Friday, December 30, 2005


I have a sometimes roommate, Mel. She's 61, white-haired, and fabulous. She lives with me about one week a month. I love having her around. When she departs at the end of a stay, she leaves me cheeky notes encouraging me to "bring boys home". (Then I subsequently don't.)

She recently started taking some courses in astrology, and she did my natal chart. We both view it as just an interesting way to frame stuff, and neither of us takes it too seriously, but it's fun when things seem dead on.

I am an Aries, a fire sign, with Cancer ascendant, a water sign, which supposedly explains why I am such a maniac, and exactly what kind of maniac I am.

Specifically, I am a passionate, enthusiastic, impatient, go-getter, (Aries), but super-sensitive, mushy, family-oriented, loyal, with a big range of emotions, and able to put up a cold emotional wall to protect my squishy innards when I'm stressed or threatened (Cancer baby, all Cancer) maniac.

As for the rest of my chart, not only am I a fire sign, but I am ALL FIRE, she said. Well, fire and a bit of air and water, but NO EARTH. "Well, you do have one little bit of earth, but it doesn't count." She says this means my job in life, the key to my contentedness, is to move toward groundedness, through health and exercise, through my work. (I think I'm on that one now.)

Friends have often described me as grounded, but the truth is any groundedness I get comes from skiing, hiking, canoeing, lying in grass, and maybe from my family and the way I was raised. I tend more to roll around in my head, and have had many daydreams about lifting up and floating away.

She couldn't be more right on the fire front, I pretty much feel like a furnace all the time - honestly and without exaggeration - as though there were embers burning away just under my ribcage, all day, all night. Mel says she has no fire, which is why she gets along with fiery people; she can take it, in fact, she needs it.

She figures that while I'll always get charged by air and fire people, I'll do well to connect deeply with a few earth people who will help balance me out. Trouble with earth people is they think astrology is bunk and won't get their charts done.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

tongue biting

Happily married people always say that a big key to the success of their relationship is mutual respect.

Another secret a friend just shared with me is the biting of the tongue.

I'm not involved with anyone right now, but why not meditate on this again, before I find myself madly in love and possibly saying things I don't need to say and creating unnecessary stress? It can't be more obvious that not every thought is worth uttering aloud.

I don't mean that it's a good thing to suppress expressing important needs and feelings, or to entirely stop stating your preferences, but drawing on a wide range of reported experience (both mine and friends')... I wonder if one's sweetie really needs to know that you think their spagetti sauce might taste better if the veggies were sauteed in the garlic and onion first; or if they need to know that you really hate that dorky Jack Nicholson poster on the back of the closet door that they've had since college; or if they need to know that you find it annoying how they take off their socks in the living room and leave them there almost every evening; or if they really need to know that you think their mother cooks junk food and talks nonsense when the conversation turns to politics. Eat her velveeta and canned mushroom soup casserole, listen to her rant about the GST, and hush. Go make yourself a salad later.

Isn't it enough that your sweetie writes you goofy thoughtful customized poems on your birthday? makes your dinner for you no matter what time you get home? wipes all the hair up from the bathtub after their shower? gets up to feed the crying baby when you're wiped out from a long day? listens to your nonsensical political rants? loves you up like no one else? etc? etc? etc?

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

"Such is the state of life, that none are happy but by the anticipation of change..."

It's winter, but the days are getting longer again and I can feel it. I've just revealed to a friend of mine that what this means for me is, even though I am still rolling around in the snow, and skiing every change I get, and loving it, it is time to start dreaming of summer adventures.

And the way it works is, next summer, when I'm on some adventure and loving it, we'll all flip past June 21 and the days will start getting shorter, and that will trigger my dreaming of skiing and rolling in the snow.

I got a terrific surprise Christmas present from a very sweet friend of mine, a special kit to help me "win the Keskinada", which as some of you may know attracts world-class skiers. Everyone found it quite charming that his vision for me doing this race wasn't just to ski it and survive, but TO WIN, like I was some kind of actual contender, not some goof who raced a bit in highschool (poorly and with extremely limited success despite my own special brand of damn-the-torpedos enthusiasm) and who now skis more or less because it means I can eat more fudge. (OK, yes, I also love it.) ("It" being skiing.) (And fudge.)

