Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Opinions

I was out playing cards with friends, and happened to mention that the reason I hadn't printed our usual scoring paper, and instead was working on a hand-drawn paper, was that we were out of printer paper at home.

And it began...

"Well," said my friend D, "you certainly don't need to be buying printer paper, given your circumstances!"

(Said circumstances being that A is still looking for work, and we are facing having to sell our home, or go bankrupt.)

I didn't reply - I was stunned. An awful lot of things were running through my head, like, "you're kidding, right?" or "printer paper! It's a necessity, D!" or "what would you have me use instead?"

My friend S rescued me and said simply, "Well certainly if A has to print a resume, he needs to have some paper for his printer, D!"

D later said, "Well, it's not my business, but I wouldn't be wasting my money on paper if I were in your circumstances..."

And the card game went on. But my inner turmoil had just begun...

We - the generic, universal we - all have our opinions concerning the less fortunate. How they got themselves into the mess they are in. How they have no one but themselves to blame. How they are inherently lazy, untrustworthy, less intelligent than "we" are...

Until it happens to US.

These kinds of arguments about "the poor" have been going on forever, and they are all complete bunk. It's called paranoia: blaming situations on somebody or something else, instead of looking inward to find the source of the problem.

Our society has more and more people walking the knife's edge of poverty. We now have the "working poor," households where both adults work but still have to use a food bank. The gap between the richest people in our society and what used to be the middle class is widening at a frightening pace, and nobody wants to face how really close to that knife's edge they are living. Or do the work of making the rich stop fleecing the rest of us, because they're powerful and scary and we keep hoping if we're nice and obedient that they'll let us be. And maybe let more money trickle down.

But when someone falls on the wrong side of that knife's edge, judgements fall like hailstones.

I've been on the receiving end of judgements many, many times in my life. Growing up in fundamentalism will do that to you. I had to fight really hard to free myself from that kind of mindset - the mindset that judges others. That says "I don't think you should be doing this or that," or, "I don't think you should be spending your money this way or that way." That's judging. And it has a thin edge, but a steep, slippery slope.

It starts with my printer paper. Should someone "like me" be allowed to buy printer paper? Kleenex? Paper towels? Toilet paper? Are you going to tell me I have to start using single ply?

Then on to food. Do I have to stop buying fresh food, switch to canned only? And buy only the cheapest brands?

Cheap, by the way, does not equal economical! Or even healthy!

But let's continue on the list of things we decide for others: can the poor visit a dentist? On the same day he lost his job over a year ago, A cancelled his dentist appointment. But he kept an appointment for a car tune-up.

He could understand the value of maintaining the automobile, but not of maintaining his teeth. My protests that dental health impacts heart health went unheeded - no one had ever suggested such a thing to him before, so he saw no reason to believe me!

So, do poor people automatically have bad teeth? Should they let their teeth rot, because they shouldn't be spending their money on frivolities? After all, teeth are largely cosmetic...

What about no car insurance? Or are their cars dirty, because they can't pay to have them washed - and we already know they are too lazy to wash them themselves!

Glasses? Shampoo? Body wash? Books? Cable TV? Restaurants?

Where do we draw the line, when we criticize another person's choices?

Well, you say, if they hadn't made poor choices, they wouldn't be in their current predicament!

Aye, and there's the rub. You see, we are ALL victims of our own choices. We are ALL our own undoing. Just some of us haven't come undone - yet.

We all "make our own beds" or "dig our own graves." We make choices every single day of our lives that we either don't think twice about, or that we deliberate over for weeks. It doesn't matter. Because whatever choices we make change the direction of our lives, and random chance happens and we can end up on the wrong side of that knife in a heartbeat, wondering what the hell happened.

If A and I go bankrupt, I assure you, I'm not getting rid of my cats. I will find ways to have fun in life. Less expensive fun, perhaps, than I might have at one time, but I'm not dead and I'm not going to act like it until it actually happens.

