My Flash Fiction in The Sirens Call

Just a quick mid-week post to share that I have a new piece of flash fiction in the latest  The Sirens Call anthology. It’s a spooky little story called “The Visit” and it’s on page 94—I can’t link straight to it but here’s the link to the anthology if you’d like to read it: The Sirens Call Issue 48. Happy New Year, everyone!

Originize! and a Poem About Clocks

Earlier this week, I was nominated for the Blogger Recognition Award by my friend Tom from Tom Being Tom, who is an amazing blogger and human being, and I love all of his dogs almost as much as I love him. He nominated people based on the names of Santa’s reindeer and I got Dancer, which was OK, but if I’m being honest, I wish he would have invented a new reindeer named Player One, who would have supplanted Rudolph at the head of the sleigh team due to her speed, and also it would have made up for my sadness over the fact that my fantasy hockey team, which is also called Player One, is currently at the bottom of the league. I think. Because the hockey app on my phone stopped working and I can’t access the standings anymore, but no one at work is approaching me ominously and saying oddly sexual things like, “Don’t get too comfortable being on top”, so I assume I’m no longer a threat to JEFFREY.

Anyway, as part of the award, I have to provide my origin story and offer two pieces of advice to new bloggers. First my origin story, which is nowhere near as cool as like, The Avengers or whatnot:

About 5 and a half years ago, I was going through a hard time at work because of a group of extremely nasty people, so to save myself and my sanity, I started focusing on the funny things that were happening each week, and started writing them down. I already had a WordPress site that I’d been using professionally, but I completely revamped and reinvented it so that I could share my humour with the world, which also explains why the blog is mydangblog but the domain is educationalmentorship.com–I can’t for the life of me figure out how to change it and I quite often forget that Educationalmentorship is actually me because it sounds way too professional and fancy. But being able to do that, to shove aside the negativity and revel in life’s absurdities, is what drives me to write. Even though I’ve changed jobs and now I work with some truly awesome people, I still write the blog because humour is important to me.

Two Pieces of Advice:

1) Whenever you are full of self-doubt, picture yourself as a supermodel on a catwalk. Play the song “Cover Girl (Put The Bass In Your Walk) by RuPaul in your head. Then walk down the street, or down the aisle in your office like the fierce f*cking queen or king you are. I do this regularly and it’s amazing how effective it is.

2) If your dog tells you that he hasn’t been fed yet, don’t believe him—he’s a notorious liar and just stole half a chocolate log cake off the kitchen island when you were out buying an antique stained glass window, then claimed it was “fairies” when you accused him of eating it. Ignore the specificity of this piece of advice—I’m sure it’s true of all dogs.

(Nobody said the advice had to be about blogging. Here’s an actual piece of blogging advice: Write because you love doing it, not for any other reason.) And now I’m supposed to nominate other people, but some of you don’t like awards (weirdos, but I love you anyway) and some of you have a bunch already, and there are so many of you who are wonderful, so here’s my challenge: Post your own origin story and two pieces of random advice, and say that I made you do it.

On Friday, I was getting ready for the day, and I looked up at the clocks in my bathroom. They both said 11:34, and it completely freaked me out. Why? I hear you asking. Shouldn’t the clocks both be telling the same time? And the answer would normally be yes, but in this case, one clock works and the other DOES NOT. And isn’t it an amazingly strange coincidence, or a harbinger of doom perhaps, that I happened to look at both of them when they were showing the same time? Or maybe it was a good omen, I don’t know. At any rate, nothing particularly good or bad happened the rest of the day, and also don’t judge me for not getting ready for the day until almost noon, because I’m ON MY HOLIDAYS.

But then I started looking around the house at all the clocks. It’s a very large old Victorian house, built in 1906, complete with a front staircase AND a back staircase, which is apparently fascinating to young children who will spend hours doing a circuit involving going up the front stairs, running through the upstairs of the house, going down the back stairs, and running through the main floor of the house. Then repeat. I know this because over the last few days, we’ve hosted several children who all took tremendous delight in this activity which, I have to admit, is pretty fun and I do it myself on occasion. In fact, I did it on Saturday as I was clock counting. You may be surprised, and somewhat alarmed (best pun ever) to learn that I have 43 clocks in random places around my house (and I’m not even counting phone, computer, microwave or TV clocks). 16 of them work, and 27 do not. 1 of them was actually just in a drawer. And out of the 27 that don’t work, I found two more that had stopped around 11:34-ish, and another two that had stopped at 6:57, which looks frighteningly like 11:34-ish from a distance. I should probably mention at this point that I collect vintage alarm clocks and most of them are wind-up, and do I have time to wind up 27 clocks? No, I don’t. Plus all that ticking would drive me crazy. But why are some of my clocks fixated around the 11:34-ish mark? Is that when the ghost in my house died? I may never know, but anytime something either wonderful or terrible happens, I’ll be sure to look at one of the working clocks to see what time it is.

