Sh*t On A Stick

Yesterday morning, I woke up, opened my eyes and immediately grabbed my phone to text Ken (he was downstairs, but I’m lazy and the bed was so cozy):

I was filled with relief. And what could possibly have brought about this reverent—nay blissful—attitude towards the state of our dog’s bowels? Well, let’s backtrack a bit.

On Wednesday, I was in the middle of a meeting when Kate skidded into the room and announced loudly, “Atlas just threw up!” I managed to convince her that, having just been accepted into a Veterinary Technician program, cleaning it up would be great practice, so she did, and after my meeting was over, I went to investigate. It was A LOT. Then about half an hour after lunch, he did it again. And after his mid-afternoon snack. For dinner, we gave him a small amount of steamed rice and plain yogurt, and he seemed OK, so on Thursday morning, we gave him the same. Around 10 am, I let him out and he tossed up all the rice and yogurt. My heart sank, and I started immediately fearing the worst—either an obstruction or a tumour.

Let’s backtrack a little bit more. Atlas the monster dog, our canine enfant terrible, is a typical Lab. Which is to say, he will eat literally anything. I’ve pulled plastic tags, bottle caps, deck screws, my car key fob, and other assorted and bizarre items out of his mouth on a regular basis. A couple of weeks ago, he came into the house with a chunk of ice in his mouth (I’m in Canada and it’s winter) so I wasn’t too concerned, until Kate came home, saw him, and yelled, “Why the hell does the dog have glass in his mouth?!” Turns out it wasn’t ice. I have no idea where he could have gotten a large piece of glass from—Ken and I never put our recycling out back. I found him eating okra once outside too—I had to look it up, because I’ve never bought it before in my life. Where he gets this stuff is beyond me, and we’re also currently missing several jigsaw puzzle pieces and three of Kate’s earrings. So the idea of an obstruction was NOT far-fetched.

We took him to the vet on Thursday, where he spent the day, getting examined and tested. When Ken finally brought him home, he was tired but starving. The vet was pretty sure it wasn’t an obstruction, mostly because, as she put it, “He’s very…enthusiastic” which I took to mean that he was leaping into the air and yelling “Yee Hah!!” as he normally does whenever he knows liver treats are close by. She said to give him the stomach medicine she’d prescribed and not to feed him until Friday morning, then give him special canned food—one tablespoon every hour, and see if he held it down. But the most important thing was to make sure he was pooping. Which he didn’t. All day Friday, and all Friday night.

And then finally, it was Saturday morning and EUREKA!

Right now, I’m sure you’re saying to yourself, What the heck is going on here? This is supposed to be a HUMOUR BLOG. None of this sh*t  is funny! But wait—there’s more.

Me: So where’s the poo?
Ken: Just over by the fence.
Me: Have you examined it yet?
Ken: Of course not. I was saving it for you.
Me: Awesome, thanks!
Ken: You’re not going out NOW, are you? It’s minus 5 and you’re in your pajamas.
Me: I need a long stick.

And if you’re not laughing at the thought of me, out there in my pajamas and slippers, ankle deep in snow, poking through my dog’s poop with a stick, I don’t know what to tell you. I didn’t find anything unusual in it, more’s the pity:

Kate: Did Atlas poop out my earrings yet?
Me: Not yet. Maybe next time.

It’s nice to have something to look forward to, am I right?

The Art Of The Deal

It’s been yet another one of those weeks where the days seem to blur into each other, and where the highlight was receiving a conference call before 7:30 in the morning from a colleague who had butt-dialled the entire team. Cue several confused voices all worried that something major was going on, but all we could hear in the background was the sound of someone getting ready for work. Because I’m me, I posted a gif in the team chat a while later that said, “When you pocket-dial the entire team…” with a picture of Hugh Laurie from House going, “Oops” (I didn’t say butt-dial in the team chat because I’m a professional, dammit). Later, I noticed that everyone but the culprit had reacted to the gif, so I got suspicious and messaged him:

Me: Did you like the gif I posted?
Colleague: Yes, lol.
Me: You know why I posted it, right?
Colleague: No, why?

At that point, I may or may not have led him to believe that it was a video call, and he was momentarily horrified:

Colleague: What was on screen?!
Me: Well…
Colleague: Seriously? Omg???

I finally put him out of his misery and assured him that it was audio only. I can’t be too judgmental though—I’m the one who answers video calls by putting the phone to my ear, which I’m sure my co-workers appreciate.

At any rate, this week I was looking for cheap jigsaw puzzles and happened to be on Facebook Marketplace. Some of the ads are quite interesting as I’ve discussed before and, based on what I’ve seen, it occurs to me that I could make a fortune at helping people market their crap on there. So here are my four tips to making a great sale:

1) Truth in advertising

If you’re trying to sell something, it’s important that you’re honest with your customers and this advertisement is demonstrably inaccurate. There is no old ass in this painting anywhere—no elderly politician, no giant donkey, no wrinkled butt to be seen. The only ass in the picture belongs to the boar and it looks remarkably youthful. I was expecting something completely different based on the description, as you can well imagine. Also, it’s become de rigeur to set a price of $123 if you have no clue how much something is worth, yet below it says, “Sold at auction for €3000 euros which is like $4600 Canadian”. So the painting is already sold? Is this just someone bragging? Instead of sending the polite auto-message that says “Good afternoon, is this still available?”, I really wanted to send, “WTF is this?” But then I checked the profile picture of the seller, which featured a young couple who looked as though they imbibed frequently on certain mind-altering substances, and suddenly the whole thing made sense in a drug-fuelled fantasy kind of way. Still, the truth is important and this old ass painting has yet to sell.

