The Palace of Versailles Revisited: A Letter to Future Jen

Paris, July 1988

Dear Future Jen,

Thirty years from now, almost to the day, you’ll be here. At the Palace of Versailles. Standing in front of Apollo’s fountain, having your picture taken.

In 1988, you’re fresh off of a month of studying in the South of France, where you not only earned a university credit, but met a boy and fell in love. You’ve been away from him for three days. It feels like longer. You’ll spend three days in Paris. It will feel like fewer. He’ll tell you he’s the one. He’s not.

In 2018, it will be your husband of 21 years taking your picture, while your two children (who are practically-13 and almost-15) look on (which is remarkable because for years you’ll insist you don’t want kids–or a husband for that matter). They’ll be hot and tired and cranky (both hubby and the kids) because France is experiencing record high temperatures, you just spent an hour and a half on the metro, then the train, to the outskirts of Paris, and the line-up to enter the palace proper is so long by the time you get there (snaking up and down and filling the massive Cour d’Honneur) that you’ll decide (yes, at the hottest point of the hottest day) to wander the gardens first and see if maybe the line-up to get in will be shorter later in the day.

It will be.

You always swore you’d go back to France. You didn’t think it would take 30 years though. In fact, the path you’ll take to get here doesn’t even remotely resemble what you thought it would.

  • In 1989, instead of going to university in Belgium (which you’ll figure is close enough to France to count), you’ll stay in London and go to Western instead. (Part of it is the money. Part of it is not being ready to be so far away from home for so long. All of it is the universe looking out for you.)
  • The boy you meet in 1990? You’ll think he’s the one. He’s not.
  • The boy you meet in 1991? You’ll think he’s the one. He’s not.
  • The boy you meet in 1992? You’ll think he’s the one. He’s not.
  • You’ll move to Ottawa in 1993 and meet your best friend there. You won’t realize it the day you meet her, but thank your lucky stars you go for a drink after a particularly taxing translation class one day and bond over Wildberry coolers and stories of asshole boyfriends who weren’t the one. (She’ll have a few too.) 
  • The boy you meet in 1994? The one you meet the same night you announce to your best friend (who you never would have met had you gone to Brussels ) that you don’t care if you never go on another date as long as you live? He’s the one. Be thankful for the assholes of ’90, ’91 and ’92. You won’t recognize him otherwise.
  • In 1994, Mom will be diagnosed with cancer. You’ll think it’s the end of the world. It’s not. She’ll live to see you marry the love of your life in 1996.
  • And then she’ll die. On May 15, 1999. You’ll think it’s the end of the world. It’s not.
  • In 2000, you’ll change your mind about not wanting kids. For all the wrong reasons. Thank the universe that the love of your life knew better and said no.
  • In 2001, you’ll convince yourself you don’t want kids again.
  • In 2002, you’ll change your mind again. For all the right reasons. Thank the love of your life for being there when the universe doesn’t agree and says no. 
  • In 2003 you’ll have the son you never knew you wanted.
  • In 2005 you’ll have the daughter you never knew you needed.
  • From 2006 to 2018 you’ll live through a blur of days that take forever and years that fly by. You’ll work and play and eat and sleep and read and write and drink and shop and laugh and cry. You’ll love your family and build a home and travel to places you always wanted to go.
  • And yes, in 30 years, you’ll make it back to France.

But today you are 18 years old. It’s the summer of 1988. You’re in France. Having your picture taken in front of Apollo’s fountain at the Palace of Versailles by a girl you were sure you’d be friends with forever, who you’ll lose touch with within a year.

Not everything will turn out the way you planned.

And really, it’s not supposed to.

So look at the camera. Tilt your head. Smile.

And trust me. Don’t change a thing.

Check out what Luc has to say about the Palace of Versailles.



Hang tight…we’re almost back!

There seemed to be something missing in our lives…and we finally realized THIS was it.

Stay tuned! Me Woman/You Man and Me Man/You Woman is making a comeback!

P.S. Luc is downloading the app in the airport. He says that “something missing in our lives” might be a bit of a stretch, but for hype purposes, he will go with it.

Weighing In

Anyone have 5 pounds to lose? How about 25? I weigh in on weight in my latest on Stressed But Nice…

Stressed But Nice

In a few weeks, we’re heading down south and taking the kids on their very first trip to an all-inclusive Carribean resort.

