Monday, March 31, 2008

Baby Boo-Boo

Does anyone else remember Baby Boo-Boo? I swear, I did not hallucinate this. At least, I'm pretty sure I didn't.

Most of you have probably seen those spam e-mails about how amazing it is that any of us children of the 1970's survived to adulthood. No seat-belt laws, no helmet laws, public smoking allowed everywhere, etc. In the park I frequented, on Eglinton just West of Yonge St., the high monkey bars on the jungle gym ran for around 12 feet at a height of 10 feet off the ground. I know of at least one kid who broke a wrist when he fell.

However, let us not accuse the adults in our lives of not taking an interest in our safety! The children of Canada had Elmer the Safety Elephant to give us tips on how to play without getting hurt. And once a year, Elmer would show up at my primary school with the Toronto Police, to give us a lesson on street safety.

These visits were always scheduled during warm weather, so we could all be called out into the main schoolyard, a huge enclosure that was entirely paved in asphalt. The police probably talked about things like not taking candy from strangers, but that's not the part that I remember. What I remember is Baby Boo-Boo.

Baby Boo-Boo had the thankless job of teaching us why we should look both ways before crossing the street.

She was a plastic doll, around 3 feet tall, with a cap of blond hair and big blue eyes. They didn't even bother to dress her. As several hundred primary school children looked on in fascinated horror, the police would sit Baby Boo-Boo on an orange traffic cone. Then one of the cops would get into the squad car, rev the engine, and deliberately run her over.

She had a cavity inside her hollow body which they would pre-fill with cherry Kool-Aid, so after the car cleared the scene, she'd be left lying on the asphalt, limbs splayed, in a puddle of red liquid.

And that, kids, is why you always have to be careful crossing the street! If you don't pay attention, you'll end up like Baby Boo-Boo.

Can you imagine the outcry from parents if this violent demonstration were used today? People would freak out. And think of the message we all got: during our few annual minutes of interaction with actual police officers, we saw them deliberately run over a naked, child-sized doll. Probably not the best way to build faith in our society's protectors.

They did succeed in making an impression on me. I remember few moments from my school years with this much clarity.

So, seriously. Does anyone else remember a Baby Boo-Boo?

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Dating Personality Profile

A little while ago, whatigotsofar posted the results of his dating personality profile test.

I'm not planning on dating in the forseeable future, but of course I had to know my results. Without further ado...

The Maid of Honor
Deliberate Gentle Love Master (DGLM)

Appreciated for your kindness and envied for all your experience, you are The Maid of Honor.
Charismatic, affectionate, and terrific in relationships, you are what many guys would call a "perfect catch"--and you probably have many admirers, each wishing to capture your long-term love. You're careful, extra careful, because the last thing you want is to hurt anyone. Especially some poor boy whose only crime was liking you.
We've deduced you're fully capable of a dirty fling, but you do feel that post-coital attachment after hooking up. So, conscientious person that you are, you do your best to reserve physical affection for those you you can respect yourself.
Your biggest negative is the byproduct of your careful nature: indecision. You're just as slow rejecting someone as you are accepting them.

ALWAYS AVOID: The False Messiah (DBLM), The 5-Night Stand (DBSM), The Vapor Trail (RBLM), The Bachelor (DGSM)
CONSIDER: The Gentleman (DGLM), someone just like you.

The full results with pictures are here.

There you have it. Very flattering. I'd like to declare that I'm shocked by the accuracy. I'm a Love Master! This explains why I haven't been single for more than a couple of months since I was 14 years old. Or is it because I've always been terrified of being alone? That's probably closer to the truth. Fortunately I have sufficient charms to attract men without much difficulty. Then I hang on to them for dear life. Ken's the first one to consistently deserve the amount of devotion he gets from me.

My first boyfriend barely counts (poor guy). He was in grade 13 and I was in grade 9. He asked me to the prom because he was such a geek that none of the older girls would give him the time of day. I didn't like him all that much, but I sure did like the idea of going to the prom. He had sweaty hands. He kissed me once, but I wasn't into him. After the prom we went our separate ways.

That means that I've had 3 serious relationships, spanning the past 20 years. Call me Ms. Long-Term Commitment. It's a testament the the strength of my co-dependency.

The link to the test is up there, embedded into the results. Go ahead, take it! You know you want to. And I want to know your results!

Incidentally, my mother now has a brand new iMac sitting in a box in her study, all ready to be plugged in next week. The internet won't be hooked up for a few days yet. Our outing was successful and uneventful enough to be almost unblogworthy. There was one moment of panic, when my mom lost grip on her side of the printer box, and almost dropped it on the driveway. However, her cat-like reflexes prevailed, and with a bit of wrangling we got all the boxes safely inside.

Now we just have to figure out a way of hiding the cables so that the good-for-nothin' cats don't get it into their fool heads to chew through them once it's all set up.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Buckle Up

Today is the long-anticipated day that Ken and I will take my mom to buy a computer. We're picking her up at 9 am to make sure that we can get a parking spot at Yorkdale Mall, and be the first customers in the computer store. We want to make this easy on her, because she's not exactly comfortable with computers, and I know she's probably going to be freaked out.

Ken will drive slowly when she's in the car. People who aren't used to driving with him get nervous when he drives at his usual speed.

I've learned, when he warns me that he's going to make a U-turn, to jam my elbow into the door (in anticipation of the centrifugal force of the U) and to hold my head back against the head-rest (so that when he gets aligned with his new lane and puts the pedal to the metal, my head doesn't snap back as the rest of me accelerates). He used to squeal the tires a lot, but then he got Pirelli's. Pirelli's aren't squealers. Maybe it's got something to do with being Italian, and the influence of the mafia on that culture. You know what happens to squealers in the mafia...

We've decided that it's best for my mom to get a Mac. It'll be a lot less hassle and maintenance than a PC. And most importantly, none of her well-meaning friends and relatives know anything about Macs, so they won't "just have a little look-see" and "install an upgrade" that screws everything up.

My step-dad was constantly the victim of "helpers" who were fixated on tinkering with his PC. They were like "Oh, you should download this utility that you don't even understand, because I have a compulsion to mess with your system" and then as soon as they were done with the "upgrade" they'd bugger off and his computer would crash out. He spent hours on the phone with help desks trying to repair the damage. The same goofballs would be back next week with a new gimmick, and before he knew it, they were typing away, files were downloading, and the cycle began anew.

My mom's too polite to fend off these wanna-be geeks. Getting a Mac is the best and maybe the only defense.

The only down-side to this decision is that I'm the only one who will be able to teach her how to use this computer. She barely knows the PC well enough to send e-mail. Word documents are completely beyond her. I'm in for a long haul of one-on-one tutoring. I'll be praying for patience. If you pray, please put in a good word for me on this matter. I'll need all the help that I can get.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Hardcore Delicious

It's still wintery, BAH!, yada yada, you've heard all this before. Today's coping mechanism is:

Recollecting A Fond Moment Associated with Snow

Back in the winter of 1998-1999, I was living with my (now ex-)husband in a one-bedroom basement apartment. It was pretty nice as far as basement apartments go, with a window in every room (except for the bathroom). It was warm and dry and cozy.

