Thursday, January 21, 2010

Things I ♥ Thursdays

It's time once again for Things I ♥ Thursdays. And as I tossed and turned last night, I realised that above all "things" I love the people in my life. In additional to the usual players (the BBs, MTW (and DTW while we're at it), Shiney Shan, DivaMo) there are some you may not know about ...

People like Miss Lady, who went through hell and then some this year and is always graceful, generous and calls it like she sees it about my oh so much smaller upsets. She's stylish, sassy, real, and loving. And also has a wicked way with birthday presents. :)

And The Boss Man, who has the MOST impeccable timing at knowing when to call, when to listen, and when to say "my turn." He listens to me as though anything I say to him may be gold for his life, and calls me to rise to the occassion and give him my best.

Last night in bed there were many more, but they seem to have faded in the light of day. Let's just agree that if your intention has ever been to make a difference with me, you are being thanked here. I love that my life is full of people who love and support me, and who go about their lives making a difference for themselves and other. So, more than anything I'm grateful for you all.

And, I also had a wonderful reminder this morning (iTunes on random is so inspiring sometimes) how much I ♥ Canadian music. The opening chords of almost any Great Big Sea song make me feel like I've come home. I spend a lot of time listening to other stuff and feeling like something is missing. And then The Barenaked Ladies' (WHO ARE COMING SOON TO VICTORIA!!!) "Some Fantastic" starts and a smile spreads across my face. Or Wide Mouth Mason riff between "Sugarcane" and Stevie Wonder's "Superstition" and I know that's what an already perfect song was meant to be married to.

We don't have a culture of extreme self-promotion in Canada (though we are getting over that, for better or for worse), but I'd say there is little more worth listening to Canadian music of all genres. Real, homegrown, professional, soulful, amazing Canadian music. We've a stunning history of it (Joni Mitchell, Leonard Cohen and ...), a growing present (Sarah MacLachlan, and Dianna Krall, and The Stills and Arcade Fire and ...), and with any luck *and an arts-positive change in government* a promising future.

So, a challenge and a request on this loving Thursday:

1. If there is someone in your life who may not know how important they are to you, let them know NOW.

2. Get to know your Canadian musician and the Canadian music scene. Give a listen. Talk. Share. Diva Mo might even let you take her to dinner (or, you can catch her this weekend in Prince George - brr!).

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

That's right, I shun Canada's #1 export for fun*

It's been a challenging day in my little gluten-free world. Maybe if I wasn't already feeling ill for going on 48 hours I wouldn't have even noticed. But today I noticed. Big time. I get tired of having to read every fricking label. To announce to the server at every fricking restaurant what my health concerns are, and then cross my fingers that a) they convey the details to the kitchen staff and b) the kitchen staff knows what's required for me to safely eat my meal. And it's not just food. It's anything that touches my skin as well - moisturizer, body wash, tanning lotion, hair products, make up, etc.

Somebody who really aught to know better recently joked "you're taking this celiac thing a bit far aren't you?" and it ruffled more than one feather. I really do, I believe, try to be responsible about it for myself, be grateful that since my diagnosis I've felt better than I did in the last 15 years, and not expect other people to have to take care of it. But days like today I just want a fricking break. I want to put saltines in my chicken soup (trust me, rice crackers are NOT the same) and eat a Mars bar and use the locally made shampoo Cowboy bought me. I want to indulge in being sick without worrying about making myself worse. Or having other people make it worse.

Incident 1: I'm looking for a new hair product like one I used to love but that has been discontinued. I stopped by a salon, told them what I was looking for, and then without reading the label gobbed a proferred sample on my hand, rubbed it around, and then scrunched it onto the ends of my hair. And then I read the label. It included Hydrolyzed Wheat Protein and I said "Oh, I can't use this I'm allergic to wheat." To which the 'helper' replied "well, I'm allergic to wheat and I use this all the time." Oh, really? How super for you. But I break out in a burning, itchy rash, so how's about NO! So I went and washed my hands and have just put up with the itchy neck for the rest of the day.

Incident 2: I phoned Air Transat, who offer a whole wide variety of special in-flight meals, to pre-order our breakfasts coming and going to Puerto Vallarta. I choose for Cowboy and I from the "Club Class" menu, and then mentioned that my meal needs to be gluten free. Oh, quelle surprise, but I have to choose between the Club Class meal I'm entitled to, and the economy class gluten free meal. Which the 'helper' felt she needed to repeat 3 times - because really, who wouldn't choose to have the $5 meal instead of the $3 meal even if it means being sick for days after, right? And when I said that it really is more important that I be well for the trip, she said "well of course, I understand." WTF!!! Do you really think I was ordering the gluten-free meal for fun? Do diabetics have to explain why they order special meals? Do people with peanut allergies have to argue for safe food?

