Light, loss & living for others

At the time of first trying to express my grief and gratitude–the news about Christopher Seguin’s sudden passing was very recent. Three weeks have since passed since the staggering loss. His celebration of life service was held on Saturday, October 14.  While sitting in the church, hearing about his life, attempting to comprehend the moment, working steadily through a box of tissues–I marveled at how his absence was a deeply felt presence in the packed room. 

There has been rumors and revelations–and while there should be appropriate and respectful channels to discuss and dissect the circumstances surrounding his death, but I won’t do that here.  Existence is a complex experience. We navigate through frameworks of social constructs, we play roles, we love and are loved, we lose and recover, we try and fail until the clock stops ticking–and we then become constellations in the vast atmosphere that is the human condition. 

I tried to capture a singular moment that reflected my memory of Christopher. Words failed as I reeled at the magnitude of the loss.  The tragedy is layer upon layer of agony and anguish for all who were impacted by his life and his loss– his family, his wife, his children, the community, the university–and on and on and on. My heart goes out to those hurting most–and I extend my loving thoughts outwards. 

….

The flags were flying at half-mast on and while I logically understood the reason, my mind revolted against the truth. I half-expect to see him somewhere on campus. However, that towering figure, that booming voice, that presence is gone—and that reality is simply too painful to bear.
To me, Christopher Seguin was like a classic movie star come to life in the modern age: strapping, stylish and smart—a gentleman and an adventurer—like Cary Grant from somewhere between The Philadelphia Story and Gunga Din.

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We met through the Kamloops Film Festival. He became a mentor, ally and friend.

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During a period of professional adjustment—when I was feeling rather lost in the world—Christopher offered direction.  He regaled me with a self deprecating tale about himself as a young, idealistic man writing a piece that he felt so proud of—only for it to never see the light of day.

This conversation took place during a quick walk around campus.  He stopped where we had started, about to set off in another direction.  “The writing is good”—he said, smiling, assuring. As he walked away, his coat collar popped against the crisp autumn weather, he tossed a final sentence over his shoulder “…but it could be better.”
Ah, that was a cool moment.
He wasn’t one to soften blows, he told you how it was. At the same time, he showed vulnerability while sharing stories of his own personal growth. He offered insights and advice, but tasked you with reaching higher levels of personal achievement. It’s good–but it could always be better.

In the first days of shock and sadness, while trying to occupy my unraveling thoughts–I thought a lot about Elisabeth Kübler-Ross’s Five Stages of Grief–and tried to remember the DABDA scale from long-ago Psychology classes.

Denial:  “In this stage, individuals believe the diagnosis or situation is somehow mistaken, and cling to a false, preferable reality.”

Yes, the false, preferable reality seems reasonable to me.

As Joan Didion noted in her memoir “The Year of Magical Thinking“, “I was myself in no way prepared to accept this news as final: there was a level on which I believed what had happened remained reversible.”

In grief, we are at war with ourselves, rallying against reason, and struggling to reconcile the loss. My mind wanders back and forth between fact and fantasy—I strive to create a world in which Christopher could overcome death. He had plans, goals and value

This. Cannot. Be. It.

And yet, it is. Waves of anguish crashing repeatedly, threatening to overwhelm you as you try to make sense of a senseless tragedy. Wrestling with memory and circumstance, burdened by the weight of  heartbreak, the clashing of absence and presence.

You were just here.

What is one to do when great lights are snuffed out? In that darkness you begin to realize how much these people were quiet architects to our growth and successes. There lies a portion of Christopher’s memory—his legacy resides in those he insisted do better.

As Margaret Atwood once said:

I hope that Christopher becomes more than that. I hope that he carries on in spirit through acts of service. As we move forward into the wilderness of grief and loss, I hope we carry along his memory. He was someone who urged us to excel beyond our wildest expectations–and to encourage others to do the same.  Instead of envisioning a great light dimming into darkness—imagine it fracturing into a million pieces—so that we could find it everywhere. As we move forward, may we absorb even a fraction of that energy, warmth and light.

 

 

Pretty Woman & the Full Jackie O

I see ankle boots are a bit of a thing for fall. Frankly, I’m not thrilled. Aren’t they always in fashion?  I remember feeling vaguely unsatisfied with the boot styles last year as well. Every time the summer light starts to fade and the crispness of fall sets in, I venture out into the world to look for a classic knee high black boot to wear with oh, I don’t know, everything.  Either I can’t find what I’m looking for, can afford what I’m finding, or–it just doesn’t look as you imagine it. When I saw it on Jackie Kennedy, it looked a bit sleeker–a bit slimmer.

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When I go for the full Jackie O, I always feel more like the Stay-Puft Marshmallow man from Ghostbusters.  The great gaping divide between how you want to look,  what you think you look like, and how you actually look can be quite alarming when that little Bermuda Triangle of expectation and reality collide.

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First of all. Why is the average changing room so drab? Audrey Hepburn wouldn’t look good in florescent lighting, so what hope is there for the average woman? Down to the socks and underwear–confronting our figures in a cramped, shadowy spaces bathed in unflattering light? The sounds of chatter, babies crying, toddlers sprinting through the racks, some upbeat non-descript pop song playing just a little too loudly in the background.  Cowering in the changing room at war with the fabric, the buttons, the zipper at it’s height of resistance.  Wedged into a dress/bathing suit/jeans–whatever it is that makes you feel like fat Elvis trying to fit into a little girl’s dress.

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Customer service is a dying art, and odds are, no one is coming to check on you. Put your own clothes back on and venture out into the store–avoiding the pictures of the models looking far better than you in the very clothes that you were wearing. Either buy nothing or something that you don’t really love. It can feel very, very grim.

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Shopping for a specific item can be such an annoyance. Like when you get a job at a place with a very specific dress code? Everyone must wear khaki pants! What better way to spend time and money: on clothes you hate as .for a job you need but possibly don’t want. Of course, khaki pants aren’t really a thing and now you have to roam from store to store searching for some vague equivalent. Worse yet, shopping for bigger clothes after a weight gain. Although, you didn’t really know that you gained weight, because you haven’t been paying attention. You head off to the change room with a size 8 and then require a 10, 12, 14. A most deliciously heinous feeling, trying to wedge one’s cheese filled sausage legs into fabric tubes, coming to quite the realization in a very public arena. Fuck it– I’ll have better luck with sizes at the food court, just going to wear ponchos and yoga pants for the rest of my life.

