Archive of ‘Personal thoughts’ category

To Kelly on Her 27th Birthday

Friendship

I don’t have that many friends. No, it’s true. I don’t. But I am okay with this. I am not the kind of person who likes to be surrounded by circles of people. I would rather have one solid friend I can speak to every day, than one hundred people I hear from only once in a while.

As a private person, it isn’t an easy thing for me to relax around others. It takes a great deal of time before I am at ease enough with someone to call him or her a friend. It is a big investment.  I don’t have casual relationships. There is quite a gap between friendship and acquaintanceship. Work associates, classmates, neighbours, people I talk to at the bus stop, these all fall into the latter category. They come and go out of my life and don’t leave any scars. Friendship, for me, is much deeper. It involves loyalty and shared confidences, emotional connection and mutual concern. Whether with a winky face or an outright jibe, You know I consider you a friend when I am comfortable enough to make fun of you.

I tease because I love.

Which is why, the few friends I am so lucky to have, are people I have known for a long time. For example, I am still friends with the very first person whom I ever gave this title, at age three. Almost thirty years later, we don’t speak often, but the friendship remains intact. With or without social media, I do believe we would have kept in touch.

My friendship with Kelly is young in comparison. I met her in 2011 when we shared an office. It is rare for me to befriend someone at work. I like to keep separate worlds. It is easier to organize and prevents me from having to reveal too much about myself out of my usual sphere. At work, I like people to think I have my shit together. The less they know, the better. I had just left an awkward job elsewhere and was still trying to figure out if there was a polite way of unfriending former co-workers on Facebook. I told myself I would never add colleagues to my personal accounts ever again.

This vow didn’t last long. Kind of hard to ignore a Facebook friend request from a boss.

Kelly and I weren’t immediate co-conspirators or kindred spirits. We both have our issues, after all. I can’t say when we shifted from officemates to partners in crime. It was a seamless, gradual change. Maybe it was after her cat drew my blood after the Sandwich War of 2011. Or perhaps it was more subtle than that. I don’t know if it is because we have so much in common, or if I just like people who test my patience, but in retrospect, it seems to me she was bossing me around quite regularly within six months. It stopped annoying me after twelve.

Remember, verbal abuse equals affection, just ask my sister.

We’ve been through some stressful times together. At first they were all work-related. I can recall so many episodes of Adventures in Late Night Photocopying and Let’s Get This Conference Over With. Of course, we can’t forget the classic, Year of Shittery. Always a pleaser. But as horrible as things seemed and as overwhelming as it all was, we could always laugh about it. We experienced so many breaking points together, moments of meltdown over inoperable hand carts and frustrating emails. But the solution was often just a Starbucks trip away.

And if it wasn’t, we were there to support. We couldn’t solve each other’s problems, but we could understand.

I don’t keep in touch with many former work pals. As I’ve mentioned, previous acquaintanceships have died the instant I left the building.  When we made the decision to leave Halifax, one of my biggest regrets was moving away from friends. I worried I would lose what I had gained.

Kelly was, and is, different. At that point she knew who I was, dorky dog blog and all, and didn’t judge. She put up with my heckling and my insecurities and I put up with her commandeering and lack of filter, knowing she had the tougher end of the deal. My hermit ways are not easy to withstand. I should have known if she’d already ignored my previous attempts to evade, she wasn’t going to drop me the instant I was out of sight.

We still talk almost every day. She has been an incredible source of calm, even from a distance. When Shiva was injured last fall, Kelly didn’t think I was crazy or overreacting when I called her in tears. She understood my fears, stayed up long past midnight to listen to me yammer, and offered her resources to help us out. There was no hesitation. When I think back on that night, I realize just how lucky I am to have such a warm and giving person on my team.

It’s a small team, but it’s a devoted one. I don’t know if I will ever deserve it. Kelly would be the first to chime in that I don’t.

I am not as skilled as Kelly, unfortunately. I can’t craft beautiful images or dedicate hours to sewing thoughtful gifts. The birthday presents I have planned out for her, have not been good enough to match what she has given me. It is a failure of mine, that I can never seem to synchronize the image in my head with the outcome. I fear this makes me a terrible friend. One little blog post is hardly an appropriate gift. It is just all I have to offer today, alongside my constant support and solidarity.

