Piss & Shit

Tech tipsComputer Tricks

I make no apologies for the crude title of this post, because it is my life. In fact, the alternate working title I considered was ‘Urine & Feces’, which is somehow even worse. But it’s true. I currently pay a mortgage on a barnyard-scented dumpster.

It all started in June when we adopted a kitten, Eddie Cheddar. A sweet, cuddly, pissing and shitting kitten. Then we adopted another cat, Panda, an adult male whose cat mom had developed terrible allergies and needed a new home. And of course, both new cats immediately got along with each other and our existing elderly male black cat, Black Cat. NOT. It’s been six months and I can’t take it anymore.

To be fair, the pissing and shitting has only been an issue since the weather started getting colder. The two adult cats had been pretty much living outdoors in an attempt to distance themselves from the kitten for several months. Which is reasonable because the kitten is super annoying, and not unexpectedly so. Kittens are total assholes; it’s just a fact. He is constantly in their faces, biting their heads, attacking their tails, and launching sneak attacks anytime they’re in the vicinity.

Panda had even torn a hole in the screen of one of the windows in our ratty old camping trailer that’s parked in the driveway and lived in there for a few months. He would come out for food twice per day but otherwise burrowed inside my sleeping bag and snoozed in peace. Lord knows where he’d been pooping and peeing; there was no sign or smell of it in the trailer, so I figure I’ll probably find it in the spring when I plant the garden. Same deal with Black Cat; he spent most of his days outside but unlike Panda, I located his poo patch in the front garden.

So, while the cats weren’t exactly doing their business in the designated area, at least I didn’t really have to deal with it. I’m counting on the outdoor poops to simply dissolve into the ground like the deer poops on my lawn do over the winter. However, in the meantime, the kitten was not figuring out the litter box situation at all, and he was too little and unvaccinated to be allowed outdoors to crap at will like the other two. And, in his defense, we did adopt him very early and he wasn’t quite weaned. This can apparently have an impact on their ability to figure out the toilet situation. At first, this was not a big deal, because he was so small that his pees and poops were very manageable.

But then he got bigger, and his pees more voluminous and his poops larger and stinkier. Then they started appearing in the bathtub. In my potted pepper plants that I brought in for the winter. Under the bed. Behind the bedroom door. Under the dining room table. On the front hall carpet. In the middle of the kitchen. On the bathmat, which my three year-old niece stepped in and inadvertently smeared all over the tiles with her sock. I took off the offending footwear, sealed it in a ziploc, and sent it home with her. Fucking poo sock in a ziploc.

Every time it happens, I diligently remove the waste, wash the area thoroughly, and then spray the bejesus out of everything within a five foot radius with enzyme cleaner. Unfortunately, this happens roughly 17 times per day. And don’t think I wasn’t trying everything to get the dang kitten to use the box. He simply cannot understand it’s purpose, like he thinks to himself, ‘why would I step in this rough, dusty, stinky box, when I can pee on this soft, fluffy towel’??

One day, the kitten got diarrhea. Probably from climbing into the kitchen sink and eating garbage off dirty dishes. In any case, the consistency and urgency of his poops seemed to cause him great distress, and instead of staying in one place to complete his bowel movement, he took off tearing around the house like he was on fire, shitting as he went. He jumped on the dining room table, ran across it and down back into the kitchen. Up onto the counters, into the sink and out, down the stairs, up the stairs, and leaving trails of liquid shit everywhere he went. When we finally trapped him and threw him in the bathroom, the damage was done. Shit was everywhere. On the walls, on the floor, on the carpet, on the counters, in the sink. It’s hard to talk about; I’m still traumatized.

Kitty bath after the liquishit incident

We are currently at the record-breaking litter box usage success rate of 50%. However, ever since that running and pooping episode, the kitten has been acting completely bananas after taking a crap. So even if he actually gets in the litter box to do his business, chances are good that he’ll flip out and go running around. And, we have discovered that he frequently isn’t quite done pooping yet when he takes off. So we keep finding tiny turds all over the place, the last dregs of his BM that drop off as he runs around. Or, even better, stick to his super floofy tail and he ends up with dingleberries.

Well, once the other cats had to start living inside again, they were NOT OK with the litter situation. Nor were they OK with the feline situation in general. Hissing and growling is the current soundtrack in my home. I thought the whole bathroom situation had finally sorted itself out after the kitten went into the vet to be spayed or neutered or whatever it is they do to boy cats. He came back and seemed to have had some sort of epiphany while sedated and having his testicles rendered useless, as he immediately started to use the box I had put by the front door to thwart his new favorite place to pee, down the heating vent. Which is a sneaky place to pee because you don’t notice it until the furnace kicks in and shoots hot cat urine stench out of all the heat vents in the entire house and it’s too late. I was so excited he was using it until I found him scooping litter out onto the floor, and then just peeing on the litter pile. By the way, cleaning up peed-on litter from tiles is way worse than just cleaning straight-up pee. While in the box, peed-on litter hardens into a scoopable ball. Peed-on litter on the floor develops a cement-like consistency. FYI.

Meanwhile, the two older cats were having a dominance battle behind the scenes, resulting in one trip to the vet’s office and two cats on antibiotics for infected, shredded claws. Not content to have me deal with just piss and shit, these two got into such a fight that I had to go around cleaning up additional bodily fluids; I found bloody paw prints and literal blood spatters on the wall.

They can still see you in there, Panda

Then I discovered that since the kitten didn’t seem to be able to figure out the litter box, the other two cats don’t think they need to use it either. On a rare trip into the basement, I noticed an unpleasant smell and went investigating. I discovered a horrific peebath. That’s like a bloodbath, only with pee. Not content to just sit down and pee on the carpet, Black Cat has to totally showboat and spray it all over the walls, about three feet up off the floor, to let the others know he is the boss. Then it drizzles down behind the baseboards and seeps into the carpet.

Black Cat: habitual wall pisser

I swear to God you guys, I don’t know what the fuck is going on. How did this become my life? One of the Top Twenty Reasons I Don’t Have Kids© is that I don’t have to deal with pee and poo that’s not my own. And now here I am, trying to bloody potty train three practically feral wild animals. These fuckers are lucky they are cute.


Basket of adorable: HE’S LUCKY

On Chronic Pain

Tech tipsComputer Tricks

So. I’ve been writing this off and on in my head for months, debating if I should publish it as I’m not quite sure it meets the mandate of this site. I wasn’t convinced writing about this would be valuable to others. But, I’ve always found writing to be the perfect therapy, and lately I seem to be meeting many people who have similar issues. So if throwing up all this personal info all over the internet might help a fellow sufferer, then I have achieved my purpose. This could be a long one though, so maybe grab a coffee or a glass of wine or whatever it is you do. Just be warned in advance that there will be some graphic treatment descriptions involving my lady areas. And dudes, this isn’t specifically about woman stuff; there is important info in here for you too, so don’t get all squeamish and stop reading.

You may have noticed that I have not been writing as much over the past couple of…well…years really. Unfortunately, it is because I am in pain. I actually hate admitting that, because it feels like an excuse. But over the past several years, so slowly that it was almost imperceptible, pain has spread through my muscles and joints making many activities difficult or impossible. I didn’t even really realize it was happening, the pain was so sneaky. A little ache in my hip, a sore lower back here, nothing to worry about. You know, just those normal aches and pains that are a part of getting older.

But then I started having to cut out activities. Running became impossible, my hips would throb for hours and ache for days after a run. I started to avoid any activities that would involve standing for long periods or walking on hard surfaces. Sitting for more than a half hour at a time became intolerable, so writing, reading, and being an effective human at work became difficult. Driving was excruciating and filled with pain-induced road rage. Sleep was hard to come by and broken by painful hours of trying to get comfortable. Over a period of about six or seven years, I had cut out so many activities that I didn’t even feel like myself anymore. In the past year, I stopped making plans with friends; even a minor social event like sitting in a pub for an hour meant pain and was therefore avoided. Plans were too hard, they meant either suffering through an event or last minute cancelations and having your friends think you’re a huge flake. Netflix has been a great friend to me during this time; mindless entertainment that can be viewed from a variety of positions while still lying on ice packs or heating pads and hooked up to the Dr. Ho. I even rigged up a way to watch it in the tub while I soak in epsom salts. And yeah, anybody who knows me is like, wait, you hate baths! And yes, baths are disgusting human stews, but that’s how bad the pain is. I basically live in the bathtub.

Netflix also does not require your interaction like humans do. It is very difficult to have a decent conversation when a good part of your brain is consumed with pain management. My husband can always tell when it’s really bad because I can barely get a coherent sentence out of my mouth. Pain also infiltrates the creative parts of the mind; it’s so hard to concentrate and it just takes up huge amounts of energy and brain space. Besides, it makes your body so exhausted that sleep, if you can get it in patches, is the simplest solution. Except for the waking part. Waking is terrible because that’s when my muscles are at their throbbiest. Some mornings, my body just doesn’t want to go and it is a fight to just get in the shower and brush my teeth.

And while the pain kept getting worse, it’s not like I was sitting around doing nothing about it. I saw doctors and specialists and physiotherapists and pain experts and everything. In the early years, I was told that the small aches and pains were arthritis. Just exercise more, I was told. That will help! So I tried to keep doing what exercise I could, stuff that was gentle like pilates and yoga and stretching. But then it was spreading all over my body. I saw another specialist and was diagnosed with fibromyalgia. For those who are unaware, fibro is ‘a chronic disorder characterized by widespread musculoskeletal pain, fatigue, and tenderness in localized areas’. To be diagnosed with fibro, doctors basically rule out any inflammatory condition, such as rheumatoid arthritis, that could be causing the pain. Then, you lie naked on a table and they poke you with their thumbs all over the place. They mark down on a body chart the places they poked that really hurt you. Then, if you have enough really sore spots in enough of the designated places, congratulations! You have been diagnosed with fibro.

Like literally that’s how ridiculous the diagnosis is. But at first, I was hopeful. At least a diagnosis meant that I wasn’t crazy. It meant that the pain was real and not psychological, as some doctors had suggested. Plus, fibro has pills you can take! Here, have some pills, they will fix you! Soon though, the fibro diagnosis just became the same scapegoat as the ‘arthritis’. Now the pain was ‘just fibro’ and once again, I should exercise more. But soon, even the simplest activities caused pain for days and total exhaustion. Which in turn caused a lot of mental anguish and self-loathing. My inner voice was so fucking mean, telling me I should be ashamed that I was in such terrible physical shape that I couldn’t even go for a ten minute walk without some part of me being in agony. The voice said I was lazy, and deserved to be in pain. That asshole voice and I engaged in mental battles constantly. 

Still, I was not convinced that my pain being ‘just fibro’ was reasonable. There has to be a cause for the pain, saying it’s ‘just fibro’ does not answer that question. If fibro is causing the pain then what is causing the fibro huh smarty pants doctor?!? A family member with similar issues recommended, and to my eternal thankfulness, paid for my treatment at a private clinic specializing in chronic pain. I don’t need to tell fellow sufferers how much it costs to treat a chronic condition. It’s very, very expensive and a lot of the time you are just throwing money at anything, desperate for a solution long after you’ve run out of any health benefits you may have had. 

The pain clinic specializes in re-training muscles to work the way they are supposed to. It sounds a lot like physio, but they use some interesting electronic technology to measure muscle activity. The idea is that even minor muscle injuries can affect the way the muscle works. When a muscle is injured, the body will automatically adapt so that it can keep going. Over time, if not ‘reset’, those muscle adaptations will create a chain reaction of problems in the body.

Those sore spots that doctors poke during the fibro diagnosis are called trigger points, and they usually manifest in areas of muscle attachment sites. Even if you don’t normally have muscle pain, you’ve likely experienced that bunched up muscle strain after overworking the muscles. However, a bunched up muscle in one place often causes the achiness to be felt in another part of the muscle, or in another muscle entirely, making it very difficult to determine where the pain is actually originating from. Trigger point maps of the body showing areas where pain can refer as well as learning some basic anatomy are helpful tools to figure it out for self-treatment. 

However, at the clinic we soon encountered a physiological problem. We would work on rebalancing muscles and they would immediately ‘unbalance’. Especially in the torso and lower back. We discovered some scar tissue in the pelvic area that was definitely causing some problems, and the clinic recommended I see a pelvic floor physiotherapist. They suspected my pain was a result of some injuries I’d had in the pelvic area in a car accident.

In that accident, I had been t-boned by a driver who ran a red light. I had been smooshed between the driver’s side door and the console next to me. My right wrist had been badly fractured and dislocated in both bones, and I had sustained four pelvic fractures, two on each side of the pubic symphysis. Basically the closest you could come to breaking your vagina, I suppose. 

My broken vagina

My hospital doctor estimated I would need about three weeks in the hospital and then intensive physiotherapy. However, I healed remarkably quickly and was released after a week. I hobbled around on special crutches that had a little tray for my busted arm. I had physio once a week, then once every two weeks. The therapists were much more interested in my arm, which was pretty fucked up and immobile, while my hips and pelvis were functioning relatively normally. Every medical professional that inspected that injury proclaimed surprise at how well I had healed. The orthopaedic doctor said I might experience a bit of arthritis later in life, but otherwise I would have no issues. 
So when the pain clinic insisted there were pain issues relating to that pelvic injury, I was very sceptical. How had I gone almost fifteen years with no issues, and no pain relating to the fractures in the pelvic area? Not to mention none of my current pain was even in the pelvic area. That didn’t make much sense to me, especially since I had seen so many medical professionals over the years who had dismissed the accident as the source of the pain as well. That stupid inner voice was all YOU’LL NEVER STOP HURTING HAHAHAHA. 

Now I want to go off topic a bit here and talk about pain relief, because the inner voice is a dick about that too. Managing chronic pain is a huge challenge and one with massive societal implications. For most people, over-the-counter meds will work for general aches and pains. But for the chronic pain sufferer, that shit don’t cut it. Like when a someone says, ‘take an Advil’, it’s like, are you fucking kidding me? I might as well eat Pez candy! So of course, you have to go see a doctor to get something stronger. And that is where the trouble begins. You’ll try stronger and stronger painkillers which of course become ineffective over time and really, if you have one of these weirdo ‘nobody knows what causes it’ pain conditions, you’re most likely not even addressing the cause of the pain, you’re just masking it temporarily. This is if your doctor even believes you are in legitimate pain instead of assuming you are a drug-seeking addict.

Of course, these painkillers are typically opiate based, very addictive, and can actually kill you. Just look at the statistics on accidental opiate overdose. The numbers are staggering. Not to mention that they can cause awful side effects like extreme constipation, which in itself can be painful, especially if you already have pain in the abdominal/pelvic area. Like, after my car accident I was on strong painkillers. I did not take a shit for seventeen days due to opiate-induced constipation. SEVENTEEN days, people. And that was with taking laxatives and stool softeners twice per day in the hospital for a week before I finally lied and told them I had, in fact, taken a crap just so they would let me out of the hospital.

Luckily, I didn’t go down the opiate painkiller road. I know me. I quite like opiates, I’m not going to lie. That floating relief of being released from intense pain is almost as addictive as the narcotic alkaloids which bind to the opiate receptors in our brains. And that’s why I have mostly avoided the heavy-duty drugs, despite being offered them by medical professionals. I would 100% become a junkie. You know what I haven’t been offered? A prescription for medical marijuana. That’s the road I went down. But despite having one of the ‘approved conditions’ for its usage, and having asked doctors repeatedly, I have been refused. Not enough info about potential side effects, you see. Oh, is DEATH a side effect? No? OK cool. That’s what I’m gonna go with then. So, after having tried it for pain and found it significantly more effective for pain management than drugs that could easily kill me, I am now a criminal. But I’m at least a criminal who won’t overdose AND who has reasonably regular bowel movements.

Using marijuana instead of opiates has been incredibly helpful for me. Interestingly, in the past couple years many people have, upon me admitting my usage, also confessed that they too have been using it for that purpose. My former drug dealer estimated that 90% of his marijuana clients were using it to treat chronic pain conditions as well. For me personally, it doesn’t block out the pain like an opiate does. Rather, it seems to distract me from the pain. Like if I think about it, the pain is still there, but my brain is too busy with other stuff to pay attention to it. This allows me to get things done. I know a lot of people think marijuana users just lie on the sofa eating chips all day, but without having that all-encompassing focus on pain, I feel much more efficient. I’m high right now, for real. 

But that evil inner voice is telling me I’m a good for nothing pothead, I’m going to get arrested one day, I should just power through the pain, I’m going to get lung cancer instead and die. But I’ve been learning to shut that fucker up a bit and tell myself I’ve got to do what I’ve got to do to manage. One has to continue living and it’s OK to have some medicinal help to do that, regardless of the source. 

Back to the pain. I honestly thought the pain clinic was totally copping out by referring me to another medical professional, and a physiotherapist at that. Like I hadn’t already seen a bunch of physiotherapists that had all said the exact same thing. I was disheartened at the prospect of starting the whole diagnostic process again with yet another one. By chance, my sister had just started seeing a physiotherapist for pain in her hips, but she clarified that it was a pelvic floor physiotherapist, and that she was experiencing great results. Reluctantly, I called to book an appointment.

After several months of waiting to get in, I had my first appointment. Before being seen, I had to fill out a very long form detailing all health issues, pain problems, and past injuries. Then, I had to sign a waiver that it was OK for the therapist to perform internal exams via the vagina or anus. I didn’t really understand how any of those holes would have anything to do with my lower back, hip, and leg pain, but I signed it anyway. My sister had warned me that internal exams could be a part of the treatment.

As soon as I entered the treatment room and the specialist came in, she had me take my pants off. She stood my up and got me to bend over, do a couple stretches, and then checked the ‘evenness’ of my hips. Then she asked me how I was even able to function. ‘What do you mean’? I asked her. She said that based on her quick assessment, she could immediately tell that I had a whole bunch of problems going on in there and that she was surprised at how high functioning I was, for I must be in very severe pain. I almost started sobbing then and there, her empathy was so appreciated at that moment. Like, I know I’m not dying and I don’t want this post to sound at all like a Christine pity party, that is not the purpose. But having a medical professional confirm to me that I wasn’t just being dramatic about it was so reassuring.

She explained that she could tell that my sacroilliac (SI) ligaments were ‘jello’, particularly on the left side. Meaning all the muscles in my lower back, pelvis, and upper legs were all doing the work the SI ligaments weren’t doing properly. Just like at the pain clinic, she explained that the body will adjust itself to keep performing, so when ligaments are loose and unstable, the muscles have to take over. But that’s not their job, so they get sore, tired, and start to ache at their attachment sites. Soon, the muscles will start to get tiny tears in the tissue, leading to the buildup of scar tissue.

She said she wished she had seen me years sooner as the damage was severe. I asked her how the fuck I got this way, and sure enough, she unhesitatingly replied that it was all a result of my old car accident injury, and that the physiotherapy I had received after the accident had been pretty useless. I should have been seeing a pelvic floor specialist right from the start, but apparently, they didn’t really exist back then! Or at least there were very few and it was an emerging discipline within physiotherapy (my physiotherapist said ‘they would just make you do a bunch of kegels over and over in those days’!). Even today, there are only a handful of these types of specialists and they are in extremely high demand. Hence the five-month wait to get in. 
Next, we had the internal exam. Luckily, we just did the front hole and not the back hole (that came on a later visit and was too terrible to discuss here; just imagine someone palpating your tailbone through your butt hole. That’s all I’m going to say about that). The therapist explained that the pelvic muscles, and especially the pelvic floor muscles, are all influenced by the movement of the SI joint and ligaments and can also have painful trigger points, so in she went. I was pretty sure my pelvic floor was in decent shape, because most of my pain was in my back and hips, not in the pelvic floor muscles. But lo and behold, my inside muscles were also a mess, which became evident as soon as she started poking around in there. And let’s be clear, she’s not just sticking her finger in there, she’s jamming me in the lady muscles on the sides. Hard. Imagine massaging the inside of your hip, through the vagina. Now imagine that hip muscle is all bunched up, inflamed, and irritating the nearby nerves. The exam progressed. She said, ‘Now I want you to contract your inner muscles like you’re doing a kegel. Ok good. Now release…no, release it’. Me: ‘I am releasing it’. Her: ‘No, you’re not’. Me: ‘Am I stuck this way’? In case you’re wondering, that is NOT NORMAL. 

After messing around in there, she concluded her initial assessment and outlined my problems and her treatment plan. I was still hesitant to blame all the pain on my injury, even if it turned out I hadn’t healed as well as I had thought. It made sense that the damaged SI ligaments were causing the lower back and hip pain. But what about all my other weird aches and pains? What about the aching of my inner thighs? What about the shortness of breath and weird pain under my ribs on the left side? The stabbing under my shoulder blades? What about the numbness in my calves and feet? The throbbing in my heels? The tenderness of my ankles? What about that terrible burning pain in my big toes? How about that top of foot pain? The knees? And that heavy, achiness in my legs in general that makes it so hard to even lift my feet to walk sometimes? WHAT ABOUT ALL THAT PAIN?!?


Nope, despite my concerns, she remained convinced that all these issues were related to the old pelvic fractures. I should point out these weren’t even ‘serious’ fractures. They weren’t displaced, required no surgery, and in fact, could not even be seen on a current X-ray. Despite all that, the tiny injuries had built up over time and had affected my muscles and nerves all down my legs and up through the torso. In order to fix me, I would need to repair the damaged ligaments.

I had always thought ligaments weren’t really ‘fixable’ except through surgery. However, apparently they can be encouraged to repair themselves using a technique called prolotherapy. During prolotherapy, an irritant solution is injected right into the ligaments. This causes an inflammatory reaction and kick starts the body’s healing process by laying down new ligament fibres in the affected areas, thus strengthening it and stabilizing the joint. To start, I would need several rounds of this treatment in the SI ligaments, combined with pelvic floor physiotherapy, and I had to wear an SI belt all the time. If you’ve never seen one, an SI belt (or the Muffin Maker, as I call mine, due to it’s ability to instantly create a muffin top) is like one of those back stabilizing belts that movers wear. It’s a thick, padded strip with a heavy-duty velcro closure that you wear very tight across the hips and SI joint. It creates a lovely bulky look across one’s middle; the perfect accessory for a business meeting or evening out.

The prolotherapy itself is not a pleasant process. There are needles (10-15 injections per session) involved and the solution they inject into you causes your ligaments to immediately seize up like a cramp that won’t relent. After a session, I would usually try to drive home in excruciating pain, white-knuckling it all the way, to spend the remainder of the evening in the bathtub. Usually, by the next day that crampy stiffness was gone and was replaced by an achiness that would gradually diminish over a period of a couple weeks, until the next session. As the SI ligaments strengthened, the pain in my lower back eased off substantially. But then I started to notice strange other pains down my legs and did actually begin feeling pain on the ‘inside’ of my pelvis. Great, I thought. Is this treatment causing new pain problems? Nope. It turns out that once my body started healing the most injured areas and that pain started easing up, I started to perceive pain that had already been there in other areas. It became like peeling layers of an onion. When that thick, ugly, stinky top layer was removed, we discovered additional, thinner layers. 

An artist’s rendering of my prolo map

The muscles of the pelvic area are plentiful and complicated. Despite attempting to learn as much as I could about its anatomy and the function of each of the muscles, it was still difficult to describe my evolving pain to my physiotherapist. Luckily, she is the expert and could easily decipher exactly what internal muscles were causing issues. For example, after my second treatment of the SI ligaments, I started noticing pain in two new areas. 
Me: So…a couple new types of pain. 

Her: Describe the pain to me. 

Me: Well…this is going to sound ridiculous…but ok, so, the first pain feels like someone has put their finger in my butt, and then they’re jamming it left and right REALLY HARD. 

Her: That’s obturator internus. What’s the next pain?

Me: (Taken aback by her nonchalant assessment of the phantom butt finger) Er…well, it feels like someone is pulling my…um…pubes out and upward. 

Her: That’s the pubic symphysis. Pants off, face up on the table. 

