December 15, 2011

Taking their Place, Making a Stand

I just watched this video, made in reaction to an ABC special called Children of the Plains. I am not going to link up to the special, because it is probably a story made by good people, but broadcast by a corporation that wants ratings. I know, a corporation can't want, but in the United States and, I believe in Canada too, corporations have the same rights under the law as individual human beings so I contend that the corporate bot wants the ratings. And I'm not going to give them my eyeballs.

So this video -- More than that... -- is simple, and full of kids who really know how to tell their own story. It filled me with something I haven't been feeling this season. Hope. That's a pretty big gift.

So thank you, guys. I really needed some hope and I found it in your message, posted by a local Indigenous FB page of which I am an ally. Because you prove you are not the one dimensional caricatures of a television "documentary". You are kids, in the middle of a continent currently called North America. And you are part of a future I want to see, raise my children in, and be a part of too. Awesome film!

December 10, 2011

Trifecta Challenge: To Flirt

Here again is my response to Trifecta's weekly writing challenge. Under the wire at T minus 7 hours. (What does that mean, anyway?)

3rd definition of the verb, to flirt: to come close to reaching or experiencing something

The girl filled out the form and handed it in at the desk, with a small unsure smile. The receptionist, eyes hard with business, took it and placed it in a folder. She smiled curtly, the type of expression that lets you know you don't deserve what you are hoping you will receive. Who knew a youth filled with the pleasures of the flesh could lead to an inability to sustain all forms of a future?

A new life, a stable one, with a lover who saw her for who she might become, not who she was before. This is her reason to try.

This act of completing this doctor's form in raw honesty, to expose herself and her shame with fertility specialists certain to judge harshly for the life she had lived rather than the one she is living, this act is to flirt with a hope previously unknown.

November 26, 2011

Trifecta Challenge: To Betray

This is my entry in response to the challenge at Trifecta, for the word, Betray, according to the third definition provided by Merriam Webster's Online Dictionary.

3: to fail or desert especially in time of need

Today an American friend and I are having a Facebook discussion about a socialised medical health system -- to ensure basic health to all citizens of a society. As shocking as it is for me to imagine living in a modern democratic country that doesn't provide basic medical care for its citizenry, it appears even more baffling to my friend:

“The right-wing propaganda machine has done a good job of painting disaster if the government takes over health care. Of course, they don't talk about what private for-profit health care does to people. The most frustrating part is those who firmly believe that a fair, government-administrated healthcare system with access for everyone is some commie plot that will bring them down and give them poor medicine. They have been thoroughly propagandized into working against their own interests.”

She goes further: “I also suspect people never see themselves in the picture ... as needy or the underdog. They don't see that while they may identify with the privileged, they are in fact the serfs to the privileged.”

It got me to thinking about how fiercely so many people in both Canada and the United States are defending the right to make money over all other rights, even if that particular right protects the people stripping everyone else of basic human rights: shelter, potable water, nourishment and a decent education. I know these members of our societies have accepted the right of the (rare) individual to unbridled wealth over all other rights because a majority continue to cast their votes in this direction.

I believe such people betray their own children by voting into power those who protect only the wealthiest and most powerful of the country.

This conversation has led me to consider history and better understand the blindness of those Germans in the rise of the Nazi regime who, rather than protect their friends and neighbours from madness, looked the other way and slipped into accepting an unthinkable aberration as status quo.

November 19, 2011

Triggering disaster

333 words for the Trifecta Writing Challenge, because I like to write to the word. Next week's challenge? Saying the same thing in 33 words (and using another prompt). (cue maniacal laughter).


“Pour yourself a drink, consider using a pseudonym, and write,” writes my friend the writing coach on my Facebook wall, after I moaned about the work involved in dredging up less than Pollyanna-esque memories of my grandparents. I had signed up reluctantly for her class at her encouragement, despite the fact I barely slept, I was already so overcommitted.

Personal memoir, while an interesting possibility for someone who’s failed so spectacularly as I to live a life with any rhyme or reason, is also dangerous. A veritable minefield, I think, especially now that I am knee deep in possibilities at the halfway mark of the session.

This week is photos, using photos to jar memories. Not that hard.

I look desperately at the pictures, staring hard to find the strands, to make the connections. The whiskey, peaty and sharp, burns the edge of my windpipe as I strain to find that hook.

Suddenly a few photos stand out, but not for the reasons I expect. Still, I have the answer to this week's task. The figure in the photos is my father as a young man. These images prod me toward my keyboard.

My dad. My playful, silly dad wearing one of his many masks to belie the turmoil that lies directly below the surface.

I comprehend I have no choice but to do this work, to reach into my forbidden past, to summon my inner therapist to help me figure out exactly where I’m at with regards to my father before it is too late. It’s just, well, it's just that I don’t want to. Right now I want to imagine I do not have the time to do the work, to cope with the feelings guaranteed to come with examining the masquerade I called my childhood. At the same time, I fear the march of time will leave me with unavoidable regret.

I understand anew that it’s time to figure out how to exist without harbouring the need to exist.


November 10, 2011

Kids who give: the panacea to chronic worry?

My friend's nephew is raising funds to support clean water projects in India and that got me to thinking. How is it that we raise kids with a better awareness of the world they live in, of bigger problems than not having a DS, of giving as well as receiving.

My niece and nephew had lemonade stands for their younger days and donated the money to local charities. I believe they have also participated in one of those foster parenting programs that create a connection, a narrative really, so that people can picture where their money goes.

My biggest worry is creating worriers. See what I did there? You see, worrying runs in our family. And not the kind that is constructive. I remember, way back in the 80s, when North Korea shot down a South Korean passenger jet and I was certain that nuclear war would ensue. Um, I was at summer camp, for peat's sake. And I became hysterical. I was 15 or 16, had sponsored the no-nukes club at my school (because I could draw a mean poster of a nuclear cloud, sad truth be told). We never got up to much else and the club disintegrated very rapidly for lack of substance but I was left to worry.

I think that kids -- and all of us, in fact -- really groove on the tangible. I am pretty sure that my friend's nephew was not only informed about how the people to whom he is dedicating his birthday gifts, but also given information to which he could relate: I'm thinking that bottle of water he is using as a prop did not come from India, but rather some lake near his home.

