Friday, December 30, 2011

Journal 104 The Book List

As I'd hoped, the questionnaire entry helped me focus on some more writing that wasn't complaint-related.
It asked about the best book read. Well, I've read alot this year.
These are the shortlist of the gripping books, the ones that wouldn't let me go, the ones that made me close them, sometimes
mid-sentence, and take time for a tear, for a new thought, for a pause in this revolving door life. Ones that I won't soon forget.

Here's a quick synopsis, in no particular order, of the books' year in review:

Truth and Beauty by Ann Patchett
Just finished this one. Loved it. Go read Autobiography of a Face, too. It's the book that inspired this one.

Blue Nights by Joan Didion
I've written about this one before. It's so intangible it defies description. If you don't like this book after you read it, call me and I'll tell you why you should.

The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion
DIdion's pre-cursor to Blue Nights, chronicling the sudden death of her husband after almost 40 years of marriage, and documenting the year that followed.

Thunder and Lightning by Natalie Goldberg
About writing and writers and why we write, read, seek.

Your Voice in my Head by Emma Forrest
A troubled woman's relationship with a treasured therapist. Page turner.

Lit by Mary Karr
Karr's follow up to the Liars' book--her adult memoir of struggling to write, find herself, and become sober. All set against the back drop of her southern, impoverished roots, and her complex parental relationships.

The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls
Very close to Karr's book in subject, inspiration, and sheer grit. However, Lit dealt more with Karr's adulthood; Walls deals with her childhood and early adulthood.

Blackbird and Still Waters by Jennifer Lauck
Blackbird is Lauck's childhood memoir, Still Waters her grown-up one. Both wrenching but I was compelled to keep reading.

Freedom by Jonathan Franzen
A crazy family (is there any other kind) and the bond between all of its members.

The Irrational Season by Madeleine L'Engle
Book 3 of The Crosswicks Journals. Big themes: Life, death, belief, religion, love. She wrote in a time without email, blogging, texting. Without DISTRACTION.

Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis-A Life by Donald Spoto
What can I say? This woman was a spoiled princess and the Kennedys are f*cked up beyond belief. Sorry. My opinion.

Just Kids by Patti Smith
I should have had my late adolescence/early adulthood in the seventies with the vibe of freedom, individual expression, and going against the grain was considered laudable. We really need to bring some of these qualities back to life. I know we THINK we are expressing ourselves individually but are we? Really? Are we?

Must You Go? by Lady Antonia Fraser
Memoir of a marriage, by a very talented biographist. Journal style, short entries, to the point, honest.

The Story Sisters by Alice Hoffman
As I mentioned, fiction hasn't figured too much in my recent reading, but this was plot-driven and insanely satisfying.
Like a whole bag of popcorn.

Le Freak by Nile Rodgers
Another crazy life, dictated by a passion for music that Rodgers was clearly born with. I like hearing from the people in this world who have a true calling. My sister once told me only 3% of the earth's population are born with that, a true calling. (How do they figure this stuff out?)

Hero of the Underground by Jason Peter
A good upbringing, a talent for a sport, and disciplined training may not be enough to stop a lonely person from turning to drugs for comfort. Page-turning. Peter played for the NFL, was seriously injured, and retired early. What is it like to peak at twenty-one? This book outlines that. Interesting to me that I googled the author afterward and there was an article in a sports journal about him that described his career, dismissingly, as "not amounting to very much". Ouch. Who wrote that? Mean.

Open by Andre Agassi
I'm still mid-book but can't stop reading. A domineering father forced Agassi into the tennis life. It doesn't border on child abuse, it was child abuse, and I was discussing with Mike how this type of upbringing is how serial killers are made. Agassi, on the other hand, seems to be more of a sensitive type, and went in the other direction. Compelling so far.

I would love some book recommendations for 2012. Note that none of the 'best sellers' are on this list, ie, The Help, that genre, no bookclub picks. But I do occasionally read some mainstream books and enjoy them. Throw me some titles.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Year in Review

It's not just lists that can stimulate that thing often called "writer's block" which, for me, when blogging, can also be called "laziness" or "I-can't-write-about-a-certain-thing-because-I'll-be-fired/ostracized/called out-etc." which is pretty much every topic I really have wanted to write about over the past couple of months or so...
So I found this questionnaire, a kind of year in review, if you will, and this is my project for today. Some of the questions are hopelessly stupid (I'll asterisk them) and some are thought-provoking. Ah yes, blogging: to provoke thoughts. Ones that are less-than-vapid.
That said, this is the blog that posted the questions:

And here they are, in all their end-of-year glory, with my answers:

What did you do in 2011 that you've never done before?
-delivered a eulogy, planned a funeral. god awful.

Did you keep your new year's resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
-didn't have 'resolutions' so to speak, but I did promise myself to absolutely not read the paper, and for the most part, (99%) I've kept that promise. Let me explain: I LOVE reading the paper, any paper, any time, any where, but I simply can't take the news stories, the bias, the spin, the slant. I want to know about an issue, via osmosis, and find my own way to an opinion, one that I formed, outside of the media stream.
So, in a nutshell, no, no resolutions. I did, however, give up criticizing my parents for lent. Turned out to be a very pragmatic move, based on events that began around that time of year...

Did anyone close to you give birth?
-endlessly. as a child-free-by-choice I marvel at it. Then I roll over in bed and go right back to sleep.

Did anyone close to you die?
-yes. My Dad. Despite any other event that occurred this year (ie, getting engaged), 2011 will forever be defined by this, I'm sad to say. I can't even look at the year in review without tripping over June.

What countries did you visit?
-the US, as always.

What would you like to have in 2012 that you lacked in 2011?
-more peace of mind, less fear, more confidence, less trepidation, more stubborn-ness, less compromise.

What dates from 2011 will remain etched on your memory, and why?
-March 13th--my dad's hospital stay, coinciding with the Japanese earthquake, which I did not find out about until days later
-June 13th--my dad's last day
-June 17th--his funeral
-June 19th--father's day. realizing how much I loathe "hallmark holidays".
-September 7th--engagement

What was your biggest achievement in 2011?
-for the most part, it was keeping my mouth shut when it counted. This saved me countless times--with friends, at work, with family.
I quote my beloved therapist: "Sometimes silence is the best answer".

What was your biggest failure?
-in contrast to the question above--not telling it like it was. Sometimes people just need to hear how stupidly they are behaving.

Did you suffer illness or injury?
-chronic anxiety. I suffer it every day--but I will never stop trying to manage and control it.

What was the best thing you bought?
-it's always running shoes. The money I spend on shoes is sacred.

Whose behaviour merited celebration?
-my sister, for always telling it like it is, even when words fail me to do so. My mother, for her strength, even when I sometimes see weakness. Mike, for putting it all in perspective.

Whose behaviour appalled and depressed you?
-the list is really endless. I've written about my father's extended family here, and their collective behaviour surrounding his death still shocks and saddens me. I've never cut anyone out of my life like that before, blood relatives (for the most part) and I've never not tried to mend fences. Yes, it's sad, and yes, it hurts, but I would not change it. I know it's for the best.

Where did most of your money go?
-into savings.

What did you get really excited about?
-being engaged, and about not doing the 'traditional' white-wedding, which, at this point in my life, is a big YAWN.

What song(s) will always remind you of 2011?
-wow. I guess anything on my running playlist of this year.

Compared to this time last year are you:
-I'll say this, quoting John Dunne: It all evens out in the end. (it always seems to for me).

What do you wish you did more of?
-more running. I know it seems impossible, but I did miss the entire springtime of running due to extenuating circumstances.

What do you wish you did less of?
-worrying. Hands down. I have to stop. I HAVE TO.

How did you spend Christmas?

Did you fall in love in 2011?
-more in love, yes

What was your favourite tv program of 2011?
-I say this without shame the Real Housewives--New York and Beverly Hills specifically. My sister and I love it. My most treasured gift from my shower was the Real Housewives hardcover book that my sister bought me. She later admitted she found it at the dollar store for 2 bucks. That makes me love it MORE.
-football. At least it makes sense (unlike hockey, which has descended to the level of common brutality and brute stupidity).

Do you hate anyone now that you didn't this time last year?
-my grandfather told me when I was little that "hate is a strong word". So, no hate. I have strong feelings of repellant towards certain people, and alot of that is un-bloggable. For now.

What was the best book you read?
-I read at least twenty-five "couldn't put it down if the building was on fire and I only had one chance to be saved" amazing books this year. Joan Didion's Blue Nights tops the list I think. I couldn't really talk about this book to too many people, because it is about the author losing a child, albeit an adult child, and people immediately react and label it 'depressing'. Well, I say, bring it on. Send in the depressed clowns. Right where I want to be.
Jennifer Lauck's memoir "Still Waters" was another great one, as was Mary Karr's Lit. I finally read Jeanette Walls The Glass Castle and loved it. The Story Sisters by Alice Hoffman was the best fiction book I read (I don't read much fiction anymore. It's mostly memoir/biography). Thunder and Lightning by Natalie Goldberg was another insanely intelligent book. In it, she talks about how all the major writers in the US come from the South. Mike and I went down a long list. She's right. And the reasons are compelling and moving. Read the book to find out more. I also really enjoyed Julia Cameron's Floor Sample, her memoir.

