The American Calgarian

Tales of a Midwesterner transplanted in Western Canada

Archive for the month “October, 2011”

Inaugural Calgary Run

As they say, “it is time”.  It had been entirely too long since I had run (or engaged in any type of exercise regime) on a regular basis.  All my running buddies were logging “best times” or PR’s on their Facebook sites from events over the fall.  To be honest, I was a bit jealous.  I had two choices – 1. Become sedentary, eat chocolate and deep-fried yumminess for the rest of my days, or 2. Start running again, adding in some cross-training to keep it interesting and fuel my body with healthy whole foods.  The first option was tempting.  But if you have been reading my twitter (@eabpic) or this blog you know that I would need to do some sort of exercise.  Let’s face it, I am going to eat the chocolate and deep-fried yumminess anyway.  I suited up.

The day was promising.  A light snowfall overnight was starting to melt in the late morning sun.  As an aside, I usually like to run early in the morning, but since hearing stories of coyotes and cougars in these parts, I have decided that midday is the safer option.  The kids were at school.  JB was at work.  My Garmin had been charging on the kitchen desk for about a week.  It was beckoning me to use it, to track mileage and pace and elevation that I could load into a handy spreadsheet detailing my exercise. I eyed up my running gear.  Base layer? Check. T-shirt?  Check. Running tights and socks? Check. IPod? Where is my iPod?  Maybe I shouldn’t go.  No tunes?  I had a brief argument in my head and decided to look for the iPod later.  It will be better for me to be keenly aware of my surroundings, anyway. Hat?  Check.  Sunglasses?  Oh no, another roadblock.  Never mind, I thought, I will start another day.  Another argument in my head ensued.  I decided that since I am half-dressed already I might as well get this inaugural Calgary run over with.  I laced up my shoes and headed outside.

It was a brisk day.  The sun was shining and there were a few puffy clouds off over the mountains.  Most of the snow had melted in the sun and after a couple of deep breaths, (and the Garmin figuring out where I am), I headed out.  Since I have not been running much I decided to walk this first time out.  But after about a third of a mile, I simply couldn’t help myself.  I had to run.  It was such a beautiful day; my legs were begging to go faster.  I am an impatient person and who knows how long these three-ish miles will take?  I ran through the neighborhood on a course I mapped out the previous day, though not exactly sure where I was going.  A few observations – first, everyone that I passed said “good morning”, (nice).  Second, although almost everyone out seemed to be walking a dog, there is no dog poop anywhere, (refreshing).  Third, the cold, crisp air coming into my lungs was invigorating.  I started to think about writing this blog post.  Fourth, cars stopped for me.  I didn’t have to stop at any intersection because the cars all waved me through, (very nice). 

I encountered many small creatures through the run.  The magpies seemed to be mocking me a bit, pointing out that I am panting a little harder than usual due to my hiatus from regular exercise. Other little things scurry through the grass.  I started thinking about coyotes again and think it is no wonder they are around, as there seems to be a buffet of meal options.  There is something highly personal about running through your neighborhood.  You notice things about others’ property, where construction is going on, who has pets and what type.  I passed parts of our neighborhood and was surprised to see a sign announcing the construction of a new school and new condos nearby.  There are many more playgrounds in the area that you can’t see from the road, due to the hilly topography. 

Okay, the sidewalk ended and path through to somewhere started.  I continued on the path and encountered a half-frozen over pond and large, gorgeous homes.  The path winds around to another street and I realized that I don’t know where I am.  I mean, I THINK I know where I am, but had not anticipated going on to a path.  What to do?  I was a little over two miles from home and had little choice but to press forward.  The path fed on to a street and I feared that I may be a little lost.  Is my next street Royal Birch Blvd?  Or Royal Birch Grove?  Or Royal Birch Meadows?  Or Royal Oak something or other?  They all have such similar names.  I was pretty sure I was lost, but I had gone too far to turn back, if I could even find that path again anyway.  I saw a street name that I recognized, and as I turned the corner, I was rewarded with a breathtaking view of the Canadian Rockies shooting up into the sky.  They are snow-capped and jagged and begging me to continue this run so that I am ready to ski (like a madwoman) this winter.

