Tuesday, December 30, 2014

How to Talk to Your Loved Ones About Your Upcoming Suicide

I am in the business of preventing suicide. I'm a special kind of therapist who intervenes in a "crisis" which is a nice way of saying I talk people out of jumping off a bridge. Ideally. So the fact that I'm also secretly a suicide advocate I keep firmly on lock down.

You've no doubt heard the maxim "suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem" - it's true in a lot of cases. Lots of people who commit or attempt suicide are also depressed, which is a nasty disease that colours our perception of things and distorts our thinking. Still, lots of people struggle with the decision to live or die for weeks, months, and years, because most don't really want to die, they simply want to escape - from an untenable situation, or from recurring thoughts, or both - and can't think of another way out.

I believe in the right to die. I'm not depressed but I do have a chronic condition that makes me not want to live. It's called pain.

If the pain in my body suddenly transferred to yours, you would probably die of the shock. But if you have suffered from chronic pain for years and years, you've built up a tolerance, which doesn't mean you don't feel it, it only means you don't die from it. Your body can keep going but your mind may not want to. There are days when mine does not.

Pain is the first thing I experience when I wake up, the last thing I feel before I fall asleep, if I can fall asleep, and the thing that prevents me from achieving real rest when I am asleep, and real joy when I'm awake. The pain is always first.

I'm in pain first, and at work second. I'm in pain first, and in love second. I'm in pain first, and sometimes I'm in pain second and third too. If I was being chased by a bear, I'd be in pain first, and terrified second. I haven't experienced a moment of pure anything in years. Not pure joy, not pure sorrow. I was in pain on my wedding day. I was in pain at my best friend's funeral. I was in pain the day my nephew was born. I can recall random days by describing the geography of my pain, the quality of my pain, the severity of my pain.

I've just survived the holidays, and holidays are hard. I dread them. There's too much travelling, which exacerbates pain, too little sleep, which exacerbates pain, too much company, which means that I have to cover up my pain and do a lot more pretending, which is draining and yes, painful. There's so much pain around the holidays that I can't even manage to place friends or family or food or fun in second or third or fourth. Pain starts to take over my experiences completely. Holidays are misery.

There is wonderful medication available that eradicates pain, and if you've just been injured or had surgery, this option is a blessing. It allows you to get your body through a difficult time without feeling the true consequences. For me, however, it's not a realistic option. I am not having a difficult time, I am having a difficult life. I have a chronic, incurable disease, which means I will never get better. It also means that if I were to take enough medication to blunt my pain every day, I would never get out of bed. I wouldn't legally be allowed to drive, I couldn't work. I'd be too stoned to really enjoy life, and eventually I'd develop impossible to control tolerance levels, and an addiction, and years of drugs would lead to organ failure and probably new pain. I stay away from medication as much as possible because I'd rather feel pain than stop living my life, which,  believe me, is a daily testament to how much I love life. Every day I choose agony just in case there might also be a little ecstasy. I still believe. But to get me through, I also need to know that when I'm done, when I can't take anymore, I can let go.

I don't know exactly when that will be. How much pain can my body really take, and more importantly, how much can my mind withstand? I already have days when I'd rather have not woken up. I think it about how sweet it would be to just keep sleeping, to not wake up to The Pain. I try to analyze my days: was today 40% pain 60% life? Or 60-40 the other way? I need to know that when the scales tip in a way that I find insupportable, that I can choose to end it. Because otherwise, the 80% days start to feel like 100%. Heck, the 40% days do, because I feel trapped and ignored. I need to know there's a way out.

But discussing this with  my husband Sean has not been easy. It's never been easy for him to live with someone in constant pain. He is not in constant pain, and he can never really understand what it's like. I'm constantly forcing myself to higher and higher levels of pain just so that I don't slow him down too much, and he's constantly slowing himself down so that I don't burn out. So we're both making compromises and we're both getting burned. But he likes me a lot and he doesn't want to lose me, can't really think about me leaving him on purpose. And I get how he'd see that as a betrayal. When we first started talking about my suicide, he felt it as a reproach and thought he wasn't making my life "good" enough. That simply wasn't true. He's made my life so much better than I ever would have thought. He's the reason I still get out of bed in the morning. It's just that, no matter what great thing is in front of me, I can't appreciate it the way he can. I'm always babysitting the pain. Sean knows my life better than anyone. He sees my dark days, he sees the tears, the many doctors, the many surgeries, the many scars. He sees how hard I work just to be a normal person, and he knows that while I'm doing my best to look like a normal person, I'm screaming with pain inside. Every single moment of every single day. He knows my smile is never really genuine. It's 10% fake and masking pain or it's 90% fake and masking pain. He knows. Lots of people in my life know but forget. I do too good a job at pretending and they don't realize how hard I'm working just to stand upright, just to keep my breaths even, just to not pass out. I'm good at hiding, I've been pretending for a decade, but Sean knows. And he's told me lately that he has been lucky to spend any time with me at all, that he'll be grateful for whatever I can give him, and that he'll understand when I cannot. I can only hope that stays true the closer we get to the end.

Meanwhile, we soldier on with our suffering. The end is not today, and I hope not tomorrow. I'm still making short-term plans and still believe that I will be able to honour the commitments I make. I'm still trying. I'm still living.

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

As a child packing for our horrid family camping trips, my mother would always tell us to "pack more underwear than you'll need."
This seemed like reasonable advice and so I've always heeded it.
Packing for an upcoming trip to Texas, I realized that in fact, I've never once needed an emergency pair of underwear whilst on vacation, and good lord, I hope it stays that way.

Friday, December 05, 2014

Confessions of a Shoe Pervert

I sort of hate the whole "women love shoes" trend that's been foisted upon us. I'm going to blame Sex and the City. It made women feel like they should love shoes, and it made men think that any woman who owned more than 3 pairs was a Carrie.

And the thing is, I have heard many a woman declare "I love shoes" while wearing evidence to the contrary on her feet. In fact, the shoes she was wearing might be evidence of having given up, or of something she found on sale at Giant Tiger after Octo-Mom picked through the bin, of something worn for comfort and bunion-support rather than fashion. But of "love of shoes"? No.

So I kind of hate that I myself feel a definite pull toward shoes. I really wish I didn't, but I always have. Even as a little girl, I'd refuse to play Barbies with my sisters unless my Barbie had shoes. Now, only someone who was once herself a little girl would understand this: every Barbie comes with shoes. Pretty high-heeled shoes, necessarily, because her feet are molded in an upward arch that will only accomodate very high heels. But those shoes are teeny tiny and they get lost about ten seconds after you open the box. So even in our house of 4 girls and probably 200 Barbies (no joke), you'd have to search forever and be lucky to come up with a single pair. So before any Barbie playing could commence, my sisters would oblige my demand and spend probably 30 minutes to find me one pair. One stinkin pair. And every other Barbie went through life barefoot.

Fast forward to high school, which for me, was in the 90s. Ugh. So many regrets. Platform Candies. Cowhide. Those stupid shoes that were like cowboy boots but without the leg. Patent leather MC Hammer shoes. 90210 hightops. Oh yeah. And, embarrassingly, shoes that my friend Kelly once declared were "so ugly they're kinda cool" as if that was the point, although up to that moment I'd seen only the cool and none of the ugly. But with that one comment I could suddenly see them for their brown orthopedic gender-neutral ugliness.

Now I have money and taste (I think. I hope.). And closets full of shoes. Three closets, and still my shoes bleed all over my house. Both my car and Sean's have pairs of my shoes in the trunk, and in the backseat (it's hard to drive in heels!). I have shoes in the garage. Shoes in my gym bag. Shoes at work. I have shoes in various animal prints. Shoes that have equal parts neon and bad-assness. Shoes that are glitter AND gold. Shoes so high that my nose bleeds. Okay, no it doesn't. But I do have tonnes of very tall shoes. I have a very tall husband, and still he has to stoop to kiss me. And I hate myself for the excess, even as I get a little thrill in my down-south parts just to try on a new pair.

And my poor feet. I've been very hard on my feet, which were shoe-resistant from the start. I have horrendously flat feet. I'll never have to go to war, but I also can't do anything without having extreme pain in my poor little tootsies. Like, crazy pain. It's absurd even to me that a lack of arches could cause such profound pain, but it's true. Add to that a terrible fall down a flight of stairs wherein I managed to sprain my foot in 3 different place, and then take off for Vegas just a few days later, leaving my crutches behind at the Bellagio because the casino floors just don't have a lot of room for disabilities (although they got me through airports like nobody's business). So needless to say the foot didn't heal. In fact, after a night of quite literally dragging it behind me as we made our frenzied way up and down the strip, I had to buy a pair of soft near-slippers, because my foot had swollen so much that my ballet flats had cut a ring all the way around my foot, I had this perfect bloody halo that was starting to look infected, and the congealed blood was starting to stick in the wrong places, and give me blisters. But I went back to the hotel that night to ice my foot in order to cram it into sky-high sparkly shoes because we renewed our vows at the Graceland Chapel and a girl cannot get married in flats. It's a sin. So that foot is now misshapen. Small price to pay, right?