What was your greatest musical discovery?
-Adele. Not that I discovered her. I think it was my sister who turned me onto her, in a conversation that went like this:
Me: "I just heard this great song called "Set Fire to the Rain!"
My sister; (eye roll): "Oh my God. That's only been out for like years. I have the first album".
Me: (chagrined) "It's still really good! It's new to me."

What did you want, and get?
-peace of mind. It's something I chase, ever-elusivse, but I don't stop running after it.

What was your favourite film of the year?
-I realized, proudly, that as I read this question, I have not seen a single movie in the theatre this year. This year, too, like other years, I have not seen any of the 'oscar contenders' (War Horse. Are they kidding?).
As you know, movies are not my thing. I know it sounds nuts, but I don't have the attention span, despite my ability to read a book in a couple of days.
I did really like The Machinist with Christian Bale, I think I've written about it. Dark, disturbing, confusing, and original. All the things I aspire to in a movie. And in a book. And in myself.

What did you do on your birthday and how old were you?
-I turned 38 on August 24th. There was a tornado warning that day so I couldn't go to my mom's, which was the plan. I spent the evening reading Mary Karr's LIT (another insanely good book I read this year) in the Richmond Rogue across the street from my condo, eating wings and drinking chardonnay. Very me.

What one thing would have made your life immeasurably more satisfying?
-who doesn't want/wish for more money, to be independently wealthy, to have more time, to be more creative...all of those things. Time would top the list.

*How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2011?
-this to me is one of the 'stupid' questions that I talked about in my intro. I'm not answering it on the grounds that it's stupid.

What kept you sane?
-not so much what but who. My sister. My friends L. and A. The ones who email back.

*Which celebrity/public figure did you facny the most?
-fancy is a stupid word to me. It's like they threw this in there to sound British. Well, I'm here to tell you--it just sounds ridiculous. I don't fancy celebrities. Most of the time I just pity them. Yes, there are stirrings of envy too. But mostly pity. Especially all the hungry actresses.

Which political issue stirred you the most?
-since I don't read the paper and get most of my news from Twitter, that's a tough one to answer. World debt crisis was what I woke up to every morning. Hearing about any crime against a child still reminds me that we are a race of people whose priorities are so out of whack we should all be bitch-slapped. Hard.

Who did you miss?
-myself, for parts of the year. For most of the spring/summer.

*Who was the best new person you met?
-I didn't meet alot of new people, to be honest. My crowd-avoidance and aversion to most overly social situations in 2011 guaranteed that. I think that the people I do know continue to develop (the smart ones, anyway) and getting to know the new parts of them is fascinating.

Tell us a valuable life lesson learned in 2011?
-plan ahead. I'll leave it at that.

Quote a song lyric that sums up the year?
"Christ you know it ain't easy" (Ballad of John and Yoko)

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Journal 103 Hermit Mode

..not Hermit in a BAD way (to me, there is no such thing).
Just me, at home, alone, the day unfolding, schedule-less.
Curling my hair with my new curling iron. Ok, not really curling--bending. Waving. Loving it.
Finding a hotel on line for Mike's parents and sister and nephew (yes, they are coming to the wedding! I'm happy.)
Reading the book I got out of the library on marathon training (I have such a long way to go).
Walking to the grocery store in the middle of the day. (Very few people. Very few cars).
Watching daytime tv, no not soaps. (Intervention. Football highlights. Criminal Minds. Under a blanket).
Thinking about cleaning my condo, renting a movie, making my dinner. In the abstract. As things I CAN do, things I DO have time for.
Talking on the phone, and NOT on my bluetooth.

I'm getting married in a week, not really hermit behaviour (I went for a quick dose of vitamin D today, and as I was lying in the tanning bed, I thought--woah. I'm getting married. Does everyone who is getting married feel this way? That strange blend of...wait..I'm going to have a HUSBAND? Keep in mind--an independent adult life, one of 'unmarried bliss' is dictating these thoughts. I'm excited, but yea, we're citizens of two different, but bordering, countries. It's going to mean paperwork. Paperwork. The bane of my existence).

But I'm still also stuck in the name game. What am I going to do? I'm of two schools of thought--I don't mind telling you.
One. My name, my lifelong name--it's the last vestige of my family name. My father was the youngest of three, two sons, one daughter. So, naturally (in the seventies, pre the real feminist era), his sister took her husband's name. And had a daughter. Then my dad had two daughters, me and my sister. And his brother didn't have kids.
Thus, my aunt's daughter had her father's name. And when my sister got married, she took her husband's name, too. My mother had also conceded her own last name when she married my dad. So I'm left, now, as the last Bignell in my father's family. It's a bit of a mantle. What of my name-choice? What about wanting to take Mike's name? What about joining forces with him? Yes, I like the hyphenating idea. But it has its own complications. I guess, though, any name-change does. I have a lovely neat new box of business cards at work--black and white, my name in a tight font, and now, they will be garbage. My email digital signature will be easier to change.
Then there's my driver's license, my passport, all those pieces of ID. The bills, what have you. Mike is of the opinion that it's more trouble than it's worth.
But I work at a job where I deal with alot of married couples. Let's face it--you can identify them instantly when they have the same last name. Is it wrong to want to fit in a box? I know. I've spent my whole life dreaming outside the box. And now, a desire to crawl into it (no matter how non-life-changing and how much I will keep my own identity) seems out of character for me, I know.
But I feel like I'm starting a new phase of my life. One that I wasn't sure I was ever going to embark upon.
It's taken alot for me to get this far, I guess I'm wondering why I shouldn't keep going....
(I'll keep you posted. And I welcome opinions...)

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Journal 102 Merry (Sleepy) Christmas

It's 5:30 am, Christmas Day, I've awoken for what feels like the thosandth night in a row, at just before 4 am. A noise, a creak, the wind I'm sure, the heat coming on, then cycling off again. And the strange, uneasy sense that someone is 'here'. I switch on the light, put on my glasses, get water, settle back in, read. I'm very tired.
Read a book about a football player turned heroin/crack addict. Then, in between, I continued reading "Truth and Beauty" by Ann Patchett, a recent purchase. It's a memoir of a friendship, and I have the sense that I have read it before, probably many years ago, but it still reads like a new book for me. The friendship she writes of is with a fellow writer, Lucy Grealy, author of "Autobiography of a Face" which I read, loved, and once owned, and will re-purchase to add back to my collection (I lent it out, never saw it again. It featured a most disturbing, unfortunate cover, of a small girl holding a black piece of plastic in front of her face, but it belied the smashing impact of the words contained within the book. Coiled, quiet, but devestating--a memoir of cancer, yes, but also of that very rarely explored topic: childhood depression, the depression spawned by years of treatments, surgeries, and long boring hospital stays, and I instantly identified with her situation, on account of my own, long, medical history, already fully formed by the time I was around fourteen).
Anyway, it's Christmas Day, I'm not hungover, but I'm awake way too early. I'm in pajamas, drinking tea, and I don't have to be at work for a long while. I almost feel like it's not just 'time-off-get-married-go-on-honeymoon-time' but recovery time. Me-time. Mike-time. Sleep, read, run, rest time. Time ot take stock, free of a commute and a job with a stress level that never seems to abate.

Christmas Eve was nice, my mom was upset, marginally, my sister and I seem to say the wrong things. She's raw, I get that, but I can't stop, sometimes, how things play out. We're all just releasing right now. Realizing. That today, with all of the Christmas hopefulness we're supposed to feel, is a bit of a sham.
Anyway, I'm rambling, can you see how tired I am?
The most interesting thing to note of my early morning wake ups of the recent weeks is the absence of my heart pounding and my mind racing. Sometimes I manage to go back to sleep with minimal effort. Other times I do what I'm doing right now--read, write, tire myself back out, and drift off.
When I look back on the upside-down-ness of 2011, books and writing will remain the wondrous 'cure all' to me. I've read so many books this year, all of them timely gifts, all of them thought-provoking, stimulating me to think about something other than catastrophe. It seems to be key to unlocking my anxiety, to freeing me from feeling that weight all the time.
That, and running to help me want to sleep, to help me stay asleep.

Signing off....merry (sleepy) Christmas.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Journal 102 Me, Myself, and I

"Yes, in January"
(That's right NOT June. I know. Hard to wrap the mind around. Try)

"No, I'm not pregnant"
(this is because of the speed from engagement-to-wedding. I've already
watched the long engagements go on around me. One word: HELL)

"No, not in a church"
(Sorry people!)

