Tuesday, September 27, 2016

The End, I think.

Hey guys.  So, here's the thing... I think I'm done.  With blogging.  I can't say precisely why.  It just feels like it's time to move on from it.  I may still pop in to check your blogs now and then.  It's not out of the question that I might update here again.  I just feel that the era of me being committed to a deep and meaningful relationship with blogging has organically drawn to a close.

It's not you, it's me.  I'm not leaving you for another hobby that I've been pursuing behind your back.  It's just... well... people change.

Thanks for showing up and sharing your lives and your lovely selves with me.  I wish you all the best, and your families and your furry friends.  Keep being awesome.


Saturday, September 17, 2016

Meanwhile, in Canada...

Since I turned 40 (several years ago) I have been trying to learn more about current events, globally, and here in my home country of Canada.  I want to be a responsible, informed citizen.  It's easier said than done.

American news is everywhere.  It's on the internet, on TV, and in the podcasts that I enjoy most.  I have subscriptions to the New York Times website, and also Foreign Policy magazine (online and in print), so I have access to more US and global news than I can keep up with.  

Canadian news is, ironically, more of a challenge.  I listen to CBC radio news, and often read their website, but they are left-leaning and government funded, so I feel the need to balance their take with alternate views from the centre and/or right.

For a while I subscribed to the Globe and Mail online newspaper, but I didn't learn much from them.  Their focus is firmly on financial and business news, which is not my priority.  I wasn't impressed by their content, plus their servers are hella slow.

The only other option, to my mind, was the National Post newspaper, to which I now have an online subscription.  I signed up last month and I have been struggling since then with technical difficulties.

I opened an account online, but the process didn't complete, so I had to call the customer service desk to get that sorted out.  Then there was another call to get my account unlinked from a social media account that I don't use anymore, which was screwing with my ability to log in.  A third call was needed when my credit card bill arrived, showing two charges from NP in the same month, which turned out to be because I had been signed up for both digital access (i.e. the website), which I did want, and their ePaper (allows you to view the paper page-by-page on a tablet  as though you were looking at the print version), which I didn't want or need.  Every time I think I've gotten all the problems sorted out, I discover another one.

The website doesn't work on Safari, the default browser on my Mac at home.  I have to open Chrome to read the newspaper.  Their mobile app is rated so poorly in the Google Play store that I haven't even bothered to install it on my phone.  (The New York Times app, incidentally, is great.)

I understand that newspapers are struggling right now to make the transition from paper to digital formats.  I get that Canada's news media in particular are fighting to remain relevant in an increasingly non-local world.  I want to support Canadian news media so that they are able to survive; so that we do have some alternatives to the government-funded CBC.  But heck.  The National Post has been a massive pain.  It's really testing my commitment.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Things I Can't Even Part 2

Did I ever tell you guys about the time my step-dad plotted a murder?

I didn't?  Oh, that's probably because I was terrified that he would make good on his threats and if I revealed that I had known about it ahead of time I could be jailed for years as an accessory to the crime.

Some of you will recall that my step-dad was embroiled in a lawsuit against his business partners a few years ago.  That lawsuit was finally resolved, but only after many years of legal wrangling that funneled all of his wealth into the pockets of lawyers.

My step-dad is relentless.  The guy he was up against also had no intention of backing down.  In the end, as all such legal battles do, it came down to who ran out of money (lawyer fuel) first.  Since the other guy is (supposedly) a billionaire, my step-dad was outclassed.  Anyone could have predicted that from the beginning, but my step-dad just wouldn't give up and walk away.  Now he has lost his shares in the business and he has spent all his savings.  Super great.

At one point, when he was feeling particularly frustrated, he told me that he was planning to hire a hit on one of the players in the drama.  He seemed to be serious.  He associated with a lawyer who acted as the legal representative for a powerful biker gang.  This guy occasionally showed up at my workplace to drop off or pick up papers.  He dressed like a stereotypical biker, and was usually accompanied by a giant, fierce Rottweiler whose booming bark was enough to put anyone into a state of visceral fear.

I found it easy to believe that this guy would know a guy who knew a guy who could set up a hit, if the money was right.

I begged my step-dad to be reasonable.  His adversary in the lawsuit was a powerful man, and probably had his own thugs to call on.  I could picture all sorts of horrible consequences, one of which was myself getting killed in revenge.  The best-case scenario would be my step-dad's plan being discovered before anyone died, but he would go to jail for a long time.

My only hope was that his ADD (as diagnosed by me, Dr. Spark) would ensure that he got distracted from the plan before it was carried out.  Sometimes it's a good thing when someone "fails to finish schoolwork, chores, or duties at work".  I've watched enough true crime TV to know that planning a good murder requires sustained attention to detail, and no hired hit man worth the title would agree to proceed carelessly.

