Thursday, January 28, 2010

Not sleeping and happy thoughts

Sleep, sleep... perchance to dream... or however that went. I'm up. It's 2 a.m. and I'm tired but can't sleep. I tossed and turned for two hours and then decided to get up and do something to take my mind away from the fact that I'm not sleeping. I suppose writing about it isn't the best tactic for that goal.

Thinking happy thoughts...

I'm still losing weight.
I started a workout routine last week and am still with it.
I'm going out with my daughter tomorrow -- dinner and a movie.
I'm going out with my son on Friday -- movie and maybe dinner.
(We have 2 for 1 movie passes.)
I just bought some new clothes in a smaller size because everything I own is too big.
I have a whole year to discover a wonderful job.
I have the courage to tell my mother when she is really hurting my feelings and she actually listens and tries to do better.
I am reading a good book.
I am halfway done my first edit of my manuscript.
I have kicked my sugar jones. It took a whopping 4.5 months.
I think that vanilla yogurt with mixed berries is the most decadent snack ever and I can have it whenever I want!
The servers at the tea shoppe downstairs let me hog a table for hours and while I write they bring me water flavoured with cucumber or lemon or canteloupe.
We've had some sunny days or some days with sun on the menu -- a nice break from our standard grey.

And now I'm getting sleepy so am going to try that bed thing again.

Good night!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Books and other stats

I have two things to share with you today. The first is a short article from the Globe and Mail: Not Anticipated: A preview of 2010's worst books. It's not only amusing but there is a link to another article about how huge advances for celebrity-written books are impossible for the publisher to recoup. Here, though, is my favourite bit on Mitt Romney's release.

No Apology: The Case for American Greatness
By Mitt Romney
From Wikipedia: "The Dunning-Kruger effect is a cognitive bias in which ‘people reach erroneous conclusions and make unfortunate choices but their incompetence robs them of the metacognitive ability to realize it.’ The unskilled therefore suffer from illusory superiority, rating their own ability as above average, much higher than actuality; by contrast the highly skilled underrate their abilities, suffering from illusory inferiority."

The next stats are from Harper's Index, February 2010:

  • Price last fall for which a North Caroline middle school allowed students to buy extra credit points on any test: $20. 
  • Factor by which the average time a 15-to-19-year-old U.S. girl spends dong housework each day exceeds that of a boy: 2
  • Percentage of the California state budget in 1979 that went to higher education and prisons, respectively: 15, 3
  • Percentage today: 12, 10
Health care:
  • Estimated number of U.S. veterans under 65 who died in 2008 because they lacked health insurance: 2,266
  • Factor by which this exceeds the number of U.S. soldiers who died in Iraq and Afghanistan last year: 5
  • Percentage of all food in the U.S. supply chain that is wasted: 40
  • Chance that a child in the U.S. will be on food stamps at some point during his/her upbringing: 1 in 2.
 Makes you think, doesn't it?


Monday, January 18, 2010

The miracle of man

By scholar Robert Ardrey and one of the most inspirational things I ever read:

But we were born of risen apes, not fallen angels, and the apes were armed killers besides. And so what shall we wonder at ? Our murders and massacres and missiles, and our irreconcilable regiments? Or our treaties whatever they may be worth; our symphonies however seldom they may be played; our peaceful acres, however frequently they may be converted into battlefields; our dreams however rarely they may be accomplished. The miracle of man is not how far he has sunk but how magnificently he has risen. We are known among the stars by our poems, not our corpses.*
A wonderful tribute to art and dreaming the good dream.

*Excerpt taken from The Know-It-All by A.J. Jacobs.

And here is a two-minute video clip on what Jacobs took away from reading the entire Encyclopedia Brittanica. It's worth a listen.


Saturday, January 16, 2010

Two of the fallen

I've just heard the sad news that another former colleague from the RCMP has been found dead in Haiti. Earlier this week, Sgt Mark Gallagher's body was recovered from the rubble. Today, that of Supt Doug Coates was discovered. Mark had been the media relations officer for the Force here in Halifax before heading to Haiti; Doug was acting commissioner for the UN Mission.

