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: (Zoey)
The earth doesn't care about new year's. If at midnight, a bird sang sweetly, or a cat stirred in its sleep, or the world seemed to hold its breath for a moment, it was coincidence only. The change in calendar doesn't mean anything to the Mother Nature, but you wouldn't think so in Vancouver today.

The day dawned with the kind of clear blue cold that the rest of Canada often sees in the winter, but that we rarely do. The air's so dry that the mountains look too close and overly real. The ground's frosted and shimmers in the sun. Everything feels clean and fresh and new.

I don't celebrate new year's eve (mostly for reasons summed up by Cracked.com). I boycott by staying home, watching DVDs, cleaning, and going to bed before midnight. I can't resist new year's day, however. I love the symbolic new start and the feeling of optimism as everyone, for a least a day, attempts to let go of bad habits and start to floss, eat better, exercise more, be better.

I drank an eggnog latté, mailed Christmas thank you notes, walked a labyrinth, made bagels, read and ate bagels, walked with Russ through the sunshine, saw a bald eagle perched on a church steeple, watched the first season of "Red Dwarf", and did some writing.

It was a good new day.
dreaminghope: (Apple Picking)
We had one of those blessed sunny autumn days in Vancouver today. It was a day to love fall: bright, but cool enough to wear a hat and sweater, and the smell of crushed dried leaves was in the wind.

I needed vacuum bags. After failing to find them at The Bay earlier this week, I found them on a website for a local vacuum service store and headed there this morning after the gym and farmers’ market.

It was like stepping back in time. Most of the stock was behind the counter, so rather than being on your own to find what you need and take it to the register, we stand in line and the man bustles about and brings everything to us. He was packing up someone's new vacuum when I arrived. The next person in line had a bag of parts with him and the man checked each one and let him know whether or not they needed to be replaced. He also explained to the customer how he could check to see whether or not his vacuum’s belt needs to be replaced – apparently a common problem for that type of vacuum. When it was my turn, the man brought me two options: the brand name bags and the aftermarket versions, which were half the price. He also told me about the most common repair needed for my type of vacuum and that I should make sure no one charges me more than a dollar for the part required to fix it. And he gave me a sticker with his shop information on it to put on my vacuum at home. I did it.

I went to the grand opening of a new location of a huge chain craft store. I have a lot of craft supplies (I am probably pretty close to S.A.B.L.E.: stash amassed beyond life expectancy), but there's always something else I need, for some definition of "need". Right now, I need a couple of tapestry needles. I have some already, but I can't find them. The store was chaotic. The whole time I was there, someone was ringing a big brass bell – the kind an old school marm would ring to call students in to start the day – which had something to do with a wheel people were spinning to win discounts and stickers. By the time I found my tapestry needles – a two dollar item – the ringing and the crowds were getting a bit much and I was done. I moved towards the front of the store but found that the line for the registers wound all the way to the back of the store. I didn't want to waste that much more of the beautiful autumn sun. I'll go back for the needles another day. I wonder if the vacuum guy would consider opening a craft store.

The Girl Guides were out selling cookies. Today was also Apple Day – the day Scouts sell apples as a fundraiser. There were adorable kids in uniforms on almost every corner. The Scouts were supposed to say "apples by donation", but the ones outside the SkyTrain station were enthusiastically yelling "apples for donation". I gave some little boys a couple of dollars but declined the apple. As I dug out my wallet, I told them that my husband used to be a Scout when he was a little boy and loved it. I doubt they cared, but they nodded and smiled politely. I remember doing the nod and thank-you when people used to reminisce about their days in the blue uniform while buying Girl Guide cookies.

I found Ivan E. Coyote's new book – Missed Her – in a bookstore even though I thought it wasn't coming out for another month yet. I immediately went to one of the ubiquitous coffee shops and read half the book over a pumpkin spice latté, while trying not laugh out loud or cry while sitting in the front window on a busy corner.

