Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Nasty Job

My house in the throes of massive repairs and painting.

There is always one nasty ugly job in my life that I keep putting off and putting off.

Almost like sticking my head into a bush with my bum sticking out thinking no one could see me. Don't laugh. I had a dog that did that. I'd be calling her: "Tara, Tara!" and she'd head for a bush and hide and I'd have to laugh, watching how she'd let her bum hang out and tuck her tail around it and lie perfectly still. She was always amazed when I'd stick my head in the other side of the bush and go "na-na-na I'm smarter than you!"

But I digress. Today I was in my office up the road all morning. I want to put a park in our town. With a BBQ pit and nice benches and maybe a stretch of boardwalk on the shore.

But that put-off nasty job in my house? it kept jumping into my brain.

It's like this: I get infested in my utility room with ants every July and put down bait and spray and powder and eco-friendly solutions (baking powder and icing sugar mixed 50/50), etc. And all this takes place behind a freezer and all over a window where they get in and down from the ceiling where there are gaps (old wood ceilings and I do like them, the ceilings, not the ants). And the mess this year, people?

Do you know that ants cart off their dead for they have their very own graveyards near wherever the hell their nests are? Yeah, they do. But this year I killed so many I imagine I must have been lucky and killed the graveyard attendants plus the funeral corteges and the mourners too. So the massacre sites on windows, in poison buckets and behind freezer? Beyond imagining

This avoidance had to come to an end. I am leaving for Ireland this Friday and I thought the job is too awful for Emma, my twice/month cleaning treasure to deal with. There are limits to demands I can make on her or on anyone else for that matter.

So I had to bribe myself. I talk myself into doing deferred nasty jobs. I have been doing it since I was, like, 4.

"I will make you the best BLT in the world after you finish this. Homegrown Swiss chard, lashings of crisp bacon, home grown perfectly sliced tomatoes AND some smoked salmon, and yeah, okay, cream cheese on - wait-for-it - 12 grain artisan bread from the best bakery in the world. Toasted to gold."

And rubber gloves, bleach, buckets and vacuum to hand I did it. And I only came close to gagging once.

And I was so proud.

And the sandwich? Heaven on a plate.

Bribery sure works on this wuss.

Monday, August 18, 2014


I'm applying for an arts grant. A few pennies to throw food on the table as I write WW1 scenes for this novel and edit it and wind it up. Yeah it's work, it's a struggle, but when it goes right, I'm in my bliss. And no, there's no daddywarbucks in my life. Just me on a fixed paltry income.

I've already assembled my team of First Readers, except for maybe one more. If you'd like to be on it, drop me a line, see email addie on the left side of the blog. October 15th is my deadline to release to the team.

There I've said it. October 15th.

Anyways. I'm here today, with pictures and details of the Battle of the Somme, careful graphs of dates and ages. Ritz Hotel in Paris in 1970. Etc. It's intense. I saw the inside of the Ritz once. 1965. Close enough, right? unless they made changes without telling me.

And then, sweet Dog, the work starts on my house. Not simple work understand. Complicated banging, scraping and unfolding rotting foundations work. So much so that the dog crawls under my desk and whimpers, "Sorry I can't defend you against these ravening hordes. Sometimes it's just all too much for me. I'm old, see."

A simple scrape and slap on the paint job is just not happening. Rot. Old doors. Damp buildup. 11 window panes need replacing. Fresh new lumber trucked over from the lumberyard across the bay for part of the foundations. Banging, did I talk banging? And how do I afford this add-on horror to the original barely manageable financially job?

And I think as I write: this is nothing. Imagine those WW1 trenches.

And no, I can't go to my Tigeen. There's a 3 foot drop outside my back door. Into mud. I am moated with extreme sound effects while I summarize my 75% completed book begging for a measley arts grant.

And you think you've got problems.

Sunday, August 17, 2014


I see a meme being tossed around on FB of three things to be grateful for for 5 days and then roping in 3 more friends to do the same.

It's interesting reading these lists and I become mindful of all I have to be grateful for.

I'm making lists at the moment. A few lists.

