Monday, December 31, 2007

bat country

Even amid the drywall dust and chaos, I am so happy to be home.  We are largely confined to the living room, and with that in mind, Shawn bought Christmas presents to make spending time there fun.  He bought us a Wii game system and also got me a laptop (is it called an iBook?  or an iMac?) that is wireless so I can play with it while sitting on the couch.  The Wii is hilarious - you can download old games from when we were kids, oh nostalgia!, and if there's anything funnier than watching a grown man play "Dance Dance Revolution", I cannot possibly think of what it is.  And the laptop is amazing; small enough to take to my meetings with writing clients, small enough to slip in a cupboard, and yet powerful enough to do the kinds of things I do.  He's a smart man, that husband of mine, and I don't think I have ever been spoiled so much in my life.  The best part though, is just being here at home with him and the pups and having another whole week of holidays ahead of us.


Before dinner tonight I managed to do half an hour on the elliptical machine, a feat performed amid boxes of coffee cups and roasting pans which threatened to catch my feet with each revolution.  It was too rainy to run outside.  I feel good about getting back to taking care of myself better.  I've never been much for making New Year's resolutions, but in that vein, I want to continue looking at health from a mental, spiritual, and physical perspective.  

I know it is possible, I know there is time, to take care of all these things when I am organized enough to do so and don't get too obsessed with one area at the cost of the others.  This is a good goal for me, continuing to seek more and more balance. 


Sunday, December 30, 2007

i won't lie - i did it all for the nookie

It feels like a camping trip, but without the fun parts, like the campfire songs and the beer and the sleeping bag sex. Our kitchen is totally gone. No sink, no counters, no oven, no nothing. Just empty space. Nowhere to prepare food, nowhere to cook, nowhere to wash dishes, nothing. Shawn's Dad has been taking good care of us - tonight he brought us soup in a Tupperware container that we microwaved in the living room and drank out of coffee cups. It's going to be a long time before these renovations are complete.


I went running today and really noticed how my cardio has suffered through lack of exercise recently. Time to get back on track. The fact that we are now fortunate enough to live somewhere where it's actually possible to run outside all year long will be my motivation.


I'm supposed to be working right now, writing a design document about mortgage fraud. I wonder if there's anything more boring in the world. Like exercise, these things are always more difficult to think about than they actually are to do. So it's time to get down to it. Lisa needs a new kitchen sink.


Saturday, December 29, 2007

Just Whistling Dixie

This morning when I woke up in my own bed for the first time in four days, I opened my eyes and reached for Shawn, who smiled at me and said, "Hi Medusa."

Three nights and days away from home is too much, and yet it's difficult to justify the cost of flights for much less.  At this point I feel like I don't want to go there ever again, not because they're bad people or because there's any one specific problem; it's just that the anxiety and discomfort grows in me steadily so that by the time I get home I feel this melodramatic sense of relief that convinces me I've made it home from war.  

Every year I have Christmas with them, I feel disappointed.  And this disappointment isn't like a kid's, who wanted a new sled and didn't get one.  It's something different, but maybe just as selfish.  It's about the fact that the gifts they offer always show me that they don't know me at all, haven't paid much attention to anything I've said or done in my entire life.  And instead of feeling grateful (or perhaps in addition to feeling grateful, because I truly do try to focus on the fact that I'm lucky lucky lucky to have a family and to have Christmas with them at all) I feel sad that they don't know me and don't seem to take in any of what I offer of myself.  And I also wonder if I just haven't offered enough.

I spend a lot of time, when I'm there, trying to protect their feelings.  It's a strange thing, this, because it works in a cycle that leaves me hurting and leaves them oblivious to everything.  Like this:  1.  One of them says something that I find hurtful; they don't realise they've hurt my feelings.  2.  I feel sad, hurt, etc..  3.  I try not to act sad, hurt, etc., because I don't want to make them feel uncomfortable over the fact that they've hurt me.  4.  They have no idea any of this is going on and the cycle repeats itself forever until I am back home.  5.  I resolve never to go there again.  6.  Until next time.

J was here when I got home, and had been staying for the last two nights.  Unfortunately, most of my time away overlapped with his visit here, so I didn't get to see much of him.  We all went for breakfast together and then to a movie.  He told me about his two recent dates, which was awfully surprising coming from one of the shyest people in the entire world, and it was nice to hear that he's recovering from what happened with his marriage and is able to feel, once again, optimistic about relationships in the future.

J spent some time in university studying world religions, and he is someone I always enjoy talking to about God, and god, someone who doesn't claim to have answers but who knows a lot of facts and can weave them together for me, sometimes, into something I'd like to wear.  Like me, he finds God where he looks in places  like quantum physics, as well as in Yoga and at the pancake house and in his centre.  He hears the voice too.  The inside-you voice that keeps you on the rails.

He still doesn't know exactly what his future plans are, and this in itself seems like healing when it comes from a man who likes to plan out everything in minute detail.  He's going to Europe in the spring, for an indefinite length of time.  And then when he comes home, he is probably going to move here, to Vancouver.  And stay with us while he looks for a job and a home.  His sister, he hastens to add, also lives here, and he plans to lessen the burden on us by staying with her some of the time too.  He still has trouble believing we want him here.  But it's true.  And we won't stop telling him so.

Dear Dixie, I've been thinking about you this morning.  Thinking started in bed, just before Shawn called me Medusa, and it might go on all day.  (It could you know and it just may.)  I think about you often, actually, about how things were and how things are, and mostly I just send you my warm thoughts, hoping you catch some of them when you're outside in the yard and notice that the sun is pleasantly warm even in the winter. 

I feel like I've been travelling a long time and arrived home after a long journey.  My life is good.


Saturday, December 22, 2007

on a tour of one night stands

Tonight I decided to stay home while Shawn went to visit his Dad.  It was the first time since we moved here that I've done that, in dramatic contrast to how I used to stay home all the time when Shawn went out anywhere.  I've been making an effort to be more sociable and it's actually been nice.  But tonight I wasn't in the mood.  So I asked him to please go without me and let me have some time alone.

I went for a walk in the new snow for about an hour, and then spent the rest of the evening hanging out with the pups, who agree with me, that home is best.  I haven't been alone for a long time.  I forgot how much I liked it.


Monday, December 17, 2007

ghosts and empty sockets

This is from Eat, Pray, Love and I think it's hilarious and tragic at the same time because the woman being described sounds so much like me, a version of me anyway, that it's like I've been spied upon.

"Addiction is the hallmark of every infatuation-based love story. It all begins when the object of your adoration bestows upon you a heady, hallucinogenic dose of something you never even dared to admit that you wanted - an emotional speedball, perhaps, of thunderous love and roiling excitement. Soon you start craving that intense attention, with the hungry obsession of any junkie. When the drug is withheld, you promptly turn sick, crazy and depleted (not to mention resentful of the dealer who encouraged this addiction in the first place but who now refuses to pony up the good stuff anymore - despite the fact that you know he has it hidden somewhere, goddamn it, because he used to give it to you for free.) Next stage finds you skinny and shaking in a corner, certain only that you would sell your soul or rob your neighbors just to have that thing even one more time. Meanwhile, the object of your adoration has now become repulsed by you. He looks at you like you're someone he's never met before, much less someone he once loved with high passion. The irony is, you can hardly blame him. I mean, check yourself out. You're a pathetic mess, unrecognizable even to your own eyes.

So that's it. You have now reached infatuation's final destination - the complete and merciless devaluation of self."


I got home from work today before 3:00. I don't think that's happened since September. I changed into my pajamas immediately.


After school the cast and crew came by to strike the set. It was an easy strike because the set was so simple and it didn't take long. But it took longer than it needed to because the kids were socializing, of course, more than they were actually doing anything, and making a mess with their pop cans and chip bags in the process, thereby adding the mess at about the same rate they were cleaning up.

