57 Skidoo

Candlelight is the best light

So it was my birthday on Friday. I’m old enough that I don’t get particularly excited about my birthday anymore (that’s a lie–I can’t wait to open my presents and this year, Ken got me really beautiful earrings and took me on a wine tour). But I’ve reached the age where a little retrospection is required–in fact, it happens without any effort at all. So in honour of my birthday, here are some of the things I’ve discovered now that I’m 57:

57: You now have a favourite mirror because “the lighting is good”. In fact, there are three mirrors in my bathroom at home and two at work, but I only look in one of each of them because the wrong lighting makes me look like…I’m 57.

57: You worry about your teeth. You ask the dentist, “So are my teeth doing ok?” and he looks at you like you’re weird, but you have this feeling deep down that maybe they’re planning a mutiny and you have three different toothbrushes that you use based on how your teeth feel on any given day.

57: You reply, when people ask what you’d like for your birthday, “I would like for things not to hurt so much.” It would be great to be able to sleep through the night without getting up to take an Advil.

57: Your parents take you out for dinner and you drink a LOT more than them, but it’s ok.

57: You NEVER mean ‘ducking’ and autocorrect finally give up and stops trying to convince you that you meant ‘ducking’.

57: You have 27 pairs of reading glasses at a variety of different strengths and you can’t find ANY of them at any given time, and every time you ask, “Have you seen my reading glasses?”, you’re met with raucous laughter.

57: You get unreasonable angry that the barn being built on your way home STILL isn’t finished and you exclaim “When are they going to finish that f*cking barn?!” (That is a very specific example but it happened tonight so I included it.)

57: You now have a good ear and a bad ear.

57: You can stay up as late as you want. But you can’t.

57: You can sleep in as late as you want. But you can’t.

57: You’re pissed because you still don’t get the seniors’ discount.

57: You give thanks for every day that you have because, best case scenario, you have about 25 years left, 30 tops, and you’re terrified of dying and you keep calculating how much time you might have left so it’s good to make the best of it all.

57: You’re neurotic but happy. Life is generally good, the lighting is generally good, the wine is always good, and you have a wonderful family.

In other news, I finally got a couple of hard copies of the Arabic version of my second novel The Dome, and who would have thought that I’d be an internationally published author at 57. Cool.

Batter Up!

Recently, Ken has taken a part-time job at the local gas station. It’s a great gig—it’s a thirty second walk from home, he only works four hours a day, and most people pay at the pump so he’s not run off his feet. In fact, the only downside is that his shift is 5:30 to 9:30. IN THE MORNING. Now, he loves it, being an insanely early riser and all, but it’s been hard on me. You may remember that our house has been experiencing strange events, from doors being left open, to taps running, to the dog staring at the basement door and growling—and while things have gotten slightly better, which is to say that I haven’t needed to enlist the neighbours in a house search lately, I and especially the dog are both a little jumpy. The other morning, Ken left for work but forgot to close the door to the family room, which meant Atlas was free to roam the house. He decided to pay me a visit and announced himself by leaping onto the bed and staring into my face:

Me: Huh? What’s going on?
Atlas: Nothing. Just came for snuggles.
Me: Okay. Be quiet though.

Then five minutes later, he suddenly lifted his head, started to growl, and ran out of the room barking. He wouldn’t stop, and it was making me really nervous so I finally had to get out of bed and found him at the top of the stairs, hackles raised:

Me: What are you doing?
Atlas: Noise. Downstairs.
Me: Go look.
Atlas: No, you go look.
Me: YOU’RE the dog. And YOU started this. Go see!
Atlas: Hard pass.

At which point, exhausted and fed up, I went back into the bedroom and grabbed the baseball bat I keep under the bed. And why do I keep a baseball bat under the bed? For the exact same reason I keep a hammer in the drawer of the bedside table. I also have both a hammer and a baseball bat in the bathroom, and a hammer in the family room, as well as two large oars in my office. I don’t have either a hammer or a baseball bat in the kitchen because in the kitchen THERE ARE KNIVES. And all this is because I am the Queen of Worst-Case Scenarios. In fact, one year for Christmas, I bought Kate a book called “The Little Book of Worst-Case Scenarios”, and I forced her to read it so she would know what to do under different circumstances, for example:

a) Being chased by a bear (make yourself look as large as possible and scream loudly to let the bear know you could take it in a fight. Don’t run—unless you’re with someone who’s obviously slower than you).

b) Accidentally driving a car into a river (find an air pocket, wait for the car to be submerged, then open the door and swim to the surface). Kate was like “I’m seven years old–why would I ever drive a car into a river?” I DON’T KNOW, Kate. But if you plan for these things, you might SURVIVE them).

c) Playing in a bouncy castle that suddenly becomes untethered and begins to float away (which apparently happens more often than you think, prompting our local school board to ban them from school property. They also banned dunk tanks. Because of all the dunking).

