Monday, December 26, 2005

Happy Holidays from Palm Springs!

Palm Springs is a crazy place. Hundreds of lush, green golf courses in the middle of a desert, and senior citizens limping along the roads with canes and walkers. To get to our timeshare we drove straight down Bob Hope Road, and crossed Ginger Rogers Road, Dinah Shore Avenue and Frank Sinatra Avenue. It's a bit surreal to say the least.

Tomorrow I plan on going for a run through the tubular verbenias and primrose before heading to the spa for a massage courtesy of my brother.

Yes, it's truly a rough life. Hope you are all having a holiday as great as mine!

Friday, December 23, 2005

Strip Mall

I come home to Calgary each year for Christmas, and each trip back is a little bit different. The first few years, I was so immersed in Toronto life - partying in the clubs, making new friends and exploring my independence - that coming back to Calgary at Christmas was a chore. It seemed so small and grey, and bleak, and backwards. Even when I was here, I felt like I was miles away, planning my next party in Toronto.

The years after that, the trips home were a blessed relief. I had stretched myself so thin, and pushed myself so hard in my new Toronto life, that I was completely exhausted - physically, emotionally and spiritually. I was like a small child, completely stripped of internal resources, and needing my mother to take care of me. I felt so alone that I remember crying on the phone with my parents and talking about moving back to Calgary, even though there was no future for me there. In those days, the simplicity of Calgary seemed like paradise, and all I saw were blue skies, sunshine and calm.

Eventually though, things evened out, and the trips back and forth became less emotional. In the last few years, my connection to Calgary, the city, has gradually faded. It's become like a giant strip mall - my own personal PST free shopping plaza!

I visit the 2 friends I have left here, but even that connection is fading, becoming more ephemeral. We meet and try to catch up, but how do you effectively communicate a year's worth of hopes, failings, disasters and achievements over a few dinners? Especially when you feel yourself drifting further and further away from them into the beautiful clouds of future potential.

Mostly, I spend my time in Calgary with my family, comforted by the slowly changing patterns of home. Things seem to be on pause here, moving at a snail's pace. This peacefulness endows Toronto life with a manic energy and excitement that seems cartoonish in comparison. I believe it is the experience of these contradictions that allow me to be in Toronto (to take advantage of opportunity, culture, arts, diversity), but not of Toronto (consumerist, status-oriented, pretentious).

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Thermostat War

My mother has recently completed menopause. In the process, I think she's completely lost her ability to feel cold. It really doesn't make any sense. She's very thin, with no extra fat to warm her, so theoretically, she should feel the icy air that pervades the house. Strangely, she doesn't. While she stomps imperviously around the house in a thin turtleneck and jeans, I will be layered under piles of blankets, shivering with numb fingers and toes, desperately trying to cull some of my own body heat. My nose is so cold I'm starting to feel like a lost little puppy. My daily shower has become my only relief from the Antarctica I'm living in. I think that maybe she has phantom hot flashes, memories of them seared into her DNA, like an amputee who feels their arms or legs long after they are gone.

I have taken to turning the thermostat up whenever she leaves the room. I sigh contentedly as the heat starts to permeate my frozen limbs, and pull myself out from under the heavy mass of blankets. What a reprieve! I am lulled by this cocoon of warmth, and that's why I don't notice until it's too late. It starts with an unsettled shivering in my chest, which extends out to my fingers and toes. I unconsciously pull a few blankets on top of me, and then I realize what has happened.

She's wily, my mom. She has snuck into the room when I have gone to the bathroom or fallen asleep, and turned down the thermostat! I am shocked by the precision with which this has happened. It's as though she has an internal thermostat, which signals her whenever the temperature has been modified by a few degrees. C'mom Mom! Can't you give me a few degrees?!?

Since my father and I are united in our desire for normal room temperatures, you'd think we'd be winning this war. But alas, we are not. We are soldiers fighting a losing battle, dwarfed by the awesome power and discipline of my mother.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

The Other

Well, I'm back home in good old Calgary. It's a stereotype that Calgarians wear cowboy hats, but I must admit that I did see at least 4 of them at the airport when I arrived. So far, I've spent 2 years of my life in South Korea, 23 years in Calgary, and 7 years in Toronto. Since I'll be turning 33 in March, I'll say the extra 9 months were spent travelling - all across Canada, throughout California, New York, Milwaukee (for work), Hawaii, Cuba, Greece, Great Britain, Communist Russia, Japan, Germany, Austria and the Czech Republic...oh and a few extra months travelling back to South Korea (yes, I've been lucky!)

I moved for all the right reasons, I just didn't know it when I left. All I knew is that I had to get out. Maybe it was self preservation, maybe it was that inherent knowing that we all have, or maybe I was just running away. Since, I had known no city other than Calgary, it wasn't until I moved away that I realized how uncomfortable I had felt there.

French philosopher and feminist Simone De Beauvoir talked about the Other in her book The Second Sex. Essentially, she argued that in a male dominated society, woman are socially constructed as the Other, a deviation or abnormality.

