Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Just a quick hello and update.

This post is in response to Donny, who emailed me about not updating my blog lately.

Things have been hectic here. I'm leaving for the airport in a couple of hours and won't be back for a bit, but decided I could make a quick post. So this one's for you, ds.

The roof is done! Things got cleaned up nicely and the windows . . . well, who knows?

I had planned and started a whole blog about a quote I saw on one of the message forums I go to. It was a signature for one of the members and it read:

"A wasted youth is better by far than a wise and productive old age."

It's part of the lyrics for a Meat Loaf song. Within the context of the song it makes sense in the rock 'n roll, don't give a dam, live life to the max kind of way.

But the quote bothers me in the context in which I found it. Notably, it's being used as a signature by an older person and someone whose screen name is "Grandma". That really bugged me.

At any rate, I got busy and never finished the post. I'm putting this up here to remind myself to get back to it and to let you all ponder my reasoning.

Talk to y'all when I'm back.


Thursday, October 26, 2006

Well, the roof looks like it might get finished by this weekend. It's taken them over two weeks, but hey, I'm going to have a new roof. Right?

As for the windows, they tell me the "expected date for completion of manufacturing" is November 20th. In other words,they're not made yet and we'll be lucky to get them installed by Christmas.

You know the picture of the empty dumpster in my last post? It's now full and they're not even finished. It's so full, I have no idea how they think they're going to move it without half of it falling out. I have visions of tiling, woodchips and debris trailing from our driveway all the way to the city dump.

Take a look . . .

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Oh well, I'm not going to let any of it bother me because we'll be leaving on our European adventure in less than two weeks.

Despite the on and off hammering, thudding and cursing (by the roofers, not me), I've been happily busy finalizing our travel plans and scrambling to get my work done (the work that pays for all this stuff). It's always a mad rush just before going away. It seems like a million things need doing and there's not enough time to finish it all. Yet I know we'll be ready when the time comes.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Saga of the Roof - cont'd

To update:
This morning when the roofers hadn't arrived by 9:30 am, DH called their office. No answer, so called their cell number.

Apparently, they are running behind (well, yeah!) and won't be able to start yet. So, when can they start? Not until next Tuesday at the earliest! That's another five days from now.

Meanwhile, we have this huge dumpster sitting in our driveway, blocking the garage and there are piles of roofing materials on the front lawn. I'm sure the neighbours are very happy.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

It would have been nice if they'd at least called to say they were delayed. Is that asking too much?

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Saga of the Roof

At 10:00 am:

"How's it going? Have they started yet?" asks dh on the phone.


"Well, they didn't say exactly when they'd come, did they?"

"No, I guess not. But they did say today, right?"

"That's what they said."

12:30 pm

"How're they doing?"

"They're not here yet."

"Maybe they had problems finishing the job from yesterday," says dh in a most understanding way.


3:30 pm:

"How's it going?"

"It's not."

"Oh," says dh, knowing not to ask any further.

"I don't think they're coming today."

. . . .

And that, ladies and gentlemen, has been my day.

Well, that, and receiving delivery of my son's new computer, getting an anticipated order from Land's End, doing a couple loads of laundry, revising a set of financial statements, and updating my x365 blog – but all only coincidental to my waiting for the *&#@*&*# roofers to arrive.

I was all prepared for the dust and noise. I had my headphones and music at the ready to drown out any hammering, cursing and boom-box radio noises (I know this, you see, because my neighbours – across the street and next-door have both had their roofs done). I was even prepared to let them in to use the john, telephone, or get a glass of water. But to no avail.

Alas, . . .

They did not come.
They have not come.
Oh, when will they come?

Maybe, tomorrow, they will come.
Perhaps, tomorrow in a truck?
Maybe if we have some luck?

Would they, could they
If I pray?
Would they, could they
If I stay
Close to my phone?
Or just at home?

Oh please, make it soon
Or I might swoon
If it's not before
The next blue moon.

I'm sorry. I don't know what came over me, but I started channelling Dr. Seuss. Really, I couldn't help it.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Am I crazy?

Am I nuts?

No. Don't answer that.

Some blogs back, I mentioned that we (me and hubby) were planning a trip to Europe.

Well, barring any catastrophes (knock wood), it looks like a 'go' for early November. Final payments have been made and I'm still researching like crazy what we want to see and how we're going to see everything we want to see.

Given the limited time available to us, we decided on a 12 day cruise that will go to Italy (Rome & Naples), Greece (Athens & Mykonos), Turkey (Istanbul & Ephesus) and Egypt (Port Said & Alexandria). We'll be staying four days in Rome and taking an overnight trip to Cairo. We'll be gone a total of eighteen days.

As you can imagine, this has been keeping me very happily pre-occupied. As you can also imagine, it's not going to be cheap. We thought long and hard about this and decided it's something we need to do now (see above-linked post).

So guess what I've done? I've scheduled our roof (which is 27 years old), as well as our windows (all sixteen of them) to be replaced. I started the whole process back in the summer: getting quotes, enduring hardsell up-selling tactics; checking references; and finally signing contracts that will all but use up any retirement savings I've accumulated in investment funds (who needs to eat as long as there's a roof over one's head and triple-glazed windows to keep out the draft, anyways). Not really, but pretty darn close. Our sons have been informed that any inheritance they might expect will have to come in the form of house 'equity', not cold hard cash.

I thought all this would get done by the end of September. As a matter of fact, I distinctly remember the window sales guy tell me they'd get to it in about two weeks. And I believed him. Silly, me.

It's now October and our departure date for Europe is only 30+ days away. Is the roof done yet? No. Are the windows done yet? No.

I'm pretty sure it's not a good idea to leave the house to the care and whims of roofers and window installers when we're not around. So, . . .

My husband called to inquire about the installation start dates (because, as all we ladies know, contractors DO pay more attention to other men than women) and inform them that if the job's not started by xx date, they'll need to wait until the new year to start. They didn't like that much.

The roofers arrived this morning and delivered the roofing materials. Everything is sitting on our front lawn ready to go. Barring rain delays, it should take about a week to finish. We'll have to wait and see when they actually start.

As for the window guys, we're still waiting to hear from the salesman who said he'd check and give us a date by the end of 'last' week.

Meanwhile, I'm putting on my optimist's hat and repeating a little mantra, "Everything will get done on time; everything will get done on time, ohmmm."

Friday, September 29, 2006

Home again, home again

Yep, I'm back. Not that I was all that anxious to come back, but bills needed paying, chores doing. The usual responsibilities. So here I am.

I've actually been home for over a week and it's taken me awhile to surf around to all my usual haunts and post the odd comment here and there. It's nice to come back to familiar names and personalities, but I did need to get away for a bit.

Too much of the same thing tends to make me irritable. Not sure exactly why. For as long as I can remember, I've felt this way. I dislike (not quite hate) monotonous routine. I guess I need the stimulation of meeting each new day with some degree of enthusiasm -- the feeling that things may or may not happen in any given order; that things I never expected to happen might happen; that there will be new ideas and challenges to be faced.

Some routine is okay and necessary to get through mundane chores. But if I had to do the same thing day after day by rote, I might go insane.

In my teens, I had a summer job working in a cannery. It was on an assembly line sorting green beans. Great, huge buckets of beans would get dumped onto one end of a conveyor belt. We, the sorters, stood on each side of the belt as the beans moved along. Our job was to pick out all the twigs, leaves and 'non-bean' stuff, and the rotten, discoloured or under-sized ones and discard them into buckets next to our feet. The beans that got to the end of the belt were supposed be ready and 'perfect' for canning. If they weren't, a supervisor would come yell at us (because the machinery was so loud it was the only way to be heard), take the unacceptable beans and dump them back onto the conveyor belt for re-sorting.

The laziest girls (there were no guys) or those suffering late-night blues or hangovers always wanted to stand at the front of the line where the beans were first dumped because there was less pressure to catch the bad ones. They would just flatten the pile, shuffle through the beans and pick up the odd twig or leaf and let the rest go on down the line. The pressure to catch all the bad stuff increased the nearer you were to the end of the belt.

I began the summer trying different positions along the belt. I soon realized that I preferred working near the end rather than the beginning. Yes, there was greater pressure to catch the last of those demon bad beans, but at least it kept me awake!

At the front end of the belt, the monotonous drone of the machinery, warmth and humidity and unrelenting boredom of it all made my eyes glaze over and I'd catch myself almost falling asleep on my feet. I tried various tricks to keep awake: singing to myself, imagining animal shapes in the beans, counting the rotten ones (bad idea), stomping my feet. Nothing really worked until I started standing near the end of the line. I made it a personal challenge to never let any bad beans get through to be rejected by the supervisor. It forced me to stay awake. It was the only thing that kept me going.

I can think of nothing I've ever done since, that is as mind-numbingly boring as watching piles and piles of smelly beans go by in an unending vomitous green stream for eight and a half hours straight (less two 10-minute coffee breaks and half hour lunch). I might consider slitting my throat if I ever got stuck on that type of assembly line again.

