Here there be dragons...

"I'm telling you stories. Trust me." - Winterson

Friday Flash #62: Good Fences

"Are you moving?"

I stopped myself from uttering the sarcastic response that sprang to mind in light of the moving truck and obvious packing going on, and settled instead for a brief nod.  The elderly busybody thrived on knowing everybody's business, whereas I thrived on privacy.  We'd never gotten along particularly well.


"I'm concerned the cops will discover the bodies in the basement."  Her eyes widened and her jaw dropped.  I left her standing there and went to collect the next box.  I wondered what it said that she was at least contemplating believing my wild fiction.

"Where are you going?" she asked as I returned.


She waddled in front of me, so I had to either step through the gardens or push her out of the way to continue being productive.  I rolled my eyes as I finally met her gaze.


"I don't know," I told her, and I wasn't entirely lying.

"Well where is the truck going?"

"It's taking my stuff to storage.  If I ever get it packed…"

She didn't take the hint.  I can't say I was surprised.  I took a deep breath in an attempt to give my internal censors time to work.  I shook my head and shoved past her, closer than would ever be deemed polite, but not so aggressively that she lost her balance.  When I returned, she'd removed herself from the path, but still watched every move I made.  Her husband sat, as he always did, in his rocker across the street.  In five years, I'd yet to hear him say a word or see him venture farther from the house than his porch.

In truth, I didn't know where I was going.  I just felt immensely dissatisfied where I was and had deemed it time to move on.  My job allowed me to work from anywhere with a decent internet connection.  I had vague plans to drive south and east until I found somewhere warm and sunny.  This town, which had once seemed so quaint and peaceful, had been plagued by the same issues as small towns everywhere and the novelty had worn off.  But worse than boredom inspired drug use and a disproportionate number of teenage pregnancies, people had been going missing.  As the anxiety rose on the streets and local news celebrities had been replaced by state reporters, it occurred to me that nobody would even notice if I were to disappear.  Work would clue in eventually -- but I doubted they'd do anything other than have HR fire me via email.

So I decided it was time to go.  Start over somewhere that I wouldn't have to shovel the driveway.  Maybe a city this time, where anonymity was the expectation rather than the exception.  Somewhere I could pay an exorbitant amount for an average latte served by a barista who can't spell.

By the time I finished packing, my own personal neighbourhood watch had her lips curled in tightly and anger creased her forehead.  It became a stubborn point for me not to address her.  As I climbed into the truck, she never moved.  I didn't say goodbye and she didn't wave.  I just left her standing there glaring as I pulled out.
A few days later I found myself on the other side of the country, contemplating options for my next home.  I sat in a busy sports bar and half-heartedly watched the tv while I awaited my order.  Football switched off as two talking heads appeared.  Breaking News!  The national anchor started talking, her words transcribed on the bottom of the screen.  Husband and wife serial killers arrested.  Parts of dozens of bodies spanning a time period of decades found in their basement.  Neighbours describe them as quiet, loving, and part of the community.

On the screen showed the house across the street, the porch swing now empty and still, accompanied by a mug shots of my nosy neighbour and her quiet husband.

Do it again, only better.

So Mum sent me my horoscope yesterday and it made me smile:
"Don’t waste time wishing you were somewhere else or doing something else. The fact is you are exactly where you need to be and you are doing exactly what you are supposed to be doing. So do it some more, only better than before."
hahaha awesome.  Will get on that.

Because apparently people want stories about the girl side of my life ;-P

So I've been informed that wedding planning is to be blogged about ;-P   Apparently, there's an entire industry based off it.  But if that's so, I really shouldn't need to should I?   Sadly that logic didn't hold, and since I do print my blogs, some day I imagine I'll want to look back and read about it…  So without further ado…

Let's see…  So far we've got the engagement, which was amazing, but already has a post. (Rereading it still makes my heart race!).  We had the dress shopping, which is done.  And in the end my awesome mother bought my amazingly gorgeous dress for me.  One that wasn't even *in* the original dress shopping blog.  hahaha I took Mum to see the "top two" -- and in both stores they recommended others.  This was one of the others and I'm actually super excited about it -- still seems so surreal.  Alas, it has not yet arrived… :(  My bridesmaids both have theirs though (or rather, Steph does.  Jen's is still in my closet waiting for me to mail it to her.  Oops. That'll be on Wed.)   Chris has the guys under control (as far as I know).  So really, what else is there?


