Raise A Glass

So I had my first official day of retirement last week. And it was lucky it happened when it did, because things were rapidly devolving as I got closer and closer to the date. The week before, I’d been talking to one of the bigger bosses when Atlas, having decided that he was bored in the absence of Ken, launched himself onto my lap. Which would have been ok except that one of his big, slappy paws grabbed the neckline of my sweater, pulling it and my bra down far enough that it was quite the show. Fortunately, my male colleague was looking at his other monitor, giving me time to shove Atlas away and rectify the wardrobe malfunction. And then the next day, I had to rush downstairs to meet with my direct supervisor who had called me early for a meeting. I hadn’t quite been fully dressed when she messaged to see if I was available, so I threw on a top and ran to the computer. After the meeting, I went into the kitchen:

Ken (laughing): Why are you wearing a fancy blouse, plaid flannel pajama shorts, and your slippers?
Me: Impromptu meeting.
Ken: No bra?
Me (shimmies): Obviously not.

As you can see, all the signals were there. So, you ask, was your first day of retirement as gloriously awesome as everyone says it should be? In short, NO.

The Beginning

Ken had an early morning balloon launch, so he left me to have a luxurious sleep in. But at around 7:30, I was lying there, all cuddly and warm, when I heard a sudden noise. Atlas was in the back room where he stays when Ken has to leave early, and I knew it wasn’t him. So I did what any normal person would do—I grabbed the baseball bat that I keep by the bed and snuck out of the bedroom to peer down the hallway. Nothing. I kept going, realizing that if anyone actually WAS in the house, Atlas would be going apesh*t, and when I got to the back room, sure enough, he was curled up on his chair looking sleepy. “Come on, buddy,” I encouraged him, and he followed me back upstairs where we settled back into bed. Less than 5 minutes later, his head suddenly popped up and he started to growl under his breath.

Me: What is it?
Atlas: Is noise.
Me: What kind of noise?!

And with that, he started barking and took off downstairs, leaving me alone in bed. At this point, I was more fed up than panicked, and I grabbed the bat again on the premise that, if there WAS someone in the house, I was going to beat them senseless for ruining a perfectly good first morning of retirement. When I got downstairs, Atlas was staring out the window at a squirrel. “You know I’m retired, right?!” I asked him, but he was too intent on the squirrel to care.

The Middle

I took a load of antiques to my booth, then spent some time wiping my company phone, deleting any files that didn’t need to be moved into a shared drive, and signed out of my work computer for the last time. It seemed a little anti-climactic, so I decided to make a ceremony out of it by wheeling my office chair out of the house and putting it at the side of the road. Then I realized that I was kind of boxed in, and spent the next twenty minutes rearranging furniture to maneuver the chair through the living room. By the time I’d finished the whole exercise, I was exhausted and just sat in the chair next to a hydro pole drinking Prosecco and yelling, “I’m retired!” at the neighbours.

The End

Ken was out AGAIN ballooning, so I made dinner for myself and opened a bottle of wine. I turned around to grab a stopper when the bottle hit the counter, fell out of my hand and onto the floor, sending shards of glass and white wine everywhere and freaking me completely out because I HATE broken glass. I was right in the middle of cleaning it up when Ken messaged me to see what I was doing:


Me: I just dropped an entire bottle of wine on the floor and it broke everywhere. Glass is everywhere (crying face emoji). I am very unhappy and also afraid of glass.
Ken: Come to pub for wings.
Me: I am cleaning up glass. Next time (smile emoji). When things aren’t so glassy.)

I finally got everything clean and dry, much to Atlas’s relief, since I’d locked him out of the kitchen.

Atlas: I come in and help clean.
Me: Not a chance. I’ve taken glass out of your mouth before, you dummy.
Atlas: But wine.
Me: But wine, indeed.

Later, we were in the kitchen when Ken yelped.

Ken: What the hell! I just stepped on a piece of glass!
Me: I did the best I could! I was all by myself, Mr. BALLOONMAN! I AM retired, you know! When is this going to get FUN??!!
Ken: Are you missing work?
Me (sighs): Yeah.


