Multi-tasking

It seems like, lately, everyone I know is having babies.  I am definitely at that time in my life where people in my age group are going off and getting married and starting their brand new little families.  You’re wondering how this relates to the title of this post, I know.

First things first, I’m not pregnant.  Or getting married.  Those both require one to have been dating someone long enough to fall in love with that person, and I’m neither dating nor falling in love at the moment.

I knit.  Not well, mind you – Mostly, it’s just dish cloths.  The most complicated thing I’ve done is make a Christmas ornament ball – it required me to change the number of stitches throughout, in order to make a shape I could then wrap around foam.  But the point is – square things whose patterns consist of knit and purl, and maybe the occasional bobble… those are within my knitabilities.  So baby blankets are my new occupation, of late.

I can’t hold conversations while I knit, unfortunately.  I can listen to people.  As long as they don’t expect some kind of answer.

“Do you want a piece of chocolate?”

“Seven?  I mean… what? No, wait, give me a sec, I have to finish counting.  Seven… eight…”

I can, however, half pay attention to television shows.  Preferably the kind without the requirement of deep thought.  As we’ve already established, my ‘deep’ thoughts while knitting are more along the lines of “knit Seven… purl twelve… nine… ten… eleven…twelve… knit nineteen… purl to end”

And so I find myself knitting blankets whose purpose will be to keep infants warm while watching a television show whose main character is a mass murderer whose act of ‘good’ in killing only other mass murderers he openly acknowledges is to reduce the risk of getting caught.  Knitting + babies + Dexter… the things on my mind of an evening.

It’s just weird.  It seems almost inappropriate to, in any way, link the two.  But my alternate show, Supernatural, regularly has too much stuff going on in silence (ie, there’s music, but you have to watch it to see what’s happening), so I find myself sitting, poised to knit, and not doing so.

Do you find it hard to ‘just’ watch tv?  I find it just about impossible.  I play Sudoku, knit, cross-stitch, groom the dog, brush his teeth, type, do stretching exercises or, if the show is really not holding my attention, read.

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Wordless Wednesday – spring has sprung!

feel that breeze!

smell those flowers!

and look at that view!

 

Beach Weather

On Wednesday this week, I posted, mostly wordlessly, a picture of Gwynn from last winter.  Last winter, we had snow.  Of the variety that sticks around longer than a segment-of-day (you know – morning, or afternoon, or evening, or night.  It would last more than a single one of those).  That isn’t even remotely what we’re getting this winter.

I drove home from work in the rain (because the average temperature this winter has been closer to 5 degrees Celsius), took the dog for a walk in a muddy, muddy world, took some pictures of Gwynn + water

what my so-called winter actually looks like this year, a picture from this Wednesday's walk

Continued down the path, and saw this:

Do you see it? Out by the point? Little black dots in the water?

At first, I thought, “Ducks”

Then, I thought, “holy cow, really big ducks”

Then I thought, “Oh NO, there’s someone in the water, HELP, HELP! Someone’s in the water, call the police!”

And then I realised that they (multiple people) were in the water on purpose.

They were in the water on purpose, because they were surfing.

Surfing… in Lake Ontario… in FEBRUARY.

People surf in Lake Ontario?  People surf in the winter?  People surf at the park at the foot of my street? What?!

A whole flock of water-ninjas, dressed in full heavy-duty wetsuits, complete with water-ninja balaclava.

Surfing.

This winter might suck for cross-country skiers such as myself, but, according to the water ninja I spoke to on Wednesday, it’s been a great winter for Canadian Surfers in the Lake Ontario area.

Murphy Plays with Fire, and my Mental Health

I was pretty pleased with myself.  I found a copy of The Girl Who Played with Fire for the rock-bottom price of $2.99.  It would perfectly complement the copies of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and The Girl who Kicked the Hornets’ NestI was sure it would look great right between them on the shelf.

For those of you unaware of the Stieg Larsson series, the book I bought, that was the second book in the trilogy.

At one point, prior to my purchase, we had all three of them.   The second went walking, before I got the chance to read it.  It’s been gone at least 6 months, so I figured the grieving period is over, and I might as well purchase when the option of a low-priced purchase arises.  We had established that no-one in the house had lent it, or brought it somewhere with them.  It was last seen… with the other books, on the book shelf.  It just… went away.