When the strike was finally done, one of the girls told me I should have had them clean up first and then handed out the food afterward. Then it would have acted as a motivator to finish faster, and they could have eaten it elsewhere and not messed up the room while they worked. Brilliant wisdom. It's funny how I still make mistakes like that after nine years of experience, how I need someone else's bird's eye view to bring things into focus like that, even though I think I do a pretty good job of mentoring other teachers. It's like those athletes who are better coaches than players, or artists who are better directors than actors. Those who can't do, teach, is what they used to say. And those who can't teach, teach teachers. Hah.


Today I got a Christmas card in the mail from T. It had a photo of her and her husband and their little daughter. It was a strange relief to me to see that T still looks like herself in the photo - not the way I feared she would. She looks happy and healthy and though the hair is obviously a wig (only obviously because it's much longer than her own hair would have been right now) she looks normal.

She looks like a woman who can kick cancer's ass.


Sunday, December 16, 2007

love actually

Tonight we drove to the ocean to have dinner in a restaurant overlooking the water. It's wild and windy outside and the sea was crashing hard into the shore. The pier was covered in Christmas lights, as were the trees along the boardwalk, and the view from our dinner table was absolutely beautiful. I was falling in love all over the place.

On the ride home, Shawn abruptly stomped on the gas to get some acceleration to get over a steep hill, sending my styrofoam container of leftover tortellini alla panna off the dashboard and into my lap. I rode the rest of the way home with cream sauce in my shoes and dripping down my legs.

This romance is sometimes far too real.


Saturday, December 15, 2007

that's one way to lose these walking blues

The play is OVER. Closing night was a bit of a gong show in my honest opinion, because the kids were so excited and decided to try and do a little improvisation to show off. It wasn't particularly well done or clever - and they added a whole lot more kissing to the play than I'd choreographed! - but they were pleased with themselves and had fun and that means they got out of the experience what I had intended. They gave me some beautiful flowers and tried to convince me to come out for pizza and beer after the show (I made up excuses and came home and had pizza and beer with Shawn), and made a sweet little speech about me to the audience, which almost made me forgive them for messing with the script. I can't be too annoyed when I think about the fact that I once again will have my afternoons free to do things that pertain to my own life for a change. At least for a little while.


We went to Shawn's father's house for breakfast this morning (he made scones - yum yum) and Shawn's stepmother gave us a three-wick candle that we ordered from her a little while ago. It's gigantic! According to the leaflet that came with it, it must burn for ten consecutive hours in order to ensure the wax burns down evenly. It smells like Christmas.


And lastly, in Lisa News, this bird was standing by our front walk when we got home from breakfast this morning. I think it's a heron but I'm not exactly certain. It's hard to tell from the picture how big this bird really is... but I was really startled by it because I have never seen anything like this hanging out in a residential neighbourhood. When we lived in Alberta, occasionally deer or coyote would wander down our street and I always found that very exciting. Here, I frequently see raccoons. But this is the first time I've seen anything like this near home! I am hoping he'll come back to visit often.


Wednesday, December 12, 2007

just like going fishing

Opening Night.... is over. Hallelujah. Opening nights are always jittery and in spite of a few little glitches, the kids did a good job and I was proud of them. And I think things will get smoother each time. So one down and three to go, and only three until I'll be able to sleep again without hearing the Pink Panther theme music haunting my dreams, punctuated by cries of, "I can't find find my hat!"(da dum da dum) "I can't find my shoes!" (da dum da dum) "Who took my script?" (doo dee doo dee doo dee dooo dooo doooo dooooo ....)


After hatching a brilliant plan for Future Education, I faxed my coursework approval form to the professional association to ensure they would give me credit for the courses I wanted to take. And strangely enough, they faxed back a statement saying that the extra coursework they insisted I had to take within the next three years is suddenly no longer required. Weird.

Of course it doesn't change the fact that I still want to do the Masters degree, but it now means that I can study whatever I want to study instead of trying to squeeze myself around their requirements and make it look like I'm doing their thing while trying to do my thing. It means no brilliant plan needed hatching in the first place, which is nice.


This morning Shawn took the garbage to the curb in shorts and a t-shirt, and came back inside and bellowed triumphantly, "I LOVE it here!" It was -14 degrees Celsius back home today, which isn't even cold by Alberta standards. Here it was +4. I love it here too.

I'm astonished now that I am living it by how much of an effect weather really has on my mood. People said I would find the perpetual winter cloudiness hard to manage here, but so far, I would take a hundred consecutive cloudy days over that Arctic cold that burns your skin and makes your eyelashes freeze and break off. Here, even when it's cloudy, the grass is green.


Sometimes I still have moments where I think about what I miss. And I try not to dwell on those moments too long because they're unproductive. I don't want to wallow, and yet, meeting them with personal honesty has its value too. I am being honest with myself in admitting I think about the losses. I think about them. And then I try to remember what I still have.


Monday, December 10, 2007

I have promises to keep

It's only Monday and I'm feeling awfully wiped out. Didn't sleep well last night for all kinds of reasons. Of course the fact that we slept in a little on Sunday (8:00) made it harder to sleep that night, but more of it had to do with my churning brain which was busily sorting out props, sound cues, costumes, and light cues for the play. In between doing those things, I was thinking about the change I'm thinking about making in my plan for Future Education. Not sure yet whether my professional association will approve what I'm thinking so I won't bother explaining it until I know. Until then I am asking my brain to stop whirling so I can sleep a little.

Tonight's rehearsal was not great, and all that nonsense about bad rehearsals meaning good shows is just... nonsense. Bad rehearsals forecast bad shows. So... another unscheduled rehearsal has been added to the plan after school tomorrow. This means I'm going to have about six minutes after rehearsal to race home to feed the dogs and wolf down a granola bar before going back to school for the show. Gah.

Have I mentioned I'll be glad when this is over?


I have more things I want to talk about but I literally feel too tired to think.


Sunday, December 09, 2007

Eat, Pray, Love

Sometimes I change my mind about things very abruptly. Moreover, I change my feelings about things, and that is confusing because feeling incredibly strong(ly) about something doesn't mean that I can't feel just as adamant about the opposite point of view in short order. And things can change without a reason, except perhaps the weather, or some commercial on the t.v. as I pass through the room, or the fact that my teeth are sensitive. That's how it is.

My feelings have changed about some things lately. It doesn't matter that they've changed because I don't have any power to alter the way these things have turned out, but it changes how I feel about that fact. Feeling like you can't change things doesn't matter when you don't care about the outcome, or better yet, are pleased with it. But feeling powerless when you wish you could change something - and you can't - is difficult.


I found the book for my new book club today. It's called Eat, Pray, Love and if it lives up to the unspoken promise in its title, it will be a cheerful light little read to enjoy over the holidays. I don't yet know exactly who belongs to the book club, other than the women who invited me to join, but I am assuming no men are involved based purely upon the list I've seen of their past and present selections.

I look forward to reading for pleasure again. I look forward to spending time with people for pleasure again too.


We got in line this morning at 10:00am with the idea that we would avoid Christmas lineups by being there when the doors open. Of course other people had thought of this brilliant plan too and it wasn't nearly as quiet as we'd hoped, but at least our jobs for the day were done early. Christmas shopping pains me immeasurably because of the crowds and the heat and the lines and the incessant holiday music and Salvation Army bell jingling.


Friday, December 07, 2007

I don't feel any pain.

Friday. The weekend at last, and forty-eight hours without any rehearsals. It's difficult to remember what life was like before this play.


Thursday, December 06, 2007

o sole mia

Today I actually signed papers to register in the Masters program. It begins in April, so allegedly two years from then I will have my Masters degree. Exciting. I know it's going to be a lot of work but it's something I've wanted to do for a long time.


