Saturday, December 23, 2017

Eve Decorates Christmas Cookies: Second Annual Edition

Well it was more of an addendum to my last post of last year, but I still found it enjoyable.

She started out pretty traditional. She was frustrated trying to find her technique with the icing again. She didn't feel like this was an adequate representation of her abilities.

A little more uniform here. 

"Wow, I mean, I really am quite incredibly talented. I'm surprised I didn't see it before. I should try something hard."

"Like a horse. I'm going to do a horse".

"Oh my God, I amaze myself. I am amazing. What do you mean a horse isn't Christmassy? It's a talent thing. You just don't get it."

"It needs a hair tie."

(At this point, she giggled so much Matt asked if she was drunk.)

"Well obviously this is heartbreakingly beautiful. How could anyone bring themselves to eat it?" (Angus says he'll eat it, Eve is offended).

(She searched through the sprinkles, found an orange star and broke off an arm for the carrot nose. I was kind of impressed by that.)

Add caption
Then. This happened. 

It was supposed to be a T-Rex, then things went horribly wrong. She asked Angus what he thought it was and he guessed the Intact Insurance lizard. She broke a gingerbread man in half to make it look like it was being eaten, but then said it looked more like a binky. 

Finally: "Okay, now - how do you make a pentagram. And I need five different kinds of sprinkles. For the five signs for summoning Santa."

(A gingerbread man in a pool of blood is apparently a seasonal motif here now.)

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

O Little Town of Rush and Mayhem

I think a lot, at this time of year, not just about everything that has to get done, but the whole issue of expectations, and where they come from, and what to do with them (as opposed to what I sometimes feel like telling people what to do with their expectations, which is another matter entirely). It's such an odd thing, this season of alleged comfort and joy, merry brightness, decked halls and midnights clear, that counter-intuitively often causes huge stress and strain and great antipathy toward one's fellow human.

Last year Matt was away for work the second week of December. It was terrible - I felt like it put us so behind in Christmas prep that we never caught up. I didn't send out Christmas cards at all for the first time in years. This year there was no travel on the horizon but I didn't really trust it to stay that way, so we started decorating early, as opposed to my usual "oh, we'll start December first, oh wait, was today December first? We'll do it on the week-end, oh wow that's a lot of sports happening this week-end" and whoops, late again. 

So we started early, and I'm not working yet, and I've judiciously employed my mantra of "do what you have to, then do what you can, then let the rest go". I've baked four pans of salted chocolate toffee pretzel bark, two batches of toffee shortbread, two pans of skor brownies (yeah, we like our skor bit-employing recipes in this house), three batches of white chocolate-dipped lemon shortbread, two batches of sugar and spice cookies, and three batches of gingerbread scones. Most of my Christmas shopping was done last week.

And you know what? IT'S STILL STRESSFUL. I am NOT calm and Zen and beatific. I have given away or fed people most of the baking and I feel like I should bake more. I keep thinking of presents that would be perfect that it's now too late to buy. My parents are coming over for Christmas Eve and I have no idea what to serve. 

So here I am, privilege up the wazoo, with way more time and money to throw at this problem than most people have. How do we do this? Why do we do this? 

There have been really great moments. The day of Christmas book club I realized it was short story night and I hadn't read the short stories yet. Then I realized I didn't really feel like reading the stories, so I baked more cookies instead, and showed up and happily confessed my delinquency and had a lovely night hanging out with book club friends. Today the oven died while I was baking more lemon shortbread - I mean, the element started sputtering and sparking in spectacular fashion, and once I figured out that it wasn't going to explode and kill me, I turned it off. I swore for a bit, then wrapped up the rest of the dough, shoved it in the fridge, texted my husband to please figure out how to fix it and went to sit by the tree with my dog. When Matt got home, we opened the oven to find that the cookies I figured were a write-off had actually baked perfectly in the cooling oven.

This isn't a metaphor, though - most cookies don't bake themselves, and crowded stores suck, and there's never enough time to do everything, and we're always being encouraged to spend more money than we should. So I don't know. What's the mid-point between Grinch and Crazed Gingerbread Stepford Wife? I don't want my family to be disappointed, and I also don't want the secret ingredient to be resentment. 

If you have any wisdom on this subject, feel free to share. If not, I'm happy to tell you to do what you have to, do what you can, then let the rest go as many times as you need. Also, here is a picture of my lovely daughter wearing a Peace sweatshirt.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Girl Gang

So, the Gingerbread Yahoos?

I got them gingerbread pajamas. 

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Extreme Home Makeover, Gingerbread Style

So on the week-end, these four yahoos decide to go buy gingerbread houses and decorate them.

They bought two kits, and the original idea was for everybody to work on both, but when they got them back home Eve said she suddenly realized she didn't want Marianna or Alison anywhere near her gingerbread house. This is because Eve and Davis (partners in cooking class) are neat, deliberate, detail-oriented people in nearly every respect, while Marianna and Alison are, let's say, a little more into freestyling.

So Matt and I picked up the three girls that had to be driven home, after some drinks around a Christmas tree with friends, so all of this was doubly hilarious.

Alison: "You know what, I'm not even embarrassed about our house, because your house is, like, the kind of house that nobody ever buys because it's too intimidating, because it has, like, nine bathrooms and you can't just relax in it."

Davis: "The houses are literally the exact same size."

Alison: "I know, but yours is too perfect. Ours is just nice and relaxed and cozy."

Davis: "It's cozy because you ICINGED OVER THE WINDOWS. Nobody could sell yours because it's ILLEGAL TO SELL A HOUSE WITHOUT WINDOWS."


Before this, at the aforementioned Christmas tree music-listening session, everyone was calling out their favourite Christmas songs and then songs in general, while the man of the house used the ipad and tv to play the songs in question and everyone either enjoyed them or, more likely, mocked them and went into detail about why they were the worst examples of so-called music ever to litter the cultural landscape. (I know. I'm not sure how we all stay friends, we're basically horrible people who often bring out the worst in each other). So there was some back-and-forthing on Roger Whittaker, several versions of Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas, a near-violent stand-off involving Take On Me, and then Collette said her favourite love song was Beth by Kiss, because she'd heard that one of the band members wrote it for his wife while stuck in a long songwriting session, and it was the most realistic kind of love song. So then naturally someone said "and now should we look up the history of that song and ruin it for you forever?" and I TOLD her not to do it, but she did. And Song Facts said the wife of the guitarist was always interruping their practices asking when he was coming home, and the song was written (imagine this read by Collette in a deflated tone:) "as a joke directed at him." 

Giving your friends a hard time about the things they love: it's what Christmas is all about, right?

Friday, December 1, 2017

Still Working on the Geography Thing

Eve, a few days ago, storming into the room: "My next cooking project is so weird! It's called 'pasta est ceci'. What the hell is that? 'Pasta is here?' It's not even pasta! It's chickpeas!"

Me, Googling: "It's not 'pasta est ceci', you dork. It's 'pasta e ceci'. Italian, not French. Pasta with chickpeas."

Eve, the next day. "Okay, you're right. It's tiny pasta. With chickpeas."

Eve, yesterday: "Where is Rome?" Me: "Italy." Eve: "Huh. So they speak... Italian?" Me: "Yep."
Eve: "And that's... different from Spanish, right?" Me: "Um, yeah." Eve: *sighs* "Okay."

Eve, today: "I apologized to my cooking partner, the Spanish exchange student, for trying to make her read Italian."

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Thirty Days Has September

I still have to use that rhyme to remember which months have 30 or 31 days (shut up February, ya freak).

Well, here we are. Today was generally very good. I had an appointment to meet my new doctor, because my old doctor retired and I loved her but she was all the way downtown and it could take an hour to get to her office (where the parking lot was expensive and often full) and, especially in the winter, I would get massive anxiety about just getting to the appointment, never mind whatever it was about.

