My Week 87: Preparing for Surgery, Weird Wednesday

Saturday: I prepare for surgery

Don’t worry—this is going to be funny, not serious like last week. I got a lot of excellent feedback on my take on Participation Ribbons, but mostly it was like, “Great post, but it didn’t make me laugh.” Thanks, Mom, lol. She also suggested last week after a particularly funny conversation about a “lady-hair ripping party” that I write about my upcoming surgery, and initially I was like, “No way—it’s too personal!” But then I thought, if I was getting my appendix out, I’d definitely write about it, and God knows I’ve already shared some pretty personal stuff on this site, so here it goes.

I’m having a hysterectomy. Yep, I said it. I’m not the first woman to ever have one, and I certainly won’t be the last. But it’s me, and it came as a shock. If you read “Christmas at the Emergency Room”, I dropped some pretty heavy hints about what was going on, but honestly, I was more worried about the promise I’d made to Russia about donating my uterus to their scientists in an earlier post about head transplants, because I had intimated—well, stated very emphatically—that my womb was in excellent working condition, or at least it had been the last time it had been used for anything. I’m pretty sure there’s some kind of implied warranty there, and I didn’t want to get sued by the Russian government for false advertising, especially since I’d criticized their war efforts. Then they’d be like, “Vat?! You think ve suck at var? Vell, your uterus is piece of shit—vorse than LADA. Ve vant our rubles back.” (I don’t know what kind of accent that’s going to play out like, so just pretend it’s Russian.)

So after my emergency room incident, I waited to see a surgeon, and in a bizarre twist of fate, he’s RUSSIAN. Or Czech, or some kind of Slavic, but I’m counting it anyway. As of next week, I will have officially fulfilled my debt and diverted an international incident. But aside from that, I discovered I was living in a dream world (which is not unusual for me, but still…). I’d had my gall bladder out in my early 30s, and I figured it would be as simple as that—the surgeon, dressed in a tuxedo, would reach into my lady tunnel, and pull out my uterus like a magician pulling a rabbit out of a top hat. “Abracadabra!” he would say in his Russian accent, holding it up triumphantly for the audience of nurses and interns, and waving a magic wand. There was also glitter, and a scantily dressed assistant who smiled in a sexy way while the surgeon bowed.  And that would have been totally awesome, but unfortunately, that’s not how it’s actually going to happen, according to my surgeon, who explained all about “reconstruction” and “mesh slings” and other rather nasty procedures, according to the Youtube videos I’ve watched. Note to self: NEVER watch a video about the surgery you’re going to have. I was 30 seconds in, when I screamed, “OH HELL NO!” and desperately searched for videos about kittens.

Yet, while I’m filled with trepidation about the surgery, I’m also relieved. I have something called “uterine prolapse”, which you can look up if you REALLY need to know. And it’s gotten worse in the last couple of weeks to the point where I really don’t enjoy the force of gravity and would prefer to do everything from a horizontal position. Let me just say, there’s a real sense of betrayal you get when one of your body parts wants to abandon you and go on a road trip. Also, as a professional, it’s really difficult to have a conversation with your director when all you can think is “God, I need to readjust my internal organs.” Of course, as with most things related to female anatomy, the medical profession is remarkably blasé. When I asked what I should do if it actually fell out completely, the emergency room doctor told me to “just shove it back in”. It took several months for me to even see a specialist, since this is not considered an “emergency”. Seriously? Do you really think that if a guy went to his doctor and said, “My prostate gland is coming out of my ass!” that the doctor would say, “No worries—just shove it back in.” No—that guy would be on full bedrest, with a private nurse holding his hand and feeding him ice cream. In fact, I’ve often said that if men had to have their testicles checked in the same way that women have to have their breasts examined, the mammogram would never exist. Instead, it would be soothing music, incense, and some kind of weird-ass robot reiki. Ken says that I’m being reverse-sexist when I say things like that, but I honestly can’t see a doctor saying to a guy, “It happens to men all the time. You’ll just have to deal with it.”