The building had six units, and we had friends or allies in five of them. The couple who lived in the sixth apartment were known as "The New People" and were rather left out of things. Anyway, it was super-cool to be able to go socializing without even having to put on a pair of shoes.

The other basement-dweller, in a studio apartment on the other side of the stairwell, was Chuck.

In early January 1999, the weather authorities predicted a record-breaking snowstorm. My husband was in Montreal on business. It was just me, in the apartment, alone.

As the afternoon wore on, the snow piled up. By just before sunset, my windows were almost covered by it. I started to feel restless. I padded down the hall and knocked on Chuck's door.

Chuck was happy to have company. His apartment, situated under the front porch, had no windows, but was paradoxically less claustrophobic because I couldn't see myself being slowly buried by snow. I sat on the futon-couch and watched Friends re-runs on TV while he ran a batch of home-made pasta dough through a hand-cranked pasta-making-machine.

Chuck: You want to stay for dinner?

Me: OK, but please can I have no MSG on my noodles?

Chuck: But that's what makes it tasty!

He was teasing me. He knew full well that I couldn't eat MSG without feeling like my brain was swelling and about to explode out of my skull. He liked to season his pasta with an MSG-loaded soup mix, and I liked to give him a hard time about it.

Me: You really shouldn't eat that stuff. It's bad for you.

Chuck: The other day I ate so much that I got a nosebleed.

Me: OMG, seriously?

Chuck: I made a batch of pasta, and ate it for dinner. Next day, I ate the leftovers. They tasted kinda bland, so I added more seasoning. I had a bit of a headache, but it tasted awesome! Then the next night, I ate the rest of the leftovers. They weren't very tasty, so I added more seasoning. I got a really bad headache, and then my nose started to bleed.

Me: Chuck! You should listen to your body! When you get a bad headache, that's your body telling you to stop eating so much MSG!

Chuck: I was listening to my body. I was hungry, and my stomach was telling me to eat more!

To this day, Chuck adds industrial-strength quantities of MSG to his food. I can handle normal amounts, for example, a serving of seasoned potato chips is fine. But boy oh man, just last year I ate a pile of Chuck's custom pasta with his full ration of Knorr Swiss powder, and I was literally holding my head for the rest of the night. Oy, the pounding in my temples!

Chuck's motto is "What doesn't kill me makes me stronger." Apparently this also applies to seasoning his food.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Coffee and Cheese

I cut caffeine and dairy from my diet when I was 23 years old. I'd been having a lot of chronic health problems, which I suspected might result from food sensitivities, so I went for tests.

At the testing facility, the technician sat me in an elevated chair. She gave me a metal rod wrapped in a wet cloth and attached to a wire to hold in one hand. She took my other hand, and pressed a second metal rod against an accupressure point. Then the machine ran a slight current through me and through vials containing around 230 different foods, in sequence. A change in the electrical current indicated whether or not I had a sensitivity to the foods.

Does this sound like a bogus sci-fi rip-off? I wasn't sure, myself, but considering I paid around $100 for the test, I figured I'd better give the results a chance to prove themselves.

The worst offenders on the list were dairy products, caffeine, MSG, all forms of alcohol, and bananas. I never much liked bananas anyway.

In the spirit of science, I cut all of these out of my diet. I decided to give things a test run of at least three months, because apparently it takes a while for one's system to fully jettison the accumulated residues, and adjust to the new plan.

I found out some interesting facts. For example, in high school I had heart palpitations so distressing that once I wore a heart monitor for 24 hours to check for a serious cardiac problem. Turns out that the cup of strong, black tea my mom had fortified me with at every breakfast was the culprit. To my sensitive system, caffeine was like speed. That also explained why I had no appetite in high school.

I found that having a perpetually drippy nose and acne breakouts was not inherent in my biology. I stopped eating dairy products and, whoops! My skin cleared right up. I no long needed to keep tissues wadded up in my sleeves. Huzzah!

I honestly didn't miss alcohol, because I was a geek, and my crowd didn't drink.

The positive effects of changing my diet were so welcome that I stuck to all the restrictions, for the most part, for 13 years. Which brings me to last month.

Tectonic plates had been shifting under the oceans of my mind. And one day, I snapped.

I was at Sneaky Dee's when the busy waitress brought me a cup of coffee instead of the orange juice I'd asked for. She clunked it down in front of me and was gone at a sprint.

I sat back and stared at the coffee. The inky brown was inviting. It smelled good. I wanted that freaking coffee. I might have said aloud "I'm going to drink this coffee!". Then I put in two creams and a whole packet of sugar, and took a sip.

It was the best coffee humankind has ever experienced, or ever will. In fact, it might have been the best of anything, anywhere, in all of time.

I drank it a bit gingerly, in smalls sips, with water as a chaser, and not on an empty stomach. Then I waited to have my heart attack. But I was fine! I guess, 20 years down the road, my metabolism is no longer so naturally hyper that it can be pushed into overdrive by one cup of coffee. Yahoo! Caffeine and me, we broke up long ago, but now we're friends again, and I feel that a painful rift in my life has been healed.

And today? Today I ate a slice of cheese (fearfully), and waited for nausea to strike. But I was fine! Not even one sneeze! I see big things for me and dairy in my future. Soft serve from an ice cream truck? Could be in the cards! I'll take it slow at first, but if it goes OK, I'll be off and running. Life's too short. I want to enjoy everything.

Ed. Note: In anticipation of the obvious questions, my problem with diary is not lactose intolerance, so lactaid and/or lactose-free products never did me any good. It's all about the proteins, FYI. Digestive enzymes do help, and I do take them regularly.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

China Buffet King

Who doesn't love a buffet? This place has always been a favourite treat. Ken and I jumped in the car and zoomed up there, stopping at every red light to rub our hands together with gleeful anticipation.

Part of the fun of a buffet is that you have permission to load up your plate with completely unrelated items, that no self-respecting restaurant would serve together as an official entree. Like deep-fried tentacle with a side of onion rings.

We were actually a bit disappointed. The restaurant is under new management, and they've changed the menu. The dim sum section is gone.

[Just give me a minute here while I get my sobbing under control. *Sniff* Sorry. I'll try to be brave.]

In it's place, there is an expanded selection of Batter-Fried Bits. Chicken, shrimp, pork, spring rolls, etc., all a uniform shade of greasy gold, with gloopy red plum sauce on the side. Yech.

Ken wasn't impressed with the changes. He did select a couple of deep-fried chicken wings, but for the most part he ate plate after plate of brontosaurus ribs. Take a look. Is that not the biggest freaking rib you've ever seen?

I'll let you draw your own conclusions about the cuttlefish in this steam tray. We didn't eat any. They looked a little too... um... anatomical.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Who turned up the gravity?