Have you ever planned a vacation before?  How about a party?  Remember all those stupid little details…  Now try a vacation party for 25 of your closest friends and family and 25 people you've met once ;-P   I am not even kidding.  Picking the location was easy -- of our short list of two places each, Costa Rica was the one both Chris and I wanted to go to.  Picking the hotel was slightly harder as we wanted a price range that would allow most of our friends and family to come.  While the resort we chose probably wouldn't have been our personal first choice, it did let some people we really care about come who otherwise wouldn't have been able to afford it.  It also looks all kinds of civilized and had really good reviews -- including from our travel agent who's actually been there.  We've since met a surprising number of people who've stayed there and have yet to hear anything negative, so getting super excited about the whole thing!

As for the date -- well a beach wedding should really be in the winter.  And two of my closest friends work in the Greenhawk marketing department, so we had to time it around their calendar so they'd be able to come.   Ummmm yeah -- or we can go with the idea that it's Chris' birthday.  And his parents got married on his father's birthday.  And that was just all sorts of cool.  But, you know, whichever option works for you ;-P   Regardless, the date was set.  The only catch is, it's a Monday -- and we have to be in the country three working days before the wedding.  So we'll be leaving the Wednesday before.  Which, it turns out, all sorts of people are happy about because apparently it's easier to schedule vacation mid-week to mid-week than for a normal Mon-Fri.  It gives the appearance of only being away a couple days.  All-round win!

So we have a date and a location -- all we need is invites.  Right.  Google "wedding invites" -- I dare you.  In fact, go one better and Google "beach wedding invites".  Thousands of options and none of them quite right.  Even harder when Chris and I had to agree (I tell you, if you can plan a wedding when both partners have strong and often opposing opinions, you definitely earn a sticker. A big sparkly one.)   And then there's the fact that we're on a fairly tight budget.  Remember I *just* got reemployed…  So things that were nice enough were too expensive.  Finally I found one that was *almost* right.  Suited both of us, was from a company in California (they should know about beaches right?), and in our price range.  So I contacted them to see if the changes we wanted could be made (very simple changes -- with the original file I could make them in Photoshop in about a minute).   Yes, no problem.   Sweet.

Right.  Sure enough the design changes were no problem -- they did a great job of that.  However, that company in California?  Yeah, they were outsourcing somewhere on the other side of the world where English might someday be a second language for the people I was communicating with.  Which meant getting our text sorted out was a nightmare.  I just wanted a couple simple changes (we're talking text here -- it's not complicated).  They'd change one and not the other.  Then they'd change the other but revert the first.  Then they'd make up something entirely different.  Every change with 24-48h turn around.  It. Was. Atrocious.  Eight revisions for the original two-word change.  I was seriously ready to bang my head against the wall.  But eventually we got them.  And they were lovely.   
Not positive if this was the final draft or not, but close enough!
Now you can't just send invites…  Oh no, even though you can RSVP online (oh yeah -- we had to create a website too!), you still need to send RSVP cards.  And for those who don't know how to use the internet, a self-addressed, stamped, envelope.  Seriously.  Chris had an idea that the RSVP should be a boarding pass.  Actually I think originally that the wedding invite should be, but it morphed into the RSVP.  This I found some examples of online as well, but I didn't like any of them.  Not even close enough to ask for changes.  And, well, I was a little gun shy after the last round.  So I designed them myself.  And, tbh, was really happy with the results! 
This was way more work but significantly less stressful
So on a nice spring day, we spread a blanket outside and assembled all our invites.  Who was on the list?  Anybody we or anybody else really wanted to be.  One advantage of a destination wedding is that we didn't have to restrict our invitations.  It's a big beach :)

Now part of the package we purchased includes the service of a wedding planner.  She, unfortunately, seems to be rather useless.  Enough that she's about to earn her own post.  But since in the end the hotel does everything I figure worse case I'll spend the first day of the trip tracking down the onsite wedding person and arranging things the way we want them.  We've got the day, time and location booked.  Everything else can be negotiated if necessary.