Image result for girl in a poncho vintageThough I love fashion, glamour, style, and elegance–shopping is not my favorite task. For that reason, I made an excellent personal shopper and was successful in retail.  I really tried to help a sister out–finding an outfit for a wedding, funeral, job interview, date, holiday, party, event with a lot of love, good humor and the occasional hug. Tears were a regular occurrence, as were self-deprecating remarks that usually start with “I hate my…” and end with “thighs, arms, belly, etc, etc, etc”. The key is to keep customers in the change room–bring them outfits that suit their body type and explain all the ways to mix and match. Make it fun, keep it light, and when necessary, a  generous dose of tough love.  Pull yourself together, god damn it–Leave your emotions at the door–and just find some fucking pants. 

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When I encouraged body confidence to others,  I avoided taking in my own reflection in the many mirrors around the store. The agony of a conflicted figure, feeling physically inconsistent with not only your sense of style, but your mental self image. Who is the real me? What do I really look like? How am I perceived by the outside world?  If the reflection is to your dissatisfaction, what is the option? Continue on with the self loathing or shift e gears? Along the way to weight loss, the thought of giving up will enter your mind a million times. If discouraged, frustrated, or exhausted-when you can’t do another stupid squat or count another calorie you need to reconnect with your “why”. Health and mental wellbeing is a noble motivation–but sometimes it’s not an accessible visual like: “Audrey Hepburn in a summer dress. Audrey Hepburn in a summer dress. Audrey. Hepburn. in. a. summer. dress”.

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A year since I began the Herbal One program, I’ve lost 42 pounds and 52 inches. It’s been a time of enormous change, growth and grief. My three weekly visits with Beth and Elisha have whittled down to one, but the beat goes on. I know now that it’s an on-going, never ending process.  Like Sisyphus, the rock and that hill.  Keep pushing–forever and ever.

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Poking around Winners on Labour Day morning, picking up a few pieces to update the professional wardrobe. After three years of working with children in a preschool and gymnastics club, it’s been a lot of stretchy pants and loose layers.  With a new job ahead of me, it’s time for a few fresh touches to the ole closet. I haven’t really had any kind of post-weight loss Pretty Woman shopping montage moments. Mostly I’m shopping in my own closet, wearing items that have been collecting dust on the lowest shelf. Now, that they all fit, I’m really getting a sense of just how long it’s been since I wore them–one pair of jeans that had a whiskering effect  made it very clear that it was not to be matched with this year’s ankle boots.

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Interestingly enough, despite all the life-changing results- I still head straight to the plus sizes in the store. It’s like driving to your old house after you move across town. Taking clothes that are way too big to the change room or dismissing something as too small and it fitting perfectly.  Or the irrational fear of gaining aaaaall the weight back after eating too much bread or skipping exercise for one day.  Ultimately, it’s my brain catching up with my body amid breaking long standing habits, exorcising past pains, and discovering whiskered jeans buried deep in the closet.  I wonder if I would suit ankle boots after all? An option worth exploring I suppose–important to question everything.  It’s the eternal adjustment to the reflection’s metamorphic alteration. Forever seeking the perfect fit, when expectation and reality reconcile with one another once more.

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Images Courtesy of Google etc.

 

 

 

Off the Wagon.

Whenever I feel discouraged in regards to weight loss, I just think about Oprah.  She has money, power, influence, accolades, luxury, celebrity; she can do anything, go anywhere– and do so like a boss. She has such a magic touch that there is an actual phenomenon known as “The Oprah Effect”.  All the while, she struggles to maintain a consistent weight.  This is a woman with access to trainers, chefs and all the support in the world–and it’s still the hardest thing ever. Why? Because food is delicious and gaining a whole mess of weight is quite possibly the easiest thing a person could ever do. Being Oprah, she turned her own weight-loss journey into another gold mine, chronicling all the ups and downs with Chef Rosie, and her trainer Bob. Although, it goes back further than that–to the late 80’s, when Oprah lost sixty-odd pounds, and then pulled it out onstage in a little wagon.

It’s a great visual. Grotesque, but great. Eventually that Radio Flyer’s worth of weight made it’s way back onto Winfrey’s waist line. Those pounds have been lost and found more times than anyone could count. Although, it was pretty well documented, I’m sure someone else could do that math.

Perhaps it means that you never really complete the mission. The finish line is like a mirage in the desert, or a horizon that ceases to come closer as you approach it. It’s a never ending quest to lose, and then maintain this new found physique. As I considered blogging about my own weight-loss journey, I thought of Oprah Winfrey and the fat wagon. Firstly, that it would be a fun name for a funk band, and secondly, that it was nerve-wracking enough to privately make these kind of changes, much less to shout your intentions from the roof top; inviting everyone to watch you fumble through. I didn’t want to ride in on my high horse and trumpet about my great successes…then fall off, and get trampled by said horse.

Six months into my weight loss program with Herbal One, and I’ve lost over twenty pounds and just under twenty inches.  By all rights, there should have been far more extensive changes by this point. I have the support, I have a plan, the supplements, the groundwork was laid for me to whittle down. It’s just me in my own way.  When I think about my weight-loss, I imagine water lapping along the shoreline. It goes in a little bit, and out a little bit, repeat, repeat, again, again. I could really use a low tide one of these days. It’s an arduous undertaking. Many, many changes must be made. I remember sitting down for my first meeting with owner Beth McBride and nodding profusely.  “NONE OF THIS WILL BE A PROBLEM”–I say, smugly, like a total idiot. Like any addict, I can stop anytime I want. By all means, make all the changes all at once.

I started the program after a lengthy road trip through Washington and Oregon and went to Las Vegas a week later. From there, more events, shows, mini-breaks and random outings.  So many opportunities to eat and drink.  Three weeks in New Zealand for Christmas. Sure, there was swimming and walking, but there was also so. much. cheese. Cold Ciders, gin and fresh lime, champagne, lemony French onion dip with salty potato chips. My in-laws are all foodies, and all make gorgeous, fresh meals. Of course, being on holiday, one eats 8-12 times a day, in between glasses of bubbles and the beach.

Drinking everything but water, nibbles around every corner, something decadent or deep fried around midnight.  Holiday is Latin for “seeking the next meal”. Pop into the cute café for a latte, stop at that sweet shop for an ice cream cone. Wander through a marketplace and eat all the samples. The montage that plays in my head of eating a variety of delectable goodies in a variety of foreign places makes me stare out the window wistfully.

