The Bridge Cabin     

Can you picture it? Eight women in a room. Okay, I see your grin and know what you’re thinking. No, this isn’t the first line of a bad joke. I can’t tell jokes. I’m forever forgetting the punch line or the string of events or something.

Each woman has her hands on keys. Not the pearly ones, but keys nonetheless. Some hands move, some lie in wait. Anticipation marks their brow and flickers in the starry far away look in their eyes. Some women face a window out to treed pathways. Others face each other, keyboard to keyboard. None of these women sit close enough to touch and yet somehow they do.

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Getting Older

No one longs to live more than someone growing old - Sophocles  

I have a birthday coming up in the next few days. Oh, thanks for your wishes. That’s very nice of you. I appreciate it. No, I’m not turning a new decade or anything special like that. Although aren’t all birthdays special in their own way? When my friends complain about getting older, I tell them they should be grateful. I mean, really, what’s the alternative?

And now, I need to take my own advice. I’ve been feeling somewhat anxious of late. Oh, yes I know it’s only a number. What’s the big deal? It’s not. The number doesn’t bother me at all. Okay, I can see that suspicious grin. Maybe it worries me a little.

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I’m Angry, Damn It! But Why?

Men should strive to think much and know little. Democritus

I know it doesn’t show, but I’m a pretty opinionated person. Okay, stop laughing. I mean it. Can’t you see? I’m stamping my size 6s? And I’ve got my hands on my hips in that all knowing school principle sort of way I’m prone to sometimes. 

If there’s something I feel or think, I’m likely going to share it with you, whether I’m asked to or not. Okay, I know I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know about me. You’ve likely heard an earful in the past.

Blame this need to voice my opinion on my family, our Greek roots, and our argumentative nature. I grew up debating issues of politics, history, religion, and the state of the world. Having an opinion, even about the smallest matter, is so engrained I can’t change it even if I wanted to. And believe me sometimes I do.

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Squeaky Wheel       

We’ve all been there. We’ve dealt with a service provider (I use the term service loosely), who doesn’t listen, doesn’t care, and certainly wouldn’t give us the time of day if he or she were not paid minimum wage to answer (or should I say avoid) our call. Thankfully when all is going well or at the very least, not badly, we don’t have to deal with these people or the organizations they represent. I suppose that is how we are lulled into complacency.

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Writing and Jellybeans

The jellybean dispenser on the credenza by my desk was given to me by my son and daughter-in-law years ago. My grandchildren fall over themselves to fill it whenever they can. They think it’s interesting that an old broad like me eats jellybeans and does so until she gets an upset tummy. They’re surprised I don’t know any better.  I do. But why spoil their fun? They warn me that I shouldn’t eat all the candies at once. I tell them I won’t, but they’re not convinced. Apparently my need for, and ability to devour, all things sweet is the stuff of family legend.

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Happy New Year!   

I thrive on routine. I think I’ve mentioned that in one or two, or maybe more, blogs. I’m sure I’ve written about routine and discipline so often you’ve wondered about my origins. Is she a robot or a real person? Let me reassure you. I’m no robot. I stray from the rigidity of my life several times a year. So there. Yes, I do. Really, I do. Gee, now I sound like a five year old. Blame it on the anarchy of December.

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Some of My Favourite Reads of 2013    

I’ve been writing this blog week-in and week-out for a year. I typically write and post on Sundays, usually my day off from fiction writing. I know, I know. What kind of day off is that? Not much of one is my quick response. But let me take a minute to explain. The energy I use to write a blog comes from a different, more rational part of my brain. Yes, I know its hard to believe that the words me and rational fit in a sentence I’ve uttered. The blog allows me to get my thoughts down about something I’m thinking, or worrying, about in a coherent way (mostly). In the blog I’m writing about real situations. I want to express myself in a way that helps me make sense of what I see and experience. And hopefully it gives you some insight into who I am.

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A Work In Progress

I stand in front of the cashier as helpless as I would be if I were a schoolgirl facing the principle. She scowls; her fingertips tap the debit machine. I imagine her saying, “can’t you move a little faster lady, you’re ruining my chance at this month’s efficiency award.” I smile. She closes her eyes, rubs her temples.

