it’s world aids day

30 November 2009

Please, don’t read me today.  Take a few minutes and read someone who is much more eloquent and much more concise.

A World AIDS Day Message from Stephen Lewis

Because I will believe this until the day I die:  My small action can change a lot; the actions of a lot of us can change the world. 

Is this the world we want?  

Note: My family is supporting this organization at Christmas.  If you’d like to participate, please contact me.  This week’s coffee money can do a lot.


The room in which Cathy and I are staying in Montreal is on the 32nd floor, and has two windows abutting one another in the corner looking north toward Mont Royal and and west.  The corner windows are lovely, giving the effect of a panorama.  Looking over the lights of the city, I’m reminded of one of my favourite songs by one of my favourite songwriters, Victoria Williams.  She finds magic in the ordinary; wonder in the moment.  She’s got muliple sclerosis and there’ll be a day when she won’t be able to make her art or her living, but she’s unfailingly positive and insightful and humorous and true to her vision.  True to the words of this song. 

“What kind of song would you give if you had a song to give?  What kind of life would you live if you had a life to live?  Would you want to make something good that you could look on, give you lots of pleasure?  Yeah, you would.

What about this thing that you gave, what if it weren’t quite perfect?  What if there was something bad about it?  Would you love it just the same?  Would you still care about it?”

quoting julie quoting dad

27 November 2009

Jen, texting Cathy from a 7 am train to Montreal:

“That lake is as still as pee on a plate.”

Cathy, texting Jen from an airport taxi enroute to catch flight to Montreal:

“This morning was as black as the inside of a cow.”

see ya clarice

26 November 2009

I’ve been cooped up much too much lately.  Much of last week and Monday this week I stayed home from work because of a bug that had me in regular and extended coughing fits.  And before I go any further – no – it’s not *that* bug.  I kept myself at home though mostly because of all the hype surrounding *that* bug and even though the doctor confirmed I don’t have it, the paranoia has internalized enough that I fear being accused of spreading *that* bug around.  So I stayed home lots and puttered around cleaning out drawers, closets and as shown below – the shameful bookshelves. 

The wretched cough – for fun, let’s call the bitch Clarice – loved especially to show up and latch on to me at times of stillness.  Which became the reason for the multiple housy projects, and me not resting like everyone thought I should.  Every time I laid down for a nap, Clarice would cosy up next to me.  My attention span is normally short, and it’s always been a challenge for me to finish projects.  But housebound, I had lots of extra time and extra motivation for sorting and cleaning and organizing.  However, if I settled on the floor to wipe off a pile of books, Clarice would show up before long, wanting to join in and I’d get up and attempt to walk her off and try to ignore her by focusing on something else.  Then, standing over the entire contents of my desk spread out on the kitchen table doing the old “sort and pitch,” there she’d be again, wrapping her cold clammy arms around my poor tired lungs. 

The project of the books was thus a pokey affair, and I must admit there is still the odd little pile waiting for its respective home.  But aside from the blasted Clarice, it was pleasant.  In many ways – you clean and organize your bookshelves – you re-live a life. 

My last post talked about the diversion leading to the box holding the first diary.  That box, still in the middle of my living room, harbours memory triggers from childhood through high school.  Photographs and schoolgirl notes and mementos and pictures cut from magazines and cards and beer bottle labels, (does anyone really know why we peeled those off anyway?), autographs and letters and even a cigarette stub.  I think it was my first.  I should have saved my last too – I could have framed them.  I even found a greenish blackish end from some ancient doobie.  (My guess is that I was marking some great party.  I don’t remember what party for the life of me, but let’s just say I’ve got proof that there was some party back then there in the seventies that was good enough to be honoured by way of this little wad of paper and ash saved for posterity.)

The bookshelves bring to life scores of internal snapshots.  Open a book from my shelves and you may find a drawing and letter from Kelsey to the Tooth Fairy requesting that she keep the lost tooth, her first.  Or a bookmark made for me for Christmas by Carly, which I used for a year when I was studying English Literature and would think of her whenever I used it, wondering what she might study someday.  These little captured moments – a note to mom, a little story – illuminate, unexpectedly, layers of those marvellous little girls that our stash of oft-looked photos can sometimes forget. 

Open another book and find a card sent by a supportive and loving sister during a trying time.  A time that can now, thankfully, be looked upon as one of the building blocks that created this current version of me.   

A wax-pressed leaf – held back from a bunch I sent across the ocean to a friend on a whim.  A poem about the joy of flight that Aunt Martha printed out for my girls just before they were to fly for the first time.  A cantankerous letter cut from the Windsor Star, written by me, questioning some political ridiculousness of the day. 

The books of the Ondaatje period.  The books of the Doyle period.  The books of the Creative Recovery period.  Books of letters.  Anthologies of memoir.  Books brought home from trips.  Books given to me as gifts.  Books that were my mother’s.  Books that once sat on the shelf of Kathleen Dinsmore, before she sold her cottage and all the things in it to my father at the end of her life.  Books stuffed with post-it notes and notes written in the margins conveying some new wonder and passion discovered therein.

