away from reaching Israel Kamakawiwo'ole's, or as I pronounce it "Israel Kama-something something's", level.  I've really gotten into playing though and practice pretty much every chance I get, so I asked for a new uke for Christmas.  My current one does the job, but it's also an "inexpensive instrument" as the guitar shop guy diplomatically put it, so it's always slightly out of tune.  I can't wait to start serenading Elliot with "Somewhere over the Rainbow" every chance I get.  I'm sure he's equally as stoked.  In the meantime, I'm counting down the days til Christmas and getting a holiday gift for my music teacher even though I'm 34 and she's at least six years younger than me.

Random this and that: The Grinch who wrapped Christmas gifts

Jingle jangle

I actually got a bell this year!

Before I knew I'd be traveling so much at the end of November/beginning of December, I got hit with a self-inflicted guilt trip for not volunteering much since my pre-employment days.  I mean, those Guinness World Records aren't gonna break themselves without volunteers.  Because of said guilt trip, I think I overcommitted myself and signed up for all sorts of volunteering.  I headed up the winter clothing drive at work, did the Christmas Kettle volunteering with the Salvation Army again, volunteered at my local church's bake sale/craft fair, and did some gift wrapping at a mall for a Toronto charity.  It felt good to give back, but man was my holiday spirit put to the limit with the gift wrapping.

I got to my 4:30 shift early on the off-chance other volunteers showed up and started working.  Even though I ended up standing around for half an hour, I was entertained by watching little kids take pictures with Santa at the display right next to the gift wrapping station.  I decided that I was going to get my picture with Santa later, but instead of sitting on his lap, I was going to ask him to do a sassy pose with me so I could title it "Slay Belles".  That's right: when I'm not picturing myself winning imaginary arguments, I'm thinking of things like this.wrapping-gifts_o_1010003

The supervisor finally showed up and spent the next 4.5 hours of our shift organizing binders, boxes of bows, and dozens of ribbon spools rather than gift wrapping.  I was starting to get a little frustrated, but I could hear my mom's voice in my head saying, "Maybe she has OCD and needs things a certain way", so I cut her some slack.  Her organizing, however, left me and two high school boys to do the work...which basically meant I was on my own.  And of course the first thing I had to wrap was a pillow shaped like an animal.  I miraculously got it wrapped without it looking like *total* shit and proudly presented my masterpiece to its owner.  Satisfied with my work, she asked if I could do the other one and pointed to one of the high school boys.  I turned around and saw him standing there with a sheet of wrapping paper in his hand and staring blankly at a second animal pillow.  It was clear he had no clue where to start, so I went over and subtly asked him, "Do you want me to do that for you?"  He said "yes, please" and passed over that pillow faster than Tom Brady deflating a football.  When I finished with that gift, the woman then asked me to re-do the box that the second boy had wrapped.  I took one look at it and saw that it.... was not good.  I felt bad for the kid and made some comment to him like, "You did a great job starting it, so I'll just fix some of these creases."  I ended up having to redo the whole thing because even though the sign said "suggested donations", the supervisor was actually charging people for each gift that was wrapped.  This woman had paid like $25 to have her gifts wrapped, so she understandably didn't want anything less than Pinterest worthy results.

The rest of the shift went pretty smoothly, and I showed the boys how to make a ribbon curl while the supervisor taught them how to measure out and precisely fold wrapping paper.  To their credit, they practiced and by the end of the night were doing a pretty good job.  Around 7:30, the supervisor went on her fifteen minute break, and I made plans to get my picture with Santa when I went on break after her return.  After fifteen minutes came and went, I started to get a little antsy, particularly because the Santa photographers looked like they were packing up.  I decided not to wait until the supe returned and went to grab my wallet, only to remember that she locked all of our belongings, my wallet included, in the cabinet.  Guess who was the only one who had a key?  Hint: It wasn't one of the two sixteen year olds.  At 8:00, she still wasn't back and I had to wave my 'slay belle' dreams goodbye when Santa closed up his workshop.  Needless to say, I wasn't exactly "jolly" when she finally came back at 8:05.


After interacting with people still in the holiday spirit and wrapping a few more gifts, I assumed positive intent for why she took such a long break and let go of my Scroogeness.  With that mindset, I ended my shift on a high note and wished my colleagues a Merry Christmas before leaving.  The whole experience was a good reminder not to let holiday stress get to me, enjoy all I can about the season, and be grateful for all I have.  Because I have a lot: the best hubs out there, family and friends whom I love, a great home in a fun neighborhood, and a mom whose brain tumor was benign.  And there's still plenty of time this year to work for things I don't have, like a photo with Santa captioned "slay belles"...

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