Saturday, 27 December 2014

Sharks in Pools: Who's Crazy Now?

Okay okay okay. So I had to share this with you all. Because us anxiety disorder sufferers spend so much of our time feeling like nutbars, and yes we can be...but sometimes we're not.

Last month I wrote a post here about how my brain tries to convince me there's going to be a shark in the swimming pool when I go to the gym. I wrote about telling myself how insane that was, and trying to get over the fear. And then yesterday, THIS popped up on my facebook newsfeed:



It's like the time I saw a psychologist for a while to talk about my phobias, and I told her at the start of the sessions that I was pretty sure spiders are literally out to get me and she told me I was being irrational...but then, in our last session, after hearing all about my encounters with them, she said (I kid you not): "You know, Jordan, you may actually be right that these spiders are out to get you." She wasn't even kidding.

Sometimes we're crazies, yes; but sometimes we're just way ahead of the curve.

Friday, 19 December 2014

This Christmas Isn't Even About the Giving.


Usually for me, I think Christmas is all about the gift-giving, because I love giving gifts.

Not this year. This year, it's all about what I've received.

Christmas stands as a marker of the passage of time. It's like a cairn in the great journey, and it reorients me to where I am--both in time and space. Each Christmas season I reflect on the twelve months that have passed, and this year, I'm overwhelmed by the people.

There are the rotten ones, the ones that I've weeded out. I found a quote last January that read, "Let go of what doesn't grow", and I spent this year trying to do just that. That means I let go of some people, gently and with great care. At the time I often felt miserable about these partings, but now I see what's managed to grow in the spaces these people were previously occupying...and strangely, I now feel gratitude for those who were weeded out. Thank you for saving that space for the next thing; thank you for going away when it was time.

There are the wonderful people in much greater numbers, though. Old friends who I've reconnected with, and old friends who I've barely seen, but who I love to have as friends even at a distance. New friends who have become permanent fixtures in my life, bringing with them fresh new joys never before experienced. And new loves, bringing with them all the heartrending treats and tribulations, the sweet stinging pain of human affection.

I have been gifted this year with support at home from my best friend, MJ. I count myself blessed to have someone I love so much be so close at hand.

My work has been made more rewarding by the friendship and mentorship of my business partner, someone I so much enjoy working with--but probably even more enjoy making laugh.

My dog trainer, who has become a cherished friend and has quickly become one of the first people I think of when I need to ask myself, "What would someone wiser than me do in this situation?"

My CapitalGeekGirls.com co-editor, Pepper, who has no earthly idea how much I appreciate her for her skill and her patience.

My boss at the school where I teach, who has helped me realize my dream of teaching and who is so marvelously supportive and encouraging.

There are so many more, some of whom have touched my life in such personal ways that I can't bring myself to explain them here.

This year Christmas isn't about the gift-giving for me, because there is absolutely no way I can possibly express my admiration, adoration, and gratitude to my people. It's overwhelming. I've faced some serious trials of late, but all these wondrous people have softened the blows and sweetened the victories. I cannot possibly say 'thank you' with little things wrapped in paper. There is nothing on earth I can give them that would equate to the gifts they give me. I am in awe.

I feel like I got to open new presents every day this year, all of them on two legs. Oh, and sometimes four...can't forget the pup.

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Best of: Crafty Geeky Christmas on Girl, Crafted. Stockings!

I love making stuff by hand for Christmas, especially when people have very particular tastes that cannot be satisfied by store-bought, mass-produced things. A couple Christmases ago, I shared this DIY geeky stocking tutorial when I made three stockings for three special friends. I thought you should know that I, too, go back and revisit my old posts, use the tutorials, follow the recipes, etc. So this year for a new friend who also didn't have a stocking (poor deprived children!), I made a very special archery-themed one.


This is much less sparkly and colourful than my personal taste. It's quiet understated for a holiday decoration. BUT, it is perfect for the recipient, and indeed when I asked him if I could add just a little glitter, he gave me an emphatic 'NO'. So he can keep his understated stocking as-is, which is still pretty great quite frankly.


If you'd like to try your hand at a stocking, here's the original tutorial. Once you've got the basic jist, you can make any type of stocking you might want. And these actually make great Christmas gifts, because you can personalize them so much and they'll be using them year after year.

Fifteen days 'til Christmas...keep calm and craft on!

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Be Broken. Be Open. Be Okay with Chaos.

I read two really great articles recently that spoke to me, and I think they may speak to you.


The first one was called “Why Lying Broken In a Pile On Your Bedroom Floor is a Good Idea” by JC Peters. The second was a piece called “Time To Get Honest About Being Disabled”, published in Disabled Magazine and written by a man named David A Grant who’s a traumatic brain injury survivor.

These two articles on their own are amazing and powerful, but reading them both in one week has sort of blown my mind.

THE GODDESS WHO'S ALWAYS BROKEN

Julie Peters explains in her article that there’s a goddess named Akhilanda, whose name basically means “Never Not Broken”. Peters (and Akhi herself) sort of suggest the idea that being broken is part of growth, part of change; so instead of looking at ourselves and saying, “Whyyyy am I so broken? I suck because I’m broken,” we can say, “I am broken because I am growing.”

I am broken because that’s how things grow. So being broken (physically or mentally, whatever you’re dealing with) isn’t weakness, and it’s not the endgame; it’s the start of the new you. And if you’re like me and you crave constant growth, then you’ve got to expect—and embrace—constant breakage. I come undone because I am always undone. I am never finished. I am an agent of change.

THE WASTEFUL PURSUIT OF PERCEIVED PERFECTION


This obviously paired really beautifully with Grant’s article, which talked about how much time we all spend trying to appear ‘normal’ or ‘healthy’. God, we expend a lot of energy trying to pretend we’re OK. And for what? Grant points out that those of us with invisible ‘broken parts’ can become isolated by our own perfect acting. Instead of burning ourselves out pretending we’re fine, why can’t we just accept ourselves as imperfect creatures? If we all did this, unabashedly and with a sense of pride for our individualized strengths, wouldn’t we find out that normal isn’t the norm at all?

CHAOS IS A FRIEND OF MINE

I read these two articles the same week that I saw Bob, my psycho-spiritual mechanic (my counsellor, in layman’s terms) and he suggested that I need to start working on better embracing chaos when it hits. I’m not a chaos fan. I like things to fit neatly into little boxes, to start when they’re supposed to start and end when they’re supposed to end. I like things quiet unless it’s an orderly noise. I like it when the dog stops shedding for the season. I like it when my house is clean.

This week I stopped trying to keep away the chaos. I started by giving up on my house cleaning. I never really get on top of it anyway, what with teaching and running a start-up company; why stress about what I can’t currently control anyway? That drove me a bit batty, but I managed and I figured that would be what I told Bob I did this week—yay, me. Instead, the goddess Akhilanda decided I needed to be pushed a little further. So on Wednesday morning my car wouldn’t start, and after four days of driving around a loaner while we diagnosed the problem, the loaner blew a tire, leaving me stranded in a Chapters parking lot.

