Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Last night, Lydia dreamed she was a robot. Not a mechanical, metallic, C3PO robot, but a sentient, humanoid robot that thought she was human. She, along with others of her kind had been rejected by society and their human families. They were being switched off. The robot Lydia made a tearful and eloquent plea about love and yearning to the blank stares of human faces . . .

Lydia hadn't written anything in over two months. Correction. Other than grocery lists, calendar appointments and a point-form chronology of her vacation, she hadn't written anything in over two months. In a funk, not in the mood, too busy, preoccupied with real life; all of the above, none of the above. What did it matter? No thoughts had gotten onto paper.

Yet lately, her dreams had been getting more vivid, more surreal. Just at the point of waking, she would control them, manipulate them. Lucid dreaming. That's the term. She wondered if the not writing had anything to do with the dreams. Or had the dreams taken the place of her writing.

More likely, it was her struggle with what she should or shouldn't (wouldn't?) write about. Should she write about her health concerns? Should she worry out loud? Some part of her wanted to share – to slit open and spill out. But no, that was self-indulgent clap-trap -- martyrdom disguised as self-revelation.

This morning is the start of a new day. She turns on her computer. She enters her password. It takes forever to load. The innards chug while an automated update downloads and the work light flashes furiously. She opens her Word program. The fan kicks on - more like a wheeze than a whir these days. It's getting old – in computer years – and doesn't work as efficiently as it once did. But it still works. Ha! Life imitates computer.

Her fingers rest tentatively on "a s d f j k l ;" - the home keys.

She waits.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Yippee, Gray Is In!

While doing my Sunday surfing, I found a link to an article titled, Do Blondes Have More Fun? The answer, much to my delight, was, "No. Silvers do!"

As some of you may remember from my post a couple of years ago on Time Goes By (The (Not So) Greying of America), it's one of my missions in life to liberate women from the scourge of colouring their hair just to cover up those inevitable pesky gray and white strands.

The Do Blondes Have More Fun? article is one in a series by Teresa Morisco of Wardrobe911 who, after writing an article about how a woman made the decision to stop dyeing her hair, took the plunge herself and did the same.

She looks fabulous - as do the others in this --> Groupshot taken at a luncheon in NYC with Diana Jewell of Going Gray Looking Great and others. It's great to see so many white-haired women of different ages and stages and shows that being gray/white/silver is nothing to be afraid of.

All I can say is, "Finally!"

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

S is for


He: Who's stubborn?

She: You are.

He: No, I'm not!

She: Yes, you are.

He: You're just as stubborn as I am.

She: I admit I don't give up easily. I have to solve things. I'd say that's being determined.

He: You always have to be right.

She: Not always. Besides, I'll change my mind if you give me an intelligent and logical reason. You don't even want to discuss things.

He: That's not true.

She: Yes, it is. You just walk away.

He: I don't like to fight.

She: It's not fighting, it's called discussing.

He: It's more than discussing. More like arguing.

More like debating. There's a difference. Besides, that's not what I was talking about. I was saying you're stubborn because you refuse to try and do things differently.

He: Well, if it ain't broke . . .

She: That is being stubborn.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Serendipity or luck?

As you might expect - because of my self-imposed walkabout – my visitor stats have steadily declined and plateaued out. This morning, I saw the weekly Sitemeter report that's been sitting in my inbox since Sunday and, for no particular reason, clicked on through to the live (current) stats. I was shocked. I had more than double the number of visitors in one day than I'd had for an entire week!

I needed to get to the bottom of this aberration, so looked at the visitor details. Well, to my surprise, most of the visits were coming from Times Goes By, Ronni Bennet's site. So, I clicked onto TGB and found that Ronni has started something called "Featured Elderblogs" - a special sidebar area with links to five blogs from her blogroll, each group of five posted and featured for one week.

I have no idea how Ronni is choosing the weekly group of blogs, but guess what? My blog is in the first group of five for the week of June 29, 2009.

I don't know if it's serendipity or pure blind luck, but there it is. It comes at a time that I've been questioning my priorities about blogging versus other things in my life -- hence, the walkabout.

Ever since I started blogging, Time Goes By and Ronni have been an inspiration to me. I'm sure she doesn't remember, but she helped me in my early days with blogrolls and other small, but significant things, just as I'm sure she's helped countless others in the same, kind way. Though likely unintentional, by including my blog in her featured links this week, she's put a boot to my derriere and made me make some choices.

Sometimes I waffle between being the type of person who thinks everything in life is connected and happens for a reason to one who is pragmatic and thinks that things happen – period. Today, I'm leaning toward the former.

I guess it also means I've finished my walkabout.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Gone Walkabout

The term Walkabout comes from the Australian Aboriginal. The idea is that a person can get so caught up in one's work, obligations and duties that the truly important parts of one's self become lost. From there it is a downward spiral as one gets farther and farther from the true self. A crisis situation usually develops that awakens the wayward to the absent true self. It is at this time that one must go on walkabout. All possessions are left behind (except for essential items) and one starts walking.

Metaphorically speaking, the journey goes on until you meet yourself. Once you find yourself, you sit down and have a long talk about what one has learned, felt and done in each other's absence. One talks until there is nothing left to say -- the truly important things cannot be said. If one is lucky, after everything has been said and unsaid, one looks up and sees only one person instead of the previous two.

- Source unknown (from Gone Walkabout)

Ell's gone walkabout . . . metaphorically speaking.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Facebook and privacy

The other day, I left a comment on Kay's post (They Can Do Without My Face) about her concerns over privacy issues on Facebook. Apart from the pros and cons of FB as a social networking site or whether you think it's a waste of time, Kay is not alone in her concerns. As indicated in the video link on her blog, Facebook (and I imagine many similar sites) can pass on the information you disclose to third parties.

While this is a legitimate concern, particularly if you're worried about copyright and use of your pictures, I'm not sure I buy the whole CIA/internet/control/conspiracy aspect that the video implies - and I can be pretty paranoid. Other than a name and verifiable email address, the amount and extent of other information you provide on your profile is up to you. My point being that you control what goes into your account and just how private or not private you keep that profile information.

