Monday, September 30, 2013

Loving your political opposite

I try to be subtly political. It means, I have opinions (and pretty intense ones at that) but I try not to shove them down your throat. I figure it's a lot like religion and penises. You know, it's fine to have one, but don't bring it out and put it in my face.

That said, I was raised in a very socialist family. I'm not sure where it came from, but our family mantra was taking care of each other and people who had less than us. Mom and Dad made it clear helping others was important. One of the most important things - this meant helping people move, giving to charities, volunteering, giving something to someone who needed it, and not worrying about trying to be better or have more than others.

Fall reflection

I think it was easy because we didn't have a lot more than others!

This translated to politics as we got older. If we have something and someone else doesn't (because they can't get it or they have obstacles in the way) we were taught it was important to share. Better for everyone to be equal than for there to be someone suffering. Now, our political climate has gotten less and less friendly to these ideas (in all parties, not any specific) so while I have these beliefs, I don't have any party that I am affiliated with. Until a Sask socialist party comes back, I'm just hanging out trying to figure out what will actually benefit all of us.

The Guy and I are pretty good team. We have a great rapport and a ton of fun together. He has been my saving grace during some rough times and my joy during the great times.

However, on the political spectrum... we are not on the same page. We aren't necessarily that far apart on the issues, but where I tend to be more left, he tends to be more right. Friends and family often cannot figure out how we can co-exist knowing the other is opposed to the things we support.  More than once we have voted entirely opposite of each other in major elections. In fact, in our 6 years together, we have only voted the same thing once.

We figure at least we cancel each other out. No harm, no foul.

We talk about the issues, can see each other's points of view, often agree on the issue concerns and (for the most part) how to deal with them. But, I tend to be more socially responsible and he tends to be more fiscally minded. However, both of us are aware the current systems are damaged (both socially and fiscally) and need to be repaired to be helpful in any way.

Recently, we had a big vote in our city. It made everyone lose their minds and both sides were not entirely honest nor reliable. His "side" won, though it was a close vote.

He texted me afterwards and, with a smile, asked if I saw who won.

I did. Then I warned him that was his one and only chance for triumphant gloating.

Now I can love him again until the next election.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Squirrels and Sunshine: Things about me

This week has been exceptional for my little site here. Two other talented bloggers have decided they think I'm awesome and nominated me for an award.  Two in fact!

The first is the Squirrely Blogger Award - which makes me feel as though I should be storing blogs for the winter - sent to me by Becky at My Sweet Moose.  Becky has a super adorable little girl and amuses me to no end. She tells the truth about things with a great sense of humour. I like her.

Second, I received the Sunshine Award from Raine at Spuddy Buddies. She (and her sister Skye) write about things like art, music, girly movies, and fashion. I'm sure I'm much cooler just having contact with Raine. At least, that's what she tells me.

True, the awards don't come with money or chocolate, but the fact someone liked me enough to tell me is pretty fantastic.  Of course, like with everything in life, they do come with a catch. I am also tagged to share things about me and then pass the award along to other people I like. Can do.

Despite the fact I'm sure most my readership is somehow related to me (hi Dad) there might be things people don't know. Here are some things about me:

I take terrible selfies

  1. I like terrible movies. Girly, rom-com, bad writing, worse acting, pathetic plot girly movies. I will cry when I watch them every time. I don't cry as often in real life as I do watching a movie about boy meets girl.
  2. I am more like my father than I like to admit, but at least I'm funny. I will spew forth a one liner to knock someone to the floor and then realize it was the same joke my dad would have made. I am incredibly embarrassed by this.
  3. I take anti-depressants and have for over 10 years. I will likely never stop. I know mental illness is still not talked about for the most part and even I don't like to consider myself part of that. I was diagnosed with depression a long time ago. Now I have "occasional days of sadness" and sometimes some anxiety that goes with whatever is happening in my life. I found the meds take my migraines down a notch, so I keep them up regardless. 
  4. I share everything. With anyone. I might embellish the story to make myself look better, smarter, funnier, or all three, but I will tell you. I have no real secrets. And the ones I do have, are pretty pathetic.
  5. I'm super stylish
  6. I have no self-motivation. If I don't have a list, I don't do what I'm supposed to do in my personal life. I have no problem being incredibly productive at work and can fly through tasks in no time. Get me home? It might take 3 days for me to do the dishes. With a list I might do things, but without one there is no chance.
  7. I'm thankful I am tall. I can reach stuff and I always look way skinnier than I am. ("You're lucky you're so tall, no one will notice how much you weigh") Also, height is power. It has the ability to portray confindence and assurance even if you don't feel it. It has the ability to make people be quiet just by standing up. Although, I still wish I had hit 6 feet. Dang that elusive inch and a quarter.
  8. I love to read. I'm not like most of my siblings and my father - meaning I don't read stuff where I might learn things or where I have to analyze (that's what school was for... I'm done now). I like books where the characters amuse me, the plot is pretty lax and there's some good romance to it. Something where I can take my brain out, set it on the counter and just read. I usually read a book every day and a half. Sometimes more, sometimes less, but that's my average.
  9. I sleep on my stomach. Face down, right leg sticking straight out, left bent slightly to the side. I then tuck my arms underneath me. I look ridiculous or so I'm told. I also grind my teeth. I wake up with a killer headache and my jaw hurts. I have actually woken people up. To top it off, I only sleep a few hours at a time. Then I wake up, turn over or whatever and go back to sleep if I'm lucky. I don't know of any time I have slept through the night. My mother swore I never did.
And, like the show, 8 is enough.