Fortunately for everyone, that's what happened.  My step-dad talked about it a lot, but he never got around to making a plan.  He even semi-forgave the guy he was hoping to rub out.  At least they're on speaking terms again.  At one point, when everything had settled down, I asked him, "Aren't you glad you didn't murder X?"  He wouldn't commit to being glad about it.  But I sure as heck am.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Things I Can't Even Part 1

Did I ever tell you guys that I got sued?

You may recall that last year at work I hired an assistant for a picky, cranky old dude.  Nothing and no one was ever good enough for him.  I found him a gem of an employee: smart, sweet, energetic, and capable.  Everyone thought that she was fantastic... except for the cranky old dude, because he was so old and cranky.

This fellow, not a direct supervisor but someone above me in the pecking order, gave us all endless trouble.  He was showing signs of reduced competence, due to his age (he was 80, and suffering from a chronic disease), but he had an excuse for everything.  All of his lapses were someone else's fault.  After an extremely difficult power struggle between him and the business owners, he finally agreed to leave.  (I would have said that he retired - except we found out that he went straight back to work somewhere else.)

Things might not have worked out for him at his new job, because a few months later he found himself in need of cash.  So what did he do?  He sued the business I work for, for wrongful dismissal.  Not only that, he named several individuals in the lawsuit, including me.  Because supposedly I was one of the decision-makers.  Believe me - if I had truly been a decision-maker, he would have been gone months before he finally left!

Without getting into details, it's a frivolous lawsuit.  He hasn't got a case.  I was confident of that from the beginning.  But when I got served the papers with my name on them, it was like getting punched in the stomach.  I've never been sued before.  I turned myself inside out and upside down to try to keep that man happy for all the 10+ years that I worked with him, and this is my reward?  He can earn over a million dollars a year as an accomplished professional, and he wants to put his big hand into my little pocket to steal my modest retirement savings?

The papers were served to me between Christmas and New Year's Eve last winter.  Happy Holidays to me.  I worried about it, because anyone would.  You never know how a court case is going to turn out.  I finally found out last month that my name had been removed from the lawsuit, subsequent to some negotiations... in March!  My boss hadn't bothered to let me know that I was off the hook.  I worried for an extra four months for no reason, until I finally bugged him for an update.  Fantastic.  This is why I have to take Paxil to survive my life.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Jalopy Jam-Up

Last weekend, Ken drove us more than two hours north of Toronto so that we could go to Jalopy Jam-Up, a classic car event out in the middle of nowhere.  The venue is a fake frontier ghost town, but it has been so poorly maintained that you could almost mistake it for a real one, it's so dusty and tumble-down.

We heard about the event through friends of a friend, who know the organizers.

This car wins the prize for flashiest paint job.  Click on the photo to see the large version, so you can get a good look at the nude lady on the hub cap!

Every knob inside was replaced with a decorative die.

Old vehicles are much more bulbous than the ones made today.

I heard that Wells Fargo had been hit hard in the recession, but I didn't know it had come to this...

I thought we'd come a long way to be there, having driven from Toronto.  Apparently not.  Here's an Ohio license plate.  People brought their "jalopies" from all over.

Exhaust pipes, or hungry baby birds?

There were a lot of flame paint jobs.

I like this blue car for its understated cool.

That's a Mr. Horsepower sticker near the front wheel of the yellow car, below.  Ken got one for my mom's car, and she loved it so much that when she got a new car, she asked him to get her another Mr. Horsepower sticker.  He drove over to the house one day when she wasn't home, walked up to her car which was parked in the driveway, stuck the sticker on, and left.  He said the neighbours must have been wondering who the heck he was and what he was doing to the nice older lady's car.

So pink!  The roof is done with a sparkly flake paint, and the rest of the body is matte.  I like the hubcaps too.

No one does good tail fins anymore.

Some cars that weren't up to the drive got a lift to the venue.

Classic black.

We stayed for four hours, and it was a pretty good time.  We brought folding chairs and sat outside under trees, which we never get around to doing in the city.  There wasn't a heck of a lot to do there other than talk cars and listen to music, so I'm not sure how everyone was passing the time since a lot of people were camping there or staying at nearby hotels for the whole weekend.  From the looks of it, the main source of entertainment was drinking beer.

We heard that there was a drunken scuffle the night before we arrived, when a guy who had been into the silly soda found his wife, who was likewise sozzled, in a tent fooling around with another man.  The loud arguing and fighting that followed kept the whole camp up for most of the night.  Ken and I aren't fans of camping even under the best circumstances, so I'm glad that we weren't there. I'm also really not a big fan of porta-potties and no running water.  Thank God for hand sanitizer.

So, which if the cars is your favourite?  (The blue car is my favourite, followed by the yellow convertible.)

