Monday, December 28, 2009

All the mmmagic we can muster

Brandy's was one of the first blogs I came across and I've been hooked ever since. She is funny and clever and kind and at least once a month makes me want to stop everything in my life to go work with children because she makes it sound so worthwhile.

Unfortunately right now she is living proof that bad, scary, awful things do happen to good, lovely, wonderful people and she is reaching out in every direction for help and hope.

Let's reach back.


My name is brandy. And I have a blog.

And a plea.

I use my blog to showcase the crazy I meet everyday, share the stories of the kids I teach and document my love for tequila, dairy products and the abdominal muscles of Ryan Reynolds. Rarely do I talk about personal issues on my blog- as personal as the dude that I adore (who I actually met through my blog- single ladies, let that be a very good reason to blog, the possibility of meeting someone as wonderful as my man), but I need your help. And it involves my dude.

He's a guy who made math comics for my class, so they would love learning about addition. He's the kinda guy who sends my friends gift cards when they are having hard times, who remembers every story I ever told him, who was the first person I celebrated with when I got a teaching job. He's the guy who sent flowers to me at school- dozens of my favourite pink roses just because he loves me. He's a guy who has spent a year patiently explaining (and re-explaining) everything there is to know about football during the important games when silence is preferred. He's made me word puzzles and comics and stayed up late playing Scrabble with me (even though I beat him almost every time). He's listened to me cry about school and family and jobs. He is everything I never knew I needed and everything I always knew I wanted.

The holidays have hit us hard. He's recently been told he may have something called multiple myeloma- an incurable cancer, that gives a person an average of five years of continued life. Though this news has came as a shock, he continues to be exactly who has always been- spending his time worrying about me, rather than worrying about himself. He's the most selfless individual I know- (he stayed late on Christmas Eve to work, so his co-workers could leave early) and a post like this would never be something that he would promote or encourage but when I'm overwhelmed and feeling helpless, the blogging community has always given me tremendous support and comfort, two things I desperately need at this time.

As I write this, the future is uncertain and we aren't sure what's happening. He'll need to see an oncologist soon, to verify what's going on in his body. My hope is that everyone who reads this think positive thoughts and if you are a person who prays, could you add him to your list? (You can refer to him as 'brandy's hot awesome dude'). If you don't pray, please keep him in your heart.This cancer is only a possibility and I believe that the prayers and positive thoughts of people can make sure it never becomes a reality.

I want to give a big thank you to the blog owner who scraped their original blog plans and graciously put this up. My goal is to get as many people as possible to see and read this post. If you are reading this and want to help, copy and paste my plea into your blog or send a link through twitter, so more people can keep him in their thoughts. I would be so very grateful (even more grateful than I am to my friend who first showed me the picture of Ryan Reynolds on the cover of Entertainment Weekly. If you haven't seen it, google it. You. Are. Welcome).

I realize this all sounds dramatic, a Lifetime movie in the making- but this is life. Right now. And I'm throwing away any hint of ego and am humbly asking for you to pray or think kind thoughts. If you are able to pass this on, thank you and if you know anything regarding MM- please email me (my email is on my blog). This isn't a call for sympathy or a plea for pity. It's just one girl hoping you can think positive thoughts for the person she adores. If my current heartache provides you with anything, let it be with the reminder that life is short, love is unbending and no one knows what could happen next. Maybe it is silly, but I really do believe that positive thoughts can make a huge difference. Thank you for reading this and if you haven't already? Please tell someone you love them today.

I did.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Birds are jerks

Once in a blue moon the parking lot behind the newspaper office actually has more than six cars in it and I'm forced to park far away from the doors at the edge of the lot.

This was the case yesterday when I arrived back from lunch. So I found a spot and made a tip toe dash across the icy lot to the warmth of my desk.

No problem.

A few hours later I began making my way back to the car when I stopped in my tracks and burst out laughing.

There is a line of trees that grow along the perimeter of the lot and they were all completely bare save one.

In the tree directly above my car were no less than 60 birds. The tree to the left? Empty. To the right? Nada. All of the other trees within sight? Bird-free.

They watched me quietly, snickering to each other under their bird breath, as I gingerly made my way over to the Hot Pursuit (my grandparents named my vehicle).

Sure enough they had clearly spent a productive afternoon redecorating my car.

I honestly can't think of any bad karma I've put out there lately. I've been a busy little elf, making hats and cookies and hand-painted Christmas cards, conducting myself admirably, or at least not terribly at holiday parties and you know, just generally spreading the good cheer.

So it's safe to assume that I've either annoyed a Disney villain who has semi-incompetant minions or I'm being punished for being such a lackadaisical blogger lately.

My sincerest apologies either way.

Monday, December 14, 2009

A little dab'll do ya

This morning on my way to work I noticed a hint of a tickle lingering in the back of my throat. Now, it's entirely possible that this was solely due to my woefully bad decision to attempt to match Kelly Clarkson note for note in the car at top volume. But I'm not taking chances.

Therefore as I type I am in the process of consuming a heaping bowl of liptons chicken noodle which I've garnished with a revolting amount of garlic and red pepper flakes. Next, I will eat a giant orange and drink as much tea as I can in a two-hour span. While I may have to empty my bladder 40 thousand times during my coverage of the local council this evening, it will all be worth it because this tickle will have been frightened back to whence it came by morning.

Or so I am convinced.

I'm a big fan of home remedies for all sorts of things. As a rule, they're usually cheaper, more environmentally friendly, and arguably healthier than whatever brightly packaged fix you could pick up at the grocery store.

Except on rare occasions, I don't find it necessary to clean my bathroom or kitchen with anything more than various combinations of water, vinegar and baking soda depending on the surface.

I use nylons to rub deodorant marks out of dark clothing and gargle salt water any time my gums act up.

The other day after discovering too late that the batch of jalepenos I was cooking with was more potent than usual, and lying awake thinking my hand was about 8 seconds away from spontaneously bursting into flame, I learned that vegetable oil is quite soothing on pepper burns.

I know I can't be the only one who likes to eschew a store bought solution when possible. Any other helpful home remedies I should add to my list?

Saturday, December 5, 2009

At least the day ended with cupcakes



Yesterday I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing a local author who recently had her second book published and wanted a little publicity for her upcoming book signing. We chatted about plot, inspiration and how she became a writer and then I just had to ask,

"And how old are you?"

"I'm nine!" she beamed up at me.

It took everything in me not to drop my pen and curl up under my desk in defeat as a strangled, "Annnd I'm 24" made its way past my lips.

"What?"

"Cough, Aaah, so you were saying you're mostly focused on fiction at this point in your career?"

Nothing like an overachieving nine-year-old to throw your life's work sharply into hi-def.

Her book was about a girl who is obsessed with pink and has to be put on a colour diet.

I came home, put on a pink t-shirt and baked myself some pink (ok, technically red velvet-yum!)cupcakes in protest.

Take that, adorably precocious, single digit aged kid. You may be a successfully published author, but I can use an oven without proper adult supervision!

Win.

Friday, November 27, 2009

In other news...



I am far too busy crocheting hats and feeding books to babies (Mmm, De Profundus) to blog today.

Therefore, I recommend that you check out my friend Rob's new blog. His life would make an excellent sitcom, and I've finally convinced him to write bits of it down.