A lady in the coffee shop was trying to give away apples because she'd bought one apple from every Scout she saw, but she'd also already bought a bunch of apples at the grocery store. The staff took some off her hands and got themselves a nice fall snack. I went back out into the sun and started walking home.
dreaminghope: (Bee Faerie)
Vancouver's been having a prolonged spring. I'm still sleeping under a quilt and wearing a jacket every day. We've had a handful of nice days, but generally it has been cold and wet.

The process for a Slope Soaring class - the first class of the paragliding program - is to call in just before you leave to find out what site you'll be at. Since the site might be as far as an hour's drive away and class starts at 6 AM, we call at 4:45 AM. So at quarter to five - a time that barely qualifies as 'this morning' - Russ, Craig, and I were showered, dressed, packed and standing in our kitchen, ready to go. We made the call. Class was cancelled today due to rain and unfavourable winds.

Craig went back to bed, but Russ and I were too awake. We went off to breakfast at a 24-hour place, then made a trip to a couple of hardware stores to pick up some things (especially a new hot water heater, as our current one is slowly creating a puddle). I cleared a path through the basement for next week's hot water tank installation. When the weather cleared up, Russ did some gardening. I read and played some Sudoku. Russ played some video games. I went to RubyDog's Art House. Russ went out with a friend. It's amazing how much you can get done when you start at 5 AM.

We've got our class re-booked for June 19th; two more weeks to visualize and practice in my head. I'm getting very good at imaginary launches, though people on my walk to work may wonder when I suddenly burst into a quick jog, swinging my arms to pull up my imaginary wing.
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: (Flying Demon Girl)
My birthday is three weeks from today, making now an excellent time to start thinking about what I might ask for. I do have lots of wishes. I wish for a violence-free Olympics for my city. I wish for my friend to find permanent relief from her five month long migraine headache. I wish for healthy, happy, bouncing babies for all my friends who want them. I wish for the whiners in my spiritual community to either start helping or to just shut up. Ahem... so, not all my wishes are nice. And none of those are likely birthday presents. There's just nothing I am lacking.

Actually, there is one thing I would really like for myself. It's a frivolous thing; a pure and simple luxury. What I'd really like for myself is a warm toilet seat.

That I don't have this is partially my fault. Our house is old and heated with electric baseboard heaters, which means that it's unevenly heated at best. I'm also a bit frugal (cheap), so I keep the temperature low (I turn down the thermostat anytime I don't need to wear a sweater). The result is a cool bathroom and a cold toilet seat, especially first thing in the morning.

It's worse at work, though. I work in a closet of an office at the back of a cement warehouse. Because we deal with fruits and vegetables, we don't put the heat on in the warehouse very often. In the summer, the warehouse is pleasantly cool. In the winter, it is bloody cold. Sometimes the walk-in refrigerator is warmer. The bathroom is located in the warehouse, and it is also unheated. I bite my lip when I sit down so I don't squeak when my warm skin hits the icy plastic.

It's still not a practical birthday wish, but I am so blessed that the only thing left to want is a warm place to sit my bare bum.
dreaminghope: (Giggle)
I have a problem with admitting when I don't know something, and I seem to encounter a lot of people who just assume I know the things that they know – I tend to just go along and hope I figure it all out. And I usually do.

I do it at work a lot. I have a lot of regulars, and all my customers know me because I'm the one who answers the phones and answers their emails and calls them back when they need to make last minute changes and I don't have to let them, but I do. When people call me at work, I act like I know who they are until I figure out who they are. When Dave Allen calls, I'm typing in "Allen" in the search box for my customer database as he says hello, and when it doesn't come up with any results, I wonder if it's under "David" or maybe "AllAn" instead of "AllEn", and that's when I realize that he isn't asking about apples or soy milk but is talking about RRSPs, which makes this Dave Allen, my banker, and not a customer at all, and it takes me another 30 seconds or so to shake my head into personal finance mode because I was so ready to talk about fennel recipes and this week's great deal on almond butter.

As far as I can remember, my mother-in-law has never told me what her health issues actually are, but she makes passing references to them. I know she can't eat seeds and that her feet are often cold because her circulation is poor and she's got swollen hands and she's often achy, but I don't know which symptoms are of a disease and which are the results of all the meds she has to take. There's been talk of colitis and lupus and arthritis – tests and theories – but she's never sat down and told me what's officially going on. She probably thinks Russ has told me, but he sometimes seems a little confused too.

