Tag Archives: brave new world


In the eternal battle of Sugar Vs. Salt I come down on the salty side every time. Give me chips, mixed nuts, crackers coated with mysterious “seasoning,” popcorn. Put salt on my dark chocolate. Make it so.

There are two historical exceptions to my preferences. The first is after a nap. I rarely nap, for various reasons, but when I do, I wake up craving sugar. This is probably because I am thirsty. I read somewhere that when you’re dehydrated, you crave sugar. Instead of a cookie, have a glass of water. OK.

Because I don’t have a problem overindulging in sugar, as in, I will not eat a whole box of cookies in one sitting, I don’t worry about the cookie. I just eat the cookie. And then I need some water (not milk, nope) to wash it down and lo and behold I feel better.

The other exception was during both of my pregnancies. More so the first, I think, although I’d have to search my own blog archives and not right now, thanks. I wanted sugar when pregnant, I thought, because I had given up alcohol and alcohol is made of sugar. Also, alcohol gives you a little buzz and so does sugar. Also pregnant people are prone to dehydration.

Everyone! Go drink some water right now!

I have a third exception now. The third exception is that at work, I want sugar. It can be a reward for boring work (one gummy bear after each successful file transfer!), a way to spike up the general energy level of the day, something for my tongue to work on while I’m data entering or waiting for my computer to reboot for the fourteenth time. Today when I discovered there was no chocolate in my desk I was appalled. I ate the sour gummies, but where I would once have had one sour gummy and then moved on, I found my left hand reaching for the package as my right hand moved the mouse around, like ‘oh just totally working here, not thinking about candy at all’, and then I ate a second, a third, then a fourth. I was..consuming candy like someone who had a PROBLEM with candy.

It doesn’t help that there is a 7-11 downstairs and around the corner from the office and you can get a little container of assorted used-to-be-penny-candy-now-costs-two-dollars for two dollars. Those marshmallow strawberries! Cola bottles! SOUR SOOTHERS.

You would think that the portion of my life being a stay-at-home-parent to small children who love candy would have been the portion of my life during which I had to suddenly discipline my candy intake but no. I have made it through several Halloween/Christmas/Valentine/Easter cycles without giving a good goddamn about all the candy in the house. It is the artificial environment of the modern office, combined with the proximity of the junk food, combined with the endorphin-less work I am doing (sometimes I find a file I’ve been looking for for a long time and I get a jolt of excitement that makes me mistrust my own integrity) that makes us all want something sweet. It’s not just me. I saw my co-worker’s drawer today and it was practically a corner store.

It doesn’t take long for the brain to associate the rush of sugar with a reward. About half a doughnut. We reward ourselves and each other with sugar all the time. Office people bring doughnuts to work and share them around. I’ve done it. We bake for each other. We share our chocolate. We never offer around celery. We’re all trying to say — to each other, to ourselves — ‘you’re doing great, considering the circumstances. For someone whose gifts are nearly totally unused 7.5 hours a day, you’re making do remarkably well. Because no one ever praises another human for making-do, accept this Twizzler as a token of my appreciation. Then you will feel a little jolt of happiness and you will like me, and this job, and making-do, that much more. It’s not that bad, you will say. Sometimes it even feels good. That’s not the making-do! That’s the Twizzler! You could do a job that made you feel good just by you having done it, and then you wouldn’t need the Twizzler. But this is not that job.’

That makes the workplace sound more depressing and hopeless than I intend. It really is a good place, for what it is. And for what it isn’t, there’s compensation. And with compensation I can buy more SOUR SOOTHERS.

Plus, the water is free.
(We should all drink more water)


Efficiency is everything on weekends. I know the last post had a link about how to have a proper day off and that’s nice but right now we need to get shit done on weekends. If we get our shit done, we can relax.

Right now, 3:30 pm, is the relaxing time because we already: got groceries, bought sports equipment for the children, did laundry, made more granola for the week, tidied the kitchen, took down the garbage, showered and etc. The kids of course know not much of this other than we make them do stuff to feel part of the efficiency wheel. I don’t want them to feel left out.

This morning they were dragging their feet when we wanted to Get Going and after asking nicely several times, I said look, do you think I would PREFER to be going to a giant used sports equipment sale on a Saturday morning? That is NOT what I would prefer. I am doing it because YOU want to play baseball and soccer and so you need four thousand items and that is why I am MAKING you brush your teeth at 9 am on a Saturday, so we can get the groceries before the crowds arrive, and get the sporting goods, and get HOME in time for your friend to come over, which I ALSO arranged for you, so the LEAST you can do is cooperate.

