Sunday Signage: Pretty Please Stop Creeping Me Out

I’ve posted this sign before, when Marty and I had the terrible misfortune of taking an overnight bus from Victoria to Calgary in the days of yore (aka in March 2011). I’m sure you’ll agree with me that it begs an encore appearance, though, especially for my new(er) readers. Truly: You haven’t really lived until your retinas have been permanently burned with the image of the creepiest DIY sign ever. You can thank me later!

Spotted at the Greyhound Bus Depot in Chilliwack, BC:

What. The. HELL? This was one of about 20 handmade signs on the fence at the depot, all with the same general “Keep Out!” message. Dear Chilliwack Greyhound Workers: We get it. I’d never want to be on the creepy side of that fence, anyway.

Peace Is On The Rise

It has been a crazy few weeks, to say the least. On the evening of March 10th, I found out that my grandfather was in the hospital dying. The dreaded ‘c’ word– cancer– had overtaken his body, spreading from his prostate into his lymph nodes and– tragically– his brain. Mere hours after he had been admitted into the hospital, long before Marty and I were even able to get to Calgary, he was gone. A tumor– covering close to 20% of his brain like snaking, suffocating ivy– is what officially took him away from this earth.

This is a photo my grandpa took of himself for a camera course shortly before he passed away. Spooky, no?

At least it was quick. At least he was surrounded by family when it happened. At least there was no pain.

Grandpa smoking beside the first of his many children

I spent over two weeks at my grandma’s house, first helping out with the funeral plans and later watching over my grandma and aunts like a regular Florence Nightingale. I designated myself Queen of My Grandma’s Kitchen, and for weeks I prepared my extended family nurturing soups and nourishing bowls of morning oatmeal. I’ve never cooked so much food in my life! True to my Almost Vegan self, I roasted several organic chickens for a crowd and even ventured to make my grandma’s dogs raw dog food. (A word to the wise: using a food processor to blend hamburger meat and LIVER is not for the faint of heart, and especially not for the Almost Vegan Faint Of Heart.) Heh. During that two week span, I transformed from somebody who was secretly wary (and even a bit petrified) of my grandpa to an open-hearted goddess of love and understanding for that particular branch of my family tree. I am back at the lake now, safe and sound, but I am definitely a woman changed.

Newsflash: My Grandpa was good looking! Consider me shocked.

My metamorphosis started with a dream.

In the wee morning hours of March 12th, I bolted awake in bed, finding myself reciting the final words of the Lord’s Prayer. Out loud. In the dark! Only moments before, while I was still asleep, I had seen a circle of women holding hands and chanting the Our Father together. When it came time for the final verse, they summoned me over. “You have to say this part”, they said, but I was warm and cozy underneath my blankets. (Besides– godless heathen alert!– I wasn’t certain I would even remember the final words to the Lord’s Prayer. Yes, I had been raised ultra-Catholic, but it had been well over 10 years since I had recited any officially-sanctioned prayers.)

This photo pretty much sums up everything I thought I knew about my grandpa: cowboy hat, crucifix, enthusiastic fist pump, and the Lord Our Shepherd in the background. 🙂

There was no way I was going to say anything for the women in my dream. Sorry, ladies: No late night Lord’s Prayer for this sinner.

“You have to say this part!”, they demanded again, this time more urgently. “Now!” So I woke up and whispered, For thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory. Now and forever, Amen. I scanned the bed in embarrassment to see if Marty had heard me, but luckily he was still fast asleep beside me. Then, knowing how uncommon it was to find myself roused from my slumber by a prayer, I quickly checked my alarm clock for the time. It was 2:52 am.

This photo ALSO sums up everything I thought I knew about my grandpa. His own caption for the pic is "Me reading bible". Yep. Reading the bible... on the deck... practically nekkid. Oh, Grandpa! 🙂

I found out from my mother, mere hours later, that my grandpa had passed away during the night. Do you want to hazard a guess re: the exact time of his death? Uh-huh. It was even adjusted across time zones– 3:52 am Mountain Standard Time, or 2:52 am Pacific Standard Time. Leave it to my grandpa to beckon me back onto the Catholic Path with his last earthly breath… (I called it Grandpa Shaktipat, a decidedly un-Catholic way of understanding what had happened to me and what it all meant.)

Grandma and Grandpa. My mom looks EXACTLY like my grandma in these shots!