I often reflect on how much of life depends on the small decisions we make. The deadline had passed when I applied for the job where I met Kelly. I recall wavering before emailing my resume anyway. What would have happened if I hadn’t pushed the send button? Where would I have worked? Whom would I have met? I am certain I made the best choice. I know if I hadn’t met Kelly, if she hadn’t been kind enough to ignore all of my flaws, I wouldn’t be the quasi-well adjusted person I am right now.

Of course, it’s also possible I would have met a friend with a yacht and a house on the island of Sardinia, but I’ll give Kelly the benefit of the doubt on this one.

Happy Birthday, Kelly. Even if you like the Backstreet Boys, I am so grateful I can call you a friend.

Dog Love: Why Does It Even Matter?

What the heck is love, anyway? Sure, we all think we know. We like to spout things about self-sacrifice, everlasting affection, and deep romantic attachment. Everyone has his or her own concept of what it feels like to love someone and of what this love should consist. We are eager to sneer at celebrities who marry one day and divorce the next, superior in our knowledge that it could not have been “real” love. Even I talk about it like it’s some defined thing, a concrete noun with assigned meaning.

Naturally, my opinion on this meaning is the only correct one.

Wanna hear it? Probably not. But I am going to tell you anyway.

The One True Definition of Love, as told by Kristine, shaming all other definitions of love because this is the one true definition and everyone else is wrong:

  • There is no such thing as love at first sight, love must grow over time to be real, otherwise it is just silly infatuation
  • Love means wanting to say you are sorry, over and over and over again
  • Love means putting those you love first. In fact, it means being grateful you can put them first, without a smidge of resentment.
  • That being said, love is not unconditional. I don’t care what crap your mom told you. Love can end.
  • There are no varying degrees of love. You either love someone or you don’t. You can’t “kind of” love somebody or only love them when they behave a certain way.
  • Love and need are two very different things.

I am going to stop now because I think I have made my point. I have no doubt ticked some of you off. If not, I have ticked myself off so I guess that’s good enough.

The thing is, I don’t believe anyone gets to tell us what love is. It’s too personal. It is such a profound word for some of us and an inscrutable one for others. Half the time, I don’t think I understand it at all. All I can tell you is how it feels for me based on my own experiences. Given that your experiences are – we hope – very different from mine I don’t get to tell you how you feel. As someone who was told throughout her childhood that her emotions were wrong, I believe in a person’s right to choose how she labels her feelings.

Or even whether she names them at all.

The author of Something Wagging This Way Comes wrote an insightful and wise blog post today about a – in my perspective – less than insightful study. Ever since I read the science article this morning I have been ruminating over the concept of defining how dogs feel love. Pamela has already done an excellent job of breaking down the methodology and pointing out the scientific flaws. I feel the need to push it further.

In my opinion it is an act of hubris to assume we can ever understand the way a dog feels about his human or anything else in his life. Science can help us predict his behaviour and even – maybe – help us understand the way a dog might view the world. But I do not believe it is possible to know if my dog loves anything, be it me, the Am Staff at the dog park, or a stuffed Kong. I just don’t feel comfortable labelling any of her emotions with certainty. I believe she feels them, I just don’t know if it is my place to determine what they are.

Love is too complex of an emotion, too intense. That doesn’t mean dogs don’t feel it – I believe they are capable of so much more than we will ever be able to prove in a lab. However, I don’t know if it is possible to interpret their actions as something so complicated without hearing from them first. It seems to be doing them a disservice.

No doubt you are narked again. If you are the kind of person who reads late night blog posts written by people who spend too much time pondering canine philosophy, you are the kind of person who puts her dog first. I know your dog appreciates it. I know your dog is happy when you are around. It is possible your dog loves you. It is just not my decision to make.

Nor is it a decision for scientists in a lab to make.

Do I think Shiva loves me? No idea. As I said in my comment this morning, it doesn’t matter to me if she does. In fact, based on my own definition above, I hope she doesn’t. I don’t want her to put my health and happiness before her own. If there is a threat, I want her to run away as fast as she can so I can handle it. It isn’t her job to protect me. What is more important to me, and what is easier to gauge by her behaviour, is that I do think she trusts me.

Trust is much less complicated than love, and – in many ways – is much easier to define. Shiva shows me she trusts me by letting me handle her, even when she is in pain. She never flinches from my touch, even when she doesn’t want to be pet. When she used to be terrified of water bottles, she now will drink from one as I pour it into her bowl. She lets me reach into her mouth, even when she scooped up something super yummy from the ground. Shiva looks to me when uncertain and dives forward when I say something is okay.

