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Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Thanks for visiting. I am no longer updating Notes to Self. I hope you'll join me on my current website,



One thing that was hard to get used to when I moved to Arkansas was how people left their outside footwear on indoors. In Newfoundland and to the best of my recollection, in Canada, you leave your shoes and boots inside the entrance and either walk in unshod, or if it's a dress-up occasion, you might bring a pair of dress shoes that are only worn indoors. I guess it has to do with the climate. No floor would survive the road salt that would be tracked in during the winters. But it seems like the custom was observed in warm weather months too.

Rain, snow or shine, my dad would not comply.

If you invited my father into your home, it was understood that his brown leather workboots would remain on his feet, regardless of the season. If you didn't understand that, he didn't stay, and he didn't come back. My father could be a contrary bastard sometimes, but he was no boor: he was generally a gracious guest and could be unexpectedly fastidious about personal decorum. It was just one of his signature eccentricities that people accepted and excepted without question.

I wish I had asked him what that was about. They came off if he was planning to rest, bathe or swim, and that was it. It was as if going shoeless was to go around undressed. Only my dad could make a scuffed pair of brown workboots seem formal.

I've been remembering that since we moved in. Half the floor in our new house is covered in freshly refinished oak, and Patrick and I spent the first several days intercepting kids, workmen and visitors at the door, making them remove their footwear. In our zeal we decided to declare our floors for Newfoundland, and establish a permanent shoe-free base in the new world. We applied felt padding to every piece of furniture. We would have applied it to the kids' feet if it would have stuck. We lifted and lowered beds and dressers with the breath-held precision of a lunar landing. We were complete nuts.

"Maybe we should just take a utility knife and make a big sacrificial gouge in the middle somewhere and be done with it," I suggested after one of the boys' beds fell apart mid-assembly and nearly gave us simultaneous heart attacks. No way could we survive the flawlessness much longer.

There's a bedroom suite that came with the house, an atomic-era double bed, end table and dresser fashioned in curved modern lines from blonde wood. Before the seller, Charles, knew that buyer was us or we knew that the seller was Charles, I'd asked our agent to inquire whether he would be interested in selling it to us. She came back with the word that it was ours for free if we wanted it.

We put the bed and end table in the pre-schooler's room, but the dresser wouldn't leave enough floor space for play, so I decided to conscript it for use as a linen bureau/buffet in the dining room. Only after we got it set up, I noticed a big spot smack in the middle of the mirror where the coating on the back of the glass has corroded, an atoll of verdigris in a silver sea. My first reaction was, oh, crap.

My second reaction was, thank God.

I let my breath out after that. We put good doormats everywhere and started letting guests cross the threshold unhindered (we sweep like mad curlers behind them). My four year old spilled milk everywhere under the dining room table the other day, and we only made him sleep outside with the dog for one night. I did discover pencil scribbles on the new coffee table yesterday. Fortunately they could be erased faster than I could dial 1-800-GYP-SIES.

I've been needing to ease up in other areas too. I don't know if it's the new environment, or blogging/writing developments, or just that things are going pretty well and I'm not sure how to cope with that, but I've noticed the volume control in my head for self-criticism seems to have slid up. Maybe I thought that in the new house, I'd be the new me, and I'm put out when the old gang of character traits shows up on the doorstep.

Because I don't know if I've told you this, but I am really kind of a mess. Some parts of my personality have no manners and no sense. Some come tracking in shit. Some are wearing killer stillettos and don't give a damn. I've been going behind them, scolding and tut-tutting.

Throughout the day, I'll catch a glimpse myself in the mirror, whenever I grab my sunglasses and keys off the bureau or toss the mail in a drawer in the hope it will sort itself out. That flaw is right at eye level, literally in my face. Like my dad's boots, like my innumerable, gate-crashing imperfections, it's damn well not coming off to please me. Life is meant to be lived in, worn out, used up, it says to me. Deal with it.



Blogger elaine said...