Yes. I'm annoyed. I'm scared about travelling for 2 weeks and having to make all my normal requests to people who may or may not speak English. And, when all else fails, I have printed out in Spanish restaurant cards, because nothing says "I'm low maintenance" like a transliterated, laminated card explaining your health concerns.

I guess, if I was going to be honest, the label for today would be pissed off & whiney. But I've pre-set them so forthright will have to do.

PS - Wheat isn't actually even in the top 10 of Canadian exports, but apparently I'm also feeling dramatic.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Slaying the swimsuit dragon

Never in my life have I looked forward to wearing a swimsuit. NEVER. I've been 40 pounds lighter than I am now (and 30 pounds heavier, but let's not think about that), and even at my thinnest I was awkward and self-conscious and a swimsuit was just something I had to wear to do one of the things I love to do most - play in the water.

I would buy a new suit when I absolutely had too - when chlorine had eaten away essential bits, or when the lycra to girth ratio was over-extended, or when I arrived at my summer holiday destination only to find I'd forgotten to pack the dreaded garb. In fact, the last suit I bought was in 2000 at a sports store in Jasper, with the BBs anxiously awaiting so we could head to our resort pool, and then up to Miette hot springs. And, as always, I bought something utilitarian - something I could do water sports in without thinking too much about the over all look.

Ever since Cowboy surprised me with our impending trip to Mexico, I've had one nagging, inescapable thought (as previously posted) - I need a new swimsuit, and I want to look and feel AMAZING wearing it. I've looked online and off. I've done research about the best suits for my size, shape and age. I've planned and schemed and dreamt, but never really believed one suit could do everything I want and need it to do.

And yesterday, with my always super supportive (and cash ready) knight-in-shining-denim Cowboy and the undauntable page/customer service specialist at Beachrags, I sallied forth into the change room, armed with 6 suits all had-picked to lift, tuck, cinch, highlight and generally make the most of my assets and the least of my deficits. The first suit was it. A magic moment. Excalibur in lycra. I wanted to walk out of the store in it. To throw on a floppy hat and langorously extend my hand for a fresh martini. I felt long and strong (svelte ansd sexy even, thanks Coach!) and glamorous and secure and WONDERFUL. In the spirit of due diligence I tried on the other 5 suits (that's hard work!), but nothing else even came close. In fact, of the 5 others, I only showed Cowboy 1, and he was pretty clear it didn't even come close.

It's quite the breakthrough for me. I cant WAIT to wear it.

I was going to try to find a picture of the suit online, but then I decided that you can all wait and see a picture of me in all my glory, lounging in a beach-side chaise in Puerto Vallarta.

6 sleeps!

Friday, January 15, 2010

Say You're One of Them: Review

BB1, knowing the shortest distance to his mom's ♥, gave me the one and only book I received this Christmas, a collection of (not that) short stories about childhood in modern urban Central Africa.

View on Amazon
Say You're One of Them by Uwem Akepi, true to its subject, is sordid, and beautiful, and gut-wrenching, and dusty, and compelling, and unignorable. The child protagonists are instant adults - 11-year old prostitutes, 16-year old Sharia amputees, 9 year old refugees - and the adults are lost souls. Hutu wives and their Tutsi husbands in Rwanda as it implodes, and uncles raising nieces and nephews and wondering what to do with them for love and profit. The stories, like the characters, are full of love and humour and desperation and super-human will.

First-time author Uwem Akepi manages to be true to the faith and hope one expects of a Jesuit priest (he serves at a church in Lagos, Nigeria), and to his Nigerian home. And, being true to himself, his people, and his environment, he includes an amazing array of langauges and dialects from standard English to regional French, to the made-up pidgen and patois of children living in multi-cultured lands. 

Somehow, the stories always rise above the horrific and provide a sense of peace. Akepi suitably was awarded the Commonwealth Prize for best first book, Africa Region. I hope it won't be long until his second book.

Pathetic Fallacy: The beckoning sea

n.: The attribution of human emotions or characteristics to inanimate objects or to nature; for example, angry clouds; a cruel wind

My head had a mind of its own today, taking me down creepy boarded-off alleyways best left ignored. The sea, the sea, the sea beckoned, with promises of fresh breezes to blow away the ghosts.