In Calgary, I was the Other, and I felt this within 2 days of being in Toronto.

I was a visible minority in a predominantly caucasian city, but I never experienced overt racism in any of my 23 years in Calgary. Calgarians are extremely nice in a Ned Flanders sort of way. They're good neighbours that will shovel your sidewalk, and say hi when they pass you on the street. They will even curiously ask you questions about your cultural background, and really be interested. The problem is that Calgary is also the hotbed of the Aryan Nation in Canada, and while racism isn't obvious in this very pleasant city, it's just under the surface. I would describe it as a "you are welcome in this city, as long as you play by our rules and don't cause any trouble," sort of vibe. George Bush would be very comfortable here, I'm sure.

More ways in which I felt like the Other in Calgary:
- Calgary is very right wing politically, and I am most definitely not.
- The main industry is oil and gas, and there's not much going on for artists, writers or video producers, unless you're into that whole counter cultural thing.
- They like country music, which I despise.
- The majority get married, have kids and settle down by the time they're yeah, still waiting on that...

I have an ease in Toronto that I never had in Calgary. A subconscious knowing that I am not the Other. Anything goes in Toronto, and that's what I love the most. There is no Other. There's just you, and what you want be, and the possibilities are limitless.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Gary's BAAACK!

I think Gary has a crush on me. He just came by the office with a printed out copy of an email he had written, for "my entertainment." How romantic.

This is what it says:

To: All Staff who use the Refrigerator

It is time to clean out the off-code and beyond salvation perishable items in the refrigerator. If these items belong to you...please clear them out at the end of today so that they may be disposed of by evening cleaning staff.

Please be advised that at 1500hours/3p.m. Friday December 16th all items not specifically marked as retain (with the owners name on it) will be cleaned out and disposed of in the trash.

This includes: Plastic containers with unknown contents, off code yogurts, left over coffee and other items no longer identifiable.
Exempted items: Sealed soft drink/juice cans and bottles.

Be still my beating heart.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

The First Gary

Today, I met the first Gary since my psychic reading a few nights ago. Gary rang the doorbell at my office and introduced himself. He was at least 45, wore thick glasses, and a moth-eaten sweater that looked like it had been at the bottom of a closet for 5 years. This guy was a nerd with a capital N. Honestly, I didn't think people like this existed except for in the movies. A few choice sentences:

Those are the guys who live with their mommies. - referring to people who don't clean out the fridge at work. I guess Gary doesn't live with his mommy.

Oh no, I'm a clinician, so when I wrap up my food, it's in 3 baggies, hermetically sealed for 3 generations. - still referring to food in the fridge. I guess Gary's pretty, shall we say...particular...

I ran into Gary again on my way out for lunch. He was wearing furry earmuffs the size of cinnamon buns, and looked an awful lot like Princess Leia. He waved eagerly at me with mittened hands. I guess Gary's a nice guy.

I can only hope I'll have more luck with Joseph.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

For Holman

Ah-HOL-MAN tastes like a SAL-MON!

Heh Heh.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

The Map on my Forehead

One day, about 3 years ago, I saw the first traces of fine lines appearing on my forehead. They snaked across it insidiously, daring me to challenge them with expensive creams and plastic surgery. I examined them daily, frowning discontentedly at myself, and looking for the slightest signs of deepening or lessening. There were good days and bad days, but one thing remained constant. I hated these wrinkles with a vengeance, and soon, they became the only thing I could see on my face. I thought about injecting myself with Botox, and nearly gave in several times. I was only 29 years old.

One day, instead of frowning at myself in the mirror, I smiled. And lo and behold, the wrinkles disappeared. Slowly, over time, these lines had less power over me. I stopped caring about them. I stopped examining my forehead in the mirror. I stopped thinking about Botox and plastic surgery. I stopped evaluating my worth based on the lines on my face.

Now, I am 32. The fine lines are more obvious, but when I see them now, I see a map that connects me to my father. This tracing of lines on my forehead matches those of my father's exactly.

Now, when I think about erasing them with Botox or expensive creams, I feel horrified. Because it would erase my father. It would erase the indelible link that I have to my history. It would erase this magical compass that I have in me and on me. A compass that always points me in the right direction.

Towards my family.

Wise words from Utah Phillips

From Bridges

Time is an enormous long river and I'm standing in it, just as you're standing in it.

My elders were the tributaries and everything they thought and every struggle they went through and everything they gave their lives to and every song they created and every poem they laid down, flows down to me.

And if I take the time to ask, and if I take the time to seek, if I take the time to reach out, I can build that bridge between my world and theirs. I can reach out down into that river and take out what I need to get through this world.

Bridges from my time to your time, as my elders from their time to my time.

And we all put into the river and we let it go and it flows away from us and away from us until it no longer has our name, our identity.

It has its own utility and it's own use and people would take what they need and make it part of their lives.

The past didn't go anywhere, did it?