It’s been three days. I guess I’ll get used to it. Cheers.

That’s The Entrepreneurial Spirit

As some of you may be aware, I’m retiring from the secret agency at the end of September which, by my count (not that I’m counting) is eight work days away. And while I love my job, I’m still happy to be finally entering my golden years. But the problem is, I’m incredibly worried that I’ll be bored. Yes, I know I have some books to write, and there’s the antique booth to keep stocked, and weekly submissions from the literary magazine that I volunteer with to read, but there are still a lot of hours in the day, and if you know me at all, you know I HATE being bored. I recently signed up to a couple of online job sites, looking for something fun and part-time, you know, but all they send me are either things that will be as, if not more, demanding than my current position, or sound boring AF. And they keep asking “Are you qualified for this position?” like how the hell should I know, and why are you sending me jobs where speaking Italian is a prerequisite? Today’s crop included a lot of jobs involving math, and isn’t their faith in my numeracy skills adorable?

Ken: So the guy at the tree nursery said he’d sell the Lions Club 50 trees for 1000 dollars.
Me: That’s a good deal, like…$20 a tree. Hey, I just did math in my head! I’m really good at math!
Ken: Yes. Yes, you are, honey.
Me (pulls out phone): Where’s that ad for the part-time accountant?

Also, there was a faculty position to teach Introduction To Neuropsychology, but I think to take a job like that, you need to know what neuropsychology is aside from ‘weird brain stuff’. There WAS an intriguing post for ‘Collections Specialist’ and I was thrilled for a minute because, as you know, I collect a LOT of things, but it’s actually just a euphemism for shaking down people over the phone to get them to pay their debts, and I’ve never seen the word ‘delinquent’ used so much in one ad. Ultimately, I think I need to give up on these sites, because I never know what the jobs are, and I spent a lot of time the other day coming up with various configurations of meats, cheeses, and condiments to demonstrate my creativity, only to discover that “Sub Stack Developer” was not quite what I imagined it to be.

But I’m not a quitter, so I’ve decided to use my entrepreneurial spirit and come up with my own jobs, positions that are a LOT more fun than “Mobile Truck and Coach Technician” or “Procurement Operations Specialist” (which is code for professional kidnapper, obviously):

1) Travel Advisor

This is not the same thing as a travel agent. No, what I’ll be doing is using my extensive experience as Queen of Worst Case Scenarios to help people who are thinking of travelling:

Client: So I’d like to go hiking.
Me: Terrible idea.
Client: But I really want to go.
Me: Fine. Don’t stand on the edge of any cliffs.
Client: Ooh, good thinking.
Me: And don’t clamber around on rocks. Your ankle could get caught in between two of them, and then you’d have to chew your leg off. Also, get some bear spray.
Client: Excellent advising. Here is fifty dollars.

2) Boredom Specialist

Me: I see that you are the Synergy Group, Boring Division. I’m here to help you spice things up.
Guy working on my street: That’s not what that means.
Me: So your division isn’t boring?
Guy: Well, yes. It IS boring, but–
Me: Then you definitely need my help. I suggest a clown costume, the bigger and redder the nose the better. Also, two words—glitter cannon.
Guy: Lady, leave me alone. I need to do boring.
Me: Fine. Be boring. But don’t say I didn’t try. And on that note, you owe me fifty bucks.

3) Pet Detective

I actually saw that job title come up the other day, and I was super excited at the idea of combining two of my favourite things–solving mysteries and pets. And this was even better because it was solving mysteries ABOUT pets. The position involved ‘striking up conversations and sharing stories with fellow pet owners about their animals’ and it sounded EXACTLY like what a good detective would do:

Me (striking up conversation): Hello. Might I ask you a couple of questions?
Pet Owner: Why certainly.
Me: (holds up photograph): Have you seen this cat anywhere? Her name is Miss Whiskers McGee. She was last seen in the company of your bulldog.
Bulldog (running): You’ll never take me alive!
Pet Owner: Bowzer! What have you done?!

