A-Muse-ing

This week, D. Wallace Peach of  Myths of the Mirror challenged her readers to write about their muses. She has many, all with distinct personalities, and the one who appeared to her cut quite an imposing figure. My muse, on the other hand, isn’t corporeal, doesn’t have a name, and annoys the hell out of me.

Cue frenetic electric guitar.

A screaming howl rising to a crescendo.

I can’t stand it, I know you planned it…

Me (groggy): What the f*ck…?
Muse: Hello!
Me: Why are you making me listen to Sabotage at 3 o’clock in the morning?!
Muse: You weren’t asleep anyway. You had an idea and you need to write it down.
Me: No, it’s fine. I’ll remember it in the morning.
Muse: No you won’t. Write it down.
Me: It was only two damned lines. I’ll remember it.
Muse: That’s what you said last time. Then you went back to sleep and when you woke up in the morning, you couldn’t remember the fantastic idea you had. It was only mediocre, if I’m being completely honest, but you were still really furious with yourself.
Me: But I’m all warm and snuggly.
Muse: WRITE IT DOWN.
Me: Fine! Where’s my damn phone? There…are you happy? And since we’re both up, any ideas for the blog this week?
Muse: Two words. Weird clock.
Me: Oh right! You’re the best muse.
Muse: I know, right? Now that you’re wide awake, do you want to discuss the sequel to The Dome? Any more progress on Chapter 2?

Luckily, I was saved from the rest of that conversation when Atlas decided to throw up. As for Weird Clock, no, it’s not one of mine. Get ready for more Facebook ads that make no sense:

1) Weird Clock

I can only imagine the conversation regarding the existence of this particular item:

Guy: Hey honey, I think I’m going to sell this weird clock. It’s so small that I can’t see the time from over here.
Wife: Well, it’s no use to us. Do you think anyone would even pay good money for it? I mean, the only way you could even see what time it is would be to wear it on your arm or something.
Guy: On your arm?! What a ridiculous idea. Who on earth would want to do THAT?
Wife: We’ll be lucky to get 2 dollars for it.

2) Room For Rent in a Workout Basement

And you thought a gym membership was expensive! $550 a month and be forced to work out on top of that? No thank you! My only question is “Where’s the workout equipment?” All I see are two boxsprings and two mattresses. Is it a trampoline workout? Because that ceiling is REALLY low.

3) W.w.1 Gift Box

Is it the shadow of a grenade? Is it an extreme close-up? Is the person being purposefully mysterious? Because there’s another picture and it’s exactly the same as this one. Even the description below just says W.w.1 gift box. Is it a box that contains a gift from World War 1 or—hear me out—is it a box that CONTAINS World War 1?:

Guy 1: Hey, I got you a present!
Guy2: Ooh, what is it?
Guy 1: Well, you know how you’re always talking about how much you like war?
Guy 2 (excited): Yes…
Guy 1: I got you one of your own!! It’s an original!

4) Jullery Box

Perfect for holding all your jullery.

5) Brass candle holders for carriage or hearse with eagle tops

Not only is it the longest title for an ad, I think it’s a little misleading. That puppy is NOT made of brass and I don’t see any damn eagle tops anywhere. I know you’re not allowed to sell pets on Facebook Marketplace, but if you’re going to try anyway, couldn’t you just advertise the puppy as Con Rear Stairs? Or a Temporary Sheep/Goat Fence?

Creative Wednesdays: Defying Gravity

I haven’t posted anything for Creative Wednesdays for a while because I’m working on a short story collection that I’m hoping to get published some day, and does anybody know if publishers will take collections where some of the pieces have been published in online journals? Anyway, I love writing poetry even though I’m not particularly good at it and it’s my birthday dammit, so today, I’ve decided to share a poem with you that I wrote recently. It’s called Defying Gravity and it’s about love and hope.

 Defying Gravity

We spoke of death and life,
Me and you, my child
(More precious to me than a single perfect seashell
Or the vast ocean contained within it)
And you asked, Why carry on?
I remember that you etched futility into the earth
With clenched fists
And said
Fall the petals, fall the leaves,
Fall the tears, fall the knees.
And I replied
But the flowers still turn their faces to the sun,
The trees still strive for the moon,
Winter is the prelude to spring.
Dry your eyes,
Lock your knees; defy gravity.
I scuffed the earth clean
With an open palm
And etched both our hearts into it
So deeply that they couldn’t be erased
By neither you, my child, nor me.

