Sunday, October 29, 2006

Who invited the punk?

Last night I attended a fancy-pants fundraising wine tasting shin-dig with a couple of friends. The organization hosting the event was the Adoptive Families Association of BC. One of my friends is the business partner of two men who have adopted a little girl, so their company bought six tickets. Since one of the two partners was out of town, there was an extra ticket, and I was invited to fill-in his shoes. So far so good…

The event took place on the top of Grouse Mountain. A beautiful location. And one I’ve only ever been to one other time for an "event"... on March 29, 2006... hmm... recognize that date? One of the four I will never forget. How seamlessly the circles in my life close...

So, there I was, top ‘o’ the world, dressed “West Coast Formal,” (asking what this meant I was told by one person, “it means wear clean fleece,” by a second, “it means don’t wear anything from Mountain Equipment Co-op” (i.e. even clean fleece won’t do), and by a third, “Donna, you have nothing to wear that is good enough to be called West Coast Formal.”

But I did. Long black skirt. Hot pink blouse. A dangly diamond earring in one of the five holes in my left ear. And my new Dayton boots (pictured in this post) topped off by my black leather motorcycle jacket. (Okay… maybe that’s more Montreal Casual than West Coast Formal, but it worked).

I’ve been to scotch tasting events before, but this was my first wine tasting experience. I was taken by a few things as I compared the two events:
  • Men who drink scotch tend to be taller than men who drink wine. (This is something a 5’10” woman notices);
  • Women who drink wine tend to be significantly more numerous than women who drink scotch (This is something a single woman notices);
  • A big group of people drinking scotch are a lot more fun than a big group of people drinking wine. (This is something anyone with any perceptive abilities would notice).
I ate fine chocolate, nice cheeses and crackers, fancy hors d’oeuvres, unknown fruit, and even some seafood, all coupled with the most appropriate (non-cabernet) red wines. I made small-talk with strangers (all women...phhh!). I caught-up with the friends who had invited me. A nice, uneventful evening.

Until... 10:00 PM. The emcee said, “Volunteers, will you please remove the silent auction bid sheets from the tables. The silent auction is now closed.”

All evening my friend Lin had been bidding on a charter boat cruise for 30 people. There was one other woman who was also interested in having this cruise. The bidding started at $500. Toward the end of the evening, Lin asked me to write her name on the bid sheet since the other bidder jumped at the table each time Lin walked away. Lin hoped that having me enter a bid might go unnoticed by the other bidder, since I was not on her radar as competition…

And it sort of worked… at least for a minute or 90 seconds. I wrote down the final bid for Lin ($670) and walked away. The other bidder did not immediately outbid my entry.

But she did ultimately approach the table. As fate would have it, I was on my way past the bid sheet at that exact moment, to get a top-up of a lovely Fabiano Recioto Rugola 2001, and just as the emcee called the auction over. This meant that Lin had succeeded.

But. Wait. The evening was to become “eventful.” That sneaky other bidder picked up a pen and tried to put her bid down after the auction closed! No freaking way, you cheater!

I grabbed the pen right out of her hand and said politely (I think), “The bidding is over. You lost.”

She grabbed the pen back from me and said, “I was writing when he said that. I get to finish putting my bid down.”

“No you weren’t! You picked up that pen after he said it was over,” and I took the pen from her for a second time.

Oh dear. This woman stood at my height and was just the same build as me… in the few seconds that this altercation took, her four friends had approached as back-up, telling me to give back the pen. Her friends were all women. Five on one? You got it!

The lights went out. The floral-patterned rug turned to knee-deep mud. Not liking the feeling of squish between their pedicured toes, three of the well-heeled women retreated, leaving me with my now-nemesis and only one of her side-kicks.

Two spot lights. One focused on me and one on the cheaty-cheater, so remaining Side-kick skulked sulkily out of the pit, leaving the two of us to a fair fight.

Now, if I had to put my money on one of us, I would have put it on me, for one simple reason: I was wearing my Daytons and she was wearing silly little heels. I felt grounded both physically and morally. She was wobbly on both counts.

End of the story… Lin apologized for my behaviour. I apologized for my behaviour (but my inside voice was not apologizing, oh no!). And the woman who didn’t get her boat cruise was gracious enough to shake my hand, while shaking her head at my apology.

Scotch tasting festival coming up in a few weeks… stay tuned! I predict a story... I'm feeling spunky.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Who's in charge? I'd like a word please...

I’m experiencing a feeling right now that I really don’t enjoy. It’s hard to describe… a combination of nausea, grief and a little bit of fear.

