Gifts that keeps on giving

For my birthday, I received a number of fabitty fab birthday presents (from a number of fabitty fab individuals.)

In preparation for my first marathon, I was gifted a belt to store gel packs, and a beautiful, (but more important breathable) zip-up running shirt. Mr. M gave me a pair of lovely earrings that have little cameos of ravens on them (because this way I can pretend that I’m Odin, and that my little feathered friends are whispering the world’s secrets into my ears as I go about my daily business.)

I also received another Murakami book from my good friend A that I devoured on my way home from her house on skytrain.

An absolutely scrumptious lunch Ms. A treated me to, at Cafe Medina. GO THERE.

Such a strange sensation to be reading a book about a very early Tokyo morning, when you yourself feel as though you are operating out of a parallel, late-night dreamland. I was so tired that I could hardly keep my eyes open, and yet at the same time, too engrossed in Murkami’s prose to actually allow my body to let go, and crumple under the weight of my end-of-week exhaustion and post-hang out daze.

What a strange tug-of-war we mortals can play, between need and desire, consciousness and sleep.

Two other gifts that provide me with a huge amount of happiness (on a daily basis at that) are the gorgeous prints my sister in-law V made for me.

They are currently hanging in my office and I cannot even begin to describe what a difference they have made in my day-to-day work regime.

The power of art is strong, my friends – very strong.

Is your office green with ivy? I mean, envy?

Plus, the prints, combined with a few other touches of beauty and comfort (I also have nice black and white photo of SFU hanging on the opposite wall, and I finally managed to finagle someone to come in and mount my “to-do” cork board) ensure my office no longer looks like the place you go where you find out that you have a terminal illness.

Because that folks, is pretty darn bleak.

Just looking at this photo puts a smile on my face!

Seriously.

Today the sky is blue, and the trees are sun-drenched (and not rain-drenched) for the first time in what seems like ages.

Over my lunch break I hopped, skipped, and jumped my way out of the office, and around my downtown neighbourhood in an effort to procure everything that was populating my (ever-growing) “NEED TO GET” list.

It is always so pleasant doing these kinds of things in the glorious sunshine, rather than scurrying about like a drowned rat, trying to stay one step ahead of the looming fog and drizzle.

Is it springtime yet, Ms. Nature?

I picked up the usual suspect at Shoppers Drug Mart: make-up remover, cotton pads (to be used with said remover), body wash, and face cleanser.

I had a mild flashback to high school when I approached one of the clerks to ask if she knew where the Neutrogena products were, and she briskly responded:

You mean the acne products?

Umm, I wasn’t sure, actually. “It’s very orange and has a pump on the top?” I said, a little nervous all of a sudden.

Yes. You want the acne face washes, upstairs in the acne solutions section – aisle four.

I know this might seem a little silly, but I totally felt as though I was being shamed. Like I was in a one of those horrible sitcoms playing the nerdy high school kid who tries to purchase condoms, or tampons – or the young girl stuck buying Vagisil, or Imodium, or Exlax or whatever.

(Also, super hilarious that the spell check wants to change Vagisil to valise. That would require a majorly daft pharmacist to make that mix-up.)

Now, I’m sure the only reason I actually felt this way is because in high school I actually did have bad acne, and I spent so much time, energy and money trying not to have bad acne.  Now that I’m finally living a life of clear skin (as an easy, breezy, covergirl – or, you know, whatever) it’s hard for me not to get my back up in those kind of situations.

It’s like the horribly embarrassed fourteen year-old girl inside starts yelling: “I’m beautiful now! Why can’t you just leave me alone!”

LEAVE ETHEL ALONE!

Okay, so I’m over dramatizing this for the sake of humour and readability, but the sentiment is the same. Even though I was over the whole thing in about 2.7 seconds, I guess it’s true what they say:

Some (acne) scars just take longer to heal.

NOMNOMNOM. Sip.

To speed up the process I bought (and thoroughly enjoyed) a large package of peanut butter M&M’s (seriously I’d fight to the death to prove, and/or, to defend my stance that they are in fact, the best M&M product – or at least to a missing handful of hair) and an ice cold diet Pepsi.

I also managed to get a hold of a pair of sweatpants that I can wear on my way home from the gym for only sixteen dollars!

You have no idea how happy this makes me. Seriously.

Money-wise aside, this is also fantastic news because I normally go to the gym straight after work, and I really don’t like walking home in my workout clothes with just my big winter coat as my only over layer.

It kind of makes me feel like a super-harlot, because my shorts are shorter than my (rather long) coat, and this may or may not contribute to the illusion that makes it look as though I’m not wearing anything underneath my jacket.