Me: What time was it when you ate all the cake? I know it was you, so stop trying to blame “the fairies”.
Titus: Fine, fine. You left at 11:30. It was a few minutes after that.
Me: Are you feeling sick yet?
Titus: A little. I’ll probably throw up tomorrow morning, say around 11:34.
Me (whispers): Harbinger of doom…

Here’s a poem I wrote about clocks:

Unwound

Clocks that don’t work
Have a certain charm.
They remind us
That time is a construct,
An imposition on our freedom.
When clocks are silent,
They can’t tick down our days.

Elf On A What?

Last week at work, we were talking about the upcoming holiday season, and a couple of people referenced the new Christmas ‘tradition’—the Elf on a Shelf. This merry little fellow is a posable doll, dressed in a red and white elf costume, which can offer hours of fun for parents, and apparently hours of terror for children. Every morning, the child will get up and find the elf in a new position, having done something clever or naughty during the night. And during the day, there is the reminder that the elf is “watching over you” from somewhere in the house. This, from what I gathered, allows parents to apply leverage to their little ones ie: “You’d better behave—Marcel (or whatever name the parents give the tiny spy) is keeping an eye on you, and if you don’t stop poking your sister, he’ll tell Santa in his daily report!”

While this may sound cute and festive on the surface, it has really insidious undertones. Isn’t it bad enough that “Santa” already knows when you’ve been “bad or good”, sees you when you’re sleeping, and knows when you’re awake? At least Santa is at the North Pole, and might be too busy to constantly monitor whether or not you fed all your vegetables to the dog. But now, there’s a creeper in your own home, who stalks you every minute of the day and reports back to the Big Guy for even minor infractions like colouring outside the lines or drinking straight from the carton or whatever. And there are hundreds of websites devoted to sharing things that people can do with their elves (and quite a few are NOT very PG 13). I took a look at some of them and here are the more disturbing places that the Elf on a Shelf can be found:

1) In a Nativity Scene: These irreverent parents replaced the baby Jesus with their elf, named DJ. He towers over all the other figures like a jolly, stocking-capped god. The shepherds look terrified, and the Wise Men look pissed off, like “We came all this way for that?” Mary just looks confused.

2) Trussed up in a toilet paper roll, wrists tied together, and hanging from the shower curtain rod, having been gagged with what looks like his own collar. This might be the first clue that your parents don’t really like the Elf on a Shelf—or that they’re serial killers.

3) Lying in a drunken stupor on top of a picture frame, after having used black marker to draw devil horns and tails on a family portrait. What kind of behaviour are you trying to role model here? Satan worship or vandalism? And then you wonder why, ten years later, your teenager is playing records backwards and spray painting the neighbour’s fence with pentagrams.

4) Reading the Bible: Not that reading the Bible is disturbing, but it kind of sends a mixed message. Does God have elves or angels? Plus it adds another layer to the paranoia you’re creating in your child. Now the little tyke is being watched by the Elf, Santa, AND GOD. I would just lock myself in my room and never come out.

5) In the hot tub, with a couple of Barbie Dolls: He looks REALLY happy. Maybe because all the Barbies’ hands are under the cellophane water. “Daddy, what are all those ladies doing to Buddy?” “Don’t worry, honey—they’re just jingling his sleigh bells.”

There also seem to be a lot of pictures of the elf defacing walls with crayon, gorging on maple syrup and candy, writing on mirrors, squeezing out toothpaste all over the counter, pooping out Hershey’s Kisses, and writing messages in spilled hot chocolate powder, which makes me think that parents are having way more fun with the Elf than their kids are. Sure, sure, I know that kids get really excited about ANYTHING to do with Christmas, and probably get a kick out of the Elf to a certain extent, but it’s all just a little too Orwellian for me, like the Thought Police have invaded Christmastown. If we really want to draw an analogy to 1984, then Santa is Big Brother, the Elf on a shelf is O’Brien, your child is Winston Smith, and your house is the Ministry of Love (which sounds like a very nice place, but that’s where all the torture-y stuff happened, in case you never read the book). Do you really want your children to wake up Christmas morning chanting, “2+2=5”? Santa was always good enough for me, cuz I loved Big Brother.