Today was an easy thirteen-minute drive, to a small town nearby that I always mean to spend more time in anyway. The office is in a large mini-mall with a giant free parking lot. I was so giddy with happiness I started to feel afraid that I was going to get in an accident in the parking lot just because things couldn't possibly be going this well. Then I met the doctor (at only nine minutes after the time my appointment was scheduled for) and she was unbelievably awesome, and friendly, and thorough, and responsive to my concerns, and willing to refer me wherever for stuff that's going on right now, and generally my ideal dream doctor (well duh, she's Greek and Eve's BFF's mom recommended her).

I dropped by my parents' place on the way home and told them about it and my mom said she might try to join the practice too, and when he heard where it was my dad said "yeah, you should do it, then you can pick up our booze at the LCBO after".

I made three pans of chocolate toffee pretzel bark yesterday to freeze so I would feel ahead of the Christmas baking. I screwed up the first pan, which is really embarrassing because it's so freaking easy - pretzels on pan, simmer butter and brown sugar, pour on pretzels, bake five minutes, pour on chocolate chips, wait two minutes, spread, sprinkle with salt, harden, the end. First pan? Totally skipped the baking part. So the chocolate chips just kind of half-melted and it's less bark-y than... piece-y. Eve just walked by with her mouth full saying "I love this screwed-up bark", so I guess that's okay too.

Matt put up the Christmas lights even though it was raining because he said his options for the next few days were warm-ish and wet or dry and frigging cold. He put the stair-rail garland up yesterday because we remembered that last year he had to travel the second week of December and it put us way behind and made Christmas prep more stressful.

So unlike most years, when I decide to wait until December first to decorate and then December first falls on a Tuesday and I miss it and end up feeling panicky and tired and humbuggish, we're actually almost done (except for the tree) before December first. For people that don't tend to learn from past mistakes, this is kind of a big thing.

All in all, it was a fair and fortunate ending to a bit of a difficult month (that still had many good things in it). I still feel like I'm slogging more than blogging, and don't really have a clue how to get my groove back. But I'll keep trying.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Day 29

Not gonna lie, everything kind of feels like this right now.

I was talking with a friend the other day about how I think I have to reassess my anti-depressant. I kind of feel like my emotions are blunted, like I'm feeling things, or know I should be feeling things, but not the way I think I would if they were unmediated. In the case of depressive feelings, this is a good thing, but it's less good if all the feelings are being indiscriminately shielded (I like to think that some rebel feelings are mounting an operation to get through a thermal exhaust port, but you can't really count on that kind of thing). It's a hard thing to recognize when you're stuck in it, but a friend's husband died a couple of weeks ago and I suddenly realized that I was sad, but not as sad as I should be. And yeah, the tragedy isn't about me, but the reaction is. I have absolutely no doubts about taking medication that helps me to function, if it makes me more like myself and less like myself on depression. But I can't take it unquestioningly if it makes me less me.

My posts from Novembers past keep showing up in my Facebook timeline. I keep reading them and feeling like I've lost something - I remember how it felt to be typing, barely keeping up with my thoughts, wrestling them into something funny and quirky on the way onto the page. It's entirely possible that I'm just having a rough time right now and that's reflected in the writing, but.... what if this pill is making me numb AND dumb?

It's scary to mess with this stuff. I'm really wary of switching to something that tries to kill me if I need to stop taking it. I'm going to start cutting my dosage for this one for now, and talk to my doctor.

I've been depressed about being fat again lately. I mean, not that I'm fat again - still fat, but it's bugging me again. For a while I was in some kind of acceptance phase, just trying to be less fucked up about food, exercise for fun instead of for punishment. Then I saw a picture (it's always a fucking picture). I started idly speculating about things I would give up to be magically thing. Couple of I.Q. points? Well, I wouldn't know I was dumber if I was dumber, right? My sense of humour? No, that's too high a price. A limb? Probably not. I'd like to say that contemplating the long list of things I have that are too valuable to lose made me care less about being fat. Okay, maybe they did a little, but not like in a Lifetime movie or an article in a woman's magazine.

Angus is going to visit a small college in New York this week-end - the coach is interested in him playing for them next year. We've been talking a lot about the whole university thing, and I know it's overwhelming for him but I keep realizing that I haven't even really touched the outer edges of the overwhelmingness - a few days ago he said "I can do a degree there and then go somewhere else or come home, right?" Like, he thought he might have to stay there for the rest of his life or something. Today he said to us, "even if the visit goes really well I think I'm still going to be really nervous about going to university in another country". Well. Yeah. Dude - join the club.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Doppelgangers in Row Six

I didn't get groceries yesterday - my usual day - because I wasn't feeling great. I still wasn't feeling great today but the cupboards were getting bare (yeah, that's not remotely accurate, the cupboards are overflowing with coconut milk and canned soup and about-to-expire tomato sauce, but my over-indulged brood were insisting on things like fresh produce and non-moldy bread). I felt like I looked okay. I kind of like my grocery-shopping uniform - gray leggings, blue stripey shirt with cool handkerchief hem, work socks and boots. But my hair is in desperate need of a cut and colour - I was using this root spray that seemed okay for a while, but now it just makes me feel like one of those guys in those "spray paint the bald away" infomercials, and it just seems too sad. So I didn't feel like I'd make children cry or anything, but I was kind of hoping I wouldn't run into anyone I knew.

So I got there and immediately ran into someone I knew. We did the 'hey, how are you, how are the kids" and then I said "ooh, Jann Arden, that looked cool" and she said "That wasn't me". And my eyes shot open wide and my jaw dropped down low and I was like "but, but, yes it was. There were pictures. It was you, it was totally you, WHY ARE YOU FUCKING WITH ME LIKE THIS?" And then she left and I realized she was totally and completely NOT who I thought she was.

About a quarter of the way through the store it I noticed this woman who was trailing me through the aisles. She was wearing leggings and a white sweater with a cool handkerchief hem. And boots. And her hair was long and blonde and perfect and did not require any improvement whatsoever. And she was thin.

This slightly better version of me ended up right behind me in line at the checkout. I took an obscure comfort from the fact that she had even more frozen pizzas than I did.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Day 27

Eve came home from school and asked if we could go on a field trip to Indigo because yet another book in the School For Good and Evil had come out and she had a million gift cards - she offered to buy me a book for taking her, as if getting me to go to a bookstore needs additional inducement.

We got there and I only mocked her a little when we found the book shelved in Fiction 9-12. I think it makes a pleasing contrast that she's going to be reading this alternating with It.

Then we got hot chocolate and drove around to drop off some boxes I had for Facebook group members who are collecting stuff for the homeless or for their kids' school's Christmas bazaar, which was good because my usual M.O. is to collect a bunch of stuff, leave it sitting in boxes on my dining room table until the deadline for dropping it off has passed, chuck it all at Value Village and feel like a giant failure.

On the way home, we were talking about cooking class and scary Italian Youtube cooks and bad translations and somehow I was reminded of that time Eve said something horribly inappropriate to a friend's daughter who was adopted from China. So naturally I merrily told her about it, while she wailed in mortification and covered her ears. She said she didn't remember most of it except the last part - "How did they get rid of the kid? Spin it around three times and run away?"

Then we came home and she went upstairs to work on her soup Powerpoint, and I sat down at the computer and there was trigonometry on it, and now I'm listening to Matt telling Angus "the sine doesn't care what goes on here", so I'm going to beat a hasty retreat to a less math-y environment.

Also, I didn't buy a book. My self-restraint is mighty. Fear me.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Glad I Put All That Forgetfulness Business Behind Me

Matt: "What are you making?"

Me: "Trifle."

Matt: "What for?"

Me: "Remember? We usually go overnight to Collette's father's cottage, and go shopping and have lunch in Westport and then make dinner and play drunken Cranium at the cottage? But this year Collette can't come because they're going to the Grey Cup, and she wanted us to go to the cottage without her, but that seemed weird to us so we're just going for the day and then doing potluck at Janet's? And I'm doing dessert?"

Matt: "Cool. Why two kinds?"

Me: "I'm making the lemon raspberry because Collette doesn't really like chocolate."

Matt: "...."

Me: "Yep, I heard it."