I know some people take comfort in their routines. Maybe it gives them a sense of control in a world that is largely uncontrollable.

I have an in-law like this. She relishes and wallows in her daily routine. She can't tolerate having her morning routine altered. She MUST have her xx minutes to bathe and do makeup; she MUST have xx minutes to eat (the same) breakfast; she MUST read her morning newspaper over coffee; and she WON'T be rushed. The rest of her day follows similar set patterns. Any deviation from her routine sends her into a nervous frenzy. I'm not kidding. An unexpected dinner invitation will be firstly met with refusal, followed by - if she's talked into it and there's enough lead-in time – a mad scurrying to re-do makeup, find the right clothes and shoes, touch-up her hair and be ready and waiting an hour in advance.

She hates travelling for exactly the same reasons that I love travelling: She doesn't like the unknown or unexpected, doesn't adjust well 'on-the-fly'; doesn't like speaking to strangers, doesn't like to try 'strange' food, and worries about getting lost. Not me. I like the challenge of learning about a new place, meeting and speaking to people and trying the local food.

In a way, it's odd because I was extremely shy as a child. I used to spend hours, if not days, alone in my room with just my books and imagination. I hardly said a word or answered any questions (unless directly asked) in school. It's been an evolution for me to go from meek and mild child to an outgoing adult. I think I'm still introverted, but in a more outward way, if that makes sense. I guess It shows that people can and do change.

Per usual, I've ended up in a place I didn't expect. Although, it is my first attempt at posting after my hiatus, right?

I'll end this post by keeping my still warm vacation thoughts alive.

I brought some sunsets home with me. Some of you may have seen them already, but here they are for non THH'rs. I hope you enjoy them:

Saturday, August 26, 2006

My bags are packed, I'm ready to go

I sometimes stress over the fact I'm not disciplined enough to post a daily blog, but I've come to terms with it -- sort of – by putting it in the, 'Oh well, there are more important things to worry about' category. So, here's my official statement that I’m not going to feel guilty about it anymore.

Summer's almost over. Maybe not officially by the calendar, but it always seems like the end of summer when the school year looms just the other side of Labour Day. School supplies have taken over the front half of my local Shoppers Drug Mart and sales flyers about 'back to school' clothes arrive in my mailbox daily. There's a damp nip to the early morning and the sun has taken on that oblique-not-quite-hot-enough angle.

I'm a summer person and usually sorry to see the end of summer. But this year, I'm extending it by going off for a few weeks to warmer climes. I'm going to read, write, snorkel, eat properly, get enough exercise, and watch the evening sunset.

I'll think about the war in Iraq and the situation in Lebanon; ponder the AIDS crisis and the debate here in Vancouver about continued funding for the Downtown Safe Injection Site. Maybe I'll get a better perspective on things. Maybe I won't. Maybe I'll come back rejuvenated and energized. Perhaps that's all I can really hope for.

I have my see-through Ziploc (so the security people don't have to touch things) bags with non-liquid, non-gel, non-aerosol toiletry items in my carry-on; along with my unlocked (so the same security won't have to cut the locks in case of suspicious items) suitcases. I've remembered to take the electric fob for my car locks off my keychain, removed all sharp, over-2.5cm objects from my purse, and reminded myself not to utter the word bomb (Tom or other approximation) within a thousand metres of security guards, policemen or other uniformed individuals. I have prescription medication in their original containers with full name that matches the one on my passport. I have my son's digital camera because my old film one won't make it through the half dozen x-ray screenings. I have my brand new MP3 player loaded with music, two novels from my TBR pile, and a crossword puzzle book.

As I said, I'm ready to go.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Mental housekeeping

While catching up on Ronni Bennett's, Time Goes By, I was caught by her following comment:

When, years ago, I first ran across E.M. Forster’s line, “How do I know what I think until I see what I say,” it was an instance of "I’ve always known that, why didn’t I know that "before." I write to figure out what I think about things and it is astonishing how many times I start a blog post and wind up in an entirely different place at the end than I thought I intended. Writing is a joy for me because it organizes my thoughts, forces me toward clarity and often leads to discovering what I didn’t know before.

It's precisely how I feel about blogging. It's not so much that I haven't previously had the thoughts before I set out blogging about them. It's just that when I write them down, it helps me explore, clarify and crystallize some of the muddy areas that have been swooshing and swirling around in my head. Occasionally, I even get a eureka moment.

I don't know how other people's thought processes work, but I know that mine are far from linear and logical. I'm more of a stream of consciousness -- with multiple rivulets bounding in and out around rocks, picking up leaves and branches that fall in, sometimes picking up detritus from the riverbed with the occasional splash of a boulder thrown in from someone standing on the banks -- kind of thinker. I'm heading in the same general direction, but lots can and does happen before I get to the mouth of the river.

For me, writing things down acts like mental housekeeping. It forces me to think out loud about things I believe in and care about; sort out where, when and how I came to those beliefs, and see if the reasoning behind them is still valid. It's a process I don't mind sharing.

It wasn't always so. Introspection is a large part of my psyche and I was an extremely shy person for much of my life. Even though openness and discussion has always been a part of my household and how I've raised my sons, the outward sharing with complete strangers is relatively new. I think open discussion is crucial in developing concerned, thinking individuals that are willing to question the status quo, change what needs to be changed, or revel in the fact that some institutions and ideas are worthy of keeping.

It wasn't the easiest way to raise children. I marvel at parents who can answer, "Because I said so" in response to their children's questions. My way was much more tedious. When the boys were very young, I wished I could press an off switch to the umpteen millionth "why" question. In the adolescent years, every statement or request seemed to end up in protracted debate.

But something really wonderful happened along the way. Those debates became well-reasoned discussions – sometimes heated, sometimes rancorous – but nonetheless interesting and intelligent. Now, as adults, they are passionate, always questioning, and ready, willing and able to hold up their end of a discussion or debate.

(For an example of what I mean, you can read D's blog, A Transient in Spaceship Earth. A few of you already know that it's my son's blog, but maybe that's something else I'm ready to share. He hasn't posted in over a year because of school commitments, but I'm hoping he'll get back to it soon. We don't always see eye to eye on everything, but agree more than we disagree, and can at least understand the other's point of view.)

Would it have been easier to raise "yes, ma'am, no ma'am" kids who think exactly like I do? Probably. In retrospect, would I have done it differently? No.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Time for a change?

My blog has become more and more like me. Some may think I have an identity crisis – but really, I don't. This is me, in all my messy, cluttered (gory) glory. I looked back at my original opening blog and realize I still don't have a specific direction, but it's been fun exploring the possibilities. What I can say for certain is that all my blogs are reflective of my eclectic, scattered tastes and passions and blogging has allowed me to express them in a way I never thought possible.

Lately, I've been reluctant to post certain things. Silly, I know, but true nonetheless. I realize that different readers come back expecting more of the same whatever it was that prompted them to bookmark me in the first place. I fear that when they come back and see that I've followed one of my philosophical musings with a political rant or writing exercise, they may be a bit bewildered. Perhaps my fears are unjustified and I'm giving myself way more credit than I deserve when it comes to making any impact at all on my readers. (You see, I'm calling you "my readers". How self-involved is that?)

Anyways, I've been thinking of splitting off and categorizing individual blogs. For example, a section for political, environmental, and activism blogs; a section for idle ramblings about what's going on in my life; a section for philosophical, "meaning of life" blogs; a section for writing that doesn't end up on First Drafts; etc. I figure people could just go straight to what they're interested in rather than wade through stuff of little or no interest.

I guess I'm just thinking out loud and hoping that maybe someone else will have an opinion on this. Should I just leave everything in a hodgepodge and post whatever comes into my head – or should I attempt to be more organized and place blogs into separate categories?

p.s. I'd almost forgotten that I posted definitions regarding my site name. I think they still apply and are open for your interpretation:

A globular fruit with many seeds and juicy red pulp in a tough brownish-red rind.
An endangered large feline having a tawny coat with black stripes. A fierce or audacious person.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Age is just an illusion

Age is a state of mind, so I’m told. I feel like I'm anything from thirty-something to been-around-forever. Mostly, I don't think about my age until my body doesn't work the way it used to or some young thing looks at me blankly when I mention something that, to me, happened only yesterday.

My mind says I’m a smooth-skinned, long-legged babe
Turning heads when stars align.
Vibrant, fun and full of life.
Sometimes silly, giddy, weird.

Blank stares tell me otherwise.
Invisible to all except fellow invisibles
And those who love me now or
Knew me when-then.

Amazing how well grey hair
Works as an invisibility cloak.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Just because

I need to

remind myself

why it's



stay positive.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Sunday musings in July

Well, it's been a mighty interesting couple of weeks. I've vacillated between anger and depression so many times that I feared a self-inflicted case of whiplash.

