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.

Creative Wednesdays – Tooth Fairy

It’s almost the end of Wednesday, so this came in just under the wire. I’m thrilled to have another flash fiction story in The Sirens Call eZine. ‘Tooth Fairy’ is a strange little piece about what we’re willing to overlook to keep the things we love. I hope you enjoy my weird story–I can’t link directly to it, but you can read ‘Tooth Fairy’ on page 72 here.

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.)

If You Build It…

A couple of weeks ago, I got an email from Via Rail, Canada’s national passenger railway, that the train that was supposed to take us out to the Maritimes IN AUGUST was cancelled. I was shocked—we’d planned the whole trip around the train voyage, and I’d already booked hotels, a ferry to Newfoundland, and a couple of bed and breakfasts. The vacation planning, of course, had all taken place before the great lockdown. And aren’t events around the world just doing their damn best to tell us that the end of days is nigh? There’s a plague of locusts in Africa, Murder Hornets have landed on the shores of North America, the world is infected with a terrible pestilence, and now it’s snowing in f*cking May here. If I see a horse galloping down my street, I’m immediately going to live in a cave.

Anyway, I was super disappointed that our trip had been cancelled, even though they refunded all the money and points I’d used to pay for it. “Peut être ze next year,” the Via rep said in a thick, French accent, which certainly didn’t leave me feeling very optimistic. But then I had a thought.

Me: If we have to do a stay-cation, that’s OK. We can always get a hot tub.
Ken: What?
Me: Hot tub.
Ken: Hot tub?
Me: I feel like this conversation is circular. Like this hot tub. Look…

So I showed Ken the Canadian Tire website, where they had fairly inexpensive inflatable hot tubs on sale. Now, if you’re not Canadian, you’re probably wondering why a tire store sells hot tubs. But Canadian Tire sells tires in the same way that Walmart sells walls or Winners sells lottery tickets, which is to say that the majority of things they sell are not tires. “OK,” Ken said. “Where will we put it?”

“On the back patio,” I answered. So I ordered it, and Ken went to get it. Canadian Tire was only doing curbside pickup, which meant that he had to pull up to the door, show them his order number and receipt, then go and park while someone brought it out. When he pulled into the driveway and unloaded the big box, I was super-excited, but then he said something to me that filled me with dread.

“I’ve decided to build a gazebo for it,” he announced. At that moment, thunder may have rumbled ominously in the distance, the birds may have stopped singing, and the hydro might have flickered.

“How—how long will that take?” I whispered.

“I’ll have to order the wood first,” he said cheerily.

“Just a square gazebo, right? Or rectangular? Something easy to put up?” I held my breath, hoping for the best.

“No! Octagonal!” he cried, leaping into the air and clicking his heels together.

“Aw, f*ck,” I said to no one in particular. A squirrel laughed darkly, as if to say, “You will never sit in the soothing waters of the hot tub. NEVER!!” (It wasn’t THIS baby squirrel who’s currently living in my yard, but he’s too cute not to show you.)

So THE NEXT WEEKEND, Ken and I went to get the wood from Home Depot. Once again, we had to show our receipt and order number for curbside pick-up, then park and wait. After half an hour, an elderly woman came to our window. “Would you mind pulling up by the contractor’s entrance?” she asked apologetically. “Only, there’s so much wood that I can’t push it out here myself.”

“So much wood,” I whispered, as Ken loaded it all onto our trailer.

The weather all week was gorgeous, but no sign of activity on the back patio, and no lovely warm waters to soothe my weary soul. Then on Friday afternoon after work, Ken announced that he was going to lay out the frame see how it looked. Immediately, it started to hail. I feared the worst, but Ken was determined, so he put on a parka, and began framing the base. It looks pretty good so far. And at this rate, barring a shower of frogs falling from the sky, I’ll be soaking my cares away by the time we were supposed to be on a train heading to Nova Scotia.

Just for the record, I want it known that I have no doubts about Ken’s abilities; it’s just his timelines. For years, our front door only had an overhang; here’s the porch that he put on, all by himself (with a little help from me, Kate, and my dad). It took him two summers but it’s gorgeous.

 

 

Why Fi?