Let's see, what else…  There was the not-shopping-shopping.  I think I wrote about that before -- registering for gifts.  Which seems both awkward and particularly pointless since with a destination wedding we're not expecting gifts.

Although people do still give them, which meant thank you cards.  My design abilities were used up and fortunately it was a quick and painless search that found the ones we bought.  We even agreed reasonably quickly.  Simple and clean.  The only thing is, online it looked as though it'd match our shade of red just about perfectly, whereas the ones we got don't.  Boooo.  They're still okay though so we're good to go there.

So some things still aren't planned which is pretty thoroughly frustrating.  There's also all the trip stuff too -- trying to remember to buy everything we'd need in the summer for the trip since beach stuff in February is hard to come by ;)   I got the vacation time from my new job, so that's one stress gone.  Hahaha  So that's where things stand.  The key details are settled.  The small details are nagging me, but I'm trying not to stress too much.  Still need to figure out jewelry - hmmmmm…  But I actually have shoes ;)   Wanted to get married barefoot, but by all accounts the sand's too hot.  Mostly though, no matter the details, so long as Chris and I are both there we're good to go.  Can't wait!

First world problems

Today started out alright -- got up, never my favourite thing to do, but on time.  Did my mini-exercise (10 minute fitness -- I try to get that, at least, in before work so if I'm exhausted after and don’t do a real workout at the end of the day, at least something will have been done.  I am, after all, getting married on a beach in February ;).  Got dressed and ready to go…  And then should've gone back to bed.

Starting to pack for work the failures began.  Step one -- I couldn't find my kobo.   I knew I didn't have it with me when I went to read it on the weekend, but I figured I'd just left it in my work bag.  Nope, apparently not.  No time for a thorough search, so simply kobo-less today.  Booo.   Making lunch I realize I left my lunch container at Chris'.  Frig.  And then, worse, as I went to leave the house I realized my gloves -- you know, the ones I *always* leave in the car -- are also in Paris.  Not good as it's all kinds of miserable out.

Driving to the train station, I get stopped at a train crossing.  Nbd -- unlike train crossings at the barn which can take upwards of half an hour, this one is almost always GO or Via and lasts about long enough to pause momentarily.  It was, in fact, a GO train, but not one that had any interest in actually going anywhere *sigh*   It slowed to a complete stop, immediately before the crossing.  It was not the train I was aiming for, rather the one before it, but still had the potential to make me late for mine.   Eventually it deigned to move on and I was able to continue on my merry way to the station.

Well apparently when it snows, everybody takes the train.  Which strikes me as odd because I distinctly remember horrible traffic on snow days when I drove in so clearly there are still people driving…  Regardless, the floor I usually park on was full so had to go up a level.  Nbd -- just have to remember when I come home!

So I swipe my presto card and…  Nothing.  Hmmmm Okay fine, dig it out of my wallet and try again -- this time it worked.  Why it wouldn't deign to work in the exact same spot in my wallet it's always in?  I have no idea.  But even with the time delay I made it.  Sweet.   And even with the excessive number of extra people, I got a seat.  Helps knowing exactly where to stand on the platform ;)

But then the woman next to me started humming.  I'm not even kidding.  Older than me, sitting on a rush hour train, humming away.  It made me long for an overly rude and obnoxious cell phone user just to drain her out.  The whole ride.  And it was an extra long ride as we had to stop twice to let other trains figure out where they were going.

Eventually got to work.  I like work.  People don't hum there.  Things should get better right?  Well yes, except apparently my computer felt the weekend shouldn't quite be over.  It's a reasonably new and quick, albeit heavy, machine -- but it took a solid 25 minutes and three tries to boot up.  I was about thirty seconds from calling tech support when it finally deigned to bring up anything other than the login screen.  Fortunately that was counteracted by my first meeting being cancelled so the time almost exactly balances out ;)

Any of this a big deal?  Nope -- not even slightly.  The subject line should've portrayed that ;-P  But I'm sad and I'm stressed and I really can't wait for life to even pretend to stabilize a little.  It's definitely on the right track, but like that train this morning, just not moving quite fast enough...

