dreaminghope: (Zoey)
We were waiting for the same suburban bus. He asked me for the time. I accidentally gave him the time the bus was coming instead of the actual time, and we started chatting when I caught him to correct myself.

He is 70 years old - a wiry, mid-60s-looking 70 - and his watch battery died today and we talked about old-fashioned watches you have to wind every day - like his Dad's watch - and new-fangled watches that wind themselves when you move and cool solar-powered watches, and his first TV, and computers you carry in your pocket, and that he is a psychologist who doesn't really believe in psychology anymore, and the time he went to a psychiatrist but walked right out because the doctor brought out his prescription pad right away, before even getting his name...

And we got on the bus and we talk about the over-prescription of Valium to women in the 1950s and '60s, and the corner store owner that got him and his friends all addicted to nicotine when they were kids by giving them free cigarettes until they were hooked, and that his wife is a social worker and his kids are all social workers and psychologists, and about how he doesn't usually drink, but he had a couple of shots of vodka with his friend today because it is his afternoon off from taking care of his wife who is dying of cancer...

Wait. Deep breath. Slow down.

They just found out a month ago that she has advanced ovarian cancer. It happened fast - one test was clear; the next, only 21 days later, showed cancer everywhere - but that's how it is with this type of cancer. Now he is learning all kinds of new things about medicines, about preventing bed sores, about what conversations really matter.

He says he isn't scared of dying, "but living scares the hell out of me".

He says that he knows she'll be waiting for him. He laughs when I say that she'll get all the paperwork filled out at the Pearly Gates for him. We're both crying a little.

These days, he likes to take public transit and talk to strangers. He talks to people in wheelchairs a lot; "they understand where I'm at". He feels really lucky, because he is healthy in both mind and body, he owns his own house, and he has enough money so that even if he lives to a hundred, he still won't have to go on social assistance. He feels really lucky to have his wife. They love each other very much and they have always gotten along and had great communication, though they had some professional differences of opinion. "I'll get to hold her hand while she is dying."

Before retiring, he used to work with abused kids: "It is amazing what a 10 year old can heal from. I still hear from some of the kids I used to work with. They went through such awful things, but now they are healthy, and they have happy families." He may not believe in psychology anymore, but he obviously helped people. We're both teary again.

We talk about work, and callings, and changing our little pieces of the world for the better using whatever gifts we have. We talk about gratitude. We talk about smiling. We talk about how the world would be better if more people knew that it is OK to cry:

"I wish I'd known that before my wife started dying."

"At least you got to learn it. It's cool that you are still learning things."

"The older I get, the more I realize that I know nothing."

We talk about learning from our parents. We talk about learning from everyone around us. We talk about people watching. He tells me that I should be a social worker. He is going to be alright, but he is sure going to miss his wife. We both have damp cheeks when I get off the bus.

Angus, wherever you are tonight, I am thinking of you and your wife. Thank you for the conversation.
dreaminghope: (Confused Zoey)
I wear a little gold pentacle necklace - a gift from Russ for our first Christmas together - every day from the moment I get out of the shower until I go to bed, taking it off during the day only to work out. I have worn this necklace this way for over thirteen years now. I knew that I checked for its presence several times a day: just before getting on and off buses, just before leaving home or work, and in the bathroom. Those checks stem from the day that the chain broke unexpectedly and I didn't notice right away. I was lucky that day; the pendent and chain got caught inside my shirt. But now I check for my pendent before doing anything where I wouldn't be able to find it again if it broke.

What I didn't realize is that I touch that necklace through my shirt about four times an hour besides those checks. I am realizing that today because this morning, in my chaotic rush to get to the gym before work, I forgot to put my necklace on. Even though I realized this when I got out of the gym, I've still been checking and having a micro-moment of panic before I remember why it isn't there. Finally, I had to stick a safety pin to my shirt about where the pendent would normally be. Now I diddle a safety pin every 15 minutes, but I'm feeling much less anxious.

Fridge fun

Feb. 9th, 2011 09:18 pm
dreaminghope: (Giggle)
Russ is putting the rice on to cook for dinner and I'm ranting about my gym.

I interrupt myself: "Toby, Pete, Stephanie?" I point at the names written on the white board we usually use for a grocery list.

"Oh, those are the kids next door; I finally got the other two's names. I put Toby's name on there so I'd remember why the other two names are there. That other guy moved out and Pete replaced him. He has big glasses and like, hair. And Stephanie's the girl... and I'm glad to finally have her name, 'cause I never wanted to say 'hey, I know we've lived next to each other for years, but what's your name?', you know?"

