I’ve Moved!

I’ve moved to www.bestillandeat.com and I hope you will visit me there. In short I’ve decided to combine my three great passions; writing, photography and cooking into one great new blog.

I encourage you to subscribe so that you will receive weekly updates directly to your inbox. I know that you’ll enjoy these weekly posts and hope that you will share with your friends.

Thanks so much for you support over the past few years and see you soon over at

www.bestillandeat.com

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About a Thousand Years Ago… (ok really about 30)

About a thousand years ago, my Dad asked me my thoughts on time shifting. He was trying to engage me in a conversation on a topic he thought I should have known about. Rightfully so, I was a television broadcasting student.

I didn’t. It was 1983 and I was about a week away from dropping out of college.

I remembered that conversation recently while I was watching my daughter flick through a bunch of taped TV episodes, while texting, snap chatting, and telling me about her day.

Thirty years ago I had no idea what my father was talking about and today it defines our lives. We time shift everything. Everything at our fingertips, time shifted and available for when we need it.

After dropping out of college all those years ago I have worked in a few different areas. Each of them related, as I like to point out to whomever might hint at the word “flaky” or perhaps “indecisive”. They are all creative pursuits and I have been a mildly frustrated artist for the better part of my adult life.

I did go back to college… eventually, and graduated with honours from a culinary college. I did work as a personal chef for a time however I found the schedule not well suited to family life. I have worked in photography on and off for many years and although it remains a passion, I never found a niche in which I could be both satisfied with what I was shooting AND actually earn money. It was always one or the other.

Finally, I write. I have slowly worked through many courses in order to improve my creative writing skills and have only in the past few years really given it a go as a freelance writer. I have had some moderate success in this area and it remains a creative skill I work to develop regularly.

What I hadn’t realized until very recently (I’m a little slow on the uptake sometimes… sue me!) is that I could combine the three creative endeavours and plant myself firmly in the midst of this instantaneous and online world in which we now find ourselves living.

I’m sure many of you follow a lot of blogs online, probably a lot of them food related. We all eat after all! I’d be willing to bet that at the very least you look for recipes online.

I’ve been researching and learning how to run a successful food blog since early January and on April 29 (yes my birthday and now my blogs birthday too!) I will launch a food blog called Be Still & Eat.

I cook, I take pictures and I write a mindful blog to accompany the recipes. How happy is my life right now!

Imagine an opportunity to combine three passions for which you have studied and practice on a near daily basis. I honestly can’t believe it has taken me this long to figure out but here I am!

The process won’t be quick. It will take a fairly substantial amount of time to achieve the type of numbers (read:eyeballs on the blog) that are required to start seeing any real financial pay off, but I’m prepared for the work (and patience:) this will require.

I hope you will all join me at www.bestillandeat.com on April 29. Oh yeah, and please don’t forget to sign up for updates and leave your thoughts in the comments section… it’s what makes the whole thing tick!

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Talking myself into it, by talking myself out of it

I’ve been a little quiet of late, not because I’m not writing… on the contrary, I’ve been writing (and researching) like a crazy person.

I’ve been working on a series of short stories which I hope to share with all of you in the not too distant future. A couple of them have been submitted to competitions and so as not to jinx myself, I won’t say anything further about those.

The research however is what has been occupying the bulk of my time.

I’m trying to talk myself out of a potentially lucrative writing gig.

“WHAT?”

Yup, it’s true! I’m spending my many research hours looking for ways to decide not to take on this task of writing. It would be a job which would incorporate virtually all of my passions and combine them to possibly not only make pretty decent money, but more importantly be a fulfilling and satisfying use of my time.

“WHY WOULD YOU TRY TO TALK YOURSELF OUT OF THAT YOU NINNY?”

For those of you who know me well know that I am, errrr, ummmmm, passionate… the leaping in with with both feet, eyes closed kind of passionate. I’m a believer and an optimist. I WANT things to work and (sometimes naively) believe that if I WANT it badly enough it will happen. I don’t always look at the downside of things, and with great karmic humour, that is what usually comes back to bite me in the butt. I won’t go through a list of my failed attempts but not because they are an embarrassment, but because I still believe they will eventually work out… and this new endeavour may be exactly the right platform for it to all come together in one neat little package for me… if I manage not to talk myself out of it that is!

And so pretending (with my greatest Oscar worthy performance) that I am analytical and businesslike, I am diligently searching for reasons that I will hate/be incapable of/grow tired of/be pathetic at this potentially fabulous project. I’ve even given myself a deadline in which to decide. How very reasonable and rational of me! Downright level headed one might even say!

Once I’ve controlled the urge to romanticize this task which is my typical course, you will hear from me again, either announcing loudly and proudly what the work is all about… or you will have a funny cynical, smart mouthed post about someone/something that pissed me off and how it has impacted my writing.

Wish me luck!

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Short Stories not Short Pants

I was recently offered an opportunity to become a contributor to a fashion website. I was told that I would be writing about fashion trends and more specifically, fashion for the over 40 crowd.

