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Sunday, December 31, 2017

Day 74: Looking back on 2017


My Project: 365 Creative Writing Prompts

Day 74: Looking back on 2017

The year is drawing to an end and if you’re like me you’re thinking back on all that’s happened over the past months. All in all, I think it was a rather uneventful year, but let’s have a look how 2017 treated me.

January

The year had hardly started and I was down on my luck already. I was nearly knocked down by a car and not once but three times. The first time by a driver of a Mercedes who was reversing without looking in his rearview mirror. The second time by an SUV who was in such a hurry to slip into traffic that he paid no attention to me. The third time by a Toyota who slid across the zebra path.

February

In February nothing happened, except that someone took one of my stories about a cat and included it in her cat anthology. Some people seem to think that it’s okay to help themselves to other people’s work.

March

In March I was threatened with legal action. I had written an in-debt review of Contena, a site where freelance writers can find all kinds of writing gigs. Before (almost) joining I had done research about the site and found nothing but good reviews. This itself seemed fishy to me. If something is too good to be true, it usually is. I found a number of flaws with the site and listed them in my review. Within a matter of days, Kevin (the founder of the site) sent me a rather nasty email and threaned legal action. So that’s why there are no negative reviews of Contena to be found. Anyone who has anything but praise for the site gets threatened. My biggest problem with Contena was that members have to pay $99 per month for the site's services. There are plenty of other writing sites around and none of them charges their members one cent.

April

In April a pair of finches came to have a look at our balcony. Shortly afterward, Mr. and Mrs. Finch started making a nest. For days they flew back and forth with twigs and pieces of fluff and when the nest was finished, Mrs. Finch took up residence and over the course of six days deposited six eggs. What amazed me the most was the patience of Mrs. Finch who sat on her eggs for hours on end without moving.


May

In May the chicks hatched and fought for space within their nest. We followed their growth with interest. Every time when the parents weren’t around, we went out and took a peek at the young ones who were nothing more than six little balls of fluff.


June

June saw planting season. The time when we make our way to the Home Depot nursery and buy flowers. As a rule, I always choose petunias because I know they are non-toxic to cats.

At the end of June the six little balls of fluff who were now properly feathered birds flew off. The remarkable thing was, as soon as they left our balcony they were joined – in mid-flight – by one of the parents who guided them to the rest of the family.

July

In July, we started looking for a new place to live. I contacted an estate agent and the first property ad he sent us was a hit. From the outside, the house didn’t look like much, but inside the whole place was renovated and was just perfect. The advertised price was perfect too, just $159,000. As it turned out, the estate agent had made a mistake though, the price was not $159,000 but $1,159,000. Needless to say, our interest went from hot to ice cold.

August

In August, I started this 365 creative writing prompts project. Some posts are current events, some are memories, every now and then I vent about something or another, and when I find nothing to write about I turn to my cats for inspiration.

September

In September nothing happened, absolutely nothing. The only thing worth mentioning was that I read ‘The Alchemist’. This book had a huge advertising campaign, quite a few people were talking about the book so eventually, my curiosity got the better of me and I bought the book. And it wasn’t bad, it was an enjoyable read. But to make such a hoopla about it … no, I didn’t think the story was that good.

October

The same applies to ‘Origin’ by Dan Brown. A much-anticipated book, a huge promotional campaign, but the book itself … a bit of a disappointment. Very well written of course, very engaging, but Dan Brown’s theory about how life started on earth … no, not something I agree with. I have all Dan Brown’s books and I dare say, ‘Origin’ is my least favorite.

October also saw the start of the #metoo campaign, started by Alyssa Milano and followed by a number of other sluts. When looking at pictures of these women, I very much question their motives. I don’t doubt that they were, at some point, harassed by men but then what woman hasn’t been. I daresay that every single woman at one time or another has been on the receiving end of harassment. But to make such a big deal of it. Just take a look at the pictures of these so-called victims and then draw your own conclusions.




November

In November, I tackled quite a few issues. Rather than writing it all again I’ll give you the subjects along with the links.