Included in the kit were some gift-wrapped-and-ribboned bananas, a box of "Force Action" cereal, and a tiny bottle of 9-year old bourbon. But one of my favourite items in the "Win the Keski" package was a training journal, which he had customized with "a few helpful notes". He "made" the journal from a three-year spiral-bound journal, from which he ripped ALL of 2007, 2008, and 10 months of 2006 (everything after the race weekend of Feb 18-19). Everything in 2006 is blank until Feb 16, which contains the "helpful note" to "PANIC!" Feb 17 encourages me to "carbo load" and "think positive thoughts". It's all quite wonderful.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

sons and daughters of Jim

I found out this morning that my some dearest friends' father just died. He had three daughters and a son. He had five grandchildren. The whole family, they are all very good people. I have been lucky enough to know and be close to this family for almost two decades.

Jim was fast-talking, warm, wiry, blunt, energetic (a touch manic), a great cook, a sweet man. In a good-humoured way, he could be fantastically profane (so exotic and thrilling when we were teenagers! a parent who swore!) but could easily and readily rein it in and be as refined and well-mannered as any situation required. In his core he was a gentleman.

I lived with two of his daughters in Vancouver, and they agreed that anyone who chopped food so quickly or moved so fast in the kitchen that they broke something or injured themselves - but still produced delicious food - was an "honourary daughter of Jim". I earned it by flashing around the kitchen at lightning speed, whipping cupboards open and shut, and then accidentally slicing my finger with a knife and announcing it to the household with a quick string of profanities.

Jim was Pops to everyone, but was especially like a dad towards another dear friend of ours, starting when she was young and her parents separated, a very hard time for her. It came naturally to him, and to the rest of the family, to take her into the fold.

His kids had all begged him to be better to himself, but the disease he had finally took him away completely. I am so sorry Pops.

His children, every one, inherited many of his finest qualities, including his utter lack of pretension, his unflinching candour and his warmth. I adore the lot of them and wish they could have been spared this loss, this way.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

grace under pressure

It snowed like crazy here a few days ago, and as a result I met some people.

The first one was this lady from my neighbourhood who waited at the bus stop with me for 40 minutes. Everything was running late.

She told me she hates the bus and was only taking it because she couldn't get out of her own driveway in her car. She told me that she never recycles, she hates it. She said she likes when everyone is horrified by her non-friendly attitude toward the environment. She complained the whole time, and kept fixing her hair, compulsively, but I thought she was pretty funny, even though her attitude was pretty depressing.

When our bus arrived it was a really old one, circa 1978. It reminded me of taking the bus to junior high. Rose-coloured vinyl seats, ceilings in a white melmac with little golden stars, everything round, reeking of stale diesel.

We passed about five or six abandoned articulated buses, part of the traffic chaos of the morning. Apparently they have a motor in the middle and one at the back, and if one pushes more than the other at the wrong time, (which happens all the time when things are slippery, which they were), then they jackknife, and get stuck.

There was a couple at the back of the bus where I was sitting. He was tall and sort of handsome, but very rough, and missing teeth. He was sitting with a pudgy homely woman with glasses and black hair streaked with grey, and they were holding hands tightly, fingers interlocked. He was the one who explained about the articulated buses. He said he used to do repair work on the buses in this city.

But before that, he did his Masters in Music. When I asked him what instrument, he said "all of them", and informed me that he was, in particular, an incredible drummer. He said he was once in a drumming workshop with Phil Collins and "that guy from Rush" (Neil Peart), and he kicked both their asses. Neil would play a piece, and then everyone in the workshop had to copy what he did, and it was timed, and they were rated on accuracy and speed. But the bus guy, he said "I did everything that guy from Rush did, and then added my own stuff, and still came in under time, and they all wanted to know how I did that. And Neil said 'You could be the best drummer in the world' and I said 'Thanks'."

