Tuesday, 2 October 2012

The Pity Party

I don't recall receiving an invitation to this loathsome affair, no pretty little note card festooned with balloons and sweets pushed its way into my mailbox. And I certainly did not offer to host this event nor offer my space as the venue. Apparently that doesn't matter, for here I am flopping around, a fish caught out at low tide.
Popular wisdom would encourage any of us stuck like this, to surrender all resistance and fully enter the experience. "Be in the moment," some would say. Well I don't like this moment, thank you very much and I can't possibly get out of it fast enough. I'm hoping the next wave will pick me up and carry me back out into the sea where all the action is. A good long walk in the forest, so wonderfully decked out in her autumn wardrobe, would go a long way to busting me outta here -- if only I could actually walk the distance.
I am struggling with tendonitis in my feet (the lower extremity equivalent of tennis elbow). First it was the extensor tendon in my left foot, followed shorty thereafter by the posterior tibial tendon in my right. I have endured physio for six weeks now. The guy does this thing called "frictioning the tendons". I have another name for it, a unique sequence of expletives that quite possibly would catch the attention of the cyber police. Let me just say that if you asked me to rate the pain on a scale of 1 to 10 that this frictioning inflicts, my response would be, "FORTY-BLOODY-SEVEN!"
I have iced my feet 3 times a day and faithfully done the prescribed exercises. I do solemnly confess though that I have not rested as I ought to have rested, and as a result there is no health in me, which is another way of saying recovery has been extremely slow.
For the past week however, I have repented from my waywardness and abstained from anything more than minimal walking. Sadly this sabbath appears to have put out the welcome mat for a pity party. Limited mobility it seems yields a whole lot of manure. For someone on the cusp of their sixtieth birthday, this is great fertile ground for reflections on personal morbidity and mortality, creeping decrepitude oozing from every crack and crevice.
Bring on the Pity Party!

Wait! Hang on  a sec -- I've actually accomplished something worthwhile today! I've not only taken time to write, but I've even posted on my blog!  That's TWO things done. Woo Hoo - I'm riding the wave...

Oh crap, I gotta go ice my feet. Sheesh!

Monday, 27 August 2012

The Clearance Certificate

Sitting in my favourite chair with my favourite brew, a grande americano, I while away the time before meeting up with my sisters.  It feels oh so familiar, comfortable in fact; kind of like I've slipped into an old pair of shoes.  This Starbuck's location is the one we would meet in either to gather ourselves before a visit to Mom in the nursing home or to put ourselves back together after the visit.  Some days we were here both before and after.  This was the place of serious discussions, complicated decisions, tears and hysterical laughter.  We did it all here.

In the very early days we sometimes brought Mom with us - she so loved a good strong cup of coffee.  The adjacent Chapters afforded her the opportunity to explore the magazine rack.  In time Mom's selections of the New Yorker, Coastal Living and Bon Appetit gave way to more racy covers, mostly featuring half clothed men.

"Do they have Playgirl here?" she asked in her best outdoor voice one day. 
"How about a coffee Mom? May I suggest a grande americano?" I asked as I steered her over to Starbuck's.  All too soon the magazine rack became an indecipherable cacophony of colours, letters and images and Starbuck's along with anywhere outside the nursing home became a frightening foreign land to Mom.  Then we brought the good coffee to her.  Sometimes she loved it; sometimes she hated it; mostly she seemed indifferent, but we kept up the tradition of meeting at Starbuck's.

So here I am again today sitting in that familiar space, having a good cup of coffee before attending to Mom, or rather before attending to her estate.  Today the executors - my sisters and I - complete the final piece of her affairs.  The Clearance Certificate from Revenue Canada arrived last week and was dated August 14, 2012 - exactly two years from the date of Mom's death. I have a cheque for each of my sisters distributing the last monies from the last bank account and I have a letter for us to sign instructing the bank to close the estate account.  All the "i's" have been dotted and the "t's" crossed.  It is done.