If I tell my kids that there are kids in Canada (true story) that don't have clean water to drink, it means nothing to them except that they have reason to worry about some kids somewhere. If I take the time to find ways to demonstrate how this would be to live through, it becomes as clear as clean water. They get it.

Joules and her family have obviously awoken and/or supported the empathy thing in this child. I imagine this kid weighing the facts: What would it be like to drink cloudy water from my local lake, water that would make my stomach ache?, and then to need to make the connection to what he can do to make a difference.

I want this for my kids, this ability to mobilize. I don't just want them to think, Oh those poor people, and move on with a little less bounce in their step. I slip into that feeling: this world is so big, there are so many problems, what can I do, *shrug*. It is not a nice feeling.

We've been having "fiver" parties since my eldest turned 5, influenced by a friend's doing it before us. My kids sometimes choose to participate in this type of party, and sometimes they don't. I like the balance they are finding.

A "fiver" party invites party-goers to bring two five dollar bills in lieu of a gift to the party. One bill goes into an envelope for the child to use to buy a toy of their choosing, and the other bill goes into an envelope to go to a charity of the child's choice. Net results are that the child chooses something they've wanted or would use, the parents spend less on a birthday gift than they otherwise would and don't have to make a trip to the toy store and the child starts thinking about the needs of others in their community, be that within their neighbourhood, city, country or world.

My kids have chosen very local charities, but I don't think I've done a great job yet of educating them of ways to find a cause to which they can relate. I guess my work is cut out for me.

For now, not only am I going to pull out my credit card and donate my friend's nephew, in an effort to fan the flames of his enthusiasm, I am also going to help my kids find charities or causes that bring them some connection, something they to which they can relate and get behind. I hope by doing this, I will enable my kids to do more and worry less.

November 4, 2011

A wee little word challenge

I want all the words. Listed here.

All the words from childhood that made you giggle, that you couldn't use for one reason or another. I want them here.

You see, I just remembered another one. Dink.

I would never have said this word when I was a kid. My friend called her dad that, mostly behind his back. I couldn't. I could barely stand hearing it but I would never, ever actually say it. I still won't.

But I can say the c word, no problem. (That may come as a shock to many of you, I hope you won't leave as a result of this news. My use of the word is political, and something I would happily explain on another day.) Funny thing is? I can't type it. Not here, not there, not anywhere. I mean I can, but I wouldn't. It is simply too harsh, too divisive. It causes too many to cringe, even the connotation of it.

And here, though I promised I wouldn't, here I will tell you why I use it, selectively, in company that would understand. Because suddenly, as I type this, I know why I can only type dink, but not actually slide it across my vocal folds.

Mostly? The words we use for the female anatomy are hateful and hated. The c word is one of these. As is douche (which some of you know makes me cringe and throw up a little in my mouth) and ... oh, bugger.

No. Not bugger. Fortunately women can never be that (without tools).

But I just realised that I'm totally procrastinating another project that I was to deliver at midnight. I'll develop this idea a bit more in the days to come. Maybe leaving something for another day will make me write here more than sporadically.

That's the thing about deadlines. It's amazing how much other stuff one finishes when one has something one is supposed to be producing.

But back to the original thought. It's a funny thing about writing, isn't it? It allows us to "say" things we can't put into the vibrations that are sound. Maybe that's why so many people, and not just those who long considered themselves to be "writers", are blogging, FBing, writing shit down.

In the meanwhile? Whilst I push out the work I have to produce now? Moar words please. I want them all.

November 1, 2011

writing prompts

Way back in the day, when I was at theatre school, *uh huh. I am a failed struggling starving aspiring actor. In my own set of unique dramas. And I went to school for it.

I used to think with horror, but secretly: What if I don't make it. I don't want to be one of those people who goes to theatre school and then becomes a teacher, sheepish about not "making it". And here I get to say, Ah, the arrogance of youth. Because I am that person, and I love it. I am not measured by myself in the inches that are auditions that I've gone on, shows I have landed, rejection letters. And if I am judged by others, I know that rotten headspace that I too once occupied and I can feel the joy of not being there anymore.

I create now for myself. I make cakes, costumes, and drama. I splice other people's words together to (hopefully) make them better without destroying their voice and message. I also string my own words together, mostly as missives but sometimes too as publications. I'm even starting to enjoy that process.

I draw without angst, sing without reservation and dance without shame. (One of those three statements is a lie but *shrug* whatever.)

I parent with a creativity and an openness that I never expected of myself. I suck at it sometimes and I find my way to a quick forgiveness for my pedestrian faults, turning to solutions rather than self retributions.

I was recently asked by a friend to take her writers' workshop. This idea, rather than scaring the bejayzus out of me as it should, has brought me toward the lightness of possibilities. We are writing about family, and trust me, I will need to uncover some serious bravery for this task. But it is already fun because I get that it can be so.

At the same time, it is a task, an exercise. Something I can accomplish by which to hold up and measure my progress in life. And I am so much more primed for the act of taking prompts and playing within the process than I ever was when I was at school. The lessons I learned then I employ fiercely now, and without regret for what might have been, if I had have known then what I know now.

Another friend, one who's writing leaves me crumpled on the floor in awe and laughter and tears, is mounting her own writer's challenge in the form of a weekly writer's challenge. What can I say. I am up for it and ready to play the game.

Play. Another lesson I learned back in the day, another post for another day.

But enough for now, I have homework to complete. Come and join me in this game of words and threes and thrills. For joining me will be celebrating. I am able to do this today because I went to theatre school, back in the day. That fear? of not making it? was unfounded.


This life of joining into creative endeavours without fear and at my own pleasure clearly indicates to me I have made it.

October 29, 2011

Trying something new: not changing

I recently wrote a post at Band Back Together to launch the monthly prompt: Change.

As with so many aspects of my life, I am in the minority. When it comes to change, I am afraid I like it a little too much.