LEARNING GAINS MOMENTUM 

It’s a funny thing, personal growth. When you decide to start down a road of self-discovery and self-acceptance, momentum can start to pick up. One learning opportunity after another will start to happen, sometimes faster and faster until you can’t tell where one ends and the next begins. As I stood beside my loaner car waiting for help, I called MJ and laughed with all my heart at the ridiculous chaos of my life. I didn’t freak out. I just laughed, bought myself a banana loaf inside, and waited for help.

So I guess, if I package up all my learning this week for you to also benefit from, I’d have to say this to you:
Be forever broken.
Embrace it, inside and out.
And don’t fear the chaos, because it’s part of the eternal breaking/mending cycle.


Two days later, my car is fixed, I’ve scored some major victories in my work, and I’m sitting in my chair now, listening to MJ sing as she bakes while Corben sheds relentlessly all over my feet and my unwashed hardwood floors. And I’m pretty content, actually.

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Some Tuesdays are Mondays.

Tuesday went like this.

I got up at 5:30am.

I fought with the doors on my car that had frozen shut, then drove past the school I teach at as I forgot where I was going; pulled a U-turn down the street and actually drove to the school instead of past it this time.

Ran with my dog Corben to the building as his feet started burning from salt, and I realized I can't carry him now that he's 53lbs. Taught class. Got call from MJ back at the house: she's ill.

I drove home on class break, made her tea, checked temperature, and gathered crackers. Drove back to school, taught another class with angry students this time (long story). 

Drove to a client's for a troubleshooting thing, then to the grocery store for sick MJ food. Drove home, made MJ sweet potato slices in the oven (a compromise, as she wanted tater tots DESPITE STOMACH FLU).

Found that dog had dragged the mug we use to scoop sidewalk sand into the house and onto my bed, where the snow it contained had melted.

I put dog outside for a pee, then brought him in even though he brought a big rock into the house to chew on. Took rock away from dog, discovered rock was actually his own frozen poop. Cleaned hands, floor, etc.

Took dog to THREE PET STORES looking for boots, found nothing his size. Came home, sat down for the first time in 14 hours.

Ate leftovers, stared blankly at my to-do list until bedtime while watching MJ scroll through thinkgeek.com. Eventually dragged yoga mat into her room so I could try stretching out my screaming sore back.

So yeah, pretty normal day.

Friday, 14 November 2014

Only Good Girls Keep Diaries

I haven't been blogging. There's a couple reasons for this.

ONE: I'M SO STRESSED I'M SEEING SHARKS.

One: I'm so overworked that I can barely remember how to put on pants. I'm not joking. The other morning I went out for a smoke and instead stuck my pen in my mouth, and it took me several minutes to realize it wasn't a cigarette.
credit: morguefile

When I get stressed, I sleep poorly, and when I sleep poorly, my nerves get shot, and then my imagination takes off, and then I'm doomed. I went for a swim last week and midway through, I had the pool to myself. This should have been nice but instead my imagination said, "Hey...what if there's a shark in here?" This is something my head used to whisper to me when I was a kid at the lake, and it boggles my mind that it still whispers this today when I'm an adult--an adult swimming in a pool. Yes, it's a saltwater pool; no, I don't think it can sustain marine life. I asked my head, Why are you doing this? How the hell do you think a shark would get in here? And my head said, Someone brought it in.

After a moment of stunned silence, I said, Are you seriously suggesting that some nutjob somehow,
a. Acquired a live shark large enough to eat a human,
b. Figured out a way to safely transport this six-foot fanged monster to the gym,
c. Slipped the shark past security,
d. Somehow grabbed the shark around its middle, heaved the thousand-pound, toothy beast along the pool deck, then slipped it into the water, where it has managed to hide, somehow camouflaged into the light-blue paint, waiting for ME to get into the water so it could eat me?

My head seemed to ponder the mental image I had created, then said, I'm not suggesting, exactly. I'm just wondering.

My swim was completely ruined. Other people fear monsters in the basement. My imagination eschews the dark and silent spaces, and instead injects nightmares into brightly-lit public pools where pop music blares over the speakers.

TWO: PRIVACY MATTERS.

My second reason for not blogging lately is that some things are developing. My love life, for one. I've surmised that I'm loathe to share this with the great invisible public because sharing such intimate details in the past has been hard. When my first blog, the wedding blog, went viral, it was weird for me. Well, beyond weird. Being recognized on the street can be cool but also uncomfortable. When my marriage ended, I faced not only the usual judgement that all failing couples deal with from friends and family, but also the judgement of anonymous strangers from all corners of the world. There are literally message boards discussing my divorce. After my boyfriend Alan and I broke up, I tried to keep that really quiet, but I felt critical eyes on me again, made more painful because I now had had two breakups from two different relationships that I'd felt confident were 'the one'(s).

I know, internally, that these things happen. It takes time to find a permanent mate, and maybe some of us never do. I also know that if you follow any thirty-something bloggess for 5+ years (as you may have done with me), relationship starts and stops will be part of the narrative. But for a short time here, I have been silent on my blog because I needed a break. I needed some time for this new relationship to grow some roots and take hold. And I needed that relationship to be made up of just two people, not two people + the peanut gallery. I also know, though, that being a writer means writing from the heart. It's a double-edged sword, this burning compulsion to narrate life.

THE REST OF MY REASONS: 

Oh, and reasons 3, 4, 5 for not blogging lately:
-My career is going through a growth-spurt that has me up at 5:30am and in bed at midnight;
-My dog training is in its final stages and requires a great deal of time and energy;
-I've been out living life rather than writing about it.

There's a quote: "Only good girls keep diaries. Bad girls don't have the time." That's basically me right now, except not so much 'Sex & the City' and more, 'Liz Lemon in 30 Rock'.



Monday, 20 October 2014

Pumpkin Tutorial: Mini Pumpkin Vampires

PUMPKIN VAMPIRES--NOT THE SPARKLE-IN-THE-DAYLIGHT KIND

We went a little nuts this season and bought a half-dozen giant orange pumpkins, which are sitting on my doorstep and generally crowding out anyone trying to get into my house. But aside from that, we also found a bag of tiny white pumpkins, and I wanted to do something special with them. So here's my tutorial, so that you, too, can have some dashing pumpkin vampires outside your home this Hallowe'en. And remember: size matters not. If you have enough felt, you can make these fellas out of big pumpkins, too.

WHAT YOU'LL NEED:
White pumpkins (small or medium likely best)
Small silver pins
Sewing pins with heads
Beads
Embroidery floss
Felt (black used here)
Hot glue gun
Carrots, other accessories as desired

WHAT YOU'LL DO:

1. STACK AND MAKE A HAT.
Loosely stack your pumpkins so you know which one will be on top, then make a hat out of felt. It's easy: cut a circle for the base. Then cut a long rectangle to make a cylinder. Glue the cyclinder shut, then glue the cyclinder to the base, which is now the brim. Glue another small square on the top to close up the hat, then trim off the excess so it's round on top, too.



















