Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Two wheels mean bliss - redux

I made it all the way to work today on my bike -- yay!

It's a pretty good ride - not insanely long for a commute (about 50 minutes), mostly up fairly gentle hills, but the big thingie about this accomplishment - and why I feel like it's such an accomplishment - is that I crossed under the 401. For the first time ever on my bike. Twice! (On the way there, and one the way home.) It's loud, it's busy, and it's scary.

And it was turning out to be a bit of a psychological barrier. My anxiety about crossing the 401, and my fear that I'd either chicken out or get smushed trying to do it, were adding up to a big pile of stress, and even contributing to my feeling trapped at work. Riding my bike has long been a joy for me, and a stress reliever, and I was feeling like I would never be able to accomplish the ride to work, which would mean I'd be paying for subway tokens world without end amen. Because of a little thing like having to cross on-ramps to one of the busiest highways in the world, and then having to ride under the thing (and it's, like, really wide). But I did it!

And it was loud and busy and scary. Louder than I thought it'd be. But not as scary. I am ebullient!

Sunday, May 25, 2008

My bookpile runneth over

It didn't actually runneth over; more like it felleth over.

I was trying to grab a book (on suicide, not that I'm heading that way, but my old friend Moira Farr wrote it and I saw a recent magazine article by her, and thought I'd take another look at her book) that was wedged about half-way down - which I've been able to do time and again (i.e., grab a book) - but this time it started tumbling, and I had to yell for help from my husband and Charlie. Which they did (help, that is), preventing me from being buried.

Going through all the books that had tumbled onto the floor was so much fun. Who knew I had so many great books? I found a whole bunch of old Nora Ephrons. As a result, I'm reading - Heartburn. It later became a screenplay and a movie, but first it was a thinly disguised fictional version of what happened to her in real life. When she was roughly seven months pregnant with her second child, her husband told her he was in love with another woman.

At times it's very funny; other times it's dated; but I'm enjoying it. In the book, the heroine is a writer of cookbooks (I love cookbooks), and her husband (the one who betrays her in both the book and real life, and who was actually Carl Bernstein*), is a columnist (in the book; IRL, not). Which is what inspired me to write about it. Specifically, this passage:

"Sometimes, when he was really worried about what to write about next, he would sit at dinnertime, his eyes darting desperately around the room. Was there a column in the salt and pepper shakers? In the paper napkins? In the Cuisinart food processor?"

Perhaps in a falling pile of books?

I just found out, Nora 's also a blogger, but as far as I know, just on the Huffington Post.

*Carl Bernstein, a former Washington Post reporter, who's best known for his part in breaking the Watergate apartments break-in story that ultimately sunk Richard Nixon, has been portrayed onscreen by two biggies: Robert Redford - in a movie about the Watergate story - and Jack Nicholson - in the movie version of Heartburn. You'll see he looks like neither. ('Course, Nora doesn't look like Meryl either.)

I've had a great weekend so far. We saw our friends' new baby girl yesterday. And now my husband and son are now roasting hot dogs on the balcony using the camping stove. Time to eat! Ooh, marshmallows too!

In rather exciting other news: the Phoenix is landing on Mars tonight. In fact, in about a half an hour. Check it out.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

I'm almost afraid to say it for fear of breaking the spell

... but I think I'm starting to feel better.

I worried yesterday because helping an old man across the street made me cry.

It's the third elderly person I've helped across Yonge Street in the last two weeks - two women and a man - all of whom were having trouble stepping off the curb. And the curb there is slanted down to meet the road - it's barely even a curb. But I noticed this old fellow try to take a stab at it, then of course the light changed, and he just sort of acted like he'd changed his mind, and oh, I'll just admire the view over here. So I sidled up to him and asked him if he'd like a hand crossing the street. He was so grateful, it was almost too much. I crossed back to go to the mall to buy my lunch, and couldn't keep back the tears.

But then, I started an attempt to think rationally. Not beating myself up for being emotional about his vulnerability. Just trying to put myself back together.

I thought, hmm. We're heading toward the end of the month. Seems to me it's quite possibly PMS time! Plus it was after 2pm and I was damn hungry. So, I managed to calm down, with the help of a hamburger and french fries (with a healthy orange juice and pistachios for dessert).

As for PMS, I was right! As I discovered today. I'm so proud. Do I know myself or what?
The point: I'm encouraged by the fact that I haven't had a full-scale meltdown like I've had the last two cycles. Maybe it's the meds. Maybe it's the morning mantra (today is just today). And maybe I'm getting better.

I also resolved that if/when I get to the point I'm having trouble negotiating a curb of .5 cm, I will swallow my pride and get a cane. Like this one.