"Now we just need to get the names of the couple on the other side of the garden again. I feel so bad that I keep forgetting."

"I think one of them is Dave. Probably the guy."


Russ starts pulling vegetables out of the fridge for the stirfry. He turns to me holding a paper bag.

"These are mushrooms," he declares with great certainty and authority.

Of course, by that he meant: "I found these delicious mushrooms in the crisper, but before I add them to the stirfry, I feel that I should inquire as to whether or not you have another meal planned for this week that would require these particular fungi."

All I could do was laugh and keep saying "these are mushrooms", "these are mushrooms", "these are mushrooms".

And my gym-related anger was nicely disrupted. But I'm still probably going to change gyms.
dreaminghope: (Keep Walking)
Even in my morning fog - when I walk without thought, just following my feet to work by the same route as every morning - I still notice so much just by virtue of moving so slowly by it. Even on a bike, there's just so much you can just glide passed without having the time to see.

Walking is a part of a "slow life"; the only part I'm good at practising on a regular basis.

I love looking at the gardens. My favourite yards are those that are more wild, with local plants and driftwood and found metal fences. I also love weeds; the abandoned plots of dandelions. And, of course, the cherry blossoms have been gorgeous this year. One street, the flowers are so thick on the trees that the branches are arcing over the sidewalk. It's like walking under a canopy made of tiny pink petals.

I see a lot of posters on my walking commute. There are a lot of homemade ones posted in my neighbourhood: political causes, local bands, conspiracy theories, protests, and various events. I see a lot of missing pet posters. It breaks my heart to see the photos of missing Fluffy or Rover and the pleas for their safe return. I read all of the posters, because one day I might spot one the lost pets or want to go to a dance at the community centre.

There's also a lot of death along city streets that drivers and cyclists probably miss.

After the gym and some errands yesterday, I walked home. It was a good morning: I felt very accomplished, having worked out, done some banking, refilled my prescription, bought a new mat for the bathroom, and deposited some money for the Gathering. Normally I take public transportation home from the gym, but the weather was perfect for walking and I wasn't ready to be inside yet, not even in a bus.

I got to the bus stop about two blocks from home when I saw the poor thing: a cat's body just off the sidewalk. Hit by a car, probably. A black and white cat; like my cat. Small; like mine. No collar that I could see.

I rushed the rest of the way home and got on Russ' computer, trying to find what phone number I call so the body won't be there when kids get out of school and start walking to the park and the ice cream shop. Russ returned from the kitchen to find his paused game minimized.

"There's a dead cat and I can't figure out what to google to figure out who to call to come and pick it up, but once I figure out what number I'm supposed to call, I'm going to keep it in my wallet because I see a lot of dead animals on the street when I'm walking around and this is the first time I've found a domestic animal, but I've seen seagulls, rats, crows, squirrels, raccoons..."

And that's when Russ hugged me for awhile, which was better. Then I made the necessary phone call, and then I spent some time petting my cat.

I remember when our bigger cat, Puck, was missing for a couple of weeks. Our first wish was to have him home safe. Our second wish was to know for sure if he wasn't coming home. If there's someone to tell about yesterday's cat, I don't want to tell them, but I don't want them not to know either.

On Monday morning, I will be looking for a poster I don't really want to see of a small black and white cat missing from a neighbour's life. And I'll be looking at the dandelions and tulips.
dreaminghope: (Apple Picking)
One of my favourite customers called today, as she does every second Monday, to find out what's coming in her fruit and vegetable bin tomorrow. Most of my customers do this on the website and make any changes there themselves, but Laurie's a little older and she's doesn't have a computer.

"Without any changes, your bin this week would contain one pound of bananas..."


"A head of green leaf lettuce..."

"Maybe take the lettuce out."

"No problem. One pound of red potatoes..."

"OK, I can use the potatoes this week."

"Three concorde pears..."

"Oh, I have to tell you, the bosc pears in the last bin were just so wonderful! They reminded me of the pear tree we had in the backyard when I was a little girl. It was a bosc tree, and it produced the biggest pears. Just half of one was enough. It never produced a lot of pears - just a couple of dozen a year, I think - but they were so good.

"My father would wait until just before the first frost to pick them, and then he would wrap each one in newspaper and store them in this cold storage he made in the basement. Those pears were ugly, with that dull, rough skin, but they were so sweet and juicy. And the aroma! They smelled so good.