It helps to remember that Facebook is in the money-making business. They sell ads and information for profit. As one of my sons pointed out, they are a giant demographics mine. They want statistics: your age, where you're from, your political and religious affiliations, your likes and dislikes. They really aren't interested if you post a couple of lines about visiting Aunt Millie on Saturday. They'd much rather you take all those quizzes and polls that tell the third-party stat gurus about your favourite books, movies, music, foods, etc. – in order to sell and target ads.

So, for the most part, I don't care if they know my age, or that my hometown is Vancouver, or that I might be happy living in London. I may get targeted ads pertaining to Vancouver real estate on my sidebar or travel ads about London, but it's not like an invisible hand is going to reach through the monitor and snatch me off to London (although it might be kind of fun).

It also helps to exercise some common sense about what you post and who has access to your postings. If you're silly enough to post semi-nude drunken pictures of yourself from cousin Sal's wedding, and you happen to be a supervisor at a conservative, high-profile company, and somebody shows the picture to your boss, who then passes it onto the president of the company, who decides that you're not the type of person they want to represent the company; then there's no one to blame except yourself.

And just as it's not necessary to provide all the minute details of your life in your profile, neither is it necessary to befriend everyone who asks. Yet many people do. I've never understood how people can end up with several hundreds or thousands of so-called "friends" on FB. According to the same son, some people enter their entire email address book; then the address books of their friends. So not only do they have their own friends listed, but friends of friends and friends of friends of friends. Personally, I can't understand why anyone would want people on their friend list that they don't know (except maybe as some sort of popularity index). It seems pretty stupid, but what do I know?

It seems to me that individuals need to take more responsibility for protecting their own information. Facebook has a function that gives a fair bit of control over who can see your stuff. It's explained in their Privacy Policy (that even warns people not to share addresses and phone numbers) and can be accessed via user Privacy Settings. Apparently, not everyone is aware of it, or if they are, don't bother to use it. Privacy settings range from the default that allows virtually everyone on FB to see your profile to the most private setting that allows "only friends" to see your profile and what you post. This is why it pays to be aware of who your friends are (see above regarding accepting hundreds of people you don't know!).

If you use the internet at all (online banking, buying things online, joining forums, chatting), much of our personal information is already out there in cyberspace. Unless you're a complete luddite and refuse to use the internet to communicate or conduct any kind of business, it's an unavoidable reality for most of us.

Facebook is just another tool in the internet arsenal. Whether you use it or not shouldn't be dictated solely by concerns for privacy. Just exercise some common sense.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

More ways to procrastinate

I really have a lot of things to do, but . . .

Joy took this Blogthings quiz at Babble On and since she asked, of course I had to try it.

You Are the Philosopher

You love thinking things over and developing theories. Learning is very important to you, and you pursue knowledge relentlessly.

You love to talk about the things you know, often in more detail than people would like to hear.And you know a lot! You're always taking on new subjects, interests, and hobbies.

You are at your best when you are left alone to ponder your newest ideas and experiments.You tend to withdraw from environments that are loud, contentious, or passionate.

and this one:

You Belong in London

A little old fashioned, and a little modern. A little traditional, and a little bit punk rock. A unique soul like you needs a city that offers everything.No wonder you and London will get along so well.

and this one:

You Are Mind

If you dream it, then you can do it. You are very mentally sharp and strong. You enjoy challenging yourself both at work and with studies. You love mastering difficult tasks.

You thrive in new environments, even stressful ones. You are able to study everything objectively. You have a upbeat attitude, and won't be deterred easily. You are open minded and optimistic about the future.

Blogthings, like memes, are a procrastinator's dream.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Taking my own advice

While on my tedious (self-imposed) job of re-publishing and re-reading my old posts, I came across this one (Don't Go Away) I wrote just over two years ago. It's too bad I didn't read it before my little hissy-fit of deleting.

It actually contains some decent advice and also my friend, Joy, in the comments.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Did I just say that out loud?

As long as I can remember, I’ve had an active inner voice. By that, I mean there is rarely a time in the day that I’m not thinking about something -- debating with myself (I really should take that class/no, not enough time), making mental lists (go to the bank, drop off library books, pick up some milk, . . .), making plans (when should we go to Hawaii?), commenting on the passing parade (what IS she wearing?), pondering both the big and little pictures of life (what am I doing here/it’s a beautiful day), and allowing a few curses to enter staccato-like into my musings (mostly shit, but occasionally the F-word).

Even when I’m relaxed and not doing anything, there is commentary going on inside my head. The only time it’s quiet is if and when I try relaxation and meditation. Even then, it’s more like a litany of omm (relax), omm (relax neck), ommm (relax arms), ommmm (neck is still tense), ommm (arms are tense again), ommm (relax arms), ommmm, ommm (how long have been doing this), ommmm. Clearly, I have not mastered the technique.

I wonder. Do others have the same trouble?

The older I get, the more these inner musings end up spoken aloud. Not just the occasional word, but entire sentences - paragraphs, even. More so if I’m watching a hockey game, network news, or a dumb TV show. For example, “Give me a break, how can anyone be that stupid? Everyone knows she's had work done!” or "Did we need another research study to tell us what we've known for years. Common sense, people!" I'm sort of like the person you might see at a movie who talks back to the screen. Other times, I'll say things out loud just to clarify my thinking, as if the proof to my logic is in the hearing of it in concrete words.

Sometimes, my husband or one of my sons will ask, “Who are you talking to?” or De Niro-like, “Are you talking to me?”, noticing, I suppose, that there isn’t any animate object within my immediate vicinity. I usually reply chirpily that I’m just talking to myself. The rationale being that there’s nothing wrong with talking to yourself as long as you don’t answer – or so I’ve been told.

For the most part, I think it’s normal – except for the wee part of me that thinks, perhaps, just perhaps, I’m going a bit dotty.