Obturator internus, the devil’s muscle

I guess it’s just been, well, never, since a medical professional was able to address EXACTLY, down to the muscle, where the pain was coming from. Honestly, I was so blown away. As we identified the source of new pains that would crop up after each prolotherapy session (‘it feels like someone is inserting a long skinny needle into my hip joint’ and ‘my butt bones feel swollen on the inside’ and ‘my inner thighs feel like they are being ripped off the bone’), we could then treat the problem areas with massage, needling, or additional prolotherapy. It turns out that SI joints weren’t the only ones that needed fixing with the injections. We discovered problems in a couple of additional pelvic ligaments, scar tissue at the pubic symphysis that went down the hamstring adductors, and right in the hip joint itself.
And it really occurred to me then that there could really be so many pain variations and symptoms for this type of situation. And, since I had gotten an anatomy colouring book for Christmas and had done all the pages on muscles relating to my issues, I had learned a lot about the different nerves and muscles involved in controlling and stabilizing the torso and powering the legs. Of course, I had also been googling everything related to pelvic floor dysfunction and pelvic nerves and muscles, and all sorts of problems possibly related to the area. 

So, of course I started asking my physiotherapist a million questions about the types of patients she sees and the sorts of symptoms they have. It seemed to me that my symptoms, at least to a whole lot of medical professionals, seemed unrelated to the old injuries in my pelvic area. It occurred to me that all sorts of people might have weird, mystery symptoms that could be explained by pelvic floor issues. 

Sure enough, my physiotherapist confirmed that she does indeed see patients who present with symptoms you would not typically associate with pelvic floor dysfunction. And in fact, I started realizing that some weird things that I had been experiencing were probably connected to the injuries as well. For example, randomly peeing yourself a little bit when not even exerting yourself (and in fact not even knowing you HAD to pee in the first place) is NOT NORMAL. Throbbing pain in the lady area after orgasm is NOT NORMAL. Your pelvis shifting and audibly clunking when you walk is NOT NORMAL. And this is really why I decided to write this, because I know so many people who suffer from strange pains or weird symptoms. So if anything described here resonates with you and you haven’t found solutions, GET YOUR PELVIS CHECKED OUT. 

Of course, you immediately assume a lot of issues in this area can be caused by pregnancy and childbirth as I’m sure any mother can tell you. It seems to me (and my physiotherapist agrees wholeheartedly) that few women get proper pelvic floor care after childbirth. Most moms will tell you that they were told to just do some kegel exercises after delivery but that’s about it. My physiotherapist explained that the traditional ‘legs in stirrups’ position that many women give birth in puts incredible strain on the SI joint and can actually damage those ligaments during labour. And of course, many women experience the tearing of tissue down there. Now I hadn’t thought about it before but those tears aren’t happening to just skin, they are happening to muscles. And if that happens, those muscles will have to adapt to scar tissue, nerve damage, etc. I wonder how much the trauma of childbirth to that area affects the probability of experiencing issues such as vaginal or uterine prolapse in the future if untreated. 

But it turns out a lot of things aside from pregnancy and childbirth can cause pelvic floor dysfunction. Men, the craziest thing to me is that problems in the pelvic area can result in erectile dysfunction. WHAT?!? The pudendal nerve innervates the genitals in both sexes and problems in that area can cause numbness and pain in the penis, and can even cause difficulty in achieving erections. Apparently this can occur with injuries in the area, but also from repetitive strain from activities, particularly bike riding. My physiotherapist confirmed that she gets referrals from clients thinking they have ED or even STIs that turn out to be pelvic floor dysfunction. 

Another thing that blew my mind is that pelvic floor dysfunction can cause symptoms that can be mistaken for Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Tight or loose pelvic floor muscles and ligaments can cause constipation, diarrhea, painful poops, and general abdominal pain. My physiotherapist said that often, these types of symptoms will commonly appear in people who have injured their lower back or tailbone in the past. 

I am now into my seventh month of treatment and just had my seventh prolotherapy session. I’m still having a lot of pain as there are still more layers to peel off, but it’s getting better. I am falling asleep faster and waking fewer times in the night. The really acute stabbing pains have dulled to throbbing aches. While Netflix is still my best friend right now, I have been able to tolerate going out and spending time with friends and working in the garden.This doesn’t sound like a lot of progress in seven months, but we have twenty years of damage to undo. I’m just really grateful that I figured out what was causing the pain. Knowing there’s a solution, no matter how arduous the journey is to get there, is an incredible relief and makes the current pain so much more manageable. And that inner voice has become very quiet and I’m all like ‘I told you so, asshole’!

If you are experiencing chronic pain, I truly feel for you. At least I now know what’s causing mine, it’s not life-threatening, and I have a path to recovery ahead of me. Chronic pain takes an incredible toll on the body, not only physically but mentally. Developing depression and anxiety alongside pain is common and can make the physical pain worse. If you have pain that sounds like it could be pelvic floor related, I urge you to get it checked out. Even seemingly innocuous old injuries seem to be able to inflict serious damage over time to parts of the body you would not expect. If you feel like you are alone and in pain, and want to talk, contact me! 

Happy pelves to all!
PS: Pelves is the plural of pelvis. 

Tips on Being Broke

Tech tipsComputer Tricks

So the local economy is in the shitter in case you haven’t noticed. Things are getting a bit ugly out there for a lot of folks. To them I say, sorry about your luck but also, welcome. Welcome to my club; I have been waiting over here for you for quite some time. I’d offer you some refreshments, but that shit’s expensive. To be honest, I’m kind of glad you’re here because being broke is lonely and all those bootstraps folks out there assume you’re just a lazy asshole.

My husband and I are what I like to call Hipster Broke. We were broke WAY before it was cool. This blog has never been about giving advice; I don’t think I’m remotely qualified to dole out life tips on much of anything. This blog is more like a what not to do instructional, where you can generally come to feel good about yourself and have a laugh. Or at least that’s the goal. However, I’m writing this today because I feel like it’s important to impart the wisdom I have gained over the years of brokeness to the masses who may now benefit from our struggles. Or at least make them feel a little less scared and alone about their financial future.

First, it’s important to explain my classifications of levels of financial security. You may have other definitions for yourself and your family, perhaps financial aspirations that go beyond what I am listing here. That is OK. If you’re broke for long enough, your perception of what equals financial success will likely change. Here is a drawing:

So, it’s pretty simple. If you can pay your bills and have money left over, have reliable personal transportation, money in your RRSPs/savings and can go on a holiday once per year that is not purchased entirely with a credit card, to me, you are RICH. My husband and I started our marriage young and romantically broke and worked quite hard the way we were told to get good jobs and promotions. Those bootstraps folks would have applauded! We became rich for a couple of glorious years. We went on trips, we contributed to savings and charity every month, and had the luxury of being able to financially assist friends and family.

But too soon we became BROKE. I had to leave my high-paying job after a couple years in a toxic work environment which led to a lawsuit and my health completely deteriorated. I could only work a few hours per week at a much lower rate of pay and it started getting harder and harder to pay the bills.

When you’re broke, home and vehicle repairs start to get put off until later, as do any sort of out-of-pocket health care needs. All saving grinds to a halt and you start taking money out instead of putting it in. Eventually, your savings are gone. Your credit card interest is piling up, you’ve bounced a couple of cheques (incidentally, I recently discovered that my bank now charges $48 for any NSF payments. FORTY-EIGHT DOLLARS. That is insane. Like, I realize that there are administrative costs to pay for when that happens but that’s a freaking tank of gas or a week’s worth of lunches. Seriously.), and you’re starting to get notices from the electric company. You are definitely not doing anything fun like going on vacation, or out to dinner, or to the movies. Being broke is stressful, but it’s much better than being POOR.

After being broke for awhile, unless something changes, you are most likely going to become poor. Poor to me is when your credit card is way over the limit and the interest and fees are completely out of control. Collection agencies are calling, your bills are all overdue, there are serious repairs needed to you, and/or your home, you sometimes go hungry and what you are eating is cheap and non-nutritional, and you have no reliable transportation. It’s highly likely that your utilities are in danger of being cut off, if they haven’t been already.

When poor, you won’t be afford dental implants and will have to pay for a ‘temporary’ plastic denture with instalment payments.

Unfortunately for us, after we spent some time being broke, my husband was laid off. I’m self-employed, so with perfect timing one month later, a company with whom I contracted my work to had to cut my contract. This led to a downward spiral into poorness despite me having worked back up to more hours.

Luckily, we never became DESTITUTE. And thankfully, it’s highly unlikely that we ever would because we are privileged to have friends and family who would never let us go hungry or homeless. Or, if we did, we could crash on any number of sofas. Destitute is when you have nowhere to live, go hungry, and completely forgo health care. Many times the destitute are those like me who have health issues but don’t have the amazingly good fortune of having a safety net of friends and family. Like, I can go to my parents’ house and my mom will probably be like ‘they had bonus Air Miles on stewed tomatoes so I bought seventy-two tins. Grab a couple’! Indeed I will mom, and while I’m at it, I’ll take a couple rolls of TP.

My parents’ toothpaste stash. Think they’d notice if I grabbed a couple?

Currently, we’ve just managed in the past year to pull ourselves out of poorness and back into brokeness. It was scary there for a bit as I’d just recently recovered from the loss of another large contract (from the same company that fucked me over before dammit), when when my husband got laid off again right before Christmas. He had to take a temporary job with a much lower paycheque before he found one making the same salary as before. And this all happened right when I started an expensive and painful treatment from a decades-old car accident injury. Just a bunch of stupid shit that happens no matter what you do or how hard you work.

But we’re getting there. Over the past several years of constantly having to adapt to massively fluctuating income, we’ve learned some ways to save or make money and with the current economic situation, maybe everyone else could use the tips.

Food security is a big issue for me and I know some of you will probably roll your eyes right out of your head when I say this, but seriously people, GROW YOUR OWN FOOD! We have all seen insane produce prices lately and it is the perfect time to start working on this. This season will be my fourth year of gardening. I started doing it for exactly this reason, I was broke and being broke makes it harder to eat healthy. Well, that and I’m getting prepared for the impending zombie/climate change apocalypse.

Not having healthy food available gives me anxiety. In fact, if I ever get to a financial status beyond RICH, I am going to hire a person for a household position I would call Food Procurer. I would pay my Food Procurer to do all my grocery shopping, plan and cook all my meals, and be on stand-by to deliver me snacks. I would call my Food Procurer Benson regardless of their actual name. It would be so great.

Anyway, I’m a little bit obsessed about growing everything humanly possible, which isn’t feasible for most people. I also realize that it takes a certain level of able-bodiedness that not everyone may possess. You’ll also need a spot of dirt in a sunny location. But even if you don’t have that, it’s very easy and cheap to grow some greens in a container on your windowsill.

Last year from about May through October, I rarely bought any produce, making grocery shopping a cheap and painless breeze. It can be a bit pricey the first year, if you are building raised beds but there are cheap options. My raised beds are built from shipping pallets (free) and you can get free dirt and compost if you know where to look (Kijiji). Or, start a community garden and share the costs with your neighbours.

#TrueStory

I’m calling myself the Trash Gardener because my goal is literally to spend as little as possible on it. Fuck fancy trellises and expensive garden paraphernalia. Sticks and ties made from old clothes do the trick. And planters? Drill a couple holes in the bottom of plastic coffee or cat litter containers and voila! Free planter. Too ugly for you? Hand your kids or nieces (in my case) some glue and paint and dollar store ‘jewels’ and let them go to town. If you start saving seeds and making your own compost, pretty soon it’s a completely self-sustaining venture.

Part of the Trash Garden, in all its glory.

Regarding food, aside from growing some of your own, I highly recommend making meals using high-protein vegetable sources. If you buy bulk dried legumes, you can spend a tiny fraction of what you would on meat. My broke sister also seconds this tip as she is queen of lentil-based meals. Lentils, and other pulses like chickpeas, make delicious and wholesome stews and curries. Bulk quinoa, also dirt cheap, when cooked is very similar in consistency to ground meats. I use it in chilies, soups, and tacos.

Also: Potatoes are filling and delicious and cheap. Apples are one of the cheapest fruits and have a long shelf life. Also, they keep the doctor away. Green peppers are half the cost of coloured peppers. Buy fruits and veggies in season. Root vegetables are your friends; pound for pound your best value. Avoid packaged/prepped meals to do the work yourself but save; buying a head of lettuce is a fraction of the cost of a tub of washed and torn lettuce. Eat leftovers for lunches. Make your own bread. Do a weekly fridge inventory and plan meals around items that are going to go bad and weekly grocery store specials. Vinegar is pretty much the only cleaning product you ever need to buy and BONUS you can also use it to make tasty and cheap homemade salad dressing.

When my mom heard I was writing this post, she chipped in a tip too, which is to shop, if possible, from several grocery stores by price comparing. It’s time-consuming but you will save money if this is a feasible option. Often, I’ll hit Superstore at lunchtime and then Safeway on the way home to grab meal components. Seriously, there are a lot of ways to save money on food. I could go on and on.

One of the big things about being broke and even more so about being poor is that often, things break and you can’t afford to fix them. Lucky for me, I am the product of broke parents so am used to my dad freaking out about repairpeople. I’M NOT CALLING SOMEONE! could be on our family crest. Actually, THAT’S ENOUGH JUICE! or MILK IS FOR CEREAL! or TURN OFF THE LIGHTS! or PUT A DAMNED SWEATER ON IF YOU’RE SO COLD! could all be appropriate family mottos.

Now, not everyone has the skills or tools to fix things themselves, but I found that when you actually learn how to do things, they’re not really that hard. Plus, you can find videos on YouTube showing you how to fix or make anything and everything. It showed me how to install a toilet and properly level the phlange. It showed me how to clean out the filters on my vacuum when I thought it was fucked. It showed me how to wire a new bathroom fixture and how to change those plug-in thingies in the wall. It’s going to fix the shocks on my car when we can afford to order the part. (Ok. That’s not 100% true, YouTube will show my husband how to fix it. I’m really bad at machines). It showed me how to jank together some pipes and install a new bathroom faucet.

Like, don’t electrocute yourself or fall off the roof of your house, but be open to learning how to do it yourself. Sometimes just slapping some duct tape on something is good enough for now (like with my car heater). And when you’re broke, suck up to friends and family who have skills or tools that you may not possess but can borrow.

My personal motto for the past several years has basically been ‘Never Buy New’. Mostly because of the poorness but also because if you are buying something used, it’s not going in the landfill. My favorite way to buy used is through garage sales. We’ve gotten really amazing at ‘Saleing’ on weekends in the spring. You bring a buttload of chump change and haggle on everything from $0.50 used books to old Tupperware. My favorite thing to buy at garage sales are tools and garden stuff. A $5 circular saw? Don’t mind if I do. A brand-new mandolin veggie slicer for $2, still in the package? Put that shit in my cart! A 40 foot soaker hose for $1.50? Yes, please. And if you have kids, get thee to a parade of garage sales. Seriously. Toys, clothes, baby equipment, everything you could possibly need for those expensive mini humans and almost always barely ever used.

Another favorite is Kijiji, although I am not going to lie, I make my husband go pick up anything we buy there because, well, rapists. But still a great place to find stuff you need on the cheap in your local area and you can always bring a friend for protection. And, it’s a great place to unload some of your crap if you need to make a few bucks.

If you prefer a more authentic shopping experience, I recommend Value Village. My husband goes there all the time for cheap work clothes. He found a pair of brand-new, never used steel-toed boots for $10 that would have cost close to $200 new in stores. This sort of amazing savings makes me practically jizz myself.

As far as household expenses, when we became poor I was desperate to trim any excess off utility bills. Being skeptical of how much we would actually save, I went around the house doing all the things my google searches for saving money on bills told me to do. I unplugged everything that doesn’t need to be plugged in all the time and we programmed the furnace and were actually surprised by the noticeable reduction in costs with very little effort. I use a rain barrel in the garden and we haven’t watered the lawn since 2007, and with just two adults in the house I wasn’t too concerned about water usage. However, we did go around fixing any leaky taps and saw our water bill drop too. Apparently, even just pulling phone chargers out of the plug ins when not in use can make a difference. Plus, you’re using less energy, and that’s a good thing in any case.

Another thing to watch out for are sneaky bank fees. Like the aforementioned absurd NSF fee, the bank will charge you through the nose for over limit fees, overdraft fees, handling charges, transaction charges outside your monthly plan, and ‘off-brand’ ATM fees. When you’re rich, you don’t even notice these things, namely because you won’t incur them. But for broke and poor people, these fees can make a huge impact on your bank account balance.

The main thing that really saved us the past couple of years was making money on the side in addition to our normal jobs. I’ve always thought it was incredibly important to have multiple income streams, even if that income isn’t huge. That way, if one of your incomes disappears, you have something to fall back on. In high school I babysat and hired myself out to a neighbourhood teacher, making posters and correcting math tests for extra cash. When I was at University, I worked two part-time jobs. Even when I was making excellent money at my old company, I still worked evenings in a coffee shop for years and had a home-based business selling skin care and cosmetics. My husband has worked occasional weekends doing roofing or other construction jobs since high school.

So, you may be thinking, do I really need that second kidney? Yes, you do, so stop thinking about selling your organs on the black market. There are other options. When you’re in this sort of dire situation, it’s very easy to see how some might turn to unfortunate or even criminal activities just to get by, which is sad. A lot of ‘criminals’ out there are just poor folks trying to survive.

Luckily, over the past couple of years of fluctuating broke/poorness, I have been able to do all sorts of legal activities to make additional money to pay the bills. I’ve done makeup for weddings, painted walls and fences, planned, dug, and planted gardens, made/grew and sold teas, herbs, and spice mixes from stuff I grow in my garden, participated in focus groups and surveys and many, many other things. The point is, monetize your skills and talents in whatever way you can. Someone will pay you for them.

One thing that anyone can do that is really flexible that really helped us out was mystery shopping. While it’s not particularly lucrative, it’s incredibly easy. Sadly, my poor old dad is the hardest-working person I know, but he was in telecommunications in the mid-90s, which was chaotic and marked by rounds and rounds of layoffs. To make ends meet, my mom started doing mystery shopping, which is where I got the idea. Mystery shopping has evolved since then; it just takes some work signing up for the mystery shopping companies online and checking for jobs in your area. I found I could make about $500 per month doing this, but you have to be organized and learn which companies pay the best with the least amount of work.

A thing that I liked to do back in my old rich days was to pay my broke sister, who lived with us at the time, to do horrible chores I didn’t want to do. Like, $10 to scoop the litter boxes and clean cat hurk off the floor. Or, I’d pay her to do the grocery shopping or to make dinner. Back then, I valued the help more than the small amounts I was paying her. So, if you are a person who is relatively unscathed by the current economic situation and can afford it, do the same for someone who needs it! Buy local products and services and and keep the money in your community.

I think my most important tip regarding being broke is that you must remember that your worth as a person is not related to the worth of your bank account. It’s a hard thing to remember, since society is usually grossed out by poor people and judges them harshly without knowledge of their circumstances. What IS an indicator of your worth as a person will be how you handle the adversity. Will you develop resilience and resourcefulness or succumb to misplaced rage and bitterness? Will you learn new skills and adapt, or will you lament the past? What I do know is that you can get through it and you will be a better, more empathetic person in the end. And you’ll realize what is truly important in life and it’s really not money.

Good luck!

Almond Chucking

Tech tipsComputer Tricks

 Well, Happy New Year everyone. I realize it’s February, but it’s been awhile since I’ve written. I hope everyone had a lovely time celebrating whatever you celebrate.
 
 My favourite Christmas memory from this year was at our family dinner. My nieces were excited they were allowed to have some ginger ale with their meal, which I made for them with half-strength syrup using Granny’s soda machine. Only, Auntie likes really fizzy pop and may have over-carbonated. Despite warning the girls about properly rationing their drinks with their meals and also about the perils of guzzling soda, both girls immediately began annihilating their drinks.
 
 The little two and a half year old (AKA Fists of Fury) is a puncher. She’ll come give you a hug, soothe any owies you may have, show you her stuffie, then punch you in the nose. She would sip wildly on her straw and then, because of the intensely carbonated water, would declare TOO SPICY! and would punch her straw before repeating the process again.
 
 I got her this shirt for Christmas:
 
 


#BadAuntie
 
 Anyway, I’m very lucky that my family dinners are usually a pleasant experience (well, except for this one). Aside from the occasional political argument, mostly we all get along and just like to talk about gross stuff at the dinner table.
 
 But the best time about the holidays is reminiscing about past family hilarity. Like, remember that time when so and so yanked a tablecloth off the table and launched an orange Slurpee onto the ceiling? Or, remember that time I fell down the stairs with a bowl of fruit salad? Not gonna lie, most of our fave family stories involve accidents or injuries. Or weird games we invented in our youth such as Barenaked Bum Fighters (don’t ask) or Chargeball (prepare to sprain something).
 
 This holiday season my sister and I reminisced about an event I had forgotten about, though it occurred when we were both adults of sound mind at the time. Back when I was still working for Satan Inc., I went Full Gord for a few months on the only healthy thing I have ever gone Full Gord on: salads. I was obsessed with salads and brought them to work every day, with Greek dressing. The salad veggies varied with what was available in my fridge, but invariably contained toasted almonds for protein.
 
 Every few days I would roast a batch of raw almonds in the oven so I had a constant supply for my salads. However, one evening while my delicious almonds were in the oven, I got distracted. For a really long time and the almonds burned to shit. Like completely black.
 
 My sister, who lived in the basement at the time, came to see what the putrid smell was. After the almonds had cooled down, we dared each other to try to eat one. Why, I do not know. Neither of us were quite brave enough, so we decided that we would each try to chuck a burned almond into the other’s opened mouth. If a toss was successful, the chump with the nasty almond in their mouth had to eat it.
 
 And so, the game of Almond Chucking was born. Rules developed as the game progressed. We now stood across the kitchen from one another. You had to open your mouth, tip your head back, and close your eyes. No peeking to avoid the almond. Also, an almond hitting your eyelid is preferable to an almond hitting your eyeball. Trust me. Once we started landing the odd almond, we allowed for spitting out of the charcoal almond (you know, carcinogens and all that), but you had to chew it thoroughly first. And FYI, chewing burned almonds will suck all the moisture out of your mouth until it’s nearly impossible to spit out the black paste.
 
 Blackened almonds flew back and forth across the kitchen, seemingly for hours. As the brittle nuts hit floors, walls, tables and chairs, they would shatter into pieces and fly under the refrigerator, behind the microwave, everywhere. In the aftermath of Almond Chucking, bits of nuts were found as far away as the living room and basement. Greasy black skid marks were on the walls and floor tiles. It took weeks (months? Years?) to locate all the chucked almonds.
 
 Needless to say, Almond Chucking is one of those one-time only games, but we will remember laughing our asses off and the horror of burned almonds in our mouths forever.
 
 

Hanger

Tech tipsComputer Tricks

 I’ve written briefly about hanger before. Specifically, about having a low blood sugar meltdown on a stinky Greek tram. This post elaborates on the factors involved and how to avoid similar situations. Consider it a Public Service Announcement. Sure, hanger can be hilarious, but it can also be hazardous. To relationships. It’s time that society started having frank conversations about this legit medical condition.
 
 While this post is going to make it sound like I get extreme hanger all the time, the reality is it occurs in its very worst form only occasionally. More frequently, I’ll get a minor case of hanger which I can usually manage easily and without incident with constant snackage.
 
 But I have to be honest, sometimes I’m just too tired or sore to spend the necessary time preparing healthy meals and snacks every single day. Also, because I have allergies, it’s hard to find easy to grab food on the run when I don’t. I try to have snacks on me at all times, but then I’ll find a half-eaten carrot nestled in a bed of granola bar crumbs at the bottom of my purse. If I ever get rich, I would absolutely hire a person whose only job would be to procure me food. I would call them Benson.
 
