Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The End

My uncle passed away last night. He was 69.

He shared the cause of death with my father. Cancer.

In the final days, as with my Dad, the end was long and slow and painful.

Cancer takes no prisoners. It isn't pretty. It doesn't play fair.

Cancer takes the person you loved and wrings them from the inside out. It takes all the things they loved, everything that was important to them and everyone in their orbit, and renders it insignificant. It strips them of their dignity.

When I go, I pray to God that it's not cancer that gets me.

I'd far rather have a giant ACME safe fall from sky on to my unsuspecting head, then suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous cancer.

I'd rather die in my sleep with my hair fanned around my pillow.

"I'm not afraid of dying," Woody Allen said, "I just don't want to be there when it happens."

Hug the people you love today. Extra tight.

Monday, July 27, 2009


I've atoned for my summer reading sins.

Just finished Unfeeling, a spectacular first novel by 28-year old Ian Holding.

The novel take place in modern day Zimbabwe, after President Mugabe passes a law advocating the seizure of white-owned farm lands.

Though it's called Unfeeling, the novel is anything but.

It's gripping, hard to put down, yet difficult to read at points.

It reminded me of Cormac McCarthy's The Road, perhaps because of the desperate realism and the starkness of its poetry. If you could appreciate Sunday by the Pool in Kigali, you'll like this novel.

It follows 16-year old Davey, who hides in the attic as his parents are brutally murdered and their farm seized. Then it explores his complicated, brave and desperate journey for retribution and to confront the new "owners" of the farm.

The story is compelling not only because it's expertly told, but because stories like it have happened all over Zimbabwe.

Highly recommended. Not soon forgotten.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Practice makes perfect

I did a 6:30 a.m. yoga class this morning and I discovered some interesting things about how I relate to my body.

The first is how angry I can get at it, when it doesn't do what I want. The other is how attuned to it that I decidedly am not. In a practice where gentleness and going at your own pace is encouraged, my tendency can be to make it a competitive sport.

The best poses come, of course, when I give in and allow my breath and my body to take over.

I had a nice exchange with another participant on the way to the TTC this morning. She looked like a highly trained professional during our class but she admitted to feeling anxious, tired and sore while doing downward dog. She admitted she hated yoga in the beginning. Now she can't live without it.

There it is. Hope comes and it's wearing lycra.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009


I thought you might like to know what I had for dinner last night.

First Course
Lobster, lime and cocount bisque.

Main Course
Poached Lobster with
Summer vegetable and chanterelle mushroom risotto.
Tomato pistou with salad verde.

Passion fruit, vanilla and mango ice cream cake with blackberry compote.

It certainly beat my usual fare, which is opening a can of tuna over pre-washed spinach.

The good people at Scaramouche even noted my BFF's birthday on the reservation and, despite no second mention from me, delivered his dessert with a single lit candle and a tasteful Happy Birthday in chocolate around the rim.

A lovely evening was had by all....except, perhaps, the lobsters.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The Day After

It's taken some time for the news to sink in about Craig.

I was in touch with two overseas friends yesterday. One telephoned from Australia. Danni was the third friend at the table during our infamous first and only visit to Hooters. At the time, she was living in Toronto, married to a Canadian, and delighted to welcome a fellow Aussie traveler to Canada. Danni and Craig had gone to school together in Canberra and we'd -- all three -- worked together at CARE.

We talked a lot about Craig and what made him so special.

She reminded me of the time in Canberra that we all arose spectacularly early (I think it was somewhere around 4:30 a.m.) to attend the dawn service on Anzac Day.

Even at this early hour, Craig was bright as a dollar. He'd carefully organized a breakfast, securing a hard-fought table to accommodate our ragtag group. He'd also smuggled some Anzac biscuits into the restaurant to tide us over until our bacon and egg rolls arrived.

Craig was a party waiting to happen.

The second person I chatted with was Gail. Although living in Bangkok and working on HIV/AIDS policy now, she and her partner lived and worked in Indonesia for four years. She was based in Jakarta, speaks fluent Indonesian, and counts innumerable Indonesians among her closest friends.