List #1.
Packing: For my trip to the Oul Sod. Keeping it lighter, keeping it useful. I'm good at packing. I never, like some of my friends, pack anything I don't wear or use. Everything's interchangeable with another item. I gave up dresses and skirts a while back so clothes are simple. Dress pants, cargo pants, jeans. A few tops. A cardie. A rain jacket. A few pairs of socks. Undies. Scarves. I've always loved scarves, they can dress up sombre (blacks, neutrals) like nothing else. I struggled with the EReader again. For the last time. No. Back to paper. Pack 2 books, buy another or two when I'm there. Knitting? Maybe.
List #2.
The Dog List: For when I'm away: Ansa's foods, the way it's fixed in the morning, her baby aspirin for her arthritis, her carry-kit for the car (leash, water, flask, doggie bags), her commands (example: she only comes down the stairs with verbal permission, the poor baby could be stuck up there all day if not given permission to come down), etc.
List #3.
Gratitude. (1)So many well-wishers pouring forth lovely thoughts for my birthday yesterday. I was quite overwhelmed.
(2)A day with Daughter who arrived early with baked goodies and crops from her garden (she has this strange farming gene)with the gift of a day with her, wandering where the wind took us with brunch and a seafood dinner thrown into the mix. And a walk by the ocean afterwards.
(3)Lady Day (August 15th)in Newfoundland arrived two days ago. On the Newfoundland calendar this is the start of fall. Summer here is a quick blast of heat, incredible growth spurts in vegetation in a matter of weeks, and the longest autumn - often running 4 months. I just love it. My favourite season. For many reasons.
And Bonus:
(4) Each day I wake up to in reasonable and joyful good health.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Taking Offence

Dear Diary:

Some of the gang went off to have lunch at a theatre event yesterday and then visited an older friend now in a swishy home for the aged followed by dinner at one of my favourite Chinese restaurants. A jam-packed-with-activity day.

I didn't even get a token invitation: you know, along the lines of: you must be up to your neck but hey, would you like to....

I admit it. I was hurt. That lasted about 4 minutes.

And then I started to laugh and laugh and laugh.

At myself.

Because seriously, Diary, it totally sounds like a day from hell for me: 12 hours of constant company and being "on", a horrific dinner/lunch theatre thing that every year involves at least one male actor in drag playing a simplistic, overly sexual (huge balloon breasts),short-skirted, simpering, grotesque, stupid woman that would have me gnashing my teeth in rage as all about me fall down in thigh-slapping, helpless laughter.

Thank you for small mercies.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Another One

I don't personally know these famous people who choose to die by their own hands. Alone. No goodbyes. Unable to go on. Unable to suffer another hour in addiction or depression or hopelessness or all three or even more.

Feeling their lives are worthless, placing no value on themselves or their gifts. Feeling their pain is unheard, their connection to others severed, strained, vanished.

Seeing no other way out. None.

Thinking everyone and everything shallow and hopeless, their lives one big sham. One never-ending pretence of laughing on the outside and dying inside. Wanting it over. Finished.

Nothing does the "trick": Expensive clinics or the love of a spouse or lover or child. Or grandchild. Or a parent, a sibling, a best friend.

This death. This death. I understand. I know how he felt.

And the extraordinary thing, the most extraordinary thing today, when the news was released: Two of my dearest family members in far flung countries reached out in a tight little circle to me to write communally about this. It was a group hug of the finest love. The awareness of each other and our common familial struggle with those demons of Robin Williams. And Philip Seymour Hoffman and so many others.

We three have been there. Their pain is our intimate.

And we can never, ever be complacent in our recovery.

RIP Sweet Robin.

Thanks for the laughs and the genius of your mind.

Sunday, August 10, 2014


View from the Tigeen

I'm up over the trees and the birds and the ocean in my Tigeen. Where good stuff happens. Like writing. Like musing.

And then, a half an hour ago, I hear the sounds of the cemetery mass floating on the air towards me. Crystal clear. Something I'd never hear in my house below.

This is a combination of the placement of the Tigeen, the prevailing breeze and acoustics.

The sermon arrives at me intact. The bits of singing, the readings. The sounds of my childhood and some adult years. The pray-for-usses, the pleadings, the begging of Himself, the Invisible Cosmic Housekeeper, to do what he is requested but only if it is his will - a wonderful form of circular thinking. And a win-win for those requested to intercede to end the suffering, or grant the wishes. I used to wonder - even when practising these rituals - about that. As in why bother praying (and paying) if he's going to do what he damn well pleases anyway?

I am so detached from all of that mumbo-jumbo now, a bemused ear is thrown over to the graveyard. A reflection on all the money collected for these lamentations and laundry lists.

"Oh Lamb of God" I hear as I type this, "Fear not I will come for thee". Yelled very loudly by he who officiates, white biscuit held high above his head I would imagine.

And then I imagine ICH convulsed on a cloud, snorting uncontrollably, finally collapsing in helpless laughter.

Saturday, August 09, 2014


I realize I think in extremes. I'm not late to this realization but it tends to darken perception.

I'm writing in the midst of a power outage. We had a bad thunderstorm an hour or so ago. And as is the way of it, I do not have water stockpiled or a back up generator for the house utilities. Oil lamps, yes. A propane mini-stove, yes. Normally I keep water on hand but in summer, who needs backup?

