My Week 202: I Excel at STEM, An Update

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

Science:

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

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

Technology:

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

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

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

5 minutes later…

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

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

Engineering:

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

Math:

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

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

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

Palm Pilot

 

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

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

A Quick Update

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

Black and White Challenge Week Five

 

Advertisements

My Week 201: Me and Jeffrey, My Author Interview

So on Wednesday, I was sitting with a group of people from work, and they were recounting that some people at the secret agency had actually gone to high school or university together, and that was how they knew each other. One of the guys said, “That’s right—there was me, Frank, Jim, and Jeffrey.” And I was like, “Oh, who’s Jeffrey?” because there was no one at the secret agency named that. My colleague replied, “He doesn’t work with us anymore. You’d like Jeffrey—you two are a lot alike.” And my first thought was “A lot alike? Did Jeffrey just change his favourite bathroom stall from number five to number four?” and my second thought, which came IMMEDIATELY on the heels of the first was “Would Jeffrey give voice to that first thought?” Because if Jeffrey was really like me, the answer to the first question would be ”Obviously” and  the answer to the second question would be “Absolutely not” , so based on the second answer, I didn’t say anything—I just smiled and said, “Yeah?” By the time it occurred to me to ask why, the conversation had moved on, and it would have been awkward to drag it back.

Jeffrey? Jeffrey!

But if you know anything about me at all, I spent the rest of the day literally obsessing over IN WHAT WAY EXACTLY I was like the mysterious and elusive Jeffrey. But first, I should explain about the bathroom stalls because I know you are DYING to hear this. If you remember from My Week 177: My Favourite Bathroom Stall and Other Questions, number five was pretty close to my heart, and other parts of my anatomy that shall remain nameless. Lately, however, I’ve noticed that the toilet paper in number five runs out not long after lunch while the other stalls have their full complement. Which led me to the inevitable conclusion that number five was also the favourite bathroom stall of a whole lot of other people. And I don’t want to use the same bathroom stall as everyone else because I like to imagine that when I sit down, I’m sitting on a pristine seat, and that’s impossible to do when you know that it’s being overused compared to the other stalls. Hence my decision to change to number four. So 1) if Jeffrey can write a whole paragraph about his favourite bathroom stall, then he’s my f*cking doppelganger.

Other Ways Jeffrey and I Might Be Alike:

2) Is Jeffrey the King of Worst Case Scenarios?

Continuing on the bathroom theme for a second, we were working offsite when the inciting conversation happened. And if you think I have an issue with sharing 5 stalls with about 30 women, imagine how I feel about sharing a public washroom of ten stalls with around 500 of them. Luckily, there was a trailer on site with portable toilets. The last time we were there, the trailers were the fancy “wedding bathrooms”, all kitted out with wood trim, soft music, and scented hand soap, so I was quite excited to foray out into the parking lot. I was in for a nasty shock though, when I went in and it was just a single, rather bland stall, but there WAS a lot of toilet paper. Anyway, as I was sitting there, I realized that the whole trailer was on a slant, with the front leaning a bit more forward than it should, and that the only window and door were on that wall, and if the trailer fell over, they would be flat on the ground. I had a horrible vision then of the whole thing toppling and I started looking for a roof hatch and whatnot so that I could plan my escape from a sewage-y demise. And I wished that Jeffrey was there with me—not actually IN the bathroom, but available for advice. I’m sure between the two of us, we could have come up with a terrific plan.

3) Is Jeffrey afraid of demons?

A couple of weeks ago, I posted about how I learned that I’m not the only one to do certain things. This was the one idiosyncrasy that I forgot about, even though I had made note of it in my phone. Like many people, apparently, I can’t dangle any part of my body off the edge of my bed because I’m secretly worried that a demon, or a ghost, or a serial killer might be hiding under it, and will grab said body part and tear it off. Or lick it, like the urban myth where the woman thinks it’s her dog but it’s not. When I was about 13 years old, I read Stephen King’s novel Salem’s Lot, and became so terrified of vampires that I hung my late great-grandmother’s cross on my headboard. Every night, I would leap into bed from the middle of the room, as one does, avoiding whatever might be under the bed (later it was the clown with the wind-up nose from Poltergeist that I was worried about), and then touch the cross to ward off the vampires. I no longer have a cross nor do I leap across the room, but my limbs will always stay within the confines of the covers.

4) Is Jeffrey’s Favourite Colour Purple?

Because mine is. The other day, a very nice man stopped me on the street to compliment me by telling me that he loved how my hair and my handbag matched. I don’t know a lot about Jeffrey—well, nothing really—but if he’s a man with purple hair and a lavender Kate Spade bag then Ken is going to have to step up his game.

5) Is Jeffrey slightly OCD?

