Living in a Dollarama world…

Years ago, if someone asked me to think of a dollar store, my mind went to a dimly lit room with shelves stocked full of crap. Plastic dolls that vaguely resembled Barbie (if the lights were bad and you squinted enough). Ones with arms and legs that didn’t move and heads that popped off. Plastic wrapped note sets with pens that didn’t work and pads barely wide enough to write a single word. Plastic cars with wheels that fell off. And gaudy ceramic vases; I’m pretty sure the vases simply moved from one dollar store to the next as one store closed and another opened. I certainly never saw anyone buy one. Then I entered Dollarama.

I can’t remember why I was at that end of town. I just remember I had too much time to hang around the bus stop and not enough time to go anywhere… but there was a new dollar store right there. Right where Biway used to be. I walked in and WOW! It was bright and clean, an actual store instead of a hole in the wall. The first aisle held gift bags, nice ones at that, and real toys. I wandered up and down the aisles, keeping track of the time, and promising myself I’d go back. I definitely went back, I ended up working there.

Many years have passed since then. Dollarama’s spread a lot and improved even more. Of course their price has increased as well from a buck (or less) to $4 (or less) but I think the quality makes it worthwhile. I’ve found things that were regularly double, triple, or even quadruple the price in other stores. Same brand… same packaging. Recently Dollarama was selling RO tablet holders which were shaped like wooden bread boards. They retailed for $45, Dollarama sold them for $4. Sadly I never found any.

I raised my kids as a single Mom and never had much money. There were so many birthdays and holidays that simply wouldn’t have happened if Dollarama wasn’t there. But the events all happened with happy kids and fond memories. Dinkie cars, toy Spiderman, art sets, stuffed dolls, figurines, articulated wooden snakes… they were all loved and played with.

These days I’m in my empty nest but I’m also living off disability so money’s still tight. Luckily I found a Facebook group called Dollarama Hauls and Finds. The group is amazing. People post about the purchases they’ve made, items they’ve found, and what they’ve done with said purchases. Many include photos. My favourites are when someone goes around the store taking photos then shares forty pictures. It’s like window shopping without leaving my room.

new kitchen artI use the group to sort out what items I really want to buy, either for myself or to put away as a gift. It’s helped a lot because I know exactly where to look when I go shopping and there’s been a few items I would have missed if I hadn’t actively been searching there. The downside is there’s gorgeous items I’ve missed out on, like the aforementioned tablet holder, that I never would have known about otherwise. But I have found incredible things. Watercolour canvases, funky pop art, wooden word art, artificial succulents in clay pots, ships in glass bottles, Cuisinart wooden knife blocks… the list is extensive. My home would be almost barren if it wasn’t for Dollarama.

And tomorrow I’ll be off to another Dollarama because one thing the group has sucked me into is barnwood stickers. They are being stuck everywhere on any flat surface and I have an ugly front door to cover.

No such thing as a Special Interest…

I found LEDsColin was young when he came to me, still in elementary school.

“I just understand computers,” he earnestly explained. “I speak their language.”

And it certainly seemed like he did. He began practicing on every electronic device he could find. There were a few failures but there were also plenty of successes. Before we moved into separate apartments he built me a computer from the ground up, the one I’m currently using. And he’s built quite a few of his own. Computers are his love… his dream… his hobby… his passion… his drive… and his future. The voice of the computer is his muse. And, to professionals, it’s his special interest.

That phrase is one of the most demeaning phrases I know. It turns far reaching knowledge and skill into nothing more than a weird autistic parlour trick. It diminishes it down to child’s play, akin to a tea party with your dollies or rolling around on the floor with toy cars.

You could find two people, both equally well versed in Egyptology. One neurotypical and the other autistic. The first would be considered an amateur historian and respected for their knowledge while the second would be treated like a toy poodle dancing on its hind legs for treats.

“That’s interesting about Hatshepsut. Now why don’t you go get a snack.”

I read an article a few months ago about a teacher who loved chess. It was his favourite game and he was quite good at it too. He started up a chess club for the students and helped them learn how to play too. The other teachers were not only impressed with his skill but with how well he could get the children involved and understanding the concepts behind the game. He changed schools the following year. Same position… same type of class… and he started a chess club there as well. But this school knew he was autistic. Suddenly his skills and talents meant nothing, seen more akin to a parrot singing words for crackers than a human working with a gift.