On Saturday, yesterday as I write this, I was raring to go. I wanted to go out! Now! Into the sunshine!

It was like channeling the hyperactive energy of thousands of children hopped up on chocolate, marshmallows, and egg-hunt excitement. It was that kind of bursting energy which can quickly blur the line between expansive fun and impatient irritability. This is a familiar mood for me. Sometimes I just wake up into it.

Of course I still try to go about my day with a measure of adult decorum. I might want to stamp my feet and run madly in circles, but that's frowned upon in public. So I tried to keep myself reined in.

I had the most trouble when we were in the lighting store. It's a giant, windowless showroom which seems to go on for miles. Ken was very into his lamp shopping, and wandered contentedly from one section to the next, making observations and asking for my opinion. I had a strong urge to run outside and stomp through the snowbanks in the parking lot while yelling "AAAAAAARRRRRRRRRR!". I thought I was hiding my irritability pretty well.

Until later in the car, when Ken, tentatively, as if attempting to diffuse a ticking bomb, asked me if I was "feeling better yet." Dang. I'm so transparent.

Anyway, I got through the day, comforting myself with the thought of today, Sunday, when I'd have hours to run around outside if I wanted to. That's the best medicine: a long walk in my stomping boots, until I'm all worn out.

I got up this morning feeling like a balloon with half the air gone. Crash. That's how I swing. I never know how long the furious energy will last, but if I feel excessively up for a spell (up can mean Extra-Happy-Crazy or Hyper-Angry-Agitated), you can bet money that a crash-landing is around the corner.

I don't feel blue today, just unnaturally tired.

Hopefully a good night's sleep will have me balanced for Monday.


Monday morning: I'm almost back to what I like to think of as my "normal" self again. I don't love being at work, but the routine is stabilizing. It's all good.

Sunday, March 23, 2008


Even the birds are showing signs of being fed up with the wintry cold. This girl sparrow looked distinctly grumpy to me. She's all puffed up and frowny.

Her thoughts are written all over her face: "For Pete's sake, can we get a little heat here? I'm freezing my tush!"

Here she is with a friend, proving that it's not only humans who tend to blink just as the shutter opens. Please join me in admiring her fluffy feather-pants, which show to best advantage in this shot.

We're looking for a new light fixture for our guest bedroom/computer room. The old one isn't bright enough. A fixture with multiple bulbs is what we're after. We were thinking maybe...

Or how about...

It's only $11,189.99. That's a steal, considering there was another one in the same store selling for just over $22,000.00.

(Who on God's green earth can afford these things, anyway? Not me, that's for sure. Then again, I'm kind of stingy, so if I had $12,000.00 kicking around, you can bet I wouldn't be spending it on a chandelier.)

I quite liked these designer throws, which were apparently designed by the spirit of the late Jim Henson (of Muppet fame).

And while I don't have any plans to hunt for Easter eggs, I did find a lovely Easter fence.

I have no idea whose fence this is, or what inspired them to paint it pink, facing, as it is, onto an ugly road in an industrial neighbourhood, where no pedestrians ever venture, but I love them for it. Thank you, pink-fence people! You made my day!

Saturday, March 22, 2008

I take it all back

After all my whining, yesterday turned out to be a gorgeous day.

I took a 2-mile walk, past quirky retail stores, over bridges, and along the edges of ravines. The sun was brilliant; the snow was melting. I knelt to pat a patch of emerald-green, velvety moss. I was sorry that I hadn't brought my camera.

I love this enormous, awkward, mixed-up city, with its generous network of untended parkland interwoven with the streets, homes, and skyscrapers. All I want to do in good weather is get out on foot to appreciate every inch of it. 1 degree Celsius in full sun is good enough for me. I don my parka and my hiking boots, and off I go.

Dinner at Mom's. The Dude says "Hi" to y'all, from his favourite cubby-hole by the kitchen table. Officially, it's the storage spot for my mom's placemats, but they don't get much use anymore because they're always covered in cat hair.

My mom got him going by scratching the outside of the cabinet near his rear end. He got a little over-enthusiastic turning himself around to find out what the noise was all about, and fell out, butt-first, onto the floor, taking a placemat with him. The placemat landed on his head.

I'm off to enjoy more quality time outside in the sun.

Happy Easter weekend!

Friday, March 21, 2008

Ah, Spring.

Everyone's been blogging about how great it is that spring is here. The sun is shining! Green things are poking up out of the ground! There is the promise of full-blown beauty just around the corner!

Where I live, not so much.

No green sprouts are poking their delicate heads from the ground. There's just the mud.

And iced-over sidewalks that lie in wait, hoping to break your ankle.

This puddle got me the other day.

Doesn't look so bad, doesn't it? It was bigger and deeper two days ago, when there was more fresh meltwater. Still, you'd think that if you were wearing waterproof boots you could get through that no problem.

I tend not to pay much attention to my surroundings while I walk, especially if the weather is crappy. My eyes go on an autopilot setting. Alerts only reach my brain if there's impending dog poop in my path, or traffic. The rest of the time, I'm lost in thought. Puddles don't register because I'm wearing boots, so it's not an issue, right?

I had both feet in the puddle before I realized that something was amiss. It was much deeper than I had assumed. Still, nothing for it but to keep going. There were only banks of ice on either side, and the last thing I wanted was to slip and fall on my butt in the water. Two more steps. It got deeper! Each time I put a foot down, it made this sound:


I started to run. Counterproductive strategy: the 5-inch-deep water splashed and slopped over the tops of my boots, then started wicking up my pant legs. Argh! By the time I got to work, I was dank and grouchy.

I long for warm days and green trees...

Spring's got to get here eventually!

P.S. These photos were taken yesterday. This morning I woke up to brilliantly clear, blue skies. It's still freezing out, but at least we have sunshine!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

The Other Side of the Story

This is a sequel to BFF: A History. After I painted such a dismal picture of my treatment at the hands of so-called "friends", I feel the need to confess my own bad friend sins.

I started young. When I was between four and six years old, I used to play with the girl next door who was a year older than me. Because of that age difference, my mother believed me every time I said "But she told me to do it!". So the older girl took all the heat for our mischief.

As often as not, I masterminded the troublemaking. Like putting our used chewing gum into my mother's box of powdered laundry soap. Aren't kids great?

In grade school, the girl who lived five doors down from me had everything I envied: a proper dad, an older sister, a dog, a cat who bore litters of kittens, a room decorated in a Holly Hobby theme, and the best sticker collection ever. I obnoxiously invited myself over much too often so that I could cuddle the kittens, and then I pressured her into trading all her best stickers away, until she refused to trade with me anymore.

I had a girlfriend through high school and university upon whom I projected all my own insecurities. Her behaviour drove me crazy, but that was because it reflected the worst of my own self. We went out for lunch at a restaurant one day after I'd read a few pop psychology paperbacks, and was into speaking my mind. I tactlessly dumped all my criticisms out on the table, until she was crying into her plate.

