Sunday, December 30, 2012

Canadian novelist

My writing teacher was not especially enamoured of my writing.  Sacrificing clarity through muddy stylistic choices, was, I think, what she said.  She could not imagine that the lack of clarity was intentional, that a writer would want anything but a wide open Saskatchewan skyline that revealed everything with complete clarity.  I wanted to tell her that God hates Saskatchewan, but it's only a theory and I have no concrete evidence (of God or of God's geographic preferences).  It was a wobbly fog that obscured her skyline first, because she could not unravel what this meant.  Fog could be grey, fog could be cold, fog could be heavy.  But it simply would not wobble for her, no matter how long she looked at it.  It wobbled for me, I told her, and she let it go.

But we were back in deadlock the next day when I wrote that I was trying to understand the lipstick that had bled into the lines of the Husky House waitress' mouth.  Understand was the wrong word, she said.  It wasn't even a stylistic choice, it was just simply an error.  I wanted to tell her about the funeral that morning, how Jesse had whispered to me during the service that Ghost River was alive, I wanted to tell her how it felt to ride the C-train in funeral clothes, so she could see why the day ended with me staring at the waitress' lipstick-stained teeth and trying to understand the way the lipstick bled into the lines around her smoker's mouth.  But all those pieces would only make things less clear, not more clear.  I crossed out the offending sentence and wished Joyce Carol Oates was my teacher instead.

I told her, once, conspiratorialy, about the reams of writing with which I do nothing.  Oh, she said.  I have published everything I have ever written. 


Saturday, December 29, 2012

don't stop giving me things

It would have made more sense for me to say yes, and go meet Rob somewhere for a drink tonight.  But I felt no inclination to do what made sense when he asked -- and now I have committed, instead, to meet him downtown tomorrow morning for breakfast before his flight.  I do not especially want to do that either but I feel more comfortable with meetings that have externally imposed endings and in this case I feel more comfortable with meetings that do not involve ingesting alcohol.  (And for the sake of thematic coherence, I also find spontaneity less charming than I used to.)


This afternoon after running in the cold rain, I accidentally tested the colour therapy option in the infrared sauna.  I knew it was there but never felt drawn to it, but somehow today while fumbling for the interior light I inadvertently clicked the colour therapy button and was immediately mesmerized by the flicking lights.  I couldn't decide which colour I wanted, so I picked the tacky Christmas lights option that includes all three, and spent the next hour with red, blue, and green lights gamboling across my hot skin.  I do not know what colour therapy is meant to do, not really, but having just been running in the cold, and then overcome with warmth and silence, my reaction was to want to fall asleep with coloured lights dancing across my eyelids.


Thursday, December 20, 2012

Crazy, Crazier, Craziest

Well.  Crazy Sue and I had a fight today.  Not a physical fight, not even yelling, really, though I was screaming inside my head.  But words, very direct and very unfriendly words.

Conflict makes me feel yukky.  Arguing and aggression make me really uncomfortable.  Really really uncomfortable, especially at work.  In fact, I have never had an argument with anyone at work before, never.  When I disagree with people at work, I usually just let them do their thing and give them a wide berth.  I like minding my own business.  It is less anxiety-provoking, and it is who I am.  Or rather, I mean, it is who I am not.  Not the kind of person to get wrapped up in work disputes.  I think of work as work, not as my life, and I try to keep a certain amount of internal distance between myself and my co-workers.  And their decisions and behaviours.

But Crazy Sue is so so so aggressive.  She attacks on a regular basis.  And I have been cowering and hiding from her for such a long time.  Today when she came to tell me that she was kicking my students out of a shared workspace, I dug in.  I told her no, I told her to stop telling me what to do, I told her I knew that she had been talking about me to the Department Head behind my back, I told her that I was tired of walking on eggshells because she rages so often, I told her to stop harrassing me and my students, and I told her that I am fed up with her.

It was very strange to say these things in a professional environment.  I never have, never, said anything like that to anyone at work.  To Crazy Sue's credit, she actually stopped yapping at me and listened.  I think she was startled.  She actually apologized, and said she wants to support my program more and to be more cooperative.  This was more than I hoped for, more than I actually want.  (I have no wish for her support, or her presence in my life.  But it would be nice if she would quit lying in my path and being a speed bump every time I am trying to accomplish something.)

Perhaps this is a turning point in my life, the point at which I start saying whatever I want to say to everyone who gets on my nerves a little.  Maybe I'll start picking fights in the photocopy line.  Or maybe I'll start throwing elbows whenever I'm irritated.  Might as well.  Being civilized hasn't been working out for me.


Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Lots of snow.  All the private schools, Catholic schools, and post secondary institutions are closed for the day.  Public school never closes, though.  Because the public sector, workers and customers, are just serfs.


Tuesday, December 18, 2012

I hit an orange cat today driving home from J's riding stables.  I saw it on the side of the road and slowed down because I was nervous about it being nearby.  And then it darted right into my wheels.  I stopped the car and got out to see if I could see the cat.  A woman with a dog was standing on the side of the road, and I was afraid it was her cat.  I asked her if I hit the cat because I hadn't actually heard or felt any impact.  She said, Yaaa in this kind of lazy way like it was no big deal, and I think I said, Oh my god, or maybe I apologized, or something equally clever.

I started looking for it on the side of the road but it was nowhere to be found.  The woman blew smoke at me and said, Well that's whatcha git fer speedin', like a dead cat was exactly what I deserved.  My just desserts.  Not what the cat deserved, of course, but what I deserved for speeding.  Except I wasn't speeding, I really wasn't.  I never speed on that road because it's a country road full of cats and rabbits and birds and stupid women walking their dogs.  I told her I wasn't speeding, though I don't know why I really bothered with that because it didn't matter.  I mean she clearly didn't care about the cat so there wasn't any need for me to defend myself.  But she said, Yeah ya were, and blew more smoke at me and then told her dog to go find the cat.  The dog did not respond in any way whatsoever.

I said, Was that your cat?  Or is there someone else I need to go talk to?  And she said, Naw it's jist some feral cat bin hangin' 'round my place.  I'll keep watch fer it.  Like maybe it was alive after all.  Like maybe I hadn't really hit it (I hope) or like maybe it wasn't killed and was just hiding somewhere while it got over its surprise.  I don't know.  I stared at her, feeling like I wanted to cry, and she said, It's at least the twentieth one this week.

I wonder if that was true or if she was just being mean.  I hated her.  I wanted to crawl down into the ditch and find the cat and take it to the vet and make it be okay.  I didn't do that.  I got back in my car and drove home, tried to pay attention to the road and not be upset, tried not to run over any other living things.


Sunday, December 16, 2012

the opposite of people

Last night I took J to see a play.  One (of many) wonderful qualities about J is that she likes theatre, and after many years of having no one in my immediate family with whom to attend plays, I once again have a theatre partner.

Shawn and I do not attend theatre together.  We aren't, to be honest, the type of couple that indulges one another's destestable habits, no matter how closely they are held dear.  Shawn, in addition to refusing to attend plays with me, will not eat sushi and will not go to the farmers' market.  It does not matter how I love these things, he will not indulge me.  (By the same token, I felt no hint of guilt when Shawn announced a budding interest in growing a pot plant in our house and I encouraged him to take his half of our amassed fortune and find a new home in which to test his gardening skills.)  This arrangement works, and I rarely catch Shawn dreaming of the life he didn't get to live as a drug baron.  And likewise, I do not resent his aversion to plays.  (And to be fair, I did once trick him - back when he still trusted me - into attending a Brad Fraser play which contained far more male nudity than even I anticipated.  It's like throwing your children into a lake to teach them how to swim.  Ineffective, and scarring.  And you remember those intimate types of abuse so much more vividly.)

But having J to attend plays with me is a nice change, and last night we saw a show in which her former singing teacher was performing.  J's former singing coach is a leathery old jazz singer, and in fact their relationship looks suspiciously like the plot of a Disney movie:  Sweet blue-eyed white girl and world-weary old black man make beautiful music together and forge a friendship that changes them both forever.  Something completely unpalatable like that.  All that keeps it from being nauseating is the fact that it's real, though I do not blame you in the least if you think I've become too lazy to be creative and am stealing plot lines from the Family Channel.  His performance was outstanding, and we spent a little time with him afterward catching up.  At the end of the show there was a raffle draw for a free turkey and J won it.  She wasn't terribly impressed, and neither was I when I got to carry it home on my lap on the train.  Dead carcasses aside, however, it was a very pleasant night.


