Sunday, February 28, 2016

Saks comes to Toronto

The new Saks Fifth Avenue in Toronto opened last week.  Ken was psyched to check it out.  Boy, is it ever fancy!  The pedestrian walkway between Saks and the Toronto Eaton Centre got a facelift.  Those are real plants, and the light fixtures are crystal chandeliers.  Oh la la!

You thought that Holt Renfrew (Canada's homegrown luxury department store) was upscale?  Saks takes it to a whole new level.  There were designer brands that I'd never seen or heard of before, and I hope they have defibrillators on site because sticker shock is going to give someone a heart attack.

I recommend clicking on these photos to see the big versions of most of them, for the details.  

See this unassuming little handbag?  Check out the price tag.  $ 2,710.00!  (That's Ken's manly hand.)

The mannequins are unimpressed.

There was the requisite perfumery, complete with one vendor who would assist you in mixing your own custom perfume blend, if you couldn't find anything you liked among the hundreds of pre-packaged options. 

The bottle on the left is a sesame-based scent.  That's different.

In keeping with high fashion's commitment to promoting unreasonable standards of beauty, the mannequins were approximately seven feet tall. (And size zero, of course.)

Men's shoe section: $500 flip flops.

Women's shoe section:  $1000 for unwearable heels.

Shoes made of plastic: $330 I can't even.

Dolce & Gabbana's O fell off, and couldn't be quickly replaced because a customer ran off with it.  Maybe they thought they could sell it for a profit on the street.  

There were eye-catching light fixtures in almost every department.  This was my favourite.

Finally, there was a ton of bling.  Diamonds everywhere you turned.  We were given a demo of the Happy Diamonds watch, which must be seen in motion to be fully appreciated.  So much sparkle - very flash!  What time is it? *checks wrist*  Oh, it's time for diamonds, again.  (It's always time for diamonds.)

If you have a personal assistant to keep track of the time for you, you could instead buy this bracelet for $50,000.

And that concludes our tour of Saks Queen Street.  No purchases were made, although I did quite like a pair of diamond pavĂ© hedgehog-shaped earrings.  They were $8,000.  OMG.  However, we had a good time!  It was an intriguing adventure. 

Monday, February 22, 2016

She Calls, I Run

I arranged to see my 99-year-old grandmother, Bubbe, on Friday.  Setting up the visit was a shout-fest, as are all telephone calls with Bubbe, due to her deafness.  She has hearing aids, but most of the time they are not in her ears for one reason or another.  However, I was pretty sure that I had gotten across to her that I would be arriving for tea and a chat sometime after 7 pm.

After work I went to a mall that's four blocks away from Bubbe's home, to run some errands.  At 6:57 pm I was at the post office, buying stamps for her, when my cell phone rang.  It was Bubbe, all in a panic.  "Where are you?" she wanted to know.  She was breathless with anxiety.  "I'm 15 minutes away from you," I yelled, then mouthed "thank you" to the clerk who was handing me my change.  "I said I'd be there after seven, and it's not seven yet."

"But it's dark out!  I forgot that it would be so dark at this time of night!  How will you get here?"

"I can walk to you in 15 minutes.  20, tops."

But Bubbe was having none of that.  She didn't want me setting even one toe outside without a chaperone.  "Get in a cab!" she command-pleaded.  "Call a cab - it's dark!  I'll pay for it!"  She wouldn't let me off the phone until I promised.

I'm going to admit to you guys that I broke my promise, because honestly I felt that her fears were unreasonable.  I'm not a big fan of cabs.  I'll take them when I need to, but I'd always rather walk.  It's a hassle to call one and then wait around not knowing when it will show up.  Plus, I was at this big mall that I always get lost in, and the cab would probably go to the wrong entrance etc.

Instead, I ran.  I was carrying three bags and my down parka;  and I was wearing big, heavy snowboots; and I ran through that mall like my tail was on fire.  Well, I'm not in such super cardio shape that I could sprint, but it's fair to say that I jogged and/or speed-walked pretty aggressively.  I sweated, and cursed my awkward packages and elephantine boots, but I didn't slow down until I was at Bubbe's door.  I was in such a hurry that I didn't hear my phone ring as Bubbe tried to call me two more times while I was en route.

When I arrived at Bubbe's apartment, the door was unlocked, so after knocking and announcing myself, I went in.  She hadn't heard me, and was standing at her front window, intently watching and waiting for a cab to pull into the parking lot.  Good heavens, Bubbe!  She had herself so wound up.

To say that she was relieved to see me is the understatement of the year.  She has never been the type to get anxious, but now that she is becoming more helpless with each passing day, I can understand why she gets caught up in episodes of dread.  She was feeling incapable of protecting me from the existential threats that lurk everywhere in her consciousness.  (When she's not facing yet another distressing physical challenge - like the increasing difficulty of tying her own shoelaces* - or discouraging doctor's appointment, she watches too much bad news on TV.)