The customer in line behind me sighs. I try to read his exhale. Is it one of understanding or exasperation? Is he in my corner? Or not? I don’t know. I have to see the expression on his face before I draw a conclusion.

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What is Remembered       

Fragrances of exotic flowers, simmering lamb, baked desserts, aromatic spices will ignite a memory, a sense of something familiar. I will be reminded of a home I once lived in, and yet, won’t be able to see in any other substantive way. The mirage won’t permit a clear view of bricks and mortar, furniture, carpets. These details will be no more than ghosts and shadows. But at some level I know I’ve been there.

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A Family Story         

In November, CBC’s Canada Writes held a contest entitled Blood Lines. Contestants were to dig through the pages of their family’s past and share a compelling story from their bloodline. We were to include a picture with our submissions. I don’t normally enter contests, but felt that the story of how we found our American cousins was an important one to tell. It’s a story we still mull over when we get together. The ‘what-if’s seem deeply entrenched for each of us even as we are thankful for the ‘what–is’.  The story has all the elements of good fiction—heroes, villains, a journey, and a reconciliation−except it’s true.

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Envy   

Remember when you were a kid? You looked up to your older siblings with a kind of wonder and enchantment bordering on hero worship? You wanted to hang out with them, copy how they act, who they hung out with, and what they did. And if you were honest with yourself, you knew you wanted to be them. Not you.

No. You don’t remember being like that? Me neither. Not because I didn’t do it. I did. But, I didn’t have an older sibling. I was the oldest. And believe me neither my sister nor my brother looked up to me or admired anything I did. I was far too nerdy for them to even pay attention to, let alone copy or respect. But that’s not my point.

Even though I didn’t have an older sibling, I admired certain friends. Did you do that too? I know. It sucks to admit it. But it’s good to be honest. Don’t you think? For whatever reason, I looked up to people who I thought were more popular, smarter, skinnier, better looking, more athletic, or better spoken. Whatever the reason, we’ve all had that experience where we wanted to be someone else. Correct?

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Friendships  

True friends stab you in the front. Oscar Wilde

A month or so ago I met up with an old friend for dinner. We’d planned this via email months in advance as we live at opposite ends of the country and we don’t get a chance to get together often. Like a kid before Christmas morning, I can get very excited about visits like this. I imagine how we’ll gab the night away sharing stories, arm in arm, laughing. I thrive on this type of intimacy. Okay, I know what you’re thinking. Man are you ever setting yourself up for a fall. It’s true I am a bit of a dreamer and a hopeless optimist. And if I’m honest with myself, I’m a bit of a people pleaser too. Okay, maybe a little more than a bit.

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Who Are We?         

Friends ask me if I’m enjoying writing a weekly blog. It wasn’t something I wanted to do. In fact, I went into it kicking and screaming as I do with any significant change in my life. But having written the blog for almost a year, I have to say I love it.

The blog reminds me of the letters I used to write to the local newspaper when I was a kid. If there was something in the community or in the news that bothered me or I had an opinion about (and when don’t I have an opinion), I used to take pen to paper. I guess I was meant to be a politician or an activist, but I didn’t do any of those things. Maybe I was too afraid I’d end up in prison.

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Lululemon    

Yoga has many definitions, but I’ll use this one from the Merriam-Webster on line dictionary: “a Hindu philosophy that teaches a person to experience inner peace by controlling the body and mind.”

I wonder if Lululemon’s co-founder Chip Wilson practices yoga? He seems to be having trouble controlling his mouth these days and perhaps could benefit from the practice. Just last week, he said that Lululemon pants aren’t for all women. “They just don't work for some women’s bodies,” he said, as his wife looked on, her jaw tight, her forehead furrowed. She probably wanted to tell him to shut up. But he was having none of that. Instead he rambled on.

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Who Among Us Is Perfect?

I made an appointment with a hairdresser. My high school graduation ceremony was the same evening. Dress and high-heels were already taken care of. But now I needed an expert’s help. There was no taming my waist-long, forest-like head of hair. It was raining that morning and I took the family car without permission. My parents were preoccupied with something, but I don’t remember what. Lucky for me, I thought. I asked my sister to come along. I needed an accomplice.

