Friday 5 July 2024

Me vs The Duckening: A Gnomian Wars Update

As some of you may remember, a number of years ago I launched what eventually came to be known as the Gnomian Wars, which started innocently and ended up with my mother unwittingly signaling to our neighbourhood that we were swingers. We are not, but the gnomes indicated otherwise.

The short version is that when I learned that my mother loathed garden gnomes with the fiery passion of a thousand suns, it became my purpose and joy in life to make sure she was provided with as many gnomes as possible, usually without her knowing about it until it was too late and she found them tucked into corners and under pillows. This escalated quickly, as anyone who knows me would expect, with gnomes travelling back and forth between my house and my parents house in a long-distance game of hot potato.

The Gnome on the Thone
A thoughtful gift from my father
This went on for years, and continues to this day. For example, I have to tip my hat to my parents most recent offensive, where they painstakingly broke into a parcel we had shipped to their house (the company didn't do rural delivery), inserted a tattered, well-worn gnome, and then flawlessly resealed the package to hand off to us. We had no idea we'd brought home a parasite until we began unpacking the box. 

But I digress. 

The next leap of strategic genius came when I started giving gnomes to my mom as gifts. 

Here’s your mother’s day gnome. Don’t throw it away. I love you! Merry Christmas, here’s a Gnome! Even my dad has gotten in on it, buying my mom gnomes as gifts and garden accessories. It’s more than I could have ever hoped for.

Eventually I buckled down and really turned the tides of war by bringing the kids into the thinktank. They were more committed to the mayhem than I had thought possible, and they took no prisoners. They brought a level of inspiration to the endeavor that makes me proud as a parent. The planning, the execution, and the general understanding that pushing the limits of one’s Machiavellian creativity is how we become great, never ceases to bring a smile to my face. My oldest even painted and glazed a foot and a half tall gnome as an art project just so she could give it to her grandmother as a gift. It’s eyes look into your soul and find nothing but fault and it's smile could shake the confidence of a Viking. Gold star to my cunning and crafty daughter.

As the years have marched forward, we have grown and evolved into a well oiled gnome-deployment machine, spreading gnomes of joy throughout my parents home.  But over those same years, something has become glaringly apparent to me: for reasons that will take years longer than I have to unpack, there are certain items that trigger this reverse kleptomania in our family, and it’s not just gnomes. 

Items like ugly amazon gift bags, or tragically ugly rabbit-themed serving platters seem to leave us helpless to resist the draw of sneaking them into hiding spots around each others houses like packrats hiding treasure. Except in this case the treasure is junk, and we want them to find it...but only after we’ve left so that they can’t just traffic it back into our luggage before we leave, like drug dealers trying to smuggle cocaine across the border on the backs of the innocent.

Which brings me finally to the current iteration of this conflict: Ducks. 

Gnomes are great. I love a good gnome, and they've served me well during the war, but gnomes are a bit obvious these days. So we've branched out to ducks...very, very small ducks that lend themselves extremely well to being hidden in volume around a home. They tuck in to all the nooks and crannies that wouldn’t fit a traditional gnome, and they just sit there, watching you as you discover them one by one, their beady dead eyes mirroring your dying hope that maybe there were only a couple of them hidden around your house.

But there are more than one or two, aren’t there mom? So far, I'm aware that you’ve found 37. 

I would tell you how many more you have to find, but I don’t want to. The kids won’t tell you either; this was their idea, carried out in secret under your nose. I played my role as distraction well, and they knew to hide them where it wouldn’t be obvious until we left. 

Because while you think you have won some battles, make no mistake, the kids and I will win this war….

Monday 24 June 2024

Me vs Memory Issues and The Inevitable Fallout

I would generally consider myself to be a fairly organized person, however what I’m about to write will make that seem rather hard to believe. If anything, being organized and on time is something I would consider a skill, but again, it will not seem like that soon.

When I say I’m organized, what I really mean is I can coordinate the shit out of things. I rarely, if ever, hand in a project late. In university, I would start my assignments early and be done weeks before they were due (obnoxious, I know), and I have organized more than one large event for the community, all without catastrophic failure.

I am good at it. I like lists.

The problem is that while I like lists, without out those lists, my life would fall into a scorched hell-scape where kids were regularly forgotten at afterschool activities, appointments would never be made, and house plants would consider themselves lucky to be watered every 2-7 months.

Without my assortment of productivity apps offering up reminders, calendars, and alarms prompting me to look at those same reminders and calendars, I would have to seriously consider hiring an assistant who’s sole purpose would be to follow me around and tell me what I’d forgotten. Which would be almost everything.