I am both relieved and reluctant.  I am glad that the paperwork is complete, that the obligations of the executors have been dutifully fulfilled.  The IHC File, stuffed with the paper trail of Irene Hoersch Cudbird's final years, is now closed.  But I hesitate to let go of this last piece of my mother.  I want to hang on to her a little bit longer.  Of course the Mom I want to hold is the one I grew up with, the one my Dad called 'his American Beauty', the one who travelled the globe and cherished her family, the one who loved me and knew who I was.

I miss you Mommy...

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Writing Craft Skills

At a WCYR Board meeting last night, I managed to remind myself and be reminded by another (thank you Carly Bumstead, really!) how long it's been since I posted anything here. 

I'm a writer, right?  And apparently one of some skill, or so claimed the president: "Just look around this table," she bubbled with an inclusive wave to all six of us gathered last night, "there is a tremendous depth of skill and writing craft sitting right here!." 
Well that gave me pause, let me tell you. We were considering the addition of a panel discussion and Q & A segment to our monthly meetings and I wondered what possible expertise I could bring to such an occasion. The question turned over and over again in my mind, anxiety and self-doubt edging up with every blank thought drawn. Then the heavens opened and the light shone! My offering to a community of writers, my skill is the one I've been diligently honing all summer, and one I'm sure I could talk about for hours - PROCRASTINATION. Why, just a few more practise units and I'd qualify to teach a master class on this beauty. And, and the really neat thing is that I've discovered a tonne of resources (real people!!) out there for me to call upon for support and encouragement.

Now let me be honest here, there has been one significant lapse in my devotion to this skill development, but I can explain...
My love and I cruised off the continent for a month, sailing out of Fort Lauderdale on May 5 and flying back from Amsterdam on June 3. First the good news: I took the written chapters of the memoir I'm working on, along with the bulging folder of notes, umpteen writing implements (one to suit each mood and a backup set), a full bottle of ink for my beloved fountain pen and two, count 'em, two pencil sharpeners. I was sure that seven consecutive days at sea crossing the Atlantic Ocean would prove too intensive for studies in writer's procrastination. I was wrong. I opened the writing kit but once -- to fish out a pencil sharpener required to tone up my best sudoku pencil. BUT then we made landfall and procrastination suffered a serious setback. Itching writer's fingers grabbed pen, pencil, whichever was near, and I began to write commentaries to accompany a selection of photos which were then emailed to followers at home. I wrote fourteen of these photo essays, some of them quite extensive for someone on vacation, and I confess, I had great fun writing them. Mea culpa, mea culpa...

Back home, there have been wonderful opportunities to sharpen my special writing skill -- strawberry picking and jam making, raspberry picking, family gatherings and of course editing and organising the 7500 digital photos from our cruise (though it has been claimed that this last activity is not writer's procrastination at all, but rather an intense trolling for story ideas -- yeah, sure).

I am thrilled to report that thanks to my daughter in law, I acquired just this past week yet another tool guaranteed to take me to the next level in my skill development -- the FitBit.  Basically this little gadget encourages and tracks walking, running and stair climbing, all of which preclude 'bum-in-chair' writing. It even rewards me with badges for every 5000 steps, 10 floors climbed and 5 miles travelled. SCORE+++ for writer's procrastination!!

OOPS -- gotta get going!

Monday, 19 March 2012


     Meandering, just meandering. Like a leaf, dappled in sunlight, on a gently flowing woodland stream, I've been going with the flow, occasionally diverting into intriguing byways and circulating in pools of calm.  No specific goal or destination; no plan or urgency, just Simon and Garfunkel's 59th Street Bridge Song playing in my head.
Slow down, you move too fast.
You got to make the morning last.
Just kicking down the cobble stones.
Looking for fun and feelin' groovy.

Ba da, Ba da, Ba da, Ba da...Feelin' Groovy.

Hello lamp-post,
What cha knowin'?
I've come to watch your flowers growin'.
Ain't cha got no rhymes for me?
Doot-in' doo-doo,
Feelin' groovy.