Not long after I posted my blogs about idealism and the World Peace Forum, the relative calm in the Middle East literally exploded. The irony wasn't lost on me.

I started a number of posts to address the current middle east situation, all of which ended up in my discard/reconsider folder because they made me sound like a ranting lunatic. In effect, they were the equivalent of a hair-ripping, teeth-gnashing, primal scream.

Something along the lines of, "Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaargh!!!!!!"

Just an excerpt from one of the non-published posts:

"I'm sick of the political rhetoric. I'm sick of the ineffective UN. I'm sick of apologists for all sides. I'm sick of any ideology, political system, country, or religion that uses violence and killing of innocent civilians as a means to achieve their goals. I'm mad as hell!"

You get my drift.

As far as the depression; I was ready to retreat to a cabin on a mountaintop somewhere – anywhere – to live out my life in peaceful solitude while the powers-that-be blow up the world. Obviously, I decided against this tactic -– though it is tempting. The optimistic part of me won out and I'm going to 'stay the course' (she says sarcastically). Surely, saner minds will prevail and end this mess.

I won't go into detail about my political leanings, but anyone who knows me, even moderately well, knows that I'm a peace-loving, anti-war, small "l" liberal going back to the '60s. Back in those days, I'd have been what some people called a pinko, left-wing, hippie, peacenik. I didn't care then and I don't care now if that's how I'm perceived because my attitude towards war and violence is as strong, if not stronger, now, than in my youth.

When I'm older, I'll probably be one of those "grannies against war" that you see demonstrating on the news every so often – usually as a "cute" addendum to regular news coverage. It's time people took them seriously. Who else has seen more in terms of the devastation and human suffering caused by wars?

I believe in the saying, "Violence begets more violence". It becomes a never-ending cycle of getting the other guy before he strikes first; paying back the other guy for striking first; teaching the other side a lesson; the other side responding with another "lesson"; and on and on it goes. There must be another way.

I think I'll just end this blog with some Bob Dylan song lyrics:

How many times must a man look up
Before he can see the sky
How many years must one man have
Before he can hear people cry
How many deaths will it take till he knows
That too many people have died
The answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind
The answer is blowing in the wind.

(For you, StillILearn)

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

One word . . .

This is a writing prompt from Diana at First Drafts. I think it started out as a meme. It's a bit trickier than it first appears, especially for those of us who suffer from "too-many-words-itis". The challenge is to use only one word to respond to the question/statement. Give it a try and share it with us.

Here are mine.

· Yourself: thoughtful
· Your partner: kind
· Your hair: silver
· Your Mother: unknown
· Your Father: unfulfilled
· Your Favourite Item: cherished
· Your dream last night: curious
· Your Favourite Drink: wine
· Your Dream Home: cozy
· The Room You Are In: cluttered
· Your fear: uselessness
· Where you Want to be in Ten Years? alive
· Who you hung out with last night: family
· What You're Not: simple
· Your Best Friends: understanding
· One of Your Wish List Items: peace
· Your Gender: resilient
· The Last Thing You Did: write
· What You Are Wearing: comfortable
· Your favourite weather: balmy
· Your Favourite Book?: emotional
· Last thing you ate?: salad
· Your Life: convoluted
· Your mood: hopeful
· The last person you talked to on the phone: annoying
· Who are you thinking about right now?: Jason

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Idealism, activism - who needs it?

In the last couple of weeks, you may have noticed that I've posted links to the World Urban Forum and the World Peace Forum in Vancouver. I like to keep in touch with these things in my effort to stay informed and view the world in more of a global sense.

It's too easy to get caught up with the mundanities of our personal lives and forget about the bigger picture. There's nothing wrong in being engaged with our immediate surroundings -- it's a necessity. But I think we need to strike a balance between what's going on here and what's going on out there in the broader world.

I know some people roll their eyes when they read or hear about peace conferences, rallies or anything that smacks of activism and idealism. It seems "activism" and "idealism" has fallen into disfavour. Not exactly bad words, but viewed similarly to feminism – seen as unnecessary, irrelevant, a purview of the radical fringe these days.

Most distressing is that so many people my age, who grew up with the women's movement, anti-segregation rallies and the peace marches of the sixties, would be so disdainful of the similar today. Surely, they all can't have become totally disillusioned and abandoned their ideals for a house in suburbia and an SUV. As a matter of fact, I know those people are still around. They may have gone underground (or to suburbia) for awhile, but they still have those old ideals buried somewhere inside. If we care about the world we want to leave for our children and grandchildren, now would be a good time to come out and re-activate that old idealism.

I guess what I'm saying is that the world has gotten itself into a bit of a pickle and it's time for everyone to look around and see what needs fixing and actually do something about it. Whether it's the environment, world peace, the homeless, a new community centre or just cleaning up the neighbourhood, everyone can act positively for change. Figure out what's important to you and take action.

The action doesn't have to be big or monumental. For those who don't think they can make a big difference, I like the phrase, "think globally, act locally". It's borrowed from environmentalists, but can easily apply to politics (policy-making), peace and almost any other social problem. In effect, it says you CAN make a difference at the local level. So, you can't stop all the child and women's abuse in the world, but you can support your local women's and children's shelters. So, you can't stop wars single-handedly, but you can elect and support politicians who reflect your ideals.

THAT's what activism is about – taking direct action to effect political or social change. A little idealism thrown into the mix doesn't hurt either.

So ends my lecture for the day . . .

Here's a link to a great blog about effecting change (of particular interest to Americans). TCK- the Blog

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Sustainability, creativity, peace, . . .

As well as the World Peace Forum this week (June 23 – 28), Vancouver just finished hosting the UN's World Urban Forum III (June 19 – 23, 2006).

About World Urban Forum
The World Urban Forum was established by the United Nations to examine one of the most pressing issues facing the world today: rapid urbanisation and its impact on communities, cities, economies and policies. It is projected that in the next fifty years, two-thirds of humanity will be living in towns and cities.

Today, I just want to share a few quotes from a speech by John Friedmann. Friedmann is a professor at the University of British Columbia, School of Community and Regional Planning. He talks about "clusters" of assets that are necessary for the development of viable and sustainable city-regions throughout the world.

I thought what he had to say about intellectual and creative assets would be of interest to some of the regular readers here as well as those who question why we should support creative and intellectual endeavours:

The fourth cluster of a city-region’s assets are its intellectual and creative assets, which are the quality of its universities and research institutes and what the Japanese call their “living human treasures,” its artisans and artists, intellectuals and scientists, and all others, musicians and writers, poets and film makers, actors and dancers who embody a region’s creative powers. Small in number, they are nonetheless essential to a region’s future and should count among its finest treasures. The best among them are also the rarest, and to lose them is an inestimable loss to the city. Creativity must be nurtured. . . .

There is much talk today about a so-called creative class that cities should promote. My argument is different. Creativity cannot be commanded, but creative work requires public support. Market forces alone will not suffice. New ideas and artistic creations are often unpopular, and those who create tend to march to a different drummer from ordinary people. Cultural and intellectual elites, their presence insures a city’s capacity for innovation. Professional contacts extend across the globe to other cities, and from these exchanges come new ways of seeing and thinking that add to the city’s liveliness and vigor. It is these elites that are the primary source of informed critical thinking which can be crucial to charting a city’s future.

And finally,

The sustainable city is a possible dream. It means embracing the fact that cities are embedded in their environment on which their future depends. It means
engaging local citizens in the common effort by giving them a stake in the society of which they are a part. It means reaching out to other cities, other regions and strengthening emerging networks. Above all, it means trusting in your own powers to shape the future that lies ahead.

He also touched on globalization and the increasing trend of selling cities as commodities. Interesting and informative.

You can read the entire speech in pdf, here:
The Wealth of Cities: Towards an Assets-based Development of Newly Urbanizing Regions
UN-Habitat Award Lecture
John Friedmann, School of Community & Regional Planning
University of British Columbia, Canada

Saturday, June 17, 2006

As some of you know, I can get a wee bit obsessive. This is particularly true of new interests. My interest is piqued very, very easily. You say there's an awesome, new website? I'll be there – for hours – looking at every nook and cranny. Got links? I'll click them. Is there a site meter? I'll wonder what type and if I can access the stats. An About page? Gotta read it.

So, if you've wondered where I've been lately, I've been researching my latest obsession.

DH and I are thinking about a trip to Europe in the fall. We've always planned on going there - eventually. But so far, life and family commitments have gotten in the way. I suppose we should have gone when we lived in Toronto, before kids, and where the time and travel distance wouldn't have been so great. But, we were interested in other things back then. All of which seem superficial and frivolous now. But hindsight's kind of a bitch that way. Anyways, we put Europe on the backburner and resolved ourselves to going when we retire.

Several things happened to change our minds.

