Wednesday, June 30, 2004

On Hiatus

Not sure I will be able to post as regularly anymore. Seems as though Big Brother is alive and well within the tech team at my work.

And so, back to pen and paper at home.

I will try to update at least 3 times a week.

For now, enjoy your summer holidays

And of course:

HAPPY CANADA DAY!!!!

Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Could I Be More Boring?

Apologies. I have written about it again. I don't really know why I feel the need to"alert the media" every time I'm feeling down in the dumps.

This blog is supposed to be about what I'm experiencing. I suppose for some reason, I feel the need to post at least once every couple weeks how depressed and sad I feel and then quickly blame it on "the hormones".

Then, I come back in the next day, shake my head in mild frustration and roll my eyes at my melancholy "oh-woe-is-me" posts.

This post is also meant to be about my creative journey. How VERY creative of me. Write about being angry and depressed.

D was sweet. He took me on a mini-date last night. And I felt a lot better. I always do. It always just turns itself around.

I don't like feeling sorry for myself because I don't feel I have anything to feel sorry about. I need to start getting into perspective everything I have been honoured to be able to do and not focus on all the things I am not doing.

But, as I've said a million times, I have no patience and want things to happen NOW NOW NOW.

This is very hard for me and I suppose I find this blog a theraputic way to express my feelings. But then I realize, this space is about what I can write. So, without further adieu...onto a story...

***

The Silver Case

Out with the German lady the other night - watching football - woo hoo Euro 2004 - and I went to the bar to get us a round.

You see, they do rounds here, much more frequently then I ever did at home. If you're in a big group. it might not actually be worth your while but with two, three or four people, it always seems to work out in the end. And it's nice because you feel like you've bought someone a drink.

I pulled my money out of my silver case, paid the man and slid the case into my back pocket.

Suddenly, my mind time-warped me back to the days of university. How many times had I been standing at a bar, with my case out, only to slip it back into my back pocket easy-peasy? How I would smile to myself, find it so clever that I had a cigarette case and the perfect bar wallet? One that was portable enough to carry in a back pocket without anything being crushed?

I used to fill half of it with cigarettes, Du Maurier Special Mild and the other half with essentials - drivers licence, bank card, credit card and money.

Not only was it an original wallet, it was also my very own for my friend JA that bought it for me had my last name embroidered on the front.

I smiled to myself, remembering opening it up, being so touched that my friends had been so thoughtful. At that point, I didn't even think about what I would do with it after I quit smoking. I was so thrilled to have something, so personalized, with my name on it.

And then, as I stood there in the Belfast bar, a gigantic smile appeared across my face, remember all the times that silver case had accompanied me.

Bar nights. Club nights. After work drinks. Road trips. Journalism classes. On my internship.

Right before I left North America in 2002, I went on a road trip with JA. She had just gotten a car from her mom and was eager to test it out.
We were on our way to Cleveland to visit my sister C where she was working at the time. Then, I was to catch a flight to Chicago from Cleveland, to see my parents for a couple of days before I was off to Amsterdam to meet D.

I had everything I could possibly pack in the back of her car. And we had a blast - as we always did - driving, laughing, listening to tunes. We had a great night with my sister in Cleveland and in the morning, she saw me off to airport.

It was only after I arrived at my parents' house that I got this frantic message:

"Dude, you've left your silver case in the back of my car. It has some cards in it and stuff. I can Fedex it to your parents..." and she began - as she always does - to come up with a solution to the problem.

I had to laugh. Her urgency was so real. And I felt bad, hearing her message, to realize that I didn't really need it for Europe - I had been planning to leave the case at my parents house.

She kept it for me. I can't remember now if I got it last June or this past December but she held onto it - even through a house move - she made sure my silver case would make it back to me.

It's moments like these I like. When my subconscious takes over and drags up memories, simply from a small action like paying for drinks in a Belfast bar.

JA keeps promising she'll get herself over here, if only for a short visit. My case and I will be waiting.

Monday, June 28, 2004

My Many Curses

I am a perfectionist who thinks and analyzes too much and has greater expectations than the world can seem to provide.

I am also a hormonal woman who tries very hard not to blame EVERYTHING on hormones however when the case of the blues hits out of nowhere, I can only conclude it must be because of some force beyond my control.

This could be my own coping mechanism, however, for rationalizing away why I am upset.

I really don't want to get into a philosophical converstation about my feelings I would simply like to stop feeling down, put out, hard done by, like I haven't accomplished anything and I suck and everything I touch sucks and I might as well just go lock myself in a room and watch Big Brother all day as at least their lives have some meaning - well, for now.

Or perhaps, as usual, I'm having a case of the MUndays.

As my wise wee sister would say: Oh gweat.

Friday, June 25, 2004

As the Years Go By

I'm not sure what is more disturbing.

The fact that I'm now 28 or that today, my baby brother turns 20.

