Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Practice makes an angry Scribe

"Every artist was first an amateur."

Ralph Waldo Emerson

I don't know where I "inherited" this trait, but I'd like to obliterate it immediately: No matter what I tackle, whether it be a painting or sport, I need to be good at it right away. There is no learning curve with me. Okay, there is, but I don't think it should exist. I believe, in my infinite wisdom, that I should be good at everything I try. The very first time. With absolutely no experience. Now you can see how I really need to change this trait. It serves me no purpose than to get me aggravated and it’s so annoying to the people around me who don’t have the same unrealistic expectations of themselves.

This trait reared its ugly head this past Sunday during my final art class. The concept was a painting that evoked winter or Christmas. Since I’m not a big Christmas person (you can pick up your chins off the floor now), I chose Winter Solstice, deciding on a snowy scene with winter sky, rolling, snow-encrusted hills, a frozen pond and – here’s the kicker – quaint, almost cartoon-like houses.

My houses looked a little like this, but worse.

The process went smoothly through the hills and over the pond, and then it came to the situating and drawing (in pencil) of the houses. I used a card as inspiration – they looked a lot like the tiny, colourful houses of PEI. I had planned include the cute elements of a bird bath and a clothing line of socks and underwear. I would have fit on Nona’s brassiere if I had the room.

I must explain that I’m not good with drawing. It doesn’t look life-like; often it’s out of proportion and doesn’t even slightly resemble what it’s meant to be. A bird bath? It’s a big circle resting on a cylinder. It looked more like Alexander Graham Bell’s first attempt at a telephone receiver.

But I soldiered on, painting the structure of the houses, windows, walkways and even that much-anticipated, frozen clothing line. And then it was time for snow. And sparkle. My art instructor ensured me that I was just missing this magic element – I couldn’t see the forest for the trees – it would all fall into place.

It didn’t. The houses looked juvenile and out of place compared to what I considered a really good backdrop of snow drifts, hills and pond. There are some 5-year-olds who, I’m sure, could have done a better job.

Why couldn’t I just spew forth a masterpiece as easily as I do with the written word? But, I had forgotten all of the not-so-pristine articles, stories and poems I had written to get to this point. I had forgotten the practice sessions. And I always do.

I’m going to borrow from that great wordsmith Emerson again with a quote that I stumbled upon: “Every artist was first an amateur.” It’s amazing I can be inspired one minute by this quote and then, relating it to my life and my abilities, throw it out the window and have myself a good old temper tantrum.

Robbie, bless his artistic heart, tried to bolster me. But I didn’t need bolstering. I needed to hear those words from Emerson: “This is your first time doing detailed work. You don’t have all the techniques yet, so stop your sniveling and get on with it.”

I’ve already warned Anasatan that this no-so-masterpiece will be her gift. From me to her. The PEI houses, no matter how juvenile, reminded me of our trips out East. I’m just glad the actual houses were not built by 5-year-olds.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Songs of joy

I'm not one to go nuts over a celebrity. I never understood those girls (and now women) who scream, cry and even faint when they even catch a glimpse of an actor, musician or full band. Hell, I don't even really follow bands around the country. Sure, if they come to Toronto and I have the funds, I will fork over the money. But I'm no band's groupie. And that's why it's weird that I actually cried over one tonight.

Yes, I shed a few tears when I heard that one of my favourite singers, Haydain Neale of JackSoul, died after a seven-month fight with lung cancer. I must have been in a sealed box these last seven months because I didn't even know about the cancer. I knew that he'd been in a serious accident while on his scooter. I knew that he was in hospital for a long time. I had caught a few clips here and there on the radio. Perhaps it's because I'm not a groupie that I didn't know every detail.

Groupie or not, I will miss Haydain's unique vocals. His voice is, sorry, was melodic and raspy at the very same time. It was souful, heartfelt and beautiful. As soon as I learned he had died, I searched out for articles on him, more to confirm the horrible, tragic news. There, his fellow musicians commented on Haydain's life and music. What resonated the most was his kindness and his dedication to his music, no matter if it wasn't always in style.

