Thursday, December 31, 2009

The New Year and a Case of the Waffles

Do you make resolutions at the start of the new year?

I don't. The sort of resolutions that come to mind at this time of year are of the self-denial sort -- quit eating, smoking, drinking, over-spending, etc. In the words of Charlie Brown, or was it Lucy, "Blech!" Not that these aren't worthy of pursuit. They are. But they are also, often, short-lived.

Despite this, setting goals and working toward them does evoke an inspiring sort of resolve. I think I can, I think I can, I think I can... Like a Hollywood movie where each of us plays the underdog facing the ticking clock, the tough exam, the evil fascist, our own fears. If only we can prevail, we will be redeemed. 

I'm looking for a few goals of my own. I have some biggies to sort out: singledom, job, empty nest. My son concludes that I should follow along with him to Toronto. "You hate it here," he tells me. "I think you'd find more people like you in Toronto."

He may be right.

Yet, I waffle.

I waffle with everything. What sort of job do I want? What sort can I get that will interfere as little as possible with writing? Is the writing worth pursuing? Should I just get back into consulting, make some money and forget about writing? Consulting is time consuming, intellect consuming, effort consuming. There would be little time and no brain space left for creation at the end of a long work day. The money part certainly has appeal. Saving enough to not live on cat food in my senior years has its merits. But to give up the writing? Now that would be sad.

I tell myself that this is just a phase. I've faced a lot of changes over the past -- has it only been five? -- months. Wow. It feels longer.

So, waffling for a bit is okay, right? It doesn't indicate mental disability, does it? Some decline of will? It is acceptable, no, laudable, that I take my time to get the next few years of my life sorted out without the deadline of the start of a new year. Right?

I hear they've come a long way with cat food.


Wednesday, December 30, 2009

McNally-Robinson closes two stores

McNally-Robinson Booksellers has been forced to close two of its bookstores. This, after being named bookseller of the year for 2009. Yes, 2009. This year.

Sure, the independent retailer  faces stiff competition from what McNally calls the reckless discounting of the big box stores (and I agree with him) but was opening two stores this year a great business move? Did they even research whether their formula of nightly writer chats that worked well in Winnipeg would work in Toronto -- a market where even Lawrence Hill couldn't muster more than half-a-dozen readers?

The good news is that two of McNally-Robinson's stores remain open. I hope they are able to rally from this setback and carry on in the face of the large discount stores.

The Globe and Mail article is here.


Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Post-holiday stuff

My head is muddled today. Post holiday let down, I suppose.

For anyone wondering, I did finish up the albums for the kids and wrote little stories to go with the photos. The kids really liked them.

This was the first holiday that my son is working full-time and had to work on Boxing Day. My daughter was off work but left Christmas night to return the next day for breakfast out and then left again. We were supposed to go to a movie but she forgot and made plans with friends. The holiday lasted one whole day.

One day... for so much planning, anticipation and, let's be honest, work. It just doesn't seem worthwhile.

Maybe it's me being single for the first time in a few years.

I am bummed.

The ex has a role to play in my mood too. A few days before Christmas, he invited me out for dinner and confessed his lingering feelings for me.. his newly discovered concern and caring for me... absent during our relationship. He wondered if there might be a chance for us in the future. I haven't heard from him since with the exception of a 30-second call on Christmas Day.

It seems the future comes and goes faster than one might think.

Ah, well. Enough whining. Back to the joy of sending query letters.

How was your holiday?


Monday, December 21, 2009

My photographic legacy

So, Christmas this year is going to be quiet. Nice, but quiet. I am one of those who prefer a boisterous three-day extravaganza. I like snow and cold weather in the days or weeks leading to December 25 although I have learned to do with mild and green. And I am quite happy to see the cold dissipate after January 1.

This year holiday planning has gone so smoothly that I decided I had lots of time to start a project. It'll only take a couple of days I thought.

I thought wrong.

I am going through 25 years of unsorted photographs to create life histories for my kids as a special gift for them. I am writing stories and anecdotes about the photos so they will know as much about the family and their childhoods as I do -- well almost. Some things are better left under the rug.

I have been at it for about five days now. After a marathon 10 hours today, standing at the kitchen counter on hard ceramic tile, I can say with confidence that I am halfway through. Better than half. I think. Yes, 10 hours of standing at the counter with package upon package of black card stock, plastic page protectors and those little corners to anchor the photos in place. Did you know those little corner things are now peel-and-stick? I had no idea but thank you to whoever decided it would be a good idea.

Rather than do the albums chronologically ('cause that would be too easy) I'm going by theme. Ancient family, me (There are no dads. They were virgin births. Honest.), their births, school, activities and minor trips, Disney World, Christmases, birthdays, etc. Each section has at least one write up. I pick the most representative shots, crop them, place them on the page, and write/print the stories.

My son's album is complete although now that I've sorted the photos for my daughter, I've found a few more for him and am not sure if I have left space for them. The photos for my daughter's are sorted. I think I can have hers done in two days. Go, me!

My shoulders are killing me from hunching over. I have a headache.

But I think these gifts are going to be really cool. Who doesn't like reading about themselves? Plus, when I'm dead I don't want them having to try to figure out who various people are. And did I mention the amount of space these pictures take up? I've already thrown lots out, but four large plastic tubs is nuts.

So here's to a not-so-smooth Christmas.

If I don't get back here before the big day, look for me in the corner under a mountain of the leftovers from my cropping frenzy and wipe the drool from my chin, would you?

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukah, Happy Solstice, Joyous Kwanza, Happy Eid.... Merry, merry holidays!


Friday, December 18, 2009

A Day in a Life

Here's another story. It's a blast finding them. I hadn't remembered that I wrote much back then. Too many other crappy things going on, I suppose, for writing to have made an impact on my memory. I do recall one story that I entered in The Permanent's National Writing Competition. I received an honourable mention for that one. I wonder if I am soon to find a copy of that?

This one is typed out calling to mind a typewriter I received one Christmas. Blue, plastic, electric. I thought it was pretty swanky as I recall.

Today's trip down memory lane is something I wrote in grade 12 (September, 1975, I'd just turned 16 the week before). My teacher gave me an A and wrote: "Excellent -- reminds me of The Fire Dwellers by Margaret Lawrence." Pretty heady stuff. Especially when you read what follows. Do you think teachers do children an injustice by being overly encouraging?

I can see that I've modelled the kids after my own nephews and niece. I have left the spelling and punctuation as written. Was today ever written as to-day?

It cracks me up that I have the MC whining like an old lady but for relaxation she plays Led Zeppelin. And why I've given the kids Swiss/Germanic names, I do not know.

A Day in a Life

The kids are gone. The house is a horrible mess and here I am left to clean it all up. Never before have I prayed for peace as I have this week. Lord love 'em but those kids seemed an awful lot louder this visit than last. How can their parents stand it? I can't be getting that old, can I? I'm sure I'm not the only one that they annoy, am I? Heavens no!

That Hans! He's into everything! Scribbling here and scrolling there. He takes things and hides them and breaks things and hides them. What a little terror! He gets into food and all my candy. That Hans -- how I'd like to give him a good spanking!

Why he gets into mischief just for attention. Never have I seen a child like that. Ach! Look -- he's put ink marks on my white dresser! It's a good thing that I have the stain remover with me. A little rub here and -- mmm -- it's all off. Now to vaccum the sand left by those huge beach towels and little bathing suits. I'm going to have to wash all the floors because of these mud tracks. Off come the dirty bed sheets -- on go the clean. Now on to the next room. The two boys in one room, Krista in another.

Speaking of Krista -- that little flirt. Why she gets away with murder! (Hmmm -- her mother left one of Krista's tops. I'll have to mail it This won't be the only thing they'll have left either I'll bet; and I'll have to gather it all and mail it to them.) At least Krista isn't as messy as Hans. But Hans on one hand is honest -- it makes it hard to be mad at him for long. Krista on the other hand is deceitful. She whines and cries for attention -- and usually gets it too. She pouts and uses her big brown eyes; no wonder she has everyone wrapped around her little finger. This room's done now, I'll come back to do the mirror and the dusting later.

It's a good thing that my sister decided to leave to-day. I've got all of Sunday to re-cooperate before work Monday. I'll probably wish I had a week though; oh well. I better start washing these sheets. I don't have any more clean ones to put on the remaining beds.

Ugh! This bathroom -- what a mess! It's no great wonder why they left this morning. All these towels go in the laundry. This toilet gets unclogged -- whew! I probably have the only nephews in the world who go through five rolls of toilet paper a day. Last but not least, the vanity gets cleaned. Ahh! a toad! I bet it was Johann. The little devil! One of these days -- oh never mind. I must be crazy, here I am talking to myself. Eh well, as long as I'm listening -- self, control yourself.

Hey, I know what I need, some music. Music is the greatest invention since... since... oh never mind that too. Led Zeppelin, here I come! Nieces and nephews are o.k., so are brother-in-laws, and sisters, but nothing beats peace of mind a good old music. Can you imagine the nerve of that kid to put a baby toad in my bathroom sink? Some people's kids just don't know when to stop. Now I ask you, what do I am -- I ask you: I ask me: how do I stand this? I'll answer: I don't know.

Geez, my back's killing me. I deserve a coffee break. I'm all finsihed the upstairs and the downstairs shouldn't take long.

