It’s been a weird week—or at least weirder than normal. On the upside, I discovered that my last novel The Seventh Devil was part of a list of best spooky reads that appeared in October on a well-known book review website, and I didn’t even know about it, so that was cool. And my publisher likes the sample chapters I sent him for the sequel, The Devil You Know, so I have incentive to keep writing. On the other hand though, I’ve been plagued by intensely specific dreams about my new antique business, particularly one in which I was at Staples trying to buy supplies to frame pictures of old book pages from Alice In Wonderland with black silhouettes of rabbits superimposed on them. At one point, the salesperson and Ken began having a conversation about them working together on a different project while I used the photocopier and compared prices on fancy price tags. It’s exhausting—I mean, if I have to work all night as well as all day, what the hell is the point of being retired? And speaking of working, I had a disturbing incident in which a feverish coworker who’s a rabid anti-vaxxer/anti-masker came right up in my face on Monday to tell me that he was sick and needed to sign out. Apparently he’s been sick for days with all the symptoms of COVID, but he refused to get tested because he doesn’t believe that COVID is real. Needless to say, I was a little upset. Luckily, I was double masked and triple vaccinated. My best friend was able to get me a rapid test and thankfully, I was negative. In addition, I saw this magazine on the newsstand dated January 10th.
Did no one tell them? Was her death a secret? And while I admire the mid-December optimism, I really think they should have pulled the copies, or at least changed the cover once the lovely Betty White had passed away on December 31. But I did manage to find some amusement this week, especially after seeing the following ad for a set of axes:
So now I have a mydangblog Tool Quiz for you, in the same vein as the ad for Three Wood Choppers:
a) Dirt Tosser
b) Hitty Thing
e) Stabby Bastard
f) You’ll Shoot Your Eye Out
g) Reverse Autumnal Vacuum
h) No. Just No.
i) How Did I Cut The Cord On This Thing WITH This Thing AGAIN?! Goddammit.
j) The One With The Square End
Bonus: Biggest F*cking Tool In The World
Here are the answer choices. Try to match them and see how well you do!
1) Exacto Knife
2) Robertson Screwdriver
4) Hedge Trimmer
5) Staple Gun/Nail Gun/Red Ryder BB Gun
7) Table Saw That Ken Removed The Safety Guard From
10) Leaf Blower
Bonus: The Guy Who Breathed His COVID Germs In My Face
I haven’t been motivated to do much this week, because I’m still struggling with the same health issue as last week; in fact, I was at the hospital again on Friday, I’m exhausted, and I still haven’t seen the object of my disaffection. The only bright spot in the whole ordeal happened after I had seen the doctor. I was getting dressed and overheard this conversation with another patient. Apparently, half the population is having kidney issues as well, judging by this, and the two other women in the waiting room who were also there with suspected kidney stones:
Doctor: So what brings you in today? Patient: A few days ago, I peed in a snowbank and the pee looked really dark. Doctor: And… Patient: I got worried so yesterday I peed in the snowbank again. This time it was red. Doctor (completed unfazed): What shade of red? Dark red, bright red…? Patient: Pretty dark. At least it looked pretty dark against the white snow. Doctor: OK, I think we’ll need a sample.
I just hope the guy wasn’t freaked out by having to go in a cup instead of on his favourite snowbank. Aside from that, the only thing that really made me happy this week was my new clock. ANOTHER CLOCK? Yes, another clock and mind your own damn business, KEN. But this is a really nice clock and I couldn’t help myself, even though the circumstances of my acquisition were bizarre. I was at the side door just about to go in to work the other day, when a guy pulled up and started to unload a van. I didn’t know who the dude was, and I didn’t really care because my attention was IMMEDIATELY focused on the gorgeous clock on the top of the bin he had put on the ground:
Me: I like your clock. Dude: It’s for sale. Me: How much? Dude: Forty bucks. Me: Great! Can I buy it? Dude: If you want it, you need to take it NOW and put it in your car. GO. NOW. Before anyone sees you! RUN!! Me: How do I pay you for it? Dude (looking around wildly, for what I wasn’t sure): You can e-transfer me later—just go!!