Eventually we’ll just blend Hallowe’en, Black Friday, and Christmas all together into a new festival called “Overconsumption”, where adults wearing elf costumes fight to the death in a two-month long tournament to win candy, toys, flat screen TVs and vegetable steamers for their kids. Overall though, I guess if you want to do the Elf on the Shelf thing with your kids, play up the fun, and tone down the fascism. And the sex. That’s my advice.

(As a side note, I would never have an Elf, but I DO have “Sock Monkey in the Wine Frig”. His only job is to make sure no one steals my wine.)

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My Week 273: Positive Spaces and Two Vignettes

Recently, I did the training to became a Positive Space Champion at work, which means that my name gets put into a database of people in a variety of different workplaces who support the rights of LGBTQ people, and also that I have an identifier on my office door that tells people I’m someone they can feel safe going to for support. It’s very important to me, so last week, I also did the training to become a Trainer, which means that I can help other people at the secret agency become Positive Space Champions too. My vision is a sea of Positive Space posters everywhere, so anyone who walks into the secret agency knows they’ll be accepted for their sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression or what have you— and homophobes will know they can immediately f*ck off.

Anyway, at the training, we were discussing the bathroom issue, more specifically, how did we get so weird about who goes into what room, and why are we so hung up on it? It’s almost the second decade of the 21st century, and people are still aghast at the notion of all-gender bathrooms. And I laughed, because the week before, this happened to me:

Ken and I went to a concert, and I had a VIP pass to meet the band and hear the sound check. Ken didn’t care about that, so he went shopping until the Meet and Greet was over, then we went to a restaurant nearby for dinner before the concert. The restaurant was a Moxies, a fairly well-known chain here. I had to go to the bathroom, so I asked the waiter where it was, and he said, “Go to the front doors and then turn right.” So I did. I came to a corner where there was a door. Directly next to the door were two signs: a male figure in a square and a female figure in a square. “Cool,” I thought. “Milestones has all-gender bathrooms” and I went in. When I finished doing what I needed to do, I came out of the stall, and there was a guy at the urinal, also doing what he had to do. He was facing away from me, which was just fine, so I washed my hands, and went back to the table. When the manager came over, I said, “It’s so great that you have all-gender bathrooms.”

Manager: Pardon?
Me: The bathrooms. They’re gender neutral. Very cool.
Manager: Um…we don’t have gender neutral bathrooms. The Men’s is right on the corner, and the Women’s is further down the hall. Which one did you go into?
Me: The one right on the corner. That would explain the man at the urinal.
Manager: THERE ARE ARROWS.
Me: I didn’t have my reading glasses on. Meh. Whatever.

Then we all laughed, and I was super-happy that the man at the urinal hadn’t seen me, because I would have been fine with it, but who know how HE would have reacted, like “Get out of my space, woman!!” Then again, maybe he wouldn’t have—I asked Ken if if he’d ever been in a men’s room with a woman:

Ken: It happened once. I went into the bathroom at work, and there was a woman standing there, looking at herself in the mirror.
Me: What did you do?
Ken: I went over to the urinal and used it.
Me: Like, right in front of her?
Ken: We didn’t make eye contact or anything. What was I supposed to do? I went in because I had to use the bathroom, so I did. I didn’t know why she was in there, and I didn’t really care. I just wanted to pee.

In retrospect, I should have known Moxies didn’t have an all-gender bathroom—I mean, the urinals were a dead giveaway—because a couple of nights ago I was out with my team and the restaurant actually DID have all-gender bathrooms, which was just a long hall of single stalls with their own doors and sinks inside, which makes perfect sense. At the end of the day, we all have the same bodily function needs, so stop worrying about who’s in the stall next to you. Just make sure you wash your hands.

2 Vignettes

1) On Friday, I was on the subway and a woman got on at the same time as me. She stood in front of some other passengers, and then randomly, she said this to another woman sitting there:

Where’s Waldo is a lousy audiobook. ‘There he is!…There he is!…There he is!’ That’s all it is.”

And then we got to the next stop, which took about 45 seconds, and she went to get off, but not before waving and telling the entire packed car, “May the force be with you!” I was still laughing at the Where’s Waldo thing, and I still am. I will be on my deathbed, surrounded by my loved ones, and I’ll start giggling, and when they ask me what’s so funny, I’ll just whisper, “There he is….”

