Monthly Archives: February 2011

Launching my Singing Career

Musical is never a word I have used to describe myself.  Somehow my brother and sister both manage to be not just not tone deaf but an impressive guitar player (brother) and vocalist (sister).  I took kazoo in grade 8.  That is still the extent of my skill.  Reading music is not a skill I possess.  Much to my disappointment, I am not a musical prodigy-who-just-never-got-the-chance nor did I discover a latent gift of perfect pitch.  Although, according to this long and tedious tone test I’m average at whatever it is they happen to be testing (musical memory and relative note comparison?). 

All of this build up to say:  I’m taking voice lessons.  It is probably a little late for me but I’m willing to try (sorry voice teacher).  You’re wondering where I get all this money to spend frivolously on voice lessons during my masters.  This is the great part:  it is FREE!  There is a class at UofT for music students called Vocal Pedagogy.  It is a class where music students learn to teach voice lessons.  In order to teach, of course, they need students.  Poor girl.  I had the first lesson of 8 last night and she has her work cut out for her.  Luckily it is overall improvement not absolute final product we’re looking at.  My part of the bargain is to show up for 8 lessons, practice at home on my own (which may be difficult without much of an ear for notes on my part) and allow one lesson to be videotaped and perform (PERFORM?!?) my two pieces for her prof at the end.  Oh boy. 

As for the lessons themselves they are hard work.  On my first day I’m trying to remember to breathe with my abdomen, keep my head in the right posture, feel vibrations in my face, tuck my tongue behind my teeth to get a bright* eeee (IPA now people: /i/) sound and be louder. 

The first day we did scales.  And she made me sing Oh Canada right off the bat to get an idea of my voice…yikes.  One big thing I need to work on is not second guessing myself when trying to hit a note she plays on the piano.  Or worrying less about sounding really really bad, I suppose.  Next week I find out my “repertoire”.  

*I cannot for the life of me really understand this term in any applicable sense.  I’m working on it.


More Canadian than Ever

The Winterman2011 recap was getting excessively long so I decided to create a separate special post for the Rideau Canal part of the trip.  This was a second bucket list item checked off in one weekend (the other being the half marathon completion with NO WALKING).  We definitely got lucky for race day.  It was about -12 celcius for the race but the next day it was a brilliant sunny day with a “feels like” -26 celcius.  Oh did it ever.  We wanted photos but it was nearly impossible to have mittens off more than 30seconds with significant pain.  By the time I got back to my accomodations around lunch (after being on the canal for over an hour and then a short walk back) I could no longer move my pinky finger.  It would jut out on its own and I couldn’t seem to transmit enough signals to the muscles to reign it back in.  I could put the change I borrowed from RipVan into my pocket.

The Ottawa friend joined us at a local grocer and escorted us to the Rideau canal.  We all donned our skates and took off like….a herd of turtles (thanks for that saying mom).  None of us would really be considered skilled skaters and 3 participants had skates borrowed from their hostel. We skated around blood patches and bumps and made our way 3km down the canal to the final hut of sugary goodness.  Here are a few highlights from the trip:

 The family chocolate milk business.

 Babo enjoying the scenery.

 The gang getting outfitted.  RipVan, Hi-C, Babo (Hi-C’s Chilean common-law hubs), The Ottawa Friend.


 Hi-C smelling the sweet, sweet maple syrup.

 Outside the sugar shack.

 Babo also smelling the sweet sweet nectar.

 The gloriousness of frozen maple syrup on a stick.  A first for both these lovely humans.  You can barely see Hi-C through her coyote.

 The beautiful canal with the picturesque Parliament and bridges….and giant concrete slab of an office building/apartment complex.

 A maneuver to get my glove.  Careful.  Steady…..

The best part of the story is my sore bum.  I wasn’t sore after the run (my ankle did twinge a bit and I felt like I needed to stretch all day but no muscle pain…..likely meaning I didn’t try hard enough lol).  But I still came home in pain.  About halfway through our skate some kid plows right into the back of my legs.  No warning.  I went straight down since my balance is precarious on skates even without waist-high safety hazards.  All the force was planted nicely on my sacrum.  Not the tail bone itself but the flatter part just above.  I was fairly stunned for a minute and needed to lay there before getting up.  The family kindly came over to see if I was ok.  I assured them I was but they pointed out my trembling lower extremities.  I didn’t bother to point out that I had just run a half marathon and then put quite a bit of effort into staying upright for the last half hour which likely caused the resting tremor.  After a short rest on the bench I was good to go and we completed the skate.  Sitting down, stairs and walking fast are all fairly painful parts of my day now, though.  Oh, memories.