Saturday, December 15, 2012

Something really ridiculous about our new heat pump is that if it gets too warm in the house and we decide to turn down the heat, the air conditioner kicks on instead of allowing the heat to drop naturally. (There are a number of times that belonging to the "first world" makes me feel guilty.  This is one of them.)


Thursday, December 13, 2012

i wish i was a little bit taller, i wish i was a baller

Working so many days in the Counselling Department this school year has permitted me to draw the following character sketches of its employees.

Counsellor #1 - M.  M has been counselling in the same school more than ten years.  She says she plans to retire from this school.  When I once repeated that to a colleague he told me rather sharply that someone should tell her that if she wants to retire she should start working first.  I wondered, at first, if staff perception of her lack of productivity was unfair.  After all, who really knows how much someone else is working?  But working with her more closely reveals that she is chronically late for work, and has trouble completing tasks she finds unpleasant.  She does, however, always have pretty nailpolish and nice clothes.  She is also friendly and likeable, apart from the simmering frustration with her lack of ability to finish anything.  When she is overwhelmed, she calls in sick for work, usually three days at a time.

Counsellor #2 - E.  E has been at the school only four years.  Her path to burnout has been sharp and steep.  She does not walk, she speedwalks down the halls of the building, because she is always in a mad panic and always late for something.  If you try to talk to her about kids you have concerns about, she sometimes snaps that she is too busy to see anyone who is not going to die today.  I'm not kidding; that's a direct quote.  E has moments of being a very effective counsellor, but unfortunately these moments are too easy to forget because she sometimes frightens the kids - and staff - by being so snappish.  When she is overwhelmed, she calls in sick for work.  Sometimes for up to two weeks at a time.

Counsellor #3 - N.  N is the newest of the Counsellors, and is the Department Head.  He is from Lebanon, and though he has been in Canada since his teens, he still makes some peculiar mistakes with English.  When he is trying to be nice, he sometimes sounds condescending instead.  I think this is unintentional, but it still rankles people.  N is witty but yet somehow has a way of missing the point quite frequently.  He likes things to be sequential and orderly and gets lost very easily if things do not unfold in a linear manner.  N likes to give the illusion of being supportive, and sometimes speaks in irritating platitudes.  Again, I think this is a language barrier.  I hope it is.  When he is overwhelmed, he goes to Very Important workshops that take him away from the Counselling office for a day or two.  Or three.

These three people support each other's terrible habits.  They take very long lunch breaks, much longer than the rest of the staff, under the pretense of "meeting".  And worse, this year they have developed a new terrible habit of leaving the main door to the Counselling Office closed and locked during the school day.  This, I assume, is to prevent them from having to talk to any students.  Because really, Counselling is a pretty awesome job if there's no one around demanding to talk to you.

These are the people I aspire to work with?  This is the career I've decided is where I really ought to go next.  I wonder if, once safely installed in my tiny little office, I will immediately become a self-important asshole too, too busy to help people, too busy to talk to people, too busy to come to work on time, too busy to unlock the goddamn door for chrissakes.  I wonder if I will notice that I am turning into the opposite of what I meant to be when I said I wanted to help.  Or if I will just be aggravated when people show up at the Counselling office wanting counselling, wondering impatiently how they dare.


Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Banana Co. (One Hundred Years of Solitude)

Last night I finished reading Robert Hare's book about his diagnostic tool, The Psychopathy Checklist. The book was called Without Conscience and it was not a light read in terms of content, but the writing was accessible which I found refreshing after reading so many densely written scholarly journal articles.  It all confirmed that psychopathy isn't especially treatable and that the course of action following diagnosis really needs to be about safety for the people who surround the psychopath rather than about trying to implement a cure, or even, really, much of a treatment.  To paraphrase Hare (who works at the University near me) and who is one of the world's foremost experts on psychopathology, the best way to treat a psychopath is to convince him that it is in his own best and self-serving interest to learn to operate within the rules of society to avoid punishment and other unpleasant consequences.  Because a psychopath has no conscience, attempts at empathy training are futile.

I finished that book (with some disappointment that it was over so quickly) and started reading a new book (fiction) called NW, by Zadie Smith.  NW, I deduce, refers to northwest London where the story takes place.  I've only just begun reading it, but already feel captivated so far by the writing style, which is odd and jumpy.  I like the stops and starts, I like the flashing blurry images that move in and out of my peripherial view before their edges can be felt.  The Kindle provides access to book reviews, and Smith's book wasn't especially well-liked by the customers of Amazon.  However, these are the same people that give fabulous reviews to a piece of plastic tupperware shaped like a banana and buy this stupid item by the boatload.  So the reviewers are obviously wankers, too busy with their bananas to appreciate literature.  I bought the book anyway.


Sunday, December 09, 2012

Heart whispers

Heart whispers was a phrase, I suspect, used by Oprah Winfrey to describe that thing when a voice inside yourself tries to talk to you.  I cannot swear it was Oprah, but there was a television show I once watched in which a woman described driving home from Christmas shopping at the mall and accidentally striking a bicyclist, killing her and taking her away from her family just days before Christmas.  An inner voice had spoken to her softly, she claimed, before she reached that intersection.  It had asked her not to take the usual way home.  Go a different way, it said.  She ignored it, brushed it aside, and then regretted not listening to that inner voice forever.  Heart whispers, said the host of the show confidently, (probably Oprah; it sounds like her, does it not?).  I always try to listen when my heart whispers.  I tried not to gag over that awhile.

The show was about how we can learn to listen to our instincts better, learn to trust those inner voices and let them lead us.  Because allegedly these inner voices, these heart whispers, can guide us away from car accidents and muggings and all manner of tragedy.

I was thinking about that show when I drove to the barn this afternoon to pick up J from her riding lesson.  My inner voice had encouraged me to take a different route, my heart had whispered if you will, and I had listened, and therefore I was lost.  I was lost in a field of cranberries and although I could see the barn in the distance, there was no discernable path that would take me there.  Listening to my inner voice is not the problem for me.  

The idea of needing to work on listening better to the impulsive voice inside me that shouts (not whispers) out suggestions is absurd.  My inner voice talks incessently, offering me all sorts of ridiculous advice.  Today it got me lost in field of cranberries, and it has, in the past, been responsible for getting me lost in many different cities.  When my inner voice says, Hey let's go this way instead, I go without hestitation.  The helpful inner voice also encouraged me once to do an inappropriate impersonation during a job interview, and frequently asks me to put things in my mouth that do not belong there.  It tells me to jump off bridges and cliffs, it tells me to jump out of boats into the sea, and it tells me yes yes yes.  I have never known it to keep me safe from car accidents (though how would I know?) ; rather it seems to propel me toward self-destruction.  My task is not to listen more closely to my heart, but to ignore it when it gets too rowdy.


Tuesday, December 04, 2012

high occupancy vehicles

Uh oh.  One of the things I have liked most about my Drama rats for the past three seasons is that they have been pretty much drama-free as far as personal dramas go.  They don't date each other, they don't fight with each other, they don't play diva.

But yesterday we started reading through the potential choice for the spring play, and suddenly I sense danger.  One of the stage managers came after the readthrough to tell me that several students have mentioned they do not want to work with a specific student director.  Shortly after that, that student director came to tell me that he is upset because he knows that someone else is going to audition for the part he wants and he feels that other student has already had too many lead roles.  On my way out the door after that, two girls told me what parts they want and mentioned that no one else had better audition for those parts, as though they intend to intidate anyone who might consider it.  And then in the evening I got two emails from a crazy mom who first wanted to offer me advice on how to run my program (it involved combining the choir with the theatre program so that I could teach sixty kids instead of thirty-five.... bloody brilliant) and then wanted to tell me how her daughter deserves a big part in this play because it's her senior year (though it's senior year for about 3/4 of them).

Suddenly the pressure is high and I have no idea why.  I'm scared!  This is my least favourite part of working in theatre, the part where I have to disappoint people and assign parts.  The personal drama part.  It may all still be fine, but my spider senses are definitely a-tingle.


I finished The Year of the Flood last night and was unable to start a new book because Shawn had done something strange to the wireless internet and was out playing hockey and therefore could not be called upon to fix it.  I think I have become dependent on this Kindle, which means I may need to learn how to do things to fix the router.  I might even have to learn what this router thing actually is, and where it is located.  Being bookless for the evening was strange.  I used my phone to look at book lists and dream of the book I would select if I could.  (This is very nerdlike, I know.)  I think normal people would have used this time to watch tv or pornography, but normal isn't my best strength.


