Wait-Loss Wonderland.

The weight loss journey is one seriously rocky road, like wandering though a twisted fairy tale, a calorie-conscious Wonderland with all kinds of detours, obstacles, distractions, forks in the roads and the occasional rabbit hole.

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It’s easy to lose track of your starting point, how far you’ve come, or how much you’ve changed from that day you took that first step in that direction.

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Ten months spent in this weight-loss Wonderland has been a deeply transformative time. Not just of my appearance, or my dress size, but as layers of myself have diminished-now forty pounds and 42.5 inches, I have suffered, struggled—and travelled through my memory—and ran the entire gamut of emotions.  Memories of food; of overindulgences.  I am a certifiable comfort eater. I am my own Italian grandmother serving up heaping portions of creamy, saucy, gooey, salty goodness. Eat! Eat!  It’s the cure for all things: anxiety, boredom, depression, loneliness. It’s not as though gaining weight was a deliberate, conscious act. It just becomes a reality that feels unchangeable.  In my office, there’s a giant glass picture frame with a wedding photo of Buster Keaton, (random I know but the image amuses me). It sits on my desk, and I could see my reflection in it—so I covered it up with papers.

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In retrospect, that action strikes me as sad.  In order to not see myself–and face some hard facts, I refused to see something that brings me joy. Then again, denial, like loose fabric and stretchy pants are necessary accessories of avoidance.  Of course, the cruel irony of this vicious cycle is: feeling unhappy with yourself + self medicating and overindulging + feeling unhappy with yourself + self medicating and overindulging =not living your life out loud like you’d really like to. Knowing that you are on the verge of a great depression; or deep in that chasm with no way to get out—knowing, in an abstract sense, that a healthier lifestyle would be a benefit—but not knowing how to break that cycle—because frankly, you won’t see results on day one, two or three. It becomes quite the waiting game. You simply have to trust that each day, you are a little bit more different than the day before.

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Even after change has become to take shape, sometimes you need reminders. Those Facebook memories that pop up on the ole newsfeed are effective tools, and can be occasionally mortifying—or inspiring, depending on your mood. There was a photo of me in Mexico that really stands out in my mind—I’m rather stylish in the group shot—beachy hair, my smile dressed in red lipstick, a purple silk scarf draped over my shoulders, all tucked into a chunky belt—but oooh, that belt was not the only bit of chunky in that snap shot. It was staggering to see. I showed it to my mother, who was quick to insist that I not feel bad about it; I assured her that I didn’t look at the picture with sadness—I was celebrating New Year’s Eve with some marvellous people in Mexico, and have zero regrets about aaaaaall those guac and chips and margaritas. It was more about realizing how far I had come, when I had kind of lost sight of where I was on the long road to fitness. That was then. This is now. I can’t cripple myself with regret for not starting sooner—or for having a problem at all. Regret, sadly does not burn calories, and is therefore pretty damn useless.

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In the mix of dealing with health improvements, my issues with anxiety are the whack-a-moles that I must endlessly smash with my big mallet. Anxiety is the internal Debbie Downer that leeches joy and distracts from motivation.  That bitch needs to get up and go. But, if she won’t leave, and she sticks with you like a bad tattoo you got in your teen years, how does one redesign it in order to deal it on the daily?   In my case, how does one apply self-comfort without stuffing one’s face? Cups of tea, a cozy blanket, my husband Benjamin, our dog Bluebear, a good book, writing, curling up on the couch, a hot bath, a long walk, a visit with a friend. Chatting with Beth and Elisha at Herbal One, laughing through squats and plies at Barre Kamloops.

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Living life in bite sized increments,  mindful of the moment. By all means plan for the future, but focus on today. Especially in regards to health and weight-loss. So. Many. Times. I would eat as if I were being shipped off to the electric chair at dawn. Tomorrow I’ll be better; I’ll start fresh on Monday.  Excuses start to fly like baseballs at the batting cages. Monday is the worst day of the week, why make that the day to start anything? I’ll start on Tuesday…Wednesday… Thursday… ah, it’s the weekend, best treat myself…to bigger pants. You won’t see change in one day—so what’s one more day of not seeking change? There in lies the need for that mindfulness. You may not see rippling abs on the first day you decide to make a change, so you have to find the ant-sized successes in the daily choices that benefit your long term goal.

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My relationship with food is much friendlier.  I spend more time in the kitchen than ever before–prepping, planning and preparing. The other night Benjamin and I were lying in bed discussing all these delicious meal ideas like two children whispering secrets in the dark. Sunday’s are my food prep days, and there is nothing more satisfying than looking into a perfectly stocked fridge filled with washed and chopped produce and ready to go meals. Take that Monday! If the opportunity arises for a true indulgence, I don’t shy away from it; last night for example—live music, three glasses of pinot noir and two kinds of fondue at the Commodore (swiss cheese and dark chocolate). Do I have a wine/cheese/chocolate hangover today? Hell yes, I do. Do I have regrets? Not at all. I completed a 10-day cleanse, treated myself to a mani/pedi, and enjoyed a very special date night with my sweetheart; I savoured, celebrated and absorbed every bite and every sip.  (We also shared a salad, just for good measure).

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This time has been one of great reflection; recollections of all the injuries, accidents, disappointments, heartbreaks, disasters, losses, betrayals. How I’ve been hurt and hurt others. How I have failed myself and failed others.  Taking responsibility, accepting my actions, forgiving myself, letting go.  Letting go is not my strong suit. I’ve been carrying around past agonies in my heart for so long, punishing myself for my mistakes, torturing myself for every misstep I have ever taken.  I’m still carrying around some of those things in my emotional gunny sack—but I’m learning to leave things behind as I walk along that road. Seeing myself as different people. The fretful child I once was, that 14-year-old girl, that 22-year-old, that 30-year-old—on and on, I can only see them as separate from my present-day self.  Sure, our past selves are a part of the patchwork quilt that is your collective existence, but it’s not the definition of your entire life.  Still, I have to love her—apologize to her for the things that broke her, how I didn’t know how to help her, take care of her. I was weak and imperfect and riddled with flaws. I could have done better for so long, but I didn’t. I can’t punish myself any longer for something that is gone; I can’t change the tides that threatened to drown me. All I can do is today. Breathe. Release. Laugh. Love. Stretch. Forgive. Connect. Be Patient. Cry whenever necessary. Eat fondue occasionally. Be grateful for every mistake and heart break, just don’t let it weigh you down.

Image result for vintage alice in wonderland quotesImages Courtesy of the Fine People Behind the Internet…

Thick & Thin

Saturday afternoon of a long weekend.  This time off was so necessary. After a hectic, stressful, busy, emotionally challenging week I am feeling a bit like a filthy t-shirt you wear for the entirety of a four-day music festival.  I’ve seen all kinds of shit.  It was like crawling through the desert on one’s belly, the oasis always beyond one’s reach.  Then you find out that the desert is filled with landmines and the oasis is just a mirage.  Still, as all things must pass, the stress did recede like the ocean after an angry storm, and all was calm once more.  This weekend is the Richard Gere to my Debra Winger.

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To take my Officer and a Gentleman metaphor one step further…this week has been the Louis Gossett Jr to my Richard Gere, forever riding my ass and testing me to the brink of sanity.

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It’s like…”Thanks a lot universe, what did I ever do to you?”

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Leading up to the long weekend, Benjamin and I were making a lot of plans.  ‘Let’s go on a mini break’, “Let’s go to the lake’, “Let’s see people’. And now, past lunchtime on Saturday it’s like…. ‘Let’s never leave the couch ever again”.

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After the longest winter ever, the long work hours and Netflix on the couch I’m feeling…like I could use a little bit of a detox.  But then I hear about no bread, dairy, alcohol or caffeine, and I feel instantly bored.  As for activity, I love to be tricked into exercising.  I love my yoga, and a good long walk, but anything with a higher intensity level is too much to bear.  My favorite thing to do when I have free-time is research and write blogs.   I spend an inordinate amount on time on the computer, social media updates and promoting different events.  Endlessly searching Google images for the right picture to capture my particular vision.  It’s satisfying mentally, but it’s no cardio, and does absolutely nothing for my core.  I think about exercise more than I actually exercise. I think about it as I’m drifting off to sleep.  I’ll get up an hour early and exercise.  That’s what I’ll do.  And then the morning comes and I hit the snooze harder than I would hit the gym.  I should really make time, take up jogging, do it everyday.  Then again, nobody looks happy whilst running.  In reality, I’d only run if I was being chased.

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I mean, I walk briskly from the parking lot to the office, I move around a lot of work and I go to yoga class a few times a month.  But that’s hardly a calorie burner.  My friend invited me over and over to come to kick-boxing. The timing was difficult, but then I finally made it and it was awesome.  I resolved to buy a punch card, go all the time, be fitter, be better, perfect my round-house kick.  And then I took on additional projects and have never been available since.  Free time is feeling scarce, and I do need to maintain my creative life.  Thought admittedly, the writing doesn’t take nearly as long as searching for pictures.  Example, I’ve spent fifteen minutes searching “Baby Got Back”.  But aren’t you glad I did?

rvCPm_TAF7UlYou have to credit Sir Mix-a-Lot for being a true feminist, a pioneer for positive body image.

  • “I’m tired of magazines/Sayin’ flat butts are the thing”
  • “I ain’t talkin’ bout Playboy/Cause silicone parts are made for toys”
  • “So Cosmo says you’re fat/Well I ain’t down with that!”
  • Yeah, baby … when it comes to females, Cosmo ain’t got nothin’ to do with my selection. 36-24-36? Ha ha, only if she’s 5’3″.
  • So your girlfriend rolls a Honda/Playin’ workout tapes by Fonda/But Fonda ain’t got a motor in the back of her Honda

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Sir Mix-a-Lot is a true poet.  And he’s right about Jane Fonda.  She doesn’t have much going on in the Honda of her Fonda.  Led to believe that Mix-a-Lot ran a support group for big-bootied ladies,  I dialed 1-900-MIXALOT, to talk about my body issues.  When he said, “To the beanpole dames in the magazines/You ain’t it, Miss Thing!”, I really felt a kinship.  I felt empowered. I was trying to do as Sir Mix-a-Lot says, and “kick them nasty thoughts”, but I think I’ve misunderstood what he meant by ‘nasty’.  Unfortunately, the representative was rather crude, kept referring to his anaconda, and ‘doubling up on my juicy double’…whatever that means I am still trying to figure out.  I’m pretty sure it was Drake; he is long, strong and is always down get the friction on.

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Really, if you look at the lyrics with a critical eye, the rapper is still telling you to get a sweat on.  After all, he likes to keep [his] women like Flo Jo.

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Goodness me, Flo Jo was a fit lady, known as the fastest woman in the world. Wonder what her secret was, besides God-given talent and speed? The fastest woman in the world also had the longest nails in the world.  Pretty difficult to tuck into recreational snacking with those Freddy Kruger fingers at the helm.

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It’s a balancing act trying to please this body-conscious performer.  According to the Gospel to Sir Mix-a-Lot: “You can do side bends or sit-ups/ But please don’t lose that butt”.  He also heeds a warning: some brothers will play that “hard” role, and try to tell you that the butt ain’t gold.  Don’t worry, remember your affirmations ladies, your butt is plenty gold.  When non-big butt enthusiasts “toss it and leave it”, you can count on Sir Mix to “pull up quick to retrieve it”.  That’s comforting.  But it’s a lot of pressure to live up to.  Imagine deliberately trying to have a fat ass?

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The likes of Twiggy, Audrey Hepburn and Kate Moss were an anomaly in a world that once leaned towards the full female figure.  Certain retro advertisements were certainly geared towards curvaceousness as sexy, and skinny as lacking.