And I had just gone through the closet and found one of Ken’s old fedoras and a trenchcoat when Ken pointed out that the job was with the Blue Buffalo Pet Food Company and that ‘Pet Detective’ was a glorified pet food salesperson and I was like “How in the name of Nancy Drew is that doing detective work?!” But then the other day, our neighbour’s cat escaped from their breezeway and they asked us to help find her. We didn’t–she was hiding in their basement ceiling–but if it happens again, I’m definitely wearing the fedora and trenchcoat. In the meantime, though, the search for something interesting and fun continues. I’ll keep you posted.

LinkedIn: I Am Good At All The Jobs

I’ve been on LinkedIn for about five years now. If you don’t know what LinkedIn is, it’s like Facebook for people who don’t want to read about your vacation, see pictures of your kids, or look at memes about how hot it is. Yes. It’s hot. We are all aware. Anyway, the purpose of LinkedIn is to let you network with other “professionals”, post interesting “professional” articles, and read about “professional”-type things. Frankly, it’s boring AF for someone like me, who only dabbles in “professionalism” and would actually prefer to read about your vacation or see pictures of your kids than read about how I can “benefit from a global logistical hub connecting people, goods and markets through sky and sea”. But please stop telling me how hot it is, especially since my air conditioning is currently broken. Every time I hear someone on Facebook say, “Oh my god, it’s so hot!”, I am reminded of the fact that in approximately 16 weeks, you will all be saying, “Oh my god, it’s so cold!” It’s weather. That’s what it does.

A few weeks ago, though, I was looking through my account and found a button I could activate that would tell people I was ‘on the market’, i.e. looking for a job. I’m not actually looking for a job, since I already have a couple, but still, I thought, “I’m retiring soon. What’s the harm in seeing what’s on offer?” It’s the same logic as being in a happy marriage, but looking over your friend’s shoulder while she’s swiping left and right on Tinder—it’s fun to see what’s out there, even if you’re not really interested at the moment. So I signed up (for Job Alerts, NOT Tinder). But now, at least three times a day, I get a LinkedIn Job Alert that shows me over 100 jobs for which I might, apparently, be a ‘top applicant’. And also, apparently, LinkedIn has no idea what I do, or what my current skill sets are because I don’t even know what some of these jobs entail. But what if I applied for one and actually got it?…

1) Supervisor, Tool Room

Me: Good morning, staff. I am your new Supervisor, Tool Room.
Staff (muttering—they’re a cynical bunch apparently): Yeah, good morning, whatevs.
Me: So, first things first. Please put your tools on the table so that I can supervise them. I’ve devised this clever sign-out system, so if you need a tool, I’ve also created a Word doc explaining how you fill in the requisition form. There will be a quiz tomorrow. Have a good day.
Staff: What the f*ck? Give us back our hammers!

2) Warehouse Support

Me: You are an excellent warehouse. Don’t feel bad because you aren’t always as creative as the other warehouses. Creativity comes in many forms. We just have to find the right…idiom for you.
Warehouse: I just really want to get better at abstraction. I mean, my realistic canvasses are quite well-received, but I want to branch out—you know, show the other warehouses that there’s more to me than just landscapes.
Me: You will. Trust me.

3) Team Leader, Change Implementation

Me: Good morning, staff. I’m your new Team Leader. My job is to implement change.
Staff (enthusiastically—these guys are much more receptive): OK, cool, whatevs.
Me: As of today, you are no longer “Waterloo-Wellington Agricorp Limited, Finance and Procurement Division”. You are now “Frosty Queen”. Let’s hear it for frozen milk products!
Staff: But we make farm equipment.
Me: Change is hard.

4) Security Shift Supervisor

Me: Good morning team. I understand that you are the Security Shift. I like it. That’s an awesome nickname. So which one of you is Deadpool, because I just LOVE how you combine humour with kick-ass action.
Staff (confused—not the sharpest tools in the shed): Deadpool? What are you talking about?
Me: Oh. Is this more of a Suicide Squad type deal? OK. Which one of you is Harley Quinn?
Girl (slowly raises hand).
Me: Cool. I didn’t recognize you out of costume.
Girl: Uh, no. There’s no ‘Harley Quinn’ here.
Me: Then which universe IS this?! I get them so confused, especially since Marvel AND DC are both putting teasers after the credits. OK, “Security Shift”—show me your superpowers. And do it quick—I hear there’s trouble down at the Frosty Queen.