For Shiva, I am a means to getting what she wants. But I am also someone safe, someone she relies on to care for her when she is feeling unwell I don’t need to call it love in order to feel proud that I can provide her with what she needs. My love for her is more than enough for the two of us.

Real Life Confession #12: I Care Too Much About Hair

Being a woman, it follows that I hate almost everything about my physical appearance.

Maybe that isn’t true. Hopefully it isn’t true for any of the women who might read this. But, we are told by every commercial, every magazine, and every soup label that who we are and how we look is wrong.* Societal disdain is a hard enemy to combat and most days, I don’t even try. I accept the fact that I don’t look like a Hollywood celebrity – noting that most Hollywood celebrities don’t even look like Hollywood celebrities – and try not to think about how others would rate my attractiveness.

Cat ears notwithstanding, I recall being happy with my hairstyle that day

Cat ears notwithstanding, I recall being happy with my hairstyle that day

Age has taught me that none of it counts.  Manicures are for twenty-somethings in the midst of quarter-life crises. Me? I have a dog to wrangle.

Except in one area, that is. I may have given up on having clear skin, may not have weighed myself in at least five years, and may have embraced the classic t-shirt as my personal statement, but I spend a superfluous amount of time thinking about my hair. It is a vanity I cannot dethrone.

This is not to say that I think it always looks photo-worthy. Please. I am not the kind of woman who gets up at three in the morning to spend four hours making sure her tresses gleam. At least, I am not any more. (See aforementioned dog.) If it doesn’t look remotely decent, however, I have difficulty holding my head high when going to the grocery store. I don’t care about my tattered jeans or my dirty shoes when running out for cat food. I have to make sure my hair is clean and in place. In an ideal world, it would also be trimmed every six weeks.

Clearly, things often amble far from the ideal. Six or seven years ago I may have subsisted on ramen in order to pay for regular salon visits, which may be a part of the reason I am in a bit of a fiscal downturn, but this wasn’t sustainable. The biggest problem with this: when I let my hair situation slide too far, my confidence slithers right along with it. Basically, if my hair looks like crap, I feel like crap.

It is a bit ridiculous, I realize. No one else cares or even notices. I never judge anyone else for something as petty as the shape, length, or style of their locks, It is foolish to hinge so much of my personal pride on a pretty mane.

Logic has no place here. When my hair has split ends up to my eyebrows, I can’t help but reflect on past splendor. It seems like just yesterday I was walking around with this super-cute style:

2007

If I remember correctly, the colour lasted about a week before it turned poop-red. It was lovely for the seven days it hung around, wasn’t it?

Spending money on something that does not benefit anyone else makes me feel guilty. The simple desire to spend this money makes me feel guilty. Thus, even though getting a hair cut is a positive experience that improves my self-esteem, it makes me feel bad about myself at the same time. Which is why before yesterday, I hadn’t had a trim since April of last year.

There was a whole lot of not cute going on.

train hair

The above picture is from September and the split ends are mortifying. The mind boggles at how long my hair had grown in the five months since this was taken. I will spare you the horror.

Self-care involves taking the time for actions that have that have positive impacts on our minds and bodies. Self-care makes me feel guilty. Well, nuts to that. It is a little thing, perhaps a selfish thing, but it makes me feel so much more like myself. It should not be a source of judgement and shame. If self-care is a feminist act then maybe getting a hair cut can be too.

Taken yesterday afternoon. So. Much. Better.

Taken yesterday afternoon. So. Much. Better.

 

Or maybe I am just enabling an obsession I need to conquer. It is just head-covering, right? It might be time for an intervention.

Do you have any vanities you can’t abolish? 

*Seriously, Progresso. I expect this kind of crap from yogurt, but soup? You have ruined what used to be a faultless comfort food.

The Owls Are Still Around

004There is something about an owl’s call that makes one stop and take stock. I am walking along, debating over how to tackle a problem at the office or ruminating on the blister forming at my heel, and the soft stuttering vocals - hoo-h’HOO-hoo-hoo - make me forget everything. My breath catches and I stand still, hoping to hear the sound again.

I am disappointed.

