Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

Couldn't resist the little teaser title, those old spaghetti-westerns that my dad used to watch on
Great Movies on City TV on Saturday afternoons.
It's the yearly round up, everyone's doing it, why can't I?

It's past noon here on this last day of 2013, and I'm still in pajamas. My boss gave me the half-day off, I cancelled on the client I was supposed to meet, and I'm drinking coffee and Mike is here, puttering about in the background. Pink Floyd is playing in the background.
List format is all I can manage today. As I said, Mike is here and we've had a couple of later nights.

The Good
Well, we know what number one is here.
1.  Work. The departure of not one, but two key people at my office. How did I feel that April day?
Well, it was like my birthday, Christmas, and wedding day all tied into one with a beautiful bow.
After the Ugly portion of work (November, 2012 to the day before this day in April), the Good part was even sweeter.
2.  Vacations. Namely Key West, where I want my ashes sprinkled when I die. Yes, it was that good. Weather perfection in the middle of dreary January, Mike, the long drive to get there, Florida in general, the birds, the foliage, the water, the colours, the 4am closing time. I can't wait to get back.
3.  Summer vacation in Maine is pretty damn good too, and when I think about the years and years of no-vacation-taking I look back and want to cry for my poor, strapped, twenty-something-self, and early-thirty-something-self. Vacations, like sport, are the toy department of life (I read that on twitter, that's another Good thing--great quotes, more about that in a minute).  Weather in Maine in August was a big improvement over the July, which was rainy and grey. August meant vacation with my sister and her kids, my husband working away, and our friend L. joining us from New York City.  A full house, lots of laughs, wine, nail-painting and the grand finale; watching Miley Cyrus remind us how damn old we really are at the VMA's.  Oh, and I turned forty. And I love it.
4.  Forty. A new decade, a new viewpoint, the previous thirty-nine years research for this one (another great quote).  I feel stronger, I feel older (in a good way).  And I feel grateful.
5.  Running. Mastering it once again. Having it re-master me. Falling back in love with it, slowly, one (sometimes painful) step at a time.  It's been a rainy year and it was an early winter so that's been great for this cold-weather runner. Cross-training of roller-blading in the summer was great, as was spinning in the winter.
6.  Reading. Ebooks. Wow. Just burning through books faster than I thought I could. I read way more this year than I have in the previous three or four years, the only downside being that once I return the ebook to the library it's easy to forget how many titles I've read. I vow to start tracking that this year. I really want to count how many I read in a year. But read some great books this year.
7.  Mike. Of course. He's really the top of the list, but I'm just randomly writing, so forgive me.
After the holiday rush is all over I still get one nice last little day--our anniversary, this year, our second, and it's a nice thing to look forward first thing in the new year.

I could go on and on about my family and friends (my niece and her progress at art lessons, my nephews wonderful prayers before meals, first communions), but I'll just say this, I'm not going to make any Bad or Ugly listings.
Were there tough times this year? Yes, like every year. Mike not being here all fall has been very hard. The back-and-forth short visits to Maine are fun, but also very hard. One day I'm in rural New England happily watching football then the next I'm back in the cold hard reality of my city life and my long-distance marriage.
And work, while good, has been almost all-consuming.
This blog has been sorely neglected, and I've very much missed writing. But after long weeks of work I'm simply too tired.
The weekends go by with frightening speed, running, the market, church, and spending time with family takes up most of the two little days.

So Happy New Year, 2014 is hurtling toward us, this revolving door planet somehow keeps on spinning, and we right along with it.

Enjoy the ride.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Book List

It's harder to do the book list this year as I've been e-reading library books and they leave in a puff of smoke once I'm done reading them.
Meaning...I do a good job of falling headfirst into them while I have them, but they leave behind no physical trace. They are vapour.

I'm trying to remember some of my most memorable this year, and some of them have been mentioned in this blog, but here goes.... (random order).

PS: I've been working on this post for two weeks. It's hard on the iPad. Also, I keep thinking of more books...

1.  "Where'd You Go, Bernadette?"  Maria Semple.  Easily one of my favourites this year. Done in email/letter format, a format I normally don't care for (it has to be masterful--this one is). I can't tell you too much without giving it away, but it started as a New Yorker piece and wove on from there.

2.  "Rules of Civility" Amor Towles. Just read this. It's unforgettable. New York in the thirties. The female protagonist is brilliant.  One thing from the book has stayed with me since I read it. She quotes her father on his theory of life. "When you get up in the morning, do you want that cup of coffee?" That's it.  I find, pretty much every morning, I want that coffee. I think it's an amazing way to look at life.

3.  "Gone, Girl" Gillian Flynn. A tale. Woven. Threaded. Webbed.

4.  "Horns" Joe Hill.  Stephen King's son. Need I say more?

5.  "The Twelve Tribes of Hattie" by Ayana Mathis (one of New York Times Notable book of the year).  Oprah's bookclub. Intriguing.

6.  "The Dinner" Herman Koch (also a NY Times notable). Didn't live up to the hype for me, but I got through it.

7.  "We Need to Talk About Kevin" Lionel Shriver. Closely related in topic to The Dinner but a superior book in my opinion.

8.  "Tiny Beautiful Things" Cheryl Strayed.  The collected advice columns of the Rumpus' "Dear Sugar"

9.  "I Love You But I'm Leaving You Anyway" Tracy McMillan. Could not put this one down. Part memoir the one line that stayed with me as she described herself as a child "I was Pippi Longstocking without the monkey."

10..  "A House in the Sky" Amanda Lindhout. Memoir of captivity at the hands of Somali terrorists. Tough to read.

11.  "Save Yourself" Kelly Braffet. Stephen King's daughter-in-law. A serious talent.

12.  "The White Album" Joan Didion.  Collected essays. Cultural review. Sparsely styled, one of the hallmarks of Didion. Loved it.

13. "Seven American Deaths and Disasters" Kenneth Goldsmith. Amazing read, especially the chapter on the shooting of John Lennon.

14. "The Long Good-bye" Meghan O'Rourke.  Memoir. A parent's death from cancer. Tough for me to read, but very memorable writing.

15.  "Saturday Night and Sunday Morning" Allan Stillitoe.  Working class England, spare style here, too, and incredible dialogue.

16.  "Born to Run" Christopher McDougall.  About ultra-running. Amazing.

 I'll stop here and I will create a follow-up soon--just thinking of more titles.
Enjoy! Every book on this list is eminently read-able and will stay with you.

Sunday, December 15, 2013


Ok I love this. 
A new list, sent to me by my friend and fellow runner, H. 

The list, the 'JFR' favours the mantra approach (that's what I do when I do hills. A mantra.
"With intention" is my favourite, with a bit of "You got this" thrown in there.) 

I haven't had my December running be this committed and this good in years,
and I know that part of it is because Mike is not here this winter (family illness in Maine) and  I've been running as  therapy as I am prone to do, to beat down the loneliness and keep that hermit in me at bay. 

Also, where would I be without the Fitness Challenge, posed to me by my friend G. all the way from NC?  Getting up on those freezing weekend mornings (because, let's face it, this has been a hellishly cold end of the autumn) I feel like I don't want to let anyone down so I really do talk myself out of bed early, and get on out there, freezing cold or not.  

So don't wait til the new year. Do it now. 

And don't forget:


Sunday, November 17, 2013

Divine Timing

It's been a while.
What can I tell you?
The usual. (the "uss" as they say now, shortening every word down to the barest syllable. I don't know how it's supposed to be spelled).

What do I do when I'm not here on this blog? Same thing the rest of you do.
Grocery shop.
Attempt to keep my apartment clean, a process that continually frustrates me with its need to repeat, repeat, repeat, endlessly.
Make meals. Eat them standing up, a terrible habit (I read a post on Apartment Therapy, a decor/design website I love, one of the few, about eating and preparing meals alone, for one. They talked about sitting at the table, kitchen or dining, with a place setting. I had the guilty, furtive thought of my breakfast bar, the cutting board where I rest my iPad so nothing spills on it, the TV on, trying to catch up on the New Yorker, while my dining table is the landing place for a week's worth of mail, and my purse, coat, gloves and scarf. And I shudder at the profession I "chose".)
I write emails.
I make plans with friends, the garden of them getting lots of attention lately--Mike is not here, as he normally would be in November, as he has been the last three Novembers.
I talk to Mike on the phone. He is at his parents home, so the conversations are short, truncated. I hang up realizing there is something I've forgotten to tell him, but it's too hard to call back and start the whole process over.
I miss Mike, the undercurrent never leaves me.
I run, plan runs, want to wake up early for runs during the week (this has YET to happen). I plan for weeknight runs (this has yet to happen. But I'm telling you: It's gonna. I'm doing some crazy holiday fitness challenge that my friend GB put me up to and I intend to do it justice. God help me.)
I come back from weekend runs, I drink tomato juice with tabasco, I eat spinach and kale (standing up, my shoes still on) and I get cold fast.
I try to see how far into the winter I can make it without turning the heat on. (I'm winning, Toronto Hydro Electric. I'm WINNING.)
I do laundry, on weekends, twice, all the running clothes needing constant washing.