Enjoy!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Cats and ducks and chickens, oh my.

One of my duties as a reporter is to sit through grueling, infinity hours-long sessions of municipal council. In case that isn't exciting enough, I also get an agenda package for read-along fun.

It's mostly comprised of department reports that for all their wordy detail, are as interesting as stucco. Now maybe it's just by comparison, but I find the formal, written report from the local animal control officer hilariously refreshing. Also, just hilarious.

It's usually about five or six point form lines long, and reads a little something like this:

4 dogs taken to vets.
1 cat attacked a woman. It was sent away to check for rabies and came back negative.
Ducks, geese and chickens on Winthrop Road. The OPP thought it was a traffic hazard.
A fox was in town acting strange.

Conciseness. It's a good thing.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Try a little tenderness

When I set my sights on a career path winding its way through the flowery field of journalism, I pictured myself sallying forth, pen and notepad in hand, on a daily quest to bring important truths to the attention of my fellow citizens, inspiring change with my ever improving prose and taking photos of the fascinating and adorable on the occasional slow day.

Yeah.

While I am ever the optimidealist, my current position doesn't exactly line up with my aspirations.

Obviously that's fair enough. If I started at the top there'd be nowhere to go but to make my way to where I am now. I'm extremely grateful that not only do I have a job, but I have a job that I trained for and that I actually enjoy.

But one of the things they fail to highlight in J-school is that for every person who invites you, the small-town reporter, to their grandma's 140th birthday party, there are 50 more cursing the day you were born at any given moment. And about half of them are going to call you and tell you so. A quarter will wait until they are a nice shade of purple rage and then show up at your office.

And hey, some of their complaints are even legitimate.

More often though, they are annoyed that the photo of their giant mutant squash or possibly rare bug didn't make it into this week's edition.

What gets me though, is the depth of some people's anger over things that, in say, two days time, they will probably have forgotten forever. I mean, is your life really so amazing that a typo in a newspaper is the worst thing that's ever, ever happened to you, your family or a close friend?

Of course, I don't take lightly our job as editorial staff members to make sure that the articles we run contain accurate information to the best of our ability. And believe me, there are few things more humbling than seeing your mistakes in 12pt Helvetica and knowing that not only did others see them, but that they all have the option of framing each one and starting their very own hall of shame gallery dedicated to you.

However, we are human, and with fewer and fewer people, doing the work of more and more, being employed in editorial departments, mistakes are bound to slip through.

The smug superiority and/or venom with which many people choose to bring such mistakes to our attention, indicates to me that rather than taking this into consideration, they have determined, without taking a moment to try and understand how something as evil and appalling as a misspelled name could possibly have made it past us, they have already determined that we are a) Weird, malicious practical jokers who love to spread misinformation, b) Pathetically stupid, or c) both.

Last week a woman actually asked my editor if she owned a dictionary, and then informed her that it was impolite to brag, when my editor mentioned that she studied journalism at University, while defending her use of the word in question.

Everyone thinks they could do it better.

It's not all bad news (heh). Watching how people choose to state their case, and the reactions they elicit from myself and my co-workers is always a good reminder to take a second and re-evaluate in situations where my first instinct is to fly off the handle and denounce everyone in sight as morons or evildoers.

And, if upon further reflection, that initial diagnoses seems to hold true, even morons and evildoers respond better to a smile.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Medusa, MJ and Mystery Science Theatre 3000



Rather than stay in and pre-emptively eat our shelling out candy on Friday, Sparta and I took our bad selves to the nearest town with a movie theatre and checked out This Is It.

My Michael Jackson love can be traced back to when I was 2 years old, being pushed through the Eaton Centre in my stroller and gasping "Mom! It's Michael!" My parents couldn't believe it when they walked a little further and realized that sure enough, a store was playing Michael Jackson.

I highly recommend any MJ fans go and see it on a big screen somewhere. It's fascinating to watch him in his element, and to see the way he was always in motion. It's like watching one of those visual soundwave screensaver things. The miniscule perfection and detail in his movements just kills me. And I admit, I spent the duration of the rehearsal footage of "I'll be there," wiping away tears, but for the most part, it was just nice to see him lighting up that stage one more time.

Sparta compared him to some kind of beautiful little tree frog, who couldn't live outside of his natural habitat. A pretty apt description, I thought.

Anyway, he was clearly inspired by the movie as the next night, his strategically pinned bed sheet of a costume kept coming undone as he Thriller-ed his way around the kitchen, waiting for trick-or treaters.

We started the evening as Medusa and some kind of Perseus/Hercules/Jason hybrid and ended it as two licorice and Caramilk bar-filled pinatas laughing ourselves to tears over Mystery Science Theatre 3000 before collapsing into sugar-fueled comas.

All in all, a lovely weekend.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Ghost of Halloween past

Someone over at 20-something bloggers started a thread asking people what their best Halloween costume has been. Three years after coming up with it, I'm still pretty proud of mine, despite the fact that it required explanation everywhere I went in it. The photo's not great, but basically I'm wearing an EVENING gown made of NEWSpaper.



I'm the evening news!

This year, Sparta came up with the equally clever idea of wearing revealing clothes and a pig nose to go as the Swine Floozy. However, I'm pretty certain that karma would ensure I was immediately stricken with the virus upon putting on that outfit. Plus, it's probably not appropriate for shelling out candy to children.

So now it's a toss-up between Medusa and Rosie the Riveter.

We'll see how many snakes I can get at the dollar store.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

If living is without you

I don't often find myself using the phrase "I can't live without...". I guess it's because I can't help but think of it a little too literally and so it always seems insincere.

I mean, really, short of food, water and certain major organs, I'm hard-pressed to think of anything that would actually cause me to become instantly deceased were it to be taken away from me (with the exception of maybe having all of my family and friends removed from the planet while I was forced to stay behind -that might kill me).

I most often hear the phrase from other people if I happen to mention that I'm a vegetarian or that I don't have cable. Then it's all feigned (or real?) horror and "Oh I couldn't LIVE without ground beef/Real Housewives of Whatsit).

You could. I promise.

So, with the understanding that I'm not always so dramatic, here is a list of mostly materialistic things I "couldn't live" without:

- My white noise machine. I am a freak about noise. If somewhere in the same building as me, a TV is on, or a tap is dripping, or a mouse is whispering a bedtime story, I will hear it, and be unable to sleep. My mom bought me this white noise thing when I was living in a seriously horrible dorm in Toronto one summer. While nothing short of pumping sedatives through the water supply there would have made the place quiet, at least my noise machine blocked out the worst of it.

-Good books. I can't count the number of hours I've spent since I was little, snuggling up to and subsequently losing myself in a good book.

-Access to the internet. One of the things that made the last year and a half of living alone in a new place without much going on for entertainment or socializing bearable has been the internet. It's hard to feel disconnected with so much at your fingertips.

-Chocolate. Too easy?

-Indoor plumbing. Well, I mean, really.

-Laughter. If I'm not laughing, I'm probably dead. Or asleep.

-anti-perspirant. Sparta insists that I use too much of the stuff, but he never had to endure the embarrassment of being a 14-year-old girl with hyperhidrosis. "Why yes I am sweating through my shirt in the middle of winter, thank you for noticing, sensitive and mature teenage boy. I trust you won't mock me in front of all of our peers." Wrong.

