A Crisis Or Two

It’s been one hell of a week, I have to say. On Tuesday around dinner time, I was getting the meal prepared and I realized that Atlas was just lying on the kitchen floor, looking really sleepy, instead of jumping around and begging for pieces of whatever I was making. But he’d had a long walk earlier, and as I said to Ken, “Maybe he’s finally over his growth spurt”, because right now, at 6 months old, he weighs 63 pounds. Ken agreed, but after dinner he was still pretty dopey (Atlas, not Ken), and at 9 o’clock when I had to WAKE him for his before-bed snack, he barely reacted. He finally got up and went downstairs with Ken, but when they came back up, there was a problem:

Ken: He seems a little wobbly.
Me: He’s weaving back and forth. What’s up, buddy?
Atlas: I don’t feel so good, Ma. I—

With that, he started to fall over sideways. We immediately called our vet clinic and got connected to the on-call vet, who said we needed to bring him in right away. The vet clinic is half an hour from our house, and we flew there, only stopping once when he suddenly threw up, all over the back seat, all over himself, and all over me. Luckily, we carry around copious amounts of wet wipes, thanks to covid, and we got cleaned up as best we could. Dr. Hunter, one of the many wonderful vets at our clinic, determined right away that it was some kind of neurotoxin and started filling him full of charcoal to absorb anything he hadn’t already puked up, then ran some blood tests, which came back normal. But he was still out of it, glassy-eyed and could barely stand, so she said, “I want to keep him here overnight. Don’t worry—I’ll sleep in a cot next to his crate and make sure he doesn’t start having seizures. I’ll call you if he gets worse; otherwise, I’ll contact you in the morning to let you know how he is.”

As much as I wanted to bundle him up and take him home, I knew it was for the best, so we left him there whimpering a little, telling him that everything was going to be OK.

None of us could sleep. I lay there waiting for the worst and thinking of him crying in his crate, his first night away from us since before he could remember. Finally, at 6:30 am, the phone rang. Dr. Hunter sounded very upbeat and chipper. “He had a good night,” she said. “He fell asleep almost right away, and now he’s up and seems very steady, pretty much back to his usual self. He ate a hearty breakfast and he’s keeping it down. You can come and get him at 9:30. One thing—he won’t pee.”

Which was understandable, because he won’t go anywhere except in our yard. Even when we take him for a walk, he waits until we get home then makes a mad dash for the grass by the back door. So when we got to the vet clinic, he was super-excited to see us, but there was no way I was driving him half an hour home with a full bladder. After being vomited on, I didn’t think I could take a urine shower. So I brought him over to the grass verge.

Me: You have to go pee here.
Atlas: This grass is weird.
Me: We’re not getting in the truck until you pee.
Atlas: Let me sniff around for a sec—oh, there we go. Ahhhh.

He peed for literally two minutes, having had a litre and a half of fluid through an IV overnight. By the time we got him in the truck, he was exhausted, and fell asleep on my lap.

We still have no idea what he got into—being a puppy, albeit a giant one, he still eats things off the ground or in the yard indiscriminately, so we’re watching him like a hawk. Long story short, he seems fine now, but it brought back terrible memories of what had happened to Titus not that long ago, especially since the initial symptoms were so similar. As I write this, he’s mooching around the kitchen, trying to convince Ken that he should have a second breakfast, so crisis averted.

Here’s another crisis that’s a little more like what you normally find on this site:

As I’ve been working remotely, I’ve noticed that a lot of people use virtual backgrounds. I don’t like the way they make you look like you’re on green screen, so I’ve tried to create an aesthetically pleasing REAL background for my desk area, and central to that is a giant, antique clock. I’ve had a lot of comments about it, so here’s the story behind it

One weekend, I saw an ad on a local buy and sell site for a tiny antique clock. It didn’t work, but the price was cheap and the case was pretty. I decided it would make a really great little jewelry cabinet, so I contacted the guy and arranged to pick it up. When I got there, right on time, he was like, “What? I thought you were coming tomorrow. I’m just going out for a ride on my motorcycle and the clock is in the basement.” He said this like it made absolutely logical sense. Then again, the weather WAS charming, and riding a motorcycle is like smoking crack for some people, so I said I’d come by the next day. After a series of confusing messages (at one point, he said, “I’m here” and I thought he meant outside my house, so I spent ten minutes waiting for him to come to the door, but he meant HIS house), I drove to his place to pick up the clock. It was sitting in his garage, and it was WAYYY bigger than the picture made it seem. I had envisioned it as being less than a foot tall, but it was, in fact, over three feet tall, and much too large for a jewelry cabinet, unless you were a member of the Royal Family. Still, it was beautiful, so I put it in the car, and brought it home. It weighed a TON (I discovered later that it still had the original lead weights inside), and I struggled to get it up onto the kitchen counter, where it stayed for a week. Mostly because I had NO IDEA where to put it. Ken said I should sell it for parts, but here’s the issue: it still had the original paper label inside it, and after doing some research, it turned out it was a very rare “Chauncey Boardman” American clock from the early 1800s.

Me: I can’t gut it for parts, Ken. It’s 200 years old! People didn’t even have WATCHES back then.
Ken: Um…I’m going to say that’s incorrect.
Me: Well, fine. But they kept them in their pockets, which is not very convenient.
Ken: What time is it right now?
Me: Not sure. Let me check my phone. Now, where’s my purse?
Ken: Did you know that there were no Canadian clock manufacturers 200 years ago? There would have only been individual watchmakers. I saw this documentary last week about…

I have no idea what happened in the documentary because I tuned out, and started mentally going through rooms to see where I could put the clock. When I tuned back in, Ken was talking about ANOTHER documentary about pygmy goats, or Shakespeare’s skull or something, so I started physically walking around the house to figure out where a 3-foot-high, non-functioning clock could possibly go. After another week, I promised Ken on my honour as a woman that I would find a place for it, and get it off the kitchen counter. And that’s how it ended up as a background prop on the windowsill in my office alcove. Another crisis averted. If only they were all that easy.

His favourite place to lounge in the sun.