The little buddy me and my sisters used to force to be part of our girl games, dancing around in the living room, twisting and turning him every which way.

The small dude who grew up being bossed by four mothers.

The little tyke who was always trying to grab at the camera for "his turn" instead of being in front of it. It's not surprise he's in film

The young lad who was mortified when he was dropped off on one of his first dates by all three of his big sisters and not only did they beam like proud parents, he could hear them "awwwwwwing" from the car as he walked his date to the door.

For me, he will always be 8 years old, which works out well because that would make me 16 and that wouldn't be a bad age to be right now.

Happy Birthday Ronens.

Thursday, June 24, 2004

Canadian Connections

Last week, I was out with this German lady I have befriended, watching the first Germany match of Euro 2004.

Football Fever has hit the continent, you see, although I'm actually not a big fan of "soccer", I can't help myself when it comes to championships.

So, I was sitting there, trying to look really passionate about the game when all I could really keep my eyes on were the people in the bar (who were they cheering for? why did she choose that top? I wonder where they're from? did that guy just really spill his pint all over himself? what is the deal with the loud voice? oh right. football) when suddenly, I caught a glimpse of something red and white on a girl's purse.

She was a redhead - quite a full-head-of-hair redhead - and I thought she couldn't be anywhere but from Ireland.

But there it was, glaring up at me, all the points stretching up as high as they could as though to say "see me see me I am distinct"

It was a Canadian flag pin. On her purse. Whizzing past me as she walked to the bathroom.

Every Canadian who travels wears the flag with pride. And, yes, we have it on EVERY article we carry - bags, hats, shirts - if we can find it with a Maple Leaf, we buy it for abroad.

I was overcome with so much excitment! Because the pin was so small, I was unsure whether she was Canadian or whether she had visited and simply liked to have pins on her purse. I noticed 3 other pins but have no idea what they were as I was too entranced by the red and white.

I would ask her when she came back from the washroom - or toilet as they like to call it here.

I sat in such anticipation, I was surprised at even my own heart, racing, simply waiting to ask one simple question:

"Are you Canadian?"

When we lived in Leeds, I had only met one other Canadian girl. I had heard a lot about her through the people I worked with at the bar. She had been going to school in Leeds the year before and worked at the bar part time. I was nervous to meet her too.

But the first day she worked with me, she had a very non-chalant attitude towards the fact that I was also Canadian. She didn't seem like the friendly ones I know back home. And perhaps she was a bit "put out" that I stole her thunder. She was no longer a commodity. I was Canadian too.

It didn't help that I was very excited to meet her. I had been missing home, after being away for the first full two months, and I just wanted to chat with a familiar person. She was not it.

I did not meet any other Canadians after that day.

And besides Fitness Instructor - who actually would have been EXACTLY who I would have liked to have met in Leeds - I have not met any other Canadians in Belfast. I have heard of people how have relatives from Canada and neighbours from Canada but haven't actually "hung out" with any.

The point could be made: Why travel across the world just to hang out with Canadians? The short answer: because of the home-away-from-home feeling.

So when I thought this redhead, who looked about my age, might actually be from Canada, I was so overwhelmed that my heart was racing.

And my stomach kept flipping - waiting for her to come back through the door so I could ask her:

Are you Canadian?

And then, the moment arrived. "Excuse me.." I squeaked over the sound of the game.

But she walked right past, not hearing my request. I suppose "hey you" might have actually got her attention but my Canadian-politness would not let me get away with that.

I sat there annoyed, glancing over to where she was socializing with friends. Now what? Would I miss the opportunity to meet another one of my country-women? How was I supposed to concentrate on the game?

It didn't take long for her to walk past again - beer tends to do that - and so while I waited painstakingly again for her to come out of the bathroom, my jumpy stomach and beatin heart go all pumped up again.

This time, it was just "Excuse me" but also a pointing-come-hither hand jesture that made her first recoil in shock before approaching.

Out it came:

"Are you Canadian?"

A big grin grew on her face and next thing you know, I'm chatting about my small town! As if she would know where it was! What a small world. She's here for a year, her dad being from Belfast, just working and touring before heading back to Canada to do her Masters.

I was so happy when she walked away. I was able to watch the football with a overall feeling of bliss. I am always still shocked at how meeting Canadians can stir such grandiose emotions.

I felt so connected to this girl that awhile later, before we left, she came by our table again and I asked the question that I thought would be on any Canadian's mind this time of year:

"Do you know anything that's going on for Canada Day?"

She gave a bit of a shocked, blank stare.

"Ooooooo, Canada Day. When is that?"

WHAT?? WHAT WHAT WHAT WHAT? No, this can't be happeing. A CANADIAN not knowing when CANADA DAY IS!!!???

My smile now seemed like a goofy grin and my chuffed-ness seemed melodramatic. She was Canadian but she was nothing at all like the Canadians I know.

