Vacation: I haz it.

So I’m sitting here on Sunday night realising that I don’t have to go to work this week.

Truly. A switchover in HR systems about a month back led to the discovery of a kajilion or so banked vacation days, and the All-Powerful Accounting Magic (to which I occasionally sacrifice a spreadsheet by the light of the moon) has decreed that in order to free up the accumulated $$, the days must be taken by January 31st 2010.

I’ve been here five years, that gave me five days. My carpool driver was already taking off this week, so. This is not quite as unbearably cool as the one buyer who couldn’t figure out how to schedule so many days off, so decided she was going to sleep in ’till 10 every single day in January… but it is not hay.

I do not mind that I’m not going anywhere. I am frankly a little freaked out by how much I am revelling simply in having enough time to get everything done that I want to for once. That I don’t have to spend the weekend trying to make every moment of relaxation count, dammit!

Apparently I was a bit more tightly wound than even I suspected.

So let’s see…

I want to check out the newest ebook apps on iTunes.

I want to update & tidy my WordPress mirror blog.

I want to catch up on email correspondence.

I want to listen to my new audiobooks, and maybe actually finish one before the next credit comes through next month.

I want to finally decide whether to sign up for Twitter, & if I do, to get the hang of which feeds I want to follow.

I want to finish culling and sorting my photos.

I want to shamelessly sign up for eMusic just to get the 25 free downloads, which I will then shamelessly splurge mostly on Bob & Ray routines.

I want to finish signing up for the Author’s Den website — OK, OK, I need to actually post some stuff over there. Also find out how to turn off the flood of ‘helpful’ email newsletters. Not necessarily in that order; if many more helpful emails come through, my first piece might just be the touching tale of an author driven to run screaming out into traffic.

Um, move away from the computer? OK… I guess I could play with my kitten, do some baking, sleep in and watch cartoons every morning, read a couple books I’ve been putting off, experiment with my new makeup, go for long walks and just generally chill with friends and family… Oh, and Shoemom and I have booked an afternoon to finally go see the Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit at the ROM.

Stress-free relaxation may be a bit tricker than I thought.

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Born of the one light/Eden saw play

Musings on Teh Inauguration coming soon, I promise.

But I just remembered, I did do something mildly interesting this past weekend: went to the ROM (Royal Ontario Museum) for the first time post-reno. A jewelry-designer friend wanted to see the diamond exhibit, and her membership includes a guest, and I am just generally very good at being the type of person benevolent friends take to the museum.

So…the reno. To be specific, the Michael Lee-Chin Crystal; or to be even morespecific, ‘that huge ugly blister that’s now stuck to that gorgeous old building’, as friend’s husband put it. Can’t really disagree. While the concept is clearly supposed to be ‘organic growth fused to city setting’, the net result is more like ‘explosion at the storm window factory somebody tried to contain with random weatherstripping’.

Inside the crystal sections, the tone-deafness continues. Where you would expect sharpness and light, an enhancement of the museum’s intellectual power, there is instead flat white…drywall? As in, they were so anxious to start making money off this thing they decided against finishing off the walls? Sure looks like it, is all I am saying. Occasionally, you can glance through a haphazard shred of storm window down onto: yet another condo build. This does not discourage mental snarks about pretentious Torontonians.

(Weirdly enough, the only place the new interior works is the renovated Hall of Dinosaurs, clearly where all the planning budget went. The ancient skeletons really pop against the white and light).

The diamond exhibit was fairly cool. Albeit I had been expecting more romantic history surrounding famously sordid gems and fewer…er…carbon filaments. A similar exhibit on pearls I’d seen some years ago managed to tie their formation, the rarity of their perfection, into a marvellous tour of power and prestige down through the centuries.

With the diamonds – thank you De Beers, I suppose – they jump straight from ‘yup, really hard and clear’ to Cartier and Harry Winston and carat-encrusted leopards with emerald eyes, all that sort of thing. The diamond as symbol of conspicuous consumption is a powerful story; but it’s also, eventually, something of an imaginative dead end. All told I have added three valuable bits to my store of Life Experiences:

1.) Large, flawless pink diamonds do indeed look like ‘a deuced drop of pink bubbly’. I read that phrase in a mystery once and have always been charmed by it. Good to have confirmation.

2.) It is possible to get some truly lovely effects with diamonds – picking out a snakeskin pattern, for example, or enhancing the delicate grace of a swirl or ribbon form. Lush forms are not served quite as well, or rather are served too well. And a life-size diamond-encrusted rose is over-the-top to the point of inducing mild nausea.

3.) In medieval portraits, diamonds  – and gosh weren’t there a lot! – were invariably painted black, ‘with a flash of white along the edge’. I will now not embarrass myself, should I ever run into an art historian. Here I’d been wondering all this time at the medieval nobility’s dedication to onyx when there were all those diamonds available.

I’m back.

I have a wicked sunburn, a baggie full of the shells that I swore I was not going to bother collecting this time, another bag of random outlet-mall tchotchkes that I am now eyeing warily from across the room trying to remember what they were, three hundred fifty or so sunset pictures with the horizon slightly crooked, and a half-eaten pack of Cracker Barrel caramel corn.

Plus enough field experience, mostly from that day I decided to walk all the way to the top of the island, to write an entire grad-school thesis on The American Tourist Goes to the Beach. Let us just say that this dovetailed rather unfortunately with my parallel inquiries into The Caloric Value of American Junk Food. Then there were the teeny Santa hats on the pink plastic flamingo wine stoppers…

In short, I had the most wonderful time.

Someday, I may even get around to recording more details, probably right after I tackle the mountain – strongly resembling the ones we drove thru at four-frelling-AM this morning – that is my f-list backlog. (For starters, It seems that my friend RJ Anderson went and had a book released, and it is getting the fantastic reviews it richly deserves, so that’s at least one Dance of Joy to be added to the list.)

