My Week 205: The Nothing Box Explained

So I’m still on a ship and the wifi is about what you’d expect, so for now, here’s something I worked up before we left. This blog may contain stereotypes, so sue me—if you can find me…

A couple of weeks ago, I referenced something called the “Nothing Box”. I’m not sure how many people know what that is, so I thought I’d provide some background and context:

Every morning, Ken wakes up super early to take the dog out for a walk. When he’s done, he comes back into the bedroom and immediately falls back to sleep. I’m a tolerant person, but I have my limits, and the other morning I announced, “If you want to keep doing this you’ll be sleeping in another room tonight.” And it was a REASONABLE response because A) I’m on my holidays and B) I have no desire to be awakened at 6:30 am on my holidays while Ken and Titus run out of the room then run back into the room, because they both are REALLY excited about their morning walk. While Titus is leaping on and off the bed and yelling, “This is the best day EVER!!”, Ken tries to sneak around getting dressed, but the more he uses his tiptoes, the more the wooden floor bounces, and then I’m wide awake. “What’s the problem?” Ken asks. “You can always go back to sleep.”

No, Ken, YOU can go back to sleep, but I CAN’T. Because I’m a woman and you’re a man. The second I wake up, my mind starts racing with all the stuff I need to do that day, and how I’m going to do it. When YOU wake up, your mind says, ‘Sleep Now’, like those creepy alien guys in the movie Dark City, and you’re like “OKAY!” , and you go back to sleep, all f*cking cheerful and whatnot. But me? I’m DONE. My mind is now turned up to 11, and there’s nothing I can do about it.

Later that day, Ken posted a meme on Facebook that said women typically lose 2 to 4 hours a night lying awake thinking about stuff, and I said, “See? Even the internet knows I’m right.”

And I don’t want to generalize, but that to me seems to be the main difference between some men and women, like Ken and me. I heard once a long time ago on a talk show that men have a Nothing Box in their heads. So when you say to a man, “What are you thinking about?” and he says, “Nothing,” he’s telling you the absolute truth. There is literally NOTHING in his mind because he’s in the Nothing Box. And sometimes, I’ll ask Ken a question, and I’ll be waiting for the answer, and he seems to be taking a really long time thinking about it. Only he’s not. He’s still in his Nothing Box, and when I ask if he has an answer yet, he’ll look at me kind of surprised, like he forgot we were in a conversation. This happens quite often when we’re having a ‘debate’, and I’ll ask “What the f*ck is wrong with you?!”, totally expecting a response, because I’m NOT BEING RHETORICAL, KEN, but he’s actually just disappeared into his Nothing Box when he’s SUPPOSED to be figuring out the answer. I, like many women, don’t have a Nothing Box. I never think about nothing. In fact, I can’t even meditate—if you ask me to clear my mind, I immediately start thinking about how to do that, how long I should do it for, does my breathing sound weird, and also what does “empty’ mean in this context anyway? There are literally a thousand other things that ultimately prevent my mind from actually emptying. Ken, similar to a lot of men when told to empty their minds, are just like “Done. Let’s meditate.” Then they go into the Nothing Box and stay there for a while. It’s like the saying “Lost in thought”. When Ken is lost in thought, it’s just ONE thought that he’s contemplating, like shortcuts or compass points or homemade pizza. When I’m lost in thought, I mean I’m LITERALLY lost in a f*cking maze of bizarre and random ideas that jump from one thing to another like a hyperactive frog, but the one thing I’m ALWAYS doing is problem-solving and making decisions. Even if it’s not readily apparent to the guy in his Nothing Box.

But despite all the solitude in his mind, Ken is not good at the decision-making process. Oh, he can MAKE decisions all right, but then he pretends that he needs my help to figure out things, which is super-frustrating. We have had MANY debates over the years about why he does this—here are some examples of this little quirk of his.

Me: Let’s go for a walk.
Ken: Sure. Which way do you want to go?
Me: Towards the park would be good.
Ken: No, we should go towards the store so we can check our lottery ticket.