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Of course, for every Sir-Mix certified ad encouraging curves, there’s evil advertising that says…”you’re fat, stop that”. Loving this ad below, the clever ad execs behind this gem offered a pearl of a tagline for this product. Shape. “Stop eating”.  Subtle.

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Thank God that Warner’s has a Body-Do, because I’m apparently a ‘body-don’t”.   The pear shape is here to stay,  I had a big butt when I was a new born baby.  That’s just nature.  Good thing there are so many wonderful products out there to accommodate your full figure.

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Why must generous portions of lady curves have to be reduced to words like chubby? Where is Sir Mix-a-Lot when we need him more than ever?

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Easy on the sugar indeed. She’s so hungry and acidic from all the eggs and grapefruit that she’s seconds away from ramming that spoon us that smug bastard’s nose, in the same way ancient Egyptians yank out the brain for mummification.    Reduce this motherfucker.  Then she could enjoy a large cinnamon bun, sickeningly sweet tea and smoke a cigarette with sticky cream-cheese icing fingers while her husband quietly bleeds to death on the carpet.  This is why we need carbs people.

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I’m 32 now, skin elasticity is as fleeting as fertility and youth.  How can I have my cake and burn it off too? As always, I turn to Victoria Beckham for advice.  She is a busy mother-of-four, a designer, entrepreneur world traveler, and she is fit as fuck.  How does she do it?

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Naturally.  Take the fun of work and then add more work.  I would literally die if I tried to attempt this.  There is almost no space between the treadmill and the wall.  Isaac Hayes died on a treadmill and he was probably in suitable footwear. Me + typing + treadmill x those epic heels=suicide bomber’s certainty of personal injury.

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Bully for you Mrs Beckham.  Is that why you’re lying on the ground? I could wear stilettos all day too if all I had to do was laze about on my back kicking my legs in the air.  I will just need a pillow, my phone and somebody’s WiFi password…and David Beckham to pop in and bask in the glory of my beauty.  I don’t know, I have a difficult time prescribing to celebrity doctrines.  Sure, they put in the work to maintain their pristine figures, but if I had a team of people behind me I could make a hobo red carpet ready.   But wait–there are people far busier than you that look better than you, also without the luxury of extra help.

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I’d love to see this gal post this on the local Mom Swap Facebook page, and then read the 350 comments over a glass of wine.  This mother of three has a better body than me. What’s my excuse? Meh, I’m not too fussed really.  It’s not as important as everything else.  I mean, if I could naturally look like Audrey Hepburn, that would be ideal.

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Since I don’t have a dancer’s body, I can’t help but want to find the balance between happy to improve but happy to love myself regardless of my physical imperfections.

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Still, I catch the occasional glimpse in the mirror that makes me wonder whether some crazy-long Flo Jo nails would be a good idea.  Or maybe I should worry less about exercise and just take up smoking.

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Then again, you wouldn’t like me when I am hungry. It’s like those Snickers ads, only I don’t turn into a hilarious caricature, but a snarling werewolf.

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Hungry + angry =Hangry.  That’s my personal danger zone.  You wouldn’t like me when I’m hangry.  It’s like drowning and having no air to breathe.

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This isn’t sounding good.  I don’t want to not eat, all my favorite things involve sitting and a committed exercise regime is not suiting my current schedule.  This is a slippery slope between having a muffin top and being the mom from What’s Eating Gilbert Grape.

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My brother Mark and I got talking about that film on our morning hike. It’s too sad to ever watch again,  but it still resonates as a genuine fear.  How does that happen…you are born, you are a child–learn behaviors and eating habits, you grow up, and eventually become so obese that it’s easier to burn the house down than to remove your dead body through the front door.  Of course, there is a long road between thick and thin and back again.  You are usually just going along in your life, not necessarily seeing the changes in yourself until you catch a reflection.

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These photographs are a few years old now, but a terrific example of body shaming.  Jennifer Love-Hewitt is a happy and well-fed gal and the internet had a field day, hammering her for being “fat”.  For the rest of us, with bodies just like that, it sends a clear message that this is an unacceptable joke-worthy body type.

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If she’s happy, and her lover is happy, she is healthy, and her clothes fit, then what’s the trouble?  She’s on holiday, she’s relaxed. Does every day need to be met by a date with the treadmill?  Ugh, the idea of exercise…how exhausting.  The idea of fitting it into jam packed days is even more exhausting.  I wish I could adopt a fictional Gilmore Girls-esque all you can eat, movies and junk food couch potato lifestyle, and still maintain a spectacular physique.

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I flip through a magazine, read the weight-loss success stories and for a fleeting moment, wish I were just like the models in the magazine.  But then again, who would want to work that hard? Until the day comes that I shake from me the excuses and muster up the commitment to truly trim down, I’ll be happy as Love-Hewitt, splashing in the water, not for a second wishing I were any different.  What can I say? I like big butts and cannot lie.

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Images Courtesy of Google

Put a Ring on It: Collective Regrets from the George Clooney Women’s Guild

Winter has worn away at my soul.  I desire a luxurious getaway as one longs for a conjugal visit after years of imprisonment.  I am afraid of what I would do for a plane ticket to a hot far-off destination.  I would sprint towards a holiday like Whitney Houston did to Kevin Costner at the end The Bodyguard.  Mashing my face all over it’s face and while belting I Will Always Love You in the background.

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The later-years Beach Boys classic Kokomo recently came up in conversation, when I was expressing to a friend just how badly I wanted to be nursing a solid buzz on a beach with a trashy magazine in my hand.  One simply cannot discuss Kokomo, but must live it, sing it,  harmonize with it.  Hot skin and wet hair. Toes in the sand. Sounds of crashing waves. Salty kisses from island lovers.

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I proclaimed that the Beach Boys song said everything about my current state of mind. And I think a really good solution to all of my problems.

As follows: my personal top ten list of why I would like this song to be about my life.

  1. Now if you want to go and get away from it all (which I do, I really do)
  2. Off the Florida Keys, there’s a place called Kokomo. (There’s not apparently, but let’s move forward anyhow)
  3. That’s where you want to go to get away from it all
  4. We’ll get there fast and then we’ll take it slow
  5. We’ll be falling in love to the rhythm of a steel drum band (I usually fall in love to the sounds of banjos so this would be a welcomed change).
  6. Afternoon delight, cocktails and moonlit nights
  7. That dreamy look in your eye
  8. tropical contact high
  9. Aruba, Jamaica, Bermuda, Bahama, Key Largo, Montego, Jamaica
  10. Bodies in the sand, tropical drink melting in your hand

When I Googled the lyrics of Kokomo, I realized that the line was be “tropical drink melting in your hand”…when all these years I thought that it was “tropical cake melting in your hand”.  I had even remarked that the other day: “I don’t even know what it is…but I want it”.  I imagine golden yellow slice, glistening with coconutty goodness, a thick slab in the palm of your sun-screened hand. Still…a gooey piece of cake is hardly beach food.  And why are they no plates at this resort? Could a sister get a wet-nap up in here?  Stand down guys.  It’s tropical drink, which when you come to think about it…that really does make more sense.  Perhaps this is because my first introduction to this super timeless track is when the Beach Boys appeared on Full House.  I would have been about six, and a stiff cocktail would have been no good to me.

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Wow. What kind of deal with the devil did these guys make in the 60’s to make an appearance on this saccharine-sweet sitcom in the 80’s? Look at the guy in the dead center wearing those ridiculous mom jeans…I really don’t know who was driving that style choice there.  His fly is longer than Mary Kate/Ashley Olsen’s leg. And ole pointy fingers on the end…leather jacket+ball hat+those sweatpants =my favorite person in this picture. Nonetheless.  The song grown had  with me, and now I would like to feel like the human equivalent to the saxophone solo in this sexy, ooey-gooey cheesy beach jam.  Haven’t heard it recently? Allow me to remind you.

 It’s one of my favorite things about YouTube: that some guy in Peru loved Kokomo, and the film in which it was written for (Cocktail) so much that he just plays full scenes of the movie. Not a montage in sight, just whole chunks of muted dialogue with the Beach Boys crooning away.  But what an ending to the video.  Ugh, when have you ever woken up and thought: “I really hope I don’t have sex in a waterfall today” or “Jeez I hope that a hunky bartender doesn’t try to get into my black one piece bathing suit”.  Cocktail is actually loosely based on a relationship I had.  Watching the footage actually makes me feel very emotional….in light of the current news.

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Whoa, looks like somebody’s gotten their priorities all out of whack at the Daily Express.  Hayfever hell? Boohoo.  My Georgey-Porgey is getting married–and I am having a difficult time coping.  When I first got word I…had a rather strong reaction.

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The Vicodin I took couldn’t touch my grief.  The three martinis I threw down my throat didn’t dull the ache. George, George, not you.  That’s when I starting smashing everything in sight.

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He said he never wanted to get married, only because I didn’t want to marry him.  It’s not that I didn’t want to be “Mrs George Clooney”. It’s just that he wanted to be “Mr Alicia Ashcroft” a bit too desperately.  George loved me so deeply, that it really was all-consuming.  We were young, met on holiday, and let’s just say he got ‘under the waterfall’.  He adored me.  Worshipped me.  Said I was perfect mix of Jackie Kennedy and the Pillsbury Dough Boy.  I loved him in return. We were the Golden Couple.

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Some of the greatest moments in pop culture were inspired by George’s romantic gestures to me. John Cusack in Say Anything? That has George all over it.  He actually had Peter Gabriel write In Your Eyes about me.

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In later years, he had inspired Beyonce’s Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It), because he was trying to get a message to me.   I was hesitating and he was slipping through my fingers.  George actually said that to me one night, after a dinner party at our home in Lake Como.  He hissed it, so that the waitstaff couldn’t hear.  All the other couples were married and engaged, nannies holding gorgeous babies who are named after exotic locations and expensive cheese.  George was humiliated after Beyonce and Jay-Z pressed us about our single status.  Why couldn’t I give him those things? Why didn’t we have a little Camembert Dubai Clooney? Why couldn’t I put a ring on it?

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Not this again.  George, baby, things are so good why complicate it with things like marriage and children?  What if dating is like the first half of Cocktail, hot sex in a Jamaican waterfall and marriage is like the second half, when it gets all serious with unwanted pregnancies, angry parents and suicide notes?  A friend and I had both lamented that brief and glorious time when love is new and your lover doesn’t know you yet.  “Just dating” George Clooney was my life support.  Marriage was quicksand.  I pressed myself up against George, and swore my allegiance.  I knew his heart was breaking.

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Eventually we fell apart…around the”In your Eyes” era.  He needed to get married, and by the time I offered to throw him a bone and marry him just to shut him up…it was too late.  His heart had hardened to the whole institution of marriage.  I broke George Clooney. I regret everyday since that I couldn’t repair the damage I had caused.

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I don’t see him around much.  I hear things like the rest of the world does now….in the news, on the internet.  Do I get jealous? Well, sometimes I miss the Italian air, our housemaid Lupe, and the smell of George’s musk.  He had good musk.  When I see pictures of George trying to aptly describe just how enormous his Clooney is, and people like Sandra Bullock aren’t even paying attention to him, I get a little peeved.  That could have been me. 

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News of Clooney’s engagement has shaken the world through and through, inspiring bios on his new fiance Amal Alamuddin, and lists of “Clooney’s former flames”…or as I like to call it, “Clooney-Bear and the luckiest Bitches on Earth”.

