Friday, April 30, 2010


Two weeks from today is when my workplace will be moving into our new facility, and the preparations have taken over my entire life. In between regular work, visits to the new site, and working on plans at our home office with Ken, there is no time of day or evening that I'm not effectively on call.

Therefore, I will be reducing my blogging activities considerably for the next two or three weeks. If I have time I'll be reading blogs and commenting, but I doubt I'll be posting much.

If you wonder what I'm doing the answer is probably one of the following:
1) Working on a spreadsheet or floor plan map of something complicated, like extensions, voice mail, phone type, button programming and other details for 110 telephone jacks.
2) Wandering around at the construction site, getting covered in dust and dodging out of the way of men in overalls working with heavy machinery.
3) Doing extra loads of laundry for myself and my husband, to remove all that dust.
4) Lying on the sofa, with the TV on, staring through the screen to my thoughts on a detail of the relocation that I haven't quite worked out yet.

For the next two weeks at least, that is my whole life. So, wish me luck please, and I'll update you on the other side!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

All Better Now

I finally bounced back completely from the flu. Yay!

The best part about being sick was: during the five days that I didn't leave my house, every flower in the neighbourhood burst into bloom. When I went home on Friday, the world was still made of dried twigs and dead grass. I came back out on Thursday and Presto! White and pink blossoms on every tree! Riots of yellow Forsythia! Magnolias! Tulips of the rainbow! A million golden dandelions against emerald lawns!

It was like Mother Nature threw me a surprise Welcome Back party.

Getting back to work wasn't terrible. I'd managed to do a lot from home, lying on the couch in larval mode, working on the laptop. This is only the second time I've been off sick since we implemented remote access to our systems, and it's a lot less stressful when I can keep on top of what's going on at the office. Going back is much easier when my e-mail in-box isn't overflowing and my paperwork isn't a week behind. Also, doing some work from home keeps me from going completely brain-dead. I bore easily.

I was determined to keep my weekend plans. Nothing crazy. Just a dinner out and then an improv comedy show with another couple. The couple consists of a woman I work with, let's call her Val, and her boyfriend. They are two of the most down-to-earth, warm and friendly people you could hope to come across.

I am a big fan of Val. She has had a life that could be classed as a tragedy. She has faced down what seems to be an endless string of losses, disasters, deaths of loved ones, long-drawn-out-illnesses of love ones, divorce, etc. If anyone could justifiably be bitter, jaded, depressed, and pessimistic, it would be her. But she will have none of that. She keeps her chin firmly up and enjoys life.

Currently Val's mother is dying of cancer. Not slowly, either. It's stage five, it's everywhere, and she could go any day. Val takes time off work to bring her to doctor's appointments, and bought her a beautiful wig when all her hair fell out. Her mother is the fourth person she has cared for during a terminal illness. It was only a few months ago that she lost her Nan. And she cares deeply. It's very clear that she does.

However, Val's not sitting by anyone's bedside drowning in tears. She's not falling apart. Well, maybe a little here and there. But most of the time she's pulling up her socks and living her life. She gets her hair and her nails done, and goes out looking like a million bucks. She goes to Bingo and wins like nobody's business. She goes to Karaoke. She came out for improv with us, and had a good laugh. Val is the most psychologically resilient person I've ever known.

Right now I'm observing her carefully, trying to learn all her tricks. I've tended to crumble under stress. I could learn a thing or two from Val. In fact, Ken and I are going to Bingo with her sometime soon to see what that's all about. I'll keep you posted.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010


I'm still sick. Maybe improving slightly, if having a two-hour window of fever-free lucidity this afternoon means anything in the grand scheme of things. So far I've had a couple of good days and a couple of bad days in no particular order, so I'm not sure if this is the Grand Upswing or just a brief recess.

I have been pondering my relationship with illness. I think it's improving. I believe that I'm getting better at handling the psychological challenges of being sick. I haven't let myself be consumed by frustration. I haven't played mind games on myself, trying to take control of the situation by blaming myself for getting sick, or trying to push myself back to work before I'm ready.

It helps that my workplace recently instituted remote access to our computer system. I can get a lot done from home. That's gone a long way towards reducing my frustration.

When I was a kid, being sick had two sides to it. On one side, my mother was always nice to me when I was sick. It was a guaranteed way of getting positive attention, and I was desperate for positive attention. When I was well, there was a lot of yelling around the house. But when I was sick she would tuck me under a blanket and say all the right things. I was undoubtedly rewarded for getting sick, so it's no surprise that I got a lot of tummy aches and caught a lot of colds.

When my step-dad moved in, things changed. He didn't care when I was sick. In fact, it irritated him. I remember being on vacation with my parents when I was 12. I had cramps, and, being only 12, I didn't know how to deal with them. My step-dad yelled at me that I was spoiling his holiday. He wouldn't let me lie down and rest. I had to go out and do tourist stuff with them.

Another time I was home from high school with a bad cold in the winter. I was in my pyjamas on the sofa watching TV with tissues, hot tea, and the cat (who was a diligent nurse, providing purr therapy). There was a major snowfall that day. When my step-dad got home from work he sent me outside to shovel the driveway because he didn't feel like doing it. When I said that I was sick, he laughed in my face.