I've got no deeds to do,
No promises to keep.
I'm dappled and drowsy and ready to sleep.
Let the morning time drop all its petals on me.
Life, I love you,
All is groovy.
     It's been lovely, especially these past days when May has thrown a soothing temperate blanket over a usually cruel March, but even today I'm growing restless.  Some seeds of discontent are beginning to sprout and I sense their urgency pressing upon me, goading me to get going, get DOING, something important, valuable, something solid. Oh - and the possibilities are endless! Long lists of 'coulds', 'should's' and 'must's' beg for strike outs and check marks. Just look at this list:
  • clear out closets: bedroom, den, hall x 2
  • clean out basement
  • redecorate living room: new flooring, painting, furniture, lighting
  • yard work: clean out gardens; lawn care
  • get stuff together for New York trip
  • get stuff together for cruise
  • bathroom reno plans
  • attic clear out (comes after basement)
  • digitize slide photos (there are 20 years worth of these)
  • finish family cook book for kids
     It's all quite manageable over time, but really only amounts to little more than a bunch of boxes (okay maybe a dumpster!) full of chores that I can put at the end of the driveway. Important? Valuable? Solid? In it's own way I suppose so, but not really what my sprouts of discontentment are all about.
     A great clear out makes way for ... what?  Well if I knew the answer to that, I'd be off and running instead of meandering.  Sounds like it would be a good time for a retreat, a time apart, and it just so happens that back in the ice of January I booked just such a thing for March 30 to April 3; 5 days of writing, exploring, writing, listening, writing, learning, writing. Good timing, eh?
    For now, I'll continue on my way, kicking down the cobble stones...
                                    Ba da, Ba da, Ba da, Ba da...

Sunday, 19 February 2012

Writing Prompts

The following two pieces blossomed out of writing prompts -- little phrases/suggestions intended to get the writing juices flowing.  In the past week, these prompts have led me into a land I've never been before -- the land of fiction.  It's rather fun and freeing as I don't have to get hung up about facts and chronology. If you have desire to write, try these out: http://creativewritingprompts.com
Choose one that intrigues you, set a timer for 10 minutes then start writing.  See what comes out of that pen -- uncensored, unjudged.  Don't worry about spelling or tense, just free write, after all the only person who sees it is you (unless of course you, like me, decide to blog it).

Here are my two, one from last week and one from today:Enjoy!

The Prompt: "She threw herself into the paths of unsuitable men."

She thew herself into the path of unsuitable men.  Oh but the pleasures she found there, short-lived as they were, were so irresistible. Like the mind numbing jingle of slot machines to a gambler, or the sound of ice cubes clinking into a crystal glass to an alcoholic, the first sight of a Mr. Tall, Dark and Handsome, was all it took for her to fall again.  Yes, she was addicted to danger all right!

The anticipation, fuelled by so many encounters in the past, prickled up and down her neck sometimes causing her breath to catch in her throat and spawning torrid dreams and fantasies.  All senses on hyper alert, she was always on the lookout for the next man, the next pursuit, the next capture, the next betrayal, the next rejection, the next deluge of remorse, the next promise to do better.

The Prompt: "write from the point of view of a freshly scrubbed floor"

Oh my!! I feel so marvellous, so over-the-moon with joy -- Fresh! New! Eager!  All those many layers of spills -- savoury sauces with names like marinara, bearnaise, bechamel; festive pan drippings featuring turkey, prime rib, ham; and flavourful libations of orange juice, espresso, vintage wine; all topped off with dust bunnies and dog fur and down trodden by bare feet, slippers and running shoes -- all of this detritus has been scrubbed away. "I am as light as a feather, I am as happy as an angel, I am as merry as a schoolboy. I am as giddy as a drunken man." -- Oh wait, that's been written by someone else -- a Dickens of a man I recall..