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Television Pet Peeves

I really like NCIS New Orleans. I love Scott Bakula, I love C.C.H. Pounder, I love Lucas Black (creepy child actor grows up and becomes surprisingly hot and speaks with a delicious New Orleans southern drawl) and Daryl Mitchell. The setting is really fun. I watch the original NCIS but for some reason I've never gotten into the Los Angeles one. They're all among the few shows that actually stay on On Demand in their entirety (rather than the earlier episodes disappearing, which I find infuriating), so I usually catch up on a half-dozen episodes all at once when I'm spending the day cooking or cleaning.

So here's the thing about NCIS NO though: Bakula plays Dwayne Pride, the Agent in Charge of the New Orleans office. He is, predictably, a real stand-up guy, a little intense - okay, a lot intense, to the point of self-destructiveness. It's a well-known type (in sad fact, it's making me like the show a little less just thinking about this more closely). I'm getting a little weary, this season, of the storylines hammering heavily on Pride-is-off-the-rails, particularly because it kind of felt like we just had that storyline and just as we were getting back to normal, here we are again.

The other point is, like many mainstream dramas involving law enforcement or medical personnel, friends and family of the main characters are involved in the plot lines way more than is statistically likely. This seems to make the whole question of "why does Pride get over-involved" even more ludicrous - like, duh, he gets over-involved and breaks the rules because it's his best friend's daughter/best man/boyfriend/college pal/ex-husband who's in trouble. Despite the whole notion that it's better to have an objective, detached doctor or police person handling your case, the idea of being looked after by someone who will never, ever give up is irresistibly romantic and dramatic - I get that. But drawing attention to it kind of shakes the fourth wall too much, if you know what I mean.

Also, is anybody really sick of the "I went through something traumatic but I don't need any help, I'm FINE" shtick? Wouldn't it be really refreshing if they would just say "yeah, that was intense, man. I should probably talk to someone BEFORE I alienate all my friends/develop a drinking problem/ cross paths with a murderous criminal in my vulnerable state". Yeah, I know it's unrealistic. I'm just tired of watching the same old pattern.

Monday, November 20, 2017

City Champs

So last Tuesday evening was the city volleyball final for Angus's school team. He told us not to go last year and then told us we should have come because it was really exciting. So naturally I decided we would go this year if they made it that far. And naturally Matt was in Japan when it happened.

It was November, and cold, and dark, and I wanted to leave the house about as much as I wanted to french kiss a cactus, but I love my son and I am always trying to be less weird, so off I went.

It went well. My contacts were untroublesome, so I could read all the signs well. The route was extremely circuitous and downtown, which I don't like, but the traffic was fine and I got there easily. I found the gym with some difficulty (it was on the third floor, which seems weird, doesn't it?) It hadn't occurred to me that there would be an admission fee, and it was three dollars and I only had a fifty - cue feeling like an absolute tool. They were nice about it, and I don't think there were many people coming in behind me, so hopefully the fact that I pretty much cleaned out their change tray was okay. I stifled the urge to tell them just to keep the change - the urge was definitely there, because I hate inconveniencing people, especially polite teen-agers, but I stifled it.

I thought that one person I know might be there, because both her kids are big into volleyball and one of them plays on the team. I managed to find her and squish in beside her and her husband, so now I wasn't totally alone either. I managed not to ask a million questions about what was happening, which was difficult, because, look - I learned the rules for baseball I learned most of the rules for baseball I learned some of the rules for baseball. That was the agreement. I did NOT learn volleyball.

It was an almost perfect game in the movie sense - our team won the first two periods sets, but narrowly. The other team pulled ahead significantly in the third set and then won. The fourth set was close again, and then our team started pulling ahead coming up to the final points. There were a bunch of kids from the school that came on a fan bus, and they all stood up for the final point and then rushed the court. Angus didn't play very much, which always means Matt and I make noises about how it's great for him to play for a team where all the pressure isn't on him and we think it will be relaxing watching the game because it's not all on our kid, and then we both freak out and hyperventilate anyway. It was an exciting game and I was glad I was there, even though I had to climb over a few vexing neurosis obstacles to get there.

I got a picture after of Angus with a teammate who has the same last name - the other kid also plays baseball, and I was watching him play in the district final trying to get to the Little League World Series the year after Angus's team had and when the kid came up to bat an enthusiastic boy of about ten in the bleachers behind me told his brother with great authority that that was "the brother of Angus Adams". I couldn't quite figure out how to phrase my rebuttal of his statement, so I just let it go. Here they are - the Adams Brothers.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Shrew-Taming and Trivia

So as a direct result of seeing the play on Thursday night, Eve and I watched 10 Things I Hate About You and I now have half a dozen versions of Cruel to Be Kind on my ipod. I am now, predictably, sad again about Heath Ledger. But I'd forgotten that the hilariously irate English teacher was played by Daryl "Chill" Mitchell. I really liked him in Ed (one of my very favourite tv shows ever), where he plays a bowling alley manager who's in a wheelchair. At some point - I don't even remember if it was before or after a really moving episode they did about his life in the chair - I found out that he had actually been paralyzed in a motorcycle accident in 2000. He's still acting (in NCIS New Orleans) and clearly thriving, but it was weird to see him standing in the movie. In the play it was a short little black kid that Eve likes - they had to give him a box to stand on behind the teaching lectern. He did a great job.

World Trivia Night was fun and edifying and crushing to any pretensions of wide-ranging knowledge, as usual. Predictably, other than a couple of Shakespeare questions, the one answer I knew that nobody else did was Hannah Montana - not even just tv-related, TWEEN tv-related. I was not proud of that. Okay, I was a little proud. The last category was called Badly-Written Questions, and every question had two answers. We tanked it badly, but it was very clever and kind of mind-blowing. Apparently, William Shakespeare and Miguel de Cervantes died on the same day (well not exactly, but it's recorded that way). Anthony Hopkins obviously played Hannibal Lecter in The Silence of the Lambs, but I had to rack my brains to remember that he also cooked human flesh in Titus. And then there was the question about a woman whose father was decapitated in a movie-set helicopter accident and grew up to become a successful actress. We figured it had to be twins, or at least sisters. Nope - it was Jennifer Jason Leigh and Katey Sagal. Both born in L.A., both actresses, both lost fathers to horrific movie-set helicopter decapitation accidents. How does that happen, and who came up with that question?

After two weeks, we're finally all home, which is nice. Eve has a horrible rash on her feet and can't really walk, which is not, but at least I'm not dealing with it alone. In general, I feel better than I felt at the beginning of last year, and even the bad days last week mostly ended better than they started. So that's good.

Got a reminder of 2014's post on Facebook today, and I can't help feeling like I can't quite hit my stride like that here anymore, and wondering why.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Day 17

World Trivia Night is over, Eve made a legendary club sandwich in cooking class today and we might get thirty centimetres of snow this weekend. However, that would mean it would happen just after my husband gets home from Japan, rather than just after he leaves, which is how it usually goes. Grateful for that. Good night. 

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Day 16

I went to see the play at Eve's school because her friends are in it. I went alone because she was supposed to have basketball practice tonight, but when they got there the gym was full of stupid ball hockey so they didn't, which is annoying because she was planning to go tomorrow night, and I can't go tomorrow night because of World Trivia Night (right Lynn?) So this is my week for going places alone at night and feeling like a big loser.


The play was pretty good and now I have to watch 10 Things I Hate About You tomorrow and feel sad about Heath Ledger. Also, I got home and Eve told me that the girl who played Kat broke up with the guy who played Joey halfway through the play and then she could have a real kiss with the guy who played Patrick instead of one where she stuck her thumbs in between their lips. So. There's your real drama.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Non-Wordless Wednesday Because I Feel Like Talking After All

Going to take the tip from Nicole, post twice today and say it makes up for the day I missed.

So the other day on a Facebook group I follow - it's called something like Fat Loss Without Deprivation, but so far I'm just using it to deprogram from my fucked-up relationship with food - someone said something like "it's still really hard to think of eating as fueling myself for my activities rather than thinking of exercising as punishing myself for eating". I didn't gasp in recognition or anything, just nodded in recognition.