I perused the site, read most of the recent articles, researched the owner of the site and for a multitude of reasons, turned the offer down.

The first reason that sprang to mind was that I don’t consider myself remotely qualified to give advice or even comment with any authority on what fashion trends are happening. The second and slightly less important reason is that although I am in fact over 40, I’ve never really been one to follow the somewhat uptight rule of “dress your age”. I dress how I want… if I like it and it fits, then I wear it… age limitations be damned.

The woman who offered me this opportunity was quick to shoot down my two primary reasons, and I must admit that her arguments for me writing were pretty solid. I had to find reasons that she would not be able to overcome.

I quickly leapt on the anti-consumerism band wagon. I rationalized that although admittedly I do like clothes, that buying them as a hobby was something I could neither condone nor encourage in others. I had a back up argument in case she found a loop hole with that one. I couldn’t get behind encouraging women to become slaves to whatever inane fashion was all the rage for that month, then mindlessly cast it aside when something even more FABULOUS comes along. I was going to work the reduce, reuse, recycle angle if it killed me.

But something kept niggling at the back of my mind, that little something called a conscience. It struck when I caught myself buying a truly adorable knit dress with a long silver bejewelled necklace “just-cuz-it-looked-really-great-with-the-dress-on-the-manequin”. A dress I might add that is now hanging in my closet alongside about eight others of the same basic style. I have a weakness for knit dresses – sue me.

It was in the sweet little boutique that I realized my true reason for turning down what might have turned into a pretty great writing job… I hate formal shorts and no one, no matter what is on offer, is going to convince me to write that they are EVER a good idea and no, I do not care how awesome your legs are. Oh don’t misunderstand, I hate a lot of fashion trends and so would struggle with writing enthusiastically about them, but without doubt formal shorts top the list.

And so I will continue to stay true to myself and focus on short stories and not short pants.

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A True Story about Death

This is a true story. November 16th would have been his 51st birthday.

In Memoriam

He called to say good bye. He didn’t use a phone. He was already dead, but I wouldn’t find that out for another two days.
We married young, really young, probably too young. His mother said we were playing house. My mother just sighed heavily, and often.
We bought an old house to restore. We partied like mad things in between DIY renovations. When the house was finished, so was I.
It was time to grow up—for me anyway. The same didn’t hold for him.
He didn’t want me to leave. He couldn’t believe that I would, given the constant state of self indulgent revelry in which we were living—nirvana to him. He didn’t understand my need for change. He wanted everything to remain the same forever. A bit of the Peter Pan syndrome I suppose.
I needed more. I needed to see more, to do more, to be more. Simply, I needed to grow up. He was happy right where he was and I knew it would stay that way for a good long time.
It did.
We were married less than five years and divorced more than three times that. I am infinitely better suited to my new life but I can honestly say I’ve never regretted a moment of that time. If I had stayed however, I knew my feelings on the matter would have changed.
I dreamt about him on a Monday night early this past spring. It wasn’t an unusual occurrence. I had after all spent a large chunk of my youth with him. They were always happy dreams. This one was no different. He was coming to greet me. It was awkward, but in my dream we both laughed about it.
I dreamt about him again the next night. This one was more disturbing. In the dream I received an email from him. In the note he told me that he was dying. It made me edgy, but daily life interrupted my anxiety and I pushed the distressing thoughts aside.
By Wednesday of the same week, a dear friend called to tell me that my ex had been killed in a tragic accident the previous Sunday. Twenty-four hours prior to my first dream.
Initially I thought that he had come to say good bye. It’s what we always say isn’t it? We believe it and then we let it go. I think that answer might be too easy. I know it’s too trite! So I decided to look for another possible reason why my ex husband had made a rather less than subtle attempt to be in touch with me after he had died.
I began scouring the internet for experts. I hoped to find someone other than the obvious psychics or mediums who are not surprisingly prominently displayed. I was looking for someone who wasn’t trying to sell their services or abilities to make contact with the other side. I obviously didn’t need that sort of help. I was perfectly capable of that task all by myself. I wanted to find someone who might help explain why or perhaps how this had happened.
I found two such people claiming experience with otherworldly connections. The first of whom, R.Craig Hogan, PhD, was a most helpful gentleman. He enthusiastically answered my unenlightened questions.
It is his belief that in the first few months after someone passes they attempt to be in touch with some regularity. It is only when they are unable to get through, to make contact, that they give up. So it is our ability, our openness which enables the communication to occur.
Dr. Hogan believes that we are able to fine tune our ability to reach those we have lost. His theory goes one step further to suggest that we can in fact sustain the communication and enjoy ongoing relationships with them.
The material he encouraged me to read was extensive and although much of it was surprisingly believable, I can’t get past the disturbing notion of continued contact. How could that possibly be helpful to anyone, alive or dead? I wonder for example, how a mother who has lost a child might adequately be able to parent any remaining children if she is maintaining a relationship with the one who has died? I wonder how a man might find another person to share his life if he were still in regular contact with his now deceased lover? Do we not all have trifling worries when our partner remains in touch with a previous lover who is alive? How can we possibly be okay with one who is dead?
I don’t claim to be any sort of relationship expert, but somehow it doesn’t seem right. Perhaps my lack of spiritual faith is limiting my ability to see it as anything other than simply spooky. Being haunted is not something to which I aspire.
Adam Crabtree, another psycho therapist who agreed to my interview request is a one time Catholic priest and Benedictine monk. He has what I believe to be a more plausible and simple explanation.
In one of a series of lectures on immortality, Crabtree suggests that our deceased loved ones reach out to us simply because they don’t know they’re dead.
Did my ex come to my dreams to say good bye? Did he come to forgive me for what I know he saw as abandoning him so long ago? Was it merely a strange string of coincidences? I suppose I’ll never know but I do know what I will choose to believe, regardless of how narcissistic it may seem. I will believe that my ex husband came to me in hopes of my being able to give him an unpleasant truth. A displeasing, yet necessary honesty as I once had given him so long ago.
I am left with one final question to which I know I may never have an answer. Was it my mind or his that finally allowed him to hear the truth of his predicament?
R.I.P. RH