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Canadian National Exhibition Time

Ken and I took Friday off work to go to the CNE annual fair.  We couldn't have picked a more beautiful day.

We could, however, have picked a cooler day.  It was another scorcher, so we spent at least as much time inside as out.  Fortunately, the CNE has plenty of indoor exhibits.

In the horticulture display, I found a moss moose.  Someone clearly enjoys wordplay as much as I do.

In the shopping area, I was a bit taken aback by this piggy bank, which requires you to insert your coins into its butt.  It's huge, too!  That's a folding chair behind it.

I did approve of this pillow, featuring three enigmatic cat people protecting a slice of watermelon.  At least, that's my best guess as to what's happening here.

We ventured outside to watch an XTREME POGO!!!!!  demonstration.  The stunt team jumped seven feet off the ground and turned somersaults on their pogo sticks.  We bailed after about 5 minutes because it was too damn hot.  I felt sorry for the pogoers in their all-black uniforms.  

Corndogs, available in small, large, and OMG, are you kidding me, does anyone actually want a two-foot long corndog?

One-man-band guy was singing, playing the drum set on his back, plus the guitar on his front, and had a harmonica at the ready.  Although he wasn't quite a solo act this year; the fellow behind him was playing what was more or less a xylophone made of PVC pipes. They were playing The Weight (the "Take a load off, Annie" song), and doing a great job of it.

Kids' area, with scaled down rides.  You can see the CN Tower in the background.

This sculpture/decommissioned fountain was a Pokestop.  I bet the kids appreciated that.

Fountain still in commission.

Cow that looks like a delicious, lightly toasted marshmallow.

One-week old calf.  Awwww! :-)

Turkey, obviously.  Get a load of that neck!  Sheesh!  Somebody get him a bandana please.

It was a great day.  We walked until our feet were sore, picked up a couple of souvenirs, ate treats, and generally tired ourselves out completely in the best way possible.  Hurray for the CNE!

Sunday, August 14, 2016


So.  It's hot.  It's hot today, it was hot yesterday, and the many days before that, and it's going to be hot  again tomorrow.  Okay, this is summer; I suppose it's to be expected.  But I am all out of patience for walking home from work in 35 degree weather (that's 95 of your American Farenheits) at maximum humidity.

I cope by bringing an entire change of clothes for the office environment, which is effective but also a hassle.  I've also started bringing an ice pack to hold against the back of my neck, or the insides of my elbows, while waiting for the bus.

At least my hair is finally long enough to pull back into a ponytail.  #SmallMercies

Maybe it's the heat sapping our tempers, but Ken and I have been quibbling about politics.  It's a bit stupid, considering that we're Canadian, to argue about the American election, but we do.  Ken prefers Trump to Clinton, because a) Trump is more entertaining and b) actually I think that might be the only reason.  I prefer Clinton, even though she demonstrably lied during the email fiasco, because at least she has experience and takes her campaign seriously.

I'm not much of a hater, but I hate The Donald.  Loathe him.  It was all fine and dandy when he was shooting off his mouth on The Apprentice, which I watched and enjoyed.  It's another thing entirely for him to be playing up xenophobia and generally being an ass to people from a position of potential real power.  He doesn't seem to care at all about anything except his own ego.  I believe that he's a sociopath.  Not a quality one should be looking for in a world leader.

I've almost completely ignored the Olympics, except for a few minutes of gymnastics.  The athletes were amazing and very chalky.

That's about it for this week.  How broiling hot is it where you are right now, and how are you coping?

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Loco in the Coconut

Ken and I went to a Tiki-themed event at a downtown bar last night. Picture this style of decor

but much more colourful and crowded, and the torches were "lit" with yellow and orange tissue paper rather than actual fire.  #SafetyFirst.  

There was a live band and a dance floor; a raffle; and a contest for the loudest shirt and best luau dress. Hawaiian-print-clad people sipped drinks decorated with slices of pineapple and paper umbrellas.  However, I was most interested in the scheduled burlesque act.  I have never seen one before.

Long before the dancer was scheduled to appear, half of a 3-foot-wide coconut shell was set on a stand and partially filled with sudsy water.  Intriguing.  An appropriately-scaled foam slice of lime was wedged onto the edge of the shell.

As the last of the day's light faded from the sky, a gorgeous, statuesque blond woman wearing a gold sequinned outfit strutted onto the stage.  The band launched into an appropriate musical number, and it wasn't long before pieces of the lady's costume were being gracefully tossed into the laps of men seated near the stage.

When she was down to a gold thong and sequinned pasties, she kicked off her shoes and climbed into the coconut, where she spun around on her butt, and kicked her feet in the air.  Then she grabbed the lime-slice sponge, ripped it in half, did some pretty provocative dripping-water-over-herself moves.  That was the grand finale.