Lifestyles of the rich or moderately well connected

I thought, over the years, I'd seen just about all the Royal has to offer.  But last night, all those experiences got one-upped ;)   Rebecca invited Chris and I to join her and Mike in the Greenhawk box -- which in itself is all kinds of awesome!   Esp as I was pretty sure I wasn't going to get to go at all this year (can hardly take a day off when I've been here less than two weeks!)   So we'd planned to go for a fancy dinner at the Tanbark club (all kinds of exclusive in that you have to have box seats to get in).  But then, plans changed…   We found ourselves invited to the President's Dinner?
What's the President's Dinner?   Yeah, we didn't know either.  Google proved to be a complete fail on this one.  But it is very formal and your name must be on the list -- in the most literal sense.  Fortunately due to the magic powers of Rebecca's connections, it was.  Woohoo!
So -- planning.  I was coming straight from work, so Chris stopped off and picked up my clothes on the way.   I randomly decided that if I was going to get dressed up, I was really going to get dressed up -- there have to be *some* advantages to working downtown.  One of which is a reasonably high end hair salon that's literally across the street.  Called them at 9am -- they don't open till 11.  Hmmmm  Left a message saying that I'd really like an appointment for 12:15 for an up-do if they had anything available, but I'd be in meetings till noon so if they could please just leave me a message either way.  The message said 12:15 wasn't available but 12:30 was.  Okay -- I didn't have another meeting till 2, so nbd.  Just wanted to go on my lunch break (who needs to eat?).   Called them to confirm and they said "well actually they finished early, so you could come any time."  Perfect.  Lock up my computer and I was there in well under five minutes.  I wasn't sure at the time exactly where it was, but turned out to be like three doors away on the other side of the street.
Hairstylist was not chatty -- I really liked her.  Hahaha asked me what I wanted. Ummm roughly I want the front pulled back and I want curls.  Other than that?  Pretty much up to her.   Okay well did I want it up or down.  Down.  And away she went.   A little while, some hair magic, and a couple bottles of elite hair cement later and we were done.  Do you know they paint grey hairs?  ;)  hahaha I was so amused by that.  Yes, the last few months has given me some, but she hid them beautifully.  Needless to say, I was rather overdressed for my afternoon meetings *g*

This is clearly how I go to work every day
Took the indoor route to the train as I was trying to avoid the windstorm's battle with the hair cement.  Had to find a train that actually stops at the ex -- all the ones I usually take are express.  But once that was set, good to go.  Actually got there within a couple minutes of Chris.  So we got all dressed up (yeah for the surprisingly roomy Greenhawk change room ;) and then had all of about half an hour to wander around.  That is not nearly long enough *sigh*   Can't say I actually saw anything and I certainly didn't buy anything.  But such is life.  Completely reminds me of the year I was shopping for horses I didn't actually own yet *g*  That was a fun trip.  And actually rather the extreme opposite of this one.
Anyways -- today's story.  Eventually it was time to go, so we followed Rebecca to a secret passage that lead upstairs to places only special people know.   Okay that might be slightly exaggerated, but not much.  A woman sitting a the desk checked off our names -- well really, Rebecca's name -- and gave her her tickets for the evening show.  We would be at table 6.  Sure -- can't say I had any preference.
People were very well turned out -- complete with the woman with the long white kid gloves.  We were offered champagne pretty much as soon as we walked in and there was live music playing off to the side.  We were the youngest people there by at least a generation -- in some cases two or three ;)

Eventually we were asked to find our seats and we introduced ourselves to our table-mates.  All super welcoming and an interesting combination of people to talk to.  Beside Rebecca and Mike was her boss (who shared his tickets) and his step-daughter.  Next to Chris and I was the VP of marketing for Pizza Pizza and his wife.  And between them the ring steward for the Royal and his wife.  He had to leave early to start the show but we saw her again later.  Very cool combination of people.  There was a brief introductory speech after which we were all asked to stand for the arrival of the Lieutenant Governor -- she gave a speech which was more interesting than I'd anticipated.   We were served three courses of fancy food -- well two fancy ones and one steak ;-P   And endlessly full glasses of award-winning wine.  Might've been a good day to take up recreational drinking ;)
Dinner was concluded with a video and another short speech and then it was horse show time.  Box seats at the royal are exactly the same as regular seats -- just wrapped in red.  Hahaha awesome.  But the show was good and we were late enough from dinner that we missed most of the boring classes.  Watched two coach drivers collide -- seriously?  How does that even happen?  It's not like they were going fast or there was a lot of traffic.  All were okay so not tragic.

