Monday, December 31, 2007

Because Resolutions are Made to be Broken

I am making one resolution this year, and you're looking at it. I have no idea if the Powers That Be are going to allow me to post every day, but by gum, I will try. If you would like to join Blog 365, you can sign up here. Last time I checked there were 500 nutbars on the list, and counting.

I usually don't wait until a new year to make resolutions. Once I decide that I need to make a change, I go for it right away. Putting things off gives me too much opportunity to worry and get bogged down in self-doubt. So I try to get everything done as soon as possible.

I call my strategy Anticrastination. See, it's the opposite of Procrastination. I don't condemn Procrastination. I am open to all philosophies of life. However, some procrastinators have taken offense when they hear how I do things. Any hard-core Procrastinators out there, may begin hating me.... now!

As for New Year's Eve, I'll be spending it on the comfort of my sofa this year. I am having some kind of issue with my sinuses. My face feels tired, like it just ran ten marathons. My eyes want to droop and my jaw wants to hang open. I don't think I could put on enough makeup to make that look attractive, and I also doubt that I'll be feeling very perky by midnight. We'll see. If I'm still awake by then, I'll be toasting the new year with Orange Crush.

Happy Celebrating, and Best Wishes for 2008!

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Sleeping Beauty

I've just been skimming this article on sleep paralysis. Sleep paralysis is a horrible phenomenon during which your brain wakes up enough to know you're not asleep anymore, but you still can't move any part of your body. All you can do is struggle internally and moan like a zombie.

I woke Ken this morning by lying next to him with no muscle control, mooing "Mnuuuuuuhhhhhh! Mnuuuuuuhhhhhh!" I've taught him that this is his cue to gently shake me until my neurological breaker switch clicks and I regain control of my body. If he's not there to save me, I have to struggle through it by myself.

I HATE dealing with sleep paralysis alone. Waking up should be simple enough. Your eyes blink open, and you're awake. A newborn baby can do it. But I can end up lying there for what seems like an eternity, saying to myself "OK, I'm going to move my right arm now. I'm going to push back the blankets, roll over, and sit up. 1, 2, 3, GO!" My brain sends the signal. My dream-arm pushes at imaginary blankets. But I'm also aware that my real arm is still lying by my side like a dead snake. So I try again. "Alright, this time I'm really going to do it. I'm going to move... NOW!" Still nothing. And so on. Until finally something snaps and I break through to movement. Then I know I'd better get myself right up and walking around, or I could doze and slip back into limbo again.

Once I finally managed to get on my feet today, I went out with a girlfriend on a bun-seeking mission. We found what we were looking for here:

Everyone knows the best bun is a Ding Dong bun!

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Translating the Crazy-Talk

Here are some excerpts from my family dictionary/phrasebook:

“Back in the days when God was young.”
- used by my grandfather to refer to the era of his childhood. (Clarification: He is not referring to himself as God. He is only implying that he is as old as God.)

- an adjective applied by members of my family to British television comedies (a.k.a. Brit-coms). Despite the fact that we all speaka-da-same-English, British humour doesn’t translate well into North American. These shows make my eyes glaze over. Why are my Russian-Jewish family members such die-hard Queen-loving anglophiles? I wish I could tell you.

In case you are curious, here is a link to a singularly unfunny Brit-com. Warning: content may make you drowsy.

“Birthday Party”
- a synonym for “obligation”. The pre-Birthday-Party phase, up to one month in duration, allows ample opportunity for arguing over whose turn it is to host the party. Other divisive aspects of the Birthday Party include date of execution, and the politics of sharing a party with more than one celebrant. Further complications arise when other obligatory dates are closeby on the calendar, such as Mother’s Day, or a Jewish holiday.

One year my birthday fell on Yom Kippur, which is officially a solemn day of atonement and fasting. I was all for balancing lit birthday candles on an empty plate, but no one else thought that would be cool.

- a weapon of verbal destruction used without restraint in the Birthday Party wars. Violations of the Geneva Conventions have been noted.

“Small slice”
- the serving size of Birthday Cake most commonly requested at the Birthday Party. If it is not translucent, then you have not sliced it thinly enough. The slice may be refused. “Just eat as much as you want and leave the rest” is not an acceptable suggestion.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007


On Christmas Day, Ken and I went to meet his family for a potluck lunch. Knowing Ken's brother, I thought he might actually bring pot, but he brought fruit salad instead.

After that, there wasn't much to do. I shuffled through a few DVD's on loan from a friend, and chose to watch Casino Royale, the latest James Bond flick. I thought Daniel Craig was a decent Bond, but by the end the movie started losing me. It went on way too long.

I have noticed that movies since the mid-90's have gotten longer, and it hasn't made them any better. Once we've seen all the stages leading to the climax, I expect to cruise into the denouement. This is the story-telling sequence that's worked for humankind since the time of classical myths and legends. But North American culture got their hands on it and decided More Is Better! And thereby screwed it up.

So just when I'm getting ready for the happy ending and the closing credits, suddenly the director throws in a plot twist. Oh my gosh, look at that, the couple got into that car to drive off happily into the sunset, but now they're being chased by bad guys again! And we're back into conflict and action sequences for another X minutes. Sometimes there are 3 or more false endings tacked on to the plot, through double and triple crosses and other devices. And honestly, I'm just not into it.

Part of the enjoyment of a movie is that it ends! The problems are resolved, the questions are answered, and now we can all forget about it and go home. Obviously I'm talking about mainstream Hollywood flicks here. There are other types of movies that I'm willing to be uncomfortable for, like documentaries that reveal unsavory truths. If I've spent my time suspending my disbelief to invest myself in a dumbed down Hollywood blockbuster, I at least want to get the satisfaction of a neatly packaged ending.

Because the plot that convinces you that things are all OK and then produces another problem? That's the plot of my life on a bad day. A day that drags on and on with nasty surprises, sneak attacks by my own personal bad guys, and just when I think I've resolved it all and can put my feet up and relax, something else goes wrong. So what I'd really like is for Hollywood to go back to the simple endings and a 90 minute running time.

Other opinions on this? Shout'em out!

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Time to Carve the Roast Beast

Merry Merry! Did you all have a satisfying gift-opening frenzy? I certainly hope so. And now most of you are probably preparing to dig into a big Christmas dinner.

I have researched some alternatives to the traditional turkey. These recipes are not jokes. They are from real cookbooks, courtesy of my mom's library of strange and relatively rare books. They are meant to be used, although you may have some trouble finding the ingredients. I should warn you that I have not tested them myself.

From a cookbook of traditional Israeli dishes, first published in 1963:


2 kgs. locusts

Heat the oven and when hot, put out the fire. Put the locusts in the hot oven and leave half a day. Remove from oven, spread out to dry in sun one day. Before eating, remove head, legs, and wings.
Serves 4

Mmmmm... Sounds yummy, doesn't it? Boy, my mouth is watering. But that's just for the appetizer. Here's a main course, from a cookbook of traditional Northern Canadian recipes, published in 1967.

Jellied Moose Nose

1. Cut the upper jawbone of the moose just below the eyes.

2. Place in a large kettle of scalding water and boil for 45 minutes.

3. Remove and chill in cold water.

4. Pull out all the hairs - these will have been loosened by boiling and should come out easily.

5. Wash thoroughly until no hairs remain.

6. Place the nose in a kettle and cover with fresh water.

7. Add onion, garlic, spices, vinegar (etc. - it goes on for another 8 steps to completion. If you have your heart set on following the whole recipe, I can e-mail it to you.)

There you have it! Proof that hungry people will eat anything. That same Northern Canadian cookbook has recipes for bear, lynx, beaver, and anything else you might hunt or trap in the woods. It could come in handy!

Last night my mom's side of the family all got together to celebrate my grandmother's 87th birthday. It seems that my mom decided to cook a dinner of maximal gas, including both lima beans and brussels sprouts. I asked my grandfather if he likes brussels sprouts.

"I can tolerate them," he said.

I managed to tolerate four sprouts, which is more than my usual annual quota. For some reason the first three didn't taste so bad, but the fourth had extra stink. Sulfur, I guess. Some of those little green fellers taste really nasty.

What are you eating today?

Sunday, December 23, 2007

You really shouldn't have

I've been thinking about gifts. I'm willing to devote a lot of time and a decent amount of cash to gifting. I enjoy the challenge of finding just the right thing for someone I care about.

