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Unhip

As I approach the new self-checkout area at a local supermarket, a clerk comes over to guide me. She is probably at least a decade or two older than me, although my sense of age is probably not as sharp as it used to be.

“Be sure to put your bag on the scale and add each item after you scan it. Do you have your own bags?”

“No, for the avodadoes, you should click the ‘enter code manually button.’ See how there’s a number on the sticker?”

It’s not like I’m new to self-checkouts, but as she deftly corrects a few of my actions, it does facilitate a smoother transaction. Usually I have to click the “Get help” button at least once during these things, but today I don’t.

After it’s all over, I make my way to the exit, rolling shopping cart literally in tow. With its turquoise pseudo-Moroccan tile pattern, I think it’s cute – but by its very nature, it can never be hip. Even the word “hip” is un-hip, I fully acknowledge that.

Even though I leave feeling about a hundred years old, the whole thing was somehow quite a satisfying experience.

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Two Years

Two years ago this week, you went on an unexpected outdoor adventure. Racing down city streets, careening along window sills, bouncing off balconies.

You hid out for four days, undoubtedly terrified, waiting.

Then one morning, you plucked up every ounce of your feline courage and found your way back home at five o’clock in the morning. You walked through the door I’d left open and into the kitchen and scarfed down as much food as you possibly could. You looked up at me when I saw you, seeming almost puzzled as I burst into sobs.

Since then, you’ve curled up with me at night while I slept with my elbow tightly around you. You’ve tucked yourself under my arm while I typed on my laptop with the other. You’ve dozed soundly on your bed while I worked a foot away on my desk.

You diligently caught mice in my old apartment and have enjoyed bird- and squirrel-watching vantage points at my new condo.

You don’t meow excessively and you haven’t broken or scratched things, only adding some wear and tear to the couch… a small price to pay for your constant companionship throughout the pandemic.

Sophie, you are a kitty like no other. I ❤️ you.

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Diane et moi

On this Fête Nationale holiday in my home province of Québec – aka Fête de la Saint-Jean-Baptiste – there’s been much talk about the promotion of homegrown music.

But listening to a radio show today focussing on the wealth of music generated in this province made me reflect back on one time I was in the close presence of a real vedette québécoise.

I think I was about 15 at the time. I was heavily into acting, obsessed with anything related to performing in theatre, TV, film, and as fate would have it one day, commercials.

My dad was working on a commercial for Coke Diète and they needed someone to serve as a stand-in for a very famous Québec singing star named Diane Dufresne. As I happened to be around the same small stature as the performer, I was well suited to take her place during lighting and camera setups, allowing Mme. Dufresne to swoop in and do her bits once the technical setup was all ready.

Kathryn serves as stand-in for Diane Dufresne in Diet Coke commercial

I remember being quite hot under all the lights, so they let me wear my shorts, alongside the odd bellhop-reminiscent pink hat, and a top made out of the same satiny material the star would be wearing.

I can’t recall much else – it was a loooong time ago – but I do remember feeling like it was a cool, probably once-in-a-lifetime experience. And indeed it was.

Miraculously, the entire commercial is up on YouTube, so if you dare, go ahead and feast your eyes on the marvel of Diane Dufresne shilling for Coca-Cola in the 1980s, in what is probably one of the weirder commercials of the decade.

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Fear of Holes

Well. It’s been a while, hasn’t it? While I didn’t intend for there to be such a long pause after my last post, as the saying goes, life happened.

And speaking of gaps….

Have you ever looked over at a cluster of small, irregularly shaped holes or circles, and recoiled in disgust? All my life, that’s been me. I never knew until fairly recently that this phenomenon is actually a thing. Like a real thing with a name!

Trypophobia:

“An aversion to the sight of irregular patterns or clusters of small holes or bumps.”

Wikipedia

Yes, I know it’s weird!

No, I don’t know why I cringe when I see a poor, mild-mannered crepe on my plate. (Trypophobes, look away now, you’ve been warned.)

Or why the sight of small coffee-coloured bubbles on a plastic lid floating in the sink sends shivers down my spine:

Apparently trypophobia hasn’t been studied very much – and I don’t blame the scientific community, which has much bigger fish to fry.

