Saturday, December 31, 2016


Yesterday I went to the DMV to get my drivers' license renewed.  My drivers' license, it turns out, has been expired since the beginning of March, making it nearly ten months since I have been a legal driver.  Fortunately this discovery was not made in any of the terrible possible ways it could have been.  It was made when I was renewing my car registration and the agent asked to see my license.  (I  only remembered to renew my registration because Shawn said so.  When I was single, the registration used to lapse too.)

The agent at the DMV was quite surprised to see how long I had been driving illegally and she reminded me how lucky I was not to have been caught.  I was halfway expecting her to demand I take another road test, but she didn't.

This probably has something to do with the fact that I rarely open my own mail;  like a fifties housewife, I assume all the official looking pieces of paper are for The Man of the House and don't trouble myself with them.  I suspect the DMV sent me some sort of reminder in the mail, but who knows.

(Note to self: renew passport in nine years.  Yeah right.)


J has been with us over Christmas, which has been fun.  We went to high school with J, and he lived with us for about a year during his divorce.  He is our friend, but he is also our fledgling who we encourage to fly when he can.  (But we let him back in the nest when it gets too cold.)  Like me, J thinks himself in circles about his own behaviours and asks himself why he does everything he does.  He is both exasperating and charming (perhaps this is a self-reflection) and yesterday I was ready to strangle him until he told me I reminded him of Leslie Mann which startled me because lately I have been reminding myself of a Garfield cartoon... eating and sleeping and doing absolutely nothing.

J would like to be a photographer.  He takes pictures of everything we do, which is difficult for a self-conscious person like me, but over time I start to forget he's doing it.  A nice thing about J is that he makes me look better in his photographs of me than I do in real life.  And that must mean he is good at what he does.


Which reminds me:

On Christmas Day we went to my sister-in-law's new place with all of Shawn's family.  His family is fun to spend time with - and drink with.  I drank a lot of wine.  Near the end of the evening, his beautiful twin sisters cornered me in the kitchen and demanded to know if I use Botox.  They seemed skeptical of my drunken denials, which is funny because I am always (only half-jokingly) telling Shawn I should use Botox (he thinks not).  They told me that they both do (they are only 30) and they thought I had been using it for years and they wanted to exchange information with me about where to go and blah blah blah.  I had nothing to contribute and they were disappointed.

I think this is a generational thing, the different views people take on Botox and things like it.  Or perhaps it is about how we have been raised.  Wherever it comes from, my sneaking feeling is that people who indulge in cosmetic alterations are shallow and vain - and therefore I try to pretend I don't think about these things, lest I be perceived that way.  The thirty-somethings don't feel that way.  They think they are brilliant for outsmarting the aging process and why shouldn't they share that information with anyone else who might benefit from learning about it.

So when I woke up the next morning feeling both hungover and vaguely insulted that my sister-in-laws thought I was a Botox user, I needed to remind myself that they thought it was a compliment.  Not only to my face but to my brain for figuring out how to be so clever.


Sunday, December 18, 2016


There has been continuous snow for ten days now, and the result has been the best bird show my yard has ever seen.  I think I must be the only person in the neighbourhood putting out bird food, and the poor things are cold and hungry.  We have several hanging feeders with various types of seeds and suet, and I always sprinkle seeds and peanuts at the base of the trees for the squirrels and shy birds who won't come out to the feeders.  Shawn has rigged a heat lamp close to the hummingbird feeder to stop it from freezing.  The yard is teeming with wildlife.  Squirrels, raccoons, wrens, starlings, finches, bushtits, jays, crows, redwinged blackbirds, spotted towhees, sparrows, Northern flickers, downy woodpeckers, and more.  They visit all day long.  And I take my job seriously.  I go outside regularly to refill the food.