 I also need to get better at eating regularly. You know, you’re at work and you’re like oh I’ll just reply to these 17 emails and THEN eat my lunch. Oh wait now a client is coming in. Shit, now there’s a big delivery and you’ve had two bites of an apple. Then you’re driving home and you’re screaming DIE IN A FIRE!!! at people going ten under the speed limit because they are increasing the time it takes for you to get to food.
 
 Or maybe that’s just me. In any case, it starts with gnawing hunger, and a slowly brewing headache. If I don’t eat something, the headache begins shooting stars into my eyeballs, I start to shake, I get dizzy and nauseous. If I still can’t eat, my brain stops functioning. I literally have trouble putting thoughts together and speaking coherently. Any obstacles in my quest for food results in complete, irrational, intense rage.
 
 Now, I know some people are more prone to hanger than others. It seems to run in my family quite strongly, yet my husband never experiences it. Some of you, while reading this post are probably nodding your head thinking yes, yes, I know what she’s talking about, and have your own hanger stories. Others are probably like, this woman is batshit.
 
 If you do suffer from hanger, it’s important to note that it’s not just what or how much you eat that can affect the occurrence or severity of the attack. Ladies, our reproductive hormones can wreak havoc on how our bodies react to insulin and blood sugar fluctuations. I know that during week three of my cycle, I will be ravenous; like CANNOT get full. This explains why I crave certain foods when I do and why hanger, if it occurs, is typically worse. Sleeplessness also affects how your body reacts to insulin, so you may find that if you do suffer from occasional hanger, it can occur after a night of insomnia.
 
 I’m going to share a hanger story and you’re going to say, wow, she is a huge asshole. But this is the reality of hanger. It has the power to destroy relationships and hurt people. Luckily, this story ends reasonably well for most parties involved but it could easily have gone the other way.
 
 Last summer, my husband and I were driving out to his hometown for the weekend. Of course, I hadn’t eaten a proper lunch and we were going to eat dinner when we got into town. During the ride, I started to feel the early, and then the mid and late stages of hanger. Luckily (or so I thought) we stopped for gas and snacks at an old gas station in the middle of nowhere, owned and run by an elderly couple.
 
 OF COURSE there weren’t any suitable snacks there for me, I don’t know what I expected. Unreasonably enraged that the gas station in the middle of Buttfuck, Nowhere didn’t have gluten and dairy free snacks I could eat, I stormed back out to the car while my husband loaded up on Zesty Mordant Doritos, an ice cream cone and licorice.
 
 Luckily, I remembered that I had a half-eaten granola bar in my purse. But as soon as I got back into the car, I could smell that something had gone awry. Have I mentioned before how much I hate patchouli? No? I FUCKING HATE IT!!! I would rather smell a hundred hot farts than patchouli. I don’t know what it is about that smell, it instantly infiltrates my nostrils, stuffs me up and hurts my head.
 
 Anyway, why did the car smell like patchouli? Well, the week earlier, one of my sisters had convinced me that aluminum-based antiperspirants were ruining my life, and she recommended I try this natural, spray-on deodorant. Well, I had bought it, and had thrown the small bottle in my purse and had forgotten about it.
 
 I hadn’t read the ingredients on the bottle, but OF COURSE the thing contained patchouli, what was I even thinking?!? And, it had been bouncing around in my purse for a week, until finally the top popped off, draining the whole entire bottle of stink into my purse. As I finally clued in to where the smell was coming from, I panicked. MY GRANOLA BAR NOOOOOO! And so of course, with the hanger already brewing and my only food salvation dripping with putrid old hippie, I lost my entire shit.
 
 I rummaged through my purse, getting my hands covered in the filth. The purse itself was soaked, as was everything in it. I found the offending, and now empty bottle of spray deodorant and launched it out the window, just as my husband returned to the car with his delicious bounty, making me even more angry. The bottle bounced off the pavement as I furiously just threw the entire purse out the window.
 
 ‘What’s going on’? He inquired gently, sensing something was amiss. But I was now past the point of being able to effectively communicate. ‘Fucking patchouli’! I howled. ‘It’s EVERYWHERE’! Obviously confused, he just sort of stared at me and I burst into tears. I fumbled out of the car and grabbed my purse off the asphalt and flung it toward a metal garbage can on the side of the road in the parking lot. I stalked the purse again, the object of my rage, picked it up by the shoulder straps, and smashed it on the road over and over and over again. FUCK YOU FUCK YOU FUCK YOU! I screamed at the purse.
 
 Now, my husband had previously experienced my hanger but didn’t really get it. Unfortunately, it’s usually him getting in the way of me assuaging my hunger and thus bears the brunt of the rage. Like, he has a nap instead of making dinner when it’s his turn to cook and I get home late and starving and the chicken is still frozen. But I think since this time the patchouli purse, and not him, had ruined my last chance of food for 100 kilometers, it was clear to him that this was not just a bad mood. It was serious and I needed help.
 
 He got out of the car and tried to calm me down as I sobbed and pulled items out of my purse and threw them all over the parking lot. ‘My wallet is damp with FUCKING patchoooouuuuuliiii’! I wailed. All my receipts, chapsticks, keys, phone, EVERYTHING just dripping with the stench. Making me gag. He tried to help me pick it up and sort it all out, and grabbed napkins from the glovebox to sop it up. Tears were streaming down my face and I tried to wipe them away, smearing patchouli and purse crumbs all over my face and causing me to sob even harder.
 
 Just then, I looked up to see one of the owners of the store, the old woman, standing in the parking lot staring at us, looking utterly horrified. She must have seen most of this go down. The contents of my purse were strewn everywhere and I was on my hands and knees still scooping gum wrappers and similar detritus out of the bottom.
 
 ‘My wife is having a bad day, could you just give her some space’? My husband asked, trying to spare me the embarrassment. ‘She going to clean up her mess’? The old lady asked. ‘Of course, of course, yes we will clean it all up, please, if you could just give us a few minutes’. He asked, as I continued to cry, although now it was reduced to quiet weeping and red-faced shame. ‘Because she made a huge mess. You better clean it. What is wrong with her anyw–‘. But my husband cut her off. ‘BEAT IT’! He finally barked out. The old lady scurried off.
 
 The last stage of hanger, once your remaining little bit of energy is spent on rage, is exhaustion and guilt. Usually, you have said terrible things and acted horribly, either to loved ones or to strangers. Or to old lady gas station owners. So if you love someone who suffers from hanger, please please please learn to recognize the early signs of an impending attack. They’re not crazy, they’re just hungry. For the love of all things holy, make them a sandwich.


An artist’s rendering of the hanger aftermath
 

TBT: The Hooper

Tech tipsComputer Tricks

Today I’m throwing it back to Hallowe’en 2014 when I witnessed a puzzling event. I’d wanted to write about it back then but felt like a bag of crap so I didn’t.
 
 Anyway. This past October 31st, I didn’t bring a lunch to work and had to go out and grab something to eat. Due to ridiculous allergies, the nearest place with food I can eat is well out of walking distance, so I took my car. As I returned from my lunch excursion and tried to find a place to park, something very out of the ordinary caught my eye.
 
 There, on the south side of the road, across the street from my office building, next to a cruddy vacant lot in the industrial part of town, a woman was hula hooping. Hurr?
 
 I managed to park my car without driving off the road in surprise, and I tried not to make eye contact with the hooper as I got out and made my way into the office. I didn’t want to scare her away as I planned to observe her further from my office window. As I approached my building, the receptionist in one of the other offices was out having a smoke break. ‘What is going on right now I don’t understand’ I said, in a low voice as I approached her. Simultaneously, she yelled ‘WHAT THE FUCK IS THAT LADY DOING’?!? across the parking lot. So much for stealth.
 
 But the hooper was unfazed, and continued what appeared to be an intricate hula hoop routine. Despite her obvious skills, I was still insatiably curious about who she was and why she was hula hooping on the side of the road. My first thought was that perhaps this was some sort of Halloween ruse. Maybe she’s just a hula hooper for the day. Although isn’t it still pretty weird to go hang out on the side of the road in your Halloween costume?
 
 My next thought was that this person must work in one of the many offices on the street, and perhaps she comes out at lunch to get some hula hooping exercise in. That theory went out the window when after a good amount of hooping, the hooper simply stopped and walked over to a nearby car and drove away. Was she a professional hula hooper, trying to generate interest in hula hooping?!?
 
 So, I made a sketch of the scene and asked the Internet to come up with some theories.
 
 


The best theory came from a friend who suggested that perhaps the hooper was simply a Halloween apparition. However, exactly one week later, the hooper returned.
 
 

 This time, her routine was even more impressive as she incorporated texting WHILE hooping. I watched her moves for awhile from my window, while my co-worker (my dad) was useless at providing new theories.
 
 


Sadly, November 6, 2014 was the second, and final, sighting of the hooper. I watch for her every day, hoping she’ll return with her smooth hip moves and multitasking abilities. I still have so many questions. Who was the hooper? Will she ever be back? Does she hoop around other parts of town? Why did she choose to hoop where she did? I guess I’ll never know.
 
 Fare thee well, hooper.

Pepper

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 A sad thing happened a couple of weeks ago. A sad, inevitable thing I have been dreading for years. One of my beloved Geriatricats, Pepper, passed away. I had just assumed at this point that they would all live forever. Her 18 year old body had always been small, and she had been in near perfect health. But nothing can live forever, and she had a healthy, long, vibrant life and I want to remember her for the weirdo cat she was.
 
 My husband and I got Pepper before we were married, when she was about six months old. It became immediately apparent that she needed a buddy cat in the house. So when we took Pepper in to get her lady business taken care of, it seemed like fate that someone had found and brought a tiny stray male cat into the vet’s office that very morning. So we happily adopted Jeremy and brought him home when Pepper had recovered from her surgery.
 
 Well, Pepper did NOT like Jeremy. I had imagined them immediately cozying up together in a kitten pretzel and becoming best friends. But Pepper had been an only cat for months and didn’t like sharing attention. But rather than outright beating the shit out of Jeremy, she had all kinds of devious ways to attack. Her favorite method was The Psych. She’d walk up to Jeremy and lick him on the top of his head. Poor Jeremy would always fall for the attention, then when he’d be purring away, she’d smack him across the head and tear off in another direction.
 
 I came home several times to find Jeremy trapped in the food cupboard, gnawing holes in the bag of crunchy food. It was puzzling since he was far too little to be able to open the cupboard door. I assumed I must have left it open, he wandered in and knocked the door shut behind himself. Finally one day, I witnessed a sweet-faced Pepper prying open the cupboard door. Poor malnourished Jeremy would immediately wander into the cupboard to tease a few crunchies out of his bite holes. While he was busy doing that, Pepper would walk over and casually knock the door shut and wander off.
 
 Eventually though, Jeremy got bigger and grew an enormous pair of balls (before they got snipped). Pepper simply couldn’t continue her dominance and they finally became friends and the cat pretzel of my dreams materialized. But while Jeremy liked to snuggle and sleep a lot, Pepper’s favorite activities were…unusual.
 
 Don’t ask me how they even developed this game, but Pepper and my husband spent hours playing what I call Flying Cat. I was horrified one day to see my him throw the cat across the room onto the back of the sofa. ‘She likes it’!! He promised me. And sure enough, He would fling her across the room, she would land haphazardly on the couch, then she would run back to him gleefully so he could do it again. Sometimes he’d spin her sideways so she would be kind of like a cat frisbee, with her legs all windmilled out. You can imagine my dismay when I walked down the aisle at our wedding to find my groom with a gash on his face from a wedding morning game of Flying Cat gone awry.


The cats followed us from basement suite to basement suite, to apartment, and finally, to our house. They were cautiously excited about having a backyard and somewhere to munch grass and barf it up in. It took months for Jeremy to gain enough confidence to wander outside and stay outside when the neighbour’s dog barked or a lawn mower started up somewhere. Probably a result of his early life on the streets. Pepper, on the other hand, shot out the back door the first time I propped it open to let them outside. She made an immediate beeline for the back garden, filled with fronds of daylilies. As I watched her gobble her body weight in lilies, it occurred to me that perhaps that was a bad idea. Since the cats had never been outside, I hadn’t paid much attention to dangerous plants.
 
 So it turns out that all parts of any member of the lily family are highly toxic to cats and dogs. So FYI if your pet eats some lily parts, you can induce vomiting. All you need to do is shoot hydrogen peroxide down your pet’s throat with a plastic syringe. Total piece of cake, especially when your pet is attached to your skin with their teeth.
 
 However, if the peroxide doesn’t work, you need to take your pet to the emergency vet for a dose or two of activated charcoal. And when you return from the vet, with a cat that’s still alive despite the lightness of your wallet, I recommend isolating your pet in a tiled or laminated area. This is because your pet will most likely try to run away and hide under your bed and then throw up black death vomit all over your new khaki-coloured carpet. Also, I recommend taking any lilies out of your garden immediately, so that your pet who clearly did not learn their lesson the first time does not eat lilies a second and THIRD time.


What I will miss most about my little Pepper is her weird ability to provide comic relief. While Jeremy and Black Cat (whom we adopted in 2009) would unhelpfully lie all over my laptop keyboard on stressful nights when I still worked for Satan Incorporated, Pepper would make me laugh.
 
 One night I got up for a pee break and came back to find her lying all over my office wheelie chair like she owned it. And she would NOT get off. I’d pick her up and put her back down on the ground, and she’d just jump right back on the chair. Finally, I was like, OK, you’re going for a ride, lady! And I gently began to spin the wheelie chair, assuming she’d freak out and jump off. But no. She meowed loudly with joy (which for Pepper just sounded like ‘REER’)!
 
 So, I went faster. And still she clung to the seat of the chair as it spun around and around. And thus began a strange ritual every night while I worked in the office. She would come and park herself at my feet REERing until I finally got up and let her jump on the chair for her nightly spins. When the chair would stop, her head would keep going for a minute or two. When she’d had enough, she would jump off the chair and drunkenly stagger off for a long nap. It got to the point where I could call her up to my office and wherever she was in the house, she would stop what she was doing and come running for her wheelie chair spins.
 
 I’m going to miss laughing at my silly cat. Whether it was her fondness for humping sweaty shoes and feet, her coordinated sneak attacks on her cat brothers, or her penchant for Porno Pets (creepy and hilarious reaction to pets at the base of her tail), our home lost a tiny bit of its spark. Every now and then, I catch a shadow out of the corner of my eye. I think, oh, there she is! And I feel at peace. But then I turn and nothing’s there.
 
 Goodbye my sweet Pepper cat, I hope cat heaven has all the daylilies you can eat.
 


The Geriatricats think they own the place.

Full Gord Gardening

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A friend of mine once told me she avoids reading blogs because they make her feel inadequate. So, I’d like to preface this post by reassuring readers that I in no way intend to make anyone feel inadequate about their gardening skills, or even their complete disinterest in the subject. So please note, while I love gardening, I can’t say I’m particularly good at it. Yet. Instead, I write this to illustrate another instance of me succumbing to Full Gord Syndrome. At least I can say I’m addicted to gardening and not say, crack cocaine.
 
 This season will be my third for vegetable gardening. What initially started out as a way to casually, cheaply, and healthfully grow a few of my favorite veggies rapidly escalated into an obsession with increasing the variety and output of my garden.
 
 I just can’t help it. I learn about a new herb, variety of veggie, or medicinal plant, and I MUST GROW IT. I probably need a buddy to accompany me on trips to the garden centre to supervise my purchase of seed packets. My husband gently inquires as to where, exactly, I intend to plant everything, and if I really need to grow 12 varieties of peppers (YES OBVIOUSLY. There are peppers for salads, for pickling, for drying, for crushing, for powdering, for smoking, for salsas, for hot sauces…have I ever smoked or pickled anything in my life OF COURSE NOT).
 
 


SEEDS, GLORIOUS SEEDS!!!!
 
 
 I’ve been trying to analyze why I go Full Gord on stuff, particularly with gardening. It’s definitely related to food anxiety. I have such a love/hate relationship with food. I have food allergies, which can often make eating boring and repetitive. I have a chronic condition that sometimes makes it hard to prepare food, and that leads to hanger and feeling like garbage. I feel a lot less anxious about food knowing that I literally have some growing in my back yard.
 
 Another thing that has me hooked on gardening is being able to grow way more awesome varieties of things than you can buy in stores. I was running all over town trying to find a specific variety of fresh chili when it occurred to me I could just grow it myself (a discovery that obviously led to the 12 kinds of pepper situation). Even if you can find produce like black cherry tomatoes, or purple beans, or yellow carrots at the market, you usually pay a premium for them. $9 for a bunch of that white asparagus? NO. To be clear though, I’m only growing green asparagus. I don’t need no pasty-man peens popping up in le jardin.
 
 Gardening also helps with my mental well being. The exact reasons are unclear but I think the garden is so appealing to me because it’s kind of primitively spiritual. It provides me with a connection to the earth; I care for it and it rewards me. Such an apparently simple relationship becomes complex when you realize all the factors at play. Sunlight and temperature and soil structure, insect activity, predators, weather patterns, chemistry, sex (yes, sex! So much sex in the garden!). All these fascinating and nutritious plants come from only a tiny seed, and the interaction between all these things. For millennia, humans have relied on these relationships to nourish and provide sustenance. That blows my mind.


These earthworms are totally doing it. Fascinatingly, they’re hermaphroditic so if you look closely (like I did), you can see both their male and female parts getting involved.
 
 
 Also, I’m a cheap bastard. Having gone from a high paying corporate job to a $0 income and then having to work only part time in the following years means I’m perpetually broke. But it’s OK, I’ve been broke more often than not and I’ve developed skills.
 
 The goal this year is to increase production and storage so I can enjoy the fruits and veggies of my labour and save money throughout the miserable winter. Maybe even have some stuff leftover for friends, family, or the food bank. Growing from seed is much cheaper than buying fully grown plants (OK, OK, I exceed my budget here. Habitually. But at an average of $3 per packet, it’s a reasonable addiction and I can save the seeds for next year AND you know there are no horrible, bee-murdering pesticides sprayed all over them).
 
 As for cheap soil improvements, I’ve so far proven a terrible composter, but my mom knows a guy who says he can give me buttloads of free aged horse manure. Literally buttloads HAHAHAHAHA. But seriously, that shit is gold for your garden. See what I did there? HAHAHAHAHA. My dad would be proud.
 
 Garage sales are fantastic ways to find old garden tools and pots. Identifying garbage or recycling that can be repurposed into plant pots saves money and saves it from the landfill. OMFG I sound like a bloody Pinterest pin. Deepest apologies. At least I didn’t mention anything about using old shipping pallets for anything.
 
 Anyway, it’s a privilege to have the time and space to attempt to grow seven kinds of squash and oh lord, I just counted the kinds of beans I’m planning on growing and I’m not even going to tell you because it’s totally batshit. I liked the idea of growing proteins so I got a little carried away with bean and legume varieties (oh really?). And actually, now that I’m writing it down, where AM I going to put everything? My garden is actually pretty small. Whatever, I’ll figure it out. My point is, I love the sun and the dirt and the rain and I want you to also.
 
 


I hath spawned a mutant. This behemoth cherry tomato plant got so big so fast I had to find a stick from the yard to stab in the pot to prop it up! It’s over three feet tall!

Happy Place

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The other night, I had the most amazing dream. Amazing in many ways, but mainly because 1) I actually had and/or remembered a dream, and 2) not only did I have a dream, but it was a lucid dream. Seriously, could I use the word ‘dream’ any more times in this paragraph? There’s really no good synonym for dream in this context. I even used a thesaurus. I thought about using ‘nocturnal brain emission’, but that sounds gross.
 
 Anyway, I haven’t been writing a lot. Maybe you noticed. Maybe you just went on with your life. Either way, I’m gonna back link the bejesus out of this post so you remember who I once was. Ever since my mental breakdown/lawsuit/career crisis, I’ve been suffering from chronic pain. Kind of all over, but mostly in my hips, lower back, shoulders and neck. This makes it rather difficult to do things like say, get out of bed, let alone spend time hunched over writing. Additionally, when I have pain, the creative part of my brain is like, sleep? And I let it. Or sometimes the pain leads to a bit of a freak out, especially at night when I need to sleep and can’t and then the whirlpool of swirling thoughts sucks me in.
 
 But I have been doing some intensive treatments and as the pain situation improves, I’ve been dreaming again. At the height of the anxiety, depression, and PTSD, I would have the most intense, vivid, horrifying nightmares. I’d wake up in terror, heart pounding, drenched in sweat. Then, as the mental pain dulled and the physical pain became more acute over time, the crazy dreams subsided into no dreams at all.
 
 Anyway, I’ve been dreaming again, which I’m pretty sure is a good thing. And the other night, I would go so far as to say I had the BEST dream ever. And that’s saying a lot as I’ve had a bathtub sex dream with Dean from Supernatural.
 
 I was in my backyard, though it wasn’t quite my backyard. It was too lush, too fertile; things were growing there that shouldn’t be. Like, pineapples. Impossible! Not in my zone 3 ridiculously short growing season! And then I realized somehow that I was future me in my future backyard, after climate change has messed shit up and I now live in a subtropical region. This is not an endorsement for climate change. I’m saying that in my dream, I was making the best of my future environment.
 
 I mentioned this was a lucid dream; the kind where you are aware of being asleep and in a dream and can thus influence the course of the dream. Apparently, not everybody experiences lucid dreams, so if you don’t, sorry about your weak nocturnal brain emissions.
 
 I spent some time dream-exploring my new backyard. I discovered incredible vines, some growing flowers, others sagging under the weight of huge, bizarrely-shaped melons or long, twisted cucumbers. Chilies of all shapes and sizes grew alongside cherry tomato plants bearing plump candy-coloured gems. Glossy, deep purple eggplants, long Asian beans, shrubs growing fruits the likes of which I’d never seen before.
 
 My lucid dream brain thought, do coconuts grow in my garden? And sure enough, a coconut palm appeared. Wow, bananas too? And there it was, a banana tree hiding behind the palm, a large bundle of green bananas ripening amongst its shiny foliage.
 
 And then, I wondered about citrus fruit. Surely if I had coconuts and bananas, I could grow citrus fruit. I went on a hunt for the citrus tree. I wandered over to the deck, and was pleased to see my three elderly cats (collectively known as the Geriatricats™) out enjoying my dream yard. There was Pepper, munching on grass that she would soon be running back inside the house to hurk up on a carpet. Black Cat was stalking mice (which he would probably also bring into the house), and there was Jeremy, peeing in his favorite patch of mossy thyme in the herb garden.
 
 Speaking of the herb garden, it was exploding with scents and colours. I recognized a number of culinary and medicinal plants, but many more were tropical varieties I had never seen before. Vanilla vines, black pepper plants with their ropes of corns, and tropical roots like ginger and turmeric.
 
 I finally located my citrus tree behind my old shed. Giant, fragrant lemons hung heavy the branches. Wow, lemons IN MY CANADIAN BACKYARD!! How about limes, too? I pulled back a branch of the lemon tree and found another branch dripping with limes. WHAT? Oranges too? Yep, yet another branch of the tree was crowned with blood oranges. Surely there must be some grapefruit here too, and voila! A branch sagging under the weight of enormous pink grapefruit.
 
 Wow. A quadruple citrus tree! Every amazing plant, fruit, or vegetable that popped into my subconscious somehow appeared in my yard. But there was something missing. I was perfectly at ease in my garden. I took another look at the citrus tree. My only previous experience with citrus trees was in Greece and what I remember was they looked and smelled amazing, but being in their presence was fraught with terror. As the citrus fruit ripens, it attracts wasps in droves. WHERE ARE THE WASPS?
 
 


My enemies attempted to infiltrate and colonize my vehicle this past summer.
 
 Y’all. I HATE WASPS. If you have read any of the posts in this blog, you probably already know this. Hate them, hate them, hate them. Remember I said I had horrible nightmares after my mental breakdown? A lot of them involved wasps or my former boss. Or both. Wasps symbolize evil in dreams. I looked it up even.
 
