Fear Factor: Freaky Edition

Halloween is only a few days away, so it’s time for the final edition of Fear Factor. Today’s post is about two events that gave me the shivers even though I found reasonable explanations for them… kinda… sorta.

I’m not ‘freakable’ by nature, but these occurrences were freaky.

Here goes:

Flashback to the 1970s. I haven’t picked up a Reader’s Digest in years, but back then their format included jokes, informative articles, one lurid description of some horrific event, and a health column that explained the basics of anatomy and diseases.

A brief digression: Anybody remember ‘I am Joe’s (fill in body part here)’? And I vividly recall an article about a woman who got hit by a car and had her leg ripped off – I can still see the little bird’s-eye-view sketch of cars all bunched up on the street, the woman’s body, and her leg lying in the road a couple of yards away – brrrr! I was pretty young at the time so it made a big impression.

Anyway, on to the spooky stuff. When I was around twelve or thirteen I was reading about cancer in the Reader’s Digest. I’d never heard of such a thing and as I read the article, absolute cold terror overtook me along with the certainty that something bad was going to happen. I had read lots of scary things before but this was a new level of fear, and I felt impelled to go and find my mother. I didn’t tell her what the problem was; just stuck close for a while. But the fearful feeling never really went away.

My mom died of cancer when I was nineteen.

I know the laws of probability can explain that.  Cancer is pretty common, and there’s certainly nothing unusual about a child being frightened by learning about a scary disease like that. So I filed the whole thing away as a creepy but explainable coincidence.

Until a few years later.

My then-husband and I were living in Halifax, and his brother was attending Dalhousie University. My brother-in-law’s term had ended and he was soon to return home to Calgary so we took one last drive together, puttering around down by the shore and having a pleasant day. As we were driving back, I glanced over at my brother-in-law in the driver’s seat and a thought blazed into my mind, sudden and forceful: “I’ll never see him again.”

A month later he was killed in a climbing accident in the Rocky Mountains. When I saw him again, he was dead in his coffin.

That really creeped me out.

But again, I’ve explained it to myself. People have lots of weird random thoughts in a day. Make predictions often enough and sooner or later you’re bound to hit on something that actually happens. If they don’t come true, you never think of them again, but if you actually get one right you think, “OMG, I predicted that!”

I’m sure that’s all it was.

Well, mostly sure.

But still…


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P.S. I’m on the road again, so I’ll reply to comments later today or tomorrow.  ‘Talk’ to you then!

May your Halloween be just scary enough to be fun!

Slime! You’re Eye Candy!

That was the sign that confronted me as I left the optometrist’s office yesterday: “Slime! You’re eye candy!”

I had just been told my eyesight was perfect, so since I was reading the sign backward through the glass I figured it had to be another instance of my attention-deficit dyslexia. I went around and checked it from the correct side and sure enough, it said, “Smile! You’re on camera!” But at least I got a chuckle.

It’s been that kind of week: Bass ackwards and downside up. I feel as though I’ve been running around in ever-decreasing circles until I’m in imminent danger of disappearing up my own ass.

Since October is breast cancer awareness month, I had planned for today’s post to honour several of my personal friends and all the other brave women who have fought or are fighting breast cancer.

When one of my friends was going through her chemo treatments, she wanted a break from all the scary serious stuff and we usually ended up laughing in the treatment room. Cancer has enough innate solemnity, so I wanted to write a light-hearted post.

But my scattered brain wouldn’t cooperate. I made several attempts but they all felt as cheap and forced as the drilling company that sent pink drill bits out to their sites to promote awareness despite the fact that some of the chemicals they use are believed to cause breast cancer.

I could just see the board meeting for that one:

“Hey, let’s paint our drill bits pink! We’ll get all kinds of good press for supporting breast cancer!”

“Um, our chemicals cause breast cancer. We’re supposed to be supporting awareness of breast cancer, not supporting breast cancer itself.”

“Oh… Well, close enough. Paint ‘em pink and send out a press release.”

Usually I write my blog drafts on Monday, but by yesterday afternoon I had nothing but three boob jokes and an off-colour toast. (That’s three jokes about boobs, not jokes about three boobs… though I did, in fact, give my blogging buddy Linda Grimes a hard time about discovering a middle tit last week, so maybe that qualifies.)

