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Minus 17 degrees Celsius to be exact and my poor thumb is splitting unhappily at the seams from several cold snowy days on top of hand washing every dish in the kitchen after our dishwasher frizzled out – again.

The day before my birthday is a crap shoot as far as winter weather goes. I remember my fifth birthday being gray with fall temps, but my university day birthdays it was being buried under mounds of white.

In 2001, I had just found out I was pregnant with Dee but the weather was more late fall than winter. It didn’t snow until Christmas that year.

Snow has flurried, flaked or dropped like feathers from an exploding pillow for the past couple of days. It piles up here once the temps drop and stay down. There is no melt off really. Slushy glop is rare enough to make me take note unlike Iowa where winter fights to overcome fall and then battles to hold off spring with barely a rest in between matches.

Life continues with only the barest hint of inconvenience however in spite of flu, which sent us to the ER with Dee on Sunday night and the fact that the reno is crawling along at a pace that is threatening Christmas plans a tad bit.

Dee’s fine. The Fort ER performed at its usual inefficient rate of speed. I don’t think anyone there knows, or cares to learn, about triage.

We waited for three hours before Dee was taken to a room and evaluated. In the meantime, two little boys a bit older than she with colds were seen as were two women with sprained ankles. Meanwhile, a nine month old baby with a temperature of 102.3, a very distressed looking pregnant woman and Dee, who hadn’t held down more than a mouthful of water all day, languished in the lobby.

Dr. Fortune Cookie was on call, which explained a lot. The man moves with the speed of a glacier. But the triage nurse wasn’t too swift and at the three-hour mark with a shift change looming, I walked into the nurses’ station and informed them that if my daughter wasn’t seen soon, I would take that as confirmation that her illness was not serious and take her home.

We were in a room within five minutes.

Most of the beginning for the week was eaten up being housebound with Dee. A bit more was taken up by feeling ill myself and now it is Friday.

Rob let nothing hold him back from finishing the duct work and putting down sub-floor. He even found time to track down a taper for the drywall, and with a bit of grace from the universe, we’ll be able to take down the plastic sheeting and open up the front of the house for semi-use by Sunday.

The new kitchen is going to be awesome, by the way. We are having it professionally designed and custom-built. Extravagant, I know. Very unlike us. But the tea leaves are predicting a long stay here and it makes no sense to live half-assed when we could have a functional kitchen and living area if our reality is being here in this house for another goodly chunk of time.

The last fully functional and modern dwelling I lived in was the first house I bought myself back in 1997. Built to replace a home destroyed by the floods in 1993, it was a townhouse design single family dwelling. Two bedrooms. A walk in closet in the master bedroom. It was a sweet little house in the old Valley Junction section of West Des Moines. Farmer’s Market in the summer just a few blocks over. Running paths all over. Close enough to the freeway to make it convenient but not so close that the noise tattooed itself on my eardrums.

The house Will and I bought was in a better neighborhood still but was very run down on the inside. It was okay. The plans for making it nice got sidelined almost as soon as we moved in.

Our home in J’berg has always been a work in progress. Rob counts his blessings in two wives who’ve been rather “c’est la vie” about the pace of progress. I don’t know really how much of a hand Shelley had in the plans and execution, but I know that Rob gets a bit frustrated with my lack of definite direction about nearly all things decor.

The problem is that I only really know if I don’t like something and then only after I’ve seen it. I have no vision. No color preferences. No interest in trim or curtains or flooring. The furniture just needs to be soft and squishy, and even than, I sit on the floor a lot anyway.*

Our conversation about the mantle for the new fireplace went something like,

“What do you think of red brick?”

“It’s nice.”

“Or maybe just wood?” Silence. “Or marble?”

“Yeah, that would be good.”

“You’re not even listening to me, are you?”

The fireplace will have a wood mantle and white marble-ish tiling. Very clean and tasteful and goes well with the hardwood – which Rob had a devilish time getting me to care about as well.

I just don’t have the DNA. The drawings the designer emailed us pique my excitement and I have definite ideas once I see concepts, but I lack whatever girly gene necessary to initiate.

My birthday will interrupt progress. Dinner and all. Rob thought we’d get a sitter and go out on our own until I reminded him there is really no place for a sitter to “sit”. We had to pass on his company’s Christmas party for the same reason.

So it’s dinner with the kids and cake – though I have no idea where we will do cake. It’s the no kitchen thing.

Rob got me a new laptop for my birthday which is sitting in the box on Dee’s desk. It arrived last week and I have patiently let it be. My poor old Macbook is beyond updates and since Rob installed the new router, it’s been more fitful than ever. I can’t get into iTunes and Firefox is rejecting me.

And that’s kind of it for this snowy day update. The CP Christmas Train invades our little hamlet tonight but we are planning an escape which Dee heartily went along with. Her memories of the last time the train arrived are not filled with joy. It was bitterly cold. She couldn’t see over the adults who crowded her out and the hot chocolate wasn’t to her liking.** I think we are Christmas shopping. Proof that my husband hates crowds more than he hates shopping – although it’s a narrow window between the two.

Soccer and much-needed hair cuts for Dee and I tomorrow before the festival that is my natal day begins – although technically, I get the whole day being born in the morning and all.

I’ll sign off with a cute boy on boy rendition of Baby, It’s Cold Outside. Very Rat Pack and buttoned up sexuality in a Rock Hudson/Doris Day kind of way.

*Absolutely drove my late husband to distraction that with a living room full of furniture, I sat on the floor.

**She is a bit like me with food and drink. Lukewarm. The drinks that long ago night were just this side of scalding without marshmallows to boot.