My Mom's more of a straight shooter. When she was diagnosed with cancer, there was a full discussion of what that meant. Now, mind you, she didn't tell us about the cancer scare, but only once it was cancer, and I really think we all would have preferred to have been a little scared with her during the cancer scare instead of being thrown straight into the full terror of cancer – especially my poor sister, who found out first through a call from my mother's doctor – but that's my mother. She got her diagnosis and she laid out the plan: surgery – lumpectomy if possible; mastectomy if necessary – and if there's lymph node involvement, then chemotherapy and radiation and this dreadful drug that threw her into menopause and she got these hot flashes that was like an out of control sauna from the inside. And it was all laid out like a check list: cut, poison, burn, drug – check, check, check, check. It works with my Dad's way of being – the engineer in him isn't good with grays and hinting and suggestion. He likes lines and black and white; he ignores vagueness.

My mother-in-law's all vagueness, and it gets to a certain point where it feels really weird – really embarrassing – to straight out ask "What's wrong?" What's really wrong with your hands? What is your diagnosis? This is the disadvantage of faking it; if you don't figure it out, it's really hard to back-track, and say, maybe fifteen minutes into a phone conversation, "I'm sorry, who is this, please?"
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: (Bee Faerie)
It happens every time I organize an event, even if it's just for the seven other members of Silver Spiral: I spend the week before thinking about it constantly. Until the ritual is designed, I obsess about it, and in between attempts to write it, I meal-plan and write shopping lists and schedule when I'll go to various stores to get speciality ingredients.* On the day of the ritual, I turn into a little whirlwind. Last Sunday, Imbolc, Russ was startled several times when I suddenly squeaked and ran out of the room, yelling "the timer!", "the bread!", or "the ginger beer!" over my shoulder.

Even after my guests arrive, I am rushing around, setting up the altar, assigning parts, getting drinks, finding cat-free places for jackets and bags. During the ritual, I'm trying to remember what comes next. Then, ritual over, the true chaos kicks in as everyone looks at me and says "how can I help with dinner?"

Last Sunday, the meal plan was simple: pasta with sauce. Of course, the pasta and sauce were both from scratch. Russ browned chicken and supervised stove-related items while a couple of people chopped veggies at one end of the table and a couple more made pasta for the first time, under the supervision of our resident home economics teacher. I fetched and gathered and assigned and set the table and opened wine... and in the midst of all of it, I suddenly feel the tension drain out of me and I remember: This is what it is all about. It is all about this steamy kitchen full of people laughing and talking and making dinner together. It's all about this family of spirit sitting down together with mismatched napkins and glasses of juice and wine. It's all about seeing everyone's face when my sister announces her pregnancy.**

It's all about needing a bigger dining room table soon.

* Speciality ingredients tend to be a must when feeding a group requires or has required in the recent past: no meat, no dairy, no nuts, no onions, no garlic, no gluten, and no alcohol.

** Russ and I had to keep that secret for six weeks, and it was hard. Now that she's put it on her FaceBook, it must be completely fair game.
dreaminghope: (Zoey)
Some purchases feel like they should be marked by confetti and trumpet flourishes. Momentous occasions, marking major life changes, happening in front of blissfully unaware store clerks.

Do you remember the first time you bought "feminine hygiene" products?

My Mom kept my sister and I's bathroom stocked through high school, so I was in first year university the first time I needed to buy my own pads. As a budding feminist and environmentalist, I was offended and annoyed that the clerk bagged my pads into a brown paper bag before adding them to the re-usable bag that held all my other purchases. Not offended enough to say anything, of course, but annoyed enough to complain about it later in my Women's Studies class.

Do you remember the first time you bought condoms?

Russ offered to go to the pharmacy, but I insisted that I would buy them. A rite of passage, perhaps, or a test of my ability to do this "adult" thing. It was such a big deal to me - I felt shaky and jumpy - but to the clerk, I was just another student in an on-campus pharmacy full of students getting ready for the weekend. I lost my virginity a couple of days later.