Simple Distractions

There’s a particular meeting we have every week at work. And because it happens every week, there’s a rotation schedule identifying the two co-chairs, which changes every three months. So imagine my surprise last week, having failed to look at the rotation chart in A VERY LONG TIME, that I was now one of the co-chairs. But I made a deal with my partner—he would organize the meetings, and I would take the minutes. Now, this sounded great in theory, but I had forgotten that I am literally SURROUNDED by things designed to distract me. And I’ve found that, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve become more easily distracted, not that it’s a bad thing:

Ken: No, I don’t agree.
Me: Oh, for god’s sake, Ken! Why can’t—ooh, is that a bottle of Chardonnay?
Ken: Yes. Yes, it is. Would you like a glass?
Me: I’d love one. Now what were we talking about?
Ken: Who knows.
Me: Cheers!

So anyway, there I was at the virtual meeting, cleverly taking notes by typing everything into Word and then copying and pasting into the shared document that everyone could see. That way, I could proofread first and correct any errors before the rest of the group could notice them. Also, I took a certain amount of pleasure in the thought that my colleagues, seeing the blocks of text magically appear, would now believe I could type incredibly fast, like it was my superpower or something. But then, just like a superhero, my kryptonite happened. One of the group began adlibbing about something that WASN’T EVEN ON THE AGENDA, and because I was in the shared document, I was scrambling to follow along and type as he spoke. Simultaneously, I looked up and realized that there was a GIGANTIC F*CKING INSECT on the curtain directly in front of my laptop and I didn’t know if it was a cricket or potentially a cockroach because I’ve never actually seen a cockroach except on Hoarders and it looked like it MIGHT be one and how the HELL did it get into my house, and I completely stopped listening and began frantically texting Ken for ‘Hep!!”:

And Ken, being the excellent husband he is, came charging down the stairs, cupped his hands around the giant bug and carried it outside, at which point, the person in the meeting who had gone rogue with his agenda item said, “Uh, Suzanne—that’s not what I said” and I kind of stuttered, “Oh sorry, I was just…doing something” and I’ve never been so happy that my camera was off in my life. Which it has NOT been on several occasions, including later last week when a mosquito flew into my face and it took me several attempts to kill it, much to the amusement of the other people in the meeting I was attending who had stopped speaking to watch the spectacle. “Did you get it?” asked one of the directors. I had, in fact, so at least there was that.

And so, I leave you with the profound wisdom of this saying that I saw on the side of a truck the other day as I was driving down the highway: “Geniusness is not a flavour, we claim it by our own experience.”

I have no idea what this means and I’ve been trying to think that, if it’s a literal translation from another language, what might the original be? Just like when the Chinese translate American movie titles and they come out sounding both weird and hilarious, and some of them completely spoil the plot:

Seabed General Mobilization (Finding Nemo)
Interstellar Special Ability Team (Guardians of the Galaxy)
One Night, Big Belly (Knocked Up)
Satan Female Soldier (GI Jane)
Earth And Comet Collide (Deep Impact)
He’s A Ghost! (The Sixth Sense)

There are a ton more of these you can google and they’re all stellar.

In other news, I’ve mentioned my new novel, The Seventh Devil, a couple of times so here’s an update: my publisher, Bookland Press, loved it and they currently have it available for pre-order on all the Amazons (including Brazil and Japan) with a release date of June 15th 2021. And because I’m a control freak and have an aversion to stock images, I’ve been toying around with a couple of cover ideas. Luckily Kate is really a whiz at Photoshop, so she combined photos of my cousin, the daughter of a friend of mine, and a picture that Ken took of a swamp road. I really like the first one, but the publisher said they’d prefer something more “devilish, so here are the two options. Let me know what you think!

Also, here’s the updated synopsis if you’re interested:

When nineteen-year-old runaway Verity Darkwood, flat broke and devastated by guilt, takes refuge in a bar to escape the unwanted attention of a stranger, she doesn’t expect to meet Gareth Winter, let alone become business partners with him. They discover that they each possess the ability to interact with the world “beyond the veil” and, with the help of Horace Greeley III, editor of the fantastical online journal The Echo, Verity and Gareth spend the next two years on the road, helping the earthbound spirits who haunt their clients to cross over, or exorcising the demons that plague them. But when they stumble upon a series of unsolved child abductions spanning decades which are eerily similar to the circumstances surrounding the disappearance of Verity’s younger sister, they embark on a pursuit that will take them across Canada in their quest to find The Seventh Devil, the dangerous and mysterious figure who may be behind it all.

Thanks For Sharing

Well, it’s Thanksgiving weekend here in Canada, and I’m grateful for many things, not the least of which is no longer having a strange man taking up residence in my kitchen. “A strange man?” I hear you say. “How intriguing!” Let me assure you that it was not. Here’s the story:

A few weeks ago, I got sick of looking at how worn my kitchen cabinets looked. They’re painted white but chipping everywhere because the original owners of the house didn’t get them properly primed. The cost of replacing all the cabinets was astronomical, so we hired a company to paint them. Enter Mike, he of the numerous tattoos, faux-hawk, effusive personality, and, despite him being the same age as Ken and me, numerous children under the age of 5 who kept him “running around like crazy”. Mike assured us when we signed the contract that in 3 days, with his spray technology and oil-based lacquer, we would have “a brand new kitchen.” But on the night before he was due to start painting, he called to tell me that he had come down with shingles and was running behind schedule. Bear in mind that we had to take every single thing out of the kitchen to prepare for the spraying and the house now looked like a disaster zone:

Me: I’m so sorry to hear that.
Mike: Ya, it’s super painful. Worst pain I’ve ever experienced and I’ve broken every bone in my body,
Me: Wow.
Mike: Ya. And if I can be honest with you, I MANSCAPE, and let me tell you, it hurts like hell.
Me:

And I don’t know what it is about me that compels people to tell me very private things, things that I really don’t want to know, but it happens all the time

Like the tattoo artist that Kate and I went to (my fifth tattoo—the Tree of Life, and her first, a cool graphic she designed herself). It was a reputable parlour, but the artist himself was a little off kilter. My appointment was before hers, and the tattooist, a very short man with a slight build, regaled me with stories about his “Chippendales dancing days”, where he claimed that he “didn’t have a great body like the rest of the guys”, but he “had the best moves”. I was like “Uh huh” and silently begging him not to demonstrate. Then when he was tattooing Kate, he launched into this gem:

Tattoo Guy: My sixteen-year-old stepson just got his first girlfriend.
Me: Oh, that’s nice.
Tattoo Guy: Yeah, I found a condom wrapper on the floor of his room.
Me: Gosh.
Tattoo Guy: So I said, “Where did you get a condom from, anyway?” And he said, “I found it on the path.” So I told him, “NEVER use a condom that you found on the path.”
Me: Words to live by, that’s for sure.
Tattoo Guy: I know, right?