Then today I took Lucy for a walk because our cleaning lady was here and it makes Lucy lose her mind and it's really embarrassing, and I'd planned to get out for a walk anyway.

I headed out on our usual route. About fifteen minutes in, I realized I wasn't really enjoying myself. I felt like I was just wishing for the walk to be over soon. This seemed a little weird. It was quite nice out - brighter after the unrelenting grayness of the past few days, briskly cool the way I like it. Lucy wasn't being an asshole. All the old people who had commented on how underdressed I was for the weather had done so nicely and humorously. What was the deal?

Ah. That was it. I was walking faster than was comfortable. You know, to burn more calories and make the walk 'worth it'. I've been kind of achy this week - hips, lower back, feet. I'm overdue for a chiropractor appointment and not young, or light. And walking fast was painful and exhausting.

So I slowed down. Let Lucy stop and sniff some stuff. Looked around a little. Enjoyed moving. And when I got near home, I went around the park again once more just because it felt good to be walking.

In a way it's really frustrating. I keep having to relearn the same lesson over and over again. I can't even just go for a fucking walk without it becoming a showcase for dysfunctional thinking. In a way, I guess it's good that I figured it out before I got home.

Wordless Wednesday: Found While Cleaning Out Angus's Hat and Glove Drawer, and Appropriate for November

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

I Do Realize That This is Inexcusable

So, after a Facebook discussion this afternoon wherein I admitted that my children were probably exposed to Cards Against Humanity younger than was strictly speaking appropriate (my nephew was the youngest one there, my sister is a worse parent than me, HA), and confessed that I could stand to be a little more circumspect as a parent, Eve came home after school and grabbed a leftover fortune cookie.

She ate it, then read out her fortune: "You have a keen mind and an active imagination". Naturally I couldn't stop myself from snickering in an extremely immature manner, and she pestered me until I told her about adding "in bed" to your fortune.

She said "Oh. OH. Ew. Well, I'm glad you didn't tell me that before my last fortune. It said 'be spontaneous'."

Monday, November 13, 2017

Shoot the Whole Month Down

This post came up in my Facebook memories today. It's slightly more comforting than depressing to be reminded that this is just what November is for me - less embracing than enduring. This is also about the time when I give up all pretense to witty and entertaining blog posts and start using this space as therapy, so let me just take a moment to thank you all. To everyone who shared weird and embarrassing incidents of missed appointments due to completely inexplicable time changes - thank-you. To Anonymous who encouraged me to start decluttering - thank-you (especially because seeing the tag Anonymous always makes me think I'm about to be offered penis enlargement or something). And to Hannah and Nicole, who have talked me down from one crisis or another repeatedly over the past week (because it turns out this is also, weirdly, becoming the part of November where my husband goes to Japan for two weeks and gets home on World Trivia Night) - all the thank-yous ever.

I was wandering around Loblaws today with my stupid list that had, like, five weird things on it (taco sauce, ranch dressing and Blistex do NOT constitute a meal plan, Last Week Allison!). In a wild stab at making Future Allison's life better, I bought a bunch of toothpaste and deodorant because they were on sale and it sucks when you run out of toothpaste or deodorant. Stay tuned for tomorrow when I'll probably run out of soap or laundry detergent.

In the interest of decluttering, the first thing I did was gather up all the bags of crap I already had sitting around - there is a time for figuring out what can be freecycled, and there is a time when stepping over the bags of books at the bottom of the stairs while I'm carrying a laundry basket ONE MORE TIME will send me over the freaking edge. So I loaded up the back of the car with books, clothes and shoes, went to lunch with some wonderful women and then let one of them take whatever she could use, hit Value Village on the way home and got rid of the rest. I have another bag started already. Right now I have to attack the kitchen carnage resulting from half-put-away groceries and cooking two dinners (found a roast that should have been cooked two days ago, stuck it in the slow cooker). I've been feeling that particular shame that comes from wasting food too often lately - trying to improve.

It's Angus's last volleyball final tomorrow. Naturally it's at some weird-ass hard-to-get-to school downtown tomorrow night. I'll be back tomorrow, either whining about how nervous I am before going or letting you know if I actually made it there.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Yep. It Happened.

Yesterday was the first time in .... (counts on fingers).... about nine years that I missed a day in NaBloPoMo.

Not for any really good reason. I slept in, did a few miles on the treadmill, did some reading, went out for a nice dinner for a friend's birthday. Didn't drink too much, got home before midnight. Got ready for bed and realized I hadn't posted. Went through the dumbest mental debate imaginable: Should I go down and post something? Just to say I posted? Even though I don't have anything to say really and it would literally be a couple of meaningless sentences? But posting every day is literally the point. But it's really an arbitrary thing, nothing really important rests on it.

So this might bother me for the rest of the month. This might mean NaBloPoMo is over for me. I don't know. I guess we'll see.

I desperately need to get a bunch of stuff out of the house. I feel buried under crap. There is disorder in almost every single direction I look (directly to the right in the family room isn't bad) - open floor plans are kind of a curse for this kind of thing. Why do I always have just a few more cans and jars than will fit in the cupboard? I was in a period where I just didn't see it for a while and now I can't stop seeing it and something must be done.

I went into Indigo to get a birthday present for my friend yesterday and managed not to buy any books. This is not in any way a heroic feat and yet right now it feels like a heroic feat.

It is cold but sunny, which Eve hates because she feels like the sun is mocking her. I like it, though, so I'm going to walk the dog and try to shake off this gloom.

Friday, November 10, 2017

It's Weird, Because Reading is Supposed to Be My Thing


I don't know.

Given that I always felt like I read all of the instructions for my online courses really well, multiple times, and still ended up at an open-book exam without the book, I'm kind of worried that my reading comprehension has drastically deteriorated in the past few years.

Last night ramped up that anxiety by a factor of HOLY FUCK.

I had an interview at six o'clock. In November. I was insanely, irrationally, stupidly nervous about the interview - not the interview itself, if that makes any sense, just the whole process. Because of this, I wasn't really concentrating on the getting-there part of it, and it didn't occur to me until far too late that six o'clock in November in Ontario would be dark. It was also rainy, as it happened, which didn't help. I should have done a dry run.

The interview was at Greenbank Middle School. I knew that because I read over the email several times, SEVERAL TIMES, and asked my husband where Greenbank Middle School was, and he told me. I also read the address - 131 Greenbank.

I left with lots of time. I set my GPS. I realized it was dark and rainy and wished slightly that I had done a dry run, but thought I would be fine - the address wasn't that far and seemed straightforward.

I pulled in at the address and it was slightly less straightforward than I thought it would be - there was a sign saying Ottawa School Board, so that was good, but the school was apparently attached to the board office, which meant I was dealing with a giant forbidding structure, not the cute little middle school with the obvious enter-here door I was looking for.

The email had said there was parking in the back of the school, so I drove around until I saw a parking lot. There was also another sign, and when I pulled up to look more closely, it said that the Board Office was to the right, and up ahead was....

Sir Robert Borden Elementary School.

Say what?

Okay. Okay. Let's regroup. Did I punch in the wrong address? Maybe I did. Still lots of time. I turned around the started driving back out to Greenbank. Saw a student on a skateboard. Stopped and asked him if he knew where Greenbank Middle School was. He could not have been nicer and more helpful. It was just back out on Greenbank and to the right.

I pulled back out, stupidly not resetting the GPS. It was (shocker) still dark and rainy. I thought I saw a school but wasn't sure if I could turn where it was. I found a side street and punched Greenbank Middle School in the GPS. I had to drive a bit of a crazy route, with mounting panic, although I was still on target to be early. I pulled into the parking lot. Just to be sure, I pulled up the email to check the school name and address one more time.

It said.... wait for it....the interviews will be conducted at...


So, I think that it is NOT my reading comprehension falling off. I think I'm the victim of a rare syndrome that makes emails actually transform while still in my in-box.

Anyway, I drove back to the right school. Parked in a parking lot that looked tailor-made for mugging and murder. Walked in the rain to a back door that completely looked like it would be locked.

But it wasn't.