The married years.  The little girls in the house years.  The university years.  The possibility years…

The Secret Garden.  The Norton Anthology of Friendship.  Technopoly.  How Green Was My Valley.  Green Eggs and Ham.  The Grapes of Wrath.  The Bat Poet.  The Prophet.

As far as being cooped up goes, it’s been a good cooped up.  But I’ve had enough.  This weekend I’m seizing the opportunity to piggyback on my sister’s work weekend in Montreal and staying with her there.  This cooped up gal is counting the hours til she can roam the streets of one of her favourite cities.  I expect she may come home with a new book for her clean and tidy shelves.

books project diversion 2

20 November 2009

So, I’m ankle deep in books, trying to find one particular book.  I didn’t find it, but in the search process I found my stash of old diaries.  Really old ones.  Girl/Teenager diaries.

So in lieu of sharing the book I was looking for, I’ll share my very first diary ever.  Since I’m always blathering on about the power of journalling, and how meaningful and revealing and life-changing diaries can be, I can herewith attest to journalling since I was nine.  

And now, public for the first time is my first known diary entry.  At nine years old I could never have dreamed of a technology such as this, with which I would come to share this deep and thoughtful musing with the world – or something that has come to be known as the blogosphere.


Now get ready for it.  When you have a few minutes, relax and make a cup of tea.  Sit down and prepare yourself to be transported to the deep and soulful mind of a nine year old girl on January 1st, 1971. 




You may want to take notes.


Got your ‘cuppa?’


Okay.  [Deep breath]…

(I think my “voice” has got a little less concise, but I can work on that.)


books project diversion 1

19 November 2009


Is not religion all deeds and all reflection,

And that which is neither deed nor reflection, but a wonder and a surprise ever springing in the soul,

even while the hands hew the stone or tend to the loom?

Who can separate his faith from his actions, or his belief from his occupations?

– Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet


the project of the books

17 November 2009

My bookshelves are a shameful mess.  Shameful.  So shameful I’m posting pictures of them so you can be ashamed of me too. 

Since leaving our house and home in Windsor five and a half years ago, I’ve vastly reduced the number of my possessions.  In moving from a two and a half storey house to a two bedroom flat, there must be substantial weeding.  Okay, purging is a better word.  I’ve even pared down the number of books – keeping only my favourites, literature I’ve collected since my English Lit student days and other collectibles including some old books picked up at markets and yard sales. 

I’ve a number of books on my shelves I haven’t read yet.  I like the idea of having an available library for choosing from.  On the other hand, what am I waiting for?  Some grand emergency when I’m stuck indoors for weeks on end and nothing to do but read what’s on hand?  But I’m a library goer.  And books get loaned to me and given to me and I get stuck on one theme or author or another and thus some of the books are waiting to be read. 

So back to the issue of the shameful bookshelves.  They’re shameful because I love my books.  Among the few possessions I’ve retained, some of these books are among the beloved and certainly this is no way to treat any beloved thing.  Bookshelves should be a source of pride.  Back in Windsor I would periodically take the books down and dust them and rearrange them.  A bookshelf is something unique to its owner – after all, no two bookshelves are ever alike.  They’re a great source of conversation with guests.  In fact last time my girls came over for dinner items plucked from the bookshelf beside the dining room table inspired hours of talk, and I sent them home with a couple.

The shameful bookshelves are representative of a larger issue I’m afraid.  It’s something about me not setting my feet down in any one place since moving away from Windsor.  Everywhere has been temporary.  I’ve found a neighbourhood I’m willing to commit to, but my current flat is temporary just like the others.  It’s a nice enough apartment, but I could never make it mine.  My landlord lives downstairs and takes pride in his home.  HIS home.  I am a visitor here.  I can’t paint the walls and I don’t feel welcome to hammer nails in to hang my pictures.  My next place will be somewhere in which I can create home – thus my pokey progress in finding it.  And, well, the rent is cheap here.

But that’s neither here nor there – I could be here months yet, and my bookshelves are shameful. 

The past few days I’ve been home sick with a sore throat and minor “feeling ickyness.”  Not that sick, but with all the flu talk and surrounding panic, I’m doing the responsible thing and staying home and working on the things I can, and drinking lots of tea and medicated hot lemon.  But I’m also taking the opportunity to putter around and begin to set right the “not putting my feet down” wrongs.  Yesterday it was my closets and my clothes.  Today it’s the books. 

So like Rob organizing his records in Nick Hornby’s High Fidelity, I’m piling books organized by theme this time:  literature and novels, reference books, writing and creativity books, biographies and memoir, spirituality and so forth.

I’m looking forward to getting close and personal again with these few hundred things that have inspired the imaginations of me, my family and friends and who knows how many strangers.