Saturday, December 29, 2012

The Comforts of a Snowy Saturday

 I've been reading "The Comforts of a Muddy Saturday" by Alexander McCall Smith (re-reading, to be clear) while I figure out what the future of my bibliophile tendencies are going to become based
on the recent library 'critter' news.
This blog post gracefully, I hope, borrows McCall Smith's title and skews it for this Toronto winter day, as I sit, pajama-clad again, looking out onto the landscape, snow quietly falling, the metal of the plow hitting the asphalt of my condominium parking lot, which is my view out the window, which is really not nearly as bad as it sounds.
Coffee, I need coffee, as I was just emailing to my friend H.
I was telling her about this blog post I found on this blog, which I love, and
it's author does a stellar Friday round-up of blog entries that are nominated by other bloggers, readers, et al. She then does a little write-up (go check it out) and the chosen entries are usually unusually well-written, thoughtful, and original.

Like this one.
I've rolled the thought about this whole Newtown thing around and around, the agony for the parents of imagining last moments. I imagine them myself. I travel in thought to the last moments of my own father and how hard I had to work to get past those images even though I owned them in my mind. This post is not an easy read, but for me, it was a necessary one.

If you don't feel like reading the whole thing (please,, then just read this.
It helped me, even though I didn't think I needed help today.

From Planting Dandelions:

I’m not sure what I believe about afterlife, but there’s no scenario I can accept in which the victims of tragedy want the rest of us to remained trapped in the burning house, the hijacked plane, the terror-stricken classroom. I believe that they have moved on, and so should we in due course, with all honor, gravity and respect. In dealing with grief, we need to go with its flow, but not let it take us under.

Remembering someone’s life does not mean reliving their death. When the faces of those little children from Sandy Hook come to me, I try not to drag them back to the scene of horror, or into my own personal nightmares. Instead, I imagine them as a neighbor’s children, sent to my door because their loved ones need help bearing the unbearable. They have run out of hope, and peace, and breath, can I lend them some of mine?

written by Kyran Pittman

Amen Kyran. And thank you.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

It was the best of times...

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to heaven, we were all going direct the other way - in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only."
--Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities

This pretty well sums up the "year in review" for me. And while I'm at it, I freely admit to never having read this book (despite my status as a voracious reader, there are huge gaps in my literary history of reading 'the great books'. Last time Mike's parents visited, we reviewed 'great books' and I shamefully had to admit how few of them I'd gotten around to reading, while tooling about with such wise tomes as written by Marian Keyes and Freya North. Mike's mom advised me to get working on this). Don't get me wrong--I've got the brain-books on the shelves, I've got the Truman Capote 'Breakfast at Tiffany's' (loved it); I have the Hemingway (I do really like his writing style, even if the subject matter sometimes leaves me cold). I have the Tolstoy, I'm struggling through the Dostoyevsky, I've read everything Orwell has ever written (Down and Out in Paris and London, go, read it, you'll thank me. Only don't get it out of the library. Bedbugs. My God. I echo the sentiment in the newspaper article by a woman who was interviewed after cracking a library book in bed and having several of the critters skittle by....."How am I going to get the reading in that I need to now? Books are like a drug to me! I can't even afford the number of books I need to read!".  I hear that sista. I'm pondering my own reader-junkie-future as I type this).
Raymond Carver.  Carl Jung. Joan Didion.  Aldous Huxley. Ayn Rand. Yes, I've gone there. And I go back for more. But I digress. This is a year in review.  I did, however, read a tonne of great books this year, which I will recap for you, and there were some insane news stories, one of which I've just mentioned--Bedbugs in library books. Lawd help us. 

Blogs all over the world do 'year in review'.  To me, this quote from A Tale of Two Cities crystallizes how little changes in our world fundamentally, in those very concrete ways.  It's an age of wisdom, for sure. It's an age of overwhelming foolishness.  There are most certainly Seasons of Light, and there will always be Seasons of Darkness.  Hope springs eternal, and winter can bring us to our knees.  In our own age of wisdom, we continue to blunder through with medical problems (this being the year of my first real health crisis I can definitely say we know nothing), we struggle with mental health and our own idiosyncrasies, which, while sometimes charming, often drive us to do things we dismiss as 'beyond our control' as if the mind resides in it's own little pocket, doing whatever the hell it wants and we subscribe to the belief it will let us know what it needs when the time comes (ie, when we finally hit that wall of depression, when we're on the rack with anxiety, when our demons of addiction, of violence, of anger finally spew out.  Age of foolishness for sure. 

Another point of 'year in review' that some blog sites give advice about is to talk about or highlight posts that were the most popular on your blog for the year. Mine were a strange mixed bag about a series of critiques I wrote about a fairly popular blog called "Reagan's Blob" and I had recently taken down the posts that related to these critiques as I felt stupid going down a level and engaging a narcissist. I also stopped commenting on any blog entry she wrote, despite some of the most maddening writing and misleading tripe I've ever read. It's like a bad song, you know? It earworms itself into your head and you can't unhear it. Well, I can't unread this blog. Quick example:
This was one of the last upbeat posts right before her and her husband of five-something years just split up, with no real warning, just posts like this, lie upon lie, to project the highlight reel onto the world.  Her other blog Hairdresser on Fire, recently spouted this little drivel: .
The entry itself is not that obnoxious (except for the long laundry list of how much money she spends on vanity). It was the comments that got to me. One singularly intelligent reader (there is one), said in her comment that she lost 2 family members in an airline crash. That is TRUE lost luggage.
Then, someone else, further down, commented on the stolen luggage, to the HDonF author 'Sorry about your loss'.  EXCUSE ME? She got her luggage ransacked. Yes. It SUCKS. Sorry about your loss? GIVE YOUR HEAD A SHAKE. I encourage you to read this self-absorbed entry (there really is no other kind with this chick) and scroll through the comments. It's an age of foolishness alright.

Another werido blog I stumbled upon (that my sister wrote an essay about for school, about how isolating social media can actually be--people living their lives through a computer screen, propping up their poor self-images behind great photographs and daydreamy-prose.  This one: .
In a good way, it can remind me of being a blind 20-something but it also reminds me that as much of a trainwreck that I was (and I was, I assure you), I never once felt the need to HIDE IT. I didn't write letters to a future husband who would (this phrase makes me vomit) "Make an honest woman out of me".  Mike reasons that this transplanted NYC'er is originally from Texas and that explains it all.
I guess. It's still freaky and scary. But like the Reagan thing, I return. Like a carcrash you can't look away from.  Like an old 80's song you won't ever admit you like.  Like too much sugar.

So yea, top blog posts. I had taken alot of them down but after reading this by the Bitchy Waiter, I decided to own my own bitchy side and re-post them. I too often have trouble getting along with others. But fuck it, I'm a monster, as the song goes. 
This Bitchy Waiter qualifies as my personal number one favourite find of the year.
Named a Blog of Note by the blog people (what about meeeee!?) I instantly fell in love with this blog.

1) he's a genius.
2) he is beyond funny
3) as you know I waited tables from the time that Tale of Two Cities was written, into the stone age and back again. So I know waiting. And I LOVE hearing his sarcastic take on it all.
Add to that, he's also a great humour writer, his posts are razor-sharp, he's witty, and he GETS IT.
Amen to the Bitchy Waiter. This is one of my personal faves here:
and this one:
I've had to stop reading them at work because I laugh too loudly.

Another great comedy discovery:  Key and Peele (thank you sister).  Check out Youtube for such skits by the name of "Deal or No Deal", "Baby Forest", and "Soul Food". 

You're welcome.  And yea, I get it. Not everyone will find these that funny (some people have no sense of humour and should really get one) but it makes me happy. Really happy. And lately, that is no small feat.

I guess I've ranted enough about bedbug-ridden library books, I've bitched about 20-something blogs that are pointless and more importantly, VOID of meaning, and I've named my Most Favourite Blog evah, and I've talked about how Key and Peele saw me through some dark times.
We won't go over how depressing the News of the Year was. I talked about CT in this post, 
and that's all I'm going to say about it. I don't have an answer to an event like this, and I haven't been able to wrap my head around it at all, except to say, in a most meaningless, empty way, that it's times like these I am glad I do not have children. I wouldn't be able to let them out of my sight at any time after this. Parents: I salute you.