I've never lasted long at a job, and ultimately am happier with freelance and contract work (saving the poor pay and benefits, or lack thereof). I remember this one job I had when I was in Hong Kong. My manager was a bit of an expat(!), and had the appearance of one who was rather entitled and a rude manner. She was ambitious, but without substance: She had a reputation of stealing the ideas of her perceived and real underlings to promote herself.

I am now certain there existed cultural undercurrents of which I was (as always) oblivious. The British, unlike North Americans apparently have a class structure that the lower classes are as aware of as those who lord above them. (Who knew?!)

Okay. Long story short, and because this could be about any number of jobs I had held previously, I decided I had to get out of there. Fast.

I remember feeling excited, like that feeling you get deep in the pit of your stomach when you meet a new guy and things click, like that. Lightheaded even, when I decided to quit.

I talked to my husband about it breathlessly.

"I'm done. I'm just done with her. I can't stand it anymore. I'm quitting!"

This conversation lasted about a week, which must have seemed like a year to my husband after the first day of the telling. I thought about how great things were going to be, when I quit. I fantasized how I would tell the woman I thought she was a jerk, and how everybody else would be so sad to go, and tell me over drinks how much they would miss my hilariousness.

The realisation came from out of the blue.

Uh oh, I thought. Thinking about quitting feels like being high.

That sinking feeling hit me, deflating me like a balloon a kid has blown up full and tossed into the sky. I knew, as I looked backward at all the jobs I had held before. I loved to quit.

A decade earlier, I'd had this same experience of loving ending things in another part of my life. Love. The only type of relationship I'd had by the time I was 23 lasted not much more than 5 dates. Since I was 12, I would like a guy, pursue him till he caught me, and then see every flaw he had as death. And abruptly I would end things.

The exception to this rule was a guy who loved to run away as much as I did, only he was faster than I. He pulled disappearing acts that kept me on a string over the course of six or eight years. I ended things when I had some insight about how much it hurt to be left, and I told him that disappearing again would be the end, forever.

Shortly after this seismic shift I met the guy I married. I wonder if the limit I placed on my (always ever after referred to as) Plan B also shifted something subconsciously within me. Lucky for me I was newly able to muscle past that panicky feeling that led to ending things before they started.

But this time, with that job, I consciously knew I had to do things differently.

I made a deal with myself. (I do this. Make deals. It works for me.) I told myself that this time I couldn't quit my job till I had another one in place. And it could not be just any old job, it had to be a step up, a step toward building something in terms of my skills.

And, for the first time in my temping Generation Exian life, I stayed, plodded along, continued to hone my new copy editing skills, learned how to put stuffs on the Internet, and looked for something better.

Sure enough, change came reasonably soon after -- within about 6 months. By this time the much-disdained manager had been fired by her own doing but not without some drama with me (which, with what people-skills I have learned in the 15 years hence, I'm happy to report I'd be able to avoid).

This change thing. You know inasmuch as change is hard, for some of us change is far easier than remaining steadfast. Working till a job is done right and well. It may be why there exist middle-class itinerant workers, the we who are wired with short attention spans. But by the same token, if growing up requires some to learn to go with change, it is as essential for others, myself included, to allow some roots to grow, to tether us for enough time to do something right.

It is something to think about, that's for sure.

September 7, 2011

You know what really bugs me?

The whole work/stay-at-home mom thing. It really gets up my nose.

There. I've said it.

Here's one thing: Someone says, as my one kid is sitting on my shoe, another tugging one of my hands and saying Mom, mom, mom ... mom, mom ... mom ... MOM ... and the third has his head under my shirt and his hand cupping my breast, and I'm having this conversation with someone and they say, "So, where do you work?" or, you know, "What do you for work?" to which I reply, "Oh, I don't work," because, well, I don't.

And of course, they feel obligated to say, "Oh, you work. You work harder than the rest of us."

There is often something condescending or ... something ... maybe well, yucky, in this statement, like they have to give me kudos or an ego boost, poor SAHM with no self-esteem kind of thing and it really annoys me. Because, Hello?! I've worked. Work? Was EASY. This gig is NOT work.

I don't get coffee breaks nor lunch. My bosses, all three of them, have no problem whinging, yelling and even raging at me if I don't do things in exactly the way they think things should be done. Things like, you know, dressing a Barbie, cutting an apple, or wiping a bum. And YES. We have BARBIES. Get Over It.

Truthfully, I have no real skills for this gig -- I suck at cleaning and organising, only want to cook things that inspire me edible or not, prefer to not speak to anyone for most of the day, and don't sleep enough to be the nice person a mom is supposed to be.

I don't remember when I've been in the bathroom without having the door opened on me. Work stalls have locks, right? Contractors regularly poke their nasty heads into the room I sleep in to ask me a question I probably have no answer for, whether or not I am up and dressed. I haven't had a bedroom in 5 years. And you know what? I, the girl who read a book a day as a child hasn't finished a book all year, something that I accomplished quite often on the commute to and from work and in the bathroom stalls at the offices I worked in. (Joking) (kind of).

The thing is? I wouldn't give up this gig now that it's mine. It wasn't something I longed for per se, not like playing Sally Bowles in Cabaret or anything, but I really really love it now that I'm in the hot mess of the middle of it. It is unpredictable and crazy, I get hugged all the time, the problems that need to be addressed or solved are usually more easily fixed when accompanied by a kiss and/or a hug. Last time I tried that on a co-worker, it didn't turn out as well as I'd hoped. (Kidding.) (Really.)

But I don't like it when people have to have an opinion on being a stay-at-home or working mom. My grandmothers were both working moms. So was my own mom. I have three brothers-in-law who have, at various times, performed the stay-at-home thing. Who cares? Why quantify or qualify that I work or I don't. I mean, have you seen my home and gardens? If I were on top of them, them I would be a SLAVE, because last time I checked, there will be no pension for what I am doing, no paycheck. And I'm okay with that because I'll figure that out when I do, or I'll be totally screwed and I'll still figure it out.

Because who says life is all 9-5, 2 coffee breaks and a lovely lunch in the city in my one red Ferragamo shoe? (Don't ask what happened to the other. It was a long time ago, in a land far, far away. And it didn't involve Robert Redford, although it was supposed to have. And I lost a beloved shoe. One. And Quentin Tarantino was there. I have pictures to prove it. But don't ask.)

