Sunday, February 23, 2014

Awkward Family Dinner

I got a chance to see my fur brothers this weekend.  Here's one of them.

Click to enlarge and get a good look at his terrible dandruff problem.

I have become a crazy cat lady hobo-style, i.e. due to Ken's allergies I can't have cats so I have to take my show on the road.  I actually keep that rainbow ribbon in my purse to play with other peoples' cats.  Technically I only need it on weekends, but I like to carry it around with me all the time because seeing it makes me smile.

As soon as I pulled the ribbon out, my fur brothers flipped their lids.  They pounced all over it.  Even the lazy one (above), who spends most of his time begging for food and/or tummy rubs, actually got up and trotted after the ribbon when I pulled it to the other end of the house.

Thank goodness for the cats, because they made an awkward family dinner slightly easier to get through.  Ken and I have been at odds with my step-dad on account of his being involved in some shady business with some unsavoury business men, and because he tried to get us involved in his shenanigans.  I have to honestly say that I've been avoiding my step-dad for the past few months, because I just don't want to even listen to him talk about his schemes.  He's all excited about meetings he's had with people whom I consider to be obnoxious and hateful.

The truth is that I've lost quite a bit of respect for him.  He's focusing a lot of his energy on acquiring money and power, when he has enough money and power already to serve all of his needs.  He's intent on squashing some people he considers to be his enemies, at the expense of the people who he calls his friends.  He's not being nasty to his helpers on purpose per se, but he is being astonishingly thoughtless about other peoples' needs, priorities, and feelings.  I still care for him, of course, but my willingness to help him is at an all-time low.

Our dinner conversation was stilted, but we got through the evening, so that's something.  It's no worse than it used to be when I was a teenager, I suppose.  Actually, it's better, because I'm now an independent  adult who can go home at the end of the evening to relax...

... and pick cat fur off my clothes.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Bumming Rides

It's Sunday.  Sunday is blogging day.  I should write something, despite it being the kind of afternoon when all I want to do is passively consume: snacks, hot milk with Ovaltine, novels, TV.

As luck would have it, yesterday was relatively interesting, not least because I spent some time with my relatives.  My father and step-mom, who were scheduled to spend the entire winter in their Mexican gringo get-away, are currently living in a borrowed condo in the suburbs of Toronto with my sister, on account of my sister's health.  It's a long, convoluted story, but basically my sister's back is crunk; she might need to have surgery on it; and in the meantime she needs quite a lot of help getting to and from appointments.  Yes, it's a major bummer.  But on the bright side, my sister is being well looked-after, and also it means that I get to see my folks more than never during the winter.

Getting to the borrowed condo seemed like it might be a challenge.  It's located at the far reaches of the Toronto public transit system (TTC), a few blocks away from where the buses turn around and head back to Kipling station.  As you may recall, I don't drive.  However!  It was discovered that I could ride with my grandmother (elder Bubbe, the 97-year-old) as a escort in her WheelTrans cab.

WheelTrans is a service offered by the TTC for disabled people.  It offers door-to-door cab or wheelchair-bus service for the price of a regular bus ride.  My Bubbe applied for eligibility a couple of years ago.  I'm not sure who ends up paying the real cost of the service, obviously it all trickles down to the tax-payers eventually, but in my opinion it's necessary and a blessing to many people, and I'm happy to be contributing to it.

This was the first time I got to benefit from it.  I flashed my Metropass and was able to enjoy a $50 cab ride out into the wilds of Etobicoke in warmth and comfort.  (The cab driver does leave the meter running, so that he can charge the fee back to the TTC, and so that you can see exactly how much value you are squeezing out of the system.)

It was nice to spend the extra time with my Bubbe, and we had a good time with the family.  My favourite exchange of the evening came when my Bubbe declared "I've always felt like a freak!"  "So, I inherited it?" I joked.  My father said "Yes, you come from a long line of freaks."  It's just as I had always suspected!

A second WheelTrans cab deposited us back at my Bubbe's residence at the end of the evening, and I still had time to take the train over to a friend's birthday party for a slice of chocolate cake.  That's a lot of excitement during an otherwise hibernatory February.  It was a nice change of pace.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

The Bean

What does a fashion-conscious girl do when an effing relentless winter keeps her away from the shops?  Why, she goes shopping online, of course!  And where does she go shopping online?  If she's me, she looks around, but she always ends up back at L.L. Bean.