I’m still clinging to the hope that my gray matter will cooperate and I’ll manage to write that post by next week. Meanwhile, all I’ve got is a joke that combines three of my favourite things: engineers, smart women, and raunchy humour (not necessarily in that order). Oh, and a boob reference, to, um, round things out:

An older male engineer and his young female counterpart were going out to inspect a site after the survey crew had finished. Wanting to impress the young engineer with the breadth of his knowledge and experience, the man turned to the woman as they got out of the truck and said, “We’ll get this done faster if we split up, so take whatever you need from the toolbox in the back of the truck. If we need to communicate at a distance we’ll use the secret engineering code.”

She nodded and they went their separate ways with the man chuckling inwardly. That showed how little she knew. The secret engineering code was something he’d just made up on the spur of the moment.

Looking back to enjoy her rear view, he tripped over a survey stake and knocked it over. By the time he got dusted off she was quite a distance away, watching his discomfiture with a grin. Embarrassed, he decided take her down a peg or two. He pointed to his eye, then his knee, then mimed a hammering motion. “Eye… kneed… the hammer.”

Expecting her to be completely bamboozled, he was startled and not a little perturbed when she shrugged, gripped her left boob, and then hoisted her hand into her crotch.

Frowning, he exaggerated his movements, pointing forcefully to his eye and knee and madly hammering the air. “EYE… KNEED… THE HAMMER!”

She scowled back and repeated her insulting gestures with even more emphasis.

Enraged, the male engineer strode toward her and she did the same, meeting him in the middle and looking just as irritated as he.

“What’s wrong with you?” the man demanded. “I need to pound in that stake. I told you very plainly, I NEED THE HAMMER.”

She replied, “I answered, you moron! Don’t you understand the secret engineering code? I LEFT TIT IN THE BOX!”

…And speaking of eye candy, I know I link to this video approximately every second year but just because I’m completely devoid of originality today, click here for my favourite reminder to get those breast self-examinations done!

Movember Moustache Monikers

Hey, guys, it’s Movember!

I love Movember because it’s a light-hearted way to start conversations about an uncomfortable topic for most guys:  prostate/testicular cancer and mental health.  Too many of my male friends and family have dealt (or are dealing) with prostate cancer or depression, so promoting awareness is important to me.

(Okay, I’ll admit it.  I also love Movember because I have a penchant for men with moustaches.  It’s really a win-win for me.)

Last year I did a full month of posts supporting the Movember movement, so this year I’m dialling it back to one post (or maybe two – not sure yet).  But just to kick things off, I’d like to reiterate some important advice I offered last year: check out ‘Mo’ Advice For Movember’ for a female perspective on which mo’ to grow. (Hint:  Please don’t grow a Kitty-Cat.  Just… don’t, okay?)

This year I planned to write a post on all the many reasons why I love male facial hair, but it turns out most of my reasons are X-rated.  I realize most people don’t expect good taste or restraint from me, but there is such a thing as ‘too much information’, so I scrapped that idea.

You’re welcome.

Instead, I decided to use this as an opportunity for intellectual growth.  So in the spirit of high-minded scholarliness, I offer you some of my favourite moustache monikers:

moustache monikers

On a serious note, to all my male readers:  Guys, please take care of yourselves.  If you’re having trouble with anger or depression, asking for help is a sign of strength, not weakness.  And please get your checkups.  Remember, earlier is easier.

Here are some resources:

Symptoms, risk factors, triggers, and treatments for depression in men

What is the prostate gland and how does it work?

What to expect during a prostate examination

And last but not least:  Guys – remember to use good nutiquette!

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Over to you!  Moustaches:  love ‘em or hate ‘em?

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Woohoo!  Cover art is done for Book 7, ‘Spy, Spy Away’!  Check it out!

Bro Bulletin – Questions Of Doom: #4

For the month of Movember, I’ve been supporting my Mo’ Bros by offering a few helpful insights into the female mind.  This is the last of the Movember Questions of Doom series.