You know why it bugs me? (The work question/answer, not the missing shoe.) It makes me cross-eyed because because I don't actually care if people other than my husband and children think I work. It doesn't matter to me the same way it doesn't matter to me if some other mother works. I know what I'm doing right now, and why, and I don't need someone else to validate it.

I think I'd better write next about how much it bugs me that people mothers get all in knots over whether I am judging them because I stay at home/pooped my kids in the toilet from birth/breastfed/sold my car/ride a trike with a bin on the front for the kids.

Honestly? I just care if yer happy dudes. It matters immensely to me. But I won't judge you if you are not because, hello? Life is hard work. Seriously. Go easy on yourselves. Because if you go easier on yourselves, you will go easier on me. I guarantee it. And that? Well, it's just better for all of us that way.

And isn't that what really matters?


This is too long, isn't it.

In my next life? I am going to be succinct and brief.

And also?

A bug.


September 2, 2011


I just want to tell you all that Lisa? At Seeking Elevation? She's really, really good. Like this good.

That is all. Enjoy fine, fine writing. (And those two fine's should be read with two definitions, neither of which are akin to the stock lie-answer "I'm FINE.")

August 28, 2011

Because I have to know ...

When I was a child, words like barf and fart were not within my scope of language. (I can't believe I wrote those. I typed them. Here.)

When I was a child, I met such words with a pursed-lip revulsion because I existed within a very narrow world. Indeed and completely without pride I confess I was a holier-than-everyone kind of a gal. For years. What can I say? I'm working on it.

I wonder if my very proper German-Canadian grandmother, who expected us to declare after dinner we were "sufficiently suffonsified", was at the root of my stuffiness. Wouldn't it have been a bit clearer and easier, at 6, to state "I'm full" or, quelle horreur, "Oosh, am I stuffed". (Thanks Nana, RIP, I have impressed many a word nerd with that near perfect specimen of a word).

Personally, I like to blame all things quirky on the dearth of extended family in my youth. No blacksheep aunts and uncles to make our holiday dinners interesting, actually no aunts and uncles at all. So no rougher cousins to teach us nasty things while huddled in the basement under shelves that groaned with preserves. Nothing to be learned but not to be repeated in front of the oldsters. Maybe that, that was it.

But what I do know for certain is that, as I work diligently toward shedding that image I always had of myself as both better and way, way less likeable and capable as everyone else (I know, right?!) and as I strive to provide my children with a more level-headed entree into the world, I find that what I really want is to get over that pursed-lip girl I was, so many moons ago.

And so. Without further ado. I ask you all:

Barf, ralph, puke, vomit, chuck or even upchuck? We exclusively said "throw up". Later I added purge.

Ginch or gaunch? Knickers, tighty (gag) whiteys? I missed this debate entirely. Underwear, and probably undies.

Fart? We never did that at Casa Cox. We absolutely and pathologically held 'em in. Tightly. We said (insert Erkel voice here): "who had gas?" and wrinkle our noses.

Now I teach my kids toot and fluff, which are both totally lame-ass, I know, but also cute. I mean I kinda want fart to be an inappropriate word they "wouldn't" say in front of their mother, the one for which I can practice my lying disapproving face and a smirk.

Even snot could earn us a smack or a glare. We never called those green things boogers or my personal favourite, booger nuggets. Honestly, I guess we just said we had a runny nose. (Yawn).

Is it any wonder I spent most of my childhood trying to fit in, and all of my adult life figuring out how, how, how to get that stick out of my ass?

So I want all the best words from your past. And the ones you are teaching your kids. Do you care if they know with whom it is appropriate to use these words, or are they simply a part of their everyday vocabulary?

Please. Because I have a psychotic urge loosen my kids up (they're horrified by orange cheese, people), but what is too loose? My children's futures are in your hands. Give me all you've got, the good, the bad, the crass and the ugly. Seriously. I'm desperate.

August 10, 2011

Self accept.

Lately I've been thinking a lot about self acceptance. Acceptance of self. Feeling okay about who one (I) is and what one (I) does.

I is and I does, I like it.

Today I experienced a really wild and crazy lesson in this exact thing.

A while back I wrote a piece: Where I am from.

Today, weeks later, I received a brief but welcome comment. It prompted me to go and read what I had written.

When I wrote the piece, I totally felt like I had not hit the mark, like mine wasn't as superb as the woman who's piece made me write mine. I was glad I'd made the effort, it was definitely a stretch for me, someone who really doesn't *get* the poetry thing often. But I really felt like mine was not enough.

Not enough.

Recently I thought, gee, I should go back and re-write my piece, give it another shot. But you know what the chances of that are, re-writing something on the blogosperical?

But today I re-read that post because someone came to visit and generously left a few precious words. And I cried. (I know!)

Because the piece? It is as beautiful as all of the pieces that are written using this prompt, whether to the letter like this one by Everything and no one... like the last mom on earth by a woman who makes me love being a woman, or loosely, and with freedom, like this one at Bugginword, written by an amazingly crazy writer who makes my head spin in all of the best ways and came to my post by way of a new and yummy blogpal. She also makes me glad I was born girl.

I tell you all, all [holy cow! 17 of you! (or more) holy eminereffiner] who read this post. While I am not really concerned about growing this little space of mine, I am grateful for each and every pair of eyes (or singles, if that's all you use to read this; or sightless people, if you use a reader) that I am humbled and grateful for each of you, for what you bring to my little corner of the world, whether in quiet spirit or in comment. I'm so grateful that you are here, slugging it out with me.

But today? I'm thankful for the comments of a stranger that gave me the impetus to reread my own words and to realise that they are, indeed, good enough for me.

July 7, 2011

Losing time ...

After a few weeks off, I'm taking up the 100 Word Challenge once again. I love the brevity, and reading everyone else's storytelling. It's a kind of computer game I can totally groove on. This week's word is Forward.

Losing time

She couldn’t believe it. She reads the email again. $2500. She cannot afford that! But therapy is helping, and the potential of a week intensive with a psychologist known to have success in treating multiple personality disorders is impossible to pass up.