Today I was trying to remember the best gift I've ever received, but I couldn't narrow it down to just one. I'm a lucky woman, and I've received so much in my life. I can, however, easily pinpoint the worst gift I ever received.

I have to preface this by stating that my ex gave me some of the best Christmases of my life. He's a thoughtful, generous guy and no one would ever accuse him of being a Grinch. However, things had gone awry by our last year together, and that last Christmas just wasn't the same.

We had recently bought a house together, and on top of all the closing costs we had fixed the place up, so essentially we had no money left. Our agreement was that we would get each other gifts to put under the tree and open on Christmas morning, for the excitement of it, that were actually things we needed for the house. I think I got him oven mitts that looked like lobster claws. Something like that.

So that brings me to what I found under the tree, wrapped up in Christmas paper, for me, that last Christmas. It was... can you guess? I bet you can't guess.


Yes, he got me garbage cans for Christmas.

Definitely the worst gift I ever received.

I mean, sure, we needed them and all, but there were a dozen other things, none of which had anything to do with garbage, and some of which were actually attractive, that could have gone under the tree.

He's not the kind of person who would maliciously, consciously try to hurt my feelings on Christmas morning. But there was a lot of subliminal weirdness going on by that point, and this was a real stand-out moment for questionable symbolism. In a nutshell, that was one messed-up Christmas.

Can anyone top that? What was the worst gift you ever received?

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Scary Christmas

I found this malevolent Santa plotting world domination from a store window in my neighbourhood. Is he not the creepiest Santa you've ever seen?

It's worse than you think: he has an evil twin!

These guys are going to give me nightmares. They make me glad I don't have a chimney.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

DDR Max!

I could have easily spent the whole night on YouTube, watching DDR videos. Some of those kids can really dance it up! But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Read this part if you don't know about the video game called Dance Dance Revolution:
The joystick/controller is replaced by a pressure sensitive floor mat, marked with up, down, left, and right arrows. Neutral position is at the centre. The goal is to step on the correct sectors of the mat, as indicated by corresponding arrows on the screen, in time to the music. Confused? Here is a link to a video of some cute girls playing DDR in Japan. It gives an idea of how the game works in action.

Ken recently resurrected DDR in our home as a fun way to get a good cardio workout. Hoo boy, do I sweat when I'm hopping around on that mat. I'm sure I look like a damn fool, too. This is not ballet class. There are no graceful pirouettes. It's all about staring intently at the endless patterns of arrows flying up the screen, and trying to get your feet to keep up with all the stomping. Like whack-a-mole, but way faster and more complicated.

I actually injured myself by concentrating too hard on the "light" level of DDR. (In my defense, it's not the easiest level. I did graduate from "beginner" without requiring medical assistance.)

During an intense DDR Battle, I watched Ken from the corner of my eye. As he was being pushed to the limits of his skill, his whole upper body started to lock up. His neck craned forward as his eyes fixed on the screen, and his hands curled into rigid claws. I was like "Hon, you're doing this thing with your hands. It looks uncomfortable."

I hadn't noticed that I was doing the same thing. I had practically stopped breathing. Well, sheesh, breathing was distracting me from my footwork. Come on! It was a Battle! Priorities people. Priorities.

That level of dedication comes at a price. Not long after we had our dance-off, my entire torso contracted into one big muscle spasm. Ow. See, that much thinking and that much exercise is just too much for me to handle in one activity. I like to exercise mindlessly, and think sitting down. Is this not reasonable? I think it is very reasonable.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

I am The Namer

Hey guess what? I won a contest. The contest was hosted by the lovely honesty*rain on behalf of her friend Tamara. Tamara needed suggestions for a new blog name and (drumroooooll, cymbal crash!) she picked my suggestion! Which was downward blog. I am honoured. Go and check out their blogs!

Monday, December 17, 2007

Friend to Animals Everywhere

In my last post I mentioned my step-dad. When I was a kid, we fought like cats and dogs, but we've both changed a lot in the past 20+ years, and now I feel really lucky to call him family. He can come across like a toughie, but he has a soft heart.

Many years ago, I was with my parents at a small zoo. Some of the animals were in a fenced enclosure. Signs indicated that you could purchase a handful of pellets from a vending machine to feed these animals. There was the usual assortment of livestock, goats and whatnot. And, for some reason, one ostrich.

All the animals understood the system well. If a hand came over the top of the fence, they would all rush over to try to get to the pellets first, including the ostrich. However, there was a sign on the fence that specifically said:


Sadly, the ostrich didn't know that. He lived in a state of perpetual frustrated yearning, hoping against hope that eventually someone, some kind soul, would give him some pellets. He couldn't understand why the humans never offered him treats.

My step-dad was very into feeding the animals. He chuckled as llamas and sheep nibbled his palm. He didn't mind being slobbered on. But what did bother him was the forlorn look in the eyes of the ostrich. Poor bird! He was hungry too!

I looked over just in time to see the ostrich rear back his head like a hammer ready to strike, and then peck down with all his might on my step-dad's out-stretched hand. My step-dad yelped. Pellets scattered all over the ground. The ostrich bent happily to eat. My step dad looked a bit mournful, holding his sore hand, but later swore that he did not regret feeding the ostrich. He felt it was the morally correct thing to do.

And would he do it again, given the chance? A couple of years later, my parents were vacationing in Florida. My mother phoned me.

"We've just been to the petting zoo."

"Did you have a good time?"

"Your dad's been bitten by a Vietnamese pot-bellied pig."

Same story, different zoo. My step-dad has often said to me that he'd rather err on the side of being too generous. He sleeps better at night knowing that all the petting-zoo animals are well-fed, even if he sometimes gets bitten.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

8 Random Facts

Meme time again! Here are the rules:

(1) Each player starts with eight random facts/habits about themselves.
(2) People who are tagged need to write a post on their own blog (about their eight things) and post these rules.
(3) At the end of your blog, you need to choose eight people to get tagged and list their names.
(4) Don’t forget to leave them a comment telling them they’re tagged, and to read your blog.

And here are The Facts:

1) I can move my pinky toes independently from my other toes. This is in no way useful, but seems to impress people.

2) I was raised in a home where cow's tongue was a regular item on the dinner table. I didn't realize that most people found this disgusting until I was in my teens. I actually quite like tongue. It's a very soft and tender meat.

3) My current surname is the fourth I've had in my life. I was born with one last name. Then my step-father legally adopted me (when I was 8) so I ended up with his last name. When I got married I legally changed to my husband's last name, because I didn't like sharing a name with my step-dad. But by the time I got divorced I had a better appreciation for the support of both my fathers, both step and biological, so I created a new last name that combines elements of both of my fathers' last names. That's the one I'll be keeping for the rest of my life. Ken knows that if he wants us to share a last name, it's up to him to change his name to match mine!

4) Whenever I'm in a pet store, I seek out the guinea pigs and whistle through my teeth at them. This gets them excited so that they all start squeaking and running around the cage. I guess it's a little mean, because it means that I've frightened them, but they're just so cute that I can't resist.

5) Recently a stranger mistook me for Molly Ringwald. I do look quite a lot like her in this photo. All you have to do is dye the hair a darker, auburn shade, change the eyes to pale green, broaden the nose a tad, and show just a little less gum in the smile. Then you almost have me.

6) I have a tendency towards Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, which gets worse when I'm under stress. Sometimes I make myself late for work because I can't stop checking things. I know it's really getting bad when I catch myself compulsively counting the number of times I swallow as I drink.

7) Because of allergies, I don't consume caffeine, alcohol, or dairy. What I miss most: grilled cheese sandwiches, and Chocolate Oreo Ice Cream.

8) I have no goals in life. I used to be very goal oriented. One by one (or sometimes several at once) my carefully laid plans went awry, and a weird, unforseen life took shape in their place. I find I quite like this life I've fallen into. It feels very "meant-to-be". So now I trust the Powers That Be to guide my overall future, and I just try to live each day as best I can.

Okey shmokey! Tagging time.

A lot of bloggers have already done this meme. I can think of a few who might not have, so I'm tagging y'all below:

Tamara at Downward Blog

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Drew Carey Wrecks Price Is Right

Have you had a chance to watch The Price Is Right lately? We have moved into the post-Bob-Barker era, and now Drew Carey is hosting. I am not happy with this state of affairs. Not at all.

The Price Is Right has always been entertaining and lovable because it is so uncool. Full grown men and women scream and jump around like kids. The set is all colours and flashing lights, like a carnival. And Bob Barker was the King of this fantasy land, taking it all in stride. It was an irony-free zone, which is a precious thing in this jaded world.

