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.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

All in the Family

This past week I enjoyed reading Elizabeth Kelly’s debut novel – Apologize, Apologize! Immediately I was struck with the thought that this is exactly the kind of book I am trying to write myself. This is a romping, funny, complex family saga, peopled with a cast of unique and addictive characters.

The Flannigans are a Dostoyevsky like family whose story is told by Collie, the only sane member of the family and eldest son of an anti-establishment mother (“Ma collected Marxists like others collected Tupperware”), Charlie, his charming bacchanalian leaning father, his irresponsible rogue young brother Bingo, and his Uncle Tom Flannigan, the pigeon racing chef of the family who, when he wasn’t on his monthly weeklong drinking binge with his buddy Swayze, peppered his nephews with spelling questions and his own brand of Irish philosophy. Atop the maelstrom of the Fantastic Flannigans, was Collie’s maternal grandfather, media mogul, Peregrine Lowell, otherwise known as the Falcon. Collie, the spitting image of his grandfather, sane and careful, recounts his early memories of the antics of his wildly outrageous family. “Sometimes," he says, "I think my real life's purpose is to refute the clichéd notion that you can't actually die of embarrassment." When disaster strikes, as all things Flannigan, it’s momentous. Reeling from the life altering events he has experienced, Collie struggles and falters as he attempts to find himself in the wake of all that has occurred.

This is a book about family, about siblings. The cover says the Flannigans are a family who puts the personality in disorder. Big characters that inveigle their way into your heart, you are charmed by them, soften to them, chuckle with them and if you are like me, find yourself rooting for them. Setting the book down to write about it, I found myself remembering my father’s monstrous clan of 10 siblings. The loud, the proud, the lost, the nosey, the kind, the successful, the baby, the boss. We all take on roles in our family lives. I have always felt I lucked out big time being born into the mammoth clan that I was. This has certainly defined me and, in one way or another, all of us. These relationships make us who we are and when we are ready, set us on our way. My family is no where near as dramatically shenanigan prone as the Fantastic Flannigans. But, like Collie, wherever I go, I am one of them. For me, that is warm comfort on a cool day.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Saints and Sweet Blonds

There’s no question that my life is markedly different since the arrival of Murphy. From the very moment I carried him home, last of the litter and the cutest wiggliest bundle of white fur you can imagine, Murphy began to reshape my existence, reset my priorities and re-jig my day to day schedule. Besides taking a nibble out of my pocket book in the first year with training, vet bills and dog walking services, he also ate his way through various couches and shoes, cell phones and reading glasses, fancy desserts made for dinner party guests, dining room chair legs and baseboards. More importantly than permanently taking over my house though, Murphy has forever stolen my heart. Sweet and very affectionate, goofy, utterly devoted, quiet with a big head made of concrete and a heart of gold, Murphy is a quite literally, one of the best decisions I ever made and a constant source of joy. He’s quite a dog. One who I realize now, had fairly big paws to fill.

As a young girl growing up, we had a giant dog named Sir Galahad. Taddy, as we kids called him, was the stuff of legends. A St. Bernard, weighing in at over 110 lb, when Galahad wasn’t jumping the fence in our backyard to tree nervous construction workers in the new subdivision where we lived, or leaning my young and precocious twin brother and sister against the wall to hold them in place til my Mom arrived, he spent his time as our pillow, playmate, punching bag and partner in crime. A true saint, he put up with five wild munchkins who showed their love by tugging on his tail, riding him, pulling his leash and hugging him way too tightly around this monstrous jowly neck. He returned our love with wet slobbery licks as he quietly endured all the affection. A month’s worth of blog entries would not be enough space to tell the tales of Sir Galahad of Hollowtree Crescent, but few childhood reminiscences are had in my family without some reference to our big boy.