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Bourbon and Cigs are always the first clue

It is entirely possible you’ve heard this refrain in the past.  It is even more than possible that you’ve heard it from me, but I hope you’ll stick it out and hear this again.

Karma is a BITCH! A great big, long, long red fingernail sporting, cigarette smoking, bourbon swilling broad that is definitely not the kind of girls that boys bring home to Muthah!

AND I LOVE HER! She keeps me in check.

Being the sass mouth that I am, I am generally quite quick to pick on a minor issue until at the very least I get a laugh. Often it is not nice and often it is at someone else’s expense. So as you can clearly see, I too can sometimes be a bitch.

So here’s how it played out on one particular morning.

The scene is set at the grocery store, specifically at the fish counter selecting ingredients for a seafood stew for that night’s dinner.

“I’ll have 8 or so scallops, a bag of mussels and 12 or 15 shrimp please.”

“No prob.  Having a good day so far? Looks like you’re gonna have a real nice dinner. I can tell you eat healthy. I really admire that!”

It’s always the same fish counter lady, and she is always, always, this pleasant. She remembers me. She calls me honey. She compliments my appearance. She makes small talk but never in an intrusive or time consuming way. In short, she is a lovely person. ALWAYS.

“Oh yeah, I just remembered squid… do you have any squid today?” I add.

“I do! It’s fresh. I just thawed it!”

I thank her and carry on with my shopping, laughing to myself the entire time. I keep repeating her last sentence in my head over and again. I’m sure I am actually saying it aloud, shaking my head and laughing. I am also sure the other shoppers think I’m nuts.

I get into the rather longer than normal check out line and with my usual snarky attitude decide to tweet what she had said. It made me laugh and so I hoped that it might make others laugh as well.

At this point I start to get the unmistakable whiff of ciggies and bourbon.

The check out clerk is brand spanking new… nice enough… but really has no clue what she’s doing… long and short of it is that she finishes ringing up my purchases to a grand total of $394.76!

“Uh. No. I’m going to have to see the bill. There is NO WAY I’ve spent that much in here.”

I won’t give you all the back and forthing after she insisted that I couldn’t see it until I had paid it, but I held my ground and a supervisor appeared.

Problem discovered. She had charged one of the higher priced items NINE times.

“Okay so now you just pay the bill and go over to the other counter and they will resolve the issue.”

“Um. No. Resolve the problem here and I will pay the correct amount.” I state as calmly as possible. The reek of bourbon really starting to bug me now.

“Lady… come on! I’ve got kids lunch to get to!” Shrieks the harried woman in line behind me.

As I mentally prepared my long list of possible caustic comebacks, I felt a firm, long taloned finger tapping me on the shoulder. I look cautiously over my shoulder to a long stream of smoke being blown straight in my face.

“I’m sorry for the hold up… I really am.” I shrug sheepishly and promise myself to think up something really nice to say to the fish counter lady next time.

 

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Most Assuredly NOT funny… i think

Twice in very recent days, people have said “that’s funny” in response to something I’ve said. Now I love being told that I’m funny. Sometimes in fact, I’ll go a little out of my way, and even completely off topic, just to get that laugh. But in both cases, my statement was in no way funny, nor even at a stretch, intended to be funny.

So why did they say it?

My initial reaction was simple. They weren’t listening. Just giving me a line they felt MIGHT suit whatever I had said. But upon further examination I decided that in both cases the statements I had made were too similar in nature for the replies to have been a coincidence.

Both times they were statements which the other people, I now realize, found not at all funny, but rather distasteful… as in a “Why in God’s name would you want to do that?” kind of distasteful.