Feeling Salty

A couple of years ago, my lovely cousin gifted me a salt lamp. If you don’t know what a salt lamp is, it’s essentially a chunk of Himalayan rock salt that someone has drilled a hole in and stuck a night light up. But apparently it has a lot of health benefits: it can purify the air, increase focus and concentration, and balance your electromagnetic radiation. Since I’m not an X-Man, I never really needed that last thing, but I DID find that it had a warm glow that was very soothing. Unfortunately, my beautiful salt lamp was one of the many things I had to leave behind when we abandoned our office during the Great Covid Evacuation of 2020. I really missed it in my home office space, then one of my colleagues was going to visit the office (he had a large collection of shoes that he wanted to retrieve and I was like, are we even WEARING shoes anymore? but I can’t judge because the only thing I initially wanted from my office was my Fluevogs) and he offered to bring back some of my personal stuff. I immediately thought of my salt lamp. Thanks to him, who passed it on to another workfriend who lives nearby, I got it back last weekend. I pulled the lamp out of the box full of reading glasses, trinkets, clocks, and other assorted miscellany and left it on the counter while I cleared a space on the windowsill next to my desk for it. When I came back to the kitchen, something very unusual was happening. Kate was bent over with her tongue on the lamp while Ken watched, as if cheering her on.

Me: What the hell?
Kate (innocently): What?
Me: Were you…LICKING my salt lamp?!
Kate: Perhaps…
Me: WHY??!!
Kate: I wanted to see if it really tasted like salt.
Ken: It does.
Me: Did you lick it too?!
Ken: Well…
Me: If you wanted to know what it tasted like, all you had to do was ask.
Kate and Ken: You licked it too?
Me: Obviously. It’s a large chunk of Himalayan rock salt. Why WOULDN’T I lick it? I wanted to know if it lived up to its name—mystery solved. Now stop licking my lamp.

Of course it’s not the first time I’ve tasted salt that didn’t come directly from a little shaker on my table. Last winter, I was walking downtown and it was really windy. In Toronto in the wintertime, they lay down salt on the sidewalks so heavily that it’s literally inches thick, but people walk on it and crush it until it’s as fine as sand and intermingled with dirt and other unsavoury elements. So there I was, walking along and talking to Ken on the phone:

Me: So I’m taking the 4:35 train on—oh my god!!!
Ken: What’s wrong?!
Me: The wind just gusted and blew sidewalk salt into my mouth! Argh!
Ken: Eww.
Me (spitting): It’s stuck to my lip gloss! Oh my god, it’s from the SIDEWALK. People PEE ON THE SIDEWALK!  I’m going to get so sick!

And I did. I had to spend a week on antibiotics because of my sinuses. I don’t know if it was from  the dirty sidewalk salt, but I wouldn’t be surprised.

And then there was the time I found salt in my hair. About four years ago, Ken and I were watching TV. It was actually the Democratic National Convention, interestingly enough, and we were intrigued by American politics. Of course, the bloom was quickly off THAT rose, with our reaction to American politics over the last four years going from intrigued to befuddled, to WTF? but at any rate, halfway through, I ran my fingers through my hair. You know, the way people do when they’re relaxing, and maybe a little bored, waiting for something interesting to happen, like a Bernie Sanders supporter disrupting the performance by running across the stage naked, a la the streaking fad of the 70s. But something felt weird—on my head, that is. It felt like there were grains of sand in my hair. I pulled one out, and looked at it closely. It was clear and crystalline. I put it in my mouth, bit down on it and realized it wasn’t sand. It was SALT. I had salt in my hair. A LOT of grains of salt. I turned to Ken:

Me: WTF?! I have salt in my hair!
Ken: How did you get salt in your hair?
Me: You tell ME!
Ken: Were you shaking the saltshaker really vigorously at dinner? Maybe some of the salt flew up in the air, and landed in your hair.
Me: I think you and Kate would have noticed if I was using a saltshaker like I was playing the maracas. This is insane. How could I get this much salt in my hair?

I was so disturbed that I actually Googled “salt in hair” to see if there was some rare, little-known disease that might cause one’s body to spontaneously produce salt crystals. All I got was “using Epsom salts as a hair rinse to prevent dandruff”. Which I had definitely NOT done. My only choice was to bend over and shake all the salt out of my hair, worried that I might be turning into Lot’s wife.

The next day at lunch, I was still freaked out by what had happened, and I decided that maybe Kate had played a joke on me.