It’s the second time in a week I’ve had this feeling. It takes all I have not to break down and sob… distracting myself by writing is a good way to deal with it … suppressing? Maybe.

The first time was last Thursday. A friend called to tell me that the 13-year old son of one her close friends had died the day before, the result of a food allergy. It was a total surprise. He ate something that he’d eaten before without affect and was dead within 10 minutes.

Yesterday I received an email from my friend Rasika, who lives in Colombo, Sri Lanka. He and I became friends over the five weeks I spent working with him this year. Hearing from him made me curious about the state of the war in Sri Lanka these days. I haven’t been following for the past month. I find it too depressing. And too confusing.

The work I did in Sri Lanka, with Rasika, involved working with over 100, mostly non-profit, organizations that are working to achieve peace in the country. The groups were so diverse that one could only believe that peace is possible. In addition to peace organizations, the individuals I worked with came from work backgrounds as diverse as government officials, teachers, women’s organizations, tea plantation workers, university students, religious leaders, newspaper editors and reporters…

And the workshops they participated in, developing what they call the “One Voice Campaign,” brought Tamil, Singhala, English, Muslim, Buddhist, Christian, obscenely rich and obscenely poor men and women together to work on a shared vision. Simply: A Sri Lanka where each of them is respected equally.

The people I met and developed relationships with came from all over the country: from the most war-affected regions in the north, to the tsunami-devastated towns in the east, to the affluent towns on the west coast and tourist destinations of the south.

My first trip to Sri Lanka in February, I spent three weeks, most of which was in the capital city of Colombo. During that time the cease fire was still in effect. My recent trip, in August, was very different, since the cease fire had been broken. I spent just 14 days in the country, of which only one week was in Colombo. In that week I was in three-wheelers (to get to and from the office) a total of 16 times. The trip from my hotel to the office was no more than 20 blocks. And in that week, the vehicles I traveled in were pulled over by armed soldiers four times. All four times the drivers were asked to show identification and their details were taken down by the soldiers. Twice I had my passport taken and was asked questions about why I was in the country. I was quite surprised at how the experiences left me feeling… unmoved. Armed soldiers are so much a part of the landscape that to have one stop and address me directly seemed like a natural event. Not scary; barely interesting.

What I did find interesting and another thing that had changed between my first and second trip, was the way my colleagues would walk on the streets. Their office is one block from the Prime Minister’s residence. It is a very heavily guarded neighbourhood. The restaurant we would get our lunch from was three blocks from the office, past the PM’s home – and on the same side of the street. On my second trip my colleagues would not walk in front of the PM’s place. They would cross the busy street to walk the block of his residence on the other side.

Why? To avoid being blown up, of course. And just weeks after I left, several people who had not crossed the street when passing the PM’s residence (including some school children) were killed by a suicide bomber in that block.

That news did not have much affect on me. It was predicted. People understood how to control and reduce their chance of being harmed in what was an expected attack.

The news I read today was different. Galle, a seaside, tourist town in the south, was attacked by Tamil Tigers. The people of Galle feel very far from the war in their country, despite the fact that the island is really quite tiny - just 350 kilometres north to south and 200 kilometres wide. The war, for the most part, has taken place in the north with strategic bombing in the capital of Colombo - west-central. To have the war show up in Galle is a huge surprise - one that people were not prepared for.

Reading the news of the bombings, I thought of three beautiful young women from Galle who I spent four days working very closely with. I was mentoring them to deliver the One Voice Campaign workshop to peers in their own community. The workshop they participated in was in Kandy, central Sri Lanka. The three of us, escorted by a senior member of the Sri Lankan government, made a pilgrimage to two of the most historically important Buddhist temples in Sri Lanka. I spent several hours that evening learning about these young women from Galle and their devotion to Buddhism. It was a huge honour to have been invited to share the experience of their first trip to these temples with them.

This feeling of nausea and grief and fear… I guess it really all comes down to realizing that although I like to believe I have control of, and over, events that take place in my life, really, it’s illusory. I’m starting to learn that all I really can claim to control is my reaction to events… and, as tonight has shown me, I don’t even have much control over that… Pah!

Heading to sleep with one question to the universal power that does have control over who lives and who dies and when… what are you thinking??! Faith being challenged here… big time.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

I was served with a Statement of Defense and Counterclaim today

Statistically speaking, about 50% of readers will know what that means. For the lucky 50% who don't, I was served with the first papers the lawyers need to file to start divorce proceedings. One year, less a day, from October 19, 2005 - a day I will always remember.