So I’m left to wonder. Why would someone say “that’s funny” when it’s not remotely what they felt?  Wouldn’t that be akin to saying, “I completely agree, that new scent you’re wearing is positively delicious!” when really it’s so cloying and over applied that you know you’ll likely keel over if the offender takes one step closer. Or perhaps, “Oh absolutely, you should seek out a specialized school for your son – clearly he is a prodigy!” after the little Einstein just ate a kleenex while laboriously attempting to clean his ears with a fork… and he’s twelve.

They aren’t remotely true so why not just nod and make the polite appreciative noises we all do when we don’t really agree but also don’t want to get into a debate over the matter.

To exclaim “that’s funny” when it is truly un-funny is just shy of saying… “you’re an idiot and I think what you just said is moronic funny, and not ha – ha funny.”

It was right then that the question struck me… why had I said what I did to those two particular people? It’s not like I don’t know them, not like I wouldn’t guess that they might find what I said moronic or even downright insane! I should have seen their distaste coming a mile away. (I know you’re all DYING to know what it was that I said – and even more – to WHOM!)

So was I LOOKING for a reaction from them?

YES! Yes I was!

And I was denied!

So who’s left with a fork in her ear now?

 

 

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Quiet Sunday mornings and short stories are meant for one another

This is a short piece I wrote which will eventually form part of a much larger piece that I’m working on.  I hope that you’ll enjoy it and as always I will love to hear your comments.

Happy quiet Sunday!

Messages

I had flown in only for the weekend. I wasn’t back here often, nor did I ever stay for long, but when I was I always made a trip to her grave. She was the reason I was who I had become. A single tulip and my memories were all that I brought.

~

We went to see the house before we had officially bought it. It was the day the rabbit bit my little finger.

I was fascinated by the long skinny room off the kitchen and behind the dining room. It was used as a pantry of sorts. It doubled as a telephone room, back when telephones were assigned to specific rooms with their cumbersome wires and restricting cords.

My parents had already begun referring to it as the den. They would make it the TV room, with plans to board up the doorway to the kitchen, leaving only a pass through. It would host a wine rack, which was rather avant garde, given that it was 1970’s small town Ontario. It would also feature a display wall for my father’s hunting rifles, and of course a locked cabinet for the ammunition. That part was kind of dumb I thought, as the cabinet, while locked, was made of thin pressboard. If a maniac broke into the house he could have bust through the cabinet with the butt of one of the rifles. That was right around the same time one of my uncles began referring to me as “the evil genius.”

I didn’t care one tiny bit what they planned to call it or fill it with. I only hoped that the pale yellow nicotine stained wall would be allowed to keep its current art display. It was the previous family’s note pad. The place where they jotted names and phone numbers of people who had called. The names were often accented by tiny drawings of the caller. Deidre was of particular fascination. It would seem that her boobs were considerably bigger than her head. The messages were recorded in everything from crayon to knife tip etching; one message even appeared to be written in blood. I could still see the smudged edge of a fingerprint.

My parents claimed to want something “unique” something “interesting” something “different.” Were they utterly blind to the unique, interesting and different existing wall?

“But it IS unusual.” I pleaded.

“That’s not the kind of unusual we’re looking for squirt.” My father said.

“But who else in the WHOLE WIDE WORLD would ever have anything at all like it?” I argued.

My mother wouldn’t even consider my position.

“Painting may prove difficult given the appalling state of the walls. We may have to consider papering.” She stated to no one.

The discussions continued; the odds between papering or painting weighed, including even my older sister’s opinion. I hated it when she stopped acting like a kid and chimed in on grown up conversation. Decisions were made and supplies were ordered.

“Everything should be here in a week.” My mother sang out after hanging up the phone. I couldn’t help but notice that she had made a few notes on the phone wall.

Action would have to be swift. I pushed away the notion of cutting away at the plaster and recreating the wall in its entirety in my bedroom – trouble was certain to follow such a destructive act. I considered recording each of the names and numbers, including the drawings of course, but then I would have merely a list and none of the character. Photography was the only option left to me.

I waited until the light was just right. It was rarely bright enough in that little north facing room and my mother was rather stingy with flash bulbs. I snapped several pictures of the wall. I planned to piece them together once the film was developed.

I trotted up the stairs to my bedroom considering which of the big city galleries would be vying for my work once I had the recreated the masterpiece. I imagined myself on the cover of Time Magazine as youngest artist ever to be featured at the Guggenheim.

I looked down at the tiny black number through the glass peek hole indicating how many images remained on the roll of film. I pulled out the crank on the bottom of the camera but slid it back into place remembering the last time I had rewound a roll of film before it was finished. My mother was equally as frugal with film as she was with flash bulbs.

The roll was brand new. I had taken image number two through eight. There would be trouble enough for taking so many.  It would be forever before all twenty-four images were shot! What if some of them were blurred? The names and numbers would be lost forever. I needed a new plan and fast… only six days remained in the life of the message wall.

I had recently read an article about Andy Warhol in a magazine one of my uncle’s girlfriends had left at the house. Leslie was a “hippie” according to my grandmother.

