The Lighthouse

the lighthouse

31 January 2010

Worth it

Early Mass is indeed very early here in SOHOE. After the alarm rang this morning, it took several dousings of cold water before I could believe I was actually awake - but somehow I was outside and starting the car before I knew it. There's nothing quite like sitting on a cold, ungiving car seat on a frosty Canadian winter morning, huddling deep into your coat, waiting for the heater to work its magic and defrost the windows so you don't have to stand in the deep freeze, scraping away and waking the neighbours before seven o'clock on a Sunday morning, is there?

There was a feeling of comradeship among those of us who sat in the pews before the sun had even risen on the day. We were the stalwarts, forgoing warmth and sleep to commune with our God. I fought to hide my yawns as we moved through the liturgy (due to the hour, not the content) but then, the magical moment arrived: the stained glass windows began to glow with the gentle rose-gold of sunrise. The colour and quality of light coming through the glass was breathtaking - so much so I was a little distracted from the business at hand. Happily,the display lasted long enough I could see it for myself as I headed back out to the car; the sky was fully alight by that point, with orange and red and pink swaths boldly banded across the horizon. What a sight!

Pre-dawn awakening, cold as ice temperatures, twisty drive down country roads in the dark... all worth it to see such a canvas by the Master Artist.

29 January 2010


Imagine George Emerson from Room with a view up in the tree, overwhelmed by what he sees, bellowing out "Beauty!" from the depths of his soul.
This morning, I am George, only I am perched on my bed tucked under the window. What I see is a beautiful lavender sky, with glimpses of gold and white peeking through. It's a lovely soft day today - respite from the achingly winterish experience of yesterday.

The sun is subdued at this early hour, but it manages to find the sparkly things I have laying about that I love so much - the fake tin box I keep costume jewellry in; the old mason jar full of loose change, a chunky votive candle holder, an old fashioned sort of make up mirror. I know that they are just junk-shop finds, but in the forgiving light of this new day, they look like treasures.

28 January 2010

A night on the town with T 'n' T

My sister and I planned to go to a movie together. We tried to remember, last night, which movie it was we were wanting to see, but have completely forgotten what it was. It may have been Titanic. She has five sons, you see, and I have five nephews, so it takes some planning, coordination, and determination to get away for a few hours together.

And determined she was, this afternoon, when she said that we should go today. I was surprised and pleased and - I must admit - a little disbelieving. I didn't think it could actually happen, but I was thrilled she wanted to go, and excited at the prospect of spending some time with her.

The thing is, she was thinking of going to a matinee. We used to live in a big city, where it was possible to wander into a movie theatre at any o' clock and be within 45 minutes of catching the next show. However, we now live in a small town where only on special occasions do they open the theatre during the week at all. Needless to say there were no matinees on offer.

Undeterred, and very flexible in our planning, we decided an evening show would be just peachy, provided it didn't run too late (we're not late show people.) We planned to have supper, cleanup from supper, then make a break for it, since we wanted to stop at the lovely store full of big bins of interesting and tasty items you scoop out for yourself, to buy some movie snacks. We had a coupon for 'buy $12 and get $3 off. Perfect! It was meant to be!

Supper was delicious, but near the end, Number Three Nephew decided to become violently ill. In the thoughtful way of children, he did so on the carpet, a mere few inches from easily cleaned linoleum. Perfect! Did it happen because mommy was going out? No doubt! Being an experienced veteran of such things, my sister valiantly soldiered on. After cleaning up the mess, she put on some going out on the town clothes, slapped on some lip gloss, tousled her hair and away we went.

We became a little giddy in the store full of big bins of interesting and tasty items you scoop out for yourself. Forgetting that we needed supplies sufficient only to see us through a two hour movie, we gathered several baggies of tasty morsels. Due to my poor estimating skills (because estimating is math related) I looked at her selection, scoffed, and told her we would need much more than that...we had to spend $12 to get $3 back! She said "Really?" in a very surprised tone, but I set myself up as a seasoned shopper of TSFOBBOIATIYSOFY, I shooed her away to fill up more bags of tempting treats.

I'm sure you know what happened next: we went through the cash, and after only three of many bags were rung up, we were over the $12 requirement. By the time our order was processed, we could have used almost three coupons. Oh well! By this point we had spent so much time filling baggies that we were going to have to bust a move to get to the cinema on time. Being that its just across the road, we thought we'd make it on time, but it must be said that some speed bumps were speeded over.

Our loot was so copious it wouldn't all fit in our respective purses (and I had come prepared with a very large one) so as T drove quickly (I first said 'very fast' but I know our mother reads this so....) I was busy selecting the things we wanted to bring in with us. I was so consumed with this very important task that I neglected to fasten my seatbelt. (It was just across the road, mom!) I was comforting myself with the thought that as it was a Wednesday night, no one else in this city would be thinking of taking in a show, so we had plenty of time to park, get our tickets and find a seat.

Didn't it turn out to be reading week for university students? The parking lot was jam packed, so we spent years circling for a spot, while people streamed into the building. I began to picture us sitting in the very front row - the one about two feet from the screen, where you have to crane your head way back to see the black border at the bottom of the picture.

Meanwhile we were entertaining ourselves with our witty banter. I wished that I had a voice recorder with me, because the material was very good. It could have been fodder for our first podcast. Or the screenplay we keep talking about writing.