I always felt safe with Bob in charge. He treated even the silliest games with a certain amount of grave seriousness, and always expressed appropriate sympathy with the contestants, whether they won or lost. The viewers at home were free to ridicule as they wished, but the show itself was sincere.

Drew Carey, on the other hand, doesn't seem to care at all about this magical land that he has inherited. He steps on stage with a smug little half-smile, as if to say to us all "Isn't this a ridiculous show, and isn't it crazy that I'm getting paid to host it? Well, whatever, I have bills to pay, so let's get this over with."

Nothing else has changed, but Drew's attitude taints it all. He keeps himself emotionally distant, shows no enthusiasm and, worst of all, makes ironic comments. Who's idea was it to give him the job? Because I want them to know: he sucks! Is he still on probation? Is it too late to fire him?

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The Ghost of Christmas Past

I can't resist. I am happy and I know and I've really gotta show it. I have to share what I'm grateful for this holiday season.

I have finally landed in my own life. I finally feel like I'm living in the present. After my divorce, there was a disconnect between me and the rest of the world that just wouldn't mend. For years I felt as though I were wandering around, lost, in a life that belonged to everyone but me. I could only take one day at a time. The future was muffled in a grey cloud.

Christmases were the worst, because when I was married, they were the best. I had my first family Christmas with my ex and his folks when I was 16. I hadn't had much in the way of Christmas celebrations before, being Jewish and all, so it was new and exciting to me. He became my Santa Claus, filling my stocking with treats, buying me wonderful gifts, and bringing me into a family circle with warmth, laughter, and fabulous Christmas dinners.

He was my Christmas for twelve years. All my holiday memories centered around him. So after we split, naturally, Christmas could never be the same.

It took six years for me to get beyond that. Last year was the first year that I was able to simply enjoy the holidays in the present, without feeling haunted. I think the turning point came when Ken and I moved into our condo. It was a totally new setting, all ready for new memories. I left the ghosts behind in my old apartment, where I had spent so much time grieving the past.

It's so good just to be here. I have everything I've ever wanted. Although, I still wouldn't say no to treats in my stocking.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Questions are the Lubricant of Conversation

Dear Loud Woman Who Sat Near Me In The Restaurant Last Night:

It warms my heart that you love your dogs so much. I am an animal lover too, and I am sure you are the bestest Mommy they could ever hope for.

The two other women at your table nodded politely throughout your 45-minute-long monologue, however I am guessing that they probably felt the same way as I did, which is that we really didn't need to hear about your dogs in so much detail. Especially because the details you chose to share were inappropriate for a public place of eating.

We didn't need to know the quantity of poop left by your Lab and your Husky in your back yard, and how long it takes you to pick up all the poop every week on Sunday, which is poop-harvesting day. Nor did we need to know how excited your dogs get when they see you handling their poop.

We didn't need to know about the time your Lab got into a scrap with a squirrel and sustained a significant flesh wound, which bled all over your kitchen. I'm sorry that he needed four stitches and that the vet bill was $300, but that is the cost of being a good pet-Mommy. When one of my cats decided to pick out her stitches (with her teeth) after being spayed*, at midnight on a Saturday, and we had to bring her to an emergency vet at great cost to get her sewn back up again, I did complain about it, but NOT at the dinner table. Because it was gross.

We didn't need to hear about how monumentally disgusting your Husky's farts smell after he's been out hunting and has eaten raw squirrel, bird, and heaven knows what else. We particularly didn't need a detailed visual description of what bits of the bird/squirrel the Husky leaves behind on the lawn when he's finished chowing down.

In closing, Loud Woman, you do seem like a good-hearted person. I think you just don't realize a) how far your voice carries and b) that good dinner conversation should be neither gross nor dominated by you. Questions are the lubricant of conversation. Show some interest in your dining companions! Let them get a word in edgewise! Would you give that a try?

Yours Sincerely,
S. Red.

*Anticipating the question: why would a cat pick out her own stitches? Answer: Because they were itchy. Isn't that what you would do if your stitches itched?

Monday, December 10, 2007

Sacred Flames

The crafts instructor at the oldies' home really wasn't thinking ahead. My grandmother arrived for the family Hanukkah celebration with a menorah that she had made herself - out of wood.

F.Y.I. Hanukkah is a holiday that celebrates a miraculous sacred oil lamp, which burned for 8 days on one day's worth of oil. To commemorate the miracle, it is traditional to light one candle for each of these days in a special candelabra called a menorah. There's more to it than that, but that's all you really need to know for the purposes of this story.

So anyway, we filled the menorah up with candles, said the appropriate prayers, and set them ablaze. The menorah was set on a baking tray on a sideboard. Once the prayers were done, we all turned back to the table and focused on eating potato latkes.

Around half-an-hour later, when the candles had burned down quite a lot, I noticed that the flames were flickering quite dramatically. My father followed my gaze. "What's going on over there?" he asked. I stood to take a closer look.

The menorah was on fire!

The candles had dripped sooty wax all over the wood, the flames had followed the soot deposits, and soon enough the actual wooden candelabra itself had started burning. Good thing we had set it up on a baking sheet, or who knows where it would have ended.

So much for my grandmother's handiwork becoming a family heirloom. Turns out it was a one-use, auto-self-destructing menorah.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Ain't as smart as I thunk I wuz

At work, I am known as The Most Technical Person. I have earned this title by being most consistently able to unjam the photocopier and coerce reluctant printers to actually print. However, all things are relative, and tonight I'm really not feeling like a genius.

Back in May of this year, I bought a digital camera, a Sony DSC-H9 Cybershot, if you care. It was a big investment, but my photos are precious to me and I wanted the best that I could afford. I bought it at a Serious Camera Store (Henry's, if you must know), where knowledgeable experts go to get all their camera gizmos.

The first few of batches of photos turned out really well. The detail, the focus, the colour - top notch. Then, sometime near the end of the summer, I noticed that some photos I had taken out in the sun had a whitish, blurry patch in the middle of them. I put it down to overexposure, and fiddled around in iPhoto to minimize the damage.

Next time I went out, I screwed a sunshade attachment onto the lens. The same problem recurred. Then I started noticing the blurry effect in indoor photos too. Because I had already diagnosed the problem as over-exposure, I figured that there must be something wrong with the photo-receptors inside the camera. It was a manufacturer's defect, and I'd have to get the whole camera replaced under the warrantee.

Today I finally got around to calling Henry's to ask how I should go about returning my camera. I even took a series of pictures to show the obvious blurred area. I was just about ready to pack the camera back into the box it came in, when Ken said:

Maybe there's something wrong with the lens. Have you checked the lens?

Well, no, I had been so confident of my previous assessment that it never occurred to me to take a look at the lens. And guess what?

There was a greasy smudge on the lens. Right in the middle, where the blurry spot kept showing up.

So, basically, I had been worrying about the state of my photo-receptors and taking bad photos for four months because I WAS TOO STUPID TO CLEAN MY LENS. Boy howdy, am I ever glad I figured that out in the safety and comfort of my own home, and not in the Fancy Pants Camera Store.

"Did you hear about that woman who came in this morning? Yeah, she wanted to return her camera because their was a smudge on the lens. No, seriously! Can you believe it? Some people are so dumb."

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Pound until tender

Jackie, my massage therapist, is the coolest. And I'm not saying that just that because I love massage.

I have tried rolfing, which involved my rolfer leaning into my flesh with her elbow or the full weight of her forearm, trying to break up knots “all the way down to the bone”. Most people find traditional Rolfing too painful to endure. I actually liked it, in a “hurts so good” kind of way, since I have a high tolerance for pain and also, a touch of masochism. The only part I didn’t like was when she put on a latex glove and put one hand inside my mouth so that she could jam her thumb into my jaw-joint from the inside. I would have screamed, if I hadn’t been instantly paralyzed by the pain.

I have also tried Thai massage (photo here), during which the therapist pulls your body into various yoga-ish poses in order to stretch your muscles and get your joints moving. Thai massage usually wasn’t painful, but as you can see from the photo it requires a lot of intimacy between the masseur and the client. That was weird, especially since my therapist was male. It felt a bit adulterous. The only part of the process that I hated was when he would pull on each of my toes until the toe-knuckle cracked. I really felt that was unnecessary.