And Kate has learned her lessons well, because a few weeks ago, she came home for the weekend, and after she left, I went into her room to re-make the bed (because I’m weird and like things a certain way). As I was moving the pillows to one side, I found a knife under one of them. I smiled, put it back where I found it, and said to myself proudly, “That’s my girl.”

Anyway, I have assorted weaponry in the house just on the off chance that Atlas is correct for once and there actually IS an intruder in the house.  Here’s the scenario:

We wake up in the middle of the night to strange noises coming from downstairs. Ken offers to investigate. He puts on his housecoat and goes down with the dog, who is clearly agitated but too much of a chicken to go see by himself. I wait, wracked with fear. There are shouts, commotion, then nothing. The intruder has tied up both Ken and the dog, and is taunting them as he steals our stuff, mainly clocks and paintings of Paris because he’s a robber with good taste. I quietly get the baseball bat out from under the bed and sneak downstairs. The intruder has his back to me. Ken sees me, but luckily, he’s gagged so he can’t do what he would normally do and say something like, “Why do you have a baseball bat?” At this point, I swing, connect with the intruder’s head, and down he goes. I free Ken and Atlas, put back my clocks and paintings because I’m weird and like things a certain way while Ken ties up and gags the intruder, and then we call the police. Ta dah.

But to make a long story short, I went downstairs with my baseball bat in hand, but as usual, there was no reason to sound the alarm. I came back up, slightly unnerved from the experience to find Atlas fast asleep in my spot. He’s the worst guard dog ever, but he’s very warm and snuggly.

Is It Just Me?

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, and 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 used to 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 co-worker 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 a few 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 call the neighbour to come over? 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 and managed to not be naked in front of anyone.

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.

In Memoriam: James Douglas Whytock

It’s been a tough week. Last Tuesday, Ken got a call from his mom that his dad, who’d been suffering from Alzheimer’s and had been in a nursing home for the last couple of years, had stopped eating. He’d been on a steady decline and if any of you know anything about Alzheimer’s disease, you’ll know that’s pretty much a signal that the end is near. And it was. Ken’s father, a lovely man, passed away peacefully on Thursday night at the age of 87, surrounded by people who loved him very much. And while the last two years of his life were incredibly sad, as we watched him drift further and further away from us, I’d like to take this opportunity to tell you a little bit about him.

James Whytock was a kind, hard-working man. He had to quit school and take over the family dairy farm at the age of 16 when his own father passed away very young. He and Ken’s mom built a good life for Ken and his siblings, and I know they all look back on their childhoods with fond memories. One of my first experiences with Jim was when Ken and I had begun dating and I would go with him to the family farm. In the morning, our chore was to feed the calves while Jim milked the cows, and he would razz me about being a ‘city girl’, even though I’d grown up in a town that really wasn’t much of a city, but to Jim, anything larger than the 1000-person town he called home was a metropolis.

He loved to tease people, but never in a mean-spirited way. He was quick with a one-liner and had a variety of sayings for all occasions. He was the skip of our family curling team, and I still laugh when I remember the time we were winning but the other team was gaining points—he leaned over to me, winked, and whispered, “Now the cheese is starting to bind!” It made me laugh so hard that I could barely sweep, but we won the tournament–and some bacon. Even once the dementia got hold of him, there were still glimmers of the old Jim—every once in a while, he’d crack a joke and it would let us know he was in there somewhere.

He was an incredibly creative person. When, at the age of 62, he and Ken’s mom sold the family farm and moved to town, he finally had more time to devote to all his favourite hobbies. He was a talented photographer (in fact, he was the photographer at our wedding and did an amazing job). He also worked with glass. He taught me how to do stained glass, and we shared ideas and designs. He had a glass kiln as well and made all kinds of things out of fused glass, including my favourite set of checkerboard “Alice In Wonderland” coasters.

He collected all kinds of things, notably coins and diecast tractors. Kate inherited his love of coin collecting, and when she was younger, they would discuss coins—she was always impressed by how knowledgeable he was. And not only did he collect tractors, he also customized his own collector vehicles, one of which sits proudly on a shelf in Ken’s office—a gift from his dad.