-Cheese. Not a day goes by when I don't have at least one little slice of some kind of cheese. I could live on cheese, wine, chocolate and fruit. No problem (aside from maybe an iron deficiency).

-My debit card. If I ever lost that thing, I'd be screwed, I never carry cash with me anymore.

-Physical contact with other people (preferably ones I know). I'm definitely a snuggler (unlike some people), and I firmly believe that touch is like sunlight. We need it to keep from turning into shriveled-hearted little teeth-gnashing monsters. A regularly snuggled Sarah is a calmer, happier Sarah. Consequently, if you ever find yourself on the same couch as me, I apologize in advance for tucking my feet under your thighs or butt to keep warm.

This post is a part of 20SB’s Blog Carnival: Can’t Live Without, and Alice.com is awarding prizes to lucky bloggers and readers!

Monday, October 26, 2009

The Play's the Thing



The weather as of late being fairly miserable, I've been trying to come up with some things to keep Sparta and myself entertained through the winter months. While I've been having a grand old time beading necklaces and attempting to crochet hats, and he has fun playing guitar and torturing his bod in the makeshift gym he's set up in our entryway, it's harder to find activities beyond say, napping, that we both enjoy and can do together.

I'm at the point where I'm actually considering ordering (gasp) cable (or satellite, or robot moon rocket ship or however quality television programming is delivered to homes now) for the first time.

Once totally anti-boardgames, I am now an ardent supporter. We spent a hilarious Friday night this past weekend playing Hoopla.

Me: "Computer Internet weirdos!"

Sparta: "No." (gesturing wildly at his drawing).

Me: "Computer....Internet weirdos?"

Sparta: NO! You're just making the same guess over and over with different inflections!

Me: (amid tears of laughter): Computer, Internet, WEIRDOS!!!"

OK, so the hilarity might not translate unless you've played the game, but I assure you, good times were had by all.

The only problem is we've been having a tough time finding games that are suitable for two. Clue? for example, not so mysterious. Well, it wasn't me, so I'm going to go ahead and accuse...you?

So my Internet advisers, I turn to you. Any suggestions for fabulous 2-player games to keep us from excessive napping this winter?

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Grey Matters

When I was 20, I discovered my first grey hair. I was totally fascinated, if a little freaked out, and insisted that my roommate at the time come and check it out.

She was horrified and promptly yanked the offending alien being from my scalp, squealing, "WHY do you have grey hair???" before I had a chance to decide what I thought about it.

Since then, slowly but surely, that first tinsely strand has been replaced by a steadily growing number of grey hairs.

My boss and I were chatting about hair the other day and I mentioned that I don't think I'll dye mine to hide the grey. She refused to believe me, telling me about a friend of hers who went grey early and looked terrible, and demanded that I send her a photo of myself at 40 to prove it.

While I guess I should never say never, after all, I did go through that month-long purple manic panic phase in high school, it's just not something I see myself doing. For one thing, just the thought of having to keep up with maintaining my rapunzel-gro mane over time exhausts me. I'd have visible roots every other day. As it is, I'm lucky if I manage to schedule a trim more than twice a year.

I'm not crazy about dumping a bunch of chemicals on my head (that's where my brain lives!) and into the water supply on a regular basis either. It's bad enough that I wear makeup with who knows what in it at least a couple of times a week. While my vanity and insecurity does win out more often than I'd like, for the most part I figure the fewer chemicals leeching into my skin, the better.

My mom started going grey at my age and to this day has never felt the need to try to somehow fight a futile battle with time. She looks natural, lovely, and comfortable in her own skin.

I think having an example of aging gracefully (mom, I don't mean to insinuate that you're vastly aged, I just mean aging in the sense that everyone is, from birth on), so close to home is probably one of the main reasons I'm not devastated at the thought of losing my current hair colour.

Most of all, I think for me, being expected to hide the grey hair healthily growing away on my scalp is just the straw that broke the camel's back.

I already spend god knows how much time, energy and money shaving, waxing, plucking, pinning, curling, straightening, most of which are not terribly fun activities, and some of which are downright painful.

I deeply resent being told, whether by advertising or the people who buy into it, that now there is one more thing I will inevitably have to add to that already ludicrous list if I don't want to be cast out of society as some kind of deeply unattractive leper.

Monday, September 21, 2009

And on that farm he had a...

There is something about fall in the country that reassures me I wasn't completely insane to move to what can sometimes feel like the middle of nowhere. For one thing, everywhere I drive it feels like I'm floating around in a painting. Then there is the never-ending list of scarecrow festivals, fall fairs and other excuses to eat homemade pies. Here are a couple of countrified things that have charmed me recently.


Sleepy, snuggly, baby sheep! My mom pointed out that these guys look like they should be posing in some kind of Jesus portrait.


Giant horses!


Friendly (hungry) goats!


Baby pigs!


Impromptu rural jam sessions!

And, last but not least,



overalls and unicycles!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Staying positive


Rogue sunflowers growing out of a downtown flower basket

A recent fantastic and touching post over at Just Playing Pretend, and a couple of conversations with friends lately have got me thinking about how we all cope with life's major and minor disappointments and how we choose to face our more challenging days.

A friend of mine recently described me as "hilariously positive" in the face of heartbreaking situations. It's not that it just comes naturally, but making the choice and doing the work that makes it possible seems to, if only because I've been forcing myself to do that work for as long as I can remember. Even if the only thing to latch on to is a glimpse of the light at the end of the tunnel, or even just the fervent hope that there is indeed a light there at all.

About two weeks after I arrived at the newspaper here for my very first job as a reporter, both the reporter and editor took off on maternity leave, leaving me the sole member of the editorial team for the month until the editor's temporary replacement could arrive, and I spent every morning before work miserably retching and heaving with stress.

And while there was certainly some acknowledgement of the fact that it was overall a miserable time, in the form of the occasional (daily) rant to my mom, for the sake of my sanity (and so that mom would keep picking up the phone) I tried to find the humour in the situation, brainstorm some kind of solution, or just remind myself that things could be worse. That even when one or two things in my life are truly terrible, there are billions of people in direr straits. Knowing this, I stuck it out, and I got through it and I'm really glad I did. Every time I do something like that, it's just one more little victory to prop me up when the next challenge comes along.

I guess it's just about grabbing on to anything at all you can be grateful for, even if it doesn't seem like much. There are few things so terrible (knock on wood) in my life, that I can't find some part of them to laugh at.

All of this is not to say that I'm a rabid rainbow sparkle purveyer of warm fuzzy giggles, flitting around like some kind of deranged tooth fairy (although, that would be sort of awesome) and demanding that people going through some serious depression or tragedy just look on the bright side already. I understand that it is healthy and important to acknowledge when things are unbearable, and I understand that what those unbearable things might be, differs for everyone. And yes, sometimes I get stuck in a funk that is especially hard to climb out of for no particular reason at all.

I just know that in my life, for the most part, I can't justify spending my time moping. If nothing else, I'm alive. I'm safe and (relatively) healthy and there are people who love me. There are times when I feel, in short, like crap, but what right do I have to go around scowling at people? What good would that do?

Sure, misery loves company, but so does happiness. And she's a much more accomodating hostess.

