Cat LadY-2K

Dear Readers,

I’m back.

It’s been years (well, like one and a half of them). My last posts were written during my final year of vet school.


And now here I am, a real live vet! Somehow I made it, even though I know we all had our doubts.

For my second inaugural post, I chose a topic near and dear to my heart:

“The 21st Century Spinster Cat Lady – Not Nearly As Bad As We’d Feared”

As a 90’s kid, I remember this mystery and fear of Y2K. Part of the mystery surrounded the YKK on my Levi’s –  this apparent link between a blue jean company and the untimely demise of all technology, including the limited internet (ahem, AOL) as we knew it. It was a great unknown, as December 31, 1999 came to a close and I wondered if I would wake up the next morning thankful for all the skills and wisdom I picked up playing Oregon Trail in computer lab (Never ford the river – always hire a ferry!) or if I would even wake up. Maybe all the alarm clocks in the world would quit and we’d start using sun dials again.

Well, hindsight being 20/20, I can say with 100% certainty that Y2K was not even a deal at all. And it sure as heck didn’t have any relation to blue jeans. Oh, and here’s a little summary of the mass hysteria in case any of you are too young to remember Y2K….

Ironically, being single and in my mid thirties is also not the big apocalyptic deal it was made out to be by the pop culture of my childhood. Growing up, there was this stigma of an “Old Maid” or a “Spinster,” and before I could even comprehend the meaning of those words, I knew it was not something I wanted to be. Heck, all my Barbie’s got married at 16 because that seemed like the most adult time to meet your husband. Mother May I Get Married!?

Just playing some Cat Lady Old Maid and Drinking Beers with the ladies….

Yet, just like the hype around Y2K became the butt of many IT jokes, I’ve come to flaunt my “Cat Lady” status with a unique mix of pride for having escaped my 20’s without making a mistake that would last “til death do we part” and a brazen disregard for any societal timelines that may pressure me to find Mr Right…..RIGHT NOW!

You can’t hurry love. For reals.

Now, before the cries of solidarity from my fellow Singletonistas begin to drown out the crowds, let me unequivocally state: I am not anti-marriage, anti-babies or anti-men. 

I imagine a well-matched marriage to be a very worthwhile life investment (especially if you’re dual income – cha-ching!) Babies also have their charm and appeal (I just don’t have any way to fit one in my current life as I’m assuming it would be frowned upon to lock it in a kennel at work, even if I provide age-appropriate enrichment tools). And men. Man oh man, do we ever have a love-hate relationship. Can’t live with ’em, but the consequences for premeditated murder are just so heavy….ha kidding! I love men. A lot. I just don’t always like them. Especially when they are being cheap, cruel, or creepy.

So there ya go. I’m not a harpy, baby-eating monster or man-eater. I’m just a simple Cat Lady. And for my fellow Feline Femme Fatales out there, I’ve got a Buzz-Feed worthy top ten list for why it’s totally cool to be a 30-something Cat Lady in this day and age.

10. For the Thrifty Thirty-Something, Cat’s Lower Your Heating Costs
On average, a cat’s body temperature is 101.5-102.5 degrees Fahrenheit. I’d convert to Celsius for my international readers, but it’s not important – just know each cat you have is like it’s own little self-warming hot water bottle that can be stacked in piles upon you while you sleep. I almost never have to set the thermostat above 60 and I’m always toasty warm at night.

Just a couple of not so cool cats….because we’re warm, get it!?

9.  Cat’s are Self-Cleaning
Cat’s wash themselves, confine all their shit to one small box in the house and never leave the toilet seat up. Can’t say that about a kid, roommate, or romantic partner.

8. The Purring Panacea
Did you know cat’s purr at a healing frequency? It’s the same frequency of the Yogi’s “Om.” I am not even lying to you – I did a research project on cat behaviour in vet school. You can trust me. It’s science. A cat’s purr resonates through your body to heal what ails you – from broken bones to a broken heart.


7. Cat’s are Independent – Just Like You!
But being an independent cool cat in the 21st century doesn’t mean you don’t enjoy some serious cuddle time, am I right? You can enjoy cuddling on the sofa with Bae, watching hours of mindless Netflix (or documentaries on North Korea, depending on what kinda Bae you’re into….) and then go home and starfish out in your own bed and love it. Cat’s are not aloof, uncaring animals. They are affectionate and unabashed about showing that affection, but they are also 100% capable of amusing and pleasing themselves.

6. Cats And Humans: A Time Tested Healthy Symbiotic Relationship
Cats self-domesticated because of the ready availability of mice around human’s grain stores and humans happily kept them around because of their ability to keep those grain stores free of vermin. I look at most of my relationships in terms of what we can offer each other. Cat’s prove that this approach has worked for about 10,000 years – can’t really argue with that.

Hamish knows what he likes….

5. Kittens: Helping Me Hit Snooze on the Good Old Biological Clock
Plenty of people have made comments about my ageing uterus and impending fertility problems. Way more people than you would consider appropriate have made these comments. But, you know what’s had the biggest impact on my biological clock!? Fostering four orphan kittens and having to feed them every 2 hours and wash them and dry them so they don’t get cold and feed them and wash them….FOR TWO WEEKS. You guys, I barely survived two weeks of this feeding – cleaning- napping- feeding cycle. People who have kids talk about sleep training their children for YEARS. So, I’m just going to table the topic of babies for now and we’ll circle back to it in another 5 years or so….

Just another 2 am feeding….

4. Cats Help Cat Ladies Live Longer, Healthier Lives
This is not fake news. It’s science.
And if I’m so much more of a catch in my 30’s than I was in my 20’s, I can only imagine what the next decade holds….

Going to live forever at this rate.

3. Cat Ladies Have a History of Which We Can be Proud!
Sisterhood! Camaraderie! Can someone please get me a print of that “Old Maids at a Cats Funeral” – I would love to hang it up in my house

2. The Elusive Cat Daddy
Ladies, there are men out there who love cats. Seriously love cats. And by proxy, they love women who love cats. I love that this trend is catching on – dating sites are urging men to proudly flaunt their feline companions.
Also, Cat ownership in men is considered a possible antidote to toxic masculinity.
Sounds like a win-win if you ask me!

Heeeeey Cat Daddy!

1. Cat Lady Fashion
Cat Lady’s are comfortable wearing whatever the heck they want when they want to wear it. Quick grocery trip in pj pants and a bathrobe? It’s cool, you’re a Cat Lady! Professional conference with a cat-print skirt, collared shirt and cardigan? Wouldn’t expect anything else from a Cat Lady! Night out on the town in fish nets and a little black dress!? ME-OW!

Look, I literally went out wearing a bin bag for halloween one year. IDGAF.

So, there ya go, my fellow Cat Ladies and Cat Daddies – we’re not so crazy afterall!

Ladies and Gentlemen. Thanks for checking back in after all this time.

Always Yours,

The Singletonista

Posted in Animals, Dating or Something Like it, Not Falling In Love, SWF Seeking | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Not A Creature is Stirring, Not Even a….DRAT!

“Look, there’s literally a trillion things I’m NOT allergic to, and like ONE thing I am and now you’re telling me that one thing is running around your house?”


“Yeah, I’m literally going to die this Christmas…”

“No way – Guinea Pigs can’t climb things or jump on things!”

“Are you sure about that?”

“Um, I’ve completed almost 4 years of vet school. I’m pretty sure I know a thing or two about Guinea Pigs.”

“Google says they can jump and climb on some things. I’m trying to figure out if those things are stairs and beds…”

Welcome to The Dixon House, Christmas Eve 2016.