2. PUT ON EYES.
I used some beads, which I poked into place with those sewing pins with heads on them. You could try another method but I'm cautious with adhesives on something that is going to get wet and slimy and frosty.
3. NOSE AND A SMILE.
I chose to make my nose out of a carrot, which I know is a bit like a snowman, but originally I'd WANTED snowmen, and anyway they're cute. I cut down some baby carrots and held them in place with more of the tiny silver pins.

The smile, I did with hot glue and a piece of embroidery thread. You can improvise here, as well. Little silver felt teeth were added; you can make teeth of whatever you have around. Maybe candy corn pinned into place?


4. PIN YOUR PUMPKIN TOGETHER.
This is a frustrating step. I didn't want to use glue in case the temperature changes outside made it break apart, so I used sewing pins of various types to stab the pumpkins into each other. You could use nails or screws with bigger pumpkins. I did six or more pins around each pumpkin connection point.


5. MAKE A CAPE.
I actually ran out of felt, so I had to cut up an old fine-knit sweater for our capes. But it would have been easier with felt. If you're using fabric, the top stand-up part of the cape (the tall 'lapels', if you will) will need to be backed with someone stiff to make them stand up. I used scraps of felt, and glue gunned them into place.

The capes are basically a triangle but instead of getting pointy at the top, they widen out again into another rectangle shape, depending on how you think about it.

That's the top part of the cape: the rectangle will create the tall lapels
and the felt piece there will keep it stiff.
At this point I took another piece of embroidery thread and tied the cape around the pumpkin dude's neck.


Then I added a bit of glue to the cape around the head area to keep it in place.

YOU'RE DONE. ENJOY.


Your pumpkin vampires are now ready for a night on the town! They're cute and also creepy, which is a bonus.
Remember to be creative. You can add and take away as you please!
If you make your own, share it on my facebook page or tweet me on twitter! I wanna see!

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Mental Health Advice: Not for the rookies.

FIVE WAYS TO TAKE YOUR MENTAL HEALTH TO THE NEXT LEVEL

It's Mental Health Awareness Week. You're likely going to see lots of posts talking about things you can do to take care of yourself, and for those of you who were already practicing a lot of this stuff, these advice articles will feel redundant or much too basic. Let me give some suggestions for the 'advanced' class out there. Here are some things you can do, after you've done the usual bubble bath and annual physical, that may really make a positive impact on your mental health.

1. START A NEW RELATIONSHIP WITH A NEW COUNSELLOR.
Haven't seen a counsellor in a while? Or maybe you've been seeing the same one for a long time, and you find yourself wondering what else is out there? Go find out. Having a counsellor is a type of relationship, and sometimes relationships finish serving their purpose. You've grown, after all; your boyfriend from grade nine wouldn't suit you when you're thirty and likewise, your needs may no longer be met by your original counsellor. Go ahead, take a leap, and try someone new. The best part about counsellors: no messy break-up, just a quick cancellation and you're done. You can just keep moving on to new ones 'til you find one that fits your needs.

2. QUIT YOUR JOB.
Yes, I know; jobs are hard to find and you may be looking at a pay cut here. This isn't something to treat lightly, but likewise, neither is your mental health. I've had loved ones take pay cuts to preserve their wellbeing and none of them have regretted it. That being said, maybe a job change for some of you would actually mean a pay increase; maybe it's time to put your name in for that manager job, or it's finally the right time to start your own business. You could easily move into a job with more responsibilities, risk, or hardship, yet still feel better at the end of each day. It's so important to remember, either way, that your job doesn't define you--but it does occupy a huge amount of your time on earth. Go bigger, or go smaller, but don't stagnate in a job that's ruining your mental health. Take a leap.

3. START SUBTRACTING.
Get rid of shtuff. If you look around your home, chances are there's at least a half-dozen things that you've got on display that are strictly obligation objects: things that were given to you on some occasion that you don't really love. Put them in a box and post them for free on the internet. Now go through your closet and do the same for every piece of clothing that doesn't make you feel like a rock star. Now, junk any jewellery given to you by exes who you don't really like. I'm also adding: there may be people you need to get rid of, too. That's ok, and that can be equally as cathartic.


4. REALIZE THAT YOU DESERVE GOOD THINGS.
This should be a beginner's step, but it's harder than it sounds: you must learn to accept the fact that you deserve good things. Chant it to yourself throughout the day. It is your new mantra. "I deserve good things." Use your mantra as a shield against people trying to dole out crap to you. Use your mantra as a shining star to guide your relationship choices. Use it as your backbone when you need to confront a boss or coworker on jerky behaviour.

5. GO TO BED AND GET OUT OF BED.
There's a particular method to this, and it's meant for those of you who may be going through a rough, stressful, or otherwise difficult time:

a. Go to bed when you don't want to.
Stress will keep you up; likewise being over-booked for things that may even seem to be good for you. The next time you go to sign up for that late-evening spin class, or are trying to finish reading that last textbook chapter, stop yourself and go to bed. You need not just down time, but 'flatline' time, too. Hell, it could be something you do midday: instead of vacuuming while you eat lunch standing up, go lie down on the couch with a blanket, eat your sammie, then close your eyes for twenty minutes.

b. Get out of bed when you don't want to.
When things are really sucking, there will come points where you can practically hear the couch or the bed calling to you. It'd be so much easier, they whisper, just to sleep all afternoon than to deal with that family problem/personal problem/general malaise/frustrating thing. I have had so many of my great successes at times where, five minutes earlier, I had almost given in to the siren call of my pillow. Push yourself just a little bit, to put that depression/sadness/stress behind you, and try for just five minutes more. You may be really surprised by what happens when you do.


I wish you all a wonderful Mental Health Awareness Week. Be kind to one another, and for the love of heaven, be kind to yourself.

Thursday, 18 September 2014

DIY Bunting: Make your own string of pennants

DIY TUTORIAL: MAKE YOUR OWN BUNTING



Have you heard of bunting? I can almost guarantee you've seen it, whether or not you knew what it was called.

Bunting is often thought of as a kid's thing, but I've made it a couple times now for adults and it's always well-received. You can do it up so it matches your decor, or fits in a cubicle, or specific to a holiday theme. When a friend of mine was sick this summer and needed a spirit boost, I did up this bunting for her; I just kept wishing I had enough time to also make myself one!

HERE'S HOW TO MAKE YOUR OWN:

YOU WILL NEED:
Fabric (any kind that doesn't fray a lot, if you're going to be doing it the lazy way like I do.)
Felt (enough to back the triangles)
Ribbon 
Sewing machine with needles/thread (or fabric glue for the super lazy way)
Scissors
Felt or another fabric for the letters

STEPS:

1. Cut out your triangles of felt.
I made a template out of cardstock, and traced it onto the felt. 

2. Sew the felt to the fabric.
I do this so that I don't really have to worry about matching up edges or a lot of fraying.

3. Cut out the felt triangles, now attached to the fabric.
This gives you one side felt (for added weight and durability) and one side fabric (for the pretty side!)



4. Sew the whole thing into the ribbon.
Leave lots at the ends for tying up somewhere or for pinning to a wall. Space the triangles out evenly.