 I have a vivid memory of eating at an outdoor restaurant on the island of Corfu, next to a lemon tree. Those evil waspy bastards would creep all over the table. As I sat on the edge of my seat, leaping out every time one came near, my sister was calmly murdering wasps by smacking them out of midair with her fork. Then she’d nonchalantly continue eating her food WITH THE SAME FORK.
 
 That story isn’t really relevant, but the memory was part of my dream, triggered by the lemons and the lack of wasps. Anyway, I stopped and listened in my garden. I am highly attuned to the different buzzing of various insects, obviously. Know thy enemy. Well, I can’t fucking google them because of the pictures but you bet I know the sound of a wasp coming for me from a mile away.
 
 


This is not me. I would never get this close to a wasp den.
 
 In my dream, I could hear the sound of fat, happy bumblebees, the buzzing drone of mosquitos, and a cacophony of birdsong, but none of that horrible wasp humming that causes an immediate flight reaction. Suddenly I realized that wasps just didn’t exist anymore. They hadn’t survived climate change. Wow, it really sounds like I’m happy about global warming here. I promise that’s not true; it was just a dream.
 
 Upon waking from the dream, I felt a strong sense of satisfaction and well-being. I know why I’d had the dream-it’s almost spring. My real-life garden is a place of peace (despite my lack of success and the Children of the Corn) and I’ve been thinking a lot about what I’m going to grow in the garden this season and obsessively perusing international seed catalogues, bemoaning my horrible growing conditions.
 
 I thought a lot about the dream the next few days, and found myself revisiting the memory of it as I lay trying to fall asleep at night, especially when I was in pain. Weirdly, I had ordered seeds online for the upcoming growing season, and I received a packet of seeds in error. The seeds were for Gbogname eggplant, an ‘ancient vegetable from Togo, West Africa’, according to the packet. I took this as a positive omen.


Gbogname eggplant, which apparently I will be growing this season. Rare seeds.com
 
 After a few weeks of mentally visiting my dream garden, I realized that it’s my Happy Place. I’ve finally found one! Previously, when I’d start to have a freak out, I would force my brain to mentally list things that required a good deal of thought. For example, I like geography, so I would have to list, say, all the countries in the world that start with C. I like to go by continent, which adds another layer to the list. Canada, Cuba, Costa Rica…. As soon as my brain gets chewing on the list, I chill out pretty quick. But going to Happy Place is even more effective.
 
 So, if you don’t have your own Happy Place and need one, maybe my list technique will help you. If you don’t like geography, maybe list models of cars. Or mentally list favorite movie quotes. Whatever gives you peace and gets your brain working on something else. Or, if you need to, I will let you use my Happy Place while you find your own. Just don’t bother me over here, OK?

Vaccinations and Injections

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Recently, Lena Dunham, star of the HBO series Girls and so-called ‘edgy’ feminist, published a memoir. And in that memoir, she discusses how she had a disturbing fondness for her seven-years younger sister while growing up. In fact, she reveals that at various points, she pried open her sister’s vagina, masturbated in bed next to her, and acted like a ‘sexual predator’ in order to gain her affections. GIANT NEEDLE ON A RECORD SCRATCH SOUND. Wait, what?
 
 This puzzled me. I have three younger sisters, and I do not have any recollection of ever even being curious about their private parts, let alone diddling them. So, just to be sure, I checked in with my sisters to confirm. Also, since I only have one quarter of a psychology degree, I had a good discussion with one sister who has an entire psychology degree and who also has two young girls. ‘No’. She said. ‘Just no’. To be extra sure, I checked with several friends with children of varying genders and ages, and the answer to my question was still a resounding good god no that is not something that they would consider ‘normal’ childhood behaviour. To complete my due diligence, I spent some time googling the topic.
 
 The thing is, it’s absolutely, wonderfully normal to be curious about your anatomy, especially those secret parts. I mean, I think I speak for everyone born with female anatomy when I say the three hole discovery down there was mind-blowing. But like, mess with your own lady bits. Or guy bits. Or intersex bits. Or whatever. Just keep your hands to yourself until you’re mature enough to provide and receive consent to do so. Consent consent consent!! It starts this early, people. When we became curious about boy parts, or where my youngest sister came from, my mom would bring out The Facts of Life pop-up book. And no, that part does not pop up.
 
 


Probably the weirdest thing involving nudity we did as kids was the Barenaked Bum Fighters, which was basically sister two and I running nude around the living room using towels as capes in order to dry off after a bath. Now, while I am quite disturbed by Dunham’s revelations, I do understand that kids do bad things to their siblings. However, I just don’t think those bad things should involve their sexuality or private parts.
 
 Being the oldest of four girls meant that I should have been at the top of the food chain in our home, but the fact is, I was usurped by the next oldest. But that was OK, because the two of us were allies. Well, most of the time. And, since I only have sisters and am childfree myself, I cannot comment on what sibling rivalry would look like if boys were involved. Anecdotal evidence provided to me by friends and family indicates a lot more of the wrestling and beating the shit out of each other type of interactions. I can confirm, at least in my family, that there were fewer random beatings and more coordinated, psychological attacks.
 
 Since sister number two and I had the after dinner job of cleaning the kitchen for what seemed like the entirety of our childhoods, we spent endless hours fucking around instead of actually getting the work done. A favorite activity, especially after fancy meals with many condiments, was to make special beverages for the younger two using whatever was left on the table. Cold gravy? Sure. Pickle juice? Delicious. Mustard and grape juice? Perfect combo. Then the real challenge was convincing one of them to try our ‘Special Drink’.
 
 Well of course the younger two eventually clued in that the Special Drinks were just dinner garbage all mixed together. And they figured out that if we offered them some ‘chocolate pudding’, it was probably just mud from the backyard. They found out very quickly that those weird green things from a jar in the back of the fridge weren’t delicious candies but jalapeño peppers. They learned not to trust as, and as we grew up and evolved, so did our methods of keeping the younger two submissive. Thus, vaccinations and injections were born.
 
 It started with vaccinations, and I don’t know how or who started it. The main advantage to being one of the oldest siblings, is the ability to boss the younger ones around. So, when sister number three got to the age where she thought she could take a stand and NOT go steal cookie batter out of the kitchen for me, or when she had the audacity to defend herself from say, a stinky sock in the face, well that just wouldn’t stand. So, one of us older two would sit on her while the other one gave her a vaccination. And by vaccination, I mean writing VACCINATION on any available limb with whatever sharp writing utensil was available, like so:


The result was that she would end up with large, letter-shaped welts on whichever limb had been accosted. This kept her doing our bidding for some time, until she figured out that she could fight back. Administering vaccinations was significantly less enjoyable with a kick to the face for your efforts. We had to turn our attention to someone more malleable. Sister number four thus became the target of choice. However, vaccinations had been done already. That’s when we came up with injections for her. Same as vaccinations, only painfully different letters.


We had fun with injections for a few years, and the odd vaccination for the other one yet when we had the energy to fight her. I like to think these were character building experiences for the younger ones. And trust me, I got my fair share of abuse and terrorizing as well, so don’t be thinking I escaped without similar psychological trauma. Of course, now we are all adults and get along fine with only the very occasional beat-down required. So to recap: messing around with your sibling’s private parts = no. Beating the crap out of them to ensure they become a well-adjusted human being = a resounding yes.

Bad Cat

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My husband and I have three cats. Pepper and Jeremy are 15 human years old and grew up together. My black cat, Black Cat, was adopted about six or seven years ago. He’s pretty old too, maybe 13 or so human years. So basically they are all senior catizens. The eldest two act like old cats, but Black Cat is like a bad bad teenager.
 
 Up until recently, he hadn’t done anything too terrible. He’s a yowler though, and will wake the dead with his nighttime begging to go outside. The darkness is just a sad time for him; all cooped up indoors. He wanders the house in desperation, making a woeful sound. Literally. His yowl sounds like he’s wailing ‘WOE! WOE! WOOOOOEEEEEEEEE’! If he’s feeling brave, he’ll come up on the bed and breathe his cat foody breff right in my face and ‘WOE’!!!!! Often with a claw to the forehead.
 
 If he makes a break for it outside after night has fallen, it can be trouble. I had to stalk him in the truck a couple weeks ago after he escaped when I left on a late night French fry run. I found him a block away, having a meow-off with a cat down the street. I pulled up next to him and yelled ‘Don’t make me get out of this truck’!!! He made me get out of the truck.
 
 But he’s a sweet, cuddly cat (despite his apparent inability to retract his claws) who loves snuggles and pets. However, a couple weeks ago, he did a terrible terrible, evil thing. I was in the kitchen making dinner with my husband, when Black Cat shot through the back door like a streak of oily lightning. I caught a glimpse of something in his mouth. Something gross in his mouth. Something mousy. ‘Holy shit’! I yelled, and ran after him. Confused, my husband followed me into the living room. ‘Oh shit oh shit oh shit’ I kept repeating, as I followed him. ‘WHAT’?!?! Husband yelled. I couldn’t form any words. I was just too horrified. That bastard cat had brought a mouse in the house. A not quite dead mouse.


The cat promptly dropped the mouse on the living room floor, and the poor thing stumbled around looking for a hiding place. As it did, I noticed its injuries. Some of its guts were hanging out. ‘Oh fuck oh fuck oh fuck!! GET IT’!! Of course, Black Cat got even more excited by all the screaming and running around and snapped up the mouse again, tossing it in the air and pouncing after it.
 
 I managed to block the cat and had scooped up the mouse in my hands, trying to avoid touching its intestines, when it scrabbled through my fingers and hid behind an inherited wine fridge. That’s right, there’s a fancy, unplugged, and empty wine fridge in my living room. Doing nothing but taking up space and providing mouse hiding places. ‘DAMMIT! We need something to scoop it up with’!! I ran back into the kitchen and grabbed the basket of my salad spinner, the only thing that was handy. Do not worry. It was thoroughly disinfected after the incident.
 
 I returned to the living room and sat on Black Cat to keep him away while my husband scooped up the dying mouse in the spinner. Once he had captured it, he ran straight out the back door with it and onto the deck. I followed, concerned about the fate of the mouse. By the time I got out there, the mouse had escaped the salad spinner and was running around on the back deck, even more of it’s insides on the outside.
 
 ‘OH MY GOD IT’S GOING TO DIE! WHAT ARE WE GOING TO DOOOOOOOO’?!? I was dancing around on tiptoes, flailing my arms around and sort of hyperventilating. I was horrified by the thought of this poor mouse dying a slow and painful death. My husband had the same thought. ‘We have to put it out of its misery’, he said. ‘But HOW’?!? I wanted no part in this stage of the process. I watched the poor mouse struggle and suddenly, it wobbled drunkenly and fell off the side of the deck and dropped onto the concrete driveway three feet below. It was just too much. I started to cry. ‘We need to k-kill it b-b-but I don’t know what to doooooooo’. My crying must have gotten to my husband. ‘I don’t know!! I guess I could get the shovel, but I don’t think I can smash it’! ‘Nooooooo! You can’t smash it, that’s awful’!
 
 We finally settled for shooting the mouse with a BB rifle that was handily in the trailer on the driveway. This is probably the deadliest weapon we own, aside from say, really sharp knives, but there was no fucking way we were going to stab the mouse. My husband fired a couple of BBs and the mouse squealed and we lost sight of it. He couldn’t be sure that he had hit it or where the thing had gone, but we knew it was a goner either way. It couldn’t survive it’s injuries.
 


After the excitement of the mouse in the house and subsequent cleanup, I just felt depressed and disappointed. What kind of cat had I raised? I had always been pleased with the fact that my cats go in and out but to date, there has never been any issue aside from them barfing up grass clumps or taking a shit in the rose garden (I’m looking at you, Jeremy). But now I had to face the fact that one of my cats was a coldblooded killer. A murder cat. How many mice had he killed already? How many birds? My head was reeling.
 
 A few hours after dinner I was in the garden, still contemplating my murderous pet, when suddenly, that damned cat came racing around the corner of the house. With the mouse its mouth. Again. By now the poor thing had expired, and Black Cat had immediately honed in on its body wherever it had crawled off to live its last moments. He flung the mouse in the air and batted it gleefully. The dead mouse flung up and landed in a pathetic lump. Black Cat was perturbed. Why wasn’t the mouse shrieking and running away like before?
 
 ‘You murdered it, that’s why! It’s dead, cat. Your fun plaything was a living breathing animal and look what you’ve done’! Black Cat leaned in and meowed at the mouse, then poked at it with it’s paw. ‘WOEEEEEEEEE’, he lamented. Not sure what to do with the corpse, I figured that its body should not go to waste and that maybe some of the other neighbourhood animals could make a meal out of it. I imagined the mouse feeding the crows and ravens. It’s body would be put to use and would eventually return to the earth. It seemed like a totally reasonable idea.
 
 So I scooped up the mouse in a bucket, and took it into the park next door. I carefully dumped it out under a tree, far from the jungle gym, and whispered ‘I’m sorry little mousie’. There. Laid to rest.
 
 But the next afternoon upon my return home after work, I stepped into the kitchen and screamed. For there, in the middle of the floor, was the now two-day old dead mouse. That the cat had exhumed from its grave. In deep rigor mortis. Jesus Christ.
 
 And, it gets worse because last week, after I had finally put the first mouse incident out of my mind, I came home to YET ANOTHER DEAD MOUSE in the kitchen. A different mouse. A bigger mouse. This makes two. One more, and that asshole is going to be a serial killer.

Full Gord

Tech tipsComputer Tricks

Have I mentioned before that I have three younger sisters? Well, I do, and I’m frequently asked if me and the youngest one are twins. Ok, maybe only every now and then I get asked that. But when I am, I say, ‘why yes, yes we are’ despite the seven-year age gap. Anyway, all four of us were text chatting recently about some of the…er…particularities of our shared genetics.
 
 And while we all have wildly different personalities and interests, we have all inherited a tendency to go completely overboard. With everything. The general life philosophy we seem to have developed is that is a little is good, a metric fuckton is infinitely better. I have been thinking a lot about the psychology behind why we do this and I’m stumped. One thing I know for sure is that this trait is for sure, 100% from my dad Gord’s DNA.
 
 Hence, going Full Gord is the act of going completely and utterly batshit on something to the detriment of your physical and/or mental health. It can be, and frequently is, food related, such as eating mass quantities of something. Or, it might be completely physically overdoing it. Say, going to the gym to do weight training for the first time ever and doing the same amount of weight as dudes who’ve been doing it for ages so that basically your hamstrings explode and you can’t go up or down stairs for a week.
 
 Or maybe you go Full Gord on a project and it gets completely out of control. Like when you think, oh hey, I should fix this tile grout but then you’re like, well, I might as well replace this broken tile. And then you end up completely renovating your kitchen and bathroom for months on end with no budget. Or, you might decide to grow a few greens and carrots one year and suddenly you’re trying to grow veggies you’ve never even eaten before with no discernible gardening skills whatsoever.
 
 You might also go Full Gord on the road when people are idiots so terrible, terrible things come out of your mouth.
 
 

 And so, my sisters and I were reminiscing the other day about some memorable Full Gording episodes.
 
 


My dad went Full Gord a few years ago when he not only ignored a hernia (actually, he ignored several hernias) for so long that when he finally did have surgery, he had so much extra skin that the doctor just got rid of it, but now he doesn’t have a belly button. And he was full of these giant staples when he decided to move a hot water tank. Classic Full Gord.
 
 It is also common to go Full Gord on music. Because hearing a song you love just once is simply not enough. Put that shit on repeat. And make sure the volume is on full blast too. I remember when I was still living at home for the first few years of University and my dad was just going into his Bee Gees phase. It took him a few years to recover from his obsession with Neil Young’s Harvest Moon, but he came back with a vengeance for Stayin’ Alive. One morning he must have played that song 78 times in a row.
 
 I also have a conditioned aversion to the band Silverchair (remember them?) thanks to one sister who went Full Gord on the album Neon Ballroom. I was ill. Really ill. Sicker than I had ever been with a raging sinus infection that just took over my whole body. I threw up every twenty minutes and could not control the nausea. She kept playing that damned album over and over and over and now when I hear any song from that album (which thankfully is infrequent), I feel like I’m gonna hurk.
 
 But Full Gord is at its peak when it comes to food. Sweets and junk food in particular, but I have been known to go Full Gord on even the most unlikely foods. It’s like we discover something we enjoy, and have to consume it to death.
 
 


Studying in particular seemed to bring on Full Gord episodes. Maybe it was a stress thing. For one term, my sister and I were obsessed with those coloured party mints. Another time, she went Full Gord on Rockets, those tiny tart Halloween candies. Only, she’s allergic to red food coloring, so she couldn’t eat the pink ones. Every time she’d come across a pink Rocket, she’d set it aside. After exams, there was a mountain of pink Rockets left over.
 
 


Back a million years ago when I still worked my corporate job, I took a special assignment for six months in Ottawa. I had my own little apartment and flew back home every second weekend. But, it was cold there. And lonely. So when my mom and godmother came to spend a few days with me, I was excited. My apartment was right near a market area with delicious specialty shops selling wondrous food I could ill afford. I mentioned there was a chocolate shop that had an amazing selection of fudge, and maybe they should check it out.
 
 They did check it out, and my godmother had gone Full Gord herself and picked me up four good-sized chunks of fudge in different flavours. Well, I promptly devoured them and mentioned that I had really enjoyed the vanilla caramel one. The day my visitors left, they went back to the chocolate shop and bought me the largest slab of fudge I have ever laid eyes on. It was huge; at least five pounds worth of the stuff. I gobbled it up like nobody’s business in two days flat. Only…I didn’t feel so good. Really not well at all. A few days later I went to a walk-in clinic for some bloodwork and the doctor was like ‘um…well you don’t have diabetes…yet…but you’re pancreas is extremely sluggish. Have you been eating inappropriate amounts of sugar lately’? What, me? Of course not.

 

Wasp Attack

Tech tipsComputer Tricks

So, if you’ve read this blog before, you should probably know by now that I am deathly afraid of wasps. Sharks, big dogs, rape vans, parkades, pedestrians, home invasions, and wasps. Those are my biggest fears. And the other day, a terrible, terrible thing happened to me, inside my own home.
 
 I’d already had a gross week. A tooth that I’d had filled months earlier that had been bugging me on and off had finally decided to mutiny. I couldn’t get in for a root canal right away, so after several days of throbbing in my face and alarmingly, behind my left eyeball, I was ready to rip the tooth out with pliers. Luckily, my dentist had a cancelation so was able to squeeze me in before the weekend.
 
 Now, over the years I’ve had a LOT of dental work done, due to genetically shitty teeth (thanks Mom!) and Steffan Smelly Enough smashing my mouth into a slide when I was six or seven. So, I’ve developed a fondness for sedation dentistry, which I highly recommend. I pop a few pills before the procedure and walk in a disorderly fashion to my appointment, where they usually feed me more pills and sometimes laughing gas. Then I put some tunes on and the next thing I know, it’s three hours later and my tooth is fixed.
 
 Anyway, I passed out again once back at home after the procedure, and my face was pretty achy. I finally got up to try to have some dinner around 10PM. My husband had already gone to bed and I was sitting in the living room trying to cut my food into teeny tiny bites. I had the ends of my toes wedged under the coffee table and I feel like if I hadn’t been completely stoned on sedatives and painkillers, I might have been more alert when I felt a little creepy crawly feeling on my toes.
 
 A few moments later, a searing pain shot through one of my toes and I knew immediately what had happened. I pulled my foot out from under the table, where the filthy wasp was still attached to my flesh with its revolting stinger. I started screaming and waving my foot around and finally the thing flung off and landed on the throw rug a few feet away. I continued screaming, as I was clearly still in danger given the proximity of the wretched thing.
 
 It took my husband significantly more time than I would have liked to wake up from my screaming. It took him an even longer amount of time to get his arse out of bed to come rescue me. This leads me to believe that we will require future emergency preparedness drills in my home. ‘What do you want me to do about it now’? He asked, as though this wasn’t one of the worst things to ever happen to me in my own home. ‘KILL IT KILL IT KILL IT KILL IT KILL IT!!!!!! I WANT IT DEAD’!!!
 
 Now, you’re probably thinking, wow, this lady has got serious issues, especially if wasps are the worst of her worries. True. I 100% agree that this fear is absurd given the horrors faced by others in this world. I wish I could explain it, but the best I can do is assume that I was traumatized as a child by the Hornet Wolf, which lived under the stairs in my dad’s workshop in the basement, across the hall from where my sister and I shared a room.
 
 The Hornet Wolf was a hideous manifestation of the disturbed mind of my sister. Half snarling wolf and front claws, half stinging hornet rear-end, the thing required strict adherence to the rules of the basement. For example, it would get you if you did not run down the basement hallway to get to the area my parents called the ‘rumpus room’ from the stairs (and yes, we did have a chesterfield in the rumpus room ). At night, it would get us if we had any limbs outside of our covers. Spend too long in the bathroom, and the Hornet Wolf would be waiting for you when you got out.
 
 Not surprisingly, my sister and I are a bit mentally fucked up from the years of terrifying ourselves in this manner. Normally, I would learn about my enemy but googling wasps is fraught with terror since pictures are usually involved. Likewise, my sister can’t tolerate pictures of snarling wolves. Regular wolf pictures are OK, but not pictures of snarling ones.
 


Funkman.org /i09.photobucket.com
 
 Reasonable wolf picture/Unreasonable wolf picture
 
 Indeed, when I’m seriously stressed out, I have nightmares about wasps. During my work-related mental breakdown due to harassment, I had recurring dreams about them flying at me, stinging me, and swarming me. So now encounters with those little devils cause an almost PTSD-like flashback that I have no control over. So, at least I was able to reason with myself that instead of the onset of anaphylaxis, I was just having a panic attack.
 
 Anyway, it turned out that the wasp that stung me was already mostly dead. Which repulsed and angered me further as it seemed like flat out assholery on the part of the wasp; using its last reserves of life to hurt me mentally and physically. I felt great relief when my groggy husband finally stomped that thing out, until he collected it and put it in the kitchen garbage. What if it’s not quite dead yet?? Those things always seem deadish but then they revive to terrorize again.
 
 

 


Ever since the sting, I’ve been engaged in wasp warfare. I normally have a strict no-violence policy in the garden; I even pick slugs out and toss them in the park next door, but that was before I was attacked. This wasn’t actually a choice, but an autonomic reaction that occurred the day after the sting. I hauled my throbbing face and toe out of bed to get some weeding done in the veggie patch. A few minutes in, that familiar droning noise raised the hair on the back of my neck and without realizing I’d even done it, I’d grabbed a shovel nearby and ‘WHACK! WHACK! WHACK!
 
 I smashed the bejesus out of that wasp. And every other wasp that’s fucked with me ever since.
 
 
 

These Are My Stories

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So this past week has been one filled with an anxiety I have not felt since the early days of my career implosion. Anyone else feel that way? Ever since I woke up to the news last Saturday of the UCSB shooting, my nerves have been frayed. I haven’t been able to sleep or eat properly and I know that many people are as horrified and disgusted as I am. The adrenaline amped up as the news of the shooter’s misogynist ‘manifesto’ and hate-filled YouTube videos started to surface. And yes, there are already roughly 85,000 articles and blog posts on this topic and you better believe I’m posting yet another one.

The murders and their motive set off real life and online conversations and Twitter hashtags about just how misogyny and entitlement to a woman’s body and attention are constantly reinforced by society. It’s everywhere. The objectification is on TV and in movies, in video games and magazines. It’s in how we raise our children, in the language we use, in the jobs we work. And this week many women have turned their outrage and disgust into courage and have shared their real life experiences with men that have been permeated with fear and pain.

However, it has been difficult to have the conversation, particularly on social media, without it being pointed out that hey, not all men are misogynists! They’re not all murderers and rapists! They respect women! It’s just so old guys, please. I know it’s hard to not get accolades for your hard work in this regard. The women are simply not acknowledging that you, specifically, out of billions of men on this planet, are not LIKE THAT.