This whole social distancing thing may or may not be making me a little punchy. A few days ago, I set out to buy groceries, and prior to the last few weeks, I had never “set out” like I was f*cking Magellan looking for (she googles “Magellan” to find out what the hell he was looking for) SPICES, although I DID need some turmeric. Something that used to be so easy and pleasurable has become quite the ordeal, especially in Canadian False Spring, which is to say that it’s technically Spring according to the calendar, but according to everything else, it’s still Fool’s Winter, which is when you are a FOOL and don’t dress for the actual weather. And that was me, standing there shivering and wearing vinyl gloves instead of mittens, lining up to get into the grocery store like it was a goddamned roller coaster—in other words, a very long wait, but without the reward of 60 seconds of exhilaration—unless bacon is on sale.

Anyway, I was fine in the store, and got everything I wanted, despite the media hysteria about how we’re all going to be starving and poop-assed. But on the way home, I drove through the same small town that I usually drive though and as I got to the section where the speed limit lowers, the warning light at the side of the road began to flash my speed as I started to slow down. It was a 50 km/hour zone, and for my American friends, I have no idea if that’s like a gazillion miles per hour or (she googles “How many miles per hour is 50 kilometres?”) THIRTY-ONE POINT ZERO SEVEN. And the damn light kept flashing red, even though I was going 54, as if I was Baby Driver or whatnot, and I yelled, “I’m doing my BEST, you passive-aggressive piece of SH*T!! F*ck you!” and I gave the flashing light the finger.

Now, I don’t really believe that an inanimate, solar-powered traffic light can actually be passive-aggressive. I mean, it’s not like it’s a husband who, when you chide him for taking his SECOND nap of the day, later posts an article on Facebook about how great naps are and how people should have at least two every day and no one should criticize them for doing it.  No, it’s not like that at all. And it’s not like it’s a wife who, upon discovering that her husband has spent the afternoon secretly watching a movie that they both wanted to see when he was supposed to be outside gardening, says “Oh, I see. That’s fine. I’m glad to know that the next time I want to watch something that we were both interested in, I don’t have to let you know. No problem.” Noooo, it’s not like that at all.

But my point, and I DO have one, is that people give their wifi extremely strange names. This point may seem to be a complete divergence from what you have just been reading about, but bear with me. As you know, I’m working from home. Last week, I had to change the password on my work computer and when I did, my whole system locked up. I was on the verge of a breakdown, having lost access to just about anything, and I’d been on the phone with one of our lovely secret agency IT guys for over an hour. We were trying to reconnect my VPN and he suggested using my phone as a personal hotspot. “Open your wifi and see if you can find it in there,” he suggested. My phone is known as “Suzanne’s Iphone” which seems pretty human and normal, but then a bunch of other wifis came up and I was like “WTF? You’re allowed to NAME your wifi?!” We have a central router in our house and then three boosters, but they are all just identified by numbers like 560 or 770 (those are fake numbers just in case my neighbours are reading this). But when the list came up, there were things on there like “2BoyzIntheBigCity” and “JaysPad” and I thought for a minute that my life had become a hip-hop video. Who ARE these people? I live in a very small town, and I haven’t seen any funky fresh folks around lately, but those wifi names suggest otherwise. I was intensely curious about this:

Me: Is there anybody in our neighbourhood named Jay? There’s a wifi on here that says “Jayspad”.
Ken: I don’t think so. What’s the name of that new guy across the street? Maybe it’s him.
Me: He doesn’t look like a Jay. I doubt that he has a nice pad.
Ken: What?
Me: You know, like a bachelor pad. My Jay has a funky fresh pad. I’ll bet his living room is all decked out in animal prints and he has a sheepskin rug and a wetbar and those swirling disco lights—
Ken: Ipad. Jay has an IPAD.
Me:
Ken: IPAD.
Me: Stupid Jay.

And then I was sad, because if I’d known I could give my wifi a personalized moniker, it would be known as Player One, OBVIOUSLY. Apparently I could change it if I wanted to but (she googles “How do you change your wifi’s name?”) it’s way too complicated. As for 2BoyzIntheBigCity, I’m fairly convinced right now that it’s the two teenaged brothers across the street being ironic, which I admire them for, almost as much as I admire whoever named their wifi “Nachowifi”. Can I use your wifi? No, because it’s Nachowifi. Passive aggressive, am I right? Yeah, it’s a tenuous link back to the beginning. Fight me.