"No, I'm not wearing white"
(Sorry mom)

"No, not a big wedding"
(It's been an upside-down year)

"It's just It's not what we want"
(Being the centre of attention: So Not Me)

"Nope, not planning on kids"
(Sorry to dash your hopes everyone. No, not just one either)

"Yes, he knows. He doesn't want them either"
(He admits he 'missed the window'. If it was ten years ago we might have done
it. But it's not, and it ain't gonna be)

"No idea where we're going to live."
(It's like that Facebook relationship status they used to have: It's complicated)

Never have I felt more like "myself" than I have in the past little while.
That feeling when you are doing things to please YOU and not OTHER PEOPLE.
It feels great.
My boss is currently trying to deal with the fact that I will be off work for close to three weeks, all in, wedding, honeymoon, and visiting Mike's family in the States.
And for once, I've managed to get past some of the stress of the 'end of work' for vackay time, and remember that I am entitled to time to myself too, and that sixty-hour workweeks have their time and place. And that the train stops tomorrow, mid-day, and I get to get off the ride for a little bit of time, live life, experience some happiness, and stop worrying about everything.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Journal 101 Another

"Rage would be beside the point for the same reason. Instead, I am badly oppressed by a gnawing sense of waste. I had real plans for my next decade and felt I’d worked hard enough to earn it. Will I really not live to see my children married?"
--Vanity Fair, "Topic of Cancer", September, 2010

I read today, sadly, online, of Christopher Hitchens' death, from esophegeal cancer, the same kind my father had, the same time line, a similar experience, I'm sure, to what our family went through, and then the finality of death, even though you're waiting for it; never not a surprise.

My sister emailed me a couple of weeks ago to tell me she was having a bad "Dad" week, like he had just died, not like six months had passed. I tried to offer reassurance, but it's tough. Family members often don't grieve together--it's too sad, it hurts too much, you're too busy putting up a front of being strong and together to let yourself go limp in their presence. My sister and I did share a couple of warm, lovely summer nights on her back deck, wine a-plenty, letting ourselves do just that. But for the sake of our mother, we play it strong, we tough it out.
I haven't had a bad "Dad" week this week, but the marking of the six-month anniversary, his ashes still sitting forlornly in my apartment, the sudden realization Tuesday night that I hadn't spoken to my father in six months, (obviously, but nothing is ever obvious about grief), and the thought that I hadn't been able to "hear" his true voice, before it was affected by the cancer and the treatment, for about a year. His strong, often sarcastic baritone, telling me the latest on current events, his estimations unaffected by popular rhetoric.
Sardonic. That is the word I would most closely associate with his voice, his tone. Not directed at me--directed at an imperfect world, one that often provoked his mild criticism, his worthy opinions.
I think that's what I miss most right now.

As always when his spirit hovers near, I dreamt about him that night, and the following night, after having a bout of unnecessary self-pity (many suffer far more than I do) about not having both my parents at my wedding ceremony coming up in early January. In my second dream, he was at my wedding, which was being held, in the odd world of dreams, in a school, and he was dressed to the nines, waiting patiently for the ceremony to start, as he didn't have alot of time, that much he communicated, in that way that we communicate in dreams--without speaking, without speech, we seem to (in my dreams anyway) to transmit what we need to, somehow. Things are just understood--even in the most confusing of scenarios.

This post is clunky. It's lacks depth, it doesn't have alot of 'flowers', news to report, graceful pictures to post.

But it's what I have to say today.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Journal 100 Morning Coffee

Morning Coffee was the name of a now-lost novella I wrote on my first computer, wayyy back in the early 90s. Just came to me as I down my first cup, Italian blend, by Starbucks, in my favourite cup that Mike bought me last year when we were leaving New York City, after visiting my dear friend L., whom I talked to on the phone last night for over an hour. So I have New York on the brain, especially after missing my visit with L. in August due to a certain storm bearing down on NYC the exact weekend I had planned to go. Anyway. We will see each other sooner rather than later, I think.

What else can I tell you?

I made an amazing chicken curry last night, watching Kitchen Nightmares and other shows about New Jersey (New Jersey seems like a VERY scary place to me with some of these characters), and I finished re-reading Blue Nights.

I've been up since 5 am. After going to bed after midnight. After the Blue Nights, I started reading the Nile Rodgers memoir last night, Le Freak,
as I promised myself I would, as soon as it could have my full attention.
I can't put it down. I'm about a third of the way through, smack in the middle of Rodgers' account of being on the brink of making it really big. His childhood stories were brilliant. One thing in memoir, I often don't like reading about people's childhoods, maybe because I'm so reluctant to re-visit my own, but Rodger's is riveting. New York in the fifties, moving to LA, then back and forth between the 2coasts, a simple, straightforward writing style, not unlike Julia Cameron's Floor Sample--meaning, telling it 'as it happened' no flowers. Didion does the flowers, and the craft, and I have to say, jumping into this book after Blue Nights is like jumping into cold bright water after sitting and staring at it for a long time.

What I'm saying is that I have been very lucky with my reading choices this year--the books, as they always seem to, choose me.

Ok what else.

Talked to L. as I mentioned, for a long time. Don't judge me, and I don't mean this as a knock to all my wonderful friends with kids, but the child-free woman I am loves talking to another child-free woman. Talking about our lives, not the lives of the little people that someone is mothering. And I support and respect all choices, but I'm just saying.
It was nice. What we want, what the next move is, how it's gonna play out. Making life happen.

It's possible I want to wear black to my wedding. Is this allowed? Not in a 'goth bride' kind of way, but in a 'I like wearing black and not white' kind of way.
L. told her roommate while we were on the phone, and he was somewhat alarmed.

L. then proceeded to send me some black dress ideas.
I hate to admit this. I love EVERY SINGLE ONE on her tumblr.
I mean it.

I wrote this morning, earlier. Not in my blog, but in my fawn-lark journal, paying homage to December the 10th. It's strange. It's not a birthday of anyone I know, but it's an anniversary of sorts. Of lost love, of old friends. It's hard to describe, and it's journal material. Let me just say this; my imminent wedding to Mike does bring me back to all the "Mr. Wrongs" as I mentioned in my posting yesterday.
I think of my years as a quirky alone, but always enjoying male company, as the training ground for me to be able to have the type of relationship I can now have with Mike.

That's about it for a Saturday morning.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Journal 99 Mr. Right

So happy for all the Mr. Wrongs.
You brought me to my Mr. Right.
And without naming names, you'all know who you are.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Journal 98 Gray Area

It's mid-week, we have now had our Xmas party at work, and Christmas lies within sight, full-steam ahead.
As I've noted on virtually EVERY blog entry from September on, work is never-ending, and it will continue to be (I can tell...) until I finish work for my time off December 23rd.
I'm still tired all the time.
I've been really weepy this week, listening to Christmas songs last night with Mike, their new flavour, the flavour of dread, filled me with melancholy.
I still have the feeling of observing life, rather than really being 'in it', the type of feeling you get in dreams sometimes. It's you, but it's not really you. It's the other person, but it's not really them either.
Reading, reflecting, poring over Joan Didion's Blue Nights. I was reading it last night in bed, after having a frustrating discussion with Mike over how stressed I feel sometimes, trying to 'take care' of my mother, and not being ready for that, and not wanting to do it sometimes, and how unprepared I was, at this stage, to even BE here--thirty-eight, with one parent alive, on their own, after a forty-year run, with no idea whatsoever about what re-building is going to take.
Even this post is frustrating me, I've been working on it for two days and it's going nowhere.
Are lists all I have left?

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Journal 97 Another December

Christmas shopping.
Sleeping in way too late on the weekends.
Feeling lazy.
Getting annoyed in store line-ups waiting for what feels like forever.
Trying to find parking.
Gifts people want.
Trying to plan my wedding. Oh god. Ok. I've made some headway on this.
For one, Mike and I booked our honeymoon (much more important than actually planning the ceremony. Sure).
We filled out a marriage license (the joys of doing things online). We do still have to go to the registry office and present ID. Not sure when to do that. Most likely we are getting married
January 3rd, in the dead of winter, at City Hall, with our families, weather permitting (please please please let 2012 be the year that I start escaping "weather curses". See previous posts about not being able to go to NYC in August due to Hurricane Irene. And see last winter getting the LAST plane out to Boston before a crippling snowstorm on December 26th. And then read about the flu that I suffered through for the entire time while in Maine, through New Years and it all). Oh and I still don't have a dress. I know that's not much and I have absolutely nothing to complain about--I know how sweet my January will be, compared to the all around hangover-holiday feeling January normally arises in me.....but I also know what it's like when you're looking for a certain something and how impossible it can be.

But all in all, December is not going to be an easy month. I already feel a kind of sinking feeling when I envision our Christmas Day, and I get that anxious feeling I know so well, too, and then the panicky one. I still don't have alot of energy or cheerleader-type 'love of life' right now to spread around to people. Sure, I can muster it up once in a while but I can't whip it up on cue.
Social commitments can leave me feeling scared and wanting more 'alone time'. I know, it sounds crazy. To me most of all. I remember Decembers past when I always had dinner parties, where I threw myself into shopping, wrapping, cooking. But not so much this year, I can feel.
I did some Christmas shopping today, for my niece and nephew, and just being in the stores was exhausting. The crowds, all the decorations, the pointless-ness of it all...and I know it's not, I do know that. It means alot to people. They see family, they get some time off work, and they just take time out to ENJOY life. Which is really something I've lacked a commitment to this year. It's just felt like an effort, everything.

I just compare and contrast Christmases past I guess. As Joan Didion says, the first Christmas after, she mentally did a 'this is what I was doing on this day last year'; before her own life went off the rails. I do the same thing--I always have. She talks about the time after that first year as the 'time to relinquish the dead--to let them be that photograph on the table.' I think it's that unending unknowing that keeps us from really ever doing that. Where where are they...where?