On the bright side, after all that crap, I was hardly nervous about the interview at all.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Ceci n'est pas un blog post

I had a job interview today. I was weirdly panicky about the whole process, which was a little weird, and I don't want to say anything else about it for now, and I don't know how things will turn out, I'm just limp and noodly with relief that it's over. Eve is still at basketball practice and the temperature is plummeting and my head hurts and I don't have the energy to say anything witty or intelligent right now. The story of getting TO my interview is going to have you marveling (huh. Only one L in marveling? Okay then) at the extent of my ability to screw up simple tasks when I tell you about it tomorrow, though. Promise.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Where in the World is... Basically Anything

I've always been bad at geography. I don't remember directions well, I don't know which way is North at any given moment, I get lost easily. I had a terrible time with map tests. The car GPS system changed my whole life - I wouldn't have gone half the places I have without it, or not without a lot more anxiety barfing and palpitations. It kind of just became a thing, though, where I would say "I'm terrible at geography" and leave it at that. As if it was an irremediable condition. As if there was NOTHING AT ALL that could be done about it.

My friend Collette has really good directional sense. If she drives somewhere once, she knows where it is forever. And she knows where stuff is in the world too. "I learned it from television", she said once, and when I looked at her with blank incomprehension she said "You know, like, I learned where Korea was from MASH". I watched MASH faithfully. I had no freakin' clue where Korea was. It's just not an area of my brain that lights up when relevant information to it presents itself.

When Angus was going to Oklahoma last year, Matt immediately started trying to figure out if he could do some business in Austin and then drive up to Oklahoma for a couple of days, since Oklahoma was north of Texas. HE JUST KNEW THAT. Rather comfortingly, when I repeated that Oklahoma was north of Texas to a few of my friends, they hadn't known it either.

This summer when we were all camping at Sandbanks, a few of us walked from the beach to the café for ice cream. Collette got a coffee that had a world map on the cup. She started asking the kids where certain European countries were. Her kids knew almost all of them. Eve knew none (I didn't either, but fortunately for me she was only asking the kids). Eve and I decided this could not stand. We came home and started studying maps on the internet. You don't even want to KNOW how low my score was the first time I tried to guess where all the states were.

It's been really interesting. Being able to visualize where a state is on the map when it's mentioned for Matt's work or on the news is a whole new thing for me. Some things aren't as south as I thought they were. Massachusetts is shaped like a gun. I knew Rhode Island was small, but dude, it's, like, MINISCULE.

Then I started learning capitals. I was fairly confident that I would know some, if not most of those. WRONG. Now, am I wrong or should there not be a rule that if a city is a capital of one state it shouldn't be a well-known city in another state? No? Just me? Capital of Massachusetts? SALEM, I confidently typed. Nope. There IS A Salem, Massachusetts, but it's not the capital. Just like there's a Charleston, South Carolina, but it's not the freaking capital. Who the hell has ever heard of Columbia, South Carolina? Well, a great many people, clearly, but I still think it's bullshit.

Eve came down once when I was doing the capital quiz the other way, where you get the capital and have to pick which state it belongs to. When we got to Oklahoma City, she said "well obviously it should be Oklahoma, but is it a trick? Are you supposed to overthink it? I'm suspicious." For Jackson she said Mississippi and when I said "do you just know that because of Uptown Funk?" she said "well I'd say no, but it's playing in my head now, so probably".

Pierre and Bismarck are North and South Dakota, but I regularly mix up which one is which.

We went on to the rest of the world and now I'm fairly confident that I wouldn't be one of those people who gets stopped on the street by Jimmy Kimmel and accidentally goes to war with South Korea.

"Don't bother learning it all", Collette said. "Just learn something weird like Kazakhstan". I TOTALLY KNOW WHERE KAZAHSTAN IS. AND Turkmenistan.

Still keeping my GPS, though. And don't ask me which way is North. Not sure how to improve that, other than to have a compass implanted somewhere.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Cats and Cattiness

For Joe (HI JOE) and Nicole (HI NICOLE), the Schrodinger's cat joke: Schrodinger is driving along and gets stopped by a cop. The cop finds his behaviour suspicious and searches his car, including the trunk. When he opens the trunk, he says "oh my god, there's a cat in here and it's dead!" and Schrodinger says "Well NOW it is!"

Today: slept too late, made myself go to the gym. Came downstairs from the gym, went to grab a grocery cart. As I was pulling it back, someone walked into me. I half-turned around, about to say sorry, and saw this older woman, obviously rolling her eyes and pissed off. Because she had walked into me, while I was pulling out a shopping cart, which is what people do with shopping carts. And she wasn't leaving or going somewhere else, which might have meant her attention wasn't on the shopping carts, because she then pulled out her own shopping cart.

So I looked back and saw her being a bitch because she had walked into me. And I completely lost any ability to be gracious. I yanked the cart out and pushed it into the grocery store and mumbled a stream of invective and very obviously didn't smile at her when we bumped into each other (figuratively) again at the green juice.

Then I tried to turn my cart into the pharmacy aisle, but my arms were noodly from working out and I bumped a rack and a bunch of chapstick fell off. And this young employee who'd been talking to someone nearby came to my rescue and said consoling things about Monday and picked up all the lip balm while I apologized profusely and sort of cry-laughed.

I guess I could take some kind of lesson from that. Like, if I'd gotten up earlier I would have missed being walked into by an asshole. OMG, you guys - what if I've used up my Canadianness? What if I never apologize to someone who steps on my foot again? I honestly feel like I've reached some kind of threshold. Fear me.

Sunday, November 5, 2017


A former friend just tweeted that she has serious reservations about the mental health of people who can't cope with Daylight Saving Time.

I can't say I'm terribly surprised - when someone routinely says mean things the shock value wears off after a while. It just made me stop and think for a moment. I do, in fact, have mental health issues, and I do find that Daylight Saving Time makes them worse for a little while. I feel off-kilter, more anxious, never sure I'm in the right place at the right time, and tired. Which doesn't seem that weird, really. We literally CHANGE THE CLOCKS. By some weird decree from on-high, we take this huge fiction that our lives are quite literally built on, and agree by another enormous fiction that it's different now. For about six months, when we'll all (except our wise, wise sister Saskatchewan) change it back. How can this not have some effect on many people?

So, yeah. Sometimes something is true and saying it still makes you a huge dick.

I always find referring to Swistle's post helpful in this trying time.

I remember the cruel realization when we had our first baby, that Fall Back actually DIDN'T mean an extra hour of sleep anymore. It just meant your kid was now crying to get up at five instead of six. I have teenagers now, and I still sleep like one, so at least we have that back.

I wish I could think of something funny to add, but it's raining and dark again, the house is a bloody mess and... well, it's okay. I'm going to clean up the kitchen, put out the garbage, then go cocoon with Eve upstairs and read for a few hours until we have to figure out what time we should be hungry.

Also, while Googling desultorily about the evils of DST, I found an episode of the Powerpuff Girls where the girls are so exhausted from all the superheroine-ing that they fall asleep in school and the teacher tries to get them banned from saving everyone. Then the Professor realizes that it's Daylight Saving Time and everyone sets the clocks back so the girls get another hour of sleep. Dammit, I was going to say that DST almost stopped the FREAKING WORLD FROM BEING SAVED, but now I realize it's the opposite. Well what do you expect, it's a stupid cartoon. I'll bet Batman doesn't set his clocks back.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Ripping Off My Witty Daughter for a Blog Post. So Not Cool.

My Facebook memory today was about Eve learning a Schrodinger's Cat joke from Bones and rehearsing it every day to tell to Matt when he got home from Japan (he's in Florida right now. He comes home Monday. Tuesday he leaves for Singapore. Things have changed so much. NOT).

I read it out to Eve and she said "oh yeah, and the other day we were talking about that thing where if a tree falls in the forest and there's no one there to hear it, does it make a sound? I'm pretty sure if I ever take a philosophy class I'll never sleep again."

We also finally got her in to a chiropodist to order orthotics. She's had foot pain her whole life just like me, but we're lazy and procrastinate-ish and we kind of wanted her feet to stop growing to we wouldn't have to replace the orthotics every few months (lazy and procrastinate-ish and cheap, in plain talk). The foot guy said she had extremely tight Achilles tendons. She said "wait - are you telling me my Achilles Heel is LITERALLY MY ACHILLES HEEL?"