Watching him from afar and enjoying his music, I found infinite kindness and a joy of life. It rested on every note. It was so apparent and I found such solace in it that I listened to his last CD over and over and over again. And now there will be no more music and I will continue to listen to the CD over and over again so Haydain's own brand of joy does not disappear from my life.

So much for not being a groupie.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Snap, crackle, pop

You probably have visions of those cute little Rice Krispy elves pouring milk on a heap of cereal in a bowl and then bending over to listen to the Rice Krispies song. I'm not. Or, at least I'm not now.

When I first heard those three sounds, there was nary a cereal bowl in sight. There was only a chiropractic table and my seething hatred for the person who suggested I book an appointment for a consultation.

My back had been hurting for the past month or so (it still is by the way, thanks Spaff!) so being reactive as opposed to proactive, I booked an appointment to find out what the hell is wrong with me. (With my back, people, my back! My mental capacity is not under review here.) I'd never been to a chiropractor though I had been curious. I'm no longer curious. Now I know. Snap, Crackle, Pop. This is followed by a ream of expletives that would make a Tourette's Syndrome kid blush.

After getting over the initial shock of having this little girl (I say little girl, but she's my age but really, really tiny - a compact fireball) crack my back and manipulate my spine and my pelvis to where it's supposed to be and I'm feeling a bit better. I'm still a little shell-shocked and feel like I've just come out of battle, but my war wounds are on the mend. I've got ice packs on top of ice packs and now I'm extremely cautious about how I move.

I think this was the problem in the first place. I work a desk job, eight to nine hours a day sitting in the same position, twisting to get the always ringing, never answered phone, finding my shoulders consistently rising and resting closer and closer to my ears as the day goes on. Now, I must take a moment every half hour to walk around with an ice pack stuffed down the back of my pants. Not all the way - just enough that the bulk of the pack is resting on my lower back and newly adjusted pelvic region.

It sounds like I'm talking about sex, but I'm not. I enjoy sex. I enjoy massage. I do not enjoy snap, crackle, pop. Sorry guys. You're confined to my kitchen cupboard and not my boudoir or any table I might be straddling. I wonder if I'll be table dancing after the initial sessions are over? Given my dismount from my first visit, it will be on my hands and knees searching for my tear-encrusted tissues.

Snap, Crackle, Pop my ass.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Triumph, one battle at a time

You may not realize from my brilliant posts that I can sometimes (okay, most times) shrink away from conflict. I'm a coward. I don't like confrontation and will, at times, do anything to avoid it, including putting my needs and opinions on the back burner to save someone else's feelings. Hi, my name is Scribe and I am an enabler.

I go with the flow, even though that flow goes against my wishes. I'm often heard saying: "Oh, whatever you want," or being so indecisive, nervous of seeming selfish or greedy. I couldn't understand why others always got what they wanted and my "playing nicely with others" didn't seem to go as far or make me as happy.

Just this past week, I donned new clothes, shrugging on Ralph Waldo Emerson's suit of self-reliance. I quoted him (thanks again, Ange) in one of last week's posts: "My life is not an apology but a life. It is for itself and not for a spectacle. What I must do is all that concerns me. Not what people think." It's been so profound that I've even tacked it up to my cubicle wall for a visual reminder everyday.

The ultimate test, for me, came this past weekend. Without going into details, I went outside of my norm, so out of my comfort zone that I thought I would need a map. I gave someone two choices. One choice was ultimately what I wanted to happen. The other was a less desirable option, specifically less desirable for them. I had to be comfortable with either outcome.

They say the first time is always the hardest, especially when doing something that you've been afraid to tackle in the past. Speaking up for myself and making my needs known has been an albatross around my neck. I was afraid and because of that I rarely did it. I enabled others' bad behaviour because I didn't correct it right away. I let it fester and so did I.