Terms Of Endearment

On Tuesday, I was walking down the aisle of cubicles heading towards the kitchen with a male colleague, Brian, and we were talking about a presentation we were planning. I was carrying my lunch plate with the intention of washing it in the sink, and as I did that, we continued talking. I was done with the plate at the same time that the conversation ended, and I don’t know if it was the domesticity of the situation or whatnot, but as I put the plate in the drying rack, I said, “Super. Thanks, honey.” Cue the sound of a record scratch.

Me: Oh, wow, I think I just called you ‘honey’.
Brian (laughing): Yes, you did.
Me: Sorry—it kind of slipped out.
Brian: It’s perfectly fine. I call the people on my team ‘honey’ all the time.
Me: OK, well as long as it didn’t bother you.
Brian: Not at all!

Because you never know, right? But then on Thursday, Brian and I were continuing our conversation about the presentation and as I walked away, he said, “OK, thanks honey!” There was a pause and then he peeked his head out of his cubicle and called after me:

Brian: Hey, I just called YOU honey!
Me (laughing): I know!
Brian: See, I told you I call people that all the time.
Deep Male Voice From Another Cubicle: IT’S TRUE. HE DOES.

So now I don’t feel as bad and also I think Brian and I have to get married. Sorry, Ken.

And when I told Ken this story, after reminding me that I was already married, he confessed that he was having trouble with terms of endearment at work too. Mostly because we’ve been binge-watching Rupaul’s Drag Race.

Ken: It’s really hard not to walk into a room and greet everyone with ‘Hey, queens!’
Me: Or be like, ‘Bitch, we need to discuss that budget variance report, okurrrr?’
Ken: Or leave a room yelling, ‘By-eeee!’
Me: Yass, babe. I was so tempted to put ‘Sashay Away’ on the light-up marquee in my office just for fun.
Ken: Girl, you know you better don’t.
Me: Bitch, please!

At any rate, it got me thinking about those affectionate names that people have for each other, like sweetie and honey and baby, and how very few people ever call me Suzanne:

  • Ken calls me “Honey” 99% of the time. The other 1% is when he’s mad, and then he refers to me as “Buddy” in an incredulous kind of way, like “BUDDY! Really?! Come on!” I can’t remember the last time he actually addressed me by name but that’s OK, because I’m pretty sure he knows what it is.
  • My dad and I greet each other with “Hello, dahling!” When I was younger, he called me “Sugarplum”, which I also loved.
  • My mother generally calls me “Sweetheart” or “Ooh, you cheeky monkey!” When I was little, her affectionate nickname for me was “Squeeg” like a squeegee. Neither of us know why, but I always liked it.
  • Katelyn calls me “Mom”. She said “mama” for the first time at around 3 months (she was a super-early talker and was speaking in two-word sentences by the time she was a year old), but that quickly morphed into just Mom. I think there were a couple of months where she might have called me “Mommy” but it didn’t last long. When she was little, I called her “Baby” all the time to the point where she began to refer to herself in the third person as Baby and would say, “Baby up” or “Baby tired” or “Baby agrees with Nietzsche—if the taste of these strained green beans doesn’t kill me, they will definitely make Baby stronger” (ok, she didn’t actually say that, but when she was two, she actually DID say, “When I gwow up, I will be a bus dwiver and I will dwive all the children to the beach and they will pway in the sand and I will pwotect them” and I said, “Have you been reading Catcher in the Rye AGAIN?”) Then she started pre-school and one morning, she turned to me and said, “Don’t call me baby anymore. I’m a big girl now”, and it kind of broke my heart, but I stopped.
  • One of my aunts, who is only a few years older than me, calls me “Kiddo” which is cool because I’m 54 and it makes me feel young. My other aunt calls me “Suzie”. She’s the only person in my entire life who’s ever shortened my name, and I let her do it because she’s adorable and I love her. If anyone else does it, they will get throat-punched.
  • A lot of my virtual friends called me mydangblog, or MDB (or Suzune, thanks to an unfortunate cake incident), and it’s very cool to have a secret identity like that.
  • I have been lobbying for literally YEARS to be called Player One. At this point, I don’t think it’s happening, but I’ll keep trying.

At any rate, I’m very lucky to have people in my life who refer to me with terms of endearment instead of nasty slurs. I asked Titus about nicknames because he never really calls me anything:

Me: So what do you call me in your head?
Titus: Player One, of course.
Me: You do?! Wait—are you only saying that to get a cookie?
Titus: Obviously. In my head, I just call you ‘Mommy’.
Me: Really? Awww. That’s why you’re the bestboi.
Titus: Cookie?
Me: Of course, honey.