We move on to favourite expressions, most coined by my sister and my friend L. after watching certain shows, skits, or by over-using the same phrases over and over again. 
"There. Now you know everything" is one that you can use as a sign-off to an email where you've made some shocking confession (ie, putting Cool Whip in your coffee as all your other dairy products have expired, I'm just saying).
"I'm Just Saying" also the title of my friend L.'s lovely blog 
is also an expression to denote a 'no judgement' kind of attitude, a 'what the hell' kind of response.
"Broke that hex".  Watch the Key and Peele. Watch alot of it. Then you'll understand this. 
Books. I will talk about these now. There were some great reads, and I'm already planning my next few (after the non-apocalypse, I am finally going to crack Cormac McCarthy's The Road, book not the movie version, after reading this amazing New Yorker article late at night a couple of days ago--
It was the perfect read while lazing under Christmas lights, thinking about what this year has given and taken away, and what next year will bring. 
Apocalyptic and dystopian darkness are two themes that, along with time travel, have long attracted me. I plan to devote more reading time to said theme in the coming year. 
Another read I'm planning on is this book, which appeared on a fave blog of mine recently:
I continue my love of memoirs.

I'll give you a quick top ten of book picks this year so you can say yea or nay, not a problem.

1) Blue Nights, Joan Didion. By far the best book I've read this year. I've re-read it about twenty times now. I'm moving into memorization territory. I could (and I might) devote an entire post to quotes from this book that brought me to my knees.  Read it. Feel it. Know it.

2)  Blood, Bones, and Butter, Gabrielle Hamilton.  A memoir of her slow rise to chef-celeb status with many many bumps on the road.  The ending leaves me crazing a second book to see how this trainwreck of an arranged marriage turns out. All I can do is hope.

3) The Soul of a Chef, Michael Ruhlman.  Three book-ettes in one. The final chapters on Thomas Keller are worth the read. 

4)  The Summer of the Great-Grandmother and a Circle of Quiet, Madeleine L'Engle, two of the four "Crosswicks" journals published in the seventies. A key perspective on knowing how much changed in the last century about life, how it continues to change. 

5)  Wild, by Cheryl Strayed.  Yes, an obvious choice. But I couldn't put it down. The first half was marginally better, to me, than the second half. But I loved the book, the premise. The lost parent, the subsequently lost child....

6) Le Freak, Nile Rodgers. I've read musical memoirs before. And after (John Taylor from Duran Duran being the most recent, eye-rollingly narcissistic tome).  But this book by Rodgers is brilliant. A storied life. That said, I may have read that at the end of 2011. But it remains front and centre this year.

7) Love is a Mix Tape, Rob Sheffield. I find myself combing the internet searching for other writings by this sensitive, music-loving author. I've re-read this one alot too, trying to figure out "how it works".

8)  Forgotten Affairs of Youth, Alexander McCall Smith.  His Isabel Dalhousie series. I also just checked his website and "The Uncommon Appeal of Clouds" is next in the line up. How will I get this book? I can't take anything out of the library!!!

9) Diving Bell and the Butterfly, Jean-Dominique Bauby. I've written about this one, too.

That's ten books (number 4 has two). So there you go. I'll post more as I remember them. But these are the ones that jumped up first, and ones that I still carry around lines from in my head.

I'm supposed to round out with a list of things I've learned. Hmm. I suck at this.

1) Sometimes the player you've written off outplays you. You know what I mean. But karma has it's far-reaching tentacles spread around this revolving-door planet. I've exited the door for now.
2) Being married is fun, and it's hard, but it's great. Being in a long-distance marriage is even more of a challenge, I know what you'r'e thinking, How is that possible? Well it is. The missing magnifies everything. Everything.
3) I can face adversity better than I used to now. (so much practice).
4) I can't always control my health but I have to forgive my body. It needs my patience.
5)  How can I love the people I love more? That's what Louise Hay asks. It's something I muse about. A cup of coffee warmed up and brought to my husband in bed. Taking care of my sister's kids on a Saturday when she's at her wit's end.  Driving my mom somewhere. It seems like such a dull laundry list. But it's those small things, right?
6) I do alot better sometimes when I keep my damn mouth shut.

7) I have a propensity for indulging my natural night owl tendencies when my husband is here and I know I have to get up the next morning.  This wreaks havoc on my system. I must remember this.
8)  I still love to run, and I'm still going to run. I'm on a break. I'm over it.
9)  I don't do well with people who are Geminis. I know that some of you are okay. But for the most part, I will steer clear.
10)  I have alot to learn, and I'm looking forward to a new decade in 2013. My new decade.
Forty awaits. Welcome home forty. Get comfortable.

I'll continue this in a part two of some sort over the coming days. For now, I have to go and support a friend who has lost a loved one. I have to finish my coffee. I have to say hello to email friends.
I have to get up off this couch and get dressed.  I have to rejoin the living.
I have to tie up loose ends before I go on vacation. 

I have to pack. 
I have to usher in the New Year on Monday night with good friends and food at a local bistro.

I have to make those dreaded "resolutions"....lawd help me.


...sometimes at all costs as the expression goes. It's a sports analogy, a loose one.
I like to win. Not a dirty win, but I like to win even if it takes an extra bit of elbow grease, a out-playing-type of approach. I like the big wins but I appreciate the small ones too. The ones that sometimes only you know about (and the handful of girlfriends who, when you reach your late thirties {last thirty} you are lucky enough to have who know every single win and loss in your life, big and small. And who know just how big those small things can be).

I've thought about the concept of winning at all costs a lot over the past few days. Fighting with my husband over Christmas, our first Christmas as a married couple. Me, nitpicking things in an irritable way. Him, way over trying to see the humour in it all (usually he can, it's one of his many gifts, one that I cherish the most).  Me, trying to turn things around in the argument. Me, being petty and silly knowing I don't care, really, that he forgot to wear his wedding ring for an evening out with friends.
Me, wanting to win at all costs, knowing that the big losses (not having my Dad for the second Christmas in a row) trump all those wins. Me, wanting to be right, for my husband to KNOW I'm right.
Me, ashamed of myself.

Don't get me wrong, it's not all bad. I've nursed myself through a sucky cold over the past few days and that has definitely contributed to my thrumming mood swings. As I type this, the dining room blinds are open letting that particular brand of winter light in--both gray and white, the brightness of new snow, the dullness of a cloud-riddled sky. I'm in my robe, typing away on the laptop, flannel pajamas (they are as a line in a movie once proclaimed "becoming a uniform") but not in a bad way.
Not in an "oh God I should get the hell up and get moving kind of way" because I'm not going to do that. I'm tired. November and it's events zapped me. And I didn't win, not really, not in the way I wanted to. I feel like, instead, it was a big ugly loss. With all sorts of crossed-wires, all sorts of bitterness on my part, and a whole heaping helping of "taking it out on the ones you love".
Oh yea. That. THAT. Huge loss. Big.

Back to winning at all costs. I've had to put it in perspective. After all, if I am to continue to be viewed as a responsible adult, I have to let go of some of the childishness of clinging to my own version of right-ness and winning.  Not saying I'm wrong with the situation at work.  In fact, I think I may be so right that having all that right-ness staring me down, in my face, is a constant reminder that there are so many things wrong with my workplace I don't even know where to start.  So I'm not going to bother at this point.

I'm trying to 'be still' as my beloved aunt always counselled me to be in these types of situations.
Be still means don't do anything rash.  Be still means, by all means, plan your next move, but do it quietly. A friend of mine recently described an argument he was enmeshed with as a chess game, and there was a name for the particular series of moves that had played out.  It's kind of like that, I guess.
And it has the same result: Stalemate. Where no one wins (frustrating as all hell for me) and no one really loses (a tie to me is like a loss.  I have to work on that).

For now I am on the couch, robe-ensconced, fingers dancing across the board, watching winter light. Soft white snow, my cold dark heart. Thinking about coffee and how this is likely one of the last posts I'll write this year, save for my yearly wrap-up about what I've learned (precious little, clearly) and what I'd like to see unfurl differently next year (I've yet to get through a holiday season without SOME kind of conflict).  The nature of conflict and why this need to be right and victorious seems to be so innate in me. The need to change some of that.

Peace people. The light outside is exceptionally striking today.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

The Debt of Gratitude

I write one every year. Not always here on the blog.
I wrote my first one on a big sheet of art paper in 2006, after talking to my friend L. on the phone. (
It had not been an easy year for either of us, or for our families, and it wasn't going to get much better  over the next few months ( we, of course, did not know that yet). It was going to get worse before it got better.  And now, as I slug through this last year in the decade of my thirties, I have to say; it just goes up and down, up and down. Sometimes more down than up. Sometimes you look at those "even-keel" types and ask yourself, HOW does nothing EVER happen to some people?