So, you see, I languish in routine. But I'm a Virgo, so it's comforting to me, not boring.

And then, once in a while, something happens.
Something happened yesterday.

I was running, my usual 5 or 6 mile "Bloor Viaduct" route is what I call it. I decided to time one mile on the track at Riverdale Park and as I was coasting down the hill I noticed a misty fog rolling in, just at the park level, not making it any higher. A nearby building was being demolished and it added to the ghostly, dream-like feel as I entered the park.  Two runners on the track, both labouring along, and I paced them as I started lap one.
Lap two. All good.
Lap three. Okay, this is fine. It's bland, and I've never once successfully run up the grassy side wall of the park, but that was a challenge for another day.
Lap four. I had not looked at my running watch, I was saving the look for the end of the last lap so I could see where my mile was.
Laps done, a mile down. My watch shows 10 minutes. (I'm rounding). I am in a state of disbelief.
I have not run a ten-minute mile in over eighteen months. Since my head rebelled and my body followed along.
Until September of this year, since May of last year, I had yet to run my full distances without stopping at some point and walking. In September, something finally clicked and I could just
keep going.
I know, it sounds simple and easy and yea, what's the big deal?
It's big, trust me. It's the one thing in my life that I absolutely depend on to see me through.
And I've finally turned the corner.

"Just give in...open up your heart and your mind to me...
just know when
that glass is empty that the world is gonna bend...."
So Happy I Could Die, Lady Gaga

Saturday, October 5, 2013


I have a deck of  'angel cards' a gift from my friend K., who is an extraordinarily kind and gifted person, and very spiritual. I go to these cards when life is troubling, or something is bothering me. 
Lately, one client at work has been a thorn in my side, negating all the other wonderful work changes that are happening.

That's the background on the theme of 'celebration'.  It's the angel card I pulled this morning, while lying in bed, past 10, still in pajamas (I do love Saturday), idly reading and catching up with friends.
With all the stress in life lately, celebration seems to be the last thing on my  mind. Gratitude often eludes me as I allow negative thoughts to pervade.  Light seems to be in short supply, both figuratively and literally (the days are getting shorter--this is the hardest part of the fall/winter thing for me. Bring me the cold. Bring me the long solitary runs out in it, in a new running jacket I just picked up.  But leave me the light, I'm begging you.)

Life, love, light, gratitude, empathy, kindness, calm feelings.
I pledge to try to do better when faced with challenges.

Oh, and there's coffee.  There's always that.  Headed towards a cup now.

Happy Saturday. Make a new recipe, drink too much coffee or wine, run in the rain, your shoes wet, your hair sopping, your heart singing. Waste time on the internet, buy groceries, make a nice dinner.

Have a great one.

"It's alright, you can afford to lose a day or two".....Vienna, Billy Joel

Sunday, September 22, 2013

It's Fall....Shhhh

I woke up early this morning (before seven, keep in mind it's Sunday and it was dark as midnight at this point). Waking up from a complicated melatonin-induced-mini-movie, it took me a minute to figure out where I was, to acclimatize to my own warm bed, sheets, blankets, the slatted blind letting in only slivers of what would become early-morning light.
Looking out, assessing the state of the day to come, I noticed the waning full moon still bright in the west sky, this moon that seems to have caused so much trouble this week, so much conflict and stress, our bodies primitive in obedience to the moon, its magnetic pull, the tides, our blood--it all seems connected and deeply mysterious.

I want to go back to list format, because that just feels right lately.

1.  I'm only going to touch on the workweek here briefly, because it's eaten up so much room in my tired brain this week. I've concluded on two simple truths in studying my rich clients for over fifteen years now, and it's a truth that has been shouted out across the ages: Money does not buy happiness. And another one, in the words of an infamous rapper: Mo' money, mo' problems. I think that pretty much sums it up. Parts being delivered late, or wrong, a chain of command breaking down, getting things done on the fly, squinting irritably at my work-computer clock and it's 4pm and holy-f*ck how did the day go by so fast and did we get that guy out there to do that sink cut-out and...well you get the picture. Adrenaline junkies alert: forget skydiving, become an interior designer. Your resting heart-rate can be 90 beats per minute, too!

2.  It's Fall. Officially. Today. I know that no one, especially Canadians, wants to hear this. But waking up cold this morning, putting a hoodie on over my pajamas, heating the milk for a hot cup of very milky coffee, then warming my hands on the cup..it all felt so right. As do my fall runs. They have been epic. Some challenges, yes--a random knee pain while I ran uphill last Saturday, the pain disappearing on the downhill.  A migraine unfolding after what had been a beautiful, if cloudy seven miles last Sunday, and yesterday's four-miler along the Beach, in the pouring, sopping rain, the only people out were a few other insane runners and people walking their dogs. The joy of the dogs kept me going in very wet running shoes and a heel-blister where my wet sock had ended up halfway off my foot. I didn't feel the nagging pain of this irritating blister, so great was my exalt at my rain-run.
And, depsite the headache, it still feels like running is back--like it's finally come home to me again. I go out and fling all my problems into the air above me, like a cartoon thought bubble. And some of them hang there the whole run, but the air seems to dissipate them--it robs them of some of their strength, I think. I get home and do a floor routine and even that feels good.  I keep my fingers crossed.

3.  More about Fall. Dresses with sandals make room for dresses with boots and cardigans and belts. I love this. And my toes still sport licorice polish for those sandal days. The weather has been very up-and-down this past week (this past summer).  Summer's trying to get the last word in.

4.  I put my sister's kids to bed last night, with the same bedtime story, and it had to do with Saturday nights growing up in our townhouse when we would eat spaghetti and my dad would dust off the piano and we would sit around it and he'd play the Beatles and sing. My niece does not know who the Beatles are. I have alot of work to do.

5.  Conflict. It's arisen, unbidden this week, and has wormed it's way into every crevice. Work. Emails. Tone. My mom. My husband. Everyone jockeying with their pain, their 'see me, hear me'.
Sometimes I turn the focus solely on myself, on my own stress and frustrations. I don't mean to.

6.  Full moons. This one has caused so much upheaval. See points above.

7.  I'm in Maine next weekend. I've booked my plane ticket and my train ticket.  The thought of Maine and of Mike is keeping me going, will get me through this next week. It has to.

8.  I think that's about it. Happy Sunday. I might be doing work today, but before that there will be a run, there will be my Sunday playlist, there will be a smidge more coffee.

Friday, September 13, 2013

A House in the Sky


I finished reading this amazing book earlier this week.  I've thought about the post I would write about the book for a few days. I needed to digest the book, so to speak, and distance myself from the intense experience of reading it.

I remember reading a Maclean's article sometime in 2009 recounting Lindhout's kidnapping and captivity and feeling helpless, as a fellow Canadian.  That there seemed, according to the article, little that the Canadian government could do or would do to help the situation. It described nothing of the efforts of her parents, police, and friends, which I learned about watching the Dateline special on her story, when I had just begun reading the book.  Still, beyond that Maclean's article, and my own aghast opinion of why anyone, much less an attractive white woman would willingly head to a country as steeped in turmoil as Somalia, I knew very little.

The book gives you the whole story.  Not just the fifteen months spent in a windowless room (as one Calgary Herald review described, this was a 'winnowing' and what a fitting word that is, a true separation of who Lindhout was and who she would become, during her captivity.)  The whole story is not only these fifteen months, it is not only the inhuman treatment she received.  It is also her broken childhood, her collection of second-hand National Geographic magazines, her own personal vision board of what she would do as an adult. Travel the world.  Hurtle into the unknown. And, really, in the truest sense, meet a fate that few could have endured or survived, let alone, in the aftermath,

I wrestled with my mind while reading. There were many parts of the book that were almost impossible to read, feeling like one was right there, bearing witness to unspeakable suffering of another human being, one whose voice rings clear as a curious, gentle soul, whose focus was on getting out alive, using what little physical means she had. Instead she mines her psychological resources, using her imaginative mind to create the house in the sky; the eye in the mind inventing a haven, a place to escape to, where food was plentiful and peace could be reached.

