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!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Save it for Later

That's the title of the song playing on my ipod as I write this (I've got my 80s "Nowhere Girl" playlist on right now).
I was thinking of a comment I wrote on my friend (blog-friend whom I have yet to meet but whom I am certain is a slam-dunk kind of person in the best possible way) Julia's blog. About the relationships we have with people who are no longer with us.
How they transmute.

My friend A. first distilled this idea for me (before my father died).

And it's very true really. I often think of something I need to tell my father, something funny or something political, or something that is both, or something scarily political (which is, in my humble opinion, backed by alarming stuff I've been reading through on the twitter-verse, very worrisome). 
And then I do tell him. The stuff about a Mormon running for President of the United States (he would lose his mind. After trying to be rational about it).  About the Mitt Romney-Ashley Madison billboard I also glimpsed on Twitter (he would have loved that). It would be right about now that my father, if he was still here, would be sitting me down for a serious talk about this neighbour country of ours, south of the border, and whether or not I really want to live there, even if it is to be with the love of my life (I do. I will. I already said it in January and I affirm again, a thousand times over).
How would I respond to that question? I'm guessing I would be my father's daughter, something that I wasn't always during his woefully cut-short life.
"Dad", I would say. "How can I possibly infiltrate the real state of American politics unless I live there? I mean really! I will have a much better chance of understanding it all, including this bullsh*t moral climate they're rustling up, if I'm acutally there."
This may or may not have worked to convince him. I guess, in part, this conversation is also to help me. Because I do observe the machinations of this impending (not upcoming. That implies positives. Impending, to me, signals doom) election. It worries me, as I mentioned yesterday.

I don't have all the answers for all of those burning questions.
I have my own answer as to how your relationship with a person changes after death.
You still look for them everywhere, as if, in some part of your mind and heart, they are not dead (and in those parts, they really aren't).  You still yearn to tell them things, even if they are mindless things, things about the state of Roadwork in the City of Toronto (clue: Hell on Earth).
You dream about them. They visit in dreams when they are most needed, sometimes you don't even realize the need it's so visceral.  You project a present and a future with them in it. Somewhere, in my mind's eye, though no such item exists, there is a photo of me in my wedding dress with my father standing proudly beside me.

My friend Julia were having a discussion about how there is no way to actually know how you will feel about someone in your life leaving it for good until it actually happens. This is a fact.
But there are clues. I guess all I'm saying here (I'm wading in, I'm doing the practice, thanks for bearing with me) is that you shouldn't save it for later.
Say what you have to say, do what you have to do.
When you can.
Okay, now.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012


Life is full of tests.
And I'm usually a pretty good test-taker. After all, I'm a Virgo. Perfectionism is in my astrological blood.
I'm reflecting on my two-and-a-half week vacation, one that saw me blaze through two provinces (okay, one of them is my own) and six states (at first I counted it up wrong and wondered which one I left out: oh yes, Maine).
I got back, after thousands of kilometres in the car, after logging so much of my precious vacation time driving, and I felt, (I'm just gonna say it) completely deflated. Exhausted. Like I had had zero
'me' time (even though I wanted to visit with my husband more than anything, and hanging with my friend L. and my niece and nephew is as close to heaven as it gets).
But I didn't get to sit on the beach and just be. I didn't get to leisurely stare out at the ocean.  I didn't get to collect my thoughts the way I normally do, which saddens me, and reminds me why I haven't really written (no time).
So, I'm back at work, I've now put down two insane days (it's like I never went anywhere. It's kind of comical). Main difference is I've got the experience of the vacation behind  me, even if it didn't go exactly as I planned it (what, in life, EVER does?).  I'm putting it down at work like nobody's business because I do have that rest, however truncated, behind me. My neck is stiff (seriously cannot check the blindspot, either side, while I'm driving, luckily it's Toronto, no one does) from sleeping back in my own bed. I met with my lawyer re; immigration paperwork and he's confident I can 'do this myself' (really? I'm not so sure, but I am a paperwork wizard. They just want so much back up and I can barely keep my receipts together when I'm crossing the border).

In between meetings, and driving, and phone calls, I'm trying to keep it all together with this constant mantra to myself, "You can do this". I did this through-out the drive (part one) home dipping down through New Hampshire, then up into Vermont, while listening to weather reports that told me there was a tornado watch (this was Saturday) in effect until 8 pm that night. I vaguely thought, where, for the whole damn state? This worried me enormously. The sky darkened. I drove with determination, trying to make up the ground I was going to lose due to what was looking like  a serious storm.
I stopped seeing birds flying, a sure sign that the clouds were about to unleash. Then, those first few big, fat raindrops. The sky feeling like it was only about two feet above the roof of my car.
Then a thousand big fat raindrops, melding together to form what I describe, what I've heard described as "sheets" of rain. Burlington, Vermont exits. I took one without hesitation, pulled into a gas station, sat there in my car eating a sandwich that Mike had packed for me from our dinner the night before, and read my map. The good news was it was not yet 5 pm and I was less than forty minutes from the Canadian border. This rain couldn't last forever. And it didn't.

It subsided, I got back on the highway heading north, and by 5:45pm, I was back in Canada, Quebec to be exact, on my way to the city of Montreal to meet my cousin for dinner and stay with her in a hotel overnight, allowing me to split my drive right in half and to visit with her for the night.

I will admit--I have not been to the city of Montreal in over ten years, except to drive through it last year on my drive home (while cursing the traffic and affirming my hatred of the city).
Well, Montreal didn't exactly redeem itself (I'm a confirmed Anglophone, and their recent provincial election, blamed on 'the polls' cements this for me, despite my French-Canadian roots, I don't even speak the language), we did get some beautiful cloudy, windy, residual weather in the city that night. We did have a delicious dinner (I had wine too) and my cousin snapped this stunning pic from our hotel room on the twentieth floor.

