Saturday, August 14, 2010

The coin of the realm

The evolution of language is an interesting thing. It gives us such insight into our culture and how our perceptions, etc. have changed over the years.

A hundred years ago a woman who was well-endowed had a good dowry. Today, one who is so described has large breasts -- today's coin of the realm.

Each has its appeal to men. Which, I wonder, is better for women?

C

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Ontario: the new black

True story:

Overheard at Tim's in Truro last Tuesday.

A young guy approaches the order counter and greets the server whom he obviously knows. He proceeds to tell her that he has a new girlfriend who is pretty and very nice and he's happy with her.

The woman smiles and tells him she'd love to meet this new girl. "Bring her in sometime."

The young man drops his gaze to the floor which he examines with sheepish intensity. "Uh, well..." There is a long pause. "She's from Ontario."

"Oh," the woman responds. "Well, as long as she's nice."

Is Ontarian the new black?

C

Friday, July 9, 2010

The Grand Gesture

I'm a sucker for the grand gesture.

You know? That thing a guy does that sweeps you off your feet? Right. That thing.

Like when I was in elementary school, a guy who liked me did all my yard chores -- while making his friends wait for him to play baseball.

Or in high school, a guy I'd met only once walked six miles to give me a birthday present. It was the Led Zepplin IV album -- the one I really, really wanted.

Or years later when a guy surprised me with a weekend away and took care of all the arrangements including childcare for my child.

The problem with the grand gesture is that it isn't necessarily a knight's errand. It can be an empty display meant to camouflage any of a number of sins.

Example: I've travelled all the way from XXX to see you but now I'm broke so can I borrow a few bucks?

Care to offer a guess as to whether the loan is ever repaid?

Moving on.

Because I am such a sucker for the grand gesture -- it fills me with ridiculous girlhood thoughts of true love -- I try to overlook the obvious self-interest of such a not-so-grand gesture.

This gets me into trouble.

Lots and lots of trouble.

I know. You're saying that I should smarten up. That there are plenty of nice guys out there who are a little less flamboyant but who would offer love, dedication and stability.

If you say so.

I mean, I've heard the rumours.

But, in my life, they are like unicorns.

Rare.

Just kidding. I know unicorns are extinct.

Colleen

Friday, July 2, 2010

Slow down you move too fast

gotta make the morning last
just kicking down the cobblestones
something, something
feeling groovy

This morning as I was finishing the lengthy process of straightening my hair, I caught part of a CBC interview with Nicholas Carr. He has written a book entitled The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains.

Research suggests that those of us who multitask (i.e. tweet, check email, etc while doing something of importance) over time lose our ability to focus for longer periods of time and our multitasking skills worsen.

Carr explained that as we surf the net, our train of thought is interupted by the region of our frontal lobe that has to make decisions about where to click, which link to follow and so on.

I believe his premise is that as this interuptions become part of the way we train our brains to work, we are less able to sustain deeper connection to our thoughts, personal experiences and what we are reading.

There was an interesting post on his blog about James Sturm, a cartoonist, who has decided to unplug for four months and write and draw about his experiences.

Carr quotes Sturm:
"Whether it's a sports score, a book I want to get my hands on, or tuning into Fresh Air anytime of day, I can no longer search online and find immediate satisfaction. I wait for the morning paper, a trip to the library, or, when I can't be at my radio at 3 p.m., just do without."
This has also been my experience in having gone without a vehicle for 11 months. Life slows and you learn that all that stuff you once deemed necessary, simply isn't. That you don't really need that new dress, that you can go another day without something you're running low on. You begin to make decisions about which things (and people) are important enough to walk 40 mins or travel two hours by bus to see, do or buy.

Sturm says that he's noticing more moments of synchronicity -- magical thinking -- that is easy to dismiss.

"Are meaningful connections easier to recognize when the fog of the Internet is lifted? Does it have to do with the difference between searching and waiting? Searching (which is what you do a lot of online) seems like an act of individual will. When things come to you while you're waiting it feels more like fate. Instant gratification feels unearned. That random song, perfectly attuned to your mood, seems more profound when heard on a car radio than if you had called up the same tune via YouTube."

I agree.

There is something to living slowly. To not having everything at your fingertips the instant you want it. To walking a couple of kilometres to meet a friend for coffee or to stroll home after a dinner out.

Doesn't it make sense that we will begin to think differently as our experiences change? That our brains will begin to re-wire?

If we are going to change our thinking -- not always such a bad idea! -- we need to at the very least be aware of what we're changing, why we're changing it, how it will impact us and whether we want that change.

I'm not advocating a boycott of the internet. I love being able to find information when I want it. I am, however, suggesting that we give some thought to how we want our lives to unfold. Take a breath every now and again. Cook a meal from scratch, walk around your neighbourhood, check a book out of the library. Heck go to a music store and buy a CD just so you can look at the liner notes and read along with the lyrics.

Take some time to enjoy your life.

C

P.S. In keeping with today's theme, I didn't check the internet to find the lyrics that I'd forgotten. Instead, I'll turn to you, dear reader. Can you remember the missing words?

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

I'm still standing, yeah, yeah, yeah!

OK, this isn't about standing but as I was typing "I'm still walking" that Elton John song popped into my head.

Anyway, I gotta say that I am pleased with myself today.

No, nothing spectacular happened.

It's just that I'm trying to continue walking as much as possible rather than being lazy and grabbing the car every time I have to head out.

As you, dear reader, know, I picked the car up on Friday, ran some errands out in the boonies then returned home and the car stayed parked all weekend! Of course, that would not have been the case if the weather had been nicer because then I would have driven to a beach. But that's the sort of excursion the car is for, right?

Today, I had errands to run downtown and I walked to them all. Bank, bank, post office, drugstore, video rental place. A total of 2.6 km. Not far, I realize, and it would be a bigger pain to drive everywhere and have to search for parking, but still.

Not to mention -- but I will -- that I almost walked right into a guy with a walker urinating on the sidewalk. It was outside Starbucks at the corner of Spring Garden and Queen, for anyone interested. It's that sort of quaintness I'd miss if I'd been in a car. Sort of like walking around with an iPod permanently attached and missing the sounds of life around you.

So yay me for not getting lazy and missing what my city has to offer!

C

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Provincial silliness

Queen Elizabeth is here for an international review of warships resulting in dozens of them being anchored in the harbour. It's so weird seeing all those grey ships just sitting there with smaller boats zipping around between them. The tourists line the roadways and shorelines snapping photos while RCMP guard the bridges, the LG's residence and protect Her Majesty's motorcade.

Sort of gives me the creeps. The demonstration of our ability to annihilate one another.

On the way home, after dropping my daughter off at work (which I can now do thanks to new, shiny car) the afternoon announcer on CBC was comparing the security in Halifax for the Queen's visit to the security in Toronto during the G20.

Sigh.

They just can't help themselves. If there is a comparison to be made with Toronto, they have to make it no matter how lame it is.

It was so more peaceful here than the events in Toronto.

The undertone was that it must be because Nova Scotians are more civilized than Ontarians.

Really?

It wasn't more peaceful because say, it's the Queen and no one much cares that she's here? That there isn't much to protest about with the Queen other than the use of fur in the guards' hats or the redundancy of the monarchy. That issues like poverty, labour issues and women's rights aren't going to land on Her Majesty's doorstep.

No one gives a damn that ships were inspected by an octogenarian highness. Many do care that the environment isn't top of the government's agenda.

Crappy service and this ongoing pissiness about Ontario are the two things that make NS extremely annoying to me.

Nova Scotians: You have a terrific little province. Be happy that such beauty surrounds you and quit knocking everyone else. You don't need to compare yourself to others. Travel once in a while. See the world. Enjoy it. Enjoy coming home again. Be generous in your compliments and sparing in your slights. Ontario is a beautiful place, a large place. It exists beyond the boundaries of Toronto and, believe it or not, people there are just as friendly as you are.

I'll be glad when the ships are gone and these silly comparisons stop.

Colleen

Monday, June 28, 2010

First the good news

I am often at a loss as to how business in this part of the world operates.

This afternoon, I received a call from a building manager where I had applied for a three-bedroom apartment.

"You've been approved," she said.
"Great. I guess you'll want us in to sign some paperwork. What day is best?" I responded.
"The apartment's taken."
"You just said we were approved."
"Yes. We have a two-bedroom coming available in August. Would you like that one?"
"No. I want the three bedroom. Didn't you just tell me we were approved? Are you sure the apartment hasn't been takem by us?"
Shuffling of paper can be heard.
"Is your name Wilson?"
"No."
"What apartment was it? Number 111?"
"I don't know the apartment number. It was the three bedroom on the first floor. The one you just told me we were approved for."
"Was it 111?"
"I don't know the apartment number."
More shuffling of papers.
"Didn't you just call me to tell me that we were approved for the apartment we applied for?"
"Yeah, but that's taken. Do you want the two bedroom?"

I couldn't make this up.

C

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Warning: Whining ahead

I've been quiet of late... as the one's of sevens of you (phrase stolen from my son) who read this will know.