Shiva tugs at my side, shakes off the snow, and whines to keep moving. With much better ears than mine, I know she heard the owl, but it is a sound she deems unimportant. White noise. It signals neither food nor threat and she is anxious to reach the curved stick metres away on the path ahead. I am reluctant to move forward, scared my boots in the snow and Shiva’s jingling tags will startle the bird. But at last I give in and Shiva leaps forward in relief. As she pounces on the broken branch I hear the call again.

hoo-h’HOO-hoo-hoo

I stop again. My eyes search the trees to my left. I know the chances of me catching sight of the owl are limited. I have to try. Shiva chomps on her stick and tosses her head, the terrier-shake that always makes me grin. Giving up, I move forward once more.

hoo-h’HOO-hoo-hoo

The last time I heard a hoot like this was in Nova Scotia, fairly close to one year ago. Last winter, Shiva and I spent many early mornings walking on the off-leash trail near our home. Being February, we were almost always alone. Except for the wildlife.

Being susceptible to dense imaginings, I often frightened myself by wondering what creatures may have been watching us from behind the trees. The only light in the park was the moon bouncing off the snow. Though a major road lay only a kilometre away, in the forest the soundtrack of our strolls consisted of Shiva’s short pants and my crunching shoes. And, on special occasions, the call of an owl.

hoo-h’HOO-hoo-hoo

It made for a spooky experience, I can’t deny. The cry of an owl is not a comfort. At least, not back then. It served as a caution. When I heard the owl, the hair on the back of my neck did more than stand up, it danced, bounding on my nerves until I decided to recall Shiva and make my way home to safety.

Tonight, as I stand in the northern Alberta cold, cheeks burning from the acid wind, the experience is much different. As I gaze into the dark branches, straining to catch a flicker of a feather, I am reassured.

I may be far from that other place I used to call home. We may be walking at night on a busy trail with less quiet and sharper chill, but the owls are still around.

hoo-h’HOO-hoo-hoo

As our walk is close to an end – I can see the too-bright lights of houses up the hill – I give in to Shiva’s nagging and carry on. My feet leave the crunchy white path and slide on to pavement. The owl calls again. I keep walking but I have to look back. Maybe this time I will see.

hoo-h’HOO-hoo-hoo

Only darkness meets my scrutiny. I smile. Perhaps it is better not to see. We trudge up the icy road and my movements are careful so as not to slip. If the owl speaks again I am now too far to hear. But I decide to picture him leaving as we did, going on to harmonize someone else’s winter trek.

On My Mother

My mother is not a feminine woman. She doesn’t worry about clothes, keeps her hair cut short, and the only make-up I’ve ever seen her wear is lipstick. When I was a child, I knew it was a special night when she added a touch of pink to her lips.

As a narcissistic teenager (a redundant phrase if there ever was one) I resented this. All I wanted to do was blend in with everyone else. I craved a mother who would teach me how to wax my legs and pluck my eyebrows and apply eyeliner.* My mother doesn’t even use conditioner herself, there was no way she was going to help me add highlights to my hair. We never went bra shopping. It was my father who went with me to find my high school graduation gown. I wanted a mother who would do all the things my friends’ mothers did. Motherly things. Girly things.

Things I had to teach myself.

Now that I am older than my mother was when she gave birth to me, I have a bit more wisdom to my credit. She may never admit it, but in many ways my mother is a feminist. Growing up, I received only a handful of compliments on how I looked. The focus was always on my brain or my performance. I was enrolled in sports, not dance, and all of my hand-me-downs were from my male cousins. I played with cars as much as I played with dolls. I was given a large amount of physical and emotional freedom and was encouraged to pursue science. My parents were always equals in everything. My father still does the majority of cooking and cleaning. Friendship has been a key component of their marriage’s success and I am so lucky to have such excellent role models in that regard.

My mother’s lack of concern for appearance and apparent disregard for gender roles should have been a revelation.  Instead I was angered by her unwillingness to follow the patriarchal path. I wanted my mother to want to be like everyone else. But she refused. I wish I had let this self-possession guide me as I made my own decisions and battled my own dragons.

My mother’s adolescence was much more difficult than mine, not that one would ever guess at the trauma she endured by speaking with her. It makes me proud. I hope that kind of resilience lies within me. Most women my age live in fear of turning into their mothers and, if I am being honest, I have worried about this as well. Every time I catch myself doing things the way my mother does them – a certain phrase or smile or gesture – I wince. I don’t want to be like her and yet, when I think about it, most of my best qualities are those I inherited from her.