Do you remember the first time you bought a pregnancy test?

I doubt there's ever been anyone who has bought a pregnancy test for themselves or their partner in a neutral emotional state. Considering my emotional turmoil, I was a little surprised that a pregnancy test was just scanned through along with my bread and cheese. Given my state of mind, I expected the transaction to be remarkable, maybe even traumatic.

Standing in this virtual room with a hundred-odd friends, acquaintances, and almost strangers, I have this to say: I am not pregnant.

More than two weeks of nausea, bloating, breakouts, smell sensitivity, breast tenderness, mood swings... despite being a consistent Pill user, I really thought I was in trouble. Even after my period started, I took a pregnancy test this morning, just in case.

One beautiful line. Relief.

I am not pregnant.

"Congratulations" isn't quite right, is it? After all, non-pregnancy isn't really an achievement. Never mind; I will celebrate my non-pregnant status tonight by spending the evening as I spend many Wednesday evenings - crafting - but accompanied by a large glass of wine.

It's been a stressful couple of weeks. Maybe two large glasses of wine.
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: (Quiet Gargoyle)
1
The SkyTrain's pulling into the station, and it is packed. She'd wait for the next one, but it's rush hour; the next one will be just as bad. Or worse. Her heart is pounding and her palms get moist.

She starts counting – one, two, three, four; one, two, three, four – trying to turn all her thoughts to the numbers and away from her oncoming panic.
2
Picture a red number one. Picture an orange number two. Picture a yellow number three. Picture a green number four. Repeat.

It takes a lot of layers of thought to distract.
3
Touch index finger while picturing a red one... touch middle finger with orange two... touch ring finger with yellow three... and touch pinkie with green four... repeat.

The physical action, the recitation, and the detailed visualization still leaves room for an underlying mantra: "Just keep counting. Just keep counting. Just keep counting."
4
There's a lot going on in her mind, but the panic is still there, simmering quietly. It is amazing how much her mind can hold all at once. That thought takes its place too: Red one – keep counting – orange two – how much can be thought at once – yellow three – keep counting – green four – thinking so much – red one... repeat. Get on the crowded SkyTrain car.
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)
As I'm walking down the sidewalk, two kids are running towards me. Their father, or maybe grandfather, is half a block behind them, ambling, smiling at the kids and at the world.

The older of the two kids is a girl, maybe seven years old. She runs facing forward. She's focused, but not in the way that adult runners are focused. Adult runners are concentrating and pushing themselves; they are working. The little girl is flying. Any destination is arbitrary; the goal is only to feel the wind and to run because she can run and she wants to run.

The little boy who runs beside her is about five years old. He runs fast enough to keep up with his sister's longer stride, and he watches her as often as he looks ahead. He runs to be beside his sister; he runs to not be left behind.

I'm on my way to the Chinatown post office, some Swap-Bot postcards in hand needing US stamps. I'm forcing myself to walk at an unnaturally slow pace; it's my day off, and I'm trying to at least imitate relaxation. I've promised myself some ice cream on the walk home from the post office.

When I was little, we used to camp at Esker Lakes Provincial Park almost all summer, every summer. We'd set up our motor home once at the beginning of the summer, then Dad would drive up to camp with us on the weekend and then back home to work during the week. Mom, my sister, and I would stay at the camp ground, and walk to the beach, or the picnic site, or the hiking trails, or the cabin where they show movies at night. And once in a while, we'd walk to the park store.

The park store was magical. There was ice cream and candy, used books (mostly romances that park patrons would trade in when they were done with them), bug spray and necessities, and, one year, the owner made big stuffed animals that all the regular summer kids ended up buying at $10 each. My sister got a pig wearing a vest and I got a seal that I named Suzi. Suzi the seal lives in my craft room now, with Ogie the bear and Fred the dog.