But $2500! How can she, who could barely stay present for an hour -- never mind remain employed -- come up with the cash?

She has a connection from the days when she lived on a razor’s edge. It’s a dangerous game but its money. As she clicks on forward, she feels her face shift and herself recede ...

Join in, or check out the other stories:

July 2, 2011

I've written a guest post ...

I was asked a couple of months ago (okay, March) to write a guest post for my farmer -- who also has a Doctorate in Communications ... 8-0 -- about why I choose to source my family's summer vegetables through a Community Support Agriculture (CSA) program. While on my part it is an intensely political move, the bonus of obtaining the very best produce all summer long by simply putting my money upfront and walking a block and a half to someone's back porch on a weekly basis makes the choice all the more satisfying.

And so, without further ado, my post at Glen Valley Organic Farm. Feel free to comment there or, if you prefer, to come back here and tell me what you think of the CSA model in today's world.

June 27, 2011

Where I am from ...

I am from tea cups and saucers and coloured sugar, from shredded wheat and public radio.

I am from the hills high above a peat bog, the squishy sponge dirt filled with stinky ponds, wet-land vegetation, beasts and bugs, and long since conquered by miles of blacktop and fast-moving metal dinosaurs.

I am from a pile of boulders and a transplanted California redwood that grew so fast its tip touched the heavens, far above.

I am from small family feasts and a pathological need for non-exposure, from Brenda and Anita and Carmen.

I am from righteousness and sincerity.

From gifted and undeserving.

I am from the Catholic Church, a place that is so far behind me it is gone.

I'm from a short but very teary stint in Ottawa, Ontario and a blood so mixed nobody knows its provenance; perfect pies and overcooked bitter greens.

From a man who, at 80, is still mourning the death of his father some 70 years previous and a woman who has felt completely isolated since birth, despite having created a large and devoted family. From an exclusive club of a sisterhood full of acceptance, cooperation and support, despite all odds.

I am from a collection of family slides, carelessly or deliberately lost in divorce by one bitter side or the other. My personal pictures are instead stored in my mind's eye, but have been newly relocated in a bin of slides taken by my long-dead grandmother, recently spirited from a garage and digitised to create a new story of my family's collective past for our children.


I may have mentioned a blogger I follow who's writing moves me to no end. She recently posted about bathing suit season in a way that expressed everything I've always wanted to say about the subject, in a way that will change how I feel while poolside this summer. Her childhood sounded pretty hardscrabble, but her chosen life appears real and blessed, not because she deserves it but rather because she has found it and commits herself to it, and to her beautiful family, on a daily basis. Amanda inspires me.

Today she posted something called "Where I am from" ... and included a link to a template anyone can use to create an interesting telling of their history. The above is my "Where I am from". Why not create your own, and leave it here or on your blog? Either way, let me know so I can learn from where you come.

June 18, 2011

Housekeeping ...

I never do it. I should, I attempt, okay, I do it when I am desperate. But I never do it here ... or I never did until today.

I haven't even been able to post a 100 word entry for a couple of weeks ... We've all had a nasty summer cold, which has been thick and everlasting, but it is waning, or so I'd like to think.

With the end of school fast upon us, there are sports days, spring flings, butterfly releases, teachers gift-collecting and making ... so many little things that must be done. And of course Georgia's birthday party had to be squished in there! After all, it had to be done before the end of the school year, seeing as her actual birthday was last February!

Also? We sold our car! Which means that it is twice a day by foot or bike/trike. Have y'all seen my trike on tumblr? Seriously, I have to figure out how to use that tumblr-thing, it is apparently not the same as blogging so may be complimentary? Guess that will be one for the summertime.

Anyway, the real reason I am doing housekeeping today is to tell you all that ... er ... I've been doing a bit of blogging somewhere else.

You see, there's this site? It's like a group blog. It is the brain/lovechild of a blogger, Aunt Becky at MommyWantsVodka. I fell in love with over the radio, of all places.

The group blog is called Band Back Together, and you have to see this place for yourself to know what it does for me. It brings me hope, it brings me joy, it triggers some of my insecurities something awful once in a while, but it brings me alive. And today? Band Back Together brings us all a host of Father's Day posts. Some happy, some angry, some (like mine) pretty much just plain resigned.

Please join me at The Band. And if you feel so inspired, please pull up a comfy chair and stay. For a short time or longer, or like me, forever. It is a great place to be.

And by the way? Here's my trike on tumblr. Blogger would not let me link it earlier so ... Gah!

May 28, 2011

creating the perfect human race ...

I am feeling a bit good about my writing today as I just had one of my comments highlighted at the New York Times online. I can't honestly say that I am completely proud of my piece, seeing as it borderlines on abusive hateful language, but what I had to say came out the way it did and I really wanted to honour it.

So, first, this New York Times Sunday Magazine story is called Could Conjoined Twins Share a Mind? written by Susan Dominus. It features a local British Columbia family who are together raising conjoined twins born about the time my youngest son was born.

The hate-filled comments, some masquerading as concern for these pre-school girls adjoined at the head, suggest with disdain that the very young mother should have aborted. This did not take me by surprise so much as shook me to my core. After all, who says who is normal and who lives a life worth living? I am a pro-choice woman, so it is not that. I am not going to parade out all of the geniuses who, in today's environment may have been aborted because, well, we're all pretty much aware that genius comes with its own parameters.

But I want to point out the people in our own communities who live their lives as if they were normal and truly, I ask, how are these girls' lives less normal than the woman who allows a man to beat her (should she have been aborted at birth?) or the man who's returned from war with less ability, should we have left him on the battlefield? The issue is this: If we cannot allow for imperfect infants to enter the world and live their life, whatever life that is, how will there be room for those who are injured later to exist? At what cost perfection?

As a case in point I want to highlight a childhood friend of mine. Her parents were told in no uncertain terms that her life would be a life better lived in an institution, and not a nice one. I believe her cerebral palsy was a birth injury, so they would probably not have been guided toward abortion. But this family chose to educate their daughter, and insisted she never allow her disability to hold her back. Visit her blog, and then decide for yourself whether or not Glenda has made her mark on our world.