I’ve always felt my personality more closely resembles that of my father. My constant worrying, my extreme dedication to my work, my shyness, and my private nature all come from him. As does my love of history and my enjoyment of classic Hollywood. I never felt like I had anything in common with my mother. She is too outgoing. She likes to craft and watch Ladyhawke over and over againRegardless of her odd taste in entertainment, my mother has made me more easygoing. I rarely take offence and I like to think I am at least as approachable. Her ability to brush things off and move on, I hope, lives in me too. As does her loyalty and her kindness.

This isn’t to say my mother is perfect or my father is a wreck. I am pleased to have acquired his sarcasm and his ability to make fun of himself. But I am finally gaining appreciation for a woman I used to begrudge. We had our battles, however, I now acknowledge my role in them and appreciate all she tried to impart.

My mother is a stronger woman than I used to believe. She is smart and warm and capable of standing up for herself. She was a feminist role model for a girl who’d desperately needed it. I wish I’d crawled out of my critical hole long enough to notice that before now. If I sometimes sound like her, I guess I could do a lot worse.

*Yes, I am still harping on this eyeliner thing. It is this gap in my knowledge I can’t ignore! Why can’t I do it without stabbing myself in the eye?

Today is a Passive Day

My decision to turn down my acceptance to law school was complicated and fraught with indecision. For a long time I comforted myself with the knowledge that I would never be the kind of person capable of falling in love with a job. Even as a dedicated student who would rather study than party, I hoarded my spare time with extreme jealousy. While I dedicated all-nighters to perfecting research papers, it wasn’t out of passion. So often my reward for finishing 1,000 words was joining my sister in video game session. For me, work is the thing I do to justify and afford all of the things I actually enjoy. I do it because as much as I dislike the slogging, I hate failing even much more.

As an obliger, motivation is a hard thing to rally. On energetic days, I make goals and believe I will achieve them. Plans seem so simple, so probable. “I will do this,” I tell myself with a fist in the air. “Tomorrow. After I finish this novel.” On passive days, I tell myself the goals don’t really matter. It isn’t as if anyone is keeping track. Without something to earn or something to prove, it is easier to pretend I never expected anything in the first place.

Today is a passive day. I am not very motivated to write or to blog at all, ever again. What difference would it make? I’d only be letting down myself, and myself is accustomed to being let down. I am tired. Work is long. It is cold outside and I don’t want to get up in the morning to freeze with the dog for half an hour. Only to freeze again when I return home. I live for the weekends but they are too short. And I never accomplish as much as I desire. What is wrong with placating myself with television and cookies? Why work harder than necessary?

In a logical sense I know even the most comfortable luxuries must be leavened with industry in order to be gratifying. It could be the weather or the lack of activity. It could be the lure of the comparison game, always dangerous ground for someone who can write an ordered list of all the things she is not but finds it impossible to say what she is.

I am not an athlete or a dancer or an artist. I am not a dog trainer or a skier or a scientist. I am not a lawyer or a teacher or a singer. I am not a woman who can apply eyeliner or decorate a house or cook a meal without a recipe. I am not crafty. I am not good at math. I am not patient. I am not magic.

I am an almost-wife. I am a sister and I am a daughter, though I don’t think I am a very good version of the latter. I try to be a friend. Other than that?

I don’t know.

I am reading a book filled with assignments meant to teach me how to write better. When I opened the book, I meant to read one chapter, complete the task, and then move on to the next. The tasks aren’t difficult and should be entertaining. I am eight chapters in and I haven’t started my homework from the first. The exercise in front of me involves writing 750 words about the kind of writing I like to read in order to set the standard for my own endeavours. Although I know what I wish to say, I cannot force myself to get the words down.

I wonder if I have become intimidated by the rules. Perhaps by desiring to learn how to write well, I have lost the little confidence I had that enabled me to write at all. A bit of knowledge in the wrong hands can be disastrous. The words don’t flow any more, if they ever did. I am obsessed with concept nouns. I question every tense. This constant editing doesn’t make my writing better, it inhibits. I have lost the desire to write for the sake of writing.

Another assignment, from the book, is to keep a notebook or journal. This is not something I have ever been able to undertake with regularity. All of my high school attempts were dotted with embellishments, for no one’s benefit but my own, and ended in pure fiction. For something that no one was ever going to read but me, I spent a great deal of time making it entertaining.