She attempted to recover by pointing out that it's been so long since she was home - she'd been here since November 2003. Mental note to self to check up on my memory of one of the the most important days in Canadian history - by the sounds of it I'll probably just start calling everyone American by this time next year. Canada? Oh, that sound vaguely familiar. I think I remember Canada...

So, reluctantly, I gave her my number, after she announced to my ute-self that we could have our own Canada Day party.

Needless to say, I'm not holding my breath on a phone call. At least not next Thursday.

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

What If

The latest Mosaic Minds theme must be buzzing my head because I had a bit of a day-sleep-dream - for lack of a better word - this morning that had me thinking What If?

What If I moved back to my small town or the medium-sized city near it?

I had images of living in a nice little two story house, with a bulldog or golden retriever - (it depends, you see, on who wins the Type-of-Dog war - me or D).

I would wake up in the morning to see D off to his interesting and exciting marketing job, perhaps at Labatts or Kellogs. I would make him an egg white omlete or at least put out his vitamin in the morning before curling up back into bed for another half hour or so.

Or perhaps, I would stay awake, reading the paper and enjoying a good cup of Earl Grey tea in the sun room, watching out the back window into my well manicured garden - filled with sunflowers and gerbia daisies.

After I had fully woken up, I would head to the office upstairs, to begin my day. I would have a couple of stories on the go - one about the best resorts in Thailand, another about the city's tourism board's annual conference.

The morning would also be filled with phone calls - one from my book editor who had recieved the second draft of my Year in Leeds and wanted to suggest some changes.

Another from my event clients - because I would get bored just being a travel writer - I would also become an event planner for corporate events.

Around 1, I'd break for lunch. Some days, I would grab a salad or tuna sandwich. If I was busy, I wouldn't take a break in the day - simply going back to the computer to work or our for meetings to finalize party details or perhaps interviews with experts for my book.

Some afternoons I would head to my writer's group - all of us at different stages of the journey and - in my perfect fantasy world - there would be no competition between us. Simply supportive, innovative and hilarious people.

Other afternoons I would take an extended lunch to go visit friends. Hang out at the houses of my newly mothered friends - who would be in need of some help and adult company.

I would always try to get back before D was home and do some more work. By about 6, we'd be sitting on the couch, enjoying some wine and talking about our days.

After dinner - which we would both make - I would retire back to the office for a couple more hours of work, possibly most of my writing because of the quietness of night.

By 11, D and I would be in bed, reading our books, with our own little bedside lights on our bedside tables.

It wasn't just the one day I was picturing. It was the whole lifestyle package.

My parents would have moved back to Canada as well, to their little house on the Avon in Stratford. At least once a week, we would drive to see them for dinner. Sometimes, I would arrive early so that I could make them dinner. Or sometimes, they would simply come to our house.

My mom would be working for the theatre company while my dad would be a drummer in a band, his "retired job".

D's parents would still be in Oakville - not too far off - and we would usually go there for a Sunday dinner.

My sister C would be in Stratford as well, working for the festival and her and her husband K - for I'm sure when this story comes true they will be married - would come for dinner with our parents or sometimes, we'd go out for lunch during the week. We would also spend some time at K's cottage.

My other sister H would still be in the U.S. but would be a very successful professor and theatre school owner. During the summers, she would come and stay at my parents house, running acting and singing workshops for kids out of the local school in Stratford.

My film producing brother would fly in from time to time...on his own private jet...of which he would be a pilot.

At least once a month I would be gone "working", in some far away place. I would be exploring, observing, critiquing in places all over the globe - an African safari, a trek through Peru, the best spas in the Greek islands, the resorts of Fiji, the best cottages in the Muskokas.

And I would be so happy to come home, to D, who would have spent his evenings with friends playing ball hockey or watching sports or reading.

I would be happy to be settled in a place that had my bed, my chairs, my food, my dog.

I would be happy because I would not feel trapped. I would have all the people around me that I loved.

Talking to E yesterday, she asked me if "home" would ever inspire me again.

I really don't know. But imagining being there certainly stirred something.

Friday, June 18, 2004

Day to Day Love

I love the routine with D. It's like we're a tag team taking on the world. Sharing chores, planning strategies, working as a unit.

With all my frustrations and anxieties, I think I would be a miserable person if I didn't have him to share it with.

It's not simply the lovey dovey romantic stuff, although we are sometimes quite like high school teens.

It's more then that. It's a sharing of life.

Every Friday, there is a food and goods market that opens up near our house. Since D's work is 5 minutes from our house, it is also near his work.

In the morning he emails me to "send my order" to him of what I want. Salmon. Cod. Tomatoes. Chicken. Spinach. Brocolli. Cauliflower. Mushrooms. Peppers. Steaks.

On his lunch break, he walks to the market and gets our meats and fresh veg for the week. It's become one of the "things" he does around the house.