I have visions of a white-haired octogenarian in a house full of cats, dusty plants on every windowsill, every available flat surface piled to overflowing with books, magazines and unopened junk mail, shuffling around and muttering to herself; "must remember to feed Daisy, don’t forget to phone Jay, where is that telephone bill?, better set the timer for the Canucks game, . . . ."

The last few days, I’ve been trying to keep my mouth zipped when no one else is around -- just to see if I can do it. It’s been harder than I expected. More than a few times, I’ve had to cup my hands over my mouth to stop words from spewing forth when there was no one to hear them except me and the dust bunnies.

Maybe dotty isn’t the right word for this. I like eccentric better. Eccentric conjures visions of a creative soul -- hoopy earrings and flowing, caftan robes in purples and reds (or is that a fortune-teller?). Well, the creative soul part is good.

Now, if only I can be assured that no one will call the mental health authorities to have me taken away, I’ll feel free to mutter and mumble away in my eccentricity.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009


I've spent the last few days trying to re-populate my blog archives.

I could have just hit the 'Publish All' button, but decided that this was a good opportunity to do some organizing and tagging of over three years worth of posts.

I began by grouping all the posts that were already tagged as responses to writing prompts. Thus, the "My Scribblings" on the left-hand sidebar. The next step was to quickly review each post and attach appropriate tags before re-publishing.

Seems like a plan, but not so easy. I've had a few hiccups along the way. At first, I started with the really old stuff in 2005, then somehow lost track of 2006 and a good chunk of 2007. They were still there. I just kept missing the page they were on. Then, I'd forgotten what some of the posts were about, so had to re-read them in order to properly tag them. (I'm resisting the urge to edit the individual posts, though some of them are in dire need of a thick red pen!).

With close to three hundred posts, this is taking longer than I thought it would. However, I will persevere and, hopefully, everything will be back online by the weekend.

The moral of my little story is that one shouldn't be too hasty when in a snarky mood.

Next time, I'll just unplug the computer.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Grey Skies

(This is another piece resurrected from the now defunct First Drafts. It was first posted in January 2006.)

Lydia peered out the kitchen window, trying to get a glimpse of the sky and see what it might portend. Only the usual grey clouds – no sky to speak of. The same grey clouds for the last month. No, that's not exactly true. They were clouds alright and they were grey – but they were always different variations of grey. The light grey of a cool, maybe misty day; the darker grey of impending rain; the clumpy, lumpy grey of possible snow. Today, it looked like rain. Heavy rain.

She didn't mind the rain. Other people complained about it all the time. But she found comfort in it. She loved torrential rains best. She loved the sound of the rapid, staccato on the roof and the sound of overflowing gutters plop, plop, plopping outside her bedroom window. Bundled and warm inside, there wasn't a more secure feeling.

As a child, she loved walking in the rain. She'd have on her red rubber slicker, a pair of black knee-high gumboots and carry her favourite floral umbrella. She'd methodically walk through every puddle she could find. The deeper, the better. She liked playing a little game where she'd wade into a deep puddle and see how far she could get without the water coming up over the edge of her boots.

It was a wonderful feeling – the cold water on the outside of her boots, the pressure pushing the rubber against her bare legs. So wet and mucky outside, but dry and clean inside. That's what she liked. The contrast. A few times, the water did get inside her boots, but the game was still worth it.

Sometimes, she'd stop and stand very still, listening to the rain pelting on her umbrella. If it was raining hard enough she could feel the slight spray that managed to get through the umbrella and onto her upturned face. A cool mist.

Lydia doesn't walk through puddles or stop, face-upturned under her umbrella anymore. It would be unseemly for a woman her age. But she still looks forward to the grey skies that predict rain.

The other day, while sitting at her front window, she watched a young girl walk home from school in the rain. She was wearing a yellow slicker with matching gumboots and a floral umbrella. She stopped at every puddle and slowly waded through. When she thought no one was looking she tipped her face upwards under her umbrella and grinned a big Cheshire cat grin.

Lydia grinned too.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

I was lost, but now I'm . . .

. . . not necessarily found.

In a fit of frustration, angst and self-pity, I deleted my blog about a week ago.

Real life was getting in the way of my blogging. Or maybe blogging was getting in the way of real life. Or maybe it's just the time of year. My ability to compartmentalize seems to be waning (although I don't think it's necessarily a bad thing at my age) and deadline stressors that didn't bother me all that much before are causing, well, stress.

At any rate, I decided to shut it down, rethink, reevaluate and just go hide for awhile. Obviously, since I'm here now, I've had second thoughts.

The interesting thing is that I have a choice of re-posting all my old stuff (I have it backed up) or starting anew from this point on -- sort of like writing on the first page of a brand new book.

I haven't completely decided what to do, but in the meanwhile have some links and gadgets I need to fix.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Don't Divorce Me

I saw the following video at The Boomer Chronicle's blog today, Same Sex Couples in California Say, "Don't Divorce Me" about Prop 8 amd Ken Starr's attempt to nullify the 18,000 same-sex marriages in California.

In response, the Courage Campaign has prepared a video and letter-writing campaign to the Supreme Court asking Americans to support the fight against what amounts to forcibly divorcing 18,000 couples.

Please watch this video. It is wonderful, heart-warming and touching. It puts real faces of real people to that 18,000 number.

"Fidelity": Don't Divorce... from Courage Campaign on Vimeo.

As a Canadian, my signature doesn't count, but if this means something to you, please go to the Courage Campaign site and sign their letter to the Supreme Court. Time is of the essence as the opening oral arguments will be heard by the Supreme Court on March 5, 2009.

You may ask why this Canadian should care about what happens in California. It's simple. We're all human beings and as fellow-human beings we should all care.

Friday, February 06, 2009

A question of art

This week's prompt for, Sunday Scribblings is Art. They pose the question: What do you make of art?

It's junk!
It's amazing!

Art begs a response

The progeny of creativity,
it speaks to the soul

If the soul begets creativity
and creativity begets art

Does that mean without a soul there is no art?
And if a creation provokes no response, is it still art?

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Regrets, I've had a few . . .