I was amazed, a bit shocked, but definitely entertained.  It's not often that I see another woman's butt or bosom that bare, and never have I witnessed that much deliberate jiggling.  Since she had a bath in the process, I guess you could call it good, clean fun.

We caught a subway train home around 1 am.  Everyone was sleepy.  Here's a photo I took of a girl sleeping on the train next to a sketch of a man sleeping on the train.  Click on the photo see it in all of its whimsically juxtaposed glory.

So. Girl taking a bath in a giant coconut.  I can scratch that one off my bucket list.

Sunday, July 31, 2016


Since my step-dad retired and my new boss took over, things at work have been hectic.  My boss's boss, the owner of several successful businesses, has eleventy-jillion ideas to improve the place, and he would like them all done by the day before yesterday.  I believe that some of them are real improvements, and others not so much, but I'm throwing myself into each project with 100% genuine effort.  I've already been accused once of being "obstructionist" because I voiced some doubt about one of the ideas, so from now on I'll be doing whatever they ask for as quickly as it can reasonably be accomplished, without editorializing.

The politics of the office are still simmering.  Because we offer services to professionals, we need to have one representative of that type of professional on the management team.  Only one guy in the whole company was willing to sit in that hot seat.  Everyone else thought it would be more trouble than it was worth, and they might have been right.

The lead professional and the new owner are at odds.  Mr. Professional feels that he knows what's best for the business; so does Mr. Owner, and of course they disagree.  Mr. Professional says "My reputation is on the line!" and Mr. Owner says "It's my business; I'll do what I want to do with it."  Mr. Professional keeps threatening to quit if Mr. Owner proceeds with his "reckless" plans, and Mr. Owner can't run the business without a Mr. Professional.

Therefore, it shouldn't have come as a surprise to anyone when suddenly Mr. Professional the 2nd appeared on the scene.  Mr. Owner hired him as an "assistant" to the original Mr. Professional, but we all know that Mr. P1 isn't in need of that type assistance. Mr. P2 is there as a spare, so that if Mr. P1 quits, the business can just swap in Mr. P2 and keep rolling.

The introduction of Mr. P2 was dramatic.  We were gathered for a regular management team meeting.  Everyone who was expected at the meeting was already present when, suddenly, the door was flung open and in swept Mr. Owner with his entourage.  He introduced Mr. P2 to everyone and then sat down and made a long speech about how successful the company was going to be.  We listened and nodded obediently in all the right places.

I kept stealing glances at Mr. P1, who I knew would be extremely upset by this turn of events.  No one consulted him before hiring his new "assistant".  His face was red.  I was waiting for a SPLAT sound and the feeling of warm bits on my cheek, because I thought his head might explode.

In the end, everyone accepted the idea... because what else could we do?  Mr. P2 has been nice to everyone so far, and actually he hasn't been around that much, so no one can accuse him of interfering where he's not wanted.  I believe that he's been brought in partly to diffuse the threat of Mr. P1 quitting, and party because of his professional connections.

So, I have one more new boss.  How do I feel about it?  Fine, I guess.  Throw him on the pile!  I have so many bosses now that it's a bit ridiculous, but whatever Mr. Owner wants is okay with me, as long as I get to keep my job and he can keep the bosses (4 at last count, or 5 if you also count Mr. Owner) from delivering conflicting instructions to me.  Oh well.  Never a dull day!

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Context is everything

There's an old Jewish story about a man who has 12 children and a wife and they all live together in a tiny house.  The man goes to his rabbi and says "I can't take it anymore!  My house is too noisy and chaotic!  I'm going to have a nervous breakdown!  You have to help me!"

The rabbi asks the man if he has chickens.  The man says that of course he has chickens; he raises them for eggs and meat.  The rabbi tells him to bring the chickens inside the house to live with the family.  The man says "Really?  Are you sure?  Because we're already pretty crowded in there."  The rabbi says "Trust me".  So the man brings his chickens into the house.

The next week, the man goes back to the rabbi with the same complaint.  "My 12 kids make an enormous uproar, and now the chickens are squawking and pooping every where and the feathers are getting into everything.  It's much worse!"  The rabbi asks the man if he has a cow.  The man says yes, he keeps a cow for milk.  So the rabbi advises him to bring the cow into the house.

And so on and so forth, for several weeks, until the man is living with his in-laws, his neighbours, several dogs and cats, etc.  Finally, the rabbi tells him to kick everyone out of the house except for his wife and the 12 children.  The following week, the man goes back to the rabbi and says "Thank you so much!  My house is so quiet and peaceful now.  It's so roomy with only 14 of us living there, and so quiet without the animals.  How can I thank you?"

And that is how my sclerotherapy treatments are going.  I am at the stage where I have just brought all the stray dogs in the neighbourhood to move in, or, in non-symbolic language, my legs are covered in fresh bruises and bruises in various stages of aging and fading.  The spider veins that prompted me to seek treatment in the first place are all still present and accounted for.  The doctor keeps telling me that we have to work from the biggest "feeder" veins down towards the small ones, or the small ones will regenerate that much more quickly over time.