Then there was the last time I went to the dentist. I’ve been going to the same dentist for years, but I didn’t realize that they have a completely different staff on Saturdays. The receptionist WASN’T Nina, for starters, although the Saturday receptionist seemed quite nice. But when the hygienist, Cindy, came out, I became more suspicious. “Where’s Serenity?” I asked. Let me just tell you that Serenity has been my hygienist for many years. She’s a lovely woman, and completely suits her name. We like all the same TV shows, and she has a wonderful knack of carrying on a two-sided conversation about Sons of Anarchy or Better Call Saul with me, even with her hands in my mouth, kind of like this:

“Did you see the latest episode of _____?”

“Eh—i wa o ood”

“I know, right? Could you believe it when____?”

“I ow. I uz azy.”

The new, unfamiliar hygienist said, in a very bubbly voice, “Oh, she’s on her honeymoon. But she doesn’t work Saturdays anyway.”

Well, all right. Cindy seemed very professional and competent, so I decided to give it a go. I got comfortably seated, and then the deluge began. By the time we were done, I literally knew EVERYTHING about Cindy’s life: where she went to high school, how she met her husband, his career ups and downs, their respective families and where they all lived…she was very entertaining, and the appointment just flew by. I don’t think she actually took a breath for 25 minutes. But the best part was this:

“So my husband lost over 80 pounds in the last year. I’d known him for so long that the weight just crept up on us, then one day, he decided to lose 30 pounds, but I think he got addicted to weight loss because now he’s really thin and worries about his skin flaps but I just keep telling him to tone up and not worry about the weight. He ran his first marathon last year. The only thing is that I REALLY like to snack and I NEVER gain weight, but if there’s snack food in the house, he’ll binge-eat it all so I have to hide it. I had this really great hiding place in the baking cupboard, but somehow he found it and ate everything and I know he MUST have been looking for it because why would he be in the baking cupboard since he never bakes, right? So then I was hiding all my snack food in the car, but now it’s getting too warm and I’m worried things will melt or go bad. So the other day, I found the perfect spot, and if he finds it, I’ll KNOW he’s been deliberately looking, because I put everything in a TAMPAX BOX IN THE GUESTROOM BATHROOM. If those chocolate bars disappear, I’ll know he was searching the house for food, because why would he want a tampon, right? My only worry is that I might have a girlfriend staying over and she might need a tampon, and then she’d be like, “Is this what you’ve been using? How does THAT work?”

I didn’t know who to feel more sorry for—her, her poor snackless husband, or the unsuspecting house guest. At any rate, I was laughing so hard that I barely felt my gums being ripped open by the assortment of picks in her arsenal. And I had no cavities. Yay me.

As for the kitchen, despite Mike’s promises, he didn’t finish until end of day Friday. The cabinets look great, all fresh and white. Some areas of the walls are also white, as is the perimeter of the ceiling and a lot of the window panes because the one thing Mike DIDN’T tell me was that he was an indiscriminate sprayer. Which, I suppose, I should be grateful for.

And please don’t feel sorry for that sad-looking puppy. He just ate, and thinks if he pushes his empty food bowl into the middle of the floor, someone will feed him again. He’s such a little trickster:-)

Not So Happy Endings

This week, I’m going to be talking about endings. Now before you gasp and exclaim, “Not you too, mydangblog!” let me clarify that I am NOT talking about giving up blogging, although I just realized that I’m almost at my 6 year anniversary of posting EVERY SINGLE SUNDAY and isn’t that something to celebrate? I might just have to have a glass of wine or two. No, when I say ‘endings’, I mean movie endings. Normally, I leave the movie reviews up to my good friends at Assholes Watching Movies, Often Off-Topic, Silver Screenings, and Geek Cred, but lately I’ve had some very unhappy movie experiences that I feel compelled to rant about. Because frankly, it seems like the film industry, and television too, has gotten damn lazy and I’m fed up with picking a movie for Kate and me to watch and then 2 hours or more later, turning to each other and saying “What the f*ck was that?” I pay good money for Netflix and Prime, so I expect better. Also, I have a film degree, (Sidenote: once, when I was 20 years old, I had to sit through Michael Snow’s Wavelength. I fell asleep and when I woke up 20 minutes later, the scene hadn’t changed. It was still better than the movies I’m going to talk about), so I’m going to be using some very technical terms like ‘stupid’, ‘ridiculous’, and ‘ridiculously stupid’.

First, before you read on, I’m warning you that there will be several spoilers pertaining to my most recent, dire viewing experiences regarding Sons of Anarchy, Hereditary, Midsommar, and appropriately, I’m Thinking of Ending Things, so if you really feel that you absolutely must watch any or all of these examples of the stupidest endings I’ve ever seen and you want to go into it without any bias—well, I’ve given you the heads up, so you can’t blame me later. So here are the subjects of my complaints in chronological order:

1) Sons of Anarchy

I recently rewatched all seven seasons of Sons of Anarchy because I remembered it being a pretty good series. I mean, Charlie Hunnam is no DeNiro, but he’s still pretty convincing as Jax Teller, the president of a very naughty motorcycle club. The whole series is purportedly based on Shakespeare’s Hamlet, and as a former English teacher, I can attest that it does follow the plot of a Shakespearian tragedy very loosely. It would be hard to follow more closely since Hamlet was five acts long and SOA is seven YEARS long, but still, I could see the parallels more clearly this time, right down to the end. If you know anything about tragedies, the big thing is that the death of the hero restores the moral order. So in the last scene, our hero Jax is on his dead father’s motorcycle, flying down the highway being chased by an army of police cruisers. He sees a transport truck coming in the other direction; close-up on Jax as he smiles beatifically and takes his hands off the handlebars, holding them out like he’s flying. It’s perfect, in all its self-sacrificial glory. And then—the worst f*cking green screen I’ve ever seen in my life of Jax slamming into the front of the truck. It was so unrealistic, it was laughable, and the tears I’d been crying moments before turned to snickers. Could you imagine Shakespeare ending Hamlet by shooting a mannequin dressed in a jerkin and tights out of a cannon with Horatio yelling, “And flights of angels sing thee to thy death, dude!!”? Exactly.

I give this series 2 Tragic Flaws out of 5 because the series was pretty good, but that last scene was appalling.

