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!