Boots and songbooks: where have you been all my life?

It’s cold here, but not unusually so, by which I mean today was -22 without windchill and that is the coldest it has been all week. The rest of the week sat around -15 without windchill, which is certainly par for the course for January in Calgary.

My usual morning routine is to drop the kids at school and then meet friends at the off-leash with our dogs. (Who’s a good doggie? Who’s a GOOD DOGGIE? Barkley’s a good doggie!). After our dog walk, I couldn’t feel my feet, which is something that’s been occurring more and more often lately. Lest you think I was underdressed for the weather, this was my outfit: turtleneck sweater underneath a thick wool sweater, jeans, thick woollen legwarmers, two pairs of socks, ankle length parka with hood, earmuffs, gloves underneath thick mittens, and my Joan of Arctic Sorel boots.

Remember when I bought those Sorel boots, years ago, and how it was a revelation to me? They no longer are the godsend they once were. I don’t know if it’s a factor of lots of wear or if my Reynaud’s and circulation issues are just getting worse, but in any case, I’ve been really suffering lately. After spending most of the day in foot agony post-walk, I decided that it was high time for new boots. And I went to MARK’S WORK WEARHOUSE.

End times are nigh.

I went into the store and spoke to the very young male associate. I informed him that I wanted the warmest pair of boots available. These are pretty warm, he said, to which I responded, No. I want your WARMEST pair. Whatever your warmest pair is, I will take them.

I came home with marginally ugly but OMG MAGICAL boots.


They are called Snow Queens, which makes me feel regal.

I feel like my life has changed, with one trip to Mark’s Work Wearhouse. Previously my trips there have been only to purchase Christmas gifts for my father-in-law.

In other where have you been all my life news, I had ordered a piano song book and yesterday it arrived. It may be the single greatest song book of all time.


Look at that lineup! And it doesn’t even tell the whole story.

I’ve been playing the piano for almost thirty years – I was quite serious about it for many years, but now I just play for fun.

Digression: how many of us were into something like a sport or an instrument in a very serious way, but now as adults we say “now I just do it for fun”? I have friends who were competitive figure skaters, gymnasts, divers, hockey players, and swimmers, as well as those of us who spent hours daily at an instrument. Question for another day: was it worth it? Are the intangible lessons from that kind of discipline enough to outweigh the time, money, and energy spent? I like to think so, but honestly I am not sure. Thoughts? In any case, I was very happy to be able to spend hours a day at the piano, back in the day, and I’m very happy now to be able to play. I wish my kids had some interest in playing, but they can barely summon up the wherewithal to play their recorders.

Anyway, for the past few years I’ve been feeling a little stale at the piano. Other than Christmas music, my general repertoire was Fur Elise, followed by New York State of Mind or Piano Man, ending with Solfeggio in C Minor. Occasionally I’d plunk away at something new but would be mostly bored.

I tell you this: my new songbook has revitalized every feeling I’ve ever had about piano. Because look!



I had initially ordered the songbook for Don’t Stop Believing, but THIS was the first song I chose. I played it for my husband last night, who was nonplussed.

Mr: I don’t even know what you’re playing.

Me: It’s Islands in the Stream!

Mr: *goes back to reading about the NFL*

So that was disappointing. However, as I flipped through I saw the music for Stairway to Heaven and started to play.

Mr: Now THAT’S a good song.

Other gems: Wish You Were Here, Open Arms, Love Lift Us Up Where We Belong, and EYE OF THE TIGER. I’m not sure how that will translate to piano, but ever since I heard that guy play Sweet Child of Mine on the accordion, I’ve been inspired to think outside the music box. Heh. Music box.


  1. bibliomama2 says

    I’m not sure if I should admit that I’ve had the piano music for most of those songs since forever (I have a whole Journey songbook, Nicole! A WHOLE BOOK!) I’m still forgetting I have a piano until I’m in bed, though. Could you badger me a little more? And the boots are not ugly, they are kick-ass. Keep those piggies warm.

  2. I should send you my Billboard Hits from 1987/88 Songbook. Bobby Brown’s My Prerogative is particularly jazzy.

  3. So. Much. Awesome. in that songbook!

    I played the piano seriously for 10 years and then went to college and completely stopped playing mostly because there were about 1,000 other things competing for my attention. I don’t think of all of the practice etc time as wasted though because I really enjoyed playing. Also I sort of accidentally ended up minoring in music in college because there were a couple really enthusiastic music theory teachers I loved so I took almost every class they offered. I would never have taken a music class if I hadn’t played for years.

    I also loved playing soccer. Played throughout college and grad school (noncompetively after HS) but soccer left me rather than the other way around. There is a reason it’s a young (wo)man’s game. My body really can’t handle the quick stop start and side to side motion anymore without threatening to tear an ACL or something. Now I just play around with my kids – although Oldest is now much faster than I am and getting difficult to play against without suffering the above noted injuries. Still, not time wasted because I loved it when I was playing and I like watching my kids play it now.

  4. I don’t think the boots are ugly at all (says the women who wears her boy’s outgrown boots and loves them beyond reason because they are so warm).

    I wrote fiction (a lot of it, short stories and novels, too) from the age of 12-18 and then again for a little bit in my early twenties and just haven’t been able to except the very occasional short story or vignette since then. I think 3 degrees in literature made me too self-conscious. I think it was worth it, for the sheer joy I took in it and the practice with language, even if I mostly write blog posts, Facebook status updates, and marketing copy now.

  5. Last year I finally admitted that I could no longer take the cold and wear sneakers during the winter. So, I went out and bought my first pair of boots ever and haven’t looked back.

    Want to know a random fact about me? I grew up playing the accordion. It was a traditional family instrument and we just happened to have a lady in our small town (really a village) who knew how to play and could teach my cousin and I. My dad played and so did my grandpa. I played for many years until my cousin’s switched to piano (as they inherited one) and I was given a 40 year old organ. So that was what I progressed to. I still secretly dream of playing the piano one day.

    I cannot believe that the guy played Sweet Child of Mine on the accordion! Now this I have to watch!

  6. First: awesome boots. I have my own pair or Sorels that changed my life about five years ago, but are now getting colder – maybe they’re just aging (TOTALLY NOT US).

    Second: would love to hear more about whether or not you think piano is worth it. Did your parents have to “strongly encourage” you to practice? Or were you eager enough to do it yourself? My two daughters have taken lessons for a few years now and they both seem kind of bored with it, and both have asked to quit. But I have heard so many stories from people who wish their parents had made them stick with it as kids…so we aren’t sure. They’re unlikely to be concert pianists – so will all those hours practicing pay off in other ways? Hmmmm.

    • No, I was super keen and BEGGED to be able to take lessons. I never had to be encouraged because I love it so much. And this is why my kids don’t play; they are completely uninterested (and, um, kind of not at all musical). I always thought they would play but I do not have them in lessons because they don’t want to be…and I was such a keener, that I think they SHOULD want to.

  7. smothermother says

    that song book is all kinds of awesome! you could have your very own karaoke party, no machine needed!

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