On Friday, I told Ken about Jeffrey and that I was really concerned that my colleague meant I was like Jeffrey because we were both weird, so I asked him, “In what ways do you think I’m weird?” He thought and thought for so long that I said, “Are you in your nothing box right now?” and he said, “No! I’m still thinking about what you asked me, but I can’t come up with anything.”

Me: I don’t f*cking believe you.
Ken: Maybe Jeffrey swears a lot.
Me: If he’s like me, then clearly he does. Seriously. You can’t think of a single thing I do that’s weird?
Ken: No, sorry.
Me: Come on, Ken! I can think of 5 things off the top of my head RIGHT NOW that are weird about you.

2 hours later…

Me: I forgot to tell you—I had a terrible dream last night.
Ken: What happened?
Me: I’d created a display of glassware on the ledge in the stairwell, and you’d taken it apart. You moved the pieces all over the house, and I had to find them and try to remember how I’d arranged them so that I could put the display back together. It was awful—I woke up in tears.
Ken: Ah. There is it. And was everything arranged in groupings of threes and fives?
Me: Obviously. I’m not an animal, KEN.
Ken: Weirdo.

So you can see my dilemma. I really want to know why Jeffrey and I are alike, but I have a sneaking suspicion that it might be for reasons that are just a tad off-kilter. We’re all back to work next week, so I’m determined to ask my colleague to elaborate. I’ll keep you posted.

(As an addendum, I have to say that even if Jeffrey showed up in a purple suit and had a bouquet of violets, he’d still have nothing on Ken, who just read this and said, “You should totally get a hidden camera and then you could find out for sure which bathroom stall is the least used.” Now there’s a man who understands me.)

My Author Interview

Last week, a blogger pal of mine put a call out to anyone who was interested in an author interview. Gareth of GJ  Stevens blog and I corresponded, and he’s just posted the interview that we did. Gareth is a writer of many genres, and has a fantastic series on his blog called “In The End” that he’s just on the verge of publishing into a novel series. His blog also has excellent advice for anyone who is interested in doing their own publishing. You can see the interview he and I did by clicking the link above. If you’ve ever wondered what I actually look and sound like, he’s included a link to the cable show that I appeared on to promote my last novel Smile. It’s fun to watch—I sound just like Jeffrey.

In other news, I just finished my new novel, The Dome. I’ve sent some mark-up copies to a couple of people for feedback, then it’s off to the publisher, who liked the sample chapters, so fingers crossed that they like the rest. Wish me luck!

Black and White Challenge Week 4

My Week 200: Where It All Began

This week is my 200th blog post, at least in its new form. I know a lot of you have been following me for a while, but I don’t know how many of you have been here from the beginning. In fact, I think the only people who read the first couple of weeks were related to me. So to celebrate, here, in all its glory, is the very first week. Bear in mind that this was almost 4 years ago. I don’t know if I’m funnier now than I was then, or vice versa but I hope you enjoy it anyway!

October 4, 2014

So I’ve decided to change things up a little bit because I’m not currently a mentor and don’t have a particular protégée that I can practice my educational mentorship on, so I’m turning this blog into a reflection up* the things that happen to me either in real-life or sometimes in my head, which are often even weirder. I can’t rename this blog because a) I am not that technologically proficient and I just spent 15 minutes trying to reset my email for this stupid site and I still don’t think it worked and b) educationalmentorship is kind of an ironic title in a lot of ways.

So here’s some of my week.

Wednesday, also known as the day I realize I really can’t tell stories orally that well.

So I was sitting around with a couple of colleagues and we were talking about how people use the comment tool on almost anything now to slag people for very minimal reasons and say some pretty nasty things because they think the internet makes them anonymous even when their names and pictures are RIGHT NEXT TO THE COMMENT. I launched into what I thought was a very clever tale about how I’m a member of a buy and sell group on Facebook, and how recently a local candidate for town council was totally taken to task when someone posted a warning about break-ins in the area, and he commented that part of his election platform was to help prevent crime. (On a side note, he was very vague and I don’t know how he’s going to prevent crime unless he means he’s going to prowl the streets of our town at night like some badass ninja vigilante). Anyway, I described the nasty backlash he got “for trying to exploit the situation to win the election” and I ended with something like “it was too bad, really.” Then I realized that my colleagues are looking at me a little blankly, almost expectantly, liked there should be more to the story, and then I also realized that my story had no real thesis, which everyone knows a good story should have, and that I’d missed the most important element to the story, the plot twist, which was that the poor guy is only 19 years old and it’s his first foray in the political arena and he probably didn’t realize that people on buy and sell sites can be very fickle. I should just give up on trying to contribute to conversations altogether, and focus on writing things down, which is, of course, my thesis, and the conclusion to this story. Tada.