It's triumph, one battle at a time. It may not be an actual battle or confrontation with another person. Often, it's me fighting my inner demons and using all my strength not to go with the status quo, as obviously what did not work before will still NOT work. Wasn't it Eleanor Roosevelt who said "Do the things you think you can not." I think I'm on the right path.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Weekend report

It's been a weekend of aches, vomit and diarrhea and most of them haven't been mine.

I wish Bella would use a toilet... maybe then her ass would be a little cleaner

As many of you will already know, my sweet cat Bella was recently diagnosed with diabetes. We've since changed her food to the wet diabetic management cat food. It's been a month and just today (after me buying 24 cans), she's decided that her delicate system can't handle it. Unlike us humans though, she can't tell me that and decided to show me by pooping in the basement - not just any poops - the runny kind and in many places. So, I had to wash her ass and do a major clean-up around her clean litter box and into the bowels of the basement (no pun, really). This was after we stepped in some and tracked it through the house, necessitating a washing of the floors in the kitchen and foyer. So, it's back to the drawing board on what to feed her.

V is for Vomit, D is for diabetic diarrhea
If it's not the cat and her runny poo, it's Kao and his projectile vomit. Yes, Kao has spent the last two days spewing his food. The cause: a pair of trouser socks he had unearthed from the laundry basket (newly bought, thank you very much).

He had also rummaged through the garbage, and even though I'm embarrassed to admit this, he had ingested a used, yes used, sanitary napkin. There's a reason I don't use them often and this is on top of the list. So, he's been puking. Thankfully, he's kept it to the back yard, and that, my friends, is how I discovered the socks - bought at Winners the week before. Can't I keep anything nice or anything private!?!?
I mean, it's my socks and my old, bloodied pads!

The puking has stopped, thank god. But now I'm wondering what else he's ingested! I thought his underwear-eating days were over but I guess not.

Aches and pains, my back, oh my!
You remember the cleaning house I had planned for my Saturday? I manged to clean the kitchen, load the dishwasher and do a few odds and ends. My back has been killing me for the past two weeks.

At first, I thought it was from all my coughing. I had a head cold for the last two weeks, though I took no time off of work, save an hour for a doctor's appointment. I then thought that it was from the confirmed bladder/kidney infection. But, it still hurts, so much that I couldn't do everything I set out to do on Saturday. I even put myself to bed for a nap at 5:30 in the evening, thinking I would sleep for an hour and then venture out to pick up the dog food I said I would get. I slept until 3 a.m. Thankfully for Kao, the Man stepped up. Our early morning conversation is another topic for another time.

Today was better. The back still hurt but I mustered through it and ended up going to my art class, where I drew houses, did poop patrol in the backyard, made dinner, did the dishes and cleaned the kitchen. Unable to sit still, I ran the duster through the living room. I even took Boyo for a walk with my friend The Girl. I bribed her with coffee and conversation.

Bathroom calamity
I don't know what made me go into the powder room later this evening. There, I discovered the toilet leak. The toilet had been running on and off for a bit. Repairs will have to wait until tomorrow, when I can call in my Jack-Of-All-Trades friend. I'm not handy and know when to call for help. The Man turned off the water to the toilet and I drained the tank. We believe it's a leak from the tank to the toilet, and hopefully, it won't take much to repair. Do these repairs ever end? It was just a year ago that my kitchen ceiling fell in, thanks to another leak in the upstairs toilet. The contractors hired to renovate the bathroom had failed to put the waxy seal between the drain and the toilet. Hopefully, this repair will be more clear-cut. In the meantime, I've wiped up the existing water and cleared around the toilet.
So, that was my shitty weekend. I tried to make the best of it and told myself that I can control the things I can (my attitude and reaction) and take a deep breath over the things I can't (like the toilet and the pukey and shitting pets).

Monday is the start of a new week and new goals. I'll endeavour to keep a clear head and an open heart.

Friday, November 13, 2009

No apologies

It’s quite temperate here for the second week in November. By now, the bitter rains have replaced the sunny sky during the day and by 4:30 p.m. the light has started to fade and we’re again driving home in the dark. Snow flurries are a reality in November too.