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Don’t look for me, I’m not on the list.  I don’t know if this is TMZ’s mistake, or that George has worked so hard to forget me, that the press has forgotten me as well.  That’s fine…the paparazzi know me by name, but whatever leave me off the list.  I know what I had with George.  I don’t need to prove it with pictures of me on George’s yacht.

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Please…that’s obvi me…I would recognize those legs from anywhere.

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Oh this? Just George and I leaving after a nice meal out.  The photogs were really there to catch a glimpse of me, but snaps of George would do too.

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The other women knew about me as well. I was famous amongst the other Cloonists as having made his hair go salt and pepper from all the heart ache I caused him.  Many tried and failed to slay the dragon as only I and his ex wife Talia Balsam had done before.

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So…after all the replacements that George has tried to tried to fill the gap with…all the vivacious, intelligent brunettes he’s known–and all he could see was me.  And now…it seems that someone has finally ‘put a ring on it’ : Beirut born, London based human rights Lawyer Amal Alamuddin.

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Well let’s just acknowledge the elephant in the room.  That’s my doppelganger.  I’ve got piercing eyes and endless locks of shiny ravine hair.  The similarities do not end there. Amal Alamuddin? Alicia Ashcroft? Uh George, this is a little embarrassing for you, chasing the dream as you tend to do. At the last Clooney Guild meeting, the others offered scant details–just that George chases versions of me the same way a nerdy Asian teen tracks ever-evolving technology.  Amal Alamuddin is just a new i-Phone..a shiny distraction.  When news of the engagement spread, I caught a ride to the secret compound on Kelly Preston’s helicopter along with Stacey Keibler and the gal with the awful arm band tattoo circa Pamela Anderson in Barb Wire, who now dates the guy from Jack Ass.  We pooled together about what we knew of her:

  • She’s provided legal council to Wikileaks founder Julian Assange and former Ukrainian prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko.
  • She served as council into the United Nations.
  • Legal advisor to the King of Bahrain…
  • She speaks fluent French and Arabic…
  • She’s a published author.  Apparently has written several  articles about international criminal law.
  • She was voted “hottest barrister in London” by a particularly sexist and ethically dubious legal blog called Your Barrister Boyfriend…for achieving “the seemingly unattainable ideal of contemporary femininity: she is both breathtakingly beautiful and formidably successful.”

Breathtakingly beautiful and formidably successful? That’s how most people describe me.  Frankly, it’s like looking in a mirror.  Although, according to this photo she’s like a little pocket-sized lawyer.  That’s never going to work. What is this? A bride for ants?

Amal Alamuddin dresses up on her way to dinner in New York City

Maybe watching Clooney up and marry my evil twin is my equivalent of The Beach Boys on Full House:  karmic payback for not appreciating the glory days.  I had him, and I lost him, and now I have to live with it.  All because of my foolish pride.  So there it is.  Goodbye George Clooney.  I will grieve this loss in only the most glamorous of ways.   One of the things he loved most about me.

charade-1963-720p-bluray-x264-cinefile01-13-28   Images Courtesy of Google

 

White Girl Wasted

Following the 18th annual Kamloops Film Festival, my immune system crashed like they thought the internet would following Y2K.  Sick over Spring Break. That’s like getting a giant school project assigned at the last minute when your plan was to sleep in, watch day-time television, ride bicycles, and lounge lazily in the sun. This is like the time I pinched a nerve in my neck when I was eight, and had to spend an entire weekend looking over my shoulder to stare out the window.

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I knew this sickness was coming, I could feel it’s shadow creeping over my sinuses.  I was working hard to prevent it’s viral blossoming–wheatgrass, acidophilus, as much rest as possible, but with the festival came late night after late night.  I’m no spring chicken, you know.  I need my eight hours.  I was dodging this plague like a fugitive from the law.  By closing night, fueled by gin and tonics (with plenty of lemon and lime, just for that hit of Vitamin C), I took that dance-floor like a death row inmate takes his final meal.

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As a rule, I don’t generally take dance-floors by storm anymore.  But back in the mid 2000’s…well let me tell you, I could bust a move to Destiny’s Child with the best of them, party until four am, and be at work the next morning like it was no big deal.  We celebrated opening night by following Oil Sand Karaoke–a fascinating mash-up about a Karaoke contest and the Albertan oil sands…with a Karaoke party of our own. Ignited by the spirited renditions of Meatloaf, Bonnie Tyler, Stevie Nicks, Tom Jones and Reba McIntyre…the sound-technician says right before midnight: “We’ve got two more minutes…do we have time for some Journey?”  Be still my heart. There’s always time for Don’t Stop Believing.  It was the perfect way to end that portion of the night.  Afterwards, a select few hit the town and continued with the cocktails. I’m like Romy and Michelle on the dance-floor filled with festival guests and curling enthusiasts from Kamloops’ simultaneous event,  The Brier Cup. My friend Mallory and I were in the somewhere in between denial and acceptance of looming early work days as the clock ticked well into the morning.  When the company, the music, and the vibe is this good, you’ve just got to cut loose like nothing will ever be that good again.

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Heading home at a late night hour, listening to the cab driver talk about the Film Festival and the Briar Cup, and all the folks he’s had in his backseat that night.  He drops a term that I need him to back track on.    According to Urban Dictionary, “White Girl Wasted” is more a cocaine related verb as in: “With this pile of cocaine, I’m going to get ‘White Girl Wasted'”.  The cab driver was meaning it more like teenage girl on prom night.  Healthy portions of giddy and sloppy, with just a dash of hysteria.  Not me, of course, I am the Audrey Hepburn of intoxication.

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Oddly enough he was referring to himself, and how he likes to party.  Apparently ‘white girl wasted’ is where it is at, it’s the crown jewel of good times, the Paris Hilton of partying.  The imitation that came from the non-white, non-intoxicated (I hope), non-woman was giggle inducing.  “Haha, WGW”, I chortle, attempting to make some kind of catch phrase and hip gang sign, but most likely looking like I had cerebral palsy.  “Er, what does that stand for?”, the cabbie asks.  “Uh…White Girl Wasted?” I respond.  Holy shit…did I just hallucinate that entire conversation? What was in those G&T’s? “Oh, heh, heh, yeah, right…WGW”, he chuckles, pulling into the driveway.   The trouble with me is that I’m too sophisticated, fabulous and complex that even the most perceptive cab drivers don’t understand me.

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If I’ve learned anything from Journey, it’s that for a smile you can share the night, that some will win, some will lose, that some were born, simply to sing the blue.  Still, no matter what happens, don’t stop believing and hold on to that feeling.  It’s a nice, uptempo reminder that better days are right round the corner.  When the long days of winter grind you down, the lack of light calcifies over the bright light inside of you, it’s nice to be reminded that you can actually be a whole whack of fun.  Sassy, wisecracking, fearless, flirtatious, adventurous are just some of the personality traits I can offer.  I am trying to clutch on to these feelings as this sickness colonizes my body.  Alas, never one to be totally bored during an illness, I make a point to surround myself with warm blankets, hot cups of honey laden tea, expensive orange juice, boxes of tissue, a stylish pashmina draped round my throat and of course, “cinema comfort food “. Well worn personal film favorites, that sometimes just play in the background as you snooze, doze, or just pant feverishly like a dog after running on a hot day.

My go-to cold and flu list is as follows:

  • Waitress
  • Annie Hall
  • Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day
  • Amelie
  • Breakfast at Tiffany’s
  • Before Sunrise/Before Sunset
  • Julie and Julia
  • Dreamgirls
  • Out of Africa
  • A Star is Born (1976)

Give me cheese, give me music, give me a happy ending, give me a sad ending, but no guns or car chases please.  This time, having just come off of the film festival track, (seven films in ten days) I opted to curl up with CBC 2 and a good book.  When the illness refused to budge, I went to the place that I dread most.  The walk-in clinic.  A most vile place.  A line up begins more than an hour before the clinic opens, and once inside, it is a cluster of coughing, sneezing, wheezing, hacking patients, noisy children squawking over 100 Huntley Street on the TV in the counter.  Horoscope disclaimer on the other telly: “not meant to replace intelligent decision making”.  The receptionists are unhurried, sipping Diet Coke at 9:15am, eating cookies and wiping their hands on their zip up hoodies.  This place is enough to make you sick.  When I return for my appointment later in the afternoon, I come prepared for a wait.  Wearing sunglasses and a large coral scarf, I brought an enormous juice, cough lozenges, tissues and a well-loved copy of “Eat, Pray, Love”.

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I hate to admit how much that story has influenced my life.  A copy of the book was given to me before Oprah got her hands on it, right when my fiance and I were dismantling our relationship and upcoming wedding.  That book tapped into a very primal urge. I too have a wandering soul, and hunger for self reflection; this need to move forward, this desire to look back.  In devouring of Elizabeth Gilbert’s memoir, and through writing of my own, I made the decision to travel.  During that time overseas, I read and reread the book, underlining passages, and drawing conclusions about my own life through her experience.  Having read Eat, Pray, Love a number of times at different advents of my life, I saw it from a number of perspectives.  This past week has been the perfect time to re-re-re-read the primary source.  Now much closer to the age that Gilbert was when the book started, I see new similarities in our personalities, namely the deathly fear of motherhood equaling the death of adventure. But the true lesson of EPL is that despite the travel theme, that the answers have been inside of you all along, it’s all very Wizard of Oz.  If only at the end of a personal disaster you gain a greater sense of self…well, that’s better than nothing I guess.  A book deal to pay for the trip would also be an acceptable consolation prize.

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Like Gilbert, I met my husband on my journey of self-discovery and followed it with a years-long struggle with immigration.  She wrote a sequel called Committed, about how immigration issues forced their hands in marriage.  I read the book before we arrived in Canada and it was scarier than a Stephen King novel.  The longer the waiting process, the more limitations placed on you, all that effing paperwork….unraveling patience of a wandering soul.   What a way to take the edge of a happy ending Liz Gilbert. They traveled extensively while awaiting word from Immigration, we waited in Canada, unable to leave the country until the verdict was given.  And then when we were given the green light, the finances simply weren’t there to get back out on the road.   What I would give for the time and resources to travel the world and report back in colorful prose to the masses. I could eat all the pasta in Rome, detox in India and peruse Balinese marketplaces with Javier Bardem, and live to tell about it.  I would accept a pay cheque for that.

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For all intents and purposes, the film festival was like a little holiday: a whirlwind of parties, engrossing films, interesting guests, endless conversations about how we each relate to the stories of others.  One of those nights I heard someone ask aloud “How many times do we live?’–perhaps on the last night, when hipsters in nerdy sweaters were rolling on what looked like some rather exceptional Ecstacy.  One girl rubbed her lips on my cheek, knocking out my vintage earring breathing “Life. Is. Endless” all over my skin.  “Mmmm”, fastening the earring clasp I respond like I’ve a bad taste in my mouth but don’t want to offend the hopeful chef wearing an apron and a heart on their sleeve.  This is not the time to talk about the end of things.  Of course there’s only one physical life of indeterminate years, but to the film lover, you can have a thousand lives.  You can also get glimpses into the future, into the past, over the fence, into other eras, relationships and continents.  If a story is told convincingly, you can escape your body completely and experience this whole other life, gain a whole new perspective on our very existence.

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Following Oil Sands Karaoke film was Sex After Kids, with special guest Paul Amos.  The movie got huge laughs, and was a festival favorite.  In the Q&A that followed, Amos talked about the grassroots project–the film was financed by donations, scenes were filmed in everyone’s homes, actors used their own children, and shared their own experiences of life after baby. As a childless woman in her early to mid 30’s this movie was more slightly horrifying than humorous. Faithful readers know that pregnancy and motherhood is a sticky, oft-discussed subject within the walls of this blog.  To me Sex After Kids did for parenthood, what Before Midnight did for marriage; it’s well written reflection of this particular chapter in the human experience.  A transformation that one can not anticipated until this little bundle of joy lands in your lap.

