My Week 171: New Year’s Eve and International Chip and Dip Day

Well, another year is almost over. And yes, I’m aware that 2017 was NOT the kind of year that many people will look back on fondly. Personally, it was kind of a good year for me, all things considered. I still remember New Year’s Eve 1999, or “Y2K” as it was nicknamed, when we were all told that because of some computer glitch, at the stroke of midnight, the world just might come to an end. Apparently computer scientists are either not as smart as we give them credit for, or are incredibly pessimistic because rumour was that there wasn’t enough room in their computers for the extra zero in the year 2000. It was probably MUCH more complicated than that, but we didn’t have Twitter back then so that celebrities could explain it to us. Being the Queen of Worst Case Scenarios, I made Ken buy lots of bottled water, canned meat, and wood for the wood stove, just in case. Of course nothing actually happened, except that one minute after midnight, neighbours down the street screamed, “We’re still alive!” and we screamed back, “So are we!” Then the next morning, we went skating on our pond without coats on, because it was over 10 degrees Celsius (50 degrees for my Imperial readers) which was VERY warm for that time of year here in Ontario. Of course, climate change was just a glimmer in its daddy’s eye 18 years ago, and now it can drink. And like most teenagers, it doesn’t handle its liquor well.

Anyway, we just got back from Montreal, Quebec, and while the three days we spent there were lovely, the train trip there AND the train trip back were the worse sh*t shows in the history of rail travel. But I’m going to leave that for another day, because I have to write a sternly worded email to Via Rail based on the tweet I sent them last night, to which they responded asking for more details.

But even though we had a great time in La Belle Province, for some reason, I woke up each morning wracked with anxiety, the source of which I couldn’t put my finger on. If you’ve read this blog for a while, you’ll know that I have a hair trigger for weird stress—maybe it’s just the thought that another year is done and I’m another year older. Maybe it’s that I have no idea what’s going to happen in 2018 and I would really like to hammer this sh*t out ahead of time, but I can’t and it makes me nervous. Or maybe it’s squirrels. Who the hell knows? So in honour of the fact that it’s New Year’s Eve, here’s another celebration that freaked me out:

International Chip and Dip Day:

At work, we have a social committee. They plan fun and interesting events, like ice cream socials, drinks after work, etc. At the beginning of last week, they sent out an email announcement that they were hosting a mini-celebration for International Chip and Dip Day. Now, I never knew that this was an actual festival, but it made total sense, because who doesn’t like chips/and or dip? I was really pumped for it, but then the stress started. We had to sign up at reception on a big, totally PUBLIC flip chart, and say what kind of chips we liked, and what kind of dip we were going to bring. This was a COMMITMENT. I take these things very seriously, so right away I should have known there would be issues. Here they are in chronological order:

1) I was excited to sign up, but when I got down to reception, there was only one other person signed up before me, and I didn’t want to seem too eager, so I left and waited until there were more people on the list. I spent a lot of time peeking my head around the corner, and when there were about 5 people ahead of me, it seemed appropriate. Yes, I realize that I was overthinking this in a very big way, completely disproportionate to the event itself. Thanks for pointing it out, Ken.

2) I had to specify what kind of chips I liked. In public. Were there chips that would make people think I was weird? If I asked for quinoa chips, would people think I was a little elitist? Would BBQ make me seem kind of redneck-y? I went with my gut and wrote down “Anything bacon-flavoured”. (This was after I figured out how to use the magic marker, which had a button that you slid up and down to get the marker nib out. It was very complicated and I almost threw in the towel right then and there, but there were chips and dip on the line so I persevered). Then it was time to commit to a dip. I panicked and wrote down the first thing that popped into my head, which was “Ranch Dip”. OK, cool. I had specified a chip and made a promise regarding dip. Now all I had to do was wait until the night before, and buy dip. Awesome. I totally had this.

3) Three days later, I had a panic attack. I had forgotten to buy dip, was working off-site, and had no way to get the dip to the office, even if I had it. When I finally confided to my co-workers that I was overwhelmed by guilt, they reminded me that Chip and Dip day wasn’t until Monday. Crisis averted.

4) On the weekend, I completely forgot about International Chip and Dip Day until I was driving to have coffee with a friend. I pulled a U-turn, and ran into the nearest grocery store, where I purchased two tubs of ranch dip. I decided that if I kept it in my car, then there was no way I would forget to take it back to Toronto, and I was only mildly worried about it staying cold. Which is weird in retrospect, because you’d think I would be more concerned with NOT giving my colleagues salmonella.

5) Sunday Night. I put the dip in the refrigerator in a plastic bag, all ready to take to work the next morning.

6) Monday Morning, 7:45 am: I left my condo and forgot to take the dip with me.

7) Monday Morning: 10:15 am: I popped out of work to run to my condo and get the dip (the party didn’t start until 2:00 pm—I thought). When I got back to work, I put the dip in the refrigerator and then realized that my colleagues had disappeared. When I finally found them, they were all in a VERY important meeting that had been called while I was out getting the dip. I didn’t know where the meeting was, and ended up coming in noticeably and embarrassingly late. Stupid dip.

8) At 2:07 pm, I looked at the clock and realized that the party had started, and my dip was still in the refrigerator. I took off from my desk, ran to the kitchen, got my dip, and went to the boardroom where the party was being held. The only person there was someone from a different department who was carefully arranging chickpeas in a circle around a glass, flowered plate of homemade hummus. She gently reminded me that the party didn’t start until 2:30. I cracked the lids off my tubs of dip nihilistically, and left her there, lovingly spooning out her decorative chickpeas.

