Sunday, February 17, 2013


I'm reading Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed, a collection of her 'Dear Sugar' advice columns rolled together and spun into a book. A tiny beautiful book.  A thing of wonder. I'm reading it on my iPad but it begs to be bought, in real-book form, and held, aloft.  To become a treasure, a part of my collection, a book I will look back on and think "Yes. That is what was going on in my life at the time I read this lovely book.  That. The acceptance I was struggling with. THAT." 
More people than I may have realized need someone to tell them what to do. I guess that everyone has their reason for that. Me, I have a therapist. She's the one I go to for advice, although she rarely out-and-out gives it, it's more of a 'you'll have to solve this one on your own', but not spelled out like this.
We talked, this week, of the subject that is still gnawing away at me; my work situation, where I'm at with it, and how that's going for me.
I gestured while I talked to her:
"I'm HERE, but then I'm BACK THERE."
"I'm GOOD, but then I'm NOT."
"I've made PROGRESS but then I just want the opportunity to bitch-slap someone." (That figurative bitch-slap would be to that bitch, the one I DON'T write about on here, about the situation that never happened, on this blog that doesn't exist. Yea. It's so healthy that I, too, want to scream).

It's Sunday morning.
I am, as always, pajama'ed, making coffee, taking a break from reading this amazing book, and thinking.
Thinking thinking thinking.
The curse and the joy of it.
The beauty and the pain of it.

One column I read talked about acceptance.
The acceptance of acknowledging that Something Has Happened.
That this Something was Not Good.
That this Something continues to wage a war inside me that takes up way too much of my insides-energy in a way I really don't like.
That this Something worms around inside of me and I talk to my husband about it.
That we sometimes have fights about it, this Something, this thing that I can't get past, this co-worker situation.
This Something that I didn't have to opportunity to fight back at.

So, acceptance, huh? It's just not that easy. It's not a simple equation:
You do this, I do this, we do this, you go away, I get on with my life.

My life. 
My REAL life, the one that happens outside of the walls of an office.
It just feels fucked right now.
I don't want it to, but it does.

So, that's me on Sunday morning (again).
I'm not asking for advice, I'm not asking for a salve to put on the wounds, mostly I am just doing what I do on this blog--organizing my thoughts, thinking it out, dragging it out of my head, putting into the keyboard, leaving it on the screen.
Bearing WITNESS to it.
Bearing it.
Beating it.
The power of words.
The pleasure of writing.

The transformation.

Saturday, February 16, 2013


It's a long weekend, my favourite kind, and so far I've done alot.

My hair.
Coloured at the Aveda Academy (where the students do your hair). Cut (for free! Winter bonus!) at the Aveda Academy, by a recent grad who clearly has serious talent and natural ability. He had me stand for a portion of my haircut. I was fascinated.
Bought. My sister's birthday gift (products, hopefully she won't read this).
Bought, for me; a lipstick. I will confess something: I didn't own any. I have lipglosses, I lose them, I find them, once in a while I remember to put some on (my desert-island make up would be an eyebrow pencil, yea, I know: tragic).  But when this talented young guy was done with my hair, meticulously drying it, trimming my 'fringe' as the instructor called it (oh, yea, by the way: I kind of have bangs again. And I kind of, REALLY LOVE THEM) he put this lipstick on me, and if having my hair done wasn't enough to make me feel like a new woman, the lipstick was the icing on the cake.  It's called Clover. It's pinky-beige. It's creamy, it's delicious, and I put it in my little handbag when I went out last night with Mike and some friends, and when I used the w/c I re-touched it, something else I rarely do.
But my hair....oh my hair.
Two dead inches, a good three hours in the chair all in, me reading my iPad the whole time (except during the bang-cutting, I had to put it away then.
Hmm. I did a spin class Friday night. It was good, but it was tough. I was tired. I kicked it in Wednesday's class, and maybe I was still a little spent from that. But I was happy to get two classes in this week. I wanted to run but it's been perilously icy. So I've refrained. There might be a walk in my future today.
Oyster Boy. Mike and I went there yesterday afternoon to pick up some (more) oysters (we had oysters on Valentine's day, with pink champagne, it was lovely), and we were having friends over last night so we bought some more and had a glass of wine while we waited for them. Oyster Boy is in the west end of the city, a place I rarely visit, and the restaurant had a full house of hipsters in super-ugly glasses (hipsters: Your glasses are UGLY. They are UGGLLLYYYY). But it was nice.
Snow was beginning to fall, the roads were getting slippery, and we were having our drink together and just 'being'. Something I don't do nearly enough.
The oysters have the most interesting names, like "Beach Angel" (they come in an "XL" size) and St. Simon (from New Brunswick).