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QOD #4:  Do you like this casserole?

Getting this one wrong probably won’t kill you, but there’s still a pretty high potential for long-term misery.  Possible answers:

“Yes” – I hope you really do like it, ‘cause you’re gonna get it every second week from now until doomsday.

“It’s okay, but I wouldn’t want it every year.” – This one never fails to get a laugh at our house, but don’t try it unless you’re really sure about her sense of humour.  (Note: Her sense of humour may vary considerably from day to day.  Better not chance it.)

“No” – You know the drill.  Icy silence and/or tears and/or wild accusations of “You don’t appreciate anything I do”.  And you aren’t going to be getting any for a good long time.  You know I’m not talking about casserole.

Best Answer:  “Wow, this is really different.  Where did you get the recipe?” – Try not to gag while you say this.  Pretend avid interest in the answer and immediately guide the conversation in another direction.  Examples:

If she says it’s her Aunt Mary’s recipe:  “How is Aunt Mary, anyway?”  (Note:  If the answer is “dead”, you’re in deep shit, but at least the casserole conversation is probably over.)

If she says she found it in a cookbook/magazine/online:  Make sure you sound enthusiastic:  “Really.  Wow, you should try some of their other recipes, too.  Hey, did I tell you about…”

Good luck, bro.  You’re gonna need it.

And because this is the last Bro Bulletin in the Movember series, here’s a bonus QOD:

Bonus QOD:  Did you make that doctor’s appointment yet?

Sorry, guys, there’s only one correct answer to this:  “Yes, dear.”

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Movember Moment:  Guys, if you haven’t done it already, go and get your prostate checked.  A few moments of discomfort are well worth the relief of knowing you’re fine; or, worst-case scenario, the sooner they find a problem, the more easily it can be dealt with.

And if you’re feeling despairing or anxious; if you’re self-destructive or you can’t control your temper, please talk to your doctor.

There’s no shame in asking for help.  If you had computer problems, you wouldn’t just put up with it and hope it’d get better, and you wouldn’t feel inadequate if you couldn’t fix it yourself (and you know how badly it can turn out if you try).

Please treat yourself at least as well as you treat your computer.  We Mo’ Sistas want to keep you around, happy and healthy, for a long time.

So go make that appointment.

Please? For me? *bats big brown eyes*

P.S. Thanks to Le Clown for starting Bloggers for Movember. In support of the cause, I’m donating half the November royalties from my paperback and e-book sales from all channels to the Cancer Society. Only two days left – please spread the word!

Bro Bulletin – Questions Of Doom: #3

For the month of Movember, I’m supporting my Mo’ Bros by offering a few helpful insights into the female mind.  Welcome to the third instalment of the Questions of Doom series. 

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Ah, you guys thought you were getting the hang of QODs, didn’t you?  I’ve got news for you:  we’ve only been dealing with easy yes-or-no QODs until now.  Let’s try a tougher one:  the multiple-choice QOD.

I don’t mean to support gender stereotypes here, but the truth is I don’t personally know any households where the male does the bulk of the cooking.  Guys, if you do, you’ve already got this one nailed.  See you next week.

QOD #3:  What do you want for dinner?

A seemingly innocuous question, isn’t it?  What could possibly go wrong?  Watch and learn…

Bad Answer:  “I don’t know, what do you want?” – This may seem like a safe response, but it’ll blow up in your face.  She’ll likely echo, “I don’t know, what do you want?”  Lather, rinse, repeat.

If you’re the passive-aggressive type, this may be strangely satisfying, but she’ll end up irritated, and you’ll probably end up eating something you don’t like.

Worse Answer:  “I don’t care.  Just cook something.” – Oooh.  Ouch.  If that ever heals, it’s gonna leave one hell of a mark.

Here’s what she just heard:  “I don’t care (about any of your trivial problems.  It’s your responsibility as the subordinate spouse to) just cook something.”

That’s why she’s screaming at you and/or slamming pots and pans around in the kitchen loudly enough to drown out the TV no matter how high you turn the volume.  You’re not gonna like what she cooks tonight.