I continued west, passed a Mormon house of worship under construction, and think about the upcoming US Presidential elections.  How am I going to get an absentee ballot?  I will be damned if I don’t get to vote and some numb-nut gets elected.  I don’t have room in my house for all my friends that have said they are coming to Canada if certain candidates get elected.  Mental note – get a ballot.  Continuing on, I saw the street that I was hoping to find almost two miles ago and turned toward home.  A very satisfying run.  My time was not terrible, I did not get eaten by a coyote and I know a great route for the future.


I’ve got Peace like a River in my Soul

The day was sunny and warm.  I was productive in getting the house clean, running errands, dinner was going and I was on my way to pick up the kids.  The children walked out of school five minutes after the bell, as scheduled.  “How was your day?” I asked.

“Good”, says the Girl.

“Good”, says Apprentice, “do I have skating today?”

“No, not today.”  I turn to Mid.  “How was your day?”

“Better than yesterday.  What’s for dinner?”

These are the customary responses I have become accustomed to hearing every afternoon.  We load into the mom-mobile (aka Sarah Siena) and head for home.

I hear quiet singing from the backseat.  Is it possible?  Could it be?  My children are quietly singing Kum Ba Yah.  Voluntarily. I get the feeling the temperature in Hades may have dropped a bit.  And then I start congratulating myself on what a great parent I have become.  I wonder how many other children are singing so peacefully on their way home from school.  Not many, I bet.  Supernanny has NOTHING on me.  I am deep into my acceptance speech for Mother of the Year when…  what?  Mid breaks into a rap worthy of Snoop Dogg or 50Cent on the MTV Music Video Awards, along with appropriate upper body motions…  

“I’ve got peace like a rivaahhh, PEACE like a rivaahh, puh-puh-peace like a rivaahh in my s-s-s-sa-sa-sa-soul!”

“Word”, says the Girl.

What the WHAT?  Have my peaceful-kum-ba-yah-singing cherubs turned a beloved song into a cover for Eminem?  I have a moment of angst.  Do I cease this massacre of a beloved song?  Or, just go with it and encourage the creativity?

The German in me wants the song sung as written and intended.  There is another voice, though, from parenting books and my more open-minded friends telling me to just go with it.  So I do.

I ask who taught them this new way to sing the song.  Response?  “I made it up.  I like it better.”  This cracks me up.  We arrived home, rocking out to the new version of many a church hymn.  All three kids and I rapped through final dinner preparations about the peace in our souls.  We danced around and laughed while adding other verses. 

Kum ba yah-yah-yah my Lord, kum ba yah. You hear me Lord? Kum ba yah, baby!

JB came home to a lot of (joyful) noise.  The kids greet him with their new arrangement.  He looks at me, smiling and bewildered.  I shrug and smile.  There is indeed peace like a river in my soul.


The Scariest Part of Halloween

We are preparing for Halloween.  The kids have all picked out their costumes and, as is customary for this time of year, they have asked about decorating the house.  To be honest, I am not much for Halloween.  I don’t like the candy and processed “food” that results from this day.  I am pleased that they have a “Black and Orange Day” at school in place of a Halloween party. 

Why am I a scrooge at Halloween?  Is it over-sugared children running through the neighborhood begging for food?  Is it parties where I am told to dress in a costume, pretending to be something I am not?  (My most reliable costume to date is “Responsible Adult”.  Some years I even pull it off.) Is it the cost of all the treats, costumes, parties and decorations?

