Friday, February 29, 2008

Gallery of the Strange

Happy Leap Day!

Officially this is a day off for all Blog365 participants, but I'm too proud of my unbroken posting streak to skip today. And besides, I won't get another chance to date a post February 29th for another four years. It'd be like missing Halley's comet.

In honour of this unusual day, I present to you a brief sampling of strangeness.

The World's Ugliest Dog of 2007:

and the Vegetable Orchestra:
(This one's a little slow in places. I recommend fast-forwarding a bit to get a sampling of the various sections.)

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Type A to Type B

I used to be incredibly goal-oriented. It was my way of coping with a mostly miserable childhood. I survived by focusing all my attention on where I'd like to be in the future. Even when I only had small change to put in my piggy bank, in grade school, I was already saving up to move out.

I took the same approach to school. I was extremely self-disciplined, always putting off pleasurable activities until all my studying was done. I came first or second in my class all the time. I thought hard work would ensure that I could achieve approval, love, money, and a glamorous lifestyle.

But things didn't turn out how I'd envisioned. I didn't have the greatest social skills, nor a good understanding of myself. Starting from the age of 15, I had some disastrous experiences with boys. My first serious love affair ended badly, leaving me in a depression. Still, I soldiered on, gamely pursuing my agenda.

I put in 200% effort. And yet each of my dreams ended in bitter disappointment. My determination to become an engineer ended with disillusionment. Several other careers went down in flames, consecutively. My marriage, of which I had been so proud initially, also crumbled in my hands until I felt I must leave or I would lose my mind. (I'm not exaggerating. I actually had episodes of spontaneous, uncontrollable screaming because of the stress. I literally thought I was going crazy.)

At that point, nothing was working for me. I spent hours weeping every day. The dynamics of my marriage seemed unfixable. My job was driving me nuts. So I took one last big leap of faith and left my ex, moved out on my own for the first time, and left my job all within a period of a few weeks. Logically I thought it made sense to change everything at once and go for a fresh start.

Initially I got a high from the empowerment involved in making all these changes, and it seemed that my plan was working.

However, within the following year, I was laid off from the great new job I'd found. I had a breast cancer scare, around the same time that my therapist suddenly dropped all her clients because she'd been diagnosed with breast cancer. I don't mean that I imagined I'd found a lump because of my therapist. My doctor found it and I had to have a biopsy. I thought I might be dying.

A grey cloud descended. One symptom of the deep depression I sank into was an inability to imagine the future. I could barely get through one hour at a time, even five minutes at a time, sometimes. How could I even think of tomorrow? The idea of having goals was completely perplexing.

I stayed in that one depression for around two years. Since then, I have a tendency to sink into the greyness when things get tough. I recovered my ability to enjoy life, on good days. The grey fog is not the permanent-seeming feature it once was. But I never recovered my ability to have goals, or dreams. I have given up on trying to write the next chapter of my story, because all my efforts to do so only ever resulted in bitter failures.

Now I live as best I can day to day, following my heart and my genuine interests. My life progresses, but not because I planned it. In a way, I'm living like a child, growing because I can't help but grow. I figure that if I live each day with as much integrity as I can muster, I'll be headed in the right direction even if I don't know where I'll end up. And honestly, I'm as happy as I've ever been in my adult life since I started living this way.

What about you? Do you live for your dreams and goals? Or are you living in the moment too?

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Scary things

I had the amazing luck to snap this picture of a heroic young girl, moments after she had performed an emergency appendectomy on her friend in a public washroom.

Just kidding!

For whatever reason, she was colouring her hair in the ladies room at the College Park Mall. When I saw the "bloody" surgical gloves I was momentarily horrified. Then I figured out what was going on. She obligingly let me take her photo.

Also, I had a scary dream last night. Remember my new pyjamas? Last night I went to bed wearing the red pair. I have never before felt so stylish on my way to bed. But I digress...

So I went to bed wearing the red pyjamas. Then I dreamed that I woke up wearing the pink ones. This may seem like no big deal, but I got really upset. I was like: Someone changed my pyjamas while I was sleeping! Who could have done that? Under any normal circumstances, it wouldn't have been possible without waking me up. There's only one explanation. Aliens abducted me in my sleep and changed my pyjamas while I was helpless in their grasp!

I mean, that's really upsetting stuff, right?

Or is that the lamest nightmare you've ever heard?

Monday, February 25, 2008

My Kind of Fast Food

When I'm too lazy to cook, my fallback is the noodle joint around the corner. You can get a bowl of wontons, noodles and broth there for an even $4. A plate of mystery "veggie" with oyster sauce is $2. That's all it says on the menu: "veggie". It's some type of dark, leafy green.

Beside the dirt cheap menu, the coolest thing about the restaurant is the hot-water dispenser built into each table. There's a little spout that sticks out of the tabletop. Press a plastic lever, and you can fill your teacup as many times as you like. You get one free tea bag and a plastic, Asian-style tea cup as part of your place setting.

This means that the tables are immobile, since each one has plumbing running up the central supporting leg. It's a good thing, actually. The tables are always perfectly spaced and lined up, and none of them wobbles.

The building is owned or leased by a young couple. He runs the restaurant; she's an optician and sells glasses from the second floor. Last time I spoke to him, their second child was due to arrive anytime. That's probably why he wasn't there last night. I hope he has baby pictures to show off next time I'm there.

What's your fallback when you're too lazy or busy to cook?

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Interior Design Show 2008

Guess where I was yesterday? Here are some photos from the show. I'd love to get your opinions on these.

This is the first thing I saw when we entered the show:

Sometimes I don't get designers. What's the point of having chairs hanging from the walls? I guess it's one of those arty things that I can't hope to understand. There was a lot of that type of thing at this show.

Then again, there was also some really cool stuff. Like this wacky furniture from Alaine Belanger.

The bent-over chest of drawers was actually functional. The drawers on the front were fake. The side panel on the left flipped down, and there were three level shelves on the inside. The craftsmanship on these pieces was excellent. If only I had around $10,000 lying around so that I could buy a couple of pieces of his furniture...

There was also Sorrentino Sanche who made chests of drawers that actually had chests, as in boobs. There were all manner of ladies represented, but this big red dame was my favourite.

These hand-blown glass lamps: I would like a few of them when I get my mansion.

In the plumbing department, I did not see anything that impressed me. The bathroom and kitchens presented at the show were minimalist to the point of sterility. I don't want my kitchen to look like a morgue, than you very much.

Two very fashionista men passed me as I was leaving one of these displays, and I overheard one say to the other:

"I am so sick of brushed steel!"

Hurray! You and me both, brutha. I like my kitchens and bathrooms to be inspired by tradition. (At least the imaginary ones I design in my head, considering I've never renovated in my own home.)

I definitely don't want my faucet to look like one of those little sinks you spit into at the dentist:

So, there you go. You're all updated on the latest trends in interior design. What do you think?

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Post Number 111

Don't ask me what happened at post 100. I must have had an attack of apathy that day. "Meh, Post 100... everyone has 100 posts. Who cares?" Anyway, celebrating post # 111 is just as good. Hurray! I made it this far!

This also marks my 61st consecutive daily post. I've been daily since December 25, 2007. How much longer can I go on? Only time will tell.