It's been a rough month. Hmmm, year, actually.

I've been flailing about, trying to figure out my life and what to do with it. Ideas are plentiful, yet it seems that as soon as I reach for one, my fingers fasten around nothing more substantial than a puff of air. Ability to create something concrete eludes me. Most certainly, my innate fear of commitment contributes to this lack of direction.

If it wasn't for the realization that I'm running out of cash and racking up credit card debt, I'd love my life. I get up when I want, go to bed when I want, write almost every day, walk, do volunteer work, and hang out with friends and my kids -- actually, one kid now, but we have established long-distance family chats on Sunday nights to replace Sunday dinners.


This week, I thought I'd finally made two decisions. I leased a car (goodbye car-lessness!) and met with a broker who seems to think I'd make a good real estate agent. He and I had chatted over a year ago and he's kept in touch since. I attended one of his staff information sessions on new construction and got a good feeling, so thought I'd take the plunge.

It seems I can't.

At least not yet.

And so goes my thinking... I'll do it. No, I won't. I will. I won't. Ugh! I'm driving myself -- and likely those around me -- nuts.

I apologize to all of you. You know who you are.

I've even been to a guy who reads cards. I mean, really. This has become my method of a good life plan?

He did suggest that I take stock. It seems like good advice so that's what I'm doing. Right now. Today. As soon as I sign off.

I'll let you know what I've come up with.

And for anyone wondering where my weight loss progress is at: Over the past five weeks, I've lost and regained -- thank you, Ben and Jerry's -- three pounds three times. I finally smartened up and have lost an additional two, bringing my weight loss total to 61 pounds. And, even though I have a car, I remain committed to walking anywhere within a reasonable distance.

Colleen

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The Big Republican Conspiracy

I love American politics... hilarious. The Dems are blaming the GOP for the selection of the SC Dem candidate for Senate -- an unemployed and uncommunicative guy who lives in his father's basement.

John Stewart

Colleen

Friday, June 11, 2010

Girlfriends Part Deux

I went out to dinner last night with two dear friends, C and N. They were taking me out to celebrate my empty-nestedness.

N is an empty-nester herself as well as having been widowed; C is a partial empty-nester and is in the process of completing her Empty Nest badge.

It was great to talk about the unexpected heart-break of it with two who know what it is. I say unexpected because the heart-hurt is exactly the same hurt as the end of a relationship. The sudden welling of tears, the ache in the middle of one's chest. I though there would be a different quality to it but pain is pain, I guess.

Once we finished discussing my son's move, we too moved on. From dinner and margaritas at Mexis to dessert and coffee at Salty's on the harbourfront to drinks and gambling at the casino. We had so much fun in spite of the fact that I've never been a fan of gambling. The morose faces of the denizens remind me too well of the seriousness of their game.

But we three with our penny and quarter slots played our $20 or $30 and cheered when we won $1 like it was a fortune. (I played with $30 and with only 20 cents left won back $20 making the evening feel quite successful.)

Good times, indeed. It was the first time I'd been out of the house in four days.

Yes, I know. You don't have to tell me. Hibernating is not a good thing when you're feeling mopey.

So, tonight I'm having dinner with another friend, Sunday is an Amnesty International workshop on the Demand Dignity campaign and on Monday afternoon my writing group will meet at my place.

Hopefully, this will kick me back into gear.

Thank you, dear C and N for getting me out of the house. I always have such a great time with you both.

And the sun's out! What could be better?
C

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Girlfriends

I've been hibernating over the past few days, eating ice cream and watching early seasons of Sex and the City.

I was never part of the SATC herd. I only watched the movie (the first one) after it hit cable. It was lame yet oddly compelling. I began watching the seasons in reruns and then bought the seasons that I'd missed. I've now gone to see the second movie. (Save your money -- it's pretty bad.)

What the heck is it about those four women that has us entranced?

With the exception of the lead character, the women are largely one-dimensional. They fall in and out of relationships with an alacrity that astounds even me -- a serial monogamist. They fall in love with fashion with greater intensity than with the men with whom they have sex. (Maybe not such a bad thing.) They drink too much, don't do a thing to improve their community, are often selfish.

So why do women like them?

There are the fantasy angles: the ability to have access to and to afford high fashion along with the unending stream of men who are attracted to them and the cool jobs they have that never seem to affect their social lives. (This seems particularly unrealistic given that one is a lawyer and one is in PR. As a long-time PR practitioner, I can attest at having had nearly every vacation or night class and many dinner hours cancelled due to work.)

All of this has its appeal. Fantasy is like that.

But I like to think we are drawn to the story line more so because of the women's friendships. Through thick and thin -- men, arguments, divergent points of view -- they remain best friends. This is the lynchpin.

We've all been there. We start seeing a new guy and the girlfriends fall into secondary importance; we stop seeing the guy and, suddenly, swoop back into our pals' lives, hoping they'll pick up the pieces of our damaged hearts. We swear we won't do it the next time, but we do.

The guy always comes first.

I think this is changing with younger generations, but for mine, our lives were never considered as important as they would be with some man's attached to it.

When I watch SATC, the ultimate fantasy is about friends. Keeping your girls close and your time spent with them sacrosanct despite anything and everything else.

I guess that's why I've been indulging in some couch time with the four girls. I think it's fulfilling some need of mine to have my closest girlfriends with me when they are, in fact, very far away.

So, to my best, best pals, B and L: this week we're being played by Carrie, Miranda, Samantha and Charlotte, as I fantasize about hanging out with you and drinking too much and eating too much and talking about everything.

Here's to best friends. No matter how far away we are or how long it's been since we've seen each other.

C

Monday, June 7, 2010

Empty Nest

Hey there! It has been a while, hasn't it?

I returned home on Saturday after helping my son, L, move to Toronto. We stopped in Eastern Ontario for a few days to visit family and friends. It was so good to see everyone -- or almost everyone, but I digress.

We left at 4:15 am on the 30th and arrived in Cornwall at about 6:30 pm. It was a long though surprisingly agreeable drive. I'd been afraid of driving through Montreal -- anyone who has been through there will know why. Think bumper cars on speed with construction and off-ramp vagaries thrown in. It turned out to be simpler than I'd remembered and I gained a new appreciation of drivers who leave the passing lane for people passing. Imagine!

We spent a day with my Mom and then we were off to Ottawa to meet up with friends. I, of course, remembered none of the reasons why I'd wanted to move from there in the first place as I sat in the park with a good friend, inhaling the scent of mowed grass and listening to the breeze in the leaves.

Although we moved almost eight years ago, most of the restaurants were the same. Certainly, the buildings hadn't changed. It was just how I envisioned it. And I got nostalgic.

The next morning, we set out on the final leg of our journey to Toronto arriving there mid-afternoon.

L's apartment was a bit of an oddity. A basement apartment in Little Portugal with a separate entrance that was built for gnomes. The interior floor was almost a foot lower than the exterior walk so bending was required to turn the door knob. Low ceilings, uneven floors and some missing construction (like rods in the sole closet) greeted us not too happily.

The bachelor apartment had been cleaned so the kitchen and bathroom were spotless, but the floor was a disaster, covered with fine dust from sanding the walls. Three washes later, it's still not great. The screen and filter over the stove required two-and-a-half days of scrubbing to rid them of years of grease build-up and the washer smelled of old water. Only one window had a screen and none of them had been cleaned in some time. I screamed as an arachnid resembling a dock spider scuttled past.

That first night was dismal.

Sears had delivered two mattresses instead of a mattress and box spring combo, most of the furniture needed assembly, and we couldn't unpack clothes due to the missing closet rods. And, despite paying $100 for a five-block delivery, the bed frame had not arrived. We ended up walking in the rain to fetch it.

After at least an hour on the phone with Sears, trying to get their mistake straightened out, I wanted to go to a hotel and tackle the mess in the morning. L talked me out of it. He came up with the brilliant idea to keep one mattress in its bag and to lay the other on top of it to create a temporary bed.

I was delighted to have washed the bedsheets at home so we could make the bed and have something clean and fresh to sleep on.

L was feeling anxious about his move. His eyes were larger than usual, his mouth tight. Was this going to work out all right? God, how I wanted to hug him to me and encourage him to move back home, but I didn't. I told him this was his time to try it out, to follow his dream, to be in the city for film. I hope I sounded sincere. The desire to be selfish and supportive were definitely crashing together in my brain.

The next morning we started work early and by the end of the day had a rather funky looking bachelor pad to our credit. It's amazing how furniture placement changes the look of a place.

L had a job within 24 hours of arrival. He is back to working at Cora's Restaurant after the recommendation of a former co-worker who had moved to TO ahead of him. He is happy to be able to work three days a week only to cover bills, etc, while giving him time for his writing. Gotta love the service industry, so much more lucrative than retail.

On Friday, we hit a nearby WalMart and No Frills to buy the last of the essentials (like an ironing board and coasters) and groceries.

