Thursday, May 27, 2010

TI♥T: Learnin'

I've always like school. Before I even stepped foot in Don Titus Elementary School for that first day of Grade 1, I'd already learned at my parent's laps to learn to read, to explore, to ask questions and find answers. And that hunger paid off pretty well in the formal education setting. I was someone for whom traditional learning worked. I played well with others. I responded to intermittent reinforcement. And so I continued on, with a brief child-bearing interlude, through to my Masters Degree.

I will say something here that I've never really acknowledged - it really took something for me to keep going that far. I left my marriage 3 months before my Masters Degree started, I had 2 young sons, my name was on the bills for the first time, and not a whole lot of people thought it was a good idea. It took something for me, but it also really took something for my sons, and for Glassboat, who came along just in time to make me dinner while I edited my thesis, and to mix me a cocktail and then disappear when I was prepping for my defense and not very fit for human companionship. It took something, and yet it was exactly where I wanted to be so I never questioned it. It took what it took to do something I knew I was pulled to do. I'm proud of having completed what I set out to then. I make jokes about my degree having no human practicality, but that's not true - it proved to me that I can do great things when I am clear & committed.

I love learning. And this morning I came across an article somewhere - down some interwebz rabbit hole I can no longer retrace - that suggests that love is a perfectly natural, and chemical, reaction. It turns out that when a human brain (and probably some other ones too) acquires new knowledge, a chemical reaction occurs that is similar to that experienced when someone takes narcotics. I found that pretty intriguing - not intriguing enough to bookmark mind you, but intriguing none-the-less. I truly do feel a rush when I figure something out for the first time, or read something new. And now I have a little better idea why.

All of that is just to say that I'm very excited to be embarking on a new learning adventure - starting next week I'm beginning work with an employment guru to 'learn' (uncover?) what way of generating an income will best fulfill & express me. I have some fairly set ideas, but what's been fun already in the process is being open to looking at things in a new way. We started with me looking at the questions James Lipton asks his guests on Inside the Actor's Studio:
  • What is your favorite word?
  • What is your least favorite word?
  • What turns you on?
  • What turns you off?
  • What sound or noise do you love?
  • What sound or noise do you hate?
  • What is your favorite curse word?
  • What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?
  • What profession would you not like to do?
  • If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?
And from there I found out that Lipton's questions are a variation of the confessions popularised by the French writer Marcel Proust, which lead me to this online Proustian questionairre at Vanity Fair. Check it out - sometimes learning about yourself can be the most intriguing learning of all (and the results tell you which celebrities gave similar responses, which is also fun - I'm 89% like Oscar de la Renta!).

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

I Wanna Live Forever

I'm in the middle of packing my house. Nearing the end, in fact. I have a linen closet, some storage stuff that should probably just be thrown out. The last minute kitchen stuff that I'll do on Friday. Awkward over-sized items that will get thrown in the trunk of my car. We're getting there. And at some point in the last few days we all started to pull together, my BBs and me.

We're on a roll. Creating new things for each of us to step into. The BBs are doing their things - finding jobs and places to share with friends. Spreading their wings. And I'm beginning to think of how I will feather my imminently empty nest.

Once that happens, it's time to start thinking about what's next for me. I have an interview with an amazing employment guru on Tuesday. She asked me some questions based on James Lipton's Inside the Actor's Studio interviews to get me ready. And I've just begun to think on them as I pack, sort, discard. 

And then I stopped to make a late dinner. A little eggs & toast to fuel our paccking. And I sat down to eat mine. And I turned on the TV. And I will stay here until midnight. Tomorrow is another day for packing, but tonight the TV has me rapt.


Because I Sing the Body Electric. Because I Wanna Be Bad and Not Even Care. Because I Wanna Live Forever. Because when I was 14 and first saw the original Fame on cable while babysitting I was titilated and moved and I thought that if those inner-city kids - a Jewish girl with a single mom, the piano-playing son of a taxi driver, a homeless & illiterate ballet dancer - could dream dreams they never even knew they had & then reach them, then maybe I, an awkward, insecure but charming wannabe singer & actor from a small town could maybe dream dreams and live them too. And tonight is the perfect night to dream dreams.

Back then I watched. And I re-watched. The first LP I ever bought (and still have) was the Fame soundtrack. And then I watched the TV show and bought (and still have) the LP of the TV soundtrack. And I received another season worth of soundtrack on a cassette in my Christmas stocking. I sang the songs as part of my drama classes.

And I dreamt.

I dreamt of singing. Of acting. Of New York City. I believed, back then, in miracles. In drug store discoveries. That chubby awkward blondes from nowhere could stand out somewhere. And I dreamt, as well, of teaching. Even when I dreamt of being a student at the NYC School for the Performing Arts I always dreamt of teaching. Of learning enough to pass it on.

I've taught now. I've been to New York City. I've sung for as many as 900 people. But somewhere along the way I forgot to dream. It's the perfect time for a refresher, even of the cheesy, dramatic, theatrical, musical 80's variety. Back to the TV - it's almost time for Coco's big song.