New Zealand was a happy, relaxing time with family and friends. I didn’t want to leave. I wanted to lose the shoes, send for our dog Bluebear and shack up in a little Kiwi Bungalow by the beach with Ben. In all honesty, returning home was a little challenging. I came back to some challenges that unfolded and worsened over time. I began to sink deeper and deeper into a rather serious depression. Ever the cheerleader, Beth says: “Weight-loss is something YOU can control!”. Let this be the thing that grounds you, gives you purpose. Which is a truly fabulous, remarkable idea–and it’s the truth. But, for anyone who has dealt with depression, it’s a bit like sinking in quicksand and lacking the wherewithal to stop it. Mix in crippling anxiety, and you’re sinking, too stressed to make a rational decision to better your situation. Quite the bloody predicament isn’t it?

My weight–that had crept up a wee bit while in New Zealand– was like an unmanned car with a brick on the accelerator. I was not in control. I was not happy. I also didn’t know how to stop this car or turn it around. How can we want these changes for ourselves and let precious days pass by wishing those things were for us but lamenting that they aren’t.

As Oprah would say–the ‘Ah-ha Moment’ that set me back on the path of better health was two-fold. The cancer diagnosis of a really good friend–which rattled me to the very core, was deeply influential in waking up from my deep dark doldrums. Also, sitting in the Herbal One office, like a sad sack, whining about how I keep setting health goals and not achieving them. This is my vicious cycle: I keep saying–oh this event/show/performance is coming up, what better reason to lose those pesky pounds? And then…the only thing I actually exercise is procrastination. Tomorrow I will exercise. Tomorrow I will eat better. Tomorrow I will drink less. Who am I? Scarlett O’Hara?

A month before another big event, I express disappointment that I hadn’t met my mark. Beth, in this cool, casual manner, says: “Well, there’s always next year”. Not sure if she was genuine, or if it was a sneaky parental tactic, some reverse psychology. Regardless, you could practically hear The Eye of the Tiger pumping through my veins. Next year? NEXT YEAR?? Who has that kind of time?

I let go of the shame, the regret, the ‘what if’s’ and made the resolution to start over. I got a fresh new food journal. I reassessed my habits and weaknesses. Started visiting Beth and Elisha at Herbal One more. Making teeny tiny changes. Living my life in 24-hour increments. More sleep. More water. I’ve taken to weighing myself every morning and tracking the patterns on a Pin-up Girl calendar that hangs in the bathroom.

I try to not let that number ruin my day, it is simply a matter of that number helping guide my decisions for the day.  It’s effective, and it’s now part of the routine. From the day I started that practice, I have seen significant changes. Leading up to the next event, I felt that there was a difference. Not just to my figure, but to my mindset.  I’m not really to roll out any ole wagon of fat–and I’m still living day to day, but the last month has been truly empowering. Revolutionary even. I’m active, I’m hydrated, I’m happier. I’ve even started running.  I had lost weight leading up to the Kamloops Film Festival, and continued to lose weight during the ten days.

How you ask??

  • A Bold Lip Color. Wearing chic red lipstick made me far more reluctant to nibble.
  • Eating beforehand is essential. (Who knew?)
  • Limit hard alcohol. I really enjoy a drunken grilled cheese, so I needed to maintain some level of sobriety to reduce my odds of losing my willpower.
  • I really enjoyed  Pinot Noir. Was like classy, buzz inducing velvet, and was better than anything morsel out there. Makes a great accessory, keeps your hand occupied.
  • A snugly fitted dress is key. It’s really easy to keep things loose and layered, and not notice any difference as you quietly consume a boatload of calories. I felt a nicely cinched waist kept me in check. 1) I didn’t want to be uncomfortable and 2) I wanted to wear this dress again.
  • Tell someone! I had so much support from committee friends, and that made life all the easier.
  • This is kind of a cheeky tip, but during the film festival, I packed a bottle of water and a Tupperware container of plain popcorn. On the day I watched all four movies, I brought along a small amount of dried cherries and dark chocolate as well.
  • Of course, the support from Beth and Elisha at Herbal One. I truly could not do any of this without them

By the Sunday, I was the lightest I’ve been on the program…and then gave in to post-festival laziness and ate some take-out Chinese food that my husband ordered and bloated like a MSG infused puffer fish. Damn you Chicken Chow Mein!!  Make a delicious, salty, buttery, soyasaucey mistake?  I hope you savored every bite, cause now you’ve got more work to do. Take a breath. Be kind to yourself, prepare some hot water and lemon, walk a little longer, run a little farther. Be like Oprah, and try again.  After all, tomorrow is another day.

Images Courtesy of Jen Randall Dustin &the fine folks behind the internet.

 

 

 

Pinot Noir, Popcorn & Piles of Laundry

The 2016 Kamloops Film Festival has come and gone. Le sigh. There’s so much work and momentum leading up to these all-consuming cluster of events–it’s a whirlwind of film, food and friends–full on red carpet and red wine. So. many. outfits.  Suddenly it’s two weeks later, and you’re alone in your office,  wearing a battered old pink bathrobe on Easter Monday, trying to remember every detail for the #KFF2016 review.

For me, the festival is such a fabulous time of year. I tend to immerse myself in all social aspects of the KFF. I clear my schedule, I rearrange my life, I forsake sleep.  I wind up at the Commodore at 1am, dancing like nobody is watching.  It’s like a holiday in my hometown; a fantastic social explosion. Drinking wine and grabbing meals with other committee members and festival goers. The awesome conversations that transpire in between all those film–the tears, the laughter, loads of red lipstick–pure bliss.

This year being my third, I was able to truly organize myself in a way that made the rest of my life seem perfectly manageable. I had learned a thing or two since the first year.  (See: White Girl Wasted– https://pinuppickspenup.com/2014/03/21/white-girl-wasted/). The morning of A Night with Oscar, I spent some quality time in my closet, selecting a variety of outfits to be worn throughout the entire festival. That’s a highly recommended KFF survival tip, put together ten to fifteen fabulous, and that’s one less thing to worry about. Time is tight, life is short, and you never want to be left wondering what to wear at the last minute.

In fact, I received a impromptu invitation to grab a quick Pinot before watching Holocaust drama Son of Saul. Fugitives running from the law have not moved as fast as I; out of my dog walking clothes, and into a preplanned ensemble, out the door, and drinking wine at Blue with my good buddy Tanya within twenty minutes. That was a real proud moment for me. Organization is key to drinking fabulously!

How those carefully selected pieces gathered height and momentum as they began to pile up over the edge of the bathtub as the festival progressed. Like fabric clockwork expressing the passing of time. Laundry can wait-life is happening right now! Although, the whole devil- may-care approach is super charming when you live alone, but if one has to be a considerate human being to spouses and flatmates. It’s nice to take a quick second to do something considerate and helpful before buggering off…again. Another fun life hack, do a whole bunch of nice things before the film festival begins, and then, make it up to them on the other side of those ten days. Better yet, bring them to a movie, and make it rain at the concession stand that’ll also do the trick.

