Wednesday, April 20, 2016

an audible addiction

Have I mentioned Audible? At the risk of sounding trite, it's been life changing. Truly, madly, deeply: life changing.

So I pretty much could just read all the time. I'm sure if there was a problem with reading, like if people all over the world were doing it too much, if gangs were killing each other on the streets, eking out their turf so they could sell illicit books to unsuspecting people (normal people, you know, just like me and you, someone you never thought would get sucked in by Jodi Picoult or Stephen King), people whose Amazon accounts were being frozen and whose neighbours watched, through the curtains, as Canada Post pulled up yet again, with a brown parcel that you just knew contained books, I'd be the first to go down with an Addiction, capital A.

In grade seven I used to read under my desk. I know, such a nerd. I would put the book on my lap, or in the grey drawer that pulled open to reveal the mess of erasers and pencil cases, and set the book on top. I'd pretend to listen while my eyes skimmed quickly over the addictive pages of a choose your own adventure or, truth be told, pretty much anything I could get my hands on. My teacher caught me and, after checking out whatever junk I was reading, put another book on my desk. Here, he said, peering at me through the gold rimmed glasses he wore, if you're going to read something, make it something good. So I read the book, the one that created a lifelong and intense fear of nuclear war. It was a book that I've forever wished I could recall the title to*, about a group of people living underground, because the entire above ground earth had been annihilated by nuclear war. I'm not sure if his intent was to frighten me out of reading during class or spark a revolution, one grade seven kid at a time, but he managed half of each. I was frightened, for sure, and he did spark a revolution in my mind, but it never got any further than that.

Anyways, I've never been able to shake it, the feeling that I'd pretty much rather read a book than do anything else. I keep them stacked everywhere, just in case. In the car, my bedroom, by the tub, in the kitchen. I've perfected standing up reading, reading while people are talking, reading in cars (which induces motion sickness, but still), reading in the pool, on the step, at the park. But I couldn't get over the fact that these three blessed children and one blessed husband plus activities and grocery shopping and meal planning, let alone preparing and eating, and all the other crap (let's face it, compared to reading it pretty much is crap), I couldn't get over the fact that there was so much time in my day where I'd rather be reading but couldn't.

Until Audible.

I know, I know, it's been available for years and before that even there were books on tape and then books on CD. I thought, yes, that would come in handy. If I become blind, that is. I just couldn't stomach the idea of a) not owning the physical book, like one I can put on my shelf, and b) the idea that someone would be reading to me. I figured I'd drift off, never be able to pay attention, constantly snapping back to the feeling of holy shit, did I just ignore a whole chapter????

But someone I like and respect (deadly combo) suggested Audible and I thought, okay. I'll try. Give it a go. So I downloaded a book, not one I was terribly interested in because I didn't want to waste this book on something good. And crikey if I didn't just fall in love. I mean, let me be real, here, I downloaded The Martian, which I had already seen as the movie, and this also goes against the grain of everything I Believe To Be True About Reading, which is in a nutshell, that if there is a book it is better than the movie (sole exception to this is The Green Mile which is outstanding as movie versus so-so as novella), and if I've read the book I will never watch the movie (proved true by watching of Still Alice, with husband, where every two seconds I was interjecting with, but they just skimmed over this, it was SO much better in the book).

So I listend to The Martian and I was hooked. I propped up my phone in the kitchen while I cooked, and listened and listened. I hooked it to the little cord in my van (old van) and listened and listened while I drove and drove. I put it on the counter in the laundry room and now I can bear folding laundry, an historically unbearable task. And then I listened to Elizabeth Gilbert read to me in her wonderful own voice about being creative, and I listened to seventeen hours of my book club book, The Shoemaker's Wife, and I listened to books I would've never bought and read on paper. Like Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari, in his own hilarious voice, and The Biology of Belief, by Bruce Lipton in his stilted voice. And by gosh, there is something, something, to listening to a book versus reading it on paper. I'm not sure I can put my finger on it, but there is something intimate and personal and leisurely all at once, listening.

I'm hooked. Try it. You'll see.

*Please forward any suggestions about what that book could've been called, I'd like to re-read it with an adult's gaze now, perhaps if only to release some of its dreadful power over my imagination.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Neuroplasticty, anyone?