In fact, if you have any sense of self-preservation at all, you’ll surreptitiously feed it to the dog (particularly if she fixes you a “special” plate but lets the kids serve themselves out of the communal dishes).

And if you’re hoping to get lucky tonight, go buy a lottery ticket.  The odds are better.

Iffy Answer:  “I love your (insert food item here).  Let’s have that.” – On the face of it, this sounds like the perfect answer.  You figure you’re golden because you just solved the problem and complimented her cooking at the same time.  You’re probably right…

Unless the food item in question is difficult and time-consuming to make and she’s exhausted, with ten minutes to get food on the table before the kids start chewing the table legs.

If she starts yelling about how inconsiderate you are, that’s why.  Just hunker down and take it.  It was a good try.

Safe Answer:  “Hmm, how about beef?  Chicken?  Pork?  Fish?  Sausages?  Omelette?  Haggis?  Fava beans…?” – Just keep guessing.  As long as you look like you’re participating, you’re safe.  It’s like soothing an angry dog – steady, calm tones and no sudden moves.  If you stop, she’ll rip you apart.

It’s not about actually solving the problem here – she may or may not accept any of your suggestions.  It’s about “contributing”.  When she thinks you’ve contributed enough, she’ll give you that little smile and headshake that says, “Poor foolish man, you’re just so helpless without me.”  Then she’ll go into the kitchen and make a nice meal.  You’ll enjoy it.

No, let me be really clear about that:  You WILL enjoy it.

Better Answer:  “Forget cooking tonight.  I’ll take you out to dinner/order in.” – Very smooth.  Very smart.  Hubby uses this one so frequently, I call him “The Plastic Chef”.  With a credit card in his hand, the man can cook anything.  This is one of the reasons why he has so many brownie points built up, I couldn’t yell at him even if I wanted to.

Best Answer EVER:  “You work so hard – you deserve a break.  Here, put your feet up.  Here’s a nice glass of wine.  You just relax while I cook you a gourmet meal and clean it all up afterward.” – Yeah, I know.  It’s okay, I couldn’t keep a straight face for that one, either.  But a woman can dream…

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Movember Moment:  Jeez, no wonder guys get freaked out about prostate exams – I can’t believe how much bullshit I found on the internet.  It’s not that big a deal.  Here’s what to expect.

P.S. Thanks to Le Clown for starting Bloggers for Movember. In support of the cause, I’ll donate half the November royalties from my paperback and e-book sales from all channels to the Cancer Society. Please spread the word!

Bro Bulletin – Questions Of Doom: #2

For the month of Movember, I’m supporting my Mo’ Bros by offering a few helpful insights into the female mind.  This is the second instalment of the Questions of Doom series. 

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(Note:  Ladies, this strategy can work for you, too.  Change the pronouns, substitute “tool” for “jewellery”, and you’re away to the races.)

QOD #2:  Did you just buy yourself a new fill-in-the-blank (FITB)?  *Scowls, hands on hips*

Oh, bro.  Buddy.  You screwed up big.  You got busted holding a new FITB and she’s mad, for one of two reasons:

  1. Money’s tight and now you won’t be able to afford groceries/coats for the kids/a family trip; or
  2. You bought something nice for yourself and nothing for her.

If it’s #1, well, don’t be a shithead.  Return the FITB and go buy coats for your kids.

But it’s probably #2.  So here we go:

Bad Answer:  “Yes” – Depending on her temperament, you’ll get:

  1. No nookie for the foreseeable future; AND
  2. Icy silence; or
  3. Increasingly hostile questions like “How much did it cost?” and “Why do you need a new FITB when you’ve already got a perfectly good one?” etc., followed by icy silence; or
  4. Increasingly hostile questions followed by berserk yelling and/or tears and/or flying objects, followed by icy silence.

Worse Answer:  “No” – I don’t mean to be critical, but “no” is a really dumb choice.  You’re standing there with a brand new FITB in your hand.  The tags are still hanging off it.  You know you’re lying.  Worse still, she knows you’re lying, and now you’re insulting her intelligence, too.  See consequences of “yes” above.  Times ten.

So how do you save yourself?  Okay, guys, I want to make it clear that I don’t support lying to your significant other.  In the first place, it’s slimy, and in the second place, it’ll come back to bite you in the ass sooner or later.

