Ranchman’s. And not the dance bar.

Oh.  Okay.

So I’m having the kind of day today, where I just laugh at yesterday.  Yesterday was awful.  Actually the whole weekend was awful.  Fine.  But yesterday, when I finished work and came out and found that the previous night’s snowstorm – that I thought had frozen the side doors of my van shut  – well, it hadn’t frozen them completely shut.  Nope, in the morning I could still lift the side door handle just enough to activate the interior light, which went unnoticed and then stayed on all day, thereby completely draining the battery.  Fully, completely.

Well, shoot, I came out from work, the battery was dead as a the proverbial doorknob, and I had a complete F— It moment.  And I just abandoned my vehicle and walked home through the snow.

Trudge, trudge, trudge.

And it felt strangely liberating.  Go away van.  You can not work and I’m still okay all by myself.  Don’t have to call for help.  All is good.  Except for my mood.  Trudge, trudge.

But, the walk is always good for me.  And the snow was pretty.  Now if I could just be left alone…obviously time to ignore my phone and the texts and person that is the source of my annoyance.

Which means…much as I would like to, I can’t blame the guy who is ticking me off and somehow contributing to me being sad and upset; big sigh, but truth be told I’m smart enough now to know that that usually highlights that there’s something in me that needs to be worked on, and whatever he is doing is simply focusing a big seachlight on that which I would rather avoid.

Specifically, why on earth did I let myself get into the position where this could all happen.

Trudge, trudge, trudge.

Stupid van.

Home.  Dinner.  Bed.  Grumpy.

Well, today was better – as it always is.  I went from work to home to a most excellent and beautiful walk with my dogs…and then I readied myself for an event tonight at Ranchman’s.

Stampede 2012-7709

Stampede 2012

Now, here in Calgary we have two Ranchman’s.  The one Ranchman’s I am accustomed to is the cowboy bar on Macleod Trail.  I’ve only ever been there during Stampede, so I get there maybe once a year; and it’s a hoot if you’re into lots of beer, people watching, and being whirled around the dance floor by some guy who knows how to two step, or pretends, and may or may not be a real cowboy.  (Of all the places you can go to in Calgary over Stampede, this is the most likely place to find the real deal.  I digress).  And the dress code is simple: jeans, belt, cowboy boots, cowboy hat.  Belt buckle is optional.  “Ranchman’s Cookhouse and Dancehall.”  Name kinda says it all.

Now, the other Ranchman’s is actually the oldest private club in Calgary.  I recall going there once as a Married With Kids and Therefore Respectable half of a couple.  It’s pretty sedate, very old for Calgary, and has some interesting history.  But I haven’t been back since.

Well. Flash forward a lifetime, a time span that encompasses a painful and never ending divorce, the incredible changes my kids have gone through, and the 1001 ways I have grown, stretched, retreated, and grown again.

Lots of changes; and perhaps the biggest – hitting Empty Nest before I was ‘supposed to.’  Yes, the Parent Handbook for Raising Children never mentioned they might end up shlepping off to another province for school in Gr. 11.  It was one thing when my oldest left in Gr 11; but when my son followed suit the following year, in a very different and  unexpected fashion, it quite broke my heart – even though it has ended up as a complete blessing for him.  And what more do you want for your kids, other than what is best for them?

Still.  Sometimes it just f’n blows.

Anyway.  So, as usual, once a year the school my son attends does a Calgary trip.  And honestly, every time they come, and every time I go to the event they hold, I end up just being completely Wowed, and think to myself, Omg my kids are so lucky to go there – SLS, Em Gr 12 Grad-6930quickly accompanied by, I wish every kid had the chance to be schooled like this.  Seriously, the world would be a better place.  It is what schooling should be.  The Headmaster is simply the best I have ever been exposed to.  He doesn’t just Talk the Talk; he walks it, he breathes it, he exudes it.  He IS the Talk.  He leads with vision, with passion, with intellect; it truly is a wonderful thing to behold, not to mention to be a small part of.