We eventually made our way through the ticket line, managed to find excellent seats and settled in with our snacks for a pleasant two hour's diversion. (question: why do people first go to their seat before hitting the concession stand? Amendment: why do people who take an inside seat not go to the concession stand first, rather than cause you to have to gather your coat, purse, and other clobber, and stand up to let them by three times? Why?)

The movie was most enjoyable. Very funny, very entertaining, and full of beautiful kitchens and necklaces. We'd like to do it again sometime, and hopefully before we qualify for senior's day at TSFOBBOIATIYSOFY.


Need a gripping whodunit, love story homage about exile and redemption? Have we got the author for you!

At once a gripping whodunit, a love story, an homage to 1940s noir, and an
exploration of the mysteries of exile and redemption, The Yiddish
Policeman's Union is a novel only Michael Chabon could have written.

Doesn't it sound enticing? Book blurb writing is an art all of its own. Unfortunately, I didn't have time to more than skim the book before I had to return it, but it got me interested in the setting - a settlement of Jewish people in Alaska. Did you know that at the beginning of WWII, the Alaska Territory almost became an international refuge for Jews? It didn't happen, but it opens a can of 'what ifs', doesn't it?

The book was one of the offerings from the "Looking for a good read?" bin at the library. You might think that because librarians are book loving sorts this bin is full of carefully considered, beloved books they are eager to share with the public. In truth, the bin is where overflow books go when the shelving carts are full. Still, they are books someone else took home, and quite likely thought were very good. I like to browse through the bin to see what other people are reading. Sometimes I discover treasure, and sometimes I carry on to the stacks to seek out old friends like Helen MacInnes, Georgette Heyer, Forsyth, Ludlum and Christie.

I'm at the library very frequently - not because I read so much, but because the books I bring home for the Peanuts get read about a million times a day. One week of "Duck in a truck stuck in the muck" is more than sanity can handle, let alone three, so we need a steady supply of new material.

The lovely thing about libraries - well one of the lovely thing about libraries - is the opportunity to dabble without commitment. In the same visit, you can borrow books about crochet, how to write a screen play, Italian cookery, trees of Ontario, collected columns of Nora Ephron, and an account of the 1993 peacekeeping efforts in Mogadishu, Somalia. Want to know more about dinosaurs? No problem! Need to replumb your bathroom? This is the place! Not quite skilled in applying a smokey eye? There's a book for that. Always wanted to learn about Heidegger or feng shui? Librarians don't judge your choices, they're just delighted to see you.

Do you know where your public library is? Have you stopped by recently? Why don't you say hello, and introduce yourself? The world of books awaits you!

Libraries are about much more than books these days. They offer internet access, magazines and newspapers, movies, workshops, social groups, homework help clubs, and much more. Many even offer coffee, and very few still insist on quiet. Librarians of today have renounced the stereotype of sensible shoes, hair bun, glasses and prim demeanor.

27 January 2010

Worlds apart

As I type this, I have another window open with the Manchester United/City game on. It struck me that it really is a window. Because it's very small, and it's on my lap, it's easy to think that it's makebelieve, but in fact, half a world away, there are 22 men on a football pitch fighting it out to advance in the Carling Cup. They are bitter adversaries, these two teams from the same city. You've got the sky blue mooners (City) who are the lesser sibling of the more successful, more popular big brother, the Red Devil of Manchester United. I'm watching the clock countdown the final minutes alloted in this vital match. The game is currently tied on aggregate goals, and if it remains so, they will go into added time. I'm sitting hunched over my laptop, peering at the tiny images racing back and forth across the field of green, clenching my jaw and wishing I still bit my nails.

26 January 2010

Where in the world? France


Quick! What did you think of?

Many places evoke strong images, perceptions, memories, and expectations. Paris is certainly one of those.

It calls to mind the romance of walking along the Seine, or solitary and impoverished artists in attic garrets.

I think of chic women simply and tastefully dressed. I picture black berets and large umbrellas - not a Birkenstock or fanny pack to be seen. There is plenty of art and people to appreciate it. The sidewalks are crowded with cafes, overflowing with unrushed people smoking cigarettes and enjoying the afternoon.

There are shops to buy the perfect cheese or just the right linen water, where you will be very badly treated until the shop clerks know you, and take you into their proctection. The bread is to die for, and everywhere are book stalls or people sitting on bridge ramparts reading books.

The Paris of my imagination is clean of dog poop, and never endures labour strikes. In my Paris you are never harried by sidewalk 'entrepreneurs' or have to worry about pickpockets on the Metro.

Wouldn't it be grand to live in a tiny apartment (with great windows, high ceilings and a courtyard) in one of the convenient but affordable arrondisements on the desirable bank of the Seine (I'm never clear on which one is better)? How fabulous to have a cafe nearby where you go in the afternoon to read the papers before walking along the river, stopping occasionally to peruse a book stall, or jot notes in your Moleskin. In the evening you go with friends to a charming restaurant before a poetry reading/Opera/literary salon/football match/gallery opening/disco. At the weekend, you take a late breakfast on your tiny balcony, soaking up the sun in your pyjamas while someone across the courtyard plays Edith Piaf records.

I can see a beautiful, (seemingly) carelessly draped scarf around your neck, tiny chapeau on your head, and playful (but comfortable) shoes on your feet. You belong in Paris, my darling. It awaits you!

25 January 2010

The lingering party guest and the exquisite vision

This is the sad time of winter; it becomes the guest who wont leave though the party is long over except for gathering empty bottles and dumping overflowing ashtrays. (Scratch that: gathering empty bottles and cleaning up the Party Mix ground into the upstairs carpet - nobody smokes anymore.)