That night we played cards something that we usually do with much hilarity but I was somber knowing in the morning I'd be leaving my baby behind. L admonished me to relish my new, independent life which made me snappier than I wanted to be. Of course, I will enjoy it. I just have to get through the grieving part first. What kind of a mom would I be if I was happy to get rid of you, I asked him. I think he got it then.

I welled up a couple of times that night and in the morning, but am proud to report that I didn't lose it, didn't make him feel bad for his decision to move.

And then, with a final hug, I was on my way to drop off the minivan and grab a cab to the Toronto Island Airport.

With the exception of some knee-weakening turbulence over Ottawa, the trip was fine and dear friend N picked my up at the airport so I wouldn't feel alone.

My daughter, H, is staying over most of this week in part to babysit me, in part because she's picked up a second job which is easier to access from my place than hers. After leaving for work this morning, she sent me a text saying that she'd forgotten how nice it is to wake up and find me there.

So, although I am missing my son and there is a lump in my throat and my eyes are  moist yet again, it seems that the empty nest mightn't be so empty after all.

They do come back, don't they?

C

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Reminder: The Tavernier Stones Blog Contest!

Gee, my feelings are hurt. No one has entered yet.

Check out this post for a chance to win a free copy of The Tavernier Stones by the talented Stephen Parrish.

I'll also have to delay the announcement of the winner as on June 1st, I'll be on the road. So you have until June 10 to enter.

And please do, otherwise this will be too humiliating for words.

Happy reading!
Colleen

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Experience being alive

From Steve.

People say that what we're all seeking is a meaning for life. I don't think that's what we're really seeking. I think that what we're seeking is an experience of being alive, so that our life experiences on the purely physical plane will have resonances within our own innermost being and reality, so that we actually feel the rapture of being alive.---Joseph Campbell

Thanks for this, Steve. It is exactly how I feel.

Colleen

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Coming 'round the bend

Every now and then , things get so busy, I have a hard time keeping the blog up-to-date.

My writer's group has been especially prolific of late, five manuscripts (including mine) for review within the past two months; the IWK Auxiliary Kermesse for which I handle the promotions is three weeks away; and my son, L, is moving to TO next week.

I am beginning the final MS edit today -- a paranormal story by a dear friend -- and once I'm finished that I can get back to editing mine based on the helpful comments of the writing group.

As usual, I already know what I want to work on next so have to really focus to stay true to the current work.


Add to this, the ongoing need to market my previous MS, job hunting, and the beginning of a brand-new chapter in my life (one in which I could completely re-invent myself, if I so choose) and there is an awful lot buzzing around my brain.

To give you an example of my over-active brain, a few nights ago I was contemplating which life-path to choose while watching my favourite design show.

I thought: Maybe I could be an interior designer. Wonder what classes are available.

I got online to look. This led me to think about other summer classes and whether I might take a credit course at any of the local universities.

Which got me thinking about a writing sabbatical abroad which got me wondering about working for aid agencies and traveling the world through this line of work.

Do you have periods in your life when you feel like there is so much potential, so many options that they send you into mental paralysis?

Focus. That's been my nemesis lately. If I have seemed a little scattered, it's because I am.

I've never been indecisive before. Never. My second husband used to laugh at my Rambo-esque approach to life -- charge ahead, take the hits, charge again. He complained that my inner core was made of Indian rubber, that no matter what befell me, I'd bounce back with nary a scar.

Of course, that wasn't true. Scars there are aplenty. It is true, however, that, with the exception of love, I have been fearless.

I find this inability to make a decision is wearing on me, but I can't help but wonder what's around the next corner.

How about you? Do you know what's in your future?

Colleen

Friday, April 30, 2010

The argument for cars

So, back to regularly scheduled programing: life without a car.

The day before yesterday, my daughter, H, arrived, laundry in hand and with a stiff neck and aching shoulder. As a hairdresser, sore muscles and joints are cause for concern. She has to do what she can to ensure these issues don't persist. Let's face it, if she can't lift her arm to blow-dry a client's hair, her career could be in trouble.

I encouraged her to get to a doctor and we left on foot to the nearest walk-in clinic -- no pun intended.


It was a 20-minute hike -- no big deal except that she was in pain. When we arrived at 11:20, there was a sign on the door that said they were backlogged and would not be accepting anyone until after 1:00.

Swell.

Since H was scheduled for work at 3:00 and that without a car there was no way she could wait the 100 minutes, be examined and catch a bus in time for her shift.

We opted for another medical centre, a 15-minute walk back toward home. As it turned out, this wasn't a walk-in clinic. Neither was the next one we tried at the IWK Health Centre.

In desperation, we travelled back, past  the first clinic we'd tried en route to the emergency room at the QEII complex. The emergency room has been revamped with a better triage and registration area. We were whisked through to an examination room in minutes. It was 12:50.

We were finally smiling. This was going to be a breeze.


A medical student arrived to give a preliminary exam and then returned for more mobility testing.

And then we waited.

And waited.

At about 2:10, a doctor arrived with the student. As he walked into the room, his cell phone began to buzz and he excused himself. More than an hour later, he returned to a couple of pretty angry faces.

"I had a chest," he offered by way of explanation.

And we got that. We were in emergency after all.

But what a difference that bit of knowledge would have made while we were waiting. We would have understood that he hadn't simply strolled off to take a call but was attending to someone in a worse situation than we.

I realize doctors aren't in the business of client service. They are in the business of healing.

Still, how difficult would it be to recognize that patients who are isolated in closed-off rooms without access to information -- or distractions -- are going to be less cranky if they're given a smidgen of info?

In our case, H -- who had taken two muscle relaxants and was valiantly fighting sleep in order to be coherent when the doctor arrived -- could have napped. I could have gone in search of a magazine or crossword puzzle.

In the end, it was sometime after 4:00 by the time we arrived back home. It had been a five-hour excursion.

In addition to this frustration, was my feeling of impotence at not being able to properly care for my family. That we had to spend so much time walking and walking while my ex had the car that I was, in theory, supposed to be able to access whenever needed. In practice, this doesn't work. I'd have had to be able to somehow get it from him while he was at work. And then there is the fact that we're no longer in touch.

I was in a horribly depressed mood by suppertime.

And then I received a message from an acquaintance of my son's. This guy works at a car rental place and offered to give us the "friends and family" plan that will allow us to take a van for my son's move to Toronto at a savings of $1,000! Plus I can drop it off there for $100 rather than the $1,600 that some companies charge allowing me to avoid the two-day solitary drive home no doubt made while bawling my eyes out over my empty nest.

How sweet can you get?

So, thank you for making my day, Jason.

I still want a car.

Colleen

Friday, April 23, 2010

The Tavernier Stones Blog Contest!


 Ladies and Gentlemen!

To get your weekend off to a great start, I have a super-easy contest for you to enter.

I have in my little mitt a brand-new, fresh-off-the-press copy of The Tavernier Stones by Stephen Parrish.

If you'd like to make it yours, here's all you have to do:

  1. Visit Stephen's blog at http://stephenparrish.blogspot.com/
  2. Find your favourite blog entry
  3. Post the link here in the comments section of this post
  4. On June 1, 2010, I'll select my favourite of your favourites et voilĂ ! someone will own a free copy of a great, new book.
  5. I'll announce the winner on this blog and be in touch to get your address so I can mail your prize to you. (Yes, I will cover the cost of postage.)
Odds of winning? I'd say they are pretty good. It's not like 1000s of people follow me. The bonus is that you get to read Stephen's posts. They're good reads.

And the extra-super bonus is this: you will now have one of the needed tools to solve The Armchair Treasure Hunt and be in the running to win a DIAMOND!

How's that to add some excitement to your Friday?

Colleen

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

LEARN something, damnit!

I am in such a pissy, sorry-for-myself mood today and I hate that. I hate feeling woeful and whiny. If I could remove my own leg, I'd boot meself in the arse.

I'm usually a very optimistic person. At least that is how I see myself. When something goes wrong, I know things will eventually get better. They always do. While I don't subscribe to the theory that "things happen for a reason" I do believe that opportunity abounds in challenge.

It pisses me off that I can't see what the opportunity is. I feel like I'm blindfolded.

If I wasn't so fucking flounder-y, if I hadn't been so fucking flounder-y for months now, I'd be okay. As it is, I still don't know how to dig myself out of this hole I so aptly dug for myself.

It all started when I moved to this province, thinking I'd find home. I didn't. Nova Scotia has never seemed to fit me comfortably. But I did find space to write. Space that I carved for myself with little or no encouragement from my significant other. As long as I had money to cover my kids and myself for the year I was going to take away from work, he was fine with it. Taking time away from a paycheque was a bold step for me as I have long carried the mantle of being a sole-support parent. I felt brave. I felt that I was setting an example for my kids that it's important to follow your dreams. To take a chance on yourself.

After some time off -- which turned out to be needed as I'd reached burn-out -- I returned to work, having found a job that would cover the bills while taking only half of my day. It was to allow me time to write.

Then, over a year ago, I started getting these neck tremors. They seem to have no biological basis and, in the past, I have developed physical manifestations of unhappiness. That said, I thought they'd go away when I figured my life out.

