Wednesday, March 28, 2012

more things about dogs

Tomorrow Emory and Dorian are going to the vet to have their teeth cleaned.  Have I mentioned that I hate taking my dogs to the vet?  I particularly hate it when they have to go under anesthesia because I worry that something will go wrong and they won't come back.  And I feel like a terrible dog parent when I can't give them breakfast in the morning --which they look forward to so much!-- before we go to the vet's office.  It all makes me anxious.

But they need their teeth cleaned.  Ophelia had hers done a couple of months ago now if I remember correctly. And Palmer had his done only about 3 or 4 weeks ago.  Now it's time for the brothers to have theirs done, and then all my pups will have clean sparkly teeth.  Even Ophelia, who has very few teeth to speak of, boasts good oral health.  We brush their teeth every night before bed, and even still, these dental cleanings are necessary.  Italian Greyhounds, like many small breeds, are susceptible to bad teeth.  I want them to be healthy.  And also not to have landfill breath.


Tuesday, March 27, 2012

dog days

We've already covered the fact that I'm not much of a cook, so you won't be surprised if I confess that I eat dinner out of little plastic trays sometimes.  Not because I'm trying to cut calories, not because I think they taste particularly good, but because I'm really lazy about cooking.

After I'm done eating, I usually let the puppies lick the container because I'm generous like that.  My favourite thing is that as all four pups crowd around angling for the best position, Ophelia frequently grips the tray in her very few remaining teeth and runs off with it.  It's almost as big as she is, and she trips over it as she runs.

Once she has made her escape from the pack, she settles with her treat on the big dog bed by the heater and has her way with it.  The other dogs stand close by waiting for her to finish, but they know better than to try and share it with her once she has decided it's hers.  (I particularly like the intense concentration upon Dorian's face in these photos as he waits for Ophelia to finish.)  I don't really know how it's possible that they respect her so much.  They all outweigh her by at least twice as much, and even if she is angry she only has about four teeth left to bite with.  Must be in the attitude.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

suitable boy

Allergy season has officially arrived.  I've been sneezing crazily for the last few days and wondering if I have a cold.  I wonder why it is that I assume, year after year, that I must be sick when allergy season starts.  Why don't I remember that I have allergies?  Well, I remember that I have allergies once I get that telltale itching in the corners of my eyes that only gets worse when I rub them, until I feel like tearing my eyeballs out of my face and running them under cold water.


The wedding was lovely, and they were fortunate to have chosen a bright, clear, sunny day that was also cool enough that everyone could stay crisp in their fancy clothes and avoid melting.  Outside the Gurdwara (temple) there was a ceremony called the Milni in which the Granthi (priest) said a prayer and then the bride and groom's family members stepped toward each other one by one and gave each other flower garlands and hugged each other.  The symbolism of that was of the two families joining and becoming one.  It was a lovely simple ceremony and beautiful to watch.  J was particularly delighted to note that the Granthi was wearing Adidas sandals.

Once Milni was finished we were invited inside the Gurdwara to socialize and have snacks.  I drank a lot of chai tea, which is one of my favourites.  I definitely consumed more sugar than is strictly ideal.  After snacks we had to go and remove our shoes and cover our heads with scarves so we could go upstairs for the wedding ceremony.

Three men sang hymns and drummed (kirtan) as we found our way into the ceremony room.  Men sat on one side, women on the other, crossed legged on the floor.  Ahh, a religion I can appreciate.  I like sitting on the floor (although I do not normally attempt this in a dress).

During the ceremony J and I were really surprised by how casual the event seemed to most of its spectators.  When the bride entered the room looking absolutely beautiful (she wore a red bejewelled sari), I expected the same sort of awe that is usually quietly expressed at weddings -- but no.  In fact, many people didn't even bother to turn and look at her as she entered the room.  One of the important parts of the ceremony involved the bride walking around in a circle (four times) between prayer stanzas, with all her close cousins and brothers "helping" her around the circle signifying their support of her.  To my surprise, during this part of the ceremony people around me used their cell phones to send text messages, and one man across the hall even received a phone call.

Near the end of the ceremony we were all invited to stand for the final prayers.  Then all the people who had seemed not to be paying very close attention abruptly became pious and dropped to their knees and touched their foreheads to the floor.  J and I were not quick enough to participate in this, so we merely did an awkward move I will call the Crouch-and-Scramble. After that, a couple of men walked through the crowd of people distributing small handfuls of Karah Prashad (sacramental pudding) which tasted a bit like oatmeal with sugar.  And that was it.  We went back downstairs to recover our shoes, remove our scarves, and have some lunch.

Throughout the whole thing, I was fascinated by how casual it all seemed to be, interrupted by short moments of extremely detailed ceremony.  It was all very interesting, very educational, and made my wedding seem dreadfully boring.


Spring break is nearly over.  Back to the grind on Monday.  That makes me sad, but at the same time I think it is about time we returned to normal eating patterns.  I feel as though I have eaten nothing but junk for the last two weeks.


Thursday, March 22, 2012


Having lived five years in one of the most multicultural cities in Canada, we were finally invited to an Indian wedding.  (Being in our late thirties, Shawn and I do not have many friends anymore who are at the wedding stage.  We've been through that stage, and the having-kids stage, and now we are at stage where our friends are all getting divorces.)  So a wedding was a nice change.

The traditional Indian wedding, if you've never been to one, is quite an affair.  Last night we attended the pre-wedding ceremonty called sangeet, which is a party primarily for the women in the family.