I nominate: Tara @ Suburble, Wynn Anne @ Wynn Anne's Meanderings, and Zoe @ Pixie Dust

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Customer service: How to do it right.

I posted this originally on April 12, 2011. I would say it is still very true. However, now I also want to write a sequel: How not to be a jerk of a customer.

There is something about working in customer service that makes you notice when other people are doing it wrong.  It's maddening.

Now, I know, you're thinking I don't work in customer service; I work in a crisis centre.  However, being a crisis worker is all about customer service -- in the worst way.  People who come to see me (or who have me show up on their doorstep) are either: 1) embarrassed to be there, or 2) furious and full of hatred.  But I have a service that I am there to provide and that is that.

I have been in some form of customer service for all of my life: a cashier at Zellers, a waitress, a front desk clerk, an advocate, a crisis worker.  This being said, I have developed some rules for good customer service.  And, in all honesty, most people suck at them.

Add caption
  1. Greet the person first.  I'm talking about saying hello when the person walks in the door.  If they are coming into your office, it is your turf -- your responsibility to welcome them.  Do not allow them to stand there like a deer in headlights as you stare at them.  Say hello.
  2. If you are busy, say so.  I/Someone will be right with you.  It's not that hard.  Do not ignore them.  I don't care how busy you are.  Unless you are making a life saving cut in heart surgery, you have time to tell them you are busy.  Don't let someone stand there waiting for you (who are not as important as you think) to acknowledge them.
  3. Stop your conversation.  I have been in more places than I care to think of where the service person has continued a conversation about something personal while I waited for him/her to assist me.  I've heard about people's dates, their marital problems, the meeting they were called into for being a bad worker (shocking), plans for tonight, and just idle gossip.  I've even had a few people look at me with disgust and say I'm on the phone.  Yes, you are.  With your mom.  STOP IT.
  4. Offer to help them.  Think they are lost?  Think you aren't the person they should be talking to?  Offer to find the person they need.  A young woman at the car dealership where I had my last vehicle (and will never go again) left me standing there for over 15 minutes because she knew I was at the wrong desk.  Did I know that?  NO.  That is why I stood there for 15 minutes.  I wanted to punch her in the throat by the time someone came to me and that is bad for everyone.
  5. Be polite.  I don't care if they are the biggest asshats in the history of asshats.  I deal with jerks on a daily basis.  It is not uncommon to be spit at, threatened, sworn at, called ugly names, and yelled at.  I tell new people that if someone hasn't said you are a racially insensitive piece of the female anatomy while you calmly stand there, you are not doing your job.  
  6. Consider if you were in their position.  You may deal with the same issue every day, but to this person it is a new experience.  It is the most important experience.  It is the only experience.  Be patient.  Be understanding.  Be firm, sure, but don't be a dick about it.
  7. Don't take flack.  If someone is talking in four letter words and is spiraling quickly out of control, it's okay to tell them they need to cool it.  Sir, I do not want to hear that sort of language.  Sir, I will not listen to you speak that way.  Ma'am, put your clothes back on.  Depending on the workplace, someone who is aggressive can be asked to leave.  If not, stay calm and explain that you will help them to the best of your ability, but they need to tone down the language.
  8. The customer is rarely right; it's your job to make them think they are.  Stating that you can imagine how difficult/frustrating they find the situation is perfectly acceptable.  Like cops in TV dramas, you can pretend to agree to anything if it gets what you need.  There is a way to make most people feel like they are getting their way without them getting their way.  Find a way to do that.  It's preparation for married life.
All I can say is -- almost every job is about customer service.  If you see people in your day, you are providing services to people.  You may think you're above it, but smarten up.  

Some day, someone, somewhere might serve you.  Wouldn't it be nice if they were good at it?

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Liar, Liar: my experience with polygraph

As I mentioned last week, I had a do a polygraph. I still haven't heard the results, but I can only guess how they went.  The instructor assured me that I would decide the outcome of the polygraph, but there are many problems with that theory so I'm just happy no one has arrested me.  Yet.

Not that I have done anything really wrong.  Well, REALLY wrong. You don't know what kind of a horrible person you are until you have to really think about it and then spill it all for a stranger.  Then you are surprised with yourself that you haven't done hard time before.

I went into the building expecting the worst. Surprisingly enough, it was worse than that. I was coming down with a cold (and then pink eye!) but I hadn't slept well that night.  This is not surprising. I spent over a decade making sure I could stay up all night. When I have to be somewhere before noon, my body makes sure it is NOT TIRED AT ALL. But, I knew it was my only chance and I wouldn't sleep any better if we rescheduled.  In I went.

This has nothing to do with anything. Isn't it pretty?
The procedure for this test is to fill in a 31 page questionnaire prior to attending. It questions everything you have ever done that is wrong, illegal, immoral, or a mix of all three.  Then, you stew about and remember even more. When you enter the polygraph area, you then sit down with the administrator and go over it all again.

In detail. With examples. And you spill.  EVERY. LITTLE. THING.  All those things you wanted to keep secret? You don't.  All those things you are embarrassed about? You tell.  All those things you didn't realize were actually crimes? You admit to doing all the time.  You talk and talk and talk. AND TALK.

This part was 6 hours. Every time I answered a question, he would ask "What else?" which made me think he knew something that I didn't, so I would rack my brain trying to think of something else I had done. Usually he moved us on, realizing that despite some of my escapades, I am essentially boring. But I told everything. EVERYTHING. And you know? It wasn't that hard.