The snow left behind is a sad, wet and dirty, shrunken version of its former picture postcard perfection. The first rounds of deep freeze and thaw are behind us, and now every blue-sky day makes us impatient for full-on spring. I've changed my desktop wallpaper to a sun saturated vase of tulips which makes it very hard to remember that it is only January yet and I do still live in Canada. Even here in SOHOE, winter will linger for at least another month. This coming stretch requires endurance or else insanity will set in - of the variety known as cabin fever.

I pulled back the curtains this morning to a world made mysterious (ie. invisible) by grey mist. Then the pouring rain of yesterday took up where it left off, shrinking the snow even more, and generally imparting a mood of forlorn dejection. A walk was in order, however, and as I enjoy a walk in the rain, I equipped myself with a brolly and hied myelf out of doors... to blow the stink of me (catch the quote?) Only it stopped raining as I stepped out, putting a period to my vision of self dressed with jaunty cap on head, trouser legs rolled up, and adorable pink umbrella held at a perky angle overhead. Bother. Undeterred, I carried out my plan, not wanting to disappoint the neighbours.

It's lovely, walking through the rain-washed world. It is subdued and thinly populated, so those of us brave enough to sample it have the sensation of it being purely for our own pleasure. Today it was especially enjoyable because I know the obtuse party guest, Winter, is still hanging around. During the time it has taken me to write this, our soft and moisty day has become cold and wind-torn. More snow is on the way as winter lingers on. Nothing exquisite about that vision.

22 January 2010


There she goes again, you say to yourself, whinging about her hair. Doesn't she know about testicular cancer and starvation in the Sudan? (catch the quote?) Yes. Yes, of course I do. However, I allow myself one selfish complaint a day, and I'm going to share this one with you.

I feel we are really getting to know each other. And the best part is, you're already privy to so many of my hair woes that I don't have to enumerate them all again. Here's the deal: last August, I got a really great haircut from the Fabulous Robbie. It was great at the time, but what has made it really great is that it looks better now, having grown a few inches, than it did at the time. Amazing, right? How often does that happen? Typically, going too long between cuts results in shaggy, uncertain, indefinable hair. Not this time, baby! Were I adept enough, I'd snap a photo and post it to show you. (Actually, who are we kidding? We both know I'd never do that). However, the cut is holding up really well. My hair is now long enough that I am able to put it up, and after seeing all the beautiful updos at the Golden Globes last week, I really want to put it up.

Only I can't. Because my hair is my hair. It falls out of its pins when I'm not looking. And speaking of pins, what is a normal amount to use? Three? Seven? 15? I use pins to hold in the pins so whatever number you were thinking, double it. I've got a lot of hair, so add a few more, and while you're at it, stretch them out of shape, too, because if you expect them to hold more than three hairs, they lose their built-in snugness. By this point, I look and feel like a pin cushion, and still the hair slips out - and not in an elegant I'm-nominated-for-best-actress-in-a-movie-or-tv-drama-so-I-know-how-to-wear-a-corset kind of way. Not that she's ever worn a corset, but did you see Sandra Bullock's hair at the Globes? Perfect! A loose something or other on the back of her head (would you call it a bun? A roll? A chignon? A poof? A wig?) with perfectly imperfect curling tendrils escaping over her shoulder. When my hair escapes, it looks as though it broke out of Alcatraz without stopping for styling products.

I would probably have better results if I actually used styling products. There is, no doubt, a pre-updo shampoo I can use to prep my hair for the ordeal to come, followed by a likewise helpful conditioner, and a before-you-blowdry goop. By that point, I think all you have to do is bend your hair in place - inserting pins just for show if you feel it's absolutely necessary.

Have a look around you as you go about your day; I think that you will find that women are once again putting their hair up. It's a flattering, feminine look, one which I'm delighted to see have a resurgence. I however, have run out of pins, and will be sticking to ponytails. Hair!

21 January 2010


Two, while eating a meal of chicken-on-the-bone: What are chicken bones made of? Wood?

Overheard during bed time, the Peanuts were talking about what they wanted to be when they grew up. Four said: I want to be a cat!

I sat on the couch one morning, enjoying a piece of toast and some tea. The toast (with cheese on it) was on a plate perched on my knees. Five is at the perfect height that he was able to stand with his nose on the rim of the plate, attempting to smell the cheese. Every now and then he would reach out and delicately poke at the bread, and ask me: Toes?

Two, again while eating supper: Some things taste so good, they make me laugh.

Four, "helping" me bake cookies, was sitting on the kitchen counter by an open window. He asked me if I could turn the window off.

How we celebrated the sun

The sun shone today, dear Reader. It shone bright and clear and long. And that's not all: the sky was blue. It was the happiest most open blue sky there has been in recent memory. Throughout the morning, each of the grown Nuts took turns commenting on how beautiful the sun and how glorious the day. What do you suppose we did with this gift of a day? We slept! That's right, Reader. We napped the afternoon away...two Peanuts and three grown nuts snoozed and snored while the sun shone and the sky splendored. We have no shame.

18 January 2010

Integrity factor

Magazines are an enjoyable luxury, aren't they? They can be costly, but the glossy paper, the photography, the varied articles, the specialized genres make for a wonderful hour's indulgence on the couch in the quiet of an evening or a rainy afternoon. There is something out there for every taste, from macrame or triathlons to pizzeria proprietors or cigar aficionados. I'm partial to interior design but almost anything can grab my attention if the cover is enticing enough.