As an adult, being sick has always brought up a flood of conflicting emotions based on my past. There's the whiny urge to be babied, coupled with major anxiety that people are going to be angry with me for being sick, and that they won't take me seriously. I half-consciously assume that everyone will think I'm faking. In fact, I don't even trust myself. I take my temperature constantly to prove to myself that I'm not just making it up.

But not this time. At least, not as much as usual. When I feel these bad feelings sneaking up on me, I stop and confront them. So far, successfully.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Done Like Dinner

Alright, that's it. I dragged myself in to work and managed to get through half a day. Now I'm done.

I knew I was in trouble last night when I woke up at 4am feeling shivery. I took my temperature in the morning and it was higher than normal, but not a fever, so I decided I'd better show up at the office. We're moving in less than a month; there are daily decisions to be made about construction; and deadlines are looming from every direction, so every day counts.

I got 2.5 blocks from home (just past the point at which it's not worth going home to call a cab) before I realized I should have called a cab. I made it halfway to work and then I had to stop on the street to take a breather. Then I shuffled the rest of the way there at a snail's pace. By the time I got to my desk, I was beat. It was half an hour before I caught my breath from the effort of all that walking. The walking I usually do twice every day without thinking about it.

I got quite a bit accomplished here, but now I'm done. My heart is working hard, and all I'm doing is sitting up and typing. And eating a sandwich. These things do not normally push me to my physical limits.

The first sign that something was amiss occurred on Wednesday. I was doing some advanced-type service on the photocopier and my head started to spin. I figured that maybe I inhaled some toner dust, or one of the parts which I was handling might have residue on it from the manufacturing process. So, either I was poisoned by the fuser, or the ozone filter, or that was when I first started to feel whatever virus has got ahold of me.

I'm going to take a cab to the grocery store, stock up for the next few days, and then go lie down for the whole weekend. That is all.

You guys, take it easy, and have a good weekend.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Business Casual

Whatever happened to business casual?

I believe it was invented in the 1990's, permitting pressed cotton trousers with a button-down shirt, or any outfit with a similar balance of comfort and presentability. In my opinion, it's the only sensible dress code outside of industry uniforms like scrubs.

The unwritten dress code of my office is business casual. There's a lot of scope for choice and personal expression. Blue jeans are not allowed, but jean-style pants of other colours are permitted, if they're in good condition.

If you could go straight to a beach party from work without changing and not look out of place, you're too casual. Ix-nay on flip-flops in the office. (I have had that conversation with an employee.) Similarly, you should feel compelled to change before heading out to a nightclub. F***-me heels with a short skirt and 4 inches of bare cleavage is inappropriate. (I have had that conversation too.) Other than that, the sky's the limit.

However, try to buy some decent business casual clothing. Go on, I dare you. Seriously. Because this is what malls are selling these days:
  • Prom dresses
  • Grey or black suits
  • Sports clothes (running-wear, yoga-wear, skater-dude-wear, etc.)
  • Teen Super-Casual
The Teen Super-Casual look is now embraced by people of all ages. It seems that everyone wants in on skinny jeans; pre-faded and ripped jeans; skimpy T-shirts with funky decals or logos; and hoodies. I don't have a problem with that. I was walking around in hipster skinny jeans all weekend. But my point is: it was the weekend.

It used to be that cheap stores carried Teen Casual and pricier stores carried dressier items. Now it's casual across the board. You can pay $10 for a skimpy T-shirt, or $110. It's egalitarianism via the lowest common denominator of clothing.

There are a few other types of stores in the mall. There are stores specializing in clothing for octogenarians. There are stores specializing in get-ups for extra-slutty girls. And there are even a few stores carrying the look that I want, but designed for a different body type. I can't fill out either the boob area or the hip area in anything that they carry. No help there.

I am down to two, count'em TWO, stores where I can find decent work clothes. In this whole big city, where most of the non-residential space is devoted to retail sales rather than art, culture, or nature, that's what I'm left with. I can spend all day walking through a giant mall containing hundreds of stores, and in the end I always fall back on the same two chains. Here and there I might luck out with a random item from another store, but it's rare.

Is anyone else getting tired of endless jeans and T-shirts? Or is it just me?

Thursday, April 8, 2010


Usually I walk to work quickly, chin up, listening to my iPod, lost in thought. This morning I walked slowly, looking down, paying attention, trying not to step on the worms.

Poor dumb worms. They work tirelessly, making soil for us, and how do we repay them? When they come out on rainy days, we squash them mercilessly. We smash them underfoot, eviscerate them with bicycles and baby strollers, bisect them with bundle-buggies. We don't even notice the massacre.

I have a moderate position when it comes to bugs. They're life forms too, and worthy of respect. That being said, I don't cherish unconditional love for all insects.

Small bugs are OK unless they're actively trying to bite me. To me, potato bugs wandering around outside are cute. Spiders in my house don't bother me. I figure they're on my side because they eat the bad bugs. As long as my home isn't suffering from an active infestation, I can tolerate the little guys.