Discrimination – old vs. young

Children and electronics

Does Deodorant increase the risk of breast cancer

What’s the difference between a turkey and a tiger

The dangers of parabens

Online Christmas shopping

December

On December 6th one of our beloved cats, Mickey, passed away. I noticed that his breathing was labored. I suspected a cold and took him to the vet for medication. As it turned out he had congestive heart failure. Treatment would have cost thousands of dollars and would have been very painful for Mickey. I loved Mickey too much to put him through this and so I decided to let him go and cross Rainbow Bridge.



And so, that’s it. Christmas has passed, New Year’s is upon us and tomorrow 2017 will be history. We can only wait and wonder what 2018 will bring.










Friday, December 29, 2017

Day 73: Who’s the boss … the parents or the child?


My Project: 365 Creative Writing Prompts

Day 73: Who’s the boss … the parents or the child?

The question ‘Should parents be allowed to smack their child?’ was recently posted on Facebook. A string of comments followed. The younger generation was against corporal punishment, the older generation saw nothing wrong with it.

I see nothing wrong with it either. When a child misbehaves, how else are parents to exercise discipline? Some might say that sending a child to their room is punishment. What a joke that is. Most kids have plenty of entertainment in their bedroom, so what do they care if they have to spend an extra couple of hours there.

Back in my day, we feared our parents. Dad never hit, he had the hands of a boxer and feared his own strength. So mam was the one to watch out for. She didn’t hit often, but when she did it was usually deserved. Sometimes she didn’t even have to hit, she just had to give us 'the look' and we knew we were skating on thin ice.

Just as a picture is worth a thousand words, so is one smack. Parents can talk and talk to their kids until the cows come home and the words will go in one ear and out the other. Raise your hand though and kids will know you mean business. Without this kind of discipline, parental authority has become a joke and kids become hooligans. They know that parents can’t lay a hand on them, and they take full advantage of it.

Just how little authority parents have over their kids became clear yesterday.

I was in the waiting room of St. Michael’s Family Practice where a sign was on display reading:

“For the sake of other patient’s health, please wear a mask if you are coughing or experiencing any other signs of a cold. Thank you.”

A woman in her late twenties walked in with a small boy. I’m guessing the child was four or five years old. While the mother registered, the boy – who had a bad cough - took a seat in the waiting room.  When she was finished with the receptionist, the woman called her boy so she could fit him with a mask. He refused.

She explained to him that because he had a cough, he had to wear a mask. Again, he refused. The woman’s response … okay then.

The boy spent about 15 minutes in the waiting room, coughing his head off. This annoyed me to no end. When adults give a tiny cough or sneeze, they are forced to wear a mask before they can sit in the waiting room, but here was this obviously sick child and he was free to spread his germs wherever he pleased. And not only was he coughing, not once did the mother tell him to keep his hand in front of his mouth. Now that’s just bad parenting. If this had been my child, he would have worn a mask whether he liked it or not.

Later on, as mother and son were preparing to leave, something equally annoying happened. As they were putting on their coats, the mother asked the son “How do you want to go home? By cab or by subway?”  Who the hell cares what the kid wants. She is the mother. She makes the decisions. Whatever next? Will she ask him what time he wants to go to bed? Or what she can watch on TV?

On the subway, on the way home I met another annoying mother and child. This mother was also in her late twenties with a kid of about three years old. He came running onto the train and headed straight for the seat next to me. Instead of sitting down, he clambered onto the seat and sat on his knees to look out the back window. Now much to see except for a dark tunnel, but okay.

I wouldn’t have minded, except that he couldn’t sit still for more than 10 seconds, and every time he twisted and turned he wiped his filthy wet boots on my pants.

What annoyed me about this woman was, not only did she not discipline her child, she was paying no attention to him, she was too busy texting. Eventually, when she took a break from her phone, I gave her ‘the look’ and it worked like a charm. She could see that I've had it with her brat and if she didn't take charge of the situation, I would.

