Thursday, May 29, 2008


It always bugged me when Molly Ringwald's character in "Pretty in Pink" referred to "prom". Not "the prom", but "prom", as though it were a substance, like water, or flour, or pie. Would you like a slice of prom? Yes, please, prom is my favourite!

At my high school, it was "the prom". And I went twice, once when I was in 9th grade (1987) and once when I was graduating (1991).

How did it come to pass that a Minor Niner got invited to the prom? "Minor" was an apt description. At the age of 14 I still looked 12; I was shy; I had barely made any friends yet. But it just so happened that my one close friend had an older sister in Grade 13 (that mythical-sounding but true artifact of the Ontario school board), and one of her guy friends needed a date for the prom.

This guy, call him Fred, was not exactly a catch. He was a brainy geek, a late bloomer. He was nice enough, but not attractive. I didn't care. I'd been a social outcast for years, and being invited to the prom by an older boy was a dream come true. I wanted the bragging rights.

This is approximately what we looked like:

except that his tux was black (thank God for small mercies) and my dress was pale purple. (I did an image search for "prom dress 1986" and this photo was the result. It's a little scary how much it looks like our actual photo from that night.)

We sat at a table for six with two other couples. Through the eyes of our wealthy, white high school, it was the Freak and Loser table. We were: The immigrant girl with the funny accent; the gay goth guy who was obsessed with The Cure; the girl with both a lisp and a limp; the guy who was so quiet that I barely remember him; the Minor Niner (me); and the skinny boy who looked like he'd never seen the sun or a minute of exercise in his life (my date).

It wasn't bad. It wasn't great. The best thing to come of the evening, as I'd expected, was the reaction of my peers when I told them I'd been to the prom. It did wonders for my underdeveloped ego.

Four years later I was back at the prom, wearing a very chic little black dress and with my future (now ex) husband on my arm. We shared a table with good friends, and the best part of the evening was the dancing. Ninth grade seemed a long, long time ago.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

A coincidence and shoes

Sunday was my mom's birthday. A week before I'd bought her a pair of earrings as a gift. It's more of a big deal than you're thinking, because my mom doesn't have pierced ears. Never has. Since my step-dad moved out, she's been talking about "perforating" herself, as she puts it, and I'm trying to convince her to go for it. I figured if I bought her a pair of pretty earrings, she'd be more motivated.

So, I picked out some earrings that I thought were approximately her taste, and gave them to her on Sunday. When she opened the box, she said,

Oh, they're so pretty!

She paused to examine them more closely, then asked,

Did I tell you about the brooch I bought a few weeks ago?

No, I said.

I'll have to run upstairs and get it. I think it'll be a good match for these earrings.

Here are the earrings I picked out for her next to the brooch she bought for herself three weeks ago. Notice any similarities?

The more we stared at them, the more amazed we were. It's not like she has a "thing" for square jewelry. She doesn't own other pieces like this, nor is it a particularly common design, to the best of my knowledge. And I do browse through jewelry stores with relative regularity.

Make of it what you will. Crazy coincidence? Evidence of a mother-daughter psychic link? You may draw your own conclusions.

And now, by popular demand, these are the fab-o shoes that I picked up at Winners on Saturday. Yes, I even went so far as to buy matching socks. That's how much I love these shoes. And they're comfy! Excuse me, I'm going to go spoon my shoes and purr.


Sunday, May 25, 2008


What? Don't you have a pair of giant owls roosting by your local primary school?

And now a complete change of subject:

By the end of this week, I was totally fried. Lots of crap has been going down in my life. I'm not going to get into it here, not so much to spare your delicate sensibilities, but to save myself from having to think about it all.

On Friday evening, if you had rested the tip of your nose against the tip of my nose, stayed completely quiet, and looked into my eyes, I bet you could have heard the hiss of static in my brain, and seen grey snow drifting in the depths of my pupils.

Part of my needing to put the brakes on my mad blogging related to this mental burnout. I love to write about the ridiculous, sweet, funny, and tragic little details of life, but it's not possible to attend to these details when one is buried under a thick haze of psychological static.

On Saturday I took a day entirely for myself. As per my personal priorities, I divided the day equally between staying at home in my pyjamas and an afternoon of enthusiastic retail therapy. Seriously, there's nothing better for re-establishing a sense of control than shopping. I see the shoes. I want the shoes. I buy the shoes. It's simple! Minimal thinking is required! I get exactly what I want without an argument!

The balance of the universe re-establishes itself, slowly. The static begins to clear. And seriously, I spent less money than I would have on an hour of professional talk therapy.

Whooooo's the wise one now?

Friday, May 23, 2008

The Momentous Decision

I love blogging, but this daily posting thing is getting to be a bit much. In the past couple of week there have been a few times when I realized that other aspects of my life are suffering because of my blogging commitment.

Ken has mentioned more than once that I've been "spending a lot of time on the computer".

Also I've been slacking at work just a wee tad on account of keeping up with the blog neighbours. Often I have downtime at the end of the day, when everything is done and I can take a few minutes to catch up without guilt. However, I recently got myself into a bad situation by taking a few too many breaks when there was still work to be done, and that's not like me. I don't sleep well knowing that I did a half-assed job.