Obviously, this Not All Men narrative is exactly what sparked the #YesAllWomen hashtag. The point is, All Women have experienced fear at the hands of men, regardless of how many men are ‘like that’. And this is something that is a global issue. And a woman’s experiences with this fear can range from men making inappropriate and disturbing comments and jokes to catcalling and street harassment to stalking, to outright sexual and physical violence to getting murdered.

The problem also becomes then, well, men experience violence too! And yes. Absolutely, I feel for you if you have experienced violence and I truly hope that you find support and get the help that you and those closest to you need.

However, in order to find a solution to a problem, any logical person would agree that the first step is to analyze the causes. The fact is, physical and psychological violence against females that is motivated by misogyny and male entitlement simply does not have the same causes as other types of violence. Any reasonable person would argue that all violence is terrible, but to lump all types of violence together presuming a productive discussion about ‘solutions’ is simply absurd. And saying so is another way of derailing an otherwise productive conversation.

Unfortunately, the discussion about misogyny and it’s cultural, social, racial, socioeconomic, and religious intersections is commonly met with insults, threats, and harassment when these derailing tactics are used, thus proving the point in the first place.

Many women (and when I say women in this piece I mean all persons who identify as women regardless of birth gender) have shared their experiences online and in person this week. A horrible pattern repeats over and over, but I have found that it has been cathartic for many women and indeed for me.

Hearing about their stories has been heart-wrenching. It made me examine things that had happened to me. Things that I didn’t know had such an impact on me until I re-analysed them this week with a fresh perspective. And that perspective is that many women and girls face a choice when they experience something like that. There is always a decision to be made, to speak up and get called a ‘man-hater’ or a bitch at the very least, possibly get fired, get harassed, get raped or get murdered. Eventually, a woman learns that in every situation, she must do a risk-assessment. Is the risk of saying something, of defending herself, is it worth it?

And most of the time, it’s not. We have bills to pay. Relationships to be maintained. Mental health that should be preserved. Lives that deserve to still be lived. So we usually just store that little seed of anger and resentment, and continue on with ignoring and shaking it off, hoping that someday things will change.

But things can’t change until we are safe to speak out. I’m tired of being told what I need to do differently to minimise my risk. I’m tired of worrying about unwanted attention every time I get dressed. Im tired of being on high alert all the time, even in my own home. I’m tired of being called a bitch when I object to sexism.

I went for lunch with my mom and sister this week, and inevitably, the conversation strayed into this topic. Inappropriate sexual comments at my sister’s workplace? Great. Say something though, and risk your career. Many workplaces seem to have these hardline ‘zero-tolerance’ harassment policies that only work if you’re willing to put yourself out there and prove it, possibly burden your coworkers, and cause yourself immense levels of stress. I faced a similar situation, though the harasser was a woman. I spoke out and I was left with my career destroyed, my life savings depleted and my health in tatters. Ask any rape survivor who reported their rape how that went for them and it’s the same story.

As I’m listening to my sister I start feeling that familiar feeling in my gut. That cold nausea that seeps up whenever I am disgusted by these endless stories. Which is often. I sit there picking at my white people special at the Vietnamese place. She continues on to express feeling outraged by this, but it’s an outrage that’s tinged with guilt. It feels so petty to complain about these things when women are being assaulted, kidnapped, sold into slavery, mutilated and fucking stoned to death for getting raped out there in this world of ours.

‘I know’! I almost yell, getting stabby with my chopsticks. ‘Statistically, one in about four North American women has or will experience sexual assault. That’s crazy’! Rice vermicellis have sat untouched for a few minutes, since my stomach has turned to acid. They’re sticky now and my vicious pokes with the chopsticks are flinging noodle shrapnel everywhere.

I continue, ‘And worldwide, that stat is worse. And for women of colour, it’s worse. For trans women, it’s worse. For fuck’s sake we have almost 1,200 missing and/or murdered indigenous women, in our VERY OWN COUNTRY’!!!

I pick a noodle off my shirt as two dudes at the table next to us swivel around to see what the fuss is about. I glare at them and instantly regret it. It’s not their fault. But when a nerve is laid bare and raw, like it has been this past week, the slightest stimuli can cause an intense reaction. You take it and you take it and you take it and when you finally react, you’re that man-hating bitch again. Ladies, god forbid you show any real emotion lest you also become not only a bitch, but a hysterical bitch.

The first time I remember feeling complete outrage with a male was when I was about 6 or 7. A boy at my school had started ‘teasing’ me with pinches and smacks and chasing around the schoolyard, which of course are all things girls are taught to accept as the immature male’s mating display. I had complained to the recess lady but boys will be boys, won’t they?

Finally he chased me up a slide on winter day. When he grabbed for me, I fell, slamming my head mouth-first into the cold metal slide. I had to be rushed to the dentist since my two front teeth had been knocked out and my mouth was bleeding profusely. This injury has haunted me in the decades since, as the roots in my top four teeth were badly damaged. Slowly over the years, the teeth all died and have required extensive and expensive dental work to repair. Nothing happened to the boy. He didn’t get in trouble. But I fucking hope that the image of me, my tears mingling with my blood and teeth, is burned into his memory forever.

A couple years later, another boy started showing me his affection with the usual pinching and slapping on the playground. I asked him to stop, and it continued. I told my teacher. This time, the boy got in trouble. Probably because he was already a well-known troublemaker. I thought the problem had been solved until one afternoon at recess, he separated me from my friends and dragged me behind the brick wall of the school. He slammed me up against the wall, and I can still remember the feeling of the back of my head hitting the wall, hard. My teeth smashed together and I saw stars. He leaned in close to me, close enough that I could feel the heat of his breath on my neck, and seethed ‘Don’t you ever tell on me again you stupid little bitch’. He then gave me another shove and spat in my face. I promptly told on him again.

A couple years after that, I had a boy want to date me, at the age of 12 or 13. I was not interested in dating him, or anyone else at the time for that matter. He asked me out incessantly. His mother, who referred to young girls as ‘little sluts’ (though she provided him, a 12 year old boy, with a supply of condoms) even called me, demanding to know why I wouldn’t go out with her son. He would tell friends about all the gross things he wanted to do to me. It was repulsive and terrifying.

One day, a guy friend of mine invited me to hang out. There was a golf course nearby and we would go into the woods on the 9th hole to look for lost golf balls we could sell. However, when I met up with him, he had brought stalker boy. And it was immediately clear that something was up. The boys were whispering and conspiring, to my great discomfort. I decided to head back home, when my friend grabbed me from behind and pinned my arms against my sides and tried to pull me down to the ground.

I was surprised and struggled, not understanding what was going on until stalker boy approached, obviously to do god knows what to me. I was enraged but had so far maintained my balance and was still standing. I waited until he got close enough, then used every bit of strength I had in my being to kick him square in the junk. You forgot my legs, fuckers. The kick doubled him over, and surprised my friend enough that he loosened his grip and I made my escape, running through the woods with hot tears running down my face, tripping and getting whipped with tree branches. I had a head start, but I could hear them furiously following me and I just ran and ran and ran.

I’d never told my mom this story until now. In fact, I hadn’t even realized how greatly the incident affected me either. The look on my mom’s face as I tell her breaks my heart and causes me to choke on my words. ‘I wish I had known’. She says simply. And I know the reason I hadn’t told her at the time was that I didn’t want to make a fuss. I didn’t want to worry her.

I now realise how lucky I was to have been naïve enough to not fully understand what had happened or what could have happened. And I had grown up with three younger sisters so fighting back was something I was used to. It had never occurred to me that fighting back could also go the other way.

‘It starts when you’re young and you’re taught to just ignore this behaviour. Then it gets more persistent. You tell someone you’re not interested and they keep at it. Finally you tell them you have a boyfriend. Sometimes that works, but remember that dude in high school that just kept calling all summer? I told him the truth and he kept calling. So I was forced to lie about my relationship status. Then he STILL kept going. I had to train everyone in the family on how to answer the phone! Eventually someone told him that I had moved to Europe or something and he finally moved on’.

I look at my meal; it’s barely touched but I can’t eat anymore. Although, I do dig around in my noodles for any errant spring rolls. No spring roll left behind.

‘How many movies/TV shows/comic books/etc. feature the dorky underdog guy who finally wins the girl (often despite the existence of some abusive jock boyfriend) because he didn’t give up? And she finally realizes that the protagonist is the one who really loves her, and so she breaks up with the dumb jock boyfriend because he never really loved her anyway, and they live happily ever after! Thank goodness he persisted and saved her’! Seriously. Fuck off.

‘Was that the guy who sent you flowers that one time’? My mom asks. I feel another surge of familiar anger. ‘No! That was a DIFFERENT guy. And that time I was dating a guy, my FUTURE HUSBAND!! And, he had a girlfriend too!!! He followed me around and just stared creepily at me. He would say weird things to my friends about where I lived and what dad’s name was and what kinds of cars we drove’! I’d even been pretty sure I’d seen his car drive by the house before, but I didn’t mention that. My mom’s face is already looking too pained and I know this conversation will affect her greatly. This guy had finally sent me a bouquet of flowers signed, ‘Not From Your Boyfreind’. Spelling mistake included.

‘Like, what the almighty fuck? If I say I’m not interested, is it not in the best interests of the man to accept the no and then move on? Why waste your time on a woman who doesn’t want you? It’s not romantic, it’s not endearing; it’s scary and infuriating’!

I’m getting really worked up again. And I’m not telling these stories to say, hey look at how many guys wanted me! No. My early experiences in this regard strongly influenced the way I interacted with boys. I did not ever flirt. I did not date and had no interest in dating in high school. I went to thrift stores to find giant men’s knit cardigans which I wore as often as possible to cover my body. Boys I’d known since elementary school were fine but if they started showing the slightest bit of sexual interest, I avoided them. I kept quiet in class and at parties. ‘Don’t draw attention to yourself’ was my mantra. Well, that and ‘avoid the creepy touchy-feely guy in Visual Communications and PE who thinks it is perfectly acceptable to touch and fondle girls during class’. I guess I must have appeared closed-off, or as one guy put it, like a ‘frigid bitch’.

And these are just a few of the incidents I’ve experienced. There are more that I’m not even prepared to think about yet, let alone write about.

As an adult, this has grown into a wariness of men I don’t know and has instilled enough fear in me to be on alert around them at all times. I fell in love with my husband on the night we met, even though he looked utterly terrifying (we met at a punk concert and his dyed-green hair had ‘melted’ and his entire face was tinged a kind of grotesque shade of puce). But he was kind and gentle and not creepy and is a man who himself witnessed terrible violence done unto his sisters and his mother, and who was also physically abused himself. When discussing this the other day, he said simply, ‘I’m scared for you all the time’. And don’t get me wrong, I’m still working on dismantling the patriarchy in my own home and sometimes that involves a lot friction but it’s a work in progress.

Now, I’m not a parent, but my mom and dad are among the best in the world. I guess you never really realize how hard it is to be one until you’ve been responsible for another human life. I am very lucky in this and my mom had some good insights into how important it is to reinforce equality in the home first and foremost.

To paraphrase, she said that fathers must teach their children (sons and daughters) how to respect women through the way he treats their mother. Sons and daughters, examine the way your father treats your mother. Examine how you treat your mother. What does it say to you about the level of respect you have for all women if you can’t even respect the woman who gave you your life?

I’m about to launch into another tirade, when suddenly, I let out a huge fart. Like, really, really loud. I’d had no idea it was even in there. My sister looked at me, horrified. ‘Gross, dude’! She exclaimed. ‘We’re EATING. It’d better not smell’! We explode with laughter, my face turning red with embarrassment. ‘I’m on really harsh antibiotics’! I explain. But the tension is broken for the time being, and my mom regales us with one more story before I head back off to work.

‘One day, I was shopping at the mall with your aunt. You guys weren’t born yet, and your aunt had…oh…I can’t remember what baby. One of your cousins, anyway. She was putting the baby in the back seat and I saw a man approaching, wearing dark clothes with a hood up. I knew right away he was up to no good. There were no cars around and so I yelled at your aunt to hurry up and get in the car. Just as she got in and slammed the door, he reached the car and stood a few feet in front of the hood and dropped his pants’.

All I can think about now is that I wish I could be transported back in time to see the look on their faces. It’s an absolutely horrible story, but I giggle because my aunt is a tiny and demure lady, and I can just imagine how utterly appalled she would have been, the both of them gaping in shocked surprise as this pervert dangled himself in front of their windshield.

My mom continues. ‘So I just yell at your aunt, ‘HIT HIM’ and so she starts the car and floors the gas and the guy is so surprised that it takes a second for him to react and he has to finally fling himself out of the way’. I imagine the guy leaping out of the path of the car, his penis swinging, and I find myself hoping he was somehow injured. ‘I wish she had hit him’! She declares. I agree.

Men everywhere, think about the women you love. Chances are, they have been hurt by a man regardless of the circumstances. How does that make you feel? Be honest and ask yourself if it’s possible that you yourself have, at some point, hurt a woman in this way, whether you meant to or not. If a male friend’s behaviour towards women bothers you, call them out.

Ladies, let’s not stop talking about this issue, as long as it’s safe for you to do so. We have trained ourselves for so long to simply accept this behaviour as just ‘how it is’. Pay attention to how women are treated on television and in movies. If it bothers you, stop watching it. Have a discussion about it. Share your stories. With women and with men. Just never stop talking about it.

White Trash Yard 2014

Tech tipsComputer Tricks

Has anyone noticed how completely and utterly filthy it is out right now? If it weren’t for the promise of warmer upcoming weather, April would be the ugliest month of all. This winter’s heavy snowfall smooshed the grass and leaves that nobody had time to rake up into a dirty brown mash. And, as the layers of black snow melt, they reveal treasures of garbage: plastic bags, soda cans, newspapers, cigarette butts, coffee cups…
 
 I was pretty pleased with myself as the snow in the front yard melted to uncover nothing more than leaves, a fallen bird feeder, and piles of thawing deer turds. Last year, the yard was a total shithole, and I’d vowed to do a better job keeping it tidy. So far, so good.
 
 But then, I went into the backyard. And there, my feelings of smugness dissipated at the discovery of an even grosser mess than last year. I took inventory of the following items:
 
 -Four mostly empty plastic bags of potting soil
 -A plastic cat litter container full of dried weeds
 -One pair of husband’s now destroyed golf shoes
 -A rusted bottle of contact cement
 -Several avocado pits?
 -Giant camping cooler
 -Part of a tile saw water basin
 -A 12″ x 24 ” porcelain tile
 -Three semi-full and/or empty gas cans
 -Two plastic ice cream pails
 -Empty propane tank
 -Two rakes
 -Golf driver
 -Plastic camping water jug
 -Miscellaneous empty beer cans
 -Rusted coffee tin
 -BBQ cover, not on BBQ (still where it was last year, mashed between the deck and the fence)
 -Container of motor oil
 -Bike lock and chain
 -Citronella candle
 -Two plastic kids cups
 -Watering can
 -Plastic juice pitcher
 -A teaspoon
 -An alarmingly large kitchen knife
 -A (now rusty) hammer
 -Swiss Army knife
 -An axe
 -Paint tray
 -Shovel
 -Two wooden pallets
 -Two plastic tarps
 -An empty vinegar container
 -Cat carrier
 -Miscellaneous BBQ tools, including a flipper in the rose garden
 -Two brooms
 -A pair of vise grips a cat had peed on that I rinsed off with the hose and then apparently left out
 – A hand saw
 -A couple of odd garden gloves, in various states of crunchiness
 -The innards and outer plastic of four broken solar garden lights
 -Random Tupperware parts
 
 So, I’m still that neighbour. Maybe I will do better cleaning up the yard in Autumn 2014.
 

 It was too embarrassing to include more pictures than this one, so here’s some tulips!:
 

Ouija

Tech tipsComputer Tricks

The other day I got a text from a friend and it reminded me that a lot of people are still being affected by the aftermath of last year’s flood. While a lot of us who weren’t seriously impacted have moved on with life, there are families out there who still aren’t in their homes, or who are still looking for new homes, or who are battling mountains of paperwork and repair costs and insurance claims and bullshit. And then I was reminded of my cabin and the giant mess that is left of it and the community and then I remembered a funny story so I thought I would tell it.
 
 I don’t know why this memory specifically popped into my brain but I don’t question these things. Way, way back when I was in my mid to late-teens, I was really experiencing a crisis of faith. It had only been a couple of years since I’d found out about gay sex and I was pretty mad that my catholic school, and thus by extension the church, had lied to me about it. They were trying to tell me that sex was only for making babies, but I knew for a fact now that people had sex for fun too. AND I now knew you could have sex with men OR women and I even knew that animals had sex for fun so why was it so bad when humans did it?
 
 And right around that time, there were allegations coming from all over the place about the sexual abuse of children by clergy members. And I was pissed off. That’s some pretty hypocritical shit saying that certain kinds of sex and relationships are wrong when you are covering up the SEXUAL PREDATION OF CHILDREN in the church.
 
 In addition to my serious concerns regarding the above, I hated going to church. My parents would wake us up every single Sunday morning for church at 9AM. I usually zoned out the entire time and the only thing that I liked about it was the way the sun shone through the stained glass windows.
 
 I didn’t really get that you didn’t even need to believe in anything back then, so I was searching for something that spoke to me more clearly than God did. I found that the peaceful qualities and respect for nature of Wicca and Buddhism appealed to me much more than praying to some dude who supposedly created the world. I was also drawn to some of the darker aspects of witchcraft and the occult. So when a friend brought over a Ouija board to play with, I was excited.
 
 And not excited so much at the prospect of summoning spirits, because I didn’t actually believe the Ouija board could do that. But it appealed to me because it felt so very bad as a Catholic girl to be messing with the underworld.


Anyway, we played Ouija frequently, and somehow we would always end up trying to summon some demon or other, or maybe even Satan himself. Of course, we would always play it at the home of whoever’s parents were out of town. Often, that was at my house, because my parents erroneously trusted me not to do stupid shit like trying to talk to spirits from hell.
 
 No wonder my poor younger sister is messed up. She would be trying to sleep peacefully in her bed while everyone would be freaking out in the living room about having seen a candle flicker as proof of demon presence. That kid really never had a chance. The other fun thing to do to her back then was terrify her about teenagers. She was really scared of teens for some reason at that age, although she had two teen sisters at the time, who, while they might have been assholes to their younger sisters, were by no means delinquents. We would tell her that teenagers were going to come get her, and one night my other sister and I woke her up by scratching on her window screen and whispering ‘the teenagers are coming, the teenagers are coming’!
 
 Anyway, The Mexicans really disapproved of the Ouija board, and they would stare down at my friends and I and our little toy with disdain. Of course, some of my friends swore that the eyes of The Mexicans would move during Ouija sessions, or that they could see them breathing. I never actually suspected The Mexicans of colluding with evil spirits because just look at them! They are hard asses that will kill you in a duel and are thus immune to possession. It occured to me that maybe the obsession with the Ouija board might be getting out of control.


One night, we were at another friend’s cabin when we brought out the board. As usual, we called upon spirits to make their presence known. As usual, some creepy demon or other gave us their name through movement of the planchette. As usual, we asked for the spirit to provide a sign that they had entered our living domain. On previous Ouija nights, we had taken the howl of the wind, or a creaking door or a flickering candle to assume the spirit presence. This night, there was no such sign. Once more, the Ouija moderator asked the spirit to make us aware of its presence. Again, nothing happened. He repeated himself a third time.
 
 Just then, there was a loud whoosh and a bright orange flash outside on the front lawn. Through the large dining room window, we could all see that a huge fire had started on the grass outside, and the fire was burning in the shape of an upside-down crucifix. Once people’s eyes adjusted to the sudden bright light and they realized what they were looking at, they started screaming and freaking out. People were panicking; not sure what to do in the event of a dark spiritual invasion.


Now, as I said, I was fascinated by the Ouija board and it’s purported powers but I wasn’t convinced that there was any science to it. On the other hand, I knew for a fact that petroleum products could be used as accelerants and the heavy odour of gasoline in the air was a dead giveaway. I figured if there really were evil spirits floating around out there with supernatural powers, they sure as fuck wouldn’t need gas to start a fire.
 
 When all the smoke cleared, and the panic ended, two of our friends confessed that they had set the whole burning cross thing up as a prank. I don’t think they intended to scar anyone for life, and hopefully none of my cabin friends out there don’t have some like, weird fears or anxieties as a result. We never played Ouija again after that night.

The End/The Beginning

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So, it seems every time I write something these days it’s prefaced with an apology for not writing more. But there’s been something stuck in my head for a week or so and nothing else will be able to come out until I unleash my thoughts on it.
 
 I’ve mentioned before that the reason I started this blog is for people to have somewhere to come to find some content that will make them laugh for a bit. I found that laughing at stupid shit has gotten me through some very tough times and I wanted to create a refuge where people can read about the stupid shit that I’ve gotten myself into. However, I realize that I have failed miserably at this endeavor the past few months due to winter life apathy. But I am pretty sure I am back now.
 
 So it’s interesting that last week, the very situation that has been the cause of my own tough times for the past few years has finally been resolved. And I feel…nothing. I keep feeling that I should feel something, you know? Maybe relief? Elation? I don’t know. And maybe I would have, had I not had an epiphany about a year ago.
 
 The realization came about for a couple of reasons. First, my lawyer, who has been in civil law for 30 years and has practiced law both in Canada and Africa and owns his own firm, made an interesting comment. I should say that I bring up his experience not to show off how awesome my lawyer is, who practically did my case pro bono, but to illustrate that this comment was made by a person who has enough experience to understand the disillusionment experienced by those involved in civil suits. He said that people always expect a lawsuit to make them feel better, like they are doing something about their situation by taking action against those who have hurt them. But in reality, he said, it doesn’t matter who is more right or more wrong, it is about the money. It is always about the money. Corporations can afford to spend big bucks and years litigating suits, stalling through motions, nitpicking about costs, and generally outlasting and outspending the plaintiff. Who of course is counting on the resolution of the suit to help them move on with their lives, mentally and financially.
 
 Luckily, I had started coming to this realization myself, after three years had gone by since I’d left my position never to return and my lawyer’s words reinforced my thoughts. Three years of document production and haggling over court costs and misplaced documents and interviews with witnesses. Three bloody fucking years of highs and very, very low lows. I knew that I needed to start taking control of my own well-being rather than assuming it was irrevocably entwined with the results of the lawsuit. For the past year or so, I have tried to disentangle my mental health from the situation and compartmentalize the lawsuit into it’s own small spot in my brain.
 
 That’s not to say that I am back to normal by any means. I still have a lot of anxiety about work situations and the occasional PTSD episode. Like one day a few weeks ago when a colleague asked me a simple question. But somehow it triggered something buried in my mind; it reminded me of an unpleasant incident with my former boss. I really don’t even know what happened; it took me completely by surprise when I tried to answer his question and burst into tears instead. And not just tears, like total hysterics. Like, a gasping for breath, panic attackish freakout. He, I’m sure, was horrified, and retreated into his office while I continued to cry in this manner for a solid two hours. I felt completely out of control and I don’t like feeling out of control.
 
 So, despite the conclusion of the lawsuit, I know I will continue to have these occasional episodes. I know that I will still have ups and downs, and that it’s OK too, and a normal part of healing from psychological trauma. But I also know that I am not the same person I was before. I never used to have so many aches and pains as I have developed a chronic pain condition related to the stress and anxiety. That will probably never go away. I have trouble trusting people professionally now. I assume that people will use me and then throw me under the bus when the time comes. I am working on it, but will that ever go away?
 
 And of course, I have made a 360 degree change in profession now. Where I once climbed the corporate ladder, I now sometimes have to wash dishes and scrub toilets at the small office of ‘the family business’. I enjoy what I do but I miss the respect I used to earn being a professional corporate woman. I would stomp around downtown in three-inch heels and skirts, now I schlep to work in jeans and sweaters and I work in a pile of my own crumbs. I miss my old salary. And the heated underground parking. And the selection of free coffee and tea. And the nice colleagues that became friends.
 