Friday, November 3, 2017

In Which Angus and I Keep Yelling "Choose Me!" to Various Bodies and Organizations

I'm still looking for a job, I'm just not being as much of a loud-mouthed schnook about it (see? I CAN SO learn stuff!). When I have spare time I go on job sites and noodle around looking at what's available in my area. Apparently if you want a job trying to sell cars it's really, really easy to get one. Unfortunately, I suck hard at selling anything. Back in high school I took singing lessons from a lovely older lady named Betty. For a while, my friend Rachelle took them too and we had consecutive lesson times. Betty said Rachelle was better at selling herself, and if we had to sell a pencil, Rachelle would have people in a bidding war over it while I would be standing there quietly saying "it's a ... pretty good pencil. It can make a decent mark."

There were a couple of openings for fork lift operator too. Now that I would like to take a crack at. As far as library openings, right now, "Hey!", I yelled to Matt, "I could drive the bookmobile!" He reminded me that I've cracked both a taillight AND a rear bumper on a vehicle that is significantly shorter than a bookmobile. We decided I probably shouldn't drive the bookmobile, for the comfort and safety of readers everywhere.

Then I came across an ad that said "straight truck operators needed" and yelled "Hey!" again, feeling super offended for Amanda, among others, and then.... oh. It's actually called a straight truck. Hmph. That's a little heteronormative, but fine.

We've signed Angus up with an organization that helps guide him through the college baseball recruiting process. He emailed a bunch of U.S. college coaches yesterday. He immediately got a response back from Princeton. It said "you have to have 1400 SAT scores and a 3.7 average for us to even look at you, but, you know....thanks for the email". DIDN'T WANT TO GO TO YOU ANYWAY, PRINCETON. Angus said "pretty much everywhere I looked at costs way too much. I could get a 95% scholarship and have to say 'still no way in hell....but thanks for the email.'" This kind of thing sometimes makes me feel like I've failed as a parent, because if I'd gone back to work sooner we might be in a better position financially. The problem with the unquantifiable benefits of having been a stay-at-home parent is that, well, they're hard to quantify. Angus seems pretty sanguine about it all, though. It's kind of a 'let the chips fall where they may' situation. I'm not sure why he can't just go to Western and live less than an hour from my sister and capitulate to our plan to trade kids for university (my niece could to to Carleton or Queens, everybody gets a little independence but not four thousand miles worth, IS THAT SO MUCH TO ASK??). Ahem.

The boys are in Florida for a baseball showcase. Angus asked me to look up the weather there last night. I said "twenty-eight, twenty-eight, twenty-eight, twenty-eight". He said "rain?" I said "No. And screw you."

Now going to walk my dog in the rain. Again. Happy Friday.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Dead Like Me

Hannah reminded me yesterday that BlogHer doesn't even EXIST anymore, and BlogHer was the reason NaBloPoMo existed, so now I feel kind of dumb. I mean, I never really did it as part of the big BlogHer thing anyway, I only added my name to the massive blogroll a couple of times and every time I found someone I liked via the massive blogroll they seemed to stop blogging three days later (presumably not just because I started following them, although, shit, now I'm worried that maybe it was just because I started following them). There were prizes, but you couldn't win them if you were in Canada. So it was just something I did, because after Halloween there was just this bleak Novemberish stretch of cold and rain and ennui until I started panicking about Christmas, and it seemed like a good distraction.

But also, BlogHer being gone is just another sign that blogging is dead, right? And yet, here I am, rambling and shambling on like I don't even know it. OMG, I HAVE A ZOMBIE BLOG. Kind of fitting, because I am in search of a brain - it just happens to be my own.

I watched the first episode of The Walking Dead, and at the end I felt like I'd looked away at a crucial moment and missed something and didn't really know what was going on. I didn't watch it while it was on last year, but my PVR kept recording all the episodes, so at the end of the season I watched it all, skipping over Glenn and Abraham dying, because although I used to pride myself on watching scary movies and never, ever looking away, I'm at the point in my life where I've realized that I just don't want to see some things. There were some good moments, but the series just doesn't hold me anymore. I also tried to read the graphic novels, but I think I'm just not really a graphic novel person, except for Alison Bechdel's Fun Home which, come on, is a work of absolute fucking genius. I kind of want to know how the tv series is different, though, so maybe I'll force myself.

On a sort of similar subject, I'm rereading American Gods, and it's the... the... you know, like the Director's Cut, but for books. And almost nothing I've read yet seems remotely familiar other than that the guy's name is Shadow and there are gods, and I'm wondering if this is because this version is substantially different or if my memory just really is that b.... never mind, I'm not actually wondering, I think we all know the answer.

I just took Lucy out for a walk because the rain was supposed to stop at noon for, like, twenty minutes or something. It didn't. I'm going to go have a shower.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

MoPoBloNa Backwards

It's really unfortunate that NaBloPoMo isn't starting on a Surly Thursday because HOLY FUCK today is chapping my ass. It was stupid hot all of October, and I wished for cooler temperatures - apparently we only get those with apocalyptic amounts of rain and a wind that is basically a douchebag in weather form. Also, I cooked rice and it tastes like ass, and I don't even know if it's the rice or me, but at the moment I don't trust either of us.

Last year the volleyball team, including Angus, went to the final and he told us not to come but then said we probably should have because they bussed fans in and it was a really cool atmosphere and they won. So this year we figured we'd go, but (of course) Matt's going to be in Asia. And it's in the evening, at some far-away high school, and if I go I'll be alone, which I hate.

BUT I did have a lovely visit with a woman I used to volunteer at my kids' elementary school with and I think I'm going to volunteer for the Scholastic Book Fair just for fun. AND at the awards ceremony we found out that Angus got the honour roll last year and the award for the highest mark in grade 11 World History (pretty much solely because he had the most amazing teacher ever, who I wish would do a Boy Meets World thing and transfer to teach at whatever university Angus goes to next year.

I don't feel great. I feel like I can do one busy day and then I'm flat out for the entire next one. I guess maybe this is a slight improvement over the summer when I couldn't do more than one thing on any day. It's hard to tell at this point. My doctor retired and I'm sure her replacement is lovely, but getting down to where she is has been a massive stress trigger, so I found a woman doctor in a small town much closer to here, and she's related to Eve's best friend and I tend to be a big fan of Greek women, so here's hoping.

Remember when I said I was bad at rereading and making an effort to change? Well, it turns out (brace yourselves for a massive shock) that I'm also bad at moderation. This came (yay!):

So I read it, and then the next two in the trilogy. Then I went onto the library ebooks to see if anything was new or interesting and saw American Gods, so, well, maybe I'm just a rereader now. Who needs new books anyway? Such a high chance of disappointment.

This reminds me that Goodreads has also been pissing me off - I keep trying to show that I've read the books THIS year, while recording in the review the first year that I read them. I'm doing it the way they say I should, but they keep not showing up in my book list from this year. I finally figured out that I could delete them and re-add them, but I shouldn't HAVE to, and why can't things just FUCKING WORK?

In conclusion, if there was a month where I was going to force myself to blog every day, this is probably the worst possible choice. Cheers. Onward.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Close Enough for Government Work?

So Matt was running around printing out passport forms and gathering needed information and signatures yesterday to get passport renewals for himself and the kids - I'm on a different cycle, and I said I was happy to take the kids' forms in but he's taking Angus to Florida next week-end for a baseball showcase so he said he might as well just do them all. We thought we had everything squared away, and he left this morning to go to the passport office.

As I was getting ready to leave for the gym, he swept back into the house on an immense wave of irritation, having gotten to the part where the preliminary person scans your documents and been informed that Angus is now an adult and needed the longer form filled out. Which is annoying, particularly since neither of us had noticed that that fact is mentioned in writing right at the top of all the passport forms, and reading is kind of supposed to be my thing - it's nice that Matt didn't mention that, now that I think of it. But government forms are kind of like online courses for me - no matter how many times I go over everything, details escape me - it is troubling and headache-inducing. ANYWAY. We printed out the longer form, I slapped my signature on where required, and off he went, because he was IN THIS now, and goddamn it, it was GETTING DONE.