Like April 3, 1993. And May 23, 1996.

In this order: the day Bill moved out, the day Bill and I were officially married, the day our son was born.

One year ago today, I posted my last blog entry for several months. It said simply,

Signing off for awhile

Had a blast. Learned a lot. Met so many great people.

Life changes compel me to put the blogging aside for now. Had my own rose-colored glasses shattered. Time to regroup.

Hope to be back at this sometime soon...


So, what’s life like “one year later”?

Damn fine, thank you very much.

Hurt has been replaced by hope. Fear by confidence. Disinterest by curiosity. And anger by gratitude.

One year ago I lived in a house that I love, in a community that I love. Thanks to the miracle of the “equity mortgage,” I still live in the same house. And now all the renos I’ve dreamt of doing for the past several years are underway (nothing complete, but lots of in-progress projects ... anyone want to volunteer to help me paint?! Or change three bathroom faucets?).

One year ago I was working to fill-in my partner’s income with money that was great to have, but not essential. Today my income is critical and, since I need to earn twice as much as I ever have, and since I can’t imagine myself working in a “real” full-time office job, I raised my self-employed billable rate by 33% in an effort to make ends meet. And now I have more and more fun work than ever. Crazy how that works!

One year ago I hated red wine. Today I love it. All but cabernet sauvignon, which, I realize, must have been the wine that Bill typically bought. I assumed all red wine made my mouth tingle and my throat constrict... until I met a man who drinks shiraz. Imagine my delight to find that I have a third option when neither scotch nor beer appeals to my pallet or to the social situation.

One year ago I had two bad cats. Today, I have three... three bad cats (wah-hah-hah-hah!). The third bad cat being the former bad cat of the shiraz-drinking man I must call “Beefcake” (I’m told by a very smart friend who works in communications for international health agencies that a 47-year old man cannot be called a “boyfriend,” rather, he should be called, “Beefcake”… and, well, if the shoe fits…) who was going to move from Toronto to Vancouver this autumn and then changed his mind… I shipped his snowboard gear and winter work boots back to him, but he said I could keep his cat and the cordless drill... I am blessed!

One year ago, if “Beefcake” were arriving in four days for a five-day visit, I would have been in big trouble – morally and matrimonially. Thankfully, I did not know him a year ago so I did not have the dilemma, and today I can anticipate the visit with nothing more than … anticipation!

This year I added a fourth day to my list of unforgettable dates: March 29, 2006… the day of the walk to “the rock” during tide-out… a day that waves of hope, confidence, curiosity and gratitude washed over and through me – waves that have continued to (ebb and) flow freely ever since.

October 18… amazing the difference a year can make.


Tuesday, October 17, 2006

hardly worth a post...

...but my new fridge arrives first thing Wednesday morning. This is what it would look like if I had an art director buying and organizing my food for me...

Greg... can you encourage your wife to come up for a wee visit to help me make the old contents of my new fridge something beautiful to behold... food worthy of a $1500 (plus GST) storage vessel??

Are the contents of your fridge this gorgeous?

Sunday, October 15, 2006

A well-stalked fridge?

I consider myself to be a pretty average gal, with a pretty average life. A good, blessed, average life.

When I look at my daily grind, I consider it to be within +/- 2.2 % similar to other Canadian middle-class lives, 9 times out of 10.
  • I regularly shit, shower and shave, like the majority of other Canadians.
  • I live within a 500km of the US border, like the majority of other Canadians.
  • I live in a home that is equipped with a stove and a refrigerator, like the majority of other Canadians.
There are a couple of things that I know set me apart from the majority.
  • I don’t own a microwave oven (which causes no end of grief to my son who needs a microwave to cure his fake barf and keep it from moulding).
  • When I make dinner, it’s never one meal that I cook since my son is a committed carnivore and I am a bleeding-heart, don’t-hurt-the-animals vegetarian.
Pretty normal overall, though.

So why do I feel like I’ve just become one-in-a-million… the woman with an experience that is so unique it is incomprehensible to the average, large appliance salesman?

It started last Sunday. I was on my way to bed, wrangling the bad cats inside from out, turning off lights and the thermostat down… It’s true that that particular night I looked in all the closets before setting the house alarm, to be sure I wasn’t locking my phone stalker into the house with me (thank you VERY much, G, for that image… you bugger)… But all-in-all, a normal night for a normal gal living a normal life.

As I walked past my fridge it started to growl. A deep, rumbling, angry growl. I jumped back with a small shriek. “Shit! I didn’t check the fridge for my stalker and the alarm is on… what now??!!”