They brushed their teeth.

I came downstairs with mad eyebrows and SA said, are they being assholes? and I said no, I am, but I feel pretty good about it.

Because by 12 pm we were home and had lunch and all the sporting goods we need (seriously; a jock strap? A helmet? I doubt very much anyone aged 7 … well, maybe. There are wunderkinds of all kinds I know) and could get ready to play the rest of the day away. I even made brownies. I even let them have some of the brownies. I’m not heartless.

My body is also, I think, trying to be efficient, by compressing what used to be five days of bleeding per month into one and one half days of bleeding. Though I am certain my hormones do not read this blog I still wish to say it: Body, this plan is flawed.

Now I must go eat some iron.

To Do: Day Off Edition

1. Sleep in. If you’re me, sleep in two hours because you went to bed two hours later than usual, with a net gain of 0 hours. Still, it feels good to get up AFTER the sun for once. Not that the sun is out. It’s raining. Because SPRING!


If you’re the kids, claim all week that on the day off you will sleep in. Then get up 20 minutes later than usual. Technically, yes, sleeping in. Practically speaking, no.

2. Have a leisurely breakfast eaten in courses: the yogurt course. The hashbrown course. The strawberry smoothie course. The cereal course. The other yogurt course. Actually that’s just Arlo, whose body might possibly be planning to grow a foot in the next two weeks.

3. Take a long shower with no rushing.

4. Wear a comfortable bra. No pinchy or binding bras on a day off.

5. Consider wearing tights all day but decide on weekend jeans. Because it’s the weekend! At work we wear jeans on our non-client-related days but the jeans still need to be, you know, nice-ish jeans. Not faded, comfortable jeans. Those are weekend jeans now.

6. Pin back the sides of my lengthening hair and end up with bangs? Apparently?


7. Take two hours to leave the house because I keep getting distracted by the Internet, which doesn’t exist at work and which I’m too tired to catch up on after work. Looking at the Internet is like watching TV after being without one for twenty years. *Stare*. There is so much internet.

8. Go out for a brief errand and buy the on-sale chips. I have lots of chips but these are the best and they’re on sale. Feel very laying-in-stock-like-an-adult about this.


9. Treat the children to lunch at a fast food restaurant and watch cricket on the television while they consume, respectively, a Shamrock Shake, and a Cadbury’s Easter Creme Egg McFlurry (BARF).

10. Listen to the sound of cars swooshing over rain-soaked streets. Putter. Colour. Do laundry.

11. Listen to Arlo and his friend, who have not played together in a coon’s age, work together on a Perler Bead design for a solid hour, while they discuss life, the universe, basketball, life’s ambitions, their favourite pop songs, what it was like in Waikiki (where the friend went for some of Spring Break), and other issues relevant to the 8-9 year old set. Delight in their sedate, cooperative friendship.

12. Hear Uptown Funk on the radio three times. Do not mind one bit.

13. Have no plan for dinner and have lots of time to ponder and get creative with what I’ve got around the house.

14. Have some gin.

15. Enjoy that I am having gin instead of smelling the wet feet and jackets of strangers on public transit. Pine fresh gin, it’s what’s for .. nearly-dinner.


16. Wish the Internet a Happy Friday.

Just Like the Fantasies

When I was considering full time employment and fretting about the children having to leave the house at 7:35 instead of 8:40, coming home at 5 instead of 3 pm, I consoled myself by thinking about how nice it would be to walk the ten minutes home with them, downhill, as it happens, chatting about our days and regrouping before hitting the house for dinner/video games/wrestling etc.

We’ve been blessed with extraordinary dry, sunny weather since January; only a few terrible rainy days, so the walking-down-the-hill part has come true. But the conversations often veer more towards Pokemon, whether I can go to ebay with my credit card and buy them (OK, Eli) rare Pokemon, how tired our legs are, how we wish we had gum or snacks or licorice in my purse (also Eli) –in other words the kind of grousing that happens when children are tired, hungry and out of their routine.

I get it. I sympathize. I often sit on the bus before I get off at their daycare, and think Well, I could just stay on the bus and go home and leave them at daycare until 6. Technically. But I don’t. I pick them up.

The last two days Arlo has asked me very complex questions. Yesterday it was about tax. Today it was about wages. These conversations carry us all the way home. Trying to explain adult life to a child is this heart-rending event, where I want to explain it just right so he’ll have the Right Idea about things, but in terms he can understand, while still imparting my values.