I remember being on the receiving end of a Christmas basket, when my Daughter was very young - the Christmas she was 2, in fact. I stubbornly was trying to turn the givers away when I saw that there were chocolate candies in the basket, and I realized that I could not afford to buy my child any chocolate for Christmas, and that if she was going to have anything nice like that, I had to swallow my pride and accept it.

I remember Welcome Hall Mission saying that if we wanted to give something for the men, that chocolate was appreciated, because they could usually cover the necessities, but it was nice to be able to offer them a treat.

Even the poor deserve a treat. Some kindness. Something nice. Even though they've made different choices in their lives and had different experiences, they still deserve kindness and a treat and some goodness.

Nobody needs to be harangued by judgmental voices saying "you shouldn't do this" or "you shouldn't spend that" - or worse, "you shouldn't have done this..." foremost because those voices are within each of us all the time anyway, and there is no getting away from them. We don't need to add our judgmental voices to anyone's personal demons.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

A Great Gift

Boyfriend and I returned today from a brief camping trip, courtesy of my pal R, who gave us the gift of four nights camping at Voyageur Provincial Park - the park previous known as Carillon, to those of us old enough to remember such things!

It was a gift in every sense of the word. It gave us a break, a change, from daily duties and weekly worries. It got us outside, in the sunshine (and the rain) and fighting the bugs and trying to remember in which container we had packed things. It got us under the trees and into the fireflies. It was magical.

Boyfriend did a LOT of heavy lifting while I watched, helpless.  That trailer is a monster! And it doesn't help that it's 30 years old! All the legs are stuck, all the bits are breaking. At one point when Boyfriend wasn't feeling so well it occurred to me that I had no idea how to close this thing up on my own, nor did I possess the skills to do so! Thankfully, Boyfriend survived his odyssey none the worse for wear, and a lot better for being in the fresh air.

Hubby came down on his motorcycle and spent a night in his newfangled tekkie-tent, showing off all his lightweight zero-gravity toys for the avid camper, while scrupulously avoiding the beach.

I discovered that some of the ideas I'd had in my twenties, like the LARGE pot of water kept hot over the fire at all times, wasn't such a silly idea after all, especially when it came to needing water to wash and rinse dishes or for an impromptu sponge bath at the campsite. Boiling ONE pot of water for coffee is bad enough - boiling SIX pots of water so you can wash the dishes is seriously tedious! (Plus, after you boil six pots of water, the residue that collects around the pot gives one extra pause...it may look like calcium, but it feels like soap... Good thing we brought the Brita filter!)

When we left to go camping, we were both stressed. Boyfriend has been out of work much much longer than either of us ever expected. He's been dealing with his anxieties, I've had to deal with my own sense of entitlement.

That's right - the E-word. The thing we all accuse Millenials for having a sense of. Entitlement. I never once in my life thought of myself as having a sense of entitlement, but here we are, looking bankruptcy in the face, maybe losing our home, maybe moving to an apartment, we don't know...All this is going to have to happen soon. And I kept looking around in total astonishment and thinking, "What do you mean I might not live in a bungalow in the suburbs? What do you mean we might have to get ride of nearly everything and move to a really small place? But I've always lived in a bungalow in the suburbs!"

Stuff like that. That's entitlement. And yes, people lose their homes, and I might be next, and it happens to nice people all the time. Because the market changes, because social systems only extend so far, and after that, something has to give. And sometimes, what has to give is how we see ourselves.

In the face of all that is to come, in the middle of a four-day camping trip, I found happiness. Boyfriend and I went to the beach. I taught someone's dog how to swim. I got to pat some other dogs. I didn't get sunburned. I floated for hours on my floatie toy. All my hard work ahead of time, cooking up food that we could grab and eat, paid off! Open a jar, splorp into a bowl, presto! Vichyssois! Open tupperware, splorp onto a plate, presto! Tuna salad! None of this nonsense of "we'll buy our food when we get there," stuff I used to hear for years! What a crock! Who wants to spend the only four days off they get a year shopping and chopping?! I'd much rather do that ahead of time and enjoy the fruits of my labour on the spot, when it counts! And I did, and we did, and it worked!

I walked the dark road lit only by fireflies and ceased to worry about the mundane, the everyday, and about what was expected of me. For a few brief days, I merely was.