But in the spirit of Movember, I’m going to cut you some slack, ‘cause what I’m about to suggest isn’t the blackest of lies.  It’s more like a retroactive truth, if you do it right.

The following solution can make you look like a hero, but it’s complex, dangerous, expensive, and requires some acting skill.  It’s probably easier to just return the FITB, or else let her chew your nuts off and get it over with.

You still want to know?  Okay…

Best Answer:

Step 1:  “Oh, I was hoping you wouldn’t see this until (tonight/tomorrow/whenever the stores are open next).” 

You already look guilty as hell, but try to add a bit of disappointment to your expression.  She knows the first part of that statement is absolutely true, but she’s slightly confused by the second part.  This moment of uncertainty buys you time for:

Step 2:  “I know (occasion) is coming up, so I picked out the perfect gift for you, but I didn’t want to buy it until I knew it was exactly what you wanted.  And I bought this FITB for myself because you’re always saying I’m hard to buy for.”

This is the dangerous part.  She’s pretty damn sure you’re lying, but the lure of “the perfect gift” is slowing her reflexes.  This also assumes you’re within a month or so of some mutual gift-giving occasion.

Christmas, Valentine’s Day, and an anniversary are possibilities for the “occasion”, but if you’re desperate and imaginative, you could whip out something plausible but unverifiable.  Try an obscurity like “the seventh anniversary of the first day I realized I was in love with you”.

Just remember, if you mention it once, it’s forever graven in her memory.  Now you’re on the hook for another gift-giving occasion every year.  How much do you really want that FITB, anyway?

That much?  Seriously?  Okay, then…

Step 3:  Rush her to the jewellery store* and point randomly at something.

Any jewellery will do.  Feign as much enthusiasm as possible, but do not utter the words ‘It’s you’.  It’s not.  No matter what you choose, she’ll want something different.  This is just a decoy.

Step 4:  “I picked this one, but I want it to be perfect, so if you’d rather have something else…”

Suck it up, buddy, ‘cause this is where it gets expensive.  Grit your teeth, smile, and buy whatever she chooses.  I warned you it’d probably be easier to just take your punishment.

Step 5:  Buy her another gift when the actual gift-giving occasion rolls around.

This is a crucial step.  It covers your ass in case she knew you were full of shit earlier but she was willing to play along because she got a nice piece of jewellery out of it.

However, if she actually bought your act earlier, this makes you a hero.  When she says “I thought we exchanged FITBs earlier”, tell her, “I know, but I couldn’t resist buying you this”.

Kiss. Cuddle.  Get laid.  Nicely done, bro.

And next time, hide the damn FITB until you can honestly answer, “No, I’ve had it for months.”

*Note to Hubby:  Don’t try this on me.  Jewellery doesn’t cut it.  I want tools.  What, that shiny set in my trunk?  No, I’ve had that for months.

Movember Moment:  Okay, let’s start with the basics:  What is the prostate gland and how does it work?

P.S. Thanks to Le Clown for starting Bloggers for Movember, and thanks to everyone who weighed in with support for me on the weekend.  I’m feeling much better now about donating half the November royalties from my paperback and e-book sales from all channels to the Cancer Society.

Sorry I’m A Douche

Earlier this week I was pretty pumped about helping with the Movember campaign.  Now I just feel sick.

I was doing my rounds of the blogs when I ran across a post about sleazy book marketing tactics, and the second tactic they mentioned was donating a portion of book sales to charity.

The writer specifically targeted authors who announce a special offer on their books in support of a charity.  His exact words were, “…there’s an invisible line between using your work to help a good cause, and using a good cause to sell more books.”  Relenting, he did mention he thought it was okay if the author’s personal story was somehow related to the cause in question, or if it was a community effort.

I thought I was doing a good thing by advertising that I’d donate half my November book royalties to the Cancer Society.  I’m part of Bloggers for Movember, and cancer looms larger in my personal story than I’d prefer, but that post still hit me like a kick in the gut.

What kind of slimy, contemptible douche would exploit a charitable cause for their own personal gain?

Is that what I’m doing?