Without further ado, below is my comment for the story. I hope you take the time out to read the actual article. It is well and carefully written and tells the story of a family with values that fit my idea of variety in a healthy society. And by the way, I am a taxpayer who is subsidising their choices and am very happy to do so until they find their way forward. This makes me much happier than that I must subsidize big business as per our government's decisions, whether I agree or not.

I was pregnant with my third at the same time as these girls were in their own mom's womb. My own girls were 4 and 2.5 and the three of us watched as the drama unfolded.

My girls love babies and these two were no exception. I wondered if my children would feel disturbed by the differences, but held my tongue and waited. They asked questions, which I answered in a matter-of-fact way.

I think the way the family accepted Tatiana and Krista and the way that I kept any hint of my own learned prejudice out of the conversation allowed my children to recognise the normalcy of these two girls. Our baby, a boy, came out quite average.

Those of you who think these children should have been aborted have been sold a bill of American crud. We are, each of us, quirky and unusual in our own ways. Surgery, mimicking what is displayed in the glossies and on television, and a whole slew of pharmaceuticals have made a horrendous number of you judgmental freaks. If the Hogan twins entered my child's kindergarten class, he'd be as likely to chat them up as he would the kid with the ponytails because they are people, as real and as precious as the next.

My perfect human race includes people who are disabled from birth or since; people who have survived incredible hardship and/or abuse and strive on; people in the depths of despair; and people who got it "easy" and who's job it is, in part, to financially share a tidbit or two with those who will never make the dosh it requires to live a swank and easy life. What does your perfect human race look like?

May 27, 2011

Agonised Bystander

The words are leaking out of my every pore: my fingertips, my mouth, my nose, my eyes.  I rant, I roar, I screech, I bleed.  I want the bullying to stop.  It affects the staff, the families, the children -- both abled and disabled. It upholds the weak and ineffective, and destroys those who dedicate themselves to bring the very best of their craft to the table.  It is fucked up.

But how, without wreaking havoc on all, do I step out of the observer’s role and into the driver’s seat?  I am starved for answers; I fear there are none.

May 20, 2011

100 Word Challenge -- Chasm

The way he told me was ice cold.  He announced he was remarrying.

Six months previous, the stock markets had failed miserably.  His blood pressure was up, way up, and he fretted that no one would discover for days that he’d died.

Email me, even with a mundane ‘I woke up,’ I suggested gently.  And in came the poetry, the philosophy, the introspect.  Everyday.

But nothing of a girlfriend.  Not a whisper, until that email.  It ambushed me late on a Thursday night, too late to call.  I’ll be at a silent retreat till Tuesday, he wrote without a care.

May 15, 2011

what multicultural really means, 3 generations on ...

Standing in the line at the grocery store. Elderly white woman in front of me has the veggies required for a stirfry, complete with hot Serrano peppers and baby bokchoy. (I invite myself to lunch.)
I turn to the couple behind me, also elderly, and say (in Cantonese) Oh! You're having pasta! And she's having a stirfry ... We laugh as the checkout guy eyes us as crazy ... 
I love East Vancouver!

May 13, 2011

Lost in a space

This week's prompt word for the 100 Word Challenge?  Forgetting:

Maybe I am an addict again.

Years ago, I escaped my problems using food.  Stuffing my body numbed me.  Forcing food up gave the relief I craved.

Therapy and intensive actor’s training taught me how to cuss out my anger, cry out my pain, how to laugh and play.  Such relief!

But now?  With three young children and a busy life not my own, I cannot let it out the way I used to.  My house is a mess. But when I come for a recipe and turn to a blog, I lose time, forgetting what I’m meant to do.

May 2, 2011

The Fear of Rejection

In an effort to write more than less, I have joined a writer's challenge at Velvet Verbosity.  I came across it after reading a couple of examples in the beautiful wanderings at Seeking Elevation, a blog I'm really enjoying these days.  I love to live vicariously through other people's experiences, especially if I can find the familiar in them.  The blogger at Seeking Elevation is moving her family to Hong Kong, a place I lived and worked for six long, interesting years.  I am looking forward to seeing a current Hong Kong through her eyes ...

Anyway ... back to the challenge ... 100 words, with an specific word that must be used.  This week's anchor is the word, Family.  Here goes:

The Fear of Rejection

I comment at great length and frequency.  I’m not ever sure if this is appropriate but I cannot stop.  I fear that one day a blogger will finally send me that email:

“Hey!  Stop leaving such long comments.  Those kinds of remarks belong on your own blog, which I’ve noticed is sadly neglected.  Back off.”

But I cannot write regularly on my own blog despite my best intentions.  Writer’s block?  Perhaps.  But my family know that I write here and may not enjoy what I have to say.

Besides.  I truly love the back and forth of a good conversation.

April 7, 2011

Thoughts after coffee ...

There is nothing better than the hours following a lovely coffee (or tea, or whatever) out with a friend, especially if it was their turn to treat you.  Being treated is the best feeling in the world, next to treating somebody else.

Some people just don't "get" the yumminess of the treating system, and never remember to reciprocate, or never allow anyone else to buy.  Others get way too worried about who's turn it is. 

But for those of us who love to treat and be treated, we understand, implicitly that sometimes we will treat, and sometimes we will be treated, but it will always work out in the end.  A perfect friendship pairing is two of this type of people.  It puts a glow on the day.  Especially when every second song in the coffeeshop is The Best '80s Song Ever, and spring is in the air.

March 13, 2011

Why I love Facebook, warts and all

I really do.

Facebook is a really interesting social phenomenon.  I have lots to say about it, and about why I use it now, where a year or two ago I would have given it a miss.

But today I just want to say that it is delightful to receive birthday wishes, many, so many of them, on The Facebook.  I always have been a big birthday celebrator.  I also believe(d) that you have to be responsible (as an adult) for your birthday ... if you want the birthday wishes, you must remind your loved ones that it is your birthday, and not in the days following it, but before.