And I think SOA started the curse of bad endings for me, because these next three are even worse.

2) Midsommar

A group of American 20-somethings take a vacation in Sweden to visit the commune where their friend grew up. And yes, nothing about that premise makes any sense. What American vacations in Sweden? Do Swedes even live in communes? At any rate, the main character, Dani, has nothing to lose because her family all dies at the beginning of the movie in a very nasty way. Then she tags along with her boyfriend of several years who’s been trying to dump her for a while, as they go to their friend’s weird-ass village. One of the first things that happens is that they witness a ritual where this old couple jump off a cliff, which is incredibly gory. And they don’t immediately leave, so how much sympathy should we have for them? Personally, the first red flag for me would have been being told I had to sleep in a single cot in a communal bedroom full of snoring men and screaming babies. “I’M ON VACATION!” would have been my reaction as I stomped away to find a Marriot somewhere. Anyway, a lot of people die, it’s super-creepy and nonsensical, then Dani’s cheating boyfriend is paralyzed by some drugs and sewn into a dead bear carcass, and he’s left in a hut with a bunch of other carcasses, and the hut gets set on fire, and apparently this is so there can be a good harvest. You want a good harvest? Instead of murdering people, you could always just water and fertilize your crops, but I guess ritual homicide is more fun. The last shot is a close-up of Dani wearing a flower hat, smiling as she watches the hut burn down, and according to the internet, there is an explanation for this, but I’m going with “My boyfriend was a jerk, so I’m very happy that he died in agony dressed as a bear”. At any rate, this movie was a direct rip-off of Robin Hardy’s 1973 film The Wicker Man which is actually a much better film with a very good ending.

I give Midsommar 0 Magic Mushrooms out of 5 because you had to be stoned to appreciate it and I don’t do drugs, although Kate pointed out that she FELT like she was stoned while watching it.

3) Hereditary

Imagine my shock a few minutes ago, when I was looking up “What was the name of the girl in Midsommar?” and discovered that Hereditary was directed by the same guy? So it makes sense that this movie was also ridiculous. It started off really well, with the creepy little miniatures and whatnot, but the pivotal scene that begins everything revolves around the older teenaged brother, Peter, being forced to take his thirteen-year-old sister to a party that he tells the mom, played by Toni Collette, is a “school barbeque”. First, what Mom forces her little girl to go and hang out with older teenagers that she doesn’t know, especially when the kid wants to stay home? Kate’s 22 and I’m still like “Stay home with me and we can watch crap movies together”. Second, the little girl has a fatal nut allergy—we know this because early in the movie, she’s very obviously asked by the mom if the chocolate bar she’s eating has nuts in it. Still, the sister with the fatal nut allergy is sent out without an epipen or even a warning not to eat anything that might have nuts in it. Then, at the party, there’s a very obvious shot of people chopping a HUGE quantity of walnuts and making cake with them, cake that the brother tells her to eat, which she does, because they have BOTH seemingly forgotten that she has a fatal nut allergy and neither think to ask if the cake HAS NUTS IN IT. She has an allergic reaction and that leads, obviously, to her accidental decapitation. Yes, I said ‘decapitation’.

Long story short, it becomes really super-weird and it turns out that it was all a plot by some bizarre cult to turn the brother into a demon prince with the sister’s spirit inside him. The last shot is a close-up of Peter wearing a paper, or maybe human flesh, who the hell knows, demon crown, surrounded by some other decapitated corpses, staring at the camera while the cult yells “Hail Paemon!”

I give this one 0 Walnuts out of 5 because it was stupid.

4) I’m Thinking of Ending Things

Ugh. The first 45 minutes was great, kind of like a Get Out for white people. Toni Collette was in this one too, and she was pretty good as the unhinged mom, which seems to be her wheelhouse these days. The premise was a woman and her boyfriend going to meet his parents for the first time. The first part of the film was from the perspective of the woman, who had a bunch of different names by the end, but initially she was called Lucy. They meet the parents, who are weird and keep appearing older and younger in different scenes which was cool because Kate and I would yell at each other, “Wait, his hair is gray now? WTF!” and she wasn’t allowed to go into the basement. At first anyway, then she went down to do laundry later. Then suddenly the whole thing changed once they left the house and there was a snowstorm, bizarre ice cream servers, a high school janitor, interpretive dance, the musical Oklahoma, and the whole thing now seemed to be from Jake, the boyfriend’s, perspective. At which point, I turned to Kate and said, “Is it almost over?” and she replied “There’s still over an hour left.” Thankfully, we finally came to the last shot which was of the janitor’s pick-up truck in the snow. So maybe Jake was the janitor, maybe the janitor was Curly from Oklahoma, who the f*ck knows or cares? Apparently, the director of this film, Charlie Kaufmann, is willing to explain it all to you. Frankly, if I need a User Manual to understand a movie, then maybe the director should have worked harder to make it clear. This movie is also based on a book, which is now on the bestseller’s list again, because people are dying to know if the book explains things any clearer than the stupid movie.

I give this 1 Tulsey Town Ice Cream Cone out of 5 because the beginning was good.

And now I’m going to rate this blog post by giving it, and myself, 3 1/2 Glasses of Wine out of 5 because it was a bit long and ranty. The End.

Sensitivity Training

The other day I was having a conversation with a friend who had posted something on the Twitterverse about HSP, which stands for Hyper-Sensitive Person. We were going through the list of criteria, and I have to admit that as I’ve gotten older, I’ve developed a couple of the symptoms. For example, I hate loud noises. More specifically, I hate vacuum cleaners. Hate is maybe too mild a word. Vacuum cleaners make me want to gouge my eyes out, to the point that, a few years ago, I bought a Roomba. For those of you who don’t know what a Roomba is, it’s a very expensive robot vacuum. It’s not a badass robot with laser beam eyes and super-strength, but it WILL vacuum your carpet when you’re not at home which, at the time, SEEMED pretty badass. It was perfect for me, because that meant the rugs got cleaned but I didn’t have to suffer the torment of listening to it. Things were great for a while—I would put it in the middle of a room, turn it on, then run out the door, leaving it to its robotic devices. Then, inevitably, Ken decided that he was now in charge of the robot, like an evil robot slave master. And he insisted on running it when we were actually home. What’s the f*cking point of THAT? You might as well just use a regular, non-sentient vacuum. I would be in my bathroom, and suddenly the Roomba would grind in, like the Texas Chainsaw Massacre was about to happen. This is not an exaggeration—one time, it actually attacked my feet and I ran away from it. But then it kept coming after me, and it was like one of those horror films where, no matter how fast you run, the killer just keeps on relentlessly coming and eventually catches you. I finally resorted to kicking it away when it would cruise through the room I was in, until finally, it died. I have no regrets. It was evil and alive—it was either kill it my damn self or call in a priest. Ken was sad—he loved his robot vacuum, but that’s the way things go when you want to act like a petty despot—robots get hurt.