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As I was heading to the lobby I saw a heavily-pregnant woman, rubbing her belly and frowning in thought.  I fought the urge to approach her and ask “Are you like totally freaking out right now? I’m freaking out and I don’t have a seven pound fetus pushing on my bladder right now.”  They should show that movie to teenagers in sex education.  Not so funny now is it?  I’ve traveled with my husband and his sister as ‘Team Childless’, and we’d laugh merrily at all the things we would never do as parents.  If this movie taught me anything, it is that children bend your tree branches until they snap like twigs.

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The closing night film That Burning Feeling had a similar thread of a fresh, modern, urban–a very funny, heartfelt comedy about promiscuity, sexually transmitted infections and the deliberate humanizing of our night stands.  Director Jason James was a delight as our final guest of the season.

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Le Weekend was a British comedy about a marriage in it’s thirtieth year; a weekend in Paris, where they honeymooned three decades prior.  The husband is struggling with forced retirement, a restless wife and is confronted by the wild successes of a former schoolmate–the deliciously smug Jeff Goldblum.    The Past (another film set in my beloved Paris) was infidelity, divorce, secrets, lies, a suicide attempt and a coma…which culminated in a rather unsatisfying ending.  What does it even mean? Did she squeeze his hand, what does it mean that he stayed in the hospital room? Is he choosing his new life? I’m not sure I get it…I’m not sure I care. Finding Vivien Maier was so interesting it needs a blog all it’s own.  Gloria was an excellent film, and we followed the viewing with a coffee shop discussion, which was jammed packed with guests.  Gloria was…a rather erotic film.  Surprisingly so.  Like…full frontal.  Audible passionate kissing noise, which had the same allure of an obnoxious date masticating with his mouth open. Lengthy scenes of intimacy which is a kin to walking in on your grandparents making love.   Talk about fifty shades of grey. Still, you had to love this smartly dressed “woman of a certain age” (mid-fifties divorcee), singing along to the radio, who gets her hands on some marijuana and a much older lover.  Her heart gets broken, and she takes that pain to the dance floor–girlfriend doesn’t even need a plane ticket.

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The Broken Circle Breakdown came early in the film line up, but I felt it necessary to mention it last as this piece will overshadows the rest of the list.  This film was magnificent.  There was not a dry eye in the house at film’s end.

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The story seamlessly shifts back and forth between a new love, marriage, parenthood, illness, loss, despair and the deterioration of a once great love…all amid a gorgeous musical collaboration.

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As the social media maven of the film festival, I had come to know all the movies well, occasionally stumbling upon some major spoilers. Spoilers don’t bother me too much, I like to be prepared.  I often check in with IMDb for content details, especially in regards to potentially violent films.  This was born after I was Rob Roy’d, thinking this was a Robin Hood-eque Liam Neeson vehicle, and suddenly Jessica Lange is getting raped on the kitchen table by Tim Roth and is then sobbing and bathing herself in the river in the aftermath.  I’ve also been Sean Penned, and it’s not something I recommend.  It’s not like me to like surprises.  I’m what you call “cinema sensitive”, I absorb the suffering like a sponge.

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I stumbled upon the mother-load of spoilers for The Broken Circle Breakdown, and went to the cinema armed with knowledge, and a shitload of tissues. Actually it was a wad of toilet paper that I wrapped like a thick bandage around my hand before stuffing the whole lot in my purse.  I did leave a no-spoilers warning on the Facebook page, gently suggesting that you bring something other than your sleeve for this event.  No matter.  By the end of this heart-wrenching feature about the deterioration of a once happy life, complimented by goose-bump inducting blue grass performances.  There’s something about crying in public that makes me feel terribly vulnerable…as it’s never as simple and elegant as a single glistening tear rolling down your cheek.

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…this was more like…funeral crying.  Snotty sobs, gasping for air, lips sputtering.  It’s something I prefer not to do publicly, which is quite difficult as I cry about as often as a new-born baby.  It’s not an attractive look in the slightest.  The toilet paper reserves were dwindling as the movie was jam-packed with emotional land-mines.  I had get creative by folding the sopping wad like origami, as if to make it like new.  Eventually I just sobbed into my scarf.  It reminded me of this time the airport–on my way to New York, a trip once slated celebrate my upcoming wedding with my maid of honor. Standing outside of the departure gate, in what turned out to be one of the last times I spoke to my fiance:  “I just keep thinking that you’ll change your mind”…I whispered, eyes cast on the ground, a volcano threatening to burst.  He smoothed the hair off of my face, smiled tenderly and said “…I won’t”.  I made it to the plane in the same way you drive all the way home, and realize you don’t actually remember driving.  Once in my seat, I was more unglued than Blanche Dubois in “Streetcar Named Desire”.

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Sunglasses firmly in place.  Airport napkins balled in a tight fist.  Planes are not a recommended place for a potential nervous breakdown.  There is little to do, and nowhere to go.  Sitting frozen. Staring out the windowThere’s something about sobbing in a airplane washroom that just takes depression to another level.  There’s also your neighbour to consider: the  poor woman next to me, was settled into a good book and blissfully unaware.  This a perfect metaphor for that inescapable sensation of grief–the crushing weight–the Alice in Wonderland outgrowing the Rabbit house.  Nowhere to hide from the hurt.  From this moment forward nothing will ever be the same.  This new reality is so much bigger than your earthly body that it threatens to burst right through your skin; an explosion of teeth, bones and tears and all that pain you felt would fill the room like a noxious gas.  Instead you calmly make paper cranes out of cocktail napkins as your broken heart seeps out of your eyes and nose.
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Viewing The Broken Circle Breakdown in the cinema was a transformative experience, one I would be reluctant to repeat.  Still, it was my favorite movie in the festival.  It did an agonizingly convincing job detailing how the clashing of ideals and the testing of faith can turn the tide.  How marriage vows– promises you made when life was good and love was easy can be irreparably broken by exterior forces.  That sickness ruins, that love is not a cure.  When the film ended, the credits were rolling and I was still sobbing as others were reaching for their coats.  The storyline jumped to the beginning, middle and end so fluidly, tattooed songbird Elise unravels, as pragmatic Didier tries and fails to save his wife and child.  It’s nearly too much to bear. Though I knew the twist in the ending, I was properly devastated nonetheless.  Everyone mingled in lobby afterwards, puffy eyed and sniffling.  Catharsis at it’s finest.  It certainly garnered a very large glass of wine in a dark bar afterwards, where stories were shared, and new levels of understanding occurred.  This is the power of cinema, the shared experience of a story;  how it reminds us of our own battles, fears, desires, and memories that shape us as unique individuals.  All is not lost, as the light dims on another day…  the band plays on regardless, even if the song no longer means the same thing.

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All Images Courtesy of Google

The Devil, Willy Wonka & The Tunnel of Love

It’s the beginning of March and it’s snowing. Again.  Christ almighty, when will I be able to wear flats again? Walk on the grass? Feel the sun on my face.  Throw on a t-shirt and a skirt and head out the door.  My friend Monica said that nothing was more refreshing than strolling in a long skirt without any underwear.  It was like opening the window down below . When I lived in New Zealand, I once found myself at a music festival, swept up by reggae music, sun-kissed and stomping my feet into the dust, hair wet from the ocean, wearing nothing but a long white halter dress.  I felt truly free.  Like I could breathe, and not just through my mouth and nose.  The winter  season is such a bulky time of year, I’m starting to feels like later-years Marlon Brando, but with much smaller breasts.

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I manage a facility that deals with children, anywhere between eighteen months and five years, up to school aged.  Each little friend comes complete with boots, gloves, hats, snow-pants, enormous puffy jackets, indoor shoes, lunch bags…and the occasional little roller bag with Dora the Explorer on in.  The first snowfall of the season, ( exactly one thousand years ago) brought that fear to the forefront of my mind.

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Imagine all of those possessions, and then stuff them into a little cubby.  Then let a four-year old do it.  Watching a pre-schooler try to achieve this cleanly and swiftly is like watching a monkey stuff a cream puff through a key hole. Children, bless them, are precious creatures, but when surrounded by twenty of them, it does feel like being a ringmaster in a midget circus… but all the midget’s have all been drinking champagne in the hot sun, or they have just recently been tasered on a tilt-a-whirl.  They look stunned, confused, toddling around the room wrapped up in layers like little sausages.  No one knows what belongs to them, and everyday there is a lone mitten, or abandoned sock.  On more than one occasion, you have to line them up and hold up a sweater, moving slowly down the line trying to match the unlabeled item to their disoriented owner.  “No one? This sweater belongs to nobody, it just grew some legs and wandered from a store somewhere? That’s fine, I’ll just add it to the massive pile we call the lost and found”.  I dream about warmer days, and one layer per child.

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    Do they usually come with this much baggage?

I feel like I don’t know how to write.  Or…that I can write, but I don’t know what to say.  Or that I know what to say but I’m afraid to be as honest as I need to be to tell the story.  I’ve just recovered from five days bed rest.  Infection stormed the castle of my immune system, and my empire lay in smoldering ruins.  What I love most about getting sick, (and when I say love, I really mean hate) is when you are ticking along, enjoying life, strolling on a metaphorical California boardwalk eating an ice cream cone, staring at the sunset…

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…when someone runs up from behind and whacks you over the head with a crow bar, knocking the fun out of your day, and the wind out of your sails.

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The mathematics of body chemistry. Busy schedule+winter+lack of sleep/hotel hot tub x dietary sensitives=five days of bed rest due to a spectacularly wicked thrush infection.  It came on with a furious swiftness, as if it were sent to me by the devil himself via the four horseman of the apocalypse.

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Sweet baby Jesus, the tunnel of love is on fire.

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I woke at 6am and felt like moving my body would be the greatest feat.  I texted my boss and fell back asleep for hours.  When I finally awoke, I was weak and agitated.  I wasn’t going anywhere.  I lay there in the darkness, wondering how to pass the time.

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Okay…time out.  Listen,I’ve got to drop a disclaimer on y’all.  I’m not sure where this blog is going to go, but there’s a 98% chance that the subject material may get a little uncomfortable.  Right now we are cruising along in a little boat, on untroubled waters.  I’m giving you the usual tour through my ridiculous thoughts, and everyone is perfectly content.

badass-6The tide is about to turn.  Like that scene in “Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory”, when they take that cruise on the chocolate river that quickly turned into an acid trip.  It’s innocent enough, Wonka is singing a little ditty, and then it starts to edge on creepy, and then he starts screaming at everyone, and it really takes the sweetness out of a pleasure cruise in a candy factory.

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This blog may do that.  I’m going to talk about my vagina.  Things may get graphic. Not in Quentin Tarantino or Larry Flynt kind of way, more Eve Ensler meets Katherine Hepburn. Still…I’m going to be giving you the worst side of Wonka.

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I once sat in on a general meeting for “The Vagina Monologues”.  People would introduce themselves with: “Hi, I’m Debbie and I love vaginas” or “If my vagina could she would wear a fur coat and diamonds”.  The sentiment was a little too ooey-gooey for my taste.  We can all appreciate the good work a vagina does, but you wouldn’t want to sit across from one at a dinner party all night.  Although I suppose if it were Ensler’s she would plenty to discuss, be able to describe itself colorfully, and maybe wear hip horn rimmed glasses.  She would have sassy catch phrases like: ‘Read my lips”, and discuss her favorite childhood book ‘The Vulventeen Rabbit’.  When my turn came, I of course combated my vulnerability with humor, and compared my vagina to Mrs Roper from “Three’s Company”.