Without reading the book and knowing the story, it would be easy to have one of those reactions of "Oh well, how stupid was it to travel into a known war-zone, a govenment-less country, what could she have expected was going to happen?"
But really, despite all the proof we are given of our species cruelty to one another, we do tend to believe in the magic of people, their good, their generosity, the spirit that we're all in this together, none of us is getting out alive, and we might as well make the best of it as a group on this revolving-door planet.
I wouldn't have lasted one week.

This to me was more than just another read.
This was testimony.
To the power of fate and how our lives are given a direction that comes far from beyond--far from our own ideas of how we shape our paths and our futures. 
To our troubled times, these holy wars, religion misshapen into something so un-Godly it seems unfathomable.
Mostly, though, I thought about the aftermath and the scars and how many people would have emerged from a trauma like this; shells, really. Their humanity stripped. Maybe blame and anger shaping the rest of their days.
It would have been easy to turn this book into a grim warning sign, a handbook of pessimism.
But this is a book of hope, of understanding, of encompassing compassion.

Like my favourite poem "Try to Praise the Mutilated World" this is exactly what this book does--praise it,
exalt it,
forgive it.

I can't think of a better ending than that.

Try To Praise The Mutilated World

Try to praise the mutilated world.
Remember June's long days,
and wild strawberries, drops of wine, the dew.
The nettles that methodically overgrow
the abandoned homesteads of exiles.
You must praise the mutilated world.
You watched the stylish yachts and ships;
one of them had a long trip ahead of it,
while salty oblivion awaited others.
You've seen the refugees heading nowhere,
you've heard the executioners sing joyfully.
You should praise the mutilated world.
Remember the moments when we were together
in a white room and the curtain fluttered.
Return in thought to the concert where music flared.
You gathered acorns in the park in autumn
and leaves eddied over the earth's scars.
Praise the mutilated world
and the grey feather a thrush lost,
and the gentle light that strays and vanishes
and returns.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Friends, Family, Forty

It feels like a short time ago, not a full decade, that thirty loomed and me and my ten-or-so closest girlfriends crowded a table at the restaurant then known as 'Lobby' which was the place to be in 2003, and ushered in my third decade. We were dressed in either black, white, or pink, and we ate things like thick, small steaks that night, and we had alot of champagne, and sometime after 10 pm, when Lobby would turn into a nightclub, we stuck around for that, too. There were pictures (this was just about the time digital was coming in) and there were cellphones, and there are a few of those friends who have either moved on, be it due to lives drifting apart, actually moving, or who have gone on to live a bit of a different life where different needs crowd in and friends are more like accessories, not people. But the memories remain.
I blur by other birthdays in my thirties, some with a boyfriend, most with a gaggle of girls, intent on taking me out and getting me fed and watered (re; drunk) so that the next passing year could be counted on to be even more fabulous than the last.
I remember the family side of birthdays. The bbq'ed steaks and ice-cream cakes (a tradition for my August birthday) in my parents backyard in Ajax. The generous gifts, the dog begging for cake and steak.  Later, my sister's kids so excited to blow out my candles, open my presents, taking photos as a family, enjoying what was usually a fantastically sunny day in the last official week of Summer, this fleeting season. Though, as I age, all seasons seem fleeting, but winter takes its time somehow.

I remember thirty-five, my colourful blue and sand beach dress, thirty-six, little Italy. Thirty-seven, the birthday party I threw myself at my condo, putting thirty-six, a vastly challenging year, to bed. I had invited my parents to come but even by then my dad wasn't up for it. But at least I heard his voice on the phone, my last birthday with that joy.
Thirty-eight I welcomed quietly, with Mike, my engagement ring winking the promise of our upcoming wedding that brightened my thirty-eighth year so blindingly. Thirty-nine was spent in Maine, travelling.  My mother-in-law made brownies. I stared down the last year of my thirties. It had its own lessons to teach me, as every year does. This years were hard.

Fast-forward to forty.
I started thinking about forty a few months ago. I'd put on some weight and was having trouble shaking it off, much more trouble than I normally used to.  But something else was different too--I'd stopped the obsessive mirror-gazing and just really didn't care as much as I used to.  Grooming was and still is a cornerstone of my life--my hair is tinted just so to hide the white (not grey, white).  I manicure my own nails, pedicure too. I don't leave the shower without moisturzing my skin.  My face is washed twice a day. I wear classic, beloved pieces of jewellery. I wear skirts with respectable hemlines, I own slips, my heels for work are kitten. But I had a midsection I never used to have.
Spinning. Yoga. Running (ever so slowly). Caloring cutting. Yea, it helped, but I had some accepting to do. One is that I love food, good food, and I can't (won't) give it up. Two, it's called middle-age, and if starving yourself is not on your list of things to do as a valuable, non-self-hating member of this society, then you have to leave that body of your youth behind. It's not that bad. I'm happier now than I was when I was thirty. Alot more happy. Back then, despite the smiles pasted on my face in every photo, secretly I worried. Where was I going in life, did I have control, could I gain control, could I KEEP control?
Now, I know, there is no controlling life. There is only going along with the current for the most part, steering yourself away from an upcoming waterfall if you can, and if not, taking a deep breath and going over it gracefully. Praying for the water to part and the wreckage to clear for a path to the nearest handy shore.

So forty, as a birthday, was spent with Mike, and my sister and her kids, with our friend L., and with some of Mike's family and friends too, which made things very special for me.  There was that ice-cream cake, and the kids blowing out the "FOUR-OH" candle on top. There was the watch my husband bought me, on my wrist, in all the photos, blinking out. 

So I leave my thirties behind. Yes, as friends before me had said, they were great years. They were also hard years, with real adult challenges, ones that I'll sadly face again, hopefully not for a very long time.  So I don't fear forty, I really do embrace it.  When I look at the photos from my birthday dinner, wearing an orange-floral dress, my half-bangs over my right eye, my hair long and straight, the way I like it, I see a very happy face peering out.  Not wondering what to do, how to do it, or when. Just..living life. Each day, every day, no matter what challenges present themselves.

Catching Up

This was the title of the email I sent my blog-friend J today.
And yes, as I talk to my friend L, I DO need to catch up. With this blog, with life, with my life when I'm not at work, that life I've kind of been ignoring all year. Not in a bad way. Just in a focussed way. 

So, it's been over three months since Boss 1 and her henchwoman departed. There is a completely different atmosphere in my office, one of teamwork, cooperation (for the most part) and non-toxicity. 
There are some exceptions of course, the ones still loyal to the end, the ones with no direction. But I'm confident karma will find its way to them, continue to weave its tangled web.

I do nothing. I observe. I witness. I work.

After talking with L tonight I thought I'd return to the list format that seems to serve writers block so well.
1. I am back from two weeks in Maine, and the weather was perfect every single day. Every. Single. Day. It cemented something for me, as I stared down forty as a child-free: as much as I love my niece and nephew, parenting is definitely not for me. (I always knew this, but as I said, this cemented things.)   That said, it was great to spend time with my sis and with the kids, and watch them have lots of fun, be outside, eat fun foods (pizza anyone?), shop for cheap products, visit with our dear friend L., and celebrate my birthday far from home, in my other home. My tan is to die for.

2. I didn't think about work the entire time. And guess what? This time, post-boss, people helped.
Still, the last few days back at work have been super-stressful and I've caught myself this weekend, sleeping the stress away, until I've wasted the better part of the the day.  I don't obsess over it.

3.  I forgot to take the garbage out before I left.  This resulted in an infestation (even the word infestation makes my skin crawl) of those pesky little fruit flies, that when they multiply, do not seem so little, and are incredibly gross and annoying (I HATE insects, and I don't even eat, and therefore never buy, fruit.)  Guess what fruit flies hate? Basil. I had several small basil plants in my basket at the grocery store on Wednesday after work, but ditched them in favour of a 'giant' plant, which, I'm happy to share, has done the trick (that and three days of dedicated cleaning, the kind I really never do.)  The kitchen sink and bathroom sink cabinets are clean and bleached, and the rest of my kitchen has probably not been this clean since I moved in. Cabinets have been emptied and wiped out, and old spices have been tossed. I am keeping bleach in a spray bottle on 'stand-by' and I've been spraying the garbage, that is, when I'm not busy taking the garbage out, like someone with OCD, almost every day.  In line at the grocery store, buying ony a giant plant and two smaller ones, a man in front of me asked me if I was buying a farm (buying the farm..I hope not.)  Armour down from 2 weeks in a small town, I cheerfully explained my mission, my voice and manner belying the trauma of the previous two nights and my swatting, and missing, and pouring bleach into a spray bottle and spritzing the bugs, also Windex, Tilex, and anything I had handy. Let's just say I've gone through alot of cleaning products, paper towels, and garbage bags these last few days. Let's also just say this apartment is beyond clean. I don't even know what else to do. I've actually scrubbed floors on my hands and knees over the weekend. Cleaning has been my cardio. There is no way I can muster up the courage to run in humidity like this. It's unmanageable for me.