The week's rehearsals have been truly exhausting and yet, somehow, not nearly as annoying as the rehearsals I went through at the other school back home. Probably because these kids are older they are a little more self-reliant. They still need a lot of hand-holding... but they seem more capable of independence in the long run. The show goes up on Tuesday. I'm looking forward to the end SO much.

This morning my principal asked me if I planned to use the stage the second week in February, which is when the school calendar claimed I was putting up a production. These dates, of course, were based on what last year's Drama teacher did and do not actually apply to me. When I told her so, she said she planned to use this as an excuse to contact the old Drama teacher who is away on a medical leave, and try to get more information about whether or not he plans to return. This was nice to hear because a large part of me wants to stay where I am for awhile, now that I'm starting to feel more accepted by the kids and enjoying getting to know the staff too.


Notes to self for the weekend:
- pick up front elevations from kitchen gallery
- change registration/ insurance to local
- dog food, dog snacks, dog vitamins, milk thistle
- drink red wine until stupor is reached


Monday, December 03, 2007

that you're relying on to lead you home

All that snow really did melt. It started raining last night, hard, slowly washing the snow down the storm drains. This morning the streets were a slushy mess, but by the time I left work at 4:30, all the snow and slush was gone and though the rain persists, it's strangely warm outside. It's so strange to be outside in December and not suffering from the cold.


One week until the show goes up. Our first full rehearsal was painfully long, about three and a half hours altogether. The show should really only run about an hour and twenty minutes, so there's a whole lot of time wasted in setting up, taking down, and other nonsense all the way through, but I am praying by the end of the week it will be running more efficiently. Today was an early dismissal day, so being there that long wasn't as excruciating as it otherwise would have been. And will be for the rest of the week if things don't improve. They must improve.


Shawn, much to my chagrin, has taken up snoring again. I'm not sure why he does this from time to time, but although he's usually not a snorer, every so often he decides to snore for a month here and there. It's been several weeks already and I'm losing sleep. He keeps offering to go sleep in the spare room but I don't want him too. I want everything my way!


Sunday, December 02, 2007

new words for old desires

Yesterday morning we woke up to snow, our first snow since moving here, December 1, and it wasn't just a little snow, but enough to bury the yard and the driveway and the car we'd left parked outside instead of in the garage. And still somehow for the first time I can remember I didn't feel any resentment toward the Northern Hemisphere for becoming cold enough for snow to exist because we'd actually experienced autumn, a gorgeous long autumn with beautiful colours and weather warm enough to be outside in it, and because this snow, frozen though it may be, is something I can participate in with gloves and a hat because it's not really so cold, only a couple of degrees below freezing, and the grass beneath it is still green. And because the weather forecast is hopeful for a melt in only a day or two.

Meanwhile, it's slippery outside. Which means we're staying home, with the fireplace going and blankets and slippers and tea. Just more reasons to love being here.


Friday, November 30, 2007

i'm writing you now just to see if you're better

I am EXHAUSTED. The show I'm directing goes up in less than two weeks and these final rehearsals are killing me. They're so long and tedious and tiring and boring that I feel like screaming by the end of them. I know a large part of the problem is blood sugar levels because I don't bring enough food for lunch and snacks to keep me going. I'll be so glad when this is over and I can go home at 3:00 like everyone else.

Meanwhile, of course, I am worried and stressed out about all the zillions of things that should be done and I'm not sure if they are or not.


Yesterday's conference was interesting. I learned a lot about how bullying tactics differ between girls and boys and ways to help kids cope with internet harassment and other forms of "technology based" bullying, like text messaging and three way calling and so forth. It was all a lot to take in and surprising to see how many different ways kids have come up with to torture each other that I'd never even heard of.

The best part was spending time with colleagues that I didn't know well and learning more about them. They invited me to join their book club. I've been so antisocial for so long since the last time we moved that it's exciting to be making friends again.


Tomorrow Little Puppy is going to the vet again to see if we can get more information about why she is sometimes not interested in eating and sometimes throws up. She has to have blood taken, which always upsets her (and therefore me) so I am hoping this test will provide the answers we need so we can stop searching and start treating.


I got an email from T yesterday, a cheerful email with news about Christmas and photos of her family, and nothing in it whatsoever about chemotherapy, radiation, medication... I hope I hope I hope this means that she's winning the fight and able to enjoy some good things in life right now because she certainly deserves to. I responded with the same tone she used. Maybe we've talked enough about death and disaster for a little while. Maybe a little levity can help with recovery.


Wednesday, November 28, 2007

postcards from further away

I attended an information session tonight about the Masters program I want to do. Immediately before leaving the school, I received a fax from The Powers That Be informing me that even with a Masters degree and two undergraduate degrees I would still be unqualified to maintain a permanent teaching certificate in this province. Absurd, but I am not surprised. I am thinking I will do the upgrade their way and still do the Masters degree too. So there.

Taking this program will hinge upon the sale of our house back home which has been sitting on the market for two months now with no bites. The market has cooled down considerably and while we are supporting two mortgages simultaneously and buying a new roof and a new kitchen... there just isn't money to live like this. So we'll see.

In the car on the way to the information session I made a decision to be un-neurotic at this meeting. Behaviour is habit-forming, for me, right from the start - and when I start something off the wrong foot it usually feels impossible to change that midstream.

Throughout my last Masters course, although I was enjoying it and learning a lot, I was extremely quiet. I didn't ask questions, I didn't speak up much in big group discussions. This behaviour is something that I have to actively to avoid, because once I spend the first class in a session being quiet, it becomes hard to speak ever again. And not speaking comes easily to me.

So I decided, in the car, that I was going to speak tonight. No matter what, I would ask a question or make a comment or say something to get myself going in the right direction. And so I did. It's astonishing, to me, how once that first hurdle is jumped, the rest becomes so much easier.

My close friends who know me well find it hard to believe that I could ever be shy, and still be a teacher, an actress, and an occasional loudmouth. I find it hard to understand myself, that I can be both. Speaking tonight was something I felt was a bit of accomplishment. Which makes me laugh.


Tuesday, November 27, 2007

take me with you

Winter is mild here and this mildness of weather seems to bring with it a new mildness of spirit that I am unaccustomed to experiencing at this time of year. I found winter difficult, painfully so sometimes, at home. The skeleton trees and the stark white of the snow and ice, the wind, god the wind. Coupled with the darkness, sometimes winter was nearly impossible.

There are ways to make the best of things, like gingerbread lattes and Christmas lights and warm fireplaces... but in the end, I don't believe I'm going to miss the harshness of winter on the prairies. Here, by the sea, winter is different. It's fresh, there's a snap in the air and some frost in the mornings, but it warms up enough to melt during the day. There is no wind that blows through the fabric of my coat like I'm naked. My eyelashes don't freeze together.

And this makes me feel different about the changing seasons, as though there's something to look forward to in every season here instead of dreading the abrupt change from one extreme to another with only a few weeks to brace oneself in between. I think what I'm saying is that I like it here.

(I booked my flights home for Christmas.)

Monday, November 26, 2007

how can I fall?

Staff meeting today after school. Wow, why are staff meetings always so insipid? Listening to people bicker over things that don't pertain to me or interest me in any way does not inspire me to feel more a part of the community or more ownership over the final decisions that are made. And because I teach Drama I can't even bring my work with me and mark during the meetings like other teachers do.


The vet called to give me some results from Little Puppy's blood work and urinalysis. Some of the numbers were a bit out of whack, which isn't surprising given the symptoms we have concern over, but there is no definite diagnosis at this stage, just a direction in which to move with more tests. I am fervently hoping that whatever is going on, it can be managed. I want her to be healthy.


I am considering enrolling in a Masters program again. The last Masters coursework I did was interesting and definitely lead me to want to do more of it. This time I want the whole program, though, not just a course. The frustrating thing is that because certification works differently here than it does at home, even completing another degree might not satisfy my "outstanding course requirements". Strangely enough, in spite of having two undergraduate degrees, this province thinks I need more education to get a permanent certificate.

