Friday, March 30, 2018

At the Coffee Shop

Yesterday, I was sitting in a coffee shop people watching. Note taking. My best ideas come in coffee shops.

A couple, fifty-ish, well dressed in khaki, twinnish, empty pockets on their cargo pants,leather hiking boots,serious vests,marching purposefully in.

She held the table while he did the ordering. I was astonished when he brought back 1 XL coffee and 1 large Morning Glory muffin.
He then proceeded to empty half the coffee into a green reusable cup she hauled out from her Roots bag while she halved the muffin with a plastic knife. They then ate the shared repast.

I thought to myself: not in a million years would I do that. Never have I done that. How would you arrive at the stage in life where this would be de rigeur for outings? Does it imply an extraordinary intimacy? When would be the first time this happened? Did they do this for every meal, halving eggs and bacon, the BBQ, the sandwich? Do they have individual taste buds or have they just melded into one? How are they when invited to dinner parties? (Oh two plates, one dinner please!). They were remarkably trim and healthy looking. Didn't speak to each other all through the snack, and showed a complete lack of curiosity for anyone else in the cafe. Then again, am I the only one taking notes?

Another couple in the corner were obviously having an affair. He was feeding her bits of an outrageously pink pastry. Her dress was a matching pink with black slashes in the pattern, short and sparkly. Around 40. Black tights, black leather jacket, dyed black hair cut teenage style. asymmetrically. He was a rumpled mid-thirties, brown curly hair, looked in a hurry but kept reassuring her, between feedings, with his free hand on hers, pressing, begging. The wind had blown his comb-over off his small bald spot, but she was facing him so wouldn't have been privy to what I saw. At one point a tear leaked out of her eye, "I'll tell her, I will," he pleaded,a bit too loudly, "It's just not the right time with the baby coming."

Another couple, women, sat across from me. She was thin as a razor, her heavier friend brought the fixings, passing her a black coffee and setting a pastry and frozen concoction down for herself. She was the more animated, the friend nodding silently as she sipped her coffee. I only caught bits but it involved a husband at sea and a suspicion of an affair he was having with the ship's cook as she kept calling the house when he was on leave to tell him jokes. "Jokes?" said Razor,"Dirty jokes?" "The way he laughs, well, yeah." "I wouldn't like that." "Well, girl, I don't like it at all."

An ongoing joke in my family(Daughter and Grandgirl and I are such people watchers!) is we pretend we have highly personal printed questionnaires to pass out to strangers to avoid all this speculation and surmising. ("Let's get this over with, pass him the questionnaire!")

But that would spoil the fun of the passing parade.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Crossing the Rubicon

I really don't know how some surmount challenges more easily than others. I'm not that kind of person. At least I don't think I am. Others often tell me that I have surmounted many challenges in my life, that I'm tough, that I enjoy thinking through solutions to perceived barriers, that I like to solve puzzles.

I was feeling rather hopeless yesterday, all the more so because the weather was glorious and there were scads of people out around the lake that I overlook. A gorgeous spot with peeks at the ocean from the walkway around it. Sunlight sparkling on the water, the ducks doing that water-skiing thing, skimming over the water. Especially those dazzling males. Dear blog, I drove down to the parking lot nearest the doggie park and I sat and watched the dogs and I cried. Like a fool. I couldn't stop. Ansa and I had walked around that lake so many times and I'd bring her into the doggie park and she'd make a few ventures out to the other dogs, half-heartedly play-bow and then come back to me, content to sit and watch the other dogs. A Mummy's girl as other dog owners often commented, some quite enviously. The loss of her overwhelmed me for a while. I tried to bite it all down but that made it worse.

So today, I drove down there again, 11c (52F) out. Seriously, we've had this freakish warm winter, very little snow. And I took my stick and walked. And yes it hurt, it's supposed to, but I managed 1,500 steps. And I felt part of and not distant from all the activity around me. And there was so much: dogs, elders, babies, wheelchairs, everybody smiling and greeting and revelling in this glorious sunshine. And so very many dogs, one woman had 5, all beautifully trained. And I didn't cry once.

I still don't know what got me out there, to be part of this mobile human race, it was like, maybe being fanciful, the spirit of Ansa nudging me, pushing me. I was ready to give up on these legs. On myself. Overwhelmed doesn't quite capture it.

And Blog, it wasn't as bad as I thought. I stopped twice to give the legs a bit of a nap and then moved on. And I had the thought: I can increase this, not by much, not so I feel defeated and hopeless, but even an extra 50 steps a day?