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The last time I made a “Three’s Company” joke, my Kiwi husband didn’t get it.  It makes me wonder if the reference is just a bit too old and regional for my target audience.  “Three’s Company” is a wacky sitcom, a farcical web of high jinks and misunderstandings.  Jack Tripper fakes homosexuality in order to live with two women in a Santa Monica apartment with very opinionated landlords. Mrs Roper, the landlord’s wife is a feisty old broad who wears muumuu’s and plastic jewelry with curly hair. Despite her seduction tactics, her husband is sexually unresponsive. She’s sassy, nosy, lonely and a little sad.  She’s feeling her age, and desperate for a better time.

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I never did participate in “The Vagina Monologues”.  They had given me a monologue about an aboriginal woman who is repeatedly raped and beaten by her husband; but how every morning she got her revenge but braiding his hair incorrectly, so that his point of pride was crooked.  Yikes. That meeting and the subsequent performance was not long after my friend Monica’s death, and I did not need that kind of story in my head.  I had also chosen that time to go and see one of my oldest friends instead.  It does remind me of a friend who did a performance in Ontario, with a group that was beyond lovey-dovey about their anatomy.  At the after party, the topic of menstruation (as it so often does) came up.  These women discussed their different flow methods; how some just…worked from home I imagine, and just bled out on their blankets. Many many made their own pads, and the hostess remarked that she would reuse her menstrual pads, wash them, and then use the leftover pink water for her plants.  It was just then that my friend noticed the plethora of lush greenery amongst the ceramic pots and modern art.  That woman’s vagina would wear caftans and smell like patchouli.  My vagina is more along the lines of Annie Hall…or maybe Edith Piaf.  dramatic, melancholic, misunderstood, traumatized, and a little bit outlandish.

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Over the last five days I have thought less of my vagina as a person, but more as a place during a natural disaster.  A war zone in Vietnam, a zombie apocalypse in the Sahara desert.  Remember that scene in “Gone with the Wind” when Atlanta is burning? Now you’re getting the idea.

Gone with the wind

Oh candida, you are my nemesis.  I’ve written of my love of bread before, “Carbohydrate Brokeback Mountain”, will explain all.  Bread does not feel about me, as I do about it.  As I get older, the tolerance recedes with time.  The pain worsens; this infection was so consuming that I would have done anything to make the pain go away.  I was melting ice faster than global warming.  I can’t spend my life dodging the next candida car bombing.  I’ve been here before.  Eliminating the ‘danger foods’ from my diet.  As my girlfriend said to me–first, “Yes you can blog about your vagina” and second, “Bread is the coal that stokes the flames of Candida”.  What else you ask? What other food’s encourage the growth of yeast and should be avoided? What are the other culinary don’ts?

AVOID All sweets including hidden sweeteners in processed foods, such as soups, all fruit and fruit juice. Avoid grains such as prepared flake cereals sprouted grain cereals such as: Amaranth, Buckwheat, Corn, Millet, Rice, Rye, Spelt, Wheat.

Avoid Granola, Pearl barley, Instant oats, Cornmeal, degerminated Hominy grits, degerminated Microwave popcorn Blue corn meal

Pasta Pasta is flour and water, the flour may be white bread flour and it may be durum flour made from semolina. All types of noodles are made from the same base and they should all be cut out of the diet, with Bufin, the Japanese noodles, Ramen instant noodles, farina, semolina and white flour noodles and pastas.

Baked goods and Breads Avoid all cakes, pastries, cookies doughnuts or other processed baked food containing sugar. This list includes white bread, or any bread containing wheat, which includes parathas, nanas bread, pita bread, white flour tortillas, wheat dough tortillas, sourdough, or any other ethnic bread made from wheat. Mochi the sweet unleavened bread made from brown rice should be avoided.

Legumes Avoid beans and peas with sweeteners, bean sprouts, tempeh which a type of fermented tofu, tofu and textured vegetable protein.

Nuts & Seeds Coconut, Peanuts, Pistachios, Walnuts

Dairy Products Buttermilk, Soymilk (sweetened), All kinds of cheeses, Cottage cheese, Kefir, Milk, Sour cream Creme fraiche Sweetened yogurt.

Fruit Never eat dried fruit, and when you start the Candida cleanse diet it is best to avoid all fruit because of the fructose the sugar it contains. Once you have eliminated the current Candida infection then eat fruit with a moderate amount of sugar. Low sugar fruits are apples, grapefruit, melon, and strawberries.

Beverages Alcohol, Cereal beverages, Coffee both regular and decaffeinated, Fruit juices Soft drinks including the diet soft drinks. Processed tea drinks such as lemon tea. All fruit teas, Black tea

Condiments and Sauces No Ketchup or catsup or any type of tomato sauce Cream sauces such as Alfredo Steak sauce, NO Capers, Dried or powdered garlic, Miso, Dried or powdered onion, Pickles or chutneys, which include anything made with sugar and distilled vinegar. Spices, Distilled vinegar Sauerkraut.

Proteins: Meat products such as beef chicken or pork have added antibiotics and hormones and they should be avoided if you want to eat meat then eat free-range organic products. Smoked meats such as bacon, sausages and salami products such as pepperoni have added sugar and should be cut out of your diet.

Vegetables:Beetroot Canned tomatoes Carrots Cucumber skins, Mushrooms (all types), Potato skins, Prepared soups, Canned tomatoes

Don’t worry, there is plenty to feast upon that’s yeast free!

Antelope, bear, beef, buffalo, caribou, chicken, deer, duck, eggs, elk, all types of fish, frog legs, game hen, goat, goose, grouse (partridge), guinea fowl, moose, mutton, peafowl, pheasant, pigeon (squab), pork, quail, and turkey.

Oh good. No bread, wine, coffee, dairy, sugar, fruit…but all the pigeon I can eat?!? Jackpot! I’ll lose fifty pounds and call it the hobo diet.  I just live off bird meat, frog legs and rain water and be Sarah Jessica Parker thin.

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In my five days of bed rest, I remedied my boredom with several seasons of “Sex and the City”.  I was mid-way through season three–which was set up in the bedroom DVD player for those days when Benjamin was tied up with his video games.  Set up with water, tea and a bowl of ice, I propped by knees up with a body pillow, and completed the third season, which lead to the fourth, the fifth and both parts of the sixth season.

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When the show was at its peak on television all my peers were obsessed with the show. In retrospect, this show created expectations that are a kin to teenage boys and pornography.  People don’t always look like that. Sex isn’t always like that. Relationships aren’t even like that. Nothing is as exciting as New York.  Real life isn’t quality HBO programming.  Yet, it created an impossible standard of the kind of women we wanted to be.

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The series finale took place ten years to the week of my illness.  I can tell you exactly where and who I was when that show ended.  A twenty-two university student, broke, broken, self-absorbed, thrift store fashionista, dreaming of bigger and better and not knowing how to get there.  I wanted to be a writer then, but didn’t write anything other than random journal entries or assigned essays.  I had plenty of material to work with.  I suppose I didn’t know myself, I was barreling through my life, crashing into people, and snatching at choices without a thought to consequence.  I was self-reflexive, but perhaps not brave enough to truthfully chronicle my life for public consumption.  Of course, the only thing worse than people not reading, is people reading.  And then…what would happen? Wouldn’t they know about my promiscuities, my bad habits, and worse yet, the bad habits of my friends?  That thought occurred while watching the program in this highly concentrated amount.  In theory, isn’t Carrie’s voice over her article being written? Aren’t her friends reading? Wouldn’t Mr Big be reading this weekly and have a better understanding of his partner’s needs? Wouldn’t just once Samantha say: ‘must you tell everyone just how much cock I’ve been gobbling?”

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Of course, in a city of eight million people as opposed to a university town of 85,000…there’s a lot more freedom in anonymity.  It’s a lot harder to scream from the rooftops about the heavy flow of traffic being directed through the vagina’s of you and your besties when the skyscraper only reaches six or seven floors. It’s a bit like trying to replicate Carrie’s fashion sense in a city where the downtown strip is six blocks on one street, and the majority of time is spent in the library or computer labs.

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On the streets of the Big Apple, anything goes; amidst the crush of busy people in the urban jungle, you can mix couture with thrift store, and wear your heart, and your even vagina on your sleeve.

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Calm down Carrie, that’s not even the worst of it.  Going from episode to episode, I did notice one thing.  Carrie Bradshaw is a selfish piece of work.  This reminds me of a conversation with a university theatre professor, who had seen the entire series with his long-time girlfriend.  Great writing, great characterization, great acting.  The only issue? “Carrie Bradshaw is a cunt“, he says decisively.  “She’s selfish, inconsiderate, irresponsible, vain, careless. Look at what she did to Aidan, that’s cruel”.

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For those not in the know, after years of the hot/cold, yes/no treatment from Mr Big, who eventually marries another (younger) woman, Carrie meets Aidan, big sweet loving bear, a carpenter with an understanding heart.  He loves, accepts, values and adores Carrie, who starts fooling around in hotel rooms with married Mr Big.  She confesses the morning of Charlotte’s wedding, hoping to absolve herself and move forward. Aidan is like…’uh no, because now I can’t trust you–what other secrets do you have stored in that enormous bun atop your head?’

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Enter season four, Carrie reconnects with Aidan, pursues him ceaselessly, earns his love and trust once more.  They get engaged, Carrie crumbles under the crush of commitment, and then breaks his heart all over again.

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Wow, she really is a cunt.  It’s all the more obvious to me because my husband is an “Aidan”.  The thought of hurting my bear like that made me feel awfully sad.  That’s the power of excellent writing, by the end of the series you still find yourself rooting for Carrie and Mr Big.  Of course, by the time you get to Petrovsky, “The Russian”, I’d rather Carrie drove off in the sunset with Miranda or Chewbacca from Star Wars than that humorless old bastard.

splat-01-1024I don’t care how hunky he was “back in the day”, no Russian for me thanks.  Look at that expression. Imagine opening your eyes mid-coitus and seeing that grimace looming overhead.  Blech.  When I would watch this program with one friend, who I visited after Monica’s death, we would bellow “BORING!” every-time he appeared on the screen.  Thank God the Russian is the only person in the world more selfish than Carrie, and she finds her way back to Mr Big, who takes about as long as a Canadian winter to finally be like–“okay, I’m finally ready, let’s shuffle away from this retirement home and really make it work, until we die of old age in about ten minutes time”. (Until the movie, where I ruin the wedding and you still take me back in the end, which leads to the second (possibly ill-advised) film, when you snog Aidan in Abu Dhabi while Samantha has to keep her face from melting in the sun”.

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Don’t get me wrong, I was very committed to this marathon; it kept me sane.  I was emotionally invested in these lives, but it got me thinking about my friendships, romances, relationships, my youth, my memories…and my vagina.  I was in such pain, I couldn’t help but wonder how women recover after birth and actually have to take care of another human being at the same time.  What a terrifying thought. I’ve heard the stories, I could put the pieces together,  that’s a long road back for the lady bits.  Panic was rising inside of me.  In the climatic fever pitch of my illness, agitated and desperately lonely, deep inside my own head, I was lost at an intersection of fact and fiction, memory and reality.  “Sex and the City” inevitably turns to the ticking clock.  Charlotte can’t have a baby, Miranda struggles with hers, Carrie doesn’t know if she wants to have a baby; it kind of makes you sweat from all the options.