Within an hour of arriving home and proudly showing the family the sheer genius of I, the purchase of a replacement second-book… I found the original copy, the one that has been missing for 6 months or more.  It was sitting on the book-shelf in Doodle’s room, the same Doodle who has not yet read any part of the series, and has no interest in reading it.  Or, for that matter, moving the second book into her room.

Murphy: 1, My Sanity: 0.

How Life is Like a Poorly Maintained Road that you Swim Through… or a box of chocolates, or something like that…

My sister (the girl who stands a few inches taller than me and goes clubbing in Hull, but is secretly still 8 years old and it was practically yesterday that she was a terrorizing toddler and bit me on the cheek…) is waiting for her final grades for her first term at University.

She reads this blog… we’ll see what her reaction to it is, hopefully not a resurgence of biting.  To be on the safe side, I won’t be trusting her innocent overtures of a hug for the next few days.  Fool me once, shame on you…

She’s worried.  From what I can tell, her main worry is that, in the worst case scenario of this particular saga, we will be too kind.  “We” being all the people in the family who have graduated from university.  I think the worst case scenario that she is picturing is rather like the scene where the Death Star blows up, but also where Luke loses his hand, and maybe mix in a bit of that awkward scene when Han is trying to establish what kind of feelings Leia has for Luke, and she doesn’t reveal the whole ‘we’re siblings, and just love each other as siblings’ thing for a long while, thus creating awkward.  Just remember bloglanders – Twihards make trekkies and star wars fans look normal.

... and the winnner is... the woman who tattooed the characters of Twilight onto her whole back!

I see it more as a speedbump or pothole… just a brief slowing, possibly altering of direction.

... but not quite this big a speed bump...

When I went off to University, my dad told me this: “University is like a big party, but with work.  It’s a lot of fun, but you have to do enough work that you don’t get uninvited from the party.”

Doodle is worried that she might get uninvited.

She’s worried that she will disappoint us, but that we will be so nice about it that we will never tell her just how disappointed we are… and, for some reason, part of the concern is that I got through high school and University relatively unscathed.  She seems to think I have never failed at anything in my life.

What do I think?  That I was basically ‘pity passed’ through most of elementary school, which is fair enough considering I once submitted a picture of a horse instead of a book report.

That one of my university courses was such a haze of incomprehension, that I came home from the final exam and signed myself up for summer courses.  While crying.  I passed the course… barely.  It was my lowest grade since high school gym class.  Have I mentioned how terrible I am at things requiring hand-eye coordination?  There’s another pity pass.

That it took me two goes to pass both the G1 exit driving test and the G2 exit driving test.  I curled up in the back of my car on the way back from the first G2 driving test and sobbed for an hour in the parking lot of a Sobeys.  I also cried at the person testing me the second time around when he told me that I passed (and listed off all the reasons why it was a barely-pass, and all the things he decided not to count that could have made it a not-pass), which is why my current drivers’ license picture is really truly dreadful.  I look like a prison inmate who just finished watching Marley and Me.

I was sure that I would never move back home when I was done university… It’s been nearly three years, now.

I suffered in silence through nearly 6 months of my crazypants cubicle-wall-neighbour’s crazy prostitute-murdering, cuss-filled mutterings before I got up the nerve to tell my boss about it.  Finally telling my boss was a tearfully written email (too chicken to talk face to face) sent once I was sure he’d gone home for the weekend so that I could escape without any kind of conversation.

I'm just so... *sob*... angry!

This is not my pity party.  I have failed and been rather pathetic at a lot of things in my life.  I cry if I’m sad, at sad movies, if I’m angry, if someone’s angry at me, if I have to stand up for myself… all the time, really.  I really need to work on that.  The point is that, if you look back, overall it has been pretty successful despite the road bumps.  The point is that we are all thrown into the deep waters and expected to swim like Gertrude Ederle (first woman to swim across the English Channel) and achieve great things.  And that we are all, at one point or another, going to flounder (like she did, on her first attempt to cross), but that the important thing is that we’ll keep swimming eventually, with or without the help of a life buoy.

If it turns out that you are a December grad, what do you do?  Tread water for a while, shake it off, and then keep swimming.  Your final destination might change a bit, so might the swim itself, but it’ll still be a fantastic journey.

Gone a Huntin’ Christmas Trees

This Saturday, we headed out to find ourselves the perfect Christmas tree.