My legs look like they've taken a beating (they have) and I knew this would be the case.  I knew I would look worse before I looked better.   After four treatments, all I can find comfort in is that most of the bruises fade from dark purple to yucky yellow pretty quickly. My legs better look hecking fabulous when all this is over!

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Hypo-allergenic Cats

Things have been a mite stressful in Sparkland this summer.  What with Bubbe's passing, the major and ongoing changes to my workplace, and my medical adventures, I've been feeling somewhat overwhelmed.

How am I coping?  Not badly, I think.  I've got a new addiction to lean on.  Not to worry: it's not cigarettes or heroin.  I'm a little late to the party, but, for the first time in my life, I'm soothing myself with video games.

It started with Candy Crush, the matching game, as a tool to help me get through sclerotherapy procedures.  It's a potent distraction.  I was surprised by how much I enjoyed playing.  I've gotten all the way to level 96.  The only thing that doesn't quite seem right to me is that, in the game, chocolate is my enemy.  I am willing to suspend disbelief when it comes to gathering candy to help a crash-landed alien or a sad unicorn, but don't ask me to believe that chocolate is a malign force.  That I cannot do.

A friend introduced me to Triple Town, a different type of matching game, in which you build a village from the grass all the way up to giant mansions, while being attacked by cute but angry bears. That one's pretty good too.  It got me through my most recent appointment very effectively.

My favourite, though, is Neko Atsume, a "cat collecting game".  It's not a typical game, in the sense that it doesn't require sustained attention.  You start with a yard, stock it with cat toys and comfy places to nap, and then check the app every 15 minutes or more (usually more) to see which cats have shown up.  As long as you keep the food bowl filled, you'll be assured of kitty visitors.  This is what my yard looks like right now:

The long-term goal is to meet all the different cats in the game and snap photos of them for your collection.  Some are rare.  Some need to be attracted by special accessories, which you purchase with fish that the cats leave for you once they are done enjoying their treats.  For example, that cowboy hat.  Some cats have worn it, but it hides their entire head and looks very silly.  However, "Willie the Kid" has visited, and that hat fits him perfectly.  Sadly, I didn't manage to see him; I only know he was there because he left me some fish.  All I can do is leave the hat out and keep my fingers crossed that he'll come back again.

This game is great because it's a simple, reliable source of delightful surprises.  I can check it in between the endless series of annoyances at work, and it always makes me feel better.  It's also free, although you can make in-app purchases if you aren't patient enough to wait days to accumulate the fish you need to buy that giant-cat-condo-scratching-post, or whatever it is in the shop that you're excited about.  A dollar and change will buy you a whack-load of fish.  I'm thinking of buying some because the makers of this game deserve a reward for being awesome.

Are you a phone gamer?  What's your favourite game?

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Mini Vacation

Look, a sculpture garden!  

If you click to see the hi-resolution version of this photo, you might recognize that these long-legged lads are made from G.I. Joe action figures.

I was out in Wellington County with my Dad and Step-mom.  This sculpture garden was adjacent to a fancy-pants art gallery, but we didn't go inside.  There was enough to see in the garden.

We couldn't figure out what was going on with this guy.  He must have an interesting backstory.

This is a mechanical loudspeaker; it says "SHOUT" on the side.  You speak into the mouth part, and then someone else is supposed to go way over there to listen through the red ear. (You can see it in the distance above, and close up below.)

It works remarkably well.  A whisper is clearly audible.

More G.I. Joe guys doing acrobatic stunts.

The day after the sculpture garden visit, we went on a short sight-seeing cruise.  This sign was in the washroom by the ticket office.

I guess they get a lot of Asian visitors who are used to squat toilets.  I have never seen a sign like this before!

There were quite a few large buses, or motor coaches, in the parking lot by the dock.  The narrow road carried on past the driveway, marked with this warning:

We took a walk further along to see if we might discover a graveyard of abandoned buses.  However, the friendly local residents were so open to chatting that by the time we had to turn around and head back to make our departure time, we hadn't gotten very far.

Here are my Step-mom and Dad enjoying the view from the boat.  I didn't take any photos of the view because I (correctly) assumed that there would be dozens available online.  Here's a stolen photo (source) of my favourite part: the world's shortest international bridge.

The big island on the left is Canadian territory, and the little island on the right belongs to the U.S. of A.  I don't know whose idea it was to draw the international boundary in between the two, or why it was done, but it's one of those things that everyone feels they need to take a photo of.  (Except me because I'm clever and lazy. ;-)  If you click on the photo to get the biggest view, you'll be able to spot a Canadian flag on the left side of the bridge and the Stars and Stripes on the right.