"My Dad packed them so carefully in those newspapers, on the shelves in the cold room, that they would last and last. Whenever we wanted a pear, we could have one just like fresh-picked, even in December or February, all the way through to the spring.

"Oh, but just listen to me go on! Those pears just brought back such fond memories, and I wanted to be sure to tell you how much I enjoyed them. I'll try the concorde ones this week."

"I hope you'll enjoy them. In your bin this week, we also have a pound of royal mandarins..."
dreaminghope: (Working Zoey)
I like goals and lists. When I went to New York City with my Mom and sister many years ago, I went with a list of foods I wanted to try while there: a piece of New York cheesecake, a soft pretzel from a street vender, a bagel from a Jewish bakery, and an egg cream. Completely doable, and delicious, goals. I proudly achieved them all (I actually achieved cheesecake several times over).

I have goals for this summer. They are fairly straightforward:

1. Finish my cloak (the one I've been "working" on since March). I finally started weaving the second half today, after warping it many weeks ago.

2. Figure out the two heddle technique on my loom so I can do a double-width piece. I want to use this technique to make a baby blanket for my first niece or nephew; I am not convinced that I will complete it before "Bean" is born (due at the end of July), but I want to finish it before the end of the summer.

3. Buy an ice cream treat off an ice cream truck.

The last one is the one I'm having the most trouble with. For the first two, I have written instructions to follow. If I have trouble with the instructions, there's the rigid heddle YahooGroups email list or the forums on Weavolution to help me out. But I don't understand how to buy from an ice cream truck.

I don't think they had any ice cream trucks in the small town where I grew up, and if they did, the trucks certainly didn't come down the mining road where I lived. And I only see ice cream trucks on the move in Vancouver. I hear them pass, music tinkling away, from my office (why they are in my work neighbourhood at all, I don't really know; maybe the hookers, addicts, and Maritime Labour onion members are big lovers of the Rocket Pop), but I would never have time to get my money out and get out in time to catch them. Even when I see the trucks near the park, they are driving past. I don't know how they sell anything, but I'm determined to figure it out.

Of course, once I've caught one of these elusive venders, I will have to figure out what to buy. I'm rather fond of Drumsticks - do they sell those from trucks?
dreaminghope: (Working Zoey)
There are stories to tell.

There was an afternoon at Quest spent cleaning up rodent droppings and re-shelving hundreds of dented cans and dusty pasta packages with a recovering drug addict. She had just moved to Vancouver to enter her father's treatment center, and she was looking forward to having spaghetti for dinner.

There's the new website at work, and the long list of complaints and struggles and other associated annoyances. And there's my assistant, The Kid, who sure gets sick a lot and should maybe start investing in large bottles of Pepto.

There's the deck... well, the deck isn't so much a story as a saga. The project sounds reasonable: remove the poorly made railings, yank up the rotting plywood, replace any rotten boards in the structure, then put down new plywood, treat with a deck finishing product, and put up new railings. Simple. But our deck is almost 300 square feet... a small Yaletown apartment.

If you've been through East Van lately and noticed some any weird(er) behaviour, it's probably my neighbours, high on the fumes from the deck surfacing. Russ put on three undercoats and one topcoat, which made for some pretty intense fumes. And since houses are pretty close together here and our deck is seven feet up, a lot of people were getting whiffs of our deck. Luckily, our neighbours on all sides are kind and tolerant. Mostly, they are just teasing us because the project's now four weeks old and not yet complete.

There was the 3-Day Novel Contest. I only wrote just over 17,000 words, and the resulting story – Dream in Toner – features a magical photocopier, a bunch of pigeons, and Bananagrams.

And there's my new love: a Rigid Heddle Loom. I bought a assembled-but-never-used 24-inch Ashford from a neighbour a couple of months ago. Since then, I've made a couple of scarves, a set of place mats, and a whole lot of dishcloths.

There are plenty of stories, but I just haven't had the right words. But if I wait for the words to come to me, I'll never write. So here I am again, trying to tell a story with what words I have.

Where I am

Apr. 2nd, 2008 12:02 pm
dreaminghope: (Dancing Cat)
Where I learn that cookies won't keep you together

Two people who were customers of mine as a couple split up recently. He moved out, and she kept their old apartment and account. He opened a new account from his new apartment across town. They order the same ginger spice cookies in their deliveries every week.

Where I feel bad for the dog

The dog next door has a thick, tightly-wound tail that coils on his back. When he is happy or excited, his tail twitches like a snake dreaming of swallowing a fat mouse.