We noticed that more and more of our contemporaries are developing diseases, cancers, heart ailments, and lord knows what aches and pains -- some only debilitating, some fatal. For awhile, it seemed like we heard about someone we know either dying or battling cancer on a weekly basis. The disturbing thing was they were people like us - just as young at heart and full of life. That is, until they were hit with whatever Fate/God/Purveyor of Disease decided to drop on them. Not good. It could have, just as easily, been us. Next, we realized that most of our aunts and uncles have died or aren't in very good shape. There aren't many of the "older generation" left. As a matter of fact, WE're becoming the older generation (it's still hard for my brain to wrap around that fact). One aunt, who loved travelling, is now unable to because of health problems. Then, I thought about my father who died about a year and a half ago. For various reasons and excuses, he never travelled to the places he dreamed about and we regret not making him go or just up and taking him ourselves.

Finally, it smacked us upside the head: WE could be dead, dying or hobbling around on bum knees and feet by the time actual retirement rolls around. It was a reality check about our own mortality and vulnerability.

While I admire the folks who, despite mobility problems, still travel with their walkers and wheelchairs, I'd like to see the sights while I'm still able to hike up mountainsides, scramble over excavation ruins, and carry my own backpack and suitcase. If we go to Naples and Pompeii, I don't want to be seeing it from a tour bus. I want to make the climb to the top of Mt. Vesuvius and look back down at the bay. DH and I are still fit enough and adventurous enough to do it. Now in our late fifties and early sixties, who knows what a few more years might bring. As a consequence, barring any unforeseen circumstances, we are planning a trip to Europe.

And this is where I get to my obsessiveness. I've been combing the internet for accommodations, walking tours, packing tips, flights, maps, reviews, recommendations, and whatever else comes within the crosshairs of my cursor. My bookmarks have exploded in the new "Europe" file I've created. I've downloaded maps of the major sites we want to see. I've plotted various walking routes through Rome. I've been going to bookstores browsing travel guides and maps. I've been reading about the history of the regions we might see. I've been bugging my brother and sister-in-law (who have backpacked in Europe the last three years) for recommendations, suggestions and tips. First thing in the morning, I check out various travel forums. Last thing at night, I check out the same travel forums in case I've missed anything during the day. I've read all kinds of trivia (for example, did you know Michaelangelo didn't use female models for his nudes? If you look carefully at the female nudes in the Sistine Chapel, you'll notice their bodies are all wrong; the hips are too broad, the legs and shoulders are too muscular and the breasts are placed very oddly. I didn't know that before, but I do now. See, I love finding out stuff like this). I've already booked a B & B in Rome and corresponded to the manager by email.

Meanwhile, I think I've been driving everyone around me crazy with all my information gathering and trivia sharing. Luckily, they're accustomed to it. They nod their heads patiently, feigning interest with eyes gradually glazing over. That's okay, it won't dampen my enthusiasm.

Monday, June 12, 2006


World Peace Forum 2006 - Vancouver, Canada, June 23 - 28

Be informed. Read. Look beyond the confines of your own borders. We all live on the same planet. There will always be conflict and problems, but we have the choice to help make things better or worse. We have the choice to care or to ignore the suffering of others.

It's possible to make a difference. You just need to care enough to take action, no matter how big or small.

Monday, May 29, 2006


It is unwise to be too sure of one's own wisdom. It is healthy to be reminded that the strongest might weaken and the wisest might err. - Mahatma Gandhi

I read the above quote on Moto’s discussion forum and couldn't agree more.

Somebody once told me he thought I was wise. I don’t want to be called wise. It’s too much responsibility. I don’t want people to think I have all the answers. I don’t want people to think that just because I write down my beliefs on this blog that I think I’m wise. If anything, my constant introspection and sharing of experiences reminds me of some of my greatest follies. All I have are life experiences that I’m willing to share with whomever might want to listen.

I think my grandfather was wise -- though he likely would have disputed it. He lived into his nineties – a long and varied life; immigrating to Canada at the age of eighteen, teaching himself to read and write English, living through the BC gold rush, the building of the BC railroad, two world wars, riots against the “yellow peril”, fires, the depression, bankruptcy, defrauding by a business partner, two wives and raising of six children. Through all of this, he remained a gentle, quiet man. He never raised his voice, never struck back at those who mistreated him – believing that to do so would be to lower himself to their standards. He lived the Golden Rule of “treating others as you wish to be treated”.

I always think of him as a gentleman and a scholar. I remember that he read constantly. Every evening, he’d be in his room hunched over the desk with a gooseneck lamp reading English and Chinese newspapers, his worn, tattered story books, and the encyclopaedia. If he wasn’t reading, he’d be doing calligraphy – gnarled hands around the bamboo brush; delicately dipping into the ink, wrist twisting and turning like an orchestra conductor in miniature to achieve the perfect point, before letting loose with swift strokes down a tissue-paper page, soft, bold, dark, light. Some of the characters I recognized, some I didn’t, but he made it all look effortless and beautiful. He tried teaching me, but I was impatient and all I can remember is my name and too few words to make a coherent sentence.

He believed also in sharing his experiences. He liked telling stories; both his own and the folk tales he learned as a child. It’s how he ultimately passed on his values and beliefs. I see them in myself and even my youngest brother, who doesn’t really remember him – but learning one generation removed via our father.

Maybe it’s why I seem to have this compulsion to tell my stories and share my experiences for the benefit of my sons. I’d like to think they’ll carry some of my values with them through life, but of course there’s no guarantee. They’re strong-willed, independent souls who’ll figure it out in their own time. I do, however, smile silently to myself when I hear them repeat something I told them long ago, as if it were their own idea. Yet, in a way, it is “theirs”. They chose to internalize it.

As usual, I’ve rambled on and ended up somewhere I didn’t intend. But as my son keeps telling me, “Not to worry. It’s all good.”

An homage to my favourite bloggers

I often feel in awe of the wonderful bloggers out there. The clarity, honesty and excellence of their words make me feel totally inadequate. I think, how did she do that; how did she make me laugh so hard, cry, get angry, rethink my position?

So here are just a few thoughts about some of my favourite blog writers. I won’t name names, so you can all imagine that I’m talking about you – because I am:

- A's individual blogs are precise photo captions. You wonder how she can capture the essence of how you feel in her words. Each picture-phrase is a vivid snapshot. It’s like watching a kaleidoscopic slideshow, never knowing what’s coming next, but with the assurance that it’s going to be insightful or funny – and definitely wonderful.

- B's words flow in an unending stream of colourful descriptors and run-on sentences. The funny thing is that her run-on sentences don’t seem run-on at all. Phrases and descriptions ripple along, sometimes gently, sometimes caught in an eddy of overlapping ideas as if deciding whether to pool and expand there, eventually overflowing and pushed on by the relentless pressure of new ideas. Sometimes the stream is more like a torrent - words tumbling over each other, burbling and bubbling, rushing to some invisible gush of an ending. Her writing makes me smile.

- C's writing is self-assured. The ideas complex, yet clear. No shilly-shallying about where she stands on issues. It’s easy to heed her rally cry. She’s smart enough not to take herself too seriously.

- D is both ingenious and ingenuous. You never know what you’re going to get - staccato angry delivery or heartfelt musings. I sometimes imagine meeting her in person and know she’ll be exactly as she portrays herself in her words.

- The warm, earnest sharing of E's journey through life makes me feel a bit like a voyeur. The honesty is startling and inspiring at the same time.

- F's stories about her family are gentle, whimsical and funny. Reading her blogs, make me feel like I’m sitting at her kitchen table having a chat over a cup of coffee.

- G comes across as someone you’d never like to get angry. His words are sharp, big-city, no-holds-barred scathing rants at the less than worthy. Not necessarily someone I’d like to meet, but his writing is brilliant.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Expect the unexpected (a semi-rant and musings)

At eighteen, I thought I had things figured out. In reality, I was clueless.

My plan was to go to university, graduate with a degree in nursing, then spend the next few years working on the S.S. HOPE, a peacetime hospital ship that brought healthcare and education programs to countries around the world. Little did I know it would make its last voyage the year I graduated. It ends up it didn't really matter. I met my husband-to-be while in university and we married the year I graduated. Since then, my life has taken all sorts of twists and turns.

I’m a romantic idealist at heart, but I’m pragmatic when it comes to everyday life. I tend to carry on, no matter what happens. I figure, there’s not much choice – sit and mope - or live life. Yet, it would’ve been helpful to know at a younger age that there’s no such thing as life going according to “plan”. Life is messy.

I think it’s a disservice to young people (to me, young is anyone under 30) when we give them the illusion they can plan out their future at the age of eighteen; that a university degree insures success and the lack of a degree dooms them to failure. I hate - yes, hate - hearing adults tell teenagers they MUST get a university degree, choose a major and a career before they even know who they are. I’ve known far too many people get university degrees, follow a proscribed career path because it was expected of them, then end up miserable. If everyone needs a university degree to insure success, then what about all the workers and trades people who don’t have degrees. Are they all failures? Of course not.