And even though I had no idea who he was, or how I could e-transfer a paranoid stranger, I picked the very heavy, 2 foot high clock up in my arms and hightailed it across the parking lot like a middle-aged Nancy Drew. You would have thought I was buying cocaine rather than a 75-year-old timepiece, although to me, a 75-year-old timepiece is as good, if not better, than cocaine. I safely stowed the clock in the back of my car, covering it with a blanket just in case the clock detectives came by. I didn’t see the dude for the rest of the day and was wondering what to do about paying for my illicit purchase, when he suddenly appeared. He wrote something quickly on a piece of newspaper and handed it to me surreptitiously.
Me: Awesome. It was forty dollars, right? Dude (looks around to see if anyone is listening): SHHH. Don’t send the transfer until you get home, in case anyone sees you. Me: Uh…okay. Dude: By the way, the clock doesn’t work. Me: Do clocks ever really work? Time is a human construct… Dude: We can’t be seen talking!
But then I looked at the piece of paper and I couldn’t read his writing. I wasn’t sure what to do, but right before the end of the day, he appeared again:
Me: I’m having trouble reading your handwriting. So is your last name– Dude: SHHHH!! Come this way with me. Is anyone watching? Me: No…? Dude: Pretend you’re walking with me to the back to open the door. Me: Am I opening the door for you? Dude: That’s what we’ll tell people if they see us.
So I went with him to the back and he whisper-spelled the email address to me, then disappeared out the door. I never saw him again.
That night, while Ken watched TV, I lay in bed next to him staring at my new clock, which I’d placed on a table in our bedroom alcove, along with some of my other favourite things: a small Persian mat, a Paris painting, a lamp with a stained-glass shade, and some old poetry books.
Me: Sigh. I love you. Ken: I love you too. Me (confused because I wasn’t actually talking to Ken): Yes, right. Do you know what else I love? Ken: What? Me: That f*cking clock. But I love you, Kate, and Atlas more. Obviously. Ken (laughs): Obviously.
“You rocks, you stones, you worse than senseless things!” Shakespeare, Julius Caesar
No, not all of these stories are about marijuana, but it’s an apt title considering how recently I’ve been plagued by stones in a variety of ways. This first tale is, however, about my terrible relationship with Mary Jane…
1) When I was a teenager, I tried weed a couple of times. I didn’t particularly enjoy the experience—it made me feel overly anxious and stressed out rather than all mellow and funny like the movies of the 70s and early 80s had promised. I’d never touched the stuff since, aside from using CBD oil and THC cream on my shoulder topically, but recently my daughter got a vape pen. “Do you want to try it?” she asked one evening before we were about to watch a movie. So I did. 10 minutes later, I felt absolutely no different. “Give me another hit,” I asked, and she obliged. Suddenly, and almost immediately, everything went dark and I felt myself sinking slowly onto the kitchen floor, where I lay for several minutes while everyone tried to figure out what to do with me. I was finally able to make it upstairs where I lay on the bed giggling in a panicky kind of way, while Kate kept me company. After about half an hour, I felt stable enough to put on pajamas and go back downstairs, but I still have no idea what movie we watched. Ken can’t remember either but that’s not because he was also stoned—he’s just old and has a bad memory. As for me, I won’t be imbibing again.
2) A few weeks ago, I was on Facebook Marketplace and saw an ad for a rock tumbler, a “professional National Geographic” model. We’d had a rock tumbler years ago but it broke, and I couldn’t for the life of me remember why we hadn’t replaced it. So I bought this one. It was a great deal, having only been used once, and still had two sets of gems and grit to have fun with. Why on earth would anyone be selling such a cool machine for so little money? I thought to myself. I put the rough gems and the grit in the barrel, plugged it in, and fired it up. Then I simultaneously remembered why we had never replaced the old rock tumbler, and completely understood why a person would sell theirs after one use. If you know me at all, you know that I have misophonia—like Nature, I abhor a vacuum and anything else that makes a loud noise. And this thing functions at the same decibel level as a vacuum cleaner, which I had conveniently forgotten. We started out with it in our back TV room but it was so loud that Kate and her boyfriend put a cardboard box over it to muffle the sound slightly. That didn’t help much, tempting me to throw it out the nearest window, so I put it in our back bathroom, where it stayed for three weeks, chattering away like a small demon, until I’d finally had enough of both the racket, which I could hear in my office, and of yelling, “Who left the bathroom door open?!” I didn’t even make it to the last round of fine grit—I looked at the gems after the second-last polish and declared them good enough. Still, the gems looked nice, and on Friday I went to a local craft store and bought all kinds of things to turn them into jewelry. And because I really like smooth polished rocks, Ken promised that we could start it back up in the summer out back in his workshop.
