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.