Thursday, January 31, 2008

Done and done

So the big presentation happened yesterday and I'm happy to say that I didn't develop a case of Tourette's.

After arising at 3:30 a.m., I was in bed by 9:30 last night, and still had to hit the snooze bar when the clock went off at 5:15 this morning.


But there's more. There's always more.

My current place doesn't have a bath tub. But one of my first acts in moving into my new digs is to take a long, hot, relaxing bath. I'll try to wait till the movers leave before I run the water.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

A plea for good thoughts

I'm frantically busy during the first half of this week, but wanted to ask you all, gentle readers, to send a good thought in the direction of my beloved co-worker.

AB is one of the sweetest creatures imaginable. Kind. Conscientious. Gentle-tempered. If she wasn't an account person, she might be a kindergarten teacher or a librarian.

Sadly, AB miscarried last week. She was 23 weeks. She is positively devastated.

There are no words. But I'm hoping your good thoughts and prayers will carry her and her husband over this next painful period.


Monday, January 28, 2008

Another good read

When I was in grad school, I took a course with only three other students that required me to not only read every William Faulkner novel ever written, but actually present one to the class, in a two to three hour lecture, every fourth week.

If you've ever read any Faulkner, you'll know I'm not lying to you when I say he's a wordy guy. At the height of the course, I was reading about a thousand pages a week. It's pretty much all I did for months at a time.

I'd get up at five in the morning to read. I'd read on city buses. I had a part-time job as a receptionist at a real estate office where, in between calls, I'd read.

Surprisingly, given the intensity of the course, I still count Faulkner among my favourite authors. The Sound and the Fury is easily one of my top five desert island reads.

So, why I am I talking about Faulkner while suggesting that you pick up We are the Mulvaneys?

Because there's something about Joyce Carol Oates style that reminded me of Faulkner.

She's wordy, yes, but there's incredible precision and control in her language.

She takes you on a slow and patient journey that follows the disintegration of a seemingly ideal family following the rape of the eldest daughter. If you're patient, you'll be richly rewarded by an author who is clearly at the top of her craft.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Time for Tea

I've been drinking lots of black tea recently, under the guise of "research" for another project I'm working on.

I grew up in a tea-drinking household. My Dad, who was raised by Scots, drank nothing else. Not even water.

This pause for tea, in the midst of a busy afternoon, is a lovely respite. Even my lovably grumpy twenty-something art director has been enjoying it.

While I can slam back a tall non fat sugar free vanilla extra hot cappucino in less time than it took me to write that, I'm forced to sip tea slowly.

Tea holds the heat.

And because it takes you longer to drink a cup of tea, when you do so in the company of others, it forces conversation.

So now I know all sorts of things about my art director partner which I didn't know before.

That's it. Only that some things are made to be shared --like tea and conversation. Make yourself a cup.

Thursday, January 24, 2008


Serenity is not freedom from the storm,
but peace within the storm.

I'm working on a big project with multiple stakeholders. Multiple stakeholders with big personalities and, in some cases, big egos.

It's hard not to get caught up in the feeding frenzy.

You find out a lot about yourself in these situations.

How you respond to competition. Your appetite for praise. And blame. And what constitutes success in your eyes.

You also discover who, if anyone, you'd like to share a leaky boat, a desert island or a crashing plane with.

Here's to peace within the storm.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Done too soon

Actor Heath Ledger was found dead in a New York City apartment yesterday. There is speculation that he died of a drug overdose.

A few years ago, I saw Heath Ledger, in person, at the TIFF premiere of his movie, Candy.

Ledger played a promising young poet who falls in love with an art student, played by Abbie Cornish. The movie follows their Sid and Nancy descent into heroin addiction. It's unrelenting.

The thing is....Ledger turned up for the premiere looking not unlike his character in the movie.

His hair was stringy. His eyes were hollow. His jeans looked dirty. He was positively dishevelled.

This movie was released in North America not long after he'd made a splash with Brokeback Mountain, but he couldn't have looked more different than he'd appeared in that film.

I remember turning to my companion and commenting that it looked like he'd taken method acting a little too seriously.

Very sorry to hear of this untimely death. Sorrier still for his family, who must endure their grief in the public eye.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Take that

We are what we think.
All that we are arises with out thoughts.
With our thoughts we make our world.

When it comes to the economy, one of my favourite expressions is "consumer confidence". In the valley of TSX and the Dow Jones industrial average, it's this very esoteric thing that tends to drive our everyday economy.

Another word for confidence is positivity.

Whether you think you can or you think you can't, you're right.

Look. It's always easier to believe the bad stuff. Staying positive and focussed and, yes, confident, takes real courage.

But it's worth it. Particularly if your economy is happiness.

So endeth the lesson.

Monday, January 21, 2008

The Mayor of Stress City

This is going to be a crazy week.