It's December 23rd, Sunday, today. Tomorrow is our family Christmas and Mike is here with me, that alone tops all gratitude this year.
Getting married. Having someone to call "husband".  Never believing that would happen.
I have a cold. But no headaches. I haven't been running and I've gained about five pounds since August. But I'm not riddled with constant anxiety, and I'm waiting for the results of the latest MRI
and I'm not freaking out.
I went to church twice in the past week--once last Saturday with my mom and niece, and then on Thursday, the Christmas pennance service with my mom. Songs, piano, poinsettias, confessing our sins. What to say?  Vanity. Pride. Stubbornness. Judgment. Impatience (oh how I struggle). And then the final one--'this situation with a co-worker that I can't seem to move past. That I can't seem to remotely even whisper of forgiveness'.  I was wracked about this last point. The priest didn't seem too concerned. One Hail Mary, one Our Father. And absolution. And could I say a prayer for him? Yes, I could and I did.
My mom and I left the service after the required prayers, quietly (the instruction was to leave quietly when you were ready). I prayed to St. Jude (lost causes) before I left, same as I did on Saturday. What did I ask for, is that what you want to know? Nothing specific. Just knelt on the small wooden altar, lit my candle, and asked Why, What now, and Could I have done something differently?
I have no answers.
I'm sitting in a warm home, my husband is watching Sunday Night Football.
I have a pile of wrapped gifts to my right, for my family, and there are ornaments hanging from my dining room light fixture (I don't have a tree, I have Christmas roses and a Christmas orchid.)
I have to work a half day tomorrow but I have a job (one that frustrates me endlessly, but that's another post in itself. We're talking about gratitude and the LAST thing I want to think about is my workplace and how fucked it's been these last few months).
I'm in pajamas and I'm sniffling away with this minor little irritant of a cold while I boil water for a hot toddy (I hate normal tea).  I'm going to bed soon. I worked really really hard this year. I travelled alot, back and forth to Maine.  I am finishing the year with a clean slate. I have no guilt. I have no regrets. I lost a ten-dollar-bill today, that I hope someone who needed it found.
I slept in til 11am. The sun was out. I hung out with my sister and her kids. I made dinner with Mike.

I settled in. I tied up loose ends. I continue to live my life exactly the way I want to---it might not look like everyone else's, but it's my design. I made it, I built it, I continue to nourish it.
I own it.

So it's almost the end of the year.
Merry Everything people.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Times like these

"...I personally believe in the eternity of the soul and I believe that she will see her son again someday" Rabbi Shaul Praver recalls his words to a grieving mother whose son was a victim of the Sandy Hook shooting.
 I did not actually hear this quote said, but instead read it on my friend G.'s FB status and had the immediate thought of "Amen to that".
Because out of all the swirling comments surrounding the events in Connecticut, USA, on Friday, this to me was perhaps the most comforting.
The eternity of the soul.
God. (remember Him?)

All those words we (sometimes) so casually throw around, that, in times like these, are a balm for a troubled heart, a worried soul, a confused mind.

You've heard me say it all the time on this blog, I describe our world as this revolving-door planet, one that we all must share, as peacefully as we can. In times like these, it's easy to forget that in order to foster the kind of world we want, revolving door or not, we must be, as Ghandi so gracefully put it, "the change we want to see in the world".

I, like many others I'm sure, attended church this weekend, as I so often do, my own balm when my soul is worried. The priest, like many others I'm sure, had amended his sermon to include thoughts on the tragedy that has, I hope, affected enough people that maybe some real change could be enacted after this type of shattering event. He talked eloquently about how we start each day with a certain mood, a viewpoint, and after Friday's event, he talked about his own plummeting mood, his own grim feelings after hearing "the news".  I sat in the church pew with my mother and my seven-year-old niece.  I held my niece's hand.  I thought about how my recent visits to church have found me blanketed in my own troubles, my own selfish thoughts, and I felt myself unfurling a bit as I realized that my prayers and thoughts had not been self driven as they usually are. They were turned outward, sending out kind thoughts in the general direction of Connecticut and to all grieving people everywhere.
There you are, living your little life, and there it is, this grief, coming at you like a mass, like a fog, like an actual physical thing, sucking you in, seizing you up.
And your mood plummets.

Yea, I've read alot of the news stories.
Yea, I admit to being as seduced as anyone else is, asking the unanswerable question (why?) over and over again. Hungering for someone, someone in charge, someone with authority, to give me some direction on this.
Nothing comes.
There is no Why to this. There is no How. There is no reasoning, there is no sense to make.

I'm just one person, talking like many others, about an event that is stunning in its dehumanization.
And I have no answers.
All I have is this; 

Kindness. (to others. to yourself)
Gratitude. (remember all that you have. It wasn't just snatched away like it was for the Connecticut parents)
Selflessness (get out of your own way)
Family and friends (they are all, really, that we have, that we need in this life. They alone are what keep us going in times like these)
Love, love, and more love.
Because that's the only thing that is going to get us through.

"You can take all this, take it away, I'd still have it all. 
'Cause I've climbed the tree of life, and that is why
No longer scared if I fall"
Madonna, Nothing Fails.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Sunday, December 2, 2012

No Frills

This is a joke with Mike, as I say the name of the grocery store "NO Frills" and he says "No FRILLS" and I still can't get how he picks up on my subtle intonations of focussing on the 'wrong' word, but it's funny.
Re-reading old entries, sitting here on a very rainy Sunday morning, a cold and damp December day.
Sipping coffee, in my pajamas.
Nothing new to report.
I go back to work tomorrow, back to the place where my professional integrity, in my view, has been questioned and severely compromised, back to the place where stress is the order of the day, not the side dish, where I often even forget to look out the window as I toil through another day of my life.

So, yea, this entry is no frills (NO frills. It's just me, talking about life, just like that Paul McCartney song I recently re-discovered  Another Day... ...drinks another coffee finds it hard to stay right now).

So this weekend has flown by, football starts in an hour, I finally made it to church (alot of praying to do...), and I ran a good six-miles (and hills) yesterday.

Trying to get myself motivated to run today, despite the cold and the rain.

So's just another day.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Angels and Misery{%2210151268112464329%22%3A142434899237256}&action_type_map={%2210151268112464329%22%3A%22og.recommends%22}&action_ref_map=[]

This article found me on FB today. 

I was thinking about my Angel reading that I had last year, given by a man who can communicate with angels, at his home in Oakville.
It was an amazingly strange experience and one that I haven't blogged about much here.
It was right before my Dad died, so I guess, like many experiences I had last year, good and bad, it got eclipsed along with everything else.

After reading the article above, I thought about my own angel experiences, many of which I've written about here, as everytime I have an angel encounter, I remember it very vividly--not so much
what happened, but how I felt as it was happening. How changed I felt afterward.

I'm continuing to puzzle through life (just read my blog-friend Julia's puzzle-post, it struck a chord-- ) and just 'be' for the time being. I've done as my friend K. always advises, and I've asked my angels for help.  I've gone to my angel-cards, (a lovely birthday gift from said friend K.) a couple of times in the last month and both times the cards have been sage, wise, and calm, reminding me to be the same.

What can I say? November sucked. Like, REALLY SUCKED. It's taken the wind out of me, and as my friend L. said to me today "It's December 1st. I've decided to stop saying I Hate Everybody". Yes, that. Except I need to also stop FEELING it.
Also as L. said today: There. Now you know everything.

Winter is here, I should be feeling the Christmas spirit, but instead I feel zapped, and I've reprogrammed my car radio so that any station playing Christmas songs from now until the new year has been vanquished.  And I normally love listening to nice Christmas songs.
I'll get there, I know I will.

Onward and upward as they say.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Niagara during the week

One of the great things about visiting wine country during the week is that there's no one around.

Which I love.

A boutique hotel, a bunch of vineyards, old buildings.

Buying local wine and doing tastings, eating great food, driving in the sunshine, with no traffic, and quiet.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Outside In

This isn't going to be one of those beautifully poetic posts waxing about life, love, and the pursuit
of happiness.
It's going to be more of the type where I sit, in total perplexion (I just made a word up, I'm sorry, it's my license right now) and look at my life and say: what the fuck?