Neither has happened yet, so I can't prove my theory. 

The tremors aren't evident when I am walking or being physically active but when I am still. On the computer (like now), watching television, chatting with others. Sometimes I can control it; sometimes I can't. All that jerking around can make it difficult to read.

I used to get tremors in my right hand making writing impossible so I learned to use my left. After seeing different specialists, it was determined that they were caused by some over-firing in a section of my brain.

Those are now gone and have been replaced by this much more intrusive head bobble.

It makes life a little difficult. Embarrassing even. People either think I'm disagreeing with them or that I have some neurological disorder.

I thought they might vanish after my partner and I ended our relationship because ending it was a good thing to do. Of course, losing half my meager fortune to him was not.

Shortly after the split, I quit a sucky job when they changed the terms of my contract without being willing to negotiate my rate. When I quit, I had no idea that I'd be this long out of work. I've never, ever been unable to find a job. In the past, with only one exception, when I've had an interview for a job, I've landed the job. It's what I do.


Where do I go now? Do now?

I wish I knew.

And I wish I could figure out this big life lesson because I'm sure that is what this is: life screaming at me to LEARN something. But what?

Fuck.

C

Monday, April 19, 2010

Installment VI

While I was waiting for the boy's text message this afternoon, I had a call from The Brick. We'd been to a local store and ordered some furniture for him to be delivered to his apartment in TO.

Should have been simple, but when I hadn't heard from the TO store to arrange the delivery, I called the number the sales clerk here had given me.

It was indeed a number for a Brick outlet, but not the right one. They had no record of the order.

I called my sales clerk back. Turns out she hadn't faxed the order in properly.

The Toronto store and the Halifax store called me later to let me know that the sales clerk had forgotten to have me sign the invoice and asked me to go in.

Now, those three or four loyal readers will know that I no longer have a car. (Long story.) It would take me over an hour to travel to the store by bus. My son had a brainwave. Let's go to Kinkos and fax it over.

Great idea, son. Let's go.

We did. We got the confirmation of successful delivery. We paid. We walked back home.

The next day, I get another call from the Toronto office. They don't have the signed invoice. The Halifax store claims they didn't receive it.

I shlep back to Kinkos, refax, reconfirm, repay. I call the store to ensure they have received it. They have so I leave.

This afternoon I get a call from the Toronto store. Where's the signed invoice? the woman asks.

At the Halifax store I say aloud. This is not what I was saying with my inside voice.

Nope, she tells me. Hali says they don't have it.

They do, I insist. Please call them back.

She does. They do indeed have the invoice. The TO sales clerk explodes. My god, she says. How slow can they be there in Halifax? How long does it take to send a fax?

Welcome to my world, I want to say, but I don't. I've become so used to crappy service since moving here that I barely notice it anymore. The high blood pressure and spewing of vitriol wasn't worth it.

I'm really sorry for bothering you, she says. Delivery has been arranged with the landlady. Everything is right in the world.

Back to real time, I have just checked the virtual flight view monitor on the Halifax International Airport's website and my son's plane is now over Bangor, Maine.

He'll be home by midnight and then the real countdown begins.

Eight days till the move.

He won't know if he's made it into the film centre for two weeks.

Keep sending those good vibes, gentle readers.

And thank you.

Colleen

Installment V

I finally broke down and texted the kid.

Turns out he got lost somewhere out in Greek Town and had a long hike back to where he needed to be.

I've just gotten off the phone with him. He is already at Porter Air's lovely airport on Toronto Island for his flight home, proud of his budgeting for meals and transportation and tired.

He thinks the interview went well although can now barely remember what was asked or said. He does remember that at least two of the panel were impressed with the quality of his script given how little training he has. He was also asked if his script was made into a movie which director would he chose to direct it. He said Mike Nichols.

Anyway, he's checking in, going through security and calling me back.

He'll be home about 11 Atlantic Time.

And I have a going away party to organize.

Colleen

Installment IV

I'm sitting at the restaurant that my son worked at until last week, using my blackberry to enter thism

I'm waiting.

I hate waiting. I do it poorly.

I'm waiting for my son's ex-boss to arrive so we can discuss his going-away party.

I'm also standing by to get a text message from junior to let me know that he's out of his interview so I can call him.

My legs are twitching. My hair is a ball of frizz from running my fingers through it. Hair product can only do so much. I'm not drinking decaf. That is a mistake.

Could his interview have run one hour long?

I'll let you know.

Colleen

Installment III

It's 7:20.

That's 6:20 in Toronto. Too early to send a morning greeting. And I probably shouldn't do that anyway.

I hop out of bed, not quite remembering the list of things I have to do today.

I'm alone. I think about this, feeling the quality of the apartment's stillness. Even though I often wake alone on the days that my son leaves early for work, today's solitude is different. I have to get used to this.

Get laundry started. I make a mental tick against that chore as I shove dirty socks and towels into the washing machine.

I had coffee with a friend a couple of days ago. She's another single mom. When our kid's leave, it's different for us, I told her. Us, as opposed to them -- married parents.

She nodded. They're not just our kids, they become our social lives too.

I knew she'd understand.

This feels like a divorce.

I have to shower now and get on with my day.

There is a lump in my throat.

Colleen

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Installment II

My son has been to see the apartment he rented over the Internet. It's nice and in a nice neighbourhood. Still needs cleaning and painting and the ceilings are ridiculously low, but the first two things will be done before he moves and the latter he can live with. Good thing we aren't a tall family.

The goodnight text went like this:

Me: Night
Him: Night
Me: Are you out?
Him: No
Me: Hope you're not too bummed (about not being able to connect with friends) and you have a good night's sleep
Him: Oh, I'm fine! No biggie. Night!
Me: Do you want me to call you in the morning or do you want to keep to yourself?
Him: I'll keep to myself.
Me: K. Text me when you're done (the interview) and I'll call then. Good luck. Not that you need it. They'll love you. All my friends on Facebook are sending you good vibes!
Him: Thanks Mom! Will do.
Me. Night. I love you.
Him: Love you too.

My Son and the CFC

Live blogging, eh Becca? Here's the first installment.

I was up this morning at 4 to bid my son adieu. He has made it to the interview round of the admissions process to the Canadian Film Centre. He has applied for the screenwriting program.

He had to submit an original, full-length screenplay, two letters of recommendation and some other information to make it this far. Being shortlisted is such a big deal.

The CFC was established by Governor-General Award recipient and Academy Award-nominated filmmaker Norman Jewison. It is located in Toronto in what I believe is Jewison's former home and lays claim to having "trained an incredibly disproportionate pool of industry leaders whose enormous impact on Canada’s contemporary media environment is immeasurable."

The school foots the bill to fly the short-listed, out-of-town applicants to TO and puts them up at a bed and breakfast in The Annex, a trendy area of the city between Yonge Street and Little Italy.

I am nearly sick-to-my-stomach very excited for my son. Attending this school doesn't guarantee success. No school can do that. But it does provide lots of opportunity to learn your craft and make industry contacts.

My feelings, as usual, are more complex than this.

I am also rather annoyed because, having just come from his bathroom, I can report that he didn't bring his shaving stuff. I mean why shave just because you have what is the single most important interview of your life up till now? Just because you're more than a little hirsute? Just because I said that you should?

And his attire? Well, rather than wear anything nice, he is set on wearing second-hand clothes that he purchased two weeks ago. A rather hideous orange plaid shirt and a kelly-green and brown striped pullover.

"Don't worry. It's really casual," he tells me.


Sometimes the kid makes me nuts.

And I can't believe I just wrote that. I sound like my mother. ARGHHHHHHH!

Sigh.


So, here I sit fretting and wondering and blowing my diet because this is the first night he is away and in 10 days, I'm going to have to get used to this really fast and I'm not ready. Not ready. Not ready at all.

I've eaten four chocolate bars and half a bag of chips. I've eaten potato skins.

Seven months of dieting and a loss of 55 pounds and I've eaten all that crap.

I'm thinking of selling everything, getting rid of the apartment and going to volunteer in Africa.

Sound like a plan?

Colleen

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Solve the puzzle. Win a Diamond.

The Tavernier Stones is coming!

A first book by author Stephen Parrish is about to be released on May 1st and pre-orders are possible via Amazon.com, Amazon.ca. and other online retailers.

I'll get back to the book in a minute because in conjunction with the book, Stephen is launching a puzzler's dream: The Armchair Treasure Hunt

All you have to do is travel to www.tavernierstones.com, have access to the book and solve the clues to find the prize: a one-carat diamond.

Does this mean you have to buy a copy of the book to solve the puzzle? No. You could get your local library to order one. I must say though that I want my own copy clenched in my tight fist as I work my way through to winning that prize.

According to the rules, the diamond's clarity is SI2 and its colour grade is h. Stephen retains the right to replace the diamond with one that is "larger or of better quality."

It's like being Indiana Jones without the threat of imminent death or the cost of travel.

Not only does the hunt sound intriguing (Not to mention that it gets my heart pumping. I mean, c'mon a diamond for the taking?) but the book sounds gripping. I've already ordered mine.