Me: Which one of these paint chips do you like best?
Ken: I don’t care. They’re both fine.
Me: I like this one the best.
Ken: No, that one’s too yellow-y. The other one is the colour we should paint the room.

Or more recently:

Ken: Should we check into the hotel first or return the rental car?

Me: Return the car.

Ken: No…blah blah obscure reasoning…


I always say, “Why did you ask for my opinion if you already knew what you wanted to do?!” Then I wait for an answer. But I never get one, because he’s in his Nothing Box. Lucky bastard.

It’s absolutely empty.

My Week 204: Vacation Planning “Worst Case Style”

Ken and I are about to go on vacation. We’re flying to Calgary. Then we’re driving to Edmonton. Then we’re getting on a train to Vancouver. Then we’re taking a ship to Alaska. This whole ‘adventure’ has kicked my obsessive need to plan for the worst into high gear. I already figured out how to survive a train derailment when we were in Spain, and the lifeboat drills on a cruise ship are a tremendous comfort to me. The plane I know I can’t do anything about unless it lands in water but I booked an aisle seat just in case. (Ken: You should wear running shoes on the plane in case it crashes and we have to go down the slide. Me: I’m wearing flip flops in case we’re in water and I have to use them like flippers.) But there are other forces outside of my control that are making me very stressed; for example, I already found out three weeks ago that the train will be arriving in Vancouver 9 hours late. It hasn’t even left the damn station yet–how do they know?! The best I could do was build a 24-hour buffer into each of these segments of our journey because anyone who knows me well, knows that I always plan ahead. In fact, if you’ll remember, in an earlier blog I talked about buying Kate a book called The Little Book of Worst Case Scenarios so that even she, as a young child, could start to plan for disasters such as:

a) Bear Attacks: Make yourself look as large as possible and scream loudly to let the bear know you could take it in a fight. Do not run—bears are, apparently, very gazelle-like.

b) Driving a car into a river: Find an air pocket, wait for the car to be submerged, then open the door and swim to the surface. Kate was like “I’m seven years old–why would I ever drive my car into a river?” I DON”T KNOW, KATE. But if you plan for these things, you might SURVIVE them, and now that you’re twenty and have a driver’s license, it’s a damn good thing you know about this.

c) Bouncy Castle Mishaps: The survival rate for a bouncy castle you’re playing in which suddenly becomes untethered and floats away (which apparently happens more often than you think) is very poor. That’s why my child had boring but safe birthday parties.

So after years of careful consideration and planning, I feel ready for almost anything, like wrestling an alligator or even escaping from a burning bus. For example, I have hammers in strategic places around the house, which prompted Ken to ask, “Why do you have a hammer in the bathroom?” Answer: in case there’s a fire, and I can’t get to my new fire extinguisher, and I have to smash the bathroom window and crawl out onto the porch roof. Obviously. Here’s another example–in the winter, we put a wheelbarrow over the pond so that Titus doesn’t fall through the snow into the frigid water. This happened to our previous dog, prompting a very heated argument which had followed this earlier argument:

Ken: I’m going to dig a 3-foot deep pond.
Me: Don’t be ridiculous. Someone will fall in and drown.
Ken: No one is going to fall in. You’re worrying for no reason. It needs to be deep so the fish can survive the winter.
Me: I’m serious. Please, I’m begging you, don’t make it so deep.
Ken: I’m totally disregarding your emotions and I’m going to do what I want. Screw you. (OK, he didn’t actually say any of THAT, but he DID continue to dig a 3 foot deep pond despite my objections).

6 months later, we let the dogs out into the back yard. The pond was covered by a healthy layer of snow, and about ten minutes later, we realized that we couldn’t see one of the dogs, the really old one with bad arthritis. Yes, she had fallen into the pond, and it was too deep for her to climb out. Ken rushed outside and rescued her, prompting this heated argument, which I will sum up in one sentence:

Me: OMFG!! I TOLD you this would happen!! And the fish are all DEAD!!

