Monday, August 14, 2017

A scary event

Many years ago, when I still lived at home, Monday was laundry day. Mom had a manual washing machine, struggled with buckets of water and wrestled with wet items to get them into the spinner. By the time she was done, the kitchen was flooded and in addition to laundry she had to mop the floor.

When automatic washing machines became popular she didn’t hesitate, she was going to get one of those wonderful machines. A representative from Primus came to our house and the following week a gleaming new washing machine was delivered and installed.

While the machine was top of the line, mom’s washing skills were not. Having washed manually all her life, an automatic washing machine proved to be a challenge. There were so many buttons and dials. With the machine came a manual of course, but the book being the size of ‘War & Peace’ she didn’t bother to read it. She would learn as she went along.

As such, she accidentally put one of my wool dresses in the machine and must have set the temperature too high because the dress came out several sizes too small for my frame.

Last week history repeated itself. Well, sort of. I’ve been doing laundry with an automatic machine all my life and know about temperature control, but I can’t control the temperature, which is exactly what happened. The pipes in our condo building are to blame.

Even though I had programmed the machine to wash with lukewarm water, every now and then the cold water in the building shuts off and is replaced with hot water. When someone wants to wash his hands, or fancies a drink of cold water, this hot water business is merely an inconvenience, but during laundry time hot water only is a disaster.

Just ask my favorite black jacket. It went into the machine a size 7 and it came out … something fit for a child. I flipped, I absolutely flipped. When I looked at the label it stated ‘100% pure wool’. Yeah well, that explains why it shrunk, wool hates hot water.

I toyed with the idea of holding the building responsible, but if they denied responsibility, how would I prove that it was the building’s faulty pipes? I find this a scary event. This water confusion can happen again and again.


Toronto's Chinatown

People with full-time jobs often envy temporary employees. For temps, the work never gets boring, they work for different companies, do different types of jobs and in the process meet a variety of people. If they like the job, great, if they don’t they can take comfort in the knowledge that it’s only for a limited time.

During my time as a temp I’ve worked all over Toronto and as such know the city like the back of my hand. Or so I thought. I’m currently based on Spadina Avenue and it feels like I’m no longer in Toronto. This part of the city is Chinatown and completely different from everything I'm used to.

The bad news is … Gone are the beautiful tall buildings. Gone are the smart shops and chain stores. Gone are the food courts. Gone are the numerous little green parks with benches. This is an old part of town where mom and pop stores rule.

The good news is … I was finally able to buy a Bonsai tree. For some time now Dieter wanted a Bonsai tree, so last year I wanted to give him one for Christmas. I contacted a few stores around town, but nobody had such trees. Next, I looked online and found a Bonsai tree seller in California. Unfortunately, having the tree shipped to me was going to cost triple the price of the tree itself. So that was a no go.

But here in Chinatown it’s Bonsai tree galore, one shop next to another. So Dieter is finally getting his tree. Let’s hope the little thing stays alive because Dieter doesn’t exactly have green fingers.

A while ago I gave him two plants, a French Lily and something else. When I visited his office a few months later, I didn’t see either one of the plants. When I asked about them, Dieter had to admit that they were both dead.

So next I gave him a cactus, because I feel that he needs something green in his office and you know what … he managed to kill that one too. I mean really, it’s a cactus … how did he manage to kill a cactus?

The change in scenery in Toronto isn’t the only thing that surprised me. Apparently, the distance between point A and point B, was also new to me.

You might remember that last week I lost my glasses on the subway. I contacted the ‘Lost and Found’ department of the TTC (Toronto Transit Commission), but no glasses were brought in. I made an appointment with an optometrist, ordered new glasses and last week I could pick them up. So excited was I that I would be able to see properly again that I decided to walk to the optician. BIG MISTAKE!

I walked from Toronto’s Spadina and Queen intersection to Bay and Dundas intersection and as you can see, it is quite a walk. 

I walked and I walked and I walked and when I thought I was nearly there, I had to walk some more. In heels mind you! Not only that, it was a hot humid day. By the time I got to Bay and Dundas, my throat felt like I had crossed the desert, my legs felt like lead and I had blisters on my toes the size of Texas.