5. Cut and sew (or glue) your letters.
My bestie MJ actually did the lettering for this bunting. She cut out stencils by printing a cool font onto paper, then tracing and cutting. We glued the letters down because sewing around letters makes me crazy.



6. Hang and enjoy!


You'll find you have your best success if you keep the letters to 8 or less. Otherwise it can get a little large and unwieldy. 

Choosing coordinating colours can be tricky but it's worth the time to look for the right stuff. For small amounts of fabric (eg for the letters) consider using those squares (sometimes called 'fat squares') meant for quilting.

Have fun with it! There's no point in making crafts that make you miserable while you make them. Especially if it's a gift: gifts should come from a place of happiness and love. So don't stress about it too much, and just enjoy the process! Throw on some tunes or a Gilmore Girls rerun, and zen out with glue and scissors.

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Wocky Is Coming

So Wocky is coming today and I had this idea, so I hobbled together an image with an app and some photoshop and I'm pretty freakin' pleased with this:


If you're unfamiliar with Wocky, you have missed one of my best posts of all time, so go read it here.
If you think this is awesome and I should make shirts you can buy to announce the coming of your own monthly Wocky, send me an email (jordandangerwrites@gmail.com) with words of encouragement ("Do it now!!!") or comment on this post.

If you ARE familiar with Wocky, be very very careful around me today.

Monday, 1 September 2014

Quick Pre-School Update

School starts tomorrow. I mean, not for me as a student, but as a teacher. I teach at a college. It's fun. No, it's amazing. I love it. But I'm super nervous because it's the first day of school. My coordinator told me that when you stop being nervous before the first day of school, it's time to stop teaching. So I must be a KICK ASS teacher.

Anyway, when I'm this worked up, my head doesn't operate at the normal rate. It does this thing that reminds me of my dad channel-flipping after dinner before the days of 'menu' buttons: 2.5 seconds on each channel, just enough time to hear a few words and see a few images before going on to the next thing which may be entirely different than the last thing. Observe:

WHAT MY BRAIN IS FLIPPING THROUGH RIGHT NOW

I keep doing a load of laundry but then forgetting to move it to the dryer. When will they invent a washer/dryer combo?

I want to play Call of Duty. How can I get enough work done today to play--no. Not happening.

Oooh, I have vegan cheesey popcorn. It's all the way across the room. K, nevermind, focus.

I am SO TIRED of watching Happy Endings repeats but I refuse to let myself watch something actually new or interesting 'til I'm totally ready for class tomorrow. This may be a permanent state of purgatory.

I have someone on my mind a lot lately. Someone cool I met. I keep doing stupid things, like shaving only one leg in the shower, or missing my highway exit. I tried to write out my thoughts on this person in my journal; while I'm usually a colourful and insightful writer, that page reads like a sixteen year-old's diary. I definitely used the words 'hot' and 'cool' way too many times and never as they were originally defined.

I really need new glasses.

I want a peanut butter and banana sandwich.

Ohhhhh my GAWD, I'm tired of these Happy Endings reruns.

What do I wear to school tomorrow? How do you straddle the line between casual and professional so the students feel you're approachable but also don't mistake you for a fellow student? Also, how do you get yourself to care about this when your first class is at 8 in the morning?

Nevermind. The phone has rung. It's that person. Yep. All thought stops here. :)

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Random Update: My Week In Snippets

I have been really busy this week, because I launched my own business (yep, I grab life by the balls, people), and I've been doing miserable things like getting cavities filled (though most of my time was spent sitting and waiting for the freezing to work while my hygienist and I discussed online dating forums), and in the middle I've been trying to actually get out of the house a little. So I haven't had time to formulate some big clever post this week, nor have I had time to post some awesome recipes and DIY stuff I've been doing. It'll come, don't worry. In the meantime, here's a very short summary of what has been happening.

LAUNCHING MY BUSINESS: 

I took a big leap and started my own marketing firm. I was already working freelance, but I wanted to take things to the next level and really brand it. It's freakin' scary, but I love what I do and I prefer to do it on my own terms. This way I never end up marketing Nesquik or Axe body spray or anything else that makes me feel dirty. I celebrated the launch of my business by promptly losing my day planner, which is still MIA as it flew off the roof of my car. I spent the next two days curled up in a ball while I tried to remember all my appointments and notes. I recommend you, too, reach for the stars and go for that dream career that you've always wanted, no matter how scared you are...but I recommend you find a different way to mark the occasion.

MJ MOVED IN:
My best friend MJ moved in with me a couple months ago. I didn't really mention that yet, because I wasn't sure what to say other than, "YAYYYYYYY". Not every pair of friends should live together, but MJ and I have a history and lived together for four years previously, so now, in our 11th year of knowing each other, we felt pretty confident in our decision to be roomies. I don't know exactly how she's feeling about it, but I can tell you that *I* am thrilled. For one thing, I feel less likely to develop a brain tumor from holding the phone to my head for 2+ hours a day while talking to her. Also, we can do little chats throughout the day rather than one long one...it's like Stadtler and Waldorf shorts on The Muppet Show, in their balcony, laughing at their own jokes. But today especially felt like a day where I could say, "Yeah, I'm living with the right person," because she left me this note in the morning:



Only a best friend would know exactly how to make me laugh first thing in the morning like that.

CORBEN TAKES THE TRAIN, AND A BUS: 

Corben's training continues and is getting more interesting as his age/brain increases. Last week we took him on a steam train at the museum to teach him about trains. Not, like, to teach him about trains, because I'm telling you, this dog has no interest in book learning, despite my repeated attempts to make him watch shark documentaries with me. Anyway, he had to learn how to cope with train travel and this was a great way to do it. Despite hundreds of screaming children and a wasp that flew in the train car, he handled it like a pro. So the next step is a public bus, and we went through the rigmarole of getting him recognized by the bus service, and now--no joke--Corben has his own photo ID for the bus. Yes, I'm in it, but I think I'm pretty much just there to hold him up to the camera.

ONLINE DATING SUCKS, MOSTLY:
I've been doing the online dating thing for a few months now. I started out, not to actually talk to anyone, but because I'm an A-type organization freak. So while I was lying there in bed one day, pitying myself because I was pretty sure I'm never going to find someone I want to date again, I decided to see if that was empirically accurate. Dating sites allow you to screen people based on their gender, age, financial bracket, education level, desire for children, etc etc etc. So as cold-hearted-Vulcan as it makes me sound, I went on and selected all my best case scenario choices for a mate, I found that yes, there are still some eligible mates in the world. The rest of the screening is left up to the individual, of course. If you're considering trying it out, may I suggest the following additional screening methods:

1. If they message you with, "Hey Baby/Cutie/Sexy", don't bother messaging them back.
2. If they have pictures of themselves shirtless, when not on a beach, don't bother messaging them back.
3. If they don't have a picture of their face, and you're not interested in participating in a round of infidelity, don't message them back.
4. If they fail to use punctuation or spell check, don't bother messaging them back. Unless you're one of those people, too. In that case, I'm glad you found each other.