Aside from my bizarre hatred of vacuums, here’s another reason why I might have become more sensitive as I’ve gotten older. Apparently, people who are hyper-sensitive always remember everyone’s birthday, because they get very upset with themselves if they forget. Now, for a long time, I was NOT the kind of person who wrote down important milestones in a little diary. I have, on numerous occasions, forgotten the birthdays of my parents and siblings, forgotten my wedding anniversary, and regularly get Kate’s birth year and the year I got married mixed up. But over the last couple of years, particularly after discovering how to use my Outlook calendar, I’ve gotten much better at this, at least for work. Last year, I decided to make sure I remembered all the birthdays of the people on my team. But first, I had to find out when they actually were so that I could record them in my calendar:

Me: Hey, can you do me a favour? Can you go around the office and get the birth dates of everyone on our team?
Colleague 1: What do you want them for?
Me: So I can put them in my calendar.
Colleague 1: Why don’t you just ask them?
Me: I don’t want people to think I don’t already know when they are.
Colleague 1: I think people already know that. You always seem really surprised when there’s cake.

But now, I have them all recorded, and even though we can’t have cake because we’re all working remotely, I have a JibJab account, and I can whip up a card at a moment’s notice, as I almost had to do the other day:

Colleague 2: So, yes, I think that would be a good time to meet about–
Me (looking at Outlook calendar): Oh my god!
Colleague 2: What’s wrong?
Me: It’s Donna’s birthday today! How could I not have seen that? Why did nobody say anything? What time is it?
Colleague 2: Five to 1.
Me: I’m meeting with her and the team at 1! That gives me five minutes. I need to go—I have to make a Jibjab for her!

But then, as I was frantically looking for a JibJab card template that I hadn’t already used (I think ‘Tequila’ has run its course), I happened to look at my calendar and realized that it was set on October, so I texted my colleague, who had already texted Donna to wish her Happy Birthday, to which she had replied in confusion, “It’s not my birthday” to which my colleague then replied, “Sorry, wrong person” and I think we both recovered nicely from the situation.

Also, I’m trying to improve at writing messages in cards. Just like my poor small talk skills, I’m equally bad at card small talk. Some people are capable of writing epic messages, like “He was gone before his time—remember the best parts of him as a tribute to his memory”, or “A happy marriage is a gift from the heavens—you are truly blessed.” Me, I learned a long time ago that I am NOT epic, and I usually just resort to “So sorry for your loss”, or “Congratulations”. Once, I had to write a Thank You card but instead of “We make a good team”, I wrote “We make a good time”. Then I got worried that the person might think that it was some bizarre pick-up line, and I got totally paranoid and ended up throwing the card away, because there was no way to correct THAT, except to start over again. Which is why I like JibJab cards, because you can proofread them before you send them. Still you have to be careful:

Kate: What are you doing?
Me: Making a card for my team. Look, it’s a song called Cake By The Ocean. Nice huh?
Kate: Uh…you might want to reconsider that.
Me: Too sensitive, given the whole covid thing? Because we can’t have the birthday cake at the beach right now?
Kate: NO, because “cake by the ocean” means having SEX at the beach.
Me: ‘Tequila’, it is!

I’m nothing if not sensitive.

Bad Omens

Last Sunday afternoon, our new neighbours contacted us, wondering if we wanted to go kayaking with them. It seemed like a good idea at the time, so Ken and I agreed. We launched at one bridge outside of town, with the intention of getting out at the next bridge which, by car, was less than two minutes away. It was a gorgeous day, and after paddling for ABOUT AN HOUR, I said, “Hey, how long is this going to take?” because my shoulder was still not 100% despite the 4 shock wave treatments I’d had. And let me clarify for everyone right now that it’s NOT electroshock—it’s sound waves and has nothing to do with my brain at all, although if it did, I might have been able to think twice about a kayak trip that looked like it would take half an hour as the crow flies, but in fact took over two hours as the river meanders.

Anyway, we’d been on the water for a little while and it was very peaceful. Suddenly around the bend, we saw a giant bird. It was a green heron, sitting on the bank. As we got closer, Ken tried to get a picture of it, but it took off, flapping its giant wings. We were sad, but not too much farther upstream, there was another green heron. And then a blue heron. And then a WHITE ONE. And what I had forgotten is that herons are not so much a breathtaking natural wonder but a very bad omen. Once, many years ago when I was still teaching, I had a department head who was an earth mother type. She and her husband had just installed a huge pond in their backyard, and stocked it with very large and expensive koi fish. One morning, she came into our office, breathless with excitement.

“I looked out my kitchen window,” she said to all of us gathered around, “and there, shrouded in the morning mist, stood a heron. It was so majestic and wonderful!” (We were English teachers and talked like this all the time).

“Oh!” said a young ingenue. “I just looked it up and herons are a sign of good fortune and progress. Lucky you!”

Everyone mooned about the heron, all of us wishing we had one too. But then the next morning, our leader returned, dejected.

“What’s wrong?” we asked.

“The heron ate all my koi,” she replied tearfully.

So herons are basically harbingers of doom, and if I’d remembered that at the time, I would have paid more attention to the obviously dire message that the string of heron sightings was meant to convey and I wouldn’t have found myself caught up on rocks in a section of rapids, with my kayak rapidly filling up WITH said rapids, screaming to Ken for help. We managed to tip my kayak and drain most of the river out of it right then and there, but the water was moving so fast that I lost my balance several times, causing both my flipflops to come off, leaving me hopping around barefoot on very sharp rocks. I spent the rest of the trip, which took ANOTHER HOUR, sitting in 4 inches of water sans shoes. Still, the weather was charming and the company was good, despite the herons and their pall of ill fortune.

