And Put up Your Own Star

Christmas last year was painful. No one invited me anywhere. I wound up finding a place to go, but I was a not great fit and it was almost worse than having nowhere to go at all. (Again, PSA – if you know someone whose life changed in 2018, *please* ask if they have somewhere to go for Christmas. Seriously. I’m begging you on their behalf.)

This year? It’s been less painful and more. Like all big losses, there’s the first terrible year, and then, well, there’s the next year.

This year, without school, with a bit more time behind me, I could make plans. A friend and I are swapping stockings, which takes care of the present issue. I ordered Christmas cards with my grad photo and wrote a Christmas letter. I’ve volunteered to host some international students from the University, so I’ll have company and know that someone is less alone. The minion is coming to help me put up my outdoor Christmas lights.  This year I put up both Christmas trees. 

This year I opened the box I store all my ornaments in.

The ones I’ve collected for most of my life. The ones I collected while married. I took a deep breath and told myself it was time. I paused over the ornaments I bought that say “First Christmas”, “First House”. Vacations. Our honeymoon. Tucked them back in the box. I don’t know what to do with them. Something will present itself. 

And at the very end, I grabbed the step stool, stood on the top, reached up and put the star on the top of my tree. 

I’m not back. Not all the way. 

But it’s better. 

Posted in Uncategorized | 5 Comments

Not Quite Poirot

I was tidying up at the end of my Brownie meeting when Miss J arrived, rather flustered. “Woolly Owl, I am missing my boots.” 

Step one is usually to go and look with the girl. In doing this, jackets, scarves, craft projects and water bottles miraculously re-appear from their sojourn in a very hidden parallel universe. It’s my super power, really. 

I exercised my superpower. The boots did not appear. 

Mildly perplexed, I asked Miss J to describe her boots. She thought for a few seconds, screwing up her mouth as her hair fell into her face . . . 

Well“, she said. “There are two of them and they keep my feet warm.” 

After some more discussion, we determined that they were purple, or maybe pink. Possibly two shades of pink? She thought they were sparkly, but maybe that was her other boots? 

A slight bit of further sleuthing located a pair of brown suede-ish boots left behind. Miss J agreed that these were absolutely, completely and utterly not her boots. Those boots were ugly (in truth, they were) and hers were not ugly.  

Alas, this is a winter climate and I am a sensible Owl. I sent her home in those boots, which mostly fit. There were, after all, two of them and they seemed like they would keep her feet warm. 

That was Tuesday. The remainder of my week has been spent attempting to ferret out who owns a pair of brown-ish suede boots and where a pair of missing boots (which could be pink or not pink) might have gone. 

Less Woolly Owl and more Poirot then. 

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The Cooky Tyrant

A while ago I decided that I would say yes to more things. I set a simple rule. I could say no if it was something I hate (I’m not coming to strip your wallpaper), something I wasn’t available for or something that required me to take my clothes off and/or break the law. 

I’m doing this for two reasons – left to my own devices I would moulder alone at home. I’m not the sort of person who tends to get invited to things (I’m not especially fun or witty, which doesn’t help). I also need to meet new friends (who might not mind that I’m not especially fun and might invite me to do things). 

I’ve said yes to a day session about learning to code, I said yes to the Brownies, a theatre board, the symphony, farmers markets and now I’ve agreed to participate in a Christmas cooky exchange.

I am bringing shortbread. I was going to bring homemade butter tarts, but we are only allowed to bring cookies. Fine. Nana’s shortbread. Someone posted they were bringing chocolate chip cookies. Now, I like chocolate chip cookies. But, not exactly festive. Then there was the person who is bringing gluten free peanut butter cookies. I don’t begrudge the gluten free (and I’ll bring her a batch of gf shortbread – it’s easy), but, uhhh, peanut butter? 

Maybe another rule. I think another rule. One that lets me be a bit more tyrannical. 

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Wind of Change

On the 10th of August I held open my front door for someone with two broken legs, and Bean ran out. He didn’t come home again.

On the 12th of August, the guy I had been sort of seeing (who I held open the door for, yes that’s right, I got dumped by someone with 2 broken legs. That’s a first).

On the 13th I got an email telling me I didn’t get a job I wanted. 

That was the moment I curled up on my bed and cried.

None of it was insurmountable, but it was a lot, all at once, when you swim alone. It was a lot, all at once, when there’s no one to throw you a life preserver. 

I survived. Gave up dating, I’ll keep looking for a new job. I got used to telling people that I only had 2 cats. Worried about Bean. 

Yesterday evening, I got an email. It was from the microchip company. Bean was at the city pound and could I come and fetch him please. I did that this morning. He has been fed and brushed, his nails clipped and he’s been cuddled. He hasn’t stopped grooming himself. He’s already taken over the dog’s bed. Again. 

3 months and 8 days. 