And then I had a bike accident that resprained that foot and the truth is, it's now more of a club than a foot. It gets me around, but barely. My foot is somehow hump-backed. So most of the shoes in my closet, all those purchased pre-foot-deformity, don't really fit. So I have to force the bones of my foot to reconfigure in order to jam the shoes on. And then I sweat and swear and send up mental SOS flares all night long, deeply regretting my choices, but never ever making the right one because the outfit looks so much better, not to mention my legs, when I wear the crazy heels.

Yup. I really, really hate this about myself.

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

How many assholes does it take to review a movie?

Started a movie review blog with some friends:


Please visit and join us in our sometimes thoughtful, sometimes thoughtless discussion.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Something's in the water.

I sometimes have a love affair with water.
I mean, I always like it, and I definitely always need it.
But sometimes it's just so damn good.
Like, sometimes I can literally feel it nourishing my body as I drink. I can physically feel it plumping up the cells on my cheeks.
Is that just me?
And I've really learned the very pleasurable sensation of ice water post-hot tub. The cooling sensation spreads out in your flushed body and brings you back to life. It's so good.

Can you tell that I gave up Diet Pepsi a while ago?
It wasn't that hard to stop and I don't really crave it, so much as miss it, if that makes sense.
Like, I miss having an option besides water. Because I don't like the taste of regular Pepsi, and wouldn't want to drink that much sugar\calories anyway. And I don't care for juice. So it's water and then of course alcohol, and that's about it. It's given me an even deeper appreciation for water, but also sometimes a dispassion for it. Water just doesn't feel like a treat, whereas a Diet Pepsi I could bring with me to work and wait until the exact moment I needed it most and pop it open and immediately be flooded with relief. It was a pick-me-up, my only source of caffeine since I don't drink coffee or tea.

I'd been meaning to give up Diet Pepsi for a while, because of the whole brain cancer thing. But every time I gave it up for a while, I'd drift back because Diet Pepsi is so pleasingly sweet, and brain cancer is not an imminent threat, I don't think. Easier to ignore, at any rate, than a certain emptiness around 8pm where a frosty can of DP would do me an enormous amount of good.

Then my naturopath asked me to give it up. Asked me to trade it for regular Pepsi, even. Take the sugar, she said, give up the aspartame. And I knew she was right. In my readings about my disease, aspartame was listed as a potential cause of destroying the healthy bacteria in my stomach. So it was time to go. I thought I'd seriously have to detox from it. I thought I'd get the sweats, or visions. And really, I just stopped. So I wasn't as addicted as I feared I might be. I just really liked the stuff. Brain cancer tastes good to me.

So now I'm  on water. Lovely water. Sometimes I try to dress it up. Fancy ice cubes, glittery highball glasses. Bendy straws. Carafes intended for imported wine. And most of the time, water really does get the job done. It's the perfect beverage in many ways.

Until it starts giving me brain cancer too.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

I live my life avoiding bedtime. Like, not only do I avoid it, but as it gets darker and Sean's eyelids get droopier, I start with distraction techniques. Like a marathon of the latest must-see, cliffhanger-heavy non-network TV series. All 6 seasons! And sex! And chicken nuggets! And hot tub! More sex!

But not reading. Reading is bad. Reading makes other people fall asleep even quicker. Reading is a sleep aid to a frustrating number of people. Me? I can never have less than 3 books on my nightstand. I never travel with less than 7. When I'm not sleeping, it's not uncommon for me to read a book a night. A whole night of tossing, turning, snapping on the light, picking up the book, reading, feeling a sliver of hope, turning out the light, pretending it's working, hoping it's going to work any minute, and then tearfully admitting defeat, turning on the light to read and repeat. But Sean? Four pages and he's out. OUT.

And it leaves me alone. And there is no lonelier thing than another night of not sleeping. Nights are long, and I dread them. I truly dread them. They make me sad, and every minute that ticks past 8pm makes me sadder, because I know what's coming: abandonment, frustration, anger, sickness.

It's hard not to feel resentment toward the person sleeping peacefully beside you. I know it's wrong. It's not their fault. They're doing what bodies do, and what life and health require. But it sucks, when you are in the depths of sleep failure, to have a perfect, shining example lying beside you, teasing you, accusing you. It's awful.

It's also incomprehensible. Like, why is my body refusing to do the thing it needs to do? And why me? I pay my taxes. I take warm baths, keep a bedtime routine, don't drink caffeine, exercise, keep my bedroom a "sleep shrine", practise yoga and mediation and deep breathing and drink bad sleepy time tea. I do all the right things. All of them. Sometimes for 72 hours straight. It's not fair, and that hurts.

It's almost funny how quickly frustration at sleep in general (or unsleep in general) turns into anger toward myself. Like, real hatred. I beat myself up for not sleeping. I get down on myself. The negative self-talk starts and then escalates, because it's the middle of the night and your thoughts are the only thing keeping you company so of course they go bananas. And it's all your fault for not controlling them! I start punishing myself. I'm not allowed to have a snack, or even water, because I don't deserve it. I can't watch a movie or check Facebook. I keep myself in strict isolation because if the alternative is bad enough, maybe I'll learn to just sleep already. Except I never do.

And I never will. I know that now. I've been a bad sleeper since day one. I couldn't sleep at night as a baby either. My grandfather summersaulted me over his head because flipping the baby would flip my schedule. Except all I did was barf on my grandfather and went back to not sleeping.

School was the worst. It starts so goddamned early and I would be lucky to fall asleep minutes before I needed to get up. Alarms are an extra layer of pressure for an insomniac. They keep exact count of your failures and count down to your misery. The pressure is this awful weight and every minute is full of rage. Setting an alarm will always trigger my insomnia. Always. But 3 days a week, I have to be at work for 7am which means I have to be up in the vicinity of 5am, which means I won't be getting any sleep that night. AT ALL. So for those three days a week, guaranteed I'm a zombie, and every day I get closer to collapse, but I collapse into a nauseated, achy, head-hurting puddle of CONSCIOUSNESS. I never collapse into sleep. Because it doesnt' work like that. Insomnia doesn't cure itself, it only feeds on itself. Eventually I'll need to give myself a blank space of time where it doesn't matter when I sleep or for how long. But that means carving up pieces of my life, or my work. Because I don't get to be productive or sociable when I'm up by myself in the dark hours of the night. I spend my days barely lucid, and in a great deal of physical pain because the wear and tear accumulates and the muscles never get their needed rest and replenishment.

People can't really understand the toll it takes on your body. Doctors always gasp over your blood pressure. I push through crazy stuff. I keep going. Sometimes I hit a wall, randomly, and have to call to be driven home because I just can't anymore. Which doesn't mean I'll sleep. It just means I'm useless. And that's how I feel half the time. Just completely useless. And I can't do anything about it, nobody can. All I can do is lie there and think good thoughts. Maybe it'll be tonight.

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

A million years ago I read somewhere that a perfect breast should fit into a champagne glass.

Oof, I thought. No way. I mean, not even on my best day, not even if I'm sucking in.
I made my peace with it a long while ago. Some cups runneth over.
But then I came across a champagne coupe and thought - ah.

I'm still not cramming myself into that thing, it might just sit upon me like a little yarmulke for my tits, but I can at least get over the Madonna-like proportions of the last one, and I can stop smirking every time I pour myself some bubbles.
I've always enjoyed the elegance and sense of occasion inherent in the flutes, but the coupe just seems to wink at me and lately I'm winking back.

Thursday, October 02, 2014

Sean is full of shit.
All good husbands are, so I don't really hold this against him.
My suspicions are raised every time he insists I have a good voice.
This is patently untrue. And a "good voice" isn't really all that subjective. It's not just that I could never make a career out of it, it's that I probably shouldn't open my mouth, ever. Oh, I'm sure it's not the worst voice in the world, but it's definitely bottom third. And I know it. I can't stand to hear my own voice (and my laugh is so much worse), so if you ask me to sing, I will flat-out refuse.  However, if that same song were to come on the radio mere moments later, you'll probably catch me singing along. And I do apologize. I wish my voice were better. Or that I could resist a good sing along. But it's not and I can't, and them's the breaks. There are worse afflictions to be saddled with and I can't say I mourn this one all too often.
Just don't tell me it's nice. Why do guys do that? Sean is not the first man to insist, not just that my voice is fine, because maybe fine I could understand, in the rose-coloured glasses sort of way, where you overlook certain flaws in your loved ones because you must in order to remain sane.
But nice? No, sir, it is not.

