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, July 29, 2012


I think it is true that we are each of us, the heroes of our own stories.

We go about our days, trying as best as we can to get by in whatever life situation surrounds us. Frequently mired in the minutiae of daily existence, tunnel vision takes hold amongst the laundry and the dinner making, the dog walking, the going to work, the paying bills and so on. I am luckier than most as far as responsibilities go. My life is essentially my own. Still on many days it is tough to look up and outward from where I sit. As someone who crafts stories, I like a hero to root for. We all do. The phenomenal success of summer blockbusters like the Avengers and Batman prove how hero starved we can be. I liked Batman. The Avengers was a good romp. But if I have to imagine a heroic archetype I prefer the every day guy, the underdog, the uphill climber. And I don’t have to look very far for examples in my own life. But unlike the caped crusader, my experience of hero today is wearing spandex cycling shorts and sweat as opposed to tights and a mask.

With hundreds of other heroes just like him, earlier this morning my friend Marc started his annual 600km bike ride from Toronto to Montreal in support of the People with Aids Foundation. This grassroots community organization exists to make a positive difference in the lives of those living with HIV/AIDS. It pains me to accept that 30 years in, over 30 million people are still living with HIV/AID making organizations like PWA as necessary as ever.

Earlier this week, in the opening speeches of the International AIDS Conference in Washington, DC, probably the most salient point made was that AIDS the disease is caused by a virus, but the AIDS epidemic is not. The AIDS epidemic is fuelled by stigma, violence and indifference. It’s powerful stuff. And it’s true. We have treatment and vaccine. Yet, frequently forget compassion. Drug cocktails abound, but kindness and dignity for those who are sick are lacking. I know that a world without AIDS is possible in my lifetime. But, like every hero’s journey, seeing the end to the AIDS epidemic will be won one step (or pedal) forward at a time.

I often seek inspiration from my favourite writers and poets. These words from Rilke give me hope.

In the name of the best within you, do not sacrifice this world to those who are its worst. In the name of the values that keep you alive, do not let your vision of man be distorted by the ugly, the cowardly, the mindless in those who have never achieved his title. Do not lose your knowledge that man’s proper estate is an upright posture, an intransigent mind and a step that travels unlimited roads. Do not let your fire go out, spark by irreplaceable spark, in the hopeless swamps of the approximate, the not-quite, the not-yet, the not-at-all. Do not let the hero in your soul perish, in lonely frustration for the life you deserved, but have never been able to reach. Check your road and the nature of your battle. The world you desire can be won, it exists, it is real, it is possible, it’s yours.

The world we desire can be won. It exists. It is possible. Now there’s a heroic sentiment if ever I heard one.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

How vain it is to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live.


The last time I blogged. 

It was six whole months ago.

But you knew that, I suspect.

I am nothing if not the typical new blogger.  Rampantly prolific in the first year, weaning slightly rounding into the second year and all but non-existent by the time I hit my third year. 

The pitiful thing is, I actually enjoyed blogging.  It helped kick start my own writing at times, gave me a forum to gab, to muse, to post a wee rant, to share something notable. No plausible excuse for not making it here sooner.  Hell, why even bother offering up one if it existed.  Where have I been these past months?  Nowhere and everywhere.  Just living my life.  Writing some but not tons. Supping. Laughing. Hiccuping. Celebrating. Strolling. Loving. Unloving. Gaining. Losing. Discovering. Shaking fists. Shaking hands. Shaking head. Gobs of good stuff. Really bad stuff too. The heartbreaking and joyful. Just my life.

When I thought about blogging at all, what I missed most was the book reviews, the pondering aloud about writing, about life and love and hope. Even more, just the act of writing at all.

So, because I can, I begin again. It's easy enough to start with books.  They are an omnipresence in my life.  I just cracked open the new Anne Rice novel, The Wolf Gift.  Having loved The Witching Hour so many years ago and slogged through Rice's vampire saga, why not take in her version of werewolf legend.  Over the past few months I have enjoyed several wonderful books:  A Discovery of Witches (Deborah Harkness), Love in the Time of Cholera (Gabriel Garcia Marquez) - in truth that one was a re-read.  It is after all my favourite book. Also, Say Her Name (Francisco Goldman), The Hunger Games Trilogy (Suzanne Collins) and George R.R. Martin's Game of Thrones.  I'll post a review of at least one of these soon.

