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, November 6, 2011


It is funny to me how life so often comes full circle. Almost two years ago I started this blog with the notion that I wanted to lose weight, find more time to read and write - to stimulate my mind and reshape my body. In classic MB fashion, my new project took off like a shot. The first few months were a flurry of activity on both fronts. The pounds started to drop and I was getting through books that had been on my wish list for years. But by the end of my first year, while I was a bit lighter, I had not lost anywhere close to the 50 lbs I had hoped to shed and my list of classics had far fewer volumes checked off than I had expected.

This past year, while I have continued to try to carve out more time for reading, I spent far more time focussed on writing. I joined a writers group. I took a leave from work to write. I reworked my schedule to carve out hours for creativity. At times, I felt a roaring success, the epitome of prolificacy, piling page after page. Many days I really really felt like a writer. But there have been just as many, if not more days throughout this year, when I have felt like a sham, a dismal unproductive lump of writer wannabe, staring at a blank screen urging my characters to talk to me, cursing my lack of creativity, my unoriginality, wondering what in God’s name made me ever think I could write even a well formed sentence, much less a whole novel. I was beyond the help of St. Francis de Sales or even the guardian angel of writers, Ecanus. In fact the only voice I heard in response to my meditative wondering was my own, telling me to chuck it all in the bin - your hackneyed words, your ordinary outlines, your implausible plotlines, your aspiration. All of it. In the bin. Now.

So I stopped. I stopped writing. I stopped reading about writing. Poor old Lillian Munsch sat as untouched as a corpulent college girl. The manuscript cover of her 225 pages gathered dust on my desk. A week went by. Another one. I hardly thought about writing. Actually that is a lie. I felt guilty for not writing. Hugely so. But I was getting used to it. As a Catholic I have a high tolerance for guilt, so I was ok. Really. I returned to work from my 10 week writing sabbatical. I busied myself with my work projects. Got the dogs accustomed to our new routine. I brushed off any questions about my writing with a vague response and pretended all was well.

Back a few weeks to my old routine, I was chatting with a girlfriend over drinks one night. Over the summer she lost a lot of weight working a protein based program. She looked great. Felt great. She glowed when I complimented her on her outcome. But as we discussed it, she surprised me. After describing the program and how tough it had been, she apologized to me for being so shallowly fixated on her weight. Here she had been able to do something I have tried many times unsuccessfully to accomplish. She had put her mind to something. In a very determined fashion she achieved her goal. She had no reason to apologize. But I did. Not to her, but to me. I had abandoned my own goals.

By mid October, I had determined on an approach. As of today, 3 weeks and 3 days later, I have lost over 13lbs. Just a smidge over the amount I lost during my first year of blogging. I have an exercise routine. I have a food program. I have a goal - which is very important to me. Without something to shoot for, I tend to go aimlessly and lose interest. I thought of the 50lb. goal I set for myself earlier. It’s a nice round achievable number. But in truth, I want more. I want 80lbs. Why not aim high? Right? Putting it here, out here on the web, where people can read it, is a bit daunting. So many what if’s come to mind. I choose to disregard them.

With November fast approaching, my writing group and I were discussing the NaNoWriMo challenge. National Novel Writing Month is a 30 day creative blitzkrieg where writers from all over attempt to write a 50,000 word original piece of fiction. A novel in a month. Actually an incredibly rough draft of a story in a month is more accurate. For the past two years, this challenge has been something which I have enjoyed immensely. All along I have said I was in. I had a rough idea for a story. I logged on to the Nano site. I set up my profile for this year and sat down to outline my story.

And once again nothing.
No story worth telling came forth.
No cool characters I could get excited about.
No interesting plot ideas.
No original place or names, gadgets or gizmos.

November 1st came and went. Nope. Still nothing.
Then the 2nd and the 3rd passed. I still had no clue what to write about.

I started to imagine what excuse I could give my writer friends for backing out of the writing challenge. The weekend arrived and all day yesterday I tried and tried to come up with a story idea. I received a worried email from a friend wondering if I was still Nano-ing. I want to, I felt like writing back to him. But I’ve got nothing. I looked at Lillian sitting all dusty on my desk. I opened my Lillian notebook and read some of my early ideas. The story is so different now than how I had envisioned it in the beginning. I flipped through some of the pages of my most recent draft. I still love that character and the others too – Nicki, Alejandro and Ian.