5) Bilingual French Financial Services Funding Specialist

Me (terrible French accent): Doo yoo wahnt sum mun-ayyy?
French Person: Je ne comprend pas!
Me: Mun-ayyy! Le cash! Do you actually SPEAK French or are you just messing with me?
French Person: Vous etes une idiote.
Me: Aww. That’s sweet. But you forgot the accent circonflexe on ‘etes’. (My written French is MUCH better than my spoken French).

6) Advanced Case Manager, Insurance Products

Me: So a shark attacked your boat and it sunk?
Customer: Aye. We’re gonna need a bigger boat.
Me: Unfortunately, you’re only insured for the replacement cost. Also, shark attacks are an act of God.
Customer (scratches nails down the blackboard that I somehow have in my fancy insurance office): Argh. You suck.
Me: I’m sorry, Mr. Quinn. I CAN, however, provide some funds for the purchase of extra scuba tanks and a rifle.
Customer: I can’t see how that would be helpful, but whatevs.

7) Broadband Specialist

Me: I hear the internet is slow. Where do we keep the extra wire-y type things?
Staff: In the warehouse. Be careful when you go in—it has self-esteem issues.

As you can see, I would be amazing at so many of the jobs that LinkedIn is offering me. Luckily for me, and the rest of the working world, I already have a job. At least for the next three months—if you need me after that, you know where I am.

Simple Distractions

There’s a particular meeting we have every week at work. And because it happens every week, there’s a rotation schedule identifying the two co-chairs, which changes every three months. So imagine my surprise last week, having failed to look at the rotation chart in A VERY LONG TIME, that I was now one of the co-chairs. But I made a deal with my partner—he would organize the meetings, and I would take the minutes. Now, this sounded great in theory, but I had forgotten that I am literally SURROUNDED by things designed to distract me. And I’ve found that, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve become more easily distracted, not that it’s a bad thing:

Ken: No, I don’t agree.
Me: Oh, for god’s sake, Ken! Why can’t—ooh, is that a bottle of Chardonnay?
Ken: Yes. Yes, it is. Would you like a glass?
Me: I’d love one. Now what were we talking about?
Ken: Who knows.
Me: Cheers!

So anyway, there I was at the virtual meeting, cleverly taking notes by typing everything into Word and then copying and pasting into the shared document that everyone could see. That way, I could proofread first and correct any errors before the rest of the group could notice them. Also, I took a certain amount of pleasure in the thought that my colleagues, seeing the blocks of text magically appear, would now believe I could type incredibly fast, like it was my superpower or something. But then, just like a superhero, my kryptonite happened. One of the group began adlibbing about something that WASN’T EVEN ON THE AGENDA, and because I was in the shared document, I was scrambling to follow along and type as he spoke. Simultaneously, I looked up and realized that there was a GIGANTIC F*CKING INSECT on the curtain directly in front of my laptop and I didn’t know if it was a cricket or potentially a cockroach because I’ve never actually seen a cockroach except on Hoarders and it looked like it MIGHT be one and how the HELL did it get into my house, and I completely stopped listening and began frantically texting Ken for ‘Hep!!”:

And Ken, being the excellent husband he is, came charging down the stairs, cupped his hands around the giant bug and carried it outside, at which point, the person in the meeting who had gone rogue with his agenda item said, “Uh, Suzanne—that’s not what I said” and I kind of stuttered, “Oh sorry, I was just…doing something” and I’ve never been so happy that my camera was off in my life. Which it has NOT been on several occasions, including later last week when a mosquito flew into my face and it took me several attempts to kill it, much to the amusement of the other people in the meeting I was attending who had stopped speaking to watch the spectacle. “Did you get it?” asked one of the directors. I had, in fact, so at least there was that.

And so, I leave you with the profound wisdom of this saying that I saw on the side of a truck the other day as I was driving down the highway: “Geniusness is not a flavour, we claim it by our own experience.”