Hence the wheel barrow which straddles the pond all winter. As you might already know, I also have a baseball bat under my side of the bed. This is the scenario for the baseball bat:

1) We wake up in the middle of the night to strange noises coming from downstairs.
2) Ken, as one does, offers to investigate. He puts on his housecoat and goes down with the dog, who is clearly agitated.
3) I wait, wracked with fear. There are shouts, commotion, then nothing.
4) I assume that the intruder has tied both Ken and Titus up, and is taunting them as he steals our stuff.
5) I quietly get the baseball bat out from under the bed and sneak downstairs. The intruder has his back to me.
6) Ken sees me, but luckily, he’s gagged so he can’t do what he would normally do and say something like, “Why do you have a baseball bat?!”
7) I swing, connect with the intruder’s head, and down he goes.
8) I free Ken and Titus, we tie up and gag the intruder, and then we call the police. Ta dah!

Would it happen like this in real life? Hopefully we’ll never have to find out.

So you see, I have impending disasters carefully planned, even in Toronto, where I live in a high rise building on the 34th floor during the week. This, of course, has led to a whole new set of worst case scenarios. For example, I have a balcony. Everyone is always like, “Awesome, you have a balcony—I’ll bet you can’t wait until it’s nice enough to sit out there.” Are you f*cking kidding me? Do you think there’s ANY way I will EVER sit out on a precipice that is over 400 feet from the ground? And here’s why. It occurred to me that the balcony figures prominently in several worst case scenarios, which I am slowly working my way through. Here’s the one I solved during my first month there, as I lay awake listening to the baby next door screaming like it was being throttled (it wasn’t, of course; when I politely inquired after its health in the morning, the mother told me they were “sleep training” him, and he was “very unhappy” about it. Oh yeah? I’ll bet he wasn’t as unhappy as me.) Anyway, I suddenly had this horrible thought that, say, I did take someone’s advice and try to grow pots of basil on the balcony. I go out there to water my plants, and somehow the door closes and locks behind me. I don’t know how that would actually happen, but say that it did. What now? I’m stuck on a 34th floor balcony, wearing only pajamas (because that’s what I was wearing when I started trying to solve this problem).

Option A: Scream for help. No, because I’m 34 floors up. No one on the ground can hear me, and the neighbours’ eardrums have been damaged by their ‘unhappy’ child.

Option B: Take off an article of clothing to wave around and attract attention. Well, I’m only wearing pajama bottoms and a T-shirt—which one do I use? I guess I have to decide HOW MUCH attention I actually want. But who will see me that high up anyway?

Option C: Start tossing the basil pots down to the ground until someone looks up and sees me (either topless or pantless) and calls the cops. This solution is unlikely because my experience with people downtown so far is that many of them are either completely self-absorbed and oblivious to the world around them, or looking down at the ground for cigarette butts.

No, the only sure thing is Option D: Keep an extra hammer out on the balcony. Then I can smash the glass in the patio door and get back into my condo. The hammer people must love me. Not only do I have several scattered around my house, I’ve purchased two for Toronto as well. I should probably put one in my desk drawer at work too, just in case. Fun fact: Via Trains are equipped with tiny hammers in boxes to smash the windows in case we are somehow trapped in the train. Nice to know they’ve been paying attention. Now if they could only arrive on time…

Update: Ken and I are in Vancouver right now, about to get on the boat. Man, do I have some stories for you when we get back!

My Week 203: Another Mystery, Titus and I Talk Movies

My life is shrouded in mystery. If it’s not blonde hair in my condo, it’s porn on my porch. There are forces out there that cannot be explained…

So last Sunday, I followed my usual routine. I got up, sat down in front of my laptop and wrote for a while. Ken was in his office working on his photography portfolio (he just got accepted to be an ‘official’ contributor to Istock/ Getty), so when I was done, I came upstairs to see how he was doing. I was standing in the doorway to his office and we were talking when I looked down and saw it. I stopped mid-sentence and exclaimed, “What the holy f*ck is THAT?!”

