In case any of you were dying to know, the 2012 mantra for Cancer-born people such as myself is:

Letting Go Is Not Loss, It’s Freedom.

I have a bit of a hoarding problem, but mostly when it comes to memories. I’m getting much better at reducing the amount of physical stuff I have lying around (I’m talking to you, Grade 7 Social Studies class notes!), but I find it more difficult to part with the past or tokens that transport me down Memory Lane. Does de-cluttering involve getting rid of old journals and scrapbooks? Photo albums? Pictures that were supposed to go into albums but never made it past the lab sleeve? Photo negatives from the good old days of film cameras? Duplicates of photos I had planned to mail to friends, back in the good old days of regular post?

Me (in the middle) fake-smoking a cigarette that had been patched up with electrical tape. Classy memories to cherish forever!

(Yes, I have a lot of photos.) (And yes, I welcome suggestions re: what to do with a teetering stack of photos from Grade 11. Anyone? Bueller?)

You can’t just throw away your memories, can you? You can’t even donate them to Goodwill or recycle them in the most eco-friendly way possible. (Though my sister did score an XXXL shirt at the Goodwill once that proclaimed “World’s Best Grandma!” and boasted a screened photo of some random granny with a random tot on the front. She scaled it down to fit her rod-thin frame with her mad sewing skillz and then wore it with ironic pride for years.) Doesn’t that feel wrong, though? Can you really subject your should-be-private memories to the gaggle of hipster art students that pore through the aisles of local thrift stores seeking exactly these sorts of hand-me-down gems?

Front of the tin I use to store my crafty supplies

To date, I’ve burned some old notebooks in our wood stove– lined pages that contained countless lists and bullet points of everything I did in the summer of 1996. (Judging from the looks of it, not only was 1996 a stunningly boring summer– “8 glasses of water today, 650 jumps with the jump rope”– but I was also boring enough to write it all down! I wish I was making that particular jot note up, but thankfully, the whole notebook is ashes now.)

I can’t burn photographs, though. And there are some things I would never part with– but can’t, for the life of me, figure out how to save– except for keeping them in a box for eternity. There is the self-portrait that my 18-year old dad created for my 16-year old mother, one that embarrasses him profusely today and that only escaped inevitable destruction at his hands by landing into my piles of random shit:

The board is in terrible condition now, and the paint is fading and chipping, but I hold this painting so dear to my heart.

(By the way, I don’t think it’s the raw emotion or the tender-heartedness of the gesture that causes my dad to blush now. I think it’s the fact that he went on to art college and bid a firm adieu to figurative renderings– and especially self-portraits– forever.)

There’s a stack of posters I kept from the days when my mom worked closely with the design firms in Calgary. I wanted a career in advertising at the time and savoured the pop-art samples that the design firms produced:

Poster since donated, but worked with 3D glasses, too!

There’s the pair of underwear I coveted (but never wore– are you kidding me?) when my sister went to art college. I was working at a sexual health centre at the time and appreciated anything with a uterus on it. (I still do!)

Best purchase... ever? I used to pin these babies up on my bulletin board at work. Most of my coworkers rolled their eyes, but a select few understood my "so bad, it's good!" affinity for them.

(Even better than this was the shirt I bought from the same artist– no photos– which featured a flying uterus on the back! It was like the Detroit Red Wings logo, but with a uterus in place of the wheel. Absolutely righteous in my books!)

I can’t, and won’t, get rid of things like these– even if “letting go is freedom!” Where do you draw the line, though? What’s worth keeping, and what gets tossed, recycled, or donated? What do you do with buckets of old photographs, especially if the “gigantic collage” idea doesn’t seem even remotely appealing? (Seriously. The pics aren’t nearly old or good enough to be considered vintage and cool, but how many pictures do I really need of my junior high and high school friends? Suggestions are welcome!)

PS: I found it! A pic of me with my BFF, Gloria Steinem.

Bad Haircuts: Giving A Whole New Meaning to the Term “Muffin Top”

After a whole year of being lazy growing my hair into a horse-like mane, I decided that it was time to head back to the hairdresser’s. I was ready for a drastic change in my look and even stalked a friend’s Facebook page in advance, creating a creepy photo collage of her stylish haircut for my hairdresser’s future reference. I was positive that her (much shorter) cut would look perfect on me, too, even though my research gathering methods reeked of  Single White Female stalkery.