Similarly, I was recently contemplating selling my guitar. Yes, this is tragic. I mean, not starving children tragic, or even selling a guitar you love and use tragic. I bought my guitar with good intentions, and I even took lessons, but I'm not good at persevering at something I'm not immediately good at. And I'm immediately good at most things, which only reinforces my pathetic inclination to quit things that are hard. What am I, eight? Anyway, it just kind of sits there, taunting me, reminding me of that thing I can't seem to learn. I mean, I got the chords straight. I practiced enough to get some baby calluses. I worked on strumming patterns. I even put strung some notes together enough to make out bits of songs. But I sucked and got frustrated and quit. Which Sean rosily remembers as me "having a good sound."
I mean, can you believe this guy?
He has to compliment me and encourage me on EVERYTHING and it's exhausting. Especially the stuff I feel are blatant lies. I know he's into me, but after enough years of marriage to have stopped counting, I think we get the point, Sean. But can we agree that I have enough actually great qualities that we don't need to make any up? I actually told him the other day that when he gives me false compliments, parts of my brain melt.

But it's the butt compliments that really convince me that Sean has Stockholm Syndrome. I mean, yes, if my radio is to be believed, butts are really big right now. Literally and figuratively, I guess. But no matter how many lyrics are devoted to this body part, I'm afraid I'm not getting any more bootylicious. And that's fine. I think I make up for it in other departments. But if that's what you're into, then move along. There's no junk in this trunk.
But Sean is forever engineering ways in which to walk behind me, and appreciate the view. He tells me I have a nice ass just like he tells me I look beautiful when in fact I've made no effort, or that I smell good when I'm not even particularly clean.
I think I would appreciate the compliment more if it was based in fact. Tell me I have great taste in music, that my legs are startlingly soft, that I have the most disturbing sense of humour, that I'm the best you've ever had. That, I'll believe.
But this ass? This ass is whack.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

So there was this repugnant Katy Perry song on the radio yesterday (I realize that may not narrow it down very much) during which she dedicated it to everyone going to bed with a 10 and waking up with a 2 - caveat! - not her, though.

Because the truth that is not contained within her dazzling lyrics is that she goes straight to bed with the 2s. I mean, John Mayer? Russel Brand? Girl wouldn't know a 10 if he fell in her lap and sucked her cock.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Pants on Fire

Sean and I were in the car for no more than 6 or 7 minutes - long enough for me to have fiddled with my hair and my sunglasss, checked my phone, found the right song. And then the itch. I fought it. Fought it. Resisted. Nonononono. But who am I kidding? It's a miracle I've lasted this long, and most of my "triumph" is due to poor memory. So I blurt out to Sean - has he noticed any weird clanking noises coming from my car? Is it driving weird? Because I accidentally backed over a pilon a couple of days ago and dragged it a bit of a distance.

I hadn't really meant or wanted to confess this. In fact, at the time of the little incident, I told myself quite firmly that this would stay between me and Ruby (my car). But secrets have always chafed. As soon as it was out in the open, Sean assured me that my car was fine and that it would take so much more than a little nob of orange plastic to upset Ruby, and that I needn't have confessed. But he knows better. He knows that it wasn't about the car. I'm just pathologically incapable of holding things back, which is weird considering I have no problem whatsoever abiding my vows of confidentiality at work. But in my own life? I'm not a secret keeper. I tell Sean EVERYTHING. Everything. Poor kid. He knows my worst thoughts and doubts, he knows the things I dislike most about myself, he's well-acquainted with my demons. And I wish it was just that, but I can't keep anything from this kid. I might take weeks to find the perfect gift, wrap it lovingly, hide it expertly, but about 10 seconds later, even if it's still days or weeks or months before the occasion, I'll send him to retrieve and open the present just to ease the tension. Because for those 10 seconds, the secret was KILLING ME. And it's not even a bad secret! Even things that aren't lies or secrets get spilled. I don't omit, either. It might be harmless and witness-less, but if it happened, then I'm owning it. All the clumsy, stupid shit that I wish no one knew or even guessed - but then, if I truly wished that, then couldn't I find a way to keep it to myself? Or is Sean such an extension of my own self that I don't even distinguish the boundary between he and I?

I know not everyone has this problem of oversharing, but what I really want to know is, am I the only one? And the great thing about asking is knowing that if you're like me at all, you'll have to speak up. To hide it would be impossible.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Medical Tourism

We "wasted" our summer vacation on a painful surgical procedure in Cleveland, but we're not bitter :)

Destination: Cleveland, Ohio.  The kind of city that makes border agents raise their little eyebrows and ask "Why?" and then red flag you anyway for your return trip. Because they know what we now know: there is no good reason for going to Cleveland. It's a gritty city, mostly forgotten by time and progress, abandoned in places that should be built up, untended by its elderly population who still fly tattered flags and display sun-bleached, cat-scratched lawn gnomes, but where youth have fled, no grasses are mown, no cracks repaired, no cars purchased this century. It's the kind of place where, if you deign to use a public restroom, you make sure your travel companion stays firmly within "screaming distance" and then you don't sit, you hover, and hope you're up to date on your shots. It's the kind of place where hotel staff don't feel pressured to conform to normal hygiene standards, or use the proper contraction for "is not."

Ohio is a drunk-uncle state. Not particularly wanted or respected or remotely useful, but for reasons no one can now remember, part of the family, and kind of hard to eject. Everyone else is rightfully embarrassed that Ohio keeps showing up to Christmas dinner, as it were, and asking for handouts while they're there. You see, Ohio has no shame. Its major exports are begging and pleading, with imports of all the pity it can muster. "Please let us build the Pro Football Hall of Fame," it will whine, "no one visits us unless they're forced to!" And so America the great occasionally throws Ohio a bone - the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, a booming Olive Garden franchise, and a couple of world-class medical facilities just to round out the experience. They've crunched the numbers, and it turns out people who are suicidal with back pain are more likely than healthy people to be willing to come to Cleveland, and now they've built an industry to support it. There are private clinics springing up between boarded up pawn shops, and dirty "extended stay" motels and neighbourhood Applebees to go along with them, because patients usually bring a caretaker, and so a beautiful thing called "medical tourism" is born, and Ohio is all over it like a tramp on chips.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

There's Nothing Wrong With Ohio.

When travelling, it is of utmost importance to obey the laws of the land upon which you enter. In Qatar you can't expose your knees or shoulders. In Thailand you must wear undies at all times. In Blythe, California, you are forbidden from wearing cowboy boots unless you actually own at least  2 cows. Use of or even just possession of confetti is illegal in Mobile, Alabama, and in Los Angeles, silly string can earn you a fine of $1000 and\or up to SIX MONTHS IN JAIL. You can be fined in Australia for swearing. You can do hard time in Arizona for shooting a cactus. I don't know why you'd shoot a cactus, or even wish it harm, and I certainly don't want to find out what happens when you tell your hulking cellmate that you got 25 years for cacti-related offenses. At the very least, your prison nickname is going to be pretty lame.

So in a way, Ohio is doing the courteous thing by providing helpful poems to help tourists obey the laws of their land. "Drive sober or get pulled over" being a popular one quoted over and over along highway billboards. Getting pulled over actually seems like the best-case-scenario when driving non-sober, so it's a funny consequence to emphasize, but it gives you an idea that they don't really approve. And in fairness, it's hard to find something that rhymes with "a steering column through your solar plexus!" (drive sober in your lexus? praise god you're not in texas?)

Another favourite was the ubiquitous "Click it or ticket" buckle-up campaign, although it's hard for me to imagine that we still live in a world where stating this is necessary. You may as well have declared "murder is frowned upon here" because honestly, in 2014, who the hell is driving without a seatbelt? Anyone? Actually, I think I personally would get more use out of the murder-is-bad reminder because I don't think there's any event in the world that would cause me to drive unbuckled. You get in the car, and without even thinking about it, you're just buckled, it's that automatic, happens in less than 3 seconds. Even if there was a dire emergency, it would take longer to think "Will I save time by  not buckling up?" than to just do it already and get on with it.  Even if you had a large piece of scrap metal protruding from your chest, making the seat belt strap less than comfortable, you gotta think: a) why didn't I call an ambulance? b) I'm already in pretty serious condition, so let's make double sure we don't add a steering column to the problem! c) I'm already bleeding out, so I suppose a little seat belt chaffing isn't the end of the world d) it would be really silly to get pulled over for this while doing 178km\hr to the hospital. So I think it's safe to say that we're all buckling up, and if there truly is some moron out there who isn't, I'm guessing a snappy poem isn't going to enlighten him (and neither will a ticket). But murder? Well, I consider myself basically a lamb and only sometimes a lion, and rarely ever a homicidal bitch. But I suppose I can imagine a scenario in which case I am feeling like someone needs to die. I've been angry. I've been chip-deprived on day 3 of a heavy flow. I've made pie crusts by hand. So yes, the feeling is not unknown to me. I don't think I'll ever act on it, but every now and then, a gentle reminder wouldn't hurt.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Love and Dirty Bandages.

I was in the shower, but not under the spray, howling like a crazed, feral animal caught in a trap. Big, gasping moans, guttural screams, panicked sobs. I was fresh from an agonizing and mutilating surgery and was paralyzed in pain. My husband, Sean, stood holding my towel, unable to help. My body, overwhelmed with hurt, was shutting down.