I’ve written (and self published) two novels so far. I love writing. I love finding just that exact right turn of phrase. I love when suddenly everything clicks and the words just start pouring out. But I’m pragmatic and realize that much of the time is spent staring at the screen or my keyboard while I try to think of a bridge between paragraphs or how to phrase what comes next. It’s certainly not easy and sometimes it isn’t even enjoyable, but it’s worth it. If someone told me that was my special interest it would a) make me feel like I’d been writing a story on primary school paper with one of those fat red pencils and b) absolutely infuriate me.

If my years of writing is a special interest then every other writer out there should be considered to have a special interest too. If Colin’s interest and skills with computers is a special interest then every single computer repair person out there has a special interest. It needs to work both ways. We are all people, we all have goals, skills, and talents. We all have interests. Let’s drop the insulting special and move on. We’ll undoubtedly learn something.

Finding joy in the spam folder…

Every couple of weeks I wade through the spam folder on my blog to make sure no one got stuck in there. I have had a couple of legitimate posters get stuck in there so I figure it’s worthwhile to wade just in case.

Usually it’s the same old garbage; overly generic and polite messages that say nothing.

“I love your writing. Readers are sure to get your point and you come to a decisive conclusion. I would like to read more of your work.”

Buddy, you replied to a post about shopping at Dollarama. The only conclusion there is I spend a bit, although not as much as Colin. Not exactly groundbreaking.

Lately I’ve picked up arms length porn messages detailing every kind of sex imaginable (and quite a bit I couldn’t imagine). So you could understand my happiness when I came across this gem…

The Reader's Path text2

Isn’t that pretty much the nicest, most thoughtful spam ever? Sadly I had to delete it because posting spam on my blog leads to a ten-fold increase in spam in my inbox. But it’s saved now as a reminder on days I feel down. Feel free to safe it to your own computer for your blue days. And remember to always follow your heart (I’m following mine into the living room with a mug of hot apple cider and a peach).

My story is still being written…

I sat in the corner of my bedroom and typed furiously on my phone. Facebook was open and I’d scrolled through my list of friends for someone who could help.

“Please can you stay and chat with me until my son gets home?” I begged. “He’s due back in a half an hour but I can’t stop thinking about jumping off the balcony and I don’t think I’ll make it until he gets here without someone to talk to.”

And she did. She stayed on and chatted about inconsequential things until Colin came bounding back in the door from youth group. I really don’t think I would be here if it wasn’t for her. And I would have missed so much.

Today is World Suicide Prevention Day, a day meant to remind people that every death was someone who mattered and every life is someone with dreams. We all have a story and, as the 11th Doctor said, we should try to make it a good one. Otherwise it’s our narrative to write.

tattoo2

Many of us need help to keep writing that story. Here, in Canada, we have a variety of services like COPE and CMHA, both of which provide support. Friends and family can be a good support but lots of people struggle with one or both. Social media’s taking over the role of friendship. This makes for easy communication but it also makes for easy breakups, I’ve found that out far more than once. One minute you’re chatting with someone regularly and the next they’ve blocked you over a hamburger. And if those people online are your only friends the breakups can be brutal.

Please, please if you have a friend or family member who is depressed and says they’re suicidal – believe them. It takes a lot to admit that. Please listen to them and understand if they’re really damn silent. It’s hard to talk when you’re depressed. Offer concrete help with no judgement. Depression weighs you down and makes you feel like you’re encased in cement. Imagine cleaning or washing the dishes like that. People can (and do) spend days in their bed or go for weeks without bathing. Someone who’ll pick up the garbage and wash the dishes without asking, “How could you do this to yourself?” make a huge difference. Some easy to eat food can be a help too.

World Suicide Prevention Day should be every day. It’s part of looking out for each other and supporting the people in your life. Help can be as simple as a Facebook message. You can make a difference.

my selfie

Falling into fall…

April was the longest year I’ve ever had. Then May and June gently entered and July and August whizzed by in the blink of an eye. Last month I found a lovely fall pillow at Shoppers Drug Mart (which I didn’t buy at the time then they ran out of stock and finally my Mom picked one up for me in a store three towns over). I also found a gorgeous glass pumpkin dappled with glittery bronze splatters at Winners and this time I bought it right away.

Between those two items I got right into a fall mood and, as soon as September arrived, I dug out my  Rubbermaid tote bin from the storage room in the basement and began swapping my regular decor for my fall decor. The twins were absolutely enthralled. As soon as the bin hit the table they were right up there with it. It became a cycle of them jumping up and me shooing them off only to have them jump right back up again.

My Mom bought me a set of copper butterfly lights which I taped onto the fireplace mantle. They ended up looking amazing with the fall decorations. I’m so happy with how everything turned out. I joined a Dollarama group on Facebook and I’ve seen a couple more items I’d love to have (like those stacked pumpkins and the knit pumpkins) but really I’m happy with what I have.

