Category Archives: Random Musing

Random Musing 2016: My Grateful Life


2016 has not been the best year, not really. Even though I have a theory that the world has always been crazy and always will be crazy…this year felt like a special kind of crazy like we’re all tilting towards a precipice and we’re all going over the edge no matter what.

My sister and I have a theory that 2016 went haywire because for the first time in her life she had no game plan for her birthday. THAT’s the cause of all this mayhem.  The lady who lives life big didn’t plan her annual monumental February birthday bash and now everything is gone to shit. EVERYWHERE. Not just here. EVERYWHERE. Now there’s no bright light, no guiding star to get us through this darkness. People, can we please start over and tilt the world backwards, the right way this time. Come on. Let’s just strike this set.

Still I can’t help but ask myself if everything is lost. I am a person who fights for elephants to have the right to walk on this planet unchained and unviolated. That seems like a pretty hopeless situation to me but somehow I keep going although some days I’m not sure why. I just know that if I stop, and everyone stops then there’s no chance whatsoever. So I guess somewhere in there I must be hopeful. I can thank my mother for that.  It looks like she tossed  her half glass full set of genes over to me. Or maybe I’m like a compulsive craftswoman weaving life’s terrible and breathtaking offerings into a big carpet of life. These are all the things I am going to remember. These are all the things I’m going to feel, these are all the things I will carry with me moving forward into this uncertain future. . This is my grand reduction.

I will not ever forget the extraordinary ordinariness  of a phone call that brought me to a hospital to find out that my sister has brain cancer.

I am in awe of extraordinary courage. Because you never really know how you’ll deal with this kind of thing.  And the girl who lives large, brings her extraordinary gifts to bear in dealing with the issues that confront her.   She lives big no matter what.

I will never forget how beautiful it is to laugh in spite of every fucking blow that is being dealt her way. That we still laugh. Everyday.

I will never forget that it’s okay to say nothing because sometimes there are no words. And the ladies who like to live large can sit in silence, something they never imagined before.

I will never forget trying to climb a big scary wall after being convinced to do Tough Mudder by my sister.  That if you don’t think of the big picture, if you just consider the first small step, and then the next small step, if you trust in the people around you, that you can and will make it over the top. Step by step. That feels like hope to me.

I will never forget the moments in between. Those moments when Dave sits me down and introduces me to music and shows me the extraordinary in the ordinary. Or leading me to John Mavin who led me to myself and my creative mind and desire to build castles with words.

And the moments in between of  doing nothing. The beauty of nothingness. Just being.

2016 feels like a knock down and then get back up and fight kind of year. I’m not sure the road feels clear. Sometimes I don’t know what the hell I’m doing. But I often think of that wall and I know that step by step you can climb enormous walls. Don’t look down, don’t look up. Keep focussed. Be full of hope. Full of joy. And step by step I think we can get there. I’m happy to say my sister has filled the entire month of February with birthday festivities. I think this means the world will be okay.


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Do I Really Want a Dog? Things to Consider Before Taking the Plunge

dsc_1384Years ago I adopted a dog on the fly. I went with a friend who was adopting a dog at a ‘farm’ and in a moment of irrational craziness I came home with the sibling of the dog my friend adopted. They were named Reuben and Loo-is before we even left the barn.

I had never been a parent to a dog and I had no idea what I was doing. Neither had I given any thought to where I was living (a studio apartment with no dogs allowed) or how I would cope (I was single at the time and working full time with an energetic sporting schedule). Everything felt poised for disaster and in the intervening days I felt something close to panic.

I have always been a believer in jumping off cliffs…taking big leaps and seeing where I land. In this case, however, I had a puppy in tow and for the first time I felt the burden of real responsibility. Reuben would look up at me with these beautiful dark eyes and from the get go would follow me around no matter where I went…a habit he kept for the 11 years he was with me.

It would be an understatement to say he changed my life. I ended up changing everything about my life in order to give him a life I thought he deserved…even though I wasn’t even sure what that was yet.

It turns out I really love animals and slowly but surely I figured out what I needed to do. But there was a steep learning curve along the way. So here are a few things to think about for anyone thinking of bringing a dog into their life:

  • Breed – I had no idea what kind of breed Reuben was. It turns out he was a black lab something…the something part made him gigantic possessed with an old soul. It turns out that was perfect for me. What wouldn’t have been perfect would have been a super aggressive dog, or a dog that would be dominant over me. In retrospect, doing some research over the type of dog that best suits your personality or family needs is an important thing to consider.
  • Lodging – As mentioned I adopted Reuben when I lived in a studio apartment. In the eleven years we had him he lived in a house that had a backyard, as well as in a condo. Some people say you can’t have a dog in a condo which I disagree with. You can have a big dog or any kind of dog in a condo. The key is exercise.  Wherever you live, in a house or a condo, your dog needs to be walked. Once in the morning, again in the afternoon and again in the evening. Most dogs need a good hour (or more) of exercise a day. If you can’t commit to this, then don’t get a dog. Owning a house is not a good excuse for never taking your dog out.  Most dogs won’t walk themselves in the back yard.
  •  Backyard dogs – People who get dogs who only want to keep them in the yard shouldn’t bother getting a dog.  If you have a yard where you can let your dog rip around for a bit every day that’s great. A yard is not a home.  A porch is not a home. A dog is a social, loving animal who wants to be a part of the family. They need to be walked and loved. That means having them be a full fledged member of the family inside the home.
  • Exercise – I mentioned this above but it bears mentioning again. Dogs, all dogs, big and small, need exercise. They need to be exercised every day, outside their yard. My guess is that a lot of behaviour issues could be solved by fulfilling this basic need. This means giving them exercise, every day rain or shine. Just going on shine days doesn’t work. You have to ask yourself if you’re the type of person willing to do this. If for whatever reason you can’t do this, there is a dog walker and they provide an essential service.  When I got Reuben I was armed with two big problems. One I was hugely fearful of all other dogs, and two I worked full time and needed to get him walked.  I dug into my entertainment budget, the one where I used to go out for dinner and drink vast quantities of wine and I re-directed it to his walking fund. It helped socialize him and he was given a much needed break during the day and I lost weight. Yes, dog walkers are expensive but it’s worth it.
  • Training your dog –  As mentioned Reub came into the world an old soul and really didn’t require a huge amount of training. He didn’t bark if I left him alone, he followed me everywhere so he always came when called, I could walk him off-leash due to his following me everywhere…so I had it easy and I admit that. He was an ABNORMAL puppy. But I have seen a lot of dogs who are a bit wilder or simply need to be trained to be good canine citizens. You want your dog to get along with other animals and to be reliable with people and to be manageable in all situations. It’s good for you and its imperative for them. This means spending time in the first year training your dog.  If you don’t have the time to spend doing this then I would think twice about getting a dog. So many animals end up in the shelter or being re-homed because they can’t be managed and the responsibility for this failure belongs entirely  to the dog parent.
  • Dogs are forever –Dogs are highly emotional, intelligent and loving sentient beings. They form strong attachments to people and families. Giving them up because you’re moving, you had children and now it’s too much, or worse they’re too old, isn’t good enough.  You need to see this through and that means a 10 to 15 year investment. Can you commit for that amount of time?
  • Families and Dogs – We had two sets of neighbours. Each was a young couple. Couple one had a dog before children…and then the children came along. This couple spent time training their dog before they had children and then spent time socializing their dog with their children. Every day you saw them out walking their dog with their kids. It worked. Couple two had a dog who I used to walk. I walked the dog because they never walked the dog. When they had children things went from bad to worse because now they didn’t have time for the dog, which they barely had before they had kids. Then guess what?  They couldn’t take the time to train their kids how to be with the dog and vice versa. Before long the dog was confined to a small space within the condo where I could hear her barking all day long. That’s when I started walking her every day (while my dog went with a dog walker). This is an example of a dog being given a good shift sideways by the family.
  • Cost – I found out quickly that dogs are expensive. My pup was sick from the get go and I spent the first year at the vet with ongoing problems throughout his life. Get insurance, it helps. Food adds up. I don’t like to cheap out so we buy good food and cook half of all of his (now her) meals. Shots, vets, food,….all these things cost money. Do you have the budget or can you make room in your budget for a canine family member?
  • Emotions: Dogs are emotional. Like people they come wired in different ways. Unlike people dogs are dogs and sometimes their behaviour means something different than you think.  What is universal is that dogs want and need to belong. They need to be loved, cared for, they need consistency and most of all they need people to follow through with their commitment to giving them a meaningful and safe life.
  • Sticks – Don’t ever let them eat sticks. We let Reuben do it and it almost killed him when he was five. We also spent close to a downpayment on a house to keep him alive. Seriously, if you can’t eat something, your dog shouldn’t be eating it either.
  •  Dogs don’t lie. Dogs don’t lie. If they’re behaving oddly them more than likely something is going on. They’re in pain, something hurts, or something happened. Take it seriously and go to the vet.

Dogs are work. They are a commitment.But the effort, the time and money spent are all well worth it. You won’t ever have the kind of unconditional love that this beautiful animal has to offer.




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Random Musing: Sisterly Laughcapades


My sister and I do this thing every morning. At exactly 8:00 am we phone each other. If I’m late calling she answers by saying “YOU ARE LATE. WHERE THE HELL HAVE YOU BEEN?”  Same goes for her. If I phone and she doesn’t pick up I say  “HOW DARE YOU NOT BE THERE?”

Saying goodbye is equally as perilous as not being there to pick up the phone. You always want to be the first one to exit. Those are the rules.Sometimes we trick each other into saying goodbye. I’ll lull her into a false sense of security by pretending to start another conversation and just at the right moment I say “GOTTA GO. I LUB YOU.” You have to hang up immediately after that or you lose.I suspect she has fast twitch muscles because she is like a pixie sprite and can be very fast, very determined little devil.