Where I am pedantic and get a new enemy

Someone called me "caustic" yesterday and told me that I must be a very unhappy person... or maybe it was a very angry person. To be fair, I was rather condescendingly correcting her grammar and spelling in an email at the time. I maintain that I was provoked: she works for a book publisher and she sent me an unsolicited sales pitch wherein she spelled the title of the book wrong, spelled "distributor" wrong, and neglected to use full stops on half her sentences (amongst other problems). In the final email of our correspondence, she told me that "grammer [sic] doesn't matter in emails", which is when I gave up - anyone who believes that good writing doesn't matter when selling a book cannot be saved.

Where I want the unwanted

This week, I keep encountering random cases of black jellybeans being used as a metaphor for something or someone unwanted and left behind. To that I say: Send me your black jellybeans. I always leave them for last because they are my favourites. I always like the underdog.

Where timing oneself by others gets confusing

I know that I am going to be on time for work when I pass Marionette Man at the corner of Hastings and Clark. We pass each other somewhere along Clark every morning. It is a non-encounter; we don't even nod to each other. All too often, I pass him many blocks farther up, as he turns off Clark towards his workplace and I start walking faster towards Hastings because I must be running late.

Today, I got to Hastings and Clark and Marionette Man was nowhere to be seen. He is distinctive: more than six feet tall, lanky and long-limbed, and his is arms only swing forward of his hips and his knees seem to bend too much. This peculiar rise and fall to his step makes him appear to be controlled by invisible strings and a not-entirely-talented puppeteer.

I finally saw him a couple more blocks along, turning on to Hastings from McLean. I wasn't early for work, so he must have been the late one today. I wonder if he knew that by when he saw me. I wonder if he'll notice when I'm not around for the next two weeks.

Where I realize that even if I write this in an email while in my office, it does not count as work, and I have far more tasks to complete than I have time to do them in as it is...
dreaminghope: (Flying Demon Girl)
Love Stinks

Love smells like kitty litter. It smells like a cat litter box that you always scoop and change even though his cat uses it too because ammonia is the one smell that makes him gag.

Love has the sharp moldy smell of the last satsuma mandarin that both of you left in the fridge for the other one, because it's the other person's favourite fruit too, but because neither of you knew it was being saved for you, it just sat in the produce drawer until it turned bad.

Love is the dusty smell off the electric heater that he installed a fancy thermostat for and programmed it to come on very early on Saturday mornings so the kitchen and bathroom would be warm when you dragged yourself out of bed at 6 AM.

Happy Valentine's Day, darling! Thanks for cleaning out those bad veggies last night; I took out the garbage this morning.
dreaminghope: (Default)
Has anyone seen my orgasm?

Quite possibly too much information – siblings should not proceed )

I just hate to leave it wandering around by itself.
dreaminghope: (Squinty Puck)
It's not really a commuter bus because it is going against the flow of traffic, but there are two men in business suits on the bus, complete with laptop cases. One is silently lip-synching along with his MP3 player, complete with toe tapping and occasional air drumming. The other, with no headphones in sight, is quietly singing something that sounds like a country song, though I can't distinguish the words. I wonder what they are each hearing.


They got on at the same stop, but they obviously just met each other.

I can't see the younger of the two new passengers very well from where I am sitting, but I can hear her. English is definitely her second language. She seems to be in her mid-twenties.

"What do you do?" she asks the other passenger.

"I'm a writer. Well, I pay the bills using the sex trade, but I want to get out of that. It's shallow. It's just all really shallow."

"How old are you?" I don't think she understood the part about the sex trade.

"I'll be fifty-four next month."

"You have lots of tattoos."

"It's something I can give myself that no one can ever take away. I've lost a lot, but no one can take my ink."

"Are you a boy or a girl?" she asks bluntly.

"Some of both. Not really either."

"No, but, what are you really?"

"People always want you to be able to tick off either A – female – or B – male. I'm C – all of the above."

"All of the above!" the girl is delighted. I don't think her questions were meant to be rude; I think she's just honestly curious.


I noticed the Japanese mandarin box when I got on the bus because I love mandarins and they aren't in season right now. I didn't notice anything else odd about the box until about a couple of blocks later, when the contents started mewing.