I’m not addicted to racing, I’m addicted to getting medals.  I want to cover my walls in medals.  In running these days it basically means paying $40 and showing up, making it across the start line and then the finish line.  I’m ok with that.  Right now there are two medals hanging with all my pretty necklaces.  By the time I leave for Kenya I plan to have 2 more. 

As of today I have signed up for a 5km and a 10km race.  The goals here aren’t just finishing I suppose, since I know that I can do that.  The goal is maintaining at least that much fitness and hopefully making good time.

MARCH 13, 2011:  The Achilles 12th Annual St. Patrick’s Day 5k Run/Walk (I’ll be running)

APRIL 10, 2011:  7th Annual Cadillac Fairview Run.  10km of good times to support POGO (Pediatric Oncology Group of Ontario).  Plus the race doesn’t start until 10am.  GLORIOUS!  And the first 800 people get a new balance technical tee.  I love useful swag.  And it promises good food afterward (no offense winterman but half-frozen bagels? really?)

G-Sis already promised that she’s in.  Who else is with me?  For one or both.  The race on April 10th also has a 5km so no excuses!  If you’ve wanted to try it this would be a perfect place to start and we can do it together!

no. 387

387 is my new lucky number.  Rephrase:  new favourite number since I don’t really believe in lucky items (poor bunnies).  It was my very first race number.  And, the words you have all been waiting for….I FINISHED!!!!!!

2:11:55 for 198th place.  Apparently you don’t get money for 198th place.  I wonder if they knew it was my first race ever.  Oh, and that I ran it on the second day of the crimson tide (and I ain’t talkin’ ’bout football).  I think that alone should bump me up about 60 spots.  Just for the record:  that is not last place.  There were about 270 half marathoners out there.  I cannot confirm or deny if everyone I beat was already a grandparent.  Oh wait, it does show ages and SUCCESS!  Many were in their early 20s.  Woot woot.  I was 75/131 for women.  So middle of the pack.  I’ll take it!

A big shout out to Hi-C who kicked the race’s ass (and mine too) with a very respectable 2:03:22!!!  Wow!  157th place overall, 53/131 for the ladies.  A blazing pace.

How ’bout a trip/race recap?

We left with our road crew (RipVan and Babo) on the Greyhound around 930am on Saturday.  Babo valiantly carried Hi-C’s bags to “preserve her strength”.  I carried rolled my own bags so that probably accounted for the discrepancies between our finish times….

Before leaving I had printed off a few basic maps, enough to get me to the place I would be staying and to the War Museum to pick up our race kits.  That was it.  Apparently I thought I would just immediately know the city from some sort of geographical sixth sense that I have never before possessed.  The pit crew and Hi-C were staying at a hostel but I had arranged to stay with a friend and do some catching up*.  Not knowing the city or thinking to bring an actual map meant that I was fairly trapped unless Hi-C or her kind friend from Ottawa could give me directions. Not sure how I managed such a rookie travel mistake.

The temperature was insanely cold when we arrived and the wind was even meaner.  Getting in at 2:20pm I was determined to make it to the War Museum for our kits by the 3pm shut down.  After 5 minutes wasted at the bus stop with no OCTranspo in sight and losing the feeling in my face and I hands I grabbed my bag and ran for it.  Well, jogged for it.  Managing to look ridiculous and get to the kits on time (you’re welcome, Hi-C).

That night friends of RipVan and Hi-C kindly had us over for pasta to help us carb-load.  RipVan agreed to run a 3km race on grass some day (now it is documented forever).  Full of carbs I crashed at about 1030pm but not before checking out my very first race swag bag!  A long sleeved-tee (just cotton though), a bag, some vegan bite-sized granola bars and an energy gel.  I think they threw those in last minute since we got the “heat endurance formula”.  Was that their idea of a joke?  Oh well,  I’m happy to have it.  Perhaps I’ll bring it to Kenya. 

Let me explain something to you:  the course was beautiful and horrendous.  It was a heartbreaker and a spirit-killer (for me at least).  A half marathon is 21.1km.  They designed the course so you ran the same 2.5 strip 8 times (out to a parking lot along the water and right back 4 times).  If you encountered a hill you didn’t much like on the first pass you knew you would be seeing it again.  And again.  And again.  And again.  Oh, plus the last 1.1km was a bonus lap around the War Museum parking lot.  Fun event but a little soul crushing.  The temperature was about -12.

 Fast forward a few hours and here I am leaving the house (plus a nice shot of Sheldon).  The race was in walking distance so I bundled up and headed out to get my time chip before 730am even though the race wasn’t scheduled to begin until 830am. 