"When the well-preserved body of 17th century mapmaker Johannes Cellarius floats to the surface of a bog in northern Germany, and a 57 carat ruby rolls out of his fist, treasure hunters from around the globe race to find the Loast Tavernier Stones of popular European folklore.

According to legend, Jean-Baptiste Tavernier was robbed of a priceless hoard while returning from his final voyage to the Orient in 1689. The hoard reputedly includes some of the world's most notorious missing jewels. Among them the 280 carat Great Mogul Diamond and the 242 carat Great Table Diamond, the largest diamonds ever unearthed whose whereabouts are unknown.

John Graf is an Amish-born cartographer who has never ventured out of Pennsylvania, let alone embarked on an international treasure hunt. David Freeman is a gemologist who had done his share of prospecting, but little of it within the boundaries of the law. Between them they have all the expertise necessary to solve the mystery. They also have enough differences to derail even the best of partnerships. And ahead are more obstacles: fortune seekers equally qualified and every bit as determined

The race spans two continents. The finish line is in Idar-Oberstein, the gemstone capital of Germany. There, in chambers beneath an old church, where unspeakable events took place in centuries past, winners and losers alike find answers to age-old questions about the Lost Tavernier Stones.

I am looking forward to reading my copy when it arrives -- by the weekend I hope!

I expect that Stephen's background as a cartographer, gemologist and soldier will allow him to add a degree of authenticity others would not be able to.

If you'd like to check out Stephen's blog go here.

I highly recommend that you swing by www.thetavernierstones.com and order a copy of your book today.

Colleen

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Sexual piety as a mating strategy?

Here's a new one... Sexual piety as a mating strategy or Why liberal atheists are smarter than pious conservatives.

From Psychology Today.

Colleen

Racism and Nova Scotia

For anyone who likes to think that the issue of race has not been a problem in Canada, think again. We might not burn crosses on front lawns (although maybe we have, I don't know) but we certainly discriminate and did, indeed, have slaves.

Here, in Nova Scotia, the home of some who escaped via the Underground Railroad and Black Empire Loyalists, the divide between black and white is still intact.

This isn't a myth or my own meandering mind that says it's there. We have institutions trying to rectify the situation. The Black Business Initiative, the Black Educators Association, the Office of African-Nova Scotian Affairs.

These organizations are here because of the discrimination Black Nova Scotians face in the everyday world of ours. The bank loans that are harder to obtain than if they were white; the jobs that many believe are "white" jobs; the race-related violence in some of the high schools.

Sure, we Canadians pride ourselves on being polite. We don't utter ugly words in public. Usually. Yet they live on that side and we live on this side. If you're a white Nova Scotian, just try smiling and saying hello to a black Nova Scotian and guage the response. If you're like me, most times there is no smile given in response.

There are reasons for this.

In today's Chronicle Herald, a story ran about an apology that will be issued to Viola Desmond, a black business woman who, in 1946 was arrested, fined and jailed for refusing to leave the white-only section of a movie theatre.

Government refers to this sort of apology as a Royal Prerogative of Mercy Free Pardon.

I have no idea what that means. I speak English. I understand the words but what is mercy free pardon?

A mercy-free pardon? That sounds bad.

A mercifully and freely given pardon? That interpretation requires too much finagling.

Whatever the meaning, it won't matter a bit to Viola who is already dead though it might be welcomed by her family and may resonate within the Black community of NS.

If you're interested, the story is here.

Colleen

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Recurring nightmares

Recurring nightmares.

Do you have them?

I do.

Had one last night, actually. And now I completely forget it. Which is really annoying because if I could remember it long enough to figure out the message, it would vanish. That's the way it works for me.

I used to have one where bad guys were chasing me and various members of my family. Guns were blazing, bullets landing all around us. We were in serious danger of being killed. We had one thing in our favour, however, my ability to fly. Hang on to me, I'd yell at said family persons, and I'll get us out of here. They'd grab onto my clothing and I'd run and run but they weighed me down and I couldn't get off the ground. I'd get so tired trying to lift-off but I'd keep trying. It was a terrible dream because if we didn't get out of there, we'd be killed and it would be my fault because I didn't save them.

Not a hard message to sort out, you may be thinking.

Sadly, it was. Took me years but when I did, I never had that dream again.

Or the one where I kept trying to tell everyone that my dad wasn't really my dad. He was an impostor but no one would listen to me. They thought I was nuts and I couldn't believe they couldn't see the coldness in his eyes. At the end of the dream, he would turn into a witch on a broomstick and ride around the living room. It was terrifying and I'd wake up in a panic.

My dad wasn't a warlock (do warlocks use brooms?) but I was the kid that would point out the elephant in the room while the rest of my family would tell me I was being overly dramatic.

Am I dramatic? I suppose that's one way to describe me. I like to think of myself as being animated or passionate. Enthusiastic. But tomato, tomato.

Have there been some big elephants hanging out in corners? Yup. Though you'd never know it by the serious deniers in the crowd.

So, here I am trying to remember a dream that was so vivid to me early this morning so I can banish it forever.

One of these days, when I'm ready for the lesson, it'll come to me.

Colleen

Monday, April 5, 2010

After the novel is written

The 12 Easy Steps by Eric at Pimp My Novel

A nice synopsis of the process that takes place after you finish writing.

Thanks, Eric!

Colleen

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Does the Right ever get tired of looking stupid?

Roger Ebert's blog on Texas school books.

Some scientist  guy-in-a-lab-coat explaining away that wacky theory of evolution.

Sarah Palin's Real American Stories and the LL Cool J bungle. (Watch the video clip at the end of article.)

It's pretty nice when they make the argument for you.

Colleen

Friday, April 2, 2010

The real reason I don't get things done as quickly as I might


And for anyone with really great eyesight, yes, that is Erica Orloff's blog open on my screen. As I read her mention of the state of her desk, it was impossible not to notice the disaster of my own.

Colleen

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Why I Hate My BlackBerry

I bought a BlackBerry in January or maybe it was December. I wasn't hankering for one, but my cell phone was on its last legs and I am impulsive enough that a sales clerk found me to be easy picking.

As with every new keyboard, regardless of size or device, you have to get used to the layout. QWERTY only helps you locate letters. The feel of the keyboard, where commands keys are located, the agility of the trackpad/ball are things the user has to acclimatize herself to.

I thought I had set up the software for my BB and was becoming increasingly frustrated at not being able to find a menu or to be able to save photos to my computer.

Turns out, I hadn't downloaded the software. How can this be?

I am no techie, that's for sure. I am used to using technology, however, and can usually figure out whatever I am using on my own. This morning I decided to sort it all out.

Stabbing my eyes with a pen would have been more enjoyable.

Because executing the file isn't a seamless process. You have to scan a screen of small print to locate the download button. Sure it's in red, but it's small, over to the side and I am not used to having to do this next step when I pop a CD into my computer for execution.


I had to try the reinstall three times before I figured out what my problem was, was led to online tutorials that I didn't want in hopes of finding a main menu, and the process takes way too long -- so much so that I am doing this on my laptop waiting for the damn softwear to install.

Next, the keyboard. The little keys have a divot at one corner to enhance accuracy, but there is no number lock key to help me key in numbers without having to hit the alt key before every number. The alt key is also located beside the number keys resulting in two thumbs trying to operate in a one-thumb zone.

The ring tone and vibrate don't always work resulting in missed calls.

The back light fades for no reason and only on occasion.

The application icons aren't distinct enough from each other to be really helpful.

Why didn't I hold out for an iPhone?

Colleen

Monday, March 29, 2010

Oh, my mother!

In response to a previous post, blogging buddy Cheryl suggested I have a look at ancestry.ca to find out about my ancestors which I have done. It's rather addicting to say the least. Hours slip by as minutes.

I've managed to add many names to the little squares in my family tree. The one that has had the biggest impact on me to date was my paternal grandfather. His name was Emile. I'd never known that.

My father was born in 1917 and was raised by a single mom and her parents on a farm in northern Ontario. The story goes that grandmother married grandfather against family wishes and within short order, but not before becoming pregnant, she discovered he was a heroin addict and gave him the boot. Admitting defeat and returning to her parents' home must have been difficult for this woman who by all accounts was a force to be reckoned with. She never remarried and my father only met his father when he turned 21. They never formed a relationship, seeing each other only twice before Emile died.

The names of these grandparents were never spoken in our home. They had both died before I came along so I didn't consider not knowing about them to be unusual.

I did, however, miss having grandparents for my mother's parents had also died before I was born.

Being able to put a name to this disgraced grandpa was really something.

I was talking over the phone about this with my mother last night, once more lamenting that somewhere along the way Dad's family tree that he'd had done back in the 70s had been lost.

"Oh, I have that," she said.

Oh, you have those? I've only been asking for them for 29 years! Twenty-nine years. Plus she knows that I'm tracing the family tree now and never offered them up. Mom, geez!

"How many times have I said I wish I had them?" I asked her. "And you know what I'm working on and it never twigged with you  to give them to me?"

ARRRGGGHHHHHHHHHHH!