Here are just a few of the things on my to-do list:

  • Force the kids to try on all of their summer clothes that I optimistically packed away in September, in complete denial of the fact that in the six months that have elapsed since then, they’re bound to have outgrown everything.
  • Go shopping for completely new summer wardrobes for both kids once I see that not one stitch of clothing I lovingly washed and folded and packed away still fits them.
  • Inventory and set aside each and every item we’ll be packing.
  • Defy the laws of physics by packing said items into two suitcases and four carry-ons.
  • Pray that the Canadian dollar rallies the day before I go to the Currency Exchange and not the day after.
  • Make all of the arrangements regarding…

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The Bobbsey Twins vs. The Ranger’s Apprentice: My How Times Have (Not) Changed!

Read any good kids’ books lately? I have! Check out my latest post on my new blog Stressed But Nice.

Stressed But Nice

A couple of months ago at a school book sale, I picked up a copy of “The Bobbsey Twins on Blueberry Island” for a whopping 50 cents. The familiar purple spine with the drawing of 6-year-old Bobbsey twins, Freddie and Flossie, along with their trusty companion, the shaggy white pup Snap, brought back a wave of nostalgia so strong that I would have been willing to pay at least double that!

When I was a kid, I adored the Bobbsey Twins. I wanted to be the spunky Nan Bobbsey, one half of the 12-year-old twins Nan and Bert, older brother and sister to Freddie and Flossie. (I was perfect for the part, I reasoned, with my dark hair and dark eyes.)

Every chance I got, I picked up another Bobbsey Twins adventure, sometimes, if I was lucky, at the bookstore (keep in mind this was decades before the Chapters mega stores and, more often than…

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Control Freak, Yes…But a Puppet Master?

Luc didn’t know this about me, so I bet you didn’t either! Check out my latest on my new blog “Stressed But Nice.”

Stressed But Nice

If you asked me who knows me best in the world, I’d have to say Luc.

This year, we’ll be celebrating our 20th wedding anniversary. That same month (October) will mark 22 years that we’ve been together.

Luc knows my routines, my moods and my quirks. He understands my hopes, my dreams and my fears. He loves me. He accepts me for who I am.

He’d also be the first to tell you that I’m a total control freak.

Cases in point:

  • I keep lists of everything: grocery lists, to-do lists, rainy day project lists.
  • I keep an overall budget spreadsheet, I save all of our receipts until the Visa bill comes in, and I enter every last little cash purchase, right down to a pack of gum, into an app.
  • I meticulously keep track of every dentist, doctor and specialist appointment for the four of us, including results and follow-ups.
  • Everything (and…

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Koala Bears and Biopsies

While Me Woman You Man/Me Man You Woman are on temporary hiatus, check out my latest on Stressed But Nice…

Stressed But Nice

Two summers ago at the San Diego Zoo, as we left the Elephant Odyssey and headed for the Outback, my cell phone rang.

It was my doctor’s office, and a chipper Nurse Erin asked, “Hi Jennifer, I was just wondering if you’ve had a chance to book your biopsy yet?”

Um, excuse me? What biopsy?

A concerned Luc dragged the puzzled kids off to see the koalas while I spent a frantic half hour making long distance phone calls back to Ottawa (never mind the data to look up phone numbers online, never mind the time difference, never mind the roaming charges) to find out what the hell was going on.

It’s amazing how an entire zoo can disappear in a second as your entire being tries to focus on what a succession of people on the other end of the line thousands of miles away are telling you. Suspicious spot…

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Time for a New Start…

To everyone who has enjoyed Me Woman You Man and Me Man You Woman over the past few years…no we haven’t fallen off the face of the Earth. Luc and I are doing well. Life has just gotten in the way of us maintaining our parallel blogs with any sort of consistency.

In the meantime, I’ve begun my own new blog. You’ll find it at I hope you’ll come have a read.

Take care,


No! Not My Eyes!

In my 45 years, I’ve endured any number of uncomfortable, unpleasant and undignified medical tests and procedures. Obviously I would have preferred not to, but since it was always in the name of fixing, removing or preventing a health issue, I could eventually talk myself into and through it.

But when it comes to corrective laser eye surgery, I’m having a whole lotta trouble convincing myself to voluntarily lie down on a table to let someone affix a suction ring to my eyeball and slice a flap from my cornea.