My step-dad is back in town. Good news - he didn't get eaten by alligators. He invited Ken and I out for dinner again, but this time he's not trying to include my mom. That's a relief. I guess the reality of the situation finally sank in.

My mom is still bravely carrying on. She's now comfortable enough on her computer to be sending me e-mails. I can't tell you how shocking it is for me to receive e-mail from my mom. She's not even entirely comfortable operating a DVD player, so it's amazing that she's managed to learn Outlook. I'm proud of her.

Tinker and The Dude (my mom's cats) continue to misbehave in spectacular fashion. Last week one of them climbed up to the shelf that she'd had specially installed to keep her houseplants out of the reach of Bad Kitty Paws, and SMASH! Her favourite ceramic flowerpot was in pieces on the floor. Earth flew everywhere - down the back of a cabinet, and all over her kitchen countertop. It took her ages to tidy up.

Tinker (a.k.a. Stinker, in my books) has developed an oral fixation. He chews everything. He's gnawed through 2 phone cords. He took a chunk of wood off a carved, antique table. The other day she forgot to hide the rubber band from her daily newspaper, and he ate half of it before she realized what was going on. And last night she caught him nibbling at the filler between the wooden slats of her hardwood bedroom floor.

There is food in your dish, Stinker. Eat that, and leave my mom's stuff alone! You're driving her to distraction. Bad cat!

Friday, February 22, 2008


This piece is a sequel to yesterday's post, Falling.

I never intended to become a climber. My ex got into it first, loved it, nagged at me endlessly to go, and yet I had no interest in the idea. I expected climbing to be scary, difficult, tiring, and generally unpleasant.

Eventually I gave in to the nagging. I was like "Fine, I'll go - ONCE". The unspoken other half of that sentence was "... so that I can prove this climbing business is not for me, and then you'll shut up about it and leave me alone." I showed up at the gym feeling sulky, ready to hate every second of it. But he was right. One lesson, and I was hooked.

I started going to the climbing gym two or three times a week. If you're serious about making progress, you have to build up your strength. Within a few months, I put so much new muscle onto my upper body that I grew out of my fitted shirts. My pencil arms got ripped. I was a mini Incredible Hulk girl, minus the green.

Climbing requires grace, balance, focus, and endurance. You can't just barge up a wall. You have to plan your route. Even your power moves have to be controlled. You also have to know how to rest on the wall, so that you don't exhaust your strength. Shake out your arms one at a time. Breathe. Reach back into your chalk bag and take care of those sweaty palms. Then make your next move.

The worst fall I ever had at the gym was from this crazy route that went up and across the ceiling. It wasn't a flat ceiling- it was a series of angles, built to mimic the inside of a cave, with holds attached. At the highest point it was around 45 feet up. Terrifying! I had been climbing for two years, but I had never climbed the ceiling route. I hated angled walls because there was too much swing and spin in the harness if you came off. It made me dizzy.

A bunch of climber friends got on my case one day and started pushing me to do the route. I didn't want to, but I felt I had to prove myself to them. I tried to ignore the butterflies in my stomach. I got halfway across the roof when I grabbed for a handhold and missed. I yelled "FALLING!" and plunged headfirst.

Because I was climbing scared, I was unfocused and hadn't properly kept the safety rope clear of my feet. When I fell, my right leg got tangled and I ended up hanging from it. I was lowered to the ground with that leg stuck in the air, upside down. I had a spiral bruise up my thigh for weeks.

I was lucky I wasn't hurt worse. Ken was on the other end of the rope, and he caught me properly. I wouldn't have trusted anyone else as my partner. If some joker was on the other end, not paying attention, I seriously could have broken my neck.

I'd go back to climbing if a gym ever opened in my neighbourhood. There are only three good gyms in the city, and they're all really far away from where I live now. If someone opened a serious gym, not just for kids' birthday parties, but like my old one with 60 foot climbs, clean holds, and challenging routes, I'd be in like Flynn. I just wouldn't climb the ceiling.

Thursday, February 21, 2008


I was 30 feet up, clinging to the wall with only my fingertips, my toes jammed into a couple of crevices just big enough to accommodate them. There was nothing between me and the floor but thin air. A spider girl, I had scuttled up to my perch using all my cunning and all my strength. The hard part was done. Now all I had to do was let go, and fall.

A crowd of people were gathered around to watch. This was a rite of passage at the climbing gym. It was the end of the Lead Climbing course, where every student must practice falling. Twice.

Yes, the floor was padded. Sure, I was wearing a harness. But the rope from my harness was slack, and the last clip that it passed through, attached to the wall, was several feet below me. In Sport Climbing, the safety rope runs through an anchor on the ceiling, so that the climber is like a yo-yo on a string. You can go up and down, but as long as your partner has diligently taken up all the slack in the rope, you can let go of the wall and sit dangling in your harness anytime you like.

I trusted my harness and my climbing partners so much by this point that it was nothing for me to take a rest at the top of the highest climb, swaying 60 feet up above the floor.

Lead Climbing is a different story. You bring the rope up with you, "clipping in" to anchors on the wall as you climb. If you're five feet above your last anchor when you fall, you'll drop ten feet before the rope catches you. That's a long way. Picture the yo-yo, suspended five inches above the finger it's tied to. Now drop it. See how it falls? See it swing?

And that's why you have to practice falling. An inexperienced climber will instinctively push themselves away from the rock as they fall, but the problem is that the rope will pull them back in again on the downswing. When you're swinging back in towards the wall, your next instinct will be to put out a hand or foot to slow yourself down. Lots of climbers get broken wrists and injured ankles that way.

You have to be able to just... let go. Without panic. Without pushing away. Just let go. And fall straight down.

How much did I trust the instructor who was holding the other end of my safety rope? At that moment, I had to trust him with my life.

As you're letting go, you yell out "FALLING!", to give your partner some slight warning that you need a catch.

I'd watched the Lead Climbing course many times before I took it myself. Here's how it usually played out. One by one, the participants would chalk their sweating hands, and climb with rubber legs up to the 30 foot mark. They all tried to look brave, especially the guys, but you could tell they were scared shitless. Then they'd stick to that wall like glue. It was so hard to let go. Some would yell FALLING! and then there would be a loooong delay, before they could actually uncurl their frightened fingers from the rock. The crowd below savoured every moment of suspense.

As I prepared for the course, I swore that I would not get myself glued to the wall. I would not show fear. I would go balls out. I wanted to out-jock the cockiest jocks in the gym.

During the weeks leading up to the course, I visualized the moment of falling over and over. I visualized it as I fell asleep at night. I already knew how it would feel when my hands relaxed and let go of the rock. I felt the harness catch me again and again. I knew I was safe.

I was 30 feet up in the air, with nothing beneath me but the floor, and a circle of faces, watching gleefully. I looked straight ahead, at my hands. I called FALLING!, and as my teeth closed on the back edge of the "G", I dropped.

The 20 feet of free-fall put every roller coaster I've ever ridden to shame. In the last ten feet, the instructor executed a perfectly controlled catch, slowing me until I stopped with my toes two inches above the mats.

Then he sent me back up the wall to do it again.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

123 meme

Aurora has posted the 123 Meme, and let it be known that self-tagging is voluntary. Tag! I'm it.