James Whytock leaves behind a family who loved him very much and who will miss him terribly, and an enduring legacy as a man who always saw the positive side of things—I don’t think I ever heard him say a bad word about anyone, and my last image of him this past Father’s Day was the smile on his face as he ate the chocolate that Ken’s mom brought him. Alzheimer’s is a horrible disease and I’m glad he’s finally at peace.

My favourite coasters
A lamp made by Jim

June/December Romance

The other day Ken was about to leave for his new job. Another job? I hear you ask. Wasn’t he spending all kinds of time in hot air balloons? What on earth is he doing now? And these are all good questions, the answers to which are a) yes, another job b) the balloon gig is only from May to October and c) he’s picking up and delivering parts, snowblowers, and lawnmowers for a local mechanic. And one of the parts pickups happened to be about 2 hours away by highway. I had to go to work myself that morning, so we agreed that I would call him when I was on the road, so we could chat while we were driving.

Me: How far away are you?
Ken: Not sure. It might be tricky. The map only showed the general area. I think I know what street to take when I get off the highway.
Me: What map?
Ken: I looked it up on one of the maps I keep in my office.
Me: You aren’t using your GPS?
Ken: No need. I had a map.

I used to tell Ken that he was like a 65-year-old man when he did things like write cheques to pay for everything because he “doesn’t trust online banking” or carried a Blackberry around for ten years even though it was virtually useless:

Me: What’s taking so long? I thought you were posting a picture.
Ken: I am. I just have to—hmmm. Or maybe…
Me: Use the image icon.
Ken: I will, after I write the post.
Me: You’re not done yet?
Ken: No, I’m trying to find Facebook.
Me: Maybe the problem is that you have a Blackberry. You know how the “interwebs” works, right? (*old man voice*) “I just can’t keep up with you kids and your newfangled gadgets and the Twitters. What ever happened to the good old days when people used typewriters?!” Oh wait, you ARE using a typewriter. Look at the keyboard on your phone.
Ken: Blackberries are great phones.
Me: Yeah, if you’re 65 years old. (*old man voice*) “I like to feel the keys go down when I press them, just like they did in the 1950s.” Also, could your screen be any smaller? No wonder you can’t find “the Facebook”.
Ken: Ha. Posted. So there. Oh wait, not yet—it’s a little laggy…I wish I had a flip phone with an antennae.

But now that Ken is less than a decade away from actually BEING 65, I have to call him a 90-year-old man, because even 65-year-olds will use a GPS when they’re going somewhere unfamiliar.

Me: But you don’t know where you’re going!
Ken: It’s fine. I memorized the map.
Me: What are you, a f*cking cartographer? (*old man voice*) “Ah yes, I studied the mysterious art of latitude and longitude at the academy.”
Ken (laughs): If it was still dark, I could navigate by the stars.
Me: I can just see you now, driving around in circles until you have to ask for directions. (*old man voice*) “Excuse me, my good sir, would you be so kind as to direct me to the horse and buggy repair shop?”
Ken: It’s fine. I have an internal compass.
Me: Is that a sextant in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?

Ken: You have 37 pairs of reading glasses, and you can never find ANY of them.

He did get to the place eventually without having to use his GPS. Fortunately for Ken, I have a thing for older men with a strong sense of direction. And now you’ll have to excuse me while I tuck him in for his nap.

And in other news, I found out last week that I was nominated for Spillwords Press Publication of the Year (non-poetic). I know the site is a pain I had to contact them directly because it kept locking me out), but if you’re able to, you can vote for me here before the end of day Sunday (and as always, if you do, I’ll name a character in a story after you): https://spillwords.com/vote/

Dem Bones, Dem Bones

It’s been a crazy week, as Ken and I shifted all our stock from the antique market where we’ve been for a year to the one where I now work. I really liked the other place but after working at the new place for a month, I realized how much easier it would be if I didn’t have to drive quite so far and could have a booth in a place I was going to three days a week anyway. So we spent most of the week packing up, bringing stuff home, putting new price tags on everything and then taking it all to our new space. I haven’t had a lot of time for writing or even thinking about writing, so in honour of antiques, here’s a throwback…

One Saturday morning, Ken said to me, “Hey, let’s go to the Christie Antique Show.” I did what I always do and immediately said, “Yes! Let’s do that.” Then I did the next thing I always do and immediately had second thoughts and regrets, especially after looking on the website which said that there were free shuttle buses from the parking lot to the show site. All I could think of was the line-up to get into the parking lot, the line-up to get on the bus, and the obvious huge crowds of people that would be there. So I said, “Maybe let’s not go after all,” but Ken was insistent, even when I was all sad and whiny and like, “I don’t wanna go to the antique show. Don’t make me go to the antique show,” but he made me go anyway on the grounds that “it will be fun.”

