About Me

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If who we are is what we do, then like most people, I am a mixed bag of personas. Writer, bookworm, friend, are what first come to mind. Equally apt would be potty mouth, dog walker, Guinness drinker, swimmer, storyteller, political animal, baker and proud Canadian. Mostly though, I consider myself simply insanely lucky to have a small posse of near and dear ones who put up with me and my curvy, creative, curly haired, opinionated self. I started this blog several years ago with the idea to challenge myself in a myriad of ways. Years in, despite the sporadic entries, I still like to muse about the absurdity of life, what inspires surprises and angers me, books and other entertainments, my menagerie, my travels and any other notion buzzing round in my head.

Saturday, January 31, 2009


Well it was bound to happen. I guess I can take some scant comfort in the fact that it’s early in the year, with time to recoup my losses. Life has officially gotten in the way of my projects and this past week has been a tough one. Studying for my project management certification, preparing for a key presentation at work, a birthday party and 2 nights out with friends for gossipy pints have undone most of the progress I made in weight loss.

To break down the last eight days in Bridget Jones speak:

Pints of Guinness drank – 8, but more likely 9
Cheesy breakfast burritos eaten while gabbing about politics and religion – 1
Glasses of lovely Australian Shiraz – 3
Hours spent analyzing and formatting data into spectacular colourful presentation slides – 30
Pieces of chocolate birthday cake consumed – 1
Nights spent socializing instead of studying – 3
On scale of one to ten stress level over pending exam this coming week – 12
Books read for pleasure – 0.5
Pounds regained – 5!!!

Audible sigh.

In the good news category, I have little time to do much else but study these next few days, so the chances of my doing more damage to project pudge are low. And, if the truth be told, despite stressing over my exam and working my ass off to wow my client at work I had a wonderfully entertaining few nights out and enjoyed celebrating my niece Maeve’s birthday.

So book reviews and posts may be a bit sparse this next week, but come Thursday we’ll be back to our prolific selves. All things in balance is I guess the best way to look at this past week. For, in the end, all I can do is persevere. Despite this setback, life is afterall pretty damn good.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Let the fur fly

Fur is back and I’m mad as hell.

I get it. It's cold out. Really cold. Fingertip freezing, toe numbing, cold outside. But seriously, fur?

Lately in my comings and goings, I have noticed more people wearing fur hats and coats, fur lined gloves and jackets. Just this morning on my way to work, I saw two different women wearing fur coats on the subway. Shaking my head as I got off the train, there in line for coffee was another woman in a Davey Crocketesque hat, complete with the tail. Oblivious to the grotesque animal carcass she was sporting on her head, she took her time deciding between the blueberry muffin and the lemon danish.

What is going on in this world when we think that wearing fur is an acceptable fashion statement? Why are the lives of these animals, killed for garments, of less value than ours? Here are some things to consider:

Simply put, wearing fur is inhumane. There is no such thing as humane slaughter. Animals killed, for whatever the reason suffer excruciating pain in the same way a human being would in those same circumstances.

Think about it, if you were hung upside down, skinned alive, plucked or gutted, on a scale of 1 to 10, how much pain would you feel?

Did you know that to make a 40 inch fur coat it takes about:
200 chinchilla
20 foxes
40 raccoons
35 rabbits
16 coyotes
15 wolves
16 bobcats
8 seals

Trapping maims and kills. Animals caught in barbaric steel traps often suffer extreme blood loss, struggling to get free will gnaw off a limb, and are often killed by animal predators. Traps often accidentally trap unintended animals such as dogs, cats and birds.

The animal kingdom self regulates. The fur industry uses overpopulation as a justification to continue their insensate hunting, trapping and killing of animals. In reality, trapping often disrupts wildlife populations, killing healthy animals needed to keep the species strong and stranding babies who need to fend for themselves.

Fur farms mean pain and poison. The majority of fur produced comes from animals bred on fur farms. Like many other factory farms, these animals are kept in overcrowded conditions. Stress caused by the inhumane way in which the animals are caged causes them to self mutilate. Because these farmers are solely concerned about the quality of the pelts, the killing methods used include poison, genital electrocution and breaking the necks of these animals.

Would you wear the pelt of your dog? Despite what the fur industry says, in some countries fur from cats and dogs is used, and labeling is falsified so as not to offend its North American and European consumers. While the lives of our companion animals are no less precious than that of any other living being, if thinking of fur garments in this context helps to make wearing and buying fur less appealing, it’s something to consider.