I’ve worn glasses for 34 of my 45 years. Contacts no longer work for me. My prescription is so strong that even the thinnest of featherlite lenses is of Coke bottle thickness. I have dents behind my ears and divots on the sides of my nose from the constant pressure. My glasses are the first thing I put on and the last thing I take off every day. I’m one eye chart line away from needing bifocals. I have every reason to want laser eye surgery and, as I found out at my consultation last week, I’m a perfect candidate.

So what’s holding me back?

  1. I’m basically a chicken. Several years ago when I needed to get my four wisdom teeth removed, I cancelled and rescheduled the procedure three times before they promised me a general anesthetic so that I’d able to go through with it. I’m not sure the 1 mg of Ativan the eye centre is promising me is going to do the trick.
  2. I know too much. When Luc had his laser surgery 8 years ago I watched the whole thing on the handy-dandy big screen TV in the waiting room. His eyeball was the size of my head. There were puffs of smoke (which the good eye centre people swear is simply vapour from the laser but I know was his vision going up in flames). It was not pleasant to witness, let alone imagine doing to myself. Some people like to be fully informed ahead of time, but I’d rather crawl into an MRI machine not knowing just how loud and claustrophobic it’s really going to be (been there) or consume a radioactive cocktail not knowing exactly how gross it will taste going down (and back up again) (done that) than read the leaflet or watch the play-by-play in high definition beforehand.
  3. It’s expensive. As we’ve talked about before, Luc and I have very different spending habits. And this definitely falls into the big-ticket-item category. Especially because we don’t have that kind of money lying around. And the van needs repairs. And we want to go on a winter holiday with the kids. I could totally talk myself out of this based on the cost alone.

But here’s the thing. Luc swears that having laser surgery was the best decision he ever made. And he has an endless list of reasons why I SHOULD go through with it. No more glasses or contacts. No more fogging up in the winter, wiping off raindrops in the spring and fall, and constantly pushing my glasses back up my sweaty nose in the summer. No more uber-expensive prescription lenses and cheap snap-on sunglasses. No more nose prints after a kiss or readjustments after a hug. Overall improved quality of life. Being able to go snorkeling on our upcoming holidays and actually SEE the fish!

Plus he’ll hold my hand. Reassure me. Look after the kids and the household while I recover. Slap it on the Visa, earn Aeroplan points for our trip, pay it all off in the long run, and help me get on with what he and the good eye centre people promise will be a better, clearer life.

He has an answer for every argument I put forward. He has the appointment booked for me. He has the credit card in his hand ready to put down the deposit. It’s a gift he wants to give me.

I have 24 hours left to make my decision. And if I don’t do it now, I know I never will.

I know I CAN. If a doctor told me I’d go blind if I didn’t, I’d psyche myself up, lie down and let him have at it. The big difference is that this is a choice. And one I’m finding exceptionally hard to make.

I’ll let you know if next week, I’m writing this blog with brand new eyes.

Read what Luc has to say about laser surgery.

The Elusive Throw Pillow Equation

Did I mention I’m addicted to decorating magazines?

I only subscribe to two, but every time I take the kids to Chapters, stock up at Costco, pop into the pharmacy or check out at the grocery store I inevitably find myself picking up, flipping through and buying another.

And the one piece of advice that they all repeatedly offer as the simplest way to update a room (besides a fresh coat of paint, which, seriously, decorating magazine people, is NOT AT ALL SIMPLE) is to change out your throw pillows.

I love their photos of accent chairs with a one-pillow pop of colour. But I especially adore the pictures of couches you just want to sink into, artfully piled with an assortment of throw pillows in various colours, patterns, shapes and styles that somehow works. This is the look I’d love to replicate on my own sofa.

Two problems:

  1. Luc has issued an official Throw Pillow Limit of two, deeming any more than that to be excessive, unnecessary and irritating.
  2. I totally suck at it.

You’d think that with my extensive informal design training (which has cost me as much in glossy mags as my university education) I could accessorize a simple chocolate brown microfiber couch, but I just can’t pull it off.

I started with the two throw pillows that came with it. Yes, I know. If they came with the couch they probably go with the couch. But the brown shot through with a subtle line of blue was just too, well, subtle.

So I tried the cream and brown floral cushions I’d saved from our last sofa. But they just looked dated.

