Monday, August 27, 2012

Bringing out the passive-aggressive monster in me

Update: the culprit finally called. She was defensive, of course, but agreed to stop keeping her personal items in the restroom. I wussed out and asked our admin to carry the bag of tampons over to the woman's office so she and I still don't know what the other looks like. (I suspect she's the same woman who occasionally does her hair and make-up in the bathroom instead of the shower-bathroom-locker room in the basement. Frankly, I don't care if she lives in her car; if I catch her washing her armpits or shaving her legs, I will draw the line.)

Last week, I walked into the bathroom at work.
 A very stylish place, actually.
(I do wish they had a bench suitable for naps.)
I noticed a garish box on the corner of the counter. I took a closer look.
The note says, "Please do not remove."
Excuse me?

What makes you so goll-darn special that you get to keep your personal supplies in the shared restroom?

Every woman who has ever menstruated knows the joy of trying to discreetly tote sanitary products into the bathroom. In fact, the manufacturers have come up with all sorts of packaging to make it easier. Attractive little plastic containers, quilted pouches, tins with funky prints.

They're all quite silly, really, because the things fit into a pocket or purse with no trouble at all.

The box, on the other hand, is an eyesore. And it is STILL THERE. Also, she evidently has a very long menstrual cycle. There is no "Free to a Good Home" sign on it, so I assume the woman who stashed them intends to keep these to herself.

Today I talked with a female colleague about The Box, and she was as ticked off as I was. We tried to think of what to do. We came up with these:

  • Take the box and use or give them to whoever wants them.
  • Leave a passive-aggressive note on the box asking the woman to please keep her personal supplies in her purse or desk.
  • Hold the tampons hostage.
I prefer the last option and plan to bring a Ziploc bag to work tomorrow and replace the tampons with a sort of ransom note saying only, "Please call 613-nnn-nnnn." (I seriously debated prefacing it with "If you ever want to see your tampons again," but decided not to. She might not take me seriously.

If she calls me, I'll ask her either to get an attractive, dark-brown basket and enough supplies to share or to keep her stuff in her own personal space. 
I would not object to this basket. Only $13 here.
Is that too much to ask? Well? IS IT? I don't think so. 

Sunday, August 26, 2012

What was I thinking?

Recently, I actually paid attention to my inner monologue while I was shopping.
Hmm, I pondered, of all the things I've seen, which do I like?
It was as if I'd thought:
Which do I dislike the least?
My mental assumption was that I was going to buy something. That was a foregone decision.

This is how I end up with blouses that don't fit, linens that are ugly, or things that end up being donated in a very short time (sometimes with the tags still on). Or even returned to the store after an attack of buyer's remorse.

I shared this thought with a couple of colleagues the other day as we reflected on consumer culture. One coworker mentioned that "big box" stores have found that the more product they have on display, the more people buy.

I think it appeals to an ingrained hunter-gatherer instinct: when there is bounty, we should harvest as much as we can in preparation for lean times. We don't seem to have any point of satiety.

(This, of course, applies to appetite as well, in my case.)

Of course, there are also times when I find something that appeals to me in a lasting way. I still regret passing up a handblown vase that we saw in Arizona. There are garments that I've worn so many times that they've actually become threadbare.

But my point is that I need to pay attention to that inner monologue, be more conscious of what my motivation is when I'm shopping. I'm not about to stop shopping -- let's be realistic -- but I want to be more aware of what need I am filling. (By the way, I do consider beauty to be something that I need.)

I do not regret buying these flowers.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The New Doctor

We moved back to Canada from Colorado on July 1, 2010. I've been looking for a regular family doctor ever since then. I had no idea how difficult it would be.

For a while, I went back to my next-to-last doctor in Ottawa, but was increasingly dissatisfied there. Then I got lazy and just went to walk-in clinics. And then my blood sugar went sky high because my diabetes was unmedicated and completely out of control.

At that point, my search for a family doctor became a little desperate.

Then, one day, a friend bumped into her friend, who happens to be a family doctor here in Ottawa. That friend mentioned that her practice had just taken on two more doctors and was accepting patients. Happy dance! Woop! Woop!