She knows that this type of extremism doesn't at all reflect the ideology of ordinary Indonesian citizens, and can only negatively impact an economy that is already suffering.

Here's part of what she wrote to me:

I was very relieved to know that no current CARE or FHI Indonesia staff or their families were directly affected, but this news really brings it home, doesn't it? It really can be anyone, any time. I know Indonesia is higher risk than some places, but really, it can be anywhere and if you are in the wrong place at the wrong time...all my Indonesian colleagues are devastated that their country is once again stained with this image of extremism when it is such a small fringe - and Noordin Top is Malaysian.

This is the second tragedy I can remember that befell someone I knew through CARE Australia. In 2004, CARE country director Margaret Hassan, who'd lived and worked in Iraq for more than 25 years, was kidnapped, held hostage, and then murdered. Several of my colleagues had worked with and for her in Jordan for many years.

So there's a lesson here, I guess.

It's to remember that every, every moment is a precious gift. If today was your last day -- and let's hope it's not -- but if it was, would what you're thinking about really be that important?

Monday, July 20, 2009

Craig Senger

The only time I've ever been to Hooters in my life was with this man.

Craig Senger was one of the jolliest people I know. He could get you to do anything.

I hired him to be on the donor team at CARE Australia, but he was always better than the job. We both new it, but we really enjoyed working together.

Craig was always up for a party. It was because of him that I met the entire Australian Olympic rowing team.

He visited me twice here in Canada. He was that rare export from a terminally hot country -- a snowboarder. On his second visit, he'd spent nearly 6 weeks in Whistler, learning his craft. Like most things, he was so good at it that it looked effortless.

The second time he visited, he told me about his soon-to-be wife, Kate. They'd been friends -- best friends for years. Craig had been posted to Milan, and he spent the entire time in this beautiful city pining for his friend. One day the switch flicked and they started looking at each other differently. He was gooey. I'd never seen him that way. Love, as you know, is friendship on fire.

They'd married, and his ascent at Austrade continued. He'd been posted to Jakarta, together with his beautiful wife.

This morning I received a message from other friend in Australia.

Family pays tribute to Australian killed
July 19, 2009
The family of Canberra Austrade official Craig Senger, who was killed on Friday's bomb blasts in Jakarta, say he was a wonderful husband and father and a beautiful friend.

Mr Senger was one of three Australians killed in the co-ordinated suicide bombings on the JW Marriott and the Ritz-Carlton hotels in central Jakarta on Friday.

A statement issued by the Department of Trade and Foreign Affairs (DFAT) on behalf of his wife, Kate Senger, and other family members has thanked family and friends for their support.

"We are devastated by the sudden passing of Craig who was not only a wonderful husband, son and brother but also a beautiful friend," the statement said.

"We would like to thank Austrade and the Australian government for the wonderful opportunities and ongoing support provided to Craig throughout his career.

"Craig greatly enjoyed his life in Jakarta. He performed a rewarding job that he loved and he really valued the many friends that he had made there."

Mr Senger was sent to Jakarta a year ago to help oversee the expected expansion of overseas investment into Indonesia's booming mining industry.

The 36-year-old had expressed hope that Australian businesses could exploit reforms due to liberalise Indonesian investment laws.

With huge international experience, Mr Senger was also previously instrumental in bringing Indian mining giants such as Tata Steel to Australia to buy technology and services as well as liaising with Russian officials.

His family has thanked DFAT, Austrade, the Australian Embassy in Jakarta, the Australian Federal Police, and the federal government for their continued support.

"We would also like to thank our dear friends and family for helping us to deal with the extraordinary shock and loss that we are feeling," the statement said.

Perth businessman Nathan Verity, 38, and Brisbane man Garth McEvoy, 54, also died in the blast that killed at least eight people.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said Mr Senger was the first Australian government official to be killed in a terrorist attack.