On my Facebook birthday (close enough to, but not on my day for obvious reasons), I received wishes from people I have not seen in years, from friends I only know on the Internet, from loved ones I talk to all of the time.  Each wish tells me that this person thought about me for long enough to post something, a wish, on my wall.  I tell you, it feels amazing to think of this.

Sometimes I take the time to wish people a happy birthday on FB, sometimes I have not, because I didn't want to appear insincere.  Well ... I will take the time, everytime, after yesterday, because I loved each and every wish I received, and feel positively bathed in good wishes!

Yum!  I do love a Happy Birthday!

March 9, 2011

counting birthdays ...

I received a handmade birthday card from my guy this morning.  At the bottom of it, he writes "You're 43!" and alongside there is a self-portrait of a quaking man, with the words "I'm next!"

"Erm, actually, I'm 44," I tell him.  His eyes widen (and if you knew his looks, he has classic, narrow, almond-shaped Asian eyes, so the wide-eyed look is, in and of itself, pretty darned tootin' funny ... ) so I continue, "You know what comes after 44?"

He shakes his head, pleading, don't say it ...

"45.  And you know what follows 45?"

He shakes his head wildly, madly.


Aging bothers me not at all.  I like myself better every year that I practice the good habits I have learned over time, and drop the ones that bring me no pleasure.  I also am so flawed that I am quite certain that I will have plenty to work on for the rest of my life, regardless of how short or long it is.  And I am incredibly grateful to have made it through some really tough years to get to this day, this month, this year.

I can wait for 50, and I can wait for 45 too.  I have plenty to accomplish at 44.  Starting with baking my birthday cake and cooking our dinner.  But I think I'll leave cleaning my house for tomorrow.  I am hoping to have it under control by the time my much younger husband turns 44 ... I've got till October.

March 6, 2011

Democracy? Wins at all costs?

This past week, at a non-partisan celebration in Quebec, staffers of the party currently in power in Canada hustled media from the room following the Prime Minister's speech and just as a leader from a popular opposition party was taking the stage.

Some people in Canada are celebrating this move as triumph for their party.

I have noticed that, regardless of the party in power, many voices express support for such "winner" moves, or bemoan these same moves as anti-democratic if the other party plays the "winning" hand.

I have to say, I can see why democracy failed the first time it was implemented (ancient Rome, if I am not mistaken).  I can also see why our societies are bound and determined to fall into chaos if this type of attitude prevails.  Are people truly this stupid?

These types of maneuvers, currently happening across the developed world, remind me of things that are commonplace in third world dictatorships and pseudo-democracies.  Is this the future for our own children?  Or do we insist on something better?

Democracy is only going to work if the wealthiest people pay a portion of the taxes, rather than amassing all of the wealth.  Democracy will only work if the poorest of the poor learn to vote in their own interest.  Democracy will only work if we have an open, free and unfettered media, not one owned by the wealthiest or those who follow a very strict dogma based upon economic theory alone.

March 5, 2011


What does practice mean?

I have been thinking a lot about practice this year, especially as last year I was involved in a choir and took private voice lessons.  I gave it all up this past September because I wasn't putting in the practice time required to be prepared each week.

To be fair to myself, being the mom of three smallish children is work enough.  Add to that a major renovation of half of our aged, in places literally crumbling, house; a critically ill parent; and a general penchant for disorder, and any time allotted to practice falls way, way down the priorities list.

To further hinder any possibility I would practice, I do not have a great track record for being disciplined.  I was not encouraged to practice in any positive way in my formative years, by parents or teachers.  To let them (only partway) off the hook, I'm pretty sure they had no idea of how to motivate a child to practice, or why, if said child (um, me) was not a natural worker bee. 

When I was in plays, I was never prepared for rehearsals like others were, with my lines memorised or my character's traits flushed out.  My piano teacher harangued me, week after week, with the same lament: "I could have taped myself talking to you last week and played it back to you this week.  You haven't worked on a single thing."  School teachers too bemoaned my wasted talents, for complete lack of my trying.

Well today I don't have the luxury of repeating the mistakes on my children that my parents did with me.  I am better equipped with knowledge of the hows and the whys of practice. I will not tolerate my daughters' (and eventually my son's) reluctance to put in the time if they want to learn an instrument.  And they do.

What I now know to be true is this: As painful as practicing something over and over and over again is, it brings a person a confidence I never knew as a youngster or young adult, an authenticity in the finished product.  I know this from practicing (when I can or choose to) and from solid research I have invested into the subject.

The trick with children is how to motivate and teach them to practice in a way that brings meaning into the thing that they are learning.  Whether it is studying or completing homework, which I believe is a form of practice, or learning an instrument, or manners for that matter, helping a person to develop meaningful practice habits is tricky.  To be blunt, it requires a whole lot of time and discipline on the part of the adult or mentor.  It also requires creativity.  A whole lot of creativity ... oh, and patience -- oh my, the patience!  And diligence.  An ability to bite the tongue!  A thick skin!  And did I mention ... patience?!

Okay.  I'm killing that one.  Moving on.

What I also know about practice is this:  All of life is about The Practice.  Learn to practice something, anything, and life grows infinitely more livable. And enjoyable, with a huge emphasis on JOY.

But that, my friends, is a post for another day.

February 28, 2011

Empathy ...

I have just read a terrific explanation of Empathy.

I know I am a reasonably empathetic individual.  I had some troubles earlier in my life which gave me a good solid foundation.  I come from a family that leans toward the arts, although the sciences are not ignored.  And I read a lot.  Okay, constantly.

The thing is, many of my less sensitive friends will say/ask me, they don't care/why should they care ... But I'm pretty sure they already do.  And here is how I will explain it to them the next time they ask:

Beauty, eh?!

February 21, 2011

The Plan B

In my late teens and early 20s I worked very hard to change my life.  I had been a pretty miserable kid, caught between warring parents, angry grandparents, teachers who were irritated by a bored and academically advanced kid and, later, a pissed off and turned off teen.  I attracted the attention of the bullies, hung out on the fringes of the different cliques, and eventually made friends with a few beautiful misfits who needed a chubby, insecure side-kick with whom to go out on the town.

