Thursday, January 31, 2013

Are You a Sleeve-Sneezer...?

When I was a little girl, whenever I had a cold, my mother used to say to me, "Don't use your sleeve as a handkerchief".  So, I still am not able to get my head around the logic of people sneezing into their sleeves.  I work in an office of sleeve-sneezers.  I also work in an office of huggers.  Do you see where I'm going with this?  If you have been sneezing into your sleeve, I don't want you anywhere near me, thank you very much.  Have you ever seen someone sneeze into their sleeve?  Often the sneeze comes on quickly, and the elbow doesn't cover it in time.  The sneeze either goes over the top of the elbow, or underneath.  It takes a lot of practice and a bit of training in callisthenics to get that elbow into place correctly, efficiently and on time.  As an alternative, there is such a  thing as Kleenex, and that wonderful invention called soap and water.

I'm no expert in how to prevent colds.  I have managed to become infected with another doozy, together with an upper respiratory tract infection, which I have been prone to since I was a child.  I have been really ill, and I have missed four days of work.

If you're a sleeve-sneezer, please don't hug people until your clothing has become decontaminated.  The life you save may be mine.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

The Real Fishwives....

 For the past few weeks, there have been new episodes on television of The Real Housewives of New York City and The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.  One of the tag lines is "Money doesn't buy you class, it just buys you money".  Omigod, is that ever true.  Where do these women come from?  Watching them is like watching a slow motion train wreck; it's a horrific disaster, but I can't look away.  I can actually feel my skin crawl when I watch these women, but I am completely and utterly and hopelessly addicted.  I want to avert my eyes, but I cannot.

One of the new Real Housewives of New York City is Carole Radziwill.  She is an extremely interesting woman and was once married to Prince Stanislas Radziwill, whose mother is Lee Bouvier Radziwill, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis's sister.  Prince Radziwill was good friends with his cousin, John F. Kennedy, Jr., who was married to Carolyn Bessette Kennedy, and the two cousins and their wives were almost inseparable.  Four weeks after JFK, Jr. and his wife perished in a plane crash, Carole Radziwill's husband died of cancer, and she was left on her own.  She wrote a book entitled "What Remains: A Memoir of Fate, Friendship and Love".  She's an excellent writer and journalist.  She's an intelligent woman; what the heck is she doing on this show?  I get the feeling she often wonders that herself.

Do these trashy women give women a bad name?  Well, they certainly don't add anything to women's credibility, that's for sure.  There is an on English proverb, "You can't make a silk purse from a sow's ear".  That would probably be politically incorrect today.  I guess the truth is, money doesn't buy class, it just buys more money.  You can dress these women in expensive designer clothes, put them into multi-million dollar homes, but they are still going to be what they are.

I cannot avert my eyes.

Friday, January 25, 2013

O Wad Some Power the Giftie Gie Us...

Today is Robbie Burns Day, the celebration of the birth of Scotland's beloved poet.  When I was a child we always celebrated Robbie Burns Day.  My mother would cook haggis, but I never acquired a taste for it.  However, having a Scottish heritage, I enjoyed the tradition.  In Scotland Robbie Burns Day is almost a national holiday.  In fact, it is a national holiday.  His poetry was always earthy, direct and sincere.  He was also known for his humour, and two of his most famous poems are "Ode to a Louse", and "Ode to a Mouse"  He was said to have had a great influence on Wordsworth, Coleridge and Shelley.  He was a simple farmer, and he died at the age of 37, after living a difficult life that left him with a permanent curvature of the spine.  One of my favourite quotations is from his poem "Ode to a Louse":

O wad some Pow'r the giftie gie us
To see oursels as ithers see us!

Happy Robbie Burns day, everyone.  Here is a Scottish blessing for you, and just in case you are in need of some bagpipes today, here is British Columbia's Simon Fraser University Pipe Band, which consistently places in first place in the competitions in Glasgow, Scotland.

May the best you've ever seen
Be the worst you'll ever see.
May the mouse never leave your pantry
With a tear-drop in his eye.
May you always keep healthy and hearty
Until you're old enough to die.
May you always be just as happy
As we wish you now to be.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

I Heard You the First Time...

There's nothing in the world I find more intolerable than passive-aggressive behaviour and, unfortunately, I have a co-worker who can write a thesis on passive-aggression.  The same individual also has somewhat of a "princess" complex, and I think these two traits are mutually inclusive.  The world must revolve around her or she will be offended.  Full stop.  The problem is, no one ever knows how or why she is offended.  We just know she is. Believe me.  We know.  Icicles form in the air.

