Chicken Little and Monster Hands

I’m not Doctor Doolittle but in general, I can take care of most animals. Feeding a dog? Piece of cake. Clipping a cat’s claws? No problem. But when it comes to birds, well, that’s another story.

This is me at the park. (Photo Credit:

This is me at the park. (Photo Credit:

Last summer I dog-sat my friend Sula’s Cavalier King Charles Spaniel after she got spayed. My afternoon schedule looked something like this

12:00 pm – Puppy cuddles

12:30 pm – More puppy cuddles

1:00 pm- Puppy snuggles just for something different

1:30 pm – And back to puppy cuddles

2:00 pm – Change position once leg falls asleep, followed by more puppy cuddles. Continue until 5 pm when Sula arrives home.

The silent sleepy days that Maddie and I spent together were punctuated by the cries of Sula’s bird. The first day I was there, her indignant squawks reached a feverish pitch around one o’clock.

I’ve never had a bird; Sula’s pet was the first real exposure I’d ever had with a feathered friend. By contrast, Sula, and almost everyone she knew worked in Canada’s foremost bird research facility, so I had spent many an evening watching each of them handle Sula’s colourfully plumed pet with assured confidence.

The shrill, piercing squawks increased in frequency and length, I knew that the bird wanted to fly. Shoring up my confidence, I opened the cage. The little lovebird hopped down from her perch and into the opening, quiet having been appeased. I sat back down on the couch to pet a sleepy Maddie.

That was when all hell broke loose. Not only did Sula’s bird want freedom, but she wanted attention too. Soaring up to the ceiling and then quickly back down, she commenced dive bombing Maddie and me. All the while screeching angry messages in bird language which I interpreted as “This is for ignoring me- watch as I do an impression of a throwing knife landing in your hair!” Folding myself over the sick little dog, I tried to come up with a plan. The bird kept up her swooping, loud air-show, calling out smugly in bird language; “If you thought the Gingerbread man was hard to catch just try and put me back in my cage. Freedom! Freedom!” I swear these cries were followed by a maniacal, birdy laughs.

This guy is a picnic next to the feathered missile I released upon Maddie and me. (Photo Credit :

This guy is a picnic next to the feathered missile I released upon Maddie and me. (Photo Credit :

After suffering for ten minutes under the bird’s regime, I gathered some courage and decided to put an end to the madness. Channeling the practiced grace that I had watched Sula and her friends handle the bird with, I reached for the small, chirping dictator when she landed on the couch.

As the bird hopped towards my outstretched fingers, I felt a swell of confidence, the reign of terror would end; I would put the winged pest back in her cage and throw a blanket over it without the slightest trace of guilt. That was when the bird bit me. Yelping in surprise, I yanked my hand back. Rubbing my sore digit, I decided to show more confidence. As sternly as I could, I extended my hand again. And once again the bird bit me. Glaring at the smug winged dictator, I pondered over the fact that birds are related to snakes. As I gingerly held my two bitten fingers, I decided this bird was perhaps more closely related to serpents than others of her kind.

I glanced around the house as the bird took flight again, continuing her dive bombing fighter jet impressions, and then I saw my saviors; Sula’s pink rubber dish washing gloves a.k.a. Unwashed finger protectors. Donning the large pink gloves, I recommenced my attempts to trap the bird. But to the bird, the magenta rubber had transformed my hands from food into monster appendages intent on avian death. Her shrieks changed to terrified calls for help. As I chased the flapping green creature around Sula’s house, Maddie looked on pitifully from the couch, occasionally wincing from the chaos and the din.

After ten minutes, I was out of breath and no closer to catching the bird, so I removed the gloves and placed them back in their spot on the kitchen counter. I sat back down on the couch, resigning myself to the fact that I was going to do chicken little impressions, covering my head each time that pieces of the feather covered sky made a bee line for my head.