I figure I've got two choices.

I can either join the collective insanity, work fourteen hours a day, and drive myself crazy, or I can centre myself, take some joy in my work, and find some perspective.

It's all in the approach.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

My Mom VS My Cat

If you've known me for any length of time, you've heard the tales of my mother's rather tempestuous relations with my cat.

For some reason, my Mom has imbued Buddy Benson with satanic powers. She really believes he's out to get her.

I think he can smell her fear...and it smells like kibble.

Friday, January 18, 2008


Today we bury John O'Keefe. Last night, another innocent victim of a stray bullet was shot and killed a few blocks from where I live. At 6:00 p.m. During rush hour.

We shall overcome, some day.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Hello, would you like some cheese with that?

One of my co-workers consistently answers his phone with the greeting, "Housekeeping." For some reason, it always makes me laugh.

That's all I've got for you today.

I'm feeling the burn of spending nearly three hours watching Dirty Dancing, the Musical, last evening. There were a few good individual performances -- especially by the actress/dancer who played Penny -- but the play was fairly lacklustre. Even cheesier than the movie, if you can imagine it. The audience was comprised almost entirely of cougars and men who'd had their testicles removed.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Buy now

You'd never guess I sell things for a living.

I'm about to agree to part with my armoire for considerably less than I asked for it -- less even than I paid for it -- simply because I like the fellow who is interested in it.

Interestingly, he's the son of the feminist brainiac who came to see it on Sunday.

Mom went home, loved the piece, and called her son about it. He contacted me yesterday and made an appointment to come and see it. He's just moved back to Canada. Clearly the smarty pants genes run in the family. Brainiac Jr. was doing Post Doc work at Cambridge.

Anyway, clearly Brainiac Jr. couldn't afford the asking price, so offered me less than asking.

I told him honestly that I would consider the offer, but that I had a second couple coming to see it later in the evening.

When they arrived, I knew immediately that they were weird. Crazy and weird.

Peter and Monica had a strange, erratic energy. Dude was wearing paint spackled pants, a mismatched shirt and a tattered sweater vest, but the thing was, it looked like he was trying to look gentile.

Monica was equally oddly attired. She was wearing one of those shorty fur stoles my Mother used to wear in the 60s. She kept looking at Peter for approval.

Peter, on the other hand, had a five minute conversation with my cat!

They told me they'd take it before they even really looked at it. There was something about their behaviour that told me not to trust them. Not one little bit.

My Spidey senses were tingling and, despite some bad judgements I've made over the years, I now know enough to always, ALWAYS trust my intuition.

So I made the decision then and there to tell them that it was already sold. They weren't too happy about it. Beligerent even. Their reaction told me that I'd definitely made the right decision.

The unease I felt in their presence lingered long after I'd ushered them out.

I guess I've seen the extremes of what Craigslist has to offer. I won't be selling anything else anytime soon.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008


The poor, innocent bystander shot in front of the Brass Rail this weekend was my BFF's cousin, John.

There's no way I can even try to make sense of this tragedy.

Some people will tell you that guns don't kill people, people kill people. The truth is, people with guns kill people.

Historically, humanity has been looking for new and creative ways to kill each other for centuries.

It really has to stop.

Do something for me today, won't you? Do something nice for someone, and don't tell anyone about it. Make someone's day. Send some love to a total stranger.

Happy, contented people don't kill other people.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Selling my armoire

After asking the universe for assistance, I listed my armoire for sale on Craigslist. Almost immediately, I received a number of replies.

Yesterday I met my first potential buyer. She didn't take it (too big for the corner where she needs it) but talk about an interesting woman.

She is an associate professor at Osgoode Hall, and past director of Osgoode's Institute for Feminist Studies. A card-carrying member of the sisterhood of the travelling underpants.

So, there you have it. Even brainiacs are looking for deals on Craigslist.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

The age of acknowledgement

Friday morning I did a presentation for all of our account people. The topic was fundraising through bequests and legacies.

It might sound like a morbid topic, but by 2013, which is only five years away, experts are forecasting that there will be more revenue in bequests than in direct mail.

Part of the presentation had to do not only with why charities need to consider this important revenue stream, but when and how to talk to donors.

I talked a lot about "the age of acknowledgement". This is that time in every individual's life when they realize they're not immortal.

It's funny only if you haven't reached it.

For most of us, that age comes with a life crisis -- the death of someone close to us.

Until something like that happens, most people just don't get it.

As my friend TM said, after losing her 40 year old sister to ovarian cancer, "After my sister died, I realized how really precious life is. And that nothing is forever."

Nothing. Nothing is worth more than this day.


Happy to report that my BFF's Dad has made it through the operation. We're waiting for an update.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Slowpoke, Part II

My BFF's Dad is undergoing surgery in Sudbury this morning. Please hold a good thought for him.