What was it like?  Dog-filled.  There were an immense number of dogs of all sizes, helping their people find that perfect tree (not that any of those people found it, because we took the perfect tree home with us.).  This was great for Gwynn, though I felt bad about having to keep him on-leash for most of the time we were there.  A lot of people chose to ignore the ‘dogs must remain leashed’ rule, but I have a long list of reasons why that wouldn’t be the best idea.

  • There are people out there who are afraid of dogs.  But not afraid of Christmas tree hunting.  Let’s keep it that way, shall we?
  • Small children who are afraid of dogs.  But not afraid of Christmas Tree Hunting
  • Small children who aren’t afraid of dogs but lack pettiquette – they feel the urge to poke dogs in the eye, or smack them in the nose, or otherwise be mean to them.
  • Have I mentioned there were a TON of small children roaming free?
  • Axes and saws – people bring them, but don’t always have a protective cover for it.  Sometimes they even let their children carry it, but most of the time, the blade faces backwards, and is at about Gwynn-face level.
  • Other dogs.  Just because they brought their dog with them, doesn’t mean the dog is friendly.  Can you guarantee that your dog will absolutely not approach another dog without your go-ahead?  When you might not see that other dog (due to forest of tiny trees) until it’s right near you?
  • Horses.  The tree farm has them – they pull a wagon.  Gwynn went nuts every time he saw them.  We didn’t get close enough for him to try out his herding techniques on those massive not-sheep… or for him to get trampled by their giant steel-shod feet.

one of the wagons not pulled by horses... because being around the horse-drawn one produced this awful high-pitched wailing-Xena noise from Gwynn that threatened to rupture eardrums

Gwynn got to drag his leash when we found ourselves surrounded by emptiness, nothing but us and the conifers.  And he did get to meet a number of dogs, while he was on-leash, most of whom appeared, leashless, from between the trees, and whose owners were nowhere near to ask silly questions like, “is your dog friendly?”, or “Can Fido say hello?”.  It might not be thanksgiving anymore, but one thing I am thankful for is that my dog doesn’t get nervous in that type of situation.  We also met some nice on-leash dogs, and we did not meet some dogs that were on the not-friendly end of the spectrum.

Gwynn... in his new boots. More on that later.

My mom grew up with white spruceWHITE SPRUCE is, apparently, the only acceptable form of holiday tree.  WHITE SPRUCE.  Anything else is a sad, sorry excuse for a tree.  I hadn’t clued in until this year just how strongly my mom believes in this.

Could we find a single white spruce less than 10 feet tall?  No.  We’d have either had to cut the tree half-way up, or have the point curving down towards the floor in the house.  Entering the Blue Spruce area, you’d have thought we were turning traitor to my mom’s childhood and burning all the memories, soaked in kerosene.  But at least it wasn’t a … pine

Well, blue spruce at our Christmas tree farm was the right height, but kind of sad and sparse.  Clearly the spruce were all targeted by mother nature, regardless of the colour in their title.

It was a hard choice, but eventually the drastic inferiority of all the spruce wore her down.  She agreed, albeit unhappily, to choose a dreaded Scotch Pine.  It’s beautiful and full and christmas-tree shaped.  It’s still sitting on our back deck, waiting to be cut loose from the mesh wrapper they put it in for transportation.

Speaking of transporting your tree…

this is our tree... all bundled up (free with purchase of tree) in a mesh sack and strapped neatly (and safely) to the roof of the van. I swear, they relax back to normal tree shape quickly after you un-mesh them.

Or... you know... you could just... do this? The only reasonable explanation I could think of was that their tree was too big to go through the tree-wrapping machine. But it wasn't that big a tree...

I’m so excited for the christmas-ey smell that will fill our house once the tree is in place!  And last year, Gwynn didn’t once try to pee on the tree… I’m hoping it’ll be the same this year!  The trip was so much fun, though we missed having Doodle there (she’s off in exam-land in Ottawa).  That was one of the worst things about living away from home for school – I missed being home to go christmas tree hunting.

A Christmas Memory

We aren’t sure when she found out – I know that, after having had it ruined for me at a young age by my older cousin, I wasn’t the one to tell her.  It’s a kind of devastating truth, if it comes too soon.  I might not like my sisters all the time, but I love them enough to be unwilling to smash those rose (and green) coloured glasses.

I blame Sergei.  The number of times she came home upset about something that Sergei did, throughout the years, I can imagine that this little boy I never met was probably to blame.  I’m pretty sure he was in her classes around the time she lost the faith.  Or at least, around the time we figured out that she had lost it.