 But, while I may miss certain aspects of my old life, I have made peace with my new life and would never, ever, ever EVER go back to the old one. What happened is a part of me now and there are much better things to dwell on, and with that I hope I have freed my brain space up to be able to focus on writing something to make you giggle.
 
 
 

The Secret

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The other day, I was just hanging out with my 3.5 year-old niece. We were sitting on opposite ends of a stair chatting when suddenly, she looked around conspiratorially. ‘Auntie’! She hissed. ‘I have to give you a secret’! Looking around again to ensure nobody was watching, she sidled up to me on the stair and cupped her hand around my ear. ‘Auntie’! She whispered loudly to the side of my face, ‘Grandpa says Granny is not allowed to drive anymore’!!!
 
 Ah, secrets.

Life Apathy

Tech tipsComputer Tricks

I haven’t written very much in the past few weeks because I am suffering from a terrible condition that I invented called Life Apathy. The symptoms of Life Apathy are many, including headaches, drowsiness, fatigue, irritability, anti-social behaviour, hibernation, disinterest in everything, static electricity, weight gain, and leg dandruff. Oh, and if you already suffer from a mental illness, expect that to get significantly worse.
 
 I usually start to feel it setting in the very weekend we fall back for Daylight Savings Time in November, and I’m slowly overtaken as the dark lengthens and the cold creeps in. By the time the winter solstice rolls around, just getting my ass out of bed in the mornings is a triumphant achievement. Life Apathy somehow alters the viscosity of the air around my body, making it seem as though every movement is made through molasses. Basic tasks seem impossible, simple challenges insurmountable. Food is tasteless mush in my mouth. I haven’t felt my feet since October.
 
 Basically I have been sludging through life, scraping by with a minimum of effort between work and Netflix binges. Even reading uses too much brain power. Forget cooking. I totally like having sandwiches for dinner. Every night. And it’s not like I haven’t had shit I’ve needed to do or stuff I’ve wanted to write about. I’ve got a bunch of stories percolating and have had some good laughs over the past couple weeks. And some mysteries. And some conversations with Dad. It’s just the effort of actually typing things out is simply too much.
 
 To make matters worse, my parents and my boss are away vacationing in warmer climes until spring. So I’ve been curling up at night with my heating pad and pretending I am somewhere other than the ice planet Hoth, and that there isn’t a couple inches of ice on the inside of my windows or that my backdoor wasn’t frozen shut this morning.
 


But despite the current deep freeze situation, I am actually starting to feel a lessening of my symptoms. A couple weeks ago, I started a few pots of seeds and have been nursing a couple of shrivelly pepper plants all winter. The pepper plants are finally looking as though they might bear fruit, and I’ve been messing away with starting some early spring crops like broccoli and cauliflower.
 


The feel of my hands in the dirt and the smell of the fresh foliage is waking something up in my brain. And the light is changing too. It was imperceptible at first, and then I found myself surprised when suddenly, it was 6 PM with streaks of light still visible to the west. Then 6:30. Then 7 PM. And it’s not even that the sun’s light is lingering longer, it’s that the quality of the light is changing from a watery thinness to a more robust luminosity.
 
 So, although it’s still outrageously cold out there and groundhogs are assholes, at least I can feel things changing, both in my brain and in the seasons. I can do this; the worst is over, right? RIGHT?!?

The Moldmobile

Tech tipsComputer Tricks

So I haven’t written in a while, mostly because I have a condition that I invented called Life Apathy. More on that later. I got weirdly inspired to write about my old car, so I thought before it slipped out of my brain, I’d write it down.
 
 Lately, my car has been making weird sounds. Kinda like squeaky bed springs? So probably the shocks, and I don’t feel like dealing with it, nor can I momentarily afford it, so I’ve just been driving our old piece of shit camping truck around.
 
 This afternoon I looked out the window and noticed something stuck under the front end of my car. A giant cardboard box. Could that have been stuck under my car for the past couple weeks, creating the sound? Probably not, but it reminded me of a car I used to drive. I’d call it mine, but it was a ‘family car’ and the main reason I even got to drive it was so my parents could force me to take my younger sisters to various lessons and practices.
 


Imagine this in navy. Wikipedia
 
 Back in those days, I thought that old navy ’86 Oldsmobile was pretty sweet. It had power locks and windows, something I hadn’t previously experienced. And, it had wonderfully cushy velvety seats that could adjust to 4,000 different seating angles.
 
 Well, that was before I drove it for awhile, then it got the nickname The Moldmobile. So named for the decaying peach that at some point got stuck to the front passenger seat. And eventually the paint started to rust and of course, one of the front grills fell out. I can basically guarantee that if any of these suckers are still out on the road, one or more grill is missing.
 
 


www.cardomain.com
 
 Anyway, years later I had to borrow the car while mine was having some work done. The shitty place my husband and I first lived after getting married had one of those parking pads instead of a back yard, with a retaining wall a few feet off the ground.
 
 I had been driving the car around for a few days and every time I turned the music down from eardrum shattering, I could hear a weird sound coming from the front end of the car. Kind of a tinkling sound, but very faint, so I mostly just ignored the noise. That’s how I deal with mechanical things making weird noises. Ignore it and hope it fixes itself. Sometimes it works. Usually it doesn’t.
 
 Anyway, this went on for about a week when one afternoon I stopped for groceries. I don’t know how I never noticed before, but as I approached the front of my car, I could see something odd where the missing grill should be. As I got closer, I realised that there was a large object wedged into the grill-hole. A square object. A box? A box with writing on it?
 
 When I was a few feet away, I could finally make out the writing on the object. It was a case of beer. Suddenly, the tinkling sounds from the car made perfect sense. I had been driving around with a case of beer stuck in the front grill of my car. For at least a few days anyway.
 
 It turned out, the case of beer had four full beers and five empties in it. And it was wedged in that grill-hole dang good. Which is obviously why it hadn’t fallen out at some point and smashed all over the road. My husband had been outside BBQing the week earlier, he must have set the case down on the edge of the retaining wall. And, since my only driving flaw is that I occasionally tap my front end into things, I obviously tapped the beer case, nudging it into the grill-hole. And if anyone out there claims that I might have another driving flaw, such as getting mesmerized by emergency lights at night, FYI that was a decade ago before I knew I needed corrective lenses!
 
 Anyway, the noise my car is currently making is not at all related to ramming into a beer case and will inevitably require professional attention. The Moldmobile itself lasted another few years before literally decomposing one day while my sister was driving it. I still miss that sweet, sweet car.

Kids Are Hard

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So people ask me constantly why I don’t have kids. Especially when they see how freaking awesome I am with them. It’s true, kids love me. It’s probably because I do things with them that, while not necessary bad, might be frowned upon by adults. Like Body Slams. This is where the kid runs toward me and I pick them up, spin them around, and body slam them on a sofa. They find this hilarious. Or Go Faster, a game I used to play when I watched my niece a few days a week. Go Faster is where I turn on the treadmill and my niece throws my sneakers on the track. We start at like, speed level two and then she yells ‘GO FASTER’!!! And I crank it up until the shoes are just shooting off the track and flying into the wall and we can’t even breathe because we are laughing so hard. We also have a games called Boof, Clothesline & Sausages, and of course there are Kitchen Dance Parties. Kids are fun. I love them. They love me. Then I give them back to their parents.


There are a ton of reasons why my husband and I have, for the moment, decided to remain child free. In fact, I plan to compile an official list/cost-benefit analysis and post it here, but one of the absolute top reasons on the list (aside from the exorbitant cost) is that having kids is sometimes all the time mentally and physically exhausting. For legit reasons, I need to ensure I get a proper amount of sleep. This stupid chronic pain thing I have gets ferocious with lack of rest. But aside from that, I thoroughly enjoy sleep. I really do. I love my bed and I love naps. People keep saying, ‘oh the first few years are exhausting but it’s so worth it’! That may be but I am not willing to risk it. I had a little test the other day, and it wasn’t for me.
 
 Last month, my sister and brother-in-law had to travel for a few days out of town on short notice. They left their 3.5 year old and 8 month old with my parents. I agreed to take the two of them for one night as well, to give my mom a break. I was nervous since I’ve had the older niece stay over plenty, but never the two at the same time. Things started out OK, the baby fell asleep on the drive over and stayed asleep for the first hour and a half. The older one and I worked on building a birdhouse and bird feeders out of popsicle sticks. This is easy! I thought. And fun!
 
 Then the baby woke up and all hell broke loose. The poor thing was battling something and was a miserable, drooling, snotty mess. Not to mention there were some questionable rumblings in her tummy. The baby basically refused to be put down or would scream bloody murder. And I am sure you parents out there already know, but OH MY GOD IT’S HARD TO MAKE DINNER AND CARRY A BABY! I suppose if I had the adequate equipment, such as one of those baby backpacks or slings, it might have been slightly easier. But she was squirming a lot, producing a significant amount of mucous, and she kept trying to grab at knives and stuff. Also, I couldn’t just hold her, I had to jiggle her and if the jiggling ceased, she would start bawling again.
 
 So I finally got her food ready, which really had all been done in advance by my sister, I really just had to nuke some mushy food. I figured that I would feed the baby, then she would chill out which would allow me time to make dinner for myself and the older one. But said chilling out did not occur and after baby was fed she went straight back to freaking out. Then the other one started freaking out because now it was way past dinnertime. It became a cacophony of freak outs. I’m not even joking, even one of my cats joined in and started yowling at me to let him outside into the sub-zero temperatures to escape the freak out party.
 
 Single parents, I do not know how you do it, because the only thing that saved me was my other sister showing up for a visit to help out. That allowed me to rest my aching arms and finally eat something, which I had not done all day.
 
 Luckily, my sister stayed for bath time so I could get the crib and bed stuff set up. However, the baby remained fussy and the older one was too excited to be staying over at auntie’s to go to sleep. It took hours to get them both settled, and when they were finally asleep, I spent the next hour cleaning up toys, and the mess of the day that had seeped throughout the house. I was finally about to flop myself into bed when the baby woke up.
 
 More jiggling and soothing and medicine ensued, and a couple hours later, she was back in bed. I drifted off for an hour and a half or so, and then awoke to the baby fussing again. Another round of jiggling and I just chucked the baby in the bed next to me as that seemed to help. But less than an hour later, at the ungodly hour of 5:30, the older one announced that she was awake.
 
 Piecing together the little bits of sleep totaled about three hours that night. I was feeling so exhausted that I was disoriented, and now both the baby and myself were snotty messes, as at some point in the night my immune system had succumbed to whatever organism had sickened the baby. And then both kids started with the diarrhea which was a lovely addition to the day. I would just change the baby’s diaper when the older one would run for the potty. But the baby still didn’t want to be put down, and the older one needed help removing EVERY SINGLE PIECE OF CLOTHING before she could do her business.
 
 On one such trip to the bathroom, I risked putting the baby down on the carpet outside the bathroom. She didn’t fuss, but in the twelve seconds it took me to help the other with her t-shirt, the baby had somehow squiggled over to the bowl of crunchy cat food and had helped herself. Only, cat food is nasty and also she has no teeth, so she promptly vomited up slimy Indoor Cat Formula. So then I had to clean up that barf while the other one was diarrheaing.
 
 Did I mention that you can’t take your eyes off this baby for one second? I never had to worry about the older one putting shit in her mouth when I watched her. Ever. This one? Will eat anything and everything. I was surprised she didn’t barf up a hairball from all the cat fur I saw her eat. She would grab at the cats and actually pull fur out and feed it to herself.
 
 This went back and forth for a bit and then there was a lull where finally there was no vomiting or pooping. The baby, despite the snotty nose and the ongoing belly noises, was finally sitting up and playing happily. I had thrown the iPad at the other one and basically let her have free reign of Netflix.
 
 OK. I was doing OK. This was manageable now, I could relax for a minute on the sofa. Then I look over and the older one says, ‘Look Auntie! I am a baby punching super-hero’! And KA-POW! She punches the baby in the belly, which knocks her over and bangs her head into some toys. And of course she starts shrieking and the tears re-start the mucous flows. So I am trying to soothe the baby and also deal with the Baby Punching Super Hero who has just socked her sister in the gut.


But before I can do any of this, she further announces ‘You know how I know I’m a girl superhero’? she asks. ‘BECAUSE I HAVE A GINE’! A what? Oh shit, a gine. As in, vagina. Nope. Nope nope nope. Not having a conversation about anatomy and gender identity with a three year-old. Not after a day of vomit and poo and a night of sleeplessness. So not my job. ‘KIDS’! I announce, ‘it’s time to head back to Granny’s’!
 
 Later that evening, after I had finally packed up the two giant bags of clothing, bag of baby food, frozen packs of breast milk, garbage bag full of Jake and the Neverland Pirates toys that the older one had insisted on bringing over, various stuffies and blankies, and dealt with a melting toddler who refused to put her jacket on, I dropped them off at my mom’s and gratefully came home slept for like, 12 hours.
 
 Parents: kudos to your dealing with pee and poo and barf and for functioning on little to no sleep while raising the future generation. Applause all around, but I am going to sit this one out!
 
 
 
 

Neil Young, The Oilsands & Me

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So, if you read the news or listen to the radio or use social media at all, you’ve probably noticed that a lot of people are pissed off at Neil Young right now. The backlash is regarding his recent interview with Jian Ghomeshi on CBC Radio Q about his Honour the Treaties tour and his thoughts on the Alberta oilsands. Well, if you are one of the pissed off people, prepare to get enraged when I tell you that I agree with him. GASP! OH THE HORROR! Yes, it’s true. I guess, according to a lot of people, this makes Neil, and thus myself, a bad Canadian.

First, let me just explain that I have lived in Calgary my whole life (well, except for those snowy six months I lived in The City That Fun Forgot, Ottawa). While I have never directly worked in the oil and gas industry, I have worked in housing and finance, two other industries that are inexorably tied to the former. I know that my house is worth what it is worth because of the wealth created by the industry. I know that the industry employs hundreds of thousands of not only Albertans, but people from all over the world who come to make their living from these resources. I get that my quality of living is tied to the wealth generated by them. I know that work in the oilfield is tough, with long hours in unpleasant conditions, often away from family. I too get defensive when people accuse my province of destroying the environment or for saying things like we deserved the floods that we had last summer as payback for creating greenhouse gasses.

Now, despite all that, I still agree with Neil Young. BUT CHRISTINE! HE GOT GREENHOUSE GAS STATISTICS ALL WRONG! HE SAID THE OIL SANDS PRODUCE THE SAME AMOUNT OF GREENHOUSE GASSES IN ONE DAY AS ALL THE CARS IN CANADA! Yes, I have heard that statistic before, actually. I don’t recall the source. But even if that is a gross exaggeration, there is one thing that I found both industry leaders and the government grudgingly agree on: mining and refining oil sands into a useable, transportable product takes a lot of energy. And it does produce significantly more greenhouse gas than conventional oil production. This is a fact. So, can we please stop arguing that Neil’s stats are wrong and admit that regardless of what the actual emissions are, they are way more than what’s desirable or even acceptable? Not to mention, our own federal government projects that emissions are set to quadruple in the next fifteen years.

BUT CHRISTINE! HE SAID THAT RECLAMATION OF LAND IS A MYTH! Yep, and I agree with him. The oil sands have been mined since 1978. 35 years. My entire life span on this earth. Since that time, how much actual land has been certifiably reclaimed? Not much. And frankly, no matter how cleaned up these mined areas are, they will NEVER be what they were. Huge swathes of mature boreal forest has been clear cut, and wildlife scattered.

Our own dear Premier Alison Redford claims that tailings ponds will be non-existent in the very near future. In fact, industry is required to halt the growth of tailings ponds altogether by 2016. But I’m not sure how that’s going to work when the liquid volume of tailings has actually increased by 200 million cubic meters in the past four years.

BUT CHRISTINE, NEIL IS TOURING TO RAISE MONEY FOR FIRST NATIONS PEOPLE, DOESN’T HE KNOW THAT THE OIL AND GAS INDUSTRY EMPLOYS OVER 100,000 FIRST NATIONS WORKERS? Yes, I have heard many comments disparaging the legal attempts of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nations to halt the Jackpine Mine expansion. The proposed expansion has been approved by the government despite the fact that it will cause unmitigable and irreparrable damage to the environment. And thus, the Athabasca Chipewyan nation object to the decision which will cause damage to their traditional territory and objects to the government not consulting First Nations on this decision. This has nothing to do with the fact that many First Nations people work in oil and gas. And to make that connection between the two issues speaks to a lack of understanding of the value of ancestral lands and implies that First Nations people are ‘lucky’ to have this employment and that they should just appreciate the jobs. I can’t tell you how disgustingly privileged that is.

BUT CHRISTINE! NEIL YOUNG IS A MUSICIAN! WHY SHOULD ANYONE LISTEN TO HIM? WHAT GIVES HIM THE RIGHT TO SAY THESE THINGS? Neil himself addresses this in the interview when he asks if one’s profession should be considered and weighed carefully when determining if someone is eligible for freedom of speech. And the answer is of course not. In this country, one of the things that we take for granted is being able to express our opinions. If suddenly we start saying that people aren’t allowed to have an opinion because they don’t have experience in a particular field or haven’t worked in a particular industry, that’s ridiculous. Am I not allowed to have an opinion of politics because I don’t work in politics? Should I not be allowed to vote because I work in the sporting goods industry? Once we start limiting people to speak only about issues within their ‘areas of expertise’ we lose important perspectives.

BUT CHRISTINE! NEIL IS ANTI-OILSANDS, THEREFORE HE IS ANTI-CANADIAN. I’m sorry, but never anywhere in this interview did I hear that Neil is on a crusade to put an end to the oilsands. His goal was to raise money for the Athabasca Chipewyan to fight the Jackpine expansion only. It’s not like Syncrude and Suncor are gonna be like, ‘Holy shit! Neil Young says we are wrecking the environment! Better shut ‘er down’! In the interview, Neil clarified that his goal was to shed light on the subject, and that Canadians can make up their own minds. He says that there are challenges to be overcome in the industry, such as reducing greenhouse gas emissions and decreasing the size (or existance) of tailings ponds. But, he says that overcoming these challenges is who we are and what we do as Canadians. And I agree.

BUT CHRISTINE, HE COMPARED THE OIL SANDS TO HIROSHIMA! OK, I will agree that comparing the oil sands to Hiroshima may be a little insensitive to those who were affected by the atom bomb and WW2. But I get what he means, as I personally refer to the oil sands as Mordor (though I suspect the Eye of Sauron will get all pissy at this metaphor). And maybe I agree with Neil because I can relate to his personal experience visiting the oil sands. A few years ago, I drove to Fort McMurray to visit a friend for the weekend. Before I even entered the town, I noticed my throat started to feel dry and scratchy. By the time I arrived at my friend’s home, I was having to clear my throat incessantly. The air outside smelled like asphalt with a hint of egg fart, which I could taste at the back of my mouth. I asked my friend about the air quality, and she indicated that the smell was always there. In the morning, I woke and could barely speak because of the junk in my throat. My friend then took me on the short drive north to see the oil sands.

When we started our drive, it was sunny. However, the sun was barely visible by the time we reached the site. Huge plumes of smoke billowed out of towers and obscured the sky. My thoughts immediately turned to Lord of the Rings and the landscape of Mordor. The land for as far as I could see was completely treeless, and scarred with open pits and black earth. A putrid steam rose up from a huge tailings pond, and a disgusting foamy yellow liquid burbled in a stream along the road. The smells were overwhelming and burned my throat and eyes. I was speechless. Truthfully, I had not thought much about the oil sands prior to visiting them. They were just some necessary evil tucked away up north that I didn’t have to think about. But I can honestly say that this visit really did change me. I felt sick, not from the bad smells, but from the whole terrible experience. I had never seen anything like it, nor since.

BUT CHRISTINE! HE’S A HYPOCRITE! HE USES TONS OF OIL! Look, we are all hypocrites here. We all use oil. Everyday. We all have to work to make a living, and we all need it to put food on the table, and that uses oil. Most of us probably have no idea how much oil and gas we consume every day. But instead of complaining about hypocrisy and anally detailing Neil’s consumption, can we please have a productive discussion on what each of us can do in practical terms to reduce our own carbon footprint? Can we stop arguing that other countries are worse polluters than u and focus on ourselves?

If it were up to me, I’d impose tough regulations on energy usage, greenhouse gas emissions, and other air pollutants. Then I’d fine the bejesus out of any offenders, and use that money on environmental initiatives. According to independent researchers, Alberta’s record for enforcing alleged environmental violations is less than one percent.

But, it’s not up to me. The thing is, you can’t control these oil companies, or the government or anything else. All you can do is control your reaction. So let’s all take a deep breath, calm down, and talk about what WE can do. Sure, Neil is wealthy and has the means and opportunity to design a vehicle that runs on bio-fuel. That’s cool. However, it’s not within most people’s realm of possibility. But there are so very many things you can do to reduce your consumption of fossil fuels.

It takes time and dedication, and is not always easy or convenient. Sometimes it costs money, although many initiatives will save you some dollars. After I came back from my trip to the oilsands, I made a commitment to myself, to do the very best I could to reduce my own carbon footprint. This involves buying products free from petrochemicals, growing my own food in the summer, buying locally grown or made products, reducing my consumption of red meat and buying local, free-range game, eliminating the use and consumption of plastic bottles and aluminum cans, using reusable bags, recycling, reusing, and repurposing. Consider upgrading your furnace. The monthly cost of my high-efficiency furnace is offset completely by the reduction in my heating bill. If you need a new hot water tank, consider going tankless. Walk, bike, or take transit when possible. Learn about local and federal politics and vote for politicians in line with eco-reform. Google it. There are hundreds of Eco blogs out there that will give you great tips on how you can do your part.

So please folks, let’s stop getting so defensive about the oil sands. We need to admit that they’re gross and that the companies mining there need to improve their processes and be held accountable for environmental violations. We need the oil and gas industry, but Neil is right: we can do much better.

Now I’m going to go chill out and listen to some Harvest Moon.

Snow Animals

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So you might have noticed that it’s been a pretty snowy winter thus far, at least it has been where I am from. As I was driving to the office Monday in more sideways snow, I observed that some of the snow piles on the sides of the roads are taller than I am.

It has been a long time since I have seen this much snow in my city. In fact, I have never seen this much snow in my city, and neither has anyone else, because last month we broke a 114-year snowfall record. For many of us, the past several weeks has been an unending cycle of digging things out of snow: cars, sidewalks, driveways, recycling bins. If this record-breaking winter precipitation combined with the record-breaking floods we experienced six months ago doesn’t give you a moment’s pause about climate-change then…maybe it should.

I already struggle with this time of year, since I am pretty sure I have SAD. Actually, I am pretty sure everyone in the upper Northern Hemisphere has SAD. But the short days and long nights and the cold and the snow are taking their toll on everybody. So it’s a really good thing that last weekend, I witnessed a wonderful, terrifying, and hilarious animal snow incident trifecta.

It all started on Friday. I had gone to my sister’s, who lives outside the city in the foothills. I had only planned to hang out with my nieces for a few hours, but then we started painting magnets and making Play-Doh ice cream sundaes. Then it was dinnertime, and then Settlers of Catan and gummy candies came out, and I didn’t end up leaving until around 1AM. It’s usually a thirty-minute drive back to the city, but I hadn’t noticed that it had been snowing heavily all day. That is a winter driving rookie mistake. I should have been paying attention to the snowfall. Bad, bad Canadian.

Anyway, I had to dig my car out of it’s spot with my snow scraper, and then I started the trek home. I couldn’t go much faster than 50 km/h on the highway because of the heavy accumulations and ruts on the roads. Visibility was very poor as it was still coming down heavily. And if you have ever driven on the highway at night in a snow storm, you will know that it is basically like driving through what going through hyperspace on the Millennium Falcon looks like. So there I am, shooting through the dark and the snow in my teeny tiny car, white-knuckling it doing half the speed limit and hoping I don’t veer off the road.