So, much as I'd like to be able to honour all my commitments, something has to give. That's Blog365. So as of now, I'm officially resigning from the challenge to post daily.

I'm thinking it's more reasonable to aim for 2 or 3 posts per week. I still want to keep up with all my usual blog-pals, because I *heart* you all and can't bear to miss an instalment of your life stories.

Thanks to all of you who have read and/or commented regularly throughout my marathon of daily writing. I didn't have enough experience when I signed up for the project to realize that daily postings are demanding not only for the author, but also for commenters.

Anyway, I'm still here, and still committed to Blogland and all it's whacky residents. Have a great weekend, all!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Restricted Substances Update

Ron called it.

Not even two months ago I was celebrating the reintroduction of certain food items into my life, which had once given me trouble, namely caffeine and dairy products. I thought that my initial successes consuming coffee, milk, and cheese meant that I was home free. Ron said: they might take a few weeks to build up in your system again. Ron was right.

I've re-developed the symptoms I had before I gave up dairy: a perpetually drippy nose, and, more horribly, breakouts. I would not like a side of zits with these impending crow's feet, thanks very much. Not if I can help it. This morning when I woke up with a brand new whitehead on my chin, when the one under my nose hasn't even fully receded yet, I went straight to the fridge and threw every last scrap of dairy into the garbage. I didn't even rinse out the yogurt tub to recycle it. It all went straight down the trash chute. Goodbye!

I didn't notice what coffee was doing to me at first. It was sneaky. I could fall asleep just fine after having a coffee in the afternoon. However, I couldn't stay asleep. I started to notice a pattern of waking up between 3 and 4am and being unable to get back to sleep for an hour or two, after any day that I'd drunk coffee. I also noticed that my moods were starting to spin more out of control. I could get a caffeine high, but the higher I flew the worse I'd crash. One whole day or even two would follow where I was dragging my ass and feeling like I might be coming down with the flu.

Yeah, I had some pretty good reasons to give these things up. Now I remember why I did it, and I'm motivated to go back to the more restricted diet that was working so well for me before. Heck, there's always decaf.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Day of Nothing

Every once in a while it's good to do nothing for a day. Like, for example, on the Victoria Day holiday Monday.

Doing nothing MUST begin with sleeping in. At least ten hours of sleep are required, from whenever you went to bed. When you finally wake up, the process of getting out of bed should be extended to take the maximum amount of time possible. Pyjamas should be maintained for at least two hours after rising from bed.

Eventually, when you feel ready, enjoy a hot, leisurely shower. No rushing is allowed on this Day of Nothing. If in doubt, take longer than you need to. Move in slow motion. Pretend you're a turtle, or a snail.

Food will be scrounged from any leftovers available in the refrigerator and non-perishable snacks from the pantry. The most complex cooking task permitted is the toasting of frozen waffles. If that means you eat half a box of cookies for lunch, so be it.

Other slow-day activities you may choose among are: television, video games, internet browsing, reading, gazing out the window, and napping. Yes, napping is an activity. You have to arrange the pillows on the sofa and pull the blanket all the way up to your chin. This is taxing work, and you'll drop off to sleep in no time.

Try to avoid answering the phone. Someone might want something from you, or be annoying and throw off your cool, slow-day vibe. That's what voice mail is for. If it's really important, they'll leave a message.

For mental health and stability, I recommend at least one Slow Day per month, two if possible.

Blogging on a Slow Day is permitted.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008


Out by Lester B. Pearson International Airport, there's a 24-hour old-school diner. Check out the propeller embedded in the sign. A family of sparrows is nesting in the hollow hub of the propeller.

It's the kind of place that has a Banquet Burger on the menu. Most of the all-day breakfasts consist of variations on steak-and-eggs. Every meal comes served on an enormous oval platter. And their onion rings kick ass.

Across from the parking lot are the Air Canada hangars. You can see planes parked or taxiing around on the ground. Every day at noon a huge line-up of airport employees forms, all waiting for Zetsburgers with fries and gravy.

I have a soft spot for the airport because my mother's father was a pilot for his entire professional career. He was a test pilot in World War II and almost died in a plane crash just a few weeks before my mother was born. He went on to become a pilot of private jets, and then an airplane salesman. He has more than a few exciting adventure stories to tell.

You can also see planes taking off, depending on which runway is in use that day. If you look up above the gap between the two E's in BEER you'll see a plane that just left the ground.

When summer finally arrives, we'll go for dinner, then park in the strip mall just down the street, at the end of one of the major runways. If the prevailing winds dictate that it's in use, the planes will land or take off just a few meters away. People set up lawn chairs, bring their kids, and make an evening of it. As the jet engines thunder past, just a few stories above our heads, we all ooh and ahh. Dusk sinks to darkness and the airport lights twinkle on. The vast spread of airport concrete transforms into a magical fairyland.