Never EVER am I doing that again. Well today my temp job in Chinatown is over anyway. On to better and more familiar terrain.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

My mistake - John Grisham's fault

We’re all familiar with the saying ‘Be careful what you wish for’, but apparently I also have to mind what I say. Just the other day I mentioned that my eyes are burning after spending a period of time on the computer. Was it perhaps time for an eye exam and new glasses?

No less than 24 hours later disaster struck … I lost my glasses. I could have kicked myself. The glasses were just 2,5 years old, had cost me over $500 and now they were gone.

My own fault really. For years, I used to take my belongings with me in a handbag or a shoulder bag. Recently, when I looked around I saw that more and more people favored a backpack, so I decided to give this a try. I was sold on it from day one. Not only was a backpack more comfortable to carry, there was plenty of room with several pouches for specific items such as comb and lipstick, cell phone, bank cards, and eye glasses.

Unfortunately, it was the eye glasses pouch that tricked me. In a way, I blame it on John Grisham. I was reading his latest book ‘Camino Island’ and I was so engrossed in the story that I didn’t notice that the train had arrived at St. George’s station. I hastily packed away the book, took off my glasses, put them in their case and slipped them in the eye glasses holder of the backpack. Or so I thought.

I must have missed the pouch because when I checked, I noticed that the glasses were not in the appropriate slot. I quickly went back to the station’s platform to see if I perhaps dropped them, but there was nothing there.

Since I’m as blind as a bat without glasses, I would have to organize new ones. Mentally I kicked myself over and over again. Not only do I not have medical insurance, I’m on a limited budget and new glasses were likely to cost me an arm and a leg.

Fortunately, I found an optometrist who could see me the next day and an optician with reasonable prices. Still, I have to wait for my new glasses for about a week and in the meantime, I have to make do with my old glasses. They’re about 5 years old, they don’t really suit my eyes, but they’re better than nothing.

Moral of the story … if I had taken a handbag instead of a backpack and read some boring book instead of John Grisham’s ‘Camino Island’ none of this would have happened. 

Monday, July 24, 2017

Someone's nose is out of joint

Hi there. The other day Holly had her say and today it’s my turn. My name is Mickey and as you can see, I’m a tuxedo cat.

Holly’s nose is still a little out of joint because she wasn’t allowed out on the balcony to (possibly) catch one of the baby finches. In the meantime, the situation hasn’t improved. All five finches are gone and she didn’t get any of them.

For a while she had high hopes. Around 6:00 p.m. the parent finches were twittering up a storm. They didn’t just chirp, they sang and made one hell of a noise. It got so loud they actually woke me up, so I went to take a look.

Mama and papa finch were sitting on the balcony netting, but instead of flying in to feed the remaining two babies, they stayed there. I didn’t understand a word they were saying, but it sounded like they were encouraging the babies to come out of the nest.

Sure enough, one of them popped its head out, hopped on the rim of the nest, spread its wings and … flew right smack into the netting. He fell into the petunias and sat there, dazed, no doubt wondering what the hell happened.
So Dieter went out and talked to the little one. 

At this point Holly joined me by the netting of the balcony door and I knew what she was thinking … he’s gonna catch that bird for me. Yes, yes, yes, oh thank you, thank you, thank you!

Dieter indeed caught the little one, but instead of presenting it to Holly to eat, he set it free. Holly watched the scene with growing alarm … what is he doing? He wouldn’t! He couldn’t! No, no, no, no, no!!! Oh no, there goes my dinner.

Calm down, I told her, it’s after six, in a little while we’ll get our food and from what I’ve seen we’re getting chicken in gravy. Why do you want a bird anyway? You have to catch it, kill it, and before you get to the meat you have to get through the feathers and it’s hell to get those out of your teeth.

How would you know, Holly snapped, you’ve never caught a bird in your life. She had me there. It’s true, I’ve never caught a bird, or anything else for that matter, not even a fly. I’ve been told that I talk too much. You know, that chattering sound cats make when they see something. That’s me, mister chatterbox.