I placed a call to my stylist in Victoria and was crestfallen to learn that she was no longer with the salon. Chris had always cut my hair exactly the way I wanted it, creating retro, flipped styles that required minimal upkeep effort on my part. She was a true Hair Wizard in my books. And now she was gone. Poof! Disappeared!

An example of Chris' magic, styled by yours truly. Just 10 minutes with a round brush needed. Zero product involved!

With cautious optimism (and no way to get in contact with Chris again), I did the unthinkable and booked my appointment with the owner of the salon instead. I hoped with all my heart that she could perform even more magic with my hair. (Perhaps she was the True Master and Chris was merely her gifted apprentice?)

On Monday afternoon, I arrived to the salon with a greasy ponytail and shamefully showed my new hair stylist the Superfreak Collage of my friend’s hair. The stylist agreed that the cut was fabulous but felt I was “too tall” for the style and that the winter months were not an appropriate time to hack off gigantic swaths of hair, anyway. Defeated, I folded up my collage and (true to form) later burned it in our wood stove. Let’s never speak of it again. Anyway. The stylist ran her fingers through my flowing locks, gauging the weight and relative waviness of them, and she asked me questions about my personality and style in the hopes of determining My Perfect Cut. Here is a summary of what I told her:

1. I heart retro styles, especially ones that involve outward flips of the hair.

I was picturing this:

... but with less poufiness and blood-sucking lipstick

Or even this:

2. I am a woman, but if you could only use one word to describe me, it would not be “feminine”.

Most people, when pressed, have actually used the word “alternative” to describe me, whatever the eff that means. In my world:

a. Pants > Dresses

b. Low Maintenance > Flat Irons and Hairspray

c. Tall Boots > High Heels ALWAYS

d. Sage, Lavender, Citrus, Cedar, Patchouli > Anything floral

3. Please no Triangle Hair.

Dear New Hairdresser: If you value your life, do not give me anything even closely resembling this:

I will kill you.

Armed with this information and not-so-veiled threats regarding my severe loathing of triangle hair, my stylist embarked on Operation: Long Hair-B-Gone. She told me she would give me a “retro” cut with layers that I could easily style into 40s, 50s, or 60s looks. That sounded great!

So how, pray tell, did I end up with a gigantic muffin top on my head??

Tell me, doth this haircut not reek of femininity?? Thankfully this image is blurred for my own protection.

When I said “No Triangle Hair”, should I also have specified “No Elliptical Hair”, “No Spherical Hair”, and “No Mushroom-Slash-Muffin-Top Hair”? Did I really need to spell out all of the shapes? If so: No Rectangle Or Square Hair either, please.

Sadly, I ended up with the equivalent of a mid-calf-length skirt on my head. It would look much better if it were either a tiny bit shorter or a tiny bit longer, but this in-between length is unflattering and awkward. Yes, the haircut made me look “younger”, but I’m only 30 to begin with and didn’t really need to look 12. I’m afraid my issues with getting carded at liquor stores will only get worse until this cut grows out. 😦

Fortunately, I am an optimist at heart, so I’ve found three ways to look at the bright side of this mortifying situation:

1. Having a muffin top on my head can detract from potential muffin tops around my mid-section.

I’m still in the process of losing 20-some odd pounds and will welcome anything that diverts attention from my waist back up to my face. It’s a decoy muffin top!

2. My new haircut is probably the visual, follicular embodiment of complex mathematical equations.

For those of us who aren’t mathematically or scientifically inclined, be rest assured that my hair is now a perfect, graphical representation of light and sound waves… or the path of motion taken on elliptical machines at the gym. (You will never fail a “graph this” question on a physics exam again– Just think of my hair when you’re under pressure!) My haircut probably also harbors solutions to world hunger. Who knows what other marvels are burrowed in this muffin-shaped nest?

3. Speaking of dieting woes, guess who lost 1 pound by cutting off her flowing locks and having them styled into a muffin top?

Beware the low-carb diet craze– my new hairstyle proves that you can have all of the (figurative) baked goods you like and still lose weight! (Disclaimer: instead of “having your cake and eating it, too”, this 1-pound diet solution involves “having your muffin tops and wearing them shamelessly on your head… not like you have a choice in the matter at this point… too”.)