I have the memory of a problematic gold fish. I am not good at remembering anything: Names, faces, dates, words mid-sentence, book titles, directions that I just asked for (despite nodding yes as the directions are given, and truly believing this time will be different)….you name it, I can forget it. Immediately. Sometimes things will come back to me at random and inappropriate times, and sometimes things are lost forever in the dark recesses of my mind. Although confusingly, I can remember both of my parents old license plates (not mine of course) and my high school locker combo (also not useful)….cool.

I do have some mechanisms that I’ve adapted over time to help me survive when reminder apps aren’t suitable to the situation. I’m pretty good at charades, acting out what I’m trying to say when words escape me, or giving a series of random clues to help the person guess at what I mean. My husband is particularly good at this game, so when I say it’s the guy who looks like the Walmart version of the other guy from the movie we watched last night, he will know I mean Derek. This is why our marriage works. He doesn’t even seemed phased anymore, just rolls with it and plays along.

All of this makes me sound scattered and very UNorganized, but I promise, between lists, charades, and my real-life games of Guess Who, I do ok.

Except for last week, when I did not do ok. And I did not do ok in a very new, and very special way.

For the first time in the 17 years of my adult-life employment run, I went to work when I didn’t have to. I was not on the schedule, I was not called in unexpectedly, I just got up, got ready, went in and started slogging through my daily shit.

And NO ONE MENTIONED ANYTHING. Not one person looked at me quizzically, or wondered out loud why I was in the office. They all just let it happen. I didn’t realize my mistake until 12:15. I had been working through part of my lunch so I could leave a little early that day, and just happened to check my calendar to see what time my meeting started. Turns out, I could have left any fucking time I wanted. It still hurts me to think about.

So in the end I stayed because I was already there and the damage had been done, but I am not sure I could have been considered productive. It’s one thing to forget a grocery list item, it’s another thing entirely to know that my brain comprehensively failed to recognize what day it was. It threw off my vibe for the rest of the week.

So in closing, and because I’d still like to believe that I can function in mainstream society, I’m going to have to adopt a Santa Clause approach from now on; make that list, and check it at least twice to try an avoid such a fantastically stupid cock up in the future.

HO HO Hope you don't fuck that up again....

Same Santa, same. 

Tuesday 11 June 2024

Me vs PH and Boats...and it's not what you think

Occasionally something magical happens. Something that defies everything you think you know about the world and the people around you. It changes how you look at individuals. It shines light on things that had until now been only a glimmer in the background. This happened to my sister and I recently, and it all came around because of a boat.

Not my boat. This boat:

This is my sister’s new OC1. This is an acronym, and I have no idea what it means, and for the purposes of this story I didn’t bother to look it up because it really doesn’t matter. Also, there's a picture. All you really need to know is that it fits one person, goes pretty fast, and you paddle it (you don’t row it, and if you do call it rowing and my sister hears you, I can’t promise we will ever find your body).

My sister is a very, very good paddler. If this sport were in the Olympics, she would be going, and has represented Canada at the Worlds in the past. She has more than one of these boats, despite only being able to use one at a time, and like every good boat owner, she names them.

She has Nancy, a pretty little blue and white number who has what can only be described as the temperament of an angry wet cat. My sister says her and Nancy “are still building a relationship”.

Then there is The Poo. This one is a smaller boat with nothing but love to give. A gentle little turd that floats through the water like it's namesake.

And now she has Phinesse (pictured above). My sister tells me she needed a new boat to practice in for the next Worlds open solo division, and for reasons I don't actually understand, that couldn't be The Poo or Nancy. So now Phinesse has joined the team.

She’s called Phinesse because according to my sister, the boat has it's own ideas about where it wants to go, and it takes a lot of finesse to get it to do what you want. But it's spelled with a PH instead of an F because apparently spelling words incorrectly sounds "more cool". She also claimed she was "making fun of millennials" along the lines of Phat vs Fat. She is a millennial, so I also have to assume that if I were ever to have a niece of nephew from her, they would be named Jaxcksyn or Gynnipher, or more likely, it would be a new puppy named Turkoyse. 


But this isn't actually the main thrust of this story. It's already gold, but we're taking this shit platinum. 

Enter: my mom. 

What will follow from here on out is a transcript of the text conversation that went on between my sister and my mom when she told my mom about her new boat. This exchange has made me reconsider everything I know about where I got all my writing creativity from, and I am absolutely here for it. Enjoy.