Horse show was a horse show.  They're way more fun to play in than watch, so if you're interested -- catch it on TV or online -- I hear GH was live tweeting the event ;)   Afterwards we had to fight the crowds and convince some very frustrated security guards to let us back in the booth area to retrieve our jackets and, more importantly, keys!   Fortunately Steph met up with us and had both a pass and the key so it wasn't that hard a sell.

Even the traffic cooperated.  Once we got out of the immediate area, was a fairly easy ride home.  Of course then I was wired!  Suffice to say I went to work with basically a power nap today ;)   But what an amazing experience.  So much fun :)   Huge thanks to Rebecca for letting us tag along!

If at first you don't succeed, skydiving is not for you.

In the interest of keeping life interesting, on Sunday Chris and I decided to go Skydiving.  Indoors ;)    Both of us have an interest in skydiving, but I have to admit I'm a little hesitant now.  Three times I signed up to go.  And three times it was cancelled for rain.  With no rain in the forecast.  Twice with no rain in the six-month forecast!  Once in NZ and twice in Australia.  And at that point I began to wonder if maybe the universe was trying to tell me it wasn't meant to be.  Superstitious and illogical?  Yup, absolutely.  But hey, it's kept me alive thus far *g*
So indoors it was.  Website looked good, so we drove down to Niagara for our adventure.  The place, admittedly, was fairly dodgy.  If we hadn't already paid, I suspect there's a strong chance we'd have decided it wasn't worth it and gone on about our day.  But we had, so we waited.  There were the two of us and a group of six others. 
Our pre-flight briefing involved safety, "tuck and roll" when being catapulted out of the wind tunnel, and hand signals.  Hand signals because, well, it's *loud* in there!   We had a chance to watch some people before us and, as with beginner riders, it appears it's beginner flyers who demonstrate exactly how hard this whole concept really is.  While the riding pros make it look like they just sit there and the flying pros make it look like midair acrobatics are no more challenging than they would be in a swimming pool, beginners show the truth.  I watched three different people attempt it during my waiting time.  One could get up but kept getting thrown out of the tunnel into the crash pads.  The second couldn't seem to manage to fly at all -- flipping sideways and crashing down.  Yikes!  The instructor did manage to get both of them up and straight in the air, but it appeared easier said than done.  The third girl was awesome -- she seemed to get it and he let her go and the world was good.  Okay, so it can be done.  Sweet.
We got ourselves suited up. The suits are a special kind of hideous, although Chris somehow got the only red suit there, so he was set ;)   Then the addition of gloves, ear plugs, and helmets.  Note, make sure your ear plugs are in right.  The first one I put in was fine, but the second one wasn't and I lost it part way through a flight.  My ear is still ringing :(  Sadly, I'm not exaggerating. 
The group of 6 wanted to go together, and there's a max of six people with the instructor allowed in at one time.  Which meant Chris and I got to go on our own :)  Yeah!
So you enter a giant circle.  The walls are padded as is the area on the floors directly around the wall.  The majority of the bottom and all of the ceiling were a strong wire mesh -- and you could see the giant fans.  Before the fans were even turned on we practiced our "tuck and roll" -- basically throw yourself at the wall/ground in a way that you don't get hurt.  You know, the way you're supposed to fall off your horse.  Right.  How well does *that* ever work out?   Ah well.  Then the fans were turned on and we were good to go.  These mats weren't entirely soft either.
I went first and with a leap of faith found myself hovering above the pit of doom….  Or, you know, wire mesh floor.  Couldn't stop grinning, it was so cool.  The first couple tries for both of us the instructor held on to us or our suits to make sure nothing tragic happened.  There really is a complete lack of control over both direction and height.
It was so much more fun than I'd anticipated!  And I'm reasonably certain we got more than our allotted stretch of time ;)  Both of us have reasonable body awareness and got the general flying concept pretty much instantly.  Which meant our instructor's hand signals became a lot more intensive than what the video taught.  I was impressed at his ability to teach using improvised sign language.  Much like learning underwater diving, sky diving also negates your ability to speak.  But my underwater instructors weren't nearly as creative.  I don't actually know what he was telling Chris;  I think one was about how to use his arms, but I couldn't see anything else.  But my instructions were all kinds of useful -- the first time it was to keep my hands open.  I'd curled them into fists and it greatly detracts from your navigational abilities.  Hahaha then the next one was about how to use my body to control up and down -- up I had -- any time he let me go, I'd shoot straight up until he grabbed hold of my suit and pulled me back down.  Down was more of a challenge.  I got the theory but wasn't terribly good at it.  Well, except the one time I managed to crash into the wires.  Sheesh. Always one extreme or another.  The last set of instructions I got were about how to steer -- there'd been a little about that in the briefing, but this was a far more practical application.  The objective here being to actually stay over the wind tunnel and not get tossed off to the mats.  If you ever try it yourself though, the biggest thing I figured out (which admittedly the video did mention briefly but it got lost in everything else) was to keep my eyes up.  Looking up (actually tilting my head back) instantly stabilized my body in the right position and enabled me to think about other forms of control.  The first jump I did, I was fascinated by the pit of doom and never looked away till I crashed into a mat ;-P  Got better after that.
Overall, before going, it looked moderately amusing.  When we got there, my hopes plummeted fairly quickly *sigh*  But then it was Way More Fun than ever anticipated.  I really enjoyed it.  The only thing I would say is if you have shoulder or neck problems, you might want to give it a miss…  Other than that though -- go have a blast!  There's also one in Oakville, which is newer and looks like it might be even more entertaining, but I haven't actually been to it yet.