And that’s not a look I’m ever striving for.

EVER.

My final purchase was a new pair of work shoes (nine dollars! Thank you bargain barrel pricing and size ten feet!) and two lipsticks (two for twelve bucks! I’m almost, almost afraid to know what they’re made out of, because they’re so cheap. Probably the other bargain barrel size tens that were never sold.)

It’s easy to forget about that though, because they’re so, so pretty.

Sparkly toes and red lips. Watch out world!

With all this talk of TREAT YOU SELF and the weather being as fabulous and fine, it was the perfect day to go out and do something nice for myself.

(It is also heart warming to know that I will once again be able to properly remove my mascara, and not wake up with crazy black muck that has sealed my eyelids shut whilst I slept. Side note: I was going to write “sleep-cum-makeup muck” but thought it might give some people the wrong idea.)

Okay, I definitely don’t need any more proof about how immature I can be, because just writing that out has given a case of the giggles I just may never get over.

Heeheeheeheehee.

Sunny days! Chasing the - clouds away! On my way...

OKAY.

Enough now.

I hope every single one of you had a beautiful day, were fortunate to feel the warmth of the sun on your face, and did something lovely in celebration of you, and just you.

Or at the very least, had a good giggle.

Book em, Dano

M and I received some pretty great books for Christmas this year. He was gifted some Stephenson and Pratchett, and I, some Murakami, Richler and Mantel.

Bliss folks – for us, THIS is bliss.

I am currently 600+ pages into 1Q84 by Mr. Murakami and if you were to catch me at any given time today you would have found me in a position similar to this:

Aomame and Tengo are my new best friends.

What happens with me is that, although I read quite a bit, and for the most part, I enjoy everything that I read (and even those books that I do not enjoy, I slog through them anyways. I finally finished Pol Pot: Anatomy of a Nightmare only a couple of months ago, after what seemed to be an on-again-off-again relationship with the book for close to eight months) I tend to go overboard on those works that I do enjoy, like, A LOT.

You see, there are some authors that I find so transcendent, that I develop an almost perverse obsession with findingand reading all of their published works, lest I miss out on experiencing everything their genius has to offer.

And I really mean everything.

Three of our bookshelves. I really fear that we will be crushed to death once the big one arrives. At least we'll go with the things we love...

The earliest memory I have of this phenomenon is from grade four, when I first discovered the great Canadian children’s author Kit Pearson. I picked up The Lights Go on Again not knowing that this book is in fact the third of a trilogy that explores the journey of two young English siblings’ experiences as war children, evacuated from a (fictional) small town in England and sent to live in the posh Toronto neighbourhood of Yorkville.

To say that I loved this book (and then the rest of the books in the series) would be an understatement. I am sure that I read each novel close to twenty times. This fascination with Ms. Pearson’s writing was then transferred onto her other works, The Daring Game and A Handful of Time.

So you must understand what a soul crushing blow it was to read her newest work (at the time) when it came out, hot off the presses, and to feel no connection whatsoever with the narrative or the narrator.

In fact, I remember despising the protagonist, and feeling utterly morose by both the story’s flaccid narrative arc, and (what I felt to be) rather limp conclusion.

To paraphrase Kevin Kline in A Fish Called Wanda, I was DISAPPOINTED.

Alas.

In grade five I started reading “grown-up” book. Pilfering from my older sister’s collection, I read most of Anne Rice’s

Bedroom bookshelf. Now will more Gene Wolfe.

Vampire series, (do I regret this? No. But, erm, next time, I think I may take the left turn atAlbuquerque and forgo any literary adventures with Mr. Lestat), and pretty much everything John Grisham and Michael Crichton had written up until that point.

I remember passages from both The Firm and Jurassic Park as if they have been burned into my cerebral cortex (or whatever part of the brain is used when flipping those pages over, and over again.)

The one big mistake however? Reading Misery. Yeah, not about to get those nightmare filled sleeps back anytime soon!

In grade eight I started my five year love affair with Mr. William Shakespeare, obsessing over King Lear’s poor decision making processes, despising young Hamlet and his gutless procrastination, and emulating and loving (and therefore memorizing) Beatrice’s lines and soliloquies.

I read every one of his plays, including the ones that that most people probably wouldn’t recognize. However, I am sure that if you asked me right now, I probably couldn’t even remember the simplest of story details of those plays (let alone two hours after I had finished them) because they left no discernable effect on me what so ever.

I am sure I decided to read the entire canon not so much due to my burning desire and admiration for the Bard and his words (although this did, and still does very much exist,) but because I was fifteen and thought I was misunderstood and brilliant.