Every Friday, I go across the road to the huge Sainsbury's. They also have a large off-license, which is essentially a liquor store, although over here, you can buy booze in the grocery store, unlike Canada but like the U.S. Alcohol can get confusing.

Anyway, at their "offie" - as it's commonly know - they have a wide variety of wine. I venture over, buy 4 bottles - 2 red for me, 2 white for him - that last us for the week. This is one of my "things".

D really does a good chunk of the cooking, although I seem to be enjoying making a few dishes - like tacos, omlettes or the Sunday roast - but besides those dished, the kitchen really is his domain.

When he goes home at lunch, he makes sure dinner is taken out of the freezer.

He also does the dishes. There is a certain way dishes are done, he says, and so, I leave him to it. Whether out of frusrtations from his anal-ness or laziness on my part, I'm not sure. It just has simply become one of the things he does more often.

I love the smell of clean clothes so I have gravitated towards doing all the laundry. And the ironing because I love that too.

I am also a sucker for the "clean smell" and so I do all the cleaning. Our flat is literally two rooms so it takes me all of an hour, however it is also one of my "things".

He takes out the garbage, but only after I have tied the bag closed for him.

What I really adore is how easily we have both seemed to fit into these roles. There is nagging on both ends. He is always sighing in irritation when I don't scrape the plates enough - it will clog the drain, he says. I am frequently frustrated by his bathroom habits - water on the floor after shaving, the non-use of the toilet brush (enough said).

But the best part is I don't feel like the girlfriend who has to force her partner to help out around the house.

Perhaps it's because I come from the generation who's mothers - even mothers' mothers - had already really be liberated.

My maternal grandmother work all her life as a school teacher. My mother grew up seeing that and in turn, worked for the majority of time that we were all growing up.

I also grew up in a house where first parent home started dinner. Since my dad worked closer to home, he was frequently the one to get things going in the kitchen.

D and I seem to have really defined what we like doing in the house. I hate dishes. I'm not a big fan of cooking. And there's no way I could get to the fresh market on Fridays because it's no where near my work.

And D likes it because he's a sucker for a bargain. He likes to never spend any money, whereas I like to spend but on a budget, knowing exactly how much I can spend on what.

I make sure he takes his vitamin every morning and he does all the locking up at night.

It's like having a dream roomate - with benefits.

Thursday, June 17, 2004

I Want to Go Home

When I was in Grade 12, I was elected to student council as the Minister of Publicity.

At my school, it was a good thing to participate. I have had many discussions over the years with people about the "status" of people who took part. At other schools, they seemed to be considered the geeks. At my school, if you weren't participating - in drama, yearbook, sports clubs, spirit clubs, the Audio-Visual club, the fencing team, pretty much anythign extra-cirricular - you were the geek.

It was to become an interesting year as not only was every single member of the council in Grade 12 but we were all female and we were all friends.

There is a classic picture of us in the Grade 12 yearbook, in a hallway peering out through a railing, like caged animals, laughing and making funny faces as our staff advisor stood above raising a gavel over our heads, as if that could tame us. I remember when it was printed looking forward to looking back at it as one of the best moments of my life.

Our Prime Minister - C - was the most beloved person in the school. She had been dating the same guy since Grade 7. She was nice to every single person. I never heard her utter a bad word about anyone.

She loved our school. She loved putting things together for the students. The summer before grade 12, she rallied us all together to go into the school and paint murals all over to make it look for sunny. We also painted the bleachers blue with white lettering which read "Blue Bombers". You could see it from the cafeteria and the sky. It was our way of bringing the life back into the school.

I spent many a night with her at her house, putting sparklers on posters for events, preparing candy bags for prizes. I spent many a morning setting up tables and stations for the outdoor fairs or writing speeches for assemblies.

She was often the host of pool parties for our friends, Calculus tutoring sessions, informal school club meetings.

I haven't seen her in probably six years. But the oldest friendships never fade. My emotions today have proved that.

I got an email from her today that makes me want to run to her bedside, make her chicken noodle soup, do her laundry, create pretty pictures to put up around her room, be that smiling, shiney, upbeat beam of light she has always been for so many people.

She is having difficulties health wise - ones that were almost fatal - and I want to go home.

It's not a homesick feeling - one that makes you cry and want to see your mom. It's more just wanting to be able to go to her house with a bunch of flowers and a card, sit with her, chat to her, keep her company.

To be with my friends as we all try to figure out what we're going to do for C because everyone knows she would go to the end of the world for any of us.

And I want to be close to the people I care about so that I can see them after work, go round their houses for dinner, make plans for an afternoon matinee and shopping, watch my friends shop for wedding dresses or grow larger in the stomach in anticipation of wee ones, be there for people when babysitters back out or grandparents are busy or simply when mom just needs an hour or two to herself because she just can't take it anymore.

I don't want to go home for a funeral. And perhaps that's what her email made me realize.