I think of Galahad more often now than I did before I got Murphy. Although different breeds, sometimes I’d swear Murph is channeling Taddy. This is especially so when I see him around young kids or seniors. Not four yet, Murphy is still mostly puppy. He’s excited to be out and about and tugs on the leash when he’s up for a romp. But however pumped he is to be out walking, he sits like a good boy and endures pats on the head and the odd poke from kids who want to say hi. No matter how much he wants to walk, he obediently waits while my retired neighbours fill me in on their latest news and happily flops down at my feet as we settle into our usual Saturday morning coffee ritual. Most weekends in the good weather, we sit outside Starbucks reading the paper and enjoying some people watching. Dog central, there is plenty to distract, but Murphy unphased sighs patiently as I finish my coffee, taking in the view of those who saunter by. Even this morning, as a woman with two yappy pugs and a toy terrier tied up her dogs beside us, Murphy just looked up at me. When one of the dogs jumped up on the top of the table to see where his owner had gone, Murphy turned his head to look at the dog then looked at me, with a “will you check him out” look on his face.

Smiling, I patted Murphy and gave him a scratch in his favourite spot behind his ears. That’s what I like about big dogs, like Murph and Taddy. No need to bark and howl to get your attention. No nipping or growling. Comfortable enough in their 90 plus pounds of slobbery fur to know you love them, head in your lap or snoozing at your feet, they are dignified and quiet patience personified…. until at least, you pull out the treats!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Frost free May day

It’s Victoria Day in Canada. A holiday here for me and I spent the day, after a rather busy social weekend, cleaning up. Long long overdue for a spring time air out and spruce up, I tackled the kitchen today. I live in a real cute main floor unit in a two story walk up. While my place oozes with charm and character, it lacks some of the more mainstream conveniences like a dishwasher and frost free fridge. I’m not complaining. But given my abhorrence of all things domestic (except baking – yummm pie) this means some household tasks take longer chez MB than they would for another. It takes a Herculean effort to get me to do dishes and I need to get good and fed up with chipping away the icy buildup in my freezer just to stow a pint of Haagen Dasz before I even contemplate the defrost. Today was the day. My toes still smarting from an ugly incident with an iceberg flying out the freezer at an unfortunately rapid speed, I figured I’d best roll up my pj bottoms (why do I always end up with large puddles of cold water all over the kitchen tiles?) and get to it.

I started with a general clean out. An old hard orange or two in the crisper and some carrots sprouting roots into the bin and a few long forgotten fuzzy containers of curry or stew or maybe it was leek and potato soup at the back of the fridge discarded, I turned the dial to off last night and hoped for a slow melt. 12 hours later, retrieval of no less than 8 given up for lost Tupperware containers, several therapeutic whacks at a monstrous ice wall inside my freezer and I’m done. Fridge is sparkling clean and there’s loads of room for leftovers and ice cubes and made ahead meals.

As I sit here, sipping a nice cup of Earl Grey, wearing wooly socks to warm up my still freezing toes, I wonder why I generally leave these things to the last possible moment. I am a card carrying procrastinator. At work, in school, with my writing and most certainly relating to all manner of mundane household chores, as much as I can get away with it, I put off, stall, avoid, defer and drag my feet. To my credit, I deliver the goods professionally. I get stuff done at work and I’ve learned how to time it right to allow me enough wiggle room to ensure I do a really good job. My assignments for class get done the night before and I’m so used to writing in big blitzy chunks of time as opposed to a slow and steady pace that I have convinced myself I do my best work under pressure.