4.  It's Labour Day weekend. It doesn't seem possible. The year has sped by at an almost unfathomable pace, just whipped by, especially this summer. I haven't minded. Summer is when Mike is most busy, when we have the least amount of time together, when loneliness can make me the saddest.  But luckily, a mixture of rainy weather, a quick July visit, and the August one, made me feel less disconnected.  His season at the restaurant is winding down once again and I'm happy for him.  It's alot of stress.

5. Blogging. I've been notably absent, and blogger's weird change (that I can't quite figure out) to uploading photos has been a real negative for me. Is there a blogger ap? I'm thinking no. I haven't noticed one yet. Which makes me wonder--is there another venue I can transfer it all too? Tumblr? I can't quite figure it out. I haven't had a lot of time for it, so I've just let it lag, like everything else I haven't had time for. 

6.  Reading. I'm still reading weird crime/somewhat horror novels.  My latest 'discovery' after finding an article in the New York Times about Stephen King (Mainerd) and his family, is that his wife, son, and daughter-in-law are also all writers. Published authors. I looked up their work immediately and read his daughter-in-law, Kelly Braffet's, new novel, "Save Yourself".  Interesting view of high-school through the lens of bullies, that's all I'm going to say. I've also read two of his son's books (pen name Joe Hill) which could truly have been written by King himself, and feel like they are. The brash, outlandish plots, the sprinkling of pop-culture references, the unbridled violence, against a backdrop of righteous vigilante-ism.  Whatever, they're page-turners just the same.
My next read? I'm currently awaiting the release of "A House in the Sky" by Amanda Lindhout, co-written with a journalist (who hails from Portland, Maine).  Lindhout, that notoriously naive self-proclaimed wanna-be journalist who thought that selling stories from inside the lawless borders of Somalia was as good an idea as any. The book, her memoir of more than a year in captivity by Muslim ...freedom fighters, the ransom they demanded, the Canadian government's quiet blind-eye, and the subsequent release orchestrated by merceneries.  It's release date is September tenth and it promises to be a tough read, and I haven't had a tough read in a while.  Also, I respect the fact that she had someone write this with her, that maybe she couldn't distance herself enough from her own experiences to frame them in the larger context of a book.

7.  Family and friends and Forty. Just writing those words made me realize that this needs it's own post. I'm hoping I can figure out the picture/blog thing.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

First weekend home


Grainy, shadowy, but St. James Cathedral has never looked better.

 Before sundown, a weird mix of sun and fog, peeking out from behind a skyscraper.

More of St. James, beneath night-clouds, which always fascinate me.  Hint; TO has been clouded over all weekend long, excepr for a few short minutes on Sunday.

The Spire, a condo in my neighbourhood, night-clouds swirling about...
Alright, I'm trying to upload Maine shots, but the computer is not really cooperating.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Letter by Letter Part 2

I am in bed right now, reading, being, taking it all in.
There may or may not be a heating pad.
I went to a late movie, walked there and back along Richmond Street with my sister.
The Conjuring. She hid her face with her hands at the scary parts. I jumped when startled.
But I slept soundly, a big steak dinner and chardonnay helping me drift towards that deep, long weekend sleep.
I'm supposed to be running right now, but I can't even imagine leaving the bed yet.
Such is long-weekend life.

Just coffee. That's all I need to get to really, but see above entry.
I can't move.

Kindness? The next King (it's such an odd concept this royal baby). Is there a K word for lying in bed on a long weekend Sunday and wishing one could fall back asleep for a few nice minutes?
Because that is the K word I need right now.

Late night. Late movie. Langorous morning. Lobster. My sister's first initial.
Love. Latitude. Library card (lost and....found!) Library online. The best thing for this bibliophile since the library itself.

Mike. My husband, my love. I had a psychic moment years ago amidst the dating wreckage that was my life when this weird stillness hit in my mind and somehow I knew I would marry a man named Michael. Don't ask how I came to this conclusion. It was like a 'psychic break' not the psychotic kind, but the insightful kind. I'd never dated a Michael before my Mike.
Missing. I miss him right now, as my vacation date looms closer. It's always this way. Those last few days and hours before I see him are agony.

Night, as in Saturday night, as in a late one.
Hence this runner being bad.

Overdue to run.

Plenty of time. That's what we tell ourselves.

Questions, the endless questions, about life, the why, the how.  About death, why, when?
They go unanswered but we ask them all our lives (well, I do, anyway).

Rest, run, recover, recurrence, religion, re-invent.  
Nothing too glamorous here at R.
Running I guess sums it all up.  The love, the hate, the frustration, the need for motivation, the
weather, the shoes, the sun, the heat. The blue sky has almost finished calling my name this morning and so far I've buried my head under a pillow and managed to ignore it a bit longer.

Slumber, sleep, whatever you want to call it. An escape. Time to star in the melatonin-mini-movies, as my sister has dubbed them. All I know is I enjoy sleep probably too much. I need alot of it. The melatonin is like my glass of warm milk. I fall headfirst into it.

I actually returned to herbal tea (the aptly named Tension Tamer) yesterday. I ...skipped coffee. I can feel the subtle headache that resulted from this decision even now.

UV. I got some sun yesterday. It felt lovely, and so fleeting.

Vision Board. I love my current one, but I need a new one. I have a whole bunch of components lined up. They sit, waiting to be used, on the shelf of my coffee table.

Those honest serving-men (I keep six honest serving men, they taught me all I knew: their names are Why and What and When and How and Where and Who). God knows where that memory came from....A childhood rhyme.
Wrinkle in Time, that ever-present sci-fi classic.


Yogurt. If I'm going to even attempt to run, yogurt should be consumed now. Did you know I know eat it every morning? That I NEVER used to eat breakfast? I mix the vanilla and lemon flavours together. And I buy the big containers and spoon my portion into a small, low drinking glass. Then I save the containers for leftovers, etc. I have ALOT of them now.

Zed, zee, the forgotten letter, like X.
Zzzzzz. That universal English slang for "Damn I'm tired".
And I AM.

I  know this was more of  a stream of consciousness than as actual entry but bear with me. I didn't even make it to the kitchen counter to write this. Ipad is balanced on keyboard, balanced on sheets and blankets. I'm wearing striped pajama bottoms.

There is not alot to report when you work as much as I do. I exchanged an email with a friend this week, (at least I think it was this week) about working. I told her that's all I've been doing. She said it's okay as long as that's what I want to be doing. Well, yes and no. Yes, the time flies. But no, so little else gets done. Ie, shopping, exercise, meal-planning, cleaning, paring down clothes from closets and dressers (I have so much stuff I just do not wear. WHY? Why do I cling to it?)
There are things that do not fit and will likely not fit again. I must let go of them, I must purge.
Work steals the time for this.

Alright, enough relenting. But really, I don't have news. I'm going to Maine in less than 2 weeks. I turn forty in three weeks (less than, gulp).  I am going out Friday night for a good friend's birthda.  I am enjoying the long weekend, that extra day off, that lovely 3rd sleep-in.  My hair has been a bit of a rats nest lately. What can I say? You are reading a blog entry by a girl who desperately needs a vacation. Full stop. Happy Sunday all...

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Letter by letter

Books celebrating artists of a bygone era often did so by publishing their 'letters', this ultra-private part of people's lives, that I think has probably ground to a halt in our age of social media, email, and pinging each other.
There was often hot debate surrounding these letters and their publication--mainly centering around those who survived the late artist--their children, parents, ex-spouses, friends.
This title is two-fold. It also refers to that excellent Pain Parties Work book I read about Sylvia Plath (whom, after reading that book and the snippets of two others, I'm fairly certain was a raving manic-depressive, god bless her) where the author used a dictionary tool to illlustrate Plath's life at that time.
I loved reading it.
Here is my attempt to write one....I'm rusty. Don't judge me.

I've been trying. I really have. Saying what I think, gently, and trying to be heard.
A could also be adjustment.
Adjustment to Life After The Bad Boss.
Wow. It's such an eye-opener.
Meetings. With no yelling. With no avoiding eye contact.
And yes; work has been stressful. Those months don't go away. They dissapate, they dissolve, but they take time. Kitchen work is timed in months. Your life, my life, can be radically different from the time you order a kitchen, finalize with a client, to the time it gets installed.
Let's just say I've had alot of installs recently.
I've been working harder in the last 8 months than I have in a long time.
One, there's less people, and two, I'm a bit recharged, I'm a bit obsessed. There seems to be no
off-switch with this. I just....want it more. I want the success more. More now, more than I've ever wanted it.