As you may have surmised by the above transcript, I got a Guinea Pig for my 7 year old nephew this year (feel free to ask me why Guinea Pigs make the perfect first pet). You may have also picked up that my little brother is really allergic to Guinea Pigs. Not so allergic that he has to carry an EpiPen around in the case of accidental Guinea Pig exposure, but allergic enough to be slightly peeved when I rushed into the room and whispered, “We have an escapee on our hands.”

I picked up the Guinea Pig a week ago to give me time to socialize it and try to get it used to being handled. Although we’ve made some progress, the damn thing is still absolutely feral, and tonight, when I was cleaning out his cage, he escaped. There wasn’t any place for him to really hide in my room (or so I thought), so I didn’t panic and continued cleaning. When it was time for the little piglet to be returned to his kingdom, he was nowhere to be found.

I checked all the usual spots: behind my trunk, behind my vanity, behind my record player. No pig. I then pulled everything off the wall and checked the full perimeter of my room. Nada. I crawled on my hands and knees with a flashlight checking every square inch of the floor. I started to get nervous and picked up my shoe rack and guitar case and tossed them on the bed. I pulled my dresser out of the closet and searched the mummified spider infested domain of its underside.

Not only was there no Guinea Pig in site, all the Guinea Pig sounds he usually makes were also missing. I threw a handful of hay into the middle of my floor and left for reinforcements. What if he had somehow squeezed under my door when I wasn’t looking? He could be anywhere in the house – which would be bad enough in and of itself. The situation was complicated further by the presence of my nephew in the basement watching Elf.

I had a vision of the Guinea Pig running right past the television, simultaneously terrifying my nephew and ruining his big Christmas Surprise.

I told Mom what had happened and she searched my room. My sister lent a hand also, but only after letting me know her thoughts about how ridiculous this situation was and how I was ruining Christmas, as usual.

The brother stayed in my mom’s room, envisioning his untimely Christmas Eve death and hoping I wouldn’t bury him in the awesome Christmas present I have for him under the tree.

An hour later, no Guinea Pig.

Sister suggested we bring the empty cage and tell our nephew that we’ll take him to the pet store to pick out a Guinea Pig for Christmas. I brought up that I’d already spent $40 on a Guinea Pig! Besides, it wasn’t fair to our little MIA furball to abandon the search so soon!

Mom suggested letting Huckleberry into the room to sniff the Guinea Pig out. Huck’s been very interested (and so far very gentle) with the little piggy, but I worry that seeing it run around might arouse some sort of hunting instinct in him. Still, the pig’s pretty quick, and I figured Huck might be able to at least point us in the right direction. We let him into my room.

Huck immediately ran over to my duffle bag.

“You think that thing is hiding in the duffle bag?”

“Hm. Possibly?”

Huck dug his head deep into the duffle as we crept in closer, listening for the squeal of what was surely to be a terrified Guinea Pig.

Crunch. Crinkle.

Huck pulled out a candy wrapper.

He then, crawled under the covers and went to bed. Huckleberry is absolutely no help.

The Guinea Pig had been missing almost two hours. Everyone thought I was ruining Christmas and endangering my baby brother. And Google was still disagreeing with my assessment of Guinea Pig agility.

I walked down the stairs and checked by the Christmas tree, thinking he might have been instinctually called towards a glowing plastic Douglas Fir. Still no pig.

My mom was sitting quietly on the bed, hoping he’d make an appearance. We made the rounds through the three upstairs bedrooms one last time. My little sister even took the vents off the heating ducts, just in case the Guinea Pig was able to defy the laws of physics.

I went back downstairs where my other sister was sitting and threw my hands up in the universal signal “Sorry I ruined your son’s Christmas by letting his surprise run away.”

She told my nephew to keep watching the movie and that she’d be back in a minute.

“I’m sorry! I don’t know what to do! We can’t find him anywhere!”

“Hm, I’ll take a look  *opens door* There he is!”

And sure enough, as soon as my sister had opened my door, the Guinea Pig froze in the middle of the room, a look of terror frozen on his face.

We corralled him into a corner. I told the rest of the family that Christmas could continue as planned and popped the little fugitive back into his cage.


With the Guinea Pig secured, we all went downstairs to continue watching the movie. It ended and my sister told my nephew to go get his coat, they needed to get home before Santa came. My nephew enthusiastically obeyed and was just tying his shoes as my mother started to reminisce, “I remember your father and I staying up so late on Christmas Eve, putting together bikes, wrapping presents…”

With our collective jaws on the floor, my siblings and I looked at my mom and then my nephew.

Had grandma just ruined Christmas on CHRISTMAS EVE by confessing to be Santa Claus?

My mom looked in horror at her only grandchild and tried to recover. She stammered, “Of course we stayed up late but then had to rush to bed so Santa could come!”

I don’t know if he heard that explanation. My siblings and I were laughing so hard, tears were streaming down our faces. Well, one of my siblings was not laughing. Not even a little. My sister looked at her son and said, “Its time to go home. NOW.”

And I couldn’t help myself, as she drove out of sight, I said, “Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!”


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All Creatures Great and Tolerant

“So, what would you use to sedate a horse for a dental?”

My first thought was Butorphanol and Xylazine, but I didn’t want to go for the obvious answer. It couldn’t be that easy. IT FELT LIKE A TRAP! So, I responded with:


“Um, ACP like Acepromazine, ACP?” The vet cocked an eyebrow.

“Yeah…like that….”

The vet just looked at me. And I wanted to die. It was the first thing she had said to me all morning. At that point, she hadn’t said hi or even introduced herself. She’d just asked a simple question with a simple answer and I was so wrong. It was my first day interning at a new practice and I was off to a great start.

For the record, I should have gone with Xylazine and Butorphanol. It wasn’t a trap.

After floating the horse’s teeth, she had me put on gloves and told me to give them a feel, warning me to pay attention and remove my hand immediately should it look like the horse was going to slip out of the oral speculum. I watched the horse carefully, wondering why I was using my right hand for this task instead of my left. *Note to self* Use your non-dominant hand when blindly exploring dangerous places.

Next, I was then given the flashlight and asked what was uncommon but normal in this horse’s mouth.

“The diastema on her back left cheek teeth?”

Nope. Apparently, that’s common and abnormal, the exact opposite of what she was asking. And apparently, this horse had “excessive transverse ridges” on their teeth. She asked me if I could see them curving.

I nodded. Unconvincingly.

At this point, I started grinding my own teeth, desperate to make a comeback and show this vet that I knew SOMETHING – ANYTHING – about horses. I asked if the excessive transverse ridges were like the “Curve of Spee.” See. I know some horse words. And for the record, the horse did have a diastema…

No. Curve of Spee = Not even close.

My blood turned to ice in my veins. WHAT DID I EVEN KNOW ABOUT HORSES!? At least the dental was over and the horse was going home. Except…there was just this one other question about some mild lameness…

The vet couldn’t perform a full lameness workup in the sedated horse (obviously, even I knew that), but she did palpate the mare’s legs. She told me to feel the right hind limb and let her know what was abnormal, but probably not clinically significant.

I felt the horse’s leg. Up and down. I felt the other one. I felt the first one again. And the other one…and the first one…one more time. Shit.

I walked up to the vet, she looked at me hopefully and I said, “Is it the square shape of her hocks? Buttress hocks?”

Well, yeah, she does have those (thank you , Captain Obvious), but there was something abnormal about her medial splint bone. The vet showed me what she felt. AND GUESS WHAT!?  I WOULD HAVE NEVER NOTICED IT! NOT IN A MILLION YEARS! Apparently, one tiny sliver of a bone was slightly bigger on one leg than the other.

I wanted to cry. It was 9:15 and I was already an utter failure.