We got home, prepared the oysters (Mike did. I couldn't shuck an oyster if I tried) and we attempted to watch hockey while we waited for our friends to arrive, but the cable was out (I imagined many upset fans calling the cable company and getting the same recorded message I did, which basically said "yea, it's out, we're working on it, screw off" which of course is not a direct quote.

After oysters and drinks, we headed out in the snow to a sports bar to watch some basketball thing on tv which I didn't really understand, but it was fun. I've thought a lot about athletes this weekend, and public personas versus private ones, since reading about an Olympic runner who allegedly murdered his girlfriend.  That horrible underbelly of life, these types of events, the ones that haunt us all, that add to those fears about uncertainties that we already have.

I read one exemplary article that my friend H. sent to me, the same writer who wrote the Lance Armstrong article that she and I admired. National Post, if you're interested.

So that's the juxtaposition. Somewhere, in another country, a family is having the worst few days of their lives.
I am here, far away, trying to re-add the joy to life, working hard to feel gratitude and that oh-so-elusive happiness, and getting there, even if it's only for fleeting moments. 
Sports on tv.
Lipstick on my lips.
Playing new music.
Listening to my niece and nephew sing along, their sweet, reedy little voices tripping over lyrics.

My fluttering heart, beating more steadily, re-assuring my head, and the rest of me, that all will be okay.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

We are Still

...talking about the weather.

And it's fun, it is.  People on the streets of TO, and I'm on the streets of all of the cities affected by this storm, are still stopping in their tracks, whipping out cell phones, and snapping pics. The rest of us (glove'ed, mitten'ed, boot'ed, and COLD) trudge around them and try to stay out of their shot. We don't try that hard).

It's all over the Twitter-verse.  Some creative type in NYC made "snow books" instead of snow angels--the books are perfectly to scale and open to the middle page, splayed in the snow, looking like they belong on a lecturn somewhere.
Then he said, to anyone who would listen, that this was a dialogue on climate change and the impermanence of book. A moment of silence for the humble book. I do love it so. But there is paper in books, and trees needed to make paper, and we're in a bit of a conundrum on this revolving door planet.

In other news my apartment resembles a Best Buy outlet, where electronic equipment goes to die.
Two iPads (Mike's, mine the 2). Two iPhones (the 4something is Mike; mine is the 5).  A Macbook Pro, which I am typing on right now.  A Kindle, Mike's.  My ancient Dell laptop, needed for logging into work (something I unfortunately have to do today). And all of their cords and wires.
This "wireless" business is really quite the oxymoron. I mean it. My point is that it takes energy to run these power sources. Non-renewable at the moment. Is the book really to blame for all this? My silent collection points to a silent 'no'. All the used bookstores do to. Books are renewable, re-readable, share-able, and keep-able.

I managed to sleep past 9am this morning, and I'm feeling better from Round 2 of a knock-down, drag-out cold.  I didn't even attempt to make spinning. It just wasn't going to happen this morning.
Instead, I made coffee, a sandwich, wrote some catch-up emails to friends, cruised Twitter looking at snow pics, mostly from the northeast, towns on the map that are like little friends to me, I've driven through them many times now, and I've charted my progress on the maps in my car, places like Worcester, MA, Framingham, Springfield, Portsmouth, NH, and of course, my beloved Scarborough, ME.
I've started to unravel the clever state-shorthand of state initials.  So many M-states. So little time.

I stayed up late, because Mike is here, and that's what we do. I also napped yesterday, something that is foreign to me, but I did enjoy it. I took my niece to her art class at 9:30 that morning, after digging out the car haphazardly, and after getting her settled, I walked over to Queen for a much-needed Starbucks fix.  It was closed for renovations. Why? How? Where is the next available one in the area?

Oddly, I was so cold while walking I started walking aimlessly, the sun was out, but it was minus 7, and I was rapidly losing my wonder of "wow, look at all this pretty snow..." and thinking instead,      "I need coffee, I need it now. I need ....." 
I trudged along University. Walking anywhere in this mess of snow and slush is impossible, especially in flat, fleece-lined boots.  I had the memory of summer walks along this same route from 2010, visiting my dad at Princess Margaret (where they house a Starbucks, and I will tell you this--    I settled for Tim Horton's on University, I was unable to bring myself to walk the 2 short blocks further to the hospital, so unwilling was I to enter that building again).  I also (guiltily) delete all the PM email blasts about the house lotteries.  It was the last anniversary present we bought for my parents, tickets into the lottery, and it just felt like  a silly sham afterwards. I know it's not and I know it's all in the name of research and fund-raising. The rational part of me knows this, through and through. My heart whispers {they let your father die} even though they did nothing of the sort and everyone who worked there seemed like they belonged there. Compassionate, friendly, interested. But still. My heart, as that Lydia Davis poem says, needs to be told the same thing over and over.
This short story ends with me and a watery-weak-not-strong-Starbucks-but-coffee's-coffee, walking back to the art gallery, claiming one of the few comfortable chairs (near a draft so I kept my coat on) and reading for the remainder of the class while my niece and her fellow art students drew still-lifes--a vase of lilies, a collection of toys, pastels, charcoal, white paper.