My sister can’t handle a lot of screaming but she seems to have a high tolerance for my loudness. I recently found myself talking in a circle of friends. But really I was screaming. In fact I was screaming so loudly my friend Christopher said my voice was reverberating in the valley of mountains. And when I paused I heard it so I know he wasn’t exaggerating.

It must be genetic which is most likely why my sister can stand me screaming in our daily calls. She screams too and I think we burn more calories talking to each other than most people do in an entire day of living. We are not half measure ladies.

Lately we have both been stressed.Her because she was diagnosed with brain cancer and me because she was diagnosed with brain cancer.

Recently she recommended the CALM app which truthfully has been a gift. Getting ready for sleep lately has involved a bottle of melatonin in one hand and a shot of vodka in the other. When I discovered the CALM app I was able to let go of both. Now I just have Tamara in the Calm App instructing me to breath in a beautiful calm voice and telling me I’m okay no matter what.

The Calm app is changing our lives. For example, today my sister said the session talking about being broken made her cry. By chance I listened to the same one and I was CALMLY able to say, you’re not broken, we’re perfect as we are. And she said  “Ya that’s right we are. ” And we are.

Then I told her that we have to be kind to ourselves because Tamara told us so. Then I told her that I had monkey brain this morning. My thoughts were everywhere and I was struggling to get through the meditation and all I wanted to do was check my facebook page to see if anyone had liked my elephant movie. So my monkey mind made me check my page. “SISTER she said  that is the ultimate crime!” But I was quickly able to say no I am accepting myself for all my imperfections and so are you. “TELL ME YOU LUB ME!” “I LUB YOU.”

Sisterhood has changed for me. While it has always been infused with love and friendship, cancer has made me want to draw a tight circle around us. Our circle is a rowboat. We have no idea where we’re going but we  fill this boat with a million laughs every day. “My stomach hurts.” she screams as we both laugh ourselves silly in the midst of this serious life. Sometimes she says she has only so many words for a day. I’m thrilled that I have so many of those words. I feel like the words we share are building a beautiful story of our lives, in this moment, in this serious and funny life.

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Elephant Nature Park – The House Lek Built

elie-scrumWhen my husband Dave and I decided to volunteer at Elephant Nature Park Elephant  (ENP)- a sanctuary for elephants in Northern Thailand, we wanted to support the work of  helping abused and misused elephants who are rescued from elephant riding camps, street begging, circuses and the logging trade.

Volunteering for 7 days with room and board would give us the experience of a working holiday and the proximity to being near elephants in as close to their natural state as a domesticated or broken elephant could be.

We had heard of Changduen “Lek” Chailert the founder and the driving force behind ENP through friends and social media. I was thrilled to find out that she would be giving a presentation on our second night there. When she walked in I was surprised at how tiny she was. This small, powerful woman, wore a graphic t-shirt that read “Ivory is Murder”.

The message on the t-shirt didn’t mince words and neither did she.

“What you’re going to hear and see tonight is going to make you sad.” she said. “It will make you cry. But to be the voice of the elephant you must understand their lives and their troubles.”

For the next hour and half she did a presentation that I’m sure she has done a million times. People say passion is the greatest driver of change, the creator of outstanding achievements over time. And the woman whom I believe is building a quiet revolution in Thailand’s elephant tourism industry, delivered a talk that came straight from the epi-centre of heartbreak with an equal amount of determination to do something about it.

She tells us the history of elephants in Thailand – how their labour, their servitude built the country. She unflinchingly shows us the ‘phajaan’ the process of ‘breaking elephants, a horrifying multi-day starvation, and abuse of baby elephants intended to break their will to prepare them for a life of servitude. I sat in the back and listened to their screams, their cries, the footage of elephants buckling in pain as they’re released, and hit and beaten again and again.

She shows us images of elephants working in logging camps, carrying impossibly heavy lumber, dragging them up steep inclines, their faces etched in pain, fatique and defeat. She shows us the trials of street elephants, babies taken from their mothers who live under bridges, and are fed amphetamines and junk, as they’re trotted out in front of ignorant adoring tourists.

It occurred to me that if tourists could stomach the presentation we were shown, there is little doubt that anyone would be eager to participate in a tourist economy based on this kind of systemic and horrific abuse.

Residents of ENP

On the walls of the lunch area there are pictures and stories of the elephant residents at ENP. There are now 72 elephants living here.

Here are the stories of two of its residents:


Medo was born in 1980 and rescued in July 2006.She is a survivor of the illegal logging industry where her right ankle was broken but never allowed to heal. She was placed in a forced breeding program where the large bull injured and attacked her. Despite never receiving medical treatment for a broken knee joint and a dislocated hip, Medo manages to get around quite well at the park. Her best friend is  Mae Lanna.

Mae Lanna was born around 1980 and was rescued from street begging in February 2007. She has also worked in logging. She is 60% blind most likely from a slingshot when working in logging. When she was working as a street beggar, a monk became concerned about her and she was rescued and brought to ENP.