The most interesting part of this whole experience was realizing that I would have to be “shorn” for the procedure, which really freaked me out. I’ve never in my life “mowed the lawn”; the most I’ve ever done is trim the hedges. But frankly, the thought of an untrained nurse attacking my lady parts with a dull Bic was more than I could take. So I called up a local spa, explained the situation, and made an appointment for the FULL BRAZILIAN. “No problem,” said the reception. “I’ll set you up with Brittany. I’ve never had it done myself, but she has a good reputation for being very quick. She doesn’t linger.” LINGER?! Why the f*ck WOULD anyone linger?! I would think we’d BOTH want it over as soon as humanly possible. I’d be like, “Please tell me you’re done!” and she’d say, “Oh my god, yes!” And then we’d give a long distance high five and never see each other again.

I got to the spa, and Brittany came out to take me upstairs. She was young, and solid-looking, which I think would be important for the expedient and determined removal of lady hair—any hesitation might result in the client simply running out the door. “Have you had this done before?” she asked.

“Nope, first time,” I answered.

“Well, I’ll be honest up front,” she said. “This is really going to hurt.”

“I have four tattoos and I’ve given birth…”

“Yeah. This is a totally different kind of hurt. But it’s over really quick.”

Did it hurt? You bet your ass it did. At one point, I gasped and started laughing hysterically. “I don’t know why I’m laughing,” I said.

“Oh,” she answered breezily. “Some people laugh, some people cry, some people refuse to open their legs.”

“Doesn’t that kind of defeat the purpose?”

“It sure does,” she laughed. “There, you’re just about done. You’re doing great!”

She was right—it was quick. When I paid the bill, the receptionist asked how it went. “It was fast, thank God,” I said.

“Yes, Brittany’s good like that,” she smiled.

I left a tip, which, when you think about it, was totally appropriate, if tipping is for good service.

So while I may be scared sh*tless about the surgery, at least I have one less thing to worry about. (As a side note, I’m currently one of the few people I know who can actually say, “I’m literally beside myself right now.” Unlike other people who say that when they really mean “figuratively beside myself.”) Ultimately, my plan is to stay drugged up, watch a lot of Netflix, and drink a lot of wine. Best. Vacation. Ever.


Wednesday: All the weird things

Wednesday was one of those days. I’d made plans with my sister-in-law to meet at a spa because I really needed a massage, and she really needed to work out, which honestly, is a need I’ve never been able to relate to. But I got my own workout on the way there, because I decided to walk and I miscalculated how far away the spa actually was. Also, the weather was outrageously humid, and I was dying by the time I was halfway there. I had underestimated the distance so badly that, every time I saw stoplights up ahead and realized it STILL wasn’t my street, I swore copiously, as in “Shuter Street?! What the f*ck!” But on the way there, I saw a man coming towards me. His head was down, he was all sweaty, and he was breathing hard. As he got closer, I realized it was John, one of the homeless guys from my neighbourhood. He looked up and recognized me, and we smiled at each other. “Hey, John,” I said. “Oh hi! How are you?” he answered. “Can I get some money for a cold drink? I won’t use it for alcohol.” So I emptied all the change out of my wallet and put it in his hand, which was weird because I normally put it in his hat. But it was kind of cool, like we were friends and I was just loaning him some money like I would with a co-worker who needed change for the vending machine, except if my co-worker had qualified the request with “I won’t use it for alcohol”, I might have suggested counselling. He said, “Thanks! See you later!” and off he went.

Then I met my sister-in-law, and we went to an Italian restaurant for dinner. I was going to name it here, but the manager just sent me an apology. For what? you might ask. I’d ordered gluten-free pasta because I have a gluten allergy, and it was so undercooked that it was inedible, so I left at least ¾ on the plate. When the waitress asked if I had enjoyed it, I told her “No”, and her response was this: “Well, YOU ordered the gluten-free pasta.” Then she walked away. I was kind of shocked at being personally blamed because their chef couldn’t cook. A few weeks ago, I ordered gluten-free pizza at a different restaurant, and when it came, it was burned. Instead of blaming me and saying, “Well, you didn’t specify UNBURNED,” the waitress apologized profusely and got me another one. That was at Scaddabush, which I don’t mind naming because their food is awesome, and their staff is lovely. Go there if you’re ever in Toronto. Tell them I sent you.

