My Week 84: Titus and the Magic Box, Oral Stories and The RARE Slit Barn

Sunday: Titus and the Magic Box

About 3 months ago, out of the blue, Titus got really sick. Mountains of sick, all over the house—he’s a giant dog, so you can only imagine the level of destruction AND the level of my anxiety over the situation, considering the hygiene issues I have. Plus, I was alone. Under normal circumstances, I would pretend to be superbusy making dinner until Ken cleaned up the mess, but he was still at work, so I had no choice—I threw the dirty rugs outside and started the process of restoring order, and cleanliness back to my house. As I was trying not to silently scream and curse Ken’s name for not taking the day off with me, I considered what might have been the cause of the monster dog’s intestinal disarray. The month before, he had eaten a pound of grapes out of a bowl on the counter. Grapes are, apparently, highly toxic to dogs, and by the time we realized what he’d done, it was too late to do anything about it but wait for the worst. I googled “signs of kidney failure in asshole dogs”; I got a lot of hits regarding “anal glands” and “rectum issues”, so no help there. Thanks for being so f*cking LITERAL Google. (I actually just googled “Why is my dog an asshole?” and got about 1000 hits—I guess it’s important to be really specific with your Google requests). Anyway, after three days, we realized he was going to survive the grape incident with absolutely no ill effects, just as he had survived eating copious amounts of chocolate which he had stolen from my suitcase, 23 bouillon cubes and their boxes, an entire box of K-cups including most of the tinfoil covers, a complete basil beef stirfry dinner right out of the frypan while we weren’t looking, several bags of garbage, and other miscellaneous things that would send most dogs to the vet for a stomach pumping.

So there I was, cleaning up dog puke and trying to figure out what the hell could have caused him to be this sick. Of course, HE was clueless as usual—when I asked him, he just shrugged and said, “How would I know? I eat so much crap behind your back, it could have been anything.” When Ken got home, we wracked our brains. Finally, Ken said, “Honestly, the only change in his diet is that I’ve been giving him these Milk Bone dog biscuit treats when we get back from a walk for the last week.”

“Interesting,” I replied, “because it actually looked like a week’s worth of Milk Bones. You know Milk Bones are full of filler, right? You remember he’s on a grain-free diet, right?” And why is our canine garbage disposal on a grain-free diet? Not because we’re new-agey, organic-loving weirdos. We’re not. It’s because he has allergies, and the people who gave him to us (FOR FREE—are you surprised?) thought that gluten might be triggering his allergies. And while maybe we’ll never know if that’s true or not, it’s certainly apparent that a lot of gluten makes him violently ill.

Mystery solved. But now, of course, I was worried about a repeat incident. He really likes getting treats, and despite his shortcomings, he actually deserves a cookie once in a while, like when strangers come to the door, and he plants himself at my feet, stares at them semi-menacingly and refuses to budge until they’re gone. So I decided to research “home-made dog treats”. I found a great recipe with a few simple ingredients, and set about making them. The recipe called for you to roll the dough out, then use cute cookie cutters to make fancy little shapes, but it’s a hell of a lot easier and faster to scoop out little balls, flatten them with your hands, then toss them onto a cookie sheet. Martha Stewart, I’m not. And of course Titus, being the clever and food-obsessed animal he is, very quickly learned which ingredients constituted cookie baking time. The second he sees the natural peanut butter jar come out of the refrigerator, he comes running and freaking out.

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

Half an hour later:

Me: What are you doing?
Titus: Waiting for the cookies to come out of the magic box.
Me: You mean the oven?
Titus: Call it what you want. Technically, it’s the “medium-sized” magic box. The “large magic box” is where you keep all the delicious luncheon meats and cheeses.
Me: None of this is actually magic. It’s all based on science.
Titus: Well, how does “the oven” work then?
Me: Well…you push this button, and it gets hot. Then you put uncooked food in it, and it cooks the food for you…
Titus (whispers): Magic.
Raven (walking by): It’s a chemical reaction, you idiots. Try Googling it.
Titus: Cat, you will pay for your heresy—hey, the timer just went off! Get the cookies out before the fairies eat them!!

titus waiting for cookies

(Just for the record, in case anyone is interest, here’s the recipe for the magical cookies: 1 mashed banana, 1 egg, 3 tablespoons of natural peanut butter, and around 1 and a half cups of either coconut flour or chickpea flour—or more, depending on how sticky it still is. Mix it all up, roll into little balls, flatten them on a cookie sheet sprayed with that aerosol oil, and cook for 30 minutes at 325 degrees Fahrenheit. He hasn’t puked since. Thank you, magic box.)

Wednesday: I am sh*tty at telling stories. And listening to them.

On Wednesday, I was invited to a party with people I didn’t know. Well, I knew the hostess, which is how I got the invite, but no one else. I’m not really comfortable in social situations, so I was a little apprehensive. But they were very nice people, very friendly and all, and as the party, and the drinking, progressed, someone suggested that we should all tell a story about our most embarrassing moment in the classroom. I’m not currently a classroom teacher, but I WAS for over 20 years, and in all that time, I had very few embarrassing moments that I can recall. And I was UNDER PRESSURE to produce. People were telling these hilarious anecdotes about wardrobe malfunctions, accidently telling off-colour jokes, and incidents with parents. Me, I was scrambling, and the only thing I could think of was the story that I told in my very first blog (My Week 1: Marijuana and Febreeze) about the time I insinuated to my students that they might have more fun if they smoked pot like Justin Trudeau instead of being so uptight like Stephen Harper. So with all eyes on me, I launched into my tale. It took me 15 seconds, I left out most of the backstory, and there was no punchline. I think I ended with, “So marijuana. It was pretty embarrassing,” and everyone smiled politely. But the problem is, I can’t tell a story orally to save my life–I lose the thread and I get distracted when all eyes are on me. In fact, not too long ago, a relative said to me, “You know, we all just love your blog—it’s so hilarious and well-written. But we all agreed that it’s weird, because in person, you’re just not that funny.”

And it’s true. I’m also really sh*tty at listening to stories sometimes, because I have random thoughts that get in the way. I have family members who get really frustrated when people (ie: me) interrupt them to ask questions, or clarify a point, and they will sometimes just give up (ie: scream “Oh for God’s sake, never mind!). Luckily, Ken is used to this, and has no storytelling ego. He will just patiently address my thoughts and questions, then get back to his story. For example, on the way home last night:

Ken: …and then we all went to the RARE Slit Barn—
Me: Is that a STRIP CLUB?!
Ken: No, it’s a nature preserve funded by a charity called RARE. A slit barn has vertical slits in it for ventilation—
Me: Ha! It SOUNDS like an exclusive strip club, like “Then we all went to the Rare Slit Barn, had a drink and a lap dance…
Ken: So anyway, they had students there who were training as interpreters—
Me: What, like for sign language? Was everyone hearing impaired? I’d love to learn sign language…
Ken: No, NATURE interpreters. To teach other people about the nature preserve—
Me: That would ALSO be a great name for a strip club: The Nature Preserve…
Ken: It was incredible how professional the students were. Everyone learned a lot.
Me: Slit Barn. That’s awesome.
Ken: Sigh.


My Week 1 – Marijuana and Febreze

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

So here’s some of my week.

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

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

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

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