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A dear friend calls me up to check in on my health.  We gab about “Sex and the City”, I vent about my illness, and she tells me that she is having a baby.  Mind blown.  It was like…’you can’t be pregnant, we’re only 22, smoking cigarettes and talking about our crushes “.  It’s an age so good that Taylor Swift wrote a song about it. I still trip over the fact that the young girls from the past, obsessing over dramas that are dust particles now, sleepless nights spent searching for Mr Right, (and/or Mr Right Now) are now married, or settled with careers, mortgages and children, and that time is but a blip on the brain’s fuzzy recollection.  Not that I would want to be that maturity level again, but having that kind of time ahead of me…that would be better than all the couture in the world.  If you think about it, I am the age now of Carrie at the beginning of the series, when I equated this show to being in my twenties.

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In an effort to cleanse my body, I saw an acupuncturist for a candida exorcism.  In New Zealand, combined cupping and acupressure, gave you herbs, and you left feeling like a million bucks for about fifty dollars.  This was being left along in a room for an hour, penetrated by a thousand tiny little pricks.  I dozed for a spell, but then was wide awake, sinking into a new depth of loneliness.  I wanted to go back to New York,  back to bed. Once home, I tried to entice Benjamin to join me…”Please”, he said “I’m afraid the show will give me a yeast infection”. Which was fine, he wouldn’t understand anyway, he just doesn’t have the proper equipment.  I was on a journey of healing and self discovery, and I didn’t even have to leave my bedroom.  I crawled back under the sheets, where I was alone but in good company, just Carrie B, New York City, my vagina and me.

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Year of the Hoarse

Glorious Sunday.  We woke up early.  Six in the morning.  Curled up under the blankets, chatting quietly in the dark, we eventually fell asleep, waking up sometime round 10:30am.

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The intention was to enjoy the great outdoors.  Go sledding. Perhaps go to a Super Bowl party.  Attend a yoga class.  Visit friends.  Instead I am lying on the bed, wrapped up like a blanket burrito, drinking earl grey tea with heaps of honey and baking vanilla, and watching “Sex and the City”.

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Our only public appearance this Groundhog Day was a triumvirate of errands: going out to a thrift store to look for a teapot.  We skimmed the shelves, found nothing of interest, then got a latte at Starbucks as a consolation prize.  Before heading home we stopped by someone’s house. Benjamin occasionally buys tools on an online trading site; he had met this woman before, so he stepped inside the house and closed the door.  I didn’t think much of it, in reality he could have been carrying on a torrid affair with a spicy middle aged woman, and he could have used my utter disinterest in tools to cover his tracks.  He eventually was gone for long enough that I thought that maybe…just maybe that he had been murdered.  Or maybe they’re just lost in the endlessly fascinating topic of carpentry.  I figured I’d give it another minute, and continued to scroll through my phone, reading news about Philip Seymour Hoffman’s sudden death.

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Philip Seymour Hoffman dies on Super Bowl Sunday by overdosing on heroin in the Year of the Horse.  That can’t be a good omen on Groundhog Day.

groundhog-day-1961-report_12532_600x450What do you think that means? Going beyond six more weeks of winter, and entering into a new arctic Armageddon.

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Here’s a lesson in word origin history.  Heroin got the nickname ‘horse’ due to the unlikely relationship between the two (As explored in Dorothy Ours’ “Man O’ War”).

In the wild, pursued by predators, a horse runs as fast as he can or dies. Given narcotics, a horse feels unnatural sleepiness creeping into his nervous system–sleepiness like the shock caused by the fatal bite of a carnivore. So the hopped up horse runs without reserve. If kept in his stall, he trots in circles until the dose finally ebbs. Let loose on a racetrack, he outruns any normal inhibition. In the United States, cocaine, heroin and morphine were legal for anyone with a doctor’s prescription to buy from a drugstore, until prohibited by the Harrison Act of 1914, and could be bribed from pharmacists long after that. But using those mixtures was a fine art. Prudent trainers experimented during morning workouts, discovering the right dope and dose for each horse.

Imagine a time when there was so much legal heroin just lying around that people were like…”It’s just going to go bad if we don’t use it, lets just give it to the horses!”

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Ugh, it makes me sad, the waste of human life. That addiction overshadows talent, status, fortune and prestige.  The tragic detail about Hoffman being found in his New York City bathroom with a needle in his arm will take precedence over a proud legacy.  I think about all the things I want in this life, things that other people already have…and for a some that sum still doesn’t fill this eternal gap inside of their soul.   I wonder how melancholia breeds madness, when everything went wrong because everything had gone right.  There are wars inside of ourselves that are often losing battles.

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The night before, I caught the open letter Dylan Farrow wrote to the New York Post rehashing her sexual abuse allegations towards Woody Allen.  This too bummed me out.  The letter started with “What’s your favorite Woody Allen movie?”, then describing the molestation in disturbing detail, pleading to Diane Keaton and other actors known for working with Allen to acknowledge the crime…and then concluding with “So what was your favorite Woody Allen again?” Man. Way to take the fun out of Annie Hall.

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When Benjamin and I finally crawled out of the bed, we curled up the living room with our coffees.  I told him all about the ballad of Woody and Mia.

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Around 1980, Allen began a relationship with actress Mia Farrow, who had leading roles in most of his movies from 1982 to 1992. Farrow and Allen never married and kept separate homes..  They jointly adopted two children, Dylan Farrow (who changed her name to Eliza and later to Malone) and Moshe Farrow (known as Moses); they also had one biological child, Satchel Farrow (known as Ronan Seamus Farrow).

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However, in a 2013 interview with Vanity Fair, Farrow stated that Ronan could “possibly” be the biological child of her first husband Frank Sinatra, whom she married at 21 in 1966, and with whom she claims to have “never really split up.” Who can blame her.  You can take the girl out of Sinatra, but you can never take Sinatra out of the girl.

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In 1968, Frank Sinatra had blindsided Farrow by having divorce papers delivered to the set of “Rosemary’s Baby”. The film was going over-schedule, and she had to back out of her next acting commitment–in Sinatra’s upcoming feature.   In that same year, André Previn, married film composer and symphony conductor, met a newly single, 23-year-old Farrow in London. They began an affair, and she was was pregnant within a year.  Previn divorced Dory, his wife of eleven years, and married Farrow.

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Poor old Dory Previn. The humiliation and betrayal caused Previn to snap like a twig. She was subsequently institutionalized and subjected to electroconvulsive therapy.  According to sources, it led to more introspective songwriting…and did wonders for her hair.

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She subsequently expressed her feelings toward Farrow and the end of her marriage in the song “Beware of Young Girls” on her 1970 album.  ‘Beware/ Of young girls/Who come to the door/Wistful and pale/Of twenty and four/Delivering daisies/With delicate hands…taking my own sweet man’.  The lyrics are thinly veiled,  basically calls Farrow out for rolling up to the Previn compound with flowers and silver.  She could have just called it “”Fuck You Mia Farrow” and called it a day.   A dainty little china Trojan horse; admiring her home, her ring, her unmade bed, and meanwhile is infiltrating her marital home.

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Dory Previn really laid the blueprint for Jennifer Aniston, trumped by younger and newer. Mia Farrow, humanitarian and mother of thirteen children is the OG Angelina Jolie.

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Previn was clearly the Brad Pitt of this time–this gorgeous hunk of scarf and side swept bangs has been married five times. Who can blame the ladies for fighting over this prime piece of real estate.

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The fact that there were ever two women quarreling over Woody Allen…I find slightly more difficult to imagine.

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Long story short–(this is the bit you’ve probably already heard), one of the children adopted by Previn and Farrow was Soon-Yi Farrow Previn. About twelve years into Woody and Mia’s relationship–Farrow was in Allen’s apartment (with the famous view of Farrow’s home across the park), and discovered nude photographs of a twenty-year-old Soon-Yi just lying around, waiting to be discovered.  Beware of young girls indeed.  Hurts don’t it? If this proves anything though–you certainly can’t help who you’re attracted to.

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Around twenty years ago–in the same neighborhood as the Soon-Yi scandal, Allen was accused of molesting one of their adopted children.  He was never tried and convicted, but that stain was never properly washed away.  Now that this accusation has been given new life, it feels as though Allen is a hard man to defend.  When you write it all down on paper it looks rather…hinky.  As for their “biological” son Ronan–though who are we kidding here? I’m no doctor, but even Helen Keller could be able to see that Ronan is a Sinatra. My god, look at that bone structure. Regardless, neither are fans of dear old Woody, and they are not ashamed to say it.

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  • Following Allen and Soon-Yi’s wedding, Allen’s biological son Ronan Farrow said: “He’s my father married to my sister. That makes me his son and his brother-in-law. That is such a moral transgression… I cannot have a relationship with my father and be morally consistent.”
  • Ronan, who has been disparaging about Allen, tweeted on Father’s Day 2012: “Happy Father’s day – or as they call it in my family, happy brother-in-law’s day.”
  • The night of the Golden Globes he tweeted: “Missed the Woody Allen tribute–did they put the part where a woman publicly confirmed he molested her at age 7 before or after Annie Hall?

Not cool Ronan.  If you weren’t so cute, smart and dreamy; and if your tweets weren’t so funny I would really hate you.  As for Woody Allen, I don’t want for that to have happened.  I love Woody Allen, I love his films, his sense of humor. The image of him molesting a child while she focuses numbly on an electric toy choo-choo train really hurts my heart.  Yes, he is a little creepy and yes, his past behavior is questionable.  The letter describes some pretty horrific things, and if I were to let it into my psyche, it really would taint “Annie Hall” forever. I’ve been through enough in my life.  I just can’t get creeped out by “I lurve, you I loave you, I luff you”.

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On the other hand, I feel for Dylan Farrow.  Those are tough things to live with.  Whether it happened, or it was a scenario that was fabricated; over time the fact and fiction has blended together.   And let me state: not wanting it to be true, is not accusing her to lying.  Still, one must wonder the motivation of such a public spectacle.  What is Dylan Farrow seeking–absolution, revenge, forgiveness, attention? Does she want to destroy him? Does she want to spoil his chances at an Oscar? Or is this her way to heal?  Either way, there are no winners in this scenario, just an awful lot of broken people.

woody-allen-quote-frase-mix-de-coisas (1)It does makes you wonder…what lurks inside of people.  How someone could molest a child or rape a woman, commit a violent crime and then just get right back to the business of living as per usual.  How we masquerade addictions, and convince others of our health and sanity.  Waltzing into the City of Troy with enemies inside the Trojan Horse.  La de da.  The question is–is it  possible to separate the art from the actions?  Then you wonder…has this whole time he’s been charming audiences with neurotic intellectual comedies and dramas, he’s harbored these terribly dark secrets. What is driving Dylan Farrow mad two decades later is the continued success of a talented filmmaker.  I wonder how those justify their actions and move forward in their lives. As Philip Seymour Hoffman was once quoted:

I think that’s pretty much the human condition, you know, waking up and trying to live your  day in a way that you can go to sleep and feel OK about yourself”.

And here we are, back again to Philip Seymour Hoffman. Good ole Lester Bangs from “Almost Famous”. Dead at 46 from a perfectly preventable death. Another one bites the dust.

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We could talk about this all night, until our voices were raw and hoarse.  Death cannot be undone, tragedies cannot be unlaced like a Christmas ribbon.  Feeling chilled to the bone, exhausted and feeling perfectly existential, that was when I crawled back into bed to watch some classic “SATC”.  Season three–when Carrie had big hair, and before she broke Aidan with her affair with Big.  Poor Sarah Jessica Parker, she catches so much grief about the shape of her face.  I don’t mean to drag her into my horse motif, but things have gotten entirely too serious and I’ve really got to lighten things up around here.qSC1732879

With all the additions and accusations, wars inward and outward, the world seems to be teeming with misery. The internet brings all that to your door if you let it. Once in a while, you’ve just got to laugh–despite the odds against us.  That’s all we have really, that fleeting moment when you are free to horse around.