The sun. The gentle evening sun, hid at my approach. Not wanting its pink softness sullied by my grey.

And blushed deeply at my timid approach, dancing at my feet, cleaning the pebbles but scorning my moody soul.

Mocking me with its swirling waves. Rising, falling, rolling and retreating.

The raucous seagulls laughed so hard at my feeble attempts at absolution, they decided to hold a party.

So I turned my back on fickle nature, and faced the wall. Only to find people before me had attempted to find their own expression facing the sea. Their confusion a contrast to the clear thoughts of nature.

And underneath it all - always - the wound beneath the skin.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Things I ♥ Thursdays

In week 2 of doing things I love, I stumbled upon a real treat. My favourite regional coffee house Serious Coffee has finally started serving gluten free treats. These particular delights come from the Laughing Daughters bakery on Salt Spring Island. And one of the things I got to do this week was enjoy their delicious, rich, chewy gingersnap while drinking a steamy hot coffee and watching the world ebb and flow from the shop.

What else did I get to do this week that I ♥?
  • sushi, and then more sushi!
  • small group meeting - you guys are AWESOME!
  • going out for dinner
  • making dinner at home (best cod fillets ever!)
  • fake tanning - no really. I know it sounds horrible and trés Jersey Shore but those 4 minutes in the sun tank are the most peaceful minutes of my day. And after 6 visits I'm no longer burning every time, and have turned from a bluish pink white to a yellowish white. Another week and I might actually have some sort of a skin colour by the time I leave for Mexico. Wouldn't want to be used as a landing beacon on the beach ... again. ;-)

A sextant, a compass and an open sea

So, I've spent some time the last few days investigating the various ports calling me to steer my vessel (yes, I am going to beat that metaphor to death - thanks for asking :P) and with "where am I going" in mind today I fell down an e-rabbit hole and found Hugh Macleod - master satirical cartoonish and creativity wise guy.

I especially love this particular piece:

Hugh (or should I call him Macleod?) has a recently published 'secrets of creative success' book entitled Ignore Everybody that I think I'll look for in my favourite local independent bookseller and peruse on the beaches of Mexico. Nobody said beach reading couldn't inspire you to take on your life, right?

Just a few days in, I'm really excited about unfurling my sails. I see some immediate actions to take. And I've been working on my portfolio - not just developing new writing ideas, but also realising how much I've already written (I'd forgotten the things I've had published) and how much is just waiting to be shared.

More coming soon. Going to sleep on it.

Monday, January 11, 2010

captain of my own vessel

I've been doing a lot of thinking lately about the direction of my life, whether I'm really actively living or just surviving, and wondering how much my passivity has influenced the lack of action in my BBs' lives. To be honest, I was pretty much beating myself up about it. And I realised last week (it was a Deep Thoughts with Jack Handy kind of moment) that I can't pave someone else's road, I can only carve out my own path and hope they see how to do it. And then I kind of went back to doing nothing about it except wondering and worrying and fretting and dealing with each day that came along.

I've thought often of a willow tree, and how it has such deep roots that it cannot be blown down by winds, but instead has the grace and flexibility to remain rooted while bending with the wind. A rigid cottonwood seems stronger, but snaps in any storm. But the willow bends and sways and goes on being where it's planted, doing what it's designed to do. I love willow trees.

So here I am at work (shhhhh - don't tell anyone I'm blogging at work!) and a song I swear I've never heard before and certainly don't remember downloading starts playing in my songlist. And Garth Brooks croons
You know a dream is like a river
Ever changin' as it flows
And a dreamer's just a vessel
That must follow where it goes
Trying to learn from what's behind you
And never knowing what's in store
Makes each day a constant battle
Just to stay between the shores...and
I will sail my vessel
'Til the river runs dry
Like a bird upon the wind
These waters are my sky
I'll never reach my destination
If I never try
So I will sail my vessel
Until the river runs dry
And I teared up. And stopped the song. And started it again. And teared up and let it play all the way through. And then I listened again. And again. And then I decided to share it with you.

@ Yahoo! Video

I don't know when it became okay to give up on my dreams. Maybe it was standing in line at the food bank. Or when once too often I had to tell a BB no because of money. Or when I went from too many teaching jobs to too few and then realised that I'd mortgaged our future on an education I'm not using.  But somewhere along the way I just gave up. To the point where now I'm not sure I could realy tell you what my dreams are for sure, but I know they aren't this.