Thursday

Did I really just encourage my students to smoke pot?? No. I. Did. Not. It was a total accident that can be explained in this very convoluted way. I was talking to my grade 12s about Titus Andronicus, Act 1, and two characters, brothers, who are trying to become emperor. In what I thought was an attempt to make things relevant, I said that Rome deserved a strong leader, and that just like Rome, so did Canada. I pointed out that the one brother was a lot like our Liberal candidate for  Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in that he was relying on the goodwill of the people to get elected, just like Bassianus in the play, and that our current Prime Minister Stephen Harper was very much a Saturninus figure because he was relying on the fact that he was the “elder statesman”. Then one of the kids commented, “Justin Trudeau’s only platform is to legalize marijuana”, and I said, “See what I mean? He’s like the fun candidate, and Stephen Harper is the guy who won’t even admit to smoking marijuana and he’s a pretty grim guy in his sweater vests and all. He should really live a little.” And suddenly everyone was laughing, kind of hysterically, and I had this horrible epiphany that I might have just implied that marijuana and “living a little” should go hand in hand, which is totally not what I meant to do with a large group of 17 year olds. So I tried to clarify that I didn’t mean to say it like that, but the kids just kept laughing, and I kept digging myself into a deeper hole, until finally I just said, “Don’t do drugs. I don’t recommend them”, which sounded in retrospect not a great thing to say either. But it seemed to calm them down, and we moved on with the lesson. Will  I spend the next few days worrying about whether I get a call from an irate parent who is either upset about the marijuana thing or doesn’t like that I called Stephen Harper “grim”? Absolutely.

Saturday

This morning I was in the staff bathroom at the school where we have International Languages on Saturday mornings drying my hands with the hand dryer because a) I had just washed them and b) I was freezing and the heat was awesome when I noticed a can of Febreze air freshener on top of the paper towel dispenser labelled “Alaskan Spring”. So I sprayed it because I’ve always wondered what spring in Alaska smelled like (does it really smell kind of like stale Old Spice cologne? Has anyone been to Alaska? If so, can you clarify this?) when it occurred to me that maybe other people had used it BEFORE they washed THEIR hands, and then I got all germaphobic-y and had to rewash my hands all over again. Yep. The thesis of this story is that you should always spray room freshener in a public bathroom BEFORE you’ve washed your hands, then you’re good to go. Or that Alaska smells like someone’s grandfather.

*Yes, I know that there’s a typo in the introduction. It’s there for a reason. Or maybe two reasons that are inextricably linked. While I was typing this blog, Ken came in and wanted to talk to me about something, I don’t know what (because I was typing, you see?). Ken is always going on about how people can’t really multi-task and then he was like, “Can’t you listen to me and type at the same time?” And then I made the typo, which just proves that a) no, I can’t multi-task KEN and b) it’s ironic that he’s always telling me that I can’t multi-task, then he insists that I do it.

*July 22nd, 2018

Happy Birthday to my amazing son T, who just turned 20. Yes, I am now the mother of a grown-up adult type person. To celebrate, we took him and his girlfriend, the lovely V, to Niagara Falls, where I am currently writing this bit on my phone. Last night we played Glow in the Dark mini-golf and I paid $35 for a hamburger, which pretty much sums up the Niagara Falls experience if you’re ever thinking of coming here. But the kids are having fun and that’s the main thing.

Black and White Challenge Week 3: Happy Birthday, T!

My Week 199: I’m Not The Only One

The internet is a scary and dark place sometimes, but it does have its uses. In fact, on occasion, it can actually be a comfort. Before the advent of social media and search engines, I’m sure people lived in frightened little bubbles, not sure if what they were feeling was normal. Now of course, we’re often frightened in a GIGANTIC way, but at least we aren’t in bubbles anymore. What the internet has taught me mostly is that the things I thought were strange and quirky about myself (“mydangblog…strange and quirky?!” I hear you whispering in shock) are traits that a great many other people share. Imagine 100 years ago not knowing that having upwards of 8 decorative pillows on your bed was perfectly reasonable? Or that there were other people who not only knew what “the good tea towel” was, they also got upset when someone used it to wipe the counter?

Recently, I have discovered that several things that I thought were unique and unusual about myself are quite common. I learned this on Twitter.

1)

I was shocked to learn that I am NOT the only person who does this. Whenever I take a plate of chicken out to the BBQ, I grab the tongs, and the first thing I do, immediately, is to click the tongs together, like “Clang, c-clang, clang”. The only difference between me and Wil Wheaton (the author of this tweet) is that I don’t REALLY do it to make sure they work. I mean, that’s part of it for sure, but for me, it’s more of a swashbuckler-y type thing. I like to imagine that I’m a grilling female Errol Flynn, and when I clang them, I also do a little lunge and a quick parry. I sometimes end with a flourish and a bow because that’s how I roll.