Only a second of insanity, really. Fear quickly turned to confusion. What the hell is that sound? A mouse in the motor?

My roommate out of town, I couldn’t pull the fridge from the wall to check this assumption, so I turned the cooling dial down in an effort to shut off the motor/fan. It worked. Noise gone. Me to bed. Not too worried about the mouse: either it will escape the fate of the fan to be eaten by one of the three bad cats, or it will die at the back of the fridge and Jon will be home to help me retreive it before the rotting rascal starts to smell.

Monday morning, up for tea. Open the fridge door and have my feet soaked by water that appears to have appeared from nowhere. Open the freezer door… worse than finding a horse’s head, I find that all of my organic gourmet pizzas, my flat of spanakopita, a variety of mushroom/tofu/lentil/dirt and bark veggie burgers and one grain-fed, free-range chicken (ugh!) have all thawed.

The fridge awakens and starts to growl at me again. I slam the freezer door closed and pretend not to have seen what I have just seen. I need tea before I can consider the implications of this new condition.

My cuppa in hand, I sit down and ponder my situation. The fridge is as old as my house: 15 years. I know that appliances are not built to last, like they used to be. (When I rented an apartment in Montreal, in the mid- and late 80s, I had the most amazing fridge… it was turquoise, with the freezer just a plastic icebox inside the main fridge door. It was from the 50s. I loved that fridge.)

I look at the stack of newspaper flyers scattered around my feet. I pick up the one from Sears. All my friends who buy appliances (large and small) buy them from Sears. I figure that I can trust their research. I already know that I’m going to buy an Energy Star model since I don’t want to be any more responsible for Canada missing our Kyoto targets than I need to be. I find some models that look interesting. Of course, they’re all over $1200… so I put the flyers down and forget about my fridge.

Wednesday rolls around. Paper towels are sort-of protecting my now warping hard wood floor from the non-stop dripping from the ever-thawing freezer and warming fridge. Jon returns from his travels. We stand together, looking at the fridge and decide that yes, indeed, I need to buy a new one. We agree that it would be silly to call in a repair man to even look at this one since it will cost $80 for him to walk through the door and likely several hundred to replace what we decide is a dying compressor.

Days pass… we adopt a meal-time philosophy of eat-it-quick-before-it-rots, starting with the food most likely to make us sick if we wait too long to ingest it.

Saturday now (that would be yesterday, and one week since my stalker/the mouse broke in to break my fridge). My friend/colleague/gym partner Catherine comes over to work on writing an RFP with me. I tell her my tale of woe about my thawing food-stuffs. She looks at me like I’m insane to not have taken a more proactive approach to fixing the fridge problem. At her insistence, Jon and I hope into her car and we head to Sears. (A girl can never have too many advisors).

And this is where I wonder if my life is not as common as the majority of other Canadians’ lives. Seems to me that the purchase of a refrigerator is not something one does in the same way one decides to purchase, say, a new car, for instance. I can’t imagine that most people wake up one day and think, “you know, I’m growing tired of this old fridge. I know it still keeps my Strongbow cold and my gelato frozen, but I think I’d like to get a new one.”

No, I assume that most people who are in the market for a fridge have been pushed into the large appliance department by need. An urgent, or imminently urgent, need to buy a fridge and buy it fast.

After an hour of opening and closing doors and drawers, hearing from the salesman about the difference between US-made and Mexican-made models (racism is alive and well in Burnaby, folks), comparing energy ratings, and imagining how my own selection of salad dressings and soy milk will fit the new configurations of each model’s door shelves, I decide on the fridge I want. I tell the salesman. He wanders off to start the paper-work.

He returns, “We can have that model to you on November 17!”

“Pardon? You’re joking, right? It’s Saturday today. I was hoping you could have it delivered on Monday... (I pause and look him directly in the eye)... I’ll be home... all day…”

“Ma’am, all of our stock is kept in Calgary… if it’s in stock it takes a week to get here. The model you want is not in stock currently. You’ll have to wait three weeks.”

“Sell me the floor model?”



“Management doesn’t like to have holes in the floor display.”

“Oh, for god’s sake… you don’t even have this fridge in stock to sell… look over there… a mess of fridges all higgledy-piggledy… can’t you move one of those over here?”, is what I think. I ask,

“Well, what do you propose I do, sir? I need a fridge ASAP.”

