Me VS Mother Nature: The Snow Shovel.

Because of the weather, I am carrying a snow shovel around with me as I car jockey. I dig the cars out, I take them to Tremblay, I dig them back into their home spots if they have been abandoned somewhere.

I have to say, carrying a snow shovel totally trumps a dog as a conversation starter.  So many people said, “Hey, you digging your way out?” and “You want to come do my car?” and “That’s a hell of a shovel you have there” to me today.  Of course, you don’t always expect a woman with a snow shovel on the bus. It looks a little weird, and I did get a few bemused smiles.

But I have to say, trooping down Lonsdale with the sleet in my face, snow shovel over my shoulder, I felt like the hero in an apocalyptic movie. I sort of wished someone would say something to me just then, because for sure I could have said something flinty and laconic. In retrospect, I probably just looked insane.

Oh well. It’s not the first time and it won’t be the last.

They Cancelled Work!

Here I was supposed to go out and car jockey, but my boss called and told me not to, because, really, the roads are treacherous and where there isn’t ice, there is three feet of snow, or more if the ploughs have gone by. So I had a nice sleep-in.  Just now, my other work called. I was supposed to go in and teach some kids to read, but the snow is on my side, because the kids can’t get to the lessons, and now I have nothing to do today.

That in mind, Arwen tagged me for a work meme, which is kind of related. Work-wise anyhow. I have a kind of spotty working history, and I have even been hired for one job because, “You’ve done a wide variety of things.”  For the most part, I like working. I have enough Protestant Work Ethic that working makes me feel like I’m contributing and a good person and whatnot. Also, one of the things I love about working is the different jargon required for different jobs.

When I was a kid, I used to get paid the princely sum of a dollar a day to feed the neighbours’ cats when they went out of town. Things haven’t changed much as I just got in from feeding the cats of friends who have made it out of town. These days I get paid in wine or souvenirs.From my cat-feeding stints, I acquired words like ‘vittles’ and ‘mange’.

I have also:

Filed and typed for a prominent gynecologist/obstetrician-turned-politician. I learned ‘papule’, ‘lesion’, and ‘amniotic fluid’. Oh, also at that job, ‘Macadamia-nut-chocolate-chunk-cookie’.

Hostessed, bussed, and sometimes bartended at a swish bistro-by-day, jazz club-by-night. I learned ‘infusion’, ‘four-top’, ‘deuce’, ‘sidecar’, and ‘soupcon’. Pretend there is a little French beard under that c in ‘soupcon’.

I have checked in, out, sorted, filed, and shelved books at a large academic library. I learned ‘Nietzsche’, ‘oud’, ‘Canaletto’, ‘Neil-sized’, ‘negative fixation’, and also the fine art of whacking a card reader on the side so it didn’t emit a high-pitched whine.

I’ve pumped diesel and gas into fishing boats, sold oil products and fishing gear. This one almost deserves its own post, because there was so much jargon. It was all jargon. And swearing. I swear, I would come home ever fall, get into regular life mode and be like, “Motherfu-I mean shi-I mean goddamn it!” in our house where we didn’t swear. But. Outside: “vang the boom’, ‘pigs’, ‘cannonballs’, ‘drop the rings’, ‘port’, ‘starboard’, ‘focs’hole’, ‘crow’s nest’, ‘dodger’, ‘high boat’, ‘junkfish’, and ‘scow.’ Inside: “Mexican Flag hoochies’, ‘sockeye fever’, ‘dock cock’, ‘lovejoy coupling’, ‘grease nipple’, ‘oakum’, ‘flasher’, ‘spoon’, and ‘chicken halibut’.

I have been a cashier at a mens’ clothing store. I learned ‘tone-on-tone’ and ‘jacquard’ and ‘argyle’ there. Also, I am not a salesperson. ZSalespeople scare me a little.

I have taught high school English. Mostly it was educational jargon and how it masked or dressed up words that were too plain. ‘Developmentally challenged’ kids carefully cut a bagel for me in the mornings. Kids who ‘met expectations’ didn’t understand why I only gave them a C+.  Of course, kids who ‘exceeded expectations’ with their Bs and As knew what it really meant. Kids with ‘antisocial behavior issues’ had to go to the jail school. Every summer when I was laid off because no one knew where the funding was coming from, it was a ‘necessary budget measure’.

I’ve taught ESL at a couple of after school academies. Granted, I’m doing most of the teaching of English words these days, but I’m getting better at Korean, too.