This is such sad news. Both men were great guys. although I did not know them well, our paths did cross and they were just terrific to work with. I can't imagine what their families are going through right now.

For many years, the RCMP and other Canadian police agencies have been involved in Haiti, training the local police force to help stabilize the country. Officers volunteer to go for nine-month stints. Those I've spoken with -- who have travelled there or to other countries like Bosnia -- said the experience changed their lives forever.

But I think that to volunteer to take on a job like that and to leave your family and friends behind takes a special type of person from the outset. How sad that we have lost two such men.

My heart is with the Gallagher and Coates families and my wish for them is that they have the love of family surrounding them and wonderful memories to sustain them.

My deepest sympathies,

The thrill of the written word

I am reading The Know-It-All by A.J. Jacobs. It is about one guy's year-long journey through the Encyclopedia Brittanica -- no small feat. Reading the book is like reading the Cliff Notes for the EB. I'm trying to remember a few facts as I go along.

In the M section, Jacobs tells about Montaigne a 16th-century French writer who coined the term essay: to try. So, writing an essay is to try to explain or expound. A nice idea that. That one can make the attempt and that is enough.

But what I really loved about this passage was the story of Marie de Gournay -- a French intellectual of the same time period as Montaigne -- who "fainted from excitement when she read Montaigne's work for the first time."

Imagine that. To pass out from the thrill of the written word.

When was the last time that reading something had that sort of impact on you? Ever?


Friday, January 15, 2010

Stephen, you did good

I've never been a big fan of our prime minister but this time he did a good thing and kudos to him.

According to a report on Canada AM, Mr. Harper was in the air flying home from Quebec City when the news of the quake in Haiti arrived. Before he had landed, he had ordered Canada's resources to that tiny island. When a senior bureaucrat reminded him that Canada had not yet received a request from Haiti for help, Stephen retorted that the phone lines were down. A request could not be made.

Following the tsunami five years ago, when Canada did not own cargo planes to get our aid to the stricken region, it was weeks before our response.

In this latest disaster, Canada may well have been first on the ground. The government -- if I heard correctly -- has offered to match Canadian's donations to help Haiti and has earmarked $50 million for this commitment.

In addition, Canada has foregone the need for Russian planes to obtain a visa before landing in Gander for re-fueling on their way to Haiti.

Thank you, prime minister.


Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Two things

Tow unrelated items today... the first: a question.

Why do drivers of service trucks keep their roof lights flashing in the middle of the night when they are parked in a legitimate parking spot in a parking lot surrounded by those of us who are trying to sleep?

Second, for your entertainment and provided by Becca.

Kate Miller-Heidke and Are You F*cking Kidding Me?


Tuesday, January 12, 2010

From the sublime to the ridiculous

Having never seen the movie A Streetcar Named Desire, when I discovered it was available on television last night, I leapt at the chance to watch it.

Partway through, my son entered the room and asked what I was watching. "You look disturbed," he said.

I was.

Endless drinking and ongoing violence tends to do that to me. Knowing of Vivien Leigh's bi-polar disorder made watching her portray a character with mental illness that much more poignant.

Of course, it was brilliantly acted. The setting was perfect. The movie deserves every accolade it has received.

And yet it disturbed me on many levels -- as it is meant to.

The brutality of Stanley, his and Stella's tacit understanding that it was acceptable for him to knock her around; the belief of Mitch that Blanche is "dirty" and can therefore be treated however he chooses to treat her; and Stanley's rape of a mentally unstable Blanche is all horrifying.

As the movie came to a close and I turned off On Demand, The Bachelor appeared before me. Women were discussing the apparent fling of one of these wedding contestants with one of the show's producers. One said something to the effect that she couldn't believe how this woman could fool around with one guy while professing to be vying for the affections of The Bachelor.

Hello? Hello? Earth to moron.

What is The Bachelor doing to every one of you every single day?

And why is the producer not in the same "slut" boat as the dallying contestant?