He’s home. 

Winds of change? 

Posted in Adult Dating, Furry Slugs, Learning Life | 4 Comments

Because She’s Like Me

She’s not a particularly likeable child, this Brownie of mine. Which I am sympathetic to, because I wasn’t a particularly likeable child. I would like to tell you that I was misunderstood, and I was, but I also wasn’t particularly likeable. 

Still and all, she’s . . . . challenging. I won’t get into the how and why, but she’s the sort of kid who presses every button while also pressing her luck. She’s a good part of why I come home and have a glass of wine and chocolate at the end of Brownies. She’s constant management, but she’s also constant worry. 

I tell myself that I turned out ok. I tell myself that while I probably won’t find another romantic partner, I have a life with friends and family and meaningful work and things that I enjoy. 

But I worry still. 

Posted in Won't Someone Think of the Children? | 1 Comment

Never Mind the Quarks

I have a post I’m working on about ancient philosophy and quarks. Mostly about the fact that I think I got a lot of my physics knowledge from Aristotle and other hellenistic philosophy and that was maybe not a very good plan because I don’t know what quarks are and they are important and interesting.

Anyway. Not where I’m going with this. (But quarks are kind of interesting. Certainly more interesting than Anaxagoras, who thought that cheese was made of bone and flesh. Turned me off cheese for about two weeks.) 

When my house got broken into, a number of people insisted that I should get cameras or an alarm. I had always said the dog was my security system; but it turns out she’s totally useless if you give her a milkbone. Or several. 

I thought long and hard. I didn’t want the hassle of a security company. I suppose I could have gotten cameras, but in my experience that just means you can give the police crappy photos of the people who broke into your house. So I wound up with a smart security system. It’s kinda the compromise between all the other option (Except for the dog refusing to defending her turf. Not much I can do about her nature). 

That went really well. Seriously. It took like half an hour to set up. I can turn it on from my phone, if I forget. I can see my front hall. 

Then last week was time change. Each time that happens, my programmable thermostat loses its little electronic mind. My only option is to stay home from work on a Monday at 9 am, take the batteries out, put them back in and then carry on for the next 6 months. I finally had enough, so I bought a nest, which is a smart thermostat. 

From there, it isn’t far to wanting to be able to yell at the thermostat that I wanted it to turn up the heat. Which then meant I got an Echo. From there I decided it was going to be cool if I could turn on the basement lights (because I often forget to turn them off; also they are on pull chains and it’s hard to do that when your hands are full of laundry. 

Which lead to “wouldn’t it be nice to be able to turn off the living room lights, including the one that has the switch behind the couch.” 

Which has now turned into “Hey, I wonder if I can lock and unlock the doors remotely and can I turn off switched lights off remotely?”. 

It turns out, you can. 

I’m pretty sure that quarks are involved. 

Posted in It's a Wonderful Day in the Neighbourhood | 1 Comment

Swimming Alone

I owe you my annual post about what I plan to learn this year, for my birthday. This one is going to be a bit different. 

I have been taking yoga again. My balance isn’t as great as it could be. MS probably doesn’t help, but if you know me, you know it was never great. So yoga. 

There’s a moment now – different teacher, different place, different life. There’s a moment when I settle in. Before the class starts, when I sit on my mat, cross my legs, close my eyes and call my self back into my body. 

I’m a head person. I live in my head, I work in my head. As long as I have my head, I have enough to be getting on with.  It’s what makes me resilient. 

And I am resilient. Not the kind that bounces back with a perky smile after a minor set back, the kind that can’t be knocked over, not really. The kind that understands resilient is not about springing back into shape, it’s about being alive enough to spring back into any shape. I’m not memory foam resilient, I’m cockroach resilient. It’s not pretty, but pretty never really mattered much when the game was survival. 

This summer was bad – bad like it hasn’t been in 20 years. This summer was about knuckles – at turns white or bloody. This summer was about survival. This summer was about discovering when you swim out too far past shore; what happens when you swim alone. 

I thought I learned this in 2014, about saving something for myself. I did learn that. What I didn’t learn is to keep my eye on the shore line. You see, I thought that I would always be able to swim back. I rather foolishly thought that there would be someone to throw me a life preserver. There was neither, and I was too far out to shore, drowning, alone. 

The thing about resilience, the cockroach kind, not the foam kind, is that you are willing to do what ever you need to do to survive. In my case, I had to learn the equivalent of floating. This is a bit terrifying, it’s hard to believe that floating alone is much better than drowning alone, although you aren’t dying. 

I survived, as is obvious. I’m not at the shore, but the shore is closer. There’s still more floating than I’d like (because, let’s face it, I’d like none), but I’ve survived. Last year I learned to watch the shore line, because I swim alone. This year? This year I’m just going to keep watching the shore. I’m not going to learn anything.