No.  For me it is the crafts that I am expected to assist my children with, on account that I have a uterus and all.  And so, it begins…

JB and Apprentice are at the NHL game so I tell the Girl and Mid we will to go look for some decorations for Halloween if they will come to Ikea with me. (Don’t judge me – you know you bribe your kids too.)  After the lap around Ikea, we continue on to the craft store.  Girl and Mid see a foam 3D haunted house they HAVE to complete.  “We can do it together, Mom!” they bellow.  Do you see how I am being played here?  Yeah, me too, but I am a mom with the appropriate amount of guilt.  And besides, I am a Homemaker now and these types of crafts are in the job description, right?  Worthy to note here – along with having limited to no patience, I am not talented in the craft-making department.  When I taught Sunday School the crafts often scared me.  In fact, a few times the craft relating to the Bible story was so intimidating I would search the internet for an alternative.  My class did a lot of crossword puzzles and word searches relating to the lesson of the week.

Anyway, back to the 3D foam haunted house.  It looked simple enough.  The kids and I could do it during the Green Bay Packers/Minnesota Vikings game.  No sweat.  So, here goes…

 The design and directions.  

We started this fun project early in the afternoon.  First up, construct the house. The kids are adorable in their energy and helpfulness.  It was truly a group effort as we sort the pieces – did I mention there were over 100?  We put down the foundation.  I start with the walls of the house.  Okay, they should lock into place, just like the directions.  Shoot.  This is tougher than it looks!  Girl helps me place the walls.  Oh, crap, need glue.  Send Mid to get glue; he returns with slippers.  Although I have been searching for said slippers for 3 weeks, I am annoyed.  For the love of Persephone am I the only one that can find anything around here?  Leave project to find glue.  Have children start simpler projects independently.

It’s already halftime?  Seriously.  Send kids outside to wander while I drop countless f-bombs trying to get this torture-masked-as-a-foam-3effingD-haunted house built.  If I get one more “when can we put the stickers on it?” I may lose it.  A few hours and a Packers win later, I have the house constructed.  Of course, by now all three kids have lost interest and are outside playing football, riding bikes or chasing coyotes.  And how am I supposed to know?  This stupid house has taken the bulk of my afternoon. 

  Progress as of I-don’t-know-when after the game.

“What’s for dinner? “  Is it really that late? In any case, the house is constructed.  The kids complete the house with the stickers and other random foam thingy’s while I get something organized for dinner.  Just when I think the entire day has gone to hell in a hand basket, JB hands me a gin and tonic and comments, “Great job on that haunted house.  The kids really like it.”  Even with that glowing affirmation, somehow, I don’t see many crafts in our future for Christmas.  Outlet mall, anyone?


Random notes about my first weeks in Alberta..