I may do a longer post on this topic at some point.

WISDOM FOR THE WEEK:
In dating, business, or life in general: if you are unsure if you're good enough, smart enough, or cool enough, just fake it 'til you make it. You'll get there. Here, a song for us self-effacing fake-it-til-we-make-its:


Monday, 11 August 2014

For Ottawa fans: help me find my planner, please!

Hey ya'll.

I have a little request for you guys. On Friday last week I lost my agenda book off the hood of my car. We were shopping at Bayshore Mall and when we left, I totally left my iPad and my planner on the roof. The iPad stuck to the roof until someone finally honked at us, but the planner was gone. Thing is, that planner has a lot of my recorded notes on things that are irrelevant to everyone else, but really crucial for me, like Corben's training practices. If you know anyone who might have seen it, or maybe if you have it and didn't know my contact info is in the front, PLEASE help.



Our travel path was: third floor of Bayshore parking lot, then out onto Bayshore Dr, then right onto Carling Ave past the Coliseum, then right again onto Pinecrest/Greenbank. We stopped to rescue the iPad at the corner of Carling and Richmond, so it fell off somewhere before there.

If you have any ideas ("I saw a man wearing a green planner as a rain hat", for example), please email me at jordandangerwrites (at) gmail (dot) com.

Thanks, friends.

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Learning to Listen to Your Body: a rather candid story

My uterus is a badger. If you missed that post,
go read it. You won't regret it.
I started pelvic floor physio this week. You may be wondering, 'What the hell is pelvic floor physio?' and if you've ever been to a typical physiotherapy clinic, you're probably trying to picture what that would look like. Would there be people doing supervised kegels beside the guy with the bum knee who's stepping on and off that fake staircase? Women throwing medicine balls back and forth using nothing but their thighs and groin muscles? Well, maybe that's just my imagination. Nevermind.

It's nothing like that, of course. It's private, for one; a small, quiet exam room and a typical medical bed. There are a hundred reasons for pelvic floor physio for both men and women: tailbone pain, groin pain, injury or surgery recovery, post natal scary stuff, trauma healing...you name it. My reason is tied to my endometriosis, which I've talked about before, but in a nutshell I'll just say that my body has learned that life=pain, so my insides are in a constant charlie horse and we're teaching it to relax.

Naturally, the best way to teach your body to relax is to enter an exam room and take off your pants, right?

I'm sharing this rather personal story because this is a therapy that I've put off for years, figuring that it would be uncomfortable and awkward and possibly painful. Occasionally though, I like to share an anecdote in the hopes that it'll help other people to be brave. Well, this is for you would-be brave people.

THE BEGINNING

My therapist has pink hair and is about my age. She made me laugh almost right away, and more importantly, she laughed at all my jokes. This is the first step to making Jordan feel totally relaxed. I felt like this was someone who would totally 'get' my lady garden experience, unlike so many old men gynecologists who looked pale if I mentioned words like "labia" or "cervical mucus"; I swear, some doctors really seem more comfortable when women just use words like "down there" and "inside area".

THE QUESTIONS

She then asked me a bunch of medical questions, which I usually find stressful. But the cool thing was that a lot of these questions were ones I'd never been asked before; they were relevant to me and my symptoms. Some of these symptoms were things that other doctors had shrugged off long ago. For instance, did you know that if your insides are really really cramped up, you can experience nerve-like tingling in your thighs? Well, I know that now--and consequently, my odd tingling thighs are no longer a medical mystery. Unless you've experienced enigmatic medical symptoms, I don't think you can fully appreciate the overwhelming joy that comes from hearing someone tell you they understand why you feel that symptom, and how it works. The reassurance this gave me served to relax me further as I felt like I'd finally found somewhere that could help me.

THE PART WHERE THEY TOUCH YOU

The next step was an exam, and this meant taking off my lower-half clothing and exposing my lady parts. Male and female readers alike are probably used to exams by doctors that typically take about nine seconds: the doctor comes in, puts on a glove, pokes at an orifice, then pirouettes away from you like they're about to sneeze. I always thought the wham-bam-thank you-ma'am approach was best; I certainly have never desired to have any of my doctors lingering around down there. No, not even the cute ones, because no one looks good in flourescent lights and that includes my underparts, god love her.

Well, there's no zipping in and out in this physio exam. My therapist had me lay back on the table and asked me if I was anxious. I was. She said, "Okay, no problem. We'll just sit here 'til you get bored." And she did. She just sat calmly between my knees, quietly waiting. I felt like my therapist and my vajayjay were silently communing with one another. Vajayjay, meet Therapist. Therapist, meet Vajayjay. I pictured them both just staring at each other. I, myself, felt like an awkward third wheel: a bystander who is keenly aware of a nonverbal exchange happening between two other people. I almost started whistling tunelessly and staring at the ceiling.

Even Wonderwoman isn't on pointe
every minute of every day.
The approach worked, though. My therapist stopped and quietly waited anytime my body got tense. What takes most gynos a brisk ten seconds took us about twenty minutes. It was unnerving and wonderful at the same time. Instead of being more uncomfortable, this extended exam was the least painful thing I've ever experienced at a doctor's office. I've had more discomfort from a tongue depressor while checking for strep throat.

THE AMAZING THING ABOUT TAKING YOUR TIME

The whole thing reminded me that we all need to have patience with our bodies. We're not all Nike commercial athletes, with muscles that spring into perfect coordinated action with the shot of a starter pistol. Hell, even the Nike athletes' bodies aren't like that all the time. Our bodies aren't always up for stress, or sex, or running, or gardening, or handling that meatlover's pizza. Our bodies, inside and out, need to be listened to, and given patience. It reminded me most especially that sometimes I push my body way too hard, on way too little TLC. And what was amazing was that, here in this little room with a pink-haired stranger calmly waiting for my body to make up its own mind, it may have been the first occasion where I ever gave my body time to be itself in its own time.

It was a surreal way to be taught a lesson in mindfulness. Proof that one never knows where one's next revelation will stem from--even making a new acquaintance for your cootch could be a moment of epiphany. At least, in my world it can be.

Sunday, 3 August 2014

Sharing Through Writing: Write What Matters

TO WRITE OR NOT TO WRITE?
Credit: Morguefile

I had a friend (and fellow blogger) recently ask me about writing posts that share personal matters—not the kind where I discuss my menstrual cycle, but the kind where friends or family might be involved. He’s got a potentially emotional story brewing, and I really wanted to think of the right words to encourage him; to reassure him that whatever mild discomfort his family may experience from his story would be far outweighed by the profound affect it would have on his readers.

But I couldn’t say it, because I haven’t followed that philosophy myself.

I have a confession to share with my readers: I’m a liar. Well, if omission is lying. If so, then I’ve definitely sinned.