Later we tried to mend our relationship, after I admitted that I'd been an ass, but it was never the same. I made another lunch date with her, and then forgot about it and stood her up. I blame my forgetfulness on the fever I was running that day. But that's not a good enough excuse. I truly regret having ruined that relationship, because she's a very bright, creative, and unique woman. My loss.

Presently, I can be a bad friend in the following ways:

I'm not a fan of the telephone, so I don't call my friends often enough, nor do I reliably accept their calls.

I have a profound distaste for travel, so I have never visted my friends in BC despite countless invitations to do so. One girlfriend has offered to pay half my air fare, and I still haven't gone.

I'm moody, so sometimes when I do get together with friends, I'm kind of a downer, or at least very quiet. Other times, I'm brilliant and hilarious! Who wants to flip the coin?

Due to some issues with auto-immune function I'll go through phases when I'm very reluctant to plan outings, or I'll cancel plans because of not feeling well. Technically that's not my fault, but it does make me unreliable, which is a bad quality in a friend.

Have you ever been a bad friend?

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

BFF: A History

Since a comment by whatigotsofar on this post, I've been thinking about the friend life cycle, and its unpredictability. I've been so convinced, at times, that a certain person would be in my life until the bittersweet end, only to have them drift off, or abruptly disappear. Others who were challenging to get along with have gone the distance and are now in my closest inner circle.

So where have the old friends gone? Let's take an inventory:

Best grade school girlfriend:
Now living in British Columbia with two kids and a third on the way. For the non-Canadians, BC is on the West coast of Canada, far away from me.

I propose re-naming British Columbia to Chums Movawayfromia. A few other women have come into my life, seemed like great friend material, and then just as I was feeling comfortable with them they all went "Guess what? I'm moving to BC!" I would move there myself, just to help my social life, if all my family weren't in Toronto.

Best Middle-School and High-School girlfriends:
Long gone.

Best University girlfriend:
Still my best girlfriend. Hi Aurora!

The woman I met at my first I.T. job:
This one, I had pegged as a BFF. We spent all day e-mailing each other almost every weekday. And it wasn't just silly girltalk either. We spilled our guts about everything.

She was there for me as I agonized over whether or not I should leave my first husband. She cried on my shoulder over her endless dating failures and ticking biological clock. We knew everything about each other.

Then she finally landed a man. I heard every detail of the courtship, and shared her victory when he finally proposed.

I went to visit the newly engaged couple. I noticed, and obviously my friend did too, that her fiance really enjoyed looking at me all night. And that was that. I never heard from her again. Not an e-mail, not a phone call, not a letter. Just, pffft - GONE.

I was as heartbroken as when my first love dumped me.

Best girlfriend from psychology school:
She's awesome. We need to get our acts together and meet more often.

Worst girlfriend from psychology school:
Started out as top candidate for the best girlfriend. We were the same age, had lots in common; she lived in my neighbourhood. We hung out and had fun for a year at school and outside of it.

One day I called her after a fight with Ken, because I was feeling down, and I was working on reaching out to people instead of isolating myself when I was feeling sad. It was a conscious risk, and I was nervous about calling. I left a message that was a little wistful, saying that I was sorry to have missed her and could she call me back.

She called me back all right. She was furious. She perceived that my message was "passive aggressive". Told me that she didn't have time for people who were not clear about their needs. Asked me to set out for her exactly how many phone calls I required from her per month, and how many minutes per call. She said she had a lot of friends and didn't have time to devote that much to each one.

We spoke a couple of times after that and tried to come to an understanding, but we never could. Obviously, that ended our friendship. And since then, I haven't risked calling a friend on the phone when I'm feeling very low, despite many warm invitations to do so. (But sometimes I'll e-mail.)

This isn't a comprehensive list, but it shows the extremes.

I'm grateful for the friends I have now - they're terrific! I haven't said as much about my friend successes, but only because I'm a drama queen and I love telling those shocking stories. Guy friends have not been forgotten; that's a topic for another post.

Also, I haven't always been a perfect friend. That's a topic for another post too.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Spark's OCD for Dummies

Have you ever wanted to have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder but just didn't know where to start?

Spark's publishing brings you a simple, step-by step guide for enjoying this unique and colourful disorder, in nine easy steps.

1) No detail is too small to obsess about. Why not start with the status of your stove? This is very popular among beginners. Develop a habit of checking your stove to make sure it's off. This can be done on your way out of the house, before you go to bed, or anytime. Remember: if you check once and feel satisfied, you have not achieved OCD. The "magic number" of checks that allows you to leave the stove and carry on with your life must be at least two (2).

2) The "magic number" of checks for any of your compulsions should increase proportionately to the stress in your life. Once the number has increased, it will be very difficult to reduce it again. For example, if you usually check the stove four times before you leave the house, you may feel compelled to check a fifth time. Or, in severe circumstances, you may need to "take it from the top" and do another full round of four checks.

3) The checking should be done in a ritualistic fashion. It is not sufficient to give the stove a quick, visual once-over, and walk away. Point to each dial on the stove, and as you do so chant "Off, Off, Off, Off, Off" (that's once for each element and once for the oven). Vocalizing and using repetitious movements will reinforce your habit and deepen your experience.

4) Be prepared: the day will come when no amount of ritualized checking will scratch the itch. When you get stuck in front of the stove, checking and re-checking in an infinite loop, congratulate yourself! You have achieved a masterful level of OCD. If you have made yourself late for work or any other obligation, to which you otherwise would have been on time, pat yourself on the back. You have truly arrived.

5) Are you sure that the door to your home is closed and locked? Pull on it a bunch of times. Walk away from it. Turn back. Stare at it. Walk back and pull on it a bunch more times. Stare at it some more. It looks closed, but something in your mind isn't accepting that input. Fiddle with your door until no one could possibly rationalize the amount of time you're spending there. Now all your neighbours know that you have OCD! Good work.

6) If you'd like to spend a good deal of time convinced that your home is burning down while you're away, and the stove just isn't doing it for you, invest in a curling or straightening iron. If you can ever convince yourself to leave the house again, it'll be a miracle. Are you sure you turned it off? Or is your shower curtain catching fire as you read this?

7) You're just about to fall asleep. It's the end of the day. Time to just lie back and relax. Wait, are you sure you took out your contact lenses? Is your alarm set to the right time, turned on, and at an appropriate volume? Did you leave the tap running in the bathroom? There is such an abundance of things to jump out of bed and check, that sleeping pales in comparison.

8) For added fun, encourage your spouse to trigger your obsessions. When you've finally checked for your wallet enough times, and feel ready to walk out the door, s/he should take that as a cue to ask "Are you sure you have your wallet?" and then giggle insanely as you furiously undertake a fresh round of checking. (No, Ken doesn't do this. But my ex did. I don't think he really "got" how mean it was.)