The first order of business following the festival; besides sleeping, slothing and sorting through enormous piles of laundry–was to sit down for a lengthy lunch with Dušan Magdolen, the KFF Chair and long time friend. I adore Mr. Magdolen, we met a million years ago and our first conversation was about movies.  I saw him after years away overseas, and we talked about movies. His invitation to participate in the planning of the film festival was a total no-brainer. Naturally, it’s completely necessary to discuss all the films together over hot cups of tea.

In the end, I saw sixteen out of the twenty films. As promised, I ditched Darkfest, but did feel a teeny bit of frightful FOMO–especially The Witch, which is ridiculous, in no way do I cope well with scary films.  Due to such high numbers on opening night–they had to open another theatre!-members of the Events team skipped Haida Gwaii: On the Edge of the World to prepare for the Q&A and the Mingle & Jazz that followed the documentary.  This film was eventually voted ‘favorite’ out of the twenty;  it was a shame to have missed it. Ultimately, it was the best call for the committee members to check on everything one last time, before tucking into delicious appetizers and Pinot Noir at Hotel 540 with our lovely entertainer Cathi Marshall.

The first film I saw wound up being my favorite.  Mustang was a truly powerful story. The last twenty minutes was agonizing. Stressful, thrilling, and perfectly gripping. I sobbed out of sheer relief for the characters by the end.  In fact, I kind of had to lurk in my seat as the credits rolled and audience members milled out of the Paramount. Once feeling composed, I made an attempt to leave, and then wound up jabbering incoherently and tearfully in front of another committee member. Sheesh. Maybe just sit this one out–and avoid eye contact as you hustle off to the car.

I powered through all four films on the first Saturday; which wound up being a day of catharsis. Three out of four films made me cry–including the children’s film Snowtime, which wound up being a total anti-war film.  The child I brought leaned over, “I think something bad is going to happen”–I consoled her, “everything is going to be just fine”, and then something bad happens–to a dog no less. Introducing crying jag #1. Sushi at Sanbiki, and the next movie with my parents.  I love me some Maggie Smith, as did my folks and the rest of Kamloops.  The Lady in the Van had the most audience members, which was perfect, as it was also our Film for a Cause–with the Kamloops Food Bank collecting items at the door.

Following dinner at the Noble Pig; (one of my #KFF2016 haunts) I returned to the Paramount for James White and Youth.  James White was a truly devastating film–and won the Ugly Cry Award for me this year.

Other committee members were quite drained after that film, and decided to call it a night. I felt I had to cleanse the palate a wee bit, end the day on any other note. Youth was beautiful, sensual, life affirming, and quite touching. Jane Fonda shows up at the end and devours her scene. A main character commits suicide, and it’s completely unexpected,  and once again I blubber like a baby in the darkness.

Nothing like a Sunday matinee, except I found Victoria to be a bit of a challenge, and gave me motion sickness. It was a really fantastic production, nearly two and a half hours in one continuous shot, but all the jerky camera movements made me rather queasy.  I briefly entertained the thought of leaving, but managed to hang in there for the length of the movie.

No Men Beyond this Point was my favorite comedy of the season; the actors Patrick Gilmore, Kristine Cofsky and Tara Pratt were delightful during their Q&A. Gilmore and Pratt joined committee members at the Noble Pig, and more Pinot was enjoyed. Who needs sleep??

Born to be Blue and wine with my friend Trish, and My Good Man’s Gone with members of the KFF team. A Q&A with actor Robert Baker, and writer Nick Citton. More wine at the Noble Pig.

A Royal Night Out was another favorite; light, frothy, historically grounded. A simply delightful cinematic experience –Brewing Discussion at Red Collar to follow.

Before Macbeth, Mittz Kitchen with Benjamin for lamb and risotto. Met my brother and his girlfriend for the film.

Macbeth was a really beautiful yet severe picture. Made worse by the man sitting a row ahead of us, shaking a mammoth cup of ice before munching on it during the quietist parts of the movie. It was infuriating to the point of hilarious, and being overtired, it gave me the giggles, and I had to leave the cinema. I came back and Lady Macbeth was dead. Perhaps she died from all that infernal ice crunching, who’s to say?  Wine-ing Discussion at Hotel 540 afterwards, made the humbling mistake of approaching former TRU professor Connie Brim, and exposing just how long ago I studied Shakespeare. The table collectively exchanged notes about acts and scenes that were cut or altered, speeches that were shortened, changes to classic characterization. And me, like a deer in the headlights–totally not remembering much about the play, and thusly having little to contribute. When in doubt just say…”Does…everyone like…wine?”, and then back away slowly, and read the Macbeth synopsis on your phone.

(This is the actual moment being captured by photographer Jen Randall Dustin, this guy is on a hilarious rampage about the adaptation, and he is slaying Connie Brim–brilliant Shakespeare expert–with his witty repartee. And I’m all……”I like the Fassbender when he comes out of the water”.

Thursday Double Feature, Oscar winner Son of Saul, a grim and heartbreaking Holocaust drama and Ben’s At Home, a light independent comedy of little consequence. Donuts and warm beverages at PDK afterwards.

A note about the food: there was so much delectable numminess throughout the festival; and I was smack dab in the middle of a clean-eating, weight loss program.  Beyond the Pinot Noir, my official #KFF2016 beverage, I was not participating in the snacking at any of the events…with the exception of a partial sugar -coated donut that I had in my purse for my husband. Walking back to the car, I reached into my bag and took one big massive bite out of the pastry, a la a Black Widow chomping off the head of her mate. Without missing a step, the donut was out of my bag, chomped into a sugary horseshoe and was thrust back in my bag, my pace quickening as I licked sugar off my lips. No regrets!

Final Friday of the festival, Kamloops Art Gallery for samples of Eadweard Muybridge’s photographs, before seeing a film about his life. Followed Eadweard with Pinot Noir and Green curry at Mittz Kitchen and gin and Karaoke at the Central with special guest Meisha Lowe, photographer Jen Randall Dustin, and ladies of the Events Committee, Tanya and Nathalie. We took Bohemian Rhapsody to a whole other level, and it was glorious.

I came home at midnight and then proceeded to reorganize my whole life. Drunkenly cleaning one’s home is a highly recommended activity. It makes the act of cleaning popcorn kernels out of every purse you’ve ever owned a real hoot and a holler. Pump up some sweet jams, and take on at least a dozen tasks at the same time. It’s also an unbelievable delight to wake up to. This is a legitimate #KFF2016 life hack. #Cleanwhiledrunk.