Today has been a sad day for other reasons too, it's another sad anniversary marking a terrible event, and today even the weather even seemed to observe the regret and sadness that went along with it.
Mike and I drove off the beaten path to the cemetery, to put down some flowers, we wiped the leaves off the stone, we wiped away our tears. We stood, for the most part, quietly, Mike said We love you, Mike said We miss you and I said nothing, my voice not working, my head just nodding along. What I really wanted to say was thank you, thank you for being in my life and Mike's life, and somehow, maybe doing something only you could do to make all this happen in both our lives. For giving us each someone to love.

So another December marches along. The time of year for some reflection, some soul-searching, and some serious gratitude.
Thank you.
For everything.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Journal 96 Lists and the Count

I've been reading alot of poetry this week, specifically by Naomi Shihab Nye, an American poet form Missouri, whose poem, Kindness, I posted on my blog a few months ago, after reading it in the Oprah magazine.

I've read a few more this week, all of them stellar, lines like "If mystery was never your friend",
another poem called "Always Bring a Pencil", and one called "The List" which of course I was intrigued about, being a list-lover myself.

The poem's premise is that a man calculates all the books he will have time to read in his lifetime, and makes a list of them--she, Naomi, laments the 'forgotten' books, the ones that won't get read. Mike and I then had a discussion about the number of books that are read in a lifetime, the meter of a 'real' reader being 10, 000 books as gauged by Henry Miller, a true scholar 20,000.

Do the math--I read about a book a week, and if I do that for fifty years, I will still only get to about 2500. So far, it feels like way more. However, there is also my tendency to re-read, which probably sets me back a bit. Think about it--I am reading Magical Thinking for I think the fourth time. I am practically into the memorization stage with this book, learning how it works, as Didion explains as the reason her husband used to re-read books.

Suppose I live to be seventy, I started reading, seriously, at six, that gives me sixty-four years of an average book-a-week, and that still only brings me to 3328. Wow. That is really falling short of the 10,000 marker. And again, as I said, it feels like I'm reading, and have read, way more than that. You have to read a book a day for over thirty years to achieve this number, and although there are times when I do read a book a day (vacations, weekends, Christmas holidays, etc.) I don't do that every day, all year long. It's like running--I would love to run 10 k every day, every other day, but real life invades. The real life that involves my commute, my job, and all the time invested in that.

I would love to start cataloguing them, but somehow I think I would lose interest in this--it's the act of reading that I love, the escape, the 'high activity of the mind'.
"Because of Libraries We Can Say These Things" is how Naomi describes a young person's developing love of reading:

Story without corners.
She will have two families.
They will eat at different hours.

she will not be alone.
She will have a book to open
and open and open.
Her life starts here.

Journal 95 Running Playlist Re-tooled

I re-tooled my running playlist this week, adding some new itunes, and switching around some other ones.
I do this every few weeks so I don't memorize it and tailor my run too much to the next song that is coming up.
Since my foot has healed, I've had three amazing runs in the last week (the latest being 10 km this morning, in a skirt, despite the slight chill of December--the weather has still been fall-ish and unbelievable).

Here are the first few songs:
Rolling in the Deep--Adele
Rhythm Divine--Enrique (do not judge me, this is a GREAT running song)
I Wanna Go--Britney (again. No judgment)
Higher--Taio Cruz & Kylie Minogue mix (this is the fourth song for a strategic reason)
Stereo Hearts--Gym Class Heroes ft. Adam Levine (I was doubtful of this when I added it on Thursday but it proved itself today)
Tonight (I'm Loving You)--Enrique again. Sorry.
Animal--Neon Trees. Great running song with a good backbeat.
We Found Love--Rhianna ft. Calvin Harris. (no explanation needed, I know).
Papa was a Rolling Stone--George Michael. This was another random, odd choice, but it really works.
More--Usher-RedOne Jimmy Joker Remix
What You See--Madonna
Touch me in the Morning--Cassandra Fox-Mike Kogli remix
Take you on a Cruise--Interpol

That batch takes me to the end of my 10 km.

Even though I wore my lulu lemon skirt and it wasn't that cold, I did leave my gloves on my whole run, and I normally take them off.

A great run.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Journal 94 Random Wednesday Musings

Random musings on a Wednesday.
Worked a twelve-hour day yesterday.
Am exhausted today (where, exactly, did I leave/lose ALL my energy?)
Saw a lone crow soaring over the highway as I drove in today.
Made an illegal left turn when I exited to save time. I felt bad. But the's making me do crazy things.
Read a blog entry today by someone about their lost parent and the approaching Christmas season and I cried.

I ate dinner last night at 1030 pm. While watching the Real Housewives of NYC.
The shame. The shame.

Thought about Mike going home and was sad.

It's stopped snowing, but it's iron-gray outside.

photo credit: John Taylor (this reminds me of Maine....the pier, the ferris wheel. It's somewhere in the UK though. Brighton?)

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Journal 93 Answers Part One

Wow. So far, with three (I know, overwhelming) amazingly original responses to my 'survey' I feel a little intimidated to even begin to fill this in! Thank you so far to L., J., and A. I will talk more about your answers in detail in just a little bit.
Here are the first of my own answers.....

1) Who/what inspires you most in life?
The people who don't drink the kool-aid. I'm not kidding. Sometimes it's the hardest thing to do. As Carole Radziwill wrote in her amazing memoir "What Remains", the people who are stubborn, passionate, and genuinely original. People writing books. People overcoming incredible obstacles in everyday life and people who keep going. What could be more inspirational than that?

2) Where do you get your unique style and outlook on life?
I found the perception of 'style' here interesting--we do, maybe as women, go right
to clothing when someone talks about style. But style can be many things. For me it's my writing style. For instance--I'm keeping it a bit light in recent posts. But my real style is to dig underneath the surface, to the places where I am most afraid, and scatter the earth. Outlook on life is tougher. I like to model my outlook on people who succeed in the face of the odds--which really, is what all human beings do. I can't believe what people can live through and keep on going. That frames my outlook quite a bit when I would rather just be negative and depressed sometimes. Because my hard-wired outlook on life is one of pessimism, I have to constantly work to clear the clouds.

3) What's your top thing that contributes to you 'keepin' it real?'
I quote my dear friend A., with this amazing concept--the 'congratulations your life now looks just like everyone else's'. THAT phrase keeps me real. No vanilla ice cream keeps me real. Holding onto my soul in world obsessed with values that I don't necessarily feel to be a priority keeps me real.

4) What is your most treasured memory? (you can add a couple).
I'm going to come back to this one. Running in Central Park immediately springs to mind. I know. It was a fleeting forty minutes of my life, but it is a memory I return to again and again in my mind.
Contact with the spirit world--all those memories remain imprinted on me, as I think they are supposed to. But this question begs its own post.

5) What is your "go to" outfit? I loved all the responses to this one so far. Everyone has at least one 'uniform' that they love to wear, that they feel good in. Mine is a variation of a tracksuit, I'm sorry to say. Hey, I'm an athlete, I like to be comfortable, and I'm over alot of the fashion-obsessed-comparison-thinking I endured in my 20s.

6) Dream man? Real or celeb. Real. I'm marrying him (oh sorry--ELOPING with him) in the very near future.

7) What are you reading right now? Joan Didion, and more Joan Didion. I'm doing what her and John Dunne used to do with novels: studying technique to 'get it right' and see how it works.

8) What is your guilty pleasure (it can be tv, it can be chocolate, what have you).
Itunes, my ipod, listening to any type of music I please.
Drinking chardonnay while listening to my ipod play.
Running. (it is. it's a treat. when I can't run, I panic)

9) What has been your biggest challenge?
Again, I'll come back to this one. It pretty well needs it's own post.
Right now I'm working on tolerance. And compassion. And understanding. And unselfishness.

10) What age have you loved the most/are looking forward to the most and Why?
I'm pretty sure I haven't lived it yet. Almost positive. I know it sounds crazy but 40 seems alluring to me in a strange way. Like I'm finally going to lie under the stars and start to f*cking "get it". And I'll stop being so crazy-selfish and just 'be'. And not always 'want'. Although, 'wanting' is part of being human, as I once read (thank you Abigail Thomas).

More in a bit.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Journal 92 More me

Let me just say I started this post yesterday. And am finishing it today.
Today=not fun.