Was I any good at it?  I have absolutely no idea.  Hahaha ignorance is bliss after all.   I couldn't stay in the centre very long without either shooting straight up or way off to the side.  Hahaha but it was tons of fun.  And I was really enjoying figuring out how to move so that I *could* stay in the centre a little bit longer.  Can definitely see how it could be addictive :)  You know, if I had time and money for more expensive hobbies ;-P
And now on to week two.

Friday Flash #61: Dragons and Coffee

Actually the first Friday Flash of the year.  In November!  Ugh.

If you're new to the blog and like the story, more can be seen by clicking the "I'm telling you stories.  Trust me." Link to the right.

Hope it was worth the wait :)   As always, comments very welcome.  Enjoy!


I was cold and wet and miserable.  It was the kind of fall day that screams at you that winter is coming and unless you have a fabulous travel budget, there’s absolutely nothing you can do about it.  The downtown core was uninviting as commuters flocked by the thousands to their preferred form of transit – all hunched over and lost in their own worlds.  Shops lined the streets advertising already for Christmas, but easily ignored.  I had to sidestep as a door I must’ve walked by a thousand times without ever noticing opened and a rather strange looking little man stepped out carrying an A-frame.  I swerved to avoid him, muttering under my breath.  But in doing so, I happened to read the sign – it offered free baked goods with any coffee purchase.  And suddenly, in all my misery, coffee, especially coffee that didn’t come from one of the half-dozen chain stores I’d already passed, seemed like a fabulous idea.  And, well, what could possibly go wrong with baked goods?  So I stepped through the red door.

The warmth hit me first and then I took it all in.  The room was huge – far bigger than the store frontage would’ve led me to believe.  Set up like an old private library, it was my own personal paradise.  A roaring fire rapidly shed all memory of the weather outside, large leather recliners surrounded the room – each with their own little round table.  Wooden shelves lined the walls – complete with a rolling ladder attached to them.  The books that lined them ranged from the latest pop fiction paperback to editions so old they predated printing and had to be worth thousands of dollars each.

I stood in the entrance wanting nothing more than to relax into one of those chairs with a book and the promised coffee, but it was clearly private.  I looked around, a little awkwardly, wondering where the people were.  Had I misunderstood?

“Come in, come in!  I’m sorry to keep you waiting!”  I jumped at the sound, and turned to find the little man beside me, holding a plate of cookies that smelled as though they’d just come out of the oven.  “Welcome to our little café, please have a seat.”  The man gestured into the library.  There was something not quite right about him, but I couldn’t quite pinpoint what.