1. Pick up the nearest book (of at least 123 pages).
2. Open the book to page 123.
3. Find the fifth sentence.
4. Post the next three sentences.
5. Tag five people.

"It's a beauty," I said. Calvin was already bunching up newspaper to start the first fire. We gathered some wood and then I threw in a match. The oil residue burned in blue swirls deep in the barrel, and yellow and orange sparks rose into the sky like a hundred new stars.

* * *

I haven't actually gotten to p. 123 in this book yet. I'm on p. 51 as of this morning. The book is: Down To This: Squalor and Splendour in a Big-City Shantytown , by Shaughnessy Bishop-Stall. It's a non-fiction account of a year that he spent living as a homeless person in Toronto.

There used to be 27 acres of privately owned land just south of downtown Toronto, at the edge of Lake Ontario, where squatters built shacks and lean-to's from discarded building materials and formed a sort of community. It was called Tent City.

Bishop-Stall ends up there in December 2001 with some army-surplus gear, a notebook, pens, and very little else. It's unclear how pre-planned his mission is. He's not there purely from journalistic curiosity. He's freshly wounded by a terrible heartbreak, although all we are told of his lover is that she haunts his dreams. He escapes into this strange subculture and keeps a journal.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who would like to be reminded of how fortunate they are. Reading of Bishop-Stall's efforts to stay warm and get some sleep in an unheated, leaky shack in December reminds me how much I take shelter for granted.

As the days go by, Bishop-Stall meets the other residents of Tent City, like Claudette, who keeps a raccoon as a pet, and Randy, who chugs alcohol like Popeye gulps spinach. There's also a guy called Sluggo. I only mention him because I think "Sluggo" is such a great hobo name.

If anyone's interested, maybe I'll have some kind of contest or raffle, and mail this book to the winner when I've finished reading it. If only one person is interested: you win!

As for step #5, I'm too lazy. Anyone who wants to do this - you're It next. Go!

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

The Queen

I think it's pretty neat that Canada has a Queen. Although she doesn't interfere at all with Canadian politics, she's still officially our monarch. Here she is, the lovely Queen Elizabeth II.

You may be more familiar with her as the Queen of England (which is where she lives, at Buckingham Palace, in London), however she is in fact the Queen of 16 countries, known as the Commonwealth realms.

I recently saw a TV documentary showing how the Queen keeps herself busy from day to day. For starters, she threw a party for a bunch of visiting dignitaries at the Palace. I was amazed to learn that Buckingham Palace contains 775 rooms and covers 828,818 square feet of floor space. It seriously doesn't look that big in the photos I've seen.

The State Ballroom, where all the major shindigs go down, is 7,000 square feet. That is approximately 7 times the size of my entire home. Can you imagine? I'm glad I'm not responsible for vacuuming that carpet. I would demand a ride-on Hoover.

The cameras went down to the kitchens to view the preparations for the banquet. One of the chefs pointed out platters of fruit that were all set to be laid out on the tables.

"Every piece of fruit is polished," he said. "Every leaf is polished. There may be no blemishes."

The fruit was so perfect it looked fake. The grapes didn't have any of that mysterious white dust that often coats grape skins. I wondered what it's like polishing the Queen's fruit for a living. Is it supremely boring, or is there someone who derives deep and lasting satisfaction from that job?

When the ballroom was prepared, the Queen was brought in to do an inspection. There were seven nervous florists clustered in a corner, awaiting the Queen's judgement on their flower arrangments. If the Queen was displeased with their work, they would be required to be quick like bunnies and produce something more to her liking. Lucky for them, she gave her approval.

Finally, the wait staff were all gathered together for a final pre-banquet debriefing. Rules abounded. No more than two drinks on a tray at any time. The blue light means have your dishes in hand and wait at your station. The green light means place the dishes on the table. The head of the serving staff gave this final, strict advice: "Don't be nervous. Just relax and try to enjoy yourself!" Or the Queen will chop off your head.

The servers looked completely terrified.

What do you think? Would you like to have a Palace of your own? Or do you prefer the life you have? If you were King or Queen, what indulgences would you demand?

Monday, February 18, 2008


My father's father celebrated his 95th birthday this weekend. (This is my biological family, nothing to do with my step-dad.) When I saw him yesterday he was in fine form, looking nowhere near ready to shuffle off this mortal coil.

My Buby and Zaidy have a one-bedroom apartment in an assisted-living facility called The Terrace. They have a cleaning service; one meal per day is provided to them in the communal dining room (they have a kitchenette for the other meals); and almost everything they could want or need is available on the premises. In fact, it's so comfortable and convenient that Ken and I are tempted to move in.

You can access all of these things without leaving the building: banking services, a general store, the hairdresser, the dentist, a health clinic, a library, a swimming pool, a gym, two synagogues (mild and hardcore), an arts-and-crafts room, a greenhouse complete with chirping songbirds, and a ton of on-site programs, lectures, parties, and clubs. So, does anyone else want to move in with us? Sounds pretty good, doesn't it?

OK, so it's not exactly Club Med. If you're in your early 80's here, you're still young, just one of the new kids. But if you have to end up somewhere near the end of your life, better here than a smelly nursing home. Relatively speaking, the joint is jumping.

It works well for my grandparents. My Buby, 5 feet tall and fiercely independent, is over 90 now but hasn't slowed down one bit. Her mind is as sharp as a tack and she moves quickly. First thing when I walk through the door, she always throws her arms around my neck and squeezes hard. Half-hug, half-wrestling hold. That's how she rolls. My Zaidy requires constant care, but even with the option of a long-term care facility just a block away, she won't give him up. Even though it would mean she could get out more. They are completely devoted to each other.

My Zaidy's brain has been slowly disorganizing itself over the years. Sometimes he seems quite lucid, but mostly he gets lost in the grey space between now and his memories. Yesterday he kept asking after my father, Isaac the hat maker. Isaac is some long-dead relative I've never heard of. My Buby gently corrects him each time.

She has to hide his shoes at night, lest he go wandering while she's asleep. One time he got half-way across the city on his own, with no money. We figure that well-meaning people must have given him lifts, and/or the streetcar driver didn't argue when he couldn't pay the fare. The police found him standing on a street corner downtown. He used to own an auto service station on that corner, 50 years ago. It's been long since torn down. He knew exactly where he was going, in space. It was in time that he got lost.

I'm glad he stuck around in the land of the living for one more year. He gazes at me with his bright, ice-blue eyes, and tells me "you can't buy good feelings with people". Sometimes he knows exactly who I am, and he sings the same song we used to sing together when I was a little girl and he was driving me home from their house. Yeah, you can't buy that.

My Zaidy says "They're gonna have to shoot me!" I think that means he's planning on hanging around until we're ready to celebrate his 96th.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

I luvs me some flannel

Yesterday was quite simply a happy day. For the first time in months, the sun shone in Toronto AND the temperature was relatively mild. For the first time in months, I actually felt a spontaneous urge to leave my home and go exploring outside.

I had a mission in mind. This week, my favourite pink, flannel nightgown disintegrated. First the buttons began popping off, and then, when I rolled over in the middle of the night, there was a dramatic ripping sound,


and the fabric at the right shoulder gave out completely.