I stepped outside myself several times yesterday, as I was emailing my friend A. this morning, describing said phenomenon.  I was, between the hours of nine and ten in the morning, at my therapist's office, the place I go for help, and she was busy writing some summary notes in my chart at the end of our session, and my mind was free to wander.
First, I rooted myself by looking at the calendar on the wall behind her.
November 28th, check.
My appointment date, check.
I'm thirty-nine-years-old, check.
I've been targeted at my place of work by a person who clearly has some serious issues and is 'not being heard at home' as my friend A. so accurately describes it when people feel the need to 'project' like this. 
I am moved by this to thank God for my own hideous self-awareness, that has plagued me from childhood. Check.
I am looking now at the painting that hangs behind the couch my therapist sits on during our sessions (yes, she sits on a couch, I on a chair, it's a nice reversal of the New Yorker cartoon depictions of therapy and its many patients-on-couches). It's a blue watercolour, it's a building with little definition except it's definitely square, and it might be a church, or it might be a prison (that got me thinking to how often these two entities can get confused in our busy modern lives).  And I thought about how life is sometimes made up of a zillion tiny observations, and sometimes, our treatment of one another gets all snarled up while the time zips by and we lose site of how very small we are on this revolving-door planet.

Leading up to my appointment, I got myself up on time and to the coffee place in plenty of time to make my session without rushing. All very responsible adult-type things to do.
In the waiting room, I sat with my purse on my lap, the coffee resting on a nearby ledge, and read a  magazine, and didn't encroach on other chairs in the waiting room by 'claiming' a space that I didn't really need (why do people DO this?).  I read an article about a new kind of narcissism, where constant re-assurance is needed for this type to feel their own worth. Except they never really feel it, because they're so busy blaming their emotional state and their 'problems' on others. Ie, classic narcissist behaviour,  but in a much clever-er sense. It feels neat. It's not immediately apparent. But their refusal to accept responsibility for the upkeep of their own emotional lives leads them to a permanent state of infancy in dealing with said emotions.
Long story short: they just don't have the tools. And they don't want to get them or use them.

I had, as Oprah has coined, that "aha!" moment.  There is nothing that will change this person, this shell who wouldn't know happiness from suffering if it jumped up and bit her, and it made it a little
(note, a little) easier to bear the whole thing.

I will write more about this strange day and its odd effect on me shortly.
Mike and I are headed to wine country to enjoy some time away from the city, and I hope to use my
iPhone for my very first photos there, which I promise to post and talk about.

Happy Thursday. It's sunny (for now), and it's a new day.
Deep breaths.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Giving Thanks

Inspired by my blog-friend Julia's lovely post, here;

It's Thanksgiving for our American friends this weekend. Food, fun, football...friends.
Julia asks what we are thankful for...I thought I'd do a list since I'm feeling a bit list-y today, the tv is on, football game in the background (Bills and Colts, you know how I feel), it's almost 2pm, and I have yet to run (am still in pajamas. What can I say? I went out last night. Out, as in, I left the house, hung out with Mike, and some old friends, it was a good time).
So without further delay...

Family of course. More than ever. Despite the frustrations that only our families can inflict on us, no one will ever bring us more joy. Or more sorrow. My dad's death has etched that for me.

Friends. New. Old. Those amazing memories that keep giving. And really, they just keep getting better.

The sunshine. It just came out at my back, reminding me how great my run will be.

Running. Even though I'm not supposed to really be doing it right now, I'm sort-of half in the clear. Good enough for me.

This blog, even though it hasn't been getting near the attention it needs from me. Even though I can't quite reveal the bullshit that has gone on in the last while, unless I write a 'fictional' account (believe me, I've thought about it). But all will be revealed, eventually. You know how that goes.

My principles. Wow. They have gone through the wringer these last couple of roller-coaster weeks. As my friend L. wrote in her blog--you can't let their lies become your truth. Amen L. It's been a real challenge to hang on to my beliefs about myself over these two very difficult weeks. All the while keeping up a facade that everything is okay, while inside asking those really scary questions.
How well do I know myself?  How do others really perceive me? Does it marry up with how I perceive myself? I think I've proven to myself that it does. This test of my principles is not over, but it's closer to being resolved. And I have the satisfaction of knowing I held on to my beliefs, to those soul-truths, even as I faced scrutiny for being who I am: myself.

Karma. The backlash of it. The whiplash. How it will strike without warning, like a random rainstorm on an otherwise clear day.  And it does strike. It's been said that the wheels turn, however slowly, and that has been revealed over the past few days and weeks. And it's also been said, it's a bitch. And yea, it is. Especially when you're on the receiving end of it. On the other end of it though, there is no sweeter feeling then seeing someone get what's coming to them.  I am thinking back to a sad September day where I sat in a dingy courtroom with my sister, my arms around her as she cried, witnessing the end of her marriage. This weekend, someone got what was coming to them after a long delay. I know it's wrong to gloat at the suffering of others, but I did give thanks at getting this news yesterday. Sorry. I'm human.

That's all for right now. I'm wishing everyone a Happy Thanksgiving, even though here in Canada we had our holiday in October.  It's a nice reminder to remember to be thankful every day really. Even when things are not going well. Especially when they're not going well. As my friend A. says, even in those dark, shitty times, good things can come out. Very true.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Faith, Hope, and Charity

That's all I can really count on right now.
Other than that, I got nothin'.

This photo was taken by my friend K. who is on her way to being a stellar snapper don't you think?
It really spoke to me.

Right now, I'm just looking for things that speak to me,
and centre me,
so that as a situation in my work-life continues to press forward,
I can remain calm.

photo credit: Kim Heaslip

Sunday, November 18, 2012


"a situation marked by confusion, turbulence, strong feelings, violence, or destruction."
That's where I'm at right now.
I had to look this word up because it popped up in my head last night as I lay in bed, going over
my week in review, this sh*tstorm of a week. 

I can't, much to my eternal chagrin, write about what is going on right now. 
Even this blog is basically by an anonymous writer right now (it is--notice...).

There are a few with whom I've shared the particulars, hazy though they may be, of this most
recent 'happening'.  They have responded with positivity, with wild anger (directed at the situation), and unquestioning support (as always in these types of situations, the ones I've seemed to find myself mired up in over the past few years), the phrase "you know who you are" pops up in my head. 
My husband, my sister (who has been my most vocal supporter, to the tune of "I'm worried about how this will affect your health"), my friend T., who knows ALL the background stories--they have buoyed me along this week with their encouraging words and calls.

This is the type of blog entry I despise--you know what I mean.  One that is vague, un-telling, that clearly hides a big story, veils an emotional turmoil.

What can I say? 

More later.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Birthday Letter

Lots of things have been popping up lately that remind me of you, Dad.
I'll tell you about them.

The new James Bond movie comes out this Friday. With Daniel Craig. I'll let you know how it is.
You and Mom would have liked to have gone and seen this one in the theatre. It looks like it has some great action and effects. You would love the song, sung by Adele. You would love Adele, I know I would have already bought you a CD of hers.

The U.S. election was last week. You would have been following this pretty closely over the past year or so. You would have told me all Mitt's secrets, things that no one else would have known. I would have bought you copies of the New Yorker to read all about the GOP and you would have sharpened your arguments, your opinions.

The hurricane. You would have been able to fill me in on all the devestation, point by point. You would have wanted to know exactly where in Conneticut Mike's family lives, and if they were all okay. I would have assured you of the safety our my friend L. and Mike's cousin A. in NYC. You would have been glad that anyone we knew and any family of Mike's was alright.

You would have just joined Mom, most likely, on Hallowe'en night, helping the kids go door to door for candy, and taken masses of pictures. They miss you lots. They ask about you all the time. I tell them funny stories and we talk about Shadow. We look at the pictures on my fridge, from happier times. When they are not looking, I tear up.

Mom misses you alot, but doesn't talk about it much. I think she's afraid too, afraid of her own pain. I don't press the issue, but I try to leave the door open. I called her on your wedding anniversary to let her know I was thinking about that day.  She was uncharacteristically down. Normally, no matter what, she remains cheerful and tries to think about others.  Not on October 10th. She said she'd already had her cry in the morning and that now there are 'no more anniversaries'.  I reminded her that the significance of the wedding day will never diminish. She sometimes tells me how she talks to you everyday and wishes you were in the apartment with her. She thinks you would have loved it.
I think so too. You would have gone walking near the water every single day. You would have met lots of people in your walks already. You would have challenged yourself walking the huge hills in the Beaches. You would have loved to see the changing seasons here.