When I am not writing, I often wonder, so now what? If I am not meant to be a storyteller, then what am I? I envision other lives I could live. I conjure up alternate existences until I realize that all I am doing is telling myself a story, painting another reality in my mind, rather than on the page. It is usually about then that remind myself that I am a writer. I struggle with discipline. I lack self esteem. My creativity is often blocked and my pages stare blankly back at me. But I am a writer nonetheless. A struggling one, but one who knows enough to just keep at it.

In that notion, my main character surfaced. I like to write about people who have something to overcome. Who better fits this description than a writer with crippling writer’s block? It was a nugget of an idea at first. But over the space of a day I was able to flush it out into enough of a story to begin. I have a setting suitable for the cast of characters I’ve thought up. They seem like people I can get excited about spending the next month with. But most importantly, I have a tale worth telling. So I began. It’ll take me some time to catch up in my word count, but I feel better already.

While I spend November with my new heroine, Anabel Rogers, writing “The Neighbours”, Lillian had better not get too comfy on my desk, cause come December 1st; I’m circling back to spend some quality time with my number one girl once more.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

A Bit of a Bumpy Ride

Choppy is a good word to describe this week. Ups and downs. Lots of them.
Getting used to my new routine has been more challenging than I had expected. Thinking I would simply replace a good portion of my previous work day with writing has shown itself to be anything but a successful approach.

I am writing. With the exception of one rather distracted day, I have managed a good chunk of time daily devoted to my story. I just haven’t found my rhythm; which has got me thinking about expectations and my tendency towards preconceived notions. Is there only one way to go about this? Of course not. I know that.

Having booked this sabbatical several months ago, I had many days to contemplate how I would spend my time; what it will be like to write each day with no competing obligations; how to squeeze the most out of the precious gift of this opportunity. I had a loose schedule in mind for most days, knowing I would squander a few here and there with day trips and fun sidebars along the way.

My reality has been nothing like the well disciplined schedule I envisioned.

I spent the better part of a day cleaning out the garage at the family home.
I saw two movies.
I worried about and fussed over a close friend.
I baked cookies.
I lost an afternoon surfing YouTube, tweeting and reading blogs.
I read two books.
The dogs are bathed and have been to the groomers for clipping.
Every sheet, towel, comforter and blanket in my house has been washed, dried and folded.
I pondered paint chip colours.
My unfinished knitting project from last winter has seen the light once more.
I napped. A few times.

While I wasn’t worried I would find stuff to occupy my downtime, I seem to have mastered the art of putter. I have been in staycation mode, where I feel I should be in working sabbatical mode.

Hate the word should. The implication that there is a single right way right to go about things chafes.

I have clear goals about what I want and need to accomplish these few months. That much is unchanged. I approached my work with the idea that I should (there is that word again… yikes) spend at least four hours writing or working on my draft each day.

Now a couple of things come to mind.

While there is no question that writing is really work, the notion of work as a negative, arduous endeavour is off-putting. I prefer to think of my writing time as play. Creative flow. Unencumbered expression. Fashioning. Retooling. Laying down. It is hard to do. But it is also satisfying.

This time away is every bit as much about exploring my process and continuing to hone my skills, as it is about finishing the story of Lillian Munsch. So while my best laid plans have morphed somewhat, my intention is still the same. I will come out the other side of this a better writer, with a finished product in hand. How I get there? Well figuring that out is part of the fun along the journey.

Monday, August 1, 2011


“Literature has been the salvation of the damned, literature has inspired and guided lovers, routed despair and can perhaps in this case save the world.”

Nothing like setting the bar real high, eh? But I love this quote by John Cheever. It reminds me of the affect that art, and in particular books and stories, can have on us all.

I have no idea what is in store for my novel. I do know this. As I begin my sabbatical of a few months from work, I sure intend to find out.

I’ve got a story to tell. So I guess the best thing is to get started.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Do the needful

As my sabbatical begins in less than a month, I am feeling more than a wee bit of pressure to get things wrapped up before I leave work. Needling details keep cropping up. Just a few seconds of your time requests abound. I even fielded a brazen suggestion that I squeeze a whole new area into my tight implementation schedule which concludes at the end of July. While I am the master of accomplishing down to the wire monster to do lists, I am stressed – more so than usual.