Three Leaves And A Stick

Me: Where’s the ice cube tray?
Ken: The what?
Me: The ice cube tray! Where is it?
Ken: In the freezer?
Me: No, it’s not. What did you do with it?
Ken: Why would I have done anything with it?
Me: Well, it’s not in here. Where did you put it?!
Ken: I sold it on EBay.
Me: Did you at least get a good price for it, KEN?!
Ken: Unfortunately, no.
Me DAMN YOUR EYES!!

5 minutes later…

Ken: I see you found the ice cube tray. Where was it?
Me (sheepishly): Behind a bag of frozen French fries.

Now, you may be wondering what on earth prompted such an overreaction to the missing (temporarily) ice cube tray, but the fact of the matter was that my orchid was starting to look a little wilty and I realized to my horror that I had failed to provide it with its requisite 2 ice cubes a week since the previous Friday. And under normal circumstances, I wouldn’t have been quite so panicky except that I had recently returned to work after the holidays and discovered that the incredibly lush orchid given to me by my team for my birthday had succumbed to my neglect and all the flowers had fallen off. Here’s what it looked like when I initially received it—it was glorious, more’s the pity:

Destined to become 3 leaves and a stick.

Yes, once again, I was now left with three leaves and a stick. When they gave it to me, I was overcome with gratitude, but at the same time, I felt sad because I knew it wouldn’t be long before I committed yet another planticide. Completely unintentional of course, what we would call ‘involuntary plantslaughter’, but with the same dire results. Because the fact is, I’m just not good with houseplants.

Don’t get me wrong—I love my garden, and I love plants. As long as they’re outside. I have a rule in my garden—I will plant you and occasionally water you, and the rest is your deal. Most garden plants are just fine with this and manage to thrive without much help from me, aside from me making sure that weeds don’t choke them out. House plants are a whole other matter, though. I seem to have absolutely no knack with houseplants whatsoever. Unfortunately, for both me and them, I really want plants in the house. I haven’t had any for a while, aside from the straggly hibiscus that Ken’s mom gave me years ago, which spends all summer outside looking gorgeous then comes in for the winter and pretty much withers away under my care until the weather gets warm again, and a stupid fern that Ken won’t let me throw away. I got the fern as far as the front porch at the beginning of January, and while I was vacuuming up all the dead leaves, Ken snuck it back in the house, because I’m “only allowed to have one fern and if I can’t keep it alive all winter I can’t get a new one”. It’s like a test of character, or a Nietzschean struggle of the wills. Nietzsche once said “that which doesn’t kill us makes us stronger”, so I like to think that if there’s ever a zombie apocalypse, I’ve done my part to ensure that the fern will survive. Last spring, Ken bought me a pot of daffodils as a gift and it sat proudly on the kitchen island until the lack of consistent watering did it in. Well, how am I supposed to know that it needed to be watered EVERY DAY? What am I, its mother? So the next time we went to the grocery store, I decided I wanted a replacement plant, and Ken was no help at all.

Me: Oh look! They have orchids—I’ve always wanted an orchid!
Ken: They’re $24.99. Are you really going to pay that much money for something you’re just going to kill?
Me: I won’t kill it!
Ken: Yeah, you will.
Me: What about this campanula? Wait, they look pretty fragile…
Ken: You’ll kill it.
Me: I don’t kill everything, you know.
Ken: (snickers) They have nice cut flowers. Get a bouquet—they’re supposed to die eventually anyway.
Me: Wait, there are orchids here for $14.99!…no, you’re right. It’ll die. What about these African violets? I had one once and it lived for a long time.
Ken: I remember that. It’s a good choice—it might survive.
Me: You’re so mean!
Ken: I have to be—I’m a member of the Vegetation Protection League.

So I got the African violet instead of the orchid. It was dead within the month. But in November, I received the wilting orchid in question from a friend who couldn’t be at my book launch, so she gave it to me as a congratulatory gift, and I was determined that it would live to see February. It will not. Despite my ice-cubing and sweet talking, it’s looking worse by the day.

But I don’t think it’s just me—I honestly believe that orchids are all destined at some point to become three leaves and a stick. In fact, I was in the kitchen at work on Friday, getting ice cubes for my orchid AS ONE DOES, and a new colleague was making toast:

Me: Oh hey, how’s it going? I just need to get some ice cubes for my orchid.
New Colleague: Oh, I have one of those. The flowers fell off, and it’s only a few leaves and a stick right now, but I hope it’ll bloom again.
Me: It won’t. They never do.
New Colleague: Sigh. I know.