I miss Target. My almost fifteen year boycott of Wal-Mart has sadly come to an end. For now.
I miss knowing where I am headed. I get honked at occasionally, though Canadians are too polite to cuss at me.
For our first week or so, we were pretty disconnected from the outside world. I did not mind the absence of television, but the lack of internet gave me shakes at times.
Just like in Milwaukee, everything is in two languages. However, in Canada, bilingual means English and French.
JB has a renewed excitement about his work. I haven’t seen this in a while and let me tell you, it’s nice.
Ski Jumpers are crazy. I can see the Canada Olympic Park (COP) from my kitchen, which includes the ski jump and bobsled run. All I have to say to all those would-be Olympic ski-jumpers – Really? Does your mother know what you’re doing?
Canadians are nice, polite people. But you must understand their rules. They will tell you the rules clearly and politely, followed by clear direction that getting caught disobeying the rules is a huge no-no. (see “Distracted Driving Law”)
Is anyone really from Calgary originally? Outside of a very few, introductions usually go something like this. “Hi, I’m Lisa. These are my boys, Max and Sam. We have lived in Europe and Asia before settling in Alberta, although we are originally from the United Kingdom.” It seems that everyone I have met on the block is from somewhere other than here. Mexico, England, Italy, South Korea… it feels good that it is not odd to be a foreigner.  Backyards are overrated. Why have a yard when your ‘hood buddies are going to set up street hockey? Nobody plays in their yard, assuming the even have one, but children are everywhere. On the street, in the field, on the trails, everywhere. My American kids find this a bit odd. “You mean we can just go out there, Mom?” “Yes! Go explore! Stay together! But, please, this is Canada, not the Caribbean, dress in layers and wear a hat!”
I miss our garbage disposal. You know, the thing we take for granted in the suburban USA? That magical thing in our kitchen sink that makes yucky stuff go down the drain?  Yeah, that.
Just because the box is labeled “China”, don’t think it does not contain the pancake griddle and muffin pan. Enough said.
This metric thing I harder that I thought. Gasoline is only $1.13? Woot! Oh, you meant per liter. And there are how many liters in a gallon? Cripe, I give up. Note to self – stop trying to convert everything and just go with it.
The Girl has joined the choir. I have been asking her to do this at church for years. Finally! And of her own conviction, she came to me and said “I need ten bucks”. As you can imagine, I immediately asked why. Her reply of “to join the school choir” almost made me break into song.
I miss my running buddies. Saturday early mornings on the Glacial Drumlin Trail or at the Milwaukee Lakefront with Mike, Dione, Jessica, Mike, Jennifer, Mary Ann, Mandee, I know I forgot some…. Great way to start a weekend and blow off some steam. On the “to do” list – must find running buddies. After all, I have an open invitation to all listed above to run the Calgary Marathon next May.


She was born in the fall of her 40th year, coming home to a place she’d never been before..
It does not have the same ring to it as John Denver’s “Rocky Mountain High”, but I truly felt like singing this today after driving home from dropping the kids at school. Truth be told, I sang. Really loud. And it was fun. And just another example of why JB will not endorse guitar lessons for me. He has this (only slightly) off base vision of me playing John Denver, Grateful Dead and Indigo Girls songs to the kids until I am blue in the face and they are flannel wearing, tie-dyed, long-haired hippies relaxing in the mountains after a day of skiing, biking or hiking, (depending on the season of course). But I digress.
When I posted some pictures of Calgary on Facebook after moving here, a friend commented, “I think you have found your happy place.” And you know what? I think I have. Is there anything better than the sunrise reflecting on snow-capped mountains with a sapphire blue sky? Every day that we have been here I have wanted to stop what I was doing at least once and take a picture. Instead, I have done this only half the time. Every day I do pause, though, and just take it all in. I have found my beach, as they say in the Corona ads.
Don’t get me wrong, I get homesick for the Badger State. We left many friends and family to make this move. The promise of another gorgeous sunrise helps to remind me that the Good Lord is looking out for us, and though I am not sure how it will look, things will work out the way they are meant to be.

To the “Heart of the New West”…

It started like this…  “Would you be willing to look at relocating to Calgary?  There is a company there that may have an interesting job  for me.”  My reply, “Where is Calgary?  Weren’t the Olympic Games there once?  Yes, I guess so.  Besides, what’s the worst that can happen?  Just talk to the recruiter.”

People told us this all happened so fast, though I disagree.  JB, my husband, was contacted by a friend about an intriguing job in Calgary.  After several skype conversations, with each one ending with JB saying to me, “this sounds like it could be really great.  Are you sure you want me to keep moving forward with this?”  And my reply was always, “Of course!  What’s the worst that can happen?  We move to Canada?”  When the time came for us to show up here in person for him to interview, I was reeling.  We had not really told anyone that we were considering this move and talked about it in very abstract terms.  After spending a long weekend in Calgary, however, I told JB that I was confident our family could be happy here.

So we switched it into 5th gear and within a few months we were on our way to the “Heart of the New West”.  I hope that you enjoy our family’s tales of life in Canada.  I plan to write about my life, my children and husband, and pretty much anything else that comes to mind.

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