*(For the record, I did offer to find her Velcro-closure shoes, but she's not interested.  If it takes her 20 minutes, she's going to tie her own shoes until it becomes literally impossible.)

I settled her down and made some tea, and soon enough we were eating cookies and catching up on each others' news.  But still.  Visiting with her both fills and breaks my heart.  If only I could make life easier for her. Or maybe what I mean is that I wish I could make death easier for her; she's headed there by agonizingly slow but sure inches.  She just wants to get it over with already, and I understand why.

I was buying stamps for her because the last time I visited I thought I was being clever by sneaking away before she remembered to pay for my cab fare.  I underestimated how important it is to her to make the gesture.  The following week, I got an envelope in the mail with a cheque inside, and this note:

Not only that; she hadn't any stamps at the time, but managed to scrounge one from a SASE sent to her from a fund-raising group.  Then she wrote the note, the envelope, and the cheque with her numb, arthritis-hampered hands.  That is how determined she was to get that $20 to me.  I will never try to sneak out without cab fare again.  I will hand her her purse and request it, if need be, to make sure that she doesn't go to all that trouble again.

If there's anything that's not fading as she ages, it's her determination and willfulness.  Those traits will die when she does and not a moment sooner.  God bless her stubborn heart!

Friday, February 19, 2016

A Lid for Every Pot

I work with a fellow who is a little bit... special.  He's a mailroom-clerk type of employee; on the lowest rung of the ladder.  He takes his job very seriously, and wants to get every detail perfect.  He's that guy who will start chatting with you on the bus just to be friendly, and you'll probably go along with the conversation but you'll kind of wonder what's up with him, as he shares with you his mother's recipe for potato salad.

He doesn't look like he just walked out of a GQ photo shoot.  He's always clean, but he could use a better haircut and some lessons in eyebrow grooming.  Fashion isn't something that seems to register with him.  He's also decidedly out of shape.

He's smart enough, but he's missing some key social skills.  He doesn't take non-verbal cues very well.  For example, if he's chatting with you and you give him signals that it's all very nice but you've got to get going now, that might not have any effect.  You'll have to actually say to him "Look, I'm sorry but I don't have time to chat right now.  Maybe you can tell me that story at the end of the day, when I'm less busy."  He's perfectly nice and polite, even charming, but something doesn't quite click.

He does a good job when he has clear instructions.  Like, absolutely unambiguous, step-by-step procedures.  If you ask him to make six copies of a document and leave them on your desk, he'll ask "You mean leave all six copies on your desk?"  And then, after he does it, he'll say "I left the six copies on your desk."  You'll say thank you, and he'll say "Because you told me to put them there.  I mean, you said put all six of them on your desk."  And you'll say that's perfect, great, and he'll say "Because I wasn't sure if you wanted some of them to go somewhere else."  

After working with him for a couple of months, his constant checking for reassurance drove me so bonkers that I had to have a talk with him about it.  He was actually pretty good about taking the feedback on board and changing his behaviour.  After that, I could see the moment when he wanted to fish for more reassurance that he'd done things right, but he'd bite his lip and move on.  Good man!  I assured him that if I told him once that things were okay a certain way, I meant it.  No need to ask again (and again and again).

This guy is so nice.  I can't even tell you.  He's thoughtful and considerate.  He will always say "Good morning" to everyone, and ask how your weekend was, and he seems to be genuinely interested.  He always wants to share the details of his time off with you, even if that consists of a recitation of the bus routes he rode as he went about his list of errands.  He has some crafting hobbies, and makes custom handmade gifts for peoples' birthdays and other special occasions.  

Well, it finally happened for him after many years.  He got himself a girlfriend!  He dropped the news real casual-like.  First he asked me if I had done anything special for Valentine's Day, and then he told me that he'd taken his girlfriend out for dinner.  As if he had always had a girlfriend.  Smooth moves bro!  Next time I walked past his desk he just happened to have a photo of the two of them together, which he showed me, of course.  He's playing it cool, but I can tell that he's busting his buttons with pride and happiness.

I'm absolutely thrilled that my colleague and friend has found someone who appreciates his unique charms.  He's a genuine sweetie, without a mean bone in his body.  I hope that this relationship is a lasting one that brings them both much joy.  (And if she breaks his heart, I might have to break her face.  Just sayin'.) 

Saturday, February 13, 2016


We have officially decided to do NOTHING for Valentine's Day.  I love nothing.  That really is all I want.  It's too dang cold right now to do anything other than huddle up with a book/interesting documentary film or maybe look at stupid stuff on Imgur.  I have a friend whose birthday is on Valentine's Day, so there will be cake tonight, but it won't be Valentine cake.  It will be Birthday cake, which is obviously better.