When I read that post, I felt as if I’d just mugged a cancer patient for lunch money.

I still feel awful.

My mom died of lymphoma when I was nineteen.  Anybody who’s lost a loved one to cancer knows how it ends:  the naked scalp, the bruised and jaundiced skin, the stick-like limbs, the sunken eyes and distended belly.  She had been a slim, attractive, athletic woman.  When she died ten months after her diagnosis, she was barely recognizable.

My dad was successfully treated for prostate cancer.  My aunt survived an intestinal tumour.  My step-mom is just recovering from her recent (and successful) fight against breast cancer.  Pretty much every year, my doc removes some bit of my skin that’s starting to look “suspicious”.

I’ve donated regularly to the Cancer Society for nearly three decades.  Often it wasn’t a lot, but even when I could barely make ends meet, I usually managed to send a few dollars their way.

Exploiting Movember wasn’t my intention.

I didn’t mean to be a douche.

But I really feel like one.


Bro Bulletin – Questions Of Doom: #1

For the month of Movember, I’m supporting my Mo’ Bros by offering a few helpful insights into the female mind.  Welcome to the Questions of Doom series.

A QOD is an unanswerable and highly dangerous question posed by your wife/significant other.  I’m going to teach you how to escape some common QODs (more or less) unscathed.

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Note:  There are many reasons why I’ve never asked this question myself (not the least of which is that I wear a dress approximately once every five years).  But trust me, guys, I can help you.

QOD #1:  Does this dress make me look fat?

If you’ve ever been hit with this question, you understand the devastating consequences of the wrong answer.  Hint:  Both “yes” and “no” are the wrong answer.

Let’s review:

“Yes” – So, so wrong.  Expect tears, anger, and possibly flying objects.  Don’t expect to get laid any time in the foreseeable future.  And maybe you should wear a cup.  This ain’t pretty, but if you just want to get the whole thing over with, it’s definitely quick.

“No” – This is also the wrong answer.  She doesn’t believe you.  She argues: “Yes, it does.  You’re just saying that.”

It doesn’t matter what you say at this point.  Keep insisting “no”, and she still won’t believe you, you’ll get annoyed, and then she’ll call you an insensitive jerk.   But switch to “yes” and you’re totally doomed.  See consequences above, plus now she thinks you’re a weaselly liar into the bargain.

Best Answer:  “You look hot in everything.  Grrr.” – Accompany this with a kiss, and you might get away scot-free.  But remember, you’re going for distraction here.  A peck on the cheek isn’t gonna cut it.  Just like pulling a punch, a quick lip bump is only going to piss off its recipient.

Go for the gusto.  Kiss her as if you haven’t seen a woman in ten years.

In the beyond-your-wildest-dreams scenario, she says, “Grrr yourself, big fella.”  Nature takes its course, and you end up too busy mattress dancing to go to the stupid event you were dressing for the in the first place.  But don’t get your hopes (or anything else) up for that.

In the best case scenario, she finishes getting dressed with a smile on her face.  (You didn’t really expect to get lucky at this stage, did you?  She’s focused on getting dressed.  But your chances are looking pretty good for some action later if you play your cards right.)

Worst case scenario, she relents and changes the question to, “But do you like the blue one or the black one better?”

Danger, Will Robinson!  This is a trick question.

You probably already know that “I don’t care, just put on something and let’s go” is the wrong answer.  But do not, under any circumstances, breathe a sigh of relief and choose a dress.  That will start the whole process all over again.

The only correct answer is, “The (pick a dress randomly) one makes your boobs/ass/legs look amazing.  Grrr.”

Repeat as needed.

You can thank me later.  (But if you score, I don’t want details.)

Movember Moment:  Depression is one of the most common mental health issues men face. Guys, if you think you may be depressed, see your doctor – don’t wait. The sooner you start working on it, the sooner you’ll start to feel better. Here’s a description of symptoms, risk factors, triggers, and treatments for depression in men.

P.S. Thanks to Le Clown for starting Bloggers for Movember. In support of the cause, I’ll donate half the November royalties from my paperback and e-book sales from all channels to the Cancer Society. Please spread the word!