Which is how I came to bring home a few issues of random mags from my wonderful local public library (let's hear a hoorah for public libraries: Hoorah!) and how I was misled and cheated by those enticing covers. I will be addressing issues I have with two of those magazines.

Case #1.
The magazine from America's favourite talk show maven. You know who I mean. Her motto is "Live your best life" and on this particular cover she promises advice on how to: protect your money; look great for less; dial down your stress; and, a simple plan for weight loss among a few other topics. The main thrust of this issue is how to put yourself back on your list of priorities, and boost the quality of your life.
All good stuff, but I was most interested in an article titled Back to basics which is given seven pages of expensive magazine glossy real estate. It addresses the voluntary simplicity movement, which embraces less consumer activity, smaller, simpler homes, and quieter lifestyles etc. People embrace voluntary simplicity to reduce stress, and many do so for financial reasons. This particular article focuses on the monetary angle, discussing several families who had suffered financial hardship, and had no choice but to downsize their lives.
And what follows this article? One called The Great pantry makeover, in which reader is advised to overhaul her larder and stock such things as Spanish tuna, Italian tomato puree, and North African chili paste. I'm sure these are no big deal in the grand scheme of things, but I wonder if editors consider the conflicting message they send when they juxtapose such different stories.

Case #2.
One of the gold standards in fashion magazines. (ie. Schmogue) This issue features a young Canadian actress I happen to like on the cover, and also prominently trumpets an article with these words: "When size 4 is too big. A curvy model's struggle to fit in." Which to me sounded like it would be interesting. Weight and body image have been hot topics in fashion for the past few years, and it's good to check in every now and then to see where everyone's at. Size 4 doesn't sound shockingly big to me, but then you won't find me on the catwalks of Milan or Paris, so what do I know? Which makes my point, if you follow me: a model struggling against type in her chosen career because she is a size 4, whose womanly shape has inspired many influential designers but still not caused them to alter the status quo. This lends itself to thoughtful discourse, references to other successful models who have gone against type, investigating the evolution of the fashion model, impact on health among models to maintain the industry standard size and shape... etc.
The article appears on page 32, and continues on page 40. It includes several pictures of the girl, and is a brief biography of her climb to the top. That's it. Not two pages worth of text. And what do we find on pages 33 - 39? A two-page spread on winter boots, a four-page spread of a line of hair products and an advertisement for skin cream. Do you see? Four pages dedicated to shampoo while the important issues of body image, health, and cultural norms was confined to two.

Something to think about.


Harry is a charming Irishman I often meet on my walks through the neighbourhood. I've come across him as close to home as five doors down, and as far away as the undefined countryside that lies between this town and the next. He's an older fellow (well into his 80s, he says) who has lived here since 1970. He walks his two Scotties one at a time, both of whom wait very patiently while he chats with other walkers he happens upon.

In our brief encounters, we've covered religion, politics (the Troubles 'back home'), sport, plumbing (civic, not personal), urban planning, engineers, history, and sundry other topics. Today it was the general ineptitude of engineers and politicians, specifically those responsible for the infrastructure improvements being undertaken a few streets from my home. He said to me "Now, being a woman, I don't suppose you've been after to diggin' ditches for the purposes of laying pipe and the like?"

To which I replied in all honesty "No, sir, you're quite right about that." And he illustrated to me how it ought to be done -- which was, he said, plain to anyone of intelligence -- and conversely how it was being done -- with a sad shake of his well-muffled head.

Last summer, while walking his Scotties, he was bitten by another dog who was let of its leash. He was sent from one level of government to another: from one municipality to another, to the region, and ultimately told that if he wanted to pursue the case, he had to take it up with the province. In speaking to one official along the way, he was told that he really should have addressed the issue within 30 days of the occurrence. Poor man! He is elderly and alone, and he struggled to get to physio, let alone drive all over creation to track down the right person who would help him with his case. I was so angry on his behalf, but he was able to just shake his head at the foolishness he'd endured.

The things he had to say about engineers and politicians, and the way he had of shaking his head in disbelief at their nonsense brought Pop so strongly to mind. I wanted to wrap Henry in my arms and bring him home for tea.

16 January 2010


My possessions have been whittled down to books, clothes, movies and paper records of the past. I do have a few other things as well, but much of it is in boxes down in the basement. Most of the time I don't even think of it (that stuff), but sometimes I do miss it. And sometimes I just misplace it. I have lately gone looking for this or that, and have been unable to unearth either of them (this or that) which has left me feeling rather shiftless, rootless, dispossessed and transient.

This strikes me as a rather extreme reaction to what is merely a simplification of my life, a reduction in my belongings. When I don't imagine myself a sad and stuff-less waif, I do have a sense of freedom and unknown possibility. I'm not weighed down by a household and its attendant bits and pieces, and can conceivably pick up sticks at a moment's notice for parts and adventures unknown.

While I am grateful for that freedom, my perverse human nature sometimes rails against the fact that I can't find any of the spatulas I packed away 16 months ago, or the voice recorder which should be in the box marked "Desk stuff" but isn't. It's as if certain key pieces of my past life have cunningly found their way out of their wrappings and hied themselves off, as part of God's question to me: are you really free?

To which - tonight at any rate - I must honestly answer: no. I am not free; I am reduced.

15 January 2010

Was it the taquila?