That I almost did.

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

What?

Where did my day go? I just looked up and it's 5 o'clock.

I had a story to tell today too.

Ah well, you'll all just have to wait until tomorrow.

And this month's Mosaic Minds issue, which I think is where all my words have gone.

Until tomorrow

Tuesday, June 15, 2004

Shhhhhh!!

I realized this weekend that D and I are perhaps the most irritated people at a movie theatre.

We always arrive at the last minute so we can make sure we are not sitting near people.

We hate it when people talk. At all. At any point during the show. Previews. Commercials. What is with the talking? If you want conversation go to the pub!

We hate wrapper-opening, bag scrunching, popcorn loud chomping noises. It's like our ears become uber-sensitive in the dark.

But we love movies. We love the big screen. And I love to eat an entire box of salted popcorn to myself - although quietly, so as not to disturb others.

So, getting to the movies is a bit like a mission impossible.

This weekend, we decided to take advantage of the rainy weather - yes I'm in Belfast but the sun just won't stop shining! - and see a matinee. We don't like to be sitting in a theatre when it's sunny out and since it's light out here until at least 10 pm, the only time we really like to go is when the weather is bad. Saturday afternoon, for about 3 hours, the wind made it unpleasant.

But, this was a bonus because we seized the opportunity. It was either Troy or Harry Potter.

"Well, it's Saturday afternoon. There may be a lot of kids there, " I said.

He nodded in agreement.

After mulling it over, we decided it would be best to wait until we got to the movie house to decide.

"If there are kids all over the place, then we'll see Troy," D said.

Good thinking. He's always looking for ways to accomodate. The plan was coming together.

So, we ventured out of our place for a 5 minute walk to the theatres and proceeded to wait in line.

We scanned the place, like hawks looking for a spot to land.

There were 7 people in front of us - 1 adult with 2 pre-teen looking kids and another mom with 3 younger ones, older then 5 but younger then 10.

"What do you think?" I whispered

He looked unsure. "I don't know, what do you think?"

Past the ticket booth to the lobby on our left, people were waiting for various films. A few couples, a couple families but the children seemed to be quite contained.

We were inching closer to the front of the line. We kept looking at each other, half grinning, half grimacing.

Neither of us wanted to make the decision, perhaps secretly not wanting to be responsible for a bad movie experience.

Then I spotted them. Off in the distance, by the refreshment stand, 4 kids, talking loudly to each other, over excited about their afternoon at the movies.

Now - let me stop the story to point out that I can appreciate that kids get excited for movies. And so they should. I did when I was a kid. Why should they be different? It's not that I don't want kids to go to the movies, I just perhaps don't particularly want to go to the movies with them. And I can sympathise with parents who are have to listen to "When are we going to Harry Potter?" a million times a day that they will go mad if they hear it one....more....time. And it makes sense that they're there on a rainy Saturday afternoon.

So, see the excited children was more just a helpful decision make for us, more then it was a nusiance. On that day, Harry Potter was for the excited kids. Troy would be for the super-sensitive movie goers.

Things seem to look up as well when we entered the theatre - there was only about 4 people in the whole place.

We settled in, dead centre and got comfortable in the quiet theatre. It was like a dream come true.

Oh but wait. What is that explosion behind us?

A pack of 6 people just piled in and sat RIGHT BEHIND US! RIGHT BEHIND!

Not only were they late but they were whispering and laughing, getting settled during the previews.

I suddenly realized, it was the not the kids we had to be worried about, it was the obnoxious people that had been shopping all day and probably were just drinking in the pub and have now come to rain on my movie parade by acting as though they were in their own living room!

We moved. Immediately. Yes, it's not normally done. But you are talking about two noise freaks.

Once they settled down, they were quiet for most of the movie. Until, of course, they decided it was time for snacks.

Too cheap to buy from the concession stand, all I could hear was the "shroooosh shrooosh" of the plastic bag from the grocery store opening. What is it with that noise?!?! It was hard to hear myself think.

We did, however, make it through the movie without an outburst. It wasn't a stellar film anyway and I least I learned a little more about myself.

I need to buy a big house with a movie size screen, my own movie popcorn maker and a license to play new releases in my living room.

Monday, June 14, 2004

It's Gone

It's really really gone. I'm not sure why I'm not panicking but I should be. What the HECK am I going to do without it?

When I left Canada, I decided to buy a cute little green address book in which I could put all the names and addresses of all the people I know and met along the road so I could always keep in touch.

It was small enough to carry around - about the size of a calculator - even smaller then some.

And it has gone a wandering.

I have a small house. It is not there.

I have a small desk area. It is not here.

I had it last Tuesday. I took it with me on the bus. I'm almost positive I brought it back and now it has vanished.

I can' begin to remember who is even in the book.

I am still waiting to break down over this as I am still calm as a cucumber.