Well, the MUST part of it annoys me because I've successfully taught for eight years without it - but taking courses is something I enjoy so that part of it is just fine. It's just that I want to take courses I find interesting and not the boring stuff I'm told to in this letter.

I'm writing to them for approval on my Masters courses, but I have my doubts that they will consider them acceptable.


Many of my students are Sikh and I am interested in the history of the dastaar and have been reading about it. I am surprised by what I have learned particularly where the technological/scientific reasons for it come in. I find religion fascinating.


Sunday, November 25, 2007

a touch of grey kind of suits you anyway

Today I feel pretty. That's something I sometimes almost feel ashamed to say, because I hate vanity - perhaps because I was trained to hate it - but it's still something I'm trying to reclaim. Not that I want to spend enormous portions of my life worrying or wondering or obsessing about appearance. Just that I want to be able to feel pretty without feeling guilty about feeling that way at the same time.

It's something that Shawn and I talk about a lot, because I have a hard time both with accepting his compliments, and with not getting complimented. What it means is that if he says nothing I will feel that he is saying nothing because I am unattractive to him, and if he says something nice, I will immediately feel bad for enjoying his compliment so much. So no matter what he does, he's wrong, and either way I'm struggling.

Ridiculous. I know these neuroses are small and moderately inconsequential in a world where people are unable to leave their houses or are afraid to use public washrooms, but why not try to improve the things about ourselves that need some work? Why not get healthier wherever possible?

Last weekend I sensed that C was almost pleased at how much I've changed since we used to spend all our time together, how much more neurotic I've become. Back then she was the one who was odd, who needed someone to drag her out when she was being a shut-in or insist she wash her hair. And I was carefree, brave and always filled with energy to do things. Enough energy that I had some left over to make her do things too.

I confessed to her that I dread talking to strangers now, that I sometimes feel a strange fear before calling to order a pizza that the person who answers the phone will be annoyed with me for disturbing him or her. I could tell that she liked this very much. I don't blame her for feeling that way; it's comforting to see our reflection in others. However I always saw my reflection in her, even when she was at her worst.

Sometimes I think it's more about aging than anything else, that I've already enjoyed more than a decade of uninterrupted socializing and philosophizing over pitchers of beer. I've become disenchanted. I'd rather invest my waning energy in those I already love than spend any more time seeking new people to love.

It's both neurotic and sensible, depending how it's explained and described. I know it's both, and that I will continue to swing back and forth between the two.


Saturday, November 24, 2007

too late

We took Little Puppy to the vet this morning. Of course, having made the appointment at a time when we were concerned because she seemed ill, she has been perfectly fine the last few days, full of energy, and eating well. Perhaps the key to keeping her healthy is to keep threatening her with trips to the vet.

We went, on recommendation, to the same vet that Shawn's dad and stepmom go to with their dog. I liked her better than the one we went to last time for everyone's booster shots, and she told us she has whippets, which are a similar breed, so I am thinking we may stick with this one. She took a blood draw and then sent us home with a cup in which to collect some urine whenever Little Puppy should next feel the urge.

Of course there was no way on earth she was going to allow me to hold a little cup underneath her while she peed, so instead, we set her up purposely to have an accident on the floor and then I got down on and hands and knees and picked it up with an eyedropper. Hehe, the things we do for love.

I told the secretary, when I dropped the sample off, that she ought to warn the people at the lab about the way this particular sample had been collected, lest they become terribly concerned about the fact that this animal seems to be excreting crumbs (or any other kitchen debris) in her urine.

I am keeping fingers crossed the results show that nothing is wrong and she has a sensitive tummy. At least if there's nothing seriously wrong I can stop feeling so frightened every time she throws up.


The roofers started working on our house on Thursday and we now have part of the roof re-shingled, and we also have zillions of ripped off shingles lying all over the yard and tarps and plywood everywhere. It doesn't look too nice right now but I think I will enjoy the sound of rain drumming on the roof a whole lot more when I can stop wondering if it's going to start leaking at any moment.

The next big project will be the kitchen which we decided to push back to January to avoid having a longer wait over Christmas break without any kitchen counter tops. At best, it sounds like it's going to be four weeks between the installation of the cupboards and the installation of the granite. Sometimes when I think about how often we eat sandwiches or cheese and crackers for dinner, it seems insane to go to all this trouble to remodel the kitchen.


Tuesday, November 20, 2007

i told you

Today I feel better. I think I feel better because Little Puppy seems better. I can't even tell if anything is ever really wrong with her or if I'm just worrying about her because it's become habitual to do so. But yesterday I felt like something was wrong. She wouldn't get off my lap no matter what, she had no energy and was completely listless. She even ate dinner lying down (at least she ate, right?) and whenever I tried to put her down to do anything she would beg to be picked up again. Little Puppy is always a snuggler, but this was excessive. Today (and last night) she has been more normal again, chasing the boys, exerting her bossiness, and being more independent. And that makes me feel a million times better.


Monday, November 19, 2007

quiet now

I've been having one of those inexplicable blue days. Maybe it's because I'm tired, tired from a busy weekend and needing a little more rest before returning to work. Maybe it's the anticlimactic feeling that comes after something really exciting. Or maybe it's because I'm worried, as usual, about Little Puppy, who has seemed strangely lethargic recently. Or maybe I need to eat more vegetables, exercise more, quit wasting money, and do a better job of keeping the house clean. Maybe it's all those things. I don't know. I just feel kind of down.



Sunday, November 18, 2007

You might have succeeded in changing me; I might have been turned around

I remember once reading an article about blogging written by a woman who is semi-well known and makes a living selling advertisement space on her blog. She said not to write laundry lists of things you've done because people will find that boring.

It is boring. Yet I've never felt like trying to change what I write about here to make it more interesting to anyone else, because I am not trying to attract a readership or to sell space. I'm just saying things so they won't take up so much space inside my head.


Yesterday at the aquarium, we noticed a little girl running back and forth near the front entrance crying and calling for her Mama. She was a tiny little thing, maybe two years old, and I got down low to look her in the eye and said, "Are you lost, sweetie?" and she screamed like I was a terrible monster and ran away from me.

I stood back up to and looked over to ask Shawn what we should do next, when I suddenly noticed that the little girl was flanked on all sides by people who were staring at her (and at me, for having tried to interact with her). Someone had already alerted the staff about the little lost girl (who, it turned out, spoke only Spanish, which I hope is why she found my question so alarming and not because of my face) and while waiting for a translator to show up who could talk to her and help her find her Mama, a small crowd had gathered around the girl.

These people were all keeping their distance so they wouldn't frighten her, but each one was doing their part to make sure the girl didn't leave the vicinity and wasn't picked up by anyone who wasn't clearly "Mama".

It was really rather heartwarming to realise just how many people were a part of this operation, how many people had taken note of her distress and were all keeping an eye on her, and each other, to ensure this ended well.

Shawn said to me, "Poor little thing. She's so scared... but look, she's probably never been safer in her entire life." Sometimes people are more good than I think they are.


Tonight I was supposed to meet C so we could go to a play. Due in part to my dawdling, and in part to traffic, I was later than I was supposed to be and I arrived with only seconds to spare, rather than the half hour we'd planned.

Fortunately, C had read some information and discovered that the play was going to be three hours long plus a twenty minute intermission, and wasn't in the mood to sit still for that long. When she said that I was completely relieved because I don't think I could have stayed awake that long sitting in the dark after the busy weekend we've had. At times I realise that I'm not as much of a theatre lover as I pretend I am.

Instead we went to a restaurant. I had a glass of ginger beer (which is not beer) and she had Yardie Fries which are made with yams. Yuck.