9) As it was coming up to 2:30, I made a decision. It was all more than I could take, and I refused to start worrying about when would be the right time to go to the boardroom ie: if I went right at 2:30, would people think I was over-anxious (yes, I get the irony), but if I waited until closer to 3, would I miss the party altogether? I was done. The only way I was going was if someone came to my desk and personally invited me. Screw it. But at exactly 2:30, members of the social committee began going to everyone’s desks, inviting them individually to come to the International Chip and Dip Day celebration. A couple of my colleagues were feeling guilty that they had forgotten to bring dip for the party and didn’t think they should go, so I said, “Hey, no worries—I brought two tubs, so we can say it was a group effort.” They were like, “Excellent!” so we all went to International Chip and Dip day together, and I was so relieved that it was finally over that I barely cared that most people had brought home-made dip, while I had cheaped out on Philly.

Happy New Year to all my wonderful followers. May your 2018 be filled with joy. And if you ever get stressed about something small, and it makes you feel super-anxious and silly and alone, just remember that you now know someone who freaked out about chip dip.

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My Week 170: It’s Coming From Inside the House

Last week, I started my holidays early. I had banked some time off for the end of the year so that I could have at least five days to write while Ken was still at work. I’m writing a second novel, and my plan was to get Chapters 16 to 20 finished before January. It’s been going well, despite the constant interruptions which are mostly me surfing the internet and going Christmas shopping. But I decided that I needed to be more disciplined, so on Wednesday, I sat down at 9:00 am to hammer out Chapter 18.

The house, as always, was extremely quiet. We live in a small town, and the house itself is not only on a large property, but it’s set well back from the road. I normally don’t worry about being alone here, since I have Titus, who’s very loud and intimidating when he needs to be. I also have, to a lesser extent, Raven, who is neither loud nor intimidating, but she WILL react to strange noises by lifting up her head and then placing it back down again. Recently though, there has been a spate of car break-ins, and someone outside of town had their house robbed. Plus, three weeks ago, Ken was away at a conference in Montreal, leaving me by myself for three nights, which would have been OK except that on the first night, I had a terrible nightmare about being attacked by intruders, and it set me on edge for the rest of the week.

But it was broad daylight, and I shouldn’t have had anything to worry about. It was around 11:00 am and I was about three quarters of the way through the chapter and feeling pretty good about where it was going, when suddenly, I heard the sound of something being knocked over in the back of the house. My office is in the front of the house, so I stopped typing and listened intently for a minute. I heard another sound, like a shuffling of some kind. I started to get a little panicky, but I calmed myself down by telling myself it was only Titus. He likes to sleep on the couch in the family room; he probably got up to stretch and knocked something off the coffee table.

I got up from my chair, and made my way to the kitchen. Sure enough, there was Titus, wagging his tail. He walked over to the courtyard door, and I said, “What have you been up to, buddy?” just as something else fell in the family room. I froze. I could hear movement, and the sound of the ornaments in the window being knocked down. There was someone back there.

You know that feeling of utter terror that you used to get when you were little and lying in bed, imagining that there was something in your closet? Or as an adult, when you almost have a car accident? That was me in that moment, as I listened to the sounds of someone moving around my house. I was wearing my housecoat and slippers, waiting until I’d finished writing to get dressed. Now, I felt really vulnerable. Titus didn’t seem to be bothered by the noise, which was unusual, but I turned away from him and took a step forward. The floor creaked under my slipper and I stopped, contemplating whether I should continue on bare-footed. I decided against it in case I had to flee the house—there was a lot of snow, and the last thing I needed was frostbite on top of everything else.

I moved quietly into the kitchen. The noises continued in the back, as if someone was rummaging around, tossing things aside that weren’t worth stealing. I reached out and silently slid the largest knife we had out of the butcher block. Then I went to the door of the kitchen and peeked around the corner, knife held out before me, almost faint with fear.

“Holy F*CK!!” I screamed. There, on the window ledge of the back room, was a huge, black squirrel. It took one look at me and tried to climb the wall, then it fell back down, hit the floor, and ran towards me.

I let loose another string of excellent swear words, including references to mothers, lady parts, and things that a squirrel might do to itself, as I grabbed the baby gate we use to keep Titus out of the kitchen and shoved it against the entrance to the room. The squirrel stopped, ran back to the window, and leapt up onto the window sill with one swift jump, making me realize that the baby gate, which was only about 2 feet off the ground, was virtually useless as a means of keeping the squirrel from attacking me. It didn’t seem too bothered by the knife either, so I put it down.

I was in an absolute panic—at the sound of the baby gate, Titus had come running and was now barking his head off and trying to get past the gate into the back room. And as satisfying as that might have been, the last thing I wanted was a massacre on my hands. Titus OR the squirrel—it could have gone either way at this point, the squirrel was so freaked out. Finally it ran out of the family room and into the back room where it ran around in circles and tried to climb up the back patio door.

I stayed behind the baby gate for a minute, thinking and silently swearing to myself, then I climbed over the gate carefully, keeping the squirrel in clear view. It was more concerned with the back door, and it occurred to me that it was probably just as scared as I was. So I opened the kitchen door and held the screen wide.

“Here, squirrel,” I shouted, trying to get its attention. “Here, Mr. Squirrel—the nice door is open. Come on, let’s go!” It just stopped and stared at me, like there was no way it was coming near me, even if I was holding the door open. I patted my leg, hoping to convince it that I was gentle and kind. No dice. Finally, I went outside (thank god I’d kept the slippers on—there’s an advantage to being the Queen of Worst Case Scenarios), and held the screen door from the outside where it couldn’t see me. Within about ten seconds, the damned thing shot through the family room, straight out the door, and up the nearest tree, where it sat chittering at me like a small demon.

