Thursday, May 30, 2013

The People On the Bus

The most exciting part of my life, currently, is my blossoming relationships with people on the bus.  Oh, we are getting to know each other so well!  Sort of.  Or maybe not.

There's a woman who I started seeing all the time in the early spring.  She was probably around before that, but I only noticed her when she started wearing her yellow coat.  Once I'd seen Yellow Coat, suddenly she was everywhere.  On the bus with me to and from work.  Out for a walk in my neighbourhood.  At the grocery store.  Now that it's a bit warmer, too warm for the yellow coat, I'll probably lose track of her.  Unfortunately it was her only eye-catching feature.

There's a family consisting of a mom and three kids that I have learned to dread.  The kids are always clean and impeccably dressed, but the mom always looks like she wishes she could jump on a bus and ride away without them.  There is a girl around 8 years old, who does a lot of minding of her younger siblings.  The middle child is a girl around 5 years old.  She's usually pretty quiet.  It's the youngest, a toddling boy, who's the hellion.  As soon as I see them getting on the bus it's like counting from a lightening flash to the first thunderclap.  One potato, two potato, three potato... and let the shrieking and writhing begin.  Sometimes the mom smacks her son.  Other times she simply holds his wrist in an iron grip and stares out the window as though willing herself into another life.  I know nothing about parenting, so I'm in no position to  judge this woman.  Let's just say that I don't enjoy her kids any more than she does.

Finally there's a woman who I felt neutral about until this morning.  Background: at my bus station, travellers queue up for their turn to board the bus.  This doesn't happen at all bus stations in the city. At other stations, people form a disorderly mob, and push their way to the doors of the bus, using both elbows for leverage.  But at my bus station we are civilized.  This is not King and Bay (the heart of Toronto's wolfish financial district), this is the gentle almost-suburbs.  There is one line for the front door of the bus and one line for the back door, and this lady has been taking that route long enough to know it.

This morning, when the bus pulled up, the lady in question was third in line for the front door.  But that wasn't good enough for her.  Quick as a flash, she beetled past the people ahead of her (one of them being me) and got in first.  How rude!  First because jumping a queue is inherently inconsiderate, as a matter of principle, and second because, really?  You were third.  You couldn't have waited for me and the person in front of me to get in?  It would have taken seconds.  Literally.  *fumes*

Thank God for my iPod.  Noise-reducing ear-buds save my sanity, and pleasant podcasters give me something positive to focus on.

Alright, I'll end on a happy note.  There is a pretty young mother with a lovely little girl who ride the bus with me sometimes, and they always make me smile.  The mom loves her child so deeply, and strokes stray curls off her forehead with such tenderness, that it gives me hope for humanity.  They have no idea that I'm watching; they are absorbed in their own thoughts and their comfortable, warm bond.  They'll never know how often they make my day.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Feeding My Face

I'm in the middle of reading Under the Tuscan Sun: At Home in Italy by Frances Mayes.  It's a memoir-style account of a couple's purchase and refurbishment of an ancient Italian house on five acres of fruit orchards and olive trees. 50% of the story recounts the couple's efforts to renovate and beautify their property.  The other 50% is all about food.

There are plum trees on the property.  The market sells hand-made cheeses made from the milk of angelic cows.  The couple throw handfuls of wild mushrooms and arugula over mounds of spaghetti sprinkled with parmesan and eat it on the terrace in the shade of overgrown pear trees.  That kind of thing.

I'm trying to think of a way to segue from Italian locavorism to my diet, but I can't do it.  There's no way.  The two have nothing in common.  I'll put it this way: there are some foods that I enjoy as much as Frances Mayes enjoys her home-made peach confiture, but my foods are not so poetic.

I discovered that my local grocery store offers fresh bean burritos (made with cheese and salsa, and served with a tiny tub of sour cream), 2 for $6.  Good deal, eh?  Steam up some fresh veggies, microwave a burrito until the cheese melts, and there's dinner.  I buy them anytime I'm in the store and they've been freshly made.  (That's around once a week.)

The other, slightly further-away grocery store makes a quiche florentine  that I'm partial to.  Since I can't share it was lactose-intolerant Ken (darn, what a shame!), I get the whole pie to myself.  (I don't eat it all in one sitting - that would be gross.)  I manage to bring home a quiche just about every other week.

I try not to rely too heavily on prepared foods.  But when work has been harsh and I'm super-hungry before I even get home, my dinner of last resort is toaster chicken.  I buy these frozen rectangles of processed chicken, approximately the size and shape of Pop-Tarts.  They go into the toaster, where they sizzle, spit, set off the smoke alarm (sometimes) and drip grease onto the kitchen counter (always).  They're probably not the most healthy thing one could consume, but they're quick and simple.  Throw some veggies or fruit alongside them, fill up a bowl with organic, low-sodium corn chips, and you have a dinner that can pass, even if it won't win any awards.

So that's mainly what I'm eating these days.  What do you think - should I try harder in the kitchen, or does your dinner menu make me look like a domestic expert?

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Let's Go Shopping

It's mom's birthday next weekend.  Seriously, we have to get her something.  Don't worry, it won't be difficult.

The easiest option would be to get her a book, but that might not be the best idea.  She has a problem with buying more books than she can read.  She's already years behind in her reading schedule.