At the start of the ceremony the bride was symbolically "washed" by the women in preparation for the wedding.

At the end of that part of the ceremony, first her parents said their symbolic goodbye to the bride, and then her two brothers said their goodbyes.

After that it was time to party.  The women danced while their images were projected on a large screen so everyone could watch.  The men ate and drank, and watched their beautiful wives dance.  (This poor photo doesn't really capture how celebratory the mood was, how the music beat in my chest, or how delicious the dinner was.)

In this great hall with more than 300 guests, I think we were the only non-Indian family in attendance.  It was an honour to be welcomed to participate in this beautiful tradition.

Tonight there will be a mehndi ceremony, at which the women paint henna designs upon the hands and arms of the bride and her family.

And then on Saturday we will attend the wedding and reception.


Friday, March 16, 2012

sharing the name

Bill 22 passed, to the surprise of naïve young teachers across the province.  They actually thought the government couldn't take away their right to strike.  They thought this because they haven't been paying attention or because they are too young to remember the past.  Now they are disheartened and talk of leaving the profession.  This is also because they haven't been paying attention or are too young to remember the past.  The government is always threatening to destroy public education; it's a great Canadian tradition.  And nothing really changes.  At least not fast enough so that anyone notices.  I would like, in some way, to be outraged by what has transpired, but I'm not.  I'm mildly irritated.  And not in the least bit surprised.  Mostly I'm just tired of hearing about it.  


I have spent the last week writing curriculum for GDJ, which is what I always seem to do during my breaks.  It's uplifting that I find myself writing about patient and public engagement for the healthcare system while other public services are in such dismal condition.  This government has another year in control.

Of all people, I understand why we give up hope for public services being useful or helpful in any capacity.  Public services cost so much money and there's so little immediate, measurable return on investment.  And it's easy to pretend that individuals get sucked into social holes because they are stupid or lazy or weak.  It's simpler to assume that vulnerable populations have chosen their lot in life and therefore are undeserving of assistance.  

When I was 21 I thought I would solve the world's social problems handing out apples and dry socks to the homeless downtown, talking to them a few minutes a day.  Sharing my time and my heart and my lunch.  I thought I had all the answers.  Now that I recognize the complexity of the problem, I can forgive myself for thinking this way.  But not for having no ideas about what to do next.  


Wednesday, March 14, 2012

training wheels

Because I am on spring break with some extra time on my hands, I made a plan to practice some behaviour modification therapy on Shawn.  I wasn't going to tell him he was in therapy, I was just going to conduct it without his knowledge, much the way I trained the puppies without asking their permission.  (Actually I was hoping for a better result than I have achieved with the puppies who occasionally backslide into periods of utter defiance for reasons known only to themselves.)

The goal was to train him to stop leaving the sugar bowl on the counter and to put it back in the pantry when he was done.  I had big plans, ideas to "shape" the behaviour with rewards for any progress in the right direction.  Rewards for every step toward the pantry.  I figured it would take about two weeks for the full modification to take place.

However, I just noticed this morning, on only the third day of therapy, that he has actually trained me.  Since I've been on break, I've taken over the job of making the coffee, pouring it, adding his sugar, and putting the sugar bowl away.  Interesting.  He has some skills.


Tuesday, March 13, 2012

space junk

Imagining the life we would have had is simple; the photographs confirm everything I would have guessed.  A trendy tiny apartment with exposed beams and no clutter, a view (through a tiny window) of a concrete wall.  Many bottles of wine in the rack, a Jackon Pollock in the entranceway.  Enviable sparseness and cleanliness.  Lots of things I love on paper, lots of things that only work for me in theory.  Lots of crunching down smaller to fit in tidy, tiny spaces.

A Murphy bed that efficiently disappears into the wall.  Completely vanishes.

And you are a kind of economy that compresses in ways I cannot fold.  I need the extra space to be alone in, I need the distance from my neighbours and sometimes from myself.  Most of all I need the extra air to breathe.  And I need my bed to take up a whole room.


Monday, March 12, 2012

"A great wind is blowing, and that gives you either imagination or a headache." (Catherine The Great)

The ferries are shut down today because of the wind, and this strands people on the various nearby islands so they cannot commute to work.  It causes uproar, frankly, but I'm looking forward to moving to the island one day and being stranded as often as possible.


Friday, March 02, 2012

if you ask how I got so bitter, I'll ask how you got so vain

You feel uncomfortable, I can tell, and this makes me more awkward than I should be. My teaspoon is a wind chime trapped in a cup, clattering to escape. I draw the spoon out and accidentally drop it under the table.

I look at my hands. My right hand has two small blisters which hurt a little. I press against them with the thumb of my left hand to make them hurt more. (I like my hands like this, the way they feel when I use them.) You start watching my hands too, and so I stop. There is something small like a hiccup or a giggle trying to get out from under my ribs. You ask what happened to my hand and I shrug.

Your hands are the same as I remember them, same fingers, same wrists. You have the same voice. But there is nothing to say, I have nothing to say. Not because there aren't a million things in my head but I do not want you to have any of them.


Thursday, March 01, 2012

I'm on strike, starting officially on Monday.  The union was required to give 48 hours notice, and it has been officially given.  I can practically hear the government rubbing their hands in glee and counting the dollars they'll save while 41 thousand teachers are not being paid.  Caught between a dictatorial union and a dictatorial government, I cannot decide which I would rather demonstrate against.  But the union insists I join their picket lines to earn my strike pay (which isn't much), and I am tempted to refuse to participate.  I wonder if I could get paid for picketing the union office instead.