If you're ever passing through Toronto, don't miss it.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Family Reunion

On Saturday I attended a family reunion at my dad and step-mom's home. A branch of the family that lives on the West coast flew in for the occasion. I had the opportunity to spend some quality time with my precious little girl-cousin who only just turned 7. I may be biased, but I think she's almost perfect. Cute, smart, sociable, well-behaved, and full of giggles. We played Hangman and gave each other lots of extra chances (one wrong letter was an ear, another was a nostril, another was a moustache). We won every game!

I was feeling a bit low on energy, but it was no problem because that side of my family loves to talk. I was happy to sit back and listen, just taking in the laughter and smiles. There was a surfeit of fabulous food. The dog spent almost the entire four hours snuffling around the floor, looking for crumbs. Eventually she figured out that her best bet was to park herself at the feet of my 95-year-old grandfather. His manual dexterity isn't what it was. His loss is the dog's gain.

I'm not much of a dog person, but I do enjoy my dad's dog. Now that she's not a hyper puppy anymore, she's pretty well behaved. She doesn't jump up or try to lick people. When we all arrived she got excited, running from one end of the house to the other, skittering to a stop randomly to tilt her muzzle to the ceiling and howl "ARRRROOOOO!". Either she was really happy to see us, or she was already anticipating many delicious morsels of fallen food, and was asking us to get on with it already!

It was an excellent day. I'm still counting my blessings.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

A Hierarchy of Chores

My favourite chore is washing dishes. I never want to do it, but once I've gotten started I find it strangely satisfying. I like taking the kitchen from chaos to order. I like the feeling of hot water flowing over my hands, and soapsuds squeezing through my fingers. I love how shiny the warm, clean dishes are when they're all lined up to dry in the dish rack.

My least favourite chore is cleaning the bathroom. I don't believe this needs any elaboration. If anyone enjoys this task, I would be interested in hearing your perspective, but I can't guarantee that I'll be able to understand.

Vacuuming used to be very unpleasant. I like to vacuum on a regular schedule, but it drove me crazy. By the time I was done I felt aggravated almost to tears. One day I had an epiphany. I put earplugs in before I turned the vacuum on. And hey! What a difference! Turns out I was hypersensitive to the incredibly loud whine of my crappy old vacuum. Now I have a fancy vacuum. It purrs like a kitten.

Laundry, in my current setup, almost doesn't count as a chore. Throw the clothes in the washer. Turn it on. Go do something else for 30 minutes. Come back and throw stuff in the dryer. Turn it on. Forget about it for an hour. Folding gets done in front of the TV - what could be easier? I'm not a big fan of ironing, but whatever. I can cope.

Which are your favourite and most loathed chores?

Saturday, May 17, 2008

The Bad Eye Day

If eye stuff grosses you out, stop reading now.

I had a bad eye day. It's like a bad hair day, but more awful. Everything was going along normally until dinnertime, then my eyes went to pieces.

Ken was in the kitchen preparing dinner. Mmm... homemade flour tortillas with chicken, guacamole, refried beans, jalapenos... extra peppery jalapenos.

The jalapeno oil got into the air. I could feel it as a tickle at the back of my throat. Then, as I removed my left contact lens, I managed to scratch my eye.

Have you ever scratched your eye? It feels like there's an eyelash stuck in your eye but you can't see anything in there. You press your nose to the mirror and pull your eyelid back, hoping to find an offending speck so that you can pluck it out and end the irritation. But there's nothing to take out. You just end up making it worse.

Every time you blink, it feels like there's sand in your eye. It becomes difficult to think of anything else. The following process takes up your entire awareness:


Ow, my eye!


Ow, my eye!


Ow, my eye!


Since this has happened to me once before, I knew what to do. I headed out to the closest pharmacy to buy a tube of ophthalmic ointment: a clear goopy lubricant. It coats the surface of your eye in a mixture of petroleum jelly and mineral oil. This soothes the scratch, but of course now you can't see out of that eye because it's covered in a gel of oil.

Finally I was back on the sofa, squinting at the TV through my one good eye. I was damned if I was missing the season finale of American's Next Top Model. As the show progressed, I realized my "good" eye wasn't feeling so good. It was tearing. It was swelling.

The jalapenos.

I was having a reaction to the jalapeno oil in the air. My right eye got more and more red, more and more teary, until I could barely see at all. Ironically, my left eye didn't have a reaction, since it was protected under a layer of goo.

I spent much of the evening sighing and feeling pitiful. However, after a good sleep my eyes are on the mend. I'm giving them a break from the contact lenses for now. I've got my specs on instead. At least I can see!

Friday, May 16, 2008

The Meeting

As most of you know by now, my mom and my step-dad are separated and proceeding with a divorce. They have quite a few shared assets to divvy up. Neither of them wants a big, long, lawyer-fueled divorce war. They'd rather sit down like civilized people and talk business until they find an agreement they can both live with.

My mom is at a disadvantage, because she's not exactly a business-woman. My step-dad has speculated in the stock market and other financial venues since I can remember. My mom was content to squirrel away a few dollars here and there into GIC's and savings bonds in order to have something for a rainy day. Anything more complex than compound interest indimidates her completely.

So when my step-dad invited her to meet for a disscussion of their financial affairs, she asked me to come along for moral support, and for a second opinion.