The next call was out to do a bandage change on a foal. The kind of foal that is trying harder to kill you than a hungry mama grizzly bear.

Of course, in addition to changing the bandage, we needed to place a drain into the wound on his leg.

Knowing that horse people love natural remedies and that natural horsemanship is a “thing,” I asked if the vet ever put manuka honey on wounds.

“No, not like this one.”

“Oh, of course not.” Sigh.

On the ride back to the clinic, we talked about Gilmore Girls, which I’ve never seen. Another fail.

After lunch, a stallion arrived for  a castration. I was so excited about it as I actually remembered things about castrating horses. I talked to the vet and we went through the procedure and looked at pictures and she said she would have me glove up and assist. YES – SOMETHING I COULD DO! And since I have plenty of theoretical knowledge about testicles, this was something we could talk about! The vet even told me she remembered being really nervous on her externships and said I shouldn’t sweat it. We were bonding. It was great.

The horse arrived and was absolutely lovely. He was gentle and perfect, but on physical exam, only had one descended testicle. No field castration today. Seeking out his undescended testicle in the abdomen is quite a bit more complicated than the typical snip-snip you expect for a one vet and vet student run castration. With a tear in my eye, I waved goodbye to the stallion and the only case I knew anything about. Fare thee well, opportunity to shine of mine. 

There was another horse dental scheduled that afternoon, but before it arrived, one of the cattle vets was called out to a calf with a broken leg. I asked if I could ride along, as I was pretty much opening the passenger side door and jumping in the truck before he finished saying, “sure.”

Visiting the calf was fantastic. She was a little heifer (a few months old) and was in a trailer awaiting our arrival. The vet entered the trailer to make his initial assessment, and she charged him so fast, he had to fling himself out the door sideways, into the arms of the ranch hand.

“Ohhhh Shiiiiiiitt” the vet said.

“Isn’t she supposed to have a broken leg?” I asked.

The calf responded by charging the side of the trailer where our voices were coming from. BANG. CRASH. BOOM.

The vet decided her leg would be best assessed if she were restrained in a crush.

I was able to climb over all the gates without falling on my face. Yes – feeling competent.

I was also able to diagnose the injured leg – her left hind hoof and fetlock were three times the size of her right. Ding Ding Ding – right answer!

I helped carry things from the truck. Helpful!

I helped hold things for the vet. Super Helpful!

And then I hopped back over the fence to hold the trailer open for her. The farmer came by to check and make sure I had a good hold on the door, which I did, but I told him it was good for him to double check me since I was raised in the suburbs.

The calf was released from the crush and came running back towards the trailer. I stood at the ready to close the door behind her when she ducked left and, defying all laws of physics, disappeared through a crack in the fence.

Luckily, we’re in Colorado where people are seriously good at rodeo shit and it wasn’t even two minutes before that calf was roped on the ground and being dragged back into the trailer. Also, lucky for the calf, her infected foot meant she was on such a solid dose of antibiotics, she probably won’t get pneumonia from all the stress of the day.

Although my large animal skills are in need of some fine-tuning, I’m also taking advantage of working with the vets in the adjacent small animal hospital. I spent the second day in the small animal clinic where I know how to do more things and can jump in to actually help…or at least I think I do.

I offered to wash the surgical instruments that were soaking in the sink. I gave them all a good scrub and rinse and then dipped them in the instrument milk before setting them out to dry. I was just really feeling accomplished when, somehow, the scalpel blade holder jumped out of my hand and slid down the sink drain. I stared in disbelief. I don’t know how it was even possible for a small, rectangular shape to fall perfectly into a slender rectangular hole from a distance of at least two feet. I mean, I couldn’t have thrown it down the sink if I tried! And whoosh, it just fell, straight into the grid on the drain.

Thinking the last thing anyone in that clinic wanted to see was the vet student taking apart the sink trap, I confessed my sins immediately. Apparently, no one in history has ever done this, but rest assured, the instrument has been recovered.

Today was my third day and for better or worse, the only bit of ridiculousness was me putting one of my contact lenses in inside out. I spent the morning in the small animal clinic and the afternoon with the equine vet. She’s quit asking me questions, but at least I took blood from two horses flawlessly, so I feel like I’ve shown I have some competence.

I’m kicking off tomorrow at a dairy farm though, so hilarity is pretty much guaranteed to ensue…

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I had ONE job.

“I need you to put your hand right here and hold on.”

“Hold on to the penis?”



Errrr, maybe I should put this conversation into context before things go any further….

It was 2am and I was standing next to a dashingly good looking man. I can’t say for sure because he was wearing a mask, but I think he smiled at me when he told me to pop on a pair of latex gloves. I bounded up with as much enthusiasm as I could muster for the late hour, eager to please.

That’s when he handed me the horse’s penis so he could prepare a catheter for it.

Did you honestly expect this story to turn out differently?

Now, there was a lot going on in addition to the catheterisation. Once a horse is anaesthetised, everything moves very quickly to get them on the table and ready for surgery. Nurses were scrubbing the surgical site and anaesthetists were doing some kind of magic to ensure the horse remained blissfully unaware of everything happening around them. Even with the skeleton crew on for after hours emergencies, things were ticking along nicely. The operating room flowed like a choreographed dance; everyone knew their role and their place.

Everyone, that is, except me. I was just awkwardly standing there with a firm (but -obviously – not too firm) grip on the Gelding’s Genitals. As people continued securing the horse to the operating table, it became apparent that I was in the way. I was asked to move to the other side of the horse, which I did with as much finesse as I could muster given the circumstances. Then, I was told to move back to the previous side as I had ended up in a region called, “The Danger Zone” (I don’t know if that is a technical phrase, or if people were just trying to get my attention.) Anyway, I was standing in a place where, I’m assuming, should the anaesthesia magic fail, my head could be separated from my neck by a flailing hoof. I contorted my body in a way that would have done my yoga instructor proud in an attempt to move away from “The Danger Zone” whilst still staying out of the way of the aforementioned surgery team and maintaining positive control of the penis entrusted to my care. As the vet walked up with a sterile catheter in his sterile gloved hands, it happened….

I dropped the penis.

It just slipped through my hand like a slick baby eel. And it was gone.



The penis was gone.

Horses have a musculovascular penis. This means very little. I just wanted to prove that vet school has indeed taught me something about horses (which, doesn’t say a lot if you’ve been following this little adventure since it started in 2013). It also means, however, that when one lets go of an extruded equine member, it snaps back into it’s sheath and hides like a shy church mouse.

Everything happened so quickly, but also in slow motion. I looked down at my empty hand, and then looked up at the vet.

“You dropped the penis.”

Statement of fact.

“I dropped the penis.”

There really wasn’t much room for argument.

I made a feeble attempt at fishing it back out, but this Geldings Goods were as elusive as the Loch Ness Monster and I wasn’t sure if I would ever see it emerge again. Fortunately, a qualified vet recognized the look of horror, shock and failure on my face (almost as if he sees it a lot) and knew exactly what to do. He extruded the penis in one deft move and the other vet passed the catheter.

Surprisingly, they still let me scrub into the surgery, even after failing at the one simple task they’d entrusted to me. I wish I could say I redeemed myself in the emergency middle of the night colic surgery. I wish I could report that I’d done so well assisting in the surgery, major equine hospitals around the world were calling to recruit me to their ranks. Unfortunately, all I can say is I did very little but hold instruments, untangle some guts, and get intestine juices dribbled down my leg.

It’s hard to describe colic surgery. Picture Grey’s Anatomy meets The Walking Dead – all the surgeons are so tired, they look like zombies and there are guts everywhere, but things are kept quite clean. Helping with the surgery meant that I pulled a 36 hour work day, but honestly, who says you can only cram 24 hours into a day? I think my out of hours team is doing a pretty good job squeezing in a few extra hours every day to save some lives.