YES I overthink everything always. Yes.

Today, he mentioned vacations. “I only get so many days,” I explained. “People only get so many days for vacation. It’s a trade-off. We work, make money, get vacation days, have money to pay for vacations…”

“Well,” he said. “You could work at Subway!”
“But I wouldn’t make as much money.”
“Why not.”
“Because Subway pays .. not very much money.”
“Because it’s not a very hard job. And you don’t need to know anything special to work there.”
“You have to know how to make change. That’s hard.”

Eli interrupted to mention how much he would like to take more vacations. I started following that train of thought but Arlo said, “Anyway, go on. How much money do YOU make? And what are YOUR qualifications?”

Indeed. How did I end up where I am? Luck; some good, some bad.

We ended the conversation when we arrived home. I told him that I started out working for minimum wage in the cheese shop, slicing meats and cheeses.
“Where you cut your finger almost off!*” said Eli.
“I’ll probably do that someday,” Arlo said.
“Oh yeah?” I’m not arguing. The child is … inattentive.
“Well most people do, injure themselves somehow, at some point.”
“Like a broken arm, or a gushing wound!” crowed Eli.
“Yes like those,” I said.

And then we shut the door behind us, and started in on dinner, video games, and wrestling.

*meat slicer, meet pointer finger, 1994? she said, tentatively?

At Any Time

Oh it is so hard to sit down here with nothing to say, no point to make, but it’s the ritual or, more accurately, routine of it I’m after. Not the content (obviously, she said, self-deprecatingly) but the being here. Morning is too crowded already, evenings are a slow slide to sweet sleep, the skytrain/bus, as entertaining and beautiful as it can be, is no place to type on a laptop. I do write in my notebook, though, yes, now I have made it so anyone can recognize me on transit because I haven’t seen another human writing in a notebook. Yet. I could draft posts on my phone but I don’t want to draft posts on my phone. Ah, I don’t want to draft anything at all. I want to be creative and I want to write and I want to stop talking about it just do it so that’s what this is. This is just doing it.

Let’s take blogging back and make it back into a boring hobby that no one pays attention to, a place to practice turning over buckets of sand. PERFECT.

I am in the middle of cooking dinner; a mixture of wild and brown and japonica rice, stir fried steak strips, and vegetables. The meat is marinating. The rice is cooking. My lips burn a little with the dust of habanero and lime-flavoured tortilla chips. The happy birthday banner we hung up yesterday is dangling from the ceiling like this: Happy Bi
It was my father’s birthday on Saturday. There are a lot of birthdays at this time of year. A lot of fathers. Well, two. Plus several aunts, a few friends. My co-worker’s niece and then her mother. Happy birthday, all you March babies. Happy blossoms and tiny green buds on trees and allergies, to those who celebrate allergies.

In a month it will be Eli’s birthday and he would like a Pokemon themed party. Can someone make that happen, please? Thaaank you.

I just finished a great book called California by Edan Lepucki. I recognized the writer’s name, possibly from The Millions or somewhere else on the Internet, otherwise I wouldn’t have picked it up, as this book was not my kind of book. It is a future-story, set in the wilds of a de-urbanized California/America. But it is a character-driven future story, which IS my kind of book. Once I dug into it, I enjoyed it a great deal. Although the end felt a little rushed, but to be fair, I was rushing through the last chapter, trying to finish the book before we had to return it to the library. I was keeping Eli company in the dentist’s waiting room while he waited for his turn, my nose buried in this book, but he kept talking to me. I offered to read it aloud. Four pages was all he needed, then he politely told me I didn’t have to read it aloud anymore.

At my job I get to talk to people using a microphone several times a week. I have to constantly remind myself not to hum when I am paused between sentences. You don’t realize how much you hum until you have a microphone under your face. I’ve developed quite a humming habit in the past few years as solitary child-minder. Time to curb it.

Unconscious-tic’ly yours, ’til tomorrow.

A Minute of My Time

1. If you’re handing me a sample of food, you can take a minute of my time.
1 a. Unless it’s yogurt. I have no time for yogurt. Not a minute. Not a second.

2. I won’t take the free paper from you, but I will say good morning, and no thank you, and sing Jesus Christ Post to myself in your honour every day because your outstretched arms remind me of crucifixion.

3. You’re on the phone and you want to talk about how I can give you money for something. I am not interested in giving you money, or listening to you.
3 a. My computer doesn’t run Windows.
3 b. I stopped doing phone surveys a long time ago.
3 c. I am not the deadbeat who owes you and your client money, even though my name is similar to his.