9) Had enough of the OCD for now? Shake it off. Get angry. Say to yourself "I cannot spend all day standing and staring at my front door. So what if it is unlocked? So what if the stove is on? I can't live paralyzed by these thoughts. If the house is burgled or burns down, so be it." Then turn on your heel and march.

Ed. Note: Don't be concerned. Lately the OCD is averaging less than 5 minutes of my time per day, which is manageable. There are bad days, but they are not frequent at this stage in my life. All is well in Sparkville.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Lazy Sunday

Sunday was a pleasantly uneventful day of hanging out with old friends. These are the kind of friends that don't require constant conversation or any kind of ceremony. We can just kick back with some junk snacks and the TV, and we're good to go for hours.

We were summoned together for the 37th birthday of an old friend of mine. Let's call him Chuck. He was my first serious boyfriend in high school, back when he was tall, blond, and 17, and I was a naive, over-emotional 15. I had been a geek/outcast in middle school, so I can't tell you how excited I was to have a handsome, older boyfriend. It was a super-intense first-puppy-love affair.

Funny how, after all the teenage drama, we managed to stay friends. I eventually married one of his friends, and when I got divorced, Chuck drove my stuff to my new place in a rented van. Of all the friends I had in high school, including the girls, he's the only one I still hang out with.

Ken and I regularly spend time with Chuck, his wife, and their 8-month-old son. They're our best couple-friends. Zach, the creator of Oonis , is Chuck's younger brother, and also a good friend. In fact, they really feel more like family than friends, I've known them so long.

I always come home from these gatherings feeling blessed.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

And I said I wasn't a joiner

If you haven't already gotten an invitation e-mail from them, you might want to check out the Verve Earth site. It's a free service that puts bloggers on a map of the earth, so that you can find blogs geographically. It's neato mosquito!

I also joined Thirty-Something Bloggers (the badge is on my sidebar), because, well, why not? We'll show those Twenty-Something Bloggers who's boss, eh? Or something.

My Saturday was spent with Ken, prowling through Ikea in search of the perfect bedside table. I felt a bit guilty being inside a windowless big box store for so much of the sunniest, warmest day of almost-spring so far, but Ikea is like a black hole that just sucked us in and wouldn't release us for two whole hours.

(That's how real black holes work, right? They spit you back out in a couple of hours? OK, good, I just wanted to make sure I had my facts straight.)

We found the table, and a cartload of other stuff that we bought completely on impulse. But hey, it was on sale, so think of all the money we saved!* And our home is going to look stunningly fantastic. As soon as Ken gets it all assembled, and the fog of swearing has cleared from the air. (Anyone who can complete assembly of Ikea furniture without resorting to cuss words should be canonized as a saint.)

Ikea is great, yada yada, my home is almost entirely furnished by their products, however I'm not a big fan of their cafeteria. We ate lunch there. I had a plate of Swedish Saltballs with nasty white "gravy". According to the menu, it was a "meatball" plate, but it was more like meated salt than salted meat. Pfeh! I ate half of them and then passed on the rest.

*I don't actually buy into this "it was on sale so we saved money" concept, unless it was a necessary item that I would have bought even if it was at regular price. The truth is, we were feeling impulsive and threw some money around, because sometimes it's fun to be irresponsible.

Saturday, March 15, 2008


The new bed is here!

I slept in it for the first time on Wednesday night. Or, more accurately, I lay in it for two hours, from 4:30 am to 6:30 am, after I got snored out of our mutual bed. It's a comfy mattress, but the sheets were too new and stiff, and the pillow is still off-gassing smelly chemicals. I fetched my old mushy pillow, which helped, but not enough for me to actually sleep.

I was even tempted to take my duvet and go back to sleeping on the couch!

On Thursday, to acclimatize myself to the new set-up, I spent the whole night in the new bed. This time I did actually sleep.

In case you're wondering, I don't have a 5' x 8' guest bedroom. (Although that's only slightly smaller than some of the bedrooms I've seen in the tiny condos they're building these days.) The bed is in a nook attached to the computer room (which, according to the floor plan, is the master bedroom, but we don't use it as such. We use the smaller, windowless bedroom for our mutual bed. Why waste one of our two windows on a room that's used only for sleeping?).

Did you notice that the alarm clock is on a djembe? I think it looks cool. It's not great for the drum to be used as a table, so I'll replace it with a proper night table soon enough.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Semi-Automated Teller

I'm waiting in line for a bank machine. There are two of them side by side. A woman in her 50's is at one of them, and a woman in her 20's is at the other. They both have their heads down, dealing with transactions. Both machines are beeping as the ladies press various buttons.

I wait patiently.

Suddenly the younger woman whips around to face me.

Younger Woman: How do you deposit a cheque into this thing? Do you know how to do it?

Me: Uh, yeah, sure. I can help you.

I'm in a good mood and not in any hurry. I think: I can help her out to speed things along. It won't be a big deal. But then the older woman turns towards me.

Older Woman: How you put in cheque? I need make deposit. You help me.

The odds are so against this. I have never, in 23 years of using bank machines, been asked for help by even one person. People usually keep to themselves, respecting each others' financial privacy. And suddenly two women are both demanding to have me look over their shoulders and assist them with their transactions? It seems very suspicious.

But what can I do? Now that I've offered my services as onsite tech support, I feel committed. Besides, I want to use a bank machine, so I've got to get at least one of these ladies sorted out and on her way.

Younger Woman: What do I do?

Me: You press that key, that says "Deposit".

Older Woman: This right? How I do?

Me [to Older Woman]: OK, now press "End of items"

Younger Woman: Like this?

Me [to Younger Woman]: No, wait, you have to type it in with the decimal place. Here, press the "Cancel"...

Older Woman: Why no savings?

Her machine is giving her the ominously low-pitched "BOOP BOOP!" of an error. I look at her screen and the "Savings" option is grayed out. She is pressing the soft key next to "Savings" aggressively and repeatedly, despite the booping.

I try to explain that she must not have a savings account with this bank, and wouldn't she like to deposit the cheque to her chequing account? Meanwhile the younger woman is trying to regain my attention.

It goes back and forth like this for several hectic minutes, each of them blundering hopelessly as soon as my back is turned, and then canceling their transactions and starting from scratch.

Finally the older woman gives up and leaves the machine to make a call on her cellphone. The younger woman manages to enter her cheque amount and put the cheque in an envelope. I correct her when she tries to feed the envelope into the wrong slot on the machine (the one the printed receipts are dispensed from), although the correct slot has a flashing light over it. Then, as the envelope disappears from sight, she panics:

Oh my god! I made a mistake! I put the envelope in upside-down!

I assure her that the bank will not reject her deposit, even though her envelope wasn't oriented exactly the same way as the illustration over the envelope slot. So she immediately gets on her cellphone and starts digging in her handbag.

The older woman may not have managed to get her cheque deposited, but at least she thanked me before she took off!

No one jumped out to tell me that I'd been punked, so now I'm convinced that I was being observed by scientists. Next time, I'd like to just get my cash and ignore everyone around me, like usual.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

A Stroll Down Yonge St.