And it was wonderful.

Now we are home. Boyfriend is exhausted from the physical work, but he is rested from his stress. And he had some calls for jobs while we were away, so who knows...?

Saturday, June 17, 2017

My Home-Made Ginger Ale

I would like to set the record straight about my home-made ginger ale and lemon-lime "soft drinks."

I've offered these recently to friends and they've politely refused, saying they don't drink sugared drinks. Great, they got plain soda water, made from my filtered-water put through the sodastream machine. That's about as home made as you can get.

I make my own ginger "syrup" and lemon-lime "syrup" to flavour the home-made soda water for one reason only: to control the amount of sugar.

I don't know the exact number of tablespoonfuls of sugar that are in each serving of commercial soft drinks, but I know it's a LOT.

Here is mine, for all the world to see. I'll do the ginger "syrup," and then maybe you'll understand why I'm putting quotation marks around the word "syrup."

I used one fair sized ginger root. I peel the ginger root, cut it into small portions and press them through my garlic press. I add 2 cups water.

And one-quarter of a cup of sugar.

I bring it to a boil and simmer it long enough for the water to reduce to one-and-a-half cups. Then I strain it and pour it into a container which I keep in the refrigerator.

Are you with me? I have 1.5 cups of liquid here, and dissolved in that is 1/4 cup of sugar.

To make a ten-ounce glass of ginger ale, I put a HALF TEASPOON of the ginger syrup in the bottom of the glass, and top up with soda water. And ice, if the patron wants it.

A HALF TEASPOON.

I don't actually know how many half-teaspoons are in one-and-a-half-cups of liquid, but it's NOT MUCH.

So really, when I offer you a glass of home-made ginger ale, you can drink it. You've eaten more sugar than that from your diet bar this morning. You get more sugar than that from your vegan protein powder. You get more sugar than that from your bran muffin.

Believe me, you can drink my ginger ale!

Monday, June 5, 2017

Is that laughter...?

The Universe is laughing at me.

A month or so ago, I set out, with a couple of pals, to make beeswax-infused cotton cloths to be used, and re-used, instead of plastic wrap.

The project was a resounding success, the most difficult part being the grating of the beeswax.
But I didn't make enough, and I've been meaning to get around to making more...

In the meantime, my kitteh Spooky got very ill and had to be hospitalized for two days and have a blood test and an ultrasound and a new special veterinary diet. This very diet comes in large tins, and I have to store half a tin in the fridge for a day, since she only gets a half tin at night.

So I have to put the unused portion of the vet food on a plate, and wrap it in - you guessed it - plastic wrap. Each and every day.

I'm using four times as much plastic wrap as I've ever used in my life.

Then, I started a fresh round of migraines. I'm currently waiting for a set of six, repeat, SIX injections into my cervical vertebrae to curb the incessant cluster migraines. In the meantime, I'm taking a migraine medication-of-last-resort: and, it really is a last resort, no pun intended, because it's a suppository.

So in addition to using plastic wrap at four times the norm, I'm going through one latex glove each night.

I did briefly contemplate re-using the glove, but quickly thought better if it, given my scattered thinking processes and somewhat messy housekeeping habits.

Better safe than sorry, I figure. One has to draw the line somewhere!

So much for saving the planet by using less plastic.

Moving on, there's the home-made soap adventure. It only takes a few minutes to make the various recipes. It does take a bit of experimentation to find recipes one likes though. This past week I finally gave in and tried a recipe I'd seen on the internet at least a hundred times, equal parts coconut oil, honey, and Castillo soap. Plus some essential oils.

I used it once, and had to use Boyfriend's Old Spice body gel to wash it off as best I could immediately. I don't know who all those people on the internet were who were raving about this stuff, but I think they're nuts! Bonkers! I've never felt so greasy or sticky in my life! I promptly went back to an older recipe which is much more watery but leaves me actually clean.

Know anyone who likes feeling oily and a bit sticky after their shower? I've got a generous supply of body wash to give away...