4. I will tell you what time it is. I will give you directions, if I can. I will take a picture of you and your friends holding up your fingers, flashing peace signs. I will help you cross the street if you are a person who needs help crossing the street. I will take your arm and lead you to the bus stop if you can’t see. I have a minute of my time for these things.

5. I do not want to talk about children who need sponsorship, the planet’s woes, or how I can send relief to war-torn countries by giving you my credit card number. Not because I don’t care about these things. I care deeply. But I want to get where I am going and you are standing between me and my destination.

The giving part of my brain is actually quite large — maybe the size of Texas in a brain the size of America — but when you ask me for things when I’m on my way somewhere, especially on my way home from work, that giving part of my brain is inaccessible. The more you try to appeal to it, with your cocked head and persuasive stories, your pleading voice, the less likely — in fact, the less able — I am to change my mind.

Your utterly worthwhile charities support people in need, which people I would gladly give a minute of my time to, were they the ones standing in front of me. But it’s not them between me and my train home, it’s you. It’s you I have to stare past and ignore, day after day, or I’m afraid I will start hating you and the giving part of my brain will shrink and then I’ll be less compassionate than I am now.

I’m sorry. Not today.

Five Things I Learned Today

1. The place I have always referred to as “Langley” (a suburb I dunno, 40 minutes East of Vancouver on the highway? On a Sunday?) is plural. I saw a sign today on the Skytrain that said something about funding transit to “Surrey and The Langleys.” This is one of those municipal things that no one really needed to consult me about, being as I live not in Langley, but I still somehow feel unsettled. How did I not know there are mutiple Langleys? So I looked it up and it sounds like there is a Township of Langley (formerly Fort Langley) and the City of Langely (much bigger). Well let’s support them both, I say! Because everyone should have access to public transit. Significant access. Not just a bus now and then.

2. My co-worker, the hummingbird one, informed me there is an amusement park in Pennsylvania called Hershey Park. She and her husband are going there for a week. Because of the chocolate. And the roller coasters.

3. I bought a nice little (relative term) pair of black flats the other day. Finally, some black flats to wear to the office. How happy I was. Today I wore them and it turns out my feet are spoiled for shoes with support. My legs, hips, all the etceteras, sore. I am adding them to the drawer of shoes I have at work that I only wear in the office and couldn’t possibly wear during my commute, because of all the standing and walking.

Yes, I have a desk drawer that contains five pairs of shoes. Another drawer full of crackers. My overhead shelf is full of scarves and gummy candy. I would say I have achieved office worker status.

4. These three dudes, in old jeans and work boots on the train home today told each other — and the rest of us! — in increasingly boisterous and loutish language and at very high volume how much money they were making, how much EI they were collecting, and what they were getting from [some guy] under the table. One man’s insistence that he still had to pay his $1,000 a month in child support so he wasn’t exactly rolling in dough fell on deaf ears as the other two bragged louder and louder about their amazing cashflow. Then they decided to get off the train for a smoke and called two friends who lived near the station (Morgan the Whoregan and another guy who was referred to as “you scar-faced fuck”, quite affectionately) to meet them on the street for a smoke. Then they went away.

5. I am reading a book that at first reminded me of my own fiction writing, in a good way. This was pleasing. Then the book started to annoy me and I realized it also reminded me of my own fiction writing in a bad way. Not so pleasing. So I have learned that while reading great books is bad for your self-esteem but good for your writing skills because you want to up your game, reading not-great books is good for your self-esteem and also good for your writing skills because you want to write better than that and also correct the obvious errors your alternate-universe-writer-self has been making.


Overall I am not fussy about my appearance. Sometimes I think I am and then I meet people who spend much more time on personal grooming than I do and I realize I am quite low maintenance. This is fine if you always spend your time with small children and other parents of small children. Standards are low. (Maybe that’s why I stayed home so long? No, it isn’t.) Eventually you, I mean I, might have to go work in an office with people who dress properly and you/I have to wear something.

Ugh, wearing something. Not that I’d rather go to work naked because think of the germs. Also, I’m frequently cold when fully clothed so nudity in March is not for me. But figuring out what to wear vis a vis the weather, the office functions (client day or no client day), my personal style, age, and preferences, and ugh. It’s 5:45 am. Can’t I just wear my bathrobe?