Before we left…
Me: I’m taking my wristlet. I don’t want to lug a huge purse around with me.
Five minutes later…
Ken: I’m taking my camera.
Me: You always take your camera. Why are you telling me this?
Ken: Oh, I just thought we were announcing things to each other.
Atlas (from outside): I’m taking a dump in the back yard! This is fun!

In the car…
Ken: Why are you staring at me like that? Is there something wrong with the way I’m dressed?
Me: I wasn’t staring at you. I was looking past you out the window.
Ken: No, you were looking at me.
Me: How would you even know that?! I’m wearing dark sunglasses. Besides, you look fine. You’re wearing a black T-shirt and a black plaid shirt. You match. (*under breath*) Unlike when you wear your red plaid shirt and lime green T-shirt.
Ken: What?
Me: Nothing.

A moral dilemma…

Me: Did you see that video on Facebook about the job interview question?
Ken: The one where you’re driving in a lightning storm and you see three people at the side of the road?
Me: Right—“You see your best friend who once saved your life, a beautiful woman, and a sick elderly lady standing by the side of the road in a lightning storm, and you only have one seat. Who do you take?” It was easy. I solved it right away.
Ken: What do you mean, “you solved it”? Did you watch the video to the end?
Me: I didn’t need to watch it to the end. The old lady sits on my lap in the driver’s seat, my best friend sits in the other seat, and the beautiful woman sits on HIS lap.
Ken: You’re not allowed to do that. You only have one extra seat.
Me: I can do whatever the f*ck I want. It’s MY ethics. I’m the Kobayashi Maru.
Ken: No, you’re Kirk. But it doesn’t matter. That’s not the right answer. Why don’t you EVER watch videos to the end? The CORRECT answer is: You give your keys to your best friend because you trust him to take the old woman to the hospital and then come back for you.  This leaves you alone with the beautiful woman. Then he comes back and—
Me: This is starting to sound suspiciously like that logic problem where you have a rowboat and you have to take a bunch of animals across a river. It’s a MORAL DILEMMA, not a logic problem, Ken. Also, why do I want to be alone with the woman?
Ken: So you can hit it off with her.
Me: A) She’s not my type and B) That’s why my solution is more ethical. I put the woman on my best friend’s lap so that HE could hit it off with her. I’m self-sacrificial as f*ck. There. I win. ALL THE MORALS ARE MINE.
Ken: Sigh.

Then we got to the antique show, and it wasn’t as bad as I thought. We had no problem getting parked, got a bus right away, and made it into the showgrounds less than 5 minutes after arriving. But then we realized that there were 100s of dealers and we needed a system, which was basically to wander down one row and back up another, saying, “Have we been down this aisle before? Oh yeah, I remember the giant elephant statue.” We have a friend who had a booth, and we finally found him. He said he was having a pretty good day, selling quite a bit and whatnot, when Ken pointed to a large box of bones at the front of his tent. They were priced at $5 each. When we asked about it, he said that last month, a guy came into his store with this big box of bones, wondering if he’d buy them. He was skeptical at first, but they sold like hotcakes (if hotcakes were all dirty and decomposed). So when the guy came back with another box, he bought that too, and brought them to sell at the show.

Friend: People are going nuts for them. I’ve already sold most of them. Quite a few people have been teachers, you know—want to use them in their classrooms.
Ken: What kind of bones are they?
Friend: Cow bones. I think.
Me: Cow bones?
Friend: Probably.

I don’t know if I want my child in a classroom where the teacher is like, “Hey kids, check this out! It LOOKS like a human femur, but the guy told me it’s probably just a cow bone.” And the weirdest thing was, he wasn’t the ONLY dealer selling bones. There were so many of them that we lost count. There were skulls, antlers, jaw bones, full skeletons of small rodents, you name it. We walked past a booth where a guy was showing a woman a skull that was on top of a log with a branch going through the skull’s eye socket. He was actually saying this: “Sometimes when animals die in the forest, they do it on top of logs and such, and then they go into rigor mortis there. So I’ve arranged the skull and log like this—kind of like a nature scene.”

And while this may seem like a one-off, at the antique market where I currently work, there’s a dealer who has glass vials full of chicken bones, and they also sell like crazy. Go figure. I guess I should have kept this year’s Christmas turkey carcass–I could have made a fortune. Happy New Year!