Isn't it odd how our personal energy levels fluctuate from day to day? Or maybe yours don't. You may be one of those fortunate souls who eats well, gets plenty of rest, exercises regularly, has a generally sunny disposition, and experiences predictable levels of enthusiasm for life and all its work and rewards. Yeah, me too. Ahem.

By way of illustrating my point: yesterday I was dragging myself around the house, unable to accomplish anything on my to-do list (all of one item) and could happily have slept the day away, or at least spent it in a contented stupor on my bed. Today I have managed multiple loads of dishes by hand, tackled several necessary chores in and around the kitchen, baked a batch of cookies, and am diving into the preliminary work for my new course load.

Why the difference? This isn't one of those blog posts where I pose a question, deviously having a clever answer already prepared, for I truly don't know. The sun was shining yesterday, and I ate better yesterday, yet today though it is grey, I feel zippier. I indulged in alcohol last night (a modest amount and I didn't operate heavy machinery) and both days were begun with prayer time. Can a strawberry daiquiri really be the key? I wonder how I should test this theory. Any ideas?

14 January 2010

The wisdom of Tolkien

We watched another installment of The Lord of the Rings tonight. This time it was the first half of The Two Towers, extended version. This bit begins with Gandalf the Grey standing on the Bridge of Khazad Dum, holding back the Balrog of Morgoth, allowing the Fellowship to escape. It would seem that Gandalf has beaten the fiery beast, and he turns his back as the creature plummets to unknown depths of thank-goodness-he's-goneness . Only Mr. Balrog manages to wrap his tail around Gandalf's ankle, and pulls the old wizard down with him.

Every time I watch this scene, or come to it in the book, I implore him: don't turn your back on him! Don't do it! Don't turn around! But every time he does it: he turns around. And falls to unknown depths of oh-my-goodness-Gandalf's-goneness. He doesn't just fall and fall and fall... Gandalf has to fight the big, burly ball of flame that is the Balrog through many levels of fire and then water, before finally landing on a bleak mountain top, having defeated the nasty thing. We suppose that he has died, that Gandalf the Grey, Greyhaim, the fun guy with all the cool fireworks, the source of hope for the Fellowship and the only one (seemingly) with a clue what they ought to do is written out of the story at this point, and that the remaining eight must now trudge along without him.

But no. That's not the case, as my sister pointed out to me when once again this evening I cried out "Don't turn around!" She said "But then he couldn't become Gandalf the White" which is true and a very good point. Gandalf the Grey was a very cool guy; very wise, respected, gifted with useful wizardly abilities - all good stuff. But Gandalf the White became head of his order, had deeper wisdom, stronger abilities and no longer had to wear the large, droopy grey hat. He glowed, his clothes and hair were so white.

And I realized - as if this were a brand new insight - that this is what happened to my dad. I would rather he hadn't left me standing on the bridge, back at Khazad Dum. I hate the thought that he went through fire and was engaged in a horrible battle and so on. Like the hobbits who cried on the mountain side as the loss of their friend, I grieve his absence. But he's not just my dad anymore: he's Pop the White, (though, probably in heaven his name is Don the White) and his strength is greater than ever.

That's a happy thought. Thank you, John Ronald Reuel Tolkien.


Three, doing his homework, had to write a list of tools a police officer uses in the line of duty.

Daddy: A CB radio.

Three: A CB radio? How do you spell CB?

Four, talking to Mommy: He's hurt!

Mommy: Who's hurt?

Four: That guy. (pointing to his brother across the room)

Me, myself and I

Are you ever disappointed by you? You've probably been disappointed by other people along the way, but has it ever happened that the person who let you down was... you?

I have. More than once, as it happens, and just recently in fact. I had the opportunity to be a fine and noble person, and I almost managed it too, but then a loathsome creature came slithering into my heart and spoiled the fine and noble moment with less fine and noble qualities.

I don't want to give details, as they belong between me and my confessor (once I find him) and are not something I want to share with the world at large -- not even you, dear Reader, much as I love you. Suffice it to say that a little piece of me I thought had been refined over the past while is still a rough and crude bit that continues to need working on. Bother.

Can we ever stand before a reflection of ourselves with complaisance? Or is it normal that there be elements of ourselves that cause us to squirm and wiggle away from the image? Truth lies in the middle, I think: it's important we not see ourselves as in a fun-house mirror -- all distorted, out-sized, misshapen and grotesque; and it's also important to not take the Dorian Gray route of outwardly presenting a perfect image while hiding our faults in a dark closet. It's a tricky balance, to see ourselves as we really are, to identify our shortcomings, and yet love ourselves.

Shortly after the less than fine and noble incident I mentioned earlier, I realized what I had done and was able to laugh a little about it. I've become more gentle and forgiving when dealing with myself than I have in the past. That in itself is growth. Hooray for me! Proud of myself am I.

12 January 2010

Pages update

I've finished a couple of books lately, so it's time for a recap. Mmmm ... or a grande decaf marble cap(puccino). I had one of those recently, and it was some good.

In the absence of caffeine, I shall stick to the book news. The first one I mentioned was Eat, pray, love by Elizabeth Gilbert. I was very enamoured of the book when I first blogged it, back in the part that takes place in Italy (part two is India, part three is Bali). Italy was full of beautiful places, glorious food, good conversation, interesting people, and coming to appreciate all those things. Elizabeth loves the Italian language, and that came through in her writing. She not only experienced entertaining things, but had interesting information to share about Italian history, language, food and customs. The first part of her book was entertaining, and thoroughly enjoyable. My sister recently picked up a second hand copy, and I'm sure we will both be rereading this portion of the book many times.