[Side note: I had registered with the Ontario Ministry of Health's database to help people find new doctors. They somehow were unaware that this practice was accepting patients. Sad.]

Within minutes, I called the office and made an appointment to meet one of the new doctors. Today was the big day.

I liked the practice right away: the front-desk staff were friendly, but businesslike. They didn't keep me waiting for more than 15 minutes (during which time I filled in paperwork).

The doctor herself was both friendly and professional. She was also frank about a few things that she thought might be issues for me:

1. They prefer that their patients not go to the many, many walk-in clinics in the city. This is because when they take me on as a patient, the Ontario Ministry of Health pays the practice a flat stipend for routine medical appointments. If I go to a walk-in, the charge for that visit is deducted from my doctor's stipend.

This is my preferred approach anyway - I would rather see my regular doctor than a stranger! (I haven't had great luck with walk-in-clinic doctors and I loath the amount of time wasted waiting.) 

2. In order to support this approach, they have a system called "Better Access." Although some appointments can be booked in advance, most, including routine follow-ups, are only booked 1-2 days ahead. This allows for more impromptu visits.

This also suits me fine. It can be difficult to plan my schedule more than a week ahead anyway. On the other hand, she does consider stabilizing my diabetes a high priority and allowed me to break the last-minute-booking rule and make a follow-up appointment in September.

3. They also have long hours and their own after-hours on-call doctor. This helps cut down on the need to go to a walk-in or emergency.

Sure wish I'd had access to this care when I spent hours in emergency for chest/neck pain. They might have made the same recommendation (my symptoms were ambiguous), but it still would have been better to have some follow-up.

4. She has only prescribed Victoza for patients who have received their initial prescription from an endocrinologist, so she is not an expert at all. 

Neither was the walk-in doctor who prescribed a medication on top of the Victoza that threw me into hypoglycemia. It's not ideal, but she's aware of this gap in her experience. And, unlike with the walk-in doc, I  can call the office immediately, rather than waiting a week.

5. They are pretty conservative about ordering tests and lab work.

But she does like to establish some baselines, so she ordered some fasting blood tests right off the bat.

6. She is not accepting any new patients.

But, she will take anyone from my family, including Steve when he retires from the military in two years. She will also take Brian.

All in all, I am one very happy woman.

Bonus: My new doctor's office is about a five-minute drive from home and about 20 minutes from work, so not bad.  

Monday, August 20, 2012

Colour me happy.

Photo by Katie Sokoler
If you haven't already discovered Color Me Katie by Katie Sokoler, you need to go visit her blog soon. Katie is a woman who loves life, loves colour, and loves fun. Her apartment in New York is sprinkled with cheery, bright colours like a donut with nonpareils.

When I saw that this month's Gratitude.2012 photo assignment was on the theme of colour, I immediately thought of Katie Sokoler. Her style is not the same as mine, but I love her expression nonetheless.

I love colour, too, so today I'm sharing some of the joy I've found in colour this month.

I've enjoyed watching the crab apples out front ripen and fall.

And I was inspired during a trip to Pier 1 Imports to refresh my dining room linens.
I even drove all over Ottawa to find enough of those napkin rings that we can use them even when Katie and her beau come for dinner. 

And tonight as I washed the strawberries, I paused to snap a picture of the juicy red berries in my bright green colander.

What colours have you found joy in this month?

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Arguing gives me a stomach ache.

I would've made a dreadful Yentl. My understanding is that there is a strong culture and tradition of debate within the Jewish religion. It is exactly the thing that ties my stomach in knots.

Yesterday, my husband posted the following on Facebook.

This kind of rhetoric is troll-food: it draws out people who take everything seriously and insist on commenting on it. Someone did. A long comment, in fact. Steve returned the salvo, and the game was afoot.

With a chuckle, Steve told me about the exchange, and I made the mistake of reading it. The comments got longer and longer with neither side listening or budging (as is usually the case).

I, however, started having an anxiety attack. Truly; my chest felt tight, my stomach felt troubled, I wanted to yell or cry and run away. I wanted sugar. [Well, the sugar may have had nothing to do with anxiety. I always want sugar.]