But not today. Today, it’s all sunshine and warm breezes, a quick smile to anyone who looks our way, open jackets and nary a boot in sight – unless it’s of the fashion kind and one that would disintegrate in an instant if it meets a snowbank.

This is what I sort of feel like today, all introspective and content. It’s a perfect day to sit in a sun-filled café, coffee in hand and magazine or book by my side. A deep breath in and an exhale, and I’m in deeper.

(Special thanks to Susannah of Petunia Face for the link to this photo)

I’ve been feeling rather introspective these days, trying to figure out what makes me happy and what doesn’t, and what steps I need to take to create myself a joyful life. Sometimes it’s as simple as doing things for me – some retail therapy perhaps? – or having a date every Sunday morning with a paintbrush, a canvas and a group of people learning how to turn their thoughts and emotions into something to hang on a wall. And, sometimes it’s cleaning house, which is on the agenda for tomorrow.

Everything has its place, or so it should. For the past six years, I’ve had tenants, renting out one bedroom and sharing the kitchen, bathroom, laundry room and occasionally the living room. This also may mean a spot or area in the basement for the things that can’t fit in their one room – this also means their stuff intermingling with my stuff.

My last “roommate” and his girlfriend moved out last week. While I miss the hustle and bustle and the socializing, I like how the house feels bigger, airy, more air for me. I like how there is less “stuff” around that’s not my stuff and that I can now find a place for the items I wish to keep. Everything has a place. And so do I.

Whether it’s remaining here in this house or taking stock and moving to someplace new, I realized, in my tranquil, introspective state, that my life does serve a purpose and that I don’t need to apologize to anyone for living the life I want.

The sunlight is slowly seeping, slipping deeper into the trees, and yet I’m still breathing in the rays, feeling happy, content and designed with a purpose.

I want to thank Ange of Signed by Ange for inspiration today. The sunlight helped, but Ange egged it on with today’s gift: an excerpt from Emerson’s Self Reliance.

I do not wish to expiate but to LIVE.
My life is not an apology but a life. It is for itself and not for a spectacle.
What I must do is all that concerns me.
Not what the people think.

Words to live by, Ralph, words to live by.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Two minutes of silence

Ahhh silence. This morning at 11 a.m., the whole office was silent. No, we weren’t feverishly working away as we usually are (bosses are in close range so I must stress this). We were remembering, each lost in her own thoughts about loved ones, friends and even strangers who served in the First and Second World Wars and others since.

I used to consider observing the two-minute silence as an inconvenience. I had work to do! I couldn’t use the phone, call across at one of my coworkers for the latest magazine revisions or even type. It was, after all, supposed to be silent. That changed after I started working at the newspaper, where I met Bill Burrell.

Almost three years ago, I interviewed this sweet old man who was a gunner in World War II. Mr. Burrell talked about his initial training, the first time he went into battle and the friends, some who came back and many more that didn’t. The one thing that stands out in my mind, besides wondering how this 84-year-old Royal Canadian Legion member continues to run the Poppy campaign, was the tears that still well up in his eyes when he talks about the war. He was the person who sat up in the bird’s nest and directed the gunner on where to shoot. At first, he felt like the king of the world, sitting up high and giving orders. That soon changed, however, as he went into more and more battles. He was the squadron’s eyes. He saw the outcome of enemy fire, on both sides. And one day, he was witness as shots from a German plane riddled the underside of his plane. It wasn’t only the plane; his gunner, friend was full of holes too.

He said it seemed like it was yesterday, and for some, it was. I know of a few people off fighting in Afghanistan right now. One friend came back a few months ago from his second tour. Another friend’s brother just shipped out.

Now, I’m not pro-war. I think there are many reasons why there is a war going on in Afghanistan. The friend who is now back from his tour put it this way: most Afghanis, the people trying to eek out a living every day want the same things for their children, their families that we want, namely education, the ability to support their family and a stop to the fighting. And it’s not just battles being carried out by the U.S. and Canadian forces – it’s the fight between the powers that be in Afghanistan, factions that want their people in power. It’s been going on for years, with the Soviet occupation and with its own people. Everyday Afghanis, like me and you, want a better life for themselves and for their families. My friend remembers what one man said to him: we don’t care who is in power but they must look after us and our own best interests.