I'm sorry to say goodbye to this nightgown. It's so old that I can't remember where or when I got it. The print is of cartoon sheep jumping over fences. In between lines of leaping sheep, it says "Count the sheep, Go to sleep, 1,2,3,4..." Isn't that sweet? I may shed a tear or two as I slice it up for rags.

(I'll pause here for a moment to let the less sentimental among my readers recover. I should have warned you that I might be triggering your gag reflex.)

Ken and I bundled up in our parkas and set off for The Great Downtown to shop for a replacement. Our destination was The Bay, currently the biggest and oldest department store in Canada. On our way down there we strolled along Yonge St. (Toronto's central thoroughfare, lined with interesting retail and always excellent for people-watching).

As we walked, I was struck by how many beautiful people were out on the streets. Everyone seemed energetic, healthy, and colourful. Eventually it struck me: it was the effect of seeing people lit by direct sunlight for the first time since October 2007. Yes, it's been that gloomy here and I've been indoors that much. S-U-N, you say? No, I'm afraid I don't remember... How do you pronounce it again?

We made our way to The Bay, and Ken, ever the good sport, came up to the Ladies Lingerie department and held both our coats while I browsed endless racks of sleepwear. In the end I got a great deal: I picked up two pairs of cotton, flannel P.J.'s, each with a bonus pair of matching fuzzy socks, for $11.99 each. Sweet! And they're cute, too:

Oooooh, look at the details....

Sorry guys, just one more and then the shopping torture will be complete:

As we we left the store, I gloated euphorically over the bargains I had found. I said to Ken:

See! That's why it's best to shop at the end of the season. They always have amazing sales.

Ken: What season? The sleeping season? People sleep all year round!

Well, I guess he has a point. Considering he sleeps in his boxer shorts, it doesn't make a lot of sense to him that I have winter pyjamas and summer pyjamas. Such is the simplified life of men.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Parent Divorce Update

My step-dad has a new crib now. He and his woman are renting a condo in Florida for the remainder of the winter. He came up to Toronto for a few days on business this week. My mom let him stay at the house so that he would have a chance to go through his mail, which has been piling up for weeks.

She says it's hard when he comes and goes like this. Every time he leaves, she feels the pain of losing him all over again. She always makes plans so that she's not in the house when he re-packs his suitcase and rolls out, so that she doesn't have to say goodbye yet again.

So. What did he do on Wednesday before he locked up and flew back to his new Florida love nest?

He left her a Valentine's Day card on the mantel.

Poor mom. Yeah. Happy Freaking Valentine's day. "I'll always love you. Let's be friends, when I'm not off bonking my new gal pal." He really wants to have his cake and eat it too.

I said to her: "Look. I'll call him and tell him he has to be really mean to you, so that you can be glad to see him go." No more of that mushy stuff. When he re-declares his love for her as he's got one foot out the door on the way to the airport, it just drives her crazy.

I had a chance to talk to him on the phone today. He was on his cellphone and driving at the same time, as usual. We were talking about this and that, when I heard another voice, muffled, at his end. It must be The Woman. I heard his muffled reply, and then he came back to me.

Him: We're just on the highway. There's nothing on either side of us for miles but swamps full of alligators. Not even rest stop. I think we're a little lost.

Me: Uh, wow.

Him (giggling a bit): Well, I guess I'd better go. I have to figure out where we are. I'll talk to you tomorrow, if the alligators don't get us.

Me: Okay. Drive real fast now, so the alligators can't catch you!

Him (laughing): Alright, dear. I'll talk to you soon.

That's typical step-dad: getting lost, not taking it seriously, and running into trouble with dangerous animals. He'd better hope that his new gal has a high tolerance for shenanigans. She ain't seen nothin' yet.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Broken Telephone

Yesterday I had this conversation with a prospective customer.

Her: Where are you located?

Me: We're near the intersection of [this road] and [that road].

Her: Oh! I know that neighbourhood! Are you across the street?

Me: *blink* *blink*

I wanted to say "across the street from what?" but I couldn't find a way to do it without sounding like a smart ass, so I just gave up and laughed.

That reminds me of the time another customer said the following to me over the phone:

Him: Oh, honey, I don't have any teeth! I'm a woman's dream!

I can't give you the context of that one without revealing where I work, so you'll just have to keep yourselves up late tonight trying to figure it out.

If anyone can figure out how a 50-something-year-old man with no teeth could be a woman's dream, feel free to speculate in the comments. It's a no-brainer why a toothless woman would be appealing to men, sure, but I don't think that one plays the same both ways.

Whatever the answer, that guy got himself totally worked up with that remark. I thought I'd never get him off the phone. I guess he thought that we were flirting. Ha! Ha. Ha ha ha.

Only one man has ever flirted with me successfully over the phone while I was at work. That was ten years ago, when I was taking calls at a mail order company. I was in Toronto. He was in Calgary. We were around 1700 miles apart, as the crow flies.

Him (drawling): Yer soundin' mighty purty today, ma'am.

Then I heard him blush. Of course I was picturing a sweet cowboy in tight jeans, watching me from under the rim of his stetson, possibly chewing on a stalk of wheat. I was just about ready to jump on a plane to Calgary to go to the county square-dance with him. But I guess he lost his nerve because he didn't get around to inviting me.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Classes with Maria

A few years ago, I took a couple of writing classes taught by a woman called Maria.

The beginner's class, once per week for 8 weeks, was all about accessing our creativity. The first day she brought out a strange assortment of foods and laid them on the shared table we were sitting at.

"Everyone eat a roasted chick pea!" she commanded. We did.

"Now, if that taste was a sound, what sound would it be? Quick, don't think too hard about it, just write about that sound!"

I have no recollection of what I wrote at that moment. Kind of makes me wish I'd kept my notes.

Next, she passed around a plastic tub of plain tofu.

"Stick your fingers in the tofu!" she commanded. "If that feeling was a painting, what would it look like? Write about it!"

A lot of the class was like that, just doing weird stuff to jostle our brains until they jumped out of the rut of rationality and went skittering off into uncharted territory.

"Take off your socks!" she commanded. "Now try to snap your toes! Use your big toe and the next toe, like you're snapping your fingers but with your toes." And then we'd be asked to write something from the point of view of our toes.

We also did slightly more conventional things. I liked the exercise where we wrote a descriptive sentence in large print on a blank sheet of paper. Then we cut up the paper so that each word was on its own paper scrap, and re-arranged the words to make found poems. Then we mixed everyone's words together and made a sort of story. That was good fun.

I had such a good experience in the beginner's class that I decided to carry on to the Writer's Workshop. The point was to bring a creative work in progress to read aloud, and share feedback with the other group members. I didn't have a work in progress, so I decided to start writing a novel just for the heck of it.

Well, the workshop and the beginner's class were like night and day. The workshop was serious. The workshop was structured. There were no games, and everyone kept their socks on. I tried to adjust. I sat up properly in my chair and tried to look pensive. I offered thoughtful comments.

But jeez oh man, the workshop bored me almost to sleep. I'm afraid to say that the novels of my fellow writers fell far short of bestseller material, let alone works of literary genius. I'm not afraid to say that the novel I started sucked the big one. I wasn't inspired, and I've never been much of a fiction writer anyway.