I thought Leslie was the coolest person I had ever met… even cooler than my uncle, her boyfriend. She talked to me about art and the world, like I was a grown up with interesting thoughts of my own. She told me all about Andy Warhol and showed me pictures of him in the magazine. He looked both insane and fabulous to me. They had called him a performance artist. I would create the greatest piece of “performance art” ever, by taping with my black vinyl bound cassette recorder, as I called every one of the numbers.

I didn’t waste a moment. I gathered up paper and pencil, my black recorder with a fresh cassette, peeled from its impossibly clingy wrapper, a stack of graham wafers and a large glass of pink lemonade. I knew this project would be infinitely more successful and considerably less time consuming than my previous challenge of filling my lower dresser drawer to the brim with pennies – that was not going at all well.

I scanned the wall trying to decide where I should start. Tapping the eraser end of the pencil on my chin as I had seen many important people do.

It didn’t take me long to decide that Deidre with the enormous boobs should be the starting point. I wondered if she sounded like she had big boobs.

I pressed the record and play buttons together until they locked into place and held the mic close to the ear piece on the phone.

“Hello?”

“Hello, is this Deidre?”

“Speaking. Who’s calling?”

“You don’t know me, but, well, errr, I have your phone number written on my wall.” I knew right then that I should have planned a script of sorts before making the call.

“DAMN IT! NOT AGAIN! YOU TELL THAT BOBBY TO STOP TELLING EVERYONE!” The sound of the phone being slammed into the cradle hurt my ear.

That did not turn out as I had planned.

I played back the recording and was pleased with the quality of sound. Mind you, Deidre had been screaming. I wasn’t too sure that I could count on that response from everyone.

Noting Deidre’s name with a little scary face next to it, I considered how to approach future calls. I was a little kid, regardless of how articulate all my teachers always said I was. Little kids voices over the phone weren’t generally taken seriously. I could tell them that I was working on a school project and that their name was suggested to me by…

“Mum! What was the family’s last name that used to live here?” I hollered from my work station in the corner beside my wall.

“Forrester. Why?”  The “why” was too clipped. She was suspicious.

“I’m working on a school project.” May as well stick with the story right from the beginning. Nobody would take me seriously if I explained that I was creating what would become the greatest piece of performance art ever known to mankind.

Next call I decided to choose at random. Eyes closed finger extended and POKE. Elmer MacDonald. What a name! I’ll bet he got made fun of when he was a kid.

“May I speak with Elmer MacDonald please.” I asked of the woman who half barked, half coughed a hello into the receiver.

“Junior or Senior?” She hacked.

“Hm, well that’s a good question… I don’t know. I guess whichever one knew someone from the Forrester family on the East Front.” I suggested, feeling rather clever.

“That’d be JR. Hang on. JR!” I could hear her wheezing while we waited for JR to pick up the phone.

“J.R. Damn it boy pick up the phone!” She shrieked. I heard the sound of a match being struck. The smell of sulfur wafted its way through the phone and straight up my nose.

“Yeah?” He half yelled. He sounded just like my older cousin Tommy… cranky. I was a little afraid of Tommy. I think it had something to do with his eyebrows, and how he liked to dangle me by my ankles over the river off the end of his dock.

“Um hi. I’m working on a school project and your…” My shaking voice betrayed me.

“Yeah? So? What’s it gotta do wi’ me?” It was clear that he was not going to be helpful.

“Were you friends with someone with the last name Forrester?”

“Still am. Why?”

“Well, as I’ve said, I’m working on a school project. I’m trying to put together all the names listed on this wall and…”

“Ah fuck off kid. I ain’t got time for this shit.” Click.

Wow. Mean. I wondered if he knew my cousin Tommy. I worried a little about the swearing on the cassette but since it wasn’t me that was doing the cursing I decided I likely wouldn’t get into trouble. After all it wasn’t like I hadn’t heard those words about a million times already. Big brothers and older cousins have very foul mouths.

I looked over the names and chose a nicer sounding one this time. Flora Kirkpatrick. Someone with such a happy name just had to be friendly.

“Allo?” I didn’t expect Flora Kirkpatrick to be French.

“Is this Flora Kirkpatrick?”

“Mais non, Flora, she’s out.” Although disappointed I had not reached my intended target, I was at least relieved to hear a friendly voice on the other end of the line.

“I’ll try back later. When is she expected home?” Going for my most business like voice and hoping I didn’t sound like a grade schooler.

“She get home demain, tomorrow.” Brusque but informative and happily not yelling or cursing at me.

Graham wafers eaten and pink lemonade reduced to pulpy dregs, I decided that it might be time to call it quits for the day. I knew that my Mum would be calling me to set the table for dinner shortly and I didn’t want to be in the middle of a recording session (I liked how that made me sound so professional).

“What Daddy?” I asked, as I kissed him goodnight later that evening. His face was always giving him away.