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Bear Flu at Downton Abbey

My husband’s illness has been of epic proportion.  The symptoms are ever-evolving, rotating inside of him like a Ferris wheel (and not one of those awesome ones that Ryan Gosling jumps on to ask you out on a date).

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“I’m hot. I’m cold. I’m clammy.  I’m burning up. I need a blanket.  Take this blanket off of me.  I need to eat. I can’t eat that. I need a hot drink. I need a cold drink”.  This is not man flu, this is Bear Flu.

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Not to confuse it with ‘bear sick’, which is apparently slang for “expressing when something is awesome however when the word awesome is not quite enough”.  Can you use it in a negative context? “This is bear awful”…I don’t know, Urban Dictionary didn’t say.  Then again, you can’t always trust the internet. Which is what I tell my husband when he wants me to Google his ailments and  health concerns.  We have a rather strict policy about such things.  It’s never a good idea because it’s always the worst case scenario. If I have a tumor, I don’t want to be told by the internet.

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When he first became ill, I’ll admit I was annoyed.  It was the day of my first aid course; my work van was picked up by a co-worker for the after-school pick up.  Ben agreed to pick me up.  Shortly before the examination, near the end of the day, I receive a text that he is too sick to pick me up.  It’s a bit of a schmozzle, getting back to my van.  I decide to swing past a Booster Juice to get a wheat grass shot for myself, and a smoothie for Ben.  Before I go into the shop, I text Ben. “Do you need anything?” I was close to a grocery store, and could pick up any supplies without making an extra trip.  Ten minutes later, I come back to the van, and there’s no text message.  I go home with the smoothie.  I’m home long enough to settle, shoes off, and wandering around the kitchen.  Ben comes round the corner.  Since I last saw him, he has developed a limp, a pout and speaks with a quivering voice  “Did you get me any ice cream?” “Ice cream? I didn’t hear anything about ice cream”.  His face sinks in disappointment.  “Oh…I just thought it would be good…for my throat”. He coughs weakly. “I texted you…I asked for ice cream”.  “But…I brought you a smoothie”.  He gives me a look that says a smoothie is good, but not great.

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I grab my purse, my shoes, the car keys and storm out the door.  I resent my sick husband, and resent his need for ice cream.  That smoothie should have been perfectly adequate.  I go round to the 7-11, and face the chiller filled with wildly overpriced products.  I spot a brand on sale two for $9.99.  I grab two and head to the till.  Of course, there is a complication, the price isn’t registering, and they want to charge me $16.  I’d like to pay $9.99, take the ice cream and get back to my regularly scheduled life.  It took ten minutes, the fluster of two sales clerks, a call to the manager and to get what was clearly labelled in the cooler.  Part of me wants to pay whatever they want so I can leave, but my husband has already missed one day of work, I’ve got to save what I can.  This further fuels the marital resentment.

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I come home, cram the containers in the freezer and check on Ben, who is pale and clammy on the couch. Alright, get the poor bastard some ice cream.

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As the flu ravages his body, Benjamin keeps obsessing over the notion that it’s anything other than the flu.  I try to soothe him “You just have the flu Bear, that’s why you feel so bad”.  My words don’t matter, as he lumbers around the house, following me around like a giant shadow.  He breaks my heart, his big sad blue eyes and his feet hanging off the edge of the couch.  Despite the giant beard he looks just like a child.  He’s weak and emotional, and I want to scoop him up in my arms as though he were a baby.

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Of course, I do have to maintain distance.  I can’t afford to get sick.  I work with children, I have a really busy schedule.  Being sick would be wildly inconvenient. I have to love this man and take care of him from afar.  It’s lonely for both of us, sleeping in separate beds, but he needs to get better and I need to stay well.  We’ve passed the time watching television; as Benjamin works through the flu and I keep watch, occasionally cleaning dishes and tissues, and making cups of tea.
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To make matters more emotional, we’ve been whiling away the hours watching “Downton Abbey” on Netflix.
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Goodness me, despite all of the hype and accolades I never had any real interest in the program.  Then one week, two seasons and a debilitating illness later, we’ve been through the trenches with these people.  The Titanic sank, World War One destroyed lives and shattered social barriers. In the midst of these historical milestones, the Crawley family and their faithful servants are always up to something that tugs at the heartstrings.  Just when we couldn’t take anymore, the Spanish Flu took no exception at Downton Abbey.
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There are so many richly drawn characters, the writing is excellent, the details are superb.  For anyone who’s even been sick and powered through a television series, you can appreciate how one can get pretty attached to the characters.   In a sickly stupor you start to take things personally…rather seriously.  For example, when I was put on bed-rest with a flu six years ago, I got rather caught up with “A Shot at Love with Tila Tequila”.
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Nothing is ever as dire for Tequila as it gets for the fine folk at Downton.  Rejected lovers, star-crossed lovers, scheming staff, tragic Turks, gossip, intrigue, all steeped in historical fact. I mean…you just have to be there, you just don’t know what it was like unless you were on the front lines.  Last night, after three episodes where two characters die as a result of the war and the flu, I was left feeling rather dehydrated.
Downton_abbey_william's_weddingThen in the ‘very special Spanish Flu” episode, it really hit a nerve with us.  Even though we can’t research our own medical concerns, there are no rules about researching diseases from yore.
This pandemic has been described as “the greatest medical holocaust in history” and may have killed more people than the Black Death. It is said that this flu killed more people in 24 weeks than AIDS has killed in 24 years, more in a year than the Black Death killed in a century.
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This disease killed six percent of the world’s population anywhere from 40-100 million people.  How staggering.  God must have been feeling extra Old-Testamenty during that time.   Between the war and the flu, a girl would be hard-pressed to find enough men to fill her dance card.  We discuss this notion, knowing so much loss, surviving a war only to be cast down by the flu.  That really would have been a traumatizing time.  By this episode, as dirt as being shoveled onto a grave, I make a remark about not liking the idea of a burial.  Ben asks me what I’d prefer for myself.  “Cremation”, I said.  “Where would you want to go”, he asked.  “I don’t know…I’d want someone to take a fistful and release into the wind somewhere”.  I look over, and my husband has fat tears rolling down his cheeks and nestling into his red beard.
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It’s never a good time to mention these things.  Especially after too much Downton.  I don’t care to think about it myself. Sometimes it takes the Spanish Flu to say PS: “bury me not on the lone prairie” (and while I’m at it, request “Way Over Yonder” by Carole King, which would be played right after George Clooney does my eulogy, slamming the pulpit and screaming “Why God, Why”).  Loss is the saddest thought especially when frightfully ill. Poor Benjamin cried which made me cry.  For the first time I didn’t fret about the quarantine perimeters, and pulled him close to me and wrapped my arms around him.  Perhaps the first world war and a medical holocaust was just too much for one night.
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The Year of the Pet Tiger

I completed my last work task on Saturday, and I am currently on Christmas holidays.  The entire weekend was a blur of parties, travel, restaurants and shopping centers, and it didn’t properly register that on Monday, there was a holiday waiting. Then I spent all of Monday morning wandering around the house in my pink bathrobe, looking terribly confused.  The amount of available time lays before me like a vast ocean, seemingly endless and deliciously refreshing.  But the question is, do you dive in, or just dip a toe?

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I guess…I could go to a matinee? …Maybe a yoga class? I haven’t used my mat in so long it looks like it was mummified in ancient Egypt.  …Maybe I’ll just sit down and crack on with a blog? Or maybe I’ll just kick back and relax.

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Sitting in the office, staring out my window.  Coffee and Baileys.  Classical music on CBC 2.  Watching all the cars on the highway, the packed parking lots down below.   Nothing drains the Christmas spirit more than being in a cramped store, sweating in your puffy winter coat, weighed down with bags, feeling awfully light in the wallet.  My personal version of hell is Walmart on the last weekend before Christmas.  Any big box store really.  The crush of people, the long lines, the incompetent staff.  I recently had an experience with a basic clothing rack on wheels at an Ikea that made me feel like Dante descending into the seven circles of hell.  In a modern world, hell would be a packed Costco, bureaucracy, Honey Boo Boo, last minute holiday shopping and Black Friday/Boxing Day sales.  Listen, I like a good deal just as much as the next person, but my god, I can’t imagine anything worse than combining those stores with last minute gift shopping. The pressure of that finding perfect present forced against the insistently ticking clock.  I mean listen, there are many, many nice things out there in the stores that would dazzle anyone.  Who doesn’t love cashmere? But who can afford it?

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Having had the pleasure of being called to Immigration Canada–which was a little too last minute for our tastes; we got the message on Friday to come to Vancouver the following Wednesday.  We organized ourselves rapidly, and left early Tuesday morning.  We thought we’d make it into a little holiday, get a hotel and do some Christmas shopping.  I can’t remember why I used to enjoy shopping so much, it can be anxiety inducing at best.  Standing in a packed Winners trying to get a handle on one inch of personal space to do some browsing, all I wanted to do was walk right out that door.  I don’t want to buy someone’s present in a state of panic.  And so we just walked around this city, holding hands and people watching…discussing what we’d like to give if we had the means.

vancouver-christmas-shopping We eventually made purchases and as we walked with shopping bags in hands, Benjamin and I decided that we weren’t going to buy Christmas presents for one another.  Our birthdays fall in the same week as Christmas, and we had already made a purchase for the house and so decided that would be our present. With the totally unexpected expense of Permanent Resident fee/car rental/hotel/and every other pesky little cent that goes into going away…why fool ourselves and spend additional money on things we don’t really need?

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I like to get presents, and I love to give them…but where do you draw the line?  How can you get in the spirit of Christmas giving without sacrificing your savings and not having to pick up a glue gun?  How can you give of yourself?  For me, I like to be a hostess. I like to feed people, offer blankets and cups of tea.

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We had a little birthday party, and days before I was going over the menu ideas. When I mention the cheese platter, Ben pipes up: “A cheese platter? What are we Rockerfellers?”  I look up from my list.  “I’m perfectly happy to trim fat, cut corners and make sacrifices, but things are not so bad that we can not afford cheese”.  No cheese? Why not just cancel Christmas? Why not just kick Santa where is counts?

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Maybe this picture isn’t accurately expressing my intention.  This Santa is looking super into whatever is about to happen here. So, back to my list.

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If all I can give this year is of myself, I’d like to throw a savory platter into the mix.  I’d like to give comfort, hugs, good humor and time. I want to share my home.  I wish I could lavish those I love with pet tigers, cash money, diamonds, trips to Cabo.  I’d like to walk into a store and pay off people’s layaways.  Put an actual bill in a Salvation Army box.  One-up Beyonce’s recent Walmart appearance where she paid the first $50 of everyone’s purchase, and pay everyone’s Christmas shopping. (Though I’d just linger by customer service because as previously mentioned those big box stores are terrifying black holes).

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I wish I could help more. To see someone struggling and be able to support them.  To fly families to opposite ends of the world for the holidays.  But it’s not really in the budget. What I can give you is this: my words, my care, the occasional cheese platter, and vintage Ann Margaret in a catsuit, holding an actual cat, surrounded by presents in front of a roaring fire.  Meow.

Merry Christmas my friends, may 2014 be the year of the pet tiger.

vintage-pinup-studio-ann-margret-christmasImages Courtesy of Google

Rose Royce

Yesterday afternoon was an extremely slothful day.  I wore sweatpants that could easily fit another person, giant socks and one of Ben’s shirt. All with a pashmina of course, because after all…I’m still a lady.