"The Department of Foreign Affairs advises me that to the best of their knowledge, apart from military officers and police officers, this is the first Australian government official to be killed by a terrorist attack in the line of duty," Mr Rudd told reporters after attending church in Canberra on Sunday.

Foreign Minister Stephen Smith had spoken to Mr Rudd from Jakarta on Saturday night, where Mr Smith had contacted Mr Senger's wife and the family members of Brisbane businessman Garth McEvoy, 54, who was also killed in the attacks.

Mr Rudd, who said he spoke to Mr Senger's mother in Canberra on Saturday night, said it was a very sad time for the family.

Just one month ago, Mr Senger delivered his father's eulogy, Mr Rudd said.

It is therefore a sad day for the Australian official community, given his loss, Mr Rudd said.

Mr Rudd, who had convened the national security committee for a third time on Saturday, said officials went through a series of "operational matters" concerning the government's best continuing analysis of those responsible for the attacks.

"Can I also say that the Australian government will leave no stone unturned in bringing to justice the perpetrators of this violent, barbaric act of murder," he said.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Rachel's butterfly garden - Home

Rachel's butterfly garden - Home & Garden - Crafts - Canadian Living

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I used to say, I and me. Now it's us. Now it's we.

This morning, City TV did their rat-tastic part to end the garbage strike.

They posted footage of long-tailed ratters crawling through some discarded garbage at the foot of Spadina Avenue. I'm thinking this can only lead to a louder public outcry to the mayor's office.

Also, I hope other rats weren't watching. The city is turning into the rat version of Canada's Wonderland.

My prediction at the beginning of the strike was 6 weeks. Let's see if it holds out.

Thursday, July 16, 2009


For some reason, my heart feels like it's being pummeled by a meat tenderizer over these past few days.

I feel especially sensitive.

I'm taking things personally that have nothing to do with me - other people's moods, their degree of happiness, their degree of bitterness.

I wonder sometimes, does anyone ever stand around the water cooler and share what they like about their job?

It's a rhetorical question, really. Most of the time, people are looking for someone to blame. They're looking to point the finger at that person, place or thing that caused them to feel like X, Y, Z.

As a manager, I can control, to some small degree, some of the things that go on in the workplace, but the truth is that most things are way, way outside of my realm of influence.

Like most people, I do the best that I can.

When I take things too personally, it makes me want to act. It triggers my urge to fix.

But the truth is that inaction is sometimes the best way to solve a problem. To get the hell out of the way, and let the other person figure it out all by themselves.

Imagining that I'm responsible for everything is just plain wrong -- if not the hugest ego leap in the world. It's also a one way ticket to Unhappiness Town.

Personally, I want to get off at my stop. Serenity Town. All aboard.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Wake Up Call

My friend J is admittedly not a morning person.

Since she knows I'm an early riser, often at my desk by 7:30, she sometimes asks for a wake-up call, which I'm happy to give.

Waking up often involves a little song I've created. It goes like this:

It's a new day
And we're happy
And we're gonna meet all the challenges of the world.

It's usually sung with an Up With People smile in my voice so as to be exceedingly irritating to the morning hater. The tune is patent pending.

Today, I sing this song to you.


Because on this new day I celebrate the win of some new business, the winning of which I played a considerable part.

And you, dear reader, also played a part.

A few weeks ago I asked you for your positive vibes and they were freely given. Thank you.

If you ever need a wake up call, you know who to ask.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Thank you, India

I tend to remember every nice thing that anyone's ever said about me. I'm shallow that way.

So imagine my delight when one of my fellow cottagers told me that I resemble this woman, India Hicks.


It's not even remotely true, but I'm holding on to it like a kite in a gale.

Hicks is the granddaughter of Earl Mountbatten of Burma. She was a fashion model in the eighties and nineties and is now the creative director at Crabtree and Evelyn. She's got some ties with royalty.

I, of course, am the granddaughter of Jack of Temagmi. A canoe builder. I'm the creative director of my own belly button. I've got some royal ties to multiple recovery programs.

Anyway, it's nice to imagine, if even for a moment, that some of what he saw in me might be true.