The Keys To Happiness

A few days ago, I was in the kitchen and I happened to look up at the really cute key holder on the wall that I’d made out of an old breadboard and antique keys to hold not-antique keys. My brow furrowed. “Ken!” I called. “Did you put all those keys on that lanyard and hang it on the key holder?”

Ken (yells back): Yes
Me: Well, what are they all for?
Ken: I don’t know.
Me: If you don’t know what they’re for, why did you put them all on the lanyard? Where did they all come from?
Ken: They were all just hanging on different hooks on the key board so I put them together.
Me: But you don’t know what they’re for.
Ken: Correct.
Me: So if you don’t know what they’re for, and we don’t use them, why didn’t you just throw them away?! What are you, some kind of key hoarder?
Ken: I am NOT a hoarder. They’re just nice keys and you never know when you might need one.

This is me holding the lanyard up to Ken and demanding to know what they’re for. In the picture, I have transformed into an angry elderly man and the lanyard is a two-dollar macrame plant holder, which is just about as useful as a multitude of mysterious keys.

There were 18 keys. We have 4 doors that require keys, so you’d think at least one of them would have fit at least one of the doors. You would, however, be incorrect. I took the systematic approach, and by that I mean at first, I carried all the keys around and tried them in the doors, but there were so many keys and doors that I lost track and couldn’t remember which ones I’d experimented with. So I took them all off the lanyard and lay them out on the counter in a straight line. Then Kate came in and identified three that were for the lab at her former university, which left 15 keys. I tried each key in each door and you know what happened? Again, none of them fit any door in our house.

Me: This is f*cking bullsh*t.
Ken: You sound like that guy at the brewery the other day.

And here’s a fun tangent. The other day, Ken and I went on a roadtrip to our antiques booth, and on the way back, we decided to stop for lunch at a local brewery that had outside seating. There was a foursome at the next picnic table, and we couldn’t help but overhear their conversation, which was an absolute cornucopia of epithets (and for the purpose of this conversation, I will be transcribing the swearing verbatim so there will be no asterisks):

Sweary Dude: If you fucking go to Scotland, they don’t fucking say ‘yes’ there. They say fucking ‘aye’.
Woman: Really?
SD: Fucking right. So you better be fucking prepared because they say ‘aye’ a fucking lot. And I was fucking talking to Pete the other day, that fucking German guy…

So Ken and I discussed the use of the word f*ck and what parts of speech it could be substituted for: noun, adjective, verb, adverb, preposition…

Ken: Can you use it as a pronoun?
Me: Only if you say f*cker. Like ‘F*cker ordered another beer.’ It can also be used as an interjection. Do you remember Schoolhouse Rocks?

And that led us down a rabbit hole of 1970s animated linguistic cartoons, culminating in Ken’s favourite, Mr. Morton, which is about predicates: “Mr. Morton talked to his cat (‘Hey Cat, you look good’), Mr. Morton talked.” Because Mr. Morton is the subject of the sentence, and what the predicate says, he does. At the end of the song, Mr. Morton gets the girl, Pearl, and they get married. It’s very sweet, and there is not a single use of the word f*ck in the entire cartoon, as one would hope.

Hey Cat, you look good.

At any rate, I myself was quite sweary after putting 15 keys into 4 separate locks and discovering that none of them opened any door in my house.

Ken: Maybe they were for other locks, like ones we’ve replaced.
Me: We’ve lived here for 16 years. We’ve replaced the locks on ALL the doors. Why do we have 16-year old keys??!!
Ken: We could make a craft with them.
Me: Or we could throw them away. The last craft we made with keys is still sitting in our antiques booth because no one wants NEW KEYS.

So I threw them all away. But you just know that next week, we’re going to find a padlock or something that we hadn’t even thought of, and now we won’t have a key for it, or one of you will be like “Here’s a cool thing you can do with new keys” but now they’re gone. F*ck! That’s an interjection.