I don't mind the loss if the coconut oil. I can even stand losing the half cup of Castillo soap. It's the liquid honey that pisses me off - I could have used that in my tea!

So much for saving the planet with my home-made soap. At least, not this week.

Then there was the palazzo-pants fiasco. I made a lovely pair of pants and wore them going to work last week when I had that unfortunate encounter eith the motorist who didn't want to stop for pedestrians and ended up tripping on the pants, which were too long.

Boyfriend pinned them up for me this week and I'll try again, but not before I managed to seriously injure my already dangerously weak right knee. It's been putting out a fresh bruis each day this week and the pain is getting worse, not better.

So  I'm off to the doctor in the morning. Because I made home-made pants, trying to save some money. I wonder what this fiasco will end up costing me.

I'm not winning.


Friday, May 26, 2017

The Cross-Walk

grumble grumble grumble...

One soaking wet outfit, two scraped knees (one of which is swelling up beautifully) two scraped palms later...Only my pride is seriously hurt, but I am pissed!

There is a crosswalk on Peel Street where I work. Where almost no drivers ever stop for the pedestrians.

When Hubby and I used to cross every day, Hubby would just step out, because he was pretty much the size of a moose and people would slam on their brakes to miss hitting him. By contrast to him, I'm small. I'm not small by contrast to many other people, but I digress...

Motorists almost never stop for pedestrians there. The paint is always faded, one of the signs is usually broken, people just don't walk out and take their chances usually.

Today, as I was making my way up the hill, I saw a GOOD driver, driving a Meldrum the mover truck, make a proper stop to allow pedestrians to cross.

And the class-1 A-HOLE in the car behind him started honking his horn and simply wouldn't stop. The truck driver got out of his truck to explain to the A-HOLE that you HAVE TO stop at crosswalks - but the A-HOLE got out of his car and proceeded to yell at the truck driver.

And this was too much for me. I have what can only be described as a VERY short fuse! I started yelling at the A-HOLE (I have a voice meant for the Theatre - you can HEAR me, whether you want to or not)! I yelled at him that this was a crosswalk. The Meldrum man, getting back in his truck, thanked me.

I continued to yell at the A-HOLE. "It's a CROSSWALK, buddy! People have to cross here! So shut up and wait two minutes!" Or something to that effect.

The Meldrum truck had moved on, but I stood in front of the car, yelling at the A-HOLE. In point of fact, I think by now I was being the bigger A-HOLE, but I was really mad at the guy.

Anyway, I waved my umbrella as if I was going to hit his precious car (I was careful that it WOULDN'T) and I called him an A-HOLE one more time. He drove away, yelling at me to "Shut the F**K up, B***H!"

And then I fell down.

I had made it to the sidewalk before I fell. My umbrella popped open and went rolling out into traffic, students came to pick me up, people were very kind wanting to know if I was hurt. I was still hopping mad, but laughing because I had tripped over my own two feet, because my new pants I was wearing are simply a bit too long, and I'd been too stupid to shorten them. I told them I realized I was probably a bigger a-hole than the guy I was yelling at, but that it really bugged me when people don't STOP FOR PEDESTRIANS!!!

Brings a new interpretation to the term "Cross-walk!"

Friday, May 5, 2017

Rain

I woke up this morning, dreaming about old-fashioned rain boots.

Your grandmother's rain boots - or rather, MY grandmother's rain boots!

Plastic rain boots that you put over your shoes, that had a space for your (sensible) heels to go, and which closed with round elastics that slipped over buttons.



These ugly things!

Now, I might have been dreaming of them because we're currently experiencing some flooding in Quebec and Ontario. A friend of mine actually is in the process of having her basement filling up with water as I write this, and two days ago, while she was out for a walk, she a sinkhole opened up and swallowed half of her. She was all right and got out only muddied, and it took her a few hours to realize that things might have gone much worse. I don't personally know anyone else affected by the flooding currently.

In my dream, my Grandmother was, again, trying to get me to wear these things.

I hated them when she was alive, and I couldn't get rid of them fast enough when her back was turned. The lectures I had to put up with! "They're so practical!" she would argue, and I couldn't fight back - then...