And yes, I know I have a long history of songs being epic and emotional touchstones for me. But I can't think of a song that I would more love to have be me ephithet (or do I mean epitaph?). Either way. I think it's time I return to sailing my vessel. If you want the rest of the lyrics, here they be.

"The River"
You know a dream is like a river
Ever changin' as it flows
And a dreamer's just a vessel
That must follow where it goes
Trying to learn from what's behind you
And never knowing what's in store
Makes each day a constant battle
Just to stay between the shores...and

I will sail my vessel
'Til the river runs dry
Like a bird upon the wind
These waters are my sky
I'll never reach my destination
If I never try
So I will sail my vessel
'Til the river runs dry

Too many times we stand aside
And let the waters slip away
'Til what we put off 'til tomorrow
Has now become today
So don't you sit upon the shoreline
And say you're satisfied
Choose to chance the rapids
And dare to dance the tide...yes

I will sail my vessel
'Til the river runs dry
Like a bird upon the wind
These waters are my sky
I'll never reach my destination
If I never try
So I will sail my vessel
'Til the river runs dry
There's bound to be rough waters
And I know I'll take some falls
But with the good Lord as my captain
I can make it through them all...yes

I will sail my vessel
'Til the river runs dry
Like a bird upon the wind
These waters are my sky
I'll never reach my destination
If I never try
So I will sail my vessel
'Til the river runs dry
Yes, I will sail my vessel
'Til the river runs dry
'Til the river runs dry

Written by Victoria Shaw & Garth Brooks

Sunday, January 10, 2010

love at first blog

I - loquacious, communicative, garrulous, ebullient I - am near wordless with excitement. Shiney Shan, the Shan of Shans, the best of all best friends, has joined the blogosphere:!

I am at once thrilled, and impressed and slightly intimidated. The girl has chops - mom chops, reading chops, intelligence chops, domestic goddess chops, wife chops and great big engaging writing chops. Her first post is a delight of whimsy and literary allusion and domestic reality. It's charming and real and intelligent, just like Shan.

For those few people who haven't already hear me sing her praises, Shan has been my best friend since I was 4. She's the one person in the world I can say ANYTHING to and know it wn't make a single drop of difference in her love for me. She makes me laugh at myself. She watches out for me, encourages me, inspires me and gives me hope and clarity and perspective. While most people think it's the longevity of our friendship that is remarkable, for me it's the depth of Shan's wisdom, generosity and love that moves me.

I'm not one for regret, but if I could I'd go back in time and change one thing I'd ask my dad to take more picture of us riding Diamond D (Shan's horse) and running away to the thicket behind our houses, and ... well ... being little girls. But, since time travel isn't going to work, we'll have to do with a grainy group shot from 1978, and side-by-side blogging.

I love you, Shiney - welcome to the blogosphere!

Hello, Ducky

When I was but a wee lassie - not younger than 4, but not older than 7 - my parents took a weekend trip to Jasper National Park (♥), including a visit to the Miette Hot Springs (HIGHLY RECOMMEND!). In bringing back souveniers for their three little girls at home they looked not to the clichéd stacks of T-shirts or useless little spoons, and instead found the three sweetest egg cups in the world: a hen chick, a duckling and a bunny.

I don't know if I'd have learned to love soft-boiled eggs if it weren't for the pleasure of eating them out of my ducky egg cup. For me the pleasure of dipping a crisp, buttery toast soldier into a gooey bright yellow yolk instantly evokes feelings of not just nostalgia but being nourished and nurtured ... and playing with my food.

I recently discovered (thanks to MTW) the absolute heaven that is the Silly-Yak Bakery's GF Italian Herb bread, and this morning it gave two slices to the cause of Italian Herb toast soldiers and a (slightly under-cooked) soft-boiled egg. It went FAST! I'm not even sure how much I tasted. It's been more than 5 years since I had a soft-boiled egg, because eating them without toast seemed akin to going to Disneyland but not being allowed on the rides. And clearly I couldn't wait.

A glass of cranberry juice. A cup of fresh fruit. And I'm in Sunday morning heaven. Thanks, Little Ducky.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Want to share in my guilty pleasure?

One of my favourite and long-term guilty pleasures (and with thanks always to PolarCanuck for the introduction) is the celebrity fashion blog GoFugYourself. FugGirls Heather and Jessica have an uncommon and delightful combination of savage wit, fashion sense and good grammar that has kept me coming back to their blog for years - probably since before I even realised it was a blog.