Steve, on the other hand, was enjoying the mental stimulation of every exchange, as a cat takes pleasure in the hunt, not the capture.

I asked Steve to take the discussion with his friend "offline" into messages. He said that others were following the discussion, so he would keep it open; I did not have to read it.

He's right, I guess, though I can't imagine anyone wanting to observe someone else's disagreement, let alone participate in it.

I don't know why I have such a low tolerance for this kind of discourse. Possibly because in my childhood home such discussions frequently degraded into thrown object, slammed doors, and someone storming off. I suppose that makes me "conflict avoidant," which is dysfunctional in its own way (can you say "passive aggressive"?). All I can say is you'll never find me on a debate team or on political hustings.

Now, off I go to think of unicorns, rainbows, and butterflies; babies and summer dresses; and sunsets and floral bouquets. Ah, much, much better.
And kitties. Kitties always help me calm down.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Think I'll go eat worms.

Nobody likes me.
Everybody hates me.
Think I'll go eat worms . . .
On July 27, I wanted to send a message to just my daughter Emily and her friend Laurel. For some idiotic reason, instead of just sending them a message, here's what I did. Under the status window, there is a little drop-down option to customize who can see your post.

Default setting is "Your friends."
I clicked that arrow and selected, "Customize," which opened this window.
I selected Emily and Laurel from my list of friends.
I saved the changes. I can't remember if I ever actually sent them the message I had drafted. I think I changed my mind.

What I didn't change was that little setting.

For weeks after this, no one commented on my status updates or links or blog posts, except Emily or people I had tagged in my posts. Because those few people were commenting occasionally, and because comments that I made on others' posts or photos also received replies, I just thought that most of my friends had [SOB] better things to do than comment on my posts.

I began to wonder if I had offended everyone. Or perhaps I was just . . . boring.

Then a sweet friend sent me an inbox message.
"Everything ok? You haven't been on FB in a while.
I replied that I was fine and had been posting as much as usual. [Well, perhaps not quite as much.] She said she couldn't see anything.

When I got home that evening, I scoured my Facebook privacy settings. I sent screen captures to Facebook, thinking that I might somehow have been blocked.

It wasn't until my cursor happened to hover over the little setting at the bottom of the status window that I saw this.
Wait. What?
My posts were still only visible to Emily and Laurel!
D'oh! I hadn't realized that the setting under the status window was a global setting for every single post henceforward! It's kind of a cool idea. You could have a default setting of a small group of best buddies, but open it up more broadly for all your friends.

I changed my setting, and went back and changed it on every post where it was still customized. It went all the way back to July 27. I posted a "Let me know if you can see this" status and was swamped by a bunch of "welcome back" messages. It warmed the cockles of my heart, I tell you.

In the end, I learned a few things.
  1. I like Facebook. I enjoy the casual banter, the sharing of news, humour, and insights. I know that many people find it silly and superficial. But it's like many social exchanges - I've been to parties where the conversation bored the bejeebers out of me, and other parties where I really clicked with someone and wanted to spend more time together. You take a little water with the wine, so to speak.
  2. Without responses, I felt as if I was on the fringes of a social clique. It was a weird feeling. Kind of like being in high school again, without the benefit of sag-free skin.
  3. I don't think the social connection is as artificial or empty as many people disparage it to be. My friend was genuinely concerned for me and reached out to me even though we haven't actually seen each other in two years. It isn't a substitute for offline connection, but when distance prevents "real world" get-togethers, I think social media can help maintain connection. 
What do you think about social media, specifically Facebook? 

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Winning the Hair Wars, Part 3

Part 1 is here.
Part 2 is here.
When you have wussy hair like mine,
you dread your hair betraying you like hers has done.
She's obviously a pretty woman, but her hair has clearly melted in the summer humidity. Her bangs lie lifeless on her forehead. And I'm willing to bet those curls used to be ringlets (of the sort my hairstylist gave me), but they have drooped.

I know this because that is what happens to me. You can tell she has fine, straight hair by looking at the tiny hairs near her ears: they are not curling.