This blog, while not a diary, contains more personal truth than any of my previous writing. And it couldn’t be more public. It is interesting that I have no difficulty lying to myself but balk at embroidering my life online. If I ever discover the reasons for this, I hope they will also permit me to be as vulnerable in my real life as I can be in this space.

For now, I will keep trying. Especially when it’s hard. I don’t want to disappoint myself any more. I am worth more than that.

Shift+F7, Let Me Count the Ways

017

“You have to be careful with a dictionary,” teased my twelfth grade English teacher, “you don’t want to get distracted and lose track of time.”

At the time, fourteen years ago, this seemed a ridiculous notion. I raised a single eyebrow, an expression I had perfected in junior high school, and watched Mr. Siebert stroke the heavy book in his hands. I remember thinking the man had clearly taken advantage of the chemicals available in his youth. To me, there was something a little off about reading a reference book for pleasure.

English class was never my favourite. I was disturbed by the constant and illogical analysis. To my mind novels were to be enjoyed, not prodded for deeper meaning. What was the purpose of that? Fictional characters were friends, to be accepted as they were. I was uncomfortable putting them under a microscope.

Shakespeare was acceptable. I never felt close to Juliet and I still can’t imagine having a beer with the likes of Horatio. Benedict, with his dry, Alan Rickman delivery, came the closest to friendship territory. Yet, even then, his dismal experiment with romance relegated him to the station of permanent acquaintance. Thus, these characters were open for dissection. I was more of an observer in their world and didn’t get an icky feeling of disloyalty when I tried to enter their internal lives.

Short works had their own draw. The short story’s purpose is to be twisted and turned from every angle. As they are read in one sitting, I didn’t have a chance to feel overly connected. Essays are much the same. No one writes an essay simply to have a good time. There is value there beyond entertainment.

As for poetry… Let’s just say English class did not give me an appreciation.

Mr. Siebert was a passionate teacher. Now I acknowledge how lucky I was to have been under his wing. His joy for words was infectious and by the end of the semester I came around to his point of view. Though he never had me reading the dictionary in my spare time – that would come later – he did teach me the beauty of the English language. Without his efforts, I doubt I would have ever learned the difference between words like “delusion” and “disillusion”. I know I never would have gained an affection for the daring dash.It was also Mr. Siebert who gave me my first thesaurus.

There was no going back. Today, shift+F7 remains the most frequently used shortcut on my keyboard. I never would have survived my university career without it. When I was young, I loved flaunting my wide vocabulary. I was Anne Shirley, using “perspicuous” when “understandable” would do. It must have been annoying to most and plain ridiculous to others. I remember tossing off “superfluous” in front of a restaurant co-worker and being baffled by his confused expression. He had thought it was hilarious that I was so casual with a word he’d never read and he pestered me every day thereafter for a new word. I had become his walking dictionary. I was mortified.

My love of words can only carry me so far. Other than the coming up with ideas, editing, re-editing, and then editing again, the hardest part of writing is remembering all of the brilliant options and being able to put them together in a clear manner. Or, in lay terms, the hardest part of writing is writing. Would university writing classes have made it easier? Maybe, or maybe it’s this hard for everyone.

A fellow blogger once told me that anyone who wants to write already has the ability. She maintained that in order to have the desire, one must have the aptitude. I am not sure I believe this. It seems to me the world is full of people who want to write. One out of two friends in my wee circle thinks he or she is a writer. Does this mean they all have an equal ability? If so, I am screwed.

But, it isn’t a competition. There is no moratorium on stories or worthwhile things to say. If there can be over 50,000 books written on the American Civil War, there can be at least that number of articles on a myriad of other subjects. We all have our own voices and as I can’t write like anyone else, they can’t write like me.

Insert self-deprecating comment here.

I do wish it was easier. I wish I had worked harder in English class in the same way I wish I had spent more time with my childhood dog. It may have given me a better idea of what is important to me much earlier in life. Instead, my attachment to the act of putting down words, crawled to the forefront of my brain with extreme prejudice. It still feels precarious, as if one deviation, one passing interest in some other hobby, could tip it into the void of forgotten dreams.

Perhaps it is a love that will pass. It is possible that in several years time I will feel about clothes design the way I feel about writing now. Or maybe I will return to the stage. I am keeping an open mind. If Mr. Siebert convinced a scoffing teenager that dictionaries are a source of thrills, anything is possible.