Sister: Finesse. With a Ph. Because changing normal words with a Ph makes them more cool.

Mom: I thought you were going deep into the Greek or Hebrew mythology with names like Phineas or Phanon or pharaoh. 

I'm making fun of names. 

Or should I say I'm making phun of names.


Sister: I mean.....yes. I suppose you're getting it....??

Mom: Haha, you're phunny

Sister: Ok, you're done

Mom: Nope, I'm just phinding my phuture in phunniness


Mom: Don't worry. It's just a phad

Sister: I've created a phucking monster

Mom: Now you've made me phart, but it did feel phantastic.

Sister: I can't believe you're still going

Mom: You phound my phunny bone

Sister: Truly, I'm sorry

Mom: I'm phorever greatful

I have never enjoyed a family text exchange more in my entire life. My only hope  is that my own writing can one day achieve this level of comedic timing and simplistic perfection.

Well done mom. You win. 


Monday 3 June 2024

Me vs Droughts and Places I Don't Need to Be

Have you ever walked into a room and known immediately that this wasn't the place for you? Things were just wrong in a number of tiny but vital ways; you just knew deep down that mistakes had been made leading up to your arrival here, but it was too late to fix them. Maybe you were over or under dressed, or a new employee in a retirement seminar, or maybe you were the one single person in a room that was obviously filled with throuples. Or maybe you just weren't a farmer. 

This may be a bit confusing, and I understand that. My brain works in mysterious and frequently very disjointed ways, but let's be honest, that's probably why you're let's begin. 

As we rapidly approach what feels like the annual heat-death of the universe (read: “summer”), my anxiety has begun creeping up to what I know will become alarming levels as the seasons progress. This is in major part due to the erratic weather we've all seen lately, from wildfires that never end, to atmospheric rivers, heat domes, and polar vortexes. 

As an aside, I'd like to argue that most of these sound like something a scientist made up, probably because they got sick and fucking tired of trying to explain the concept of barometric pressure to the unwashed masses.  So...heat dome. 

We've gone from seeing a few decently hot days in the summer and some reasonably  cold winter days, to temperatures so hot that they cracked our front window, and lows as cold as the proverbial left tit of a witch.  It's gotten to the point that if it's less than about 29 degrees in the summer, I may consider a sweater because I've just adapted to living in a volcano. 

So while some people deny global warming (and then in the same breath complain about the unexplainably shitty weather), I think we can all mostly agree that this is our fault. Humanity I mean, not you or I specifically. Unless this is being read by an ExxonMobile rep, in which case, it might actually be your fault. But this is the world we live in, and we need to deal with it; we need to work together and do our part to help our planet. Which brings me in a very circuitous way back to the beginning of this story: being in a place that you probably don't belong. 

We live just outside of town, and being on a well is a hellish reality for our family. Water insecurity is deeply and traumatically ingrained on my soul, and drought is always a concern, especially in recent years (see earlier point about global warming). So when the town promoted a drought management and information session, both my husband and I decided that this was something we should definitely make time to attend. Ahhh, we were sweet summer children. 

We arrived at the meeting and found a spot at a table. We started chatting to the gentleman beside us, and he said he had a farm just outside of town, and droughts were a concern for him too. The other people around us also had farms, and were deeply concerned for their crops and livelihoods. Someone asked us if we ran cattle or horses or a more agricultural farm, and I did the adult equivalent of screaming "look over there" and changed the subject. 

                                                                 We do not have a farm that produces anything. 

We do not have horses.

We do not have cows.

We do have two indoor cats.

We do have a small vegetable garden that I significantly over plant because the only way I get enough out of it to be useful is by leaning heavily on quantity not quality. If I plant 7 zucchini plants, maybe 3 of them will eventually cough out a squash or two. Maybe. 

My husband and I looked at each other with the dawning recognition that this was not a meeting for people simply concerned about drought as a whole. This was very much a meeting for people with FARMS who were concerned about drought. We were not sun-hardened farmers with years of experience and cowboy hats to match. We were two people who just wanted regular showers and the water capacity to run a load of laundry.

We were at the wrong meeting.  

And in that moment of realization the meeting started, and we couldn't leave. 

And so, for the next hour I learned more than I ever wanted or needed to know about farm life. And not Clarkson's Farm farm life, but the real nuts and bolts of agricultural subsidy programs, water management for herds and fields, and the temporal significance of your historical water access.

I had just wanted to know if there were ways I could better manage my well and household water use, but now I wondered if maybe I needed a herd of alpacas in order to apply for additional water rights.