Yonge St. runs north-south down the middle of Toronto. At one time the Guiness Book of World Records had it listed as the longest street in the world. I love Yonge St. because it's got character to spare.

This old clock tower protrudes above the storefronts one block north of College Park Mall. (That's where I ran into the girl with the gory hands.)

College Park Mall itself is a piece of architectural history. It was opened in 1931. This is the decorative trim on the outside of the building:

An indicator guage over one of the elevators that tells you which floor the car is at. Only the floors open to the public are marked.

A decorative metal grille over one of the entrances:

And just down the street, evidence of Yonge St.'s livelier side, the Zanzibar strip club:

The letters on the Zanzibar sign flash in a complicated pattern. I took shot after shot and could not manage to get one with all the letters lit up. My camera takes its sweet time from the moment I press the trigger button to the time it actually opens the shutter. In the end Ken had to count down for me and yell "NOW!" so that I could get this photo. Thanks, Ken!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Psycho Therapy

Psychotherapy is a strange thing. Difficult to define. I've been through around 300 hours of it by now, between individual and group therapy sessions. I also attended a 2-year, part-time program with the intention of actually become a practicing psychotherapist.

There have been times when I hated being in therapy, and times when I felt that it was the one thing that kept me hanging on. It has alternately comforted, confused, enraged, frustrated, clarified, supported, and bored me.

One thing psychotherapy always did: it refused to let me sit in a rut and wallow.

I see the role of a good therapist as supportively confronting: always giving that little push to get you out of your comfort zone. It's always amazing to me how devoted people are to their old, familiar ways, even when those ways are self-sabotaging. (Including me.) Even when people think they want to change, and say they want to change, in their heart of hearts they often resist, kicking and screaming all the way.

In my second year of school, I realized that I don't have enough patience to be a therapist. I have enough inner resources to support myself and manage my own inner crap, but just barely, some days. When we were in class on weekends for 8 hours at a stretch, doing case studies on each other, I ran low on compassion. I didn't want to hear another sad story. I didn't want to watch yet another classmate break down in tears as they accessed their inner child's pain.

When someone finally let down their defenses and sobbed, the class felt that we'd really gotten somewhere. Therapy isn't all about looking for bruises to push on, but sometimes it seemed like that to me.

I still go to a group once a week. We sit in a circle, and talk about the stuff that's going on in our lives. The group has alternately comforted, frustrated, clarified, bored, and supported me. Sometimes I look forward to it. Sometimes I'd really rather go home and watch TV instead. I keep going, because it feels good to know that there's 2 hours in my week when I can be in a safe space with other people and we all share the goal of trying to be honest with ourselves and with each other.

If we can just see through some of the lies and illusions, and really see ourselves and each other just for a little bit, that makes the rest of life easier to survive. That's what it means to me.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Can't Wait for Spring

You all heard me complain about how middle age is sneaking up on me.

I'm of two minds when it comes to the concept of age-appropriate clothing. On one hand, I don't want to want to raise eyebrows by dressing too young, especially at work. On the other hand, I don't want to go to the other extreme and bore myself into an early grave with tasteful neutrals.

Just to make sure I still have something fun to wear on the weekends, I went out and bought myself this gear from the teen department. Can't hardly wait for the warm weather so that I can swan around town in my:

... T-shirt with bears camping out in sleeping bags. One of the bears is roasting a marshmallow over the campfire.
And my...

... ballet flat sneakers, which are covered in rainbows, hearts, stars, butterflies, and lightening bolts. Very mature, yes? No? And my...

... short-sleeved, robin's egg blue hoodie, covered in bluebells. You can't see from the photo, but each and every little bluebell blossom has a wee little happy face on it.

I'm only paid to act my age on weekdays. The rest of the time, I plan to regress shamelessly.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Snowy Saturday

7:30 am: Wake up. Huh, what do you know? It's snowing.

10:30 am: Go meet my friend Zach for brunch. Wow, it's really coming down.

I walk to the subway station through ankle-deep snow. It's pretty, so white and quiet. There are hardly any cars on the streets. I enjoy the tingling cold of snowflakes on my face.

11:00 ish (OK, so I was a little late) to 1:20 ish: Brunch with Zach at the Pickle Barrel.

Just so you know, Zach is awesome. We've been friends since high school. In my tenth grade yearbook, he glowers at the camera from behind a curtain of hair. He signed it: "When I rule the world, I won't enslave you."

Zach made these guys for me many years ago. They are: Red Squid, Oonis, and Sammy the Snake. Oonis has a hole in the top of his head and so doubles as a pen holder.

Yes, Ken is cool with us being friends. He trusts me. The value and rarity of this kind of trust is not lost on me.

You'd think that at a restaurant called "The Pickle Barrel", you'd find the best quality pickles available. It may only be a garnish by the side of the plate, but it's also their corporate emblem. Zach and I agreed that in fact, these were the WORST pickles we'd ever had. They tasted like they'd been bottled in flavourless oil, instead of brine. Slimey and tasteless. Feh!

2:00 ish: Meet Ken at the bookstore. Take the subway downtown to the Eaton Centre Mall. It's still snowing, but I don't care much because I've been indoors since I got on the subway at 10:45 am. I love malls that are attached to subway stations.

2:30 to 4:00 ish: Bum around the mall. At one point, we ventured outside, but the wind threw such a flurry of cold, wet snow into our faces that we turned around and went right back in.

4:00 pm: Take the escalators up 8 floors in The Bay department store to the Cityview Cafe.

This is a quiet cafeteria with enormous plate-glass windows that look down onto the historical building that used to be City Hall. You can also see Queen St. (a main thoroughfare) and the skating rink at Nathan Philips square.

We chose a plastic-wrapped slice of pumpkin pie to share, and sat by the plate-glass windows, watching snow pour down heavily from an undifferentiable sky. A few brave souls were skating, although the snow must have been pretty thick on the ice. We watched traffic creep along. Tourists stopped to take photos of each other in front of Old City Hall. A pack of skinny teenagers waiting for the streetcar tried to have a snowball fight, but the snow was as packable as dry flour. They threw handfuls of it at each other, and it just blew away on the wind.

5:00 pm: Take the escalators down 8 floors. Bum around the mall some more.

6:00 pm: Take the subway to Yonge and Bloor. The shoe store I wanted to look around in was "Closed Due to Extreme Weather. Sorry for the Inconvenience." We went to Ginger for dinner.

Ginger is a Vietnamese, cafeteria-style restaurant. We sat at a table for two pushed up against a wall papered with a mural of a tropical beach. As we ate, the wind picked up outside and snow blew in a furious dance outside the windows. Whenever the front door opened, the wind gusted in so aggressively that it blew snow right onto my dinner plate, as I shivered under the image of a paper palm tree on a sunny beach.

6:30 ish: Time to get going. Outside it's snowing so hard that I laugh in disbelief. There are so few cars on the road that it feels more like 4:00 am on a weekday than Saturday night at the heart of the city.