On Sunday when we went grocery shopping, we stopped at the coffee shop for a pound of coffee, and somehow when we unloaded the groceries we left the coffee behind in the car.  This morning we ran out of coffee, prompting Shawn to go searching for the coffee we bought on the weekend.  And he found it in my car under my seat.  How on earth could I have been driving around with a pound of coffee under my car seat and not have smelled it?  I think my senses are fading.  For awhile now I've been convinced I'm going deaf, and now I think I'm losing my olfactory senses too.


Saturday, December 01, 2012

a STARS band aid

This afternoon I went to the dentist for a cleaning and check up.  The dental hygienist told me I have superteeth because I remain unstained by my coffee, tea, and red wine habits.  I might as well take up smoking since my teeth have decided they are up to the challenge.  I was relieved to hear my teeth were doing well because I have bad dreams about my teeth falling out of my head on a regular basis.  In my dreams they always start out okay and then start to crumble like a sugar cube when it gets wet, slowly dissolving, crumbling, melting into nothingness, and I spit out the pieces.  And dreams and reality have such fine gossamer between.  How could I know what to expect?  I expected problems, but for the next six months I can find something else to wonder.

After the dentist, I took J shopping for new boots, because teenagers need new boots every winter you know, especially when they share their boot room with a cat that likes to pee on things.  I also took her for dinner to celebrate her report card and just to spend time with her because I like her.  I really do like her.  (I wonder about that kind of thing, the liking; because I have a dark place inside me like an oil spill or an ink stain, because the most beautiful things need an ugly frame to set them off.  Because I rarely see myself in any picture, but often in the frame.)  But I examine my relationship with her carefully and it passes every test.  I love her in ways I do not recognize being loved.


Friday, November 30, 2012

I felt like destroying something beautiful

In many cases my solution to indecisiveness is simply waiting.  More often than not a decision will be made for me by someone more decisive than I am, someone who either will not wait, or by someone who Will. Not. Wait.  And I end up overemployed or unemployed, exhausted or bored, married or left, refusing responsibility for my outcomes and fully responsible for my paralysis and never certain what I would have chosen if I had ever gotten around to choosing.


The show is over (hallelujah).  My kids were really fantastic and worked hard, and the closing night show was really excellent.  I was proud of them, proud to have wrangled 35 kids into working together effectively and cooperatively, proud that I had something to do with them feeling so proud of themselves, proud to have helped facilitate one of those memorable high school experiences that becomes part of your core.  It was good.  But god, I'm glad it's over.

This is the first year that I have managed to get through my play with getting sick, or without, at the very least, feeling the need to take a mental health day off work to recover.  I have resorted to showing a movie during class to give me a breather -- but the movie is defensible and relevant, so I feel like I'm extraordinarily in control of my professional life at the moment.  What a strange feeling.

I think it's because I have had some help this year from the Parent Advisory Council.  Three PAC mothers have kids in my theatre program this year, and for the first time ever I have parents asking if they can help me find props and costumes, can they organize a pizza party for the kids, can they bring me a coffee?  I love this; it's a brand new phenomenon I've never experienced in my entire teaching career.  I am loving every minute of it, with the knowledge that their kids are going to graduate soon in the back of my mind so I don't get too accustomed to it.


Monday, November 26, 2012


When I see old friends I tend to worry that things will not go well.  I ask myself, what if they've changed?  Or worse, what if they have not changed?  What if they still expect us to drink ourselves into a stupor and then roam around looking for adventures?  What if they expect me to be the same as I was fifteen years ago?

I met R's plane in the late afternoon and then we drove to the ocean to walk in the mist.  (He took this photograph.)

We found a small Japanese restaurant on the Boardwalk and sat by the window drinking hot tea and eating hot soup and watching the ocean grow blacker and colder, the cold mist spreading across the street.  And talked some about back then.  And also about now.  Underlining the internal differences between then and now, and knowing each other newly and well, successfully I think.


Btw, I still count you as one of my best friends. I wish we could hang out and talk more often. Also, you are still a stunning woman, don't ever doubt that. Move back to *******, dammit!!!

Saturday, November 24, 2012

(sometimes you can't catch your breath)

Today is J's sixteenth birthday.  I want to write all those cliche things about how time has flown and I cannot believe she is growing up so fast, but those things are obvious and I have no way of knowing if I feel them or if my brain automatically jumps to these thoughts because I have read them and heard them so many times in so many situations for as long as I can remember.

Instead I will say that she is out tonight with Shawn's stepmum, who managed to wangle last minute tickets to Cirque du Soliel, and that she took off wearing my dress, my tights, my coat, and my scarf.  She looked beautiful and I sort of wished I was going with her instead, even though it would mean being in a crowded auditorium with thousands of other people.  (Being at home with Shawn, puppies, and a glass of wine is good too.)  But sometimes it seems sad that she will probably be out more and more as she gets older and eventually won't be able to find anything remotely interesting in my closet.  I wonder if my mother ever wished she had let me borrow her clothes when I was at the age where I wanted to.


Rob is flying in tomorrow for the Bruce Springsteen concert (yuck) and I am meeting him at the airport so we can go for lunch or dinner or whatever while he is in town.  I have a hard time convincing myself to go out on weekends so this is a big deal.  I do not really know if my attachment is to Rob or if it is to my past.  In either case, he is the access route.  


Thursday, November 22, 2012

magic shows

I kicked Smokey out of the play.  She bailed out on rehearsal again today.  This sort of thing doesn't happen a lot when you teach Theatre because kids are almost always taking the course because they want to be there.  I have become so cocksure of the awesomeness of my program that when someone doesn't seem to love it, I feel confused.  I don't know how to respond.  I gave Smokey way too many chances, and kept thinking that she just needed some love.  In fact what she needed was a kick in the ass, and I missed my window of opportunity to deliver it when it might have made a difference.  And now it's too late and I consider us both to have failed in this regard.  I'd still like to kick her mother though.  That would make me feel better.

The show goes up next week, which means a week of fourteen hour days.  The fourteen hour days make me tired, really really tired.  Not to jinx it, but I have not taken a sick day yet this school year.  I think that a sick day or two would fit nicely somewhere between the end of the show and the start of Christmas break.


Black Friday mystifies me.  No one in Canada used to know what Black Friday even meant.  Now we are inundated with American advertising, and especially here, encouraged to cross the border and spend our dollars in the States.  This, of course, has meant that Canadian companies need to compete, and now Black Friday is becoming part of Canadian culture too.  I just cannot imagine, no matter how hard I try, anything I would hate more than mall shopping all night long and into the next day.  (Oh yes, wait, there is something worse.  Boxing Day.)


Wednesday, November 21, 2012

I hate it when parents lie for their kids.  Yesterday a kid missed play rehearsal and told me that she had hurt herself at school and was going to see a doctor.  Then she proceeded, throughout the rehearsal, to post pictures of herself on Facebook smoking pot with her friends.  Idiot.  Of course the kids in the rehearsal saw the pictures right away and showed me.

I called her mother today and her mother lied for her.  Said it was impossible that she was smoking pot with her friends after school because she had taken her to the doctor for her injury.  The pictures had to be from another day and she just elected to post them while she was at the doctor's office.  For crying out loud.  Oh yeah, and she doesn't smoke pot.  There are some kind of mysterious vapour things that kids put in their mouths to pretend they're smoking.  Didn't I know that?  Oh yeah, vapours are all the rage.

This kind of stuff is so irritating.  I'm not the police, and I don't actually give a rat's ass who is smoking pot after school.  I just want them to show up for rehearsal and smoke afterward on their own time.  And not lie to me about it.  Or have their parents lie to me about it.  What kind of idiot parent does that, anyway?


Saturday, November 10, 2012

the sweeter the apple, the blacker the core

When J was very small and we all still lived in the same city, we met one night at my parents' house for dinner, after which J decided she needed a candy.  My mum took her to their pantry where the candies were kept.  Their voices floated back toward us.  Mum said, Here let me help you with that so you don't take too much.  And J's voice came back, No, it's okay, I want too much.  

I liked the way she said that, I want too much.  I always want too much.  It reminds me of Dad pouring my apple juice when I was the same age as J wanting too much candy.