So today is my birthday and I am forty-six – in case you wondered. I didn’t awake feeling old, but I did have a headache. It’s all the Ashtanga this week. Yoga is not usually an intensely warming activity but Ashtanga employs a breathing method designed to make a person sweat. Two days in a row and I am dry as toast.

By 8 AM this morning, I’d been bathed in birthday goodness though. Two cards. One from Rob that brought tears to my eyes because it was so sweet and romantic and just all around awesome. The other from Dee which she added her own sentiments too in her own words. She is much prouder of what she writes than what is in the card to begin with.

Before Dee caught her bus, she and Rob gave me my first gift – well, only gift as nothing else had arrived in the post yet (Rob shops online).

They led me into the living room where a huge box was draped with a blanket.

“I told Dee that this was something you really wanted,” Rob said.

Dee looked dubious and when I pulled off the blanket, I knew why. It was a mixer. Not a seven-year old’s idea of a great present.

But it sure was mine!

A Cuisinart 7 quart, stainless steel, nearly industrial strength mixer. It even has a cover to keep the flour from coating the rest of the kitchen, which is an issue when baking scones and for an asthmatic like myself.

“Now, I can entertain my wild ideas about selling baked goods at the farmer’s market next summer,” I said.

“You are becoming quite the bohemian,” Rob said.

Yeah, dreaming of a yoga studio and selling edibles made from scratch with an emphasis on nutrition that is sadly lacking in commercial bakeries these days. Pretty soon I’ll be wearing flip-flops year-round and studying Wicca and working on a degree in natural healing. Okay, I wouldn’t be wearing flip-flops. It’s the toe thing. I don’t know how people stand that thing between their toes. But I am a leap closer to my goal of shunning cultural norms as they are written in concrete and paved over by asphalt.

“You can have your office up above my studio and I will sell baked goods and tea in between classes,” I said.

“And I will be this fat bastard who has to roll around on his industrial strength chair because of all your baking,” he only half-joked because he has sweet teeth.

Oh, and today is my first payday at Care2. They’ve published 7 of my articles. Five this week. It’s not a lot of money. In fact, it’s barely any money at all after Uncle Sam snatches back his war surtax, but it’s still sweet.

And, my birthdays isn’t even over yet. Rob took off a half-day to have lunch and spend the afternoon together. We have a sitter for the evening. Birthday goodness abounds.


there is still Christmas coming round the corner as my husband understands the importance of keeping my birthday goodness separate from my Christmas goodness. Not a lot of people understand the significance of this to those of us born in the neighborhood of Jesus Christ. I spent years – decades – putting up with the combo presents from friends and even some family. Being born within three-ish weeks on either side means a life time of people rationalizing their cheapness at your expense.

But, today is sunshine and showers of love and a brand new – totally awesome beyond my ability to truly convey – mixer. And it’s only 9:22 AM.

Since I have been posting updates the last few weeks, I decided to again, but mainly because I am a little wrung out creatively speaking. I have written about four pieces over at 50 something Moms and adding pages to the memoir plus written the Christmas letter, a snarky¬†little ditty that says nothing people who truly know us don’t already know and yet manages to remind others they could be keeping in better touch if they tried harder.

I am swamped with “to do’s” and find this amazing because I wasn’t this busy when I was gainfully employed. I have the Strathcona Writers website to try and log on to and update (not to mention create a blog and a Facebook group for) and the Fort writing group anthology is just taking off and is much more work than any of us thought it would be. And isn’t that usually the case?

My brother has been in touch several times this week too. There are things to worry about but not in print. Suffice to say, he is a long way from okay, but not in any danger that anyone in the family is aware of at this point.

Yesterday was my birthday. BabyD gave me a book called The Art of Column Writing that a writing friend and fellow blogger recommended. She is one who thinks I have the makings of a good columnist, one of my goals in the first quarter of the new year.

Yes, my year is now divided into frames of time as though I were a corporation. I am getting ready to map out the coming weeks and even meeting with someone at the bank on Monday to set up a “business account” because even though I have no inflow, I have expenses and, I think, a good business woman keeps those things separate from the household accounts for tax purposes – right?

Like a business card. I have gotten it into my head I need one. Now I just have to figure out what it should look like and say.

Rob gave me a digital voice recorder for my birthday. Instead of stopping in my tracks to pull out my notebook and a ¬†pen (provided I can find them in my stuffed little purse – there is something else I need to “update”), I can whip out my recorder (yeah, definitely gonna need a new purse) and talk to myself. That will provide the locals something to give me “the look” about.

I got “the look” today from the spin instructor at the gym while I was snapping photos of the equipment for a piece I am going to write for 50something Moms.

“What are you doing?”

“Taking pictures for a column I am writing for a blog.”

And then comes the look. The one reserved for those of us who are a little bit off.

Tonight the Christmas Train is stopping here in Jo’berg. Country singers, sleigh rides and a bonfire with eats.

Later tonight the temps plummet and the weekend highs will be in the minus 20 c and colder range with minus 31c by Monday morning. Not cold enough for BabyD to need to be driven to school. Buses will run until minus 40. School, by the way, is never called off. Canadians are incredibly sensible about travel and road conditions. If they feel the roads are too bad to drive, they simply don’t. They don’t go to work. They don’t take their kids to school. There don’t seem to be repercussions for this because everyone from high up to lowest on the pole are of the same mind on the matter.

I am taking the elevation of my age by another year in stride. A thorough assessment reveals that I am not too fat, the skin under my chin is soft but not waddly and the white in my hair can still be camouflaged with minimal intervention. I do have crows feet. I am wearing progressive lens. But overall I appear to be maintaining.