We should have been in Paris. We planned to arrive in time to imbibe champagne for my birthday, and then to walk along the Seine in summer,  eating buttery food  by day and watching the city twinkle around us at night.

Instead we went to Ohio, "medical tourism" we're calling it, to see a specialist who carved me up, and left me looking like a Walking Dead victim. In bleak moments I wonder where those hunks of flesh have gone. Burned up, I suppose. Meanwhile, I am a half-eaten burn victim, screaming with every step, trying hard not to let anything touch any of my exposed parts, trying to stop the angry blood vessels from spilling, trying to soothe the regenerating nerves, trying not to catch glimpses of myself in the mirror. Instead of the Eiffel tower, I have my own bloodied sheets and not much else.

Except. Except I have discovered this new side to my husband. Sean has always been a very sweet and patient man, but the truth is, when it comes to love, we don't speak the same language. Sean is a man of few words and no emotion. Strike that. Seemingly no emotion, we'll say, because I know if he were here, he'd protest that he does feel. I just don't see it.  It seems that he is not moved by anything, not particularly passionate. He never cries, but he's also never overcome by joy. I am his opposite in every way. So though I never doubt that he loves me, we sometimes struggle to really express it to each other in ways that the other will recognize. Sean loves me by filling my car with gas and giving me the good parking spot and emptying the dishwasher. I love him by planning elaborate, romantic trips. And when I spring them on him, practically panting with excitement, he can often muster an "Oh, neat" but it always falls short of what I'm expecting. Which is just my way of saying: I do the things that I'd want, and he does the things that he'd want. It has taken time, but we are learning each other's language. We're becoming bilingual.  He's not much for sentiment. He's a doer, but those things that he does are translatable: I love you, Jay.

Now I have been reduced to being his dependent, and his patient, and a terrible patient at that. Sean has become my nurse, one more gentle and delicate than I ever would have guessed. We could easily have a nurse visit the house to take care of my wounds. The bandaging is a never-ending battle, but Sean insists on doing it all himself. He winces when I wince. He soothes me when I'm hyperventilating. He waits me out when I can't take anymore. He never flinches. The sight unnerves me, makes me horrified and sick, but he looks in my eyes and tells me I am beautiful. The smell, he assures me, is the bandages, not me. I worry that I haven't shaved, or plucked my eyebrows, and he tells me that I am natural and lovely. And I believe he believes it. He hasn't lost his temper with me, not when I've lashed out, taken the pain out on him. He calls me brave and strong.

He's gone back to work - a lawyer you don't hear about in jokes, the kind that does true and honourable work - and he worries over me constantly. It is I who must reassure him. I am managing with the apples and the drinks and the pills that he has left. I lie very still, pray for sleep, and count the hours til he is home. I assume that work is a reprieve for him, a small breath of fresh air, but he's still coming home, happy as ever to see me, to spend time with me, even if it means browsing Netflix again, and watching as I fall asleep halfway through a 22 minute episode of god knows what.  He brings me gifts, big and small, so I know that he has  been thinking of me. Recently I unwrapped a piece of costume jewelry from a store he knows I love. It is a pendant that I already own. I laugh. Maybe someone else would be annoyed that their husband hasn't noticed this piece hanging on her wall (if not her neck), but I know the truth: he saw it and knew instinctively that it was me. Perhaps subliminally he remembered it, but at the very least, he knew I would like it, and clearly I have. Twice.

We have this thing, he and I, a mutual distaste for schmaltz. We can never be too mushy. If he says I love you (which is rare unless post-orgasm), I typically respond with "You better." Now I hear myself saying "You must."

So it's not France. But it turns out to be kind of romantic, if you look at it a little cock-eyed. We have discovered new ways to love and be loved. And there will always be Paris.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Best Couple Ever

A little while ago I asked that you spare us a minute and vote for us in a contest my husband was inspired to enter for "Best Couple Ever."

Very sweet of him, and very sweet of you to oblige us.

I've found myself reflecting on this notion of the "best couple", a silly notion, and a title impossible to bestow because although voting is anonymous, some of our generous friends and family have let us know we have their support despite being from very fine couples themselves.

Love is not a contest.
Marriage, as you may know, turns out to be this incredible, complex little thing, each one so unique that you can never truly know what it's like if you're on the outside looking in, and even the two people in question can spend a lifetime trying to figure it out . Even as insiders we sometimes struggle to uphold the very values and goals that we ourselves aspired to in the rose-coloured vows that we took. Married or not, any long-term relationship takes some work.

Love and marriage do not exist in a vacuum. Ours exists within a framework of all the successful relationships around us, and even the ones that have come to pass. In fact, I think I've probably learned more from the "failed" relationships, my own included, because these have all started out in the success column and slowly (or explosively!) made their way into the black. Is it luck? Experience? Willingness to look the other way? Settling? Grit? Fate?

I am probably too old and too married to still not really know what love is. I only know how it feels: like I'll take the bad times because of the good. Like I'll do whatever work is necessary to keep that fluttery feeling. Like I belong curled up in his arms. Like my life is terrific without him, but way better with.

Are we the best couple ever? Probably safe to say we are not. But we are getting better, because every day I hold his hand, and every day we still choose yes.

I am the world's worst patient and Sean turns out to be a gentle and patient nurse. Ladies and gentlemen, I do not deserve him.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Namaste And All That Shit.

Sean has started doing yoga with me.
I am awed and mystified that he would agree to this.
We do yoga on Sundays - not only on Sundays, but always on Sundays.
Our Sunday rule is : we don't drink until after yoga.
Sometimes we have to do yoga before breakfast not to break the rule, but it works for us.
Sometimes the yoga itself doesn't quite work for us, but that's okay. I try to fail with panache if fail I must.
I am returning to yoga after a long absence due to my disability. I have not recently become abled again, just a little more brave, a little curious, a little more willing to try. Sean is a complete newbie, so we are finding our footing together. He's got his body type going for him, long and lean like the tall glass of water he is. I'm a little round teapot beside him, but it takes all kinds, right? Refreshing in our own ways.
He has always been an athlete: swimming, volleyball, basketball, rugby. My high school sports were more along the lines of smoking pot and reading liner notes, but who's counting?
At any rate he's quickly discovering that yoga is a very different animal, and a surprisingly good workout. He's also realized how old he's getting, and how cocky he was in his youth. All those early morning practises where he skipped the warm up and cool down stretches? They're killing him now. His legs have paid the price. He isn't as flexible there as he should be. My legs, however, are my strength. My arms, of course, don't do their part. There's a point in our instruction where the yoga teacher wants you to bend over, hands on your mat, and hop a little so that all your weight's on your hands. I haven't made it through a single class yet without cursing her over that. There is almost always a point where I feel nauseous, sometimes from overexertion, sometimes from expressions like "smile through your collarbones" or "flower your buttocks", but there's also always a point where I feel a sense of accomplishment. And stupidity. You can't roll around the floor like a happy baby without feeling just a little stupid. And just try pointing your belly button at your heart. Feeling stupid now?
After challenging ourselves with the plank, Sean will start to feel his abs just a few hours later. For me it tends to take another day before I'm feeling it. We call them "yoga abs" and I'm pretty sure mine take longer to make themselves known because the pain has to travel through so much belly fat first. Sean tells me this is "biologically impossible", but he's always trying to use logic on me, which, I assure you, is the real biological impossibility.
But before yoga abs comes yoga penis, which is a glorious thing to behold, and a very good reason (maybe even the only reason) to put off post-yoga drinking for another, say, 5-6 minutes.
We're so fucking zen.

Friday, June 13, 2014

For All the Fathers, Young and Old

I made and sent 4 father's day cards this year.
None were for my father.
Most days, if you were to ask me, I would not own up to having such a thing. A father.
In fact there was a man who fathered me. He was a bad man and most likely still is, but I pushed him out of my life and haven't looked back.
This post isn't about those kinds of fathers.
I have maybe been a little sensitive to the whole dad thing over the years. I feel melty just seeing a dad turn up for his kid. It gives me pause every single time I see a dad throwing a ball to his son, playing soccer with his daughter. There was a time I thought that was just a thing in movies, but I have since known many men, an inspiring and heartening number of men, who are those kinds of fathers.
It thrills me to see my brother-in-law softly kiss his son on the cheek.
To see my dear friend play princess with his daughter.
To see my father-in-law on the floor, building trains and playing superhero with his grand kids.
To hear my grandfather boasting about his great grandsons, of which he now has three.
And to see my mother's new husband, not trying to be our father, but being a strong, loving figure all the same. Willing to call us his family. Doting on grandkids who aren't his by blood but who couldn't love him more even if he was.
It's a blessing, a blessing a thousand times over, to have such wonderful men in my life.
Happy father's day to them all, to you all, and to my mother, who was all the dad and twice the mom I ever needed.

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

Zoom Zoom

My father was a truck driver, and so each summer his left arm (the hanging out the open window arm) was always much more tanned than the right.