Demon-spawn

I ran back into the house, slammed the screen door shut and screamed, “F*CK YOU, TREE RAT!!”

Then I did what any normal person would do—I called Ken:

Ken: What’s up? Why are you hyperventilating? Is this a “sexy call”?
Me: I just pulled a knife on a tree rat.
Ken: What?!
Me: I thought it was a burglar.
Ken: You pulled a knife on a burglar??!!
Me: No, a squirrel. There was a squirrel in the house. Oh my god, I’m dying here. I was so scared. How the f*ck did it get in the house?!
Ken: Probably came in through that old chimney in the back room. Check it and see.
Me: No f*cking way! What if there’s another one? I can only do this once!
Ken: I can’t believe Titus didn’t freak out when it was running around the family room.
Titus (from kitchen):  I THOUGHT IT WAS THE CAT!!

Raven or squirrel?

I spent the rest of the day watching out the window, as the squirrel ran around the yard. It looked like it was plotting another foray into the house, so when Ken came home, I demanded that HE check the old chimney. He got up on the back of the couch and opened the door to the cupboard where the chimney opening was. “Wow,” he said. “Looks like that squirrel had to push through a nest of leaves and sticks to get in here.” And then I was like, “Oh my god, this is reverse Narnia!”

1) Instead of a small child hiding in a wardrobe and crawling through coats from a big house into a magical snowy land, a small squirrel from a snowy land hides in a chimney and crawls through leaves into a magical big house.

2) Instead of a small child meeting a giant squirrel wearing a waistcoat, a small squirrel meets a giant woman wearing a housecoat. (Ken says it was actually a beaver, but I’m ignoring him because that doesn’t fit the narrative. Also, “giant beaver”. Snort.)

3) Instead of meeting a talking lion, the squirrel meets a talking dog. Is the dog god? Only time will tell.

Yesterday, I looked outside, and the squirrel was sitting on an old tree stump, staring at the house. And last night, I was half-asleep when Titus wagged his tail, and I jumped out of bed, thinking it was the squirrel back to attack me. Anybody know where I can find a White Witch?

*You might have noticed I’m posting a day early. Tomorrow is Christmas Eve, and it’s a busy time for mydangblog and the gang, so have yourself a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Thanks to all my wonderful followers—let’s hope 2018 is like this:

2016: It can’t get any worse.
2017: Hold my beer.
2018: B*tch, sit back down. We can work this out.

 

My Week 169: Appointment to the Toy Bench, Napanee, Meeting Giggles

Appointment to the Toy Bench

This week, the internet was ablaze with outrage over Donald Trump’s latest appointee to be a district court judge. Anyone that the Human Dumpster Fire appoints to ANYTHING is typically underwhelmingly qualified to even be town dogcatcher, but Matthew Peterson was a spectacular example of a dude who shouldn’t be allowed to go to the corner store alone. What kind of judicial appointee has never taken a deposition by himself, let alone never actually tried a case? Say what you want about Justin Trudeau, but he just had to appoint a new Supreme Court Justice, and the guy he picked, after a lengthy consultation process, is an actual, highly experienced judge and NOT a guy who thinks “getting to bang a gavel would be fun and whatnot”. OK, Peterson didn’t actually say that, but he might as well have, since even HE didn’t seem clear about why he should be appointed. The guy is so dumb that he didn’t even have the courtesy to act embarrassed that he was so blatantly lacking any kind of courtroom experience. But it’s typical of what’s happening in the U.S. these days, and I won’t make my American friends feel any more sh*tty about it by pointing out the other horrors. Instead, I’ve created a scenario fit for the holiday season. It’s called “Appointment to the Toy Bench”.

Santa: I’m not sure what’s going on here. One of the elves retired, and I have to replace him, but I just got told that the American President is demanding that I take some chosen appointee.

Chief Elf: The American President? Why would Hillary Clinton do THAT?

Santa: No, not Hillary—it’s the loudmouth on the naughty list who lost the popular vote. He seems to think that he can run Toyland too…oh dang, here he comes.

Trump: Hello, Santa Claus. I hope you got the message about my appointment to the Toy Bench. I make all the best appointments. My appointments are so awesome—it’s a pretty wild scene.

Santa: Well, I got an email—it took a while to translate it from Russian, but if I understand it correctly, you’re trying to appoint an elf to replace Twinkles, who recently retired. I have to tell you though, we already HAVE a replacement. His name is Tiny.

Trump: You mean “Itty Bitty” Tiny? That guy’s a loser.

Santa: Why are you calling him “Itty Bitty”? He’s Tiny.

Trump: I know, right? I’m giving him one of my fun nicknames, like the way I call Hillary “Crooked” or Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas”. I think I’m going to call you “Eskimo Boy”.

Santa: That’s extremely offensive, not only to me but to the Inuit peoples.

Trump: In your what? Stop stalling, Fat Man, and interview my appointee. His name is Frank and he’s a yuuge donor to my campaign.

Santa (under breath): Fine, if it will get you out of here, so I can get back to making toys. (out loud) Bring him in.

Frank: Yo.

Santa: Hello, Frank, is it? You seem a little large for an elf…

Frank: Elf? What the f*ck are you talking about?

Trump: Never mind his size. He’s a close personal friend who has never grabbed anyone’s…”toys” inappropriately and definitely does NOT need to hide out here until the stink wears off.

Santa: Sigh. OK Frank, tell me a little bit about your experience. How long have you been making toys?

Frank: I don’t make toys.

Santa: You’ve never made a toy?

Frank: No.

Santa: Do you—can you put the cigar out? This Pole has been non-smoking even since it turned out that my pipe was making the elves sick.