Just as I was headed up a nice, steep, slippery hill, one of the worst things that could possibly happen during a nerve-wracking snowy drive home happened: a moose came lumbering up from the ditch and, without looking both ways, stepped into my path. Luckily, I was driving pretty slowly, so there would be time for the moose to cross the highway before my vehicle passed by. However, the moose was also struggling with the snow and ice, and instead of crossing the road, she was sliding down the highway, toward my car.

‘MOOSE’! I yelled. ‘MOVE IT’! But of course I was inside my car and the moose could not hear me. The moose was now really having troubles, with it’s legs going in directions they don’t normally go in. ‘MOOSE’! I yelled again, as now I was getting pretty close and the moose was still sliding into my path. I had taken my foot off the gas, but I didn’t dare tap the brakes and there was no way I could swerve around it without some serious repercussions. ‘MOOOOOOOOOOSSSEEE’, I just kept yelling as we slo-mo continued our collision course. I just missed hitting the poor thing on its rear-end as it skated by.

The moose disappeared into the dark and snow in my rear view, and after the initial terror had subsided, I began to laugh hysterically. I don’t know if you have ever encountered a moose in real life, but they are majestically weird-looking. Part of the laughter was intense relief; I cried for a week after I killed my first gopher on the highway. And part of it was just picturing those knobbly, splayed moose legs slipping all over the road.

The next evening, my husband and I were driving home when we caught sight of two mule deer, a mother and fawn, on the main road by our house. We see a lot of deer in our neighbourhood as we are just steps from the west entrance to Fish Creek Provincial Park. The deer and I have a symbiotic relationship. They eat the berries off my trees, and I use the shits they leave all over my lawn in my compost pile.

Anyway, we see the deer all the time, and when you drive up, they usually sproing off the road and take off. However, the current snow drift situation means it’s really hard for the deer to sproing over six-foot piles of snow. So, we came upon this mother and her little guy, who was having a terrible time gaining his footing on the icy road. He was trying desperately to keep up with his mom, and, like the poor moose, his skinny legs were not going in the right direction. They kept shooting out from under him, and a couple times it looked like he would do a full-on Bambi on ice move. It was the cutest/saddest thing I have ever seen.

The next afternoon I was in my office when I heard a familiar sound. The sound of Black Squirrel getting into something in the back yard. Black Squirrel has lived here since before we moved in and is very territorial. He is also kind of an asshole. He ate $300 worth of tulip bulbs my neighbour planted and is always screwing around in my garden. He shrieks this weird high-pitched noise at anything that moves while he flicks his tail angrily and stares his beady little eyes at you. I had strawberries in my garden this past summer, and the berries would come out, and grow into lovely pinkish, not-quite-ripe little nuggets. Then this dickbag would come around and munch them off. And he wouldn’t even eat them, he would chew them up and then leave them scattered around the garden. Like, if you are going to steal my berries, at least fucking eat them. That bastard destroyed every single one.

Anyway, we have a contentious relationship. I have grown to respect his dominance of the neighbourhood, but this berry-wasting douchebaggery is infuriating. So, I didn’t feel too bad when I looked out the window just in time to see him slip on the ice on the top of the roof of my neighbour’s garage. He skidded halfway down the roof’s incline, then pitched forward, bounced once, and then launched off the edge and landed awkwardly on his belly, flooped over the rail of my fence. I did feel slightly bad for him for a moment, then he righted himself, shook himself off, and went on his way.


So, my point with these animal stories is that this winter hasn’t been much fun for anyone, including these poor guys. But they don’t complain, and neither should we. Yes, it’s been a shitty winter so far. But I don’t know about you, but I live where I do for many, many reasons and the weather is not one of them. But this crappy season is worth it for me. If it’s not worth it for you, consider moving elsewhere. Otherwise, chuck a shovel and a bag of cat litter in your trunk and carry on.

PS: I just threw a huge handful of sunflower seeds out into the yard because I felt bad for talking smack about Black Squirrel.

Resolutions

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Remember last year when I fell down the stairs and broke my foot on New Year’s Eve? And then I resolved to be less clumsy in 2013? Well, I am happy to report that, while I still smash into door frames for no reason, I did not sustain any further major injuries last year.
 
 Well, except for when my toothless cat bit my face. So obviously he’s not fully toothless. He’s only got those tiny little chicklet front teeth that cats have. Anyway, I was petting him all nice when suddenly he chomped my face and clamped down on my cheekbone with those teensy incisors. It was bleeding and everything. But aside from that and a few bruises, 2013 was a big improvement. Oh, and in the summer I stepped on the business end of a rake and got a handle-smack to the forehead for my efforts, but that was more of an embarrassment than an injury.


Gratuitous toothless cat pic
 
 
 So I definitely feel that sharing my resolution and holding myself accountable on this here blog did indeed encourage me to focus more on my resolution and thus increased the chances of me sticking to it. And so, I am going to do the same thing this year and share my resolutions with you.
 
 The first one is to write more. Either that or develop a technology that can transcribe my thoughts into written words. But since that isn’t going to happen, I’m going to have to stop being a lazy asshole and actually sit down and type those thoughts out myself.
 
 On a side note, I also have another idea for a fantastic invention, I just need someone to make it for me. It’s called The Human Diagnostic Machine and it’s basically an in-home robot doctor. You feel like crap? Don’t know why? Step into The Human Diagnostic Machine. It will scan you (with what, I don’t exactly know. X-rays?), and will perform blood and urinalysis. Then the HDM will take all your test results and let you know what’s wrong. Like, oh, you’re dehydrated and your Vitamin D is low. Or, you have a low-grade bacterial infection. So, somebody take my idea and make this machine please. It would sell like hotcakes to hypochondriacs.
 
 My next resolution is to consume fewer chemicals. Basically what this equates to is eating more natural and unprocessed foods. This is the direction I have been trying to head in for awhile, so this year I am making a much more concerted effort to cut out crap like aspartame, refined sugars, indiscriminate painkiller usage, artificial flavours and colours, pesticides, preservatives, etc. The simple fact is that when I eat ‘clean’, I feel better and have less pain. Plus, it does seem prudent to eliminate certain food chemicals that have been shown to cause cancer in lab animals. Call me crazy.
 
 So I will definitely be expanding and improving the summer garden this year. My main goal is to increase the quality and yield of my produce so that I can preserve some of it for the winter. Then depending on how that goes, I would like to grow enough to donate surpluses to the food bank.
 
 My third resolution is to consume and waste less. I recently wrote about the ruination of my career and its subsequent effect on my bank account. However, in dealing with the major loss of income, I noticed that I actually didn’t need that much stuff. So I have been making an effort to repurpose things I already own, and to buy used stuff where possible. And, when I do need to purchase something, I am trying to buy locally-made or distributed products and to avoid buying plastic junk that was probably made in China by some kid in a factory that pours toxic waste into the Yangtze.
 
 My last resolution for 2013 is a hard one to put into words. In dealing with the last four years of crazy since my work-related mental breakdown, I realized that I had been very ‘inward focused’. Dealing with the stress of my financial situation, my health concerns, and worry about my future. However, despite the struggles I have had the past few years, I have come to realize that I am still an incredibly privileged person living an incredibly privileged life. I am free from racism and harassment, I live in a warm home, I don’t fear rape and murder all the time (only when in underground parking structures), and I’m not at any major risk of being persecuted by my government. I have food and excellent health care, a stable home life, a vehicle and a job.
 
 I have said it before on this blog, and I will say it again. I truly feel that having empathy is one of the most important qualities a human being can possess. And so, this resolution is really one of empathy, to be aware of what others face on this earth and to have the ability to see things from their perspective. Or, in simpler terms, this resolution is about looking outward and knowing to shut the fuck up about my meagre problems.
 
 So, these are my major resolutions for 2014. Now I’ve shared them, so I have to do them. Anyone out there want to share theirs?

A Shristmas Story

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Now, this is one of those stories that I just don’t know about. You know, something that occurred nearly a decade ago and I’m just not sure if it’s still funny, or if it was ever that funny.
 
 I must start the story by saying I cannot stand it when people mispronounce things. I correct people constantly; with the right lyrics to a song, the true movie quote, and of course, the proper pronunciation. Now, people might assume that since I am a giant asshole in this regard, that I must never pronounce anything incorrectly. That is not so, I do it frequently. I just reserve the right to be a total dick when others do it.
 
 Anyway, years and years ago, my friend was expecting her first baby; a daughter. Her and her husband discussed names frequently with friends and family, slowly ruling out the gross names and pondering the good ones. One night they were out for dinner with her family and a few names came up as potentials.
 
 Many were quickly ruled out as unsuitable. Of course, once child naming becomes a public forum, everybody always knows somebody horrible with that name and so they are rejected. It’s like, ‘Kimberley’? ‘Nope, there was a bitch named Kimberley in my preschool class’. Anyway, my friend’s mom eventually suggested the name Chloë.
 
 Now, these were in the days before Kim’s sex tape and the Kardashians weren’t inexplicably famous yet. Khloé Kardashian wasn’t on the radar, and back then, nobody really knew the name and it was much more commonly seen by it’s proper spelling, Chloë.
 
 But my friend’s husband was confused. ‘How do you spell that’? He had asked. Once the spelling had been clarified, a light dawned on him. ‘Ohhhhhhh. Haha. That’s actually a name in a book I’m reading right now. I thought it was pronounced ‘Shlow’. Haha. I thought that was a pretty stupid name. Hahaha’.
 
 Well, I did not find this funny in the least, and neither did my friend. How could anybody possibly think that was the correct pronunciation? She began questioning the very foundation of her marriage. She was shortly to bring a child into this world, a child whose own father couldn’t even pronounce the name Chloë! True, that e with the two dots on top can be confusing there at the end, so I could excuse a screw up on that part.
 
 But seriously, Shlow? I was appalled. So I said to my friend, ‘well what does he call me? Shristine? Does he give his mom shrysanthemums on Mother’s Day? Does he think shlamydia is an STI? Whose birth do we celebrate on December 25, Jesus Shrist’s? WHAT WINTER HOLIDAY DOES HE OBSERVE, SHRISTMAS’?!?
 
 And thus, the holiday of Shristmas was born and I now sign my Christmas cards (all two of them) as Shristine. If Festivus is the holiday for the rest of us, then Shristmas is the holiday for people who can’t pronounce the name Chloë.
 
 Merry Shristmas!
 
 
 

Cheese Bargain

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So this year is the first Christmas that I am dairy-free. And not dairy-free by choice, dairy-free by allergy. Although, now that I have learned more about the dairy industry and have observed some interesting biological changes in myself, I think I would make the choice to eliminate it from my diet anyway. After one last holiday season with delightful Christmas treats to say a proper farewell, that is.
 
 So basically what I am saying is I need chocolate and cheese closure. My mom is doing her best to adapt family holiday favourites, since two of my sisters, my dad, and I all found out that we share this allergy. She is substituting dark chocolate for milk chocolate in some recipes, and using vegetable-based shortenings like coconut oil instead of butter.
 
 So far, she has experimented with coconut snowballs, fondants for her chocolates, and apparently, with butter tarts. Or rather, coconut oil tarts, which sounds significantly less appealing. Frankly, those should be decent provided she doesn’t go on another craisin rampage. A couple Christmases ago, she started throwing dried cranberries in all her baking, rendering it inedible. We were all like, mom, lay off the fucking craisins. Then the next year she put them in everything again because she ‘forgot’ that they are disgusting and that everyone hates them.
 
 Anyway, baking is adaptable. It’s not quite the same without real butter and delicious gluteny flour (did I mention we are all allergic to wheat too?), but after awhile, you start to forget what the real thing tastes like and the replacement stuff starts to taste good. But cheese is not adaptable. At all. Oh sure, there is vegan cheese, which I use in shredded form on pizzas and in taco salads and whatnot. There are other forms of fake cheese as well, but all that I have tried are wholly unsuitable for consumption. But there is no viable dairy-free replacement for delicious velvety herbed havarti. Or for the sharp tang of an aged cheddar. Or for the sweet, creamy taste of cake made from the most delicious of ingredients: cream cheese.
 
 And so, this Christmas as I pine for cheese I daren’t eat, I can at least take comfort in the cheese bargain. Oh yes, the cheese bargain. Since my husband has no qualms about eating cheese in front of me, it remains on the grocery list. And while I avoid getting groceries as much as possible, I still must occasionally purchase cheese I will never get to taste. And so I must take satisfaction only in getting the best cheese deal.
 
 Now, I don’t know how prevalent the cheese bargain is at other grocery stores. However, I usually shop at Safeway, where you can find bricks of cheddar for a set price. Usually there are two sizes: medium, and mega-brick. We don’t need mega-brick, so we get medium, which is $6.49.
 
 Now, my momma taught me good and showed me how to dig through the cheese bin to get the best deal. While each brick is $6.49, the ‘actual’ price of the cheese based on weight is on the package. Most of the price by weight is usually in the $7.50 range, so you’re all like, I’m getting $1 of free cheese! But, every now and then, something must go awry in the cheese factory and a package gets just a smidge more cheese than the others. The goal of the cheese bargain is to FIND THAT CHEESE. You must dig through every package in the dairy aisle to get the best deal. $7.84, $7.92, $8.13, $7.42…HOLY SHIT $9.04! Charlie Sheen was wrong people, THIS is winning.
 
 

The Mexicans

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First of all, I’d like to preface this post by apologising for assuming the ethnicity of the subjects of these portraits. These guys could certainly be Argentinian or Chilean or First Nations or have some other background. I’m not sure how they were so named or by whom, but in my recollection, they have only ever been The Mexicans.

The Mexicans came with the cabin that my parents bought when I was seven. They were part of a vast collection of weird art that hung all over the wood-panelled walls. When I was a kid, I thought it was fancy, but then I knocked a ‘painting’ off the wall. I saw that the back of the frame was stamped with the logo of some 1970s drugstore and a message that indicated the painting had been free with the purchase of five Procter & Gamble products. Turned out most of the pictures in the cabin were free from the drugstore.

But not The Mexicans. They were large, lifelike paintings done on a black velvety canvas with thick, carved wooden frames. The Mexicans seemed to tower over the living room, on a wall behind the sofa. It didn’t matter where you were, if The Mexicans were within sight, they were staring at you. Sitting on the sofa, they watched you. Cooking in the kitchen, they watched you. Everywhere, all the time, watching. Smoking. Watching.

The Mexicans didn’t creep me out though. They scared the shit out of mostly everyone, but I felt that they were benevolent. I felt that they had distinct personalities but they mostly just judged me. Like, the one on the left with the bandana across his eye that he must have surely lost in a western gun duel or something was a huge grump. The one on the right was stern and easily disappointed.

They watched me and sat there on the wall in silent disapproval when I’d slip the odd little nip from a bottle out of the booze cabinet, or when my friends and I would try to summon the devil with the ouija board. They watched while I snuck out, and snuck back in, and while my friends and I had ‘all nighters’ doing stupid shit like throwing food into ceiling fans. They watched while I spent the summer out there on the sofa recovering from a car accident. They were very displeased when I’d throw a party and weird stuff would happen like that time I found a brick of cheese stabbed into the wall with a steak knife the next morning.

So, when my parents decided to sell the cabin a couple years ago, I made them stipulate that The Mexicans were not part of the sale. Then my husband and I stole them off the wall, stuffed them in the backseat of the car, and now they live in my basement. Sitting on the walls. Watching and smoking. And watching.

Lady Rage

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I don’t know about any of you other women out there, but lately I’ve been finding that there’s a lot if stuff going on in the world that has just been really disturbing me. Like, really hitting a nerve down in the babymaker. I’m fortunate enough to live in a place where I have access to free health care and where my reproductive decisions are mine and not the government’s. I enjoy a work environment free of sexual harassment, and I generally feel safe in my home and in my city.

These freedoms that I have are precious to me, so when I hear about women in this world who have to fight for theirs, it’s like I can feel the anger simmering in my gut. It threatens to erupt every time I hear about things like the defunding of Planned Parenthood in some US states, horrific gang rapes in India, a female Iranian city politician having her election overturned because she was not meeting the Islamic code of dignity. And closer to home, ongoing allegations of sexual harassment against female officers in the RCMP.

But of course, women should be denied basic reproductive care and access to birth control because that will surely decrease abortion rates. And you know, that rape victim was obviously not a respectable lady and shouldn’t have been out at night; she is responsible for what happened. That pretty young politician will surely distract everyone with her ‘catwalk model’ looks. And don’t worry, if someone accuses you of sexual harassment, just go around telling people your accuser is a crazy alcoholic with mental problems.

Are you fucking kidding me, world? Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that there aren’t other injustices being committed out there against other demographic groups. It’s this outright unfairness about women’s issues that causes an acidic lump to settle in my chest. I’ve been calling this particular feeling ‘Lady Rage’. Anger about the violence and atrocities committed against women. At the ‘blame the victim’ mentality that is so surprisingly prevalent. At the shocking lack of comprehension about the functioning of the female reproductive system by politicians and lawmakers. At the double standards of decency that exist for men and women.

So yeah. Guess what people? I’m jumping on the bandwagon and have something to say about the whole Miley Cyrus/Robin Thicke Blurred Lines VMA performance debacle from the other night. It’s a good example of gender inequality in the context of a relatable pop-culture event. If you haven’t seen the performance, or heard about the backlash, then you must live under a rock.

Now, I’ll be clear. I definitely wasn’t a fan of the performance. My husband and I agreed that Ms. Cyrus’…er…gesticulating with that foam finger was actually more embarrassing than provocative. I was also concerned that by constantly sticking her tongue out so far, it would get stuck that way. But the goal was obviously to stir the pot and in that, she achieved her goal, regardless of my opinion.

However, the backlash against Ms. Cyrus has been infuriating in its hypocrisy, which has given me a bad case of the lady rage. The Parents Television Council released a press statement about how MTV ‘continues to sexually exploit young women by promoting acts that incorporate ‘twerking’ in a nude bikini’. How shocking. I wonder if they’ve seen Mr. Thicke’s video for the song? Some awfully familiar looking scantily-dressed ladies prancing around. But don’t accidentally watch the unrated version of the video! Because that one features topless ladies in thongs…doing…uh, I don’t know what, actually. Just kinda doing ridiculous dances, walking back and forth so their breasts bounce up and down, and being fondled by fully-clothed men while at some points, the size of Mr. Thicke’s penis is advertised. Not plastic indeed.

Many articles on the subject of the performance were quick to point out that Ms. Cyrus was grinding on and kissed a married man. And not only is Mr. Thicke married (gasp!), he also has a CHILD. How dare Miley behave in that way with a married father! Are you fucking kidding me? A married father co-wrote the song in the first place which, if not outright rapey, is at the very least a catchy regurgitation of the tedious ‘good girl gets liberated by man’s penis’ theme.

I also saw comments calling Ms. Cyrus’ performance ‘desperate’. And it may very well have been. But doesn’t stuffing a video full of naked breasts and enormous, unabashed Twitter hash tags also have the stank of someone desperate for attention?

And don’t get me started on the social media backlash. Every second tweet that night on this planet was about her performance. She is a slut, she was disgraceful, she should be ashamed, her fiancée should dump her, her ass isn’t that nice, Lady Gaga’s butt is more toned, she is ugly. And yet I did see some positive tweets: how cute Robin Thicke is, how lucky he is to have such a supportive wife, why did Miley go and ruin such a good song, it’s the hit of the summer, you know?

Well, luckily for the faint of heart, the song in its entirety was not performed (or if it was, I couldn’t understand what anyone was singing at that point) so sadly we did not get to enjoy my favourite parts of the song like this:

So hit me up when you passing through
I’ll give you something big enough to tear your ass in two

And this:

Nothing like your last guy, he too square for you
He don’t smack that ass and pull your hair like that

So come on people. If you want to criticise Miley’s performance as vulgar and raunchy, that’s your opinion. However, I will then be forced to judge you if I find you grooving away to the song without a care as to its lyrics and content. The double standards need to stop.


I think this pic of the Smith family watching the show about sums it up.

Sex Ed

Tech tipsComputer Tricks

So, lots of stuff in the news right now about this new Russian law banning the distribution of propaganda on ‘non-traditional sexual relations’ to minors. I’ve turned into a current events junkie lately and I, like most other people in the world it seems, am very confused by this law. I am not sure what the goal of the law actually is; do lawmakers feel that ‘propaganda’ on such ‘non-traditional sexual relations’ turns kids gay? And even if that were possible, who gives a shit? And just in case you were wondering, one of the bill’s authors has clarified that there are four kinds of ‘non-traditional sexual relations’: men with men, women with women, bisexual and transgendered. I guess the assumption is that your morals are seriously in question if you have any kind of sex outside the mandated ‘normal’ kind and then talk about it in a public forum.

Completely absurd. When this kind of shit goes down, all I can think is that I am glad I live in Canada where you can have any kind of consensual sex and talk about it all you want. You can have sex with and marry someone of whichever gender you prefer. You don’t have to worry about being arrested and levied with fines for enjoying ‘non-traditional sexual relations’ and being public with your support for it. And there are a lot of questions about this law in the context of what is ‘non-traditional’ and what is ‘traditional’ sex? Can a man and a woman (a ‘traditional’ couple) have bum sex (a ‘non-traditional’ sex act) and then say, write a blog post about it? Is that bad? I get that this type of moral ambiguity is critical to the economic and cultural integrity of the country, of course. Who cares about corruption and health care and financial stability when people might be out there spreading gayness to the country’s youth.

But this brings me to a funny story. The story about how I learned about ‘non-traditional’ sexual acts. You have to understand, I was forced to attend church every Sunday and went to a catholic school. Back in the olden days, there was nothing on TV about being gay and the Internet barely existed. Back in grade four, I had to bring home a document for my parents to sign, authorizing my school to teach me ‘sex ed’ which was something that had previously not been discussed in classes. However, I was not at all enlightened by the school’s first attempt at such an education, which involved the red-faced principal coming in and discussing X and Y chromosomes and how they combine to make babies to a bunch of 10 year-olds.

Luckily, I’d already had a cursory education on the basics of baby-making from the educational pop-up book The Facts of Life, which my mom had bought to explain why she was feeding my new baby sister with her boobs. And no, the pop up book doesn’t pop up THAT part. The book shows how an egg comes down the fallopian tube and gets accosted by these wiggly things, and 9 months later, a baby. However, how exactly those wiggly things and the egg came into contact was a bit of a mystery to me until grade 5.


In grade 5, the school allowed regular teachers to teach the sex ed stuff, so instead of the flustered principal, we had our regular teacher go over the curriculum. I finally figured out how the wiggly things got into the woman to make her pregnant. It was fascinating and horrifying all at the same time. Really, girls let boys in THERE with that THING? WHY? At the height of my boy germ problems, I was really confused as to why people would want to perform this act, even if it meant getting a baby out of it. Gross.

But at this point in time, I was listening to a lot of Madonna. Like a Prayer had recently come out, and I was captivated by and yet terrified of the religious and sexual imagery contained in the songs, videos (which I watched on Video Hits before my dad got home from work), and album artwork. Was I going to go to hell for listening to such music? For liking such music? I was confused by it all, especially the album liner notes, which contained a small PSA encouraging people to use condoms when engaging in anal sex. For someone who just learned about the horrors of vaginal sex, I was completely stumped as to what anal sex might be. I knew an anus was the bum hole, but certainly nobody would want to go near that area, so what could it be?


Luckily, sex-ed was still underway in school, and my teacher had set up a question box so that any students who were too embarrassed to ask a question out loud could write it down anonymously. Perfect. I scrawled out ‘What is anal sex’? and dropped that question into the box. I have to hand it to my teacher, who dealt with what might have been considered a very risqué question at the time for a catholic school. She pulled out the paper and studied the question for a few moments before answering that sometimes, people have sex in a different hole. The bum hole.