More than just elephants – The House the Lek Built


On 250 acres of land donated from a wealthy American family, ENP has grown to include 72 elephants, 500 rescue dogs, Cat Kingdom cat rescue, 50 water buffalo including Violet a baby water buffalo who was rescued and raised by people and considers herself human, birds, monkeys, wild boar, a single pig and I suspect many others I didn’t see.

We had no idea all these animals were being rescued here when we first arrived.  It feels like something much bigger and is a grand gesture of generosity towards all living things. It is the way Lek believes the world needs to work – the true way of moving forward on this planet together.

The vegan menu that is served three times a day during our stay, underpins this philosophy. Animals don’t need to get hurt to serve our needs. And the food is delicious by the way. I actually gained weight during our stay.

A quiet revolution can also be an economic driver

ENP is a bustling hive of activity. From the moment we arrived it felt like we were on a sanctuary swat team. There are minivans delivering people, trucks delivering food and goods, and a busy kitchen preparing food, beds to be cleaned, laundry, animals to be tended to, mahouts tending to elephants. Without having the daily receipts in front of me, I sense that this experiment in kindness is proving to be a successful business model.

Spreading the love

Elephant Haven.JPG

In addition to running ENP, Lek works with local trekking camps to change their business from riding elephants to being with elephants. In return they have access to her vets and she promotes them through ENP. To date 15 have moved towards non-riding eco models.

Elephant Haven

We weren’t done when we left ENP so we went back to the Save the Elephant Foundation office in Chiangmai (where we met many friendly dogs, including one naughty little pug who lovingly dined on my skirt) and asked Ms. Patty what next. She pointed us to the direction of Elephant Haven, quickly helped us make the plans and off we went.

We spent 4 days at Elephant Haven  in Kanchanaburi about 1.5 hours outside of Bangkok. With only 12 elephants I imagine it is closer to what ENP was just a few short years ago.

We woke up to elephants outside our cabin window and spent the days making elephant food, cutting sugar cane, and wandering in the woods with elephants  sometimes only a few  even inches away from us.


While it’s still many steps behind ENP it is encouraging to see and you can only hope that the word will grow like wildfire amongst tourists to support elephants in a more respectful and humane way.


 The future of Asian elephants

Watching the elephants slowly amble their way through the landscape at ENP, stopping to scratch, moving with their families to fields in green pastures, I feel anxious for their future.

Asian elephants are an endangered species and part of the miasma of wildlife rapidly vanishing from our planet.

At the start of the 20th century there were 100,000 elephants in Thailand alone and today there are between 3,000 to 4,000 wild Asian elephants with a global population of fewer than 30,000. After the logging trade was closed in 1989 Thailand has a population of 2,700 domesticated elephants.

Conservationists also worry for the long-term outcome of these magnificent animals. The jungle, their natural home, is being taken away for land use. Population demands, deforestation and demand for ivory are their greatest threat.

As I walked with them in the jungle and watched them from afar, I marveled at how much these giant herbivores eat huge quantities of fruits and vegetables every day.

I witnessed first- hand their need to wander distances. I feel anxiety that these amazing creatures, these giants are meant for another world, another time.

But as I watch the hustle and bustle of trucks bringing in food, supplies, and the minivans bringing in hundreds of people every day, I feel a tiny ray of hope for the domesticated elephant anyway. This looks like economic development to me. Perhaps Thailand can become the leader in ethical tourism for one of its most revered and cherished symbols.

There’s a woman out there called Lek Chailert and she has built a sanctuary, a house of rescue, a revolutionary business model, a new way of helping elephants survive.

She has the magnificent heart of someone who does the tough work of rescue. Not just a part of it. All of it. I feel lifted by this thought and hope that I can be a small part of this revolution she is creating.


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Random Musing: On Cynicism

I don’t want to be cynical. I battle it but every week, every day, every hour something happens and you think, “My god. We’re monsters.” Scan the planet and its people, what they do and what they don’t do and the consequence of their actions|inaction and you slide into despair. Everyday there’s devastation to people, the planet and the incredible flora and fauna that inhabits this big beautiful planet of ours.

Right now for a project I’m reminding myself of the events of the Second World War. Racism and nationalism killed 30 million people. 6 million Jews. These are just words. When I read these words I imagine the living of it in stark human detail. These people had families, neighbours, children. They loved, went to school, had careers,love affairs, dreams, heartaches and aspirations. They lived and breathed and walked streets to cafes and restaurants. This is my era right now.

But there are others – Rwanda, Vietnam, the dissolution of Yugoslavia, the kidnapping of Nigerian school girls, religious wars, Syria, the mass movement of refugees from Africa and the Middle East, the murder of innocent people in Paris, Orlando, San Bernadino, Beirut, Turkey. It goes on and on and on.We haven’t even gotten to wildlife – elephants, those beautiful, soulful animals who have roamed this earth for millions of years whose existence, like so many others, is threatened by human action.