Yeah, that's manageable.

How do you surmount perceived barriers or challenges?

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Cruelty, Savagery, Bullying, Delusion and Newspeak.

I have many USian friends. Gentle, kind, thoughtful and, well, sad and scared. I care about them. But I also see that protective bubble they wear: a nostalgic longing for the Kennedy or Lincoln or Obama USA. Without really parsing what those past USAs were. (Slavery? Slaughter of the Aboriginals?)

I, at this distance off at the edge of Canada, see 100 years of non-stop invasions of other countries, on some pretext or other. So many military installations in every corner of the universe as to be considered a form of ownership of the countries they inhabit. I, myself, live on a former US fortress which was abandoned some time in the fifties but was home to thousands of US military during WW2. All the battlements and armed gateways and arms manufacturing are long gone but the history remains. A reminder of the presence that transformed the landscape overlooking St. John's.

Now, it has all come down to this unstable moronic buffoon controlling the nuclear button to global annihilation. A man who is the butt of endless jokes. Endless jokes which gives everyone a quick mocking laugh but this does not alleviate the underlying fear which is ever present in all of us. That in a moment of rage, this bully can blow us all to smithereens. Who can incite hatred and othering for blacks and Muslims and people of colour in his own country.

He is the symbol of all that is corrupt in the country to the south of us today.

I'm grateful I still have the capacity to be appalled at each fresh murderous assault on schoolchildren by schoolchildren, at the massacres at concerts, at bombs, at the homegrown terrorism that seems to abide in every town, at toddlers shooting at mothers or siblings, men slaughtering their women partners.

But the fact that it is allowed to continue, day after day, year after year, chills my heart. So now we have the schoolchildren marching following the women marching, all marching like I remember Martin Luther King marching but the slaughter of the innocents continues, blacks, kids, gays, women in their homes.

It is a savage and cruel country indeed that can look into the eyes of these traumatized children and tell them nothing will change. And remind them that assault weapons are the right of every man, women and child to do with what they will.

It is a savage and cruel country that can look at millions and millions of their poorest and deny them life saving health care. Or plunge them into bankruptcy if they are middle-class and uninsured.

It is a savage and cruel country that can see seniors and elders eking out an existence in their cars with no home or health care, lucky to work part-time in a Walmart for sustenance.

It is a savage and cruel country that can drive by so many homeless who live in tents on the sides of the roads and under bridges.

It is mass delusion to call where they live the land of the free and the home of the brave.

It is newspeak to call invasions of sovereign countries "bringing democracy" or. sadly, "freedom".

For how can any country bring democracy anywhere when they don't have it themselves?

I leave on a note of hope from our cherished Leonard Cohen, RIP, written over 20 years ago.

Monday, March 19, 2018


(1)I'm down with something. A bad cold, not quite ready to call it flu. I am susceptible to bronchitis so am keeping a close eye and ear on this thing. I did have the pneumonia shot earlier but not the flu shot. It's not that effective anyway. I'm about 5 days in, sleeping a lot when I'm not hacking a lot. A nuisance more than anything else.

(2)I'm sad about many blog friends either resigning from blogland or disappearing without notice. Far too many this year so far. Some leave in high dudgeon over slights and insults, others are ill and just about break my heart. Others grieve over losses and can't find the energy or inclination to post.

(3)Daughter is leaving the country tomorrow for nigh on 5 weeks. I'll miss her like mad. This digital age is useful for ongoing connections but the daily and physical contact can't be beaten.

(4)Missed my bookclub meeting today due to (1) and feel sad about that as I had thoroughly enjoyed the book and had made extensive notes on it. Remarkable Creatures A remarkable book about the discovery of fossils by two women and guess who got all the credit? According to the book reports posted online, all members loved it and had a great discussion. I know I'm extremely fortunate in my book club, we really stick to book discussions and host authors also.

(5)I keep close tabs on a friend with what looks like early dementia but I am feeling the strain. If I remind her of important facts of her life, the next time we talk she informs me of these same facts as if they just happened, forgetting I reminded her. She lives at a distance so it is challenging and sad. I'm unsure how to proceed if at all. Worried too in case she hurts herself. I gently suggested independent senior living to her and spoke of the advantages of not running a house anymore and getting things taken care of. She clenched on to that idea fiercely and I was so relieved. She kept repeating it to me and then wrote it down. I imagine she is very frightened but not sharing that with me, and who's to blame her. Her mother had early onset Alzheimer's so the gene pool is not favorable towards her. I reinforced that she is in charge of how she proceeds now. And no one else.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Controversial Opinions.