Anti-fur and animal rights organizations ask you to think of it this way: every fur coat, lining, or piece of trim represents the intense suffering of animals, whether they were trapped, ranched, or even unborn. This cruelty will end only when the public refuses to buy or wear fur.

For more information, click www.peta.org/actioncenter/clothing.asp or http://www.furisdead.com/

“One day the absurdity of the almost universal human belief in the slavery of other animals will be palpable. We shall then have discovered our souls and become worthier of sharing this planet with them."

Martin Luther King, Jr.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Who knew?

On this historic day, I'm hard pressed to comment on anything more significant than the inauguration of President Barack Obama. Watching his speech today, I was particularly struck by his comments about the responsibility of the "have nations" to the rest of the world.
"To the people of poor nations, we pledge to work alongside you to make your farms flourish and let clean waters flow; to nourish starved bodies and feed hungry minds.
And to those nations like ours that enjoy relative plenty, we say we can no longer afford indifference to suffering outside our borders; nor can we consume the worlds resources without regard to effect.
For the world has changed, and we must change with it."

Regardless of the expectations and difficulties that lay ahead, today, in the world, a good thing happened. I look hopefully to what the future holds. And, if this feeling is not sufficient to buoy one's spirits, I was pleased to find out that evidently, Barack Obama is Irish!

See for yourself:

No one as Irish as Barack OBama

O'Leary, O'Reilly, O'Hare and O'Hara
There's no one as Irish as Barack O'Bama
You don't believe me, I hear you say But Barack's as Irish, as was JFK
His granddaddy's daddy came from Moneygall
A small Irish village, well known to you all
Toor a loo, toor a loo, toor a loo, toor a lama
There's no one as Irish As Barack O'Bama

He's as Irish as bacon and cabbage and stew
He's Hawaiian he's Kenyan American too
He’s in the white house, He took his chance
Now let’s see Barack do Riverdance
Toor a loo, toor a loo, toor a loo, toor a lama
There's no one as Irish As Barack O'Bama

From Kerry and cork to old Donegal
Let’s hear it for Barack from old moneygall
From the lakes if Killarney to old Connemara
There’s no one as Irish as Barack O’Bama
O'Leary, O'Reilly, O'Hare and O'Hara
There's no one as Irish as Barack O'Bama

From the old blarney stone to the great hill of Tara
There's no one as Irish as Barack O'Bama
2008 the white house is green,
their cheering in Mayo and in Skibereen.
The Irish in Kenya, and in Yokahama,
Are cheering for President Barack O’Bama
O'Leary, O'Reilly, O'Hare and O'Hara
There's no one as Irish as Barack O'Bama

The Hockey Moms gone, and so is McCain
They are cheering in Texas and in Borrisokane,
In Moneygall town, the greatest of drama,
for our Famous president Barack o Bama
Toor a loo, toor a loo, toor a loo, toor a lama
There's no one as Irish As Barack O'Bama

The great Stephen Neill, a great man of God,
He proved that Barack was from the Auld Sod
They came by bus and they came by car,
to celebrate Barack in Ollie Hayes’s Bar
O'Leary, O'Reilly, O'Hare and O'Hara
There's no one as Irish as Barack O'Bama

Hardy Drew

Friday, January 16, 2009

Review & Preview

The Devil and Miss Prym

If you thought that you could get away with it, with no one ever being the wiser, would you:

Lie about your age?
Cheat on your diet, an exam in school or your taxes?
Help yourself to a snack from the bulk bin?
Turn the annoyingly loud ringer down on your work colleague’s cell phone?
Cheat on your partner or spouse?
Pocket money dropped in the street by a passerby?
Fudge the credentials on your resumé?
Repeat juicy and devastatingly embarrassing gossip about the breakdown of a competitor’s marriage?
Cash in a winning lottery ticket that does not belong to you?

What if you thought that your actions were for a greater good? Given the same circumstances, could you:

Kidnap an abused dog from a neighbour’s yard?
Move your loved one’s name to the top of a transplant list?
Have killed Hitler?

Temptation. At times easy to resist, sometimes achingly alluring. Some temptations give you pause, make you wonder “what if”, some are deftly rebuffed. Regardless of the enticement, it usually boils down to a matter of morality. A moral person can find the strength to resist evil in its many forms, where an immoral person cannot. Right? Or is it that simple? The struggle of humankind to be good or evil is the topic of Paulo Coelho’s book, The Devil and Miss Prym. This thought provoking, even if at times somewhat obvious tale was a reasonably enjoyable read. Coelho has written a series of books, each with a particular theme – wisdom, virtue, temptation and so on. While I am usually interested in philosophizing over the responsibility of choice, the impact of fate and importance of perspective in one’s life, something about the simplicity with which this story was told made it less compelling a read. Predictable is the word that comes to mind. Predictable, and not all that tempting.

Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress

Next on my list is Dai Sijie’s bestseller, Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress. This is a book that was tailor made for my list. The whole point of this year’s project was to find time to read books which I have been missing out on. I bought this book a few years ago and it has been gathering dust on my shelves for a while. Much anticipated at the time and yet passed over for other volumes, I am hoping to enjoy this week’s book a lot. Balzac is the story of two city boys exiled to a mountain village during China’s Cultural Revolution. There in the remote setting, they meet the daughter of the local tailor and come into a treasure – a set of Chinese translations of forbidden western classic literature. A book about the pleasure and adventures of books, this is my kind of story!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Like a rock

As a young girl I have fond memories of visiting my grandparents at their cottage in Elliot Lake, Ontario. Driving up north, we always knew we were getting close when the highway on either side became framed by the solid rock through which the road had been carved. Imposing walls of granite sprouted up for mile after mile as we drove into the Canadian Shield. Rocky and remote, it seemed to me that my grandparent’s cottage was in frontier land – relatively untouched and undeveloped. Yet, here in this rustic environment, my grandfather had created a small oasis. A place to relax, spend time reading and enjoying time with my Grandma, surrounded by wilderness.

Grandpa was a creative and artistic man. He carved beautiful figurines of wood. I remember horses and dolphins. Snappily dressed at all times, he was a gourmet cook, an avid reader, a music lover and a great letter writer. It seems odd now to think of him in such a rustic environment. I recall finding an old mason jar filled with beautiful shiny stones on a bookshelf one day. Asking him about it, he showed me his rock tumbler. He would take old stones and rocks he’d find while out walking and polish them up in his tumbler to expose their inner beauty. I was astonished. Being young, I had no idea how that tumbler worked, but it fascinated me. Rough grey dirty stones went in and shiny blue veined or purplish or orange spotted beauties came out. It seemed magical.

Since first spying that rock tumbler, I have been fascinated by rocks. Like people, each stone is unique, each rock a journey in itself. A story. Playing on the beach at our family cottage years later, we used to collect stones and bits of beach glass to paint or glue together into little rock people. We’d play with our creations for hours. Naming our rocks and giving them little back stories. We would cover our dull stones with red sparkles or blue painted happy faces, making the rocks pretty, oblivious to the natural beauty within the stone itself.

As an adult, in my travels I have frequently picked up a rock as I’ve roamed and taken it home with me. Stones I found while walking by the Seine in Paris, rest on my bookshelves amongst others I collected in Galway Bay and the red limestone inukshuk of stones given me by Mom. Each one a reminder of something special in my life.

I’d like to think that when I’m gone, I will leave the world a better place. That I will have brought joy to some, comfort to others, enriched rather than tainted those I touched. But maybe the best I can hope for is to be remembered like my rocks… solid and well traveled, somewhat worn around the edges, steadfast, beautiful on the inside and utterly unique.

Gimme an OH YAH!

I'll write something more eloquent later, but with this week's tally in, I've now lost a total of 5.2 lbs.


Despite feeling like crap with this damn cold, I managed to stay on program and even squeeze in a workout or two!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009


Germs. They’re everywhere. In the air we breathe, on the things we touch. Omnipresent little micro organisms, ready to multiply. Germs are infectious, they spread. Without question, from where I sit today sniffling and coughing, germs are bad news. As I continue to nurse my cold, with nothing better to do than blow my nose, too headachy to read for very long, assured by friends and family that “something” is going around, I wondered where I picked up this cold. There’s no real way to be sure. The germs just landed here with me, said “she looks like a soft place to land” and took root.

I was still thinking about my germs when I started to browse my bookshelves to decide which book from my list will come next. (One good thing about being off sick, I have plenty of time to read – in short spurts – sigh). Pulling a few books to look through, I noticed a copy of Mitch Albom’s Five People You Meet in Heaven. This is a story of a man who died. Arriving in heaven, he meets five people who were; unbeknownst to him, significant to his life and the path it took. I was struck by the simplicity and beauty of this story when I read it years ago. I finished the book feeling a renewed determination to live with intention, meaning. It was like a little seed was planted in my brain. A germ of an idea.