Good bone structure is entirely an accident of genetics, but I'll take it. Thank you, India.

Monday, July 13, 2009

sTORI's from the Weekend

I spent the weekend at a cottage on Go Home Lake, in the Muskokas.

It wasn't even a cottage. It was a house. A big house.

A five bedroom, stained glass sporting, manse with a yoga room, a TV room, and a two storey stone fireplace. It had a separate sauna outbuilding and came complete with a couple of boats, a canoe and a kayak. Even the requisite cubby was a two story A-frame. Pretty incredible.

Anyway, apparently taste doesn't go along with all that wealth, because there was a veritable jostling for the latest find in my summer guilty pleasure reading series.

Tori Spelling's autobiography, sTORI Telling, caused near fisticuffs when I finally finished it and put it down.

It seems that no one wants to buy it, but everyone wants to read it. (So, in that way, I imagine myself performing a public service.)

Tori takes us on a rollicking romp through her poor-little-rich-girl life and I have to say -- i kind of like her. She's funny, self-deprecating and humble in an "I Love Lucy" kind of way....even if she did steal Mary Jo's husband.

There's tons of dirt about Shannon Doherty, her tempestuous relationship with her Mother, her loveless first marriage and her fast fall for Dean.

There's plenty of pictures, too, including one of her Nolan Miller designed Marie Antionette Halloween costume.

Told you: guilty pleasure!

Anyway, in case you're worried about me, I'm on to headier finds now.

I'm deep into the work of much-loved Buddhist teacher and practitioner, Sylvia Boorstein. This one's called, "Happiness is an inside job: Practicing for a Joyful Life." It's good...even if Sylvia, to my knowledge, has never been on 90210. I'm trying not to hold that against her.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Hey Toronto, Glitter not Litter

Do you want to know what drives me crazy? Okay, crazier. It's the people who've gently piled their garbage beside the taped up City of Toronto garbage bins.

Really. Isn't there something else you could do with it. Like eat it?

If there's ever been any more incentive to recycle, I don't know what it is.

Even though I only produce about one small Sobey's bag of real garbage a week, I'm feeling the pain of this strike. Imagine what the poor sods who live near one of these horrible piles of Mount Vesuvius-like garbage drop-offs must feel.

The garbage strike stinks.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

This is all I've got for you today

One of my favourite love songs. Why? Because I love you. Here goes.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Closing the Loop

It's always nice to close the loop on a story.

On my way home last evening, I passed the Everywear store again and found three attractive twenty somethings peering in the window. One of the women was telling the others in her beautiful Irish accent, "....and I went in, and he was sitting at the back, wearing the ugliest pants God ever created and they were three sizes to big. Pleased as punch, he was."

Thank you, universe, for the biggest smile of the day.

Thursday, July 2, 2009


Everywhere I've ever lived, there's been a Weird Store.

It's a store that, despite all odds and a questionable marketing plan, manages to survive. Weird Stores are inevitably run by even weirder proprietors.

The newest weird store in my neighbourhood is called Everywear.

It's entrance on to the Broadview street scape couldn't have been more stealth.

The proprietor moved into the store front, blacked out the all windows, and hung an ominous sign with one word on it. That word was SOON.

Intriguing, yes. Scary. Also, yes.

Anyway, it didn't happen all that soon. The windows remained blacked out for at least a couple of months until finally a new sign appeared indicating the date of the grand opening.

So what does this Weird Store contain, you might be asking yourself?

Well, it would appear that the proprietor is a designer of knit wear. But this is no ordinary knit wear. This is patterned knit wear. Hideously patterned knit wear. Knit wear that no one, even if they were running naked from a burning building, would hasten to put on their bodies.

Since the shop opened, I've never seen anyone in it. While the door is open wide, the lights inside remain off.

I'm curious to go inside. But not alone. Never alone.

The window displays change almost daily. So, imagine my delight when I saw the proprietor standing on the side walk the other day admiring his handiwork.

What was he wearing? Yup. You guessed it. Hideously patterned sweat pants.

There's a Weird Store Everywear.