The guy was very likeable though intense. He admitted to hearing so many confessions as part of his job that nothing surprised him or embarrassed him. He also admitted he would not likely remember anything I said for very long, so should we meet in the hallway I don't have to duck behind a potted plant. This I took as a good sign.

These leaves represent every thing I told.
Finally, the hook up. It took about 5 minutes to get the contraption settled on my body and ready to read my every movement. It measured heart rate, breath rate, blood pressure, etc. My hand was numb before we even started, but that was normal. And then, the questions.

Other than what I had admitted to [in this area] did I do anything else?

That and a handful of test questions repeated over and over and over again. By this time, I was tired. Hungry. Annoyed. Exhausted. And honestly? BORED. I have never had to talk about myself that long before. Honestly, I love to talk about myself. Just ask me!! But I felt like, if I had to answer another damn question again, I would go mental.  But I did it. And the longer I did it, the more paranoid I became that I was forgetting something or that it would read my nervousness and boredom and exhaustion.

Half an hour later, he asks if I neglected to tell him something. Nope. Not at all. Was I thinking about anything during the questions on [insert topic]? NO!!! Of course not! I mean, had it been about homicide, I might have wondered if thinking actually DID count for something, but that? No.

Well, I "blipped" on one part. The one part I know I had nothing more to share.  The one part I know I had nothing to admit to. And that was the one I blipped on. We left it there, him telling me he would send my results to HR. That was it.

I left the room and was escorted to finger printing. The wonderful man who took my prints (and also was like the Jolly Giant) asked if I was okay. I said I wasn't really sure. He let me in on a secret - most the women burst into tears as soon as the polygraphist left the room. I admitted, I was waiting for when I got to my car. I was a nervous wreck, but it was that gentle, HUGE man who made me centre again. I owe him a drink for that.

So, I haven't heard anything yet. I expect I will eventually. Unless they have decided I'm a hardened criminal. And then, I might hear the slamming of metal doors.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

The Disastrous Betrayal - Fiction Friday (on Saturday)

The story of the Spinster house: The House, The CoupleAnother meetingThe Shop and Anna's last year.

Anna's Last Year - Part II: The Disastrous Betrayal

Richard's bellow reverberated through the offices and down the hall where Anna was filling her "I heart dog kisses" coffee mug.  She had never heard him yell, let alone in the office, and let alone her name.

She set her mug down n the counter and turned.  None of her movements were hurried, but she was soon heading back down towards Richard's office closer to the back of the floor.  Anna cast a quick look at a few co-workers with a raised brow as if to say "Do you know what's going on?" but each of them met her eyes with confusion.

Even as Richard's legal assistant, it was unprofessional for him to bellow at her. As Richard's girlfriend, it was inexcusable.  Anna stopped in the entryway to his office as his secretary, Rhonda, slipped by her with her head down and eyes glued to the floor.

Richard appeared uncommonly frazzled. His otherwise impeccable suit was disheveled and his tie was askew. Anna entered the office and asked "What is it, Richard?"

He looked up, tension marring his handsome face and spewed "I can't find it!" He grasped a large file in one hand while he pushed through piles of paper with the other.  His normal calm demeanour gone, he continued. "It was here.  The Jones file was here yesterday and now it is gone. I have to be in a meeting with them in 20 minutes.  Rhonda can't find it. I can't find it."

Anna knew how important the Jones file was for Richard's career.  She had helped him research and gather documents for weeks in preparation for today. In fact, she had made sure it was all in place the night before she went home.  Anna stepped closer to the desk and to calmly go through where he had seen the documents last.

Richard spun to face her, "What did you do with them? I know you had them last. You've always been so damn jealous of my career. You knew what this would do to me!" Anna sputtered at the accusal. Richard picked up his office phone and ordered security to come to his office.

"I want you out of here. Now. Go pack you things. I knew I could never trust you."

That was how Anna got to the place of walking down the long hallway to the elevator flanked by security.  She waited to let the tears fall until she was safely behind the doors of the elevator. She felt stunned by the accusal that she would have done something wrong, but also by the change in Richard's demeanor. He hadn't even allowed her to speak!

Anna got into her car and drove towards her condo. She would give him time to cool down, she decided.  Time to find the files, realize she had nothing to do with them missing, and to come to her and apologize.  She would wait for him to come to his senses.

She waited a week. All she received was a termination letter and her last paycheque.

It was over.

Next: Hope's Journal

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Anchor -- Four years of love: Post from the Past

I thought this post was fitting for this week. Today is our 4 year anniversary.  I wrote this 2 1/2 years ago on March 29, 2011. Since then, The Guy has become more to me than I could have even imagined.  Four years of marriage has been an adventure.  I'm thankful he came into my life every day. 


Four years ago in February, I was sitting alone in my house.  I had three dogs, two sisters, and no direction.  I realized that the men I had dated were not what was good for me and I was going to have to do something differently if I wanted to change that.  I signed up for Lava Life the next day.

I knew if I didn't, I was going to live in the spinster house forever.

After chatting with a few different people, I ran across Woodrow (later know to you as The Guy).  His comments were witty, his grammar decent and his picture flattering.  We decided to meet for coffee to see if the online matched with the real life.

Here is an account of our first date.

Thankfully, we continued to see each other.  Each date was better than the last.  Although, there was a brief hiccup when a friend teased me about our upcoming third date so much I got a migraine from the worry that The Guy would be angry if I didn't put out.  (Just so you know: I didn't and he wasn't.)

It was our fifth date that I knew I was done for.  We walked across the room and he gently rested his hand on my lower back.  Right then, I was caught.  The thought of being without him was more than I could bear, so I knew I had to keep him.