This is so good and I enjoyed it so much and it gave such a boost to my outlook this morning that
I'm going to delay the start of my workday by _another_ 5 minutes.
You see, I'm late already because I took photos of an iris in bloom on the way to work and then I checked my Google reader and decided to read just one blog --yours -- and now I won't be able to focus or move forward until I officially delurk (after months of reading) and comment. Out loud instead of in my head.

My goodness can you ever write! As I do with all your posts, I read through once, beginning to end, because your words flow and I just go with them. Then, I go back and re-read my favourite phrases and sentences. A few times.

I am Canadian but from the other coast (the left one). I don't wear my shoes indoors. I have hardwood floors. I have scratches engraved on them because I also have a Westie who doesn't wear slippers. And I don't care.

Because I want to live the rest of my life without fear of marking up so-called perfection.

Thank you for writing. I love your new home, the colours, the furniture, but especially, the stories about it and the people who live there.

11:24 AM  
Blogger Erika said...

The shoes indoors thing must run in the family. My Dad is the same way and Rob and I have instituted a "We Are Grown Ups and Can Do What We Want Now" policy and have a wear your shoes in the house if you want rule... even here in

Admittedly in winter we take our boots off on the days when it is snowy, but that isn't every day and we have hardwood and ceramic so clean up isn't an issue.

When we go visiting I take a pair of 'inside shoes' to change into - it's a necessity for me as I am short, without my trust heels all my pants are too long!

11:34 AM  
Blogger jon deal said...

A little Photoshop work could also fix that little blemish from the mirror right up.


11:56 AM  
Blogger Patrick said...

>> (we sweep like mad curlers behind them)

I'm betting that reference is going to be lost on a few of your readers unfamiliar with the excitement, passion and high drama involved in that peculiar Canadian pastime.

12:03 PM  
Blogger Kyran said...

elaine, I wish I could click a button and make it rain confetti and balloons every time someone delurks. thanks for the encouraging words. :-)

12:09 PM  
Blogger Jennifer H said...

I love the image "like mad curlers sweeping behind them." I would be the same way at first (and hope to find out soon when we manage to move), but over time I would have to relax, as you are.

The stories are in the flaws. Lucky us, if you keep finding them.

12:30 PM  
Blogger Angie said...

When we built our house and put hardwoods throughout, we purposely bought a 2nd grade, slightly beat-up looking hardwood, for this very reason.

I would have driven myself crazy otherwise and I don't need any help in that department!

Love your new home - the colors are great.

12:38 PM  
Blogger Shannon said...

De-lurking to say this is something I have been wondering about - the shoe thing I mean. I am Canadian, but about to move to the states. I haven't spent much time in the USA but I have heard of this strange (to me) custom of keeping ones shoes on indoors.

I have so many questions! What do people do in poor weather? Do they just wipe their shoes the best they can and then go in? Do they stay off carpet? Do they have "indoor shoes". Don't they sell slippers in America? Will I be shunned or thought of as rude or bizarre if I ask people to remove their shoes in my house? Will people be offended if I remove my shoes when I go to their homes?

I honestly can't imagine wearing shoes all day. I only wear them for being outside and I wear socks as little as possible in the warmer months. I would feel completely uncomfortable wearing shoes of almost any kind in the house.

Guess I'm in for an interesting "cultural experience". :)

/Shannon (

1:32 PM  
Blogger Kyran said...


In the South, some people have a stigma about going shoeless, because it is associated with poverty (think "barefoot hillbilly"), but I'm not sure what the deal is in the North.

any yankees who can shed some light?

1:45 PM  
Blogger Erika said...

There is a blog dedicated to this topic - "Shoes Off at the Door, Please"

Not to mention a bunch of discussions -

2:02 PM  
Blogger /brandon\ said...

i am a native arkansan, but having lived in upstate ny, the deep south, the midwest, the west and overseas, have had friends with both 'shoes welcome' and 'OMG no-shoes KTHX BYE' policies. we gladly remove ours in cases of the latter, but we have wood and ceramic floors and do not ask visitors to bare their soles.

feet are so intimate to me ;) it would be like having a 'remove your bra at the door' policy, which does not work, believe me, no matter how hard i've tried.

5:44 PM  
Blogger Shannon said...