1. I'm off networked blogs. Did not like it. I should say I hope I'm off. I should be. I should check.
(yep I'm off).
2. I'm halfway through watching The Machinist with Christian Bale, a not-new movie where, so far, he weighs less than I do. I'm perplexed. It's like a film noir. I say I'm "halfway" through watching it because I fell asleep (not from boredom) last night as we were watching it.
After the Leaf game. God, if I actually enjoyed hockey this could be an exciting season (sorry the Pats have my heart).
3. I am pretty sure I'm eloping. Thank you everyone for the offers of help.
4. Reading other blogs lately (some, not all) has been tedious. Sometimes I read very average blogs and I Do Not Like Them. They are a) shallow, b) poorly written, just there for 'something to do', and c) boring. Give Give me...readability. Give me...honesty.
I am still reading (just re-discovering) Mama Pundit by K. Granju and am consistently blown away by her unbelievable writing style. I also just found Love, Maegen, and I really like that one, even though it is a fashion blog--she is not self-centred about it in the least. Still reading Reagan's Blob, too, and Hairdresser on Fire, and I have to admit--she has somehow got me to slowly, gently, give up my addiction to my flat iron and (gasp) wear my hair up and experiment with pins, waves, and NO HEAT. I know. I didn't think ANYONE could do it.
5. My foot is almost there.
6. I'm still journalling.
7. Still re-reading Joan Didion and thinking even MORE about how some writers just have a gift, that's it. Nothing else to declare. Talent. God-given.
8. Renewed my library books for another 3 weeks, all four of them. The shame.
9. Oh yea, Vegas is out. Ready for all the opinions.
10. I miss getting funny cartoons and articles from Macleans about running, politics, business, anything, and cards in the mail 'for no reason' from my Dad. I thought about the last one I have from him, probably from April this year. I knew, on some level, that would be the last mail I would get from him, but I still miss it.

Later, after I started writing this yesterday:

11. I'm home now. It's after 8:30, because I've been at the side of the DVP southbound for over an hour. I hit a tire on the road, shredded my own tire, and waited for the roadside assistance to come and change said tire. My car is now at the mechanic's, in their parking garage, awaiting tomorrow morning so it can be seen. Yes. This is my second flat tire in 2 weeks.
Yes, this may cost way more since the tire and rim look ruined. Yes. I am upset, but I kept my composure and calm until I got home. Now I'm kind of dissolving (I know--no crying over split milk, but it's cold out, I was on the side of the road, I don't have my car, and the payment for this is my wedding dress money).

Nothing, I repeat, nothing, is going right lately.

I still hate November.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Journal 92 You in a Nutshell

Stoli Asks: Would You Have a Drink With You?

I've been a little stumped lately at the blog writing.

Yes, listmania continues.
If anyone wants to answer any/all of these questions, email me.
I will only print your initial. Or not. I just want to start myself
thinking about something other than my chronic anxiety, sore foot, and impending,
unplanned, un-wedding-nuptials.
I harken this to that Stoli ad: Would you have a drink with you? (Would I? I think I would. I do. Believe me).

I've been in list mode for weeks and you know I love top tens.
So here goes.

1) Who/what inspires you most in life?

2) Where do you get your unique style and outlook on life?

3) What's your top thing that contributes to you 'keepin' it real?'

4) What is your most treasured memory? (you can add a couple).

5) What is your "go to" outfit?

6) Dream man? Real or celeb.

7) What are you reading right now?

8) What is your guilty pleasure (it can be tv, it can be chocolate, what have you).

9) What has been your biggest challenge?

10) What age have you loved the most/are looking forward to the most and Why?

Monday, November 21, 2011

Journal 91 Me in a Nutshell

It's list time again.
1. I'm so busy at work I am not sure how I am going to fit wedding planning/dress shopping/all of it, into the next month-ish. When people ask me when/where/what I'm doing ie, wedding, life plan, all that stuff, my new answer is: "I don't know". Ask me again in a few weeks. The answer will be the same.
2. I need nine to ten hours of sleep per night right now. When I'm lying awake at 4am, I think about how much I look forward to going to bed.
For the love of....
3. How do people plan weddings? I know, I know. They live (already) in the same country. Their friends know each other. They can have one venue, day, location, and everyone can come. Right. Forgot about that.
4. My foot is still on the mend. It's been 3 weeks, 2 since I've run. I am the picture of misery at this.
5. I'm wearing an ipod at work now (all day). I'm in the middle of Cough-Fest 2011, day 20 that feels like day 80, and I just can't f*cking listen to it anymore.
6. I haven't been blogging. Because there is just sooo much stuff that is only "journal-worthy" lately. I know. I hate to deprive people. But it's top secret, important-life stuff.
7. I'm re-reading Year of Magical Thinking in sheer wonderment at how differently I'm looking at it this time.
8. I have a tonne of books that are 'on loan' out of my personal library. This was one of the swirl-thoughts I had last night while lying awake at 4am. Insane.
9. Is there such a thing as "death by paperwork?" because I might be in line for this.
10. I still hate November.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Journal 90 11-11-11

I don't know who painted this beautiful work I found on the web this morning while looking for a suitable image to represent my feelings toward Remembrance Day today.
I just know I love how it's painted, and how the sunshine is soft, as if it had been gone for a while, and was just peeking back in after the dust settled, like some huge event had just happened, but there it was following that event, shining over the flowers, nature still standing, still awe-inspiring.

That's where I am a little bit in life right now. The dust is settling, I've got things to do, plans to make, and I'm doing my best, the person that I am, to make things feel right, to take the fear away, and to take care of myself. It's something that I thought/felt that I was doing, maybe I haven't been so much.

It's been another long, tough week, despite Mike being here (which is the non-tough part of things. Mike is part of the Great, always is). It's the work stuff, the life stuff, the other stuff. It's like I can't get out of this fog that I've been in.
The emotions, that come with no warning, like this morning, on the drive in to work, early (I had a meeting), and Dire Straits' "Brothers in Arms" coming onto Q107 to remind us of Remembrance Day. I thought of all the brave soldiers (I'm one of those people, thanks to my Dad and his amazing views on this, that knows that although war is not the answer, it is sometimes the only option) who gave their lives, the 158 alone in Afghanistan. I thought, too of my Dad going to the overpass in Ajax to watch the processions on the Highway of Heroes. I thought about how that was important to me to mention during the eulogy that my sister and I gave at his funeral. I thought about how he went to a Remembrance Day ceremony every single year, because it meant something to him, to show his respect and solemn pride in the sacrifices made by those who serve in our military.

At 11 am this morning, we did the two minutes of silence at my office. I was with a client in the showroom, not up in my office, but we stood silently, along with other staff and customers. As I stood I got lost in my own quiet thoughts, and noticed that, like the painting at the top of this post, the sun was trying to come out, weakly at first, then waning again, throughout the two minutes of silence. I tried, in my head, to think of the poem "In Flanders Fields" but instead found my mind going back to that favourite poem of mine, "Try to Praise the Mutilated World" that I first read in the September 11th, 2001, issue of the New Yorker (you can read it here--
This is the line that jumped out at me (that always jumps out at me):
"Praise the mutilated world
and the gray feather a thrush lost
and the gentle light that strays and vanishes
and returns."

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Another list

Buzz Buzz Home asked about the top ten for a first I thought they might mean in terms of sale-ability and re-sale-ability, but they meant for yourself. You know about my love affair with lists. So here they are. No particular order.

10. easy to maintain window coverings--it's close-quarters living in this city!
9. bookshelves/wall units--not just for books--extra dishes that don't fit in those small kitchens!
8. a nice view that hopefully does not involve looking out onto a dirty roof, or a crazy busy street.
7. a dresser--in the bathroom. the bedrooms can be so small, but the bathrooms large...extra storage,
and a surface to put things on.
6. wine rack. filled with wine.
5. take out menus, either online in 'favourites' or stashed in the junk drawer.
4. cheap but chic 'trays' that are not used as trays--instead, they can keep loose mail, running gloves,
sunglasses, and magazines in an easy to reach area--but they look all neat and organized because
they're 'contained'.
3. a west facing suite so that you never have to see the morning sun (night owl here)
2. places to walk to
1. your own personal stamp--be it one red wall, a collage on the fridge, a tiny bar perched on a dessert card, or a vintage chair--it doesn't have to look
like an Ikea catalogue!

Journal 89 Coupla things

All day I thought today was Tuesday until my friend L. assured me it was, in fact, Wednesday.
A major kitchen install that was on the tightest timeline I've ever had to work under went in clean (a couple of issues, but nothing that couldn't be remedied). I still awoke at 4am yesterday thinking about it.
A coworker of mine has the nastiest, most annoying cough I have ever heard and combine listening to that with having PMS and you get the picture.
I had a flat tire this morning, that a kind neighbour pointed out to me, and I was able to bring it over to my mechanic, get it repaired, and still get to work on time (I had left early) with my car.
Talked to my mom and we both agree--nicest November weather in YEARS (ever?). November is usually my most hated month--Canadian winter looms, darkness descends. But this it.
Had dinner at my sister's last night with Mike and saw the kids. Jerk chicken--amazing. Then my sis's guy came over and he and Mike discovered a shared love (ok, obsession) about poker. My sister and I entertained ourselves, making up some-e-cards to summarize the situation.
I am still working crazy hours and have two new clients, and I don't know how this is possible, as my existing clients take up more than 100 percent of my time. But I still love a new client, a new kitchen, a new challenge.....
Mike is here, his mouth is feeling better (he can eat!) and we are having a great, selfish time. Selfish meaning I want him all to myself and when I'm at work, we talk on the phone a few times a day, and he goes to the St. Lawrence Market and finds all sorts of fun things for dinner.
Trying to plan to get to Niagara Falls next weekend as Mike has (gasp) never seen them from the Canadian side. We will ride on that huge ferris-wheel type-thing that I spotted last time I was there?
Design Blogs. My new addiction. Kitchens the likes of ones I have never seen. Purple cabinets. Gorgeous light fixtures.