2) Clarity

While this ad is accurate—there ‘is’ indeed two of them—the question remains: Two of WHAT? And the question remains unanswered in the description below, which simply reiterates, “There is two of them”. Did the person who posted this ad really think the picture speaks for itself? Because the only thing it’s saying to me is “There is two of them.” After that, I’m at a loss. Clarity—because none of us are f*cking mind readers.

3) Don’t get too fancy

I’ve never been to Antigue Dispaly, which I assume is one of the minor islands off the coast of Antigua. And I also don’t know how many styles of cabinets they make there, but I’m assuming at least 16 based on this ad. But is all of that really necessary? Do you really need to dazzle potential customers with your exotic Antigue wood? IT’S A CABINET. No one cares where it comes from, Bob. If it was that rare, you’d be asking a hell of a lot more than $175 so take it down a notch.

4) Be willing to compromise

This ad is a perfect example of someone who truly understands marketing. First, it’s completely accurate and honest. The ad description says “Sold” and it’s a picture of the word “Sold”. Second, it’s very clearly written and easily understandable—nothing convoluted here. Third, it’s not fancy—there’s no swirly font, and it just screams simplicity the way it’s on a piece of lined paper and whatnot. Finally, Debbra knows that her audience appreciates a good buy and has dropped the rather hefty asking price by 50% for a quick sale. This is what it’s all about, people.

I hope you appreciate my sound marketing advice, and with that in mind, I leave you to guess what this ad featuring Sir Turdalot is for (hint—he’s not for sale).

Spoiler Alert

One of the bonuses of not being able to go anywhere for the last few months has been the ability to binge-watch TV shows without feeling guilty. Did I do a Tiger King marathon, becoming increasingly more disturbed and fascinated over the course of one delightful evening? You’re damn right, and I did the same thing with the Criminal UK/Spain/Germany series, Sex Education, Better Call Saul, Queer Eye, Picard, every Rupaul’s Drag Race episode available to humankind on a variety of platforms, and a myriad of other shows. And I did it all on WEEKNIGHTS as well as weekends. No remorse whatsoever. One thing I struggle with though, like many people, is that there are SO MANY shows out there to choose from that I quite often end up scrolling through lists relentlessly looking for something that catches my eye. Because more often than not, the titles make it very difficult to judge what a show is about. Tiger King was simple—it’s actually called “Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness”. All three of those things are very enticing as far as I’m concerned. Same goes for The Haunting Of Hill House. There’s a house on a hill and it’s haunted—watch to find out what happens next! Then there’s The Witcher which is about a dude who’s a witcher—fairly self-explanatory if not a little derivative. And if you’re like “Hey! It was very original, dammit!”, let me summarize the premise for you thusly: a nearly immortal lone wolf-type who is very attractive to the ladies and has a relationship with a magical woman travels across a fantastical land with a group of dwarves. He and the dwarves skirt around a mountain containing their old mine looking for a dragon who is killing villagers nearby. Sound vaguely familiar? Of course, there are differences too—there’s a bloody and violent race called the Nilfgaardians who are kind of mutated elves—oh wait, that’s just like Orcs…anyway, it WAS a great show, and sorry for the spoilers, but if you’ve read Lord of the Rings, you already have a pretty good sense of the plot.

Speaking of spoilers, Ken and I were watching TV a while ago, and a commercial came on for a 6-episode mini-series about a female doctor who kills people with a hypodermic needle. The show was called “Mary Kills People”.

Me: Way to give away the ending.
Ken: Well, the whole commercial showed her killing people. It’s not like the title was the REAL spoiler here.
Me: Couldn’t they leave just a little bit to the imagination and call it “Mary May or May Not Have Killed People”?
Ken: At least we don’t have to watch it now.
Me: It’s such a dumb title. Can you imagine if the first Star Wars movie was called, “Luke Blows Up the Death Star”? What would be the point of seeing it? Why would anyone read Pride and Prejudice if it was called “Elizabeth Marries Darcy”? I like the trailer for Cardinal better.

Cardinal is another series I want to watch, but I have no idea what it’s about , except that there are two detectives investigating a murder in a cold town somewhere. The trailer doesn’t show much, except the one detective says to the other, “I’m happy to be working this case with you,” and then a block of ice containing what looks like a body is pulled out of a frozen lake. See, THIS is how it’s done, because at the end, I was like “What?! I need to watch this show and find out what happens. And who the hell is Cardinal? Is it a guy? Is it a bird? I need to know.”

It’s a certain fact that people HATE spoilers. Have you ever just seen a fantastic movie and you want to share it with a friend, so you only tell them the beginning? And then they say, “So what happens at the end?” and you have to first confirm beyond a shadow of a doubt that they will NEVER see it themselves, because you don’t want to be the one who spoils it for them? Have you ever accidentally given away the end of a book, and had people look at you like you bought the last remaining rolls of toilet paper in the store?

Of course, there are people who deliberately give away the endings of movies just to be a dick, and they’re hated almost as much as racists. And they probably get punched in the face more frequently, even though the racists deserve it more. Seriously, I think the only way Donald Trump’s supporters would ever turn against him is if he finished every press conference and Nuremberg-style rally with “And by the way, the head in the box was Brad Pitt’s wife. Such a great movie.” So the people who decided to call the series Mary Kills People are not very astute, in my books. Unless…maybe the series isn’t really about a female doctor who kills people. Maybe it’s just a ploy to get people who’ve exhausted all other options to watch it, and then those people will be like, “OMG, it was SO good! I can’t tell you what happens, but it’s not what you expect…Oh god, I wish I could tell you! Are you sure you’re never going to watch it?!” And maybe the body in the lake in Cardinal was put there by a female doctor named Mary. Don’t tell me. Don’t spoil it.

