this blog has moved

17 January 2010

http://jensrealia.typepad.com

…hopefully for the last time.

If you’re one of  my “regulars” than I’ll be eternally grateful if you update your bookmark / feed reader.

If you’re just happening upon this space, then I’d love it if you popped by the new one!

There’s a bit of work to do yet, but I really like my new space – I hope you do too.

http://jensrealia.typepad.com

Warmest regards

tomorrow

31 December 2009

When the year starts to gather her things and puts on her coat and scarf, readying herself to leave us, most of us can’t help but get introspective. 

I’ve been enjoying reading my favourite bloggers’ thoughts about this year and other years and my facebook page is covered with wishes and blessings from family and friends around the globe.  Some look ahead; some look behind.  Some of us make resolutions; some of us eschew them.  Some of us look upon the old year with pleasure and fondness; others are snapping at her: “don’t slam the door on your way out!” 

Whatever we do, I can say with all certainty – this time is not for regrets.  Send them packing with the old year.  Write them down and ceremoniously burn them.   Close your eyes and watch them fly off in a red balloon. 

Now is the time to open up to dreams.  And the only way to approach any dream is to start walking toward it, one step at a time. 

I’m looking forward to walking with you in 2010. 

Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky,
The flying cloud, the frosty light;
The year is dying in the night;
Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.
Ring out the old, ring in the new,
Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.
Ring out the grief that saps the mind,
For those that here we see no more,
Ring out the feud of rich and poor,
Ring in redress to all mankind.
Ring out a slowly dying cause,
And ancient forms of party strife;
Ring in the nobler modes of life,
With sweeter manners, purer laws.
Ring out the want, the care, the sin,
The faithless coldness of the times;
Ring out, ring out thy mournful rhymes,
But ring the fuller minstrel in.
Ring out false pride in place and blood,
The civic slander and the spite;
Ring in the love of truth and right,
Ring in the common love of good.
Ring out old shapes of foul disease,
Ring out the narrowing lust of gold;
Ring out the thousand wars of old,
Ring in the thousand years of peace.
Ring in the valiant man and free,
The larger heart, the kindlier hand;
Ring out the darkness of the land,
Ring in the Christ that is to be.

~Alfred, Lord Tennyson  

Overheard on the bus today:

Kid One:  “What’s with you and Shauna yo?”

Kid Two: “Yo Nothin.  What you mean?”

Kid One: “Yo she changed her relationship status to single on facebook.”

Kid Two: “Uh… yeah… Whatev, yo man I ain’t talked to her much.”

As Kid Two carries on some awkward conversation trying to cover his I Was So Just Dumped shock, I wonder just how many social conventions this whole social media thing has changed amongst barely-teens and the rest of us.

But then again, I think as the kids disembark, maybe this situation wasn’t that much different 30 or 40 years ago.  Back then you’d just get another kid to tell yesterday’s “boyfriend” that you were through.  Today it’s pretty much the same thing only you get 462 other kids to tell him instead.

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.

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.

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.

A friend and fellow writer and former student says to me in an email this morning, “I’m thinking that perhaps I am a writer of sorts.”

Don’t let him fool you. He’s a writer.

It’s easy for me to say from where I sit, outside of his head and about 75 km away.  However, I’ve listened to and read his stories and I’ve seen his peers respond to them with genuine enjoyment. He’s focused and comitted.  I do wholly understand his rather hesitating, roundabout way of sort of saying that particular thing. If that beating around the bush kind of saying something were to occur in one of his stories, I’d have been all over it with my 3B pencil.  But I get *that* one.

See, it’s a decision, really.  And my tongue-in-cheek friend has heard me say it numerous times while sporting my teacher hat: “Call yourself a writer.  Because when you do, things happen, the world changes. You start to see in a different way – with a writer’s eyes.”

Me – I made that decision sitting on a bus in downtown Detroit on my way to work one morning in another decade. I was looking out the window at that decrepit and beautiful city and its people and its myriad stories when I said it to myself, “I’m a writer.”

For some people, like me, it takes a long time to get to that point of self-validation. For others it was always there – it never had to be stated or authenticated in any way. Me, I had to validate. All my life I had been artistically disposed, and it was much encouraged as I was growing up. When I got to my later years in high school though, the encouragement began to be withdrawn, culminating in about 30 seconds, when I was told that really important people in my life thought I wasn’t good enough to be able to make a living at being an artist. Without going into the [obvious] psychological gold mine swirling around that statement, I will say I’ve nailed it down as the prime source of a subsequent life-long creative block. It’s a battle I fight to this day.

I’m not going to use this spot to blame and point and say “if only” because it’s my life and my process and on that bus ride in Detroit that day I claimed it back. Anyway, there are generations of situations and realities surrounding that moment which begat the internal thwarting of my creative process. But I will say that now I can acknowledge and understand that being artistic or creative is something that doesn’t have to produce a masterpiece every time (or any time) to be valid and worthwhile. And it doesn’t matter how many people say yes, you ARE good at it, but it sure feels great and is exceedingly motivating when someone does.

What matters is that you make your art a way of being.  Because then it becomes a way of seeing, and then it becomes a way of living with authenticity.  And with that you find living to be richer with more colour and meaning.  And you wonder why you had to dilly-dally around with the whole “validating” exercise in the first place.

Enjoy one of Jeff’s stories here.  Another one is scheduled to be run in the same spot in a few weeks.