Two things from his talk that night stuck with me.  Ok, three.  One:  the deep appreciation and respect he has towards us parents for trusting the school with our children.  It is a sacred trust, well and truly; and he gets that.  Handing over your under-18 BC Road Trip, Sept 2011 639children, to an entity that will raise them in your absence is, in many respects,  a bit nuts; there has to be confidence and trust that your child will be looked after.  (Well, either that or you’re simply too busy jetting about and the kids are a bit lost anyway…but given my jet is still a minivan that I happily abandon post-snowstorm, guess what camp I’m in, ha ha).

Now for the second thing: How the school appoaches social media.   Not only does it recognize the pervasiveness of social media, but it’s doing something healthy about it.  Yes, the kids can embrace cell phones and all things web related – that’s where society is going after all, hello King Canute; but combating the downside of electronic communication?  How?  Well, it’s through respectful, meaningful relationships with adults.

Respectful, meaningful, relationships.  With adults.

May I add, with adults who (also) aren’t their parents.

I think that’s pretty cool.

But before I get to my #3 finale, let me just say this – off I go to the Ranchman’s.  I have no idea if my wasband will be there or not, but I’m guessing he will be.  At least this time around, I know that if I see him, I will not be barfing afterwards (ref Christmas blog; ugh, I still shudder).

Well, I get home from work, get cleaned up, put on a dressy white tank top, cover it with a pretty and brightly covered orangey cardigan, slap on a good pair of clean skinny jeans, and top it all off with some lipstick and my favourite awesome but not over the top tall black boots.  They have a shorter heel, but they’re the kind of boot that is sexy without trying.  Understated, but with a little bit of attitude.

I find my destination, and better yet, get parking.  I walk in, and the receptionist is a Betty White type – but without the sense of humour.  That’s ok.  She’s sweet in her way.  (Reminded me of SweetTarts, my favourite childhood candy.  And in no way am I referring to her as a tart).  Anyway, I quickly suss out that the Scottish gentleman just ahead of me is attending the same event…and while we are waiting to get our marching orders, just on cue, in comes the wasband.

“Ah ha!!!” he loudly announces to the entire room, “YOU’RE here.”  I look and nod, keeping silent what I was thinking inside.  Part of that conversation was, Yes, I am here, Captain Observant; and of course, of course, you arrive when I do.  Of course.  Perfect.

Ahhhh!  I smile at the universe.

I can tell Scottish dude can’t tell if we’re married or not.  I don’t care.

Well, now the sweet receptionist has to give us all instructions as to how to find the correct room.  In order to be heard, she steps out from behind her desk.  Then she stops right in front of me.  I have an ex on one side, and a Scot on the other; she makes what would be a gasp if any sound had come out of her throat.  We all look at  her, puzzled, as she silently opens and closes her mouth, her hands all a-flutter about her throat, doing an amazing Guppy impersonation.  Open, close.  Open, close.  Hands a-flutter. Open.  Close.

Is she dying?  Having a heart attack?

Wasband breaks the silence.  “Are you okay?”

She swallows and finds words again.


Jeans?  Pardon?

“Jeans.  There is a DRESS CODE.  JEANS ARE NOT ALLOWED.”  More fluttering.

“Not a problem,” I said.  “I’ll just take them off.”

SLS, Em Gr 12 Grad-6809

I was serious in jeans this year; not so much in a skirt last year.

Ah ha ha, no, I didn’t say that.  Instead, what I really said was, “No problem, I’ll just go home.”  (Like I cared.  At this point I really didn’t.  I have been to the occasional hoity event, and there is always some man who thinks that clean jeans and cowboy boots are part of the dress code, even if it stipulates black tie; guess it’s Chicks Revenge.  And well, if I have to go home and not attend a school function because I’m in jeans and didn’t know any better and thought I was ok – I mean, it is ‘work casual’ for me, well, that is just funny).

Betty had a small heart attack, and then, in an act that surely cost her 5 years of fun living, she bade me go quickly, it would be alright this one time.  So off I sped with my wasband and the Scotsman, and soon enough we found the appropriate room.

Fortunately I recognized someone as soon as I walked in.  He greeted me warmly, and was talking with two rather handsome men.  I excused myself to grab a glass of wine, in order to go back and really settle in.  My wasband was already at the bar.  Again I had to stand beside him. I ordered my white wine, and had to listen to the vociferous surprise expressed that I indeed drink white wine.