In other news, my puppy’s a ho.

Oh, he’s as sweet as pie most of the time, but he has two teddy bears. One is name Blue-beary, the other is named Thurston, and he is regularly having relations with both of them. Indiscriminately. It’s simultaneously hilarious and horrifying. We play a PG version of a certain game that we like to call Marry, Make Merry, or Murder. He decided he wanted to marry me (he demonstrated this by licking my face, rolling over on his back and waving his paws at me), make merry with Blue-beary, which he did with incredible gusto for such a tiny thing, and murder poor Thurston by attempting to rip his furry face off. And then he made merry with Thurston right after, and murdered Blue-beary. But he still wants to marry me, which I suppose will wear off when I tell him that not only am I his Ma, we’re not even the same species. Spoiler alert.

Creative Wednesdays – The Singular Discrepancy Between Poet And Object

Neuro Logical Magazine is a new on-line poetry journal. They had tweeted out “if you have a poem you don’t think fits anywhere, send it to us. I’d been working on this piece for a little while and thought, “I have no idea where it fits” so I sent it to them and they very graciously gave it a home. You can read “The Singular Discrepancy Between Poet And Object here.

If you have a poem that you really like and you don’t know where it “fits”, I highly recommend sending it to them. You can find them on Twitter as well @LogicNeuro. And here is a random puppy picture for you, just because.

And They Call It Puppy Love

Last week, I was getting dinner ready and feeling very lonely. Meal prep was the one absolutely certain time that Titus would hang out with me, lying by my feet and waiting for me to “drop” a few pieces of whatever I was chopping on the floor. He was very patient about it, and would instinctively move his head out of the way whenever I needed to open the cupboard with the bowls, and we would practice our Harry Potter spell commands while I was working. So on an impulse, I posted in the local Facebook group: “Looking for a dog to borrow while I’m getting dinner ready. Must like bacon and cheese.” It got a few laughs, but then I got a message from a kind friend who knew someone nearby with a litter of puppies. She sent this picture:

Guess which one I immediately wanted? It was obvious that he was a talker, and even more obvious that he was yelling, “Ma! Come get me!” (He admitted later that he was actually belting out that first vocal in Sabotage by the Beastie Boys because the other puppies were “being boring”, which made me love him even more. We arranged to go out the next night to the family’s farm to meet the puppies and choose from the available ones. When we arrived, one little guy came running right to me, and it was him! He hadn’t been taken yet so I decided on the spot that he would belong to us, and also that his name would be Alistair so that he could be my puppy butler. Fortunately for everyone, that name, and the concept of a puppy butler, were both immediately vetoed. We had a week to decide on another name though, because all the puppies were being rehomed after their first vet check and shots this past Thursday. So the hunt for a name began. I was determined that his name should be something like Titus, so we tried out several different options:

Me: I like Fergus.
Kate: No.
Ken: What about Rufus?
Me: Then we’d call him Roofie for short. I don’t want to be out in the yard yelling Roofie, Roofie!  What about Lazarus?
Ken/Kate: Ew, not for a dog.
Me: I like Sirius, but then people would call him Siri and expect him to provide weather reports and whatnot. Like “Siri, play the Beastie Boys.”
Ken: You want words that end in ‘us’? Fungus, mucous, an—
Me: Stop. What about Atlas? He’s going to be pretty big and strong, and also, he’ll help us find a new direction. It’s literal AND figurative.
All: That’s a great name.

So it stuck. It was a very long week, waiting until Friday to pick him up. In the meantime, on Wednesday night, Ken and I were watching TV when the emergency alert on our phones went off, scaring the sh*t out of us. Apparently, there was a tornado bearing down on our town and we were instructed by the Weather Network to take shelter immediately, which meant that Ken immediately went out on the front porch to “watch the sky”. We have a tornado safety plan, despite the fact that tornadoes are few and far between in our area, because I’m the Queen of Worst Case Scenarios, so why WOULDN’T I have a tornado plan? But in the five minutes between the alert and it subsequently being cancelled, my thoughts weren’t about OUR safety:

Me: OMG, do you think the puppies are OK? Should I call the farm?! Do you think they have a tornado plan?!
Ken: It’s fine. The storm is to the west of us.
Me: I DON’T KNOW WHERE THAT IS, KEN.

Ken is nothing if not helpful, so on Thursday after work, he called me out to the courtyard where he’s building the new gazebo, which will never be finished, because he’s now decided to put a belvedere on top of the roof. “Look up there,” he pointed, and on top of the belvedere he had placed a small gyre with an arrow. “I fixed it in place so the arrow points North,” he said. “Now you’ll always know which way you’re facing.” And because it was such a sweet gesture, I DIDN’T tell him it only works if I’m IN the backyard when there’s a tornado approaching.

At any rate, Friday finally came and we headed out to pick up Atlas. A lot of the puppies had already been taken home by their new families and there were only a few left. As soon as we got out of the car, one of them came bounding over to me—it was Atlas. It was as though he already knew us and couldn’t wait to go home.