It bothers me when I see people feeling trapped and pulled along a life path where they don’t think they have a choice except to continue what they’re doing no matter how dreary, unhappy or desperate they feel. They have a choice. It just might not be an easy one. I think it’s often fear of the unknown and leaving their comfort zone that traps people – not the actual circumstances in which they find themselves. (The people who really don’t have choices are those caught in situations beyond their control – in wars, or third-world poverty – but that’s another blog.)

A few personal observations I’ve learned along the way (or stuff I wish someone had told me earlier):

  • University graduates aren’t always the most intelligent people
  • The most intelligent people aren’t always university graduates
  • Sometimes a job is just a job. It puts money in your pocket, pays the bills and puts food on the table. It’s not necessary to love your job. It would be nice to, but not necessary. As long as it’s tolerable and doesn’t go against your own ethical standards (which, to me would be a biggie), what’s wrong with viewing it pragmatically - a means to an end. Which brings me to . . .
  • There’s more to life than job or career. Friends, family, hobbies, life passions (whether they be art, literature, social causes, . . .) make for a more satisfying life journey.
  • It’s not a race. Who says you MUST graduate with a degree by age xy? Who says you MUST own a home by xx? Everyone gets to where they’re going regardless of the timetable. Or as someone told me once, we all end up where we end up when we get there.
  • Happiness is not a goal. You’re either happy or unhappy because of what’s going on in your life. Anyone who says they’re happy all the time are either lying or blissed out on some kind of pharmaceutical.
  • Money ain’t all it’s cracked up to be. Money does not equal success. Success does not equal money. Money is necessary and it’s better to have it than not, but it shouldn’t be the end goal. Seems obvious, but hard to truly believe when we’re inundated with advertising that encourages a gluttony of consumerism that only money can satiate.
  • Everyone makes mistakes. It’s okay to make mistakes and admit it. It’s even okay to fail sometimes. But you can’t live the rest of your life beating up on yourself for past mistakes. Learn. Move on.
  • Don’t let people take away your ideals. I’ve been told I’m too idealistic. But without ideals, what’s the point?
  • Plans have a nasty habit of going awry. It’s better to be flexible than to have set-in-stone plans.
  • There’s always something more to learn. Just when you think you’ve got it figured out, life proves you wrong.

When I began today’s blog, I wasn’t sure exactly where I was going except that I wanted to address the pressure we put on our young people to make choices and be successful - as if it were some precise road or path that can be planned. Instead, I see that I’ve rambled on more about my life philosophy than anything else.

But maybe it’s all connected: Being flexible, not believing there’s only one path through life or to success, always learning and going with what life gives you rather than expecting life to unfold in a particular way. These are things I wish I’d known back in high school when guidance counsellors made everyone believe you could choose your life’s career by answering a few interest inventory questions.

From time to time, I like reading the following quote about success. It helps me keep things in perspective:

To laugh often and much, to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children, to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends, to appreciate beauty, to find the best in others, to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.
- Ralph Waldo Emerson

This blog is dedicated to my sons, nieces and nephews.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

I wanna dance

For our recent vacation, my husband and I took a cruise. You can do as little or as much as you like and it's one of the most relaxing types of vacations I've been on - a great place for a people-watcher like me. I love dancing and watching others dance – all forms of dance - ballet, jazz, ballroom, it doesn’t matter. As long as there’s music and movement, I’ll watch. So while on this vacation, I mostly watched the sixty-plus crowd dance. Why this age group? Because they can really dance.

Almost every night and on every special occasion, they’d be the first on the dance floor. They did it all: foxtrot, cha-cha, rumba, salsa, waltz, jive. They did it with verve, enthusiasm and energy – especially the jive. I was in awe. All these grey-haired seniors dancing and boogying as if they were still in high school. Then it occurred to me – they’re probably the last generation who really learned “how” to dance as a matter of course when they were young.

I grew up in the fifties and sixties. The music of the times ranged from Patti Page, the Mills Brothers and Doris Day to the beginnings of rock ‘n roll with Buddy Holly, The Big Bopper and Elvis, then The Everly Brothers and Roy Orbison, eventually segueing into The Beachboys, Beatles, and the psychedelia of love ‘n peace and hippies. Other than the early rock ‘n roll years, the music of my youth was not very conducive to couples or touch dancing.

Admittedly, the fifties music I listened to was a result of living with much older teen cousins. They had frequent rumpus room parties and after school get-togethers listening to 45s. It was during the parties (where I lurked behind doors and around corners, well past my bedtime) that I’d marvel at the crinolines, ponytails and couples jiving. They slow-danced, too, but I thought it was pretty yucky at the time. It was the jive I loved. One of my cousins even tried to teach me. It didn’t stick.

At about the same time, I started watching Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers movies. I loved them. I was a sucker for the romance, the tentative meeting, the falling in love, the “I’m-mad-at-you, never-see-you-again” misunderstanding and the eventual reconciliation by way of a glorious dance number. No Gene Kelly for me. No sir. He always danced by himself except for those Cyd Charisse-type numbers from American in Paris. Too tough and athletic, not at all romantic. I wanted to dance like Fred and Ginger. I imagined myself as Ginger - floating feathers and trailing sequins in my wake.

By the time my own teen years arrived, it was the sixties and the jive had given way to everyone for themselves, no-touch, freeform dancing. There were no “steps” to speak of, just a self-involved flailing of limbs and a movin’ to the groove style of dance.

At school, we had so-called dance lessons in gym class to learn the waltz, foxtrot and square dancing. I suppose the teachers thought it would be good for our social development. But for the life of me, I still can’t figure out why they taught square dancing (when was the last time you did a “dosey doh” or “swing your partner” at a wedding or party?). Maybe they were caught in a time warp of their grandparents’ barn dances and hoedowns.

For my part, I thought it would be cool to learn ballroom dancing (visions of F & G still beckoned). But I was in the minority. At that age, few were interested. It was more of an embarrassment and ordeal to endure. For the girls, the main objective was not to get stuck with a truly obnoxious, sweaty-handed, smelly boy who had to count under his breath in order to keep time. I’m sure the boys had other objectives. Did anyone learn to dance? No.

By the time university rolled around, I had reconciled myself to a life of non-ballroom dancing. Then, along came Sam. He could really dance! He knew how to do a proper waltz, cha-cha and jive. He was patient enough to teach me. Alas, our relationship didn’t last (though in retrospect, I probably stayed with him longer than I might have if he couldn’t dance) and I never dated another guy who could dance as well as Sam.

Fast-forward to my current husband. He dances – sort of – in the late sixties, shuffle your feet in time to music kind of style. He tries, really, he does. He even went to ballroom dance classes at the community centre with me – twice. But like the jive of my childhood, it didn’t take. He’s promised to take private dance lessons with me after he retires. He figures all he needs is some individual attention. We’ll see.

Meanwhile, I live my dance fantasies vicariously by watching others. On the formal nights of our cruise, if I squinted hard enough, the grey-haired gentlemen with their lovely wives could pass for Fred and Ginger. Really.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Well it's been over a month since I last posted a blog! I didn't think I'd be away this long.

I was on the verge of posting a few times. One of them started out like this:

I'm not in a good mood. I'm tired –- Drop-off-the-face-of-the-earth and sleep 72 hours tired. I'm tired of reading/hearing opinions of overly pompous literary critics, self-professed, angst-ridden neurotic artistes and egotistical, pseudo-intellectual blowhards who think others are stupid just because they don't agree with their enlightened opinions . . .

You can see why I decided not to post for awhile.

I was tired from working 12 to 14 hour days for 15 days straight. It was the kind of tired that makes me very, very irritable – a can't see the end of it, what's the fricking use kind of tired; a don't you dare walk in my shadow, can't you see I'm tired, get out of my way or I'll rip your head off and feed it to the garbage disposal kind of tired.

Soooo, I thought it best to save you all from this kind of drivel and keep the vexation and self-pity wallowing in my handwritten personal journal.

Now, I'm back from a relaxing two week vacation and feel much better. I've spent the last couple of days trying to catch up on various forums and blogs, but wanted to touch base with the few of you who emailed and wondered what happened to me.

One of my favourite parts of vacationing is meeting different people and observing behaviour. I seem to have the kind of face that encourages people to talk to me and coupled with my innate curiosity, I can't help but start conversations with fellow travellers. The best conversations are those that go beyond, where are you from, what do you do. I like to find out about how people got to their current stage in life, what they think about world affairs, politics, and religion.

I've learned a fascinating thing about the people I've met in this way: the most reticent to start, often turn out to be the most interesting; and the most vocal and opinionated are the least interesting. My theory is that people who have a simplistic view of the world tend to state things categorically with no ifs ands or buts. They "know" they're right, so the discussion ends. There is no give and take of ideas, no sense of a conversation. Others, seemingly quiet at first, feel out the situation and see if you're really interested in their opinion before saying anything in depth.