I bring the hummingbird feeder in at night to prevent it from freezing, and turn off the heat  lamp.  And then bring it back out in the morning before first light, which is when the hummingbirds start looking for it.  This morning I must have been five minutes late with the feeder because the hummingbirds were already out there.  I could hear the buzz of their wings.  To my complete amazement, a hummingbird landed on it while it was still in my hands and began to drink from it.  I thought he would be nervous, being so close to a human, but he did not seem to be concerned in the least.  He stayed for several minutes, inches away from my face, so close that when he flew away I could feel the breeze from his wings against my cheek.  This was a beautiful way to begin the day.

I am grateful to live in a beautiful place where I have enough land of my own to have some distance from my neighbours.  This distance from them allows me to be closer to other things that matter to me and bring me a fulfillment of spirituality.

Sometimes people ask me about my job, how it is possible to spend so much time up close and personal with other people's pain, and not absorb it.  But that isn't my nature.  My nature is to reflect upon the beauty of my own life by contrast, and remember how fortunate I have been.


Thursday, December 08, 2016

annual emissions.

Today was exhausting.  I had a student throw a continuous temper tantrum from 8:15 in the morning until he went home at 2:45.  I took some breaks from his tantrum (short ones) to deal with other students.  During my breaks from him, he considerately moved his tantrum into the Counselling waiting area.  And then when I was done, he would bring it back into my office.  This is just the beginning of my Counselling career so perhaps it is lack of experience speaking, but this surprised me.  I was surprised by how long he could spin round the same issue without having any new insights, without having any breaks, without budging even slightly from his belief that the world had conspired against him and he had no part in landing himself in a difficult situation.  I was surprised by my inability to get him to move at all.  He cried, he punched walls.  He punched himself in the face.  He cried more.  I took a lot of deep breaths but couldn't get him to take any.


I spent Wednesday night cleaning my sister's house in my dreams.  I did this a couple of times in reality too over the years.  If you saw my sister's home you would probably assume she was a hoarder, but I do not think she truly was.  Her home was buried in junk, to be sure, but it wasn't the purposeful collecting that I associate with hoarding.  I think it was more like a symptom of her other illnesses.  Her depression, her drug addiction, her borderline personality disorder.  Garbage took over, but not because she hoarded it, more because she was uninspired to remove it.  And we could all be buried in garbage this way if we never had the energy to take our garbage outside.  Couldn't we?

I look strangely forward to Garbage Day because I like getting clutter out of my house, and out of my life.  Clutter makes me feel suffocated, which certainly does not mean I am a good housekeeper, but I do make a regular and concerted effort to move garbage from my house to the curb as often as the city is willing to take it away.

There was no progress made on the hoard where I wasted my night working.  The reason for my participation in the project (again) was unclear.


By tomorrow evening we are meant to be buried in snow.  This city does not manage snow well because snow is somewhat rare.  And it is a different type of snow than the type with which I grew up.  Prairie snow is light, dry, and dusty, and drifts and swirls around the edges of the highway.  It accumulates, of course, because it is too cold for it to melt, but it remains powdery, ashy almost, and does not stick to itself or much else.

Coastal snow is heavy wet sodden dropping ice bombs off bridges and choking traffic, clogging the sewer system and suffocating the roadways.  We are frozen, but we are not frozen solid.  We slide, we collide, we lose control of everything.  Schools, however, never close.


Tuesday, December 06, 2016

stop trying

In the last two weeks, two of my three administrators have told me that I am wonderful.  I want to tell them that I have worked here for nine years and I have always been wonderful - and what has taken them so long to notice?  But instead I say thank you.  Because that's what you say when people say nice things to you.  And I do appreciate that they have noticed the wonder that is me.  (Except that third one.  What's her problem?)


Monday, December 05, 2016

to apply

It does not seem long ago that words were like toys, fascinating toys like puzzle pieces that could fit together a million ways to create a million different pictures.  There was joy in stringing them together, stretching the string and watching it snap, feeling their reverberations bounce off my throat.  Mixing and swapping words, testing different combinations and using them to change tones.  Playing with their subtlety and brutality.  My ability to command them has slipped lately, and they have become utilitarian, meant for giving instructions or responding to instructions, conveying meaning rather than feeling, and I have not missed (much) their other uses.  Why?  So many words go in but not many come out.  I think instead.  In pictures.