Back to cancer-memories. I'm reading "Torch" by Cheryl Strayed, a fiction piece (I use the term fiction lightly, I can tell that this is her life she's writing).  It's a good book, full of beautiful turns-of-phrase, beguiling quotes that need to be read and re-read, slower this time, to understand their full impact, and it's an emotional read, as it always is when someone's parent is diagnosed with cancer.
I won't give away the whole plotline and spoil it here, but I will say; it distills regret, it opens up old wounds, it picks away at the dream of the perfect family. Families are flawed, hopelessly so, and that is part of the message--those flaws are what make a family so uniquely love-able, so dear. They can't be fixed, they can't be un-lived, they can't be made whole. The holes are the parts you remember the most, and can't live without. It's funny, isn't it? You can look back, and those Christmas mornings all disappear, but the birthday of your mother's, where the whole family had fought, and you accidentally dropped and broke a plate that had been a gift to your mother from her own mother, comes back to you in all its dreaded detail.  

I leave you with that to ponder on what will hopefully be an idle day, as Sunday really should be.

I'm going running.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Nothing New

I haven't been writing....oops.
What I have been doing is working, like a dog, and it's super busy right now.
What can I tell you?

I changed offices (within my office). My new office is smaller but it's nice. It's away in a corner
but not in a corner-office type of way. Last night I stayed at work, cleaning it up, and cleaning out my 'old' office, which is the next one over. There was a lot of debris--design is like that.
Samples, drawings, files. A lot to throw out.

I had a cold/flu that I'm still getting over. I was off sick for two days last week and it was depressing, especially with how busy it's been. I still did work from home on both days but on the Wednesday I slept most of the time.

I watched the Superbowl with my mom, even though the Patriots weren't playing. I rooted for the 49ers as I felt the same way as one of the announcers, who so succinctly put it "I'm sick of all this Ray Lewis stuff."  My mom left to go home before half-time and I'm ashamed to admit I fell asleep during that black out in the New Orleans stadium. I blame my cold.

It's snowing to beat the band outside right now. There is actually snow on the window 'ledge' on my condo outside, and the ledge is really just some brick.  The pigeons are flying around, playing in the flakes. It has not stopped snowing all day. Like most of my office, I'm working from home today, and our network is slow as molasses. I'm on my second (large) cup of coffee in my New York mug.

I took up spinning as a helper to get me back into shape. I'm still running, slowly building up strength.
Spinning is tough but I like it. Mike and I rented bikes in Key West and I loved being on a bike again,
just not sure I'd want to bike around this city--way too many cars, and way too high a potential for accidents. Spinning gives me time on the bike, there is loud music, they bark instructions through a head-set, and turn the lights down low. It's great.
I'm also doing weights again, and stretching, and planking. Running's given me endurance, but strength I do not have.  On that note, now that my neuro gave me the green light on the running, I've been back at it. Loving it. Especially loving not feeling guilty like I did when I was running and not supposed to...what can you do. No races though. Just loving running alone and running against myself. Lots of thinking while I run.

It's February, I'm sure you've noticed. I'm glad. Jan in Can is not fun, and even though I managed to miss two weeks of it, it was still dark and freezing and depressing. I'm glad it's over.
February is nice and short, my sister has a birthday and we usually do it up, there's the Family Day long weekend which is a nice little holiday, and there is Valentines. Mike is back (he arrived at 6 this morning, giving new meaning to the song "I Drove All Night", really, because he did, and he managed to get out of New England prior to the dumping of snow they're supposed to get starting today).  So...lots to do in February.

Art classes. That's what I got my niece for Christmas, and so far, I've taken her there almost every Saturday (except the first one, I was away).  The classes are held at the AGO (Art Gallery of Ontario) and she loves them. I wish they were more instructional (they are taking a 'fun' approach, which, for the amount of money I paid for them, is a little....whack) but my niece is happy.
The classes are 2 hours and I've been bringing her, then walking to the nearest Starbucks, getting a coffee, then coming back and reading a book. Electronically. More about that in the next paragraph.