Finally, I was back in my condo and settling in for the night when the building’s fire alarm went off. It’s hideously loud and comes in through a PA system in each unit. I started to panic a little, being on the 27th floor, and wished I had some rope AND training on how to a) tie knots and b) rappel down a set of balconies. Which would never happen in real life, because the only way I EVER go out on my balcony is by holding onto the patio door jamb, then stepping out with one foot and leaning towards the railing only as far as I can go without releasing the door jamb. As I always say, “I’m not afraid of heights; I’m just afraid of falling FROM them.” Which means that I can go on roller coasters, Ferris wheels, and airplanes, but I can’t parachute, ride in a hot air balloon, or stand on my balcony.  It’s all a matter of being strapped in. Anyway, 6 firetrucks showed up, and I was straining to see them without actually getting close to the railing, when it occurred to me that a better use of my time would be to make a pile of all the things I would want to take with me if I had to evacuate. First was the external hard drive with copies of all of Ken’s photographs of flowers, clouds, Christmas ornaments, and cows. Next came the small collection of jewelry that I keep in my condo. A piece of driftwood from the cottage beach, the wooden goblet that Ken had hand lathed for me for Christmas, and I was set, because I had doubles of everything else at home. There were several pieces of artwork, but I figured if the time came, I could throw them in my suitcase at the last minute, then run down all 27 flights of stairs like a mad tourist. Just as I was about to take the first painting off the wall, I heard someone clear his throat. It was the Obnoxious Chair.

OC: Aren’t you forgetting something?
Me: Like what? Oh right, I probably need shoes.
OC: Not shoes, you idiot. I’m thinking of a particular chair you know.
Faint voice from the bedroom: I am in here, cherie, patiently waiting.
OC: Not that French bastard! I’m talking about me!
Me: You’re kidding right? You really think I’m going to carry you down 27 flights of stairs after the way you constantly behave?
OC: Hey, the last time the men were here to service your fan coil, I was really good. I kept my distance, even though they were sketchy and were touching your underwear.
Me: What?!
OC: Underwear, fan coil, whatever.
Me: The most I’ll do is throw you off the balcony. You can take your chances with gravity.
OC: Hah! Like you’d ever go out there. Well, suit yourself. And by the way, a little fire would do wonders for the décor in here.
Me: You’re a jerk.
OC: Screw you.
French Chair: I’m waiting, ma petite chou. We shall escape together, as I’ve always dreamed. Perhaps to ze Casbah.

Just then, the concierge came over the PA to announce that the fire department had given the all-clear, and that we could “resume our normal activities.” I felt a little letdown after creating such an elaborate escape plan, but at least I knew who I’d take with me, and what would be left behind to burn.

My Week 86: Participation Ribbons and Road Trip Conversations

Wednesday: I am up in arms. Or elbows.

I am currently what I like to call “up in arms”. This happens to me frequently, and can be triggered by small things, like the cat peeing on the rug, or larger things, like a politician trying to exploit an unfortunate situation. The former refers to Raven, who once again, in her diva-ish way, has decided that the Persian rug in my office “reminds her of the steppes of home”.

Anyway, what has triggered my current exasperation with humanity this time, you might ask? Well, somehow I started following the “Intermediate Teachers of Ontario” Facebook page, and let me tell you, there are some super-hardcore people out there. A couple of weeks ago, someone posted that she was trying to mark a Grade 5 class math test, and that the students had misunderstood the question. What should she do? she wondered. The response was outrageous. “Give them zero!” suggested a colleague. “If they can’t read properly, they don’t deserve any marks!” “Would you want a doctor who had misunderstood a question on his doctor exam?!” exclaimed another. I was sorely tempted to point out that the “doctor exam” was actually called the MCAT, and that the teacher who had posted the query might instead examine the question itself, which seemed to me to be rather ambiguous and poorly worded in the first place, but I learned a long time ago not to get involved in internet battles, since most people will take advantage of their relative anonymity and just call you a nasty name.