Trump: You can’t say “Pole”. It’s a forbidden word. So is “polar”—it reminds too many people of dying bears. FAKE NEWS!!

Santa: Anyway, Frank—do you even like children?

Frank: No. Children are stupid.

Santa: Then why do you want to take this job?!

Frank: It’s a lifetime gig with full benefits. Plus, I hear the lady elves are smokin’.

Santa: Enough! I refuse to hire this naughty person. Tiny, the job is yours.

Tiny: Wheeee! Time to make some toys for girls and boys!

Trump (tweeting): “Eskimo Boy Santa REFUSES to hire Qualified Frank and gives an important post to Itty Bitty Tiny who is a FAILING loser. SAD!!! LOSER!!!

Santa: Sigh. Get out of here. And just so you know—all you’re getting in your stocking this year is coal!

Trump: Excellent! Coal is the new solar power.

Frank: I got the job, right?

Santa: Fake news.

So long, Frank!

Two Quick Stories:

1) A couple of weeks ago, I had to go to Napanee. Never mind where it is. Just know that it took me three hours to get there by train. When I finally arrived at 8 pm, everyone ran out of the train, got into their cars and left. I looked around. The train station itself was closed, the lights off. The parking lot was deserted. It was minus 10 degrees Celsius. I had the number of a local cab company so I called them. The dispatcher was really pissy, and when I told her I was going to the Hilton, she said, “Hampton. There’s no such thing as the Napanee Hilton,” and I was like, “OK, I guess I’m going to the Hampton.” She replied that the cab would be “at least 20 minutes”. I had no choice, so I said “Fine” but I was wondering exactly how big Napanee was if it took that long for a cab to come to the train station. In the meantime, I did what any normal person would do—I called Ken.

Me: It’s freezing and the train station is closed. I forgot my mittens.
Ken: You forgot your mittens?! What am I always telling you…
Me: It’s really windy and dark. There’s a bar across the street and it sounds dangerously rowdy.
Ken: Stand in the shadows where no one can see you.
Me: A) I’m not a vampire and B) I don’t want the cab to miss me. Just stay on the line.

At any rate, the cab finally showed up, a little over 20 minutes later. The driver, a jolly older fellow, got out and looked at me:

Driver: What are you doing? Why didn’t you go inside?!
Me: The station’s closed.
Driver: No, it’s not. Didn’t you read the sign on the door? You go in and the lights are on the left. You just have to remember to turn them off when you leave.
Me: It was too dark to read the sign on the door.
Driver: Well, you’ll know for next time.

The cab ride to the Hampton took under two minutes. He charged me 10 dollars. Napanee, everyone.

2) Over the last three weeks, I have been obliged to attend meetings where I watch a man fill in a very long flow chart. It can be super-suspenseful, because sometimes he has to move one of the boxes in the flow chart, and then we’re all like, “Where will he put it?! What will happen now?!” The other day, I looked up and realized that there was a sign on the door at the back of the room that said, “No Exit”, and I was like “Preach.” But sitting there in silence for hours on end has made me a little giddy, and on Thursday, I was in another meeting, and one of the directors said, referring to a new software app, “Touch this and then it happens” and I almost yelled out, “That’s what SHE said!” I mean, I actually had a moment where I seriously considered saying it and wondered if everyone else would laugh. But I didn’t say it—I just tried not to giggle uncontrollably. As one does.

Merry Christmas from your favourite elf.

My Week 168: June/September Relationships, A Micro-Story

Saturday: I realize I’m in a June/September relationship

Yesterday, Ken and I were driving back from grocery shopping when he said, “Can we stop at the cemetery?” While this might sound ominous to some people, I was actually really excited because someone in town has been playing a practical joke for weeks now, whereby they move the sign directing people to a new property development/subdivision in our small town to the outskirts, where it points right at the cemetery. The first time it happened, it was funny enough, but the person is nothing if not determined; despite the best efforts of the subdivision developer, the sign keeps magically reappearing across from the graveyard. I think it’s fairly obvious what kind of message the sign-thief is trying to send—that Drumbo is so boring that it might as well be a cemetery—but the big question is who? Is it a disgruntled teen, longing for the lights and action of the big city? Is it the previous developer, who wasn’t able to sell most of the lots and had to give the land up? (Also, it’s worthwhile to note that the previous development was called Aspen Hills, which is the most ironic name I could think of for a subdivision on completely flat land—luckily the new owners have called it “Oxford Meadows”, which makes more sense considering most of the lots are currently overgrown with weeds and wildflowers).

Anyway, it’s been giving us a bit of a chuckle, and yesterday, Ken wanted to get a picture of the whole scenario. So we stopped and Ken got out of the car, camera in hand. Ken takes a camera with him wherever he goes, “just in case”. He has a very popular Flickr account, and sometimes he gets over 8000 views in one day, so I cut him a little slack when he leans over and tries to shoot an interesting cloud through the windshield when I’m driving.

He got back into the car, having taken several photos of the sign and the cemetery, and then the fun began, as he tried to post the picture to Facebook. I watched him out of the corner of my eye, as he pressed buttons and muttered to himself:

Me: What’s going on?
Ken: Oh, nothing. I just have to—hmmm. Or maybe…
Me: Just use the image icon.
Ken: I will, after I write the post.
Me: You’re not done yet?
Ken: No, I’m trying to find Facebook.
Me: Maybe the problem is that you have a Blackberry. You know how the “interwebs” works, right? “I just can’t keep up with you kids and your newfangled gadgets and the Twitters. What ever happened to the good old days when people used typewriters?!” Oh wait, you ARE using a typewriter. Look at the keyboard on your phone.
Ken: Blackberries are great phones.
Me: Yeah, if you’re 75 years old. “I like to feel the keys go down when I press them, just like they did in the 1950s.” Also, could your screen be any smaller? No wonder you can’t find “the Facebook”.
Ken: Ha. Posted. So there. Oh wait, not yet—it’s a little laggy…by the way, Sheila has a flip phone with an ANTENNAE, so go make fun of her.