I guess you know but we sprinkled some of your ashes into the lake on Father's Day. It was a sad day, but we knew you would have liked to have been in the water. When I go running now, it's one of my favourite routes. I also whisper a hello to you as I run by and most times, I take a break and walk out into the sand to stand near that little inlet of water. I don't worry about getting sand in my shoes. You would have told me not to worry about that. "You can shake it out later, that's all." That's what you would have said. Now, when I say "That's all." I think of you. You always said that as a way of illustrating a point that was simple. Moot, as you once taught me.

I chanelled your calm yesterday when dealing with a really difficult (older, rich) client. He was confused about something, but insistent. I simply let him win the argument. It was nice to think about how you never worried about petty things like this, as so many of my clients with money do. You always reminded me to not let money be my master. It's been good, solid advice, and I never got to thank you for that.  The client complimented my scarf as we were leaving his newly-renovated condo, the way you would have.  "Green suits you", he said, not looking at me. I had a strong memory of you then. I asked if his kids help out as him and his wife get older. He shook his head.  "They have their own life; they come first".  I thought, with pride, about how you could have answered this question should someone have asked.  You would not have had to say something like that.

On Sunday, an NFL coach with cancer gave a locker-room speech to his team about circumstances versus vision. Circumstance being that yes, he has cancer, vision being that he wants to see two more of his daughters get married and dance at their weddings (he actually said "weddins" a little American spin thrown down on the word) but I cried shamelessly, alone, at that sentence. I realized that toward the end we had talked about so much, but we never talked about that. Maybe we both knew that such a discussion would have been too painful. Maybe we were both just grateful for even having the time we had to just talk about the weather, and our crazy family, and the mystery of faith. I didn't dwell on the fact that you would not live to see me married. The dream I had before my wedding assured me that you were in fact there, in your own way, as much as you could be.

I finally read the last two articles you mailed to me, one from the Toronto Sun, which I always nagged you about reading (I think I referred to it as "junk writing"), about car insurance and one from Macleans, about running.  I am going to call my insurance company and discuss some of the great points in the article you sent, written by a lawyer. I'm sorry I couldn't get up to the task of reading them earlier. I was, perhaps, in a strange way, saving them for later. You had your customary little note in the envelope, your writing all in caps, as mine always is. You always ended your notes with a wide smiley face, a signature doodle.

I fell at work last week, but I guess you already know that. There is no other way to describe that a fall on concrete, a hit on the head, my left elbow breaking my fall a bit, but nothing more than bruises and a bit of a strain. How is that possible? It just is, that's all.

So, I'll sign off for now. Not sure what the plan is for the 13th. I think Mike should be in Canada by then. If you were here we'd all have dinner together somewhere, with Mom too, of course. You could regale Mike with election tales you'd heard. You could impress him with your knowledge of U.S. politics. Not that you ever need to impress. You just had to be yourself.

You taught me that, too.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Quick Update

What can I say? I've been up to exactly nothing.
It was a busy Friday and Saturday but I found time to run 11 km after taking my car in for its oil change.  A slow, but steady run in the rain.  I was glad.
Sunday was just me and just the couch and just the tv.
It's been raining alot.
I greeted Monday with my usual grudging respect.
I was on time for work, after sleeping really well, something I don't normally do on Sunday nights.

A site meeting was scheduled to check on something.
We went to the site, two large condo buildings, just two of what feels like thousands all over the city.
All routine stuff. I'd been there before.
As I said, it's been raining alot.

We got down to the fifth level of the parking garage, where what we needed to see was installed.
One of my colleagues, walking ahead of me, pointed to a large patch on thinly-spread-out coffee-coloured mud.
The words "Watch this, it's slippery" were not even out of his mouth before I was down,
falling, and then hitting the ground, backwards, hard, my hard hat flying off, my head hitting the concrete, hard, my left elbow taking the rest of the brunt of the fall.

I lay there for exactly one second before bursting into loud, panicked tears, in front of both my colleagues and our client. Panicked does not even describe how I felt lying there. How hard did I just hit my head? What have I done? Can I see? (yes). Can I move my legs (yes, yes, thank you, yes).
My second co-worker crouched down, put her jacket under my head. I tried to calm myself.
More people arrived. The usual response, I guessed, when something happens on a construction site.
Things unfolded. I got up (covered, I will add, in mud. Me, my raincoat, my hair, my clothes, my notebook, my purse (my purse...)We walked back up (nothing was going to be looked at today). We sat in a construction trailer and I had some water.
My wonderful colleagues brought me home. I had scared, secret thoughts of Natasha Richardson. As I do with every thought that enters my head lately that I find disturbing (how much I miss my husband, how much I resent my job sometimes, how frustrating I've been finding life in general lately), I brushed it aside.
I took some Advil. I did some work online. I called my husband. I watched the endless CNN loop of Hurricane Sandy coverage, chiding myself for worrying about my situation when people's homes, cities, and very livelihoods were being threatened.
A couple of hours went by. I was sore. My condo board meeting was cancelled due to weather.
The shock that had encapsulated me wore off.
I started to cry. I felt panicked again. I watched the rain outside, watched the wind blow leaves around and I listened to the raindrops hitting my windows and felt a little better.

Fast forward to today. I awoke at 8, not a minute before, and I didn't hear anything after I went to bed last night of the storm. I text messaged my boss that I was going to work from home. I lay still on my side because lying on my back hurt.
I took some more Advil and fell back asleep. I woke up and went to my doctor.  There was, for the first time, no one waiting in his outer office. He was, as he usually is,  matter-of-fact and brisk. A strain, nothing more, to my hip, something else to my neck.  I worked online when I got back. My other boss wanted details. I didn't feel like giving them to him. My sister came by with her kids and we all had dinner. She went home, night falling. My neck starting to ache again as the ibuprofen wears off. Me, not feeling like taking anything else. Me, feeling sorry for myself. Me, calling my mom for comfort (why do I do this to myself?) Me, crying again. Me, not feeling any comfort at all.
Feeling, instead, panicked again. Crying about 'my luck' and about another physical ailment I can't seem to control or do anything about.

Me, sitting on the couch, under a blanket, alternating the heating pad and the ice pack, and just thinking about nothing.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Seventeen Months

It was seventeen months since my dad died, on Saturday, October 13th.  I didn't mark the anniversary.
I was in Maine, having the kind of fall day that everyone thinks of when they think of fall.
Meaning, I was just living my life, deep in the rhythm of a crisp, sunny day, one where you're living each and every moment, just for itself, enjoying this weird ritual we call life.
Colours on trees. Driving upstate. A small quaint town that reminded me of the one my dad grew up in.  A college frisbee tournament, Mike's niece deeply enmeshed in the competition, all sorts of young, energetic college students running around a field, in teams, supporting each other. Cheering from the sidelines. Looking around and wondering, how, and when, exactly, did that time in my life slip from me, lightning-quick.
Driving looking for a beach with a view. Stopping at Dairy Queen. Eating sundaes in the car.
Me, musing to Mike that there are still small windows of time where I do forget my dad is gone.
Buying The Economist last week I thought, oh my dad will want to read this when I'm finished with it. And that sudden upside-down thought of,

But even musing to Mike didn't bring me back to the reality of the date, how much time has gone by, how much has happened, and, as Mike put it how time seems to feel like it's 'speeding up.

I've exchanged emails with a close friend lately about exhaustion, the onset of fall, the frustration of running injuries, how hard it was for me to sit out of the half marathon I worked hard to get to, and accepting the limitations of the body as it ages, as it heals, as it mends itself. I was actually glad to be out of the city while the race was going on so I didn't have to encounter it, see it, hear about it. Sad, huh? Self-centred.
But that's just how I feel.

Writing. As evidenced here, I haven't been doing a whole helluva lot of it.
Reading has been my balm lately, nights after work when I get home, even the tv doesn't really tempt me. I leave stacks of unopened mail. I don't look at my computer much at home. But my pile of library books gets dealt with every week, without fail. Seven day loans are not a problem. I sometimes take out more than one. And I read them all.