After bragging about my health last week, of course I caught a cold.  Not a terrible cold (I'm over it already) but enough to keep me away from my cousin's baby's bris.  For those of you who are not familiar with the term, a bris is a Jewish ritual circumcision.  This would have been the first one for me.  I can't say that I was looking forward to it.

When a baby boy is 8 days old, he is held by his grandfather (or other honoured family member) while prayers are said and then a mohel (trained specially for this ritual) performs the deed.  If you want to learn a little more and are not too squeamish, click on this link.  The grandfather who held the baby was steady throughout.  The other grandfather had to turn away and looked like he might faint.  This was all reported back to me faithfully by my mother.

Apparently when the attendees entered the little chapel within the synagogue, there was fierce competition for the seats at the back of the room.  No one wanted to sit close enough to see anything that might make them turn pale.  However, my uncle very assertively insisted that my mother and the other close family members sit right up at the front.  Some of them stared at their shoes so that they could pretend they weren't so close to the action.

When I still thought that I would be attending, I psyched myself for the event by thinking of it like a piercing.  For some reason, my brain thinks of piercings and tattoos in a separate category from medical procedures, making them more tolerable to observe.  It's all over very quickly, and the baby is given a few drops of wine as a mild sedative.  Still, I probably would have been staring at my shoes along with the other sensitive flowers.

Have you ever attended a bris?  How do you expect that you would manage it?

Saturday, February 6, 2016

I'm Fine, and You?

My cousin had a baby!  He's her first, but most likely not her last.  I heard her talking about the advantages of double-wide strollers.  Here he is at one day old:

Is it just me, or is he uncommonly beautiful for a newborn?  I mean, I love a squishy baby face as much as the next person, but that's usually what you get.  This little guy doesn't look puffy or doughy in the least.

I'm happy for my cousin and her husband.  They're the type of responsible, caring young people who will be excellent parents.  It's nice to know that a baby has everything going for him from Day 1.

In other good news, I am well.  I mean, I'm 100% healthy.  It's not only that I've dodged all the colds that are going around the office (so far); it's more than that.

If you look back in my blog 3 to 4 years ago, I was a mess.  I was pretty seriously anemic, and on top of that I was clinically depressed and chronically anxious.  I would have a panic attack at the slightest provocation.  I was so exhausted all the time that I barely had enough energy to get through each day. For a long time all I did was work and then sleep, more or less.  Then it got worse and for two months I could barely get out of bed.  I had all sorts of medical tests and went to lots of alternative medical practitioners, but no one knew how to help me.  (My depression and anxiety were well-masked by physical symptoms. Of course all the tests came back negative.  I even fooled the local hospital; when I went to the E.R. with what I later realized was a panic attack, they couldn't figure out why my heart was racing or why I felt so weak.  They sent me home after 8 hours and said if it got worse, or didn't improve, I could come back and they'd admit me to the cardiac ward.)

I was finally diagnosed correctly, and started on a low dose SSRI, which I maintain to this day.  I also figured out a way to take iron supplements that doesn't mess up my stomach.  Over the past 3 years my energy and mental health have been slowly but surely improving.  I've gained 20 pounds of mostly muscle, so I no longer look frail and waif-like.  I'll always be prone to depression and anxiety (these both obviously run in my family), but I am functioning well within the range of "normal".

When I returned to work after being off for two months (three years ago), my boss/step-dad offered to let me work form home one day per week so that I didn't get over-stressed again.  I've been exercising that privilege ever since.  I was always a bit worried about whether or not I'd be able to handle working a 40-hour week if I had to.  What if I lost this job and had to get another one, with more pressure and fewer accommodations?  

Lately, in the midst of all the nonsense at my workplace, my other boss, who has been assuming more  management duties as my boss/step-dad fades out, let it be known that he wants me working five days per week from now on, in the office.  Feeling that I haven't much choice, I have complied.  And guess what?  It's fine!  I'm fine!  I can do it!

Even a difficult week like this past one, during which I had a termination meeting with someone I've worked closely with for almost ten years, was within my comfort zone, in terms of physical and mental energy.  Weirdly, even though work still sucks right now; even though I lost my work-from-home privileges; even though I had to fire someone whom I feel sympathy for; and even though my job still doesn't feel secure... I'm thrilled!  Tickled pink!

I am a 100% healthy person now.  I'm still someone who needs to take good care of herself.  I still need to take my pills daily (SSRI, iron, vitamin D for SAD).  But I no longer have to think of myself as feeble.  This is a huge positive shift in my identity.  Go me!