Medium sized bugs intimidate me. I'd rather they stayed outside. Once I lived in a basement apartment with a guy and an indeterminate number of 2-inch-long cockroaches. I was aware that in theory they are clean beasties, probably more hygienic than your average dog. But it bothered me that they didn't respect my boundaries. While making the bed, I'd flick the duvet to straighten it and a roach would pop out. It was equally un-charming to shake one out of a sweater that I had been planning to wear.

Fortunately, when our kittens moved in, the bugs, after they got tired of being played with like wind-up toys, moved out. Even more fortunately, when we moved out, none of the roaches managed to hitch a ride to our next apartment.

Really big bugs, or masses of smaller bugs, do creep me out. No problem. I don't travel to countries where really big bugs live. And I avoid cottages. The black flies and mosquitoes feel that it's their territory? That's fine. I won't be showing up to argue the point with them.

My least favourite bug encounter was

(don't read this if you're squeamish)

this time at Lime Rickey's, a restaurant designed around 1950's nostalgia. I was there with a boyfriend, one of his friends, and one of my friends. We were trying to set our friends up, so there was an awkward, first-date quality to the evening. We were all trying to play it cool and casual.

I ordered a chocolate milkshake. Drinking it, I noticed waxy pieces finding their way up the straw. I thought that the ice cream might be chocolate-chocolate-chip, or maybe it was waxy residue from the inside of the container. I had consumed quite a few of these mystery bits when something prompted me to spit one of the pieces into my palm for a closer look.

It was a leg. Definitely. A black leg, with one joint, and a yellow stripe.


Yuh huh. Play it cool. Keep it casual.

I can't remember exactly how it went from there, since this all went down around 15 years ago, but the server was summoned to our table. I presented him with my evidence. He was unconcerned. Offered us an explanation to the effect that the place next door was being renovated, and the vibrations from all the power tools were shaking bugs out of the walls. Like that was supposed to make any of us feel better.

Anyway, I didn't get to hollering, or barfing. I just asked the server to take my plate away and that was that. In the end, I suffered no ill effects.

My ex, who is still a friend, recently reminisced with me about the bugshake. "Man," he said admiringly "you sure took that like a trooper!"

If you are what you eat, I'm part bug.

How do you feel about bugs?

Sunday, April 4, 2010


It's been an eventful week.

Officially I went to my first Passover ceder on Monday night. Except that I didn't. I lied about it. Yes, I lied about going to a ceder. That's an extra-sinful lie, no matter how you slice it.

I was invited to three ceders this year: two with my mother's side of the family, and one with my father's. That's usually how it goes. And usually it would be physically possible for me to attend all three because my mother's family holds ceders on the official first two nights of Passover, and my father's family picks a convenient night later in the week for everyone to gather. However, I choose not to attend three ceders in one week because that is just too many ceders.

The first ceder was being hosted by my ultra-sensitive aunt. She's still holding a grudge against me from an incident four years ago in which I didn't invite her over to dinner in the correct manner. I invited her, but she didn't like the way in which I issued the invitation. Like I said, sensitive! So I felt I couldn't just say "Three ceders is too many so I'm skipping yours because you're not my parent." I decided that I'd better lie and say I was going to my father's ceder on the first night. What I actually did on Monday was work late, then go home and have gnocchi for dinner and watch two episodes of Grey's Anatomy.

The second ceder was at my mom's house. I showed up two hours before the guests to help her cook and set the table. One thing about family dinners at my mom's house: the table always looks real pretty. She polishes the brass candlesticks until they glow. There's a glass vase on the table with an arrangement of delicate, cut flowers. Silverware and wine glasses catch the light from her old-fashioned chandelier.

This time the alchemy of the evening worked out, and my family got along. Conversation was easy. Stories were told. There was some snapping and grouching, but it was kept to a bare minimum. To be fair, the grouchy people had been up all night looking after a sick child. I would have been cranky too.

The last ceder was at my uncle's house. I showed up at my father's house to bum a ride to Hamilton. My step-mother and sister were busy preparing food for the evening. The dog needed walking. And so, I did something I've never done before. I walked a dog all by myself.

I was a bit wary, even though Pesto is well-behaved. New things are always strange. Plus there was the issue of picking up poop. I've dealt with a lot of cat poop over the years, but dog poop was an unknown. My step-mom handed me two plastic bags shaped like oven mitts. I've never seen such a thing before, but I could tell right away that they would simplify the poop-handling procedure by several orders of magnitude.

I returned from the walk with the dog all in one piece, and a bag of turds swinging jauntily by my side. I had half a mind to pin it to my shirt like a medal. (But I didn't.)

Finally, there was Easter lunch at my in-laws' house this afternoon. I have one thing to say about that lunch: if you're going to a family pot-luck, try set it up so that your brother-in-law is dating a professional pastry chef. Rustic raspberry-peach pie with layers of cake-sponge, jam, and marzipan... *drool* What did everyone else bring? Who the hell cares! It was all about the pie.

What did you do for the holidays?