Me: I have to ask you a really weird question. I swear I’m being serious.
Kate (suspiciously): Um, OK. What?
Me: Last night at dinner, did you shake salt into my hair when I wasn’t looking? Like, as a joke?
Kate: (laughing hysterically): What?! Did I do what?!
Me: Don’t laugh! I found a sh*tload of salt in my hair last night and I don’t know where it came from.
Kate: How did you know it was salt?
Me: I tasted it.
Kate: What?! Why would you TASTE it?!
Me: BECAUSE I NEEDED TO KNOW WHAT IT WAS!
Kate: What if it was poison?!
Me: Why would anyone sprinkle poisonous salt in my hair? Just be honest. Did you sneak up behind me and do it?
Kate: No, Mom. I did not put salt in your hair.

I still have no idea where all that salt came from. But at least now, if I’m in the middle of a meeting and craving something salty, I can always just lick my lamp.

All The Bits And Pieces

Well, it’s that time of year again, the time of year where we’re barely into November but the Christmas decorations are already up in the stores, carols are playing on the radio, the fireplace is merrily and virtually burning on the flatscreen, and the Bits and Pieces gift catalogue has arrived. And nothing says the holiday season quite like a cheap plastic puzzle box or a pantless garden gnome.

But just like every year, tucked in among the pornographic elves, the interminable pages of jigsaw puzzles and the novelty socks, there are always a few treasures. So without further ado, here are my favourite top 5:

1) Night Vision Binoculars:

For 39.99, you can “see a little bit more in darkness” with these night vision goggles that allow you to “hone in on any desired object”. Exactly WHO are we marketing to here? Someone sitting in their room at night, honing in on desired objects like, perhaps, the young pretty neighbour next door? The description also says these binoculars are “perfect for spying or just keeping track of what goes on in the night”:

Wife: Honey, it’s 3 o’clock in the morning. What are you doing?
Husband: Nothing.
Wife: But you’re sitting here in the dark with a pair of binocul—hey, are you spying?
Husband (affronted): No! I’m just keeping track of what goes on in the night, thank you very much!
Wife: Oh, well that’s normal.

Apparently, they come with a Velcro headband that “fits most”. It doesn’t specify most WHAT, but I think we can all guess.

2) Screaming Flying Monkey:

This is the official mascot of 2020. 

3) Personalized “Hide Your Stash” Cylinder:

This ingenious invention is a small metal cylinder made out of “waterproof aluminum” (as opposed to the kind that gets really soggy when wet) and can be used to hide your “treasured possessions or emergency medicine”. The best thing about the cylinder is that you can personalize it with your own name. The stupidest thing about the cylinder is that it comes with the word STASH already engraved on it:

Robber: Stick ‘em up. Give me your stash.
Victim: But I don’t have a stash!
Robber: Nice try. It says Michael’s Stash right there on that cylinder you have attached to your belt. Hand it over.
Victim (despondent): Oh, my treasures!
Robber: Ooh, is this weed? Nice stash, man! Thanks!
Victim: How did it all go so wrong?

4) Beard Baubles:

As if things aren’t bad enough, now men can decorate their beards with tiny Christmas tree ornaments, thanks to Bits and Pieces. If the Screaming Flying Monkey is the official mascot of 2020, then Beard Baubles is the Seventh Sign of the Apocalypse, right after the release of the Four Horsemen. According to Saint John, “I saw the beast with 7 heads, 10 horns, and 12 beard baubles coming out of the sea.” It was prophetic. Of course, Saint John also said, “If anyone is to be killed with the sword, with the sword they will be killed”, so some of his prophecies were a tad self-evident.

5) Weener Kleener Soap:

This is on the same page in the catalogue as the fibre optic Christmas tree and kitty cat slippers, and it really blows the whole family-friendly vibe out of the water. This soap is shaped like a donut and is designed to have a manpart inserted through it for the purpose of personal hygiene which, according to the package, has “never been so stimulating”. It also boasts that one size fits MOST men.

Husband: Hey, this dang Weener Kleener doesn’t fit my weener! It’s all loosey-goosey and whatnot!
Wife: As I’ve long suspected, you’re just not like most men. Sigh.

All of the information on the package is also extremely sexual and doesn’t bear repeating here, but I’m sure you can imagine. My favourite part is the warning at the bottom that if the Weener Kleener becomes stuck, “soak the area with cold water”, I assume to provide the necessary shrinkage. To quote George Costanza, “I was in the pool!”  