Sometimes I wonder where I've been
Who I am
Do I fit in.
Make believin' is hard alone,
Out here on my own

We're always provin' who we are
Always reachin' for the risin' star
To guide me far
And shine me home
Out here on my own
Until the morning sun appears
Making light of all my fears
I dry the tears
I've never shown
Out here on my own

When I'm down and feelin' blue
I close my eyes so I can be with you
Oh, baby, be strong for me
Baby, belong to me
Help me through
Help me need you

Thursday, May 20, 2010

TI♥T: A Timely Reminder

I just came across this quote. It reminds me why The God of Small Things is one of my favourite books of all time. It reminds me that perfection is impossible so I should simply live. It reminds me that there's beauty and joy in all parts of this roller-coaster life.

If you haven't read The God of Small Things yet, stop reading this and go get it (just click the book link from the left side bar). If you have read this novel of wonder, enjoy this brief reprise:

“The only dream worth having is to dream that you will live while you are alive, and die only when you are dead. To love, to be loved. To never forget your own insignificance. To never get used to the unspeakable violence and vulgar disparity of the life around you. To seek joy in the saddest places. To pursue beauty to its lair. To never simplify what is complicated or complicate what is simple. To respect strength, never power. Above all to watch. To try and understand. To never look away. And never, never to forget.” ~Arundhati Roy

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Not my Father's strongly-worded letter (aka BC Hydro can bite me)

Dear BC Hydro,

I know you are a dinosaur monopoly who doesn't have to bother giving a damn about the needs of one customer. I know that as even one customer goes, I'm probably not a very important one. I don't run a 3000 sq. foot home with multiple fridges and a giant heated pool, or manage a 15 storey office tower with central heat. I know that I'm just a single mom with a couple kids who forget sometimes to turn the lights off, and that my gut-sucking bill of $130/mo is barely even lunch money in your world.

But you forget something. You forget that this is not the old-days, when power monopolies were expected and accepted. When a strongly-written letter to the editor might take a week to get published in the local paper, if it made it at all. And when accountability, responsibility and customer care weren't even a glint in the eye of the big boys at head office.

No, this is the day of the interwebs. Of social media. Of Susan Boyle's and Star Wars kids and viral marketing and corporations losing control of their image as it's taken over by the masses. You keep your PowerSmart - we've got PeopleSmart. I've got blog readers - not a lot, but they are passionate. And I've got Twitter followers - just over 200, in fact. Who between them have almost a million followers. I have 400 Facebook friends, and within just 2 degress of separation I surround the globe with millions more.

And I'm pissed off.

What brought all this on, you ask? I just logged into my online account (worst website ever, by the way, but we'll deal with that elsewhere) to find in giant letters that my account has been closed. WTF?? Says who? I still have power, so at least you haven't totally screwed me over. But I am more than curious as to under whose authority my account has been closed, since I have a $400+ credit with you and haven't contacted anyone in your offices in 6 years. Like I said though, the power is still on, so let's hope that lasts. And by the way, thanks for accepting that last payment of $130 AFTER the account was erroneously closed. You rock. NOT AT ALL!

After my initial shock I thought I'd call and see if we can't figure out what closed means, and also let you know I'm moving in 10 days (what I really need right now is more stress, so thanks too for that). I called. I was at work, so I just tucked the phone under my chin and got back to work. Until 57 minutes later when I decided I'd hang up - despite the now nauseating admonition to "please stay on the line as it will be faster than hanging up and calling again" - It couldn't possibly be slower, I figured, and it was now past time for me to go home.

So I came home and called again. I changed out of my work clothes while I was on hold. I went to the bathroom while I was on hold. I made a delicious jerked roast beef & rice dinner while I was on hold. And after another 43 minutes my son asked if I was ever going to get off the phone. So I did.

And now I'm eating my delicious jerked roast beef & rice dinner. And plotting the downfall of all the archaic Big-Boy monopolies that don't exist based on their superior customer care and satisfaction. And, because I can't live on solar power in my new apartment, I will call you back. And wait. And have my time and peace-of-mind and consideration spat upon some more. But ultimately, some day, this will change. And I'll look back and know that I was one of the giant killers.

Get stuffed, fricking useless monopolies. Telus has lost it's stranglehold on our phone lines, and someday you will lose your stranglehold on our electricity.

PS - I want my overpayment refunded!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

TI♥T - Dream a little dream

Sometimes life just lifes all over you and gets intensely lifey. And when that happens, what there is to get you through is dreams. Day dreams. Night dreams. Lucid dreams. Dreams in pen and  ink. Dream houses. Dreamscapes. Dreams you nurture until they blossom. Dreams you share to speed them on their way.

This past week or two I've had so much life happening that I've sometimes forgotten that I still get to dream. But I do dream. Of watching giraffes on African plains. Of BMW cabriolets. Of granite counter-tops in a spacious house filled with family and laughter. Of sunsets and sea breezes and sitting silently with my hand in yours. Of watching my girlfriends in lace pledging forever with flowers in their hair.