But now I’m swimming backwards aren’t I. And I feel hopeless. People sometimes ask me why I spend my time helping elephants (and other animals). Why elephants they say? The deep, cynical part of me wants to answer, “Because people aren’t worth my time. Look at what they do.” And I stop myself because it’s not entirely true. The truth is I do think that sometimes. But I work for elephants because I saw something that ate at my soul for a long time. And for a long time after  I never did anything until the day I decided to do something. And I still see this elephant. In a convention centre in Toronto. People standing around, staring and he looked lost and disconnected from anything meaningful in his life and it struck such a discordant note within me that I have never forgotten that image. It still makes me cry.

I work for elephants because that encounter moved me deeply.  And now I’m driven by it.

But I want to go back to people for a moment. I want to say this. Like every other human being on this planet I am affected by the extraordinary things that people are capable of. I am affected by art and beauty. By people reaching deep inside themselves to express the inexpressible , to outline the shadows that live beneath the every day things in life. Music, stories, art, dance, photographs, film restore my faith. They tell a collective story of our humanity. And I’m thankful to people when I feel these things.

I’m also thankful to people for their unexpected kindnesses and generosity. And I love their brilliance. My sister has been diagnosed with brain cancer. In a few weeks, an incredibly smart, gifted, dedicated and caring team of people will remove her tumour using the latest science has to offer. I am thankful to each and everyone of those people and all the people who have worked before to make all of it possible.

When I wake up and find out that more people have been senselessly lost to murder, I am going to fight hard to swim towards the sun.  I am going to remember what we have achieved and will achieve as people and individuals. I will re-commit myself to ‘doing’ things to help elephants and to making this place a better place for everyone. Because we’ve come a long way but we have much further to go. And we can only get there by leaving cynicism behind and embracing hope and the belief that we can each as individuals make a difference. I believe that.



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Minutiae #18 Heroes

When I was a kid/young adult I felt weird. I have no idea if I was weird but I felt weird. A square peg in a round hole, me on one side of the world, the world on the other side as though there was a piece of glass between us. I guess this is just being an awkward teen and not having any idea what your place in the world is.

Then one day Ziggy Stardust blew into town and changed everything. Over the years he brought Diamond Dogs, Scary Monsters, Aladdin Sane , and Let’s Dance. That fresh breeze of overt differentness of David Bowie became a lightning rod of approval for my own feeling of not belonging. I loved him, I loved him, I loved him. I overcame my insane shyness and danced and pranced in our living room to an audience of one (my adoring mother) while I sang so the world could hear.

“In the year of the scavenger, the season of the bitch
Sashay on the boardwalk, scurry to the Ditch
Just another future song, lonely little kitsch
(There’s gonna be sorrow) try and wake up tomorrowIn the year of the scavenger, the season of the bitch
Sashay on the boardwalk, scurry to the Ditch
Just another future song, lonely little kitsch
(There’s gonna be sorrow) try and wake up tomorrow”

Sing some more, she’d say and I would. Quite improbably I felt unabashedly most like me when I would get all dolled up and lay out my best Bowie performances for my mother.

The heart is such a crazy thing. It seems miraculous to me that a complete stranger can come along and make a girls’ life better. Make her place firmer in this world by showing that weird was just a better part of the world we live in. If he could join the human race, I could too. If he could dance, so could I.

I read a piece the other day by an ardent, life long Bowie fan who exclaimed that he wasn’t one of those fly by night fans like so many are. He’s bought every album, watched every interview, understood Bowie’s art from beginning to end. He never got off the train.

I don’t think I got off the train but I was not that person who remained an overt fan for the rest of my life. When I heard that he had died I felt sad. But as the week progressed I found myself thinking about him, his art, his music, his family, and what a profound loss it must be to have this super nova be fallable, to have to face leaving much too early and how hard that must have been for him and for those who truly knew him and loved him.

I loved David Bowie the artist. His art changed my life, touched me, twisted my heart, shaped me, made me stronger, made me better.
My mantra to this day when I have to speak in public is “If David Bowie can do it, so can I.” and I step forward on to life’s stage and try and give the performance of my life. Like he did.

Now that he is gone you find out other things about him that I didn’t know. That he is aquiet supporter of animal rights, that he licensed his song Heroes to the producers of The Cove for very little, that he was an early advocate against the senseless slaughter of dolphins in Taji. In the end David (Bowie) Jones was a human being like the rest of us. He was mortal, but he represents to me the best part of being human…the amazing beauty, art, that connects us even if we don’t know each other, have never met.

I went for a walk this week and found myself crying. I had no idea why. Then I realized it was grief. Saying goodbye to someone who gave me strength through his art and helped a young kid join the human race (with occasional confidence). Thanks David.