As I walk with the dogs, my sacrosanct morning thinks are being invaded by thoughts of project plan tasks and worries over how my little area of responsibility will be managed while I am gone. I much prefer enjoying the sunshine. I would rather be taking in the dewy smell of clover coming off Murphy after a roll in the grass. Instead it is like I am sitting at a restaurant with a long lost friend; eager to hear their tales of adventure but distracted by the ruckus of a crying child at the next table.

I know I will get all my work done. I always do. I have my lists. They are categorized quite efficiently into:
the not on your life requests,
the nice if I can manage it tasks and,
the absofuckinglutely must dos.

The needful is what I am focusing on right now. I am doing the needful. And if I have a spare second, I will look at the rest. So it is not about whether or not I’ll get it done, it is more that all this focus on my work life is sort of bringing me down. I like my job most days. I really do. I just like my life better. The real life. The one I live away from the office. The one where I am not all task driven and listy, but creative and relaxed. The one where I don’t stress about blurting out a well placed fuck. Ok. Scratch that. I say fuck at work. And will likely do so more this coming month than usual. But you get my point. There is a work face we all put on each day. I like the my real face of MB better. Hers is an enthusiastic and uncensored and more fearless face. She is nourished by the day to day experiences in her life and wants to share them with those she loves.

Taking a few months off to finish my book, to read and to spend quality time with my hammock and my dogs is an exciting adventure. I am lucky to be able to have this time. It almost makes this work stress worth it. Trying to readjust my headspace this morning I thought of taking a page out the story of my character Lillian Munsch who faced with her own death tries to figure out how to live. I wondered what is my real list of needful things? Do I have a bucket list? What should be getting my attention?

Such nonsense.

To be honest the first thing that popped into my head was “Get your arse to the office MB and get on with it!”

I started off thinking that I needed an attitude adjustment; that I am placing all my emphasis on the wrong things. But the truth is that if the needful this month is a shitload of work and the inherent stress that comes with it, I’ll take it because soon enough, the only task on my to do list will be making a cup of tea or maybe deciding on what book to read next.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Wondering where I have been?

The book is coming along quite nicely. Writing group has certainly helped to motivate me. Love seeing it all printed out like this.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011


I find great comfort in the universe’s ability to right itself; to maintain harmony; to counterbalance each action with an equal but opposite reaction. I can tend to forget about life’s splendid capacity for symmetry while wrapped up inside my head, particularly when my thoughts are darker than usual.

Until now I have made a point not to write about love here much because, frankly, I suck at it. My ego doesn’t like me to be that exposed and would prefer I stick to chat about things I have or wish to accomplish, issues that I need to rave about or in the telling or retelling of tales funny, curious or moving to me. In retrospect though I see how flawed this thinking is. I began this blog with the goal of discussing not just my book lust but also my struggle to get more active, lose weight and improve my health. Talking about being overweight and how that feels is about as personal as it gets. It’s not easy. I often feel awkward and raw around the topic.

But as tough as that might be, it ain’t nothing compared to how writing about love feels to me. So one might wonder, why bother?

First and foremost, it is important to note that writing is how I process. It is my chosen and most comfortable form of expression, and a sorter outer for me as I communicate the good the bad and the ugly of life.

Secondly, I am certain I cannot be the only one who feels from time to time that they have a defective love gene. There must be others who think that this isn’t how it’s supposed to work. Case in point, I stumbled upon this commentary from the eminently talented author Neil Gaimon earlier this week.

“Have you ever been in love? Horrible isn't it? It makes you so vulnerable. It opens your chest and it opens up your heart and it means that someone can get inside you and mess you up. You build up all these defenses, you build up a whole suit of armor, so that nothing can hurt you, then one stupid person, no different from any other stupid person, wanders into your stupid life...You give them a piece of you. They didn't ask for it. They did something dumb one day, like kiss you or smile at you, and then your life isn't your own anymore. Love takes hostages. It gets inside you. It eats you out and leaves you crying in the darkness, so simple a phrase like 'maybe we should be just friends' turns into a glass splinter working its way into your heart. It hurts. Not just in the imagination. Not just in the mind. It's a soul-hurt, a real gets-inside-you-and-rips-you-apart pain. I hate love.”