And I would have been well to have remembered that on Wednesday, when I turned from my desk and caught a glimpse of something strange on our front porch railing. From where I was sitting, it looked like a large animal hunched over. My tolerance for things has become remarkably low since the lockdown started so my first reaction was, “What the f*ck is on my porch at 9 o’clock in the morning?!” I was additionally trepidatious, having already been terrorized the day before by a psychotic squirrel that had slammed spreadeagled into the window inches from my head during a meeting, causing me to jump and shriek, which in turn caused my team to jump and yell, “What’s happening?! Should we call 911? Qu’est ce qui se passe? Appelle la police!” And then I had to explain that it was only a squirrel. Outside.

So I very cautiously crept to the front door and peeked out the window to see A HERON perched on my railing. I still hadn’t put two and two together with the bad luck and whatnot, so I was like, “Cool!” I texted Ken: Come down quietly—there’s a heron on the porch.

Slight tangent: Ken and I have always owned houses with two stories, and because I don’t want to damage my voice by constantly yelling up at him, and because Ken has terrible hearing (Ken: No, I don’t! Me: What? I can’t hear you.) we’ve always had either an intercom system, two-way radios, or other means of communication between floors because—and you may be surprised to hear this—I talk a lot. Luckily now we can just text each other.

Ken tiptoed downstairs and we were both amazed at this giant bird just sitting there. We got some pictures before it suddenly spread its massive wings and took off. But then I remembered those ill-fated koi from many years ago and insisted that we go out and check our small pond to make sure the goldfish were still intact. They were. But as we were patrolling the garden, we found a tiny mourning dove with a broken wing in the bushes right below the heron’s perch. After doing some research, we discovered that herons will also attack and eat smaller birds, which explains why it was hovering like a f*cking vulture on my porch railing. Ken called a rehabilitation centre for wildlife in the next town over, and drove the dove there. We haven’t heard if it survived, but I hope so.

Long story short, herons are assholes.

 

Search Me

I’ve been doing a lot of research lately, and my go-to is always Google. I mean, it’s not like I can walk into a public library and take out a stack of books, although if you know anything about me and my OCD hygiene issues, you’ll know I never touch library books anyway, especially after one of my friends told me about how bedbugs can live in library books and she puts them in the freezer for 48 hours before reading them. Google is the best for finding out stuff: Firefox is obsolete, Edge is boring AF, and Bing is Satan’s search engine, which, in retrospect, might have been appropriate. Also, there are no annoying ads on Google, although you DO get ads everywhere else related to every site you visit. It amazes me that there are people who believe that bizarre conspiracy theory about Bill Gates tracking you through microchips in vaccines when Google already knows everything about you simply based on your clicks. Once, I looked at an ad for wigs, and every site I go to now has ads for wigs. Last week I posted about kittens and now Kate Spade wants to sell me earrings shaped like kittens. And two days ago, I filled in an online request for a quote from a kitchen painting company and now my gmail keeps filling up with ads for Benjamin Moore and kitchen renos. If those conspiracy theorists were really smart, they’d stop using computers all together and share their dumbassery through Morse code instead of becoming anti-vaxxers.

Anyway, I recently completed writing my first non-Young Adult novel, called The Seventh Devil, and I had to do a lot of research at different points in the plot. And then I heard that the government monitors certain topics and I got really worried that maybe I’d raised some red flags. Here is a list of things I searched for recently—tell me if you think I should be concerned:

1) What happens when you mix salt and vinegar together?
2) How corrosive is hydrochloric acid?
3) Is it illegal to make hydrochloric acid?
4) What acid is stronger than hydrochloric acid?
5) Is it illegal to buy sulphuric acid?
6) Where in Canada can I buy sulphuric acid?
7) What type of container is best for transporting sulphuric acid?
8) What acids are more deadly than sulphuric acid?
9) What does carbon tetrachloride do?
10) How does phosphine gas kill you?
11) How do you exorcise a demon?
12) What Latin phrases are best for exorcisms?
13) How do I know if my house is possessed by a demon?
14) Why does my puppy lick the carpet?
15) Is my puppy possessed by a demon?
16) What is the largest swamp in Ontario?
17) How long does it take a body to decompose in a swamp?
18) Does the government track my Google searches?
19) What kind of vehicles do government agents drive?
20)If you see a wifi called Surveillance Van 3, is it real or a joke?
21) Does stress cause hiccups?

 

Demon Dog

Then last week, I e-transferred Kate some money for her tuition, and just for fun, I put “Thanks for the launch codes” in the message line. Yeah, I agree—I think I should be worried.

But research is important though–I learned this the hard way many years ago in university when I was doing an English Lit/Film degree. I was tasked with presenting the filmmaker Stan Brakhage to the class, so I read everything I could about him. Remember, this was in the days before Netflix, Youtube or even the internet, so I DID in fact have to go to a library. From everything I studied, the man was a genius, but there was no way I could actually see any of his films. Then, on the day of my presentation, my film professor, a wonderfully enthusiastic and eccentric man, came up to me and breathlessly announced that he’d secured a 16mm copy of Brakhage’s masterpiece, “Dog Star Man Part III” which he would play on the screen behind me while I spoke. I was thrilled too—the lights went down, the film began, and I started telling the class all about the film and how Brakhage was “obsessed with vision, and tried to capture the three dimensions of the senses…he wanted the viewer to see in a fresh way, to disregard social conventions of seeing—” and then I realized that some people in the class were laughing and some people seemed shocked, so I looked over my shoulder at the film playing behind me and there was a gigantic nipple in the middle of the screen, and then a close-up of what looked like someone peeing, and I’ve never been so mortified and so happy to be in a dark room in my life. I literally stopped my presentation and just said, “Well. That’s so interesting,” and then we all watched as it got even more porn-y and my professor launched into a treatise on Brakhage’s ‘instinctive qualities’ and his ‘incredible technique’, and he was so ecstatic about the whole thing that he didn’t even notice that I hadn’t said another word and I got an A anyway (note that his comment below was “a brief but pithy statement not only of Brakhage but also his context”). And if you want to see “Dog Star Man” for yourself, you can just google it.