Along the same lines, appearances are often deceiving. My dh and I met one of the most interesting couples at dinner one night. They sat at the next table. The tables being only 6 inches apart, out of courtesy we all exchanged brief hellos, isn't this lovely and where are you froms while ordering. We then continued on to have dinner in the usual "I know you're there and you know we're here, but we'll pretend we can't hear each other chew and swallow" attempt at privacy.

I had formed a mental image of them as a conservative, retired couple from Florida with nothing in common with us. I was wrong. After dinner, knowing we were from Canada, the husband made tentative enquiries about what we thought about the president. Hubby and I looked at each other and didn't answer immediately. The husband from Florida said, "Your response tells me everything I need to know." We proceeded to have one the most pleasant and stimulating after-dinner conversations of our trip. It turns out they had retired to Florida, but were originally from New York and are unaffiliated, small D democrats who had worked on fundraising and civil rights initiatives in the 60s. They were the complete opposite of what I'd imagined.

A few others we met: A couple from South Africa who had immigrated to a small west coast Canadian fishing village. They'd fled S Africa during the unrest and violence of the 80s to the UK, but when they applied to Canada for immigrant status, they and one child were accepted, but the oldest teen (at 19) wasn't. It took them a number of years before they were reunited; A couple living in Mexico – she is Mexican, he is American but commutes back and forth for work. They have sons who are applying for Canadian citizenship because (grandfather was Canadian) and they think it might be a good idea for them to have an alternate citizenship for travel; A gay couple living in Palm Springs, originally from San Francisco, but won't go back to visit anymore (a long story); and many more. All in all, an intriguing mix.

BTW, I should mention that I tend to forget (ignore) the complainers and whiners along the way, figuring they're not worth ruining my vacation time over, so I come back with a fairly rose-coloured experience. VBG

I've rambled long enough for today. I still have more catching up to do on my favourite blogs.

Friday, April 14, 2006

I feel the need to write something on this blog, but fear I'm stretching myself a bit thin.

Today, I added to my 365 list, made an entry on First Drafts, and wrote a bit offline. So now I feel wrung out of ideas for anything here. Thus, I'm going to do a Wenda - just start writing and see what comes out. (I rather like the verbing of Wenda. I hope she doesn't mind.) I've used this technique of hers a few times now and it works pretty well.

I'm heading into the busiest two weeks of my year and may not get much chance to blog in the next while, so I may as well sit here and write whatever comes out my fingers.

Reading other blogs is inspirational. From the mundane to the insightful, the serious to the humorous, I spend hours reading other blogs. I came across a professional (i.e. published) writer's blog site today. She mentioned something I'd heard from another writer on a different forum. She wondered if people who came across her blog would get the wrong impression of her writing (her professional writing, that is) because her blog writing is not really her best. It's unedited, has the occasional typo, and grammatical errors. She worried that people wouldn't know the difference between her blog writing and her "real" writing.

I can't be totally sure, but I think most people realize personal blogs are more free-form and stream of consciousness than something one would submit for publication. It's also a way to play around and see what works and doesn't work. The comments feature is great for that.

I know this metaphor is used to death, but sharing your writing IS a bit like putting one of your babies out on display. You hope others will like it; love it even, and you're disappointed if others don't see it in the same light.

What I've found interesting is the difference in my expectations of responses to my posts and the actual responses I get. They're often at complete odds. What I think are interesting or funny posts sometimes get only one or no comments; and the ones I think are just throw-away, off the top of my head posts, get more.

Sometimes I feel I'm just being self-indulgent. But, then I think, the people who don't like it are only a mouse-click away from leaving. At least, that's how I justify my ramblings, scribblings, rants, raves and god knows, silly Dr. Seuss poems.

Which brings me to humour. It's a strange thing. It doesn't always translate well if you're not familiar with the personality behind it. Something meant as a tongue-in-cheek can be misconstrued by people who've only known the perpetrator as a staid and serious character. I suppose it works in reverse, too. People who are always kidding can't get people to take them seriously. It's like, okay, where's the joke, I know the punchline is coming, you're not serious, right? That's why I have such respect for writers who can do humour, so that everyone gets it.

Well, it's late Friday night and I haven't come up with anything earth-shattering, but it was fun and positive just the same.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

I would do it . . .

This is inspired by Cate's post at The Bean Counter and the Dr. Seuss-like comment by Andrea.

So you say you like to write
Or maybe paint or knit a kite.

If no one watched or even cared
Would you, could you even dare?

What if no one saw the kite?
What if all was done at night?

What if all was said and done
And no one knew?
Not even one.

Would you still have what it takes
To do that thing
That makes you wake?

I don't know
What you would say,
But I would do it anyway.

I would do it late at night,
Far from friends and out of sight.

I would do it in a car
Looking up at the night stars.

I would do it in a tree.
I would do it
Just for free.

Not only that,
'Cause that's too pat,

But I would do it just to see
If I could find
What makes me, me.

Sorry, Andrea, I just couldn't resist the "park, lark comment". :-D

Sunday, April 09, 2006

A languishing languorous website

Languishing, languorous (love those words so thought I'd use them) are words to describe my poor personal website - not this blog, mind you, but the site I have on Geocities.

For those of you who've joined this show in progress, I'll re-cap:

Over the years, I kept track of books I read in notebooks, spreadsheets, loose-leaf duo-tangs – anything that was handy. One day, I got the brilliant idea that I could start a little website dedicated to my reading. I'd keep track of books I'd read, maybe add comments and reviews.

In May 2000, I started my personal website, unoriginally named, Ell's Book Page - a built-from-scratch site dedicated to books and my reading. Simple enough concept. But, as it turns out, not simple at all.

First, I tried using Geocities' ready-made templates with their 'wizard'. But it kept doing weird things with the formatting. So I thought, "Aha! I need to learn some html" (so I could see what was wrong and fix the formatting). So after I learned the basics of html, I realized their wizard was really a piece of **** and proceeded to make my own template using a background from a design site.

All proceeded nicely. Then I got another brilliant idea.

Instead of just listing books and my reviews, I'd add a proper index and links to different pages. Then I decided to comment on every single book I read. Then I decided to add more commentary about, not only books, but whatever else I had rattling around in my head. Then I listed my reviews by both title and author and cross-linked them. Then, because people started emailing me and discussing books with me, I added a books links page. Then I added links to favourite authors. Then I indexed the whole shebang with tabs. I did all of this without CSS.

It's also undergone a couple of redesigns. The current one is V.3.0 (courtesy of son No. 2).

I last updated it about a year ago. (I added something to my "Ramblings" section in February this year, but only because a relative who doesn't know about my blog wanted to see my piece on bookaholics). I could have (would have) kept it up to date, but it was such an onerous job and other aspects of real life kept getting in the way.

And then, I discovered blogging. It's so much easier to just write, open up Blogger, copy, paste and publish. No worrying about updating all the pages and making sure the links work. No checking the indexes and making sure they're updated. It's been a real pleasure and relief to find a way to publish my blatherings without the technical work.

But now, my original website is gathering even more dust bunnies and I'm feeling a bit guilty for not keeping house better. It would be okay if it weren't for the fact that my stats counter still shows a good number of daily visitors.

So what am I to do? I'm torn. Should I shut it down completely, let it languish (there's that word again) and slowly fade away, or revitalize it with monthly reviews or something. I'm not keen on redesigning the thing again and I rather like the look of it – it does reflect my personality rather well.

Any and all suggestions and comments, welcome.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Father's Hands

Writing prompt from First Drafts

My father used to hold my hand.

Don't believe me? I can prove it. I have a picture. See, here. I'm wearing my red velvet, special holiday dress. I'm smiling, so is he, my right hand in his left. He's quite handsome, don't you think? I used to think I was ugly, but looking at the picture now, I can see why people said I was a cute kid.

I don't remember when it was taken. It looks like at an office Christmas party or something. See the door and window? Looks like Christmas cards on the ledge. We're all dressed up, so it must have been a special occasion. Funny, I remember the dress, but not the occasion.

It's the only one I have of me and him, at least from childhood. We didn't spend much time together back then. But maybe I'm remembering it all wrong. I didn't remember the picture-taking, did I? Maybe we did lots of things together and I just don't remember.

Anyways, I'm glad I have this picture.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Lost files

I need to get more organized, I need to get more organized – so goes my mantra.

But really, I do. Not in the general sense of housekeeping and tidying (though that needs addressing too), but specifically with my document files. Several blogs ago, I alluded to having bits and pieces of writing in various files on my hard drive. At the time, I had no idea the state of disarray, bordering on chaos, these files were in -- until I tried to find something I wanted to resurrect.

I had one of those middle-of-the-night, astoundingly, brilliant ideas to add onto one of my older pieces. I jotted it down on an index card. First thing in the morning, I eagerly went to my computer to add this particularly illuminating insight to, to, to . . . What did I name that file? Do you think I could find it? Nope. I searched in all the usual places, but no luck. Maybe it was just an imaginary file, one I thought up while brushing my teeth, but never got around to actually committing to bits and bytes.