In some ways I love fall. It’s not too cold and it’s beautiful out, especially once the leaves start turning. Plus Thanksgiving is stuck right in the middle so there’s a good dose of family time. Then Hallowe’en tags along at the end and soon afterwards it’s time to start decorating for Christmas. What I don’t like is how it heralds in winter.

I am not a winter person. I don’t like the cold and I’m not overly fond of the sun setting at 4:30pm. And sidewalks become hard to navigate, especially with a bundle buggy or wagon. I took a wagonful of groceries home last March and it was a nightmare from start to finish. Especially when I got to the second last road to cross and realized the snow plow had gone by and plowed a knee high drift across the curb. I had three 32 tin boxes of cat food, three bags of kitty litter, and an 8kg bag of dry cat food in the wagon along with my food. It was by no means an easy wagon to lift.

But that is months away from now. The sky’s still sunny and the air is fresh and warm. Tomorrow I’m having a picnic with my parents and Colin and tonight I’m going to turn on my butterfly lights and sip a mug of hot apple cider. The best is yet to come.

fall decor

Pretty much all my decorations

fireplace mantle

Memory holes…

“I don’t think I signed a lease,” I informed one of my caseworkers.
“Don’t worry,” she reassured me. “Everyone signed a lease.”
“Do you know for sure that I signed one?”
“Definitely,” came the reply. “I was there. You arrived with your Mom and your cats in cages then you put the cats in the bathroom and came downstairs and signed the lease.”

so much to unpack1That sounded like something I’d do. There was just one thing. I didn’t remember it at all. I don’t remember most of the day I moved. I don’t remember leaving my old apartment, what size the moving truck was, what the new apartment was like… it’s all a big blank. There’s only two things I vaguely remember; asking an unknown number of movers to leave the boxes in the middle of the room and coming back from somewhere with my Mom to find that my bed had arrived and the caseworkers had made it in brand new bedding. Those are also the only two pictures I took of the move.

I had a similar conversation with my friend S. We were walking back to our building after an evening walk and talking about adding each other on Facebook, even though she’s not on very often.

“I just want to give you a head’s up that I post a lot of LGBTQIA stuff on my page,” I warned. Which is kind of true. I haven’t been posting as much lately. Most goes onto my blog’s page.
“I literally do not know what that means,” she replied, “but I can guess. I know you’re into that, well, lesbian and gay stuff. You told me on our first walk.”
“I did?” I asked in bewilderment. I had no recollection of that conversation at all.
“I’m a panromantic asexual,” I continued, just in case that never got covered.
“I remember you saying that!” she said with a grin.
Welp I definitely had that conversation.

It is extremely disconcerting to forget something so deeply that no amount of prodding or reminders brings it back. It’s like a hole deep in my brain. I forget things so much already. I can be totally involved in a phone conversation, both listening and talking, and forget the whole thing as soon as I hang up. The same thing happens to my dreams; I wake up and they’re gone. I put everything down in my calendar and check it every single day (sometimes twice a day). And when I read a book, I read it twice. Simply because I discover all sorts of things I never noticed (or remembered) the first time around. All those things are annoyances. Forgetting beyond recovery is scary.

My family has a strong history of dementia, which is something I really hope to avoid, and my memory issues aren’t helping my worries. It doesn’t help that I’m currently without a family doctor. My old doctor retired and no one around here’s accepting new patients. Hopefully I’ll find one soon. Then I’ll have to write a list of concerns to tell them because otherwise I’ll forget.

No use crying over spilled salt…

I bought a bouquet of sunflowers last week and my twin cats immediately started acting like they were at an all you can eat buffet (don’t worry they’re completely safe for cats). I’ve been shooing cats off the table several times a day and I know they’re up there at night because there’s a layer of white fur across the table when I get up each morning. My “no getting on the table” has turned into “no getting on the table while I can see you”.

no more salt shaker

Who me?

I was sitting in my swing chair this morning when I heard Lara jump onto the table. I got up and went over to shoo her off, only to have her scurry around the table, mere centimetres ahead of me. I finally caught her then she slipped and kicked out, knocking over my salt shaker… which immediately tumbled to the floor and broke.

Of course cats and kids have one similarity. Immediately both Lara and her sister were in the salt and sniffing at broken ceramics. And, as with kids, there was no point in getting angry. So I signed with disappointment, moved them away from the sharp edges, and swept everything up.