Something I admire is people who are able to dedicate their lives, or even just a significant amount of time to a cause. I don't really understand how anyone has the attention span to stay focused on one thing for a long time like that. It sort of bothers me that I feel that in spite of feeling passionate about many different important things, I tend to get distracted and flit from one thing to another so much so that I probably don't make any real difference to anything or anyone. I get worked up about a particular issue and do a whole lot for a really short period of time, and then move on to something else. I think that I'm probably wasting my energy by operating that way. But I have no staying power. I want instant results, like most of our wasteful North American society wants them, and when I don't get them I give up.

This is why I will probably never write a book or become very good at playing my guitar. Because I don't have the patience that is necessary to invest significant amounts of time in practicing and honing a skill. I just want things to happen fast.

If I spend my Saturday handing out hot chocolate and dry socks to homeless people, I want to see less homeless people on the street by next weekend, and the ones that are left had better be wearing my socks and be giving me high fives when I walk by. Eight weeks in Africa really ought to be enough to change the world.

Sometimes my brain doesn't work like an adult's.


Some say

Yesterday we spent the day at the Aquarium. After five hours there we were wet from both rain and whale splash, and completely exhausted but simultaneously awed and filled with
wonderment at all we'd learned and seen and done. The best part of the day was when we got to go and help prepare a meal for one of the whales and then go in to the enclosure and feed her with the trainer, and have her kiss us and splash us and let us touch her. There are, of course, no photos of that part of our adventure because they don't allow you to bring your cameras into the enclosure, but we are promised to receive a CD with photos they took for us within a week or so.

The other exhibits were incredible and though my camera (and skill) aren't impressive, I am posting some pictures of a few of the things we saw.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

A little fall of rain can hardly hurt me now

I'm excited about tomorrow. I have family coming to visit. I was finally inspired to clean up the guest bathroom and bedroom, put up some pictures, make the bed, put out towels and candles and make it feel like home.


Monday, November 12, 2007


Remembrance Day used to trouble me. I was never sure whether I wanted to close my eyes and remember because remembering with too much fanfare felt like glorifying something I disagree with. I didn't know how to reconcile the importance of remembrance with the importance of the statement I wanted to make about war being wrong.

Then when I started teaching, the Remembrance Day assembly became one of my jobs to take care of, and suddenly I had to figure out how to say what I wanted to say really clearly so I could live with it, and live with the fact that I was taking a class full of kids through the process with me, and an entire school through the discoveries I made about my own feelings on war and remembrance.

Each year it became more difficult to find a veteran of World War II who was healthy enough to come and speak to a gymnasium full of children who knew nothing of war except what they learned from their Playstations. And each year I managed to find one, I listened even more carefully to what was said.

And remembrance doesn't mean we say our soldiers were heroes any more than any other country's soldiers. They were young boys who trusted and believed. And some of them got to come home and try and start a new life, and some of them never did. And we remember the tragedy of what was lost because remembering that loss of life, and that loss of innocence, is supposed to help us do better in the future.

The day that Chretien told Bush Canada would not go to Iraq was a moment in my life that I can remember being proud of my country in a way I'd never experienced. Love for my country, yes. Appreciation, yes. But pride. This was new. I felt proud.

I'm not proud of all the decisions our politicians make, or the voting public as a whole. Not proud of many of the decisions Harper has made since then about Afghanistan. And I'm not proud of myself for not being nearly as politically active or even politically aware as I should be.

But I feel that remembrance is a step forward rather than back. It's like a prayer simultaneously for the Past and for the Future.


Sunday, November 11, 2007

one fish two fish

This is a painting that I started working on last week and then gave up when the middle fish refused to cooperate. I painted him in, then painted him out. And now he's a murky glimmer at the bottom of the pond who will neither surface nor swim away.

It's not a good painting. In addition to the middle fish refusing to look like a fish, the other two don't look quite right either. And the lily pads aren't very lilyish.

Basically, I never even try to paint anything that's real because I am not talented enough to reproduce things in ways that look very realistic, so instead, I try to do this stylized thing where they're recognizable, but not real looking. It's supposed to let me off the hook. But for some reason, where it comes to fish, it's not working. I asked Shawn to fix it for me and he said no. He wants me to fix it myself. Don't think that's going to happen.

Maybe Ivy can fix it.


you think we're here to play the game of who loves more than who

Thursday I followed the school buses up to the camp and spent the whole day there. I left just after dinner and went to work on Friday. Then I got up early on Saturday morning and drove back to the camp to spend that day with the kids too. The drive on Saturday morning was gorgeous; I was in the heart of the Rockies as the sun rose and landed at camp just as they were serving breakfast. I still have trouble believing, at times, that I live in this astonishing place.

The camp was beautiful and the kids were really great too. Each school in the city had brought their five (or so) best drama students, so the whole place was just busting with creative energy. To be honest, I enjoyed other teachers' kids more than I enjoyed my own - but I'm trying to remind myself that their lack of trust has to do with the fact that they've had a new teacher every year for five years, and not much to do with me.

I also enjoyed spending time with the other teachers and realised that if, at the end of this year, I end up being forced to move schools, it could be a good thing after all. Of course sameness is always more comfortable, but it sounds like there are a lot of other good options out there if it doesn't happen to work out that way. PL, the president of the association, said his partner teacher is retiring in the near future - and told me to come and meet his administrative team. The idea of having a teaching partner to work with instead of being all alone is rather appealing. If only I could find someone I liked working with and shared a vision with. I don't know PL well enough to know if he could be that person, but I liked the idea that it was possible. And that there were other options available.


Friday, November 09, 2007

I think that people who knew me before and after, both, can probably see that I'm not the same. I doubt that anyone has tracked why because you'd really have had to be paying attention and I don't think anyone pays attention that closely except Shawn. But I do feel different, even now.

I feel as though I made a lot of mistakes today. It's not like turning a bolt in the wrong direction or something so easily defined, just a general sense of not doing as well as I want to. Leaves me feeling uneasy.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

nothing and like it

My goal to take and post at least one picture every day is more work than I realised. It requires more thought than I sometimes care to extend myself to doing. So no picture today. I got nothing. But tomorrow (or maybe Friday) bodes well. I am going on a field trip tomorrow to a healing house for a camp with five of my students, and I anticipate beautiful grounds that will want their picture taken.

Because I am a miserable cuss I rejected the initial plan, which was that I was supposed to spend the night at the camp with the kids both tomorrow night and Friday night and come home with them on Saturday. I didn't want to spend the night with them, and I didn't want to spend a night away from my family. I'm gotten mighty fussy in my crotchety old age.

So I arranged to go with them tomorrow just for the day, drive home in the evening, have them mommied by someone else for Friday and then drive back up to be with them again on Saturday. It's not ideal, especially since it's a long drive, but I prefer it to the other alternative.


I think I might need to go to the doctor, but I'm not sure. Last week I hurt myself. I was at school for parent teacher interviews, and at the end of the evening I walked into my classroom to grab my coat. The lights were off and like a dummy, I stroke confidently (and quickly) across the room, thinking my path was clear, forgetting about the giant wooden drama box in my way. I cracked my shin and my knee really hard. Because it all happened so fast I'm not sure how I managed to hurt both, but I think I hit my shin on the box and then my knee on the floor when I fell. In any case, both turned all kinds of colours for several days. The knee seems much better, but my shin seems to be getting worse instead. The bruises are blossoming all over my leg and each time one part fades another part blooms into purple and blue colours, all the way from the shin to my foot. And the part where I struck the box is still swollen like I have a second knee. I showed it to the sports medicine teacher at my school and he says he thinks it might be a hairline fracture. (When Shawn said that to me last week, of course, I told him it couldn't be a fracture because I could walk on it. Hee.) So now I'm not sure if I should bother getting it seen to, or what. If it is a hairline fracture, what can they do for me? I really don't want crutches or any such cumbersome nonsense, but neither do I want my leg to turn gangrenous and fall off, or to become hideously deformed and crooked. I'm still in the mode where I'm hoping it will get better and the problem will be solved on its own without me having to do anything about it.