In reality, I know a frosty freezer is no big deal. I am as happy as ever to eat up the last of the Ben & Jerry’s rather than carve out a spot in the frost for a few scoops of Cherry Garcia. A workaround, it might be called at the office. But it occurs to me, there are people in this world who make grocery shopping lists ahead of time, who vacuum and dust every weekend, who don’t have to sniff the milk in their fridge or who never run out of toilet paper. It’s here that I usually chime in with my life before chores mantra. Superiorly I’d rant about how time spent with those we love, doing that we love is far more important than ensuring we have a dust bunny free home. But what if, just a thought now, it’s possible to change. I’m an open minded person. I’d like to think I’m capable of growth. Maybe as a start I’ll lay my clothes out tonight before I go to work. Of course that will mean I’d have to wade through a pile of unfolded laundry on the chair in my bedroom. And if I’m going to go wading, I might as well fold. And if I’m going to fold, I might as well iron the shirts. Jeesh. I think I’ll take Murph for a walk instead. And while I’m out, there’s a Baskin Robbins up the street. All this talk has got me craving some ice cream. After all, I’ve got room now for a quart now.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Zombies, Gargoyles and Certain Girls

Nineteen weeks into my year I’m finding that the lofty goals I set for myself in January have shifted somewhat. To anyone who knows me well, this is no surprise. Without question, I am still committed to losing weight and at present am holding fast at 12 lbs. Not quite where I want to be, but I am nonetheless pleased by that. I know it is not the ideal way to go, but with four weeks today until I leave for Spain, I’ve put myself on a relatively strict regimen to see if I can’t nudge that number up a bit more before I depart. I need very much to live my life fully and while good health is important to me, I don’t ever do well with a lot of restrictions and rules. I’m back to the basics which have always worked well in moderation. Fruit veggies water and walking increased, booze chocolate and bread decreased. God it sounds horrid even as I write it here. Sigh. Well we’ll give it a go. Four weeks will go by in a heartbeat.

What continues to frustrate me is the lack of time I carve out to read as much as I want to. Writing and reading seem to go hand in hand for me. So when I am reading a lot, I tend to be prolific creatively too. Until very recently, I was dragging myself to the laptop struggling through a dry spell in my writing. My trip up north to the cabin last week knocked something loose and I’m back in the groove, images and words pouring out of me. My projects are taking shape nicely and I’m writing up a storm. In sync, I’ve polished off two books this week, after having stretched my reading of Pride & Prejudice and Zombies out for two weeks (which is a ridiculous thing considering how light it is), I’ve also reread Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson and Certain Girls by Jennifer Weiner.

Briefly, I found the zombie take on P&P a bit dull at times. Without question it is a great idea for a book. Elizabeth Bennett as a Buffy the Vampire Slayeresque killer of zombies overtaking the countryside got boring fairly fast as the book wore on. True to the plot of Pride & Prejudice, Bingley, Wickham Darcy and the Bennetts all maneuver their lives and loves amidst a scourge of “unmentionables” that must be put down for the safety of all. I suspect I would have liked the story more if there was more blatant blood, guts and drama, but the attempt to remain consistent with a Victorian style of writing while describing zombie mayhem fell flat for me. This book is getting good reviews. I suspect that mine are not the norm when it comes to impressions of this book. I may take a stab at it (har har har) at a later date, but for now, I am happy to see it finished.

Gargoyle is a captivating novel by first time Canadian author, Andrew Davidson. Basically this is a love story. Lying in a burn ward after having driven his car off a cliff, while coked up and drunk, a now hideously scarred and suicidal pornographer is visited by a schizophrenic sculptor who claims to have been his lover in a former life dating back to medieval Germany. Skeptical at first, he slowly becomes involved with this woman and agrees to let her take care of him as he recovers. Intoxicating and addictive is my best description for this book. I loved it from the first very powerful scene of the car crash, all the way to the end.