Try to imagine, for a moment, how much I was dreading this meeting. They might both claim to want an amicable resolution, but emotions are running high - higher still because financial matters are at stake. I pictured myself caught in the middle of a pitched battle, or a pinched silence. I didn't sleep well the night before.

I asked for permission to bring Ken along, and my folks agreed. I thought it would be easier with another person there to diffuse any tensions.

The evening of the meeting came. And guess what? No arguments. No awkward silences. It was the four of us, meeting as a family, albeit in an "adjusted" state, to have dinner and discuss business. At the end, while my step-dad was away from the table for a moment, I turned to my mom and said:

"It's weird, but this divorce is really bringing us together as a family."

Maybe it's one last burst of togetherness before everyone goes their separate ways. Or maybe my folks will be able to stay friends. Who knows? My step-dad wants to. My mom's not ready to decided yet. Time will tell.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Swanning Around at Birks

I like to think that, fundamentally, I'm not a superficial person. But I do experience occasional moods of superficiality, during which I feel enthused about experimenting with different colours of eye shadow and wearing a different pair of shoes every day.

Luckily those moods don't last long, because I don't own that many pairs of shoes. Also I can't pull off non-neutral (guys, that means brownish and/or greyish) eye-shadow. If I get too caught up in my moment, I'll go nuts and slap on some emerald green, royal blue, or raspberry pink (from a palatte given to me at my last birthday) and then spend the rest of the day trying to rub it off with my fingers while frowning at the mirror in public restrooms.

I don't own enough jewellery to justify a proper jewellery box, but I do have a very sparkly engagement bling. Ken bought it for me from Birks with his life's savings, because he loves a grand gesture and has very good taste. The ring is gorgeous and I treasure it.

I'm not sure how many of you are familiar with Birks. It is a supremely swanky retailer. They don't have a lowest price guarantee or a giant warehouse. It's all 3-inch-deep cream pile carpets and class in that place. Before Ken bought me my ring, I was intimidated by it. He'd take me in to window shop, and I'd be on edge, expecting to get kicked out because my jeans weren't the right designer and my sneakers were scruffy.

Now, I am one of the elite. The eagle eyes of the sales people spot my Birks bling in a heartbeat, and a red carpet rolls out at my feet. Can they get me a bottle of water? Would I like my ring run throught the cleaning/polishing machine? Is there anything I'd like to try on?

That's not to say that I don't still get intimidated from time to time. Once I was admiring a firey $300,000 diamond necklace. I can't find it on the website, probably because it was one-of-a-kind. A saleswoman sneaked up behind me and said over my right shoulder "Would you like to try it on?" I jumped a mile. I couldn't say no fast enough. It was like I thought I might break it, or steal it by accident. There was no way that necklace should be worn with a $12.00 Smart Set T-shirt. It might even disintigrate on contact with my lowly neck.

Even given the risk of another such encounter, I'll take any opportunity to pop into Birks, just to "see what's new", and swan around with my bling flashing under their specially adjusted, diamond-loving pot lights. It's fun to play princess for a little while.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

I can has coffee?

As I have mentioned before, I've recently started drinking coffee for the first time in my adult life. Hurray! It tastes good and I get to play it cool and sophisticated as I sip.

Well, sort of. Because this delay in coffee consumption has left me coffee-retarded. I'm almost middle-aged, and I'm completely intimidated by the process of ordering anywhere where there is more choice than just caf or decaf.

The other day I was in a bakery that had a board as tall as me covered in two columns of complicated coffee choices. What, I ask you, is a steamer? I assume it has something to do with the big, shiny machine that goes "WHOOOOSH!", but that's where my expertise ends.

I also have a sense of self-consciousness around complicated coffee orders, after hearing so many jokes involving barristas and half-caf-cappucino-grande-soy-blah-blah-blahs with a shot of mint. I used to sneer, smug in my coffee-free status. Now I'm like "Um, can I have a decaf latte regular?" Which to me seemed incredibly complicated.

When I said "Can I?" I meant it literally. That wasn't my passive aggressive translation of "I want a..." I'm still so insecure about coffee that I didn't know if I could have one, or if the girl behind the counter would laugh at me and go "Everyone knows that lattes are never decaf!"

In fact, as it turns out my order wasn't specific enough. I had neglected to mention what type of milk I wanted. (Skim is standard, and I was happy to go along with the girl's suggestion.)

Finally, frothy mug in hand, I settled in at my table, ready to show off my coffee habit. Look at me! I'm drinking coffee! I'm so mature.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Mother's Day Album

"What? It's what day?"

The Dude, caught in the act of tearing the weatherstripping off my mom's front door. Obviously he's unaware that this is a special day, and he's supposed to be on his best behaviour. Or maybe this is his best behaviour.

The male cat has a biologically determined nesting instinct. He prefers human clothing, open suitcases, and plastic sheeting as nesting materials.

The centerpiece of the Mother's Day family luncheon table, created by my mom from flowers grown in her own backyard.

"Hello! I'm Mr. Pickle! Do you want to be my friend?"

"Eat me?! Noooooooo! Somebody help me before it's too late!"