Often I will be engage my co-worker in conversation about something work-related, only to be met with silence.  No response at all.  So I will repeat myself, and receive the reply,

"I heard you the first time."

To me, those are the six most disrespectful words ever spoken.  And the speaker knows it.  The passive-aggressive treatment is filled with contempt and is contemptible.

Anyone who pulls the silent treatment routine must physically feel like crap when they're doing it.  It feels poisonous.  But I suppose it must also give them a feeling of superiority, as if they have control of the situation, which of course they do.  They always get their own way.  Being around a passive-aggressive individual is to be constantly anxious and walking on tenterhooks.  It makes everyone around the passive-aggressive individual feel inferior, as if we must always be in deference to her.  Being on the receiving end of passive-aggression is exhausting.

Passive-aggression is the worst type of aggression there is.  It's fighting dirty.  There is no remedy for it -- no recourse.  It creates a hostile environment for everyone around the passive-aggressive individual.  The passive-aggressor demoralizes everyone else, while trying to look superior.  It always works.  I detest it.

Our passive-aggressive co-worker has gone on an extended vacation, and the first thing everyone noticed today was how wonderful the atmosphere in the office was without her there.  Everyone felt as if they could just be themselves.  Our passive aggressive co-worker has gone away, and we're the ones having a holiday.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

An Invitation for Dinner...

As of the end of this month, I will have been in my apartment for 15 years.  I wish I could afford to buy it, but, I have probably paid for it many times over by now.  In any case, it's comfortable.  Today I decided to to some pre-spring cleaning.  You know how that happens -- you start in one little corner, and then all of a sudden the whole place needs to be cleaned.  The moral of the story is, never start in that one little corner.  Anyway, as I was scrubbing out cupboards, I found some vintage dinnerware that my mother had purchased many years ago.  The pattern is Pine Tree by Fine China of Japan.  From what I understand, they were an English company and most of their patterns were traditionally British.  My mother, however, was in love with all things Japanese, and this was her dinnerware.

I remember many wonderful Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving and birthday dinners enjoyed with these dishes.  It seems to be such a shame that they have been sitting -- languishing -- on the top shelf of my kitchen cupboard for the past 15 years.  Phinnaeus gave me some exquisite hand-printed Ajrakh serviettes from India for Christmas this year, and they would look spectacular with this china.  And, along with the china, I found some wonderful silver serving dishes and a gravy boat.  How could I have forgotten they were there?

At one time I used to love giving dinner parties and entertaining, but I haven't done any for a long time.  It's about time I started again.  Anyway, I need an excuse to use this beautiful china again.  You're all invited.

Friday, January 18, 2013

All Summer (Almost) in a Morning

This is something we don't often see in Vancouver -- a morning sunrise.  Usually the mornings are foggy, misty, rainy, wet, damp -- did I mention rainy?  This morning I saw this beautiful sight, and I snapped a picture of it from my terrace.  I'll keep it to look at when the rains return, so I can remember the sunshine, like little Margot in Ray Bradbury's "All Summer in a Day".  Margot lived on Venus, a rainy planet where the sun shone for only one hour every seven years.  Margot knew about this marvelous thing called sunshine, because she had recently lived on earth where the sun did shine. She describes the sun as "a penny", or "like a fire in the stove" but the other children don't believe her.  Just as the sun is about to come out, the other children lock Margot in a closet, and she misses it.  Vancouver is not quite as rainy as that, but there are days when it feels that way.

Have a great weekend, everyone.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The Most Dangerous Man in America

This is the most dangerous man in America.  I hesitate to put his ugly mug on my blog, but you all know who he is.  He's Alex Jones, the head troll of the conspiracy theories, and he's completely deranged.  Frighteningly so.  But the really sad thing is, he has a huge voice, and a following -- mostly impressionable young men -- and some folks believe his paranoid nonsense.  We've all heard his conspiracy theories, so I won't bother to list them here.  All of them are so completely ridiculous, they're laughable.

The latest conspiracy theory, however, makes me physically ill.  The theory is that the mass shootings at Colorado and Connecticut (referred to by the conspiracy theorists as "the Colorado shooting" and "the Connecticut shooting") were performed by the same "actors" and that they really did not happen.  The theory of these disgusting conspiracy theorists is that all of the victims were actors, all of the parents, all of the first responders, teachers, friends and families were all actors, and the shootings were staged so that the American government could take away citizens' guns.

 Alex Jones has shares in tin foil hats.

Some of the children at Sandy Hook were shot 11 times by the shooter, who was using an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle.  The AR-15 was first built for the United States armed forces.  Can you imagine what this would do to little six-year-old bodies?  It liquefied them.  Their parents were not allowed to see them to say goodbye.