The park store was a long walk from our regular campsites. Well, it seemed like a long walk to our little legs, anyway. And there was a long winding hill leading up to the store, getting you all hot and ready for your ice cream treat when you arrived. Sometimes I would get bubblegum ice cream. I liked that it was bright blue. Sometimes I would get an individual pack of Twizzlers, because I liked to bite a little off each end, then suck Twizzler-flavoured air through my Twizzler straw. Also, a package of Twizzlers lasted a lot longer than a chocolate bar or even a box of Smarties (the chocolate Canadian Smarties, not the American candy). I don't remember when I last had Twizzlers.

After Mom would do whatever errand she needed to accomplish at the park store and my sister and I would get our treats, we would head back to our camp site. If we'd finished our ice cream, or if we'd chosen something that would last, my sister and I would run down the long winding hill while Mom followed. I ran facing forward; running for the bottom of the hill, and running because I could and because I wanted to.

I haven't been looking ahead this weekend. I’ve been watching Russ instead. Friday night, we went to see The Average White Band - my anniversary present to him. I've never heard them before, except for the covers Russ plays with Leisure Lab. It was an excellent show; I loved watching Russ get so entranced by the music and so inspired by the sax player's solos.

Today, it was Russ' godfather's memorial. His great-uncle Geoff was 91 years old when he passed away suddenly a couple of weeks ago, and today was the service. I had the honour of meeting Geoff several times, and he was a warm and happy man. Still, I was there for Russ, and I watched him just as much as I watched the pastor.

I walk back from the post office. I stop at the corner store and look at the ice cream freezer. There's no bubblegum ice cream, but there's some higher quality ice cream bars. I choose one of those, and walk slowly – as slowly as I can bear – homeward, thinking of the memorial service, of the band, and of kids running. Even though I walk alone, I don't look straight ahead.
dreaminghope: (Cute but Deranged)
I took one over-the-counter sleeping aid last night; after, my edges felt fuzzy, like my skin wasn't containing me properly. I still didn't sleep properly. Today I tried to compensate for my exhaustion with coffee. I had two whole cups, and then I was jittery and shaky and...

A customer ordered four pounds of butter this week. Why would anyone need four pounds of butter? He only ordered a dozen eggs. What takes twelve eggs but four pounds - four pounds - of butter?

This seems like a food mystery in need of a food detective. Unfortunately, I am not a detective.

I'm a spy.

I'm a food spy.

This afternoon, I snuck around a West side grocery store in a state of caffeine-induced paranoia. I watched over my shoulder all the time, jumping at shadows and scurrying away from every person wearing the grocery store's colours. Every time anyone approached, I would hastily grab the nearest item from the shelf and pretend to be studying the ingredients. Then, if the other person didn't leave right away, I would casually wander off.

I now know all the Happy Planet ingredients. That stuff's popular with the yuppies; I had to casually wander away and back again four times. I bought a "man goes blueberry" because it doesn't have any bananas in it.

I'm a food spy: stealthily recording the prices of juices and crackers for a competitive pricing secret shop.

I think I need to go coffee-free tomorrow.
dreaminghope: (Squinty Puck)
When I was a little girl, I hated to be dirty. My mother jokes that she wanted to just roll me in the mud, because I was so meticulous and unnaturally tidy for a small child.

In elementary school, I used to borrow safety pins from my teacher and pin a little fold in my clothing to hide any spots of dirt. I hated looking dirty; if I couldn't get rid of the stain, I wanted to at least hide it and appear clean.

I like order. I like proper punctuation and clean sentence structures, stories with tidy endings, and labeled boxes for all my different craft supplies. I keep everything – I have scraps of fancy paper as small as a couple of centimeters square – but it is all tucked away in an organized fashion. It is chaos forced into order by plastic boxes and dollar-store shelving units. But my craft room looks nice again.

My LJ is like that too. A chaotic life – neurotic thoughts and silly fantasies – forced into individual posts with tidy titles. And things that don't fit into a tidy post often get swept aside, never to appear in LJ at all.