I just finished happily gobbling up Jennifer Weiner’s latest book, Certain Girls. I like this author. I feel I can relate to her. I’ve read a few of her other books, the first one being Good in Bed. Her latest book picks up the same characters and story from where Good in Bed left off. Good in Bed is the story of a plump gal named Cannie Shapiro, who is mortified when her ex boyfriend, a freelance writer, pens a story in a major magazine about how fat girls are good in bed, using their relationship as the basis for the story. Embarrassed and still not quite over him, with the stress of a dysfunctional family of her own to contend with, Cannie blunders into a regrettable last fling with her ex which results in an unplanned pregnancy. Overwhelmed, hurt and at the end of her rope, Cannie quits her job and focuses on herself, her blossoming weight and baby to be. Written with warmth and humour, Jennifer Weiner created a character flawed and human and incredibly relatable. Her first book ends with the birth of her daughter. Certain Girls picks up Cannie and her daughter Joy, 13 years later, as Joy finds out about her father and the circumstances of her birth. It’s a mother and daughter story. I have been known to be a book snob from time to time. I read widely and cut a good wide swath through various genres. Chick lit, has been something I have read from time to time when I want something light. What I like about these stories from Weiner is that her characters aren’t perfect and don’t in any way figure everything out by the end of the book. She rings true and, for me, that is when reading is most enjoyable.

Friday, May 15, 2009


It’s less than one month til I head off for Spain and Ireland. If I didn’t have so much work to do before I leave I am sure I would need to be peeled off the ceiling daily from the excitement and anticipation. I’m counting the days. I have taken a much needed day to myself today extending our Victoria Day long weekend from three to four days. Done surveying my spring / summer wardrobe, I think I have everything I need for my trip. I’m totally stoked. In vacation mode already, I find thoughts of the trip permeating everything I do. I can’t help myself from working my holiday into idle conversation with just about everyone I encounter. Even getting a pedicure this morning, I caught myself musing to the aesthetician about what colour I should choose for my travels next month.

And why shouldn’t I be excited?? For 11 glorious days I’ll be wandering around the Barcelona area, with at least one planned side trip to Sitges, a pretty seaside town boasting no less than 9 beaches, quiet cobbled streets, old buildings and markets to explore. I’m flying out of Girona after my time in Spain to Ireland. It’s like taking two back to back completely different holidays. Ireland will be a wholly other experience. Welcoming warm hospitality, mad fun, gossipy companionable pints with friends and a wonderful wedding celebration are in store for me when I land in Clare for the next 7 days. Ireland is one of those places that feeds my soul. It’s peaceful and lush. I have a romping good time every visit. I leave a wee piece of my heart there every time I go, swapping it for a passel of fond memories.

I know it will go by in a flash, as all good experiences do. But I have every intention of savoring the whole thing from top to bottom, soaking up the Catalan culture in Barcelona and falling in with my locals in Clare. Travel is a relatively new thing for me. I only started venturing out into the world after my marriage ended. These past 8 years I have been bitten repeatedly by wanderlust bug. Planning each trip renews a fever in me to explore more and more of the world. Germany next fall for Oktoberfest, India the year after, New Zealand, Argentina, Rome. My list keeps growing.

After much consultation we decided on a pretty summery pink this morning for my pre-holiday toes. I have 29 more days to figure out what colour goes best with Barcelona. Maybe a burnt red or perhaps a deep plum. I should likely get my butt out the door and get on with my afternoon. But instead, I’ll sit back here and envision myself sitting at a café off Las Ramblas, sipping wine and watching the world, Catalan style, wander by.

Monday, May 11, 2009


At work last week we had a critical issue with one of our systems arise that impacted many, many people. My team rallied, and has been working a ton of hours to resolve things and restore normalcy. We are just about there. In the breathing space we have now to look at what occurred and assess what went wrong, what we did well and what needs attention, I was chatting with some colleagues about different personalities and how they behave in crisis mode.

I was reminded of the quotation from Maya Angelou, which I now understand to be a sort of litmus test for personality types. “You can tell a lot about a person by the way they handle three things: a rainy day, lost luggage and tangled Christmas tree lights.”

Amid a relatively few blamers and panicky folks, I’m happy to have observed that most people just shrugged their shoulders, rolled up their sleeves and got to work. Yes, things were tense and tough for a few days, but most people coped well and worked collaboratively. However, in and amongst these productive and positive sorts was one or two who spun madly, spouting whatever bits of information or misinformation they had to hand, whipping folks up into frenzy. Why? What is served by that? And how on earth could this possibly help?

