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