I'm so very glad I did.

He has become my court jester, my champion, my mind reader, my best friend.

Now, if only he'd be my Sugar Daddy too.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Ahoy Matey: Pirate Beards

I'm not sure if you know, but tomorrow is International Talk Like a Pirate Day. Why do I know this? Well, because I got married on Sept 19 and was immediately regaled with friends and family "Ahoy"ing and "Argh"ing all over the place. 


However, a year or two ago, a teacher friend was putting on a school play about pirates. She asked me to make some pirate beards for each colour of pirate in the play.  Finally, a great reason to put my pirate knowledge to good use.

I made 9 beards (see them all here) of all types and colours. It was the most fun I've had in a long time. I've shared them before here and there because I love showing them off.  In honour of my 4th ITLP Day, I wanted to show them to you.  

PicMonkey Collage
A small sample of my favourite beards
The beards were a big success and I have had orders for big and little kids alike. I've made them for adults attached to their winter hats and I've made them for my nephews (B's 3) for Christmas. They often play Hunting for Treasure, so I was happy to make them something I knew they would love.  Even if only for a little while.

I've decided that, for one of our anniversary parties, I will someday throw a Pirate party. What a better way to celebrate a happy occasion and a wonderful non-holiday? A new friend has been very kind and gathered all the things I will need to know when I plan our 5 Year Anniversary Pirate Party next year.

I'm sure The Guy will be thrilled.

If you want to order a beard for your very own, you can contact me: 
email  or  Etsy 

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

And the winner of the coffee cozy is... Scott A.!

Last week, I started my first give away for a coffee cozy.  There was a great turn out and I could not have been happier!
Yay for Scott!
I meant to do this early this morning so no one was waiting anxiously, but I wasn't organized enough to do it.  So here it is.  The winner is Scott A!!

I have emailed Scott and let him know he won.

Scott is a great guy.  He stumbled on my old blog after I had already closed it down and he tracked me to FB. I read his posts with great enjoyment and have enjoyed getting to know him (albeit across the ocean!) I could not be more thrilled.

Now, don't despair!  You too can have your very own coffee cozy.  Check out my Etsy page Knit Monkies and order one.  Don't see what you like? Email me at bronwyn(dot)maybe(at)gmail(dot)com and I will make you one to your specs.

Otherwise, stay tuned.  Next give away will be in time for Christmas!

Monday, September 16, 2013

Would I lie to you?

I'm a pretty open person. I've never had a personal thought I haven't felt the need to share with someone. I will tell you about all the dumb or mean things I've done. I will tell you about the time I nearly pooped in public. I have no shame nor privacy.

Tomorrow, I am going to have to test that.

In attempting to broaden my career, I have applied for a job that requires more screening than the CIA and all the airports in the world. It seems to be a thousand step process and I am enjoying them all so far. I do appreciate they do not want bad people working for them and I have no problem submitting to all their questions and things.

So, when I answered the 31 page questionnaire asking about all the bad, dumb, illegal, and/or immoral things I'd ever done, I thought "I can do this! I tell people this without them even asking!"

124 Havana - graffiti - B crop
I did not do this graffiti.
And so tomorrow, I will be hooked up to a polygraph and I will share my deepest secrets with a stranger. For 6 hours.

Now, you think you're an open person until you start thinking for weeks about the questions they asked and how you will have to admit to the bad and/or illegal things you have ever done all while being judged if they are too bad for you to work with the public.

I will have to look a complete stranger in the eye and talk about the time I stole a pad of paper when I was 17. Not to mention other things I do not plan to mention on this site or anywhere else because I didn't know it was bad and it's super embarrassing that it was bad and I will have to tell this stranger all about it.  Awesome.

I expect I will be mortified throughout the entire process and will never share anything with anyone again. I think the only one who will be relieved by that will be The Guy.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Anna's last year: Fiction Friday

The story of the Spinster house: The House, The CoupleAnother meeting and The Shop

Chapter 4: Anna's last year (Part I)

When Anna got back to the house, she was ready for a little alone time.  Spending time with Zoe was fantastic, but being reminded of her Aunt Hope was weighing on her.  Anna still felt guilty for not coming to help when Hope called.  She knew Hope had understood, but her illness and subsequent death followed so quickly afterward that Anna could not help but feel responsible.

Anna was greeted at the door by a wiggly Trouble clutching a ragged stuffed monkey in his mouth.  His entire body shook with joy at having Anna back again as though he had been without her for years rather than mere hours.  He turned his head away from her as she reached for his toy. Trouble never wanted her to play with the monkey, he just wanted to show it to her so she knew she was accepted with his prized possessions.

Soon Trouble was wiggling for another reason.  Putting her purse down, she walked through the house to the back door where she would let him into the yard.  He set his monkey down gingerly by the step and raced outside as though experiencing freedom for the first time.  Trouble was a blur of black fur as he ran from corner to corner of the yard barking at squirrels and letting his presence be known.

Anna smiled and turned back to the kitchen.  She started the kettle for tea and went back to the entry way to retrieve her purse.  On the way, she looked about the house which was half unpacked and still a mess of opened boxes. Though she was starting to feel more settled here - in The Spinster House, she thought wryly - she was instantly reminded of the reason she came back.

2 months prior

The box weighed her down despite having very little in it but for an African violet, a silver framed picture of herself and her sisters, and her ceramic coffee cup in the shape of a dog. Gravity pulled the box further into her arms as she walked slowly down the hallway that seemed to stretch endlessly before her.