2)

Even though I work for a secret agency, technically I am NOT a spy, and anyone who knows me knows that is true, because I do exactly what this person’s tweet says. I have two dresses with pockets, and I can’t count the number of times I’ve been complimented on them SOLELY because of the pockets. The other day at work, a colleague was wearing a new dress, and when we told her how nice it was, she immediately said, “It has pockets!” Then we all stood around saying, “Ooh—pockets!” while she modelled using them for us, which is to say that she twirled around with her hands IN the pockets. It was awesome. Is there a male equivalent of this?

Frank: Hey Jerry, we really like your tie.
Jerry: Thanks guys! It’s a clip-on!
All: Ooh.

3)

The identical thing happened to me two weeks ago, only I didn’t call 911, I called Ken.

Ken: What’s going on?
Me: So…I went to Winners after work and bought some new workout clothes.
Ken: Nice.
Me: Then I worked out.
Ken: Good for you.
Me: And now I am stuck half in and half out of my new sports bra. It was fine going on, but I’m currently unable to get it off. I’m calling you with the arm that’s NOT trapped in it.
Ken: Um…can you hook it onto a doorknob and then, like, drop yourself out of it or something?
Me: I don’t think you understand physics.
Ken: Gravity. Can you wait for your roommate to come home? She can help you.
Me: You mean, she could grab it and pull it off me, and then I would be naked in front of her? No.

Eventually, with a Herculean effort that involved almost dislocating one shoulder, I got it off. But now I know that this is a common occurrence, because not only did I see the above tweet, but my friend Bryce Warden of wasthatmyoutloudvoice just wrote a post called “It’s A Death Trap” about a similar experience with a swimming suit top (click on the link to read it. It’s very funny).

4)

A while ago, Ken and I had a family get together, and someone left a spoon behind. It was a f*cking weird spoon, all flat and plain and whatnot, completely unlike all my other normal, human spoons. But every time I reached into the cupboard to grab a spoon, IT was the one I always came out with. Once, I actually said out loud to it, “I hate you, stupid spoon.” Then one day, I got fed up, and I threw it in the garbage. So I apologize to whatever family member it belonged to, but seriously, if I come to your house and see the rest of your weird-ass spoons, they’re all going in the trash.

5)

This is kind of like the opposite of Number 4, and while the person who wrote this tweet doesn’t understand proper punctuation (and thanks to the internet, I know I’m not the ONLY one who cares about things like this), it’s true. Just the other day, Ken came into the room. My first reaction was to say, “What are you doing?!” His response was to pause for a moment, so that he could do a mental scan to try and figure out why I was asking him that.

Ken: Um…nothing?
Me: Why are you using my mug?
Ken: (nervously scoffs) This isn’t your mug.
Me: Uh, yes it is.
Ken: No, it’s not—your name’s not written on it.
Me: There’s a giant f*cking “S” on both sides, Ken.
Ken: We have tons of other mugs. Use one of those.
Me: I could offer you THE SAME ADVICE, KEN!!

And now, I have to hide my mug. Oh well, he DOES respect the “good tea towel” and he thinks it’s perfectly normal that I fence with BBQ tongs, so that’s something.

Black and White Challenge Week 2

My Week 198: Soccer Vs. Rugby

Right now, all around the world, there’s a hum, a buzz, an undercurrent if you will. And what is the cause of this intense excitement, you might well ask. It’s World Cup Soccer. Yes, the so-called “beautiful game.” And while I like soccer to a certain extent, and have a history with it (which I’ll get to in a minute), I have to admit that watching professional international soccer can be about as exciting as watching a guy getting a haircut, if the guy getting the haircut kept falling out of the chair and crying because the air from the blowdryer was hurting his hair. But here are some of the problems with professional soccer:

1) Soccer Has An Identity Crisis

Person 1: Oh, boy! I’m going to a soccer game!
Person 2: Who’s playing?
Person 1: The Toronto Football Club against the New York Football Club.
Person 2: I thought you said you were going to a soccer game.
Person 1: Right!

This sport doesn’t even know what it is. Is it football? Because that’s what everyone outside of North America calls it. But here in North America, the soccer teams are called “football clubs” as in, you PLAY soccer FOR a football club, which is super-confusing. Apparently, the word “soccer” comes from 1800s English slang for “association football”. So if the English invented the term, why don’t THEY use it? Personally, I think it was just the Brits taking revenge on the Americans for saying Zee instead of Zed. As was the invention of American football in a tavern somewhere long ago:

1800s American Dude: So what is this football of which you speak?
1800s English Dude: Ah yes, “football”. You will need full body armour like ye knights of olde, an oval ball made from the skin of a pig slaughtered under the full moon, the mathematical skills of Pythagoras in order to understand the rules, and the ability to dance a merry jig in the “end zone”.
1800s American Dude: Cool. We’re on it.
1800s English Dude: *pounds back flagon of ale and snickers*

