Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Saying Goodbye

When I was overseas, I didn't own a TV. We couldn't afford to or give any good reasons to buy one and then pay the TV license fees, so we just went without.

In November last year, I was starting to really miss my television and went searching online for even just parts of my favourite shows. Not to download anything, just to watch.

Unsurprisingly, I came upon YouTube several times, but knew that most clips there would be brief and / or taken off quickly because the networks don't make money from them being there, nor can they make you watch commercials if you're sitting there clicking on videos from a different site than theirs.

Then I found TV Links - a British site that had a LOT of shows and movies and stuff listed. Not being interested in the movies, I quickly searched through the television offerings and found several of my favourite shows: links to whole episodes or ones broken into parts. Thrilled, I watched the entire first two seasons of The Office (US version), fell in love with a show I'd only heard bits and pieces about and have sworn to buy the DVDs for all seasons cause it's just that good. There were tons of episodes of Friends too - a show I love enough to own all ten seasons on VHS and DVD, as well as the final episode seperately. Watching this, I felt no guilt that NBC wasn't making money from me - enough money has been spent on Friends, believe me.

I also discovered Ugly Betty, Trailer Park Boys, Gilmore Girls (to name a few), and revisited The Cosby Show, King of Queens, That 70's Show, and Seinfeld.

It was TV heaven for me.

For the past week or so, I've been returning to the site out of curiosity and have gotten "timed out" messages and other such things.

This is why.

I really don't like to share my opinions about stuff like this, but after reading this article I can't help myself...

Not only was a young man arrested because of this, but they RAIDED HIS HOUSE. Claiming the loss of millions of pounds (about $1 billion with the exchange) due to sites like this, this poor dude is now going to have the full power of the law beating on him.

Somebody tell me - is this guy a drug dealer? Mafia don? Does he sell small children on the black market or traffic wayward foreigners into the country?

I honestly thought the cops had better things to worry about.

Before people start saying "But it's illegal to do this! To download shows and watch them with paying for them! That's stealing!"

Yup, stealing's wrong. I totally agree.

This website though, didn't actually allow you to download anything. It also didn't seem to have any actual content on it's site, other than LINKS to other sites where these things could be found and watched. Not downloaded. (big difference between making copies of movies, etc and just watching them online)

For example: You want to watch the new episode of The Office because you're 8,000km away from home, don't have a TV, and can't buy the new season on DVD yet. So you get onto your computer, go to TV Links, find The Office, and click the link on the new episode, which loads up and starts to play as you happily grab a drink and settle in for another half hour (or actually 22 minutes) of commercial-free enjoyment.

The problem executives seem to have with this cozy scenario is that: 1. You are watching their shows without being on their network, so they don't make money from that, 2. You are watching their shows without commercials, so they're not making money from that, and 3. Did I mention that they're not making any money???

What really bothers me about this is the commercials thing. I like to do my news-watching online, where I can pick and choose which tales of doom and gloom are going to keep me awake at night. Most news and network sites that allow us to watch videos force commercials into the mix, which I then mute until what I want to watch begins. Last week I tried to watch the wedding special on The Today Show - the one where people vote for each part of the wedding and the couple just has to go with it. Each new section of the series was a different video, which meant another commercial.

(While I can usually handle a 30-second advertisement, unfortunately this particular set of videos was sponsored by a refrigerator - so every single new video meant another dose of exactly the same commercial. Ugh.)

So I'm watching online. For free. Not downloading anything. Not spending money. And there are no commercials because I choose to ignore and mute them.

Perhaps somebody wiser can explain the difference between this and the now-dead TV Links. I just can't see what it might be.

And so today, I say goodbye to TV Links, a website that was found guilty of providing links to other websites with tv shows, movies, and cartoons. A website that allowed a homesick foreigner a little taste of home and hours of distraction and enjoyment. TV Links was judged guilty and sentenced to obliteration and it will be missed.

And now back to your regularly scheduled programming.

But first! "Have you ever had that not-so fresh feeling?"

Sunday, October 21, 2007

cheese soup, mango daiquiris and a zillion yards of organza

"Oh my God! Look at your boobs!"

I stood up straight and looked at my laughing friends.

"Uh huh, sure - this is EXACTLY how I wanted to look on my wedding day! I look like... like... I dunno..."