My current massage therapist, Jackie, does regular Swedish massage along with some other fancy techniques like craniosacral therapy. She doesn’t cause me pain or bend me into a pretzel. I knew she was cool from our first meeting. After listening to my reasons for wanting massage, she explained to me that she’d like me to disrobe and get onto the table. She asked “So, after this brief acquaintance, are you comfortable with me touching your buttocks?”

She asked so nicely – how could I say no?

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Dear 13-year-old me,

Hey, it’s my first meme! I volunteered to be tagged by R.E.H. at Ramblings of a Madman. R.E.H. changed the rules a bit from the usual meme standard, and I like the new rules, so that’s what we’re now playing by.

First, link to the person who tagged you, as above. Then, explain the rules of the meme. The assignment is to write a letter to yourself at the age of 13. Then, anyone who wants to, up to five people, can volunteer to take on the challenge (i.e. be tagged). You can volunteer via a comment. I will then link to the volunteers I get by editing the list below:


1. Jameil1922 at Unabashedly Me. (TENTATIVE)
2. To be determined
3. Come on, be brave!
4. You know you want to…
5. Don’t all speak at once!

So, here goes…

Dear 13-Year-Old Me,

I know things are tough right now, in grade 8. I wish I could travel back in time to hold your hand and reassure you – life does get better! Kids can be so mean! Boy if I could just go back there and get my hands on the bullies, some scrawny adolescent butts would get kicked, for sure.

Here’s my first tip from the future: beware the girl with the glass eye. You’re going to meet her next year when you start grade 9. She’ll act like a friend, but then she will manipulate you and mess with your head. Bad things will happen if you don’t stay away from her!

From grade 10 on, it'll be all about the boys. Yes, they will eventually start asking you out. Go! Have fun! But don’t let them squash your spirit down. Charlie will be hot. So hot, like Brad Pitt! No, wait, it’s only 1986, and Thelma and Louise doesn’t come out until 1991, so you have no idea who I'm referring to. Anyway, trust me, you’ll fall head over heels for him. And that’s fine, just don’t take crap from him. Don’t let him push you around. Don’t spend all your time with him. Don’t neglect your girlfriends. And by all means, if he tries to break up with you, do NOT beg to be taken back and then spend 6 months in a horrible limbo that crushes your spirit with each passing day. That would be bad.

Do me a favor: fool around! Date different guys! Don’t be so serious! You have your whole adult life for seriousness and long-term relationships.

Changing the subject to what you’re going to do after high school: you won’t like studying engineering. If you enroll, it will destroy your love of mathematics. In fact, you will be so disillusioned with technology that you won’t even use a computer for word processing. You will instead type multiple drafts of 20-page English and History papers on a typewriter, after you switch to the Arts Department. I repeat: a typewriter! Think of all the fun things you could with that time if you would just use a computer instead.

This will come up next year: when you decide you don’t want to wear bangs anymore, don’t pull them back off your forehead with a hair band one sunny summer day and walk around with that strip of white skin at the top of your forehead exposed for hours. Unless you want that skin to turn into a strip of crispy bacon. You won’t be able to raise your eyebrows for a week. You think I’m kidding? I’m not kidding.

And stay away from stirrup pants. Even the purple ones. Just because they’re trendy doesn’t make them flattering.

Well, that’s about it! Keep up the good work, young lady! You know I’m proud of you. And if you need me, I’m only one wrinkle in time away.

Love and Hugs,
35-year-old me.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

This is not an advertorial

I really love my contact lenses. This is a story which illustrates two points:

1) Acuvue Oasys lenses really are the shizzle, and;

2) sometimes I get confused.

I was at my eye doctor's last July, trying on contact lenses for the first time since 1988. Who remembers contact lenses from the 1980's? What a pain in the rear they were. All that fiddling with different bottles of solution and protein dissolving tablets. I couldn't deal with the hassle. But things have changed!

The doctor gives me a pair of lenses to try on. No problem. I'm cool. I've done this before. I carefully apply lens to eyeball, and repeat. The woman sitting beside me at the mirror is having trouble getting hers in. She's all admiring-like, jealous of my ability to stick my finger in my eye without flinching. I pretend to be bashful, but of course I'm feeling smug.

The doctor comes by to check up on me. How are the lenses? Oh, well, actually, now that you mention it, my vision is still very blurry. That's confusing. I swear I put them both in, but I can't feel them. Could I have dropped one? Or both? How could I have lost them both? The doctor takes me back to the examining room and peers into my eyes with his special magnifying light. Ah, he says.

Your vision is blurred because you put both lenses in the same eye. On top of each other.

Wow. Who's smug now?

I feel like such a dope.

And also, I'm impressed. These contact lenses are so comfortable that I can layer two in one eye and not even feel them! Nice! A definite improvement over 1988.

Monday, December 3, 2007


It would be easy for me to feel bitter about the recent weather in Toronto. It's not even officially winter yet, but it's been snowing for a month. Das ist crazy, for reals. We usually don't even get a dusting of snow until around Christmas.

But I'm kind of liking this wintery experience. Bad weather allows me to pretend that I am an adventurous hero, forging my way through wind, sleet, and snowdrifts to survive. Getting to the grocery store and back in freezing rain becomes an expedition. I may be slithering and slipping on this glassy sidewalk, but the Stalwart Red will never give up! Even if I have to shuffle all the way, I will prevail!

I'm even looking forward to the deep freeze days, the days I used to dread. What's different this year? In July I got contact lenses. Now I can pull my scarf right up over my nose, without fear that my breath will fog my glasses. I used to have to choose between seeing and breathing. That, my friends, was a hard choice.

Soon I must go out. I will pull on my ugly, waterproof winter boots and go stomping through ankle-deep slush while most everyone else is delicately picking their way between the puddles in their fashionable, leather-soled shoes. And I will feel superior! Oh, so superior.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Judged by a jury of our peers

Lucinda was 41 years old and had recently escaped a hellish marriage. She had been forced to move, with her two children, into a shelter. She looked like life had chewed her up and spit her out. Then Style by Jury got their hands on her.

By the end of one week, Lucinda was a new woman. She’d had her teeth capped, her eyes lasered, her hair tamed, and she’d been poured into a svelte little cocktail dress. She was all smiles when the jury delivered their final verdict. She declared herself filled with newfound confidence.

So, what exactly is the message? Is it a wonderful blessing that this woman, so good-hearted and downtrodden, has been given a new lease on life through her renovated appearance? Sure, I guess so. But what about the thousands of other hard-luck cases, who don’t have the good fortune to be chosen for a makeover show?

If society is under-appreciating so many good-hearted people just because they can’t afford artificial teeth, I submit that makeover shows are not the solution. I propose filming a TV show that interviews and appreciates good-hearted people just as they are. I would call it Hidden Treasures, and it would have just as many inspiring and heart-warming moments as What Not to Wear. Yeah, yeah, I know. In my dreams. When pigs fly.

I gave myself a makeover within the past year. I cut off my mop of frizzy hair and went for a sleek, short look. I learned how to wear makeup. I got rid of my thrift-store wardrobe and bought good clothes that fit. And people did start treating me differently. Some women at work who used to not have the time of day for me suddenly got all chummy.

But that didn’t feel like a victory. The people who decided to start being friendly with me just because I looked “cool” weren’t people I wanted to be friends with anyway. My new look gives me a psychological advantage, but not in a heartwarming way. The bottom line: it gives me more influence with shallow people.

Beyond basic hygiene and some evidence of personal pride, appearances are over-rated. Give me a brilliant, funny person with funky teeth and glasses any day of the week. [/end rant]

Friday, November 30, 2007

Tinker and The Dude

One of my six-month-old adopted twin brothers tried to chew through the handle of my handbag last night, when I was over at my folks’ house for a visit. I noticed before he got very far, and hid the bag in a closet.

Ha! I'm playin' with you! Were you picturing a kid? I bet you were picturing babies. But! These adopted brothers that I speak of are my parents' newest set of cats. Kittens, still. And they are soooooo cute. They are just the sweetest, shmoopiest, silly-williest lil' hushie gooshie whoooza cute wiwwle boy! Are you the cutest lil' boy? Yes you are! Yes you are!


Where was I? Yes. Sadly, the old set of cats both departed for the big litter box in the sky within the past year. Lucy was a stray that we found at the Humane Society. When we first met her she had ear mites, and a skin condition that had caused all the hair from her rear end to fall off. Lucy did not let her bare bum affect her self-esteem. Once she had claimed her position as Queen Of The House, she grew her pants back and ruled with a regal arrogance that could only be lovable in a cat.

