Archive for the 'Stories' Category

After Ailish and I had been together for about a year, we decided to move in together.

That’s not true.

After Ailish and I had been together for about a year, we decided to buy a house together.

A house.

You know, at the time, it seemed reasonable. Everything was going really well, and both Ailish and I wanted to stop renting and actually own some real estate. This is how we went about doing that.

It’s worth noting I had been exceptionally bad with my finances in my early to mid twenties. Really, really bad. Just about the only thing that saved me was that my credit card limit was only $1000. Still. I had done some research and found out that bad credit falls off your report after a number of years.It didn’t help that Boardwalk had placed a… well, let’s just say ‘aggressively fictitious’… charge on my report and these things are hard to correct. I had been exceptionally careful for a number of years, but I was rather uncertain about what my credit report would show and it was a painful thing to admit to Ailish.

Ailish, on the other hand, had never missed a payment in her life.

So, we went down to the bank to talk mortgages. Turns out the bank was quite happy. “Your credit report, savings, and net worth are exactly what we like to see.” Huzzah! Armed with a preapproval for a mortgage and a reasonable downpayment, we looked around for a realtor.

And struck out.

We emailed several. We called a few. Nobody called back. Here we were, looking to spend hundreds of thousands of the bank’s money, and nobody wanted to talk to us. Weird. After some effort and a few crossed connections, we did eventually find one, recommended to us by my good friend, Chad. Kevin Grenier.

Now, the best way to work with a realtor is to have a clear idea of what you are looking for, know your price range, be certain of the neighbourhood you are interested in, and work with your realtor, providing feedback on each house you look at. What do you like about this house? What do you wish it had? What’s wrong with it?

But, you know, that’s not how we did it. I mean, we thought we had a clear idea of what we wanted. We wanted a house. You know, one we could live in. One we would love. We had a vague idea of the price range. And, errrm… we had this plan. See, buying a house together only works if it is perfect for both of you. So, Kevin would take us to the next house on the list, Ailish and I would walk in, take a look around, and take notes. We wouldn’t say anything. We wouldn’t express appreciation or disapproval. Our faces would be made of stone, betraying no emotion whatsoever. This way, you see, we could do our own silent reviews, get back out to the car, and compare. “6”. “7.5” “Okay, yeah, we don’t like that one. Let’s see the next.” Kevin, to his credit, was very patient. He prodded us for information, tried to figure out what the heck we were doing and why we were so crazy.

Actually, it worked out quite well for Kevin. He took us around a few houses on a Wednesday evening, none of which we liked. Then another few on Saturday. One of the houses we looked at on Saturday, we just fell in love with. Ailish said she knew just looking at the outside. For me, I knew as soon as I walked in the front door. We looked at a few more that day, but we had already picked out our home.

We demanded a second look on Sunday, and then sat down with Kevin to make an offer. The offer wasn’t immediately accepted; Ailish had demanded a possession date two weeks in the future and it was all but impossible to get her to grant even an extra week. She wanted to move in right now today, please. But, after a bit of back and forth, we did finally settle on a reasonable deal.

Moving was quite stressful. Ailish did most of the work, but it’s still not fun. But anyway, we did move in. And then unpacked everything over the next 24 hours, ahem. She made me promise I would never make her move again.

Your first mortgage payment is due at the end of the month, unlike rent which is due at the beginning. Ailish and I had written up a plain-English agreement between the two of us to cover eventualities such as if one of us lost our job, or if we broke up and had to sell the house. We had also set up a shared account where we’d each transfer our share of the mortgage payments and other expenses. And… well, I forgot. I don’t think I ever saw Ailish more angry than that moment. Here she was, just moved in with a guy she rather liked, and he stiffed her on the very first mortgage payment. I apologised rather a lot for that. I had the money, of course, I just hadn’t got around to setting up automatic payments. From then on, I always made my payment one cycle early, just in case.

We loved our home. When we were looking at places, we quickly decided we needed two living rooms, so we could watch different t.v. shows without bothering each other. It turned out we far preferred each other’s company, but it seemed like a good idea at the time. We had a spare bedroom in the basement, the best idea ever. We pretty much retreated there for the entire summer, spiders aside, as it was so much cooler. I still love this house.


When I met Ailish, she had a 2006 Acura RSX. She described it at the time as a “Poor financial decision, but I love it.” I remember her paying about $1000/month on car payments, but thinking about it now, that seems beyond reasonable; it surely must have been less. At the time, Ailish lived downtown and walked to work pretty much every day. She only really used the RSX to drive to visit me or head out to Medicine Hat to see her family.

By the middle of October, two months after first meeting me, she had sold it and picked up a 2000 Honda Civic instead. Ailish was able to pretty much trade it straight across, getting rid of a monthly car payment. I remember how proud she was of her new-found financial sense, and how disappointed she was not to have the sporty RSX any more.