Coworkers watched in silence as security walked just behind her as policy dictated. They glanced away quickly as Anna met their eyes, her head held high despite the overwhelming feelings swirling around her mind. Disbelief warred with panic and shame for top contender as she left the office of her dreams for the last time.

Anna had known getting involved with her boss was a bad idea. He was too handsome, too suave, and too influential on her career.  However, he was relentless and soon she agreed to have dinner with him. She was pleasantly surprised by their easy conversation and the smooth transition into a real relationship.  Six months in, Anna was head over heels and assumed Richard was as well.

He had certainly acted the part. Gifts, flowers, fancy suppers, and late night phone calls.  She had even met his parents on more than one occasion.  Any worry she had of problems at the office was gently deflected by elegant words and assurances.  Anna may have been his legal assistant, but Richard was a professional and an up-and-coming lawyer in line for partnership, he wouldn't do anything to jeopardize either of their careers.

When Aunt Hope had called and requested Anna come back to run the shop, Anna was happily in love and at the top of her career. She was respected, adored, and working 60 hour weeks.  Anna thought she had made the right decision until the week that blew everything apart.

Who knew one legal document misplaced would ruin a career, a relationship, and a future proposal?

Next: The Disastrous Betrayal

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

I MayB dog tired

Anyone who knows me knows I work shift work.  Each week is a new set of shifts to make my own personal time zone. I've always said it's like I've been jet-lagged for 14 years.

Add that to the fact I have never been a good sleeper and I am a bit of a zombie.

This does not stop me from trying to be über productive even when I'm on nights like I have been this week.  I seem to think scheduling something in the middle of my "night" is a perfectly reasonable thing to do.

I am not very bright.

This week, because I picked up an extra shift, I will work 5 night shifts in a row.  Every single day I have had an appointment some time in the middle of the afternoon.  Something I could not possibly move or miss or sleep through.

Did I mention I'm starting to see things?

Not really, but you get my point.

Today. TODAY. Today is the first day of 4 where I will be able to sleep for as long as I want to. I can lounge in bed with the dog while he gets his second full night's sleep (he's like a Hobbit with breakfasts. Second bedtime is his favourite) and I can sleep and sleep and sleep.

Monty sleeping
Napping with his favourite chew bone. If he could do both, he would.

Don't be alarmed if you can hear snoring.

I MayB giving away a coffee cozy!

I'm giving away stuff! How exciting!

I've decided I like you people and I want to reward you for that. I know, being near me is reward enough, but you also deserve a prize!

So, here it is.  A coffee cozy. Handmade with love and hugs. If the one below is too girly, there are others.  If you win, you can have this one, one of the others I have made, or I can whip you up a new one in any colour.  I'm accommodating like that.

Coffee cozy of cuteness
So here.  Here is a give away.  It runs from now until midnight on Sept 17. I will announce the winner on Sept 18.

I really hope this is fun.  If not, I apologize in advance.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Tales of Grandma -- Stubborn runs in the family: A post from the past

I thought this post was apt for this week. I wrote it in November of 2009, when Grandma moved from her apartment of 40 years to a smaller apartment down the road. Now almost 5 years later, after 2 years at an independent senior's lodge, Grandma is moving in with my Uncle Dean as she is requiring more and more care due to her failing memory. This post makes me both happy and sad - happy she was always such a tough old lady and sad that she has changed so much even in the last few years. As Gram says "It is a terrible thing to get old."


Pic by my sister, Ky via Flickr
This weekend, Lyn and I will converge at Grandma's place.  It has been a busy month for Grandma and we're going to visit in order to do a quick check on how things are going.

Not only did Grandma get a new dog this last month, she also moved from her home of over 40 years.

Grandma lives on the common grounds that is owned by our church.  It started as an orphanage and bible school and years later exists as a meeting place for the "universal church"(though as far as I know only people from Earth attend) a few times a year.  My grandparents helped oversee the orphanage back in the day and my mother spent her entire youth there.

Grandma lived in a building that was once the orphanage and was later adapted to be a rooming house of sorts.  She and her family inhabited the entire top floor of the building that sat on the east end of the grounds.  For the last few years, the building has been empty but for Grandma and an occasional renter of the small apartment next to hers.  It has almost 20 of the steepest steps known to man and is a feat to climb even for the fittest person.  Grandma has been kept young by those stairs.

In the last few years, we've all realized Grandma would need a change soon.  She will be 90 in January and, even though she could still beat me for hardworking stamina, she is getting older.  She can still care for herself -- food, cleaning, bathing, etc -- but she's a little forgetful and she's a worrier.  We thought about moving her from one city to another (to be closer to immediate family) but this is a woman who's been wearing the same clothes for 30 years -- she doesn't do change well.

Grandma and her 4 sisters in 1976
The perfect solution presented itself awhile ago.  A small apartment on the same grounds opened up.  It is in the same building as two of her dearest friends and is above her nephew and his wife who do more to take care of her than time or patience would allow.  Grandma has worked towards this slowly.  One day, the idea of moving is excellent.  The next?  Not so much.

A week or so ago, none of the family could get a hold of Grandma.  Days went by and she was no where to be found.  Calls between siblings went back and forth until Ky got Grandma on the phone.  She wasn't dead and being feasted on by "the little black dog" as we had feared.  She had moved.

Grandma got it into her head she was going to move to the apartment and so she did.

By herself.

She packed up all her clothes into her suitcases and walked them down from one end of the grounds to the other.  She unpacked them there and returned for another load.  Then she loaded up dishes and books into boxes.  She carried those boxes down the flight of The Stairs of Death.  And then, she loaded those boxes into her wheelbarrow.

