When Screening Calls Became Socially Acceptable

I remember the thrill of buying my first answering machine, for my first phone, in my first apartment, at my very own phone number.

To me, this was a huge step forward in my new found independence, not only in helping me run my household but in remaining connected with family and friends.

Just to help set the stage, this was the late 1980s. The concept of handheld devices bombarded by emails and text messages was still years away.

For those times I needed to be in two or three places at once, an answering machine was the solution to ensure I didn’t miss any important telephone messages.

But when I was home, the reflex that many of us shared was to run to answer the phone when it rang.

I reluctantly admit that for my borderline extrovert personality, there were times that the introvert in me needed some breathing space. After exerting a lot of extrovert energy in a bustling office, I just needed some time to recharge.

When the phone would ring, I might have reluctantly said to myself, “Maybe I’ll let the machine get it”. I didn’t do it all the time. Self-inflicted guilt would not have let that happen. Continue reading

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Where Are My Grocery Bags?

It is a mystery that repeats itself often enough that an intervention by Sherlock Holmes, Miss Marple or Hercule Poirot could be warranted.

Over the years, in an attempt to be more eco-friendly, I must have acquired at least 25 reusable fabric grocery bags. Yet how is it that I often find myself without one, where and when I need one?

When I first jumped on the reusable grocery bag bandwagon, I bought three, thinking that this would be enough for all of my grocery needs. “Never would I buy more than that in one grocery run, for just one person”, I thought to myself.

While that may have been true in theory, it didn’t account for the possibility of having something like a meat product or a dairy product drip.

In that instance, it didn’t feel terribly eco-friendly to wash just one bag in a wash load nor did I want to combine it with a load of good clothes. And hand washing anything that involves bleach scares the crap out of me for fear of creating a bleach stain on whatever I happen to be wearing at the time.

So I decided to wait until the next convenient opportunity for the grocery bag to hitch a laundry ride with the eco-friendly washable dust rags. But that was still a couple of weeks away. I placed the bag under quarantine (in a plastic bag, I’m sorry!) and that was when my three grocery bags became two.

It didn’t take long for two to become one, as history repeated itself, which then raised the urgency level on the grocery bag wash, for fear of not being able to continue doing my good deed for the environment. Continue reading

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Fixing the Eyesore Door

When I first visited this house 18 years ago, I remember saying to my real estate agent that “this thing has got to go”. I was referring to the ugly interior door that separated the entry hall from the rest of the house. And yet, it’s still here and referred to as the “Eyesore Door”.

The thing is that over the years, life got in the way. Between the time and energy required to build a career, to enjoy a social life, and to tend to other priorities like cooking, cleaning, laundry, running, writing this blog and raising a cat, the years escaped on me.

Plus, there was a priority list of other home renovations that needed to get done, because of fixtures running their course or other corners of the house that got on my nerves worse than the door.

Despite being a relentless eyesore, it faded from my radar. But this was the year to finally do something about it.

While the door was probably cute when it made its first appearance, it was made of a soft, honey-coloured wood which was prone to scuffs and scratches. Located in the most high traffic area of the house, it picked up scars from anything and everything that brushed by. The door was also my clear evidence that pets lived here before Ivy and I moved in.

What I couldn’t figure out was how and why this particular door was here, when it didn’t match any other fixture or finish in the house.

Either way, a light sanding would never have sufficed to correct the imperfections covering pretty much every square inch of its surface. Continue reading

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The Bright Side of Daylight Savings Time

When getting ready to leave the house, I have mini-milestones in my routine to stay on track and to ensure that I am out the door at the right time, to ensure I am at my destination on time.

It doesn’t matter if it’s a weekend activity, a work day or just going out to run errands, the “fun” is the same. Have you ever had things go like this?…

One Saturday morning, I finished my workout at 9:10, according to the clock in the basement, which I know runs a little fast. I thought I was off to a good start and that I must be a little ahead of schedule.

According to the bathroom clock, I was out of the shower at 9:25, meaning I was still five minutes ahead of schedule.

On my way to the bedroom, the cat stops me for a morning belly-rub.

But by the time I finished picking my clothes and laying them on the bed, slathering on some face moisturizer and applying my anti-perspirant, according to the bedroom clock, it was suddenly 9:40, which meant I was five minutes behind.