2) Soccer Is Very Time-Consuming

Now, don’t get me wrong—I’m not a soccer-hater. I just find that “major league” soccer has turned into a game where the object is to play keep-away with a ball for 90 minutes (plus penalty time for all the guys who were writhing in agony because someone brushed against them), and you end up with a score of “nobody to f*ck-all”. It’s incredibly time-wasting. In fact, I know people who PVR soccer games, then just play them on fast forward. This is a great idea when you think about it, because then everyone is running really fast, the ball is being passed like crazy, and the whole game takes less than twenty minutes . That’s a game I can get behind. Oh wait—I’m already behind THAT game. It’s called Rugby Sevens, which is an even faster-paced version of the already phenomenal game of rugby.

3) Soccer Is So Dramatic!

The main reason I like rugby is because of the tackling. The legal kind, not the sucky, sneaky, slide-y soccer kind which doesn’t really hurt but which prompts some pretty outrageous responses . I’m sorry, but if you go down on the field crying and holding your leg and rolling around like you’re dying, you should NOT get to run back on said field 30 seconds later. You SHOULD get an Oscar. Although I recognize that faking injuries happens in rugby too, most of the time if a rugby player goes down on the field screaming and crying, he’s going straight to the hospital and might never play again. But I’ve actually seen soccer games where play is delayed while a player is carried off on a stretcher, only to have him leap up on the sidelines and run back in moments later.

 

“All I said was ‘Good Morning’…”

By now, if you’re a true devotee of the game, you’re probably grumbling and saying to yourself, “What the hell does a middle-aged, secret agency worker know about soccer, anyway? Well, quite a bit, as it turns out, having coached it for several years. Let me tell you, there’s a big difference in the enjoyment level of any game when you have a stake in it, even if you’re staking your enjoyment on the capacity of 4 and 5 year olds to figure out how to pass a ball without tripping. Here’s how that particular phase of my life occurred: When T was 4, he wanted to play soccer. We took him to the local park for registration, and the convenor announced that there was no coach for the Super-Mini-PeeWee team, and if some parents didn’t step up and volunteer, they would have to cancel that age level. All the other parents hung their heads or started finding amazing things in the clouds, and there was T with his little face all excited, so Ken and I offered to coach the team. I hadn’t played soccer since I was a kid myself, and we had to get all the rule books and manuals and cram so that we were ready. Which, as it turns out, if you’ve ever watched 4 year-olds play soccer, was completely unnecessary. If you show a group of 4 year-olds a soccer ball, they will chase it in a large clump like a swarm of bees chasing Winnie the Pooh with his honey jar. And they will do it until they drop, despite your best efforts to come up with plays, or teach them to pass, or coerce them to stay in their position with promises of ice cream after the game. (We always bought them ice cream anyway. They were four years old—they were trying their best, dammit.)

Another thing about four year-olds, and if you know any, you’ll agree with this wholeheartedly, is that they have the attention spans of gerbils. For example, this was our team cheer:

Me: Are you ready?!
Team: Yes!
Me: 1, 2, —wait, where are you all going? No, don’t run on the field yet! You don’t know your positions! We haven’t even finished our cheer!

And if I had a dollar for every time one of my players stopped dead, bent down, picked a dandelion and ran over to give it to me, I could have bought a new whistle. But they WERE adorable little people, so I’d just tuck the dandelion behind my ear, smile and say, “Awesome! Now get back out there and kick that ball!” And if it wasn’t dandelions, it was “Look at this cool bug, Coach!” or “Can I have a Freezie yet?”

But of course the hardest part was when they would randomly start to cry, because they were little and easily forgot the point of what they were doing:

Me: Why are you crying? What happened?
Little Boy: I-I-I had-had the ball-ball, and that guy took it away from me. I NEVER get to keep the balllll! It’s not fair!
Me: Never mind, sweetie. Here, take this one. It’s ORANGE.

And then it would be MY fault that there was more than one ball on the field, but it didn’t really matter because we never actually kept score, being as there never WAS a score. In fact, if someone miraculously happened to get the ball in the net, it was a bit of a disaster, with no one being quite sure how it got in there, and the goalie crying. But as T got older, Ken and I graduated to older and older teams, until eventually we were coaching 13 year-olds who understood how the game was played, and cared about the score. And even then, it was fun, and exciting too, to see the same little girl who was plucking grass just a few years before now manoeuvering the ball to rival Beckham.