But this week, I’m REALLY pissed off. Someone posted a video, with the tagline “I’m a teacher and a coach. What are your thoughts about this?”, about a two-bit football player who was pontificating about Participation Ribbons. In case you’re not sure, Participation Ribbons are what we give to children for PARTICIPATING in something, hence the name. And if you don’t think children deserve Participation Ribbons, you should probably stop reading right now. Or keep reading—maybe I’ll change your mind. Anyway, this guy was telling a story about how he HATES Participation Ribbons and illustrated it thusly: His five-year-old daughter was participating in her very first school track and field day, and she was in a footrace against other small children. He related that she was winning the race, but as the kids came close to the finish line, she began to lag and lose speed. She ended up in fifth place. Not first. Not second. Not EVEN third. So instead of a “legit” ribbon, she got a Participation Ribbon. He decided that she didn’t deserve the ribbon, since she hadn’t actually won anything, so he TOOK THE RIBBON AWAY FROM HIS FIVE-YEAR-OLD AND GAVE IT BACK TO THE ORGANIZERS. And while I really want to call him a tremendous douchebag, I won’t. What I WILL say is that this is the most heinous example of parenting that I’ve ever heard of. Publicly instilling a sense of shame in your child for not winning a footrace makes no logical sense. Like she’s EVER going to want to compete in anything ever again, knowing that if she doesn’t come in top 3, Daddy will make sure she’s humiliated. His argument of course, is that this generation of kids is incredibly self-entitled because they get medals for everything whether they win or not. Here, then, for your reading pleasure, are my counter-arguments.

1) There have ALWAYS been participation ribbons. I got them when I was a kid, and so did everyone else before me, and it didn’t do us any harm—in fact, it was the opposite. 44 years ago, I was in something called the “Skating Races”. This was an event where every child in the school system went to this big-ass arena, and we raced against each other wearing ice-skates in our different age categories (remember—this is Canada. Everyone knows how to skate. Actually, that’s a lie, but back then, no one asked you if you WANTED to participate—you were just expected to). I was absolutely terrified. I wasn’t a great skater, and the thought of having to compete in front of hundreds of spectators made me shake as we lined up, all of us 6 year-olds. The gun went off. I skated the fastest that I could, but I came in almost last. You know what I got? A Participation Ribbon. And I was PROUD. I kept that thing for years as a reminder that I had conquered my fear, made it to the end of the race, and hadn’t fallen down. It didn’t make me self-entitled and I didn’t feel the world owed me anything. What it DID do was give me the confidence to keep skating. The next year, I joined a Ringette team, and became a really good skater. So never assume that you know what goes through a 6 year-old’s head when they lose a race. I was lucky that my parents weren’t like that football player. Holy sh*t, can you imagine if my dad had made me give that ribbon back in front of everyone because I didn’t win?

As for my own daughter, she took martial arts for years. Her room is full of trophies, some first, second, or third place, some just for participation. It didn’t matter to us—the message we instilled in her over and over was that she was competing against herself, and if she beat her personal best, or put in her best performance, that was all that counted in the long run. I never wanted her to feel hard-done-by ie: “I can’t believe you didn’t get first! That’s so unfair!” I’ve heard that from other parents, and I get that they’re trying to soothe a sore ego, but all that does it create a victim mentality. It doesn’t build resilience in kids, and that’s what they need to survive in an increasingly complex world.

2) The backlash against Participation Ribbons is based on a competition-model, which is way more unhealthy. Expecting your child to win, and making them feel lousy when they don’t is damaging to both them and a democratic society. What ever happened to “focus on the journey, not the destination”?  You don’t want kids to feel self-entitled? Stop giving them the message that the endgame is all that matters.

3) Are kids today really more self-entitled than any other generation? I keep hearing this from adults and it concerns me. The other day, I heard someone famous say, “Children now love luxury. They have bad manners and contempt for authority. They show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise.” Actually, I didn’t HEAR him say that—I read it, because it was Socrates, and he’s been dead since like 399 BCE. Let me tell you, from my personal experience, that teenagers today are really no different than they’ve ever been. I was a high school teacher for almost 25 years and the kids I taught two years ago are essentially the same as the ones I taught in the early 90s. You know what changed? The technology. Instead of passing notes in class, they text. Instead of tying up the landline for hours like we did, they’re on Skype. Are kids today more uncaring than they used to be, more dangerous? According to Statistics Canada, youth crime has seen a continuing downward trend; in 2014, Youth Crime was down 40% compared to 1994. The fact is, there will always be troubled youth, and there will always be those teenagers who do mission work, who fundraise, who work towards making the world a better place. And there will always be self-entitled kids, but it’s not because of Participation Ribbons–it’s because of sh*tty parenting. Stop telling your kids that the world owes them something, and start telling them the opposite, that they owe the WORLD something. You’ll be amazed at how they respond.