My latest discovery is a writer named Lisa Genova. She has a book out called "Still Alice" about a woman with EOAD. Early-onset-Alzheimer's Disease. She has a PhD in neuroscience from Harvard, so she has the research and knowledge to back up a book like this. But the book doesn't just cover the robbery of the mind for the protagonist, an professor. It tackles her relationships with her adult children. With her husband. With her colleagues--as the disease strips away her confidence and awareness. The notes she writes herself, questions about her memory. If I've ever wondered how to quantify memories, as a tangible...this book exposes this for me.
I just finished reading another novel of hers called "Left Neglected". The storyline seems tidy at first. Another high-achieving wife and mother. Her car accident on a slick, wet stretch of the Mass Pike. Her traumatic brain injury known as "left-neglect" where she is unaware of her left side. Of having a left side. Of seeing the left side. Her type-A personality goading her on to recovery, but realizing that she is unable to return to her six-figure job as a juggler in the corporate world. The support of her husband and children and her new skill of learning how to just 'be'. Re-connecting with her estranged mother. Illustrating how often in life, when one thing happens, other things often happen at the same time. It was a good read for someone like me, who, for the last five months since this head thing happened (five months ago today), I have really been unaccepting of the situation. Acting like not doing anything about it would somehow make it disappear. How slow the real healing has been. How much the little things mean when there is some advancement. How amazed I am to look back on three years of running, two of them during some of the most tumultuous times in my life, and be unable to get back to that right now, where I let running help to sustain me, because I simply can't.
That's where the reading comes in. My fallback when I'm not 100%.

So that's where it's at on this fine fall Monday. It's grey, it's cloudy, I've been up since 4:30 am catching planes to get home, I still want everything and more, and ever so slowly I keep trying to wake up.
Time speeds along.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Life Plan (or lack of)

My friend H. pointed me in the direction of this amazing column by a National Post writer,
Jane Macdougall.
I thought about life plans (and thought about how it's never really occurred to me to have one).
And then I decided to respond.
Enjoy! And think about your own (or lack thereof)!

Monday, October 1, 2012

A List about a Run

1. Running again. Without my head getting in the way, both literally and figuratively.
2. A wrong turn, a trail, a sense of having to get the hell out of there.
3. Getting the hell out of there, running fast, to the stairs at the base of the bridge where Queen Street arcs over the DVP, just east of River.
4. Running up said stairs, practically a sheer vertical, 3 flights, at least 10 steps per flight, two at a time, feeling like a running animal. A gazelle. Something much more graceful-looking than my form allows.
5. Finally getting it: THIS is why you save it all up for that last 5 km.
6. Getting to the top of the stairs, staggering against the bridge railing, knees buckling from exertion.
7. Drinking my water (okay, finishing my water) while simultaneously wondering if said water would stay down.
8. The nausea fading.
9. Looking down King Street from my vantage on Queen and just...starting to run again.
10. Running downhill on King, pounding downhill on King, feeling taller than I ever have.
11. The clouds.  Rushing to meet me.
12. The solitude of a quiet Sunday.
13. Lucky 13. (13.1 to be exact). On the 14th. Wish me luck.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Weekend Edition

"Literature duplicates the experience of living in a way that nothing else can, drawing you so fully into another life that you temporarily forget you have one of your own. That is why you read it, and might even sit up in bed till early dawn, throwing your whole tomorrow out of whack, simply to find out what happens to some people who, you know perfectly well, are made up.”
~Barbara Kingsolver
Kingsolver, an author I've widely read and long admired (her book, Animal Dreams, remains on a top-twenty-five list I wrote myself, years ago) is talking about how it feels when you have a love affair with the book you're reading at the time. I can relate. I throw my tomorrow out of whack on a regular basis, far more than I care to admit, for my love of reading. (I will also admit this: I fell asleep last night, sitting up, book in my lap, in bed. Light on. I started awake about twenty minutes later and yes, I continued reading. Which was the chosen book? Anthony Bourdain's The Nasty Bits, a collection of essays expanding on themes he explored in Kitchen Confidential, snippets of life from his filming, on location worldwide of his tv show, No Reservations. It's not riveting fiction reading, but it's engaging in its collection of real-life travel experiences, ones that no tourist ever really gets to have. He also has an opinion on everything {I can relate} and he doesn't hold back on those opinions {noted}).
Just musing about this on a relaxing Saturday, after also reading a funny quote from Bridget Jones' Diary (circa 1996. If it was being written now, would it be "Bridget Jones' Blog"?) about how guilt-ridden she feels when she doesn't partake of London's myriad of 'cultural' experiences (aka tourist attractions), but instead, spends her time, in bars, 'enjoying herself". Can't say I blame you Bridge. Spending time with friends, away from the multitudes of slow-moving (and slower-witted) crowds, screaming kids, miserable families is nothing to be ashamed of.  Run. Just run.

I feel no guilt about doing exactly what I want to do with my weekends.
Neither should you.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Not just another Fall weekend

I started a blog entry, messaged with my friend H., and really got going in my reply. Inspired, so to speak...

I have had an excessively lazy morning. I love it. Even though I was awakened by road work at 8:30am (For the love of Chr*st who starts ROAD WORK on a SUNDAY? The City of Toronto. That's who!)

I ran (ran/walked) 8k yesterday. I was ecstatic, even though I had to be very careful. But I did it in an hour, which made me even happier. And I enjoyed it--I ran down to the lake, where there was a kite-flying competition going on, and I just felt that perfect "at one" feeling that you sometimes get. So...yea. My eye is improving, my head is still precarious at times, and it's not nosy to ask about it. It's just a frustrating, odd condition, because 'really', "nothing" is wrong--some artery went a little crazy, and now it needs to be babied and watched and kind of pampered. It's a very diva-like artery.
I've missed running too, even though it hasn't been completely off the radar. However, in order to miss something, you must go away from it, and that's what we've done. And then, after you miss something, you often have a greater love for I right? That's where we're headed. Renewal. I'm sure of it.

This gorgeous, breezy fall weekend has been a good reminder of how searinlgy OVER hot our summer was, and how unenjoyable it made the outdoors. This weather is my favourite too, and as soon as I get out of these pajamas  I am putting the running gear back on and heading out. Nothing crazy, just me, some new songs, and no expectations.
It's a better place than I've been in July and August. 

I had dinner at my place last night with my sister and her kids. We had a great time, it was the first time I'd seen the kids since Maine. They talked about their Maine memories with shining eyes and lots of gestures. I assured them their boogie boards and oversized, American sand-toys (buckets, spades and a larger sand shovel with a pointy end and long handle) were being safely stowed at Mike's place. My nephew: "So they'll be there waiting for us next year!"  My niece concurred.
We talked about school. They played a shopping game.  We listened to music and danced.
I went home with my sister and the kids to her place, to help with bedtime. My nephew was riled up and my sensitive niece was clinging to me, upset by the discord her little brother was imposing on the evening. My sister put my nephew to bed and stayed with him in his room for a bit, talking to him quietly. I made sure my niece brushed her teeth and then we picked out a book to read in her room, from the over-stuffed bookshelves.

The Giving Tree.  Shel Silverstein.  A bright green cover, line drawings on the inside, sparse prose, and then, halfway through the book, when the boy grows up and moves away from the tree, me, in tears, upset at the turn the book has taken (did I buy this for them? Did I read it first? Have I ever read it? I don't remember the answer to any of these questions.)  I hid my tears, choked through a couple more pages, and then had my niece fill in some of the reading while I collected myself. My sister came in at this point to arrange things with the night-light, technical bed-time stuff that only she is privy too. She saw me crying. 
"What's wrong!?" she said, looking at me, surprised.
Me, trying to be composed, pointing at the book. 
"This is a really upsetting book!".
A look of weary knowing.
"Oh, I know," said my sister. Then she left the room. We finished reading.
After, I turned out the lights and my niece wanted to talk. The kinds of talks you can only have late at night with an auntie, where you ask burning questions about something that has obviously been on your mind for a while. Questions about your Papa. (Papa is what my niece and nephew called my father).
She starts with a lead-in she's used before.
"What happened to Papa?"
I answer, same answer as before.
"He got very sick, and then he died."
Her face, serious in the dark, the night-light reflecting the furious thinking going on.
"I think about Papa alot. I miss Papa. Why did he get sick?"
"He had cancer, remember?"
Solemn nod.
"Why did he have cancer?"
"He did something called smoking, which can sometimes cause cancer. You know, like when people smoke cigarettes?"
Another nod.
"I've seen people smoking. Mommy doesn't like it".
"Auntie doesn't like it either, it's really something you should never do." (I couldn't resist adding that in. And really, my dad's cancer could have been caused by a multitude of things. I was simplifying. Forgive me).
"Papa had a lump on his throat."
"Yes, that's called a tumour. It was part of the cancer."
Her next question was one that she's asked before.
"Is that going to happen to me?"
There is only one swift answer for this one.
"No. You're going to live a long, healthy, beautiful life."
Quiet pause.
"How did you know that Papa was dead?"
"I saw him. He didn't breathe anymore, and he didn't feel pain anymore. He went to a nice, safe place."
"Are you sure he's not still in that room, lying in that bed?" (this broke my heart. She worried about this. It was something she'd been thinking about. I thought about how his illness and suffering must have scared her. It scared me, and I have thirty-two years on her).
"He's not in that room anymore, sweetie. He went to heaven."
"What's heaven like?"
"No one really truly knows. It's a mystery. Do you know what a mystery is?"
"Yup. It's when you have to find out something you don't know, and you use clues."
(inwardly I love how simply she answered this. The definition of a childhood mystery; something external, a puzzle, a secret that needs unfolding.)
"Yes! You look for clues. I look for clues about Papa all the time."
My niece, my little poet, brightened at this.
"What kind of clues?"
"Like when I hear a song that Papa liked, or see a cartoon that Papa would have laughed at. When I pray to Papa."
"I pray to Papa too, at school" (ah the Catholic system).
"That's nice. Papa will love that. Papa will also love it if you get a good night sleep, okay?"