3) And finally, the stone story that takes the proverbial cake. Almost a month ago, on a Friday night, I woke up in the night in terrible pain. I was about to ask Ken to take me to the hospital when it suddenly stopped. But for the rest of the weekend, I still felt awful. On the next Tuesday, I had an appointment with my doctor, he of the dick-ish bedside manner, about my shoulder, about which he bluntly stated he could do nothing about and to go back to the surgeon*. Then strangely, he asked, “So how is everything else going?” and I mistakenly took this as a cue that I might be allowed to discuss more than one ailment in contravention of his policy.
Me: Actually, I think I might have a kidney stone. I had this terrible pain on the weekend starting here and ending here (*demonstrates*) and I’m still having symptoms, like a UTI maybe? Doctor: Me: Doctor: So I’m retiring in about 3 months and my patients will all be moving to a practice in Kitchener…
And that was that. Until the next weekend, when I got fed up and went to the urgent care clinic where, despite the absence of any infection, they gave me antibiotics. Those were as helpful as my family doctor who, despite my unwillingness, I had to call again the next week, still suffering from a lot of pain. But my timing was excellent! My doctor was away and his locum saw me instead. She ordered a lot of tests, including an ultrasound. But while waiting for the results, last Monday morning around 3 am, I woke up again in terrible pain. And it got worse. AND THEN IT GOT EVEN WORSE. Ken rushed me to the hospital where I saw a very nice, very young, VERY laidback doctor who ordered another ultrasound which showed—surprise, surprise—a kidney stone slowly making its way towards my nether regions.
Emergency Doctor: No wonder you’ve been in so much pain. It’s about 6mm. Me: How big is that in terms someone my age who was taught the Imperial system can understand? ED: About a quarter inch. Me: A quarter inch?! How the hell is that going to come out??!! ED: Well…
So I’m on a lot of medication and had an appointment with a specialist but the saying “this too shall pass” has not yet applied. The whole thing has been very stressful—the only funny moment was when the ED, having already asked me about past surgeries, including my hysterectomy, followed up with this:
ED: When was the date of your last period? Me: ED: Me: As I mentioned, I don’t have a uterus, so I’d have to say sometime in 2015. Sorry I can’t be more specific. ED: Oh, yeah, right.
Maybe he was stoned.
At any rate, wish me luck. If things work out, maybe I can make a necklace with it.
*Ironically, I’ve been on so much pain medication that my shoulder feels perfectly fine. And that rocks.
This has been a week full of epiphanies, some good and some downright disturbing. For the last several months I’ve been suffering—and it’s no exaggeration to say ‘terribly’—from some kind of shoulder affliction. It got worse during lockdown, what with being at the computer all day long with little reprieve, to the point where I was having trouble sleeping, writing, and couldn’t even work in the garden without suffering the consequences. I’d seen my doctor, Dr. Monteith (not his real name), he of the dickish bedside manner, at the beginning of the year; with minimal examination, he pronounced it tendonitis and recommended physiotherapy. Then everything closed—physiotherapy isn’t much help virtually, which I’ve written about before, and I’ve never been good at following through on things like “stretch with this weird rubber band 5 times a day”. Next, I got a prescription for an anti-inflammatory that made me woozy and didn’t help the pain. Then the world started to open up again, and I could see my massage therapist, but that didn’t help a lot either, even though under normal circumstances she’s magical and wonderful. Finally, I called the doctor’s office at the end of my wits—in a fateful turn of events, my regular doctor was on holiday, and his replacement immediately ordered an X-ray and ultrasound. ‘Immediate’ turned into a month though—apparently there were a LOT of people waiting for appointments and I had to wait until July 31 to get it done. Three days before, I made the dreadful mistake of googling “shoulder pain and cancer” just to see if there was anything to be concerned about, and I ended up crying hysterically when I read about something called a Pancoast tumour:
Me (sobbing): That’s it. I have all the symptoms. I’m going to die.
