Sunday, October 28, 2012


Gee, looking down the recent posts, it seems I've been in a bit of a funk lately. I haven't, actually, though my heart has been stretched of late.

My prodigal daughter is on her way home. (Rejoice!) So today, I'm going to focus on gratitude. 

Our neighbourhood is a counterpane of beautiful colours, and our back yard seems to have confused its seasons.
This is from the planter I bought in June. Isn't this supposed to be a summer flower?

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Gathered in His Name

My daughters are remarkably pretty. I say this not to boast, but because it is true. Somehow, my genes and Steve's came together to create these beautiful women.

Unfortunately, despite everything we say and do, one of my daughters does not believe, in her heart of hearts, that she is loved. Instead, she is drawn to every flattering guy with smooth moves; she is drawn to the attention like metal filings to a magnet.

She's an adult now, and I can't protect her the way I did when she was young. Heck, even in her early teens, she was really quite beyond our control.

And it is absolutely terrifying.

This week, without telling us, she went with a man more than twice her age to another city, to be a model. Through various connections, I learned that she was at a motel.

Then I read that he had abandoned her at a gas station in this city where she had no money and didn't know her way around.

There was no communication from her for 12 hours.

In 12 hours, a young woman could be trafficked to another country. In 12 hours, a beautiful young woman could be raped, mutilated, and murdered. In 12 hours, a woman with her whole life ahead of her could be sucked into a life of prostitution and drug abuse. In 12 hours her whole life could change.

I thought of all those other mothers whose daughters go missing, who print posters and plaster them on lamp posts, who create Facebook pages for their daughters.

I reached out to my sister and brother-in-law who live in the city where I believed my daughter had gone. They were ready to head out to the motel.

I prayed on my own, silently. I called the police (and got shunted to voicemail because of unusually high call volume).

Then I remembered the power of communal prayer:
"For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them."
Matthew 18:20

I posted my plea on Facebook, then I went into the family room and asked my son to hold my hand while I prayed for his sister's safety. I cried with him.

Seconds after returning to my laptop, I heard from one of my daughter's friends that she had just received a text message. Seriously, mere seconds.

A few minutes later, I also received a text message.

She was alive. She was not where I wanted her to be, and she had no intention of coming home right away, but she was alive.

I will continue to lift her up in prayer. Out loud, holding hands with whoever will join me.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Say what?

Background: Shortly after we moved in, we hired a geek to come and help debug our networking set-up and to figure out why our main PC was running so slowly. The geek installed his favourite software. It made no difference. Today, we received an automatic renewal notification. (I don't remember seeing the previous one or I would have contacted the company sooner.)

My objective: to cancel the order and receive a refund.

When I went to their contact page, a window popped up inviting me to a live chat session. I've had pretty good experiences with these before. Not so much this time.

Following is the text of an actual "live chat" session I just concluded.

Scott: Please wait while we find an agent to assist you...Hello, welcome to Uniblue Live Chat. Please briefly describe your goal or question and I will connect you with the best resource to answer your questions.Customer:  Did not intend to have automatic renewal. Please cancel the order and refund usCustomer:  Your order number: XXXXXXXXScott:  Okay, our customer service team can handle this for you. I do recommend first checking our support dashboard and FAQ as many customers find the answer they need there. Please follow this link: Or you can file a ticket with our support team and they will get in contact with you as soon as possible. Please follow this link:  Um, so, what does the live chat session accomplish?Scott:  I understand your inquiry, however my role is to direct you to the best resource for your situation. The support team will be best able to resolve your issue and they will be happy to assist you. You can contact them through the channels listed above.Your session has ended. You may now close this window.

So I went back to the exact web page I had been on and submitted my request for a refund. The chat was a complete waste of my time!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Pain. Not good.

A friend of mine, who has had worse and more frequent migraines than I ever have, once told me of waiting in an emergency room and gazing at the locked cabinet of medicine and suddenly empathizing with desperate addicts who would do anything to break through that glass.

As my own migraines have increased in frequency (now about once a week) and severity, I've gained a greater appreciation for her sentiment.

When the pain is in your head, there is a desperation that takes hold.