Yes, I dream. And then I get up and get back to the matters at hand. Because that's the magic that has dreams come true.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Patsy May

Some people - people who like to be scowled at mostly, like her baby brother - call MTW Patsy May. I think maybe her dear dad started it. And my dear dad takes it on sometimes (though mostly he just calls her 'hon' - I don't know what he calls her when he's pissed off). Five people from a giant 20 year old to toddling 20 month-er call her Grandma. To a whole slew of nieces & nephews she's Auntie Pat. To her friends she's mostly just Pat. And just three of us are lucky enough to call her "mom."

With Mother's Day approaching I've mostly been thinking about how much I dread this 'holiday.' I hate hoping the BBs will do something for me without my reminding them (or giving them money for the presents). I blush with the realisation that there is no mom award for which I'll ever be eligible or nominated. I regret some things that are, and wish for some things that aren't. As with most things in life, when my focus is on me there's not that much to be excited about around Mother's Day, and I wish it'd just go away.

And then as I was making lunch just now I remembered - Mother's Day isn't really about me, it's about honouring my Mother. I often carry on about how much I love my dad - and trust me, if anyone has heard about it all my life it's my mom - and I've kind of just expected her to be okay with that. And to know that I love her too. That's what mom's do, right? We put up with not getting Christmas presents, or being left out of the photo montage LOVE wall (I really DO intend to have her picture there - I just don't have the perfect one yet!)

So I thought maybe I'd try to make up for some of my daughterly neglect in a blog post. Because nothing says I love you like online media, right? Without further babbling then, I present to you my mom:

Patsy May is funny. She forgets sometimes, but she loves to laugh. And to sing. And to create. She has her father's way with words and her mother's sharp tongue and together they shine a bright clear light on the world. She's petite, but she carries herself in such a way that she is never unnoticed in a room. She's stylish and classy and always dresses the part.  She has such an eye for beauty and an ear for harmony that every where she goes - and she goes a lot of wheres - she brings back sights and sounds and experiences to share. In the words of one of her Grandsons, "Grandma could make cardboard taste good" - though she hasn't tried cardboard, she does love to cook for her family and friends, to leave us all nourished and nurtured and healthy. She's a small town girl and an ardent world traveler. She cares enough to be honest, and to hurt when her honesty is taken the wrong way.

This is my mom. Who loves her family. And takes care of us. And prays for us. And wants nothing more than for us to be happy and well. And who, like most moms, often puts what she wants aside for what she thinks we need. Thanks for all you've done, Mom. And for all you still do.

This is my Mom. Who I love. And who more than anything these days I wish I was more of.

Things I love Thursday: Techno geek edition

So I've been thinking about this post for a while. It occurs to people that I'm online a lot - mostly because I'm online a lot. A Facebook status update here. A Twitter tweet there. An all-too occassional blog post. And it's possible that some of you wonder why. Why is Shan online so much? Is her 'real life' not engaging enough? Does she not have enough 'real' people in her life? Is she bored? Is her iPhone really that much cooler than a book?

Heck no. But let me explain.

I love people. All people. Or at least, many many people. And the reason I go online is to connect with people. Different people in different spots at different times. And also, to have people connect with me.

Exhibit A: I have been blogging for over 7 years (though you can't really tell anymore since Squarespace deleted my old blog and I haven't figured out how to import my previous posts here). I blog because I call myself a writer and wasn't writing very often. Now I blog. I'm still not publishing much, but at least I am committing words to some form of publicly consumable format and keeping the dream alive. By however tenuous a lifeline. I blog so you have access to the writerly part of me.

Exhibit B: Facebook For a while Facebook was my joy. I got obsessed. I couldn't go more than an hour without seeing who said what and adding my supposed witicisms to the fray. It is not Facebook that matters to me though. On Facebook I am connected to almost 400 people who I had already met in 'real life' many of whom I'd lost any contact with and missed dearly. Facebook allows me to know that my elementary school best friend is now living in Ottawa and adjusting to a new city, to share with her about motherhood ups and downs, and to watch her young daughter grow. It also allows me to giggle at videos of my dear baby nephew, and to keep tabs on all my various cousins.

Exhibit C: Ah, Twitter, my latest buffet of connectivity. What I love about Twitter is that on any day I can connect with global leaders in the writing, communications, mothering, and entertainment worlds. I have networked with authors, artists, big-time bloggers and even Erica Ehm. And they have connected with me. Every time I go on Twitter a stranger contributes to my life and learning. Where else can you say that?

And now, I have an iPhone. Yes, it is in my hot little hands a lot of the time. And no, I'm not playing Sudoku or Popping Blowfish (at least, I'm MOSTLY not doing that). I got my iPhone because it allows me to blog/face/tweet/text and call anyone anywhere at anytime.

If that makes me a geek, so be it. But now that I think about it, I'm pretty sure I'm more of a people geek than a techno geek.
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