Also--I'm noticing a resurgence of sixties and seventies furniture in the homes/apartments/designer abodes of my contemporaries, ie, those in my general age range. There are alot of great pieces from both decades--but to me, with the way homes and condos are being built with higher and higher ceilings, the scale is often a bit 'off'. I love some of the pieces, but others leave me cold. I'll find some pictures in terms of 'scale' and how it should work as a design principle.
My wedding shower is imminent. As is my wedding. I just have to plan it. Along with all the other fifty million things I have to do....

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Journal 88 Sunday Girl Again

Just did some quick math and I've lived, in total, through over 1800 Sundays. Weird to think of the numbers like that.
What is also weird is that I have been up since before 6 am. I did go to bed fairly early (before 11, so really, before 10, and really, I've only been up since before 7, since we "fell back" last night, collectively making sure that it will be dark as possible for the drive home for the next five-odd months).
But it is a bit unusual for me to be up this early, ie, earlier than I normally have to get up for work during the week.
I just had some coffee and I'm watching sports highlights (there is nothing else on except infomercials), and really, it's just background noise as I sip coffee and try to warm up, as I am still refusing to put the heat on.

I did do alot yesterday--my run, the cleaning, all my laundry, AND to top it off I did make it to the Eaton Centre, I did exchange my large-print-book-mis-buy from online (Blue Nights was in large print when it arrived. I read it anyway, and plan to re-buy it now that they have credited my account. They can't just swap it out in-store though, which I think is ridiculous. I had to read it because I was dying to. But for my collection, this large-print thing will no do). I also took a rare foray into Lulu Lemon while I was at the mall (which was, predictably for a Saturday in November packed). Remember all my favourite stores? Well, Lulu Lemon was not on there. Yes, I love athletic wear, and yes, I especially love athletic wear on the weekends, in the colder months, even when I'm not necessarily exercising--but I find Lulu Lemon, for the most part, does not live up to its price range. The pants are tight, and their lines don't really do alot for my body type. But before I left Maine, Mike's sister very generously got me a pair of their shorts, which fit perfectly, were reversible, and had a blue band at the top. Very nice. She promised me I would live in them. I did like them; except they did have a fatal flaw, and they aren't the only shorts/pants that suffer from this:
No Pockets.
Meaning, if I want to run in them, where does my stuff go? My flattened, folded-into-squares-five-dollar bill that I always carry, my condo keys and fob, and my ipod. running in these shorts. I debated about what to do with them for a while. I knew I wouldn't wear them anywhere else, ie, out for fun of it, or lounging around the house--they are a more generous cut than a booty short, but I simply do not have long enough legs to carry these off. So they sat in a corner of my condo, in the bag, tags on, for the last two months (I've been busy. And, I hate going to the Eaton Centre).
Luckily, I was able to exchange them without the receipt and I browsed through the (packed) store for a while, making mental notes:
1) I don't need anymore pants except if they were cropped or legging style, for the coming winter of running outside--I only have pants that do right down to my shoe, and these can get soaked when running in snow/slush.
2) I just don't really like Lulu Lemon pants. Or their tops, or their bras. Once I discovered Costco, and their range of ever-evolving work-out wear, for a fraction of the cost (like, a FIFTH of the cost), I almost always buy there. Again--Lulu pants feel tight to me, and never seem to be the right size/fit. So I own on pair, bought with a giftcard, and I run in them in the winter, and that's the only time I wear them.
So I was considering a pair of cropped grey pants, with 3 pockets, in a size up from what I normally wear so they wouldn't feel as restrictive, but the sales girl told me they are not meant to be worn that way.
So scratch that.
I looked at running shorts, with a pocket (zippable) and they were nice. But I already have 2 pairs of functional shorts, and we're going into winter here.
Despite looming colder (freezing) temps, when I spotted the skirts, it was all over. They had several styles, colours, but the one in the picture above was my favourite. With a zippable pocket, and a hidden, second pocket, they fit perfectly; not tight, not falling off. (and the ruffles are on the back of the skirt; on the front it is flat, flattering, plain. Like I like).
So maybe that's why I'm up so early, day-light savings cancelling-out aside.
Ok, and yes, Mike is arriving today (much later in the day I might add), but I am excited to run in this skirt, and yes I'm wearing it today. I ran in shorts yesterday and I was glad I did.
So, that's part of my Sunday Girl plan for the day.
I have also already done all the prep-work for the dinner I'm making for Mike tonight (yes, I braved the insanely busy market, too, got in, got out, got some duck, have some plans for it) and I have a butternut-squash lasagne ready to put in the oven, sitting in the fridge right now.
Alot accomplished on my Saturday. I also finished reading Thunder and Lightning by Natalie Goldberg, and I feel oddly compelled to go and read it again. It was that good. I started Augusten Burroughs' "Running with Scissors" but so far it hasn't grabbed me, although his descriptions of his dysfunctional parents and the interior of his childhood home are compelling and I've created a large visual and it's very early in the book. But I'm not "in" it yet.
I have Julia Cameron's "Right to Write" and I may turn to that. As well, a fiction work by Joan Didion.
So I'll keep busy today until Mike arrives.

PS--I've tried everything to get the other picture of the front of the skirt I took up onto this post, but my computer is not cooperating. It's an ancient laptop, more than a decade old, and it's tired, (like me) right now.

Happy Sunday!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Journal 87 Blue Night, Bright Day

Greeted Saturday early by staying up past midnight (1:23am to be exact) to finish reading Joan Didion's new book "Blue Nights" which was, truly, worth how tired I looked when I awoke to get ready to go running at 8:31am this morning.
I'd already read some press she'd done for the book, I knew the premise (a follow up to The Year of Magical Thinking about the sudden death of her husband in 2003, after almost four decades together).
Blue Nights is about the next loss she suffered, less than two years after her husband--her adult daughter, only child, adopted at birth, and her continuation to make sense of a work that left her, basically, family-less, and marching alone, through her old age. It was breath-taking. I don't have any children, I am not close to my seventies, but there were parts of the book, as there always are for me when I am lost in a good one, where I had to close the book over, stare off into middle-distance, and let the tears fall, not just for what I may have just read on the page, but for this human condition, these lives we lead, the suffering that seems to inflict those who feel it the keenest.
This was such a book. I knew I was not sleeping until it was finished.

I walked to Starbucks after my pre-run shower, had a dose of vitamin D, and gauged the temperature of this very bright, very brisk November day. In the end I did decide to run in shorts, with a windbreaker, and I wore gloves to start ( I was glad of each choice). My running reunion was joyous (I had not run since Saturday, October 23rd, a bout of stomach flu grounding me. My stomach, I am sorry to report, is still not 100%; my sister claims it's stress, she is more than likely right).
Anyway, today was an amazing run, with a good finish, good time, and very good weather.

I'm doing laundry, planning my clean-off for later, and steeling myself to brave the crowds of downtown this afternoon to get to the Eaton's Centre (trying to find a little 'welcome' gift for Mike--he arrives tomorrow) and then on to the market, as I want to make something special for him when he gets here.
I'm sad that he couldn't make it here for Friday which was the original plan, but glad that his toothache has been dealt with (he had a root canal yesterday on the dentist's day off. The dentist came in especially for him to do the procedure) and he sounded alot better when I talked to him last night, during a brief pause in reading Blue Nights.
I also talked to my mother and sister at various points of the evening, and both sounded good, actually the three of us sounded good, better than we have lately.
That's the weekend so far. And it's not even halfway there, I have the Natalie Goldberg book to finish, later today I think, and three more library books, plus the new Nigel Rodgers memoir which I am waiting to read until it will have my full attention.

Saturday is still my favourite day of the week.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

I'm just sayin...

thanks L.
love you.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Journal 86 Stumbled Upon

I stumbled across this email while searching for something last night.
I had also noticed when looking for something paper-work related in my Dad's office a few weeks ago, he had, true to form, copied these questions out, with an intent,
I know, to answer them. He just didn't get the chance.
The "Tuesday" email is a long email that went back and forth between us, I just took out this one 'questionnaire' (list-like, I know) that I had sent him, partly to give him a little 'purpose' in our emails, an assignment, if you will, but more to allow a glimpse into events, times, that shaped his life--from his point of view.
One of his responses to me was that I knew 'everything about him anyway' (this still makes me smile through my tears) but really, I didn't.
I want to do a write-up about my Dad for the back page of Macleans (I do not know how to go about this) but really, the early-life details are kind of lost--I don't know (don't remember?) the name of his elementary school, details like that. I do know his hometown, the street he lived on, his cat's name, and of course, who his parents were, and that he was the youngest child, with an older brother (my American uncle) and older sister (my lost aunt). But I don't know the real details.
So I like to speculate the answers to some of these questions.

Why write this, why post? I guess because last night, while watching Oprah's program on OWN (you can all have a collective...whaaatt?, but no, it was so good), she was talking to a woman who had experienced enormous loss. And someone else who has also experienced enormous loss told this woman that one day, she would be able to think about the people she loved without focussing on that One Day that they died. And that those loved ones would live on in her, for others.
I guess that's why I post. One, for my own memory and to connect with my own sad feelings, and two, to let my Dad live on. One day I too hope to remember the nights at the piano and the barbeques and long drives, not just the cancer and the sickness and the months of suffering.

