Dealing With Difficult People

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Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about relationships, as in when is it OK to end a relationship that is no longer fulfilling.

And, does that change when it’s family?

The other night, my father-in-law told me my butt is flat.

Squirrel told me not to take it personally which struck me as funny because it hadn’t even occurred to me to take it personally. I was too busy trying to figure out how someone drops “your butt is flat” into casual conversation.

He said it so matter-of-factly – as though he was commenting on the weather or the football score.

I tried to remember a time when I gave his butt any thought, but nothing came to me.

I wondered whether there was a deeper message here. Was he reflecting back to me a part of myself I hadn’t completely accepted?

Then, I remembered a quote I once read – the only quote on dealing with difficult people that ever made sense to me:

I am thankful for the difficult people in my life.  They have shown me exactly who I don’t want to be.


So, I’ve taken his comment as a sign of sorts, to let go of judgement and vanity and focus on creating a fuller, rounder, more pert inner life.

He probably won’t notice that at the next family gathering, but at least I’ll have something to be thankful for.

How do you deal with difficult relationships?

How I Cured My Doctor Dependency…and Cleaned Out My Medicine Cabinet

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This title is a little misleading. Cleaning out my medicine cabinet actually had nothing to do with curing my doctor dependency. It’s just that as I was cleaning out the drug cupboard today, it reminded me that a year ago I stopped trusting my doctor.

It was a big deal for me. For many (15) years I believed that there was no malady physical or emotional that couldn’t be sorted out on a paper covered exam table. I loved all of it – the long wait, the symptom confessional, the solution scrawled messily on a piece of paper.

Just the idea that there was a remedy for the various maladies that plagued me kept me on the appointment rounds. Symptoms came and symptoms went during those years, but hope was a constant.

Then one day about a year ago my doctor revealed herself as incurably human as the rest of us.

You see, I wanted my oldest son to see a pediatrician and, as an advocate and firm believer in the role of the family doctor, she wanted my son to remain in her care. She is an excellent doctor, but I was getting pressure from all sides to have my struggling son thoroughly tested for everything from attention deficit to autism to vitamin deficiency.

I insisted. Then watched in horror as my doctor shape shifted before our very eyes:

Do they (my son’s school) even know who I am? I’m not just any doctor you know. I have a reputation as the best doctor in West Vancouver.

The words God complex looped in my head protecting me from how horrified I really felt. She continued. I was accused of tarnishing her reputation by not taking my son to the psychiatrist she recommended the last time I asked for a referral to a pediatrician. She told my son that only really sick kids went to pediatricians, kids with things like heart disease and cancer.

I coddled:

“I’m sure we won’t find out anything new.”

I mollified:

“It’s just a formality.”

I lied:

“It’s just his teacher insisting on this.”

I stared at a spot on the ground, immedicably shamed, while she rounded out her lecture, finally handing me the referral. Then I grabbed my son and ran.

I haven’t been back. My medicine cabinet reflects that. My health reflects that. I haven’t had a symptom I’d stoop to share with her in over a year.

Cured by my own stubbornness! How do you like that?

How To Tame A Squirrel with Your Own Two Hands

Those of you who have been reading recently know that my Squirrel has been in a funk lately what with the end of the ski season and all.

Those of you who have been reading for a while know that my Squirrel has been known to make comments like these:

“Find a new obsession…and chuck a couple of pillows from the bed over here.”


“Get rid of the pile of donations in (my) garage or I’m going to start putting them all back.”

And, those of you who have been reading since the beginning know that my Squirrel does things like this.

Loveable behaviour only if you’re a furry little fella.

So when my Squirrel reached his negativity quota by 9am this morning, I wondered if it might be beneficial to both of us if I came up with a sign to remind him that his comments had strayed so far into the negative I feared he might never come back.

Nothing too confrontational. Something lighthearted, if not entirely subtle.

I considered raising my hand.

No, too submissive. I didn’t want to give him the wrong idea.

Maybe a word, like sunshine or walnut. That would be uplifting.

Nah. He’d acclimatize to that too quickly and repeating the word walnut would just annoy me.