*Please bear with me. Sarahbration is experiencing technical difficulties. IntenseDebate or blogger has once again swallowed a bunch of your lovely comments and I can't figure out how to get them back. I'm set to try one last thing and then it's goodbye IntenseDebate, which is a shame because I liked being able to reply directly to your comments.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Enjoy

My mom is always turning up interesting things on the internet and passing them along to me. Last week she sent me a link to this video with this note: "Somehow there are so many things that remind me of you - teeth, hair , earrings, bicycle, smile, closet -in this funny little video - I love it!"

I loved it too, so I thought I'd share it with all of you. (If I'm way late to the Lenka bandwagon, forgive me. Having no exposure to tv can leave me a little behind once in a while)



It's true, especially when she's on the bike, if I squint, that could be me circa every morning riding downtown to the dress shop two years ago.

Anyway, I've been bopping around singing this in my head almost nonstop since she sent it. And really, uncanny resemblences aside, you can't go wrong with muppet tomatoes in your music video.

Friday, September 11, 2009

A snapshot (and my 100th post)


I turn around from the mirror in time to see Sparta's eyes wander the kitchen cupboard contents and light up upon spying a packet of those long "cigarette" cookies.

I whip my toothbrush out of my mouth long enough to exclaim, "ONE cookie! Not two cookies! My grandma gave me those and we have to make them last," as he reaches for them a little more enthusiastically than I am comfortable with.

I'm not always so possessive about food, but Sparta can take down a bag of cookies faster than I ever thought possible. We tried buying a bag each recently, which only resulted in him finishing both his bag, plus half of mine before I had time to say, "mmm, chocolate-chippy."

I give him a toothpaste-y glare to let him know I mean it.

He responds by shoving two of the cookies in his mouth and protesting, "but baby, I'm being a walrus!"

How can I argue?

Thursday, September 10, 2009

In other news...



While taking a stroll with the fam recently, I turned around to find three baby ducks following me around. My mom says they probably imprinted on my laugh. Make of that what you will.

video

Anyway, they were hilarious and still small enough that they made little "peep! peep!" noises instead of quacking. Feel free to commence with the "aww"-ing.

*For some reason, IntenseDebate or Blogger seem to have eaten all of the comments for this post. Has anyone else experienced this?

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Say, Cheese!

Poor Sparta had to work for most of the long weekend so Monday when he finally had the day off, I was determined to take advantage. After a brief consult with google maps, we set off up the coast in search of a new beach to explore/nap on.

The drive was lovely, gold and green fields, lovely old stone farmhouses and a Suessical landscape of whimsical wind turbines and monarch butterflies as far as the eye could see.

The beach was cute and clean. It was busy but not over-crowded and we quickly found a spot to set up camp.

However, in my planning this idyllic day at the beach, I forgot one thing. Sparta? Not exactly a beach person.

While I emerged from path through the dunes, beaming right back at the sun and humming happily to myself while getting down to the business of whipping off my clothes and making a Sarah-shaped indent in the warm sand, Sparta greeted the sun and surf with a suspicious squint and the keen observation that: "There's sand everywhere. And children."

And once he had spent about five minutes reclining on his beach towel, he wanted to know "What exactly do we do at the beach?"

My suggestions of swimming or relaxing, listening to the sound of the waves and basking in the sun were not met with enthusiasm. See his attempt at relaxing:



So, I tried to entertain(torture) him by making him play Victorian Parlour games with me until the Minister's cat became an angry, beligerent, child-killing cat and I realized he was longing for the time when sand in his shorts was the most annoying thing he had to deal with.

Fortunately he perked up when he remembered that I had packed us some snacks, and although he adamantly refused to jump in the lake with me, he was cheerfully skipping stones by the time I finished splashing around and tackled him with a soaker of a hug.

At that point, I would have called the day a success.

Little did I know, it was about to get 84-thousand per cent better, because on the way home, we discovered this magical place:



where I purchased no less than four fancy, locally made cheeses for under $20. Smoked havarti, carmelized onion cheddar and Thai curry cheese? Where have you been all my life, cheese and butter co-operative?



In case you're wondering, The Clash CD cover makes an excellent impromptu cutting board, and it is never a silly idea to carry a cooler with crackers in it around in your car.

*I've added Intense Debate to the blog to try and make replying to your comments easier but I'm not sure if it's too much of a hassle for people to sign up etc. I'd love your feedback, so comment or shoot me an email at sarahbration@gmail.com. Thanks!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Little brother's big weekend


This weekend my baby brother turned 19. He also moved 8 hours away from home for the first time and got ready to start his first year of University.

I'll miss being greeted by various and sundry affectionate insults when I head home for a visit every week or so, and I know the house must feel strange with both of us gone now.

I realize he's technically been an "adult" for a year now, but I can't help but think of him as the little moon-eyed ball of energy he was at say, age 8, getting up from the dinner table to entertain us all with his own very original choreography, consisting of him pulling the bottom of his shirt up over his face, sticking out his belly and flailing his arms to whatever music happened to be playing.

Now he's taking law. The mind boggles.

Anyway, Happy birthday Lemur! I love you, I'm proud of you (Ew! Blech! Disgusting! Get it off me!) and I'll come visit soon.

P.S. I totally recommend reviving that t-shirt face dance for frosh week. What better way to become instantly popular (or, you know, wind up viral on Youtube...either/or).

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

I've got a feeling...

video

I think it's called fury?

All right, it has dissipated somewhat since the other night and actually, I'm not nearly as mad as poor Sparta was, knowing he had to get up for work in a few hours and listening to this plus many other instances of our next door neighbour being particularly obnoxious and boorish the other night.

We would just have managed to drift off to sleep when he would come back outside to yell choice phrases like "We can't do it that weekend, that's your bachelor party, BITCH!"

At one point, I'm pretty sure he was setting up beer cans and throwing things at them so that they clattered to the pavement ever so soothingly.

I've gotten used to the charming renditions of Nickleback songs this guy spews into the silent night air every so often, and frankly, I'm usually just happy not to be witnessing a screaming match between he and his wife. Before 11pm, I actually find his singing hilarious. At 3:00 am? Not so much. But for Sparta this is all new. And he is not impressed.

Fortunately as the hours ticked by, punctuated by this guy's shrieks, profanities and occasional retching outside our bedroom window, Sparta managed to keep from leaping outside and whacking the fellow into silence with his own beer bottle.

So now the question is, how do we deal with this if it keeps happening? Go outside and confront the guy? He is really not a friendly sort, despite his carefree serenading. I've actually nearly reported a domestic disturbance at his place more than once after hearing him bellowing at his wife.

Write him a note?

"Dear ridiculous neighbour,
Do you know you're being a jackass? Check yes/no.
Also, stop it.
Sincerely,
Your sleep-deprived nexties."

Or do we call up the closest law enforcement types and make a formal complaint and let them act as mediators in the hopes of keeping things anonymous and avoiding confrontation with this guy?

Maybe we're better off just giving him some singing lessons and a book of lullabies.

* the sound bite above was actually taped earlier in the day, so you have to imagine that but with no cars or birds in the background and after several more alcoholic beverages.

** If you listen carefully, at the end you can hear him spit! Delightful!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Tiny Wings: Part 2


Today, during my umpteenth assignment at the local racetrack, as I stood at the rails, idly fiddling with my camera and waiting for the horses to make their way into the starting position, I heard "You getting focused?" and realized that I was standing next to this man and his wife. Sure enough, no sooner did I see them, then a monarch once again fluttered by onto the track.