4) There seems to be a lot more public “youth-shaming” than ever before. In response to the post on this Facebook page about Participation Ribbons, another so-called educator said the following: “Couldn’t agree more!! I just finished teaching an after school credit course to grade 8s and these kids think they can hand in crap work or not even study and pass the exam to get a credit! Errrr!” Crap work?  Maybe it wasn’t good work—in fact, it very well might not have been, because I know from personal experience that 13 year-olds are notoriously difficult to motivate for very complicated and varied reasons, and I’m glad. The last thing we need is another generation of people who sit and do whatever they’re told without challenging it. If we really want a world without constant war, then we need our children to be critical thinkers instead of just blindly following what our so-called leaders tell us (see Donald Trump for proof of this scary phenomenon). And calling their work “crap” in a public forum is completely inappropriate, and says more about the self-entitlement of adults to bash the younger generation than it does about kids and their attitudes. (It also says that if you don’t like 13 year-olds, maybe you should find another job.) But it’s become incredibly easy to teen-bash, just as it’s become easy to bash anyone on the internet. As adults, we need to role-model better behaviour. Just look at the comments section of any on-line article to see how “mature” adults are these days. All you need is an internet moniker and wi-fi, and you can say whatever the hell you want with impunity. We get upset when kids cyber-bully, but adults do it so much better.

Bottom line: a shiny piece of satin with the word “Participation” on it won’t make or break modern society. The way we treat our children will. So the next time little Jimmy or Susie comes running up waving a ribbon with a big smile on his or her face, just smile back and say, “Wow. I’m proud of how hard you tried.”


Saturday: Conversations on the road with Ken

Ken (crushes waterbottle completely, making horrific sound): Ahhhh.
Me: You know when you do that, it makes it almost impossible for the recycling company to get the label off? Now that bottle can’t be recycled.
Ken: Oh, don’t worry—they burn the labels off. It can still be recycled.
Me: OK. You know when you do that, the noise makes me insane?
Ken: Oh. But I like doing it.
Me: If you crush another bottle in front of me, I’ll slap you with it.
Ken: Sigh.

Me: Hey, look—a garage sale! Pull over.
Ken: OK.
Me: Look at that antique settee. It’s only $25! Do you have any cash?
Ken: It’s falling apart! What are you going to do with it?
Me: It’s my new summer project. I can fix it.
Ken: Will it end up on the porch like all your other “summer projects”?
Me: No! I promise. Put it in the truck. It’s going to be awesome.
Ken: Sigh.

Ken: What kind of plants are in that field over there, do you think?
Me: Whenever we see plants like that, you tell me it’s mustard.
Ken: Oh right. It’s probably mustard.
Me: Then again, whenever I see an owl on a powerline, you tell me it’s a hawk. I don’t know if I can trust you on this mustard thing anymore.
Ken: It looks like mustard.
Me: Sure. Right. Whatever you say, Hawk-man.
Ken: Sigh.



My Week 85: Grinder Week

Thursday: I am at least two of the seven dwarves.

I think we were all really sleepy and grumpy this week for some reason. It seems like it’s been a long spring, without much hope of warm weather yet. In fact, the other day, my work partner and I were going down to Loblaws, and we were debating whether or not we needed our coats. I said, “When the hell is that question going to be moot? At what point will we just be like, “Let’s go” and our coats don’t even come into the equation?” And then we were happy we wore our coats because it was ridiculously cold, even for May, and I decided that no matter how much I love being Canadian, the weather here is beyond stupid and can very easily ruin any “I love Canada” moment you might be inclined to have. (Also, just for the record, when I say “work partner”, I don’t mean like “work wife” or “work husband”. I mean the person who is the other member of my work TEAM. If I HAD a work husband, I would want it to be someone like Patrick Stewart or John Cho, which would mean I’d have to change careers and somehow try to get into the acting profession—god, these work relationships can be so complicated….)

So I think the general trend towards sleepiness and grumpiness is natural, all things considered, and this is how I know that it’s been an unusually grinding week for everyone I know:

1) I got some really good news on Monday. I was over the moon, but Ken was at some “important” meeting, and my parents were away, so I did what any normal person would do—I called K.