This conversation wrung me out, especially after the very emotional week I've had. Oddly, a bad 'grief' week, where the stress of my job, combined with my obsessive love of reading depressing books, had created the perfect storm for me to wallow for hours at a time, at home, alone in the evenings, tears freely falling.  But I was still glad to have the conversation. This isn't the whole thing obviously. I've done some paraphrasing. And my niece also mentioned another family member who had died only a few months before my father, an uncle of my brother-in-law, and she needed to know things about him, too. I filled her in as best I could.

I guess this conversation with my niece was a good reminder for me. I'm the adult, I can answer things as best I can, but I don't really have all the answers. I can put on a good front and then we can both retreat into our own minds, to turn the answers over and over again like a rubik's cube, the answer sometimes raising more questions.

Serious for a Sunday morning, I know. It's the autumn equinox, and my friend L. says that this is the time to write down your dreams, your goals and aspirations. I guess this is my way of writing them down. Truthfully, I haven't been doing much 'real' writing lately. I haven't even gone down the laundry list of my trip to Maine, my time in Conneticut, the death of Mike's beloved grandmother,
the feelings that the funeral stirred up in me. The new church, my three wishes. I remind myself there is time for all this writing--I don't have to do it all at once.

Enjoy Sunday...enjoy Fall. Our last respite from the winter coming our way, in this part of the world. The weather predictions for this fall are for a large amount of rainfall and mediate temperatures.
I look forward to it all.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Love is a Mix Tape


This is probably obvious, but I'm back to reading alot lately.

Part of this is because I have a new crop of books to read, from the Bull Moose store near Mike's place, selling all matter of pre-owned books (I call it Bull Moose, and Mike corrects me every time: it's Bull MOOSE he says. I can't get the hang of it. So goes many of our Canadian vs. American pronunciation conversations).  After the Diving Bell book, which so thoroughly chagrined me in forcing me to admit I take this life and all the things in it scathingly for granted most times, I dove directly into this "Love is a Mix Tape" book.  I finished it this morning, after staying up way too late the last two nights, to keep reading.
 It's a quirky, laid-bare type of read in that it doesn't spare you--the writer's pain at the loss of his wife, early in their young marriage, is as raw as it gets. That it takes place with a backdrop of music--a series (read: shoeboxes full and fuller) of mix-tapes, those love-letters of yesterday, before their were MP3's, Ipods, and CD's (the author, rightfully so, does allow that mixed CD's are permissible, too, once they arrived. But he does make a good point--part of the romance of the mix-tape is it's flawed glory. Taping something off of the radio, or off another tape, is an inexact science. Or maybe just a lost art.)

The book is about music, but it's also a tribute to the decade that was the nineties, a precarious decade for me, it being the first of my adult life. It's the decade of all those big life experiences, the ones that end your adolescence and find you out of high school, maybe in some type of post-secondary education, or landing your first "real" job (but I argue, truly, this: All jobs are real. Some are just realer than others). And for me, and for the writer, at least partially, the nineties were that decade. Remember; there was no internet yet (or if there was, it was a bare whisper of what it's grown into). Nobody had a cell phone glued to their ear, or their palm, texting furiously about something that is really nothing.

We (the collective, North American 'we') were in the grips of a long, wintry recession. No, really, we were, remember? Graduating from high school, college, or university, in this decade was tough going. I know that it's tough now, too. But back then: Generation Xers were doomed to accept positions as Starbucks baristas, and be grateful to have that. It was scary, and there was no 'new world' of shiny blogging, photographs on Instagram, an Iphone to let you record your doubt and misery.
You just had to face it head-on.

So the book is about music, and the nineties as a decade, and it's about Sheffield's marriage and early-widow-hood, and the grief of that. Mix-tape labels headline each chapter, and as a musical couple, (they were both radio DJ's at one point, and Sheffield writes, now, for Rolling Stone) their tastes were broad, varied, and decidedly un-snobbish. There is great rock-n-roll, there is of course all matter of grunge, but there is also guilty-pleasure pop, one-hit wonder bands, and classic country (I knew none of those references). The last third of the book is Sheffield's unprepared grief at losing his wife. It's almost unbearable, but the one thing he still manages to do is listen to music. It is, really, the only thing he can do, for a period of almost two years. It's great writing. He can even inject humour into some of the saddest situations, and I did find myself, several times, laughing aloud, even as I turned the page and found myself crying at his next turn-of-phrase.

I think this was my favourite line in the book, and it summed it up for me, and mabye for the writer as well, on how individual our beliefs are about death, and what happens when it happens, which of course, we don't know. It might be tailored to each person, but I love what he says here:

"....and sometimes I think, man, all the people I get to hear this song with, we're going to miss each other when we die.  When we die, we will turn into songs, and we will hear each other and remember each other."

I want this idea. I love this idea. I leave you with this idea, and your own idea, you know, we all have one, as much as some of us may profess to 'not believing in all that stuff'
You believe. Even your non-belief proves this.

Happy Saturday...

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

I finished reading this beautiful book last night. It was written by Jean-Dominique Bauby, who was a victim of 'locked-in' syndrome after suffering a catastrophic stroke at the age of forty-four.
I picked up this book after it was mentioned in "Blue Nights" by Joan Didion--her daughter had read it. As I comb the internet in search of information on Mr. Bauby, who is, sadly, deceased, I found out there was a movie made of his memoir (I am so glad I got my hands on the book first, and I won't need to see the movie--the book itself is so vividly visual and full of imagery--a movie is not necessary).

I was sad reading the book--not pitiful sad, but spirit-sad. Soul-sad. That anyone, anywhere, is ordained to suffer this much physically. That anyone, anywhere, (and there are thousands upon thousands, all over this world of ours, suffering in any myriad of ways, at any given time, it's a thought that alights on me, unbidden, alot) continues to suffer, to endure, to struggle, through this life in stark comparison to those of us blithely, simply, living it. Through all our earthly little problems, what we, the healthy and lucky, perceive as 'difficulties', we don't, for the most part, have any fucking clue what real hardship is.

I can't say enough about this book--it begs to be read and to be faced up to. It invites the reader into some harrowing places. The body as prison. The syndrome as enemy.

Despite how removed Mr. Bauby's ultimately cut-off life was from my own, I found myself empathizing with him, with his dread of Sunday (a quiet day at the hospital where no one was around), his frustrations with but ultimate trust of his hospital caregivers. His joy at smelling the aroma of french fries when taken outside. The patience and sheer tenacity it would have taken to dictate a book to someone one letter at a time. His love of receiving written correspondence. All of this is a reminder to me of just how good we've got it. And how little precious time we spend wallowing in that very goodness.

It forced me to re-evaluate my whining about my own (hideously minor in comparison) health difficulties over these last four months. I've struggled to accept the limitations imposed upon me. No, really--accepting them has been near impossible. I even managed to accrue setbacks after refusing to heed medical advice. I had to, as I do with everything in my life, learn the hard way, treating my own heartbeat as a sometimes-nuisance, letting every little thing monumentalize itself in my head.

My friend L. and I have vowed to, remotely, since we live in different cities, start scribing a nightly gratitude journal so we don't lose sight of the beauty in this world as it whips by us at lightning speed.
I know that this book will be among some of the items I list tonight....