(This is another Debra story. I started writing about her as a lark last June 2008 for a writing prompt. If you want to start at the beginning, click --> here. They read in reverse order, so start from June 20, 2008. I have no idea where it will end, but will continue when and if the mood strikes.)

“Where is HERE?” Debra demanded.

“Looks like a beach.”

Trust Charles to state the obvious. Deb was getting annoyed. No. More than annoyed. Pissed off. No. More than pissed off.

The pressure of a can’t take it any more, screeching at the sky, gut-wrenching primal scream was building from somewhere in her core. Clenching her fists, she screamed silently inside her head. Not that it was silent inside her head, but Charles couldn’t hear it. Inside her head, it was a long AAAAAAAAAAAAAAArrrrGh!!! with full glottal stop.

She turned and with steely determination smiled at Charles through gritted teeth. “Yes, I know it’s a beach. But what beach? Why? And you didn’t answer me. What are you doing here?”

Charles rubbed his stubbly beard with the tips of his fingers. “Good question. Last I remember I was heading out for a day of ballooning. Hot air ballooning, you know? With propane tanks, floating around . . .”

“Yes, I know what hot air ballooning is,” Debra cut him off. “I’ve been. Now, I’m stuck.”

“What do you mean by ‘stuck’?”

“Stuck. As in can’t move. As in stuck in the same place. Stuck! One minute I’m on the beach, looking at a dead horse and thinking about my shitty life; next, I’m in a hot air balloon hearing songs and thinking about my crazy mother; and now I’m back on this fucking beach again – with you!”

“Sounds like your classic nightmare, if you ask me. Though it seems pretty nice here. Blue water. Nice breeze.”

“Yeah? So lick me.”

“Classic Deb. Mary Sunshine, you’re not.”

Debra rolled her eyes. “Here we go again. Think positive thoughts. Blah, blah, blah. Life is what you make of it. The glass is half full. . . .. Don’t you ever get tired of that crap?”

“By crap, I take it you mean being happy?”

“No. ‘Crap’, as in there’s no such thing as willing yourself into happiness. There is no such thing as happy. Just a lot of people pretending to be happy.”

“You think I’m pretending?”

“No. Yes. I don’t know.”

“I think you’re pretending to be unhappy.”

Debra collapsed back into the sand. That was the thing with Charles, she thought, for all his positive guru-think, he could always see through her.

As a matter of fact, she WAS rather enjoying herself. She had missed him over these last few years. He had been her counter-balance, the light to her dark, the yin to her yang. Of all her ill-fated relationships and the men she’d known and dated, Charles still held a special place in her heart.

She felt, not regret exactly, but something . . ..

Another Sunday Scribblings #148 prompt - "Regrets")

Monday, February 02, 2009

Sunday Scribblings #148


a retrospective wish list litany of
could haves and would haves
and if only I had knowns

of service only to melancholy
and late-night insomnia
not the light of day

ole blues eyes had it right

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Idle Ramblings on Super Bowl Sunday

It's cold, wet and rainy -- and it's Super Bowl Sunday.

For those of you on the other side of the pond(s) who have never heard of the Super Bowl, it is a BIG DEAL championship football (the one with pads and helmets) game in the U.S. It's estimated that 100 million TV viewers will tune in to watch all or a portion of the game or half-time show.

For non-football fans, the biggest draw is the half-time show and the half-time commercials. These commercials cost advertisers some 3 million dollars for a 30 second ad. We can't see the ads in Canada (unless on a satellite direct feed) so I'll have to wait for them to be released later. Still, I may tune into the half-time show just to watch Bruce Springsteen do his twelve minute set. Otherwise, I'll give it a pass.

My Ramblings

  • New blog to check out: A Literary Cocktail

    You won't be sorry. It's well-written, witty and about -- well -- you'll see.

  • A year ago today, I blogged F is for Family or Faking It.

    It's interesting to look back and see what I was thinking/writing about in the past. This is something I've seen Tamarika of Mining Nuggets do. I may do it more often. (Oh where, oh where is a good editor when you need one? No matter how carefully I think I've edited, I always notice the mistakes after I hit the publish button.)

  • While checking my stats yesterday, I saw that a few people ended up at my little rant about Suzanne Somers and anti-aging by Googling, "FaceMaster, best prices". I think it's pretty funny, but I'm sure they weren't amused.

  • As suggested by Kay, I'm awarding a Van Gogh's Ear to some bloggers I feel are deserving:

    - Imelda at Greenish Lady
    - Joy at Babble On
    - Charlie at Berry Blog

    Van Gogh's Ear Award

    Who knew it was so easy to give awards to people! Feel free to pass it on.

  • A belated Gung Hay Fat Choy! - It's the Year of the Ox
    I was sick and in bed on Chinese New Year, so didn't go out and celebrate. If my grandmother were alive, she would have told me this was not an auspicious start to the year. I was just as wont to have ignored it altogether, but thought it a tad rude not to wish others good fortune. We shall see how the rest of the year unfolds.

That's all for now.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Anti-Aging, an oxymoron

Yesterday, I saw this item about Suzanne Somers, Suzanne Somers' Daily Routine . . . on Huffington Post.

It describes Somers' appearance on Oprah where she talks about her daily routine of hormone replacement creams, 60 vitamin and nutrient supplements (40 in the morning, 20 at night), and vaginal injections of estriol. She does all of this in order to beat what she calls, "the Seven Dwarfs of Menopause: Itchy, Bitchy, Sleepy, Sweaty, Bloated, Forgetful and All Dried Up".

Call me crazy, but I'm thinking her cure is a bit of overkill. The cost alone, would be well out of reach for the average woman.

It made me curious.

So I decided to take a look at and see what she's been up to since her Chrissy Snow days on Three's Company and hawking the Thigh Master. It appears she's become quite the entrepreneur.

Here are a few things she sells nowadays:

  • The FaceMaster; a facial toning system
    "The revolutionary FaceMaster Facial Toning System comes complete with a 2 oz. bottle of the FaceMaster Conductive Solution, 100 FaceMaster Foam Caps, usage and general instructional manuals, FaceMaster Step-By-Step Instructional DVD and a 9 volt battery to get you started."