As someone who writes stories, a germ of an idea is the first wonderful step. That golden nugget. You rub it, fluff its pillow, hoping it will get comfy and decide to stay for awhile. Maybe invite a few friends in, have a drink, swap stories and get to know each other. My kind of germ. I know that medically, there are both good and bad microbes. Some germs, like some ideas, do good work for us. Keep us healthy. They cleanse us, heal us, and become part of us. I’ve always known that words have that power. I think that’s what draws me most to books. The power to move. The power to wound. The power to inspire. The power to challenge. The power to affect. The power to change.

I know there are a plethora of daunting ideas and worries floating around us each day. Little nay-saying missiles launched by people consumed with regret or insecurity, intent on their own agendas. You can let them burn a hole through your good humour or slather yourself in ideological sunscreen, letting in only the positive rays.

Toodles for now... I've got a pillow to fluff.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Now is the winter of our discontent....

I am the Xanthippe of patients. I admit it. When sick, I turn into a grumpy, whiney, ill tempered bitch. It started on Friday. By yesterday morning I had a full fledged head cold with all the inherently delightful symptoms - nose running like a tap, achy limbs, cough, rapid fire sneezing. Pissed off and put out, I spent the better part of yesterday hibernating, moving my blankets and Kleenex box back and forth from couch to bed, dozing, drinking tea and feeling sorry for myself. Groaning this morning at the thought of leaving my warm bed to walk Murphy in the cold, I had myself worked up into quite the funk by the time I had parka and boots on. Let’s make this quick, I thought.

Tugging Murph along as he tried to burrow gleefully into the snow banks, I grunted the odd hello to a fellow walker en route. Despite the clear blue sky and picturesque snow-covered trees lining our street, irritated by the snot dripping from my nose I turned back early to head home. Cutting through the back of our building, I let Murphy off the leash to romp some in the back field before we went it. Quiet and bright, this is one of my favourite places to be early in the morning. Last night’s snowfall having covered most of the recent tracks, we had a clean slate here, just us two. Murph happily lying in the middle of the field chewing on a stick, I noticed the shimmer coming off the snow around him, like diamond sandpaper. Sparkles everywhere. It was a perfect moment. Then I sneezed. Then coughed. Then unsuccessfully tried to sniffle up the snot before it ran any further. And, just like that, the diamonds disappeared.

Back home, pj’s back on and waiting for the kettle to boil, I looked down at Murphy. He didn’t care that I cut his walk short. He happily laid there on the kitchen floor gnawing his rawhide, content. He was happy in the snow banks, he was happy with his stick, he is happy here on the kitchen floor. It occurred to me then how right that is.

I hate whiney people. I really do. Whinging, pissing, moaning, morose, joy vampires. I loathe them. I’d like to think that most of the time, I am not like that. But in truth, I could come up with quite a list of silly things I’ve whined about recently. Just off the top of my head, I know I have bitched that:
· I don’t have enough to do at work
· My winter skin can’t get enough moisturizer
· I don’t see my friends enough
· Its too hot in my apartment
· I am too busy at work
· I can’t afford a vacation
· Its cold outside
· I didn’t like the movie I saw last week
· My writing is shite
· I am not drinking enough water
· The bus was late
· I have no time for myself
· I can’t decide between visiting Spain and Italy this summer
· I am peeing too much from drinking all this water
· The bus was early
· The neighbours are loud
· I’m not writing enough
· I’m whining too much
I’ll stop there. It’s enough to make a girl sick!

Now, political and social commentary I love. Essayists enthrall me. A lively respectful debate, and I’m your girl. As a news junkie, there are no shortage of stories around if all I really wanted was a good bitch session. Yet for each tale of greed or corruption, a turn of the page changes bad to good. Yesterday I read an article about the healing power of the mind. A man, Mr. Wright, given a drug he thought to be a cure for his cancer riddled body, experienced miraculous shrinkage in his tumors almost overnight. Noting in a medical journal that the drug he had taken was considered flawed, his condition began to worsen. Given a placebo, believing it a strengthened and improved strain of the previous drug, Mr. Wright rebounded again with startling rapidity. In this article, the mind of Mr. Wright was in itself the miracle.

While I'm no Ms. Wright (sorry I couldn't resist), I recognize that I have more control over my congestion induced distemper than I do most other things in my life. And so, headache notwithstanding, I’ll rally for now and decide to limit the winter of my discontent to a healthier 36 hour timeslot. Diamonds, that's your cue!