He says, Do you want tall juice or short juice?  This means should he pour the juice from a normal sane height, or should he hold the juice carton way up high so it splashes juice not only in the glass but also, hopefully, a bit on the table?  Of course I always want a tall juice.  I am built to spill from the moment I can talk.

He says, Say when, and I think he must know by now that I am not going to say when because I want to see what will happen if I don't.  I am silently daring him to keep pouring and pouring and pouring the juice until the glass overflows and pours over the top of the table so it cascades onto the floor.  I want this to happen so much it hurts me when he stops pouring without my cue to stop.  It makes me desperately sad that when happens whether or not I say so; it still does.  And I have never liked apple juice enough to drink a full glass of it.


I am reading The Year of the Flood mostly because Atwood is Canadian, not mostly because I love her books.  Though I loved The Edible Woman, overall I have admired Atwood's poetry more than her fiction.  After I read her words,

You fit into me
like a hook into an eye
A fish hook
An open eye

I decided to read all her other words for the rest of her life, or mine.  Sometimes that has been a bit tedious, but mostly I like knowing what those literary types think is important.  I am not convinced The Year of the Flood is a good book but I like it well enough to finish it, all of it, unlike the apple juice.


Saturday, October 27, 2012

Gorilla Tape, Tough & Wide

bigger and tougher
you cover more surface area
and create a stronger bond
making your list of uses


Wednesday, October 24, 2012

September's children

Tired.  I just spent my entire work day waiting in the Emergency Room with a suicidal student who needed psychiatric help.  And in the end, they sent her home with me, with some photocopied sheets of paper to read about how to handle suicidal ideation.  I wonder if we could have somehow managed without this brilliant intervention.

Waiting in the Emergency Room is one of those things that makes the construct of time lose all meaning.  The student herself told me she felt as though she was in Narnia and when we stepped outside the hospital she would find it was still 8:45am and the day had only just begun.  Something about the fluorescent lights, even harsher than the lights in public schools, sucks a person's energy into a vortex.

There was a print of that vortex on the wall that we had plenty of time to examine and interpret.  I said, It looks like a wormhole in outer space.  (I don't know why I said that.  I do not know what a wormhole looks like.)  She said, It looks like a peppermint candy.  I liked her interpretation better.  We watched a man whose arm was clearly broken moan for what seemed like an eternity.  I felt ill and had to look away.  She stared, fascinated.

Desperate, we began making fun of other patients.  The small, pale, haunted looking girl in the hospital gown who kept wandering around looking lost became the subject of a horror movie.  I whispered, Don't look into her eyes.  She'll steal your soul.  Sometimes I say things that I know are wrong.  But it made my girl laugh and I just needed to get warm for a minute.  I hoped that other little girl had someone with her who was making fun of me.


Saturday, October 20, 2012

eating snowflakes with plastic forks

There is a psychiatric disorder called apotemnophila, the main symptom of which is an unrelenting urge to undergo the amputation of a healthy limb.  One of my professors treats such a client, without much success at present.  This disorder, I understand, results from a glitch in the brain's body mapping system, the internal bodily positioning system we use to help us navigate through space.

Before we bought the new bed, I used to wake up in the middle of the night sometimes with one arm numb from sleeping on it, and would have to hold onto it with the other arm to ensure it was still there, make sure it still belonged to me.  This kind of physical confusion could become harder to sort out if the arm remained numb.  (That's the thing about psychological disorders.  Most of the time I can imagine extending my own symptoms clearly enough to feel their edges.)


Shawn has purchased a second Kindle because I took his.  It was not my plan to do so but it became necessary when I could not find Miriam Toews' new book (Irma Voth), which was, as expected, important to read.  Her books have certain landmarks I now know.  The simple unadorned voice of Prairie Mennonite, the loving but helpless mother, the depressed father, the need to run.  Whether I run alongside or meet her at the end, I know where we are going.  (Somewhere I need to go, like when I pretend in my mind to drive down Memorial Drive into the downtown core.)   It occurs to me that when I read The Flying Troutmans, Colleen was still alive.

The Kindle is strange.  It has no pages.  Sometimes I accidentally flip backward instead of forward, and sometimes I lose track of what I'm doing and flip several screens at once when I only meant to push a hair out of my eye.  Still, I have somehow managed to develop an addiction to it.

Now I am reading Lullabies for Little Criminals which I will not recommend to J.  She reads as much as I do, but I steer her when she lets me.  I point her at To Kill A Mockingbird,  I point her at Flowers for Algernon.  She reads and reports back.  She read Revolutionary Road before I did and sent me to report back to her.  She reads Murakami; she likes the short stories best.

Shawn, meanwhile, is reading things I cannot fathom, things with dragons, maybe.  Or things with Vikings, or maybe things with space ships.  Maybe Vikings riding in space ships on their way to slay dragons.  He is reading paper books, and there are a squillion of them in this series, which was the only way I was able to wrest the Kindle from his hands.

Now that I have discovered why people love Kindles (because when you finish your book you can start a new one, whatever one you want, right now!) I cannot give it back and he has been forced to buy another.  He pretends he is annoyed but I happen to know he is pleased because his new Kindle is more exciting than the old one.  I think it can do tricks and stuff.


Since school started in September I have missed almost fifteen teaching days.  It demonstrates to me how low Drama falls on the priority list when it comes time to shuffle staff.  And I am torn between wanting to embrace a new career and feeling protective of my little Drama hatchlings who must need my love in order to thrive.  (It is, of course, complete arrogance to assume they will not do just as well if not better under the tutelage of Mr. D, who has more teaching experience than I do by at least fifteen years.)  Most of the time I want to continue my training, but some days I miss knowing what I'm doing. Will a day arrive that I miss watching grade nine boys pretend to shoot each other with broken cap guns (painted orange to prevent anyone from mistaking them for the real thing) yelling "Bang!"?

(B proposed that perhaps the bible was written by lonely children.)


We are entering the rainy season now, which is winter on the coast.  This has always been a strange transition for me.  Being from the cold, dry, winter prairies, I associate rain with spring.  To me, rain has always meant renewal and warm weather ahead, spring run-off and flooding and brave flowers.  Rain means good things.

Here on the coast, rain means winter.  It means several months of grey skies.  It make people here feel sad.  I know winter is dark.

But still, there is the instinctive long engrained reaction to rain.  Hopefulness and anticipation of good things to come.


Friday, October 12, 2012

a living secret squeezed out through here

Hey Jay,

This afternoon as I was leaving work a coworker stopped me and told me that she is pregnant, pregnant in the way that is all trepidation and flutter.  (Not that flutters cannot be pleasant, they certainly can, but they differ markedly from assured joy.)  She started to talk to me about how a stagnant timetable would prevent her from having to spend as many hours at school but somehow dissolved rapidly without my saying anything into confession, concession, profession.  And pregnancy.  I think I thought of you because of the word stagnant.

Your toolbox is still in my basement.  I have taken it with me through three moves now and I finally decided to open it to see what was inside.  In addition to your tools, I found a Darwin fish and a small plastic lizard.  I actually imagine you make a good father, I imagine you more active now if only because you wouldn't let a toddler tumble down the stairs (would you?).  I remember your trenchant voice (I do not eat babies) but now instead it says, Do not run in the house, Tiny-Jay.  (And then it says I do not eat babies, and I smother a laugh because I cannot stop you from saying that.)

I saw that picture of me you drew, you know, the one where I'm lying on my back on the grass with my eyes half-closed looking sort of like a girl who isn't afraid of falling asleep outside in a public place. I think you didn't finish that picture because there were details missing, but you must have had a big idea and then grew bored of looking at me before you could finish it.  I remember the day you took the photograph this was drawn from; we'd watched the dragonboat races and had beer at the market, and played a game of Galaga at the arcade.  Later that afternoon a piece of underwire in my bra snapped in half and slid down my arm and out my sleeve while I was shaking hands with your new girlfriend.  She did not think it was funny.

Anyway, that's a lot of years ago.  But I thought of you and thought maybe I could tell you so.  You could even write back to me if you wanted, except that I know you hate writing.  You like pictures, not words.  But I'd listen if you sent me a picture too.