The presenters were very good, and I absolutely commend the town for putting on such a useful and forward thinking program, but the longer the meeting went on, the more it was apparent that we needed to leave. The audience would nod knowingly when the presenters made a good point, and would occasionally lean towards one another to debate a piece of information that was presented. At one point, the farmer sitting beside me leaned over and said something I can only describe as "cows these days" while shaking his head like a tired father. 

And then it got worse. The presenter stood up and said that soon we would be working with our table groups to brainstorm farm stuff, and I panicked.  I picked up my phone and texted my husband sitting immediately beside me: WE HAVE TO LEAVE. THEY'RE DOING BREAKOUT GROUPS. THEY WILL KNOW WE AREN'T PART OF THE HERD !!!!!

But then we got lucky for the first time that night. They polled the room and we decided to take a short break before getting into the group-think session. I locked eyes with my husband, gave a small nod towards the door, and we ran. 

Well, we walked, but we didn't make eye contact with anyone in the room so hopefully they wouldn't notice the two woefully out of their depth individuals trying to escape. We were free, and we knew a lot more about animal husbandry during a drought than we'd ever imagined we would. 


I still have my high heels and corporate suits taking up real estate in my closet, but there are some days I wonder if maybe, after all these years, it's finally time to get a cowboy hat.....I'm up to date on my cow-based drought management, so I might as well look the part. 

Sunday 26 May 2024

Me vs The Office Cleric

normally don’t write about work, particularly when I still work at any given location. Exceptions can - and have - been made, but for them most part I’ve decided not to bite the hand that feeds. This is just sound logic for a number of reasons, not the least of which are that I live in a small town, someone might actually read this, and I can’t afford to get fired.

That said, this isn’t about work per se, but more of a dive into the lengths that I will go to in order to entertain myself in the office, where life can rapidly oscillate between chugging along like my own office-bound version of Thomas the Tank Engine, and “the world is basically on fire now” levels of chaos. So, in order to keep myself from succumbing to the pandemonium, I’ve been trying to find creative ways to lighten the mood and find fun.

And so I bring you today’s offering: The Office Cleric.

Patent pending, or maybe a trademark….is that a thing I can do?

For those of you not familiar with the Office Cleric™ (which I have to assume is everyone since I just made it up. Also, google didn’t immediately tell me this wasn’t an original concept: Office Clerk - yes, Office Cleric™ - no) then let me explain.

It’s time for a lesson in etymology, which is different from entomology. We’re not here to talk about bugs.

Back in the before times, and more specifically ancient Greece, the Greeks borrowed parts of words from late Latin; basically, very little, if anything is actually new. Except Office Cleric™. That is (maybe) new.

The Greeks took the Latin word clēricus, put it through an antiquated google translate system, and came out with κληρικός; and for those of you in the back who have let your ancient Greek lapse, this more or less says klērikós (or at least it does according to Wikipedia….where all the best low level research is done)

To make a historically (and probably inaccurate) long story short, all these words basically mean the idea of casting lots or drawing names for public servant positions. Many of the public offices in Athens were staffed this way.

In summary, while the term cleric used to refer to public servants doing clerical work, the more modern understanding of cleric is primarily associated to clergy members, or more commonly, to a debatably mediocre character class in games like Dungeons and Dragons. Those of us working in offices are now more commonly referred to as clerical staff (same historical base word....see, we all learned something together!), which is a term I hate with the fiery passion of a thousand suns. 

But I intend to bring cleric back to its original etymological roots. While I realize my obscure humour is lost on some, I would like to propose that all of us public servants out there be referred to as Office Clerics™ moving forward, because it’s just so much more epic then admin, steno, clerk, assistant or any number of other diminishing terms for who we are and how much we do. Cleric implies that I know things. I see things. I can make or break your day. Much more fun. 

The concept of the Office Cleric™ feels more fitting, because much like the D&D clerics who hold parties together with their versatile fighting and healing skills, we make offices run, which frequently feels very much like doing battle and salving metaphorical wounds. Furthermore, Clerics can repel or control undead creatures, and I would argue that depending on the mood that day, and the amount of coffee people have had, I basically shepherd the undead as well, making sure things still get done despite the zombies.

In closing, I’d just like to say that I’ve probably put waaaay too much thought into this in the interest of a good story. I’d also like to say that I have no regrets, because I now have my very own Office Cleric™ sign at my desk for all to see and squint at questioningly because they have absolutely no idea what I’m on about.

I am a conduit of the gods themselves. The armies of the dead fear my presence.” – D&D, probably

.but also good for an Office Cleric.