Me: Guess What?! I just heard from the publisher. They’re publishing my novel!!
K: Oh, sweet! That’s so cool!

We chatted for a little while longer, then I told her I’d call her later, after her exam. So at 4 pm, this was the conversation.

Me: How was your exam?
K: Pretty good.
Me: I’m still really excited!
K: About what?
Me: About what I told you this morning!
K: Did we talk this morning?
Me: For like over 5 minutes. I told you my novel was getting published.
K: It is?! That’s awesome!
Me: Were you in bed when I called you?
K: Um, maybe. Sorry, I honestly don’t remember talking to you. I HAD just written my 9th exam in 8 days. Yay for you though…

But I forgive her, because I got to experience her happiness for me twice in one day, and when you have a teenager, that doesn’t happen very often.

2) Later in the week, I found myself being so tired that I was having trouble processing simple conversations. People would try to explain things to me, and I would just nod and pretend I was totally on board with everything. The final straw came on Thursday, when I found something online that I really wanted to keep.

Me: God, this is a perfect example. Remind me later that I want to use this.
L: Write it on a sticky note in case I forget.
Me: Um, how is THAT going to work?
L: What?
Me: Well, the sample is on the computer. If I put a sticky note on it, the second I navigate away from it, the sticky note is useless.
L: Did you seriously think I was suggesting that you put a sticky note on your computer screen?
Me: No…?
L (slowly): Write all the details about the sample on a sticky note. Then stick it somewhere you will see it later. Not on your computer screen. Somewhere ELSE.
Me: Oh right. That makes sense.
L: Sigh.

sticky note

But I know I’m not the only one because on Friday, I took the train home. First, a work colleague and I were taking the same subway to the train station, and he wanted to leave earlier than I normally do, which was OK because it’s nice to have company on the subway. So I waited for him to pack up. It was an arduous process, as he looked for his glasses case, tucked away miscellaneous work items, cleaned his desk, checked his wallet for his driver’s licence and made sure his cell phone was charged. We finally got down to the subway platform and he suddenly exclaimed, “Oh no!! I forgot my train ticket!” I was like “Where?” because I was pretty sure he’d gone through every drawer in his desk already. But he had to go back to the office, leaving me to ride the subway alone in rush hour, and having to wait in line for the train longer than usual. And then I got super grumpy, not at him, because he’s a really great guy and my track record for remembering things last week wasn’t stellar either. So in a continuation of the things that grind my gears:

3) Why the hell am I waiting in line at the train station? The train I take has assigned seats and you can’t get on without a previously purchased ticket. Yet, without fail, everyone hurries to line up for half an hour, and because I always worry that they know something I don’t, I end up in the stupid line. Then I get mad at myself for being a lemming. And there’s always that ONE person who tries to cut into the line, even though we all have seats. A woman did that to me on Friday—she was sitting in the waiting room, then just casually got up and slid into line in front of me. LIKE THE LINE DIDN’T EVEN F*CKING MATTER. I was simultaneously outraged AND jealous of her refusal to acknowledge the bizarre line-up protocol that the rest of us have established for absolutely no good reason. And of course, there are always the people from the “business class lounge” who get “priority boarding” and just stroll right past all of us, which makes me want to yell, “Hey—it’s a Via Rail train, not the f*cking Orient Express. Take your smugness down a notch.”

4) I finally got on the train and it was the ride from hell. Normally, my fellow passengers are a normal bunch, who respect the rules and keep the ride pleasant, but it was Friday the 13th unfortunately. I was thinking it would be a great ride initially, because the bar cart came around right away, which doesn’t always happen. But then everything became a surreal nightmare. The guy across the aisle from me started peeling and eating hardboiled eggs and drinking what looked like a smoothie made from compost. And to make matters worse, he was flicking bits of shell onto the floor. Then I caught a whiff of something nastier than “demon egg” (because of the sulphur, right?), and I looked to the other side of me—the nice-looking elderly lady who was my seat companion had decided to TAKE OFF HER SHOES and was sitting barefoot. The smell was a cross between talcum powder and death. I took off my headphones to read, because I can’t concentrate on a book and music lyrics at the same time, only to discover that the woman behind me was carrying on a very loud running commentary of inanity to the child sitting beside her:

Woman: You’re a really good artist.
Child: Thanks.
Woman: You know who else is a good artist? Your dad.
Child: Is he?
Woman: And so is your aunt. She’s a really good artist.
Child: Really?
Woman: And so is your other aunt.
Child: Uh huh.
Woman: And so is your uncle. He’s a really good artist too.
Child: Oh.
Woman: Your grandmother was a really good artist.
Child: *silently drawing*
Woman: Oh—you know what?!
Child: What?
Woman: Your cousin Frank is a really good artist.