Anyway, it was nice to get away from work and the city for a few days and hang out with my family. Those are pretty much the highlights of my trip.  Oh, we also visited an alpaca farm, but the alpacas were all hanging out far away from the fence, in the shade, because it was such a hot day.  So I didn't get any cute alpaca photos.  

Here, just so that you don't feel deprived:

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Canada Day at the Farmhouse

Ken and I have new friends who rent a 90-year-old farmhouse on the outskirts of Mississauga.  (It's the white building on the left.)

They invited us and a bunch of other people for a Canada Day BBQ and sleepover.  They're in a community of classic car fanciers, so the parking lot was interesting.

See those clouds in the distance?  By dinnertime they were blowing straight towards us on a chilly wind.  We were sure there would be a thunderous downpour.  But they just blew on past.

 It was one of those potlucks where everyone brings a ridiculous amount of delicious food.  In other words, my favourite type of potluck.  Our hostess provided watermelon punch served straight from the rind.  Isn't that neat?  She's a professional artist, among other things.

Here's the farmhouse kitty.  She wants your attention until she has it.  Then she's shy and runs away.  If you don't try to follow her, she comes back and meows at you.

Movie posters in the kitchen.  Do you think I can find these on iTunes?  They look pretty great.

 Although everyone who came to the party had the option of staying over, most went home.  Those who did stay were originally planning to camp on the lawn, but it was too cold and windy.  (By the end of the evening I had borrowed a down-filled jacket from the hostess.  A down jacket!  On July 1st!  That's Canada for you.)  Fortunately there was enough room inside for everyone to bed down in the guest room, on living room couches, and in the sunroom on an air mattress.

There was a good party going on that night.  Folks were getting their drink on, and there was uninhibited whooping around the fire pit when the fireworks were set off.  

However, amazingly, when I came downstairs in the morning there wasn't a sign of any mess from the night before.  Everything had been tidied up, and, not only that, the table was set for breakfast.  Impressive!

I had thought that we would pack up, move out, and grab breakfast at a diner on the way home, but our hosts were having none of that.  We sat down to scrambled eggs, back bacon, hash browns, and also dug into the leftover cheese tray and veggie sticks from the party.  I even managed to find a red-and-white iced cupcake for dessert.  Breakfast dessert.  Because YOLO, right?

I hope all my fellow Canadians celebrated in equal style, and I wish you 'Mericans a super-great 4th of July!

Saturday, June 25, 2016

My Neighbour

Last summer, I watched what seemed to be a romance blooming between my neighbour, a man in his early 60s, and a woman, perhaps slightly younger but still very attractive.  Every day, he would stand in his front yard drinking coffee, and when she walked past he would stop her and they would chat.  She walked south in the morning, and I walked north.  Sometimes, when I was a little bit late, I would pass her closer to my house, carrying a flower (I assume from his garden) and wearing a Mona Lisa smile.

I walked past the same fellow's yard every morning, but I don't recall any interaction between us.  If there was, it wasn't memorable.

After a while, I stopped seeing the beautiful, well-dressed older woman.  I guess she must have moved, or changed her routine so that she no longer has to walk down my street.

The man with the coffee started paying attention to me.

At first we just nodded and smiled at each other as I speed-walked to the bus stop.  I am always in a hurry in the morning, having stayed home until the last possible moment because, work is work.  At some point we added saying "Good morning, nice day," and so forth.  Perfectly fine, normal conversation.

Then a day came when I found him dressed in a shirt and tie, carrying a briefcase.  He popped out of his front gate and fell in step with me.  "Are you going to the bus?  I will walk with you."  Well, alright, fine, it's a free country.  Go ahead.  I chatted politely with him; found out his name and national origin (he came to Canada from Romania 20 years ago, and still has an accent).

It got a little weirder when he walked me right to the door of my bus and patted my shoulder before wishing me a good day.  I felt slightly creeped out.

The day after that, he was waiting for me again.  He conveniently had a client he had to see right near where I work.  Jump in his car!  He'll give me a ride!  Why not?

I suddenly pictured last year's lady, chopped up and frozen in a chest freezer in his basement.  Maybe she didn't move away after all...

Anyway, I said "No thank you" and made polite excuses which were actually 100% true: I prefer to walk; I enjoy the exercise and the time out of doors.  Ken can confirm that I have refused his offers of a ride to work many times.  I'd always rather walk if I can.

I don't want to be one of those women who answers every conversation opener from a man with "I'm married," but in this case my instincts said I should back off.  Happily, for the rest of the week I haven't seen him in his yard.  I can enjoy my morning walk in peace, with no social awkwardness.  Hurray!  I hope it stays that way.