He came out of the jar that way. None of the other pickles had a face. I couldn't bring myself to eat him, but he did go out to the table in the pickle dish. I suspect he didn't survive to see the tea served.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Quiet Comforts

My life lately has been pretty darn good. I'm grateful for all I have, and can't make any personal complaints. However, a lot of people I care about are going through tough times. They're suffering, confused, and exhausted. They're also brave, awesome, and inspirational. To the best of my ability, I want to be there to give them support and cheer them on.

I feel their pain. It makes me more serious, quieter. I don't shrug it all off as soon as I leave them. I think of them, pray for them. I have been very aware of the bittersweet quality of life. I try to keep my blog posts on the light side, but sometimes the heaviness is pressing and needs attention.

I have been craving the comfort of peace and quiet. When the demands of the world get overwhelming, I need time to myself to collect my thoughts and get centered. Even input that's usually a welcome break, like TV or radio, is intrusive.

One of my favourite simple treats is to take myself and a book out for dinner at a clean, homey, not-too-busy restaurant. Like my favourite soup noodle joint.

Can you imagine yourself sitting there, listening to Korean soft rock, pouring yourself another tea from the hot-water spigot embedded in the table? It's soothing.

I took myself on a solo date to a bagel bakery, where you can get a sandwich on a bagel that came out of the oven only an hour or so ago. It's a big space with high ceilings and generous windows that allow natural light all the way to the back. When I went in, there was an old guy at one table, reading a newspaper and enjoying his sandwich. There was a young couple with a little boy grabbing a quick bite. A middle-aged woman was sipping coffee and working her way through a crossword puzzle.

I got myself egg-salad on a Montreal-style bagel, and settled in with my book. It was a superior sandwich, not on account of the taste (which was fine) but because none of the egg salad fell out into my lap. Egg salad always squishes out of sandwiches. I don't know how they managed to create non-squishy egg salad, but my hat is off to them.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

The Swimmers

If you have delicate sensibilities, this post is not for you. Flee, now, before it's too late!!

I can hardly bear to share this, but I'm too weak to deal with it alone. I'm going to have to have a serious talk with Ken about discretion. I think he must have been looking at porn online. Look at the mess he left on our desk. It's disgraceful!

Saturday, May 10, 2008

My New Habit

I have a new habit. A year ago, I would have laughed if you had suggested to me that I would be doing what I do.

Let me stretch out the suspense for a few beats...


Christian evangelistic television shows. Yup. No one's more surprised than me. I don't even keep up a shield of irony while I'm watching. My Jewish grandmothers would cry if they knew.

I used to watch the news every morning. I still do, but I keep the TV on for over an hour while I do my stretching and exercises, and the news stories start to repeat themselves after the first 30 minutes. I flipped around looking for something else to watch, but there's not much choice in the 7:00am to 9:00am timeslot.

I stumbled across the evangelists by accident, and thought I'd watch for a bit of a joke. I've always been suspicious of organized religion, for multiple reasons. I'm not capable of believing anything without asking questions, no matter how good the payoff sounds. And generally I'm not comfortable with pressure to conform.

I do have spiritual beliefs, but they are hard-won and ever-changing as I progress through life and accumulate wisdom. I come from a Jewish background. I have explored New Age territory. I studied weekly with a Buddhist monk (Nichiren Buddhism from Japan) for six months. Christianity is a new one for me.

I quite like these preachers and missionaries. They are charismatic and sincere, positive and caring. Joyce Meyer exhorts me to recite positive affirmations every day. Bill and Gwen Prankard tell inspiring stories about bringing food and clothing to needy tribal peoples living in Russia above the Arctic Circle.

They're not perfect. I don't swallow everything they say unquestioningly. But it's nice to switch over to them after hearing about the latest shootings, traffic problems, increase in gas prices, etc. A little inspiration in the morning goes a long way towards getting me through my day. I'm a pragmatist by nature, so if it works for me, then I'll stick with it. It's very weird, but good.

Friday, May 9, 2008


I've made it through four whole months of Blog365 without missing a single day of posting. Huzzah! As time passes, sometimes I feel symptoms of Blog Fatigue, but it passes.

Bits and Pieces:

I saw a restaurant offering a lunch special called Afternoon Delight. I'm not sure if the restaurant owner understands the connotations of the phrase. I'm tempted to order it just because of the name, but the photo doesn't look all that appealing.

I was out and about on a Friday evening at the intersection of Yonge and Eglinton, which has been nicknamed "Young and Eligible" because of all the hot singles who congregate and socialize in the local clubs and pubs. On weekend evenings, the 20-somethings are dressed in their best. Except this one guy I saw. His friends weren't super fancy, sporting jeans, sneakers, and hoodies. But this guy took it down a notch. He had on jeans, sneakers, and a dark-green-and-blue plaid terrycloth bathrobe. Shin-length. Belted at the waist. I have to say, it wasn't a good look for him.

There is only one reason why I'm sorry that winter is over. I find nothing cuter than dogs wearing boots. Most of the dogs where I live are tiny little things, and many of them have wardrobes. Personally I think that boots are the best dog accessory, as they are both ridiculous and practical. But for the spring season I'm not totally out of luck. Last time it rained I passed a terrier going for his walkies in a very fetching yellow slicker with a matching hat.