Sensitivity Training

The other day I was having a conversation with a friend who had posted something on the Twitterverse about HSP, which stands for Hyper-Sensitive Person. We were going through the list of criteria, and I have to admit that as I’ve gotten older, I’ve developed a couple of the symptoms. For example, I hate loud noises. More specifically, I hate vacuum cleaners. Hate is maybe too mild a word. Vacuum cleaners make me want to gouge my eyes out, to the point that, a few years ago, I bought a Roomba. For those of you who don’t know what a Roomba is, it’s a very expensive robot vacuum. It’s not a badass robot with laser beam eyes and super-strength, but it WILL vacuum your carpet when you’re not at home which, at the time, SEEMED pretty badass. It was perfect for me, because that meant the rugs got cleaned but I didn’t have to suffer the torment of listening to it. Things were great for a while—I would put it in the middle of a room, turn it on, then run out the door, leaving it to its robotic devices. Then, inevitably, Ken decided that he was now in charge of the robot, like an evil robot slave master. And he insisted on running it when we were actually home. What’s the f*cking point of THAT? You might as well just use a regular, non-sentient vacuum. I would be in my bathroom, and suddenly the Roomba would grind in, like the Texas Chainsaw Massacre was about to happen. This is not an exaggeration—one time, it actually attacked my feet and I ran away from it. But then it kept coming after me, and it was like one of those horror films where, no matter how fast you run, the killer just keeps on relentlessly coming and eventually catches you. I finally resorted to kicking it away when it would cruise through the room I was in, until finally, it died. I have no regrets. It was evil and alive—it was either kill it my damn self or call in a priest. Ken was sad—he loved his robot vacuum, but that’s the way things go when you want to act like a petty despot—robots get hurt.

Aside from my bizarre hatred of vacuums, here’s another reason why I might have become more sensitive as I’ve gotten older. Apparently, people who are hyper-sensitive always remember everyone’s birthday, because they get very upset with themselves if they forget. Now, for a long time, I was NOT the kind of person who wrote down important milestones in a little diary. I have, on numerous occasions, forgotten the birthdays of my parents and siblings, forgotten my wedding anniversary, and regularly get Kate’s birth year and the year I got married mixed up. But over the last couple of years, particularly after discovering how to use my Outlook calendar, I’ve gotten much better at this, at least for work. Last year, I decided to make sure I remembered all the birthdays of the people on my team. But first, I had to find out when they actually were so that I could record them in my calendar:

Me: Hey, can you do me a favour? Can you go around the office and get the birth dates of everyone on our team?
Colleague 1: What do you want them for?
Me: So I can put them in my calendar.
Colleague 1: Why don’t you just ask them?
Me: I don’t want people to think I don’t already know when they are.
Colleague 1: I think people already know that. You always seem really surprised when there’s cake.

But now, I have them all recorded, and even though we can’t have cake because we’re all working remotely, I have a JibJab account, and I can whip up a card at a moment’s notice, as I almost had to do the other day:

Colleague 2: So, yes, I think that would be a good time to meet about–
Me (looking at Outlook calendar): Oh my god!
Colleague 2: What’s wrong?
Me: It’s Donna’s birthday today! How could I not have seen that? Why did nobody say anything? What time is it?
Colleague 2: Five to 1.
Me: I’m meeting with her and the team at 1! That gives me five minutes. I need to go—I have to make a Jibjab for her!

But then, as I was frantically looking for a JibJab card template that I hadn’t already used (I think ‘Tequila’ has run its course), I happened to look at my calendar and realized that it was set on October, so I texted my colleague, who had already texted Donna to wish her Happy Birthday, to which she had replied in confusion, “It’s not my birthday” to which my colleague then replied, “Sorry, wrong person” and I think we both recovered nicely from the situation.

Also, I’m trying to improve at writing messages in cards. Just like my poor small talk skills, I’m equally bad at card small talk. Some people are capable of writing epic messages, like “He was gone before his time—remember the best parts of him as a tribute to his memory”, or “A happy marriage is a gift from the heavens—you are truly blessed.” Me, I learned a long time ago that I am NOT epic, and I usually just resort to “So sorry for your loss”, or “Congratulations”. Once, I had to write a Thank You card but instead of “We make a good team”, I wrote “We make a good time”. Then I got worried that the person might think that it was some bizarre pick-up line, and I got totally paranoid and ended up throwing the card away, because there was no way to correct THAT, except to start over again. Which is why I like JibJab cards, because you can proofread them before you send them. Still you have to be careful:

Kate: What are you doing?
Me: Making a card for my team. Look, it’s a song called Cake By The Ocean. Nice huh?
Kate: Uh…you might want to reconsider that.
Me: Too sensitive, given the whole covid thing? Because we can’t have the birthday cake at the beach right now?
Kate: NO, because “cake by the ocean” means having SEX at the beach.
Me: ‘Tequila’, it is!

I’m nothing if not sensitive.

I’m Ready For My Close-Up

On Monday, I received a FaceTime call. The only person who normally tries to call me on Facetime is my 6-year-old niece, Cecile, so I answered, thinking that a lovely exploration of the topics of Minecraft or slime would ensue. She’s a remarkably blithe conversationalist; for example:

Me: So what would you like for your birthday?
C: I’m not sure. I like the Galaxy, stuffies, and my favourite colour is blue.
Me: What’s ‘the Galaxy’? Is it a game?
C (laughs): No, Aunt Suzanne. It’s like the stars and stuff.
Me: So would you like a telescope?
C: Actually, a telescope would be great. My cousin Gio has one, but we literally never go over there.