But this morning, in my ablutions, I realized, they're NOT practical, and I finally answered back! 

"They're made of PLASTIC!" I said. "Sure, they only cost a few dollars, but they'll also wear out quickly because they're so cheap, and then you have to buy another pair, and another...It would be much better to invest in a GOOD pair of rain boots and be done with it!"

Besides which, jeez gran - they're BUTT-UGLY, for crying out loud!

Grandma would look at them and say they looked perfectly sensible.

It's hard, being brought up by your grandparents, because those extra years in between your ages make for some seriously ridiculous misunderstandings, misinterpretations, and just plain misses.

If I were the parent or grandparent of a child who steadfastly refused to wear protective gear, I wonder, would I have to strength to say, "I can't afford to buy you new shoes, you have to wear these to cover up."

Or would I have the strength to say, "These are butt-ugly! Let's get a real pair of boots!"

I wonder also if I dreamt about this because the graveyard where my grandparents lie is flooded. Or if someone I know is about to be flooded. 

I wonder stuff like that. It ain't easy being me!

The stupid thing is, this morning I was thinking about my choice of footwear, and I found myself wishing I had a pair of these ugly things! I wonder, is this something that happens when you turn 60? Does all sense of fashion simply evaporate?

I could wear my running shoes, which are porous, and so my feet would get really wet. Or I could wear my shoes, which are leather, and only get slightly wet toes. And that's when I found myself wishing for a pair of ugly plastic overshoes.

I guess I should just have worn boots.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Visits to Doctors

Today I once again had the pleasure of seeing a doctor, this time, the neurologist. And for once, I'm going to break with my tradition and name a name, because I happen to think Dr. Guy Boudreau is simply the best doctor I have ever encountered in my life.

That's not the topic of the blog though. The topic is good-old, longsuffering, faithful Hubby!

Hubby usually accompanies me to doctor's visits that are either serious, scary, or to Dr. Boudreau. It's just habit, actually. Hubby and I deal with stress using humor, and he actually enjoys the process of driving around looking for parking spots. This makes him the ideal chauffeur! Plus, it's a chance to spend some time with him, something I don't get to do enough of lately.

Today he was in fine form, telling me about his previous day's visit to the dentist, Dr. John Drummond, who I name here because I think he's the best dentist I've ever met!

And now, on with the tale...

Dr. John was flogging toothbrushes, Hubby informed me, and I dutifully rolled my eyes. I have a favourite kind - first introduced to me by Dr. John - that I stick with now because it works so well and feels so good.

Hubby continued his tale. "He went on and on about the benefits, I was just smiling and nodding," he said. I know. Hubby is a VERY "hard room." "I had left in fact, with the literature in my hand. I wasn't going to buy it," he said. "But then I saw what it had!"

And it had?

Bluetooth.

Okay, there are SO MANY jokes possible, but on with the tale...

There's a suction cup cell phone holder you stick to the mirror. You open the app and you brush your teeth, and the app watches you.

It tells you you need to spend more time on this quadrant or that quadrant. It's does this for flossing as well.

And it shares all your brushing habits with your dentist, who can make recommendations to you via email!

At this point, my own visit to my own doctor for my own problems are WAAAYYY in the back seat! I'm rolling on the floor, scaring all the other patients in the waiting room.

"If I watched you brush you teeth," I managed to gasp out, "you'd tell me to f-off and die!"

Hubby nods enthusiastically and laughs till he coughs.

"I've been yelling at you to floss for YEARS!" I tell him.

"I know! I know" he grins - ear to ear. "I love this thing!" He whips out the app and shows me his data.

"You do understand that you were married to me - you still are! - and I told you to brush and floss for years - for FREE! But NOOOOO! Once it costs over a hundred dollars and has BLUETOOTH..."

For the sake of my readers who don't enjoy profanity, I will not write down the rest of what I said to Hubby. Suffice it to say that we laughed our guts out, he admits freely to being an idiot, and I am thankful that finally, FINALLY, something is getting him to take better care of his teeth.

Effing idiot.