Wow, thanks for the links Erika. I think the author of the first blog may be a tad more fanatical than I would be. However, it truly just seems to be a matter of what people are used to. Because I've grown up with "shoes off" being the norm, I would feel very disrespectful walking into a person's home with my shoes on.

But I also see Brandon's point, having been used to something else. Guess it's just something I'll have to get used to in the states and figuring out a polite way of asking people to take off their shoes. Perhaps I can write it off as a cute Canadian quirk? :)

/Shannon (

6:36 PM  
Blogger Sophie said...

I grew up mostly in New Zealand, and there you always took your shoes off, unless you were an adult and a formal guest. I think that exception was made to spare ladies having to remove their heels. Seems sensible to me - when you get dressed up to go somewhere shoes are part of the outfit.

Of course that doesn't help much if you are trying to spare your beautiful wooden floors from heel marks.

Friends of ours have a rack full of shoes by the door and as you walk in they say "Welcome! Feel free to leave your shoes here!". Suddenly taking your shoes off seems like a privilege rather than a chore :-)

6:57 PM  
Blogger Motherhood Uncensored said...

I'm a Yank and they do it up there. But I'm an Asian Yank and so we don't do it here in the South -- mainly because my husband doesn't want to beat the sh*t out of the carpet.

Truth be told, now that I'm older with my own carpet, I totally get the shoe off thing.

And I love this:

"Some parts of my personality have no manners and no sense. Some come tracking in shit. Some are wearing killer stillettos and don't give a damn. I've been going behind them, scolding and tut-tutting."

Sometimes I think it would be easier to track in the dirt if there was someone there to clean it up. My problem is that someone always ends up being me. Free for a moment, then back to the grind.


6:58 PM  
Blogger Shelley said...

As another displaced Canadian, something I noticed after living in the South - my bare feet hurt after walking all day long on ceramic floors!

North, South, East, West - we've lived everywhere and it's never once been a problem to politely ask someone to take off their shoes. We've got the reverse problem as it's a pain for John to take off his shoe on his prosthetic leg!

Laughed out loud to the "curlers" comment!!

7:28 PM  
Blogger Mother's Only Half A Word said...

Lovely post. Lovely blog. I'm new to blogging. But, I'll be back, reading you more here.
Hang in there. I've moved 14 times in the last 20 years -- usually with 3 kids. It's tough stuff.

10:18 PM  
Blogger Hannah said...

As a fellow Maritimer, I can't fathom leaving my shoes on in the house. And I never realized before that this is a "thing".

Even my husband, who is completely and utterly incapable of picking up after himself, closing cupboard doors, or hanging up his coat, always and without thinking takes his shoes off whenever he goes into someone's house.

I loved this post. We had hardwood floors in the new house my parents built when I was a teenager. Four kids and twenty years later, it is scratched, gouged and worn. But you know what? Still beautiful.

7:56 AM  
Blogger jeanetta said...

i grew up here in arkansas with hardwood so it was never really an issue that i remember. in texas we did have carpet (which i lothed) and a very muddy backyard so the kids were pretty much taking their life into their own hands if they came in with shoes. but thankfully back in arkansas now and i have hardwood again! i think i do both. if i am really cleaning and stuff around i have a tendency to keep my shoes on. and the crumbs and such dont stick to my feet either, lol. but i am just as likely to run outside without any shoes. guess i am channeling my inner ellie may. :)

8:15 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Living in New England educated me in the ways of taking off shoes when you come in the house. We actually have a sign that says "SHOES!" as a reminder.

8:58 AM  
Blogger Lunch Buckets said...

I can't get past the little half-nekkid child in front of the television. My kids still watch TV in their underwear - but from the couch...

3:22 AM  
Blogger littlepurplecow said...

Nice one. I've grown to love imperfection. You look fabulous - marred and all.

8:02 AM  
Blogger Dr.Mani said...

As a 'reforming perfectionist', this bit resonated with me:

"Life is meant to be lived in, worn out, used up, it says to me. Deal with it."



All success


10:18 PM  
Blogger Belinda said...

I feel grateful for everything you post these days. And I love that Patrick comments. And I do, too, know what curling is.

12:39 AM  

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