Ken: What’s wrong?
Me: I—I—there’s a MOUTHGUARD on the floor here. Whose is it? How did it get here?
Ken: A mouthguard?
Me: Yes! Like one that a dentist would make. Where did it come from? It definitely wasn’t there a few days ago!
Ken: Kate used to have one. Maybe it’s hers?
Me: And it just randomly appeared on the floor outside your office?!


But I remembered that a few years ago, we had a nightguard made for Kate. Maybe she’d left it at the house the last time she and his girlfriend, the lovely V, had stayed over. So I messaged her with a picture of the mysterious mouthguard, and here is the verbatim transcript of my gentle attempt to discover the truth.

Me: WTF, KATE???
K: what is that
Me: A mouth guard!
K: whys it under a table
                is it yours?
K: if it is its from kung fu
Me: How did it get by dads office?
K: the dog probably
Me: not what I expected to see under the table in the foyer!
K: that’s not my dentist mouthguard
                I have that here

So Kate’s theory was that the mouthguard had fallen out of her kung fu bag when we were cleaning and that the dog had carried it upstairs and left it under the table outside of Ken’s office. Plausible, despite the fact that Titus insisted he had nothing to do with it and “would never put something so disgusting in his mouth”. But then we realized that Kate’s kung fu mouthguard was a black ‘boil and bite’ so it couldn’t be that. I was deeply disturbed by all of this, so I left the thing exactly where we found it. When Kate came home this past Friday, the subject came up again. We went upstairs and all stared at it in disbelief, like the strange plastic harbinger of doom that it was.

K: It’s definitely not mine.
Me: Then who the hell does it belong to?!
Ken: Maybe it dropped out of the cleaner’s pocket?
Me: Of course. Steph was carrying her nightguard around with her during the day while she was mopping, and it dropped out under this table 2 weeks ago, and she still hasn’t noticed it was missing. Obviously. Come on! You know, I had one of these when we were first married. Do you think it’s mine? I mean I haven’t seen it in almost twenty years, but you never know. Let me just try it on…
K and Ken: Oh my god, no! It’s filthy! Don’t! You don’t know where it’s—EWWW!
Me: Nope, not mine.
K: Mom, that was disgusting. You’re going to catch some kind of disease.
Me: I’ll just swirl some wine around my mouth. There—germs all killed.
K: Ugh. I can’t believe you did that.
Titus: I know, right?! Gross.
Me: It was a ploy. If any of you knew anything about it, you would have told me to stop me from putting it in my mouth. It seems that you are all truly innocent.
K: Well played, I guess…

But the question—and the mouthguard—still remain. Where did it come from? Is my house haunted by an anxious ghost with bruxism? Do I have a VERY forgetful cleaner? Did someone break into our house, take nothing, but leave it behind as a warning of further dental incidents to come? We may never know.