And saving lives is exactly what we’re doing right now, which is pretty cool. In addition to a few horses in the hospital who have actually tried to die on us, we’ve had a few emergencies walk in the door. In addition to Thursday night’s colic surgery, Friday brought us a horse with guttural pouch mycosis who was at risk of spontaneous life-threatening haemorrhage. He required constant monitoring throughout the night and had surgery first thing Saturday morning to ligate the vessel that had been almost completely eroded away by a fungal plaque.


Here’s the best part, though: when I was handed his penis in preparation for surgery on Saturday morning, I knew exactly what to do with it: hold on for dear life (and stay out of The Danger Zone!)

The same surgeon was present to pass the catheter. I was so excited to see him, to have a second chance at proving my worth as a final year vet student, a soon-to-be veterinary surgeon in my own right!

I smiled boldly, “I didn’t let go this time! I got better at this!”

He said nothing. But he didn’t need to, I mean what could he say, “Congratulations. You are successfully holding a penis. You’ve gotten to be very good at it?” Really, is there an appropriate response?

I guess the important thing is I’m still moving forward, still improving. Baby steps are still steps, and even on the steep learning curve of vet school, life’s little anecdotes hold true: if you slip up and drop a penis, the important thing is you scrub in and get back on the horse the next chance you get….or something like that.



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Finding Nimmo (Or, The Dude For Whom I’m Willing To Smash My Boiler With A Hammer)

For going on 6 years now, it’s just been me and the little furries living the single lady life – which is ever so slightly less glamorous than Ricky Martin promised in the 1998 Grammy Award winning song Livin’ La Vida Loca. Still, I really can’t complain about my little four-footed-flatmates or our lifestyle.

We do things to make each other smile:

2014-08-28 17.59.23

They help keep the heating costs down in winter:

2014-12-03 21.51.23

We make a great team when it comes to doing household chores:


We shower each other with affection:


And they are always so “happy” to assist me with my veterinary studies…huck-suture-2pg

…even when they are not really much help….


Still, a woman has needs, you know? And although, being around boisterous children in movie theatres and restaurants is usually all it takes to hit the snooze button on my biological clock, my uterus sometimes wishes that the pitter-patter of little feet didn’t make me instantly wonder which of my beasts is overdue for a nail trim. Fortunately, I’ve spent the last 6 years of my spinsterhood chipping away at the ice left in place of my heart from an epic breakup and have formulated a fragile, yet delightfully optimistic concept of love.

As of two weeks ago, I now believe love can happen at first sight. Or at least, I will believe in love at first sight if my stalking skills prove up to snuff (errrr, I mean serendipitously cross paths with a certain gentleman again). But, I get ahead of myself. This all began with my boiler breaking…On a dark and stormy night…(or Once Upon a Time?)

I called Scottish Gas and they scheduled an engineer to fix my boiler first thing in the morning. I woke up early and made a pot of coffee, ran down to the shop in my pj’s for some milk and brushed my teeth. I didn’t shower because of there not being hot water and I didn’t put makeup on because why bother with that stuff if you are not even going to shower. Little did I know, fate was about to buzz the door and I’d kick myself for not even wearing lipstick…

When the engineer arrived, I was struck a bit dumb. I let him into my flat and then we both proceeded to stand for a prolonged time in the entryway, me smiling like a dafty and him patiently awaiting directions to the boiler. Once prompted, I ushered him to the kitchen and probably introduced him to the broken boiler with a cleverly-phrased, “Ta-da” or something. As I had just purchased fresh milk, I offered him tea and coffee with full confidence that the milk wouldn’t come out in stinking chunks when I poured it in the mug. He politely declined, so I offered again….and again….and once more…before telling him to help himself if he changed his mind and finally leaving him in peace.

I sat on the sofa, pretending to study all the while wishing he appreciated my Classic Alternative Rock and American Country Music Playlist. I went to the kitchen to see how things were going and he explained the inner workings of a boiler in great detail: “Blah blah blah Venturi pump blah blah blah more words that sound like physics blah blah blah thermo-something-sensor-regulator-thing blah blah.” I asked him what was wrong with the boiler and he said he wasn’t sure yet – he’d fixed it by turning it off and on again, but since that didn’t identify or address any underlying issue, he decided to take it all apart and do a full inspection. Hmmm maybe he was digging my tunes. 

I went back to my pretend studying, trying to think of non-physics things to talk about, but soon found myself back in the kitchen, apologising for my overly-affectionate cat who clearly thought that our guest was over to pet him instead of fix the boiler. That got us talking about cats and our mutual love for them – something in common! Conversation started to flow easily: Bob Dylan, military experience, thoughts on world peace, music, travel, tattoos, Thailand, the law of attraction, being real grown ups, hopes and dreams – you name it, we probably talked about it. During the course of the conversation, he didn’t mention “we” or “us” or “girlfriend” or “wife” or “boyfriend” or “partner” or “asexuality” once – something I took to be a very good sign.

Then, just as I was about to ask him if we could name our future twin daughters Maggie and Janey, he was gone. It happened so quickly – we were talking and laughing and then I signed the papers and walked him to the door and we both said, “See ya later,” and *poof* he was gone. On to the next appointment, I suppose. Another flat, another spinster cat lady with a broken boiler….

I was still thinking about him though, so I googled him using his first name and the company. I found an article about him winning an award from which I was able to glean his age (32) and his last name – Nimmo. After scouring the internet, I decided he has the smallest electronic footprint of anyone I’ve ever met – not even a facebook account.

I called my mom for advice. My gut instinct was to call and say my boiler was broken again. She told me not to lie. Then, as if reading my mind, she said, “And Erin? Don’t you dare break your boiler.” It was as if the same picture of me taking a hammer to my boiler had been conjured up in her mind!

Fighting the urge to accidentally pull a knob off the boiler, I turned to friends for advice. One of my brilliant lady friends suggested I call the gas company and leave a message for the engineer to call me back because I have a question. Then, when he does call, I could say something really slick like, “So, I was wondering if you wanted to ask me out on a date?” Knowing me, I’m sure it would come off as bold and confident – my milkshake bringing boys to the yard, and not be awkward, or anything.

I loved this plan. I called the gas company.

Me: “Um hi. I was calling because one of your engineers was out this weekend to fix my boiler and he did such a great job explaining everything to me, but I forgot this one thing he said and was trying to convey all the information to my landlord. Would it be possible for me to leave a message for him to call me when he gets a chance so I could ask him, please?”

Representative: “Sorry, we don’t allow our engineers to contact customers directly.”

Me: “Ok, thanks anyway.”

Representative: “If it’s a quick question, I could call him and ask and then tell you what he says?”

Me (panicking): “Oh please don’t worry about it. It’s just about this silly switch I was told not to use a few years ago that I was wondering if he fixed because he took everything apart, but I’ll just carry on not using the switch. It’s really silly. So silly in fact that I’m embarrassed I even called. I’ll just call back if the boiler breaks again. Thanks so much. Really. Bye!”

A dead end. An incredibly awkward and uncomfortable dead end at that. I had a sinking feeling that the representative could read my mind and Scottish Gas was start a case file on me and refuse to send engineers over to service my boiler.