On Books and Obsession and My Crazy Brain

Have you ever become so personally involved with a book, so emotionally connected, that when you overhear other people - strangers who are not part of this private world – mention a character in passing, as if they have the right to casually say his name, you are shocked and appalled?

I have. It’s happened only a handful of times, but when it did, shocked and appalled didn’t cover it.

At first, I was confused. How does this unknown person even know who that is? They weren’t there. They didn’t see this amazing thing occur. Then, when sensibility kicked in, I was hurt, almost betrayed, as if the character had cheated on me with someone else. It took a few more moments for rationality to take over. Because I do have a handle on reality, I did eventually grasp the notion that the fictional people in the story don’t live in my own secret realm. I was forced to recognize they were created by an author and everyone knows them because Hollywood produced a blockbuster based on the novel. They don’t belong to me.

Reality bites.

Luckily for my sanity points, this doesn’t happen often. It is rare when I can immerse myself altogether. Given the large amount of my spare time I spend absorbed in one book after another, it is something special that causes this intense of a reaction. As it happened recently with a popular young adult series, this feeling has been on my mind. I don’t know if it is the writing itself that does it, or my frame of mind when I am reading.  Now that I am attempting to take my own writing more seriously, I am curious about the particular set of circumstances that enable me to forget myself in such a way. What makes a story so good, and the characters so relatable, that it is possible for a reader to immerse herself so entirely?

I can’t take timing out of the equation, of course. No doubt my mental head space contributes. Nevertheless, when I recall the books with which I have been the most enamoured, they were usually novels written for younger generations: Anne of Green Gables, Tuck Everlasting, Hunger Games… Is it because the writing itself is simpler? Or perhaps because the characters are younger? Youth and all of its fumbling generally makes for a compelling story. For myself anyway, It is often much easier to understand the motivations of a teenager than those of a middle-aged male. There is less artifice, more instinct. Their flaws are raw and their mistakes forgivable. However, just because I find myself obsessed with young adult dystopia as of late doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate a little Wally Lamb. Or even, on especially unique occasions, Steinbeck.

That’s what I love the most about books, fiction and non, and why I panic about not reading enough. Every single one is an opportunity to discover a new perspective. Some more than others, for inexplicable reasons, just entice me down the rabbit hole.

What do you think? Have you ever gotten this caught up by a book? Am I just plan nuts?

A Belated Homage to the Man Who Plays a Kickass Game of Tug

LookalikesThursday was my tolerant PH’s birthday. Even if I am atrociously late, I can’t let the date slip away without saying a little something in his honour. After almost ten years of enduring my particular form of madness, he deserves some public recognition. The only problem is, I am not a romantic. Raised by English parents, I am stiff, artless, and bumbling when it comes to gushy stuff. It feels too artificial, too… Vomit-inducing. Therefore, this homage to the forbearing man who has managed my often bizarre anxieties, not to mention those of our dog, with patience and minimal complaint, will be refreshingly mush-free.

Reasons My PH is the Best PH for Me

He allows me to fill up our DVR with the entire Harry Potter movie series. And then actually watches each film with me, in order, just because I’ve never seen them before.

He lets our dog sleep on the bed with us every night, even when she kicks.

He surrenders his time and dignity to playing Santa in a fundraise for an animal welfare organization. Two years in a row. Even after being bitten by a dog and attacked by a cat.

Shiva in lap

Despite being one of the most introverted people I’ve ever known, he lets me drag him to crowded local festivals and forces himself to have a good time.

He laughs at my dorky jokes, rolls his eyes when I try to bait him, and listens to my explanations of why Moose are mythological creatures and robots are going to take over the world with only slight exasperation.

He knows when I need a kick in the head and when I should just be left alone.

His confidence inspires and his ability to say anything to anyone constantly stuns me. Even Tugging with Sheevs at Shubiein the worst moments, he gives me faith that everything will be okay.

He is good at everything he tries but simply shakes his head when I lament my comparative lack of skill.

He knows how to argue, challenges my intellect, and isn’t scared to change his opinion when presented with new information.

He praises my culinary attempts, even when I make cheesecake soup.

He hates Will Ferrell movies and his disdain for Angelina Jolie is almost equal to my own.

He cooks me an amazing dinner every night, has contempt for bad beer, and understands my passion for cheese in all it’s varieties.

He encouraged me to start a dog blog and continues to read it every chance he gets.