"You look like JESSICA RABBIT!" crowed Laura gleefully.

"Oh great. Good. Um, don't think this is The Dress then!"

The rest of the ladies in the bridal shop were all staring, some at my boobs, some at the dress, and the rest in fascination at the bright red colour I'm sure my face had become.

"Yes, dear - I think you're right that this might be a little too racy for a wedding day. Maybe if you were in Las Vegas or something..." said the mother of another bride-to-be.

(not sure why people in bridal shops think it's okay to openly comment on other women's dress choices, but in this case I was too eager to get out of the dress to care)

(in this case the stranger was right though - it did look pretty Vegas. Low cut neckline with lots of cleavage, sparkles and sequings along the tight bodice then a big skirt flaring out. Definitely not me...)

(no, I didn't choose it - can't remember whose idea that one was)

"Hmm... maybe for the honeymoon instead right?" I winked at the girls as I grabbed the front of the sparkling dress with one hand and covered the deep-cut neckline of the top. This dress definitely didn't feel comfortable: it was too low-cut and felt as heavy as two sleeping bags.

Back in the change room, the saleslady (who coincidentally went to school with one of my bridesmaids) helped me out of the Jessica Rabbit dress, saying apologetically that often you can't tell what they'll look like until you try them on.

So true.

I was so happy to be spending Saturday afternoon with two of my oldest and closest friends - both of whom will be a part of the bridal party. We've known each other since Grade 9 and have basically grown up together. They're both married already and had a great time searching through the racks for a good dress for me, holding up giant folds of white for me to approve or disapprove. To make things fun, we're also having a contest to see which one of us can find the Ugliest Wedding Dress Ever - something that I think will last for quite a few months as we visit various shops and conventions. Laura found a contender, but I'm not counting out Kim or any of the other girls either.

We started the day with a long lunch at Under the Volcano, one of my favourite places to eat. A pitcher of mango daiquiris, cheese soup (it's A-MAZING), and lime tequila chicken, and I was feeling full and getting nervous about trying on wedding dresses.

Don't get me wrong - I'm totally looking forward to all of this wedding stuff, but I really didn't want to find The Dress so far in advance, and having not even picked the date or location yet. Still, this didn't stop our enthusiasm as we sorted through the racks at the same place Kim found her gorgeous dress 6 years ago. The saleslady was very friendly and didn't seem put off when I admitted that I wasn't planning to buy anything right now.

Being a saleslady working on commission though, she snuck in a dress that she claimed was "her favourite" and insisted I try it.

She lifted it over my head and too-large bustier that they make you wear when you don't have a strapless bra (very uncomfortable) and helped to do up the back. As the dress took shape around me, my only thought was "Oh no."

The sinking feeling continued when I saw the looks on Kim and Laura's faces. A little teary and totally amazed at how I looked.

(and a surreal feeling to have that many people look at me like I'm spectacularly gorgeous)

Was this it? Already?! Looking at my image in the mirror, I imagined myself outdoors, surrounded by lights and flowers, imagining walking down an aisle towards a lake

So as to keep things a bit mysterious, I will say that my contact information was left with the bridal shop but we're planning on several more Wedding Dress Hunts before I make any commitments.

Here's a hint - the dress that might be The Dress doesn't look anything like this:

To the lady I almost killed with a strawberry daiquiri (well not quite killed, but it was a pretty lethal drink)

I've told stories before about Jeremy's family and how wonderful I think they all are, so some of you might be familiar with his grandmother, Mary.

There are tons of cool things about her:

1. She loves Mustangs (and drove a few for awhile too)
2. Has a tattoo (from her 50th birthday)
3. Has gotten my mother and grandmother half drunk (on more than one occasion)
(Okay, more importantly, has made friends with my family and definitely helped to bring out their fun sides, which is a gift in itself)
4. Makes kick-ass chili, roasts, lasagna, hot dips, brownies, and assorted other foods
5. Isn't bothered when the cookies burn in the oven (and she's teased about it for ages afterwards) or when her daughters call her "Gimpy" (result of a terrible car accident several years back)
6. Is the only person I know who can make African Violets bloom
7. She made the best afghan EVER for us (for Christmas one year, that was supposed to be for us, but I totally stole it)
8. She plays lots of tennis (despite the aforementioned bad knee) and could totally kick my butt, if I ever dared to play against her...
9. She's taken her grandkids to Disney World, on cruises, paid for flights to Florida for winter visits, gone to the horse track, gone to hockey games, plays cards and boards games for hours, and does everything she can to spend time with her family
10. She was willing to let me make her margaritas even after the Deadliest Strawberry Daiquiri Ever...