I caught the first Saturday matinee, Anomalisa; the Charlie Kaufman penned animated feature. I didn’t love it as much as I expected to…and there was a very thorough sex scene that had some…ahem, audible qualities, that was cringe worthy at best.

I skipped Embrace the Serpent and the Painted Pony Steeping Discussion to spend some time with my dog Bluebear–(a shout out to my husband, who was in Vancouver for closing, who had taken care of so much during the festival).

Saturday night: sushi at Oriental Gardens and Forsaken with my mother and two aunts.

After the movie, I scuttled over to Hotel 540 for the Closing Night party. More Pinot to be had! The James Welsh Band was a seriously groovy musical group. All in all, a perfect celebration with the marvellous #KFF2016 committee.

Once all duties were over, and the crowd gave way to the late evening, I danced the rest of the night away; finishing the festival as I tend to do–at the Commodore.

Falling asleep at 4am, another festival finished;  a head full of cinematic stories, a belly full of wine, and a pile of laundry higher than the Himalayas.

For more information of the Kamloops Film Festival, check out the website: http://www.kamloopsfilmfest.ca/

 

Photos Courtesy of Jen Randall Dustin , Chris Warner & the  fine folks behind the Internet.

 

 

 

 

 

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The Blahs, The Blues & The Bell Jar.

Can I just preface anything I write with…you know, I don’t have the descriptive capabilities to even preface these days.  Feeling a bit colorless.  I’m like Eeyore, but with Winnie the Pooh’s curves, and Rabbit’s irritability.

Usually I’m a big crier–commercials, novels, hunger, exhaustion. I’m like an over-sized toddler with the occasional grey hair. I’m feeling so blah that I’m not crying.  I wonder whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing. There’s something to be said about a good sob.  Although come to think of it, like an idiot, I suggested watching Marley and Me last weekend. That was a huge mistake. Low-grade depression and movies about dogs is a dangerous cocktail. What a deceptive film.  Jennifer Aniston is wearing cut off shorts and flip flops on the movie poster, how serious can things get? Who would have a leash that long? Boy, that puppy sure does looks mischievous, I’m laughing already. This is going to be a easy-breezy casual cinematic experience.

Sure it starts off all light and fluffy, but then it all comes crashing down.

We’ve had Bluebear for over a year now, and I’m such an unabashed dog mama. Since dealing with this bad batch of the blues, Bluebear has been especially comforting. Though I feel like we’ve seen this movie in the past, it totally impacted me on a whole other level.  I once saw Marley and Me on a plane. I was in the middle of a really painful break up, and I arrived at the airport feeling rather unhinged. What does one do when feeling emotionally unstable in a claustrophobic environment? Drink wine, brood quietly and lose yourself in a bad-good movie; light, blonde and bubbly. No love stories need apply.  I chose Marley and Me because the Aniston+Wilson+Labrador Retriever seemed to meet the aforementioned requirements to surviving a long flight while in a dreadful mood. To my broken hearted-relationship centered head space, I realized that this movie wasn’t about a dog, it was about a marriage. That’s how I remembered the movie; Benjamin and I even saw it early on in our relationship, and again that’s how I perceived the film.

Well, as a bonafide dog parent, I saw this movie very differently. Sitting next to a mountain of tissues, sobbing deeply with Bluebear tucked up next to me, snoozing soundly with her chin on my knee. After the movie ended, Benjamin and I were like-NEVER AGAIN! Never again will I let Marley and Me trick me into feeling more than need be. It was not the best complimentary flavour to my deepening winter blues.

To clarify-I’m functioning as a living, breathing human; but I’m not bursting with any kind of citrusy creative zest. After three weeks of  summertime in New Zealand, coming back to a Canadian January was always going to be a challenge. Facing some genuine unpleasantness upon my return made the transition back to reality all the harder.  Nothing takes the warmth of a post-holiday glow like bad news or unwelcomed change. Emotionally I’m somewhere between abandoned diva Jennifer Hudson in Dream Girls

…with a solid helping of angst ridden of Winona Ryder in Reality Bites when she gets fired from her job, spends all that money on the psychic hotline, loves and loses greasy ole Ethan Hawke and everything in between.

With nothing to do, she sloths about her house, sinking deeper and deeper into her doldrums.

Reality Bites :

It’s the worst feeling in the world, that stifling Bell Jar feeling, anxiety like walls closing in on you.  It’s as though you wish you could step outside of yourself to have a break from your own thoughts. It’s maddening to be sick of your own company. When you feel that low, it’s hard to motivate yourself.  How is it that when we feel depressed we turn away from the things that would ultimately make us feel better?  We resist socializing, exercise, expression. All becomes a vicious little ferris wheel of a sad little life. It’s an uphill battle to straight up Liz Taylor yourself back to the front lines.

If I had to describe my recent mood with one word, I’d just release a shrug and a sigh. Maybe a sour milk scented scrunched up face for emphasis.

Don’t worry. This is not a cry for help. Artistically speaking this is the equivalent of Britney Spears ‘Lucky’.

…or a very special episode of Blossom.

No shit. Alf is in heaven? That’s a huge relief. That’s one less thing to worry about.  My very special episode would be about the blues and the blahs. Some big time sads. Like a large American soda from a movie theatre sized cup of sadness. Nobody needs that much of anything. But seriously, can we discuss ‘Lucky’ for a quick sec? That was probably a bad example–that has “Cry for Help” written all over it–it should have been called Preface to a Shaved Head.

I can certifiably say that I’m not alone in feeling this way. I’ve spoken with a number of women that are slogging through life as if through very sticky mud. It’s a bland time all around. Blame it on January, it’s such an unpleasant month. I mean, January 1st, sure, it’s a new year, a new day, it’s still a shiny new toy; that fresh start, that clean slate. With a head full of resolutions, and a belly full of eggs benedict, possibly still drunk from last night, it’s easy to beam with a renewed sense of enthusiasm.

And then…actually…no, you don’t have this. What you have is tighter jeans from all that champagne and hollandaise. That glow of Christmas has faded; no more parties, no more leftovers…the anticipation of wrapped presents under the tree is now that toy you step on when coming around the corner.You have to go back to work, and just wander around the office like you’ve just been stung by a tranquillizer dart. You have the energy level of Han Solo immediately after being thawed out in Jabba the Hut’s chamber.

You just need to lay down…really wherever is fine.

Life is just better on holiday; I am simply a better person on a foreign beach with the sun on my face. Aren’t we all? In our daily lives we are trudging Clydesdales, on holidays we are majestic unicorns. That’s just science.  Upon my return, and in the weeks that followed, I felt like a jet lagged goldfish in extremely cloudy water, trying to do a complicated algebra exam in Latin.