Ken: You don’t have all the symptoms. It says here the key one is weight loss.
Me: (stops crying): Your POINT?
Ken: It’s been months—you haven’t lost any weight. Weren’t you saying just the other day that you couldn’t fit into your shorts from last sum–
Ken: Well, one of us is going to die now.
It DID make me feel a little better that I hadn’t wasted away to a shadow thanks to some rare tumour, but that still left the mystery of the incredible pain I was experiencing. I got to the clinic on the 31st and, despite the crowds, I was seen almost right away by the ultrasound technologist who was very dour:
Me: By the way, I have a latex allergy.
UT: Uh, OK.
Me: It says on the sign at reception that I’m supposed to notify you.
UT (rolls eyes): OK.
Despite her attitude, it was a real treat to have an ultrasound that I didn’t have to drink gallons of water for and then have to hold it in while someone pressed down on my bladder. When she was done, it was off to X-ray, where the technician was slightly more pleasant. Then the waiting began. It was the Friday before the long weekend, so I wouldn’t get any results until at least last Tuesday. And that meant several days of worrying. Finally, on Wednesday morning, the doctor’s office called. My regular physician was back, apparently, and had seen the results:
Nurse: Dr. Monteith says you have calcific tendonitis.
Me: OK, what does that mean?
Nurse: He says you should get shock treatments.
Me: Get what? Won’t that be painful and somewhat brain damaging?
Nurse: Hang on. Sorry, shock wave treatments. You can get it done at a physiotherapy office.
So, epiphany number 1: Calcific tendonitis, which means that I have calcium deposits grinding around in my tendons and muscles, which accounts for the pain. Shock wave therapy is supposed to break them up and help your body reabsorb them.
The second epiphany came on Thursday when Ken picked up the radiologist’s report from Dr. Monteith’s office so that I could take it to my shock wave treatment next week. It says, and I quote: “Calcific tendinopathy involving the subscapularis and supraspinatus tendons, calcification protruding through the humeral head, otherwise unremarkable.”
“UNREMARKABLE”?! Excuse me?! It was signed M. Rooney, and all I can think is it’s Mickey Rooney and this is some kind of joke. Does M. Rooney not know about my outstanding colon AND the lifetime achievement award I received for my last mammogram? I was PERSONALLY CONGRATULATED by the Chief Health Officer for both of those! Well, M. Rooney, you’ve poked the bear in the worst way possible. From this moment on, I VOW to be nothing less than completely f*cking remarkable in everything I do. And if my dentist is reading this—you better get ready for the whitest, most cavity-free remarkable teeth you’ve ever seen in your whole goddamn life.
And speaking of remarkable, my good friend Paul, he of the Notes From The Avalon blog, has just started a new blog called The Desert Curmudgeon. One of the things he likes to write about are weird Canadian TV shows, and even though he’s American, I’ve awarded him honorary Canadian citizenship. His new focus for commentary is on the short-lived 1970s Canadian sci-fi series The Starlost, and he asked me to write an intro to his first hilarious installment, which you can read here. I highly recommend him, and hope you pop over and maybe give him a follow.