I am a big fan of The Bean.  No one is paying me to say this.  (Although if one of the Beanerites gets wind of this and wants to send me a gift card, I wouldn't say no.)  The reasons for my as-yet undying Beanerism are:

1)  The COLOURS.  I like a varied palette in my wardrobe, and I'm not talking about fifty shades of grey.  Neutrals have their place, but that place should be as contrast to whatever kicky colour I've chosen to brighten my day.

2)  The easy care.  The no-iron shirts truly can go into the dryer and come out straight onto a hanger, ready to wear.  It is my goal to eventually replace all my mandatory-iron shirts with these lazy ones.  If only I'd known of this option sooner.

My older no-iron shirt:

The one that I just received this week:

Hey, colour, right?  Don't say I didn't warn you.

I already had one of these in blue, but when I saw them on sale for 50% off I didn't even try to resist getting two more colours.  Hmm, it looks a little wrinkly in this photo, but I swear it shakes out just fine after it's been worn for a little while.

Ah, my happy family of Easter egg colours.

I also received a cardigan, (in "natural"), which I'm sending back because it's too boxy.  Too bad; I had high hopes for that one.

That's about it for my mid-winter shopping spree.  I did also order a pair of pants from Eddie Bauer, maybe, I think.  I mean, I got a confirmation e-mail stating that they received my order.  Then I started to get e-mails saying things like "Yoohoo!  I think you forgot to check out, maybe?  Let us know if we can help you process your cart."  I clicked on the e-mail link, which told me I had zero items in my cart.  So, I dunno.  Maybe I'm getting pants, or maybe I'm not getting pants.  Eh, either way is fine.  It's not like I'm dying for those pants; it's more of an experiment to see if they fit.

Oh, and if anyone from Eddie Bauer wants to pay me for linking to them, once again, I am totally open to bribes a gift card.  Just sayin'.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts

The weather has not been conducive to adventuring around the city of Toronto.   Therefore, I have been getting a lot of reading done.  Just this afternoon I finished In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts by Gabor Maté, a non-fiction book on the subject of  addiction.  It explores the relationships between early childhood experiences, ADD/ADHD, and addictive behaviours.  I certainly found it thought-provoking.

One of the issues Maté grapples with is how much control people have over their own behaviour.  Given one's various genetic pre-dispositions and the inescapable environments of childhood, how much are we driven by our "programming" and how much free choice do we actually have?  He doesn't try to answer that, but does make the point that there is no black and white answer; it's a slippery, grey area.

I like his idea of redefining free will as "free won't", i.e. the ability to resist our own impulses and compulsions when they do not work towards our long-term well-being.

It's also interesting to see the parallels between addiction and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. They both centre around obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviours.  The defining difference is that someone with OCD derives no pleasure from their activities.  At least an addict gets a momentary high.

These questions go through my mind often as I make my way through life.  My impulse to be angry with someone for their destructive or irresponsible behaviour wrestles with my impulse to be understanding and compassionate regarding their side of the story.  If I'm angry it's often because I haven't defined my own boundaries well enough, and feel that perhaps they have been crossed, but I'm not sure, and feel both confused and threatened.  Also, I hate being put in a position where I have to choose between being a doormat and confronting someone, because both of those are uncomfortable.  Obviously if I get conscious about what's happening, I'll do the confrontation, but I won't enjoy it.

Maté quotes a therapist who advises that it is always better to end up feeling guilty than to end up feeling resentful.  In other words, choose to stand up for yourself, even if you might hurt someone else's feelings in the process.  I don't think it's necessarily that clear cut all the time.  I know that sometimes I feel resentful for reasons that don't reflect the current situation accurately.  Sometimes I feel resentful because the situation reminds me of a bad time in the past, or because I'm tired because I didn't sleep well the night before, even when someone is being perfectly reasonable with me.  I'll spend a lot of time trying to figure out if my annoyance is justified before I air it.

So, what do you think?  Any strong opinions out there on the free will/free won't issue?  Is an addiction the fault of the addict?  Is it really better to feel guilty than to feel resentful?  Throw in your two cents.