We sat in a small, stuffy room, listening to each author read their work aloud in a droning voice. Sometimes we had to do the same chapters over multiple times, so that the writers could get feedback on their revisions. Eventually it occured to me that I was wasting my time, so I bailed out after the 5th of 8 classes. I just couldn't take any more.

I think I'll just stay a beginner forever.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Anti-nucleic What?

Three years ago, I got sick. On a warm day in late summer, I was out shopping with Ken, and I began to feel very tired. At one point the fatigue hit me so hard that I actually sat down on the floor of the store we were in. Concerned, Ken took me home.

I got into bed as it really started to hit. Waves of pain rolled through me. My whole body ached. I felt wretched.

I took a week off work to recuperate. I didn't know what was wrong. Was it the flu? I had no runny nose, no sore throat, no tummy troubles. Had I been exposed to an allergen? Was it something more serious? I was extremely weak. My joints continued to ache. My hips were so sore that I was unable to sit up in a chair without pain, so I lay on my back for days.

Near the end of my week off, I decided to try going for a walk. I felt around 200 years old. I shuffled the block-and-a-half to the nearest little park, and sat on a wooden bench in the sun. I couldn't lean back, because of the pain when my spine pressed against the wooden back of the bench. So I hunched over instead, and wondered what was wrong with me.

By the end of the week I had improved, but not completely. I went back to work, hoping that my routine would re-energize me. It didn't. I had trouble sitting at my desk for all those hours. One afternoon, frustrated, I pushed my chair aside and kneeled on the carpet - tried typing at my computer that way, just to take the pressure off my aching hips. I don't even remember how people reacted. I was past caring.

Weeks went by. I still wasn't feeling like myself. I was chronically tired and sore. I felt inflammed all over, in my joints, and in my organs, if you can imagine it. It felt like all the soft stuff inside me from my neck down to my groin was tender and out of sorts.

I went to my doctor. He tested me for rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and fibromyalgia. He tested me for West Nile Virus and Lyme disease. He tested me for everything he could think of. The tests all came back negative. Apparently there was nothing wrong with me. Good to know!

Months went by. I started having respiratory symptoms too. Sometimes my sinuses ached for no apparent reason. Sometimes my lungs felt sore. I began to think that I wouldn't be able to carry on working full-time. I began to wonder if I would ever feel healthy again.

Finally, by the following April, I started to feel good again. Gradually, my health returned. Quite some time later, I switched to a new family doctor, and he found that my blood showed significant levels of anti-nucleic antibodies, which is indicative of auto-immune disfunction. He said that this is why I had felt ill for all those months. It was because of stress that my body had attacked itself.

That made sense to me, because I had been fighting depression for around two years before I got sick. I guess eventually it got the better of me.

Sometimes lately, the voice of my Internal Hypochondriac tries to convince me that my symptoms are coming back. If I have aches and pains, or if I'm feeling extra-tired, part of me starts to panic. There has been a lot of stress in my life in the last couple of months, and about half of it has been work stress so I haven't even been able to blog about it.

But I'm fighting the negativity. I will cling to my peace of mind and my enjoyment of life with all the willpower that I can muster. I say "Nay!" to downward spirals and self-fulfilling prophecies. I will persevere.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Things that go "Snorf!" in the night

It's almost miraculous how a person can sleep through their own snores. Ken has given me permission to write about his Blaring Nose-Horn of the Night. Yes I wear earplugs. Sometimes they do the trick, and sometimes nothing can keep out the snores.

I have heard only one story of someone waking themselves up with their own snoring. A friend of mine dreamed that a dog had gotten her pant leg in its teeth. The dog was pulling at her pants and growling menacingly: Grrrr! Grrrr! Grrrr! Grrrr! As she was trying to get away from the dog, she woke herself up and realized that the growling dog was the sound of her own snores.

Ken, on the other hand, is NEVER aware that he's snoring. He can be sawing logs like a lumberjack, and then when I rouse him he'll be all: "What do you mean, wake up? I wasn't asleep!" Meet the amazing Ken, the only man on earth who snores while he's awake AND asleep! I keep promising that I'm going to film him so that he can see and hear for himself, but the video camera is packed away at the back of the closet, and I'm not quite motivated enough to drag it out.

My favourite is when he keeps me awake at night, and then complains to me in the morning. "Wow, you sure were mean to me in your sleep last night! You kept sticking your elbow in my side, like this," (he jabs his elbow at me aggressively) "and going 'Roll Over! Roll Over!'" (He moans the "roll over's" in my desperate please-let-me-get-some-sleep voice.)

Other tricks Ken likes to pull in the night:

1) Steals all the blankets, then shoves them off so that they make a ridge down the middle of the bed, and then sleeps up against that. When I wake up freezing and try to get some blankets back, moans, complains, and yanks them all back.

2) Rolls over onto me so that I become the ridge down the middle of the bed. Complains bitterly when I push him off because he has every right to utilize me as a body pillow.

3) Pulls his pillow over and puts half on top of half of my pillow. This is a trick he usually likes to pull after 6:30 am. On weekdays, no problem, I'm up and in the shower. But if I want to sleep in, look out! I might wake up with a pillow being shoved onto my face. And when I shove it off? Of course, the complaining. "NNNYYYYEEEEERRRRRHHHHH!" Yeah, I know, I'm so mean and selfish. If I really loved you, I'd let you sleep on my face.

Worst case scenario, I end up sleeping on the sofa, which actually isn't so bad. The worst part is getting up in the middle of the night, finding the extra blankets, getting them all set up, etc. I resist, oh how I resist getting up out of my warm bed. It's hard to say how often it comes to that. Probably not more than once or twice a month.

Of course this all has nothing to do with how he is when he's awake. Awake, he's a caring and generous man who will bend over backwards to let me have my way and to make my life easier. Just the other day, he voluntarily stepped into an ankle-deep puddle of icy slush, wearing his dress shoes, to help an old lady across a slippery street. His shoes immediately flooded and he walked all the way home in a snowstorm with freezing, chaffing feet, but it never occurred to him not to help her.

I think I can manage to live with the snoring.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Sunday Night Dinner

I'm relieved to report that the Sunday night dinner was accomplished without drama.

My step-dad took Ken and I out to the same fancy Indian restaurant as last time, where we feasted on fresh naan, rich curries, chicken jalfresi, and garlic shrimp.

The restaurant is called The Kama Sutra. It's a large, almost square space, dim, candle-lit, with wine-red walls; wooden floors stained such a dark brown that they're almost black; and gold-painted moldings and trim. Every table has a pristine, white tablecloth and linen napkins. The wait staff wear black from head to toe. There are a few gold-framed, Indian-themed paintings hanging on the walls, and subtle, traditional Indian music plays in the background.

It's the kind of place that I feel I should dress up for.

It wasn't too busy, which was a nice change from how it's been when we've been there on Friday or Saturday nights.

I have a limited tolerance for noisy restaurants. After a couple of hours, I lose the ability to tune out the ambient noise and focus on the conversation at my table. I start to feel overwhelmed, anxious, and irritable. By that time, everyone else is still contentedly nursing their coffee. I'm dying to leave, but it would be rude to try to rush them, so I always try to hold out as long as possible. I fidget, I do deep breathing, I smile and nod. Then when it's time to put on our coats and go, I'm the first the run out the door.

