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 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. 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.