Mitsou was a show cat: one of those super-fuzzy Persian breeds with her nose pushed all the way in and up between her eyeballs. She came from a proper breeder, with a pedigree. Try telling her that. All she wanted to do was prowl around out of doors, hunting mice and rooting around in dirt. Leaves and bugs got swept up in her long belly-fur and ended up inside, on my mother’s clean floors. Because of her messed-up face, (I’m telling you, it’s cruel to breed cats like that) she had no end of health problems. I got very handy at forcibly applying ear drops, eye drops, and pills to the various facial orifices of my very uncooperative patient.

(Seriously, if you need to give your cat a pill, and she keeps spitting it back out, call me. I’ll jump on a plane and come over to your place to help out. Neighbours used to call on me to give their cats their daily medications. But I digress.)

The new guys came from the Humane Society. All they do day in and day out is wrestle their way from one end of the house to the other, with stops along the way for tipping over houseplants, chewing through the phone cord, and jumping up on tables while people are trying to have a civilized dinner. Sure, they’re a little spoiled. But they’re doing everything little brothers are supposed to do: being annoying, getting into my stuff, and jumping into my lap for irresistible snuggles. And purring! Can your little brother do that?

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Consulting the Magic 8-Ball

Sometimes I dream about a place before I’ve been there. In the dream, I’m in a confusing, unfamiliar environment. Then, a year or so later, I’ll look around myself at some point and think: “Oh yeah, this is where I was in that dream.” I’ll recognize certain elements, like a pile of colourful cubes in the dream turn out to be plastic storage bins in real life, or a bouncy floor turns out to be the padded floor of an indoor climbing gym.

I’ve had other experiences which could be described as “psychic”, or “supernatural”. I’m not sold on those labels. Dogs can hear sounds that we can’t hear, and bees can see colours that we can’t see, but that doesn’t make them magical or specially gifted. Their sensory mechanisms are just tuned to a different range. And to me, that’s what real “supernatural” experiences are about. I happen to be more sensitive to certain energies or vibrations which science cannot yet measure. But I’m betting that someday in the future, we’ll find a way to measure these things. And then they’ll just be “natural”.

I don’t enjoy these experiences. For example: I have an unfortunate tendency to pick up other peoples’ emotions just from being physically near to them, especially if they are repressing intense anxiety, sadness, or anger. I know it can be argued that I’m just projecting, or guessing peoples’ emotions from their body language, but you’ll have to trust me on this. It has happened time and time again, even when I’m not in visual contact with the person, or even when the person is close but on the other side of an interior wall. Suffice it to say that I thought I was a moody basket case, until I realized that I was picking up on other peoples’ crap. Now I find it a lot easier to differentiate between my own moods and other peoples’ disowned negativity. I’m still a somewhat moody person, but I don’t feel crazy like I used to.

There are a lot of New Age-y folks out there who work hard to become more psychically sensitive. I want to tell them: don’t go there! It’s better to be oblivious. I spend my time and energy building healthier boundaries.

For a while I went to a New Age night school that gave me a language to describe my experiences. But mostly, that school made me feel frustrated. When my fellow students found out how much information I could get during our practice “readings”, some were jealous. They thought it made me “more special” or something like that. No one knew how to help me when I occasionally got overwhelmed by what I was receiving. Eventually I stopped going to the classes, because the experiences were just too intense.

My point is that romanticizing these experiences, whether you want to call them psychic, supernatural, occult, or whatever, is wishful thinking. Would we understand this realm better if it weren’t so inextricably entwined with dramatic fantasy? I don’t know. I’d like to think so. Shall we try it and see?

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Name Dropping

When I was working in a health food store near movie shoots:

Saul Rubinek came in and bought a bag of Cheesy Bearitos popcorn while I was on cash.

More excitingly, a gofer came in and bought a bunch of stuff on Kevin Bacon’s credit card. So, if you slightly bend the rules of the game Six Degress of Kevin Bacon, I am only two degrees removed from Kevin Bacon himself. And since you almost know me, you’re three degrees away now. Amazing!

Connections through my high school, North Toronto Collegiate Institute.

Eric Lindros went to my high school, one grade behind me. He’s famous in Canada. Has anyone outside of Canada heard of him?

Apparently I missed Keanu Reeves by one year. Ain’t that the luck! I have been told that he attended my high school for one year, the year before I started. I should have skipped a grade. Then I could have Keanu Reeves in my yearbook instead of Eric Lindros.

Monday, November 26, 2007

None of my business

There is a question that has been nagging at me. It’s about the Mommy Bloggers, those gifted writers who can spin endless entertaining stories from the antics of their young children. Especially those who earn an income in this way.

My question is, what is going to happen in just a few years, when their kids get old enough to have an opinion about being the subject of so much publicity? There is material online on everything from their tantrums to their bowel movements. There will come a day when they become aware of how exposed they are, and I can only imagine that they won’t like it very much.

I guess most parents come up with silly nicknames for their kids to try to take the edge off the stresses of full diapers (Sir Poopsalot!) and other challenges (Miss Screamy-pants!). No harm done as long as these are retired before the kid gets a firm grasp on the spoken word. But what if they are recorded for all posterity? Kids learn to go online at an awfully early age these days. There is so much material for playground torture in these blogs that it makes me cringe. I mean, anal suppositories! Posting that information online is like handing a loaded gun to the bullies.

Now, all of these women are very intelligent, and I’m sure they have thought about this issue, especially if the family income depends upon their online writing. I’m really curious to know what they’re planning to do. Is deleting certain posts from the archives an option? Once information gets online, it has a certain staying power, even if the original source disappears. What is going to happen to these kids?

All that being said, I don’t feel a need to “save” these children from whatever their destiny is. All the families involved seem to be healthy and supportive. I’m sure they’ll work it out in the end. I’m just sayin’, is all. I guess it’s because I was at the receiving end of so much playground torture that I’m a bit sensitive to these issues. Good luck to them, is all I can say!

Saturday, November 24, 2007


Here are some things you might like to do if you get stuck in an uninhabited apartment for one hour with no TV, no internet, and one friend.

1) If you brought food, enjoy a snack. One serving of fruit juice and a package of sesame snaps should hit the spot.

2) Find the 20-year-old boom box with the broken tape deck. Turn the balance all the way to the right, to compensate for the missing left speaker.

3) Dance in the kitchen. Convince your friend that it's cool to do fake ballroom dancing to top-40 pop hits, especially including twirls and dips.

4) Locate a board game. The traditional Asian game of "Go" should keep you busy for a while. Try to remember the rules. Fail. Make up some rules. Play badly by the made up rules for a few turns, then abandon the game. Promise to look up the rules on the internet as soon as you get plugged back in.

5) Locate a pen and paper. Play Hangman. A good word with a lot of letters to challenge your friend with is "Rumplestiltskin" . If he takes a long time to guess the word, let him have extra turns by drawing individual facial features onto the hangman instead of drawing in that last leg.

6) Feel grateful for this opportunity to experience life without cable. (Although you probably wouldn't want to carry on like this for much more than an hour.)

Friday, November 23, 2007

Now do a U-turn!

Let’s say you’re getting into a car with four other people. Where do you want to sit, if you’re not the driver? Probably up front. Or if you have to squish in the backseat with two other people, you want a window seat, right? You don’t want to sit in the middle, on the steering column bump, with your knees tucked up under your chin. That’s the loser seat. The loser shortest person always gets stuck in that seat.

Hey, wait, that’s me! I’m always the smallest person in the car. Last time we took a bunch of friends up to Pacific Mall, which is approximately a half-hour drive in each direction, I spent an hour stuck on the bump. And how much did I hate it?

Not at all! Because I secretly love that seat. Not for the bump itself, although, being a short-legged little twig, I’m not *un*comfortable. I love it because I get to wedge myself in all cozy-like with a couple of silly friends. Then we can giggle every time the car goes around a corner and mushes us together, yell funny things in each others’ ears, and generally act like children until the driver threatens to leave us at the side of the road. Jokingly, of course – I know he’s just jealous and would rather be in the back with us.

Yes, there is nothing quite as good for bonding as digging around under each others’ butt cheeks to find the ends of seatbelts. Everyone thinks it’s a gas when I ask my male friend “Is it in yet?” I meant his seatbelt, you perverts!