7:00 ish: Walk home from the subway through calf-deep snow. The wind won't let up, and it's blowing a constant stream of cold, wet snow in my face. I am so over the snow by now. I am not enjoying the sensation, no sir, not one bit. Not the stinging of snowflakes landing directly on my eyeballs, nor the cold melt-water that's trickling down my neck.

10:15 pm: Draft a blog post about my day in the snow. It's STILL freakin' snowing!!

Saturday, March 8, 2008


If you ever stay in a hotel room...

If anyone you care about ever stays in a hotel...

If you care about hygiene and common decency...

Brace yourself, and then take a look at this hidden-camera investigation done by an Atlanta local news station.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Crazy Neighbour 2

It all started innocently enough, on Mother's Day.

I had been getting to know Nina, our next-door apartment neighbour who was around my own age. I found out that she'd given birth to her son when she was 19, and had raised him alone in difficult circumstances. Although she'd done her very best to do right by him, had sacrificed her own hopes and dreams to provide for him, he was going through an adolescent rebellious phase. A short time ago, he said a lot of very unkind things to her, and moved in with his dad.

Distraught and bereft, Nina moved to Toronto from her smallish hometown, to try to make a life for herself without her son. She didn't know anyone here, and Toronto is a notoriously unfriendly city. People err on the side of polite silence, and avoiding eye contact. She was not used to living alone in her new apartment. And then it was Mother's Day. Her son probably wouldn't call. She was feeling like crap.

Ken often brought me flowers back then, because he's awesome like that, and because there was a cute little flower shop on his walk home from work. Nina sometimes ran into him in the hall as he unlocked our door, and admired the bouquets. He thought it would be a nice gesture to bring Nina some flowers on Mother's Day. And so he did.

We'd each been over to each others' place a few times before, so it didn't seem odd to him when she invited him over for tea a few days later. But something in the way she curled up on the couch this time... the vibe was different. She was coquettish. Eyelashes were batted. Leading questions were tabled.

I got home around twenty minutes after Ken had accepted the invitation to tea. As I was still shrugging off my jacket, I heard a door open and close outside, and then our own door opened and Ken rushed in, like something was chasing him. He looked a little wild-eyed.

Ken: You're never going to believe what Nina just said to me.

Me: What? What did she say?

Ken: She said that all her friends said that the flowers meant...

Me: What?

Ken: She thought we were trying to get her to have a three-way!

Me: [loud enough to be heard through our common wall]
WHAT ?!!!!!

Ken: Yeah, she wants to have sex with both of us.

Me: *stunned silence*

Ken: Well, what do you think?

Me: Uh, it's flattering, I guess.

Ken: Would you do it?

So we considered the option, or at least we pretended to give it serious consideration. I felt a responsibility to at least hypothesize about whether or not it was a good idea. Lots of people would feel like they won the lottery with that offer. She was a fairly attractive woman. I didn't want to regret it later in life, kicking myself for being too conservative.

But in the end, we just weren't into it. Even Ken, who ostensibly had nothing to lose, realized that the reality of a three-way could get really awkward, and then being next-door neighbours could become unbearable. And although I can appreciate the beauty of women, I'm pretty firmly in the straight camp. I didn't have any desire to experience Nina without her clothes on.

Things were never quite the same living next to Nina, after that day. I think we were all relieved when Ken and I moved out. Last time I ran into her, she said she was still living there, and that a couple of loud Russian women had moved into our old apartment. She said they argued and shouted day and night. She said that she misses us. I guess she won't be offering the Russians a three-way.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Today's Topic: Armpits

I'm having trouble finding the right words to segue into this topic. It's awkward. Armpits are intimate territory and most of us would rather pay as little attention to them as possible. Especially other peoples'.

Around ten years ago, I had to start paying attention to my armpits. Commercial antiperspirants and deoderants were triggering serious health problems, including cysts so sore that one day I called my doctor in tears from a public phone booth, unable to bear the pain. I had to come up with another solution to the armpit problem.

One at a time, I bought all the different brands of natural deoderants. They all had approximately the same effectiveness, which is to say, nearly none. They cost twice as much as the commercial brands, and I still had stinky pits by the end of the day. Situation: unacceptable!

I finally tried the last and most expensive option on the health food store's shelves: a zinc-based cream deoderant called Lavilin. A half-ounce pot set me back $20. For that price, it had better work!

The instructions stated that I was not permitted to apply any other product to my pits for 3 whole days before the first application. Oh, great. Would the Lavilin people mind writing a letter of explanation for me to hand out to my friends, family, co-workers, and customers? Because, I'm fastidious. The prospect of walking around in public with full-on B.O. for 3 days was painful.

In the end I handled it the old-fashioned way: I half-stripped and washed in the sink with soap and water several times each day. I was working in a store that had a 1-person bathroom. Thank God for privacy.

Results of the experiment: 100% success! Lavilin (I swear no one is paying me to write this) keeps away pit-stink for at least a week after each application. It goes on at bedtime and washes off in the morning shower. Then I don't even think about it for another seven days.

The $20 pot lasts for several months, so on a per-serving basis, it's not terribly dear. And fortunately for me, I don't sweat buckets, so the fact that it's not an antiperspirant isn't a big worry.

If someone gave you a free pot of Lavilin tomorrow, would you give it a try?

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Crazy Neighbour 1

I had seen him around the halls, but we didn't speak to each other until we crossed paths in the laundry room. A good-looking guy, a couple of years older than me, he was my next-door neighbour. I'll call him Joe.

Joe was a delivery guy for FedEx. A respectable job. He always looked clean and groomed. Every once in a while we'd hear him singing along with the Doors at the top of his lungs: "Come on Baby, light my fire!" That was okay. We all need to blast the stereo once in a while.

I had him pegged as an average guy.

As we sorted our laundry into the machines, we got to talking. At that time I was taking writing classes . It must have come up in the conversation, because he told me that he writes poetry. We should exchange writing and give each other feedback on our work, he said. I thought that seemed harmless enough. He knew that I was living with Ken, so I trusted that this was not a pickup attempt.

I told Ken about the conversation. Ken's Spidey Sense was tingling. He said: "That guy's a weirdo. You shouldn't get involved with him." I was all, oh, you're so suspicious. You always think the worst of everyone. What's the big deal?

A few days later there was a plastic bag hanging from the doorknob when I got home. Inside there was a manila envelope from Joe, with a note asking for me to give my opinion on the contents.

At the time the Toronto Transit Commission, the organization in charge of all public transit in the city, was having a competition for a promotional poster. Joe had created a poster that he planned to submit.

No word of a lie, this was his poster:
There was a photo of an old 1970's sedan, rusted and junked out in the middle of the desert. The car was riddled with bullet holes. The slogan under the photo read "TTC: The Better Way".

This wasn't meant to be a joke. He was completely serious. And clearly, completely crazy.