But I will persevere, even if my orchid IS just three leaves and a stick, for the sentimental value. As for Ken, it’s a shame that he didn’t really sell my ice cube tray on EBay, because we’ve had it almost since we got married, and when I went to the EBay website, I discovered that he could have gotten fifty bucks for a “vintage plastic ice cube tray”. That’s enough for at least FIVE leaves and a stick.

My Week 144: Titus the Therapy Dog, It’s Coming From Inside the House

Titus the Therapy Dog

At the beginning of last week, someone in the office posted on our Staff site that the St. John’s Ambulance Society would be bringing therapy dogs into our building on Friday, and if anyone wanted to come and see them, they would be in the lobby from 11 am to 2 pm. You can only imagine how excited I was—I love dogs, and I only get to see Titus on weekends, thanks to living in a large city so I can be close to work. In the spring, we were doing an event off-site, and there was supposed to be someone coming with a miniature Chihuahua service dog, and it was all we could talk about for weeks. Of course, we were told that we weren’t allowed to PET the dog, since it was a working animal, and I was like, “What kind of service is THAT?” and I was secretly betting that the woman would let us pet it. I mean, what’s the point of having a tiny ball of adorable dogginess if you can’t share it with anyone, am I right? But if not, we would understand, and just stare at it lovingly. Then the day finally came, and we all, seemingly nonchalantly but inwardly super-pumped, strolled down to the room where the woman would be, only to discover that she hadn’t shown up for the event. It was such a letdown, and worse was when we went back to the office, and people kept asking, “Did you see the Chihuahua?” and it just kept bringing all those feelings of disappointment back again.

Also, I regularly annoy people in my condo building when they bring their dogs onto the elevator, and I only speak to the dog, as in “So what’s your name? Are you a good girl? Are you going for a walk?” and the owners feel obliged to answer, but in my head, it’s actually the dog and me having a conversation. I also do that to small children, but THEIR parents don’t seem to mind, perhaps recognizing that their babies can’t talk. Unlike dogs, some of whom secretly can. Quite often when we’re out with Titus, people try to engage him in conversation, which he steadfastly ignores:

Random Stranger: Ooh, who’s a big boy? Who’s got a lovely coat? Does he like the vet?
Me: Titus?
Titus: What?
Me: The man was asking you questions. Why didn’t you answer?
Titus: I assumed he was being rhetorical. You know, if you leave people alone long enough, they eventually answer their own questions all by themselves.
Random Stranger: Ooh, YOU’RE the big boy! Yes, he’s so shiny. I’ll bet he LOVES the vet.
Titus: I rest my case.

So Friday came, but I got sidetracked by a PowerPoint I was working on, until suddenly it was around 1 pm, and somebody said, “Hey, did you see the dogs?” And I was like, “The dogs?! Are they still here?! Please tell me they’re still here!” And then I tried to coerce the very nice gentleman I work with to come downstairs with me:

Me: There are dogs in the lobby! Come and pet them with me!
Very Nice Gentleman: Um, no, that’s OK.
Me: But you’re ALLOWED to pet them!
VNG: I’m good, thanks. REALLY.

Then I remembered that I’d tried to get the same man to look at naked ladies last week, so he was probably suspicious that the dogs were a euphemism or something. Everybody else had already gone down to see the dogs (I know because I asked), but then one of my French colleagues came strolling by. I work with a lot of very cheery and easy-going Francophones, so I called out, “Hey! Il y a des chiens ici! Viens avec moi!” My French is not fantastic, but she said, “Ooh, oui, d’accord!” which of course sounded like “Ooh way dakkar,” because of the Quebecois’ broader accent, but she was nodding, so I guessed she was coming with me. Of course, I hadn’t been specific, and she didn’t know whether or not they were wild dogs and I was trying to help her escape, but again, the French are pretty laidback, so down we went.

