D’s Two Cents

Hey America,

It’s me, Loquacious D. Up in Canada … Look up … waaaay up … just off to the right a bit …

Anyhoo. So, wow. Next Tuesday’s The BIG Day. And it’s getting pretty intense, hey?

And I’m sure you’ve been getting advice and opinions left, right and centre from lots of non-Americans. But the blogosphere’s a fairly free place, right? So here’s my two cents as you guys enter the home stretch.

I envy the decison you’re about to make. And yet I don’t. 

I’m envious, because this election is probably the most important one in a generation. And did you know you guys are on your way to having THE highest voter turnout in history? Dang.

Take it from someone who lives in a country one-tenth the size of yours, which just had its own election (yes, we have them, too) with the LOWEST voter turnout on record. Compared to ours, yours is a BIG deal.

I mean, where my parents come from, people still DIE if they’re supporting the “wrong” candidate or party. So seeing the democratic process at work – even if it’s in a week in advance – is actually impressive.

That being said, here’s why I don’t envy you: 

Depending on which part of the political playground you choose to hang out, whomever is picked could be potentially polarizing. I mean, I can NOT remember the last time so many people on BOTH sides of the spectrum said, “______ ______ really scares me”, when talking about a political candidate they’re diametrically opposed to, during an election campaign. 

(It could also mean I either have a poor memory – which is bad, since I’m still playing the “young” card – or adult ADD.) 

It could get REALLY ugly. And this makes me worried. But I’m hoping for your sakes that it doesn’t.

Yes, us non-Americans know fully well that you guys are the ones who are voting. Just don’t hate the rest of us for giving our thoughts. We’re not trying to meddle. It’s ’cause we (“we” meaning decent, well-meaning individuals) actually DO care. What happens to you guys affects every last one of us, whether you believe/like it or not.

But no matter what side of the fence you’re on, or even if you’re sitting on it, please do these kids a favour and heed their advice: 

Just do what you gotta do.

And good luck.

The Urge to Purge

clutter2From what I’ve been told, I was very neat as a young girl.

And somewhere along the way I lost it.

As an adult, I know I’m not the neatest person. Far from it. And my attention span when it comes to cleaning is pretty short. So if I DO clean, I have to do it fast.

But perhaps I should consider working on that.

Two weekends ago, I watched this one-hour program about people who have problems with clutter. 

I’m not talking about your run-of-the-mill slobs. These are people described by psychologists as hoarders. Not packrats, which I think I might be. But people who have disorganized, messy MOUNTAINS of clothing, old newspapers and magazines, and random junk – so much that, in some cases, they’re KILLED by their own mess collapsing on them.

The program had two profiles:

One was of this couple who both hoarded when they were single and didn’t know each was marrying a hoarder, until they did. The wife was a professional re-organizer, if you can believe that. When the program was filmed, the extreme clutter was taking a toll on their their marriage and they were seeking help.

They weren’t so bad. They realized they had problems, sought help, and started working on fixing the situation. You could actually see them start to improve by the end of the show.

It was the OTHER hoarder who scared me.

The woman had so much stuff, she could barely open the front door if she had to leave her apartment OR – heaven forbid – let someone in.

She had SKYSCRAPERS of plastic bins – full of documents, string, yarn, clothes, old things she found on the street that she couldn’t bear seeing thrown away – whatever. If the narrator didn’t describe the place as being her apartment, I would have easily mistaken it for the stockroom of a store or something.

Wait, there’s more. She’d been evicted from her previous apartment. A municipal department sent people into her apartment, and they emptied SEVEN YEARS worth of stuff into a gigantic dumpster.

Understandably, it sent her into a state of panic. But it certainly didn’t scare her straight – it took her only about two years to “re-clutter” her new apartment.

And the thing is, she was seeking help – seeing a therapist, having people from the city check on her … but because of her compulsion, she couldn’t break free. She was past the point of no return. And for the duration of the program, she was on the verge of being evicted from her second apartment.

Amid all this, they interviewed a couple of psychologists to ask them what they believed might cause someone to hoard. One of them suggested that sometimes the hoarder may have had a parent with the same tendencies.

I immediately thought of my father.

I wouldn’t say my dad’s a hoarder.  But I think of everything he’s kept over the years – old clothes and other objects in the house and in the garage – and then I think of my own cluttery habits.

I can’t speak for my dad, but I think of the reasons I keep stuff: sentimental value, karmic superstition, the thought it might just come in handy one day … and procrastination when it comes to figuring out what to do with it all.

The first thing I wanted to do after seeing that show was get a dumpster and just get rid of EVERYTHING I didn’t use on an everyday basis. And then shower three times.

But then my neurosis dissipated, and it got me thinking about how to change the way I organize my things. What SHOULD I do with all those birthday and Christmas cards my friends were so thoughtful to send to me? The photos I never actually put in an album? Or all those binders and manila envelopes full of possibly still-useful information? Because if I ever (successfully) move out, I do not want to think about the amount of stuff I’d have to toss beforehand.

I DID do a purge of my basement a bunch of years ago. Maybe I should re-visit that … 

Before my junk becomes The Mountain That Consumes Me Alive.

*NOTE: The picture depicted above is NOT of my junk. I’m not THAT bad.

D’s October Reads

Hey kids!

While I wait for the remaining days of my Hell Month at work to subside, here are my thoughts on a couple of books I managed to read in the last few months. I meant to post this in September but, well, you know …

While away at my friend’s cottage for a long weekend this past summer, I came across I Love You, Beth Cooper sitting all by its lonesome on the coffee table.

Strangely enough, it was the one book (that I can recall in recent memory) that I carried everywhere and didn’t put down until it was finished.

Basic premise: School geek declares his love for the coolest girl in school during his valedictory address on graduation day. The rest of this crazy book, you’ll have to read for yourself.

How can I describe this novel, written by Larry Doyle? Let’s put it this way: take whatever coming-of-age, end-of-high-school-and-graduation movie you’ve seen in your lifetime, and increase the gawky awkwardness and crazy situations by, like, 100. I think I laughed out loud every two minutes the entire time I was reading it.

The book’s made its rounds with my cottage weekend friends, and there’s pretty much a consensus on what we all think. It’s even going to be in movie form, slated for release next year. It’ll be interesting to see how close they stay to the novel.

Tolstoy, it’s not. But if you want a light, fast-moving read, this is your tome. (And omigod, they’ve got a Web site! Pretty wicked.)

Speaking of fast-moving reads, I also got my hands on another novel, The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid, which was recommended to me by another friend later on in the summer.

Like I Love You Beth Cooper, it’s a fast read, and takes place within the same day. But unlike the former, the latter is physically a third of the size and – as the book’s title should imply – the tone is completely different.

The story is narrated by the main character, a bearded Pakistani man named Changez, who tells an American visitor of his love affair with the United States, where he attends school and subsequently lands his first job. The story depicts Changez’s feelings for his temporarily-adopted country as they move from infatuation to disillusionment, against the backdrop of September 11th and the subsequent war on terror.

This may not make sense, but while I thought this book was powerful, I wasn’t completely bowled over. It was probably my mindset when I read it. And the subject matter – especially in a post 9-11 world – still can make one uneasy. But I did relate to some of the main character’s feelings and observations in my own way, as one might relate to something in one’s own life experience – I could almost hear Changez’s voice as I was reading the words. I would definitely encourage you to give this book a read anyway. 

That’s all for now. I might do one of these again next month.