I realize that I've gone from the sublime (Streetcar) to the ridiculous (The Bachelor) and yet catching a glimpse of the later on the tail end of the former did make a strange connection for me as I wondered why it is that we continue to find ways to vilify women's sexuality on one hand while taking advantage of and subjugating it on the other.

I can't help but wonder if we really have "...come a long way, baby."


Monday, January 11, 2010

Editing Letter

Lara Zielin's video about editing her manuscript to the tune of Corey Hart's Never Surrender. It's a must see. It's also brilliant marketing.

Here's her second video celebrating National Donut Day.

Her debut novel Donut Days was released August 2009.



Canada Games Ho!

I am now, officially, the communication lead for the culture side of the Canada Games. Yes, I know. You're thinking: "Canada Games. Isn't that sports?" It surely is. But there is a parallel and equally important culture side to the games. As Nova Scotia is the host province for the 2011 winter games, we have a great opportunity to showcase NS talent without forgetting about the rest of Canada. (The Canada Games alternates each two years between summer and winter games. We are hosting the next winter games.)

In addition, three young artists -- across all genres of art -- from every province and territory will come to the province to create for two weeks and then present their oeuvres at a grand gala. There is also a nightly festival, the opening and closing ceremonies, and whatever else we can come up with.

This opportunity is both exciting and terrifying.

HERE is the link for the 2011 Halifax Canada Games website.


Saturday, January 9, 2010

Read the labels

 I purchase items from Melaleuca because I like using environmentally-friendly cleaning products around my home. Today, as I was perusing the website, I stumbled across these in the diet and weight-loss section. They are not available for resale in Canada.
Just look at that label. 160 calories. 60 calories from fat. 23% of your daily recommended saturated fat based on a 2000 calories a day diet. I can't imagine many who would lose weight eating 2000 calories a day.

I guess that keeps the customers coming back longer.




Friday, January 8, 2010

The transition home

Okay so I can't sleep.  I was sleeping and for a fifty-year-old woman that is amazing. To awake feeling refreshed instead of like a stray sock that's gone around the wash cycle nine times. It was back in the fall. Before I quit my job or rather didn't renew my contract, and before the ex tried to weasel his way back into my affections and then continued to date other women. (Here's my head;  go mess with it.)

So I am now tossing and turning, unable to get comfortable in a too-warm apartment with a bedroom window that opens over a noisy parking lot, and dragging my behind out of bed like said sock. Not only that, I am having a darn difficult time trying to get back into writing. I've finished draft one and am supposed to be tackling a first edit before I trundle the pages off to my writing group.

Yet, I wander around the apartment like a lost puppy. Sure, you're thinking. You're not on a schedule. Rushing out the door to work, filling your days with meetings and work, work, work.


But shouldn't I be enjoying this slower pace? Taking advantage of a few extra weeks to myself? Going gangbusters on my manuscript?

I don't want to give you the impression that I've curled into the fetal position and am sucking my thumb. I've gotten query letters out, edited a few chapters of the WIP, been cooking like a good mom, meeting with friends. I even met with the Canada Games folks on Wednesday to see if I want to take the lead role on communication for the culture component of the games.

Sounds not too bad, eh?

So why do I feels so gloomy?

Yes, yes, it's been a rough few months. But I feel like I should be over it and back to my old self. I thought I was actually. About a week ago. But today I'm not and am thinking that this phase is taking way too long.

I've also decided that I hate my apartment and believe that it should be considered my transition home. If the next person you date after a break up is your transition person then the same should be true for your home. I mean in the middle of a split, when you're in the land of "what's mine and what's yours?" more affectionately known as "that's mine and that's mine" who can rationally locate the home of their dreams -- even short-term dreams -- and on a tight deadline?

So, I hereby move for a change to the Landlord and Tenant Act to allow newly-separated persons to sign a clause allowing them out of their first lease at any time after the relationship ends.

All in favour?


Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Fugitive Pieces

I was given Fugitive Pieces by Anne Michaels for Christmas and have been plugging away at it ever since. The winner of numerous international awards, the book is less than 300 pages yet I am slogging through it two or three pages at a time so am reading it in the same time it would normally take me to read two books.

The writing isn't dense and the words are woven together beautifully. This beautiful phrasing, however, sometimes interferes with the story at hand. I understand the goal of literary fiction is not the arc of the plot and this characteristic holds true with Fugitive Pieces. I also find it distracting to have Greek terms with the English next to it used as abundantly as has been included in this work. A few foreign words are fine for flavour. Too many and the narrative is too often interrupted for my taste. This holds true for the scientific terms as well.

The book tells the tale of a young Jewish boy who flees his family home after his parents are shot and his sister is dragged away by Nazis. He is rescued by a Greek geologist and spirited away to Greece and then, after the war, to Canada. The boy grows into a somber man unable to free himself of his tragic and horrifying past.

I have difficulty reading stories about the Holocaust and other acts of human hatred and cruelty, though read them I do. The imagery it brings haunts me as is the case with this book.

I read for a bit before bed last night then was kept awake by the horrors in the pages. I think I'll have to put the book aside for now.

It may be that in some future time, I will have more appreciation for -- and ability to finish -- it.

What books have you been reading?


Monday, January 4, 2010

My Sugar Jones

So getting back to the diet has been fun. My goal in December was to maintain the weight I had lost which I more or less succeeded at. (Yes, okay, I went up about a pound but it's already gone, so I'm not counting it.)

But now let's get to what the real issue is... my sugar jones. Holy crap! I primed the pump with a tiny -- and I mean tiny -- piece of cherry pie and by the next day was eating every brownie in sight.  Made me realize that when people talk about sugar addictions, they aren't making it up. (Waaaa! I've got an addiction.)

I had sort of realized it before Christmas as I white-knuckled my way through days of healthy eating, dreaming about food. I keep only healthy stuff in the house for a reason. Geez. I wouldn't last a day with pie. Although I have. And it's made me feel very self-righteous. But I have become one of those people who concentrates on food intake. What have I eaten?  What can I eat? What will I eat? The kind of person that I would have wanted to slap silly only a few months ago is now me.

The only advance I think I've made on the psychological front is that as I was gorging (and by no means did this year's food-fest come anywhere near to what I would have eaten say last Christmas) the junk didn't taste as good as I thought it would. And it made me feel kinda gross.

Not that I stopped eating. I kept right on sampling hoping for that wow-this-tastes-amazing chime to ring in my brain's pleasure centre. Didn't happen.

Once the holidays were over, all the left over treats were given away or thrown out and the fridge is back to it's pre-Christmas offerings. Non-fat yogurt and low-sodium V-8 are my saviour foods. If I want something sort-of desserty I go for the former; if I'm hungry but it's after supper or mid-afternoon, it's V-8.

When's the next celebration? Valentine's Day? At least that won't be an issue for me this year.

But when does the habit/craving stop?

Anyone? Anyone?


Saturday, January 2, 2010

'Cause the Cards Say So!

On-line tarot readings! Don't laugh. I heard that titter from here. And wipe that smirk off your face. You... you anti-new-age intellectual you.

I will have you know that my year is going to be a good one. I have a nine-page print-out to prove it. That is if I don't do something to screw it up. And, of course, I can change my course. Oh, never mind.

Here's my future according to the Great Karnak or someone.