And finally, there is a business I pass frequently that has this sign posted at the entrance:


It always makes me think that the owner is fed up with all the stupid door-pullers who never learn. If he's told you once, he's told you a million times... PUSH!

Thursday, May 8, 2008


I sponsor a child in Indonesia through World Vision. She's five years old now, and growing like a weed. Several times a year, I get a short message from her, mostly in the form of crayon drawings on a seasonal theme. I stick them to my fridge where I can see them every day.

I have full confidence in World Vision's integrity, otherwise I wouldn't trust them with my money. However, I have one ongoing problem: they never stop asking for my money and I never feel comfortable with my decisions on how much to give.

One year, I decided to experiment with being more generous. I decided I would say Yes to every request they made, even if my donation was minimal. Over the course of that year, not only did I make $35 monthly contributions to "my" child's program, and purchase all my Christmas Gifts through World Vision's gift catalogue, but I responded to every mailed special request for more funds.

You know what? Those kids in third world countries are awfully hungry. I could never send enough. I'd take care of drought victims in Africa, and with my tax receipt for that donation would come a notice that the children of Afghanistan were suffering. I'd send another cheque, only to find that more money was needed to send shipments of seeds to South Asia in time for the rainy season.

At the end of the year I got a final receipt, showing how much I'd given. Relative to my income, it was a whopping sum. I wasn't sorry that I'd been generous, but I had to stop and think about my own responsibility to save for a rainy day. Especially since I have no children, I figure I'll need cash on hand to make sure I'm looked after in my old age. There won't be anyone to bail me out if the nursing home bills are past due. I wouldn't like to become a burden on society in my own right.

Now I say No instead of Yes around half the time. But I'm still not comfortable with that compromise. I'd rather say Yes all the time. Poor kids. And grownups too. Can you imagine dying from the flu because you can't afford $5 for Aspirin to bring down your fever? Or if someone you loved died that way? Yeah, it's a crazy world.

Anyway, despite my dilemma, I can't recommend World Vision highly enough. If you're looking for a Mother's Day gift that requires no shopping or wrapping and makes you come off looking like a hero, here's the link to World Vision's online gift catalogue.

I'm off to make a donation for the victims of the Myanmar cyclone - as soon as I can decide how much I should give.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Kitty Update

The Dude says "Hi".

Here he is sitting on the kitchen counter, where he's not allowed. At least, in theory. I pointed out this transgression to my mom.

Mom: [tickling The Dude behind his ears] No no! You're not supposed to be up here!

Me: Mom, I'm beginning to doubt your commitment to disciplining these cats.

She just laughed. Although later in the day she mentioned that they've been lying on their backs under her bed, chewing holes in the underside of the box spring mattress. I think they must be part termite.

Stinker was too hyper to sit still for a photo. This slightly blurry shot was the best one I managed to get.

Mom and I were planning to have a computer lesson on Sunday, but the weather was against us. It was TOO NICE out! The first plan (the most sensible one), was that I would come over after lunch and we'd put our heads right down and get to work. Then my mom had the thought that maybe we could meet and have lunch together. Then it turned out that the place we planned to eat was closed for renovations, so we went for a walk around the neighbourhood to find somewhere else. We lingered over lunch, which was prolonged further still by my mom's ritual insistance that I get "a little something" for desert. Of course I gave in.

Finally the dishes were cleared, the bill was paid, and we were out the door. Just a few blocks' walk to my mom's house, and we could get right to work. But then there was an open house that we just had to see, of a rare million-dollar condo in a historical building...

We got to back to my mom's place exactly 11 minutes before I was supposed to leave again to go meet a friend. Then I had to take a few pictures of the cats...

Maybe we'll do better next week!

Right now my priority is making sure my mom enjoys our time together, since she's still pretty blue from my step-dad's departure. From that perspective I can say: Mission Accomplished!

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Spark's Ghostly Tips

These tips are based on the shows "A Haunting" and "Ghost Hunters", and also some personal experience.

1. Never mess with a Ouija board. With your luck, you'll open a portal to the demon dimension that can't be closed without professional help. Those guys are just waiting by the border between the realms, hoping some fool will crack open a door so that they can bust in and bully everyone.

2. If you are shopping for a new home, and one house in particular seems to enchant you and draw you to it with a magnetic force, turn around and run the other way. Especially if it's a huge, gorgeous old house built at least 100 years ago, the prettiest one in the neighbourhood, and it's on the market for a suspiciously low price. Either there are serious problems with the foundation, or the place is possessed. Either way, you don't want it.

3. When a family experiences paranormal experiences in their home, it's invariably the dad that takes the longest to be convinced of the problem. He will find ways of dismissing everything experienced by his wife and children as overactive imagination or "the house settling". A coffee mug can spontaneously fly across the kitchen and smash against a wall, and the dad will sigh and go "It's just a draft. I'd better caulk that window." Finally a demon will grab him by the throat and lift him off his feet, and as his toes dangle above the rug he'll rub his chin and croak, "Honey, what was that you were saying about a demon?."