Wednesday, October 03, 2012

the pictures i kept of David

D still writes to me occasionally.  Apparently.  He wrote to me two days ago, anyway.  That was the first time I'd heard from him in quite awhile.  He usually gets in touch when he's dangling from the edge of a sharp precipice.  He makes me terribly sad.  I am sad because more than twenty years have passed since we met and he hasn't changed very much.  It used to be, when we were sixteen, completely reasonable to sit outside in the dark with our backs pressed to warm buildings and talk about being writers, or about poetry, or travelling, or just running away, and watching airplanes land all night.  It made sense because we were kids and we were helpless, and we had no control over the things that were breaking us.  We had nowhere else to go, we had no money, we had no alternatives, and we had no experience.

But now I imagine myself looking out the window of my home.  The backdrop of my home, my family, my wellness, my world.

And D is still sitting out there in the park at night shivering in his thin jacket and October is pressing in on him.  And he is still just as emotionally frail and lost as he was at sixteen, and I do not know why; I do not know how he got left behind in October.  Why didn't he come inside with me?  And why can't I reach him anymore?


Saturday, September 15, 2012

I've been dividing my grieving

I like the way the back of my neck melts, I like the surprise taste of salt.  The opening of the hollow space beneath my throat, the stretching of the places between my ribs.  Most of all I like the unexpected softening in bones that felt impossibly rigid, impossibly arid and neutral; I like to expand and breathe.  Like a memory I thought I had lost.  These moments I remember being Intrepid, these moments I do not wait and react, these moments I do not calcualate the cost of anything.


Thursday, September 13, 2012

It's six minutes past eight in the evening.  Early, still very early.  But I am thinking of going to bed right now so I can read my book for longer without falling asleep over it.  I am reading In One Person, which is John Irving's newest book.  It isn't that I am not aware that I am a nerd, it's just that sometimes other people get me confused when they confuse me with someone else.


Tuesday, September 11, 2012


Sometimes I speak out publicly against the actions taken by my union.  This is an activity that is forbidden by the union (obviously) and could result in losing my license.  I am not certain if I should be more careful about who I speak with or if I should simply be prepared to do battle.  Or perhaps I should prepare to change careers.  My union makes great contributions to social justice programs around the world, fighting for teachers to have the global right to free speech, yet pays someone full time to ensure its own membership is carefully and tightly gagged.  And ironically uses our members' dues to pay the salaries of those whose job it is to keep us quiet.


Shawn fired J's riding coach on Sunday.  It felt a bit like we were at war all weekend, but now it has all settled down and she is set up with a new coach who I hope will refrain from exploding her head veins at J whenever she's in a bad mood.  The previous coach was a bit crazy, which I can appreciate, as long crazy involves no screaming.  The new coach is cool, efficient, and delightfully predictable.  And does not, in my experience, ever scream.


The new windows are going in starting today.  I anticipate four highly anxious pups when I return from work who will have been listening to contractors tear their house apart for the past eight hours.  This would make me anxious too, though not more so than hanging out with teenagers does. 

My theatre production block is insane, busting at the seams with eager seniors who would like to put on ten, not two, shows a year, and who would like to spend all their free time in my room telling me jokes and stories and making noise and keeping me at school until the sun sets.  They seem a bit miffed when I tell them to go home.  I cannot remember if I did this to my Drama teacher when I was in high school.  Probably not.  My high school Drama teacher was a crotchety old guy who looked like Humpty Dumpty and who smoked in the costume room.  He did not have a particularly warm vibe.  I think he retired early and took a job replacing windows in old houses.


My students from the Philippines regularly tell me ghost stories.  I do not know if the Philippines are more haunted than the rest of the world, or if it means this culture is more comfortable with the idea of ghosts.  I asked Cesar, the caretaker at my school, and he started out by telling me that he has never seen a ghost in the Philippines and that he does not believe in them.  But then as we talked more, he told me that ghosts prefer colder climates (it's too hot for ghosts in the Philippines, really) and that if I want to see a ghost I should go to England.  And then he told me about some buildings around this area that are known to be haunted.  I think he believes in ghosts after all.  Sometimes I want to believe in ghosts.  As long as they are friendly.


Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Stupid germy teenagers.  I think I am getting sick.


Tuesday, September 04, 2012


Some time in February I sent my mother a friend request on Facebook.  She ignored it for about six months, not because (I assume) she does not want my friendship, but because historically she has been a bit of a technophobe.  She didn't used to log onto Facebook very often, and when she did, she would become confused as to whether she was typing in the Google window or the Facebook window.  It was cute.  Sometimes her search terms turned up as Facebook statuses or comments.  "Lovely to see you yesterday!" someone would remark.  "Facebook", she would reply.  "How about we meet for coffee next Tuesday?"  "Google maps", she would respond.

But this weekend something happened, and I don't know what it was.  Suddenly my mother accepted my friend request, went through all my pictures and made non-Google comments, and began using the abbreviation "u" to mean "you".  My mother is a retired English teacher. This bastardization of language is highly out of character.  In the 80s I used to fear my mother would be arrested for vandalizing an "LY" on those stupid "Drive Decent" bumper stickers XL Radio handed out.  She would frequently whip out a red pen from her purse and make corrections on menus in restaurants.  The very idea of using "u" to mean "you" would have, at one time, set off a series of obsessive compulsive tics.

I don't really know who my mother is anymore, and now that she is using language in this slick new way, what will we have in common?


Sunday, September 02, 2012

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

you're a centipede crawling down my spine

Pro-D today.  The teachers' union and the administrators' union have been battling all year for control of professional development, and the administrators won.  Now instead of teambuilding we get sessions on professional relationships, which means nothing except that we have swapped ping pong tournaments for scavenger hunts.

For some reason when we have these kinds of events I always end up partnered with ND, the Physical Education bwana: competitive, enthusiastic, and excited beyond all reason.  All over the Island I spot my colleagues hiding in coffee shops, shopping in the market, and some even sneaking pints of beer.  But I'm chained to Superman and he wants to win.  He wants to win badly enough that he is willing to dumpster dive, harass strangers, and steal car fresheners out of unlocked vehicles.  He talks incessantly.  I wonder if he talks this much during sex.  I ask him and he laughs, but I am not kidding, and then he starts talking again.

I buy a coffee and ask for my change in fucking Canadian dimes minted in the 80s.  The coffee barista seems to find my bitterness amusing and cooperates.  That's my contribution to the scavenger hunt.  I hand over the dimes and ND hugs me exuberantly as if I have done something miraculous.  He finds the other eleven items on our list, and gets bonus points for trading our paper clip for a paper flower, and the flower for a Bay bag fragrant with garbage, and the bag for a beer banner big enough to "cover the entire West wall of the garage!".  He figures he's one trade away from the million dollar lottery home.  I buy another coffee and make sure to sit far away from him on the bus ride home.


Friday, August 24, 2012

The Female of the Species

I am reading another Shriver, which could become an addiction like Murakami and Irving (Cannot stand it that there is another Irving book out there that I do not have.  What's it called?  In One Person?  Something like that.  I stopped truly enjoying John Irving shortly after he became famous enough to fire his editor, which says a lot, but I cannot shake the addiction in spite of not getting as high as I used to).  Shriver is a new addiction (thank you N) and I am not yet sure if it will stick-- but there are signs.  Positive signs, yes.

There is a lot of focus here on the aging process experienced by women, the way women change or do not change, as genetics allow.  And it all makes a person my age look in the mirror a little skeptically.  Has my jawline changed?  Have my gums receeded?  Are my eyes more hooded?  It's difficult to answer these questions if you didn't spend enough time in the mirror in your twenties to remember what you looked like then; there must be physical changes but I am not sure what they are.  I can feel the changes in my heart, and in my head, but that is not apparent to the camera so who cares.

When I was too young to understand it, I read a book called The Women's Room (I think.  Cannot remember the author) in which a woman was unable to look at herself in the mirror properly.  Unable, that is, to take in the whole picture at once.  She could see her mouth, assess the mouth, check the lipstick, make sure there is nothing in the teeth.  Or she could see the eyes.  Mascara is not clumping, circles not too dark.  Or whatever.  One piece at a time, but never a whole picture of herself, never a cohesive image of the parts creating a whole person.

I was too young to understand that book in its entirety when I read it -- but that description stood out and stayed with me because it was how I saw myself then, and how I still see myself now, when I try to assess who other people meet.  I see myself as a collection of tiny pieces, but I do not know what those pieces are when connected.  And that is why I do not recognize myself in photographs or in stories other people tell.  I can find my eye, I can pick out my laugh in a noisebox, but I do not know myself in three dimensions.  I do not know what you see at all, and that is a strange thing to say to oneself, so perhaps I should not.