Regardless of when it happened, the more important part is what her reaction to it was.  It seemed like she genuinely believed she was saving Christmas for us by maintaining the charade.  Like, since she was the youngest child, and the last to still believe, that she was the only one standing between us and a desolate, tree-less, cookie-less, present-less December, hardly more exciting than any other soggy, slushy winter month.  I think she thought the rest of us only participated in the big day as a way of helping to maintain her childhood innocence, and that, once she had lost that, we’d move on to other things.  Less present-filled things.

ma-king christmas, ma-king christmas, Making CHRISSSSTMASSS

She became the defender of Christmas.  She was so over-the-top super-duper excited about it.  She talked about Santa like she was being sent secret messages on a nightly basis.  She squealed with excitement – the same squeal me-at-10(or 24…) would emit if I found a horse with a bow on it in our back yard – when she saw Santa from the Santa-picture-line.

She brought holiday spirit like a cheerleader strung out on tinsel and candy canes.  What do we love? CHRISTMAS!  When do we love it? ALWAYS and FOREVER!

She didn’t just like the season, she bowled through the festivities with enough intensely ferocious BELIEF that she could have single-handedly won the Leafs the cup.  Mall Santas everywhere were probably waking up a-la-Tim-Allen to find themselves with a full natural white beard and 30 extra pounds of jolly belly.

She decked the halls like Muhammad Ali decked… other boxers…

"Take that, disbelief!"

She rocked around the Christmas tree like a hurricane.

She was ensuring that Christmas, as we knew it, stayed right where it ought to be.  IN. OUR. HEARTS. DAMMIT!  She was really, really worried she wouldn’t get presents if mom and dad knew that she was no longer a believer in the man in a big red coat.

Much as we found cracked-out-on-Kringle Doodle to be entertaining, we found it alarming enough that we did our best to convinced her that Christmas wouldn’t end (and, more importantly, the presents would keep coming) just because she knew the big secret about Santa.  As long as, of course, she didn’t share this knowledge with ANYONE.

Nanowrimo!

I entirely failed to mention nano again in the actual month of november – but it’s done now, and I succeeded!  I think I just couldn’t deal with focusing on nano for the blog as well as for working on the story – not to mention, all the drama in dogland, what with tales from the emergency vet, hazardous ingestion, and, of course, playing with sheep.

Clearly there was no time to harp on my frustrations with the story I started on the first of November, and the fact that, while I still really like the whole ‘initial premise’, I entirely fizzled out with the ‘what happens next?  why did this happen?’

A quick summary of my story idea, in hopes that you all might have some diabolical idea to help give that story the boot in the trousers it SO desperately needs:  a kind-of-boring girl is kidnapped in the middle of the night and taken through a portal to another world.  She is tested to determine where in this nomadic culture she fits best, along with a number of other people, both from her world and from the clan itself.  They are then put into training in the aspect of the clan they are most suited to.

… Well… I think it’s a decent start, anyways.  There’s a terrifying horse-test (‘stay on the wild horse, and don’t die, and you pass the test’), and a variety of characters.  I even stopped myself when I realised that MC (Main Character) was getting along with everyone, adjusting nicely to her new life, and ready to live happily ever after less than two days (and under 10000 words) after being kidnapped.  There was some real potential for some really jerk-ish moves by some of the other characters.  BUT, some questions I couldn’t think up an original answer to:

Why was she taken?  Why are they kidnapping people from our world who are entirely unsuited to the nomadic war-like clan culture?

what is the main conflict?  Some kind of quest?  Don’t you think the people raised in the clan have a better chance of completing the quest?  Also, aren’t prophecies kind of a tired/oversimplified thing?  It means that MC can’t help but succeed, doesn’t it?  I considered making it some kind of destiny thing – where the clans are trying to find a place they can live and stop being nomadic… but I like the nomadic culture… it’s cool, and suited to the way I divided the people up.

So, instead of writing a story, I found myself writing faaaaar too much about training and living around camp (shut up about latrines already – no-one cares how a giant tent-city of people manages their business!  As proof, note that George R R Marten never mentions horse poop, or the king using the privy in a Game of Thrones… not once!), and was putting myself to sleep with my unnecessarily long description of cleaning tack.  Also, someone as self-conscious and mousey as the MC I wrote should NOT be adjusting so easily to becoming confident and leaderly in her post-kidnapping life.