I would say that I also enjoyed the bit in India. From the restaurants and cafes of Italy to an ashram in India is a mighty big lifestyle change. You would think that the two together don't make sense, as part of one person's journey toward healing and an intimate encounter with God. When you read Elizabeth's story, though, it was the right approach. She first had to learn to experience and appreciate la dolce vita - a life free of stress and worry, depression and anxiety. She learned to be gentle with herself, to enjoy life for its own sake. Then she was ready for the spiritual rigor offered at the ashram. Her storytelling continues apace in this section, and she offers personal struggles and insights which make for interesting reading. Not to mention some of the global cast of characters who have landed in India seeking enlightenment!

Bali is where I fell off the EPL bandwagon. I didn't leap off and run down the road in the opposite direction. I just hopped off without causing a scene, and intend to catch her next book when I can, to see if I'll hop back on again. She began the year with a purpose and she wrote about it with honest and personal generosity. I felt there was a lack of focus once she got to Bali. Once we got that far, I wasn't on the edge of my seat anymore. The story became less about her and what she intended to accomplish and more about Bali and the people there, as well as a generic tale of girl-meets-boy but they live on opposite sides of the world so how can it ever work out?

The ending fell flat, but I find myself still wanting to reread the bits about Italy. For that - the beauty of Italy and all things Italian - as well as her wonderfully deft way with words, I would recommend this book.


Another book I've mentioned along the way is The Timepiece by Richard Paul Evans. This was another book I liked a lot when I first dove in, but I'm sorry to say, it didn't live up to my expectations. The main storyline was overwrought and far too sentimental. It was bookended by a secondary story with characters who were supposed to be connected to the main plot, but I couldn't figure out how. Not to mention the bits from the fly leaf that had me over the moon, about how it is in the darkest skies that the stars shine brightest, and how hope has the power to heal were not evident in the tale itself. With his tone (not to mention the wonderful bit on the fly leaf) Evans set this up as being a powerful, hopeful bit of inspiration, but I'm left wondering if maybe the copy I had from the library was missing the rest of the story. Too bad.


As part of my Schmapter's Christmas gift card purchase, I bought a copy of the Sense and sensibility screenplay, with Emma Thompson's diary included. As an added bonus, it also has her Golden Globe speech, in which she accepted the award for best adapted screenplay, speaking in the language of Jane Austen. Absolute brilliance, that was. It is interesting to see a movie laid out on the page, to discover just how bare is the information given, and how much of what we see on the screen comes from the cast and crew. Plus, to see into the filming through Emma's diary brings the process to life. She is a very funny woman, and there were many parts I had to read out loud to whoever happened to be in the room.

And so, I am once more between books. I've currently got Carrie Fisher's Delusions of Grandma on the go, and like her other books (Postcards from the edge; Surrender the pink) it has me chuckling. It's a good in-betweener. I'm open to suggestions, so if you've read anything riveting or even mildly interesting in the last while, do drop me a line and let me know.

Ex libris

11 January 2010

Chirping birdies

Today is Laundry Day. Don't you love Laundry Day? I do. Even when I was a dweller of apartment buildings, and had to lug my dirty bits and bobs to the basement, pay the price of a Happy Meal, pray that nobody riffled my unmentionables, and make the trip four times, I enjoyed Laundry Day. I had a special wooden box I kept loonies and quarters in, and collecting the needed Laundry Day coins became something of a hobby. I even have a Laundry Day outfit - an old sundress now unfit for public consumption which is just perfect for doing chores around the house.

Of course, I am single, and therefore the only knickers I have to wash are my own, and (practically) everything I own will fit into two loads - three tops. I have enough stock of essentials that I inaugurate a Laundry Day every two weeks. I know that for some of you Readers, every day is Laundry Day, which must diminish the specialness of the occasion. But isn't it lovely to have your things come out looking and smelling so clean? To know that your wardrobe is once again fully loaded and ready for whatever? It's a great comfort to me, to know that every sock I own is clean and waiting for me in their little drawer. I love love love having fresh sheets on the bed, clean jammies to wear, and refluffed towels to bury my face in. Heavenly!

Before you start to think that I'm an absolute lunatic, I must tell you that I abhor ironing, and I loathe... absolutely dread... putting the laundry away. I don't mind the folding and putting into piles so much - that is, after all, imposing order on chaos - but, ugh, the putting away! It seems utter cruelty that after you've endured... survived... the hours of sorting, pre-treating, monitoring cycles, switching machines...repeating, sorting again, folding, putting into piles, not to mention lugging all your things up and down the stairs, you still are not done! There is yet more work to do!

This is where the chirping birdies come in handy. Remember those Walt Disneyfied fairy tales? The beautiful young heroine whistling while she worked, and dancing all over the place, looking oh so happy and ready to be swept away by a handsome prince who just happened by and became captivated by her ever-present smile? Well, she could afford to be all beautiful and smiley and singing and stuff... the chirping birdies were doing all the hard work! You pay attention the next time you see a beautiful maiden doing laundry: someone else is putting it away!

07 January 2010


The Peanuts call me something that sounds like "Tahntuh Eeyah". Oddly, since Christmas, Four has taken to saying "Tahntoo yah" which makes me feel like a Star Wars character. It's my jedi name: Tantoo Ya. Little Number Five Peanut never bothered with a name - he'd just bang on my arm if I was sitting, or my bottom if I was standing: the toddler's 'hey you!' He's recently christened me 'Yaya'.