Her wheelbarrow.

My almost 90 year old grandmother transported all her own items down to her new apartment in a wheelbarrow.  None of us had any idea she was moving.

Grandma 001
Grandma with Monty (left) and Vicki (right)
I talked to Grandma as she was cleaning out her old refrigerator.  She was standing on a chair, using a butter knife to defrost the freezer.  She chatted amicably about washing her windows before she moved out for good and contemplated how she would wash the outsides of them.  After I made her promise not to hang herself out the window, she casually mentioned that she wondered how to get the rocking chair downstairs.

I called my uncle who lives just over an hour away and let him know.  He went down that weekend and helped her move the rest.  When he was done, she burst into tears and said "Can we move it all back?"

I'm going up this weekend to make sure she didn't do that herself too.

Monday, September 9, 2013

My dog Monty

After my recent post picturing Monty, I had a lot of questions about him. I thought I would tell you a little about my favourite mutt.

Come closer, let me drool on you.

Montel was born in the middle of my sister's bed on a Saturday morning in May, 2005. His mom, Madison, was my dog and had gotten herself in the family way. (That was on my bed. Damn dogs.) I was out preparing for my garage sale when my sisters flew out of the house with the news that Madison was finally in labour.

Montel (and all his siblings) came out looking like a little black jelly bean despite his mother being an entirely white Cocker-Poodle cross and his father being a white and brown Shih Tzu.  He was followed by 5 other brothers and sisters throughout the morning as I ran back and forth between the garage sale and the house.

In my excitement and panic, I decided to sell the dining room table so Madison could have a birthing spot on lino instead of the bed.  I accidentally put the foot of the table through my front door window. It was an exciting day.

Montel as a puppy - about 2 months old.
We named all the puppies after talk show hosts.  Why? I have no idea. But we had Montel, Phil, Maury, Vicki, Dini, and Sally Jessie.  It was a gong show.  Madison had had 6 litters by this time, so had no interest in parenting, feeding, caring for them, or anything at all that involved puppies.  We all took turns feeding the puppies by bottle and trying to convince Madison she really wanted to do it instead.  She did not and showed this by flinging Monty against the wall.

I did not plan to keep any of the dogs. In fact, when we found out Maddy was pregnant we decided one of them would be for my Dad to keep him company.  He picked out Vicki because she chewed on his nose.  He decided she needed a brother, so Monty came with her.

Dad did his best to spoil the pups rotten.  Then, he met his wonderful wife and moved to Ukraine. He left Monty and Vicki with me. For a woman who had not planned to keep any dogs, I suddenly had 3. This led to me walking them through my neighbourhood and being approached by a little girl saying "Mister Lady, you have LOTS of dogs."

We think the probable brain damage just made him cuter.
Enter The Guy. When we started getting serious, he suggested that perhaps starting our lives with the dog equivalent of the crazy single cat lady wasn't the best idea. He said he would prefer if we had one dog. And he wanted Monty.

His sister came over to visit one night and took Madison home for a sleep over.  Madison never came back. Both Maddy and (my now) SiL fell in love and have had the most hilarious time ever since.  Then my little crazy Grandma needed a dog to take care of her and Vicki was it.  She went to keep Grandma in line.  Both were very happy.

That left Monty. I wasn't sure what I thought about him at first.  He wasn't my first choice, but I grew to love him like I haven't any dog before him.  He is easy going, a bit of a princess, and loves me more than any other creature on Earth.  It's hard not to reciprocate that kind of devotion.

2012-06 Monty in the grass
Monty's favourite thing - ball. But don't touch it.
He doesn't want you to play. He just wants to show it to you.
I tease that Monty isn't smart enough to be bad.  He is what my Auntie Coral calls "good and kind".  Good for nothing and kind of stupid.  But I like him that way.

Friday, September 6, 2013

The shop - Fiction Friday

The story of the Spinster house began here, here, and here

Chapter 3: The Shop

Anna stopped on the sidewalk in front of the line of little brick shops. She breathed in deeply as though inhaling memories of times she had been in the same place before.  Each summer she had been lucky enough to spend with her aunts, she had been drawn to the shop despite the sunny weather tempting her to play.

It was all hers now.

Okay, not all hers.  She shared ownership with her aunt's best friend, Zoe. That suited Anna fine as she'd grown up with Zoe in the shop. It wouldn't be the same without her.  Her vibrancy and off-beat personality made everyone around her that much better.  And, for Anna, having Zoe there was like having a piece of her aunt with her.

Anna moved again slowly until she was in front of the store. A small, antique looking sign hung down from the steel rod protruding from the building. It simply read "Books and Ends" in a clean, simple script. Anna glanced into the window noting the display of books intermingled with small knick knacks the store was known for.  Beyond the display, Zoe looked up and a smile filled her face.

No backing out now, Anna thought.  She's seen me.

Anna pushed open the heavy oak door with a ping as the top scraped by the bell suspended above.  Zoe had made her way to the door by that time and flung herself into Anna's arms.

Well, more technically face first into Anna's boobs.  Zoe was about 5 feet tall to Anna's own nearly 6 feet.  However, despite her small nature, she was strong. Anna's ribs were squeezed tight in testament of that fact.

Zoe danced with joy as Anna returned the embrace.

"It is so good to see you finally! I wondered when you would come scope out the shop." Zoe swirled around, her floor-length, patchwork skirt flaring out around her. "What do you think? It's been awhile since you've visited!"