There was a crowd of people surrounding three dogs and their handlers, but I kind of slid my way up to the front so I could pet them, on the grounds that I’d had an awkward morning (Slight tangent: I don’t think it’s fair that some people in our office don’t have nameplates on their cubicles. Two days prior, I was visited by two different women from the finance department. Then one of them called me and asked me to sign a document and bring it down to her on the floor below. I opened the door and I saw one of the women, but her cubicle didn’t have a name plate on it. She looked at me, and I looked at her. I didn’t know how to get out of it gracefully, so I held up the document game-show style, smiled cheekily, and said, “This is for Desiree!” in a kind of sing-songy way. So if SHE was Desiree, she would be like, “Oh thanks!” in the same sing-songy voice, and if she WASN’T, she could say, “I’ll bet she’ll be happy to get it!” and then I would know. As it turned out, she wasn’t Desiree, and her response was, “Desiree’s cubicle is right down there”, so I feel simultaneously clever, and awkward as f*ck. Tangent over.) Anyway, I NEEDED to pet a dog. I’ll bet people would have forgiven Donald Trump for pushing aside the Prime Minister of Montenegro if he’d been trying to get to a puppy.

The dogs were beautiful, and totally calm as people petted them and scratched them behind their ears, but I noticed something weird—none of their tails were wagging, and none of them would make eye contact. Even if you tried to look at them, they would turn their heads away. In short, these dogs all seemed like they needed their OWN dogs to pet, because they all seemed depressed. I’ve never yet seen a dog that didn’t wag its tail when people were talking to it and petting it, unless it was scared. I mean, I don’t know a lot about therapy dogs, but the best thing about ANY dog is how happy they are to see YOU. That’s why dogs are so great. No matter how sh*tty you feel, the dog is always like, “Oh my god! You’re home! This is the best day ever!” So I got to pet the dogs, but the stress of worrying about how sad they looked cancelled out the therapy part of the experience. How do you even train a dog to NOT wag its tail? I kind of don’t want to think about it. One of the dogs, Tucker, was a Golden Retriever who even had his own business card, and on the business card, he had a huge smile on his face. In person though, it was like the time when K was around 7 years old and we took her to see Brent Butt, the comedian. We’d watched Brent on “Corner Gas” for years, and K loved him. His stand-up show was hilarious, and afterwards, he was signing autographs, so we lined up. When we got there, we told him how much K liked him and K told him how funny she thought the show was. Brent Butt just flatly said, “Thanks,” and turned away to the next person in line, like he was really bored. So maybe that was the problem—these dogs were temperamental celebrities. Anyway, I arrived home on Friday night:

Titus: You’re here!! This is the best day ever! Pop the cork on the champagne!
Me: I’m happy to see you too, buddy. C’mere and let me rub that tummy.
Titus: With pleasure! Wait—have you been around any other dogs today? Don’t lie. You know how good my sense of smell is. For example, I detect that you had white wine on the train—a Riesling, 2016, I believe.
Me: I ALWAYS have wine on the train, Sherlock. But yeah, they had therapy dogs at work.
Titus: Therapy dogs? Those guys have no sense of humour.
Me: I know, right? I guess I’m too used to you, you big goof.
Titus: That’s right, baby. I’m the only therapy you need.

Saturday: Lines of communication

On Friday, I went out for lunch with a couple of people from work to a local restaurant which serves ethnic cuisine. I don’t want to mention what kind, because I’ve had it before from different places without consequence. The meal I ordered didn’t look remotely like what it normally does, but I thought, Hey—maybe they are regional variations. It tasted OK, although it was a lot spicier than normal. Then for dinner that night, I had Cajun chicken wings and nachos with hot peppers. It’s no surprise then that I woke up about three o’clock in the morning feeling pretty sh*tty. I tossed and turned and finally went back to sleep around 6. When I woke up at 8, Ken had already gotten out of bed. I lay there for a while, all miserable and still feeling lousy, so I did what any normal person would do: I called Ken.

Phone rings and rings…

Ken (groggy): Uh…hello?
Me: It’s me.
Ken: Why are you calling me?
Me: I don’t feel well. What are you doing right now?
Ken: Well, I WAS having a nap on the couch. But then the phone rang and I had to get up to answer it, so thanks.
Me: Well, I tried your cell phone, but you didn’t pick up.
Ken: Why didn’t you just come downstairs?
Me: Because I’m all cozy.
Ken: Yeah, so was I, until I had to ANSWER THE PHONE.
Me: Can you bring up some batteries? I can’t turn the TV on because the remote is dead.
Ken: You could always get up and turn it on—Sigh. Never mind. I’ll be right up.
Me: Bring Titus with you. I need a hug.