It’s like every day is Blue Monday, where weather/debt/monthly salary/ time since Christmas/ time since failing our new year’s resolutions/low motivational levels all meet at the intersection of one’s existence and then crash into each other in one fiery explosion.

Where do you go from there? How do you get out from under the clouds, count your blessings and pick that chin up?  How can I be more like Taylor Swift and shake-shake it off? You feel bad for feeling bad, feel guilt for a first-world state of depression.  Roof over my head, food to eat, people to love, rights and freedoms, what more do you need? Why do I feel so sad? Now mid-to late February, the blues are just now starting to lift. At the moment, I’m taking things one day at a time. Setting teeny tiny goals that benefit my health and happiness. Admitting my sadness, getting some sleep, drinking more water, hugging my husband, cuddling my dog, writing, talking, listening, walking. Laughing whenever possible. Living life like Liz Taylor, but without all the husbands and diamonds. Knocking over the bell jar and gulping fresh air as if my life depends on it…because it does.

 Images Courtesy of Google etc.

 

Nobody’s Mother, Nobody’s Aunt.

This has not been my finest collection of hours. My mood is dark, feeling very much between a pre-menstrual pre-teen and menopausal matron. Down and out and wanting to crawl under the covers. John Lennon is present in the news, its the 35th anniversary of his assassination. Gun statistics, Global Warming, Anti-Muslim propaganda, Donald Trump. It all feels so bleak. I’m scattered, like my brain in a twister and my thoughts are all the random items picked up and swirling around. My sense of humor is a faint heartbeat.

Despite the unshakable funk, I press on with the work day.  I pass one of the teachers walking a small group of boys to the bathroom. One little boy, blonde bowl hair cut and big smile asks me: “Who’s Mother are you?”. “Me? I’m nobody’s Mother” I said, “But I have a puppy, does that make me her Mother?. Um. No. Not in World According to Bowl-Cut. Ask a three year old a serious question, and you get a serious answer. I’m tired, grumpy, and I’m nobody’s mother.

Driving in the afternoon, the thought of that child overlapped into a memory of my friend Monica and this t-shirt I used to own. Well, I actually had it made after catching a random episode of The Simpsons, it was inspired by gnarly spinster aunts Patty and Selma.

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One of them was wearing a t-shirt that said “Sexy Aunt”, I thought it was rather funny.  Not an indication of my now enduring elegance and style, I bought a black baseball style shirt with pink sleeves that had glittery rock n’ roll lettering, that in fact made “Sexy Aunt” look like “Sexy Avnt”. No matter.  My brother was a father, and I was young and ironic, surely that justified the purchase.

“You’re nobody’s aunt”, Monica spits out the words at the sight of my t-shirt. “Yes I am”, I scoff…” What a thing to say..Nobody’s aunt. “Who?” her face is contorted in disbelief. “Who are you an aunt to?” “My older brother has a kid”, I retort. “Oh”, she lowers her guard. “You never told me that”.

It was quite possibly the only thing I hadn’t told her. In the time spent as neighbours and friends in a little building on the corner of West Seymour Street, smoking cigarettes and playing records in her eclectic little top floor apartment, we hammered out a lot of issues.

I lived downstairs. I met her in the laundry room. She said she needed a roommate, she used the expression ‘cheap like borscht’. I liked her immediately. I brought her cupcakes after our initial meeting; she in turn called me ‘Cupcake’.

The first time I came to her apartment was not by her invitation. Her dreamy new roommate saw me reading outside on the little stoop and invited me upstairs for a glass of wine. Because I was a twenty-something nitwit who willingly paid for a t-shirt that said “Sexy Aunt”, a glass of wine upstairs with Mr Tall, Dark Stranger sounded perfectly reasonable.  He had just moved in, and there was boxes stacked in his room, with a mattress on the floor. Nowhere to sit, we moved into the living room, where Monica was sitting on the sofa. Monica’s shelves were stacked with well worn books, she had a glorious music collection; she owned Jeff Buckley’s Grace–which is a completely unifying and friendship inducing album.

The space had a dusty, disorganized bohemian vibe: funky thrift store art, old photographs, punctuated by little piles of papers, costumes, clothing.   Her bathroom was teeming with Jesus imagery. Technically, the bathroom’s theme was “JC”, there was some Jackie Collins book, and there a picture of Johnny Cash right at eye-line when sitting on the toilet. Aggressively flipping the middle finger. Mostly, it was about Jesus and The Last Supper.

Once, while walking home, we spotted this very old and fragile woman lugging home two four-liter jugs of milk. Monica called out to her, and asked if she needed help. The woman brightened up immediately and thrust the jugs at us with new found super human strength “Sure!”. Monica thought that was funny, but worried for that trusting old lady, who let us into her apartment without hesitation. She offered us a milkshake, talked about Mussolini funded summer camps in Italy,  prattled non-stop as she puttered about busily among all her own piles. Monica spotted a picture of The Last Supper. It was perfectly hideous and wrapped in a ornate, ten pound gold frame.

Monica passed along her compliments. “Take it!”, she flapped her hand dismissively. Monica hesitated and the woman insisted “Take it, I’m not taking it with me when I go….” and after an uncomfortable amount of time….”to Italy”. Monica and I locked eyes from the across the cluttered room. Mouths twisting up into smiles. How did we even get here? Within the confines of that friendship, I found myself in so many strange rooms with her and random people. She would talk to absolutely anyone, get secrets out of strangers. As we left the old lady’s apartment, Monica thanked her, but cautioned her from being too friendly with strangers. Poor thing living all alone.

Who were we to talk? I lived alone, and after her roommate left, so did she. We became family. I visited her daily. She made tea out of an orchid tea pot where the spout looked like a vagina. Her kitchen was filled with oddities. Sushi earrings, random plastic fruit in a buster wicker basket.  Her sense of humor was present in all that she did.

We once got an unstoppable case of the giggles at a neighbour’s funeral. Bad weather and a broken vehicle held us up, and we wound up leaping out of a cab, and sprinting into the chapel soaking wet from the rain. Such a violent shift of emotion, you’re pissed off that you can’t get there, and then suddenly you’re there and it’s a funeral. As we settled in, like drowned rats dressed in black, I leaned in and cracked some remark to Monica. Holding hands in the back row, our faces were straining from forceful laughter that wanted to burst out of our mouths. Church giggles are one thing, but funeral giggles are only acceptable if you’re Mary Tyler Moore.