I’m having a hard time taking myself seriously, dear readers. What say you?

Would You Rather…

If offered the choice, dear readers, would you rather:

1. Work out in your living room, at your own leisure, in whatever clothes you feel like wearing (even if they are technically your pyjamas), using a comprehensive (and challenging!) set of workout DVDs, with all of the equipment that you could possibly need (yoga mats, cork yoga blocks, resistance tubing, hand weights of every conceivable size, a pull-up bar, special rotating push-up hand things that let you attempt a push-up without straining your extremely sensitive forearms, and even special fingerless gloves to help you avoid getting callouses), a big screen TV, a woodstove if you’re too cold, a fan if you’re too warm, your special filtered water in unlimited supplies, and your pumping workout mix blaring from the stereo


2. Work out in a badly outdated gym, which costs you decent money to attend, which has all of one elliptical machine (which sounds tired and creaky and like it belongs in a museum for Industrial Age relics), which plays the Grease soundtrack on full blast over the loud speakers, which has terribly faded posters of Arnold Schwarzenegger pinned up on every wall (which seem unintentionally ironic and sad now that you know how far Arnie has fallen– even though you never understood his appeal, anyway), which is situated a full 9km (5.6 miles) away from your cozy cabin along winding country roads populated mostly with speeding pickup trucks, and which you must ride your bike to and from every time the urge to sweat hits, probably in the rain because this is the Pacific Northwest in the wintertime, in your makeshift “cycling” clothes (which are actually a pair of long johns, pink sneakers, and your regular rain coat), and all of this because you don’t drive.


I chose the gym membership, too.

Listen up: There have been years and years of feeling like I “should” do yoga and that I “should” enjoy it. After all, I eat like a hippie, wash like a savage, and pray like a godless heathen– I am the perfect candidate for blissing out on the yoga mat with ye olde Home Workout Tape.

But I can’t do it!

What can I say? I love working out at the gym. I love sweating all over, out of glands I didn’t even know I had, until I can actually feel salt granules scratching my forehead. I secretly love not having a natural breeze come along to blow all of my sweaty, post-workout evidence away. I love marveling at the nasty Rorschach-like pattern of sweat imprinted on my workout clothes at the end of a strenuous cardio session. I love running and jumping and kicking and punching. I love loud dance music– music that I never listen to except inside a gym. I love aerobics classes. I love ridiculous choreography and cheesy moves like “L-Steps” and “Grapevines”. I love elliptical machines and 30-minute time limits. Why? Who knows why.

I just do.

This year, instead of resisting my Inner Ass Kicker and telling it to “shush up and try yoga again”, I decided to just bite the bullet and get me a rural gym membership. The gym is located on the upper floor of a “mall” (read: spooky ghost town building) at a junction on the highway to Victoria. I went for the first time yesterday, riding my bike in the light rain and decked out in my un-hip long johns. I don’t have a front fender on my bicycle, so as I rode up and down those crazy country hills, bits of mud and rock splattered all over my clothes and face. I could feel grit in my teeth. It was awesome, but only because I knew I was heading to The Gym and not just to Tony Horton on my living room DVD player. (A pox on P90X!)

This was practically how dirty I was at the end of my ride, except I was wearing pink sneakers and long johns in place of Marty's gorgeous legs and pro cycling shoes.

A more accurate representation of my shoes after the ride, but you'll still have to mentally substitute awkward, waffle-patterned long johns in place of the mud-soaked denim

I made it to the gym in about 20 minutes and carefully changed out of my now-soaking-wet cycling clothes into my soon-to-be-soaking-wet gym clothes. I tested out the World’s Oldest Elliptical Machine for thirty minutes, not wanting to push myself too hard, knowing that a mostly uphill cycling trek still awaited me. I survived, even though every stride on that retro machine felt like it was taking me one step further back through time. At the end of it all, I got back into my wet, gritty cycling clothes and huffed and puffed for 9km home. Pretty epic for my first workout in over a month.

It was so worth it, though– tattered Schwarzenegger posters and all. My body loves moving (ahem, once I commit to getting off my lazy ass), and it responds really well to cardio-type exercise. It does not enjoy working out in my living room, and it is not particularly receptive to yoga just yet, but that’s okay. I’m not going to fight it this year. I’m just going to get my body back into gear, vintage-style. Perhaps I should invest in a sweatband, so I can blend in with the 1970s/1980s vibe at my new-to-me gym. No thong-style bodysuits over spandex leggings, though. What say you?