After Ailish died, the Civic sat unused at the back of the house. For the first three months or so, I had no choice. Until the paperwork came through, I couldn’t stop paying Ailish’s insurance, let alone sell the vehicle. And every time I saw it, I thought maybe Ailish had come home early. :(

I tried to sell the Civic in October. I even had a guy shake on the deal, but it fell apart when he discovered it was a holiday and the banks were closed. And it took me until this weekend to get around to putting it back up on This afternoon, someone named Erik came by to check it out. We signed the paperwork and I accepted a deposit; Erik is coming by with the remainder of the cash tomorrow.

I will be sad to see it go. That Civic was incredibly reliable (unless there was snow on the ground), and much as Ailish missed her RSX, she grew to love the little Honda.

Settlers of Catan strategy

I have written several times about how Ailish and I loved to play Settlers of Catan. I have also written on how Ailish won more games than I did. Here, in her own words, is Ailish’s strategy:

1. Development Cards
– always good
– can drive strategy
– just one more card than a road

2. Spend All Cards
– always good
– reduce risk of losing them
(more than 7, less than opponent when stealing, etc.)

3. Never Focus on Roads
– just means to an end –  no points by themselves (essentially)
– only build when a point is assured (i.e. cards for a settlement, longest road, harbor master)

I have to say, I did not necessarily agree with Ailish’s strategy. I’d build roads without being assured of a point, for example. But then, Ailish won about two thirds of the games we played.

Smarties Ice Cream

This evening, I rewarded myself with some ice cream. Of course, this was Smarties Ice Cream, because that’s the best kind.

I’m not sure how or when Ailish and I decided Smarties Ice Cream was the best. I remember, early in our relationship, Ailish introduced me to Marble Slab ice cream. After trying a few different flavours, I quickly settled on coffee + cream, mixed in with skor bits. Once I found that combination, I stuck with it. So declaring Smarties ice cream to be the optimal choice is absolutely something that I would do.

Except, of course, it would have been totally out of character for Ailish to go along with that. This is a woman who rearranged the living room every three or four months. Who painted the kitchen because she didn’t like the colour. Who thought we should perhaps sleep in the kitchen and move the coffee maker and dishwasher into the bedroom, just to keep things interesting.

Still, we somehow settled on Smarties ice cream. And for the life of me, I cannot imagine Ailish accepting that unless she had come up with the plan.

Really, the only way out is that Ailish preferred potato chips.


Ailish loved politics.

A lot of times, when Ailish loved something, it was because it was an excuse to spend time with other people. She loved beer because you’d sit around in a pub, chatting. She loved running because sometimes she could convince Siobhan to skip the running and go straight for the ice cream and conversation. She loved snowboarding because you headed to the mountains with a bunch of friends.

I’m absolutely sure there was a lot of that driving her love of politics, too. But I have never met someone who cared more about Canadian (Canadian!) politics. Who could express so eloquently how the different levels of government worked in Canada. Who got so annoyed when municipal candidates talked about items that were the province’s purview. Who was so frustrated that CBC didn’t produce a Canadian West Wing.

We had cable t.v. so she could watch hockey games (live, not streamed three seconds behind real time). But mostly so she could watch Canadian news shows in the evening. Every time they had a panel of political experts on, Ailish said how she desperately wanted that job. Not now, perhaps, but later in her career.

Ailish asked me once to rank how important the different levels of government were, in my daily life. I said I saw myself as Canadian first (well, once I get citizenship), Albertan second, and Edmontonian third. I don’t think I got a word in edgewise for the next half hour as Ailish corrected me, explained how I had the order the wrong way around, and justifying every part of her position. She absolutely believed municipal government was the most important, and counted herself an Edmontonian first. She worked for the City of Edmonton because of how strongly she believed this, and how much she felt she could contribute there.

This past Friday, Ailish would have been 29. We would have gone out to a fancy restaurant and eaten fancy food. But with Alberta in full-on election mode, I know exactly what we’d be talking about.


Chris’s Approach

Spaghetti is a means of consuming large quantities of cheese.

In order to maximise the amount of cheese, it is important not to make too much spaghetti. Once cooked, you sprinkle some parmesan cheese and then top it off with a layer of shredded chedder. Somewhere around 100g is sufficient.

You then add some spaghetti sauce (hot & spicy is clearly the best option, though it’s neither particularly hot nor spicy). No point pre-heating the sauce because you’ll soon be using the microwave anyway.

The spaghetti sauce serves as a good base for an additional layer of cheese. You should easily be able to add another 100g.

Place the resulting mess into the microwave until the cheese has sufficiently melted. Enjoy, preferably with fruit juice (or perhaps beer).

Ailish’s Approach

Spaghetti is a means of eating a healthy, well-balanced meal.