Recently the FugGirls, as they call themselves, have introduced more interactivity to their posts, including a weekly call for submissions they call "Freaky Fug Friday." They post a picture of a celebrity in a particularly awful getup and invite readers to send in write-ups about it, usually in the form of a particular poetry form (haiku have been a popular one, and I always love the 'change the lyrics' games).

This week's FFF entry calls for a MadLib, and to make it particularly MAD I though I'd enlist your help. You provide the following parts of speech, and I'll include them in my submission:
  • PLURAL NOUN (x2)
  • ADJECTIVE (x6)
  • NOUN (x4)
  • VERB (x4)

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Things I ♥ Thursdays

As a reminder to make sure I do things with my free time that I REALLY love, today marks the beginning of a new weekly update on Smiles and Winks: Things I ♥ Thursdays.

Basically TI♥T's a quick way for me to let you know what I love, and (more to the point) what I've been doing that I love. Some of them might be things that I have always loved and maybe haven't made time for recently, and some of them might be things I never knew I loved.

Part of me feels like I'm shooting myself in the foot starting this 2 weeks before I leave for Puerto Vallarta, since there'll be limited opportunities to blog while I'm there. But if I don't make an actual update, I'll be sure to record my thoughts in my journal on Thursday and update the TI♥T list when I get home.

So without further ado, the things I've loved doing so far this week:

  • Sitting on the floor watching BB1 play video games with his friends and hearing them laugh
  • Reading a new book in my velvet armchair in my bedroom
  • Cross-stitch (that one's for you, MTW)
  • Tea and catch-up with Hey Lady
  • Mid-morning yoga

So, you can see that doing what I love has started off with some quietude, but I have to say I'm really loving it. I think I'll grab my crossword puzzle book and head for bed. There will be plenty of time in Mexico for loving adventure.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

of Popes and Romans and markers of time

About this time a year ago - a year by the standard set by Pope Gregory at least, but more on that in a second - I made a list. It's a standard ritual for many people, akin to setting resolutions and collaging and taking stock. But it's odd - January 1 is really just a day like any other day.

There are so many calendars - Gregorian, Julian, Hebrew, Islamic, Indian, Chinese, Baha'i - and everyone of them is made up by people who just picked one thing as a beginning and something else as an ending. New Years Days, like so much in our lives, are made up. Why should one day be designated as a start or end of anything? Why is the lunar cycle or a solar cycle or any other standard the standard measure of time? For me my birthday and the start of the school year are equally valid markers of a new cycle,

And yet, we 'modern' type folk by and large set Dec. 31/Jan. 1 days to reflect on the old, set ideals for the new, and create a fresh start for ourselves. Yes, I recognize that many many observations - Easter, Yom Kippur, Lunar New Year, Ramadan, etc - are still based on other non-Gregorian calendars, but it's hard to dispute the Gregorian as the standard. Now stop interrupting or this post will never be finished.

Actually, this is not just any new year - it's a fresh decade (any argument of whether or not the decade began in 2000 or 2001 will be redacted), a year in which the name of the year itself has been subsumed by the localised hysteria of VANOC and the impending Olympiad and taken on a whole new life. A year of round numbers. So, as the marking of years passing go, this is a momentous one.

My point is, about a year ago I made a list. A list of what I wanted to achieve in 2009, what I hoped would have been added to my life (freedom and love and $) or what would be removed from my life (30 or so pounds and doubt and confusion). What I'd see, or do, or create for my sons to see or do. I imagine that list included both dreaming and reality and bridges between the two. Only in the ensuing months I moved blogs and I can't access the old one and I'm left wondering - if I make a list now will it be very different. Have I created in the last 12 months a life much different from the one I already had?

The biggest difference from a year ago is clearly my Cowboy. And he's pretty fantastic. But in all the spaces where Cowboy isn't, I don't really see that much difference in what I have and who I am compared to 12 months ago. And that's slightly discomfitting. I'm pretty done with making promises, and I'm really excited and interested in what's coming. I've been feeling lately like I can't quite get my feet underneath me, or like I've somehow lost my way and life has just been occurring without any time or space or air for me to really enjoy it.

Turns out that's bullsh*t. Just because I haven't been doing the things I love doesn't mean they aren't still there for me to do. So this year I'm going to do the things I love - sing, dance, socialise with my friends, play piano, paint, write, teach. I will not take on, as Eleanor Roosevelt extorts, doing on thing each day that scares me (have I ever mentioned that I have very few fears?). Instead this year I am going to do one thing each day that moves me. One thing I love. Now THAT is a year that will make a difference.

And, since it's already January 3, I guess I have some catching up to already. YAHOO!!
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