On the other hand, I encountered no less than three Oriental couples with their child and not a word of a lie, all three children – ranging from 3 to 6 years old – were perfectly behaved. No screaming, no running, no squirming in their seat. They sat quietly next to their parents, keenly observing what went on around them. I have no idea whether they were Chinese, Japanese, Korean or Vietnamese, but it seems to me Western parents can learn a thing or two from their Asian counterparts.










Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Day 72: Refused by pet adoption agency


My Project: 365 Creative Writing Prompts

Day 72: Refused by pet adoption agency

Approximately eight years ago I started this blog, primarily to vent. A number of things angered me and a friend suggested I start a blog to blow off steam. Over the years I’ve started quite a few posts with “I’m ticked off”, “I’m angry” or even “I’m furious”. Apparently not much has changed because while I’m not exactly furious, or even angry, I am ticked off.

Where it comes to adopting a pet, I’m the first one to declare loud and clear that pets are not toys and should not be given as presents at Christmas, Easter, or a birthday.

However, I’m sure that during this Christmas season there were people with the best of intentions. People who wanted to adopt a cat, a dog, or another animal and were willing to give it a loving home for years to come. I should know because I was one of those people. All my cats are rescues, which is why I’m so ticked off that I was refused by an adoption agency.

After Mickey passed away, I subscribed to a website that notifies cat lovers whenever a cat or kitten becomes available for adoption. I didn’t have to wait long. Just three days later I received an automated message from the Toronto Cat Rescue that a kitten named Millie was looking for a home. Unfortunately, or fortunately depending which way you look at it, Millie generated quite a bit of interest and was adopted before I even had the chance to properly apply. Naturally, I wished Millie and her newly adopted parents all the best.

A few days later I received another notification. This time from Team Cat Rescue that three kittens were looking for a home. I applied for each of the kittens, hoping to get lucky with one of them. As it turned out, I didn’t get lucky with any of them and I stand no chance of ever getting a kitten or a cat from Team Cat Rescue.

In response to my application, one of the representatives stated that no cat or kitten is released to a home where there is a cat or cats older than five years. This made absolutely no sense to me. I’ve always had cats, over the years I’ve introduced plenty of kittens and never had any problems. What’s more, when I adopted Gabriel, Mickey immediately took him under his wing.

The representative further stated (rather cheekily I might add) that kittens have no problem being adopted, but that older cats are being ignored. This I’m afraid is true, and it breaks my heart that older cats are being abandoned, but I can’t adopt an older cat. I once tried introducing an older cat to my lot and it didn’t go well.

I don’t know where the older cat came from, but I found him in the garden of our condo building. I took him in and introduced him to my cats, but there was a lot of growling and hissing. To cut a long story short, the cat met George, a paraplegic who was waiting in his wheelchair for his transportation. The cat jumped on George’s lap, George started petting him, and the two became inseparable. George named the cat Lucky, which indeed he was.

So, keeping this experience in mind I preferred to look for a kitten or a young cat, rather than an older cat because the chances of getting accepted were much better. The representative of Team Cat Rescue wouldn’t be persuaded though … no kitten to a household with cats older than five years. So that was that.

Not only was this disappointing to me, but I can well imagine that there are other people out there who have experienced or will experience the same problem. They want to rescue a cat or a kitten, but because they already have a cat who is older than five years, they will be refused.

If Team Cat Rescue wants to make a difference, they should place greater emphasis on pets being spayed/neutered and discourage people from getting rid of their pets when it no longer suits them. All too often people get rid of their cat(s) when a baby comes into the house. Little do they know that a cat will never harm a baby. On the contrary, a cat will cuddle up with a baby, keep it warm and sooth it to sleep. 







Monday, December 25, 2017

Day 71: Merry Christmas





Day 71: Merry Christmas

Over the past month, I’ve heard the words “Merry Christmas” over and over again. I do wonder though for how many people Christmas is a merry occasion. I can well imagine that for many people this is a difficult time of the year, fueled by memories and filled with sadness.

Absent loved ones are often thought of during the year but husbands, wives, mothers, fathers, sister, brothers, and children are especially painfully absent when millions of families get together to celebrate.