Titus and I Talk About The Movies

Me: So hey, my blogger friend Often Off Topic is doing a Dog Blogathon in a couple of weeks so for the challenge, I’m supposed to write about dogs and movies.
Titus: Cool, cool. I’m a huge movie buff. I’m still pissed off at you for not taking me to TIFF.
Me: Right, like I was going to take a chance on you trying to high five Sam Rockwell and slapping him in the face?
Titus: Fair enough. But I do love “the moving pictures”.
Me: Really? What’s your favourite movie?
Titus: Citizen Kane. Good old Rosebud.
Me: I know, right? That shot of the sled at the end gets me every time.
Titus: What sled?
Me: The sled. Rosebud.
Titus: Rosebud wasn’t a sled. Rosebud was the guy.
Me: What guy?!
Titus: The main dude with the big castle.
Me: THAT was Citizen Kane.
Titus: I thought Rosebud was his nickname or something.
Me (rolls eyes): What else do you like? How about Star Wars?
Titus: Meh. That giant cat was really annoying.
Me: You mean Chewbacca? He was a Wookie.
Titus: Chewy cookie? Yes, please.
Me: No, Wookie. So you didn’t like it?
Titus: It was confusing. I could never tell who the bad guys were. Luke and Leia made a cute couple though.
Me: They were brother and sister.
Titus: WHAT?
Me: And Darth Vader was their father.
Titus: You’re sh*tting me! Thanks for the spoiler!
Me: You don’t pay very close attention to what you’re watching, do you?
Titus: I like to multi-task.
Me: If by multi-task, you mean ‘beg for popcorn’, then no wonder you miss so much. So what are some dog movies you’d like to see?
Titus: Um…Slumdog Millionaire. That sounds GREAT.
Me: It’s not about dogs.
Titus: Huh?! OK, what about Reservoir Dogs?
Me: Again, not about dogs.
Titus: I thought it was some kind of nature documentary. Dog Day Afternoon?
Me: Nope.
Titus: The Dogs of War? Wag The Dog?
Me: Do you know any movies that are actually about dogs?
Titus: Apparently not. By the way, Soylent Green is people.
Me: I already knew that, but nice try. Here, it says on this website that Old Yeller is the number one dog movie of all time.
Titus: Sweet. We could watch that. What’s it about?
Me: It’s about a dog that gets…then the boy…uh…Reservoir Dogs it is!
Titus: Awesome–I love a good documentary.
Me: Do you want popcorn?
Titus: Is Jaws a shark?

A dog of discerning taste.


Black and White Challenge Week 6


My Week 202: I Excel at STEM, An Update

STEM, if you didn’t know this, stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. There’s a lot of concern about getting more girls into STEM fields and rightly so. But recently, I realized that I’ve become very STEM-y as I’ve aged:


Up until a little while ago, I really struggled with directions. Not directions like “Twist off cap and pour”, but the actual compass directions. If somebody told me to go North, I would just look at them blankly and be like, “Which way am I NOW? Is North left, right, up or down from here?” But then I realized that I shouldn’t take pride in being perpetually one step away from being lost in the woods, so I decided to become better at navigation. It’s easy in Toronto, where Yonge Street acts as a permanent point of reference: towards the lake is South and the other way is North. Then I can just mentally orient myself from there. I’ve been practicing in my head, and the other day, a tourist approached me when I was out at lunch for directions to Bay Street. I very confidently told him to go west one block. Then I went back to the office and looked it up just to make sure. Luckily, I was right or that poor guy would have ended up in a very sketchy neighbourhood. I’ve also been working on this at home based on which way our house faces. It’s West, by the way. We’ve lived here for thirteen years, and I just found that out yesterday. I’m a work in progress.

I’m also very good at telling the difference between real science and pseudo-science. Many years ago, Ken and I lived in a different house with a well that kept going dry. A neighbour suggested that we get a water witch to come out. Apparently, this witch—well, warlock really—had a great reputation at locating the ideal spot for a new well. So he came to the house with his dousing rods, wandered about for a bit waving them around, and then said, “There’s so much water on this land!” He said this while standing next to a 12 foot deep pond, and 100 yards away from the Otter Creek. Thanks, Merlin.


The kitchen faucet in my condo in Toronto won’t work. I called a plumber who told me that a service call is $160 just to look at it, then $160 for every hour after that to fix it. I was appalled, and also a little disappointed that I hadn’t gone into the skilled trades. My roommate was like, “What are you going to do?” And I said, “Imma fix it my damned self.” That’s a direct quote. I don’t know why I phrased it like that, but in retrospect, it was a tad overconfident.

I watched a couple of Youtube videos, in which I learned that the first thing you have to do is turn off the water. So I got back from work, and pulled out the pot drawer (actual pots, not marijuana, just so we’re clear), and I looked for the shut-off. Then I did what any normal person would do. I called Ken.