First, I tried simply to relax. Then I took my prescription relief - to no avail. Then I tried falling asleep - also to no avail. I double-layered the sleep mask. No help. I played a relaxation tape. (Tempted as I was, I did NOT throw it across the room.) I took a couple of Ibuprofen (with doctor's permission).

Then I had a glass of wine.

I can't say that this is recommended advice. But, though it didn't really help the migraine, I'm not as miserable as I was an hour ago. So, um, that's an improvement, right? (What could possibly go wrong?)

Every time I get one, I think, "Oh, not now!" That old chant, "Rain, rain, go away! Come again another day!"  Stupid migraine.

Today, I'm about to board a train for a business trip to Montreal. I love Montreal and I especially love taking the train. I am not a fan of doing so while my head is pounding.

Migraine, migraine, go away. Don't come back on any day.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

There is no such thing as "relatively benign rape."

About a week ago someone I (usually) respect told me that there is a "continuum" of rape, from the violent, murderous extreme at one end to the "relatively benign rape" at the other. Those are his words.

For the record, let me state: THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS BENIGN RAPE.

When will men stop saying such outrageous things? What is it they don't get about rape?

I've been stewing over this ever since then, hesitating to write this because -- get this -- I didn't want to offend him. But I think I have to.

First, let's define our terms. These are my definitions, not Webster's.
Rape: the sexual assault of one person generally involving the insertion of an erect penis or other object into the other person.
Benign: harmless, of no lasting negative effect.
Thank God I have never been raped, but I have experienced sexual assault.

[Caution: if you are a survivor of sexual assault this may be triggering.]

For a very short while when I was in high school, I dated a man who was in university. He had a goofy smile, was about six feet tall and muscular. I was petite, weighed about 90 lbs soaking wet, fully clothed, wearing shoes and carrying a purse. We met through our Christian youth group.

One night, as he arrived to pick me up, my mother, upon learning who I was dating, was alarmed and said, "You're playing with fire." Ugh, I thought, mothers.

We went to his house in an isolated area out in the country. His parents were not home. He made tea, put on some make-out music, and lit a fire. Before I knew it, he was lying on top of me on the very soft couch and getting very excited. I began to feel afraid, worried that this was going further than I wanted. I tried to maneuvre out from under him, but could not. I tried pushing against him, but he didn't seem to notice.

I began to disassociate. I did not scream or yell (his mouth was covering mine, besides, who would hear me?), but my soul cried out.

Suddenly, the room filled with smoke. He leapt up and began fiddling with the fireplace damper and snuffing the fire.

I stood up and did not sit back down. He tried to resume where we had left off, but I told him that I thought I should go home. So he took me home. Thank God.

I am sharing this because I think most men - men who have never experienced unwanted sexual contact - don't understand what this does to our psyche, to our souls.

I felt
scared - frightened of what might happen
powerless - physically and emotionally unable to control the situation or his behaviour
shameful - because I had courted sexual activity with this man
guilty - because I let it happen

It has been 35 years since that night, but I still associate those feelings with it. I would call that a "lasting negative effect." And it wasn't even rape.

If he had had sex with me or coerced me into giving him oral sex, I don't think I would have been able to tell anyone. As my mother said, I had been playing with fire and got burnt. Or, as she also often said, "You made your bed, you lie in it."

So much in our culture puts the blame on the woman, as if men are powerless to control their penises and sexual behaviour.

As I pressed him, my friend cited the classic, misinformed cases of "she changed her mind" and the victim-blaming "she put herself in that situation (by drinking too much, going out partying)" as cases of "relatively benign rape."

The interesting thing about his arguments, to me, was that he didn't deny that it was rape; he only persisted in believing that they were relatively harmless, of no lasting negative effect.

He's wrong. When a man uses our bodies for his own gratification, against our will, it has a lasting effect. We lose our peace of mind, we lose our trust. It sticks with us.

I don't think men will ever understand the sense of vulnerability inherent in being a woman, but I do hope that this post helps enlighten them.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Shoe Motherlode

I am a girly-girl. As such, I have a thing for shoes. (You may recall my joy when I finally found my trove of work shoes after our big move.) Well, lately I've been thinking that my shoes are a little on the dowdy side.