Telescope it is. But the Facetime call wasn’t from Cecile, who has picked up a lot of her vocabulary from watching Youtube videos of Jojo Siwa. No, the call was from Jamaica, but I didn’t realized that until I answered, and saw an older woman who looked at me blankly. “Sorry,” I said. “I think you have the wrong number.” She seemed a little confused and put out, but apologized and hung up. Then I looked at the name and realized that it was Shane’s mom. If you don’t remember “Blayz For Dayz Shane” from previous posts, you can look him up–start here if you’d like. I was worried, of course, that she might be upset with me over that whole forklift situation from a couple of weeks ago—had I ruined yet another of Shane’s chances at honest work? (the first time was the warehouse heist from last year, and I still regret not being given the opportunity to go all in on an Oceans 8 type scenario). At any rate, there were no further repercussions, and I comforted myself that at least I looked good, her having caught me early enough in the evening (6-ish) that I was still wearing make-up and normal human clothes.

The very next day, it was well after 6, and I had lounged in a nice hot bath, washed my face, slathered it with night cream, and put on some cozy PJs, when an alert on my phone went off. I looked at it and gasped. It was a reminder that in 15 minutes, I was due to attend my good friend Susan Richardson’s book launch and poetry reading. It’s an amazing collection of poetry, and her first published compilation, and I was so excited for her when I was invited that I immediately put the evening’s festivities in my calendar. And then I immediately forgot what day it was. Which is why I put stuff in my calendar in the first place—I have a memory like a sieve when it comes to important events, as Ken will tell you:

Ken: Happy Anniversary!
Me: Whuh?
Ken: It’s our 30th anniversary. Today.
Me: I KNOW that. Here. I bought you a puppy.
Atlas: Put me down. Why do I feel like I’m an afterthought?
Me: I have a JibJab card for you. Just give me a few minutes to “find” the link.

Anyway, the alert on my phone went off and, as I said, I gasped. What was I going to do? I looked in the mirror at my greasy face and comfy PJs. This would not do. I was not going to appear at an important event looking like something the cat dragged in. So I wiped off the night cream, got out the make-up kit, and carefully reapplied the make-up I’d removed literally ten minutes before, and when I say ‘carefully’, I mean as carefully as I could given the clock counting down. I finished, threw on a fancy top (keeping on the PJ bottoms because no one would be able to see my pants), and sat down in front of the computer, just in the nick of time. And there was lovely Susan. She was glowing, and I’m assuming it was for a different reason than me (a combination of wine and running down the stairs to get to the computer). She smiled and said, “Hi!”

“HI!” I said back enthusiastically, and waved. I couldn’t see anyone else in the meeting yet, so I said, “How are you? You must be so exci—” and she launched into an introduction and then started reading the first poem. I assumed that my camera and mike were off, and I was worried she wouldn’t know I was there, so I looked and realized that there were no icons. NONE. And I discovered something new that day—Facebook Live Video is a one-way street. All my efforts were for naught—no one could see me and no one would have cared if I’d arrived naked, let alone with a bare face. But there was a chat function, so I was able to congratulate her and applaud her wonderful reading. And I looked good doing it:

Ken: Did you make it on time?
Me: Apparently, on Facebook Live, no one can see or hear you.
Ken: Well, you look pretty.
Me: Aw. Happy Anniversary.
Ken: That was last week.

If you want to see Susan reading poetry from her collection Things My Mother Left Behind, you can go here. In other news, here are some things that my puppy barks at:

The toilet
A piece of celery
The spray bottle that sprays him for getting too bitey (we call it Mr. Spray Bottle and he hates it with a passion. If I say, “Uh oh, time for Mr. Spray bottle”, he loses his sh*t. It’s hilarious.)
My daughter, because she changed her outfit
His reflection in the window
My reflection in the window
Ken’s reflection in the window
A bird. It was flying overhead
The ball he was playing with the day before
The rake
The broom
The hoe
My mom, because she got her hair cut
My dad, because he didn’t
The stairs (he’s at the age where we expect him to at least try to go up and down on his own, but he wants to be carried)
The hot tub, especially when we turn the dreaded bubbles on

He’s barky but adorable.