I bought an iPad. I caved to technology. It's ironic, because I have not jumped on the hardware bandwagon (the iPhone is a work thing, I was very lucky to get the new one), and so this is the first electronic I have bought. (I don't even have a flat screen TV. For real).  So the iPad. The real reason I wanted one was because of the library book dilemma (ie, the bedbugs found in Toronto libraries and books. I know. I'll give you a minute with that).  So I am now connected to the Toronto Public Library via my iPad and I have more reading on the go right now than I can reasonably handle. I've been staying up late, trying to keep up.  I've read an ebook by Alexander McCall Smith (ebookette really), called 'The Perils of Morning Coffee' which I loved. Waiting for me to read them right now are Cheryl Strayed's "Torch", Laura Hillebrand's "Unbroken", and another McCall Smith book is on hold--his new one, "The Uncommon Appeal of Clouds".  I also read a memoir by the best friend of writer Caroline Knapp (deceased, her book was "Drinking; A Love Story" which I love, and I couldn't believe she died so young).  Her friend's book is titled "Let's Take the Long Way Home" and it talks about their friendship, which started because they were both independent, like-minded women with dogs and drinking problems.  The book was very average, I have to say, but I read it anyway. It had some great quotes in it (one of them was that, in the author's view, your forties are a time of life when you really live in the moment for some reason. I'm really looking forward to that, I am).  It was also an emotional read after Knapp gets her lung cancer diagnosis.  Another type of grief we don't explore alot in society; how you grieve when a close friend dies, when you're both not yet old.

And I'm reading them all electronically. I swore I would never 'cross over' but now that I have, I can't imagine why I didn't want to...I carry the iPad with me everywhere, and I always have a book to read in case I have to wait for something. I love it.

In "real" book form I finished reading Michael Bryant's "28 Seconds" which is his memoir about his role in the death of a cyclist in downtown Toronto in 2009.  He was the former Attorney General of Ontario, my own former MPP in the riding of St. Paul's when I lived on Bathurst, and he struck and killed a cyclist in his car, after the cyclist had become very aggressive with him and tried to attack him in his car.  I remembered the case at the time and thought, God, what bad bad luck, and I remembered Toronto's cycling 'community' of bike couriers and riders getting very upset about the whole thing, without even thinking of what it must have been like to be in that car, to have an accident like that, to have your whole life turned upside down. Is it a Pulitzer-prize type book? No. But it made for interesting reading. It was also a good read in the sense of a reminder: the reminder that we do not, as much as we delude ourselves that we do, control our own lives, our destinies.
They are set out for us, and we have to adapt as they reveal themselves. After this tragic event, his younger brother died in 2011, the day after my dad, I was sad to read. The book also reminded me that my story is one that needs to be told too. And it will haunt me til I write it, as Truman Capote once said. I've been thinking about that a lot lately.

So, Mike is here, and he brought me my Christmas/anniversary gift (how did I plan this? Our wedding anniversary is so close to Christmas that the two have been combined...Hmm). It's a beautiful, Dijon-yellow Le Crueset oven-to-table dish. The kind you make beef bourginon in.
It's official, in case anyone was wondering. I'm domesticated. True, I still don't own a toaster or kettle, but clearly I've 'crossed over'. Mike bought it in an outlet in Florida while we were travelling. Odd thing is, the yellow dishes were all on a further discount, which was ironic, and lucky, as I love yellow. The saleswoman explained that the most popular colour for the cookware now is Carribean Blue, which is gorgeous, but 40 % off is 40 % off. Yellow it is.

So that's the update.
And it's still snowing...

Happy Snowday Friday! 

Friday, February 1, 2013

Are you happy?

Having negative events happen to you, the study found, decreases your happiness but increases the amount of meaning you have in life. Another study from 2011 confirmed this, finding that people who have meaning in their lives, in the form of a clearly defined purpose, rate their satisfaction with life higher even when they were feeling bad than those who did not have a clearly defined purpose. "If there is meaning in life at all," Frankl wrote, "then there must be meaning in suffering."

I had a long conversation with a friend about this very topic recently. We know that we have so much, we all know that (the hashtag "first world problems" reminds us of this). We have, really, too much. More than we know what to do with.
But are we happy?
Sometimes we are. Sometimes we aren't.
For me, it's not an all-in state. I'm happy with some parts of my life, and very unhappy about other parts.
This makes me amphibious I guess, this state of some-high, some-low, but it doesn't make me
What does make me maybe more unique is the perspective I have on it.
The hard-won kind.
Living alone for ten years will do that for you.

Happy February...