It sounds cheesy. It seems cliche. But after that dream, my heart opened up like a flower in full bloom. I reconnected with my family members (dozens and dozens of them) and finally felt the peace associated with not judging them or trying to distance myself from them. I was awash with grace. I cared for my family members, both in the physical sense– making sure that the legendary family home was clean and that healthy food was always on the table– and in the emotional sense, too. Most of the tears I cried in Calgary boiled over not in sadness over my Grandpa’s absence, but in love and compassion for my Grandma, who had been with my Grandpa since she was only 15 years old. Her heart had been broken, and my own heart broke in empathy for her.

Only the best photo in the history of the universe! Can you believe that this is my grandma and grandpa? He was 17 in this picture; she was 15.

A year later, in Golden BC

Terrible circumstances are what brought Marty and I over to Calgary, but the tragedy of losing my Grandpa– the undisputed, often terrifying head of our family’s household; the God-fearing, Bible-loving Catholic with a big heart and a short temper; the usually-shirtless man with a permanent suntan and a generous gut– enabled us to form actual friendships with my Grandma, my aunts and uncles, my cousins, and even my own sisters and parents again. My heart still aches for my Grandma, but for the first time in my life, I am phoning her regularly and enjoying our conversations together. We’re friends now! The two weeks I spent with her have literally changed me. Yes, I’m still the pro-choice, feminist, gay-marriage-supporting black sheep in the family, but the grace of god and my Grandpa’s spirit helped me to realize that so much more connects me to my family than sets me apart.

Grandma and Grandpa at their 25th wedding anniversary, unveiling the now-legendary pic of my mom and her infinite number of siblings. (My sisters and I have tried duplicating this pose in many of our own pics.)

RIP Grandpa: October 20, 1937 to March 12, 2012

Totally unrelated to this post: Apparently WP is blocking some people from commenting on this and other posts. If you have been trying to comment but find yourself facing the stone-cold wall of WP disapproval, please e-mail me at:

dana (DOT) zonapellucida (AT) gmail (DOT) com

and I’ll see what I can do. Thanks!

Welcome to Chez Under The Weather

Marty and I faced a Perfect Storm for Illness during our recent trip to Alberta. Seriously– every single factor that normally contributes to Pestilence, Sickness, and/or Pain and Suffering was right there with us from the moment we left our ghetto apartment in Victoria.

Marty's Cowboy Snowman: Before

Marty's Cowboy Snowman: After. (This is a snowman's impression of Marty and I in Calgary.)

First, there was stress. Marty’s body usually shuts down as soon as it knows we are heading out east to the land of our youth. He experiences dread like no other human, and in the days leading up to our departure, he had a hard time eating, digesting, and concentrating. My stress, on the other hand, normally manifests itself as exaggerated mental clutter. I worry more than usual, I imagine the most awkward of possible encounters ahead of time, and then I strategize multiple ways to escape said awkward encounters while saving the maximum amount of face. What if somebody cooks dairy for us? What if somebody wears hella perfume around our delicate nostrils? How do I react if the blanket in the guest room reeks of Bounce sheets? I am like the Nostradamus of Calgary, Alberta, only I’m less bearded and way more obscure.

A glimpse of my mom at her place in Vancouver. Visiting her before and after our stop in Calgary gave us some much needed respite (and organic, wholesome food)!

This time around, Marty started eating less before we left (like clockwork), but I started preparing obscene amounts of food. Obscene. Amounts. This was all a pre-emptive strike against the potential awkwardness of eating at somebody else’s house, and just so you know, cooking all that food ahead of time was the greatest thing I’ve ever done. Yes, I had to lug 40lbs of food around with me on my back, BUT I got to avoid yogurt for breakfast, Kraft salad dressings for lunch, and breaded cauliflower with soy cheese for dinner! I WIN ALLERGY COOKING! Anyway, back to the point– there was a lot of stress before our trip. Packing stress, transit stress, Greyhound stress– all sorts of stress.

A peek inside my dad's place in Calgary, which is a virtual treasure trove of mismatched pop culture references. He went to art college, natch.

Then there was the brutally uncomfortable travel, coupled with a decided lack of sleep. Nothing says “Hey there, viruses– my immunity is suppressed!” quite like 15 1/2 hours on a bus with dozens of coughing and wheezing people. And Russians keeping you awake all night. We were an accident waiting to happen, I tell you.