I am not in the family business, but I do drive a convertible, which has tanning problems all of its own. In fact right now I have to admit I've got a convertible burn, which is not great, but also not terrible, because this is not my first convertible, and so I've learned a few tricks of the trade.

1. Seat belts leave tan lines. However, they also save lives, so I can't discount them entirely. I do put the chest strap behind me and depend solely on the lap part. I usually wear clothes in and around my lap anyway. Sunscreen in the glove compartment.

2. Sunglasses are an absolute must. Not only do they keep bugs out of your eyes, they also keep the front part of your hair in check if you wear them just right. I don't much bother to tame my hair. I actually love the feeling of it blowing back behind me, but I do attempt to keep the front strands out of my eyes, and perhaps more importantly, out of my lip gloss.

3.  You learn to sing like a ventriloquist. Now, like most people, I have never willingly been to a ventriloquist show, so how do I know how they sing? Well, I have been on a cruise. And it's nearly a guarantee that if you're on a boat, you're trapped at sea with at least one ventriloquist. Only cruise directors think they're appropriate entertainment. It's how any ventriloquist makes a living. So yes. You learn to sing like one. Mostly you just learn to enjoy your music in your head, and keep your head nodding\car dancing to a minimum. But if your jam comes on and it simply cannot be helped, then you mouth the words, and keep the actual singing repressed. Because no one needs to hear that. No one wants to hear that.

I absolutely adore my little convertible and I could never go back. It's changed my whole attitude to driving, because it changes the drive. I slow down. I keep my car neat. I take the longer route that goes down by the water (to feel a cooler breeze on my skin, maybe even a little mist in the air). I can smell the lilacs and feel the warmth of the day and hear little kids ring the little bells on their bikes. A red light becomes pleasurable when you tilt your head back to soak up some sun. It's not just a commute anymore. My 40+ minute drive to work is a new way to be connected to the environment. There are no blind spots. I see things I would normally have missed. Some men whistle, but most people are friendly. Pedestrians chat at intersections. They ask questions. Another convertible driver will give a jaunty over-the-windshield wave.

In the fall, when the weather's a little cooler, you'll find me top down, windows up, heat on. It's a luxury. The salesman told me it would be just like sitting in a hot tub. It's not. Either he doesn't own a convertible, or he doesn't have a hot tub. But there is an indulgent bite to it. And maybe that's the whole point of a convertible: just a small touch of indulgence gets added to an otherwise ordinary day.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

He was harmless, in the way that they're all basically harmless as long as you're thinking of them abstractly. But when one of them is slithering in the place where you walk barefoot, it engages this innate fear that's hard to suppress no matter how many encyclopedic facts are at your disposal.

Fact: Garter snakes tend to be less than 4 feet long and very thin.

Fact: They're only "slightly venomous" , not usually dangerous for humans (bites just swell and itch).

Fact: They eat frogs (which we have in abundance) and are eaten by dogs (which we have in abundance).

Fact: I know that they are not "inherently evil", technically. Unless you're a Christian, I guess.

Fact: It still scared the fuck out of me.

He wasn't a total surprise. We've seen this fucker (or his brethren) before. We've also found his skins. But just catching a glimpse of this scaley motherfucker made my breathing come fast, unleashed my urge to flee, and stressed me right the fuck out. I don't want to coexist with this guy. I don't want to learn what it feels like to have him slime between my toes or grab me by the ankle. I don't want to reach for the "hose" and get a nasty surprise. I don't want to find Herbie with a snake hanging limply (or worse, not limply) from his mouth. I don't want to go for a swim and find an uninvited skinny dipper in the pool. So when I saw him, we were both startled, and we both took off, luckily not in the same direction. But when the dogs bounded over, he froze. He kept his head above the grass but did.not.move.a.muscle.  Do snakes even have muscles?

Fact: Yes, they do. Strong ones. And a whooooole lotta bones.

Anyway, I told Sean about my reptilian encounter later that night, and he reported that he'd had a brush with him himself just a day or two before. He was weeding in my hydrangea beds and actually TOUCHED IT! Eep.

"O.M.G.O.S.H. Did you scream like a little girl?"

Yes, he did. And let forth "a stream of curses." Of course, this being my Seanathan, his string of curse words can comfortably be reproduced in almost any church bulletin without the slightest bit of censorship:

"Shit. Shit Shit SHIT."

Can you even believe I married a guy who doesn't swear?
Neither can the snake.


There is not a snake living in our yard after all.
There's a whole damn family of them!
I was weeding when I encountered a wee little snake. Still not happy to see it. Let out a yell. The kind of yell that Sean, who was out in the woods operating a chain saw, heard and came running for.
He got a stick for "snake removal."
He chased the baby snake around quite a while. The snake was uncooperative or else just couldn't fathom the plan. Snakes are probably not big-picture thinkers. Anyway, whether the baby snake was secretly "yelling" for help or perhaps just all the movements and prodding startled her parents, two quite large snakes then slithered out of their hiding spot - get this - from underneath the day bed where I read and sun myself all day long!
There is a nest of snakes under my happy place!
Well, it's not my happy place any more.
What use is a backyard if I cannot bear to set foot in it?

Fact: the mommies can give birth from 3 to 98 babies in one go. So the one that we saw? Definitely just the tip of the iceberg. But how many are there? Where are they hiding? Can they get in the house?

Sean assures me there are no holes in our foundation. The house is about 3 years old, and I know Sean probably looks it over pretty thoroughly since I put a caveat on our living here: if I ever, EVER see a single mouse in my house, it's for sale the very next day and we're outta here. And I never have. Haven't even seen one in the yard or in the woods or anything. But now I'm going to amend that clause to include snakes.

Meanwhile, I'm googling frantically to find out how we can tell the snakes to fuck off. And don't give me any guff about how they're "ecologically necessary" and how they're more scared of me than I am of them. This all may be true, but they're absolutely ruining my enjoyment of my own backyard. I know it was technically theirs first, but as far as I'm aware, they don't have the shadow of a hefty mortgage to show for it.

So if you know of a repellent that's super effective on snakes but not  also poisonous to small, curious dogs, let me know. So far I've been told to sprinkle the borders of my yard with fox urine and\or human hair, neither of which I have on hand, and neither of which are listed on the Home Depot website. Personally, I'm leaning toward a well-sharpened garden hoe. Not that I'm brave enough to do the hoeing.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Maybe I'm Born With It?

When I ran out of conditioner this morning, I had a second bottle in reserve, so it wasn't a disaster, but it was a surprise. I use a decent grocery-store brand, nothing too fancy, nothing salon, but I'm fairly loyal to it. I have an occasional fling with something else, only a dalliance here and there, but this is the one I always come back to, have for more than a decade now. But usually I use the blue variety, and this bottle was orange. It has been standing in the cupboard as back-up for too long for me to remember why I went orange rather than blue, but I knew as soon as I had a dollop of it in my palm that it was wrong.

It "uses the power of honey" which apparently is great for strong hair, so I can see why I might have given it a try. Once a month I bathe my hair in chemicals so strong they make my throat close, and then every day I all but light it on fire with extremely hot tools. And, after such torture, if a single strand still possesses enough of a rebellious streak as to not fall completely into line, I teach it not to have an original thought of its own by dousing it with treatments for frizz and flyaways. "Overprocessed" is the nice way of calling my hair what it is. Tired. Very tired. It's been told that it's never good enough, not the colour, nor the texture, nor its rate of growth, not even the way it lies on my head. So I have to prod it into assuming the qualities that a woman's hair should apparently have: lustre, shine, softness, fullness, and a flowery-fruity smell. Not unlike dessert, wherever possible.

I've been buying the blue bottle by rote for so long that I couldn't quite remember what it was supposed to have been - certainly not honey, but what? The empty bottle told me coconuts. Honey for strength, coconut for softness. Everything on a conditioner bottle is just a synonym for "nice hair". And I'm pretty sure conditioner itself is just latin for "hair placebo". At any rate, I read, as a child, probably 11 years old or so, that shampoo didn't matter because "soap is soap" but conditioner was where it's at. I have spent my life buying beauty products based on exactly that principle, which is a funny thing to do considering I lifted the advice from a magazine entitled Young Miss.

At any rate, I thought the coconuts must be a new development that I failed to pick up on. Lather, rinse, repeat. I think there used to be more jojobaness. More unpronounceables, intangibles, things that were probably made up just to flesh out the ingredient list on a bottle of conditioner and justify its pricetag.

I had a brief but torrid affair recently with the moroccan craze. Moroccan oil was going to save us all. It was at least 4 times the price, and didn't smell as nice, but if it worked, you wouldn't hear me complaining. Alas, it seems to have left my hair more or less as everything else does. Which is fine. It's fairly lovely, fairly soft, and it always smells nice. Faces have burrowed into it without complaint. But we always strive for better. After all, hair is neighbour to lashes that are always being told to be longer and lips that could aways be redder. They're all meant to be high achievers, and I buy into it. Not because I particularly want hair the consistency of glossy satin, but because for those four minutes in the shower during which I allow certain exotic oils to soak into my hair, I am giving myself a treat. A luxury. Candy for my hair.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

I think this is what my grandmother means by "necking".