P.S. The charity people picked up my donation last week!  It's all good.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Giving Stuff Away Should Be Easier

Every few months I get a phone call from the Cerebral Palsy Association, asking if I have any gently used household goods that I can donate to their cause.  Often I do, but I hesitate to say "yes" because the "convenient pickup from my home" always seems to turn into a fiasco.

Items need to be boxed or bagged and put out at the front door before 8 am on the pickup date.  I have a history of remembering at 8:15 am, and rushing out with the packages.  Just my luck that I'm first on the route, so by then the truck has already gone by in a huff.

Other things that have been a pain in the butt:

  • The day the packages were definitely for sure out on time, but the driver claimed that there was nothing there when he arrived.  I promise you that everything was in order; the boxes and bags were waiting for me on my patio when I got home that day. So, unless the donation items went for coffee in the afternoon, then walked back to my patio before I got home, they were there.
  • The day that I got the packages out on time but the pickup truck broke down, so when I got home the packages were all waiting for me AGAIN.
And today, the day that I decided to be a smarty-pants and put the donations out the night before (0% chance of rain) but I forgot about the automated sprinkler system that pops up and soaks our tiny front lawn at 4 am every morning.


Fortunately I am a belt and braces kind of girl, so all the stuff (books and old clothes, mainly) was tied pretty tightly inside waterproof grocery bags.  I noticed what had happened at around 7:20 am, so I had time to drag the wet packages back inside and transfer the stuff to new bags.  (And make a new label that says "CP" for every package.  And stick them on with tape.  And drag everything back outside.)

Let me tell you, if I get home today and the packages are still there (I'm half expecting it) you will hear me growling wherever you are.  

Friday, June 10, 2016

Exposure Therapy

For the sake of L.L. Cool Joe's peace of mind, I am going to try to keep this post free of medical TMIs.  :-)

I have gotten over the mild hysteria triggered by my first sclerotherapy appointment, and I now feel that it is going well.  I had a second appointment already, and it was much easier.  Now that I've gotten past my fear of the unknown, it doesn't seem like that big of a deal.

It's still uncomfortable; my leg is sore; and the compression stocking is so tight that I'm surprised my eyeballs aren't bulging.  But I can handle it.  I'm actually looking forward to my next appointment, in a couple of weeks.  Every appointment is one step closer to sexy legs!

My workplace is going through some major changes, which is kind of stressful, but good in the sense that I have something very distracting to keep my mind off the fact that my stocking is digging a line into the back of my knee whenever my leg is bent.  (Don't worried.  I was measured for the stocking and it was "applied" at my first visit by a professional.  I'm pretty sure that it is supposed to be this tight.  At any rate, my toes haven't turned black and fallen off, even when I wore the stocking overnight, so that's encouraging.)

I always seem to get stuck between two bosses at work, trying to keep both of them happy with me although they disagree vehemently with each other.  Since my step-dad retired, I thought that part of my work life might be behind me, but the same dynamic has sprung up again, just with different bosses.  I suppose it's my destiny.  It's not that bad; I've had years to develop coping mechanisms, and it's a lot easier when there isn't any overlap between work and family.

That's about it for this week!  Later, skaters.  xo

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Sclerotherapy: What to Expect

I went for my first vein injections this week.  Super fun!  A couple of you have asked me to describe it because you may be interested in getting this type of treatment yourselves.  So, here is what you can expect.

First, you'll do a bunch of research on the internet.  You'll watch procedures that make you cringe, but the patient always seems to come through okay, which is reassuring.  She (it's always a woman) will have her leg wrapped in a compression bandage, and then "immediately return to normal daily activities".  The videos show her smiling and striding confidently out the front door of the clinic.

The first available appointment will be three weeks after your consultation, so you'll have plenty of time to worry/psyche yourself up for the treatment.  There will also be lots of time for your custom-ordered, mandatory compression stockings to be shipped to the clinic.

When you finally arrive at the clinic for the appointment, I recommend chanting the mantra "Sexy legs.  Sexy legs," over and over again in a soothing tone to remind yourself why you should look forward to having your legs stabbed.  Check at the front counter for your compression stockings.  When you find out that they have not been shipped, try not to freak out.  Ask if you need to reschedule.  You won't want to reschedule.  You've worked too hard to mentally prepare for this moment.  You are ready to do it now!

The clinic staff will tell you it's no problem.  You can use a tensor bandage (which you have to wear for the first 24-48 hours anyway) instead of the stockings.  It just won't look as pretty.  Fine.  Go and sit in the treatment room.  Try to focus on playing Candy Crush on your phone.  Try to forget where you are.

When the doctor and his assistant walk in, explain that you will be distracting yourself with your phone.  Lie on the table on your left side.  That funny sound is the doctor working the sclerotherapy solution up into a foam.  He will say "A little pinch now."  It will hurt as much as any normal injection hurts.