Five got new snow boots recently. His Mommy and his Yaya learned how hard it is to put a chubby two-year old foot into a stiff, unyielding boot. I was drawn out of my room by the cries of his Mommy telling him to "push your foot in, Five! Push! Push!" Gales of hopeless giggles, punctuated by a sweet little voice asking"Poose? Poose?" We tried: forcing the boot onto his foot; imparting the meaning of 'push' by exaggerated miming gestures; jumping him up and down hoping to pound his feet into the boots; holding his legs up by his ears in order to get a different angle. It was ridiculous. Not sure if his plump feet were all the way in or not, Mama Nut set him free on the living room floor. He attempted to walk, looking like a person in ski boots trying to walk on stilts. An hour, a shoe horn, and a break to recover our strength later, we decided it was hopeless: those boots just weren't made for walking.

Four has entered a new stage in his language development. His favourite phrases (when not repeating what you say) are "I said", "I told you", and "because". Sometimes they are used in combination "I told you, I said!" One afternoon, I had the delight of waking him from his nap. I crooned his name and rubbed his tummy, giggling a little at the grunts and stretches as he surfaced from sleep. His eyes fluttered open, he sat bolt upright, said "Because!" fell back to his pillow and promptly went to sleep again!

Having had an enjoyable jaunt around town, we stopped at a Farmer's Market, and bought some yummy pepperettes. Four and Five were given small morsels to eat on the way back home. As we neared the driveway, I looked back to see that Five was fast asleep with a piece of the meat clutched in his hand. I inadvertently woke him up when I unbuckled his car seat harness, and what did he do? Put the meat in his mouth and fall back to sleep, cheeks plump with their hidden stash. Classic


Fondness. Weakness. Predilection. Addiction. Luv.

These are all words I could use to describe my feelings for stationery. And books. I *heart* them.

I get a little woozy when going to office supply stores. (One of you Readers can attest to that. And you know who you are!) I can wander the aisles, misty-eyed over staplers and hole punchers. Post it notes? Pencil sharpeners? Forget it! But my drug of choice is writing paper. In all forms: journals, binder paper, note cards; generic or hand made; vellum-thick or tissue-thin.

Did you know that there are stores dedicated to beautiful accouterments of writing? They are to writing what Dior is to getting dressed in the morning. A really good stationer understands that it is a very personal and sensual experience to sit down with a pen that feels just right in the hand, having the perfect flow and colour of ink, on the ideal piece of paper to convey the intent and sentiment of the message.

So, dear Reader, I have a Fabulous Product alert for you. My wonderfully thoughtful mother (Oma Nut) came across another wonderful woman - an artist who calls herself a 'maker of stuff' - who uses discarded books to make journals. Margi Laurin uses the covers and selected pages of old books, inserts blank paper for writing, sketching, journaling, note taking (as the mood strikes you), and rebinds them. I was given two for Christmas, and am trying to convince myself it's ok to actually use them. One was an old collection of poetry which will mean that my own scribbles could be found alongside Browning and Wordsworth. The other is a spiritual work in old German, published in 1866, and includes notes and inserts from a long-ago owner. Other bits of the old books are remade into memo cubes and note cards.

I'm not sure if Margi travels to art shows, or just how far and wide her products can be found, but here is a link to her website. I love the idea of rescuing old books, and I love having such unique and inspiring notebooks. Keep these in mind if you need gift ideas for yourself, or someone else. Or me!

05 January 2010


Here's why I love reading: (well, one reason, anyway)

Pick up enough books, and you are bound to find treasure. For example, from the library yesterday, I brought home a book by Richard Paul Evans, called Timepiece. On the fly leaf, is offered this insight:
Hope is a rare gift that, if we are lucky, comes to us with the power to heal
our lives. I've come to know that the deepest sense of hope often springs from
the hardest lessons in life. It is in the darkest skies that stars are best seen
-- perhaps it is divine irony that within the darkest moments we are capable of
revealing the greatest light, demonstrating what is best with humanity.

And this line from the prologue
It is the glance in the mirror that is of value [...] if we write but one book
in life, let it be our autobiography.

And almost best of all, the book feels perfect - it is only slightly bigger than the palm of my hand (like the book Emma Thompson reads as Elinor Dashwood in Sense and sensibility). I can tell already I'm going to like it, if only for the physical delight of holding such a book. The few words I've read so far are inviting me in. I just may have found a kindred spirit.

Have you ever experienced a similar connection with a book?

04 January 2010


Good bye, decorations; so long twinkle lights; toodaloo tree; nice to know you, cards and pictures; sure did enjoy you, cakes and cookies.

Most everything was packed away into the Christmas bins today, leaving the house feeling light and airy and open once more - and bringing tears to the eyes of more than one Peanut.

It just shows, doesn't it, that for everything (turn turn turn) there is a season? There is a good and proper time to bring out the candles and wreaths and holly, and there is a good and proper time to put it away again, and return to ordinary time. It's hard to sustain the festive atmosphere. Celebrating is an endurance sport!

02 January 2010

Home again

Christmas, New Year, Epiphany - it's all a time for family. And then, it's time to close the door on all the joy, and just be home again. What a relief!

Don't get me wrong - I love my family and all its extended bits, and it's wonderful having the Peanuts at home. All day long. From early morning to late at night. For two weeks. It was a wonderful thing that Oma Nut braved the nasty roads to stay for a while, and it was a wonderful thing that Grandma and Gramps escaped from the snow to visit us, too.