Then it hit me. The sign I was looking for was hanging right there at the ends of my arms.

Jazz Hands!

Aint no rodent too negative for these dancing digits.

“Blah, blah, blah, grump, blah, blah, blah, grump.”

One, two, three! Silent with energy…Jazz Hands!

“Blah, blah, blah, grump, blah, blah, blah, grump.”

One more time. This time with pizazzz…Jazz Hands!

Silence. Sweet, cheerful, silence.

That was just too easy.

So, this is for you Squirrel and anyone else who might be finding it hard to keep their spirits in the pink this Spring.

Happy Day! From me + some random people on flickr.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

photo source: Flickr Creative Commons search: Jazz Hands

(Pictures were selected based on energy, finger extension, proximity to the face, and expression. Extra points were allotted for group effort. Have you got a better photo? E-mail me at I’m cheerfully accepting photos for my arsenal.)

And the winner is….

Total raised for your charities: $167

Call me cynical, but when someone does a giveaway online, I always wonder about the process. Did they close their eyes and point to a winner on the screen? Did they enter they enter their favourite reader 25 times? Did they just choose their best friend?

Here at 100 things, 100 days, we’re on the up and up. To prove it, I enlisted the help of my youngest (five-year olds are all about fair) to write down the names of everyone who entered, fold them in half, and draw one out of a bowl.

I taped the entire thing on my iPhone – upside down. Yep, upside down.

Then, my five-year old requested a re-take because he wasn’t happy with his pronunciation of the word congratulations.

And on play back, I realized that I sound exactly like Ma Ingalls on Little House On The Prairie. People! Do I really sound like Ma Ingalls? Because that’s not who I hear in my head. Marion Cunningham maybe, but not Ma Ingalls.

That video will never air publicly. To redeem ourselves we made a poster.

Without further adieu. The winner of the Imaginary Moving Day Charity Draw is:

Liz  is a professional organizer based in Toronto, Canada. She writes about decluttering and organizing (among other insightful topics) on her blog: Sort It Canada!

I am proud to be able to make a donation in Liz’s name in the amount of $167 to her charity Compassion Canada. That’s the total number of things that exited my house in this round of decluttering.

Thanks to everyone who entered a favourite cause:

1) Judy (Mom) – Depression Research Mood Disorders Centre of Excellence British Columbia

2) Candi (Min Hus) – Oxfam

3) Becky (Decluttering Diva) – The Snuggles Project

4) Libea (PEI) – Toronto Wildlife Centre

5) Erin (dreams you dare to dream) – BC SPCA

6) Eco Cat Lady (The Eco Cat Lady Speaks)  – Alley Cat Alliance 

7) Megyn (Minimalist Mommi) – AZ Animal Welfare League

I learned a lot from the charities you submitted and, I learn something new just about every time I read your comments or visit your blogs. So, thank-you!

And thanks for being my artificial motivation for my imaginary move. Ironically, the imaginary move has turned into a real move slated for sometime in August of this year.

To celebrate I’m taking a break from formal decluttering to catch up on my blog reading and to open my blog up to a wider range of topics.

I hope you will still enjoy reading my posts about our circuitous route to simplicity as we get ready to move our life up the Sea to Sky Highway from Vancouver to Whistler, BC.

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It is so on!

2 days to “imaginary” moving day, $133 raised for your charities

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On Friday, Squirrel emerged from his winter burrow. It happens exactly the same way every year.

He dusts the powder off his bushy tail, scrambles up to the kitchen island, takes a long slurp of his coffee and declares:

“We’ve really got to clean this place up!”

Oh really? I think as I’m unloading the dishwasher with one hand, flipping pancakes with the other, and correcting homework with the third that I seem to have grown during his seasonal absence.

I calmly remind him that the house actually does gets cleaned every week during ski season by the same glorious goddess that makes sure the children are fed, homework is done and everyone is wearing clean underwear.

Here’s where I’m afraid to say it gets ugly and if you’ve come to be fond of Squirrel, please cover your ears. In fact, I’m not even sure I heard it correctly – the sudden rushing of blood to my own head was so deafening. There was talk of that weekly cleaning not being….up to his standards???