4. Never hire the inexperienced exorcist. He'll screw it up and then you'll be worse off than you were before. Nothing angers a demon like some dweeby guy standing inside a pentagram made of salt, trying to chant all the evil out of the house. Punishment will be swift and nasty. Do a little research, pay an extra few bucks, and get an exorcist who's been at it for at least 10 years. It's good value for your money.

5. Of course it's also possible to find "paranormal" occurrences where there are none. At around 3:00 am, when you're on a stakeout of a supposedly haunted house, every little thing starts to seem like "evidence". But that scary sound you heard in the master bedroom? That's actually just the homeowner's cat who's sleeping at the foot of the bed, snoring.

6. Disembodied spirits who are still hanging around on this plane are often desperate to be acknowledged. It's a bad idea to acknowledge them unless you're really sure that you want to interact. For example, Ken saw something in a hospital that looked like wavy lines of heat distortion. He whispered "I can see you", and it zipped right over to him. Scared the crap out of him. If you're not sure what it is, play dumb and pretend it's not there.

7. Not all energy phenomena are intelligent spirits. There are blobby things that are like the dust bunnies of the energy realm. They roll around like tumbleweeds, sometimes coming to rest for a while where you can see them (if you're Ken) or feel them (if you're me). They don't really do much, and can be shooed away without incident.

8. I've never seen a ghost, and I'm grateful for that. I personally know 3 people who claim to have seen ghosts. One of them is into Wicca etc. so I'm slightly skeptical of her story. She would want to see a ghost, and so might be swayed to embellish if her experience was ambiguous. The second is Ken. The third is Ken's dad, who is a practical man with no time for nonsense. (Rule #3 is not ironclad.) None of them got any pleasure from their ghostly experiences. All three claim were scared shitless.

9. If you live in a haunted house, the best possible outcome is that you get rid of the bad spirits and carry on with your normal life. The second best outcome is that you have to move, and can carry on your normal life once you settle into your new home. The worst outcome is that you move and the spirits move with you. That really sucks.

10. Watching "A Haunting" and "Ghost Hunters" late at night is not such a great idea, especially if you're alone in the house. They re-run them 12 hours later on Saturday morning. Watch then with the sun streaming through the window. Demon stories are less scary if you hear them while eating a bowl of cereal.

Monday, May 5, 2008

The Laundry Room

When I moved into my condo, I was so happy to have a stacked washer and dryer all to myself. No more dragging baskets of laundry downstairs to the laundry room! No more disappointment, finding that none of the machines are free! No more running into that crazy old lady who cornered me and talked endlessly about her medical problems!

But seriously, I kind of miss my old laundry room. For one thing, it was a place to meet my neighbours. I lived on the second floor of an 8-story building. There were lots of people around, but I rarely met any of them because I never bothered to wait for the old, slow elevator. Most people in the building got to know each other that way, through sharing elevator rides and waiting times. My only opportunity for socializing was in the laundry room. With the exception of the crazy old lady, I rather enjoyed those opportunities to chat.

The laundry room also served as an ongoing swap meet. Anyone who had stuff they didn't want anymore would leave it on the laundry room table for someone else to pick up. Over the years I gave away a lot of things that way, like my old vacuum cleaner and a slow but still-functional computer. The superintendent was an immigrant, and I have reason to believe that a lot of the stuff went to her even-more-newly-arrived friends, to help them get established. It was a good system.

But mostly what I miss from the laundry room was the supply of top-quality books. Someone in the building was either an avid reader or may have even worked in a position related to the publishing industry. I would regularly find heaps of expensive, brand-new hardcovers laid out on the table. To me, it was like a kid finding free candy. Just before we moved out, almost 2 years ago now, I found an extra-big stack of fabulous books. I've read all but one now. I'm saving it, because it'll be a sad day when all the laundry room books are gone.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Freaky Loud Surprises

It's Saturday night as I write this, and I'm feeling a little edgy. Things that go "BANG!" loudly and suddenly have afflicted me several times within the past 24 hours, and each incident is scarier than the last.

Last night I was having dinner with a friend at Swiss Chalet when the first big BANG happened. The whole restaurant hushed for a moment. I had my back to the room, so I couldn't see what had happened. I froze in my chair, trying to identify the sound. Then my friend said "It was just a balloon", and as the words left her lips, the normal hubbub of conversation rose up around us again. It took me a moment to refocus my brain, but then I thought nothing more of it.

Everything went normally for the first part of Saturday. Ken and I tried a new place for lunch: The Centre Street Deli. It's very popular. Check out the lineup. Everyone standing up is waiting for a table, from where I am with my camera to that guy way at the front in the yellow windbreaker.

While we waited I took some photos. They have very odd murals.

The wait wasn't as bad as it could have been. In only slightly more than ten minutes, we had our table. And shortly after that, our feast was served. If last weekend's meal was 8,000 calories, this one must have been around 8,157.

Note the rainbow of meat in my sandwich. On the menu it's called the "Club Roll", and contains a sampling of all of their deli meats, for those who can't choose just one.

The big blobby things are knishes. One beef, one chicken. With gravy. Could we be any more decadent? Look at the size of those things! For the record, I only ate half of what was on my plate and took the rest home.