Lucky Sevens

I’m taking this opportunity to highlight some of my favourite posts, including ones that might have been missed or overlooked by newer readers:

1. Most Beautiful

“Beautiful” isn’t usually a word I would use to describe my own writing, but if I had to choose my most beautiful-ish post, it would probably be Are You There, Margaret? It’s Me: God. A post about love should never be ugly, right?

2. Most Popular

One would think that my Freshly Pressed Post, Crying (and Cursing) Over Spilled Milk— in which I outlined the trials and tribulations of making almond milk for the first time– would be my most popular. Surprisingly, it is not. Rather, an otherwise nondescript post about ugly Christmas sweaters crushes the entire competition. In Search of the World’s Worst Christmas Sweater has nearly 4 times as many hits as any other post on my blog, including my Freshly Pressed post. Most of the search engine terms that lead people to my blog also have to do with ugly and horrific Christmas sweaters. Go figure.

A bit of sparkle from a gigantic Ugly Christmas Sweater I borrowed from a colleague. Unfortunately, it reeked of Bounce sheets and gave both Marty and I allergies. We couldn’t even wear it as a joke. 😦

3. Most Controversial

I have two categories of controversial posts– the first category deals with issues of censorship and the boundaries around what we choose to share online. A Visit from the Overshare Fairy chronicles the fallout of posting a little bit too much information about myself on the internet.

The second category of controversy is controversial only because it contains graphic details about a circumstance which many women face, but few women talk about openly: miscarriage. My This Day In History series– parts One, Two, and Three— address the messy range of emotions that Marty and I faced when we lost a pregnancy back in 2006.

Not me– this is my sis when she was pregnant with our niece, Lily

4. Most Helpful

In case you haven’t noticed, my primary objective on this blog is not necessarily to be helpful. I write mostly to entertain (or be entertained), but one of my posts inadvertently became helpful to others and continues to generate a lot of ‘thank you’ e-mails. Chlorella: Superfood, My Ass! was originally written as a flippant, eff-you homage to the nutritional supplement that renders me paralyzed with projectile vomit. It’s not an especially well-written post by any means, but lots of people have since discovered it and written me privately to say thank you– either for naming the substance that was causing them severe GI distress or for simply acknowledging that not everyone does well on so-called superfoods. (So in case you were wondering, helpful posts can have the word “Ass” in the title. Who knew?)

5. Most Surprisingly Successful

The post that continues to garner many surprising hits (although not new comments) was written way back in 2008. Talk to the Hand recounts my experience visiting a palm reader at our local mall. If my site stats and search engine terms are any indication, lots and lots of people take to the internet to learn more about mysterious beauty marks on their palms. Hence, if you need to boost traffic to your blog, might I suggest writing about finding the ‘ugly Christmas sweater’ line on your palms? And vomit– lots and lots of projectile vomit. 🙂

6. Most Underrated

It must be a Universal Blogging Experience: you write a new post, congratulate yourself for your expert use of prose and scintillating adjectives, and then hit ‘Publish’– fully expecting a tsunami of Online Fandom to come crashing down in your comments section. But it doesn’t. To make matters worse, not only are you not ravaged by a destructive gale-force wind of admiration, but you also don’t even seem to make a ripple in the blogosphere. Maybe one person comments on your post… out of pity. The rest of your readers are already on to the next blogging sensation, and your Fantastic Post dies a quiet death in a lonely corner, all by itself.

The post I would like to offer up for your resurrection consideration is The Most Important Evening of Our Lives, in which I fail miserably as a wife, hairdresser, and a general human being.

At least *my* hair looked good on The Most Important Evening of Our Lives

7. Most Worthy of Pride

It probably seems a little strange, but I’m really proud of a post I wrote about eggs. The Dirty Dozen: My Initiation Into A Life of Crime came together effortlessly and incorporated all three of the essential ingredients in any winning post: hippies, Hollywood, and the Russian mafia. Every time I see this title in my “Your Recent Favourites” sidebar, I foolishly beam with the pride of a mother who has just watched her little Johnny hit a home run in a T-ball game. Other moms might not think my Johnny is a big deal, but I’m proud all the same. 🙂