I've got something to prove. To myself for sure, to others, maybe.

B seems tricky. It could be Bad Work Weeks. It could be Bad Days.
Why does B always point to bad?
Or it could be Bignell. My maiden name, my half-name, still following me around,
not completely changed.
I'm not completely changed. I'm married, forced by the archaic US-Canada immigration to be a slave to their paperwork but one thing remains: I'm stuck with the rules right now.
And they suck.

Easy. Change. As in lots of. As in I-don't-like. As in I'll-do-anything to avoid.
C can also be for me. My first, favourite initial.
Or for Chardonnay. I'm having some right now.
Forgive me. I have Sunday Night Syndrome. It's tough.

I was thinking about this today as I slip, un-sure-footed, toward forty.
The decade of my thirties seem to slip by too, especially the last five years or so. The joys, the sorrows.  Reflecting on them all. I need to do a post on it's own for this decade thing that I'll soon be phasing out of.  I promise to update soon.
I know I've been delinquent. Delinquent. Another D word.
Death. It seemed to be around alot more this decade. I know it's part of life.
But I hate it.

Email. Extra. Escargot. Eyewear.  Endeavours. Eyeshadow. Endings. Entrenched.
It's e. More of a supporting player, not so much a star.
E. My niece's first initial. She's definitely a star. She's turning 8 this week. How is this possible? Where is that magical, impermanent text from her new father so many years ago?
"I'm holding a baby girl in my arms". Early on a Sunday morning, eight years ago. See what I mean on how fast the decade went?
Ebert, Roger. Another casualty. I am reading his "Life Itself" memoir right now. One of those beautiful, simply-rendered reads where the language is so devestatingly tender you need to take breaks from it.

Forty. Forecasting. Fruit flies (where are these things coming from?).
But really--forty. Does everyone feel like this? That it's so so big? That my 'new life' is just around the corner?  And when I say new life, I'm not implying that my current life is not sweet as pie. But there are things (career, control of said career) that need to change.
Future. Another big F word. Huge. We can't plan it. We can't control it. We can..hmmm..try to influence it. But that's all we can do.

Good. Life is good. Someone asked me today "How's life?"
"It's good," I answered.  And I realized: It is. The challenge is, the battle is, keeping it that way. The perspective of that. Of realizing that the good comes, the bad comes, it just keeps coming.  Up and down.

Heat wave. We've weathered one from hell this week.  A youtube video gave my friends and I laugh about it being "91,000 damn degrees".
It was.
It, hopefully, will not recur.
Speaking of H. Hope.
Does it spring eternal? I don't know. I guess in some ways it does. If we didn't hope, then we really wouldn't have much interest in life, right? That's how I see it anyhow.
No big nouns to encompass H.
The white elephant is Happy.
Some graffiti I saw today said, written on a dirty concrete wall was
"You'll never be happy!" written, I thought, in a female hand, to an ex, perhaps, and I thought, calmly, as I walked by it, hmm. Happy isn't be-ing.  It's live-ing, it's experiencing, it's getting through each day, alone or together, hoping for the best.
H also stands for my friend H. Happy bday H! Thanks for inspiring me always.

I will continue this.....
I promise. 

Saturday, July 13, 2013


 Normal Day  {Let me be aware of the treasure you are....}
It's been two years.
It's weird.
It's... easier.
It's ignoring every Father's Day ad I hear, and quickly turning the channel/radio dial.
It's...thanking God that even though those were the last times with my dad, that I am
not in 'that place' right now.
It's like that poem.

When you return in thought to that time, as rain spills down outside, the weather making itself known, you wall up inside.
You time travel briefly.
Then you come back, you drink coffee, stop the daydreams, the might-have-beens, curse your own naivete, curse at how much growing up you have to do; it was not really my choice, but I did it.
There is no course on how to get to a lawyer and throw a will together, how to stave off creditors the morning of the funeral for your father, a funeral you somehow planned, with your mother and sister, two months earlier.
I don't recall an English class that ever asked me to write a eulogy, or what to say to a funeral home after they've lost a treasured item.
That you have to file tax returns for the dead, that the bank accounts have to be closed, that you will still be getting mail for your deceased father for many months. That selling the house will be the only viable option.
That even though you never wanted to be that 'traditional' bride, you will want to be that bride even
less now, with no dad to take you down the aisle, no first dance, none of those family photos.

I started writing this over a month ago, and went nowhere with it.
Just posting this as a stop gap while I try to recall all those wonderful blog entries I write half-asleep while I lie in bed at night....

Happy Summer. It's going by so so fast.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013


"Pain is a warning that something's wrong, 
I pray to God that it won't be long....
do you wanna go higher?"
Madonna, The Power of Good-bye

Yes, there is pain. And yes, it is not quite summer.
But I sit, in denial of it all, iPad on a pillow, banging away these little minnows of entries, my whole computer world shrunken.  My little keyboard. The tiny screen. This dwarfen blog.
I'm sorry.
It is what it is.

Boss 1 left Friday, no, the door did not hit her on the way out, no, I did not attend her good-bye party at her house, yes, the kind email she sent me on the day before her departure took me by a whack of a surprise.
Coworker 2 leaves in less than 3 weeks.
Yes, I know. How does one respond to all the "decamping". Well, turns out the key is NOT to respond. Because it's then that you start to rise above.
Let me be frank. My last few long months of work have lacked even basic decency and civility to certain...persons. Evasion is the name of the game. Someone is talking right to you, someone is reacting in a meeting, someone is screaming.
I am a duck. Rolls..off my back.

I stay awake from the festive, gossipy atmosphere.
I read my dull library books. I gather information. I suppose the rest.  I read about goose bumps, also known as "truth bumps".  I bump into them again and again.

In between there is pain. It has flared up again, reminding me I am NOT in charge of my life, or anything.
I met a pain specialist, a pain researcher, at a party. How amazing would it be to have that as your job description.  Everyone was clamouring to talk to him.  For one, he was European. He could tell us Canadians what we just could not know about pain.
We talked about headaches, I gave him my supposings, he gave me a suppressed grin behind a glass of beer and said, haltingly, that nothing would show up in the new tests.
"Why?", I asked, thoroughly surprised.
Because it's all in my head.
No, really, it is.
I'll talk more about that in Pain, Part 2, but right now I have to put myself to bed.
I've been up since 4 am, worked all day.
And as excited as I am that I can type madly on this little child-sized computer the way I want to,
what I really want right now is sleep.
And a day off.
I'll get something, anyway.

Sunday, June 2, 2013


I'ts tantalizingly close, this thing called Summer.
My friend Julia's post (link on over up top) brought me down memory lane--I too bought cigarettes for my parents at our corner store before the laws of the day put a stop to that.

I ran yesterday.
It turned into a walk as head pain halted my increasingly difficult pace, the heat making my heart literally hammer in my chest.
So once again, halfway into a 10 k I was facing a nice long walk home.
But for once, I didn't mind it.
Because, it's almost summer.
The season that I feel no one appreciates more than us north-bound Canadians.
People were everywhere as I wandered down Broadview yesterday.
Yard work was happening along Queen Street.  The scent of fresh earth, grass and flowers being planted.
Burgers were being charcoal-grilled outside.  I was back to my childhood weekends at Kew Beach, my parent's Hibachi, our hot-dog-and-hamburger-lunches on a picnic blanket on the sand, our cooler stuffed with pop for us, beer for our dad.  Sandcastles.  Bathing suits that were perpetually damp.

I just drank it all in.
I didn't hurry on my long walk home.

Not really going anywhere with this as I sit on a Sunday morning.
Another run awaits, and the weather is weird.

Happy Sunday!

Monday, May 27, 2013

Pain, Parties, Work

This book, by Elizabeth Winder, is what I'm reading right now.
It's inspirational, in the sense that it talks about Sylvia Plath in the heyday of her youth, her guest-editorial-ship at Mademoiselle magazine, along with nineteen other aspiring young women--the dawn of a new generation, the last one before real feminism, before the Pill, as the book blithely points out.

But the book to me, a collection of letters, observations, samples of Plath's original, unconventional journal writing, her stark way of painting letters onto the page, is much more than just a generational snap shot of a long-gone New York, a bygone era. It's a calling to write again, to understand the practice is often the product.

I've been delinquent on the blog for a number of months now.

Life has crowded in, time seems to speed up and up to a faster rate with every passing day.

The days have a rhythm all their own, it often feels like my life is living me.