And maybe that’s the whole point. I love a game when I’m actively involved and I’m working with a group of kids who are super-enthusiastic despite their varying skill levels, but I just find sitting and watching grown men falling down and pretending to be hurt for millions of dollars a little obnoxious, which is why I prefer rugby. And what the hell do you know about rugby anyway, mydangblog? Well, once again, I coached rugby for many years, both Girls’ Varsity and Senior Boys. It was one of the true joys of my life, and it’s the one thing I absolutely miss about being a classroom teacher, aside from actually being in the classroom, which I also loved. Here are my two favourite rugby memories:

1) Holding a tackle bag during practice and having one of my huge new props come running at me, hit me hard, and knock me ass over teakettle. I lay on the ground, in pain but laughing hysterically as she rushed over almost in tears.

“Oh my god, Coach! I’m so sorry!” she said.

“No worries,” I answered. “Just do THAT on the field.”

2) At the end of my last season with the Senior Boys’, we lost the quarter final game. My captain started to cry. Not because we’d lost, but because he was graduating, and the team had been like family to him. Then more boys started crying, then I started crying because I was so proud of them for being such wonderful human beings. And they call soccer the beautiful game.

Of course, there were awkward or stressful moments, like having a referee look around totally perplexed then ask me, “So where’s the coach?” because I was the only female Senior Boys’ coach at the time, or having to take my hooker (don’t laugh—it’s a legitimate position) to the med tent to get her chin stitched up after a terrible collision in a tournament that left her with a fractured jaw. And then having to call her mother and explain what was going on.  And there were funny random moments too, like having to request that the boys use the porta-a-potties, NOT the trees, or reminding players that ALL piercings, visible or otherwise, had to be removed before a game.

So, yes, I’ve done both soccer and rugby; I’ve stood on many a pitch in the pouring rain, sleet, hail, bitter winds, and gorgeous spring days alike. I’ve wiped tears, handed out lollipops, carried equipment bags, bandaged raked shins, and done concussion protocol checks.  And I f*cking miss it. So we come full circle, around to where I started. I still don’t like major league soccer, but when I wake up on a Saturday morning and hear the screams of excited laughter and cheering from kids at the soccer park a block away, I smile. And then I put on TSN and watch rugby.

Black and White Challenge.

 

(Happy Anniversary, Ken–you’re the best husband a girl could ask for!)

My Week 197: The Joys of Gardening, Plants I Hate

“What the f*ck is up with raspberries?!” I asked Ken in the car yesterday. Ken looked simultaneously taken aback by the question yet somehow not very surprised at the way it was put to him.

“What do you mean?” he asked.

“Isn’t the whole point of fruit, of virtually EVERYTHING alive on this planet, to procreate and spread in the most efficient way possible? Like cherries, for example. Birds and tree-rats eat them, then they poop out the pits somewhere else where a new cherry tree can form.”

“I’m missing the point,” Ken answered. “Why are you so mad at raspberries?”

“Because they’re f*cking stupid! AND passive-aggressive. The berries are on top, all beautiful and beckoning, and then you get in there and it’s like being attacked by a school of piranhas. No wonder they’re almost extinct.”

“Yeah, I don’t think that’s true,” said Ken.

“Well, they should be! They’re stupid. That’s their slogan: Raspberries—The Stupid Fruit.”

Right now, you might be wondering exactly what prompted my anti-raspberry rant. Then again, if you’ve ever tried to pick raspberries, you probably know. Yes, that morning I had gone out with a bowl and a very optimistic attitude, forgetting as I do every year that raspberries are the devil’s spawn. Sure, they taste delicious, but isn’t that just part of their evil charm? It’s like when you see a cat, and it looks so adorable and squishy, and it bats its eyes at you and rolls over, then you try to rub its tummy and it grabs your hand and bites you. Raspberries are essentially the cats of the fruit world. And the worst part is, I didn’t even plant them—they just appeared, thousands of them, from god knows where. But I thought, I might as well take advantage of the situation. Unfortunately,  I came back into the house with a small bowl of berries and huge gashes on my arms and legs. At one point, I was so caught up in the thorns that I couldn’t move without ripping my T-shirt and pajama bottoms (yeah, PAJAMAS. Don’t judge me—it was only 10 am and it was Saturday). I’m sure the neighbours were a little concerned when I started screaming, “Let me go, you m*therf*cker!!” Although as a side-note, the police never arrived and now I’m seriously doubting the competency of our Neighbourhood Watch.

I was attacked just taking this picture.