As for my own writing, I am still working at Lillian's story.  Things are coming together and I have shared a number of sections with a few select folks and received good feedback.  Well that is if "hurry and finish it, will ya" is considered positive feedback. I honestly had no idea how hard this would be when I began.  Some days I'm making grand progress, other days it feels like I'm trying to catch a jello baseball. It's all wiggly and sticky and losing shape.  But luckily, I've recently found a muse, another writer and friend. He's encouragement. He's commiseration. He's task master.  All rolled into one. Just what I need. And, if that don't kick my darling Lillian to the finish, an upcoming few weeks off of solitary staycationing will help immensely.

As I cleared my throat and cracked my knuckles to begin writing here again, I had a hard time finding a place to start.  So much has happened in the past six months.  I've had enough family drama to last a decade.  My job has expanded in scope and responsibility.  I've broken bones, mended a broken heart that I thought had healed, feted friends, planned and taken getaways. I've packed enough living into these months to fill a story book or two, so there's plenty to spare for blogging.  If I know anything at all, it is that how we spend our days is, of course, as the brilliant Annie Dillard has said, how we live our lives.  And this gal, she lives by writing. 

Monday, January 2, 2012

More of the Same

I admit it. I succumbed. In wondering about 2012, like many others, I resolved once more to eat healthier, get fitter, slimmer, and be more fiscally responsible. In fact, reading a survey in the newspaper of the top five most common New Year’s resolutions, within a few hours of waking on January 1st, I had considered at least four of the five.

It seems a pointless mental exercise, to make resolutions to do more or be better than I am now. As I walked yesterday morning I was feeling pretty good. Happy that the holiday season has now finally (and thankfully says my inner Scrooge) wound down, I am looking towards 2012 with excitement and anticipation. I can’t say the exact reason, but I am very content. Outside my window I can see the fresh footprints I made in the snow on our walk this morning. A wind blowing the tree branches is signaling the blustery winter day it has become. There’s a gray sky and the odd snowflake twirling to the ground. January is not the most comforting of months. It’s cold outside. After a busy December, it is a bit anti-climactic, socially. What’s coming is a hunkering down month. A cuddle up on the couch, soup eating, warm sock wearing time of year. But, or maybe because of these things, January is a month for thinking, for resetting, for commencing. Like September it feels all new and full of promise.

Stepping into 2012, I realize that my happy anticipating is in large part a result of the kind of year 2011 was. A rollercoaster of a year, full of real highs and some heartbreaking lows; there was no middle ground in 2011. This year I happened upon some cool new sounds, lost people too soon, started anew, was taken aback, settled comfortably in, shared belly laughs and did myself proud.

Discovered Treasure

I have an on again off again relationship with music. I like listening to music, but more often than not, even when writing, prefer quiet. If I had one, the soundtrack of my life would have, up until recently, been boring mix of Sarah McLaughlin, Coldplay, Adele, David Gray, Black Eyed Peas, Gaga, Alicia Keyes, Nirvana, U2. This year, I stumbled upon Florence and the Machine, The Black Keyes, Dandy Warhols, James Blake and his cover of Joni Mitchell’s A Case of You, and The Sheepdogs. Who knew such beauty and fun were just headphones away?


I struggle with what to say about my friend Paul. It all seems so inadequate. How do you sum up what a person means to you and those you love? Impossible. So I will simply say this - Paul was like sunshine. He was warmth and light. An adventurous spirit and wonderful storyteller, he was the heart mate to Niamh. He left us too soon, but also left us enriched for having known him.

I think Robert Frost got it wrong. In my experience it is not good fences that make good neighbours, but lack of them. I am lucky in the people living around me. We BBQ in the warmer weather. We share beers in the back garden in the fall; go for dinner and a movie in the winter months. We check in on each other when one of us is sick, walk dogs or mind cats, housesit or pick up mail. We talk politics, share books, travel tips and recipes. It’s a wonderful community. But it won’t be quite the same without kindhearted, accomplished, curious, ballsy and utterly unique Betsy.