The only explanation is that Visiting Cousin accidently put it in with his stuff. I won't know until at least tomorrow when he gets back to Canada.

Perhaps that's why I'm not panicking.

There is still hope.

If I know you, please know that I can't call or mail you anything but I don't know your number or address.

If I don't know you, please know that I would have someday loved to have found out who you are and written you down in my little green book.

I don't like the idea that it is lost, flying around somewhere, with numbers and addresses for all the world to see.

I don't even know if my name is in it with an address to send back.

I refuse to start the week off with anxiety, even though my hormones are helping with that.

Thursday, June 10, 2004

What a Granny

I usually get 8 hours of sleep every night. I am usually in bed an hour before I fall asleep.

I am very spoiled.

So this week, my brain has been on party overload with our visitors.

I confess, although I am sitting at my desk for the full morning, I am usually not awake now until around 11ish.

And so, my ritual daily writing on this blog will be subpar today...and probably tomorrow...until I have had the weekend to sleep away and get back to my granny-self.

I am a wimp - one that enjoys sleeping.

I blame it on all the years I burnt the candle at both ends working 3 jobs and partying all summer. I am making up for it now.

Plus, I am also storing it up for when I have wee ones, for I'm certain, I will not be getting a full night's rest and what might be worse, there most definitely NOT involve any gin and tonics.

At least this week, I can still enjoy that.

Wednesday, June 09, 2004

Cuzins

When my parents moved to the U.S., I began spending more time with my dad's brother's kids.

These cousins had always been intertwined between me and my siblings. First there was me, I was the oldest. Then cousin B. He was the oldest in his family. I remember he always used to say "I'm the biggest" and I would counter "Well, I'm the oldest", for as a child, being the one who has the most years is a privelage. Our parents would laugh, saying someday I maybe wouldn't be so proud of that fact.

Today, I'm not yet uncomfortable being the oldest but B is definitely still the biggest.

After him comes my sister C. Then his brother M. Then my sister H. Then their sister E. Finally, my brother R falls in line at the end.

When we were little, we have been told we played a lot together. We were always making up skits and air bands to then preform to our parents.

One could say, looking back nostaligically, it was a bit of an extention of siblings. Although, ones you didn't see very often.

We travelled to see them when they lived in Calgary. Then when they moved to North Bay. We also spent a picturesque holiday visiting our grandparents in Nova Scotia. The whole family. One big clan. We have the picture to prove it.

It wasn't until I was working in the same city where they lived that we really became closer as young adults.

I was 21 at the time. B and I would go drinking together. Talk about our families, the craziness that only relations can appreciate, and go on about how our friendship had grown, from young kids to semi-grownups ( I use that word loosely. I would say I'm hardly a grownup right now ).

Our growing frienships - those between my cousins and I, my siblings and my cousins - showed their true colours when B got married a couple of years ago. All 7 of us took to the dance floor for the entire evening, marvelling people along the sidelines. Many knew of the outgoing nature of all 3 of my cousins - they didn't realize there were 4 more of us.

Even though the time we spent as children was not high quantity, we have all managed to be very similiar and different in many of the same ways.

Perhaps we are tight knit because my dad only has one brother. And, as they age, my cousins, siblings and are are always rolling our eyes and laughing about how much they are looking alike - acting alike and most likely thinking alike.

This week, my cousin M has come to stay. Him and his buddies have been touring Europe and near the end of their trip, have chosen to visit Belfast and the beautiful scenery of the North coast.

M and I spend yesterday in the small town where my grandma grew up, visiting old aunts that used to look after our grandfather when he was small.

It was a surreal day and an eye opener. On the one hand, it was nice to finally see this small town where she grew up. On the other, it was also great to spend it with M, laughing at family jokes, taking goofy pictures and learning about "our roots".

And I don't think I would have enjoyed it half as much if I didn't get to experience it with him.

It feels strange to me that he will be home in a week, telling everyone of his adventures, specifically the family ones in the North.

I wish I could be there when he tries to explain what our heritage is really like.

And we both agreed we "get" our grandma much more then we used to.

Sunday, June 06, 2004

D Day

I am much more affected today then I ever imagined.

60 years since the beaches of Normandy were stormed. This action had such a profound affect of the rest of the course of world history.

I don't mean to sounds cliche or melodramatic but watching those veterans walk along the beaches really brought it home.

And then I think of my brother and perhaps - as with everyone - it becomes an even more real emotion.

He will be 20 this month. He was the average age - even older - then many of the men who died that day.

Who fought for freedom - real freedom. Risked their lives to change the world.

And we truly can never forget.

Friday, June 04, 2004

Cigarettes and Chocolate Milk

They are the bane of my existence.

The story goes like this:

When I was little, I threatened to break all my dad's cigarettes in two. It was when my mother suggested "that might not be a good idea", I conceeded to just constantly nag him. It must have worked because he quit before I was a a teenager.