Last weekend was the season opener at the drive-in.

We go as often as we can, all summer long, it's our thing, it's our date night.

But drive-ins are a dying breed, and not many people are so lucky (or as interested), and those people are quite easy to spot when you say "We've been to the drive-in!" and they say "What did you see?"

What did we see?

Well, we did see something, and at the drive-in, it's always a double feature minimum, a triple feature on holidays. But when you go to the drive-in, it's not about the movie, it's about the experience. It's not what you see, but who you see it with.

We bring a chilled bottle of champagne, mosquito screens for the windows, a picnic of delectables (or a pizza if we're in a hurry), a blanket for discretion. We've got this date night down to a science.

We usually throw a lot of pillows into the back seat and tuck ourselves in. The windows are going to steam up no matter what you do, so you may as well make out a bit while you're back there. Or makeoutPLUS* as the case may be (like Hulu, the content of this blog will remain free but Saint Vodka is now offering juicy premium content for a small monthly subscription fee...stay tuned for details).

The first movie, at minimum, is a dud anyway. Movie studios learned long ago that pairing a non-starter with a blockbuster is a great way to direct a little more box office towards a flop. That's how I saw The Last Airbender. And Pacific Rim. And last week, Noah.

Not great movies, but you feel more forgiving if at least one of you has their pants around their ankles.
Either way, the movie is incidental. It's a social event. I remember seeing Crocodile Dundee as a little girl, all of us in our jammies to sleep through the less kid-friendly second feature. Armageddon with my mom and sisters, a van full of hormones and tears. Lost in Space with a handsy high school boyfriend.

Over the past few years Sean and I have learned about drive-in culture. Everyone starts honking their horns before dusk, to usher in the movie. Dogs get in free, and it seems that most people stuff the empty seats of their SUVs with pets, and then they trot them about during intermission, a little doggy parade between cars. The old guy who runs the place likes to interrupt the movies to tell us when the canteen is opening and closing - but don't worry, he always picks a climactic scene or important plot point to mute so you can be sure to find it on imdb the next day if you're still confused about something you missed. And he sometimes even remembers to turn the sound back on as he's finished his announcement. Not always. Sometimes the last 10 minutes of the film will be silent, but that's okay, because you didn't come to find out how the Harry Potter series wraps up once and for all (we did see the 8th and last Harry Potter movie at the drive-in but since neither of us had ever seen any of the others, it was fabulously out of context and mysterious and we didn't mind losing crucial scenes to our hanky panky-hokey pokey. Actually, I remember that the sound was abandoned for the final parts of the last Die Hard movie, but you don't need words to tell you what you already know: that John McClane is tough and sexy and loves making things explode. He'll get scratched up but will ultimately walk away victorious, probably from something fiery.

And when the lightning started crashing during Noah, we did worry for half a second about whether the weather would turn biblical. It seemed a bit ominous. But our rain cleared up before theirs did, and we had the benefit of a few well-timed twists of the wipers.

No matter what's playing on the screen, there is something inherently romantic about sitting underneath the stars, in your own little bubble. It's magic. It's nostalgic. And it's always two for the price of one.

Monday, May 05, 2014

This is my Gertie. She is a good dog. A very good dog. She has nothing but happiness is her heart and the only time she's not smiling is when you take her picture. She prefers to look serious in those. She wants everyone around her to be happy too, so she'll nudge you and kiss you and pat you until you forget your worries. She actually kisses away tears and is very attentive to illness.

She is such a bright spot in our lives with her little twirls, and her funny jumps, and her fluffiness, that even when she threw up on my laptop yesterday, causing the motherboard to fry, you can't be mad at her. There are a million similar computers at Best Buy, but there's only one Gertie.

Just look at that face.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Crossing Over

Last week we had a little jaunt down to my favourite place on earth, Manhattan. We take a fair number of trips, and a fair number of those are back to my mecca, good old NYC. It never gets old. And neither does going through the border.

Border agents are a special breed of person. They're not bad, they just have a tough job to do, a job that seems interesting as you're passing through, but is probably a weird mix of stressful and monotonous to actually perform on a daily basis.

Border agents like to ask all kinds of questions, some of them borderline silly, some of them completely 100% silly in an effort to knock you off your game, gauge your reaction, and judge whether you're breezing through guilt-free, or if you'll ever so slightly give away the secret fact that something's hiding in your anus.

Since we never have anything to hide, we tend not to mind the questions. We've encountered everything from the guy who wants to hear the band you're going to see, to the friendly dude who gives out restaurant recommendations, to the gruff lady who wondered why we can't just shop in our own damn country. If we're crossing by car, they always ask my husband who's car he's driving in kind of a judgy way (he's driving my Beatle). Sure they're trying to make you a little nervous, but they aren't trying to ruin your vacation, or even your day. They're just putting in their hours while also kind of defending their country. The friends we traveled with recently had their orange wedges confiscated by an overzealous agent. I realize nobody wants a food-borne illness to jump the border, but this wasn't a dozen cases in the trunk they'd intended to sell in Central Park. It was a baggie of orange sections for a pregnant lady to consume while travelling to hopefully avoid some morning sickness. It was 1 piece of fruit that was very probably grown in Florida to begin with and had possibly passed through the very same border crossing a week prior. But the USA does NOT want that orange back! The offending orange was removed from their possession and they went on their merry way.

It made me realize that we truly must have somehow become the most boring people on the planet because not even border agents want to harass us. Not that we want them to. Not really. I mean, maybe just a little good-natured bullying, or some condescension while fondling their tasers. Just a little something to make us feel relevant. Like we're not completely past our possible-sexy-smugglers prime. Like we maybe, just maybe, could possibly be part of some glamourous international crime ring that will one day be referred to by a snazzy nickname in the press. Like we pose just a fraction more of a threat than my grandparents do. We could be mattress-tag-ripper-offers. Or we might jam up highway toll machines by inserting pesky Canadian coins! Or we may incur lots of roaming charges that we pay only delinquently!

Okay, fine. We're boring. We're going to travel safely and responsibly while dropping lots of tourist dollars. We have travel insurance. We packed our own bandaids but not our own produce. We know how to convert currency and speedometers and colour to color. We're good little travelers. We keep our citrus to ourselves.

Thursday, April 03, 2014

Shoe Envy.

I actually don't envy anyone's shoes because I have a quite fabulous shoe collection myself.
My problem is with the people who name the shoes.
Currently, in my "bag" (the little slice of internet where your shoes wait for you to pay for them and supply a shipping address) I have the Cosette and the Enetta. Every shoe must have a name. They can't just be the blue ones, or even the shiny blue ones with the straps and the buckles. They must be named. Proper names. Usually women's names. Some are very specific, depending on the designer. A quick glance at my shoe box collection shows I already own Carries. Ginnies. Oksanas. And Mary Janes, of course.

Designers now have to cast their nets so far and wide that even Samantaa has a shoe. And Lissa. Chantel.
Bonita! Phyllis comes in black and white OR nude and orange! Phyllis!

Of course you've already guessed there aren't any Jamies (and certainly not Jays). I know, I have an ugly name. It's not my fault. I didn't pick it. I've hated it more or less my whole life. I may have made peace with it now, but I'll still insist you call me Jay. So when a designer is devouring the baby name book like a woman with a 16 week old in one hand and a blank birth certificate in the other, and it comes down to Jamie or Phyllis because everything else (and all of their possible alternative spellings) is taken, you know they're not going with Jamie.

In the many, many years of my shoeddiction, I have not once come across a Jamie. Not even a plastic jelly sandal has been a Jamie. And to prove myself right, I've even googled it. And proven myself wrong.

But still mostly right, actually. Because the one Jamie shoe in existence is made by Dr. Scholl.  I mean, better they were dirt rags! Described variously as "laidback", "durable", "airy", and "sensible", they're everything you'd expect from a shoe that comes with a prescription! They're absolutely hideous of course, but get this - you get the convenience of a slide-on shoe with the look of a lace-up! Nurses have given them the thumbs up, as have sons buying them for their be-bunioned elderly mothers.  According to reviews, they are both "comfy" yet still require breaking in. One rave reviewer likened them to "a mound of chubby bunnies", which I have never actually stepped on, and I'm hoping to keep it that way - fingers crossed!

Frankly, my shoes tend to be more "torturous but sexy".  Right after giving me salivating compliments, my coworker likes to characterize them as "likely to induce hemorrhoids" and believe me, she doesn't mean that in the good way.  People often wonder how someone in so much pain can manage to walk around in heels that put me within kissing range of my 6 and a half foot tall husband. And the answer is: when your hand's in the fire, you barely feel the mosquito bite. Sometimes when you feel your worst on the inside, you want to look your best on the outside.