The weekend:
my son, who I like to call Charlie in this blog, and I went to a birthday party this weekend that had a puppet show! (No worries mate, it was just puppets; no marionettes.) Charlie gets very excited about puppet shows. And this one turned out to be extra good because one of his little friends got to be a princess, and the puppet lady said they needed a prince to slay the dragon. I whispered to Charlie, "wanna go up?" "Yes!"

So his little friend was in her princess cape (pink) and he was in his prince cape (silver and black and sparkly!) with a shield and sword! And he smacked the dragon puppet to slay it. I was so proud. Seriously. He's so shy, and his willingness to go up to the front was rather out of character. And never mind the fact that it was rather sexist, the two of them in their capes was, without a doubt, one of the CUTEST sights I have ever beheld in all my born days.

In other news:
our department VP (my boss's boss's boss, all of whom are younger than me, but it really doesn't bother me at all, at all) today apologized to each of us, individually, for the way the "termination" was handled last week. She insisted it did not come out of the blue for my departed colleague, and admitted it was handled abominably (I actually think she might've even used that word). I said apology accepted. I do in fact appreciate it, and I feel a bit less cynical. Largely because she admitted they'd probably done some real damage to the team's commitment.

The pic at the top of this post:
Not a teacup on its own, but I just cleaned up the kitchen, and thought, as I often do, gee I love our dishes - Fiestaware! - which I love because they're my favourite colours in all the world. The cobalt blue ones are new (well, nearly six years old, but new as opposed to vintage) - a wedding gift (purchased at Hudson's in Orillia), and the green and turquoise are vintage. They make me happy every single day, if even for just a minute or two.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

My old friend Laura...

... has died of breast cancer, round 2. 46 years old. She died more than a month ago, but I just found out now. Last fall, we got back in touch with each other through Facebook and caught up with each other after 15 years. I didn't get to see her again; she lives, lived, out of town, but it sure was fun knowing her.
We were in university residence together; she lived down the hall. She outrageous, hilarious and totally fearless. Her three teenage daughters look just like her. Her obituary says donations to the Juravinski Cancer Centre Foundation are appreciated. I think I better go do that.
I'm stunned. Someone like Laura should live to be an outrageous old lady. What a rotten, despicable disease.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Our Father, who aren't in heaven

...is how my brother used to start the Our Father. Which leads me to, a couple of weeks ago, I was thinking about going to church.

I grew up Catholic, and haven't even gone to mass on Christmas or Easter since before my son was born. But what with the anxiety attacks and the constant trembling, etc., I thought it might be comforting somehow. Even though I'd often get annoyed, offended or irritated by the homily, I liked the mass, and I liked singing the hymns. And I liked just looking at the families in the church and watching every Sunday how they'd change over time, i.e. omigod, so-and-so has a boyfriend! Or, who is that, she looks like a Russian princess! Or, why doesn't Mr. Becker ever kneel down or stand when everybody else does; so rude!
But when Sunday morning actually came, I totally forgot. And reading this great blog, called The Eleventh, (which I read regularly) I am reminded once again that, my opinions about the church and its politics (and isn't this a great word coming up? I must find a link. Ah, good; an obvious one) notwithstanding, I have to admit I miss going to mass sometimes. It was such a big part of our lives.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Corporate irresponsibility


I should have a picture of a gigantic teacup accompanying this post because something happened at work on Monday morning that put me in a really bad mood.
But I've found something better than a giant teacup. A dear friend sent this card; she knows how much I like pretty teacups. And teapots! I haven't thanked her for it yet (or the lovely gift she sent my son), but I will.

Now, the reason I need to post 20 pretty teapots (see pretty things, April 9). One of my colleagues, someone who I really liked - and respected - was "terminated", first thing Monday morning. Right after she came in to work. The reason? They're taking the job in a different direction. I read the new job description. Not really a different direction. The same direction, actually, only with what appears to be another job, or two, piled on top of it.
My terminated colleague had been with the company for close to a decade. She was doing a good job (i.e. no timbits had been given out), by all accounts. I'm so grossed out by this, and am struggling to be professional in dealing with the "terminator", with whom I have to work to some degree.
The lesson remains: don't give your life away to the corporation. Because there ain't no big pot of gold sitting there waiting to thank you for all those extra hours of toil. You do your job, work hard, go home at 5, collect your paycheque.
You don't have to be over 40 to learn that it's a cold, cold world within the walls of the corporation.
In other news: I saw the psychologist today - visit #3. I did my homework from last week, which I think has been helpful. Rather than asking myself, "what day is it?", and "what do I have to do today?" the moment I wake up - which typically gives me a huge jolt of panic before I even get out of bed (& lasts all morning), I'm to try to think something else, something way calmer, such as: "today is just today." It's kinda working. I feel a bit like the little dutch boy trying to keep all my typical panic-inducing thoughts from flowing, but I'm definitely waking up calmer, as long as I keep up my little mantra, and don't ask myself those questions. The dr's logic: you'll figure out what you need to do today soon enough. And work can wait until you actually get to your desk. Good advice, so far.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Happiness is... today