The woman opens the box and removes a tiny orange kitten. She holds it close to her chest and it seems pretty content to stay there, but it cranes its head around, staring around the busy and noisy bus with big curious eyes. It doesn't seem scared at all, but it occasionally says "mew" loudly – well, as loudly as something the size of a medium-sized East Van rat can – as if to greet the other people on the bus. The woman holding the kitten tries to quiet it:


Shushing a cat works about as well as asking it to heel, so it continues to mew and she continues to shush until I get off the bus and walk the half block to my home.
dreaminghope: (Bee Faerie)
Shave my legs; I want to wear a skirt tonight, even if it means navigating a razor around the two hives on my right ankle. Damn allergies.

Ten years. More than a third of my life.

Change the kitty litter. Give the cats fresh water. Russ must have fed them before leaving for work, or maybe they just aren't eating as much because of the heat. It is so stuffy in here.

A couple of weeks ago, he brought home Dairy Queen Blizzards. He didn't bring home spoons; he knows that I wash and keep all the plastic spoons that come into our house and that we have several Blizzard spoons in the drawer.

Ten years. Double digits. A milestone.

I forgot to do the dishes last night. This heat is making me lazy and forgetful. No time to do them this morning; luckily, Russ rinsed everything after he served seconds last night, so it won't be too bad later. I'll try to get them done before we go out for our anniversary dinner. I give the counters a quick wipe to clean up crumbs and coffee marks from the morning's preparations.

A decade. That's a daunting thought. One day, one month, one year at a time, and now we've collected a decade. Today isn't actually different from yesterday, but now it's ten instead of just nine and some.

I've got my purse and my travel mug. Russ left me the last of this week's cherries. I don't think I've forgotten anything. 7:30 already; I've got to get going. The garbage truck is rumbling in the alley, but I remembered to put the garbage can and blue box out last night.

Yesterday evening was a warm-up to tonight's anticipated sappiness:
"I'll be in the living room."
"I'll bring you dinner when it's ready."
"I love that! I love that you bring me dinner every night."
"And I love that you bring me clean underwear every week."

I kissed him for the first time ten years ago today, after we saw Men in Black in the theaters for the second time together. How many kisses is that now? And how many movies seen, meals eaten, tears shed, laughter shared, and orgasms reached?

I'm still new to this MP3 player thing. I fumble with it - drop it when I tangle the cord with my house keys - and when the music finally comes on, it's like an omen, playing song 14: Give Me a Kiss You Dirty Old Bugger*:

most married couples seem to get kind of sick of each other
after too much time together
but once in a while you see an old pair with a sparkle in their eyes
that's strong and weathered

Ten years is nothing really. My parents have together for more than thirty. My grandparents were together for about 60 years before my Grandpa passed away. My great-grandparents were married from young adulthood until Grams passed away at 90 years old. Ten years is just a blink of an eye. It feels that way, anyway.

At work already. The walk does seem to go faster with music. I'll have to remember to thank Russ again for giving me his old MP3 player when he upgraded to a better one. Get the computers up and running and start the emails downloading. During university, when Russ had an office job, I used to go to the computer lab in the main library during my breaks to email back and forth with him. I bet I still have those old emails printed and stored in a binder somewhere. I have mementos from every year, but I don't need to look at them to remember. Only ten years, after all; after another fifty, I may need touchstones to bring back even important individual moments from these early days.

The tenth time we've celebrated an anniversary. Well, not really, since some years we've both forgotten our anniversary; we aren't really romantic like that. Last year we noticed a week late that the date had passed. There's just sometimes too much day-to-day life going on: vacuuming and weeding and answering emails and paying bills and grocery shopping. The things that fill days and years; the things a decade are built on.

It's not even noon yet. I'm feeling a little giddy, and I'm not sure if it's the first coffee I've had this week or the excitement of going out to dinner tonight. Russ has a surprise for me that he is being very mysterious about.

Ten years: A university degree and a college diploma; Mom's cancer, Grandpa's Alzheimer's, best friend's cancer, and Grandma's cancer; six moves and five homes and one house; two cats and one iguana; three beds; two trips to Mexico; Grandpa's death; nine jobs; two months of unemployment; numerous trips to the ER; three vacuum cleaners; four minor car accidents; countless family gatherings; three coffee makers, two French presses, and one espresso machine. And two less Blizzard spoons.

*Kim Barlow, Gingerbread.
dreaminghope: (Bee Faerie)
White appliances are horrible because they show all the splatters. Black appliances are almost as bad because every water mark looks like grease, and all grease splatters show. Stainless steel... I am not a competent enough cleaner to even think about stainless steel. I wish they still made avocado green appliances. They seem to look pretty much the same whether they are clean or not.