When talking about absent loved ones, I’m not only referring to people who have died but just as much about people who, for one reason or another can be home for Christmas. People who have immigrated, people serving a jail time, or people in a medical facility. Or people, who live near enough to each other, but are estranged from one another.

I can well imagine that for all these people, Christmas is far from merry and that they can’t wait for the festive days to be over.

For others, this Christmas will be far from merry because they lost a pet. As some of you might remember, we lost Mickey on December 6th, which greatly overshadowed our Christmas. Just this morning I read of someone who had to rush their 17-year-old cat to the vet. The visit did not have a happy ending. I'll bet they won't feel merry either.

As for me, I am grateful that I am seeing this Christmas at all because I very nearly didn’t. Last Friday morning, I got off the Spadina streetcar, looked to my left to see if another streetcar was coming, and completely forgot to look to my right. An oncoming streetcar missed me by a few meters/feet. I don’t even want to think of what could have happened.


On the upside, this is the first Christmas in all my years that I saw it snow on Christmas Eve. I’ve seen white Christmases of course but never did I saw falling snowflakes on that night. 

So, for what it's worth, I wish everyone a Merry Christmas with the hope that whatever sorrow they are bearing the weight isn't too much for them to bare.


Friday, December 15, 2017

Day 70: Christmas safety tips


My Project: 365 Creative Writing Prompts

Day 70: Christmas safety tips

It’s the season to be jolly, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be careful. By paying attention and as such preventing hazards with Christmas trees and decorations, you might save yourself a rush visit to the hospital or veterinary clinic during the celebrations.

Candles

Candles are perfect to create atmosphere and a sweet aroma, but they are also huge fire hazards. To avoid accidents keep lighted candles away from the Christmas tree or decorative tree branches.  Place candles in a spacious area, on a flat hard surface in non-flammable candle holders.

Open Fire

Before making use of the fireplace, check the flue.  Checking the flue should be done annually to prevent chimney fires. Before lighting a fire be sure that all flammable materials such as wrapping paper, cardboard boxes, tinsel and chemicals are well away from the fireplace. To keep children and pets safe it is recommended to make use of a fireplace screen.  

Tree

Place the Christmas tree out of harm’s way. Preferably in a corner where it can’t be knocked down by children 
or pets. Be sure that the tree has a sturdy base so that it doesn’t fall over. If you have a real tree, keep it watered. Prep your tree by cutting or drilling a hole into the trunk, this will make for easy water absorption. Do not place your tree near a fireplace.

Christmas lights

Christmas lights should be checked before placing in the tree. The wire should not be frayed and no wires should be exposed. Sockets should be in perfect condition. If you see any damage, throw the lights out. Indoor lights should never be used outdoors and neither should outdoor lights be used indoors. Use a sturdy stepladder or chair to place the lights in the tree.

Tree Decorations  

If you have small children or pets, give preference to plastic decorations over glass ones. Accidents happen and it’s easy to miss a fragment of glass from a broken Christmas ball on the floor or carpet.  Should a child running barefoot or a pet step into such a fragment this will require a trip to the doctor or vet.
Give preference to pearls or a satin ribbon over tinsel to decorate the tree. In your absence, a pet may get curious about the shiny object, chew on it and choke.

Accidents happen all the time and bitter tears are shed afterward while people exclaim ‘If only I’d know’.  Don’t become one of them.  Think about what can happen and act responsibly.



Thursday, December 14, 2017

Day 69: Christmas gifts to avoid


My Project: 365 Creative Writing Prompts

Day 69: Christmas gifts to avoid

The number one Christmas gift to avoid is a pet.
Kittens and puppies may look adorable in the store or shelter, but they are not ideal gifts.
Kittens and puppies tend to grow up and then what?  Will the gift receiver commit to love and care for them for their entire life span?  Do they have the time and life style to care for a pet?
Many people travel for work and are often away for days or even weeks.  These people generally do not have pets as leaving them creates a problem.  Who will feed them?

Giving a bird, a fish or any other life animal is an equally bad idea.  They too need care on a daily basis and presenting someone with such a gift is thoughtless. 
Should you want to rescue an animal from a shelter and present it to someone make sure that the animal is welcome.