Last night wasn't like that. We had a very civilized conversation about business, the economy, and politics, as usual. The candle flames flickering on silverware and wine glasses created a cozy atmosphere. Even by the time my chamomile tea was served, I was in no rush to leave.

I was a bit sad, missing my mom, but this is the new normal, and I can get used to it. Life goes on, and there are still many good things to be enjoyed.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

The Daily Dose

It is a happy day at No More Casual Nonchalance. R.E.H. at Ramblings of a Madman has honoured me with this Daily Dose Award. He quoted Cardiogirl to describe the meaning of the award:

The Daily Dose Award is for “all the blogs that you’ve discovered that you can’t possibly live without. They make you laugh, cry, think and feel connected every time you read a post. They give you a thrill as you see them loading into your browser and you get an equally satisfying thrill when you see that they have commented on your blog.”

This is the first time I've gotten an award that's to be passed along, and boy, is it ever tough to choose. I hate to play favourites, because that means others have to be left out. But I feel it would be cowardly to shirk this duty, as a member of the blogging community, so I have chosen three bloggers to pass this award along to.

Jameil at Jameil, Et Cetera: Exercises in Fabulosity is a Daily Dose bursting with energy. She often posts late at night, and I'll read her blog first thing in the morning, to wake me up. Definitely a stimulant!

Maxie at This Is Not My Life is another unmissable Daily Dose. There's something about Maxie that's always bubbly and charismatic, even when she claims she's having a bad day. I'd say that she's a mood enhancer.

The Ex at Ex-Everything has a writing style that I love. She's smart, witty, and droll. Comparable to very good, black coffee.

Now that that's done, I plan for the rest of the day to be all about this:

That's me on the sofa with my feet up and with my favourite cozy slippers on. Here's a close-up of my slippers, because I'm in love with them and I want to share that love with the whole world:

Aren't they the cutest? Yes they are! Yes they are!

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Sammy the Snail

Last winter, Ken and I had a house guest. He was very quiet; he didn't eat us out of house and home; he never wore his shoes on the white rug; and he never left wet towels in a heap on the bathroom floor.

Sammy the Snail moved in with us by accident, on the potted chives, when we brought them indoors for the winter. It was around 3 weeks before we even noticed him. We figured that since he was in, he may as well stay. And so it was that he enjoyed a luxury winter get-away that would have been the envy of any snail.

I thought I should do a little research on snails, so I consulted the online resources. One of the first things I learned was that snails are just slugs with shells on.


Suddenly he seemed slightly less cute.

But I got over my squeamishness. He had a cream and brown pinstripe shell, and those cute eyeballs on stalks - how could I resist him? No, he was more than a slug. Although I would still keep him away from salt.

Sammy alternated periods of inactivity with bursts of Super Snail energy. For a week he'd be sleeping in the same spot in the chive pot, and then one day we'd come home and find him halfway up the nearest wall. He also liked to check out the other potted plants in my collection. He'd get himself up onto the rim of the chive pot, and s-t-r-e-c-h his sluggy body over to the next pot rim. Then he'd swing over. You could actually hear his shell go "Clunk!" against the pot.

Sometimes Sammy pushed his explorations too far, and he fell. A couple of times, Ken found him on his side on the rug, looking shriveled and half-dead. Ken picked Sammy up and rushed him to the kitchen where Ken fried him in garlic butter put him in a dish with a little water, until Sammy re-hydrated. When Sammy recovered himself enough to start scooting around the dish, Ken returned him to the chive pot.

Of course, spring finally came, and when the chives went back out onto the patio, Sammy went with them. We bid him a fond farewell and wished him well.

This fall I waited expectantly for a knock at the door. I thought I'd open the door, not see anyone there at first, and then look down. And Sammy would be there, with a tiny suitcase, ready to move back in with us for another cozy winter of wall-climbing, pot-exploring, and long naps.

No such luck. I hope he's hibernating somewhere safe.

Friday, February 8, 2008


I have to admit defeat on this point. The Mirriam-Webster Online Dictionary accepts the American pronounciation of foyer . From now on I will be calling the nine square feet of tile just inside my front door the "foi-yur". I might as well just accept it. The proper French pronounciation (it is, after all, a French word) of "foi-yay" is destined to slowly fade away. So. "Foi-yur" it is.

But I'm not letting you off so easily on some other points. Pay attention! This is important:

ELECTROCUTE means to kill by electric shock. I can't stand hearing people say "I stuck my tongue in the fuse box and I got electrocuted!" You're not dead (Darwin, where are you when we need you?), so you weren't electrocuted. Stop exaggerating.

It's easy to remember the meaning of electrocute, because it rhymes with that other word that makes you dead, EXECUTE. There is no way that you can be executed and live to tell the tale. Although I imagine that it's only a matter of time before the exaggerators of the world run out of easy hyperbole and start using this one. "Dude, I was riding that wave and I got totally executed!"

It might appear that all words ending in "-cute" will kill you. If that were the case, the word cute itself might acquire lethal connotations. "Boy, that charging rhinoceros sure is cute!" "Yeah, he sure is! RUN!!"

But it's not so, or elocution (the art of speaking in public) would also be fatal. "Wow, that speech really knocked'em dead!" could literally be true. Politicians would have to be careful or their speeches would kill off their supporters. Election campaigns would be... different.

I could go on like this all night. Yes, I am that much of a nerd. But enough lecturing. Class dismissed!

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Revised Script

I am. So. Confused.

The last time I had spoken to my mom, she had just returned from her first meeting with a divorce lawyer, with the intention of being officially unburdened of my step-dad as quickly as possible. (If anyone is here for the first time, the "my folks are splitting up" tag will give you the story so far in installments. He left her for another woman; she's devastated; etc.) The visit with the lawyer upset her so much that she could barely think straight.

Understandably. I mean, this is it. The end of a 27-year marriage, a 32-year overall relationship. Done. Finished. Kaput. We had even gone out for a very creepy Last Supper, the night before my step-dad flew off to live with his mistress in a rented condo in Florida. At a fancy Indian restaurant, my mom sat silently and picked at her chicken Biryani while Ken and I tried to carry on some semblance of a normal conversation with my step-dad. It was draining, but we got through it. That was supposed to be The End.

Throughout this whole process, my step-dad has cherished the notion that perhaps he and my mom can Still Be Friends. This was the whole idea behind the final dinner; it was supposed to affirm that our bonds as a family can transcend his decision to move in with another woman. He wants to have his cake and eat it too. We all humoured him, because my mom didn't want to fight about it while he was still in the house. My mom said it would be easier if we all just played along, and so we did.

He's been living with his mistress for more than a week now, and my mom has been adjusting to living alone. I speak to her almost every day, and she has commented frequently on how deluded my step-dad is to think that we can still play-act at being a family when he's in town. She's all about how he's made his bed and he must sleep in it, and he'll find out the hard way that he can't have everything, yadda yadda.

So imagine my surprise, my complete incomprehension, when my step-dad called me up to invite Ken and I out for dinner on Sunday (he's commuting to Toronto for business), and said it would be nice if my mom came too. I didn't call him back until the following day. I said that we were free for dinner, but I didn't think it was a good idea to ask my mom. His reply: "I talked to her last night and she said she'd like to come. She said it sounded like a nice idea."