And so it went on in the same vein. When I finally got to my station, I collapsed into Ken’s arms. “I’m so tired”, I said. “I was on the verge of losing it on the train—“YOU, stop eating your damn baby chickens and pick up their skins, YOU, put your damn shoes back on, and YOU, shut the hell up—there’s a collective noun for that sh*t—‘Everyone in OUR FAMILY is a good artist’, and be done with it!!!” Ken just looked at me in wonderment, and perhaps a little fear.

“I ordered pizza and wings,” he said.

“Can we eat them in bed?” I asked.

“Um, ok,” he answered.

Best. Husband. Ever.


My Week 84: Titus and the Magic Box, Oral Stories and The RARE Slit Barn

Sunday: Titus and the Magic Box

About 3 months ago, out of the blue, Titus got really sick. Mountains of sick, all over the house—he’s a giant dog, so you can only imagine the level of destruction AND the level of my anxiety over the situation, considering the hygiene issues I have. Plus, I was alone. Under normal circumstances, I would pretend to be superbusy making dinner until Ken cleaned up the mess, but he was still at work, so I had no choice—I threw the dirty rugs outside and started the process of restoring order, and cleanliness back to my house. As I was trying not to silently scream and curse Ken’s name for not taking the day off with me, I considered what might have been the cause of the monster dog’s intestinal disarray. The month before, he had eaten a pound of grapes out of a bowl on the counter. Grapes are, apparently, highly toxic to dogs, and by the time we realized what he’d done, it was too late to do anything about it but wait for the worst. I googled “signs of kidney failure in asshole dogs”; I got a lot of hits regarding “anal glands” and “rectum issues”, so no help there. Thanks for being so f*cking LITERAL Google. (I actually just googled “Why is my dog an asshole?” and got about 1000 hits—I guess it’s important to be really specific with your Google requests). Anyway, after three days, we realized he was going to survive the grape incident with absolutely no ill effects, just as he had survived eating copious amounts of chocolate which he had stolen from my suitcase, 23 bouillon cubes and their boxes, an entire box of K-cups including most of the tinfoil covers, a complete basil beef stirfry dinner right out of the frypan while we weren’t looking, several bags of garbage, and other miscellaneous things that would send most dogs to the vet for a stomach pumping.

So there I was, cleaning up dog puke and trying to figure out what the hell could have caused him to be this sick. Of course, HE was clueless as usual—when I asked him, he just shrugged and said, “How would I know? I eat so much crap behind your back, it could have been anything.” When Ken got home, we wracked our brains. Finally, Ken said, “Honestly, the only change in his diet is that I’ve been giving him these Milk Bone dog biscuit treats when we get back from a walk for the last week.”

“Interesting,” I replied, “because it actually looked like a week’s worth of Milk Bones. You know Milk Bones are full of filler, right? You remember he’s on a grain-free diet, right?” And why is our canine garbage disposal on a grain-free diet? Not because we’re new-agey, organic-loving weirdos. We’re not. It’s because he has allergies, and the people who gave him to us (FOR FREE—are you surprised?) thought that gluten might be triggering his allergies. And while maybe we’ll never know if that’s true or not, it’s certainly apparent that a lot of gluten makes him violently ill.

Mystery solved. But now, of course, I was worried about a repeat incident. He really likes getting treats, and despite his shortcomings, he actually deserves a cookie once in a while, like when strangers come to the door, and he plants himself at my feet, stares at them semi-menacingly and refuses to budge until they’re gone. So I decided to research “home-made dog treats”. I found a great recipe with a few simple ingredients, and set about making them. The recipe called for you to roll the dough out, then use cute cookie cutters to make fancy little shapes, but it’s a hell of a lot easier and faster to scoop out little balls, flatten them with your hands, then toss them onto a cookie sheet. Martha Stewart, I’m not. And of course Titus, being the clever and food-obsessed animal he is, very quickly learned which ingredients constituted cookie baking time. The second he sees the natural peanut butter jar come out of the refrigerator, he comes running and freaking out.