“Is this your shop?” I asked.

“My family’s,” he told me.  “It seems like we’ve spent a thousand years preparing it, and now we’re finally ready to open!  You’re our first customer.”

That explained a lot – from the expensive books being out in the open to his speaking in exclamation marks, to the lack of visitors.  I was pretty sure the first book would be stolen within the week and that would be the end of that ambiance, but I hoped the rest might remain.

“You’ll find our menu on every table, but allow me to start you with some cookies.”   He nodded to the room, and backed out through a cleverly concealed door.

I took a seat with a smile, entirely committed now to enjoying the experience of being an excited proprietor’s first customer.  The menu was actually printed on the table – the prices were reasonable given the location and the ambiance, so I made my choice and looked up.

Only to discover I was no longer alone.  I squeaked in surprise.  Yes, I squeaked.  I admit it.  I didn’t squeal or yell or faint or even react with any kind of dignity.  I squeaked.  And I suddenly understood why the room was so large.  For you see…  Yeah you’re never going to believe me.  Maybe it would be best if you stopped reading now.  Seriously.

Sitting in front of me was a dragon.

No I’m not kidding.  Nor am I delusional.  I hadn’t eaten any of the cookies yet so nobody had drugged me.  A stunningly gorgeous dragon lay in front of me.  His tail was wrapped tightly around his body and none of the furniture or books had been disturbed.  His scales didn’t sparkle or glitter, but they did seem to change colour depending how the firelight hit them – varying by times through purple, green, grey and almost pink.  He was looking at me and had cocked his head just like my puppy used to do when I was a child.

“Hello?” I asked tentatively.  Partially I felt ridiculous – seriously, who talks to a dragon?  But that went away when he answered.

“I am Illarion.”  His voice sounded like Mini Mouse.  I am not even kidding you.  I deserve a medal for keeping a straight face and not reacting when he first spoke.  This giant, majestic creature that by all accounts I’ve heard should either be extinct or never have existed, exists, has the ability to speak, and has a voice like Mini Mouse.  It was Just. Plain. Wrong.

“Nice to meet you Illarion.”  If you only had one question to ask a dragon what would it be?  Have it prepared now, because I’ll tell you – on the spot, it’s hard to think of anything good.  Now?  Now I have heaps of ideas, but then…  Alas, I’m ashamed to say the best I could come up with was “where are you from?”

“I was created by dreams and magic and nature and gods.  But if you mean where on this planet, the answer is Russia.”

Okay then.  Have to admit I liked his first answer better.  I wanted that on a bumper sticker.

“Would you tell me about yourself?” I asked, wondering if I was being rude.

“Such knowledge must be earned.”

“How do I earn it?” I asked, my competitive nature instantly engaged.

“We will play rock, paper, scissors. If you win, I will tell you my story and if you wish, take you to my home.”  I suspected he wasn’t talking about Russia.

“And if you win?”

“You will learn no more today.”

Okay so that would be disappointing, but not tragic.  And I’d still have coffee and a fabulous new café.   And so we played.

For those of you who have the capacity to learn from others.  Should the opportunity ever arise, do not, I repeat, Do Not play rock, paper, scissors with a dragon.  It turns out fire beats rock, paper, and scissors.

Suffice to say I lost.  I would argue he cheated, but when playing with a dragon, you have to play by dragon’s rules.  I’d like to say my life changed that day, but the reality is I found myself a faceless member of the masses on the same cold, wet street.  The red door, the sign, and the wonderful bakery smells were strangely absent.  I didn’t get to travel to wherever he was from.  I didn’t even get my free coffee.

But I will admit that these days when things are really dreary, I keep half an eye out for a red door.  Because next time, I might win. 

The latest life change ;)

It's been…  Oh at least a few months since the latest major life change.  Figured it was time for another one ;-P  In review -- last December, I sold GRS and relocated the farm back where it started.  Then in the spring Chris and I got engaged (still makes me grin when I type that :) and the wedding plans started.  They will, at some point, perhaps, rate a post of their own -- if I can figure out how to make it interesting.  Anyways -- shortly thereafter I moved to Paris.  No, not *that* one.  Paris, Ontario.  It's actually a really nice little town, and I liked Chris's house a whole lot more than he does…  But it's soooo far away.  From anything and everything in my world. 