When I was a little girl, my parents had these Lazy-Boy chairs and a matching couch with arm covers and head rest covers. The covers were always getting crooked, and I was always straightening them out. It was an afternoon routine when I got home from school: go around the family room and fix all the covers. I would do it again before going to bed. Sometimes I would do it in the morning before school too. They drove me crazy; always crooked and hanging off at weird angles. I was eight when I vowed to never have the dreadful things on my own furniture, and I don't. I do have an area rug that never stays lined up with the wall and the furniture, even with a rubber mat under it. I don't fix it every day, though, because it's under the futon and Russ' desk chair. I fix it every time I vacuum, and I try not to look at it the rest of the time.

When I do laundry, I hang my underwear in a line so the greens are all together, followed by the blues, then the purples, pinks, and the red pairs at the far end. Just because it's just laundry doesn't mean it can't look nice.

I have developed an obsession with paisley. It looks like a really beautiful comma, or maybe an apostrophe. Russ isn't fond of paisley. He doesn't share my deep love of punctuation either. But he lets me babble to him about both, and he pretends to appreciate my newest paisley acquisitions. He even goes out in public with me when I'm wearing my tacky orange paisley shirt.

I have one set of matching bath towels and two sets of matching bed sheets. One of the sheet sets was from a remainder sale, and the top sheet is completely crooked; when it's at my chin, it only reaches Russ' nipples. Some part of me likes when things match – when they are right and straight and tidy and perfect – but I'm cheap. Instead, I adapt my aesthetic sense to appreciate the less appreciated beauty of non-matching towels and crooked sheets. But I still want my rug to be straight.

Every day

May. 18th, 2007 10:18 am
dreaminghope: (Zoey)
Though I have been unable to convince the cats, who were on free-feed until Puck got too fat, that they should come running at meal time and each eat from their own bowls, I still have two bowls out. Twice a day, I jerk open the door – which sticks – to the area where the huge food bag is kept and I carefully add half a scoop of food to the "Zoey" bowl and a full scoop of food to the "Puck" bowl. I always put out the food in that order.

Zoey sits nearby and watches me. She sees the first food bowl get set down, but doesn't go to it. She waits until I put down the second, fuller, bowl before she trots up to eat from it. Always.

She eats a couple of mouthfuls, then walks away, back to whatever nap she was taking or bug she was chasing before food happened.

There is no point or benefit to our mutual routine. I wonder what would happen if I were to fill the bigger bowl first, but I don't do it. I like to have something that happens the same way every time.
dreaminghope: (Naked)
If I'm to meet someone somewhere and they are five minutes late, I start considering the things that may have delayed them: a late bus, a misplaced house key, a slow watch, a random sighting of a pink rabbit.

If they are ten minutes late: some bad traffic, a last minute phone call, an encounter with a talking pink rabbit.

If they are fifteen minutes late, I start to worry: maybe there's been a car accident, or they came down with a sudden and severe illness, or maybe the pink rabbit turned out to be homicidal.

By the time someone is twenty minutes late, I've begun rehearsing the speech I will give at their funeral.

It's dangerous to leave me alone with too much time to think. That is, unless you would like to know what I would say at your memorial.

A question

Jan. 19th, 2007 09:41 pm
dreaminghope: (Giggle)
How do you know when you've really gotten absolutely all of the toothpaste out of the tube?

dreaminghope: (Playing Zoey)
This is a follow-up of sorts to my last post on what basic skills every adult should have.

The biggest test of whether or not something is a basic skill is whether or not most people are capable of doing it, so it shouldn't surprise me that everyone on that post responded with skills that they themselves possess. Obviously, we are all smart, well-adjusted people who have mastered all the basic skills.

But no one is really a finished masterpiece. We're works in progress. At least, I am. Or I'm just neurotic; depends on when you ask.

Confession is supposed to be good for the soul...

I always thought that an adult should be able to hang a picture straight. And yet, no matter how much I measure and even when I use a level, I always manage to get the picture crooked. Russ hangs our pictures.

I always thought an adult should be able to deal with hiring whoever is necessary to fix or improve their home, but I am very easily intimidated and overwhelmed by salespeople. Russ deals with them until it comes time to decide what colour of roof we should have. I point to a colour, sign the cheque, and smile a lot.