Repeat the last two steps 6 or 7 times.  Keep playing your game.  It's fine.  You're doing great.  Just a little longer.  You'll start to sweat.  Don't drop your phone.  Tell the doctor you're starting to get stressed out.  He'll tell you "Just one more and then we're done."

Sit up.  Feel proud of yourself for surviving and not having a major panic attack. Get your leg wrapped with cotton wads and a tensor bandage.  The assistant will run the tape over the sensitive skin behind your knee so that when you walk it hurts and itches at the same time after a few steps.  Tolerate this, because you're afraid to mess with the dressing.  The assistant will wrap a tensor bandage over the taped cotton, so ineffectively that it will start unravelling inside your pant leg while you're walking home from the bus.  Hurry faster, because if you lose compression the whole treatment might be ineffective and you'll have to do the whole thing over again.  Stop hurrying, because if you put too much pressure on the leg while the bandage is falling off the whole treatment might be ineffective and you'll have to do the whole thing over again.  Try not to freak out.

Rewrap the bandage yourself.  After if falls off again, watch a YouTube video on how to compress your thigh with a tensor bandage.  Rewrap the bandage properly, and feel like a winner.

The bandage will be hot, bulky, and annoying.  You won't be able to walk normally or wear most of your pants.  Realize that the video of the woman striding confidently out of the clinic in the demo video was a total lie.  Be patient.  Eventually the first 48 hours will be over and you'll be able to take off the cotton padding.  And if you're really lucky, when you go for your follow up visit on Tuesday, the compression stockings will have arrived and you can ditch the tensor bandage.

Then get ready to do this whole process over a lot more times because  you put off treatment for so long that your legs need a lot of fixing.  You can do it!  Go you!

Sunday, May 29, 2016

How Does My Garden Grow

Vanessa asked after my African violet.  How is it doing?  It's SUPER AMAZING!

Here's one bunch of blossoms.

Here's another.

In fact, the plant is so jam-packed with flowers that you can't see them all superficially.  Like, here's one (of many) hiding inside the outer leaves:

Look at how fuzzy those leaves are!  Soft as a baby bunny.  :-)

This flower, whose name I don't know or have forgotten, is at peak scarlet.

The recently-repotted coleus is so happy,

that this branch is about to flower, I think.  That spiky growth in the centre is going to start putting out blooms that look like tiny purple slippers, if memory serves me correctly from last year.

I think that even my Venus Flytrap is brewing up a flower!  I'm excited because I've had it for less than a year, so I've never seen it bloom.

The long bit sprouted out of nowhere over the past week.

What?  I never told you guys that I have a Venus Flytrap?  Huh.  Well, my Mom decided that it would make a great birthday gift for me last fall.  I named it Audrey, after the plant in Little Shop of Horrors.  

She's a high maintenance plant.  She needs at least 4 hours of direct sunlight per day, which is a bit tricky to arrange in my tightly-packed, mostly-shady condo complex.  I leave the blind open on this window all the time just to accommodate her.  

She will only drink distilled water, which I have to buy specially.  And yes, I do feed her.  I don't go running around chasing after bugs.  Audrey eats bloodworms.

Mmm, yummy. :-p

Because she's so small, I take out one teeny tiny worm, and re-hydrate it in distilled water.  Then I roll it up into an itty-bitty worm meatball (delish!), stick it on the end of a toothpick, and put it into Audrey's most wide-open trap.  Then I wiggle the toothpick, because the trap will only close for live prey. I have to fool her into thinking that the worm is crawling around.  After the trap closes, I pull out the toothpick, and then I have to massage the trap so that it seems like the worm is struggling to get out.  (If the trap isn't well-sealed, Audrey might get indigestion.)

I only have to do this once every 1-2 weeks, but still.  She's a real diva!  None of my other plants are this demanding.

She hibernates for 4 months per year.  It's possible to over-winter a Venus Flytrap outside even in Canada (they are originally from the Carolinas), but because I don't have a proper garden Audrey lived in a plastic bag in my fridge from December through March inclusive.  I wasn't sure if she was going to survive, but she did very well, actually.  During hibernation she doesn't eat and barely needs to be watered.

If she grows big enough to re-pot, I'm going to have to make a special trip to buy sphagnum moss for her, because she's too special for regular potting soil, of course.  *sigh*  My Mom had no idea that Audrey would be this demanding when she bought her for me.  But that's okay.  Audrey is pretty cool.  She's worth a little extra attention.

(Disclaimer for L.L. Cool Joe at al: I apologize for any offence caused by humorous references to gender stereotypes in this post.  They were used for comedic purposes only, and do not reflect my actual views.  For the record, I know a lot of high-maintenance humans, and the hyper-demanding ones include every gender.  If Audrey ever opens up one of her traps and clarifies a different pronoun preference, I promise I will honour it. ;-)