With hair like ours, there is not enough mousse and hairspray in the world to defy moisture. However, the curler trick I've started using has proven to be considerably longer-lasting than heat-formed curls plus hairspray.

Yesterday, for example, I went golfing with some friends. It was HUMID. Hyooooooo-mid: 96% humidity!  It did rain, eventually, but before then, my hair did this:
About an hour into our game, in 96% humidity.
Still not bad, is it? That straight segment is one curl that had not dried overnight and gives you some idea of what my hair would look like without any curl. By the end of the day, I had loose curls, but it still wasn't as limp as the gal's in the picture up top.

Today the humidity was only a bearable 56%.
Left: this morning before leaving for work. As my friend K.B. says, "How do people not want to touch your hair?"
Right: just before leaving work this afternoon.
Not bad, eh? And I even went for a walk at lunchtime, so it was exposed to more humidity than an office building would usually provide. I would also like to add that it doesn't look or feel at all greasy, though I have not washed it since Sunday.

And did I mention how long it takes to style this? About three minutes, including carefully tying the ribbon. It takes less if I use a hair clip or just wrap the ponytail with a segment of hair.

Rather than posting another clip about other hairstyles I've tried, I'll simply link to my Pinterest board, which provides lots of suggestions that I've either tried or want to try.
The large picture shows the famous "sock bun."

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Winning the Hair Wars, Part 2

Hair Day 2 after using my new curl technique.
My previous post talked about how I've come to no longer hate my hair. As I mentioned in that post, part of why I've been so frustrated with my hair that I've been desperate enough to have it permed, is that I hate having to style my hair in the morning.

My hair is so fine that sleeping on it reduces any hairstyle to limp rags. My challenge, therefore, was to find a way of styling my hair that salvaged my mornings. With my hair long and straight, I could clip it up, but often the ends looked awkward - they simply stuck out straight.

Here is the solution:
Sponge rollers
Here's what they look like inside the pink nylon.
Square-sponge Bob Pants?
(Does anyone else think this looks like some kind of medieval tampon? No wonder they cover it in nylon.)
One day, on a whim, I picked these up in a drug store. For a few months, I had been trying the "sock curl" technique, but my hair was simply too fine to hold the style longer than a couple of hours, even with mousse and hairspray.

But, by applying the sock-bun technique (a top-knot pony tail, damp hair, sleep overnight), I discovered curls that last all day!
What the top-knot looks like when I get up in the morning, after sleeping in the curlers all night.
(No, I haven't tried Botox. Why do you ask?)
They are really easy to sleep in, and Steve even says they look cute.
The picture at the top of this post shows what my hair looks like at the end of Day 2 (my hair was still quite damp when I put it up the night before and had not dried completely by the time I unrolled it, so the curls sagged a little over the course of the day).

As usual, I get too hot to wear my hair down all day, so most of the day, I wear it up which, with curls, is much more flattering than with straight hair.
Not exciting from the front, but check out the back.
Trust me: it does not look as pretty as this if it doesn't have curls.
Without curls, the hairs at the top simply poke straight up in the air.
The best thing is that I do all the work the night before. In the morning? Remove curlers, run fingers through hair and go.

The second-best thing is that this does not damage your hair as it does not use heat.

The third-best thing is that it is probably better for the environment as it doesn't use electricity or heat up your house. (If I were really environmentally conscientious, I would use rags instead of sponges.)

Now, to reward your patience for following this whole post, here is an outtake picture. (It's really hard to take a self-portrait.)
For those of you who think I am photogenic: this is evidence to the contrary.
I'm trying to figure out if the remote shutter-release is working: "Is this thing on?"
Stay tuned for Day 3!

Monday, August 13, 2012

Winning the Hair Wars

You may recall my discussion of hair woes surrounding a job interview way back in 2010. For my subsequent interview, I wore my hair down, blow-dried to look more or less like the picture below, which was taken just before I wrote this post.

I have to admit: it looks better than I thought it did, and it has more of a wave (although I did have it up in a bun ever since my shower this afternoon).

Over the next few days, I'm going to tell you how I've been winning the hair wars, how I've finally found a way to enjoy my hair without spending 30 minutes with a blow dryer and curling iron every morning.