I always thought that adults should wash their floors regularly. I thought they should iron their clothing (not their underwear or their jeans, just their cotton shirts and things like that). I thought they should change their bed sheets every week. I am capable of doing all these things – they are basic skills, after all – but I never quite seem to get around to it.

But, I know how to refinish an oak floor, I can install moldings and baseboards, and I can put up towel rods (for some reason, those come out level). I almost never forget to scoop the kitty litter. I am a wizard with budgeting.

I feel better. So, confess: What life skills do you think you should have that you lack? What skills do you have, but never or rarely use? Do you feel guilty about not using those skills, or is that just my personal brand of madness? And, finally, what more-than-basic life skills do you possess?
dreaminghope: (Cave Gargoyle)
Subtitled: Why we can't have nice things.

My friends from the suburbs, or even from the wealthier areas of Vancouver, have often noted the complete lack of garbage cans on the streets of my neighbourhood on the East side, especially at bus stops.

Strathcona is a lovely neighbourhood. It is a neighbourhood with tradition, with Italian and Chinese families who've been here for generations, taking advantage of its proximity to both Chinatown and Little Italy. It is a neighbourhood with energy, with hip up-and-coming artists scattered everywhere in studios, garages, and basement suites.

We finally got a garbage can at the bus stop near the park and community garden. It was full to overflowing most of the time, which either shows how desperately we needed it or how infrequently the city emptied it. It isn't an issue anymore, though, because someone, who was probably looking for cans and bottles to return, cracked the garage can open – split it top to bottom – and now they've taken our garbage can away.

Russ and I got broken into on Monday morning, not long after we left for work. Someone jimmied the basement door's lock. They didn't get any further then that basement storage room. As soon as they got the basement door open, our monitored alarm system went off, and functioned exactly as it was supposed to: the intruder ran off, the police came, we didn’t lose anything. There wasn't even any damage.

When we moved into this neighbourhood a year ago, there was this ugly lump of a building two doors down from us. It was free-standing from the house, right on the alley. It was covered by a massive black tarp, with flapping corners where it wasn't tied down completely, and it dominated the view from our deck.

As with most of the lots on our street, the main house's size meant that there was already more building on the lot then was allowed, so the second building must have been old enough to have been grandfathered in. As long as the building stood, it could remain, but if the owners ever tore it down, they would not be allowed to build anything new in its place.

Recently, the owners decided to re-roof and start fixing up the lump. They've been re-shingling, making additions, basically rebuilding it from scratch without it ever coming down. In talking to them about their plans, we found out that the building was actually a 100-year-old horse barn. This was one of the last areas of Vancouver to have horses.

We heard stories about the building when we first moved in. A previous house owner had divided the old barn into bedrooms. Though the building did not have electricity or running water, people would rent the rooms (stalls?), then go into the main house to use the washroom.

There was also gossip that the barn was once a bordello… but I may have started that rumour.

There are old houses in our neighbourhood being fixed up, getting heritage status. There are some gorgeous buildings near us now, painted with rich colours, with so many details like trims and stained glass and beautiful railings and fences. A lot of time and money went into those buildings.

The summer's rash of arsons seems to have ended, though no one was ever apprehended. Some brand new homes, still unfinished, and a importer's warehouse were among the victims. The warehouse was only damaged, and it is fully repaired now. The houses were completely destroyed, but they have almost been completely rebuilt.

Russ and I put down a deposit on our new windows today. They will be installed in January. Our house is a long way from being heritage, but it will look nicer with shiny new windows. They will also cut down the noise from the street and will help with our energy costs. As soon as they are installed, we will have our alarm company come in to upgrade our system.

Someone was sleeping in the next door neighbour's car port the other morning.
dreaminghope: (Cave Gargoyle)
W.I.F.E.: Wash – Iron – Fuck – Etc. I saw this on an icon today. And I am doing laundry again. And my mother called Russ her "son-in-law" again.

I'm a good third-wave feminist. Well, I'm a good theoretical feminist. Or a good feminist in theory. Anyway, I know it is possible to be a wife without being the kind of woman they always make fun of at [livejournal.com profile] domestic_snark.

But... Russ' Mum, when she catches him doing something like leaving his socks on the floor, says to me: "Well, he is your problem now." He is now mine to train, or to pick up after if I fail to train him adequately.*

My mother is a full-time wife and mother. She keeps an impeccable house and cooks a good dinner, to be consumed as a family at the kitchen table, every night. I thought I could avoid triggering that image of "wifedom" by not marrying Russ. We would live in blissful partnership. No wedding, no contract, means no expectation, from him or from myself, of being a good wife.