Look at all these dishes! There not a clean mug anywhere. Oh well, I'll have to do the dishes before my coffee break. Now I realize what's bothering me -- it's the music. It's like a piece of gum: you don't know what's making you so tense until you throw it away. There aren't as many dirty dishes as it seemed. I'll be done here in ten or fifteen minutes.

This is what I call perfect timing, the dishes and coffee done, both at the same time and I'll be able to wateh "The Pink Panther" while I drink my coffee. I don't believe that I'll actually be able to hear atelevision show without kids yelling in my ears and crawling al over me. I'm so glad that they're gone. This peace is soothing.

Hey, what's this? One of Krista's drawings with her typical house and flowers. It's rather a good drawing for a seven-year-old. She's a cute kid too. So are her brothers. I really miss them. Oh well, I'll see them at Christmas."

How's that for a trip down memory lane?

And now back to getting the family photo albums in order. You'd think that once in twenty years I'd have done this, but no.

Hope you're having a great day.

Thursday, December 17, 2009


I am pulling together photo albums for my kids with stories of their childhoods as a special Christmas gift. In my digging, I came across a diary from my early teen years. Oh, to read the meanderings of my boy-crazy thirteen year old self. It appears that I was "in love and would be forever" with a new boy on each page. Boys who I now, of course, can't picture, whose faces I can often not place with the names. Reading my entries is, to say the least, a cringe-inducing experience. I wonder how I'll feel about these posts in a few years.

I also came across a story written when I was thirteen. Or part of a story. The beginning is missing. Page seven begins:

"It was a prefect night for a runaway. The heavy clouds covered the misty moon and the stars gave her all the light she needed.
"She slipped down a secluded alley and gropped [sic] her way through it untill [sic] she came to an abandoned cottate. It was approximately ten feet squared and had a little thatched roof that, with another storm, would give way. Tere wasn't any glass left in the windows and the rickety door hun on by one rusty hinge.
"Raven slipped into the bare, one-roomed house and was surprized to find no rats. She was most astonished with this fact -- until she glanced up and saw a huge -- no -- massive cat glaring at her hrough wicked green eyes, as though she was another mouse to dispose of.
"Raven wanted to yell -- to scream, to get help but that was impossible under her conditions.
"She reached for her pack-sack, slowly ever so slowly and slipped toward the open door. When she reache saftey she ran with all the force her powerfull frame possessed.
"Raven headed straight for the Bristol docks where she could smell the mingling scent of fresh fish and salt sea air."

Our young runaway heads for a ship, The Fancy Free -- a pirate ship, I believe -- where someone named Jake is threatened with "a taste of the capt'n's friend, his pussy-cat, the cat'o'nine tails!"

Ah, youth.

What do you remember about yours?


Tuesday, December 15, 2009

And yet...

We just met our next-door-neighbours at a holiday get-together organized by our building managers. Turns out the couple are from Texas and studying at one of our universities with dreams of being dentists. We've invited them, and they've accepted, to join us for Christmas dinner bringing our numbers up to seven. Not a large group, but respectable. Me, my two kids, two of their friends and our neighbours. Our invitees are all here without family.

Even with our growing group, it's been difficult to get into the Christmas spirit this year. The break-up; the move; the damp, grey, mild weather. My age. (Doesn't fifty sound almost frightening?) Entering menopause. Even quitting the job has had an impact on my mood. Sure, it was my choice to leave but it's made fiscal restraint take on a whole new meaning. It's the first year that I have not been able to afford whatever I've wanted to buy. Yes, the kids are getting what they wanted. They asked for very little so that was easy to do. But I haven't bought the extra things I usually do.

I realize that mine is an emotional reaction rather than an intellectual one. The kids will enjoy their gifts; we have friends to spend the day with; we will have a wonderful meal.

And yet...

In my finer moments, I recognize and feel great about my shucking off. My great shedding of all things negative. My bravery to forge a life that works for me. I realize and can even muster some sympathy for my ex who must jump into another relationship, not as a negation of what we had, but because he is unable to build a life on his own.

And yet...

I even welcome the loss of things as a precursor to welcoming good things. Life might take away, but afterward, what she gives is always better.

I've finished the first draft of my manuscript, received great feedback on it and my grant submission. I'm getting together with friends for martinis and dinner this evening.

So why am I so blue?

Agh, it's just a phase, right? Transition? My mood will crawl out of the cellar soon. Yes, I know it will.

And yet...


Sunday, December 13, 2009

One of the things I wonder about

I am wondering why it is that whenever a woman does something (nearly anything -- doesn't even have to be particularly nasty) to a man it is labeled as emasculating yet when a man does something really hateful to a woman it just is. Is there even a female version of emasculate? Efemulate?


Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Grant Proposal

Just got back from meeting with the province's program officer for the arts grants. He reviewed my submission and said I had a unique story, that it was very intriguing and well-written -- that I presented information coherently and showed character and story development by "lifting the veils off one by one."

I know, I know this doesn't mean I'm getting a cent, but for right now I am encouraged.

And now I'm on my way out for coffee with a friend.

Zippity do dah!

What a great start to my day.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

When Friendship Ends

When do you go from being in love to not being in love? From being friends to not being friendly?

In my life, the former is something too difficult to judge but I can tell you when the latter happened. It was about 10 or 12 days ago. Apparently.

I've been trying to stay on friendly terms with the ex for a number of reasons including: the fact that he has not a single friend and I don't want him  to fall into deeper depression; that we were once in love and should be nice to each other; and finally (and this is hard to admit) because there is a part of me that really, really wants him to step up and be the man he should have been.

We had been in the habit of getting together once a week for coffee or to run errands together (he has the car, I am a foot soldier). Once we went out to listen to a blues band.

So, after the last time I saw him he said he'd call in a couple of days and didn't.

Today is the first time I've heard from him in two weeks.

As soon as he said hello, I could hear it. The end of our friendship. It was the same tone he uses with his ex-wife, a woman he hates.

What happened between gabbing over coffee and today? Nothing except that he has become infatuated with someone else.

This is a small town and I've heard what he is now saying about me. And it hurts.

He says that our relationship ended a year ago and that we stayed together for purely financial reasons. (I wonder how couples therapy fits into this theory? Or the long, slow, painful good bye?)

Why he's being this way with me, I do not know.

But I do know that our friendship is finished.


Friday, December 4, 2009

Best books of 2009

Here is the Globe and Mail's picks for the 2009 Globe Books 100. I've chosen the link to Canadian books, but the list has the links to foreign, poetry, biography and more.

Here is the New York Times Most Notable Books for 2009. The list is broken down by fiction and nonfiction.

Whether you buy ebooks or pbooks, buy books!

Happy reading!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Adam Lambert

Okay, so my fave on last year's Idol (the U.S. version) Adam Lambert is being banned from a number of television shows because of the simulated oral sex act during a recent performance.

I have to say, I don't get the furor.

How many music videos and performances (live or televised) are there where a male singer simulated anal or doggie-style sex with a female dancer? This has even been on main-stream shows like So You Think You Can Dance. No one says boo. Haven't there been instances where a female dancer will drop to her knees in front of a male star?

So, what's the difference?

I'm not saying I like any of it. As a matter of fact, I don't.

I don't think it adds anything of value to the music and is often very degrading.

But that isn't the point.

My question is: if it's okay for some, why isn't it okay for others?

Oh, right. He's gay and it was a guy down there not a woman. 'Cause if it was a woman, it would never have been worthy of canceling bookings. So it's both homophobic and sexist. Bravo, television networks!


Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Exes and clones

So is it weird that the last two guys I have had serious relationships with are now dating women who look like me? Me, that is, with my hair straightened, not the naturally-curly-headed me. It feels weird.

The guy-before-last ran into my daughter and showed her a photo of his new wife. My daughter said she almost choked when she saw it. "It was like looking at a picture of you, Mom," she said.

The last guy is also in pursuit of a me-clone.

Perhaps I should be flattered, but I'm not. I feel like yelling at them. If you wanted me so badly, why couldn't you be the men that you are no doubt going to be with these new women? Why do I say no doubt? Because now they're trained.

Some years ago, my sister ran into an old beau and his new girlfriend and the woman actually thanked my sister for making the guy into such a great human being. They are now happily married.

And I know it's the same with these guys. Guy #1 was married within a year of our break-up. Even though he still owed me money and was a real prick when we split, he was the one who found what he wanted and got married. Guy #2, who I have been emotionally supporting because he suffers from depression, is now out and dating. Guy # 2 -- whose bills I paid and who offered to help me through a rough financial patch of my own, but didn't and now has the family car while I walk -- he is out there dating!

So, here's the lesson ladies: get them post-season not pre-session. It's a lot of hassle and heartache and you avoid the constant accusation of wanting to change them.

Have you met you? I've wanted to ask. If you had, you'd want to change you too.

Ugh! As I write this I see the old saw about accepting people for how they are which leads me to the new saw: If you can't accept them the way they are, tell them to fuck off. There's someone better coming down the road that you won't be available for because you're too busy trying to pretend that the guy you're with is a wonderful human.

Step away from the fantasy or you'll be watching your exes with clone-yous on their arms as you try to fix the next one.


Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Let the season of returns begin!

As I write this I am on hold with Sears. My mom, who lives in Ontario, sent Christmas gifts for my kids. She ships them, I wrap them, It's a fine agreement.