11. She's helped us move, has come to visit us in every place we've lived, has done so many things for us that I don't have the room to list them all here, and has treated me like a granddaughter for as long as I can remember - including giving her 45-year old engagement ring to Jeremy a week before she even knew he was going to propose to me...

There are lots of other nice things I could say about her, but most importantly, I'd like to wish her a
Thanks so much for everything you've done for Jeremy & I - words can't express how thankful we are for having you in our lives... I'm always bragging to people about how lucky I am to have found such a wonderful family to join and you're a big part of that!

Hope you had a fantastic birthday!

We love you Grandma,

Melinda & Jeremy

Sunday, October 14, 2007

The lights are on but nobody's home


I just looked through the last 4 months worth of posts and am totally embarrassed to admit that there are only a handful of them. Lots and lots of drafts sitting there, little drops of the procrastination that's been such a big part of my life lately.

Yup, life's been busy.

In an attempt to recapture the sense of financial stability and a little bit of the feeling that I had before moving to Windsor for school, I'm working two different jobs and trying very hard to factor in a social life. Meanwhile, there are still boxes in every room, we don't have any shelves or enough clothes hangers, so my clothes are folded inside the closet, and the kitchen is the weirdest green colour I've seen inside a house in a loooong time.

But things are slowly falling into place and there is finally a light at the end of the tunnel I feel like I've been trapped in since we fell dead broke almost two years ago.

Hockey has started again, we've got cold beer in the fridge, family visiting next Sunday, and while the days are growing shorter and colder, I'm cozy in our new home.

With all of that being said, it's almost November again - NaBloPoMo month. Last year I managed to write every single day... I really don't know if I can get to that point right now, but am going to try it out again. There are a LOT of stories I haven't shared yet, so if you still visit my blog and want to read more, I promise to be back soon...

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Happy 9th Birthday

Friday, October 2nd, 1998

I was watching reruns of Saved By the Bell on TV when the phone rang.

"Hi honey, is your dad home?"


"Okay, well when he gets home, please tell him that I'm at the hospital and they ran some tests and don't want me to leave yet."

"umm, are you okay?"

"Everything's fine - just let him know, okay?"

I hung up the phone with a strange feeling in the pit of my belly. Something sounded just... off.


A few hours later, we were on our way to the hospital and my father, brother, and I were all in total panic mode. The person we all depended on the most was in the hospital and it wasn't for something routine at all...


During her stress test that afternoon, my mother was held up by a nurse, who had done chest xrays to see if she had asthma or something that could be responsible for her shortness of breath and dizziness. It had been getting worse over the years, to the point that climbing stairs or the hill down the lake road would make her completely lose her breath.

The nurse had seen something in the xray, but wasn't allowed to discuss it. She needed a doctor to come and speak with my mom, who just wanted to go home and wait for a phone call. She was increasingly more annoyed as the minutes dragged on (the doctor is a Muslim and was at Mosque that day), which finally led the nurse to admitting that it was something potentially serious and that she couldn't allow her to leave.

I don't remember the technical term for what was wrong, because to my 19 year old self, all I remember hearing was "your mom has a tumour inside her heart". This tumour was non-cancerous, but had grown to the size of a golf ball, and had pretty much blocked the entire left ventricle, only allowing millimeters of blood to flow through.

No wonder she was getting winded.


The three of us stood in her hospital room, scared out of our minds as the incredibly kind Dr. Mathur explained what was going on and what was going to happen. In a daze, we heard him say "open heart surgery tomorrow morning..."

Nothing makes something feel as serious as emergency open-heart surgery to remove a gigantic tumour from inside your mom's heart. At least it didn't to us.

Of course, we were very lucky that it wasn't cancer, it wasn't terminal, it was very operable (despite the scariness), and the prognosis was good.

My little brother, then 17, looked like his 3 year old self, scared to leave his mom and wanting to know every possible detail about what was happening. Dr. Mathur was great with him, and at the end had given us all a lot of comfort.

None of us slept much that night.