My grandmother, for as long as I knew her anyway, wore orthopedic shoes. Ugly, soul crushing things. Kleenex boxes would have been less obvious. And always in the same hue of "orthotic beige". And, as a terrible sufferer of flat feet, I have sometimes wondered what a pair of plain Janes would do for me as opposed to the Marys that I prefer. Was she a happier person because of her shoes? I doubt it.  Actually it makes me a bit sad. My grandfather would often make pointed remarks about the women he saw in church - well-appointed in a hat and heels. That, to him, was a woman. And that my grandmother could never be.  I'm not sure how necessary orthotics even are to a woman who spent much of her life at the kitchen table peeling potatoes like they were going out of style.  That's not me. I may sacrifice in comfort, but I am a person who strives to make the world a more beautiful place, and if I don't start with myself, from my head down to my toes, then I'm doing it wrong.

Wednesday, April 02, 2014


I can't even fathom what they mean by "structured handbag".
Also, I kind of miss the days when we just called them purses.

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Not For Intended Use.

It's labelled for veterinary use and intended for hooves but in my house, it's just another hope and a dream!

Friday, March 28, 2014

Blues Hound

Ottawa Bluesfest has just announced their lineup for this summer and it's got so many of my favourite blues artists I can hardly believe it - Lady Gaga, The Killers, Blake Shelton, Snoop Dogg, Queens of the Stone Age....and some more vintage blues, like Journey, and Third Eye Blind. I mean, it's great that we're bringing in blues for the Glee generation, but Third Eye Blind?  Who knew they still existed? It's about to get all 1997 up in here! It's nice that they've really reached back to what some might consider the real heyday of blues. It was a rocky time - they let Billy Crystal host the Oscars again. Deep Blue won that chess game. Some hick had septuplets. Toyota taunted us with the Prius. No one was sure if Ross and Rachel would ever get together. It was rough,confusing time and so a lot of truly great blues music came out during that era. It hardly compares to the blues of today's youth. I mean, if you have to wear a dress made out of meat just to create conflict worth singing about, you probably don't have a legit case of the blues.

But wow. So many blues greats all on one stage. I mean, if you asked me to choose which among these is my absolute favourite blues artist, well, I just couldn't tell you! I'd be flummoxed . If I'm hard pressed though, I might have to go with the people who gave us some of the greatest blues lyrics every put to music: chickity china, the chinese chicken. That's some pretty hardcore blues shit right there. And if you're a fan, you can catch them here at BluesFest this summer.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Occam's Razor

Did I ever tell you about the time that I got into this sticky situation at a bar that ultimately ended in a only-slightly-disfiguring scar when I took a bottle to the face (stoically, if I say so myself) but managed not to bleed on my reindeer sweater?

Or how about the one where I got viciously attacked by the late, great parakeet named Rusty (black arm band optional) who didn't like the cut of my gib but DID love the taste of my sweet, sweet flesh?

If you recall me telling you either of these stories, or any other story that somehow involves me acquiring a scar on my nostril, please contact me immediately. I've been wondering about it for a while.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Let Me Take a Selfie

I'm super vain and quite self-obsessed, but I've never expressed it by flooding my instagram account with countless selfies because a) I do not have an instagram account and b) I cannot take a selfie.

I mean, I have a phone. It has a camera. I have occasionally used it to take pictures. Mostly of things, sometimes of places, occasionally my of dogs, and once in a blue moon, of my husband. But never myself. I do have a face, and it is photographable. It's not photogenic, but it doesn't break cameras. To my knowledge. I also have arms. But not, it seems, the required dexterity.

My sweet, stupid mother recently got on that bandwagon of "hey let's begrudgingly take a picture of ourselves without makeup and then blackmail others into doing it too!" People seem to have forgotten that this was supposed to be about cancer awareness. Somehow. I mean, I think cancer awareness is kind of overblown. Does anyone not know about cancer? Is anyone really unaware? I think we got the message. Cancer sucks. Often preventable. Honk your knockers, quit smoking, yada yada yada. I absolutely want to vomit pink all over the place that shit is so overused. But yes. Here's my bare face, and somehow that's related to cancer. Go team!

I was not overly thrilled to be under the gun for this picture, but it's not really gonna kill me. I'm too lazy to wear makeup all the time. Plus, all those beach pictures of me on vacation? Yup. Not wearing makeup. All those sunshiny summertime pictures? Soooo not wearing makeup. So these pictures already exist but apparently aren't good enough, because I posted them voluntarily and failed to point out that, whoa, fresh-faced lady here in all her ginger-ancestry hotness.

So just out of the shower this morning, while getting ready for work, I attempted to take a quick snap of me in my most natural state (well, I wasn't drunk, so I guess it wasn't technically my MOST natural state). It did not go well. You see, my phone has 0 physical buttons. They're all pretend buttons on a touch screen and they pop up depending which application is open. When I'm using the camera function,  I see the little square on my screen it wants me to tap in order to take the picture. Easy peasy. Except when I turn the screen away from myself in order to aim the camera at my own face. Now I'm tapping blind. I am tapping and tapping and I'm either taking tonnes of pictures or none at all and there's no way to tell (since the flash wasn't going off...that's another pretend button) until I bring the camera back in for a look see. It turns out that I was taking pictures, just not necessarily of my face. It's hard to aim a camera without a viewfinder! There were parts of me in most of the photos, but not whole parts, not anything you'd recognize. I must have taken and deleted 2 dozen of these stupid pictures before I tuckered myself out. No selfie.

So I wondered just how dexterous or determined or practiced all these selfie-slaves are. Because my Facebook feed does often clog up with "here's my face in this dark corner" and "here's my same face in a similar looking dark corner" and "here's my wonderful goddamned fucking face again" and "oh, look, me again!" and "man, I never get tired of looking at myself!". They're out there. And frankly, they don't seem to originate from the brightest bulbs, necessarily. So someone's figuring this shit out.

So I asked my husband, who has taken an occasional selfie (the occasion being: he finally got his sorry butt down to the hair place after I've been complaining about his yeti appearance for 3 solid weeks, and I want proof). So, he doesn't have a lot of experience, but I remember that not only did he include his whole head, but even the upper parts of his neck and shoulders! Perfect portrait. God, he's irritating when he's getting something right (especially when I'm not).

Anyway, it turns out that there's this other pretend button that tells the camera to flip around, so you can stare at your hot self in the screen, line up the perfect shot, AND see the pretend button to tap to take the thing! Well hello, beautiful!

Gosh, now I'm starting to see how this can get addictive! My apologies if I start flooding your account with not very original and totally gratuitous and unnecessary pictures of my face. It's just me, spewing my digital narcissism all over the place, doing my part to cure cancer.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Now You See Me

I am the face of disability.
It's not necessarily (hopefully not, anyway) the face you expect to see getting out of the car in a handicapped parking space, but not every disability comes with age, and not all are visible.

We call them "hidden disabilities" although if you have known me over the past 10 years, you'll know I have trouble hiding it, as much as I'd like to.

I have chronic pain. Deep and abiding pain. Pain that never gets better but does get a whole lot worse, at inconvenient times, and in surprising and sometimes humiliating ways. I have an incurable disease, an "orphan disease" which is a pitiable term meaning that there are no doctors in my country with any kind of knowledge of it, and there is no funding being allocated to rectifying that. When I meet a new doctor, I have to spell out my disease so they can Google it, and then I am their guinea pig while they throw treatments at me just to see if any stick. They never really do.

I wake up in pain every day of my life.
No, that's not quite true. Some days I don't wake up because I was in too much pain to sleep.

My good days are more than enough to keep most people in bed but I lived that life in the early years of my diagnosis, and it's not for me. Lots of people with my disease are on disability, but I'm trying not to be one of them. Instead, I structure my life around my pain in order to live as fully as I can.

I worry about everything. I start my day measuring my pain, and measuring my energy. Do I have enough energy to shower? Will the effort of washing my hair sap me? Will it waken some new pain, exacerbate an existing one? If I spend energy on my hair, will I still have some for drying it, and styling it?

I wear the same outfits too often because they're closer to the front of my closet, and that's easier.

I don't go downstairs for a glass of water. I wait until I'm hungry too. Fewer trips, as few as possible.

I don't shop. I used to like shopping, but now I get my clothes, shoes, and gifts mostly online. If I have to go to a mall, I plot out the easiest path between two points. I don't try stuff on. That kills me. Last week I needed to replace a pair of shoes, so I picked out ones I already had. The sales clerk retrieved them from the back and took them out of the box and placed them on floor for me to try on. I stood there staring at them until my husband picked them up and took them to the cash to pay. He holds all the bags because I don't need any extra burdens. He'll also carry my purse, and my coat. Constant infection means constant fever means overheating and possibly getting dizzy and passing out. I spend a lot of time waiting outside of stores, or looking for benches and a quiet place to meditate, or leaning on my husband while I catch my breath because I've just been wracked with pain and it literally took my breath away. I only shop on my "good" days, but I never know how long a day will stay good for. Pain can escalate extremely quickly. And sometimes energy just runs out - did that extra care taken to shampoo my hair come back to bite me? Maybe. And what if I'm in the middle of the mall when suddenly I just can't anymore? That's a long, agonizing walk back to the car.