And then I was like, man, I really AM married to a senior citizen, because the thought had occurred to me earlier when we were in the grocery store, and all these old people kept greeting us.

Me: Who was that?
Ken: Oh, that’s Sheila. We’re on the Historical Society together.

Me: Who’s that?
Ken: That’s Bob. He curls at the same club as I do.

Then, 5 minutes later, we got stopped by an elderly couple:

Man: Oh hi, Ken!
Ken: Hey Gary. How are things?
Man: Good. We’re just here picking up some groceries for the Lion’s Club dinner on Wednesday.
Woman: Yes, it’s my turn to cook!
Ken: Ooh, I can’t wait!
Woman: See you both then!
Me: Oh, sorry, I won’t be there–I’m in Toronto that night. Darn.

You see, Ken recently became a Lion, which means he does civic duty type things like helping decorate the Lions Park trees with Christmas lights, or taking cookies to the Historical Society Sunday Tea (which I just had to wake him up from a nap to remind him to do). It’s probably quite telling that most of the members of these clubs refer to him as “the youngster” or “fresh blood”. In order to be initiated into the Lions, he had to learn the Lions Club roar, which is not as cool as the Mason’s secret handshake, and simply involves bending over at the waist, making your hands into little lions’ paws, then straightening up as you roar and reach your paws to the sky. He’s obliged me with a couple of demonstrations, and it’s kind of cute if you ignore the fact that a grown man is doing it.

In the long run, I’m glad that Ken is involved in so many community activities. It keeps him busy during the week when I’m not here, and the interaction with other people will keep him away from the Bingo Hall. But the dude needs a phone without an actual keyboard. Luckily, Christmas is coming. But now I’m getting worried that Ken is rubbing off on me, because last night at dinner, I dropped the F bomb in front of T and his girlfriend, and I put my hand over my mouth, apologized, and corrected it to “gosh darn”. Then I read back this post and realized that there isn’t a single epithet in it. My god—I’m an old f*cking woman!

Micro-Story

The other day, I was rummaging around in one of my desk drawers, and I found a piece of foolscap with the following written on it. It’s a little weird but I hope you enjoy it. It’s about karma, among other things:

The boy carefully opened the can of peas with a wooden-handled can opener. This would be his new killing jar, and therefore, couldn’t have any jagged metal edges which might damage his specimens. He dumped the peas into the garbage, and rinsed out the can. Then, taking down ether, plastic wrap, a rubber band, and cotton balls from the shelf above the sink, he prepared the chamber. When all was ready, he picked up his butterfly net and headed out the door, into the field behind his house. Putting his equipment down on a nearby rock, he waited for his prey to float by.

It was a lazy, warm afternoon and his eyelids felt heavy as he watched the skies for any sign of the fluttering prize. Over the last two years, he had amassed quite a collection, from the simple Monarch to other, more exotic species, each carefully caught in his own net, and then executed in a tin can.

As he sat, cross-legged, patiently watching and waiting, he suddenly heard a loud voice from somewhere far above his head:

“Ew!! Mommy, a bug—kill it! Kill it!”

“It’s all right, sweetheart, I’ll get it.”

And with that, a giant shovel slammed down from the heavens and crushed him into oblivion.

My Week 167: My Book, Titus Learns Some Shocking News, Beelzebub’s Elevator

Two Worlds Collide

Last week I mentioned that I’d just had my first novel published in my other, non-blogging life. In THAT life, I write Young Adult fiction and it’s very different from what I write here. I normally keep those two worlds separate, but I’ve had several people message me wanting to know more about the book. I’ve never been very comfortable with self-promotion (I was actually at Chapters Indigo yesterday to talk to them about an upcoming book signing, and I was super-nervous just to do that), but I’m going to put it out here. And please, if you’re really not interested in this, skip down to the next bit, where Titus and I have a revealing conversation. Anyway, this is my book. It’s called Smile.

Here’s the synopsis from the back of the book:

“Cassandra Wilson’s life isn’t easy. She’s spent most of her teenage years taking care of her much younger brother, working to support her widowed mother, coping with high school and its pressures, and still grieving over the death of her beloved father. The smile on her face has become an easy way of disguising her true feelings and the fact that she really isn’t sure who she is anymore. Her life suddenly begins to change when she learns that her mother has been secretly dating a co-worker for months and plans to introduce him to the family. Feeling betrayed, and fearing that her mother’s new boyfriend will try to take the place of her father, Cassandra decides it’s time to start living a little herself. That impulsive decision marks the beginning of a series of suspenseful twists, turns, and revelations involving a strange cast of characters who may just help her find what she’s looking for—a real reason to smile.”