What will be the first spill?  Who will be the first scoundrel to mess me up?  And whose ignorant feet will track through it?  Whose shriek will announce the first violation of my pristine state? Will anyone take a moment to gently wipe my soiled face? Some perpetrators just slink away you know. They think they can get away with it.  But they can't.  I know who they are. I know their feet well and I will remember. One of these days...

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

February Funk

Gee, it's been an awfully quiet here on the blog lately.  A month since I last wrote...
What's up with that?

In January I was a beehive of activity -- lots of stuff to do but very little writing time.  Now it's time for my February Funk, that almost annual bloom of apathy and inertia.  Every year there is always just enough energy to propel me through January, but come the second month of a new year, the last of the vitalising drops of cheer have been squeezed out.  The only evidence of life are melancholy blooms waving lazily in a grey mist....

Time to nip these suckers in the bud!  I've learned that there is no point in trampling or weeding this garden of 'un-delight' -- such activities require too much of the kind of energy that is in very short supply right now.  The best strategy is to patiently poison the little punks with small but regular doses of accomplishments.  So, I've stepped up my workout routine a notch and added an afternoon nap -- a balanced approach is always best!  And I've stocked my pharmacy with lots of little enjoyable projects, each one of them completely doable in an hour or less.  On a sunny day, like today, I can easily knock back 4 or 5 doses and still get in that nap!

Speaking of which -- it's about time for a 'toes up'!
Today's poisons: Gym, menu planning, travel research, blog post, nap.  And that's just so far.  The day is not done yet.

Monday, 9 January 2012

You've Expired!

"Oh, you've expired!"exclaimed the smiling gal at the cash.

Rainbow Arch, Lindisfarne
2008 April Hoeller
I confess to having been somewhat taken aback by this news.  Me? Expired?  I didn't feel expired, though I had of course been in the check out queue.  Further investigation seemed required.  I noted that I was apparently breathing normally -- coolish wafts filling my nostrils when I inhaled.  A cursory scan of my kinesthetic sensors revealed nothing out of the ordinary -- my feet felt firmly planted on beige linoleum and I was upright.  The smiling gal did not look at all like God, well at least nothing like the picture in the Sistine Chapel (that's the official portrait of God right?), nor did she bear any resemblance to St. Peter or any other members of the heavenly realm.  And I'm very happy to say that I did not detect any superfluous appendages (horns, tail) and that she was not the least bit red nor wearing a red cape.

Expired?  Surely not!  But I suppose it is possible -- an utterly seamless transition from this world into the next, from Chapters in Newmarket to the BIG book store in heaven.  But then why would I buy a book on Paris?  Why would I buy a book, period?  Does one read in eternity?  Go to bookstores?  Is it possible to be tourist and go on vacations to Paris?

The mind boggles at the wonder of it all.  Mind you if this is eternity, I'm more than a tad disappointed to see the big retailers up here.  I wonder what Walmart looks like?  I sure hope there's a more equitable merchandising policy in place.  I expect fair trade at the very least.  And just exactly what am I going to do about it if that's not the case?  Go to customer service?  Perhaps I have gone to hell in a hand basket, after all.

"She looks pretty alive to me."  The voice from somewhere behind me snatched me back into the present moment.  Less than two seconds have passed since I heard that I had expired.  The cashier is still beaming at me, my irewards card fluttering between the fingers of her right hand.

"You mean my card has expired."  I chuckle and grinned broadly back at her, noting her ever so slightly red flush.

"Yes," she stammered, "would you like to renew it?"

"Yes, please. Go ahead."

"That comes to $54.67."

She pushed the card reader toward me.  I dutifully entered my PIN and then I'm sure I saw the screen flash:
'Paris tour book plus a rewards card renewal: $54.67
Flight of fancy to eternity and back, in under 2 seconds: Priceless!'

(I was at a writer's gathering yesterday, Writers Community of York Region, and Dorothea Helms, our featured speaker, invited us to make use of our experiences.  If you find something intriguing, amusing, etc., she said we should write about it.  Chances are readers will connect with the experience too.  So this piece is an episode in my day today, with apologies to the gal at Chapters who told me I was expired. LOL)