My life is just killing me with its excitement lately. Recently I got to drive really far to my really far away physiotherapist where I got my first assignment. No, it wasn't running on a treadmill, with the sweat of hard work coupled with fear trumped by a can-do attitude. Nor was it lifting heavy weights strapped to my leg, feeling that last press of exertion lifting the weight to the top before the plates slammed down.

No. My super fun time assignment was to find an old magazine a day (this could be tricky, given I succumbed to Texture, hopefully I won't give in and give up on paper in its entirety), and to circle all the right knees in it.

This, my friends, is exciting stuff.

She flipped open a February 2014 copy of InStyle, thumbed through a coupe of pages and pointed to a layout with perhaps seven models sprawled out in their spray tanned glory.

Circle all the right knees, she said, handing me a pen. And I'll be darned, but I fumbled. I had to think. I looked at both my hands and decided which was correct. I then had to flip the images around in my head, figure it out. Nothing was intuitive and nothing was quick.

We flipped through more pages, where I am proud to say I got faster, circling the knees, but it was annoyingly noticeable how the right knee circle didn't just roll of my tongue, so to speak. Wasn't natural. Fast. While yes, I got better, it was an odd and painful drawn out thing.

She says that when something happens the brain rewires itself to accommodate and since my brain has pretended for so long that I simply don't have a right knee, it has trouble even recognizing them in photos. Huh. Whooda thought.

So that I can do, my assignment, followed by watching YouTube videos of people riding bikes. Yawn. I find people riding bikes perhaps more boring than tennis, which I find weird, and golf, which I find soothing in an old man sleeping in a chair way. I mean, I feel like an old man, sleeping in a green velvet chair. That's what I think of when I think of golf. I have an inkling why but the connections aren't making sense. I'll sleep on it and see what I come up with.

All this reminds me of one of my go-to books, The Brain's Way of Healing by Norman Doidge. This simply fantastic, down-to-earth, completely readable book is a surefire help to anyone who has a brain, but especially anyone who has suffered from pain, or is recovering from injury, or who has been diagnosed with things like Parkinson's. Neuroplasticity, all the way. After I hurt my knee, after hurting it over and over for so many years, the pain pathways were crazy embedded in my brain, ready to rip at any given moment. Doidge taught me so many things about my brain - how to use scent, for instance, to calm the pain. This of course led to the purchase of a lovely diffuser and many lovely scents for said diffuser (in particular, for pain, it is lemon and peppermint). I also learned tricks like building a visual of turning the pain down. My personal imagery consisted of these large plug ins, with massive plugs plugged in. When the pain was really bad, the image in my head was of huge plugs plugged in, in an endless seeming row. I would go to each plug, reach around it, and pull hard to unplug it, laying it down on the ground and moving on to the next. With each plug I pulled, the pain receded. As the pain abated, the plugs were smaller, and smaller, and there were less.
I also have a volume switch, for pain, that I've created a visual for, mine is a physical dial whereas when I teach my kids this they tap on volume down buttons, as they would on an iPad. Crazy stuff, I know, and yet.

And yet the possibilities are endless.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

i knew it

Holy fucking fuck.

There is a video of a brother pranking his drugged up sister (wisdom teeth) that the zombies have come.

I KNEW it.

It's only a matter of time.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

I'm not a doctor, I just play one on TV

Would it surprise you to know that for the first time there is exactly the character I'd like to be on a television show? Would it surprise you to know that it is NOT Alecia Florrick on The Good Wife (even though her clothing, hair and make up and let's face it, that apartment, are second to none) given that I still fell sometimes as though I missed my calling as a lawyer.* And of course, had I been a lawyer, I would have magically transplanted myself to Chicago to a prestigious and old school firm, of polished wood and shots of pricey spirits poured on a seemingly daily basis and drunk from thick crystal tumblers. Of course this would have happened.

The character I see myself as is Mindy, from the Mindy Project. Interesting, that it is exactly right, in the sense that I don't actually want to be a doctor. No, I would prefer to play one on TV. That way, I get the great wardrobe that comes with the big salary, the quintessential New York apartment furnished in the perfect eclectic style. And I would play a role that simply commands respect without actually having to pass what I assume are killer exams and without having to actually put my hands inside of people or look at their secret rash or find out if placebos are legal.