 

And now he’s home. I don’t know if you’ve ever had an 8-week-old puppy—we haven’t had one in years—and I’d forgotten how high maintenance they are for such tiny creatures. He had a great first night, only waking up a couple of times to be taken outside, but I was so worried about him falling off the bed that I could barely sleep. And yes, he’s sleeping on the bed with us, and I don’t want to hear about it. He’s very good-natured, but he gets bored very easily. Luckily, we have a LOT of toys that he mostly likes to chew on because he’s going through that phase where he wants everything in his mouth. Here are some of the games we’ve invented for his and our amusement:

Teddy Attack: This involves one of us bonking him lightly with a large stuffed bear while the other one squeals “Ooh, ooh!!” He enjoys this immensely and the game usually ends with him trying to eat the bear’s face.

Finger-licking Good: This is a game HE invented. It involves him trying to eat my fingers. Apparently, they’re “delicious”.

Pinball Wizard: Ken takes a rubber ball and bounces it off walls and cupboards in the kitchen while Atlas chases it and attempts to pounce on it without falling over sideways. My job is to rescue the ball if it gets stuck under the cupboard, and to upright Atlas if he can’t get up.

The best thing though is that after about ten minutes of vigorous play, he falls asleep for at least half an hour, which is what he’s doing right now by my feet as I write this. It’s a month today since Titus passed away and while Atlas will never replace him, he’s already found his own place in our hearts.

Farewell To The Best Boy Ever

2 weeks ago Sunday, just after I’d hit the ‘publish’ button on that week’s post, Ken yelled to me from our family room that Titus had collapsed. We’d called the vet the previous week because he’d started having some weakness in his back legs, which we assumed was a touch of arthritis. The vet prescribed some anti-inflammatories and he seemed to perk up, and for the next few days, he’d seemed fine–just a slightly senior dog with a touch of the rheumatism. Then…Sunday happened. We rushed him to the emergency vet, who diagnosed him with a very large inoperable abdominal tumour that had just ruptured. She pumped him full of IV fluids and let us take him home, knowing that his time with us would be short. We wanted Kate to be able to see Titus one last time, and we were fully expecting that the vet would come to the house later that day, or Monday at the latest to help him pass. But he rallied, and for another week and a half, he seemed almost back to his regular self. Then, this past Wednesday morning, he stopped eating and couldn’t get up again, so we did what no one ever wants to do. We called the vet (a lovely young woman named Dr. Alison), and she came out to the house late Wednesday afternoon. It all happened outside on the front porch with everyone wearing masks, but at least we were able to go through it at home, with Titus on a cozy blanket in the sunshine. While she got everything ready, Titus nibbled on his favourite pepperoni, and was told he was a very good boy, the very best boy in fact, by all of us more times than I can count. He passed quickly and peacefully in the arms of the people who loved him best. You all know him from this blog—in fact, if you search ‘Titus’, he comes up in 99 posts—and you know how much he meant to us. He was a dog to whom every day was the best day ever, who loved everyone, loved to eat, loved his toys, and was the best canine conversationalist I’ve ever met. In honour of the best boy ever, here are a few of my favourite Titus moments.

Titus and the Magic Box

Titus: Oh my God! You’re making cookies, aren’t you?!
Me: Sigh. Yes. Like I do EVERY Sunday.
Titus: This is the best day ever! I’m just going to lie here, OK?
Me: So long as you don’t drool on my feet like last time.
Titus: I’m not promising anything.

Half an hour later:

Me: What are you doing?
Titus: Waiting for the cookies to come out of the magic box.

Me: You mean the oven?
Titus: Call it what you want. Technically, it’s the “medium-sized” magic box. The “large magic box” is where you keep all the delicious luncheon meats and cheeses.
Me: None of this is actually magic. It’s all based on science.
Titus: Well, how does “the oven” work then?
Me: Well…you push this button, and it gets hot. Then you put uncooked food in it, and it cooks the food for you…
Titus (whispers): Magic.

Titus and I Talk About The Movies

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

A dog of discerning taste.

The Titus Challenge

Titus: I hear you’ve stopped eating pork. You realize that means bacon too, right?
Me: Sigh. I know. It’s breaking my heart, but I saw a video recently of a pig solving a puzzle. Pigs are smarter than dogs, you know. I wouldn’t eat a dog, so how can I eat a pig?
Titus: Pigs are NOT smarter than dogs. For example, when was the last time you saw a pig who responded to commands based on Harry Potter spells?
Me: I’m sure there are pigs out there who could do that. Besides, you have a pretty sloppy Leviosa, so let’s not get carried away.
Titus: It’s Levi-OH-sa, not Levio-SA.
Me: Look at this video. She’s trained that pig to do 17 different tricks.
Titus: Damn. He gives a great high-five.
Me: I know, right?
Titus: But does the Avada Kedavera spell render him seemingly dead?
Me: Dead? Like for a fraction of a second before you jump back up and try to snatch the Corn Pop out of my hand?
Titus: Dead, jumping in the air, whatever. No bacon? Now that’s harsh. OK, find me a pig that can do Leviosa better than me, and I might consider it.
Me: Challenge accepted. Accio the wine bottle, will you?
Titus: Is it 5 o’clock somewhere ALREADY?!
Me: I dunno—I’m not wearing a watch.

Black and White Challenge Week 2

Titus Gets Punchy

Alarm goes off.

Me (*stretching*): ERGH. Time to get up.
Titus: NO.
Me: Oh my god, you just punched me in the eye!!
Titus: It was an accident–I was trying to high-five you. Where are you going? Stay in bed.
Me: No! I have to see if my eye is OK!
Titus: You’re fine. Stop being a baby. Besides, eye patches are all the rage this season.
Me: I don’t want an eyepatch! OWW. If you scratched my cornea with your slappy paw…
Titus (whispers): I just wanted you to stay home with me. I’m sorry.
Me: Sigh. I love you, buddy.
Titus: You’ll look awesome with an eyepatch. Like an angry pirate.
Me: ARRRR.
Titus: I love you too.