Oh, sorry Greyhound officer-- I didn't know I wasn't allowed back here. I didn't see any signs or anything...

Once we arrived in Calgary, the ultra-dry Alberta air made everything even worse. It always amazes me how severely the arid climate hits me when I go back to Alberta. I was born there and come from a modestly long line of Albertans, so shouldn’t my body be equipped with special Dri-B-Gone genetics? Shouldn’t I come back to Calgary thanking sweet Jesus that I’m finally back in the dry air of my childhood and adolescence? Well, I don’t. I swear, as soon as I see the “Welcome to Alberta” sign on the highway, my lips chap, my throat closes up, my eyes and nose dry out, and my hair is suddenly electrified with static cling. I suffer from nose bleeds, incredibly scaly hands and skin, my face starts peeling off, and my body begs for hydration. I wake up in the mornings nearly suffocating from dryness, and my first instinct is to rub the insides of my nostrils, my mouth, my tongue, my eyeballs, and my entire throat with coconut oil. It’s so dry in Calgary!

The Three Sisters, captured fuzzily on film together for the first time since 2008! From left to right: The Pretty One, The Nerdy One, and The Creative One. (My face is flushed with allergic reactions to everything.)

Lily and Auntie Dana! Note flushing on face and forehead peeling off with a vengeance. (Mine, not hers.)

There we were in Calgary, Alberta– stressed, anxious, tired, square-assed, and choking on dryness. We were totally down, so to speak, so do you think our bodies were primed to be kicked whilst we were there? Completely. We received a pretty brutal ass-kicking from bronchitis.

Me 'n' my dad. He's nearly a foot taller than I am and tries to compensate for this by crouching down uncomfortably. I am also wearing modest heeled boots in this shot.

Marty has been much harder hit with congestion, inflamed lungs, and coughing than I have. I’m still under the weather, though– enough to have missed my beloved Zumba and Turbo Kick classes at the Y. (The sadness of it all is crippling, I know.) We have been drinking copious amounts of tea and eating mostly soups and stews since we got back to Victoria. So in the spirit of Getting Well, I’m offering you all my recipe for Greens ‘n’ Garlic Soup. It’s the perfect blended soup for when you’re sick (crank up the garlic and cayenne pepper- yum!), or you can mute the flavours when you’re healthy. Either way, it’s nutritious and delicious. Enjoy!

The only photo I have of this soup in progress.

Green Garlic Soup

You Will Need:

– 1 Tbsp coconut oil or other cooking oil

– 1 medium to large onion, coarsely chopped (the size of the pieces does not matter, as this soup will be blended before serving)

– 4-5 small yellow potatoes, unpeeled, washed and sliced into coins approximately 1/3″ thick (for speed of cooking)

– 2-5 cloves of garlic, or to taste, peeled and chopped coarsely

– 2 Tbsp tomato paste

– 3-4 stalks of celery, washed and chopped

– 1 head curly green kale, washed and chopped coarsely. Discard thick stems.

– 1 head collard greens (or other greens like mustard, swiss chard, etc.), washed and chopped coarsely. Discard thick stems.

– 6-8 cups of broth or water

– sea salt and black pepper to taste (I like a lot of both)

– cayenne pepper to taste

How To Make It:

– In a large stock pot, melt coconut oil over low heat and saute onions (covered) for 5-10 minutes, or until just translucent.

– Add potato medallions to the pot along with 1 cup of broth or liquid. Cover the pot and increase heat to medium.

– Stir potatoes and onions occasionally to prevent them from sticking to the pot.

– Add garlic, tomato paste, and more broth/liquid if needed. Continue cooking, covered, over medium heat until potatoes are just tender. (Test with a fork.)

– Add celery and 1 more cup of broth as needed. Cover and cook for 5 minutes (or until celery begins to get tender.)

– Add chopped kale and collard greens. Add seasonings to taste and increase heat to high. Leave pot uncovered.

– Add remaining broth to stock pot. Liquid should come close (within 1 or 2″) to the top of the pot– add extra water if needed. Keep in mind that the soup will be blended before serving, and the final consistency should not be too thick (like mashed potatoes) or too runny (like water!). If in doubt, err on the side of Too Thick so you can add water later. Making a soup too thin is more difficult to recover from.

– When liquid has been brought to a boil, reduce heat to simmer. Cover pot and leave soup on low heat for 30 minutes.