A nice idea.


Now I didn't know if she'd had a change of heart, or if she was toying with him, or what, but GAWD! I had a headache. And a dinner date on Sunday. I had no idea what was going on.

Finally, after a full day, I did have a chance to speak with my mom. Her explanation was that she thought she should agree to go because I might want her to do so. Why would I want her to do that? She thought it might make things easier for me. How would it make things easier? She wasn't really able to clarify that for me. Is this her way of trying to hang on to the relationship? (I didn't actually ask her that one.)

Anyway, I let her know that I didn't expect her to be going on any more such dinner dates. And she said she'd let him know that she's not going. That's the story so far. Who knows where it'll be tomorrow.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Family Fallout

My family. They've been trying their best to be supportive of my mom since they found out that my step-dad is leaving her, but it sometimes seems to me that they're doing more harm than good.

Remember how my step-dad broke up with my mom via a voice mail message? Here's how my mom broke the news to me and my family.

It's a Friday night. My step-dad is out of town on a getaway with his girlfriend. My mom has told him that he has to make up his mind and let her know what his intentions are a.s.a.p., because she's not willing to wait around like a hopeful fool while he explores his new relationship. He has to make a decision, and then live with it.

My mom has invited her parents, myself, and my aunt over for dinner in order to have some company.

I am the last to arrive. Everyone is sitting in the living room, making polite conversation, obviously avoiding the subject of my step-dad. My mom calls me into the kitchen. She seems agitated. She tells me that there's a message on the phone that I have to listen to, and then she wants me to erase it so that she never has to hear it again.

Figuring that it's just another one of my step-dad's regular insensitivities, I get into their voice mail system, and listen to the message. What I hear is my step-dad telling my mother that he's decided to leave her for the other woman. He says that he loves her, but he loves the other woman more. I keep myself very still as I listen, because the family has started to gravitate into the kitchen. I can see their curious heads poking through the doorway, watching my mom wring her hands and asking each other "What's wrong? What's happening?"

I'm shocked and also confused. I'm not sure if my mom wants to tell the family now, or just continue with the dinner as though nothing's wrong. I can't guess at what internal forces are motivating her, or what compelled her to have me listen to this message, which is now burned into my memory banks forever.

(Upon reflection I do understand; she wanted a witness to the crime. I wish I'd never heard it. I wish I didn't have to be the witness. And yet, I'm glad that I was able to be there and be strong for her.)

Not wanting to make any assumptions, I delete the message and say nothing to the family members who are clustering around nervously. A few moments pass, and when my mom doesn't give me any cues, I join the faltering conversation about the price of gas. A few beats later, my mom turns to me and says quietly "Please I need a hug." Then she all but falls into my arms.

The family is all looking at me for an explanation. I ask her "Do you want them to know now?" She says "You tell them." So, with my mother in my arms, her back to the gathered, anxious faces, I break the news to them.

Immediately, they all start talking at once. Their voices swarm and overlap. My mom retreats to the motions of getting dinner out of the oven.

My grandfather is monologuing about how my step-dad is just a hedonist, and that any man worth his salt should agonize about living his life properly until the day that he dies. My aunt and grandmother are tag-teaming, telling my mom that we should throw all my step-dad's stuff out onto the lawn right now, and she should kick him in the balls, etc. I also hear them both agree that I should reject him as a dad and never speak to him again.

It didn't occur to them that maybe they should shut up and LISTEN to my mom. No one asked her how she was feeling, or what she felt ready to do. No one expressed sympathy, or held her hand. They just freaked out.

In the time that has passed since the news sank in, my family has not changed their approach. They have not become more sensitive. They have their agenda for what should happen next, and whether they are delivering the message with passive aggression or overt aggression, they are still not listening to my mom. They're not listening to me either, for that matter.

I'm now in a situation, for the second time in my life, where they want me to reject a father to prove my loyalty to them. If I don't cut him off completely, they'll see it as a betrayal. And I'm not planning to cut him off, for many reasons, some of which are financial.

I don't have a tidy wrap-up for this story. It's an ongoing drama. It's too bad, because I know that my family means well, and that they're trying their best. I don't want this to tear us all apart.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Whose history?

The big news in Toronto is that the school board has voted in favour of implementing what they call "Black-Focused" or "Africentric" schools. Apparently, up to 40% of black students in any given year do not graduate from high school in Toronto, and these new schools are supposed to help.

The schools will be open to students of all backgrounds, but will teach a black-focused curriculum. The Toronto District School Board plans to pilot the program in three regular high schools and one alternative school, starting in the next school year.

I'm not sure how this proposal got voted through, because I have yet to meet a single person who thinks it's a good idea. Everyone I talk to is worried that it's going to lead to segregationist tendencies and increased racism among Toronto teens. The black community in Toronto has been bitterly divided over the subject for months.

Toronto is known for being one of the most multicultural cities in the world. We have residents who've come here from every corner of the planet. I live in a neighbourhood that's primarily Korean, with a smaller population of Iranians mixed in. If you go northwest for a short drive, you'll find yourself in a Russian neighbourhood. There are multiple Chinatowns, a Little India, a Little Italy/Portugal, a Jewish area (no one has the nerve to name it - people might be offended by "Jewtown"), and many others. The high schools in each neighbourhood reflect the dominant local population.

So, while I do agree that it doesn't make sense to teach British history as THE only history that's worth knowing, I don't think it's much of an improvement to divide the city into Black Schools and Everyone Else's Schools. How does this help the kids from Sri Lanka, for example?

I don't claim to have an answer, but I have been mulling it over a fair bit. Jameil at Jameil, Et Cetera: Exercises in Fabulosity has been writing on related issues lately, and she got me to thinking.

My skin is white, but my history isn't British history. The only mention of Jewish history in my public school career was a unit on the Holocaust. I don't identify strongly with my Jewish roots, but I still feel that it's insufficient to reduce over 5000 years of Jewish history down to the story of how a lot of Jews were killed in World War II. It's definitely important to learn about the Holocaust, but for a long time I didn't want to be Jewish. What I had learned was that "being Jewish" was equal to "being a victim". At least "my" history got a mention.

Anyway, I'm rambling, mostly because this is a sprawling subject. I'd be interested in hearing what others have to say. This is a problem that is unique to our time. Is there any way we can do justice to all the history that deserves to be told, within the limits of school hours and the need to teach all the other subjects? If not, what then?

Monday, February 4, 2008

Posting until the internet explodes

Dear Blog365,

We've only officially been an item for one month, (although we've been seeing each other almost every day since last November). Already, this is one of the most serious relationships I've ever been in.

Don't fret - I'm still committed to "us". I just thought maybe we could clear the air a little. You could tell me how you're feeling, and I'll get some stuff off my chest. You know how when you let these things build up they can lead to resentment, and all.

So. Wow. What a ride so far! It's been intense. I know you don't mean to be demanding, but you do ask a lot of me. Every day now, I'm always thinking about what you might like, what I can give you next to keep things lively and interesting. I'm looking at the whole world through new eyes - your eyes. Everything that happens, my first reaction is how I'm going to describe it to you.

I am taking every little thing, good and bad, and assessing it to see if it's an adequate gift for you. Then I try to wrap it up in the best possible package, with pretty bows and tissue paper, or sometimes in a black, velvet jewel box.