It didn't get done.

I worked out, went down to get groceries and he called while I was going through the grocery store checkout. Turns out that since Angus is an adult, he has to apply IN PERSON if he needs express service. So, yeah, huge pain in the ass, but (plot twist) that's not actually the point to this story. As I'm walking my groceries to the car and unloading, Matt tells me the story of what happened as the forms which actually could be processed were being processed.

The white, middle-aged man at the wicket, looking slightly uncomfortable, says to Matt, "sir, it might be helpful for you to know that in six months there are going to be changes to the forms and there will be more options for gender categories". Matt says, well, great, wondrous diversity and all that, but....? The man then says hurriedly "....there's certainly nothing wrong with the way you're doing it now, I just..." Matt is increasingly baffled and doesn't know what to say. The man concludes ".... or this might all just be a huge misunderstanding." Matt looks at the passport and form in the man's hand, which are Eve's, and the man puts them down and points out the discrepancy.

And then we realized that we, two double-degree-holding university-educated reasonably intelligent (we thought) parents, had somehow managed to let our daughter walk around for five years with a passport that said she was male.

Which is not that big a deal, unless it had caused some kind of problems while we were traveling. But, well, nobody noticed, so whatevs. But now Matt is trying to figure out how to say this: "Can I say 'she's really a girl'? I guess. I shouldn't say 'she doesn't have a penis', because that doesn't necessarily mean... shit!" He settled on "yeah, that M was a mistake. Sorry."

So, you know, nobody's arguing that there isn't more work to be done to make people who don't fit into neat little categories feel accepted and comfortable in this society. But it gives me hope to think of these two middle-aged white dudes standing in a government office trying very, very hard to say and do the right things.

Monday, October 23, 2017

My Main Man Michael Marshall Smith

So I was all droopy and restless about what to read before Thanksgiving. I decided to reread something good, and went on the library website to see what I could get instantly as an ebook, so I started searching the names of my favourite authors.

So kind of funny thing about this author. I read this really cool science fiction book ages ago - it was called Only Forward and it was by Michael Marshall Smith, who I'd never heard of before. It was sort of part Blade Runner, part noir detective story and I really liked it. He only had a couple of other science fiction books, and I'm not sure if I even read them, although I meant to.

Years went by. I had a kid. That kid broke his leg while I was pregnant with a second kid. It was a stressful time. My parents came to help out and sent me out for a night of coffee shop and book store therapy. I came across this paperback mystery. Do you ever pick up a book, read the title and synopsis and just feel like it's going to be really good? Honestly, I never really have faith in that feeling because it's so easy to be misled, but I had that feeling immediately with this book, and I also noted that the author's name was Michael Marshall and wondered idly if it might be the same guy with the Smith lopped off.

I came home and read the book and was completely smitten - I love dark mysteries, and this was that with a little extra imaginative spin on it. It totally took my mind off the head-spinning shit show of having a two-year-old in diapers wearing a body cast. In fact, I wrote the author (it was the same one) a fan email - one of only three I've ever written. And he wrote back, and was lovely and gracious.

His publisher had reduced his name by a third because this was more of a mystery and for some reason they thought it should have a different name from his science fiction. I don't really care, I just think he's a standout as an author - original like it's really hard to be in a sea of fiction, smart and funny and with a wonderful ear for realistic dialogue. In my fan letter I wrote that I felt like his work was "suffused with a kind of hopeful melancholy" which he said he really liked.

So over Thanksgiving I reread Bad Things. Then I reread We Are Here, which features two of the characters from Bad Things, which I didn't realize the first time I read it because they came out three years apart and I read about a hundred books a year so unless BOOK TWO IN WHATEVER SERIES is emblazoned across the cover I miss stuff like that on the regular. Then I was desperate to reread The Straw Men, which was that very book I bought when Angus had the broken leg. I went to the shelf. I had the second two books in the trilogy. Clearly I had very ill-advisedly lent out the first one and never gotten it back. Well, no problem, I'd get it from the library, or order another copy from Indigo or Amazon. Except, no, because Michael Marshall Smith is British, no problem, I love the British -  crumpets, clotted cream, sticky wickets, big fan - but it makes his books INFURIATINGLY hard to source. EXCEPT except, the second and third books in the trilogy are actually available. Just not the first.

*head explodes*

So I spent the next few days buying up every available reasonably priced copy of everything I could find, and I'm waiting for my used copy of The Straw Men to arrive because I'll be goddamned if I will be prevented from reading some MMS whenever I freaking well feel like it. His short stories are also wonderful.

So there you go. It's not for the faint of heart, and it has a whiff of the supernatural, which judging by the Goodreads reviews some people really don't like. One reader also termed "cocky sarcasm" what I considered easy wit, so, tomato tomahto. And good luck finding The Straw Men. If you borrow mine I'm going to need collateral - possibly a hostage.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Scary Stories

Every once in a while there's a glitch in the Ottawa Public Library's ebook system, and a book that should be expired and inaccessible on my ipad just... isn't. It just sticks around until I tap on it to delete and return. It's a happy little gift from the literary gods for which I am always grateful. This time it is a massive tome called New Cthulhu: the Recent Weird, and if it hadn't gone all Overdrive Slipstream I never would have gotten through it on time since it weighs in at around 1100 digital pages.

As a fairly devoted horror fan, I'm not great at appreciating actual Lovecraft. Look, I relish tentacle porn and the unjudicious use of the word 'eldritch' as much as the next girl, but it's a little too on-the-nose for me - I just like my horror a tad more subtle. So it's probably not even technically allowed that I love Lovecraft-inspired horror fiction as much as I do. But I do, and most of the stories in this sprawling, wide-ranging collection are delicious, inventive and engaging with sometimes just a whiff of tainted sea air or the merest glimpse of a beslimed sea creature, sometimes more. Also included was Norman Partridge's bleakly superb Lesser Demons, which I had just been thinking about the other day without being able to remember either the title or the author (so much fortuitousness here!). Truthfully, I feel like the editor would have had to squint a little to get that one into a Lovecraft-inspired anthology, but I'm good with it.

I'm a bad rereader, I think I've mentioned that. The TBR pile is ever-growing, and much of the lure of reading for me resides in the pleasure of discovery. That's not a really good or defensible thing, though, not entirely. It's often why I pass over literary fiction in favour or sci fi and fantasy or horror, and the truth is that, for me, moderation and variety works the best in reading as well as in diet.

Wait, that kind of doesn't work for where I'm going next. Sod it, I'll leave it there anyway. After my last tear through a bunch of library holds that came in all at once, I was becalmed once again, with no idea what to read next and nothing really pulling at me. I wanted a sure thing, and as I'm realizing more and more, when you've read a couple thousand books and your memory is worse all the time, there's nothing like a reread for a sure thing - not only do you know already know you loved it, you can't really remember exactly why! Or what precisely happened! Or when!

And that brings us to about the length that my blog barometer tells me I would start getting bored after, so I'll tell you about who I've been furiously rereading tomorrow.

Monday, October 16, 2017


Last week-end Eve and I and my parents drove down to London to spend Thanksgiving with my sister and her family (the boys stayed home because Angus was writing SATs Saturday here in town). This week-end I drove down to Waterloo with some friends to go to an Oktoberfest event with friends that had moved there in the summer (Matt went to Watertown with Angus for baseball - Eve had music camp at school and found it inexpressibly amusing that Matt and I were both going to places that had Water in the name. She's weird).

Both week-ends were great, except I'm getting worse and worse at staying at other people's houses. It's never been my favourite thing. I'm a weird guest. I use a lot of ice. I need a lot of showers. I hate getting up in the morning in a strange place. And I'm used to keeping my house a few degrees above a walk-in refrigerator's temperature and this fall has been unseasonably warm, so I was melting for close to the entire time. I don't know if the perimenopause thing has fully kicked in that way, but unless I was right out of a cold shower and standing in front of a fan I was uncomfortable - and other people were wearing sweaters. It makes me afraid that I'm going to turn into a weird(er) recluse who never goes anywhere. Is it just me? Everyone I was traveling with seemed to just take it all in stride.