Surprisingly the bird was relieved by the return of my non-monster hands and came to perch on my shoulder for a rest. Looking at the door of the cage and at the size of my bird free shoulder, I walked towards the bird’s home, moving carefully so as not to scare the tired creature into flight. Leaning down, I lined up my bird shoulder with the opening and then quick as a flash, I shoved the bird and as much of my body as I could into the cage. The bird screeched in surprise. But I had done it! Triumphantly I latched the metal closure and glared at my enemy. That was the last time I ever tried to commune with Sula’s feathered friend.

Naked in Public: The Neighbourly Edition

When I’m out and about, my nudity is unintentional. However at home is another story; when I lived on the second story of the doctor’s house, Roscoe would begin by pleading that I “not stand in the buff next to the window”. When he realized that this wasn’t making a difference, he changed to “please close the curtains when you stand naked next to the windows” which eventually became “could you stop standing naked next to the windows which face out onto a busy street?”

Mr. Rogers, it's probably best if we aren't neighbours. I'd feel poorly about flashing you.  (Photo Credit:

Mr. Rogers, it’s probably best if we aren’t neighbours. I’d feel poorly about flashing you. (Photo Credit:

For the record I’m not an exhibitionist, only extremely absent minded which is why I constantly forget that I live in a bungalow and that my kitchen window faces the entrance to the neighbouring frat house. (For the record –yes I do choose my living accommodations based on proximity to entertainment.)

Last Saturday, having climbed out of the shower, I headed towards my bedroom in a towel. This was when I realized I’d forgotten my bra in the bathroom. Throwing off my towel, I walked into the kitchen in my birthday suit. It was at that moment that the frat boys decided to all head outside together, no less than twenty of them poured into the alleyway between the houses. There were so many young men that some of them were pressed up against the side of my house right next to my kitchen window. “Eeek” I shouted jumping backwards back into my bedroom, having just flashed approximately fifteen young men the goods.

The scene looked exactly like this. Only there were about twenty Dustin Hoffmans. And it wasn't nearly as sexy. Also there was shrieking. (Photo Credit:

The scene looked exactly like this. Only there were about twenty Dustin Hoffmans. Also there was shrieking. And no one got any action afterwards, unless of course you count my kitchen blinds which were lowered for the first time since I moved in. (Photo Credit:

The students got their revenge though, the next morning as I was making my lunch, I watched a fellow look around, turn his back to my kitchen window and proceed to pee in the alley. Laughing as I pushed the pane upwards to open the window, I yelled “Just a heads up, that spot is less private than you’d think.”. Glancing over his shoulder the youth shot me a sheepish smile. “Good to know” he replied, zipping up his pants.

Thanksgiving and Homecomings

I found my funny again. I had lost it for a while. That’s a lie; it was longer than a while, for over six months, I stumbled through life not feeling funny at all. Extracting words from my psyche was painful, even more so because the resulting text was mediocre. Of course I still did absurd things like creating garbage tidal waves next to my house and calling complete strangers to say that I was debating the merits of raising amphibians in my basement, which are in essence amusing at their core. However while writing about those types of events, I didn’t feel funny.

It’s ironic because this particular change of season, from summer to fall usually brings about a kind of slow melancholy in me. By contrast, this year I find myself energized, no longer held down by all of the terrible events and circumstances which bound me for so long. Instead I sit by my kitchen window, smiling at the dying fall light, feeling thankful for all that I have, and finding life endlessly amusing. It’s taken a long time, but I have returned to myself.

It’s funny, in order to come back to myself, I had to let go of who I had hoped I’d be, and my deep sense of loss over who I was instead. In that slow forgiveness and acceptance of my new situation, my mental load lightened and I felt that sense of quirky mischief and joy of being in the world returning. At my core, these are the two qualities that define both my writing and my experience of life.

This wasn’t a path I walked alone; each person to whom I painfully revealed my difficulties helped me. This afternoon, when I bow my head and reflect on all that I’m thankful for it’s these people, who stood alongside me, who cared in their way, that I will remember in my thoughts of silent gratitude.