A quick trip to Home Sense and I was back with a beautiful new pair of cream, blue, grey and mocha ikat cushions. We kept them on the couch for awhile, but I knew from the beginning that the scale was all wrong. And I quickly realized that no matter how popular that pattern currently was, I’m just not a boho-chic kinda girl.

The graphic lattice ones were too stark.

The watercolours too washed out.

The stripes too stripey.

Yes, this has been going on for a while.

I’m pretty close with the latest set: a soft cream, blue, grey and green abstract floral that perfectly matches the two framed prints behind the couch. But they’re stuffed with feathers and no matter how many times I fluff, reposition and karate chop the tops of them, they squash down into little lifeless floral clumps the minute you sit anywhere near them.

And what of my cast-offs, you ask? Well, they’ve all made their way into the basement playroom, where they usually languish all over the floor. But at least they get regular use for sleepovers and forts.

Except for a few weeks ago. After reaching my “It’s the basement and I don’t really care how messy it gets because nobody ever goes down there anyway” threshold, I yelled at the kids that if they didn’t do some serious tidying soon, I’d pick up every last toy myself and throw them in the garbage.

An hour later they called me downstairs. The basement floor was spotless. And our old sofa was artfully piled with all of my throw pillow rejects. What should have been a jumbled mess with their varying colours, patterns, shapes and styles, somehow worked.

It was a masterpiece, worthy of a two-page spread.

Tomorrow I’m heading back to Home Sense, Throw Pillow Limit be damned.

This time, I’m taking the kids with me.

And I’ll probably pick up a magazine on the way home…

Read what Luc has to say about throw pillows.

How To Plan a Bathroom Renovation

The toilet in our master ensuite is broken.

First it stopped up. So Luc unstopped it. Then it stopped up again and no amount of plunging, snaking or cursing could make it flow.

This meant one of two things had to happen:

  1. We needed to replace the toilet OR
  2. We needed to completely gut and renovate our bathroom.

Guess which one we chose.

After 15 years in the same house, we’ve tackled our fair share of upgrades. We’ve replaced everything that needed replacing (windows, doors, furnace, A/C, hot water tank, roof), painted every room in the house (some more than once), switched out carpet for hardwood, refinished the finished basement and fully landscaped the front and back yards.

But somehow, except for some minor decorative updates, we’ve managed to put off overhauling the bathrooms. Yes, they’re all original to our circa 1986 Minto home, but up until the toilet fiasco, they functioned just fine, and the ivory toilets, tubs and sinks weren’t nearly as aesthetically offensive as, say, the pink ones of some of our neighbours.

But it’s been a few months of waffling. And a few months of sharing the kids’ bathroom (just for the record, ew). And we’ve finally decided it just doesn’t make sense to put a nice, new toilet into a sad, old bathroom. So a reno it is.

Of course, it’s not as simple as that. First we need a plan. And my idea of planning is WAAAY different from Luc’s.

Here are my steps to planning a bathroom renovation:

  1. Spend fourteen and a half years poring over decorating magazines and dreaming about your perfect ensuite.
  2. Tear inspiration pages from said magazines and keep them in a file so that when the time comes to renovate, any vision you have is hopelessly outdated.
  3. Spend fourteen and a half straight hours poring over Pinterest desperately looking for inspiration.
  4. Ask your husband which of the 87 pinned photos of remarkably similar bathrooms he likes the best.
  5. Walk away in a huff when said husband says he really doesn’t care as long as the toilet flushes.
  6. Hire a designer to bounce ideas off of.
  7. Create a detailed budget outlining every item from drywall to tiles to toothbrush holders.
  8. Blow said budget on the custom glass shower enclosure you can’t live without.
  9. Put off the reno until after Christmas.
  10. Briefly rethink the custom glass shower enclosure once the Christmas credit card bill arrives.
  11. Decide that not only can you not live without the custom glass shower enclosure but that you will also require a custom vanity to really make the room work, Christmas credit card bill be damned.

And here we are. We know exactly what we (and when I say “we” I mean “I”) want. Plus, we know exactly what we (and when I say “we” I mean “Luc”) are willing to pay to get it.

Demo should start in the next couple of weeks. And if all goes according to plan we’re going to end up with the bathroom of our dreams.

And oh yeah…a toilet that flushes!

Check out Luc’s thoughts on planning a bathroom reno.