While my workplace officially has a "business casual" dress code, the women there take their footwear pretty seriously. Many of my old stand-bys were serviceable, but getting dowdy. Plus, I have a wedding tonight and thought some dressy pumps were in order. So, while I was at the mall today, I stopped by a shoe store.

There, at the back wall, was a display of samples. I had forgotten all about sample shoes. They come only in size six, and my feet are - you guessed it! - size six.

The downside is, of course, that there is never much selection. Well. It was my lucky day.

These are the shoes for tonight. They are astonishingly comfortable, thanks, in part, to that elastic strip and a very moderate heel.
These are new office shoes. Don't you love the detail on the toe?
And the combination of black and red-brown makes them go with almost anything.
And a pair of dressy low heels for with slacks.
The salesgirl insisted that the first pair of shoes there (the ones with the bow) retail for about $500, and the others in the neighbourhood of $300. I found no proof of that, but since I paid under $100 each, I feel pretty good.

I'm doing a little Happy Feet dance!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

How to Set a Fancy-Schmancy Table

I love decorating our table for special meals; it brings out my inner Martha Stewart. And my guests like it, too. It is almost de rigueur now that guests drop off their contributions in the kitchen, then pass through the dining room before sitting down for appetizers.

"You always make it look really festive," one guest commented on (Canadian) Thanksgiving Monday.

I'm glad she felt that way.

Today, I'm sharing some of the tips & tricks I use when making my table look extra-special. Some of it involves shopping, but it also includes working with what you have.

1. Choose a colour scheme and gather the things you think might work.
Since it is fall, I chose an autumnal theme and gathered the elements on the table. (I have an ivory tablecloth which works well as a blank canvas.)

These were all things I had on hand, either purchased last Thanksgiving or gifts (some from years ago). Let's take a closer look.

Here's what we have:

  • A table runner
  • A couple of baskets
  • Ornamental napkin rings
  • A yard or so of fabric
  • A capiz shell placemat thingy
  • Some candles in seasonal colours
  • A few ornamental leaves

2. Start to layer.
Beginning with my neutral tablecloth (in this case, two tablecloths, since our table is big enough to accommodate 12 people), start layering your elements, starting with your runner or accent fabric.

I tried the runner, but it was just too small (and too close in colour) for the big table. In this case, I bunched up the ornamental fabric, partly because it was faded in one spot from the time I used it as a table-topper in front of a window, and also because I think it looks nice that way. But not yet. In that shot, it looks messy.

3. Begin setting places.
Like too many of us (and much to my husband's dismay), I have several sets of dishes. Everyday dishes in a pistachio green, wedding dishes in white with silver trim, heirloom dishes in white with delicate periwinkle flowers, and today's dishes in a hand-painted rustic finish.

(Some of the napkins are still in the laundry.) You can see that the table is starting to come together. The three sets of candlesticks are a happy coincidence of wedding gifts: silver, brass, and crystal in three different heights. I love using them together.

4. Fill in gaps.
That centrepiece - or lack thereof - was a problem. I often will put low flowers (so people can see across the table), but Farm Boy was completely out of flowers by the time I got there on Sunday. Incredible!

So I scoured my house and found this.

It's a fisherman's float from our trip through Oregon and California a few years ago. I'm a glass-art fanatic, so I was happy to find an excuse to use this. The blue-green in the glass picked up the blue in the ornamental fabric. (There's also a touch of blue in the plates, but it's difficult to see.)

5. Set the table.

Here's a look at one place setting, before adding the glassware.

(Oh. I realized that I had chargers for under the plates. I've had these for a couple of years, but kept on forgetting about them. Finally remembered. Steve, naturally, thinks they are completely useless, and they are, but they really do help the table look fancy-schmancy. Which is a real word, Blogger, so stop putting a squiggly line under it!)

Here is a diagram of the correct setting of a place, in an informal style. Which is probably the most formal most of us will ever see.

Things to note:

  • Bread-and-butter plate is to the left/above the forks.
  • Wine glass is above the plate. The picture doesn't show it, but the water goblet (or glass) goes directly above the knife. Coffee or tea cup would also be in this corner.
  • Forks on the left, knives and spoons on the right.
Memorize that diagram. 