Friday, January 9, 2009

Review & Preview

I’m sad to see Paddy Clarke take up residence on my bookshelf. I have enjoyed spending time with him. He reminded me some of my nephew, Connor. Curious, full of beans, a smarty pants with a bottomless imagination, Paddy Clarke is a memorable character. Roddy Doyle’s at times tender and often hilarious snapshot of life in rural Ireland, the banter of young boys all rough and tumble was a joy. Sad, silly, authentic and irreverent, Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha is a book I would easily recommend.

A Novel of Temptation

This week’s book is Paul Coelho’s “The Devil and Miss Prym”. A modern day parable about greed, humanity and the struggle between good and evil. I read the Alchemist some time ago and very much enjoyed it. Coelho’s famous for his allegoric story telling, a genre which appeals to me. Besides, who can resist a tale of the devil and bars of gold!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

It would be absolutely, totally and in all other ways, inconceivable!

I have no idea how it happened, but as far as I can tell and with very little effort on my part, I lost a pound this week. Granted, I didn’t overdo it in the eating department. And, I walked my usual routes each day with Murph. But, other than increasing the amount of water I drank to the recommended 6 or so glasses each day, I put no effort at all towards losing weight. I know it will take a lot more effort than this to slim down 50 lbs. But for today, I’ll assume that water I drank flushed away a pound and take that pound with glee. Consider it a New Year’s gift from the cosmos.

The universe speaks to me from time to time. I know how that sounds, but it’s true. It nudges me, sends me signs, and encourages me. Silly metaphors aside, I do believe that when you make decisions in life that are right for you, especially tough ones, the path you have chosen opens up a bit, clearing the way so you can proceed. The key is to hurry your way down the path while you can. This morning, having just weighed myself and buoyed by my much unearned success, I found tucked under a black cammie in my dresser, my black bathing suit. Wanting to go swimming as part of my new exercise plan, I had searched high and low this past weekend for the only suit I have that doesn’t make me feel like a complete chub. Today, having inconceivably achieved some small measure of success in losing weight, the universe spoke. It dropped my bathing suit right in plain view and said, get your wobbly butt to the pool and do some laps.

Procrastination has been a constant companion of mine. It’s been comfortably residing in my world with its cousin Justification for years. I have convinced myself that I work best under pressure, leaving things to the last possible second. And, to my credit I do get stuff done. Deep down though, I know that an inglorious, slow and steady pace is much more effective than my dramatic, rush to the finish line approach. It’s not sexy but it works. Obviously, getting healthy is not something you can leave to the last second in life, jamming in good eating habits and workouts at the end. Would that it were so.

Reading books that interest and challenge me is not a hardship. I am thoroughly (40 pages from the end of Paddy Clarke) enjoying myself in that regard. But committing to change a lifetime of habits of obesity, seriously earnestly really trying to reshape my body, and improve my overall health, that is hard. Really, really, hard. Way harder than actually living life fat. Procrastination is getting excited now, as she sees I might be coming to visit for a while. But she’s wrong. Not today. Today, because the path is clear, I’m heading down the road less traveled. I’m going for a swim.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Happiness is....

At the risk of breaking my one and only New Year's resolution, I noted that when I got to the office today, many had opted to work from home. Hmmmm. I wonder why that could be. Hahaha. I'm in and I've a fairly long shopping list of things I need to get done, both creatively and otherwise, so for now, and as a mechanism to say something about me, here's a list.

I recently saw part of an interview Lenny Kravitz gave when last in Canada. Asked what inspires him musically, he said "Love". In that spirit, here is a list of things that make me happy... what I love:

  1. Murphy's head on my lap

  2. Toile

  3. The Canadian flag

  4. Serena Ryder's song Weak in the Knees

  5. Having a pedicure

  6. Being by the water

  7. All things chocolate

  8. Lint rollers

  9. Optimism

  10. Mechanical pencils

  11. Southern Accent on Markham St.

  12. When Mom called me Meesa

  13. Guinness

  14. The colour of my bedroom

  15. A fresh page to write on

  16. Earl Grey tea

  17. Connor's giggle

  18. Knitting

  19. Gremlins who leave notes for me

  20. Watching Murph jump off the end of a dock into the lake

  21. Mr. Strunk and Mr. White

  22. Time spent gabbing on Marc and Marco's couch

  23. Pictures of my father

  24. Mexican blue glass

  25. That I give a damn

  26. Ironing

  27. My monstrous clan

  28. Playing guess the animal

  29. Days spent in my pj's

  30. The Caring & Sharing program

  31. Curly hair

  32. Listening to Greg sing

  33. Differing points of view

  34. My tattoos

  35. Pages on Queen St.

  36. Being vegetarian

  37. The smell of lavender

  38. Knowing peace is possible

  39. Getting lost in a good book

  40. Red headed men

  41. That I am Autie MB

  42. Baking pies

  43. Finding the right words

  44. My cozy little abode

  45. Sunday morning crossword puzzles

  46. The change of seasons

  47. Pickle chiffon pie and giants who come in different sizes

  48. Laura in the gardening wagon

  49. Hydrangeas

  50. Girls with twinkle toes

Life is grand indeed.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009


It’s Epiphany today. Growing up, Epiphany was a big deal. As kids, we used to dress up as the “four” kings (my youngest brother Chris not born yet) and bring gifts to the Baby Jesus in our nativity scene. Walking Murph this morning in the snow covered streets of Leaside; I noticed that many of my neighbours celebrate this feast day by dismantling the Christmas decorations, as trees were piled up all along the curbsides. Visits from the Wise Men notwithstanding, getting rid of the needle dropping, fire hazardish branches in time for garbage pick up was the priority.

Waking up as I walked, my brain cranked through the things I have to do today, I decided on what I was going to wear, and mentally reviewed my day’s agenda. Finally, I got round to more philosophical thoughts and wondered about epiphanies. Have I had any recently? When was the last time I thought Eureka! I get it! I realized immediately I wouldn’t ever say Eureka. I don’t have Oprahesque ah-hah moments. More likely, if I did, I’d say something like Holy Fuck! I can be a bit of a potty mouth at times.

The Irish are great cursers. Not in the I curse you and all your ancestors manner, but in the balls out, creatively punctuating everyday conversation kind of way. I like that. Its real, its authentic, its not meant to be offensive. I understand that James Joyce’s Ulysses is a book famous for its use of profanity. We’ll see about that when I get to this book on my list.

What I enjoy most about books is simply that I love words. Interesting turns of phrase, evocative emotional descriptions and a well placed f-bomb all delight me equally. In Paddy Clarke, the boys take new words they hear in class, and randomly insert them in daily life. Ignoramus. Substandard. Trellis. A frequent Friday night game involves the ring leader demanding each member of Paddy’s gang give themselves a nickname for the week. The dirtier the word, the better. Fuck was the best word. The most dangerous word. For a 10 year old boy in rural Ireland, that’s likely true. For a female in 2009, it’s still somewhat of a social taboo. We have codes of conduct at work and censorship in many forms of media. I don’t like the idea that something is verboten. I bristle at the thought of being told what to do. I’ve realized as I’ve gotten older, that direct, clear, straight up communication works best for me. Sometimes that means an intelligent well reasoned argument and sometimes, as said Mark Twain is to have said, I have found solace in profanity unexcelled even by prayer.


Monday, January 5, 2009

Once you choose hope, anything's possible. (Christopher Reeve)

Getting off the subway this morning at Dundas Station, there were several paramedics examining a man laying on his back on the platform, near the ticket booth. The police and TTC security were there sheltering the man from prying eyes and encouraging commuters to keep moving. As I walked past, I heard one of the paramedics ask the man “were you trying to kill yourself”. This surprised me. He looked ok. Unhurt, awake, sober.

I’m a hopeful person. I rebound easily to the ups and few downs that life has thrown me and try to be positive about life, living presently, looking forward not back. I have no idea what was going on with this man on the subway floor this morning, but he got me thinking about hope. With my recent bout of Obamamania waning, as I read the headlines this weekend of the bombing in Gaza, the doomsday economic predictions for 2009 and the panic which ensued at the indications of another tsunami off Indonesia’s coast, hope seemed farthest from my mind. And yet, there as if to salve the hurts of the world, tucked on the back of one section of the Globe I found Ian Brown’s monthly installment of his correspondence with L’Arche founder, Jean Vanier.

I love reading letters. As a communication method, in this day of instant messaging and skype, letters are nearly extinct. But reading letters seem to me wonderfully permanent, more thoughtful and intimate. Brown and Vanier discuss many things, not the least of which is Brown’s parenting of a disabled son and Vanier’s life work building communities for the disabled around the world. What struck me about this weekend’s installment was the simplicity of Vanier’s words. Brown was asking about pacifism and the notion of a just war in this day and age. Vanier’s message is simple. Peace is the answer. Intentional, consistent, loving welcome of the difference amongst each of us is the road to peace.