Shriver's voice is penetrating, such that I feel compelled to listen carefully.  Compelled to check the words of which I am not certain, compelled to reread that which was murky upon first read.  I am no longer a voyeur; I am a student, trying eagerly to learn.


Thursday, August 23, 2012

the heat is on

Yesterday two installers and an electrician spent the day in my garage and in my yard installing the new heat pump, furnace, and air conditioning unit.  We have been having a heat wave - which considerately ended the day before the air conditioner arrived so that the contractors would not be hot while they were working.

Air conditioning makes Shawn very happy because he is always too hot.  We have had an AC unit in our bedroom window for a long time making it more comfortable to sleep, but it  will be nice to get rid of that eyesore and be able to see out our window again.  

Most of all, however, I am pleased that I will no longer need to worry about the old furnace exploding.  Although we'd had it checked recently, I could never stop myself from being concerned when it made sounds as though we were keeping a small dinosaur in the garage.  

The electrician did not approve of the various work that has been done in our electrical panel over the years.  Prior to our move-in, I suspect the previous owner considered himself a bit of  a handy-man and did a bit of wiring on his own that wasn't quite up to code.  After we bought the house and decided to gut the kitchen, we hired an electrician to add extra under-counter lights, and he (apparently) added to the chaos in the electrical panel.

The electrician said that the panel would be inspected upon completion of his work to ensure it met with building code, and so he was required by law to fix the previous mistakes as well as making sure his own work was legal.  This was a nuisance for him, I'm sure, but it pleases me enormously that now that he has finished, my coffee pot no longer trips a breaker in the kitchen when I use it at the same time as the toaster.

After working all day outside, one of the installers came inside to put in a new thermostat, because my old one allegedly is incompatible.  The new thermostat looks like a tiny tv set and is more intelligent than many people I know.  It's rather intimidating.  Strangely enough, when the installer left, he took my old thermostat with him before I realised what he was doing.  Not that it matters, especially, but I am very curious as to why he took my old thermostat.  Does he collect thermostats?  Is he going to sell it on eBay?  Will he send it to a charity organization that collects thermostats for thermostat-less people?

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Usually in the summer I like to spend my days laying tile.  Living in an older house that needs a lot of work, this has become tradition by now.  But I was worried this year that I had run out of things to tile.  Not so.  I found a couple of things to work on.

The first was J's bathroom.  Last summer we tore out her old bathtub and the tile work that surrounded it because the tiles were growing mould in the grout lines.  Maybe this happens anyway when you live in an old house, but it happens faster when you have a teenage girl who likes long hot showers.  We replaced her bathtub with one of those one-piece things so that no water could gather in any grout lines, and I was sort of sad not to have any tiling to do.  But in the end I found that I could finish the tub nicely by adding just one row of tiles around the edges to create a smooth line.  Hooray for tiles.

After that I repainted the bathroom ceiling, and frankly it doesn't look too good.  I used a paint that was too old, I think, and it didn't cover as nicely as I hoped it would.  A second go-over will fix that.  It's on my list.

Then I decided to paint the downstairs part of the house, leading to the upstairs bedrooms, which was a big job because we have very high ceilings that required borrowing a ladder from my father in law.  It is a nice ladder, very versatile as it can fold and unfold in different ways to allow different ways of climbing.  It can be an A-frame or a straight ladder as needed.  The only thing that troubled me a little bit was that when I folded it as an A-frame the instructions told me to climb ONLY both sides of the ladder.  It was a little confusing but in the end I decided that it was a positive sign indicating that I should proceed.  (Those little yellow stickers at the top both say to climb that side.)

The house started out a pale (dingy) shade of blue, aptly described I think by N as "corpse blue".  Shawn and I debated what colour to paint.  We wanted something warm but not overpowering because it is a large area.  I picked something I thought was nice but Shawn declared the colour looked too much like "skin" which was bizarre.  We finally found another colour that we both liked, although it is undoubtedly the colour of someone's skin somewhere, but neither of ours.  (It shows up strangely in the photograph... but the colour at the top of the stairs is a much more accurate representation of the new colour than the peculiar colour at the bottom.)

I made Shawn replace all the old ugly light switches and plug covers, which were 80's style off-white that someone had considerately painted over with pale blue.  He also replaced the doorbell which was quite an adventure that resulted in us having to choose between "ding" or "dong" because it refused to say both.  (We went with dong.)

The painting is mostly done but I have reached a stumbling block and am awaiting artistic guidance.  There is another area downstairs that could go the same colour I've painted the other part or could do something different, and I haven't decided yet.  I like the idea of lots of colours but I recognize that my love of colour can be expressed in ways that are artistic and focused, or, left to my own devices, can become cluttered and chaotic.

Finished with painting for the time being, I decided I needed tile baseboards in the kitchen.  There was a lot of leftover tile from when we tiled the kitchen floor, and I thought tile baseboards would be more interesting than wood.  Waterproof too.  And I love tiling.

This project required me to operate the tile saw which was extremely noisy and dusty.  Across the street, some contractors were working on a neighbour's driveway, and I pretended I was a contractor too with my measuring tape tucked in my belt, a pencil behind my ear, ear protection to stop me from being deafened by the saw...  I should have been a contractor instead of a teacher.  Of course it took me all day to complete this job so I'd probably be fired for being slow, but I would enjoy it while it lasted.

Now I need to grout the kitchen tile baseboards.  And make a decision and finish painting.

Summer is ending too quickly and I wish I had more time to play.  This afternoon some contractors are coming over to install our new furnace and heat pump.  I think I may put on my contractor outfit and see if I can blend in with them and help.  Maye they won't notice that I'm an intruder.

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

“Whenever she felt like crying, she would instead become angry—at someone else or at herself—which meant that it was rare for her to shed tears.” (Murakami, IQ1984)

I gave my copy of We Need to Talk About Kevin to my mother to take home with her when they left.  While reading it there were several times I thought of her, of what it is like to try to raise a child who was a sociopath.  It isn't that my sister was a murderous sociopath like the character in the book, but there were still similarities.  It is an odd thing to recognize that my sister was a sociopath -- and the fact that I loved her.

Sociopathology is potentially isolating but it does not guarantee isolation.  In fact there were times my sister was rather the life of the party, more outgoing and socially adept than I.  Times that she was easier to relate to, I'm certain, and times that she shone.

But to try and parent a child who is a sociopath is...  I was going to say unimaginable.  But it is not unimaginable, not for me, because I was there.  I remember it.  It was impossible, but not unimaginable.  I do not need to imagine the heartache of being afraid of your own child.  I do not need to imagine what it is like to sleep in fear for your safety, or your child's safety.

She was not always a sociopath, though she was always ill.  But something, many things perhaps, made that illness worse instead of better.  I do not blame my parents, because I believe they were trying with all the tools and resources available to them.  And because if they were to blame then we all were to blame, everyone that failed to help effectively.  Social workers, teachers, counsellors, psychologists, psychiatrists, doctors, friends, family, clergy, administrators.  We all then are to blame.  We all made our efforts, some more lovingly than others, some with more education, some with more heart.  Some with more consistency.  But we all got tired of being unsuccessful.  Most of all, I imagine, my sister got tired of being unsuccessful.

I do not blame my sister, though I was angry with her so often.  Angry with her for what seemed like deliberate self-sabotage throughout her life, for what my mother called her "bloody-mindedness", her insistence on seeing life so bleakly, so cynically, so darkly all the time.  I do not blame anybody anymore.

It is a relief now, at this stage of life, to be done with blame, to simply remember what happened as neutrally as possible.  There is regret, much regret, and there is sorrow and there is emptiness.  There is sadness, an aching sense of loss... I miss my sister.  I regret the damage that has been done to various relationships in my family as a result of this shared and hoarded pain.  But I am not angry with anyone now, not even myself.


Monday, August 06, 2012

this is a long distance call

My next door neighbours irritate me.  It's not that they do anything particularly awful, but I resent their existence when I am outside and trying to pretend that I do not have neighbours. Because my yard is large this is an easy thing to pretend if the neighbours will cooperate by being quiet.  However, they are not usually quiet in the mornings which is when I most like to be outside.  They bicker incessantly.  The mother has an incredibly shrill voice that makes me want to cross through the fence and tap on her kitchen window and tell her that the reason no one in her family listens to her when she tells them to eat the cereal in the containers first is that her voice is is too high.  If she could drop it an octave I am certain her entire life would change.  I would also like to have a conversation about whether they really need a cuckoo clock.