Friday, January 11, 2008

So long, Sir Edmund Hillary

Okay, is it just me? I thought Sir Edmund Hillary was already dead.

I do feel pretty bad about it, though, since he seemed like such a decent guy.

In this morning's Globe, they reported that he'd made easily a hundred trips back to Nepal after his assault on Everest, building schools and helping the country toward economic stability. He was also incredibly vocal following the publication of Into Thin Air, about the blatant disregard for life -- for leaving struggling members on the mountain to die, while continuing a course to the top.

So, goodbye old chap. Here's to the mountains you'll climb in heaven.

And for you, I offer this final verse from Canadian poet Earl Birney's startlingly good epic poem David:

I said that he fell straight to the ice where they found him,
And none but the sun and incurious clouds have lingered
Around the marks of that day on the ledge of the Finger
That day, the last day of my youth, on the last of our mountains.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

For the Bible Tells Me So

One of my biggest pleasures throughout the year is attending the Doc Soup documentary film series. Last night's film was a barn burner. Here's the film's synopsis, lifted straight from the web site:

Through the experiences of five very normal, very Christian, very American families -- including those of former House Majority Leader Richard Gephardt and Episcopalian Bishop Gene Robinson -- we discover how insightful people of faith handle the realization of having a gay child.

Informed by such respected voices as Bishop Desmond Tutu, Harvard's Peter Gomes, Orthodox Rabbi Steve Greenberg and Reverend Jimmy Creech, FOR THE BIBLE TELLS ME SO offers healing, clarity and understanding to anyone caught in the crosshairs of scripture and sexual identity.

What makes the film absolutely brilliant is that the filmmaker manages to find a common ground between fundamentalism and homosexuality, by chiselling away at ignorance, until the only plausible outcome is acceptance.

Forget Al Gore. My new favourite politician is Dick Gephardt, whose shining love for his lesbian daughter left the entire audience in tears.

You can see For the Bible Tells Me So on the big screen at The Royal Cinema on College Street this weekend. There are a number of showings planned.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Garbage Day

Is there anything sadder than the day they pick up all the discarded Christmas trees? It always gives me a little heart pang.

Poor little things.

Barely two weeks ago they had pride of place in your family room, surrounded by brightly coloured packages, but today...naked and stripped, beside the garbage can.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008


Seasonal effective disorder.

According to our friends at Wikipedia, most people who suffer from winter depression have normal moods through the rest of the year, but experience depressive symptoms in the winter, largely due to lack of light.

I don't suffer from S.A.D., but I have been feeling like a bit of a mushroom recently.

I leave for work in the dark, go home in the dark, and sift through shit all day. Bring on some daylight.

So, last week, in the apocalypse that usually follows New Years -- the same apocalypse that results in long line-ups at the Pec-Dec machine at the gym -- a few of my co-workers and I decided to start a Walking Club.

The road to hell is paved with good intentions -- so you'd better bring your walking shoes.

The first rule of Walking Club is (of course) there is no Walking Club. The second rule of Walking Club is, Walking Club waits for no one.

This second rule is supremely important when it comes to my co-workers who are (and I say this in the most loving way) about as self-disclipined as kittens.

When you say, "Okay time to go," they usually disburse like they've been shot out of a rifle. One fiddles with her scarf here, another sends an email there, a third stares blankly into space like he's having a Grand Mal.

The rule is we leave at 12:30, no matter what. And we're back by 1.

Short walk, yes. But manageable for even the busiest of us.

Yesterday was Day One and it felt supremely good to leave the office midday for some physical activity. Three of the eight people who signed up for Walking Club did the power walk from Yonge and Bloor to Rosedale Station and back. A perfect cobweb burner.

When I was a smoker, I'd at least get outside five times a day, but as a nonsmoker who always brings her lunch, I can go weeks without exiting the building during daylight hours.

Third rule of Walking Club is that someone chooses a different route each day. Today I think we're walking to College Park.

Monday, January 7, 2008


About 3:30 a.m., I awoke to the sound of a radio. Not mine.

One of Toronto's finest was parked in the lane way beside my bedroom window. From the looks of things, there was a neighbourhood search going on.


For some reason, my 75 year old Mother absolutely loves watching Cops -- the show, not the actual police officers. If you've managed to catch an episode, they generally involve lots of night running through trailer parks to catch suspects who inevitably are naked from the waist up.

When caught, said suspects always claim not to have any crack on their person. Then they act all surprised when the officers find it.

You must become immune to lying if you're a police officer.

It was hard to go back to sleep after this unnerving urban wake up call.

Even when I left for work this morning, there was a cruiser across the street and plenty of lights and sirens around Regent Park.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Famous Last Words

It's not often that someone comes along who is a true friend and a great writer. Charlotte was both.