But, a dead end is just a detour in the labyrinth of finding love, so I’m still hopeful. There’s a singer I found whilst searching for him that I’m hopeful may be his mother. I’m going to one of her gigs in about 2 weeks and if I bump into him there and the chemistry sparks again, I’m calling it serendipity. Other people might call this stalking. Some might even use words like, “crazy, obsessive, scary.” Bah to all those people. If there’s anything life has taught me, it’s you can’t just sit around and wait for things. You gotta do your research and go after what you want. Plus, it’s only “scary” if the interest wasn’t mutual. If he liked me as much as I like him, he’ll consider my efforts to accidentally bump into him again “cute” and he’ll feel “lucky.” I hope.

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32 Times Around The Sun

Year: noun : the period of about 3651/4 solar days required for one revolution of the earth around the sun; the time required for the apparent sun to return to an arbitrary fixed or moving reference point in the sky.

I’ve seen 32 of those now. I texted my mom this morning to say thanks for giving birth to me….and then deciding to keep me around and raise me to be the person I am today. Maybe it’s because 87% (statistic made up on the spot) of my friends have at least one child now and I have a new found appreciation for the literal labours of bringing a baby into the world (as many of them have explained these labours to me in gory detail), but I’m starting to think my birthday is more an accomplishment for my mother than it will ever be for me.

Thirty-two isn’t much of a landmark. It’s not like turning thirty. And I can no longer smile and proudly tell people I’m “Thirty-FUN” anymore. But it will be a big year for me. At 32, I’ll graduate (at least I hope I will) as a veterinary surgeon. I’ll seek (and hopefully gain) employment in this beloved field of mine. I’ll move back across an ocean and say goodbye to my life in Scotland.

However, between today and the day I set my sights westward, there is a lot more for me to do here. Like climb this mountain (in 2 weeks from now):Buachaille Etive Mor

I plan on breathing some new life into this little blog of mine. I want to record my adventures, to share and relive them.

Today was a good reminder of just how special this time is to me. Having a summer birthday, I’m not used to having many friends around to celebrate with me. For goodness sakes, when I turned 30, I took Huckleberry on a road trip to the west coast and imposed on my generous lambing family for tea and cake along the way! It would have been a very lonely day if not for my sidekick and the hospitality of the Hendersons.

This year is a little different as we are all in the midst of our final year clinical rotations.  When I arrived at the Hospital for Small Animals this morning, I was pleasantly surprised to see a brightly coloured gift bag in my locker. So surprised, in fact, that I dropped my tea mug, spilling my tea all over the locker room. I giggled as I mopped up my mess wondering how my friend figured out which locker was mine and snuck a present into it (this is the locker I’ve used every day for over a week now and never bother locking…)

After checking on my inpatients, I rushed up the stairs, late to our “group meeting” where we were going to discuss our case loads and make sure everyone was comfortable with the amount of work they had for the week. ANOTHER SURPRISE – my group didn’t actually have a meeting planned, they had cupcakes and Costa lattes for everyone! I was also given a “Birthday Girl” badge to wear, which I attached to my pocket and promptly forgot about, leading to more surprises throughout the day as people I didn’t even know wished me a happy birthday. How do they all know, I wondered.


I didn’t expect 32 to feel like a glamorous birthday. I was actually feeling so tired – tired from the tips of my toes to my eye lashes kinda tired – that when I came home, I took a few minutes to be horizontal before slathering some make up on my face and changing into real clothes for going out in public.

When it came to making dinner, I poured a bowl of cereal. And when it came to ordering drinks, I opted for a dirty gin martini with 3 olives. Something about this combination felt very adult to me. Even though most adults probably balance their gin with real dinners that have vegetables and some form of lean protein, maybe even an ancient grain instead of cold cereal and ever so slightly soured milk (not so sour it was chunky, but sour enough to prove being single means it’s near impossible to keep dairy items around).

Gone are the days of apple-tinis and bubblegum lip gloss. I’m approaching my second real chance at adulthood. I expect it to be similar to my first go – with a bit more suave and little less patience for slum landlords and stiff off-street parking competition. I expect many more exhausted dinners of cheese and crackers or cereal. I expect to get a regular paycheck and an occasional pedicure. I expect to be chewing the chunks of sour milk in my tea tomorrow when I over sleep my alarm and forget that the milk in my fridge is slightly off….

Will expectations match reality? Stay tuned. Same bat day, same bat channel.

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Tipping Point

You’ve probably heard that pigs are intelligent animals. They are.  They are clean, easy to train and can be taught to do tricks. Pigs are considered to be as intelligent as a 3 year old child. In intensive pig farming situations, lack of enrichment in their environment will cause them stress. When this lack of enrichment (or boredom) combines with less than satisfactory management conditions (feeding, environment…) pigs start to show vices. They bully each other and bite at each other’s tails and ears. Multiple pigs may gang up on another pig and traumatise it. When pigs become uncomfortable, they get (for lack of better word) grumpy. When this grumpiness leads to the manifestation of vices, pigs are considered just past their tipping point.

I never expected to relate so much to an animal that makes an occasional appearance on my breakfast plate. But, learning about pigs reaching their tipping point struck a chord with me. Its easy to ignore how much stress I put on myself as a vet student: pressure to excel in my work, to be a good friend, a patient pet owner, to be financially responsible – these all sound like normal every day human being pressures. But, throw in variable factors, such as impending exams, a difficult social situation, a bank account balance that only decreases and that oh-so-dangerous pre-menstrual mixture of hormones and you have the perfect ingredients for a tipping point.

I won’t bite off anyone’s tail, but I can’t honestly say my tipping point is any less gruesome in its own way. Allow me to take you on a journey through the past few days so that you too can watch me bubble over like a kettle. The journey is awkward and infused with hilarity. But, actually reaching my tipping point is where the fun stopped.

Saturday: The Day I Kick A Friend Out Of My Kitchen For Making Too Many Potatoes

Saturday night was a “Friendsgiving” party for all of us homesick Americans and a few Canadians who came along for the turkey and pie. I don’t know if its the comfort food, or the closeness of so many differing personalities, but I always leave huge family style gatherings missing home a little less. Really, the only thing that was absent from our holiday celebration was the pitcher of margaritas I tend to fixate on during the massive political debate between my siblings and grandparents. 

My contribution was a Pecan Pie. It’s a quick and easy pie to make and allowed me to show off my fancy-flaky pie crust making skills. As I was hosting a little group study at my flat before the party, I offered my kitchen up to my friends to put together their contributions to the family-style dinner.

One of my friends was going to make potatoes. And here we find the critical point of failure: Expectation Misalignment.

My way of making potatoes is vastly different than his way. Still, I don’t tell people how to cook in their kitchen (even if it’s *technically* my kitchen), so I let him do his thing and stayed out in the living room….until I heard glass shatter. See, his delicious potatoes are very labour and resource intensive. Having all the burners on the stove going at full blast caused a glass picture in my kitchen to shatter. Coming into my kitchen felt like entering the set of The Walking Dead. I tried to plaster a Martha Stewart style smile on my face and, in the name of hospitality, offer to clean up all the glass and make some more room with my limited counter space for him to continue.

However, my smile was more like a grimace and the words that came out of my mouth were less hospitable and more like, “I just need to be the only one in here- I just need to get everything under control – I just need a minute. Just a minute.” Except those words sound nice (albeit awkward). I was awkward, but I wasn’t nice. Not even a little nice. I think I must have looked ready to projectile vomit pea soup whilst my head spun around 360 degrees a la The Exorcist.

I prepared my kitchen the best I could for “Operation boil 10 kg of potatoes whilst simultaneously frying up 3 kg of bacon and sausages” and sheepishly exited. I finished my mimosa. I made my pie. I apologized. But it wasn’t easy for me. It’s hard to admit you are wrong – especially when you’re the one being a snot about how to make potatoes.