This post is dedicated to all those who find themselves alone and wandering along a dark and jagged patch of life without shoes. Keep going, there is light and a warm meal waiting for you.

An Open Letter to Undergrads

Dear Young People,

Based on the sheer number of you loitering about the university campus staring at your phones when you ought to be lying in bed nursing a hangover, I’m forced to conclude that the younger generation has become too responsible. Twenty somethings, it is your duty as the legal aged youth of the world to cause havoc, not only are your inebriated nocturnal adventures endlessly amusing to watch through partially closed curtains in the wee hours of the morning but they give me something to write about. As the newest crop of drinkers, it is your job to provide the entertainment. Someone has to do it, and it certainly won’t be the elderly.

Wait, I take that back. This looks like it's about to get wild. (Photo Credit : jackcollier7)

Wait, I take that back. This looks like it’s about to get wild. (Photo Credit : jackcollier7)

After all, even the hippest of the hip old people; Hugh Hefner has been married for almost two years.

Don't pretend you didn't see this coming. Even the world's biggest bachelors have got to settle down. However young people, now is not your time. Please sleep with everyone. (Photo Credit:

Don’t pretend you didn’t see this coming. Even the world’s biggest bachelors have got to settle down. However young people, now is not your time. Please sleep with everyone. (Photo Credit:

It isn’t only your recent penchant for studying and attending classes that has led me to this conclusion; there has been a distinct lack of debauchery in my life recently. I can’t recall the last time I found a hamburger upside down on my car or woke to the sound of shrieking only to see a bare bum flash past my living room window.

This new found studiousness and sense of responsibility has to stop, one of you needs to get drunk and make poor decisions. Ideally in front of my house. I won’t even mind if you pee on my garden in the process. At this point I would settle for a drunken soliloquy about how midriffs are so hot right now.

In conclusion undergrads, please think more about vodka and less about your business ethics course. If not for your sake than for my blog’s.

Becoming the Neighbourhood Weirdo and Other Things I Do In the Name of Saving the World

I’m a minimalist environmentalist. What this means is that I don’t bathe, partially because doing so would use water unnecessarily and partly because it alarms my family. Along with eschewing activities that are encouraged in normal society, I also sometimes do bizarre things for the sake of protecting the environment; for example digging a compost trench in my backyard. There are multiple ways of composting; most of them involve a large bin of sorts. I have no such bin, so I bury my compost. It’s a surprisingly effective activity and fun for the whole family. I’ve written a set of instructions so other people can randomly create trenches in their yards too.

The Guide to Losing Friends and Speeding up the Decomposing Process without Resorting to Transforming into a Vulture and Eating Dead Animals

A worthy endeavor certainly, but not my first choice. I won't judge if it's yours though, after all being green has to start somewhere. (Photo Credit:

A worthy endeavor certainly, but not my first choice. I won’t judge if it’s yours though, after all being green has to start somewhere. (Photo Credit:

Step 1. Find a space in your yard that is far enough away from any existing garden so it doesn’t look planned.

Step 2. Start digging, if at all possible throw the bits of shoveled dirt and torn up grass on top of any preexisting garden so the appearance of your lawn will be truly marred.

Step 3. Keep digging, Try to make the trench long and unusually shaped, think of what an eight year old’s attempt at a balloon animal might look like and fashion your trench after that.

Step 4. Be sure to wave vigorously at any neighbours who are peering out from their windows. Who needs friends next door when you can have rotten banana peels decaying under what used to be a flower bed in an oddly shaped hole?

Step 5. Empty a bag of compost into the hole. Leave the bag sitting for at least a week beforehand so lots of mold grows, thus ensuring that anyone in the near vicinity will gag from the sight and smell of it when you upend the contents into your compost trench.