Calmness in the face of a crisis is an acquired skill, I think. We all want life to chug along well. When things go wrong, it’s stressful. But the fire, aim, ready kind of response does nothing to move one closer to a resolution. It is counterproductive and gets in the way of fixing a problem. I do understand the motivation at play here and just in general when one overreacts. It’s worry. Worry about one’s position. Worry about fallout. Worry about cost. Worry about how others will cope. Sometimes selfish and admittedly often not so selfish, but worry nonetheless. Worry is one of those utterly useless emotions we all feel from time to time. But as ineffective and worthless as it is, even minor worry can often morph into something quite destructive.

Thinking again of Maya Angelou’s observation, do worry and stress help in her scenarios? Doesn’t a rainy day smell sweet and sound wonderful? Is getting wet such a bad thing? Is lost luggage of any kind really the end of the world? Couldn’t we make due without these items? Does panic or aggression help the baggage to appear? Would patience not sort out the Christmas tree lights? Do we need lights?

I am by no means a calm person. I have my stress monkey days and can spin with the best of them. But here, in this situation, I’ve been afforded a certain perspective and example on how much easier it is to take things one step at a time. No panicked whirling dervish. Rather, a determined, patient and relatively composed approach. It’s so much easier this way. And perhaps, the spinning should be left to the dance floor.

You spin me right round, baby right round like a record, baby right round round round...

Monday, May 4, 2009

Embarrassment of Riches

Spring is without a doubt my favourite time of year. It’s hopeful. It smells wonderful as the grass is cut for the first time, the flowers start to bloom and the pavement is wet from warmer rains. Spring is an abundant feeling kind of season.

Each morning on our walk, I make sure to turn down this particular street in my neighbourhood I think of as the magnolia road. For the past weeks I’ve been watching the buds on this gigantic magnolia tree plump up. Aided by the warm sunshine we had this weekend they exploded into beautiful pink and white blossoms. I knew it would be spectacular in full bloom and after a long wait through the year, the tree didn’t disappoint. Soon the blooms will fall off and this old gnarly tree will spend the rest of the warm season gracefully green. I imagine it resting after all its effort to produce such splendor. I have read somewhere that the bark of the magnolia is said to have anti-anxiety properties. From my perspective, this feels true. Taking in the extraordinary beauty of this tree certainly has a calming effect on me.

This past weekend, my friend Niamh cooked up a wonderful surprise for my sister and me. An invitation for a girl’s night out of gossipy pints was really a ruse to get us together to welcome our friend GearÓid, in town visiting from Ireland. Sitting in the pub, catching up on the news from Clare, it was as if we’d just gabbed last week. It has been almost two years since I’d seen my traveling pal and within seconds we fell back into our normal banter. Quickly falling into reminiscences of trips taken together, gaffes, old jokes and family stories we happily gabbed anticipating a few good sessions in the coming week as a preview for our trip to Ireland in June. It was a wonderful evening and technically speaking, an early morning too.

There are places in this world where I am comfortable, but none more so than in the company of my family and friends. Blessed beyond measure with friends I have known for many years, I have always taken a more the merrier approach to hanging out with my friends. I love that my closest buds layer in together with my siblings and that I have far away pals whom I can pick up with as easily as my oldest friends whom I see weekly for brunch or a pint. A couch on Sherwood or Battenburg, the kitchen on Postridge, our high top table at McFlys or the Starbucks on Bayview all provide their own version of contentment and security. I get how lucky I am and I’m grateful for these people who love me. They share my life and enrich it like the magnolia does my morning walks. My friends are each unique and special to me, whether a new bud, a wonderful surprise that comes out to play every year or strong beautiful branches who’s presence supports and who’s beauty inspires me.

I’ve always been the kind of person who makes friends easily wherever I go. I think this is so because I have been lucky enough to have these wonderful people in my life already. So to those far away and those down the street, here is my favourite friendship song.