It was so strange to run into these people. These two characters who in my mind became confined to what I wrote down a year ago, a blog post come to life and standing in front of me.

Strange too because I'm sure the brief encounter we shared, though significant enough for me to want to record a snapshot of, wouldn't have stuck with them in the same way.

Beyond his comment about the butterflies, which made me feel worlds less alone at a time when I was more lonely than I could afford to admit to myself, both he and his wife were so generous and kind in their encouragement, urging me, a new and still shy reporter to "get in there and get the shot."

And yet, they did remember me, and today was no different. "There's a nice shot. Here, step in front of me, Kiddo," she said as he enthusiastically nodded from his walker.

We chatted a bit about how my job is going and they seemed genuinely excited to hear that I'd been asked to stay on at the newspaper. The woman remembered that the day we met had been my first time covering the races, and she noted that I seemed less nervous. I seemed to have a handle on it now. It felt good to realize she was right.

Seeing them was a reminder of the kindness of strangers, the kind who notice a butterfly among thundering hooves.

And, it was a reminder that those monarchs aren't the only ones. I've come a long way on my own tiny set of wings.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Bonne Fete a moi



That's right, I am starting my 24th year by putting on my party clothes and...going to work! Is it just me or have birthdays gotten significantly less exciting then when I was eight and my friends and I got dressed up rode around town in a horse and buggy like so many squealing princesses?

Ah well, it's what you make it I guess. At least this year, if I so desired, I'd have an excuse to drink an entire 2-4*.

*Never happening

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Baby, it's cold inside



After several weeks of eating questionable food from my adorable little (about a foot shorter than me) European refrigerator, and having no access to the freezer since it froze itself shut most determinedly about a month ago, yesterday, Sparta and I became proud caretakers of a brand new fridge.

I am pleased to announce that we now have a drawer just for cheese. Mmmm, cheese. What luxury!

However, I am not pleased to announce that Sparta thought this would be a good opportunity to reassess how many condiments it is necessary for me to continue housing.

At the moment, the answer is 25.

I am of the opinion that you can never have too many. I mean, you just never know when a tahini/sundried tomato/artichoke/peach habanero sauce craving emergency might sneak up on you! As long as they're within the expiry date, I fail to see the problem.

He may have muttered something about "hoarding" and "mess" and "when are you ever going to need an eighth of a jar of tapenade?"

I may or may not have muttered something along the lines of "YOU'RE an eighth of a jar of tapenade."

"What?"

"Hmm? Oh... nothing. What?"

If anything, with a larger fridge, I should be stocking up on MORE condiments, yes?

Monday, August 17, 2009

My beeswax



One of the charming side-effects of having a massive clot take up apparently permanent residence in your leg (along with the whole constant threat of imminent death by P.E.), is that blood has a hard time travelling back up to your heart which results in some rather uncomfortable swelling of the leg in question.

Fortunately, compression stockings (combined with drugs) go a long way towards easing this.

Unfortunately, I hate them.

Because really, any garment that requires a daily battle involving textured rubber gloves to get me into it is bound to cause some resentment.

In cooler weather they tend to fall down, which just feels wrong (think stepping into a still wet bathing suit), unless I wear snug pants. Trying to discreetly adjust thigh-high stockings while bundled up in public often results in antics worthy of Mr. Bean in church (in a wet bathing suit).

Worse than that however, is the summer, when the rubber that keeps the damn things up, bites into my upper thighs and leaves seriously irritating blisters all the way around them.

This, and the fact that my legs aren't the same size, is the reason why I generally only wear one on my bad leg. Unfortunately, the "flesh tone" of the stockings I wear in the summer is not particularly close to the tone of my actual flesh and so, when I go out in a skirt or shorts, it does catch people's attention from time to time. What shocks me, is how many of them are vocal about noticing. I've had strangers do everything from visibly pointing out my leg to their friends, to stopping in their tracks to quiz me about it.

This weekend I braved a pair of shorts and told myself it was just too hot to care whether people were staring. Sure enough, people were. I'd like to assume it was because I just look so damn cute in shorts, but a young woman at Sparta's rugby game neatly burst that bubble by asking "why the stocking?"

I try to laugh it off. I generally throw on a bright smile and explain that it's a medical thing, I try to remember that most people just haven't encountered a young woman with my particular brand of medical mystery but the temptation to respond "Oh damn, I must have been drunk when I got dressed again" or worse, to say "I have a life-threatening condition that requires me to wear this, thanks for bringing it up," is strong.

Because as much as I can, for the most part, convince myself that it's no big deal and things could be so much worse than having people look at me and think "Fashion moron," a little self-consciousness creeps in. As does the more depressing reminder of why I'm wearing the thing in the first place. I have yet to come up with what I feel like is a satisfactory response for complete strangers who feel they have the right to know why I'm attired so outrageously.

To be honest, I'm not sure that I wouldn't ask someone my age the same question, and I'm usually not offended if someone asks me once we've already struck up a conversation but I can't help but wish people didn't feel quite so free to comment on my appearance just because I look young and healthy.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Twisted sister



When I was little, I really wanted a sister. My mom had four of them and it seemed only fair that I should get at least one. When I was 5, my brother was born. I was mildly disappointed, but quickly got over it. And by "got over it" I mean, dressed him in skirts and called him "Leah."

Over the years, this grew increasingly difficult as by the time he was 14, he dwarfed me by about a foot. Since he started going to this thing called "the gym" in fact, forcing him to do anything at all (such as, give me a bite of whatever he's eating), has become nearly impossible. Braiding his hair, I'm sad to say, is out of the question these days.

So, what with his (selfish) insistence on being a guy and my parents being perfectly comfortable with the emptying of their nest, it seems safe to say assume I am not about to acquire a biological sister any time soon.

Recently I had a visit from one of my cousins. We were superclose when we were small, and climbing under the covers with her on the pullout couch when Sparta went to work in the morning brought back memories of lying awake and driving our parents insane with our incessant chatter and giggling. The time I accidentally bit her hand through the duvet while trying to muffle my laughter so we wouldn't be separated -a threat which I'm pretty sure had to be used every single time we had a sleepover- still makes me cackle.

I've been lucky enough to meet girls, now women, who more than make up for any number of sisters I could have imagined. Women who I admire and respect for their loyalty, brains, and creativity and can still be my face-pulling, weird-talking self around. Women who will by turns, embarrass/crack me up by yelling "Bad friend! Bad friend!" across a bar, or throw a drink in a creep's face for saying something insulting to me, or be my plus one while dancing with the elderly.

They are the ones who assure me I'm not crazy, for whatever crazy feeling I might be having, and who understand my passion or outrage concerning whatever cause I happen to be championing at the moment, because they have passion and drive to match it.

I've always felt perplexed and insulted by women who claim that they don't get along with other women, and prefer to be friends with guys. So often (not always) it sounds to me like code for "I prefer not to have to compete for attention" or "I don't think women are worth making the effort to find things in common with." I mean, give me a break, you can't find ANY women who you share interests with, or just like despite the fact that you have very little in common?

Maybe more than insulted though, I feel sorry for them. Their prejudice means they are missing out on the opportunity to connect with approximately half the population; the half that all of my amazing, hilarious, and supportive adopted sisters belong to. And that's just sad.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Watch out, they're adorable!