You probably need three times as much spaghetti as Chris suggests. The preparation requires careful timing. While cooking the spaghetti, you need to defrost some ground beef. Once defrosted, add this to the spaghetti sauce and cook.

Once the spaghetti is ready, it is appropriate to add a little parmesan cheese. While cheese is tasty, moderation is the key. Top with the spaghetti sauce.

This meal contains carbs (spaghetti), meat (in the spaghetti sauce), but no vegetables (for reasons that were never clear, the tomato sauce does not count). So, spaghetti requires a salad in order to be considered a complete meal. A caesar salad is a good choice.  Enjoy, preferably with fruit juice (or perhaps beer).



I used to have long hair. But, since long before Ailish ever met me, I’ve kept it short. Really, really short. Every few weeks, it grows long enough to drive me crazy, and I shave it. An advantage to having a significant other is they can be recruited to shave your head. You see, it’s really rather difficult to get it all, especially on the back of your head. Ailish hated shaving my head.

You see, Ailish really would rather I’d have grown my hair out. Not long, you understand, but more than, say, an inch. Given how frustrated I would get with my hair, I doubt Ailish believed it was ever long. But she’d have been much happier had it been, say, “average short”. A few times, she tried simply refusing to shave my head, but it didn’t help. I simply would not compromise. I was quite capable of shaving it myself, it just wouldn’t be as neat. So, reluctantly, every few weeks, Ailish shaved my head.

Ailish also rather liked the ‘scruffy, unshaven’ look. In all fairness, it’s possible she actually preferred a full beard and mustache, but I never got that far. Every so often, I’d stop shaving. Ailish would notice and approve. But, you see, the problem was the kissing. Neck kisses were a particular favourite of hers and eventually, as I got more and more scruffy, Ailish would start to squeak and back away. And that was that. Looks are fine, but no way could looks get in the way of kissing.

If you find a picture of me in Montreal, you will see that my hair is slightly longer than normal, and I’m unshaven. That was planned.

How to Toss Swedish Berries

First, make sure you have Swedish berries. You may be able to find Nordic berries for a substantially reduced price, but don’t be fooled. These are not the same. This restricts berry tossing to Canada, as Maynards has discontinued Swedish berries in the United States. You also want to ensure they are fresh, as old Swedish berries become hard, and not at all suitable for tossing. Now, you need to determine which person will throw the Swedish berry and which person will catch the berry.

Ideally, you want Ailish to toss the berry. Chris simply is no good at this. You need to stand about five feet away from the other person, and toss the berry with a soft, underhand motion. The goal should be to toss it in a nice, parabolic path, right in to the other person’s mouth. You should not use an overhand motion, avoid excessive speed, and refrain from completely missing your partner, if at all possible.

Ideally, you also want Ailish to catch the Swedish berry. It helps to be shorter, but the trick is to quickly drop down to one knee when trying to catch the berry. It’s probably safest to wear a helmet and safety glasses, and if the berries are old, you pretty much need a mouth guard. As a general rule, it’s entirely appropriate to complain at how terrible the toss was. If the berry ends up more than five feet away from your mouth, you should also make vague references to the tosser’s sense of direction.

Berries that land on the floor obey the five second rule. You should not begin counting until you have visually located said berry (just in case it managed to remain airborne).

Valentine’s Day

I’m not a huge fan of Valentine’s Day.

Valentine’s Day is once a year. There’s nothing wrong with celebrating your love that day, I suppose, though it always felt a bit tacky (and definitely overpriced). But if you love a person, you should tell them all the time. You should speak the words. You should leave little notes by the door. You should buy roses. You should hold hands when walking from the bus. You should go for walks together when the weather is nice. You should leave the light on, and shovel the snow. You should hide cards under her pillow. Remember to buy chips, even though candy is clearly superior. Steal hugs in the middle of the night. Come back to bed for more naps, even though you aren’t good at napping. Friday night dates.

If you love a person, love them every day. Make sure they know.

Moo stories

I used to tell Ailish stories about Moo. Moo was a rather stupid (male) cow. He would, for example, occasionally get confused and forget to open his eyes when he woke up, and then panic that the Sun had gone out. Ailish loved the stories, and often requested a new one.

The stories were not particularly good. I tended to make them up on the spot, and there’s only so much trouble a rather stupid cow can get into. The stories had morals attached to them, albeit morals that were mostly appropriate to rather stupid cows. Ailish would complain when the moral was too simple. Or when I couldn’t remember the names of Moo’s friends. She also didn’t appreciate when I tried to bring a giraffe into the story. Still, they were better than the animal stories Ailish used to tell; she would kill off her protagonist at the end of all of her stories, so I refused to allow her to tell any. I suspect this may have been a ploy.

Moo may have been a stupid cow, but he was a great source of amusement. Ailish and I were married for 263 days. Today is 263 days since Ailish died. This morning, I told her a Moo story.