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Ice Age

There is a freakishly early snowstorm blowing through Toronto today. We don’t see weather like this until January, normally. Days like this remind me of the time I worked in that unheated store over the worst part of the winter…

*cue wavy dissolve screen and synthesized flashback sound-effects*

Back in 1997, in immediate need of a way to pay my rent, I accepted a position at a very run-down health-food store. The owner was a sweet, religious woman. Many of her customers were disabled by chronic illnesses, and had very little money. She sold food and remedies to them almost at cost.

The building was drafty; the floors were uneven and creaky; and there were infestations of every type of pest. Because the store barely made any profit, the owner saved money by not using the furnace during the wintertime. I wore as many layers as I could pile on, but I still frickin’ froze every day.

There was a scruffy, calico cat who was allowed to sleep in the store, in exchange for keeping the mice, roaches, and rats (yes, BIG RATS, I’m not joking) under control. This cat would drag his prey up to the counter to show off in front of customers. I would excuse myself to get the broom and dustpan. I remember apologizing to a half-dead rat, for leaving him outside in a snow bank to freeze to death. I didn’t have the nerve to kill him quickly. I told him, as I scraped his limp body into the snow, “I’ve heard hypothermia isn’t such a bad way to go.”

I was so cold that I encouraged the scruffy cat to climb up onto my shoulders and lie curled around my neck while I worked. A few flea bites weren’t too high a price to pay in exchange for some precious, extra heat. I had to be careful, ringing up and bagging items with slow, deliberate movements, so that the cat wouldn’t slide off. He was a heavy son-of-a-gun, too.

I worked there for two and a half months, from January through mid-March, before I managed to get a job somewhere with heat.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Just like that scene in Napoleon Dynamite

It's Ed’s fault that I can’t do Downward Dog.

Ed was a really warm and friendly guy. But sometimes too friendly. His signature greeting was to administer a violent hug, while pounding on my back and yelling in my ear how great it was to see me. I always staggered out of his embrace feeling slightly stunned, in need of a moment to re-orient myself.

Around 12 years ago, I was over at Ed’s place one afternoon, with several friends. He had just started studying Aikido, a “non-aggressive Japanese martial art”.

“Shake my hand!” Ed demanded, and, like a fool, I did. Next thing I knew, he had me in a wrist-lock and I was being forced to the floor. All in attendance were suitably impressed, and Ed was mightily pleased with himself.

My wrist never fully recovered. It didn’t hurt too awfully that afternoon, but for the next several years it swelled up and ached anytime the weather was damp. I had to wrap it in an elastic bandage to immobilize it until the swelling went down. Also consider: I had given him my right hand to shake. I am right-handed. Inconvenient!

More than ten years later, I still have to be careful how I treat that wrist. I can’t do push-ups, or any yoga pose that requires me to support my weight on my hands. Annoying!

Surely, it could be much worse. Ed never meant to do me harm. I never told him that I’d sustained an injury. I’m sure he’d feel terrible if he knew. But every time I overdo it and have to put on the splint, I think of Ed again.

Kids, martial arts are not for fun and games! Be careful, and use your skills wisely, or you could hurt your friends.

Monday, November 19, 2007

How I saved $50 without even trying

I would tell you the name of this furniture store, but I’m afraid of being sued for libel. Not because I’m lying, but because it’s a weird place and I wouldn’t put it past them. Ken drove me there so that I could buy two pieces of furniture for work.

We enter an enormous furniture showroom. A half-dozen desperate-looking salesmen, wearing mustaches and corduroy blazers, are wandering aimlessly around the displays. There is only one other pair of customers in the whole, vast store. On a Saturday afternoon in Toronto, especially just before Christmas, this is very unusual.

We are approached by a salesman in a tan blazer and brown plaid shirt. I show him the items that I want. The smaller piece is marked “Regular $129. Sale $99”.

Sales guy: “Oh, I think that sale is over.”

He picks at the sale sticker with his fingernails, trying unsuccessfully to remove it.

Sales guy: “This is $129. Yes, $129.”

Me, because it’s for work and it’s only $30 and I don’t care that much: “Okay.”

Ken: “That’s illegal. You have to sell the product at the sticker price. The sale isn’t over until you change the sticker.”

Sales guy: “Um. Let me talk to my manager.”

We wait. He returns.

Sales guy: “I give it to you for $79.”

Me, surprised: “Great! Thank you!”

Sales guy: “Now you can buy two!”

Of course, I didn’t buy two. Poor, sad Sales guy. He bargained himself down! He needs a sales techniques refresher course. Or maybe a self-esteem workshop.

We are then directed to the so-called “Customer Service” desk, to await the arrival of our boxes from the warehouse. Keep in mind that there are no other customers waiting for warehouse services.

Five minutes pass. Ten minutes. Fifteen minutes. We pace. We sigh. We inquire politely of the girl at the desk: how much longer? She gives us the stink-eye. Twenty minutes. We’re ready to go back to the sales desk and ask for a refund, just so we can get the heck out of there. After 25 minutes, a guy finally comes out with some boxes on a trolley. His excuse: he was confused because the table is packed in two flat boxes. This, he says, doesn’t look much like a table. I’m like, um, well, that’s the table-top in that box, and that other, smaller box, that’s the legs. And when we put it together, it will become table-shaped! Just like magic!

This is only my opinion, but EVEN IF IT WAS HIS FIRST DAY ON THE JOB, that is no excuse for not understanding the concept of flat-packed furniture. Since he was a nice guy, I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt, and assume he was actually an alien from another galaxy, trying to pass as human. At least he had mastered the basics of our language, which, if you think about it, is pretty impressive.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

A Love Letter for Zaidy

I'd like to introduce you to my father's father. He's 94 years old. He has a full head of wavy white hair, kind of like Einstein, and crazy eyebrows to match.

Be careful when you shake his hand. He might look frail, lying there on the couch, but he can still just about break your fingers with his vise-like grip. That's the kind of tough-ass he's always been. I recently had lunch with him in the assisted-living facility where he lives with my grandmother. He started a silverware duel with the guy sitting next to him. I've never seen anything quite like it: two elderly men shouting "En garde!" and fencing with their forks.

When I was a kid, he used to flip his eyelids inside out just to give me the creeps. Then he'd grab me by one wrist and one ankle and spin me around for a helicopter ride.

My grandfather is the fifth of eight children, born to parents who had recently immigrated from Poland. They lived downtown in the Jewish ghetto, raising chickens for a living. My grandfather used to get up at 3:00 am in order to kill, pluck, and deliver fresh chickens around the neighbourhood before he went to school. He could pluck a bird so fast that he was declared a Champion Chicken Flicker.

In three more months, if he hangs in there, the Champion Chicken Flicker will turn 95. I'm thrilled to have him around. Because even though we can't really have much of a conversation, (he can't remember what he said 30 seconds ago), he can still get my hand in that killer grip of his, look right into me with his ice-blue eyes, and tell me that he loves me. And I tell him that I love him too. Then he says "I'll miss you when I'm gone". And I tell him that I'll miss him too. But secretly I believe that we'll meet again. When it's my turn to walk through the Pearly Gates, I bet he'll be right there to greet me, grinning, with his eyelids flipped inside-out. (And then he'll give me a helicopter ride.)

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Rx: Teletoon, 2 units daily

This past spring, I asked my doctor for anti-depressants.  I was sick of tired of being in a dark hole inside myself, and I wanted to take a pill that would make it all better, NOW!  This wasn't the first time I'd spent months seeing the world through a dark veil, but it was the worst so far.

Normally, I shun medication.  If there is a side effect to be had, I will have it.  Plain old Tylenol gives me palpitations.   I even get side effects from herbal remedies.  Usually I'd rather just tough it out.

So there I was in the examining room, hands shaking, telling the doc about how I'd been feeling lately.  How I'd been thinking way too much about hurting myself, and feeling hopeless all of the time.  But darn it all, wasn't it just my bad luck that I didn't qualify for a diagnosis.  Because in typical depression, you sleep less and eat less.  In atypical depression you sleep more and eat more.  I was sleeping more and eating less.  Therefore, as per the doctor, I wasn't depressed.  Uh, that's good to know.  I guess I'll just stop feeling bad right now because you said it's not real.

In the end, the doctor did finally agree to write me a prescription, for Zoloft, because he didn't want to be held responsible if I harmed myself.  I felt validated.

I never did fill the prescription.  I did some research and found out how terrible these pills can be, not while you're taking them, but when you are ready to stop.  Basically, any symptom in the book is a possibility during withdrawal, including diarrhea, dizziness, burning sensations all over your body, and anxiety.  And it can go on for months.  I decided, as usual, to just tough it out.  And in the end, I got through to brighter times.