I am entranced by the power of your gaze. Being listened to like this has changed me, made me more bold. The more I risk with you, the more I'm willing to risk in my other relationships. You always know the right thing to say to support me, and I've been internalizing that support. I'm more likely to speak my mind than I was before I met you.

Sometimes I find you exhausting, but you're worth it. The challenges you offer keep me from falling into apathy and depression. The mid-winter blues combined with the stresses in my life would no doubt have pushed me down, if you weren't expecting me to be here for you every day. You give me a reason not to give in to the lure of the blahs.

Thank you for being there for me, Blog365. I am here for you.

Now, is there anything that you wanted to share with me?

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Shock Attack

Speaking of symptoms, apparently I jinxed myself.

I've been coping pretty well with my challenges lately. My physical symptoms have been restricted to intermittent insomnia, bouts of sweatiness, and occasional shaking hands. The best cure is deep breaths, yoga, and not allowing myself to get into a downward spiral.

Last night, however, after a particularly upsetting conversation with a member of my family regarding my parents' separation, I didn't get off so easy. After I hung up the phone, I noticed that my heart was beating rapidly, but I got myself calmed down and went to bed.

2:35 am: I wake up with a need to visit the facilities. I get out of bed as always, when WHOOOOOSH! The floor starts tipping under my feet. Woah, head rush. I must have gotten up too quickly. I sit my butt back down and wait for my blood pressure to adjust.

I wait a reasonable amount of time, and try again. Again, vertigo attacks. I get myself to the facilities and back by clutching door jambs and chair backs along the way. By the time I'm on my return journey, my heart rate has sped up quite a lot.

Ken's still up watching TV on the sofa, but I don't want to worry him. I get myself back into bed. I figure it's just some kind of nighttime weirdness and if I can fall back asleep it'll be gone when I wake up again in the morning. But I can't fall asleep. My heart races faster and faster and my whole body start to shake. Very quickly I start to feel chilled. My hands and feet become icy.

I call for Ken. By the time he shows up by my side, looking concerned, my teeth are chattering uncontrollably. The vertigo is still having its way with me, despite the fact that I am lying flat on my back. The room spins. What is going on?

Ken piles blankets on top of me and brings me a hot water bottle, but my teeth are still rattling away. He fetches his furry winter hat and sticks it on my head. No help. I'm thinking that this is probably one of my show-stopping psychosomatic symptoms, so I ask him to bring my trusted homeopathic cure: Rescue Remedy.

I know that not everyone believes in homeopathic medicine. In my experience, it works. If you want to call it the placebo effect, go ahead. I'm a pragmatist. As long as I feel better, that's good enough for me.

I instruct Ken to get four drops of Rescue Remedy into my mouth. This is something of a challenge for him considering that my jaw is opening and closing at a rate of about 10 times per second. But he manages. Within seconds, my body relaxes. The shaking becomes a series of twitches, and then stops. My teeth get in a few last clickity-clacks, then stand at ease.

I'm still feeling faint, nauseated, and dizzy, but the worst is over. I think I can fall asleep now. So I do, under a mountain of blankets and wearing Ken's shapka.

Through the rest of the night I woke every 90 minutes or so with a racing heart, and took another dose of Rescue Remedy. I survived. It's morning now, and despite still feeling a little shaky I'm well enough to sit up and type. I'll be spending the rest of the day on my sofa, for reals.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Hair Cutters

Once a month, I develop a bad case of Pom-Pom Head. I have thick hair that grows faster than average, so it can go from looking great to looking like a fuzzball pretty quickly.

My stylist is a lovely Iranian woman. She's glamorous, always with hair and makeup done Just So. Sidenote: I feel compelled to mention that I hate the word "stylist". There's something pretentious about it that rubs my fur the wrong way. I grew up with "hairdresser", which is a perfectly serviceable word. I cannot justify this preference. It's just one of those things.

Overall, I dislike beauty salons. They're usually loud, crowded, hot (from all the hair dryers and flattening irons), and, of course, pretentious. Once I totally got TOLD by the woman who was booking appointments at the front desk. I made the terrific gaffe of saying that I was coming in to get my hair dyed. She corrected me with a fierceness that took me by surprise: "IT'S COLOURED! WE DO NOT DYE HAIR! WE COLOUR YOUR HAIR!"

Uh, okay, if you feel that strongly about it...

This is why I don't dare refer to the stylists as hairdressers. Someone might take offense and "accidentally" sever my earlobe at my next trim.

So anyway, getting back to my hairdresser (this is my blog and I get to use my words. MY WORDS!!), she is very sweet. She always greets me with a hug, calls me honey, tells me I'm beautiful. In fact, she chants the word "Beautiful!" like a mantra as she puts the finishing touches on my hair at the end of the cut. "Ah, beautiful... beautiful... So cute! Such a beautiful girl! You should be a model. Eh? Why not? Yes, you should!" She never wants to hear my protests that 35 is a little late to be starting a modeling career. Don't confuse her with the facts! Her mind is made up!

Then she tells me that I'm her favourite customer. To myself I'm like "Yeah, she says that to all her clients." But another part of me laps it up like a cat eating cream. Go ahead! Call me gorgeous and butter me up! Yeah, like that. That's how I like it. Big tip for you!

Friday, February 1, 2008

The Big Split, Part III

The Big Split Part I and Part II led inevitably to Part III.

The final step was getting my ex down to the courts with me to sign the divorce papers together. We met at the subway station. I looked up from the book I was reading to see him walking towards me, a nervous grin stretching across his face. We took our last walk together to the court building.

He was on his best behaviour. He was always one to present his most charming persona to the outside world, and today was no exception. He was looking very handsome and was doing everything he could to be courteous and helpful.

When our number was called, the clerk who accepted our papers was a middle-aged black woman. Her accent told me that she was from one of the islands in the Carribean. She sifted through our paperwork, checking a detail here, banging down a red-inked rubber stamp there. All the while, she kept glancing up and searching our faces.

She asked us some questions regarding our paperwork. She had us sign here, and here. Now this copy. The she asked:

"Why are you two gettin' a divorce? You seem to get along alright."

"Uh..." We glanced at each other. "It's complicated."

She carried on, shuffling forms, and weilding her rubber stamp. A little later on, she fixed us with another searching look.

"Are you sure you want to get divorced?"

Who was this woman? The Oracle of the Family Law Department?

"Yes. Yes, we're sure." My ex's nervous grin stretched so tightly across his face that I though his lips would split.

She continued processing the paperwork. Finally, she gave us one more long stare, and rendered her verdict. Satisfied that she understood the situation at last, she tilted her chin towards my ex.

"You! You're the bad one."

I stifled the urge to do a touchdown dance. My ex protested.

"Me? Why me? What did I do?"

But it was too late. Her mind was made up. Having settled that matter, she finished our paperwork, took our $400 payment, and sent us on our way.

Now, of course a marriage is a complicated thing, and in no way do I wish to imply that my ex was 100% responsible for our breakup. We both had our issues and we both were experts at pushing each other's buttons. But I tell you, that woman totally made my day. She turned one of the saddest experiences of my life into a crazy, funny story.

Poor Ex. He won't soon forget that day either, methinks.