This year, however, Mom purchased clothes for my 26-year-old daughter in size small. My daughter is lovely and beautiful but a size small she is not. So, I have offered to attempt to exchange them for a larger size. Did I mention that Mom has lost the receipt?

I decide to call to find out the best course of action.

Tick, tock, tick, tock.

Ah, six minutes and the bleat of a voice interjects over the insipid and static-filled Muzak.

And I'm disconnected.

I dial again. This time I am lucky to get through to someone who offers to help. I need the receipt she tells me. Yes, I explain. But I don't have one and neither does my 81-year-old mother. I am put on hold.

When the woman returns, she tells me to call another number to locate the receipt.

But how, I inquire, can they find a receipt for a couple of items purchased in another province and not on a credit card?

That's what they will tell you, she says. Is that okay with you?

Sure, I guess so. I mean if you think it will help.

I dial.

I, of course, am on hold and a recording tells me something about return policies and that maybe I might want to send my query via email.

I do not think so.

I hold.

This Muzak is at least clear. An electronic piano with a popcorn-sounding back beat. Shoot me.

I have to pee.

Oh, glory. Latin-inspired Muzak. Where are my dancing shoes?

I wonder if I can -- oh! a voice!

And I've been given the wrong number. I have to call retail returns not catalogue returns.

At least I can pee. And grab the cordless phone.

Now, for the fourth time, a recording tells me that Sears is most interested in making me a happy customer.

I guess we will see whether that is the case, won't we?

I wait only seconds and am connected with a woman with a bad cough and a heavy accent. French of some sort, I believe. Between the coughing, however, she is able to tell me that I have to contact my local store and that the decision to let me return/exchange something is up to the store.

I tell her that it has taken four calls to get this information. She laughs and tells me that I finally found the right person.

She made me laugh too. There is something in the French attitude of "everyone else is an idiot and I am the only one who can do anything right" that can crack me up.

Of course, the reason I called in the first place is because there is no one at the local Sears store who I have dealt with who I consider the least helpful. Or maybe that's exactly what I consider them to be: the least helpful.

Tomorrow. I'll think about it tomorrow.

Mom, you owe me.

But it's snowing. I can't be mad when it's snowing. Not the early snow. Not before Christmas. Later in the season, yes, but today, no.

Happy, happy day!


Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Writers' Trust Awards Announced

And here's another nugget for today... The Writers' Trust Award winners were announced yesterday with Annabel Lyon taking the Rogers Writers' Trust Award for Fiction for her book, The Golden Mean.

How about buying books for whatever holiday you are celebrating this year?


Man Defends What He Supposes the American Constitution to Be

Gotta love The Onion. This had me laughing out loud.

Enjoy your day.


Monday, November 23, 2009

I just don't get it

I've already posted today (see below) but have just been listening to a report on The Current (CBC Radio) about the ongoing battle to ensure proper health care for First Nations children.

A law was passed two (?) years ago after a little boy died having spent his entire 2.5 year long life in hospital rather than living at home because the federal and provincial governments couldn't agree on who was responsible to pay for the child's care.The law states that the needs of the child should come first, that the child should received whatever care is required and that governments must haggle later.

Although this law was passed it hasn't been put into practice and the government is now trying to change it so that it only covers children with complex medical conditions.

According to the interviewees, Native families will sometimes be forced to put their kids into foster care because the kids are fully covered when they are in such care. White kids living on reserve are also fully covered.

There is to be a human rights tribunal in Alberta about this as it is a gross human rights violation.

That is, there was to be one. The feds are now fighting to say that there is no jurisdiction for such a case to be heard.

I'm sitting here writing this and I can't stop crying. I know this is true. I know that my fellow Canadians are allowing this to happen.

But it can't be true. We can't be like this.We cannot be a nation of people who turn our backs on the suffering of our brothers and sisters, no, who actually perpetrate this suffering through our bigotry and apathy.

I put myself in the position of a mom whose child is ill and in need of medical attention and my choice is to have my child go to live with strangers in order to get health care. To send my child away.

My tears aren't going to help.

But we all can. What is the difficulty in writing letters to government officials? Blogging? Tweeting? All we need is the tipping point.

I have a couple of links to post below but haven't yet found a link on the CBC site. As soon as I find it, I'll post it.

Edmonton Sun

Turtle Island


Missed deadlines

It's deadline day today. One of my students from my first class two years ago has till today to submit outstanding assignments and receive her diploma. (I am using she as gender neutral rather than as a statement of which gender this person is.) I have a feeling this isn't going to happen despite my emails of encouragement and a final extension.

Whether the student does or does not hand them in, the situation that got her here in the first place is most unfortunate. She is capable, has great attention to detail and always produces professional-grade work. She was top of the class or top three until the month before the end of first semester when she became ill. Although I do not know the exact nature of her illness, she was hospitalized. The work that wasn't finished that semester was never completed and deadlines continued to be missed throughout second term.

As time progressed, I began to believe my student was suffering from anxiety and/or depression and I had a few discussions with her about her tremendous abilities and the need to let things go. To do the work to the best of your ability up to deadline and release it onto the world. Eighty per cent right and on time is better than 100 per cent if the 100 per cent misses the deadline and the client walks away or the crisis boils over.

After more than a year of trying to get the assignments, this student was told that the 13th was the last deadline. She asked for and received an extension to the 20th and was supposed to contact me last week to discuss the outstanding work. By Wednesday I hadn't heard from her so sent and email again encouraging her to contact me.

She responded and outlined her many work deadlines that were swamping her. I asked for and obtained another extension to today. I also reminded her that, at this point, she could do no better marks-wise than a pass so not to agonize over doing work that would garner a top grade.

I have still not received that phone call.

It's really a sad situation though I am still holding onto hope that she might come through.


Saturday, November 21, 2009

Wish list for the holidays

In my house, it's not Christmas unless I get a book under the tree or in my stocking.

This year, I've requested (and I do have to request them as my bookshelves are crammed and no one could possibly know what I already have):

  • Fugitive Pieces by Anne Michaels
  • Fall by Colin McAdam
  • The Disappeared by Kim Echlin
  • Last Night in Twisted River by John Irving

I've been  thinking about e-readers but am not ready to take the plunge. The idea of being able to cart numerous books with me without the excess weight is appealing but reading from yet another screen is not. (Just wait my friend, someday you too may need bifocals! I am beginning to see the appeal of large type on my computer screen already.)

What about you? What's on your reading/wish list for the holidays? Are you or have you gone electronic?


Friday, November 20, 2009

When you lose your dreams...

I've been in a funk over the past two days about my writing. Here's what a friend wrote me:

"You have to love putting words on paper, believe a little bit in your own karma as a writer, plug away, throw your product out to the universe and let it find its place, then start all over again. Oh, and you have to laugh and find humour every day, and you've got to have a dream... When you lose your dreams, you die."

That's now hanging in my office.

I have pretty smart friends, don't I? And generous too.


Thursday, November 19, 2009

Sears and body Image

Having to find the name of those one-piece winter suits for infants (not the iconic snowsuit), I perused the pages of Sears catalogue this morning to discover what I wanted was called a pram suit. Lovely. Thank you.

I flipped through the pages of said catalogue and came to the undergarments section which I perused -- always on the look out for a good bra.

In the ultra-support section, I came across those draconian-looking girdles along with less-restrictive body gloves. Keeping in mind that these things are made to suck in fat, I was surprised to come across one that came in two sizes only. A small and a medium/large.

Guess what the waist measurements are?

Small: 28"
Med/Lg: 30"

Thirty inches is not only the largest size this body-shaping, breath-restricting, fat-holding onesie comes it, but, apparently, someone or ones actually think(s) that 28- and 30-inched waisted women need this type of garment.

Sears, are you kidding me? In my books, the only time 30" would be considered large and in need of drastic reduction would be something seen only in a porn movie. And 28" needing a girdle? Who is your audience?

We wonder why women have serious body issues.


Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Why is it just when you're falling asleep...

Nearly every night, as soon as I turn out my reading light, ideas for my manuscript pop into my head. I never, ever remember them come morning so now keep a notebook and pen on my night table. Sometimes my thoughts are "fix it" things -- something I've written that's missing the mark and my brain has somewhere registered this without my conscious knowledge and then -- viola! -- the light goes out and the "fix" appears. Other times, a scene will appear to me and I have to do some extensive scribbling so I don't lose it.

Such was the case last night and I can't wait to tackle the new scene this morning; I'm so energized.


P.S If sometimes is one word, why is other times two words?

P.P.S. Down another three pounds for a total of 29! How cool is that?

Saturday, November 14, 2009

What is it with those vegetarians?

Overheard at a coffee shop...

A middle-aged man and woman, each with their own newspaper. The papers are not the same. They chat about what they are reading without looking away from their pages or worrying about interrupting the other.

Man: What is it with these vegetarians?
Woman: I don't know. They don't eat meat.
Man:  Some of them eat fish. Fish is a meat as far as I'm concerned.
Woman: There are different kinds. Some don't eat anything with eyes.
Man: Harrumph.... Black-eyed peas have eyes.
Woman: Well, yes.
Man: Or is it black-eyed susans.
Woman: Black-eyed susans.
Man: Ah.

I don't know. This just cracked me up.


