What I Learned From a Christmas Without Electricity

This year, in the spirit of simplicity, I celebrated the holidays without electricity.  I wanted to return to nature, test my ability to survive without modern conveniences, imagine myself as Thoreau or Ingalls-Wilder, embracing the important things that can’t be bought with money.

OR a freak hurricane-level windstorm hit Nova Scotia on Christmas Day and knocked out the grid for something like 100,000 residences and I was forced to eat cold stuffing in the dark while I grumbled to myself for nine hours about my phone battery level.

Whatever.  The important part is lessons were learned.  Those lessons are thus:

1.   It is not impossible to cook on a woodstove or a fireplace.  It IS impossible to cook on a woodstove when the wind is so strong that it blows across the top of the chimneys so fast that it acts like a damper, not allowing any oxygen down to fuel the flames (or when it does, it sends it down so fast, it extinguishes said flames).

2.  Cold stuffing is actually pretty good.  And let’s face it – some of us only endure the whole exhausting ritual of a holiday meal so that we can eat too much stuffing without being judged anyway, right?  But when you can’t cook, the rules go out the window and it moves to the next level.  How about rounding out the stuffing-based repast with appetizers of chocolates, sides of cookies and pie, with a box of wine for dessert?*

3.  Wine will stay cold in a fridge for up to nine hours without power.

4.  Wine makes you give less of a shit about what you’re missing on Netflix and Facebook.  And it’s Christmassy AF.

5.  The pet snake that you are keeping an eye on for a neighbour will not, in fact, die without his heat lamp for the aforementioned nine hours, despite your desperate attempts to determine this without being able to reach that neighbour or being able to frantically Google “snakes named Joe”.

6.  There is someone living within 300 feet of your house who named their network “Don’t try to steal this, yo”, and they still had power.  You totally could have stolen that, yo, if you hadn’t had so much wine, thereby dulling your password-deducing senses.  (This challenge has now been added to your New Year’s Resolution list.)

7.  The dog cannot, despite her firm belief that she can, scare the wind into submission by barking.

8.  It is not paranoid to have a box full of survival stuff in case of emergencies.  Those candles, oil lamps, and flashlights came in very handy.  It does, however, require some modifications, such as including more chocolate, more wine, and more books about wizards or sexy Scotsmen and maybe not quite so many books about edible forest foliage or igloo-building.

9.  When parking at the gas station to charge your phone in the car and check your voice mail, be wary of drunk holiday revelers who will repeatedly slam their car door open against your car, while shouting, “I KNOW I’m hitting the other car!  Be quiet!” to their mates.  Also, send a note to Santa for credit on next year’s nice list for recognizing that the anger you were feeling was less about the dents and more about being jealous that she was drunk and you weren’t.  Yet.

10.  Accept that you maybe wouldn’t make quite as good a pioneer as you sometimes think you would.  Even though you really like camping, you also really like hot water and computer games.

11.  It is NOT advisable to attempt to pick up dog poop on a cloudy night when the streetlights are out and you forgot to bring the flashlight.  It IS advisable to remember, though, roughly where that dog poop was deposited when you sleepily take the dog out again in the morning.  (Don’t worry – I did remember.  But I feel like it cannot be emphasized enough.)

12.  Despite your firm conviction that the Universe is pissed at you in a way that suggests Charles Dickens might, in fact, be your personal life-story author, there were likely at least a few (hundred thousand) people in Nova Scotia with it worse than you on Christmas Day this year, and perhaps, just maybe, a few (billion) outside of Nova Scotia with it worse than you all the other days of the year.  Possibly.  But regardless, that pie would have been a lot better warmed up, right?

Well, I can’t say this Christmas wasn’t in keeping with the rest of 2017, so there is something to be said for staying on-brand.  But let’s try a little harder in 2018, shall we?

Please note: A much-deserved shoutout to all the Nova Scotia Power employees who put themselves out there to get most of us back on the grid by day’s end.  Your Christmas definitely sucked more than ours.

*I’m not saying I did this.  Salad can also be part of a well-balanced cold meal, or so I’ve heard.

I, Inventress

I’m not being lazy by not posting much lately, I promise!  (*that comes later, when the beach weather begins*)  I’m actually working on a bunch of stuff right now, including some new paintings.  But the headliner?  A studio reno!  I’m crazy-excited, because my crafty dad has offered to build a storage wall for my work space, along with some other nifty solutions for all my junk.  So, I’ve also been shopping for decor and cute little storage boxes, and I loathe shopping, so on top of it all, I also have mall-brain, which doesn’t lend itself well to productivity.  (Seriously, shopping just sucks my soul.)  And something else that doesn’t lend itself to productivity is the current state of my studio, which is a cross between “Hoarders” and Hurricane Drea.