“Nothin’ Squirt… just wonderin’ what’s goin’ on, that’s all.” My Mum hated it when he dropped his g’s and sounded like a kid.

“Yes Darling, we were just wondering why you were so quiet at the dinner table.” My mother said to me, even though she was glaring at my Dad.

“Just tired… volleyball started today… inside my wrists and elbows hurts… that’s all… night!” I called over my shoulder as I trotted up the stairs. I imagined Andy Warhol having to tell a few lies when he first started out too.

I couldn’t get off the bus and up the driveway quickly enough the next afternoon. If Flora still wasn’t home I would find more interesting, non swear-y, yell-y people to take part in my great artwork.

I dialed the phone with the eraser end of my pencil as I had seen the doctor’s secretary do. She looked like she got a lot done in a day.

“Hello?” A different voice than yesterday… older… shaky like my Aunt Rose’s voice… really old.

“May I please speak with Mrs. Flora Kirkpatrick?” I asked, although I was pretty sure this was her. I had the same feeling in my chest and throat that I had on my birthday.

“This is she. How may I help you?” Now that was what I called polite phone manners. She must have gone to the same private school as my Mum.

“Um, hello Mrs. Kirkpatrick. My name is Elizabeth.” I reserved my full name for when I wanted to impress people – Lizzie was not impressive. “I live in the house that the Forresters used to own. Did you know them?” I hoped her hearing wasn’t too good so she couldn’t hear my nerves.

“Oh my, yes dear! I did, of course. My husband looked after their animals for many years. He was a veterinarian. Did you know that?” I started to tell her that it made me feel a little better about the rabbit that had bitten me, but she just kept right on talking. “Oh yes, they had every type of animal, big and small… well not every type mind, just the smaller and the bigger of the smaller variety, although they did have a St. Bernard once, barely lived a year, poor dear stupid creature .” She said stupid like my Mum too – styoo-pid. “Hit by a car, such a busy road. I hope you’re careful on that road Elizabeth, are you?”

“Oh yes Ma’am, I’m terribly careful. I always check three or four times at least.” I assured her.

“Oh that’s good dear. Now what was I telling you? Oh yes, about the Forresters many animals. Now Neil, that’s my late husband, the veterinarian, God rest his soul, Neil never minded going out to the house to tend the animals, even though the new way of doing business isn’t to make house calls anymore, Neil always felt it was more stressful for the sick or injured animal to travel… better he should, he always said, and poor dear Mrs. Forrester had far too many children in my opinion, and her ghastly husband never left her with a car, so Neil always went to them.” Flora stopped talking for quite a while. I was starting to worry that she might have fallen asleep. My Aunt Rose was always falling asleep at the weirdest times.

“Mrs. Kirkpatrick? Are you okay? If you’re tired, I can call another time.”

“That would be simply lovely! Will you call again tomorrow and I’ll tell you a little more about the Forresters. That is why you’re calling aren’t you?”

“Yes ma’am it is… kinda… I just wanted to talk to everyone on their wall.” I felt as though she might be someone, besides my uncle’s girlfriend, who might understand what I was trying to do.

“Wonderful, dear. Call tomorrow and I’ll tell you some stories and you can tell me all about your wall. Goodbye Elizabeth, and remember, cross carefully!”

The next afternoon my whole family headed into the city for my youngest cousin’s first birthday. My aunt’s best in the WHOLE WIDE WORLD quadruple layer chocolate cake made up a little for the fact that I wouldn’t be able to call Flora as I had promised. I was also excited as birthdays were events which my mother felt picture worthy. Especially first birthdays. Kids and cakes were about the only thing my Mum thought to take pictures of. I was sure that Andy Warhol would not have approved.

All the next day I anticipated my call to Flora. I even got into trouble in social studies class. My teacher thought I was passing notes. What I was really doing was writing down ideas that Flora and I might discuss later that afternoon.

When my school day finally ended, I leapt off the bus and tore up the driveway, through the kitchen and into what was shortly to become “The Den”. I flung open the table drawer where I had stashed my note pad and tape recorder. Remembering the rambling conversation from a few days earlier, I decided that perhaps a spare cassette at the ready might be in order.

“Hello?” She sounded much more awake and a lot less shaky today.

“Hi! It’s me… Elizabeth. How are you Mrs. Kirkpatrick?”

“Oh hello dear! How are you today? Did you cross carefully? Ohahahahaha! Of course you did, or you wouldn’t be calling me again now would you? HAHAHAHA!” Boy that one really got her.

“Yup I sure did cross carefully!  Sorry I didn’t call yesterday. I was at a birthday party.” I offered.

“Oh birthday parties are such fun. Was there a magician? My grandaddy was a magician… just an amateur of course. He was a doctor in real life, but he loved magic. I had the most wonderful parties when I was a little girl. He always let me be the assistant. I thought back then that I might like to be on the stage, but it turned out that I was far too shy.”

“So what did you wind up becoming when you grew up?” I hoped desperately that I wasn’t being rude. It seemed liked the kind of question you weren’t supposed to ask.