Bill Burrell wanted the same thing too, and for that, he took up his post in his bird’s nest, trying to keep his friends safe. War is never easy, it’s never clear-cut and there are always casualties.

A few years ago, I took a trip to Amsterdam, not to partake in the fare at the many smoke-friendly pubs and bars in the area, but to visit Anne Frank’s house. I was obsessed with the whole Frank family tale when I was 12 or 13. Here were ordinary people living in an extraordinary situation – in hiding and yet still trying to make a normal life for their children.

Today, I sat silently, in reflection of our part in the world’s conflicts and in the men and women of our armed forces. I thought about Anne Frank. I thought about my aunt and uncle who both served in the war, and I thought about those families trying to make a normal life for their families. Today, I remembered that my life is ordinary and bearable, and capable of being extraordinary.
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead.
Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
— Lt.-Col.
John McCrae (1872 - 1918)

Monday, November 9, 2009

One whammy, two whammies, three whammies... No!

As I sit here at my computer, at work, I've fallen asleep about seven times, complete with drool crustingly collected at the corners of my mouth. Am I on drugs, you ask? Well, yes. Yes, I am.

They're not over-the-counter but not necessarily the kind you'd buy from a guy wearing a trenchcoat and speaking in a veiled whisper. "Hey, Meester...." They are the kind you'd get from a guy or girl in a white coat (but no straight jackets) behind the counter of your local pharmacy. Your own pharma-pusher. You can liken the doctor to the cartel bigwig, offering his product to keep ya hooked. And I'm hooked. Soon, I'll be sleeping it off. Head down. On my desk. Drooling. Oh, and don't forget the talking in my sleep. They don't call me Mona Putt-Putt for nothing.

I've been "under the weather" for the past two weeks, and no, people, it's not the swine flu. A co-worker of mine was uber concerned when I came into the office with what I describe as an covert tactical exercise in my sinuses... a head cold. No fever, no vomiting, but an extremely full head, sneezes that would rock the universe and a cough. Oh, the cough. That was about two weeks ago and I haven't stopped hacking since. In fact, I hacked so much and with such ferosity that I thought I threw my lower back out. I couldn't sit, enter or exit my car or even pee without pain.

So, to recap: major head cold and a very sore back. And then the weekend arrived and the back got worse. Maybe it was from the coughing, which is what my boss had hinted at when I told her of the last-minute doctor's appointment I managed to secure after first trying two walk-in clinics on my lunch hour. With an hour for lunch, of which I had used up 15 minutes driving to the clinic, there was no way I could sit and wait my turn for a further 45 minutes to an hour the receptionist had suggested as a wait time. And that, was just an estimate. So, I called my doctor's office and asked for the last appointment of the day. I had my suspicions. I'm pretty intuitive that way. Besides, the pain was a familiar one.

It hurts when I pee
Actually, it didn't, which is why my bladder-turned-kidney infection went undiagnosed. And that, my friends, is why my back hurt. The coughing certainly didn't help, but, as I suspected, it wasn't the main culprit.

I came home from the doctor's appointment armed with god knows what: some sort of antibiotic other than penicillin (I get hives from those lovelies), uber-strength cough syrup (so strong I neeed a prescription to get it), Advil for my sore back, tissues so I don't spray and a large bottle of Vitamin C so I'll be better prepared for the next onslaught of sickness that will go through my house and my office.

I'll be ditzier than usual for the next few days, if today is any indication. I thought everyone saw me nod off, only to jolt awake because I had dreamt that the man threw a cashew at me from a deck and hit me square, right between the eyes. Oh wait, that did happen. Perhaps I was just plotting my revenge. Better yet, I'll lick my palms and caress his face and lick every spoon and fork in the cutlery tray.