The target audience is teens 12 to 18, although my twenty-year-old roommate in Toronto read it and said she loved it (so did my Mom and Dad, haha). I finished writing it about 5 years ago, and I sent it to a couple of publishers, who rejected it. Then I sent it out again last year, and it got picked up right away by a publishing house called Bookland Press, who apparently believe in me, which is very nice of them. One of the key points in the plot is that my main character, who’s 16 years old,  starts getting harassed by a guy at her school after she rebuffs his advances, and considering what’s happening in the world right now, it’s become more timely that I ever would have thought. Of course, that’s only ONE of the things she has to deal with, but I don’t want to give away too much. It’s available through Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Chapters Indigo (in-store and on-line). If you buy it, cool. If you don’t buy it, also cool. If you like it and leave a review on any of the above websites, I will buy you a drink if you ever come to Toronto. But no pressure, obviously. I’d still buy you a drink if you came to Toronto. And now back to our regular (or irregular) programming…

Titus Learns the Shocking Truth

Titus: Hey. Congratulations on that Liebster award.
Me: Thanks.
Titus: I was just offered an award too. National Dog Magazine called and said I’d PROBABLY win Biggest Stud of the Year, but they wanted dick pics so I was like “I’ll consider it.”
Me: Did you actually just say “dick pics”?!
Titus: Well, technically you did…
Me: What?
Titus (under breath): Fourth wall baby, fourth wall.
Me: Anyway, you CAN’T be Stud of the Year.
Titus: Why the hell not? I’m super-sexy.
Me: For a very obvious reason. Or should I say, TWO very obvious reasons.
Titus: I’m not seeing your point.
Me: Because…how should I put this delicately? Because you don’t have any balls.
Titus: What do you mean, I don’t have any balls?! I have balls! I have balls all over this house!
Me: I’m not talking about the kind of balls you play with—don’t give me that look, smartass. I mean you’re lacking a vital part of the anatomy necessary for “studding”.
Titus: But the ladies love me!
Me: I’m sure they do. Listen, I know it’s a difficult thing to hear. All I can tell you is that they were removed long before you came to live with us.
Titus: You know, I’ve always felt like part of me was missing. Especially every time I lick my—
Me: Stop. I don’t need to know.
Titus: Well, I hope National Dog Magazine likes the pictures I sent them. Check this out! I might not have balls but I certainly make up for it in other areas!
Me: Classy.
Titus: That’s my middle name.

(*This came up in a different font–I don’t know why and I can’t change it–weird.)

“Lifting” Experiences

I hate elevators. I have hated them irrationally ever since I can remember, yet despite that, it’s been my fate to have lived or worked in many buildings where an elevator is mandatory. I would LOVE to be one of those people who can’t wait to get in their extra “steps” by climbing the stairs, but a) I have arthritis in my feet and b) even if I didn’t, I hate stairs because they make me wheezy. My condo in Toronto is on the 34th floor and my worst nightmare is having the fire alarm go off in the middle of the night, and instead of the concierge saying, “Please wait for further instructions”, he screams wildly, “Abandon ship! Fire in the hole!” and then we all have to go down 34 flights of stairs in our pajamas. OK, dying in a fire might be worse, but stairs also suck.

Elevators, on the other hand, are the devil spawn of convenience and ease, but for some reason, they scare me silly. You know how, when you’re really stressed out, you dream about certain things? Well, I always know when my stress level is getting high because I’ll start having nightmares about out-of-control elevators, like the cable has snapped and the elevator I’m in is plummeting to the ground, or it flies out of the top of the building launching me into space, or other terrifying dream scenarios. I don’t know where this deep-seated subconscious fear comes from, since I don’t remember ever having an early childhood experience with a rogue elevator, but even as a rational (well, semi-rational) middle-aged woman, I WILL get out of an elevator if it even makes a weird noise.

As a quick side note, the elevators in my building have cameras in them, which I discovered one day when I was talking to the concierge. I realized that there was a little bank of tv screens behind his desk and 3 of the screens had interior shots of the elevators:

Me: You can see what people are doing in the elevators?
Concierge (laughs): Yep.
Me: So if, for example, I was alone on the elevator, and I happened to be dancing, you could see that?
Concierge: Yep.
Me: Oh.
Concierge: Don’t worry–I don’t judge. But you might want to get a couple of new moves.

Anyway, I’m not like some people, who can’t stand elevators because they have a fear of enclosed spaces, or hate being in close quarters with other people—in fact, I’m always happier when I’m NOT alone on an elevator, because I figure if something bad happens, the other person will know what to do. Case in point: Last week, I got on the elevator at work. We have 6 of them, and there’s always one that’s out of order, or acts wobbly, or makes screechy sounds, but I can always take another one that seems relatively normal. On the day in question, I finished work late, and got on the first elevator to arrive. The doors closed. I went to push the ‘L’ button (‘L’ for lobby), but instead, I accidentally hit the button next to it, which said ‘B’, which I assume, based on what happened next, stands for ‘Beelzebub’. The ‘B’ started flashing, and I realized I’d pushed the wrong button, so I pushed ‘L’. The ‘L’ light came on, then just as quickly blinked off. The ‘B’ was still flashing. Nothing was happening. I stabbed the ‘L’ button again—same thing. It lit up then went off. I realized that we weren’t moving, and that the ‘B’ button was still flashing at which point, I got super-panicky. Suddenly, the elevator gave a shudder and started moving and, I kid you not, I actually yelled out loud in anguish, “I don’t want to go to the basement!! Not the basement!!” just as the doors opened on a young guy standing in the lobby of the 15th floor.

“This isn’t the basement,” he said.

“Thank god you’re here,” I replied. “I was stuck in the elevator. The ‘B’ light kept blinking.”

“Oh,” he said. “If you want to go to the basement, you need a key as well. You have to be authorized.”

“I didn’t WANT to go to the basement. I hit the wrong button. If you hadn’t been there, who knows how long I would have been stuck. Thank you for saving me.”

“Uh, no problem. See, now we’re in the lobby. It’s all good.”

And it was, although I’m sure the poor guy thought I was overreacting and being super-dramatic, which would not be a lie. But I can tell you this: I will never take Elevator Number 4 and its direct line to the lair of Beelzebub again. I’d rather take the stairs.