How I perceive myself: 8 of Wands -- the change I am creating in my life is challenging me to keep up with it. (Really? Me, changing? Again? No kidding!)
My situation: 6 of coins -- there is an imbalance in my social or family situation.
Challenges/Opportunities (sounds like one of the communication plans I write for a living): page of swords -- I have the opportunity and position to influence those around me. (Well, I am Empress of the Universe.)
Personal history: 3 of coins -- pass on my craft/knowledge/understanding on to others
Recent past: 8 of swords: I have passed a test. The worst is over. (Yea, me!)
Higher power: knight of coins -- I am in a position to infuse a situation with energy and optimism.
Near future: 10 of coins -- I am supposed to relax knowing that abundance is mine. Mine, I tell you! However it will only last if I follow the advice card that follows below.
Blocks and Inhibitions: 9 of coins -- Now is the time for me to stop questioning my worthiness and get moving. Stop being rudderless.
Allies: 9 of coins -- put my work aside and focus on interacting with others. Take time to confer with talented people I admire who can support me. (Rather self-serving!)
Advice (here's the card we've been waiting for): page of cups -- Make myself fully available for whatever is needed. Find the best way to be of service to others (You're fucking kidding me. That's been my whole life. No way. It's Miller Time, baby! So what's this mean? That abundance with only be mine if I "Look at individuals around me as the embodiment of the Divine and try to fulfill each one's needs." The explanation goes on to say that I should be unconcerned with the outcome of my efforts. That I will, at some time in the future, understand why I needed to be in this position. UGH!)
Long-term potential: king of wands -- my foundation is firm, a growth trend is established and the future is abundant.Take some risks with an eye to the future.

I could certainly deal with some abundance. And as funny as this is, much of it sounds right. I am learning new things, I am sharpening my craft, I am entering a period of service to a couple of non-profits including a local hospital, and a potential volunteer arrangement with the Canada Games 2011. And I am at a fork in the road. Well, many forks actually. But I like change so that's not a bad thing. I just have to make some decisions. That's the tough part.

What about you? What do you want for your year?


Friday, January 1, 2010

An Epiphany at the Dawn of 2010

I think I just figured something out.

About forgiveness.

I was ready Sarah Hampson's Generation Ex column in the Globe and Mail wherein, apparently, she writes about her divorce. I'd never read it before. Didn't know it existed. In today's paper, she writes:

"People often talk about forgiveness as a crucial part of healing. The culture likes the idea of it – a warm, white blanket we lay out to smooth over bad feelings and events. But I don't think you can forgive everything. And there's an element of superiority in forgiveness that I don't like: You are somehow above the one to be forgiven, more generous, morally above it all. If you are to do forgiveness well, to make it more about catharsis and less about your own attempts to take the high road, it has to be co-operative, I think. The person whose actions you want to forgive has to be willing to listen to how you feel, to the impact they had on you. They have to know what they did, in other words."

 I've never really understood our cultural push to forgive. Wouldn't that mean to forget? And how can you forget? So if someone's done something awful, how can you forgive the pain they've caused. And isn't forgiveness weak? All that turning of cheeks.

My way has always been to lick my wounds, strap on my breastplate, grab my sword and move on. Usually quickly. Usually without much thought. As I get older, I try to do a bit more thinking and it takes me longer to jump the chasm because of this contemplation, but I still maintain my forward motion. It's what saves me. The feeling of racing ahead to the next thing.

Yet, as I read Sarah's column, an idea hit me. Forgiveness is possible.

I don't agree with her about the one doing the forgiving as being somehow superior although I would have thought that yesterday. Nor do I believe that forgiving has to be co-operative.

Quite the contrary -- it can be humble and it can be onesided.

I never understood that before.

Could it be that forgiveness is as simple as accepting things for what they are -- regardless of the reasons or outcomes? That forgiveness is accepting the current state of affairs (no pun intended) without casting blame and saying: "Here I am. Right here. Doesn't matter how I got where I am because here I stand. And it's a new day. Sunshine or gloom. This is the day I've got in front of me."

I've never understood the notion that forgiveness has nothing to do with the other person. I've always been a warrior, ready for battle, insistent on personal survival, ready to mow you down. (Not YOU personally.) One of my exes with whom I remain friends used to call it my Rambo-esque approach to life. I rather liked that. It made me feel strong.

But today -- quite suddently -- I think I get the idea that forgiveness is only about me. It's about me accepting who and where I am, and accepting the other person for who and where he is.

Could it be that simple?

I think it might be.

That's a pretty powerful thing when you think about it.

Happy New Year, everyone. I hope you have just enough of everything that makes you happy this year.