Cherie lived down the hall from me; she looked like a later years Karen Carpenter, dressed in velour bathrobes, and wore make up but her short hair was always rumpled. She never left the house. She would send her husband round to bring me expired food from Liquidation World. Grant had a pot belly and a fanny pack, harboured this little black and crooked mustache above his top lip. He said “alrighty”, and stared at you a little too long. Her death wasn’t a huge surprise. She was made of brittle glass and blue eye shadow; her ashes were placed in an urn with a majestic wolf on it. The thought of Grant selecting the best urn for his fragile lady, broke my heart.

After the funeral, over milky mugs of coffee, Monica retold the story of the time she inadvertently stole an ambulance from Cherie. Monica had gone out to help assist her, but then had a seizure herself and they took her instead of Cherie. Even though Cherie was now in a majestic wolf urn, we howled with laughter. When the giggles subsided, we sobbed our hearts out.

Monica taught me about grief. How to live with loss, wear that itchy wool  until it’s a second skin.  The memories that hurt most, that weight you carry, it’s the lines on your face, the grey in your hair, it’s in absolutely everything you do whether you know it or not.

She had mementos from the past, dead people’s possessions. She once referenced a shirt she wore into oblivion, and then cut it up and turned it into wash rags. I was quietly horrified. Wouldn’t you just save the shirt? Tuck it away and look at it whenever? Her reasoning was that it took up space, on a number of levels. Let it dissolve in your daily life. I had that thought when Bluebear stared to pick at a pair mittens that a long-lost friend had given me. Sure, I could save them and take them with me everywhere, but never wear them, or I could let my dog unravel the colorful pattern joyously. As if the material and the memory regenerate into new and possibly practical forms, and it becomes a new style of letting go.

Like Cherie, Monica’s death was neither expected nor was it unexpected. Monica would have been the first to tell you she wouldn’t be pulling silver-haired hi-jinx at the retirement home. I think she knew her time was short and she acted accordingly. She lavished in the small pleasures. She was reckless, and infuriating and apologetically slow-moving. She told extremely long stories, with even longer subplots. She would fake injures and cause public spectacles. Sometimes it was hilarious, sometimes it was endearing. Sometimes you just wanted to run some bloody errands quickly and efficiently.  As the years went by, I was consistently bothered by her health; I wished she took better care of herself. I wished I was better equipped to take care of her. At the time, I could hardly take care of myself.

On the day of her passing, I popped by the box office where she worked, where I sat with her many times. She wasn’t at work, and I didn’t wonder why. She was unwell a lot. Then, after the show it was announced that she was gone. I wanted to believe there was a way to bring her back.

In the middle of my no-good bad day, one of Monica’s oldest and best friends posted something on social media about Grand Marnier to celebrate her birthday. That’s what Oprah refers to as an “Ah-ha Moment”. That explains a lot–the haunted undercurrent of my sour mood. Both of us being December babies, it’s strange that her birthday slipped my mind. I don’t keep track of dates well–and really, I think of her every single day anyway…so it was not uncommon for a memory of her to overlap with my random everyday nonsense as if it were a reflex. “I’m nobody’s Mother/ You’re nobody’s Aunt” is all a part of the constellation of my daily recollections.  In every moment is another moment.  And then–nearly eight years after her sudden death, it’s still as if it just happened, and I’m still that kid being told about it in a room full of people.

She would have been 51.  I would give anything for a warm drink in her cluttered kitchen, one of her famous hugs where she gave you an extra long squeeze just before she let you go. I cried all way home, big fat tears free falling down my cheeks. Wearing the familiar feelings like a well-worn sweater: missing her, wishing I could have saved her, and wondering if there is still a way to bring her back.

Images Courtesy of Google Images etc.

Dear Writer

Not blogging for an extended period of time is like trying to catch a good friend up over e-mail. We need to do this over a coffee and a scone, or a cheese board and a cab sav, or a week-long holiday in Ibiza. Whatever. I’m flexible.  I really should just set up a web cam, get increasingly drunk, and really tell it like it is. I’ll bring in some special guests to help me hammer out the issues.  It’ll be all lipstick, cackling, cigarettes and black mascara running down faces.  It’ll be longer than “Gone with the Wind” and will be just as epic. Settle in for a good, long tale, bitches.  I’ve done some growing. Developments have been made. Shit has gone down.

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Meanwhile, on the road to creative fulfillment there are many deviations and distractions. Once an active blogger, I was a steaming, persistent train engine, and now I’m more like the girl tied to the track.

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Sheesh, have you ever Googled “damsel in distress tied to track”? It’s a bit of a kinky thing on the interweb. (The other day I Googled “boozy Judy Garland” and it was almost entirely pictures from my blog).  Sexual undertone aside, that’s a pretty apt description. Not writing is always the default mode, but it doesn’t make it the best mode.  As I write I feel…better. Lighter. Like it’s the most me I can be. Typing away, making my own funny fantasy world; where George Clooney once loved me, and I’m somewhere in between Hepburn, Monroe, Streisand, a classic pinup girl…with just a dash of boozy Judy.

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Sadly, the closest I get is Liza in a wig.

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My blog used to be my number one time investment; now it is the literary version of an elliptical trainer in the basement than has laundry drying on it.  The fact that I used to write one thoughtful entry a day is as my husband likes to say ‘mind-bobbling”.  I used to check in with the daily stats religiously.  And then I stopped even doing that.  For whatever reason, I checked in with the website one night and noticed that one blog had been read at a rather high rate. I reread it and (is this tacky?) and was totally chuckling at this essay about my robust rear end, and the feminist aspects of Sir Mix-a-Lot.

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The blog used to be a bit of a life raft–in a time when steeped in uncertainty, I leaned on the ritual, relying on this made up routine to give purpose to my life.  I was rather desperate for something to “happen” to me.  I mean, I’ve had plenty “happen” to me, I could easily fill a country album with twelve or so tracks about heart ache, but I required some kind of positive advancement.  I wanted writing to be the trampoline catapulting into some fame stratosphere. Or even to step into the meekest puddle of success, to see my name in print.To earn a spot of cash for my written word. To make people laugh. It is my earthly mission to crack wise, to heal with humor, to say completely inappropriate things if it means to break the tension.  That scene in Steel Magnolias when Sally Field is lamenting the death of her beloved daughter, and is bringing the house down with her raw, guttural “Why God, Why” kind of grief–and I’m Olympia Dukakis trying to break the ice with a little Shirley MacLaine beat down. Go on, take a whack at Ouiser. What else are you going to do? Just cry forever until you die, and have someone take over and start crying for you?