Monday: The Day I Yell At A Stranger For The First Time in My Life 

I had received an e-mail from the financial aid office that had me a little bit on edge. Ok, a lot on edge. I was talking to a friend in the meadows, essentially throwing a bit of a pity party for myself. I also may have not been entirely over how silly I had acted about the potato situation.

Huckleberry was running around the meadows, sniffing used condoms and hunting down stale chips (french fries) left out for the birds. I really live in a classy part of town.  I looked over my shoulder and saw a woman approaching with a dog on the leash. If we were in closer proximity, I would have offered to leash my dog, but he was off sniffing and never really bothers with other dogs, so I didn’t give it a second thought.

Well, for the first time in 6 years, Huckleberry charged up to that woman and her dog, stopped about 5 feet away and let out his best beagle bay: ARRRROOOOOOOOOOO! I rushed over and apologized, “I”m so sorry! He’s never done that before!” As I was fumbling with his harness to leash him, she replied, “Yeah, that’s what they all say.” Taken aback by her tone, I aplogized again, “No really, he hasn’t ever run up and barked like that – I’m so sorry if he startled you.” She rolled her eyes at me and mumbled something.

Walking back to my friend with Huck at a close heel, I say, “What a b*tch.” (Because if someone upsets you, you should call them names until you feel better. Obviously.)

The woman hears me, stops and says, “Excuse me?”

And (ironically, for the first time in my life, because I never do this either) I have a ready comeback.

I say loudly, clearly (and thankfully without stuttering or losing my ability to say the letter R), “I was just saying how NICE it must be to have a perfect dog that has never embarrassed you in public. THANKS for so graciously accepting my apology.”

As you can imagine, when I said, “THANKS for so graciously accepting my apology,” it was clear I didn’t sincerely mean “Thank you.”

Tuesday: The Day I See The Stranger And Her Dog In The Meadows Again

I hid behind a post.

I’m actually terrible at confrontations.

Wednesday: Tipping Point – The Day I Cry Because People Were Nice To Me 

I volunteer at a local vet clinic on Wednesdays. Not just any veterinary surgery, but possibly the one staffed with the nicest and most compassionate team of professionals on the planet. I love going there for so many reasons, partly because I feel like I can help (if only keeping the kennels clean or washing instruments) but mostly because I like being around the staff. They help me remember why I am in vet school and inspire me to push through some of the less glamorous hoops vet students have to jump through.

Today, I arrived and was put to work right away taking a blood glucose reading from a diabetic dog. After getting the reading, I was to flush her catheter. Straightforward. Within my skill set. I can do this.

Well, getting the blood from her ear wasn’t easy. Whist there are many ways to poke a needle into a dog’s ear to get a drop of blood, none of them seem particularly painless. The poor dog yelped and I felt like a monster and dropped the glucose strip and then that happened again because after the first time my confidence was as shaky as my hands.

Then, I asked for help because there were only so many times I was willing to poke the dog before identifying the need for professional assistance. After getting the reading, I grabbed the needle and bag of saline from the dog’s kennel and flushed the catheter. As I was putting them back, I took a closer look at the bag. In bright green bold sharpie, I saw the words, “Drugs Added” written on the bag of saline. My heart rate escalated and I could hear the blood rushing in my ears. I ran into the prep room and grabbed a nurse and told her what I had done.

I couldn’t believe I had made such a mistake. My hands were shaking, even as she assured me it was fine, the saline contained very dilute glucose. It was the drip the dog had been on the previous day.  She assured me that my mistake wasn’t going to do anything to hurt the dog or mess anything up. She just told me to reflush with the correct saline and that it would be fine. She was kind. She was understanding. She appreciated me immediately owning my mistake and seeking help. She said I had done the right thing. She even made a joke about how the poor pup probably enjoyed a wee bit of extra glucose.

I reflushed the catheter with the appropriate saline solution and decided I would clean a few kennels and wash some dishes. I felt like I needed to take a break from medical chores for a bit. I demoted myself. I felt like I needed to be punished. I couldn’t let go of the fact that I had made an enormous mistake: I injected something into an animal without verifying what it was. At the time, it didn’t matter to me that it was a harmless solution. It didn’t even matter to me that the dog was safe. I still felt absolutely terrible. I couldn’t let go of the feeling that I could kill an animal doing that. The tears started and I couldn’t get them to stop. I had reached my tipping point.

The whole team I work with were kind and encouraging. They offered up their own stories of mistakes they made that could have been disastrous and the lessons they learned. They shared their imperfections and vulnerabilities. They reminded me that we are all human. No one said a harsh word to me. No one felt the need to remind me of the repercussions such a mistake might have in the future. I think we all realized that this was the first and only time I would make this mistake because I would never forget the feeling I had holding that bag of glucose and saline.

I hid in the bathroom and cried. I cried until my eye makeup was no longer salvageable.

I washed my face with cold water and made about 3 good starts out of the bathroom, but each time I broke down again as soon as someone saw my tell tale red blotchy face and asked me if I was ok. I tried slathering lavender hand cream on my face to tone down the redness. It didn’t help. When the nurse realized that I was at my tipping point, she told me to take the night off and relax. She thanked me for all the work I do at the clinic. She told me they trust me and that’s why they let me do things and owning up to my error was just another reason for them to keep trusting me. She told me I was appreciated.

Tipping points can be fickle, funny things. You lose your cool over something small. Too many potatoes. A snotty dog owner. The beagle being a beagle instead of a perfectly trained little robot dog. You boil over. You cry. YOU CRY A LOT. You phone a friend. You phone all your friends. You drink a glass of wine….and then maybe just half of another. You eat a piece of baking chocolate (because that’s all you have). You go for a long walk. And then, you go to bed and know when you wake up, you have a fresh start. Your emotional kettle is empty again. And the stresses can come and go and you can roll with them. They won’t tip you. Well, not so soon. You’ll tip again. Maybe over a stubbed toe or missing a bus. Or maybe you tip because you are professionally and personally embarrassed by a poor judgment call. I think tipping points must be how we cope. We have to get all that stress out before it actually leaves us shattered.

But isn’t that the key? To tip and tip and tip over again, but not let anything sink us?

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An Udder Mystery

I have an exam tomorrow morning worth 18% of my final grade in the Farm Animal course. Clearly, this is the time for me to sit down and update the blog I’ve neglected since JULY.

But, I need a study break. Our exam tomorrow is over all cow medicine. All of it. Like everything that can go wrong with cows and how to fix it…or even take things that are not broken and just make them better. Fortunately (unfortunately?), a lot of farm animal medicine can be summed up to “give it penicillin or shoot it.”

OK, seriously, it’s not that dismal, but it is quite different from learning about diagnostic MRIs for Morkie-poos, chemo therapy for Chihuahuas and CAT scans for cats… Farm medicine is a whole new wondrous world (and still holds a good deal of mystery for yours truly!)

So, after spending the day flirting with my flash cards and staring down the sizeable pile of notes on my coffee table, I decided to give my brain a real break. My head felt so full, I wanted to wrap a big bandage around it to keep all that information from leaking out of my ears! In hindsight, I should have done just that….and made a cup of herbal tea….and crawled into bed….at 6:30 pm.

Anyway, I was feeling a bit guilty for being a terrible dog owner and skimping on Huck’s walks today. Also, I might have looked at my animals dead in the eye this evening and said, “If you both don’t leave me alone, I’m going to the library to study and NEVER COMING BACK.”

Or, I might have said exactly that with some pointedly inserted profanity. So, to ease my guilt, I decided Huck and I would take a leisurely sniff-everything-off-lead stroll around the meadows, allowing me to clear my mind and digest my Thai takeout.