Friday, November 13, 2009

Love, Handbag

The mall downtown sent me a rather clever postcard yesterday.

The photo is of a purse on a pink background. It is a lovely purse. Just the kind I'd love to own.

The message reads:

I hope you remember me.

I'm the handbag that held your gaze when you passed by, not long ago, on the Lane. In those brief seconds I could see our life together like we'd already lived it. Long strolls in the city -- weekends in the country -- always holding each other close.

I'm still here -- waiting for your return. I hope we meet again. Who knows what wonderful things lay in store for us.

Until then, I'll remain an empty vessel, alone and unfulfilled.

With love and anticipation,

Thursday, November 12, 2009

I'm old

I am officially old.

While in the kitchen, I thought of something to add to my latest go at a manuscript. I raced to the computer to get it down before I forgot. When I turned on my screen there were a couple of emails waiting for me which I answered. One asked for information about tickets for a play which I found and sent off. I then got some lunch, sat down to watch tv while I ate, chatted with my daughter on the phone, checked my son's schedule for the day, got a drink and then wandered back to work and remembered I'd had a wonderful idea for my friggin' MS.

An hour ago.

What was it?

I have no idea... oh wait! Something about the flu.

The flu.


Nope. Not coming.



Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Monday, November 9, 2009

Oh, Pachelbel!

Taking the low-road from Maya, here's a rant on a piece of music that I love -- like everyone else: Pachelbel Canon in D Major.(the actual version)

The Amazon Wal-Mart price war:

And at the end of the day, who pays? Not the big stores, that's for sure.

The Amazon Wal-Mart price war:

The 10% Factor

I've done it! I've done it! I've dropped 10 per cent of my body weight! Yea!

To my heart: You are welcome.


Friday, November 6, 2009

Dreams and Goals

Bad Writing Contracts

Bad Writing Contracts is a consortium urging writers to boycott Transcontinental. Info was sent out today by the Nova Scotia Writers' Federation along with info about how to have your contract reviewed if you do enter into one with Transcontinental.

The link is above.


Thursday, November 5, 2009

Teaching boys about condoms

My son was home-schooled through high school. Not because of any problems but because he was miserable and bored.

I give you this background not for any political reason but so you understand that the logistical part of sex ed has been denied him.

Oh, we've talked about sex. Responsibility, pleasure, safety. He knows the score. (I hope.)

When my late bloomer announced that he was finally ready to date, however, I realized that, at some time in the foreseeable future, safe sex and condom use would no longer be relegated to the realm of academic discussion. And then I wondered: What if he was too shy to purchase them?

When my daughter was in high school, the health office had a bowlful of them that kids could nonchalantly walk beside and scoop up as needed.

What resources would my son have?

None. Just me.

So, I bought a box of them and brought them home and told him to pay attention. I proceeded to show him how to use one by slipping one over my fingers. (What can I say, we didn't have a banana in the house.)

He was, in a word, mortified.

He told me that I had scarred him for life.

He announced that he'd be in therapy for years to come.

And then, last night, in front of a friend and me, he told her all about it, laughing. It has become one of those things we share and tease each other about -- like we do about almost everything.

It seems my presentation is no longer mortifying and, because of it, he has no excuse not to be safe.

Sometimes, as a parent, you have to do something risky to get a kid's attention. Another discussion about safe sex wouldn't have had the same impact.

And I feel pretty good about this.


Calorie burn calculators

I walked to Clay Cafe yesterday to meet my daughter for a few hours of clay painting. When we were done, I walked back home.

It's a 3.3 km walk in each direction.

Today I tried to find an online calculator to figure out how many calories I burned. Each calculator gave me a different number and spanned the range from over 200 calories to over 1000 calories. Really?

I wouldn't have thought it would be that difficult to figure.

Anyone know of a reliable source?


Wednesday, November 4, 2009

There's coffee all over the friggin' place

Can someone tell me why the makers of coffee machines are incapable of creating a carafe with a spout deep enough to enable the pourer to fill a mug in under 15 minutes without leaking all over the counter?

C'mon people.

At $130 you should be able to provide an adequate spout.


Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Second Circuit Affirms Dismissal of Arar—By Scott Horton (Harper's Magazine)

Second Circuit Affirms Dismissal of Arar—By Scott Horton (Harper's Magazine)


Down another four pounds this week. Take that, Mom! HA!

On another less glorious note, I mistakenly thought my writer's group was to meet yesterday and bused over to Clayton Park only to discover that our schedule had a hiccup and we're meeting next week. I took the opportunity to have lunch with my daughter so it made the trip worthwhile.

Today, my son starts his new job as a server (promotion from host/busperson). It's the first time he has to bus to work so of course I had to call him to make sure the bus arrived on time so he wouldn't be late. (Okay, I know I worry too much but wait till your kids are at that age when you have to start treating them like adults. It's not that easy.)

Now, I'm going to do a bit of yoga to get the day off to a good start, do some laundry and get down to some work!

Have a great day!

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Coffee with the ex

I'm getting together with the ex for coffee this morning.

As you know from a previous post, I'm trying to be friends with him. It's a bit of a challenge.

I make a point of calling him once a week to do something with him so that he has some social interaction with someone. Suffering from a lifetime of depression and having no friends is a bad combination and I don't want him to spiral into a worse place than he's already in.

The thing that makes this challenging is that he never calls me so I don't actually know if he wants me to call him, if he wants to get together with me. I've asked and he is noncommittal. So I'm not sure. Our conversations go something like this.

Me: How are you?

Him: Some days are worse than others. I try to get out on my own.

Me: If you want to do something, give me a call.

Him: I keep thinking that I want to go to Bearlys**. It's supposed to be friendly and the music's good.
**Bearlys is a blues bar one block away from my apartment.

Me: If you want, I'll go too. I can meet you there.

Him: Yeah, I try to get out of the house a few times a week.


Living with him was a lot like living with my mother, the woman I raised as best I was able. My mom says things to me like: "Oh, is that new eye shadow? Makes you look tired." Or this week's comment about my weight loss: "I've heard the first twenty comes off really easy and then you plateau." Like 1) I didn't work at it and 2) that's as far as it's going. Thank you, Mom.

The ex was the same. About my first stab at a manuscript that I'd handed to him in terror that he'd hate it, he'd gotten through half of it before I was in complete neurotic meltdown. "What do you think of it?" He'd blink at me owl-like: "I'm not finished." "Yes, but it's been a whole day and this is the first time anyone's read my stuff and I'm dying to hear something from you." And he said: "It's short." When my mouth would drop open, he'd say nice things. His comment on it being short would have referred to a passage that needed more detail or a slower pace. It didn't matter how often I'd ask him to read something, he'd keep me waiting for hours or days and then the first thing out of his mouth would always be negative. Every single time. Yet, we'd go out with friends and he'd brag about how great my writing was -- despite me asking him not to discuss my writing with others. ARGH!

Or he'd go along with me on some outing and I'd find out months later that he didn't want to go. Or I'd cook a new dish and ask him if he liked it and he'd say: "I never would have thought of making it this way." "But do you LIKE it?" "It's fine." I'd get dressed up for a swanky evening out and he'd tell me I looked "comfortable." That was his highest praise and exactly the look I was going for: comfortable.

So, we're heading out today for a coffee and I have no idea if he wants to spend time with me or not. I do it for his mental health yet have no idea if he's hating my calls. I guess all I can do is keep reaching out.

As long as he continues to accept my invitations I'll keep making them.


Friday, October 30, 2009

The 30-year struggle of the Lubicon Cree

WERE IN THE WAY"  Lubicon Chief Bernard Ominayak, quoted
in Last Stand of the Lubicon Cree, John Goddard, Douglas & McInttyre, 1991 

This blog wasn't supposed to be political. I had another blog for that. One I gave up because it took too much time to research and write. But there are some things that piss me off so much that I have to give voice to them. This is one of them and it's so important though largely ignored by most Canadians. I hope you'll take a second to read, to visit the Amnesty website and respond.

If you'd rather watch a video, here's a link. There are four- and 20-minute versions. Take your pick.

Here's an FAQ about the struggle of the Lubicon Cree written by Amnesty International.

The 30-year struggle of the Lubicon Cree

Unrestrained oil and gas development has all but destroyed the traditional economy and way of life of the Lubicon Cree, plunging their northern Alberta community into extreme poverty. The federal and provincial governments have done little to help the Lubicon cope with the harm that has been done. The Lubicon don’t even receive the basic services that other people in Canada take for granted such sanitation and safe drinking water. The Lubicon have plans for rebuilding their community and economy, but so far have not been unable to negotiate the needed compensation and legal protection for their land rights.

Why is the Lubicon situation a human rights issue?
The right to culture, the right to health, the right to an adequate standard of living and Indigenous
peoples’ rights to land are all human rights recognized and protected in international human
rights standards. All of these rights have been compromised and violated by the massive scale of
oil and gas development taking place on Lubicon lands without the consent of the Lubicon people.

Don’t the Lubicon have a treaty?
No. In 1899, the Lubicon were overlooked when the Government of Canada negotiated a treaty
with other First Nations in the region. The Lubicon have never given up their rights to their lands and
resources. At the same time, their legal rights have never been formally recognized. This is what they
tried to negotiate with the federal government. The Lubicon have no reserve and have been denied
any say in the management of their territory.