"I receive remarkable letters. They are opened for me... a hushed and holy ceremony. Some of them are serious in tone, discussing the meaning of life, invoking the supremacy of the soul, the mystery of every existence....Other letters simply relate the small events that mark the passage of time:  roses picked at dusk, the laziness of a rainy Sunday....these small gusts of happiness move me more deeply than all the rest. I hoard all these letters like treasure.  One day I hope to fasten them end to end in a half-mile streamer, to float in the wind like a banner raised to the glory of friendship. 
 It will keep the vultures at bay."
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, Jean-Dominique Bauby, (c) 1997  pgs 83-84

Monday, September 17, 2012

September Weekend


It's starting to become a sort-of tradition.
We celebrate my friend T.'s and my birthdays in August, when they actually are, then her husband sends us (along with two friends!) to Niagara for a girls' weekend.
It's phenomenal.
The was perfect. Breezy, warm, sunny.
The traffic, well, let's not talk about it. I believe it is the reason I came back completely wiped out, since, out of the four of us, I was the "fallen soldier" who went to bed at midnight and did not accompany my friends out to the Niagara nightlife (re: casino and more drinks).
I was so tired I didn't even hear them come back in around 2am.
Next day: Wine country. Fantastic. Weather, again, beyond perfect.
Tastings, lunch on a quiet patio, a view of Lake Ontario in the distance.

Driving home. More traffic. Some tar substance falling on my car from an overpass (very random--we thought at first it was a bird.. but no--they were re paving the road above and it dropped down--and splattered--all over my car).
To the car wash, then to my mom's for dinner, which turned into an overnight since I had all my stuff with me, and I was zonked, and her couch is so comfortable.  I missed my mom alot when I was away (I missed everyone!) and it was nice to see her for our third dinner together in under a week.
I was asleep, as in fast asleep, by 9:30pm. Not sure what is wrong with me.
Maybe the impending "Monday" made me want to tune out the world.
So the image shown here was taken by my friend with her blackberry. Those bags beside me on the hotel couch are from outlet shopping (another weekend perk!).  I am sipping wine from a tumbler, and am getting ready to call it a night while the three of them got ready to begin it.
Ah well. I got some great sleep this weekend, saw great friends, and enjoyed the countryside.
And my's still looking good.

Saturday, September 15, 2012


Yea, that's him, in a crazy photo his sister 'posed' him in.
He looks funny to me without his glasses.
I love that he is carrying a whole bunch of essentials.
I assume this must be (one of) the night(s) he lost his wedding ring.
Ah well, all is good.
He found it.
He's dextrous (it's hard to carry all that!).

I just saw him...last week as a matter of fact.

It doesn't dull the pain of being away, but it assauges it slightly.
Ever so slightly.
I trek through the immigration paperwork, tell myself "I can do this" (my personal mantra, yea, you'll be hearing it aLot).

And I can.
I will.
I bring you all his unstudied, unsung glory.
I love you.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Things I miss

I begin this little post for a rainy-Friday with a nod to Elan Morgan and her lovely blog Schmutzie--a fellow Canadian, an all-round balanced person it appears, and just great with words. That's what I love the most.
So, when she ended this blog post with a "what do you miss?" I had to jump in. I miss lots of things, one of them lately being bolts-out-of-the-blue inspiration for this blog, and I wanted to get back to being list-worthy because yes: I still love lists.
I'll begin in a minute. First, I recap this First Week Back to Work.
Coffee played a huge part in this Week Back to Work (and to be clear it really wasn't a week, I was off Monday to a) recover from the drive and b) to run errands like a madwoman. I just can't get it all done. Arrrghhh....
So coffee. I had morning job-site meetings every day this week except Tuesday. And every morning I had a meeting I managed to sneak in coffee--not that I don't drink coffee every morning anyway--I do, just not the take-out kind. I'm frugal about this. About coffee, and about lunch. I make my coffee every morning at home with the French-press, I mix it with milk, I put it in my glass travel cup (my mother taught me: coffee tastes better in glass, it's a French thing, she's right, it does). I drink it in the car while listening to either the radio or my plugged-in ipod in the car. It gets me through the commute. The dumb-assery (as I've taken to calling it) of the other drivers. The traffic. The news I hear. All of it. It trumps my destination.
Morning meetings mean a break-up of routine (always welcome. I'm becoming better at embracing this kind of thing). I go to the meeting, I meet with people. We exchange Ideas, Solutions. We talk respectfully. The meeting ends, we go on with our day. I get a coffee. Sometimes from Starbucks. Sometimes Tim Horton's. Whatever is near by. If there is a coffee place near where I'm parked, great. If not--I find one. That's gotten me through the week.

It rained all day through my office window today and I loved it. I loved knowing my muddy car was being cleaned with no effort on my part, I loved knowing I had brought  my salad-lunch and didn't have to leave the office to get food in my sandals (I never leave the office to get food. Most days, in our two-storey building I don't even get downstairs). I ate my spinach-and-blue cheese and stared out the window. I finished a proposal. I took calls. I did it all still in my post-vacation haze. It was wonderful I will admit. Then home to Friday Night, the best night of the week (after Saturday). And I was in the mood for what I had planned--a nothing night, a Carolyn night, nail-painting, reading, organizing. Virgo stuff.

Here goes my list. (typo I just wrote "here goes my life". Odd)..
I have no idea how long it will be. I'm spreading this post out tonight so it may take a while. I may even do a second instalment. I miss alot of things...

1. My dad. His voice especially. I had no idea how much I would miss his voice. Getting silly mail from him. Far Side cartoons with smiley-faces drawn on the back of them. They are all over my fridge. I need a new fridge and I know I can't buy stainless because it's not magnetic. This is weird, I know. I love my fridge collage.

{It's hard to follow up the first one because it's a serious one, and obviously nothing on this list will really touch it, and some things will seem stupid in comparison. But I'm here, list-making. Randomly. For myself, for no one else. Just like running. For me}.

2. Speaking of which, I miss running without the fear of what it will do to my head, which is unpredictable and easily spooked, so it seems. In Mike's family, he has two relatives with migraine/head issues. This interested me.

3. Friends. Without kids. I really really miss that. Coffee, spontaneously. Plans that didn't have to made weeks in advance. I love them all, kids included, I just miss that 'let's do THIS!' we used to have. Maybe I just miss my twenties. Except that I don't. I would not go back to that decade if you paid me.

4. My Bathurst apartment. Just in a nostalgic way. The New Yorker of the nineties arriving in my mailbox every week. Reading in the dining room with the window open late at night after waitressing, the air from outside blowing in. My huge bedroom. The quiet mornings (as compared to downtown Toronto where I wake up every single day to the sound of a truck reversing. I dream of that beeping...)

5. Waitressing. Well, wait a minute, not COMPLETELY. I miss the good people I met when I was serving. The fun, interesting people, many of whom I am lucky enough to still count as dear friends today. And others who round out the edges. I don't miss the corporate slant that the restaurant I used to work for took on, I don't miss the people I met who were complete phonies, but I miss having drinks and a cheap steak on a Friday night after working fourteen hours straight. It felt so earned.

6. The Pre-September 11th, 2001 world. I know it wasn't perfect. But it was closer than it is now.

7. No internet. Time sucking, mind wasting. And yet here I am. Wasting my time with the best (and the worst) of it all.

8. Unlike other lists I've mulled over, I don't really miss 'my youth'. I mean, I still retain portions of it (memories, sense of humour, wisdom gained {I think}) but I don't feel the need to relive it. I think it's because I lived the hell out of it at the time. And I was born half-adult so I didn't have a childhood in the true sense of the word. But that's for another post.

9. My childhood home. In the true fashion of an interior designer I miss places. How weird is that? It was a townhouse in a borough of Toronto, red carpets on the main floor, a sunken entryway, an above-ground basement, a little square of backyard, front cement steps (six of them, I think), a small maple tree, a garage, a furnace room (great for hiding and playing in), no air conditioning, and we had a piano. Life was good. I still dream about that house. I think I read somewhere you will always dream about your first home. Or maybe that's just me.

10. My dog Shadow. This list is not in order. I miss how happy she made our family. All she did was love each and every one of us, and I think she made us love each other more too.

That's where I'm at right now. I'm sure I'll think of more as the days wear on...
I'm watching the darkening sky after a long walk and some sushi. There is a Californian Chardonnay nearby, not to worry.

I have to pack.
Girls weekend leaves tomorrow morning!