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Psychic Reading

I am writing this down so that I will remember it. I had a pyschic reading last night, and want to see if any of this stuff will, in fact, come to pass. I am not too sure if I completely believe in psychics...would someone that gifted, use it to make $25 a reading in a restaurant? I am doubtful. However, I do think that there are definitely some highly intuitive people out there. I do know that the woman I saw last night was dead on about a few things. Here's what she had to say:

1. I was a Chinese Empress in a past life, and my current life is a working out of that karmic debt. I need to learn how to be grateful for all the small things in my life...not just the things an Empress would appreciate. Incidently, none of my friends are surprised by this. I'm not sure why.
2. I also had a past life in Africa, and will, one day be drawn back to Africa, specifically to South Africa.
3. I will have a marriage proposal in 2006.
4. Something good will happen in 10 days, 10 weeks or 10 months.
5. G names like Gary or Greg are significant.
6. The name Joseph is also significant.
7. She saw 3 men around me, one that I will be deeply connected to.
8. My skills lie in fundraising, event management or consulting, and I would be very successful in these areas.
9. I will be going to Hawaii in 2006.
10. My health is very very good.
11. I have just given someone an ultimatum (which I have) - and it is the right thing to do, because this person is a weight on my life.
12. My work environment will improve in March or April.

I'll let you know how all this pans out.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Not Again!

I had my Network Spinal adjustment yesterday. Essentially, Network trains your nervous and skeletal systems how to self-correct. On it's most basic level, it does this through a sort of wave that travels up and down the spine. This wave is visible, and extreme for some people. There is also an oscillating movement across and within the vertebrae. I have experienced both, felt both, and can even hear the oscillations in my spine sometimes, like a low hum inside my ears. My vertebrae have even cracked themselves spontaneously without the help of a chiropractor - my head moving on it's own, in some weird variation of an exorcism.

For the first time in a year and a half, I felt the wave at the base of my neck, in the cervical area of my spine. - an area that has been blocked for me since birth. This is also the area where I coincidently (not) fractured a vertebrae 2 years ago. Some people also say that this is the area where we store the things we do not want to see about ourselves.

This movement is now travelling from my spine, down my arm, and into my left thumb - slightly shifting bones, ligaments, tendons and joints along the way. My thumb is swelling again. DAMN!

Monday, December 05, 2005


You hold it in your hand like candy. It's colourful, and sugary sweet. You take a taste. Your eyes light up.

What a dream.

Your nails dig into your hand. You squeeze so tight that knuckles are pinched and turning white. The candy's still there. In the palm of your hand.

Hold on for dear life.

It's melting in rivers of gold and red. Sticky and warm. You watch it slide down your arm. Candy mixed with blood.

Fool's gold.

I pry open your fingers, try to toss the rot away. You look at me with 3 year old eyes. A tantrum brewing. You ask me why?

Full of blame.

I point uselessly, the bag at your feet. But it doesn't matter, because all you can see is me. Hands filled with blood.

Taking it away.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

I miss my puppy

This month, my sweet little puppy would have turned 17 years old. She passed away in September of 2004, just a few months shy of her 16th birthday.

She came to us when I was only 15 years old - just when my family needed her most. She provided a calm centre to the whirlwind of rage, fear and hurt that engulfed my home then. She was a much needed source of humour, mischief, and unconditional love, and I believe her presence helped my family through some very difficult times.

I still remember the awe I felt the first time I held this small, shivering bundle of fur in the palm of my hands. I would cup her warm little body close to my heart, bury my nose in the soft fur of her neck, and inhale that sweet puppy smell. She was so small, and delicate and vulnerable then - totally dependent on us to feed her, take care of her, and carry her up the stairs, for her legs were too short to make it up by herself. We would hear these small barks from the basement, and find her looking up at us accusingly from the bottom of the stairs. They were completely insurmountable to her, despite her stubborn terrier spirit.

I missed most of the last 5 years of her life, busy with my new life in Toronto. I made the most of my holidays at home, trying to squeeze a year's worth of time into 3 weeks.

We went on joyous walks through the dog park together. With the snow crunching under my feet, and the sun shining brilliantly in the crisp winter of the Calgary sky, I felt totally at peace. My westie would run around the park, suddenly stop, realize she was alone, and sprint back to me, fur flying in all directions. It seemed as though she was smiling when she ran back, as if to say, "Even though I've only been gone for 5 seconds, I missed you like it was 25 years. Make sure you don't leave the park without me!"

I miss the cute sound of her crunching her food in her teeth.

I miss how she begged for apples and cheese.

I miss her scratching at the back door to be let back in - how she would bark demandingly if we kept her waiting for longer than 30 seconds.

I miss how much she loved to go for car rides - how she would smear puppy snot all over the windows in her excitement at the great outdoors.

I miss the little sighs and grunts she made while sleeping - her feet twitching gently, as though she were dreaming about running free though a fragrant, green park.

Most especially, I miss taking naps with her - the warmth of her weight, the soft furriness of her ears tickling my nose, and the feeling of love, security and contentedness she gave me.