A Beautiful Day In The Neighbourhood

One of the benefits of my current work situation, mentally and physically, is that I’ve set up my home office (which is separate from my writing office) in an alcove in our living room. It’s surrounded on three sides by very tall windows, which gives me a wonderful view of the shenanigans in my yard. There are blue jays, cardinals, and goldfinches among numerous other avian species, but they’re the most noticeable due to their bright colours. Then there are the rabbits, which worry me, because there’s this one really aggressive bunny who likes to chase the others to the point of exhaustion, often causing me to rap on the window and yell, “Give it a rest, ya hoppy f*cker!” I usually remember to mute my microphone when I do that. The other day, I muted my mike to tell Ken something, then I forgot to turn it back on, and I got really upset for a minute when I was trying to contribute to a conversation but people kept talking over me and interrupting to the point that I was like, “What the HELL??!!” I finally realized I was muted and hope that no one could actually see me moving my lips and getting more and more agitated, like an angry mime. There are also squirrels, which scamper around delightfully, and I have a favourite that I’ve named Moo, because he’s black and white like a Holstein cow. I promised Evil Squirrel’s Nest a while ago that I would try to get a picture of him, and I finally did. It’s blurry but you can tell he has white patches:

Anyway, there’s the activity in the yard, and then we move out onto the street, where I’ve grown accustomed to the comings and goings of several dog walkers, and can pretty well figure out what time it is based on which canine is passing my gate. If it’s German Shepherd o’clock, that means lunchtime, and at That Terrier, it’s time to call it quits for the day. The most interesting part of my view, however, has got to be the neighbourhood—more specifically the new neighbours, they of the mysteriously disappearing giant plastic wolf, which I have come to suspect may be residing in the middle of a pentagram in their basement.

Now, I’ve met them, and they’re very young and seem very nice, but appearances can be deceiving. For example, their yard is 30 feet by 50 feet, yet they have a riding lawn mower and have mowed their lawn TWICE in the last week. It takes approximately 7 minutes for this to happen, yet happen it has, not once but twice. In Ontario. In April. Are they trying to make the rest of us, with our province-wide pledge to wait until the Victoria Day weekend to do any yard work, look bad? Or is it part of some strange ritual to appease the wolf? (And this is no dig at you, Tom–I just read your post and I know how much you’ve mowed your lawn in the last week, but it’s a hell of a lot warmer where you are. Our grass is NOT growing!)

Second, there are two of them, yet they have THREE vehicles, and despite the fact that they have a garage, all three are parked outside, two in their own driveway, and one in the church laneway next door. What is it about people who use their garages as an extra room in their house instead of for their cars? This is something I will never understand. I’ve been in so many garages that are literally full of tools, furniture, garbage cans, and assorted junk, while the car is in the driveway covered in ice. If I had a garage, there’s no question that it would be my car’s house, because I HATE scraping off the windshield every morning. (Detour up ahead: Speaking of things I don’t understand, here’s another one—while we should all have little houses for our cars, why do some people have little houses for their DOGS? What exactly is the point of having a dog and keeping it in a tiny house OUTSIDE OF YOUR HOUSE? How are you supposed to have a conversation with him when he’s IN THE BACKYARD ALL THE TIME?!

Me: I just ran that whole category on Jeopardy!
Titus: Yeah, I was here. You don’t always have to answer in the form of a question, you know.
Me: I’m not a MONSTER, thank you.
Titus: Hush! Final Jeopardy category is…Classic Cinema!
Both: OOOH!

See what you’re missing out on when your dog lives outside? Now back to the main road).

But the most recent development is the most disturbing. More disturbing than the wolf?, I hear you ask. No, but disturbing all the same. On Wednesday, I saw the young woman in their breezeway, and she was holding a cat. An orange tabby, in fact. Now, that in itself might not be unusual, but it was the WAY she was holding the cat that concerned me:

Me: The neighbours have a cat.
Ken: Oh.
Me: She was in the breezeway, holding it the way you hold a rifle, and she was pointing it at things.
Ken: Maybe it’s a laser cat.
Me: Exactly what I was thinking! Then she put it in their picture window and now it’s just sitting there staring at our yard.
Ken: The squirrels better be careful. Pew Pew!

(If you are unfamiliar with laser cats, click here to see the original documentary.)

So in honour of the neighbour’s laser cat, I wrote a song:

Laser cats! Scourge of the universe!
Laser cats! They don’t like squirrels!
Laser cats! They’re unpredictable!
Laser cats! Sometimes they purr!

This song is meant to be sung loudly and in a very staccato manner, which I have begun to do quite regularly. And because I can’t get a picture of the neighbour’s laser cat without arousing suspicion, I found this picture of my aunt’s cat Rupert (who is NOT a scourge—in fact he’s one of the sweetest cats I know), and I added lasers using my Windows Paint program, because I don’t know how to use Photoshop. The resemblance to the neighbour’s cat is, however, remarkable. Pew Pew!

(By the way, thanks to the support of all my family and friends, virtual or otherwise, my flash fiction story “Resurrection” is Publication of the Month at Spillwords. You guys are the best!)

Voyage of Discovery

Well, it’s been another exciting week here in the house. Last week, I spoke of being like Magellan, and once again, I’ve been on a voyage of discovery:

1) I discover a solution

After 15 years of having a small sitting room, which is a misnomer in that it only seats three, and which is completely useless since anyone who visits us always comes in pairs, I looked around it on Tuesday and said to Ken, “You know, if we turn the loveseat so it’s perpendicular to the fireplace instead of facing it, sell that big-ass armchair no one ever sits in, buy a smaller chair, and move that wing chair over here, we could seat 4 people in this room.” Ken turned to me with the long-suffering look of a man who has suffered too long from impromptu furniture rearranging schemes. “Sure,” he said, “but all the stores are closed. Oh well. Maybe in a month.”