I like looking nice, by my own admittedly low standards, so I’m not going to be that person who just commits to jeans and a sweatshirt and flips the bird at the boss. And I like clothes. I like having choices of clothes to wear. I like wearing clothes that make me feel comfortable, and confident, and competent. To that end, I have been doing some shopping for pants-that-aren’t-jeans-and-made-more-recently-than-2010 and have run into a predictible pants obstacle.

There is always something disagreeable about the year’s fashion choices and I had decided to embrace it rather than be mad at it. Approaching pants-shopping like “Wow, all these great pants!” instead of “Geez all the pants are stupid this year.” But there is a pant trend this year that involves pants stopping just above your ankle and I just can’t get behind it. Cropped pants that hit at the calf or just below the knee, OK. But pants that hit just above the ankle just look like they’re the wrong length. Maybe it’s because I’m tall and I’ve already spent many years dealing with “R” length pants that look too short and make me look ill-kitted. I’m not keen to look like I had a growth spurt at age 41.

There are also floral pallazo pants available for purchase this season. Seriously, a lot of them. So maybe I *could* get away with pyjamas at work?

Yeah. Bathrobe, I think. I could be The Lady Dude.

Today I Found Myself Admiring A Magnolia Tree

I would love to pull something pithy out from between my buttocks right now but there are three children in my face talking about Pokemon. It is Spring Break. Spring Break means nothing. The children are going to daycare every day but two; one they will spend with their grandparents and one they will spend with me. They were crushed when I told them Spring Break actually meant nothing. And they’ve never even seen a Spring Break! movie.

The children are not in my face because they need my attention, never fear, I am not neglecting them. We are waiting for pizza to arrive and they just ate goldfish crackers and peanut butter and lollipops and everything is very exciting. The neighbour, who waits for us to come home every day, is excited too. He is talking at breakneck speed.

I have a co-worker who is a lot like a hummingbird. She is rail thin and very short and she walks so fast I run to keep up. She also is allergic to things and the other day she had an allergic reaction so today she was all doped up on super fly drugs. It was weird listening to her talk, like listening to a record album slowed down to 33 rpm. I guess if I started doing uppers it would be like me on 78.

The kids at work, and they are all kids except for three of us, were comparing birth years today. The ones born in the 80s were making fun of the ones born in the 90s. I just kept my grey head down and thought about typewriter ribbons and boozy Christmas parties aka the past. The temptation is to join in and pretend to be current but I take more pleasure, sometimes, from being invisible and listening in on the juicy gossip.

You can do this with little kids, like actual children, too. Just sit quietly in their midst, as though on safari. They are used to being ignored or managed; if you’re not managing them you must be ignoring them, and then they’ll go on about all kinds of things. Opinions about the houses of pop singers. What Joey did on the playground and who saw him do it. Who has a crush on whom. Who knows how to divide with decimals.

Sometimes the things are dead boring. Like Pokemon. So now I must go to another room.

The Amazing Flying Train

We don’t call our Rapid Transit System the “subway” or the “tube” or the “metro”. It is mostly above ground and so, we call it the SKYTRAIN.

The first few weeks I commuted to work were a blur of exhaustion and relief. This workplace is the psychological opposite of my previous workplace and almost every day I still thank my lucky stars for that. It helped my adjustment that the weather was good for those first weeks. It dark at first, and then sunny and bright. I would stand by the window of the train and watch as we flew from New Westminster through Burnaby through Vancouver to downtown. In twenty-five minutes we fly in our big steel bird over kilometres of car-clogged streets.

The traffic on various bridges, the ladybug cars with sparkling headlights, the mountains in the distance with old neighbourhoods in the foreground, the patios and streets we flew over, the sunrises starting pink and getting pinker. It was like taking a magic carpet to work.

There was a morning, a Friday, when the worm turned. I left the house a bit later thinking I’d have a more relaxing morning and was punished with the most godawfully terrible ride to work. I spent my ride smushed against the doors by offensively oblivious people, forced to think about what my nose was inhaling, what heinous bacteria were at that moment colonizing my sinuses. Since that day my commute has lost some of its gleam; maybe because I am more awake, or it’s just no longer new. I more often find myself weary and impatient with the people who don’t clear the aisles, who insist on taking up more than their share of space, who clog the doors, who block my view.

Sometimes, like on my way home today, I feel like a cow in a trailer being towed behind a pickup truck from one corral to the next. I have to remind myself to peek around the corners of the people that surround me so I can catch a glimpse of the outside world through the window. I think, “Sky train. Train in the sky. Sky train. Higher than any cow has ever been.” It springboards a bit of wonder back into my day.