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The Sweetness of 2015

I’m a “taking stock” kind of person. The last two weeks of the year I’m asking questions, poking around here and there and wanting to know how people feel about their lives, what they’ve done, what they’ve regretted, achieved, loved, heart breaks, heart aches, successes, failures, what they hope for in the coming year. You can ask Dave, I kill him with questions but I think it’s important so the reflection is worth it:)

So these are some of things I hold dear to my heart lest I forget:

  1. Being shortlisted for an international award for my sustainability program. Working with businesses both large and small is both the most thankless and most gratifying work you can imagine.There are some many companies rocking this space – they’re taking it on because they have passion, drive and ingenuity and those people give me hope.
  2. Losing in Italy at a palace whilst drinking prosecco and wearing a party dress. There is truly no better place to lose.
  3. Coming home.
  4. Talking to my brother on the phone every morning except when he’s too busy and hangs up on me to go eat a shwarma.
  5. Having Savannah (my lovely niece), my sisters and my brother on speed dial and phoning one after the other if they don’t answer quickly enough.
  6. Seeing my niece (Savannah) thinking and feeling her way to growing up.
  7. Watching my sister Jokelee taking on the insurance world. She’s fierce and lovely and we all know it.
  8. Reconnecting with my brother Chris and getting sweet texts from him.  Because life really is too short.
  9. Doing nothing. I think I perfected it this year. Doing nothing in Kelowna with Dave and Bean. Doing more of nothing at our house.
  10. Doing nothing. When I do nothing I seem to be able to think and feel better.
  11. Joining my sister Mia’s Mudderella team and having good old fashioned fun with a bunch of ladies.
  12. Post Mudderella party animal time. Yes, that’s right. I said ‘party animal’ because we were and who does that any more? But we did and I loved it.
  13. Reading books.
  14. Making time to read books.
  15. Finding breathtaking lines and images in books.
  16. Thinking about what people wrote.
  17. Dave’s art show.
  18. Dave’s art.
  19. Dave growing as an artist.
  20. Joffre Lake hike.
  21. Guilting my brother into stopping here before he and his wife go to Asia. I’ll use that more often.
  22. Elephants elephants elephants elephants. I love them. It makes no sense. But I love them. I’ll fight until it’s done. They’ve opened up my eyes to so much of the world. I love them.
  23. Animals.
  24. Gito my beautiful new adoptee.
  25. People who inspire me are the doers. My animal advocate community. What an amazing and brave group of people.
  26. Writers.I had so little time to read for awhile this year and all of a sudden I realized I was DYING and that I needed them.
  27. The amazing people whom I never expected to come to the march but did. And I was undone by it.
  28. Overcoming my fear of public speaking.
  29. Overcoming many fears.
  30. Feeling more strongly than ever the desire to get things done.
  31. Writing.
  32. Dave.
  33. My dog Bean.
  34. Olive? 🙂
  35. My friends. My family.
  36. Finding a hairdresser I can have a fun and sensible relationship with.
  37. Meeting new people.
  38. Dave.
  39. Life. I’m grateful.

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Minutiae 17: On Love and LifeBoats

Everyone said no don’t do it. They warned me against you.  You were a young widower and therefore bad news. But my heart which had been poorly served in the past, said yes. So I said yes. And we went out. And I remember when you brought over speakers and hooked them up. And you said here, this will sound great. You’ll actually be able to hear now…and then you fixed my broken tv, my broken VCR, my broken door and my broken heart. Everything around me was broken. It took a few weeks but you said can I kiss you and I said yes. Even though I was so nervous. And it ended with you jauntily telling me you’d teach me how to play darts. This was before you found out I had hands like sausages and a perilously short attention span which could make learning darts potentially very dangerous.

We felt subversive. Love tumbling here and there. Adrift but necessary.  We sat in the theatre. I wanted to hold your hand so badly. I couldn’t think straight, I barely knew you. We went for drinks in the lobby and I asked you your last name. And  you told me. And I rolled it around in my head – exotic and new until it made itself at home in every nook and cranny of my being.

You slept over. Two neurotic people. And the next day you brought your fan. The only way you could sleep and it became friends with my fan. The only way I could sleep.

We were rearranging ourselves for love. Pushing and pulling to create space, to make us bigger, we were gardening our  broken hearts.

But at times it was tough. I was the offspring of at least one pathological liar and a mama who loved white lies. Lying felt necessary and normal. I lied without malice. But I lied now and then. I joked about it with my therapist. The art of spontaneous lying. Hiding your heart. Voiceless. It felt theatrical to me. Like being on stage except in real life.

But you, honest man, required honesty.  So I told you the truth with my eyes closed. And we practiced the truth over and over and over again. With big things and little things. And each time you said okay. Let’s see this through. And  then we would make tea and carry on.

Truth is a funny thing and it’s something I might never have known if I could never speak it. I might never have known that someone could see me in my craziness. In the stranded-ness of my life. That my lifeboats , around me for so long and so necessary since forever, were lying lifeless around me. Slowly they drifted away. I told you I needed lifeboats, I said.  And you said okay. One day you won’t need them. And he was right. One day I didn’t.