Throughout my teens, I scoffed at the smokers, how stupid they were to be throwing their lungs - and their lives - away so young. I was much more mature then them. They were all just stupid.

My uncle - who always seemed close to my age but I think he just acted immature - would often come to our house and shake his yellow nicotine finger at me "Don't ever start," *puff* *puff* "Don't you ever start."

It was not until I was 17, at a friend's cottage, socialising with good friends on the deck that I decided to "try one". Really - what harm could it do?

I didn't cough. I didn't hack. I didn't really feel much of anything. Well, until my third or fourth. And then my head was spinning.

Well, I was drinking. And I would never buy a pack. No, not me. Never.

And then I started hanging out with one of the Js. He smoked regularly but was not one of these "stupid idiots" I often saw hanging out by the smoker's door at the high school. He was smart.

And if he smokes, well then, I could still be smart and smoke.

Ah the brain of a teenager.

So when I turned 18 it got even worse because now, Miss Law Abiding citizen could go out and buy cigarettes and not be breaking any laws.

Then, my attitude changed. I began buying packs and smoking them on a regular basis - mostly at our coffee shop Tims. It wasn't long before I was forced to admit to my parents that I smoked.

They weren't mad, just disappointed.

My mother, "I just have this image in my head of the lovely pink little lungs I gave you and now, you're making them all black. You made it through so many peer pressure years - why now?"

I didn't really know. It was my rebellion that wasn't really a rebellion at all. I was legal to smoke and I wasn't really harming anyone else because I smoked outside - my mother leaving me an ashtray so I would not be flicking butts in her garden.

For the next 6 years, it was part of my daily life. Morning smokes with coffee. After dinner smokes on balconies. Multiples smokes with friends on patios with drinks and much debate.

I had always said I would not be a "married" smoker or a "smoking parent" - smoking was simply part of my younger life. I would give up when I felt I was too old for it.

That time came two years after graduating university and 4 months before getting my wisdom teeth out.

I always found that funny that my wisdom teeth operation was my motivation. I knew I wouldn't be able to smoke for over a week because of infection and I didn't want to go through the double pain of post surgery AND nicotine withdrawl.

June 21st 2002 was the day I quit smoking.

It was the hardest thing I ever did in my life. The first day was so long. I just kept looking at the clock - "I haven't had a cigarette for 6 hours...7 hours....9 hours". I thought the day would never end.

But it did. And so did many more. So many more that it wasn't until mid August that I cracked after many drinks, had about 10 cigarettes and had my first REAL hangover. I swore I would never ever smoke again. The pain in the morning was not worth it.

And so I lasted another 8 months, almost a year, before I suddenly picked up the idea of social smoking.

I had begun to figure out how to smoke when drinking and not become ill. And so I decided, I would continue to be a social smoker and then quit that later on.

My New Year's Resoultion in 2003 was to quit being a social smoker.

I did very well, since we were saving money and living in England and smokes were ££££ so I didn't buy them.

What didn't help is once we got to Greece by April, I was on vacation. Okay, so I would be a vacation smoker. Only in Greece. Well and then we went to Italy and you can't not smoke there so Italy too.

I did well through the summer in Leeds - still not buying packs but the occasional bumming.

I began to beat myself up too when I smoked. Get frustrated and angry. I got what my uncle was saying. You don't know what you're missing if you never start.

I really really really don't want to WANT to smoke - which I think unfortunately is different then I don't want to smoke.

After a few drinks, I do want to smoke. And so, for the past 2 months, I have been smoking when we are out on Saturday nights only to be completely disgusted by the smell at any other time of the day.

Now, I'm buying the Marlboro Lights 10 pack - perfect for the social smoker who doesn't want any left in the morning but doesn't want to be bumming all night.

The side effects, however, are starting to wear my down. I am - effectively - going through withdrawl every week. Nothing like the withdrawl from when I first smoked - the last thing I want is a cigarette for the next couple of days after - but it takes 48 hours for the nicotine to completely leave your body.

And so I am horribley moody. And impatient. And irritated. And ill. Not so much a cold or flu or stomach bug but more just ick all over.

I kick myself every Monday, making promises that I won't smoke ever again.

And yet, I just can't help myself.

I've heard hypnosis works. Perhaps I should just cut off all my fingers. I'm sure I'd just learn to smoke with my toes.

Thursday, June 03, 2004

A Bit O' a Ramble

My mind cannot stay focussed. I feel as though all my ideas are going to explode out of my brain. I feel as though I'm not working fast enough. I feel as though I'm not getting anything done.

I'm terrified that I won't be able to write everything down before it floats out of my head.

I'm certain I sound like a crazy person. I don't know if anyone can understand the busy-ness of my mind.

There are moments when I think I'm observing too much. When I feel as though no one else in the world can possibly be analysing and over-analysing all these things that I am.