In a recent statement to the United Nations, the federal government claimed that Lubicon land and
resource rights were all surrendered in the negotiation of the 1899 treaty – even though the
Lubicon were never part of those negotiations and have not received the benefits of that treaty.
Claims that Lubicon rights could have been "extinguished" in this way are contrary to
fundamental principles of law and justice. The fact that the government would make such claims
before an international human rights body is further indication of the need for public outcry.

What is the province of Alberta doing to protect the rights of the Lubicon?

In 1988, the Lubicon and the Government of Alberta reached an agreement known as the
Grimshaw Accord. The province has honoured the agreement by not allowing any new development
on the portion of the traditional lands that the Lubicon have designated for a future reserve.

However, the provincial government continues to license oil and gas development throughout the
larger traditional territory of the Lubicon Cree with little consideration for the impact on Lubicon
rights. United Nations human rights bodies have repeatedly stated that until the underlying land
rights dispute has been resolved there should be no new development anywhere on Lubicon lands
except with the consent of the Lubicon Cree.

Why have negotiations between the Lubicon and the federal government not led to a settlement?
The last round of negotiations broke down in 2003. There were two main issues that the Lubicon and
the federal government couldn’t agree on: the powers that the Lubicon will exercise to govern
their own community and the amount of compensation needed to overcome the harm caused by decades of human rights abuse. On both issues, the government of Canada should be working cooperatively with the Lubicon to ensure that any settlement is consistent with the highest standardsof human rights protection. Instead, the Government has taken an aggressively adversarial approach that has little do with rights, or justice or fairness.

It’s worth noting that the federal government has repeatedly been criticized for the way it handles
the resolution of such disputes. Instead of working collaboratively to improve the living conditions of
Indigenous peoples and address the injustices of the past, the government typically to deny the
existence of Aboriginal rights and to make as few concessions as possible in order to minimize
federal obligations.

What are the responsibilities of governments compared to those of the oil companies?
The federal and provincial governments are responsible for the failure to provide legal protection for Lubicon land rights and for allowing oil and gas development to go ahead without such protection. But corporations also have responsibilities. Corporations have a responsibility to uphold human rights, even when working in
jurisdictions where local laws and policies violate these standards. In other words, just because the
federal and provincial governments are ignoring Lubicon rights, doesn’t mean that corporations
should also ignore these rights. Until the land dispute is resolved and Lubicon rights are protected in law, Amnesty International is calling on all corporations working in Lubicon territory to maintain an open dialogue with the community and not to proceed with any new development opposed by the Lubicon.

In what ways is the Lubicon experience similar to the situation of communities facing poverty and human rights violations in other countries?
While every situation is unique, the situation of the Lubicon Cree illustrates some of the common dimensions of the human rights abuses that drive and deepen poverty around the world. For many communities, and especially for Indigenous peoples, secure access to the land is essential to meeting the basic needs of daily life. However, communities are often left without adequate legal protection for their lands. And existing legal rights
may be ignored or treated in a discriminatory way in order to benefit corporations and other private interests.

For more information on Amnesty International’s work in collaboration with the Lubicon Cree, please
see: “Land and life under threat,” Amnesty International 2008 campaign digest on the Lubicon Cree.

Lubicon Cree member Cynthia Tomlinson, April 2008


Thursday, October 29, 2009

Canada and Green House Gas

The Syncrude oil sands extraction facility is reflected in a lake reclaimed from an old mine near the town of Fort McMurray in Alberta. AFP/Getty Images
***From a news report in the Globe and Mail.

The Final Report on Economic Study on Greenhouse Gas Targets and Policies for Canada has just been released and the heading on today's Globe and Mail article suggests that Canada can meet its emissions targets if western Canada foots the bill.

I don't think anyone is surprised that the Tar Sands project would have to pay big for its emissions. Nor should it surprise anyone that western Canada would be helping out the recession-hit central provinces. Since the dawn of equalization payments -- where rich provinces provid money to poorer provinces -- and prior to the recession, Ontario and Quebec paid the bills. Now it will be the West's turn. Why is this a problem?
Isn't that the way our country is supposed to work?

In terms of gas emissions, however, Canada has missed the leadership boat. According to the Globe article, the government's targets of 20 per cent reductions by 2020 are considered less-than-adequate by environmental groups  yet even these won't be reached unless Prime Minister Harper undertakes substantial interventionist polices NOW. Policies that aren't planned for. Like reaching emissions targets is something new that our government stumbled -- rather than stomping -- upon last week.

"Meeting the more stringent standards recommended by environmentalists and many scientists would impose even more onerous burdens. Nonetheless, the report stresses, both sets of goals could be met while still preserving economic growth throughout the decade.

“'While addressing climate change in Canada is certainly not going to be as easy as changing our light bulbs, it won't be as bad or economically difficult as some fear-mongers have been saying,” said Pierre Sadik, director of government relations for the David Suzuki Foundation. And it pales, he said, in comparison to the environmental and economic impact of unchecked emissions growth'"
 So, we can do it. But we have to get started now. Canadians are used to the idea of a little pain now to stave off a lot of pain later. Remember how we got behind deficit reduction -- that terrible time that put us in good stead for today's recession?

Maybe before the stimulus money is all gone we could spend a little more (read: divert huge amounts) green development and R&D. What do you say, Stephen? Please. Pretty please. You can do it. The left is so splintered that even if 65 per cent of us don't vote for you and you loose some of your base, you'll still win the next election. And just imagine, if you do well enough with the environment, you might even win a few of us over.


Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The War on Terror

I am officially the most naive person on the planet.

I walked over to the school where I teach to pick up my backlog of mail and with it a few back issues of Maclean's magazine. The Sept. 7th issue has an article about Pakistan and its relationship with al-Qaeda et al. (Is Pakistan Winning? by Michael Petrou.)

I got as far as paragraph two when my brain came to a standstill.

"In November 2001, as the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance and their American allies closed a net around the collapsing Taliban regime in Afghanistan, Pakistani planes flew into the Taliban stronghold of Kunduz and evacuated hundreds of Pakistani intelligence officers, Taliban commanders and al-Qaeda personel.

"This was after then-Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf had pledged support for American's efforts to destroy al-Qaeda and overthrow the Taliban. The United States knew about the airlift and allowed it to happen. Reasoning that it was better to maintain the fiction that Pakistan was wholly on its side and to cajole whatever assistance it could from Islamabad, Washington declined even to monitor who disembarked from the plane when it landed safely in Pakistan. 'It is believed that more foreign terrorists escaped from Kunduz than made their escape later from Tora Bora,' writes Pakistani journalist Ahmed Rashid in his 2008 book Descent Into Chaos, referring to Osama bin Laden's mountain stronghold from which he safely fled in December 2001."

I know that I am going to appear to be pretty stupid, but WTF?

And we have men and women dying over there and killing innocents?

It's not like I thought Pakistan was an ally. We all know that they take US aid in one hand and support extremists with the other. But that this happens with US endorsement is mind-fucking-boggling.

Though things in Pakistan seem to be changing of late, how is it that those who decide to through away the lives of soldiers and civilians can allow the "evil" to escape?

I just don't get it.


Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Technology and writing

Seth Godin has an interesting blog post on Kindle users and why publishers should be embracing new technology.

If what he says is true, that those who purchase electronic readers purchase more books than non-Kindle readers, the writing community really needs to figure this out. Ours is a notoriously traditional (read: stuck in the dark ages) industry. We still have those who insist on calculating word count at 250 words per page for heaven's sake as though we don't use programs every day that give us instant and precise numbers.

Last spring, I attended a workshop at the Writers' Fed on contracts. The woman who ran it was extraordinarily knowledgeable having worked in the world of contracts for a good many years. She provided us with a sample contract -- one she had created that she felt was fair for both writers and publishers. There was a section on electronic media but, she explained, it wasn't as sophisticated as the rest of the contract. Why? Because the publishing industry hasn't got this figured out yet.

I don't know about the rest of you, but I've been using a computer for my work since 1991. I handled the promotion for the first (as far as we knew) practical use of the Web (online learning programs for physicians and surgeons) in 1995.

That's a few years ago.

It seems to me that we (the writing community) have to move a little faster to sort out how we want the world to handle our work or we are going to have it handled for us (as is the case right now with Google publishing out-of-print books.)

I admit that I am very behind on this myself so as I criticize I must also accept my own culpability for not keeping up-to-date on how technology will affect my work. Any number of articles I've written are available all over the Net. If I were to land a book deal, why would I expect that to be different?

But this electronic reading technology, which I have eschewed, could be a lucrative one for us writers and for publishers. And while talking money is foreign to some, where are we without it? Writing for art's sake is lovely and should remain a goal for those who have it in them. On the other hand, if no one makes any money, the industry dies and art will die with it.

As books are marked down in the large stores and less money is made, how can we continue to have a print industry? (Who was the genius who decided Dan Brown's new book should be launched at 30 per cent off? Wasn't that book a sure-fire seller at any cost? Why race to the cheapest price? And on day one? I'd like a word with you -- you are killing us!)

Could it be as simple as having a group (like the Canadian Writer's Association et al) hire a few tech gurus (to explain what the possibilities on the horizon are) and lawyers (to put together the legal wording) to help us get a toehold in this new world of electronic publishing? I suppose that's if the problem is that we just don't get it and are playing catch up. So, while this is an oversimplification of a complicated process, I suspect that our behind-the-times attitudes are at least part of the problem.