His girlfriend piped up, "My mother sings in a choir. I still have my recorder from grade 4."

Then we got to my stop, so I said thanks for the stories, and got off.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

bring it on! bring it! bring!

When people want to express their readiness for a challenge, their rock-solidness in the face of a threat, I remember a time when people, in those circumstances, used to say/exclaim/bellow: "BRING IT ON!"

Lately I've noticed it seems the trend to shorten it to: "BRING IT!"

I say, let's just cut the crap about "it" - what a waste of breath, bothering with a useless object like that - and start saying the meaty bit all on its own: "BRING!"

Because how great would this be:

Boss: So are you ready to tackle writing a project plan for the redesign?

Me: Sure. Bring!

Boss: Fantastic! You are so efficient, you deserve a raise.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

mullets are for lovers

My Christmas List:

1) Strength, speed, patience.

2) A law that forbids the playing of Christmas Carols over store speakers until December 15 AT THE EARLIEST, and even then ONLY THE GOOD ONES.

3) A t-shirt that says "Mullets are for lovers"

listen to some musak, pump some iron

My deadline at work just got pushed out to early January. The "schedule relief" now means that my life returns to normal. That's right, my dumplings, that means this afternoon I am listening to some musak and pumping some iron.

I am so overtired that I had trouble sleeping last night. I mysteriously woke just after midnight with an inexplicable and vivid craving for a tin of sardines, which I ate, with a pfeffernusse chaser. Then I drank some water, brushed my teeth again, and went back to bed where I dreamt that I was made of kevlar.

Eating the sardines was lovely, and in my midnight kitchen in my pajamas I was transported back to a moment on the Peel River in the Yukon this summer when, on one of the long paddling days, my sister found a tin of kippered sardines at the bottom of one of our food barrels. No one else was interested, so we shared the tin, ate them with cheese and crackers. Although we'd been eating well, good and delicious food, there was something about those smoked sardines that seemed novel, extravagant and gourmet.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Love, my little dumplings, is worth the effort

How I dearly loved a fish, a barrel, and a smoking gun. Dead since 2001, I used to read SUCK religiously every morning at work.

Wednesdays were the best, because while Wednesday is the cruelest weekday of them all when you are working at a job you hate, SUCK came through for me EVERY Wednesday with the gloriously bitter FILLER. I highly recommend that you take hours out of your life to go read some. One delightful series is comprised of the Men/Women To Avoid. You know these people.

Filler was written by Heather Havrilesky under her nom de plume Polly Esther. Silly of me to take this long, years in fact, to discover that she's of course still writing - for Salon etc, and on her Rabbit Blog, a profanity-doused advice column.

To wit, this entry from January 10 2005, the whole of which expresses exactly how I feel, (although I probably would not have expressed it using the word "fuckwiener", because grievously, until now, I'd never heard it before):

We've all been through all kinds of bullshit. But believing in love makes love possible, and deciding that it's impossible is fucking stupid. Getting hurt is no big deal, idiots. I've been hurt and hurt and hurt and hurt. Every time it's easier. You have to keep leaping, keep throwing yourself in. Find someone who's worthy of your crazy mind and your stupid notions and your filthy urges and your homemade waffles with blueberries on top. Fuck the flinchy and the fault-finding! Find someone who's fun and moody and sweet, someone who knows how to listen and apologize, someone with opinions about everything, someone who can't help but tell you how great you are, often. I know you can do it, fuckwieners. I'm counting on you.

Go read the rest of that rant. It's a good one.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

like a snake eating its own tail

Driving into work today with a friend of mine who is also working on the same project, we discussed the strange feel of heading into the office on a Sunday. It went something like this:

Me: It's like Sunday, but it's also like Monday, and a little like Friday. It's like the week that never ends.

Him: Yeah. It's got the deserted desolation of Sunday, the rising dread of Monday, and the I'm-running-out-of-time panic of Friday. It's like a snake eating its own tail. It's like the MC Escher of the two hands drawing themselves, only maybe the two hands are actually shooting up heroin.