LEAVING THINGS OUT

In my first blog, which was all about my wedding, I left out many stories about the hellish family feuds that erupted, the troubles with absentee wedding planners, the problems that my fiancĂ© and I were having interpersonally. Likewise with my second blog which spanned the length of my marriage, and the start of a chronic illness which, to this day, I’ve only ever alluded to in my writing. Upon reflection, I think it was personally detrimental to my own processing of these events to keep things so bottled up. When I started Girl, Crafted, I swore that would change. But there were roadblocks.
 
credit: Morguefile
First off, I have chosen to write under my real name. This means that many people who read my blog actually know me and the people in my life. Even with pseudonyms, which I use all the time, those closest to us can likely put the puzzle pieces together.

Secondly, I have a fear of trolls—and that’s reasonable. There are people to this day who enjoy talking about my divorce on certain troll message boards, as if they think I don’t know they’re out there. While I understand and accept that even my tiny sliver of fame naturally comes with gossip and anti-fans, it’s hard on the nerves. Trolls can be exceptionally good at saying the exact things that our own inner critics often whisper to us in our heads.

THE REAL ME

The result, unfortunately, is this: I have people in my life who think, because I don’t blog about my deepest failures, pains, or slights, that they do not exist. Or worse yet, that I’m ignorant of them; that I’m heartless. I also fear that by sharing so little, I paint a rosy picture instead of my very real, and very relatable, human experience.

My recent breakup is a great example. Yes, I wrote a post about it. In an effort to avoid any backlash for my ex, and to avoid anyone feeling like sides needed to be taken, I didn’t blog about my own experiences—not the soul-crushing ones that led to the dissolution of the relationship, and not the anger and pain that came after. In fact, so aware was I that many of the people I talk to every day are readers, I didn’t share these things even in person. I can count on one hand the number of people who know even half of struggles. The result is that I was often labelled as callous or unfeeling; this was exacerbated by the fact that the other side of the story was broadcast loud for all to hear. Which leads to an interesting question: why is it so much worse for a writer to share their true story than it is for an individual who has a large (but face-to-face) audience? Why do we writers of the modern era fear to hit ‘publish’ on that blog post?

I want to set the record straight. My spring breakup was not easy on me. The decision to end things was painful and spanned many months. I sought counselling; I tried wildly diverse tactics and techniques to mitigate the issues we were facing. I had to come to terms with the impending loss of two kids whom I’d come to think of as my proteges. And knowing that I would be too afraid to share any of this, I had to come to terms with the fact that my true grief would never be heard beyond a very small audience—not even my household. In fact, only two people know the story.
credit: Morguefile

BREAKING THE SILENCE

It can be very isolating, writing for the public. But this weekend, for the first time, I wrote a Facebook status that shared a little bit about my breakup pain; while I was terrified to do it, the responses I got were overwhelmingly affectionate.

One in particular, though, changed my entire thinking on my practice of hiding my worse struggles. A dear old friend reach out to me…one who has been a guiding light for me in rough times. She messaged me privately to let me know that she takes strength and courage from my writing—the few stories I do share of my real-life struggles. Instead of seeing me as weak or stupid, she reads these stories and sees my perseverance as a reminder to be strong in her own journey. When I am honest and open with my readers, it turns out I give them so much more than when I slave over DIY instructions and recipe photos. And unlike the unfiltered venting that may happen in a face-to-face wallowing session, we writers tend to word things in a reflective, thoughtful manner that is healthier both for us and for the listener.

So I’m telling you all right now: I was not okay before, during, or for a long time after my breakup. If you are, or have, experienced one of your own, please don’t think for a second that you’re less awesome because you didn’t just jump right back into trying new recipes and painting new antiques, as I seem to have done. I bought a giant stuffed pony and a body pillow because my bed felt empty. A giant stuffed pony at age 32. You are not alone if you are grieving and suffering, even if your circumstances demand that you, too, keep your pain (from whatever kind of loss) hidden. I see you just as you are, and you’re still wonderful.

Even this post will be picked up by the trolls message boards, and there will be those (even friends of mine) who may see this post as self-indulgent or unfair to the people I’ve briefly mentioned here. They’re wrong. When writers share their struggles, even those that involve the people around us in some less-than-discreet way, we are doing something selfless: we are giving of our own journey to support the journeys of others.

So, to my fellow writer, I say please write your post. Hiding your story benefits no one, and beautiful things can happen when we share.





Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Dog Training Done Right: Dogs In Harmony teaches the human and the dog

When I first got my Aussie Shepherd puppy, Corben, we had a week of blissful quiet. He was adorable and confused and shy, and still very young. After that first week, though, he realized that everything the light touched was his…and he became a typical crazy puppy. Well, with the exception that he was startling bright. This meant that he was double trouble.

And so Lynn Hyndman entered my life.

Lynn, who is owner and trainer at Dogs In Harmony here in Ottawa, Ontario, came to visit before Corben even arrived. She helped us puppy-proof the house, prepare a crate, and talk about puppy maintenance. By the time his first training day came around and he was being a nutbar, I was honestly convinced I couldn’t handle this whole puppy thing at all. He wouldn’t listen, wouldn’t sit still, wouldn’t stop chewing things, and wouldn’t stop running around.


Lynn came in, pulled out her bag of tricks, and within ten minutes she had that 10 week-old puppy doing perfect ‘sits’. He was housetrained within a week, and stopped chewing non-toy items within a month. She made it look effortless, the way someone else might tie a shoe or chop a carrot—like it was nothing at all. Indeed, compared to some of the small-brained breeds she undoubtedly works with, Corben was likely a treat to teach.

Lynn has been our constant cheerleader and teacher as Corben has met and exceeded all his basic obedience and manners training, and is now well into his specialized training for his ‘day job’. However, Dogs in Harmony does not usually do the specialty work Corben gets for his job; indeed, you can hire Dogs in Harmony for your own dog anytime, at any age.

Lynn is a Professional Dog Trainer and a member of the Canadian Association for Professional Pet Dog Trainers. You may recognize her from her segments on Rogers Daytime, as well. On top of all this, she volunteers her time with various doggie non-profits, and is a Mentor Trainer for the Animal Behaviour College, testing and training novice dog trainers as well. All these credentials aside, what makes Lynn so incredible is her genuine adoration for her field.

Lynn teaching Corben to ignore
birds and squirrels.

Lynn has a natural way of explaining how a dog works, and this is key in dog training because the majority of the education happens to the owner, not the dog. I haven’t found a behaviour yet that Lynn can’t figure out how to retrain. She’s a steadfast professional, never breaking stride even when Corben does the cutest bad things—though we often laugh about them afterwards. Watching her work is like watching a fish swim: it’s as if she was born with a clicker and a leash in her hand. Lynn focuses her practice on positive, rather than punitive, behaviour correction techniques, and the results are proof-positive that you don’t ever have to whack a dog with a newspaper to stop a troublesome habit. Indeed, she gets much better results by not doing such things.

With Lynn’s guidance, Corben has become the most well-behaved dog I have ever known. And thanks to her help, he’s also one of the happiest, well adjusted dogs, too. I feel like I’ve learned how to communicate with my pup in a way that he understands and appreciates. Everyone leaves a training moment feeling accomplished; it’s like my dog and I are a team, one built on mutual respect and patience. I truly wish I’d met her when I adopted my rescued pug many years back, as I understand now how it’s never too late to teach even an old dog a new trick.
 