America is a wonderful country, and I love it.  I have visited New York, California, Hawaii, Washington, Oregon and even part of Alaska.  America is a country that, because of its wealth and resources, has become the strongest nation in the history of the world.  But it is being hijacked by the nutcases and the lunatic fringe.  Conspiracy theories for the most part are harmless and even humorous.  But a conspiracy theory postulating that the children at Sandy Hook were just actors, is beyond disgusting.  It stretches the boundaries of human decency.

The conspiracy theorists need to shut up, and let those little souls rest in peace.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

There's an App for that...

After dragging my feet for so long, I have finally joined the 21st century and acquired a cell phone.  Yes, my first cell phone.  Marigold and Phinnaeus came with me to the phone store and were my advisors on what I should get.  To be honest, my head was reeling after listening to the sales clerk's spiel, and I had no idea what I was signing when I signed the contract.  It turns out it's a pretty good deal, all-in-all.  The phone, an iPhone4S, was free.  When I got it home, I proceeded to set up my ten "favourites", and then gingerly pressed the buttons to see if the phone would work.  It did.  I texted Marigold.  She texted me back.  All right...!  I then texted Phinnaeus.  Within moments I received a reply.  Whoo hooo!  I then ventured into the area called "Camera" and clicked the button, et voila, there it was -- a perfect photograph of my feet.  One thing I did discover in the phone is an application called FaceTime.  If I use that application when I am phoning someone, they can actually see me.  I must remember never -- ever -- to use that.  No, no, no...

After carrying the phone around with me for a week, I decided to find out what other marvelous 21st century things it could do.  So I ventured into a place called "AppStore".  It was like entering a whole new world, one that I had no idea existed.  There is an App for everything.  Being a bit of a news junkie, I have downloaded CBC, CNN,  Global, ABC, CBS and my New Yorker magazine.  I have even downloaded CBC radio, and as I sit here, I am listening to a Mozart piano sonata.  Who knew that world existed.

I mean, who knew...!

In a pinch, I suppose I can even use my new phone to call people.    Is there an App for that?

Friday, January 11, 2013


Have a wonderful weekend, everyone.  Remember to do something for yourself.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

A Good Day...

The Lonely Glove
Coloured Pencil and Ink

With each passing birthday, I have noticed my world seems to become less complicated, and it takes much less to make me happy.  Has anyone else noticed that with their lives?  Simple things can become huge accomplishments, and small things make me happy.

"It's not raining today, whoo hooo!"

A few years ago there was a popular book called "The God of Small Things". The book is a description of how the small things in life affect people's behaviour and their lives.  So true.  A good day for me is when the little things go right.

Several days before Christmas, I lost one of my favourite gloves -- not both of them, just one.  Somehow losing both of them would have been less frustrating than losing only one.  There's nothing sadder than one lonely glove.  On early Monday evening I was pushing my little cart through the IGA grocery store, and I spotted something pink off in the corner near the mangoes.  Could it be?  Yes, it was!  My little lost glove.  You have no idea how happy it made me to find my glove.  I took it home and paired it back with its partner, and when I closed the cupboard door, I swear I could hear them joyfully greeting each other.



It was a good day.

Do you suppose there's a God of lottery tickets?

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Faded Photographs...

For some reason, this has always been my favourite photograph of my daughter.  I came across this picture in a photo album the other day.  I always thought she was the cutest little girl in the entire world, and she was also very funny.  She was happy and jolly and laughed a lot.  She was not the perfect child, for sure, and could throw a pretty good temper tantrum like the best of them, but that was not very often.  She was curious and inquisitive, and at a very early age she showed an intellectual curiosity that both her grandparents and I nourished.  Her grandfather called her "Kidlet" and teased her that she was a "hidebound reactionary" because she had very conservative views, and my father was a bit of an early-day Hippy.  A jazz-loving Beatnik, as it were.   But he adored her, as did my mother.  My daughter and her grandmother were very close, and her grandmother loved her to pieces.  They had a special bond, an invisible golden thread between them, and my daughter was holding her grandmother's hand when "Gambie" took her last breath.

Lately I have been feeling my mother's presence, very strongly.  I can almost smell her perfume and hear her voice.  My daughter has been going through a teeny bit of a rough patch lately, and I can very much feel that my mother is looking after her.  It's difficult to explain, but I feel it as surely as if she were right here.  Can that be possible?  Love like that never dies, does it?  The bond remains and can break through the veil that separates us from the ones we love who have passed on.  And it goes both ways.  I am almost certain that Gambie knows her granddaughter needs her right now.  I hope the message is heard -- loud and clear.  I have a feeling it is.