It is astonishing to me that the passing of someone I never met can have had such an affect on me. When Jack Layton died in August, for a brief moment after I heard the news, I felt panicky. It was as if somehow things weren’t as alright in the world as they had been just before that. Regardless of where Canadians fall politically, no one can question Jack’s commitment to encouraging Canadians to look after one another and the world. The inspiring words in his open letter to Canadians still move me, as I hope they do others. “Love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world.”

Uphill Climbs

This year, my perpetual struggle with weight loss saw some actual success. To be honest I really tried – maybe that had something to do with it. It feels good. Besides dieting, I stepped up my activity level and even, towards the end of the year joined a gym. Again. Inspired to keep going and undeterred by any setback, I continue; and speaking of uphill climbs, bike season is just around the corner. Weeeeeeee.


Maybe more because of the tough losses this year, I spent many memorable nights out with family and friends giggling. Among the 2011 highlights: Friday nights on Fionn’s patio, Harper’s first dinner party, the movie Bridesmaids, Pride, Thanksgiving with the family and pub crawling with the Castillos.

Shining Moments

This year I took a chunk of time for myself. A full 10 weeks. I am proud of that. It is hard to put into words just what that time meant to me and how it continues to inform my thoughts and actions, even now. To an outside observer, it would be tough to determine exactly what I accomplished during August and September of this year. But for me, I set my feet firmly on the right path. There were days when I did nothing at all but walk the dogs and sit in my backyard thinking. There were wildly creative days. I napped most days. I ate and drank whatever I wished. I read some, wrote lots. But more than anything, I mulled things over. Emerging from my sabbatical, I am more sure than I have ever been about myself and so incredibly grateful for all I have.


I am resilient. It is one of the things I like about myself. I bounce back and so does my heart.

Ever the hopeful romantic, in 2011 after ending a long relationship, I ventured into the land of love again with an open heart. People come into our lives, I know, for a myriad of reasons and timeframes. Was I saddened to see that things weren’t quite what I hoped for? Absolutely. But time has a way of taking care of these feelings and I cannot be anything but grateful for all the wonderful things that came into my life as a result of having known him.

The brilliant John Cheever is supposed to have said that "the deep joy we take in the company of people with whom we have just recently fallen in love is undisguisable". Here’s hoping 2012 is full of many blatantly obvious blissful moments.


There are really only two things I do that keep me sane. I walk my dogs and I write.

Maybe it is the Catholic in me, but rituals make me feel grounded. I have other regular stuff I do throughout the year like lighting a candle on my father’s birthday or going for coffee on Sunday mornings to read sections of the New York Times. I never work on my birthday, preferring to spend some time with my mom and celebrate in any other way that suits my fancy. I drink a pint glass of water every morning while the dogs eat their breakfast and I spend each New Year’s Eve reading my journal entries from the year that just ended. This past year, I took on two more regular things that have had wonderful impact on my life.

Round about March I joined a writer’s group, which meets monthly to share our work, talk about writing and nudge each other along supportively. I take such inspiration from these folks. I am writing better now in part due to their feedback and encouragement.

If it sounds like I am brimming with gratitude, I am. Unapologetically so. While on leave, I tried meditation. I wasn’t successful at it. But as I tried to clear my mind of all thoughts, one thing became clear to me. One persistent thought kept popping into my head. I have so much to be grateful for. This realization continues to pop up on such a regular basis that I try now, as much as possible, to stop and give it a moment to sink in. No matter what else is going on, for that second, I smile. I feel happy.

Sitting at my desk here thinking about my year, Murphy is snoring by my feet. I can feel the warmth of his big head resting against my foot and his breath tickling my toes as he exhales. Who wouldn’t be joyful?

I have resolved to make no resolutions for 2012. But I do intend to continue on as I have been – discovering new things, laughing, challenging myself, loving, coping with the tough stuff, creating and being grateful for it all.