“Go to Home Depot. Good luck.” (and “good riddance” I could hear him say as he turned to find a real customer… he thought he was using his inner voice but it snuck out as his outer voice. Happens to me all the time…)

We boot over to Home Depot. Find the same fridge. I pony up my $1500 (plus GST). Delivery is promised on Wednesday… until then, I’ve got a bottle of Pepto Bismal at the ready.

And a new insecurity about what I'm doing to create situations that are apparently beyond the scope of your average, run-of-the-mill, nothing-out-of-the-ordinary life experiences. This has the potential to cause me some serious existential angst... over-analysing again? Crap! And none of my regular comfort food in the fridge to help me calm down.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Can YOU pat your head and rub your belly at the same time?

If you have 10 minutes to kill (which you must have if you’re wasting time here), and you want to pee yourself laughing, check out the comments that have been posted in response to the Sneeze’s question to the post "A Wink of an Eye," Is there any other seemingly simple action you're physically unable to do?

Are these “skills” genetic progression or regression? I just found out that red hair is a recessive gene that goes back to the Neanderthals… my red-headed room-mate told me. He wouldn’t make something like that up…

In case anyone cares…

  • I can wink
  • I cannot raise one eyebrow
  • I can wiggle my ears
  • I can do the Vulcan hand greeting
  • I can cross my toes (without using my hands)
  • I can wiggle my nose
  • I can whistle – but not using my fingers
  • I can burp on command
  • I can bend my thumb toward my arm and lay it flat against my wrist (pretty gross)
  • I can curl my tongue, but I cannot roll it, clover-shape it or touch it to my nose
  • I can snap my fingers on both hands.. but I cannot snap my index fingers on either hand
  • I can pee myself laughing
  • I can make a short film about this… wouldn’t that be fun!?

Friday, October 06, 2006

More past life stories

I’ve been sitting in bed, notebook on my lap (when did we stop calling portable computers “laptops” by the way?), trying to write. Futile efforts.

I managed to upload 15 CDs to my notebook while wondering what to write about… productive time? Not so much. But I now have 6503 songs I can listen to while I don’t work… when I can’t write…

Looking around my room… I have an amazing b&w photograph above my dresser. It’s of me when I was probably three years old, circa 1969. I’m licking white cake batter from an electric egg beater. The batter is all over my face!

The photo was taken by my aunt Karen, of whom “we do not speak.” At least, we do not speak of her (or her sister Eleanor) when my dad is around. Silly family stuff from 15 years ago… Anyway, looking at that photo, and seeing how easy it was yesterday to find a web reference to uncle Peter (the Very Reverend), I thought I’d see if I could have any success tracking down old aunt Karen through Google.

I have great memories of Karen. She's younger than my dad. And very cool. She taught me to drive when I was 14 by letting me boot around Selby Lake in her Toyota. She was (is?) a fabulous photographer and had a darkroom in my grandmother’s house. Aunt Karen was a perpetual student, as I recall. And worked for the government… her middle name is Louise…

Google: “Karen Louise.” Hits! Mmmm… a transvestite… a chef… lots of Karen Louise’s in the UK… no Karen's with PhDs in Canada. A wash. Rats.

I tried her older sister, my Aunt Eleanor. First memory of Eleanor to pop into my head: ironing bed-sheets with this 100-year old, cylinder iron-thing that was as large as a garbage can laying on its side. The cylinder turned and drew the sheets under a press… I thought it was so cool as a kid. As an adult, though, I have to say I think Aunt Eleanor must have been one very bored house-wife to iron bed-sheets… No matches for Aunt Eleanor.

Eleanor’s oldest son, Andrew. Last I heard, over a decade ago, he was a paramedic in the Ottawa area… nothing for him.

How about Chris? The cousin I used to burn Tonka trucks with? Chris managed to follow his childhood dream of playing football. I still remember Ian Mofford, a Montreal Allouette from the 70s. He was so cute to a 13-year old country girl. And he was a friend of Chris’s dad, my Uncle Bob… A-ha! Contact info for a Chris who is the head coach of the Nepean Redskins’ midget team. That would be him!

Now what? I have a phone number and an email address. I’m 100% certain that this Chris is my cousin who I haven’t seen or talked to ... probably since the funeral in September 1991. Well… I won’t call him now, given it’s midnight in Vancouver, 3:00 AM in Ottawa

Email. Non-threatening. If he would rather I remain a memory, easy enough to ignore me… but what to write to my favourite childhood cousin, so many years estranged?

Hi Chris, burned any toy trucks lately?

Think I’ll sleep on this. But tomorrow, I’ll send him a note.

Hmmm… Cousin Chris! Cool!