Some might find this thinking naive. I find it encouraging. And so I hope.
I hope the man from the subway is ok.
I hope the fighting stops in Gaza.
I hope I can resist chocolate.
I hope to make a living as a writer.
I hope my sisters give up smoking.
I hope the economic crisis stabilizes without too much hardship for those on the edge.
I hope to romp and laugh and play more.
I hope the Leafs win the Stanley Cup.
I hope to learn a new language.
I hope for peace.
It's possible.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Tell me more Marley, but speak comfort to me.

Its been a puttering sort of day as I relax for one more, prior to heading back to work tomorrow. Christmas is finally over. Being abit of a Scrooge, I have to admit a certain relief as the Christmas hubbub ends. I love spending time with my friends and family, but luckily, I do that all year round. The stress, the crowds, the annual goodwill towards men effort, the materialism are all things I can do without. That said, these past few weeks have been enjoyable. I happily supped and laughed with the family (garnering myself a new nickname - heretofore I shall be called Darth Vegan), enjoyed good chat and many drinks with friends, made snow angels, baked, read and took frequent long walks with Murphy. Oh, and saw my usual blitz of year end movies. 2 excellent flicks and 2 disappointments. 50-50 (hah!)

Benjamin Button and Slumdog Millionaire are both being well received and likely candidates come award season. A curious and unique story(I didn't read the Hemingway book on which its based), I found Benjamin Button a beautiful homage to a life spent loving and paths crossing. I can't say much more about Slumdog Millionaire that hasn't already been written. Its a must see in my book. Funny (that autograph scene - SNORT!), endearing and hopeful. Utterly enjoyable.

Opposite to these two movie going experiences, I was reminded of CBC columnist, Heather Mallick's New Year's entry (http://www.heathermallick.ca/cbc.ca-columns/new-years-resolutions-how-i-suffer.html) as I was coming out of Quantum of Solace. Bond movies are usually good for a light cinematic romp. But despite its horrific reviews, I still plunked down my cash and with only the Scene membership points to show for it, came away un-enthralled, unimpressed and understandably bored. Mallick's first resolution this New Year was to learn from her Mamma Mia experience. You know its going to be bad. Don't put yourself through it.

I don't make resolutions at the beginning of the year. But, only because its too good not to, I'm stealing another one from Ms. Mallick. My one and only New Year's resolution is to stop discussing the weather. It's boring. I'm not boring.... and frankly there are much better things to talk about. Unfortunately, one of these things is not my last movie of the year, Marley and Me. Now, I read this book and loved it. Someone gave me a copy a few weeks after I got Murphy. He looked identical to the dog on the cover of the book (that's Murph in the inset - isn't he cute!!).

As a new dog owner, I inhaled the book, laughing and crying my way through it. I love a book that can evoke both. Thing is, as it goes for most books I've enjoyed, the movies just don't deliver. (Insert cringing emoticon at the thought of what they did to my beloved Garcia Marquez classic, Love in the Time of Cholera.) Owen Wilson simply doesn't have the acting depth to handle some of the more emotional scenes in Marley and Me, and Jennifer Aniston... well, she just annoys me. Talentless. (Sorry Jen, nothing personal).

So from my point of view, in movieland this year, Bond bites, Benji's a beauty and Marley ain't no Slumdog.
Bring on The Wrestler!

Saturday, January 3, 2009

"Childhood is that wonderful time when all you need to do to lose weight is to take a bath."

I wonder what it would be like to be thin. Well not thin, but not fat. Average size. Normal. A size 10 or an 8. Yes, an 8 would be just right. At a 22, an 8 seems unreachable. I suffer at the 22. I am a confident person - quite happy and accomplished, sexy and funny. And yet, the 22 me yearns for that 8’s body; that 8’s confidence, the carefree easy "I don’t have to worry what people really think of me" 8’s way of looking at life. An 8 me would jog and wear sleeveless dresses. An 8 me would know I don’t have to try so hard to be smart and sexy because as an 8, things would come naturally to me.

The 22 me knows this is a load of shit. The 22 me is positive she’s smarter and more evolved. The 22 me is funnier, wiser, and abit sadder. So, the 22 me, as shallow as it is, aches for her 22 stomach and thighs to melt away, to shrink down, fizzle into nothingness, or at least into eightishness. The 22 me tires of focusing all her attention on her pretty toes and gorgeous brown curly hair, skipping over the curves and all the wobbly bits in the middle. The 22 me would love to slip into that perfect size 8 dress, slide on a gorgeous pair of sling back high heels and waltz out the door to no one in particular, never giving a thought to how she looks, because she knows deep down she is just as damn beautiful on the outside as she is inside.