Shawn and I went road biking yesterday afternoon.  It was 34 degrees Celcius, which although unpleasantly hot when standing still did not feel particulary hot when cycling.

There are some sports that my body likes, that feel natural, and others that do not.  My body likes jogging for example, but does not like sprinting.  My body likes road biking but does not like mountain biking.  My body likes lying in the sun in a bathing suit on the dock of a boat drinking tequila, but yet it does not like swimming in cold water.

But although I like road biking I have been resisting clipless pedals for a long time.  I fear being unable to get my foot off the pedal quickly enough to catch myself if something happens.  I envision myself stuck fast to the bike as it crashes to the asphalt.

I finally let Shawn swap out my regular pedals for clipless ones this week, and practiced on the trainer clipping in and out as fast as possible.  I also practiced tapping around the house in my bike shoes that sound like tap shoes, and I got my first bruise in the living room when my foot slipped off the pedal and the chain ring gouged my calf muscle.  I include, for your entertainment, an unflattering photograph of my bruisy chicken leg.  (The bruise shows disappointingly poorly on my cheap camera.)

When we cycled yesterday, I managed not to sustain any further injuries, and I did find that there was some benefit, speedwise, to being able to both pull and push simultaneously.  I did feel ridiculous in the tap shoes, but it was worth it.  I hope there will be no more injuries to document, but I am not really one of the most coordinated people around.  So there will probably be more.


Saturday, August 04, 2012

i'm not a part of this

My parents have left, and they've taken J with them; she will spend two weeks with them on the Winter Prairies being chased by mosquitoes and being spoiled.  She lived the first 11 years of her life on Prairies.  She was there long enough to remember, and has been back to visit enough for the memories to remain somewhat intact.  But I wonder if she remembers the same way I do, for her memories must be of other things, of school yards or of skate ponds or of her mother passed out on a dusty piece of furniture with the tv blaring in the background.  I don't know.

I remember Ralph Klein when I think of the Winter Prairies.  Although he likely hasn't got long for this world, his ridiculous self-satisfied smile is part of my history.  And the King Eddy, and St. Louis Hotel.  The university, with its neverending construction, and Electric Avenue, 17th Avenue, the C-Train.  Place Concord towering over the Bow River and giving the arrogant impression that nothing could ever, would ever, block my view of the river.  The Warehouse, the Republik, the Ship & Anchor.  Kat.  Yvette.  Paul, Dana, Julie, Tony.  Peter.  Jason, Jeff, and Dave.  Kristin and Dan and Brent.  Colleen and Mum and Dad.  And Jaimie.  And Shawn.  All these people I loved and hated and and struggled with, and away from.  All of us all tangled up together and trying to breathe.  And then I think J's memories are probably, though with a different cast of characters, just exactly like mine.


Friday, August 03, 2012

There are many advantages to living in a home that is brand new and has never been lived in by anyone else.  In our second city on the Winter Prairies we had such a home and I enjoyed the bathtub in particular, knowing that no one else had ever read a book there, in my tub.  I loved the windows and doors that did not stick, and I loved the clean white ceilings, free from water stains.  But there are disadvantages to new houses as well.  That house was endlessly beige, inoffensive and completely devoid of personality.  Something about beige is paralysing to me; I never painted it, and I love painting.  In fact I never even got around to hanging up any paintings or anything.  I was frozen by the beige.  We lived very lightly in that home, which turned out well for us because when it was time to move, the house sold quickly.  Beige sells.

The house we live in now is not new.  It is about thirty years old, a bit younger than I am but the right age to have several similar touches that I remember from the house I grew up in.  A sunshine ceiling in the kitchen, for example, and brass door handles and light fixtures.

There are significant disadvantages to our choice of living in this older home.  The nicotine stains on the ceiling, I have since painted over, were repellant.  The carpets, which I plan to replace one day, are unpleasant.  The pale blue walls, which I am still working on, are awful.  The kitchen, upon arrival, was filled with nicotine-stained oak and cigarette burned arborite.  We have gutted the entire thing and had it redone.  The roof needed replacing, which cost a small fortune.  The hot water tank rusted through and required replacement as well.  There is aesthetic work to be done, and there are practical considerations.

The time has come that the furnace is on its way out.  In the winter months when it starts to get cooler, the furnace awakens very moodily-creakily and then begins to roar.  Roar is not an exaggeration.  It sounds as though we have a dinosaur living in our garage.  It works, but it's not happy about it.  We have decided to replace the furnace with a heat pump system, allowing for central air conditioning at the same time.  (It should arrive just as summer is ending because we are not so clever with the timing.)  Along with the new heating/cooling system, it has come time to replace the leaky windows that leave the house cold in the winter and steaming in the summer.  Do you know what it costs to replace the windows in a house?

When I add up all these expenses, I wonder why we chose to buy a house, particularly an old house, instead of buying something new or even renting a cute apartment.

But then I go outside in the yard, the gigantic yard that is 5 times the size of yards on new lots, and I remember what I was thinking.  Privacy, quiet, solitude, peace.  Distance from our neighbours, a green and quiet space to be alone in.


Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Bonjour Mlle Cone

The Vancouver Art Gallery is currently displaying works collected by Etta and Claribel Cone.  These include Matisse, Van Gogh, Gauguin, and Picasso.  My parents are visiting, and so we decided to spend an afternoon at the gallery.

I was reminded of a news story about five years ago in which a French woman was tried in court for kissing a painting in an art gallery, accidentally smearing it with her lipstick.  It is the height of impulsivity, damaging a 2 million dollar painting like that, and I related to her exuberance and lack of forethought.  I could picture myself doing something exactly this ridiculous.  Especially after spending the day at the art gallery.

There are plenty of stonefaced security guards working in the Vancouver Art Gallery to ensure no one kisses their paintings, or takes photographs of them (why?) so I was unable to keep a record of what moved me most, and as soon as I stepped outside the walls of the gallery all the paintings and artists blurred together into one.  So I don't really know what I loved the most anymore.  I loved it all.  (I did pay particular attention Gauguin because he came highly recommended by Susan.)

I did find a photograph online of a little sketch I saw in the gallery that made me laugh.  This is a somewhat unfamous Picasso self-portrait drawn on a scrap of brown paper:


Friday, July 27, 2012

Hope raises no dust.

My focus for the last few days has been primarily upon cleaning my horribly dusty house.  Where does dust come from?  (Don't tell me, I'm sure I don't really want to think about it.)  I hate dust.  But I also hate dusting.  So there's the problem, I do not dust very often.  Or vaccuum.  Or anything, really.

Sometimes I shake my head and smile while people moan about how exhausting it is to hold down a full time job and manage a household, and think to myself that managing a house isn't really so hard.  And it's not, not if you don't bother cleaning it.

Something interesting about dust is that when you really allow it to accumulate, dusting just once doesn't get rid of it.  At least, not for any length of time.  After an hour, all the dust that you disturbed by dusting settles back down again and you have to dust a second time.  Seriously.

The dogs are annoyed with me.  I haven't been spending nearly enough time rubbing their bellies the last few days.  I've been dusting, repeatedly.  And vaccuuming.  And washing floors and polishing wood and all the things that normal people do on a regular basis.  Every time I get my house all clean and beautiful I tell myself that this is it, I will never let it get so dusty ever again in my whole life.  Hah.

This is a true confession.

A couple of years ago I received an urgent phone call at work from the alarm company that secures my house.  They said that a door had been opened and that police had been dispatched.  I was terrified.  I wasn't really worried about the computers or the televisions or anything like that.  I was worried about the dogs.  What if the intruder hurt them?

I raced home and was only a few minutes behind the police, who when I arrived were just coming out my front door having walked through to make sure no one was inside.  "Is everything okay?" I asked breathlessly.

"We think so, ma'am", said the nice police officer.  "There's no one inside.  But it looks like someone went through your belongings and threw things around a bit."

I nodded.  And peeked inside.  Hmm.  He was actually just referring to the mess, the jumbled piles of books, coats strewn carelessly over furniture, that sort of thing.

But this time it's going to be different.


Tuesday, July 17, 2012


I've waxed poetic here a bit about pretty shoes and my new love affair with them.  But I should point out that my first love is still running shoes.  And by running shoes I do not mean the kind I loaf around in on days when I'm feeling sloppy.  I mean shoes made for running.