So, the skies in Toronto continue to change too, the light is falling on a slant in the evenings that signals "fall" to me, and I'm loving the cool, breezy weather that marks a welcome change from the summer of hell-hot temperatures that I had grown to hate the way only a city dweller can.
This post is all over the place, but it's okay, I'm out of practice as Natalie Goldberg would say.
I'm reading "A Drinking Life" by Pete Hamill and loving it. It's all about Hamill's boyhood in Brooklyn and how he watched his Irish-American father go deeper and deeper into the grips of alcoholism, and then his own adult life and his subsequent 'drinking life'. I'm about a third of the way through. I bought "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly" while in Maine too, at a used bookstore I've grown to haunt, and it awaits.
I'm not eating lobster everyday like I did in Maine, instead I'm making my standard chicken dinners and eating arugula and saltines every day at lunch. I go to bed at eleven pm after watching news on tv and shaking my head. The pending election in the U.S. The unrest all over the world. Canadian government decisions that send warning signals to me about the future of this crazy planet that seems so bent on destroying itself.  I wait to see my neurologist again to get some kind of clue on my condition. I employ my acupuncturist and thankfully that seems to be the only thing that is really working. Like, really working. And I talk to Mike every day, mostly more than once a day, and I thank God for him every day, too. And I work. Work and work.
And another fall rolls around and I marvel again, at the swiftness of time passing.


Sunday, September 9, 2012

Signs of (after) Life

I'm home. From Maine. From Conneticut. From my drive to both of those states. Through New York state on the drive in. Through Mass. Through New Hampshire. Back through NH and Mass to Conneticut. And then, back again.
Mike lost his grandmother, a woman who lived a long and well-lived life, from what I could see, as a bit of an outsider looking in on his amazing family ties, with their tolerance of each others intrinsic differences, with their particular brand of unconditional love towards each other. I met cousins. Second cousins. Third cousins. Fourth cousins. I visited his grandmother in the hospital on the last two days of her life. I visited her brother in another hospital and watched him recover (prayers were said. Mike's great uncle reminds me of my own late grandfather. A war man. A scion. A breed of understated masculinity that we don't get many glimpses of today in this revolving-door world). I met a second (third?) cousin of Mike's who had just had major surgery. I met another cousin (in law?) who suffers from cluster headaches. His wife and I had a long discussion about this topic.

I took the news to Mike that his grandmother had passed Wednesday morning.
I attended the funeral Friday morning, after a hurried shopping trip on Thursday for Mike and I to purchase funeral attire. I came dressed for beach. So did he. We just didn't think. But, then, you never do, do you?

We woke up super-early Friday morning, after spending a late evening working on Mike's writing piece that he was to read at his grandmother's funeral mass. We drove through the hills of Conneticut in deep fog. We had Starbucks. I straightened his tie.

The funeral home. The open casket. The feeling I alwasy have at events like this: that I've been lifted out of my daily life.
The funeral mass. The new church. My realization, as I sat with Mike's family. my in-laws, that I had never in my life been in a church outside of Canada. Mike's mom reminding me I get three wishes, since I had entered a new church. I didn't know about this--I made three wishes. Three slient, secret, selfish ones. Selfish for me and Mike, for our marriage. All for us.

Mike was a pallbearer with his cousins on this 80-plus farenheit day. They lifted the casket, six of them, from the funeral home to the hearse. From the hearse into the church. From the church into the hearse again. To the cemetary.
I looked for signs. I hadn't seen any yet. Or, if I had, I'd filed them away. Songs on the Conneticut radio that played twice (old song, "She Talks to Angels". They never play that. Anywhere).  I parked with Mike at the cemetary and looked around after he and his cousins had laid the casket down.
The crowd was dispersing. We slipped a prayer card from my dad's service into the casket. His sister and I took some flowers from the grave, the beautiful arrangements of champagne roses, white gerbera daisies.
Mike's dad found a grave-bench to rest on. The sun was beating down, it was noon.

Our sign came then.

Near the bench grave was a new grave, as yet un-stoned. Just a marker and a small plant of yellow flowers held the place of the person buried beneath. It was for a baby, who'd lived only four days. August 22nd, 2012, to August 26th, 2012.

A baby named Keegan.

My tears welled up.
I laid down the white gerbera daisy I had been holding on the baby's brand-new grave.

Sunday, September 2, 2012


I haven't written.
I left for my Maine vacation on August 23rd and I haven't really been 'online' so to speak.
It's felt great.
Here it is, a rainy cool morning (last week seemed to be it for summer here in Maine) and now that my guests have all departed (I'm sad) it's just me in the early morning while Mike sleeps after working late into last night.

What can I say? I'm still having running issues, my eye is still irritated, and I await (impatiently, impossibly) the next test results.
Not being able to run everyday while I'm here has been really hard.
Knowing that the half-marathon in October is not going to be something my health is going to allow me to do is devestating.

So I reach for perspective in these situations. I'm learning to (kind of) enjoy walking.
I'm putting some real effort into "just being". It's hard, but I'm doing it.

The trip has been amazing thus far.
Seeing the unmitigated joy on the faces of my niece and nephew as they rode the waves in the ocean on their little boogie boards was a gift I will treasure always.
Having company on the drive over was amazing too.
Seeing my friend L. for the first time in two years was also a gift.

The time itself is just that too.

So...that's really it.
I'll be in touch, soon-ish.