The pit crew and Hi-C greeted me on arrival and I got my very first time chip! (See a theme of firsts?).  It looks like I’m on house arrest.

Proudly displaying my number as we prep on the floor of the War Museum.  We had an hour to kill before the big race.

 Hi-C got some help with her number.

 (Above) Big thanks to the support crew!  They woke up early, watched our stuff and cheered, providing me the necessary boost at the end to pick up speed to cross the finish line. (Below) No wimpy starting gun for this race.  Starting cannon.  It was terrifying.

 In amongst the crowd of 1400 runners just waiting to start.

 Another crowd shot.  Fairly daunting for my first race but now I know what to expect:  an insane crush of people.

 Me on the last lap.  After the same lap 4 times I was becoming ecstatic at the idea of never seeing the course again.  You can kinda see the parliament buildings in the background.

 Apparently they give medals for 157th and 198th place!  We’re all special.

Lessons learned:
-Just because they say you need to pick up your time chips at 730 (1 hour before the race) doesn’t mean you actually do.  Sleep a little longer.
-There are pros and cons of having a GPS on race day.  Knowing your pace is helpful.  Hearing the beep for every kilometer just constantly reminds you how many stinkin’ kilometers you have left to go. 
-Choose races that have routes  that are giant loops of constantly changing scenery.
-Spot gummies will freeze solid in your pocket at -12 celcius.
-I am not a natural runner, eating poorly and neglecting parts of my training will result in poorer times.  I get out exactly what I put into my preparation.

*Long story short, she ended up being in Africa this weekend.  Her roommates were lovely hosts and so kind to let me stay anyway.

Neighbourhood Regulars

There are a few people I see around the neighbourhood on a regular basis that intrigue me and leave me wondering about how they became who they are.

1. Sirmoiselle Cherry Coat
When it rains a tall, thin man stands outside the nearby subway station.  He wears a full-length, shiny plastic, candy-apple red trench coat with a matching rain hat a la Paddington bear.  He stands more quietly than his jacket and holds up paintings that appear to be for sale.  For someone with a penchant for vibrant clothing the paintings are relatively dull, using a muted colour palate from the mid 60s to create landscapes.  I haven’t been able to tell how much he asks for the paintings or if the paintings change indicating a possible sale.  I identified this person as a man but this person may self-identify as a woman. 

2. Stroller Surprise
The first time I came across this now familiar face I saw a middle-aged father trying to coordinate holding a Pizza Pizza door open and pushing a stroller inside.  I reached out to hold the door and looked down (female first reaction to a stroller is to of course look down and ‘aww’ over babies).  Babies yes, but babies of an entirely different species.  He pushes his brood of miniature dogs around in a stroller.  I’m fairly sure his pockets were full of pooches, too.

3. The Pink Panter
 No, that wasn’t a spelling mistake.  He wears pink pants.  Not that pink pants would be weird here.  I WISH they were pants.  He wears pink spandex leggings.  A 60-something man always walking around yonge street in capri-length, hot pink skin tight and not-quite-opaque spandex.  All the power to him I suppose.  I respect people that aren’t afraid to be themselves.  I wonder when he reached the point that he decided he would wear whatever spandex leggings he wanted, dagnabbit!

There was one other “gentleman” that I hope does not become a regular.  On our way to Zelda’s last weekend the roomie and I were almost flashed when some guy on the street corner, yelling at someone on the other corner (I think there was actually someone there) while lifting his shirt high enough to reveal his nipples and his pants….could have used a belt.  I wanted to wash my eyes.  The neighbourhood is never dull.

Finally Official

People have been asking me for years:  where are you going for your last placement?  For anyone who doesn’t know, I’ll be doing my last SLP placement overseas with Hi-C in a developing country thanks to a scholarship.  I have known for almost two years but I’ve known the destination 100% for about one day. It has gone from “I don’t know” to “It is likely India” back to “I don’t know” and we’ve been betting on Kenya for a while but with no confirmation.

Nairobi, Kenya it is!  A hospital in the capital city and perhaps a few weeks in rural Mombasa.  Things happened so quickly (well, it took forever but that is another story) and we went from confirmation to flight booking in a few hours.

Toronto – Washington – Doha, Qatar – Nairobi (over two days)….sleeping in the Qatar airport.

And back the same way we came in 3 months.  At least three months.  I’m open to extending the trip if the mood strikes me.