Lynn LOVES dogs, and it's apparent in her wonderful
training style.

This is my unsolicited commendation of Dogs in Harmony and Lynn Hyndman’s work. It’s also my very public way of saying thank you to her for all her work, research, and support as I’ve swung from, “Please tell me how to restrain myself from stuffing this puppy in the blender,” to “Okay, this dog is awesome and I can’t wait to see him every morning”. Thank you, Lynn, for your hard work with us. Not a day goes by that I’m not grateful you found your calling.

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Tips For Painting Large Furniture: My Buffet Hutch

TIPS FOR PAINTING LARGE FURNITURE, AS SHOWN ON A BUFFET HUTCH



It’s been a while since we DIY’ed anything here on the Girl, Crafted blog, mostly because I’ve been just painting a lot of furniture and that can get a bit dry (no pun intended). But I finished a really large piece this week and I wanted to share how fabulously well it came out. There are some great tips that came to mind while I worked on it, so I’ll share them here.

SANDING AND PRIMING IS A MUST.

I have two nightstands, circa 1970, that I did not sand before painting. The result is that their wonderful Cozumel blue paint is slowly chipping off. I know sanding sucks. I know you want to skip right to painting, and I know that lots of paints come with built-in primers now. But you will pay for your impatience with touch-up coats. Save yourself the hassle and do a good job sanding and priming to start with.

I used a mouse sander for most of this job. A mouse sander is really cheap (usually under $20.00) and even an urban-raised city slicker like me can use it. Choose a sandpaper that will rough the surface up without actually damaging it. You can ask your local hardware store clerk for help with this. You really just want to create some ‘tooth’—some texture to the surface.

Priming seems tedious, but I can tell you that on this dark piece of furniture, even with primer, I had to apply 3 or 4 coats of every colour.

CHOOSE YOUR FINISH CAREFULLY

Paints come in a range of finishes: eggshell, semi-gloss, high-gloss, etc. The higher the gloss, the better the paint will typically hold up to wiping and use. But the trade-off is that often, the high-gloss paints require more coats to be truly opaque. If this is a problem and you want to use a matte finish paint (for instance, if you grab just the right colour from the mis-tints bin at a discount) be sure to varnish your piece afterwards. There are great water-based varnishes available now.

Also, and this should go without saying: use proper house paint for this kind of work, not craft or artist acrylics. The extra cost will be worth it, and you can find great mis-tints on summer weekends in the hardware store for cheap.



CHECK TWICE

If you’re doing a multi-step piece like this hutch was, be sure to have your drawing or guide picture with you at all times. You do NOT want to paint a section the wrong colour and have to change it afterwards. Chances are, it’ll make that one section look just a tiny bit different in tone or texture.

CHECK THE WEATHER


We did check the weather, and the promised two days of sunshine was a lie. This meant that my hutch got rained on overnight, had to be dried thoroughly, and was dragged by two girls with stick-like arms for the second day where I had to finish it indoors. Be ready for anything if you’re painting outside.

PAINTER’S TAPE IS YOUR BFF, BUT IT’S NOT PERFECT


I used a lot of painter’s tape to keep edges smooth and perfect in sections where two colours join up, but it’s not a perfect system. There is usually some minor bleeding around the edges, especially on a three dimensional piece of furniture. Be ready to wait until all the paint is dry and then use a sponge brush or other high-control brush to carefully touch up the bleeding.

TAKE OFF THE HARDWARE

This is a step I always forget, except this time my best friend stopped by and caught me before it was too late. Sometimes you can’t get the hardware off—the hinges on the bottom cupboards, for example, called for some strange martian screwdriver we didn’t have—so you’ll have to decide: do you paint that hardware or try to keep it paint-free with tape? We painted the hardware here, but in a pinch I could use a q-tip with some paint thinner later on and clean them up again.

PATIENCE

A project this size is going to take time. I watched an entire season of The Mindy Project and a half-season of Scrubs while doing this project. Put the appropriate time aside for your work, otherwise if you’re like me, you’ll get halfway through, have to put your paints away, and then it’ll be months before you find time again to finish it.


BE FEARLESS


This hutch was free, as it was headed to the trash. Yes, it’s a lovely piece of wood, but no one wanted it and the dark colour was wrong in my home. I hear it’s a sin to paint solid wood, but the reality is this piece was going to the junkyard unless I found a way to love it. Now it holds all my ponies and unicorns, plus all my craft fabric and all my in-progress paperwork for my business. Worst case scenario? The paint job could have gone wrong and I would have had to start again. No big deal. Be fearless and try your best!


Monday, 14 July 2014

Following Girl, Crafted All Over the Internet

Some weeks I have a lot of time to blog on here, and some weeks I don't. Some of you crazy people may miss me from time to time. I realized this morning that I don't often tell you where else on the internet you can find me in a day. Here are some good places to start:

WHERE I BLOG (OTHER THAN HERE):

Of course, there's Capital Geek Girls. You can find me there pretty frequently. You can also watch our YouTube show, Two Girls Talking. We're currently trying to learn how to use iMovie to do some filming. We'll see if that results in fewer audio and camera issues. But they're kind of hilarious.



You can also find me waxing eloquent about marketing on Bikini Marketing. By day I'm a marketer and social media consultant, plus a part-time college prof in a business program, so have some neato things to say on this topic. And I'm never dry, as you well know.

WHERE I POST STUFF

If you haven't joined the Girl, Crafted Facebook page, I suggest you do. It's a good place to be reminded of posts that come out. After you 'like' the page, hover over the word 'like' until a drop-down menu appears, then click 'get notifications'. That way you'll always see my posts in your newsfeed. It'll be fun, I swear.

There's also my instagram, which I've been really enjoying lately. I post a lot of pictures there, many of my dog. He's cute so you'll like it, I swear.

Pinterest is my other big love. I grab a lot of recipes and inspirational stuff there.

And Twitter...well, I'm not the Tweeter I used to be, because it's gotten a bit boring on Twitter these days, but if you want to chat, I'm always up for some back and forth!

That's a good place to start. If you still can't get enough at me at that point, you may be a stalker.

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

How Not To Talk To A Service Dog Team

Some of you diehard readers know that I am in the middle ofthe lengthy yet rewarding process of training my own service dog. Corben is a bit of a social media celebrity—or at least I think so, as I post pictures of him regularly. He is 11 months old now, and acing his training. He’s with me most of the time now, and he’s helping me a lot with my daily life. And he’s ridiculously cute, so he’s kind of like a visual form of Prozac. Win-win, right?

Well, most of the time.

I’ve discovered that when you appear able-bodied and have a service dog with you, you’re going to experience a lot of bizarre behaviour from strangers. I think we can use these examples as a ‘How not to talk to a service dog team’ sort of list. Here it goes.