I wondered to myself if I had briefly dozed off while offering the cat some attention. Time to speed it up! Continue reading

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The Roving Writer

As much as I try to make my home a comfortable, quiet place to devote myself to the craft of writing, there are times when things fall out of the span of my control.

Whether it is a symphony of leaf blowers, a neighbour’s dog barking for hours, another neighbour’s ailing muffler, a charming visitor to the neighbourhood who needs to turn the car alarm on and off seven times, or the apparent decision to suddenly reroute all air traffic directly above my house, auditory distractions are a fact of life.

Then add to the mix an extroverted attention-seeking cat, a ringing home phone, an empty coffee cup, a ringing doorbell, a load of laundry ready for drying, and the ding to indicate that my gluten-free banana bread is ready to come out of the oven.

When I reach into my desk drawer for a USB stick, I find a pair of old glasses that needs to be donated, I spot the case for the iPhone I carried in 2009 (that won’t fit anything today) and before I know it, I am in spring cleaning mode.

As I head back to my desk, I notice the wall I have been meaning to spackle in preparation for painting.

Moments later, I remember that the litter box needs “refreshing”.

When I finally return to my blog post, I write a few words and then take a moment to stare off into the distance between paragraphs. My mind drifts and I ask myself, “when was the last time I dusted that shelf?”

When I look in the other direction, I see Ivy the Wonder Cat’s favourite blanket and think to myself that it is probably due for a thorough washing.

At this rate, it’s a wonder that I succeed in publishing a weekly blog post. Continue reading

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My Past Adventures in Recording and Dictation Tools

A secondary part of the writing journey seems to be the constant hunt for the perfect writing tools.

While committing words to paper is a pretty simple concept, the multitude of ways one can capture, retrieve, store and rearrange story ideas is very impressive. When I find ways to make things run more smoothly, the opportunity to spend more time actually writing than “maintaining” becomes a joy in itself.

Audio recording devices have always interested me. I have often thought that a recording device of some sort could be helpful in trying to capture those random writing ideas that seemingly hit at the least opportune moments.

When I think of prolific writer Dame Barbara Cartland who dictated to a secretary and was able to produce some 723 books and 160 unpublished works over her lifetime, I dream of how much more efficient I could be if I could incorporate some sort of dictation tool in my process.

A couple of decades ago, when I was first aware of my leaning toward creative writing, I got a good deal on a microcassette recorder. I admit that I had grand visions of capturing ideas on the run like some sort of secret agent writer. It seemed like a good idea at the time but unfortunately the only thing that ran were the batteries, as it sat in a drawer, mostly unused.

While in principle a microcassette recorder made a lot of sense, when I tried it, I felt like Cindy Brady in the “Brady Bunch” episode when she was on the show “Quiz the Kids”. When I hit the record button, I froze up. I don’t know why it is, but over the course of many attempts, I only captured a few words and the tidal wave of ideas I was hoping for produced only a mild drizzle. Continue reading

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Just Call Me “Bubbles”

For the last 20 years, as an avid cyclist and runner, getting my recommended 8 glasses of water each day was never a problem. Whether water, tea, coffee or milk, I almost always have a beverage on the go.

I know I must be getting enough fluids, because when I walk down the halls at the office, my tummy often makes swishy or “glug-glug” noises.

On the weekends, I might splurge and get into an occasional soft drink like cola, ginger ale or root beer. I really do like them, but I keep myself on a short leash, metaphorically speaking. Maybe it’s because my metabolism is getting older, but I just can’t put them away like I used to. For me, the tipping point between enjoyable and “I’ve had enough” comes quickly.

When I was preparing for my colonoscopy a few years ago, I don’t know exactly what part of my inner anatomy was complaining about the sweetness, but the ginger ale, popsicle and gelatin diet had me feeling pretty gross. No amount of clear chicken broth seemed able to sway the balance back to feeling normal, or as normal as one can be when trying to prepare for such a procedure.

Sparkling water was always something that I kept on the side as a treat. Even though it contains no sugar and makes a good building block for a variety of drinks, it can get expensive. Also, any leftovers tend to fizzle out after a day or two, which makes buying an economy size a huge question of commitment, unless I’m having a party. Plus, I can’t look at a plastic bottle without feeling a sense of deep environmental guilt.

When you combine all of these factors, for the last several months, I have been looking at SodaStream machines with increasing interest. But I also hesitated, not knowing how much use I would get out of it. Continue reading

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