So, while I don’t have any new work worthy of sharing at the moment, in my quest for chic minimalism, I’ve been sorting old files and came across this little gem.

I was six.  I was kind of obsessed with being bionic.  (This hasn’t really changed.)  I liked to invent stuff, although I was too lazy to actually try to build any of it.  (Yep, still doing it.)  I also thought I was very witty and clever.  (Also not really much improved.)  And I liked to draw.  (Omg, I’m still six…)

*If you’re too young to get the references, Google “Six Million Dollar Man”.  (They should really be bringing that show back, that and The Bionic Woman.  Why haven’t they done that?)

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Drea M.’s Tips for Successful Future US Elections

So, I hear you guys down in the States are having some troubles.  It seems there’s a couple of people who think maybe there was something sketchy about the recent election.  Well, I don’t claim to be an expert on politics or anything, but being Canadian and having a front-row seat to all the nonsense going on, I’ve had a few thoughts on the matter.

I don’t know what rules you Americans have for things, but here in Canada, if you want to do something that could potentially put your life or the lives of others in jeopardy,  like, say, drive heavy machinery, sit on a jury, or ride an amusement park ride, there are certain tests that you need to pass – like proving your ability to read street signs, that you’re not prejudiced against any particular group of people, or that you exceed a certain height.  This makes a lot of sense to me.

However, in order to vote in an election, it seems all you have to do is survive, nay, subsist to the ripe old age of 18 years.  This does not seem like enough criteria to meet in order to contribute to life-altering decisions that affect an entire nation.  So, here is what I propose.

*Please note that in order to make the voting process seem even more American, and also to capitalize on potential profits raised through advertising, I suggest the proceedings be televised, in a “Survivor” sort of manner, with the actual vote being kept secret until the end, of course, but with highlights being edited in, a blooper reel, etc.  The profits could be used to provide universal health care or maybe to open more strip malls.

THE AMERICAN VOTING GAUNTLET

In order to vote, a person would have to pass a series of tests, increasing in difficulty until they are finally deemed worthy of casting a ballot.

These tests would include:

IQ test (just the short form – I’m not a monster).  In order to be eligible to vote, a citizen would have to prove that their IQ was sufficiently high enough to allow them to know the difference between Obamacare and the Affordable Care Act.  (HAH!  Trick question!  I know, right?  But seriously.)

Sobriety test.  Yes, I know the drinking age in the US is 21 and the voting age is 18 (and we Canadians have been laughing over this for years).  But in the first place, everyone knows no one pays attention to the legal drinking age, and in the second, even if you’re of legal drinking age, you should not be allowed to vote drunk.  I mean, if I voted drunk, I’d be writing in my dog on the ballot.  Which wouldn’t exactly be the worst president you guys have ever had, but it might get noisy at dinnertime.  ANYWAY… If you manage to touch your nose and whatnot, you move on to the next test.

Voir Dire.  Potential voters will be questioned by lawyers representing the parties running for office, testing for bias and mental fitness.   Each side will have a set number of peremptory challenges to dismiss without cause (for example, a Republican legal team could choose to strike someone for no other reason than having non-white ethnicity, but only a certain number of times, because they would want to save some of those strikes for, say, women who are educated or those damn atheists).  However, a deciding party (a judge) will be able to dismiss a citizen with cause, the causes being things like obvious racism or batshit-craziness.

In the final phase, citizens will be approached by an undercover agent posing as a Russian diplomat who will offer financial compensation of an undisclosed amount in exchange for voting for a particular party.  Those who accept the bribe will immediately be deemed unworthy of the vote, regardless of any previous successful test results, and will be sent home without a cookie.

And key to this is that, if the presidential hopefuls don’t also pass these tests, they should no longer be permitted to be on the ballot.

So, in the end, if there is anyone left to vote for after these challenges are administered, you guys might end up okay after all.

Sounds like a lot of work, though, right?  (Are you sure you can’t just bring back Obama?)

Anyway, best of luck to ya.  Feel free to use this model in your next election (in, you know, three or four weeks or whatever).

“Umbrella”

It’s a blustery spring day here, and it’s good, because I’m so very, very tired of winter.

Today’s doodle from the Sketchbook.

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“Absence”

It’s been a busy week doing grown-up, real-life stuff.  *sigh*    But here’s a (sloppy, super, very) quick doodle that may grow up to be a real painting one day.  (Can you tell I keep forgetting what I’m supposed to be doing?)

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Work in Progress – “Midnight Flight”

It was a long, lazy weekend, but I’m going to share a teaser of the painting I’m working on.

This one started out in the Sketchbook, but I was so excited to get started on the real thing, I didn’t even finish the study (and I tore the page!):

 

It looks so lame in its abandoned, unfinished state!  But it’s coming together on the wood panel, I promise.  (And again, I apologise if you’ve already seen this on Facebook – but I’m almost caught up with the redundancies, honest!)