HOW NOT TO TALK TO A SERVICE DOG TEAM


1. DON’T HOLD THEM UP.
Yes, I have a service dog. Yes, he’s interesting. No, I don’t always have time to talk to you about him. Last week Corben and I got onto an elevator that a man had just vacated. As the door was closing, I saw this man turn on his heel and shove his hand into the door to keep it open. As the emergency system kicked in and the door slid open, he stared at us and said, “Is that a service dog?” Yes, I said. “Well…can you explain that to me?” I’m late, I said. “Oh. Oh! Okay…” said the man, and finally let the door shut. Yes, this really happened. Yes, I’m unimpressed.

2. DON’T ASK WHAT’S WRONG WITH THE HANDLER.
Don't get me wrong, I love talking about dogs and my dog in particular. But if I had a dollar for every time someone asked me, “He’s your dog? What’s he for?” I’d have enough money to never worry about the cost of Corben’s training ever again. The problem with this question is that you are basically asking me, a stranger, to tell you what my disability is. Sometimes I even get this question from acquaintances or friends I don’t see often. Most frequently, I’m asked this in a crowded room with lots of eager ears around. No, I don’t want to explain to anyone what’s wrong with me.
 
He doesn't actually do housework.
3. DON’T KEEP ASKING WHAT’S WRONG WITH THE HANDLER.
Okay, we all slip up sometimes. It’s possible not to realize that a) you’re asking someone to divulge their personal health challenge, and b) that that’s incredibly rude. But if the conversation goes like this:
STRANGER: What’s the dog for?
ME: Service.
STRANGER: What kind of service?
ME: Medical alert.
STRANGER: What’s that mean?
ME: It means he helps me by alerting me.
STRANGER: Okayyyy, but what’s the problem with you that he’s watching for?
…you’ve pushed too far. “Medical alert” means, “I have a medical problem.” Look at it this way: if I came up to you on the street, stood in front of you, and said, “I have a medical problem.”—without Corben beside me, just for no good reason, wouldn’t you think I was being socially awkward? Wouldn’t that seem like an over-share? The presence of a service dog does not mean you should feel all rules of polite conduct are moot.

3. DON’T ASSUME THE ABLE-BODIED HANDLER IS A TRAINER.
It’s easy for me to hide sometimes behind the assumption that I’m just a dog trainer. Honestly, many of us with service dogs do let this assumption ride in some awkward situations. But in some ways, it diminishes what Corben and I are to each other. It also daily reminds me that I look healthy, so the fact that I’m daily struggling with a serious medical problem is invisible and therefor, not acknowledged. Anyone who’ suffered through a non-visible health problem can relate to this. It’s like visiting your aunt and having her repeatedly offer you ice cream even though she knows you’re lactose intolerant but just never remembers. In a way, the refusal of people to consider I may have a disability makes me feel even more invisible.

4. DON’T PET THE DAMNED DOG. 

No, you can’t pet him. See how small his brain cavity is? The smartest dogs in the world have only the reasoning capacity of a 12 year-old. If I came to your 12 year-old’s math class and started petting her while she was doing an exam, don’t you think she’d make more mistakes than usual? Every time we’re out together, Corben is performing his own version of a math exam. Every time you try to pet him, you mess up his concentration. Yes, it’s cute when he breaks stride and wriggles to be patted. No, you’re not giving him a pleasant break in his day. You are essentially giving pixie sticks to that aforementioned 12 year-old and then leaving me to get him focused back on his math test.

5. DON’T POINT HIM OUT TO YOUR TODDLERS.
If you petting him is like a pixie stick, a toddler barking at my dog—yes, they bark at him—is you giving Corben a litre of Red Bull. All concentration is lost, and any work I need him doing isn’t going to happen. I don’t run up and pet your toddlers; please keep your kids off of my toddler.

6. DON’T FORGET TO EDUCATE YOUR STAFF.
Ottawa is pretty good about not giving us a hard time. However, I went out for dinner with a friend a couple weeks ago, and a young waiter informed us that dogs weren’t allowed in the restaurant. After I pointed out his vest and told him we had our papers in my bag, he put his hands on his hips, cocked his head and said, “Yeah right. What’s wrong with you that you need a dog?” I don’t have to explain this and I’m not going to. Shop owners, be sure that even your youngest staff understand that it’s a human rights violation to kick me out of a store for having a dog, and it’s also wrong to demand to know what my health problem is.


7. DON’T EVER ASSUME WE’RE FAKING IT.
At Ottawa Comiccon this year, I managed to attend 2 out of 3 days. This is in huge crowds with poor air circulation and a lot of noise. I was able to do this because I had Corben. At one point while I was looking at a vendor table, my friend heard a man mutter something about, “strapping a vest on his dog, too, just to bring him to the con”. MJ rocks, so she turned to him and said, “Yeah, maybe that would be fun, except this is a real service dog.” You’ll occasionally hear horror stories of people faking service dogs, but I haven’t seen it happen around here, and when you look at Corben’s behaviour, you’d have to be an idiot not to see just how heavily trained he is.

8. DON’T CALL IT A PRIVILEGE.
After I answer all the questions people throw at me about my dog, their curiosity sated, I will often get a comment like, “Well how nice for you that you get to take your dog everywhere! Well I sure wish I could take my dog with me everywhere!” Listen to what you’re saying, people. You’re telling me I’m privileged because I have a disability where my best tool for normal daily living is having to raise, train, and cart a dog around with me everywhere I go. Yes, he’s cute and fuzzy. No, in many ways he does not make life easier. When I leave the house, I have to be aware of all his needs plus my own. I have to look for ways to traverse a mall without the use of an escalator. I have to choose seating in restaurants based on where my dog’s fat butt won’t get tripped on. I have to get special dispensation to take him on a plane. But yes, he is lovely and he does make my days a hundred times better. So I think it’s bogus to suggest that having a service dog is a lucky privilege; I think it’s more of a karmic balancing. I have to live with this shitty disability for the rest of my life, but the trade-off is that I get to have a sweet-faced companion come along with me.


9. DON’T ASSUME THE DOG IS A SIGN OF WEAKNESS.
I had a job interview this spring. I got to the second round before I mentioned Corben, who I’d purposely left at home for the first round. When I mentioned him, the interviewer started asking if I was really sure I could do the job, if (and I paraphrase here) I was so effed up that I needed a service dog. I pointed to my resume and said, “Everything you see on here that you like, I did with my disability present. The dog doesn’t make me less capable. He makes me more capable. I accomplished much of these things without him; imagine how much more I’ll do now that he’s with me.” She didn’t bite. She couldn’t shake her bias. The reality is, having a service dog means that people are daily reminded of my otherwise invisible disability. But instead of looking at Corben as a reminder of how I’m broken, try looking at him as a reminder of how I’ve soldered myself back together. He’s not a weakness; he’s a weapon against failure.

10. DON’T OVERTHINK IT.

It’s a dog, folks. You see dozens everyday walking around your neighbourhood. I don’t get what all the fuss is about. When you put all the attention on my dog, you make me feel like all the qualities I possess as a person are secondary…that my companion is all that defines me. Just relax and ignore him. It’s what he wants, anyway. Stop staring at the dog and get back to making eye contact with me. I’m here and better than ever.  

Back in the day. I can't believe he's grown up so much.

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