I have no idea what this means and I’ve been trying to think that, if it’s a literal translation from another language, what might the original be? Just like when the Chinese translate American movie titles and they come out sounding both weird and hilarious, and some of them completely spoil the plot:

Seabed General Mobilization (Finding Nemo)
Interstellar Special Ability Team (Guardians of the Galaxy)
One Night, Big Belly (Knocked Up)
Satan Female Soldier (GI Jane)
Earth And Comet Collide (Deep Impact)
He’s A Ghost! (The Sixth Sense)

There are a ton more of these you can google and they’re all stellar.

In other news, I’ve mentioned my new novel, The Seventh Devil, a couple of times so here’s an update: my publisher, Bookland Press, loved it and they currently have it available for pre-order on all the Amazons (including Brazil and Japan) with a release date of June 15th 2021. And because I’m a control freak and have an aversion to stock images, I’ve been toying around with a couple of cover ideas. Luckily Kate is really a whiz at Photoshop, so she combined photos of my cousin, the daughter of a friend of mine, and a picture that Ken took of a swamp road. I really like the first one, but the publisher said they’d prefer something more “devilish, so here are the two options. Let me know what you think!

Also, here’s the updated synopsis if you’re interested:

When nineteen-year-old runaway Verity Darkwood, flat broke and devastated by guilt, takes refuge in a bar to escape the unwanted attention of a stranger, she doesn’t expect to meet Gareth Winter, let alone become business partners with him. They discover that they each possess the ability to interact with the world “beyond the veil” and, with the help of Horace Greeley III, editor of the fantastical online journal The Echo, Verity and Gareth spend the next two years on the road, helping the earthbound spirits who haunt their clients to cross over, or exorcising the demons that plague them. But when they stumble upon a series of unsolved child abductions spanning decades which are eerily similar to the circumstances surrounding the disappearance of Verity’s younger sister, they embark on a pursuit that will take them across Canada in their quest to find The Seventh Devil, the dangerous and mysterious figure who may be behind it all.

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.

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.)

A Beautiful Day In The Neighbourhood

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Personal Achievements

I’ve accomplished quite a bit this week despite being locked down. No, I didn’t win a damned Oscar, but I’m pretty sure if there WAS one for Best Use Of Hosiery By A Middle-Aged Woman, I would definitely be a contender.

1) Learning New Skills

Last week, I had to finish my Performance Plan which, if you’ve never done one, is where you have to tell someone at the start of the year what you’re planning to do, and then at the end of the year, you tell them what you did, and you hope the two things match well enough that your boss says, “Shantay, you stay.” And while my real boss is very cool, wouldn’t it be amazing if my boss was actually a big, fabulous drag queen who also said, “No tea, no shade! You’re serving up Performance Plan realness—now sissy that walk!”

Anyway, I was putting the finishing touches on my Performance Plan, looking at the ‘courses taken’ section to make sure I’d completed the mandatory accessibility and hazardous materials training (and here’s a long detour: The only hazardous material in my workplace might potentially be the photocopier ink cartridge, and we are under strict instructions to NEVER touch the photocopiers in our office even if they jam, because we are NOT QUALIFIED to unjam a photocopier, even though I spent most of my tenure as an International Languages Principal doing EXACTLY THAT and every Saturday, I was invariably called at least three times to the photocopy room by a distressed staff member who was an excellent teacher of Vietnamese or whatnot, but who couldn’t read English well enough to understand what the digital display on the photocopier was telling them to do, and had managed to completely f*ck up a very expensive machine that it was now MY JOB to repair. So I AM QUALIFIED, FRANK. But I digress. Back to the topic at hand.) and I discovered that there was a section I hadn’t notice before called “Personal Achievements”. Ooh, I thought to myself, now this is exciting. Because the day before, I had made a face mask, and it wasn’t half bad, even if Ken refused to wear it:

Me: Look! I made you a face mask!
Ken: Is that one of your socks?
Me: It may or may not be. See—it goes on like this.
Ken: Is it clean?
Me: Of course I’m pretty sure it’s clean! You can wear it when you go grocery shopping.
Ken: That’s OK. I’ll just stay away from people.