I've got an almost life-like porcelain piglet guarding my fireplace. He's a dead ringer for Wilber from Charlotte's Web. I'm looking at him now, as I survey my room of STUFF with the knowledge that I'm going to have to pack it and then unpack it again in the next month.

I'm starting the organizing frenzy today.

I'm hoping to take a load to Goodwill, as well as pick up some boxes at the LCBO.

This move will mark about the thousandth time I've moved and not organized my masters thesis notes again.Every time I move, I promise myself that I'll take an afternoon and do just that.

If anyone knows of anyone who would like to buy an armoire, please let me know. It's the antique monkey on my back.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Consecrated Chicken Soup

My BFF's parents are regulars at Casey's brunch in North Bay.

So, with his Dad currently in hospital, his Maman took the brave step of taking herself out for brunch last Sunday.

"Where's Slowpoke," the manager asked when she saw Maman come through the front door. Dad has been slowing down of late, and this has been the subject of a few laughs with the staff.

Once Maman told her about the hospital stay, she was ushered to a well-situated two-seater where, systematically, nearly every waiter in the place took their turn sitting with her for a few minutes at a time. The manager, the manager's son who was home from college, waiters and waitresses from other sections. Each one sat with Maman and had a few words or shared a laugh.

When she was nearing the end of her brunch, the manager came out with a take-out container and said, "Take whatever you'd like off the buffet and bring it to Slowpoke with our best wishes." She then told Maman that everything was on the house.

This is the same manager who gave Maman a box of individual peanut butter servings when my BFF's Dad was going through cancer treatments in Sudbury and was away from home for weeks at a time.

It kills me that there is such goodness in the world. There's more of it then we give the world credit for. We just need to shut up and notice it for a change. And now, a few words from Franny and Zooey to put all this goodness into context.

Jesus knew — knew — that we're carrying the Kingdom of Heaven around with us, inside, where we're all too goddam stupid and sentimental and unimaginative to look? You have to be a son of God to know that kind of stuff.

And finally, for what it's worth:

How in hell are you going to recognize a legitimate holy man when you see one if you don't even know a cup of consecrated chicken soup when it's right in front of your nose?

Eat at Casey's. And pass it on.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Moving on

Moving always requires careful planning and a lot of thought. I'm trying to mitigate the pain by doing a little every day.

Yesterday I contacted my insurance company and a few of the utilities to notify them of the move and to ensure I had overlapping services at my old and new place during the month of February.

Imagine if your job involved answering the phone all day and talking to people about their insurance coverage? I'd have to put a bullet in my head.

Wendy, the exceedingly pleasant woman at Meloche Monnex not only has to talk about extended water damage endorsements and acts of God, she is also forced, by law, to read their privacy statement verbatim to anyone soliciting a quote.

It must have been half a page long. It was all about permission to use my personal information to provide quotes for their products and services.

Ridiculous really. Why else would I be calling them. I wonder what she would have said if I'd said, "no".

Anyway, when she was done, I said, "God, you must hate doing that". She giggled. Who wouldn't?

I'm very grateful for MY job today.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

The face of conflict

It's easy to become immune to the doom and gloom in the news if you've got no experience of a place. But the events in Kenya, of late, have really shaken me to my core.

I know these people, or people just like them. I lived with them. Called them my friends. Now they're watching as their country -- long an anchor of stability in the region -- spirals into chaos.

It's heartbreaking.

I remember years ago, while working at CARE during the height of the Somali famine, that many of my colleagues had fond memories of Mogadishu as a jewel of a city. A beautiful port. I hope that this is not what Nairobi will become for me.

My BFF and I spent six months at CARE Kenya, working on a project that still remains one of my proudest accomplishments.

It was a magazine called Pied Crow.

When the AIDS crisis in Africa was still in its infancy, Pied Crow was packaging messages regarding HIV transmission in a language that children could understand and distributing the message to every primary school in Kenya. And it didn't just focus on AIDS. The magazine had entire issues devoted to water and sanitation, sustainable farming techniques, girl's rights -- everything you could possible imagine.

We worked with a team of Kenyan designers, illustrators, and animators. Every one of them was an artist in his or her own right. Brilliant and immensely talented. Plus the project was guided by a team of spirited teachers.

We travelled with them -- deep into the Kenyan bush -- to teach teachers how to use the magazine as part of their lesson plans. In some cases, this little publication was the only resource material teachers had at their disposal. More than once, we witnessed the teachers reverentially removing back issues of Pied Crow from a locked cabinet in the teacher's room.

A few years after we left Kenya, we learned that CIDA had stopped funding Pied Crow.

I never learned what happened to our team. I hope that life has been kind to them. To them -- to Change, Peter, Lucy, Alfred and Ham Kamembo, and others whose names have faded as the years, I send my best wishes to you. Be safe.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Happy New Year

May you be happy.
May you be healthy.
May you be free.
May you live with ease.