Me: Wow, you are so ON today.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

sleep knits up the unravelled sleeve

Work has been busy for a good month, and I've been fine, but I'm starting to crack.

I'm coordinating the redesign and launch of our new corporate website. And because I'm the writer/communications gal, I'm also writing all the copy, updating and managing the review process for three manuals, redoing all our graphics, helping direct a Flash demo, editing the press release, etc.

With the long hours, and the tight deadline, I have had trouble managing the basics: eating healthy food, getting enough exercise and sleep. Dishes? I eat whatever I can from the container. Laundry? Hey man, I just be sure to smear a little extra deoderant on my pits. One thing I'll insist on is fresh undies, but I've got a plentiful supply for now.

Yesterday I went for dinner with my friends Ralf and Chris. Normally these guys make me laugh all the time. Chris because he's very silly and clever, Ralf because he's odd and smart and basically willing to say everything he thinks, whether or not it's offensive. They rib me all the time, I rib them back, it works.

OK, so last night, I ran out of humour and straight through the wall of fatigue into a subtle internal hysteria. Ralf made some crack (and I don't mean that he heated some cocaine in a baking soda and water solution), Chris laughed, and I should have laughed, but I realized to my horror that tears had sprung to my eyes. What'd he'd said in jest started me thinking about some things that I'm pretty sad about and because I was so tired, I JUST COULDN'T STOP. I didn't want them to feel bad or guilty, and I didn't want to make a scene, because it was so clear to me that it was the fatigue underlying it that was making me so fragile. So I managed to not quite cry at the table. I waited until I got back to the office and then had a quick sob in the privacy of my cubicle on the almost empty floor.

Last night I slept a good 10 hours, and napped again this afternoon. I'm feeling a little more normal now, even though I'm back in the office again and it's a Saturday night. I don't mind crying and I think it's a dangerous idea to think you're supposed to be happy all the time, but I'm not fond of feeling so on the edge.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

she can already eat dulse, it's a logical next step I suppose

Segment of instant-message session with my unstoppable sister in Whitehorse, you know, the one who hiked all summer with a broken leg.

Sister: are you there chika chika?

Me: yup
ok so what's up?

Sister: nothing, just bored
eating dulse

Me: nice

Sister: its ok, kind of gross, but good desk snacking

A few mins later...

I got to run
I love you
miss you
adore you
and think dulse tastes like rotting fish breath
but that's ok
bye for now!!!!

it does taste like rotting fish breath
I want to go on Fear Factor
i would win so big time
are you there?
Would you go on Fear Factor with me? they're looking for sibling teams
I'm going to apply for us

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

'tis the season

Overheard at Winners, where I was shopping for a new sweater, because three of mine have decided to die and become unsuitable for work-wear in the last week:

Woman: (with dyed blonde pageboy haircut, wearing long white coat from rack) Oh, I just don't know when I'd wear it.

Man: Get it honey, it saves me the trouble. You never like anything I get for you, this way you won't have to return it later.

Woman: Should I get it? I just don't know when I'd wear it.

(Repeat in form of several minor variations of above.)

Daughter: (Exasperated as only teenagers can be) Mom, you know you have, like TWENTY coats at home. Once I came home from school and the coats collapsed the rack in the closet. I thought we were being robbed! It was loud! (Looks around to see if anyone heard her and thought it was funny.)

(Long bit of quiet where they mill about and don't speak.)

Man: I never know what to get for you. You never like my presents. I always get it wrong and then you return it.

Woman: Do you like this coat? I really like it. I just don't know when I'd wear it.

Man: Look, honey, why don't you just get it? It will be a good present. I'll give it to you. Then I'll know that you like it.

Woman: I don't know. I just don't know.

(Long bit of quiet where they mill about and don't speak)

Me: It's too big. (Pause, slowly gaining confidence.) It's too big on you. (Walking up and gesturing near her shoulders.) It's just too big. It makes you look like you have no shape, and you do.

Woman: (honestly relieved) Thank you!

Me: Oh, no problem.