The few boyfriends I did manage to land didn't last long.  I always ended things clumsily within weeks of accepting invitations to "go around".  As soon as they became too familiar to me I became nauseous at the sight of each of them.

The only boy who I didn't reject of course, of course, rejected me.  Regularly.

We were perfectly matched.  He hated his father, and I mine.  For very different reasons, I thought at the time, but as it turned out the reasons were pretty much the same.  I just couldn't see it.

We never talked.  Seriously.  We could exchange smoldering looks from across a bar, and when we danced he made me weak in the knees.  But I can count the conversations we had over the course of our relationship (years) on a single hand.  He dumped me often and hard, and always the same way.  By disappearing.

God, how I loved him.

After him, and in between him, I compared every man I met or dated with him.  They had his lips, or spoke with his cadence.  They bounced when they walked, just like he did.

Years later, and even after I'd ended things forever and married someone else, I confessed an ongoing problem to a friend: When things got rough with my husband, and at the time they were tenuous at best, I would imagine what it would be like to see this guy again.

I was pretty sure that we had known each other in past lives, and that he would be a carry over into my next.  Kindred spirits of a sort that couldn't work things out and were doomed to forever enter each others' lives until we got it right.

When I thought about how things would be good, that we would be a perfect fit like an old pair of perfect Fluevogs, she laughed.

Oh, she said,  Michael calls that your Plan B.

Her partner had this theory that everyone has a secret Plan B.  Someone they had broken up with who would swoop in and make everything that wasn't okay better.  Regardless of how they had behaved in the past, doomed relationship, the Plan B would be way better than the current beau.  Way, way better.

Of course, reality is much less enticing.  My Plan B had a pretty harsh drug habit.  He always insinuated I might be cheating; that couldn't be further from the truth.  The chances of him changing were ... slim.  Okay ... none.

My friend and her boyfriend had a good point, and I abandoned my Plan B and concentrated on my good, solid Plan A.  Imperfect, for certain.  He was unsure about us, too.  But he was the first man I dated that didn't remind me of Plan B and I was pretty sure we retained the potential to make a good life with each other, regardless of our struggles.  I persevered all the way through his grad school year, with us apart and his living the college life.  It included a semester overseas -- Paris in springtime of all places -- for which I joined him.

He persevered too, we talked a lot, and together we survived.  Paris most definitely helped.

I FB emailed my no-longer-Plan-B last year, because he was out there and connected to so many of my friends and I hated the thought of being surprised.

He replied, Karen who?

To which I replied, Ah.  That is so you, my love.  And left it at that.

February 20, 2011



Don't be alarmed.  It is just the sound of my head exploding.

February 14, 2011

Of magical thinking ...

When I was in my teens, maybe 15 or 16, I don't remember, I knowingly taught myself to be bulimic.  Not because I was overweight (I was, but I was somewhat reverse dysmorphic, er ... a term I'm officially coining to say that I didn't have an accurate view of my body and did not loathe it).


I taught myself bulimia because every eating disordered character in every story I (obsessively) read wound up getting the attention they needed, talking to terrific counselors who listened and gave them comfort, having their parents pull together and stop acting like self-centred jerks.  As an added bonus, the characters' boyfriends stopped acting like sex-crazed maniacs and more like, well, in retrospect, girlfriends.

Perfect!  I thought with a brain that was obviously addled.  That's my plan.

So after dinner, when the spirit moved me, I disappeared.  Sometimes to my parents' en suite bathroom, with the transistor radio turned high.  But more often out the back of our garden, behind the hedge of evergreens, to toss up whatever I could of my dinner.

From early on, this activity left me with mixed feelings.  I was amused that the evidence was gone before morning, and totally weirded out that my dog was likely concealing it, if you know what I mean ...

I felt guilty, because, hello?  It was kind of gross.

But moreover, I liked it.  I didn't know why, but I did.  It wasn't like it did much for my weight, that continued to yo-yo like crazy.

Was it control?  I certainly didn't feel like I had that anywhere else in my life ... but bulimic behaviours soon became the norm, so any feeling that I controlled something was short lived.

There was something, though.  I felt ... relieved.  I felt momentarily unburdened of the angst, pressure and sadness that had always existed for me.  And I was pretty sure I could eat ... well ... anything.

February 10, 2011

In other news ...

Just discovered that my freezer full of berries has been w/o electricity for a week ... ah, renos, how I love the chaos you bring an already chaotic existence.

Bright side:  friend took my son for 2 hours so I could clean up without distraction.  I might even manage a nap.  Plugging in the fridge in the garage if anything is salvageable and planning marathon canning session this weekend ...

Other bright side:  booked into hotel (Living Social deal I bought last fall) with family for Sunday and Monday nights.  My guy has a meeting on Vancouver Island, so ferry costs also covered.

There are always bright sides.  Somewhere on the earth, even under the clouds (which I love) the sun shines on.  My crazy life continues to be pretty awesome.  Could use some sleep, though.

February 8, 2011

Sisterhood ...

I swore I wouldn't write about my sisters, but I ... have ... to ...

I have the most amazing sisters in the world.  Together we work through the weight of our worlds, talking and sharing information and balancing each other out.

Funny, this seems like a dumb, trite little post, but I just ... have ... to ... SAY IT!

February 2, 2011

I expect more

from doctors than eye rolling and extreme sighs when I ask a question about a loved one in their care.  Seriously.  Are we 6?!

January 24, 2011

Medical System FAIL

The other day, I wrote something about my mom, her terminal illness and our family dynamics.  I asked one of my sisters to read it.  She didn't feel good about this record of our mother being on the Internet so,  out of respect for her feelings and a reservation on my own part to be "exposing" my mom, anonymously or not, I have taken the post down.


I could write chapters and chapters and chapters on the horrors of the western medical model based on economic theory and not people and wellness, both mental and physical ... on the bizarre concept of expelling a patient (now: client), just saved from the brink of death without so much as a social worker's visit, even though family begs it.  How does that, and the ensuing extreme-measures interventions at re-hospitalisations ... how does the government (in Canada that's who funds the medical system) figures that this system is saving us money?!

Sorry, this is most definitely a semi-coherent rant but ... !!!!!