A few weeks ago I started to notice that my right foot was hurting in the arch when I ran, and this concerned me because I didn't know what it meant.  Was there something wrong with my gait, my posture, my knees, my back?  Who knows.  The everything-bone is connected to the everything-bone, particularly when you're running, and for some reason I dreaded the idea of becoming a Pronator.  Ever since I was fitted for my first pair of running shoes and the salesperson gave me a test, and pronounced me a non-pronator, I thought there was something pretty special about that.  But arch pain seemed to indicate pronation.

I bought new shoes (which I have noticed cures most pains).  I have obviously been attached to my old running shoes for too long because the difference is dramatic.  Not only is the pain gone, but my feet feel like they have springs again.  I'm a new person.

This afternoon I went running by J's stables which is one of my favourite places to run because the breeze blows in off the ocean and keeps it cool enough to run even when the rest of the world is hot.  In addition to the new shoes, I also purchased a new running bra.  So I was feeling pretty awesome.  Bouncy feet, and no bounce in the boobs, exactly the way it should be.

And a few strange things happened while I was running.

1.  I saw not one, but two dead mice lying on the pathway.  In different places, as though their murders were not connected.  But I think they were.

2.  A garter snake and I surprised one another as neither of us saw (or heard, because I'm so fantastically light in my new shoes) one another until we nearly collided.  Although I am not particularly frightened of snakes, he wound around my shoes and scared me into doing a little jig like Yosemite Sam when cowboys shot at his feet.

3.  And, as I was nearly finished running, a man on a bicycle rode up beside me and said, "Beautiful pace you run".  This was strange because I actually do not run a beautiful pace.  Although I felt like an Olympiad in my new gear, my pace is not impressive in the least.

I do not know what any of these things mean, but I'm writing down the clues in case there is a mystery to solve that I won't notice until later.


Monday, July 16, 2012

a little hydration

Last night I finished We Need to Talk About Kevin.  I started to get troubled toward the end as Shriver foreshadowed more deaths I had not earlier predicted, and at the end I felt ill.  Even more so by the sudden affection, potential apology, and hint at an image of mother and son reunited, sharing a small apartment.  Because love is unconditional, and transcends everything, even murder.  Or maybe it is loneliness that transcends everything.  For a woman who has lost everyone and everything she loves, perhaps it is preferable take a chance living with someone who has proven himself dangerous than it is to live alone.

The idea of unconditional love does not make sense to me.  So I suppose I am not much of a lover.  Not that my love easily evaporates or that it is easy to get cut from the list.  But love certainly must hinge upon some things.  Or perhaps it isn't the love that evaporates but the willingness to subject oneself to someone else, for there are people I love that I cannot stand to be around.

In Shriver's interview, tucked at the back of the book, she said among many things that she corrects people's grammar and alienates her loved ones by insisting they use English correctly.  She would fit in well with my family, I thought.  She also pointed out that flaccid is properly pronounced flak-sid, which was news to me.  I felt a swell of admiration for her, closely followed by a sense of mild irritation.


The other night while we were out walking the dogs, Shawn asked me what I thought of selling our house and moving to the Island after J is finished school.  Life on the Island is quieter, property is cheaper.  I asked him where we would work.  He said we would find out when we got there.  This kind of blind faith in the universe to take care of us is new.  I'm not sure what I think, but I like thinking about it.


Friday, July 06, 2012

Shawn is trying to read.

But all these critters want to lie on him.


don't call it a comeback

This morning I cleaned two drawers, both cutlery drawers, because when I opened one drawer to retrieve a coffee spoon my attention was caught by the crumbs lingering in the corner of the fork section.  Further examination also revealed fingerprints, black ones, as though perhaps the owner of those fingerprints had first done some work repairing some sort of engine and then celebrated by clacking spoons together, prairie style.  And then eaten some toast standing over the open drawer.

I removed all the cutlery from the plastic sorters, and then washed the sorters in the sink.  They looked quite new when I was done, but it wasn't the most satisfying kind of improvement because no one can see it unless I lead him into the kitchen, open the drawer, and explain that it once was rather crumby and fingerprinty.  And no one cares except me.

While I was washing the cutlery sorters I was thinking about two things.  One of these things was about moving, because I remembered buying these cutlery sorters when we moved into this house five years ago now.  There were instructions on how to cut the sorters down to the right size so they would fit perfectly inside the drawer.  And I remembered how new and clean the cutlery sorters felt, and how perfectly they fit.  And I remember the newness of the drawers in which I placed them, because we had also had the kitchen remodelled.  It was an exciting time, a time of things being new.

And the other thing I thought about was why I have never hired a maid to clean my house once a week, or even every other week.  I have guilt around my poor housekeeping.  Part of the problem may be latent rebellion against my mother who has OCD, and kept -and still keeps- her house perfect at all times.  But JesusGod I'm not a teenager anymore, so why can't I run the vaccuum across the floor once in awhile without it meaning I have given up my identity?  If someone else was to do it for me perhaps I would feel less inclined to fix engines and eat toast over the cutlery drawer.


Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Yesterday I started reading We Need to Talk About Kevin  (finally!  Thank you N!) and am already fascinated.  Some writers have voices that are easier to listen to than others.  For example, when I read Murakami, I am always at an arm's length.  You love Murakami from a distance, and I think that it is his choice, and I love him for it.  Shriver is different.  Her voice let me close immediately, very close, so much so I could imagine the words on the page coming from my own fingertips.  It made me want to begin the same exercise of writing to former lovers to dissect the past.

Dear Tony, I would write.  You always loved your hair so much more than you loved me.  When you told me we would make beautiful children, you wanted me to hear the emphasis on children, but I heard your emphasis on beauty instead.  You were imagining their hair, weren't you?

or perhaps Dear Noah, Whenever I go home to Winter City, I drive past 17th Avenue and can still picture you on the side of the road, standing on your knees to kiss me, and still a whole head taller than me even like that.  You were the tallest person I've ever known in real life.  I wish I had known you longer.  I wish I knew you better.  I would like you to kiss me again like that.

Things like that.


Dear Shawn,
The sun is out today for the first time in what seems like forever.  I wish you didn't have to go to work because I want us to ride our bikes out to Derby Reach and have lunch in the woods.  And maybe roll around under the trees a little bit.

Things like that.


Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Maybe they are blooming in the order that I like them.


airborne heisman

Sunday was Canada Day.  George Abbott celebrated by firing the entire elected Cowichan school board for submitting a deficit budget in protest of his cuts to education.  What an ass.  BC teachers celebrated by ratifying a deal -out of fear- that provides no improvements to class size or composition but offers them free viagra and birth control.  Asses.  When I was younger I never watched the news or knew anything that was happening in the world, and in many ways this was a happier way to live.

Most people had Monday off work since the statutory holiday fell on a weekend, and that makes today, Tuesday, July 3rd, the first real day of summer holidays.  Real in that it's the first day that everyone else has to go to work, and I get to thumb my nose at them and chomp viagra and birth control pills.  That's the most important part of being on vacation, the part where other people have to work.  The world celebrates by raining, thus preventing me from reading my book in a lawn chair as planned.

We woke up at 6am, with the stated plan of working out early in the morning to get the day started strong.  Shawn is currently working out in the living room, nearly finished his hour.  He's tough like that.  And I'm still in my pajamas.  It turns out I cannot make myself work out at 6am when I have not yet consumed any coffee.  I'm lazy like that.  I'm going to work out more like ten-ish.  At least I got up.  At least I made coffee.  Maybe it will be possible to work out at 6am when it's not raining.  But probably not.


Tuesday, June 26, 2012

There is no salvation in becoming adapted to a world which is crazy. (Henry Miller)

This morning Crazy Sue yelled at someone other than me.  She yelled, instead, at the Music teacher.  The reason for this outburst was convoluted.  Something about Crazy Sue tearing down the Music teacher's displays in the display case, and then yelling when the Music teacher asked her not to destroy her stuff.  Something like that.  The Music teacher, who knows that I have a hate on for Crazy Sue, came running to tell me about it first thing this morning when I arrived. 

It's sick to say it, but part of me felt pleased that Crazy Sue was yelling at someone else for a change.  Partly because it was nice that it wasn't me, but mostly because it was reassuring to know that Crazy Sue really is crazy and yells at other people for bizarre reasons.  It's not just me.