But my ire isn’t reserved solely for the dreaded raspberry bush. I also hate a few other stupid plants:

1) Black Walnut Trees

These are the scourge of the forest. Nothing will grow under their “drip line”, which sounds really disgusting but that’s what tree people call it. And their nuts are SAVAGE. They drop down at the slightest hint of a breeze, and it’s like they’re TRYING to kill you. We have one in our front yard that’s over 80 feet high, and I swear there’s an evil sprite that lives in it, whose only job is to throw walnuts at people. Remember the episode of the Twilight Zone where William Shatner is a passenger on an airplane and he sees a gremlin ripping the wing apart but no one will believe him? I believe him, because that thing lives in my walnut tree now. And it’s in league with the squirrels, who keep burying the nuts all over my yard, causing new black walnut trees to spring up in random places like the middle of a flower bed, beside the pond, or up through the floorboards of the porch. You can’t even ignore them, because they grow so damned fast—one minute it’s 4 inches high; two days later, you need a chainsaw to cut it down. They’re perfect for annoying other people though. Yesterday, my mom told me that my brother’s neighbours had built this monstrosity of a garage overlooking his backyard. She wanted to know what he could plant that would grow quickly and block it out. “A Black Walnut Tree”, I said. The best revenge is slimy, green, and will give you a concussion.

2) Tall Flox

This flower is the bane of my existence, as invasive as daylilies but with worse foliage. Trying to get rid of them is almost impossible—you pull out one, and ten more pop up in its place. You exhaust yourself digging them all out and you think you finally got rid of them, but the next year, they’re all back again. The only one I like has pink and white candy striped petals, and it’s the only one that WON’T GROW.

3) Dandelions

If their flowers were pink and white striped, I would have no complaint. I just don’t like yellow.

4) Orchids

Someone gave me an orchid once. It was a gift, I suppose. After a week, the flowers fell off. Three years later, and I still have three leaves and a stick. I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who has an orchid with flowers on it. At work, there are several people who also have plant pots full of leaves and sticks. Two weeks ago, it was a co-worker’s birthday and she was given an orchid. We all stood around ooh-ing and aw-ing: “In a couple of weeks, that’s going to be a very lovely stick!” People say, “Don’t water your orchid–give it one ice cube a week.” Frankly, I think that’s a waste of good ice. And why are the roots always growing out of the pot? They’re like tentacles reaching out to strangle you, but they can’t because they’re too weak from the cold.

4 years later–not even a stick anymore.

Now, don’t get me wrong—I love my garden and ALMOST everything in it. I have some beautiful hostas, which are so hardy that you can apparently plant them upside down and they’ll still grow. Actually, I find that a little disturbing, like the way your hair and fingernails continue to grow after death, but they’re pretty. And I have peonies, and bergamot, and roses, and hollyhocks that suddenly just appeared in the perfect spot in a flowerbed as if I’d put them there deliberately. I made jam last weekend with the cherries from our own tree (certified organic, which also means that I had to break open EVERY SINGLE CHERRY to make sure there were no worms in them). Later this summer, I’ll make jelly with quince from a bush that sprang from an old pear tree because I am THAT f*cking earthy.

Cherries: The Friendly Fruit.

So Happy Canada Day everyone, even if you aren’t Canadian. I’m going to celebrate by putting on a hazmat suit and picking more raspberries, because Canadians are nothing if not determined, and I have a cheesecake to make.

The Mystery Guest

My Week 196: Four Vignettes, or Whuh?

Four Vignettes

1) Last weekend, Ken and I pulled into our driveway just as two very small boys about 7 years old walked past our house. They were each carrying a puppy. Neither puppy was wearing a collar or had a leash. I’m going to let that sink in for a second. By the time we had gotten out of the car, they were down the road. I stood there, mouth hanging open, watching as they disappeared into the distance.

Me: Um…there are puppies.
Ken (unpacking groceries): Looks like it.
Me: I want to carry one too.
Ken: Who knows where they came from?
Me: From a magical place in town where there are puppies that people are allowed to CARRY, KEN!
Ken: I—
Me: They’re going towards the park! You know, I forgot to get…(mumbles) you know. I’m just gonna hop back into the car and go to the store.
Ken: I could use some help with the groceries.
Me: I’ll be right back!!

I drove slowly down the street as the two boys seemed to meet up with an older man who was pushing a baby carriage and walking a dog. I drove up and as they started around the corner into the back entrance to the park, I rolled down my window and called out to the guy, “I like your puppies!” in the hope that he might reply, “Why, thank you. Would you, perhaps, like to pet one?”

But he turned to look at me and smiled. “Oh, they’re not mine. I don’t know those kids.” And then the two boys and the puppies disappeared into the park. I drove around the block to the park’s front entrance and went in. It was super-crowded and I was hoping that was because there was some kind of Puppy Petting Zoo, or a Puppy Cavalcade, or a “Puppies on Parade” thing, but it was only a stupid softball tournament. Dejected, I made my way home, convinced that I would never see the puppies again. But then, in a strange twist of fate, I was weeding the garden after dinner when the same two little boys carrying the same two puppies walked by the house once again. It was a golden opportunity and I wasn’t going to let it go by.