I’m not sure what ‘growing up’ means. Maybe it means leaving behind the craziness of childhood hurts. Of not knowing how to want good things. Of not knowing I had a centre, that I was even a person.  Of not thinking I deserved good things. Of thinking that I was so different and that  I only deserved different and bad things.  Maybe growing up means not having to let go of being silly, and crazy, and being spontaneous  but having the strength to grow into yourself and having someone who loves you who wants that for you too.  It’s that simple. Sometimes people say love makes you a better person. There was a time when I wouldn’t know what this meant. But I do now and I have my friend (and husband:) Dave to thank for that.


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Minutiae #16 The social awkwardness of being childless

Most of my friends don’t have kids. I’m not sure if this is by design or accident. I don’t have kids. People having kids doesn’t bother me. The few friends I have who do have kids I tend to like both the parents and the kids and in some cases I like the kids better. I adore my nieces and nephews. And I adore my sisters and brothers who had them.

People having kids doesn’t bother me. Not having kids doesn’t bother me either. But there is something about someone pontificating about the glories of children and how there is no greater joy in life than having kids – specifically after finding out you don’t have children that bothers me.

Here is a real life conversation that I endured:

Recipient of the greatest gift on earth: Do you have kids?

Me: No.

Recipient: You don’t? Really. Why? You don’t know what your missing. My children blah blah blah blah blah blah blah insert meaningless but heartfelt ode to being a parent and the greatest gift on earth. It the best thing that can ever happen to a person. The recipient then looks at me and says staring straight into my eyes “There is nothing better in life than having a child.”

I can see how this can be true based on the fact that I feel deep love for a few young people in my life. But really what am I supposed to do.

Stupified me looks at Recipient of Greatest Gift and I say, “Oh, wow really”. And I think to myself “I’ll have to get on that age defying sperm egg thing and see if I can get that to happen for me too.”

I don’t have these conversations very often. I don’t want to pretend this is a regular thing. I had the same sense of irritation when I was in university taking my (sweet assed) time and people would sardonically ask me if I had moved on to my graduate degree. I can’t comprehend why people want to start these stupid conversations or why they care if I take 5, 7 or 10 years to do my BA. Who fucking cares?

But there are times I get irritated. For example with Mr. stupid conversation above and then more recently.

This is how it goes. I go for a business meeting that happens to be in a bar. The person I’m meeting offers me a glass of wine and I say hell ya and she says well it has to be 5 o’clock somewhere and I say YES with more enthusiasm than I should. So I order chardonnay which I instantly regret because I remember someone saying that only old ladies drink chardonnay and they said chardonnay with an english accent that you might hear on Coronation Street. So the chardonnay comes and this is all I can think about.

So we’re having a drink in the lounge when Jennifer (who works at the hotel) comes in and starts talking to a young pregnant woman in the lounge who is there with her son.  Her son is about a year and half and he’s super cute dressed in dungarees, a plaid shirt and neon runners. His name is Ashwin. I am sipping my chardonnay remembering that it’s 5:00 o’clock somewhere when Ashwin comes up to me and rests his little hand on my knee. Looking up he says in his baby boy’s voice “Shake my hand.” so I do. Little dungaree man offers me his hand and I take it and the whole transaction feels so good and is so successful for both of us that we do it six more times. Pretty soon he’s sitting in my lap and he’s in the mood for a monster cuddle. You know how it goes. His very pregnant mother coos mostly at her son, my little bar date is cooing. Even the bartender comes around to watch and coos. Now we are all cooing.

Soon we are discussing the birth of baby number 2 still deeply imbedded in mom’s tummy….we move to the incredibly sweet nature of dungaree boy who is still nestled in my lap and then we move on to the general greatness of all babies everywhere. And why wouldn’t they be sweet and perfect. There has been no opportunity for them to be ruined or damaged yet so they’re like perfect little human beings.

Up until this point I have been right in there like a dirty shirt cooing about the greatness of the mini humans and how fab they all are. But then Jennifer friend of pregnant lady starts on the “children are the greatest gift to humankind” train and I’m like oh brother I know where the hell this is going. Predictably Jennifer starts beating her chest like an excited monkey while railing on, then pauses looks at me and says “Do you have any children?” And now I’m beginning to feel like I need to come up with something that will make OTHER people comfortable with my childless state of being. A) a lie – I never wanted kids b) the fertility clinic failed me c) I dated losers for far too long in my life d) the whole middle part of my body doesn’t work e) I forgot to

Anyone of these could do but regardless of what I say there is always the awkward “moment” – that pause after the question and the pause while you wait to answer and then the pause when they hear why you’re childless which is not a casual conversation between strangers. But I find myself fumbling towards an excuse. And then the moment passes and everyone carries on and the little boy toggles down from your lap and over to his mother. And then life resumes again. Ancient sorrows buried under social protocol.

My most recent encounter happened at another meeting when a woman who knows I work hard for certain causes said “I guess you don’t have kids do you.? Right. Because it’s only the childless who have time to save the world. I know so many excellent mothers, parents, fathers who throw themselves into amazing causes.  This is what I wanted to say as well as fuck you. But I didn’t. So I’m getting it off my chest here.