And I was sad, because saving Ken’s life would have been a really good Personal Achievement. But then I went to the tab and opened it, and it was a series of courses that you could take, and some of them were AMAZING. The first thing that caught my eye was ‘Chainsaw Operators Certification” and that would be so handy since we have this chestnut tree on our property that is essentially dead but Ken refuses to cut down because it “still gets a few leaves every year” as more and more of the branches fall off. I could just picture myself wearing a cute flannel shirt tied at the waist, booty shorts, and workboots, firing up that bad boy and yelling whatever it is that lumberjacks yell LIKE A BOSS, as the tree explodes in an orgy of fireworks, and reading this back, I think it’s very apparent that I have no idea what being a lumberjack is really like. But I’m OK.

Then something strange caught my eye. CHEMICAL IMMOBILIZATION OF WILDLIFE. What the hell is this?! So I clicked on it to read the description, which said, “Learn how to chemically immobilize nuisance wildlife” which shone no further light on how, and more importantly WHY one would want to do this, and all I could picture was forests full of animals standing completely still like weird fluffy statues, and I DIDN’T LIKE IT AT ALL.

So I comforted myself by considering taking the Harvard Manager Mentor courses, specifically “Difficult Interactions”, “Persuading Others”, and “Time Management” because Ken is so damn stubborn, but I think I might already have those skills:

Me: Put the sock mask on.
Ken: No.
Me: You’re being difficult. Put the damn mask on or I won’t make homemade pizza for dinner. You have 5 seconds.
Ken (sighs): OK.

See? I dealt with a difficult interactions using persuasion and time management.

There was also the Joint Health and Safety Committee, which I’m assuming has something to do with the legalization of marijuana, Pleasure Craft Operators Card (which I might need now that Ken and I have kayaks), Snow Mobile Operator, and Search Warrant Training. Almost every course you could take sounded completely badass, and all I need is my boss’s approval. Hopefully, she says, “Okurrrr!”

2) A while ago, I was complaining that I couldn’t change my wifi name to something more fun, but I DID figure out how to do this on my computer screensaver:

I’m pretty pleased with myself for being able to capture this moment, since it swirls around really fast, kind of like my brain.

3) Last week, our neighbour across the street moved out, and new neighbours moved in. They seemed like regular people with regular furniture, but later in the afternoon, Ken came downstairs:

Ken: I think the new neighbours have a really big dog, but it’s just standing in the middle of their lawn not moving.
Me: Maybe it’s been chemically immobilized.
Ken: Seriously, come and see.

So we looked out the window and realized that in the middle of our new neighbours’ lawn, they had placed a giant, plastic wolf statue. It wasn’t by their front door, or in the middle of a flower bed where you’d EXPECT to see a lawn ornament. It was just standing there staring at our house. And it had these really weird, bright blue eyes. I couldn’t stop thinking about it, and later on, I went out for a few groceries and took a surreptitious picture of it from my driveway. I was intending to sneak back at some point and get a close-up of its eyes, but when we got up the next morning, IT WAS GONE. I’m already having trouble sleeping because I hurt my shoulder, and the only way to be comfortable is to let my arm dangle straight down off the mattress, but I CAN’T DO THAT BECAUSE OF THE DEMONS THAT MAY OR MAY NOT LIVE UNDER THE BED. And now, I have to worry about waking up in the middle of the night to find a giant, plastic wolf scratching at my door. So I did what any normal person would do—I made Ken put on the sock and go to the store to get the new neighbours a gift basket. At least one of my personal achievements came in handy this week.

(I just got nominated for Publication of the Month at Spillwords Press for a flash piece I posted a few weeks ago called “Resurrection”. If you’d like to vote for me, you might have to register but it’s free, there’s no obligation for anything further, and if you do, I’ll write a story with your name in it. Also, they’re a terrific and very responsive publication to submit to in case you’re looking for somewhere—anyway, here’s the link: Vote

Voyage of Discovery

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

1) I discover a solution

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

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

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

“It’s beautiful,” I whispered.

“It’s heavy,” Ken answered.

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

2) I discover an impossible task

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

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

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

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

3) I discover something new to worry about…

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

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

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

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

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

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.
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.