Zoe darted away to straighten up a shelf and turned to beam at Anna. "Hope would be so pleased you are finally here." Her eyes misted for a moment before her smile returned with a little waver. "It's not been the same the last few months."

Anna gently patted Zoe's shoulder in an effort to comfort the small woman. She didn't know what to say to make it easier. Anna blamed herself for much of what happened. If only she had visited more, she could have helped with the stress of the store and the house. If only she had returned when Hope first asked her, she could have saved herself the heartache she experienced in the last year, and she could have made her Aunt's last year easier.

Anna shook her head clear of the negative thoughts, "I'm sure it hasn't, but you've done a remarkable job with the store. It looks fantastic. You've expanded a bit haven't you?"

Again, Zoe became joyously animated. "We did! We put in a fancy coffee maker and made a couple of seating areas. Even one in the garden out back!"  Zoe nearly bounded across the room despite her chunky shoes, her long black hair swinging like a pendulum across her lower back. "This is my favourite spot! It was Hope's favourite armchair.  I put it here in the corner for people to curl up on and sit a spell."

Anna slowly wandered to the old wing chair and ran her hand over the faded material. She remembered spending many evenings nestled into pillows on the floor beside this chair while her aunt read aloud or sat quietly and knit.  The soft blue had dimmed over time, worn along the arms where her aunt's elbows had rested. It looked inviting, comfortable, and like home.  The matching stool sat off to the side ready to be pulled into action as a footstool or coffee table, whatever need arose.

Anna drifted through the store examining shelves of books and bric-a-brac that made up the store's inventory. Zoe and Hope had done a wonderful job of mixing curio with genre. Victorian tea cups accompanied books by Bronté, while exotic figurines decorated the shelves of the travel guides.

The entire store was treated more as a library. It was as though these two remarkable women had opened their homes and invited you to peruse their collections and take what you liked home with you - all for a reasonable price.  Nothing was overcrowded or overwhelming. Every aisle and shelf encouraged you to settle in, get comfortable, and find a new passion.

Zoe bustled about the store chatting about the changes she had made to the store in the last few years.  Suddenly, she gasp in surprise and exclaimed, "I forgot! Hope left something for you. I will get it right away."  She darted off - a blur of skirt and flowing hair - to the back of the store where the small office was located.  When she returned, she proudly held in front of her a leather bound tome.

"Hope left you this. It was her journal. She said it would 'Help you find your way.' I promised her I would give it to you if - when - you came home."

Next: Anna's last year

Note: some of the details have changed from the last chapter and will continue to change as the need arises. Try not to be alarmed. Initially Hope was going to be a social worker, but I loved the idea of this bookstore too much not to go with it. 

Also, Zoe is loosely based on a dear friend of mine. She is one of the most cheerful, unconventional women I know. One time, on Halloween, she arrived at my house in a broomstick skirt, a pirate shirt, and clunky shoes. It was the greatest ensemble I had seen. I asked if she had dressed up and she looked at me like I was insane. Nope, that was just what she was wearing that day. 

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Thursday, September 5, 2013

Childless by chance and by choice

People often ask if we have children. When I tell them no, they usually have questions as to why not.  It's a fair question. I am not upset by having to answer it.  Not at all.

chalk painted fence

Well, not any more.

Almost 2 years ago, The Guy and I learned we couldn't have children.  This was after months and month of doctor's visits, needles, probings, stadiums filled with spectators of my lady bits, and finally the ultimate disappointment.

I stopped writing around that time and I realized most people don't know how things have changed for us since then.

We aren't going to have children and I'm okay with that.

tired tire swing

We considered our options - adoption, rental, kidnapping.

Just kidding.  You can't rent kids.

What we decided was that adoption was too expensive for us.  We couldn't adopt (or even foster) locally because of my job (I do emergency child protection as a crisis worker) and, if we went internationally, it would be upwards of $60,000.  As much as I love children, that was just not feasible for us.

We even talked about older adoptions such as my friend, Violet, has done and my cousin, B. However, my heart was set on babies.  Finally, we settled our hearts and our minds.

Children weren't going to be for us.


Despite our initial hope we would be parents, we did become quite settled with the fact it was not to be. I think it took me a long time. My friends were all having babies by the droves.  My office was full of new babies. Even my job took me to baby after baby.

But I realized something.  I love babies.  I also love kids, but in much smaller doses.  What I did love was being an aunt.  Not that my siblings have kids.

I have copious amounts of first and second and third cousins with whom I am close. We have many, many friends.  We have coworkers.  They have kids. I would have the best of both worlds. I could spend time with kids I liked, avoid the ones I didn't, and have lots of cuddles or pirate searches or trips to the movies.

And then, I could send them home.

We would still be able to be important in the lives of children we love.  We would also be able to travel. We will have a fulfilling life even if it isn't the one I had planned when I was 12. (Thank God. I had 8 children in that plan. Lord, help us all.)

I'm pretty lucky to have a husband I love who is so much better for me than anything I could have dreamed up.  I also have my dog.

Monty is happy

Who couldn't be happy with that?

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Oops, I pooped my pants: Post from the Past

Since I posted yesterday about diet and health, I thought I would share one of my favourite stories from the past about the tolls dieting can take on your body.  This was originally posted at Buggering Crap Monkies on May 19, 2008

I may have mentioned before that I am on a diet. A six week, unforgiving, strictly healthy diet. A diet I am actually dedicated to as I know it has worked before and thus will work for me. If nothing else, it forces me to eat better and more often. I'm not limiting calories by any means. I'm just changing the way I intake them. Before, one day I was eating Cheerios and a handful of jujubes. The next day, I was eating three take out meals. Now, I am eating regular meals and regular intervals of things that actually provide nutrients. I have noticed some changes although not on the scale.