“Oh what a lovely question to be asked! I haven’t been asked that in, oh dear, well at least, oh my, maybe one hundred years or more HAHAHA! Obviously I’m not over a hundred, you do know that don’t you dear? Of course you do, you’re a clever young lady. Now what was the question? Oh yes, what did I become. Well, I’ll tell you what I did NOT become… a painter. I dearly wanted to become a painter.  My father said that only the terribly wealthy and the terribly poor became artists. We were neither.”

“What sort of stuff did you paint?”  I liked people who talked about art.

“I loved to paint in my mother’s garden. She was a splendid gardener. Sometimes I would paint landscapes but can you imagine what I enjoyed painting even more than that? I would pick a single bloom and I would paint it each day as it slowly died. My mother always thought that was rather peculiar. Do you think that’s peculiar Elizabeth?”

“Oh not at all! I think it sounds wonderful. I kept a tulip in my room once for three weeks. The water got pretty smelly, but the petals looked so cool, sort of like really old skin.” It popped right out. The heat spread up my neck and across my cheeks.

“Oh Elizabeth! You are absolutely right! How delightful!” She laughed for a long time about that so I knew that I hadn’t hurt her feelings.

“I know, I know, it seems silly that a young girl from the East Front could ever dream to become a great artist, but it was my only wish. Do you have a great wish for your future Elizabeth?” Besides Leslie, no one had ever asked me that before.

“Well yes, I do… you see there’s this wall in my new house… I mean that it’s an old house, but it’s new to me. Anyway, the Forresters used to live here and they wrote on the wall… that’s how I found your number. My parents are going to cover the wall. I tried to talk them out of it, but they just don’t get art.  I’m going to create the greatest piece of performance art, so great that even Andy Warhol will want to talk to me about it. Have you heard of him Mrs. Kirkpatrick?”

“Oh my yes! I most certainly do know who he is dear! I was lucky enough to go to an exhibit in New York City in… oh now, what was it? 1962 or 1963? Hmm let’s see well I think it was… oh well it doesn’t really matter does it? But yes I do know who he is. He is a bit peculiar but terribly talented isn’t he? I think that you should continue to pursue this dream of becoming a great artist Elizabeth. Never stop striving for excellence in your creative pursuits. I wish that I could have done the same… tell me dear, what does your father do for a living?

“Um, well, he’s an insurance man… I’m not exactly sure what that means… I asked him once and he told me that he put his feet up on his desk and dreamt up flavours of Baskin Robbins Ice Cream! Have you ever had Baskin Robbins Ice Cream? I had some when I went to Cape Cod last summer… they have thirty-one flavours!”

“Ah, I see, so you are neither very wealthy nor very poor, but I think that times are different now.” Her speech was beginning to slow and I worried the she must be getting tired.

“Mrs.Kirkpatrick, are you tired? Should I call again another time?”

“Well, yes dear I think that might be best, but please remember, never, ever stop creating art. In whatever form that might take. Art is so terribly important in our world, and often overlooked as frivolous. Remember how important art truly is dear. Will you do that for me?” Her voice was shaking worse than ever.

“I will remember Mrs. Kirkpatrick, I promise. I’ll call again very soon.” I felt a little like crying and I couldn’t for the life of me understand why.

I must have been sitting for some time when my mother found me.

“What is it Darling? You look upset. Has something happened that you would like to talk about?” She was crouched down in front of me, her hand on my forehead, checking for the fever which would explain everything away.

“When is this room getting done Mum?”

“Oh Lizzie, let’s not have this conversation again please.” She stood up abruptly and turned on her heel.

“No Mum, it’s okay, I’m not gonna bug you about it anymore. I’m just wondering. That’s all. Really.” I had leapt up and followed her into the living room where she was already curled up into her wing chair, coffee cup and thick paperback in hand. Her smile was soft. The kind that made me wish I were still little enough to climb into the chair with her.

“I picked up the film this aft… the envelope is on the kitchen table.” I paused, trying to read her expression. Should I be excited or disappointed?

“Go on! They’re good, you’ll be quite pleased I expect!” I was too excited to marvel that she wasn’t cross with me about how many I had taken.

Tearing open the envelope it dawned on me that she may have been referring to the birthday pictures. I was pleased with the kids and cakes pictures, she was right, I thought as I flipped quickly through them. And then I had reached the wall pictures… all seven of them. At first glance they seemed to be a complete failure. Dirty yellow walls, stained with years of tobacco smoke and dust motes floating through the ribbons of late afternoon sunlight. Then I saw it, once my eyes had adjusted to focus beyond the obvious, initial impressions. The printing on the wall was perfectly clear.

I spread them out on the table recreating the wall in two dimensions. I didn’t look up as my mother came into the kitchen. She stood quietly behind me, then reached for the stack of “kids and cakes.”