Today, I'm all about feeling blessed and happy. Some good friends of mine just had their first child, a beautiful baby girl. My sister-in-law and brother just had a beautiful baby girl too! I saw a whole bunch of good friends today, almost all of my family, and got a call from a great friend, and my favourite auntie. 
To top it all off, my son is now a big four-year-old boy. Holy smokes, did we ever have a great party - at a kid's gym. My husband did all the baking (two kinds of cookies, and delicious cake. I would take a pic of the cookies and post it, but I'm too exhausted), and I decided to have lunch catered (I am nothing short of a genius, I swear).

As this wonderful day dies down, I'm buoyed by the sound of children's laughter and the sound of my son's new whoopie cushion. In his words, "it makes the sound of a horrible toot!"  
Happy Mother's Day -- to everyone who is one, has one, knows one.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Uncanny Valley

The wondrous Josh Fruhlinger of the Comics Curmudgeon just emailed me to tell me what the term was I was looking for last night, naming why I marionettes so disturbing:"uncanny valley" (thanks for the info & link, Josh). 
Here's the gist of it: "The uncanny valley is a hypothesis that when robots and other fascimiles of humans look and act almost, but not entirely, like actual humans, it causes a response of revulsion among human observers." 
Check out the link and prepare to get nauseous; Repliee Q2 is already making me woozy. Also, check the link I posted last night: one of the marionette scenes from Being John Malkovitch.
Some time ago we got comp tickets to Ronnie Burkett's show, Provenance. I couldn't go! Not long after I heard Ronnie talking on the radio about why he thought certain people were creeped out by marionettes, and he said he thought it had to do with the Catholic church, and its use of icons. 
As weird as I think that sounds, I did in fact grow up Catholic. And get this, (I think Ronnie's obviously done his research), according to Wikipedia's entry on marionettes, "the Christian church used marionettes to perform morality plays." And the word "marionette" or "Mary doll" is associated with the Virgin Mary. 
Anyway, I think it has a lot more to do with the uncanny valley than the Catholic church. For all it's many flaws, I've never gotten that creeped out by the statues in any church or cathedral. Except for the ones whose eyes follow me.


Sunday, May 4, 2008

Sunday night


Since I'm all twisty and funked up these days; probably not surprising since it's Sunday night, so to cheer myself I'm posting one of my favourite cups. My mom gave it to me a year or two ago; it's cute, eh?
One lovely piece of news: I have a new niece, born two days ago, beautiful and adorable with bright eyes and a little pointed chin. She's just over eight pounds, but she's just so light and tiny, it's unbelievable. I'd post a pic of the baby herself, but I don't have my brother's permission, but if you imagine an adorable newborn baby girl, you'd get it about right.
I found out my benefits only cover up to $500 a year for my referral to a registered psychologist, who costs $200 a visit, and who says the usual anxiety subroutine typically mean 10-to-12 visits (she didn't really put it like that). Ugh. I haven't totally decided what I'm going to do. I mean, I know I'm "worth it" and all that, but it's a lot of money and it's not like we've got piles of spare cash lying around.
My top-of-mind work irritation at the moment is the fact the most recent president's message I've written has been shot down. The "goal" of posting one every two weeks is a colossal joke, considering how many opinions there are on what should be said, and the layers of approval each piece needs to get, and with this most recent example, I suspect the reason my boss's boss has shot it down because it ain't her idea; someone else (at her level in the hierarchy; in case that's important) thought of it. Intending to be "helpful", she sent me some very scrambled biz-speak notes on another idea. Not on how I could edit the one I wrote, but another idea. Interesting, since I think I could fix it. But I ain't the boss, and arguing, at least so far, doesn't work. Every time I try to initiate something, it gets shot down. Politely, and with great regret, mind you.
I'm back. I just put my son to bed (I got lots of wonderful, quality time with the boy this weekend, including lazing, our favourite weekend morning activity), and came back to find my husband had a wikipedia page open to "Homunculus". Which is funny because I looked it up myself not long ago, because I found it on the Comics Curmudgeon, one of my very favourite, cheer-me-up-at-work sites.
I'm trying to remember the other weird term the Curmudgeon used in a posting awhile ago. It's a term that describes why I find marionettes so creepy and nauseating. It has to do with a figure being a lot like a human, but just a little different. But it's the notdifferent-enoughness that makes them so creepy. Hmmm, I wish I could remember that term; it's got the word "other" in it.