I job hunted out there all spring and summer -- gave it a really valid effort.  But all my contacts, and my contacts contacts, are in Toronto.  No, that's not quite true -- I had one contact out there who actually got me an interview in Waterloo.  And the interview went really well; they basically told me the job was mine if I wanted it.  But unfortunately the pay wasn't really reasonable, the hours would mean I'd have to stop teaching, and it was still a solid hour's drive.  *sigh*   So I turned them down.  And then couldn't find *anything*.   So come summer I started to accept that I wasn't likely to find anything out there and in September moved my search to Toronto.  I continued sending my resume to the void -- which has to be the most frustrating endeavor ever.  And eventually my contacts came through and suddenly found myself with interviews at two different companies for two very different positions.
One was a communications position.  High intermediate level with a decent amount of responsibility and reasonable pay to go along with it.  I went through three interviews with them and did some case studies.  It had the plus of a very exciting job and good money right from the start.
The other is a project management position.  This one is very junior -- basically as entry level as project management can be, and pays accordingly (really about half way between the first and second job) but it has huge growth potential and a pretty solid career path.
It was a hard debate, but the pm position won out -- mostly because they really seemed to want me there.  One interview and done.  And because I liked the security of a future path.  Stop laughing ;-P  It would be nice to go more than 6 months with nothing changing.  But not this six months because I'm Getting Married!!!!  Hahaha and then not the next 6 months either cause we'll be moving.  But maybe after that?  Potentially?
So the job's been accepted, Steph and I did a quick "update Laur's business wardrobe" shopping effort, and Sunday I moved back to Oakville.  It really sucks not living with Chris but it's just too far a commute (hence the upcoming move once the house is renovated…).   Of course I slept not at all on Sunday night and Monday went to my first day on the job with no sleep.   May as well start as I intend to continue eh?
Started rather inauspiciously as the train I got on was standing room only *sigh*  But got to work on time and the world was good.  Day one was insane.  Fascinating, but insane.  Lots of meetings, orientation, tours, getting set up.  They handed me a laptop almost as soon as I walked in the door.  And I found out we're moving offices!  Hahaha during the orientation there was a lot of "this is how it is, but only for three weeks".  New office is on the PATH so I'm fairly excited about that.  Really hoping the weather holds till then :)
I was pretty zonked by the end of that day, so instead of going to the barn, just went home.  Ate some dinner, calculated how early I'd have to be in bed to get eight hours of sleep, took some zzzzquil, and suddenly it was day two.
Which was a lot calmer.  Still meeting people and getting organized and a ton of HR courses etc (although have to admit was the first time I've seen the anti-money laundering and anti-terrorism one *g*   Ironically the only one you could actually skip the presentation and just do the test).  After work was a timing test -- how fast can I get to the barn without leaving work early.  I caught the express train.  And definitely didn't make it to the barn in time to teach a 6:00 class *sigh*.   Lunged my pony, who looks more like a round bale these days than a pony, and rode for all of about five minutes before teaching.  Got home way too late to make the 8h work, even if I fell asleep right then.  But I was high from teaching so that wasn't going to happen. 
Day three's over and slowly things are starting to settle.  I'm really enjoying the job so far, and the people have been awesome.  Very welcoming and certainly a super-organized onboarding process.  I've cut back on my teaching hours so hopefully will be able to make it and still get to ride my horse occasionally.  The worst was going to the barn without Sasha.  I miss my puppy!   And she's not talking to me :(   Bailey greeted me w/ more enthusiasm than Sasha did when I got home.  So sad :(   She's always come everywhere with me since she was a puppy and I'm sure doesn't understand why I'm leaving without her now.  Somebody's usually home by lunchtime so it's not like she doesn't get attention or turned out, but still not the same.  And not with me :(  But such is life.  We'll get used to it, I'm sure.
Looking forward to going home on Friday.  Doing absolutely nothing but hang out with my fiancée and my puppy on Saturday.  And, you know, skydiving on Sunday.  Cause wouldn't want life to be boring ;-P