I know - let's get her something to wear.  Let's go for a walk to Winners!

Here we go.  Doot de doo...

What a lovely day.

Spring flowers are so puuuuuurty!

Alright, we have arrived at the store.  Let's see what they have that might be appropriate for my mom's 68th birthday.

Union jack skinny jeans?

Mmm... nope.

Swan pants?

Better, but still not what I'm looking for.

What the - they have the nerve to charge $15 for these rags that were salvaged from a bear-attack victim?  Sheesh.  That's tragic.  Whoever it was obviously lost both their legs to the crotch.

For $25 you can get a colourful version.

LOL - nope!

Wait, what's this lovely array of denim over here?

Oooh, banana-yellow.  I'll just grab these to try on...

Oh no, I'm shopping for myself now!  HOW DID THIS HAPPEN?  *spends another 45 minutes shopping for self*

Ah, that's the ticket.  A pretty summer blouse for mom.  Excellent!

*buys flowery shirt for mom, banana shorts for self*

Okay, that was fun.  Let's head home now.  Hey look, baby pine cones!  Aren't they cute?


Friday, May 10, 2013

Healthy as a Horse

Those of you who have been with me on my journeys for the past few years will remember that I wasn't doing so well a couple of years ago.  For those who may not know I was anxious, depressed, tired all the time (sometimes to the point where I could barely lift my feet off the floor to walk properly), achey, and prone to feeling faint, nauseated, feverish, etc.  I'd break out into hives at the slightest provocation.  Eventually it got so bad that I missed two months of work.

To make a long story short, a doctor finally figured out that all of my physical symptoms were by-products of stress.  I started taking a small dose of SSRI medication and improved rapidly.  In the past year and a half my health has continually improved including my mood, my weight, and pretty much everything else.  I went from being, for all intents and purposes, disabled by mental illness, to being as healthy as can be.  Fit as a fiddle.  Quite capable of extensive goal-directed behaviour (thank you, dopamine).

So, am I "all better" now?  Am I going to try coming off my medication?  Am I ready to travel the world and throw all my previous fears into the wind?


Firstly, I plan to stay on that medication until the day I croak, or the day they invent something better, whichever comes first.  I NEVER want to risk backsliding.  A psychiatrist told me that coming off the medication means risking a relapse, and not only that, but if I did go off and then re-start the meds, the same medication or the same dose might not be as effective as it was before.  Or not effective at all.  Because the human brain is weird and we still don't understand it.  I do not plan on taking any chances!  Taking a tiny pill once a day is a minuscule price to pay for having my whole life together.

Secondly, although I totally qualify as a normal, mentally healthy person now (possibly above average, if I'm to accept the compliments that often come my way regarding my levels of patience and equanimity at work), I can still sometimes feel my old brain chemistry trying to assert itself.  If I don't get enough sleep, or life gets very stressful, and especially if certain hormonal shifts are throwing their weight behind the balance, I start to see little signs of my old symptoms cropping up.  I might sleep 12 hours straight through, and then wake up feeling anti-social and like there's nothing to look forward to.  Or a couple of hives might bloom up on my arms, and the joints in my hands and feet might feel stiff and achey.

So far the symptoms have always passed in a few days, or at most (after I had a flu which really brought me down) for a couple of weeks.  If I felt the need, I would not hesitate to go back to my head-shrinker for a re-evaluation.  But basically I feel that I can maintain my balance by taking care of myself, and not pushing myself too far outside my comfort zone.  I listen to my body.  I eat well. I exercise.  I walk outside in the fresh air.  And I don't go chasing after challenges just for kicks.

So don't expect me to take off for an attempt on Mount Everest, or to find me planning to open a restaurant.  As long as I take care of myself, I will do just fine.  Like for example there was a cold making the rounds at work last week, and I didn't catch it.  Like I said, I'm as healthy as a horse.  Just a little skittish, is all.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Queen Street: A Photo Essay

I went to Queen St. West with Ken.  He had to get his hair done.  I had to buy a bunch of Mother's Day gifts.  (Mom, step-mom, grandmother, and other grandmother.)  While I was waiting to find out how long Ken's appointment was going to take, I amused myself by reading the packaging of this very strange hair care line. Click on each photo to get the mega-sized version, so you can read all the strangeness.

This dog decided to hang out with me for a while.  He/she was friendly but shy, and badly in need of the services of a hair stylist.  I never managed to catch sight of the dog's eyes.  Maybe s/he didn't have any.  Maybe s/he was navigating by echolocation.   It's totally possible!

I figured out how much time I had to go shopping while Ken was busy being primped.  But I couldn't stand to spend the entire time inside stores.  First I had to visit the park.

All the trees were in bloom, but this one was the prettiest.

Then I hit the stores.  I found the place to go to if you're in the market for a vintage light fixture.

Or a life-sized wooden-soldier.

Or a pair of absolutely ridiculous shoes.

Or a pair of lace overalls, for the aggressively immodest.

Queen Street never fails to offer a variety of colourful sights.

I did end up finding the gifts and cards I needed for everyone on my list, but I'm not telling the details!  Because one of the people on that list reads this blog.  You know who you are.  You're going to have to wait until next week!