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For these reasons – and scads more – I am thrilled to get to call him my best friend. Not everyone gets to live with someone who shares so many of her likes and dislikes and who makes such an effort to interpret her foibles, including her obsession with Petfinder. He has made me a stronger person, helped me realize that maybe, just maybe, I am okay the way I am.

He has made many sacrifices over the last few years, not the least including denying himself an updated video game platform in preference for dog training classes. While I will always tease he moved us to Edmonton so we could finally afford a PS3, it is with gratitude. Even if I find myself a Playstation widow – Jodi’s words, not mine, I won’t complain. He’s earned a bit of down time.

Maybe Edmonton Isn’t Soooo Bad. Maybe.

018 - CopyYou know you have moved to Northern Canada when all of your friends and family gift you with winter gear for the holidays. Apparently I have been doing a lot of complaining.  With the thick new boots from my PH, an adorable purple hat from a close friend, and a super-long hooded coat from my parents, I no longer have any justification for losing digits. My sister even crocheted me a fuzzy scarf with her own two hands. If I feel the cold at all now it is my own fault.

Six months in, I am starting to get used to my new surroundings. The city doesn’t feel like home yet. That will take a few more winters and no doubt another few moves. Probably more drinking. We still haven’t found a favourite pub, after all. It isn’t the same as our old place and there are still many things that irritate me. I dislike how many people feel free to walk their dogs off-leash in the ravine. The glaring streetlights beaming in our bedroom window are a constant source of sleeplessness. The noise of traffic, the fact that it is dark by four o’clock in the afternoon, and the ever-present dryness are all sources of annoyance. My skin is never going to recover, I know it. Still, I am adjusting. The benefits are beginning to outweigh the minuses.

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As much as I will always adore Halifax, the rain was a huge downer. True, a part of me misses splashing in puddles. It is nice to not have to style my hair every day so that it fits under a hood. I won’t ever miss the constant dampness of everything – even if it made my skin happier. There were other, larger downsides to life in the Maritimes. Being so far from family and friends was a big one. When one’s house is a good five-day drive from relatives, one doesn’t end up seeing people she cares about the most all that often unless they are willing for fork out the cash for a plane ticket. I enjoyed our quiet life and our simple holidays, but I have to say it was a fun change this year to get to see family. It made them more special. Not to mention the brilliant training opportunities this lends to our dog.

026Shiva has never spent so much time in other people’s homes in her life until we moved here. In fact, until this summer, she had never been in someone else’s house. Ever. We had no idea how she was going to handle a new environment already inhabited by a new dog. In traditional Shiva style, she blew me away. Yes, there have been moments of concern and anxiety. There are always going to be with this mutt of ours. After visiting her cousin in Calgary and then staying over night twice at my practically in-laws, she is learning how to adapt to strange places and different rules without losing her shit. I think the changes have been good for her.

Not to mention, before we moved here we never, ever invited friends over to our house. It just didn’t happen and not entirely because we are hermits. Shiva’s territorial nature makes it awkward. When it’s family, we just deal and they all seem to understand when Shiva goes from soliciting pets to barking in their faces. Even if they don’t get it, their love for us forces them to put up with it. When it is friends, and friends who many never have lived with a fearful dog before, it is another matter. It just didn’t seem worth it. However, last night, for the very first time, we invited two human guests over for a late gift exchange. Two! Non-dog-owning! Friends! Was Shiva insane? Yes. Did she bark in their faces? Yes. Did anybody get hurt, threaten to sue, or storm away offended? No. Shockingly, no. After four hours the night ended with everyone still smiling and no one needing to visit the emergency room.

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It is often so easy for us to go through life doing the same things over and over again. Routines are natural. When I stop exploring or bothering to attend local events that used to thrill, I know I am in trouble. I have always thrived on change and I don’t think I am the kind of person who can stay in one place for too long. After five years on the East Coast, it was probably time for a re-location, regardless of the reason. Moving to Edmonton has forced me out of my bubble and given me new territory to explore. We now have a whole city full of new parks, theatres, restaurants, museums, and festivals. Moving ended the stagnation, rid me of excuses, and has pushed my dog’s boundaries. I still miss my friends and I definitely miss my former job. Somehow, I am getting accustomed to that. Edmonton, as frozen and as flat as it is, isn’t as bad as I expected. Maybe, just maybe I will be able to call it home one day. And if not, we can always move somewhere else.

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