 

 

 

 

My Week 166: Ich Liebster dich, Du Liebster mich

 

Well, it’s been a crazy week, which is to say much more crazy than normal. I don’t talk about it much here, since I try to keep my blog life and my ‘other’ life separate, mostly so that the people I work with don’t realize that I’m a LOT weirder and way more swear-y than they think I am, but I actually also write Young Adult Fiction, and my first novel was just published. On Tuesday, I was contacted by a local newspaper for an interview, and on Wednesday, I appeared not only on-line but also on the front page of the hard copy paper, like the WHOLE front page, with my picture literally a foot high. Slow news day, I guess, but my publisher was over the moon. But on top of all that, the ‘blog me’ also had a great week, because I was nominated for a Liebster Award by my blogger friend R.S. Noel, Creative Writer Who Thinks and Dreams in Realism, whose blog can be found here: https://rsnoel.com

R.S. Noel is an outstanding young blogger whose writing is carefully crafted and lovely. He writes fiction and non-fiction, focusing often on philosophy (but never in a boring way like Socrates) or music, or simply the aspects of his own life which have taught him important lessons. You need to read him–he’s honest and insightful.

Anyway, I was thrilled when he told me that he’d nominated me for a Liebster Award, and now I have to follow the rules set out whereby I answer the questions he posed. I’ll also be nominating 5 other bloggers that I admire, but you’ll have to read MY sh*t first, because it’s my damn award.

Question 1: Why did you start your own blog?

About 4 years ago, I was going through a hard time. If you’ve read me for a while, you’ll know that I used to work with a group of extremely nasty people. The harassment, especially by two of my male colleagues, was so terrible that I didn’t know what to do. 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 work with some awesome people, I still write the blog because humour is important to me.

Question 2: If you could travel back in time, what time period would you visit and why?

That’s a tough one. We all romanticize the past to a certain extent, but the truth is that things were pretty smelly before deodorant and sewage treatment plants were invented, and most time periods were extremely violent. I guess if you pushed me, I’d say…I’ll get back to this one. OK, I’ve done all the other questions. I’m still stuck. OK—dinosaurs. I would want to see dinosaurs with my own eyes. Then I could help museums by letting them know whether or not dinosaurs had skin or feathers. I’d be incredibly popular amongst the paleontology set.

Question 3: Favourite food/drink?

Bacon-wrapped filet mignon and white wine. Yeah, I know you’re supposed to drink red wine with red meat, but I’m a rebel. I don’t care what the snooty waiter thinks. I live life MY way, and my way is Chardonnay.

Question 4: Who is the most influential person in your life (famous or not)?

My son, T. I’ve become a better person because of him, because I want him to be proud of me.

Question 5: What is your favourite animal?

I have two. I adore dogs, and my favourite dog is Titus, my 100 pound black Labrador. He’s got the sweetest personality on the planet, and he’s a killer with the witty one-liners. I could talk to him all day. My fictional favourite animal is the Zebrasus, which is a cross between a zebra and Pegasus. They smoke cigars and wear Mardi Gras beads because they’re cool and sassy.

Question 6: What is your favourite season and why?

Summer, because I’m always cold, and summer is the only time of the year when I don’t have to put the seat heater on in my car.

Question 7: If you could have one superpower, what would it be?

I would want the power to cut off people’s internet permanently when they say stupid things on social media. I can hear someone saying, “But mydangblog, who are you to judge what’s stupid or not?” To which I reply, “That’s stupid. You’re cut off.” I’d be f*cking GREAT at judging that. Think of how much more we would ALL enjoy social media if the racists, sexists, homophobes, and general assholes were relegated back to being the town idiots who sit in local bars, where people are too busy having a good time to pay attention to their drunken musings. Also, I would like invisibility, because that would just be fun.

Question 8: What is your top Bucket-List item? Why?

I would have said “being a published novelist” but that’s just happened, so I’m going to say “moving to a country property with a river or creek, or some type of flowing water”. I want to sit on the bank of a stream in the sunshine, listening to the birds and thinking about how beautiful the world truly is. Ken and I used to have a property like that but we sold it because the house was so close to the road that we couldn’t open our windows without feeling like we were actually on the asphalt. But I miss the water.

Question 9: Who is your favourite musical artist?

Dave Grohl from Foo Fighters. He’s a musical genius and a really good guy. If you want to know more about how I really feel, read My Week 42: Kanye Vs. Dave and Dad. There’s a T-chart, so you know it’s very scientific:

Question 10: What has been your most rewarding moment as a blogger?

Every time I get a new follower, I feel incredibly blessed. If I can make one person laugh a day, then I have fulfilled my purpose and kept good faith with myself.

And now, in no particular order, are the fellow bloggers that I’m nominating for the 2017 Liebster award:

Freethinkers Anonymous

The Problem with Ciara is…

Greater Than Gravity

Spooky Action At A Distance

The Rise and Fall of Harry Hamid

And here are the ten questions that I have for you, my dear nominees:

1) Why do you write?
2) Which of your own blog posts should people read if they want to really know you?
3) Best hybrid animal and why?
4) Flowers or chocolate?
5) What was your favourite childhood toy?
6) What is one thing about your life that you would change?
7) Who is your favourite writer?
8) Are you crafty? (Either ‘cunning’ or ‘able to make crafts’)
9) What movie do you like to watch over and over? Why?
10) What makes you laugh?

Thanks again to R.S. Noel for the nomination, and to all the other bloggers and readers out there who make up this amazing and supportive community!