I would be Mindy in her Tory Burch and endless supply of Chanel handbags, with her perfectly styled thick hair. Interestingly, I'm pleased with myself for not choosing for my second life fantasies a rail thin, six foot tall platinum blond beauty, although I'm less convinced this is due to a high level not wanting of that particular persona and a straight up reality check that my brain performed without letting me know. Good on ya, brain, if that's the case.

Maybe my brain is getting smarter than my self and figuring out ways to work around things. My physio last week showed me an optical illusion that allowed me to trick my brain into thinking that my good leg was actually my not-as-good leg, so that I saw, I really saw, my work in progress leg working smoothly and perfectly and, key item, with great strength. This was instrumental in then using my leg that needs a little coaching as though it worked perfectly. It was amazing. Perhaps my high level brain took this approach and is now running interference before I even know it, deleting or massaging things before they even get to me.

Perhaps, and perhaps not. If I have any power to request, which goes against the whole me not being aware thing, but if I do, perhaps I could run interference on the self sabotage, the voice that runs a
constant commentary of everything I do/wear/eat/think/plan/not plan, if that voice could tone it down a bit. Much appreciated.

*apparently, I really feel hard done by, today when my daughter's teacher said she would make an excellent lawyer I felt pride tinged by slight jealousy....nice....jealous of a 12 year old.

**I ordered that sweater after googling to find out what brand it was. Love it.

Wednesday, April 06, 2016

not charity

There is never a day I do not write. There are, however, many days when I have nothing of interest to you, or I decide that it's too private or too negative or too positive or that it somehow fails so many other tests that I submit my posts to, all internal, of course, and what I write remains locked in the land of unpublished.

There are also days where I'm like, this is soooooo boring. Where the minutiae of life fails to take on a life of its own, where the sparkle is dim and nothing resembles anything that anyone would find interesting.

And then there are days where, I've said it before, I seriously, seriously can't make this shit up.

On Wednesdays I take the youngest to an activity. We usually go with a friend. Each of us gets a friend, I mean, the mum for me and the kid for her. The mum was busy today so I took them both. When I have no one to hang with I sit in the little cafeteria, near a plug in for my laptop, and write. It's kind of nice, this change of pace, writing out of the house, in public, one hour dedicated to whatever I feel like.

There was another woman at a table adjacent, making notes in a novel. Another woman some distance away, against a wall, reading. At a table next to her was a very done woman, you know, the hair so perfectly blown out, coiffed, I would say. Make up very obvious. Clothing immaculate. I wouldn't have paid so much attention, I would have been WORKING, however, it was impossible, becausefor approximately 30 minutes this woman FaceTimed her sister, who is on vacation right now in Mexico, or some other hot destination where hotels are ranked in stars (4). They FaceTimed, which happens to happen on speaker phone, for all of us to hear. Speaking loudly, about nothing at all, like, is that a swimsuit you're wearing? or a dress? how many stars is the place? WHAT?? you have a bad connection. a bad connection. I SAID YOU HAVE A BAD CONNECTION. And then randomly, sweetie, sweetie, come here and say hi to auntie. say hi. say hi to auntie. yah, I'm just here. yah, nothing going on. you know, what colour is that swimsuit? what? what? you have a bad connection. And so on and on and on.

I tried to be patient, I really did. Didn't execute that well, but I did try. I just find it so completely mind boggling, how stupid people can be with their absolute unwitting (or is it witting?) intrusion into the public space. I remember a girl, at the Y, once placing her phone on the counter, turning on her music, with that super fantastic sound quality rap tends to get when it's beating out of an iPhone 2, and cranking it, so she could listen while she blow dried her hair.

In Toronto I noticed something. It was that every single person, it seemed, on the street or the subway, had a thin white cord snaking from ear into jacket or palm, and every single person seemed to exist respectful of the bubble. I wasn't there long, I could have misread the situation, but it struck me today that perhaps it is our very politeness, as a general population here on the prairies, that just doesn't know what the frick to do with this obnoxious behaviour. Perhaps in Toronto it is immediately struck down, booed and and hissed at, tamping it out at the source.