Today was "Bring Your Kid To Work Day", and I brought two kids to work. They aren't mine, but they didn't have any parents interested in bringing them to work, so we pretended.


Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Monday, November 05, 2007

love you to love me

Yesterday I planted things in planters. I've never lived anywhere where it made sense to plant things outside at this time of year - but here, it's common to put out winter plants and after consulting with someone at the nursery who knew things about what to choose for winter months, this is what I came up with.


Today was hard. And by the end of it all I just felt beaten up and wounded all over. I was glad things seemed to turn in the right direction by the end of it... but even having to confront people in the first place is hard for me. I don't like confrontation in the least - but it arrived at a point where I had to say something. So I guess it's good that I came out with what needed to be said, and it was also good (and surprising) to have support from people I didn't expect to have support from. I just wish it hadn't been necessary in the first place. And I really really hope it's over now. Because I'm getting weary.


Sunday, November 04, 2007

In the old place, I shovelled snow from October through April most years. Here, the challenge will be leaves. I don't really think I could be any happier about that. I love the leaves. I love yard work. Shovelling snow was something that had to be done in order to keep mailmen and flyer carriers from breaking their necks on our property, but raking leaves is a choice. And it's a choice I make happily.

The purply-red tree in the back yard has finished doing its thing, and now the yellow tree is at it, as well as a different red tree in the front. It's gotten cool enough now that the pups need to wear sweaters when they come outside to help me, cool enough that I'm wearing a toque. But the grass is still green green green. And I am told it will be all year long. I'm still amazed by that idea.

I'm delighted by the leaves here, and by the whole season. In Alberta, summer usually fades out into winter in a matter of a couple of weeks, so fast it's over before you really realise it's begun. And the leaves are all yellow because the trees are all poplars. Poplars grow well and survive the harsh winters and so every neighbourhood is busting with them and not much else. Here, every tree has changed in a different way, unexpectedly brilliant colours, and I'm completely thrilled by them. It's the way I always wanted autumn to feel.


Saturday, November 03, 2007

sunny days that I thought would never end

I keep trying to remind myself to take pictures of things every day - and forgetting. So I'm putting up an old picture of Little Puppy wearing her sweater. When we got her this sweater, at first we thought something was wrong with her, that she might be ill, because she started lying around on her back like this without moving, without getting up for any reason. We eventually discovered that when we took the sweater off, she would return to her usual bouncy self. The sweater, I think, is just too comfortable, and saps her will to move. I can relate. I have some pajamas like that.


Yesterday I wished I had my camera as I crossed the bridge during sunrise. What I saw before me was amazing: the bridge over the ocean, tall glass buildings in the distance reflecting the sunrise so much that they appeared to be on fire, and the mountains behind them, and the sky.

Of course taking pictures while driving isn't recommended and would have been unsafe, but had I brought the camera with me, I think I might have risked it anyway because I'm sometimes just irresponsible like that.


This morning we had breakfast at the inlaws' place. I am learning that at the inlaws', much like I have heard about being in Japan, one must exercise caution with compliments. If I tell them I like something in their house, they promptly box it up for me to take home. Today we came home with cheese scones (which I didn't feel bad about in the least) and several candles, which did make me feel a little guilty because by now I should be able to predict this will happen. No more compliments from me.


Shawn's Dad is coming over tonight while J is out. Shawn went shopping to buy a bottle of wine and some wood for the fireplace, and I stayed home to tidy up the kitchen. While he was gone I was thinking about our life. Well, life in general, too, the way I've spent a lot of my life looking forward to the next phase. In university I couldn't wait to be done with my education so I could get out into the workforce and start earning a living instead of accumulating debts. And when I arrived in the world of work, I looked forward to to a day when I could afford not to work and go back to school. I looked forward to Shawn finding the right job for him, and then when those things happened, I looked forward to finding work again. It seemed like we were always waiting for something to happen so something else could happen... always looking forward instead of living in the present.

And now I have this different feeling, like we've arrived at the place I want to be and there isn't really anything else I'm waiting for. Though I anticipate many more special events in our life together, I don't feel, anymore, as though I'm just getting through something so I get to the other side of it. I feel like this is right where I want to be. I want to live here, I want this job, I want this home, I want this life, this marriage, this family. I want what I have right now. That means anything more is just a lottery prize.

Shawn, when he arrived back home, put the wine and the fire logs away and then turned to me and said, "I like our life here."


Friday, November 02, 2007

the season's already changing

Part two of the conference was also good, though nothing really compared to the opening speaker. Having the chance to spend some time with colleagues was probably the most valuable part, and being in a position to help write some policy for next year is also a good thing as it might help to ensure that I get to keep my job. There is, of course, no guarantee of that where unions are involved, but it lines up the arrows in my favour.

The weekend has arrived and I feel like I'm coming down with something. I hope I'm mistaken about this, but I feel sort of icky.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

just can't remember who to send it to

I got lost on my way to the conference this morning and had the chance to use my cell phone for about the third time in my life when it was actually useful in a semi-important moment as Shawn was able to direct me back to the right place. It's beautiful here, but the roads are confusing. Where I used to live, you could tell when you left the city limits by all the cows and wheat fields. Here, the cities all seem to touch each other, and the only way to know you've entered a new one is by the sign welcoming you to it, once you're already thoroughly lost. Still, sometimes when I'm driving across the bridges I am so awed by how beautiful it is here that I almost can't breathe.

The conference was interesting. From a purely social perspective, I enjoyed getting the opportunity to talk to some of my new colleagues who I had not, as of yet, gotten to know. Look at me, enjoying people. Weird.

As for the sessions themselves, they were a mix (as is generally expected) of both interesting and tedious. The opening speaker was, for me, quite fascinating. I was really amazed to hear about the growing wave of psychologists practicing "hypno-rebirthing" in spite of the fact that research and empirical data shows that it accomplishes nothing. In fact I had a small private snort to myself because it struck a chord that reminded me of my own unsupported beliefs not so long ago, now debunked much to my relief. Just because something seems to make sense, or feels right, doesn't mean it is. Sometimes science proves that we fool ourselves into believing things that we just really want to believe.

The second session I attended was dull, and I blame myself because I chose this session based upon what the others from my school were going to attend rather than choosing what I, personally, thought looked interesting in the program.

When it came time for the last session, I toughened up and stopped acting like a teenager and picked something that I wanted to learn about for myself. And it turned out to be pretty good. But too long. Three hours of sitting in a chair is hard for me. I don't like not being able to move around. I don't know how I ever got through school.

I am attending the conference again tomorrow. And then it's the weekend. Yay.


Tuesday, October 30, 2007

the trouble with women

I have a hard time with jobs that go on endlessly and don't have clear cut end points. I guess what this means, literally, is that I am a person who does better with deadlines than without them because when I have all the time in the world to do something, I take all the time in the world to do it. I like things that begin and end neatly.

This is something that makes teaching difficult for me. A year is too long. Even a semester is too long. My desk gets messy. If only I could get things done quickly, all at once, with no distractions, they'd get done so much better, so much more efficiently, and so much more thoroughly. I like it when a teaching year ends and I can safely sweep off the top of my desk into a garbage can.

This is what I like about the writing projects, for the most part, because they come with deadlines and usually when I'm finished writing them, they go to someone else's desk for production and I never have to look at them or think about them again. And so I'm irritated by the fact that one of the safety courses keeps coming back to bug me again and again. I finished writing it in August, and it's still pestering me. It drives me crazy when people phone me to ask me questions that are answered in the writing. Knowing that they are going to have to read the document anyway, why don't they just go ahead and do that first? It's a pain, trying to answer their questions, after I've already swept my desk.