Anyway, after Dieter had released the first baby bird, the second one was gonna give it a go. That one didn’t do much better. He too flew from the nest and landed in the petunias. As Dieter tried to catch him, he fluttered away, only to land in the basil plant. Dieter eventually did catch him and in cupped hands showed the bird to Conny.

That’s where things went wrong. She wanted to take a picture (she wants to take a picture of everything). Not that there was much to see, just a little feathered head poking out of two hands. As she was getting ready to snap the shot, the bird wriggled his way out of Dieter’s hands and escaped. Now the catching could start all over again.

To cut a long story short, Dieter caught the little bugger and set that one free too. Now all the finches were gone. Holly was none too pleased but I’m sure she’ll get over it.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Oh, this blows!!!

Hi, my name is Holly, and I’ll be your guest blogger for today. Unlike other bloggers who have humans write a guest post for them, I am a cat. So, whatever comes next is from a cats’ perspective. I thought I should share the following with you because I’m really, really upset.

It’s a beautiful sunny day here in Toronto and I’m not allowed to go out on the balcony. Why? One word … birds.

It all started about three months ago. A pair of finches came to check out the balcony and apparently liked what they saw because soon after they started building a nest. One of them deposited six eggs in the nest and shortly afterward six chicks were born. I didn’t care much about them because I couldn’t get to them anyway, but I could wait. 

Those chicks would grow, in due time they would leave their nest and when they did I would be ready. I’ve never caught a bird before, but come on, with six birds to choose from, I was bound to catch one.

As it turned out, I didn’t get any of the little suckers. They flew the nest while I was still sleeping. I didn’t know this at first, but during the course of the day I didn’t see the parents fly in and out anymore, nor did I hear the little ones chirping. I had missed my chance and let me tell you, I was disappointed.

As luck would have it, two or three weeks later the two finches came back. This time they didn’t have to build a nest, they used the old one, and before long there were five eggs in it.

As soon as the chicks hatched I resolved that this time I would catch one. If I had to sit on the balcony day and night, eat and sleep there, this time they wouldn’t pull a fast one on me. So I waited, and waited, and waited.

The parent finches flew to and fro, bringing food for the babies and day by day they grew. Yesterday I noticed that the babies were getting ready to fly off. They were getting too big, the nest was getting too small, and they were getting restless. Yes, soon I would have a bird for breakfast, lunch or dinner. If they weren't quite a meal, then an appetizer. 

And would you believe it, while I used the litter box today, one of those babies flew away. I could have kicked myself. All that time waiting, and now that I had turned my back for two minutes, I missed one. Never mind though, there were four more.

Unfortunately, Conny (my owner), had noticed too that the babies were getting ready to fly off, so what did she do … she closed the balcony door. Not the glass door as such, but the netting. Now I couldn’t get out!!!

I had to do something. I had to come up with a plan. Clever me, I didn’t have to think long, I would turn on the charm. I positioned myself by the balcony door and sat there for, I don’t know, five, ten, fifteen minutes. When she didn’t come to open the door for me, I looked over my shoulder and gave a soft meow. Usually, that does the trick, but not this time. She either ignored me or she wouldn’t let me out. So I meowed a little louder, with more feeling, but still nothing. When I meowed again, she said “No Holly, you can’t go out today. The birds are about to fly away.”

But that’s the whole point, I tried to say. I have to be out there so when they fly I can catch one. She shook her head and walked away. Oh for the love of all that’s good and decent, why was she doing this to me? Oh, this blows!!!

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Hanging on or letting go

I watched a presentation the other day entitled ‘How heavy is your glass of water?’ The presentation went as follows:

A psychologist hosted a well-attended workshop about stress management. At one point, she raised a glass of water. The audience assumed that she would ask them the well-known question: ‘Is the glass half full or half empty?’ Instead, with a smile on her face, she inquired ‘How heavy is this glass of water?’ The audience called out a range of numbers from 8 ounces to 20 ounces. They were eager to discover why they were asked this question. But to their surprise, the psychologist responded ‘The weight of the glass does not matter. What does, however, is how long you hold it. If I hold the glass for one minute, it’s not a problem. If I hold it for an hour, my arm will ache. If I hold it for a day, my arm will feel numb and paralyzed. Your stresses and worries in life are like this glass of water. If you think about them for a while, nothing happens. Think about them a bit longer, and they begin to hurt. But if you think about them all day long, you will feel paralyzed and incapable of doing anything. It’s important to let go of your stresses, your fears, and worries. Early in the evening, put all your burdens down. Don’t carry them into the night. Always remember to put that glass down and give yourself a rest.’