2) When I had my book launch, the local Heritage society gave me a bouquet of flowers. Last week, Ken and I went to their Christmas banquet, but I was running late, so I asked Ken to choose a thank you card from our box of “cards for all occasions”. When I arrived, I asked him where they were, and he said, “They’re in my bag over there. I brought two so that you could have a choice.” I pulled them out. One had a bouquet of flowers on it with the words, ‘Thinking of You’. The other had two champagne glasses clinking with the slogan ‘Cheers’. So, a sympathy card and a wedding card. Neither seemed appropriate under the circumstances, but then I looked at the notes on my phone later and realized that instead of “Ken Thank you card”, it had autocorrected to “Ken Thanos card”, so maybe the sympathy card wouldn’t have been too far off. For half of the people there anyway…

By the way, I’ve decided to stop using My Week… for my posts as of next week. There will just be a full title. I’m doing this (unless there are some serious objections) because I have the feeling sometimes that people who don’t know me don’t read my posts because they think it’s just some weird-ass diary of all the mundane things that happened to me during the week, like:

Monday: I went shopping. I bought eggs.
Tuesday: I watched Netflix. The weather continues charming.
Wednesday: There he is…

There he is…

My Week 272: I Get Good News

I got a congratulations letter in the mail the other day, and it was very special. No, it wasn’t a response to a short story I’d submitted—usually THOSE emails are more along the lines of “We regret to tell you…” and they make me sad instead of excited. At least I’m averaging one acceptance for every twenty rejections so in other words, I’m no Stephen King but I don’t feel terrible 100% of the time about the fact that no one appreciates my weird writing. Anyway, this letter was from someone named Linda Rabenek. First, she thanked me. Then she told me how pleased she was to be writing to me. Finally, she congratulated me. About what? Well, apparently, my colon is a ROCK STAR. You might remember a few weeks ago when I wrote about my experience taking a colon cancer screening test—it seems I passed with flying colours and I didn’t even have to study. It would have been the best test ever if it hadn’t involved poo. But I’m thrilled to know that I don’t have colon cancer and also very gratified that Linda is super-pleased with me and the way I “take care of my health by getting checked out with the fecal immunochemical test (FIT)”. Kind of gives a whole new meaning to the word “Fitbit”:

Person 1: Ooh, I really like your new watch.
Person 2: It’s a FITBit.
Person 1: So it keeps track of your heartrate and steps and stuff?
Person 2: Something like that…

Therefore, in honour of this joyful occasion, I’m pleased to offer you some thematically related ideas for TV shows that I had:

A beach scene. People in uniform milling around. A body lying on the sand. Camera pans to a large poo beneath a palm tree. Cut to Danny.

Danny: It’s not looking good, boss.
Horatio: Tell me what you’ve got, Dann-o.
Danny: Large male, judging by size. Probably a vegan, based on the amount of broccoli and the self-righteousness smooth texture. Well-hydrated. Looks like the Number 2 Killer has struck again.
Horatio: (gazes sternly into distance). I’m making the Number 2 Killer my number one priority. He won’t get away with this sh*t again. Let’s roll.

Camera cuts away and credits roll to the sound of “Squeeze Box” by The Who. The title appears: CSI: Excremental.

Awesome, right? There’s also a new twist on Sherlock Holmes which I call “Alimentary”. It’s the same basic premise as CSI: Excremental, but with more deductive reasoning:

Sherlock: I’ve come to the conclusion that our victim is indeed a beet farmer.
Watson: How could you possibly know that, Holmes?
Sherlock: For God’s Sake, Watson—look at the colour of his scat. That slight pink tinge is a dead giveaway. Have I taught you nothing?!

Then there’s the “HBM” version of Game of Thrones:

Tyrion Lannister: The war is finally over—the Starks have won the Iron Throne!
Jon Snow: I don’t know about iron, but this throne is certainly cold.
Tyrion: Why is your face so strained, Jon Snow? Is winter coming?
Jon Snow: Something’s coming but it isn’t winter.
Sansa: Not enough Bran, if you ask me.

Other related titles:

Friends: The One Where Ross Takes A Dump
Breaking Wind
Bojack Horsemanure
Brooklyn Two-Two
The Deuce
Brown Is The New Black
Unbreakable Kimmy Sh*t
Poopernatural
Going Pains
Mad About Poo
Law and Order: Special Rectum Unit
The X-crement Files
The Big Bowel Theory
Hawaii Two-O
Shart Tank

Narrator: I sincerely apologize for this incredibly juvenile blog post. An discerning audience such as yourselves deserves better.
Mydangblog: Here’s a picture of a vintage cookie jar that looks just like a poo emoji!
Narrator: Sigh.