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I felt so tired that I couldn’t read, write…but I also couldn’t nap.  Which is my curse in life…my inability to nap–I wonder if this is how a Vampire feels about never getting to die.

Ben is happily immersed on the old X-Box, so I curl up on the air mattress with Sex and the City: The Movie. And I’m sorry for the SATC haters out there…yes it’s just horrible, sexist, materialistic, ridiculous…yes, the movies (namely the sequel, which was a bit of a misfire and was vaguely racist) diminished the street-cred of the SATC franchise, but I’ll still tear up when Miranda and Steve reunite on the Brooklyn Bridge. Furthermore, when you feel like all your energy has been usurped from your being…there is no better way to spend two hours and fifteen minutes.

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After the film, I ran a hot bath, lit a few candles, and soaked in the dim bathroom with a stack of People magazines that my mother had saved for me.  I selected the Most Beautiful Woman issue…which was…thank you, not me but Gwyneth Paltrow.

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She’s such a fabulous dickhead.  You hate her only because you’re not her.  I wouldn’t mind the legs and the bank account, and passport stamps.  Also to call Beyonce a dear friend, and claim Brad Pitt as an old flame, you know she’s got some good stories.

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She talked about a day in her fabulous life…and how she ends each day with a bath.  Oh goodness me, I’m just like Gwinney.  I soak in the tub, my knees jutting up like two flesh colored icebergs among dated seventies tiles, with four tea light candles and the faint sounds of Randy Bachman‘s Vinyl Tap, a Sunday radio program that ran with different themes each week. This week’s program was disco-one-hit-wonders. You know, those songs with those complex lyrics.

Get on up on the floor
Cuz we’re gonna boogie oogie oogie
Till you just can’t boogie no more (boogie)
Boogie no more.

I have a real soft spot for disco, the haters can try to bulldoze disco records in rock radio station parking lots all they want, but it’s fun in a cheesy gold lame kind of way.

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I mean, nobody ever died from listening to disco.

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Though..I think it’s safe to say that someone may have died when listening to it. There’s a difference.

studio54-ny-1978-mandancingshortsMaybe that’s the band “A Taste of Honey” meant in their seminal track “Boogie Oogie Oogie“, that when you can’t boogie oogie no more, it means that you die…or pass out, or sit down cause you’re tired from all the strenuous dancing in platform shoes.

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I finished the Paltrow article, got out of the tub and returned to my giant sweatpants.  Though I had spent the whole day relaxing, taking care of myself, I couldn’t shake the exhaustion.  Another classic, “Car Wash” by Rose Royce starts.  It makes me think of this funk compilation album my best friend had when we were growing up.  I am very familiar with “Car Wash”.

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In a split second, I went from perfectly exhausted, to feeling as though I was in a bit of a danger zone. I exhale and inhale deeply.  I say aloud to my husband that I am feeling unwell just as he brings dinner to the living room.  I stand up, as if to go for the patio door, suddenly overheated and in need of cold fresh air.  I wrench the pashmina from my throat, and promptly collapse into a puddle on the air mattress.  Thinking I’m to be sick to my stomach, I use what remains of my energy, and get to the bathroom. I catch a quick glimpse of my green face before I slide down to the floor, using a towel as a pillow and panting like a nauseous dog. Ben has followed me to the bathroom, and his voice is nervous.  He suggests going to the hospital.  But I just lay there, panting and feeling like the bathroom floor is the only place I am capable of being.  I loathe the hospital, and the wait.  But he’s starting to sound scared, and that’s starting to scare me.  My eyes are closed and my head is against his knee.  I felt myself actually fading, Ben nudging me and trying to capture my attention.  And all I can muster in my mind is the thought “Please God, don’t let me die during “Car Wash“.    A fever broke, and like a storm it passed as quickly as it came.  Ben helped me up, I changed my clothes, and quietly ate dinner, falling asleep at 830 and not waking up until 700 this morning.  It was terribly frightening, not to feel unwell, but to hear that palpable fear in your partner’s voice, that makes you think that it’s far worse that you imagine.

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Surely nothing bad ever happens during “Car Wash”, surely when the good Lord decides to bring me home, he will do so when I’m 102, and listening to “Free Bird” by Lynyrd Skynyrd, or “Turn Me Loose” by Loverboy. Health scare and dizzy spell aside, I’m feeling much better. I’ve still got plenty of boogie oogie left in me, don’t you worry about me.

abbas-15Images Courtesy of Google

Something Blue

First day of autumn.  Grey and chilly. A touch of wind.  Everyone wearing an extra layer. I like fall.  I like the spicy overtones.  Went out this morning and did our weekly shop, bought a few warmer things, and smiling at the idea of merino wool and a scarf resting snugly against your throat. I had a fantasy about charcoal grey knitted boots with buttons on the side, and I found them…amid a sea of a rather dismal selection in the shopping center.  Of course they are edging toward $200, and there’s a huge part of me that simply can’t justify that cost, even though my bare feet feel like a silky minx on a bear skin rug.

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I had geared up for this big purchase, and in the end they didn’t have my size.  When I was told I could order them, I just shrugged.  I didn’t want to drop a couple hundred bucks on the idea of something.  I wanted to leave bag in hand.  Annoying.  But, on the grand scale of bothersome things, its a mosquito among mountains.  I had to actually creep down the hall to pluck the box of the tissue from the living room, to bring it into the office.  I’m extremely aware that writing is going to open up a whole can of weepy whoop-ass.  Ben was facing the television, doing god-knows-what on the X-Box, and so he didn’t notice me doing so.  Not that he would care, it’s no secret that I like to resolve me things with a good sob.  I cried at the end of “The Guilt Trip” last night, and it was just totally out of my control.  So when it really counts, when it actually belongs to me, when I find it in my back yard, there will be tears.

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It was my friend Shannon’s birthday the other day.  Her thirtieth.  Just days before marked the fourth anniversary of my moving to New Zealand.  Four years…astounding.  In a week or so it will be my third wedding anniversary.  And it becomes a rather reflective time as the leaves begin to fall.  I was in New Zealand for a few days when I got word that Shannon had been in a car accident, on the way home after a birthday holiday with her fabulous boyfriend.  She was alive in a legal sense, but was in a coma, and her entire being was in great distress. And I felt like I was living a different planet.   earth-from-space-day-night

Having moved to the other side of the world because of a broken heart and a cancelled wedding, I was already feeling jet-lagged and fragile.  Learning this about one of my bridesmaids, one of my most favorite people in the world –was one of the worst moments of my life.

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She’s still alive, but in a different form.  I had only seen photographs before I met her for the first time last summer.  When I went to see her, in a neighboring town, in a place that’s somewhere between a hospital and a home.  I brought along my husband and my brother, and the plan was to drop me off, and then go out for dinner and bowling.  It was my idea, for the fear that the sight of her would shatter something inside of me that I could not possibly piece back together,  And bowling seemed like a suitable diversion.  I went into the building alone, wanting to find a washroom to clean my hands and take one last calming breath.  Of course, I went further than the directions I was given allowed, and I passed Shannon’s room.  Her name on the partially opened door.  I hear a fluster of activity, and so I slink past unnoticed.  Well, it was more of a scatter, I bolted in the proper direction.  I washed my hands, swallowed a grapefruit sized lump, went back outside and called her mother, who was expecting my call.

For those in her inner circle, most have adjusted to a point of normalcy, or at least routine. I had been so detached from the situation, that for me it was like it had just happened.  I was freshly devastated.  I loved this girl. She was like a slapstick comedienne, mixed with Lana Del Rey, and a healthy dose of the musical “Hair“.  She was impossibly optimistic, active, beautiful, well traveled.  Wasn’t the most exceptional dancer though.  I remember going out to a bar with her, and watching her dance and feeling sort-of surprised.  She rocked everything else, but she was never going to win “Dancing with the Stars“.  Which I told her, which made her laugh.  I knew her from university theatre, and we were in Arthur Miller’s “After the Fall” together. She was the Marilyn type, and me the embittered first wife.

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She taught me so much about the acting process, and her enthusiasm was deeply infectious. I lived with her one summer in this little holiday town.  We waitressed in the same spot on the lake, and after busy nights, we would leap off the dock in our clothes and walk home soaking wet.  We always had a good laugh and honest talks. When I was engaged, I asked her to be my bridesmaid, more specifically, my something blue.  As a vivacious red head, she wore blue like nobodies business.

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The night I first saw her was at a party.  She was in a dark blue trench coat, and was terribly drunk.  She kept leaning against walls and sliding down them dreamily.  I remember thinking that if that were me doing so, that I was look like such a dick. On her, it looked strangely ethereal.  When I came across that coat last summer, when I was organizing her clothes, I wept into the fabric.  A few items of clothing got that treatment.  Occasionally pausing to remember the ridiculous girl who tromped around in tasseled cowboy boots and wore impossibly tiny shorts. I took many things to the theatre, kept a few personal favorites, and shared the tinier sizes with the girls I was working with.  Being such a clothes horse, I felt comforted at this fashion reincarnation, that they would continue on in some way.

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Shannon always brought things back from trips for me.  In that first week in New Zealand, the strap on the purse, the string on the colored wooden beads, and the pin of a peacock brooch, all things she gave me, they all broke in the days leading up to her accident.  That bothered me.  Tasting that bad omen like it was acid on my tongue.  I’ve kept them, stored away with other trinkets and actually carried the peacock with me, along with a dime on the day I got married.  She gave me many scarves, which I still wear.  When I went to that psychic reading in Auckland, the medium was picking up on a very strong presence.  “Did I know a person in a wheelchair”.  ‘Nope, sure don’t’ was my first general response.  “Are you sure? Because she’s with us in the room, and she’s holding a big bunch of wildflowers and they are for you”.  I immediately think of my passport, more specifically of the picture I carry around in my passport, a snapshot of Shannon I kept tucked in the middle.  Standing in a field wildflowers.  She said she wanted to meet me and travel to Australia and Bali, and so when I went to these places, that is how I took her with me.  ‘I guess I do know someone in a wheelchair’. Anyway, Shannon totally commandeered the reading, and the psychic was saying a whole bunch of stuff that made me sob uncontrollably.  Then she looked at me, and said “When you dream of her, she’s dreaming of you too”.  Ugh, I just cracked like an egg then.  I would dream of her, and she would always be as she was when I knew her.   She would never speak, but would sit serenely.  And I would be crying because I was so happy to see her, alive and well.  In the heat of emotion, I wrenched my pashmina, a raspberry color, another Shannon present, from my neck. Like fog, her presence lifted and then she was gone.

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I was able to celebrate her birthday last year, in a large hotel room with her mother and other family and friends.  What struck me while looking at the girls around me were their new last names, new babies, pregnancies, travels. Everyone was a little bit more grown up, a little more refined.  Careers instead of jobs, mortgages instead of rent.  We were all growing up and changing, and on that level Shannon’s journey has ended, though her heart keeps beating.  And this was along the vein of thought that was choking me the morning of her birthday.  I paid my Visa bill, folded my husband’s laundry, puttered around in my bare feet as I sipped coffee and listened to the radio before heading off to work.  And it made me sad that she would never have these silly little things that we all take for granted now and again.  The dignity of independence, the blessing of perfect health, the last days of summer.  And so, as the fourth year passes by, and I am still no closer to knowing how to grieve for her.  Though we are now in the same province, I still feel like on that different planet; missing someone terribly even though you could still sit across from each other, reach out and touch their hand.

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Happy Birthday, my lovely friend.  May you know in your heart just how much you are loved.

marilyn-monroe-birthday-black-and-white-cake-Favim_com-670370Images Courtesy of Google