When I read stuff like this, I can help but roll my eyes and wonder what people who have lost a parent, a spouse, a child or a pet would say to this psychologist. My guess is that they would say her theory is beautiful but naïve.

I’m sure that a great number of people would like nothing better than to put their burdens down, but it’s not that easy. Any kind of burden is not like a glass of water that you can put down, you carry it with you all the time. Work, sports, and entertainment might give you a break from time to time, but eventually, the burdens come back.

The same for people who have medical problems and had tests done. You tell those people to stop worrying and they might sneer and say ‘That’s easier said than done.’

And what about people who have experienced trauma. I’ll bet it’s not as easy to just forget what they have seen, heard, and experienced. During the day they might find distractions, but the nights … the nights are the worst.

If just forgetting was this easy, people would not be on a variety of medications, wouldn’t be in therapy or wouldn’t seek the company of a self-help group.

Psychologists … most of them don’t have a clue about real life. They don’t seem to know that experiences lead to memories and we might not be able to ever escape from them.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Is the grass really greener on the other side?

Whether it’s a house, a car, jewelry or something else, just about everyone is familiar with the saying … what I like I can’t afford, what I can afford I don’t like. I find this particularly true in my search for a new home.

I’ve seen about 100 condos online and have visited 3. To say that it’s not going very well is putting it mildly.

Last week I saw a very nice place. The condo had a luxurious white kitchen, a modern bathroom, beautiful wooden floors and big walls. I called the agent, but by the time an appointment could be made for a viewing, the unit was sold. I could have kicked myself. Such a beautiful place, for such a good price and reasonable maintenance fees. I was so angry, I could have scared a snake.

As luck would have it though, three days later another unit became available in the same building. The unit was not as nice, but for the asking price we could easily install a new kitchen, bathroom, and floors and make it to our liking. I called the agent and arrangements were made to visit the building the next day.

The first disappointment was the location. The intersection was Jane and Finch, an area known for its high crime rate. The second disappointment was the building. OMG I looked up at the façade I thought … I can’t possibly live here. As for the unit … I was quicker out than in. It was just terrible.

Suddenly I didn’t feel so bad about missing the first unit in that same building, just one floor below.

The second unit that I visited was in a rundown building, but the unit itself was beautiful, completely redone and modernized. I loved it, but unfortunately, it was too small.

The third I saw online yesterday, loved it on sight, called the agent and an appointment was made for 5:00 p.m. This time, I hit the jackpot. The neighborhood was nice, the building was nice with a charming garden, and the unit itself … hmmm, very, very nice. But, you might think … yeah, there was a but. Again, the place was too small. 

When pictures of properties are taken to publish online, they are taken with a fisheye lens. While they give a nice view of the various rooms, the view is distorted and makes the rooms appear bigger as what they actually are.

Other than too small, the place was also rather dark. The windows weren’t big enough to light up the living room. So it was a no go.

This morning I came across another nice unit. A stacked condo of 1200 square feet for a very good price. Too good to be true actually. As I clicked through the pictures I couldn’t find fault though. The kitchen had nice white cabinets, stainless steel appliances, a renovated bathroom, good floors, large walls and a large balcony.

Before requesting a viewing I did some research online and found out that no less than 17 units were sold in that building in 2016 and 7 units were sold between January and June 2017.  For a building with under 50 units, those numbers were alarming high.

I soon found out why. Several units had reported bedbugs. Well, that’s all I needed to know. No matter how cheap or how beautiful a unit is if there’s mention of bedbugs I run like hell.

I'll keep on looking, but I very much fear that I won’t find anything. None of the units are as big as where I live now, none of the balconies are as big, none of them have the view my unit has, and none of them are in a location where a supermarket, a bowling alley, and public transportation are within walking distance.

So perhaps the grass isn’t greener on the other side.