Here's the email, a portion of it:

Date: Wednesday, May 11, 2011, 8:47 PM
From: carolyn in the city
To: "Dad"
Subject: RE: Tuesday

Hi Dad,
I try to frame Mom's moods in the context of the relation to your suffering
and I understand them better.
Her world is changing and she is coming from a place of helps
me with feeling compassion towards all her frustrations, most of all the
very unhealthy way she sometimes tends to express them.
I'm sorry that happened.
In terms of writing things down, i can give you a list of some questions (ha,
reminds me of when I used to 'interview' you when i was young and in school,
remember, I had to ask about your first job, impressions on life...etc).

Impressions on life.
Are there major things or pieces of advice you would like to pass along to Lisa
and I? Anythings you would say to definitely make time for, or others that should
be avoided?

When you look back on your life, what do you consider your greatest achievement?
What do you feel you may have missed out on?

Do you feel that life tended to move fast or slow?
Were you always content?

Did faith and prayer always play a big role?
Do you feel that your parents adequately prepared you for life?

Did you wish there were things you could have done that you weren't able to?

What time period were you the happiest with?
When were you the saddest?

Another thing that a friend of mine mentioned was that maybe you
would like to write something to Elise and River about life, or somethings
that you would like them to know, or to express to them.
Again...there is no pressure on that. It's just something to ponder,
think about, and maybe write about.

I'll start with that... I can write some stuff about myself, too, if you want to hear about that.

Much love,

Monday, October 31, 2011

Journal 85 Burn Out

I have every single symptom.
And it's not getting any better or going away.
It's getting worse and it's getting bigger.
As I emailed L. today, and emailed my sister, recent events surrounding issues with my family, etc, have caused me to ask, Do I have a black cloud following me around?

I am just not even close to being ready to deal with all of this in terms of the death and detrius of one parent, and the looking after (ie, parenting) the other parent.
I'm really trying (and by trying I mean watching trash
tv every night, drinking too much chardonnay, falling asleep,
then getting up at about 4 for no reason) but I've reached a bit of an impasse where I truly have lost sight of what I can do for solving these problems. It's like my bag-o-tricks in empty.
I try to keep a clear head, but this isn't the kind of stuff you
talk about with 'people' you know. This is the kind of stuff that sometimes you can't even talk to about to your closest friends. And another thing, most of my friends have alot of happy stuff going on right now, and I hate being that 'wet blanket'. And then I remind myself that I have had different sorts of challenges than most people I know, and I have different ways of dealing with said challenges (my favourite being social isolation and bottling things up; pardon the pun).

Yes. I do believe in God, I do. But jeez. He just doesn't make
it easy sometimes. However, I know that a life with a bunch
of scoops of vanilla ice cream isn't for me. And as I read on another
blog this week, these times of trial are how you go from "bland"
in life to "Oscar-worthy". Not that I agree with most of the nominations
(or understand them). But once in a while, they choose a gem.
Is my life a gemstone? A hard rock (not a diamond) right now.
Rocky, uphill, and hard.
And I'm engaged. Should be the happiest time of my life.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Journal 84 The kind of marriage I want

You turn and touch the light of me.
You smile, your eyes become my sweetest dream of you.
Oh, sweetest love,
My heart is not a beat away from you.

--Harold Pinter, love note to Antonia Fraser

"There was nothing I did not discuss with John."
--Joan Didion, The Year of Magical Thinking

Though both the women in the above photos, Lady Antonia Fraser (whose diary-style I decided to imitate when I began this year to title most of my posts as Journal and then a number, chronologically arranging them); and Joan Didion, are now widows after long (33 and 40 years respectively) marriages to men who were also writers, I idolize their
I idolize them as people, as real adults, the type of real adult I aspire to be everyday, who doesn't behave like a Real Housewife, who doesn't make fellow human beings feel like pieces of furniture, or like they are housepets.
I often worry, in this 'age of insanity' (age of inanity) the one we, as a collection of generations are destined to be living in (God help me) that these adults are dinosaurs.
Well, I want to be a dinosaur. I want to enjoy cocktail hour after a solemn day at work, one where thoughts were important. I want to discuss my day with my husband and hear about his; I want to work with him on solving all the worlds' problems over dinner together.

From what I have read, that is what these couples did.
Oh, and they were soulmates, and madly in love.
That I already have, and that fire I will continue to stoke.
To being a real adult, and the mantle of responsibility it entails.

"Christ, you know it ain't easy"
--The Ballad of John and Yoko

(they had their issues, yes, but God they also had some fun with the world, didn't they?)
When interviewed by Vogue in the age issue a few years ago she said "your life is not "up there"--your life is all around you". She was talking about how people in New York would go to the outside of her apartment building to look for her and that they would say "she's up there!" and she, Yoko, would be standing right behind them.

Something we should all remember.

Journal 82 This Weekend

It's back to the feelings of "up and down" and they can change, lately, in a nanosecond.
It's like the weather--Thanksgiving Monday I was roof top bound, donning my bikini one last time, reading in the sun, and there was a period of this week where we didn't see the sun for days. And Friday dawned, cool, and clear, the trees starting to show bare. My friend A. was here Friday night, visiting ( I think for both of us the 'highlight' of fall, a little oasis in a pair of busy lives; when I think I am busy I think of her and need to give myself a shake). So Friday night was about conversation, soul-searching, reflecting, and looking at not only our adult lives, since we've known each other (coming up to the tune of almost twenty years), but also all those big-life things: love, death, change, aging. Facing life on life's terms, the things you just 'know' and the things that you weigh in on with all that you have, and still don't get an answer back.
We hit the AGO Saturday am, after staying up talking, tarot-reading, (drinking) Friday night. There is a Chagall exhibit on until January of next year, and it was definitely worth taking in.

Then there were the posturing 'Toronto types' doing their thang at the gallery--always entertaining. One of the features of the exhibit was a small table with pencils and square pieces of paper for the patrons/visitors to express where they felt their favourite place was--you could write something, sketch something, and then leave it behind for others to look at. I was fascinated by this. It was inspired by Chagall's love for his homeland, a place he was quasi-exiled from in his early adulthood. I thought about my favourite place, and various things popped up in my head, all of them, as the majority of the pieces left at the table represented--physical places, towns, cities, countries. I wonder, though, if the emotional places that people may have come up with were too personal, painful, to really share? A favourite place can relate to many things, on an emotional level. A time in ones life, a moment with someone, a special day, all of those things count. I thought about a favourite place for myself, and really, it is usually one where I am in that ideal headspace--my mind isn't tricking me into castatrophe thinking, I'm not 'creating a worry'...I'm just in the moment, I'm running, or I'm reading, or I'm deep in conversation. Those are some favourites of mine, just skimming the surface for now.

Saturday lunch was at a pub across from the gallery with a waiter who had a personality all his own, pub-fare lunch, bad coffee, then a walk back through the oddly-empty Toronto streets, then A. grabbing a cab to the airport to get back home early Saturday afternoon.

I was in my apartment, sunshine streaming in, pleasantly tired, cleaning up and putting dishes away, doing laundry, and really, not much of anything else.
I walked to the grocery store a few hours later, the sky darkening with clouds, (no rain though) and then made a quick dinner while, in the spirit of Halloween, one horror movie after another played on the tv.
I dealt with my mail, read the paper and some magazines, and was asleep by eleven, the previous late night taking its toll.
A baptism for my friend T.'s son started off today, and in about thirty minutes I have to drive uptown with a designer friend of mine to do a quick consultation for a possible new client.
The backdrop of today is that it's Sunday, and it's been, for the most part, a week of unexplained, free-form melancholia, and stress, but as A. said, and as I sometimes forget, in the frenzy of work, dealing with my mom's house, the bank, the aftermath of death (yes, that word again: grief), it is that roller-coaster ride, robbing me, if I let it, of the ability to just BE, and just LIVE--without feeling like I'm running a race, against myself, against time....against death itself.

But just the fact that I'm sitting here, mid-day, apartment clean, laundry folded, dishes put away, attests to the 'good' of this weekend--conversation and reflection fuelling quiet introspection, reminding me of all the things in this life that deserve so much recognition and gratitude.
I haven't run this week. The touch of the stomach issues I've had put me on a focus to down water and just kind of monitor things--and I focussed instead on sleep, my cure-all. So, running may happen later, or maybe walking will.
I have a few new songs on the ipod, I have a couple of books on order from Indigo online (Joan Didion has a new one out called Blue Nights and Nile Rodgers wrote a memoir called Le Freak), I'm just waiting for them to ship to me.

I also have Natalie Goldberg, and the Thunder and Lightning book, and I am still working on the post about her and her books.
That's the weekend update, for lack of a better term. Up, down, in the middle, and the sun keeps shining.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Journal 81 All over the place

I'm reading Thunder and Lightning, by Natalie Goldberg, one of (in my mind) a series of incredible books that she writes, about writing.
Last night, reading in bed, later than I wanted to be up, I was deep into this book, the 'highest activity of the mind' (that is what the New York Times has classified reading as). I completely agree.
I was gone last night. Gone, into this book, like I haven't been anywhere in my mind except my dreams for the past few months. I'm going to talk more about this book in my next post.
My intense involvement in the book probably contributed to my odd dreams, too.