I read pulpy novels in between stumbling onto a good one like this, and I'm reminded to stay alert, awake, in my own life.

Often, I get home from work, 7:00, 7:30 pm, and just collapse. I reheat a dinner I've already made, I pour a glass of chardonnay, and I often stare at the tv, not even taking in what is on. It's all just 'there'.
Then I motivate myself to make my lunch for the next day and put away the dishes so I can wake up to a clean kitchen, one of my favourite things. And the next morning comes all too soon, and I do it all again, and I miss yoga due to the traffic and I stay at work until the sun is at eye-level, these long May days, and I ruminate about how I live.  And I keep doing it, as we do, to some degree.

One of the chapters in the Pain, Parties, and Work was in the form of a dictionary, all relating to Plath, each letter illustrating something of her life, a minutae.  I loved this format.

I'm going to borrow it for my next post..
A snapshot of the last few months, what I've been up to, what's new, what's not.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013


(And I don't want to be)....
I would rather be sleeping...( this, I think, would make a great bumper sticker).
It was a bummer of a day, tough one at work.
I came home, skipped yoga, did not pass Go, went right to pajamas, and potatoes,
and bad tv.
Boston won their game vs. NY. My husband is happy.
Now I'm cruising twitter, drinking room-temperature water, dream-dissecting, and
looking out the window at the fog lolling about the city 'scrapers. And looking at my
holds on the TPL site.
I commented on my friend Julia's blog last week about the sleep-miracle of melatonin.
And it is amazing-it's just that sometimes the toughest work problems and life problems
will still invade one's sleep.
It's 4am.
Quiet, inviting, and all-in-the-moment.

Work is hard right now, life is a bit tricky.
Running has been challenging as all hell.
Winter weight is holding on for dear life.
Wine seems like a good idea at the time.
Writing is not happening.
My head gave me a headache-versary.

But I'm persevering.
I guess that is the hope portion of the program.

Alright, getting a bit bleary-eyed.

Monday, May 6, 2013

I Trust Myself

This is the phrase my wise friend A. reminded me, during our phone conversation last week, to write down somewhere handy, where I would notice it.
I had it scrawled in my journal, page-high, a few moments after we had hung up; I wrote it on my office white board (then erased it, but it was there, glaringly obvious, for a few minutes, visible to me).
And now, here it is, a blog-title, one that won't likely be forgotten for a long time.

I haven't been writing, I checked the date of my last entry, which was an entry of no real consequence, it was mid-April.

I've been working.
I've been working out--phasing out of spinning, back into tentative running (a good run, then a bad run. A ruimination of how my extra-self add to extra-minutes. And on again).
I started yoga, which I love. It doesn't have the violence and loudness of spinning. It doesn't, I suspect, have the fuel-burning power either, but it has a different power.
A quiet power. And that is my type of power.

I have a different power right now, too.
In the last week, some major shifts have gone down at work. With the volume of work I've been
handling, I've kept my head down (rather than have it continually held down) and just trekked on, walking on the very edge of what felt like a high, unforgiving cliff.
Suddenly, I came to the cliff's edge and a bridge came into view, out of the fog. 
Does this make sense?
Again, as I've written before; I despise vague blogging. And here I am, doling it out with the best of them (worst of them).

But, I'm out of practice. Out of writing practice, even a bit out of "thinking" practice.
I've been working, burying myself in it, I've been reading, library book after library book, losing myself in the evenings, I've been going to yoga and running. Spending time with family, my sister, her kids, my mom. Seeing friends here and there.

So what to tell  you, what to write about?
A major obstacle, in the form of a person, a person I work...with....well, this obstacle will no longer be there. Will a different-shaped obstacle take it's place? I don't know. But what I do know is I haven't felt this happy, this secure, this sublime, since probably my wedding day. That feeling where you simply do not allow any other ones to crowd in on.
Example; since I got married in January in Canada (Jan in Can as my friend L. and I joke), it would have been easy for me to obsess about snowstorms, shut-downs, road-closures, City-Hall-snow days. But I did none of these things.  Because I was marrying the love of my life and at the door of an adventure like that, those little things don't catch your eye.
Same with this work situation.
I've grappled, short-term, over the past six months about what I did that was so wrong it provoked a reaction akin to muted hysteria.  I came up with nothing. I dug deeper. Came up empty again.
Then the niggling thoughts started. The ones telling me this wasn't over, that I wasn't wrong to be bothered by it, that it wasn't finished. That I wasn't finished. That although life, in general, is not fair, and I get that, this was monstrously unfair, and unjust.
And I made appointments. And I cancelled them. And I re-booked them. And I cancelled them again. I collected paperwork, and put it in an envelope that I kept at home. I started a file. I started listening. Closely. Watching and learning. Quietly. Waiting for the time when something would be revealed.

I'm not going to lie. It felt hopeless. My work situation was going from bad to worse in a spiral that I couldn't correct.
And suddenly, the major component of it was just...lifted away.
There is no other reaction I can convey right now except the sweetness of that moment. The gratitude. The sense that "all is not right" here and how fulfilling it was to have that sense validated.
And while challenges are part of life and from my point of view my adult life has underscored this fact by being anything but easy, the last week has given me hope, real hope, about overcoming challenges.  It's also given me back a real sense of my own professional self-worth, something I'd abandoned over the past months, my eyes filling with tears when I was alone and could think about it. How easy it can be to influence associates with few original thoughts. To take an idea, turn it into an accusation, and have it blossom into an outright lie, one that gets a handful of believers, and then gains momentum. How even I believed the lie, even though it was about me. How I questioned myself, and judged myself in the harshest, most unflattering light, and as that light was shining on me, it was shadowing all the others involved.

Through the doubt, the fog, the sadness, the sheer frustration, I waited it out, some part of me telling me to not let go just yet.

In the end, a quiet power was all I needed.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Saturday Listmania

I've got writer's block, kitchen block, design block..is there also such a thing as life block?
I've got them all this week, along with a kick-ass cold and water spilled on my keyboard.

So what have I been doing to get through all this down time? As my friend K. and I were FB'ing back and forth--I've been READING.

Here, a book list of the latest and greatest I've devoured over the last few months of reading ebooks from the TPL:

1) Gone, Girl. Gillian Flynn. Do not spoil this for me! I'm only about a third of the way through. I can't put it down. The 8 week wait on the long library list was worth it.

2) Sharp Objects, Flynn again. I read this while I waited for Gone, Girl. It was good. Disturbing. A lesson about Missouri, that place in the Union that is part mid-western and part southern. The south facinates me. Utterly.

3) Tiny Beautiful Things, by Cheryl Strayed. Yes, I've mentioned it before. Just read it, get it, read it. Please. Do it for me. Then buy your own copy. And buy it as gifts for people. This book, with its common sense and compassion, is like a balm for our troubled world.

4) The Bride Stripped Bare, Nikki Gemmell. This was a re-read. I originally read it years ago, and it was penned under the guise of "Anonymous". A lurid read--British housewife 'overhears' her husband having affair (note my non-use of the word hubby, a word I think should be banned from the English language, along with calling nights 'sleeps'. Banned. BANNED).  So she overhears this affair, be it real or imagined, and embarks on her own...awakening. Puts Fifty Shades to shame, let's put it that way. (I have not read Fifty Shades all the way through. I read about twenty pages and knew, this ain't for me). BSB is also written in the third person, so there's that. I love that.

5) With My Body, Nikki Gemmell again. She's an Aussie. This book is also in the third person, also quite lurid, but there's a backstory with a bad parent and a forgiving nature that begs to be read. Plot-driven. Mad love. All good.

6) Service Included, Phoebe Damrosch. About working in Thomas Keller's Per Se restaurant in New York City. Average. But I enjoyed immersing myself in the industry again, from a distance. And I'm obsessed with Thomas Keller (see also: Soul of a Chef by Michael Ruhlman. Loved that).

7)  Tender Bar, J.R. Morhringer. This one got it's own post. Loved it.

8) The Long Goodbye, Meagan O'Rourke. Own post too. Read this.

Okay. My memory is blinking, I'm going to post this and think of some more. I wish the library website had a 'reading history'. I keep forgetting there are so many I've blazed through.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Thursday's Early Morning Dream

In the feverish legarthy that has been one of the worst colds I've had in oh, two goddamn months, I have yet to sleep the night all the way through this week, despite pill-popping with abandon.

I dreamed my dad was alive again, he was still dying, but it was now, almost two years on, and he was back, just for a smidge of time, and we got to say good-bye again. Except I was scared to say it a second time, the first time was hard enough. Hard enough.

And I couldn't figure out what to tell people "Yea, my dad was dead, now he's not, but he is dying, again, and I need some more time to deal with this". How would people take that, I thought, even as the dream was playing on, mid-dream I was wondering this.