I’m using acrylics on wood because I live in Nova Scotia, and you can literally wait months in our humid climate for oil paint to dry (pretty sure I still have a palette kicking around with paint that is still tacky after several years).  That, and I’m an irresponsible child who can’t be bothered with fussy brush cleaning techniques.  Also, my first love is watercolour, and acrylics give you that smooth fluidity and transparency on the wood, without the complete disappearing act of watercolours, along with the option for opaque layering.

So here’s the sketch, transferred to the panel:

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Laying in the first layers:

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A bit of detail:

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It’s a little hard to tell, but I’m actually going to give her a little “experience” (wrinkles).  I wanted her to be pretty, but with signs of life lived.  Wisdom and whatnot, ya know?  I’m not done yet, but here’s a close-up:

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Starting to fill out the background so I can balance the contrast:

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Still have a lot of detail work to do (particularly on the owl), but gotta do something about that moon…

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Gold leaf!

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You can’t really see it in the photo, but at night, with the room dimmed, the light shifting across the gold leaf is quite breathtaking.  It feels alive, like the real moon.

I’m hoping to get it finished this week sometime (that poor, neglected owl…), in between other projects, so stay tuned!

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Interview With My Cat

I didn’t sleep last night.  This was for a number of reasons, but it was mainly because my cat is an asshole.  (It was also because the motion-sensitive light below my window kept strobing on and off, but this was because of my neighbour’s cat, so…still…cat.)

So, since I’m having trouble with making the words today, I think I’ll make someone else the star of the show today, since she clearly wanted to be the centre of attention ALL NIGHT LONG.

Her name is Balloons.  (It was actually supposed to be “Petunia”, but it devolved into “Tuney”, then “Tuney-Balloony” and I think you see where I’m going with this.)

Balloons is 15 years old.  She has never been sick a day in her life and has the energy of a 6-month-old kitten.  I think I need to start feeding her crap food.

Let’s find out what makes her tick.

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This is where Her Highness receives admirers.

DREA:  So, Balloons, you had a lot of energy last night.  What was that about?

BALLOONS:  I don’t know what you’re talking about.

DREA:  Well, there was that time you headbutted my face 50 times in a row.  It kind of hurt.

BALLOONS:  You headbutted ME.

DREA:  I didn’t lick you on the nose.

BALLOONS:  I was tasting you so I can plan the condiments for when you die alone and I eat your face.

DREA:  How about at 3 am when I heard a weird noise and looked up to see you climbing the mirror over the dresser, where – to my knowledge – you’ve never been before?

BALLOONS:  Right.  I’ve never been up there before.

DREA:  No, really, what were you doing?

BALLOONS:  I do NOT have a secret compartment behind the mirror filled with state-of-the-art satellite communication equipment.  I just wanted to see if I’m still pretty.

DREA:  And you know, there’s a reason that toys that jingle are banned in the bedroom.  There is a toy basket filled with sleep-approved toys beside the chair.  Where did you even get that little ball with the bell inside?

BALLOONS:  Amazon.

DREA:  So that’s what those charges on my credit card were…

BALLOONS: Right.  Just innocent little cat toys.

DREA:  You know, the reason we can afford cat toys is because I work.  One thing you may not be aware of is that working is a lot easier if a person is well-rested.  And it’s not so easy to stay asleep with you hooking your paw around my wrist to lift my hand onto your head when you want pats.

BALLOONS:  I have no idea what you’re talking about.  Sometimes you pat me in your sleep.  I think you dream about me.  Besides, maybe I had a busy night and required therapeutic massage.

DREA:  I also noticed you vocalizing rather enthusiastically quite early this morning and thought maybe you were being like those cats we see on TV who wake their people when there’s a fire, but it turned out you were just excited about a poo.  I wonder if there’s a quieter way you could use the litter box at night?

BALLOONS:  YOU DO NOT STIFLE THE SINGING OF THE POO SONG!

DREA:   Okay, okay! Settle down!  Can you explain why you were also crying to your dish, which was still half-full?

BALLOONS: I MUST GO TO SLEEEEEEEP NOW – I WAS UP ALL NIGHT!

 

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“If Wishes Were Fishes”

Don’t worry – I have plenty of rants coming soon, but I’ve been super-busy lately doing all sorts of very important things *naps* and one of those things is redesigning this site so I can merge it with my now-dead art site.  (Oh, really?  It looks the same?  THANK YOU VERY MUCH.  I assure you – it wasn’t as magical as it seems.  The theme I was using was retired, but all the new ones available were bold and brash and modern and just not me at all *snicker* so I had to learn a truckload of CSS – CSS! – so you darlings wouldn’t have to cope with change.  YOU’RE WELCOME.)