I made eye contact with the woman near me, who did her own version of eye rolling. I gestured to the headphones I had lying on the table, should I take them over and offer? I said, only half joking. She smiled. Think of it like training, she said. Like, if you ever had to be a sniper. This is good training.

A sniper? That's where you go with this? I laughed out loud as I questioned her. No, she said earnestly. I was thinking, it's like the army, right? You have to have intense focus, concentration. You have to be able to block that out. She waved her arm towards the still loud talking woman.

A sniper. That is what came to mind. See how much this person was pissing people off?

Eventually she stopped and the room seemed to echo now with silence. We all breathed deeply, I think, no longer having to fight the feeling of listening in on something private. And then she came over to our tables, the loud talking woman did. Are you Charity, she asked the sniper lady. She shook her head. She turned her bouncing hair to me, with a big smile. Are you? Are you Charity? I'm looking for someone named Charity.

I shook my head, no, I said, I'm not. Charity. And as she walked away I laughed. I'm the opposite of Charity, right now. The meanie girl, the grouch. Perhaps the most complete opposite of charitable at this very moment than I ever have been.

At this moment, I'm a sniper.

Tuesday, April 05, 2016

Something to WORRY about!

So I think a lot, far too much actually, about a few certain subjects. Such as zombies, for one, or more generally, apocalypse type scenarios (see blog post re losing glasses), and also the zeitgeist. I feel as though I need to define zeitgeist now, to make sure I am actually using the word correctly. I don't think I've ever used it, more like admired it from afar, so best be assured I understand the meaning.



 the defining spirit or mood of a particular period of history as shown by the ideas and beliefs of the time.

Close but not quite where I'm going. Let me start with where I'm going and perhaps back up from there and see if I can find the perfect defining word.

Where I'm going is this. So I'm totally enamoured of the Walking Dead. Like, obsessed. Said obsession however does not allow me to actually watch the show. No, I find it far too upsetting. I am the perfect definition of the warning that comes on prior to the start of each show, the one that says that viewers might find the upcoming scenes too intense. Too intense. It's like they crafted the exact right feeling that I have when watching - it's way to frickin' intense for me.  I've watched quite a few of the shows, I don't skip them all, but near the end of the season I tend to back off. I watch as long as I can stand it then I leave husband to finish, much to his chagrin, and go to bed, closing the door to our far away room so now random sounds drift upwards to nudge me from sleep. I google the show instead, reading the reviews and looking for spoiler alerts so I know what is going on. I grill him the next day, what happened, what will happen next. But I simply can't handle watching the show.

I think about it a great deal. If I'm bored, when I'm going to sleep. I think about how I would survive (I wouldn't) and how the world would look. That's what gets me, the whole how the world would look question. I think about how I think it is better to be from here, this land of cold and snow, so that at least there would be a few months' reprieve, when it freezes and snows and refuses to thaw, where the zombies would be frozen along with the landscape. When the survivors weren't chopping would and foraging for food they could round up the zombies, dig them out of snowbanks, and dispense of them.

We have no curtain or blind on the window in the part of the bathroom where my sink and mirror are. It's annoying, mostly for the reason that the sun shines in my mirror and it makes me put on my make up like a crazy woman because the light is so bad. But mostly it's annoying because I'm forever hiding from people, worried they will see me in this private space. However, it also allows me a high up view of the street. Not that anything happens on our street. But I do have a view, in case.

So I started thinking this: what if some jokester, some hooligans, decided to play at the walking dead? What if there were enough of them, and they were organized enough and tried hard enough, and they did a convincing enough job that I saw them? Is it possible that I could have a heart attack and die? And this has worried me off and on ever since I first thought it and then I realized: 

I have been reading, in between the several novels I'm reading right now (none of them are good enough to read simply on their own), anyways I am reading Where Good Ideas Come From: A Natural History of Innovation by Steve Johnson and in that book he says that innovation tends to happen concurrently. Like, if someone has an idea to invent something it is purely because the supporting tools/mechanisms/comprehension exists in the world and so it is likely (or a given?) that this same thing/idea will happen elsewhere because the world is ripe and ready for it. I'm sure that explanation doesn't do his beautiful book justice so you really should buy it and read it. Compelling stuff. 