According to the same Wikipedia article, there’s a hypothesis “that it is the result of a biological revulsion that associates trypophobic shapes with danger or disease, and may therefore have an evolutionary basis.”

I suppose that makes sense, so I’ll just keep reminding myself that the crepes are not out to attack me or make me sick, and get on with it.

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Personal

Stockpiling Joy

Surviving a pandemic is about more than physical health, it’s also about mental health.

If you live alone, how do you get through the challenges of isolation? And what if you live in a climate where winter is long, dark, and bone-chillingly cold?

Winter is a predictable part of life in Canada, but pandemic + winter is a combination most of us have never had to deal with before. Usually winter just creeps up on me, before I’ve even swapped my drawers of T-shirts and summer shorts for the cozy sweaters in storage bins.

But not this year. Given the exceptional circumstances, I decided in late summer to start consciously thinking about how I could make this winter more bearable, while not spending every moment glued to an electronic device. This article about how Norwegians not only get through winter – but thrive – helped me reframe and get inspired to start stockpiling some joy I can call on a bit further down the road.

First I started thinking about my physical space. I’m lucky to live in a cozy apartment with enough space not to feel hemmed in or trapped. But what could I do to make it feel even cozier? I had some cute fairy lights that I hadn’t ever done much with, and asked a friend adept at home decor if she had any ideas about what I might do with them. “Why not put them in a glass bowl,” she said. That could look really cute.

I didn’t have a bowl, but I remembered a large glass vase. Not big enough to fit all the lights, but after gazing around my flat I realized the plant stand could be a perfect home for the setup.

I did other things too. I got a couple more plants. I bought a patio heater, to extend the period in which I can host visitors outdoors. (My plans were thwarted by the province’s new lockdown restrictions, but I’m hoping to use it later this fall if Québec shapes up.)

While I’m out on the patio by myself, I fantasize about what sort of gardening I might do next year: I’ll try to grow some herbs again, hopefully figuring out why I killed two cilantro plants this year. Maybe try to replicate my friend Victoria’s great success with balcony basil and tomatoes.

What about crafts? Working with your hands can be meditative, plus you usually end up with something to show for it. I decided to try cross-stitching and ordered a cute beginner kit from a seller on Etsy. I’m looking forward to working on it, with a cat on my legs and fairy lights glowing.

Sea to sky cross-stitch kit. Trees and ocean abstract design in a circle.

I’ve also pondered trying a jigsaw puzzle, which a lot of people have gotten into, or rediscovered. I’m still contemplating these gorgeous wooden creations based on Canadian artwork, and in the meantime, a kind friend dropped off a couple of puzzles I can try out, to see if I enjoy the pastime.

One of the parts of travel I actually miss is spending all the time on planes and waiting at airports reading articles I’ve loaded up on Instapaper. I’ve still been saving them to read “later,” but I’m going to try to make a point to actually peruse them, even if it’s sitting on my couch at home.

I’ve also reserved some books from the library instead of buying them, and am excited to get that email, informing me they’re ready to be picked up. I’m thankful that even though our libraries are once again closed to browsing, reservations and inter-library loans are still available. After experimenting with some ebooks during the last lockdown, I’ve come to the conclusion that I still like reading on paper best.

I’ll still be cooking and baking a lot – check out some of the goodies I made during the first wave – and am planning to try some new recipes. (Scallion pancakes, here I come!)

One thing I need to make a point to do is get outside into nature. It always invigorates me, and I don’t do it enough. I’d like to get back to the Botanical Gardens, and go for a walk on the mountain (aka Mont-Royal). I’ve even toyed with the idea of getting showshoes, even if none have been procured so far. I can find it hard to get motivated to do these types of activities by myself, so friends will be pinged.

There are also a wealth of online activities these days, and I’m always keeping my eye out for these. I’ve taken part in online book launches, comedy festivals, and even a mixed media art class. I love seeing what my friends around the world are up to; for all its evils, Facebook is great for that, and I often partake in events I wouldn’t have been able to attend in person.


As I was writing this post, I got an email informing me that it’s World Mental Health Day today, featuring a video with Dr. Laurie Santos’s five favourite evidence-based coping strategies: exercise, gratitude, sleep, getting social, and being with your emotions.

Sounds good to me. Let’s see how it goes. Bon courage, everyone.