– After 30 minutes have elapsed, take cover off of pot and blend soup before serving. (I use my trusty Braun Hand Blender, which is the greatest invention known to man. It blends my soup up right in the pot, so I don’t need to pour it out into a regular blender like a chump. A Hand Mixer is one of my most recommended kitchen appliances– I use mine ALL THE TIME.)

– Blend soup until smooth and silky. Adjust seasonings to taste if needed before serving– if you are sick, pump up the garlic and cayenne pepper. If not, do whatever you like with the spices! 🙂

Makes a giant pot of soup. Marty and I have been eating our soup for days now. As with most soups, this one keeps tasting better as the days go on. Enjoy!

The Greyhound Trip From Hell

Hey, you!!

Are you too nice and polite for your own good?

Do you suffer through unreasonable circumstances without ever speaking up?

Are you extremely averse to confrontation and afraid of being the Nice Person Who Finishes Last?

If you answered “YES!” to any of the above questions, then you need to order the new, revolutionary 5-step program that will have you flipping the proverbial bird like a natural!! No more “Shy Violet” or “Mr. Nice Guy”– make way for the DEADLY SHE-WOLF and the RABID BEAST-MAN!

The “Overnight Bus Ride From Vancouver to Calgary”program  combines state-of-the-art psychological research with a unique, experiential learning environment that will have you going from Sweet to SHUT THE EFF UP!!!! in no time!* (*Actual time elapsed during program: 15 1/2 hours)

In just under 16 short hours on the “Overnight Bus Ride From Vancouver to Calgary”, you will learn how to voice your rage and frustration at any/all fellow bus passengers, and your temper’s fuse will be transformed from way-too-long-and-tolerant to extremely-f*cking-short. Say goodbye to your ineffective “church mouse ways” and your “standards of social decency”, and say hello! to cranky outbursts and temper tantrums! All for the low, low price of $115 CDN + applicable taxes!

Actual participants: BEFORE. See how happy, cheerful, and otherwise naive they are?

In Step 1 of the “Overnight Bus Ride From Vancouver to Calgary” program, you will be escorted into our proprietary learning environment, which is otherwise known as The Autobus From Whence There Shall Be No Escape. If you have paid the 2-for-1 program rate and are accompanied by a partner, please feel free to sit together. Otherwise, if you are undertaking the program on your own, may god help you and may He prevent the grossest, smelliest, loudest person from sitting beside you, at least right away.

During Step 1, you will notice single passengers marking their territory and resorting to creative deterrent tactics. Some will place their luggage on the seat beside them in an effort to thwart enemy ‘sitting down’ attempts. Others will sit in the aisle seat, rendering the vacant window seat inconvenient for others to access. Still others will fart loudly and deliberately into the vacant seat vicinity, effectively guaranteeing them a solo ride for as long as possible, or at least until the rancid smell diffuses throughout the rest of the bus and the culprit can no longer be pinpointed. Clever! At this point in the program, you will still be too polite and nice to say anything about these strategies out loud, though you might manage to roll your eyes in an exaggerated fashion or make snappy remarks with your inner voice. “Real mature, guy.” Oooh, snap! 🙂

During Step 2 of the program, evening will turn to night on the autobus, and you will reach aimlessly for your mp3 player, hoping to tune out your surroundings with the musical stylings of Kylie Minogue (for example). At this point, you will hear some hoser a few rows behind you remark loudly: “Yeah, I thought he was a douche bag. But then he got me high, and I thought ‘hey, you’re not so bad anymore’.” Part of you will bristle at the volume of his voice– isn’t it past 10 pm already?– and another part of you will grimace at his lengthy commentary, which consists solely of lame drug and alcohol-related tales. Still, you won’t say anything. You’ll figure, based on the general rules of social niceties, that the people sitting closer to this guy will speak up. After all, he’s even louder where they are sitting. Somebody else will probably deal with this guy, right? (Wrong! So wrong!)

By the time you reach Step 3 of this innovative, transformative program, you will be sleep-deprived and your natural defenses and social filters will be wearing thin. This will put you into a prime learning position. If you nod off into a fitful slumber, our certified instructors have been trained to make an announcement over the intercom system, turn on all the bus lights, and declare it time for a 10-, 15- or even 40- minute stopover. Every other passenger will step off the bus and chain smoke 5 cigarettes right in front of the door during these breaks. Your lungs will burn and you will start shaking a tiny fist of rage at the sky, berating inventors all over the world for not creating a ‘nose plug’ product which could act very much like an ear plug– dulling, if not completely eliminating, unwanted sensations that enter the nasal cavity.  Stupid inventors!