Right now I feel like too many things are going on at once. Yesterday's meeting was encouraging in the fact that the clients are only looking for a half hour course. The last one I wrote was nearly five hours long, so this one seems significantly more manageable. However, the other writing project that I've been brought in on is happening simultaneously and I already feel confused trying to keep helicopters separate from investment fraud, while the Safety Course continues to nag me for answers.

(Shawn always says that he wants me around in case of the apocalypse because from all this course writing, I know how to drive snowploughs, build scaffolding, administer all types of emergency first aid, catch money launderers, build roads, drive schooners, and make emergency landings in a helicopter. This doesn't even scratch the surface of all my many talents. Of course all this knowledge is entirely theoretical and if I was actually called upon to DO any of these things, I would likely kill or injure many people.)

And while trying to separate my helicopters from my criminals, K says there's a third writing project coming down the pipe. With three simultaneous writing projects, I am already quite confused. But when I add to that my Drama classes that I'm teaching, the student teacher I am mentoring, and the play I am directing, I feel as though I no longer know which direction I'm facing from one minute to the next.

The problem is that I always take on more than I should. I get bored and feeling useless when I'm not doing something. And yet, when I'm at the hub of too much activity with too many people asking for my help, I feel irritated and panicked.

I think I have about two more days before the hurricane really hits, so I'm trying to enjoy a few more breaths before I no longer have time for that.


Sunday, October 28, 2007

I've been smiling lately dreaming about the world as one

I wonder whether it's the time I've spent away that gives me a little more patience (in which case the longer I stay the more my newfound patience will deteriorate again) or whether it has to do with getting older (in which case my patience could foreseeably continue to stretch on forever). I'm hoping it's the latter because it's pleasant, this reserve of patience I've only recently discovered.


The upcoming week is busy. I am going to be "sick" tomorrow because I need to attend some meetings downtown with K and his people. I don't like these meetings and always feel my presence is unnecessary, but K seems to feel being there is important and so I will be. We are, however, meeting privately prior to the other meeting, and I am going to let him know that while I'm willing to continue to write for him and work behind the scenes, he should not expect me to meet with his clients with any kind of regularity. I'm putting my teaching work first at this point.

On Tuesday I am teaching, but will be darting out on my lunch break to meet with another of K's clients, and then racing back to school. This is exactly the kind of thing I do not want to make a habit of as it technically breaks some board policies and because I want to focus on only one thing at a time if that's at all possible.

Wednesday will be a more normal day, and then on Thursday and Friday I am going to a conference (for teachers, this time) with my principal and a few other keen types who want to talk about protecting kids from bullying and creating a clearly defined code of conduct. I am attending for several different reasons. One, of course, is that I truly do believe that kids need and have the right to feel safe at school, and when the opportunity arose to be involved in something that I care about, I offered to be a part of the process. The other (selfish reason) is that I hope it will help my career, at least somewhat, to spend some time with the administrators, being part of something they care about too.


Last night the inlaws came over for dinner and drinks. The dogs are starting to like them which is encouraging because I dream of one day being able to go on a holiday with Shawn and have them well taken care of by someone with whom they feel comfortable. Having grown up with hardy dogs that adjusted easily to whatever was thrown their way, I am sometimes astonished by the fussiness of our little neurotic trio. And yet, they fit us well. We aren't exactly a hardy and adaptable lot ourselves some of the time.

Yesterday afternoon I did garden work. One of the trees dropped orange leaves, another one turned a beautiful shade of brilliant red and then dropped a zillion more leaves. The leaves, though red on one side, were sort of pale pink on the other side, and when they were all piled up on the lawn and in the dirt under the tree, they looked like gigantic piles of confetti. After admiring them for a couple of weeks, I decided to rake them and bag them like a responsible home owner should do. Little Puppy had the good sense to stay inside where it was warm and dry, but Boy Dogs couldn't resist the appeal of mud and leaves and spent the afternoon chasing each other through the leaves and trying to eat my gardening gloves. My dear husband, during all the chaos, cleaned the kitchen. It made me laugh because it reminded me so much of my own parents; all summer on Saturday afternoons, my father did laundry and sewing while my mother mowed the lawn. I'm glad we're inside out.


Tuesday, October 23, 2007

make no mistake where you are

A. died yesterday. I remember feeling like this at C's mother's funeral, only having met her once or twice, not knowing her well enough to be truly directly affected, and yet still feeling, sitting in a room filled with people who are wracked with grief, my own kind of pain. Grieving has a ripple effect and when people you love are hurting, you cannot help but feel their pain alongside them. I didn't know A, but I care about the people who miss her. And I feel their pain through them. And I cannot help but feel the heavy weight of my own mortality pressing against my spine, and that of my own loved ones, when I think of young mothers dying and leaving behind babies and broken hearted husbands. I'm scared this is going to happen to T, her husband, her baby.

They gave us pamphlets about coping with loss; it talked about the typical stages that teenagers will go through. I read it - and noticed that my own stages of grief in my losses have been similar. More like a teenager than an adult. Like them, I feel betrayed by my god that this kind of thing happens in the world. I am overcome by feelings of helplessness and fear that this will happen again and again in circles growing tighter and tighter to my core. I feel Beckett's existential gloom.

This is the second death since I started thinking of it. I don't want a third one. Please.


I am torn between trying to change the culture and trying to fit into it. I don't really like the pre-existing culture in which there is so much noise, so little listening. So little respect for one another. Or so it seems. One of them told me I shouldn't assume that interrupting and cutting one another off was rude, because here, like in cultures where it is considered polite to burp to show appreciation for a good meal, rudeness and respect are shown differently. While I can appreciate that the culture is different, it bothers me a great deal.

And this is where I have to decide how to proceed and I'm struggling a bit with knowing what I should do. If I had, in fact, moved to another country where respect and rudeness truly were demonstrable in different ways, then it would be smartest for me to learn the ways of the people around me and fit in as much as possible - or at least accept what was going on around me. And that is what I would do. That is what I have done.

But here, now, I don't know whether I'm a temporary guest (requiring me to fit in with them) or whether it is my home (requiring them to fit in with me). If I knew the answer it would guide my behaviour.

As it is, knowing nothing, I am floating around unsure of myself. Sometimes I feel like I'm making progress, and sometimes I feel like I'm getting nowhere.


Sunday, October 21, 2007

Victor's Anchor

Tomorrow I promised the grade 12s a "sharing session" - as a break from all the heavy, emotional work they've been doing in class with monologues. The idea is to share something special; an item, a story, a song, a skill, whatever... and in keeping with my promise not to assign them any work I wouldn't do myself, I have been trying to think of what I want to share with them and I keep coming up with nothing.

I don't want to play my guitar for them, I don't want to sing for them, I don't want to show them my paintings, I don't want to tell them anything personal. I just don't feel like sharing with these people. It's weird to feel that way, knowing that they're actually becoming easier to deal with... but I guess I just don't trust them enough to share much yet.


After breakfast and a bit of shopping for dog food and dog treats, I spent several hours unpacking boxes. It annoys me that it takes us so long to unpack, that we allow things to sit in boxes for months, even years, sometimes. Some of the boxes I unpacked today were things we hadn't unpacked since our last move, which was in June of 2005. Ridiculous.

It was sort of fun to find old paintings and candle holders and decorations that I haven't seen in a long time. In some cases it was interesting to see how much more I liked things I'd thought weren't so great the last time I saw them. And also how some things I'd loved very much looked less special now. I guess my tastes are still changing.

It made me want to start painting again, seeing all the old studies as well as finding a few empty canvases that would like to be painted. I haven't hung up any of the pictures, just stacked them all up against the wall, but having freed them from their boxes and brown paper wrappings brings them one (big) step closer.