And then, suddenly, down to barely managing to squeeze out 100 words in a day (When you decide to go to sleep early instead of staying up until your usual hour and writing some more, you know your story is dull!), I had an idea, and I started something new.  That first day on the new story, I wrote 11000 words.  I have dreams about it… coherent dreams… about things that could happen next.  That’s how much I got into the idea of it.  It’s also nice to know, at least in part, what’s going to happen next, and no, it isn’t “happily ever after” within three chapters.

I’ll admit, I had to use the word count for the combination of original-story and new-story to get to my 50014 words (as of 10:30 last night), but, starting a new story at day 23/30, I would have had to write over 7000 words per day.  And, after I got that first ridiculous amount of writing scrawled on a page, I was doing pretty good, in my opinion, at getting out 3000 ish words per day.  It was just nice not to be bored to death by my story!

Congrats to everyone who did Nano, and extra congrats if you got to your 50000 words!

Dental un-Hygienic

It’s been a long while since I’ve brought up this particular topic… for one thing, I’ve been gloriously out in the field for nearly two months (also the reason I’ve been pretty quiet in blogland and in blog-comment-land.  For another, talking about this makes me feel like a crazy person, and like I’m being nit-picky.

I already told you all about Crazy-pants.  He was cough-ying me, remember?  He isn’t anymore, though I’m also not coughing, so I don’t think that issue is entirely over-with.

A summary – Crazy-Pants is a strange, sad gremlin-man who works in the cubicle next to me.  He’s creepy in a “one day, he’ll come to work with a machete or a gun and start massacring people” kind fo way.  He’s probably already killing hookers, if his running commentary to himself is anything to go by.  He is particularly un-fond of me, which is why I have an escape-route plan, and leave a variety of heavy manuals within easy reach for defending myself.

His talking to himself (and creeping me out royally) has been curbed by a talk with my boss (a big part of why he doesn’t like me), and, like I said, I’m not coughing at the moment, so that issue is on hold.

Which, of course, means he needs a new outlet for his craziness.  He needs to let it leak out slowly, or he might explode in a terrifying gooey mess.  His craziness seems to now revolve around things that he can do that dance around the border of ‘harassing me severely enough that I can validly complain to my boss again but always on the side of it that would make me seem like the crazy one.”  That’s what I’m figuring the cough-y-ing was.  After all – “He’s coughing when I cough” is not a sane-person complaint.

A question for you all – where do you floss?  I don’t mean, “what part of your body do you floss” – I’m going to assume teeth, and I don’t want to hear any other alternatives.  But, in your teeth-flossing endeavors, where do you floss?  I’m a bathroom-at-home person, though my old roommate would do it while sitting in the comfort of our private living room, while watching tv sometimes.  I bet, though, that if you floss at work, you relocate to the washroom?  If not, you should.  Seriously.

Crazy-Pants flosses at his desk.  Which would be fine, if he were like my old roommate, who was both quiet and efficient at it.

I have never ever heard flossing that loud before.  He produces these awful wet *TING!* noises for every single pass he makes with floss.  It makes the skin of my lower back attempt to crawl up to cover my ears.  And he spits.  I’m assuming it’s a case of spitting out whatever it is he flossed.  But, given my past knowledge of Crazy-Pants… I really doubt he’s spitting into a kleenex or a garbage can or something.

Now the explanation of why I am sure that this is some kind of harassment tactic.  I leave.  I realise that flossing noises shouldn’t activate my gag reflex, but his seriously bother me.  So I leave.  I walk down to the washroom on one side of the building, wash my hands long enough to be fully ready to scrub in on surgery.  I walk to the other side of the building, past my desk, and make myself a tea.  I wait in the cafeteria for my tea to be adequately steeped (3ish minutes) before removing the bag, and doctoring my tea.  I stir it while I’m there, too.  And, if anyone is in the cafeteria to talk to, I do.  I shoot the breeze, catch up on the details of their children, car troubles, life in general.  And then I go back, with at least 15 minutes having past.

And Crazy Pants starts flossing again.  By that time in a professional teeth-cleaning, my dental hygienist would likely be shining my teeth or asking me to wait while she goes to find the dentist.

Is this all in my head?  I won’t be upset if you think I’m crazy.

Also, even if I am crazy for being bothered – do you agree that flossing at work should be kept in the washroom?

In Flanders Fields

By: Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, MD
(1872-1918)
Canadian Army

In Flanders Fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

Happy Remembrance Day, and thank you, Veterans.