Not even halfway across the meadows, my phone lit up and I looked at it for the first time in hours. It was a message from this guy I’m (dating? I guess that’s what its called – we’re going out on dates…but that’s all for now.) So yeah, this guy I’m dating. period. no question mark.

He asked if we were still going to get together tomorrow. At first, I cringed. I have plans to see him Friday and after he sent me a photo of the 6 month old Clydesdale foal he just bought, I made plans to see his horses, errrhhhmmm to see him at the stable on Sunday afternoon. Getting together tomorrow night means three dates in one week!

That seems like a lot of dating. But, I decided three dates in one week is ok since all the dates are things I want to do. Is this how dating works? I don’t even know.

Anyway, I digress. The Dude and I made plans to get a drink tomorrow evening. I told him to pick the place and time, my brain was too full to plan anything. He asked if he could help and I told him just to let me know where to go and not to ask me any questions about cows. And then, I added a few of the little cow ermojis because I think that’s what people do when they’re dating.

Of course his response was to ask me something about cows:

How many nipples do cows have?

I roll my eyes and start typing my reply: “Four”

(*I didn’t correct him and say they were called teats not nipples because I am trying to be less emasculating in my text messages and he doesn’t go to vet school and for all intensive purposes, they are nipples).

Then, I continued, with growing anxiety, “Which, now that I think of it, doesn’t make any sense for them to have four because cows are designed to have one calf -sometimes two, but they are still considered monotocous!

At this point, I’m pretty sure my pupils dilated and my heart rate sped up:

WHY DO COWS HAVE FOUR NIPPLES – errr teats. Whatever. 

I messaged the one person I could trust to answer me honestly and without judgment, Jersey. She writes back, “Yes – And sheep only have two!

Key full blown panic! It’s nothing for sheep to have twin or triplet (sometimes quadruplet) lambs! AND THEY ONLY HAVE TWO TEATS! WHY DO COWS HAVE FOUR!!!

Jersey also kindly reminded me to not say nipples in front of farmers.

(She’s right. It’s just not done. I really will have to inform The Dude one day.)

Then, Jersey continued, “Seriously – where did the extra two come from? I don’t think hippos or whales have four.”

Good. It was getting to her, too. I wasn’t the only bamboozled vet student this evening in Edinburgh.

We discussed the possibility of cows fostering each other’s young and even being genetically selected for more teats to get more milk back in the early days of domestication.

I ran the theories by my friend who is a real life vet.

She thinks I’m a nutter.

When I got home from the walk, I tried to find out more about hippopotamus and whale teats on the internet, on the off chance I could gain some more insight into cow mammary development.

Fail.  I couldn’t find any pictures of hippopotamus teats and they are pretty hard to discern from a side-on photo:

I did find a really sweet article about baby beluga whales suckling. I think it was written for children. I loved it. Baby beluga. So freaking cute.

Still, I felt no closer to solving the mystery about why cows have four teats. I’ve been studying cows almost exclusively for over a month now and I couldn’t answer one simple question.

It would have been sad if I still had the capacity to feel.

I’ve certainly hit a wall. It’s time for that cup of tea and a good night’s sleep. It’s my hope, in the morning, I’ll awaken to a comment on this post answering this udderly mysterious conundrum.

Posted in Academia, Animals, Dating or Something Like it, Edinburgh, Vet School | 1 Comment

Lost In Translation?

Occasionally, I make rather odd requests to my friends, today was no exception:

“Ok, I just need you to say, ‘Hi my name is Paul‘ and then ‘Hi, my name is Robbie‘ in your Scottish accent really quick.”


“I’m wondering if there is any chance I could have heard the name Paul when someone said Robbie instead.”

“Ok. Hi my name is Paul. Hi my name is Robbie”

“Yeah, no way do they sound alike.”

“No they dinnae”

One of these days, I’ll get back to sharing stories about getting my butt kicked by newborn bovines or how great I am at nursing baby lambs and doing stuff around farms. But, somehow, all of my entries lately have been nostalgic of my days working as a dating columnist. I think that’s because although my age, career, time zone and opinions regarding the best time to drink a hot cup of English Breakfast tea (all the times!) have changed, some things, specifically my dismal hand-eye coordination, gigantic shoe size, and uncanny ability to almost-but-not-quite-actually-date people have all remained exactly the same.

Actually, it’s probably best I focus on writing about my “dating life” instead of vet school because, now that my clinical extra mural studies have started, my stories are less about funny farm antics and more about sponge bathing diarrhoea off a dog’s rear end. It’s glamorous, I know.

So back to the Paul/Robbie name debate. Something unexpected and kinda funny happened today: I realized I may have made out with the wrong handyman. Since the cake and kissing incident with J, I have seen him numerous times, during which he has had ample opportunity to compliment my superior culinary skills and kissing technique, but has done neither. He’s so dead to me.

However, J isn’t doing all the work in the flat next door alone, there’s been a team of guys working there, remodelling the whole place. One of these guys is Paul Joiner. (*Note – a “joiner” is like a “carpenter.” You’re welcome, North America.) Paul Joiner is tall and blonde and probably thinks I need help or guidance or a mentor or a boyfriend well-versed in local knowledge. I can’t entirely disagree with him as he has caught me leaving my door open before when I was taking the dog out for a walk in the morning. A true gentleman, Paul Joiner guarded my ajar door until I returned to ensure that no super-keen thief was going to rob my third floor walk up 7:50 am. He then informed me that I had left my door open, but in the polite British way of doing so, apologized and used passive voice as to not assign blame: “I’m sorry, I just noticed your door was somehow left slightly open.” As I am adapting to the UK lifestyle, I responded in turn, with an apology, “Oh, sorry about that, I’ll be more careful next time, thanks.” (*Note: I do apologize now, for EVERYTHING.) Sorry I’m not sorry about always saying I’m sorry.

Well, Paul Joiner and I have seen each other a few times, I always say hello and usually apologize for something, like having to walk around the ladder he stuck in the middle of my hallway (don’t ask me why I apologize for that, maybe a Canadian could explain this better?)  Well, today,  I asked to borrow a hammer so I could fix some cheap Ikea picture frames in my flat. Paul Joiner said the hammer was already loaded into the van downstairs, but he was happy to run down and get it for me. Six flights of stairs later, he returned with the hammer. I did my hammering and gave it back.

Paul Joiner then told me that they were done in the flat across the hall. I invited myself in and gave my approval for how much better it looked. Then, I told him to have a nice day and went back to my flat.

A few minutes later, Paul Joiner knocked on my door. He told me again they were all done. I validated his good work again, smiled and said bye.

Then, I get another knock on the door. Paul Joiner was there holding a sponge. He apologized and asked me if I had a bin and could throw the sponge away for him as he had just finished using it to wipe everything down in the flat because they were all done working. I said sure and took the sponge, possibly apologizing for my bin being in the kitchen instead of readily anticipating his need to dispose of said sponge. It’s getting harder to keep track of all the “sorry’s” I’ve started to drop.

Some more small talk ensued after Paul Joiner caught a glimpse of my cat, but I ultimately wished him luck and shut the door.

One more knock on the door. I opened it again and this time Paul Joiner handed me a piece of paper with a number on it and asked if he could leave his number with me in case I needed any joinery work. I said sure. Paul Joiner then asked for my number, which I happily gave him.

We then said goodbye for possibly the 8th time that day. I may have apologized for something else again, at this point, I can’t remember.

In the end, I decided I was flattered by the attention from Paul Joiner and should encourage it a little bit to see if he really was just looking for more business. I sent him a message:


I was puzzled. I checked the number  – I hadn’t copied it down wrong. None of the numbers were even printed in that “is this a 5 or a 2” serial killer/brain surgeon penmanship.