    And to go along with the zapper, you need:

  • FaceMaster Collagen Enhancing Serum with Peptides

  • Anti-Aging Skin Care products

  • Anti-Aging Serums and Creams

  • Cosmetics; including "Spray On Primer Perfecting Base"

  • Books; lots and lots of books (18) including these titles: Slim and Sexy Forever, Ageless, The Sexy Years, Get Skinny, Eat Great Lose Weight

  • Fitness Tools

  • Jewelry

  • Clothing

  • Diet foods

  • Cooking tools and dishes

So what is my point?

Ms Somers comes across as a very charming and likeable person and I'm sure she believes what she's saying. I have nothing against her entrepreneurship and making a living or encouraging a healthy lifestyle. I do, however, have difficulty listening and believing someone who spends so much time and effort promoting hormones, beauty products, staying skinny and who uses the buzzword, "anti-aging" with such abandon. Aging, after all, is a natural process. Anti-aging products seem like an oxymoron.

So, I guess my point is that we're all aging whether we like it or not and maybe we should think less about anti-aging and more about aging healthfully with some dignity. But, that's just me.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Photo Meme = old book list

Being unable to come up with anything original today, I've decided to try this Photo Meme I found at Imagine.

Instructions: Go to the file where you keep photos on your computer, open the fourth file, then choose the fourth photo in the file. Describe.

This is what I found:


It's a picture of my bedside table taken on January 21, 2006. I took it to post on a forum I frequent. I believe we were having a discussion about what we were reading that turned into what our reading piles actually looked like.

In other words this messy pile of books amounts to my "currently reading" list as of three years ago (where does the time go?). I almost always have more than one book on the read at any given time, but I must say the books here are a bit atypical in that I don't normally read so many non-fiction books at one time.

What's there and my thoughts (starting front, left):

  • The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood was a quick re-read for an upcoming discussion. The Blind Assassin is one of my favourite Atwoods.

  • The World Is Flat by Thomas L Friedman is about globalization and the consequences for individuals and the world economy. I only skimmed this as most of it wasn't new to me, but I plan on revisiting it at some time for a more thorough read.

  • Ideas: Brilliant Thinkers Speak Their Minds (Bernie Lucht, ed.) is a selection of twenty programs from CBC Radio's Ideas and include thoughts from the likes of Noam Chomsky, Northrop Frye, Hannah Arendt and Helen Caldicott. What can I say, except, brilliant and thought-provoking.

  • Shake Hands with the Devil by Romeo Daillaire is a scathing indictment of the non-action of the UN Security Council and the worldwide community for allowing the genocide in 1990s Rwanda. It also deals with Dailaire's own guilt about his inability to do anything to stop it.

  • The Danzig Trilogy by Gunther Grass: I have attempted to read this several times and have never gotten past the first one hundred pages or so. It is still languishing in my TBR pile.

  • The Peneliopad is another Atwood: not my favourite by a long shot, but an interesting take on the myth of Homer and Penelope in The Odyssey from Penelope's point of view.

  • Gods and Heroes was in reference to my reading of The Peneliopad

  • Collapse by Jared Diamond was a recent acquisition because I'd just read the same author's Guns, Germs and Steel;

  • The Island by Aldous Huxley was a re-read;

  • The Penguin History of the World is just a handy reference to have around

  • Gorky Park by Martin Cruz Smith is an old-fashioned spy thriller. It's set in Moscow of the 1980s(?), so reads as a bit dated.

There's also a crossword puzzle book and a couple of shopping catalogues (probably from Land's End).

Please feel free to do this meme. I'd love to see what you find.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

My Writing Space

I can't remember when I bookmarked Cafe Writing: Scribblings on a virtual napkin, but I rediscovered it today while tidying up my folder of bookmarks. It was saved under Ellen's Favourites -> Writing. I do remember thinking I it would be interesting to try some of their projects. Their projects have several options with a choice of different forms (poetry, fiction, essay, etc.) For some reason, I never returned until today. Better late than never.

So here is my first Cafe Writing Project for 2009. Since I'm a list person, I've chosen a list prompt to get started.

Option Six: Seven Things:

In a mood of faith and hope my work goes on. A ream of fresh paper lies on my desk waiting for the next book. I am a writer and I take up my pen to write..
~Pearl S. Buck

In improvisation, one of our exercises is a game called “Seven Things,” in which we go around in a circle giving each other the challenge, “Give me seven things that [whatever].” We are not going to go around in a circle here, but if you’re drawn to lists, this prompt is for you.

Give me seven things that inhabit or occupy your writing space. Interpret “writing space” any way you please. You’re not required to explain the items in your list, but it’s more fun for readers if you do.

My Writing Space
  1. Computer
    Where would I be without my computer; my link to the world, Wikipedia, online dictionaries, thesauri and Google?

  2. Family Picture
    Because of space limitations, I only have room for one. The current picture is one of me and my husband with our older son and his girlfriend taken when we were in Hawaii last year. It brings a lightness to my heart every time I look at the smiling faces.

  3. Paper and a jar full of pens
    I'm a note-taker and scribbler. I must have paper and pen readily at hand. Sometimes I jot down an idea, sometimes I scribble a reminder to do something. I've learned that I can't rely on memory anymore. If it's of any importance whatsoever, whatever pops into my head needs to be written down before it dissipates into the ether.

  4. Coffee Mug half-full
    - of coffee or tea ranging in temperature from cool to cold. It doesn't start out that way, of course. It's usually steaming hot when I begin, then gets cold as I forget about it while doing my thing on the computer. The mug has my name on it, lest I forget.

  5. Away from my computer:

  6. A Spiral-Bound Journal
    I've used all kinds of journals, but I prefer the spiral-bound ones (preferably black or purple) because they lay flat and when folded back are much more compact for writing on the go.

  7. Pen
    I'm pretty particular about my pens. I like the black gel ones in fine or extra-fine point that flow easily and don't skip. They're also good for sketching and doodling.