The next morning, I woke up feeling sick and exhausted and worried. My dad and I wandered around the cottage without speaking, just praying over and over "please let her be okay".

There was nothing we could do except wait.

The phone rang...


"Hi, I'm calling from the hospital about Mary Peterson. Just to let you know that the surgery went very well and she's doing just fine. You can come and visit her later on today."

I looked up at my dad with tears swimming in my eyes.

"She's okay", I whispered.

We both burst into tears. I've never seen my father so worried or upset before or since that day, and I hope never to see him like that again.


Later on, we visited Mom at the hospital. I remember being relieved that she was okay, but still pretty scared of the wires and tubes and the sight of her in a hospital bed looking so tired.

She told us funny stories about the nurses and how the doctors were so fascinated by the size of her tumour that they were running around showing people what it looked like inside a glass jar. I never thought about it until now, but yet again, she was comforting US. Even after open heart surgery, my mom was still determined to make her family feel better.


She had a long recovery, missing school for several months and dealing with the pain and having a scar on her chest. But she wore her survivor's sweater with great pride, and began to refer to Oct 3, 1998 as "her other birthday".

The next summer, she proudly walked up the hill near our camp and smiled as she said "I don't feel out of breath at all!"

Definitely something worth celebrating.


Today, we celebrate my mom's life and the second chance that she was given. If you consider how close she came to losing her life, and how very lucky we are that things happened the way they did, it's pretty obvious that she's meant for great things.

So I'd like to wish my mom a very happy 9th birthday! Thank God for the miracle that saved your life, and for all of the years that we've had since then. And just think! You're the only middle-aged 9 year old on the planet!

Just another reason to call her special...

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

here I am again stealing a Londoner's wireless internet

Bad me.
Due to some unforseen difficulties, I'm sitting on my brand new deck, enjoying the view of a tree-lined backyard (complete with two fireburners and three gardens) as I connect to a stranger's wireless internet signal. Thank God for those trusting people who leave their wireless open so people like me can connect to the world. We've got our internet set up, but unfortunately the outlets in the office are two-pronged, and all of our stuff, including the modem, are three-pronged. There are other grounded outlets in the apartment, so Jeremy and I will have to figure something out until either he or an electrician can change the outlets for us.

Other than that, I'm over the moon in love with our new place. It's walking distance from Jeremy's work, a short drive from mine, 5 minutes from the park where he proposed, has a great deck, is on a quiet street, and tons of storage space - so much in fact, that we don't know what to do with it all!

Our friends Blair and Kim helped with the move, as well as my new friend Jaimi's hubby-to-be, Lance. He donated his cargo van, driving all the way from London to Dunnville with Blair and I, to load everything up, then turn right around and drive back to the new place to unload things.

As usual, moving sucked, but I kept in pretty high spirits (for most of it) thanks to the great people who were there to help out.

As usual, it cost more money than expected, but we saved a couple of hundred dollars thanks to Lance and his really old cargo van. If I hadn't been so stressed out / sleep deprived, I would have taken pictures of it - it has a lot of character and repeatedly made noises like it was going to roll on to it's last kilometer. It does have a fool-proof theft-prevention system: you have to turn on the rear defroster in order to start the engine. So clever!

The van (or the Lovely Beast, depending on who you are) also has an Anti-Speeding-Ticket System. Not a radar detector - that's much too illegal and out-dated for this van - but the engine won't let you go faster than 115km/ hour, so when you're zipping up the 401 you don't have to worry about the police nabbing you for driving too fast.

Add the windshield wipers that seem to have a mind of their own (sometimes will go, sometimes they won't, sometimes you have to turn them off to get them to start) and a price tag for $9.95 on the passenger door from The Stag Shop, you've got a big beautiful hunk of white paint and rusted metal. I seriously love that van and will be sad when Lance gets rid of it.

And so I'm here in our new place, slowly unpacking boxes and getting ready to go to work this afternoon. It feels like Christmas as I open boxes to find things we packed up over a year ago and left in storage as we headed to Britain for our adventure.

Another homecoming for us - and this time I really feel like things are only going to get better...

Thanks to Mom, Laurie, Romeo, Kim, Mary, Jim, the other Kim, Blair, and Lance for helping us with our move / donating new furniture / TV / stuff for the apartment. We're so lucky to have such wonderful people in our lives and I hope that one day we can return the favour!