We were feeling happy, full, and serene on the drive back. But then, just a few blocks from home, a storm struck. The wind picked up and the rain sheeted down, so hard that at points we could barely see. Then as we turned onto a side street, a hefty tree branch suddenly slammed down on the windshield, right in my face. BANG! I nearly jumped out of my seat, and Ken was like "Woah!" then "I think that might have dented the car!"

We got safely into our underground parking lot. Ken inspected the car. No visible damage. We're lucky. It could have been a bigger branch.

We hung out at home for an hour or so, and then headed back out to meet my step-dad for dinner. We went to a very civilized restaurant in the Forest Hill Village. I ordered a big salad to make up for my lunch. We were having a nice chat, relaxing, when suddenly, right behind me, BANG! I thought someone must have kicked over a chair. But immediately Ken motioned with his hands and yelled at me: "Get down!"

Without thinking, I scooted off my seat and ended up on my butt on the floor. There was another BANG! directly behind me, and then everyone seemed to relax.

When I recovered from Fight Or Flight mode enough to use my higher brain functions, I realized that a large painting had fallen off the wall behind me in two stages. The first BANG was when the nail pulled out of the drywall, and the painting dropped several inches vertically, onto the table directly beneath it, where, fortunately, no one was seated. It then started, slowly at first, to tip away from the wall. Ken saw it falling, directly towards my head, and yelled for me to get out of the way. I reacted quickly enough that I was out of my seat by the time the top of the painting slammed down. Another narrow escape.

Now, my nerves are shot. Ken chose not to drive on the highway on our way home, just in case the Sequence of Escalating Things That Go Bang had any further ideas for our car. You could say that these things come in three's, and that I can now consider myself safe. Either that or I'm doomed further, worse BANG! problems in the immediate future. Let's keep our fingers crossed for the Three Theory, shall we?

Friday, May 2, 2008

Vision On

By the time I was 7 years old, I couldn't see much. With no basis for comparison, I didn't stop to question whether or not other people saw the world differently than me.

I did wonder why people were interested in television, that meaningless kaleidoscope of blurred colours. I couldn't see the blackboard at school, but that wasn't a problem. I sat next to my best friend and copied the notes from her. I guess no one noticed that I put my nose within three inches of the page when I read.

My grandmother was the first one to notice that something was amiss. We were outside, and she pointed out a large billboard to me. Not only could I not read the billboard, but I couldn't even see that there was a sign where she was pointing. She marched me home to my mother and said "Take this girl to an eye doctor!"

So it was that at the age of 8, in third grade, I got my first pair of big, thick, geek-kid glasses. I can still remember the first tree I saw with my glasses on. I could make out each individual leaf fluttering in the wind. Just one day ago, that tree would have been a fuzzy ball of undifferentiated green. I stared and stared at this new, sharp-focused world.

Over the years, my shortsightedness grew worse. My parents paid big bucks for high-index lenses because regular glass was too heavy. The bridge of my nose was bruised by the weight of my glasses before my folks finally sprang for the high-tech specs. My prescription now is -6.50 in the right eye, and -9.00 in the left. Translation: I don't think I'm legally blind without my glasses, but I can't see much either. Just blobs of colour, with very little depth perception.

Now I wear contact lenses most of the time.

Having imperfect vision isn't all bad. I'm used to the world being fuzzy and soft in the morning when I wake up and at night when I go to sleep. Being severely myopic gives me an ironclad excuse to never go bungee jumping; apparently I'm at risk for detached retinas, and a bungee jump could pop them right off. And in ninth grade, when my hyperactive girlfriend knocked my glasses off my face and then stepped on them in a fit of gangly teenage clumsiness, a special boy took that opportunity to walk me safely home, holding my hand all the way. I could have found my own way home without much trouble, over familiar ground, but I didn't tell him that. I played the helpless maiden and let him be my knight in shining armour. The cheerleader girls with perfect vision had nothing on me that day.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Pimping Five Star Friday

Five Star Friday

Schmutzie has started a new, weekly blog called Five Star Friday.

Quoting directly from Five Star Friday's mission statement:

My goal for Five Star Friday is for it to be a celebration of good content from weblogs across the internet. Whether it is funny, sad, thoughtful, or joyful, if you think a particular weblog post is a cut above the rest, I want to include it in Five Star Friday.

Submitting a URL is easy. The one catch is that you need a Twitter account to participate. I had not even been slightly tempted to participate in Twitter prior to this. Probably because blogging every day seems excessive enough - I can't imagine what material might be leftover to post in mini-updates throughout the day.

But I couldn't handle being left out of Five Star Friday, so on Monday I created a Twitter account for myself. See "Nitwit Updates" in the sidebar. As I suspected, I'm not tempted to update much more than once a day, but at least I can say that I'm cutting edge with the web technology. That's me, breaking social barriers with my 140 characters (or less).

Anyway, it's new, it's cool, it's the latest thing that all the kids are talking about. You never know, I might just submit one of your posts. Or maybe I already have! You'll have to go check to find out. Then you could award yourself one of these:

Five Star Friday

Or, um, you could, you know, feel free to submit one of my posts if you were moved to do so. I'm just sayin'.