6. Stand back and look at the beauty.
And here is my table fully set. I don't know why I didn't get a full-on picture of it, but this'll have to do. Sorry.

It was, as always, chaotic when it came time to serve, so I didn't get a picture with food on the table. We had so much food that the glass ball had to be moved to the china cabinet. 

And that, is the unraveling of my mystery of table decor. It is something that simply makes me happy. Do you have any tricks? 

Friday, October 5, 2012

What is the opposite of heroic?

I suspect that "Wynn Anne" is listed as an antonym for heroic. Despite having delivered three babies without benefit of pain-relief medication, I can assure you that I did not do so happily or mildly.

In fact, I screamed so long and loud that the nurses came running. One nurse told me that they call this "le cri de la femmelle" - the cry of the female animal. (Emily, our third, was born in Quebec.) It is, evidently, a distinctive howl that says, "Oh my f***king god! A baby is about to fly out of my vagina*! Or I am about to leap off the roof of this building! Either way, serious SH*** is happening NOW!" My sister was outside in the hall during my first delivery; she thought I was dying.

You would think I'd have figured it out by, oh, the second baby. Denial, however, is an extremely powerful psychological tool. I had read so many books about the dangers of going to the hospital too soon (extensive monitoring, unnecessary interventions, infection, exhaustion) that I kept waiting until it was clear that, oh, yeah, I guess the baby is coming within the next couple of hours; better shave my legs.

(You should have seen the looks on my in-laws' faces as they gently asked, "So, when do you think you'll head to the hospital?" I think they were trying to figure out if they'd remember how to deliver a baby if push came to shove. Pun unintended, but pretty good, I think.)

Hmm. Did not intend for this to be a childbirth post. I guess this means you and I are now best friends and can be godparents to each other's children?


I'm sick right now. Sort of. I'm not actually sick, my body just thinks it's sick. Which feels pretty much the same. I got my first-ever flu shot on Tuesday. I'd had the inhaled flu spray before, with no real side effects, so I didn't expect anything untoward. Well. Let me tell you! (I'm going to tell you, because that is what we wusses do.)

My immune system seems to have kicked into overdrive. I've had three days of migraine, a swollen arm that I have wrapped up with an ice pack and have resting in a sling while I write. (Awkward.)

It is possible that normal people who are not hypochondriacs would take this in stride, swallow some Tylenol, pack on the ice, and get on with it.

Not me.

I am like the annoying husband in the commercials who nudges his wife in the middle of the night and whines, "Maggie, my throat hurts."

On Wednesday night, I came home from work and climbed right into bed. About two hours later, I got chills and shakes and could not get warm.

I texted my husband to bring up my special furry blankie.
This is the blankie. Elly likes it too.
I e-mailed him.

I Facebook messaged him.

I texted my son to ask his dad to bring my my special blankie.

Still no sounds of sympathetic feet climbing our squeaky stairs.

So I phoned him. Yup. From my bedroom, I picked up my cell phone and called the house line.

Soon I was swaddled in my furry blankie and gradually started burning up. By morning, I was a drenched puddle of sweat. I would have stayed in bed but, as these things often happen, I had an important business trip that day.

I made the trip, tied up my meetings in record time, only to have to spend hours in an airport waiting area. Have you noticed how annoying those are? They are an assault on so many senses. Uncomfortable. A cacophony of noise. Smells of all things noxious. At least the Quebec terminal was attractive.

I was desperate. So I did this.
I am too sexy for the lounge, too sexy for the lounge!
The ear plugs were a bonus with the sleep mask. How brilliant is that? They didn't work terribly well, but it was enough for me to get a short nap.

Today, my head still throbs as soon as the pain relief wears off, and my arm is still swollen and painful, but I can work from home, which is a great relief. My doctor's office assures me this is normal.

Thank you for bearing with me. I'll probably survive with all my limbs intact. But I do find odd comfort in sharing my pathetic misery with you. Don't you feel healthy?

*I originally censored myself and wrote "out of my body" instead of "out of my vagina." On rereading the post, it occurred to me that I was not too shy to write "f***ing" but drew the line at "vagina," a perfectly useful and appropriate word. So I put it back. If it offends you, think about that some.

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