I’ve car-jockeyed for a car-share network. I’ve learned ‘value unit’, ‘low-battery signal’, and ‘clusterfuck’. Well, I knew that last one before, but my boss uses it a lot.

I’ve been an afterschool tutor. Again,  not many words I didn’t know in English, but learning the basics of my students’ languages.

All in all, I guess I have done a number of different jobs. But every job really has taught me something. Not just words, but that I am a capable human being who, allowed to do her thing, is a pretty good at a lot of stuff.

I’m tagging Stephanie, because I think Arwen got everyone else who reads this blog.

Merry Christmas!

Snowed In.

Because Vancouver is Gripped! In! The! Icy! Clutches! Of! Snow! I couldn’t actually do any car jockeying. 11th and Trafalgar has snow up past the middle of the hubcaps, and the street hasn’t really been driven on yet. Haro Villa had a dead battery and the alley it was in was an ice rink. We canceled the Carolina car, as I couldn’t physically get to it.  So I got a  Snow Day.

The thing about snow around here is there are a lot of people taking the bus who normally drive. It makes for some interesting bus rides. Those erstwhile drivers don’t know how to ride the bus. They don’t know to shuffle back so that more people can get on. They don’t know to hang on, and they cannot keep from beaning the rest of us with their purses and backpacks. Also, they become unreasonable when the buses are late, which they invariably are, because, duh, there is snow all over the place.

One woman was personally affronted when her bus did not come on time. If she thought about it, she would know that that bus has a hell of a steep, twisty hill to come down, and might be stuck at the top of it for some time. But she did not think, she just bitched people out.

Two guys were immersed in their phones and blocking the aisle on the 22 this morning, so I poked them on their shoulders and pointed out that if they moved we could fit more people on the bus. They seemed vaguely surprised.

One sixtysomething guy just kept staring around himself in wonder, because he hadn’t been on a bus in 25 years. It was like he stepped into a Brave New Transit World or something.

When this melts, all those car people will get back in their cars and drive to work. And then us bus riders will have our buses to ourselves again.

Opening Up.

So after a year of photography, and doing Photo-a-Day, I’m going to do something very brave.

I’m going to give my dad my Flickr URL.

Okay, it doesn’t look so brave typed out like that, but for me, it is. My dad is the photographer in our family. It’s history. Tradition. And so I downplayed the whole photo thing, which is now a big part of my life, because I wasn’t very good. I was too embarrassed of my ineptitude and I didn’t want my dad to see that.

Intellectually, I know that he would have been delighted to have the URL a year ago, that he wouldn’t have been at all critical and would even have been supportive, but I just didn’t feel good enough.

But now more often than not, I get shots I like, or at least can manipulate past mediocrity.   So I’m going to invite my dad to look at my photostream.

I hope he likes it.


My mother always insisted that we really decorated at Christmas.  We did have the very decorated tree, but we also needed to get the evergreen boughs to make the wreath and festoon the mantel and the staircase banister. We had, like, half a tree besides the Christmas tree in the house.

This time of year, all the florists about charge money for the greenery, but in our house, we didn’t buy it.  In early years, Mom would send me monkeying up the pine tree in the back yard with clippers, free to throw the boughs down on my brother. But then they cut all the  lower limbs off the tree and I couldn’t climb it any more.

But by then I had a driver’s license. If you think I drove out to to the florist’s and purchased ample greenery, you are wrong.

I would wait til late at night and drive over to Cambie Street, where there are huge old evergreen trees lining the boulevard.  I would actually go inside the sheltering boughs and cut the green from inside.  Then, when no cars were coming and the street was absolutely deserted, I would smuggle armsful of greenery into the back of my car.

Yes, I stole our Christmas greenery from the city. I’m not really sure how that happened. Mom said, “We need greenery,” and my response was to steal it.  She condoned it. I told her what I was doing. I guess she knew the trees could spare it or something. Standing in the middle of the dripping, sticky, pitchy, buggy trees, I knew they could spare a few boughs.

The green would spend a couple of days drying out (giving the bugs that hadn’t decamped into my car a chance to escape) and then we’d cut them to size and hang them.

The results were really beautiful. We wrapped ribbon around the boughs on the banister and set baubles into the stuff on the mantelpiece. We worked to make the wreath perfect and even and gorgeous.

Stolen or not, that greenery made me smile.


Done shopping, baking, worrying, fretting, bugging, freaking, weeping, second-guessing, and stressing.

Come on, Christmas!

More content later.