“But wait,” I said, and his long-suffering look turned into one of resignation, the resigned look of a man who knows that his wife has been perusing the local Buy and Sell sites. “I just saw the perfect chair on Facebook Marketplace. We can sell ours and buy THAT one.”

And that’s exactly what we did. The whole scheme was accomplished using social distancing, of course, which meant that the old couple who bought our big-ass chair refused any help as they staggered down the 100-foot long walkway to the sidewalk carrying it, and loaded it into their SUV. It was snowing and I felt awful, but they waved off any offer of assistance and then e-transferred me once it was safely stowed. Then Ken and I drove to a neighbouring town where the newest member of the family room awaited us on a porch.

“It’s beautiful,” I whispered.

“It’s heavy,” Ken answered.

Nevertheless, we/Ken got it loaded up, drove it home, and it now resides in our sitting room, filling me with the kind of joy you only feel when you’ve been locked inside your house for weeks. The new (pre-owned) chair is the one on the left. I don’t know about you, but I have no issue buying furniture second-hand—in fact, we got the loveseat in the picture from the Habitat For Humanity Restore Store for 80 bucks, and Ken and I made the coffee table out of an old pallet we found. 

2) I discover an impossible task

When I was a child, I suffered from a nasty skin condition called dyshidrosis that only affected my hands. The causes of dyshidrosis are still not-well-known today, but for some reason, 50 years ago, dermatologists thought that the oil in orange peel was one of the triggers and as a result, I wasn’t allowed to touch oranges. I’ve talked about my obsession with orange things before, but the one thing I never mentioned was my undying adoration for canned mandarin oranges, you know, the ones that come in the syrup. I long ago realized that orange peel wasn’t really a problem, so usually at work, I have a bag of mandarins in my office so I can have one with lunch every day and avoid scurvy. But then I was at the grocery store a couple of weeks ago and I realized that you can still get the canned ones, only they aren’t in cans anymore—they’re in these plastic cups with peel-off lids. I was super-excited, and at lunch the next day, I took one out of the cupboard and started to peel off the lid, which resulted in mandarin orange syrup squirting out all over me. “I’ll have to be more careful tomorrow,” I thought to myself, undaunted.

Tomorrow came, and again, despite my care, the syrup shot out. I’d learned my lesson and had it pointed away from me, so it ended up all over the floor, much to the delight of Titus.

Me: What the f*ck?!
Ken: You’re squeezing it. Don’t squeeze the cup when you peel off the lid.
Titus: You should totally squeeze the cup when you peel off the lid. This is yummy.
Me: I’m not squeezing it! And stop licking the floor!

The last part was for Titus, not Ken, just in case you’re worried that the furniture rearranging had finally sent him over the edge. Anyway, it doesn’t matter. There is no possible way to open a Del Monte Mandarin Orange Cup without having the f*cking juice jet out of it. But it’s still delicious.

3) I discover something new to worry about…

…because I don’t have enough things to worry about already. Anyway, I’ve been spending a LOT of time in online virtual meetings, on-camera most of the day, which is fine because I only have to look fancy from the waist up. From the waist down (no, I’m NOT naked!) I’m wearing pajama pants, fuzzy socks, and slippers. So I’m like a modern-day mullet: business up top and Netflix down below. Time has currently become a noun for both Ken and me:

Me: I’ve got a 9 o’clock.
Ken: Me too. Then I have a 1 o’clock.
Me: I’ve got an 11 o’clock, and then maybe a 2.

But on Wednesday, my 3 o’clock was cancelled, which gave me a chance to grab a snack. I had my phone in my pocket and I was on the way to the kitchen when the doorbell and the phone simultaneously rang. My reaction to this sudden ominous turn of events was to yell, “What the absolute f*ck is going on here?!?!!” as I went to answer the door at the same time as I put the phone to my ear. There was a man backing away from the door who called out, “It’s just your Staples order” as I heard people talking and laughing through the phone. I smiled and waved at the man, then took the phone away from my ear and realized to my horror that I was on a VIDEO CALL and that instead of seeing my face, everyone had a great close-up shot of the INSIDE OF MY EAR. And now, on top of everything else, I have to worry about whether or not the insides of my ears are clean, which I would hope they ARE, but how the hell would I know?! So in consolation, I opened my snack, wiped the mandarin juice off my pajama pants, and sat in my new chair.

As a postscript, I’m happy to tell you that my publisher has finally made both my novels available as Kobo e-books, which is great news because for the last two weeks, The Dome has been showing as “Currently Unavailable” on Amazon.ca and has disappeared completely from Amazon.com since somehow the title has been changed to “Dome” and the search link is broken. The word count for both Kobo e-books is completely wrong and less than half the actual words I wrote, unless a) Canadian words convert differently to American, like kilometres and miles or b) over half the words are actually missing, which will make it a real treat for readers to try and follow the plot. Here are the links in case anyone is interested:

The Dome: https://www.kobo.com/ca/en/ebook/the-dome-11
Smile: https://www.kobo.com/ca/en/ebook/smile-57

Wigging Out

Last week, I mentioned that Ken had worn one of my wigs to a meeting and that I was planning to wear one during a virtual meeting to which my friend Elaine from Elaine’s Blog asked to see me in it. I did indeed wear it for “Wig Wednesday” where I encouraged my team to wear wigs for our daily check-in (some of them did—it wasn’t just me, you know). Here’s how I hoped I looked:

Here’s how I really looked (difficult to be cute when all your best reading glasses are back at the office):

But I’ve always loved wigs. I grew up in an era where it wasn’t unusual for women to wear them frequently, and every department store had a wig department, with all kinds of exotic looks that a young girl could fantasize about. My mother had at least two wigs that I remember, and my brother and I used to put them on, jump on the beds and pretend we were rock stars. And by “rock star” I mean Donny and Marie Osmond, who were very popular at the time. Being the eldest, I always insisted on being Donny, relegating my 5 year-old brother to the role of Marie. But he had a great singing voice, and it was a hell of a lot higher-pitched than mine. My brother has a very nice baritone now, but I still sound like a bagpipe-playing duck caught in a trap. We were too young to listen to actual rock, of course, whose musicians all looked like they WERE wearing really bad wigs. I remember going with our mother to visit one of her friends who had an older son. He took us to his bedroom and showed us a KISS album. “This is the best band ever,” he informed us solemnly.
“They look like girls,” we giggled.
“You’re a fag if you don’t like KISS,” he told my brother. We didn’t know what that exactly meant, but it sounded like he was being insulting so I defended my brother the way only an eight year-old can. “No, he’s NOT,” I said, and we left him alone with his precious “men wearing wigs and make-up”. And I’m glad I live in an era now, where your sexual orientation is no longer the fallback for musical criticism. Or at least it shouldn’t be.

Back to wigs. In retrospect, I’ve had a lot of wigs. When I was a teenager, I had a long ponytail hairpiece that I wore on fancy occasions. As an adult, I’ve had more than one hairpiece that made my hair, which is thin and fine, look like it had a substantial bun at the back (not unlike the hairpieces that hipster guys used to give themselves the dreaded “man bun”). Then, I branched out into “musical theatre”, which is to say that I began to take part in the Christmas assembly at the school where I used to work. Every year, the staff there lip-synched the songs of contemporary or well-known music stars. The first year I did this, I played the role of—guess who?! The lead singer from KISS. Full face make-up and a curly, long black wig, complete with a black leather costume and platform boots. It was an exhilarating experience, and now I know why KISS did it for so many years. Then we were sent home due to a terrible snow storm. I got my car stuck in a snow drift a block away from my house and flagged down a pick-up truck to help push me out. When the guy got out of his truck, he stopped and stared at me kind of fearfully, at which point I realized that I’d taken off the wig, but was still in full KISS make-up. “I was in a play,” I tried to explain, but I think I would have been more believable if I’d been wearing the wig.

Over the years, I’ve donned a long brunette wig to play Lorde, the blonde wig seen above to sing along to Taylor Swift, and “gotten my wig on” for Hallowe’en on several occasions. But I’ve never actually bought a full wig just to wear. Until a couple of years ago, that is. I’d gone out for dinner with a friend, and we may or may not have indulged in the $5 drink special more than once. On the way back, we went into the underground shopping mall near my building to get some wine. Then we passed the Wig Store. We were window shopping and talking about how much fun it would be to try on a couple, when the owner came out. “Come into my shop! I have something that would really suit you,” she enticed us. Well, being as tipsy as I was, I wasn’t hard to convince. The next thing we knew, she was pulling hair off plastic lady heads, whipping out hair nets, and getting us to try on all kinds of things. When she popped the “Cleopatra” over top of my own short hair, I was sold. Of course, “Cleopatra” is a bit of a misnomer, unless the Queen of Egypt had blonde highlights, but I knew I had to buy that wig. And I did. “What are you going to do with it?” my friend asked. “I’m going to wear it home on the train on Friday and surprise Ken!” I said, which seemed like a great plan at the time.

On Friday, at the end of the day, I was starting to get a little nervous about my plan. Would it be obvious? Would people think I was weird? I took Cleo into the bathroom and maneuvered it onto my head. It was a little harder to adjust than when the wig shop owner had done it, but I finally got it looking symmetrical. When I came out to get my bags, a few co-workers were still there. “Wow!” said one, “It looks so real!” “Your husband is going to LOVE it!” said another. This made me feel a little better and not quite so self-conscious. On the train, when the drink cart came around, the female conductor did a bit of a double-take, mostly because I order from her every week. “I’m wearing a wig today,” I whispered. “That’s OK,” she said, like I was asking her permission, but she did assure me that it looked very natural. So I tipped her, which I don’t normally do, because technically she’s not a waitress, and because the train is such a big rip-off in the first place. 

When we finally got to the train station, I saw Ken through the window. I couldn’t wait to see the look on his face. And sure enough, when he saw me, he looked away, then back in confusion, then surprise. And then he frowned.

Me: Do you like my new look?
Ken: What are you doing?
Me: I wanted to surprise you.
Ken: Oh…
Me: What do you think?
Ken: Yeah, I don’t like it.
Me: You get that it’s a wig, right?
Ken: I like your hair short, though.
Me: It comes OFF. It’s a WIG. My normal human hair is still underneath.
Ken: Oh. It makes you look really different. I don’t like the bangs…
Me: Never mind.

I understand Ken’s reaction because he does the same thing when we’re out shopping. If I see something cool and ask him if he likes it too, he always says “No”, even if he does like it, because he’s worried that if he agrees with me, I’ll buy it. It’s taken 30 years to get him to understand that I just like to window shop. So I think he was concerned that if he said he liked the wig, I’d never take it off. We’d be like 90, and in a retirement home, I’d still be wearing “Cleopatra”, and all the old guys would want to “play Bingo” with me because I had the best hair. At any rate, I kept it on until we got to the store where K worked. Her reaction was a little more favourable—she laughed pleasantly, hugged me and said it “looked good”. And then we got home, where Titus met me at the door.