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At the height of blog productivity I entered a number of writing contests, and was never considered, shortlisted…nada.  At this time last year, I hung my hopes pretty high on those stars, and it was so wounding to go unnoticed.  Did this take a toll on my writing? Yes and no.  I definitely stopped believing that the blog was a portal to anything other an elaborate hobby and a creative outlet.  Even then, I still wrote occasionally, cracking out pieces over long weekends or the occasional long night.  Something did “happen” to me. I got busy, I got involved in committees, theatre projects, and marketing efforts. I have had some extracurricular activity going on since last winter.  The time just wasn’t there to commit to the whole process. Which is great because the writing was more like a treadmill that didn’t seem to take me anywhere.  Recently I got a letter in the mail from a publication company, whom I sent a rather charming story to for a long ago contest.

Dear Writer”

That’s not how you start a letter to the winner. That’s a template for a polite rejection notice.

Dear Loser…Don’t give up your day job“.

This isn’t a pity party, more like a melancholic discotheque.  It’s just not my time I guess. The writing just became a luxury I could no longer afford…because I was out there living my life.  Not that I didn’t have things to write about. Which brings up another host of issues.  How much do I want people to know about me?  In Kamloops, in this medium sized city where social circles course into each other like Venn diagrams, eventually people would connect me to my material, and know some pretty intimate details about my private life.  I once gave my card to a former professor, and then was stricken with horror because the last blog I had written was about my vagina.  I mean, it was humorous and laden with pop culture references, but let’s be honest here–it’s me, three days, an apocalyptic yeast infection and a Sex and the City marathon.  I thought I was being rather ribald, but close friends felt I was too restrained.  Having never written about my lady bits, I thought my first crack at it was plenty racy.  I don’t want to go and make a big axe wound out of things, I like a good punchline but I’m still a lady.  After all, I don’t know if I want to be recognized in the grocery store, while absentmindedly pushing a trolley, and people knowing me without knowing me.

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-“Apparently her writing is unpublishable”

-“I hear her vagina is super temperamental“.

There have been a handful of moments, connections and life lessons that have occurred in the last while that could become blog-worthy…there is one time is particular when I was feeling incredibly challenged. Now, haters are going to hate, it to happens to everyone from Bieber to Beyonce–but there was a time when a hater had their sights set on me. I got a proper taste of what it would be like to be a bullied high-school girl in this age of technology. Back in my day a bully would call you on your rotary phone or write a nasty note, now even the most vaguely intelligent person can attack you through a variety of mediums.  It was like grown-up Mean Girls. That experience hit me pretty hard.  What was worse about it was that on legal terms, I couldn’t talk about it.  That was the true beauty of the blog– the catharsis, that incredible release.  Something stopped me.  I became self-conscious.  I was feeling vulnerable.  I feared the over-share. So I stopped sharing.

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That’s not the answer either. I want to tell these stories…but I don’t want any backlash.  While there’s freedom in a blog–it’s a self-governed practice, with access to a host of images., there’s also nothing to protect your written world in the big bad world.  Frankly, that’s why I need a book deal.  There’s something safe about sharing your most personal details in the credible confines of a published formation. With a title and a picture on the back cover and comments on the back from people that are mildly encouraging.  There is also something about the non-credibility of being just some Jane Blogger, spilling my guts onto the internet, something that even Beyonce can’t control.

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For the record, let it be known that during that recent era of the ugly hateration, the whole Beyonce/Jay-Z /Solange Knowles elevator incident happened, and I had a great metaphor about being like B & J at the same time, feeling that this bully was just like Solange Knowles. I was going to call the blog “The 99 Problems Stress Test”.  The time sensitive topic got away from me, and after a while it just didn’t matter.  It was something I didn’t want to relive just then.  Though really, it’s how I process grief, by banging it out on the keyboard. I truly believe that everything is connected, making partners out of seemingly unmatchable things is a real comfort to me.   This is the epicenter of my sense of humor: the biggest hurts require the biggest laughs. Like Truvy that hairdresser says in Steel Magnolias “Laughter through tears is my favorite emotion”.  For me, in times when I have been touched by hardships and the legacy of depression, humor has been the crutch, the oxygen, the mask.  My sense of humor is my soul; if I were to stop laughing, I’d be in pretty big trouble.

You know where I’m going don’t you?

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Ugh, Robin Williams. This is a shotgun blast to the heart. Robin Williams committed suicide. Now there’s a sentence I’d never thought I’d utter. It’s such a poetic, operatic ending that it is too much to bear.  The loudest person in the room, the funniest figure, the biggest ham and cheese on rye snuffs out his own candle at a moderately young age. It brings up lots of ‘tears of a clown’ references, and endless speculations about his demise. Of course, I am right in the mix, reading, speculating and processing.  This has really hit people hard, I suppose for the same reason we fall in love with fictional characters, for what we see in ourselves.  How does it come to be? A beloved man steeped in success;  a beautiful wife, children, fame, accolades and the accessibility to the most incredible people and opportunities closes the door in his California mansion and loops a belt around his neck. Hard to fathom. That’s how deep his own misery was. “Why would you deprive people of your talent?” the masses question the dead. Clearly at that crucial moment he wasn’t thinking about Mrs Doubtfire or the Genie from Aladdin.  He wasn’t defining himself as comic genius or pop culture icon, not even as a husband and father, he must have been a desperate man in a dark place in need for his pain to endThen again, who am I to say what he thought? All I know is that those hurts belonged only to him.  And it shocked the hell out of absolutely everyone.  When I started this blog, he had only died the day before. By the time I actually publish there will be thousands of articles about his life, his death,his demons, his legacy, his generosity, his many characters.

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There’s a lot of comparisons to humor and depression.  You know me, I do love to mix up unrelated things, but these are closer than you’d think.  I’ve been in some pretty dark places in my life, and my saving grace has always been the sanctifying power of laughter and good humor.  Of course, all aliments can’t be cured with a good belly laugh, but for the most part…it certainly doesn’t hurt. The thought of the funniest person having the heaviest heart really shook me up.  What got me most was the comments from other comedians (Jimmy Fallon getting choked up, Conan O’Brien breaking the news with Will Arnett and Andy Richter, Norm MacDonald’s heart breaking tweets). What these individuals focused on was his wealth of material, what he gave, what he taught, what he left behind.  It makes you reflect on what you’d want to be remembered for, what you want to leave behind.

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In the days that followed the death of a comedian, I inched closer to the keyboard, looked closer at myself.   I wrote my first blog in ages.  It was vaguely like climbing the Himalayas, but it was worth the late nights to make like a masturbating teenager and bang one out for old times sake.  In short, to borrow and reinvent a famous Shawshank Redemption quote: get busy laughing or get busy crying.  Whenever possible. Otherwise everything else doesn’t mean a god damn thing.

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Courtesy of Google Images

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.

vagina depressedImages Courtesy of Google