Tonight at belly dancing, I had a really beautiful experience.  We dance in the gym at an Anglican church, over the lavender-painted shape of a Medieval labyrinth. I don’t know why it’s lavender, and its presence looks to me to be the culmination of a series of committee meetings: Do we have a gym, for the activities, or a labyrinth,  for spiritual edification?  Well, they chose both.

We’ve been dancing on it all year. We meet at its center every beginning for warm-up and ending, for our zagreets.  But tonight we took time out from dancing and walked it.

We all had brought tealights from home and spaced them around the outside of the circle, turning off the harsh overhead lights. The labyrinth was a shadowed pool edged with little gold flickers.

One by one, each woman stepped onto the path. We did it without any music, our usual soundtrack that moves us in common. We followed each other along the switchbacks, some perfect, some imperfectly turning corners or walking a little outside the lines.  Our eyes were downcast, we were in attitudes of prayer.

Except it was hard for me to concentrate on my given thoughts. I kept catching the shimmer of a coin belt in candlelight, the quirk of a mouth in grimace or humour, the way light caught on beads and silk and the pearl shine of skin.  Eventually I gave up thinking about anything and just gave myself to the images and the subtle soft jingle of our moving.

After we were gathered in the middle, all together, Kim put on some music.  One by one, we danced our way out. Sometimes we cut corners. We jumped paths, made our own paths.  We danced our own ways out of the labyrinth, step-toe-stepping, grapevining, sometimes bunnyhopping. We had snake arms and giving-away-our-hearts arms, and any damn arms we wanted.  We Turkish-bumped, and hip-circled and sashayed out of there.

The tradition of walking the labyrinth while meditating, dates back to early Medieval times.  But what was so great was that we didn’t hold with tradition. We went in the way so many other walkers go into the meditative walk. But we came out individuals: Whatever way we wanted to.

And that was the best part of all of that beauty: We took the tradition and we moved however we wanted. We danced in the flickering candlelight.

It was perfect.

And Then I Went AWOL.

Hi. Sorry. I was just doing some pre-Christmas freak out and I didn’t really deem it blogworthy. I’m sure later on in the month I’ll have rants a-plenty on mindless consumerism, unrealistic expectations, family pressure, and a lot of other things. But for now, I have been enjoying the Christmas lights.

There’s a lot about Christmas that I don’t like. But that’s mostly my own issues. I have a lot of sadness about Christmas, also a lot of anger and some resentment.  Season with guilt for that extra flourish, and you’ve got a ticking time bomb of a holiday!

Anyhow, whatever else I feel about the Holiday Season, I do love the lights. They broadcast hope and kindness. They thaw the cynical icicle in my heart enough that I don’t actually turn into a ranting, rabid wild woman who stands on buses and accuses perfectly decent people of unspeakable acts. The lights calm me.

There is something about a house with Christmas lights on that says to me, “It’s okay. We are lighting the darkness. We are keeping it at bay.” I love to see a Christmas tree lit up in someone’s living room window. It says, “Tradition is here. It’s okay.” I love the balconies, cranes, boats, trees, bushes, and whatever else people hang lights on. They tell me, “We are here. Humanity is here, and we have used our opposable thumbs to fight back at the darkness. It’s okay.”

When I lived at my parents’ house, the lights on the Christmas tree were my duty. Always. I untangled them, fussed with the old sockets, replaced the dead bulbs, and strung the long wires on the tree. The lights go first, before any decorations. You need to spread them evenly, too, so that no one colour is over-represented, no one place on the tree is over-lit. There’s a system.

After everything went on the tree, from the ghastly play-dough sequinned and painted homemade ones, to the carnival glass birds, to the Winnie-The-Pooh baubles, to the gobbets of tinsel I tried to even out, we turned out the lights and admired our creation.

My mom and dad and brother would drift away to do other things, watch the news or do some math homework. But I stayed and looked at the tree. There in our dark living room, in the glowing, shining silence, the tree sang a silent song of hope and peace and perfect loveliness.

And even now, when I see Christmas lights, I feel an echo of that still and glowing beauty, and I think, “Hey. It’s okay.”

Doctor Brother

I just got email from my sister-in-law. My little brother has defended his PhD successfully, and is now a doctor!

I am so proud I am crying.

New Cell Phone

I got a new phone because I had some loyalty dollars or whatever they are called. This new phone takes pictures and can play MP3s and I can watch TV or movies. If I figure out how. I never will.

The thing I like about getting a new phone is that I get to change all the settings to suit me.

At thirty-six, am I too old to have a wa-wa pedal effect as my ringtone? I sort of feel like ‘70s porn is calling whenever I answer my phone. But cowbells weren’t an option.

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