So I applied this idea to the zombie trick fear and voila. There you have it. It is likely, in fact way too likely, that there are fiendish groups of people right now planning the when and the where of their awful zombie trickster meanness. I don't know if I feel better knowing that these plans are afoot, or worse. It also worries me, because a person can never not have enough things to worry about, that perhaps REAL zombies will come and I will see them out of my window with no window covering and I will think haha, I am onto you, tricksters, and THEY WILL BE REAL.

There really is no end to this problem. 

Monday, April 04, 2016

Election meandering

Provincial elections were today. Gratitude for democracy yada yada followed by frustration with my first world problems. As in, the election voter card which I of course checked carefully for errors but not carefully enough, apparently, misdirected me to a church I had to google map to find. It's okay, it all worked out, but it's also a good thing I went to yoga to breathe right before said incident. As I said, first world, all the way today.

Yoga was perfect in the sense that on Mondays it is yin, which is hard only if you don't like lying down and stretching for an hour. I'm sure I do know people who don't like to lie down in a warm room, with a soothing voice directing you to breathe and find that sweet spot of stretch versus pain, but I really can't imagine it. I think they would be liars or just haven't tried it. Now I'm going to get 10 emails telling me why someone doesn't like yoga or it just isn't for them. Don't bother, it's okay. You want to be crazy and tight feel free. Or not so free, as it happens.

After yoga I assessed the wind and determined that the 0 degrees was about 5 degrees short of how warm my jacket was and I skipped walking around the lake. I had already taken the dry-cleaning in, which somehow annoys me with it's never ending picking up and dropping off requirements, so I felt ahead of the game. The next 45 minutes lay in gorgeous limbo for me. Should I go to the new Save On foods and get a coffee? No, that sounded quite decadent to my ears however even one extra shot of caffeine during the day wreaks havoc with my sleeping 8 hours later. Perhaps I could go home and change the laundry from the washer to the drier and thus put myself ahead by one basket. Nah. I truly have all afternoon for laundry so no real win there. I know, I've been feeling so tired that Husband said, do you think you might be iron deficient? All you ever say is how tired you are. I tend that way, iron deficient, and also deficient in the motivation to continue on iron supplements (let's be honest, it tastes completely revolting), so perhaps he is onto something. I stopped at Old Fashioned foods which unfortunately was having its customer appreciation day and so the parking lot was packed with little old ladies, circling with angry faces, looking for a spot. I double parked and was in and out in five. I've already taken two doses. Seriously, it's still awful.

I went home and ate something, I can't recall what it was which means it was a mash up of leftovers. Ah yes, a taco salad minus all the fun ingredients like corn and salsa and black olives. I threw some black beans on taco flavoured ground beef and now that I'm thinking of it, didn't even put cheese. No wonder lunch was not wonderful. I did change the laundry, however, putting me about 1/2 hour ahead of the game I'm playing where no one keeps track of the score except me. Somehow, though, I'm always losing.

I got back in the van, drove towards where I thought I was to vote, realized the street numbers were running out, pulled over, and google mapped the location. Not too far, but further than what I would have thought. I didn't give it a second thought, however, buoyed by my successes of the morning (yoga, laundry, and iron purchase), and found the church. Thinking thoughts of gratitude for being able to vote, for getting a good parking spot, for seeing easily the signs that said "Vote here." 

The lady working the door could tell I was wrong almost immediately, showing me how the information in the centre of the card, the most highlighted, obvious information, was the advance polling information. The actual voting day info, the important day, the big kahuna, if you will, was in small type, bottom of the card. Seriously. What the eff. 

She was very kind, I was nice, she said she'd had at least fifty people who had come to the wrong polling station. That made me feel better, better to be lost in a crowd of 50 than the lone wolf who can't follow directions. 

It all worked out, of course it did, the polling station was exactly where I thought it should be, about a block and a half from our house. I got it done, hopefully I marked the ballot correctly although that's beyond remedy now. I don't mean correctly in terms of candidates, you sly foxes who were ready to poke me and question my politics. I know I did that part right. But the X, the marking of the X, the folding of the ballot. All far too complicated for a woman just trying to get some laundry done.