Besides that, it was all great. Eve joined school band for the first time last year and had an amazing teacher who really encouraged her and it was a great experience. He invited her to volunteer at a band camp he runs at the school in the summer, which she did, and finished all her volunteer hours before she even started high school. But all my friends were kind of dicks about how she kept saying "band camp", so my sister and I told her to watch American Pie with my niece. She watched it. She said "screw all of you, I'm still calling it band camp". And this is why I love her. They also watched the first episode of This Is Us, and I got to be there when the penny dropped near the end of the episode and they were very satisfyingly open-mouthed and shocked and impressed and teary and it was an epic moment.

I haven't been to an Oktoberfest event since university when I went to a Waterloo bar that just put an '-ausen' on the end of its name and got drunk, so I wasn't entirely sure what to expect. Since we're older with more disposable income now, we bought tickets to a more authentic venue and it was really cool (Dracula jokes aside). There was a band that was a polka band and a cover band, and traditional dancing that was really cool, and traditional food that was delicious, and people in lederhosen and dirndls, and a mechanical bull that I didn't ride because I was wearing a dress (I have some regrets).

And now I'm home, and a comfortable temperature, and had a good sleep in my own bed, and I miss my sister and my friends. But Eve just came home and said "I have an egg test tomorrow so you're all getting poached eggs for dinner". And Angus made the honour roll again last year even though he went to Oklahoma for the Junior Sunbelt Classic one week before second-term exams. So there's that.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

There Were Two-Ton Kangaroos Before We Came on the Scene

It's been kind of a crappy week. I'll spare you the gory details, except to say that perimenopause is not for sissies and my already-dire iron levels are in danger of plunging even further. That coupled with the suffocating, enervating heat and humidity meant Monday and Tuesday were pretty much a write-off. Which was okay, I didn't miss anything important, Lucy and I spent some quality time in my reading chair in front of a fan with some pretty good books. The problem is always re-entry. I end up feeling like Rip Van Winkle, unsure about the customs and expressions in this world that's continued to rush by as I lay fallow.

I dragged myself out to book club last night with ill grace, after apologizing to my husband for snapping more than once (I know it only seems like the worse I feel the dumber his questions get). It was good. We had read Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari, which was splendid. He does an amazing job of making centuries of human history comprehensible and digestible, while also doing a fairly poor job of concealing that he thinks we are a complicated and fascinating plague on the face of the earth who should probably all commit ritual suicide. The title may as well have been Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind Sucking Hard at Nearly Every Opportunity. This naturally led to a spirited discussion between the idealists and misanthropes in the group. Also, there used to be marsupial lions in Australia. Marsupial. Lions.

It's meet the teacher night. Why do I hate meet the teacher night so very much? It's at a reasonable time. The set-up sounds logical and minimally chaotic. The weather is fine. Is it because going back to school stirs up all my old insecurities? I seriously would rather have a root canal right now and I really don't understand why. Of course, I actually do have to make long-overdue dentist appointments for myself and the kids and I'm not doing that either. I can't remember how to talk to people.

Eve and I had a really great week-end at a cottage with friends. This Sunday I'm going hiking in Gatineau Park. This is just a blip. I'll be okay. Well, not in the long run because clearly we're all doomed.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

In Which Defeat is Only the Tiniest Bit Agonizing

I have a friend who posted her engagement on Facebook a few years ago, and then confided that she felt stupid for having done so when it fell through. I told her she shouldn't feel that way at all, because her real friends wouldn't feel anything but sympathy and she had nothing to be embarrassed about. But I confess that I felt slightly the same way about broadcasting my first job interview attempt in twenty or so years in serene confidence that it would go positively and then.... well....

True, I could have slunk away and licked my wounds in private then. But in all honesty, people, is that ever how I roll? Let's see: depression posts; period posts; condom posts.... NOPE.

It's all very well to say that clearly I was overqualified and they were just afraid I wouldn't stay long. The bottom line is that I put myself out there and they said no thanks. And that stings a little. But it was still a good experience. Before I whipped that application together I was paralyzed at the thought of trying to put together a resumé after so much time. Now I know I can, and I can get a response, even if it's ultimately not the response I want.

Plus, now I can go to my friends' cottage this week-end instead of working. We all went to the bar last night (we do most Tuesdays, I wasn't deciding to chuck the employment idea and just become a barfly) and when they invited us to the cottage I said I would only come if I could get drunk and belligerent and tear up Indigo bookmarks. One of the hosts looked concerned and said I should bring my own because they don't have that many. (Silly. I wasn't really going to do it. One does not rip up a perfectly good bookmark even in the face of cruel rejection).

Also, I was going to have to call Zarah and say, in a good news/bad news kind of way, I can't do our girls' week-end this fall because I have a job. Now it's a bad news/ good news kind of thing. Which is good, because somehow circumstances have evolved to the point where I can only buy bras at this little shop in Barrie, and I need a new one. So, Zarah... call me.

A couple more things that happened this summer:

Zarah and the kids came for Bluesfest:

We all fell even more in love with Melissa Etheridge:

There was a lot of reading:

Oh, and Eve and Alex got haircuts.

Then we got ice cream. Obviously. 

Saturday, September 16, 2017

In Which I Just Never Learn

I'm a helpful person. It's just how I'm built. I like to help if I can. People seem to sense it - in the grocery store, at parking machines, parked at intersections (I have given directions more than once through two open car windows, before the light turns green). It's mostly a good thing. Occasionally it's not the greatest.

Thursday afternoon I was at my group interview at Indigo. It was so much more fun than I thought it would be. It was a fun group of people and we all kind of clicked. The "team-building" exercises were silly rather than cheesy and made us all laugh and relax. The corporate schtick actually came across as fairly sincere. I thought it would all feel kind of fake and forced and it didn't.

In the second half, we were split into groups and a small group of us were out on the floor. Our first assignment was to take five minutes to grab two items, come back and describe why we liked them. On my way to the sci-fi and fantasy section, I apparently looked so much like I ALREADY worked there that an older gentleman asked me for help. 

It was a no-brainer. I was IN THE MIDDLE of a job interview. I could have easily just said "no, sorry, I don't work here". But I don't know, I spend a lot of time in that store, I know where a lot of things are, and he was older, with a nice face, and a bit of a tremor, and I'm apparently a bit of a moron. I said "sorry, I don't work here... but what are you looking for?" He was wondering if the "...for Dummies" series was all in one place or spread all over the store. 

Crap. Uh... I said "I assume they would be in different sections." There's, uh, a computer right over here". Did I then leave him to look it up in the computer? NO. I DID NOT. I typed "Cooking for Dummies" in. 

It said there was one in the store.

Double crap. Everybody who has ever worked retail knows this is the kiss of death. Six in the store? You're pretty much guaranteed to find a few on the shelf where they should be? Two in the store? Odds still in your favour. One in the store? Could be anywhere. Or nowhere.

Did I say that, and return to my assignment? NO. I DID NOT. I walked with him back to the cooking section and started looking at the shelves. 

FOUND IT. No. Wait. This is "Green Smoothies for Dummies". Probably not what he's looking for. Oh, FOUND IT. No. Wait. This is "Gluten-Free Cooking for Dummies." I look up, realize I'm in all the cooking SUB-sections. The seconds are ticking away, but what am I going to do, say "sorry, sucks to be you" and bolt? I have locked myself into the most absurd situation. And there is no Cooking for Dummies book on this shelf.

Finally, he looks up and says "well, I really appreciate you trying to help me anyway." I race over to the sci-fi and fantasy section, fail utterly to find a Neil Gaiman book, grab a copy of Ready Player One and on my way back to the group grab a pair of fuzzy reading socks. I was last, but they didn't look like they were waiting impatiently or anything.

Clearly if I don't get the job it's because I'm just TOO GOOD AT IT already.