Welcome to Cheery Chilliwack!

Step 4 on the “Overnight Bus Ride From Vancouver to Calgary” program is where the real magic takes place. At precisely 3:30 in the morning, two people right across from you will start chatting loudly in English. They will, for the purposes of teaching you PAIN and SUFFERING, ‘discover’ that they have a lot in common, including an intimate knowledge of the Russian language. So they will switch over into speaking loud, boisterous Russian. At 3:30 am. On The Autobus From Whence There Shall Be No Escape.

You will put in your earplugs. Enthusiastic ‘Nyet’s and ‘Da‘s will still be clearly audible.

You will put your headphones on over your earplugs. You will crank the Kylie. And you will still hear those blasted Russians.

You will try, in vain, to put a toque on over your headphones, which in turn have been placed strategically over your ear plugs. Can you guess whether you will still hear the Russians at this point? Yes, you will!!

The voices of our Russian team leaders have been specially trained to cut through any and all sound barriers. They will chat excitedly, incessantly, and non. f*cking. stop. from 3:30 am onwards! (7 hours straight!)

Your anger and frustration will start to bubble and boil up inside of you. You will make heated accusations in your head, bellowing at their stupid faces to SHUT THE HELL UP ALREADY! You will become bitter at the bus driver for not establishing any ground rules or quiet time hours beforehand. You will loathe the Night Owl breed, but especially the Russian Night Owl breed. Everyone should be sleeping when it’s past midnight on the bus!! You will curse whomever invented the Cyrillic alphabet in the first place, and you will hate the Universe for sitting those two strangers beside each other on the bus. You will almost be ready to morph into THE DREADED SHE-WOLF or the RABID BEAST-MAN, but you will require one last step:

Step 5 of our program involves making a pit stop in Golden, BC at the ungodly hour of 6 am. The Russians will have been catching up with each other at high decibels for the last 2 1/2 hours, and you will have managed 45 minutes or so of highly interrupted, not-at-all-restful “sleep”. At this point, the bus driver will make an announcement over the intercom, turn on all the bus lights, and shake you out of the bus directly into the fluorescent-lit arms of the Husky House Restaurant. You will not be permitted back on the bus for 40 minutes, and if you want to sit down inside the restaurant (instead of standing up outside in the freezing cold with a bunch of sketchy truck drivers), you will need to order an All White Breakfast off the Husky menu: toast, scrambled eggs, and hash browns. Even though you packed enough nutritious food with you to feed the entire Russian army for a whole week.

Actual program participant during Step 5 of this remarkable program. “Enjoy the journey”, my ass!!!

You will snap.

Your face will contort into twelve different shades of ugly, and your lips will purse themselves into a tight, raisin-like knot.

You won’t care what you look like or what you sound like by then. You will just shout all sorts of obscenities to random passersby and become a professional bird flipper. Eff you, Russians! Nyet nyet nyet! Eff you, Greyhound! Eff you, Husky hash browns! Eff you, Golden BC! Eff you, lack of sleep! Eff you, ice and snow! Eff you, 15 1/2 hours to get to effin’ Calgary Alberta! EVERYONE MUST DIE!!!!!!!!!!

You will actually witness the female Russian slipping on an ice patch outside, and instead of  scurrying to her assistance or asking her if she is okay, you will smile with mirth and twisted delight, and perhaps you will even chortle a little at her misfortune. She-Wolf, indeed! Heart of stone! Cold as ice!!!  Transformation COMPLETE!

We’re so sure that our “Overnight Bus Ride From Vancouver to Calgary” program will transform you from assertive to ANGRY AND AGGRESSIVE in 15 1/2 hours or less that we will guarantee our results! If, for any reason, you are not 100% satisfied with your new-found She-Wolfness or Rabid Beastliness,  simply return your product for a full refund (less ridiculous bus fare and the agonizing 15 1/2 hours of your life spent growing ugly fangs and dark bags under your eyes.) But hurry! This offer is only available for a limited time. Call now! Operators are standing by.

Actual program participants: AFTER. Bloodshot eyes, messy hair, crazy expressions– success!