My Week 271: Frequently Asked Questions

This week has been an interesting one. Tell me all about it, you say? Of course—I’m always happy to answer your questions…

1) What is the most intriguing sign I saw this week?

Earlier in the week, I went to see my massage therapist because I hurt my shoulder and it wasn’t getting any better. She did an amazing job as always, and I left feeling all loose and whatnot, and as I was walking down the hall of the building that she had just moved into, I saw a door. It was a plain, grey door, a completely normal-looking door, but the sign next to it said “Room of Requirement”. Huh? I thought as I walked past, but I was tired and a little oily and just wanted to get home. But the door continued to perplex me, and then I got mad at myself for not having taken a picture of it to prove that I was just steps away from some Harry Potter space/time vortex, so I messaged my massage therapist:

Me: Strange request—is there any way you could send me a picture of the sign on the door in your office hallway that says Room of Requirement?
MT: Yes. I’ll send it shortly. Horizontal or vertical shot?

(Notice that she doesn’t even question it—that’s how well she knows me.)

Me: I wonder what’s in there…
MT: It’s the landlord’s room. I’ve never seen inside.
Me: Does your landlord wear a long robe and carry a wand?
MT: Lol.

I have another appointment next weekend, but before I go into her office, I’m going to walk past that door three times and think of diamonds.

2) What is the weirdest sign I’ve seen this week?

I don’t understand this sign. On the left is a perfectly lovely image of a parent possibly tickling a baby. Or maybe changing the baby’s diaper since the sign is on the change table in the train bathroom. Regardless, the baby looks like it’s having a good time. On the right, however, the parent is slamming the baby’s head into the change table and there’s an exclamation mark which is possibly a warning to NOT DO THAT. I think it’s supposed to mean that you shouldn’t unhook the change table while holding the baby under it, which I’d hope would be pretty intuitive. The best part is that both images have a braille explanation underneath and I wish I knew braille because all I can imagine is that on one side it says, “Put the baby on the change table” and on the other side it says, “Don’t slam your baby into the change table.” At any rate, it’s all very good advice, if a little weak on the delivery.

3) This fox?

This fox is there outside the door at the warehouse where I was working this weekend. It’s extremely realistic especially if you walk past it just as the sun is coming up. Did I scream very slightly and then let loose a string of epithets when I saw it? I may or may not have. Apparently, it’s there to scare off the geese which like to nest around the doors and then attack anyone who tries to enter the warehouse. I hope it works on the geese because it sure as f*ck worked on me.

4) Am I getting better at math?

Well, I THOUGHT I was. We got one of those weird Bits and Pieces catalogues the other day, you know the one where you can buy jigsaw puzzles, novelty socks, plastic garden gnomes and so on. There was this clock you could get that was advertised as a “fun” math clock. Instead of numbers to tell the time, there was just a series of mathematical equations around the dial.

Me: Hey Ken, check it out! This equation is a square root question—the answer is 2!
Ken: Obviously.
Me: What do you mean, ‘obviously’? I think it’s pretty good that I got the answer considering I haven’t taken math since grade 11. This question here is using long division. The answer is—
Ken: 4. It’s 4 because that’s the number on the clock. All the answers are the numbers on the clock. See, this question is using pi…
Me: And the answer is 9. I don’t even know how to do that kind of math but now I know the answer anyway. Stupid clock.
Ken: So you don’t want it for Christmas?
Me: How many fingers am I holding up.
Ken: The answer is one.

5) Would you rather have skulls in jars or disembodied doll baby heads in jars?

It’s a tough call. Personally, I’m going to have to say neither because I’m not a dark prince. But if I absolutely HAD to choose, I’d pick the skulls—they look more cheerful, especially that one guy near the back who thinks this whole thing is a laugh-riot. Also, they range in price from $110 to $235, which is a lot for only a head. For that price, I want the whole skeleton.

6) Balls?

Here’s a conversation I had with a colleague:

Tina: Oh, you have the Christmas ball that I gave you last year. Are you going to put it up?
Me: Yeah, I’m decorating my office on Monday.
Tina: I already did mine—come see. I put all my balls up.
Me: You have a lot of balls.
Tina: I KNOW! Do you want some of my balls?
Me: I’m good for balls. I have a couple of my own.
Tina: Balls! That sounds kind of funny, doesn’t it.
Me: Yes. Yes, it does.