Step 6. Call a friend over to admire your environmentally friendly handiwork*. “Behold! The glory of decomposition! Look at all of that half-rotted, organic matter. Isn’t it great?” It is possible your friends may not be as impressed by fuzzy, green sweet potatoes as you are. If so, draw their attention to your digging ability. “This hole looks just like the birthmark on that Russian politician’s head.”

An excellent shape for a compost trench if I’ve ever seen one. (Photo Credit:

An excellent shape for a compost trench if I’ve ever seen one. (Photo Credit:

Step 7. Recover the hole and compost material with dirt, taking care to uproot some flowers from the real flower bed in the process and throw them on the pile.

Step 8. Take an unconscionably large and out of place object such as a giant metal washing bin and flip it upside down, on top of the newly dug compost trench to call more attention to your environmental masterpiece. This will also serve to keep squirrels and other determined wildlife out of what will be your sweet sweet black gold next summer.

Step 9. Repeat as necessary, or until your entire yard is an eyesore.

*This post is dedicated to Sula who inspired this set of instructions by being suitably horrified when she saw me digging a compost trench in my backyard.


An Unwashed Day

5 am – Wake up.

5:02 am – Tell self to go back to sleep, no one gets up at this hour.

5:05 am – Stare at ceiling, waiting to become a normal person who sleeps in.

5:12 am – Who am I kidding? I’ve never been normal, let’s see if I can go scare some raccoons by taking out the trash.

5:25 am – Sit next to sun light while drinking coffee out of what is less of a mug and more of a bucket.

5:40 am – Go pee, repeat again each half an hour until seven thirty. Curse small bladder and desire for caffeine in quantities generally used to bail out boats.

7 am – Hastily mow lawn with push mower while making race car noises. Wonder if angry neighbour man who insists I mow my lawn has restrictions about types of sounds made during lawn care. Quickly switch to making attacking fighter jet noises in the event that race cars are deemed too commercial for my hippie neighbourhood.

I make noises so my lawn mower doesn't feel inadequate when it hears the ruckus that other types of lawn mowers make. (Photo Credit:

I make noises so my lawn mower doesn’t feel inadequate when it hears the ruckus that other types of lawn mowers make. (Photo Credit:

8 am – Bike to school. While crossing the bridge, sing and dance on bike so drivers can witness up close just how much fun being an environmentalist is.

8:03 am – Climb giant hill, feel grateful that am hidden by trees from the drivers because am covered in sweat from exertion.

10:27 am – Pass undergrads in hallway, see so much flesh that am forced to double check that we are headed to the library and not a skin bar.

10:28 am – See another under-dressed undergrad. Make a mental note to send memo to undergrads “It is fall. Please wear mittens, not bikinis. Also wipe your seat after you leave the library and are thong bathing suits the style in Canada now?”

If this outfit says "Library" to an undergrad, what do they wear to the bars? (Photo Credit :

If this outfit says “Library” to a nineteen year old, what do they wear to the bars? (Photo Credit :

1:44 pm – Cheerfully wave “hello” to the frat boys who were my former next door neighbours . Realizing they have no choice but to reply to my overly friendly gesture, they wave halfheartedly back “Hi Ms. Unwashed from Next Door”.

3:19 – Accidentally walk into a men’s restroom. If the university wouldn’t insist on renovating all of their buildings, I wouldn’t surprise half as many gents with my cries of “Oops sorry sir, I swear this used to be a ladies’.”

5 pm – Visit Gordy’s office on campus, loll about on the carpet remarking on how soft it is and how perhaps if the undergrad’s had clothes made of said carpet they’d wear more than bathing suits to campus.

5:30 – Finish abusing Gordy’s kindness and head to evening class.

9:30 pm – Don a bright yellow reflective shirt and commence singing loudly on bike ride home; even if the drivers fail to see me, they will hear me.

*Names have been changed to protect the identities of those who permit me to lie on their office floor whenever I like. In my defense, the builders used exceptionally nice flooring material.