Wtf do you care? I wanted to ask when he proclaimed his amazement.  Bite me, dude, we are so divorced.  Last time I checked, you’re still living with a girlfriend.  Run along.  Yes, I have discovered many fine things in my life since we split, including a beautiful, crisp glass of white.  A little nicer than that $5.99 bottle of white you bought me en route to your work BBQ that surprisingly proved your White is Shite theory. Whatever.  Please piss off.  I do not want to make small talk with you.  We’re divorced, remember?  You sued me last summer, remember?   Yes, wasband, I do drink white now.  In addition to going out in jeans and tall boots, breaking the dress code, and still getting in.

What more can I say – except that there was a lot of testosterone in the room that night, but good testosterone – the healthy, male kind, not the Type A, King of the McMansion, let me tell you all about How Amazing I Am While I Blatantly Stare at the Chests of Other Women freakshow kind.  No, this was the type of testosterone that is respectful of women, the kind you can have a good conversation with, and think, Damn, not only can you carry a conversation, but you look good in that suit.

Of course I mean that in a respectful way.

So back to my finale.

I guess I just don’t feel like taking it anymore.

I was listening to the headmaster speak of the plans the school has for an intensive renovation/re-build,  one that will re-define the heart of the school, and truly make it one of the best boarding schools, if not in Canada, but the world.  It’s been a while since I’ve heard a vision of excellence so clearly articulated.  No point going for second-best, or, the We did the best we could under difficult circumstances.  Or, We gave it our best and we’re happy we’re last.

And as he spoke and the words sunk in, I suddenly realized that in so many little ways, I have grown accepting of less.  Here was someone representing and presenting Excellence; somehow it has been missing from my life.  Crap service, silly people, rules that don’t serve anyone well, being overcharged, wasteful products that work once and end up as landfill, watching people rationalizing stupid decisions, dumbing down everything for the sake of the one dumbass who would be better served if the opposite were true (isn’t it time to resurrect smarten-up?)…

It’s enough to put one in a coma, and just drift through life.

When was the last time you felt inspired?  Don’t you miss it when you realize it’s not there?

I’m going to include some out-takes from one of the school’s brochures.  I’m intentionally replacing the school’s name with an X.  Go crazy and imagine if this was a missive from your local government, the city council, the public school board, the health profession, your employer, or even your own mission statement.  How different would the world be if we all adopted excellence as our mantra?

I’m not quite doing it justice, but here is the excerpt:

“Diligent oversight and strong fiscal management have enabled X to navigate challenging times throughout its history.  X controls its operating costs effectively and is prudent when assessing any possible budgetary increases….as a result, X has maintained a balanced budget for 20 consecutive years while also achieving full enrollment.  In addition, X currently carries no long-term debt and operates within its credit line.

Building projects have been managed with similar fiscal diligence and discipline….

X’s extensive capital improvement project history is noteworthy for having delivered all projects on time and within budget.  Some have been managed and built by X itself; others were contracted out with fixed-cost bids.  X determines whether to self-manage or contract a project depending on the current status of the construction industry.  In busy construction periods, it has often been more cost-effective for X to manage its own projects than to pay premium costs to a contract firm. ..

X has consistently completed projects without compromising student life or educational quality in any way.”

You know, it’s amazing the number of people I know who have renovated or built homes, and tack on a minimum 10% cost overrun.  It is automatically built into the budget.  That is accepted as prudent, as diligent, as standard practice.  Truthfully it is just plain old Fudgeting the Budgeting.  And it practically always, always exceeds those numbers.

Why?  Do the builders really not know what a job will cost, even with 40 years of experience?  Or what about project managers and designers?  They don’t know either?  And what about those who take their pay based on a percentage of the total cost of the project, cost over-runs included?  Since when was an Incentive to Blow It a good idea?

Why do so many people accept that?  “It’s a hot economy.”  “We have no choice.”  “There is no one else available.”  Yup, there is truth to these statements.  But why don’t we demand something better?  Where are the companies priding themselves on being the better, creating the better, pushing the better?

How different would the world be if we all adopted excellence as our mantra?

Gosh, no more Shite White for drinking.

That’s one place to start.  And there are plenty of others.

And so I went home, excited, with my head full of good thoughts :).





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