Kerouac I was not.

When I first met M, he gave me Vonnegut’s Breakfast of Champions to read on the long flight down to Nova Scotia and I almost died with shock and delight within the first few pages. During those next two weeks I inhaled every work of his I could find.

As I mentioned before, in first year of my undergrad I read Dostoevsky’s Devils and my brain (metaphorically) exploded all over my room. I gobbled up Crime and Punishment with an almost maniacal zeal, and after that devoured The Idiot and The Brothers Karamazov.

These are a few of my favorite things!

The next year I discovered the fabulous and hauntingly beautiful writings of the Swedish author Henning Mankell, and spent my summer telling everyone I knew to, “check out this guy from Sweden because holy frick you will never read anything so bloody good in your entire bloody life!!!”

I received a lot of strange looks during that time.

I could go on at length about all the books that have shook me to my core, but I think it may be impossible, and I really must try to reign myself in.

I just get so overwhelmed and confused when I hear that so many people don’t read anymore, and I get panicked and desperate when M tells me that his students at school are hard pressed to even read their assigned passages, let along deign to pick up a novel outside of class.

I even get anxious worrying over whether I’ll die not having read all the books I want to read.

Yeesh.

I just want to create a place where everyone can live peacefully, and where I will read to them from Thomas King, and Neal Stephenson, and Robertson Davies, and Hanif Kureshi, and Gunter Grass, and Terry Pratchett, and George R. R. Martin, and Richard Russo, and, Michael Palin, and Hunter S. Thompson, and Gene Wolfe, and J. R. R. Tolkein, and Robert Heinlein, and Richard Matheson, and Ray Bradbury, and P.D. James and well, this list grows ever long, and I’m sure, your patience short.

One day I will find the Dolphin Hotel

My great friend A gave me my first Murakami book this year for my birthday. A Wild Sheep Chase is gut busting hilarious, and heart breakingly sad. Reading it alone set in motion my newest “author” fixation, and I have blown through a good portion of his works to date.

So now, I sit (please consult the above picture for the exact positioning), reading his latest tome, and I am so inspired, and intimidated, and just plain breathless by what an extraordinary work it truly is.

I am trying to take it slow, to savour the process, each page, each line, each word, each letter.

But it is hard. So very hard.

I have around three hundred pages left, and I am sure to be done before I know it. I am sure that I too, like the characters in the book, will be living in a slightly altered world, because of this work.

So with this, I can’t help but say: “Bring it Murakami.”

Bring it.

Three things I did this Christmas

1. Cried. Quite a bit actually. This, however, is not too big of a deal. I cry quite a lot, and can be set off at a moment’s notice due to, well, pretty much anything. From the overly banal (X-Files episode), to the adorable animal (please see below video), to the familial. It probably wouldn’t be much of a Christmas without a few tears shed, for either good or bad.

 

Heck, it’s tradition.

2. Went for a run. This is also becoming a bit of a Christmas tradition. I like to venture out in the early morning, when the

Awesome socks is the new awesome sauce.

rest of the world is still snuggled up in their beds (dreaming of sugar plums, or little toy drums). Irrespective, M and I bundled up to face the freezing winds, and gray-tinged skies, and ran laps around Queen’s park, which was dark, and slick, and yet beautiful and magical in all of its festive splendor.

You always feel as though a special kinship ties you to all the other early morning runners, and although you may share but a simple head nod, it’s enough to make your blood run a little warmer, and strides stretch a little longer.

Ready to rock. I mean rant. I mean RUN!

M also bought me some super sweet running socks that I was eager to try out (they were tucked neatly into my stocking with some great books and chocolate). He gets exasperated (and rightly so) with my inability to keep my socks with their rightful pair, so each set he gave me was colour coded a different colour, to insure that they (as pairs) have a long shelf (erm…drawer) life together.

They were ridiculously comfortable and made for a brilliant run. To paraphrase F. Gump, they were “magic socks.”

3. Bought a real tree. As I wrote before, this was the first year that M and I celebrated Christmas in our home together, so it was very exciting that we were able to purchase a beautiful little pine that has been quite the dazzling addition to our humble abode – whether it be its excellent aromas, or how much colourful decor it adds to our living room.

The Royal Tannenbaum

It’s was also great fun to decorate it with our mishmash of different ornaments that we have collected over the years. We are sent new ones every year from the East Coast and we have also been lucky enough to have been gifted ones from M’s parents.

My mother has also begun the tradition of sending us a stocking every year in our gift package. It’s fantastic! Currently, for a household of two adults and one kitty we have five stockings.