Russ told me I had a "Zen-like calm" this morning. When confronted with someone who is upset or annoyed (as Russ was this morning, since his cat woke us at 5 AM), I often become very peaceful and serene. I don't think of myself as a calm person, though, because my mind is so often whirling behind the scenes. I just hide that over-thinking like a dirty spot hidden behind a safety pin.

I fear insomnia tonight. I know that thinking that I may not sleep isn't the best way to get myself to sleep, but my mind is off and running. I am considering making what may seem to be a minor lifestyle change – starting to go to a gym – and I can't help but try to predict all the possible obstacles.

Next I do the self-defeating thing that lots of people do: I start thinking about all the other things I should do in my life. I should eat less sugar, I should eat more protein, I should wash the floors on a regular basis, I should wash the cats' food bowls every day, I should go to bed earlier at night, and I should get up earlier in the morning … and, of course, when you start thinking about all the changes you should make, it's easy to get overwhelmed and end up making none at all. I know lots of people do this to themselves, especially at this time of year, but I don't think all of them end up having sleepless nights because they are considering joining a gym.

I want my life to fit neatly into the days, and I want a healthy body and a clean house too. I don't make changes easily because I resent the confusion of changing my routines. And I want to bring this post to some sort of tidy conclusion, perhaps where I have come to terms with the messiness of life and feel secure that I will sleep well tonight, but life isn't really like that, is it?
dreaminghope: (Sleeping Zoey)
I pull a pen out of a box of black pens. The cap's black; the end of the pen's black. I jot down a note; the ink is blue. I just stare at my handwriting on the page, knowing that there's something odd about that, but not being quite sure of what.

I'm sleep-deprived. The technical name for what I've been experiencing is hynagogic hallucinations, which sure sounds important. The experience is surreal, a dream, complete with dream logic, superimposed over the real world.

I'm talking to a customer on my headset while in bed. It doesn't matter that I am naked; the customer is on the phone and can't see me. Poor Russ tries to tell me that I'm dreaming. "Be quiet, Russ; I'm on the phone."

Someone's in my bedroom, watching me. Though they don't have any obvious malicious intent, I'm not going to be able to rest until they leave. I throw tissues at them, to get them to leave. Russ, my long-suffering darling, thinks that one's particularly amusing, once he gets over his annoyance at being woke suddenly by his bedmate sitting bolt upright in bed, chucking tissues at the door.

I have a long, involved discussion with [livejournal.com profile] barry_macneil in my sleep. I'm awake enough to know I'm in bed; asleep enough to dream him into my bedroom. Awake enough that sleep-deprived Russ has to listen to my side of the conversation; asleep enough that I don't remember anything about the conversation after.

I'm not fully asleep, so I don't ever feel fully awake after. My black pen with blue ink becomes surreal and develops symbolic importance without any meaning.

My dreaming and waking life slide into each other, and I drift from one state to another, never resting in either.

I want black pens to have black ink, and for no one to be in my bedroom tonight except Russ and I.

I am really, really tired.
dreaminghope: (Confused Zoey)
"I'm behind again. I can't keep up," it is Melinda, the woman at the far end of the table. She just doesn't get it, and is completely unwilling to be quiet or cheerful about it.

"You aren't really that far behind," the teacher says. She goes over and helps the woman with the next step.

"OK, now we are going to glue the pages together, insert the cutting mat, and cut out your window," the teacher addresses the other three of us as we finish the previous step.

"What! What was that?" Melinda looks up from also finishing the previous step, "I'm behind! What's the next step?"

"Don't worry; you aren't behind. Just finish what you are doing, and I'll come explain what happens next," our teacher is infinitely patient.

"I'll never get it! I'm so far behind."

I want to yell: "Do you want to be behind? Just shut up and listen!" Instead, I quietly rip and glue.

"I don't understand! I'm behind!" Melinda starts again, "What do I do next?"

---

"Can you just close the blade on that knife?" our teacher requests of one of the crafters, "I can't stand to see those exposed blades just hanging around. Someone could cut themselves."

"I always use a hairdryer for this step and not a heat gun. Heat guns are faster, but they are just so easy to burn yourself on," she comments later.