 

 

 

Climbing The Walls

Anyone who knows me knows that I’m not very athletic. I only run if something is chasing me, although my idea of exercise HAS evolved from drinking wine while peddling a recumbent cycle to taking a brisk walk with the dog. It’s brisk because it’s the only way I can keep up with him—he’s currently terrible on a leash. He already knows the word ‘Walk’ and goes out of his mind with joy when he hears it to the point that you can barely get the leash attached to his collar before he’s out the door and gone. I’ve tried all kinds of things to calm him down but nothing works:

Me: Heel!
Atlas: Heal what? I’m fine.
Me: NO, stay by my heel.
Atlas: Then I’ll miss that awesome telephone pole. Also, there might be some squirrel sh*t that I have to smell. Ooh, a butterfly—come on!!

Cookies don’t work—well, they work until he’s swallowed them, and then he’s right back to strangling himself with his collar. He WILL sit at the corner, long enough to earn a ‘good boy’, then he laughs and dashes away, dragging me behind him. At 5 months old and 40 pounds, he’s hard to control but at least I’m getting my cardio in. Once everything opens up, I’m definitely taking him for obedience classes, mostly because he’s been trying to drink my wine when I’m not looking.

Anyway, aside from my daily race around the block, I don’t do anything too strenuous, so the other day when Kate asked, “Hey, do you want to go rock climbing with me?” my first instinct was to say “Yes”, because I love hanging out with her, and my second instinct was to whisper to Ken, “My god, what have I done?” He whispered back, “Just climb the kiddie wall—you’ll be fine.” I found some old exercise gear in a drawer, put on some running shoes, and we set out. I should mention that my daughter has her own rock-climbing shoes, so that should tell you exactly what the differential is between us in terms of rock climbing acumen. We got to the facility and walked in. It was huge, with walls of grips going up twenty feet at least, surrounded by 2-foot-thick mats. “Where are the ropes?” I asked. “Why isn’t anyone got a rope around their waist?” Kate informed me that this was ‘bouldering’ which is basically free climbing, so there went my dream of just swinging casually from a rope like a trapeze performer (also in this dream, I’m holding a glass of wine. It was a nice dream). We got up to the counter where we were met by a perky young woman.

Perky Young Woman: Hi! Is this your first time bouldering?
Me: Yes.
PYW: OK, let’s go over some safety guidelines. First, do you know how to fall?
Me: I think so, but I generally tend to avoid it, so I’m probably not an expert or anything.
PYW: OK, well the important thing is to keep your arms crossed over your chest. Don’t stick them out or you might break something.
Me: Exactly how much falling is going to be involved here?
PYW: Haha! Also, don’t touch the ceiling or any of the ductwork when you get to the top.
Me: You’re very optimistic about that possibility.
PYW: Haha! The walls range in difficulty from Beginner to Really Super Hard Crazy Advanced. (*Note: she didn’t actually say ‘Really Super Hard Crazy Advanced’, but I can’t remember the actual name and that’s what it looked like.)
Me: Just point me at the kiddie wall.
PYW: Hahahaha! We don’t have one of those.

Meanwhile, Kate had already chalked up her hands and was raring to go on a course that was on a backwards leaning incline (see pic 1). She directed me to a VB section of wall, which is to say Very Beginner, which I regarded dubiously. “How do I start?” She showed me and then said, “You try it.” I put one toe of my rental shoe on a grip, grabbed a handhold, and was immediately immobilized. I looked to her for help, but she was halfway up another wall, kind of like Spiderwoman. “Keep going, Mom!” she called out as she scaled the wall like a professional. I persevered and managed to make it up the course, which was straight up and had substantial handholds (see pic 2). Still, I made it to the top, about 15 feet up, and got a little excited until I realized that I had to climb back down. I might have looked like a gecko but at least I didn’t fall (see pic 3). I ended up doing a couple of other sections—one was even slightly harder than Beginner, as Kate cheered me on, and then I spent the rest of the time proudly watching her. The next morning when I woke up, I was only slightly screaming from the pain in my arms. And I can’t wait to do it again.

 

Good Kittens Make Good Neighbours

In another installment of “Weird Things I Saw For Sale”, I came across this ad the other day. When I saw the picture, I thought it was strange, because apparently you’re not allowed to sell pets on Facebook Marketplace, but then I saw the description and realized that this was, in fact, NOT a pet but a very skilled little feline who is worth every penny of his $123.00 price tag.

Now, it never occurred to me that you could use a kitten for this purpose, just like it never occurred to me that you should hold a kitten like it’s an ice cream cone, but then I gave it a little more thought. I came up with this clever quiz for you to demonstrate how much a kitten has in common with a sheep/goat fence. You need to read the items on the following list and decide whether they apply to kittens, sheep/goat fences, or both:

1) Can be used to keep out sheep and/or goats
2) Adorable
3) Comes in a variety of colours
4) Might have fleas
5) Needs lots of maintenance
6) Enjoys the outdoors
7) Potentially electrified
8) Poops in a box
9) Hisses if you try to cross it
10) Vomits on your rug
11) Kills birds and small rodents
12) Very long
13) Metal or wood

OK, let’s see how you did.

Exclusively kittens: #8 and #10. Exclusively sheep/goat fences: #13. Both: All the rest.

Now, you may be saying, “I don’t think—” but I’m going to interrupt you in order to explain.

1) “Can be used to keep out sheep/goats”. According to the ad, this kitten CAN be used to keep out sheep and/or goats, and I take the word of the expert who owns the kitten and not some blog reader who owns a sheep and/or goat farm, KEVIN. Also, the ad says it’s a TEMPORARY fence; otherwise, using a kitten as a sheep/goat fence would be very unrealistic.

2) “Adorable”. I have seen MANY adorable sheep/goat fences in my time. In fact, just the other day, Ken and I were driving around the countryside and he said, “Look at that cute fence” and I said, “We should stop and take a picture of it” and we did, because it was adorable.

3) “Comes in a variety of colours”. I mean obviously sheep/goat fences don’t come in as MANY colours as kittens, but they come in several shades of gray or brown, so that counts.

4) “Might have fleas”. I said “Might”.

5) “Needs lots of maintenance”. Fences and kittens are both high-maintenance what with their potential for rust and needing to be amused constantly.

6) “Enjoys the outdoors”. This is obviously true of both because sheep/goat fences live in the outdoors, which they wouldn’t if they didn’t enjoy it, I would hope, and kittens are always making a run for the door to get out of your house.

7) “Potentially electrified”. I said “Potentially”. Also, what do you think makes a kitten’s fur stand on end? And have you ever touched your kitten and gotten a shock? I rest my case.

8) “Poops in a box”. I don’t think sheep\goat fences defecate, and if they did, I can’t see a farmer providing them a box to do it in. Although you never know with farmers.