The biggest change has to do with my intestines. You may want to stop reading here. I'm going to ruin the mystery.

Since I normally have the worst eating habits a human has ever had, I tend to be a bit gassy. "A bit" meaning that sometimes I clear all the dogs out of the room causing them to run in fear with a look on their face like "OMG WE'RE ALL GOING TO DIE." I figure I learned from the masters. Both my brother and my Dad can do the same. Since starting the DIET FROM HELL, I have noticed a great relief (mostly for those around me).

I have noticed one other thing in relation to my intestines. Now, when I have to "go" I have to GO RIGHT THE FREAKING HECK NOW. Let me provide an illustration.

On Sunday, I worked until 5am. I woke at 3pm and figured I should hit the grocery store before it closed so I could actually eat that night. I got up, had my protein shake and scrambled eggs, and went to Sobey's. I had a few items on the list - most fruit and vegetables, eggs and meat. It was itemized and simple. I was prepared.

Halfway through accumulating the items on the list, I had a rumbly in my tummy. "Oh no," I thought, "I have got to go to the washroom". However, there are no public rest rooms in grocery stores, so I soldiered on. I picked up a few more items and the urgency worsened. I wasn't sure what I was going to do. The extra "squeeze your thumbs and pray" I was trying wasn't seeming to work. My stomach growls of protest were growing louder. I was starting to sweat. And panic.

I hurried as fast as I could waddle to the checkout line. The woman in front of me was painstakingly slow. The cashier was occupied with his two buddies who were bagging groceries and everyone seemed to be moving in slow motion. I threw my items on the counter (including the eggs) and perched on the bar separating one till from the other. I waited.

Beads of sweat were starting to form on my forehead. The room was starting to spin. I knew I could not hold on much longer. I swiped my debit card from my perch and waited until the entire transaction had processed before moving. Cheeks firmly clenched, I grabbed my cart and violently swung out in front of people trying for the door. I flew to my car, got my groceries inside and pushed my cart haphazardly towards the cart corral. I sat down and breathed a sigh of relief. And realized I could not possibly make it home.

Now that I was sitting, I realized I could not hold out any longer. I had moments, not minutes before I lost all control. The turmoil of my belly was threatening to make itself public. The sweat was now rolling down my face. I had to find a public washroom. I was two blocks from a Tim Horton's. I threw the car into gear and drove like a mad woman. I squealed the tires pulling into the parking lot and burst from the car. I walked into the coffee shop behind a group travelling across country. A woman in her early twenties was ahead of me, strolling calmly towards the bathroom. I had no choice. I had to follow.

I made it to the washroom and picked a stall two down from the other patron. Zipper down, purse to the floor, relief forthcoming. My bowels released and everything I had eaten in the last 5 years evacuated my body with a speed and force I have never experienced. I thought I would die from the relief and the embarrassment. I could just picture the look on the young woman's face as she sat two down from me and wondered what disease I was surely dying from. Finally, the beast was satiated. I waited (like we all do) for the other woman to clean up and leave the room. As soon as the door closed behind her, I crept from my stall looking around for other witnesses. I washed my hands and braced myself for my entrance.

Then calmly and with determination, I left the safety of the washroom and made a bee line for the door.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Keep fit and have fun: health awareness

As with many women, I have struggled with my weight and body image for most of my life.  I learned to eat my emotions and, despite knowing this, I continue to do so.  What can I say? Chips taste better than sadness.

Last year in the spring, I started Weight Watchers.  People thought I was nuts for going on a diet during the summer, but I decided I was going for it and I went.  I downloaded the iPhone ap and tirelessly plugged in everything I ate and did. I loved it. It was structure and routine and a goal.

I kept my weight steady for a year.

The downside to it all was, it cost $22/month for Weight Watchers.  To have access to an ap I could use on my phone.  I decided it was too expensive for me and I would do just fine without it.

Enter 4 months of incredible workplace stress, planning to build a house, selling our house (which was an on-again/off-again ordeal), packing up the house, moving to a rental, and applying for new jobs, I was beat. I wasn't keeping track of a darned thing and I was eating everything.


If there was a glass of wine, I would drink it.  A piece of gluten free cake? I was there.  An extra bag of chips wouldn't last long around me.  I was drinking as much pop as I could to stay awake.  I didn't say no to myself very often because I "deserved to have a break".

Once we settled into the rental, I knew it was time to get myself back on track. Eating better, not eating as much, and not having takeout for every second meal because cooking was just WAY TOO MUCH. I found myself doing better, but still not quite fitting my clothes the way I had been.

Finally, I had to admit it. I don't need to diet, but I do need to keep track of what I'm up to. I need to know what I've eaten in a single day and how that compares to the amount I should be eating. I need to keep track of my exercise because, otherwise, I can convince myself that the walk to the fridge is good enough.

I got the My Plate ap on my phone.  I don't like it as much as the Weight Watchers one, but it works well enough.  I use it to basically keep track of what I'm eating and try not to go too far over the base calorie amount of 1750 (with added calories for any fitness I do).  I don't find it as easy to use as WW or as accurate, but the ap cost me a one time $3 (there is a free one too) and that's a lot cheaper than $22/month.

The most important thing for me is awareness. If I don't pay attention, I will eat my weight in anything. I don't care if I'm skinny. I don't much care if I'm super fit either. I just want to be active-ish and not too much at risk for scurvy or diabetes.

How do you manage to keep yourself healthy and eating better?