Being prone to mood swings has forced me to get to know myself very well.  If I lie to myself about how I'm feeling, I can't expect to get away with it for long.  Also, I have to take good care of my body, or my moods will take a nose dive.  8 hours of sleep, vitamins, exercise: they're not optional.  Depression can bring on severe fatigue and even joint pains, and conversely being tired can bring on depression.  So I have to keep on top of these things.

Sometimes, during hormonal moments, or when I've been too busy, I can feel the gravitational pull of the dark pit trying to drag me down.  I talk back to the negativity.  I get myself to my couch on the double, under a blanket, and dose myself liberally with Sponge Bob Square Pants and other comforts.  I'm doing good so far, and at least Sponge Bob has no side effects.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Why I prefer cats

Why do I post about work so much? Because home is kind of boring, in a good way. In a "no news is good news" kind of way. I don't have kids and I don't have pets (thanks to Ken's allergies). I do have an array of beautiful and much-loved houseplants, but somehow I think that appreciating houseplants is one of those experiences that doesn't translate so well into prose. It's one of those "you had to be there" kind of things.

If I'm wrong, and there are crowds of green-thumbers out there who would love to hear me rhapsodize about the new blooms coming up on my azalea, just let me know.

I used to have cats. I am a cat person through and through. I appreciate dogs at a distance, with all their spontaneous, wiggly, loving energy. Up close? I can cope with a clean dog. Dogs that want bathing, or drooly dogs - ew. I wish I could explain to a dog that I don't want to touch that sticky tennis ball. Nor do I want my face licked.

Why I prefer cats: The purring. The softer, more snuggable body. The lack of drooling. The self-cleaning. The litterbox advantage. The fact that there is no domestic cat big enough to drag me down the street by its leash.

I miss having cats around the place. On the bright side, I can sit down anywhere I want in my good clothes and not get completely furry. And of course, while a litterbox is an improvement over picking up your pet's poop while it's still warm, it's pretty nice to have no litterbox at all. However, if Ken's immune system could handle it, I would not hesitate to repopulate my world with cats. The love is worth all the poop.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007


I have always felt jealous of women who unambiguously knew their reproductive destiny from a young age. I always teetered on the fence. I have never had that sense that some women speak of, that they “always knew” that they were meant to be a mom, or not.

Until I was 21, I just assumed that I would marry and have children. Then I was exposed to the concept of alternate choices, and suddenly I felt wonderfully free. At that time I was engaged to my first husband, and he shared my feelings. We declared our intentions to the important people in our lives. Of course, no one older than us took us seriously.

When I got to be around 26, I reconsidered again. I had been married for 3 years to my high school sweetheart, and we were preparing to move into a house that we would share with his mother. What better opportunity could there be? I brought up the subject in a very tentative way on a few occasions, but he was not keen on the idea. Now I thank my lucky stars that we never had a child, considering the very painful divorce that followed when I was 28. (The split was not caused by reproductive conflicts.)

Shortly after I moved out, one of my best friends announced that she was expecting. This was the first child in my group of friends, but others were soon to follow. I went through agonies of longing to participate in this rite of passage. I felt left out, lesser than, and a failure, especially since I was still brushing off the dust of a ruined marriage. I went to a high school reunion where it seemed that every woman but me was pushing a baby carriage.

I began a new long-term relationship, and for the next five years I spent endless hours going around in circles in my head. Did I want the experience of parenthood? Was I ready to devote so much of myself to another being? Could I handle the challenges of motherhood on top of the already substantial health and emotional challenges I was already facing? Would my new beau, who was not enthused about fatherhood, be able to accommodate the change, or would it tear us apart? Did I really want a real baby, with all the attendant demands and concerns, or was I just chasing fairytale, white-picket-fence dreams from my girlhood?

I started reading, finding every book I could that dealt with the realities of parenthood and reproductive choices. Many women of the childfree lifestyle stated: “When I see a mom dealing with a crying baby or a Terrible Twos tantrum, I just shake my head and thank God that that’s not my life.” When I see a scene where a parent is having a hard time with their child, I feel relief, and I also feel jealousy, mixed in equal parts. After all, parenthood is a mix of everything from the ecstatically wonderful to the supremely awful. You can’t pick just half and call it the whole truth.

In the end, I decided that given the circumstances of my life, it was best for me to remain childless (or childfree, if you prefer). If my circumstances had been different, I might have made a different choice. I have achieved as much peace as I ever will with my decision. I believe with all my heart that I made the right choice, and yet I also grieve what I had to let go of to get here. Dreams, a sense of belonging, the love of my own child, all of these and more.

I wanted to put this out in the public realm, because there might be someone else out there with a similar story, who can find comfort in my words. I have always felt so alone in this experience.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

The goose is getting fat

I've almost finished my seasonal gift-getting. Don't think that being Jewish gets me off the hook (although granted, it helps). There are 7 people in my family who all have their birthdays in November and December. Then there are others who require holiday gifts (Ken's family, for example). So, in the end it adds up to a fair bit of shopping.

I spent most of the weekend zinging around the inside of the Eaton Centre (downtown Toronto's only big, indoor mall), hauling bags until my shoulders ached. The place was already jam-packed with holiday shoppers. It was the kind of crowded where you can't help but bump into people and their packages every few paces, as you try to maneuver from one store to the next. This tends to bring on my flight-or-fight reflex, which adds another dimension of Me No Likey to whole experience.

I like the idea of shopping online, and I do some of that, but mostly I prefer to have full sensory interaction with objects before I buy them. Dad, I'm sorry that the corner of your calendar is wrinkly, but I couldn't buy it without a little taste first. So sue me - I am thorough!

Today I picked up a couple of final gifts at Pacific Mall. If you live anywhere near Toronto and you haven't been to Pacific Mall, GO! It's the most fun mall ever. It's an all-Asian mall, and it offers dozens of tiny stores, maybe 15 feet squared each. There are no chain stores whatsoever, not even in the food court. And the whole place is filled with amazing bargains and curiosities.

If you're feeling brave, eat in the food court. Depending on where you order from, you may find yourself pointing at menu photos and holding up a number of fingers to get your point across. Ken and I have a favourite dish (some kind of savoury fried rice gluten squares), and we have never learned the name of it. Our receipt is printed in Chinese characters. Mmmm.... rice gluten. I bet you're all jealous.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

We're here and we're winning! (sort of)

The Canadian dollar is beating the U.S. dollar for the first time since nineteen-eighty-something. Yes, I said "beating"! We are winning the dollar race, do you hear? Neener neener, nyah nyah nyah!

Except, financial people keep interrupting my gloating with their pessimism. "A high dollar is bad for the economy!" they warn. "The U.S. is going to stop importing our stuff! Our manufacturing industry will suffer!" (Canada has a manufacturing industry? Wow, really? Because I rarely see the words "made in Canada" on anything in our stores. But I digress.)

Anyway, I'm thinking that it's time for the Canadian and the U.S. eonomies to re-think their relationship. They need to have A Talk. One of those talks that goes on until at least 4 am, where all the ugly truths come out. Because this sounds an awful lot like one of those bad relationships where she (for the sake of argument) can't dress up too nicely, or seem confident, because he's jealous and needs to keep her down to feel good about himself.

"You think you're worth $1.06 of me?" accuses the American dollar. "Oh yeah? You're putting your cold nose up in the air like that? Bitch! You'll see what happens. You'll come crawling back to me in a week, begging me to buy your exports. Then I'll push your government around a bit, just to prove that I can."

That's what it's like to be Canadian. We have the whole upper half of the North American continent, but a lot of Americans don't even know that we exist. One time, in Texas, my grandfather stopped at a gas station to fuel up. Noticing his accent, the attendant asked him where he was from. "Canada," said my grandfather. "Oh," drawled the attendant, with a friendly smile, " and what state is that in?"

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Because it's only going to get colder

How is it that some girls can stand to walk around bare-legged all winter? How can they tolerate frigid winds blowing down their low-cut sweaters?

I was all set to write about how stupid it is for these girls to dress so inadequately, but the truth is that I'm jealous. Very jealous! Because I'm always the first person to need a sweater, to want my slippers, to desire an extra blanket. You would not believe what I consider to be "earmuff weather". You would laugh. I am ashamed.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

The Least Jewish Jew

Most days, I don't think about being Jewish. When I was growing up, what it meant to me was occasional family dinners, during which the men recited prayers in Hebrew (which I didn't understand). It meant that there were a lot of rules in my grandparents' home that I often broke unintentionally, and then felt embarrassed. It meant being different in a way that I didn't really understand, and always being on the periphery of Christmas and other holidays.