I am occasionally surprised with how angrily some react to my Tweets or my Facebook posts. One this morning attacked my "smearing" of Stephen Hawking, RIP. I truly despise the abolition of reality checks when such heroes die. Stephen was a great, ground-breaking and incredible scientist but as a human being he fell far short of compassion and kindness. Especially to his wives and children.

I do not believe in whitewashing the dead. They are flawed like the rest of us. Sometimes more so. My opinions are my own, usually carefully thought out and based on my own reality, sometimes drawing on my own pain or enlightenment. But they are sincere and destined not to hurt as I "own" them. I try not to attack YOU, but to point you in the direction of my reality, my perception of events. And I truly respect yours. We learn so much from each other's journeys.

I find it hard to understand the removal of controversial or opposing comments from blogs. What are bloggers and commentators looking for? Constant approval? Adulation? Hits? Sycophantic spirits in the digital realm?

I have little time for ad hominem attacks - I've been a victim myself - but certainly time for genuine, critical, thoughtful thinking, even of a drastically opposing viewpoint - I will fight to the death for you to air whatever you feel.

I view my blog as a place for me to throw something out and then take time to savour the comments, much like a virtual dinner party. And believe me I've had dinner parties where a guest has displayed his hitherto masked racism or misogyny - but I do not eject him from my dinner table and banish him to the yard unfit for human company. For that is exactly the time to share our own beliefs without shaming or blaming but have a civilized conversation with indoor voices. Nothing vulgar, as my blog friend Nick would have it.

Careful consideration and respect for each other should be a given. And comments and opinions upheld and not censored unless personally attacking an individual rather than offering an opposing opinion.

Congenial and honest discourse.

Reasoned debate.

Or am I dreaming?

Monday, March 12, 2018


I have a friend who runs from pillar to post with money, always on the verge of bankruptcy, lurching from crisis to crisis. For years. I am extremely fond of her and I have always found that criticizing or being helpful without been asked is dynamite to meaningful relationships. So I listen for a while and ask if she has developed a method on improving on this and a rambling type of conversation ensues. Her sense of humour is immense and she could make a statue laugh.

Mark you, she has never asked for help in dealing with her money issues.

Her image to others is important, I think I am one of maybe 2 who know about her real financial situation which is heart breaking. Single mother, not a dime from deadbeat dad through the years, a gambling addiction she has licked with a likeness for weed and booze replacing it. She is my age now and has never gotten ahead even in good jobs with pensions. She cashed the balance of all such accounts out last year (she had me review the papers) due to "hardship" so now her hardship has returned and it's none of my business what she did with the money and she has never volunteered any information as to its disposal.

She got herself into an awful pickle at Xmas. She likes to impress her grandchildren with outrageous gifts ("they're all I have") and she runs around with them in her jalopy, picking them up and dropping them off and utilizing a lot of gas. She can't afford to get her car fixed so it roars off out of here with an ear-splitting decibel level like some mad teenager with a beater.

I, too, had many years of financial struggle, taking in boarders for years, taking in tourists, working two jobs, always behind the 8 ball financially. Always stressed about money.

My path could be Stella's*.

I feel mightily privileged that I have a bank account ergo with not too much in it, but enough to bury me, enough to buy me yarn, to give Grandgirl a small bonus now and again (she knows how impoverished I am)and to fund my car payments and my rent and my groceries and bi-weekly cleaning of my apartment. There won't be any travel in my future and I'm just fine with that. My joy is being in the here and now, cherishing those who are dear to me: my chosen tribe and Daughter and Grandgirl.

I don't imagine Stella is unusual at all. The crisis of single female elders is worldwide, some living in their cars or on the grace and favour of their children. She took out a payday loan** before Xmas, and, an intelligent woman, she did not realize what all the fine print said about fees and usurious interest rates and truly that one can never pay it off. These places are owned by Big Banks and the Canadian government refuses to regulate them. They prey on the hopeless and the poor and the old like Stella. She texted me during the week to tell me how hopeless she felt in the maws of this bloodsucking vulture. She didn't ask for help. Though my care-taking instinct kicked in, I suppressed it. She needs to figure it all out for herself.

And yes, I'm very aware that some lessons never get learned.

And lurching from crisis to crisis is just another addiction. An adrenaline high.

*not her real name
**In 2004, a Toronto Star investigation revealed payday loans carried annualized interest rates ranging from 390 to 891 per cent.

Friday, March 09, 2018


Or Mini-Meditations.