The Grammy Awards

A title I never thought I would write.  Award show recaps are not usually my thing.  Actually, they still aren’t because, while I watched them with pop culture gurus (JHarv & CabbagePatch), I’m not committed enough to try to summarize the good times and the great comments.  But I will say:  ARCADE FIRE?!?!?!  Don’t mistake that as excitement. It is intense disappointment.  Yes, I love it when Canadians win but this feels akin to Nickelback taking home the prize (entirely shameful…thank nail clippers that could never happen….RIGHT???).  I find Arcade Fire fairly blah.  Boring.  I can’t wrap my head around Lady Gaga not winning.  I appreciate her insanity.  More than that, though, her album broke all kinds of records…I don’t get it. 

These are the only two possible scenarios I can come up with that would explain this judgment faux pas:

1. The judges got completely sloshed, put their names in a hat, pulled one, blind-folded said person, handed them a dart and which ever band’s picture that was taped to the wall that the dart hit = WINNER!
2. An intricate maze was created for a small rodent (let’s say guinea pig) with five exits.  At each exit was placed a CD representing the bands/performers up for nomination of Best Album.  The guinea pig was released and the first exit it took = WINNER!

The New Saturday Hangout

With no Saturday night plans (other than this torturous report to write) and the knowledge that I could not leave the gaybourhood without seeing a drag show at least one time, I rounded up a few friends and headed to Zelda’s for their Saturday night entertainment.  I was going to put up the poster in here but I’ll just link it so no one feels like I offended their delicate sensibilities (actually, the poster is very tame.  The performer names are the only risque part of the ad).  The fact that there is NO COVER basically means there is no reason not to go.  The show is very interactive (according to Heroine it is “like disneyworld”) if you sit in the front sections which we did not end up doing. 

The gist:  they dress in fabulous costumes and lip sync to Top40s while dancing/performing along with the music.  And Heroine threw in some Rachel Berry for good measure.  The banter was probably the best part of the show, though.  Or wait, maybe the best part was the table of septagenarians fully enjoying the show.  I hope I’m out at drag shows in my 70s instead of dinner at 4 and then knit club.  Although that is currently a fairly accurate picture of my 20s….uh oh.

A Toon: The Cough

Oh this ‘toon. I’m not sure if I’m going to make any friends with it (you don’t make friends with salad, either).  Hear me out though.  I LOVE being at placement and I am enjoying almost all of it.  However, and you’ll see this more in a post later this week, it brings up tough questions.  It forces you to think about right and wrong, ethics, choice, consent….life/death….so many things.  I should also point out that SLPs often deal with swallowing.  People can get swallowing disorders from strokes, brain injury, degenerative diseases and a variety of other causes.  Why do we care?  Because if you can’t swallow something the other place it will go is into your lungs and this can cause aspiration pneumonia (ie. a lung infection) which can kill you.  It CAN cause it.  It might not.  Often, when people have difficulty swallowing, they may do better on pureed food and/or thickened liquids (just like what it sounds….thick, goopy water).  Many people dislike this.  Some choose not to listen to us.  I do think our job is very important but I also sometimes feel like we are the party poopers sometimes.

Another important fact:  this scenario of representation of a client is completely fictitious and in no represents and an actual person or place (except me, those really are my horns). 

Fellow SLPers….do you ever feel like this?

Soul Searching: Edition 1

This probably isn’t the first “soul” searching I’ve bloggified so far but it is the first of a series of recent thoughts.  Why am I all of a sudden so deep?  Probably two things:  getting old and the population I work with and environment I’m in for placement.  The revelation for today is that I’m an introvert.  Apparently no one is shocked by this information but it wasn’t until this week that I finally realized the truth. Those ENFJIV or whatever personality tests were always difficult for me because I could never decide if I was an E (extrovert) or an I (introvert).  You’re naturally shy.  Yeah, but I can be pretty nuts and outgoing, even without any *help*.  But being in a large crowd is completely unnerving to you.  Yeah, but I always have a good time in a big group of people I know. 

Fo the longest time I assumed I couldn’t be an introvert because I like people (most of the time) and I don’t wear dark makeup or write poetry.  Is that not the definition of introvert?  Then I realized that the most important factor in determining this designation (if there is a need to be so black and white about it) is how one recharges.  If I’m being honest, I recharge by being alone.  Running has caught on with me partly because it is a solo (or mostly solo) sport.  After a long day at work I prefer to have some time chilling alone at home before heading out to do something social.  At placement I tend to eat lunch alone in my office while reading a book.  This sounds really pathetic to type but it works for me; the job is emotionally and socially demanding and I need that midday break to be by myeslf in order to be effective for the second half of the day. 

How do you classify yourself?  Do you think a person can change from an introvert to an extrovert and vice versa?