Smile, You’re On Candid Camera

Personally, I’m getting a little tired of always being on camera. I don’t mind meeting with my immediate team because they already know I’m wacky, but I think other people are quickly realizing that I’m more quirky than they thought. Last week, I was in a virtual meeting with our CEO and some other directors, and the CEO told us that she used to do psychological testing to determine intelligence and that the first question she would ask was “Does the sun set in the east or the west?” And if you know anything about me at all, you know that I’m directionally challenged and hold tight to my belief that North is up, South is down, and that East and West are randomly ‘out there somewhere’:

Me: How do I get to Home Depot from here?
Ken: Go west on the 401.
Me: I’m a grown ass woman, Ken, not a compass!
Ken: It’ll say right on the sign “401 West”. There will also be an ARROW.
Me: Will “the arrow” be pointing left or right?
Ken: Sigh. Do you want me to take you?
Me: Obviously, Ken.

In fact, the only direction I have ever been able to follow accurately is ‘twist cap and pour’. Anyway, we were at this meeting, and when she asked if the sun set in the east or the west, I was completely befuddled because I COULD NOT REMEMBER and did I ever really know the answer to that in the first place? I mean, I’m a wealth of trivia and regularly run numerous categories on Jeopardy except for Geography, but I thought to myself, “If this is an indication of how intelligent I am, I should know this!” so I started thinking really hard, and using my hands to track the course of the sun across the sky and doing vigorous mental calculations while the meeting continued on, and I had almost figured it out when I realized that one of my colleagues was trying not to laugh, and I don’t know if it was at ME or maybe she didn’t know the answer either. And then later that day in another meeting, I was listening intently as one should when suddenly, a fruit fly started dive-bombing my face and I did what any normal person would do—I started clapping my hands together in the air, trying to kill it but it was very quick and agile so it took several attempts and it wasn’t until it had been handily dispatched that again, I realized the same woman was silently laughing. And I will never know if it was at me or not, because when you’re in a Zoom meeting, EVERYONE seems to be looking right at you because they’re looking at their cameras, and now I think the best indicator of intelligence is whether or not you have your camera on during large meetings.

Also, my camera doesn’t add ten pounds, it adds ten YEARS and whenever I look at myself on the screen, I seem older, sadder, and much paler than I do in real life (at least I hope I don’t look that old, sad, or pale), so you can understand why I’d rather not be on screen.

(Ken just interrupted me to tell me that he caught a mouse in the live mouse trap he had put in the cupboard under the sink. We have a very old house, and every once in a while, one gets into the cupboard. I’ve named him Franklin. Ken’s taking him over to the park where he can frolic with the other field mice.)

Anyway, having to do all interactions, social or otherwise, on camera is getting a bit ridiculous. I’ve been having terrible shoulder pain, so my doctor (who called me on the phone), told me to get some physiotherapy. I called the clinic and they were only doing “virtual appointments”, which meant that I met with a physiotherapist using a type of Zoom.

Physio: Can you point to where the pain is?
Me: Here, here, and here.
Physio: Can you get a little closer to the camera? Like put your shoulder right up to it?
Me: Sure. Is this better?
Physio: A little down to the right. OK. Now, can you swing your arm like this? Hang on, let me just move further back so you can see what I’m doing.

And so it went. She was very nice and emailed me a PDF of exercises I could do, which haven’t helped at all because what I really need is acupuncture or a good massage, neither of which can be accomplished VIA ZOOM. The one thing that IS helping slightly is the new hot tub which is working quite well. The set-up was much more complicated than it needed to be though, mostly because the instructions were like the worst set of instructions I’ve ever seen, and most of them were just links to videos where you could watch a very young girl wearing a very fancy dress perform different aspects of the set-up. Here is a page from the manual that shows you all the parts in the box but doesn’t identify them by name, just by part number. And they are all the same scale, which makes it even more fun to figure out what they are:

This is my favourite page, where it explains what all the functions are the control pad are for:

Notice that they are so small that it’s almost impossible to read without a magnifying glass. In fact, the only thing you CAN read on this page is the warning, in all caps, that the use of alcohol or drugs can greatly increase the risk of fatal hyperthermia, prompting Ken to exclaim triumphantly, “Now I don’t need to build that tiki bar you wanted!” and I was like, “Just put a damn roof on the gazebo and we’ll call it a day, OK?!”

But we finally got it up and running, and it was fantastic:

Me: I love this. It’s so nice to just sit here in the warm, bubbling water and watch the sun set in the…
Ken: West.
Me: Right.

(Ken just got back from the park. He said Franklin scurried off into the high grass without so much as a backwards glance. Live long and prosper, my little rodent friend.)