Ottawa has LOTS of humidity, of the sort
that makes good soft-drink comercials.
My Hair Situation

  • My hair is (now) very healthy.
  • It doesn't go frizzy or kinky unless I abuse it.
  • It is long, so I can put it up, which gives me lots of hair options.
  • My hair is very fine, almost baby fine, and very straight.
  • It wilts in humidity. Ottawa has lots of humidity.
  • It does not hold a curl very well, even with a perm (which wreaks havoc on my hair and basically just leaves it frizzy).
  • My scalp is very dry and prone to dandruff.
  • I have no "loft" to my hair: it lies inert along my scalp unless I add mousse and blow-dry the heck out of it.
  • I am almost always hot. In the picture at the top of this post, the back of my neck was thoroughly wet, not just damp. (My hair is now up in a clip.) While this may not be about my hair, it does have an effect on my hair as it loses all curl and body when it gets humid or wet.
  • If I keep my hair short, I have to wash and style it every day, which takes at least 20 minutes. (I am not a morning person, so I resent every single one of those 20 minutes.)
First Step in Winning the Hair War

About the same time as my hair catastrophe I read my niece's blog post about going "shampoo free." As a matter of fact, this was not the first time I'd heard about not using shampoo on curly hair. The theory is that oils from the scalp do not travel down the hair shaft on curly hair as well as they do on straight hair. Thus curly hair suffers more damage and dries out. 

Coincidentally, while I was practicing my pre-retirement lady-of-leisure routine (i.e., unemployed), I had begun to wash my hair with less frequency. There didn't seem to be much reason to shampoo, blow dry, and curl my hair every day only to put it up in a clip or pony tail. 

Over a period of six months, the period between my shampoos gradually increased from every other day to once a week, which is where it is now.

July 20, 2012: Ready for the red carpet.
Sadly, those waves were gone by the time I got home
 I was just too hot and sweaty with my hair down.
Too bad.
When I had my highlights done a couple of weeks ago, I asked my fabulous hairdresser about my hair's condition. (Joanne has been doing my hair for more than a decade, including a couple of times when I visited Ottawa from Colorado.) She said it was great, in fact she'd never seen it healthier.

I told her what I'd been doing and she agreed it was working.

The question on your mind, naturally, is, "Um, doesn't it get really greasy?"

Surprisingly, no, it doesn't. I think that because I extended the time between shampoos gradually, I never really noticed any oil build-up.

What I have noticed is that I no longer have dandruff.

Once I started working again, I was worried about how my new hair routine would work with, well, work. That's what I'll cover in the next post.

Sunday, August 12, 2012


After a spate of boredom this week, I rediscovered Solitaire, this time on the iPad.

[I can hear your sharp intake of breath as you ponder the excitement of this revelation. Relax. Breathe out; it ends well.]

It had been years since I'd played, but I do remember how predictably I would lose money (I always play cumulative Vegas scoring 3-card draw). My consistent money-loss was, in fact, part of why I have never gambled when I've gone to Las Vegas: I am all too aware of how addictive the games are and how predictably I lose.

Then the following happened:
Fifty winning games (not in a row, but still).
Cumulative winnings of $6,703
Basically, I was killing that game. And my score kept going higher and higher. Clearly, I was some kind of Solitaire prodigy, a natural. I should take out a small loan and move to Vegas for a few months to build a sizable nest-egg. The casinos wouldn't even know what hit them.

But, wait, I thought, what if the casinos had somehow rigged the game in order to give people the false impression that they were gambler-gods? Would they be so nefarious?

My score climbed higher and higher.

And then I checked the options panel. And there it was: the option to deal winning vs. random hands.
The slider was, by default, placed at the mid-point.
This is a screen shot taken a couple of days after I set the slider at fully random.

What? Why would I want to skew the deals? Isn't that cheating?

As you can see, I've now lost about $2,000, so I guess I'm not a Solitaire demigod after all. I guess card-playing and gambling go in the same category as folk-music star: I'd better not quit my day job.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

The Four Seasons

When we first saw this house, one of the first things that captivated us was the glorious ornamental crab tree on the front lawn, in full bloom.