It’s all a matter of patience. I’ll admit that I don’t always have an abundance of it, especially online. It’s something I’m working on. I can get quite sarcastic. When Colin was little he’d often ask, “Are you being scartastic Mommy?” and often I was. Both my kids are fluent in sarcasm now.

I’ve been doing well with patience in real life, it’s online that’s more difficult. I have a tendency to side with the underdog and when I see someone treating another person badly I step in and react. Of course the kind of person who attacks strangers isn’t the kind of person who backs down from an argument so then I’m embroiled in an online battle with someone I don’t even know. I envy the people who manage to waltz in, have their say, and head out without starting WW3. I don’t yet have that talent. Hopefully someday.

I have a high maintenance friend who is really teaching me patience. In some ways she’s amazing. She’s taken me grocery shopping and stopped off at stores so I could run in and pick up something. In other ways… not so much. Last week we went to a farmer’s stand. We pulled into the parking lot and she stopped while reaching for her mask.

“Oh!” she exclaimed. “No one’s wearing a mask.”

I looked and, yep. There were two employees and two customers, all of whom were maskless and they were all within six feet of each other.

“I guess I don’t need mine then,” she continued as she got out of the van.

I got on my mask and hung back a bit while she got in that six foot radius with everyone else. The other two customers left and I went forward and checked the ingredients on a clamshell container of blueberry tarts. Sadly they had both milk and eggs so I put the container back and bought the aforementioned sunflowers instead.

We were driving away when she told me to use hand sanitizer. I was going to use hers since she’d gestured to it then remembered I had my own. Then I remembered she didn’t want me using it in her van because the case is glittery. I mentioned that to her and she said to use it anyway, don’t use her container.

She then proceeded to berate me for picking up the clamshell container of tarts. I didn’t know who else had touched it. What if someone had covid? Wasn’t I concerned at all about my health? I should have had the employee read the long list of ingredients out to me. Meanwhile she’d stood maskless within six feet of four other people, none of whom were wearing masks. There were so many sarcastic comments I could have made. I decided none of them were worth it. Light sarcasm, like the kind I used with my kids, is fine for family and close friends. But regular sarcasm? You better brace yourself for ending that relationship if you have one. It’s the bomb of arguments.

All sarcasm aside, in the end I realized I really don’t need a salt shaker. I don’t think I’ve ever used it. Not that Lara did me a favour, it was cute, but it wasn’t anywhere near the end of the world. And while I’m patient with my cats, and hopefully the people around me, I’ll keep on working with my patience online. It won’t be easy but it’ll be worth it.

 

patience

Black Cat Appreciation Day…

Blackie relaxing

She’s so not a help when it comes to making the bed

Yesterday was Black Cat Appreciation Day or, as Blackie knows it, just another day. She got fed her favourite food and had cat treats sprinkled in front of her. She meowed imperiously from the bathroom and got fresh cold water poured into her nowhere near empty bowl. She rolled onto her back and mrowfed for belly rubs. She got her head skritched and her back stroked. When she got sleepy she napped on my bed or the bench. When she got curious she “hid” in the cardboard box or on a kitchen chair. Life’s good for Blackie.

We need to go back to 2007 to when the kids and I had flown to British Columbia for two weeks to celebrate my sister’s wedding and attend my grandfather’s memorial service. It was a wonderful family gathering of almost thirty people and we came home in good spirits to find a rather distraught cat sitter and a skeletal orange tabby.

“He just wouldn’t eat,” she explained, brushing back tears.

I made an emergency trip to the vet where tests showed our cat Pumpkin had cancer. He was euthanized the next day.

Two months later we were ready to welcome a new rescue into our home and knew just where to go. A friend volunteered with an animal rescue that worked out of PetSmart and offered to go in with us. We quickly fell in love with a three year old grey tabby and set to filling out adoption papers. That’s where we ran into problems. We lived in a high rise with a balcony and even though we lived on the third floor, the owner of the shelter was positive he was going to get out, leap over the chest high concrete wall and plummet to his death. She eventually turned us down.

So we went to the Humane Society. I told the volunteer that we wanted an older cat and she started leading us to the back past all the younger cats. Kait and Colin immediately pointed out a young kitten named Pete. I immediately pointed out that his eyes were both crusty and weeping. That sounded unnecessarily expensive to me.

The lady was waiting for us by the older cats when Kait said, “Mom! Look! This cat’s licking me!”

She giggled as I turned to look at an adolescent cat cheerfully licking Kait’s fingers. Kait bent down and the cat licked her nose. More giggles ensued.