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Minutiae #15: The Piano Recital

It seemed appropriate that this right of passage, this milestone of sorts, this small ritual take place in a cedar church with a vaulted roof that pointed upwards trying in its own small way to touch the blue sky.

670px-Play-Jazz-Piano-Step-3The kids walked in sitting in the pews to the left of the church. Some were dressed in patent leather shoes with tiny adult heels, flouncing dresses, a large flamboyant flower in one girl’s hair,  there was a suit and tie, and others dressed  just like kids – jeans and running shoes. They ranged in age from 6 to 14 and I spent some time identifying which little person and teen would be who in the prototype adult world. That one looks like a Mable I thought to myself as I sat in the pew facing the front of the church while family members, grandparents and parents settled in for their child’s end of year piano recital.

Mable was a chubby little girl with a big flower in her blond hair. She had straight bangs and big eye glasses. She looked about 10 and already her outfit had an air of eccentricity. She was her own person.

The piano teacher, beautiful, with long blond hair  the colour of the sun and the demeanour of an angel stood on stage beside the aging creaking piano and explained how difficult this was for each child. How terrifying it is to perform particularly on a piano as nasty as this one. And I remembered my one and only piano recital and walking on to the stage in my new black shiny shoes and sitting at the piano,staring at the keys for what felt like a lifetime – dead silence as the audience waited for the blond little girl to begin her piece. And the longer I waited the worse it became – seconds stretched into an eternity as I stared at the keys wondering if I could begin. God knows what divine force intervened and pushed my fingers to the keys to play and then suddenly applause. I lived when I thought I would die.

The first little girl was no more than six with chocolate long hair and hazel round eyes. She walked to the stage, up the stairs, announced her piece and sat and played. She finished her short to-the-point piece, stood and faced the audience and curtsied. I loved the performance ritual and watched as each student stood up, and repeated it. Some stumbled while others looked like it was just one more chore, one more thing their parents wanted them to do or to achieve – a tick mark in their budding life resumes.

Mentally I had already developed a fondness for little Mable and was happy when I saw it was her turn. She walked half absentmindedly up the stairs, her flower hanging jauntily at the side of her head. She, like others, announced her piece and sat at the piano. She waited just a moment or two too long before she started playing and I worried that she was suffering the same fate as I had – the epic mental battle to begin something you don’t want to do.

But when she played I realized that she might have that internal battle but her fingers and her heart showed she could tackle those keys with an almost nonchalant ease – a kind of miniature expertise. She didn’t use the sheet music in front of her but instead kept her head facing the stained glass, staring at it as if looking for inspiration or maybe escape. And even though I didn’t know “Mable” I was secretly thrilled at her absentminded brilliance and I clapped like I was her blood relative when she finished and curtsied and then promptly fell off the stage.

I stopped mid-clap horrified for this little girl, hoping this would not be the beginning of something that would shape the rest of her life. Bullying, self loathing, pressure.  The course of our entire  lives are often set in motion by these small moments that haunt  our adult selves sometimes until the grave. The  unresolved nuggets of shame and hell.  Mable got up, blinked, adjusted her flower and took her seat amongst the rest of the performers.


Then came Alex. I had watched Alex a little. Like Mable he seemed flamboyant but in an entirely different way. He had a shock of wild, dirty blond hair. He wore a private school suit and was the only boy to do so. He was maybe 14 at the most. He chose to play a medley by The Red Hot Chili Peppers which I was eager to hear.

He stood up, walked to the stage and gave a flamboyant bow and looked at the piano students and said, “I might be playing a little longer than the rest of you.” Another young eccentric. His fingers cascaded along the keys as a brief warm up, as a way to warn us that what we heard before was nothing, that he was different, he was going to give us the performance of his life. And he did. He played flawlessly with his heart and his soul. I thought I felt the church shake. My heart skipped a beat.  Sometimes you are faced with something extraordinary in the unlikeliest of places, in the shape of a young boy, a soon-to-be man with crazy hair and an impeccable suit – his awkwardness belied his astonishing gifts that we were lucky enough to have experienced in this small church with a steeple that almost touched the sky.

I wanted to seek him out after the performance. I wanted to tell him that what I saw was special, that what I heard was extraordinary, that what I had witnessed made my night. So I did. I found him and I told him exactly that. “Next time I see you” I said, “it will be on a big stage and I’ll be paying for the privilege.” He smiled ear to ear. The boy with the wild hair and the suit replied – there was no teen coolness, no boy teen bravado. “Music is my passion.” he said. “It’s my passion. I was nervous.” he said. “I would never have guessed it. “I said “You were amazing.” and I walked away.

I think about those nuggets, those things that hold us back or propel us forward that are buried far away in childhoods lost and teen years gone. And then when we analyze our lives from a distance years later we go panning for gold or deceit in the hope of uncovering the mysteries of our lives. How did we get started on this or that? I don’t know if strangers can make a difference. But we all hit rough times and there was a strange frailty to this kid and I hoped that by sharing my heart with him for one brief second that maybe this would be a small nugget to inoculate him against life. That’s all.

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