I have a habit of opening up Word, writing a paragraph or paragraphs, page or pages, depending on mood, ideas or lack of ideas, and then saving it with a title I think will be a memory prompt for when I want to get back to it. Sometimes I'm in a hurry when I do this, so the titles are often the first thing that comes to mind. Not a good idea.

Okay, so here's my dilemma. I used to have all my writing – everything from reviews, to opinion pieces, to rants, to creative fiction, to personal journal entries, to notes and quotes in one main folder titled, "writing". Makes sense, particularly when it's just a hobby. Within that folder, I have subfolders titled, Family, 300words, L's story, Shared Writing, Rants, technical notes, and a catch-all called Old Stuff.

But then, I started to branch out a bit with my writing. I created another folder to hold my articles to a now defunct online magazine. In that folder, I also have files of works-in-progress, ideas and notes. I added yet another folder for book reviews I wrote for my personal website (now languishing in obscurity and neglect), and yet another for what I call Notes, Quotes and Lists.

And now, here's where I really got into trouble – I started blogging.

I opened another folder called Blogger, because that's what I'm using to blog. I have sub-folders for Blog-Posts and First Drafts (a group writing blog). Everything else –including ideas and works-in-progress - is just a mess of docs rattling around in the bigger folder. In just a few months, the number of my files has exploded.

Not that I'm such a prolific blogger but because, besides the bits that actually end up as blogs, I keep coming up with ideas that might be bloggable. I end up saving them in separate files that range from just a few sentences to a few paragraphs. As you might gather, these bloggable bits also fall under general writing. So where do they go? Sometimes I leave them in the Blogger folder and sometimes I put them elsewhere, like Family or Rants or . . . well, you get the idea. I'm not very consistent.

Now, it wouldn't be so bad if my memory was a fraction of what it once was. Unfortunately, all those years of effective multi-tasking don't translate to good short-term memory at my current age.

I was reading on someone else's blog – was it Wenda's(?) – where she's organized all her writing in categories. I've heard that real writers do this. Do you think if I get more organized and categorize by subject matter, I can start calling myself a writer with a bit more confidence? At least it'll sound good. Need an article about walking on the seawall? No problem, it's right here under "Outdoor Recreation". It's definitely something I should look into.

So this is where I came in. I still can't find that darn file. Guess I'll just have to open a new Word document and start from scratch.

Sunday, March 26, 2006


I found Ronni Bennett's blog, Time Goes By, shortly after I started my own blogging journey. I was immediately captivated by both the clarity of her writing and by the depth of her posts. She is insightful and humorous, and more often than not, leaves me with a jump-up-with-fist-in-the-air, "YES!" feeling.

She writes about what it's like being older in our (western) society and examines the biases and issues surrounding aging.

From her blog site bio, she states:
In my private hours now – age 63 at this writing – I am excited about exploring what getting older is really like. There is precious little information available in popular writing that is not negatively focused on disease, debility and decline. But I don’t believe getting older could possibly be as bad as our culture makes it out to be.

Lest you think it's a whiny blog about issues only related to aging, let me say that she looks at the broad spectrum of society from politics, to healthcare to almost anything that touches us as human beings.

I've occasionally left comments on her blog and was flattered when she added my site to her blogroll of Elderbloggers (you'll see us listed on the lower left sidebar). However, it's taken me some time to embrace the term elderblogger. In my mind, I always equated elder with OLD – and I don't feel old. Yet, as I've let this term settle into my consciousness, I realize that it's not so much about age, as it is about a way of looking at the world from a different perspective - an elder's perspective.

As I further examined my feelings about this, my attitude towards the word changed. I've known for some time now, that the way I view the world and how I deal with things in my life is completely different than how I dealt with things in my twenties, thirties, even forties.

There was a time when I had to win every argument and respond to every annoyance. And if I wasn't confrontational about it, I made my family miserable with my griping and complaining. I wasted a lot of time and energy on things that, ultimately, didn't matter. People who know me probably don't recognize the above self-description, but that's because I was always very "nice" in my disagreements and arguments. In truth, it was the underlying turmoil that was most counterproductive.

So how have I changed in the last few decades?

I'm not so quick to judge, for one, and no longer think that a jerk will always be a jerk – that people are capable of changing for the better if they're motivated, encouraged and nurtured. Instead of feeling helpless because the problems of the world are too vast, I believe in doing things within the realm of my smaller world to affect change – I believe in the ripple effect; one good action setting off a chain of other good actions. I don't feel the need to prove myself, my competency or my intelligence anymore. Instead, I'm content with a quieter introspection and the realization that others will judge me however and in whatever way they choose – whether I like it or not. I no longer think it's necessary to respond to every little challenge or argument anymore – as if it's some red badge of courage. Instead, I stand up for what's truly important to me and don't waste my energy on petty issues.

The passage of time, experience and maturity have all brought me to this state of elderblogger-ness. The more I think about it, the more I appreciate where I am in my life.

So now, I've come to embrace the term Elderblogger and thank Ronni for including me as one of them.

Saturday, March 25, 2006


Wenda at Daring to Write got me thinking about personal demons.

I realize that the older I get, the fewer my demons. At least it seems so. The demons of my youth are no longer the sweaty-nightmare inducing creatures they once were.

Perhaps it's my perception of them that's changed. Things I thought were earth-shatteringly important in my twenties and thirties barely register a blip on my concern meter now. The related demons have, likewise, faded in importance.

I'm not saying they're completely gone. Some are like pesky salesmen. Every so often, they knock on my door to see if I'll buy into their pitch. I get rid of them with a firm, "no thanks" and refuse to let them in the house for coffee. Sometimes, I have to slam the door in their face. Others are like co-workers you don't particularly like. I concede grudging co-existence for the sake of everyone's sanity, but it's never a completely comfortable relationship.

They're slowly fading or maybe morphing into ghostlets of their former selves - annoyances rather than challenges. In times of stress, they try to reassert themselves, but with less and less success.

Although, there's still that ONE demon that jumps out at me when I least expect. I'm working on it.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Beause it's Friday night and it seemed like a fun thing to do

I was going to blog about how I hate shopping and how I don't get the whole shopping as retail therapy thing, but this came across my path and I got sidetracked. Nothing new there!

And besides, I rather like the idea of going from the serious thoughts of my previous few blogs to something completely frivolous and inane.

Results of some Blogthings questionnaires. They're more accurate than I thought they'd be:

Your Hidden Talent

Your natural talent is interpersonal relations and dealing with people.
You communicate well and are able to bring disparate groups together.
Your calming presence helps everything go more smoothly.
People crave your praise and complements.

Your Brain's Pattern

Your brain is always looking for the connections in life.
You always amaze your friends by figuring out things first.
You're also good at connecting people - and often play match maker.
You see the world in fluid, flexible terms. Nothing is black or white.

Your World View

You are a fairly broadminded romantic and reasonably content.
You value kindness and try to live by your ideals.
You have strong need for security, which may be either emotional or material.
You respect truth and are flexible.
You like people, and they can readily make friends with you.
You are not very adventurous, but this does not bother you.

You Are 72% Open Minded

You are a very open minded person, but you're also well grounded.

Tolerant and flexible, you appreciate most lifestyles and viewpoints.

But you also know where you stand firm, and you can draw that line.

You're open to considering every possibility - but in the end, you stand true to yourself.

Monday, March 20, 2006


I have a confession to make. I make a lousy good friend. Other than my husband and family, I don't do friendship well. I'm good at meeting people, making others feel comfortable and having conversations with them, but they seldom become good friends. I have what I'd call lots of friends and acquaintances, but very few are close friends.

I know some people who are constantly surrounded by good friends. They hang out, go for coffee, they call each other on the phone and chat. They talk to each other about all the important things that go on in their lives. They laugh together and cry together. I'm not good at that. In my lifetime, I can probably count maybe three people (excluding my husband) who fall into this category of friendship.

I don't know what it is exactly, but I keep most people at arms-length. They get only so close, before I think, nope, that's close enough. If I were to get really analytical, in a pseudo-psychological sense, it probably has something to do with my relationships with people close to me in my childhood. I've thought about this a lot lately.

My mother died when I was quite young and I have no conscious memory of her. I then got passed back and forth between various relatives, eventually ending up with my father's family (I never ended up actually living with my father). In my preschool years, I remember visiting my maternal grandmother regularly, then one day, I didn't – visit, that is. I now know that it was because she died, but no one ever told me that at the time. She just disappeared from my life. Later on, my maternal aunts and uncles made regular visits, they took me on outings, and I played with my first cousins. Then one day, it stopped. After awhile, I stopped thinking about them and they too, seemed to have disappeared. I lived in a succession of different households with different aunts, uncles and assorted cousins. Each time I moved, it seemed like the previous family just disappeared - only to be seen at family gatherings. In the passing years as my aunts and uncles aged and died, I realized their deaths never seemed all that real because in my mind, they were already gone. Pretty messed up, eh?