I don't feel lonely but more alone. In a way that I can never express. In a way that I think everyone is - inside you head.

But does anyone want to get it all out as much as I do? Maybe some people are happy to have ideas float in and out and not turn them into a observation. Perhaps I'm not unique in my observation abilities but moreso in my need to tell the world.

I feel so motivated right now. I am going to ride this as long as I can. I just have a funny feeling that the winds are changing and I can't explain why.

A friend of mine once told me about "year karma". I'm quite sure that's not the official name but it defines it for me.

The theory goes like this:

Whatever you are feeling is related to whatever you were doing or feeling a year before.

Throughout the month of May, I was down and melancholy about travelling. I felt like I wasn't making any progress here and every day I would wake up thinking, "a year ago I was on the beach in Greece". This does not help motivation. At all.

Since June hit, I have come alive again, focussing on what I can do to improve the future, changing my mindset from what I expected to what exists.

Last year at this time, I would have been in Switzerland, enjoying myself yes but also preparing to go home. Thinking of the people I would see, things I would do, food I would eat.

I think that planning ahead spirit is hitting me right now.

And I've realized baby steps are better then no steps at all. I've come to this realization before - that I can simply write - but it got lost somewhere. I'm so glad it's back.

Thank goodness for year karma.

Wednesday, June 02, 2004

My Canadian Fitness Instructor

When we went out with my cousin the first time about a month ago, he seemed to know everyone in the bar. Waving here. A nod there. A quick hello.

I commented that he seemed to be quite popular. He laughed and said, "Belfast is a small city. You'll be surprised how many people you will just suddenly know."

A small world in a city. And it has happened. I have been walking down the street and there were the ladies we hung out with on a Saturday night.

Dazed-faced on the bus home from work, I have noticed a couple-friend walking home that we went for Chinese food with.

Now that we actually know people here, I'm not so surprised to see a familiar face.

And when I found out there was a Canadian working at my gym, I figured he'd be from Vancouver or Calgary. Somewhere where the air is fresh and the scenery breathtaking. Isn't that where the healthy fitness types are from?

Until this morning, I had only seen him teaching a class and it further confirmed that he would not be from any where near where I was from in Canada.

I arrived at the gym early this morning for my free one-to-one with a personal fitness instructor. Sound very glamourous but it's just someone who suggests what you should do to lose what you want.

And it was Joe Canadian. We went through the whole session - cracking jokes, I might add which seemed SO NICE that I didn't misunderstand his words and vice versa.

It wasn't until the end that I asked the big question, "Where are you from?"

I saw his face do the same thing my face sometimes does when I'm tired of feeling like a foreigner. It's the polite sinking of the face into a forced smile and the closing of the eyes as the word:

"Canada"

escapes my mouth.

"Oh really?" I said innocently, "Me too! Where from?"

His face lit up. Kinda like the way mine tends to do when I meet someone from Canada.

"Oh yah?" he said smiling "Ontario" The left side of his mouth started turning up in a coy, mysterious, I-wonder-where-she's-from look.

"Me too!!" I gasped, mouth open

"No way!" he said laughing.

Suddenly, we were best friends.

He's from beach town a couple hours outside of Toronto, one I used to frequent when I lived in my small home town as it was closer, one that I drove my big grey van to with my boyfriend at the time only to have it die right in the middle of the road because my friend had removed the alternator fuse. (this is a longer story but it's my big claim to fame in the place).

We were both beaming. It didn't take long to slip in the "my boyfriend" although he did say the "my girlfriend" first but then the conversation got even more comfortable because then there was no picking each other up or anything it was just talking about being here, two Canadians, happy to reminice about home and compare notes about our new town.

It never ceases to amaze me how happy I am to chat to a Canadian - one that I probably never would have approached when I lived at home and I know wouldn't have given me the time of day if he saw me.

And yet, we could have put someone's eye out with the beams that were shooting out from our smiles.

I'm learning more and more every day that the key to our human satisfaction is comfort and acceptance. There are phrases and words I can use that I know only Canadians can appreciate, whether they are hockey or poutine or American related, only they will get it.

Sometimes, amidst meeting new people and exploring new adventures, you just want someone to get you, without having to work very hard.

It was nice to find that at the gym. Especially at 8 in the morning.

Tuesday, June 01, 2004

Blah-ed Out

I had so much to say all weekend and was quite bummed when I realized that I wouldn't get to blog for 3 WHOLE DAYS!!!

And now, as I sit at my machine, the inspiration escapes me.

What a rip.

I have made a writing decision though. 1 hour a day. Writing. Talking about writing. Looking for writing jobs. Thinking about writing. Breathing writing.

For now, it will have to be at my cute little dining room table. Somehow, I'll have to drown out the t.v. - what else can D do when I'm working?

And so, here's to one Birthday Resolution continuing longer then a week. And my Gemini spirit will need all the help it can get.