So, since I know you wouldn’t want me to strain myself by being funny until I’ve had a nap and some chocolate (and okay, fine, WINE), I’m just going to chuck another one of my new sketchbook doodles at you.  If you’re following me on Facebook, you’ve probably already seen it, but I just want to get all my social media caught up, ’cause I’ve got a bunch of stuff to show you.  I know you can’t wait.

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“Hear Me”

This is the first sketch in my pretty little sketchbook.  It may or may not have been influenced by the fact that I had spent much of the previous 48 hours knitting pussyhats.

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Why I Went Missing

Some of you may have noticed that my posts sort of dried up for a while.  Well, here’s the thing ~

Many of you know that, for many years, I’ve been juggling many hats, career-wise.  In addition to being a charming and adorable blogger, a somewhat soft-core artist, and an immortal adrenaline junkie with a death wish, I also spent my nights working as an emergency dispatcher.  And as much as I liked the job itself, I was finding myself restless.

AND I also enjoy taking tests, which is how all this story really begins.  (BECAUSE I AM APPARENTLY JUST THAT BIG A NERD.)

This restlessness led to some random web surfing, which led to me sort of accidentally taking the RCMP entrance exam.  (That’s the Mounties, for those of you who don’t know.  And the Mounties are the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, for those of you who don’t know.  And the Royal Canadian Mounted Police are kind of like Canada’s FBI and state police combined, for those of you who don’t know.)

I think it may have been from a subconscious desire for a pony.  I’m not really sure.

But then I found out that I had passed.  Well, not really passed.  More like ACED IT – 98th percentile, baby!  *self-five*

Turned out they wanted me to come to Truro to work in the RCMP Operational Communications Centre, which led to a year-long recruitment process – that I had to keep secret from the boss who was still paying me, even while being good friends with her and being absolutely horrible at lying and becoming a nervous, yammering squirrel every time I had to be around her.  (It was horrible.)

I’m not allowed to talk much about it, but this recruitment process involved panel interviews, simulations, emptying pockets for armed escorts into the RCMP Headquarters (where there was a very disturbing mounted bison head that still gives me nightmares – and hopefully I haven’t broken any confidentiality covenants by telling you that, but seriously, those things are HUGE), being fingerprinted, being poked, prodded and tested for vision, hearing, medical, and psych (and let me just stop you right there, because OBVIOUSLY if they wanted to confirm my sound state of mind, all they had to really do was read my blog, amirite?).  All of these things  happened in other cities, and due to my having to sneak around, it generally involved me having to work graveyard shifts and then drive the 3-6 hours there and back during the day, plus the time for the testing.    (But they were promising me almost triple my current salary, so….  It’s true.  I’m a capitalist whore.)

Then it was on to the final step.  And here’s where it reeeeally got intense.  The final phase was the security clearance.  And the position I was being considered for required TOP SECRET security clearance.  (It’s true – it’s actually called that.  “Top Secret”.  I would have expected something more cryptic, like, “Level Alpha-1” or “Platinum Tier”, but we’re simple people, we Canadians. )

This top level security clearance meant members of the federal government’s investigative bureau combing through all of my emails and all of my texts from the past decade, interviewing friends, family, and neighbours (because, of course, grannies are the first to know when you are plotting to overtake the government and whatnot).  I was informed it would be a good idea to warn anyone that would be expected to be interrogated interviewed, because some people get a little freaked out when the men in black (men in maroon?) show up at the door.  So I did this – I called up people I hadn’t spoken to in years.  I warned my friends, family, and neighbours that someone might be asking about me and told them no, I was not in trouble with the law (which I’m sure would have been the default expectation).   Along with a few warnings about sexting, obviously.  (Overall, the entire process felt a little like I imagine it must feel for people who have to notify their previous partners about an STD.  A little cooler than that, obviously, but still awkward.)

So, shit was getting real.  I had started looking at apartments in Truro.  And  I quit my job, the dispatch one.  Yeah, that’s right – I did it!

THEN my dad went in hospital for what was supposed to be a routine day surgery, which turned into a week full of medical complications, and I went, “What the fuck am I thinking?  I can’t move away right now!”  (My mom passed away a couple of years ago and Dad has no other family nearby.)   And my side gigs were becoming more lucrative, making the decision easier.

So, I took a deep breath and told the RCMP I was withdrawing my application.  I bought a domain name (www.andreamacmillan.com) and decided to start working for myself, painting for a living and subsidizing naps.  (I am an excellent boss.)

Either that, or I’m now a secret agent under cover as a charming and adorable blogger.  You’ll never know.

P.S.  As it turns out, they don’t actually give you a pony when you join the Mounted Police, anyway.  Pfft.