My Week 165: All I Want For Christmas Is A Transporter–But Not A Robot Cat

Yesterday, I turned 52. I keep thinking of myself as middle-aged, although if this is the middle, I want some kind of guarantee that I’m going to live to see 104. At what point do you stop being ‘middle-aged’, like what age is no longer realistic to double? 104 years old doesn’t seem like an impossibility any more, given advances in the medical field and the fact that people are more healthy than ever. A colleague from work lost her grandmother a while back, who had just turned 101, and the whole family was shocked because she was in such good health. Whereas, in 1850, most people could be expected to kick it before they turned 40, so I guess we’ve come far from the days of scurvy and black lung disease. And I say ‘I guess’, because frankly, I’m a little disappointed with the future I was promised when I was young. Not my own personal future, which has been pretty awesome, but the general future that was envisioned by cartoons, TV shows, and novelists, and which has completely failed to live up to expectations.

1) A couple of weeks ago, I was at a workshop, and we were invited to discuss what we thought the future would look like. Other people at the table were jabbering on about “entrepreneurship” and “global competencies”, but I was like, “Transporters. What’s the point of even HAVING a future if there aren’t any transporters to magically take you wherever you want to go?” Then the guy next to me whispered, “I don’t think you’re getting this” but I was like “NO. I TOTALLY get it. Star Trek built up my expectations, then betrayed me.” I mean, think of all the technologies that Star Trek predicted that we now have: doors that slide open when you stand in front of them, holograms, supercomputers that talk back to you, and a whole lotta other useless sh*t. But the one thing, the ONE THING that would really make MY life easier would be a transporter. Why have the science people been focusing their attention on building fancy coffee makers and rechargeable vacuums? I’ll bet James Dyson could figure out a way to transport astronauts to the International Space Station on a sub-molecular level if he put as much thought into a transporter as he did into a hand dryer. Why do I need to drive a car to the airport, get on a plane, and arrive in Paris 7 hours later, when I could just say “Teleportez-moi, Monsieur Scott!”?

2) Also, where are the goddamn flying cars? It’s bad enough that I can’t miraculously appear in Paris whenever I want, but my car doesn’t even FLY. Damn you, George Jetson. It’s 2017, and the best we can do is a ‘driverless’ Uber, which is just making a bad idea worse. And even worse is the fact that we still use dinosaur blood to run our stupid, non-flying cars, instead of electricity, like somehow, electric cars will destroy the world as we know it, or at least take money out of the pockets of billionaires.

3) When I was 6, I was obsessed with Aquaman. I was convinced that, by the time I grew up, there would actually be biodomes under the ocean where people could live in harmony with the creatures of the sea. I asked my gran one morning if she thought it would happen soon, and she said, “Never. People will never live under the sea.” And while her bad attitude made me angry, I knew that one day I would be vindicated. And I’m still waiting for that day to come. The only scientific advance that the people who created Aquaman are actually responsible for is casting Jason Momoa in the new Justice League movie, in which he will carry a sparkly trident and ride a shark. Yet I still can’t breathe underwater.

4) Where is my robot butler? I’ve made my peace with never having a monkey butler, despite recently having my hopes raised (I still think of you fondly, Ralph Van Wooster, and all the hijinks we would have gotten up to), but there is still nary a sign of the artificial intelligence that all the movies have been promising since I was a child. There are smart phones and smart homes and GPS in our cars and Siri/Cortana/Alexa, but where is the actual physical embodiment of the mechanical person who will do my bidding? The best we’ve come up with is a robot CAT. Why would I EVER want a robot that lies in front of the fireplace all day, sleeps next to my face at night, and surprises me by peeing on my rugs when it’s “in a mood”? Real cats can be dicks enough—why are we creating mechanical ones? And don’t be all like “Oh, come on, mydangblog, cats are so sweet.” Here’s what I had to deal with the other day:

Me: OK, I’m going out. I have to be at the car dealership in 15 minutes, so see you guys later.
Titus: OK, bye!!
Raven: I need to get into the kitchen. Open the gate.
Me: Sigh. Hurry up…What are you doing?
Raven: The dog is panting too hard. It’s off-putting.
Me: Don’t walk away from me. Do you want into the kitchen or not?
Raven: Yes. Open the gate.
Me: Here. It’s open. Let’s go!
Raven (sits back down): Nuh.
Me: I don’t have time for your bullsh*t, Raven! Fine—stay back here.
Raven (under breath): Boy, are you going to be surprised when you get home.

Let’s just forget robot cats and focus on robot monkey butlers. Then EVERYBODY wins.

5) Space Tourism. This might possibly be the greatest disappointment of them all. When I was a kid, people lived on the moon, they colonized Mars, and they travelled around the galaxy exploring strange new worlds. The actual real-life Voyager 1 was launched in 1977, and 40 years later, it’s JUST ABOUT to leave our solar system. Me, I want warp speed. We could have invented this a long time ago, but apparently scientists were too busy making blankets with arms in them, LED multicoloured flashing scarves, and realistic wind-up mice (“Watch their tails whir while they scurry across your floor!”). And yes, I DID just get my Bits and Pieces Christmas catalogue, and NO, there’s nothing future-y in it. Although you can relieve the stress you feel about not being able to live in a subdivision on Mars by purchasing a set of basketball net hats so that you and a co-worker can shoot balls at each other, although I think Human Resources might have an issue with that. It’s been almost 50 years since we first put a dude on the moon—how hard can it be to put a middle-aged woman on Uranus? (I am SO sorry about that one, but I couldn’t resist. I may be 52 physically, but I’m pretty much 13 years old in my head.)

All in all, by this point in time, I was really hoping that the world would have been more like Gene Roddenberry’s vision than George Orwell’s. Luckily, I still have another 52 years left, and Christmas is coming, so this middle-aged girl can dream.