Which instantly reminded me of the stashes:

the messes:

the incomprehensible:

And all my passive aggressive heart could think while watching him casually sip his coffee was:

It is so on!

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In fact, with fighting words like those, I’m feeling decidedly unsentimental about which of Squirrel’s treasures make the moving day cut:

You see, I too have standards.

(Pending an apology, none of Squirrel’s things were actually disposed of in the writing of this blog.)

Oh, Just Keep It!

6 days to moving day, $118 raised for your charities

I’m not going to lie to you, I’ve been blocked.

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Between the power washing and the landscaping and the novel-writing, I’ve come up with some pretty convincing ways to avoid decluttering.

To the outside world, I’ve been a whirlwind of productivity – garden beds have been weeded, patio stones have been laid, rock walls have been restored to their original colour, moss has been killed, and chapters have been written and rewritten.

Give me ten extra minutes and I’m mowing the lawn, five and I’m planting a basket, two and I’m offing a stray weed with one hand and tapping out prose with the other.

I recognize this feeling. If I can’t control when and if our house will sell and when and if we’ll find a new one, I may as well blast moss off every stone on the property and write the next Harry Potter.

The trouble is that it never quite works out that way. My projects languish from the lack of focus and by the time I reach the original goal (selling the house) I need about six years of uninterrupted sleep.

Even my decluttering project seems to have taken a back seat to all the other very important things I must do – did I mention, I refinished two coffee tables?

That was until this morning. This morning – I got over myself.

I put the three bags back on my arm and instead of obsessing over whether I should or shouldn’t keep something, I (gasp!) gave myself permission to keep one or two things I couldn’t decide on.

Phew! That wasn’t so bad.

Well, the whole thing snowballed and before I knew it twenty-five items were on their way to the garbage, the recycling bin, or the thrift shop.

And the nice thing is that once freed from the perfectionism of making the right decision, I found myself more and more willing to give up stuff that just a few months ago I thought I wanted to keep. Decluttering was fun again.

I’m back, and not a moment too soon. It’s six days until I have to have this place in move ready condition, and six days until I donate some of my craigslist proceeds to one of your charities.

If you haven’t already, please let me know in the comments where you’d like to see the money go.

Six Ways to Sabotage Your Decluttering Project

25 days to moving day, $93 dollars raised for your charities

Not me. Yet. (image source)

I’m sure you guessed from my long absence that there hasn’t been much decluttering going on. That isn’t to say that there hasn’t been anything going on, just nothing blog worthy.

So, to give myself an excuse to talk to you again – and to distract you from the fact that I’ve only ditched 18 things since we last met – here’s my list of six surefire ways to sabotage your decluttering efforts:

1) Take up a new hobby. For me, that’s power washing. I cannot believe I’ve left this satisfying chore to the boys my whole life. I highly recommend it for feeling like you’re accomplishing something while you’re procrastinating. Plus, it’s a chore that never ends. Never. Ever.

2) Take on a new project. Yep, I decided to polish off the children’s chapter book I’ve been writing for an upcoming writing contest. Coincidentally, the contest deadline is April 24, six days before my imaginary move. That’ll keep me busy.

3) Homeschool your child. Okay, so I’m only doing it one day a week, but that’s quite ambitious for both of us.

4) Plan an imaginary move, then seriously consider a real move. See your home through the eyes of potential buyers. Start cleaning obsessively.

5) Put your children in weekend ski lessons at a mountain resort one and a half hours away. Spend every winter weekend packing and unpacking gear, clothing, toys.

6) Revisit your throw pillow obsession. After all, they may take centre stage at an open house. Spend hours internet browsing for the pillow equivalent of redecorating – for under $50, of course. Give up. Decide to silkscreen your own. Research silk screening. Realize you’re being ridiculous. Start power washing again.

I suspect things will get moving along quickly again now that I’m on the final countdown to moving day.

In the meantime, how do you like to procrastinate. With power tools? Online? Over tea?