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go take a well-earned vacation from getting back from my vacation.

We leave for Florida next week.

Mom’s best friend and her daughter about my age, whom I likewise adore, have gone in with us on a ten-day luxury condo rental on Anna Maria Island. Leaving Dec 22nd, returning Jan5th. This, as you may imagine, has me no end excited.

We haven’t had a proper winter getaway vacation in years. The last two of those winters have been a relentless march of gray skies, and snow, and cold, sigh twice and repeat, ad nauseum. In the big city, this effect is magnified almost unbearably by the endless vistas of glass and concrete and steel.
I leave for work each morning in the cold and frozen dark, I come home in the cold and snowy dark, and there is no warm  welcoming surface anywhere. Indoors there is comfort, of course, but always shadowed with the knowledge that you’re marooned there. This becomes especially pertinent when you’re starving, surrounded by restaurants just a few too many cold minutes away, and all the caff has to offer is egg salad on white.

As you can see, it is imperative that I get away, for the sake of my prose if nothing else. What I really love about this trip is how adult it is. Not so much in terms of ‘retirement community’ as ‘no costumed mice within fifty miles.’ We are planning to drive down over the first weekend, and that’s about as structured as it gets. At least, it will be if we can stave off the best friend’s instinct to feed us every morning, noon, and night. She is Polish, so a firm line will be necessary. (Albeit we are not ruling out Shoemom’s favourite white borscht.)

I am so seriously anticipating this vacation, that I am currently living off a diet of rice cakes and water, the better a) to look half-decent in the new bathing suit – something else I haven’t given thought to in years! – and b) to take at least a little advantage of the truly astonishing array of American junk food. Specifically, those Dove chocolate-chip cookies I bought last time. Oh, and real key lime pie, can’t forget that. It is a good thing the Eucharist does not involve key lime, else we here @ Shoe Central would be seriously considering conversion.

Thing is, I tend to put on weight squarely in my stomach and hips, so these two goals will be locked in perpetual conflict…but where there’s a will, there’s a way. *munches BBQ-flavoured rice cake with renewed conviction*

Also, there will be long walks among other ‘quaint shops’, and shell-hunting on the beach, and lying flopped in a beach chair with a good book and/or my iPod. I’ve bought the latest Patrick McManus and Ladies’ No. 1 Detective Agency just for the occasion, not to mention the new Bob & Ray bonanza. Just think, two blissful weeks of nobody having to hear about those two, except the people trapped in the immediate car with me. The fun, she is spreading.

When that course is run/Then come to me…

So I’m typing this from my Granshoes’ ancient 256MB Random Small-Town Computer Store Build, which gets no further attention from year to year except when my preteen cousins are jonesing for the Jones Brothers.

It’s not that my grandfather is afraid of new technology; simply utterly, serenely conscious of having lived 85 years without it. A snappy young salesman managed to entice him with the prospect of on-demand photos of the grandkids, but repented in tears and ashes upon trying to explain the concept of ‘opening email attachments’ shortly thereafter.
At which point the [theoretically] adoring eldest grand-daughter was hauled in (‘[Shoe]’s so good with computers!’), apparently just because the Creator has a quirky sense of humour. The number of times I’ve tried to explain, say, Media Player to this man, only to be greeted with a stone wall of “Yes, dear…hmmm…why, that’s a good idea…hmmmm…” would surely make Bill Gates cry.

At any rate, as summer weekend retreats go, this isn’t such a bad prospect. More

This used to be my playground/This used to be my childhood dream…

I have always loved November. I love all the months of change, really; but there is something about November – the wind and the wild and the wet – that makes rising to the challenge of living a particularly gallant endeavour.

That said…I will concede that sometimes, after an especially tactless battle, there’s no shame in just sitting indoors and watching the challenge swirl past your window for awhile. After all, even the Knights of the Round Table must’ve paused on occasion to rest the horses.

So thusly here I sit. Cuddled contentedly into a living room that is mine-all-mine at last after last weekend’s switchover – Shoemom having finally decided, in the face of six more weeks of Monday Night Football, that retreating to a TV-less space is worth putting up with my stuffies scattered around the public areas. Computer desk over here, cable TV over there, books on the far wall, cats gamboling on the futon; I feel rather like a spoiled yuppie offspring in her playpen, it’s all about stimulating the growing mind.
(Meanwhile, I hasten to add, Shoemom is enjoying her own new, determinedly un-stimulating space hugely. For one thing, she hates the colour I chose for the walls, so this is Blank Slate Central for her, design-wise.)

In short, things are so cozy – and my ego purring so loudly – the only thing on my mind is sharing the photos from our last bliss-centric day. Return with me now to the much more tactful beguilements of an October Saturday in Niagara. Yes…we had joy, we had fun, we had seasons in the sun. But we didn’t, y’know, die or anything. More

Reprint: I’ve Got the One-More-Map Vacation Blues

–OK, OK, so I’m about to unleash the blogging equivalent of forcing the readership to watch the vacation slides. Just be grateful I’ve kept in the cute cat stories this far, yeah? Besides, I want a chance to test-drive the photo capabilities on this thing, and the opportunity is perfect.

Without further ado, then, let us return to a certain sunny Labor Day week of earlier this year. A tiny Kia, some Wet Wipes, and two middle-aged women riding the ragged edge of the Maritime highway…primarily because we kept missing the exits. Or, as the family insists on calling it, ‘Thelma & Louise, so when does Brad Pitt show up already?!’

(Helpful photo-ID note: I’m the one with the glasses. Unfortunately, neither of us photographs well [insert crack about fashion sense not helping here]) More

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