Me: I just sent you a picture of the underneath of my sink. Which way do I turn the knob?
Ken: Are you sure that’s the right one? It looks like it goes to the dishwasher.
Me (crawling inside the cupboard): Oh yeah. The pipes come in from the bathroom. Hang on a minute.

5 minutes later…

Me: I took the drawer out of the vanity and I see the taps. I sent you a picture.
Ken: The valves are right there. Turn them to the right.
Me (crawling inside vanity): They won’t move. They’re stuck.
Ken: Do you have any WD-40?
Me (pleasantly surprised): Why yes. Yes I do.

To make a long story short, after about half an hour and half a can of WD-40, the shut off valves moved and I turned off the water. I used an Allen key to remove the faucet handle, and I could see the set screw. I was almost at the cartridge thing-y that the guy on Youtube said was the problem. But then, the stupid set screw stripped as I was trying to take it out with my rather suspect “universal screwdriver”. I ended up having to put the whole thing back together, all angry and sweaty from being inside very small cabinets; otherwise we would have had no water in the condo at all. So I called my landlord and he said to call a plumber, but if the plumber says, “Huh—the set screw is stripped—this is going to cost a LOT more money”, my response will be “Do I look like the kind of lady who could take apart a tap?!” But at least I tried.


No one knows what Engineers do. I probably do a lot of Engineering type things without even realizing it, and I’m most likely VERY good at them.


Right now, Ken is building a new porch for the front of our house. It’s an exciting project, and every day he gets a little bit more accomplished. I’ve been helping out where I can, passing screws, holding a piece of wood straight or whatnot, but it’s getting harder because now he’s asking me math questions.

Ken: I need to build three more steps. They’re five feet wide with a run of 17 inches between them. How many linear feet do you think I need?
Me: How fast are the trains going and what time did they leave the station…?
Ken: I need to buy wood for the steps. I’m thinking of 2x8s.
Me: But if the steps are 17 inches deep, then that’s only 16. Don’t you want them to hang over a little? What about getting 2x6s and using three per step?
Ken: Ooh, you’re doing grown-up math!
Me: F*ck off.

People tease me about not being proficient with math, and I make fun of myself all the time too, but the fact is that I’m actually very mathematical when I put my mind to it. For example, I know based on scientific calculations that my favourite wine glass will hold five ounces of wine if I fill it to a certain level and thanks to careful research (Google) with white wine at 120 calories per five-ounce serving size, I know exactly how much I can drink every day. I hope you’re impressed because I’m just f*cking dazzling myself with my math/wine prowess. Also, earlier, I had to write my mom a cheque for the deposit on a cruise I’m taking with her and my dad this fall, as well as the money for my brother’s birthday present. And as a math prodigy, I used the tools at hand to make the calculations. And I mean LITERALLY at hand, because I wrote the numbers ON MY HAND and added them up.

Palm Pilot


See how I even carried the one? I write things on my hand all the time, and I used to tell people that it was my “palm pilot”, which I thought was quite witty and clever, but no one ever laughs at that anymore.

But I MUST be getting better at math, because on the way to the lumber store, Ken handed me a piece of paper and asked me to “check his calculations”. I said that it was very nice how much confidence he had in my math skills. Then I added everything up on my hand and said, “Looks right to me.”

A Quick Update

So I still haven’t gotten up the nerve to ask my colleague “Jim” how exactly I’m like Jeffrey, but I’ve been doing a little ‘detective slash stalker’ work. I sent a LinkedIn invite to Jim and when he accepted it, I looked up all his other contacts until I found the one guy named Jeffrey, who also has a ton of mutual contacts with me and Jim, so it must be him. His profile said that he was “creative and agile”. I agree with ‘agile’ considering how much time I spent crawling in and out of cupboards this week. ‘Creative’ on some days, OK. I am, however, not bald in the slightest. The quest for truth continues.

Black and White Challenge Week Five