Outrageous.

We’re hoping that as the years press on, Santa just becomes more and more confused, forcing him to fill them all lest he

Gingerbread lane.

leave someone out.

Just don’t tell him.

No doubt I’ve probably just bought myself a first class ticked to the naughty list. Alas, it’ll just give me another reason to cry.

Happy Holidays friends!

I want to be a supermodel

So.

Ch-ch-check it.

I used to be really good at getting all of my holiday to-dos done well before the stress and just general madness of the December month consumed not only me, but all of my loved ones.

I was a planning, shopping, and wrapping force to be reckoned with – my plans were executed with such precision I felt as though I could have established my own holiday-planner guild – apprentices and all.

Mostly I was imagining living in a Terry Pratchett novel, but you know, I’ll take when I can get.

However, for the last few years this once-strength of mine has waned; more and more I leave things- once easily accomplished errands – to the last minute.

I am unsure of what evil force is at play here (perhaps some deranged woman obsessed with her own reflection has sent a metaphorical huntsmen to rid me not of my beauty (HAH!) but of my festive organization skills) – yet somehow I don’t think this tale achieves quite the same level of drama as the original.

Either way, it is a dangerous line to walk, what with the majority of my family living over one thousand miles away and Canada Post being notoriously unreliable, especially anytime after the first of December.

It’s imperative that I get their gifts in the mail – STAT.  And with less than three weeks left before the grand opening (of presents) I was starting to feel the anxiety of not having anything prepared.

To combat my ever rising sense of dread, last Friday I decided that it was high time to get my rear in gear, and trekked out after work, armed to the teeth with a razor sharp resolve.

The effort alone nearly destroyed me.

Good grief.

M was supposed to meet me downtown after my two hour head start.  He was going to help me fill in any gaps in gifts for people, while at the same time we could enjoy the festive decorations of the downtown core.

(Side note: after spending Christmas in the UK, I cannot help but feel as though our streets are pretty darn bare and wish that our cities would take part in similar spectacular and magical light displays.  But like I said, I take what I can get.)

Anyways, I gave him a call and promptly told him not to bother coming all the way downtown but that seeing as though he was already on transit, I would meet him halfway at Metrotown.

And that friends, is where I saw these:

Fashion is just so draining…
I need a nap. Good thing I have this jaunty cap.

Oh. My. Goodness. Gracious.

Forever Twenty-One is so awesome for so many (facetious) reasons, it actually boggles the mind.

M won’t even go into the store because he says that the combination of the loud, crap music, crowds of overzealous teenage girls and just general gaudiness brings on the mother of all panic attacks.

I don’t doubt it.  You should have seen him in Primark.

I thought he was going to pass out.

But seriously, who styled these mannequins?  Who got home after the most hard core yoga session of all time as thought, “holy crow, the body can move in the most peculiar of ways!  Let’s make sure we highlight this interesting factoid in our next window display – it may even move the attention away from how absolutely insane looking ourclothing is.”

I was in a giggle fit for the rest of the night just thinking about it, but ever more so after M pointed out that two of the mannequins look like they are casually trying to give birth.

I’m…so…exhausted…but…so… glamorous….

“What am I up to you ask? Oh, you know, not much…just heading into my twelfth straight hour of labour, but sheesh – don’t I look stylin?”

No lady.  You look stone cold CRAZY.

I also don’t know exactly what to do with these boots:

LAUGH IT UP FUZZBALL

I mean, how many wookies needed to die to create this abomination?

M has been playing a ton of Skyrim of late and he says that they look like something his character would don before going into battle against a dragon.

Erm. Yeah…

If that doesn’t signal cool, hip and fashion forward, than slap my face and call me T’analia.

(Don’t do that.)

Heck, I know I don’t go anywhere these days without my leather jerkin and long sword.  But that’s only because I haven’t yet figured out how to properly style my battle ax.

Anyway, I couldn’t stop myself form posing like this for the next two days, just because the idea of them kept cracking me up.

I’m just waiting for Ford Models to phone.

From now on, anytime I am a waiting in a line I am going to stand in this position, because I’m pretty sure people will either think that 1) something is wrong with me, or that 2) I am very, very desperate.  Either way, I am sure to guarantee that I am served first.

Or you know, I’ll end up committed.

Is it a price I’m willing to pay? I’m not sure – yet.

Knowing that I may never have to lay eyes on another Forever Twenty-One floral patterned unitard or pair of hotpink hammer pants, may just tip the scales.

We’ll just have to wait and see.

Oh, and all you folks living across Canada, waiting for your Christmas gifts?  You now know what what’s heading your way.