For me, I am going to educate myself as much as I'm able so that when the book deal comes (just read all that positive thinking!) I'll have a clue, if only a small one.

Now go buy a book -- full price.


Monday, October 26, 2009


I had the treat of borrowing a car yesterday in hopes of catching Whip It with my kids. (It was playing in a theatre out in the big-box store area that would take us about an hour to bus to.) It's rare that we all want to see the same movie so I was pretty excited. My mood was dashed when I discovered that the only showtime is 9:50 by which time I had to return the car. Damn.

Still the car allowed me to do a large grocery order and for my daughter to haul all of her laundry here and back again. She couldn't have done that on the bus easily.

The kids and I have made a pact to get together every Sunday for dinner. Again, it's not that I don't see them individually (I live with my son after all) but that they don't see each other. We had dinner then watched The Devil Wears Prada. My son was definitely in lets-humour-mom mode because I was so disappointed in not getting out to the movie we had planned on. I've booked them both to watch it with me when it launches on Pay Per View or is released on video. (On a side note: Everyone involved with TDWP should be giving a cut of their salaries to Meryl Streep. It would have really sucked if she hadn't been in it. She is a god.)

In other news, I've lost 20 pounds in six weeks and have been making good progress with my latest manuscript including writing a synopsis for it that will become part of my grant application next month. How rare of me to get anything done ahead of time!


Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Get moving

Yesterday started with some good news. I'm down 19 pounds since Sept. 8. How great is that? I even had a dessert last week. Of course other than that I am only eating one meal a day -- but it's whatever I want minus dessert and a slightly smaller portion than I would have eaten previously. The rest of the day is yogurt, berries, cereal, raw veggies, that sort of thing. Along with a bit of walking, it seems to be working just fine. I'll switch things up when I hit a plateau.

I'm surprised at how easy it's been to lose. I have hypothyroidism and am peri-menopausal -- two factors for a less-than-optimum metabolism.

I tried losing weight last year. I worked out hard everyday doing major cardio (for someone of my size) and watching what I ate. I lost about five pounds and stayed there. Increased my workout time. Nothing happened. I gave up.

One thing I had noticed, however, was that if I spent a day doing housework. Nothing major, just a full day of moving, I'd drop weight.

In addition, I figure there has to be a stress factor at work here. As in, I'm not stressed so my body isn't holding on to fat stores.

I'm not on a work-out regime, I have seriously cut calories and move more regularly. That seems to be it. Nothing spectacular.

Not having a car has really impacted my daily routine. Even if I don't walk far, I walk to everything and that's made a difference.

Pretty cool.


Sunday, October 18, 2009

Sleep, perchance to dream

I think I'm learning to relax.

How hard could this be, you might be wondering.

I haven't done it in years and that isn't an exaggeration. I tend to sit on the edge of chairs as if I might have to spring off with only a moment's notice, worry about nearly everything, nag myself for lags in productivity.

Lately, however, I've noticed a change. I've been sleeping really well... REALLY well. Waking up late, lounging about the day, without a worry.

It's been a week since this phenomena began. Any fifty-year-old women out there? You know what I mean about the sleep thing. Baby, it don't come easy.

Regardless of the time I chose to go to bed, my pattern for the past number of years has been to fall asleep for about ninety minutes to two hours, wake up, toss and turn for two hours or more, fall asleep fitfully till it was time to wake up. A good night's sleep had meant waking up numerous times but being able to fall asleep immediately thereafter "without the awake for hours" part. That was considered good. Geez. It was so bad that I actually loathed getting sleepy because I knew it would only bring another round of torture.

So, this new-found ability is nothing short of miraculous.

A new bed that accommodates my crappy back, being on my work break, and being single are all playing a role.

While the medical world may not, as of yet, be able to discover exactly why we need sleep, I believe they would agree with me in the powers of a good night's sleep. I stand in awe.

No wonder women of a certain age look like they're a certain age, have a rep for cantankerousness, and have spotty memories. This sleep thing is really amazing. I highly recommend it.

I also now realize why numbers of couples choose to sleep apart. It's so they can get a solid night's sleep without listening to someone else snoring or being jostled about on the bed whenever someone else rolls over or being wakened when someone else has to pee. It's so you can maintain your own perfect sleeping temperature and light.

A good night's sleep or rather a series of good night sleeps also mean that I'm more relaxed during the day. There is less of that perimenopausal anxiety, less worry about what the day might bring.

If only I had the ability to write an ode to sleep. However Thomas Warton Jr. did. Here are the first two verses (the poem gets too gloomy afterward for what I have in mind today.)

On this my pensive pillow, gentle Sleep!
Descend, in all thy downy plumage drest:
Wipe with thy wing these eyes that wake to weep,
And place thy crown of poppies on my breast.

O steep my senses in oblivion's balm,
And sooth my throbbing pulse with lenient hand;
This tempest of my boiling blood becalm!
Despair grows mild at thy supreme command.

Ahhh.... beautiful sleep.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Nominations for the GGs are in!

From Wikipedia, here's the scoop on the Governor-General's Awards. This year's nominees follow.

"Since their creation in 1937, the Governor General's Literary Awards have become one of Canada's most prestigious prizes, awarded in both French and English in seven categories: fiction, non-fiction, poetry, drama, children's literature (one each for text and illustration), and translation. The awards were created by the John Buchan, Baron Tweedsmuir, himself the author of The Thirty-Nine Steps. The awards first honoured only two authors each year, and only those who wrote in English. Then, in 1957 the awards were put under the administration of the Canada Council for the Arts and a cash prize began to be awarded to the winner. By 1980, the council began to announce the finalists for the awards a month before they were presented in order to attract more media attention, and in 2007 the cash prize was increased to $25,000.

During her tenure from 1999 to 2005, Adrienne Clarkson made an effort to obtain for the Governor General's study copies of every Governor General's Literary Awards winning book from fairs and second hand shops. As of 2004 there remained only two titles unrepresented."



Michael Crummey, St. John’s, N.L., Galore

Annabel Lyon, New Westminster, B.C., The Golden Mean

Alice Munro, Clinton, Ont., Too Much Happiness

Kate Pullinger, London, England; originally B.C., The Mistress of Nothing

Deborah Willis,Victoria, Vanishing and Other Stories


David W. McFadden, Toronto, Be Calm, Honey

Philip Kevin Paul, Brentwood Bay, B.C., Little Hunger

Sina Queyras, Montreal, Expressway Carmine Starnino, Montreal, This Way Out

David Zieroth, North Vancouver, B.C., The Fly in Autumn


Beverley Cooper, Toronto, Innocence Lost: A Play about Steven Truscott

Kevin Loring, Vancouver, Where the Blood Mixes

Joan MacLeod, Victoria, Another Home Invasion

Hannah Moscovitch, Toronto, East of Berlin Michael Nathanson, Winnipeg, Talk


Randall Hansen, Toronto, Fire and Fury: The Allied Bombing of Germany, 1942-45 Trevor Herriot, Regina, Grass, Sky, Song: Promise and Peril in the World of Grassland Birds

Eric S. Margolis, Toronto, American Raj: Liberation or Domination?

Eric Siblin, Westmount, Que., The Cello Suites: J.S. Bach, Pablo Casals, and the Search for a Baroque Masterpiece

M.G. Vassanji, Toronto, A Place Within: Rediscovering India



Shelley Hrdlitschka, North Vancouver, B.C., Sister Wife

Sharon Jennings, Toronto, Home Free Caroline Pignat, Ottawa, Greener Grass: The Famine Years

Robin Stevenson,Victoria, A Thousand Shades of Blue

Tim Wynne-Jones, Perth, Ont., The Uninvited


Rachel Berman, Victoria, Bradley McGogg, the Very Fine FrogIrene Luxbacher, Toronto, The Imaginary GardenJirina Marton, Colborne, Ont., Bella’s TreeLuc Melanson, Laval, Que., My Great Big MammaNingeokuluk Teevee, Cape Dorset, Nunavut, Alego


French to English

Phyllis Aronoff and Howard Scott, Montreal, A Slight Case of Fatigue Jo-Anne Elder, Fredericton, One David Homel and Fred A. Reed, Montreal, Wildlives Susan Ouriou ,Calgary, Pieces of Me Fred A. Reed, Montreal, Empire of Desire: The Abolition of Time

Good books I've recently read

Shandi Mitchell's Under This Unbroken Sky: an emotional story about a family of Ukrainian settlers facing bigotry, inhumane laws and betrayal. If this doesn't win awards there is something wrong with the awards.

Miriam Toews' The Flying Troutmans: a dark tale about the impacts of mental illness and rebuilding life. Quirky, entertaining and a tad disturbing.

Wayson Choy's The Jade Peony: a story in three parts about Chinatown in Vancouver in the 1940s. This award-winner was published in 1995, when the author was 52 (nice to know some start later in life!), it gives us a look at children of immigrant families and the challenges of straddling two cultures.

I've read many others but only share the ones I've enjoyed. I figure writers have a difficult enough time of it without me (and who the hell am I anyway?) trashing their work. To me, a story must be compelling, of course, but also be written well enough that I don't focus on the errors of construction.