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Sneaking Peeks       

A book must be the axe for the frozen sea within us. Franz Kafka

An eternity ago, we moved to England for work. We lived in a typical row house on a quiet street in a picturesque village about thirty minutes away from my office. Narrowboats wound their way through the canals and old trees towered overhead. This was the village of Shakespeare. We chose to live here instead of the city where I worked because this was the England I had read about and imagined.

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Enfant Terrible        

If you were a quiet kid in school, the middle of the road type who did your work and didn’t make a fuss, no one likely gave you much notice. You were left to fend for yourself. If you were an honour student, you were showered with praise and teachers smiled with pride when you raised your hand to answer a question. You got lots of attention, sure, but nothing like the kid who was belligerent, smoked or sold pot, got into fights, and did whatever he could to get noticed. That kid got some serious focus, the kind only microscopes can provide.

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A Nudge from a Stranger  

Gratitude is the sign of noble souls. Aesop

I’m exhausted and teary-eyed. It’s over. A year’s worth of planning, organizing, begging, cajoling, worrying and praying is done. Well, it’s not truly done until the paperwork and numbers are submitted. Did we accomplish what we initially said we would? Yes, we did. I had the proof, long before launch date, in spreadsheets full of numbers analysed on different parameters. In addition to a spreadsheet analysis, I will write reports and incorporate participant feedback. I will record these tangible measures of success and forward this to our funding sources, but I’m not sure they will tell the whole story. Some lessons are difficult to capture in a report.

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No House Has Ever Sunk in the Making of A New Friendship            

My husband says our house is sinking under the weight. I don’t pay attention. He tends to exaggerate. Instead, I pick up another friend. They’ve been recommended to me because of their clever stories, their poetic words. Or sometimes I just like the look of them, the way they feel when I innocently run my hand across a spine.

When I run out of space, I look for solutions, places I can continue to proudly house my loves. What does Dave have to complain about? They occupy such tiny corners. Well, okay, the thicker ones need more room. I admit it. So what? They deserve the places they command.

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Why Do You Do It   

From January right through to mid-October, your friends, your family, perfect strangers ask you why you do it. You ask yourself the same question. It kicks around in your head, wakes you in the middle of the night, and dogs you when you’re deep in the woods trying to escape its demand. It, like the fear of failure and the subsequent consequences, never leave you.

Isn’t it time you gave up on doing this thing? Sometimes you’re asked this question too. You smile. Avoid eye contact. When you’re by yourself, you wonder, perhaps this will be the last year.

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The Messy Bits

A recent horoscope of mine gave me some sage advice. I don’t typically read my horoscope (where have you heard that before), but sometimes something catches my eye and has the kind of nonsensical message that makes complete sense. This particular one, in our local paper a few weeks ago said, “it’s important for you to learn from the messy things in your life and not just assume it all needs to be scoured and disinfected.”

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Whatever Happened to Passion  

It is obvious that we can no more explain a passion to a person who has never experienced it then we explain light to the blind. T.S. Eliot

Passion. This simple word spawns so many images for me: the nurse holding the hand of a dying patient, the social worker combing the streets on a cold night to offer shelter or a blanket to a homeless man cubby-holed in an alley, the teacher who comes in early to assist a student who can’t quite get the new math assignment, a mother who sits with her child night after night helping him with his essay. When I think about passion, I think about scientists and doctors spending their lives studying one aspect of a disease in the hopes of eradicating it. I see a fireman helping an elderly man escape a fire, a policeman talking to a grade one class about how to stay safe. And yes, when I think of the word passion, I do think of athletes enduring pain and exhaustion for the love and commitment to their sport. Passion to me is a boundless focus and enthusiasm for what you do.

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How Difficult Is It to Make a Good Decision       

If something bothered me when I was a kid, I tended to hide out in my room or sit in a corner away from the rest of the family, my nose in a novel. I still react the same way when I have a problem I need to sort out or I have an important decision to make. I need this alone time to figure out what to say, if anything, and what to do. I think about the ramifications of my actions, my words. I ponder and fuss and think some more. Decisions, all decisions really, have consequences.