I wondered if maybe Robbie was another guy working on the flat and if Paul had given me his work number, but written one of the numbers incorrectly as sometimes coworkers all have very similar phone numbers.

Out of curiosity, I googled the number. It was tied to a landscaping company in a town I had never heard of before outside of London.

I put the number into Facebook and found Robbie who lives in that town just outside of London.

Curiouser and curiouser. I then started to look for joiners in Edinburgh named Paul so I could see if their contact number was similar.

I didn’t understand. Did he give me the wrong number on purpose? Was it some sort of a prank? Was his name Robbie? Did he, in fact, work for a landscaping company in England even though he said he was from Edinburgh and he didn’t look a thing like the Robbie I found on Facebook? What was going on? If he was going to give me a fake number, why did he approach me to give me the number and ask for my number? Things were not adding up. I couldn’t make any sense of them and it was driving me crazy.

Then, I GOT A GRIP.  Paul asked for my number, too. If he wanted, he could get ahold of me a lot easier than I could get ahold of him.

The end.

Or is it?

DUN DUN DUNNNNNNNNN *Suspenseful music plays as I exit stage left.*

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The Art of Seduction. Or Something Like That.

I’m not usually one to kiss and tell, but there are times when the telling is so epic, I have to cross that line. This is most definitely one of those times. Single friends, take notes.

Handy J has been working at the flat across the hall from me for the past week. He is installing a central heating system, that is when he isn’t busy chatting me up in the hallway (and you wonder why the repairman is always late!)

J is tall, dark, handsome and has an enormous toolbox. Literally. That’s not a euphemism or anything.

Upon meeting J, I told him not to hesitate to let me know if he needed anything. He held me to that and hasn’t been shy. J seems to always need something: water for the kettle, a phone charger, a kind and sympathetic ear…

The other day, he quite literally knocked on my door 3 times within an hour. Each time he was asking for more water for the kettle. Handing him his 3rd litre of water that morning I said, “Wow, you sure do drink a lot of tea.” He laughed and explained that he was using the water to clean things in the flat. Still skeptical, I told him to let me know if he needed anything else as I was going to be home revising for my exam. J said, “Oh, well maybe I’ll come by for lunch.”

I was caught off guard and said, “Oh. Lunch? Well, since it’s revision week, I don’t really have lunch. I have half a sweet potato and some brussels sprouts and was going to just eat that.” J laughed and told me not to worry.

And I did eat exactly that:


Still, I felt a bit bad I couldn’t invite J in for lunch. I don’t know the first thing about installing boilers and stuff, but it seems like the type of work that would leave you very hungry. So, I decided to bake him a cake. A vegan lemon cake as I was completely out of eggs and butter also (ref. eating brussels sprouts and sweet potato for lunch) and I really couldn’t be bothered to go to the shop and buy lunch or eggs and butter.

The next time J knocked for a kettle refill, I answered the door and said, “Hi-I-baked-you-a-cake.” He didn’t respond right away, so I said it again, a little louder, “I BAKED YOU A CAKE.”

J just looked at me. Probably processing these strange words said in my strange accent. The silence felt uncomfortable, so I kept talking:

“Well, since I said to let me know if you needed anything and then you said you needed lunch, but I didn’t really have lunch…”

“Oh I was just kidding about that…”


The third time I told him I’d baked a cake must have come off as a bit aggressive because J gave me an appeasing smile and said, “Thanks. I’ve only got about half an hour left of work.”

I threw my hands up and said, “Well, just knock on my door when you are getting ready to go and I’ll cut you a slice of cake to take away with you.”

J smiled and nodded. About half an hour later, he knocks again and says, “That’s me done.”

I nod and say, “Ok great. Let me go get you some cake.”

As I turn to leave, J takes a step into my flat and says, “Or, you could invite us in for a cup of tea?”

I say, “ok,” and turn and walk away, leaving the door open. J must have understood that as an invitation to come in, because that’s exactly what he did. He followed me into the kitchen and I say, “Welp, there’s the cake.”

I flip on the kettle and ask, “How do you take your tea?” He asks for milk and sugar.

Damn. I’d put all the sugar in the cake. I tell him, “I put all the sugar in the cake. I have honey. I’ll put honey in your tea.”

I hand him the mug, realizing I’d forgotten to take out the tea bag. With the swiftness of a ninja, I grab a spoon from the counter and reach into his mug to remove the tea bag, spilling tea all over his arm, “Sorry about that, Americans really are not that good with tea, ya know?”

J takes his tea to the table and I sit across from him. He smiles, “This is like a proper dinner date.”

“Yup. Sure is.”

I’m wishing the cake tasted better (I’d run out of sugar making the cake, and decided it would just be a lower calorie vegan lemon cake – it was quite tart). I’m wishing I had enough icing sugar to make frosting instead of a glaze. I’m wondering what the heck I am doing feeding this guy I don’t even know a slice of cake. I’m wishing I had a gin and tonic…

I ask J a little bit more about what he does, and when he starts talking about plumbing, I remember that I pulled the plug out of the bathroom sink while trying to flush a few large chunks of dried henna down the drain and haven’t been able to get it to go back in correctly. I ask him if he wouldn’t mind taking a look at it. And guess what, HE FIXES IT – WITH HIS TOOLS!

I thank him for fixing my sink and we return to THE CAKE.

J asks me if I have a flatmate. I say no.

He continues, “And no boyfriend, husband back in the US?”

“Not exactly,” I respond. Realizing how that must have sounded, I laugh and then (for some unknown reason) say it again, “Yea, not exactly.”

What J can not possibly understand here is that “not exactly” has just somehow become Erin-code for, “I haven’t even dated anyone in 4 years…” and that’s why it’s so funny.

I ask him if he has a girlfriend. He says, “Not exactly.”

Hmmm. I’m thinking “not exactly” possibly means something a little different for J – either that or he is “mirroring” in an attempt to get closer to me and build trust. All primates do it.

J finishes his cake, and tells me it was “braw,” but his parking is expiring and he has another job to get to. He takes the plates into the kitchen.

I walk J to the door. He thanks me for the cake and I thank him for fixing my sink. He gives me a hug and a kiss on the cheek and turns to the door. Then, with one hand on the doorknob, J turns back to me, looks in my eyes, and in one painfully halting and spasmodic motion, leans in and starts kissing me.

I’m taken off guard, but I kiss back. Then, I start thinking about how I am kissing Handy J from the flat across the hall in the middle of the day because I baked him a cake and I am overcome with the desire to laugh my head off. Fortunately, I learned when I was 17 that guys HATE it when they are kissing you and you start laughing (they REALLY, REALLY hate it), so I was able to repress the giggles and just smile and keep kissing back. However, with all the effort I had to put into not laughing and with the awkwardness of it all, I couldn’t for the life of me remember what to do with my hands while making out with a dude. So, I held them out to my sides, kinda like a penguin holds it’s flippers when it’s balancing on an ice float.

J pulls away from the kiss and says, “So, I guess I should go?”

Still wearing my incredibly literal hat from revision week,  I respond, “Yeah, you should, your parking is expiring, remember?”

J walks out the door and spills his toolbox. I tell him to have a great afternoon and close the door.

Then, I go sit down on my futon with my flash cards and laugh my head off for the whole afternoon. I daydreamed about future me, aged 58 walking around my beautiful Southern California outdoor swimming pool on a Thursday morning. I see my 20-something year old pool boy cleaning out the filter, lower my Ray-bands and winking, say, “Hey cutie, want a Piña Colada?”

Dear future me, if Handy J is the start of a trend, I think we’re going to be ok…

I didn’t get much revision done that day, but I did find a vintage cake advertisement on pintrest that really captured the moment:


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