I wrote that passage last year as an assignment for one of my writing classes. It seems to sum up where I'm at these days. The how I do it (as long as its healthily) is less important to me than actually achieving this 50 lb. goal. I know 50 won't get me into an 8, but from where I sit today, it would allow me to see its possibility and put me back on the other side of 200. A place I haven't visited in a long long while. I am focusing on the food angle right now, until I can set myself up with a place to work out this week. Activity is the key and I'm fairly lazy in that regard, but determined. If only I could find a way to work out and read at the same time.

Which brings me to my new friend, Paddy Clarke. I take back now what I said earlier about not liking writing from a child's perspective. This is a delight. A gem. I haven't been to Raheny (in Co. Dublin), but in my imagination, the sights and smells of my many trips to Ireland fill in the gaps.

There's a funny passage early in the book where Paddy decides to make communion hosts from regular bread, flattening it down and leaving it on the windowsill to harden. Later, he wonders if its a sin to be even making the hosts. Undaunted, and despite the bits of mould that have grown on his "hosts" he still administers communion to his little brother, Sinbad.

I'm a leper! Wobble wobble wobble.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Irish Mischief

Paddy Clark Ha Ha Ha (Roddy Doyle)

I wanted to start with something engaging, funny and reasonably light. The book is the story of a 10 year old boy in 1960's Ireland and the events that surround his life. Doyle's best known for his trilogy, The Commitments, Snapper and The Van.

Normally, I don't enjoy books written from a child's point of view. I prefer a more adult sense of humour. I started reading Paddy Clarke on my way out to Mississauga yesterday for New Year's dinner with my family. Coming from an Irish background myself and having spent some time in Ireland, the vernacular and turn of phrase Doyle uses as Paddy and his friends get into mischief is familiar to me and smirkworthy. Enjoyable so far. Doyle's certainly a master of dialogue. I like a man who gives good chat!

Am off to the movies and then to the market. Toodles.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Oh jeesh! The List

I almost forgot... the list. Yikes... Well I said I'm new at this, right?!!!

The Books
Wuthering Heights, Bronte
Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, Eggers
The Age of Reason, Sartre
She’s Come Undone, Lamb
Farewell to Arms, Hemingway
The Golden Notebook, Lessing
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Smith
Madame Bovary, Flaubert
Master Pip, Jones
Me Talk Pretty Some Day, Sedaris
March, Brooks
The Elegance of the Hedgehoge, Burbary
Memoirs of My Melancholy Whores, Garcia Marquez
The Bell Jar, Plath
The Maytrees, Dillard
Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha, Doyle
Colony of Unrequited Dreams, Johnston
Country Girls, O’Brien
Ulysses, Joyce
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Twain
The Stone Angel, Laurence
Great Expectations, Dickens
A Room of One’s Own, Woolf
Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage, Munro
A Passage to India, Forster
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Pirsig
On the Road, Keroac
A Fine Balance, Mistry
Paradise Lost, Milton
At Swim Two Birds, Flann O’Brien
Things Fall Apart, Achebe
Middlemarch, Eliot
Lovely Bones, Sebold
Late Nights on Air, Hay
Given Day, Lehane

Pretty good selection, eh??

So here goes: 50 in 50! Breathe in and begin...

Hello world. MB here. I'll save the intros for later as this first post will be uncharacteristically brief. Not wanting to procrastinate any longer, today's the day. Diving straight in with little knowledge of blogdom, but having spent most of my adult life writing and chronicling in one form or another, I felt it was time to get out there. To muse, write, philosophize, rant, babble, ponder, gab, and well, just simply communicate.

At almost 46 (leaning towards 50 as the header goes) and realizing the passage of time, I've hatched a plan for the coming year. A project of sorts. A challenge for myself. So here's the subplot. Its fairly simple and the rules are straight forward enough. 50 books, 50 pounds in 50 weeks. Give or take. Ideas, stories, knowledge and points of view in..... bulk, weight, heft out. A book and a pound a week.

I've amassed a list of 35 definite reads for the year. A sampling of modern, classic and curious reads. The remaining 15 I'll figure out as as I go. I've got no gimmacky weight loss plan, just a sincere desire to do that thing which I have, til now, thought I could not do.

With an at times cripplingly short attention span, a love of chocolate, a wide social circle of foodies and wine drinking buddies, a love of words and books and ideas, a job at times fun and challenging and otherwise maddeningly invasive and an adorable but active 85 lb lab named Murphy who keeps me on the go, it should be an interesting year, if nothing else.

And so.... here goes!