The volunteer started walking toward us. “The older cats are all down there,” she said with a touch of impatience in her voice. She looked over at the cat we were clustered around and the impatience disappeared.

“Oh! You’re looking at one of our black cats! Let me get her out for you! Her name’s Blackie and she’s nine months old. She’s had all her shots and is spayed…”

She continued her speil while we oohed and aahed over the kitten. Soon the paperwork was signed, the fees were paid, and she was ours. We already had Angel at that point and the two of them settled in well together, they still get along.

That was a long time ago. Blackie’s going to be 14 years old in December. We picked Christmas Eve to be her birthday figuring that Christmas Day would be too busy. She’s lived in three different apartments and has had two health scares. One turned out to be her teeth and the other is a mystery, she just stopped eating for several weeks. She’s going a bit senile and sometimes misjudges the edge of the litter box and pees on the floor but otherwise she’s fine.

She has brought me so much joy and companionship over the last 13 years. I hope we have many more years together! You’re amazing Blackie Boo!

Blackie and Lara

Blackie and Lara

 

Is it a good fit?

Back in June I asked my psychiatrist if I could have a referral to a therapist and he immediately obliged. Thankfully the therapist took on my case and we had our first phone appointment in early July, a case history. He set the next appointment for exactly a month away and then I was left hanging with nothing to work on.

The month went by and I finally had my next appointment. The therapist was all set to work on my agoraphobia and anxiety until I told him that I’d come to the realization that I hate myself and he focused on that instead. I figured he’d want to try and figure out where the hatred was coming from and work on getting me to think more positively about myself. But no. Instead he wants me to make a whole new self, one that I’ll like, built on the carcass of the old me. I’m still not wrapping my head around this.

He continued on by telling me I should have no close friends at all, that ideally I should aim for 14 or 15 superficial friends. That people prefer pleasure and push away pain and, when you have close friends you talk about deep subjects that can make people uncomfortable… which makes them push you away. But with superficial friends you only talk about light things, like the weather, so the topic never gets deep or painful.

My whole being shudders away from this. I don’t mention it often but I’m demi romantic, closer to aromantic than asexual. I crave deep friendships and I can’t have a romantic relationship without having a deep relationship first. No deep friendships means no relationships ever.

And then he gave me an appointment two months away with nothing to work on except to write and make superficial friends. What am I supposed to do? Chat up the cashier? So I’ve got until the end of September to figure out what to say to him. Hopefully we can figure something out that will work better for me.

smudge2

My cat Smudge being cute and nibbling on my sunflowers

No. Just plain no…

I started shopping at Dollarama before Colin was in school and got a job there, which people joked was simply a way to fuel my shopping addiction. I certainly went home with at least one bag of purchases after every shift. The love affair has slowed down but hasn’t gone. I still shop there once or twice a month.

dollarama self checkout

I forgot to take a picture and pulled this off the internet

I was at our local shopping centre on Friday to meet with friends and buy my bus pass and decided to stop in at the Dollarama there. Thankfully it wasn’t busy and I quickly had an armload of goodies to buy (and of course I didn’t have a basket because I only went in for two things). I got to the front of the line then turned automatically to the cash counter and all the registers were quiet, there were no cashiers at all. What? Then a store employee caught my attention and directed me to a bank of self serve cash registers.

I stood there for a moment. I don’t like those machines and usually refuse to use them but I had that armload of goodies and there was already a line behind me. So I used the machine and left but I’m not going back to that location. So far there’s still cashiers at my current location but, then again, there was at the shopping centre last month. If they switch to only self serve, I’m not shopping there either. If they all switch over then, well, I’ll miss Dollarama but c’est la vie.

I remember in the 90’s, going to the bank and standing in the line for what felt like forever. Then they brought out automatic tellers and suddenly you could take out your money in a matter of minutes. Then came debit and you didn’t even need to take money out. And now tellers, which used to be a stable job, are becoming a thing of the past. I can see the same thing happening with cashiers. Why hire four employees to staff your cash registers when you can hire just one to supervise people at the self serve checkouts? That’s three wages you don’t have to pay.

Loblaws isn’t that bad but Walmart routinely tries to encourage me into their self service area. First by getting rid of their express lanes, they’re now a second self serve area, and second by having people urge me to go there. I always politely refuse. I saw a joke earlier with the tagline of, “No thanks, I don’t work here”. Maybe someday I’ll use that.

We’ve lost so many jobs already through cheaper wages overseas, automation, obsolescence, and computerization. We don’t need to let retail jobs slip away too. So many people’s jobs are at stake and all because of those tiny, little machines.