I perused the entire catalogue and the only thing I’d even consider is the tin of “bacon bandages”, mainly because it says there’s a prize inside the container. But if the prize isn’t ACTUAL bacon, I want my damn money back.

 

 

Sonic Boom or Bust?

Last week, Kate and I went out shopping for “cute fall sweaters”, because the weather here has suddenly gone from heat wave hot to bone chilling cold, as it does here in Canada, and if there was a prize for the country with the most ridiculous weather, we would win every year. Don’t complain to me about YOUR heat—we have that. And your rainy season? We have that too. Arctic vortex? Absolutely. Can we have all three things in the same 48-hour timeframe? You bet your ass we can. And we’ll throw in some fog just to make driving even more exciting and dangerous.

Anyway, Kate and I went shopping, which was tremendous fun, because we did that thing where we each put on something, count to 3, and come out of the change room at the same time like Ta-da! and then compliment each other on our fine fashion choices. We hit the checkout with several cute sweaters then went out to the car. I may have mentioned my car on a couple of occasions—it’s a black 2013 custom Chevy Sonic Turbo with a red trim kit and racing stripes. I adore it, and it only has a little over 80085 kilometres on it (not quite 50, 000 miles, but that doesn’t look as fun on a digital readout), which isn’t bad for a 7-year-old car.

 

As we approached the car though, I noticed something on the windshield, something which was, more precisely, tucked under the windshield wiper. It was a piece of notepaper torn out of a notebook.

My heart immediately sank, thinking that someone had hit my car in the parking lot and left a note either of apology—“I’m so sorry I hit your adorable car. Please forgive me”—or of defiance—“Your stupid, albeit adorable, car was in my way and I had no choice but to hit it. Next time, park somewhere else”—but in neither of these scenarios was there anyone standing around looking sheepish or angry, holding insurance papers. I pulled the paper out from under the windshield wiper with trepidation and turned it over. Written on the paper were four words: Ontario Sonics On Facebook.

My sunken heart rose again, like a ship that had hit an iceberg, floated down to the bottom of the seabed, and was then winched back up by one of those other ships that they use for documentaries on shipwrecks and treasure and whatnot, and to make a long analogy short, I went from worried to excited. A Facebook group JUST for Chevy Sonic owners? I mean, I’ve never been a club-type person—I don’t suffer from FOMO, the fear of missing out, as much as I have a FOBI-a, which is the fear of being included. But still, I’d always secretly envied those people on motorcycles who always give a knowing wave when they pass someone else on a motorcycle. And now, I could be just as cool, nodding my head approvingly or flashing my lights as I passed another Sonic on the road (although it’s often hard to tell if a Sonic is approaching you until it’s close enough to read the tiny chrome nameplate).

The second we got in the door, I raced over to the computer to look up the Ontario Sonic group on Facebook. And after a few minutes, I came to the undeniable conclusion that it doesn’t exist. Cue heart sinking again, like it was a shipwreck full of treasure and whatnot, and the winch that was bringing it up to the surface of the ocean had suddenly snapped because Carl, the guy responsible for keeping the winch all lubed up, had a hangover and had forgotten to oil it, or whatever you do with winches anyway. There were several things that came up in my search: Ontario Antiques and Collectibles, Master Gardeners of Ontario, and Ontario Tornado/Blizzard Watch (it has hundreds of thousands of members, proving my previous point about the weather here, where you have to simultaneously watch out for tornadoes AND blizzards). And all I can do now is wonder: Why would someone write the name of a non-existent Facebook group on a piece of notepaper in turquoise ink and then put it under the windshield wiper of my car? Or…was it a suggestion? Perhaps the anonymous admirer was hoping that, with some encouragement, I would CREATE a Facebook group for Sonic owners. Alas, I would be the worst person to start a Facebook group, mostly because I would never go to the meetings I’d scheduled and would bring gluten-free cupcakes to the bake sale. But I would JOIN such a group if it existed. And now I’m off to join the Ontario Tornado/Blizzard Watch group. I hope they like gluten-free cupcakes.

(Update: Apparently there IS a group–thanks to Babbitman for his intrepid sleuthing. I’ve sent a Join request so we’ll see what happens next. To be continued…)

(Update to the Update: I am now a member. It’s a very strange group and I don’t think I want to be part of it. Someone posted asking about a “catless downpipe” and another person is asking for help to perform a “second cat delete”, and all I can think is these people hate cats…)

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.