Saturday, October 20, 2007

The Wars

She didn't just die peacefully in her sleep the way we originally thought. She actually reached out and turned off her own respirator.

This fact is being concealed from Shawn's grandfather who, it is believed, would not take this news well.

It's strange how something like that can be looked at in such opposite ways. To Shawn, this was a comfort, the notion that she had been in control of her own final moments, in control of her last breaths. That she had chosen her time and died with dignity. But the idea that his grandfather would see it as a decision against choosing to be with him, a decision to abandon him, is very possible. When I think of my own parents, I wish them (no time soon) such a graceful passing - and yet when I think of my spouse, perhaps it is different. I just don't know.


I just got an email from T; she isn't doing well. Her mother is dying of cancer while she fights her own battle with it - and her father, though faring better at this stage - also has cancer. She, as their only child, is trying to manage their finances and settle their property and make other arrangements while enduring chemotherapy and trying to raise a toddler. It seems that some people are given so much more to cope with than is truly endurable. Her own chemotherapy, of course, is making her frail and weak and she was admitted to hospital in another city while trying to help her parents and visiting her dying mother in hospital... how is she supposed to manage all this? I feel helpless and empty wishing there was something I could do, being powerless.


The things I am most afraid of are the things I never write here because I feel as though putting them down in writing makes them more real, more true. I have been afraid for the last four days that my parents were missing or dead. They were due to arrive in Arizona on Monday and so, with the idea of giving them a day to unpack, I started calling on Tuesday. Their phone just rang and rang with no answering machine as was expected. By last night I was getting terrified. It isn't like my parents to be out late or to spend the night away from home.

Eventually I called one of their neighbours and asked her to go and check if they had, in fact, arrived at their house at all. I was thinking of all the roadway they'd have travelled and wondering if they'd been in an accident on the way. The neighbour said their vehicle was there, but that when she knocked on the door she got no answer. This was late enough at night that I found it strange and I began to fear not only for them, but also for their dog. What if something had happened to them and the dog was alone in the house without food or water?

I had been debating calling the police, wondering if I needed to call the police in AZ or in their home city, wondering how to begin the process of searching for missing people, and realising just how little information I actually have about my parents in terms of knowing who their friends are and how to find them in an emergency. Being borderline Luddites, they don't even own a cell phone.

This morning I contacted their property manager (they live in a gated community) and he said that he'd seen them that morning walking their dog and that they'd been in to the clubhouse to use the telephone and computer. This was a huge relief. A few minutes later I received an email from them saying that their phone and internet service is out and that's why they've been unreachable.

This mortality stuff is really starting to get to me. There was a time, not long ago at all, really, when I probably wouldn't have even noticed if my parents were out of contact for a few days because I wouldn't have tried to reach them anyway, or wouldn't have worried if they'd not responded. Last night and early this morning I was literally nauseous with fear.


After receiving the news that my parents are, in fact, alive, we went to the hardware store to look at kitchen sinks. How do we switch gears so quickly? How do people come home from war and go back to work at Sears selling button down shirts?


Friday, October 19, 2007

Shawn's grandmother died early this morning. She was quite elderly and had been suffering with pneumonia for awhile - so it wasn't unexpected - but no matter how prepared you might be, being awoken at 5:00am with the news that someone you love is gone is always hard.

He's driving his father to the airport this morning, who's flying back to be with his father. (Longevity runs in Shawn's family. This was the first grandparent he has lost.)

And for me, today is a professional day, but not the kind with any sort of directed activities, the kind where you're supposed to find something to do on your own that will professionally develop you. I asked (half-jokingly) if it was okay to stay at home and read - and to my surprise I was told it was fine. It really beats the hell out of going to a conference, at least at this point, because networking doesn't interest me and I want to be here for Shawn when he gets home.


Thursday, October 18, 2007

past the shipyards in the cold

I think a lot of young children go through a phase where they begin to understand and process the idea of death and dying, and during that phase may even become a little preoccupied with the concept. I feel like that's happening to me now, belatedly, like I'm just beginning to understand how serious and final death really is.

And not only is it weighing heavily on my mind; it's taking up a lot of space in my consciousness. When Shawn is five minutes later than I thought he would be getting home from work, I think, what if he's dead? When I think about T, struggling with breast cancer and chemo treatments, I wonder what will happen to her daughter if she dies. When my parents drive to Arizona, I feel scared they will be killed in a car accident.

I don't know why this is happening now; it's not as though I haven't had normal exposure to the fact that we lose people. I've lost friends. I've lost family. But lately I've been thinking about it more ~ and feeling some of that existential angst that goes with the idea of working all your life to be free of debt and to have the ability to travel and enjoy life just as you want to... with the ironic hand of death reaching for you just as you think you're free. And more than that, a suddenly very frightening reality that I will likely lose people closer and closer to me. Or that they will lose me. I don't know which is scarier. Actually, yes I do. I don't want to be alone.


Wednesday, October 17, 2007

you can't teach an old dog new tricks

I messed up tonight's plans completely. I've been getting better at being more organized as I've gotten older (and wiser) but tonight was a gong show. There wasn't a lot of time to spare and I really didn't plan ahead even nearly enough to make it work.

The plan was supposed to be that after rehearsal I would rush home, load up the dogs, drive to the vet for booster shots, race them back home, feed them dinner, and then race back out to the restaurant to meet the inlaws and Shawn as he was getting back from work.

Instead, after rehearsal I dashed home, spent an eon searching high and low for the door to the dog crate for transporting the puppies, left the house with only exactly enough time to make it to the vet's office without a second to spare, realised as I pulled out of the driveway that I didn't have my wallet and had left it back at the school, turned toward the school, realised halfway to school that I had left the school keys at home, raced back home, picked up the school keys, realised there was no chance I was going to make the vet appointment on time, called Shawn from the cell phone, had him cancel and reschedule the appointment and then drove home.

The only pleased parties are the dogs. They got a car ride, a treat, and no needles. And dinner fifteen minutes early. It's a dog's life.

I love idioms and expressions that have dogs in them. Like dog days of summer. And dog Latin. Sick as a dog, in the doghouse, dog tired, dog's breakfast, three dog night, dog eat dog, every dog has its day, tail wagging the dog... there are just so many. Well, maybe that's it. I'm out.


Today was interesting. My grade twelves started performing their monologues today and in spite of the disappointing attitude that some of them have demonstrated - the monologues were truly amazing. I was proud of all of them... and made an extra effort to squeeze out a tear or two just to show them how powerful they were. It was really exciting to see how much thought, effort and energy they had put into planning, rehearsing and performing.

After rehearsal tonight some of them hung around and chatted a bit, which was also encouraging. Bit by bit I feel like I'm going to win. Just going to take some time. And I have lots of that.


I had a dream last night that I went to visit my old school (brought on, no doubt, by the threat hanging over me of the old Drama teacher coming to visit my current school). Much to my annoyance, the school had somehow come up with zillions of dollars since I'd left and managed to create a beautiful theatre space for the new teacher complete with private office, endless storage, theatre seating, greenroom, etc., etc., etc.. To make matters worse, she was somehow managing to put on full length Broadway-style musicals with the same kids I'd struggled to get much out of whatsoever. It was disheartening and made me feel totally incompetent.

I guess dreams like that are a way of purging those dogged (another one) fears.


I think this isn't a real expression, but when I was in high school, we used to call the kind of actors who tried to steal the show as Messanger #3, "doggits". The verb of course, was "to doggit".

"Stop doggiting. You're such a doggit."


Tuesday, October 16, 2007

wherever the highways go

We've started walking at night again, with the rain or shine approach that is necessary when you live on the coast. Much like things couldn't be called off on account of cold weather when living on the prairies, rain can't stop things here - or nothing would ever happen. I like walking at night when it's a bit cool and I like walking with Shawn. We talk about our days and make plans for the weekend and for the rest of our lives.