Titus: Oh my God! You’re making cookies, aren’t you?!
Me: Sigh. Yes. Like I do EVERY Sunday.
Titus: This is the best day ever! I’m just going to lie here, OK?
Me: So long as you don’t drool on my feet like last time.
Titus: I’m not promising anything.

Half an hour later:

Me: What are you doing?
Titus: Waiting for the cookies to come out of the magic box.
Me: You mean the oven?
Titus: Call it what you want. Technically, it’s the “medium-sized” magic box. The “large magic box” is where you keep all the delicious luncheon meats and cheeses.
Me: None of this is actually magic. It’s all based on science.
Titus: Well, how does “the oven” work then?
Me: Well…you push this button, and it gets hot. Then you put uncooked food in it, and it cooks the food for you…
Titus (whispers): Magic.
Raven (walking by): It’s a chemical reaction, you idiots. Try Googling it.
Titus: Cat, you will pay for your heresy—hey, the timer just went off! Get the cookies out before the fairies eat them!!

titus waiting for cookies

(Just for the record, in case anyone is interest, here’s the recipe for the magical cookies: 1 mashed banana, 1 egg, 3 tablespoons of natural peanut butter, and around 1 and a half cups of either coconut flour or chickpea flour—or more, depending on how sticky it still is. Mix it all up, roll into little balls, flatten them on a cookie sheet sprayed with that aerosol oil, and cook for 30 minutes at 325 degrees Fahrenheit. He hasn’t puked since. Thank you, magic box.)

Wednesday: I am sh*tty at telling stories. And listening to them.

On Wednesday, I was invited to a party with people I didn’t know. Well, I knew the hostess, which is how I got the invite, but no one else. I’m not really comfortable in social situations, so I was a little apprehensive. But they were very nice people, very friendly and all, and as the party, and the drinking, progressed, someone suggested that we should all tell a story about our most embarrassing moment in the classroom. I’m not currently a classroom teacher, but I WAS for over 20 years, and in all that time, I had very few embarrassing moments that I can recall. And I was UNDER PRESSURE to produce. People were telling these hilarious anecdotes about wardrobe malfunctions, accidently telling off-colour jokes, and incidents with parents. Me, I was scrambling, and the only thing I could think of was the story that I told in my very first blog (My Week 1: Marijuana and Febreeze) about the time I insinuated to my students that they might have more fun if they smoked pot like Justin Trudeau instead of being so uptight like Stephen Harper. So with all eyes on me, I launched into my tale. It took me 15 seconds, I left out most of the backstory, and there was no punchline. I think I ended with, “So marijuana. It was pretty embarrassing,” and everyone smiled politely. But the problem is, I can’t tell a story orally to save my life–I lose the thread and I get distracted when all eyes are on me. In fact, not too long ago, a relative said to me, “You know, we all just love your blog—it’s so hilarious and well-written. But we all agreed that it’s weird, because in person, you’re just not that funny.”

And it’s true. I’m also really sh*tty at listening to stories sometimes, because I have random thoughts that get in the way. I have family members who get really frustrated when people (ie: me) interrupt them to ask questions, or clarify a point, and they will sometimes just give up (ie: scream “Oh for God’s sake, never mind!). Luckily, Ken is used to this, and has no storytelling ego. He will just patiently address my thoughts and questions, then get back to his story. For example, on the way home last night:

Ken: …and then we all went to the RARE Slit Barn—
Me: Is that a STRIP CLUB?!
Ken: No, it’s a nature preserve funded by a charity called RARE. A slit barn has vertical slits in it for ventilation—
Me: Ha! It SOUNDS like an exclusive strip club, like “Then we all went to the Rare Slit Barn, had a drink and a lap dance…
Ken: So anyway, they had students there who were training as interpreters—
Me: What, like for sign language? Was everyone hearing impaired? I’d love to learn sign language…
Ken: No, NATURE interpreters. To teach other people about the nature preserve—
Me: That would ALSO be a great name for a strip club: The Nature Preserve…
Ken: It was incredible how professional the students were. Everyone learned a lot.
Me: Slit Barn. That’s awesome.
Ken: Sigh.