April 26, 2010
Last spring, Steve gave that tree a good pruning; that summer, there were hardly any flowers. (Sad.) And then hardly any apples in the late summer.

And then winter struck with a vengeance.
December 28, 2011
This year, it had a slow start, and I despaired that Steve's pruning had irrevocably damaged it.

April 15, 2012
But with patience . . .
April 29, 2012 - Buds!
And then, while I was away on a business trip, BOOM!

May 4, 2012 - nothing but flowers!
Seems to me that this tree has more than recovered.

And now, after a scorchingly hot summer, those flowers have borne fruit.
August 8, 2012 - from the same angle (almost) as the top photo.
Wait. Here, let me give you another perspective.
clusters of fruit
Which is very impressive, considering . . .
A good part of the fruit is on the ground, (waiting to spoil and attract insects).
Time to put the young people to work, I think.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Manicure Woes

The good manicure, at last.
My mother has long, slender fingers. Pianist's hands. And, despite having seven children, and all the physical work that implied in the days before disposable diapers and frozen meals, she kept her nails long and tapered.

I remember envying those nails. I also remember being accidentally scratched or jabbed by them.

Meanwhile, I bit my own nails down to the nub. Given how short they are, it is unlikely that I was ever more than five minutes away from putting a finger in my mouth. Pretty disgusting.

Friday, August 3, 2012

The Stay-cation

The Tay River, Perth, Ontario
Steve and I did a spectacularly poor job of planning our summer vacation this year. There were too many options:

  • Go to Colorado for a friend's wedding
  • Go camping
  • Rent a cottage
  • Stay home and enjoy the pool
The first option got dismissed when we looked at our finances. Our travel over the previous six months (Montreal, Las Vegas, and Newport Beach) kept me from making headway on my line of credit (which financed the pool). Plus, the bill for our beautiful new fireplace came in. 

So the other options were more in scope.

If you've read this blog for a while, you'll know that I have an aversion to anything creepy-crawly (more than four legs or less than two). Camping is therefore really not my style. 

Cottaging would be more fun for me, but Steve pointed out that we have an idyllic spa right in our own back yard. Why leave?
We've got it made in the shade!
We even have wildlife, sort of. And evidence of hunters.
Well, there's more to being at a cottage than the beach, though that's a big part of it. I enjoy the quiet evenings together, playing cards and drinking hot chocolate. Hunting for frogs and turtles. Nothing more pressing to do than make a meal and wash the dishes. 

But Steve really enjoys camping and has found a beautiful spot on a lake at Bon Echo park where he canoes in to the campsite. It is so very quiet. 

While I dithered, Steve went ahead and booked his time off, then made plans for three camping trips during his three-week vacation: one with our daughters, one with our sons, and one with a larger group. He had to do this for three reasons: 
  1. his calendar at work was filling up fast; 
  2. the camp sites would be booked in no time and there might not be one available when he wanted it; and 
  3. he had to coordinate with other people's schedules. 
I took a look at the dates he'd taken vacation, and randomly - without looking at his camping plans - selected a week in the middle of that time frame, going from a Thursday to a Wednesday. (I ended up cancelling the Wednesday because of work-related stuff.) 

In the end, here's what our summer vacation looked like.
Gray = Steve on vacation
Pale green = Steve on vacation and at home, and Wynn Anne on vacation
[I could point out that on my first day of vacation Steve actually went in to the office because his e-mail inbox was so full that it was rejecting e-mail. In fairness, he could point out that I was still asleep in bed when he got home at about 11:00.]

Looking at that calendar, it occurs to me that Steve and I did not do a poor job of planning; I alone did a poor job of planning.

But, making the most of the shared vacation time we do have, we took in a movie on Thursday, and then went to a small town nearby for lunch and a little touristy shopping today. The picture at the top of this post is of the park across the road from the restaurant where we ate a peaceful, romantic lunch.
Our restaurant was adjacent to a small arts court, where this trio looked down from the balcony.
We still have the weekend before he takes off again. And I have to remind myself that vacation isn't all about spending time with Stephen! After all, I still get to sleep late on Monday and Tuesday, even if he won't be here to notice. 

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