Paints a pretty sad picture eh? My soul-hurt isn’t as dark as all that. It’s more just a disappointing ache. A realization that things are not what I thought them to be. But, man! Gaimon’s description is emotionally visceral. I loved tripping into it so much that the drama queen in me could not help but reread it over a few times and then share it with a friend or two, relating my situation to that which is described above. A bit of wallowing ensued.

And then, just like that, the very next day the universe righted itself. Perspective was restored and a wonderfully dynamic group of people in the form of a new writers group entered my life. Something good, something creative, something to remind me of the beauty of being me doing the one thing I love most.

I still do not feel all that comfortable writing about love. Maybe that is because I am not that comfortable in love, generally. But if I know one thing for sure, it is the more comfortable I am in my own skin, the less it matters. The emotional ebb and flow is fodder for my writing. So in the end, it all balances out nicely.

Thursday, February 10, 2011


A pestering friend (cough...Marc) recently pointed out that coming up next week it will be a full three months since the last time I blogged. Over the past while I have had more than a few gentle nudges to continue blogging. So here I am.

It’s not so much that I have given up on blogging. It is more that mired in amongst all the day to day stuff of work, my writing, spending time with friends and family, blogging just seems to have settled quietly into the backseat. I once read a statistic that more than 60% of people who start blogging, fall away from regular entries within a year. I suppose I am more average than I would hope to be... at least in that regard.

To prime the pump some and get me back to it, I’ll start with the highlights. The past three months looked something like this.

November was all about NaNoWriMo. Setting my ongoing writing project aside, I tried my hand at a new genre, the murder mystery. Basil McNabb’s A Fair to Remember was such fun to write. Coming up with a reasonably plausible way to kill off my characters and layer in deceptive red herrings here and there as I attempted to weave together a plot was challenging. I enjoyed the experience immensely and was super proud to finish my 50,000 word story just in the nick of time on November 30th.

While creativity was my focus in November, December was more about sharing my time. It’s no secret that Christmas is not my favourite holiday season. This year I spent time as I have done in the past working on our outreach program to aid over 100 families in need with food, gifts and basic household items. This year’s Caring & Sharing program was a big success; a testament to the spirit of generosity alive and well in our community, even in these tough economic times. Beyond the outreach program, I spent some wonderful time with my closest friends Christmas Eve and had a lovely and laid back Christmas Day and Boxing Day with the family.

Somewhere in January a shift occurred and I began to reprioritized things on quite a seminal level. I am not one to make New Year’s resolutions. That is not what I am talking about. More than ever these days I am aware of how quickly time passes. It’s not a new observation for sure, but one which inspired me. Beyond my normal internal musing over my life, I was recently given a series of philosophical questions to ponder. It’s Oprahesque stuff, absolutely. But that aside, the one question that haunted me was… is this what I want to be doing? The notion is not just directed towards career. It is about life. How my day to day unfolds. How I interact with people. How I feel physically. How I spend my time and with whom. Big concepts, but fundamental ones. After some navel gazing on my own, I was sharing some of my insights with my friend Greta who asked me simply why I don't just take a year off to pursue my writing and whatever else I feel like doing. It got me wondering what was holding me back. I cannot really afford a year without pay, but the idea resonated with me so strongly I knew I was on to something. And so, I have arranged a three month leave of absence from work this summer. I plan to write mostly. But I also do so very much look forward to having the unhurried time to think, to read, to travel some if I choose, to soak up the sun and lay in a hammock, to drink pints on a patio, to swim, to play catch in the park with Murphy and Matilda.

Marc pointed out to me that it has been over 90 days or in other words 2,160 hours or even 129,600 minutes, which is remarkably more than 7 million seconds since the last time I blogged.

Seems like the blink of an eye to me.

In another two blinks, I’ll be enjoying my much anticipated leave. Another blink after that and I will find myself back to work again.

Life is like that. But given that I cannot slow the pace of time marching on, I now fully intend to get as much out of my seconds as I can.