I do this regularly and almost subconsciously now. But it really helps me stay away from negative or worrisome thinking.

When I think: ooh I'm cold, I immediately think of when my chimney was no good for 3 months back in the old house and how every time I jacked the electric heat I'd worry about the ensuing power bills. And I smile. Gratefully.

I was moaning combing out my far too long hair this morning after showering, as it knotted and pulled and then thought: Others would kill for your hair, yes it's thinning, but imagine combing a sparseness, hairs you can literally count. Like so many I know. And I smile. Gratefully.

I was brooding over a friendship gone south (I thought) and feeling angry and upset and lost. And then I thought of all the happy, joyful times, and the kindnesses given and received during its long stretch and I smiled. Gratefully.

I had a long session with my young friend who is going through stuff no one should have to suffer. And I was raging for her and the ex-partner who treats her so badly and then I said: "You know I had a dreadful beginning to my sobriety, hell on wheels, everything went wrong that could. But you know what happened? I recognised it was my past catching up with me like a tsunami and now I also recognise that I had to go through all of that without picking up and my life never ever got that bad again because I learned some amazing lessons and made some marvellous life friends who support me through thick and thin, warts 'n all. And I promise you, it will never, ever be this bad again if you don't pick up." And she smiled. Shakily, gratefully.

I brood about Missing Daughter. Of course I do. I'm an expert brooder. I could give lessons. And then I focus on Daughter #1, present and accounted for. Who treats me so well and so honourably and respectfully. And I smile. Gratefully.

See what I mean?

Wednesday, March 07, 2018

The Beginning of a Marriage

I had quite a hunt for a cleaning lady. I've rarely been without one in all my adult life. I'd put a good cleaning lady before food and drink and gas in my car.

I never thought this one was going to fly. I'd interviewed a few who made enormous demands with regard to products, allergies, refusing to do stove or windows, etc. I should start at the beginning and tell you I am clueless about housekeeping and am delighted that I am now of the age where it's too late to learn. I've been fortunate in that I've had long term cleaners for the past 50 years who stick to me like glue and I to them. We develop a lovely understanding of each other. They appreciate my baffled limits and I accept their expertise unquestionably. We're all happy.

Then I heard of this lady who cleans for a gentleman in my building and charges a laughable fee. I interviewed her and she seemed amenable and didn't stagger off screaming into the sunset after seeing my place which I've kept hygienic but nowhere near a Betty Crocker level. She talked a lot. But passed the test of no demands on her simpleton employer.

Today she started and we had to sort out some stuff together. I figured I'd impress her by getting a steam moppy thingie for the floor that is plugged in. It took us a while but we figured it out together and dear goddess, she was delighted. As was I with the kitchen and bathroom floors, effortless mopping with steam with no nasty cleaning products.

The place is now spotless and she did windows and baseboards and stove, bless her.

She talks. A lot. But works hard in between.

And we bond over knitting.

She hugged me when she left and assured me that now she knows where everything is, she'll take good care of me and I'm never to worry about housework again.

I know.

I have horsehoes up my arse.

Saturday, March 03, 2018

So I gave a class.......

Looking for a paying gig, I'd put an ad in a free magazine. A fishing expedition really, to see if anyone out there would hire me. And meanwhile I'd done my morning meditation: welcoming work, good work, meaningful work.

And out of the blue I heard from a theatre contact. And I worked for them on grant applications which I really enjoyed and then they asked me to give a workshop on accounting software and demonstrate as to how it had all gone so horribly wrong for them. I'd done these before but hadn't enjoyed them for a variety of reasons.

But this environment was a Women's Centre, where women are respected and honoured. And right away, the atmosphere from the elevator person to the welcome to the set up to the participants was just so refreshing and something I'd not encountered before in a business environment. Respectful attention, respectful questions, I found a different part of myself, gentler. I used different words, checking: tell me if I'm going too quickly, tell me if I'm reviewing stuff you already know, oh my, it's such a pleasure having a class like this.

Marvelous snacks were spread out at "break".

I felt enormously validated. I'd had some trepidation prior to (hello, an old lady teaching the 30 somethings accounting software?). But that all dispersed just about immediately. It's surprising what a supportive environment is created when respect and caring are present and loudness and assertion and yes, ignorance, and dare I say men? are not present.

I just loved the whole experience. And at the end of it all I was asked if I'd like a retainer for consulting work and to please give some consideration to joining their board of directors at the annual meeting in June.

How life is full of surprises.

All we have to do, as one old shaman once told me, is "suit up and show up."