My dad was young again, mid-thirties, as was my mom, who was doing a kind-of hand-wringing routine of 'what now, what next'. My sister was there, too. We sat close to my dad, touching his arms, his shirtsleeves.

What can I say.
It's been a stressful week.
Sometimes I just have to go somewhere else.

Saturday, March 30, 2013


 As mentioned in my previous post, I'm in Maine.
Maine lets me breathe, think, review, and reboot.
It lets me look at my life, my Toronto life, with its Toronto job, and all the Toronto problems that go along with that, from the other end of the telescopic lens.
As in far away, but oh-so-clear.

I've been reading (The Bride Stripped Bare by Nikki Gemmell, and a follow-up book of hers that I started reading on the plane).

And this: a great reminder of sorts.


It takes alot, sometimes, to be yourself. It takes alot, sometimes, to claw through all that detritus of what people want you to be, even other women.  It's a daily battle, just like lacing up the running shoes and not letting fear rule your life.  But it's a worthy battle, remember this. 

 So that's where I'm at on this fine Maine morning.
The sun in shining very brightly, the Bruins are playing in half an hour (I really don't care, but my husband is gearing up to watch), I'm eating a bit of dinner-for-breakfast, and as I was telling my friend G. yesterday, I did the ultimate "Maine" thing yesterday--I was in a juice bar. But don't panic.  I was just there by accident, as it is attached to the Whole Foods store in Portland, where people who wear nothing but comfortable shoes shop for food, expensively. Mike and I had lunch there from their food bar and it was fun to people-watch while we ate. I bought eucalyptus and flowers in the name of Easter. 
We went to a fish market, cement floors washed in water, a black cat on the front steps, empty tuna can nearby. We bought oysters and ran into a running friend of Mike's, an enthusiastic man with lots of running tales, and at age sixty-one talked about the May marathon he was currently training for, his 73rd marathon. A cancer survivor.  I listened in awe. Usually when people talk about their accomplishments in a bragg-y kind of way I tune out, but not when the subject is running, any running. Then you've got me--I'm listening, I'm all ears, I'm fully present. You're a runner, in whatever form that takes for you. I'm already impressed.
My friend H. emailed me about her spring run yesterday, how it all clicked, how it feels when that happens, and I smiled as I read her email, her joy jumping off the screen right at me, my own 5-k that same afternoon coming back to me. Not the kind of 'high' running that she experienced, but the clarity kind, the ones that comes after you've spoken out about something that's been bothering you, the kind you have after you've made a good decision, you feel clear, clean. Washed.

It was the perfect sunny-cloudy-sort-of-rainy day, and while I ran, it was three kinds of weather, and the rain, which was falling as I ran along the shoreline, tide out but still wet sand, the rain was not cold. It was a spring rain.  Shape-shifting clouds, the light kind, the ones that aren't heavy with snow, with winter's dread.

Happy Saturday and yes I say, tentatively...Happy Spring. Happy running.

Friday, March 29, 2013


I like running in Maine...

looking at the ocean.
feeling blessed.

Not a lot to write about today, I'm in Maine, the last couple of days have been better than most of the last stack of months, really, and instead of words, I'm going to pepper you with pictures.

Today is Good Friday and I found a Catholic church in Portland with Mike's help, and we went there, before the CnE's, before the crowds. And the church was, unlike many in Toronto, blessedly unlocked.
And marble'ed, and hushed, and I felt a sense of reverence, a new church--I hadn't felt that in a while.


Sunday, March 24, 2013

Just Another Sunday Morning

I guiltily cop to getting up past 10am yesterday morning and today.
God, it feels great.
But, it also destroys your day. Severs it, really, slicing it neatly in half to what you can and will get done, and those things that are just Not Gonna Happen today.
Coffee falls in the former category. Not just making it, but sitting with it. Not pouring it into a to-go cup, rushing to the car with your lunch and your work-bag and getting all set to sit in traffic for forty minutes (it's called Commuting.  I have the feeling that it's going to be one of those things that future generations will marvel at, as they did in that great book "Woman on the Edge of Time" by Marge Piercy.  They did WHAT? They DROVE TO WORK EVERYDAY? Why?).

So yes, weekend coffee is poured into a proper mug, milk is warmed, and maybe there is some Bailey's added, (there, now you  know everything) and in the background, the laundry spins in the dryer and the Sunday playlist drones on the iPod.
Coffee has a different purpose on weekend mornings, too, for this "weekend athlete" as my sister describes our work-out habits. It's fuel to run. It's a little spark to get me out the door.

So, the sleep thing.
It was a busy week, one where I measured my days by how fast they went as I rushed to get enough done in the day so that I could somehow enjoy my night without stress, or guilt, "did I get enough done?" and then the ever-present "does everything think this way, live this way, stress this way?".
I know the answer: yes. We all stress about something, and as my friend A. sums it up--we all use something to take that stress away. The thought recurred to me yesterday during my Saturday run, this time along Queen Street East (blessing the flatness of the road, so unlike my Broadview route whose hill sometimes seem as sheer and vertical as the side of a mountain) watching people outside the beer store--one guy sorting bottles, rows and rows of them, into crates, for the bottle return. Another guy sitting on the pavement with a guitar, the case open in front of him, doing his own makeshift Saturday jam.  I ran by it all thinking about what that something is, as A. and I discussed, pills, alcohol, food, stress, anger, a particular person whom you really just need to get the hell away from.  That is by no means an exhaustive list, but you get the picture.
As my husband calls them 'demons'. It's a fun conversation to have with yourself.

I'm sipping coffee and Baileys now and thinking about the next step of my day, the run, while recapping the week in my head.
An extremely busy work-week, capped off by a meeting with colleagues that truly ended in a screaming match, (we're talking grown adults here), my own wonder at watching the meeting end in this trainwreck, while not participating, I felt as tainted as anyone could sitting in the boardroom of our office sharing the same air.
Friday night saw me gulping champagne with friends (hello, demon) in an attempt to banish the memory of the Friday afternoon meeting, cabbing it home post-midnight and falling into a deep, dreamless sleep on the couch, sleeping very late the next morning.
Saturday found me committed to running, and it took longer than I thought, and as always, made me feel better than I could have possibly anticipated.
The car got washed, as did my hair, and I found myself at the fortieth birthday party of a good friend a few hours later, TTC'ing my way there like a champ. Seated with friends we laughed, drank, left early (tired....). I reflected on my own upcoming fortieth lying in bed reading the very original book "The Bride Stripped Bare" (more about that in another entry--it needs its own space) and fell asleep again, quickly, deeply, and here I am. It's Sunday afternoon and I'm in pajamas, letting the internet steal time from me, and writing, and catching up with friends (I realized, with pride, that I've managed to fit in catching up with each of my close friends this week. It felt good. I need them so much).

I also came across these two wonderful blogs, written by wildly intellligent women, the kind of blogs that put the twenty-somethings' whinging about men and self-image to shame:



Take a read at both these sites, you will not be disappointed.
Real writing, real struggles, no fronting, no pictures of plates of food (that I came across).
Just logic (wow!), honesty, and a directness that comes with experiencing the world not as not living in a protective bubble.

The bubble has burst, people.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

For No One. Really.

Because sometimes I think I don't do nearly enough of it.
Yes, I take things in.
I read endlessly.
I hover over obituaries in the New York Times, the long ones, of the famous, of the absurd, of the quirky, of the unknown.
Of the unique.
All as if I'm trying to figure out "how do I live?"
With all this fear, or with the absence of it.
With all this love, and the still-elusive security it has yet to bring.
With all of these dreams, still un-named even to myself.
And how, how, how, do I ever try to encourage them to 'come true' when I need to do my taxes and
spinning's at 6:30, and I've got to make it on time...make it on time (just like that crazy U2 song "Zoo Station". That's what my life feels like lately. A zoo. With trains. I am just missing some of them).

I had a moment in the bottle store last week (don't laugh, I really did).
I was browsing through the champagne section, a tall wall of bottles with colourful foil wrapped around their necks, picking one out for my sister and I to drink "just because" it was going to be Saturday night in two days and we live five minutes from each other and the kids can watch Scooby-Doo and eat garlic bread as an appetizer while we pick at breaded stuffed clamshells and pop open said bottle.
I stood there, blinded by all the choice, drifting past all the bottles, looking around the empty store (it was just before the after-work-Thursday crowd), and I thought, if only I had time.