Maybe being brought up with the possibility of nuclear disaster/and the Fatima end of the world scenario - a distinct possibility reinforced by the Catholic school system on a regular basis - had something to do with this bleakness of outlook.

So I think: what happens if the power never comes back again? OMG freezer and contents?

Meanwhile I have this battery back up in the office - thus enabling internet and laptop, good for an hour or so.

I remind myself this is not the end of days. Even though, seriously, it feels like it.

I remind myself how fragile we humans are, how dependent on the niceties of the power grid, the internet, water, fuel.

And the antidote: Right now, I am safe, housed and coffeed.

Thursday, August 07, 2014

Natural Selection

Today (for Dog knows I wasn't up for it yesterday)I wonder about life's manifestations and nuances.

And birth order.

And how some in the same gene pool escape the afflictions of the others.

And nature vs nurture.

And hereditary vs environment.

Is everything in life a balancing act - i.e. a vs?

Like some eat and never gain weight.

While others can't even look at an ice cream without some kind of osmosis taking place.

Are there trade-offs - like you get so many talents but you also get all the angst, whereas you, you over there, get none but you're oh-so-happy-all-the-time. Because money/beauty/wit/Harvard.

And addiction? Is that genetic roulette?

Is adult life all about unmet needs from childhood?

Existential moments.

From me.

Who doesn't feel quite all there, right now.

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Holding Your End Up

I was commenting on John Gray's blog this morning when I was reminded, as we are, of this old phrase of my mother's.

The life lessons of an Irish mammy.

Along with never marching off to visit anyone with "your arms the same length", "holding your end up" was another essential one.

"Holding your end up" involved:

Writing thank you notes for everything and anything tossed your way no matter how awful or badly knitted or even wrapped in newspaper.

Never letting the family secrets out of the cupboard.

Not wearing raggedy underwear in case there was an accident and then the whole hospital would be talking about you and yours. Forever amen.

As soon as you landed on Irish soil, no matter how long away, you were put on the phone to every aunt, uncle, cousin and grandparent to tell them you'd arrived and to give them all the news. Hours I'm telling you. Hours.

Table manners: The right and the wrong way to hold the fork. And always decline seconds of everything. Never be the first one into the chocolate box.

QED: Make sure everyone knows how well you were raised.

Sunday, August 03, 2014

Blending Reality and Fiction.

I read. I read a lot. I always have. I gain so much from reading. Insight into the lives of others. Insight into the minds of writers. Massive escapism. Understanding. Being understood.

Some have it that to be a good writer one needs to be a voracious reader. My jury is out on that one. I would like to hear the other side of that argument. As a voracious reader and voracious writer I link the two processes. But how I would I know? I've always read. Since I was four, thank you Daddy.

In mid-July I finished a large tome: "The Novel" by James Michener.

And he put into words something I'd been mulling about for a while.


As so often happens with writers, my imaginary terrain had become more real to me than the physical one that surrounded me.

I have exactly that feeling with one of my unpublished (but complete) books. When I am back in the town in Ireland I write about (but disguise)I see my own imaginary characters on the roads and in the houses and churches.

I know these people.

They walk with me.

Friday, August 01, 2014


Mike of Genial Misanthrope commented on my last post on his (and all of ours) wish not to outlive our children.

But I write of this again. I've written of my own personal circle of good friends and relatives who've not been so lucky. I link to them all here. And I say "all" because there are quite a few. An aunt's child, a school friend of my daughter's - herself a mother of a teenager. And on. At my high school reunion a few years back, one of my schoolmates appeared with a shaven head from cancer treatments. Six months prior her only daughter, birthing a third child, had died in the birthing process from a stroke. Not uncommon.

And many more death posts. Too many. Or maybe not enough. I've outlived my mother by 14 years now. Death looms more clearly at the age one's parent dies. And yes, they've done studies. It bubbles underneath the surface. Stolen time, I feel. So death is more present to us.

I was with someone on Tuesday who lost an adult son. I talked of missing daughter who's left a gaping wound in my own small family. A pain that never leaves. A pain often completely ignored and unacknowledged by some family members. And in some cases added to by deliberate shunning and non-inclusion which makes it all the more unimaginable. I'm not alone in that either.

I am staggered and amazed by how most of us get through the often unbearable pain of living with such enormous losses trailing behind us. Focussing on what we have, I expect.

My friend felt a missing child was worse than a dead child. I have no idea. How do you weigh one pain against another unless you've experienced both?

I don't label any behaviour "brave". In fact I despise the word. As if failure to be brave makes a person less than, inferior. We need less of this bravery thing and more of feeling and grieving and roaring out at the injustice. And shaking our fists in exhaustion.

I'd rather you and I had the permission to scream our losses to the skies in each others' presence.

The loss of those living, the loss of those dead. And all those losses in between.