But Reader, you must know what I meant when I said "Oh, thank God!" when I closed (and locked) the front door this morning, waved goodbye to the departing cars, and turned back into an empty and silent house. I meant... oh thank God!

Sometimes, the best part of a party is when the guests go home, and you can finally kick off the pinchy shoes and collapse into a chair. I used to live with a fabulous group of girls in my young and vibrant days; we'd often have house parties (to the great delight of our landlady who lived in the other half of our duplex) and much as we enjoyed the gatherings, what we really looked forward to was sitting up late in the quiet aftermath, having a party postmortem. We'd talk about our guests, and how things went and whatever else came up.

It is just me and the four walls for a few hours today, and I tell you, it is hea-ven-ly. I wasn't wearing pinchy shoes to kick off, and I'm not gossiping about our guests with anyone, but I did truly collapse into a chair. It'll take a while for us to get back into our routine, and the house needs time to recover from all of the recent activity, but I can feel it a little already - this is home again.

Inspiration and tears

If ever you're in need of a little inspiration or feel that you need to cry, watch the Kona World Ironman Championships. Strange how watching people suffer physical agony for 8 - 17 hours can be either inspiring or tear-jerking, but baby, let me tell you, it is. Is it ever!

There are people who do these things professionally. It's their job. Imagine, swimming 3.86 km (in the ocean, with a thousand other people), biking 180.25 km, and then running 42 km - all in a row, no rest breaks, no time outs - through lava fields, under the Hawaiian sun, in strong Hawaiian breezes. Imagine doing that by choice. Of your own free will. And imagine going back to do it again next year.

Those are the pros. They have the equipment, the coaches, the teams, the sponsors behind them. They undertake these events many times in a year, and spend the rest of their time planning, preparing and training for the next one. They struggle, they suffer disappointments, have wonderful come-backs, or exciting back-to-back wins, or break impossible records of speed and endurance. Their stories are wonderful, and they certainly are inspiring.

Behind the pros come the 'age groupers'. These are 'regular' people with ordinary jobs. The reasons for going to Hawaii for the Ironman are as numerous as the entrants. Some do it because they enjoy it. Some do it for a loved one suffering with ALS or cancer or are serving a tour or of duty overseas. Some do it to prove that being blind or an amputee or a paraplegic is no reason not to do it. They may be the owner of a sports team, a naval officer, a cancer survivor, or a Catholic nun. They might be 76 years old, and here for the 17th time, or a 47 year-old couch potato who decided to change his life, here for the first time. Some stride confidently over the finish line in the middle of the pack. Some stumble in, barely conscious as daylight fades and the pack thins to a trickle. Some barely make it with only minutes to spare before the 17 hour cut-off. Some have trained at home to qualify to Kona, travel to Hawaii with all their gear and family, endure the frenzy of the starting gun, and then fail to make the swim or bike time limit, their dreams of Ironman ended too early.

Every person, whether they cross the finish line or not, is enthusiastically encouraged by the fans, the organizers, volunteers, and the other entrants. Even the serious competitors - the pros - give a word of encouragement to a rival as they pass each other, or go so far as to lend a piece of equipment when needed.

There are stories like the woman who suffered a stroke two years ago, and had to learn to walk all over again. There she was, proving to herself that she was alive and well. There was a serviceman who'd lost his leg while on duty, and decided that though he couldn't play rugby anymore, there must be something he could do, and decided to try this. A young man who's survived childhood cancer, and was also a heart transplant patient, was also there. He missed the swim deadline by 7 seconds. And the young man who'd had both legs amputated as a child because of multiple birth defects and was a gold medal Special Olympian, didn't complete the biking portion in time. Both had every reason to be proud of themselves - they'd had the gumption to take on Kona and brought everything they had on the day.

So many moving stories come out of Kona every year. If you ever have the chance to watch it, do yourself a favour: take the time, bring some kleenex, and prepare to be inspired.

01 January 2010

Begin as you mean to go on

This is the first post of 2010 - a year that fairly rings with promise and good things.

There is difficulty and darkness aplenty 'out there' so here at the Lighthouse, for today at least, I mean to focus on the positive, to count my blessings, and to foster an attitude of gratitude. Sounds very platitudinous, doesn't it? But I mean it most sincerely. I really do feel that there is so much potential and possibility ahead of me - of us - and we have many blessings to be grateful for. After all, we don't have to worry about testicular cancer or starvation in the Sudan (can you spot the quote?)

For example, my sister went back to her hair accessories supplier, and found two absolutely fabulous hair bands which not only look lovely, but actually do the job. She also bought some hair colour in a box, and now looks absolutely stunning. You see? Just a few days ago, her hair situation seemed hopeless, and was certainly frustrating. Now she feels confident and looks smashing.

Two years ago, I was working at a job which was slowly draining my life away, and turning my soul to grey. I began to believe that I was going to spend the remainder of my days in that cubicle, whithering... dwindling into a shadow of myself. And I lived far from my family. My dream was for a life that didn't include nine to five in an office. And here I am! I'm living with my family, and there isn't an office in sight. I never could have imagined the path that brought me here, and while there are still challenges to work through, it is good. It is very good.

I'm not making any New Year's resolutions this year, but I do hope to remember to look for the silver lining, and to live each moment to the full. I don't want to waste any more time through fear or laziness or the misguided notion that I don't deserve good things.

Carpe Diem!