Titus: You’re home! This is the best day ever!
Me: Do you notice anything different?
Titus: Is that Swiss Chalet chicken?! Can this day GET any better?!
Me: So nothing?
Titus: Your hair grew. Give me some french fries!

Looking For A Jay-Oh-Bee

The other morning I was driving to the train station and listening to the radio for the road report because here in Canada, we’ve moved from last week’s warm weather, known fondly as “fool’s spring” to this week’s “second winter” which would account for all the snow we’ve gotten over the last few days.

Morning radio is a lot of boring talk, interspersed with a little music, and a LOT of commercials. And it’s a strange mix of ads for lawyers, bankruptcy trustees, tax accountants and something called ‘Sell-Off Vacations.com’ and I can’t help but wonder if the target audience is mobsters:

Big Jimmy: The fuzz are closing in. What are we gonna do?
Mack the Spatula: I’ve been listening to the radio and I have an idea…

Anyway, I was driving and switching back and forth between stations (I have a cool thingy on my steering wheel that lets me do that with my thumb) trying desperately to find some actual music, when I heard a commercial for a recruitment agency. They detailed the advantages of signing up with them, and then said, “Start a new career now at Zip Recruiter.com/Canada. That’s Zip Recruiter dot com slash See-Eh-En-Eh-Dee-Eh” and I was like WHAT?! Of all the things in that web address to be more specific about, you chose to spell out the name of the country we LIVE IN? So you assume that the person can spell ‘Recruiter’ but not the most phonetically obvious country in the world? I mean, it’s not like we live in Kyrgyzstan or Azerbaijan or even Britain (which sounds like it should be spelled ‘Brit-in’). In fact, I think the only country that would be even easier to spell than Canada would be Finland. And let’s not even get started on that slash, like WHICH SLASH? The forward slash or the backwards one, because personally, I would want more information on THAT and especially where to find it on my keyboard since one of them is under the question mark, and the other can be literally ANYWHERE. And frankly, if you can’t spell the name of the very country that you live in, I think you have bigger problems than not being able to find a new job.

I had mostly put it out of my mind, except to randomly shake my head every once in a while, until yesterday, when it occurred to me that I might indeed need their services. I was working from home, and I got up early to start working on a report for a 10 o’clock phone meeting, and let me just emphasize PHONE here, as in, the people you are meeting with can only hear your voice. I called in at the appropriate time and told my director that I’d been working on a doc that I could email for her to look at. “Oh!” she exclaimed. “I just figured out how we could all look at it together in Teams—let me send you the link. When you get it, just click on it” and when I clicked on the link the screen opened and there I was, ON CAMERA, in my housecoat, not wearing any makeup, my hair standing up all over the place, because I WAS WORKING FROM HOME so why the hell would I be all fancy?!! So I kind of screeched and ducked and said, “I didn’t know this was a video link” and I heard laughing and someone gasp, “Oh my god” and then my director said, “Click on the video camera icon and it will turn the camera off” but I couldn’t find the icon at first so I had my thumb over the camera lens on my laptop until I was able to locate it, which I finally did while everyone else waited in silence, and now I think I need a new job.

And because I DO know how to spell Canada, I figured I had a leg up on all the other applicants so I headed over to Zip Recruiter to see what they had for me. The first thing that caught my eye was Private Investigator. I think I’d be great at that because I read a lot of Nancy Drew as a young girl and my shoes always match my handbag. Also, I’m really good at solving mysteries and I have the reflexes of a middle-aged ninja.

Me (leaping out awkwardly from behind a door): Aha!! It was YOU who ate the cake that was on the counter!!
Titus (nervously licking icing off his whiskers): You’ll never be able to prove it!
Me: Prove it? Ha! I saw you do it with my own eyes!
Titus (confused): Then why didn’t you stop me?
Me: (whispers): Because you looked so cute and happy…plus I filmed the whole thing with my phone so I could post it on Facebook.

Is there cake?

OK, maybe I wouldn’t make the best detective, which was a shame because it came with full benefits. Another job that piqued my interest was Video Game Developer. I don’t know what kind of technical skills you need for that, but I have lots of ideas that I could give to someone to make a game with. My current favourite is The Commuter. In this game, you have to get from the train station to the subway in under five minutes, while avoiding the following obstacles:

  • The university student who stops at the bottom of the escalator to post a selfie on Instagram.
  • The two elderly woman who are drifting back and forth erratically while discussing their cats.
  • The line-up at Pastry Hut that stretches across the concourse.
  • The group of teens playing hacky sack right in front of the doors.
  • The man who can’t find his subway pass and is blocking the turnstile.
  • The people who apparently don’t work and who can see the subway coming but are in NO HURRY TO GET DOWN THE GODDAMNED STAIRS.

It’s a very stressful game actually, and I don’t know how much fun playing it would really be. I do it every day and I don’t enjoy it at all if I’m being honest. So maybe my video game ideas aren’t the best. I was getting a little discouraged in my job hunt so instead I just put the word “Fun” in the Zip Recruiter search bar and waited excitedly to see what came up. The first job on the list was “On-line Math Coach”. And now all I can think is that a) Zip Recruiter is the most f*cked up job agency on the Pee-El-Eh-En-Ee-Tee and b) from now on, I will get completely gussied up when I’m working from home, just in case.