Yes, I suppose taking the bus is preferable to dying because your shot-up rustbucket of a car stranded you in the middle of the desert. But I don't think that that was what the TTC was hoping for by way of a promotional campaign. It's just a wee bit over the top, yes?

There was some other stuff in the envelope along the same lines, but nothing else that I remember quite as clearly as that one piece. He had also enclosed a letter to me, hand-written in cursive on lined notepaper. It was a melodramatic ode to the wondrousness of writing, in which he beseeched me to keep writing, because when I most needed it, it would "save" me.

OK, so he was right on one count... But that didn't make him any less looney.

I returned the materials to him, with a note stating that Ken wasn't comfortable with our arrangement, and I requested that we just go back to saying "Hi" in the halls, like we had before. Fortunately, he respected my request.

And just in case you think I was making too much of the situation, he proved Ken right when he found a girl to move in with him the following year. She had serious problems - you could tell just by looking at her that things weren't OK. They had terrible arguments. The screaming went on and on. Twice, when I started to hear crashing along with the screaming, I called in the police for a domestic disturbance. One of those times the girlfriend was so wild and out of it that they took her away in an ambulance.

Yeesh. Now when Ken has a bad feeling about someone, I listen to him.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Aging Ungracefully

I always swore that I wouldn't fight the aging process. I was under the illusion that I could accept it gracefully. Why did I think that I would be exempt from the feelings that everyone goes through?

Some things are easy to disguise. A few silver hairs disappear with the help of artificial colour. Teeth can be whitened. Spider veins can be covered up. (I no longer reveal my legs above mid-calf.)

But there's a slight crinkliness around my eyes now that can't be hidden. My whole face is starting to change. I'm not a believer in unnecessary surgery or over-priced cosmetics, so I'm going to have to get used to it. I'm crossing the threshold into middle age.

It's my goal to have my shit totally together by the time I'm 40. There's a certain kind of woman I admire, who has a few lines in her face, who has put up with enough nonsense in her life and is no longer willing to submit. She has a solid core of self-assurance. She doesn't indulge in girlish drama. That's who I want to be.

I'm getting there. A few more years and a few more laugh lines...

How accepting are you of your aging process? Have you had to face it yet?

Monday, March 3, 2008

Sleeping like a cat

I have posted previously about Ken's snoring. He's always snored, but it's become a more serious problem lately.

My first line of defense is earplugs. I wear them every night, without exception. Previously, if Mr. Snoralupagus woke me in the night, I'd just elbow him aggressively until he rolled over onto his side, and the snoring would stop. But things have changed around here lately.

Firstly, I'm more likely to wake up in the night and less likely to be able to fall back asleep once I'm up, even without the snore factor. Thank you, various stress factors.

Secondly... I was recently awakened by the sound of a six-cylinder engine revving on the next pillow. I turned, elbow primed for action, and what did I see? HE WAS ALREADY SLEEPING ON HIS SIDE.

What? That was supposed to be physically impossible. Turning Ken's body was equivalent to turning down the volume knob. The volume knob is now broken.

I bought him a package of plastic nasal strips - the ones that stick on the outside of your nose and physically pull your nostrils open. Dutifully, he slept with one every night. They were working really well, reducing the snoring volume, until Friday night. Friday night he snored me right out of bed onto the sofa. That was at 3:00 am. At 5:30 am I was woken again. He was snoring so loudly that it woke me from a deep sleep, and I was already as far from him as I could be. I thought: this cannot go on.

Not only is my sleep being interrupted, but that dang couch is not designed to be slept on. My neck hurts, my back hurts... it's not a long-term solution.

Other possible solutions are limited because Ken has a sleeping disorder. It flares up when he's under stress, but it's always a consideration. When it's activated, he can't get a deep sleep. His brain will pull him half-way to wakefulness once every 15 minutes or so. A few years ago when his dad was severely ill and Ken was stressed all the time, he was like a zombie. He'd spend 12 hours lying in bed, and yet he could never get enough rest. He was always whacked out.

Triggering Ken's sleep disorder is to be avoided at all costs. I would not want to see him living like that again.

So on Saturday afternoon, we bought a second bed. Twin size, to be installed in our 2nd bedroom, which we've been using as the computer room. It'll officially be The Guest Bed, but really it will be my escape pod when the snoring gets to be too much. I'll always start the night in our shared bedroom, and hope to stay there most of the time. I figure I'll sleep like a cat - I'll have more than one sleeping spot and choose between them as circumstances dictate.

In fact, I'm looking forward to having my own bed. It means that sometimes, when I wake up there, I can actually TURN ON THE LIGHT in the morning. When the clock radio goes off, I can lie in bed listening to it for a while, instead of lunging to turn it off before it wakes Ken. I'm looking forward to buying sheets and a pretty duvet.

Yay! My own bed. I'm excited.

Sunday, March 2, 2008


Many moons ago, Pixie Von Azia at Simply Addicted tagged me for a typing test. I finally got around to it. The results...

*drrrrrrrrumrrrrrrrrrroll, cymbal crash!*

65 words

Speed test

I am humbled. I couldn't match Pixie's lightening speed! But it's not too shabby a result, if I do say so myself.

Also, long ago in the days when fish were first growing legs and learning to walk upright, Leighann at Pessimists Need Love Too offered this sweet award to anyone with enough self-assurance to step up and claim it as rightfully theirs.

If my blog awards were tangible objects, I'd sleep with them cradled to my chest. Thanks Leighann!

Same rules apply here. If you're bad-ass enough to claim this award, come and get it! You just proved yourself worthy. Rock on.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Sneaky Dee's

I thought you might like a tour of a favourite haunt of mine, Sneaky Dee's. It's a bar and restaurant in downtown Toronto that's been around since 1990.

It looks tough, but it's actually a very welcoming and comfortable place. It's so weird that no one is too weird to be there. Families with young children and babies dine next to punks, college kids, artsy types, and whoever else has wandered in off the street. Some of the servers are heavily tattooed and pierced: young people who probably can't get a job anywhere else due to dress codes. They're mostly friendly and the food is good.

I started going to Sneaky Dee's when I was in university. Once a week on Wednesdays they held a Bingo night. You could win prizes from the dollar store, and the rest of the profits went to a local food bank. Most of the players were drunk, and there was always a big ruckus when the call was for O-69.

I met Aurora there for lunch. This little beauty was above our table.

Here's what the rest of the place looks like. Note the awesome painting on the ceiling.

Here's a random mural that appeared on the rear wall since I was last there.

If you want to sit in a booth, you'll have to sit in a skeleton's lap. Don't worry, these guys don't bite.

As you can see, every inch of the place is covered in graffiti. It's rude, it's beautiful, it's poetic, and hilarious.

Here we are on the way to the restrooms.

Can you tell which is the men's and which is the ladies room?

Sure it looks kind of like a dump, but really it's great. Their home-style Tex-Mex food is Ummy, and the weekend brunches can't be beat. Who wants to meet me there for a burrito?