  8. Digital Camera
    My camera helps me hone into the details of my surroundings. I take lots of photos. Most are just so-so. Every so often, I take one that makes me stop and want to share in writing.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Myers-Briggs Re-visited

A few years ago, when just starting this blog, I wrote about my own Myers-Briggs personality type: INFJ. (It also appears to be when Joy, from Babble On first discovered my blog -- but I digress.)

Over the intervening years, I've noticed that the pomegranate tiger gets quite a few hits via Google searches through that particular page.

Today, having nothing better to do, I was looking at my site statistics and noticed yet another hit on that page. I tracked the link back through Google search and saw The Real Personality Types which states, "Now, there are many places which will tell you what this all means, but none of them are quite as...relevant to today's modern civilization as this one..." it then goes on to describe the various personality types, "made relevant" to the modern world. Hilarious.

Here's an updated description of my INFJ personality:

INFJ: The Conspiracy Theorist

Beneath the calm, collected exterior of the INFJ lies the horrible reality of someone who has seen The Truth. The INFJ knows what other people are too naive or too brainwasted to admit: the Conspiracy is real. Mistrustful and suspicious, the INFJ is not easily fooled, and does not take the word of the government-controlled medico-military-industrial complex for anything. Whether it's uncovering the plot by butter-eating Jews to clog the arteries of Christian folk with artificial margarine or discovering the secret laboratory in Tibet that's producing legions of Jimmy Carter clones that will be sent out to seize the manufacturing facilities in the Guangdong Province of China under the pretext of inspecting chickens for influenza, there is no lengths the INFJ won't go to in order to blow the lid off the whole thing.

INFJs can often be found holding down jobs as AM radio talk-show hosts. They can also be found driving taxis in the greater Washington, DC area. Other common jobs often held by INFJs include vagrant, loony, whacko, and writer/director/producer of the television show "Seinfeld." INFJs can also be found feeding that crucial bit of information to determined FBI agents just before they are brutally murdered.

RECREATION: INFJs often come home from a hard day's work exposing conspiracies about how the government is poisoning us with mind-control agents spread by passenger airliners and unwind by spending all night writing Web sites exposing conspiracies about how NASA faked the Bush election.

COMPATIBILITY: INFJs are usually happiest and most successful in relationships with Julia Roberts, though the relationships may not end happily.

Famous INFJs include...well, if I told you, I'd have to kill you.

I always knew there was something fishy about that moon landing . . .

My first award

Kay from Kay's Thinking Cap was kind enough to give me this Van Goh's Ear Award:

Van Gogh's Ear Award

I rather like the notion of Van Goh's Ear -- the whole slightly mad, creative artist thing. Although in my case, I think of the Madwoman of Chaillot.

According to the originator of the award at the Idaho Photo blog:

We are all artists in are own way be it art, photography, writing, philosophy, comedy, blogging and we all go a little crazy sometimes. But if you ever feel so crazy to cut off your ear and give it to a prostitute "Seek Help"!

So, many thanks to Kay, one of my two followers. :D

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Over 35 years ago

I've been in the long, slow process of scanning old photos and came across this black & white of me on my wedding day.


It was taken by a cousin who was into photography at the time. That's my father in the background just prior to putting on my headpiece/veil thingy and before leaving the house for the ceremony.

I can't remember what I was thinking at the time. I know I wasn't scared. It's hard to tell from this photo.

Sunday Scribblings #147

From Sunday Scribblings, the prompt, Phantoms and Shadows:
- things and people, times, places, events and how your memory has treated them. Are there people you try to remember more clearly, phantoms you'd like to reach back into the past and take a firm hold of? What do you remember of your early school years? College years? Your grandparents? First pets, first houses, first friends? Do you have a good or poor memory? If you could go back to any particular time/place to recall more vividly what it was like, what would that be?

I have few regrets in life, but recently, I've grown to regret my almost pathological detachment of people from the past. But, am I ready to do something about it?

I've lived most of my life like a one-way road trip. I make stops in towns along the way; take the occasional detour or side-trip; meet interesting people; connect with individuals for a short time; then move on to the next town and the next experience with only the obligatory we-should-keep-in-touch handshake. I seldom do – keep in touch, that is. I'm not quite sure why.

I've posited that my early childhood experiences have left me with a fear of abandonment, hence it's easier to let those who aren't in my immediate life drift into the shadows. Out of sight, out of mind. What you can't see, can't hurt you. I'm sure there's grist for years of psychoanalysis here.

If others get in touch with me, I'm more than happy to hear from them, talk to them, socialize. But, as for me taking the initiative to get in touch without a specific reason? Not likely. I have cousins I haven't spoken to since the last family funeral, friends I haven't spoken to since the last reunion – and these are just the ones that live nearby. As for people out of town, they may as well have been sucked through a wormhole into another universe.

I've operated under the assumption that it wouldn't make any difference whether I see these people again or not. On one level, it is true. I would continue living my life in my own sphere and they in theirs (that old out of sight, out of mind philosophy again). On another level, it could reconnect me with portions of my past and, perhaps, re-order my present. Who knows what gems would turn up; what shared memories or renewed friendships?

All this being said, I don't see myself jumping up to the nearest phone to call anyone from the past. Maybe I'm just not ready. Maybe I'm a coward. Maybe I really do need psychoanalysis. Maybe this is my form of therapy.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Of Names and Passwords

There are so many interesting and useful places on the internet. There are online shopping sites and banking sites to pay your bills. There are blogs, discussion forums, online magazines, online newspapers, social networking sites, photo sites, writing sites, reading sites, school sites, you-name-it sites. Most of them are free. But there's often a catch. Before you can access the goodies on the site, you need to belong. They want you to become a member.

Now, I've never been much of a joiner and don't belong to any clubs; but for the sake of being able to read or use certain sites, I've become a member of various "communities".

That's where I have problems.

In order to become a member, you need to join, and in order to join, you need to sign in, and in order to sign in, you need to provide certain information. I don't mind the email info because I use a separate one for my internet browsing. I don't even mind providing a birth year because who's to know the difference (or truth) if I put in 1945 or 1985.