Another gift to avoid is fragrance.  Unless you are familiar with the fragrance the lady in your life uses, stay away from the cute little bottles.  Something may smell nice to you, but that does not necessarily mean that she will share your opinion. 

Come to think of it, stay away from the personal care isle altogether. Ladies are fussy which creams and lotions they use. Unless you are familiar with her preferences, do not take chances.

Ladies, the same goes for you. You may like a certain cologne, but does he?  The time that men had only a handful of colognes to choose from are long gone. These days the display cabinet of men’s fragrances is almost as extensive as the one for ladies.

Chocolates or other candy may seem like a good idea, but is it?  Perhaps the lady in your life is trying to lose a few pounds. Perhaps a certain type of chocolate makes her face break out in spots. She might even be diabetic.

Giving a woman who is a bit overweight a book on dieting, or giving a woman who does not like to cook a cookbook is an equally bad idea. You may think you are helping her, but she might just chuck it at you. If you want to give her a book, familiarize yourself with her preferred authors.

Do not give her clothes, unless you are certain of her size. If the garment is too small she will be disappointed; if it is too big she might be insulted. And even if the item is the right size, will she like the color or texture?

Knock-offs are best to be avoided too. Whether it is a Guess handbag, or a Gucci watch, if you cannot afford the real thing, stay away from it. Far better to buy something cheaper, but for it to be the real thing.
Before setting off for your Christmas shopping, listen to the receiver of your gift, she might just drop a hint.

Or, if you are totally clueless, ask her to draw up a wish list. Whatever you decide to buy, play it safe and keep the receipt.







Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Day 68: Christmas gift ideas for your girlfriend


My Project: 365 Creative Writing Prompts

Day 68: Christmas gift ideas for your girlfriend

Gentlemen, have you been wandering the town or mall, wrecking your brain for the perfect Christmas gift for your girlfriend?  If your budget is limitless the choice is easy, as diamonds are a girl’s best friend, but something tell me you are not as fortunate. 

The Christmas gift you will present your girlfriend with will largely depend on the length of time you have been dating.  If you have been going out for months the type of gift you give will obviously be different than if the relationship is fairly new.


Whatever the case may be, there is no need to panic or rush to the bank for a loan, the following are Christmas gift ideas for your girlfriend that won’t cost you an arm and a leg.


Jewelry

If you cannot afford real diamonds consider the next best thing ... Swarovski crystals.  The Swarovski collection holds a number of jewelry items, ranging from necklaces to bracelets and rings to pretty ornamental pieces for her room.  They are not cheap, but they do fit a man on a budget.

If Swarovski crystal is still too much for you, have a look at custom jewelry in sterling silver, electroplated gold or pearls.  You may find some beautiful items for a fraction of the price.

Perfume

Unless your girlfriend suffers from asthma, consider a nice bottle of perfume or au de toilette.  The pretty bottles come in all kinds of scents and price ranges and will be welcomed with a smile.

Should perfume or au de toilette be out of your price range, have a look at body lotion, bath pearls or scented candles.  They cost next to nothing and will still make for a very nice gift.


Books

Does your girlfriend like to write?  If she does, surprise her with a laptop.  If this is a bit much, I’m sure she will be tickled pink with a beautiful journal to capture her ideas and thoughts.  Journals come in all kinds of sizes and price ranges, from expensive leather-bound books to economically priced hard cover ones.
While you’re at it, you might as wells spring for a nice pen too.


If your girlfriend loves to read, you can’t go wrong with a book. Before making a selection in the bookstore, discretely find out what she likes to read, does she like murder mysteries, biographies, vampire stories or romance novels?

Clothing

Should you wish to give your girlfriend a clothing item, stick to a warm scarf, gloves or anything else that doesn’t require knowing her size.  
Steer clear of lingerie.  Unless your relationship has reached an intimate stage and you are very sure such an item will be welcomed, give it a miss as this type of gift is presumptuous and might backfire.


If you are still at a loss as to what to get, talk to your mother, your sister or a female colleague.  Girls know what girls like.