One of my favourite people in the cast of characters I've been introduced to since moving to the small town, is Karl the egg man.
Karl comes in to the newspaper office every Friday to deliver fresh eggs from his farm.

Along with the eggs, Karl always brings his special brand of charming friendliness and gentle comedy. He bowlegged-shuffles his way through the office and says hello to all the "girls." He's so sweet and unnassuming that I can't even be offended that he refers to me as "Darling," it would be like being annoyed at a happy little gnome.

If his perpetually sweet disposition wasn't enough to make me part of the Karl the egg man fanclub, today I learned, that along with chickens, Karl has a family of llamas living on his farm.

AND last week, the female llama had a baby.

I don't know about you, but a baby llama is something I always consider newsworthy.

So, to that end, meet Peaches, the baby llama. She is the softest thing in the entire world.


Her one-year-old brother likes to give kisses.


Unfortunately, in all the excitement, I forgot to turn the flash off while photographing the white llamas, which is why they look like ghosts here, but you get the idea.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

In other news...

From what I can tell from the two times I've had to cover dog shows, people who own show dogs may die early due to ridiculous amounts of stress.

I heard one woman whose standard poodle had just picked up a blue ribbon complaining in near hysterical tones that "He didn't look very good!" (which I'm pretty sure is always true, due to the fact that the poor creatures are given such preposterous haircuts). Meanwhile, another be-blazered dog owner was fit to be tied when she heard the distant sound of a ringing cel phone, which was apparently driving her dog insane. He had all the symptoms: sitting quietly, tongue lolling, tail waging. Just terrible.

Although, pets are supposed to make you live longer, so maybe it evens out.

Fortunately Sparta pointed out this oasis containing enough tiny adorability in the middle of it all to compensate for the crazy:



(I'm really jealous of that little girl's butterfly tights and pink headband)


Also, today I learned that small white dogs can fly.

Monday, July 6, 2009

It's even worse than I imagined



I gave Sparta this Anne Taintor card to celebrate our first week of living together sans killing each other. While it maybe wasn't a typical week, what with the mid-week Canada Day celebration and sleepover in my hometown, I still feel like we deserve a pat on the back for not immediately getting all up in each other's space.

It's definitely going to take some getting used to having someone to consult about what to eat/watch/listen to in the evenings, but the clever fella has already set himself up with rugby two nights a week and I'll be off to dance at least once a week, so I think we'll survive.

One major plus to the end of this long-distance thing is that when I tell him all about my day, I don't feel the urge to fly into a rage when he greets some anecdote by nodding silently because I can SEE him and know that he's not watching TV on mute or something.

And so far? No horrifying discoveries. Although I did notice one new little curiosity.

Despite being all over wiping down the counters and the stovetop and doing the dishes, he is bizarrely strongly against drying or letting me dry said dishes. He likes to pile as many items as possible on the dish rack and then leave them to air dry. Apparently that's how you know the dishes are done: when nothing more will fit on the rack.

All these years I had been labouring under the misapprehension that the dishes are done when they are all clean, dry and in the cupboards. Nice try, mom and dad.

I, meanwhile, continue to be delightful and charming and completely quirk-free.

This weekend we had a chat about how long we've been "dating seriously." It turns out he has a very organized hierarchy for dating, and apparently was not aware that we have been in a "serious" relationship for as long as we have been. After trying to set him straight, I gave up and asked in exasperation if we are at least in a "serious" relationship now.

"It's even WORSE than that," he said. "We live together."

It's even worse.

He does know just what to say to a girl.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

A blast from the past and a glimpse of the future


Sparta, stabbing bubbles at the church. Maybe "grownup" isn't the right word.



The past few days have been a strange juxtaposition of my past and present.

It started on the weekend, when I attended the wedding of a girl I was good friends with in elementary school.

To be honest, while i was delighted to receive an invite, I was a little surprised as I hadn't actually seen her for a number of years. Most of my memories of her are from around the time that Barbie with the rollerblades that shot sparks, setting the occasional hapless child on fire, came on the market. I remember because she got one for her birthday.

And yet, there she was a couple of months ago, hand-delivering an invite to my parents' house. My mom said she knew who it was the moment my dad answered her knock and that familiar little voice came twinkling through the doorway.

On Saturday, as she stood there in her wedding dress, I couldn't help but see her as the little girl in a bride costume I knew so many Halloweens ago. It was so hard to wrap my head around the idea that this is all for real. There we were, making toasts and drinking wine, wearing bridal gowns and party dresses, high heels and makeup and none of it was stolen from our mothers' closets!

Monday, I felt a similar jolt when I went to see another friend from elementary school and to meet her baby daughter. When we were 12, she lost both of her parents to cancer within three weeks of one another.

We were best friends at the time and I was with her at the hospital when her mom passed. She moved away shortly afterwards and we've lost touch over the years, with the occasional update or chance meeting. To see her with her own daughter, a mom herself now, well, neither my brain or my heart knew quite what to do with that, beyond smile. Wide.

It's not like it's the first time I've been to a wedding or been friends with someone who had a baby, but for the most part, the people I know who've done these things were either not people I knew particularly well, or they were suitably beyond me in years. Last time I checked, my friends and I were all still pretty much adolescents.

With my own impending leap into adulthood, in the form of the great cohabitation caper, set to commence in four days (thanks again for all of your wonderful advice!), I'm beginning to wonder, is this what being a grownup feels like?

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

In other news...




Meet my ghostwriter.

As we are both far too warm (due to a sudden heatwave and no air conditioning) to form coherant thoughts, let alone write them down today, we hope you enjoy this little story from June 24th last year.

So you can ballroom dance, but can you YMCA?

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Better together?


After almost four years of long-distance dating, Sparta and I are finally closing the gap. Not only are we going to live in the same city for the first time since the summer we met, we are going to live in the same apartment.

The plan has been in the works for a while, but I haven't wanted to write it here for fear of jinxing it. That and I've been pretty skeptical about the whole thing as I've been waiting for the timing to be right for some time now, and it just never seems to work out. But, knock on wood, it's official.

Not only is he moving in at the end of the month, he's applying for a job at the paper. That's right, after four years of barely seeing each other, it looks like things are about to get extremely cozy.

What? That looks suspiciously like a recipe for disaster, you say? Well, you might be right, but after four years, I've kind of taken the attitude that if we're going to drive each other crazy and we can't stand to be around each other for lengthy periods of time, we might as well find out.

At least that's the cool as a cucumber line I've been repeating to myself and anyone else who cares to hear it. However, yesterday I had a moment of panic when it occured to me that I don't really want to find that out.

Suddenly, this cucumber started to sweat.

Oh. my. god. What if I leave my wet towel on the bed or the lid off the whatever and he leaves me for someone who looks just like me only taller and fitter and who doesn't roll her eyes and lunge for the remote whenever UFC garbage is on and always, always hangs up her towels properly?????!!! WHAT IF HE EATS ALL MY CHOCOLATE OR MAKES NOISE WHEN I'M TRYING TO WRITE AND I HAVE TO KILL HIM??????!!!!!!

Once I regained consciousness I figured I should share these concerns with him.

"What if I do things that drive you crazy?"

"Like when you leave wet towels on the bed?"

"YES! Exactly!! See? I already do things that you hate! What if I do that by accident and you break up with me and..."