Well, here is a visual representation of what I felt at the time:


My brain basically exploded. My 10 year-old self knew, from the pop-up book, that the bum hole was not critical to reproduction in any way. The bum hole is for waste elimination. Why would anyone WANT something in there? Of course, my teacher had explained what anal sex was, but had not explained homosexuality so I was incredibly confused as to why a woman would want a penis in there, when there would obviously be no reward of a baby for performing the act. For months I pondered this question in my own brain, mulling over the possibilities. Certainly, there had to be a reason for having bum sex.

A couple of years later, at 13, my brain was exploded once more when I happened upon one of my dad’s science magazines. I was flipping through it when I found an article on the sexual habits of bonobos. The article, called ‘What’s Love Got to Do With It’ from a 1992 Discover magazine article, completely and totally drew back the curtain for me, on any and all kinds of sex. Once I got over my initial mortification, of course. The article studied the varying sexual relationships of a group of the primates: female on female, male on male, male on female. The overriding theme of the article was that sex amongst this group was for fun or other purposes, but not strictly for making babies.

Holy shit, sex for FUN? If these creepy monkeys were doing it for fun, I reasoned that humans also did it for fun, including the bum sex kind. And before reading the article, I didn’t even realise that men could even have sex with other men, and women with women. Perhaps it was naïveté on my end or the fact that I had been taught sex ed mainly by a catholic school, but this was a total revelation. Sex for fun changed EVERYTHING. Now it all made sense. Madonna wasn’t necessarily a bad person. Anal sex wasn’t weird or evil or immoral. Bonobos do it. It’s just nature.

I’m sure that eventually, I would have clued in about all of this, but I do have to thank the wonderful world of science for clearing this all up for me and putting sex in a scientific rather than religious context. How or why you have sex doesn’t matter. Who you have sex with doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter if you talk about it in public or not. In the end, we are all just fucking animals.

http://discovermagazine.com/1992/jun/13-whatslovegottodo56

Conversations with Dad: The Golf Cart

Tech tipsComputer Tricks

Earlier this summer I wrote a flood story about my childhood cabin at Hidden Valley resort, which has been pretty much destroyed by the Bow river. I enjoyed reminiscing about it so much that I decided to spend some time writing summer cabin stories.

Last week I remembered a story about when my dad was the victim of an attempted murder…by a golf cart. Pretty much everyone who owned a cabin at the resort also owned a golf cart. Back in those days, we had the shittiest golf cart known to man, which came with the cabin when my parents bought it. It was actually a Harley Davidson cart; apparently they made them at some point in their manufacturing history.

Anyway, they were three-wheeled carts with those weird triangle steering wheels. Ours came with the cabin when my parents bought it, and the thing never ran well. Luckily, my dad is pretty handy and would fix the thing himself.


One day, he had the cart propped up and was working on the thing when it suddenly lost its mind and lurched itself off the blocks and attacked my dad. It pinned him up against a tree and viciously rammed him into it repeatedly, while laughing maniacally. OK, fine, it wasn’t actually laughing, but I like to imagine that it was. Somehow, despite being mashed between a runaway golf cart and a tree, my dad managed to reach over into the cart and turn off the ignition. Which he maintains was not even turned on in the first place. Further proof that the cart was possessed by an evil demon.

I had this conversation with him about the incident recently:

Me: Hey dad, remember that time the old golf cart tried to kill you?

Dad: Oh yeah. I was sure I was a goner. You know, when I was pinned up against that tree, I could see seven little angels floating in front of me.

Me: Jesus dad! It’s amazing you didn’t die!

Dad: Yeah, it broke a bunch of ribs and I’m pretty sure I had some internal bleeding too.

Me: Well what did the doctor say in the ER?

Dad: Oh, I didn’t go to see a doctor.

Me: WHAT?!?

Dad: Yeah, my ribs never felt quite right after that and it hurts to breathe a lot.

Keep in mind that this occurred about 25 years ago, so the lesson here is to go see a doctor when a golf cart attempts to kill you. In any case, the old Harley was destined for the junk heap. Which is too bad really, because those old machines go crazy fast when you stick a tee in the governor. Try it on a cart sometime when you’re golfing. But be careful, golf carts can be hazardous to your health!

Happy Mother’s Day!

Tech tipsComputer Tricks

I thought I would commemorate Mother’s Day this year by posting an old card my sister and I gave my mom years ago. She’s all going on and on and I’m like, yeah what she said. I was more excited about not having to go to church that morning. Also, my sister wanted me to point out that her spelling and grammar have improved since then (although her penmanship still looks like that of an amputee chicken).

Happy Mother’s Day to all you moms out there. Yours is one of the most important jobs in the world, and usually an under appreciated one.


Remember Ziggy?

The Bullies

Tech tipsComputer Tricks

I haven’t written a whole lot this past week, because I’ve been too busy obsessing over this nation’s most recent bullying atrocity. Hopefully you are all now familiar with the Rehtaeh Parsons story, and if you aren’t, you should stop reading this and go get informed immediately.

This story is really smacking me in the face because I started this blog as a response to my own experiences with bullying, and I can relate to many of its aspects. And while the blog is meant to be a place where folks can come to escape from the stress of their daily lives and have a laugh, I feel very passionate about the topic and felt a serious post was in order. And let me be extremely clear: the bullying that I faced in the workplace seems almost gentle compared to what Rehtaeh seems to have endured.

When I think about the impact my experience had on my own emotional well-being, I can’t imagine having to also factor in the pain and horror of sexual and physical violence. Or the utter disbelief and confusion at discovering your friends and classmates find your suffering amusing and continue to taunt you. I know she didn’t make the right decision in ending her life, but sadly, I understand it. And it breaks my heart into a million pieces.

But what I can really relate to are the feelings of helplessness that arise when you are let down by those who are supposed to be looking out for you. When a place that is supposed to be safe is not. Places like schools and workplaces, where people spend a significant proportion of their daily lives. These places should be havens from abuse; safe institutions where people can go to learn and earn without fear.

So what do we do? We can rail against bullying, and shake our fists in anger when we hear about cases such as Rehtaeh’s. We can demand that the government enact anti-bullying legislation and that schools and workplaces enforce ‘zero-tolerance’ bullying policies.

And those measures surely have the potential to create awareness and provide a framework to handle certain cases. But what about where the bullying is not so obvious? Physical bullying, while destructive, is at least is easy to define. Physical violence can be categorised as an assault and can be punishable through the application of existing laws and guidelines. Provided of course that you can prove the allegations.

But psychological bullying is much more insidious, in my view. Not any more or less serious than physical bullying, just harder to define. And this is where my own experiences come in. I certainly wasn’t being physically bullied in my workplace. I can say with great confidence that had I been physically attacked, my story would be very different. Unfortunately for Rehtaeh, she not only experienced physical violence, but also psychological torture.

So how do we define and punish the psychological, non-physical acts of bullying? The lies, the manipulations and machinations, the subtle and not-so-subtle emails, texts, social media posts, and public humiliations that chip away at the even the strongest defences. At what point does ‘this person is an asshole to me’ become ‘this person is committing a crime against me’? Does one inappropriate text or email equal abuse? Or do 10 texts or emails? And how do we evaluate the context of the abuse when so often, the situations are subjective?

This, I think, is the dilemma of truly ending bullying. Laws and policies may certainly dissuade bullies in some instances, but there are too many aspects of bullying that slip between the cracks of those frameworks. The perfect solution, of course, is just simple human decency. However, if that existed, we wouldn’t have a bullying problem in the first place.

So, what is the solution? Awareness is great. Anti-bullying campaigns are springing up everywhere. You can’t go anywhere on social media these days without finding a variation of some kind of bullying hash tag or a ‘like this if you are against bullying’ page that pops up. But even with all this ‘awareness’, we keep hearing about these kids who are being beaten up or harassed mercilessly for their sexual orientation, appearance, or for whatever other arbitrary thing that triggers a bully’s radar.

In my situation, I feel like I did everything I was supposed to. Because what happened to me occurred in the workplace, I felt initially that I would be protected by the company’s harassment policy. I documented everything, kept emails, and tracked all my work activities. Yet, after repeated complaints, no action was taken, despite there being a clear violation of the company’s supposedly no-nonsense harassment policy. My mental and physical health continued to deteriorate until I could take no more. The only advice I received was to continue documenting any incidents and to consider taking a stress leave.

So, despite all the ‘awareness’ out there, bullying continues. In Rehtaeh’s case, police determined that there was insufficient evidence to lay criminal charges on either the rape case or regarding the circulation of a photo allegedly taken during the rape. I can’t imagine how devastating this news must have been for Rehtaeh. Being told nothing can be done about the wrong that’s been done to you is an incredible psychological blow.

A lot of people ask me why I decided to take legal action against my former employer rather that to just move on and get a new job. Suing a person or a company is not only expensive and incredibly time consuming, but it is also very stressful. However, in my mind, there was no other option. I had to fight.

I was lucky in my case; I have legal recourse. I was able to secure a contingency fee agreement with a well-respected firm that believes in my case. But it’s not easy. To fight this fight, the burden of proof is on me. My personal medical, financial, and work history is available to all and sundry. The company that I am fighting has nearly unlimited TAXPAYER resources to fund their defence and continue stalling the legal process. Yes people, you heard that right: your tax dollars are being used to defend this company, a Canadian crown corporation, who willingly kept on an employee who had a long track record of harassing subordinates. Sadly, it seems that a lot of schools, workplaces, and other organisations talk the talk, but aren’t willing to walk the walk.

So, this is what we are up against when it comes to fighting bullying. But at least I got the opportunity to stand up and say ‘Hey! You can’t treat people like this’! And I have the opportunity to fight against it and to provide advice and support to others in similar situations. Most importantly, I have the opportunity to find peace. Rehtaeh did not get that chance, and that is a great injustice.

Rest in peace, Rehtaeh. I am sorry this happened to you.

A Favour

Tech tipsComputer Tricks

So, I’m sorry to do this, but I am going to be an asshole for a second and ask everybody reading this for a favour. I started writing my blog at the same time I started writing a book. Yes, a book; you heard right. And, even though my book so far only has 80 pages, I still plan on publishing it eventually. And, the more people that read my blog, the better chance I have of the book being published. So, if you like my blog , I would be ever so grateful if you could do the following:

1) Subscribe. There is a little box on the left side of the page where you can submit your email address. Once you do that, an email will be sent to you to confirm your subscription. If you can’t find the email, it probably went in your junk folder. When you subscribe, you will receive only new posts sent directly to your inbox. You won’t receive junk mail and email addresses are kept confidential.

2) Share. There are a bunch of little buttons on the bottom of each page for sharing via Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest. If you like a post, please share it with your followers on your favorite social media network or via email. Also, share your thoughts or similar stories in the comments section of the post. I love getting feedback and hearing about when others do stupid shit.

Alright, now that’s all. I am even annoying the fuck out of myself with this post.

Thanks for reading!

Zopiclone

Tech tipsComputer Tricks

Now that I found out that I can see some of the search terms people have used to find this blog, I am finding it quite entertaining. Here’s a couple of the recent bizarro searches:

Mango stink
“pants to fall down”
stop judging me
liquified guts
disturbing rimjobs
dose of zopiclone get wasted

Interesting. Especially the last one, since it reminds me of a funny story, involving zopiclone, the best prescription drug ever invented. Actually, that’s not true because I also really enjoy sedatives and painkillers, but zopiclone is like nectar from the heavens when you haven’t properly slept in weeks.

About five years ago, I started experiencing intense stress at work (see About Me). Anyway, I was getting constant migraines, teeth-clenching anxiety, and vicious insomnia. I think I’d manage about four or five hours of broken sleep a night; an hour here and there between obsessive Blackberry checking and adding items to my mental to-do list. I found that I’d usually finally fall into a deep, coma-like sleep filled with weird and disturbing dreams around 5AM, which made it near impossible to peel my eyes open when my alarm went off a couple hours later.

This nightly pattern went on for months. I tried the odd sleep aid, but found that they took forever to take effect and left me feeling like a noodlehead the next day. One day while at the dentist getting one of my teeth glued back into my head (I mentioned the teeth-clenching anxiety…my teeth were literally falling out), I mentioned my sleep troubles.

I left my dentist’s office with a prescription for 20 pills of zopiclone. He told me the drug would help me get back into a normal sleep pattern and might help me stop clenching my teeth while doing so. The pharmacist was a little baffled as to why a dentist was prescribing sleeping pills, but when I explained the situation, he agreed that the prescription would help to re-establish a proper sleep cycle. Yeah, sure. He asked if I wanted him to go over the drug information. Whatever. Just shove that little info pamphlet into the bag and I’ll read it later.

Previously on nights when I’d taken an over-the-counter sleeping pill, I took it at least an hour before my bedtime, since I was used to them taking a while to kick in. I assumed the same would be true for this new pill. I wasn’t very optimistic that I’d get a proper night’s sleep ever again, but I popped the pill anyway and started getting ready for bed.

The next thing I remember was the incredibly painful feeling of an overly full bladder. What the fuck…? Where am I? Why do I have to pee so bad? It took me a few moments to figure out how to lift my head. Oh. I was in my bed. Weird. How do I not have any recollection of how I got here? Well, one thing at a time; my bladder needed emptying.

Stumbling into the bathroom, I realised I could see better than I normally could in the mornings, and that my eyeballs felt like they were tightly wrapped in plastic cling. Contacts were still in. In the bathroom, there were smears of toothpaste on the counter and my previous day’s pants were on the floor. WHAT HAPPENED LAST NIGHT?

As I was climbing back into bed, my husband’s alarm went off. Holy shit, it’s 7AM already? I’d thought it was still the middle of the night. Groggy, he woke up and noticed I was awake. ‘Hey, are you ok’? he asked. ‘I don’t know. I can’t remember anything’, I replied. ‘You don’t remember trying to do a workout on the yoga ball’? he asked.

Apparently, I’d taken my little blue pill and then tried to wash my face and brush my teeth, which had made quite a mess. After that, I guess I thought it would be a good idea to do a little work out. On a yoga ball I can’t even control while sober. He found me struggling, and failing, to maintain my balance on the ball, which I had set up on the landing at the top of the stairs. Luckily, he intervened before disaster struck and carried me off to bed.

Now, it has happened, albeit rarely, that I wake up with no memory of the events of the night before. It’s incredibly disconcerting to be told of the ridiculous and nonsensical things you did during that time, isn’t it? I probably should have taken that as a sign that I was dealing with some pretty powerful medication, and proceeded with caution.

But I didn’t. Honestly, I’m not an idiot. I’ve taken neuropsychology classes on how drugs work, their mechanisms of action, the neurotransmitters they work on. But I was just so grateful to have slept, and that the pain in my temples was just a bit less severe, that my teeth weren’t throbbing quite as much, that I felt just a tiny bit rested, I didn’t think to read how to properly use the medication. In my head, I was to take the medication for three weeks, at which point, insomnia: cured.


Had I not been seduced into complacency by sweet, sweet slumber, I might have actually stopped to think that this was too easy. A magical pill that fixes your sleep after 20 nights of blissful repose without addressing any of the underlying causes of the insomnia?

Or, I might have read the drug information pamphlet which indicates the medication should be taken directly before going to bed and lists, as a rather disturbing side effect, amnesia. I might have also paid attention to the pharmacy’s additional leaflet, which warned of possible dependence issues with increased consecutive-night usage. And, had I performed my normal Internet investigation of this new medication before taking it, I might have learned that studies have shown that discontinuation of the medication after only a seven-night period causes significant rebound insomnia, and that after several weeks’ use, withdrawal effects can include anxiety, sweating, psychomotor agitation, and tremors.

But I didn’t do all that, did I? Instead, I took my blue pills every night for 20 nights, and on the 21st night, was terrified to discover that I couldn’t stop moving my right leg. I am a fidgety person and do wiggle at night (which always guarantees I get my own bed on girls’ weekends), but this was a strange, uncontrollable vibrating throughout my whole body, the energy from which was causing the unstoppable movement. Then, the sweats started. I was freezing cold, but constantly damp. And dizzy too. If I tried to switch positions and moved my head, it felt like little electric currents were shooting through my brain. And forget sleep. Incomprehensible ideas and wild thoughts were zinging through my mind, making it impossible.

I didn’t figure it out until the next morning when, shivering and sweating I recalled a scene from a movie where someone is detoxing from heroin addiction and it dawned on me…HOLY SHIT I’M KIND OF ADDICTED TO SLEEPING PILLS! And sure enough, it was all there, in the medication’s packaging, in the pharmacy’s leaflet, and in a basic google search.

The weird sweating, shaking, and psychotic leg moving lasted two more nights. I didn’t sleep for three days. So much for my miracle insomnia cure.

Hammacher Schlemmer Valentine’s Gift Guide

Tech tipsComputer Tricks

I was having a stressful week when I opened the office mailbox and bam! The latest Hammacher Schlemmer catalogue. Just in time for V-day. So, I decided to share with you my gift ideas for this special day. Show your loved one how much you care by spending outrageous amounts of dough.

What’s more romantic than a sexy hot tub date? So how about The Hot Tub Boat? For a very reasonable $42,000, you can buy this floating tub made of African teak. Pop a bottle of bubbly and set sail on a lake cruise while stewing in your own dead skin cells and bodily fluids. Sensual.


For the sports enthusiast, show how much you care with The Museum Quality 1/8 Scale 1961 Yankee Stadium. This 49-foot scale replica of the stadium took 3,000 hours to construct and will set the heart of any baseball fan aflutter. Only $115,000.


For the adventurous couple, The Personal Submarine
is a unique gift idea. For $2M, this cozy two-person, climate-controlled submersible allows couples a private romantic undersea getaway.


If the sub is just a bit out of your price range, but you and your love still crave watery adventure, The Killer Whale Submarine is more reasonably priced at $100,000. This exciting watercraft is modelled after Orcinus orca and it breaches and porpoises in the water just like a real one. Bonus: you can scare the shit out of swimmers and mere pleasure boaters.


If you are more of a homebody couple, don’t worry, there’s something for you too. For table game enthusiasts, why not try The Regulation Size Stowable Shuffle Board Court? Set this giant court up in your backyard and entertain some of the neighbourhood seniors. Hours of enjoyable play, for only $1,700.


Whatever you decide to get your sweetheart for Valentine’s Day, just be sure to have fun and spend lots of money. Because nothing says I love you like spending wads of cold hard cash.

Near Misses

Tech tipsComputer Tricks

The other day, my sister said to me: ‘oh my god, you have to watch this video immediately’. And I was like, ‘phhhhht’ because I hate it when people make you watch crappy videos on their phone that they probably got from some irritating viral email (don’t get me wrong though, if I myself have come across an awesome video, I WILL make you watch it immediately on my phone. I am perfectly aware of my hypocrisy in this situation).

Anyway, I watched this video because I didn’t have a choice; I was trapped in a vehicle with her at the time. With her and another sister, actually. So we dutifully watched the video and…well, my voice was hoarse by the end from freaking out so much. If this doesn’t make your heart skip at least a couple beats on this Monday morning, then you might be a cyborg.

http://thechive.com/2013/02/02/a-compilation-of-close-calls-video#AuzArrYxXQwmkdQw.03

Arg! I can’t get this video to embed, so you’ll have to copy and paste the link.

A Shitty Day

Tech tipsComputer Tricks

So, it’s been a week since I’ve written anything and that’s bad. I am sorry. The past few days have been a bit crazy. If you’ve read my About Me section, you’ll know that I started this blog as a response to an insanely stressful situation I experienced in the workplace, that continues despite the fact that I left that job three years ago.

And the reason it continues is because I am suing the bastards for constructive dismissal! I’d hesitated to write that up until now, but it is public record so I don’t really give a shit who knows now. Anyway, if you’ve ever sued someone, you’ll know it can be a long, arduous process. Months will go by without any progress, and then suddenly, like this week, I have to revisit the whole situation again which throws me right back where I was three years ago. I can’t eat, I can’t sleep, my body aches and my head throbs and all I can think is why? Why did this situation even occur? It’s so absurd! I have to be a bit cryptic here, not because I am trying to be all dark and mysterious, but because I don’t want to say anything I shouldn’t until this thing is over.

Anyway, that’s why this blog is meant to be a haven, a sanctuary. A place to come when you’ve had a shitty day, or week, or year, so you can laugh at my expense and forget your troubles for a few moments.

Earlier this week, I was chatting with one of my sisters, who hands-down wins the prize for having had the worst year ever in 2012. Like seriously. She did a year in review of all the terrible things that happened to her and when she was done, we were both in tears. Tears of laughter, though. Because as she herself put it, you have to laugh or you’ll just cry. So, I thought I would share with you one of the funniest incidents of the year, from the terrible string of them she experienced in 2012, courtesy of my sister.

It happened back in the summer, during the London Olympics. I remember the day quite vividly, in fact. It was a hot day and the office was sticky and humid. Some ominous-looking clouds were gathering north of the city. My sister texted me this picture:


Oh shit, my sister was in a car accident! I called her immediately and she told me the story of how her vehicle ended up smashed up onto the sidewalk and mashed against the utility pole right out front of her house. She had been inside with my niece, watching Olympic coverage, when she heard a loud, crunchy smash. She ran outside to find her SUV like that.

In order to adequately explain how it happened, I have prepared the following diagram:


First of all, the creepy neighbour actually has no bearing on the story whatsoever. But as you all know, I enjoy observing the unusual behaviour of neighbours. Apparently, the guy that lives there is really nice, but literally, his whole house is covered in animal bones. COVERED. There are seriously hundreds of skulls and random bones all over the yard, his deck, the fence! I don’t care if he’s a hunter or what, that shit is weird. If I were my sister, I’d be keeping a mighty close eye on that one.

Anyway, the other thing to keep in mind is that my artistic rendering doesn’t take into account any scale nor the laws of physics. It is to give you a basic understanding of how the accident occurred. So my sister runs out, and her SUV is not where she parked it, and there’s nobody around. She calls out ‘hello? Hello’? Nothing. Then, she can hear some moaning and groaning and she follows the sound over to a man lying in the road. In my imagination, he’s lying there moaning ‘mah leg! Mah leg’! But I don’t know what he was really saying, if anything. There’s a banged up truck nearby.

Eventually, my sister pieced together what happened. The dude lying in the road had been driving the truck. He’d parked it partway up the really steep driveway (see diagram). Apparently though, he hadn’t done a very good parking job, because his truck started rolling back down the hill. When he realised what was happening, he started chasing after the truck, I’m not really sure what for. I think he started running without a real plan-maybe he thought he’d be able to jump in the cab and hit the brakes-but he somehow just ended up running over his own leg. HE RAN OVER HIMSELF, PEOPLE! You can tell that in the diagram, because I drew his leg in red.

Luckily, the guy didn’t seriously hurt himself. Just a bit bruised and suffering from some road rash. And probably embarrassment. But my sister’s car was still cozied up to the utility pole. The electric company was going to need to be dispatched to make sure the power line wouldn’t fall down if she moved the vehicle. After calling them, filing a police report, and calling the insurance company to make a vehicle claim, the storm that had been brewing all afternoon raged into town.

Torrential rain pounded down and turned the really steep alley (see diagram) into a river of muddy rain water. Hail had piled up along with shredded tree parts to clog up the sewer drain. With the combo of the rushing alley river and blocked drains, the water had nowhere to go but directly into my sister’s garage, flooding it. Meanwhile, hailstones pummelled the roof and sides of the house, the already-mangled SUV, and banged huge dents into the camper that had been parked by the house. She ran frantically through the storm, getting smacked in the face by hail, trying to unclog the sewers, close up the camper which had been opened up to air out for a camping trip and was now full of rain, and sluice the muddy water out of the garage.

And as she’s telling me this story on the phone, I am laughing so hard I can barely breathe. By the end of the day, she’s had to call the insurance company back to file what must have been a record number of different claims; on the house, the camper, and for the second time that day, one on the SUV. That, my friends, is a shitty day. A day so shitty that it’s fucking hilarious. You’re welcome.