Where I begin having problems is when they ask for a user name. What, exactly, do they mean? Do they want your real name or a pseudonym? In some cases, it's easy to figure out – they provide a space for first and last names. Otherwise, anything goes as far as a pseudonym / screen name / user name. Over the years, I've come up with cutesy ones, serious, meaningful ones and ones using my real name. The latter got a bit ridiculous if, on signing up, Ellen was already in use. Then the site would suggest an alternative -- like Ellen1254b because, one would assume, someone else was already using Ellen1254a.

A few years ago, I decided to simplify things by using variations of my name and initials. Hence, ELL, ell, Ellee. This seems to be working pretty well. I've only had to addend it with a number once.

The next part of the sign-up process I have trouble with is the password. They always suggest using an alphanumeric password. Now, prior to my forays into cyberspace, I don't think I ever used the term alphanumeric nor did anyone around me use that term (although, if mentioned in conversation, I'm sure I'd have figured it out).

Okay, so they want a combination of letters and numbers. But what letters and numbers? They say it should be unique for their site. They say it shouldn't be something easily guessed. They say you should memorize it. They say you should NOT write it down anywhere. To complicate things, I've read that for security, passwords should be changed on a regular basis. After so many years and so many sites, I cannot keep that much information in my already stuffed and aging brain.

So what do I do? I write them down. On index cards. With my own coding system.

Now, in all fairness, most browsers try to help by asking if you want this information memorized on your computer. They ask if you want your user name or password "remembered". Sometimes, I say yes, sometimes no, depending on the site. At the back of my brain, I keep wondering if this is any more safe than my system of coded index cards.

And of course, there's the problem of using another computer -- say at an internet café -- which is what I did on our recent trip. Then, all those computer remembered names and passwords are useless.

Forgetting passwords must happen quite often because have you noticed there is always a little link under the password box that asks, "Forgot your password?" This usually leads to detailed and sometimes convoluted instructions about how to retrieve it or get a new one?

An online acquaintance suggested using one password for all sites (going against conventional wisdom). He suggested your mother's maiden name combined with the year you moved into your current home. Maybe I'll try that.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

R is for


Along with so many others, we (hubby and I) have been caught in the crash and burn of the world economy this past year. Being self-employed, we have no big company pension, no union-backed retirement plan; nothing but our own savings and investments. Like most others, our investment/retirement savings have dropped significantly. To say it's set back our retirement plans is an understatement. I joke to friends and family that we may retire by age ninety, if we're lucky.

We had great plans for retirement. Those of you who follow this blog know, we love to travel, dine out and help our sons out if and when necessary. I was going to spend more time reading, writing and pursuing other interests - perhaps a new language or two. We even had a tentative date set in 2010.

Given my family history of longevity, and if nothing untoward happens to my health, and I don’t get hit by a truck or go down in a plane brought down by a flock of birds, I may live well into my nineties; which gives me some thirty-odd years to go. A rather daunting thought.

Our savings investments have dropped by roughly a third. So, using my fuzzy math, that equates to approximately one-third (or ten years) of my expected remaining lifespan. Rethinking was definitely in order.

Our options:

  • Retire on schedule, do what we planned and live the final ten years destitute and on the dole;

  • Retire on schedule, penny-pinch and save (no travel or dining out) to stretch our funds out and hope they last;

  • Don't retire yet, save, save, save and save some more and hope things recover, hopefully, before age ninety

  • Don't retire yet, continue our combination of work, travel (albeit less); save, and retire before age ninety

The first two options are a definite no. The third is also a no. That leaves us with the last option – continue working, living our lives, and enjoying things when and while we are still able. Really, nothing wrong with that.

When I first came to the realization that there won’t be any sleeping in, indulging in new hobbies, endless days to read, write or do nothing, there was a great gnashing of teeth, moaning, groaning and a general feeling of doom and gloom.

Then, one day on our recent trip while driving through a less than picture postcard area of a Caribbean city, a switch flipped in my brain. I realized that my concerns are nothing - nada - wouldn't even show up as a blip on the radar screen of hardships - compared to what other folks endure on a daily basis. I told myself to get a grip and just carry on – because that's all any of us can do. So, I'm armed with this not so new perspective and intend to continue working, taking life as it comes and making the best of it.

Hopefully, I will retire by the age of ninety

Saturday, January 17, 2009

A bit of family history

So, my grandfather was a drug dealer. My sons think it's pretty funny that they can tell people this fact about great-grandpa. He ran a store in the late 1800s to early 1900s that manufactured and sold opium.

Opium was legal back then and the 1903 newspaper advertisement for the store stated they were "Importers and Exporters of Chinese and Japanese Fancy Goods" and "Rice and Opium Manufacturers". In all other respects, it was a regular general store.

It's all chronicled in the book, Yi Fao: Speaking Through Memory: A History Of New Westminster's Chinese Community 1858-1980. The book highlights four of the pioneering Chinese families in New Westminster.

The first I'd heard about this book was after my aunt died last year. It was mentioned in her obituary that she was one of the people interviewed by the author of Yi Fao. Unfortunately, she died before the book was published. I tried to get hold of a copy, but the Chapters/Indigo store I frequent said it was unavailable to order and an email to the publisher resulted in no response. I've been checking availability ever since and was finally rewarded a few weeks ago when I found it at the same Chapters store.

Reading the book has been an eye-opening experience. Not only did I see pictures of my aunts and uncles as children and young adults, but I saw pictures of my grandfather as a young man. It didn't take much effort to recognize my aunts, father and uncle in those early photos; but I never would have guessed the handsome young man standing on the deck of a ship was my grandfather.

I'd only known him as an old man from his late eighties to the age of ninety-three when he died of a heart attack. At ninety-plus, he was still alert, playful and loving. Grandpa, or yeh-yeh as I called him, still walked or bussed to the barber for his weekly haircut, swept the front porch every day whether it needed to be done or not, and supervised my Chinese calligraphy practice. He insisted that I learn to read and write my Chinese name because, he said, it might be the only way to show another person from the Middle Kingdom to which family I belonged. He'd perch me on his knee and read stories from his huge collection of Chinese books. Sometimes, if he hadn't shaved, he would rub his stubbly beard against my cheek and have a hearty laugh as I cringed.