"If you leave wet towels on the bed, I will move them...And make fun of you."

So, at least that's settled. Now to purchase some earplugs and a combination lock for my chocolate stash...I mean...learn to share?

Meanwhile, my towels are hanging neatly on the hook I installed on the back of the door. For practice.

Any advice from experienced cohabitators?

Thursday, June 11, 2009

In other news...



Ever wonder what your favourite small town reporter looks like while chasing a story?

Friday, June 5, 2009

And speaking of sneakers

Guess who will be attending a fabulous cocktail/auction/dance party at the Bata museum this weekend?

I know, I'm practically jealous of myself.

Happy weekend!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Funboy and the Golden Sneakers

About a month ago I started taking a class at this cute little dance studio one town over. I wasn't sure what to expect, but I've really enjoyed it so far. Each class is different, so if I have to miss one for an assignment, I don't have to worry about catching up on what I missed.

The classes are being held at the local YMCA over the summer while the new studio is being renovated. So last night I strolled into the Y for my first class there and asked a woman at the front desk to point me in the right direction.

Before she could finish pointing out which way to go, a young man, who I swear materialized out of nowhere beside me, shouted "I'll show her!" and bounded toward the stairs like a puppy, looking back to see if I followed.

As we chatted on our way up the stairs, It became clear that he was maybe a little developmentally delayed.

As soon as the music started, it also became clear that he is, without a doubt the most joyful dancer I have ever seen. Although he wasn't necessarily getting the steps down, he was damn sure moving and grooving.

Now, I always enjoy the dance class. I feel fairly energetic and by the end I've usually loosened up enough to really let myself go and enjoy.

This class was different. it was like he stepped in and gave us all permission to relax and laugh and have a little more fun. His enthusiasm was just so infectious.

Every time there was a lull in the music, all you could hear was "bahTAH ba ba!" as he scatted along, with the occasional "Yahoo!" thrown in for good measure. I had to give up on suppressing the giggles that were almost constantly bubbling up happily from my stomach, and when our eyes met in the mirror, he just laughed right along with me.

It was like someone came into the room and set up a bubble machine or upturned a box of fuzzy, playful kittens. Sure it was just this side of ridiculous, but you'd have been hard pressed not to feel just a little delighted.

And then, just when I thought I couldn't be any more entertained, I glanced over during our water break to see him reach into his little backpack and pull out, not a water bottle, but a pair of gold shoes.

He sauntered proudly over, looking at me, and down at his shoes. "What do you think of my shoes?" he asked.

"I think your shoes are amazing!" I replied.

"Yeah, they used to be my school gym sneakers" He shot me a look like, can you believe it? "But I spray painted them gold."

"Well they look great!" I smiled.

"Yeah, my nickname's Funboy. And I sell t-shirts."

Funboy.

For a second, the universe made sense.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Writing's on the wall (Very Superstitious)

I've never thought of myself as particularly superstitious. I can never remember which shoulder to throw the salt over or why (besides the obvious reasons involving hygeine and sanitation) I'm not supposed to put my shoes on the table.

However, I can NOT walk by a penny on the ground without picking it up and preferably giving it away (thanks for that one, mom) and I'm definitely one for signs and omens. Sure, perhaps it's a tad narcisisistic to assume that nature or whatever would take the time to arrange itself into my very own magic 8 ball, but hey, in a moment of decision making paralisis, where both sides seem equally stacked with pros and cons, I'll take all the help I can get.

If that help is nothing more than narcisism, irrationality or my overactive imagination, so be it.

I swear part of the reason I decided to go ahead and uproot my life to move here a year ago was because the day before I got the call telling me about the job and asking if I might be interested in applying, I had impulsively bought curtains and couch cushion covers. It's like I was pre-nesting for no apparent reason, until the call came and gave me one.

On the weekend, as I dragged my drowned rat self back from an assignment I had shown up in the rain an hour early for, I was doing a nice job of fretting myself towards hairloss over whether or not I'm spending my time where I should be right now. Should I be moving on to something bigger and scarier? To something in the city?

Then, as I turned onto the road home? This:



That rainbow might as well have been my very own bat signal, shining directly out of the top of my house, from the looks of it.

So I figure I'll stick around a little longer.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

In other news...



Turns out the grass really is greener, or at least tastier, on the other side.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Sorry fellas, you've got the wrong girl



When I was 15, I realized, to my surprise and delight that I had grown out of my awkward ugly ducking phase.

The braces were gone, and although I was still experimenting with my eyebrows, they at least no longer made me look like the sister of Bert (of Bert and Ernie fame).

Sure I still had excessive sweating to try and keep under control, but I had solved most of the more embarrassing issues surrounding my hyperhidrosis by wearing tops made of as little black fabric as I could get away with wearing to school.

Midriff baring v-necks with a push-up bra, red lipstick, high heeled platforms and skintight black velour lace-up fly pants ensured that by the time my sweet 16 rolled around, I usually looked anything but. My parents did their best to discourage all this, but I was a teenage girl on a mission. Sure, I didn't know where exactly I was headed, but I knew one thing, I was sure as hell NOT going to put a sweater over my tube top, and yes I am aware that it's winter, thank you very much.

For a while I was completely addicted to the little thrill I got every time some guy tried out his best pick-up line on me. I felt powerful. A smile would get me a free slurpee, or free candy. Older guys wanted to date me. Friends recognized me by my strut from blocks away.

Objectification, smectification, I was finally one of those all powerful "hot girls" we were all supposed to aspire to be, and loving it. I wanted to be 20, independent and grown up, and I guess, in my mind, that meant clothes that only fit the workplace dresscode of a pussycat doll.

Eventually, due in no small part, I'm sure, to my mom wishing on every star, rainbow, eyelash and turkey bone in the vicinity, the novelty of superficial attention wore off and I grew out of this phase. Now, i cringe at the memory of how much energy I spent looking for attention from people who just wanted to ogle a teenage girl. Of how I hid my insecurities by working hard at being over the top, in your face sexy. It was exhausting.

This weekend I went out to meet this girl for a delicious Indian feast in the city followed by a glamourous evening of staring at her ceiling fan and groaning about how much we ate.

I had gotten a little dressed up for our date, mascara, heels, an actual attempt to brush my hair, but nothing over the top. However, apparently I looked worthy of notice to some, because as I walked to the streetcar, a group of guys started catcalling, making kissing sounds, and barking -yes, I said barking- from the top floor of a townhouse I was passing.

As I walked by, pulling my sweater/wrap thing securely over my chest and doing my best to pretend I was deaf, I thought about how much my attitude has changed. There was no little thrill. Only irritation and indignance. I mean, that's so gross. "Ugh, really? barking? REALLY? Is that supposed to be a compliment? Who the hell taught you guys it was ok to harass women on the street? Don't you have mothers or sisters?" I felt suddenly naked and uncomfortable in the clothes I'd been perfectly pleased with a moment before.

While there's no way I'd go back to being 15 or 16 for anything, for a second there was a part of me that wished for that delusional superficial confidence that would have seen me swing my hips a little more, grin and toss my hair as I breezed on by.