You may recall that, a few week ago, I got a congratulatory letter in the mail regarding a certain colon test that I’d had. This week, I got ANOTHER letter, again giving me kudos for taking good care of my health. “Thank you,” it said, in fact, “for taking good care of your health. Your results are amazing.” OK, it didn’t actually say ‘amazing’ but it should have, because that’s how I felt when I read that my results were normal. And what test was this? This was the test that makes every woman cross her arms over her chest and sigh in painful anticipation. Yes, I had a mammogram. Now, there’s nothing to be alarmed about—this was just a routine check, unlike several years ago when I had to have one because my doctor thought I had an ‘anomaly’. THAT was scary, but I came away with a clean bill of health. I hadn’t had a mammogram since, but Linda Rabenek, the Chief Cancer Care Prevention Officer in Ontario seemed so pleased with me last month, and I didn’t want to let her down by ignoring the numerous notices that I’d been receiving in the mail. So I booked the test, along with a dental X-ray and a massage. No, they weren’t all at the same clinic, although that would have been convenient, but I had carefully mapped out the day so that I had enough travel time between each event. So I scheduled the x-ray for 2, the mammogram for 3 and the massage for 4, realizing that I was going to NEED a massage after having my B cup assets in a clamp. I won’t bore you with the X-ray, which took approximately 2 minutes and gave me plenty of time to go shopping.
Then I headed over to the medical centre and again, lucky me, they took me right away. “Just put this gown on,” said the nurse, “and come on back.” I never know if those things are supposed to tie in the front or back, so I slung the gown on and just kind of clutched it around me as I made my way to the mammogram machine (by the way, I just googled “what do you call a mammogram machine” and the answer was ‘mammogram machine’ or ‘special x-ray machine’. Also, the plastic plate you have to lay your boob on is called a ‘plate’ and the paddle that comes down and turns you into a human pancake is called the ‘paddle’ and I thought it would all be fancier than that BUT IT’S JUST NOT).
Anyway, she made me drop the gown and stand in front of the machine, then came a series of manipulations that were highly personal and I won’t discuss them at all except to say that I wished I was a little taller and maybe a man because then she was like, “OK, hold still” and the paddle came down. For the first fraction of a millisecond, it wasn’t so bad but then the paddle KEPT COMING DOWN. And I kind of screamed, and she said, “Oh, does it hurt a bit?” but I couldn’t answer because the breath had literally been sucked out of me, so I just whimpered quietly.
After a few more seconds—or was it an eternity?—of torture, the paddle released. “Good job you didn’t pass out,” she said, and she kind of laughed when she said it, and I’ve never wanted to throat punch someone so irrationally and so badly in my life. And for the men reading this who can’t fathom how a mammogram must feel, I’d like you to imagine that you’re sitting on the floor of your living room with your legs spread apart, and your pet elephant walks over and stands on your testicles, compressing them between his foot and the floor. Then your elephant laughs at you and tells you not to pass out. That’s what a mammogram is like.
(Slight tangent: the above analogy engenders more questions than it does answers, I realize that. For example, why are your legs spread apart? Why do you own an elephant? Why is an elephant’s foot simply called a foot and not something fancier, like a verhoofen or a gargantupaw? Do elephants really talk, and what’s more, do they mock people who are screaming in pain? They always seem so friendly on Facebook.)
And as if that wasn’t enough, then she did the other side, which, unbelievably, hurt even more, and I was additionally terrified, thanks to her bringing it up, that I MIGHT pass out, but if I did, I wouldn’t be able to fall to the floor because my boob was in a f*cking vice, and I would just dangle there like some kind of bizarre, Trent Reznor-esque performance art piece. Finally, and to my blessed relief, the whole ordeal was over, and I don’t have to go through that again for at least 2 more years and by then, I will have forgotten how much it hurt.
But it was all worth it in the end, because now I can advertise myself as being high quality, and I have the papers to back it up. Like say I apply for a new job or something, and they ask for special skills and qualifications, I can proudly put “Certified healthy from top to bottom by the Province of Ontario”. Or if something happens to Ken, and I start online dating, I can include “A-Plus T&A” on my Tinder profile.
Seriously though, get a mammogram when you’re supposed to. Don’t let it be the elephant in the room—that job belongs to the mammogram machine.
Also, I just found out that my flash fiction piece “Magpie” was nominated for Publication of the Year (Non-Poetic) by Spillwords Press. If you want to vote for me, you can go to this link. If you’d like to read the story, find it here !
Living life with a chronic illness is definitely not easy. But I do my best to push through all the barriers this illness puts in front of me! In my heart and mind, I believe maintaining a positive outlook on all situations in life will carry us through to much better times! I hope you find the information that I provide both helpful and inspirational!