When my mother was alive, she’d give me some space when I was in one of these funks, and then she’d bring me a bowl of orange sections and sit beside me. The bowl rocked between us as we each reached in for another piece of orange. She’d talk casually about her day, the things that didn’t get done. She’d laugh about something else my dad said or did. She kept chatting until something in me loosened and spilled out like the juice of the oranges on my fingers. I never figured out how she knew the right time to nudge me into talking. Her actions were seamless, measured and never failed to work on me. Okay, I admit it. I’m a bit of a pushover, especially with my mother.

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The Fixer      

I admire the mechanical, culinary and gardening abilities of others. I gush over what some people can create and repair with their hands. Envious? Definitely. I don’t do anything with my hands except type, and I’m only able to do that if and when characters and stories appear in my head. I also move my hands when I talk. Mediterranean and excitable, my hands flash here and there with every word that comes out of my mouth.

The lack of practical skills on my part is inherited (read not my fault). My father would be the first to tell you (likely because my mother drilled it into him) that he is not what you would call a handy man (duck tape and lots of it being his solution for most everything). My mother, on the other hand was a wonderful cook and gardener, but I always had my nose stuck in a book and didn’t take advantage of her wisdom when I had a chance (read definitely my fault). So I struck out both ways.

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Am I Finally Growing Up?

“Any man can make mistakes, but only an idiot persists in his error.” Marcus Tullius Cicero (106 BC- 43 BC), Roman Philosopher       

You’ve caught someone−a friend, a partner, a colleague−in a lie. What do you do? Do you confront the person, or say nothing and remain watchful. Or do you tell yourself you’ll never be duped again and shut out the person from your life?

If you’re me (a card-carrying-bleeding-heart-socialist who tries hard to look beyond the lie to the reasons behind it, usually questioning myself as to what it is about me that made the person lie) you shrug, accept explanations provided, forget the transgression and go on with your life.

I know what you’re thinking: wake up already. But, I’ve been like this forever.

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I Don’t Think He Likes You Very Much

I stood in the elevator of my apartment building, gripping my handlebars, holding my bike upright, balanced on its back tire. I jerked myself further into the corner so as not to take up too much space. My elbows and knees were grazed and oozing. A track of grease and blood ran the length of my right calf where chain had chewed away at skin. My helmet was cinched at my wrist as a piece of armour might sit. The bike wobbled in front of me like a shield.

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No Honour Among Thieves

A few weeks ago, I read how the British government blocked the sale of Jane Austen’s ring to singer Kelly Clarkson because they were hoping a British buyer would come along and keep the ring in Britain. "Objects associated with Austen are extremely rare," British Culture Minister Ed Vaizey said. "I hope that a U.K. buyer comes forward so this simple but elegant ring can be saved for the nation."

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Silky Scorpion Weed

With each step I smell the hot pine of the forest. A puffy cloud marks the cerulean sky. Towers of sedimentary rock surround me. In the distance, a sea of alpine flowers−red, yellow, white and fuchsia−wave in the breeze. A clump of deep purple catches my eye. I get closer as we are wont to do with the unusual. The petals are a delicate starburst shape. It’s not until I get a better look that I see the spikes, almost invisible, but nevertheless as pointy as freshly sharpened knives.

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What Are You Looking For           

My mother used to say, “Why? You live in one of the most beautiful places in the world.” This was her response any time I told her we were off travelling again. It didn’t matter to her where we were going. She wasn’t interested in hearing about the isolated backcountry treks in the Purcell’s, the jungles of Peru, the sunsets in northern Spain or the hills of Umbria. She wanted to understand why I had to leave Whistler. “You have everything you need,” she’d say, “what are you looking for?”

Without question, she was right. I do live in a slice of paradise. And, yes, Whistler provides me with everything I’ve ever wanted from a community: solitude and support to do my work, friendships to sustain me, and an outdoor and cultural lifestyle to entertain any desire.  Yet, surprisingly it’s not enough.

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