That’s enough. 

Twice a week, at yoga. Legs crossed. Eyes closed. I call my body back to myself.  

That’s really enough. 


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What They Got

I went to my godmother’s for thanksgiving. It was like the holidays of my childhood, except there were no boiled brussel sprouts and I didn’t have to sit at the kids table (but my cousin did, and I told him that this year if he started the food fight again, there was no blaming it on me). If you asked, I would say that I went home for thanksgiving. It’s the closest thing I can think of to home, at any rate.

I got back to my house about 9:30 on Sunday night.

My house had been robbed. The police asked, insurance asked, kind colleagues and friends asked – what did they get?

I could tell you – they got Gabe’s bracelet, the one I wore to convocation, every single important meeting, to my mum’s funeral. They got the pearls I loved, my wedding band, my engagement ring, 20 years worth of earrings.

Gabe’s bracelet will be replaced. I’ve sent the woman who made it 11 years ago an email, asking if she can remake it. When I get the insurance money, I’ll replace the pearls. The earrings? They’ll take time but I’m sure 20 years from now I’ll have done it.

The more astute have asked if I feel violated. I suppose, a bit. There’s nothing quite like having a conversation with a lovely young constable while you are standing in a bedroom with underwear strewn over and a few unopened condom packages laying festively on top. I’m not so unflappable as I thought.

But the burglary? It was never about me. It was about people looking quick things to trade for drugs. It was about the misery of addiction and hopelessness. They didn’t see the bracelet or my dad’s lighter or my mum’s earrings. They just saw quick cash so they took it.

They didn’t get the memories. They can’t take the memories. My joy when Owen gave me the pearls. The comfort I felt when I touched Gabe’s bracelet as I crossed the stage.

They got stuff. Oh, important stuff, but stuff.

The police came. My friends offered me a place to stay if I felt unsafe. Insurance will cover the loss. A few weeks of sleeping with the hall lights on. I’ll get a security system and a safe to put the replacement pearls in.

Which makes me wonder about my robbers.

I see my Brownies – 7 and 8 years old, happy and giggling. They want to grow up to be unicorns and astronauts and mums. (I’m not kidding about the Unicorn). They don’t want to be addicts. They aren’t hopeless.

So the people who broken into my house – what made them hopeless? How did they come to be addicted?

It seems that long before my robbers stole from me, someone must have stolen from them. Their hope. Their dreams. Their sense of right and wrong.

And I wonder – who did that to my robbers?

Did anyone come when it was stolen? And perhaps more importantly, did those people know what they got?

Posted in Learning Life | 2 Comments

On the Night of my 40th Birthday

On the day of my 40th birthday, I got up and drank my coffee, opened my birthday cards. I wore a new dress and red lipstick and a beautiful pair of black heels. (I also forgot to pack a pair of flats, which means my feet and I are not currently on speaking terms.)

I got my birthday pumpkin spice latte. With soy. Large. No whip cream.

I got through my rather frustrating meeting, met with Kuri for a coffee and a chat and a very good almond croissant.

I sold the last two boxes of cookies today, which means I have sold 10 cases of Girl Guide cookies. That’s a lot of cookies and mostly equals the overnight trip to the zoo my Brownies and Sparks are looking forward too.

Iron Man and a cute little girl sang me happy birthday in a video and it was the best thing in the entire universe.

I went to dinner with a friend and her children. I teased them about getting enough sleep – telling that their brains and bodies grew while asleep. I laughed when the younger boy asserted that without sleep you’d be short and dumb.

I came home, did a bit of work on a project I’m enjoying, watched the Flash (I’ve become addicted), drank some very good scotch. Replied to a bunch of texts and facebook messages wishing me happy birthday.

It’s the night of my 40th birthday. I’ll crawl into a bath and then into a warm bed with a pink duvet cover and pink sheets. The cats will cuddle. I might bring a mug of Horlicks with me.

On the night of my 40th birthday, I can tell you there was no big magic, just moments of small goodness and joy. That’s magic all the same.

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Tell me when it gets fun?

This week I figured out how to change the batteries in the number pad on my door. It was far easier than I expected and I was pleased.

I went to visit some family.

I took the car to the dealership and got the oil changed and the turn signal changed and they charged me $50 for a clamp. I thought about arguing, but frankly, I couldn’t work up the vim.

I made hot lunches for the week in the crockpot. One of my projects has to do with determinates of health, so I put in things like beans and extra vegetables because apparently eating beans and fiber can add 13.7 years to my life. I even made brown rice.

I did some more work on a data science course I’m taking.

I went to the gym and arranged stuff for brownies and did the laundry and housework.

I’m a week from turning 40. I think that’s an adult.

Everyone told me that adulthood was fun.

Is that a thing I should expect the day after my birthday?

Posted in Feats of Wonder | 2 Comments