(Last night, I dreamt that it was mid-October--it is--and that I lived in my childhood home on Crockamhill Drive, our townhouse, with my mom, sister, and Mike--I don't---and we got a call from a distant hospital--(Annapolis--how did he get there?) It was unclear--that my father was dying. I thought, immediately, two things--One, we must get there, and Two, he's...already dead.)
Never the less, in my dream, we gamely tried to take directions down, and the four of us, myself, Mike, my sister, and my mom, all tried to get out the door to this distant place, where, we were informed on the phone that they were reviving my father. I remember shrieking into the phone "He has a DNR!" and then the doctor telling me that my aunt and cousin were there with him, insisting that he be revived and I remember feeling that old anger well up inside me again, absolute poison, and I rocketed out of the house to put a stop to this, having no idea where the hell Annapolis is.

I was telling my friend L. in an email today that in the last couple of days, feeling a little down because I was home, sick, and feeling my companion, grief, settle in a little more comfortably as the days shorten and get colder, that I hadn't 'felt' my Dad's spirit around in a while. I was sure he was busy, I think he's probably really enjoying his life as a spirit, my Dad always wanted to travel and do alot of things but didn't really get a chance to, having a family so young and all that that entailed.
So I was 'missing' not just his physical presence but also his spiritual one.

Cue today's crisis; My mother calling as we had missed a crucial bill payment and I had to rectify it, immediately, as it involved taxes and all that sort of stuff you just cannot mess around with after someone has died. Trust me on this.
I called the bank to get the situation looked at, and since I've had to do this by phone several times before, I knew the drill--they have to verify things like POA, dates of birth, etc., and the best way to get that done is by being as cooperative as possible--like the government, I try to appreciate the fraud that costs them so much on an annual basis, and appreciate the lengths they go to to prevent it and protect their customers.
I was on hold for the first little bit, idly doing some work at my desk while I held the phone, and then I noticed the song that was playing, a sad little instrumental version of Elton John's "Your Song" (I say sad instrumental version because it's a song that his voice lifts to a higher level). I immediately started to tear up a bit when this line (it wasn't sung but I knew it was coming) came on: "I hope you don't mind..that I put down in wonderful life is, when you're in the world..." The bank lady came back on the phone for round 2 of my information just as that line went by. She put me on hold again, this time to "The Living Years" and by then I was glad my door was closed.
It's one of those songs that you hear while your parents are alive and think (well, I did, after my father's diagnosis), 'this is going to be a really upsetting song to hear one day'.
Well, it lived up to that today.
By the way, I still can't get it out of my head, oddly, although the Elton song is one I much prefer. The Living Years won't go away.

Oddly, I wikipedia'ed Annapolis (in my dream it had one N) and it's state motto is eerily similar to New Hampshire, the one I told my dad about gleefully last year when I first visited: "Live free or die" is NH; this is Annapolis:
Motto: "Vixi Liber Et Moriar" - "I have lived, and I shall die, free"

Spirit sometimes does come when it's called.
Thank you Dad.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Journal 79 No Day part two

I'll start by saying I still have the headache and I have taken more pills in the last 3 days than I'd care to own up to.
I will also start by saying I have now completely caught up on all celebrity gossip from 8 issues of Hello, this includes all the royals.
I've barely been able to read the Goldberg book I was so into last week because the headache leaves me so dizzy with exhaustion. I have slept over 24 of the past 48 hours.

Still, I remain optimistic. I managed to log onto work email today and take care of a couple of things, and I have a nice, long, to-do list for the day tomorrow, for the week really.
It's cold in my apartment, but I'm not minding it. I've gone through an entire thing of gingerale, effortlessly.

Anyway. Nothing else to report. Talked to my friend K. about learning more about saying "no" and about turning down invitations without feeling obligated and guilty (this is huge for me. both these things). We also talked about taking too much on (here here) and emotional exhaustion and how stress can be a real trigger for that.
So...I'm taking care to take care.
Here are some photos I took with the kids on Saturday as we walked to the grocery store, and they remind me of two things;
1, I need to colour my hair, not that outrageously, but I do
2, My head still hurts. Do you think these heads get headaches?
My niece thought the heads were from real people. I assured her they weren't. She went on to anthromorphosize them anyway, something I did my entire childhood. Do all kids do that or is it just the really creative, artistic types?

This also reminded me of how differently kids allow you to look at the world sometimes. I walk by this store all the time, but they instantly saw the magic there and took the time to name the colours on each head of hair.

Journal 80 Just whining

I hate the term 'pet peeve' but I have thousands. Some relate to everyday life and life with all the other people on this crowded planet, and some are work-related. Some are just things that are errors in judgement that drive me up the wall (yes, judgement has TWO spellings, as Mike once pointed out to me. This in itself is kind of annoying. Why can't it just be spelled ONE way--like, with that e after the g or without? Hmm).
Years ago I worked with a coworker who habitually listened to her voice mails on speaker.
So, with the wall between us, I could hear the garbled messages, reminding me of my morning clock radio alarm. It was so maddening. Today, I silently seethe as another one shuffles stacks of paper, about 4 inches thick, into manageable piles. The sound sets my teeth on edge. I can't explain it. It drives me mad.
Arriving at a restaurant, any restaurant, to a shrieking child/baby, is another one. I know people love their kids. And let me also add when my own niece and nephew do this I am mortified and often say to them so the other tables can hear "See those people? They are trying to enjoy a nice afternoon/evening meal" (whatever time of the day it might be). So the people at least know that yes, I feel your pain, and no, I don't deny your feelings of frustration. But what I've noticed in these situations, that some parents seem to like and relish the attention. As my temperature rises and Mike mutters under his breath, we noted that one set of parents, whose wild eight-year-old was careening around the quiet Thai restaurant where we were trying to have a peaceful lunch, seemed to stretch out their time, which included their hapless offspring flinging a glass of water all over his table and almost falling off of a barstool, to last the entire time we were there eating, as if enjoying our semi-obvious irritation.
I cursed them, I don't mind telling you.

Other annoyances include the crazies on the street; before you lecture me about how these people deserve our charity, compassion, etc, know that I DO know this, but when an elderly homeless man spits at you as you walk by, and when a man carrying his bike up the subway stairs, muttering "F*cks, you're all f*cks" all the while staring at you with his too-bright eyes, when someone stands on the corner of Shuter and Church screaming that he wants a coffee, when a man, clearly employed and well-employed, wearing a watch worth more than most engagements rings and is neatly dressed, pees up against a Starbucks wall after what I can only guess was a very gruelling night out, then I stop feeling those friendly feelings of sadness at their plight, and start feeling the more appropriate reaction: Fear. I hate walking / running along the streets in broad daylight feeling afraid. I hate knowing that the taxes I so dutifully pay do not seem to be able to help these people, and that the economic circumstances of the past few years seem to be breeding more and more of them. And if you've ever had the happenstance to wander by the Rat man outside Nathan Phillips Square, well then, all bets are off. He doesn't LOOK like a rat. He HAS rats. ALL OVER HIM. Yes, I ran, screaming, across the street, with Rat man yelling after me, like I was the one with the problem. ( I HATE rats. They terrify me. I identified so thoroughly with Winston in 1984).

Anyway. On to more positive postings (I hope).
Lately my life is work-come-home-try-to-make-healthy-dinner-fall-asleep-by-1o-try-and-write-in-blog-try-not-to-sound-like-lunatic.
Honestly. How does anyone find time to do anything other than work and sleep.
How, I ask you, could I ever even try to plan a wedding like this?

More later.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Journal 78 No Day

It's Sunday but it hasn't felt like much of a day. I missed most of it.

Had a great, relaxing Saturday, great run, Starbucks, hung out with my sister and the kids, and then went to bed early.
Contrast with today--food poisoning or flu, not sure as to what I've picked up. Or is my body just telling me to slow things down and stop the breakneck pace that feels like it has gone on all year.

I've spent most of today in bed. Curing myself has involved sleeping, eating saltines, drinking water and gingerale.

I've finally ventured out of bed (have not left the house) and I'm still in pajamas. I've also managed to read a stack of Hello's courtesy of my friend T.
No deep thoughts to report, no book-reading, just a junked kind of day, one that I do not normally 'indulge' in. I pride myself on being sick very little, and a regimen of set routine, exercise, vitamins, and good eating and sleeping habits ensure I am usually ill only once a year. However, when I do get sick, like when it happened in Maine last Christmas, I can be down for the count. I hope that this is a 24-hour type of thing, and that I don't beat myself up for not bill-paying, grocery-shopping, doing more cleaning, missing lunch with my Mom and sister. They understood, though, and I was grateful for that. I feel stretched thin lately, and my posts, to me, show this--the tough, stressful weeks, the feeling of no control over my job when things are this busy, and the need to take stock of life, and try to find the joy. Lately I've been really negligent in doing that.

There are things to look forward to, though, and I know this. My friend A. will be here this weekend, there is the Chagall exhibit, a dinner out, and then a baptism for my friend T.'s little son. It's going to be a busy week, but there is joy in these events too.

I hope the sun continues to shine, as the grey days of this week have added to my low mood and desire to sleep as much as possible.

So, that's it.
Sunday=No day this week.