"If you're disposing of knife blades, make sure you wrap them in cardboard and packing tape. Otherwise, if they get through the garbage bag, they could cut someone."

"I never use hot glue guns. Too easy to burn yourself. White glue is slower, but it's safer."

"Make sure you always use a ruler with a cork back. If it doesn't have one, it'll slip and you could cut yourself."

---

"You are a beast, Jesus! Fuck you, Jesus, you are a beast!" the man behind me on the bus tries to muffle his exclamations behind his hands.

The woman in front of me looks alarmed. She turns in her seat and tries to whisper something to me, but she is interrupted: "Shit! Fuck! Shut up Jesus, you are a beast!" She spins back forward, looking scared.

The man gets off the bus a couple of stops later. Once on the sidewalk, he removes his hands from his mouth and screams: "Fuck you! Shut up! Fuck you, Jesus, shut up!" He is still yelling at the top of his lungs as the bus pulls away.

---

I get home and walk into a kitchen much cleaner then the one I left. The previous day's dishes are done and put away. Jamey’s rinsing a cutting board from the dinner Russ is making.

"Did you do the dishes?" I ask Russ.

"Ah, Jamey, um, beat me to them."

"I just couldn't help myself," she says cheerily.

Finally, a compulsion in my favour!

Sight

Jun. 17th, 2006 06:51 pm
dreaminghope: (Naked)
I take out my contact lenses and instantly feel vulnerable. I'm acutely aware of my sudden lack of ability: I can't read anyone's facial expressions or see if anyone's addressing me. Like someone who thinks that everyone who's whispering must be talking about them, I am convinced that everyone is looking at me. I sit very still and try not to look in anyone's direction, lest they think I'm staring at them.

I'm never without my lenses during the day, especially not in public. Yesterday, I sat in the bright and busy optometrist's office, feeling exposed, waiting for my turn in the office.

I'll leave restaurants if I'm not sure whether I seat myself or wait to be seated. I'll leave stores without buying anything if no one's at the cash register and there's no clear indication of how to get someone there. In a bakery or deli case, I won't ask what something is or how much it costs; if I don't recognize it and it isn't labeled, I won't buy it. Alone in public, I get very peculiar about my interactions with other people.

The optometrist calls my name from across the room. By the time I grab my purse, she is already heading down the hall. I follow hesitantly, reluctant to assume that I'm supposed to follow her, but unsure what else to do. I'm relieved when she greets me; I did the right thing!

At the end of the optometrist appointment, I have a new prescription: -8.00 and -10.00, for those to whom that means anything. For those to whom that doesn't mean anything: I don't see well without lenses.

On a side note, I get asked a lot by those with good eyes what it is to see like me. So, if you would, a photo demonstration.



The right hand picture is approximately what I see without my lenses. This is what Zoey would look like to me at about two meters away.
dreaminghope: (Squinty Puck)
Russ and I picked up a deep freeze from my parents. I was perversely pleased to find that it was dirty when we picked it up.

It wasn't disgusting; it just showed signs of having been well-used, then emptied, defrosted and left without being wiped down. It took me about 45 minutes to wipe the drip marks off the outside, get the dust and stains off the inside, and get the vinyl seal de-stickied.

I had honestly been expecting to pick up the deep freeze in near showroom condition – pristine and sterile, showing only the minor dents and marks of long years of service.

If you bring my mother a cake in a disposable dome, she will wash it before you leave, in case you want to take it home with you. If you lend my mother your vehicle, it will come back cleaner, inside and out, then when it left. When I stay over at my parents' place, my mother always makes sure there are fresh sheets on the bed and fresh towels in the bathroom, even though I know where all those things are and I am perfectly willing to make my own bed.

I am looking for meaning in the dirty freezer. Maybe it means that she trusts me to take care of myself. The stained freezer is a symbol that she sees me as an adult, capable of doing my own cleaning and of caring for myself and my partner.

Or, maybe it just means that she didn't realize it was dirty until it was too late to clean it. There's a pretty good chance that she had intended to clean it right after it defrosted, and it just slipped her mind.

Never mind: I want to pretend that it's all about me.

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