9) “Hisses if you try to cross it”. This one is predicated on the sheep/goat fence being electrified. In which case, it’s true of both. It’s also true of the Canada Goose, affectionately known as the Evil Lake Chicken.

10) “Vomits on your rug”. This could never be true of a sheep/goat fence because you wouldn’t have one in your house with access to a rug. Unless you also keep sheep and/or goats in your house, and then it would be like a baby gate or something, and I still can’t see it vomiting on the rug, although the sheep and/or goats might. But if you’ve ever owned a kitten, you know they do this all the damn time, and especially when you have company over for dinner, and right as you start eating, the kitten comes in, makes an unearthly yowling sound, and pukes on the rug. Kittens have impeccable timing, which they also have in common with sheep/goat fences. I should have put that on the list.

11) “Kills birds and small rodents”. This is also predicated on the sheep/goat fence being electrified. It also depends on the voltage. Ken has touched electric fences before but he’s not home right now, so I’ll ask him later if he thinks it could electrocute a field mouse. Update: Ken says that the voltage probably wouldn’t kill them but would give them a good jolt, so I’m changing 11 to “Wounds birds and small rodents”.

12) “Very long”. I’ve seen long kittens. Fight me.

13) “Metal or wood”. There’s no way I can stretch this to make it apply to kittens, at least not the living kind, so I’m giving number 13 to sheep/goat fences.

Overall, as you can see, kittens and sheep/goat fences DO have a lot in common, so I think the person who posted the ad should be asking a hell of a lot more than $123.00. A much better deal than the ad for used rocks at a dollar a piece.

(On a personal note, I woke up on Tuesday morning to an email telling me that I’d been nominated for a Best of the Net prize for my story in the Ekphrastic Review titled ‘Landscape With The Fall Of Icarus’, which you can read here if you’d like, although a lot of you already have. It was as unexpected as a kitten being used as a sheep/goat fence, but it made my day.)

Don’t Think of Elephants

As I sit writing this, I’m thrilled beyond belief. My wonderful daughter, due to having all of her classes online next year thanks to covid, is moving home. It makes perfect sense that she shouldn’t be paying rent for some tiny room in a unit that she shared with several other strangers, even IF the wifi is better, and since she’s one of my favourite people, I can’t wait to have face-to-face conversations with her where she doesn’t respond for an hour instead of doing it by text. So she started bringing things home this past week, and that’s where the trouble started. As we were helping her take some boxes upstairs, I couldn’t help but notice that one large box was thoroughly duct-taped. Even more, it had written on it in permanent marker the ominous warning, “DO NOT OPEN”.

Me: Why does that box say ‘Do Not Open’?
Kate: Because I don’t want you to open it.
Me: What’s in it?
Kate: Nothing.
Me: Then why can’t I open it?
Kate: Because I don’t want you to.
Me: But what’s in it?
Kate: I feel like this conversation is very circular.
Me: Is it porn?
Kate: OH MY GOD Mom, no it’s not porn. It’s nothing that you would find interesting.
Me: Well now it’s interesting BECAUSE I can’t open it!
Kate: Don’t open it.

So there the box sits, like a small rectangular elephant, in the middle of the room, surrounded by dozens of other boxes that I’m ALLOWED to open if I wanted to, but I don’t want to—I only want to open the one I’m not allowed to. Did I secretly open it after she left? Absolutely not. I respect her privacy. Also, duct tape is notoriously difficult to peel off cardboard without damaging it, so she’d obviously notice if I tried. Which I haven’t. But I WILL have my revenge. I found this empty box and I’m just going to leave it in random places around the house:

In other news, I was driving to my shock wave therapy appointment last Tuesday and noticed that my odometer read 80 041. I did some quick mental calculations and realized that I had 44 kilometres to go before I would reach the nirvana of mileage, the incredible 80085. ‘There’s no possible way it will take more than 44 kilometres to get to the clinic’, I thought to myself naively. And so I proceeded to drive across country, trying to reach my objective before I got to the highway where I wouldn’t be able to pull over and take a picture. Unfortunately, I’m as bad at distances as I am at math, and I pulled onto the highway at 80066. ‘That’s OK’, I comforted myself—there’s no possible way that it will take 19 kilometres to get to my exit. And then, after a few minutes, the odometer hit 80083. I was still two exits away from my destination, so I did what any normal person would do—I got off the highway immediately. I drove down the off-ramp, heart beating in my chest (because where the hell else would it be beating? But I do love a good cliche) as it clicked to 80084. Then, like a beacon in the night, I saw a small laneway leading into a townhouse complex. I turned the corner, literally and figuratively, just as the odometer hit 80085, and slammed on the brakes. So here you are—I did this just for you:

And then I sent the picture to Ken with the caption, ‘HAHA it says BOOBS!’ Because I’m a grown-ass woman with a juvenile sense of humour and an indomitable will.

Finally, here’s a story I’ve been meaning to tell for some time. I came into the bedroom about a month ago, and found Atlas chewing one of my slippers. He’d already managed to destroy the sheepskin insert and was gnawing on the suede. “What the hell!” I yelled to Ken. “I thought you were watching Atlas! He has one of my slippers!”

Ken: I know. He was getting bored so I gave it to him.
Me: You did WHAT??
Ken: It’s not like you ever wear them.
Me: I literally wear them every single f*cking day, Ken. I’ve been wearing them every day for over seven years! How could you not have noticed that? Is this your revenge for that time I buried YOUR slippers in the garden?
Ken: You did what?!
Me: Nothing…
Atlas: This appetizer is delightful. Shall we proceed to the main course?
Me: You’re not getting the other slipper! Let go!

Ken was very abashed and agreed to pay whatever it cost for a new pair. We looked online but couldn’t find anything remotely similar, so the next day I drove to the store where I’d originally bought them. “Ah yes,” the owner said after I gave him my phone number and he looked me up. “The ‘Leandra”. Excellent choice, very comfortable. I see you made the purchase on February 7, 2013. Unfortunately, this model has been discontinued.”

I was aghast, and devastated that my most comfortable footware had been destroyed, but then I realized that you can order new inserts from Amazon. So I did, and now my slippers are just like new, aside from the slight toothmarks on one heel. Is there a point to this story? Not really, except that I was vindicated and was able to say, “Hah, Ken—you see these Leandras? I bought them in 2013!” and that’s all that matters.