But only for a second.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The gory details



One of the things I dread most as a reporter, more than the day long town council meetings, or the disapproving sniffs , real or imagined, of the elderly when I'm the only one who doesn't know the hymns at the myriad of Christian-type events I cover, even more than the prospect of interviewing someone whose longest answer is a two syllable version of the word, "Nope" is the sound of the air raid-like siren that can be heard all over town whenever the fire department is about to head out.

You might think it would add some excitement to my day, but I'll take any of the above assignments over chasing the fire truck.

In fact, in the year that I've been here, I've only ever done it once. It was during my first few weeks here and I was the only reporter in the office when our scanner went off.

The ladies in the office all looked at me expectantly until I broke down and asked, "So, um, should I be doing something about that?" They insisted that I should go investigate.

So I drove out, whispering "Please be nothing, please be nothing, please be nothing" to the steering wheel, picturing myself all the while as a vulture with a car and a camera where wings and a beak should be.

It turned out to be an accident on a private farm. My mind instantly conjured up all the horrible things various types of farm equipment could do to a person and I knew, job or no job, there was no way I was going near it, so I circled once and flew back to the office.

Since then, I've actually managed to avoid chasing the fire truck altogether but it's amazing to me how often people think I should be on the scene of an accident, getting pictures of wrecked cars and broken bodies.

It's a strange responsibility, deciding what people should or shouldn't see. I remember when my neighbour was killed in a car accident, photos of the twisted and barely recognizable vehicle made the front page of our local paper. Maybe what we imagined happened to him would have been worse, but I don't think so. Seeing what he must have been trapped in was really horrifying.

I suppose it might have sent some people a warning, but I feel like we're so used to images like that, that the only people that image would have really effected where the people who knew the victims. I feel like it might have done more harm than good. If the paper had just run the story without the picture, I would have seen the headline, and maybe chosen not to read the gory details, but with the photo staring me in the face, there was no way to avoid them.

I know a picture paints a thousand words, but sometimes I don't think they need to be painted.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Into the Woods

Last week I got lost in the woods

I was supposed to be taking pictures of some students who were supposed to be doing some kind of nature-type activities at a dam. After getting lost multiple times while trying to find said dam for over an hour, I finally arrived only to find that the students in question had abandoned the dam in favour of one of a zillion nearby trails into the woods.

I was slightly irritated (fuming) as I picked a path at random and stomped off into the stupid woods to find the stupid bunch of stupid kids.



By the time I came across this tree, I could only assume that the names carved in it were of other reporters who had made the mistake of being lured into this apparent child-swallowing venus flytrap of a labrynth.

I half expected David Bowie to arrive and tell me he'd stolen my baby brother.

However, it's hard to hold a grudge against the world when you find yourself dappled in sunshine, surrounded by trees, flowers and scampering woodland creatures.

My outrage finally gave away when I found myself directing the question of "Seriously, whose life is this?" at a perplexed squirrel.

From seething to laughing in 8 seconds flat.

I never did find those kids though.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Just me and my hairbrush

I used to be quite the social butterfly. My previous lives as a copy intern in the big city and a shopgirl in my hometown lent themselves well to painting the town red at least a few nights a week.

Since moving here, I seem to have metamorphosed in reverse. At the end of a day comprised of attending various community events, introducing myself and making conversation ad nauseum, I'm often content to keep myself company. Of course, once in a while it's a bit lonely, but from what I hear, you can't have everything.

However, someone recently decided to drag me out of my cocoon. Far out. Not only did this person have the audacity to show up at my house and insist that I not change into my p.j.s and crawl into bed with a book at 9:30 on a Saturday evening, she also insisted that I try out her karaoke system despite there being two whole other people (besides my lovely hostess) present.

Unfortunately, two other people were not enough to keep her distracted as I tried my best to melt into a puddle of perspiration and slide under the door in liquid form.

So I picked out a tune I figured I could handle passably and I sang. And sang. And sang. Five songs later and my very accommodating hosts couldn't have pried the mic out of my hands if they had tried.

See, the thing is, I actually love, love, love to sing. I love music and lyrics. I always have. When I was still in my stroller, I could identify a Michael Jackson song playing two stores away in the mall (seriously, ask my mom). I used to sit in front of the armoire in our livingroom and gaze into the mirror while dramatically crooning "Don't Give Up" by Peter gabriel to myself. My fisher Price tape recorder finally died with my mom's Celine Dion cassette inside.

In high school I took lessons for a couple of years but certainly wasn't the most dedicated of students (social butterfly, remember).

My instructor used to have me compete in the Kiwanis music festival. Every year he'd ask, and every year I'd say yes, because even though the day of, I'd be right back in sweat puddle form, he was so kind and encouraging that I hated to disappoint him.

And somehow, each time I managed to force my legs to carry me onstage and my teeth to unclench and let my voice out. And of course, by the time I got through my performance I felt all warmed up and ready to keep on belting out the tunes just in time to take my seat and sit quietly through the rest of the songs.

I finally stopped the lessons and competitions after, at 16, I found myself so nervous that I became dangerously close to losing my lunch in the parking lot just prior to singing. It seemed pointless to have to muster up that much bravery when I wasn't actually doing anything life-saving or world-changing.

Of course, the recent example of Susan Boyle proves that there are certainly people who should be collecting their courage and sharing what they can do with the world.

While I'm light-years away from being comparable to her, both watching that unforgettable clip of Boyle and finding myself super glued to my friend's karaoke mic, made me wonder how many people there are in these little towns, singing into hairbrushes, dancing like no one's watching (because no one is) or painting their own little piece of the Sistine chapel on the back of a cereal box.

Monday, April 27, 2009

A tale of two siblings

For this weekend's bi-weekly city visit I brought along some extra luggage in the form of my 18-year-old brother. On Saturday he wanted to go to the zoo and I wanted to visit the art gallery, so as a compromise, we checked out the Royal Ontario Museum.

Here he is, attempting to look cool and bored outside the ROM.



Not bad.

My attempt at this look was slightly less successful. "OK, just let me get my pout in place-Oooh! a dinosaur!"



However, rest assured, he later regretted his decision to look less like a huge nerd than yours truly, and attempted to hug a t-rex.



While we clearly would not survive Jurassic park, all in all, good trip.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Happy Earth Day my pretties

I highly reccomend watching The Story of Stuff if you haven't already, or you know, if you just need a reminder.




And you should all seriously consider ordering some solid shampoo from Lush.



I started using it as my newest environmentally friendly thing on Earth Hour weekend. It cuts way down on the number of plastic bottles I buy and makes my hair look and feel awesome! Seriously, people have noticed.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

I guess it's spring



I wasn't entirely convinced that the Robins and Canada Geese weren't a little premature in their return to this area.
However, these pretty little purple flowers have sprung up all over the place here AND I spent half an hour on the weekend throwing a toilet paper roll at a mosquito that found its way into my apartment and kept landing just out of reach on the walls. So I guess I'm convinced. Not convinced enough to put my parka into storage, mind you.

What else did I do this weekend? Well, I'm glad you asked. Along with mosquito extermination and having a lovely visit with my parents and some sandwiches which they ever so thoughtfully brought from the best little sandwich joint in my hometown, I got to talk with this gentleman about electric trains for about 10 hours:



It could have been annoying since I typically like to keep my weekend assignments as short and sweet as possible, except for the fact that I'm such a sucker for enthusiasm. I love how passionate people can be about sharing their hobbies.
Even if that hobby is collecting toasters.