That said, it seems one of the trees has been lost as she only has the one from my paternal grandmother's side of the family and both sides had been done. I'll be visiting her at the end of next month and will hunt for the other.

To be fair to Mom, and some days that's harder than others, she is trying much harder with me than she ever has. Over the course of my life with her, she has been so self-absorbed that I can well believe she never once heard me regretting the loss of the missing information. Now in her 80s, we've come to a new stage in our relationship, at my insistence, and I can tell she makes notes when we talk so that she remembers to ask about things in my kids and my lives when we speak. Good for her. Really. It can't be easy to change after eight decades.

So way to go, Mom. I appreciate your effort.

Anyone have any family stories to share?

Colleen

Friday, March 26, 2010

An Open Letter to Americans

I am begging you to explain your country's fear of universal health care. I do not get this at all.

With the passage of the health-car reform bill in the U.S., it seems the debate is far from over and the crazies are becoming even crazier than before. From Sarah Palin's website that paints cross-hairs over the states that supported the bill to people making threatening phone calls, it all seems surreal.

Even, conservative pundit David Frum was fired from a right-wing think tank for disagreeing with the conservative approach to health-care reform. This is the sort of thing he has said that got him into trouble.

“In a democracy, there are competing teams, and each team has to bring its best game to the table ... health-care reform is here to stay, it isn't going to be repealed, and it was within our grasp to help formulate it and we failed to do so. Instead, we decided to do whatever we could to make Democrats look wicked and evil.”(Today's Globe and Mail)

So he gets fired for being reasonable because that is not the conservative way, apparently.

Why are people so upset about this issue?

The U.S. currently pays more of its GDP for health care than does Canada yet it has worse outcomes. You pay almost twice as much per capita as France, almost 2.5 times as much as Britain. As a matter of fact, the U.S. pays a higher percentage on health care than any other country yet does considerably worse on basic measure of health performance (life expectancy and infant mortality.) As an example, the U.S. has the same infant mortality rates as Malaysia -- a country whose average citizen earns 1/4 that of an average American. Being born into an uninsured household in the U.S. increases the probability of dying before the age of one by about 50 per cent.

It's not that the Canadian system is perfect. It has many flaws. I don't think anyone would disagree with that. I'd like my country to look across the Atlantic to countries like Sweden and France to see how we could improve on ours. But I'd never want to lose what I already have.

Though I am no expert, I have lived with a government-lead system my whole life so I am at least semi-qualified to explain it. Here is the low-down on Canadian health care.

In Canada, no one loses his or her life savings for becoming ill. Our emergency care is second-to-none. If you show up in dire straits and need care, you'll get the best in the world. No one has to approve required tests or procedures. That's between you and your doctor.

If you require palliative care, you get it. If you require a transplant, you go on the list. You don't need to prove that you have $1 million in your bank account to afford the after-care needed before you can go on the list. You get to see your doctor whenever you need to. No one gets to approve or disapprove of your visit. Mammograms, checkups, blood work, etc. It's all covered.

Our health care does not cover prescription drugs however, seniors and those on welfare receive theirs free. Some provinces also have plans for the working poor. Our drugs are cheaper than yours. We can use generic ones which is why American seniors flock to Canada (yes, there are even bus tours for this) to buy their prescriptions.

In Canada, no one tells you which health care provider to see. We choose our own.

It is true that there are caps set on certain government-covered services such as eye exams that are paid for every two years. This doesn't stop anyone from electing to go more frequently. You would just pay out of your own pocket for more regular visits.

Again, no one tells you what you can or can't do.

Like you, we also have privatized coverage. Many employers offer additional coverage to their employees. Costs are often split between employer and employee 50/50. As with your privatized plans, this is where we run into the issue of someone telling us we can't have something because it isn't covered. Still no insurance company can tell us which health-care provider to see.

For anyone who is interested, here is a link to Health Canada. It's not the best website in the world, but it gives you an idea of what is covered.

There are two main downsides to the Canadian system as I can see. The first is cost. Unlike many, I disagree with the statement that we are spending too much. Between 1992 and 2006, spending rose from 10 to 10.3 per cent per capita. That's hardly the spending spiral we've been led to believe.

However, and this leads me to problem #2, we do need to look at better models of health care and avoid looking south of the border when we do. We have to shift our system to one that focuses on prevention and education. Shifting to a community-based model would be wonderful. We all know that if we decrease smoking and obesity, for example, our health outcomes would be better and cost us less. (The same idea as spending money on education decreases spending on prisons.)

So, according to me, the Canadian system needs some creativity applied to improve our delivery and results.

Now it's your turn.

Tell me why the American people are so frightened of having their less-than-stellar system modified? Why are they frightened of taking power away from HMOs and keeping it for themselves? Why don't they want to save a bit of money?

It's time for those of you who want health care reform to get vocal. Write and call your representatives. Make sure that the only voices heard aren't those of the opponents.  

Lucy! You got some 'splaining to do.

Colleen

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Ann Coulter Uncovered

I promise this is my last post about Ann. I just had to share an epiphany I had this morning about her.

The CBC introduced a piece on the furor (fuhrer?) Coulter is causing in Canada by calling her a performance artist.

Now I get it. I guess I've been a little slow on the uptake. I could not fathom her shtick, how anyone could believe the things she says she believes, how hate-filled one person could be.

But it's performance art. Like that woman who made a dress out of meat.

Just you wait. In a couple of years, she will unveil herself as a left-wing provocateur and dash what is left of the right.

Brilliant.

Colleen

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Ann Coulter Kicked Out of Ottawa

Well, my, my my.

Ann Coulter was kicked out of Ottawa.

I never would have guessed that it was possible. Not that people would want her gone, but that Canadians, renowned for our apathy, would be so bold.

Here's what happened.

Coulter spoke in London on Monday and the Globe and Mail reported she said things like this:
There are two things gay men can’t do – “get married to each other” (She knew she was in Canada where this is legal, right?) and “throw a baseball without looking like a girl.” (I wonder how girls who play ball feel about this one?)

And that she thinks feminists, gays and illegal aliens all want to be black as they complain their rights are being attacked in the same way the rights of African-Americans once were.

After the 9/11 terrorist attacks, she had joked that Muslims denied air travel should take “flying carpets.” When the student challenged that remark, Ms. Coulter told her to take a “camel,” adding that, “I thought it was just American public schools that produced ignorant people.” 

When she showed up at the U of Ottawa yesterday, there was a very boisterous crowd demonstrating against her. She cancelled her speech when organizers decided it wasn't safe for her to speak.

Not safe to speak in Ottawa?

Anyone who knows Ottawa would find that comical. (Right, Becca?)

Her response?

“It's at the absolute bush league, bottom of the barrel schools that you get the worst treatment and yet and still I've never seen this before,” she said.“I'm guessing the scores to get into the University of Ottawa are not very challenging.”

According to the daily newspaper:

Riding a wave of controversy over her speaking tour of Canada, Ms. Coulter told CTV news earlier yesterday that she’s being treated unfairly here because she’s conservative.

No, Ann. You're being treated this way because you are a bigot. There are lots of conservatives who could speak freely. I am happy to report you aren't considered to be of their standard.

Colleen

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

A rant about your fave and mine: Ann Coulter

I usually have a rule about ignoring the ravings of the insane, but today I am making an exception.

You see, Ann Coulter is appearing on my home turf for a series of speaking engagements this week.

Why, Canada, why?

I believe in a fair and intelligent exchange of ideas. I believe that people who disagree with me should be heard. I also believe that Ann Coulter does not contribute to the former and is too headline hungry to represent the latter.

At $10,000 per engagement, our universities could have selected a better speaker to represent conservative views. What about Meghan McCain, for example?

Do we have to give a platform to every nut out there to ensure freedom of expression? Sure, you may be saying, but who will make that decision?

Given that the provost of Ottawa U, where Coulter is appearing tonight, felt the need to write a letter to encourage Coulter to brush up on Canada's free speech laws, I suspect this one speaker might have been an easy call.

According to today's Globe and Mail:
"After mentioning the Charter of Rights and Canada's free speech laws, Mr. Houle invited Coulter to 'educate yourself, if need be, as to what is acceptable in Canada” and noted, by example, that “promoting hatred against any identifiable group would not only be considered inappropriate, but could in fact lead to criminal charges'"
This apparently led Coulter to email newsmax.com (a conservative online news site) that “The provost of the u. of Ottawa is threatening to criminally prosecute me for my speech there on Monday – before I've even set foot in the country!”

Coulter is known, at least in my country, for saying Canada is: “"lucky we allow them to exist on the same continent' after the Canadian government refused to join the 2003 invasion of Iraq." (G&M)


The Globe also prints two other Coulter bons mots:

 '“not all Muslims may be terrorists, but all terrorists are Muslims,'

and

'the government should be spying on all Arabs, engaging in torture as a televised spectator sport, dropping daisy cutters wantonly throughout the Middle East, and sending liberals to Guantanamo.'"

Aside from the obvious inaccuracy of the first statement, in Canada, both could be interpreted as propagating hate, which is against the law.