I hope you give these a try. They are worth your time and money.


Social media

Shel Holtz posted a good article on how some companies get social media and others don't. This is a real issue for folks like me in the PR world who have to convince our organizations that 1) social media won't bite them in the ass; 2) it is an interactive tool to build engagement (i.e. it isn't advertising); 3) it does take discipline and time to do properly.

Here's the link.

Thanks, Shel.


Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Canada lags behind Palin

Just received this in my inbox from Michael Ignatiaff...

"When Canada spends less on renewable energy than the State of Alaska, it means Stephen Harper isn’t just behind Barack Obama on clean energy – he’s behind Sarah Palin."

How's that for context?


If you're interested, here's a link to his speech to the Vancouver Board of Trade.

Liberal Party of Canada � Michael Ignatieff � Speech to the Vancouver Board of Trade

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Ocean view

The leaves are falling before they've even turned red or gold. I now have ocean view beyond the charming tableau of the oil refineries at Eastern Passage.

Silver lining.


Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Shouts & Murmurs: Subject: Our Marketing Plan:

OMG... writers of the world, you have to read this. LMAO

Shouts & Murmurs: Subject: Our Marketing Plan:

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Trying to be friends

My ex and I are trying to be friends.

Maybe it's too soon.

Yesterday, we went for a drive in the country hoping to catch some of the fall colours. We travelled to the Valley then south to Mahone Bay before turning home.

We conversed or stayed quiet; it was mostly companionable. We stopped to buy apples and blackberry jam, had lunch, and walked the length of Queensland Beach.

But there was another less genial side to this comraderie: the churning underbelly of anger, resentment and hurt feelings that individuals who were once couples share. We try to hide it by conversing about nothing personal and by biting our lips when the other does the things that made us crazy when we were together.

But then it happened. I got miffed.

As I exited the car, thanking him for a nice day, being as benignly polite as I could be, and he responded by not responding -- making me feel like he was doing me a favour by spending the day with me -- I replied mockingly on his behalf: "And thank you for a nice day too. It was a great idea to get out on such a sunny day."

So, he was angry and I was angry. Great.

I called him last night to discuss what had happened and we ended up talking for well over an hour.

The end result is that I think I'm beginning to understand him a little better. I think, is the key phrase. I thought I understood the degree to which a lifetime of depression has affected him. I have not, as it turns out. I have not understood the degree to which he has been incapacitated, frozen from action.

Those times when I cried during a sad movie and he didn't hold my hand, the times I needed a hug that he didn't give me, the times I needed him to help me with a decision -- all those things that, in my mind, added up to him not loving me, may have been his illness.

How can I be angry at someone who is ill? Someone who isn't able do something because he doesn't have the mental ability to do it?

I can't get angry if someone can't balance a cheque book or speak French so how can I be angry with him for not being able to do things if he was unable to do them just because I needed them done?

And maybe I have to find solace in the fact that maybe he loved me as best he could. It wasn't enough, but it may not have been as selfish as I've thought it was in the way that grabbing onto a life-raft isn't selfish when you're drowning -- essential for survival but not selfish.

If I was his life-raft, can I blame him for hanging on even if he nearly drowned me in the process?

I'll have to think that over.


Saturday, October 10, 2009

What I am grateful for this year

Despite a break up and reduced financial circumstances, I have so much to be grateful for this year. I know that sounds really sappy, but it's also very true.

My kids have really stepped up to the plate this year and been such terrific support. I couldn't have asked for more.

I am one of those moms who are really involved in their kids' lives, even though one of them is in her mid-20s and the other is working full-time and readying himself to go off to school. I help wherever I can and they count on me -- especially my daughter.

Over the past year, their very rocky relationship with each other has improved immensely and we can now enjoy time together. They were even able to partner to create a really thoughtful two-day long birthday for me. (It was my 50th and I'd just become single so it could have been emotionally rocky.) On one weekend that was particularly difficult for me following the split, my daughter showed up and we did things together all weekend turning it into a fun time. I regularly receive text messages from my daughter telling me that she appreciates what I do for her and that she loves me. My son compliments me on how well I'm handing the break-up and we have dinner together nearly everyday and talk about almost everything.

This Thanksgiving, they have invited friends to dinner -- friends who would have otherwise been alone. Tomorrow night, our little trio will swell to 10. To help with the preparations, my son baked two pumpkin pies yesterday; my daughter will be over early to help me make the meal.

Don't they just rock?

A few years ago, when my daughter was going through her most difficult years (and, oh boy, were they difficult) no one would have guessed at how close we would become.

So, it will be my kids who I will be toasting this Thanksgiving, happy that we have survived and come together, confident that we can count on each other.

I wish everyone a very happy thanksgiving.


Thursday, October 8, 2009


Oh, and I've dropped 15.5 pounds in one month.

I feel good.... da da da da da da...


The places I've lived

From Becca's blog:

Here's where I have lived, in the order in which I lived there.

Concord, Ontario
Dundas, Ontario
Lebel-sur-Quevillion, Quebec
Pointe-Claire, Quebec,
Glen Roy, Ontario
Cornwall, Ontario
Ottawa, Ontario
Mississauga, Ontario
Cornwall, Ontario
Glen Walter, Ontario
Kanata, Ontario
Ottawa, Ontario
Kemptville, Ontario
Nepean, Ontario
Hackett's Cove, Nova Scotia
Hammonds Plains, Nova Scotia
Halifax, Nova Scotia

Witness protection's got nothing on me.


Canadian researchers make breast cancer breakthrough



Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Proper attire

Must remember... it is now autumn... rain gear is occasionally required especially when heading out for the day on foot and by bus and it's cloudy. Good thing C loaned me an umbrella. What was I thinking? Didn't even have a jacket on.


Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Living downtown

I really enjoy living downtown.

Last night, I hoofed it up to Cobourg Coffee for an Amnesty International meeting. A nice 20 or 30 minute walk in the still-mild evening.

Today, I met with a friend for lunch, came home to do a few things and tonight will stroll a mere three blocks to the public library to listen to Wayson Choy read from his new book.

Tomorrow, I am meeting with two friends to go over our most recent progress on our current manuscripts. This will take place in the 'burbs so a bus will be involved, but, what the heck, that's not so bad.

Thursday, I 'll be back at the library for a lecture on Canadian Literature.

(I can't wait to retire and do this sort of thing all the time. I'm going to be one of those old ladies who does every free thing imaginable. And there's lots to do.)

When I lived in the country and worked in the city, I'd rarely attend evening events. I hated driving in twice in one day so I messed a lot of stuff. Plus, now I'm not ruining the environment with all my running around. Not too shabby, eh?

Living downtown also allows us to get together with friends more often. This weekend is a great example. My son has invited many of his workmates to Thanksgiving dinner. Since many of them do not own cars, they wouldn't have been able to come over had we lived farther out. Sunday is shaping up to be lots of fun. I am really looking forward to it and I'm not a big fan of Thanksgiving. Not that I don't like it -- who doesn't enjoy celebrating our people's rape and pillage of a land and near-decimation of another race? It just doesn't have much meaning for me. But this year's event should be fun.

I wonder if I can convince them to play Cranium after dinner?


Friday, October 2, 2009

The weight of the world... or my ass

The day is dragging, just like my backside.

It's not even three yet I've looked at the clock about a hundred times today.

Things started well enough. I woke before eight, showered, dressed and walked to my dispensing opticians to pick up my new specs. On the way, I realized I'd forgotten to bring some mail that should have been sent out days ago -- one piece being a query to an agent regarding my manuscript. I wonder what darkness in my brain has made me foot-drag on that?

Back home, I am having trouble seeing clearly with the new glasses despite having tried them out in the store.

I've been trying to write, working on the new story, and it's been painful. Slow, slow, slow. I decided to break away and get the mail out so I headed toward the grocery store. They all have post offices in them now, right? Wrong.

Doubling back, I walked to Dresden Row feeling like I weighed about five hundred pounds. My legs didn't want to carry me. I dressed too warmly and began to sweat. What should have taken me about thirty minutes took forty-five.

What's wrong with me?

My back's been stiff and sore so I haven't gotten out much since I've been back from the cottage. Could that be it?

Regardless of how much weight I've put on, I've always been able to walk long distances without any problem. This time, it's killing me.

Agh! That was probably not the best use of phrase.

I look forward to the day this walking thing is easy again.


Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Eating out

One of the best things about not owning a car is forced exercise.

This morning, my son and I went out for breakfast. We had to walk to the restaurant and back home afterward -- about 30 minutes round trip. As long as I'm not overindulging, this activity allows for some guilt-free eating. Even if the walk isn't a long one, it's more than I would have had if I owned a vehicle.

Feeling oh so self-righteous! :-)

Monday, September 28, 2009

Writing group

Today I bused to Clayton Park for my writing group. Takes about the same time to bus as to drive so that's really not so bad. A friend insisted on driving me home. As we sat stopped at a light, we were rear-ended. This makes the third time since moving to this province that I have been hit by another car while parked or otherwise stopped in traffic. C'mon people, get a clue.

And, since I'm in the mood to complain, I was watching the Jay Leno show a couple of minutes ago and saw a commercial for a mortgage company. The young woman acting as the mortgage specialist was showing quite a bit of cleavage. Appropriate for a bar certainly, for a place of business, no. I don't know such imagery contributes to the incidents of young girls wearing inappropriate clothing at work, but do know that the display of too much leg, breasts and belly buttons is becoming a problem at work.