(I didn't think I'd wander so far into my family history, but it just spewed forth, so instead of deleting or revising it, I'll just leave it as is.)

Well, to finally get to my point, I think, subconsciously, I've decided that people simply disappear from my life, so there's not much point getting too close. I'm okay with short-term, closer friendships, but back off when I start spending too much time with anyone. It's really quite irrational, but it's a tendency I know I have.

The other thought I had about this friendship thing is that I'm afraid people will find out I'm a big fake and won't want to be friends any more, so I may as well cut it off before they do.

Which one is true? I don't know. Maybe a little of both? Maybe neither? This little confessional may or may not help, but as I mentioned to someone not too long ago, it's cheaper than a shrink.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Brain rattles

Sometimes I feel I have so many things rattling around in my head that everyone around me can hear it. Stuff just clunking and thunking around like bumper cars, one thought setting off a chain reaction of others, back and forth till they hit some invisible barrier and then come bouncing back again. Occasionally a thought will jump the barrier and demand recognition. I'm always a little amazed at this.

When I was young I'd play a little game of trying to track back my thought processes. Like - how did I end up thinking about bumper cars when on my way to the library? Let's see . . . I was thinking about whether or not to renew the latest Sue Barton Nurse book; then I thought about being a nurse; then I thought about sick people; then I thought about puking - makes me gag thinking about it; then I thought about the last time I was at the PNE and rode the Tilt-A-Whirl; then I thought about the Roller Coaster; scary, but not that bad; Bob didn't think I'd do it; then I thought about how I'm always too chicken to ride the bumper cars!!

Okay, so this brain rattling idea came to me when I was brushing my teeth: I'm looking at myself in the mirror brushing my teeth, rather boring; been there, done that; ho-hum; let's just get it over with; how many minutes optimum?; who the hell remembers?; Dr Roberts would; what's up for tomorrow?; don't think about it; what will be will be, Que sera sera, what will be will be, the futures not ours to see . . . hum, hum; Doris Day; Rock Hudson; too bad he couldn't come out; sad really; everyone already knew, so what was the point; so glad Matt came out; he's always been into music; maybe he'll get a contract with a major label; should ask Linda for his latest CD; so hard to get discovered; funny how all D's friends are into music; their jamming sounds pretty good, need someone for vocals; I know it's not what he wants to do; well he would, but if he got famous, he'd hate it; what IS he going to do; he's been with M. for five years; she's so nice, I think I'd be more upset than him if they broke up, can't see them getting married, though . . . Now, how the heck did I start thinking about marriage? Geez! . . . .

Then, I thought, I really have too much stuff rattling around my head; and maybe I should blog about it.

I'm not sure if others think like this – I've never been brave enough to ask. Maybe I'm just weird.

Friday, March 17, 2006

brain bubbles - update

After some thought and encouragement from her reader's, brain bubbles has decided to re-post her deleted blogs. I'm so glad she's doing this.

I still find it disheartening that people were upset with what she wrote. If they can't handle bb's darker life story, it makes me wonder if they live the rest of their own lives with head buried in sand.

Cheers to bb!

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

brain bubbles

I'm using this entry as a little rant to do my part in getting brain bubbles to resurrect her x365 blog.

If you go to the link above, you'll see that she deleted her blog. I was incensed to find out why. She's done so, in response to some very small-minded people who can't handle a bit of truth.

She's had ugliness in her life and, in doing the x365 project, ended up blogging about some not very nice people in it. It wasn't always pretty, but it's her story. She received emails telling her it wasn't appropriate for the x365 challenge.

To me, it's exactly what's so great about the x365 and what it can and should be - a way to remember our connections with the different people in our lives, past and present. In recalling the people in our lives that impacted us, influenced us, and continue to influence us, it helps us understand who we are and how we got to where we are today Sometimes the recollections are warm and funny, sometimes sad and ugly. Ignoring the bad experiences of our past don't make them go away.

I applaud brain bubbles for the guts it takes to write from the heart about the truth, no matter how dark or ugly.

If you feel the same, perhaps you'd like to drop by brain bubbles' site and leave a message of encouragement. (p.s. Read her comments section.)

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Odds 'n sods on a Tuesday night

I’ve been unmotivated, uninspired and in a funk for the last two weeks – the reason I haven’t posted anything recently. During this time, I’ve stopped and started several bits of writing, only getting a couple hundred words out before abandoning them. There are at least twenty of these files. I guess I’ll keep them on my hard drive along with all my other bits and pieces in hopes of being newly inspired at a later date.

A new discussion forum:
About a week ago, I signed up for a new discussion forum. It’s a spin-off from another board I visit. The original board doesn’t allow discussion of politics and religion and has a very specific focus. A valid and personal choice by the admin there.

The admin of the New Board is trying an experiment of sorts. His stated goal is to see if an ‘anything-goes’ board with few rules and minimal moderation that discusses politics, religion and whatever else the membership comes up with can survive without things ending in chaos and acrimony. His contention is that reasonable adults should be able to discuss things openly and intelligently on a discussion forum without resorting to heavy-handed moderation and censorship of certain topics. I suppose there is an implicit message that the original board IS heavy-handed – but, as I mentioned, the focus of the two boards is different. I don’t believe there is any intention of taking members away from the original board and there is the potential of many cross-over members and happy co-existence.

When he initially told me his plans, I asked him if he was ready for the aggravation and stress, then wished him luck.

Well, he’s had aggravation aplenty. Things started out fairly well – some serious threads, some not-so-serious threads, some silliness and banter. On the whole, the atmosphere was good-natured and friendly. Who knew things could change so abruptly.

For reasons he alone knows, a certain member from the original site signed up and decided (putting it mildly), to crap all over the new board. He has taken issue with the new board’s admin – a carry-over from disagreements on the former board, I suppose. He’s posted in almost every available thread, insulting everyone, posting obnoxious graphics and detritus worthy of a bathroom-humour-obsessed thirteen year-old. In a bizarre twist of goodness knows what kind of rationale, he did a complete turnaround and made a few intelligent and coherent posts, only to go back to posting insults. I think everyone has whiplash from the abrupt mood changes. If I didn’t know better, I’d think he has a personality disorder and forgot his meds - either that or he has an evil twin posting with his password.

This sort of spam posting goes on all the time on various message boards, so I’m neither shocked nor surprised by the content. What I’m surprised at is that it’s coming from this particular person. It’s puzzling. This same person, on the original discussion forum, comes across as mature and reasonably intelligent. So how can a previously mature adult be so incensed/angry/annoyed/ that he becomes all but irrational and juvenile in another forum? Maybe I’m mistaken and have it backwards. Perhaps the irrational juvenile is the real person and the mature adult is the fake persona.

Further thoughts on doing Dan’s x 365:
I’m finding it not only gratifying, but therapeutic. The trip down memory lane has brought back fond memories as well as some painful ones. I’ve realized that in the recollection of the not so pleasant ones, I can track my progression as a human being. I think we need the unpleasant encounters as much as (if not more than) the pleasant ones to grow.

Notes on another birthday:
Another year older – maybe wiser.

I’m more patient and tolerant of human foibles. I can shrug my shoulders at behaviour borne of youthful ignorance. I can accept that a bad choice or decision doesn’t necessarily make someone a bad person. At the same time, I’m less patient and less tolerant of injustice, cruelty and bigotry.

It’s somewhat disconcerting that my children worry about my health and safety as much as I worry about theirs. I hear the admonition of “be careful mom” when I climb a ladder, go out late at night or have to drive in bad weather. When did this happen? I’m not ready to give up the reins yet.

What’s with that teacher who wants to claim the Tim Horton’s “Roll up the rim to win” RAV4?
For those of you not in Canada; “Roll up the rim to win” is a promotion being run by Tim Horton’s, a fast-food coffee and donut chain. Each take-out coffee cup has a rim that you “roll up” (by unrolling the edge) to reveal various prizes ranging from a free donut to free coffee to cash to a RAV4 truck to the ubiquitous “please play again”.

In this particular story, a teacher threw away his cup in the garbage without first checking to see if he’d won anything. An enterprising ten year-old found the cup in the garbage and tried to unroll the rim and see if there was a prize. He had difficulty, so asked a twelve year-old to help him unroll it. Well, you guessed it – they found a prize. It was a Toyota RAV4. That’s when the fun began.

The ten year-old ran home to tell his parents that he’d won a new car. The twelve year-old told his parents what happened and they decided that he should have the RAV4 since he was the one who physically unrolled the rim. The teacher got wind of it and claimed it was his cup, so the RAV4 should be his! It became a circus of greed. The teacher went so far as to go to court and demand a DNA test to prove that the cup was his.

As far as I’m concerned, the truck belongs to the ten year-old who found the cup in the garbage. If he’s generous, he'll share it with the twelve year-old. The teacher has no claim whatsoever. Sorry, buddy. You threw it away as garbage. No longer yours. It’s your own fault you didn’t roll up the rim.