He knew Latin, read both English and Chinese language newspapers and was endlessly curious about the world around him. His everyday conversation was often interspersed with quotations from Confucius. He reveled in telling and re-telling stories about the old days and he loved to laugh. I always remember him as a gentleman and a scholar.

Now, when I look at the picture of my grandfather at age twenty-one, I can see the same intelligence and humour in the eyes and smile. I wonder what it was like for him to strike out on a new life in a new country at such a young age. I wonder what family circumstances allowed him to be so well-educated for the times. I wonder how he chose (or had chosen for him) his two wives; the second of which was my grandmother. I wonder about his father (my great-grandfather). Questions. Questions.

So many unanswerable questions. My aunt was the last repository of that portion of our family history. What's left is supposition and hearsay.

I'm sharing this book with my sons and will pass on my own personal recollections of not only their great-grandfather, but of their grandfather whom they didn't know very well. Then, maybe they won't have quite as many unanswered questions.

Sunday, January 11, 2009


I was a banana and I didn't know it. This realization came to me when I was about twelve or thirteen. I was blithely living my life full of the usual pre-teen angst, pre-pubescent teen-idol crushes and general fuzzy-headedness of that age.For the most part, I thought I was just like my friends. But I wasn't.

I wrote the above for a prompt at First 50 Words. It got me thinking about how long it took me to realize my own banana-ness.

Banana: An Asian person who acts like they are white. Yellow on the outside, white on the inside.

I had never heard banana used this way until I was in university where, thankfully, I was exposed to a much broader experience. I was raised in a WASP community. In my graduating class of approximately five hundred, fewer than a dozen were non-white. I can probably name them now: Ellen, Nirmal, Linda, Bob, Bev, Doug, Ed, Chuck, Sonny, and another Ellen.

I always knew something was off – the snickered racial slurs, the outright snubbing by certain people, the condescension, surprise at my non-mathematical mind. But I could never quite figure it out. I never heard other non-white students speak of similar experiences. Mostly, I thought it was a flaw in myself. I naively felt I was like everyone else. I liked the same music, the same movies; I had the same crushes on the same teen idols of the day; I even dressed the same.

What I didn't realize was that I was viewing myself from the inside out and everyone else was looking at me from the outside in. What they saw was a little Asian girl. And of course, that's what they reacted to first.

It was one of those defining aha! moments when I heard the word banana used to describe Asians. I didn't think of the negative connotation – i.e. that I was denying my Asian-ness and pretending or acting white. It was more about validation of why I felt the way I did and how others reacted to me.

Later on, I thought about the negative implications of the term and, at first, hated it, then realized it was yet another misinterpretation of the inner me. My grandparents had instilled in me a tremendous pride of my heritage that a slangy definer wasn't about to change.

Over the years, I've come to terms with the fact that others, both Asian and non-Asian, are often startled by what they discover if they bother to scratch the surface.

But this holds true for anybody. It's a case of the old saying, "Don't judge a book by it's cover."


Sunday, January 04, 2009

For Richer or Poorer, Better Or Worse

(a Sunday Scribblings prompt and the continuing saga of Debra)

"Deb, it is you. What are you doing here?"

Charles took Debra's hand and yanked her to her feet. As she busied herself with brushing sand -- yet again -- off her clothes, Debra couldn't help but see Charles shaking his head in his annoying, can't believe she's done it again manner. She could feel herself bristling.


"Nothing. I just can't believe you're here."

Charles shuffled backwards and plopped himself onto the sand. He was dressed in a Hawaiian shirt, faded khakis and sandals. Very un-Charles-like.

The last time she'd seen him, he was pounding on her apartment door saying they could still "work things out" if she'd only talk to him. She couldn't be bothered. There was nothing to work out. She ignored his subsequent phone messages, emails, notes and letters. Eventually, they stopped. Their relationship had ended like all her relationships -- nowhere. Not that Charles was a bad guy. He just didn't get it.

He'd always been her cheerleader -- a you can do it, think positive kind of guy. He had wanted to get her out of the city and learn how to relax. She didn't see the point. He didn't understand her constant whining about the noise and pollution, her job, her boss, the twits around her, and yet her refusal to do anything about it. She knew it didn't matter where she was -- different people, but still twits; different job, but still annoying boss. Moving would only be a temporary fix. Once the initial glow of new wore off, it would be the same ol' same ol'.

He had been saving his money and wanted to quit his six-figure marketing job and pursue his passion for travel and writing. She thought he was nuts. Why give up a sure thing? Pursuing something as nebulous as "what I've always wanted to do" could only lead to disappointment.

After awhile, she couldn't stand his Pollyanna-isms anymore. What had been, at first, endearing became unbearable. Couldn't he just leave her alone? She was quite content to live her life in sombre misery with the occasional, fleeting ray of sunshine/happiness.

They started arguing about everything. Or rather, she argued about everything. Charles, would just shake his head and shrug. He seemed resigned to her constant nitpicking and complaining. Occasionally he'd suggest a trip to someplace warm and exotic - which she always declined. Then one day, he simply stated that she didn't want to be happy; that, in fact, she revelled in her unhappiness and that he wasn't sure if he could take it any more.

Of course he'd been right. Her unhappiness was a warm security blanket. It was a logical and realistic way to face life. Far better to expect nothing - anything good was a bonus. She couldn't get him to see it that way.

One day, when Charles was on a business trip, Debra had the apartment lock changed, quietly and efficiently packed his belongings in boxes and set them outside the door. She attached a short note saying good-bye and that things would never work out for them. That was five years ago.

And now? She was on a stupid beach, god-knows-where, sand in her shoes, sand down her shirt and sand stuck in her hair. She'd been dumped out of a hot air balloon at the feet of someone she'd dumped just as unceremoniously.

Hot air balloons, dead horses – now Charles? Better or worse, dream or no dream, she needed to figure this out.

"Where is HERE?" she demanded.