I've stranded myself at work I don't know how many times. I did too much, pushed myself too far, and suddenly I find myself exhausted or too crippled to drive myself home. I long for privacy and a safe place to lie down, but I have to wait to be picked up by someone because I can't get there on my own. My car has spent countless "slumber parties" in parking lots, waiting for the day when I feel well enough to pick it up.

Sometimes I send something to the printer and then leave it there for a week while I try to work up the strength to go get it. I don't want to use up all my energy on a stupid print out and then not be able to get myself home. Sometimes I don't go refill my water bottle, not just to conserve the energy that the water cooler trip expends, but also the future energy spent on bathroom trips. I don't always have a chipper hello for everyone in the office because I have to choose between them and my clients, and I'm giving everything I have to my clients. I call my colleague to meet me in the parking lot so he can grab my bag. My husband drives to my office during his work day so that he can try to improve my parking spot for me. He knows that at the end of the day, I won't feel up to crossing the lot.

I avoid going over to someone else's house. I worry about my comfort, not just physically, although that will always play a part. I worry about looking weak in front of people. About letting them see me struggle to find accommodation in foreign surroundings. I don't like to sleep in someone else's home because I don't want to disturb them when I'm up all night. I don't want them to find all the bloody gauze in the trash. I don't want someone else's sheets scabbing into my wounds during the night.

Travel hates me. I love to see new things and go to different places, but getting there is agony. Long car rides mean I go deep into meditation just to survive. My husband feels like he is driving a corpse. We spend the first few days of our vacations trying to recover from the trip and the last few days dreading the return. And car rides are my best bet, because I can control things while limiting how many people can see my pain. I can't ask a pilot to pull over so I can stretch.

I keep the house barely above freezing (62ish, and my husband's toes are blue!) because it's the one time a year I can live comfortably, temperature-wise. I still sleep with the fan at night though, because the night sweats are terrible and the fever just doesn't stop.

I'm afraid to make plans because I'm afraid I'll have to cancel them. I don't want to be that girl, but I am that girl. I try to be optimistic about my health and about my ability to do what everyone else is doing. But sometimes, on that day, it's just not reality. I can't always keep up, but I try my best to fake it. People ask how I am and I lie and say I'm "fine" but actually, I don't even remember what fine feels like. People love to tell me I don't look sick, or that I seem better and I love to fantasize about punching them in the face. I know these people are actually mostly well-intentionned, but when I have had to struggle all day long just not to die, the last thing I want is for someone to invalidate that challenge and that triumph. I know my friends are all burnt out on my condition. Nobody wants to hear me complain, least of all myself. So I mostly keep it in. But just because I'm not crying doesn't mean I don't need to.

I don't want to hold up the group and I don't want anyone to notice I'm lagging behind. I don't need the pressure of extra attention or solicitousness. I know you mean well, but I'm trying to preserve my dignity. I change my bandages in private. I cover up my scars. I'm trying to pretend.

I come home shaking because of all the effort I've spent pretending to be human. By the end of the day, it's not just my diseased areas that hurt, it's my whole body. The healthy parts spend the whole day compensating for whatever can't pull its weight, and my muscles are sore and overworked but they can't take a break because they're all I have left.
If my pain level has been too high for too long, I'm on sensory overload and I can't take a single thing more. Don't talk to me, don't look at me. No, it's not you. It's me it's me it's me. Just give me a minute. My back aches but I can't go for a massage because I'm too sore to be touched. Or to climb up on a massage bed, for that matter. I'd feel better in the bath but I can't get into it. And if I do get into it, I overheat and have to be helped back into bed, with the fan on full-blast. The hot tub is tantalizing but even if I make it down the stairs, the cover is so heavy and I am so weak. All my clothes have bloodstains. My nightmares are vivid from pain meds. My face is swollen from the inflammation. My diet is severely restricted. I groan involuntarily. Sometimes I watch movies standing up in the back of the theatre. I fight back tears on long flights. I claw my husband's hand during a lengthy speech. I leave my groceries behind because the line was too long. I take breaks. I take breaks from walking, breaks from sitting, breaks from standing, breaks from reality.

I don't use a wheelchair. I don't even have a limp. But I have days where every step I take is pure torture. Where each step is another little squirt of blood that I can't really afford to lose. Another chance that the infection will spread and become life-threatening.

It's exhausting and overwhelming and degrading. And it's my life. It's not a bad one, actually. There's a lot of love, and a lot of joy. But everything comes with a price, and I pay it. Because people with disabilities don't really have a choice. We haven't asked to live like this, but we must. I have a disease that is potentially life-threatening but most people who have this diagnosis die by their own hands. Depression is rampant. Chronic pain is isolating, and lonely. We can only really be understood by each other. We suffer largely in silence.

Our hidden disabilities often come with another kind of pain - pain from being misunderstood. Left behind. Labelled "lazy" instead of "sick". Judged. I read once about a little boy with his own invisible illness who would wear an ace bandage around his wrist on his bad days to let the world know that he needed just a little bit of understanding on that day. I thought about what kind of badge I could wear, what kind of signal I could give to let others know that I too needed a little tenderness that day. But then I realized, it's as simple as this: am I breathing? Then I am hurting.

Please take the time to share this post.
Let the world know that disabilities come in all shapes and sizes.
Let the brave face drop just for one day.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

With This Ring

I recently had the heady experience of designing my own engagement ring.
I have in fact been married for several years, but this isn't as backwards as it sounds.
This summer, I was at the cottage enjoying the heck out of a beautiful day when the brakes on my bike failed as I was zooming down a hill. I lost control, veered off the path into the forest, and hit a tree. Then I hit another. The second one stopped me dead.
It's funny (now that I've recovered and only have a few scars) because I can close my eyes and reexperience it in slow-motion: the rough ride, bumpbumpbumping all over the place, the fear and panic, all the brush whipping by me, and finally my tire striking trunk, my bike coming to an abrupt stop but my body continuing in its arc of motion. I distinctly remember the impact because it tasted exactly like my car accident. Is that the taste of fear? Adrenaline? Blood from my bitten tongue? I can only guess that in that split second before I myself made contact with the tree that I thought something along the lines of "not my pretty face!"
I don't remember having that thought, but I do know, as evidenced by 4 sprained fingers and a sprained wrist (and that's just on my left!), that I must have thrown up my arms in some sort of protective instinct.
Next I knew, I was lying on the forest floor, twitching uncontrollably, struggling to get my breath back, and deeply, terribly embarrassed.
Parts of my body had to be disentangled from parts of my bike. I was picked up and whisked away for treatment. I had to concentrate just to be able to list all the parts that hurt. I was missing a shoe, and a great deal of pride. My white pants were never to be pants again.
Anyway, I was still shaking as the rocks and twigs were being picked out of my wounds, but I looked down at my rapidly swelling hand and noticed - gasp! - that the diamond was missing from my engagement ring!
Sean was reluctant to leave my side, but I insisted that I was more likely to die from broken dreams than from bike injuries and sent him into the forest.
Yes, the forest. Poor Sean. He had the impossible task of scouring an entire forest for a nearly invisible pea-sized speck. "Fortunately", I had left scars on the tree as it had on me and Sean was able to pick it out amongst all the other trees. He merely looked down from the Jamie-sized dent in the bark, and there was my diamond, sparkling away, hardly traumatized at all.  (Meanwhile, I was frantically trying to grease up my sausage-fingers to get my leftover ring off before I'd have to have it cut off).

Weeks later, I realized that I didn't want to have my ring fixed because I'd always be worried about its fragility in the face of my surprisingly death-defying life. So I opted to do a re-design and found myself trying to convey my ideas in laymen-speak to a woman who loved her jeweler's goggles like nobody's business. She asked if I would like to reuse the gold from my setting or if I wanted to keep it. My setting was reduced to a wonky former-circle with bent, empty prongs. Did I want to keep that piece of garbage? No I did not. But I joked that I would keep it for my least-favourite relative to some day inherit from me. She kind of frowned at me like I shouldn't be making light of her very very serious profession, and she picked up the hunk of junk very gingerly with her little pinchers, and laid it very gently in her velvet-lined box. Because, you know, a sense of formality turns metals into precious metals worth thousands (and thousands) of dollars.

Fast forward another month. Sean picks up my new ring. Drops down to one knee, asks me to marry him all over again, you know, that kind of romantic junk, slipped it on my finger and it's lovely and perfect and very very sparkly. But in the bag is something else - it's the setting from my original ring. That twisted piece of metal. Somewhere in the city of Ottawa, there's a jeweler who believes I'm going to bequeath it unto the niece who displeases me most. And in the meantime, the ex-ring is living it big like a still-ring, sitting snugly in one of those fancy little boxes. The kind of box that will really fool someone someday into thinking I loved them.