I wonder if the guy who flew his plane into a federal building a few weeks ago would even stand a chance at not being labeled a terrorist if he was Arabic or Muslim.

C'mon Ann. I know you like to stir the pot, but would a bit of accuracy hurt now and again?

And to Canadian Universities: yes, we must promote discussion. Is this our best attempt to do so?

Colleen

Friday, March 19, 2010

Uncovering roots

I've been watching Lisa Kudrow's new show Who Do You Think You Are? with fascination. There is something about tracing family roots that I find compelling. I think it has something to do with finding a sense of history, of continuation. A sense of home.

I imagine this is because of my feelings about my own impermanence.

It may have something to do with the fact that my family moved every few years as I was growing up. It may also have to do with my own loss of family when I was five and again when I was 12.

My older siblings and my younger sister and I do not share the same mother. Our lives have been completely different from each other. The oldest three were raised French-speaking and Catholic. My sister and I were raised English speaking and atheist. They were poor. We were middle class. They didn't have a father around because we had him.

Before I was born, the three of them came to live with us. It had to have been a strained situation for them, to say the least. My mother was the Jezebel who had stolen their father away, or so they had been raised to believe.

They lived with us after I was born and for the first five years of my life. At least the boys did. My older sister had gone back to live with her mother sometime during that period. Exactly when, I am not sure. I have no recollection of her although she was the one who picked my middle name.

My older brother was the next to leave for work and then marriage.

It was my other brother, Gilbert, whom I idolized.He was the middle kid of the first family. Born with a club foot, he spent years in and out of Sick Kids Hospital in Toronto. Back then, there were no accommodations for parents to stay near their children so his mother couldn't visit. Although Mom and Dad went to see him, it wouldn't have been the same as things are today for hospitalized kids. He must have been so alone. He was the one who struggled the most in school. He was the kid who grew to love my mom. That couldn't have been easy for him either.

While most little girls go through a phase when they want to marry their fathers, I wanted to grow up and marry Gil.

When I was about four, he bought me a white bathrobe. It had three-quarter length sleeves with layer upon layer of white lace from the elbows down capped by a single band of red velvet. The belt was a piece of red velvet ribbon. It made me feel like I was a fairy princess.

When I was three or four at dinnertime, Gil noticed that I was fiddling with my peas. I hated them and he knew I did. He also knew that if I didn't eat them, I might be at the table for a long time. He promised that if I ate them all, he would take me on his ship. I wolfed them down and he was true to his word. When the day come for my parents to take me on board, I was excited and hopped around his cabin waiting for his shift to end. After some time, a tall black man entered and laughed when I didn't recognize him.He showered and there he was, my big brother. While I pictured him as a captain, he worked in the engine room shovelling coal.

When I was five, my older siblings had a disagreement with our father and vanished from our lives. In a second, they were gone. I didn't know why. I don't know if I ever asked.

I was, at some point, instructed not to talk about them. In grade two, when the class was given an assignment to write a story entitled All About Me, I began by listing the names of my siblings. My mother made me erase it and start again leaving them out. She said that other people won't understand divorce or step-families.

It was a few years before I saw them again. Contact was first made with my oldest brother. Some time later, as we were en route to our new home in northern Quebec, we stopped in northern Ontario to see my sister. She pleaded with us to call Gil. My father acquiesed but when Gil asked us to visit him, my father refused.

It was the last time we spoke with him.

He killed himself the next year. His funeral was on September 4, 1971, my twelfth birthday.

I remember people saying how awful he looked in his casket. That his skin was blue from asphyxiation. I thought he looked beautiful.

I remember too that I felt guilty for not having argued with my father that day when we talked to Gil on the phone. I remember wanting to, but holding my feelings inside. That's what good girls do.

It was a long time before I stopped looking for him. Watching for him in crowds, behind the wheel of a big rig (I'd heard he'd been a trucker for a while), walking down the street. I still think about Gil almost everyday.

So, tracing family roots is a project I have slated for my retirement years. Names filled into squares that connect to other squares that let me know that I am a part of something. To be able to run my fingertips over the names and know that I belong somewhere.

And that no one can take that away from me.

Colleen

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Wy people go postal

I just got off the phone with Bell Canada. What a frustrating experience it was. Here's what happened.

I signed up for e-bills two months ago thinking it would be better for the planet.

My first bill notification arrived on February 4. I logged in and was astounded to find a charge of $185 -- double my regular bill. I had recently changed my service but had not expected an increase. I clicked on Bill Details to find out what the new charges were. I got a message telling me that no details could be found. I hunted around the site clicking on different options trying to get a detailed account of the charges. No luck.

I paid the bill so it wouldn't be late and nagged myself to make a call to Bell to get it sorted out. Why didn't I just make the call in the first place? Because I knew it would be a hassle. It always is.

March 4 arrived and I received my second email notification of my second e-bill.

Knowing I'd have to check into it sooner or later, I procrastinated till this morning when I sat down for the monthly bill paying exercise. Always fun in itself.

Same deal as last month. I logged in and still couldn't find a detailed account of the charges. I made the dreaded call.

I spoke with Molly or whatever they call the irritating voice that guides you through the automated menu of choices until I was finally connected with a real, live person.

I told her of my problem and that I wanted to switch back to paper bills.

She told me there would be a $2/month charge to get a paper bill.

Two bucks a month to get a bill to pay for a service I already pay more for than the rest of the developed world.

(Standing next to a woman from NY at a cell phone provider's counter one day I heard her tear the guy a new one when he told her how much her new Canadian service would cost. "I could make a mortgage payment with that!" she freaked. That was when I realized how much more we pay than US customers.)

She tells me the charge is to encourage people to go paperless. I wasn't happy and expressed that it was outrageous to pay for such a thing.

She explained how I could get help to access my bill. One of the options was to email Bell and have a techie walk me through the process. I told her that too was ridiculous. You shouldn't have to work to see your bill. It should be a simple and transparent process. Who should be expected to pay for something when they don't know what that something is?

Seriously Bell Canada?

I can't just create an online account, click on a link and see an electronic version of the old paper bill I used to get? I have to link accounts or call a help desk to get a bill?

If Bell was seriously trying to help the planet, this would be an easy system. As it is, it appears the company is trying to hide charges by making the process too cumbersome.

Get with it, B.C.!

(Or maybe those initials stand for something... like your antiquated way of providing service perhaps?)

Colleen

Sunday, March 14, 2010

A snippet of dialogue

I like home design shows. My favourite designer is Sarah Richardson whose new series started this week. Since I was going to be away, I recorded it and watched it yesterday. The following is from the show and was delivered without irony or sarcasm. Just two friends talking. It made me smile. A lot.

Tommy (co-designer): You expect me to jump over that? [small trench dug in yard]
Sarah: Do you want me to hold your hand?
Tommy: I can do it. I took ballet when I was a kid.

C

Saturday, March 13, 2010

The Truth About Toronto

Having just returned from the city of my birth, I am struck by the bad rap Toronto gets. It is true it is not a pretty city. While there may be pockets of beauty or areas of stunning architecture, as a whole what we saw was rather shabby.

That said, I appreciate its patchwork construction.

Toronto is really an umbrella for a grouping of smaller communities. Little Italy. Chinatown. Little Portugal.Greektown. Kensington Market. The Beaches.

A person could live her life in Toronto feeling that she lived in a neighbourhood. An actual neighbourhood. The sort of place where people get to know you. Where you have your favourite coffee shop and the servers say hello. Or chat and wave goodbye as ours did on our last day there. Or buy us an espresso as ours did at a restaurant we ate at.

I was struck also by how friendly everyone was.

Sure, no one thinks twice about colliding with you in heavy foot traffic. I was the only one hollering 'sorry" over my shoulder.

But -- like most places -- if you take the time to extend a greeting or make a comment while waiting in line, Torontonians will chat with you. On different occasions, strangers offered assistance without being asked.

I was on an elevator with a young man wearing the most colourful sneakers I'd ever seen. I told him that I liked them and his grin was as big as the outdoors. He made polite conversation by asking me about my plans for the evening. It was a lovely interchange.

The downtown core is built for walking. Streets run on a N/S & E/W grid so newcomers will find it easy to make their way around. Just look for the CN Tower. That's south. Go any further and you'll get wet.

Those who don't want to hoof it or who have to travel further afield (and this city sprawls!) will love the public transportation system is.

I can see now why a transit strike is so calamitous. Everyone uses it. Not just those who can't afford a vehicle. Everyone. And it works well. Streetcars, buses, the subway. They blend seamlessly and without the long waits I am used to.

Union Station is a wonder. Its subterranean level acts as a hub for commuters from other cities and the 'burbs. Filled with fast food outlets, dry cleaners and other shops, the Station is home to the GO Train, VIA Rail and the Greyhound Bus. Doors swoosh open and hordes poor through, rushing purposefully this way and that. Here, there is no time to greet a fellow traveller though the staff are helpful and will take time to explain how to find one's way around.