Me: Hey!! Are those your puppies?!
Little Boy 1: Yes.
Me: Can I pet them?
Little Boy 2: OK.
Me: What kind are they?
Little Boy 1: They’re a bulldog and sharpei cross. We have lots.
Me: Are you selling them or something? How much are they?
Little Boy 1: One Thousand Dollars.

But I got to pet them for free. Suckers.

2) On Wednesday, I was at a high level meeting at work, with all the directors and the CEO, discussing a new policy. I was doing what I normally do, which is trying to pay attention and not think about puppies, or the fact that “Sugar, How’d You Get So Fly?” is my new favourite song for absolutely NO undiscernible reason, or how I’d had too much green tea AGAIN but there was no way I was using the bathroom during the meeting, when suddenly the person leading the meeting said, “Is there anyone else?” and my director looked at me and said, “Don’t forget ours.” So I shook myself out of my reverie and replied, “Oh right, there’s also that,” to which the person running the meeting said, “OK, guide me through it.”

I was at a complete loss. Not because I’m incompetent (REALLY), but because I was thrown by his turn of phrase and I had no idea what he meant. If you know me at all, you’ll know that I have a very poor sense of direction, and certainly can’t be counted on to guide ANYONE ANYWHERE. Last weekend, I took Ken for a beer tour, but he had to navigate. At the second last place, I asked how to get to the next brewery and the brewery owner said, “Take this street to the main road, then go North.” My response was, “Is that left or right?” North means nothing to me except “UP”. I’d be the best sherpa on the planet ie: “We go North!!” but otherwise, I’m pretty useless.

So I did what virtually NO ONE would do—I looked at the dude leading the meeting and I said, “Whuh?” Not “Pardon?” Not “Certainly.” Not even “What?” I said, “Whuh?” He kind of looked at me askance, then my director jumped in and ‘guided him through it’. Let me clarify. I am a 52 year old professional, both well-educated and well-groomed. I have several degrees and I’m a published novelist. Yet my go-to is “whuh?” It’s a damn good job that I can write up a stellar business case with secondary sources in under half an hour or my ass would be grass.

3) I saw an ad on the internet for writers who could create interesting posts about clipping their dog’s toenails. It paid 20 pounds, which is the equivalent of around $50 Canadian dollars. So I thought about applying, but I’d never clipped a dog’s toenails before so it occurred to me that I should practice first.

Me: Hey, do you want a pedicure?
Titus: What’s that?
Me: It’s when I gently massage your legs, and rub lotion into your paw pads…(whispering) and then I clip your nails…
Titus: No f*cking way. But nice try seducing me with the massage and whatnot.
Me: C’mon. It’s for fifty bucks. I’ll split it with you.
Titus: Split my toenails more like.
Me: I’ll be careful. Wouldn’t it be better for ALL of us if you didn’t gouge our faces when we asked for high fives?
Titus: It’s the chance you take.
Me: Seriously. Let me try.
Titus: Well, OK. Wait—what’s that?!
Me: Those are the clippers. Hold still.
Titus: They look really sharp—I—Nope!! Nope nope!! Stop it—I said No!!
Me: YOU’RE. BEING. A. BABY! Hold still! Don’t pull away—that will only prolong things! There. All done.
Titus: You’ve made me very unhappy.
Me: I’m going to write this up. I’ll buy you some cookies with my hard-won earnings.
Titus: They’d better be liver-flavoured. Get me my squeaky hippo, you sadist.
Me: For fifty bucks, I’ll buy you a new one.

Be gentle with me.

4) Ken and I are going on vacation soon, so I rented a car through Avis. I hadn’t received a confirmation number so on Thursday, I called their rental centre in Calgary. Unbeknownst to me, that number sends you to a central location somewhere in the United States. After screaming “Speak to a representative!!” several times at my phone, I was finally put through to Jeremy:

Jeremy: Hi there! My name is Jeremy. I’m here to help you. What’s your name?
Me: Suzanne.
Jeremy: OK, can I have your confirmation number?
Me: That’s the problem. I was never sent one.
Jeremy: OK. Can you spell out your last name for me?…Great—I see it in the system. Just to verify—what’s your first name again?
Me: Suzanne.
Jeremy: Can you spell that for me?
Me: Sure. Ess—You—Zed—Ehh—Enn—Enn—Ee
Jeremy: What?
Me (spells it again).
Jeremy: I’m sorry—your name is Su-zed-anne?
Me: What? NO. It’s Suzanne. With a zed.
Jeremy: Su-zed…I don’t understand.
Me: ZED is the last letter of the alphabet. THE 26
TH
LETTER.
Jeremy: Oh, you mean like Zee?
Me: Ah, you’re American. Yes. Just like Zee, only the RIGHT way to say it.
Jeremy: Pardon?
Me: Whut?