But, I am the one in our relationship that cares how the house looks, so I end up doing most of the cleaning and tidying. I am the organized one, so I do the bills, schedules, and meal plans. I am not very strong or handy, so I cannot fix the caulking in the bathroom or fix the living room fan. Russ is better at talking to contractors and electricians then I am. And I don’t drive, so I don't know how to change a tire or check the oil.

Russ does do the cooking and cleans the bathroom, but otherwise our housework is divided along very conventional gender lines. That's not how it was supposed to be; I'm a feminist. Skills be damned – I should be re-finishing the deck while he does the vacuuming.

There was a StatsCan survey back in July that the media tended hail as proof that "more men are doing housework", as if there was suddenly gender equality in household matters. What struck me was how little equality it actually represented. The gap is narrower, but we've got a long way to go:
The proportion of men who did some housework daily rose from 54% in 1986 to 69% in 2005. The proportion of women who did daily housework held steady at 90%.

Looking only at "core housework", men’s participation went from 40% to 59% and women’s dropped from 88% to 85%.

Russ does core housework every day, so he is part of the 59%. But when did I become a conventional, traditional woman doing "woman’s work"?

And just a quick look at the wedding industry reveals how old-fashioned we can get about marriage. When a woman gets engaged, perfect strangers will congratulate her as if she's just won some sort of contest, without knowing anything about her husband. British journalist Jemima Lewis: "If [the bride-to-be] is defensive, it is because she has realized how little the condition of womanhood has changed – and how antediluvian her own instincts really are."

When I took my minor in Women's Studies, I had little patience for the theorists who claimed that it was impossible to have gender equity within marriages and that we would have to create children in test tubes before we could be treated as equals.~ Though I still don't agree with them, I do see their point: I am a feminist; I have a university degree and a full-time job; and I was raised to believe that I can be anything and do anything – I should be the poster child for an non-traditional relationship. And I still change the bed instead of fixing the drywall.

Third-wave feminism, to speak very broadly, tends to be about choice: for example, women can choose to stay home and raise children, or choose to work. But what of the choices we seem to make that aren't really choices at all, such as to do the vacuuming because your mother taught you to, while your partner fixes the fence because his father taught him to. Am I making a deliberate choice to be this kind of wife and partner, or am I caving to my social training?

I'm going to go fold my partner's t-shirts.

*This isn't a slight against Russ, or any sort of hint that he needs to behave any differently then he does (really, sweetie). That is just what his mother is saying to me.

~An Internet cookie for anyone who can name that theorist – my mind is drawing a blank.
dreaminghope: (Quiet Gargoyle)
"Downtown and in the rich areas, people can be completely cut off. They only see the prettiness of this city," David, my British co-worker muses, "I like working here because it reminds me of what's really happening."

"Can I have a banana?" there's a skinny woman at the gate. She holds the gate with both arms, her body bowing and swaying away like a windsock with the tip caught. She's either on drugs she shouldn't be taking, or off drugs she should be on.

"Sure," David grabs a banana from an open box and takes it to the gate. She mumbles a "thanks" and stumbles away.

"When you bus through the downtown Eastside, you see our poorest, our most desperate citizens. You know, it, uh, keeps it real," David smirks at his word choice, "and here, working here, with the crack and the prostitutes and the bottle collectors... it is real."

How real do you want it?

I live and work on the edge of the bad neighbourhood of Vancouver. The most notorious corner in Canada, Main and Hastings, is less then 10 blocks from my house. On my way to work, I pass a homeless man sleeping in the park and a prostitute waiting on the corner for her next customer. A group of addicts shoot up in the doorway outside my workplace. The vacant lot on the corner is an improvised dump where pilfered garbage bags have been ripped open and emptied of any useful or slightly valuable contents.

At home, we keep our recycling box under the deck. We used to keep it on the deck, until the morning where I walked into my kitchen to see a stranger on my deck, checking the box for returnables. We leave all our returnables in the alley where a man with a liberated shopping cart picks them up – the East side recycling system at work.

To me, this sums up how un-romantic the real reality is, when you are here:

On top of a cupboard on my back deck, I had stacked a couple of old litter boxes. They were clean, in that Russ had sprayed them with the hose, but they hadn't been soaped or scrubbed. That's why they were still outside, actually. We had bought the cats a shiny new box, with a roof and a filter, and the old ones were just sitting waiting a need.

They were stolen.


dreaminghope: (Default)

February 2014



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