After walking my niece to her platform, I turned back to find a group standing with bowed heads waiting for a train to arrive. For a moment, I thought they stood in prayer. Until I saw the ubiquitous Blackberries in their hands. A Norman Rockwell tableau for the new milleneum.

I'm still not sure that I'd ever be comfortable living there and I still have to deal with the idea that my son will someday soon be on his way, but I can see some of the charm of this somewhat grubby, bulging place.

Colleen

Monday, March 8, 2010

He's ready

Tomorrow we leave for Toronto, my son and I along with his best friend. We are going to find the two of them an apartment for their move in May. He hopes to get into film school; she is going for the change of environment.

I have woken today with a heavy heart. My boy is leaving.

I want to cry. I feel the tears well inside me but I fight them down. He can't see them.

I want to tell him he can't go. That Toronto is too far. We won't see each other often enough. Every day isn't often enough for me. But I don't say that.

It's his time. This is the right thing for him.

I can't look at this as him leaving; instead I must see this as a new phase of our lives. But letting go is one of the most difficult things I've ever had to do.

It's stupid, maudlin, yet I can't stop thinking of the day he was born and the days leading up to his birth.

It had been a terrible period of my life. His father left the house one day for a few hours and never came back. Vanished. He'd run away. I was left penniless and alone with a seven-year-old and this unborn child and what was I going to do? How would I support them? How would I get through this?

As my belly grew, I tried to rouse myself from my depression. The only thing that got me out of bed each morning was having a seven-year-old to take care of. I despaired at having another one.

On the day my baby was due, I ran some errands at the nearest mall. While there, I noticed a young couple with a newborn. A wrinkly, pink, mewling newborn.

It was like the clouds parted. "I'm going to have a baby!" The idea struck me with such joy. I was ready.

Three days later so was he and we never looked back. I have loved every minute with him. Literally. We are so similar. We share the same sense of humour, the same logical approach to tackling problems, The same sensitivity to other people's vibes.

And now, he is a man, though barely, and he is ready again. Ready to see what the world has for him.

This time I am not. It came too fast. I should have been more vigilant. Against what, I don't know. Against him growing up? Yes, it's silliness. I know. I know. But I want a do-over.

Instead, I'll be my most encouraging because that's my job now. That's what he needs from me. And I'll look to the universe to keep him safe, to keep him happy, to bring him back to me once in a while.

C

Friday, March 5, 2010

Writer's Digest Articles

A nice article about the Purpose of Scenes from Writer's Digest and another about Showing and Telling.

Have a great day.

Colleen

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Slow life

The interesting thing about living without a car is how much slower life gets.

I can no longer "just zip over" to wherever I want to go. I have to plan where I'm going, my route and how I'm getting there and back. If I want to go to the mall to shop for something, it takes an afternoon not an hour.

The Halifax Shopping Centre which is less than a 15 minute drive away from my place takes 30 minutes to bus to. Bayer's Lake -- home of every box store known to man, or almost -- is also less than 15 minutes away by car. It's one hour or so by bus depending on how much time I have to wait for a transfer. That's at least two hours of travel time to, say, buy a pair of running shoes like I had to do last week. Add the walk to and from the bus and shopping time and half a day was shot.

This means that 1) I rarely head to the mall and 2) when I do, it's for a reason.

I can no longer run a series of errands on one day so anything that isn't really necessary doesn't get done.It really takes a lot of stress out of daily living.

You might want to try it. Just imagine the money you won't spend and the insignificant busy work that you'll cast off. It might be fun.

Colleen

Friday, February 26, 2010

How to kill a short story

I am pathetically bad at figuring out how to share info using proper technology so am reproducing a recent post by Zachary Petit of Writer's Digest....

The link is here. The post is below.

# Friday, February 26, 2010
3 ways to kill a short story (plus, write an awesomely bad ending and win a book)

While working on a short story last night, I was stumped. Everything was written, edited and good to go, except the ending—or, more specifically, the five endings I had written, ranging from the literary drop-off (an esoteric and potentially cheesy musing about losing things) to the genre-style kick (dead body in the piano?).

Which got me thinking more about endings—what works best, and why? Here, courtesy of WD's Chad Seibert, is an excerpt from the WritersOnlineWorkshops.com course “Focus on the Short Story," on what definitely doesn't. (The next course starts March 11; click here to learn more about it.)

* * *

So how does a writer know when and where to end her story? Former STORY editor Whit Burnett says to use "pure instinct"—easier said than done. There are as many ways to end a story as there are to start one. If you want to learn how to end a story, the best thing to do is study examples. But there are at least three basic problems that you'll want to avoid:

The story that simply stops

You don't want the ending of your story to send an editor back to the envelope in search of more pages, scratching his head and wondering if he dropped part of the manuscript on the subway that morning.

Usually, when a story seems to "stop" rather than "end," it's because the story lacks a sense of resolution, of wholeness. The reader doesn’t feel like she's "gotten anywhere." She wonders what the point is.

It's useful to think of your story as making a set of "promises" to the reader. Have you raised any questions or issues that you've failed to answer? A good story does not trick or tease (at least not simply for the sake of tricking and teasing). A good story keeps its promises (which is another way of saying that a good story plays by the rules it establishes for itself).

You, as the author, will have to determine whether or not the logic of your story requires that you answer any particular question or address any particular issue. Unlike the average Hollywood movie, short stories usually aren't obligated by issues of plot so much as by issues of character.

Too much falling action


"Falling action" (also known as the resolution, or denouement) is the part of a narrative that comes after the climax, after the story's main problems have been solved—those sometimes leisurely pages where the author ties up any remaining loose strings.

As Rust Hills (
Writing in General & the Short Story in Particular) points out in his chapter entitled "Ending," most short stories (unlike novels) don't require much detail about what happens "afterward." Once you've done what you need to do, don't linger. Get out of the story.

Still, sometimes we don't seem to know when enough is enough. Maybe we become attached to the worlds of our stories and don't want to leave. Maybe we're worried the reader hasn't gotten the point. Or maybe we're just putting off the daunting task of starting a new story.

Whatever the case, the problem of too much falling action is usually easy to fix. At
STORY, we frequently suggested that authors snip a line or a paragraph off the end of their stories, sometimes an entire scene. More often than not, the ending was in there somewhere; it was just buried.

The atomic-bomb ending

Perhaps no part of a story invites melodrama so much as the climax (which, in contemporary stories, usually falls near the end). You want this moment to have the maximum possible impact on your reader, but the line between "maximum impact" and "fatal impact" is sometimes hard to judge.

An ending that's too "light" (one that doesn't capitalize on the story's dramatic and thematic potential) can leave a reader disappointed, not quite satisfied. But an ending that's too "hard" (melodramatic, over the top) can do even more damage, leaving a reader in disbelief, turned off, disgusted.

Err on the side of restraint. Don't treat your ending like it's your last chance to drive home the point of the story. If the rest of your story has been doing its fair share of the work, the ending needn't detonate a bomb in order to succeed.


* * *

WRITING PROMPT: Self-Destructive Actions

Feel free to take the following prompt home or post your response (funny, sad or stirring) in the Comments section below. By posting, you’ll be automatically entered in our occasional around-the-office swag drawings. If you’re having trouble with the captcha code sticking, e-mail your story to me at writersdigest@fwmedia.com, with “Promptly” in the subject line, and I’ll make sure it gets up.

Take a short piece you've written (or whip up a new one), and hack the ending off. Then, write the most awesomely bad ending you can—and see how easily you can derail the piece. I’ll choose one random commenter to win a copy of The Weekend Novelist Rewrites the Novel and the latest issue of WD magazine.

(Image: Danilo Rizzuti)

Monday, February 22, 2010

Foot versus Brain Power

In a competition between foot and brain power, which would win?

Try combining getting around on two legs with a 50-year-old's tendency to forget what they've doing while they are in the midst of doing it and you have an ideal situation for getting a lot of exercise.

Yesterday, I awoke at seven ready to get the house in order and start something special for Sunday dinner with my kids. I swept and dusted and washed floors. I did laundry and examined The Joy of Cooking for something fun to do with a pork roast.

I settled on pulled pork and needed a few things from the grocery store.

But first, I had to return a movie rental.

I bundled up, grabbed my shopping cart the DVD and headed out the door. Halfway down the street, I realized I hadn't checked the case to ensure the DVD was inside. It wasn't.

I returned home, got the movie and successfully returned it the struck out for the nearest grocery store a few blocks away.

At the deli counter, I ordered some coleslaw and broccoli salad and remembered that I hadn't brought my wallet with me.

I returned home again, retrieved my bank card and, since I'd overdressed, was overheated and pealed off some clothes before the return trip to the store.

I managed to complete my trip successfully this time while doubling the distance I was originally set to walk.

I am losing my mind.

The one good note -- aside from extra exercise -- is that this would have been even more annoying had I been in a car and had needed to park it each time I'd stopped.

Power to the feet -- if not to the brain!

Have a great Monday! I know I will... I'm off shoe shopping with my daughter.

(Oh, and I've finally broken through my weight-loss plateau and am down another three pounds. Yay!)

Colleen