“They’re really very good Darling. You have quite a way of looking at things from a completely different and peculiar perspective don’t you?” She said, not really looking for an answer.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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This REALLY needs addressing… even if it is just by me.

So I guess it’s been awhile.

I hadn’t planned on taking quite this large a step away from my computer but there you have it… stuff just snuck up on me.

In my own defense, it’s not like I was just lazing about, or cocktailing on patios with friends all summer, although there was a tiny bit of that:)  I’ve been quite busy with a new project, details of which I’ll bore you all with in my next post!

I’ve finally sat down to write today because of a statement I read recently that has moved me—more accurately it fired me up. It read like this…

”I think the greatest lie is to think that anything you do can change someone else.”

Seriously?

I think that’s sad and leaning just a little to the wrong side of hopeless.

I can already hear some of you saying “Oh God Stace, don’t be so naive!” but hear me out.

I don’t think we can change people (or be changed by people) in a larger sense, say for example our core values, but I fully believe that people change as they are impacted by others, every single minute of every single day. I might even go so far as to think that if we are NOT changed in some way by those around us then perhaps we have stopped looking and listening.

I’m not talking about the kind of changing people that your mother warns you about when you start dating the “bad boy with the motorcycle” (who, not surprisingly, I not only dated but subsequently married however briefly:) I’m talking about more subtle changes in how we view, and in fact even react to the world.

I can’t for one second believe that every new interest I develop, or method for tackling a problem has come solely from my own inner workings. They come from someone else. Whether I read about it, talked to someone about it or even saw it on a TED talk (to which I am uttlerly addicted and if you don’t watch them, seriously, start now! Dare I say, it might change you:)

Each new piece of information I take in has a great likelihood of changing me in some way. It may be important and life altering or merely a thoughtful new way to see what is happening around me.

I may change my garden design each year, however subtly, because of someone else’s ideas. I alter and expand how I spend my leisure time based on what I have learned from other peoples experiences and interests. (Thank you my lovely cousin Vicki:) I make changes to my fitness schedule based on knowledge I have garnered from others, most notably my trainer Eli, but sometimes just from watching what’s going on (or not going on!) at the gym.

My writing style has altered rather dramatically in no small part because of my writerly friends input. That coupled with studying more closely the authors I admire and continually taking courses which expand my views and abilities. That is me being changed by someone else. A bunch of someone elses!

I’ve become involved with a volunteer group (which is mostly what I’ve been busy doing this summer) who are interested in my ideas for how to grow and alter… guess that means I’ve changed them a little. One of the main goal’s of this group is to help other’s see things a little differently as well, to help people grow and learn. In short, to help them change a little, or maybe even a lot.

Change is important and something I strive to remain open to until… well, forever. Call me naive if you will, but I believe it and will continue to do so. Unless of course you think you can prove me wrong… which ironically would prove me right!

I guess I could even say that the person who penned the statement that so got under my skin has changed me a little too… she got me back to my damn computer :)

 

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Painkillers and Poetry

My sister and I have a joke. Well, it’s actually less of a joke, and more that my sister thinks I’m a little bonkers–like in a needing meds adjacent kind of way. You see she’s a very calm and relaxed sort. I’m about as far from relaxed as they come.  Rather excitable one might even say.

I tend to have a lot on the go. Please don’t misunderstand. I’m not a “Busy Barbie”. I always think those lovely ladies spend more time and energy TELLING everyone about all the stuff they do, and slightly less actually DOING the stuff. I’m a project girl. I’m happiest when I’m doing… stuff. In short, I do not relax well.

A couple of weeks ago a kindly emergency room doctor presented me with a white package containing a single tiny pill and an equally tiny paper cup of water.

“For the pain.” He smiled kindly and gently patted my shoulder.

What he didn’t realize was that the tears streaming down my face were not as result of the foot I had just broken, they were mourning the loss of my ability to do… stuff.

Once the particularly potent little pill had kicked in, I was carefully planning how I would rearrange my daily life. The cast which was at that very moment being plastered onto my offending foot was the problem. Pain I can deal with, lack of mobility poses a larger issue.

Gym time was clearly out, although I will admit that I had not entirely ruled out upper body and core work. I just had to wait out those pretty, twinkling lights behind my eyelids every time I blinked. And once everyone’s speech returned to a normal speed I knew I would be good to go.

In the meantime I assumed I would just write write write.

What I hadn’t realized was that I seem most able to focus on being a productive and creative writer once all my STUFF is done. I’m quite good at clearing it all up early in the day and then I am finally able to sit down and focus on the writing.

So there I sat for many more days and weeks than I care to consider with all of this STUFF undone. It made writing a little difficult… of course the little white pills in the very early days didn’t help that much either. I probably should have attempted poetry at that point.

So the pill portion of breakage over with and near complete mobility returned to normal, I am once again able to focus on writing. Did I mention how I broke my foot? Going for the perfectly framed shot of a full moon. Did I mention that my emerg doctor’s name was Wolff? Hmm, maybe there’s a short story in there somewhere:)

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