Time to get it all done.
By all I mean really write that book outline at home, at night, on the couch, instead
of constantly reading what others are writing and saying, quietly, to myself "I can so do that".
Time to slow down. To remember what it's like to just "be" instead of thinking about the taxes
and the immigration paperwork, and what my husband and I will have to sacrifice to be together in the same place, finally, for good.
Time to really look around. Like on the weekends when I live what I like to call my "real life" where I run, and read, and cook really nice meals, and my laundry gets folded. And I look into my weekday, workaday life with real wonder. How DO I care so much about kitchens? Why DO I strive to meet near-impossible deadlines with the zeal of a true convert?
I don't have an answer.
Part of it lies in the expectations I set up for myself, the bargain I made with myself a long time ago (don't disappoint us).

Thursday, March 14, 2013

The Tender Bar

That's what I'm reading right now.
Even though we've all lost an hour's sleep this week due to 'springing forward' I feel anything but spring-y, or spritely.
You see, I've spent a lot of my sleep time this week enmeshed, deeply, in this book.
Small print. Lots of words on a page.
I won't give anything away by telling you that:
it's a memoir;
the writer grew up just outside of New York City;
it does involve a bar;
and one of those weird childhoods that seem pre-requisite for memoir writing.
(I knew one day I'd be grateful for mine).

Last night I happened upon my favourite cluster of lines, (thus far, I know there is going to be more), and I was in that moment, while reading alone, wondrous.
Wondrous of life, of books, of reading, of lying in my Ikea bed, alone, my husband in a different country, my apartment full of hush, the reading lamp, my white tee-shirt serving as a pajama top.
The in-between weather, dipping below freezing at night on a Wednesday, and run-without-a-jacket on Sunday morning.
I read this:

' "A book is a miracle," Bill said. "Every book represents a moment when someone sat quietly--and that quiet is part of the miracle, make no mistake--and tried to tell the rest of us a story."
Bud could talk ceaselessly about the hope of books, the promise of books.  He said it was no accident that a book opened just like a door. '

The Tender Bar by J.R. Moehringer, (c) 2006

Sunday, March 10, 2013

The Long Goodbye


I first noticed and heard about this magnificent book through a blog I follow entitled "Bookswept" (a blog of note, consequently, that showcases random lines from books and novels alongside stunning photographs).
The author's name is Meghan O'Rourke, and all I knew is that it was a memoir, and I liked the lines I had read on Bookswept.  I thought perhaps it was a memoir of a romance gone all wrong, and in this I was wrong.
Because once again I've managed to find another book about someone's parent who died slowly, sadly, painfully, of cancer.
In O'Rourke's book it's her mother, by all accounts a magical, whimsical woman, the centre of a warm family, much like Cheryl Strayed's seemed to be. O'Rourke was older than Strayed at the time of the dreaded news, the dreaded event, but still has her own break-down moments, her marriage falling to the strain, her career feeling the weight of her grief-depression.

The book is not just memoir but O'Rourke's delving into the literature of grief, passages which she sprinkles about in the book. I enjoyed that alot. Other writers attempts to wrestle grief to the page, to pin it down, that elusive wave upon the sand. The Long Goodbye haunts me in the same way The Year of Magical Thinking haunted me (haunts me still). The way Blue Nights did. In an intelligent way, one that makes me honour my grief and it's transitory nature. And also, by the fact of its very existence, makes room for the knowledge that while it ebbs and flows just like water, the tides, and that sometimes it seems very far, then very close again--it will never truly go away. Just diminish. Then re-appear. O'Rourke likens it to the seasons, and her views as a non-religious person do not undermine her feelings of spirituality.

But enough of me waxing about the book.

I've had two nights in a row of strange dreams. Last night, my lost aunt and cousin invaded my slumber. They were visiting me in my loft, but not the loft I live in now--a greater, vaster loft, with much more furniture and a piano of all things (reminder of my father). They were scrounging for money, as they had been left with little. I questioned this. My cousin ignored me, her back turned, a thick black ponytail swinging. My aunt's eyes remaind downcast, and she could not look at me. I felt like begging her to. I may have, in a cajoling, wordless way, using just my eyes, to do just that--look at me, Aunt K.  See me, I wanted to shout. Forgive me--forgive yourself. Admit you were wrong. I'll try to do the same.
But it was, and remains, just a dream. A strange one at that.

The night before my dream involved my sister, and me trying to get her hospital care, which was impossible to do in my confused dream-world. I remember little other than that, just the bright white space we were in, the red-crosses defining the inside of the stark building.

Nothing else to really report, but I will leave this entry with an excerpt of The Long Goodbye, one that I've sat and thought about alot in my spot on the couch, late in the day, the last slants of the sun rays peeking through the slats of the blinds. That's my favourite time of day in my apartment, maybe because it's the one I see the least, as I am at work at this time five days out of seven, and the other two I may not always be home or paying enough attention at the exact right moment.
But I recalled these lines as I sat there today:

"...and I lifted out of myself and understood that I was part of a magnificent book.  What I knew as "life" was a thin version of something larger, the pages of which had all been written.  What I would do, how I would live--it was already known.  I stood there with a kind of peace humming in my veins."

This passage reminded me that alot of the thoughts I've had lately, on life, on work, on my purpose, haven't really seemed to have been invented by me, but rather they are like archaelogical fragments--there hidden in the cold ground all this time, only now being unearthed.
I like this image. And I like that for once, my thoughts of being seem to have just settled inside me, without alot of struggle on my part.  It's comforting, isn't it, in some ways? The book is already written.

For the first time in a long time, I'm looking forward to turning more pages.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Running Angels

The past few weeks in my pursuit of getting back to running, getting back to where I was before
the injury derailed me have been tough.
I've been getting out there, (the first hurdle) but it's cold and windy and there have been days where
I've encountered too much ice and had to slow to an observant walk, a trudge, really, my running shoes skidding as I pick my way along.
Character-building. That's what the types of runs I've been doing are called by my husband.
They are not fun. You might experience pain while running, in various parts of your body.
Your legs might get crampy and you will want to stop. Or, in my case, an intense back-ache that's been plaguing me, a sign that my core is rebelling against all the exercise, the ramping-up I've been submitting it to.  It's not fun.

Yesterday was another of these runs. I ran along King Street to where it converges to Lower River Street and then up to Queen, a usual route. Along Queen to some backstreets where I ran parallel to Broadview. My legs, calves in particular this time, were screaming. I stopped to walk. My playlist seemed slow. It bored me. I contemplated turning around and going home. I felt glum.

I reached Gerrard and Broadview, the mini-Chinatown, the library on the north-west corner, the crowd waiting for an elusive streetcar. An older man, elderly, really, was running south, towards me.
At first look, waiting for the light to change, I couldn't really tell if he was actually running, or just trying to make it to the streetcar stop.
I crossed the street. He was definitely a runner. Black, beaten-up runners. Black baggy sweatpants. Faded brown hoodie. A non-descript ball cap. I ran by him as he was circling the library entrance, noting his beet-red face, a mirror, I'm sure of my own--effort and cold mingling.
I ran up Broadview past the Don Jail and the newly named Jack Layton Wy, spelled that way on the streetsign (I had the thought of why couldn't they just stick the a in there?).  Just as I crossed the Wy,
the elder runner, Brown Sweatshirt, as I'd nicknamed him, lumbered by me, his feet barely lifting off the ground. I think I grimaced. Here I was, labouring along, dragging myself through this run, and a man approximately thirty years my senior had just effortlessly passed me. He ran ahead. I tried to pace myself to him, imitating his short strides and foot motion. I felt a bit better. I let myself fall behind and didn't feel the need to turn it on and just blow by him. Why? I knew I'd never be able to keep up that pace. I changed my music, upping the volume, trying anything to get to the top of the Broadview hill, reach the Danforth, head west over the Bloor viaduct and at last be running on flat ground rather than uphill.

Brown Sweatshirt disappeared as I reached the top of the hill. Just...gone. I told  my husband this story, starting it with "I got passed while running today by a seventy-year-old man."  Then I told him that he'd disappeared.
My husband; "He probably turned off somewhere."
Me; "No, I looked everywhere. It's like he saw me floundering on the corner in front of the library and decided to haul me along on his run. Like a running angel.  Urging me on through a difficult phase, then just...vanishing."
My husband looked at me. He's used to my ruminations on faith, and spirits, all these fanciful religious ideas that I cling to (he doesn't). 
"Sure, maybe," he said, coming on board, for my sake.

It made perfect sense to me.
A running angel.
Why not?

Thanks to Brown Sweatshirt, I made it across the viaduct, flew home down Parliament, and felt that good feeling for the second half of my run, the reason why running is so fundamental once you let it in. Like those concepts of spirit, so mysteriously fleeting.

But so deliciously gratifying once you catch a glimpse....