It appears to be the case that when young girls "dress up" for work they believe it to be the same thing as "dressing up" for play, creating situations where managers have to speak with them about their attire. I've been at meetings where someone will bring to a manager's attention the provocative clothing of a new hire and the manager has the unenviable and much-loathed task of having to speak to the young woman about how she dresses. It's really embarrassing.

I wish women at work were portrayed in a more business-like way on television. If your skirt is too short to cover a pair of Daisy Dukes or your colleagues break a sweat trying to ignore your breasts, ya gotta change your wardrobe.

Signed, the old fart.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Word on the Street

Took in the book festival today. I had planned on staying for an hour or two, ended up there for five. Caught Lorne Elliot reading from his novella, took in much of the Pitch the Publisher, and bought a few books. Margaret Atwood was the last author to read, albeit from another location. I listened to some of this, but decided the kids had been waiting long enough so walked home -- a very pleasant 10-minute stroll.

A cruise ship -- the Norwegian Jewel -- was docked at Pier 21 readying to leave as I passed. Crew were walking back from the SuperStore with bags of supplies in hand.

Arrived home to supper! My daughter made a baked pasta casserole. How terrific is that? I love not having to cook.


Saturday, September 26, 2009

Oh, my aching back

So the one thing I neglected to mention about last week's retreat was the fact that my back went out on night one. It happened due to 1) existing strain from the move at the beginning of September and 2) a really crappy bed.

I spent today resting my aching vertebrae in hopes that I'll be strong enough to take in a few hours of Word on the Street tomorrow.

Walking everywhere does require planning. Planning, good shoes and a healthy back! As soon as I am limber enough it will be back to daily sun salutations -- a great yoga warm up.


Friday, September 25, 2009

Writing retreat

I spent the past five days at a cottage on the Northumberland Strait writing, participating in readings and beach walking. It's been great.

The cottage is about 1.5 hrs outside of the city so arranging transportation was necessary. First, I begged a ride from my ex to get me to my daughter's where I was to be picked up on Monday morning. Three of us were car pooling.

(My daughter was being dropped off in Truro for two upgrading workshops so she can get her general licence for hair styling. Truro is on the way to the cottage so that worked out perfectly. She was able to take a bus home.)

With the exception of two quick trips to the grocery store, my friends and I stayed put at Melmerby Beach. We got some exercise walking the length of the shoreline and even braved the cold waters for a swim.

It was one of the best experiences I've ever had though I have little to share from a transportation perspective.


Saturday, September 19, 2009

It's a small, small world

Turns out I did nothing outside yesterday despite what I though were my well-laid plans. I stayed inside and tackled two surveys I volunteered to do for a small local business. That leaves me to run Friday's errands as well as today's.

Here's the route. Down Barrington for groceries, drop them off at home, up Spring Garden to order eyeglasses, buy a book, do my banking, then down to Lower Water St. to buy some Chinese food at the Brewery Market that closes at 1 p.m.

Crazy to keep such a popular place open for only one half day a week, but there you have it. A piece of Nova Scotia. Apparently, we like our crowds.

What I am most excited about is next week's writing retreat to the Northumberland shore with two girlfriends from my writers' group. Five days and four nights in a three-bedroom cottage on the ocean. It'll be grand.

It does come with transportation challenges.

1) My daughter has two workshops in Truro on Monday that I was to borrow a car to get her to and from the event. A bus will not get her there early enough.

Solution: My dear friends have agreed to head out at the crack of dawn (Note to self: purchase large quantities of coffee and tea.) so we can drop my daughter off along our route. She will take a bus home.

2) I now have to get to Clayton Park West for 7 a.m. Easy, I think: I'll take the bus. Hold on there girl. No busses run that early. Of course they don't. So, I called the ex thinking he might offer to pick me up. (It was his car I was going to borrow initially so he would have had to come and get me for 7 a.m. anyway. What's an extra 30 minutes?) He did not make that offer but did invite me to sleep over as his place is around the corner from my rendezvous spot. It would be quite proper -- me in the bed, him on the couch. Does that seem awkward to anyone but me? I declined.

Solution: This is was cabs are for, right? Right.

My scenario does raise a point of difficulty for those of us who make our way by foot and public transportation. Getting somewhere outside of one's immediate range is either difficult or downright impossible.

One's world becomes geographically petite.


Friday, September 18, 2009

Running errands

Time for my morning sun salutations then I'm off to Spring Garden Rd. to order new eyeglasses, take care of some banking and to find a fax machine.

Still hoofing it.

Down another pound.


Thursday, September 17, 2009

My first trip to the grocery store

I hate grocery shopping. Always have.

I hate being the one to make the decisions about what the family is going to eat for the week and, by extension, what I am going to have to cook.

The result is too many processed foods, a fridge that's splitting at the seams and gargantuan bills.

But now we have no car with which to transport this freight home.

I have to cart the stuff by myself. With my own little hands. And a shopping cart. The kind made with heavy gauge chicken wire and two large plastic wheels. It looks none too sturdy and I wonder how long it will last.

So, now I plan.

I have to figure out exactly what we're going to eat for the week because I can't carry fifteen bags of crap.

I've also discovered that if I use one of the small double-decker carts -- you know the ones with two levels of baskets that are half the length of a normal cart -- the food will fit almost exactly into above-noted cart.

Pretty cool, eh?

The fridge has never looked emptier -- or tidier! We can actually see everything that's in there. No more green or blue fuzz growing in the back.

We've decided to stop eating processed foods and don't bring junk food into the house. That's not to say we can't have chips or pop on occasion. We just have to make a separate trip to the store which means we have to walk there to get it. This certainly discourages poor eating habits.

Two weeks without a car and counting.


Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The not-so lucky pot luck

On Sunday evening, my son and I were invited to a vegetarian potluck dinner at a friend's place. Initially, I couldn't go but as my existing plans fell through at the last minute, I was able to attend.

I had just finished cooking up a pot of meatless spaghetti sauce and was feeling pretty pleased with myself for being able to make such a spontaneous decision to attend.

My son was baking a coffee-cake and told me he intended to walk to the dinner. I smiled, said I'd walk with him and waited for his cake to be finished.

When it was, and having no idea of the time, I followed him out the door.

Within minutes, I was panting from trying to keep up. My son doesn't walk; he sprints. Everywhere. All the time.

"You're walking too fast," I managed to get out in puffs of air that hung in white clouds before me in the humid air.

He looked annoyed, but slowed his pace.

I attempted light conversation.

"We're late," he responded.

He may have left himself ample time to race across town and still arrive at a reasonable hour, but he hadn't counted on his mother trundling alongside him.

We were an hour late. Dinner had already been eaten.

As we sat with our hosts and their other guests, my son served his coffee cake. A treat I had to forgo as I've vowed to eschew dessert in solidarity with my daughter who is giving up cigarettes.

Within minutes, I could see exhaustion hit my son. His shoulders drooped and he remained silent amid the banter of his friends. I had known he was too tired to attend this event, but he insisted he was fine and at the age of eighteen, I figure he's old enough to make these sorts of decisions on his own.

We stayed about twenty minutes then began our journey back home.

Junior had the look of desperation about him. "I've got to get home. I can't walk with you."

"Go," I barked, feeling thoroughly miffed as he raced on ahead.

He kept in my sights until a red light held me up and he vanished into the dark.

I arrived home a mere thirteen minutes behind him. Not so bad for an over-weight fifty-year-old, I thought though I was still pissed off from being made to feel like a dead weight.

Result: Five kilometres walked. Apology given and accepted.

I never would have walked that if I still owned a car.

I'm feeling kind of proud of myself.


Monday, September 14, 2009

The first step

I started driving when I was 14. Yes, I know it wasn't legal. But we had just moved onto a farm we named, not so affectionately, Green Acres, and since my kid sister was being taught how to drive the tractor (so I could do the heavy lifting) I got to learn how to drive the car.

Since that time, I have owned or had access to a car with the exception of a one-year period when my daughter was an infant and don't get me started on that -- it was a brutal year.

The alarm would go off and I'd hold my eyes closed, miserable that another dismal day of transportation logistics had begun. No bus ran between our apartment and her daycare and we were without stroller so I carried her, her diaper bag and my over-loaded purse every day (yes, it was even uphill). Then I'd try to extricate myself from her chatty babysitter in time to either catch a co-worker before she left for work or the bus. I was late nearly every morning. Late, oddly enough, was frowned upon.

Pediatrician appointments, grocery shopping, every single excursion was a nightmare.

It was a year that scars me still.

I have owned a car through poverty, post-secondary education, two divorces, and numerous lifetimes.

Until last month.

On August 8, 2009, I became car-less.

Though a long and convoluted break-up of my most current relationship, I ended up without the family vehicle.

I'm trying not to be bitter.

Instead, I am going to learn how to live without said mode of conveyance. I am downtown after all. How hard can it be? I can walk almost everywhere. And there is a bus system.

And so I walk. My calves are already starting to tighten and I've dropped 10 pounds. If only I didn't have another 100 to lose that 10 would be pretty impressive, wouldn't it?

So, we begin my story of my life on two legs.

Let's see how far we go.