Today, I still can't fully articulate what it means to me to be Jewish. I don't follow the religion. I'm not involved in the politics of Israel. I don't speak Hebrew or Yiddish, and I never went to any special Jewish school. I'm Jewish by default because my parents are.

I know that being Jewish means many different things to many different people, and that there are lots of Jews who are overwhelmingly positive about their identity and experiences. Within my own family there is every shade of Jew, from ultra-orthodox to... well, to me I guess. I'm the least Jewish Jew in my extended family. It really leaves me feeling like I don't fit in anywhere, neither with my supposed ethnic group, nor with any other group.

But hey, that's me. I'm just not a fitter-inner. So instead of making myself crazy with it, I just enjoy the best of both worlds. I love Christmas! Need someone to decorate your tree who's not totally jaded about it? Call me up! I also love Hanukah, however you chose to spell it. Want someone to sing the Hebrew Hanukah song while you light the candles? I don't know what the words mean, but I have all the syllables memorized, and I get it almost right. Heck, life's too short. Forget about having an identity crisis. I just want to celebrate ALL the holidays.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Rinse and Spit

Today's highlight: scaling.

I'm considering writing a letter of complaint to my dentist regarding his hygenist. I'm pretty sure that she carved her name into my gums with her pointy tools, several times, on each available surface. If I can just fit my digital camera inside my mouth, I'll have undeniable proof.

Also, while I appreciate the advantages of having my teeth cleaned with a high-speed water jet instead of abrasive pumice paste, I do feel that there is still room for improvement with this technology. Specifically, someone needs to invent a way to make it silent, or maybe introduce sweet and soothing sounds, like wind chimes in an evening breeze. Because while I'm trying to be cool about having my gums needled by pin-sharp blasts of water, the last thing I want to be listening to is the frantic death-squeals of one hundred thousand hyper-sonic guinea pigs.

That's, like, really irritating. Especially after 20 minutes or more.

So if you are a dental tool innovator, I would appreciate if you would get on that one pronto. Why not start tonight? And make sure you've got it finished and sold to my dentist before my next appointment, okay?

Monday, November 5, 2007


My hat is off to the talented salesgirls at Jean Machine. One in particular saved me, yesterday, from giving up in frustration.

I doubt that there is any woman over the age of 16 who enjoys shopping for jeans. But when the jeans you own are as washed-out and baggy-assed as mine were, you just have to bite the bullet and go for it.

One of the things I like least about the experience is the overwhelming choice. There are about ten zillion styles of jeans out there and THEY ALL LOOK THE SAME! At least, they do when they're just sitting on a shelf or hanging on a rack. There are often some helpful tags attached, with symbols or a list of style features, which I can sometimes interpret, if I don't lose patience after the first two minutes of browsing. And what size am I? God help me; I have no idea. The pants in my closet range all over the map. Do I have the patience to try on three different pairs until I find the right size. NO!

So I have to send a shout-out to the lovely Librarian of Jeans, a 21-year-old salesgirl who interpreted the jean version of the Dewey decimal system for me and did all the hard work. She wrestled the jeans off the jam-packed racks; she knew which fit loose and which fit tight; she didn't lose patience with me when, after trying on half-a-dozen pairs of skinny jeans I changed my mind and decided I wanted boot-cut after all. (I'll pass along this tip: if you are old enough to remember wearing the skinny jean in high school, you probably shouldn't go back to them now. Even if you can struggle into them, that doesn't mean you should be wearing them. Unless you're like, a supermodel, or something.)

I ended up buying a style called "Daredevil", because they are "Dangerously Low Cut". I think they'll do just fine. As long as I never have to bend over, sit down, or squat while I'm wearing them. And that's what hot jeans are all about! Hurray!

Sunday, November 4, 2007

No Kidding

I am 35 years old, in a stable relationship, with no children and with no plans for children. People often ask me: why?

To the best of my knowledge, I could conceive if I wanted to. And there is a part of me that desperately would love to raise a family. The miracle of new life, the joys of first smiles and first steps - who can resist the warmth of those glowing moments? Kids can be super-awesome: spontaneous, loving, and bursting with sunshiney energy.

The thing is, you need an awful lot of resources to raise a kid. Physical, financial, and emotional resources. And, after years of agonizing indecision, I finally concluded that I do not personally have the resources to raise a child in a way that would be truly beneficial to the child, to myself, and to the world at large. A lot of people don't enjoy their children much, and I didn't want to become one of them.

I had the kind of childhood to which withdrawal was a natural response. I didn't get the love and emotional support that kids need. I had to keep a sharp eye on the grownups and try to please them or disappear much of the time. Then I got married and took those same patterns into my first marriage. I finally moved out on my own when I was 28. Then I had a few years of desperate and almost deadly depressions as I tried to sort myself out.

I'm finally happy with myself and my life. I'm still learning to support myself emotionally: to not be scared all the time and not to make myself disappear. There are little challenges each day, and I feel proud when I can handle them all. Things that would be small to an average person can exhaust me. Raising a child is a monumental task even for someone who is relatively emotionally healthy; I don't believe that I could enjoy the challenge or cope with it well enough. I suspect we'd all be miserable.

My husband Ken, let's just say that he has his own story, and his bottom line is the same.

I read a lot of blogs written by women my age who are raising children, because I want to understand what their lives are like. I am fascinated by their stories. After ten years of longings and indecision, I finally feel at peace with my choice. I have a lot of respect for the parents out there who are putting their hearts and souls into loving their kids. And for the responsible non-parents. Courage and love to all of us on our chosen paths!

Friday, November 2, 2007

At least the delivery guy was cute

Today I experienced what may be the ultimate claustrophobic nightmare: getting trapped in an elevator.

OK, well, at least I THOUGHT that I was trapped in the elevator, for like, almost two whole minutes. Or was it hours? It felt like hours.

I almost never get into the dodgy elevators at work. I take the stairs instead. Old as the hills are these elevators. They rattle and thunk, and do unreliable things like stopping with four inches difference between the elevator floor and the floor of the corridor. IF you do, foolishly, call the elevator, once the doors are open, there's always just enough time for everyone in the elevator to get out, and then the doors close in your face. If you try to hold them open, the elevator starts yelling at you and slowly, mercilessly pushes the door closed.

Today I had to get into one of the elevators to show a delivery guy how to put it on service. I had been given instructions on how to do this, but had never actually done it before. While I searched for the switch, the door started closing. I stuck my foot out to stop it, and immediately the loud, whining alarm started buzzing while the door did it's "overpowering the measly strength of humans" bit. So I took my foot back.

The doors shut. Neither I nor Delivery Guy pressed any buttons. The elevator started moving, on its own. It went up a few floors. Stayed there. The doors remained firmly shut. Went down a few floors. Paused. No opening. Went up a few floors. Still no opportunity to exit was offered. Almost like it was toying with us... like it had PLANS for us that involved lots of slow, elevatorish torture. Up. Down. MWAhahahahahah!

I was flooded by a huge wave of terrified helplessness. The evil elevator had us in its maw! Nothing could help us! We were TRAPPED! We might die here! My adrenal glands turned themselves inside out. All the blood in my body rushed to my face, or away from my face, or maybe both at the same time.

Then it occured to me to press the button for my floor. The elevator moved, stopped, and then after what seemed like an interminable delay, opened its doors. I stumbled out into the corridor. Never has that tiled, old, orange-painted corridor been so dear to me.

If anyone asks, I'm taking the stairs for the cardio benefits, okay?

Wednesday, October 24, 2007



Me: We're getting low on supplies here at the office where I work. Better place an order with the office supplies supplier.

*I dial the 1-800 number to the office supplies order desk*

Me: Doo de doo... What am I going to have for lunch today? Oh, here's the automated answer service.

*I prepare to Press 1 for Service In English*

Phone: [in a sultry, seductive female voice] "Hi there, all you hot, horny guys! Are you ready for sexy, steamy chat? Get ready for [etc.]"

Me: Wha..? What the?! Why is the office supplies store selling porn chat? Wait a minute now...

*sound of gears creaking and churning with painful slowness*

Me: Oh! I've dialed the wrong number! Obviously I called a smutty phone sex line by mistake! Tee hee!

*I hang up*

*I go and explain to the accounting department that there might be an unusual charge on this month's phone bill.*